20 December 2007

Holiday, part 1: Preparations

Much of the time between our firewood/poker weekend and December 21st is kind of a blur. Aside from our company holiday party, the rest of the time was devoted to preparing for the holidays and our holiday guests.

This is the first year since we were kids when we weren't traveling anywhere for Christmas or New Years! Instead, this year a portion of Corinne's family is coming to visit us. (We won't see my immediate family until a trip to Florida in January.)

When we take vacations - even if just a long weekend - we generally try to arrange it so that we can just stay home on "the farm". Since there aren't many places to eat out near us, and we can generally make better, healthier, and cheaper food ourselves, we try to do enough menu planning in advance so that we can do all of our shopping on a day when we have to drive in to town to work anyway. So when we're hosting as many as 8 people for as long as 12 days, having enough food takes lots of advance planning.

We spent several hours searching for good recipes that are suitable for larger groups and would make good leftovers, then broke down the recipes into shopping lists and divvied out the lists to a few shoppers. 12 days worth of food (and drinks) for 8 people takes up quite a bit of space, so we would rely on the fact that the weather would stay cold and we could leave much of the food outside in coolers.

On top of that, the snow just didn't stop. Over a 2 week span we probably got 18" or so of new snow on top of the 24"+ we already had on the ground. Almost every day for at least a week, we spent significant time snow blowing and shoveling. We're getting pretty good at clearing the driveway, but the snowblower that we have doesn't clear down to the ground. The result is a flat surface of packed snow that all-wheel drive vehicles like our Honda CR-V can navigate, but most 2-wheel drive vehicles would have problems. Since we had at least 2 vehicles arriving that fell into the latter category, we decided to clear out an area next the bottom of the driveway for parking. We'd still have to dig and push the cars out at the end of the vacation, but at least they wouldn't have to deal with the rest of the driveway. Leif kindly offered his snow shoveling assistance, which we gladly accepted. He even brought some homemade stew to rejuvenate us when we finished.

And of course, there's the Christmas tree. Last year we cut down a tree at Thanksgiving, brought it in and decorated it, all with the help of our Thanksgiving guests. But this year we were in Seattle for Thanksgiving, so we needed a new plan. Ideally we wanted to cut down the tree, decorate with lights and put it up (in that order!) before our Christmas guests arrived. The guests could then help with ornaments and any other decorating.

So a week before our guests were to arrive, we headed out into our stands to find a good tree. Corinne wanted to find a tree that was more sparse and narrow than the typical Christmas tree, so that:
  1. There would be more free space for ornaments to hang;
  2. We would need fewer lights; and
  3. The tree would take up less space in our great room.
After some searching (most of the trees are much too large even for our 20' Great Room ceiling), we found a nice grand fir that met all of the requirements. We had the tree on the ground pretty quickly, then carried it through the deep snow toward the house, having to stop numerous times along the way. It was much easier last year when we had a dozen people helping! We knew there was no way we would be able to put the tree up on our own, so after laying the tree down for a few days under the eaves of the house, we brought it inside and waited for the xylem in the tree to thaw and for our guests to arrive.

Holidays, here we come!

- Mike (& Corinne)

15 December 2007

A La Friends

Insitu hired a photographer for its Holiday Party.  While most people used the opportunity to have their family portraits taken, we decided we'd rather have a group shot with some of our friends from work.  This picture came out unbelievably well.  Stay tuned for episodes of our own new TV show à la Friends.

10 December 2007

Frosty Sunday Morning

A beautiful frosty morning inspired me to take the digital SLR out for a morning stroll. I took 163 photos hoping for some winners. These are some of my favorites.

Corinne (& Mike)

09 December 2007

Poker Champion

Our friend Mark, an avid poker fan, holds a Texas Hold-em poker tournament semi-annually. The most recent poker tournament fell right in the middle of our firewood expedition, but we really wanted to go (and he was expecting us). So we showed up at his place wearing "farm" clothes and with a pickup full of firewood. We changed into something more appropriate once we got there, each paid our $25 buy-in, and sat down with the other 19 players for an evening of poker fun.

