Tuesday, February 28, 2006

more fun with the scanner--a quiz

Who is in this photo, circa 1994? Okay, you probably have a good guess who the squinting, frizzy-haired person is on the left (I had just had a bad perm!) So I'll give one hint for the guy on the right: he's one of my all time heroes (besides The Hermit, of course).

No guesses yet? One more hint: He plays an instrument that I play. And he plays it a lot better than I do.

And the winner is...Troutgrrrl, followed by Dan, who correctly identified Sam Bush, mandolinist extraordinaire. This photo was taken at the 1994 Telluride Bluegrass Festival, where Sam is the undisputed "King of Telluride". The Hermit and I were editing the newsletter of a Minnesota bluegrass organization at the time, and we managed to get press passes to Telluride. One day we were hanging out in the press area to the side of the stage and out comes Sam. He's really nice and down-to-earth, like most of the bluegrass/acoustic musicians I've met. We even got to do an interview with him, where I think I managed to articulate a somewhat intelligent-sounding question about where the style of music was going. But really all I could think was "I'm sitting here talking with Sam Bush!" I wish I'd had my mandolin with me so I could have had him play it, but then I wouldn't have wanted to change strings ever again.

scanner test

Calvin is home sick today, one of those not-so-pretty stomach bugs, so while he was resting and Mr. Attitude was playing video games I decided to try setting up the scanner. We've had it for a few years but it's been in storage since the last move. As always, it was a longer job than anticipated, but here's the initial test:

This is a barred owl that came to visit at another place we called home for a while. This owl perched in the same tree, same branch, on and off for about two weeks in late February or early March, allowing me to set up the tripod and telephoto lens for a nice portrait.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

waiting for January to return

Usually January is the low point of the winter; weeks of below zero weather are common, accompanied by blizzards. But this year we have had a reversal of sorts; January was the warmest on record, with some days of highs in the 40's. I was hoping that meant we were out of the woods as far as cold weather was concerned. Normally once it gets beyond mid February the chances of bitter cold weather all but disappear. However, mid February came and went, bringing with it some of the coldest nights of the year so far, and the temps have not gone up. I'm longing for the balmy days of January.

I haven't even been out cross country skiing yet. I was hoping to get the kids out some this year, but I like skiing best when temperatures are in the mid to upper 20's, not too chilly. Weekend days the high temps have hovered around 15 and it's been windy more often than not. Besides that, I can't find my ski wax. I know, excuses, excuses.

I don't even know where I'm going with this post. Winter blahs I guess. Maybe it's time for something completely outrageous, like skijoring behind Togo. Skijoring is like dogsledding with skis instead of a sled. I imagine it would be something like waterskiing, which I used to do, but without the nice, forgiving water waiting when you fall. Then again, maybe I won't.

Update: I did it! And I made it home in one piece. While I had envisioned Togo taking off running down the driveway with me holding on frantically and no way to stop, it was more me shuffling along without my poles trying to discourage Togo from stopping and sniffing everything and rolling in the snow. I think he needs to get used to the feel of the harness. It ended up being a lot more work for me than I thought it would; only a couple of times was Togo actually running and pulling me. Pretty exhilarating being out, though, and it's fun to work with a dog. I hope he had a good time!

Saturday, February 25, 2006

this morning at the feeder

A white breasted nuthatch, in its usual upside down pose, eyes a black-capped chickadee waiting its turn.

A male evening grosbeak effortlessly crushes sunflower seeds.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

dances with eagles

I was going to write a long, moody post about how I've been so down lately about the state of the world we live in, the path of destruction we're on, and whether anyone can make a difference. I just finished reading Ishmael by Daniel Quinn. My review in a nutshell: this book is IMPORTANT. Of course for many of you who hang out here and other related blogs, the message it contains will be familiar, but it's the thought process and development of that message that makes this book convincing. I liked that it did not conclude with a sense of gloom and doom and powerlessness, but rather a message of hope: there is another path we can take, and it's not too late. Up with the Leavers!

