Sunday, August 24, 2008

Well situated

[posted by Risa]

We went over to the East side of the Cascades (people there call themselves the Drysiders) for a bit of R&R. We measured; our destination, a cabin belonging to a friend, was only eighty-four miles from Stony Run Farm. The cabin is a one-room modified A-frame with pine paneling throughout, built some time ago, in an unincorporated community surrounded by National Forest lands, in the midst of miles and miles of lodgepole pines and little else, as most plants don't care for the twenty-feet-deep or more of pumice around there, laid down by the Crater Lake explosion seven thousand years ago. The site is well situated for visiting some good places up there, and we took full advantage.

A brief home away from home.

The first day, we went to Miller Lake, near the Mount Thielsen Wilderness, and then dropped into Chemult for ice cream. We walked up to the Union Pacific tracks there, and Beloved found a penny someone had left there to be flattened by the Coast Starlight, which travels between Seattle and Los Angeles. The local people were very welcoming, and we just about waved our arms off.

Beloved takes in Sawtooth Ridge, Mt. Thielsen Wilderness.

I paddled around on Miller for hours in my miniyak, trying to worry the kokanee (landlocked salmon) into biting, but August is just not their thing, as local fisherfolk acknowledged.

South and Middle Sisters from Crane Prairie Reservoir.
Lots of ospreys, eagles, herons, geese, and ducks were in evidence, as well as
dragonflies, mayflies, and damselflies -- signs of relatively healthy water.

The next day, to test our theory that staying at the cabin would improve our chances of a successful day hike up South Sister next year, for my sixtieth birthday, we timed and checked mileage while driving there along the Cascade lakes Highway, and found it to be a big improvement over driving from Eugene. On the way back, we stopped at Crane Prairie Reservoir, where I spent more hours in the miniyak looking for that lake's famous giga-rainbows, but -- August! -- settled for a couple of smallish bullhead which we had for dinner with some of our homegrown Yukon Gold potatoes. There was a forest fire nearby, but it was a small one, and the firefighters in the area looked pretty relaxed about what they were doing. Oregon has had another easy fire year, unlike California.

Today, we cleaned up after ourselves (we are messier people than the cabin's owner, so this took awhile) and took in Waldo Lake on the way back home.

Waldo Lake from Islet Campground.

At the extreme right in this picture, you can just see some dead trees on the shoreline. This was the southwestern extremity of the Charlton Fire, which burned some 10,000 acres of wilderness in the summer of 1996. Daughter and I were camping on Broken Top Mountain at the time, and could see the flames, a good twenty miles away, leaping bright red against the dramatic column of miles-high smoke, while we pelted each other with snowballs. Later, we picked up a couple of stranded campers who had been chased out of the North Waldo campground by the fire.

Waldo Mountain, which I have climbed many times with the kids, is just to my left in the picture. So this could be said to be my country ... yet this is the first time I've actually been to the lake in all these years. There is so much to see here that you cannot do it in one lifetime.

Ten square miles of some of the cleanest water on the planet. It's a rare sight -- but we both found most of the people hanging around to be unfriendly, unsmiling, and very focused on their private down time. We're private, too. But in the woods we practice our privacy by finding places where the other people aren't; when we meet others we like to treat them nicely, and be treated the same. So we took the hint and went home, where the poultry, who had been literally "cooped up," were more than glad to see us.


Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Time capsule

[posted by risa]

"Look what I found while I was cleaning out the office."

I glanced at the tattered, yellowed pages in Beloved's hand -- and did a double take.

"Whoa! This is the records from the old homestead! Can I post these?"

"Sure; they're a window into another world."

"When We Were Young."

"And a lot stronger and more productive than we are now, apparently!"

So, here you go, Dear Readers. A Bear Family time capsule:


Blkberry jam
8 qts
Strawberry jam
12 qts
pickled Beets
6 qts
sweet pickles
42 qts [!!]
dill pickles
7 qts
dill carrots
3 qts

3 pints

25 qts [?]
13 qts


Apple Puree
9 [qts?]
Apple sauce
Apple butter
8 pints
plum pieces
19 qts
Blk Berry Puree
Strawberry Sauce/Puree
14 qts


