Bicycles, get some!…

H.W.’s game face, it’s go time.

Hello my name is H.W. (Hugh Willoughby) and recently I married the beautiful love of my life, Selka.  We recently pedaled our bicycles from Central Washington down to Central Oregon and back.  It was an incredible expedition, filled with mountain passes, river crossing, exquisite camping, deluxe trail mix, and hot romance the whole way.

We rode two steel machines that I built up over the last 2 years, Selka pedaled a “Marin – Larkspur” with 26” Mavic wheels and I pedaled a “Surly – Long haul trucker” with 700c Mavics. Two quality and even elegant modern machines.

Selka glowing after a day of touring. Time to roll out camp.
Selka facilitating morning tent break down.

I have ridden that route half a dozen times over the past few years to and from  my Bicycle Expeditionary Guide gig, but this time was special.

This time I got the chance to see the route through a different lens. You see over the years I have kind of created a daily schedule for where I should stop and eat and where I should stop and camp and so forth. But this time we stopped and even camped at some different places and experienced the trip differently than I have in the past. So it was a breath of fresh air for what was becoming to me to be a worn out route.

Not to mention the fact that we stopped half way through the expedition in Portland and got married. So it is officially the best ride of my life.  Since then we have have done some sweet rides here in British Columbia  I intend to make frequent posts on Selka’s blog about our cycling lives and adventures.  So stay tuned for “The Adventures of the Bicycle Life”.

H.W. livin’ it, one pedal stroke at a time.

I love bicycle culture. I love thinking about bikes, looking at bikes, touching bikes, smelling bikes, tasting bikes (a mild flavor of salty sweat with a hint of sweet Tri-low) and of course riding bikes. My heart swells every time I see a fellow cyclist float by on two wheels. Continue reading Bicycles, get some!…

Cookie success

…hard on the heels of much cookie non-success.  I’ve figured out the key to edible baked goods: measuring.  Follow the recipe.  It’s not like sewing, it turns out.

My baking goes in a cycle- I measure meticulously for a while, and make great baked goods.  My confidence builds, I start to throw in experimental additions and substitutions, things get wild; quality declines.  Eventually I have a couple disasters, the kind that make me feel like I should have just dumped a bunch of flour and sugar in the garbage and saved the interim steps.  Then I go back to following recipes.  Repeat.

I’m back on the top of the quality cycle now, with this recipe.  Tahini cookie success.  Cookie quality is measured in hours, after all- how many hours the cookies last.

Canvas- DONE.

(Finally) completed skinning the walls of the barn with canvas.  Used the very last of the roll, too.

I’ve been discovering patches of mold on the canvas these days, always where there is a cold patch, where it’s not as well insulated as the rest of the wall.  It seems to be condensation happening and then molding.

This is the down side of canvas as an alternative to drywall- the only one I can tell.  Well, perhaps the padded wall appearance is not for everyone either, but I love it.  The mold is readily visible on the canvas, but it’s sobering to think that that kind of moisture and maybe mold is happening, hidden, on the other side of drywall, all the time.  Especially knowing how poorly insulation can be installed sometimes.

We’ve been humidifying the barn pretty aggressively lately, too, always boiling down fruit and running the canner til the windows drip, so I’m hoping that has something to do with the mold and it will improve when we lay off preserving.

I’d love to figure out how to work this kink out, because I think the canvas is a fantastic alternative to drywall and I want to rave about it as much as I do about mulch.  Drywall is one of the worst building materials out there for the environmental impact in production (gypsum mining and waste), installation waste (often 30%- board is cheaper than time), and installation misery (unhealthy dust and time-consuming to mud).

Canvas is much much friendlier on all levels.  It is much more natural a product with less environmental impact (a roll of fabric to dozens of sheets of drywall); it installs in one step- a fraction of the time involved in drywall and 100s of pounds less lifting; it’s far far cheaper for materials alone, let alone the labour; it trims out exactly the same (flush mount windows and electrical boxes),  and it’s it’s just as paintable, should you wish.

I was totally planning to paint it, until I fell in love with the natural cotton colour of it, that in my opinion can’t be improved.  So it stays.

Lights!

We are energized!   I finished all the wiring, did all the plugs and light boxes and fixtures, wired all the circuits into the pony panel, and powered it up.  It all worked!  This was a major feat for me, considering how I objected to the prospect of having to do the wiring myself.

There were two 3way lights, and they worked(!) and all the plugs worked, and there were no awful popping sounds or smoke.  Just one light fixture in a series wouldn’t turn off with its mate at the switch, but when I studied the diagram more deeply I saw that it was drawn for one light on a switch and one with continuous power (who would want that?), which is exactly what I got. I managed to fix it, anyways so both are switched

I’m very pleased with myself.  I just worked through it all slowly and methodically with the code book in my hand, assiduously following the wiring diagrams.  Electrical still makes my brain wobble, but I got ‘er done!  Yay!  It’s like a real barn now.

Coons!?

