29 September 2007

Lots of Visitors - Loren, Amy, Leif, Linda, Reidar, Eivor, Marc

When we get visitors, we really get visitors.

Loren planned a trip to visit us for a week or so, and his girlfriend Amy joined him for the first part of the trip. The weekend also happened to coincide with Reidar's birthday (or close enough), so he and Eivor also convened on our place. Leif (whom we haven't seen in quite a while) made himself visible again and invited his friend Linda to join in the fun. The twin's high school friend Marc rounded out the bunch.

After spending some time at Leif's place, the group arrived at our place on Saturday. Over the course of the next several days, we played games: horseshoes, DDR, picture-phone (i.e. the "drawing pictures and writing sentences game"); made and ate great food: applesauce donuts, pumpkin pie, chicken alfredo, ricotta gnocchi, and just generally had a good time. You know, the usual.

- Mike (& Corinne)

23 September 2007

First Frost

We received our first frost; temperatures have gotten as low as 30 at night. We haven't received a hard frost yet, but it's only a matter of time now. The marigolds are in full bloom, creating the opportunity for this summer/winter dichotomy photo.

Most of the garden is done already, but we are still trying to eek out some more tomatoes. Hence we have devised a system of sheets over the beds to try to keep some of the daytime warmth contained, as well as prevent the dew from condensing on and damaging the plants and fruit. We'll see how successful we are.

- Mike (& Corinne)

Friends of the White Salmon Hike

The Friends of the White Salmon are a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the White Salmon River and protecting the associated watershed. The Clausens were active members of the group; Phyllis in particular was the group's president and was instrumental in having part of the White Salmon River declared as a Wild and Scenic River, giving it Federal protection.

FotWS recently began conducting hikes related to the river, and we jumped at the chance to get a guided hike on Mt Adams. Robert Schmid, born and raised in the Trout Lake Valley and now one of several organic dairy farmers in the valley, conducted the hike. The first part of the hike put us next to a beautiful pond/marsh where elk frequent; Robert said we likely wouldn't see any on this particular day because the winds would give our scent away. He did bring an elk call with him and demonstrated for us.

The second part of the hike involved significantly more elevation, with the assistance of Robert's pickup. All dozen+ participants loaded into the bed for a short but rather bumpy and steep drive to an overlook point. From here, we could see Mt Adams from a different angle as well as get a view of the Trout Lake Valley from above. We took turns looking through Robert's monocular.

- Mike (& Corinne)

20 September 2007

Fire, Fire Everywhere

Fire is a very scary thing, particularly when you live in a log house on a tree farm. There have been three major fire incidents in our area in the last week; some of these have even made the national news, so you may have heard of them.

First, a nearby neighbor lost her under construction house to a fire. Not only did she lose the house, but she also lost her car and the yurt that she was living in while the house was being constructed. She was building the house herself (no loans), and didn't have any insurance. There are several fundraisers underway for her to help get her back on her feet.

Second, the Broughton Mill fire. This is the one you most likely have heard about. The fire started near an abandoned lumber mill near Underwood, WA, and due to the high winds and steep slope, the fire quickly climbed the hill and destroyed 5 homes on the bluff on Underwood Mountain. One of these homes was that of our friends Tad and Ginger who only had enough time to grab a few key items before evacuating - some photos, a laptop containing his work, jewelry, etc. The time between the first fire department warning and the last chance in the house was only 30 minutes. This photo, dubbed "Last Look" by Tad, was taken by him as he fled the house with the 1 carload he was able to save.

The third fire was another 20 miles west of the Broughton fire and involved yet another mill. The Co-Ply plywood mill caught fire less than a day after the Broughton fire, but burned for much longer. The mill was no longer operational, but instead was being used to store 20,000 tons of wood pellets, the kind used in pellet stoves. The fire department could only contain the fire to the mill site; they had no hope of putting out the fire, which was fueled by the perfect human-designed fire fuel. (This fire seemed fishy starting the very day after the start of the Broughton fire. They have recently made three arson arrests related to this fire.)

The scariest fire for us is by far the the local fire; we can see where the home was from our driveway. We weren't home on the day of the fire; we were in Portland celebrating our friend Rat's birthday (the "Ides of September"). But even more than that, we had our own brush with potential fire the very night before.

We were in the kitchen on Friday night preparing to make cookies for Rat's birthday. Corinne was working on the dough, and I started pre-heating the oven. As we were standing in the kitchen, we both heard a rather loud "Bzzzz" sound.
"What was that?", asked Corinne.
"It came from the oven.", I replied.

We opened the oven door, and saw the problem: the bake coil (on the bottom of the oven) had fractured in one spot, and that spot was glowing frighteningly red. We turned the oven off and instead gave Rat a container of uncooked cookie dough.

The coil has now been replaced, but if we hadn't been in the kitchen and heard the sound we hesitate to think what might have occurred.

