September Perambulations

Things are finally quieting down a bit, but I’m still in catch-up mode with our blog.  So, here’s September at a glance …

September 1st, 2020

How time flies!  Here it is, the first of September, fall is rapidly on its way and summer went flashing by in a blink!

We made our first trek into Campbell River since this spring and the beginning of COVID.  We’d arranged much of our orders as curb-side pickup.  That worked great for me … I’ve never been much of a shopper, and since I have to work out the lists of goods that we need long before we head to town, it’s just as easy to pre-order everything and have it all packed up and ready for pick-up when we get there.  It’s probably quite different for people who live in the city and shop every day, but COVID has just made us more organized.  When we did have to go inside shops, it was mask and hand sanitizer territory.  Lots of people were wearing masks, which was good to see, but there were still some without.

My tomato plants are loaded with green tomatoes.  I’m not sure how ripe they will get, but I’m used to ripening them indoors in the fall, so it may be another of those kinds of years.  The corn is making cobs and the pumpkins have small green balls, but again, I’m not sure if they will ripen before the weather turns cool and wet.  The carrots have made a tremendous burst of growth, and went from sad little spindly plants to nearly inch-wide tubers in a month!  My grain plots have also done quite well … I’m busy harvesting and threshing small quantities to see how that all works out.

I sometimes find myself thinking about getting more animals for our “farm”, but a good friend wisely pointed out how much work having animals would be.  Even adding Brennan to our lives increased the complication factor by a fair bit, and he is happy (more or less) to travel with us, so we don’t have to find someone to look after him.  I miss having chickens though … they are so useful – eggs, manure, and meat.  Maybe someday I will build a coop that I feel is predator-safe, and get some anyways.  Between the electric fence and Brennan, we’ve managed to keep the bears out of the yard and gardens, and have only had the cougar break through once this spring (and then leave in a hurry once we all started yelling/barking at it).

Backyard heritage chickens eating kitchen food scraps (from Wikipedia).

We’ve been eating lots of goosefoot (pigweed), which is similar to spinach, but a bit more strongly flavored.  I’ve always liked it.  Mom used to collect the wild stuff when I was a kid, but Dad didn’t like us eating “weeds”.  I’ve always eaten it fresh when I’ve been out walking and found any, so it’s nice that it grows so well in our garden.  I planted a domestic version called “Magenta Spreen” which has now naturalized and grows pretty much everywhere.  Not only to we eat it fresh, but I’ve been drying a fair bit for the winter as well.

Weather’s been grey and wet for a couple days now, but still much drier than what Prince Rupert is getting.  I appreciate that!  I lived for 20 years in Rupert, but even then, there were times when the constant rain could get depressing.  It’s nice to see the sun!

September 9th, 2020

Caught a salmon yesterday!  A bit of a celebration for us, as this is the first one we’ve caught in the Inlet, just offshore of the cabin.  It’s also the first one I’ve caught in over 15 years.  When we lived in Rupert, I used to trade computer programming skills (working on navigation software, etc.) for sockeye salmon when the fishermen were in town, so there was never any need to go out and fish for salmon.  Down here, we’ve only caught rockfish and greenling.  However, the salmon were jumping all over the Inlet yesterday, and it was impossible to resist the temptation … I haven’t eaten fresh salmon for several years now, and it was definitely worth the effort!

The end-of-the-growing-season craziness has overtaken us.  It’s been hard to keep up with the blog and my emails.  I’d probably do the work ‘til midnight thing, but our battery banks are quite limited and I try not to do much computer work after the sun has gone down.  We’ve been hoping to eke out our current batteries until the technology improves … I’m really keen on the new experimental salt water batteries or possibly some type of hydrogen ion technology.  In the meanwhile, we’ve been trying to find some options to supplement our solar panels, especially in the winter, when we end up running the gen set quite a bit.  So … I’ve got one of the small lantern vertical axis wind turbines on order from Amazon, and should be picking that up later this month.  It’ll be an interesting experiment to see how much energy we can generate from the wind.  In the meanwhile, we’ve been bringing in the harvest, finishing up outdoor projects, and contemplating another small chimney repair … all hopefully before the rainy season hits.  I feel fortunate that we’ve had enough sunshine this year to be able to differentiate between the dry and rainy seasons … it sounds my friends up north haven’t!  Looks like Rupert broke some kind of weather record this summer …

Summer brings to mind the many past kayaking adventures Ken and I have had, and also highlights some of the current discussions we’ve been having.  We both love to kayak, but really haven’t gotten out all that much since we bought this place.  Now that we have Brennan, it’s gotten even more complex.  Do we leave him behind?  I hate the thought of leaving him in his kennel for any extended period.  How do we take him?  I’ve got a big 17’ touring ‘yak with a large rear hatch that I think would fit Brennan, but I’m not sure he would sit still for very long.  Something to try out, but I think I’ll do it in shallow water very near to home, as I have a feeling that both of us will end up wet.  Another option would be to bring along the Kipper and leave it anchored with Brennan aboard, and then kayak in the near vicinity of the boat.  We’ll work it out somehow … although I can’t see Brennan paddling his own boat (ha, ha!).