It's a good thing we went, too; after about 6 hours of card play, I won! For my $25 buy-in, I took home the $210 first place prize money. I figure that just about pays for the firewood and gas money for the pickup. Now when people ask how we heat our house, I can honestly say: poker winnings.

I guess I should have turned the money around; there are actually $20s on the other side.

- Mike (& Corinne)

07 December 2007

Winter, Continued

After our escapades cleaning up the snow in the driveway, Mother nature decided to be kind (briefly). The temperature went above freezing for the next few days, allowing some of the remaining unplowed snow to melt. A few days of rain also helped to further soften the path. We still haven't been able to clear out the west half of our circular driveway, but it's a start.

In the meantime, we had several related heating issues to resolve. Starting sometime before Thanksgiving we noticed a mild propane smell in the house when we arrived home at night. Our house's primary heat source is a propane furnace, so something was not right. The smell quickly got stronger, and on some days the heat wouldn't come on at all, requiring a manual reset of the furnace. We made a service appointment with the furnace repair folks, checked the toxicity of propane (propane is non-toxic), and started to use our wood stove more heavily.

Unfortunately, the fire wood that came with the house was almost depleted, so it was time to replenish. Being of a scientific nature, I started by doing some research on the various types of wood available locally and their qualities: BTUs per cord, propensity for smoke, burn temperatures, etc. I then checked out the local classified listings and found someone selling seasoned, cut and split maple for a good price, so we jumped on it. We loaded up the pickup 3 times (1 cord for us and 1/2 cord for Leif). Loading and unloading 1.5 cords of hardwood is hard work, but it's a heck of a lot easier than cutting and splitting it.

Now, a quick diversion to answer the question we receive most frequently: you live on a tree farm, so why do you need to buy firewood? Ideally we'd simply thin trees from our forest and use them. The problem is that we would have needed to cut down those trees at least a year ago; soft woods like firs and pines should be seasoned (i.e. dry aged) for at least a year before burning. Unseasoned wood will burn cooler and generate much more smoke and creosote, neither of which is a good thing. So sometime soon we hope to fell some future fire wood.

This assumes that we don't spend all of our time dealing with snow, that is. And so far, prospects are not looking good. After a short respite from the snow, it was back with a vengeance. For about a week, it seemed like we got new snow almost every day, and spent a part of each day cleaning it up. Some days we would blow snow in the morning and shovel at night; other days it was only in the evening. We're definitely better prepared as far as the snow-blower is concerned, but enough is enough! The furnace is now fixed (thanks to a $60 gasket), so at least we can come in to a warm house after a cold snow removal session.

- Mike (& Corinne)

03 December 2007

Tractor in the Snow - part 2

Previously on "Tractor in the Snow":

It is Saturday night at about 11pm. There's ~18"+ of snow on the ground, and it's still falling. The snowblower is attached to the tractor, and we managed to maneuver it so that it is ready to depart the shop and immediately start blowing snow. Last step: engage PTO and drive out. Engaging...

(grind grind) Something's not working right. The PTO won't engage, so the auger doesn't turn. We try all sorts of things - engine in gear, out of gear; all sorts of unrelated hydraulic settings; numerous calls to our "tractor support line" (Reidar) who apparently thought he had the night off. Nothing works. After about an hour and a half, we gave up and went to bed at close to 1am. Frustrating. We fall asleep dreading the next morning, envisioning several feet of snow covered in a sheet of ice.

Early the next morning I'm up, and the weather isn't as bad as we feared. I'm on the phone with our support rep, who gives me a couple of things to try. Finally, I manage to get the PTO engaged by doing it with the engine OFF - something (the ONLY thing) I didn't try the night before.

Time to start the real work!

The snow is deep, and less fluffy than the night before. It's still manageable, but I have to alternate between forward and reverse frequently, to avoid too much snow piling up in front of the blower. Corinne gives me frequent direction initially until I get comfortable with how it maneuvers, then she moves on to do some manual shoveling. It's a bit awkward to operate the tractor driving backwards and looking over my shoulder to make sure the snow is blowing, but it works. I figure that as long as I alternate which side, I shouldn't be too terribly sore the next day.

