Sunday, March 25, 2012

A Few Things

Some odds and ends to catch up on the last couple of weeks. I have been working a lot on my day job, so homesteading things have been relegated to a few hours on the weekend.

~The wood pile is getting low. It is a bit of a footrace, between the dwindling dry wood... 
...and the crazy spring weather we are having. We had actual snow on the ground twice in the last week. I can't remember the last time we had snow this late in the year. For you northeasterners, that may not mean much, but here in the Pacific NW, this is pretty weird.
~Every spring our local Home Orchard Society has their Scion Exchange. (I wrote about it last year.) It happened last weekend, and Phoebe really wanted to go. A few of the scions we grafted last year didn't take, and she wanted to get some more to replace them.

The fair is held in a big room at the fairgrounds. It is packed, with a line out the door in the morning. There are hundreds of clippings from all kinds of fruit trees. I bet there are 100 apples alone.
She had a short list of replacement scions, and we were able to find most of them. There were no William's Pride this year, so we replaced it with a Wynooche Early, another early season apple.
We got a few others too, while we were there. There were so many to choose from it was irresistible.
And not just apples either, there are all kinds of fruit trees to graft.
Of course, selecting the scion is only a part of it. Rootstock is the other big piece. The scions are free; they make their money off an admission charge and selling rootstock. They have different kinds for different trees. Apples can be grafted onto stock that will end up anywhere from dwarf to full size. They will do the grafts there for you, or you can take it home and do it yourself, as we like to do.
~Finally, there have been some changes around here. Our son Jake and his fiancee have moved back up here, from a stint in California. We are very happy to have them back. Jake will be joining us up at the homestead to help out.
We got started on firewood for next fall today, taking care of some downed limbs and a tree that has laid by the driveway for a few years. It is really nice to have some help schlepping rounds out of the woods.
It will be a while until we continue the woodcutting. I have a lot of work to do, and a pasture project to finish before the grass gets too long. But I feel so much better having a nice start on it.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Porches, Color Choices and the Micro House (part 4)

This is the fourth in a series on our Micro Guest house.

In between other jobs and things we have been chugging along with the "Art Shack".
I chose some colors for the interior. If you have ever started a color pallet from scratch, you know it can get really complex.
There are so many directions to go. Ultimately I wanted something that would embody the purpose of the Art Shack. A place to relax, recharge and be one with nature, while still having a few modern conveniences. What I felt that came down to was it needed to be natural, restful and cheerful, all at the same time. It also needed to jive with the Oasis color scheme. I decided on these three colors.
The light blue is for the ceiling, which is a little trick of mine for fooling the eye into thinking the ceiling is higher than it really is. I have done this on several projects and the effect is uncanny.

I am super happy with the turquoise window color. On dreary days it is cheerful to look through and on sunny days you barely notice it when you look out at the view

You can see the tiny sliver of light between the tape and the muntin where you want paint to seal the gap between glass and wood.

I thought I would point out, for anyone who might be interested, that in order to paint and seal older windows you should tape slightly out from the muntins so a little sliver of paint will seal the crack between wood and glass.

The salvaged cedar boards I found at one of my favorite scrap yards ($4 a board!), were 5/4" thick, which is a little thin for decking so we beefed up the supports on the deck and did joists 16" on center.

 That wasn't a big deal or much of a cost increase until we had to buy and cut all the PT (pressure treated) lumber for stringers for the full width steps. I think they will look and feel fabulous when they are finished but it definitely bumped up the cost of the deck.
The weather turned bad and the carpenter had to go on to another job for a while, so I still haven't gotten around to trimming the edge off of the deck, but I am very happy with how it looks and feels. It has plenty of room for a table and chairs or maybe a lounge chair or two.

Still has the best view of all.

I have had this green pot for years. I bought it for a pittance because it has a big crack in it, I love it, but hadn't found a good spot for it 'till now. The Black bamboo is off Craig's List.

We got the little porch on the front finished. We used the same salvaged cedar boards to build the front porch as the cedar we used for the deck.

 I used a 2" hole saw to add some interest to the rafters of the porch.
Some polycarbonate scraps from the loafing shed project made an " invisible" roof. I wanted it to keep the rain from running down your neck while loitering at the door or taking off muddy boots, but I didn't want to block out any natural light. I plan to plant an evergreen Clematis to climb up this structure and I know from experience that you cannot, under any circumstances, coax a plant to grow in the direction of shade. This "glass ceiling" will insure that the plant will grow up and around the porch structure and give a great feel to the entry of the Shack.

I also used a bunch of the larger flat stones we gleaned from digging footing holes to make a mud free area leading up to the front step.
 The porch still has it's protective cover on the decking so it won't get ruined by paint and drywall dust being tracked back and forth

In addition to a front porch, we put steps between the shack and the Oasis for easy access to the trailer.

I used the same 2" hole saw to make a fun exterior trim for the windows.

