Saturday, November 28, 2009

When my love swears that she is made of truth

We combined holidays this year for part of the family ... Dinner on Thursday, then on Friday we had wonderful company, followed by our Christmas Eve, because Daughter is going overseas with her Young Man for the winter break.

I put a ladder against one of the fir trees in the front yard, and climbed up with the large loppers and took the end off one of the branches -- about a six foot piece -- to use as a tree.

We don't much relish the use of good agricultural land to grow millions of little trees that will be cut off in their childhood, so to speak, to grace living rooms as trophies and then clog landfills and sidewalks. And the alternatives -- lugging around a big pot with a little bonsai, or buying a tinseltown tree made in a sweatshop factory in Szechuan and dragged, with thousands of tons of identical tinseltrees, across the Great Pacific Garbage Patch by a ship running on the juice of long-dead dinosaurs -- just don't appeal to us either.

I have suggested, year after year, that we just have a bowl of soup and a slice of bread and give thanks and sing a few songs and we're done, but it hasn't gone over well with the younger generation. The tree-branch tree is a compromise which has found acceptance.

It makes an odd sort of tree -- granted -- but we can keep it straight enough by tying it to hooks in the wall (we have real walls) with some green yarn and giving it a nip here and there with pruners. Looks all right at night with its lights on, which we hang strategically to give it that symmetrical look.

Daughter and I hung some globes on it that have been in the family for decades, and topped it off with "Susie Snowflake," an angel my mother made for the family tree fifty-eight years ago. Susie has aluminum foil wings and a lace robe, and two stars gummed back-to-back on the end of a toothpick form a wand -- I guess she's a cross between an angel and the good witch Glinda.

Gifts were not over-fancy, for which I'm thankful, and my favorite by far is this simple double frame from Daughter, with a photo of Beloved and me, taken by her at Tall Son's wedding a couple of years ago, on the left, and an appropriate W.S. sonnet (#138) on the right --

When my love swears that she is made of truth
I do believe her, though I know she lies,
That she might think me some untutor'd youth,
Unlearned in the world's false subtleties.
Thus vainly thinking that she thinks me young,
Although she knows my days are past the best,
Simply I credit her false-speaking tongue:
On both sides thus is simple truth suppress'd.
But wherefore says she not she is unjust?
And wherefore say not I that I am old?
O, love's best habit is in seeming trust,
And age in love loves not to have years told:

Therefore I lie with her and she with me,
And in our faults by lies we flatter'd be.
-- appropriate because we're pruning all over and turning grey ... and neither quite has the heart to tell the other ...

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Two gnarly hands

Left to right: butternut squash baking in a flat-bottomed
Dutch oven; a pan of duck eggs slowly becoming "hard-boiled";
tea water, dishwashing water.

We have heated, and sometimes cooked or heated water, with wood for 33 years. Averaging three cords a year, we've reached about the 100 cord mark. Most of this has been Douglas fir salvaged from reject wood on and around landings, left over from logging operations. We've also used Western hemlock, Western red cedar, Ponderosa pine, logepole pine, red alder, Oregon ash, Oregon black oak, wild cherry, viney maple, bigleaf maple, assorted willows, cottonwood, and the large and medium prunings from apple, plum, pear, and filbert.

Much of what we have burned in the stoves is typically burned by our neighbors in trash piles. But we try to use everything we can on our acre, down to a certain size, for household energy, and the rest -- the twigs and leaves -- is scattered to feed the soil. Whatever will go into the mower's grasscatcher is carried to garden beds, and much of the rest piled around the feet of the various fruit trees. Yes, it takes a stick a long time to break down to the point where it will feed a fruit tree, but it will do it.

Now that I'm freed up, by virtue of old age, from the forty-hour week, I can cruise the free box at Craigslist for other kinds of salvage opportunities. The local utility is removing a small grove of lodgepole pines from their power lines across the back of a young man's property, and he being all-electric has made the logs available in order to get his yard cleaned up.

Getting at them means climbing down an eight-foot embankment and returning slowly, with each chunk, sometimes four feet long, on a shoulder. And the footing is made treacherous by vinca, ivy, and mud. Way too much for a sixty-year-old lady, but, oh my, I want that wood! So I have hired my youngest son, a powerful man, to get the pieces to where I can go with them to the pickup with a wheelbarrow.

