Thursday, August 25, 2016


Yesterday I was very busy all day long.
I had selected the next tree to be turned into firewood, a good sized maple, about two feet in diameter, out in back of the wood shed a good distance. That area is very overgrown, so first I needed clear a path, for a couple of reasons.
First, I will need a clear path to get away from the tree when it starts to go over. Falling a tree is dangerous. Things go wrong, trees get hung up, a breeze comes up at the wrong moment and the tree goes in an unexpected direction, the tree is rotten in the middle and it collapses. A limb hits a nearby standing tree and comes back at you, the tree hangs up on another tree and kicks back on you. If any of these things happen you can end up dead or badly injured, so first and foremost safety needs to be your constant companion.
The second reason is to be ale to access the area to carry the wood out in the wheelbarrow. I don't have any heavy equipment, so that means doing things the old fashioned way. Muscle ans sweat.
When felling a tree you need to consider a couple of things. First of all, is it leaning in one direction or the other. If it is, that is the direction it is going to go. If it is more or less vertical, choose the direction you want it to go. Make a horizontal cut the direction you want it to fall. Make a slanting cut upward below the first cut so you can remove  a pie shaped piece of the tree about 1/3 of the way through the tree.
Then make another cut about a little less than half way through the tree on the opposite side of the tree. Remove the saw. Insert a felling wedge in the side opposite the pie cut. Sledgehammer the wedge into the cut. With any luck the wedge should supply enough to provide enough push start the tree going over. If not, you may need to make a plunge cut at the side of the pie cut .
Just be ready to move in any direction. Remember that whole clear a path thing?
So after felling a good sized maple yeaterdy, I started cutting it into rounds for splitting. and started splitting the rounds into firewood.
I finally got to the point where I could hardly generte enough force to split the rounds, so it was time to call it a day.
Today I am a little sore, but mainly it is too hot to go out and do hard physical labor, so it didn't take too much encouragement for me to take a dy off.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Purple Pod Beans

Today I was putting up purple pod beans for the freezer.
I don't think purple pod beans are substantially different than regular green beans except for the color. Even that moderates with cooking, since they change color when they cook to green. A slightly different shade than regular beans, but not a big difference.
You might wonder why purple pod beans.
As with most things, there is a back story.
Over on the farm in Idaho, the growing season was very short, so any crops have to be short season crops, and through time and experience we settled on purple pod beans because they are a good producing short season crop, and they preserve well. They also require very little attention.
I planted about a dozen plants and have eaten beans for the last month, so now I am putting aside some for this winter.
My mom used to can them, but I am not quite domesticated enough to take up canning. The idea is rattling around in my head, but I have not yet convinced myself to go but the equipment to actually get into canning. That is a door that once you go through there is no going back. I like the idea of having a reserve food source in case of  troubles.
I guess I am not a full fledged prepper, but have tendencies in that direction. With all the insanity and troubles in the world, I would like to be prepared "just in case"".
SO I have enough food for a couple of months, we can heat the house with wood, I have a small generator that can supply a limited amount of electricity, given some gasoline.
The one base I don't have well covered is water. We have a well, so as long as there is electricity, no problem. The well pump requires  220V, and my generator only is 110V so If the electricity goes out, no water.
For short term I have a food quality 55 gallon plastic drum filled with water. That would last for a short while, but I need to think about a longer term solution. The well is 180 feet deep, so it will need a pretty skookum pump. The hand pump systems I have seen that can draw water from that deep cost about $2,000.00, an investment I am reluctant to make. I need to read some more to see what I can McIver together out of old ball point pens and straws.

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Blackberry Jam for Lunch

My lunch lately has been two slices of nine grain bread with real butter and my home made sugar free blackberry freezer jam. Of all of the jams and preserves in the world, my favorite has always been my favorite.
First of all let me be perfectly clear. It has to be made with the wild trailing blackberry. Not the Himalaya, not any variety found in the store. Only the kind that can only be gotten by personal labor. Second, I only make freezer jam (non cooked) jam. Once you cook the jam, you radically alter the flavor profile of the berries. Lastly, I make it with splenda, because I am diabetic. Splenda tastes the same as regular sugar, stands well to reparation, and measures the same as regular granulated sugar.
Mash up the berries. Get some pectin and combine it with some water and splenda. Let it boil then just blend in with the berries. Ladle it into freezer containers, put it into the freezer and it is good for a year.
I started picking berries at the beginning of June, and ended in the middle of July.
Actually I started much earlier, because I scouted the are where I pick when the first blossoms were on the vines. It is a lot easier to find the vines when they are in bloom. Keep a mental map of where the vines were and come back when the berries are ripening. I picked every other day during the season. I have made a gallon of jam and two gallons of berries in the freezer. Ought to be enough to get me through until next year.
Part of the motivation, besides my own pleasure is to have some jam for my mom. She is having her 90th birthday in November, and I can think of no present she would rather have than some home made blackberry freezer jam. She always picked berries, and we raised strawberries and raspberries. We augmented them with huckleberries and blackberries. I picked strawberries for money a few summers, so I have developed an aversion to all things strawberry. Raspberry remains my second favorite.
But nothing can bring the whole tumble and spill of memories like blackberry jam.
SO many positive memories of picking berries with mom, making jam. Like a little slice of the best of my life in every bite.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Storm Watching

