Picnic Rain or Shine

email seed trays

We had three or four days of sunshine with weather in the high 60’s and low 70’s.  Of course everyone was outside getting a little, or a lot, of color.  I saw some real lobsters out there.  I guess when you have been living under moss and algae since September, it is hard to tell through these sun-shattered eyeballs just what color the skin is.  After looking through the sun through your eyelids for a couple of hours ans seeing nothing but red, when you look at your skin, it still looks pale.

We had a picnic and camping planned for today.  We will eat picnic food, indoors, as it is pouring down rain.  We skipped the camping part because we didn’t want to sit in the trailer all day. The happy part is the rain is filling my rain storage tanks with water for the garden this summer.

I tend to be the type of person who has trouble sitting around even to soak up vitamin D.  There are sites on the internet that tell us that almost 50% of the world’s population suffers from vitamin D deficiency. Wow.  I didn’t know that many folks lived covered with moss and algae.  Sounds a little high to me as most of the US is sunnier than we are here.  I know the suicide rate in Greenland is high, probably from lack of sunshine most of the year. Northern Russia, Siberia, Canada, Alaska and I am sure many points to the extreme south of the world suffer from it too, but 50%?

I always feel better with a dose of sunshine, real or artificial.  I spent the sunny days exposing my skin while a dug rows in the garden to plant my vegetable seeds. It is still too early to plant, but not too early to remove the weeds from the rows and smooth them to plant in mid May.  If I plant too soon here the poor seedlings get beaten to death by the rain.  The bean seeds will rot in the ground and the restt will vegetate until warmer weather arrives, if they survive at all.

I used to plant peas on Washington’s Birthday, a traditional day to plant them in my area.  I even have planted potatoes in February, successfully, I might add. I don’t plant potatoes any more as they are too hard to eradicate from the garden.  Little ones keep slipping though the dirt back into the soil and coming up year after year, just where you don’t want them.

The peas I planted on Washington’s birthday didn’t produce any earlier than the ones I planted in mid May.  The big problem was, if I dug up the garden in February, the weeds all grew back by mid May and had to be pulled again.  If I pulled them in April and May and planted in May, I only had to weed once in the spring and my crop came on the same time as the early bird planters.

So, for three days I worked weeding the rows in the garden and getting my dose of vitamin D.  It was wonderful.  There were a few biting mosquitoes, but, for the most part, it was a pleasant experience and I could rest in the cool (read cold) shade when I got too hot or wanted to ditch the mosquitoes.  It smelled good sitting under the blooming apple tree to cool off and admire my handy work.  I haven’t made spectacular progress as I am out of condition from sitting around all winter.  Well not sitting, but not taking much exercise to increase my heart rate.  The garden helps with that and it will come over the next month or so.

In the meantime, those little seedlings are chugging along in the greenhouse, looking forward to the day when they will be set free in the garden to soak up the summer sun without the need for a plastic film covering.  I look forward to the days too.  Summer will be here before we know it.

 

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Spring Tonic

rhubarb

 

Well it is finally spring and all my garden is in bloom as it holds mostly spring flowers, scilla, rhodies, Welsh poppies and much more.  It smells heavenly.

Out there tucked in around the flowers are plants whose leaves make a nice addition to the texture of the garden.  But beware, the leaves are poisonous.  The stem, however, is a real treat this time of year.  It is the first “fruit” of the season.

Rhubarb is not really a fruit, but we treat is as one.  The Chinese use it as a medicine and seldom eat it as a dish.  “The root is used as an anticholesterolemic, antiseptic, antispasmodic, antitumor, aperient, astringent, cholagogue, demulcent, diuretic, laxative, purgative, stomachic and tonic. Rhubarb roots contain anthraquinones which have a purgative effect, and the tannins and bitters have an an effect that is opposite that of an astringent.”1 When my friend from China saw it, she couldn’t believe we eat it as a dish and not specifically as a medicine.

In the Midwest and with the early settlers, the roots were carried across to where they settled and planted with a little cow or horse manure. They called it Pie Plant.  It is very commonly used for pie, sometimes with strawberries, but my favorite is with equal parts blueberries.  The perfumed sweetness of the blueberry is nicely offset by the tart, tannins of the rhubarb.

But spring tonic is the best.  When the rhubarb is first ready, I chop it very coarsely and cook it with sugar.  We eat it right from the bowl, plain, or over vanilla ice cream, or with granola and yogurt for breakfast.

I use to cook it in a covered saucepan which required a small amount of water to get it cooking.  Now I just chop it into a glass (pyrex) bowl and sprinkle with sugar and cook it in the microwave until soft.  It isn’t as runny this way and the color stays brighter.

It is delicious.  It is truly a spring tonic with all the “c” vitamins and the fresh taste for the first spring fruits.

 

 

An aside:

A pigment found in rhubarb called parietin, has been identified from an FDA database of 2,000 known suppressors of 6PGD, to have killed half the human leukemia cells over two days in the laboratory. The pigment also slowed the growth of other human cancer cells in mouse models. A more-potent derivative of the parietin called S3 may even cut the growth of lung cancer cells implanted in mice by two-thirds, over the course of 11 days.2,3,4

 

1 http://www.rhubarbinfo.com/medicinal

2 “Cancer Growth Could be Slowed by Little-known Pigment in Rhubarb”. Laboratory Equipment. Retrieved 2015-10-24.

3  “Orange lichens are source for potential anticancer drug”. news.emory.edu. 2015-10-21. Retrieved 2015-10-24.

