Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Harvest

I don't get it.  This summer was like most with the exception of a July that was a little wetter than most, which one would think would be beneficial to gardening.  Our garden had dismal results this year.  Normally the foliage on the beans is so thick that you have to search for the beans.  This year we still see the poles that the bean vines are climbing on. Nearly everything else in the garden was dismal as well.  There were few blueberries, though the raspberries are still doing well.

On the other front this is the worst year I've ever seen for honey production.  Normally I have one or two colums of bee boxes stacked floor to ceiling; ten to fifteen boxes waiting to be extracted.  This year I have three boxes.  There is some honey still in the hive but the bees aren't curing it.  If I take honey that isn't curred by the bees it will be apt to ferment.

It was a bad year for the bees.  The colonies dwindled, queens died and had to be replaced or colonies had to be joined.  To top that off a bear has found one of my hives on the back end of the property.  I only have three colonies up there.  I suspect it was a young bear because it only ripped apart one hive.  An adult bear would have distroyed all three.

There is a lot of work involved in harvesting, extracting and bottling honey.  It is sticky, messy work, but it feels so good to have several cases ready to be sold as the end result.  This year I expect it will only take a couple of hours.  I only hope I'll have enough to share with all of my usual customers this year.  With only one-quarter of my normal production there may be some have-nots.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

You Dig?

One of my greatest regrets is that I didn't buy a backhoe when I first moved here.  I could have been able to afford back then and now it is a fading dream.

I get tired when I look back and consider how much digging I've done over the years.  By hand, I've dug out a silted pond.  I dug the foundation and crawl space of a large addition to the house.  I've dug out the ground to level an area for the green house.  I've dug sod to create countless gardens.  I dug hundreds of feet of drainage trenches.  Ive dug and filled several trails through the hill on the back end of the property.  I've planted trees and shrubs and dug hundreds of feet of trenches to bury cables and water lines.  With a wheel barrow and a shovel I've moved no less that 50 yards a 3/4 minus stone, 15 yards a 2 inch drainage stone. 15 yards of hog fuel and 25 yards of sand.  Add to that the constant manure management, I figure that I spend most of my life digging, hauling and dumping something.

My most recent dig was an annoying willow stump.  It was once an ornamental tree that was broken by the 2007 storm.  I cut it down and the roots regained life as it knew it before the ornament a graft.  It had to go, so with an adz, a spade and a chain saw I began my assault.  I had most of the nastiness exposed and I was getting tired so I pondered an easier way to get this thing out of the ground when I cast a gaze upon the tow hooks of my 3/4 ton.

Did I ever mention that I love chains and I have a substantial chain collection?  I went to the shed and pulled out a good length and dragged it to the stump and threaded it around the gnarly roots and attached the two ends to the hooks.  I slipped the truck into 4 wheel drive and the stump came out as smoothly as removing a tooth from a speed freak.  Finally, I was able to mechanize a digging project, but I still want a backhoe.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Dirty Jeans

It was time to go shopping.  All of my good looking jeans had worn out enough that they have become Around-The-Farm-Jeans. For around $40 I could buy a pair of jeans that look worse than my worst pair of Around-The-Farm-Jeans.  What's up with that?  It was actually hard to find a pair of clean looking jeans.  Have people become so lazy that they have to buy clothing that makes them look like they have actually had a life other than staring at their phones texting all day?

Monday, September 17, 2012

Panning Out

If you've spent any time around a TV in the last few years you've probably noticed a show or two that involves prospecting for gold.  There is one that takes where this team of guys from Oregon go to Alaska with little mining experience and they nearly lose it all in their first year, and do better the next year.  There is another show where several people use dredges in the sea in Nome, and this now has gone into another season of diving through the ice to get gold.  Then there is Gold Fever on the Outdoor Channel that proclaims there is gold in every state except Missouri...

