Pasture to Garden

by Azure

Since it has become clear that my mother’s blog is only for snow pictures, I thought I would document the Redmond transformation too. Theirs was a bigger job, also much more professionally done as is usually the case when Dick and JoAnne are involved. Here’s how to do it yourself.

Start with a pasture…

Borrow the the neighbor, Doug’s tractor and try to level it out as best you can. If at all possible, score some free delivered dirt from a building site down the road, as was done here.
Before (the pasture intact)

Buy as many boards as you need to make all of the boxes. Start with the first box. Keep working until all the boxes are made.

Making planter boxes

Laying the first box

Workbox building

Borrow another neighbor Joseph’s truck and haul 10+ loads of veggie mix soil from the dirt place. Shovel/rake the dirt into each box. Note that this works better if you can back the truck up to each box.

Shoveling dirt (one of 20 loads)

Boxes built and filledMore dirt

Taking a break from shoveling

Have your mother make some sandwiches and bring them out. Take a break and eat the sandwiches.

Lunch!  Thanks mom

Give your dad some raspberry starts for father’s day and seed. I used the “throw seeds out wherever and not mark where I threw them” method. Part of this may have been due to the brownie I consumed before planting.

Fathers day raspberries

Take some time off to do some side projects. The shop needed to be painted and the pond needed to be fixed up.

Pulling pond weedsfinishing touches
The pond after pulling weeds

Also, haul horse manure from the neighbor’s pasture for fertilizer. Check out how many worms there are!!! Meanwhile, Dorothy is always around surveying the scene.

Wheeling manure

Transporting manure

Worms!Dorothy surveys the scene

Check in on the plants. Whoa!!! How did that happen? No, seriously, how did it grow so fast? My plants at Little Home were barely sprouting.

Kale and Chard, the proudest of the greens

boxes in bloomveggies

Fix up the gourds and then decide that you want your garden to look like a magazine. Proceed to the local sod dealer and buy enough to sod the entire garden. The perfect birthday gift for JoAnne. But first, more dirt to level the sod. A job worth doing is a job worth doing right.

Laying dirt
Dick taking a break, Walley wants to play

Making room for the gourdsSod piles

Sod layed

Oh, and just one more thing…Let’s make a patio down there, so we can eat next to the garden. Also, a great place for the future greenhouse.

JoAnne laying bricks

leveling the patioDick lays bricks

Finished patio

Then, invite your friends over to do the weeding. If they happen to lay down in the grass while doing so, bring them a cold drink.

Aviva taking a break from working

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Harvest Party

by Azure

Mini harvest party
Autsy moniters the burnpileBurnpileharvest fun

For the harvest, we decided to have a dinner out on the patio in conjunction with the end of the season clean up burn pile. Our goal all along was to create a place to eat where we could just walk over and pick the ingredients. Our first test run went great. We invited our friends, Nicole, Nic and Autsy to join in the festivities, since they helped us so much with the wood splitting and stacking.

We brought down the barbecue and set it up, so that Mike could make a harvest stew. It had potatoes, carrots, onions, rutabega and lots of Kale in it. We also had a garden salad and salmon with herbs (salmon not from the garden).

Martha Stewa--I mean JoAnne DeMeules surveying her work

As always, my mother had it looking just like a Martha Stewart magazine. Somewhere she had found items that could be used as glassy baby holders that she placed around the garden and put the remainder on the table. As it got dark, canles were placed on all of the fence posts and the fire illuminated the table enough for us to see and eat in the dark.

Garden at night
pretty pasture

Before we could eat, we harvested the potatoes, the rutabega and the kale. Everyone took part.

Harvesting for dinner

Even Walley helped. He was there just in case there was something left over.

harvesting potatoes.  Walley will take the bad onesPotatoes

Let’s eat!

Mike and Mom

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Garden Update!

by Azure

I just thought a quick photo update post was in order.

delicatafun times

sproutsstarts
I started my sprouts in a timely manner. It was exciting to see them peeking through the dirt and I got a chance to see them grow up close. They were happy in the stairwell, it was warm and sunny most of the day in there.

Seedsstarts beans

I got the seeds in the dirt a little late. I seeded lettuce, kale, chard, rainbow carrots, 4 kinds of beet, cabbage, mache, and bush beans.

MikeMike's rare planting photo
I also left the camera under the sprinkler for about an hour. A few foggy shots and it dried out and has worked fine ever since. Canons are really built tough. I got Mike to help me plant a few starts. I had 16 tomatoes, delicata squash, broccoli and starts from the cabbage family. None did very well except the tomatoes and broccoli.

