Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Cousin Camp 2013

A group photo of the cousins at Kayak Point

     We just completed our 4th biannual cousin camp.  We had a great time and made a lot of fun memories. As the number of grandkids eligible to attend has grown, it has become a much bigger deal to put these on. We had seven attendees at our first cousin camp, eight years ago. This year we had 22. One of our older grand daughters asked me what we were going to do when she had children. I discussed that with Linda and we are agreed that it will then be time to pass the baton to our children and let them put on their own cousin camps. At that point we will just have settle for a family reunion every other year.  We held cousin camp at Kayak Point Regional Park, the location of our first cousin camp eight years ago. At the first cousin camp we all fit into one yurt. This year we rented the cottage and two yurts and we still had a dozen campers sleeping in two large tents.
Lilly Kang working on her Aloha state of mind

Lucy Tunnell and Lilly Kang enjoying time at the beach

     We did an Hawaiian theme this year which turned out to be a lot of fun. We had eight grand daughters taking hula lessons from Ann Tom (a good friend from church). The hula dances they learned were Kananaka, Pupu Hinu Hinu, and the Hukilau Song.  The Kang girls also learned a sitting hula to Pearly Shells. A number of grand kids were working on learning to play the ukulele before cousin camp and we added a few more ukulele players at camp.  We had a total of 5 ukuleles at camp and usually there were several kids playing on them at any given time. I learned about 8 or 10 chords on the ukulele and developed a repretoire of a half a dozen Hawaiian songs. That allowed me to be the musical accompaniment for Kananaka and Pupu. I couldn't manage the Hukilau Song as it had too many hard chords.  I also learned Pearly Shells and Princess Papule. I consider that my biggest accomplishment with the ukulele was learning to sing and play the Hawaiian War Chant. Linda even arranged for some professional entertainment on Tuesday evening that included hula lessons.

Group hula lessons behind the cottage. Note the little ukulele player in the middle.

      My daughters, Lia, Sarah. and Rachel, and daughter-in-law, Beth, did most of the cooking. We tried to have a fairly authentic Hawaiian menu which included lots of pineapple and coconut along with a spam day. Hawaii consumes more spam than the rest of the United States combined. They even sell spam at movie theaters in Hawaii.  The spam was pretty well received. However, some of the campers objected to the pervasive presence of pineapple and coconut in many dishes. It actually never occurred to me that anyone wouldn't like either pineapple or coconut, let alone both.

     The activities during the week included games, trips to the beach, lots of crafts, fishing on the pier,  canoeing, crabbing, campfires, and lots of silly songs and skits.  I was surprised that fishing was so popular.  I think many of my grand children must have a serious fishing deficit in their lives. We only managed to catch a few piling perch and all of the crabs in our pot were females (only male crabs can be kept).  Yet they were all pretty enthused about both fishing and crabbing. I only brought a few poles and we had kids standing in line waiting for their turn to catch a fish. Our crafts included weaving lauhala bracelets, lots of things to paint, and lots of things to make with shells.

Chloe Kang fishing on the pier

Jonathan Romero and Hanna Kang on the fishing pier

I thought the kids would find the water too cold for swimming. Not hardly.

      The highlight of the week was the big luau on Thursday evening. All of the parents were invited to attend. Paulette Nielsen (another good friend from church), her sister Daphne, and niece Cindy, cooked our luau feast. It was authentic Hawaiian luau fare to include lau lau (pork and fish cooked in Ti leaves), poi, coconut pudding, chicken long rice (a chicken soup with long rice noodles), sweet and sour pork, and a wonderful fruit salad with mango and pineapple.  I liked everything I ate except the poi. The poi wasn't very tasty on its own. In fact I'd say that library paste and wood glue both have a better flavor.  It wasn't so much that it tasted bad as it didn't have much flavor at all.  Most of the kids tried the poi but very few gave it a second taste.  We had the girls perform their hula dances for the entertainment.  We also sang lots of songs and the kids did some skits. It was a pretty good time.