- Mike (& Corinne)

16 September 2007

Do the Hornet Dance

After we finished chipping the two largest orchard slash piles, I hooked the chipper/shredder up to the back of the small tractor and pulled it to the third and final pile. I had moved this particular pile from its original, very prominent location next to the driveway to a less visible location on the edge of a stand of trees.

So I pulled the tractor up and backed the chipper into a spot next to the pile. We then decided that the best location for the chipper would be on the opposite side of the pile, to allow for easy transfer from pile to chipper, and a convenient deposit location for the chip. Since I had already disconnected the chipper from the tractor, and it would be awkward to maneuver it mechanically anyway, I grabbed hold of the chipper and proceeded to push it to its intended location.

Somewhere along the way, something strange started to happen.

At first, I didn't quite know what was going on, other than that it was bad. It took me a few seconds to realize that I was being stung - repeatedly. Instinctively, I started to run, probably flailing my arms and looking like an idiot. I think Corinne asked me if I was being stung, to which maybe I said yes. (It's kind of a blur at this point.)

As I'm running down the path, not knowing exactly what to do, Corinne yelled "Take your clothes off". Do what she says, I think, and I continue to run down the path flailing my arms, shaking my legs, and now depositing articles of clothing in a trail behind me. First my coat, then a shirt and belt, then the T-shirt, all while continuing to run.

Right about now I started to regain my senses, and my first thought was: should I really be taking my clothes off while being chased by a swarm of yellowjackets? I notice a particular pain on my left ankle, and when investigating discover that 2 of the little buggers have embedded themselves in my sock and the ankle beneath. After several seconds I manage to dislodge them.

Seeing no other immediate attackers, I begin to slowly backtrack along the trail. After checking each piece of clothing for infiltrators, I begin to re-clothe myself. Corinne is laughing heartily, and I can't help but agree, despite the pain. If only we had the video camera running.

We leave the coat on the ground where it fell, since it still contains 3 or 4 rather angry looking assailants. Heading back to the start of my little "dance", it becomes clear what happened. While pushing the chipper in front of me, one wheel rolled directly over an underground yellowjacket nest; seconds later, my foot planted directly on top of that same nest.

After a quick search through the various inherited chemicals in our shed, we manage to find a can of "Kill 'Em All" (or some such name) yellowjacket insecticide, and proceed to spray a good portion of it down into the nest. We're clearly not going to get any chipping done today, so we leave everything where it is and head in for the day.

Here comes the rather odd part. The very next day we come out to find that some animal has come along and completely dug the nest out. Thanks, friend, but you're a day late!

- Mike (& Corinne)

08 September 2007

Deer Attack the Garden

As the summer progresses into fall, the deer must be getting more desperate for food (even though there is still plenty of green around). That bed of green beans that looked so promising has been reduced to stalks. Every leaf in the entire bed was eaten; you can see the remnants on the left side of the photo below, under the fence arch. They even ate the tops of onions. They aren't supposed to like onions!

Here they are, caught red-hooved.

- Mike (& Corinne)

06 September 2007

Black Cherry Harvest

In addition to the 40+ acres of fir and pine on our property, we have 3 acres of black cherry trees. Even though the tree is not native to this area, Vic decided to experiment with growing a hardwood, and black cherry seemed to be all the rage at the time.

The trees didn't turn out so well, at least from a commercial forestry point of view. Oh, they're still alive and growing, but they are growing very slowly and not very straight. But they still count towards our Forest Stewardship Plan, so replacing them is not high on our priority list.

They do produce fruit - tiny clusters of bitter fruit suitable mostly for cough syrup, at least in my opinion. Vic and Phyllis used to make jellies and such, so we decided we'd pick some and try our hand at turning our poor hardwood stand into something edible.

It didn't take more than an hour or so to pick a gallon or so of fruit between the two of us. The comb-like device in the photos is used to literally comb the berries off of the branch; the berries are fairly sturdy, so they survive intact.

We did some quick searching online and found a recipe for a black cherry jam. This particular recipe called for more than a 2:1 ratio of sugar to berries! After cooking the berries down and adding the sugar and some pectin, the result was indeed a jam, but didn't taste enough like the original fruit to make it worthwhile.

The rest of the berries were cooked down, but we haven't yet been combined them with anything else; the syrup now sits in our refrigerator and freezer waiting for a suitable purpose. If only it tasted good...

- Mike (& Corinne)

02 September 2007

Chipping the Orchard Piles

Remember all of those piles of stuff that we made back in the spring? Well, we're finally getting around to them. (Some of them, anyway.)

Our friend, co-worker, and fellow organic high-altitude gardener Judith recently mentioned to us that her and her husband Rodney's air compressor had gone the fritz. She was looking for a temporary replacement so that she could finish a project; she also happens to have a small chipping/mulching machine. So we agreed to swap machines for a while, and we are now most of the way through chipping the slash from the spring orchard pruning. Corinne plans to put the chipped material around some of the trees in the yard, to suppress weeds.

We still haven't managed to buy a chipper of our own. So thanks, Judith & Rodney!

- Mike (& Corinne)