Saturday, February 20, 2010

In which we have lofty goals, sunshine...and a logging operation

With a blue sky like this, there's no way I could stay home today!

Fiddle and I are tentatively entered for the Limited Distance ride (25 miles) at Home on the Range this year, and we both need to spend more time on the trail. (I know, I'll be brave).

The goal today was 20 miles or 5 hours on the trail, whichever came first.

However, we reckoned without this:

In about a minute, the machine--which looks like a gigantic brush cutter--cut down 6 trees. I didn't get a photo of the cutting machine because there was no safe place to stand and take pictures of it. I shot the video of trees falling from about 1/2 mile away, and could feel the *thump* vibration through the ground...even though I was sitting on my horse!

Trees lay where they fall. We saw the next stage of tree processing a bit further down the trail:

We heard the processor working at the top of a hill, so we trotted up to see what was happening. At the end of the swinging arm is a motorized pencil sharpener--the machine picks up a raw tree and runs it through the sharpener once in each direction. The sharpener denudes the trunk of bark and branches, and then the tree (now a "pole") is stacked neatly with the others.

If you've ever seen the animated film "The Lorax", made from the book by Dr Seuss, you will remember the truffula tree cutters. This thing looks a lot like that thing.

Fiddle watched all the activity very calmly. The camera moves a bit in the processor video because we had just trotted up a pretty huge hill, so she was breathing hard while I was filming. Still, she wasn't worried about any of the machines, falling trees, or pungent smells of diesel fuel and tree sap...

She was waiting to spook at this:

Silly mare!

We trotted away from the timber harvest, and continued on our ride. First we passed through an area that was clearcut last year:

and then we went through an area that was cut about 10 years ago: The Pilchuck land managers try to harvest timber in patches, leaving some large trees in place to secure the soil and provide habitat (and trails). It's been a long time since the price of raw timber has been high enough to justify harvesting a lot of land, but I know that the lumber companies will harvest as many trees as they think they can sell. This year, it might be a lot.

We had several boot failures today. I am ready to call the farrier and ask to have her shoes put on a week earlier than we had planned, because I'm that fed up with boots. This one lost one of the screws that connect the cuff to the boot. It's repairable, but I didn't have the extra pieces with me on the trail. Argh.

Fortunately, I had an old-style boot in my pack as a spare tire. We lost it once, but I found it again. Fiddle is very patient with the whole process of booting and re-booting, but I'm sick of it.
I've also noticed that her gaits have changed because of the boots.

She has discovered that if she strides shorter in the back, she won't yank the boots off. Since she prefers boots to barefoot, she has adapted her way of going to preserve the boots. However, it's not her natural way of going, and sometimes she just opens up the engines and we fly--until one of the stupid boots gets bonked and comes off. Bah.

With steel shoes on, she can move at her natural gaits, and her tender soles are protected from the (often rocky) terrain. Apologies to all the barefoot fans among my readers, but boots are really not the best option for us at this time. We're going back to steel as soon as I can get the farrier out.

We took a lunch break after I stuck the lost-now-found boot back on. Fee was pretty sure that my spaghetti was tastier than her grass.

For the last leg of the journey, we headed down to one of the low-lying sections of the Tree Farm. There's a loop there about a mile long that I now call the Loud Frog Loop. Here's why:

The frogs were so loud, I could hardly hear Fiddle's hoofbeats. This video was shot around 2pm. I wonder how loud they get after dark?
The GPS read 18.6miles when we got back to the trailer after 4 hours and 37 minutes. I figure that we probably did closer to 20 miles because there is a lot of time that our satellite signal gets obscured by trees.
This was a remarkable day for Fiddle--the longest training ride she's done, and the longest time she has spent solo. She's had longer days carrying a rider or equipment, usually when we were building trails. But never this much trotting, and never so long without another horse to keep her company.

Her manners were excellent on the trail, even when we met people with dogs (Fiddle hates dogs, and will cheerfully stomp them--even her own Shelties are not safe).
She did great, all day.
Life = Good.

In which we celebrate Saturday Stories : wisdom for families

I like to give this story to young married couples. If you know somebody who would like it, send it! --A

Three Reeds

A man had three sons who were always fighting, bickering, arguing amongst themselves.

The man worried about his boys : what would become of them when he was gone?

He called the oldest son to him. “Son, will you do something for me?”

“Of course I will, Father.”

“Go down to the pond, and pick the two strongest reeds you find growing there.”

So off went the son, down to the pond.

The father called his middle son to him, Son, will you do something for me?”

“Of course I will, Father.”

“Go down to the pond, and pick the two strongest reeds you find growing there.”

So off went middle son, down to the pond.

Then the man called to his youngest son, and sent him to the pond on the same task.

When the boys returned, he asked the eldest son to choose the strongest of his two reeds.

The boy did that and gave it to his father, who broke the reed between two fingers.

Then the middle son selected the strongest of his two reeds, and it too, broke easily between two fingers.

The youngest son’s strongest reed was quick to break.

“Now,” said the father, “each of you, give me the other reed you chose—the reed that was less strong.”

The father took the three weaker reeds and braided them together. Then he handed the braid to his sons. “Break it,” he said.

Though they pulled, and tugged and strained, the braided reeds would not break.

“You see,” said the father, “that you three must become like the reeds:

Alone, you can easily be broken. Only by working together will you become strong.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

In which a very old question about chickens and eggs is answered

The egg definitely came first.

Specifically: this egg
It's gigantic. I pity the poor Minerva who laid it earlier this morning. Here is the large egg compared to two normal eggs.

The Minervas have been providing plenty of eggs for us through the winter. There's a light on a timer in the Winter Palace, and the hens clearly stay awake late so that they can produce beautiful eggs.

