Monday, September 29, 2014

A Bit Overwhelmed

So much has happened since I last posted here that I am more than a bit overwhelmed - I think it would would be safe to say that I've been a lot overwhelmed the last few weeks! Mostly I just go along pretending that things are hunky dory and the messy stuff passes, that strategy worked this time too but it did take a tole on my sleep and my blogging and a lot of other things that I like to do. Basically, I've been in 'keep my head down' mode. Here's the story.

Remember when I told you we were planning a BIG trip? Well, that happened and it was wonderful and fantastic and any other superlative you can think of. We went here. Can you guess where this amazing photo was taken? I promise you that this is real and was taken by my friend and travel companion Marsha.
Mt. McKinley - Denali National Park
Did you guess correctly? Chris and I had an awe inspiring two week adventure vacation in Alaska which included cruising and touring and hiking, helicopters!! and glaciers and fabulous food. We shared all this with two other couples and had so much fun. As I was retuning home I was composing my blog posts to share my photos and tell you all about this grand escapade, truly a trip of a lifetime but, literally as we rounded the bend in the canyon to reach our home this happened:
King Fire photo
We were greeted with a huge smoke plume reaching hundreds of feet into the air and a chaotic scene in our tiny town. Chris dropped me off at the school where we could tell some kind of meeting was going on, he proceeding up the hill to check on the house. I discovered that we were five miles short of a mandatory evacuation line and that line could very well be moved to include us at any minute. I saw my DIL at the meeting and she and I began making evacuation plans as we drove home. No time to unpack or unwind from vacation, time to think of what needs to be done in case of evacuation!
 The King Fire made the national news I know and on a personal level I can tell you that it has been terrible. Our small mountain community has been spared because of the heroic efforts of firefighters from all over the nation and we are truly, deeply grateful.
These amazing pictures are from the King Fire Facebook page set up to keep residents informed about the progress of the fire

This picture is particularly heartbreaking - Stumpy Meadows being overrun by fire. This is only 12 miles from our home and where we go almost daily in the summer to swim, kayak and just cool off. Stumpy is also the main water supply for the Georgetown area. A beautiful and serene spot.
It makes me so sad to think that this fire was intentionally set by one person for some unfathomable reason.

After more than a week we received the all clear, we would not have to be evacuated. A blessed rain had fallen and aided the firefighters in their task. Because of the incredible work of the firefighting teams we were never in real danger.

I've started to put the papers and keepsakes away but you can bet that I have a real plan now for what I'll do the next time the words "possible evacuation" are mentioned. You can see why all thoughts of the fun vacation had flown out the window and why I might have been feeling just a little overwhelmed.

And now a message from me: Time for you to have a fire safety plan. 
1. Check you smoke alarms and make sure they're in working order.
2. Have a family meet up place and a family contact person.
3. Take pictures of everything in your home and put those on a flash drive. Put the flash drive in a safe deposit box or give it to a relative for safe keeping. This will help with insurance claims later.
4. Make a plan for what you would take if you had half an hour to leave; remember the four P's - People, Pets, Papers, Pictures.

More about that Alaska trip next time,

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Deep Litter Clean-Up

 It has to happen eventually. We practice the deep litter method of chicken keeping which means that we don't fuss with hen house maintenance. But, once a year we do have to clean out the hen house and provide new bedding to start the deep litter process anew. I talked about this at length in this post and I was featured in an article in the November/December 2012 issue of Chickens Magazine discussion of the "Once-a-Year Coop-Cleaning Solution".

