Friday, January 30, 2009

Interesting Night

I woke up abruptly last night to a thump and lay there wondering, was that an earthquake or just cats gallumphing down the stairs. As all the cats showed up on the bed a few minutes later I decided in their favor. However, when I checked out one of our local news website there was indeed a 4.5 magnitude earthquake at 5:25 PST this morning. The cats probably showed up as a result of the earthquake not as the cause of it.

But my interesting night wasn't over. Being wide awake in spite of the fact it was still dark I went outside. It was cold and clear and there was a band of light across the sky from west to east. This band was a uniform width about 2 fingers wide if you held up your hand. As I watched for about 10 minutes it slowly moved north and faded out.

I saw this same phenomena about 20 years ago. I believe it is called an auroral arch. That time it was in association with an auroral display but last night I saw no other aurora. However, I may have missed the first part of the show. We do get auroras here now and again. Last time I saw this there were ripples of light moving along the band. This time I didn't see any ripples but my eyes are definitely 20 years older and there is more light pollution from Vancouver BC to the north of us than there was then. What an interesting night. I have to admit that I went back to bed and slept soundly until 8:00. I am not a morning person.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

First Signs

It's been cold for the last few days and I have been mostly sitting close to the fire knitting or reading English murder mysteries (one of my not so secret vices). But today it warmed up to 40 degrees (F) and I ventured outside to explore a bit and found the snowdrops up and about to burst into bloom. It is always so nice to see that something has faith in the arrival of spring.
And the red winged blackbirds are back. There are 7 males and 1 female in this first bunch. It is interesting that there is a female with them as usually the males come first and then about a month later the females show up. This lady wants to get a jump on the season. Good for her.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

James II

I mentioned our first James cat a few posts ago and have run pictures of James III a couple of times, but I haven't told the story of James II who was probably our favorite cat of all the 20+ cats that have lived on this farm with us.

James II, who was just known as James or Jimbo was born in the barn in late summer of 1990. At that time we had 5 house cats and too many barn cats. Siri fell in love with one more cute barn kitten and brought him up to the house. Mom put her foot down at any more house cats and promptly took him back to the barn. Too late. Having had a good look at the house, warm stove, soft bed, etc., James was no longer interested in being a barn cat. Now, a lot of our barn cats don't want anything to do with us. They come up to be fed but don't want to be petted or paid too much attention to. But this little kitten was different. I'd take him to the barn, he'd race me back to the house. Over and over again. He was like a little maple leaf dashing along the path to beat me back to the house. So I gave in. Who's in charge here anyway?

James led a double life. He started going out into the woods to the south of the house onto an old farm now owned by the Nature Conservancy and growing back to brush and trees. And full of rabbits. He would stay out for a week and come back frequently dragging a rabbit as big as himself. He'd be so glad to be in civilization again, he'd lie by the fire, crawl under the covers at night and purr. He'd eat a few kibbles, but always gave me a look as if to say, "Same old stuff, huh?" We were always so glad to see him. "James is back!", someone would call.

Then after a few days he'd start walking back and forth between the house and the woods. And he'd howl. This would go on for hours and then suddenly he was gone again. It was as if the wild wood called to him but he was torn between it and the comforts of the house. But the woods always won out in the end. I followed him once as far as I could go until the brush got too dense for a human to pass. He'd run just ahead of me calling and calling and if I tried to turn back he'd thrown himself in front of my feet and then follow behind me crying pitifully. He wanted me to come with him.

And then one day about 5 years ago he never came back. And we miss him dreadfully. He was so special.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Flower Bulbs, Garlic, and Snakes Eggs

When we came home from Friday Harbor the other day we found a present of a bag of about 200 bulbs on our doorstep. It's a bit late to be planting daffodils and tulips and many of these were starting to sprout, but we stuck them in the ground to see what happens. A lot of them should do just fine.

A little more timely for the bulbs, we planted our garlic today. The sort of garlic that we grow, a soft necked variety, does just fine in our climate and our garden planted in January and even as late as February. Hard necked varieties, in general, do better planted a couple of months earlier.
Today the sun managed to poke out from the fog that we've had for a week long enough to actually enjoy being outside. It was in the mid 30's, but the sort of day that if you keep moving and working you can stay warm if you stay in the sun. I have been craving a touch of the sun. We moved a big piece of black plastic that had been covering an area where we were trying to kill blackberries to another weedy patch and underneath it were a clutch of garter snake eggs. We have no dangerous snakes in this part of the world and the garter snakes are our allies in the bug wars, so I carefully picked up the eggs and moved them to under a bit of mulch in the rhubarb bed.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Photographing Boas

LinkYesterday we took our youngest daughter, Siri, back to Friday Harbor so she could catch a ferry, the airporter and her plane back to New York City. Living here requires a few travel agent skills.