      It was a little sad Friday morning as everybody was preparing to go home. On the other hand, Linda and I were both pretty beat at the end of the week. I am so grateful for the support of our children in helping us to do this,  Its wonderful that they are willing to make some serious sacrifices to facilitate cousin camp and we especially appreciated our cooks.  The girls fixing the meals took a major burden off our shoulders. It was so nice to be able to focus on spending time with the kids and less on logistical issues like food. I can't think of anything that gives me greater joy than simply being with my children and grand children. I am thankful for the Gospel in my life for many reasons, but I am particularly grateful for our understanding of the importance of family. We had a T-shirt made for cousin camp with the motto "Ohana Kau a Kau" which is "Families are Forever" in Hawaiian.

Monday, July 8, 2013

An Enjoyable Day Off

    I enjoyed my day off, although I did have to do some bee store business today. I had to mail out two queen bees to Sequim, Washington and sold some stuff to a customer who caught me in the store preparing to ship the queens. I also did a journeyman exam for a friend who co-teaches beekeeping classes with me.  I spent most of the day at home, working in the garden and catching up on some projects.

    As I was finishing up with the animals this morning I was surprised to find my sweetie out picking blueberries. Linda usually isn't much of an early riser.  In addition to blueberries and some sugar snap peas, I harvested our first summer squash of the season. I planted both zucchini and a yellow pattypan summer squash, for a total of ten plants.  I don't know what I was thinking as that is way too many squash plants.  Last year I planted just two zucchini plants and two yellow crookneck summer squash. Something happened to one of the zucchini plants so I was left with just three summer squash plants. Linda like the zucchini much better than the yellow summer squashes so she actually complained about the Zucchini shortage.  I wanted to make sure it didn't happen again this year. As a consequence, before the end of the summer the neighbors will be avoiding us lest we give them more zucchini.
Yes, I know the squash are rather small, but I left many others on the vine to grow larger.

    The major project I did today was the transfer of 29 young chickens from the brooder to the battery cages and moving the cages from the garage to the orchard.  We're going to let the chickens live "Al fresco" in the orchard now that they no longer require brooding and the weather is nice and dry.  The biggest part of that project was cleaning the brooder, a really nasty job. Linda was pretty patient having the chickens in the garage at first. However, she loves fresh air and likes to leave the bedroom windows open when the weather is nice. Lately, the chickens had been smelling pretty "fowl". All of a sudden the "fresh air" wafting up from the garage didn't smell very fresh.  I'm going to cover the cages with a tarp at night to offer them a little protection from the chill night air. It will only be for a few weeks. I only need to keep six pullets to replace my laying hens. The rest of the pullets will be moving to Oregon.  The cockerels might be moving to Oregon as well.

     On the subject of pullets vs cockerels, the jury is still out on about half of the chickens. Some of them I can easily tell are little roosters.  Others I can easily tell are hens.  However, about half of them are in the "sex not yet easily discerned" category.  Hopefully that issue will be easily resolved after a few more weeks of growth.

Our chickens dining "Al fresco" in their new housing

Most of these chickens are moving to Oregon in a few weeks 
    I have a small bamboo grove out next to my chicken pen. I planted it 5 or 6 years ago and went to the trouble of installing a serious bamboo barrier to help keep it contained. I got the starts from a fellow in Snohomish who was moving.  While it has expanded every year, the rate of expansion has been much less than I had expected. While the culms (the individual stalks are called culms) have increased relatively slowly in number they have also been increasing in height each year. This season has been somewhat of a milestone as I had two new culms reach 20 feet.  The particular species of bamboo I have is Phylostacchus Aureosculcata (Spectabilis).  I chose it not just because the starts were free, but also because it has edible shoots.  Eventually the bamboo grove will reach the point that I can harvest bamboo shoots in the Spring.  I guess I won't really consider it a bamboo grove until it gets thick enough that I can't see through it. Maybe now that I'm getting full sized culms I'll start getting more of them next year.

