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.

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