Tuesday, February 28, 2012

.Grand Opening of "Goat Land"

"Goat Land" East Entrance
    We held the official grand opening of "Goat Land" today.  The attendance at the grand opening was five.  That total included myself, Black Jack, Buster, Mr. Buttercup, and Little Miss Buzzsaw.  While you wouldn't know it from the pictures, the goats have actually shown a lot of interest in the recreational rock pile I have dubbed "Goat Land".  However, when I was taking the photos the goats were busy indulging their appetites at the concession stand so they don't appear in the "Goat Land" photos.
"Goat Land" South Entrance
Mr. Buttercup inspects the North Entrance of "Goat Land"

State of the Art Goat Restroom Facilities

Buster and Black Jack enjoying the concession stand.
Concrete Pad Removal Completed
    This was a pretty handy way to dispose of the remains of the concrete pad I demolished one week ago.  The goats were unanimous in their support of the project.  They are always in favor of larger rock piles.

  I have reached the sad conclusion that I have not just one rooster, but two. Beth was right.  The red Americauna is also a rooster.  This is going to put a lot of pressure on the remaining three hens as they fall further and further behind the ducks.  The current tally is Ducks 42, Chickens 0.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Deck Update

     I made some progress on the new deck this week.  On Monday I rented an electric jack hammer that made short work of the old concrete pad from the old front deck.  Since the new deck will be shaped differently than the old deck, the pad didn't fit in with the new plan.  I rented the jack hammer on a four hour rental and was able to return it just two hours after I picked it up. I used it a total of one hour, the rest of the time I was resting up between uses. If I had to use a jack hammer for an entire day I would be pretty beat up by the end of the day. Now I just have to haul all of the chunks of concrete into the goat pen to add to some of their recreational rock piles.  The goats enjoy climbing on the rock piles and it helps wear down their hooves so I don't need to trim them quite as often.
The old concrete pad reduced to manageable pieces
        On the poultry front, the ducks are still laying like crazy while the chickens have yet to produce one egg.  The score as of this morning is Ducks 30, Chickens 0.  Maybe the chickens would feel a little more pressure from the competition if I had a scoreboard that was visible from the poultry pens.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Pilchuck River Flood

Looking south from Three Lakes Road 

Looking north from Three Lakes Road

    The Pilchuck River flood turned out to be a record setter.  In the past, just the east bank had flooded. This time they had flooding on both banks of the river.  Quentin and Sarah had four feet of water in the lower level of their house.  I was unable to take pictures of their house when the water was highest. Their road was under water so I couldn't drive by the house.  I did take some photos of the river from the bridge on Three Lakes Road.  I don't know how much flooding took place upstream but I know there was a lot of flooding south of this bridge.  The tidal flow causes the Snohomish River to rise and fall several miles past the city of Snohomish, which is where the Pilchuck flows into the Snohomish River.  The maximum water flow in the Pilchuck river coincided with the high tide in the Snohomish River.  There was no place for all this water to go as the Snohomish river was already at flood stage.

      There was one flood related call for the fire department today. Someone drove their pickup truck into the Pilchuck River.  The truck was reported to be floating downstream towards Snohomish.  I never heard exactly how it turned out. I can only assume that the occupants of the truck made it out okay as there was no page for a chaplain to come to the scene. Fortunately, the rain stopped today and the flood waters receded fairly quickly.  I feel very sorry for Quentin and Sarah. Flood cleanup is a pretty nasty job.

Five Feet High and Rising......

     After my beekeeping class was over tonight, I went over to Quentin and Sarah's house and watched the Pilchuck River rise above its banks.  The water was less than a foot deep when I arrived and by the time I left there was almost two feet of water in the lower level of their house.  The sad part is that the river isn't expected to crest until about daybreak, so there is the possibility of eight more hours of rising water.  By the time I left, Quentin had decided that he had moved about everything that was practical or worthwhile to move. Quentin is in a somewhat perpetual state of preparation for floods as they have been flooded a number of times over the past four years.  Thus many things were already stored in such a way that they can make it through a minor flood without too much damage.

      I helped them move a few things but didn't feel like I was really much help beyond offering sympathy.  Sometimes about all you can do is just be there. They were planning to leave tomorrow to go to Great Wolf Lodge, but I think they have decided to forego the  trip to a water park.