    I harvested one of the older culms for a particular project for cousin camp. After trimming the thinner part of the culm, it was still 11 feet six inches.  I used it to estimate the height of the other culms. I started with my height (5 feet seven inches), held up the harvested culm (for a total of 17 feet) and found that I easily had at least three more feet beyond that with some of the new culms. Another reason I had picked this particular variety of bamboo is that it is useful as a building material. At the time I planted them I was still serving as an assistant scoutmaster so I was thinking light weight lashing projects. Now I'm thinking more along the line of garden projects or classy Japanese fences.

My little bamboo grove

A few bamboo culms have reached over 20 feet this year

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Revised and Extended Flag Ceremony Remarks

   This is a revised version of the talk I gave at our ward's Fourth of July flag raising ceremony. I thought I would follow the example of our congressmen and record the talk I would have liked to have given as opposed to the one I actually gave. At the time I felt a little pressure to be brief in my remarks as I was the last thing standing between hungry people and a pancake breakfast:

    I have attended quite a few flag ceremonies over the years. I find that as I get older I have a greater appreciation for our flag and ceremonies such as these have become more meaningful and moving to me.  I would like to share some of the experiences that have helped me gain a greater appreciation for our flag and what it represents.

    First of all, there isn't anything like spending time in a foreign country to help one gain a better appreciation for the United States of America. I know we have our warts and flaws. Living abroad for a while brings these flaws into perspective and helps us to better appreciate the many things that are so very right about America. I served a mission for the Church in Northern Italy, hardly a third world pest hole. Yet, it was a marvelous feeling to set foot back in the United States. I've since traveled to England, Canada, Mexico, Italy, and Russia. Every time I'm gone, one of the best parts of the trip is coming home to the good old USA.

   My appreciation for the flag also deepened when I served in the military. When compared to the Army or Marines, its hard to refer to the Air Force as "The Military". I've often told people that I went into the Air Force rather than join the military. I didn't serve in a war unless you count the "Cold War". Yet, I had many experiences serving in the military that increased my love for my country's flag.

     I was a Russian linguist in the Air Force. I spent almost two years studying Russian at the Defense Language Institute at the Presidio of Monterey, California. It wasn't bad duty. All of my instructors were native speakers. Some were very old white Russians who had left Russia soon after the communist revolution. Some had left Russia during World War II, while others were more recent Jewish emigres. They all had one thing in common. They had all willingly left the land of their birth, indeed, at the time, they had been desperate to leave their homeland. They were also all very grateful to be living in the United States of America. While they all had interesting stories, I would like to share just a few of them,

     Nikolay Nikolayevich Marchenko was just 14 years old when the communists caused the forced collectivization of the Ukraine. In a nutshell, the communist government stole all of the farmers' land and all of their food and caused the starvation of an estimated 35 million people. Nikolay's father had just been arrested and not because he had done anything,  The communists simply arrested lots of people at random as a deliberate policy of mass terror to control the people. Many of those arrested were shipped off to slave labor camps. Many arrestees simply disappeared.  At this time of government orchestrated famine, Nikolay was desperate to help feed his family.  In order to keep his family from starving, he would hide a shovel under his coat and sneak out into the fields at night. He would then dig up mouse holes in order to collect the grain the mice had gathered.  He did this at night because if he had been caught he would have been arrested for "stealing from the state."

   Having witnessed such colossal evil perpetrated by the communists it was small wonder that many Ukrainians chose to collaborate with the Germans during World War II as the lesser of the two evils.  Like many of his countrymen, Nikolay served in the German army for a time. Fortunately for him he was captured by American forces rather than Russians and eventually found his way to the United States.

    I briefly had a woman teacher whose name I don't recall. I do remember her high pitched voice and overly rosy cheeks.  During World War II she had been serving in the Russian version of the Red Cross. In that capacity, she was sent to Berlin at the end of the war. When she discovered that the city was to be divided by the conquering powers, she hastily walked to the portion of the city that was to be administered by the Americans.

    I had another teacher who had fought in the Russian civil war as part of the "White Army". After the communists won the civil war, he fled to China. He was the editor of a Russian Language newspaper in Shanghai until communism took over in China as well.  He considered himself very fortunate that he was able to escape China and come to the United States.

