Friday, August 31, 2012

It was a Blackberry Kind of Day

Every year I make jam for all my kids, grandkids, relatives and assorted friends.  I have always enjoyed making jam and the kids love it, so it is a fun thing to do.  My personal favorite is blackberry, but Ron has been diligently removing all the blackberry vines around our property so our resident blackberry source has dwindled.  

We noticed that when they rerouted Highway 9 just north of Arlington, they left a beautiful little paved area just off the main highway where blackberries drip down for about a mile from the hiking/biking trail to where the road used to be.  So we put on our berry picking gear (long sleeves, gloves, boots, hats, etc.) and set out early yesterday morning to pick berries.

Unfortunately, the highway department is widening the road near there and are using the berry picking area to park their vehicles, but we still found a place to park and began picking.  Then a nice local farmer came out to invite us to pick on his farm!

He had a nice long lane on perfectly level ground with a blackberry hedge all along one side.  The berries were big, clean and beautiful!
We picked for about an hour and a half and ended up with enough berries to keep me busy for the rest of the day.
That is a five gallon bucket!
At the end of the day, we had two gallons of frozen berries, all these jars of jam, and a few scratches all over our bodies to show for our work.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Pantry Filling Time

It doesn't seem like I have done that much storing this year, but when I look at my pantry, I discover that I have been busier than I thought.
Starting the season with raspberries - jam and frozen berries resulted from many days of picking.  Now the old canes are cut out and the new ones ready for next year's crop.
On a visit to our kids' in eastern Washington, we came across fruit stands that are hard for me to pass up.  So on to stewed tomatoes, tomato sauce, salsa, and nectarine jam.
Now my little garden is starting to produce, and I haven't even started on blackberries yet, so clearly I still have a lot to do.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Tina's Garden

It is really unfair to call it "Tina's Garden" since she has had so much help from Tony and Sara and Jesse in making it.  However, the vision is Tina's and I am thinking about kidnapping her and having her design my garden for me.
You can see the greenhouse and fence that Tony (with Jesse's help) built last fall to protect the garden from the deer, moose, and assorted other animals that live in the woods surrounding the garden.  It is still a work in progress - you can see a new raised bed that they built along the fence line for trellising crops like beans and peas next year.
The chicken yard sits in one corner, with a small orchard on this side of the fenced in area.
Raised beds and mulch allow for maximum weed control and minimum watering requirements.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Visiting on Vashon

Our long time friends, Dick and Lora, live on Vashon Island, so we don't see them as much as we would like.  We left the house early in time to catch the big rodent in our field - at least she wasn't in the garden.

There is something about having to take a ferry to visit that slows us down.  It isn't so bad on a week day or on the motorcycle, and yesterday was an ideal day for a ferry ride.
What a lovely day to be in the Pacific Northwest.  We took a picture just like tourists.
What a setting they have.  The view over the pasture is of the sound.  If you look hard, you can see Scotty, the llama in the pasture.
Here is a closeup.
Lora with G.P. (Good Puppy)
And a close up.
A labor of love for over 25 years, the house is nearly finished.
Special touches grace every floor - like this copper tiled ceiling entry.
Dick and Ron talking old times in front of some of Dick's life long collection of automobile memorabilia.
A few of Dick's car collection.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Riding with Friends

Our friends, Janice and Johnny, are taking an ambitious motorcycle road trip.  They had already been on the road for two weeks when they got to Washington on Thursday.  They had traveled across the steamy hot states of Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi, and then the deserts of Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, and then up the cold clammy coast of California and Oregon, arriving at Washington in the most perfect weather we have had all summer.

They called from Yakima, so we hopped on our bike and met them in Leavenworth on Thursday.
Notice the cute motorcycle trailer on J&J's bike - they can haul an amazing amount of stuff in it - just what one needs for a 6 week motorcycle road trip.
We ate lunch in Leavenworth and then wandered around town admiring all the beautiful flowers and enjoying the sunshine.
We wandered around the craft fair and then set out for home.
We stopped a couple of times to take pictures of the beautiful Wenatchee River as we headed up Stevens Pass through the Tumwater Canyon.

