Sunday, November 28, 2010

They're reading this in Russia?

So I happened to look at my blog stats. Apparently they're reading me in Russia. US is first by far, but Russia comes in second. And the most popular posts? The one entitled "The Sirens of Singlehood and the Single Gardener's Manifesto" came in first at 21 hits, and "The House that Griffey Built" came in at 11. Y'all like my manifesto!

I have a feeling my latest post about gifts for gardeners will also generate a lot of traffic.

Fun. I guess y'all are really enjoying reading about the trials and tribulations of a spontaneous gardener!

Good Gifts for Gardeners

Is there a gardener in your life? Or perhaps there's a gardener you're wooing? Instead of working on my paper that's due on Tuesday, I was thinking about some good gifts for gardeners. Here are some suggestions. These are largely oriented towards vegetable gardeners, but with some creativity, could apply to flower gardeners as well.

1. Seeds
Every gardener likes seeds. This time of year, seed catalogs are arriving in the mail and gardeners are dreaming about planting season. Before your favorite gardener gets home, steal the seed catalog and thumb through it. Seed packets tend to be pretty cheap (around $3 for a 1/4 oz, usually), so you could pick up a few. I tend to like organic non-GMO seeds. Both Territorial Seed Company and Seeds of Change have good varieties. Pinetree Garden Seeds is great for cheap seed packets, should your gardener not care so much about organic non-GMO seeds.

If you do buy seed packets, make sure that the seeds you are buying will germinate and grow well in your climate. Most seed catalogs have a map of growing zones in the front or back, and codes next to the seeds that correspond to those zones. You don't want to make the mistake of buying kiwi seeds for a Northwest gardener -- those won't grow here.

2. The Northwesterner's Garden "Bible"
Seattle Tilth publishes The Maritime Northwest Garden Guide, an absolute must for a Northwest gardener. This guide tells you what to plant when, and is indispensable. It also suggests some varieties of warm season crops (peppers, eggplant, tomatoes) that do well in our short summers. If you are buying seeds for your favorite Northwest gardener, make sure you flip through this book first. Tomatoes, for example, are rather difficult to grow in our climate. You are going to want to purchase varieties Seattle Tilth suggests, like Stupice or Peacevine Cherry Tomato.

3. Walls o' water or other season extenders
As you probably read if you follow my blog, I was the only gardener on my block who had tomatoes this year. It was a cold summer. Why was I so fortunate? I was smart and encased all my summer crops in a wall o' water. These things are handy to have around -- they act like a jacket for your plants. The temperature inside the wall o' water is usually 5 to 10 degrees warmer than it is outside. sells these in packets of 3.

Other season extenders include garden cloches. Typically, Northwest gardeners build these out of PVC pipe and plastic. There are directions online on how to build one. This may be a large present to wrap, so you could borrow a tip from my parents and wrap up a small picture of a cloche in a box and build it with directions from the gardener. Cloches are really helpful when germinating seeds, and also act like a greenhouse, keeping the temperature warm for your plants.

4. Garden accessories
OK -- who doesn't need dirt? I'd seriously be pretty happy to find a 20-lb bag of potting soil under the Xmas tree. Come February, I'll need dirt to start my seedlings!

Pots are always a good idea. I like to use compostable pots, as they make transplanting seedlings pretty easy. Any hardware store should have these in various shapes and sizes.

Lights are great for starting plants indoors. Some people swear by a heating mat, but I've found that if you heat your house and put your little baby plants by a window, the greenhouse effect will do the job. In the Northwest, though, we don't get enough sunlight to start warm season crops in a window. You can get a fancy-shmancy light setup that's easy to adjust (this is on my Xmas list this year), or you can jury rig stuff out of construction lights with clips. Last year, I had plants all over the living room -- I clipped the construction lights to my bookshelves and used phone books as needed to adjust the height. It worked out okay, but wasn't the optimal setup. Make sure you buy a full spectrum light bulb for your plants. I think you want a CFL bulb, but ask at the garden or hardware store first.

