Farmers’ Market

The Farmers’ Market in Olympia, Washington, was full of interesting things to see, but although we are officially into spring, this March day was particularly cool. An icy wind blew through the open-air building. Spaced around the corridors were heaters that attracted shoppers who huddled near them to chat for a few minutes before moving on.

Some of the merchants had heaters set up right in their own selling space. See the tall heater on a post above the lady selling baked goods? Notice one of the customers walking by wearing a warm jacket? It was a COLD day!

The lady who sold lavender products wore her quilted jacket zipped up to the top.

What a wonderful assortment of organically grown mushrooms. No problem keeping them chilled.

The girls selling homemade jams were happy. But no wonder! Do you see the heater on the left, glowing and sending out warming rays?

For a brief moment I contemplated buying a treat for my little dog, but then I realized that these bones are bigger than she is.

And that price is in U.S. dollars  – $14.00 for each bone. For a Canadian, that’s a hefty chunk of change, and even if I were to “bite the bullet” and splurge on my dog, and if I were allowed to bring it across the border,  I would probably frighten her with it.

They must have some awfully big dogs here in the United States. 

There is much more to see at the Farmers’ Market, but that will be for another post.

Chocolate

“I LOVE chocolate!”

I hear it said so often. It’s rare to find a person who doesn’t love chocolate, but do you really know about chocolate and where it comes from?

Most of us see it at this ready-to-eat stage and that is really all that matters. But at the Farmers’ Market in Olympia, Washington, I had a quick lesson in the story of chocolate.

 

Photo from Wikipedia

This is how the cocoa beans look as they grow on the trees – not on branches, but on the trunk. They have to be cut away carefully so as not to damage the place where the stem joins the tree lest it spoil the next year’s growth.

 

Photo from Wikipedia

At a booth in the Farmers’ Market where they sell chocolate, these cocoa pods were on display. The pods which contain many cocoa beans, come in several different colours, depending on variety and ripeness.

Taken at the Olympia Farmer’s Market

The pods are cut open and the leathery shell is discarded. The 30 to 50 cocoa beans inside are placed on a grate or in a bin for several days while the pulp between the seeds ferments and drains away. Then the beans are spread out to dry. At this stage, they may even be sprinkled with red clay mixed with water  for polish and to enhance the colour and discourage mildew.

It takes about 400 beans to make a pound of chocolate. Below are cocoa beans with the husks still on. The husks will be removed, either by machine or by dancing on them in a way that is reminiscent of stomping on grapes to make wine.

Photo taken by Irene Scott for AusAID. (13/2529)

Why does chocolate make us happy?

It’s said to be a good antioxidant and beneficial to cardiovascular health. But I don’t think that’s why almost everyone loves chocolate. Chocolate contains tryptophan which releases serotonin, which in turn triggers the parts of the brain  that tell us we’re happy. (I’ve over-simplified. When I get my degree in organic chemistry, I’ll explain it more thoroughly.)

Mainly I like chocolate because it’s just plain good!

Forget about the calories. 

Happy Easter!

 

After the Rain

This morning when I did my walk

I had to brave the rain.

I trotted like a racehorse 

Just to hurry home again.

Once in the door, my feet were wiped,

A towel rubbed me dry.

I lay down on my usual place 

And let out a big sigh.

Then came my treat, a nice warm throw

Just taken from the dryer.

The toasty warmth was better than

A rocker by the fire. 

I snuggled in and closed my eyes

The people smiled at me.

I didn’t move a muscle and

Was quite content, you see.

Orchid Obsession

My friend Ariane and I went to a nursery in Puyallup, Washington, today. Their orchid display was beautiful. I had left my camera behind, but thankfully, she had her Iphone with her and took these photos for me.

The amazing thing about orchids is that they come in such a variety of colours, shapes, and designs, and yet they are still all part of the orchid family.

The antagonist in my novel “The Wind Weeps” is a disturbed man. One of his quirks is an obsession with orchids. These flowers are expensive and perhaps he thought he could “win the girl” by impressing her with a bouquet of orchids. They are not flowers that lend themselves to making a bouquet, but does he care? They are expensive and will impress her, he thinks.

In spite of the man’s obsession with orchids, I still love these flowers.

By the way, if you want to download the e-book of “The Wind Weeps,” it is free for Kindle on amazon (just type in the title) and also on smashwords.com if you have an e-reader other than Kindle.

Very important:

The sequel to The Wind Weeps is called Reckoning Tide (also available at amazon and at smashwords). At $2.99, it won’t break the bank, but it will break the spell and tell you what the ultimate ending will be.

Read them and find out the fate of the disturbed man with the orchid fetish.

A Winner!

This card is copyrighted to Andy McKay and sold at Trader Joe’s. I’ve printed his caption under the picture. I could SO relate to this scenario.