We're taking a break for Thanksgiving, but so far the truck has made seven trips. I estimate there are ten to go. Lest anyone think we are nickel-and-diming ourselves to death, this one Craiglist ad represents about fifteen hundred dollars' worth of winter fuel at current pricing.

I'll be gnawing at this woodpile, GWATCDR, for two years, getting it all down to stove size, stacked, and dried, then carried into the house bit by bit, in winter sunshine, rain, ice, and fog. Sometimes the surrounding hills will be visible, sometimes shrouded in deep, chilling mist, sometimes they will be as white as a New Hampshire calendar photo.

But I will have enough to do of work that I've always found interesting and enjoyable; it will (hopefully) keep me limber into my latter years, and the mugs of hot home-grown cider, held between two gnarly hands, will be good.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Built where it stands

Several friends have commented on or asked about the dining room table. "I bet that has some stories ... " Actually, not so many; it's only about eighteen years old. Or: "How did you do that?" It's very easy. Really. No, really.

In our case we got the idea by looking at a piece of two-by-ten in the yard (with a bit of grass growing out of it) and saying, hmm, this could be a pair of uprights. We didn't know terminology, but had both seen a table that we liked -- a quick Net search suggests that it is called a Trestle Base Table.

So we bought some two-by-eights, scrounged some two-by-fours and some three-inch lag screws, and proceeded as follows:

Sorry about the drawing; I never could draw with a cursor anyway! Click to see the lack of detail even bigger!

Okay: lay five two-by-eights, in the length you want (ours were eight feet) side by side on the floor, or maybe on a drop cloth on the floor. This is your tabletop, upside down. (!!)

Across each end, about eighteen inches to two feet from the end, set a piece of the same cut to fall two or three inches from either edge, centered. Bolt down to each two-by-eight beneath. Ours had half-inch heads and were tightened with a socket wrench. Your lag screw should tighten down firmly without penetrating to the floor, of course. (!!) You may want to pre-drill guide holes to start the screws.

Make the two uprights (of two-by-ten or twelve) by cutting them an inch-and-a-half shorter than the height you want for the top of the table. Bore holes through them with a 1.5 inch wood bit, lining up the holes so as to form a slot (use a chisel and mallet to finish the slot) at the same distance, say ten inches, from one end of each piece, through which you can slide a two-by-something brace, later (we used a found piece of two-by-six).

With the slotted ends up, snug the uprights against the inner edge of each of the end pieces and bolt them to these. Put your brace through. It should be long enough to protrude about six inches through each upright toward the ends of the table (but leaving leg room). We added a piece of one-by-eight down the middle, measured long, and malleted down tight against the uprights on their inner faces and then bolted on (with more lag screws), for extra strength.

With a level, line up four two-by-fours one by one across the ends of the uprights and bolt them on; these are your table's feet.

Flip the whole thing over. Almost done!

Make any adjustments now, until you are satisfied it looks like the table you want.

Now mark your brace along the outside edge of each slot. Pull the brace and clamp it on a work bench. Bore two holes through the brace from one edge to the other, down the center, with a wood bit, say 3/4 inch diameter, just nicking your slot mark about a quarter inch as you go.

Put the brace back through the slots, and with a mallet, hammer down a pair of dowels or tapered stakes at each end (we used cedar kindling from the wood box), thus pulling the uprights toward the ends and stabilizing the entire table.

You might want to stain and seal at this point. We did.

But wait! We made a mistake, which you can see if you look at our table up close and in person.

We used bought two-by-eights, and specified kiln-dried, but they either weren't, or were done very poorly. So they warped and twisted over the first few months of the table's life. To prevent this, find a couple of pieces of nice fir or something, one by 1.5 inches or so, cut to fit the width of the table, and attach these with a pair of drywall screws to the ends of each of the two-by-eights in the tabletop.

With enough clamping we could probably still do this. But we are awfully lazy old things. We call it a table, and nobody has contradicted us about that, so far as we know.

The shrinkage also spread the gaps between the planks. We chinked these with wood filler, but the children liked to peck at this with their knives and forks when we weren't looking, and so we never did get those gaps to look quite right. But oh, well. This is how you get a table that Has Character.

Built where it stands -- we spent about thirty dollars to make this family heirloom.