Strawberry 2 flats freezer 15 qts 11.50
Raspberry 4 flats
freezer 23 1 1/2 pints 2 qrts 1 qrt [?] 26.00
U-pick cherries 55 lbs canned 35 qts rest eaten fresh 13.50
Applesauce 1 grocery bag 7 qts 6 pints
Applebutter 1 1/2 grocery bags

freeze 17 1.5 pints
peaches 80 lbs canned 63 quarts 20.00
2 rows
Royal purple freeze
20 pints
2 rows
13 qts froze

dill pickles
7 qts

3 pts
Green Tom canned

7 pts canned

apple B
7 pts

Pear B
5 pts

sweet pickles
4 pts "

18 qts canned

plum sauce
17 qts, 6 pts

plum juice
3 qts

14 qts
Applesauce transparent

10 qts
Blk jam

12 pts
Blk jam

5 qts
corn - frozen

10 qts
greens - frozen

1/2 dear [sic]
30 lbs

1/2 salmon
8 lbs
(1/2 for 1981) [?]

6 sea fish
30 lbs
[rockfish and lingcod]

1/2 pig
50 lbs
(1/2 was 1979)

1/4 cow
120 lbs

Green Sprouting Broccoli

Royal Purple
good for pickling, excellent taste

Runner beans
not prolific -- encourage up poles

Butternut Squash
start earlier
10 small

sugar pumpkins
one dozen to store

market cukes

Pickling cukes

lemon cukes

Red cabbage

Blk Simson lettuce
excellent -- planted directly

chicl [?] lettuce
excellent -- planted directly

sucram carrots
small, sweet

scarlet keelper carrots
Larger, not quite as tasty

Dear [sic] tongue
terrific, stood light frost

Kupo4 [??] carrots

Sp. [spaghetti] Squash
dozen to store


30 lbs free
8 lbs free
1/4 freeze
125 lbs - 168.00

dear [sic]
60 lbs free
370 lbs 293.00
one freeze
47 lbs 79.00

The "dear" may seem small but they were Coast Range Blacktail bucks, notable for being much, much smaller than Eastern Whitetails. Even the ones that have been raiding our garden this year are considerably larger, presumably because the smaller size of the mountain Blacktails is to their advantage in the extremely dense rainforest vegetation there. "Deer tongue" is a lettuce. I think.

Not listed are the dozens of cottontails that graced our tables in 1978 and 1979. Their population had exploded, and there was no rabbit fence around the garden. So they took what they wanted from us, and we took from them accordingly. A fair exchange, it seemed to us at the time. Still does...


Saturday, August 16, 2008

Little accomplishments

Watering the circle garden[posted by risa]

We are having one of those hot spells, three days in a row at 97, and it's coinciding with, or maybe helping to cause, one of my down times, when little accomplishments loom large against a background of malaise and lollygagging.

I thought I would be making mulch all day with the knotweed-eater, but I'm intimidated by the heat. The excuse I make to myself is that a spark from the equipment could set a fire, but with an electric chipper in good condition, I kind of don't believe me. Yet after finishing the tail end of one of the long beds, which involved flattening and spreading a mere eight more boxes, and forking hay over them, and measuring off the next bed with string, I felt a need to go horizontal and am indoors, visiting with you.

Not that the week hasn't been "fruitful!" The apples are dropping ahead of my picking schedule, and I gather a peck or so at a time to throw to the chickens. They much prefer cores, and turn up their beaks at the round ones, but later in the day, one will take a serious peck, and the juicy hole in the apple will start a riot. Everything will be gone by evening.

One duck, the lamest one, has died, as has one chicken who had symptoms of being egg-bound. We did the usual things to help them pull through, but -- nope. I think the heat can be a factor in these losses, though they get lots of shade and water.

In line with keeping up my Independence Days reports, we can say we planted beets, bok choi, radishes, and I forget what -- harvested mulch (tree branches) and firewood (our wonderful utility people came by an took down a big wild cherry that was involved in our neighbor's powerlines -- and cut it up for us!); beans, beans, beans, apples, peas (longest run of peas ever), stevia, basil, rosemary, tomatoes, zukes, cukes, eggs, feathers (don't ask), nasturtium, bok choi, blackberries (finally!), pears, potatoes, eggplant, onions, beets, chard, lettuce, lettuce, lettuce, red cabbage, kale.

We preserved, umm, not much. We are using a lot of things fresh; I took an eggplant to a friend, for example, and gave me some of the potstickers that she made from them, next day, and that was my lunch. Beloved made a bowl of cuke pickles, but the kind you eat up in the first week, and I used the leftover fresh-cuke vinegar-water in a switchel.

