Mo Bloggin'

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Archive for the tag “Trumpeter swans”

All hail King Kale

So, today I ate the last of this year’s kale – sob.  I have to say I’m going to miss it, although maybe not for a couple of weeks.  I’ve eaten mountains of the stuff this year, and prior to February I’d never eaten kale before!  Once I started harvesting my own I know I probably ate a few kale bugs too. I was always rescuing spiders after I harvested leaves – the little ones set up house in the folds of the kale – and I’m sure I missed a few.  And all the green caterpillar worms.  When they got big enough to see, I’d of course pluck them off (and gave them to the chickens), but when they were small…well, I have a feeling I probably ate a few.  And aphids too.  A little protein here and there.

My favorite recipe, hands down, was the massaged kale with Gorgonzola salad.  It was easily the tastiest, and pretty easy to make, kept fairly well (24 – 48 hours) and best of all used up a few quarts of kale leaves.  Like, two large bunches.  When things were in full swing, I could make this salad a couple times a week and not make a dent in the kale supply.  I finally pulled up the remaining plants last week, though.  They had survived all the bugs and slugs dining on them, and several wickedly hard frosts, but in the end were getting thrashed by the dogs, since Daisy and Pal discovered that a mostly fallow garden is a great place to play – something about all that soft soil to chase each other in, and of course kale and rutabaga leaves to chomp on (Daisy and Farley, and the sheep, love the rutabaga leaves).  For now the rutabagas are all that’s out there, aside from my herbs, a few stray beets, and way too much Swiss chard.  I am so sick of chard that I’m just picking it now to give to the chickens.  The three monster rutabagas left look reminiscent of the mandrake babies in Harry Potter (only bigger) – I’m almost afraid to pull them up.

It’s been a busy month since my last post, with lots of yard work, as always.  The leaves have all fallen and I’ve been slowly working on raking the pasture, sending out bushels and bushels of leaves in the yard waste recycling.  It was nice last weekend, as I raked I could see a large flock of trumpeter swans in the fields across the street, and hear them honking greetings to newcomers flying in as I raked.  There are still masses of leaves out there, and a few bushels will go into the garden, along with the manure and hay mix from the sheep shed (plus their direct deposits, when they’re out gleaning), now composting nicely under a tarp (partly to keep the dogs out of it, partly to keep from getting too wet), and manure/straw mix from the chicken coop.

The bees seem to be doing okay so far.  There has been some die-off, with dead bees outside the hive and on the screen at the bottom of the hive.  If we get a halfway warm day and the sun manages to shine on the hive, a few of the girls might fly out, but mostly it’s been quiet.  I did find a number of dead varroa mites on the bottom board last month (removed it so there would be better ventilation).  And the wax moth larvae too.  Of course I never did any varroa mite control, so now I’m worried I may have blown it by resisting the preventative treatments most conventional beeks do in the late summer.  It’s too cold and wet to open up to check on them, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed they’re okay in there.

I took Pebbles and Cinnamon on a little road trip a few weeks ago to honeymoon with a handsome ram named Jocko.  They’re spending the month with him, while he wines and dines them and hopefully becomes the father of their lambs.  If all goes well, I’ll have lambs in late April.  I’m going back to pick up the girls the week after Christmas – right about the time the odor from the trip up there has finally dissipated from my car.  I put a large mat down in the back of the car, but they managed to pee on the area that wasn’t covered by it.  It’s been too cold and/or wet to get the shop-vac out there to shampoo the carpet, but I’ll have to bite the bullet and do it after they come home.  I miss the two of them, especially little Pebbles, though I’m sure Conan, Curly and Bo could care less (“more for us”).

The holidays have come swooping in, as they always seem to, somehow catching me off guard.  I think it’s because I try to resist the onslaught of commercialization (Christmas decorations up before Halloween is over) until after Thanksgiving (one holiday at a time, thank you very much), then all of a sudden it’s only 12 days away and I haven’t done any shopping…  Ah, well.  I put up some lights over the weekend, but still have the bulk of my decorating to do, too.  I am happy that I finished my Christmas cards tonight, squeezing them in around a large editing job I got in last week.  I have another large one due to arrive on Friday, so will be juggling the two over the weekend – who has time to shop?

