Camping in November

An out of focus photo of Ft. Warden Light near Pt. Townsend Washington.img_3466I probably should say that we went glamping as we stayed in our travel trailer and out of the cold, inclement weather.  Since I didn’t have to work on Veteran’s Day, I had a space of five days free and we decided at the last minute to travel to the Olympic Peninsula in Western Washington State.  For us this entails a ferry ride since we live on Whidbey Island.

Early on Thursday, my first day off, we headed to the Keystone Ferry in the middle of Whidbey.  This ferry takes us to Pt. Townsend, one of my favorite towns in Washington.  It has an 19th century charm that is going though restoration off and on, but still in keeping with the National Historic District status.  Beautiful three and four story brick buildings with Victorian flair.

We stayed at Pt. Hudson our last night and visited the town, but the first day we headed for Sequim (pronounced SQUIM).  John Wayne owned a substantial piece of waterfront on Sequim Bay many years ago where he moored his yacht, The Grey Goose, when he was in the area.  The land was donated to the county and is now a beautiful marina, campground, boat launching area and more, well protected by the long spit that juts across the mouth of the bay.  Calmer seas prevail here as the spit almost encloses the bay with a small passage out to the Straits of Juan de Fuca outside the passage.

Kingfishers, herons, seagulls and crows love the beach by the RV park.  I love watching the kingfishers dive into the water, coming up with small fish. Their turquoise and green iridescence makes them spectacular.  They look a little crazy with such big heads and small bodies.

Next we went to Joyce, Washington to stay at Salt Creek State Park.  This park has a very rocky precipice overlooking the Straits.  Waves crash on the rocks below the cliffs.  The park is a fairly steep hill which has been terraced for the RVs.  We backed into a space in the highest tear, thus having an unobstructed view of the straits and the shipping lanes there.  I love to watch the ships go by and I can do it from my dinette table inside.  We saw oil tankers, car carriers, and container ships interspersed with the minuscule fishing boats. The two lighthouses on Vancouver Island were visible flashing their lights after dark.  They were hardly visible through the fog and moisture in the air during the day.

We took a day trip to Forks and LaPush and had lunch one day.  Hiked around the campground another as it is an old fort from WWI.  The neighboring bay, Crescent Beach, was packed with surfers, though there wasn’t much for surf the day we watched. Cougars had been sighted in the region and they suggested you keep you children and pets on a short leash.

We did see some seals out in a large bull kelp bed.  Picked up some shells and beach glass while wondering beaches.

It was warmish, with the temperatures in the mid 50s.  Sunday, however there was a gale that made it hard to push open the door of the travel trailer to get out.  We were glad to be in Pt. Townsend and not at home that night.  (Our home is situated in a treed area and often we need to leave home if storms are to dangerous.) We were only staying one night, but we unhitched as it was difficult to walk against the wind to downtown, many blocks away.  Had a great dinner, once again, at The Fountain Cafe.  They never fail to please us and we are very hard to please.

Mostly, this was a relaxing trip.  We took our time, did a lot of reading in the evenings, slept late, and were generally lazy.  We didn’t have to be anyplace and any particular time and we just wandered, a great way to spend a little time off.

 

 

 

 

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The County Fair

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Cock of the walk

It isn’t called the county fair any longer.  It is now the Whidbey Island Area Fair.  It is still the same fair, carnival, hotdogs, cotton candy, blue ribbon cows, pigs, sheep, goats, horses.  Lots of folks and lots of things to see including vegetables of all sizes and shapes, beautiful flowers, photography, fine arts, crafts, quilts and needle work.  All kinds of people in all shapes, sizes, and some are multicolored, showing off their body artwork in scantily clad attire. Unfortunately, it rained this last evening of the fair and people were leaving in droves.  The band that was highlighted this evening had a small audience after the rain started.  The food vendors lost almost all their customers and the carnival rides were looking wet and deserted.

We usually go to the fair the first day to see the flowers, and vegetables and fruits before they wilt and shrivel and before the mold starts on the pies and bread.  The goods look attractive and appealing then.  They were beginning to look a little frowsy by today.

Vegetable critters are a hoot.  Kids have a competition making things from various vegetable parts.  We like to see these the first day while these critters are still recognizable as something.  By today, the last day, they are morphing (moldering) into something that was never expected by their creators. Some are pretty interesting after four days without benefit of any refrigeration.

Of course there are the commercial displays with the hawkers trying to lure us to the vegimatic choppers or the synthetic jeweled jewelry that is a cheap price.  The cable TV companies want us to subscribe to their four hundred stations and I just smile.  We haven’t owned a television for almost forty-five years now.  They would have better luck trying to sell me a book.

We saw chariot races in the arena this year, something I don’t remember seeing in the past.  Teams of four semi miniature horses racing flat out against each other.  Kind of breath-taking.  All in good fun and not a battle, just a race.