It's a big storage week for us, though; Beloved goes to a food co-op ordering party from time to time, and this afternoon will come back with 25 lb bags of wheat berries and rolled oats and such, and some five pound samples of things we know less about, like spelt and amaranth flour, and quinoa. This afternoon (B has two back-to-back concerts this morning -- in this weather!) we will look for bigger containers than the 5 gallon white buckets that have lived under the kitchen counter for thirty years.

This is also an inventory week. Things are turning up that we haven't seen in years. And clearing the energy-saving ice blocks out of the freezer yielded a list:
20 quarts of sugar snap peas
16 pints blueberries
11 quarts of apple slices (the entry says "brown ugly" slices but I like them ... )
1 quart of sliced zuke
9 pints of Joi Choi (a really great bok choi)
10 half-pints of spinach
3 pints of cauliflower
5 half-pints mixed greens
3 quarts "old yucky rhubarb" (??)
-- as well as the usual storebought stuff. I'm never sure what the Prepped category represents, but I can say I moved compost from the barrel to the heap, and completed the bottom layer of a new Long Bed for next year's garden. On the run the Jerry's this afternoon (local competitor to Home Depot; slogan: "Better Head for Jerry's!") we will order the next run of deer fence, roll roofing, purlins, lath, maybe some plywood -- for delivery. September is going to be Roof Month.

We haven't really cooked anything new but are looking forward to spelt bread.

Our work on local food has consisted mostly of eating out of the front yard, as usual. And providing the eggplants and zukes for my friend's potstickers (she's from Beijing, and has some dynamite recipes, especially for ginger-based sauces), which are an office favorite. She also makes hundred-year-eggs from our duck eggs, which I'm a little skeery of ....

We reduced waste by collecting a lot of cardboard and newspapers to bring home for the Long Beds, and collecting a five gallon pail of spoilage from the food bank gardens for our compost barrel.

Beloved's new skill is using a headset microphone while singing folk songs to audiences at the farmer's market, and mine is, well, I've been loaned out to the suddenly short-handed Interlibrary Loan in the afternoons. I'm training to make borrowing requests, which is a complex process at a research university library -- you find yourself matching book or article metadata in French, German, Italian, Latin (fer cryin' out loud) and, umm -- Cantonese. I'm wingin' it, as usual ... 998 days (or less) to retirement. File under Tricks An Old Dog Shouldn't Have To Learn -- but, hey, the people are nice. That always counts for a lot!


Sunday, August 10, 2008

Firewood, smallwood, mulch, and what have you

ZukealiciousIndependence days report [posted by risa]

Plant something: a potato in a pot, and some bok choi. I had dumped out the pot (one of those big things for planting, like, baobab trees) thinking the spring planted potatoes in it were a failure -- no, there were lots! So I gathered those up and started new slips, all from a sprouted storebought redskinned spud.

Harvest Something: runner beans, French beans, green zucchini, yellow zucchini, nasturtium, eggplant (we have lots -- the long skinny ones), cucumber, peas, red onions, kale, chard, beets, apples, knotweed, basil, dill, marjoram, mint, parsley, lettuce, rhubarb, potatoes. Am on my way out to check the pear tree. People tell me they are not getting zukes. We are; not enough to give away or put up, really but plenty for summer use. I like the yellow ones best. The Blue Lake beans are in, along with the runner beans, and there should be enough runner beans to preserve as well as keep seed. New crops of bok choi and lettuces look well. Eggplants splendid. Celery doing well. All onions top quality. Tomatoes very green, also not numerous. Resorting to covering them at night. Ducks are molting but the chickens are back online.

Preserve Something: rhubarb, mostly.

Store Something: firewood, beanpoles, mulch, stevia, olive oil, whole wheat flour, spelt flour, amaranth flour, whole wheat pasta. Firewooding around here consists of leaving the slash after taking wood down to about 8" diameter minimum. We're taking a different approach on the home place. We pick a regenerating tree species when we can, such as ash, cottonwood, or willow, and cut it off when it reaches 8" diameter.
The trunk goes into firewood, as does branchwood down to 1" which we call smallwood. Then branches that are suitable for beanpoles are set aside, and the leaves and twigs are windrowed on the lawn and mowed with the bagger mower into mulch. Very little is left unused. Then we encourage sprouts that pop up, in the next year or two, from the stump, and each one of these can be made into more firewood, smallwood, polewood, and mulch -- in good time. This is called coppicing. I know I keep harping on it but this is an amazingly productive way to manage resources.

