Friday, February 27, 2015

A Little Garden Prep and a Little Family History

    With the advent of the warmer weather my thoughts have been turning to my vegetable garden.  I've been trying to get the last portion covered with cardboard and straw. I also mucked out the area around the goat barn, hauling about 6 wheelbarrow loads of manure mixed with straw around to the vegetable garden in the front yard.  This has always been a task that I have dreaded as it is very difficult to break up the heavily layered muck with my scoop shovel.  Not so this year. I broke down and bought me the proper tool for the job, a manure fork. It looks very much like a pitch fork, the major difference being that the tines are a bit less pointy. The job was so much easier with the right tool. Besides, it could be useful as a prop for family photos.  I'm hoping it will also be helpful in mucking out the chicken and duck pens. Between, the goats, the ducks, the chickens and my two compost piles we will have produced on the premises most of the fertilizer needed for our vegetable garden. I would still like to make one trip to my friend's horse farm for a pickup load of well composted horse manure.
I put the tomato cages around the rhubarb to protect it from the ducks
    The weather has been unusually mild for the past two months. January felt more like February usually feels. Then February has felt more like March. I'm thinking my corn will probably do very well this year if that pattern holds for the remainder of the year.  I may even be able to plant a few weeks earlier than normal. My rhubarb is up a full month earlier than normal and the fruit trees look like they are going to bloom early.  Normally the rhubarb is barely up in time for me to get a rhubarb pie for my birthday. While the warmer weather may bode well for the vegetable garden, I'm not sure how it will affect the bees. I'm suspicious of any weather patterns outside of the norm.

    Linda and I were both delighted to have a visit from the Kangs this week. Sarah drove up Wednesday with the younger two thirds of the Kanglings to take Dong Bin, their visiting cousin, to SeaTac to catch a flight back to Korea. We got a two day visit out of the deal. I wasn't able to spend as much time with them as I would have liked, but I did get to cook breakfast for them twice. I cooked sour dough blueberry waffles one morning and sausage egg Mcmuffins the next.  I had some volunteer help at the Beez Neez from Elise, Hannah, and Chloe.  I also enjoyed  a little family history time with Sarah. She is lobbying for me to work on the John Maythem and Catherine Guckian family. They were married in Ohio in 1838, but John Maythem was born in England and Catherine Guckian was born in Ireland. I've not done any research before where I've successfully traced someone back to Europe.  It should prove an interesting challenge.

    I watched a RootsTech video this past week about, an subsidiary.  I played around with the website for a few hours and found some interesting tidbits.  I searched some issues of the Tiller and Toiler from Larned, Kansas. I found an announcement for a farm sale where Frank Rolo was preparing to move to Oregon. Another issue had an item regarding the sheriff arresting Frank Rolo's hired man for theft.  There was also a detailed report of a letter from Mrs. Frank Rolo in Oregon to her sister in Larned, Kansas regarding the suicide of a step-brother in Oregon.  There was a lot of information regarding relationships. Newspapers can be an amazing source if they are available for the particular time and place you are researching.




Friday, February 20, 2015

The Bedlamites' Visit

   This past week my sweet wife has been down to RootsTech in Salt Lake City. It is a big family history technology conference sponsored by FamilySearch.  Linda went with Madelynn (one of our grand daughters), Madelynn's good friend, Shannara, several of our ward's youth family History Consultants, and Lynell Nielson.  Also making the trek to RootsTech was my daughter Sarah, her three older daughters, and quite a few of other youth from her ward.  Needless to say it was quite the party and I was feeling a little left out. As much as I would have loved to go,  I have beekeeping classes in progress and the store is pretty busy this time of year.  I have some employees, but they are too new and inexperienced for me to leave the Beez Neez in their hands for a week.

   I didn't have much of an opportunity to feel lonely for the first couple of days that Linda was gone.  I was pretty busy between various church responsibilities and the fact that I had to prepare for our ward's first annual Chili Cook Off that was coming up Friday evening. I was responsible for some sort of cowboy music sing-along that was supposed to keep the crowd occupied at the beginning of the event while the chili and pies were judged.  In keeping with the cowboy theme, I roped a good friend into helping me with that. We met Thursday evening and spent an hour or so practicing cowboy songs on the fiddle and harmonica. I also had to squeeze in time to bake four batches of cornbread and a couple of pies for the event.

