Thursday, October 30, 2014

ELDERBERRY FEST 2014 -- PART 3 (HALLOWEEN ELEGANCE)



Hallie and Nick
Friday night, Hallie asked Mike to pick up a couple of pumpkins while in town so that they could carve jack-o-lanterns. Unbeknownst to her, I already had a nice one on hand. My idea was to set a chrysanthemum inside the pumpkin for a porch decoration, but after buying the pumpkin I couldn’t find a chrysanthemum. Mike brought a second pumpkin from town.
 
Nick is an artist and approaches all projects with an artist’s eye and attention to detail. Hallie suggested the designs and then Nick painstakingly transferred them to the pumpkins by hand. Together, they carved the faces. The result was ghoulishly elegant, worthy of the “Better Homes and Gardens” Halloween celebration. It’s just that – well – they aren’t going to last, you know. They took one and I kept one, and I’m afraid mine is already slowly folding into itself. It might not be available for Halloween. Oh well.

And now, our autumn celebration is over and suddenly (Egads!) it’s two months until Christmas. I really must get a move on! A silent auction mid-November pushes me quickly into Christmas projects, and somehow I just can’t get going. Last night I made a list of many possible projects. Most of it won’t happen, but putting on my “thinking cap” and listing my ideas helped me to prioritize.
 
 What about that Halloween quilt, you ask. Well, it didn’t get finished this year, but I made progress – AND -- I made six of these machine lace skeletons (from "Halloween Couture" by OESD) – one for us and for each of our families. That was good – and it was fun -- and I finished all of them! KW



Wednesday, October 29, 2014

ELDERBERRY FEST 2014 -- PART 2 (TO MAKE JELLY -- OR NOT)

  


I could tell you that we were really “into” Elderberry Fest and that jelly-making was a priority, but this year it didn’t work that way. Hallie had to work on Friday and spent the day at her laptop. Mike, Clint, and Nick tramped the farm hunting birds in the morning and were happy to bag three “huns” and a dove.

A couple of weeks ago, I began to worry that this particular weekend might not be right for Elderberry Fest for one reason or another, so Mike helped me pick the berries, and I processed and froze enough juice for two batches of jelly. I really prefer to prepare the juice ahead of time anyway. Jelly-making seems much less labor-intensive if the picking and juicing is finished in advance.

Well – I could kinda see the handwriting on the wall. The group dynamic just wasn’t moving toward picking berries and making jelly. But -- you just can’t have Elderberry Fest without making some jelly, you know, so Friday afternoon, using my thawed elderberry juice, I cooked up a batch of jelly with Nick’s assistance.
Beautiful sunrise -- Oct. 25

Saturday morning Mike and Clint drove to the valley to ride dirt bikes and were away for several hours. Hallie, Nick, and I hiked into one of the gullies to inspect the elderberry bush there. Yes, the bushes looked bedraggled, probably because of the hot, dry summer, but I pointed out sincere berry clusters and assured them that we could find enough berries to make a batch of jelly. However, upon reflection, they decided they would prefer a more relaxed weekend and opted instead to carve pumpkins.
Hallie looks for treasure

Well, I wasn’t surprised. I took the rest of my juice from the fridge and combined it with fresh apple juice (made myself from a blend of organic apples) and cooked up another batch of jelly.

Italian prunes
When Mike and Clint returned mid-afternoon, Clint took a sack and headed off across the north field where he picked prunes from the stand of trees there. What could he do with them, he wanted to know, and we decided to dry them. So, he and I pitted the prunes and had three trays in the dryer in no time.

Tomorrow – “Advanced-level Pumpkin Carving”

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

ELDERBERRY FEST -- PART 1


Orofino, Idaho -- October 22, 2014

Elderberry Fest 2014 is history. Nick and Hallie left about 11:30 a.m. Sunday (Oct. 26) and Clint an hour later. At first the house seemed all too quiet, but of course, there was plenty to do – the coffee pot to put away, the kitchen to clean, Italian prunes to finish drying, even decorations to come down. Mike and I considered leaving for town ourselves, but we decided to stay another day. (It probably had more to do with the schedule of football games than anything else.)

The week just flew by in a flurry of activity, yet last Tuesday seems a long time ago. Funny how that can be.

On Tuesday (Oct. 21), Mike took Bess and drove to the Boise area where he met a friend for a bird hunt in Oregon on Wednesday. The hunt was unsuccessful (birds are scarce this year), but he enjoyed visiting his friend and sharing dinner with son Milo and Jenny.

Nellie stayed with me, and I think she really enjoyed the one-on-one – or maybe it was just the absence of Bess. Wednesday (Oct. 22) I loaded the car with groceries and supplies and drove us to the farmhouse. I stopped on Gilbert Grade to take pictures of Orofino.

Once at the farmhouse I unloaded the car. Besides readying the house for company, I finished two aprons for Elderberry Fest – the practical kind that provide coverage. 