Manage Reserves: We put up a whiteboard over the chest freezer, and drew a map of all the beds on it, and use the board to carry on a nonsynchronous conversation about vegetables, seeds, home maintenance, housework, and preserving. Gathering more cardboard; the first 100 foot bed is now in place. And we have worked out our rideshare plan for the week. Heaped the chicken manure straw and recorded the date, October 15th, that it'll be ok to use.

Prepped: put up 1/2 cord of smallwood and about 20 all-purpose poles from branches of ash cottonwood, and cherry; several of these went right to work propping up heavy-laden apple branches. Planted apricot seeds (dry the pits three days, crack (inside a cloth at the bench vise), extract the seeds, soak overnight, plant in glass jar with lid in damp potting soil, put in refrigerator, check once a month for germination, repot, grow new apricot trees, plant by south wall in 2 years).

Cooked Something New: nope; all old recipes. Have discovered stevia leaves, however; using in switchel. Beloved has discovered you should use rhubarb fresh, in preference to frozen, and her rhubarb crisps are even more of a hit than they were before.

Worked on Local Food Systems: All of the above. And we've found a supplier of really good local goat cheese.

Reduced Waste: Cardboard collection continues, and I'm gathering coffee grounds at work. Drying on clothes line!

Learned a Skill: cracking apricot pits without having them go all over creation or smash up the seeds.

Monday, August 04, 2008

The Fashion of My Mothers

[posted by Daughter]

We never ate Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, the product was (is) neither nutritional nor cost effective. I remember relishing the opportunity to indulge in the bright orange noodles at a friend's house. Our pantry was filled with giant jars, some still showed evidence of a label that read: dill pickles. They were re-used for oats, raisins, sunflower seeds, and flours. Our fridge contained large blocks of cheese purchased from the food co-op. (For the longest time I thought that Muenster was only available in blocks bigger than my head.) I would watch my mother at the kitchen sink rinsing zip lock bags and stacking them on the dish drainer, thinking "couldn't we just buy more?" Maybe we could have, but that was not the point of rinsing plastic bags and re-using pickle jars. For as long as I've known them my mothers have been saving the environment, one plastic bag at a time.

And so it is that the "Green" movement has come as some what of a shock to me. I never thought that my mothers would be trend setters, at the forefront of fashion. I couldn't have imagined as a child that I would be following in my mothers' footsteps. I certainly didn't think that I would rinsing the zip lock bags and saving pickle jars. I thought that when I grew up I would be eating mac and cheese every day, instead I'm cooking pasta salad from scratch 90% of which was purchased from bulk bins. (As for the cheese that's an ingredient I consider not to be cost effective.) I'll be honest I started re-using not to reduce but because I am a penny pincher. I refused to buy paper towels because I have one that I can wash, I will not buy Tupperware when I know that there are plenty of Nancy's Yogurt containers to use, and to this day I own one pot and one frying pan. (Which makes life interesting). I don't even notice these everyday items are missing until a guest asks exasperatingly, "where are your paper towels?" I have a do-without-it attitude, I have a sneaking suspicion it's inherited through Mamacita. If I don't have it I simply do without it. I save a lot of money this way and in the mean time I'm cutting down waste and being environmentally friendly. I take the money I've saved by being frugal and invest in products that in the long run are not "cost effective" but they're clean and guilt free.

I have to thank my mothers for setting such a good example. Being green hasn't been popular since the sixties but they have never invested much in popularity. Even while raising three children (none of which were easy) they did their best to live an environmentally conscious lifestyle. With the nest of Stony Run emptied they now have the opportunity to ease into the truly green lifestyle they have been dreaming of. Turning a yard from "aesthetic" grass into a fully equipped garden and barnyard hasn't been fashionable since the 1800's but then again my mothers have never invested much in fashion.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

I have shed the tears

[posted by risa]

Our son the professional gardener was here; I proudly toured him through the no-dig-beds project and he waxed somewhat pessimistic, not to me (was he trying to save my feelings?) but later to Beloved, who assured him that all of the ground we turned over this year would be included in next year's beds, so that we would have a fail-safe garden in those parts while cover cropping most of the rest to give ourselves maximum opportunity to get this right.
Home grown wood
He helped with a few wheelbarrow loads of wood; we're cutting trees near the road and on the west side of the garden to get more afternoon light, and to make sure there is enough fuel to get through the winter. The new firewood is very green, but it will get sunlight every day and no rain, and we have three cords of good dry Douglas fir to see us through to the time when we will need it, and, though there is some cottonwood (which could use two years of drying), the bulk of it is cherry, maple, and ash. Later, when we are working on the number four bed, where the blueberries and raspberries go, we'll take down the grand fir as well, so that its needles and twigs can be included in the mulch for these.