We currently have, of assorted varieties:
  • Five apple trees and one crabapple
  • Six pears
  • Five cherries
  • Three Quinces
  • Three Plums
  • Four Nectarines
  • Two Figs
  • Two Filberts
  • Three grape vines and one rooted
  • Rhubarb
  • Sunchokes
  • Lots of volunteer garlic and walking onions, assorted herbs, blackberries, nasturtiums, and there are things like lilies, daffodils, English bluebells, and the forget-me-nots, Sweet Williams, and money plants come back every year.
Seeds on hand for 2010


Blue Lake pole

Buckskin bush 1/2 pint

Fava saved seed 1.5 gallons

Helda pole

Hungarian runner saved seed 1 pint

Scarlet runner saved seed 1.5 gallons
Golden Detroit

Ruby Queen
Red Acre

Ruby Ball

Stein's white


Silver Queen
Swiss giant

Pingtung long
Red Russian I think, saved seed 1 cup (!!)
Black Seeded Simpson
Cascadia snap

Oregon Giant snow

Golden Sweet

Three varieties in storage
Connecticut Field

saved seed


Black Zucchini

Golden Zucchini

Gold Rush Zucchini

Crookneck summer

Sampler of winter
Aunt Ruby's

Amish paste




saved seed, various, mostly Stupice

Crego mix
Pacific Beauty
"Dahlia type" (?)

Purple Coneflower
Summer Sun
Tall single mix
Russian Mammoth

Vanilla Ice
Sweet William
Double mix
Pumilla dwarf

Seeds to order (Seed Savers Exchange)

Early Snowball
Japanese climbing

Giant Musselburgh
Bulgarian Carrot
Grandma Eink's

Elsewhere (Territorial?): Bok choi, rutabagas. Mangels?

We hope to also order:
  • Two PawPaw
  • Three Persimmons (1 male 2 female)
  • Three Hardy Kiwi (1 male 2 female)
  • Concord Grape
  • 12 Blueberry
  • 12 Lingonberry
  • Looking to add a few more dwarf apple trees
  • A handful of Dwarf hops rhizomes
I have one rooted Prune Plum to set out.

Now if only that deer fence holds!

Friday, November 20, 2009

With or without

Come in; sit a bit by the fire. Yes, it's nasty out there. Snow line is down to two thousand feet, I hear; and there was some hail lying around the foot of the hoophouse this morning. Micro or home brew? Or tea; herbal or otherwise; coffee? With or without Irish?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

We like the view

Winter seems fairly well set in, and the juncos are patrolling the feeder outside the dining room window, mornings. We have been watching them every winter; they are part of the coffee ritual, and we never get tired of looking out at them, come sun, rain, or snow. We like the view.

Eighteen years a-gone, Former Self and Company, eighteen years younger and spryer than we are now, faced the grim prospect of pulling up a dining roomful of worn-out, cracked, speckled-gray-pattern linoleum floor tiles and starting over -- but with no money. Something certainly had to be done. The ceiling had been allowed, by the previous owners, to pour cold rainwater on the floor, with resultant swelling and disintegration of chipboard subflooring in several places, creating hazards to navigation. An idea was advanced to try leveling up the entire floor with filler, roller-painting it white, and then, painting by hand, create the illusion of a ceramic tile floor using brick-red paint, a four-inch brush, patience, and a lot of Mozart. This was adopted.

The project, which took about three days, worked reasonably, well, and the resulting trompe l'oile floor lasted almost fifteen years without much maintenance, thanks to the miracle of polyurethane. The last three years, not so well. Some kinds of filler (we had used up a variety of things found in the garage) had more staying power than others, and we at last found ourselves patching and re-patching. Since there is still not much money around (we haven't been especially able to attract the stuff), it's time to attempt a repeat of the original miracle.

The new cracks have been filled with plastic "wood." I'm renewing the "grout" with white latex on a sturdy round artist's brush, and the "tiles" with a three inch flat brush with medium bristles. One uses the lines between the original tiles as a guide, or a pencil line where the filler has obscured them. It's quite slow, and a little bit nerve-wracking, as it seems the best-looking results, as before, are obtained by painting free-hand rather than with a template.

I have found, somewhere, a nice thick pad of polyethylene foam board, which is neither mooshy like foam rubber nor crumbly like styrofoam, and it makes an ideal kneeling platform. Still, I'm finding myself getting up more frequently, and ver-r-r-r-y slowly, with much creaking, then wandering around whining, and procrastinating about getting back to it much more than Former Self did.