All in all, it was a good year. Maybe not as good as last year, but with so many more projects, i was glad to get anything in the ground. Next year I will plan better and grow some things that we eat a lot — summer squash, better delicata, more organized lettuce and curly kale!

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Autsy & Bandit (A story about chickens)

by Azure

cute butts

This year we decided to get some city chickens. The decision to do this wasn’t particularly difficult or well thought out, but since I have been pressuring my parents to get some, we thought we could pick up a few in the process. My parents’ neighbor, Tim was raising some chicks for himself and said he would throw in an extra six, three for my parents and three for us. While we waited for the chicks to get old enough to bring to the city, we got ready. My dad built the coop in Redmond and brought it to Seattle and we built the rest in the yard.

before the runinside the coop
(Photos: The inside of the coop and the coop before the run) Of course the coop matches the house!

coop and runcoop building
Dick checking and rechecking the wires
(Photos: The coop and the run finished, Building the sides and top, My dad checking and rechecking the wires)

We finished the coop and the run and got news that the chicks were ready to be picked up. We went in to Redmond two days later and found out that they had been eaten by an Opossum!!! It had gotten into the cage and eaten many of the chicks before Tim was able to stop it. Time felt bad about it and so he said we could have two of his grown chickens. We went to his house and watched the grown chickens for a while. We decided on a pretty red one who kept trying to lay down and a white one who was the friendliest of the group.

proud chickens
(Photo: Proud chickens)

Autsy had claimed one of the chickens, since she was living with us quite often over the summer. She decided to name hers “Autsy” after herself. Later, when we would tell people the chickens’ names, people would take offense to the fact that we would name a chicken Autsy until we explained that she had named it herself. The other one, Bandit was named by our friend Ben, who came over and declared it one day and it stuck. When we got the chickens, we decided to name the sleepy one Autsy, since she also enjoys a good lay down.

Autsy!
(Photo: Autsy!)

As time went on, they got settled into their new home, they were both laying an egg a day and all was well at Little Home. After about a month or so, Autsy started losing her feathers. She went from the dominant aggressive one to the shy gross one. I think she was embarassed because she had lost many of her wing feathers and all of her butt feathers and had stopped laying eggs. (out of respect for Autsy, no photos were taken at this time)

To be nice, we started letting the ladies out in the garden. They soon took advantage of our generosity and were rooting around in the vegetables any chance they had. They soon got very comfortable being out and when asked to go back in, they would sometimes refuse. We would have to chase them around the yard just to get them to go back inside.

bad bandit!
(Photo: Bad Bandit! In the carrots)

As time went on, Autsy started growing back her pretty coat and finally, around October, she looked so pretty again. Her butt feathers were full and soft and she was the dominant lady once more. Eventually, around the beginning of October, Bandit stopped laying eggs too! We decided that it was a light problem, so we put a light in their coop. Nothing. At this point we made the assumption that both ladies had just gone through menopause and were done laying.

Not knowing what to do with chickens that did not lay eggs, I started to weigh my options. I didn’t know if I had it in me to eat them, but I tried hard to convince myself that meat was meat and if they weren’t going to lay eggs, then I had to use them for something else.

Instead, they got more pet like. I would let them out in the yard when I would leave for work and put them in before it got dark at night. Mike and the chickens would have run ins when they would try to enter the house or poop on the front step. I just laughed at the funny little ladies. I would make idle threats, saying, when this feed is done, you’re done. Perhaps they took me seriously because one day in the third week in October, there was an egg! It turns out Autsy was back to laying again! We were getting 2 or 3 per week. Enough for us!

hiding in the carrots
(Photo: Chickens, out all day, going wherever they want!)

Then, on Halloween, I woke up to Autsy making a ruckus. She was loud enough to wake me up, so thinking there was trouble, I went out to find a huge raccoon outside the cage. Autsy was staring it down yelling at it as loud as she could. When I opened the door, the raccoon ran off, but Autsy was rattled. I told her to go back to sleep, so I could go back to sleep.

I should have listened to her. The next night, the raccoons dug under the fence and ate her, well half of her. Bandit was spared. She probably stayed in the coop and didn’t come out. I knew she was in danger, however. Once those raccoons knew there was chicken to eat, they would be back. We hearded Bandit into a cage and put her in the car to my parents’ house to live with their chickens. She didn’t like it at first. She was older than they were and a bit of a bully, but as time went on, she got more relaxed and happy there. My dad started letting them out and Bandit was the only one that would leave the run. Finally, after 3 days, she showed the other two how to forage and they’ve been happy running around the property ever since.

chickens
(Photo: Lesson learned! All three chickens rooting through the leaves)

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The first lawn to garden

Before & AfterIMG_4885
IMG_4935

by Azure

Before we left for France, I applied for another business license to start Lawns to Gardens, a business turning (duh) lawns into vegetable gardens. Our front lawn was my first test project.

