I had a big pre-snow afternoon.  The temperatures are hovering 2-5 degrees above zero at night now, and the snow is close enough now to be imagined covering everything, so now is the time to clean the yard of anything that you don’t want to have to deal when it melts next year.

My main goal of the day was to mulch the potatoes that I’m leaving in the ground, and also to take down my upside down tomatoes that were becoming very unsightly.

Here’s how that went.

First I need to put the trickle charger on my battery but before I move my truck I should load in the stuff I need tomorrow, and to do that I need to unhitch the trailer, and then I see the compost is full when I’m looking for a wrench to undo the battery. I might as well dump the compost on my way to the garden, and there’s also garbage; I might as well load that up too but the bags are ripping, and on my way to get more garbage bags I see some plastic by the side of the garage that should go to the dump too and then the whole side of the garage is piled with wood and ancient tires and garbage that were here when we moved in, and I sort and load all of that junk and move the wood into the scrap wood shed, and then I notice a snarl of fencing and barbed wire to drag to someplace better, and then when I move the tires to the tire pile, I see some more plastic in the woods and follow the trail of garbage that some bear dragged away and distributed long ago, and then if I’m loading up for the dump now I might as well address the old slash pile, and clean up the old wood and berry brambles on that, and after that, then I should move all the ash so the burn scar could rehab to grass, and for that I need the wheelbarrow.

That’s the first time I got near the garden, because that’s where the wheelbarrow was.
Continue reading Eventually

Look at this place we live

This photo is from deeper in the winter, not this particular fall day

Last night I was talking with a favorite elderly friend of mine who described his philosophy of life as “answering the call when it came”.   He described three literal phone calls that determined the direction of his life, but he was also talking about the call of the heart, that made him, for instance, choose his wife.

It made me think about how my life has arrived at this point.  I never expected to live on the East Shore.  The whole structure of my life is different now because of one phone call.  Mogi: “There’s this house. I want you to look at it with me”.

And I love it so much.  I would never have anticipated being so happy here, in this place, on this land, on the Riondel VFD, on the Kootenay Bay ferry almost every day and sleeping at the feet of some of Canada’s most beautiful forested mountains.

Today I was driving along the lake in an autumn slant of light that was escaping from the press of grey lumpy clouds to either side, and the bright orange leaves half on the trees and half strewn on the road everywhere contrasting with the pale white powdered alpine.  The snow line hasn’t come down to touch us yet, so the snow world is still visiting with the red and gold world.

Dirty hands

Time to close up the garden for the year.  Weeding, banking up the carrots and beets and potatoes that will stay in the ground for now; waiting for a few last vegetables to expire before I rip them out.

My happy discovery of the day was the state of the haypile that’s been sitting there all year, melting slowly into the ground.  I’ve been using the “new” waste hay all summer for mulch, but now I can get rid of the eyesore midfield haypile and there’s enough of it to thickly cover the whole garden.  I expected it to be slimy and rotten and more or less returning to dirt, but it’s completely not.   Parts of it are dry, and then near the bottom the straw is falling into black soil, but none of it is sour or slimy at all.  Totally mulchirific.

Also today I fell the dead danger tree with a distinct lean towards the barn, big check on the backcut side, and a twist at the base.  It needed to come down before a Bella Coola style storm rolls in to us, because then it would come down of it’s own accord on the barn.

It really intimidated me at first, since it’s been years since I fell any trees, indeed, spent all day, day after day, falling trees, back when I knew everything and was missing the wiring for fear and respect. I can still frame a wall my dad would find no flaw with, but can I still fall a tree exactly where I want it to go? Continue reading Dirty hands

Canning day

Apparently, I have an addiction to altering recipes.  I just can’t leave well enough alone.  It all starts out innocently enough, but then I feel compelled to add some oil that’s not called for, or a bit of butter, a dash of uninvited  ginger/honey/molasses.  What harm could a splash of orange juice do?  Besides throw off the wet to dry ratio entirely.

Plus I never measure anything.  I’ve got ok eyes for quantities, but what with this inexactitude and the compulsive substitution, it means anything I bake is A) a total crap shoot and B) impossible to reproduce if it’s a brilliant success.   Sometimes I’d be better off just throwing some flour and eggs in the garbage and saving a bunch of work.