They're just primed for now. It's too cold and wet to paint the trim. That gives me time to think about what colors I will do the exterior in when summer comes.

Next: flooring, interior trim, lighting, furnishings, landscaping and Oasis improvements.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Magic Beans

I have been converted to the magic of beans! NOT that kind of magic...
Let me start at the beginning.
I was shopping at a specialty food store and ran across a jar of marinated beans. These weren't just any kind of beans but GIANT white beans. Beans the size of oysters. Beans so big there were only room for a dozen of them in the jar.

Giant White
I knew instantly I wanted to grow some of those.
I searched high and low for a seed source for these gigantic white beans but couldn't find any. Then I came across Purcell Mountain Farms website with lots of dried beans for eating. Lo and behold they had the Gigantic White Beans by the pound.
Black Valentine

Christmas Lima

Grey Raquel

Jackson Wonder

Swedish Brown

Marrow Bean

The web site stated that all beans would sprout. If they will sprout, I reasoned, they would grow. I started out just ordering the white beans but after reading the long lists of amazing and heretofore unheard of beans, I ended up buying twenty pounds of different kinds of beans.

I thought I could eat most of them and save a few of each type to try growing this summer.

I cut envelopes in half and put in a couple dozen of each type of bean.
Before I received my big box of beans, I had really only cooked three or four kinds of beans. I hadn't really thought much about beans as a flavor. To me beans were just the same flavor in different colored jackets. Until I tasted these beans. I had never known beans before with such hearty and amazing flavors. They really take center stage in a dish.
Christmas Lima beans with lamb and homemade bread.
Coinciding with my acquisition of these magical beans was my discovery of the joys of cooking in my Dutch Oven.
I had started cooking dinners in a Dutch Oven by browning the ingredients in the Dutch Oven on the stove top, then adding stock and popping it in the oven at 350 degrees to cook for the afternoon. No more stirring or burned bottoms. The food has the most delicious flavor I've never gotten on the stove top or slow cooker. And it's in the oven, ready and waiting for us when we come in from a hard days work. The perfect meal.
These are the Giant White beans after they have soaked over night.
Here are a few more meals I have cooked with my first order of beans.
Huevos Rancheros from the Black Valentine beans and Homestead eggs. Superb.

Home grown vegetable soup with Marrow beans. This soup was vegetarian, but the beans added a delicious bacon taste.
Jackson wonder beans in beef stock with slightly green tomatoes from the fall garden. That's blue corn bread made with blue corn meal on the right. The color is odd but the flavor is light years better than yellow corn meal.
I have just put my second order in... 14 more kinds. Yum!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Long John Silver

In general I have been very happy with our Cuckoo Marans flock. They are good foragers, but not so "scratchy" as other breeds. By "scratchy" I mean they don't go around to all my herb and berry beds and dig up everything. They are very polite in that way. They scour the grass and soil for yummy things to eat but they don't get in places I don't really want them to be. They respect my little domes of wire protecting this plant or that bulb. They also lay the most beautiful dark brown eggs on a fairly regular basis, even in winter. They also get along. Even though I have two roosters born at different times, they never fight. They co-rooster in a most civilized way.

The girls benefit from this co-roostering because one rooster will stay with the flock out in the field watching for dangers on-high, while the 2nd-in-command-rooster escorts hens back and forth from the nest box all through the day.
This double roostering has also seemed to end the annoying habit of hens who lay all over the place because they don't want to go all the way back to the nest box.

That said, the one thing I do miss is being surprised by the colors of the eggs when I gather them.
Nothing beats the rush of finding a bright blue egg in a nest.

To this end, I decided this fall to get myself a couple of Ameraucana hens. So off to the farm store I went. Of course when I got there I couldn't stop at just 2 as I stood over the tin trough, full of day old chicks.
So 6 is what I came home with. If they all survived to adulthood, I would sell half, at least that is what
I told myself.

Then life became suddenly busy and the chicks were relegated to our good friends care.

Time passed.
I kind of forgot to pay attention to the Ameraucanas.
I did notice that there was one chick that did not seem to march to the same drummer. It was an odd color, silver.

It never seemed to hang out with the others and would wander off to far flung places. I figured it would be the one to get eaten by a hawk or owl and felt a little sad, but what can you do?

Well, Silver did not get eaten. Silver was everywhere, but never eaten.
Silver it turns out, and I should have noticed MONTHS earlier, was a rooster. I just kept thinking "hen" even though the evidence was right there in front of me. I was just too busy to notice.

Now that Silver is fully grown, he has completely discombobulated our rooster system.
He hides in the brush and ambushes hens as they amble by, much to the chagrin of the Marans Rooster Team. They have to constantly fend this nasty, uncivilized upstart off from their hens!

If Silver knows what is good for him he will:
 A) stop harassing the Marans hens
 B) stop encouraging the Blue Egg Cult to scratch in my baby tree pots.

I have, after all, become very used to the idea of eating my own chickens now.
   And there is room in the freezer.