Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Garden Update

    Our vegetable garden is larger than last year and doing well.  I'm reasonably caught up on the weeding in the vegetable garden, due in large part to the sheet composting I've used in preparing the garden areas. I'm very happy with my "full sun" front yard garden, We have already harvested parsley and green onions for tabouleh. I've been picking peas and I've got beets and red potatoes that are ready to harvest. The Jerusalem Artichokes, aka "Sunchokes", are over four feet tall.  I have 12 tomato plants (twelve different varieties) that are doing nicely. There are already several dozen tomatoes growing on them. The pole beans have started to work their way up the poles. I also have artichokes, dill, lettuce, carrots, cucumbers, tomatillos, and spaghetti squash growing in the front yard. The vegetable beds out by the duck pen is also doing well. I have three long rows of "Rockwell" dry beans, as well as shallots, zucchini, and patty pan squash. I have other vegetable beds which have leeks, red onions, brussel sprouts, more potatoes, and garbanzo beans. One of the benefits to a larger vegetable garden is there is room for failures.  I am happy as a clam as long as most of the garden turns out well.  If this plant or that doesn't work out, I just plant something else and move on.

   The news is a bit more mixed when it comes to fruit.  Our strawberries are doing well. We had very good fruit set on our sweet cherries. It was pretty frustrating to have so much rain just as the earlier varieties were starting to ripen.  Most of the Bings and Lamberts have split. I have enjoyed a few handfuls of home grown sweet cherries, but I would have had lots of them if the weather had been drier. I am still holding out hope for my three later varieties of sweet cherries as the current forecast is for drier warmer weather.  I have black currents which are almost ready to pick and raspberries that are starting to ripen.

   I just got back from a quick trip down to Oregon, The primary purpose of the visit was to deliver honey supers to grand daughters Autumn and Chloe. I was concerned that their hives would outgrow their current equipment and swarm. I really admire their spunk in taking on two beehives, especially since much of my mentoring them is done electronically.  They do the hive exams on their own and then they text me with a hive update or we have a nice chat on the phone. Sarah sent me a photo of Autumn as she was preparing to do a hive exam wearing capris and no socks. Obviously she has a pretty high comfort level with the bees. I warned her that the normal temperament of the hive changes somewhat as the seasons change.  In the Spring a bee hive consists of mostly younger worker bees who are less inclined to sting. In late summer the demographic makeup of the hive reverses and there are more older worker bees who are much more inclined to take offense and sting their keeper. Anyhow, I advised her to wear long pants and regular shoes and socks for future hive exams. While an occasional sting is just part of beekeeping, I would feel very badly if she got stung up unnecessarily. For the benefit of non beekeepers, the technical term "stung up" implies numerous bee stings.

     One of the high lights of my short visit to Oregon was breakfast with my daughters, Sarah and Rachel, at Maggie's Buns, a wonderfully quirky little bakery in Forest Grove. They serve monster cinnamon rolls and other tasty baked goods at a very reasonable price. Lance and Luna each got their own cinnamon roll and neither one was able to eat more than half of it. Sarah and I shared a raspberry bran muffin and a cinnamon roll. The muffin was very good but it was no match for the cinnamon roll.

    On my way out of town I made a brief visit to Rachel's garden in Hillsboro. It is truly an amazing place. Her entire back yard is one big lush garden.  This represents a remarkable transformation from the weedy hard packed ground she had in the backyard when they first moved into that house. It is amazing the miracles that can be wrought with hard work, tender loving care, and lots of worms and compost. I left Rachel's house with a jar of freshly picked raspberries and three artichokes. As a gardener, I always feel inspired after I visit her garden. I always see something she did that I want to try in my garden at home. I also admire the way she involves her children in the garden. I can't imagine that either Lance or Luna won't grow up to be a serious gardener.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Family History Friday # 11 - Measure Twice, Cut Once

   We recently changed our internet provider back to Comcast. Our experience with satellite internet through Wild Blue did not turn out well. We had to pay to get out of the contract. That seems so wrong. You pay for a service which turns out to be very poor. Then when you terminate the service early, because it was so poor, you have to pay a termination fee. Wild Blue's service was so poor that I would guess that the early termination fees are the only way they are staying afloat. It made genealogy work particularly miserable.  It was so nice yesterday to work in Family Search and not have to spend so much time waiting for documents to load.