She's been with us for a lovely week. Before she left we photographed her wearing my newest batch of boas. I have had a hard time photographing them as they just don't really show up hung over a loom or a chair. I really needed them to be shown on someone. Siri graciously volunteered and I think we got some good pictures. I have been putting them in my Etsy store and in my 1000 Markets shop. I understand that the best way to keep your products on Etsy in view on the home page is to enter something every day. So I am planning on a daily addition of one of the boas.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Obituary for Sarah

Siri and Sarah, 1990

Our 19 3/4 years old cat, Sarah died today. Born in the spring of 1989, her mother was Deborah, shown below, and her father was unknown, at least to us. Deborah probably knew. Sarah was a cat of at least 9 if not more lives which she proved within 24 hours of her birth. She had been born behind the bed on an old down sleeping bag in our little attic bedroom. When I went to check on the kittens a few hours after their birth I could only find one of them, Sarah's brother, James (our first James cat). I frantically felt around for the other kitten and felt a lump inside the sleeping bag. I figured she had somehow gotten inside the bag so I carefully opened it up. No kitten. I felt around, I could feel a kitten sized lump but couldn't find her. I finally realized she had somehow gotten into one of the baffles of the sleeping bag, in with the down. I figured she was probably dead, having suffocated in feathers. I couldn't find a rip or a tear that would have allowed a less than 24 hours old kitten inside so I just torn the sleeping bag apart looking for her. There she was, just fine, no worse for wear for her experience. Have you ever had a down sleeping bag rip in your house? May you never. It took me 6 months to get all the down out of the corners!

When Sarah and James were about 2 years old, their Aunt Marmalade had kittens up in our attic. Marmalade was a fierce mother and one day a couple of days after the kittens had been born there was a huge cat fight in the attic and Sarah and James came tearing out of the house and out into the bushes. That was the last we ever saw of James, but 2 months later Sarah waltzed back looking as if she'd just been around the block. By that time the kittens were old enough not to inspire such fierce maternal instinct and all was well.

A cat can't live over 19 years without using up a few more of her 9 lives and Sarah lived hers out to the end. She was always such a nice cat. Not a lap cat, she could never settle comfortably on a lap, but never misbehaving, never up on the counter, didn't shred things. etc. We shall miss her.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Soggy and Boggy Days

We are certainly soggy these days. Our lower garden always fills up with water in a wet year. Our winter garden is in an area that is just marginally higher than this. When I was a kid I delighted in digging little ditches between all the mud puddles in our driveway and running all the water into one great big puddle right in front of the house. I'm not sure my parents thought it was as much fun as I did. Joel said he actually enjoys digging ditches to get the water to run into the pond. Sort of the same thing.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Enough Water

Okay, enough with the snow picture. The last little bits of leftover snow from where we'd piled it up to open gates, etc., have finally melted in this onslaught of warm rain. I can't believe that just last week we were looking at the pond and despairing that it would fill up this winter. Every once in a while we get a dry winter and the pond doesn't fill up and then we run out of irrigation water too early. Well, not this year. As of this morning the pond is up above the outlet where it flows into the adjoining marsh. Alright, now that the pond is full it can stop raining.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

On the Way Home

On the way home fromm Friday Harbor yesterday I caught this picture of Turtleback Mountain on Orcas Island with a dusting of fresh snow on its back. At this angle you can see how it got its name.
And this young seagull landed on the boat and rode along with us for a while. This is the third time that a young seagull has ridden along with us at about the same place in the last couple of weeks. I can't be absolutely certain it is the same bird but my suspicions are that it is.

Friday, January 2, 2009

First Market of 2009

Well, today was the test. Did our vegetable saving techniques work. We mulched half of the bed of carrots and harvested the rest. Here's Joel digging up carrots from under the mulch. They're just fine.
The beets had been dug up and put in a pit at the end of the row as we were running out of mulch material. And they're just fine, too. We won't have any greens for this market but the chard and kale and tenderleaf mustards look like they made it through. The existing leaves are mush but there's tentative new growth at the center of most plants. If we don't get a repeat of the cold we'll have some greens for the February market. Market is once a month through the first of April. So far the purple sprouting broccoli and overwintering cauliflower look like they have survived. Those were the plants we were most concerned about as we haven't had such cold since we started growing a serious winter garden.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year

On the first day of the new year we had our first lamb, a little black ram lamb. He and his mother are part Cotswold. He was up and nearly dried off when Joel found them this morning.

I've never made new year's resolutions, but January is a time to make plans for the upcoming year. We go through all the new flowers and vegetables in the catalogues, talk about what we want to grow more or less of this year. think about what didn't do well and whether or not the weather seemed to be a main factor in which case we'll try again, look to see what sold best or worst, etc. In the fiber department I look to see what is left in my inventory from last year and what needs to be replenished, think about what I am tired of making or my customers are tired of buying, plan for new versions of old things, like new rug designs, new hat designs, wonder if I should try and weave some cotton linen tea towels as I've had a few people ask me if I made tea towels, etc. This is a fun time because everything is possible and it takes very little work to imagine the upcoming year.

It also is a celebration of one year of this blog. I started it last January with the idea of recording a year in the life of the farm. I committed myself to a year as I wasn't sure how much I would enjoy doing it and whether or not I would keep it up, but I decided to give it a try. Well, I have enjoyed it a whole lot. I can't believe a whole year has gone by. I went back and reread some of the earliest posts and found that, well, I do repeat myself now and then. So now I have to decide if I should go one doing this, stop it altogether or try something else. If I do go on I will repeat myself. Nature repeats itself, and the new year will be a new version of the last one.