I’ve no idea where I got this.  When I was little and learning to bake, I know we were making things where measuring was crucial.  Like butterhorns.  One doesn’t guess at those.  One follows the recipe to the letter.  One sifts.

such a pretty colour

I was canning all the pumpkin pies of the 2010/11 season today- an annual event that I haven’t missed for years and marks the years as clearly as Christmas for me.  I can’t believe 12 months have passed already.  Last year all the pumpkins were my own, but this year, I got zucchini and squash but no pumpkins out of the garden, even though I had 100% germination from my saved seeds.  So I purchased them, happily organic and localish, pretty much from the next town.  Chock full of bright flesh and fat seeds and very little air or pulp.  I’ve never made such a big bowl of roasted seeds, either.

Pumpkins are awesome.  So carvable, delicious sweet or savoury, and so beautifully coloured and carmelizing.

It’s amazing that it can take so long to arrive at 12 glowing glass litres of pumpkin: an entire day.  But then, that’s 24 future pies, so time well spent.  It’s a good thing that the event itself is pleasant and makes the house all warm and spicy.

My big secret to pumpkin processing day is to cut the pumpkins in half, empty them, and then bake them open face on a cookie sheet until they’re just slightly soft.  Then the skin comes off like a ripe pear, and you can chop it like a banana into the pot that you will then put in the hours stirring regularly as it simmers down to the perfect, starchy pulp.  Peeling and chopping a raw pumpkin is fairly arduous, I’ve found.  Well, one pumpkin would be  fine, but six raw pumpkins- another matter.

Between pumpkin tasks, I was baking batch after batch of zucchini muffins (no two alike) that slowly put a small dent in one zucchini – the one that dwarfed the coffeemaker.  I was planning this marathon of baking and pumpkin pulping, but didn’t quite plan on having it run over midnight.

I love it when people get drunk enough to tell you what they really think.

Possibly the best random compliment ever; from someone I hardly know, to boot.  Delivered with no preamble at all:

“You are the manliest woman ever!  I’ve seen you do shit I couldn’t believe a girl could do.  And at the same time, you’re also the most feminine.”

Just about nailed the duplicity of the life I try to lead.

Of course, he’s never seen Mogi work, ’cause I definitely get the silver medal next to her.

Packrat relocation project

An unusually quiet night on the ranch:  the packrats are gone.

I caught them both last night.  For the record, dark chocolate and/or dried blueberries are the irresistible bait of choice.  I got nowhere with honey on previous nights.

When I came home last night the trap was sprung but I had to look close to see the small shape huddled perfectly still inside the trap.  I gathered up some comfort fixings into a big tupperware,  transferred the rodent into it for the night, and reset the trap.

The other packrat was not so meek.  When he got trapped, he tried to escape so vigorously, it sounded like a tin can was possessed, and it woke me up.  Crash!  Crash!  Blearily I moved him as well, into the tupperware, and went back to sleep.

They went in a cycle all night- a little sleep, a little attempting to escape- squeaking and thumping against the lid of the bin.  Then back to sleep….

In the morning they were so cute.  I’d put an egg carton in the box, since they seem to like them so much.  Both of them were sleeping on top of it, snuggled together with their heads each poked down into one egg cup of the carton.  Adorable!  Smelly, though.  I’m so glad to have caught them.

I bagged up a big chunk of their midden- which is mostly egg cartons, straw, and grape leaves, although I recognized one square of fabric clearly tugged out of my scrap bag.  All this and the box of stinky packrats into the truck, and we went on a really long drive up a forestry road.

I set up their new digs first, making a nice egg carton pile in some really dense brush.  If I do say so myself, I think it was a much better design than their original.  If I were a packrat, I’d be damn psyched about that nest.  All ready for the release, I went back to my truck …. just in time to see one of them run over the seat and up into my dashboard!
Continue reading Packrat relocation project

Packrats, meet your doom!

That didn’t take long.  One week of coexistence, and the packrats must go.  The key letter in that decision is the “s”.  I distinctly heard two packrats at work in separate locations, and where there’s two, well, the problem is about to be fruitful and multiply.

I got a live trap, and Omega-3 and his girlfriend are about to be relocated.  I’m going to take them out on a firewood trip and release them, and to be extra nice, I’m going to bag up all the cardboard and grape leaves they’ve been gathering and bring that along too, to give them a head start on their new lives in the woods.  It is starting to get cold; I understand their motivation.

They really haven’t been a problem yet, except for the noise.  I can’t believe something so small can make such a racket.  Although, they probably feel the same about me in the daytime.  Could you cut it out with the air nailer over there?  We’re trying to sleep here!  Big night ahead of us.