    The family I was working on yesterday was the William P. Darrah family, in particular his daughter Luamy. I'm in the process of going through the family group sheet of each of his children and adding sources. It is a bit of a tedious job but it makes the original source material readily available to other family members. Let me put in a plug here for doing family history research carefully and thoroughly, as noted in the title above. It is so much easier to get it right the first time, than it is to fix things later.

    Luamy Darrah married Daniel M. Zimmer, a farmer, on  April 16, 1865 in Appanoose County, Iowa.  They had five children. The oldest child was a daughter named Victoria who was born on March 15, 1866 and died on August 21, 1871.  I can well imagine the sorrow felt by a young mother on losing her five year old daughter. They had four sons who lived to adulthood. According to the 1900 census she only had the five children, three of whom were still living at the time of the census.  Luamy, her husband, Daniel, their daughter, Victoria, and two sons, Samuel M. and J. William, are all buried in the Shaeffer Cemetery, located north of Mystic, Iowa. Luamy Darrah was born in Monongalia County, Virginia (now West Virginia) on February 14, 1847.  Her family moved to Appanoose County, Iowa in the early 1860s when Luamy was a teenager.  After that, it appears that she lived the rest of her life in Appaoose County.

    In family search, Luamy Darrah's maiden name is spelled Dariah, which was the way it was indexed from the marriage record. Having seen the actual marriage record in the Appanoose County Courthouse, I can assure you that the indexer made an error. It was spelled Luamy Darrah on the original marriage record, but I'm not sure how I go about fixing that. Also in family search two of her sons are listed twice and one of her daughters-in-law (Belle) is listed as her daughter. I suspect someone made the assumption that all of the Zimmers buried in the Schaeffer cemetery were the children of Daniel and Luamy Zimmer. I guess I need a little training on how to fix errors in Family Search,

Monday, June 17, 2013

Three Dead Rats and a Lovely Father's Day

   Mrs Buzz Saw seems to be pretty diligent about teaching her kittens the ropes of being a cat.  When I came home from church yesterday afternoon, the kittens were all sleeping on the living room floor next to their favorite toy, a two foot tall scratching post. I didn't notice anything strange and proceeded into the bedroom to change. When I came back out I saw something unusual. Not just one, but three dead baby rats, strategically placed on the living room carpet. It looked like Mrs. Buzz Saw brought in a play thing for each of her kittens.  While I am very happy that the cat is killing rats, I'm less thrilled about her leaving them on the living room carpet.  I'm not even sure they are our rats.  She spends considerable time hunting at the neighbors.

Three dead baby rats on the living room carpet

      The rest of Father's Day went pretty well.  I got to spend time on the phone with my children. I cooked some pork chops smothered in mushroom gravy. I also baked two rhubarb pies.  The pies turned out very well, but I did have some problems with my pie crust technique. It defeats the purpose of using ice water when you make the dough if you spend an hour on the phone with your daughters in the middle of the process. I guess I can live with merely great pie crust as opposed to incredibly great pie crust. I made two rhubarb pies because I had bought that much rhubarb. How sad would it have been if I had been short on rhubarb?  I used the Emeril Lagasse pie crust recipe which uses lard and butter rather than shortening. Rob Morrill, a friend from church, is a brother rhubarb lover. We spent some time earlier in the day discussing rhubarb pie and he persuaded me to try his crumble crust. What really sold me was his idea of including chopped hazel nuts in the crust.  As it turned out, it was a good thing I had bought twice the rhubarb I needed as the double crust  recipe was sufficient for two pies with enough left over for a baking sheet full of cinnamon sugar pie crust. James and Beth called right before I put the pies into the oven to ask about coming over for a visit.  I was able to send one pie home with them. That saved me from having to eat two rhubarb pies all by myself as Linda doesn't care for them.
Rhubarb pie with a hazelnut crumble crust
     Some of you may be wondering why I bought rhubarb. I have to confess that my previous rhubarb patch had fallen on hard times. The spot was no longer as sunny as it had once been and the rhubarb wasn't prospering. In fact, I thought it had died out and actually bought some replacement roots to start a new patch. That was a sad thing as I had gotten the original rhubarb starts from my dad when they lived in Sunnyside, Washington. I felt like I had been negligent with a family heirloom. My new rhubarb patch is doing okay but I didn't want to pick any stalks the first year. I wanted the plants to have a chance to get well established. Then when I was weeding near the old rhubarb patch a few weeks ago I discovered that one of the plants was still alive. I plan to transplant it to the new patch this fall so I can preserve my dad's rhubarb. I love the idea of handing out rhubarb starts to the grandkids that came from their great grandpa's garden.