The greatest animal participation is the horses.  There must be five horse clubs in this jurisdiction and they all come decked out for parades, competitions, races and just judging of the animals.  Lots and lots of ribbons there.

The poultry barn was the usual din.  Roosters crowing constantly were competing with the hens squawking.  The bantam (miniature) roosters crowing voices are several octaves above that of the “heavy” (read large) breeds.  The poor, sleepy rabbits cohabitate in the same barn and don’t speak a word as their breathing and esophageal parts are separate and they have no voice box.  Chickens also make a great deal of dust.  Eggs are judged here as well for consistency of color, size and freshness.  This is one of my favorite barns being a chicken farmer myself.

Well it is the second week in August and at nine tonight the fair will close for this year.  All the folks camping at the fair will go home and resume their real lives with 9 to 5 jobs from which they have taken time off for the festivities at the fair.

As I mentioned it rained.  Most of the days were cool in the 60’s for the most part.  This was good for the animals as they didn’t get over-stressed by heat.  I am not sure that they didn’t get over-stressed by people looking, poking them, giving them things to eat they shouldn’t eat and more, so I think the animals are probably the most grateful to return home to rest until we do it all again next year.

email Pig #1 (caught in the flowers again

Summer Fun

 

In his sites

(this crow is made from tarpaper embedded into the wax) (titled: “In His Sites”)

Well the calendar says it is summer.  It is raining and almost the end of July.  Last week, however, we did have some moderate days of sunshine mixed, intermittently, with clouds.  Since it wasn’t raining and it wasn’t too hot, I decided to work on an outdoor project.

As I have mentioned before, I am an artist, primarily a painter, though I dabble in printmaking and other art forms.  I also teach.

One form of painting that I practice, from time to time, is encaustic painting.  This is melted wax to a board.  For color I use various materials including oil pastels, crayolas, powdered graphite, powdered pigments and more.  I often imbed objects, bits of paper, old subway tickets, playing cards, and other refuse into the pieces.

Over the course of two weeks, I completed sixteen paintings for a show that will hang in mid September.  The theme is crows.  Some of the crows are painted with oil pastels and melted into the wax, some are cutouts in tarpaper that is imbedded.  Some of the crows are tissue paper imbedded.

I use a heat gun, and electric griddle and a blow torch to melt the wax. Depending on the effect I want, I will paint on melted wax with a brush, maybe push it around with the blow torch.  The ends of my fingers get encased with the wax and I tend to rub them together, crumbling the wax which falls to the ground, consequently, I don’t want to do this in the house. I would track wax crumbs into the floors and rugs, which is not a good thing as it is slightly sticky.

I am fond of using crayolas in this process as I can melt them on the griddle and paint them into the wax with a brush, or I can color onto the cooled wax and melt them.  They move around a lot.  Oil pastel tends to stay where I put it.

I will be having a show of these works at the Braeburn Restaurant in Langley, Washington, https://braeburnlangley.com/ September 19th through October 14th, 2016.  I hope that some of you are able to visit the show.

PS: My students are having a show at the Braeburn July 25th to September 19th and another educational exhibit at the Island County Fair in Langley, August 4 through August 7, 2016 http://fair.whidbeyislandfair.com/

Poor Reception

(titled “Poor Reception”)

 

Typical Washington Weather

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Last summer was unusual for our area of Western Washington.  In June we had warm sunny days which brought the garden on early and with vigor.  This year is a more typical year.  As I have mentioned in past wordpress blogs, we can have grey weather three out of four 4th of Julys.  This year seems to be holding up this percentage.

We had glorious sunny weather in May and hopes that the garden would be the verdant, abundant scene it was last year.  We have collected 4000 gallons of water from the shed roof this past winter to water it as this is our only water source at the farm. I started all my little plants early, expecting that it would be a hot summer due to the warm spring. I held them over longer in the greenhouse so as to not shock them with the cold outside.

When I was a kid and a Brownie and Girl Scout, I went to camp the first week after school was out.  IT ALWAYS RAINED. For me camping is about cool, damp weather.  It always seemed that we would have glorious, sunny, warm days for the last few weeks of school making us all itchy to get out to vacation.  The last day of school, an early release day, it would rain and continue to rain until after the Fourth of July.

This year is no exception, being right on that schedule and reminding me of my youthful days at “summer” camp.  They felt more like winter, but I was away from home on an adventure and it didn’t matter that it drizzled the whole time.

Now it matters that it drizzles the whole time.  We fight slugs, leaf rot, slow and retarded growth due to the weather in the high 40’s and low 50’s.  Tomatoes are not fond of this scenario.  I planted thirty plants with great expectations.  My husband, being the more practical, planted his dozen in the greenhouse and they have lots of tomatoes set, some the size of large lemons.  Beautiful.  We will have tomatoes this year, but probably from the greenhouse, not the garden.

