August Comes and Goes

August flew by some time ago, but here is some of our summer trivia.

August 7th, 2020

Well, it’s back to rain for a couple of days.  I have to admit that I’m OK with the dampish summer we’ve had, although the vegetables have been slow and probably the crop will be reduced.  The last couple of years with bad fire seasons were worrisome, and having lots of water in reserve has been a good thing this year!

We’ve been working on filling the new shed … pretty much had it filled before it was built (at least in our minds).  We have a metal shed and a tent that we set up when we first arrived, a very temporary arrangement, and these need serious repair, so moving stuff out of them has become a priority.  The shed kit came on two fairly nice pallets, which provided just enough material to make a nice work bench.  Some left over vinyl flooring from the cabin made a good wash-and-wear surface for the bench.  Now we are pondering whether or not we have enough salvage/leftovers to make some storage shelves.  Out here, stuff gets reused and repurposed to the max, as bringing materials in is expensive.  It’s kind of satisfying in its own way … we are not so consumer-oriented and have a smaller footprint on this overused planet of ours.

I’ve been harvesting our grain trials (barely ahead of the birds, which have also been testing out the produce).  Looks like wheat, barley, triticale, and rye are growing well here, with nice fat seed heads.  I’ll have to dry them before I can thresh them and see the quality of the seed.  Oats, for the third year, was something of a disappointment.  We’ve been trying to grow hulless oats, but they are low yield and the grains are so soft that the predating birds just pulverize the heads into flour before I can get them cut.  Our local miller doesn’t like the hulless oats either.  He claims that they don’t keep very well.  However, I have yet to find a way of dehulling oats on a small scale.  I’m not sure if I’m going to test hulled oats next year, or try a different variety of hulless ones.  We love our oatmeal, and I’d hate to give up on growing oats, but so far, the variety we’ve been testing hasn’t proved out.  I have a couple of other “ancient grain” crops planted as well … buckwheat, amaranth, and quinoa.  All of these are starting to head out, but it’s a little early yet to tell what kind of harvest we are going to have.

Types of whole grains (image from the Whole Grains Council)

Back to strange potatoes … I thought that the new little potatoes might be propagating by using up the energy stores in the old ones.  However, so many of the parent potatoes are still hard and crisp that it seems like they must be getting their energy from something else.  A little light seeps into the root cellar through a few small cracks, but not enough that the potatolets formed leaves or any signs of chlorophyll.  I did a search on the internet to see if anyone else considered potatoes to be saprophytic, but didn’t see any references to something like this happening.  So, I’m still puzzled at how these little potatoes were being formed.  We have ghost plant (aka Indian pipe, Monotropa uniflora) around here, which is saprophytic.  A very bizarre looking plant … it almost looks more like a fungus than a plant at all, and is in fact using a fungus to extract energy and nutrients from its environment.

Photograph taken of Indian Pipe in Redwood National Forest in California (from Wikipedia).

I’ll have to admit that the mess of colorless stolons and little potato buds in our root cellar did look a bit ghostly in that same strange way.  But if there was a fungus involved, I don’t know …

Aha! Here is the answer – premature daughter tuber formation characterizes the final stage of the physiological ageing of seed potatoes.

Sailboats come in a lot of different shapes and sizes.  We’re kind of peculiar in our choices, in that we haven’t been much interested in the modern, sleek, racing-style sailboat with a deep, fixed fin keel.  Rather, we’ve been looking at boats that have much greater versatility.  We selected the Awen because she had a pilothouse, which is rare on sailboats, but which is an excellent option for all-weather travel.  She also has a flat and open stern deck, useful for working on and for hauling stuff.  Her draft is shallow, for a sailboat, and she has an almost full keel (sometimes called a modified fin keel) which she can balance easily on, making haul-outs much simpler – we just lean her up against some dock pilings at a good low tide.  If she’d had a fin keel, we’d have to take her over to Campbell River for haul out, which would add a good $500+ to the cost.  We are thinking of getting a smaller sailboat, if we can ever sell our Surfer (a cabin cruiser), and we have been looking at MacGregors, particularly one which has a swing keel that can be pulled up, allowing the boat to be beached – something very useful for travel and work out here.  But at the moment, that’s still another boat dream (don’t get us started on those).

We haven’t managed to sail the Awen yet, although learning how is definitely on our bucket list.  We’ve had several friends who have offered to help, should we ever manage to arrange the time.  We had sort of hoped to do a bit more visiting and traveling this year, but with COVID, it became more sensible to get other projects underway.  Maybe next year …

The Awen coming through the narrows to home.

I sort of thought that COVID might put a bit of a nix on many peoples’ travel plans.  However, we have been feeling the pressure from the tourist season.  Unfortunately, some of the people who are travelling are apparently quite irresponsible, and this seems to be the cause of a number of the small outbreaks of COVID that we have been seeing.  Lots of people I’ve talked to are frustrated by this.  We’d been doing very well on Vancouver Island, with people moving about cautiously and taking care not to travel when sick, etc., but now there is a distinct fear of the stranger happening, especially with the news coverage on young people traveling and having parties whilst spreading COVID to everyone else.

August 13th, 2020

I made a batch of scones using some freshly milled flour … they were most excellent!  It’s hard to believe how sweet fresh milled grain tastes if all you’ve ever eaten is the stuff you buy in stores.  We managed to get another trip to Sayward in between our projects, and picked up our new grain mill.  We are very happy with it!  It makes course flour in a single grind, or if you want very fine flour, a second grind is necessary.  I’ve been using it to make cracked grain which is great added to rice or stews, or as a breakfast.  I made some pea flour a little while back.  That was a bit more work.  The peas had to be soaked for a day, then run through our meat grinder.  The course “pea grits” were parched until dry, and can be used this way to make pea soup.  But now that I had the miller, I made some pea flour as well.  This is a good addition to savory breads to add extra protein, or as a thickener in curries, etc.  The mill also does a good job at grinding flax without too much effort.  The flaker attachment for the mill is wonderful … I can make a cup of rolled oats in about a minute.  They are like the large flake oats that you can buy, but taste much better.  I’ve also flaked wheat, which is a little more work, but a tasty addition to the morning gruel.  So, all in all, we are very pleased with the purchase, even though it was a little bit expensive.

Cooking grains (image from Berkely University).