    I also received some interesting little questionnaires James' and Beth's kids filled out about their grandpa. One of my favorite questions was "My Grandpa spends most of his day....."  John, who is almost three, thinks Grandpa spends most of his day in his van and drives to McDonalds.  Seven year old Britton said "My Grandpa spends most of his day with his grandchildren." Almost five year old Lucy said I spend most of my day".. with the bees. He feeds his goats".  Another interesting question was "My Grandpa loves me because..."  John's response was "because he does."  Lucy said because "I'm his grandkid."  Britton said my Grandpa loves me "because I'm one of his grandchildren."   I also liked the question "My Grandpa is really good at..."  Briton said I'm really good at making pickles while Lucy said I was good at making Grandpa juice. John said I was good at working in the yard. I guess I must get a little yard work done when I'm not driving my van to McDonalds.

    I also got a different questionnaire from my son James. He said I love food with character which I think is a very apt description. He said my job was a "Professional hobbyist". It will be as soon as I sell the bee store. My favorite was how he finished the sentence "My Dad loves when I... "with "show up". I think he nailed that one. I can't think of anything that makes me happier than to simply have kids and grandkids visiting.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Split Rail Fence

  I've almost finished phase one of the split rail fence around the front yard. I have to admit that it was so much easier to buy the rails at the Snohomish Co-op than it was to split them myself. Besides, Linda was growing impatient and I didn't have a ready source of hollow cedar trunks I could split into rails and posts. It was, however, a serious source of satisfaction when I split my own rails. One of the big advantages that I see to a split rail fence is the fact that it doesn't have to be perfect in order to look nice.  Since the rails and posts aren't very uniform, the fence doesn't have to be perfectly straight. In fact that variation in the materials give the fence a sort of rustic charm.
The split rail fence Linda required as part of the front yard vegetable garden

    I transplanted red cabbage, brussel sprouts, and leeks into my garden on the north side of the house. They should have been transplanted weeks ago, but I've been very busy with other things. Hopefully they will still do well. That part of the garden doesn't get as much sun as it used to due in part to the growth of a mislabeled cherry tree.  I purchased the tree from Home Depot, labeled as a Montmorency Pie Cherry. It turned out to be a sweet cherry, so it grew bigger than I had anticipated.
Check out those curls!

Linda and I attended an Irish dance performance tonight. Our grand daughter, Britton Tunnell, just started learning Irish dance five months ago. I was very impressed with how much she had learned in such a short time. She only performed in one number, but she actually had a little solo.  Her mother did a great job curling her hair. Linda asked Beth the secret to the cute curls. The answer was lots of curlers, hair gel, and hair spray.

The kitten climbed into the grape arbor by himself but needed help getting down

    We have homes for all but one of our kittens. The male tabby with the green eyes in the photo above is still available. Linda had told me that she was going to put him on Craig's List , but seemed to be dragging her feet. When I asked her about it she suggested maybe we might want to keep one of them . Seeing the handwriting on the wall, I posted him on Craig's List yesterday. If we had kept him I would have had to get him a collar that read, "I still live with my mother."