A few years ago I corresponded with a local geologist who said there was no evidence of gold anywhere in the county so I had to check for myself.  I'm not exactly sure, but I think I have captured some but it was such a small commodity that it was hardly worth the effort.  It was a couple of golden glints of sparkle at the bottom of my pan.  So small that they got lodged in the fine sand scratches and couldn't be removed with the sucker bottle.

I recently spent some time on the Kalama River up in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.  I'd take my pan down to the icy water every morning.  The river ran fast, deep and cold from the melt-off of the snow on Mt. Saint Helens.  I couldn't get into the deep holes where there were the best chances of finding gold.  the best I could do was turn over rocks and scoop up sand from where the spring waters receded.

I washed sand for a couple hours a day and when it was time to go home I had a good sucker bottle full of black sand with sparkly gold like material in it. When I got home I took a magnet to the bottle and was delight when all the magnetite went for the magnet.  I poured the contents into my black pan, pulled the magnetite out of the pan and refined it a little more and still found a trace of what may have been gold, but not enough to try refining it any more.  I now call it Nano Gold.

If you really want to find gold, I think you'd be better off investing in a bottle of Goldwasser and sip it slowly near a fire.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


I bought two Kiwi Kayaks several years ago.  I used to go out on the rivers pretty often, but then my summers became consumed with building projects.  One day a few years ago I noticed they were missing and came to find that my Step Son borrowed them.  After months of haranguing I finally got them back. Now I am rediscovering the areas I haven't been on since 2005.

The photo above is up-stream from the Lewis and Clark boat ramp.  I was surprised to see there wasn't much residual damage from the 2007 storm and at high tide one can float three miles up to where the brackish water turns to fresh water.

It is interesting how different the river is when you float down stream from the boat ramp.  The river is wider with far fewer trees.  Fewer fish were jumping, but more wildlife was present with cormorants, geese and river otters.

Every once in a while I will drive by some water and see people kayaking and feel a twinge of envy, but now I can relax and realize I can now go out any time I want.

Monday, September 10, 2012


Sometime back in June we took the horses out for a ride.  It wasn't a particularly long ride, maybe four miles or so.  While on the ride I started noticing that my right knee felt like it was tweaked.  I thought it was just the combination of old injuries and old age and I figured the pain would end shortly since I do recover from injuries pretty quickly.  Though when we got home and I dismounted I nearly fell to the ground.  My knee was bad.

This injury caused me to limp for nearly two months.  To remedy it I got back on Msm with Glucosamine which takes at least a month to kick in. Finally by mid-August I was walking without a limp, however every time I got on my horse the pain would return for the duration of the ride.  I tried raising and lowering the right stirrup, but nothing helped.

The thing with western saddles is the stirrups hang in an unnatural position.  There is lots of leather that is in a constant battle to twist your leg.  My saddle is synthetic so it can't be trained to stay in a natural position for the rider.  It was time for a new saddle; so I bought a Tucker with irons.  I know, I can hear the horse people out there clutching their breath.  For you non horse people it's like saying, "My Ford Fiesta just didn't feel right so I bought a Mercedes."

Regardless, my first ride on the Tucker was the first painless ride I've had in months. 

Saturday, September 01, 2012

How I Spent My Summer

As you may have noticed I've taken several weeks off from writing. I have done a few note worthy things and I'll be writing about those things soon.  I didn't want to re-write articles that I write every summer about getting hay, the County Fair, or my annual trip to the dump.  If you want to see those articles look through the archives over the last five years.

It's been a leisurely summer for me.  I didn't have any major projects that depended on long days with no rain.  I rarely start any projects until after noon and I make sure I'm finished by 5PM.  Most days I wake up at dawn, I feed the horses, check in on the web and I turn in for a nap by 9:00AM.

It is now September and the summer is at a close.  We are two and a half months past the summer solstice.  It is getting dark out a little after 8PM these days.  Soon the rains will return and after that the winds will return as well.

So stay tuned, I will start sharing my summer adventures with you starting later next week.