Country Living Series

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

So how was YOUR eclipse?

Along with the rest of the country, we looked forward to viewing yesterday's solar eclipse. Here in the north Idaho panhandle, we "only" had 92 percent coverage to anticipate.

Which is actually fine, considering the traffic jams and crazy parties that were taking place along the path of totality.

I had ordered a 10-pack of solar eclipse glasses which, unsurprisingly, did not arrive until yesterday morning, minutes before the eclipse. I called our local post office, and the postmistress said they had arrived, so Younger Daughter and I made a dash into town just as the eclipse started. We peeled off one pair of glasses so the postal workers could watch the phenomenon, then headed home, stopping at three locations to distribute glasses to neighbors -- a pair here and a couple of pairs there.

Then we got home and commenced watching the spectacle ourselves.

It's a good thing the eclipse glasses arrived when they did, because my optimistic hope that my little pocket camera could handle photographing a solar eclipse was entirely incorrect.

However by covering the camera lens with the solar glasses, I could photographic it quite well.

We were watching the chickens to see what they would do since we'd heard stories that chickens would go to roost during an eclipse, mistakenly thinking it was nighttime. As it turns out, they chickens did nothing different, because it didn't get dark.

At the peak of cover, the air did turn sickly dim, however. I tried to photograph it, but how do you photograph sickly dim air? As Younger Daughter put it, it gave us a feeling of unease, of something not quite right. Shadows were still as sharp, but dimmer. Dim shadows are just plain weird.

We also noticed birds had gone utterly silent. So did the crickets. The unnatural silence contributed to that vague uneasiness we felt.

Temperatures also dropped by about ten degrees. At peak coverage, the temp was 61F.

Afterward, the temp popped up to 71F.

(We couldn't use our wall thermometer during the eclipse since it gets the morning sun and isn't accurate during this time.)

Coverage peaked, then gradually waned.

Our experience wasn't nearly as dramatic as those in the path of totality, but it was still pretty nifty.

So how was your eclipse?

Sunday, August 20, 2017

The Great Unlearning

Here's my WND column for this weekend entitled "The Great Unlearning."

I didn't realize until this morning the editors chose it to go in the slider. I'm honored.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

The power of suggestion

A reader sent the following, which cracked me up.

She said: "So this morning a truck carrying used tires drove past my kitchen window on its way out of the park while I was doing the breakfast dishes. My first thought? 'Hmmm ... garden beds.' :-D I'm obviously a regular Rural Revolution Blog reader!"

Thursday, August 17, 2017

A long-overdue project

Our startup orchard is doing splendidly.

When we first hit upon this wacky idea of planting fruit trees in tires, some expressed doubt it would succeed. After all, it's completely counter-intuitive not to plant trees directly in the ground. But we knew the challenges we faced in planting an orchard, and we also knew it was necessary to look outside the box to achieve success in something we had failed at twice before.

This is the first year our young orchard is producing fruit, and it's producing in abundance.

However we had one remnant from last year we needed to correct: the trees were still staked with baling twine.

In our region of high prairie winds -- 70 mph isn't unknown -- staking young trees is clearly necessary. However the baling twine was meant to be a temporary solution that turned long-term.

You can see the scars left from the twine. It hasn't irrevocably damaged the trees, but it's not helping either.

Time to fix this.

Fortunately we have an abundance of the perfect tree ties: rubber. Sometimes our garden tractor tires are delivered with these huge honkin' rubber inner tubes still inside. This rubber is wonderful and has many uses, so we keep the inner tubes whenever we come across them.

So a couple days ago, I hauled over a chunk of inner tube...

..and started cutting it into strips.

We have 14 trees in our orchard (4 peach, 4 apple, 2 plum, 4 hazelnut), and I wanted three ties per tree, so that was 42 strips.

Then I cut the strips into "bone" shapes: bulbed at each end, slender in the middle.

I used the grommet punch to punch holes at each end.

The rubber is thick yet soft. It doesn't get brittle in either extreme cold or extreme sun. Good stuff.

Then it was simply a matter of removing the old twine, and looping each rubber tie around the trunk. The ties are held with baling twine, which is anchored by screws in the tire, three to a tire.

The supporting strings are by no means tight. The goal isn't to support the trees; the goal is to keep them from getting tipped over in high winds.

The rubber is flexible enough to "give" in windy conditions, protecting the tree while allowing the root system to strengthen and stabilize the tree. We'll be able to remove the ties in a few years, when the trees are well established.

This was a long-overdue project, and I'm glad to finally get it done.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The lovely people of Backwoods Home Magazine

Weekend before last, Don and I made a rare trip together. We drove to Oregon to attend the Mother Earth News Fair. I've always wanted to attend this event, and when the Duffys (Dave and Ilene) graciously offered us hospitality, we took them up on their offer.

The Duffys, by the way, are the publishers of Backwoods Home Magazine, which had a booth at the event. I've written for BWH for years, and you'll never meet lovelier people. Two of their children, Sam and Annie, are now publishing the excellent spin-off magazine Self-Reliance.

Don and I hadn’t traveled together on a trip for, oh, probably 15 years (usually one or the other of us has to stay on the farm).

We’ve gone to Oregon plenty of times separately on business, but never together. We weren't in a hurry, so in fact when we missed a critical exit to take Hwy. 395 south and found ourselves on the way to Seattle, we just shrugged giddily and took an alternate route that eventually connected us with Hwy. 84 toward Portland. Who cared how long it took to get to our destination? We were on the road together!

We crossed the Columbia River at Biggs. It was very smoky from distant wildfires.

We managed to hit rush-hour traffic in Portland. This reminded us of how wonderful it is never to have to deal with rush-hour traffic.

The Duffys are wonderful, hospitable hosts. They made us feel completely at home. Don and Dave shared a couple of beers on the deck, Ilene and I cozied up for some nice conversation as we prepared a spread of food for a Saturday evening gathering of many guests, and in all ways they treated us like family.

Here are some of the people who manned the booth over the weekend (left to right): Sam Duffy, Dave Duffy, Annie Tuttle (Dave's oldest daughter), Jessie Denning (BWH's managing editor),and Tim Denning (Jessie's husband). The disembodied arm on the right is Don's.

Ahem. One of the biggest attractions at the Mother Earth News Fair was the book sale. Ahem. We might have picked up one or two volumes.

On the way home we stopped briefly at Multnomah Falls but didn't linger long.

Here's a tugboat pushing a grain barge up the Columbia River.

As we got closer to the Idaho panhandle, the dry baking desert of eastern Washington gave way to wheat fields...

...where the harvest was taking place.

We left home on Friday and returned Monday. Just a fast weekend away -- but it was such a treat to travel together! Since we'll soon be empty-nesters, we're going to investigate the possibility of traveling a bit more in the future.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

The kindness of neighbors

Last night was our turn to host our weekly neighborhood potluck. Unexpectedly one of our neighbors handed me a small gift bag, with instructions not to look inside until everyone had gone for the evening.

So just before bed, with the kitchen tidy and the house quiet, I opened the bag and found...

I nearly burst into tears. I'm not normally a fan of knick-knacks, but this one blew me away. The fact that these kind people had gone out of their way to find a lovely picture of Lydia, then have it enshrined on this ornament, touched me deeply. I treasure it.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Farm snapshot

I was watering the garden today when I noticed a welcome visitor. Here's a tire of Cream of Saskatchewan watermelons.

As I watered, I noticed this little guy.

They say the sign of a healthy garden is all the wildlife hanging around. I sure like the above visitor over the one below, but I guess it's all part of the game.

Just a little farm snapshot for your day.