Saturday, August 25, 2012

Stocking Up for Winter... and More

My garden likes hot weather. I have barely been keeping up with zucchini, cucumbers and snow peas. We have enough snow peas and zucchini slices frozen to last several years. And also enough bread and butter pickles and dill pickles canned. However, the cucumbers are not quitting. Nor is the zucchini. So we eat lots of zucchini and cucumbers and give away plenty to obliging friends. Fortunately, I love zucchini/snow peas/onions (we have lots of onions, too) stir fried in olive oil with a little Otis Cafe Seasoning Salt on top.

I can say all that calmly and pleasantly today although on my most recent day of pickle making I was not so calm and pleasant. For one thing, I ran out of mustard seed for the bread and butters so Johnny went to the store and bought a teeny tiny bottle of mustard seed for over $5. It contained a total of 6 tablespoons, enough for only two recipes. I usually buy my spices in bulk and online from A *pound* of mustard seed from herbalcom costs $3.

Then I made the mistake of working on both types of pickles at the same time. Those precious mustard seeds were in the vinegar mixture for the b&b pickles, but somehow in my hurry I poured that mixture over the unsliced cucumbers with grape leaf, dill flower head and garlic cloves (all grown here on the farm, thank goodness) destined to be dill pickles instead of combining the mixture with the sliced cucumbers that had been sitting in their salt and ice water patiently waiting to be drained and made into b&b pickles. I caught my mistake too late. Quickly I poured the very hot and sticky mix back out of the jars but many of the mustard seeds, those expensive mustard seeds, adhered to the grape leaves and cucumbers and etc. AARGH!!

Well, there was nothing to be done but scream and rant and rage, which I could not very well do since someone had come in right then wanting to buy milk. To say I was not in a good mood is an understatement of the grossest kind.

And then there are, or were, the beets. Lots of delicious beets. Alas, the gophers thought they were good, too, and my beets starting disappearing under the ground with just their wilted leaves left on top. So I pulled all the remaining beets, cooked, sliced or diced and froze them. We'll have beets all winter.

The day after the pickle disaster, birder friends, the Woodhouses from Tillamook, came over and rescued me from my labors. We drove to Baskett Slough to look for shorebirds and attempt to identify them. We found some, identified some, but mostly I just had a good time being with friends. And not canning or freezing produce.

Shorebirds would be easier to identify, I think, if they'd keep their heads out of the water.

This Great Blue Heron that we saw near Sheridan on our way home was a more obliging photo subject. It worked hard at positioning a large fish so it could be swallowed. It finally succeeded.

Back home, when not fighting with garden produce, I've been watering the garden and newish arboretum trees or fighting back the ever-encroaching shrubbery or mowing more fields. The horses have been coming in with tarweed seeds on their faces and in their manes again, in spite of my mowing of their horse pasture, so I mowed the lower field by the well house this week. That took two days of dusty, noisy, riding around on the little garden tractor. I didn't use the Kubota that I used on the horse pasture because there are too many obstacles to be gone around with that big rig and it scares me on side hills, which the lower field has. No problem zipping up and down them on the little John Deere. Plus I have to get off frequently to move fallen branches out of the way and that's an ordeal on the much higher (and noisier) Kubota.

However, the horses respect the Kubota and stay out of my way. Not so much with the garden tractor. Well, Jessie Anne and Nightingale move when I head their way but Mr. Smith likes to play chicken. He waits until the last possible moment before I reach him to whirl and move, but only just barely out of the way. And on my next round he does it again. I refuse to slow down because that will just encourage him to hesitate longer. But it is nerve-wracking to wonder if he's going to move in time. He seems to enjoy the game as he insists on eating right at the margin of my mowing.

Today, however, my second and last day of mowing that field, the horses were in the lane when I started and I managed to get past them before Mr. Smith could saunter in front of me. I continued on to the field and they didn't join me until I was mowing an area that had little feed for them so Mr. Smith couldn't come up with an excuse to taunt me. Here they are in that field looking like innocent angels on a pre-mowing day when I had a camera instead of a tractor.

Instead of horses to contend with today, I had bees. My mower enraged three different hives, one of yellow jackets and two of bald-faced hornets. Fortunately, bees can never seem to figure out that the creature traipsing loudly and roughly over their door is my tractor. However, once antagonized, it is not safe for man or beast to walk near them in the future, so I will put them gently to sleep in the wee hours of tomorrow morning, having marked their holes today. I'm sure there are plenty more hives on our property to do whatever it is that yellow jackets and bald-faced hornets do that is important for the ecosystem.

On the same day I took the horse pictures, I took a photo of these two orange butterflies that I thought were moths. They were in what we call the lake pasture (unmowed, fenced away from our livestock, and, currently, quite dry). Thanks to, I now know these are Woodland Skippers.

On the same hike, I found a juvenile American Dipper feeding in our section of Agency Creek. I hope it decides to stay and nest here. And, as usual, many Cedar Waxwings were flycatching over the water. This one sat on the rocky shore for some time, watching for low-flying bugs. I had not noticed the pretty red marking on waxwings' backs before. This bird is just beautiful no matter the angle of view.

The reason for the trek through our property that day was to gather trail camera cards and find what walks past when we're not watching. What I found was the first bear of the year, on August 15, at 10:42 in the morning, walking past the trail camera in the lake pasture. That was just about the same time of day as I was walking that same path, gathering the camera cards, four days later... and the first time the camera has caught a bear during daylight hours.

I have not seen a bear in person yet this year, but I think I came close a few nights ago on my way to the horse barn. Our big white guardian dog was barking fiercely so I let him out to go with me and chase away any bear that might be lurking under the apple trees. About the time I got to the big apple tree, McCoy tore around behind the outhouse that's hidden behind trees and brush... and came tearing back just as fast and sat down on my foot. A crashing in the brush told me McCoy had met a bear and decided to exit as quickly as the bear was exiting in the opposite direction. So much for my dog as a protector. Well, I guess he was protecting my foot.

Nights are turning very cool now, 40 degrees the last several, with days in the 80s. The tomatoes and corn are not yet ripe. We need another couple months of summer. But the bears seem to be fattening up for winter already. We have an enormous apple crop this year. It's about time to pick pears and start canning them as they ripen. And, as soon as my order of mustard seed arrives from, I will be making more bread and butter pickles. It's that time of year.

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