Goodbye to Lawns
Some time in the summer of 2015, I reassessed my front garden and decided to remove the lawns with the goal to reduce water use, reduce deer forage, and increase visual appeal by simplifying the design with texture and a more unifying pattern.
The two so-called lawns (north and east of the house) were not doing the job. For lawns to look good they need lots of water and fertilizer. I was unwilling to use more water. The local granitic soil acts like a sieve, and most of the water, along with nutrients, drain right into the water table. I refuse to add excess fertilizer to the Bear Creek. So replacing the lawns was the first and easiest decision. However, the lawn sections provide negative space in the overall landscape design. Solution was flag stone and step-able ground cover. After a few astronomical quotes from ‘professional’ landscapers, I opted for the do-it-yourself method. Also replace the expensive flag stone with much cheaper cement pavers. In hindsight, after tallying up the costs, these were very smart decisions indeed!
Deer Resistant — My foot!
Later that same year, I started to think about the front yard planting beds. I say ‘planting beds’ because they were no longer flower beds. For many years, I have tried to achieve color during the summer/fall months with different flowering plants. With reassurances from the nurseries: “This plant is deer resistant, you’ll have color throughout the summer.” Well, after trying salvia, mint, rudibeckia, yarrow, verbena, coreopsis, mums, marigolds, succulents (the list goes on); it turns out they were partially correct. Deer might not eat the plant, but they love all those flower buds. Shasta daisies are the only flowering plant that currently is impervious to deer browsing (regardless of the name, it is a non-native). Thus I’ve given up on flower color during the summer in the front yard. There are too many deer; and they sample every available bud.
Instead of color, I am going with pattern and texture. So for the three planting beds, I mostly chose sedges, fescues, and grasses along with euphorbia. These are the only plants that the deer really won’t eat — yet.
Removing the So-called Lawns
We used two methods to remove the lawns: 1. smother the grass over the winter with cardboard and wood chips; and 2. manually scrap away the grass. Both techniques work well, the former requires patience, and the latter requires more brawn.
When Jim and I were prepping the planting beds, Ashland arborists chose that time to trim my trees from the electrical wires. “Perfect!”, I thought as I sauntered over to greet the workmen. After some pleasantries, I asked for the wood chips (figuring the wood chips are mine, after all). The workmen were happy to comply; and delivered enough chips to cover and smother the largest lawn section. In return, one guy asked for the Shasta daisies. Gotta love it when everyone is happy with a trade.
While the front East lawn was covered in wood chips over the winter of 2015/2016, I thought about paver pattern and design for the lawn sections. Jim campaigned hard for a rooster design in stonework for the north lawn – that was not going to happen! One afternoon (did I say one afternoon?) I laid out the pavers in the smaller north section by myself (about 325 square feet). That established the overall curvy geometric pattern, which was then repeated in the larger section. Thankfully, Jim helped me with the bigger section, and did the lion’s share of lifting! By the end of Spring 2016, pavers were all laid and creeping thyme planted, along with some additional accent plants. By late summer the thyme filled out so nicely in the north section, I had to trim it back.
Unforeseen Consequences: Connecting with Others
I was quite surprised by how many neighbors and Ashland tourists I met while working on this garden project. Some knew I was the owner, and some actually thought I was the hired help — the gardening overalls and straw hat can be misleading. Each and all were very supportive and approving of the project, however funnily enough none offered to help! Almost to the person, they would say “I can barely wait to see it finished.”, to which I would reply with a smile, “Me too!”
Brentano String Quartet
Brentano String Quartet plays at the SOU Music Recital Hall
Friday, January 20, 2017 – 7:30pm | Saturday, January 21, 2017 – 3pm
Brentano String Quartet has appeared throughout the world to popular and critical acclaim. Within a few years of its formation in 1992, the quartet garnered the first Cleveland Quartet Award, Naumburg Chamber Music Award, and Chamber Music Society Two, a coveted distinction for chamber groups and individuals.
In recent seasons, the quartet has appeared in the US, Canada, Europe, Japan, and Australia. In 2014 became the Resident String Quartet at the Yale School of Music, succeeding the Tokyo Quartet in that position.
The group is named for Antonie Brentano, whom many scholars consider to be Beethoven’s “Immortal Beloved,” the intended recipient of his famous love confession.
EVENING SERIES: FRIDAY, JANUARY 20, 2017 – 7:30PM
Haydn – String Quartet in E-flat Major, Op. 20 no. 1
Kurtág – 6 Moments Musicaux
Beethoven – “Between Tides”
MATINEE SERIES: SATURDAY, JANUARY 21, 2017 – 3PM
Mozart – String Quartet in E-flat Major, K. 428
Hartke – Commissioned work
Dvořák – String Quartet in C Major, Op. 61
For more information go to Chamber Music Concerts
Spotlight on Billy Joel
January 12 – 29, 2017
Starring David King-Gabriel
Tickets: $22 – $33
Billy Joel is an American pianist, singer-songwriter, performer, and composer. Since releasing his first hit song “Piano Man” in 1973, Joel has become the sixth best-selling recording artist and the third best-selling solo artist in the United States. Joel achieved 33 Top 40 hits through the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. He is also a six-time Grammy Award winner and sold more than 150 million records worldwide.