The day starts early because this is hot, dirty work and it's best to do it on a hot day so that the coop has a chance to really dry out before the birds go to bed for the night.
 My faithful will-work-for-food farm hand/husband/ aka Chris starts shoveling out the old litter that's been building up over the last year. It's very dry and dusty and not a good thing to breathe so he has a dust filter under that scarf.
Starting a new compost pile with this worth it's weight in gold chicken manure. Yard waste and clippings will be added to this over the course of the next six to eight months, we like to let it age further over the winter and by spring it's more than ready to spread in the garden. 
Next comes the hose out and scrubbing with a mild bleach solution followed by another rinse. Everything gets scrubbed - floors, walls, perches and nest boxes.
This is the food storage area all scrubbed down and almost dry. When dry I dust everything and I do mean everything with diatomaceous earth to ward off bugs including the ground around the outside of the coop and run. 
Once the inside of the coop is dry diatomaceous earth is spread all around on perches and in nest boxes too. A deep layer of peat moss goes down and new coop curtains go up. The hens really like their privacy when laying jumbo eggs! Those same curtains used to be in my kitchen 20 years ago, I tell ya I never throw anything away!
Cinnamon loves her new cushy peat moss flooring.
The hen yard gets a dusting of diatomaceous earth for good measure too. In the 15 years that I've kept chickens I've never had a worm or bug problem and never used any kind of chemical on my birds (knock on wood). I truly believe that this routine and attention to cleanliness has kept them healthy and happy. Plenty of clean water, proper food and healthy natural snacks including fresh herbs from my garden and scraps from our table are provided daily. They have room to peck and jump and lounge around and rarely squabble.

If you're a chicken keeper what method do you use to keep your hens healthy and happy? Would you consider trying deep litter keeping?

Until next time,

Friday, September 5, 2014

What Am I Looking At?

I don't blame you for asking. After all, isn't this supposed to be a quilting, cooking, gardening, country living blog? My day at the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento started out to be about quilts I swear! Chris and I planned a day centered around this:
But, they wouldn't let me take one single picture to show you. Not One! You'll just have to take my word for it when I tell you that there were some wonderful old quilts on display from very early Colonial examples through the Victorian era. My favorite was an embroidered crazy quilt which must have been a labor of many, many years with exquisite stitching. I only wish I could show you *alas* and *alack*. 

What I can show you is the gallery next door to the quilt display where some very modern art was on show. This juxtaposition made no sense to me but what do I know?
I thought this sculpture was really interesting and kinda scary. I guess you can tell I'm no art critic. Here's the explanation:
I loved this work because it reminded me of a quilt block of course!
Can't you just imagine this done in batiks? Here's the artist statement for it:
I'd love to show you more of our museum day but at this exact point the camera batteries died. Probably a good thing I wasn't able to take pictures in the quilt gallery if I could only take four shots anyway. What the day taught me is that I need to brush up on my art appreciation before I venture to the Crocker again. I do like to know what I'm looking at, what about you?

Until next time,

Monday, September 1, 2014

Preserving Memories

Here it is, a lifetime of memories stored in cardboard boxes. Over 40 years of birthday parties and Christmas mornings, soccer games and graduations, family road trips and goofy kids just being kids. 

When we were a young couple just starting out we did not have the money necessary to develop the pictures we took of our family events so our solution was to have those pictures made into slides, much cheaper process in those days. Never mind that we didn't own a slide projector or fancy screen to view the slides! When Chris got his first teaching job we had been married six years and were so excited because not only did we have a steady paycheck but we could borrow the school projector and take a look at the family archive! Eventually we saved enough to purchase a slide projector of our very own because I used it to teach my childbirth education classes  but we never had enough to buy those fancy carousel things, always loaded the slides one by one.

Skip ahead 30 thirty years. Look what has taken over the upstairs bedroom. Chris is retired and he has made it his mission to sort, catalog and scan those precious memories to preserve them for our children and ourselves. Thank goodness for the digital age. What used to take up boxes and boxes of space can now be stored on one flash drive. All you need is infinite patience and a will of iron! Sort, label, scan; sort, label scan... day after day, month after month. We have an old computer that's not connected to the internet and not much use for anything but it turns out to be perfect for this task.

When we had the kids all together in Mammoth in July for our big family vacation we were able to give each of them a flash drive with every childhood photo from birth through teen years and beyond. Their grand parents smile proudly on christening days and those first day of school shots march past, each child growing taller and more reluctant to pose until finally the diploma is proudly displayed, baby faces giving way to young men with beards.
And, just to keep them humble we made sure to include shots of those questionable fashion choices!

Make sure that you preserve your family memories while you still can.
Until next time,