    I met one Russian during my Air Force service who wasn't an instructor but another enlistee. She had been born in Russia and immigrated to the United States as a young teenager.  It isn't uncommon for servicemen to ask one another why they joined. I guess it's similar to convicts asking "What are you in for?"   This Russian girl's response to that question was a very simple "To serve my country." I spent seven years in the Air Force and posed that question to quite a few fellow travelers.  The responses ranged from avoiding jail to getting an education. This Russian girl was the only one who ever told me she joined the air force just to serve her country. To people such as these, America is a bright beacon of hope and freedom, whose flaws are of minor consequence.

    While serving in the Air Force I attended several survival schools, including Land Survival School at Fairchild Air Force Base near Spokane, Washington. The last three days of that course was a simulated prisoner of war camp. I'm sure it was very weak compared to any real POW camp but they did their best to make it a thoroughly nasty experience. I guess it's difficult to have a serious POW experience when the captors aren't allowed to beat or torture the prisoners. The amenities did include solitary confinement, sleep deprivation, unpleasant interrogations, a meager diet of watery soup, and generous amounts of harassment. While they weren't allowed to actually beat us, they were able to put us in in extremely uncomfortable "stress positions" and to confine us for a period of time in very small boxes. It was the only time in my life that I have experienced serious claustrophobia to the point where I thought I was going to lose it if I stayed in that box another moment. After that experience, I've felt a lot more sympathetic toward those who suffer from claustrophobia.

    Toward the end of the POW camp experience we were moved from solitary confinement and divided into small groups. We were placed in very rough shelters surrounded by high barbed wire fences and sentry towers.  They made us assemble in the middle of the camp and subjected us to a lengthy propaganda harangue over the loudspeakers. At some point we were given the command "About face!"  As we turned we saw that behind us they had raised the American flag and they began to play the National Anthem. It was a very moving experience. After all these years, I'm still moved to tears when I remember it.

    Another very moving experience I had with the flag took place while I was attending the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia.  Toward the end of the course I was able to go up to Washington, D.C. on a weekend. I toured the Capitol Building, the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials, and went through several of the Smithsonian museums. The highlight of the day was the unveiling of the flag that flew over Fort McHenry and had actually inspired Francis Scott Key to write the poem that later became our national anthem.  It is a huge flag and has been stitched onto a backing for support.  It is hung vertically in a climate controlled environment so as to better protect it from decay and is periodically unveiled on a set schedule for viewing. It was an extraordinary feeling to see the actual flag that had endured the long night of shelling and bravely flew in the morning to inspire Key to write the poem.

    I think those who are young, shouldn't feel badly if they don't get emotional at flag ceremonies. As they get older they will have their own experiences which will help them gain a greater appreciation for the miracle that is America and what our flag represents. I am so grateful to live in this free land. I know that the United States of America didn't happen by accident. It was part of the grand design of Our Creator to establish America as a place of religious freedom.  I am grateful both to be an American and to have the gospel in my life.



Friday, July 5, 2013

Fourth of July

   My celebration of the Fourth of July began with a flag raising ceremony and pancake breakfast at the church. Our ward had done this for quite a few years. My grand daughter Annika rode with me as she had volunteered to cook pancakes with the young women. I had been asked to give a brief talk relating to the flag so we both had a reason to be early. Tony and Lia came a little later with the rest of their kids while Linda followed on her Vespa. I had written my talk down on my iPhone in case I needed to refer to it. As it turned out I didn't need to do that and gave a somewhat abbreviated talk from the one I had written. It's really not a good idea to be long winded when your remarks are standing between hungry people and breakfast. I will include an expanded version of the talk as a separate blog post.