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Oodles of Chicks

     Linda and I got home this afternoon from a weekend in the Tri-cities visiting relatives. There was a Jochen Family Reunion of Saturday afternoon at Howard Amon Park in Richland. I also got to visit with my sister Mindy and my brother Mike. We had a nice room at the Red Lion Hotel right next to the park where the reunion was scheduled to take place. It was actually pretty nice to have a bit of leisure time and of course, I always enjoy a road trip with Linda. The reunion was nice. There was lots of food and the weather was perfect. Being next to the Columbia River, Howard Amon Park is probably one of the most pleasant places to hang out in Richland. It was a bit of a struggle to recognize some of Linda's cousins I hadn't seen for many years.

We have lots of cute chicks at our house.
      I've had chicken eggs in an incubator for the last three weeks and I knew they were due to hatch out this weekend.  Fortunately, they don't have to be fed or watered for the first few days after they hatch. It was actually not a bad time to be gone. I checked the incubator right after I got home and found one tray to be pretty full of baby chicks.  Out of 39 eggs I had about 25 chicks hatched. Some were still in the process of hatching so I will give them until tomorrow morning. I haven't done a head count because everyone knows you shouldn't count your chickens before they're hatched. I also have had 15 duck eggs in the incubator for a week  I'm going to candle the duck eggs in the morning and transfer all of the viable eggs to a smaller incubator. That will allow me to move all of the baby chicks to a battery brooder and shut down the big incubator.  I will put the remaining chicken eggs in the smaller incubator as well so they can have one extra day to hatch.

Some of our tomatoes have already started to set fruit.

     The weather has been pretty dry the past week or so. I was a little worried about leaving the garden, but I just tried to get everything watered before we left town. Everything seems to have survived, but some things definitely were ready for some water. I planted a dozen tomato plants this year. I hadn't intended to do any tomatoes this year but a bee store friend literally left these plants on my door step. I guess I'm a sucker for foundling plants.  I'm going to make a sort of low hoop house to cover the plants in order to give them some extra heat. That will also protect them from the evil "Late Blight", the bane of all gardeners who try growing tomatoes in Western Washington. The tomatoes are a serious mixed bag in that I only have one plant of any one variety.  Some of them are rather obscure heirloom varieties like "Green Zebra" or "Chocolate Cherry". However, I also have one Roma paste tomato.plant and four different varieties of beefsteak tomatoes.  I already have fruit setting on 4 or 5 different varieties.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Wild Visitors to Our Garden

Peter Cottontail visits Grandpa's blueberry patch. Hopefully he was weeding.

   Our garden has been attracting a few visitors lately.  A few days ago I spotted a little cottontail rabbit under my blueberry bushes. I'm not sure exactly what he was munching on but I was very happy to see him run back to the neighbors. When it comes to the tale of Peter Cottontail I am definitely rooting for Mr. McGregor.

Wild Mallard hen visiting the chicken pen

     Several times in the last week I've seen a wild mallard hen hanging around our duck pen. The first time she had actually landed in the chicken pen which isn't covered on the top.  She was showing a lot of interest in Popeye, our India Runner drake, which he was reciprocating.  Several days later she showed up a second time, this time hanging around outside the duck pen making goo goo eyes at Popeye.  I decided to let the ducks out just to see what would happen. It didn't go well.  Popeye, not being familiar with Mallard courtship rituals, behaved too aggressively for the wild mallard hen. She flew off and hasn't been seen since.  Its just as well. She would never have been happy living in a pen. On the other hand, Popeye, being unable to fly, wouldn't have lasted very long in her world.

A trunk full of pink flamingos. Someone is obviously up to no good.

      I was helping a customer carry bee supplies out to his car last week. When he opened the trunk I saw this strange sight.  A trunk full of pink flamingos.  Apparently his son is using them in some extortion racket to raise money for a church mission.  He plants a flamingo in someone's yard and then requests a donation in order to remove it.  I personally think there are better ways to earn money for a worthy cause.

A strange looking flower?

    I found this rather strange looking plant a few weeks ago. I thought it looked like a plant you would find in a Dr. Seuss book.  Any guesses as to the name of the plant?  I'll bake a pie for the person who submits the first correct guess.  The only conditions are you either have to be local (a resident of Snohomish County, Washington),  or you  have to come to my house to collect your pie.  Pies obviously don't ship very well.