But when human society gets me down, I look to nature for solace. Where I live, that means I don't have to look too far. Sometimes it even finds me as I am on my way from one place to another. For the past few days, eagles and ravens have been hanging around a road killed deer. I saw this one two days ago on my way home:

I'm pretty sure this is the same one I saw again this morning, looking majestic in the sunlight.

It took flight after this photo was taken, and as I was trying to follow its flight on my camera screen, another eagle, a juvenile, appeared.

I wonder how things look from their point of view.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

the latest musical addition

As if two guitars, mandolin, bouzouki, flute, fiddle, various whistles, and small drums were not enough, we now have a keyboard in the house. Starflower began taking lessons two weeks ago, so we got my keyboard out of storage and somehow managed to make room for it.

I took a few piano lessons when I was a preteenager, and I could still probably play an acceptable tune or two, but somehow I never caught on to it like I did with flute or stringed instruments. It did teach me the fundamentals of music theory, however, and I still think piano is one of the best instruments for learning the basics. Although Starflower just had her second lesson yesterday, and this picture was taken last night while she was practicing, I can tell she has a sense of rhythm and she was doing a good job of playing simple melodies.

You would think, with all of the instruments in the house, that this place would be alive with music every evening and the TV and video games would be silent. Alas, it has not been that way this weekend. I'm in somewhat of a musical rut lately; I need some inspiration, something to get me going again. Or maybe I just need a swift kick: "Quit making excuses, get out an instrument, and PLAY IT!"

goldfinch update and notes on Sibley

About a month ago I posted about an unusually yellow goldfinch that had been hanging around my feeder. I did not see that particular goldfinch this weekend, but I did find out more about what causes bright yellow colors in goldfinches, courtesy of the Minnesota Birding Network listserv. Someone else asked about the same thing, and this was the response:
The brightness of plumage for the American Goldfinch is an indicator of the
amount of carotenoids the bird ingests during the molting period. A friend
of mine, who works with AMGO and their carotenoid pigments, suggested that
the bird may have ingested a larger amount of carotenoids during the molting
period (vs. his flock mates). Maybe the reason he is so yellow is because
he is an "aggressive" bird and able to outcompete his buddies. Another
possible argument is that he may have lived in a different area during his
molt where the foraging was better. Hope this helps.
So the yellow guy may be a superfinch.

I was perusing through my new copy of The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Eastern North America last night, and while I like the format overall and the amount of information given for a small, pocket-size guide, I came across a couple of statements that I questioned. About the Great Blue Heron: "Nests in colonies in dead trees..." I have seen several great blue heron nesting colonies, and the trees they are in were all very much alive. Sometimes the nesting activity of the herons, and the accumulation of waste, ends up killing the trees, but I have seen one particular colony at least once a year since 1971, and very few trees have been lost.

The other statement, on the immediately preceding page, regarding the American Bittern: "Uncommon in marshes, where it hides among grasses and reeds, its cryptic plumage blending in with the vegetation." I once believed that bitterns were so secretive that I had little chance of ever seeing one. That is, until I encountered this brazen bittern last summer.

Despite these discrepancies, I think Sibley's guide clarifies some things that my 20 year old Petersen's and 35 year old Birds of North America failed to. For example, I was mystified by the woo-woo-woo sound produced by the wingbeats of one bird here in the spring, and neither of my books offered much help. Sibley clearly identified it as a Wilson's snipe, which must be a relatively new name for that species.

I'm hoping to get out in the marshes and woods more this spring and identify more of the species that are no doubt here, but which I have not taken the time to see or hear.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Deb goes to the mall...

He tricked me, I tell ya.

The urge to drive to Duluth hit yesterday. It seemed like a better option than all of us staying inside all day, and we wanted a few things from Evil Sam's. The Hermit also had a pair of sunglasses that needed fixing, and the store where he purchased them has a nice lifetime warranty. It also happens to be in a shopping mall.