After vacuuming the living room, he waited for his medal.

But just so I don’t come across as too mean and snarky, I must add that the Captain provided his family with the fixings for a fine dinner tonight, even cooking the halibut, trout, and salmon himself while I made up the rest of the dinner.

So maybe he really does deserve a medal.

Camo

What is it with camo-gear? Isn’t it for disguise?

Every once in a while I see children (and sometimes adults) wearing camouflage clothing around town and I have to wonder what they’re hiding from?

Animals have natural camouflage, traits that have evolved  over thousands of years . I can understand that. Man copied the idea and used it during WWl. Okay, if we must have war, camo is smart.

To be properly camouflaged you have to try to blend in with the colours around you. Sand coloured khaki for the desert, dark blue or gray on rocky terrain. But by far the most popular style of camo-clothing is the kind with splotches of olive green, brown, and beige.

In the Viet Nam war, camo-gear was everywhere and has been popular ever since. But has the marketing gone a bit too far? In many cases I have to wonder, what is the purpose of wearing or using camo-gear?

For civilians, there seems to be little reason to wear camouflage.

Two sensible exceptions come to mind:

1)      hikers, who may want to hide so they can see more animals while out on a nature walk, and

2)      hunters, trying to hide from animals they are stalking.

But, for both hikers and hunters, the use of camo-gear can backfire.

Relatives of a lost hiker may report to Search and Rescue that their loved one was last seen wearing camo-clothing. Please search for a large cluster of leaves that isn’t one.

Hunters in camo have the same problem, but they have one advantage. With their excellent disguise, they may be mistaken for a game animal, so for safety, they often sport blaze orange sleeves on their camo-shirt or a bright orange brim on their camo-cap. Now they can be spotted easily if they get lost and at the same time, avoid being shot.

 

But wait! Am I missing something here? What was the point of wearing the camo-clothing in the first place?

Now we come to the rest of the camo-gear. We have all kinds of accessories in camouflage colours: backpack, flashlight, knife, shotgun case, shotgun stock, even the barrel in some cases.

Imagine the scenario: The hunter sets down his gear to take a break, to retie the laces of his camo-boots, or camo-runners, or to have a drink from that camo-flask of water he can’t find just now. He set it down here somewhere….

He checks his camo-watch, decides it’s getting late. He sets his shotgun down on the ground for safety while he climbs carefully over the barbed wire fence. He’ll just hunt this one last field and call it a day. Once on the other side, he adjusts his camo-pack and reaches for his gun. But where is it? Quick! There’s a bunch of pheasants getting up out of the tall grass. Where’s the damn gun? Too late, he finds it perfectly hidden, right in front of his eyes.

Tired out, he comes home at last after tromping incognito through miles of fields. He strips down to his underwear and crawls into bed for a quick late-afternoon nap. What’s this? Camo-underwear? Is he hoping his wife won’t find him in the bed and kick him out to have a shower first?

Help Arrives

 

Early yesterday morning, the skies were clear with a hint of spring in the fresh air. Our neighbours’ willow tree was welcoming a change of seasons. I had taken the dogs out into the yard. As I stood, enjoying the stillness, I realized it wasn’t still at all. Two sea lions called to each other, perhaps to claim their territory among the schools of herring  off the nearby beach. I love the deep sound of their barking, “OW! OW! OW!” I smiled to think that they were back to visit for a while. I know the herring fishermen don’t smile to see or hear them, but …

Before I could stop smiling, I heard, for the first time this year, a Eurasian collared dove calling from a stand of trees nearby.

Yes, spring is coming! Then a robin called its urgent pipping song, and a rufus-sided towhee added his two cents’ worth, asking, “ME? … ME?”

Later in the morning it was time to clean up the yard for the fourth time, after yet another windstorm. As I raked, I came across a circle of tufts of fur lying on the grass in the same place as the feathers of an eaten seabird lay a few months before. Both were under a tall fir –  the favourite tree stand for birds of prey, especially eagles and owls. These birds sit quietly and watch for their dinner to pass by underneath.

Ruby sees the rabbit fur and is most likely thinking about what probably happened here.

Will you look at that? No way he survived that much hair loss.

Ruby is shocked. She ponders the implications of losing a rabbit at this time of year.

Will there be an Easter? Who will paint the eggs and hide them?

But just as the sun was sending its last warm rays to light the underside of the clouds, I looked towards the hedge and saw ….

Reinforcements! He stands bravely under the killing tree and announces to the world:

Easter will go ahead as planned. And you owls, listen up. You can NEVER kill us all. Where there are two rabbits, there will soon be two thousand.

“Now if you’ll excuse me,” he says, “it’s less than a month until Easter and I have some serious work to do.”