Of course, Nellie and I took several walks. She looked for the elusive coveys of Hungarian partridges while I carried the camera and looked for photo ops.

Thursday (Oct. 23) was the gathering day. Mike drove to the farm from Nampa, arriving in time for lunch. Son Clint came in mid-afternoon, but Nick and Hallie didn’t make it until 11:00 p.m. (We knew they would be late.) Mike and I retired at 9:30, miserably sleepy, but I awoke with a bang at 10:30 and sat by the north-facing window to watch for them. The first sign of their approach was a sweep of light across the north field -- before I could even see their headlights. 

Yes, Nick and Hallie really can come in by themselves and find their way to bed, but the fun part is watching the dogs greet them. I don’t miss it if I can help it. Hallie always brings special treats purchased at Seattle’s Mud Bay pet store, so first we have to get through the initial “what-did-you-bring-me?” moment. After finishing her treat (a pig ear), Nellie climbed the stairs three at a time to find Hallie and tell her how happy she was to see her. She was none too pleased when I insisted she go back outside to bed. 

Tomorrow: A batch of elderberry jelly


Sunday, October 19, 2014

UPDATE: CUTE LITTLE TUDOR



Daughter Hallie called yesterday. She and Nick have been so busy with their jobs and the work on their cute (but sadly out of shape) little Tudor that I haven’t heard much from her. It was good to hear her cheerful voice. We talked for half an hour or so – ironic since they’re coming next weekend for Elderberry Fest. (Such is the way of mothers and daughters.)

They’re enjoying the work on their house, she said. They had just had a consultation with a landscaper who will help them establish a rain garden. The City of Seattle encourages that with grants, I think she’s told me. I don’t know the status of that program. At any rate, the landscaper showed them how to pull the downspouts out away from the house. Hallie says they don’t plan a cistern. I suggested a rain barrel.

I'm reminded of washing dishes at the Gilbert farmhouse in my youth. We had no plumbing, remember, which means that we also had no drains. We carried the dishwater – soapy as well as rinse water – a few steps out the kitchen door to Grandma Ina’s rosebushes. (Deer love roses, but in those days we didn't see so many.) Even today, with better access to water in that place, it’s so dry that gardening is difficult. Still, I could do more with drought-tolerant plants if I would but try.

But -- I digress. Hallie took the photos here of a recent project to remove the deck from the back of their house. They’ve been saving brick – and searching for more – to reconstruct the back wall when the slider is removed. A contractor will do that work.

I guess a poorly constructed deck outside their bedroom was not what Hallie and Nick envisioned. Hallie prefers a private bedroom. The steps at the back door paralleling the deck are also roughly constructed and actually separate from the deck. 

Meanwhile, don’t open the slider and step out. KW

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

WATCHING A DOE


Looking westerly from June's field. Central Ridge in the distance.

I don’t talk much about hunting-related topics here. I know that some people don’t hold with it, but I grew up in an area where hunting wild game was (and still is) commonplace. When I was in school, much of the male student population was absent for a week when hunting season opened. The complaints of teachers and administrators were useless.

Although hunting is not my thing, I do live with someone who hunts and have come to see the other side of the issue. A wise hunter, I have learned, cares about conservation.

Deer season opened last Friday (Oct. 10), and Mike has yet to bag one despite the fact that the deer cavort freely in the open fields, gleefully waving their white tails at him. Beautiful as they may be, the deer are not my friends. I have struggled to establish a few trees and bushes which are constantly nibbled to death unless firmly protected in wire cages. The bucks will also rub the bark off even a small tree. And that’s not saying anything about the economic impact caused by their devouring the crops. Their numbers seem to be ever-increasing, and they are a nuisance. Furthermore, they are not afraid of us and seem to be gaining the upper hand.

But yes, they have their appeal. Yesterday afternoon Mike went out with his rifle to hide in some bushes and watch for a likely target. Meanwhile, the house seemed chilly, and I decided some baking would be just the thing to create a little warmth. As I worked in the kitchen, I noticed a young doe cross the lane from June’s to the north field.

When next I spied the doe, she was in the middle of the open field, having such a good time all by herself. She sat right down in the stubble and kept shaking her head, twitching her ears, and lazily cleaning her back. Then she stretched out for a nap, apparently oblivious to the fact that it’s hunting season. Maybe she sensed that the weather would soon change. Whatever, she appeared to think it an idyllic afternoon, and I hoped Mike hadn’t seen her.

Mike was out north someplace, but when he ambled up, he said he was unaware of the doe in the north field. I had to point her out as she was well-camouflaged in the dirt. Mike watched her for a while but eventually determined she was not only pretty far out but fairly small.

The pictures here I took of a small doe we encountered on our walk the other day. She was curious -- they are you know – and not the least intimidated. She paused a long time, allowing me to come closer and photograph her. She might be the same doe with whom I had a close encounter last month. She might be the same doe that lounged in the field. KW