Plein air day

A couple of weeks ago, Brian and I took some wooden backers for frames, paints, brushes, wine, cheese, and crackers to Cannon Beach on the coast, and then we parked ourselves on the beach and painted.
Here's the Rhode Island Red and Elijah, surfing. They're both coasting along pretty well, but behind them is Leno, who just wiped out and is swimming to retrieve is board.
Then we sat in the rain and watched an amazing sunset beneath the clouds and on the clear horizon with this couple who joined us at our fire. We ended up drinking wine and stoking the fire and getting to know them for a couple of hours and have since gotten together with them here in Portland. That was our plein air day at the coast.


And then there were 3

On Monday, our little Rhode Island red laid her first little egg. The darker one is from the Americauna, the big one in the front is from the Speckled Sussex, and the little dirty one is from the Red. Since, she has laid four eggs, living up to her breed's reputation. Our other chickens had a much slower start at laying; her breed has laid as many as 365 eggs per year. Here's our little girl, all grown up.
 Thinking about her eggs and her struggle to fit in with the other chickens makes me miss our little black autralorp. Red had a tough go at it with Sussex and Americauna; I spent their first evening all together in the coop with them, trying to break up violent and excessive pecking. Red decided that she wanted to roost on my head, and it took over a week before she was allowed to sleep in the hen house with them. She still gets an occasional peck, but oddly, she seems to be more respected now that she is laying eggs. There appears to be a more peaceful acceptance amongst the flock.
Here she is taking a dirt bath. Chickens love and need to take dirt baths to prevent lice, mites, and other parasites from setting in. We let our chickens "bathe" every other day or so. That seems to be the only time they need a bath; sometimes I'll let her into her dirt bath area and she won't bathe but rather she'll munch on the comfrey leaves and peck out the ground.
My garden is growing despite our cold spring. The salmon berry bushes are taking over and will need some serious pruning after the first crop of berries is done. The sage, thyme, oregano, and mint are getting huge.
I'm quite proud of my foxgloves that I grew from seed. They are so tall. The hollyhocks are also getting rather huge and covered in buds. I've been grading and grading and grading, but school's out for summer. So now I need to spend some heavy duty time in the garden, weeding, pruning, staking, harvesting. We harvested two of our first ripe strawberries two days ago. I planted some beet seeds last week and want to plant the rest and some more beans and beets to stagger the crops.
I also plan on doing some self-indulging, errand running, party planning, trip planning, and wedding planning. I have a work meeting  and a knitting lesson (my second one! Here's my first planned project. By the way, this blog is adorable) on Tuesday, a message and haircut and book club on Wednesday, Brian's thirtieth birthday on Friday, and my sister's wedding on July 9! Whew! Adventures galore!
We put some of my photos in Brian's honeycomb frames in the living room. They look pretty rad. I would also like to alternate some with cool textiles or paints or collage. There are so many fun options.



Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon is now, perhaps, my favorite of her novels due to its simultaneous accessibility and complexity. Morrison has crafted this novel with painstaking care, and yet, it does not feel over-worked. Everything seems to act on multiple levels: the names, the Biblical allusions, and even the ending of the novel which sparked debate at our book club discussion. Morrison tackles issues of race in America, with characters who are former black slaves and Native Americans; class and social status, especially when complicated with race; coming of age; gender; community; and family. And the fact that she so carefully and purposefully deals with these issues is one reason that the novel is accessible: the book seems to work for everyone on some level, even if read in a non-political light as the story of a young man's hero's journey into the abyss and redemption. I find that I would like to read this book again, perhaps in a class, and perhaps in conjunction with a study of the Song of Solomon and the Book of Ruth and certain other texts from the Bible.
John Connolly's fantastical narrative takes a young boy during WWII into parallel life and world. As I was reading this novel, the 9th grade lit. teacher in me kept thinking: Hero's Journey. That's what this is; the classic tale retold. The protagonist must go on a journey and fight literal demons and his own demons and flaws before he can return home, changed for the better and better prepared for the worst. Connolly seems to be quite intentionally using the structure of the hero's journey as a metaphor for life and mortality; as the character faces challenges and fights for things beyond his own wants and needs, he learns to forgive, to heal, to grow, and to accept death as a painful but natural part of life. This novel reminded me a bit of Neil Gaiman's Coraline and Pan's Labyrinth.

Another book that I've read recently was The Coming Home Cafe by Gayle Pearson. This is a sweet story that I would gladly give to young readers about the Great Depression and a girl with an adventurous and altruistic spirit who decides to jump on a train and live the life of a hobo, traveling from city to city across the country in search of work. One of my freshmen gave it to me, still feverish from how much she loved it, and as I read it, I rather wished I was young enough to be captured by its magic. Am I too old? Or was the fire just not in the writing? I am not sure. Perhaps this is why I recommend the book for young readers only.

Next up for book club: A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan.