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Friday, February 26, 2010

Good Things In Small Packages

Since the weather turned bad again, I've been very anxious about the lack of progress that I'm making with the garden.  Yesterday I couldn't stand it anymore, and direct sowed a few things into the one planter box I have that has soil in it- it's the first  that we made from re-using lumber from Randy's old planter.  It's currently holding a couple of artichoke crowns, Red Russian kale, and the garlic I planted last fall, so I added Lacinto kale to the kale beds, and I added carrots (Nantes) and turnips (Yellow Globe, and Purple Top White Globe) to one artichoke bed, and arugula and mesclun mix to the other artichoke bed.  I feel only marginally better.

I hadn't saved any seed out of the twelve pounds of tomatillos I got off of only two plants last year, but Mother Nature saw fit to save some for me. I'd seen these little nets in the old bed, but couldn't imagine what they were and assumed they must have been blown in by the wind from one of the neighbor's yards.  Until I found a perfectly intact, tomatillo-shaped cage holding a batch of seeds.  Since the husk had not burst, I don't know if the seeds are even viable, but I'm willing to find out.  But isn't that neat?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Another Farm Store

This morning started off as rainy and windy as predicted, but also cleared a little in the morning, and I was able to get out and plant the two roses that came yesterday.  I was a little more careful with these than the fruit trees, about which I am still nervous. I don't think I'll breathe a sigh of relief about those trees until they survive until mid-summer.  For the roses I dug huge holes, dumped in almost a foot of river rock at the bottom of the hole, and then put in the amended soil mixture I'm using which is lots of compost mixed with native clay.  Some of the clay I can't use because it's not clay soil, it's clay.   The roses were not bare root, as I expected, but were tiny little first year roses on their own roots. So we'll see.  If I can keep Steve and his string trimmer away from them, they may actually have a chance.

The other event of the day was after driving into the city of Portland for my haircut, I stopped at Naomi's Organic Farm Supply on the way home.  I didn't have my camera with me, which in one sense was a shame, but in another sense, didn't matter, because they aren't set up the same way the other outfit I just reviewed is, so there wasn't as much to photograph.  Naomi's has a much smaller retail space, which was largely filled with small bags of various organic soil amendments, and books- boy, did they have books.  They also had chicks off in one corner, several of which appeared to be pasting up.  Through a door off to one side, I could see a large space where the fifty-pound sacks of various things were kept.  Out front they had a fenced yard with a haphazard stack of concrete blocks and the de rigueur straw all over the place, and three hens happily scratching about in the light rain. Behind them was the hen house. Or so I thought it was the hen house until I saw the goats.  And then the concrete blocks made sense.  The goats were not coming out in the rain for love or money.  Maybe for something wonderful to eat, but I don't know what that is to goats and I sure didn't have any on me.

The folks there were very friendly and helpful, and in that small space it was really crowded with customers and the help- there were at least four employees that I could see.  But the weather was really nasty- at one point I wanted to leave but the heavens had opened up, and I am not too crazy about driving in really heavy rain ever since hydroplaning off the freeway in a downpour in Florida in '92.

I think Naomi's deserves a second look, however, and I'll probably be back- I probably missed a lot.  I can at least call and compare the price of bone meal and rock phosphate, and Naomi's isn't quite the drive into town that the other place is.  I'm beginning to understand what a farm store needs to look like and have on hand, however.  And I know just the place in my town where one could go, but I couldn't compete with Coastal Farm and Ranch, which is too close.  But it's fun to think about it.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Pitifully Little Progress

I've been spending the better part of the last four or five days outside because the weather has been so wonderful and I need to get things done out there.   Unfortunately, getting things done always takes me much longer than I expect it to.

But I've been working myself to exhaustion, so consequently I'm sleeping better. And I noticed today, that my delts were sore, so evidently I've been ripping down a little muscle.  I don't remember ever hurting there before, so I hope that means I'm getting stronger. I still have a LOT of bark to dig up and move.  The bark is rotting as well, so it's going into the compost piles, but I have so much of it, I may need to pile it somewhere and move it back onto the cardboard that will replace the black plastic that I'm tearing up.  With exception of the deck and planter boxes, I want to eradicate plastic from my yard, and it's a big job.

Last fall we put together a planter box made up from the quasi-logs from the planter box that the previous owner had built.  His planter needed to go because it's right where the rest of the patio needs to go, plus we're putting up a pergola to shade the back of the house in the summertime, and that would not make for a good place to grow vegetables.  I started another new planter from the rest of the old planter box this week (we didn't get the whole thing moved before bad weather set in), and I realized two things: the wood is starting to rot and I'm not keen on going to the trouble to build with rotten wood, and I don't have enough to finish the planter box anyway.  So that one is on hold for the present.

I pretty much finished getting the deck reduced to half its original size, which by the way, did turn out to be 24x24 after all.  All I need to do now is screw up the fascia board.  That too, is on hold until my contractor can bring me a new piece of fascia board.  What I have is in too many pieces to look decent.  Jef (not a typo- that's how he spells it) came over this morning to get the measurements for the pergola so that he can estimate it for me. I will be really relieved when it's done, but I'm also a little worried that it's going to be really expensive.  We'll see what he says.

So now that the deck is done and out of the way, I got started on making planter boxes from the plastic decking I pulled off.  I think I'm going to have more than enough, if I'm careful and clever with it, plus I found four full length pieces at the back of the yard.  I don't expect the planter boxes I make with this stuff to look particularly good, but I do expect them to last forever and that I won't have to rebuild them.  If there's enough of the decking left over, I'll use it to remake that other planter box and use the rotting wood from it to hold back bark at some point.  In that application, replacing them won't be such a big deal.

Tomorrow I'll get back out there and continue.  The sunny weather is supposed to be over Tuesday, so I'm makin' hay while the sun shines.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

My Trip to The Urban Farm Store

Today was a brew day for Steve, which meant a trip into Portland for supplies from F. H. Steinbart, at SE 12th and Pine.  Since it was in the same neighborhood, and only a matter of a few block's drive, and because I really wanted to go, I had Steve drop me off at the Urban Farm Store, at 2100 SE Belmont.   Even though he was checking out another customer, the friendly proprietor said hello as I came in and I felt immediately welcome, possibly because I liked the looks of the place immediately.

Here is the chicken section of the store- actually, that's not entirely accurate.  Although they have a section for dog and cat food, I would say the large majority of the space is devoted to chickens, probably because they take a lot more equipment than regular pets.

But they had chicks!  And the constant peeping was, what's the word....enchanting. Completely.  I'm still not sure that chickens are in my future; I really want to understand fully what I'm setting myself up for if I do it.  I'd have to get up with the chickens every morning, and that might be asking a lot from someone who is not a morning person.  Of course, it might be different if I had chickens to look forward to! But I'd have to go, even in the rain and cold and damp, and their coop would have to be mucked out every weekend (wonderful for compost!).  But back to the store.

They have rabbit supplies and pine bedding, (not photographed), and small bales of hay and straw.

They sell coop kits for $175, that only take a little assembly.

They have a great little nursery outside (too early for veggie starts, but they have lots of dormant trees, and even tea camellias (Camellia sinensis) and olive trees!

They have a swell chicken yard with a large coop and dry run, 

and three friendly ladies, who were busy when I took this picture, but came over to see what was shakin' while I was there.

I was very glad to see organic fertilizers (I bought two different kinds of fertilizer with mycorrhizal fungus and humic acid) and even more glad to see bulk soil amendments, like bone and blood meal, and rock phosphate.  I bought some bone meal, since things are pretty young right now, but now I know where to go for the rock phosphate I'll want to add later when I plant the beds.  Rock phosphate is important for making fruits and vegetables taste even better.

There were lots of different seed stands- one that had quite beautiful antique pictures and print for the heirloom seeds inside the packets, and fun posters and feed sacks on the walls.  

I really liked the place.  I think the only thing that they might think about adding are some tools (trowel, shovels, hoes, manure forks, and the like), a collection of work gloves, and possibly wheelbarrows and garden carts.  Maybe some of those stool things for geezers to sit on while they weed - don't worry,  I'm one of them and I'm going to buy one this year!  They might also think about drip irrigation gear.  I realize that a lot of this stuff can be had from the large mega-hardware store outfits, but it would be convenient for city folk to find this stuff there.

All in all, a great way to spend a half hour, and I know I'll be back. Maybe for chicks, who knows?

Friday, February 19, 2010


Steve is in the habit of taking a walk every afternoon, but since he's been down with the flu most of this week, he hasn't been out.  This afternoon was the first time he felt like getting out, and when he got back, he had some news for me. 

I was working out in the backyard on one of the planter boxes, so I didn't go with him today; I just had too much to do.  He stood at the screen door and said there was an estate sale around the corner on the way to the park, and that he saw a fruit press and hopper set for $45; did I want it?

Did I want it? I couldn't get my gloves and muck boots peeled off and my walking shoes on fast enough!  But then, Steve plodded along to the car as placid as an emergency room doctor.  He never seems to have a sense of urgency, and I've never seen him get excited about anything except when Mellow Mushroom pizza opened a store in Jacksonville.

When we got there after what seemed like an eternity but was really only a few minutes, the press and hopper were still there.  They needed a little cleaning up but were in great shape, so I told the woman I'd take them.  Steve was still parking the car, but when he showed up to pay for them, I said I thought they were a great bargain, and she said yeah, for forty-five dollars.

"Unless you want to give them to me for $40?", I asked her.  And she agreed!  So I got the press and hopper for $40!  Sweet!

I don't even have the grapes planted yet, and they can't go in until after the pergola is built.  But yay!! I have a press!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Compost Maker's Tale

Today rose from its bed beautiful and sunny and raring to go, so I got outside as soon as I could (11:30!) to get cracking on a list of stuff I wanted to get done today.

This was my list:

take plastic off bed
move the compost pile
cut decking into 12' and 3' pieces
hoe the river rock out of where the new bed will go
build the third bed from the old bed
move the soil from the old bed to the third bed

This is what I got done today:

move the compost pile

Actually what I did was move a compost/garbage pile, because I didn't turn my compost all winter long, it being wet and cold out there.  But I kept adding kitchen scraps to it religiously, which is why part of the pile was fine, and part of the pile was foul.  Had a little anaerobic rot going on there, which is not good for a compost pile.

I think that next year I'll pile and cover the leaves we get from the sweet gum and let those stay dry all winter, and then use them to mix with grass and kitchen scraps in the spring, summer, and autumn so that it'll have the proper ratios and mix.  I also think I'm going to invest one way or the other in a worm bin for kitchen scraps throughout the winter, so that I don't have to walk them out in all weather to the compost pile.

Part of what took me so long to get the pile moved was mixing in partially decomposed bark mulch from the back of the yard with it, so that it would have a better texture and be somewhat inoculated with something that was decomposing correctly.  I discovered that everywhere, everywhere, where there is not lawn in our yards, both front and back, the previous owner covered in black plastic and mulched it with bark.  Which is decomposing well and growing weeds nicely, but you can't dig the nice mulch in because of the cursed plastic all over the place.   Curse you, Randy, curse you!!!

So to remedy the situation, I've decide to hoe all the bark off the plastic and use it in my beds and compost, and then pull up all the plastic.  Then I'll cover everything with the huge stack of cardboard in the kitchen (with some from the garage) and then bark over that again.  That way, when the new bark finally gives up the ghost, I can dig it into the soil with the now decomposed cardboard, and then do the whole cardboard and bark thing again.  I figure that this will be the best path material and method for in between the vegetable beds, because let's face it, I'm going to drop soil in the paths.  If they had decomposed granite or pea gravel in them, both of which I love for walking on, it would just make a mess.  Cardboard and bark will be better, because then when it's growing weeds better than anything else, I'll just scoop it up, add it to the compost pile, and put down more cardboard and bark.

In the meantime, I still have another compost pile to move tomorrow.  And finish up the stuff on my list.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Possum Living

Last night, while stooging around in my 'recommendations' on Amazon, most of which appear to be on homesteading, I ran across a book called 'Possum Living' by Dolly Freed.  She wrote it as a teenager in the seventies, and while having been out of print for many years, it's available again. Reviews are mixed, naturally, but what I found more compelling was the three-part interview I found on Youtube.  If you decide to go there, do watch all three parts, although I'll warn you that watching her dance with a friend to seventies easy-listening music was a bit excruciating, particularly if you've lived through the seventies and might have once danced to that very tune. Excruciating because it's embarrassing, maybe?  Uh......yeah.

Anyway- after viewing all three parts, I came to the conclusion that at nineteen, she was pretty well grounded, more so than her mother, anyway. Much more so.  I would venture to say that it would not have been possible for her and her father to live that way, had they a mortgage with which to contend.  But the fact that they didn't and were completely happy not working is a great incentive to me.  She poses a good question that I'll paraphrase here: if fishing and gardening and otherwise scrabbling for your existence is something that you enjoy doing and prefer doing rather than joining the rat race, is it leisure, or is it work?

Maybe it's because I'm currently unemployed, or maybe it's because I've never really felt that I belonged anywhere in the many jobs I've held along the way, but I really, really want to get us to the point where we can work at something that rewards us, rather than having to earn a paycheck.  The Big Obstacle is going to be health care of course, because that only comes with employment with an employer who offers it.  I know it's not the only way to get health care coverage, but it is the only affordable way.  If the economy continues in the same direction as it has been though, I can see more and more employers dropping health care benefits in the move toward lowering costs, which will be easy for them to do if unemployment continues to rise.  Why should they worry about current employees if there are so many desperate candidates out there from which to choose?  The national unemployment rate was reported at over nine percent today, so it's quickly becoming quite the employer's market.

