Winter

img_3553
I guess that winter is here.  In a previous blog, I wrote that winter should be two months before December 21 and two months after.  Well the day before yesterday (Nov. 3rd) we had snow.  Not much, but snow.  Now it is thirty-four degrees outside.  It is dark and cloudy and they predict three inches of snow tonight.  It is early for us to have snow, but not the earliest.  The earliest was Halloween when the kids wondered about amidst the snowflakes to collect their annual haul of too much sugar.  These days, we don’t have any trick or treaters.  Haven’t now for several years and we haven’t had much early snow either.

When we woke up yesterday morning, the internet was out.  Was it just my computer being its recalcitrant self, or was the system down?  After several tries at fixes, I called a couple of neighbors and found out theirs were down as well.  Couldn’t get through to the people who provide the service so assumed that they already knew that they had had a failure.

While eating breakfast, I hear the friendly beep, beep, beep and know that we are finally back on line and that emails are arriving.  Five minutes later the power goes out. This IS winter.  Typical.

I had already made breakfast so that wasn’t an issue.  We were eating when everything went black.  We live in the woods, so it is dark without lights in our house.

What to do.  We went for a two mile walk, visiting with friends along the way to be sure they were warm and could cook food, if needed.  It was much lighter outside down the road than in the house.  Though the temperature was cold, we spent about an hour and a half outside enjoying the crisp weather and the neighbors, except for the racket of generators chugging away to keep their houses lit.

We do not have a generator. We have lived through almost fifty years of power outages.  This is nothing new. We have a small set up for the evening of a large LED light bulb in a small receptacle hooked to an inverter and then to a battery.  Works great and it is a very bright light by which to read. Works for us and we usually read in the evenings anyway.  We don’t own a television, so we don’t feel withdrawal .

After our morning walk, in the freezing weather, we came home to have tea.  Why is it the power goes out when the weather is the coldest? Anyway, my husband filled a saucepan with water (we normally use an electric teakettle), put it on the wood cookstove to boil.  I asked if he wanted his tea more quickly he might want to use the stove in the kitchen which is gas.  He tried to start the burner with the clicker on the stove, but since there was no electricity, he needed to use a match.  Habit is a hard thing to break.

Shortly after lunch, the power came back on.  It was on for a while when we had a brown out.  I called it in to the power company, but didn’t see any response.  Yet again in the next morning it was still browning out.  I called again as low voltage is not good for many appliances.

The brown out did merit some phone calls to us from neighbors, some of which I hadn’t heard from in years, to see if we were affected. At ten thirty this morning, about twenty minutes after a call the power company, the brown out was over.  The lights are bright again and the motors are humming at their usual levels.

Now life is back to normal and it is snowing.  It started the day before yesterday, just a few flakes, nothing significant.  It started again this morning and some of the roofs were white.  Fortunately, most of our neighbors now have some alternative for heat besides electricity or they have a generator to run fans on propane furnaces and stoves.  Back in the beginning, forty or fifty years ago, many did not have a way to heat when the power went off so now in our community there are “warming stations,” back then we just all got together at a warm house and had a neighborhood gathering.  I sort of miss those.

 

Advertisements

Peace and the Bountiful Harvest

It is late October and I just looked out into the very dark evening after a somewhat mixed day and I see the crescent moon through the trees.  It is a peaceful sight.  There is also no wind.  It isn’t warm, but it is peaceful.  I have just gone out and gotten wood for the fire to keep us warm through the night.

I guess that we can say, officially, that we are headed to winter.  That is the thing about living in the maritime northwest.  Winter is usually at least two months before and after the winter solstice.  Why does winter start then?  We have our coldest, wettest weather before AND after that date.  I never could understand why winter officially started on the 21st of December.  We are long in the throes of winter by then.

I have just finished doing all the tomatoes I am going to do this year.  We have been hauling home buckets of them from our farm for processing.  I have made zillions of bottles of tomato sauce, tomato paste, tomato pickle relish (both red and green), marinara and more. I had two large buckets left to finish today and I am hoping this is the last of it.  They do look beautiful sitting on the shelves in the root cellar.  We had thirty-eight plants at the farm and another nine here in the greenhouse.  They stopped blooming a month ago, and then we just hoped that some ripen, which they did in abundance.

Most of the preserving is finished.  The old apple trees, over a hundred years old, are just about ready to pick.  They are good keepers if I pick them while they are still in the starch.  Seldom do you find apples in the store “in the starch.”  If all the starch has turned to sugar, then the apples will start to deteriorate.  If they are in the starch, then they have a while to reach their full ripeness.  We pick them and they taste wonderful all the way until May.  I find that most of the ones I see in the store are already on the pithy side.  Many times, here in the northwest, they dump last year’s cold storage apples on us which lack flavor and are already mushy.  I love the ones we pick because they are so crisp and crunchy.

