Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Harvesting Potatoes

Over the weekend we spent an evening down in the garden digging up our potatoes. Since this was the first year that our potatoes did well, it was quite exciting to dig down in the dirt and find big and little potatoes just hanging out waiting for us to come along and harvest them.

We planted 2 types - russet and fingerling. I'm not sure the specifics other than that, as these were free potatoes brought in to my office by coworkers who had extra. Since we've had such crappy luck with potatoes the last 2 years (death by drowning then death by over burying the emerging plants), I didn't want to spring for the cost of seed potatoes, so there wasn't a spot for them in the garden. When I brought the spares from work home (in two batches), I just had to fit them into the garden wherever I thought there would be room, which turned out to be on either side of the peppers. One side getting likely not enough water, the other getting overgrown by tomatoes.

When we started digging, I was still somewhat amazed to find anything, just based on our previous lack of potato-luck.

The fingerlings were first, and although a lot were very tiny, there were some larger ones in there that will be great in my favorite roasted potato dish.

Little M had a lot of fun pointing out the newly uncovered potatoes and then taking them to the bowl for safekeeping.

Then we moved on to the russets. There weren't as many of these per plant, but what they lacked in numbers they more than made up in size - there were some monsters! Perfect for double baked potatoes :)

It will be so great to eat potatoes from our own garden in the coming weeks. Next year we will certainly be planting more so that we can enjoy them for longer into the winter months! Hopefully some day we will have room in our garden space to feed us these types of things year-round, but we just don't have enough space tilled up and fenced in yet.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Rental woes and lessons

So about that rental house. Its still not 'done'. While the to-do list has shortened considerably, currently down to a mere handful or so of items from the 2 double columned pages of items, I needed it done by the end of last month. Before grouse hunting season opened. Before I had my weeklong conference in Seattle. Before I had to get back to working weekdays. Before my house fell completely into unclean, untidy chaos. Before the pass closed and the chances of it getting sold this fall fell slowly to nil.

Luckily, all of those things haven't yet come to pass, but I still need it done. Like last month. Like last week. And definitely like yesterday.

This Friday is my 28th birthday. Yup, this here mama is getting old.

Well, not really, and I have to say, thinking about the number 28 and me is a little shocking, but thinking about a 28 year old being at the place I am now: married, toddler, dogs, property, chickens, gardens, job, etc, it works.

But as I keep setting deadlines (2 weeks from when we get possession back, end of August, before my conference starts, the weekend I get back from my conference, my birthday), and keep missing those same deadlines, I get more and more irritated. This house was not my choice. It was not my burden. I didn't purchase our new house. I didn't have a real say in the finances of our new house.

I play these arguments out in my head too often, as I dip close to my breaking point, on and off over the last month and a half +. When I get right to the meltdown, tears, life-just-isn't-fair point, I sometimes even say these things to my better half.

In truth, it isn't his fault either. When he bought the rental, he never anticipated meeting someone like me, someone who would encourage him down the path less travelled, the path more wild. The path that involves chickens, row upon row of vegetables, wood cutting, DIY projects, chainsaws, and solitude. When he (we) put the rental (then our/his home) on the market and hoped it would sell before we closed on our current home, we never anticipated that it would be over 2 years later and the now rental would still be ours. We never anticipated the market crashing and crashing this bad, and that over 2 years later the housing market here would still be catching up with that crash, and prices would still (or finally) be dropping here.

But that is what happened, what is happening. And all we can do is roll with the punches, keep on living, balance our budget so that even though we might not be quite where we wanted to, we still end up fine at the end of the day, at the end of the month, and, with any luck, years down the road. Because fine we are and will be, and what else can you hope for?

I run through this conversation with myself all the time lately it seems. I hate to be mulling over the same things over and over, but how else do we decide whether to get renters back into the house I have poured so much of my heart into making perfect in the hopes that someone will come through for a viewing and fall in love with it. Overlooking the overly close proximity of the road, the small backyard, and instead see the princess room, the little boy nursery, the clean modern bathroom, the potential in the side yard to be a great garden or a collection of fruit trees, with a curving stone path through it all to the backyard.

