September: Food, Writing and the Pacific Northwest

Sliced tomatoes about to go in the food dehydrator.

Food, writing and the Pacific Northwest — these 3 things define my life, interests and direction. This past month has been filled with lots of each.


Summer produce is waning, autumn produce is waxing — and we've been enjoying it all:

  • Learning about honey extraction from a beekeeper friend
  • Home-drying our garden-grown tomatoes — "sun-dried" tomatoes year-round!
  • Our first hops harvest! Last year a friend gave us a Sterling hop start. This year we got our first production: 7 cones. OK, I admit that's not a lot, but it's a start. Our Sterling is getting well established, and next year we should start seeing more hoppy goodness.
  • Figs… well, at least, a fig tree. In spring we got a fig tree from a vendor at Saturday Market. Our wee fig is growing tall and happy in a large container (to restrict height). We may get our first figs next year, but if not, I'll do my best to be patient.
  • Raspberries. Oh my, the raspberries! Some of our canes are taller than we are, and the fruit has been plump, plentiful and delicious. Many people say that the third year is when homegrown raspberries start going gangbusters. We're only in our second year — and if this is any indication, come next year we'll be drowning in tart red ambrosial goodness.
  • Canning. And more canning. So far we've put up apricot butter, apple butter, applesauce, roasted plum preserves, and mixed berry jam — and we have much more on the way. This weekend alone, we'll can 2 vinegars, plus our first-ever batch of fermented pickles. After that, we may take a wee canning break before tucking in to fall canning projects — but we'll see. Depending on the goodness to be gotten at local markets, the canning may not cool down for quite some time yet.
  • Lamb. This past weekend, Jodie and I went to the Oregon Flock & Fiber Festival (OFFF) in Canby, Oregon. After a morning of wool shopping, we sat in on a lamb cookoff, with 3 contestants from restaurants from Albany to Portland. We sampled some great dishes, including shepherd's pie, meatballs and more. After all this noshing, I want to start working with lamb far more than we currently do. The cookoff's M.C. mentioned that Americans typically eat one pound of lamb per person per year — far less than chicken, which is about 70 pounds per person per year. He added, only slightly tongue-in-cheek, that he'd like us to do our part to get that up to at least 10 pounds per person per year. I'm game.


I've been refining my outline and plot for my novel, and am drafting more content. The fun part? Having an idea of where I want to try to go — plus identifying one hell of a twist that will be great to spring on the reader — and then to get to more drafting. Also fun? The map is not the territory — should the story leave the outline, so be it.

Also fun for September was getting to know fellow writers at my first-ever first Willamette Writers Mid-Valley Chapter meeting. Held monthly at Tsunami Books at 2585 Willamette Street, Eugene, I'm all the happier to have joined this supportive group. In addition to cake and lots of laughter, I appreciated the opportunities for writers to talk about their efforts and achievements, and the heartfelt support and encouragement that came from their fellow writers. Joining this organization has been a good move for me. I'm also stoked for the October 7 meeting, where my friend Melissa Hart, author of Gringa, will be discussing the secrets and skills of writing a memoir.

Pacific Northwest

September has been packed with trips. I love seeing new and familiar parts of the region I've adopted as home:

Portland, for our first-ever concert at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall. Rufus Wainwright came in to do a special show with the Oregon Symphony, spanning his new opera, Prima Donna, his pop hits, and some well-sung renditions of old standards. Our only disappointment? After that show, apparently Rufus and Portland band Pink Martini went down to Los Angeles for not one, but 3 performances. C'mon, guys — couldn't you have done one, just one, for us in Oregon? Oh well.

Not long after that trip, we road-tripped to Seattle for a friend's wedding. Jodie and I haven't been to Seattle in far too long, and we enjoyed seeing a different part of the city from our usual bopping about downtown. (I also enjoyed a bachelor party evening of sushi at Hiroshi's and some excellent brews from the Elysian Brewery's Capitol Hill location). The wedding itself was held at the Willows Lodge in Woodinville — a place I'd love to stay sometime, for the beauty of its rooms and the delicious herbs growing in its large garden.

As mentioned above, this past weekend we went to Canby for OFFF. Similar to Eugene's Black Sheep Gathering, OFFF brings together farmers, ranchers and fiber folks from all over the country. From fiber to yarn to crafts, Jodie and I had a lot of fun wandering through the different vendors. We came home with fiber for her to spin, and some very nice red yarn destined to be a new pair of man socks.

Lastly, we nipped down towards Oakridge for a quick hike around the southern shore of Waldo Lake. Why? For the sheer fun of it. Waldo is one of the clearest lakes in the region, and no motorized boats are allowed on the water. Just thinking about it makes me want to get out there in a tandem kayak.

After the hike, we celebrated and relaxed with some powerful garlic-cheese fries and some tasty cask ale pints at Oakridge's excellent Brewers Union Local 180. Jodie and I had met the owner some months back, and we were stoked to finally get to visit his pub. The space is cozy and relaxed, the beer excellent. Ted's goal has has been the feel of a traditional British pub. As far as we're concerned, he's nailed it. We'll be back.

Everywhere I go in the Pacific Northwest reminds me of how much I love living here. Which brings me to…

2 Big Milestones

On September 12, Jodie and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary. I mentioned this recently, but I can't help but say it again: my wife rocks. Marrying Jodie is one of the best decisions I've ever made, right up there with moving to Oregon. Which brings us to the second milestone…

As of September 20, I have lived in Oregon for 10 years. Moving here from Virginia was not easy, but it is one of the best things I ever did. My next 10 years has begun with more important life decisions to make, and more adventures to experience and learn from.

With my wife at my side, and loving friends and family all around, it's going to be an exciting year, and 5 years, and more.

Food, writing, and the Pacific Northwest — this is life, and it is good.

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