This useful young man also brought me a huge pile of knotweed from along the creek, which I spent several hours reducing to beanpoles and compost. It still hasn't gone to seed.

It looks like, if all goes as planned, there will be seven long beds, or, really, four-foot-wide rows, with, initially, mown grass paths between.

Bed number one, to the east, has in it already a pear tree (sapling), plum (too big), two apples, and may get another tree, and a crop rotation section about seventy feet long. One of the apples is unproductive and may come out.

Bed number two will have a section for shade-tolerant crops, such as mid-summer lettuces, and another seventy-foot crop rotation section.

Bed number three contains two apple trees, one of them a very prolific Granny Smith, the other a Macintosh, another pear tree, and another seventy-foot rotation section.

Bed number four has the grape arbor (all new canes, no grapes this year), and is tentatively slated to get the blueberries and raspberries. Maybe also the Jerusalem artichokes, which means digging up a lot of them and suppressing any that we miss.

Bed number five will have 100 feet by four available for crop rotation. At its end there is another green apple tree.

Bed number six will have 100 feet by four available for crop rotation.

Bed number seven, on the west, is the ornamental bed along the sidewalk, and the rest of the "bed" is slated to contain a variety of fruit trees.

There's also a bed number eight, the side of the garage, currently in irises, tulips, and mint, which we might rehab (keeping the tulips) and plant to espaliered apricots (we're experimenting with collecting the seeds from pits, which breed true).

Bed number nine is on the north wall of the house and around the corner bedroom to the east wall, and is currently under new cardboard to suppress periwinkle (vinca) and is intended for winter and spring crops as it is along the concrete sidewalk. Like wise bed number ten, across from bed number nine on the east.

All beds except half of number nine run north and south. The garden will be surrounded by poultry fence, and the outer boundary of the poultry area will be surrounded by deer fence. Some of the fruit trees mentioned above will be in with the poultry, and will have to be stone-mulched. I may have to ask my son to help with that, as carrying buckets of stones from the Stony Run (poorly named Pudding Creek on area maps) gets old for my old back very quickly. We have cherry trees (Bing) in with the chickens, and their stone mulch is doing very well.

You absolutely cannot mix chickens and a mulch of grass clippings or the like. And I have shed the tears for that lesson!

Peas, bean blossoms, beeThe runner beans are our primary crop this year, and might well be the "soil-improvement" crop for next year, so we hope to dry a lot of the seeds for saving. They are everywhere; climbing the peas, leaping from among the potatoes, hiding beets, and adorning all the fences. They are very bee-dependent, so it's been gratifying to see the honeybees, which have been scarce lately, nuzzling among them; also they attract a lot hummingbirds, whom we have been neglecting as we can't seem to find any of our feeders.

Today I should be painting, as it is overcast, but I'm pouting apparently and hiding in bed with the laptop. But the day is young yet.


Independence Days!

Plant something: heirloom beets, red lettuce, and radishes. We're discussing the timing for winter kale, broad beans, other goodies as well.

Harvest Something: zucchini, eggplant, cucumber, peas, red onions, walking onions, kale, chard, beets, apples, knotweed, dill, marjoram, mint, parsley, lettuce, rhubarb. Had to pull up some cabbages that were dying the Great Aphid Death and give then to the chickens, who were hugely appreciative.

Preserve Something: sugar snap peas (again!).

Store Something: firewood, beanpoles, mulch.

Manage Reserves: Beloved is going through the house reducing inventory of things not needed (her high school rhetoric trophies! "Are you sure about this??" I asked her, incredulously. "Yep.") and discovering treasures (canning jar labels -- from the seventies!!). Carrying water by bucket-yoke to fruit trees.

Prepped: Accessing afternoon light for the garden/orchard.

Cooked Something New: Apple-zucchini bread with much less salt than in days gone by.

Worked on Local Food Systems: All of the above. We will be getting in some plain wheat berries to experiment with, on the next food co-op order, and will ask about spelt and other precursor wheats at that time.

Reduced Waste: I'm cutting down the slash from the firewooding into kindling and into shredded mulch. We never need to burn slash piles if we make time to do this, which so far has worked out well.

Learned a Skill: Re-learned how to drop a tree where it is wanted. Learned to disassemble and sharpen a shredder.