Garden shears, watering cans, those plastic thingys you use to start plants indoors, peat pellets for starting plants -- you name it, we'll probably use it!

5. Cooking or canning supplies
I bet the vegetable gardener in your life is also a fantastic chef. Not to toot my own horn or anything, but I'm a damn good cook. I think it's because I try to use super fresh ingredients -- stuff from my garden when it's growing, and stuff from the farmer's market in the winter.

There are a couple of cookbooks I suggest for gardener-chefs. How to Cook Everything, by New York Times food writer Mark Bittmann, is one of my personal favorites. I forgot to put his new one, The Food Matters Cookbook, on my Xmas list. My mom and possibly my brother are likely reading this on Facebook, so now they know. :) Anyway, How to Cook Everything is a great guide for any cook. Bittmann has some creative ways to use interesting vegetables, and has a plethora of potato and tomato recipes. His recipe for pasta with bacon and romano cheese is a favorite among both my family and friends. However, I find his recipes for veggies like kale and chard to be a bit lacking. If I have greens I want to use, I tend to reach for Simply in Season or From Asparagus to Zucchini. The latter two cookbooks have a ton of recommendations for seasonal eaters, including some creative ways to use the leafy greens that grow so well in the Northwest. Tall Guy and his friends still talk about the Swiss Chard Pie I made from the second cookbook. It was awesome.

Canning season is about a year away, but the gardener in your life could likely use some supplies. Canners can be rather expensive. If you don't want to pickle everything, you'll need a pressure canner. If you don't mind pickling, a water bath canner will suffice. Jars are always welcome, too!

Let's say that the gardener in your life loves flowers, and can't grow a tomato to save her life. But she loves farmers' markets and locally grown food. Think about purchasing a CSA share. Most farms offer summer CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture), and you can sign up for them now. Walk around your local farmer's market and ask around about different options. With most places, you pay up front, in advance, and receive a 4-6 month share in the summer and fall. Prices in the Northwest range from $250-$500, depending on the size and length of time. My personal favorite is Seattle Market Gardens. For $15/week, you're supporting a low-income immigrant gardener who is growing vegetables in his or her P-Patch. The gardener growing your food uses the proceeds to purchase seeds for the following year and as an income. A friend and I did this last year, supporting Vietnamese and Hmong gardeners in South Seattle.

Another option would be to buy market bucks. In Seattle at least, the farmer's markets sell market bucks for shoppers to use at each stall. Think of it as a gift certificate to the farmer's market. I bet your favorite gardener would LOVE to find this under the tree.

6. An Actual Garden
This may involve some creativity. My parents gave me my garden at my house -- they built it and provided dirt for it. It was an awesome birthday present, and one that keeps on giving! I had to check with my landlord first to make sure digging up the yard was okay. Raised garden beds can add value to rental houses. Make sure you check with your gardener's landlord before planning this present.

If your favorite gardener is an apartment dweller or lacks the space for a garden, you have a couple of options. Urban Garden Share is like a for gardeners -- it matches potential gardeners with people who have space to garden. Sign up for an account and look for a good match for your green thumb. In Seattle, these are organized by date and neighborhood. You could find one that is close by. Typically, those who own gardens and gardeners negotiate things like cost of seeds and supplies and who gets to take home the produce. Make sure this is a good match.

(Incidentally, a dating service for gardeners would be a fabulous idea. Seriously. Something like could really take off...)

Sign up for a P-Patch or a community garden in your area. Be warned, though, sometimes you can wait a while on the waitlist. Most of the gardens in Seattle have a 2-3 year wait! There's been a (wonderful) explosion of interest in home gardening, likely due to the efforts of First Lady Michelle Obama and other celebrity gardeners. This translates into long waits with some gardens. (I love it that there's a gardener in the White House right now!)

7. Books and other fun things
I've come across some great reads for gardeners and those interested in food security. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver chronicles one family's journey into local, seasonal eating. It's a loving portrait of the trials and tribulations they faced as a family. It offers some great tips, and is well-written, too.