Without mulling over these things, how else do I remember to let go of the irritation I feel, the anger, the resentment, of this house that is looking so nice, that makes me then notice the bare bulbs in our current house, the outdated and falling apart kitchen, the things that normally I am fine with, because we are in the process of fixing the place up, waiting for time and money, and the perfect designs to come to us. But all of the work we did on the rental, last month and this month, is so great and it taught us so much, and I can't overlook that.

But I some days I do. I overlook all of the positives, and get overly stressed about the place not selling, and us ending up screwed financially, and all of those common worries. But when I stop and mull over the rental, and force myself to appreciate what we have learned from it, and where our situation truly is and will be, only then do I realize that we are doing pretty ok. So thanks for bearing with me on my little circular winding way out of my irritation with the rental. I think I'm back in happy mama land now :) As long as I get the rental off my to-do list by Friday that is ;)

Oh, and I almost forgot in all my complaining. There was a viewing on the weekend! The people apparently didn't love the house, thought it was too close to the road (shocker) and didn't think the backyard would be good for a dog (I'll refrain from screaming to the world that we had 2 dogs there just fine thank you very much). So even though we know not to hope for an offer to come from it, a viewing at all is better than we've had in months, and without the renters being out of there it wouldn't have happened at all, so I guess there are even more positives than I give credit for :)

Monday, September 19, 2011

Weck canning jars

So I have a somewhat guilty admission to make. Apart from attending a canning seminar-type meeting locally with Little M last fall, where we went over the steps of making and canning applesauce, I've never canned anything. Yup, that's me, the canning virgin.

All of our extra garden produce last year (the little bit we had the year before was all eaten fresh) was all frozen. Blanched first, then packaged into (plastic) containers or (disposable) ziploc baggies. And I was ok with that. I had a little baby, and just the fact that we were harvesting so much food from the garden was more than we could have hoped for. And in the fall, balancing that little baby and all that goes along with a little one (who still isn't sleeping consistently through the night - in fact who has only slept through the night once - night before last!!!), as well as balancing hunting (my husband is really into bird hunting - hence the bird dogs!), work (always busy in the fall as river flows drop and the construction window opens), and just general stuff around the house and property, I was busy enough without adding canning and learning to can to the list.

This year though, I had a canning-related item on my goals list - to can strawberry jam, tomatoes, and applesauce. I've got plenty of strawberries frozen in my freezer, waiting for me to decide on a recipe (low sugar or not, pectin or not, so many choices!), and whether I want it to be freezer jam (which wouldn't meet my goal list objective of canning strawberry jam!), or shelf-stable jam. Then in the past couple weeks, reading blogs talking about canning this and canning that, I realized that there was another decision I should be consciously making.

I read that BPA has been found in the standard disposable canning jar lids, and that there were other options, both in terms of lids, and in terms of the entire jar system. A post by Soulemama was my first introduction to the other options (along with a lot of other great bits of information in her post!). And after further reading and trying not to become overly paranoid, I realized that where I am in my canning life is the perfect time to read all of this information. I have a very limited stash of jars. If ever I was to go Weck, it would be right now.

Weck jars have glass lids, with a circle of plastic (that can or can't be re-used depending on what you read) that goes between the lid and the jar to act as the seal. They have a plastic lid that can be used once the jars are opened and in the fridge (so you don't have to use the metal clips to keep the top on). And they are BEAUTIFUL. I love that they are all glass. I love that they are so pretty.

And although I don't love the price, when I think of the extra money we have spent on glass containers as we try and shift from plastic containers in the fridge and freezer for leftovers and garden produce, I start to think maybe the price isn't actually that bad. Especially considering I would have to spend something anyway to get enough jars, of whichever type I buy. So maybe this is what I should use my birthday money for this year...

Anyone use Weck jars? Anyone else think the all glass thing is great?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

What's on your clothesline today?

My husband found this wasps nest down in the field, got rid of the wasps, and brought it back up to dry nicely on the clothesline before he puts it on the display cabinet in the main room. I love having an indoor clothesline on the sunporch! :)

Saturday, September 10, 2011


So this is a new one folks. And I'll give you a heads up now, this is about to get pretty gross.