But maybe congress will have that health care thing all worked out by the time we've paid off the mortgage.

Which reminds me that I need to take another check for the principal to the bank tomorrow....

I'm Not Alone

Yesterday I went hunting in our local library system's card catalog for books on greenhouse building and raising chickens.  One of the greenhouse books I put on hold is one I have earmarked on Amazon, and not surprisingly, ALL the chicken/poultry raising books in our county-wide system are currently checked out.  Chickens are the hot new commodity, and if I didn't believe it before, I do now.

The chicken books are to see if I really want to do chickens, for which I won't be ready until next year anyway. I'm researching now because I may want to use the square footage I'm saving for the coop and run space for more gardening space.  I realized last night that six three-by-twelve boxes may not be enough space for our vegetables no matter how intensively I garden them, because of an answer to a question I posted to Matron of Husbandry over at Throwback at Trapper Creek.  MOH, as she is known to her fans, is a wealth of knowledge which she freely dispenses, and a homesteading hero of mine. It also helps that she lives in the same general quadrant of Oregon that I do, albeit at a higher elevation.  Anyway, my question was to find out when you're supposed to plant for fall and winter harvesting, which turns out to be the same time as you're planting some of your summer stuff. Celeriac, for instance, gets planted in March!  I figure that if this is the case, I might need more room than I thought I would, just to have enough plants going at the same time to keep us in vegetables year 'round, which is what I aim to do.

Still, I'm indebted to MOH's help because I couldn't find the late harvest planting information anywhere, and she supplied it to me.  She also took it a step further and sent me a scanned copy of Territorial Seed's winter planting chart, which they had in their Winter catalog last year, and which comes out in about March.  So above and beyond the call of duty.  It's something that I'm finding out about the folks who are in the blogosphere with me. This homesteading blogosphere. I feel like I'm out in the country and the neighbors are looking after me.

What a wonderful place to be.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

When a Rose is Not a Rose, But a Solution Instead

I just ordered two climbing roses to provide some privacy along our western fence.  You can see it in my post from the fourteenth of February in the second picture labeled 'The Apples Are In'.  The neighbors can view everything going on in our backyard, and for that matter, everything in the living room and dining room as well, since I have no window treatments for the sliding glass doors.

Climbing roses, when their canes are bent laterally, will shoot up vertical branches on which they bloom. My plan is to grow two climbers up a couple of fence posts and then split the canes to run across the top of the fence to the right and the left of the plant.  From there, they should do a fair job of sending branches skyward and blocking the view, at least in the summer, from the neighbors, whom I never actually see, but I'll feel better about having it covered up.  The fence is in pretty bad shape, so I didn't want to plant fruit trees or canes against it which could be damaged or killed when the fence is rebuilt, somewhere in the future.  The posts were replaced prior to this house going on the market before we bought it, so I feel okay about growing rose canes against them, but when in the event that the fence needs to be fixed, we should be able to just cut the roses back to the vertical canes and bend them away from the fence while it's being worked on. That's my plan anyway.

The sun shines pretty brightly all day long during the summer in these parts, so I wanted bright red roses that will stand up well in the bright light. It's my opinion that paler shades look better in cloudier surroundings, but that bright sunlight needs color to match its intensity.  Plus, on gray spring days, the bright red will be cheerful.  I purchased 'Courageous' because of its repeat bloom and fragrance- I'll plant that one closer to the house, and 'Dublin Bay', also because of its repeat bloom and its habit of blooming all the way up the plant. Plus- it just looks really good in all the images I found.  I'm not as sure about Courageous, though; I'm really hoping that it's not as pink as in the image from the nursery's website.  I also hope that neither of these roses fade in the sunlight- I'm not signing up for a trashy pink color on the fence.  Don't get me wrong; I like pink.  But let's face it- some shades of pink are pretty trashy.  I have a rhododendron out front that came with the house that's a pretty lurid shade of pink.   I guess these roses will be something of an experiment.

My favorite red climbing rose is 'Dortmund', and you can see why from this picture from my own collection that I took at the Portland Rose Garden in Washington Park.  It's truly lovely, but I'm saving that one to plant over Rufus in the front yard someday, and train it over the front walk toward the garage.  That way, he and the rose can continue to watch the house.  We still have a lot of time with our favorite boy-dog-in-the-whole-world Rufus, and I'm not ready to tackle the landscaping in the front yard anyway.  But it's good to have a plan and an idea of what you want ahead of time.  I thought of this plan the minute I saw Dortmund in the rose garden, so I'm sure I'll get it done.