Other books include Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma, about why industrial food is bad for you. Pollan is coming to speak in Seattle in January -- perhaps tickets to go see him would be a good gift for your gardener as well.

Pretty jewelry is another fabulous suggestion. has a number of stores that sell jewelry and homemade art. My friend Caitlin has a store on Etsy. She does some beautiful leatherwork that your gardener would likely love. Check her out at

Happy shopping!

As for a me update -- I'm doing pretty well, all things considered. Had a lovely, relaxing weekend full of friends and family. I have Rock Lobster stuck in my head today -- likely from John and Jacob's hilarious version of it while playing Rock Band last night. All in all, things are good. I'm surrounded by the love of the amazing people in my life. I'm a lucky lady, and really couldn't ask for anything more. :)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Remembering Dave Niehaus 1935-2010

I felt like a kid on Christmas morning when the Mariners said I could interview Dave Niehaus for my bachelor's thesis in 2004. I'd been listening to the Mariners for my whole life, and Dave was my childhood hero. I couldn't (and still can't) listen to baseball without thinking of Dave's voice. I see baseball through Dave's eyes -- when he describes the blue of the sky, and the cut of the grass, I could see and smell the field.

So it was with my heart pounding in my chest that I dialed Dave's home phone number.

"Hello?" his wife picked up.

"Hi, is Dave Niehaus there please?" I asked politely. She went to get him. I had to remind him who I was and why I was calling, but once I did so, he made me feel right at home.

"Oh hi, Anna, how are you?" he asked in his deep baritone. Like I was an old friend. He switched phones because the one he was on was gonna run out of batteries. And then we started talking about Whitman, Walla Walla, and what I was doing. I think he could sense that I was nervous talking to him. But he put me right at ease, chit-chatting about Walla Walla, my hometown of Seattle, and what I was majoring in.

And then the magic began. For 45 minutes, I asked Dave questions, and listened to him reminisce about the bad old years, the exciting years of the '90s, and where the team was going to go next. I scribbled notes and listened with my ear pressed up against the phone.

Dave started to get excited when he talked about the 1995 season. "It was about, you know, August of that particular year when, I think the Mariners were thirteen games behind the Angels, and funny things began to happen. And not only did they catch the Angels, the Angels caught them at the end. If you might recall, we were in Texas, and had clenched a tie for the division championship with two games to go, and then Texas beat us the last two games, and the Angels swept all four games down in Anaheim against Oakland. And tied, and then they came up here and then we beat them.
And then went to New York, and af – ironically, I’ll never forget this, because the first day we were in New York, uh, to play the Yankees in the playoffs, it was the day that the OJ Simpson verdict came down. And, uh, and then lost the first two games and that – certainly the second game, that bitter thirteen, fourteen-inning, fifteen-inning game. I think it was thirteen innings, where Jimmy Leyrich hit a home run into the, into – raindrops into the seats in right field, and we’re coming back down two to nothing, and you knew the season was over. And, well, as you know what happened, it wasn’t over. We won all three games, culminated by Edgar Martinez’ double down the left field line with Joey Cora scoring and then Junior scoring from first base.
And – and I think it was from August of that year that the town became absolutely rabid, fanatical."

I could see Cora scoring. I could see Edgar's double down the left field line. I could see Junior scoring from first base. That's how powerful Niehaus was. Through his voice, you saw the game.

Dave was adamant that the 2001 Mariners had had more wins than the 1906 Cubs, and that their accomplishment was greater than that of the Cubs. ". Ironically, the hundred and sixteen wins were the most in baseball history. Uh, people say that no, the 1906 Chicago Cubs also won a hundred and sixteen games. They, they won a hundred and fifteen. They had one game given to them. It was forfeited to them, when John McGraw would not play, the Cubs wouldn’t put his team, the New York Giants on the field because he didn’t like the umpiring crew, and he said if this particular umpire is gonna umpire behind home plate he wouldn’t put his team on the field. And the umpire says “okay then, see ya later.” And they forfeited that game to the Chicago Cubs. So the Cubs actually on the field only won a hundred and fifteen games, the Mariners won a hundred and sixteen. But of course, you know, there are all kinds of nuances to that, too. The Cubs only played a hundred and fifty-four games, the Mariners played a hundred and sixty-two, so."

