Monday, December 28, 2015

Fall Farm Chores and Family Festivities in Seattle

As I write this post, I am sitting on a ferry boat headed to the mainland, today is the shortest day of the year (always a nice turning point), Christmas will be here very soon, I will head off for another little adventure in Mexico right after that, and life is, as always, full of change and excitement and beauty. But of course these blog posts are looking back at recent events and in this case the post is covering early October to late November, a fairly long period filled with putting the garden to bed for the winter, a new baby for my friends, a lot of work, some solid progress on my cabin and some family time in Seattle. I know I said the last post was going to be the final in the 'quick and dirty' series catching up and that I'd write more on this one, but I'm going to renege on that promise, sorry for that, I'm just too busy right now but still want to get the blog back into current times, so this is the best way. I hope you still enjoy it, so thanks for reading and checking out my photos!

Me running the pump panel at fire drill. The Darley is an older fire engine, but she still gets the job done!

Jack loading up some manure into Nick's truck. We will be using this in the garden for the coming growing season.

Now that it is fall, the leaves are turning colors and the meadow is even more spectacular than usual. This is the view out the main window of my cabin, pretty nice eh?

With the growing season for the farm very much over (since we are not currently doing a winter garden) it was time to pull plants and put the farm to rest. It is a lot of work, but worth it and makes everything better for the next season.

Ellen pulling the irrigation lines.

A bald eagle in the dead top of a fir.

It's not always sunny this time of year, but it sure is amazing when it does decide to shine!

Ellen is getting ready…

A large clearing job at work. Rob the excavator operator is very good and knows just how far he can push his his machine. From this point he was able to rock it back onto the tracks and carry that entire tree up hill to the chipper.

For a few days, the sun was rising right as I was taking the ferry to work, and setting just as I was taking the ferry home. Made for some truly stunning run rises and sun sets from the water. If you look closely, you can even see Mt Baker in the distance.

While doing some tree work for a customer, they asked my boss if he wanted their old playhouse, moving it was a fun little project.

Pulling the corn.

Digging drainage ditches through the garden. It's awfully wet in the winter so by putting in temporary ditches, we can help retain the good soil structure, and get the ground dry sooner, allowing us to plant sooner in the spring.

A crane job at work, this was a dead madrona tree over a few buildings.

Installing the flooring in my cabin. I went with sheet vinyl because it's cheap, easy to install and easy to clean since I know I'll be in here with muddy boots often.

My bone collection continues to grow. and my shower in the background continues to be great. 

After doing a large project clearing trees for a new fence, Nick and we were able to take home this huge load of cherry logs for firewood.

The Jones clan checking out progress on my cabin.

It's fall/winter, and the garden is mostly asleep, but it is time to plant the garlic which stays in all winter. Here Colin and Jean are helping out.

With Nick's mower out for mechanical issues, Jack loaned us his pair of zero-turns to do a final mow on the meadow. Very nice of him and awesome mowers!

A ferry coming through the fog between Orcas and Shaw.

Cover crop in the garden beginning to sprout.

The ditches in the garden doing their job well.

And big news, Nick and Ellen returned home with their new baby Angus!

A little behind schedule, but utilizing the new firewood processing area and it's working well.

Looking out my bedroom window. It's not exactly the great plains of Africa, but it is fun to watch groups of deer walk by. (the most I've seen at once was 8)

Jack cutting down a huge rotten alder as part of clearing for a new livestock fence.

What I'm looking like these days. When I posted this photo on facebook, I captioned it “In the summer I grow vegetables, in the winter I grow beards.”

The stairs to the sleeping loft are coming along well. Made by notching 2x10s (for the bottom set) and 2x8s into fir 4x8s they are going to look awesome.

Spreading new wood chips in the chicken run. Yet another great use of all the chips we made during our clearing project.

Beams ready to sand and stain. It's kind of scary making something like this, it's a lot of cuts and one mistake and you can ruin the whole thing!

Loading wood chips at the monastery, we then spread them in the cattle run to help keep them out of the mud.

A little birdie.

Heading out with friends for a walk.

Ellen, baby Angus and Nick.

A beautiful day for a beach walk indeed.

And returning to a beautiful piece of land.

Windy weather took out some power lines and I found myself staining my stair treads by headlamp. Can't wait to put it all together!

I returned home to Seattle for a family visit, a sort of early thanksgiving.

My sister Holly came from Alaska, my brother Brian from California and sister Robin came from Montana. We drove up to our family cabin, and surprise, the power was out! It was funny coming from the power being out at my place to another place with no power, but we made it all work and had a great time!

Breaking ice off the stairs of the cabin.

A family photo at Gold Creek.

More family showed up and we met at the new Washington Ski and Snowboard Museum at Snoqualmie Pass, here is my sister Holly next to the piece about her, detailing her growing up skiing at Snoqualmie and going on to be on the US Ski Team, the World Cup circuit and two Olympics.

You can read her great blog here:

Family dinner. This cabin was a huge part of our lives growing up and it's always wonderful to have the family gather again around the table.

Back in Seattle, it sure is a different scene than my life on the islands, haha.