I finished freezing the green beans two months ago.  The pumpkins I grew this year are the kind that have hulless seeds. I will scrape them out of the pumpkins and clean them and roast them for pepitas for winter.  This is the first time I have grown these, so I have no experience with this.  Folks tell me that the pumpkin itself is not very tasty.  We will see, and if not then the chickens will benefit from their flesh.

We did have a bumper crop of peppers this year.  Mostly varieties of sweet peppers.  The hot peppers don’t get very hot in our climate as it is generally to cool for those flavors to fully develop.  I used a lot of them in the marinara. We did make poppers.  I make them by cutting the small  peppers in half lengthwise and filling with chorizo and covering with cheese (jack or mozz, but gooey cheese) and then baking in the oven until bubbly.  Boy, are these good.  You can serve them as appetizers, but we make a meal of them we have so many.

I am truly proud of myself this year as I actually had three gorgeous eggplant.  I have harvested two and will go get the last this weekend.  I made mousaka with one of them. Homemade ricotta, fresh tomato sauce, garden peppers, a real homegrown treat.

Well, I have ranted enough about the bounty we experienced this season.  I need to go damper the wood kitchen range where the tomato sauce bubbled away all day and is now safely cooling in the pressure cooker until morning.

I feel like I accomplished a reasonable harvest this year.  Yes, it is peaceful and I am enjoying watching that crescent moon.  Now we can bed down for winter.

 

 

The Golden Hour

Hot air balloons at sunrise

Lighting during the golden hour is soft, diffused, and warm. Image by Martin Sojka.

The Golden Hour

It is fall and it is time for doing clean up around the yard, harvesting fruits and vegetables and splitting wood.  However, summer is still upon us here in the Puget Sound Basin.  We have been having temperatures in the high 70s and low 80s.  Most everyone is complaining.  I love it.

We also have the addition of lots and lots of wildfires to the north, east and south of us.  Though the weatherman predicts high temperatures, they are tempered by the largely overcast sky.  The sky is overcast with smoke.  Ashes rain on the land.  My car was covered yesterday morning when I got ready to leave. The advantage, which many don’t seem to realize, is that it is keeping the high temperatures down.  It would have been ten degrees warmer if we didn’t have the high altitude smoke. Occasionally you can smell it, but it isn’t bad.

This morning I split firewood for a while and was bathed in the “golden hour.” Normally the golden hour is only a short while during the day when the sun is above the horizon, but is shrouded with particulate matter near the horizon which causes a golden glow to happen.  It isn’t usually an hour, but that is its name.  Photographers and painters just love it.  Being a painter, I am really enjoying it.  The shadows cast upon the ground all have very orange edges.  The light, though not bright, has the orange/golden color.  I would love to be able to capture this on canvas.  I am taking lots of photos so I can paint it later as I have the wood splitting/veggie harvesting/yard watering and cleanup work to do.  Somehow it is more pleasant during the golden hour which is lasting all day.

Yesterday when I went out I noticed that sun was an orange ball in the sky.  You could look directly at it without endangering your eyesight.  Too bad we didn’t have this condition during the eclipse, we could have all viewed it directly.

For those of you who are experiencing this phenomenon appreciate it while it lasts.  The heat of the day is tempered by it; it gives a wonderful feeling and makes work seem lighter.  It is seldom that we have the opportunity to experience it.  Enjoy it while it lasts.

 

 

Thank you Martin Sojka for your photo.

Enjoying the Harvest

img_3498Being an avid vegetable gardener, I was very interested in a program that the local school district is doing to help children learn about food production and preparation.  It looks like it was a great success.  Go to  https://whidbeyschoolgardens.wordpress.com/ to see the results.

We did have a wonderful year for the vegetables.  We have been giving lots to the local foodbank and friends. The tomatoes were especially productive and we have definitely eaten our fill.  We also have several dozen bottles of various tomato products sitting in the root cellar shelves.  The Brussels Sprouts are just ready now as we have just had our first frost (a very late one this year) and now they will be sweeter to eat.  The leeks are wonderful too.  We will have those fresh all winter.

The gold nugget squashes are sitting safe from mice and rats and we can eat those for the entire winter.  They will probably be gone by spring and we must have had about fifty of them.  Gave quite a few away too.  We like these in particular as they are just the right size for two people.  Though I like baked squash, hubbards and their kind are just too big.  I have tried baking them and putting them in the freezer, but it is just too much, so we have settled on the gold nugget.  They are sweet, very yellow and are also suitable for making pies.  I cut them in half and fill with sausage or sausage and cornbread dressing, or just with butter and brown sugar. Yum.

Well the dark days of winter are here and some days I am not sure the sun has even come up.  Today we will have sunrise at 7:48 a.m. and sunset at 4:15 p.m.  Not a very long day, especially when you almost need flashlights during the day.  All the lights are on in the house just to help us stay awake.

I am on my way out to chop firewood again.  With this cold snowy weather, we have burned quite a bit of wood to keep warm.  Now it is time to warm myself working outdoors splitting it.  It is something I have written about previously in this blog and something I do enjoy.