As the day progresses, the temperature starts to creep up and the falling snow turns more slushy. The snow on the ground has been getting gradually heavier; at one point the discharge chute jams with snow, causing us to have to stop and dig it out with trowels for a while to clear it. After a total of 4 hours or so, we've managed to plow from the road to the garage, but only one side of our circular driveway. Cold and tired, we head inside for a break and breakfast.

After a couple hours inside to warm up, and with the snow still falling outside, we decide to head out again to do another pass on the driveway and attempt to clear the rest of the unplowed section. It doesn't take too long, however, before we realize that we don't have enough diesel fuel to finish. So we pack the tractor away in the shop with snowblower and chains still attached, ready for another day. We hope that we'll have an opportunity to clear the remaining section before more snow or ice arrives. After a long days work, we measure the snow and head inside. 24" (at the time of this photo).

Maybe we don't love snow as much as we thought...

- Mike (& Corinne)

02 December 2007

Tractor in the Snow - part 1

This past weekend was a busy one - even busier than Thanksgiving. Here's why.

We took Friday off (as part of our "end of the year and we have extra vacation we need to use up three day weekend extravaganza") and spent the afternoon shopping in Portland. That evening we met up with Jamie, Torsten, Katja and Marta for dinner and games. The following day we spent with Phyllis Clausen, scanning many of the old photos she has of her and Vic's time in Trout Lake. The photos go all the way back to when they built the house in the 1970s. It's amazing how much can change - or be changed - in just 30 years. But we'll save that for another post.

The REAL news is the snow. Lots of it. We actually left Portland earlier than we had planned on Saturday so that we might avoid driving during the worst of the storm. But almost as important is the fact that we have to clear our own driveway, and we were already behind.

Up to this point the snowfall has been fairly mild - a few inches here and there, slowly accumulating on the ground and driveway without too much effort required of us. Our CR-V was able to drive right over the snow that remained from the first few snowfalls. But now we were faced with snow of a different beast. Forecasts were predicting "Heavy Snow Warnings"; "Freezing Rain By Morning"; "You're In Trouble."

We arrived home at about 8pm to find that a lot of snow had already accumulated: probably at least 12" of fluffy, new snow on top of the 8" or so that remained from the earlier storms. Realizing that the icy forecast for Sunday morning would only make things more difficult for us - and that the snow was still coming down pretty heavy - we decided that we needed to try to take action as soon as possible. So we unloaded the car (which did manage to get up the driveway), ate a quick bite, and head out to the machine shop.

The shop brought a host of problems that we had to solve before we could even start thinking about moving snow.
1. Detach the blade implement from the back of the tractor
2. Put the tire chains on the tractor
3. Remember how to start the tractor
4. Attach the snowblower
5. Get the tractor out of the shop
6. Remember how to operate the PTO

It has been quite a while since Reidar gave us our tractor lessons, and we hadn't used the tractor since then. So suffice it to say things didn't exactly go smoothly.

The first few steps weren't too bad, and we managed to get through step 4 in probably a little over an hour. Step 5 is where it started to get complicated. Our machine shop is a fairly large outbuilding, but it is also filled with lots of equipment, including 2 tractors, at least a half dozen attachments, a trailer, and a full-size pickup. The tractor and snowblower are in the middle of the shop, while the two sliding doors are blocked by a pickup and the other tractor.

In the past this hasn't been a problem; we would simply drive one of the other vehicles out of the shop onto the grass to make room. However, the snow at this point was almost 2 feet deep. We hadn't yet put the snow tires on the pickup, so we were afraid that if we drove the pickup out of the shop into the unplowed snow, it might get stuck, and then we'd be in big trouble.

Tetris skills to the rescue! Back the pickup just outside the door (see photo); move the tractor into a nook; slide the pickup past the tractor; etc. Imagine the Austin Powers N-point turn, only with a large tractor with snowblower attached (and we didn't actually hit anything.)

Finally, the tractor was positioned so that we could get it out of the shop, and it was oriented such that the snowblower would create a path for the tractor. But before we drove out of the shop, we figured we should test the PTO connection that drives the snowblower...