There is something deep inside me that loves a storm.
Last night there was a thunderstorm that blew through here late in the evening. Lots of cloud-to-cloud fireworks, with an occasional groind strike. Lots of nice flash and bang. Thunder cells rolled through one after the other.
I have always loved storms. My first recollection of an outstanding storm was the Columbus Day wind storm in Seattle. Sustained winds of sixty miles an hour with gusts up to eighty or so. I stood on the porch of our house on 21st ave and watched trees fall, power lines go down. Scary but somehow very enervating.
When I was stationed on Okinawa a Typhoon came though that was particularly nasty. When it was rolling up typhoon alley, they ordered all the B52s off island to protect them. When it passed by, they called them back. About the same time they got on the ground, the storm did a buttonhook and came back and hit with a vengance. Several planes were damaged. I heard that the head Airforce commander lost a stat over that misjudgement. I spent the night out in the storm.
I tied myseld to a pole out in the barracks parking lot so I couls feel the power of the storm. I was almost creamed by a garbage can. It was flying across the parking lot and I had to lift my legs to avoid having them smashed. It was such an awesome experience.
 The next storm that came through, we were called in for emergency duty in the hospital at Camp Kue. Our barracks was in Sukiran, about five miles away. We were loaded in a duece-and-a-half with the canvas removed and driven through the teeth of the storm. Our barracks was halfway up the side of a hill, and when we gor down to the bottom of the hill, the water was so deep you could not see the street. We had to look for fence and sign posts aling the side of the road and aim halfway in between. On ass kicking ride. Once we god there we had sandbag and mop duty.
When I was a single dad, living in my first home in West Seattle, there was a day long thunder storm. It was a warm cloudy windy summer day. In the evening, we were running low on milk, so Nathan and I walked up to the store to buy some. On the way back, a dog who had apparently been driven a little nuts my the storm came running bown the street growling and barking. Scared us pretty bad. With my left hand I pushed Nathan behind me to protect him. I stepped forward and with my right hand pointed at the dog and yelled 'stop" at the top of my lungs. At the exact momment I pointed and yelled there was a bolt of lightning that struck real close. It turned everything white for a second and the bang was deafening. The dog skidded to a stop right in front of us. His eyes got very big, and he turned tail and ran the other way as fast as he could go, yipping all the way.
I looked at Nathan and he looked at me, and we broke up laughing. I told Nathan "I think he thought he tried to bite god." We laughed all the way home.
SO when there is a storm you are likely to find me out in the middle of it feeling the power of nature. It is simultaneously invigorating and makes me feel insignificant.

Monday, July 18, 2016


Exhausted + Constipated = Exhaustipated.
Definition: Too tired to give a shit.
Today is my 6th birthday, but I am too tired to celebrate. Mrs A came down with a nasty toothache a couple of weeks ago. Of course when she did, her regular dentist was on Vacation, and wouldn't be back for  better than a week. She got in touch with her dental assistant who came in to take an x-ray to see if anything showed up on the film. Nothing looked terribly bad, but they gave her a prescription for an antibiotic and an appointment when the dentist came back fro vacation.
Two days pass, and she is in terrible pain. I give up and call around until I find a dentist that will see her on an emergency basis. He really couldn't see anything on the z-ray, but sent us to another dentist to take a full panoramic film. Then back to the first guy. He gets a look and decides to send her to a third dentist for a root canal. That dentist convinces her to get a root canal and try to save the tooth. By then It s four days later and she is in terrible pain. They  did the root canal, put her on pain killers and more antibiotics. They didn't do the root canal. just opened up the tooth and squirted in antiseptic and antibiotics.
She doesn't get any better, so we make an emergency stop back with the Root canal lady, She is disturbed bu the fact that Mrs A is no better. She sends us to see an oral surgeon.
He is concerned that she does not seem to be responding to the antibiotics, and they decide to take out the tooth. It has now been two weeks.
The doctor tells us to keep a close eye on her, because at this point she is one step away from a visit to the emergency room.
Meanwhile she is miserable, and a terrible patient. Over the next couple of days, she is either awake and on pain, or takes her pain killers and antibiotics, and sleeping. I have pretty much stayed awake to keep an eye on her. We have actually talked about going to the emergency room a couple of times, but wait to talk to the dentist.
Today she seems to have turned the corner.  The hives and rash has gone down. The pain seems to be lessening. SO that is my birthday present, her turning the corner towards regaining her health.
Other than that I have not had what could in any way had what I would consider an outstanding day, but I am too tired to really care.
I had planned a visit to Neah Bay to visit the Makah Museum, and Caper Flattery, but Mrs A was just not up to it, nor to be truthful, was I. As soon as she is better ans we have a nice day, I plan on making the trip. Back about a couple of hundred years ago there was a landslide at Lake Ozette, which completely covered a pre-contact Makah village. The material excavated has been conserved and put on display in a museum at the tribal headquarters in Neah Bay.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Been too long