I don't do shopping malls anymore. I have little need to expose myself and my kids to the crass consumerism, the "shopping as pastime" aspect of it. I admit I enjoyed malls as a teenager, and even worked in one for a while. But that part of my life is undeniably over, and I don't think I had set foot inside a shopping mall for several years.

But this shopping mall happens to have a major chain bookstore that I like. I like small, independent bookstores better, but they are becoming a rare commodity these days what with online bookstores and all. (I'm not mentioning names because that leads to hits from people searching for the names, and free advertising for the corporations involved.) So I agreed to the condition that the kids and I would be able to spend some time browsing in the bookstore while the glasses were being fixed.

Ha! Little did I realize (and how could I realize? I don't know how this mall is laid out because I DON'T DO MALLS!) that the eyeglass shop and the bookstore are at opposite ends of the mall. The Hermit parked close to the eyeglass shop, which meant the kids and I had to walk thru the entire mall to get to the bookstore! Arrrgh! Talk about overstimulation, from one who is easily overstimulated. I remember little, except that (insert name of national chain lingerie store here) was a bad dream of Pepto Bismol pink. That, and for some reason there were $20,000 pontoon boats on display at various places in the walkways. And from everywhere in the neon lights and the mannequins in the windows I thought I could hear the faint cry: "Buy me! Come on, you deserve it. You need it. You're worth it." Maybe that's why some people find such great satisfaction hanging out in malls. It's the one place they feel like they are worth it, if they only buy this or that.

I ignored the cries and made a beeline for the bookstore, which was too crowded for my liking. Calvin immediately went to the Calvin and Hobbes collection, Starflower and Mr. Attitude browsed the kids' section, and I looked through the "Nature" section. Remembering that I had not purchased a new bird guide in about 20 years, and having heard good things about it, I picked up a copy of The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Eastern North America. I deserved it. I was worth it. When those warblers come migrating through in the spring, I'll be ready.

Luckily, The Hermit drove around to the bookstore entrance to pick us up so I did not have to endure another hike through the belly of the mall. Then it was down the hill to downtown, enjoying the spectacular view of Lake Superior along the way and fantasizing what it would be like to ride a skateboard down the steep streets. And off to my favorite stop, the beer store, then a few groceries and then headed home.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

An invitation

I would like to extend this invitation to all readers of this blog to come and spend this, the coldest weekend of the year, here at Sand Creek. You'll have to dress warm, and cover everything; with the wind chill factor added to the temperature above, any exposed flesh starts freezing almost instantly. But don't worry; it's plenty warm inside, with the wood stove and propane heater going simultaneously. You can enjoy watching Calvin playing Tony Hawk Skateboarding on the Game Cube, or watch Harry Potter movies, or maybe enjoy a little music from me, or help me plan my garden. The beer is nice and cold, all I have to do is keep it on the porch floor and it nearly freezes. Later on I'll make a pot of chili guaranteed to warm you inside and out.

The Hermit claims the temperature before sunrise, which tends to be the coldest time, was 28 below zero F. How does that compare with the rest of Minnesota? International Falls, the icebox of the north, recorded a low of 24 below. Rural Lake County, which includes the towns of Tower and Embarrass that hold the record for the coldest temp ever recorded in the lower 48 (I think it was 60 below), also bottomed out at 24. The lowest recorded temperature I could find for last night was Hibbing, northwest of Duluth on Minnesota's Iron Range, with -27. Cloquet, about 40 miles to the north, recorded a balmy 20 below. Duluth, forget it, with the lake effect they never get as cold as we do here. So it is very likely that this was the coldest spot in Minnesota this morning. As Calvin remarked, "It's so cold, when I pee it freezes before it hits the ground."

Oh, and you can also enjoy a cup of coffee or tea by the woodstove, while you watch the activity at my bird feeder.