Stay tuned tomorrow for the stunning conclusion of "Tractor in the Snow".

- Mike (& Corinne)

28 November 2007

Thanksgiving Traditions

Thanksgiving, as always, was full of good food, family and fun. This year's Thanksgiving was centered in Seattle, at the new home of Corinne's cousin Taryn. Tor and Clare, whom we haven't seen since last Christmas, were also in town, along with frequent visitor and fellow Tulsan Loren. All the usual locals (Leif, Donna, Joie, Pete, Reidar, Carol, Jeremie) were there as well.

Corinne must still be riding on the tail of our pie party, because she made 3 different cranberry-based desserts: Cranberry Cream Pie, Rustic Cranberry and Raisin Tarts, and Cranberry Streusel Bars. All were delicious, of course (but the cream pie could have set up more than it did.)

A number of new Thanksgiving items this year qualify for potential Thanksgiving Traditions:

Multi-purpose stuffing. Corinne and I were responsible for making the stuffing this year (actually dressing, because stuffing is evil). After we got past the annual "your dressing versus my dressing" debate - which she won, yet again - we set about to prepare the dish. Since there could have been as many as 18 people for Thanksgiving dinner, we made 3 pans of dressing. The twelve people we did have for dinner only managed to eat 1/2 of one pan, leaving us looking for ways to use the abundance of leftover dressing. Oyster casserole is always a family tradition, but was absent from this year's event. Two problems, one solution: one batch of oysters + one pan of stuffing == the best oyster casserole ever.

Two turkeys. There's nothing worse than finishing Thanksgiving dinner with no leftover turkey. Two turkeys, plenty of leftovers.

Turkey and Sweet Potato Hash. Corinne discovered this recipe in the November issue of Fine Cooking, and it really hit the spot. We prepared a Saturday brunch in which this hash played a starring role. Possible candidate for my "Best Recipes of 2007" list.

Wreath Making. Why buy a wreath when we have a perfectly good forest full of boughs? Before we left for Seattle, we pruned several feet off the bottom of a few of our grand fir, trimmed off the dead branches, and packed them into the back of the car. A girls shopping trip to the craft store plus a few hours of assembly resulted in some beautiful homemade wreathes.

Black Friday. The ladies ventured out shopping on Black Friday and discovered that it's not nearly as crazy as its reputation. Given no particular agendas or goals for the outing, it was quite fun and we found some stellar deals.

Green Bean Casserole from scratch. The old holiday standby, with no canned food involved. Tastes even better the day after.

Beano. 'Nuff said.

Of course we made time for the already established traditions as well: disc (aka frisbee), Super Smash Brothers, and tech support. No family visit is complete without that.

- Mike (& Corinne)

19 November 2007

First Snow Arrives

It's been raining here for the last week. (Yes, I know, stereotypical Northwest weather.)

For a few weeks now we've had a list of some outdoor, end-of-the-season projects that we wanted to finish before winter arrived: mulch and protect the newly planted garlic; final cleaning of the irrigation system and the orchard; collect kindling for winter; final mow of the lawn; etc. We tried to wait for a "nice" day to work outside, but by Sunday morning we realized we weren't going to get one. So we trudged out into the rain and began raking leaves.

Within about a half-hour, the rain turned to snow; within an hour the snow started to accumulate on the ground. Just a few hours later, it looked like winter! I guess we aren't going to get any more herbs from our herb barrel, and it's probably time to pull out the last onion and carrots from the garden.

In the end we got 2+ inches of snow. With any luck, we'll have snow on the ground from now until April!

- Mike (& Corinne)

17 November 2007

They Must Feel At Home

When the deer aren't stealing from the garden or trampling the flowers, we actually enjoy having them around. I guess they feel pretty comfortable here. Today they napped in the driveway and next to the blueberry bushes.

- Corinne (& Mike)

12 November 2007

The Rest of the Weekend

Aside from preparing for, enjoying, and cleaning up after our Pie Party, we did manage to get a few other projects done around the house on this 3-day weekend.

