Saturday, September 30, 2006

Saturday at Seven Trees

Another busy weekend...and a few pictures to entertain you while we run errands this morning...

Here's Stewie, doing a vulture (or contortionist) impression over his stub of a chewie. No treat sharing in this house!

Remember these tiny balls of fluff?!
They are just about old enough to sort roosters from hens, and meat birds from laying flock. I think we're going to keep 2 roosters (1 for back up) so we'll be checking the boys out for the best combination of personality and looks. We need a friendly, calm, quiet guy, yet with good protection instincts to avoid being eaten by varmints.

And another picture in our "where Newt is cute" series. She's inspecting the shed roof, now that it has a new access point via the wood storage eave.

Stay tuned for more breaking news as we prep in earnest for Stella the cow's imminent arrival (next Saturday!).

Sunday, September 24, 2006

In a Stew about hot potatoes...

This is the result of me gently squeezing a homegrown Nooksack potato to see if it was done.

It made a loud POP! which made me yell. I laughed so hard I cried. Guess I should have poked a few more vent holes in it first.

Now for the critter pics -

Sleepy Stew, under the computer chair.

Action Stew, being drug around by Fergus via stuffed sheep.

And cute woodshed-inspector Stew, who's ears are trying to stand up, a la german shepherd...

Saturday, September 23, 2006

A trip to the woodshed

What have we been up to this week?

Newt knows....

Inspector on the jobsite. Look busy!!

It's a woodshed!
A larger version of the tool eave on the other side of the shed, this eave should easily hold our 3+ cords of firewood.

Now it's time to stack it, but first, a beer run!

More gratuitous critter pictures tomorrow, plus a thrilling photo of what happens when your light, fluffy, perfectly baked homegrown potato gets squeezed a teeny bit too hard....

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Something windy this way comes...

(Not the actual cottonwood - just a historical
re-enactment of the event as portrayed by a tree in Oregon)

We had our first power outage of the season. An old cottonwood couldn't stand against the rain-saturated soil, and fell onto a power pole, about a 1/4 mile down the road. We only lost power for 4 hours, but it was a good reminder that the weather can send our best laid plans spinning, and it's time to do winter emergency prepping.

Here's a look at past weather hijinks in Whatcom county. I'm sure most anyone in the PNW experienced these events in their own special way...

(From the Bellingham Herald)

• Record snowfall of '98-'99
The winter of 1998-99 will live in the memory of local skiers and snowboarders - that's when 1,140 inches of snow fell at Mount Baker Ski Area, the most ever recorded in the United States.
Once Baker opened that season on Nov. 22, 1998, more than 100 inches of snow fell over the next seven days. By February, Baker had to close down for two days so workers could clear paths for the chairs to move up and down the slopes
• Winter, 1996-1997: Up to three feet of snow dropped by a holiday storm blocked city streets for days because Bellingham lacked plows to clear drifts up to 10 feet high. Chastened city leaders later decided to buy some plow blades.
When the snow melted, floods caused millions in damage and broke through a Lummi Reservation dike, pouring up to 20 inches of water onto Haxton Way and cutting off access to much of the reservation.
• Winter, 1990-1991: Six major storms - two floods, two Arctic windstorms and two heavy snowstorms, along with bouts of freezing rain and a silver thaw - battered the county over two months. Upward of 100,000 residents lost power. Ferry service to Lummi Island was cut off. Damage reached $30 million, and that didn't include private property damage and economic losses.
• November 1989: Five days of record rain produced flooding that knocked out an 80-foot section of the Nooksack River bridge at Nugents Corner. Damage was pegged at $5.3 million.
• February 1989: A savage storm packed a wind-chill factor estimated at 50 to 70 degrees below zero and wind gusts up to 104 mph. The storm knocked out power to 16,000 customers, closed schools, damaged crops, and froze milk in pumping equipment at local dairies.
• January 1969: A storm froze stretches of the Nooksack River. Snow blocked portions of Guide Meridian, with one snowdrift on Pangborn Road measuring 25 feet high and 100 yards long.
• Oct. 12, 1962: The famous Columbus Day storm packed winds up to 98 mph. It took six days before everyone got their electricity back.
• March 1951: A freak spring storm dumped 23 inches of snow over four days. Temperatures plunged to 10 to 15 degrees.
• January 1950: Repeated snowstorms wracked the county for more than a month, beginning New Year's Day. Temperatures dropped to zero; winds hit 75 mph. It was so cold that it didn't rain until Feb. 5. Whatcom Waterway and the Nooksack River at Ferndale froze over. Winds destroyed five planes and damaged 29 others at Bellingham International Airport.
• February 1916: Seventeen inches of snow fell in Bellingham the first week of the month; 42 inches fell over a two-week stretch. Snowdrifts rose 30 feet high. Lynden was cut off from the world for four days.
• February 1893: A fierce blizzard packed winds up to 80 mph as temperatures reportedly fell to minus 13. One settler said the wind "drove frozen hail-pellets with fierce intensity."