Dave Niehaus died yesterday. He had a heart attack on his back porch. He was surrounded by family when he died, as it should be. The Northwest lost a legend. I cried for hours. And, not knowing just what I should do, I drove down to Safeco Field with a candle and a note for his family. I had to tell them what Dave meant to me. I wasn't alone. Four other people were down there with the same thought. We left flowers and candles at the Home Plate entrance. KIRO 710 announced that a "spontaneous candlelight vigil" was going on at the stadium. All throughout the night and into today, fans of Dave Niehaus have been making the pilgrimage to Safeco Field, leaving their remembrances. The entire Northwest is grieving. It feels like we lost our grandfather, the one who told us stories about Ken Griffey Jr., Edgar Martinez, and Jay Buhner. The one who could make a summer night come alive with magic and wonder. The one we listened to no matter what the score was. If the Mariners were down by 10 runs, I'd listen to Dave call for more. I learned to love baseball because of Dave Niehaus.

For me, some of the most poignant things Dave told me were about his role as a broadcaster. He knew that he'd become part of people's families and people's lives. And I think it humbled him. He said, "Baseball announcers like myself become ingrained in people’s families, because you come into their homes, if you’re a baseball fan, almost every day. And you become a part of their family."

And that's it. That's why it's so hard to lose him. He became a part of many people's families.

Summer's not going to feel the same without him. He said, "People start to listen, listening to me – or when baseball season comes around, let’s put it this way, it’s a portent of good things to come. Because the winter is over, Spring has started, the trees start to bloom, it’s, you know, it’s a – vacations are around the corner, beaches, hiking, trips, everything."

When I heard Dave's voice on the radio every February, I knew that spring was right around the corner. I knew that soon we'd be having beautiful long summer Seattle days and warm nights. I knew that it was almost hiking season. It's just not going to feel like summer without Dave.

Before I hung up the phone, Dave Niehaus asked if I would send him a copy of my bachelor's thesis when I was done. I couldn't believe it. My childhood hero was asking me to send me what I'd written. "Well Anna, it’s uh – good luck to you. And, uh, if you get a chance, when you write this, let me, let me read it," he said. So I bound a copy and sent it to him at Safeco Field. I don't know if he read it, but I like to think he did. I hope he liked it.

I treasure that phone conversation I had with Hall of Famer Dave Niehaus. It just epitomizes who he was. He was one of the nicest men in sports, a real class act, who would talk to anybody. Even during the down years -- and we Mariners fans have been in the midst of almost a decade of them -- we still listened to Dave.

According to broadcaster Shannon Drayer, Dave believed that Hall of Fame ghosts came out at night and played baseball at Doubleday Field in Cooperstown. On her blog, she related this anecdote.

"I thought that after they turned the lights off that they must sneak out of there and head over to Doubleday Field," he said, "almost like a Field of Dreams, only everyone is a Hall of Famer and you have got the ideal pitching matchup against the greatest ball players of all time. The old Negro Leagues stars were there and it is one happy family. Why not bring them all back and play the Oscar Charlestons? Yeah, you're darn right. There are ghosts there."

I like to imagine Dave Niehaus among the ghosts of Cooperstown. He's meeting Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio. He's talking with Harry Caray, his own childhood hero. And he gets in the radio booth as Cy Young throws a fastball to Babe Ruth with three men on, and it's

"Babe Ruth points the bat out to left field, and it's swung on and BELTED! Deep to left field! Ted Williams goes to the track, to the wall! This baby is gonna...FLY AWAY! GET OUT THE RYE BREAD AND THE MUSTARD GRANDMA, IT'S GRAND SALAMI TIME!!!"

Rest in peace, Dave Niehaus. It's not going to feel like summer around here without you.