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.

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”)

 

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.

 

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!