This week we have to get our contractor over to estimate a price for a pergola for the back of the house.  The good news is, I finally got all the stringers cut off the deck (with my sick husband's help, and without which it wouldn't have gotten done), so now I can finish it up and get cracking on the planter boxes.  They have me a little worried, frankly. I have all these seeds started in the garage and next to nowhere to put them all!  But we're supposed to get good weather after this afternoon and for the rest of the week- we'll even hit sixty, so it will be warm and sunny.  I don't care what the calendar says; spring is really coming on strong already in this part of Oregon.  It'll be time to plant asparagus soon.  And eat it!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Spring Is Springing

It's trying very hard to be spring out there. The earth is giving all signs of warming up- probably more so because we had an extremely mild winter. In fact, the Autumn of 2009 was much colder than the Winter of 2010. We'll be saying that for a long time. However, much like the stock market, past performance is no guarantee of future returns. Who knows what this next winter will be like? But that's a long way off, and I hope to have many things in place by then, not the least of which is a lot of firewood!

At any rate, the bulb flowers are coming up all over the place (not that I have any, but I hope to rectify that this fall) and I can hear several different species of birds trilling and calling in the morning mist. It looks like it will burn off and we'll have a really pretty day.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Tree Planting Day

Friday night I stayed up late, redesigning the backyard to accommodate the almond trees and blueberry bushes. I will post the new design in a later post- right now it's taped to the inside of one of the sliding glass doors so that I could reference it while planting trees.  This was truly helpful, and since I still have the almonds and berries to do when they come, hopefully this next week, I'm leaving the diagram where it is for now.

We got to planting trees on Saturday.  Steve, God bless him, helped me even though gardening and mucking about in the mud is not his thing.  And it was muddy! The weather was perfect for planting bare root trees, though.  It was forecast for rain, but only sprinkled a couple of times, but otherwise was overcast all day, and cool. Interestingly enough, this nursery did not pack the bare roots in damp sawdust, which from my experience is the norm, but wrapped them instead in wet newspaper.  They were fine, though, but then, they also only traveled one day.  At any rate, Steve lifted turf for me, which I could not pick up, and managed to hurt his back in the process. He was also coming down with something and had a raging sore throat all day, so he performed yeoman's service for me.  I dug fifteen holes, and I can now tell you that I completely understand what they mean by the term "heavy clay".  It stuck to the shovel, it stuck to my muck boots, and made walking slow and sluggish.  And it was heavy.  I was glad to have a pile of year-old compost on hand to mix with the soil I pulled from the holes.  At one point, I dug in and found not clay soil, but clay.  Blue clay. It was striated with gray clay. I decide that wasn't going to be a good place to plant the Montmorency cherry tree I was planning for it, so I planted it over by where I'm planning the chicken coop (if indeed I do decide to do chickens) instead.

 The apples are in

I have markers all over the yard for various things- where the berries will go, where the greenhouse/summer kitchen will go, etc.  Now that I have trees sticking out of the ground as well, my yard looks like a forest of sticks.  I can't wait to see what it looks like when everything is in bloom, and really looking forward to it being more mature. I hope it will be as pretty in real life as it is in my mind.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

My Trees Are Here!

The new diet so far seems to be working for Steve.   He can get hungry like the rest of us without crashing (and burning, I might add).   So far, everything is working pretty well.
Since we're not eating cereals anymore, we don't need a large space for growing grains. I decided to go ahead and turn that area over to almond trees and blueberry bushes, neither of which I would have had space for had I gone ahead with the grains.  But now I'll have room for both almonds and blueberries.  The only other nut I would consider growing are walnuts, but they take twelve years to start producing, and I can't wait that long.  Which is too bad- walnuts are high in plant omega-3's.  They also take up a lot of room- I haven't heard of a dwarf walnut yet.  I toyed with the idea of growing chestnuts, but they are such a pain to peel, and I've tried several methods.  I'd rather just buy them occasionally and enjoy them as a special, hard won treat.