Here's the "egg journal" for January. We were in Oregon one weekend and the neighbor collected the eggs those days, so they didn't get logged.

Yes, plenty of eggs for us and for our friends. I take a dozen or two to work every week so my co-workers can enjoy some, too.

The huge egg inspired me this morning. I decided that it was time to make a Cackleberry Casserole. It's a little more work than an ordinary omelet, but sooooooo nice.

In a one-quart buttered casserole dish, a few ounces of shredded cheddar cheese, about 1/2 inch deep.

Chopped vegetables. My favorite is chopped mild chiles, but I didn't have any in the house and didn't want to change out of my jammies and drive to the store, so I used stuff on hand--in this case, a yellow pepper and some crimini mushrooms.

The huge egg was a double-yolker, so I only needed one more egg for the casserole. You can use up to six eggs for a 1-quart casserole, depending on how "eggy" you like your food. With all the eggs that the Minervas produce, we usually use 6!

The vegetables go on top of the shredded cheese.

3 eggs (or two if one is a Minerva Double-Yolker!) mixed with 1/2 cup heavy cream.

My eggs were so fresh that the yolks didn't break easily, but I finally got the whole thing to mix together, and then poured the egg/cream mixture on top of the veggies and shredded cheese.

A little more shredded cheese on the top.

Into the oven at 325 degrees for 30-40 minutes.

Broil for 2 or 3 minutes at the end to toast the cheese on top.

It's delicious. I've also doubled and tripled the recipe, which leaves lots of leftovers for lunches. It would also be good with ham, green pepper, and just about anything else that goes well with eggs.

Life is good!

Monday, February 15, 2010

In which Spring is still coming, but we go visit Winter for the day

The front yard shows new sprouts and shoots every morning now. These might be crocusses. Crocusii? Might be a crocus or two, I'm thinking.

Strawberries plants have survived the winter, hurrah!

This blooms yellow, and I haven't the faintest idea what it's called. Pretty, though, and the bees love it.
Speaking of bees, we got some winter-blooming heather just for the mason bees. We have a small local population of orchard mason bees, and we plan to supplement the natives by bringing in a bunch of cocoons next weekend.The lilacs survived too, dangit. I really don't like lilacs....just my luck to be gifted with 5 big lilac bushes that the winter was unable to kill. Ah, well. I suppose the bees will like them.

I'm not sure what this plant is. It was put in by the former owner, and forms a lacy hedge between the orchard and the road.
Fortunately, I saw a book at the library the other day that will probably help:

Yes, this looks like exactly the book I need to consult every year in the late winter and early spring, when I've quite forgotten what my yard looks like in the summer, and which plant grows where around here!

Speaking of winter, we decided to take a field trip today to go visit some winter. Stevens Pass is only an hour from the farm, and provides all the winter we could possible want.

Megan and Henry's New Year's Resolution this year is to Have More Fun, and I want to support goals like this as much as possible. We all loaded up in Jim's truck to explore the mountainous terrain by snowshoe.
Jim carried the map and kept us on course.
Willy never saw a snowball that he didn't instantly love...and tromped over to see if he could throw it. Turns out, he couldn't. But it was fun watching him wrassle with it.

Some sentimental fool on the trail ahead of us made this. Yeah, we all smiled at it, even the kids.

Henry was rather astonished at the effort required to walk on snowshoes. His mom was more than ready for the challenge, though. "Drink some gatorade," she'd say. "This might be the part of the adventure where you need to suck it up."
Henry had a couple of mobility issues on the trail. Kid-sized snowshoes do not have the same kind of agressive crampons that adult gear has. Also, an 80-pound body doesn't pack the same kind of "wham-o" for kicking into a steep trail that my significantly bigger --and stronger ;-) --legs can generate.
We took turns being the engine and the caboose to get Henry up the steep hills. Going down, he usually opted to slide down on his backside. That worked pretty well most of the time.

It was pretty.
After about a mile, I looked around and realized that I was grinning like an idiot. I forget, sometimes, how much I love snowshoeing. Why can't I remember? Am I getting that senile?

Tromping the trails.
Blue skies. I love blue skies.

Triumphant arctic explorers return to the parking lot.Jim had to chain up the truck and rock it back-and-forth while a bunch of us (including some Stevens Pass employees who stopped to help) pushed.

Tired and happy, we returned home.
Springtime was waiting for us. Life is good!!!!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

In which there are early signs of Spring, and none of that nasty white stuff

Much of the northern hemisphere is covered in sn*w.

I read the blogs of friends in Texas, Maine, and elsewhere in the States, who are knee-deep in the white stuff, plus of course poor Lytha in Germany who is at least hip-deep in it.

Here in the Swamplands, it's hardly winter at all anymore. I even took the mares' blankets off one afternoon so they could enjoy the feeling of light (if not sunshine) on their skin.

The chickens think that a wheelbarrow-load of yukky hay is playground equipment. Within moments of entering the Winter Palace Garden, I was surrounded by hens eager to pull this clump of stuff apart. They didn't even wait for me to dump it out first--they just jumped on the wheelbarrow, ready for fun.

You know Spring is coming when....


... and, uh, time to prune the grape vines before they join forces with the blackberry vines to take over the world.

Better now.
It's so counter-intuitive to make a plant smaller so that it can produce more fruit, but apparently that's how grape vines work. Apple trees work that way, too, but ours were neglected so long by the former owners of our place that Jim took the chainsaw up into the orchard to start the pruning up there!
Not exactly blue sky. In February we only have a few options for weather, and "not raining" is one of our favorites, so we headed out to the trails for a little while.

See? No sn*w here. Lotsa mud, though. Ewww.

At least we didn't lose any boots in this glop.

The trails are still wet at the top of the hill, but not quite so gooey. And some of the trees up here are starting to bud out!

You know, we just might survive this winter!