Here's a link to more info about the Columbus Day storm, but from an Oregon point of view - The "Big Blow" of Columbus Day 1962

A bigger overview of PNW extreme weather from the same guy - The Storm King
Some Historical Weather Events in the Pacific Northwest

Kind of scary how much we take decent (at least non-lethal) weather for granted, when there has been so much extreme weather in our area's past. Hopefully everyone will spare a little time & trouble to do some basic preparations for events like these. Here is some info to get started -
Only where they say to have 3 days of preps on hand, you should shoot for 2 weeks if possible. Even if your power comes back on sooner, you may have snow-closed roads to deal with, or be sick, or just not want to leave the house yet. Having enough on hand to keep you warm, dry & fed for as long as you need, is a great feeling!

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Baked, mashed, fried or boiled....

Here are some Ozette fingerling potatoes, one of 4 kinds that we grew here this year. They have an interesting history from the Slow Food website -
The Ozette came from Peru by way of Spanish explorers to the Makah Indians at Neah Bay, Washington in the late 1700s. The Ozette is also known by the names, Anna Cheeka’s Ozette and Makah Ozette. It is considered a fingerling potato, as its size ranges from 3-7 inches in length and 0.75-1.5 inches in diameter. The potato has an earthy and nutty flavor that is similar to the taste sensed in cooked dry beans. The flesh is firm and the texture is very creamy. The Ozette is generally served steamed, fried, or roasted. The Ozette is grown predominantly in private gardens for specialty menus and for personal consumption.

An abstract of a research paper about the Ozette says they are closer to the original Andean wild potatoes than modern russet or "Irish" types. Must be because they were brought here so long ago, almost directly from their land of origin. They are pretty tasty, though they don't keep in the ground as long as a russet potato. I think we'll grow more next year.

We grew another kind called the Nooksack. It was locally developed for wet, cold growing seasons. Too bad summers here are now hot & dry! It did pretty well though, and is a nice generic baking-type spud. The kind I wanted to try was sold out (Butte, with 20% more protein than other potatoes) so we'll see if the Nooksack gets another run, based on choices next spring.

Our other 2 spud plantings were a Yukon Gold and a red I forget the name of. Neither did really well or really poorly, so maybe we'll try something else for those types too. I did read that for storage potatoes in the NW, it's better to get really late maturing kinds. That way they can stay in the dirt longer and you can dig them until it freezes. If you have them mature too soon, they will try and sprout again if the dirt is warm enough. But for "new" potatoes, like red, gold and fingerlings, you pretty much have to dig and eat them as they are ready. We left the fingerlings a tad too long and some are goat fodder due to bug bites.

And that's our spud lesson for today!
Now it's time for canning, cleaning, cooking, chickie coop adjusting, dog wrangling, and other assorted pastimes enjoyed at Seven Trees....

Saturday, September 16, 2006

More busy!

Sick kitty this week.
Crichton can't seem to stay away from trouble. This time around he got infected saliva glands, and ended up with an ugly abcess. He's finally getting a bit better after another trip to the vet this morning.