The nursery shipped my first order yesterday, and it arrived today.  Unfortunately, the trees are not Dave Wilson Nursery grown trees, like I expected.  I got the name of the nursery off the Dave Wilson Nursery website, so the fact that they have no Dave Wilson tags on them was a surprise, and not a good one.  Dave Wilson trees have a great reputation, so that is what I wanted.  And had they been Dave Wilson trees, I would expect that the retailing nursery would leave the DWN tags on them.  I have been waiting since October for these trees.  I expected them to ship in January, because that is when the nursery said they'd ship them, but since I didn't see a charge to my credit card for them by the thirty-first of the month, I gave them a call. They were waiting to ship everything because the raspberries I ordered hadn't arrived yet, so I had them ship the trees first.  Then I decided to add the almonds and blueberries to the raspberry and boysenberry order, and they will ship around the 15th or 16th or so.  The trees are in good shape and look like good trees, but how well can you tell when they're all tied together and still in the box?  I won't really know until I get them out and separated and ready to put in the ground, which I'll do this weekend.

Are you in the least bit curious about what came today?  The first of the order is apples- I chose varieties that keep well and are good multi-purpose or cider apples: two Honeycrisp, two Bramley's, two Golden Russet, and two Northern Spy.  Those are the only trees that I will espalier.   I also ordered two Italian plums because they are the best variety from which to make prunes, and I have to admit that I dearly love prunes, don't ask me why.  Drying them should be a cinch- our wall oven has a dehydrator setting- isn't that cool?  Then come the cherries, but a word of explanation on them first. Steve abhors cherries. It had to do with an experience from his childhood and it was evidently so awful that he won't even tell me about it.  So I won't push it.  But I adore cherries, and since I'm the planner/grower in the family, I bought myself a Lapins semi-dwarf sweet cherry for summer eating.  Or summer bird feeding, more likely.  I also bought a dwarf Montmorency sour cherry for maybe pie making (which should be interesting, given the new diet parameters) but I really bought it for brandying for gifts. I hope to get good at that.  I also bought three hazelnut trees. I am not a huge fan of hazelnuts.  I absolutely hate hazelnut flavoring in things like Frangelico, and beer, of all things. I was once at a beer tasting festival and they had a 'nut brown ale', which unknown to me, was flavored with hazelnuts. Blech! Pthooey! It took me three beers to get that taste out of my mouth because for some reason, it really lingered.  That was not a good beer experience for me, and I have been drinking beer for a very long time.  Longer than Steve, and not because I'm older than he is.  I'll tell you about it sometime.  But I digress.  I can handle real hazelnuts ground up in things like cookies, and the other night we had some Dover sole that I'd crusted with ground hazelnuts, and that was pretty good.  But mostly, the hazelnuts are for Steve, who loves them, especially with chocolate.  They are a huge component of both Spritzgeback and Zimtwaffeln, the Christmas cookies I had to promise he could make at Christmas and which I mentioned in a previous post.  The hazelnut trees I bought are Jefferson, Tonda di Giffoni, and Theta, which will cross-pollinate each other.

The trees arrived in good shape, and are cooling their heels in the cold garage. I'll plant them this weekend, probably Sunday or Monday, when the weather gets better.  Steve has Monday off, and he's brewing Sunday (an all-day affair), and Monday morning we're bottling.  In return for helping him bottle, I'll get his help with sawing the rest of the stringers off the deck on Monday after we done with his chore.

I got a few inches sawed on all of the stringers with my circular saw, and sawed the rest of the first one by hand without a problem, but the saw was pinching on the next couple of stringers, so I gave up until I could get help.  Even though I've propped up the ends, or rather, where the new ends will be, with the same concrete blocks I found under the deck, the stringers are pinching, so Steve suggested holding them up with a crow bar. Which is a good idea, except that he'll have to do that while I saw them.  Or I can hold them and he can saw.

Steve is a good one for applying rudimentary science principles to things that need to get done.  I once had a stone, brick, and mortar barbecue in my backyard in Florida.  This thing looked like a Popular Mechanics project or a WPA-built, national park barbecue- it was huge! It was in the wrong place, though- it was so far out in the yard that your beer would get warm on the way out there and your finished steak would get cold by the time you got back to the house. So it had to go. I'd worked on it off and on for a few months, chipping away with a cold chisel and a three-pound hammer. My brother worked on it for a while when he visited, only I handed him a maul so he could really swing at it.  He didn't get much more done than I did.  Finally I married Steve.  He took a good hard look at it before applying the maul, and I remember being in the front yard and hearing the tinkling sound of brick and stone being freed from mortar and tumbling to the ground.  I ran around back to find that he'd taken most of it down with a few swings at the right place.  Applied science.

Anyway- the weekend looks like it will be fairly busy. My onion seeds finally showed up today as well, and they need to be started as soon as possible.  Tree planting, beer brewing and bottling (different batches) and onion starting.  It's good to have hobbies.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Feeding My Caveman

I am relearning how to cook.