Saturday was a beautiful day (despite the 100% chance of rain prediction), so we used the opportunity to do some winter preparation: putting up storm doors, packing away the grill and other summer stuff, etc.

During our first winter in Trout Lake, part of the rock wall around our small parking area was knocked down by the snowplow; well, now almost two years later we've finally managed to repair it! Just in time for snow plowing again...

Monday it actually DID rain all day, so we built a fire in the woodstove and worked inside.

Last month we harvested the squash from our garden. Since then they have just been sitting in our garden shed, waiting for some inspired cook. That inspiration didn't come, so Corinne did some research on preserving squash, and as a result we decided that the best method for us was to roast, puree, and freeze. A few hours of effort later (and lots of fun with our vacuum sealer), we had almost 40c of squash puree - and from only the 2 large and 2 small "mystery" squash (which we're guessing is probably some variety of pumpkin). We packaged them in amounts convenient for muffins, breads and pies. We even ate some as a snack, with nothing but some butter, salt and pepper - good stuff. And that still leaves the sugar pumpkins and acorn squash for another day.

Hurray for three day weekends! Boo for the end of summer!

- Mike (& Corinne)

11 November 2007

Pie Party!

Several months ago, Corinne came up with a great idea for our next food-related event: a Pie Party. Sunday we turned that idea into reality and hosted our first pie party.

What exactly is a pie party? It's a potluck party where everyone brings a homemade pie. And what precisely is a pie? Wikipedia says:

A pie is a baked food, with a baked shell usually made of pastry dough that covers or completely contains a filling of fruit, meat, fish, vegetables, cheeses, creams, chocolate, custards, nuts, or other sweet or savory ingredients.

Homemade pies only!1 People seemed generally excited about the party. We attribute that not only to the fact that everyone loves pie, but also that a certain anticipation could build knowing that a multitude of homemade pie awaited, but not knowing precisely how many or what kinds.

We had a total of 34 people at our party, including 7 kids, and 23 different types of pies (7 savory, 16 sweet). We thought we might be a little short on the savory pies, so I made sure to have prepped ingredients for 4 pizzas ready to go if needed (we ate 3). Each pie was labeled and laid out for all to see. The π (pi, get it?) sign was courtesy of Andrew.

  • Caramelized Onion
  • "Boy" Pie (egg, bacon, cheese)
  • Tourtiere (French-Canadian Meat Pie)
  • White Bean and Pesto Pizza
  • Leek & Cheese Pie
  • Chicken Pie
  • Cottage Pie
  • Peanut Butter & Chocolate Pie
  • Peanut Butter Pie
  • Christine's Fruit Pie
  • Bourbon Pecan Pie
  • Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie
  • Pravin's Apple Pie
  • Chocolate Mousse
  • Lemon Custard Tart with Fruit
  • Grape Pie (yes, grape)
  • Peach Street
  • Banana Creme Pie
  • Vermont Maple-Walnut Cream Pie
  • Frozen Margarita Pie
  • Coconut Cream Pie
  • Cherry Cream Cheese Pie
  • Pumpkin Pie

Of particular note were the pies from the first-time pie makers, Simon and Leif. Leif's "Peach Street" was his interpretation of a rustic tart, and Simon's chicken pie was a family recipe. Simon apparently called his mother 5 times during the process to make sure he was doing it right. The pies (and homemade crust) turned out great!

And that's what a food party is all about: getting people to experiment with food and expand their culinary horizons, as well as enjoy good food with good friends.

- Mike (& Corinne)

1 We did have at least one "cheater" who bought their pie. But for their own safety, we won't say who.

03 November 2007

Mormor's 85th Birthday

Corinne's step-grandmother turned 85 recently, and this past weekend we attended her birthday party at her condo in Tacoma. She is Scandinavian (Swedish or Finnish, depending on who you ask), so everyone calls her Mormor, meaning "mother's mother" or "maternal grandmother" in Swedish. (Her husband was similarly called Morfar, or "mother's father".)

Family came in from all over for the party, and most we hadn't met before. There was a large contingent from St. Louis, MO as well as Sweden. We were treated to a real Swedish smörgåsbord, complete with herring, salmon, and swedish meatballs (of course).

