Monday, July 28, 2008

Rain in the Forcast

...means its time to seed the field. The original plan was to plant an annual cover crop for tilling in this fall, but since May & June's heavy rains delayed the final discing of the field I don't think there's time to get a summer cover crop in. Especially since I still haven't gotten around to getting irrigation hooked up... So instead we're just skipping to the permanent cover: clover. It's readily available, fixes nitrogen, doesn't grow too tall, and provides great bee forage & beneficial insect habitat. I blended a couple kinds of white clover (Dutch & New Zealand) with crimson clover, threw in a couple ounces of wildflower seeds for fun, and then added all the leftover packed-for-2007 garden seeds I had in my seed collection just to see what would happen. Who knows, maybe we'll see some fennel and leeks and radishes out there. :)
The grass has grown back somewhat, but there's lots of room for my clover to get established - provided of course that it actually DOES rain this week! The new seed spreader I bought for the job worked really well, I sure wish I'd had it when I was seeding the lawn last year!
As always, the cats supervised our work.
Even Marcel came out and watched. He sure is doing well these days, he's lost a pound and has actually been seen frisking around the yard like a kitten. A really BIG kitten. :)
Update 7/29: It's really raining! Not just teasing me with dark clouds that pass by. Hurray! I really didn't want all that seed to go to waste...

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


We went today for our one and only ultrasound. Not only did we find out the sex of the baby, it sure was neat to see our little guy punching and kicking, wiggling all around. That's right, it's a boy! Here are some of the better images:

Watching the profile was neat, we could see him moving his mouth and head, making sucking motions. He kept waving his hands around by his face, and although we never actually saw him connect and suck his thumb, it sure looked like thats what he was going for.

The technician checked to make sure all the organs were where they were supposed to be as well. We were able to watch the heart pumping and see that it does indeed have four chambers, and she zoomed inside the skull to see that the brain has two normal-sized lobes. The spine, kidneys, and stomach also checked out normally. Based on the size of the femur, skull, and stomach the computer calculates little Conan is 20 weeks + 3 days, very close to our own estimation of 20 weeks exactly today. Which means he's developing normally, possibly just a smidge on the large side. We were also able to verify that the placenta is up high in the back of the uterus, no chance of it getting in the way of a normal, natural birth. Good news, all around. And such a fun expirience, to actually see my baby... wow. Serious wow.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Berries, Jam & Jelly

Saturday morning I picked berries. I got quite a haul! Tayberries, Gooseberries, WILD cascade blackberries, the first of the raspberries and the last of the strawberries. For those of you who have never had the chance to taste our wild, native cascade blackberries, they are marvellous - tiny, intensly flavorful, and sweet. I clambered through the bushes all around the yard, and got pretty scratched up in the process, but it was worth it. There's a king's ransom worth of these little gems in that colander.
This is our entire gooseberry crop for the year. I mentioned a while back that we had put a remay tent over the bushes to keep the sawflys off. Well, it worked perfectly to keep the flies and their voracious larvae off, but it also raised the temperature (remay is commonly used to protect plants from frost) and I believe that caused a lot of the berries to drop off prematurely. We noticed the problem a few weeks back and switched the remay out for a traveler's mosquito net that I had from back in my south america study-abroad days. It's working just as well to keep the bugs off, and the remaining berries ripened nicely. Next year we'll get it right from the start!

The Tayberries continue to impress. We have three of these plants along the fence, and they are absolutely covered in huge red berries. This is only their first year producing (they were planted last spring) so I can hardly imagine how many berries we'll be getting in future years. The new canes they are sending up - next year's fruiting vines - are super vigorous. Tayberries are a blackberry-raspberry cross from Scotland, they have the vigor, berry size (as well as seediness), and habit of the blackberries and the color and flavor of the raspberry. Amazing.

What to do with all these berries? Make Jam & Jelly of course! Charlotte came over in the afternoon and together we put up three batches of tasty summer preserves. The blackberries, strawberries, and raspberries went into a mixed-berry jam. The Tayberries are pretty seedy, so we cooked them down into juice and made one batch of straight tayberry jelly, then we cooked down the gooseberries into juice and made a final batch of jelly with a tayberry-gooseberry blend. They all set perfectly and taste amazing!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Oregon Country Fair 2008

Good times. Lots of fun. Nice to be home again, though. :)

The most impressive thing I saw this year was a performance by a group called Nanda, whom I can only describe as Ninja Acrobat Juggler Mime Rock Stars. With sound effects. Here's a video clip from their website, the sound quality is not great but you get the idea. I definitely reccomend seeing them, if you ever get the chance.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Pregnancy Update - 18 weeks

Here's the big news: I felt the baby move for the first time on Sunday! It was after a long, hot, uphill walk from downtown Olympia back to Gabe's house. I was lying down on the couch to rest and catch my breath when I felt a pressure that slid for an inch or two along the inside of my low belly before disappearing. It really was unmistakable, I have never felt anything like it before! I haven't felt anything definite since then, just some little twinges that could have been digestive. I've read that for first-time moms it is pretty common for baby movements to be mistaken for gas, at least before the 20th week.

The other new thing is that I'm starting to get a definite linea nigra running down from my belly button. I think it's kinda cute. :)

For those of you who didn't already know, our baby is going to have a cousin right away - my brother and his wife are expecting in late November. They just found out it's a girl. Our parents are thrilled - not one but TWO grandbabies, at last!

The question most folks seem to want to ask me (besides whether it's a boy or a girl - No, we don't know yet!) is whether I am having any food cravings. Well, yes, sort of. Nothing - NOTHING - tastes like it has enough salt on it. So I'm salting just about every thing I eat. I even sprinkled a little salt on my english muffin this morning (tasted good!). I've also been craving fried vegetables: tempura, onion rings, pakoras, jojos, whatever. So instead of just steaming broccoli from the garden to go with dinner last night I battered it and made fritters. They were really, really good. Salted, of course.

I'm still throwing up twice a week (I've been marking my calendar - I'm not exagerating) but my energy level has improved a lot. Enough so that I'm doing things like making broccoli fritters and baked chicken for dinner! I can live with being sick twice a week - as long as I feel good the rest of the time - for the next 5 1/2 months if that's what it takes. Feeling the baby move really, really helps make all the rest of it seem worth it. :)

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Disc'd Again

Mike the tractor man came back on yesterday and started the second discing of the field. The ground had finally dried out enough that he could go over it again without sinking the tractor. It really was a wet, rainy June. Look how much the grass had grown up since the first discing!
The blue barrel is filled with water to give the disc more weight, helping it to cut deeply through the sod and into the soil. This was a new, expirimental technique - it seemed to work quite well right up until a weld gave way on the disc under it, about halfway through the field. Whoops! So Mike came back today with a tiller attachment on the tractor, and finished the job. It looks amazing:

Now we just need to get some cover seed on it before the grass can get back in control. It'll never be grass-free, but a diverse cover is really a big advantage in an organic orchard. We'll need some nitrogen fixers, as well as some to provide shelter to benifical insects and a mix of flowers to attract and keep pollenators around even when the trees themselves aren't in bloom. Not sure yet what exact mix of seeds I'll get, but I guess I better get to work figuring it out since the ground is ready!

The Four Cats Farm board of directors came out with us to review the work. I believe they were pleased, although it can be hard to tell...

The next big step will be hooking a faucet up somewhere in the middle of the field. Even in rainy whatcom county, irrigation is necessary in the summer - which reminds me, I better go turn off the sprinkler in the garden. :)