I call this dead spruce the "Tree of Life" in winter, because on a day like today the branches are a flurry of bird activity. Note the yellow guy on the trunk.

Here he is at the broken top of the tree. This is the male Evening Grosbeak, a boreal species that we see occasionally in the winter. This morning was the first time I actually saw them come to the feeder.

And of course there are black-capped chickadees. They will likely be close to the feeder all day, as they must eat constantly to stay warm. They are hard to photograph, as they are constantly in motion, like this one.

So come on up to the Frozen North!

Friday, February 17, 2006

A fish out of water

I'm sorry I have not been a good blogger this week. Between The Hermit being out of town and my keeping up with work, school, daycare, chores, and the pursuit of warmth, and being immersed in the preparation of my first PowerPoint presentation and the accompanying talk, and going to the meeting where I presented said talk, I have not had time to breathe, let alone blog. I can relax now.

I came up with the title of this post as a reference to the nature of the meeting I attended, which was a gathering of Fisheries staff from the five area offices in our region. This happens every other year; in the alternate years we have a really big extravaganza with staff from the entire state. I am also referring to my general state of mind at such gatherings.

Not that I don't enjoy these meetings, and I think it is important to know what is going on in the organization beyond our little office, as well as interact socially with my colleagues. I have known many of these people for nearly fifteen years now, and Fisheries people in general are very down-to-earth, unpretentious types. I also didn't mind having a single hotel room, complete with thermostat, indoor plumbing, shower, and bathtub, all to myself! To feel at home, I did turn the thermostat down to about 62 at night. ;)

However, for an introvert like myself, who maybe even teeters on the far high-functioning end of the Asperger's/autism spectrum, too much social interaction becomes overwhelming after a while, and I end up needing quiet time at home (HA! No such thing!) to recharge.

Thanks to those higher up the food chain in the agency for which I work, who obviously don't think we're worthy of having a meeting at all and vetoed our first reasonably-priced venue, we ended up at a budget hotel, which was nice enough, but the meeting room for fifty plus people was only slightly larger than the total square footage of my tiny house. We were packed in, as one former flight attendant put it, "Like economy class passengers on a 747 to Tokyo".

My presentation went well. Despite my introverted nature, I have never had a problem with public speaking, probably thanks to my experience playing music for an audience. And, watching the other speakers, I realized everyone is far from perfect at it.

By after lunch on the second day, I had had enough. Packed in the tiny room, I felt fatigued, and my eyes hurt. Perhaps that was due to the heavy perfume worn by the person behind me; I am somewhat sensitive to fragrances. After the meeting concluded, and the hour-long ride back to the office (luckily I didn't have to drive), I had to pick Starflower up from her Girl Scout meeting, go home, then return to the school in the evening for parent-teacher conferences. Were it not for the lasagna The Hermit had ready when I got home the first time, I don't know if I would have been able to endure more interaction. As it was, I think all I did was nod and smile as Calvin's and Starflower's teachers praised their excellent work and their personalities. (I'm so proud of them!) When we got home, finally, I could only dive under the comforter with a cool washcloth over my eyes.

We got our high speed internet hooked up at home, and I'm likely to be spending a lot of time indoors this weekend as the temperatures dip down lower than they've been all winter, so I'll hopefully catch up on blogging!

Sunday, February 12, 2006

this is what makes it all worthwhile

another weekend in paradise

I normally try to steer away from bitter sarcasm here and look on the bright side, but it's been one of those mornings. The Hermit is away for a few days, taking a long-overdue trip to visit his parents. There's plenty of dry, split firewood ready to go, no problem with that. Yesterday the kids and I went to the storage shed and into town for a few errands, then I went to Fred and Missy's to drop off some eggs. I just happened to get there when they were cooking dinner, so they invited us to stay, and we had a great time as always.