 So When I brought up my blog, I saw tht my last post was April 25th. Talk about a slacker!
Now that I am retired I find lots of  thigs to do otherr than write here.
Candy Crush.
You know, IMPRTANT stuff.
I do a lot of work outside though. Lately, we felled and cut up, split and stacked six small alder trees around the house. They were leaning over the house, and besides depositid stuff on the roof and patio, they cut off a lot of light.
I have not yet finished grinding up the leaves and branches with the chipper. It is more work grinding up the limbs than it is doing the rest of it.
One thing that has gone extremely well is the berry picking. For the uninitiated, that means trailing wild blackberries. Not the invasive Himalyan Blackberry that adorns every vacant lot. Those are mediocre. The trailig wild blacberries are much more scarce. Since we didn't get ere until the end of June last year, I only got in on the end of the season, and was hard pressed to get enough to make a batch of jam.
This year I went out erly, when the vines were in bloom and walked the area to spot areas that showed blooms. Then I kept an eye out for the first berries to ripen. By the middle of June I had my first gallon of berries, whch I immediately turned into jam..
There is nothing like some toast with butter and wild blackberry jam.M y very favorite. I went out picking every other day for the month od June and half of July. By now the season peak has passed, and I have another couple of gallons of berries in the freezer.
My mom's 90th birthday is in November, and I figure I will bring her a batch of jam for her birthday. She will appreciate the work that went into the picking and processing of the berries. It's not loke you can go to the store and buy some sugar free wild blackberry freezer jam.
Things have been a little hectic around here lately. Mrs A developed an infected tooth. Her regular dentist was, of course, on vacation, but the dental assistant came in to take a set of pictures of the tooth, gave her a prescription for an antibiotic and set up an appoontment for the next week. This was a week a go Monday, with the appointment the next week. By thursday she was in major pain, so I called around and fund a dentist willing to take her in on an emergency. He looked at it, and sent her to another dentist to take a panaoramic picture. He didn't like what he saw, so he sent her to another dentist for a root canal. Mrs A wanted to get the tooth pulled, but they opened up the tooth and squirted in some antibiotic and told her to come back on Monday. On Monday, they did a root canal, gave her some antibiotics and pain pills. It just got worse.
We went back in on Wednesday because she was in such pain. We were sent to yet another dentist, an oral surgeon.
He pulled the tooth. More antobiotics and pain killers.
She has been miserable for about two weeks now, but I think she has turned the corner. The oral surgeon was real concerned aout how she didn't seem to be responding to the antibiotics, told her that the next step would be a trip to the hospital if she doesn't get better.
Never a dull moment.

Monday, April 25, 2016


Went into Port Angeles to see the doctor today. Just a periodic checkup.
One of my goals has been to get off of insulin, and I am right on the edge of doing just that. I need to get my createnin levels down a little more, but the trend has been downward ever since I got rid of the enormous kidney stone. It is not a huge deal, just an inconvenience to have to Carry around insulin and syringes.
On another front, when it was me VS the maple stump, I won, but not without cost.
 I irritated my bad shoulder, which has settled in to a case of bursitis. This limits my activities. Not being able to exert my left arm makes working in the yard difficult. It is getting better slowly, just not quick enough to make me happy.
I talked to the doc about getting a cortisone shot, not being in any hurry to shoot up steroids, and he agreed we should delay. Partly because he felt if he gave me a shot and my shoulder started feeling better, I would go out and do something stupid and re injure it (who, me?). SO I agreed to delay it, hoping it would get better by the time I have my next appointment.
The fruit trees we planted are all doing fine. I doubt we will have any fruit this year, but getting them in the ground and established was the goal for this year. Mission accomplished. It will be fun to see what happens with the five-in-one apple trees
The vegetable garden is doing fine, but by next year I hope to have more raised beds. I am currently using every square inch of the three raised beds I already have. I did lose one tomato plant. It was kinda sickly when I planted it, and it never did recover from being transplanted.
Four of the five everbearing raspberry plants are doing fine, but the fifth just site there. It has some buds on it but they don't seem to be doing anything. Hopefully I will get SOME berries this year. I love raspberry freezer jam.
We went out and bought a John Deere riding lawn mower. I was not particularly in favor of the purchase, but Mrs A wore me down. I agreed that some day we were going to need one, but figured we could get by with our old Honda self propelled mower for a couple of years. Carol was adamant. If we would need it i a couple of years, why not now? I had no argument that amounted to anything, so I caved.