Camelot Theatre’s Spotlight performance will include songs such as: “Piano Man”, “Just the Way You Are”, “A New York State of Mind,” and others.
Camelot Theatre Company is located in Talent, Oregon in the beautiful Rogue Valley, just a few miles north of Ashland. We perform in the brand new state-of-the-art James M. Collier Theatre. Here is our Mission Statement:
To be of service to the Rogue Valley, Oregon, by producing high-quality affordable plays, musicals and musical events while providing a supportive environment for professional and amateur theatre artists and technicians and inspiring and training adults, teens and children in the theatre arts.
For more information and to purchase tickets to this performance at the Camelot Theatre go to their website.
I am very fond of poetry, especially those poems about nature. Pepper Trail is a bit of a local legend. He is a research biologist specializing in ornithology. He is about to retire from being the senior forensic scientist and ornithologist at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Forensics Laboratory in Ashland Oregon. He and his team fight wildlife trafficking.
A poem by Pepper Trail
“Not water alone does flow, but land
All its coverings and its inhabitants
The deer walking from valley to ridge
The birds and the every living thing
Find here, in a world of change, their place.”
2017 Oregon Shakespeare Festival Plays: The Outlook
December is when the general public can start buying tickets for 2017 Oregon Shakespeare Festival plays.
Frequently I am asked about what I know and think about the upcoming plays. I can’t predict the future (wouldn’t that be nice!). I try to see all plays when they are in preview, and then write reviews; however sometimes the word quickly gets out about which one are the ‘don’t miss’ plays, then the tickets are hard to get. I think next year will be no exception.
The past can frequently predict the future
I can share with you a remarkably consistent pattern I’ve noticed over the last 15 years. Every season there are more than a few plays nearly every guest loves. Most of the time those plays are the new(er) plays, often those produced in the Thomas theater, and plays with social justice themes. I don’t think this pattern will be any different next year. Thus I look forward to seeing these 2017 Oregon Shakespeare Festival plays: Mojada: A Medea in Los Angeles, Hannah and the Dread Gazebo, and Off the Rails. Personally, I have loved every play August Wilson has written, and I am a fan of poetry, so in addition to the ‘modern’ plays, I eagerly await Unison.
Furthermore, given how well done 2016’s Richard II was, I think the two Henrys are going to be in that ‘don’t miss’ category. Jeffrey King, who played Henry Bolingbrooke in Richard II, will continue with his same character into the Henrys. I am really looking forward to seeing the History plays.
Three of the Festival’s accomplished and popular actors, Danforth Comins, Rodney Gardiner, and Armando Durán, are leads in Julius Caesar. Given current political events, the subtext in this play will no doubt evoke more powerful reactions than other past Julius Caesar plays.
I am interested in seeing what OSF will do with Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. At first I had reservations – Disney! Really? But since then I have heard that instead of strictly controlling the production to be a replica of every other Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, OSF has been given free rein to produce it how they want. Which is the reason OSF’s write up says: “Think you know the Disney musical? Think again. Expect originality, surprises and ingenuity in OSF’s gorgeous and powerful new rendition.” Personally, I hope OSF will evoke more the original 18th century version.
Based on current reservations for the Chanticleer Inn B&B, it already looks like we’re going to be busy next year. Yet, there are still plenty of rooms available during the 2017 summer months and more during the early and late part of the season.
The Culinarium, the Latest Kitchen Store in Town
The Culinarium with an apt byline “A Delicious Discovery” is Ashland’s the latest cook store with gourmet foods and high-end kitchenware.
At 270 E. Main St, this store is conveniently located. In fact, Chanticleer Inn guests will pass this store every time they walk to the Festival’s plays.
While there are other stores for small kitchen gadgets, many of us have missed having a store completely dedicated to the kitchen and cooking — with much more inventory.
The owners, Constance and David Jesser, are very knowledgeable about all their products and about cooking. After the crazy holiday rush, starting sometime in the Spring 2017, Constance will be conducting cooking classes.
My Garden, a Poem by Ellen
Last October 2016, Gini Grossenbacher conducted a writing workshop at the Chanticleer Inn B&B. I was kindly invited to join the other ladies in the morning writing exercises.
In one of those exercises, Gini asked us to choose a place; and then given 15 minutes to write about it. It will come to no surprise to some, I chose my garden at the B&B. Here is the poem:
I garden alone, but it’s not a solitary task.
Plants talk in long sentences that stretch over seasons and years. Gardeners must adjust their attention span.
Scrub Jays repeatedly dart in and out of the hedge. Note to self, prune carefully near that spot.
Pine cone cobs scattered and tossed about, squirrels make more work.