First, I got the supplies in order. I solicited the help of uncle Ron and cousin Adam to get some nice three way dirt (compost, sand, peet) in Island Truck. They dropped it off and Ron did a great job parking island truck sideways on the parking strip because it lacks, among other things, a parking brake. This way it wouldn’t roll down the hill AND I could access the dirt easily, wheeling it right into the front yard.

Next, I went to Dunn and got some boards. I had measured the space and decided how big to make the beds and paths. I fit all the boards in the back of the corolla and was on my way.

The neighbor next door, Paul always loans me tools for my various projects. He gave me a bigger hammer and a nice two wheeled wheel barrel for moving the dirt.

IMG_4893
IMG_4892

I spent the first hour putting together the beds. I decided to nail them together instead of screwing them, but inside to its adjacent end, so the weight of the dirt wouldn’t put too much pressure on any of the joints.

After they were all constructed, I laid them out, measured and remeasured and realized that my drawing was a little unrealistic. I couldn’t walk comfortably down the paths, so I had to cut out my fence bed and decided to put it in the back yard. The three beds fit nicely and I straightened them before filling them with dirt.

Once filled, I transplanted a dying rosemary bush, an onion set that I will separate later and a peppermint plant. I know I shouldn’t leave a mint plant in a nice bed all to itself. Most likely, it will try to take over, but I am planning to move it to the back when I get the beds ready.

IMG_4895IMG_4905
IMG_4907

DAY 2

The second day, I moved to the backyard. There was a bed back there with some rotting stairs and the soil was mostly gravel. Nothing grew there except some strawberries that the rodents always ate and some kale that took over a year to grow. I decided to rip out the stairs and flatten it, adding more of the good soil above.

I invited a friend over for a while, but after a howling spree, I had to take her back home.

IMG_4917
IMG_4924
IMG_4933

The next thing I did was paint the boxes. I thought I would leave them natural wood, but after seeing them like that, they seemed out of place with everything else being painted. Mike suggested lavender, since it is my new favorite color and the best color for accents that we saw in France. Also, Lawns to Gardens colors were going to be green and lavender, so it is sort of a reminder to keep up with that business.

After I had painted a couple boxes, my parents came over. My dad said it was ugly, but my mom liked it. We decided that if I painted the door lavender too it might look better. So I did.

IMG_4938IMG_4937

Day 2 doesn’t sound as tough, but it was. I had to take a whole truck load of dirt from the front yard to the back yard. I only had one over-turned wheel barrel all day!

Next step…planting. I think it will have to be done later because boat detailing is picking up too much.

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Calendar games

Penninsula Valdes, Argentina
Click here for the large size.
(everything quoted is stolen from Wikipedia)

This is just fascinating…

“The Gregorian Calendar was devised both because the Julian Calendar year was slightly too long, causing the vernal equinox to slowly drift backwards in the calendar year, and because the lunar calendar… had grown conspicuously in error as well….”

The old (Julian) calendar made the year 365.25 days long (a leap year every 4 years) but the Gregorian calendar adjusted this with the following rule: years that are multiples of 100 are not leap years, unless the year is a multiple of 400. We lived through the only exception of this 799.99-year stretch on February 29, 2000. There was no February 29, 1900 nor will there be in 2100.

The calendar change basically took a system of constant correction and turned it into a system of MOSTLY constant correction – instead of the Julian calendar’s 100 leap days per 400 years, we now have 97 leap days per 400 years. “This gives an average year length of exactly 365.2425 days – or 365 days, 5 hours, 49 minutes and 12 seconds” over the course of the 400-year Gregorian cycle.

Graph of the winter solstice

Check this graph. It shows how the date relates to the actual physical point in the earth’s year and how the Gregorian calendar corrects for the error. “For instance, these corrections cause 23 December 1903 to be the latest December solstice, and 20 December 2096 to be the earliest solstice — 2.25 days of variation compared with the seasonal event.”

So… how do you correct a calendar?

“The last day of the Julian calendar was Thursday October 4, 1582 and this was followed by the first day of the Gregorian calendar, Friday October 15, 1582 (the cycle of weekdays was not affected).” [wiki]

In other words, in the official Roman-Catholic series of dates, there is no October 5-14th, 1582! Few countries immediately adopted the calendar switch, though, so in every country/culture that’s made the change, there is a 10-day chunk of dates missing. The latest switch was Greece: Thursday, March 1 was preceded by Wednesday, February 15 — 1923! When talking/writing about any dates between October 1582 & the present, one has to take into account which calendar was being used in the region at the time. Shakespeare and Cervantes died on the same date but they died 10 days apart.

