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)