Saturday, September 29, 2012

Cha Ching! The Great CFL Experiment.

What's that sound you say?  Sounds like coins jangling in your pocket?  Nay, it's dollar bills swishing together in your wallet!

Last month, Moose completed his energy saving experiment by converting all our 25+ light bulbs in our home to the new CFLs.  We choose GE's "Trusty Edison 60W Look-a-like" version, that has a coiled CFL enclosed in frosted glass shaped like traditional bulbs we've all grown up with.  Only this bulb only uses something like 13W.   They were on sale at our one stop shop in the city, $10 bulbs for $2, so we figured we had nothing to lose for that price.

Proof was in the electric bill this month, when the total billing dropped by $45!!!  And thusly practically paying for themselves all in a single billing cycle!

Now, that's not to say we're in love with these bulbs.  About a minute after you turn them on, they flicker and emit this strange pink hue for a while, which thankfully grows brighter in a few minutes.  We do love that the 60W-ers are practically bright as the summer sunshine--you could burn your corneas when you glance in a light fixture's direction.  That will really come in handy around the end of May...when we hit our 230th day under dark grey skies!

We would love to replace them though, because of their strange flickering habit, at some point next year.  Thinking we could unload them at a garage sale, and trade up. 

Does anyone have an recommendations for energy saving light bulbs out there?

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Grape Harvest

Back in January when we moved in, the grapevines were bare and a wee bit wily.
I had read once that a grapevine will grow the height of a mature evergreen in one season.
That's almost as much as a 9 year old girl grows over the summer. :)  Thank goodness grapevines don't require a wardrobe like the kids do.
Having a 100 foot row of grapes to prune was a daunting task at first.  Especially because we never had to care for grapevines before.
We read that the ideal time to trim was in the winter, while sap production in the plant is low.  
Unfortunately, we read that in March. 
We steamrolled ahead, however, and trimmed back the recommended 90% of the cane growth.  They bled sap for days, but all turned out well.  I think we were at the end of the peak time to prune, though.  This year will aim for December or January pruning.
When trimming grapevines, we found out that the buds on the previous year's cane will sprout a new cane that produces the current year's crop.  From what we read, it is ideal to cut back all but 3 buds on a old cane, aiming for 8 inches of spacing between pruned canes, and removing the canes that will grow under the canopy.  We found a great example of this on Gurney's Seeds You Tube page.
Come late summer, this is how our vines developed. 
No irrigation required!!
"Hey, didn't i just cut all that off?"

Now we are reaping the benefits.

It is the end of September, and the black grapes have an amazing flavour!
Cookie loves them--noting that they have "a certain sweetness at first, then you get a little tang at the end!"  I believe she also has been heard saying "Mmmm, these are The. Best. Grapes. Ever!"  They seem to be getting a bit bigger as the days go by, so i have slowed our harvest of them to two or three clusters per day that average about 7oz per harvest.  The green grapes are still sour, however some of the bigger berries within the clusters have been sugary sweet.
I noticed the spiders have taken to making their webs between the canes.  So enchanting to see so many intricate marvels of nature!
One care note that i've learned this fall regards summer pruning.
When i was a kid, i remember going with my grandparent's to pick grapes in the desert farms in Florence, AZ.  I remember being under the grapevines, but i didn't remember them being shrouded in them, as one harvesting ours would be.  One reason could be our wet, rainy springs, but i also wondered if we should have pruned any leaves or canes, like you would for tomatoes.
Turns out, there are summer duties that if completed, will result in sweeter, larger berries, faster ripening, and prevention of diseases and mildews.
I found a decent video about this from Grow Organic.
What do you do with 100' of grapes, you ask?
For now, my plan is to freeze as many as humanly possible.  Cookie and i love noshing on frozen grapes in the winter.  Freezing seems to increase the sugary taste.  If you haven't frozen grapes before, it's best to clean them off well, strip them from their stalks, dry and pop them in a freezer bag , trying to expell as much air as you can while sealing the bag.  I figure after they are frozen, we can take our time figuring out if we want to make juice or jam.  :)  If we run out of freezer space, maybe we can set up a little roadside cooler and sell a few bundles. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Would You Believe Me If I Told You?

Looks like Rosie has innocently picked a nice little corner of fence to rest and possibly do a little mousing from.

The chickens say, "Ba-gawk!  What's this?"

One was elected the mediator apparently. 
Unbeknowst that her that she was the setting herself up as bait.

"Approach slowly, cluck, cluck, cluck.  Remain *Bee-GAWK* calm."

What i wouldn't give for a thought bubble over that cat's head right now!!!