Dinner with my aunt and uncle, here we are tasting the wine from their vineyard.

Having family over for dinner at my parents house the next night.

With my latest Seattle visit over, it was time to drive north, board the ferry and head home to the islands. It sure was great to see everyone because it doesn't happen very often. But home calls and it's time to get back to work!

That wraps up the latest edition.  Next post will bring the year to a close, show some awesome progress on my cabin, more beautiful scenery as always, Thanksgiving, Christmas and one step closer to my vacation in Mexico which will be the post after.  

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Livin' The Good Life: Summer in the San Juans

Welcome to the third and final blog in my 'quick and dirty, finally get caught up again' series. Hopefully from here on I can actually manage to stay on top of my blogging again, because I've found a surprisingly large number of people actually DO read what I write! This post covers a fairly long period from mid-August all the way to the start of October, so enjoy and stay tuned for more to come.

I don't know why it took me so long to put a basket on my bike, but it's awesome to be able to ride across the meadow and grab veggies for dinner.

The window on my high wall above the door. It wasn't in the original plan, but I figured I ought to do something interesting in terms of framing the window and this is what I came up, the Sun Window.

Downstairs. I swear there is a method to the madness.

In the garden harvesting potatoes.

An overview of the tall wall. The Sun Window is done in fir, the paneling is pine tongue-in-groove and the tree outline on the left is birch.

Seeing orcas from the ferry boat. It doesn't happen often, but it sure is fun.

Harvesting tomatoes. We had so many it was a chore to keep up!

High on the stick during a tree removal.

The farm stand down at the ferry dock.

Nick loading up the boat to go crabbing. The bounty of the ocean is as great as that from our garden.

As we pulled finished plants out of the garden for the season, we ran them all through a chipper/shredder. First to be pulled was the peas, the first thing we planted at the start of the season.

Picking the pear tree, naturally I was climbing in it to reach the high fruit.

My boss Austen pruning a waterfront fir.

Most days I use the ferry to commute to and from work, but sometimes I get rides on other islanders personal boats which is always a nice treat, especially on a sunny day.

Morning fog on the way to work.

A fearless young buck.

Harvesting beans. Another crop we had almost too much of to handle, but one of my favorite veggies.

Nick and Ellen leading a tour of our garden for the local CSA members. It's great to be able to show people exactly where their food comes from.

While waiting for the boat to work one day I happened to catch this rainbow show.

A bard owl in a dead cedar next to my cabin.

Working with Jack. He dropped a big dead tree and here we were using a winch to pull it out of the woods towards the road so we could buck it for firewood.

Silly looking dear on the edge of our meadow. As I was cutting down trees, they literally ran over towards me to eat the fresh leaves.

One of my big projects this summer has been to clean up the treeline around the back meadow. I've been removing all the first to make it a pure big leaf maple stand. The firs are then used for woodchips, firewood and lumber.

Dinner with the Jones family.

With the garlic long out of these beds, it was time to cover crop them. Here Brendan is spreading a rye/vetch seed mix.

During my tree line clearing project I attached my GoPro camera to a chainsaw and dropped a big tree, turned out pretty cool! 

A look at a partly full CSA box, this is what we deliver weekly to members on the island.

Nick using his tractor to move a large log. This is one I removed from the edge of the meadow, and plan on chainsaw milling it to make siding for my cabin.

More tractor work, this time fence building at the monastery.

Obligatory ferry boat picture. (this is the Orcas dock)

Cleaning out the old fire station at drill one Wednesday night.

Don't turn your back on this guy! Here Jack is setting up the electric fence while Isaiah keeps watch.

Squash vines are starting to die off and reveal what they produced.

An island dinner in the community center in support of one of our local residents.

Nick showing his dad our newly completed wood processing area. Not too long ago this was a tree and brush covered slope, now it's great flat work space!

I borrowed a dump truck and chipper from work and with all the brush I've taken down over the summer we made roughly 50 yards of chips to use all over the property.

The 'blood moon' over Blind Bay.

Afternoon light in the back meadow.

Frog friend.

Going for an evening beach walk at the preserve, one of the most beautiful places on the island.

Chillin' with chickens.

My place coming along slowly but surly, at this point all the pine paneling is up and looking great! (the plywood section on the right will all be covered by other material, that is the kitchen area.)

And speaking of the chickens, it was time to clean the coop.

Annnnnnd back in the city for a visit.

I was in Seattle for a good reason though, the 30th birthday party for my friend Jon, and the baby shower for Nick and Ellen.

I stayed at a friends house, and for dinner one evening we cooked using veggtables from their little backyard garden. Yes, it is a slightly different scale than I am used to these days, but it was great fun and the ethic behind it is the same.

A wonderful dinner with friends.

And once again, with a van full of supplies and a wonderful visit with my family and my friends behind me, it was time to drive back onto the boat and head home.

Whew! I'm getting there…. Life right now is pretty busy but satisfying, there is a lot of exciting progress on my place, the new baby has been here for a while and in less than a month I take off for a few weeks in Mexico! As always, more to come.