Monday, January 30, 2023

January 2023

 


After a frozen lake in December, the lake has been open all of January. The Trumpeter Swans have remained for longer this year than in the past. We have had seven here for several months now, and we have hopes they will like it well enough to stay.

A new house is being built at the other ends of the lake, so our little lake is changing once again.

Still winter - so I'm officially in my cooking mode. Since I view a lot of recipes, Facebook shows many in my feed, and I experiment a lot. This potato pancake recipe has become Ron's favorite breakfast. When done, they are crispy brown!

The other dominant theme in my Facebook feed is gardening. Although I have tried unsuccessfully on several occasions to start petunias from seed, this picture convinced me to try again. I ordered several specialty petunias from Baker Creek, and was excited to see them in the mail.

I was a bit dismayed when I opened the seed package and found this tiny zip lock bag with what looked like dust inside. 

The instructions said be sure soil is warm, so I dug an old heating pad out of the closet and I think I planted the seeds.  Hard to tell as they are almost microscopic and I wasn't sure I even had seeds in the pots.  After 10 days, I spotted a bit of green! YAY

If you look very closely, you can see tiny leaves - (may be chickweed?) but I'm cautiously optimistic that I actually have petunias.  They look extremely fragile, and have been this exact same size for about a week.  We'll see - but I'm glad I planted early if they grow this slow.  They should be ready for my dreamed of hanging baskets by about May (if they're actually petunias).

Tuesday, January 3, 2023

New Year Project

 

When we put in this fence line last year, it was intended to give the deer a sense of boundary. To make life easier for both the deer and me, I planted raspberry starts all along the fence line. This attempt to bribe the deer to eat from "their" raspberries and leave mine alone didn't work at all.  Since this line got overrun with weeds, they preferred the nicely trimmed main raspberry patch, and I ended up picking the berries buried in the weeds.  So, this is what it looked like after a year of neglect. Opportunistic weeds like grass, Alder trees, comfrey, foxglove, creeping buttercup, and many more had developed a very hard sod/weed base all along the fence.  The only wire I had put on the fence was a single line of wire to kind of trellis the raspberries.  I really can't stand weeds, so I began clearing the weeds off this fence line and creating a new area adjacent to the main garden for another Hugelkultur mound. We are going to put a more serious fence outside the mound. This side of the garden is the main entry point for deer, raccoons, rabbits, etc. and I'm hoping a better fence will solve some of the problems of critters in the garden.

I began working on clearing the weeds about a month ago. Weather only allowed me to work on it periodically. I realized quickly that I would need a lot more mulch to complete the project, so I ordered another 15 yards of mulch.

I should finish the fence line weeding today, and then I can start on the fun project of installing the actual fence line on the other side of the new garden area.  I'm trying to transition the garden into more of a raspberry thing - I know raspberries do well no matter the weather so why fight to grow more exotic plants that may only do well in a "tomato" year? I may have to open a U-Pick for raspberries. 
I'm also trying to transition to more of a mulch covered food forest and less of a row crop tilled garden.


Thursday, December 22, 2022

Oh, December - 2022

 

Well, this isn't a black and white photo!
The ice is advancing, and the days are short and dark - not my favorite time of year. But as the saying goes, "If you don't find joy in the snow, you will have less joy, but the same amount of snow."


The lake is full of water fowl this year.  Two more swans joined the five that have been on the lake for several weeks now.  All the geese and swans have been feeding on the water weeds, and we have hopes they can seriously make a dent in the weeds. We're also hoping they can still find open water as the bitter cold continues for a couple of more days.  By Christmas, we should be back to 50 degrees, but it was 12 degrees this morning. (December 22)

Thanks to our big logging project last month, we have plenty of wood and we are staying warm and cozy.  I've been baking and we've both been reading a lot.  I signed us back up for Netflix, and we binge watched Ozark.  It's definitely our down time!

Sunday, November 13, 2022

November 2022

 

November began with a mighty wind storm.  Not only did it break this big Hemlock tree at about 20' off the ground, it took out our power line.  Of course, we weren't the only ones without power - most of Snohomish County was powerless - even in the cities.  So the priority of the PUD to fix one line that crossed over a steep gully wasn't their first choice. We watched with envy as power was restored to community after community, knowing that they couldn't possibly work on ours at night and only two families were affected by the down line.  


We had plenty to do - the downed tree scared us into removing 14 more danger trees.  The tree guy came out after 3 days and took down the trees, but the mess was all ours.  On the plus side:  we should have firewood for the next couple of years. 