Seven swans a swimming

I was out driving this past Sunday, doing some drive-bys on homes listed I thought I might be interested in.  As part of the process I’ve learned that you can pull up the pictures – hopefully there’s  a nice balance of indoor and outdoor shots – and check out the aerial view (look for power transmission lines adjacent or on the property, other property features (wet? flood plain? flat? steep hillside?), and neighborhood features–what’s that down the street?  A junkyard?), and map it, and if all systems look good, it’s time for a drive.  I put the bird dog in the car and took off, feeling glum about my “maybe” house (short sale that’s been vacant…and unheated during our recent week long artic freeze; I was worried about the frozen pipes bursting and causing damage to the home), and thinking I needed to step things up. 

We drove to the first property, the one I was most hopeful about, and found that although the land was quite nice (six acres), the home was much too close to the rather busy road, and worse, the neighbors home was on the property line as stone’s throw from the front door.  Six acres and no privacy?  No thanks.  Next! 

We drove by three more I had targeted – a couple of maybes, but nothing that blew my hair back.  Farley was climbing back and forth from the front seat to the back and starting to irritate me.  He was excited, with no outlet (I’d promised a hike, but the drive-bys were first) and I scolded him to either stay in the front seat or get in the back.   Finally he laid down in the back, evidently giving up on any release.  (“Hike, my tail feathers.”)  Few dogs can do pathetic better than a Setter.  So now we were both glum.

I was feeling discouraged and wondering if I should put moving out of the area completely back on the front burner.  Oregon’s pinot noir wine country, or Bellingham by Mt. Baker (where there was what may have been a grizzly bear sighted in recent years – a huge plus for me), or to my beloved Okanogan Highlands.  As I drove through the Sunday snowflakes (it looked like dandruff, though was accumulating in some areas) and mulled these ideas, I saw them.  Trumpeters, a formation of six or…seven, flying low overhead.  I looked over and could see dozens more in a fallow corn field back from the busy road.  There were plenty of adults and youngsters mixed, the immature swans a sooty brown color in comparison to the adults’ pure white plumage.

I’ve been looking for them for a few weeks, ever since I saw about ten  flying low over the river by home when I was out with Farley over Thanksgiving weekend.  I’d heard them first, their trumpet-like call causing me to crane my neck looking for them.  They’re back!

Sunday’s group was a little farther from our usual haunts, and  I pulled off on the first side road I could find.  These farm roads are a series of els, and I zigzagged along, hoping I could find some swans to view a little closer.  I pulled down one road with an old dairy barn (no cows seen), and watched an immature Red tail hawk swoop on something in a plowed field.  It didn’t look like a killing dive, but he stood on the ground next to something.  I stopped the car across the road and watched him.  And he watched me.  Finally I pulled the car away a little.  That’s when he grabbed the meal; it looked like a mole, perhaps turned up by the plowing, and flew off to a nearby tree with it. 

I rounded another sharp turn and saw them then.  Dozens of swans a few dozen yards from the road in a cut corn field.  By now Farley was practically singing, whining with excitement at all the birds.  I rolled down my window and snapped a few photos, careful to keep him from leaping out the window or making enough noise to scare them.  After we’d been watching them for a few minutes they visibly relaxed, the sentry swan even foraging for leftover corn.  As we sat there – no more than five minutes total – dozens more flew in, mostly in small groups of four or five, or sometimes just one or two.  The noise was as thrilling as the sight; they called to one another constantly, sounding like an orchestra of trumpets tuning up before the concert.

Seeing them brightened my whole day, and my worries and woes disappeared.  And of course it  reinforced my emotional bond to this area, and my desire to find my peaceful little farm somewhere close.  Maybe all is not lost.  The promised hike with Farley was a treat for both of us.

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