July Updates

You’d think, with the degree of isolation that COVID-19 has imposed on everyone, that people would tend to be more communicative rather than less.  However, strangely enough, I’ve had fewer people viewing our blog site (and this observation has been supported by another friend who has also seen a decline in people accessing his blog) and fewer people reaching out via Facebook.  Hardly anyone has phoned or texted us recently.  On the flip side, I’ve been emailing back and forth with a handful of friends on a regular basis.  So what’s up??  I dunno …

Anyways, for those who are still checking in on our blog site, I’ll post some excerpts from my emails.

July 20th, 2020

Well, the hot doldrums of summer are finally here.  Everything is so full of life, maximizing on the long days, and getting all the growing, reproducing, etc. in before the wet days of fall come around again.  We too are crazy busy.  Every year I think we will slow down a bit, but every year is much like this.  The berry crops are great – we are eating strawberries, raspberries, logan berries, and now blueberries for breakfast and supper.  Our currants (red, black, and white) put on a heavy crop, and I’ve been spending mornings making jelly and/or syrup from them (either works for us, depending on how much pectin is in the fruit).

Flowers blooming in the herb garden

Going to head to Sayward again this week … we have a bunch of stuff to pick up from the post office (including a couple of camping hammocks and a new grain mill).  We’ve still avoided Campbell River, but we will have to go sometime in August as Brennan needs his vaccinations.  I’ve actually been pretty happy not to drive into the big city … our shopping trips are always so hectic, and I’m definitely not a shopper.  I’m learning to order stuff into Sayward more.  Maybe in the end, we pay a little more for shipping than we would for gas, but I doubt that will be the case for much longer.  I can’t see gas prices going anywhere but up in the future.

Brennan giving us the “sad dog”

We had the couple who run the Salmon Coast Field Station in Echo Bay come out and visit us, along with two students from the station.  That was a fun day … we very seldom get visitors, and it’s really great when someone comes who is interested in the stuff we’ve been doing.  They have a lot of Sointula connections, and had a chuckle when I told them Brennan was a Sointula special.

July 25th, 2020

We are all so lucky to be living out on the land, close to nature!  I remember all the years I spent in the city, pounding pavement … now I go to Campbell River, and even though it is a very nice place and I like it, I’m overwhelmed within a day or so and ready to come home again.  We are especially fortunate now, during COVID times.  I can’t imagine what it would be like not to be allowed to use the parks or walk casually on the streets (although these restrictions are being gradually lifted).

Black-eyed Susan flower (Rudbeckia hirta)

How to keep the weeds down … donkeys, yes!  Or sheep, or goats, or even pigs.  We would love to have a living lawn mower/brush cutter.  The hardest work around the place is trying to keep the weeds and brush under control.  This year it’s sheep sorrel … everywhere.  Great stuff, and nice to eat, but we could feed several armies and not make a dent in our supply.  It takes over the gardens and chokes the vegetables out if you turn your back for five minutes.  Unfortunately, with all the predators we have here, livestock will not be an option until we can get a second family on the land.  I suspect that nice tender sheep or goat would be a tasty treat for the cougars and bears.  Someone needs to be on hand pretty much every day to keep them deterred … Brennan is a great bonus for this!

We have a few thistles, and no burdock, around our home.  So far, knock on wood, the thistles haven’t been too bad.  I could imagine, though, that a change in weather on a given year could give them the edge that they need.  Our raspberries and blackberries (a gentle, almost thornless variety) are trying to take over the yard.  I could see the place becoming one great briar patch if left to its own devices.

Giant thistle in the yard

Our soil is quite thin, and we are constantly adding compost and seaweed to build it up.  The winter rains are so hard on soil fertility.  Everything you’ve added during the summer gets washed out by the following spring, and you have to start all over again.  I think if we had animals, and a ready supply of manure, it would be easier.  In the meanwhile, our humanure is just sufficient to keep the plants growing.

It’s been a pretty good year for berries.  They’ve been abundant, but not exceptionally sweet (I think the lack of sun early in the summer is responsible for this).  Our blueberries and gooseberries are cropping for the first time this year!  We’ve just had our first tomato (yesterday) and our first couple of zucchinis, which we eat fresh and raw with a little salt and pepper, or some salad dressing (I like a hot peanut sauce with them).