Yesterday, I spent a good chunk of time researching how to feed the hypoglycemic adult.  Did you know that there is more information on the web about hypoglycemic dogs than people?  Specifically, Yorkshire terriers and Pomeranians seem to be affected.  Steve has not tested positive for hypoglycemia, but he exhibits all the patterns of the Neuroglycopenic or Type 1 hypoglycemia.  So while I can't say that he's hypoglycemic, I can say that he does seem to have metabolic issues.  And no, he doesn't have diabetes.

So- we have cut out sugar- that's a no-brainer.  I did have to agree to let him make a batch of Zimtwaffeln (cinnamon waffles, which are a German gaufrette) and a batch of Spritzgeback (a hazelnut butter cookie) at Christmas time.  The next harder thing to eliminate from his diet is grain.

I have a lot of faith that removing grain from his diet will help him a lot.  And I don't mean just wheat- I mean all grain.  I once gave him chicken cacciatore (one of my favorites!) on rice (which is how I always ate it), and a little after dinner he flipped out on me- it was the rice, of course.  I haven't given him rice since.  He asked me last night, since yesterday was the first day of this diet, if that means that sushi is off the list.  I said yes, but you can still eat sashimi, which has no rice- it's just raw fish.

We're trying a modified version of the paleo diet, which is predicated on eating what would have been available to people before the advent of agriculture, which started more or less 10,000 years ago.

My great, great, great......great grandfather, getting dinner

Meats, seafood, vegetables, some root vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds. That's it.  The idea behind the paleo diet (as near as I can tell, anyway) is that our bodies evolved as omnivores and they haven't changed very much in 10,000 years, but we're not geared to eat grains and refined sugars.  Over the years, I think some people handle this stuff better than others, but Steve clearly can't. The idea is to get your carbohydrates from paleo-carbs (from the aforementioned list), and eschew neo-carbs, which includes things we've figured out how to grow and eat in the 10,000 years we've been deliberately planting things in the ground: grains, and legumes,and everything that comes from them: sugar, evaporated cane juice, molasses, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, sorghum syrup, maple syrup (sniff- I love maple syrup).  Honey was on the list, but I can't believe a caveman didn't try it after seeing bears go after it, however, honey has to be kept to a minimum.  Grains and legumes do have impressive nutritive profiles, but most nutrients in them are not readily bioavailable to the human digestive tract.  Theoretically, you're also not supposed to eat fermented stuff, or yeast, but yeast occurs naturally on a lot of fruits, so we had to be getting yeast in us 10,000 years ago.  And I'm not eschewing fermented stuff, because there's a lot of science that says fermented food is really good for you.  A study done in Poland found that Polish women have a 30% less chance of getting breast cancer because of all the sauerkraut they eat (Poles eat more sauerkraut than Germans, which was a surprise to me, too).  So pickles as well sauerkraut are on the list of what we can eat, as is wine.  However, beer should not be because of the fact that it's made from grain, and Scotch either (sniff- I love Scotch).  But I can't deny Steve his beer- that would be too cruel. And he won't drink wine- he doesn't like it. Unfortunately, I like it all, but have cut way back on it. Can't say I feel any better, but I am losing weight.  The other thing I had to agree to was to allow him to make his pretzels, but we agreed that he only gets one a week, and that's on the weekend when I can better manage the rest of what gets into him, and there are no outside irritants to set him off.

Also off the list is dairy.  Milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, etc, have low glycemic indices, but are highly insulinotropic, which means that they stimulate the production and effect of insulin.  I read the information I had found to him aloud, and he had an ah hah! moment: so that is why he burns right through yogurt.  He also mentioned that his grandmother used to flip out if she didn't get her meals on time, and I had an ah-hah moment. So it's hereditary. He mentioned that his mother doesn't have this problem, so it seemed to skip a generation. I've said before that living with Steve is kind of like living with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde- when he's Dr. Jekyll, he's the sweetest and most affectionate man I've ever known, but when Mr. Hyde comes out- holy cow! Watch out.  So we're going to try this and see if it makes him feel better. I worked with a fellow who went on this diet, and he told me he hadn't felt this good since he was a teenager.

Yesterday we spent a couple of hours shopping for groceries, mostly meat, chicken and fish, and a boatload of vegetables.  And a couple of expensive things like almond milk and almond flour.  The almond flour was truly spendy, almost thirteen dollars a pound. The almond milk was icky in his coffee this morning, so I'll allow him a few tablespoons of milk for that until I can get him some cream.  I need to see if I can find a cheaper source for almond flour.  I'd use coconut flour, but it's almost as expensive and he doesn't like coconut.