Former Self is amused and rather heartless about the whole thing.

"Hey! Get cracking."

"Easy for you to say."

"What's your problem, old lady?"

"It's a long way down there."

"My heart bleeds for you. First we're young, then we're old. If you didn't want to go to Memphis, why did you stay on the train? Mmnh?"

Well ... I guess I must have liked the view.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Century Skillet

Eggs, new potatoes, onions, garlic, fresh tomatoes,
cream, and kale
for our recovering flu patient

One of the things my maternal grandmother got for her wedding day, in the late nineteenth century, was a high-sided cast-iron skillet with a lid and two pouring lips. She made six decades' worth of cornbread, butterbeans, chicken-and-dumplings, bacon, ham, and I don't know what all in it.

At the time of her passing, the skillet disappeared. Several more decades passed, and a century came to an end, and my mother's best friend spotted the skillet, minus lid, hanging on a hook in a relative's kitchen, and asked about its provenance. The answer hemmed, hawed and stammered enough to speak for its being the skillet in question and not a similar one, and its having mislaid itself at the time it was supposed to have passed down to my mom.

My "auntie" is not one to beat about the bush, and in essence said "hand it over" and got the skillet. Time passed, and my mom, eighty-one with heart trouble, has had difficulties making it to Georgia, and Auntie, also eighty-one and on dialysis, hasn't been making it to Florida.

When I passed through Atlanta en route to Oregon with my mom's gifted pickup truck, I spent a few hours with Auntie, and while I was there, she gave me (with my mom's prior blessing) my grandmother's skillet.

We have several of the more modern iron skillets, in three sizes, and we're used to the way they handle. Not that we've used them much -- for years, they've hung on the walls while we fell for the ease of use of "non-stick" pans. While these are not as unhealthy to use, perhaps, as they were in the early days of "the miracle of Teflon," they are said to be not good for the people who live where they are manufactured. Our current ones are nearing the end of their useful life, that is, they are about ten years old, and so I've been reviving my interest in cast-iron cookery -- and I like the idea of working with a 125-year-old frying pan that doesn't look a day older now than when it was made.

It's a tall thing, and I've never seen another like it. It's ten and a half inches across the top and eight inches across the bottom, with sheer sides that don't curve in, and would just fit in the eye of the wood range we once had, which I suspect is the idea. It's supposed to plunk into the hole right over the flames and get the bacon going fast.

We try to refrain from putting our iron into soapy dishwater and we season with extra virgin olive oil. The Century Skillet arrived a bit rusty, was scoured with sand and steel wool, got the oil treatment, sat a few hours on the back of the woodstove, and was put into service.

On an electric range this pan seems at a disadvantage as compared to others that we have, but I'm attracted to it, and trying to learn what it wants from me. I'm a ham-handed cook and have to pay attention when experimenting.

The first few times I used it, I burned things and had to re-scour and re-season. Then I tried putting a film of oil into the pan, about 1/4 teaspoon, leaving that on the heat for awhile (fifteen minutes) and then making eggs or pancakes, using a lid to hold in heat. The preheating, for whatever reason, seems to work.

This would be an energy-wasting procedure on the electric range, perhaps, but the skillet can hang out on the woodstove (which lives in the dining room) while I prep ingredients. In colder weather, when the stove is working harder, I'll be able to cook right there. This heat stove has no eye, but I prefer a slow heat and almost never have anything on hand that needs searing anyway.

The last few days, Beloved is feeling better. I've been serving leisurely breakfasts from the Century Skillet, mostly souffles since she hasn't been able to get to her egg customers.

"How's that?"

"Oh, this is wonderful ... wonderful."



"Thank you, Grandma, Mom, and Auntie."


"Oh, nothing; coffee with that?"

Friday, November 13, 2009

Fretful sleep

Tremendous rains, as is usual here with a strengthening el nino; we are housebound. I, because I always did take exposure rather poorly; Beloved, because she has the swine flu and hasn't been outdoors in a week. She's on the mend but weak, and I have been pressed into service as the nurse, CNA, housekeeper, and duckherder.