“George Washington was born on 11 February in the Julian Calendar, but his birthday is now celebrated on 22 February in Gregorian even though he himself continued to celebrate his birthday on February 11.”

Further, different countries/cultures counted the year as beginning from a different date. Up until 1752, for instance, Britain (and the East Coast of North America) started their new year on March 25th. Theoretically, if I understand this right, January 25, 1650 in London was the same actual day as February 5, 1651 in Barcelona & Rome.

One way to straighten this out is the Julian Day Number:

“The Julian day number (JDN) is the integer number of days that have elapsed since the initial epoch defined as noon Universal Time (UT) Monday, January 1, 4713 BC in the proleptic Julian calendar. That noon-to-noon day is counted as Julian day 0. Thus the multiples of 7 are Mondays. Negative values can also be used, although those predate all recorded history.

“Now, at 21:56, Sunday January 4, 2009 (UTC) the Julian day number is 2454836.” [wiki]

It was a Thursday 55,013 days ago.

This got me thinking about weekdays – if we just shifted the date by 10 days but we left the day of the week alone, then the week is pretty arbitrary, isn’t it?

Various sources point to the seven day week originating in ancient Babylonia or Sumer, with the planetary week originating in Hellenistic Egypt. It has been suggested that a seven day week might be much older, deriving from early human observation that there are seven celestial objects (the five visible planets plus the Sun and the Moon) which move in the night sky relative to the fixed stars.”

Though this explanation seems to make the most sense to me:
“Seven days is also the approximate time between the principal phases of the Moon (new, first half, full, last half)”

“The seven day week is known to have been unbroken for almost two millennia via the Alexandrian, Julian, and Gregorian calendars. The date of Easter Sunday can be traced back through numerous computistic tables to an Ethiopic copy of an early Alexandrian table beginning with the Easter of 311…. Only one Roman date with an associated day of the week exists from the first century and it agrees with the modern sequence, if properly interpreted.” [wiki]

Unbroken for TWO MILLENNIA! I don’t know what’s more amazing – that our string of weekdays is unbroken or that our string of dates is. Both facts are hard to wrap my mind around.


Leap Seconds. Seriously. I think I just felt one.

(Due to tidal stuff,) “There exists a torque between the Earth and the Moon. This accelerates the Moon in its orbit, and decelerates the rotation of the Earth.

“So the result is that the mean solar day, which is nominally 86400 seconds long, is actually getting longer when measured with stable atomic clocks. The small difference accumulates every day, which leads to an increasing difference between our clock time and Atomic Time. This makes it necessary to insert a leap second at irregular intervals.” [wiki]

“Historically, leap seconds have been inserted about every 18 months. However, the Earth’s rotation rate is unpredictable in the long term, so it is not possible to predict the need for them more than six months in advance. Between January 1972 and December 2005, the IERS gave instructions to insert a leap second on 23 occasions. The interval between January 1, 1999 and December 31, 2005 was the longest period without a leap second since the system was introduced.” [wiki]

When a leap second is introduced, official clocks read 23:59:60. That extra beat delays the start of the next day by one second. Leap seconds are introduced at the exact same instant, without regard to timezone.

Back to the tidal stuff. So the earth is slowing and the moon is accelerating:

“If other effects were ignored, tidal acceleration would continue until the rotational period of the Earth matched the orbital period of the Moon. At that time, the Moon would always be overhead of a single fixed place on Earth.” [wiki]

Are you kidding me??

“However…. the slowdown to a month-long day would still not have been completed by 4.5 billion years from now when the Sun will evolve into a red giant and likely destroy both the Earth and Moon.”

I love the word “likely” in that last sentence.

“This [moon-slows-the-earth’s-rotation] mechanism has been working for 4.5 billion years, since oceans first formed on the Earth. There is geological and paleontological evidence that the Earth rotated faster and that the Moon was closer to the Earth in the remote past. Tidal rhythmites are alternating layers of sand and silt laid down offshore from estuaries having great tidal flows. Daily, monthly and seasonal cycles can be found in the deposits. This geological record is consistent with these conditions 620 million years ago: the day was 21.9±0.4 hours, and there were 13.1±0.1 synodic months/year and 400±7 solar days/year.”

Isn’t that such a beautiful idea? Imagine one specific day, 620 million years ago… if we had been around then, our days would only be 22 hours.

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Snow Picture

I have done something very nice

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