28 May 2007

Spring == Piles

Spring is here, which means that there are lots of "spring cleaning" projects to do. What I have noticed, though, is that spring in the country is a time to create piles of... well, stuff.

Our irrigation ditch had gradually filled with silt, and thus was not deep enough for the volume of water traveling through it. So we (actually, our neighbor who also shares this ditch) hired someone to dig it deeper.

But of course, that dirt has to go someplace... so half ended up in our yard, and half in our neighbor's. The blue tarp is there to kill the canary grass before we incorporate the dirt into our yard.

Orchard Slash
Our orchard pruning resulted in large piles of fruit wood. Initially we thought we'd be able to cut the majority of it up into kindling for the wood stove; but after several hours and little progress, we knew that these piles would be around at least until we had a chipper. (We haven't bought one yet.)

"Normal" Spring Cleaning
This is the kind of outdoor spring cleaning that most people do: pulling weeds and grass from flower beds, removing overgrown plants, etc. Donna came down for the weekend to help us out, and she really got into it. In the end, we decided to pull much of that ground cover out altogether and add it to our pile. The piles were then moved to a less visible pile hidden in the woods.

And just so you don't think that spring is nothing but piles of work:

- Mike (& Corinne)

26 May 2007

Laying out the Garden

May is almost over, and we haven't done any work in the garden yet! Due to its elevation (1700'), our place in Trout Lake has a relatively short growing season, so getting things in at the right time is important. Oh well, I guess we blew that one. ;)

Last year we took an entirely "experimental" approach to the garden; we tried different things to find out what worked and what didn't, and tried (unsuccessfully) not to be too disappointed when things didn't work. We used less than half of the garden space available and got a fairly small harvest.

This year we have big plans for the garden: more than twice the tomatoes (all quick-ripening cherry/grape/plum varieties), lots of low maintenance and pest resistant squashes, and a host of other new crops to fill the entire garden space. The plans call for a total of 16 beds of 10' x 4'. Like I said, big plans.

I'm sure that every year will have an experimental nature to it in some way. This year I built inexpensive raised beds for the 2 beds of tomatoes, using simple 2x8 untreated pine lumber. The hope is that the raised beds will help the soil to heat up faster, which in turn should help the tomatoes to ripen faster. The remainder of the beds will be slightly raised by simply mounding soil from the paths onto the beds.

All of the beds are now staked out, but not yet mounded. We got a lead on a compost source from a friend at work, so hopefully we'll be able to get lots of compost to add in the next week.


- Mike (& Corinne)

20 May 2007

Spring Sunset Over Mt Adams

Just a beautiful spring sunset over Mt Adams.

- Mike (& Corinne)

13 May 2007

Daly's See Spring in the Gorge

My parents have been out to visit us from the East Coast several times now, but they had yet to see how beautiful it is in the spring and summer. (We think its beautiful here all year, but in different ways.)

A museum in Seattle was holding a lace exhibit that my mom (as president of the International Old Lacers) wanted to see, so they flew from NJ to Seattle and spent a few days there, including a brunch on Alki Beach with some of Corinne's family, before heading down to spend time with us. Since they were driving from Seattle, we sent them the scenic eastern route rather than via the (boring and congested) I-5. The scenery is much more interesting, and certainly nothing they can see in NJ. They even brought some wildlife along with them on their bumper...

The long weekend visit was pretty relaxed. We spent a day at Maryhill Museum, a surprisingly well stocked museum featuring, among other things, extensive Native American art and a large collection of Rodin sculptures - go figure. On another day we took a leisurely drive through the Hood River Valley, stopping at an alpaca ranch to see the recently-sheared "bobble-heads".

The rest of the time was spent at home, doing nothing in particular. We sat at the river and almost watched some kayakers maneuver down our rapids; unfortunately after watching them prepare to put in for about 45 minutes, they apparently decided to avoid the rapids and instead put in below. We watched the local deer graze on our lawn (and watched Leif attempt to draw them), as well as caught several sightings of our coyote. And as always, ate some fabulous food, including homemade chocolate pots de creme.

Maybe someday we'll convince them to move out here so we don't have to go so long between visits!

- Mike (& Corinne)

12 May 2007

A Homeless Man Cleaned Our Windows

Usually when a homeless person comes to you with a squeegee and offers to clean your windows, it happens at a stoplight in the city and the offer is unwanted. Well, in our case, it happened at our house and we jumped at the opportunity.