    After the breakfast, Annika assisted me in making two pies.  I really needed her assistance due to the seven stitches in my left hand which I'm not allowed to get wet.  We made two pies; one cherry and one heavenly hazelnut. We picked the cherries from my little North Star and Montmorency pie cherry trees. The good news is that there are still enough cherries left on the two little trees for at least one more cherry pie. Annika did a great job and the pie crust turned out wonderful.
Heavenly Hazelnut Pie - The recipe is available in this blog, posted in May, 2010

The stars were Annika's idea

     We had a pretty traditional Fourth of July cookout. I cooked hamburgers over a wood fire while Linda made potato salad. We had all of the Veatches and most of the Romeros in attendance; which with Linda and I added up to six adults and 10 kids. We got to try out Linda's new badminton set while the hammock and Linda's monster teeter totter both got a pretty good workout. Once it got dark, Tony set off fireworks for the kids, followed by the usual sparklers.  Tony didn't go to the reservation but bought the fireworks at a nearby stand. That meant they were all legal fireworks. Even so, there were some pretty spectacular mortar shells included in the package. As always on the Fourth of July, the neighborhood sounded like a war zone. Under the category of tacky fireworks I've included the following video of the "Gassy Chicken".

      It just so happened that my week of chaplain duty with Fire District Four started at six p.m.  I had a number of pages from about 10 p.m. until midnight. Fortunately, none turned out to be serious (meaning nobody was seriously injured or deceased and no one's house burned). One person set his garage on fire by putting all of his "spent" fireworks in a plastic five gallon bucket and putting the bucket in his garage.  The firemen put out the fire before any serious damage occurred. There was also an apartment building that almost had their roof set on fire by a hot air chinese lantern. They looked so cute and harmless in the movie "Tangled". I guess that is one of the up sides of animation. You can send a bunch of burning paper bags up into the air without burning down the entire town. There were also a few brush fires. I spent some time listening to the radio traffic and it sounded like all the fire districts were pretty busy chasing down reports of brush fires.


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Fun Visitors and a Lost iPhone

     I suffered a severe trauma last Friday evening.  I lost my iPhone. I have continued to function, but just barely.   So far I resisted the urge to curl up into a fetal position until my replacement phone arrives, which should be tomorrow(Wednesday). I feel somewhat cut off as I have learned to rely on it for so many things. I don't think we even have a hard copy of the phone book or the ward roster. I also miss being able to listen to an Apostle that I can carry in my pocket while while I work in the garden in the morning.

    Lia and her kids arrived in the early afternoon this past Saturday. Its been hard having them live so far away. That makes it even nicer to have a nice extended visit. I'm enjoying having the Romero children wandering our yard and little woods. Fortunately, we have berries to pick, fires to be built, and lots of other things to hold their attention.

The tiny dark insects on the back of the mason bee nest box are parasitic wasps
    I took down my mason bee nests in mid June. I store them indoors until I can harvest the cocoons in September.  It was just in the nick of time. When I pulled out the nest blocks I found parasitic wasps that were intent on laying their eggs on the mason bee pupae. These little wasps, just half the length of my little fingernail, have an ovipositor that can penetrate a half inch of wood in order to lay their eggs on a pupating mason bee. Last year I failed to take down the nests in time and lost of about 25 percent of my cocoons to these "cute" little wasps. There are many different species of parasitic wasps and the vast majority of them are considered beneficial insects. However, this one targets a beneficial insect rather than a garden pest.

I have lots of nuts developing on my three little hazel nut trees
   I have a lot of little hazel nuts developing on my trees. All I need now is a serious squirrel eradication program.  I've always considered squirrels as rats that have a cute bushy tail and better PR. I will also give them credit for being a lot cleaner than a rat.  I think our squirrels derive most of their nourishment from Linda's bird feeder.  The primary ingredient in the bird feed we use is hulled sunflower seeds.

      Coincidentally, soon after her arrival, my grand daughter, Sofia, asked me if she could kill, skin, and eat some of my squirrels. She thinks learning to hunt to obtain your own food is an important survival skill she needs to develop. It appears the Romeros may have over-emphasized preparedness in some of their family home evening lessons. Nonetheless, I am very happy to have Sofia practice her survival skills on our local squirrel population.  I'm not sure when she is going to find the time to do that as she is currently at EFY in Tacoma. She returns this Saturday and leaves the following week to attend girls camp with the Kang girls in Oregon. The week after girls camp we have cousin camp.  Obviously, she is going to be very short of the idle time needed for squirrel hunting.