We keep telling each other, over hot cider by the fire, how grateful we are that we can do this. Illnesses were always something to be swept under the rug in our household; we were both commuting to jobs, so whichever one went down had to fend for herself. It was a lonesome process. Beloved tends to recover in the main bed, watching old videotapes of Star Trek: The Next Generation and Northern Exposure. I take over the easy chair in the living room or drag it into the dining room to be by the fire, and alternately cruise the Web (which takes patience, as we only have dialup) or listen to Haydn quartets.

That's all right up to a point, but the ducks, geese and chickens must be led from the barn, fed, their fouled water changed out, the eggs gathered, and at dusk everyone must return to the barn; firewood needs to be split and brought in, the fire tended, meals prepared, and some basic housework done. Running this kind of low-tech operation alone all day in a dark, hailing, endless winter storm with a full-blown case of influenza is -- well, not for sissies.

So I retired in time to be there for her, with "Soup? Maybe a little apple juice? Oh, aspirin and water? Be right back!" It makes a difference.

Other things fall by the wayside. Insulation is not being tacked up in the crawl space; the cottonwoods by the upper field have not been cut; the cracks in the dining room floor have not been filled in and painted over; the deer fence has yet to make it around the corner of the south pasture; and the second solar dryer isn't getting built.

All in good time. Other things being equal, such as that TEOTWAWKI has not arrived, the progress that's being made is on other fronts: wrens, juncos, and sparrows come to the feeder, the cat sleeps, onions in the hoophouse grow a little taller, cold water slides down Stony Run toward the wide Pacific, worms turn and turn among leaves heaped on the fifty-foot beds, stars peep nervously through rattling dark clouds, Beloved rolls over in her fretful sleep, and I tuck the blankets around her back and shoulders.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

We buy starts

"Look! another garden diary."

"Wow, this one's more detailed."

"And a little sad, too. I'd forgotten how much we didn't know then, and it amazes me that we're still making the same mistakes now..."

"No kidding! Let's see..."

Garden Notes
Sept 1984. Tilled main garden spot (hadn't been used for 2 yrs) $55
Oct 1984. Planted vetch in garden. $6
Jan 1985. Planted 3 Elliot blueberries 3 Blueray blueberries 2-3 yrs old died next yr :( -- $20
Feb. 85 Tore down old beds on South side, tilled & prepared for Strawberry, asparagus etc. covered with black plastic $8
Mar. 85 finished 8' by 6' greenhouse $50 planted chive starts 3/2. Potting soil. Seeds in greenhouse: pumpkin, spinach, broccoli, zuke, butternut, hubbard, chard, collards, cukes, tomatoes, bell peppers, dill, parsley, zinnia, watermelon, muskmelon. 3/12 In garden: peas, carrots, onions, spinach 3/16 strawberries, asparagus, rhubarb, compost $3, dolomite $4, black plastic $3. More tilling; hay 2 tons $20. Seeds $15; Flats $7
April 85 Only 5 asparagus came up bought & planted 25 more $4. Greenhouse: celery, pac choi. Tomatoes and peppers did poorly. Planted too early in greenhouse. Sprout inside when frost danger over, then take out. Plant lettuce and brocs earlier next time. Thinned & repotted in Green House. 4/5 sunflowers in ground; turnips, carrots, rutabagas, radishes & beans in ground. REAL SLUG PROBLEM. Seem to be migrating south from neighbors untilled garden spot. Have sprinkled dolomite along fence line & put out Beer. All rhubarb got slugged -- don't plant on N. side of house!!! Beans 2 plantings of 3/4 oz. One didn't make it. Peas 8 oz. (2 plantings). In greenhouse 4/8 zinnia, marigold calendula, more lettuce more celery. Starts $22. Chicken manure $10. Bone meal $9. Fish fert. $12.
Evaluation Lost track. let's see: lost all Beans & squashes put out in April. Turnips, Radish, Ruta were a joke, very leafy but we didn't eat them. Broccoli should have been put in earlier (root maggots) took them all out. Too many pumpkins. Better stakes needed for toms & more spacing 60 plants OK
7/1/85 Evaluation and garden status. Snap peas (Sugar Ann) Great. planted early March. Tom out late June. put up 27 1/2 pints. need better trellising wider paths between rows. Try planting a bit early & one succession. (doesn't do too well in late planting) onions -- set, good. corn -- needed more H2O. Melons OK. Two plantings of green beans good. Cukes -- make sure pickling variety. 15 hills too many -- try two plantings. Remember spaghetti squash next time. All squashes OK. OK: red cabbage, beets, chard (plant less) carrots, celery.
Evaluation Excellent spinach, plant early & late. Plant less of food not really used. Keep up lettuce succession & greens in general planting less at a time. Early & late broccoli. More peppers (24) farther apart & not too neat toms. Eggplant good two or three plants.
Evaluation suggest that spring/summer '86 be spent cleaning up yard & preparing soil planning & beginning landscaping -- Next time -- record variety, weight, row length & how crop did. Plant broccoli, lettuce in G.H. soon. pumps, melons later. start toms & peppers indoors. Plant mostly june bearing strawbs
1985 HARVEST Put up:
broccoli 11 qts sweet pickles 27 qt
spinach 8 pt. dill " 27 qt
snap peas 28 pt Apple Sauce 8 qt
beans 19 pt " butter 26 pts
green peps 9 qt peaches [bought?] 42 qts
chard stem [???!!] 2 pt pears [scavenged] 24 qts
strawberry [bought] 11 pt tom puree 83 qts
Raspberry [bought] 26 qt pickle relish 11 pts
Blk berry 5 qt