Thankfully no critters were hurt in the making of this entry.
Nor soon there after. :)

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

4 Cords and 7 Months To Go...

Over the summer, Moose had four cords of wood delivered.
Our home doesn't have a central heating system.  Just a wood stove, a propane stove, and a few electric wall units that we really don't use much.  Well, with one exception: the bathroom heater--that we use alot in the dead of winter because it makes coming out of the shower much more enjoyable. :)
We're hoping this delivery, combined with the one cord we had left from January, will be enough to keep our family nice and roasty-toasty during the winter months.  Moose and i are still on the fence, wondering if paying for firewood to heat this home is cheaper than paying an electric bill over the winter months at our old house.
Funny, the things we have to think about now that we live in a little home in the country. :)

Monday, September 24, 2012

Swimmin' in Apples

Apples Near the Pond - not quite ready at the end of September
We are in full swing of apple harvest around here. 
With 12 trees producing, this will get interesting, i'm sure!
Now that i see how many apples one of our trees can produce, i will not hesitate to prune blossoms in the future, shrinking the harvest but hopefully increasing the size of the apples produced.
Apples from The Fancy Pasture...
still a little under ripe in August.
We started harvesting in late August when the apples started falling to the ground from the tree out in the nicely landscaped part of the front yard, aka The Fancy Pasture.  It was a little too soon, as most were still a little sour, even though red skinned.  Those have made the most delicious galettes!  Most of the apples that fell to the ground split open when they hit the gravel path under the tree, becoming havens for honey bees and ants.  Not the best of circumstances--note to self:  when we start planting trees on this farm, don't follow old owner's ways by planting fruit trees in "pathways"--make sure grass is under them so they have a chance at realising their potential in a pie filling, chuntey, or sauce once they fall.  We sent a majourity off for composting at the regional facility, but we were pleasantly surprised that a few people answered our free listing, picking up some for their critters' treats. :) 
One thing worth researching is how many apples can one really add to a home compost pile and still expect decent compost and not alcohol laced mud. :)
These trees at the end of our driveway are in dire need of some help.
We've talked about culling them, as they are planted in drainage pipe in gravel, poor things.
However, they've yielded a tasty McIntosh-type apple that my folks and Cookie Monster went
gaga over.
While the parentals were here the second week of September, they graciously helped start the harvest.
Pop backed his rig up to the trees and they got to work.
For the apples out of reach, Pop started shaking limbs.

Most the apples had some kind of scab or holes in them.
With recent studies linking BT spraying adding to honey bees plight, we are doubtful we'll spray our trees in the future. Needing to focus on soil health as a way of hopefully addressing the problem.
 So many apples had something wrong, that Cookie created a cheer to sing while picking, "One. Two. Three.  Say 'eww!' 1,2,3 Ewwwwwww!"
We moved on to the tree in The Fancy Pasture.

What a haul, eh?

Those marauding Stellar's Jays apparently weren't satisfied with stealing all our hazelnuts, as Pop reported that most of the beautiful ripe red apples on the upper branches had distinctive beak-like chunks taken out of them.  Baah!  I've noticed the past few weeks though hummingbirds are hanging around in the apple tree. I am glad we left the damaged apples, because it looks like they are harvesting some of the juices of those.
This tree in the chickens' pasture looks like it's almost ready to get unloaded at the end of September.  It's a very old tree...the trunk on it is enormous!
Hoping these fruits are viable.
 If not, it has made for a lovely display out of the dining room window.
This tree sports fruits that look like Asian pears.

We aren't certain what they are, because these are in a section of the pasture we haven't mowed all year. I'm too chicken to walk in there to harvest the fruits, because the rats that Rosie's been hunting down in that grass are the size of rabbits!  And frankly, that is terrifying to this city girl!
We'll have to devise a plan for keeping the grass down here so we can get to these next year.
At any rate, the biggest issue that needs addressing 'round these parts this time of year is collecting more apple recipes!!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Fraises des Bois

In our front yard, amidst the fancy landscaping near the pond are these beautiful little gems:  
fraises des bois, or Alpine Strawberries.

They are no bigger than an almond.
But oh so delectable!
Their strawberry flavour is soooo unbelievable, Cookie dubbed them with the new name 
"Japanese Candy Strawberries".

I believe these will be our new favourite strawberry...and summertime dessert. :)

Sunday, September 16, 2012

4th of July :: Small Town Style

I wanted to share with you our town's July 4th celebration.

I's a bit late.

Everyone know's after Labour Day you aren't supposed to talk about summer celebrations.
Or wear white.  Wearing white while talking about summer celebrations is really a no-no.
Good thing i'm wearing purple. :)

This was our first time to the parade.
We found out it contains everything you'd expect from a grand ol' Fourth celebration.

The parade has fire trucks,

Veteran's, who receive standing ovations and applause their whole walk down the parade route, 

ponies in saddle shoes, 

the man who caught the Green River Killer who is the incumbent in a house rep race.

Lots of political opinions,

old cars, 

and the Log Show Queen, which was completely unexpected!

Plenty of cute kids and mules.
Who can resist when they are together?

The local chapter of Kiwanis walked the parade route giving away these beautiful American flags.
We were very happy recipients of one.

Our first flag at our new house.

And in more happy holiday goodness, the city fortuitously moved the fireworks show this year into town, as a pair of nesting bald eagles were at the fairgrounds where they usually have the show.

From our balcony, we enjoyed watching the fireworks sparkle with Mt. Rainier in the background, 

sunset, & 

the moon rise over the ridge behind our little farm.

It was a lovely way to spend the first Fourth of July at our new home!