We developed a system - Ron cut the trees into plugs and I hauled them to the wood pile. Fortunately, we have a splitter, thanks to our son, Tony. Splitting will come later - we still have several days of wood cutting and debris clearing.  About every other load, I hauled branches to a burn pile that has been going steadily for the past week as we worked.


We were without electricity for 5 and a half days, but by the end of that time, I was ambivalent about whether I even cared.  The biggest problem was water as our well pump needs power to run. We kept the freezers going running the generator for a couple of hours a day, cleaned out the fridge in the house and added a lot of stuff I should have dumped ages ago to our compost pile. We kept water in 5 gallon buckets in the bathtub for flushing, and had bottled water for drinking and cooking.  The house stayed warm with the wood stove, and I used the top of it for cooking.  


Nearly every day in November has been sunny and nice. We usually have a light frost at night and then sunny days that get around 50 degrees.  However, one day when the power was out, we had a scare with a cold wet day.  Nothing inspires us to keep working like seeing snow getting way too close.  The little mountain at the end of the lake always lets us know when winter is getting closer!

Saturday, October 29, 2022

October 2022 - Fall is Finally Here

 Summer continued for us well into October this year. Our normal rainy season that starts sometime in September didn't start until late October.  We continued to water plants every day, but enjoyed harvesting beans, cucumbers, and other frost intolerant veggies. Still waiting for the first frost, but the deer and cooler nights have mostly ended growth in the veggie patch.

Deer decided they do like green beans after all.


.Acorn Squash is ready to enjoy
Time to gather seeds and herbs and dry them for future use.

Pumpkin carving time





Finding the perfect Halloween costume.




Putting the garden to bed for winter. I pruned the thornless blackberries the way I do raspberries.  Mulched and pruned and discarded and tilled. I'm experimenting with no till gardening on about half of the garden area, and planting winter rye in the rest.
It's time to enjoy the beautiful fall weather by sitting down to relax or firing up the oven to begin cooking again.

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

September 2022

 

The old deck is gone, and Tony is here to begin the final stages of replacing the deck. Finally, the demolition is done and the building part begins.


So nice to have a professional working on this project! When working with an old log house, it takes part construction expert and part artist. Tony is both, and thankfully willing to drive 500 miles round trip and stay with us until the project is done.



Ron and I are back at work - first chinking between the logs and the deck.  Then on to Home Depot with a sample of the decking to match the color so we could do railings and the stringers under the deck and steps and the new chinking painted.  I spent a lot of time masking the deck boards so we could paint the chinking that extended to the decking.
The front of every riser had to be painted, and I soon realized that it would look terrible if the sides of the step supports weren't also painted.  I bumped my head several times painting the upper ones while I worked under the deck to reach. But the good news is the deck is complete!
So in the midst of the driest summer on record (less than a half inch of rain in 95 days) there are forest fires even on this side of the mountains, and a helicopter did a dip in our lake for the first time in my lifetime!

Apple butter in work.  I've been experimenting with making candy too:  Aplets and blackberry gummies. In a flash of inspiration, I wondered if I could dip the gummies in chocolate to make chocolates with blackberry or apple centers.  They turned out pretty good, but I'm still tweaking the recipe.

Meanwhile, while summer temperatures and dry weather persist into Fall, the fall crocus let us know that fall really is coming.

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

A Busy August

 

The deck replacement project begins with removing all the old railings. We were getting ready for our builder/son, Tony to come to do the replacement work.

Railings, decking, steps all removed.  We can still keep working by removing the stringers, but after a week of hard labor, we are ready for our expert help.

Even though lumber prices are down from the astronomic levels of a few months ago, this little pile of material represents nearly $8,000.  Building anything isn't cheap!
Meanwhile - harvest season is upon us.  I have a pattern where I pick one day and preserve the next. To use the native blackberries (which we have an abundance of) it is necessary to remove most of the seeds.

This is how many seeds are removed from about a gallon of berries.  I get enough juice to make about 8 pints of jam from that many berries.
I use some of the blackberry juice to make gummies and some of the gummies are the center of chocolates.  These don't last long.

The fig tree is really starting to produce.  It took several years for it to have a single fig, but now it is really making up for the slack years.  So far, I've been dehydrating them, but think I'll make some fig newtons if it ever cools off enough to do some baking again.

The pantry is starting to fill up, but there's still room for more blackberry jam and pickles and OCD that I am, as long as there is produce, I'm on it.  I'm thinking it would be fun for all my canning and preserving friends and relatives to have a "Pint Jar Exchange" where we get new ideas and try new things that others are creating at this time of year.