Friday, June 29, 2012

On a date

Don and I have been working hard lately, and yesterday he said, "Let's go on a date. I'll take you canoeing."

Whoo-hoo! It's been three years since we've had a chance to go out in the canoe!

Here's how we came into possession of this vehicle. Older Daughter's elderly piano teacher lost her husband a few years ago. We helped her organize and run an estate sale shortly after his passing. In gratitude, she gave us his canoe. Don made a cradle for it in the barn. But over the years we've only been able to enjoy it a few times. The reason is because summer (about the only time the weather will permit canoeing) is extraordinarily busy for us.

It's no less busy this week, but Don insisted we have a date. And boy did we enjoy ourselves!

It was a beautiful day in the mid-70s (F). We drove to the lake edge and carried the canoe to a public dock...

...then launched into the open water.

Our goal was to skirt the edge of the lake to a place where there are marshes. These marshes have deep-water channels winding among them. It's quiet and peaceful and beautiful there.

Here we're approaching the marshy water.

We passed a beaver lodge.

I kept seeing tall yellow flowers among the grasses and cattails, so we paddled closer for a look. Irises! Yellow irises! Very pretty.

Seeing the scenery from water-level offers a whole new perspective.

This section of the marsh has some extensive walkways built through them so visitors can experience the sights and sounds and smells of this ecosystem. I've been on these walkways quite often and they're wonderful. Today we saw them from the water.

We crossed under a bridge to explore the marshlands on the other side. It looked like an enchanted fairlyland, framed like this.

This area is the mouth of a creek that empties into the lake, and as a result it's broken into channels interspersed with reed islands. We poked around various channels until the water grew too shallow and we had to turn back.

Surprisingly, we didn't see a lot of wildlife, with the exception of great blue herons.

I absolutely love the way this photo turned out, especially considering how it was taken. The canoe is so tippy that I didn't turn around to snap the pic -- I held the camera backward above my head, and Don said, "Angle it lower" or "a little more to the left" and stuff like that -- and this was the result. Not bad!

The way out was almost as pretty as the way in.

As we crossed back under this bridge, a funny thing happened. A truck (that looked vaguely Forest Service-y but perhaps it wasn't) stopped, and a man got out. He started filming us as we paddled our canoe.

He filmed literally until we were out of sight around this bend. Why, I don't know.

We saw a great blue heron perched on a nesting box often used by ospreys.

It flew off as we approached.

That was our canoe date. What a wonderful, tiring, refreshing couple of hours! I would like to have another canoe date in the fall to explore some of the places upriver.

How cool is it to live right where people actually travel to vacation?

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Backups to backups to backups

A reader just left a comment on my post Pray for Colorado that was so thoughtful and true that I wanted to highlight it.

I wanted to reiterate to everyone to have backups to your backups to your backups.

I live outside of Price, Utah. We've had over 60,000 acres of fires within 50 miles of us. Yesterday we had one 6 miles away from my home. We figured if we were evacuated we would go to our cabin about 40 miles away. It is our bug out location. We know every back trail to get there. We even have horses that are trained to pack us in. We have supplies there and could hunker down for quite a wile. They evacuated that entire area yesterday while we were getting threats of evacuation here. Our back ways in were on fire. That would have left either heading for the evacuation center at the nearby LDS stake center or the desert to the south. We were prepping to bug out to the desert because it wouldn't have just been us it would have been our animals too. There's not much to burn in the area we were heading.

I felt good about getting everyone out there until Hubby told me that if we were told to evacuate he would be called in to the hospital where he works to evacuate patients. We would have been down one driver. Now it became which animals get to go and which one get set free and hope for the best. Luckily we haven't had to evacuate because the final decision came down to my son driving the big trailer with the small livestock while I packed the horses to our rendezvous point over the scorching desert 6 hours (for me) away while hoping the fire wasn't too close behind. We were very aware of how close the fire was and how much time we had to get out. If the fire moved too quickly we would have left the animals and ran for our lives. With this plan there would have been no room for supplies just our bug out bags, animals and a few bales of hay.

It hasn't happened, thank you Lord, but it made me very aware of the chinks in our armor. I'm grateful that I have been able to see those chinks now and will be better able to prep for any future disasters.

And to reiterate what Patrice said, please pray for everyone. I have friends in CO and MT that I can't get a hold of. Their ranches that feed our nation are burning and their livestock with it.

Don't get cocky with your preparedness plans like I was. Backups to backups to backups. To backups. Good luck and Blessings to everyone who's burning or flooding right now.


What she says is true: The ranches that feed our nation are burning and their livestock with it.

Keep the prayers coming, the folks in these states need 'em. Meanwhile, as this reader points out, now might be a good time to start thinking through the chinks in our armor. Backups to backups to backups...

Pray for Colorado

And Utah. And Montana. And anywhere else fires are burning.

(Photo from Denver Post)

It's hard to believe that the town which welcomed me so warmly last May is now burning. It breaks my heart.

See this photo below?

(Photo by Patrick Sandusky)

That little tiny white blob at the bottom is actually the massive Falcon Stadium, the Air Force Academy's football stadium, which seats 47,000 people. I thought this photo put the scale of the fire into horrifying perspective.

Pray that the brave men and women fighting these fires stay safe, and that they can get the conflagrations under control quickly. Pray also for the people displaced or burned out. For many, they will have to start their lives over.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Out of the mouth of babes...

A reader sent this. Is there any truth in the matter?

Independence vs. dependence

Being independent is terribly hard work. In the past, independence meant being able to build your own home, grow your own food, medicate yourself, weave cloth, deliver babies, and all the other things a pioneer or settler was often forced to deal with.