The important thing for us to remember is to buy only wild-caught fish, because farmed fish are fed grain. We also only buy fish caught in Alaska, and never from the Atlantic.  The Atlantic is being over-fished to death, and the state of Alaska has been using sustainable fishing practices by law since the fifties, when they recognized that it behooved them to do so.

Also- meats should be either game, or pasture-fed, not only because of the relation to grain, but also because they are much higher in omega-3 fats, and are generally better for you. We purchased some corn-fed beef to hold us over until we can get a quarter of a grass-fed steer and a freezer, which reminds me- I forgot to research that today.

First breakfast for Steve this morning was a hard-cooked egg and an apple smeared with almond butter (peanuts and cashews are legumes, so they are out).  This was something he could get himself, because my morning chore, before going back to sleep for a couple of hours, is to build a fire in the stove.  His next snack an hour and a half later was three slices of turkey cold cuts and some crudites.  His next snack another hour and a half later was a nut cup- walnuts, almonds, raisins and dried cranberries.

Then I fed him second breakfast, which was almond blueberry pancakes with strawberry compote, and a slice of sausage and bacon. The pancakes were hard to do, being made with almond flour, almond milk and a couple of eggs, but like I said, I'm relearning how to cook.  His next snack was a stalk of celery filled with the remainder of yesterday's tuna salad.  He was supposed to get his lunch (a steak and a bunch of vegetables) an hour and a half later, but he got stuck on a call.  However, he was alright even up to getting his lunch late.  So maybe it's helping already.

What is on the list

If you'd like to read the interesting article I found about it, read it here.  There is other information out there as well, but this was the most interesting and the most accessible.

I'm not sure this is a lifetime commitment yet, but if we find that eating this way helps him, then we'll continue.  I may even lose some weight.  Steve just needs to think of this as not losing his dumplings; he needs to think of this as getting his skinny girlfriend back.  I hope.

Monday, February 1, 2010

My Date With Dentistry

I, along with seven siblings, inherited soft teeth from my father.  Why we all couldn't have inherited my mother's rock hard teeth, I'll never know.  As a matter of fact, I believe that the reason why my parents shelled out for orthodontia for every last one of us Jack was because they wanted our teeth to last beyond the age of twenty.

With the exception of losing four teeth to the cause of the aforementioned orthodontia, I actually managed to keep all my teeth past the age of forty, but things pretty much went south after that. In the short span of the eight years that Steve and I have been married, I have had four root canals, five crowns and two dental implants. Once, when paying the bill at the dentist's office, I mentioned that my husband told me that I was an expensive date.

An old man behind me in line said, "you'd better watch out- he'll trade you in for two twenty-year olds."

And I said, "That's okay- he's only wired for one-ten".

Which is a fine way to speak of a man who agreed to shell out five grand just so I could continue to floss between all my teeth.  The dentist had put a double temporary crown on two adjacent teeth and I couldn't floss in between them for two weeks while my permanent crowns were being made and it nearly drove me nuts. I think he did it on purpose. At any rate, I insisted that a couple of bridges (the affected teeth were on opposite sides of my mouth) was probably not a good idea for me, given that I misplace things regularly.  Anyway, it was my argument and it worked- I got my dental implants.  At the price he paid, I could have had the other kind- you know- really big ones, but I wouldn't have been able to chew dinner with them, and let's face it- food is more important.

Oh sure, I'm taking care of my teeth now, but all those years of just getting by with brushing  are still taking their toll.  And my ice chewing habit in my teens isn't helping either.   Even though I now floss religiously every day, sometimes twice, and do it correctly (I had to watch an instructional video at the dentist's), I am still getting cavities. Or dental caries, if you will.  The sad truth is this: of the many huge and old fillings in my molars, two are in such bad shape that I have new cavities under them.   My mother regrets ever taking us to Dr. Calvert, because  he would just drill and drill and drill.  (I once, as an adult, had a dentist tell me that I had a little molar in my fillings.)  Seemed like we were always at the dentist's office when I was little.  Wealthy Wade, my mother used to call him. 

Then last January, a dentist in Portland, performed a root canal on a tooth that had a crown on it.  Rather than remove the crown, he drilled through it. I thought all was well and good, but he evidently unseated the crown enough that it's been catching food up where I can't floss it, and now I have a new cavity in the tooth next to it that otherwise until now had nothing wrong with it.  So I'm getting three cavities fixed and a new crown, tomorrow morning at 9:30.

I am so not looking forward to this.