4  Basile, Adriana; Rigano, Daniela; Loppi, Stefano; Di Santi, Annalisa; Nebbioso, Angela; Sorbo, Sergio; Conte, Barbara; Paoli, Luca; De Ruberto, Francesca (2015-04-09). “Antiproliferative, Antibacterial and Antifungal Activity of the Lichen Xanthoria parietina and Its Secondary Metabolite Parietin”. International Journal of Molecular Sciences 16 (4): 7861–7875. doi:10.3390/ijms16047861. ISSN 1422-0067. PMC: 4425054. PMID 25860944.

A Good Vacation

Arches national park 5It was a good trip, not a great trip, but a good one.  We made it home from Moab, Utah on time for me to get to my obligations.  We put 3000 miles on the truck, two-thirds of which were when we were pulling the fifth wheel trailer.  We saw lots of sites, did quite a few things and in general had a passable vacation.

They say a change is as good as a vacation.  Since it was raining here, I guess snow was a change.  We had checked for several weeks before we left to see what the weather was doing down in that part of the country and they were having sunshine.  So off we went in search of sunshine.  Unfortunately, we didn’t get sunshine.  We got snow.

We had also hoped to boondock (dry camping without benefit of water, electricity, sewer). We have a propane furnace in the trailer and it works well if we are plugged in to electricity so the fan can distribute the heat.  It was COLD every night which necessitated being able to plug in to keep warm.  A couple of nights, we had three quilts on and it was still on the chilly side.

We went there for warmth.  Boy were we misguided.  We did get some sunshine, but it was the cool, watery sort that does not warm the bones.

Moab Utah is a sporting town.  Folks who go there are into danger sports of which many can be found there. They had just had a LARGE jeep rally that had made it almost impossible to find a campground to stay.  Luckily we found one that was relatively new and it had availability.  The folks were wonderful though the site still needs a lot of contouring to make it more comfortable.

The best part of Utah was the rocks which were spectacular even though we had to wait almost a half hour to get into the park the line was so long. (In the photo above, the rock balancing on a thinner column is called a Hoodoo.) We get into the parks free on the Senior National Parks Pass.  It is $10 for your lifetime.  Good starting when you turn 62.  I really recommend that you get one if you are that age or older.  You can also camp half price at a lot of BLM, National Forests and other National sites.

We spent a good deal of our time in the Arches National Park and the CanyonLands National Park.  We also visited the Fremont Indian Museum in Sevier, Utah which I found most interesting.  Geology is great, but I like it mixed with a little Paleontology and Anthropology as well. A couple of museums we went to see were closed unfortunately.  I was sorry to miss the one in Green River, Utah.  Another in Lehi, Utah was difficult to visit while towing the trailer.

We returned through Idaho, spending the night in McCall where the temperature was 27.  Thank goodness we were plugged in and the furnace was going full blast.  You have to realize that most trailers are not insulated very well. They get very hot in summer and cold at nights in the winter.

We came back to Washington State and stayed at the city park in Soap Lake, Washington for two days and I have to say that they were the best days of the whole trip.  It is beautiful country with lots of rocky buttes and towers, caves and wonderful formations but, unfortunately, without the spectacular colors of Utah.  They are columnar basalt formations with amazing patterns caused by lava flowing into water.  Very dark in color with few of the reds seen in the south.  Some have beautiful yellow lichen growing on them.

Soap Lake is a mineral lake and the “waters” are taken for their health benefits which include a high saline content.  You can float easily.  The school was on spring break and the sun was shining and the kids were out swimming and paddle boarding and kayaking.

I guess the lesson to be learned here is that we don’t need to travel 1100 miles to find our vacation dreams, some are right in our own back yard!

Seeking the Sun

email Arches national park 1

After months of heavy rain, heavy for even Northwest Washington, my husband decided he wanted to find sunshine for my spring break.  We would head south in our travel trailer for two weeks.

I need to explain that this winter has given us a lot of rain.  On Whidbey, our annual rainfall on the south end is about seventeen inches.  By the end of March this year we had accumulated 12.93 inches.  This is two thirds of our annual in only the first quarter of the year.

So we packed up and headed for Moab, Utah to see some rocks.  We checked the weather to see what it was like there and learned that the daytime temperatures were in the low seventies.  OK. It is warmer and drier than Western Washington.  The first day out was a pleasant trip weather-wise.  Second day it rained and the third day it was snowing pretty hard.

At this stage of the trip we are supposed to cross a mountain pass, Soldier Summit, which is over 7200 feet high.  We backed off and spent the night at a campground on the west side of the pass in Springville, Utah.  We searched for alternate routes to Moab, but the next one south was an even higher pass.  We finally decided to go across even though we could not get pass report information from the State Department of Transportation or the campground hosts.

There was no snow on the pass though we had had a heavy snow that morning just before we left.  We had no snow on the roads all the way from Springville to Moab.  Only Springville and Salt Lake had snow.

Well we are in Moab and the nights are freezing, not unusual as it is over 4000 feet high.  Went to Arches National Park for the day and took lots of photos.   Cool and breezy, but not uncomfortable.  Found an overlook that looked across the tops of the ridges to eat a picnic lunch that had brought with us. Got it all set out, still wearing jackets.  Noticed a squall in the distance.  Sure enough, while we were eating lunch, it started to snow.  We just sat there and ate.  The air temperature was 41 degrees and it was snowing.

Days since then have been a little warmer, but still with frost at nights.  The interesting thing about the whole trip is the temperatures have been in the mid-seventies at home the whole time we have been gone.  I guess it is just gorgeous, and our friends emailing from home are reminding us in every letter they send.  So much for going south to seek the sun.