I was too tired to start a fire when we got home, so I thought no problem, that's what the propane heater is for. I turned it on medium heat to get the house warmed up for the night. I fell asleep reading Ishmael while Calvin and Starflower stayed up for their usual Saturday night Red Green show. When I came out to turn off lights at about 11:30, they were both asleep under blankets on the couch, and the propane stove was...out. Ran out of fuel. I was still too groggy to start a fire then, much less stay awake long enough to ensure it was burning well. The house was still fairly warm, so I thought maybe we'd make it all huddled together under the big down comforter, then I'd get up early and tackle the fire building process.

I made a mistake in assuming there was enough suitable kindling lying around. There wasn't, and I wasted about half an hour and several matches trying to get something going with too-thick, too-damp wood. The other mistake was in assuming we had a tool lying around that I could handle splitting kindling with; a seven pound splitting maul might work for a 6 foot tall man who's used to splitting wood, but I felt like I was trying to shell peanuts with a bowling ball. I also had the perfectly rational fear that I would end up severing a digit and never being able to play a musical instrument again. Despair set in, and I may have shouted an expletive or two. Or three.

I called The Hermit, who seemed somewhat incredulous that I could not handle such a simple task as splitting kindling. I probably was not nice; it was 50 degrees in the house and I had not had my morning coffee. I ended up saying "Never mind, I'll figure something out." As I was trying once again to maneuver the Splitting Maul of Doom, I saw the neighbor from across the road coming over. The Hermit had called him, and I was beginning to feel stupid about the whole thing, like I'm this helpless little wife who can't even start a fire. The neighbor was nice enough, and in about a minute split enough kindling to get me through the next couple of days. I stopped short of having him start the fire for me; with the proper kindling, even I can do that.

The Hermit had also called the owner of the gas station where we get our propane, and explained the situation. Even though it was 8 AM on a Sunday, and the station isn't even open on Sundays, he came and delivered a 100 pound LP tank, hooked it up, and even got the pilot light going in the heater. Thank goodness for people like him.

The morning wasn't over yet; I still had to feed and water the horses, battle ferocious hissing geese, and feed the Meat Chickens From Hell. I was going to maybe clean out the chicken coop a little today and put fresh hay in their nest boxes so their eggs stay clean, but I think maybe I'll just go for a walk with Togo. A long walk.

Friday, February 10, 2006

We're goin' DSL!

High speed Internet comes to the sticks! As of next Thursday, we will be hooked up to 512,000 kb/s, roughly ten times the speed we have now. This a result of a petition in the town of Bruno, four miles away, to get high speed Internet. Woo-hoo!


Thursday, February 09, 2006

the garden path, Part 2: My first garden

After college, I managed to be accepted to graduate school, complete with a research assistantship, at South Dakota State University in Brookings. My major was Wildlife & Fisheries Science. I ended up doing research on a couple of minnow species that make up a significant part of the food chain on Lake Oahe, a Missouri River reservoir. Enough about that, what I did there certainly won't change the world. But what I learned while I was there changed my world.

For the first time, I was on my own. No roommate, no dormitory social structure to report to. I was free to think for myself. I found myself hanging out at bookstores and buying titles like Mother Earth Spirituality by Ed McGaa (Eagle Man). Who ended up coming to my 26th birthday party, playing drums and singing cowboy songs. But again, I am getting ahead of the story.

I had a funky apartment, all to myself, on the ground floor of this big old house. It was basically a kitchen, a living/bedroom, and a huge closet under the stairs that led to the second floor. Orange shag carpet, at no extra cost. I loved it. Anyway, the people who shared the ground floor with me, two couples who were also studying Wildlife & Fisheries, had garden plots in the community gardens just north of town. I had just started dating The Hermit, and he suggested that I(we) get a plot too. On Memorial Day 1990, we planted. Never mind that he lived 200 miles away, and I would be doing all the work, it was just meant to be.