Invasive carpeting of weeds. I can never remember its Latin name, but appropriately it rhythms with ‘damn it’.
by Ellen Campbell, October 2016
Gini Grossenbacher is a wonderful teacher, published writer, historical novelist in 19th century San Francisco and WWII spies. For more information on Gini go to www.ginigrossenbacher.com
The Delgani String Quartet Debuts in Southern Oregon
The acclaimed Delgani String Quartet with Rickie Birran of “Man of Words Theatre Company” combines music and literature in a three collaborative performances: December 15, 16, and 17, 2016. [For locations, please see below.]
The performances will couple texts by John Milton, Lewis Carroll, Robert Browning, and William Blake with new music by the renowned composer Paul Safar. Rounding out the program is Beethoven’s C major Razumovsky Quartet.
- Satan Speaks from Paradise Lost
- The Walrus and the Carpenter
- The Pied Piper of Hamelin
- The Tyger
Ludwig van Beethoven
String Quartet in C Major, Op. 59 No. 3
Delgani String Quartet and Man of Words Theatre in three Southern Oregon performances:
Hill Violin Shop
Date: December 15 @ 7:30 pm
Location: Kings Highway, Medford OR 97501
SOLD OUT Inquire at (541) 621-7091
Date: December 16 @ 7 pm
Location: 1122 Suncrest Rd Talent, OR 97540
Tickets at the door $20 and $5 students
Date: December 17 @ 3 pm
Location: 132 NE B St., Grants Pass, OR 97526
Tickets at the door $20 and $5 students
Tomato Egg Cups with Polenta
Tomato egg cups are really easy to do and they present so well. Serve them nestled in a pool of creamy cheesy polenta or in a colorful hash; or serve with a side of roasted potatoes or zucchinis.
The selection of vegetables, meats, and cheese, as well as the amounts, can vary depending on the season and your taste.
For more information about the Chanticleer Inn Cookbook go here.
Recipes for Tomato Egg Cups with Polenta
Tomato Egg Cups
6 servings and Pre-heat oven 350°F
Use six 4-inch silicone muffin cups lightly sprayed with oil.
The selection of vegetables and cheese, as well as the amounts, can vary depending on the season and your taste. The cook should treat the ingredient list below as a starting point!
- 2-3 medium sized mushrooms, sliced
- 1 medium-small zucchini, sliced
- 6 medium tomatoes
- 6 broccoli florets, small enough to almost fill each tomato
- 6 tablespoons cheese, grated (my staff and I prefer strong cheeses, such as, Parmesan, Gorgonzola or cheddar)
- 8-10 eggs
- 1/2 cup milk (omit if lactose-free, but increase the number of eggs and amount of salsa)
- 3-4 tablespoons butter, melted, and cooled
- 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 cup green salsa
- 1-2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, minced (optionally, sage and/or oregano)
If using silicone muffin cups, lightly spray oil; if using metal muffin tin then liberally spray the muffin tin cups.
Place a zucchini slice at the bottom of each muffin cup and at least three around the cup walls. Also place mushroom slices around the cup walls.
For each tomato, slice the top off and scoop out the pulp. (I save the sliced top, minus the stem core, and the pulp to use in a future frittata) Place each tomato in the middle a silicone/muffin tin cup with the zucchini and mushroom slices evenly encircling the tomato. It’s desirable, but not necessary, if the tomato rim is a little higher than the rim of the cup.
Partially fill each tomato with the grated cheese, if the cheese spills over into the muffin tin that’s fine. Finish by inserting a broccoli floret into each tomato. It’s o.k. if the top of the floret is a little higher than the tomato rim.
In a medium bowl, whisk eggs, milk, butter, and minced garlic, then add salsa. Pour the egg mixture around the tomatoes and some inside each tomato.
Bake the tomato egg cups in a 350°F oven for 15-20 minutes, or until the egg is set.
6 servings Use heavy saucepan
- 3 cups water (or 2 cup water and 1 cup broth)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup polenta
- 1/2 cup milk, (alternatively, half & half or sour cream)
- 1-3 tablespoons butter (optional, but recommended)
- 1/3 cup gorgonzola
In a large saucepan, bring the water (or water and broth) and salt to a boil. While whisking, slowly pour in the polenta. Whisk constantly for 2 minutes to prevent lumps. Simmer partially covered, stirring every few minutes for about 10-15 minutes or more, until the polenta grains are fully saturated and the polenta is thick and smooth.
Into the polenta, blend in the milk (half & half or sour cream), cheese, and butter. Check for seasoning and adjust as desired. If the polenta grains are not quite saturated, then add a little milk or water.
Polenta may be made up to 15-20 minutes ahead of time, and kept covered until ready to serve. Reheat in saucepan if needed.
As soon as the OSF’s 2016 season closed, the city blocked off Pioneer St and started to rip out the plaza area between the Bowmer Theater and the city street — the area fondly referred to as The Bricks. A much needed and long-time in coming redo as the slope of the surface was difficult to navigate even for the completely able-bodied.
Here are pictures taken in November 2016 at the start of the reconstruction:
Many have received letters, and even calls, asking for donations to help in the project to redo the bricked plaza area where OSF conducts the Green Show. This capital project is important to both OSF and the City of Ashland.