Wednesday, September 30, 2009

You Know Summer Has Ended When…

…you have to turn the furnace on because you’re freezing. We broke down sooner than we had planned but it’s really hard for T-Man to get up at 5am and try to shower and get dressed when you can practically see your breath in the bathroom. Of course we may be wussier than the next person because we haven’t yet adjusted back after living in the hot dry desert for the better part of 3 weeks. I’m wearing a jacket indoors even with the heat on. Perhaps I should go out in today’s sunshine and warm up. I need to plant my garlic anyhow.

Speaking of the garden, we worked for awhile in it yesterday afternoon after the rain and hail earlier in the day had given way to sun again. The soil was really moist and I managed to get 3 of the veggie beds planted with the winter cover crop of rye and legume mix. It keeps the soil from washing away in the winter rains and gives some nutrients for next year’s plants. Couldn’t finish the job because I still have things growing in the other beds so they’re not ready to seed yet. The broccoli and runner beans are still producing a little and there’s tons of mizuna, tah tsai, lettuce, parsley and a few leeks. The mache from spring has reseeded itself and there’s lots of little plants. The purple sprouting broccoli is doing well and will hopefully be strong enough to overwinter and give me early sprouts next spring. We also cleared out all the tomatoes from the greenhouse on Saturday and the green ones left should ripen on the counter.

It was a very productive year for the garden due to the record sunshine and hot weather. I saved seeds from the marigolds, coreopsis, woad and edamame soybeans. I’ll have some from the runner beans and curly parsley soon too.  These are the ones that are easy to save and aren’t hybrids. Every bit helps because buying lots of seeds can be pricey! I bought some new garlic from the farmer’s market earlier in summer and will plant 2 heads of the new and 2 of the old variety which should give me about 2 dozen plants. They seem to do very well in my garden now that I’ve discovered the purple hardneck types rather than trying to grow the white softnecks that the grocery store carries. Those need a hotter climate and never amounted to much here. Besides, the hardneck ones give me scapes! Extra value.

I’ve also been fighting with the evil squirrels for some of my walnuts. I was a bit embarrassed to see my doctor yesterday when he looked at my brown-stained hands and dyed fingernails! He knows me well though and laughed when I told him what happened and that I had washed dishes twice and had a shower and scrubbed my hands with the nail brush to no effect. And I still have a large bucket of nuts to shell. The chestnuts are falling also but so far they are the duds – the ones that didn’t get fertilized. The good ones should be coming soon. At least the squirrels don’t eat them, but the neighbours do!

So I really wanted to talk about the projects that I finished while I was away but I need to get busy outside before it starts raining again. They will keep. Along with some books I wanted to review. I’ll leave you with a photo of a small section of Utah’s “grand canyon” from Dead Horse Point State Park with the Colorado River at the bottom:

Canyon1I’ve never been to Arizona but this looks pretty awesome too, no? Surprisingly, it’s the same river that created the Grand Canyon further on. Busy little waterway, wasn’t it?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Oh Give Me A Home…


…where the buffalo roam, and the deer and the antelope play!

Truthfully, I don’t really want to live there permanently. But it was really fun visiting! Didja miss me? I sure missed my Internet connection. I had Bluet, my little netbook computer with me but all I used it for was to download our photos and keep a few notes and observations on the trip. This time I even had the equipment to recharge the battery but only had to use it a couple of times in the 3+ weeks we were gone. I plead the fact that it was too stinkin’ hot to do much most of the time when we weren’t either driving, hiking or sleeping. And no wifi. Some of the campgrounds we stayed in didn’t even have water, far less an internet connection. And there was no stopping for a wifi cafe in the middle of nowhere. We had thousands of miles to travel.