On Friday, we rode the bikes to Deception Pass and I got some great pictures, but I lost my camera somewhere on the way, so I will have to hope Janice got some pictures she will share with me.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Building a better bat house

My conscience wouldn't let me displace 100 bats when we replaced the roof on our house without trying to provide them with a new home.  We like having bats around as we never have a mosquito problem, but having them in our roof just doesn't work.  At night it can be hard to sleep with hundreds of bats coming and going.  And speaking of "going" bat guano isn't something you really want in your life.   

So once the roof was replaced, I went on line to find a bat house.  My choice was to order one for a minimum of $50 (for a small bat house, not including tax and shipping), hope it was in stock, wait for it to be delivered, etc. etc.  Since I hadn't had my "craft vaccine" lately, my eye immediately went to the "Build your own bat house" title.  

The instructions were from National Wildlife Federation, and looked pretty simple.  I was pretty sure I could find all the materials in our life long collection of building materials in the garage.  I printed out the National Wildlife Federation Instructions, and headed for the garage.

No problem finding the plywood and 1x2 pine, the main parts.  My plywood was 27" wide instead of the 24" it called out, but rather than rip a 4' piece of plywood by myself (Ron was busy)
Tony and Jesse helped put in the last of the uprights for the carport, but there was a ton of work still to do taking down the bracing, cleaning up debris, removing the woodshed walls.  There was no way I could tear Ron away from that to help me build a bat house.

I decided to adjust the size to make it 3" longer (we have LOTS of bats after all, so bigger would be better), and I couldn't see myself ripping 3" off the side of the plywood I found.

Next step:  "Cut into 3 pieces"  Oh great - what size?  I actually read all the instructions, and nowhere did it mention the size the pieces should be.  Back to the computer where in the fine print it said "First I printed the plan from the Bat Foundation site."  Okay - I can do this - Here are more detailed instructions from there (at least it told the sizes for the pieces - the pictures of how it went together were a lot less helpful.) Detailed Instructions

Now the fun began:
It suggested making 1/32" to 1/16" cuts every inch in the back piece or put a big mesh screen on the piece for the bats to use for footholds.  The only saw I really understand is the radial arm saw, and since the plywood was wider than the saw would reach, it was hard enough making the plywood into the three proper size pieces.

I found some window screen, but it is pretty fine mesh.  Nevertheless, I cut it to cover the back and stapled it down. I thought the bats might like something better to roost on, but any boards I found were as wide as the space where the bats could roost.

So I looked around our building supply collection and found an old plastic crate.  
I used the radial arm saw to cut off the sides and stapled the grid on top of the screen.
As I was putting it all together, Ron came by to check on me and couldn't resist helping finish.
Now we will see if the bats move in.  It is only a few feet away from their old home.

If they do, we will build a couple more houses for them.  And, for all you construction critics out there, "It ain't a piano, it's a bat house."

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The great roofing project of 2012

It is really nice having handy men in our lives!  Our son, Tony, and grandson, Jesse, came over this week to replace and repair all the roofs in our life.  The biggest and most important to get done when the weather is good is our main house.  
They got an early start from their home in E. Washington, and were here before 10 a.m.  They hardly stopped to say hello before they began tearing the old roof off.  When they got to the lake side, they disturbed about a thousand bats who had been living under the shingles for about 20 generations. 
Before the day was done, the old roof was gone and the repair phase  began.  Several boards along the edges had rotted, so they had to be replaced.

Jesse hauled every piece of roofing and handed it to Tony, who was on the roof.
The end of the second day saw the new roofing complete on the lake side, and all the repairs complete on both sides.
Today, the driveway side of the house is complete.  Tony even re-grouted the chimney.
Oh boy - this is the scary roof.  Tony replaced the ridge cap for us.
On to the garage roof tomorrow. 
Meanwhile, Ron worked on replacing all the uprights in the carport,
And I cleaned all the moss and debris from the roof project off the clothesline patio.
Ron and I are totally pooped tonight!  Tony and Jesse have more stamina, but they have been working long days too, so it is an early to bed day for all of us!