They even hired some professional entertainment for the evening. Stan Boreson, self-proclaimed "King of Scandinavian Humor", entertained us with his accordian and his staple of Ole and Lena jokes.

Here's one of the jokes. (Imagine a heavy Scandinavian accent):

A Swede was walking down the street and sees a Norwegian standing on the corner with a gunny sack over his shoulder.
"What's in the gunny sack?", asks the Swede.
"Chickens," replies the Norwegian.
"Yah. If you guess how many there are, I'll give you both of them."
"Okay. 5."
"Nope - you were off by 2."

You get the general idea. He was very entertaining; you could tell from his comfort in front of an audience that he had been doing this for a very long time; Stan used to host a children's show on KING-5 in Seattle.

Eivor, Kris and Kelly did a great job putting the party together. We had a great time!

- Mike (& Corinne)

28 October 2007

A Perfect Fall Weekend

Here are the reasons why this was a perfect fall weekend:

  1. 3 Days Long. We had some extra vacation days (due to a postponed Daly-family trip), so we took Friday off.
  2. Lazy mornings. We slept in every day, then enjoyed homemade lattes and lounged until well into the afternoon.
  3. Red Sox World Series baseball and TiVo. The games start at 5pm, but we can start watching whenever we want - as long as we are careful to avoid all outside communication so as not to spoil the fun.
  4. Clear, crisp weather. Perfect for raking leaves, planting daffodil & iris bulbs (thanks Mom!), and putting in the first crop of the 2008 garden season, garlic.

We need to take a long weekend every fall! (And winter, and spring, and summer.)

- Mike (& Corinne)

26 October 2007

Boston 15, Colorado 0

The Berger Family was in town today picking some Washington apples at one of the local orchards. We all got together for dinner and as always were greatly entertained by Jamie and Torsten's daughters Katja and Marta.

Having recently moved from Boston, they are just as excited as we are about this year's World Series. While at the restaurant, Katja drew this prediction for Game 3.

I think Katja knows quite a bit more about baseball than the average 3rd grader.

Boston 15, Colorado 0. It's the top of the 5th with no outs, bases loaded, David Ortiz is batting with a 1-0 count. The only help she had on this drawing was how to spell "Ortiz", what image (mountains) to put on the Colorado jersey, and the suggestion to add the Japanese photographer (upper left) following Matsuzaka. Nice!

- Corinne (& Mike)

21 October 2007

The Cider Press Rules

"A man doesn't plant a tree for himself. He plants it for posterity."
Alexander Smith

Sometimes you luck out and end up in the posterity category.

Our small orchard of 17 fruit trees - thanks to Vic and Phyllis - produced well this year. It looks like the pruning we did in the spring really helped. The orchard consists primarily of apple trees: Jonagold, Winter Banana, Northern Spy, Grimes Golden, Granny Smith, McIntosh, Criterion, Seek-No-Further, and a few others. Now is the time to harvest! We've been sharing our bountiful harvest with our neighbors, both human and otherwise.

First, the deer and coyote. The deer do a good job of cleaning up the fruit from the ground. Keeping the orchard "clean" during the off season will help prevent pests from becoming too big of a problem. (We did put up some pheromone traps in the early summer to try to limit coddling moth damage, but it's hard to tell what difference it made. Thankfully the larvae crawl directly to the core, damaging very little of the flesh, so the apples are still perfectly edible.) We haven't seen the coyote in the orchard, but he leaves plenty of evidence behind.

Between our neighbor Jack and ourselves (and the help of Jack's orchard ladder), we managed to fully pick the orchard this year. Our spare fridge is now stuffed full of apples which we plan to freeze, dry, and sauce. But the most exciting for Corinne is the fresh apple cider. Jack borrowed a cider press from a friend and invited us over for our very first cider pressing!