Friday, February 17, 2012

Sour Kraut Update

   This past fall when I made sour kraut I tried something a little different.  Instead of canning the whole batch, I purchased a couple of one quart jars with rubber seals and clamping lids. I filled those two jars with raw sour kraut and have stored them in the fridge.  There seems to be a bit of a tidal flow in refrigerators that causes infrequently used items to flow to the back of the fridge.  Anyhow, today I happened to notice my two quarts of raw sour kraut that have been sitting in the back of the fridge for the past four months.  When I took them and examined them, both jars seem to have kept just fine.  They really looked just the same as they did four months ago. Therefore I opened one jar and tried a bit of the raw sour kraut on my sausage.  It was quite wonderful and tasted every bit as good as it did four months ago.  I really prefer the flavor of the raw sour kraut over the cooked sour kraut. I just don't have adequate cool storage to do more than a few quarts that way.  A friend told me that there are some great health benefits from eating raw lacto fermented foods like sour kraut. It is supposed to aid digestion similar to yogurt with live bacteria cultures.  However, until I have a functional root cellar where I can store the raw sour kraut somewhere besides my fridge I think I will be canning most of my sour kraut.

      I had read that Captain Cook's voyage was the first long sea voyage by the British Navy with no cases of scurvy.  The reason was that they took with them a great many barrels of raw sour kraut, a wonderful source of vitamin C.  Supposedly they still had a few barrels left when they neared England and gave them to a passing fishing boat.  I think it is truly amazing that they could store raw sour kraut in oak barrels and have it keep several years.
As pretty as the day it went into the fridge, about 4 months ago.

  I finished my goat shearing stand yesterday morning and I'm anxious to try it out. However, I seem to have caught a little bit of a cold so it will have to wait until tomorrow afternoon.  I still have to make a little addenda to the platform that I can put on for Buster to raise the height such that his neck will be at the right height for the board that swings into place to hold his neck.  I'm not sure what the proper term is for that. The general idea is that I will be able to shear the goats without the need of an assistant or two to hold them down.  I'm anxious to see if it will work the way it is or if I'll have to make some adjustments.

    I did a little gardening the other day.  I decided to replant one of our hollow stumps.  I had planted chives there about four years ago.  As the stump continued to rot and the cavity enlarged, the chives kept sinking down further into the hollow.  I dug them all out, added about ten gallons of dirt, divided the clumps of chives, and replanted them.  I filled in the area around the chives with the primroses we had used in our booth at the Flower and Garden Show. I also added some pansies we had gotten for free from an adjacent booth.  That booth was promoting a new product which is designed to replace peat pots.  Its a much thinner material and the plant roots seem to penetrate it very readily, unlike peat pots.

    My second runner duck hen started to lay this morning.  That makes the current score Ducks 20, Chickens 0.  The early start of the ducks has really put the hometown chickens in a pretty deep hole.  However, since I own both teams at least one of my teams doing well. As a Washington Husky fan I never thought I'd be saying this, but "Go ducks!"

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

You Know You Really Love Your Bees When...

    My sweetie left yesterday to go to China for a five week stay as a volunteer at the Starfish Foster Home. So here I am a alone on Valentine's Day.  What better way to spend the evening than at a bee club meeting. Amazingly enough there were over 50 other people who must have felt the same way.  I expected there would be a light turnout tonight due to the special day but it was just the opposite.  It was the best attended bee club meeting in the last four 4 months.  I don't know if that means most beekeepers are so obsessed with their bees that they have no love life at all or if they just love their bees more than their enabling spouses.  We do have some beekeeping couples in our club and I expected to see them at the meeting.  I describe them as being co-dependently obsessive beekeepers.  However, I did not expect to see so many people who I know are married and had left their spouse alone on Valentine's Day to attend a bee club meeting. I guess you know you really love your bees when you still go to the bee meeting even when its Valentine's Day. I hope all of these people realize that its okay to love your bees just as long as you don't expect them to love you back. In my experience honeybees aren't very good at reciprocating the love of their beekeepers.

    I did find the meeting to be very interesting.  Ron Babcock, an experienced commercial beekeeper, talked about trapping pollen and the most important features to look for in a good pollen trap.  Ok, maybe you had to be there, but I found it interesting.

   Speaking of Linda, I still haven't heard that she and Rachel have arrived safely at the Starfish Foster Home.  Sarah told me that she had arranged for them to be picked up by a taxi at the airport. Hopefully they arrived safely and are sleeping off their jet lag. I have had numerous occasions in the past week or so to explain to people why my wife was going to china for 5 weeks. I had our bee club secretary in tears tonight when I told her how Amanda collects children with birth defects from the dying rooms in the state run orphanages.