melons 15 qt

Pearbutter 6 pt

plums 27 pts

[plum] juice 5 qts

applesauce 18 pts

Garden $132. Strawberries & asparagus didn't make it. Green house became too dark (dirt collecting on roof & walls) -- not able to clean off -- now a garden shed. [We didn't know how to fight algae on the fiberglass, apparently]

We buy starts...

Sunday, November 08, 2009

What it had been like

A story a retired logger told me.

There was a word for that -- I am forgetting it;
forgetting things I thought I'd never not know --
As I once understood the way a shackle will turn

to follow the wire rope reaching back to the pulley,
or which way the water will run when it falls
from the crook of an east-leaning alder in the rain,

or run from an alder's elbow that leans west,
when the storm comes in, always from southwest.
Oh, the word! A short one, I should be able to just

say it! Clevis! Yes, we called a shackle a Clevis,
I don't know why. So, John, he picked up the Clevis
and hung it on the drawbar of the Cat, slipped

the loop onto it, and reached to set the pin;
but Alley, he thought he'd heard John say "Ready,"
and put her into gear. So. That wire rope

sang just like a bowstring, and the Clevis
rotated right around the slot in the drawbar
and went through John like he was made of pudding.

He stood there for a moment -- like me, when I'm trying
to remember. I thought he was trying to
remember, then. Fixing in his mind

what it had been like. Being alive.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Friday, November 06, 2009

Doesn't have to be as fancy

[Scene One]

"So, the tiny little mirror we put up when our friend from China explained that we needed one there to bounce back bad energy from the intersection?"


"It's corroded and looks bad and I think it might not work well much longer and so we need a bigger one there."

"Sure, we could come up with something, betcha."

"How about that one with the geese frosted across the bottom?"

"Eek, way too big. Hang on!"

[Rummage, rummage.]

"How about this one?"

"Okay, but is there a way to make it pretty?"

"Umm, pretty how?"

"Sort of El Salvadorean pretty."

"Like the good luck piece in the kitchen?"

"Yes, like that. Doesn't have to be as fancy."

"Good, 'cuz I have not got fancy hands."

"'Well, since it'll be hanging on the outside of the house..."

"Right ... got paint?"

"I'd use the tempera, and here's a brush."

"On it."

[Scene two]

"'K, how's this? There was some, mmh, leftover lath, and screws that were just small enough. We sure could use a mitre saw, though."

"Oh, I love that; is it weather ready?"

"Has some old acrylic fixer on it. S'all dry now."

"What all's happening there?"

"Mmmh, house. Sky, sun. Grass. The red dots can be apples or climbing roses, and the blue ones are English bluebells or what you will."

"Let's put it up and take its picture."

"'N'admire ourselves in it, 'n'maybe it will start bringing good luck right away. Y'think?"

"I think."

[Exeunt. Screen door bangs shut behind them.]

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

When to do it

Full moon rising at Stony Run

As memory of eight-to-five fades from my bones, I've come to find myself somewhat at odds with clocks.