Happy Holidays and keep warm!

 

A Frosty Morn

ringneck-doves

Just came in from feeding the animals.  It is cold again this morning.  It was colder yesterday morning at 22 degrees, which for Western Washington, is cold.  Since we have rather high humidity, the cold is more penetrating.  For those who live in the mid-west, they probably would consider these temps a heat wave. Ha!

Everything is frozen outside, so the first thing I had to do when getting suited up to meet the weather challenges was to fill a large bucket with very hot water.  The doves, the baby chicks and the molting old hens all need to have their waterers unfrozen.  I also filled the birdbaths with warm water as the poor wild birds have no place to drink.

We have one baby dove who is just now fending for himself and I was worried that he might not make it through this cold.  This morning he is huddled in a corner trying to keep warm as his mother has now abandoned him since he can feed himself.  He was fine and jumped right in when the feed was provided.

The ten chicks, which are now two months old, are very hardy, but today I gave them their first cracked corn, which helps warm the chickens from the inside out.  The also got fresh bread, which they chased all over their pen.  The cold doesn’t seem to faze them.

The old hens, however, felt the cold.  Why do they choose to molt just when the weather turns cold.  Molting, as I have mentioned in earlier pieces, is the process of losing all their feathers and growing a new set, which means they are not laying any eggs.  So we are between eggs with old ones molting and new ones too young yet.  I hate buying store eggs.

The plantings in the yard look sad, especially the rhododendrons that lower their leaves as though dead or dying.  This is the way they look in the heat of summer when they are in dire need of water.  I always hate the look of them in this cold.

I know when things thaw that there will be lots of mud because the frost has pushed up around the stones in all the pathways making crunching noises as I walk out to do the chores.

The advantage to all the trouble above is THE SUN IS SHINING. It is a trade off.  If we have sunshine, we have cold weather.  If it is in the 40s then it will rain and be grey.  Yesterday and this morning, we can bask in its warmth and enjoy the vitamins it gives to us, though begrudgingly in winter.  Makes me feel perkier already.  Amazing what a little sunshine can do for your mental health.

Guess I will go for a walk and enjoy it.  Never know how long it will last.

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.

 

 

 

 

Summer Showers (The Perseid Meteor Showers)

sleeping outNote the chiminea for firelight and the water feature for a nice, restful water sound.

Summer Showers (The Perseid Meteor Showers)

As you may have gatherer from my previous missals, we are not having a very great summer.  We have had cool, rainy days even in August.  But, wonder of wonders, we have had a few hot days just recently.  This means it is time to pull out the outdoor sleeping arrangements.  For us it is an old futon frame, an air mattress and usually mosquito netting.

The nighttime temperatures this past week have been in the mid sixties and this is great for sleeping out.  So last night we slept out.  There was a particular motivation for doing this.  It is one of the several nights that the Perseid Meteor Showers are visible in our area.

It was about 72 degrees outside at ten when we packed up and went to sleep on the patio.  Very comfortable to be sleeping out with a light quilt.  We took an extra quilt just in case. We didn’t have our mosquito netting because it has seen better days and needs to be replaced.  No Zika yet in our area.

Instead of the netting, I opted for three small citronella candles in terra cotta flower pots to keep them safe. The smudge to keeps the blood-thirsty buggers at bay.  It worked and created a great ambience for falling asleep without too much light interference to see the stars.

Moths were attracted to the light of the candles and were flitting around over our heads in the dim light.  I commented on that.  Then suddenly other critters arrived.  Yes, the bats. These are very effective at controlling the mosquitoes.  When night falls, bats take over. A nursing female little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus) may consume her body weight in insects each night during the summer. They were circling overhead until I blew out all but one of the candles.  Three candles were keeping us awake.  One candle was enough smudge and the moths were no longer attracted.

We live in peace with the bats here and see them often in the late dusk.  Many folks mistakenly identify them as late hunting swallows as their flight patterns are similar.  We don’t correct them because many feel negatively toward bats.  There is nothing to fear with these small animals.  They are beneficial.

I did manage to see on meteor blip across the sky momentarily, before finally took my glasses off and went to sleep.

It was a pretty sleepless night;  the excitement of sleeping outside,  the waking and searching the sky yet again to see meteors, the dog stealing the covers.  All made for a wakeful night.

By early morning I reached for the extra quilt, firstly because my husband and the dog had most of the covers and, secondly, because I was cold. We got up about 7:30 to a bright clear day.  We both had finally fallen sound asleep in the wee hours to wake to daylight. I commented that I had been chilly and that it was a little more “refreshing” than we had expected consider the heat of yesterday.

When I came in the house, I checked the temperature and it was 54 degrees outside.  No wonder we were cold.  When it is this temperature in the fall and we are sleeping out, I bring out the down quilt, not the thin one I used on the bed last night! Tonight we will be prepared, and maybe we might just see meteors.