I taught two Mason Bee classes this past Saturday at the Country Living Expo in Stanwood, Washington. It was a lot of fun as usual. As an instructor I get a free prime rib lunch and can take any classes I want for free. The prime rib lunch is a holdover from when it was called the Cattleman's Winter School. They have since diversified into many other areas, but fortunately they kept the prime rib lunch. I enjoyed browsing at all of the commercial tables. There were at least five different vendors selling various types of fleeces to include llama, alpaca, angora goat, and a good number of sheep breeds. It was a hard thing to just walk away from all the fleeces, but I have a pretty good supply at home already. Instead I frittered some money away on goat cheese. One of the fleece vendors had a very nice selection of drop spindles, but I can't bring myself to buy something that I know how to make. All the more reason I need to buy a replacement wood lathe.
One thing I enjoy about the Country Living Expo is that the people who attend it really are my kind of people. I must have met close to thirty bee store customers while attending the show. I don't know what their attendance was this year, but last year it was over 1200. The place was packed so I'm sure it wasn't any less than that. What's not to love about 1200 people in one place who are all into raising animals, growing gardens, and general self-sufficiency.
This year I didn't do a display table to sell my wares. Instead I took three classes. My favorite was the one on growing dry beans in Western Washington, with the class on incubating eggs a close second. I also took a class on ducks but it was less enjoyable as I didn't learn anything new from it. I'd like to think that is a positive reflection on the level of my duck knowledge as opposed to a negative reflection on the duck knowledge of the instructor.
The dry bean class was taught by one of the professors at the WSU extension farm in Mt. Vernon, Washington. I've tried my hand at growing dry beans before and had some success. However, it will be nice to do it with a better base level of knowledge. I think the threshing will be much less tedious after having taken the class. Also I learned about Uprising Seeds, a source for local heirloom bean seeds. The down side to dry beans is that an average harvest is only one pound of dry beans for each ten feet of row. At that rate I would need a pretty big garden to grow a year's supply of dry beans. That is even less practical than my current obsession with indian corn. I still like the idea of learning to grow my own dry beans and corn. Not everything in life has to be practical.