Orcas Island, Washington

We arrived early at the ferry only to find one ship was out of service.  In all, it took us 9 hours to travel 150 miles to Orcas Island.
We arrived early at the ferry only to find one ship was out of service. In all, it took us 9 hours to travel 150 miles to Orcas Island.
While we were waiting for a ferry we watched a gorgeous sunset.
While we were waiting for a ferry we watched a gorgeous sunset.
Yep, still waiting.
Yep, still waiting.
We finally made it to the island and our hotel.  We awoke to beautiful fog-draped scenery like this.
We finally made it to the island and our hotel. We awoke to beautiful fog-draped scenery like this.
And this.
And this.
On our search for whales we encountered seal lions and Canadians.
On our search for whales we encountered sea lions and Canadians.
Cormorants all in a row.
Cormorants all in a row.
Harbor seals sunning.
Harbor seals sunning.
Canadian geese.
Canadian geese.
And big ships.
And big ships.
We saw a neat little house perched on the shore.  It looked lonely and perfect.
We saw a neat little house perched on the shore. It looked lonely and perfect.
This lighthouse still runs although it's totally automated now.  No lighthouse keeper.  I find that kind of sad.
This lighthouse still runs although it’s totally automated now. No lighthouse keeper. I find that kind of sad.
It looks like a lovely place to live and be rugged.
It looks like a lovely place to live and be rugged.
We did eventually find whales, Orcas, and spent about two hours following and watching them.  I finally stopped trying to get a photograph and just enjoyed being there.
We did eventually find whales, Orcas, and spent about two hours following and watching them. I finally stopped trying to get a photograph and just enjoyed being there.
Then we started back and began saying goodbye to the magical San Juan Islands.
Then we started back and began saying goodbye to the magical San Juan Islands.
On the way back to shore I got lost in the beauty of our wake.
On the way back to shore I got lost in the beauty of our wake.
The ferry back to the mainland was late as well, but the sunset was right on time.  Somehow it pulled the magic down into the sea and tucked it safely away.  Island magic is strong, you can't carry it with you back into the real world.
The ferry back to the mainland was late as well, but the sunset was right on time. Somehow it pulled the magic down into the sea and tucked it safely away. Island magic is strong, you can’t carry it with you back into the real world.
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Fried Biscuits

Sometimes I fry biscuits just because my mom used to sometimes fry biscuits.  This takes patience and courage.  Patience because too high a temp will leave you with a charcoal crust.  Courage because you’ve got to use a lid and the condensation you will see dripping will engender horrible thoughts of soggy bread.  But don’t despair, if you persevere you will have little nuggets of golden deliciousness.

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Idle Hands

IMG_0754My friend says my quilting always seems to precede large life changes.  Maybe it’s my way of processing things I know are coming but am unready to face.  I don’t know, she’s much wiser than me.

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Lately though, I feel as if idle hands are a sin.  Recently while puttering in the garden I had the thought that I should occupy my hands as much as possible with work that adds to my household.

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Since then I’ve kept a stash of scrap material, scissors, needle, and thread in a drawer in the end table next to the love seat where I sit to watch television.  This quilt is paper-pieced in the English tradition.  It’s very easy but very time consuming.

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Each little hexagon is a small piece of fabric folded over a paper template and basted in place.

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Then each of the hexagons are whip stitched together.

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It’s a lot of small steps but not complicated.

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I don’t know what the future holds for me or what it is that I am working through but at least I know that I will have a quilt (something beautiful?) at the end.

You Never Know Until You Try

At roughly $95 an ounce you would think you could get rich growing Saffron.  Probably not gonna happen.  Saffron is the stigma from the flower of the Saffron Crocus.  Each flower produces only three of the tiny filaments and each one has to be harvested by hand.  It takes about an acre and several hundred thousand plants to produce one pound of spice.  That’s only $1500 an acre.  It’s not a winning agricultural strategy.

But we’re going to try growing our own anyway.

We ordered bulbs from the Dutch Grown catalog and they arrived a few days ago.  The instructions said to plant them as soon as they arrived.  Well, we couldn’t really decide on a spot in our tiny yard.  They need rich soil that is well drained.  Rich soil we got. Well drained? Well, that’s a rare commodity in the Pacific Northwest.  What we did have was some lumber from some crappy shelves my husband had removed from the utility room recently.

IMG_0697Rip, screw, and fill with compost and potting soil and voila – Saffron Crocus bed.

IMG_0699The bulbs go in two four inches deep, four inches apart.  Easy peasy tucked away to grow or not as they see fit.  Worse comes to worst I will at least have another bed to utilize in the spring.

IMG_0707This little guy approves.

IMG_0711Just another shot cause he’s so cute.