   I am planning to actually take an few hours off tomorrow morning so I can start chipping away on my monster "honey do" list.  I need to disassemble the old deck stairs and remove the concrete pad from the old stairs before we can start work on the new deck.  Tomorrow I'm just going to take the old stairs apart. I'm planning to rent a jack hammer next Monday to bust up the concrete pad in order to recycle it into the goats' rock piles.  One reason I don't have to trim their hooves more often is that they have several large rocks they can climb on. Then we also have a youth temple trip scheduled for tomorrow evening.  So far, staying busy doesn't seem to be a problem.


Monday, February 13, 2012

Flower and Garden Show 2012

     This was our sixth year participating in the Seattle Flower and Garden Show.  The mason bee booth has been a lot of fun over the years and I have especially enjoyed having my children and grand children involved.  For the last three years Rachel Kang has served as our cashier.  This year Rachel passed the baton to her younger sister, Autumn. However, she still ended up working at the show for three days due to some emergency staffing problems.  I couldn't have gotten through it without a lot of help from family and friends, including the two smiling helpers pictured below.
Beth Tunnell and Sarah Kang showing off big smiles and this years mason bee shirts.

     I  didn't take many pictures to speak of because I didn't think to bring a camera besides my new iPhone, which was being used to process credit cards at the booth.  Whenever I was able to take a break and walk around the show I always had to leave the phone behind.  That little piece of technology worked very well. There were only a few times we had to imprint a card manually to be ran later at the store. Not that I wasn't already very thrilled with the new iPhone. Since the capability for real time credit card processing at the garden show was the original justification for the fancy phone it was very nice that it worked out so well.

    I have mixed feelings about doing the show again.  Linda has already made dire threats if I do it again next year.  On one hand, I love being at the show and the great experience it has been for some of the grandkids.  On the other hand, it is a lot of work.  We didn't do as well this year as we have in the past, That is probably a reflection of our sour economy more than anything else.  As always, I saw a number  of our regular bee store customers at the show and met some interesting people.  I guess if I don't do the garden show next year, the grandkids will just have to settle for quality time with grandpa at the bee store.

    This year our booth was directly across from the Italian Country Home and Kitchen booth. The booth belongs to a pleasant Italian woman from Cremona named Francesca.  Among other wonderful things, she sells traditional hand stamped Italian linens. She buys them from a family which has been making them for a number of generations.  She had a few of the hand carved wooden stamps on display at her booth.  It looked like a very worthy carving project, only I would have to make something with bees and straw skeps.  The stamps in the picture were hand carved from pear wood.
hand carved wooden stamps

        The booth on our left was selling these wonderful "Roo" garden aprons which are really just very nice apple picking aprons.  That booth belonged to a very nice young couple from Spokane. I thought the aprons were very reasonably priced so I bought one.  I also stocked up on seed potatoes and onion plants and sets at Irish Eyes Seeds, located just around the corner from our booth.

       As of the morning after the end of the garden show the score stands at Ducks 14, Chickens 0.  The chickens are falling farther and farther behind.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Ducks vs Chickens

    It's been well over a week since one of my hen ducks started laying.  I believe only one is laying as I am getting just one egg every morning.  The currant tally is Ducks 9 Chickens 0 as the ducks are pulling to an early lead.  I have other breaking news on the poultry front.  I was pretty sure one of my chickens was a rooster some time ago.  He made an official announcement to that effect as I went out early this morning to feed the animals.  The rooster was up on top of the duck pen crowing for all he was worth.  That means he will be chicken and dumplings before summer.  On the other hand, it gives me the opportunity to try my hand at incubating some chicken eggs.

    We made great progress with our new fireplace insert this week.  The stove is no longer living in my van but has taken up residence in the fireplace where a stove belongs.  I had to buy some hardware used to level the stove since our hearth is sunken a few inches.  The stove won't fit into the fireplace far enough to drop down into the slightly sunken hearth area so we had to add little leveling legs to the back end of the stove.  Then as the stove was missing its firebrick I had to spend about $85.00 on new firebrick.  I only paid $75.00 for the stove so even with the hardware, we're only at $165.00, a fairly reasonable price.  We still have to make a modification to the shield due to our fireplace's somewhat irregular shape.  I also have to cut and shape the firebrick to fit before the stove will be useable.   It may not make much difference in the short term, but I'm sure it will make a very big difference next winter. It will be a good feeling to know we will be better able to stay snug and warm the next time we are left without power for 5 days.

    The particular stove I purchased (on craigslist) is the Colony Hearth model made by Earth Stove.  It can be retrofitted with an electric blower which will be very helpful as long as we have power.  With or without the blower it should be a major improvement over the open fireplace.  If we are in the mood for an open fire, the door can be removed and temporarily replaced with a fireplace screen.  One feature I really like is that you can also cook on top of it if necessary, just like on Mom's wood stove down stairs.