Today few people are called upon to do any of those things. We have become a dependent and specialized society, which has made our lives immeasurably easier in many respects.

We depend on others to build our homes. Rather than cut down logs, let them cure, and build a rough log cabin from the ground up, we go deeply into debt and buy a 3000-square foot home with granite countertops and walk-in closets.

We depend on others for food. Rather than grow our own wheat and milk our own cow, we trot down to the grocery store where we drop a wad of cash at the deli for handy pre-packaged and prepared foods to make our busy lives easier.

We depend on others to medicate us. What I mean by this is, we know there are cures for nearly everything (or so it sometimes seems) so we don’t take care of our bodies as we should. We don’t exercise, we’re overweight (guilty!), we indulge in vices that can kill us (smoking, drinking, drugs).

We depend on others to provide us with virtually every basic necessity in life that our pioneer forefathers obtained for themselves.

Now I’m not saying all of this is necessarily a bad thing. Frankly I have no desire to shear sheep to weave cloth to cut and sew my own clothes. I’m wildly grateful that medical knowledge is as advanced as it is.

But coupled with these remarkable advancements is a remarkable inability to fend for ourselves under dire circumstances. Dependency has meant the critical and basic skills mankind has honed for thousands of years are virtually gone. Dependency means few, if any, people could ever be independent again.

The worst type of dependency is when people depend on the government for everything. People lose the ability to think, act, or do anything for themselves. These are the people who will suffer the most if there is a downfall in the economy, because this type of dependence fosters utter helplessness.

I believe independence is a sign of maturity, but the term no longer means quite what it did to the pioneers. Today, independence is the willingness to be obtain for oneself the basic necessities without asking mommy and daddy for a handout or trespassing on taxpayer programs. But this kind of independent I’ll-do-it-myself mindset is only the first part. Next comes the knowledge of how to obtain the truly basic necessities – food, water, shelter – if those things weren’t commercially available.

Something to think about.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Piling on the potatoes

It was long past time for me to put another tire on my potato towers.

I have eleven tires planted with potatoes, and with the cool rainy spring we've had, they've exploded in growth. (I should add, they're the only thing that's exploded with growth in the garden so far.)

The idea behind potato tires is you keep adding tires on top of the plant, and the potato plant will grow upwards, filling the tire with potatoes as it goes. In the fall you remove one tire at a time and harvest the potatoes as you go. This is a handy technique for those who have limited space or, in our case, for those who have plenty of tires.

I had already pulled aside three extra tires of similar size for each plant from the last shipment of tires we got. These were stacked behind each potato plant, waiting their turn.

It was a two-person job to stack the next tire onto the tower, only because the plants were so luxuriantly big. Younger Daughter sort of gathered the plant together, bouquet-style, while I carefully placed the next tire on top the bottom tire. Then she made sure the leaves were all tucked inside as I settled the tire down.

After that it was time to fill the second tire. The stacked tires can be filled with dirt or with straw. We have lots of straw, so I used that.

Younger Daughter and I stuffed straw into each tire...

... making sure the sidewalls were thoroughly filled.

This is what the second tire looks like, stuffed with straw.

But some of the plants were so tall they were actually ready for the third tire.

After thoroughly stuffing the second tire, I added the third tire and stuffed that, making sure the tops of the leaves were poking out.

While I worked, the sun went down.

It was dusk by the time everything was finished, but I'm glad we got this done when we did since today has been a day of pouring and unrelenting rain.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Propagating blueberries

I wanted more blueberry bushes. Right now I only have about fifteen or so, and frankly I'd be in the market for a hundred (we love blueberries). But they're so expensive! Young blueberry bushes cost somewhere on the order of $10 each, well outside our budget in any appreciable quantity.

So... I decided to propagate my own.

First thing I did was watch a YouTube video on propagating.

Seemed simple enough, except there was no way I was going to spend money on perlite and peat moss. I decided to make my own potting soil.

I started with some topsoil. We don't have too much left over from the truckload we bought last year, but there was plenty for this project.

What else to add? Composted manure, of course. Got plenty of that.

Somewhere I had a box of azalea fertilizer (which is acidic; blueberries like acid soil) but you think I could find it? NoooOOOooo. So I decided to add some composted sawdust, which is acidic. I trundled the wheelbarrow over to the oversized discard pile outside the shop, which has (ahem) plenty of sawdust mixed in.

I pitchforked a generous amount into the soil.

Then just for the heck of it, I added a sprinkling of granular fertilizer.

I gave everything a good mixing...

...and then I was ready to fill some gallon-sized pots (I keep a stock of these in the greenhouse for just such an occasion).

I filled as many pots as I had soil for, which turned out to be twenty-two.

Now it was  time to start propagating. A few weeks ago in anticipation of this project, I purchased the most critical item: a small container of rooting hormone. It only cost about $5 and (apparently) is essential to the successful propagation of blueberries. In nature these bushes propagate vegetatively (underground), but in nurseries they're progagated with the help of rooting hormone.

Next I snipped about four inches from the tip (apex) of a plant.

I nipped (not tore, but nipped) the lowest leaf from the base, then dipped the cutting in water.

Then I dipped it in the rooting hormone, which is powdery (apparently there are also liquid versions available).

I tapped off the excess hormone...

...then carefully inserted the cutting into the soil.

I repeated this process for all 22 pots.

I scattered the pots among the rest of the blueberries and gave everything a gentle watering.

And that's it! The whole project from start to finish took less than an hour, and most of that was taken up in making the potting soil.

Will this work? No idea. The YouTube video did warn that not all cuttings will propagate successfully. But what the heck, it's an experiment, and it was virtually free. And if all the cuttings grow, I potentially saved myself $220. Can't beat that!