Serendipity

This is the Himalayan Blackberry, or as I like to call it, the Kudzu of the Northwest.  Several years ago this non-native bramble found its way into Washington state and now covers practically every non-mown square inch of land.  We looked at a house here where the backyard was seriously, no lie, so packed with these things that you couldn’t go in.IMG_0484

This is my husband picking said blackberries while we were out riding bikes on the edge of town.  I think he’s so hot when he’s out foraging food.  Hahaha, he will kill me when he sees I’ve posted that he was “foraging food.”IMG_0487

This is the juice of those berries coupled with some sugar (ok, a lot of sugar), and some pectin.IMG_0490

I didn’t feel like digging out my water-bath canner so this is the pot with a folded tea towel in the bottom that I used to can the delicious black jellied bounty.  One of the greatest and most discouraging myths about canning your own food, especially high acid food like jellies, jams, and pickles is that it is difficult to do and requires large amounts of equipment.  It doesn’t.  If more people would learn that this is not true the world would be a better place I believe.  It’s tough to be mad at the world when you’re licking sweet blackberry juice off a spoon.  I mean really.IMG_0492

And this, this is wondrousness in a jar.  Gift of mother earth and some thoughtless horticulturalist.  Life is beautiful and sweet if you just take the time to pick the free berries.IMG_0497

Waiting on Perfection

My dearest friend said to me the other day that after reading some of my recent posts it seems as though I am settling in here.  I can see how it might seem that way.  The yard, the garden, all the improvements we’ve made to this humble dwelling would suggest a certain attachment.  But the truth is I’m not settling in.  I’m still very much unsettled.  Things could change of course.  I’ve got an interview for a position with the same company at a different site next week.  That alone could make a big difference.  I could come to realize that my kids really are grown and capable of being happy and healthy with me in a different state.  But none of those things are true right now.

So why all the effort on the house and the garden?

Well, the house thing has become habit I think.  This is what… the third house we’ve remodeled?  I think that if we were to move into a “ready to live” home we wouldn’t know how to act.

The other though, the garden, the dehydrating and canning, the planting and long term planning – that is the result of learning.  I’ve been sporadically reading Joel Salatin’s You Can Farm and one of the things he tells would-be agriculturists is to try it where you are.  He’s pretty blunt and says straight out that if you can’t do it where you are you probably won’t be able to do it when you finally find that perfect little country place either.

He’s talking about creativity of course.  No one could possibly expect me to be able to raise miniature cows in this 55+ mobile home park.  That would be insane.  But if I can’t grow carrots here in a small patch I definitely won’t be able to grow them in a market garden somewhere else.  If I can’t find some creative way to market what I do here then the most likely outcome at a bigger place is not being able to do it on a grander scale.  Get the picture?

So I’ve begun.  It’s that simple.  And if tomorrow the opportunity to move back home should present itself I will walk away from all the work and not be sad at all because it’s the work, the effort, the learning, THE BEGINNING that is important.

However, the truth is that opportunity may never materialize so I’m through waiting on perfection to shake my hand and say, “Let’s get started.”  I’m starting now and perfection will just have to hustle his ass and catch up to me.

Winter Garden

IMG_0634 Finally got the garden space reorganized.  It’s my little bit of bringing order to chaos. I now have six 7′ X 2′ beds to grow in instead of one 3′ X 6′ bed. Even though there’s more growing space the overall footprint is smaller.  If you look closely you can see the new sod I added around the edge of the area. Beginning with the bed closest to the lower right corner of the picture the beds contain: 1.  Carrots.  Two different kinds (I can’t remember the names and it’s too early in the morning to dig out my garden journal haha).  One kind is a medium length carrot and the other is little ball shaped carrot that is popular in France. 2.  This bed gets its reddish hue from the newly emerged beet sprouts. 3.  Cauliflower – Snowball? 4.  This bed is empty in the picture but I’m going to put out spinach seed sometime today. 5.  Mix of cauliflower and broccoli – Packman 6.  Broccoli – Packman The production I get from these beds will depend on the weather we have over the next few weeks of course but at worst the plants should at least over-winter and give me an early spring harvest.  Temps here are pretty moderate in winter.  Rain, it seems, is the big challenge.  We will see what we will see.

 

IMG_0642Iused some of the myriad paving stones in the yard to make a raised herb bed. We’ve got Basil, Chives, Rosemary, Sage, and Thyme. I’ve always wanted an herb bed and always had some kind of reason why I couldn’t have it right now. Well, I have it now.  🙂

 

 

 

 

IMG_0640You can see the height of the herb garden in this picture. You can also see that there is more work to be done.  Isn’t there always more work to be done? I’ve got to figure out something to do with the stacks of pavers that are STILL there.  The last owner was a big believer in pavers!

 

 

 

 

IMG_0632Here’s our first harvest from the herb bed, Sage on the left, Basil on the right. So easy to do, so much less expensive than purchasing.

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_0645   Random shot of beet seedlings.

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_0646My bed of carrots.

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_0649And then there’s this.  This volunteer tomato plant just sprang up in an odd place in the yard.  Of course it’s the tomato that is growing the best – much better than the two hybrid plants we bought because they were supposedly perfect for the Northwest.  This plant is maturing late so it’s a toss up as to whether we will see many of these tomatoes on a plate but if we can nurse it to ripening I’m going to save some seeds for next year. And that my friends is all the news worth printing this Sunday morning.  Hope you have a good week.