Sunday, February 12, 2012

Crash, bang, boom.

We had a wicked cold snap a couple/few weeks ago. We saw over a foot of snow followed by a serious ice storm that left a couple/three inches of ice on the branches of every tree around. Our land looks like a game of pick-up sticks with broken treetops laying the garden, below the house, in the woods, on the blueberries, in the orchards. It's a mess. Slowly but surely Steve (and sometimes Becca) have been cleaning things up.

We lost the majority of a whole row of stately white birches and almost half of the gorgeous oak tree that we look out on from the kitchen. Clean up is going to be a long process. The birches smashed the grape trellis and garden fence. The ornamental cherry tree is toast but that doesn't bother me too much as it was too close to the hoophouse for my tastes (after years of hardly growing at all, it has grown tremendously since we put the hoophouse in). Funny, nearly all the trees that have grown so much since we put in the garden are gone. I can't think of how many times I have been disgruntled at them for shading the garden. The power of strong thoughts, eh?

What will remain after we get this all cleaned up is still a question. I know the garden will have sun. I know the hoophouse will have more sun (and a couple of holes in it where the oak tree punctured it as branches crashed to the ground). In the orchard, it will take years for some of the trees to come back to full bounty but others might be improved by the big pruning. The ice storm took off branches I have been wanting to cut for years but haven't had the heart to do. But what do we do with a row of gorgeous white birches that are now half their size and missing their tops. Cut them down and give up on them, or let them try to come back with bushy topped afros instead of long, straight look of the 70's? I just don't know.

But whatever happens, after the storm the sun came out, the weather warmed up. We've been seeing bees for a week and snowdrops are popping up everywhere. Spring is on everyone's minds.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The things we do....

Ostensibly, I thought it would be fun to write a blog about what we do around here. But what I have found is when we are actually doing something interesting (like getting a new home ready for the ducklings or canning massive amounts of applesauce from interesting apples foraged here and there) I don't really have time to write about it. And my mind seems to be busy enough at the moment that I don't remember the little bits of funny and interest to write about these adventures days later. So that means, I either write boring things (like this) or don't write (which is what I have been doing most of the time lately). I am not sure how to solve this dilemma. So in the end, I guess what you see is what you get and I am sorry because if I was putting just a little bit more effort into this I could be doing a whole lot better job.

This week Becca and I canned 36 quarts of applesauce mostly made from piles of little teeny, scabby and sometimes bruised apples. That meant to get that much applesauce we did a LOT of peeling and cutting and washing to get a few little apples in the pot. Becca had a lot going on so I probably did the lion's share of the peeling and burning (and subsequent scrubbing) of pots. She, however was great company and even rather entertaining as posted in her blog-- The Friendly Moth .

Anyway, now Becca is off at the local Seattle Barter faire with a couple of boxes of my canning seeing what she can trade for. She's going to do a way better job of trading the goods than I would. And hopefully have a better time. I gave her all kinds of stuff that we aren't eating right now because of Aidan being on the GAPS tomato relish, pumpkin quince chutney, plum chutney, plum sauce, jams, corn relish etc etc and I am hoping she will come home with something completely novel in trade. I like the idea of Barter Faire where you bring what you have too much of and trade it for what somebody else has too much of and both of you end up feeling like you got the good end of the deal. BUT, I don't really like crowds (except my family) and I definitely don't like haggling so I never go. I was excited to give Becca stuff to hawk and not have to do it myself. Another good trade. Becca doesn't know because I wasn't clear when she left but I was thinking that for her efforts she ought to get half of what she traded for.

Aidan is upstairs supposedly doing homework, but I think that isn't happening yet because he just came down and said he wanted to earn $5 by doing dog poop patrol and when I tried to give him his money he said, "Oh, no. Keep it. I spent more than I earned..." Which means he was probably buying music online and not doing his homework. hmm.

Steve is off on some kind of marathon hike, which we are hoping he brought Charlie with him because Charlie seems to be missing...The only problem with that hope is that if he brought Charlie with him, Charlie is probably not too happy because it was a heck of a long hike Steve had planned and Charlie only likes going on medium long hikes now. 8-10 miles is good for him, but it looks like from the note Steve left on the chalkboard that Steve was thinking 18-20 miles sounded fun. Another hmm.

So see, now I have told you all there is to tell and it was boring. But at least I told you. Hope you all are well.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Foraging in the early fall...

I love this time of year. The air smells so clean and fresh and it is warm but also cool and never hot.

I love that I can snack my way around the yard while filling a bowl with goodies for dinner. Like the other night: roasted green and wax beans, cucumber salad, chicken (from the infamous chickies ruining the mud room escapade) and for dessert, melon (not from the garden) with plump blackberries cascading over the top. Everything was perfect. No fancy seasonings..just fresh taste.

It always amazes me just how good food can taste when it is truly fresh. Why did people ever want to stop gardening. Did they leave their taste buds home when they started shopping at the store. I can never quite understand that.

I have gotten so spoiled by homegrown foods that it is hard to buy even good produce at the store, and just forget meat. I used to think it was just tomatoes and corn that tasted better when grown at home. (That was when I mostly grew tomatoes and corn.) But then I added carrots and potatoes to the list. And then beans, and peas, and kale, and broccoli. Now I even think cabbage and beets must be grown at home because there is simply no comparing them.