   Sometime Friday afternoon I received a heads up from my favorite daughter-in-law that they were coming to visit for the weekend.  I instantly went from feeling like a wallflower to feeling like my whole dance card had been filled in.   I went to the ward social as planned. The sing-along went just fine and the cornbread was a big hit. Out of four batches I brought just a few small pieces home. Sometimes during the summer I question whether its worth all of the trouble to grow my own corn for cornbread. I never question whether it was worthwhile when I take cornbread out of the oven. Best of all I came home to the enthusiastic welcome of the little Bedlamites. I cannot the express the joy I feel from the love of my grand children. It makes any sacrifice I have made in this life worthwhile.
Nora was a little unsure what to make of McDonald's play area
    Early Saturday morning I went with the Tunnells to the Seattle Temple. While Beth and James attended the Temple, I took the Bedlamites to breakfast at a nearby McDonalds. Fortunately for me, little sixteen month old Nora has decided that she likes me.  That made the whole adventure much more pleasant. I suspect the strong endorsement of her older siblings has contributed somewhat to her acceptance of me.  There is often a bit of "me too" mentality in the youngest child. We made it back to Snohomish at a reasonable time and I wasn't too terribly late getting to the Beez Neez. I was very grateful for employees who had opened the store right on time.
My antique corn sheller, all stocked and ready
    Several weeks ago I had found ear corn on sale at a local feed store. I bought a 20 pound bag to replenish the wooden bin on which I've mounted my antique corn sheller.  That turned out to have been very fortuitous. The kids spent several hours playing with the corn sheller and continued to run the empty cobs through the sheller long after all of the corn had been shelled. Nora seems to be particularly fascinated with corn.  She was very interested in the corn sheller itself, both in feeding ears of corn and turning the crank. She treated the bin full of shelled corn as if it were a sandbox. I spent the rest of the weekend stepping on corn kernels that she had scattered throughout the house. Fortunately, corn kernels are much easier on my bare feet than are legos, the items she is normally scattering.
After an hour or so of recreational corn shelling
    On Sunday evening I was able to participate in the Tunnell's Family Home Evening.  It was very fun to watch John conduct it.  After a relatively short lesson, designed to match the relatively short attention spans of a few of the participants, we had a little dance as an activity. I played the birdie dance on my fiddle while James accompanied on guitar.  Beth taught the dance to the little Bedlamites and they loved it.  Even little Nora had a great time trying to keep up with the other kids when they reached the part where they spread their wings and flew around the room.  There was some serious cuteness going on. I was unable to take pictures as I was supplying the music. I can't do hardly anything and fiddle at the same time.

     I finally broke down and used my new Kitchen Aid mixer. I used it to make pie crust of all things. It did a very slick job of it and truly made the task as easy as pie.  The purpose of the pie crust was to make chicken pot pie.  I made the pie crust while Beth made the filling. I thought our joint effort turned out very well but some of the little Bedlamites seemed unconvinced. I never cease to new amazed at the wonderful food that children will turn up their noses at. Yet, they will joyfully eat at McDonalds. Obviously their taste buds are not fully developed. One morning I introduced my son James to the egg mcmuffin maker I had gotten front the Romeros. We went through a good many english muffins to keep up with the demand. Fortunately the chickens are laying again so we currently have a good supply of eggs. The kids were okay with that as its food that looks like something you would buy at McDonalds. Besides, I have never seen kids go through English muffins like the Bedlamites can do.
My new toy, courtesy of my business credit card rewards program

Chicken Pot Pie, We were trying for a "fiddle" theme on the crust

A wonderful little gadget

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Fresh Straw for the Chickens.

    I enjoyed my day off (Monday) and spent most of the day working outside.  I finished cutting up the bitter cherry tree that the wind knocked over in our chicken pen.  I clipped off the longer whips to use in rebuilding our little wattle fence. A wattle fence consists of posts driven into the ground at some regular interval, with slender whips woven between the uprights. It makes for a very picturesque fence made mostly from recycled materials. I do use treated poles for the uprights as otherwise the fence rots out too quickly. About every four years I have to redo the woven part.
I saved the trunk and larger branches of the bitter cherry for some woodworking projects. I'm going to try splitting the trunk to make a few primitive bows from it. I burned the intermediate size branches. Bitter cherry is a very dense hardwood that is suitable for furniture.  I'm thinking of using some of the bitter cherry as fodder for the lathe.

    There are still several other bitter cherry trees within the chicken pen and they serve a very useful function there. They provide both shade and protection for the chickens. A hawk flying overhead can't focus on the chickens under the branches.  I learned about this from a friend who raised free range broilers. She strung mylar flash tape from the tops of poles across her chickens' little pasture.  The hawk sees the tape, but doesn't see anything on the ground underneath the tape.

   Another project I did Monday was to lay down new straw in chicken and duck pens and in the goats' sleeping shelter. While the goats didn't seem to care one way or the other, the chickens were quite appreciative. They have spent the past few days happily scratching through the straw looking for the occasional head of wheat the combine missed. Scratch and peck, its what chickens do. I put straw in the chicken pen to keep them cleaner, but it turns out to be recreational from the chickens' perspective.  I also put in fresh straw in the coop. While I was cleaning out the nest boxes I was pleasantly surprised to learn that some of the hens have been laying for about a week.  I found fifteen eggs in one of the nest boxes.
Happy chickens in their freshly strawed pen

    My hen duck has also started to lay this week. So far she has laid two little pullet eggs.  We had a reasonably good supply of eggs when the hens stopped laying last fall. Our egg supply lasted us for about a month or so into early December. Then we actually had to buy eggs for two months.  Now we won't have to buy eggs again until this coming December.
Duck pullet egg compared to a normal size egg

    I started knitting another  tam hat on Monday.  My mother just recently knitted a wonderfully cute sweater for my grand daughter Madelynn using wool I had spun into yarn.  There is a fair amount of the wool left over so I thought I'd knit her a tam hat that would match her sweater.  It is light brown wool from an Islandic sheep. I didn't shear the sheep but rather traded for the wool with a package of honeybees.