So where did we go? Through 2 provinces and 5 states, one of them twice. Across BC to Alberta’s Waterton Lakes, down the Montana side to Glacier and then Lewis & Clark Caverns, through Idaho to Utah’s south-western canyon country: Arches, Canyonland, Natural Bridges and Capitol Reef, around them and back up to Antelope Island, through Idaho again, across Oregon to the Columbia Gorge and Portland, up through Washington and the ferry to Whidbey Island and home. At least that’s the Reader’s Digest version! I can’t tell you how many miles/kilometres we actually went because the van’s odometer is busted.


We went to see rocks and we really did: arches, bridges, windows, cliffs, hoodoos, mesas, buttes, canyons and mountains worth of them in reds, oranges, greens, blues, yellows, beige, brown and even purple. We saw animals (bison, coyotes, deer, pronghorns, rabbits, squirrels, frogs and lizards) and birds (pinyon jays, crows, eagles, buzzards, hawks, bluebirds, meadowlarks, egrets, white pelicans, ravens, a pileated woodpecker and a great horned owl) and insects (praying mantis, something bizarre called a Jerusalem cricket, and way too many flies). We became familiar with the hot dry desert and learned not to go for even a short walk without a hat, sunscreen and bottle of water. We also experienced 3 incredible hailstorms, complete with thunder and lightning, and one that even flooded out part of the campground with gooey red mud when a culvert clogged up. Luckily we were safely ensconced in the VW for all of them so we could enjoy the show.

What did I miss besides my Internet connection? Hot showers, cold drinking water, clean clothes and a really good grocery store with fresh fruit and veg and organic meat and dairy. (What do those people eat down there? Frozen sandwiches? Really.) You know you’re short of water when you drain the cooler to get enough to heat up for a sponge bath! It was so hot some afternoons that the butter melted into ghee, the water in our tank was hot enough for tea and we sat in the shade panting with wet cloths around our necks. The poor cooler couldn’t keep the food cold enough even with a 10 lb block of ice in it and our tiny fridge just burned up propane without doing much of anything useful either. We eventually turned it off and drank warm beer and cider. (No, I mean warm. Not “room temperature”.) Some nights it was very hard to sleep even with both the back hatch and the big window in the canvas top open - bug nets on, of course. We did most of our driving and hiking in the mornings.

BootsAnd we hiked, or at least walked somewhere, every single day. Notice my boots sporting numerous layers of prettily-coloured dust to prove my point. Being sea-level types we certainly felt the altitude. Trying to get up a steep switchback trail at 6000’ in 90+ degrees F is no joke! Interestingly, we noticed lots of folks of “retirement age” on many of the trails and it was good to see everyone enjoying the amazing sights that you just can’t get from the window of a big camper. Move it or lose it, right? We almost wore out our “Hello” with all the friendly people.

CavernsSo what was my favourite part of the trip? So much of it was beautiful, interesting and exciting that I’m not sure. I was really proud of me making it through the incredible caverns in Montana. I’m not happy underground but these were pretty tame with stairs, lights and a humourous guide. I was also very taken with the several areas where we saw petroglyphs. This one is called Newspaper Rock because it has many different types and eras worth of images pecked into the Petroglyphs“desert varnish”. I hope it’s clickable so you can see it in more detail. I particularly like the footprints with 6 toes! Did they have polydactyl people or could they just not count very well? We also saw a wonderful gallery show of petroglyph photos by Tony Kuyper at Edge of the Cedars State Park. Some of the images in his photos we actually saw ourselves. Too cool. Some of them are now sadly under the waters of the huge artificial Lake Powell.

Besides ice (daily!) and groceries we only did a wee bit of shopping, mostly books. (So what else is new?) But this is getting really long so I’ll tell about that later. Meanwhile I have 6 or 7 loads of laundry to put away and a mess of dishes to wash. The latter was something I didn’t do much of because T-Man did nearly all of the dishes for us in our tiny little van sink. Wonder if I remember how?

Oh, and I did NOT miss the phone ringing. I screen all my calls. Leave a message! Or I won’t talk to you.