Letting a sleeping dog lie!

I had an interesting observation this year, which was supported by another friend who gardens … all our berries, although tasty enough, have been quite sharp and tangy.  It’s the first year that I felt like I needed to put a bit of sugar on the berries we’ve been serving up for dessert.  Finally, in the last couple of weeks, we’ve actually picked some truly sweet blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries.  So I’ve been thinking that the berries needed more sun to sweeten up, and it’s only been in the last little while that we’ve had sufficient sun.  Our Saskatoons were a complete disaster this year.  They didn’t even bother to fully ripen, just dried up on the tree.  I’ve never seen them do that before, and since there was more than enough moisture, I don’t think it was for lack of water.  The bush must just have decided that summer wasn’t coming and gave up.

The “Apothecary” in the sun.

Our new shed has held up to several torrential downpours and has stayed nice and dry.  There was a little seepage through some of the cedar siding, but we’ve now put on a good coat of Cetol which has fixed that up fine.  We did very well on the “reuse” of salvage … we managed to find enough wood, including some we found on one of our beach combing trips, to make a nice sized set of shelves along one wall, the railings for the deck, and a set of stairs.  I wish more salvaging was allowed … saw some pictures of a recent beach cleanup with all sorts of wonderful salvage items slated for the land fill.  Why???

We’re referring to the shed as the “Apothecary”, as I am using it as a location for drying our harvested grain, amaranth, goosefoot, and lentils.  Really looks like an old witch’s hut, with bundles of herbs hanging from the rafters.  I haven’t tried milling any buckwheat yet, although I got a goodly supply from the local miller, in addition to what I’ve been harvesting from our test plot.  Apparently, you can mill then without dehulling them … this just produces a darker flour with a higher fiber content.  We are also looking at making some kind of dehuller.  Turns out that two of the varieties of wheat that grew well for us (Emmer and black Einkorn) have hulls, and some of the barley could use a run through a dehuller as well.  We’re still in the designing and planning stages on that one!

Boat dreams …

Boat dreams … Aha!  Well, after much discussion, we’ve decided that we’re going to take a shot at the next decent MacGregor that comes up in the Vancouver Island used boat market.  We really wanted to sell our Surfer first, but it’s an old boat, and everyone wants a newer one (especially when there are so many on the market).  It’s hard to convince potential buyers that some old boats are much better that many of the new ones.  The Surfer is a great boat, but we’ve decided that sails are a must.  Fuel prices will eventually go back up, and ultimately we will see shortages and large price increases.  More to the point for us, all our fuel has to be hauled by jerry can from Sayward Junction, a 22 km round trip from the Kelsey Bay dock, so it costs money just to transport the fuel to the boat.  The Awen is good because she has two large fuel tanks, and every so often we get down south to a marina where we can fill her up, and that pretty much lasts us a year.  And of course, someday we will learn to sail her.  But in the meanwhile, we want a smaller sail boat that is beachable.  Partly this will be a “learner” boat for me, but largely we’ve come to the realization that foraging is a big part of our lifestyle and we need a suitable boat for this (unfortunately the Surfer is not), one that doesn’t use a lot of fuel and on which we can overnight for longer trips.  Originally, when we bought the place, I had some thoughts about travelling around on the forestry roads and doing some foraging trips that way, but it seems that less and less money is going into the maintenance of those roads, and this type of access is quickly going to become mostly impossible.  Water access to foraging sites seems to be the way of the future for us.  Of course, we’ve come to this decision too late to profit from the summer boat market, so we’ll just have to wait and see when a MacGregor comes up.  And what will we do with the old Surfer?  Well, maybe take the engine out and the leg off, drag her up into the woods, put a roof over her, and make her into our guest chalet.  What was that R word again … “REUSE” … (refurbish, renew?).

MacGregor 26x sailboat out having fun.