We also had a lovely visit from a passel of Seattle relatives. Hopefully we'll have some pics to post later. A great time digging potatoes and gathering eggs with nieces, and showing off Seven Trees a bit. And beautiful sunny day to check out the farmer's market in town. Lots of produce in season now, and local apples are hitting their peak.
Lassie & Berry are on the market. It's amazing how you can get an idealized mental picture of a critter before living with them, only to find out they really aren't a good fit after all. As much fun as it's been learning about goats, they are just not quite the right energy for us. A little too pushy, a little to greedy. With Stella coming soon, it will just be much easier to have the one grazing species to work with, and not escape artist goats too. We have an ad coming out for them, but if we don't get any takers, we'll keep them on for brush patrol and chicken harassing. But wow! are goats not a calm easy going farm critter!!

Another busy day tomorrow too. One of us working a 12 hour shift, and the other cannign pears and tomatoes and doing various & sundry farm chores. Fall is falling and we need to get winterized!

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Stew 'n Chickens?

We had rain today!! And overnight. Maybe that's our cue to finish up a few projects before the weather really turns.

In the meantime, we have cute baby Stewart, who just got signed up for puppy school.

And we have 6 week old chickens that know how to peep, eat, escape, but not usually how to get back in the coop at night. I'm sure the reason I popped a stitch on my arm was my late night chickie round up, which included multiple dives under the coop at top speed. Here they are cleaning up a pump-zini (mutant of pumpkin and zuke, another gardening lesson learned).

Latest canning exploits - applesauce from the neighbor's apples, tomatoes from our garden, and later today, some refrigerator pickles with the last of the cukes. We have a crate of pears (also from the neighbor) out back, waiting to ripen enough to can.

And we have a new neighbor, theorectially. I met the new owner's employee, who is doing yardwork among other mysterious-sounding construction stuff. But not the actual neighbor, yet. All we know is that they are hispanic, and have enough money to buy an 1100 sq ft house for $329K.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

If you miss a Zucchini

You end up with a Namu like this one. Almost as big as the freezer lid!

When we see these prolific squashes at the grocery store we run screaming as there are so many monoliths like this at home. Shredded zucchini, fried, poached, baked, creamed... next year, one plant... only one!

Speaking of Namu, anyone wondering how our Stewart is doing? Well here he is at our daily dog romp this morning. We should have called him jaws... although he is not quite teething yet. The mouth is the best way to explore things puppy style, so he goes through the day, chomp - chomp - chomping!

Since humans are so adverse to being chomped, here's the next best thing... dog-buddy Fergus. Scenes like this occur all day, between games of chase and hide-n-seek, alternating who is chomping and who is defending against the chomp. The chomper/chompee game. Very entertaining.

Here's a momentary break, so Stewart struck a pose for the camera, and Fergus stepped out of frame. (No pictures, no pictures!)

Sure he looks cute, but he's all miscreant! Actually Stew can now pretty readily sit, and wait, appearing to understand hand and verbal signals. (When he chooses to that is.) We're working on down, which he did a couple times this AM quite nicely. Off, leave-it, drop, and no-kitties, are daily challenges, depending on the circumstance. He naps long and prolifically... between chomps that is.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Still busy, still having fun

This weekend has been all about Stewart the puppy, and lots of canning, and getting behind on our master project list. Stewie is a canine escape artist, but mainly because he wants to be with his people so much. When he's not sleeping that is. He's also a wizard at sleep marathons, which is nice because it gives us a break from supervising. We had to build a better dog run on the quick, since he figured out how to climb out (it was built for Fergus originally). Then we had to retro fit it because he's still small enough to pop through the upper openings in the cattle panel.

So we didn't get the netting over the top of the baby chick run yet, but we did let them out today. Here's the first intrepid explorer heading down the ramp.

Hopefully they will figure out how to get back in before it's too dark to round them up. We'll need to get the netting over it soon, not only because they will be able to fly out someday, but to keep them safe from kitties and the ever present buzzards, ravens, hawks & eagles.

Now back to canning....our neighbor brought a crate of corn this weekend, and I tried canning it. A lot of work, but good experience. Now it's a little more applesauce and starting on tomatoes (going to be a doozy of a harvest by the looks of it). Anyone wanting to donate an Excalibur model 2900 dehydrator??