The soil was rich, black, and crumbly. I don't remember exactly, but I know we planted corn. And tomatoes, beans, cucumbers, whatever. I remember eating the corn most of all. At that time, I bicycled everywhere. There was just no point in driving my car, a very fuel efficient Nissan Sentra, any place that I could not ride my bike. So I found myself riding out to the garden plot in the evening, shovel and hoe in hand, to tend to the garden. My schedule that summer was that I spent one week on campus, one week 200 miles away on Lake Oahe. I spent my weekends at The Hermit's, another long drive. So I didn't have much time to tend the garden.

It was what it was. A beginning. Sometimes I find myself yearning for that fertile Dakota soil, for the sense of community I found among people tending garden plots in the same area. For my little apartment, and the 20ish sense that everything is possible.

the garden path, Part 1: the early years

With my thoughts turning to gardening and seed catalogs this time of year, I realize that growing food has gotten to be more than just a hobby for me; it's a way of life. Now that I am on land where I can sink my roots, I have settled into the cycles of the seasons so well that it comes without thinking. It's not a question of whether I will plant a garden this year, it's a question of which varieties I will plant and how they will be arranged.

How did I come to be this way? I was not a born gardener, I did not grow up on a farm. I wasn't even remotely interested in gardening until I was an adult. In the next few posts, I am going to explore and share the path that leads to my garden.

You could say, at least on my mom's side of the family, I was of the first generation removed from the land. My mom grew up on a farm until her teens, and although my grandpa was never a full time farmer, they had a garden and a cow. But I grew up in the suburbs, with a back yard just big enough to play a very limited game of wiffle ball. We had a few flowers growing in beds next to the house, and raspberry bushes, which provided a good quick snack during those ball games. When gardening became somewhat popular in the 1970's, my dad tilled up a 6 by 15 patch in a corner of the back yard. He and my mom would plant tomatoes, cucumbers, and green peppers from plants bought at K mart. One year we planted sunflowers and ended up with some giant plants over ten feet tall.

My grandparents had a small garden too, at their lake place where I spent many weekends. They grew tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, radishes, and green beans, the usual Minnesota garden fare. I remember my grandma canning tomatoes and applesauce, and she made the best dill pickles. Later on, after I was married and had a house and garden of my own, I would learn the basics of canning from her. But that's getting ahead of the story.

So I grew up with a little exposure to growing things, although I was never particularly interested in helping out or having my own garden. I was in 4-H, but my projects stayed far away from any livestock or horticulture. I was into rock collecting, photography, and sewing.

Later on in college, I would major in biology. I wanted a work study job in the biology department, but the only job available was in the greenhouse, watering and repotting plants. I was not specializing in botany, but it was kind of fun being in there among the tropical plants in the cold days of winter. Looking back, the college should have been starting vegetables and growing salad greens for the cafeteria, which I hear it has started to do now, but such ideas were uncommon in the mid 80's. I certainly did not have any such innovative notions; I did not even know what I was going to do with my biology degree after graduation until the second semester of my senior year. I guess you could say I kind of drifted aimlessly through college.

What I did not know was that one year after I graduated from college, I would be planting my first vegetable garden, sowing the seeds for the future. But that will be the next installment.

Monday, February 06, 2006

old house

I wonder what stories this house has to tell.

I pass by this abandoned house just about every day. It sits there, its empty windows gazing into the sunrise, brush growing all around. I can't tell how many years it has been empty, but it looks like it was a nice, cozy house in its day.

The land around here was logged off around 1880-1900, then the cleared land was sold off mainly to immigrant farmers. The 1915 plat map, from a local history book, shows that this land was owned by a Nielsen; Scandinavian, most likely Danish, as the township of Partridge was settled by Danes. The town of Askov holds its Danish tradition proudly, even in this age of homogeneity. A note for you Prairie Home Companion fans: Garrison Keillor's brother resides in the area.