For those who have never pressed cider before (which before this weekend included us)... it's a two stage process. First, you feed the whole apples1 into a hopper and crank a grinding wheel; the wheel has little ridges on it which break the apples up into chunks and they fall into a mesh bag inserted into a bottomless bucket. Once the bucket is full, a lid is inserted into the bucket and pressed down by turning a giant screw. The cider is pressed out the bottom of the bucket and runs down an incline into a pan at the bottom. And of course every few minutes you stop to empty the pan (and fill your glass!)

Over the course of a few hours the four of us pressed about 15 gallons or so. We now have a fridge and freezer full! YUM!

- Mike & Corinne

1 But doesn't this mean there are probably worms in the apples, and thus worm juice in the cider? Yes, yes it does.

20 October 2007

More Wetlands Restoration Work

We spent part of another Saturday working with the Columbia Gorge Ecology Institute (CGEI) to restore a wetland sight in Snowden. This time the event was a joint effort between Insitu's Green Committee focused on environmental sustainability and Insitu's newly founded Volunteerism Committee focused on educational and community efforts.

This really is the perfect event for both. Restoring this wetland will improve the watershed that provides water for the communities of White Salmon and Bingen as well as improve wildlife habitat. The CGEI is hoping to establish a nesting site for one of Washington's endangered cranes. The CGEI also has great educational programs that they take into the schools teaching the kids about ecology as part of their science program. These kids will hopefully teach their families what they learn and grow up to be better stewards of the land. Since our last visit to this site, the landowner has begun setting up a conservation trust that will allow the CGEI to use this site for educational purposes (such as overnight field trips for their 6th grade program) while at the same time preserving it from development.

On this visit, we took out a fence, pulled more invasive thistle and blackberry, and planted native grass seed. It was cold and rainy but the work and chili lunch kept us warm.

- Corinne (& Mike)

13 October 2007

Squash Harvest

We decided to plant a lot of squash this year because deer don't like messing with the prickly leaves.

I never used to be much of a squash fan but am seeing the light. A few years ago while still living in Boston, Mike discovered a great butternut squash soup recipe after someone at work who didn't cook, gave him this weird squash they didn't know what to do with. ("Here, you cook!") And then just last year, our organic gardening friend Judith convinced me to try one of her delicata squash. (Cut in half, salt & pepper, roast flesh side down over a pat of butter. Heavenly!)

So we decided we really wanted butternut and delicata and then threw in some snackjack pumpkins and acorn squash for fun.

Well, the butternut start we bought turned out to be something else and the delicata did horribly. Lessons learned:
a) Squash is easy so just start it from seed.
b) As with everything, plant as early as you can!
c) Brush up on sweet talking skills. Judith's delicata crop was great.

Here's the final report:

8 Snackjack pumpkin

3 "Butternut" squash
(really a good size
pumpkin of some sort)

17 Acorn squash

2 Delicata squash
(puny specimens which
probably aren't ripe)

I'm looking forward to testing out this pumpkin recipe from the October Sunset Magazine: Baby Pumpkins with Garlic Custard.

- Corinne (& Mike)

06 October 2007

Birthdays and Visitors in Seattle

We recently took a short weekend trip to Seattle. Our friends Dennis and Sarah were visiting from Boston, and Corinne's cousin Andrea's boyfriend Shane was celebrating his 40th birthday. Loren was still in town, so Leif, Loren, Linda, and the two of us hopped in Leif's car Saturday morning and carpooled up to Seattle. Leif, Loren and Linda stayed with Donna while we stayed with our friends Malinda and Jean.

We hadn't seen Malinda and Jean in quite a while, and a lot has happened since then - they had a baby girl, bought a new house and started remodeling, pretty much all at the same time. They don't recommend this to others. This was also the first time we've seen Dennis and Sarah since the visiting them in the hospital right after the arrival of their newest family member, Caroline.

Saturday night we went to Shane's 40th birthday party, doing our best to "dress to impress." Andrea organized the event in an art gallery in downtown Seattle, complete with DJ, wine and hors d'oeuvres.

Come Sunday, the original plan was to try to leave earlier in the day in order to make it back in time to still accomplish something at home. That didn't quite work out; we got a late start, then had to backtrack a bit to retrieve Loren's laptop. We didn't make it home until about 11pm. A quick but fun weekend!

- Mike (& Corinne)