I believe I am becoming a food snob. I really don't mean to be. Honest I don't. It is just that I can't help noticing the difference.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Strike, crash, boom

Remember when our house got struck by lightning a couple of years ago right around Thanksgiving. Well, when the lightning was jetting around from our house through all the electricity lines around the farm, it ended up jumping to one of our very tall fir trees and swirling up (or was it down?) the tree in a beautiful spiral.

It left behind a long spiral burn mark on the tree starting thick at the bottom (this is why I think it went up) and peetering out fairly near the top. The force of the strike also split off the top of this very majestic fir and sent it flying into the pasture below where it pierced the grass like a skewer. All in all, very dramatic.

And while we admired the beauty of the burn mark, and the power of the lightning, we feared it would kill the tree. All last year we watched as the tree slowly lost it's vitality. Late last winter it finally died.

Ever since then, Steve's been itching to get out there and cut it down, But last winter and spring the pasture was too wet. When it dried out this summer Becca was in the middle of her daycamp sessions.  And with Becca's campers around he didn't dare fall it in case it got hung up or something on the way down. Trees can be unpredicatable in how they fall and he didn't want to create an unsafe situation that he might not be able to get back to for a few days. Thank you Steve.

So today, his first day out of the office since Becca finished her camps, he jumped at the chance to cut that tree down.  He bought some extra equipment because the tree was so big, he didn't want to take any chances.  He spent sometime on youtube watching professionals fall especially large trees. And then this morning he spent a couple of hours diddling around inside, which I later figured out was his way of gearing up because it was a big, dangerous job and he wanted to do it right.

Then he made us promise to keep the puppies inside the house, shoe-ed Becca and I out of the pasture where we were picking blackberries and then asked Aidan to come out and help. I made Steve promise to watch out for Aidan.

About 15 minutes after he started sawing, the chainsaw stopped and I heard this very loud CRACK. And then a louder boom. I saw the tree go by out of the corner of my eye and I knew it was down. We went outside (leaving the puppies in still) to investigate and there was the tree. Lying all the way across the pasture exactly where Steve said he was going to drop it,

Good job Steve,

It took the whole rest of the day (with many helpers) to clean up and stack the slash and limbs which will make good firewood this winter. That's a lot of tree to take that long to clean up.

Now he is in search of a portable mill because he would really rather make some wood than firewood out of this beautiful tree. Let's hope he finds one.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

It's knotweed season

We are coming to the end of bee season. All the knotweed is in bloom along the road and down by the river. It is the last sure crop of bee friendly flowers we will have until spring.

I was looking in the hives today to see how they are coming along. One is doing so well. Boxes are full of honey and brimming with bees. But another hive, started the same day with bees that are supposed to be prolific producers of honey is barely going. Few bees are in the box.

Unless something weird happens the thriving hive should have no trouble making it through the winter. The other one is another story. If I want it to make it I am going to have to feed it all winter. But this brings up the question is it smart to nurse along a weak hive just to keep it alive or should I only let the strong ones live. It's a hard question.

I think for the health of the bees, probably it is better to let the strong ones survive and let the weak ones go. But it is so sad to know you could help them along and just let them fade away. I am still thinking about what I will do.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Jack and the raspberries....

Who knew that dogs would eat raspberries. I certainly didn't.

Yesterday I went outside to pick raspberries. Jack and Squinchy came with me. Squinch got bored quickly and went off in search of more exciting endeavors, but Jack settled in right at my feet. Every time I would move, he would move right along with me. There were so many raspberries to pick I wasn't moving very often so he had time for a few little naps at my feet.

From time to time the cows would wander over and look through the fence and grab a mouthful of the raspberry plants. They love everything to do with raspberries...the leaves, the stalks and the berries. They have done some serious damage to the plants right next to the fence, but they also help fertilize these heavy feeders by pooping right next to the fence. So I figure it is a fair trade.
I often leave berries for the cows on the crossbar of the fence and they come up and lick them up. Brigid will eat them out of my hand. Mattie is a little more cautious. She wants hers from the cross bar and it takes her quite a few sniffs before she will eat the berry.

Anyway, we have been toying with the idea of giving the dogs raw food. Because of this, I have been feeding them little bits of this and that to see if they like it. Including fruit. Jack laps currents right up. Charlie is more demur in his appetite for fruit but still, he eats them. Squinch carefully ate everything else in the bowl and left his for Jack to clean up. Given this I guess it shouldn't have been a such surprise to see how much Jack like the raspberries.

At first I would hand him one or two berries and he would happily gobble them up. I didn't want to give him TOO many of our raspberries so after awhile I stopped handing them to him. This apparently did not work for him. Next thing I knew he was sitting at my feet eating the low growing raspberries right off the bush. He'd stick his tongue out and delicately pull a berry right off the bush. And of course, because a tongue doesn't work near as well as fingers do, he only got the ripest ones. Lucky boy!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


I am wondering how hard it is to keep ducks alive. They love slugs. Maybe I should love them.

Just thinking this over. hmm