Askov used to pride itself in being the "rutabaga capital" of the state, or maybe even the nation. If you like rutabagas, they were grown here. There was a major rutabaga processing plant, right by the tracks in Askov. They still hold a Rutabaga Festival every year, although probably very few rutabagas are still grown in scattered family gardens. I don't think rutabagas are on the menu at the school or local restaurants.

The post-war policies of the USDA, coupled with the relatively low yield of the land when farmed by "modern" practices, spelled the demise of many family farms in the area. There is still a dairy farm here and there, or a beef operation, or scattered cornfield, but most of the agricultural land is in hay or pasture. Much of the land is tax forfeited, managed for timber harvest by the county, who is not really qualified to know how to do such things. Private land is generally owned by people from the cities, who come up to their cabins for deer season in November.

For some reason, this little house still stands, a remembrance of a time of hope and growth in this area.

UPDATE, 2/07: The house is gone. It was torn down last summer when developers bought the land and subdivided it into ten or twenty acre hunting cabin plots. I miss it.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

hairy woodpecker

This handsome cousin of the smaller downy woodpecker is another regular visitor to my feeder. They are nearly identical in markings, but they can be told apart by size and the proportionally larger bill of the hairy. As I was trying to photograph this one, I also noticed that hairys tend to be more skittish than downys; I could not get close to the window while he was at the feeder. I have noticed occasionally at the sunflower seed feeder, the hairy woodpecker will put its bill into the seeds and sweep from side to side, scattering seeds everywhere, without appearing to take any sunflower seeds. Maybe it is looking for something else among the seeds? I don't know.

the road to Duluth

No, we don't have mountains here, although the hill directly ahead is called Spirit Mountain. The city of Duluth, population about 86,000 and the furthest inland port on the Great Lakes, is a beautiful 50 mile drive from my house.

Friday, February 03, 2006

twilight road

This is the east/west road that leads to my north/south road that leads to my home. One mile down, 3/4 mile south. Sometimes driving home, I feel like I'm way out there.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

garden plans

It's Groundhog Day, the days are getting longer, and I'm starting to think gardening. I know I won't be able to get out and dig in the dirt for at least two more months, and I should hold out at least another month before starting seeds of any type, but I'm starting to make lists, sketch little diagrams, and compare varieties.

My goals for long-term additions include adding to the two blueberry bushes I planted last year, planting raspberry and lingonberry, and one or two Haralson apple trees. I miss making applesauce, and I have not found a source for apples nearby.

Instead of planting squash in raised beds this year, and having them ramble every which way, I am going to mound up compost from the horse pasture here and there on the acre that surrounds the raised beds, and plant the squash in hills.

I would like to try sweet potatoes this year, in a covered tunnel. I have seen photos in the local newspaper of huge sweet potatoes grown nearby, so I know it can be done.

My plans for the other raised beds are as follows. Each of the raised beds is 4 x 8:

1 garlic (planted last fall, although I won't remember until spring which bed it's in!)
4 tomato (32 plants; I keep telling myself that will be enough, but I know I'll end up planting at least 2 more beds ;) )
1 broccoli/cauliflower
1 cabbage
1 greens/herbs
1 onion
1 carrot/parsnip
1 peppers (mostly jalapeno) with maybe some eggplant.
1 Daikon radish/rutabaga
1 sugar snap pea, followed by a successional planting of fall greens
2 or 3 bush beans, although that just does not seem like enough. Or maybe I'll hedge a bet and try the earliest variety of pole beans I can find in one bed.
oops...almost forgot cucumbers! And tomatilloes! And dill for the cucumbers! Better build some more beds.

Now for the task of figuring out seed orders; one catalog never has everything I want, but I hate ordering just one packet from a catalog, so I end up buying more...

I and The Bird 16

Birdstock is the theme of the latest edition of I and the Bird, hosted by the Dharma Bums. Head on over for a great lineup of peace, love, and bird blogging!

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

fun with Photoshop

(Click on images to view full size)
I finally made some time to get to know Photoshop today. These filters are fun!