The homeless person, in this situation, was Leif. Since his previous landlord sold the house Leif was living in back in March, he has been staying with us off and on waiting for that "perfect" rental to come along. One corner of our shop is dedicated to storing his stuff, and our guest room is the closest thing he has to his own room (when it isn't occupied by other guests.)

But it's actually nice having him around. Since he's working for himself now - splitting his time between his artsy side (painting) and his engineering side (continuing to develop an idea he had while at U.W.) - he's at our place many days and earns his keep by doing tasks around the house. On a few occasions he has had dinner awaiting us when we arrived home from work, and he's done some weeding around the property.

Cleaning the windows is a fairly large task at our place, so we were delighted to have the help!

- Mike (& Corinne)

05 May 2007

Crazy Weekend in Boston

Boy, it's hard to know where to start with a trip like this! Well, I guess I'll start at the beginning...

This year is the Chorallaries of MIT's 30th anniversary. Corinne and I collectively spent 9 years in the group (5 for me; 4 for her), and the memories from that group are some of the best of our MIT experience. So when we heard about the anniversary activities and concert - including performances by groups comprised of alumni - it was hard for us to say no. But initially we did. We knew we were going to be busy that time of year, and we had a hard time justifying the time, money and vacation from work just to travel all the way to the east coast for a concert.

And then the barrage began. More and more people from our era started chiming in, indicating that they were going. And then the "guilt" emails began. Eventually, in a moment of weakness, Corinne (who was really looking for an excuse) said "If you can get Tom to go, we'll think about it." This was quickly contorted into "if Tom goes, we'll go", and the next thing we knew, Tom was going. So we really had no choice.

We still know lots of people in Boston, so the trick with a short (4 day) trip is planning time to see as many people as we could, but not so many that it's too hectic and we end up needing a vacation from the vacation.

We spent an afternoon hanging out at Beantown Coffeeshop with Corinne's old Draper buddies, hearing about how some things never change. And Corinne finally got audio recordings of authentic Boston-natives saying appropriately profane things.

While in town, we stayed with the MasterWongs, aka Becky and Gordon and their daughter Lily. We spent quite a bit of time with the Aero/Astro crew, playing games, eating great food, etc. As luck would have it, Dennis and Sara delivered their second child while we were in town, so we even managed to visit them in the hospital and meet their newest family member!

And you just can't get good cold cuts on the West Coast. So we stopped in to Sessa's Italian Specialties in Davis Sq and picked up some incredible capicola, genoa salami and soppresata to bring back with us. Not all of it made it home... ;)

But the focus of the weekend was definitely Chorallaries. We hadn't seen some of these people in 10 years, but it was like no time had passed. We had over 40 alums arrive for the concert, and we put together two groups of alumni to perform at the concert. Rehearsals for the concert, however, were a challenge. Since everyone was distributed around the country, we had to get creative in order to find a way to practice before the show. We had one successful conference call rehearsal (thanks, Bank of America teleconference!), and one aborted Skype conference attempt. Beyond that, we spent several hours on the day of the show once most people had arrived. Considering all of that, the show actually went amazingly well. I don't have any photos of the actual performance, but the house was packed. Just like old times.

The current Chorallaries baked a cake to serve to everyone who came to the show. And when I say "a" cake, I mean they took over just about every oven on campus and baked many cakes, which they then pieced together and frosted as a single, massive cake. How many concerts have you been to where they serve everyone cake at the end? And there's nothing like cake before heading to an after-party...

The morning after the concert we reassembled for one final gathering, this time for lunch at The Royal East. And alas, it was time to go home.

We may have initially resisted going, but we had a great time and would have regretted it if we hadn't gone!

- Mike (& Corinne)

04 May 2007

Our Very Own Coyote

It's official: we have a coyote! Or, I should say we've seen a coyote pretty frequently walking across our property. We're not sure if this is the same coyote that we think we've seen before, but whoever he is his den must be nearby. Leif (who is staying with us - more later) reports that he wandered across the north side of our property just about every afternoon for at least a week.

It is unfortunate timing for Max, though; his outdoor experiments aren't likely to go from supervised to unsupervised anytime soon.

- Mike (& Corinne)