A new threat to the chickens: raccoons.  We’ve been getting relaxed about shutting the chicken hatch at night, and that was a bad idea.  Came home one night and there were three little pairs of beady eyes, one raccoon just trundling out of the henhouse; last night HW busted one in the henhouse again.  Clearly that’s who upset the food trough the other day.  Luckily they seem to prefer chicken food to chicken for food at this point.

Pumpkin!

In which we see displayed the full life cycle of a pumpkin

I canned this year’s batch of pumpkin.   That’s 20 future pies, and as you can see, there’s another batch to do up.

Apparently you’re not supposed to can pumpkin in puree form because it’s too dense, and the bugs can hide in it and not get cooked out.  You’re supposed to can it in cubes, and puree it later, when it’s pie time.  I just learned that. Stuff would never get made into pies though if I had to do that. It takes forever to cook ’em all down, and it’s more convenient to only get the stove splattered up like that once.

I’ve been doing it for years and I’m going to keep doing so, but do not can pumpkin puree.  It’s dain-ger-ous!

Windows!

 

Yay!  Windows are all done.  In the nick of time, too.  I finished the housewrap around the last in the dark as the snow was starting again.

The windows took considerably longer than I had expected (Oh, about a day’s work – famous last words).  One was an opener, one was huge and double paned, and one needed the wall framed to fit it, so it was a sizable job, I was just in denial.

The opener is my biggest accomplishment.  I’ve never built an opener before, and I was figuring out the hardware from scratch with no guidance (Google doesn’t always come through, fyi).  But it was a total success, operating perfectly smoothly and closing tight.

Yay!  It’s a major threshold to have the barn really sealed up. In the same days, HW built the two missing doors and hung them, so we are officially cozy now.  It’s also much less embarrassing, to not be enclosed by double layers of poly (hey, I was busy last winter).   Let the snow fly!

 

Garden aftermath, year 2

The garden is all in now.  Just like last year, I was gone for a lot of the summer, but I can still pronounce Garden 2011 a roaring success.  Only two growing seasons from an arid, hard-packed clay bed, and now there’s deep, soft, dark-brown-if-not-quite-black-yet soil, and millions of worms.  You can’t even scratch your fingers in the mulch without disrupting worms, and plunging a shovel in feels like mass murder.

The tomatoes produced virulently; the evidence was all over the ground, too late to benefit from when we came back post-frost.  Similar for the hot peppers, but most (dozens) of the squash and sugar pumpkins survived to be picked.  The kale did very well this year in its new location, and we got several pounds of beets and root onions.   The scarlet runners and peapods were dry on the vine, and I picked and shucked all of those and dried them for an impressive amount of dried beans for eating or planting next year.  Scarlet runners are so attractively purple.

I’m happy to have at least made micro movements towards seed-saving.  The two skills I really need to improve on are seed-saving and seed-starting- the two shoulder season activities.

My favorite bounty of this year was the kale seeds!  Some kale went to seed and dried outside, and we cut it all to save the seeds.  Look at the mound of them- it’s more than a pound of seeds, which feels like incredible wealth, considering how much a little packet of kale seeds goes for these days, when you can find any.  They also feel really cool, a bowlful of tiny black ball bearings.  I’m sure they’ll be viable, because that kale has already been known to self-propagate.  The pods were all grey and dry, almost uncurling and dropping their payloads at touch, and I threshed them all out by rubbing them between my hands.  Great success.

Oh, and I put in a bed of garlic: at the appropriate depth, and at the right time of year for once.  The chickens made a stab at rearranging my rows, but the garlic should still come in droves next year.

Duck Wrangling


Had a spontaneous good time with a flock of ducks at the park in town yesterday.

They were having a good time too, until HW started catching them.

When we sat down to have a snack we were immediately surrounded by the little flock of ducks (and one seagull), that was clearly conditioned to  the sound of bag rustling.  They worked up pretty quickly to eating rice cake crumbs out of our hands; a couple of females were the boldest.

Some of them found the whole eating out of the hand thing too challenging, yanking on our fingers or the fold of skin at the ball of the hand and wondering why they weren’t getting anything, while the food is right there on the palm.  One shy mallard tugged repeatedly on my fingertip and then gave up, as though he didn’t understand how it was working for all the others.

After HW got bit enthusiastically once, he grabbed the offender: “That’s it, I’m catching you!” He held her like a chicken, as she silently stretched out her neck and paddled her dangling feet a bit.  Passersby noticed.  After he snatched up the second girl duck, the rest of the flock got considerably more reluctant to eat out of our hands.

Ducks are very soft, and a little bit oily, to pet.  Their feathers are round, like fish scales.  Very beautiful, especially the mallards, whose heads look indigo when they’re walking away from you and green when they’re approaching.

Turns out they fight by biting each other in the chest, and holding on as long as they can.  One pair treated us to a good duckfight show over some prime crumbs, the female coming from behind for a big win, and the mallard trucking off with his tail…not quite between his legs.