There is one in the bedroom, one of those little black boxes with red numbers on its face. Can't see it without my glasses, unless I squint mightily. And they are usually in another room.

I look out windows to decide what to do, and when to do it. A certain amount of light, regardless of the weather, means Let Out The Poultry. A little more light may mean Put Something In The Frying Pan And Put It On The Woodstove. If there is rain, that may mean Prepare To Work Indoors. Or if sun, Look For Some Outside Clothes To Put On.

Yesterday was sunny, bright, warm, so much so that I wore my summer straw hat and open-toed sandals. I mulched garden paths, moved flat stones to create walkways in strategic spots that are muddy come winter, and repaired the power line out to the Scriptorium, a little writing house at the back edge of the farm.

I kept busy until the moon, at full, rolled over the hills to the east and looked in on our little valley.

A bit of dark says to me, Supper. A bit more says Chase In And Close Up The Poultry. When there is a full moon they resist. I tell them raccoons and coyotes like a full moon, too. Like teenagers; in one ear and out the other.

A bit more dark is Small Glass Of Wine And Practice Dulcimer.

Bed might be around nine o'clock.

And then I go haywire. I might wake up at any time, raring to go, and only the red eyes of the little clock, heavily squinted upon, tell me otherwise. My spirit is rebellious, and I want to be up and doing.

So, this morning I awoke, aware that Beloved was stirring and the clock assuring me it was 5:30 -- about when she gets up to begin her work day at the library downtown.

And, umm, I thought I might sing to her a bit. You know the tune:

Good morning to you
We work in a zoo
We all smell like monkeys
And look like them too!
I got a pillow in my face -- emphatically -- for my efforts, and it was then that the Mighty Squint let me know ...

... that I was serenading her at 3:30 a.m. ...

Sunday, November 01, 2009

We did not grow the barley

New layers of compost/mulch going onto all beds

The week in review:
  • Planted: garlic, bulbs. Moved rosemary, marjoram, parsley to the herb bed.
  • Harvested: still no major frost. A few tomatoes and strawberries! Greens (some are bolting in the polytunnel, with some onions, parsley, chives.
  • Blanched and froze something but I forgot what. Some mashed turnips but it is petty bitter with all the warm weather; should mix with some mashed potatoes?
  • Cold room done! Mostly in the big cans is wheat berries, pearl barley, cracked wheat, spelt flour, WW flour, rye flour, amaranth, quinoa, rolled oats, rolled wheat, buckwheat flour, dried red beans, dried white beans, dried black beans, chickpeas, WW angel hair. Sacks and some boxes; potatoes. Boxes; apples. Jars; dried tomatoes, dried apple slices, dried zukes, dried/or for seed runnerbeans and fava beans, some boughten stuff such as pickles (we buy these to get the gallon jars). Bowls or bins of eggplant, turnips, beets, onions. Shelves of cured winter squash, pumpkins; 16 liters of homebrew, 24 bottles of (we hope) grape wine/cider.
  • Sold chicken eggs and trading seed for walnuts.
  • 100 foot diet: a lot of tomato/veg/chicken soups, baked squash, baked beans, baked potatoes, fried eggs with vegs, salad (most greens we've ever had). Frozen blueberries and rhubarb. Dried tomatoes, apples, stored apples, applesauce. Very little outside foods at present except rice and other grains. Ex.: dinner tonight was fresh trout, rice, delicata, applesauce, a salad of fresh red romaine lettuce, mizuna, broccoli leaf, kale, spinach, chard, bok choi, tomatoes. The rice was the non-homegrown or home-caught ingredient. Oh, and homebrew. True, we did not grow the barley ... still ...
Plan for 2010 in progress:
  • Dig up, divide and move the rose to the main gate (it makes good rose hips and has proved unkillable anyway).
  • Move the remaining sunchokes out of bed 2 and spread them along the north end of the garden (half are already there and did well this year).
  • Shorten the herb bed (it's more in the way of the main path than we thought).
  • Put the old orchard back in the pasture (the chickens and ducks make better use of the drops than we do).
  • Add hops, kiwis, blueberries, lingonberries, honeyberries, more apples and plums and a pair of persimmons.
  • Add a room to the barn.
  • Finish deer fence.
  • Take down one old ash and four big cottonwoods and firewood them (too much shade on gardens).
"Et cetera, et cetera, et ... cetera."