Madelynn's new sweater, modeled by Linda

Sunday, February 1, 2015

A Fun Day at the Country Living Expo

    I attended the Country Living Expo in Stanwood on Saturday. I've taught a mason bee class there for the past 7 years or so.  It's a pretty good deal for me. I spend one hour talking about mason bees. In exchange I get a free prime rib lunch and I can take whatever classes I like for free. They have all kinds of fun classes about almost every country activity imaginable.  They also have a gymnasium full of vendors selling everything from alpaca fiber to plants. The lunch was not disappointing. I also enjoyed the bazaar.  I found some cute antique brass candle holders for Linda and a Desert King fig for the Beez Neez' bookkeeper. I drool over all of the wonderful fiber but I normally manage to refrain from purchasing any. I already have a pretty serious fiber stash at home.  However, I found some wool dyed in Seahawk colors that I couldn't pass up. I met quite a few old friends (mostly bee store friends) and had a number of people say "Hi Jim" who I couldn't recall having met. I'm assuming they were either bee store customers or people who have taken one of my classes.

One of the vendors had the great idea of recycling feed sack into0 shopping bags

   This year I attended a class on Ulluco, a Peruvian tuber that is not a type of potato.  It seemed to be a little finicky in that it doesn't like weather hotter than 80 degrees but is also sensitive to freezing weather. Our cool summers should suit it just fine. However, it doesn't start to form tubers until after the fall equinox (September 22). I'm not sure how it could be expected to produce anything here unless it was brought inside after the equinox.  We are susceptible to frosts any time after October first.  Some years our first frost happens in early October and other years it comes later in the month. The instructor gave all the attendees a ulluco tuber at the end of the class. I was thinking about planting it, but then decided to give it to Bishop Nielson instead. He and his wife both served missions in Peru and have actually eaten ulluco before. They also have a nice greenhouse attached to the lower level of their house.  They can plant it in a pot and just move it into the greenhouse after the equinox. Another advantage to planting ulluco in a pot is protection from rodents who really love the succulent little tubers.  It was an interesting class but I'm not expecting ulluco to replace my corn, beans, and squash any time soon.

The ulluco cultivar I brought home had a number rather than a name

    Another interesting class I took was on making primitive bows. The instructor, Dave Pehling, is the same fellow with whom I teach beekeeping classes for Snohomish County Extension. I'd like to make some homemade bows for cousin camp this year.  I bought a couple of draw knives just for the occasion.  We have vine maple growing in our woods that is a wonderful bow wood.  I also have a bitter cherry that came down in our last big wind storm. It also is supposed to be decent bow wood. I think some of the older kids might really enjoy making a bow from scratch. While I'm not a aware of any indian ancestry, we do have lots of ancestors who used froes, draw knives, and other primitive carpentry tools. Besides bows, we could also make some simple stools or other furniture.  Splitting a small log with a froe than shaving it down with a draw knife to make something useful should make for a memorable cousin camp experience.

     On the subject of both cousin camp and archery, I learned how to make a very durable archery target from recycled materials.  Plastic grocery store bags stuffed into a burlap bag will make a very durable and very free archery target. The arrows won't penetrate all the way through the target. I have already cornered the market on burlap coffee sacks and we have a good start on the grocery store plastic bags. However, I will need a lot more plastic bags than I have accumulated thus far. I'm asking for donations on the plastic grocery store bags so I can make a couple of nice targets for cousin camp. I'm thinking we can do some nice artwork on the burlap coffee sacks such as a bear or a turkey.

     Some years ago, while doing family history research, I came upon documents relating to an estate sale for John Crihfield, the father of Mary M. Crihfield who married James H. Heiskill in Lauderdale County, Tennessee. Among the items sold were included saws, auger bits, a froe, and draw knives, all important tools for a pioneer family. A skilled craftsman could use such tools to turn logs into boards, buildings, and furniture. While many of our pioneer ancestors were intimately familiar with such tools, now my spell check doesn't even recognize the word "froe". It keeps trying to change it to "fore".  James H. Heiskill married Mary M. Crihfield  on 23 July, 1851. Not long after their marriage, Mary's father died and the Heiskills left Lauderdale County Tennessee and moved to Marion County, Arkansas, that area later becoming Baxter County.  I'm sure they used all of those tools and more in building their house, their barn, and countless other useful things on their homestead in Arkansas.