The cabbages, kale, broccoli, Brussels sprouts are doing fine.  They will grow in the winter here in our temperate climate, Western Washington being the largest cabbage seed producer in the U. S. Even my squash plants are trying to bloom, but often when the weather is cool, the flowers fail to be fertile. The leeks are getting tall and thick-waisted which is good.

I have planted the corn three times and still have terrible germination.  Next year my husband says we should switch to another variety as this one is so poor, but I just love the sweetness, flavor and keeping ability of this variety.  We finally started some in the greenhouse and it was only 50% viable.  Not going to be much corn this year. I usually put up 200 ears, cut off the cobs and packaged three ears of cut corn per package for dinners, which is just right for the two of us.

Beets I have planted twice, but now they seem to be coming up.  I learned a secret for our area some years ago.  Before tilling, we always put seaweed, which we collected at the local boat ramp, on the soil in the beet row. Now you have to have a permit to collect it.  It is an endorsement on the state fishing licenses.  I have another remedy.  What the beets need is boron which is in the kelp and seaweed.  I use Borax powder from the laundry section of the grocery.  Just a little tiny bit, not too much or they won’t be happy.  It makes for an abundance of beets.  We like to eat them just boiled with a little lemon juice and butter, pickled with some cinnamon, allspice, mustard seed, or my new favorite, with credits to Rustica Café and Wine Bar in Oak Harbor, roasted beet hummus. If you have just finished a jar of pickled beets, don’t throw out the juice.  Hard boil eggs, peel, and put them in the pickled beet juice for about three days.  Then proceed as you usually do to make deviled eggs.  As an artist, these bright magenta eggs are a visual delight.

Well, I guess I have strayed far enough afield from the weather, but I hope that you have a glorious 4th of July, rain or shine.  Lots of deviled eggs, potato salad, fried or BBQ’s chicken and watermelon and apple pie.  Of course the apples were preserved last year and the eggs are from my chickens, the potatoes are from a neighbor’s garden.  The rest I had to fill in from the grocery. Too bad.

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Dutch bucket tomatoes grown hydroponically in our greenhouse.

Picnic Rain or Shine

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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.

 

Forty Days and Forty Nights

email preserving the harvestWell, it isn’t quite that bad, but sometimes it makes you wonder if you should start building a boat. Luckily for me, I live at the highest point of the island and the water runs down from here. It is definitely running down. It has been pouring for weeks now and the rainfall for the month is now over five inches. My region of NW Washington usually has an average annual rainfall of approximately seventeen inches A YEAR. We are well on our way to that and we haven’t finished the first month yet.
Yesterday, big, fat, quarter-sized raindrops were falling on my windshield when I went to the post office in the afternoon. One lady I met said she thought she heard thunder, in January? Very odd. Not too many folks were out walking around as it was a drencher. The grocery store parking lot was a river. In some areas, this wouldn’t be a big deal, but in my lifetime, I can remember few occasions where we have had torrential downpours. We are having some almost every day this past couple of months. Usually we are an area of constant drizzle, not downpours. Before I moved to China, there was a period of time where we had had ninety consecutive days of rain. Thought about building a boat then too, but I was moving away.
One fortunate thing about all this precipitation is the building up of the snow pack in the mountains. In our area, this is a very important thing. I don’t mean for the skiers either. Water stored in snow in the mountains provides several cities with their drinking water, but more importantly, it provides a reservoir of water for power turbines and agriculture. It is released slowly to create electricity and grow crops.
I collect water at my farm from the roof of a small woodshed. I have storage for 4000 gallons which is used in the summer to water my large vegetable garden. On the Big Island of Hawaii water is caught for house hold use. The land I own there requires that if I build a house, it must have 500 square feet of catchment for each resident in the household. The catchment area is usually a roof. Homes have large tanks adjacent to them with filters to take out particulates and bacteria. It is the only method of having water in your household unless you have a tanker truck deliver from one of the few wells on the island. Some years they wish they had our rain and most years I would be happy to give it to them. Here on Whidbey I have a neighbor who has caught rain for over thirty years to supply his household. He has a large Sears above-ground swimming pool to store the water. He filters it and uses it in his home for non-edible uses. He uses bottled water for drinking and cooking where the water isn’t boiled. Remember, birdies do it on your roof, so collected water must be purified in order to be safe.
The downside of all this rain is mudslides. We had one very bad experience last winter during the slide at Oso in Washington State. The whole town was almost swept off the map. Many died. It was a terrible thing. We have had similar slides here on Whidbey. When I lived on the beach in Clinton, I walked a mile to the Ferry every morning and home again in the evening. The morning trip was in the dark during the rainiest part of the year. One morning I heard a terrible rumbling. I didn’t know which way to run or if running would put me directly in the path of the mudslide. Luckily it was right behind me. Whoosh! And then a garage and Mercedes Benz inside were crushed. I had to walk home on the beach that night and for several days before the road was opened again.