Still here? Ok, get ready... So over a week ago there was a day where I had been up at the rental house most of the day, and my husband had been home watching Little M. I had heard from my husband earlier in the afternoon, and basically the conversation was about how our oldest dog ('my' dog), Tia, had puked three times on the sunporch, and he wasn't really interested in cleaning it up (he doesn't deal well with dog poop, so I wasn't overly surprised to hear this). I wasn't too impressed that I was working hard at the (his) rental, and yet he didn't want to deal with the mess at home, but I tried to let it go. I figured either I would have some puddles to clean up when I got home, or I wouldn't, not too big of a deal.

I didn't think much more about it, so when I got out of my car after parking it in the garage, and noticed some garbage underfoot that hadn't been there when I left earlier, at first I didn't put the pieces together. Then it hit me. Hmmm... garbage in new spots in the garage (we keep the garbage bags piled between the 2 vehicle parking spots in the garage between dump trips), dog puking... awesome.

I knew that obviously my husband had for some reason had the garage open for a portion of the day (which we try not to do so as to keep things like birds, mice, and clearly dogs out of the building). He obviously also let the dogs out and didn't keep close enough eye on at least Tia, and she must have gotten into the garbage, enough so that she was then sick. Great...

So I go inside, and the house is looking very clean. He admits that he cleaned up the house because he wasn't able to make it through more than one of the three puke puddles on the sunporch without almost puking himself. Ok, so I'm thinking, whatever, I wasn't really expecting him to manage to clean them up anyway (you would think he would be able to deal better with gross stuff, seeing as he hunts and has no problem gutting birds and all, but nope, dog poop does him every time, and so, apparently, does dog puke!). I went out to the sunporch, and right away the smell was really bad. Eww! I got some paper towels and old rags and started mopping the puddles/piles up. And then I realized how bad it really was.

There were maggots crawling around in the puke. I mean seriously, my dog got into some really nasty garbage, that had obviously been in the garage long enough to seriously decompose, and have maggots crawling through it, and she ate it. And ate enough to make her sick enough to throw up. This from the dog who has been known to turn around and eat her own still steaming poop, and let me tell you, after the same poop gets eaten several times, then it doesn't come out as poop. Nope, it comes out as puke. And sometimes even projectile puke... Yup.

So needless to say, I've cleaned some pretty gross puke from this dog before... She actually got the nickname 'shitpuke' at a research station I lived at one summer for work... And it was a literal nickname - because she puked shit up. Anyone ever smelled twice-or-three-times-eaten poop in vomit before? It's pretty characteristic... Yeah. And I can't forget to mention that I worked for a summer as a maintenance worker in a provincial park, and some of the things I had to clean in the outhouses/comfort stations, especially after a long weekend, were pretty nasty. I mean, seriously people, if you have an accident in your underwear, by all means don't leave the soiled underwear and the other evidence of the accident smeared all over the stall... But anyway...

So to admit that this maggot filled vomit tops the list of disgusting things I have cleaned, well, it really was disgusting. I mean the maggots were crawling around in the liquid. And the liquid drained to one side of the sunporch and dripped down through the crack into the crawlspace. Although it isn't like the sunporch was all that clean to start with, after all, we had to rip the old subfloor up because it was so soaked and stained with urine and feces from previous occupants of the house... But still. When we put that plywood down until we decided what to lay as the permanent floor out there, we were trying to get it clean once and for all... Oh well!

So I'll (finally) get to the point. Flies. You know when you have maggots, you end up with flies, right? Well I was gone most of last week, and since I got home yesterday, I have noticed a lot of small little flies, almost black-fly sized, on the sunporch. It took me until this afternoon to put it together, but I am betting those flies are from the maggots. Yup, I put the dirty rags and paper towels in the garbage can on the sunporch, but the garbage bag didn't end up going out to the garage until yesterday.  I am normally more on the ball with gross things like that, but in my defense, the rags from my husband's attempt at cleaning up the puke were still outside on the ground when I left... He finally had put them in the garbage like I asked shortly after I realized he had dumped them outside instead of in the garbage can, but he hadn't taken the bag across to the garage... So now there are a bunch of little flies that are attracted to the dogs food dishes, and if I'm not careful, they might end up in the house... Oh geez... And I thought maggoty puke on the sunporch was irritating! :)

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

American Fisheries Society Conference

This week Little M and I are over in Seattle at the American Fisheries Society conference. It is funny where we end up in our jobs. Going through undergrad and grad school I had no interest in fish whatsoever, to the extent of not taking a single course that was remotely fish related (apart from a second year aquatic ecology class that was the only other distance ed class that I was remotely interested in to fill out my schedule of online classes during the one summer semester I took). So it is strange to me now that not only am I at the AFS meeting, but I am technically employed as a fish biologist.

