Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Weather Season

I love seasons.  After 30 years of SoCal seasons - hot and dry spring, summer and fall and warm and dry winters - it's just been so much fun to have four actual seasons.  Sure, there's a lot more work involved in actually having seasons.  The summers here are the 're' season, as in repaint, repair, replant, replace, rebuild.  You work your butt off doing 're' stuff so that you're ready for the rest of the seasons.  But nothing, and I do mean nothing, beats sitting in front of the blazing pellet stove on a dark, cold and rainy winter's eve, listening to the rain on the roof, sipping something comforting and reading a good book.  Or slipping between the fleecy sheets with two blankets, a quilt and two fuzzy butt warmers (Cricket and Gem the BC) on a cold, snowy night.  Watching Pony the ancient Saddlebred buck and kick and snort and race around in the cold, frosty air, feeling his oats.  Black sheep with blankets of frost on their backs.  Cow breath blowing in clouds at the gate for the evening feed.  The sweet smell of woodsmoke on the air for the morning packwalk.  Blankets of white on the mountains.  Yeah, there's a lot of work getting ready for the fall and winter up here but it's sure worth it.

The greenhouse is slowly getting filled.  Potted peppers on the ground are still producing loads

A fine fall morning, looking east, with the 'October Glory' maples along Dawson Road entertaining the cows

THAT was a day - that little snowflake icon?  An hour later, I was doing the evening feed in the middle of a snowshower!  Didn't stick - too wet and too warm - but sure was cool to see.  Really wanted the clouds to lift to see how much white was on Green Peak but they never did

A perfect ending to a blustery day

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Crater Lake 2012

First, a warning.  If you have dial up, don't even bother to try the slideshow.  I had to leave most of these full sized just because they were too good to crop.  And, speaking of camera and pictures - this is me, with my trusty point-and-shoot Canon S100, using Adobe 7 to download, crop as needed and rename the pictures.  That's IT.  No special lens.  No talent to speak of in manipulating photos in Adobe or any other software.  The colour you see in the pictures below is EXACTLY the colour of the lake and sky, untouched in any way, shape or form.  Which is why you should go.  This one destination should be on everyone's bucket list and no better time to go than right now.  Most of the tourists are gone, the air is crisp and clean, with the rain and snow up there recently new green is popping up all over, and your window is closing rapidly.  For example, today marks one day shy of one year ago when we went to Crater Lake.  It was bone-chillingly cold and most disappointedly, foggy as all get-out.  If you go back to the blog from last October, you'll see all I could get, which wasn't much at all.  But when we pulled up to the overlook this time, it simply took my breath away.  And kept doing so every time we pulled up to an overlook.  Due to time constraints we weren't able to go around the entire lake, but next year we plan to do so via the Park Service Trolley, so someone else can do the driving.  There is also a boat tour and you can debark on Wizard Island for the day if you like, and swim in the VERY cold water if you dare.

We took the two old guys with us, just to give them a break from those young girls back at the ranch for the day.  Plus, Ho Dog would never hear of being left behind anyway.  They definitely enjoyed the treats they got at every coffee stop along the way there and back.  At one point, we had to tell the gal at the last coffee stop in Crescent to NOT feed Hoke anymore biscuits, no matter how sad eyed he looked at her.

It was a beautiful day for a long drive.  The fall colours are really ramping up over the Willamette Pass on Hwy 58, which coupled with the clean air and virtually no traffic until the construction at the Salt Creek Tunnel, made for a pleasant, relaxing trip.

Remember to click on the first picture for the slideshow and enjoy!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

First Western 'Bow of the Season

The weather for this morning's packwalk was typical fall PNW weather - rowdy.  Our first western rainbow of the season made a dramatically sudden appearance which due to the clouds and trees was just too much to resist.  Enjoy!

And Thence Returned the Rains

In spite of popular opinion, it does NOT rain all the time in the Northwest.  Matter of fact, this summer was the driest summer on record, and that record stood for 118 years.  We shattered it by I think 2 or 3 weeks.  Everything was so very dry, and the ultra fine, flour-like dust coated everything.  We watered trees we normally don't have to all summer long, and I gave up trying to control the dust coming in the house.  The cows were dingy, the barns coated, and the Gangsta Girls didn't lack for a place to take a dust bath.  Our morning packwalks were lined with trees and blackberries who's green leaves were dulled to a grey-green with dust.  And then, one magical day, the skies clouded over, the wind picked up dry leaves and flung them about as if casting a spell, and then the first few spatters hit the barn roof with a promsing ping.  By then end of that first day, we had almost 3/4" and it was still coming down.  Over the next few days, including this morning, we totaled just under 3".  The skies sparkled, the leaves were green again and already the pastures are greening up.  Cows are clean and pretty again, and the sunrises and sunsets have taken on their fall finery and present their drama to whomever is up and about to see.  Once again, the season shifts into our normal, albeit several weeks early not that I'm complaining, fall and winter cycle.  And there is no place finer to sit around the firepit in the evening with a hot fondue pot and a superb bottle of Oregon wine and listen to the rain on the roof of the gazebo and the leaves of the Norway maple than right here at the ranch.  Come, join us - plenty of wine and fondue to go around

Misty sunrise to the east as the rain squalls roll thru the Willamette Valley

Hey, what's that little umbrella doing there?  Haven't seen that in a LOOOOOONG time!