We just cleaned up our little root cellar.  Not much left of the carrots … we had a bad carrot fly infestation, and this caused them to rot over the winter.  However, the potatoes, stored nearby, seemed to use the rotted remains of the carrots as a type of soil, and started producing little baby potatoes, totally in the absence of producing any chlorophyll.  Weird, eh?  We’ve been eating the little tubers, and they taste fine, just like new potatoes should.  It makes me wonder if potatoes are saprophytic?

Summer’s been whipping by.  Now that we have the first shed up (looks pretty good for a kit job), there are still lots of little stuff to work on … and then we get to fill it!  However, I think it will be a one-shed year in spite of my earlier optimism about getting two built.  This one took a lot more planning and effort than I thought it would, even though it is a kit.  We also need to collect a bunch more yellow cedar for the foundation posts, so we’ll probably be at that awhile this fall.  Also like to get a little fishing in, and maybe even take a deer, as our meat supply is starting to run low, and the price of meat in the stores is outrageous (and it’s probably not even that healthy for us).  Ah … the list goes on.  Life’s wonderful when you have so much to do!

Bench in the shed made from two pallets

July 27, 2020

I’m sitting here working on the computer in the middle of the day, which is a rare occurrence in the summer, except when it’s raining, or like to today, just too hot to doing anything worthwhile outside right now.  We did manage to get some work done on the garden and the compost bins this morning, so I can’t complain too much about the heat.  And yesterday we put the Awen “up on the grid” and did a good scrape job, got new zincs on, and Ken cleaned and polished the prop.  Wow … on the return trip she went like a good thing.  She always slows down a bit as the barnacles build up on the hull, but this occurs gradually and sort of creeps up on us; however, once we get her scraped, we realize how inefficient she’s become.  We should probably do it twice a year, but it’s a big job that takes the right tide and reasonable weather, so once a year it is!

We’re always on the lookout for equipment for the homestead.   However, it’s hard to find good used equipment, and harder still to find the parts to repair said equipment.  Lots of new stuff is meant to be “maintenance free”, which means it works great for a little while, then breaks and there are no replacement parts involved … our throw-away society.  I sometimes find myself wishing I could turn back time to when I was a kid, when all the old equipment we remember was very much in service.  On the other hand, we’ve made some significant gains in quite a few fields (I’m typing on a computer, which wouldn’t have existed back when I was a kid).  I’m not prepared to go back to the Stone Age, but it would be terrific if we could find a happy medium somewhere in between.

Weather and weather forecasting models … one of our favorite subjects in this time of climate change!  We make plans to do a certain activity based on the weather – for example, crossing Johnstone Strait when the westerlies are down – and by the time we get to the day, the weather forecast has completely changed.  I would say that at the moment, the forecasts are usually only good for two or three days.  Occasionally, the weather settles into a pattern, and then the forecasts might be good for a week.  I’m not sure if all of this is due to a higher degree of variability in the weather patterns as a result of climate change, or a lack of weather model updating using recently collected data, or possibly both.

It’s been a tough year for dehydrating our fruit … too cloudy and damp most of the summer for either the solar drier or getting sufficient power from our solar panels to run the electric drier.

The carrots have finally taken off, although there are lots of bare patches in the rows where germination failed.  Peas are cropping now, but beans are still slow.  The corn is just above knee height, and starting to tassle out, which is strange, as last year it was over my head when it formed tassles.  Does that mean we will get mini corn cobs?  Time will tell …

We made a trip into Sayward four days ago to get some parcels that had accumulated in the Post Office for us, one of which was our grain mill and flaker (Family Grain Mill), finally!  Spent an afternoon making cracked wheat and barley, rolled oats, and a little bit of wheat flour.  This unit has both an electric motor and a hand crank.  With all the sun right now, we were able to operate the unit off of our solar panels, but I think in the winter we will need to run the gen set or do the grinding by hand.  We tried some freshly flaked oatmeal for breakfast this morning, and wow!  The oats actually have a sweet taste when they’re fresh.  I’m really impressed with the system, and am looking forward to making flour, etc. from our own grains someday.

Front view of the new shed. Front rails and steps all made from beach salvage.