Realistically I rarely do anything biology-related, and when I do, it is either overall ecology or habitat work, or specific herpetology work (although usually frogs not snakes!). More often than not I am working on contracts, or surveying topography, or assisting with ditch management... But I do often have to field questions that require more than a basic knowledge of fish, and having a better understanding of the endangered species we work to protect through habitat restoration can only serve to help me to fill my various hats better.

That being said, I have been sitting through these talks and although I am learning so much new and exciting information, and putting faces to names in this field, I do sometimes wish I was instead at a herpetology conference, learning cool new things about snakes. The nice thing about not working in the field that I have a huge passion for is that I can go home and on the weekends go out snaking - when I was actually working on snakes I would get too burnt out to enjoy herping in my off time. And I do really enjoy the work that the group I work with is completing. I love that we are doing really important work (enhancing habitat for endangered species, I mean, how cool is that?), I get to be in the field occasionally, I sometimes get to survey for herps and morph little tadpoles into frogs, and I work with an amazing group of people.

Sometimes I just miss my old herping days is all :)

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Grouse Hunting

I'm joining up to the Preparedness Challenge that Amy at Homestead Revival has been hosting on Saturdays for months now. I've joined up once or twice in the past, but really just haven't been doing much on a weekly basis to get better prepared. I've been meaning to, but just haven't made the time or money for it... Something I've been knowing I should remedy, but just haven't. Luckily our lifestyle makes us more prepared than a lot of people, but still no excuse to not be really really prepared!

This week grouse hunting season opened in our area, and since my husband is really into bird hunting we've been out multiple times, driving the backroads and jumping into creek beds at the slightest hint of grouse, hiking closed roads, trails, and promising ridgelines, and overall just spending a lot of time outside in the wilderness. Before we headed out the first morning, I went through the pack that currently has most of our go-bag-type items, made sure I knew what was in it, and shifted some things to the pack one of us would be carrying with us as we hunted. The main pack would stay in the vehicle, and have some of the larger items - crank operated radio, water purification tablets, a headlamp, energy bars, a big water bottle, etc. In the smaller hydration pack I put things that would be  important to keep us going while we were out hunting, or get us back to the vehicle if something happened - compass, whistle, knife, some extra food, another headlamp, small water bottle, Little M's sippy cup, that sort of thing. Whoever isn't carrying Little M on their back carries the hydration pack.

I felt pretty good about what we had with us, and definitely more prepared than in years past. But as I haven't yet gotten around to actually putting together designated go bags for each of us, let alone vehicle kits, I knew I didn't have everything we might need, although I wouldn't have predicted the item that we ended up needing!

Yes, both back tires were off the ground and spinning freely, the jeep was caught up on the back right bumper after we cut the corner of this whoopdedo (what the forest service around here uses to try to close roads off from the public) a bit tighter than we should have... Of course we were able to made do with what we had, which was a simple jack like you would use to change a tire, but having a high lift jack would have gotten the back end rotated around and us back on the road a lot quicker (in my husband's more knowledgeable opinion - I've never really gotten badly stuck in the woods before). We do have a high lift jack, and at times it has been in one of the trucks, but I've never seen it in the jeep that is our main grouse hunting rig, and with only one, I suspect it would always be in the vehicle that was sitting back in the driveway at home... I guess I'll have to put a high lift jack on the vehicle kit lists! There really isn't anything like actually being there & surviving to realize what you really need!

The other preparedness thing that we have been doing this past week is working on our hunting skills. The daily limit on grouse is 4 per person. Opening day I shot 2 grouse and my husband shot 1, and the second day we each shot 4. Not bad shooting I would say! In a survival situation, it is reasurring to know that we could provide meat for our family (providing we had something to shoot with and were in an area where wild game was present of course!).

Not only were we working on our shooting skills, we were working on our dogs skills - we have 2 wire haired pointing griffons - bird dogs - and we've been honing their bird scenting and retrieving skills. It doesn't do any good to be a great shot if you can't find any birds to begin with, or if the bird falls into a thicket when it falls and you can't find it - so our dogs have been doing really well for us!
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