Chicken Scratch

I'm good at catching any of the Gangsta Girls.  Always have been.  Know how to catch them up gently yet prevent them from getting all crazy and scratching the crap out of me.  Until yesterday.  The Silver Laced Wyandotte had a sprig of hay sticking out of her nostril and it was bugging her, which meant it was bugging me because if you've never heard a chicken sneeze, make sure you don't have a full bladder because you'll empty it laughing.  And I have enough trouble in that department already.  So, I got her where I wanted her and scooped her up as I usually do - and I got a bit lazy and didn't really get all of her mobile body parts tucked in snugly.  She got me pretty good, but I did get the hay sprig out of her nose.  I'm thinkin' of getting a tattoo just like this, for future reference

It's Chopper Time Again

On the packwalk a few mornings ago, the first chopper flight of the season came roaring over the old red barn.  Soon, the trees will be swinging below their bellies as they fly to and from the drop zones.  It must be getting close to Christmas!

Hordes of Honeycrisp

It was time to harvest the 'Honeycrisp' apples as more were starting to fall off the tree.  You can see the final harvest total - nearly 16 pounds.  We ate easily every bit of that before harvest and probably half or more of that was on the ground as cattle treats dues to damage.  These are totally organic apples - I know I've been told for years you just can't grow apples successfully without spraying, but on our one and only dwarf tree, it seems to be working out just fine for us.  And since apples are the most chemical laden fruit you can get, I'm stickin' with mine

First 30's of the Season

Yep, looks like fall is really here!

Love the morning packwalks, especially now that it has rained - fresh, crisp and clean

Pullin' the Honey off the Hive

As I said, still playing catch up with the blog, so expect some way out of date stuff.  Like, for instance, the day we pulled the honey off our hive for the first time.  I think it was either the end of September or the beginning of October when Scotty came by one evening to smoke out the bee girls and snatch the honey super off the hive and whisk it back to his place.  Okay, not so much whisk as wait for me to get Really Big Red out of the garage and jump Old Blue, his ancient blue Chevy pickup, back to life with about a zillion not very happy bees buzzing us the entire time.  At least Scotty was wearing his bee suit.  Me, the usual shorts and T shirt.  But he got away safely and deposited all the honey supers - our one, Orin's 2 big ones (full of not very nice bee girls, unlike ours) and several of Scotty's - in his meat room back at his place, just a few miles south of us in Alpine.

  A few days later on a fine Sunday afternoon, Scotty's wife Kathy and their three great kids Rebecca, Joe and Ben put on an amazing spread for us, with pulled venison from one of the deer Scotty took and processed, wonderful potatoes from a neighbour's garden, salad from various gardens and all the rest of the fixin's.  I brought a fine Benton-Lane 2008 Pinot Noir that we all enjoyed (not the kids) plus blueberry muffins made with blueberries from both our garden and Donna's and eggs from the Gangsta Girls, of course.  Then, after we'd stuffed ourselves silly, it was time to get to work.

If you ever wondered why honey is so expensive, let me tell you why.  Four of us worked for almost 6 hours to extract about 5 gallons TOTAL of honey.  And, Dale was the lone casualty of a sting (from one of Orin's bee girls, no doubt - those girls sure have bad attitudes), which was amazing considering there was about 20,000 bees in that room.  Scotty didn't get around to turning on his big meat cooler and putting the supers in there to take care of the little bee problem he brought with him from Orin's, so we spent a lot of time using Kathy's brand new vacuum to suck them off the frames, the extractor, and basically every surface of that room they could hang on to.  We basically filled that canister on that upright to the top.  Scott promised he'd take care of that before Kathy found out but I suspect he was not sucessful in that endeavour.

Because we had the least amount of honey to extract, we did ours first.  We had to add two of Orin's frames to balance the extractor, so we picked the ones of his with the least amount of honey to use.  And then, we got started with the very messy uncapping process.  Scotty took the lead to get us started, and from then on out we took turns at this sticky and somewhat thankless job.

In the end, we got almost 4 full quarts of honey, not back for losing half the hive to a swarm early in the season.  It was odd however that we had a lot of brood in the honey super, something that won't happen next year as I will add a queen excluder to prevent her from going upstairs to lay eggs.  But, she's doing a great job based on what we saw in the honey super!  Just as a warning, there are some pictures of the larvae in the honey basket that might gross you out, but they are really quite fascinating to see.  And no, unlike Mescal, we didn't add them to the honey jars.

Orin and I contemplate the supers

Scotty's back to us in his meat room.  His company, Bellfountain Sausage Company, is very well know in Western Oregon for the wide array of awesome sausages they make, including many varieties made from local game.  They go to all the local events with their booth; you can always tell which one is theirs by the line snaking down the aisle

Anything with the -N- symbol and also that first super belong to Orin.  They contain plenty of angry bees, trust me

One of Orin's supers.  You can't see the bees, but pull a frame and stand by with the vac!
Scotty sets up the uncapping station

That bloody uncapping knife is HOT!  Orin's laughing in the background because he's been here before.  We both left with plenty of burns on our arms

Scotty prepares to uncap the first of Orin's frames

Scotty uses a cappings scratcher to open the cells that were not reached by the knife

Orin has a go

Our very first frame of honey

Scotty with a fully uncapped frame
The first of our honey flows out of the extractor into the bucket

I know these might gross some people out, but this is so very cool I couldn't help but include the pix of the almost fully formed bee girls and a larvae

The end result - our first honey harvest!

It's pure and only strained, not heated and filtered.  Those are bubbles you see that look like floating stuff.  They'll eventually settle out.  The taste was amazing - somewhat spicy and pungent.  Given what the bee girls had to feast on - wildflowers of every type including poison oak (which BTW makes awesome honey on it's own), blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, apple and pear blossoms, roses and every type of nectar bearing flower I could find to plant - it's no surprise how complex and interesting it turned out

This is a four frame extractor.  You can see four frames ready to go into it behind the guys.  It takes all three guys - one of crank the handle and two to keep the whole thing, table and all, from crashing thru the wall or onto the floor