Nelson Creek Fire, Elk WA

We are in the path of the wildfire named “Nelson Creek, in Elk WA”. It started downhill from us about 2 miles away on Friday afternoon burning down our neighbor’s home and garage across from the Inland Grange on Nelson. Their propane tank blew up and the fire traveled uphill rapidly coming right at us on Casey Ln Evacuation notices type 2, were issued.

On Friday even though the fire department went into immediate action to contain it by using multiple county crews, trucks, water trucks, helicopters, prop planes, and even a jet plane. It got right up to our next door neighbors property perimeter requiring retardant on the west and northwest adjoining neighbors properties. Friday was thick smoke and lots of air traffic directly over our home. Check out how close to the trees those pilots fly WOW!

We got a surprise visit from Jake at State Farm, really, Jim and John I think because we have State Farm house insurance. They drove in working with the fire crews to assess fire preparedness. We evidently passed and they advised us to start sprinkling water around the house to deter embers from igniting. Then, immediately the electricity goes out, so we run generators to put water around.

Saturday some of the smoke was clearing, There are still crews working the fire and hot spots still being put out. The air and ground teams were still hard at it. These pilots carrying water drops and retardent drops are so very gutsy and professional.

The jet, prop plane and multiple helicopters just barely cleared our hilltop coming over the top of our house and on to the neighbors next door.

Sunday less crews trucks planes and helicopters. Pete drove out to get our mail and saw our neighbors had their yards burnt and one even lost a truck that was parked in his yard.

We were all lucky that none of us were hurt and we didn’t loose our homes. We are going to have a lot of cleanup to do.

Garden Flower Zen

dahlia blossoms

The work seems easier…

as my eyes feast on the beauty surrounding me in the garden.

A stroll through the garden provides bright colors and fragrant discoveries painted by blooming flowers planted throughout. I may be weeding but my ears are soothed to hear the song of many birds and bees buzzing by. The time spent is full of surprises like an occasional ladybug, butterfly or dragonfly! Flowers are an essential part of an artist’s garden. I cut flowers almost every day to make our house feel alive in summer.

It is amazing what you discover when writing a blog. Looking through the photography of the garden, I see that we plant 20+ types of flowers in the garden on a regular basis. No wonder, the bees like our garden so much. I could probably write a post about each variety from the various picture’s shot over the years that show the growth progress, colors and best angles. But don’t worry, that is not the intention of this post. The goal of this post is to show you what flowers we grow in the garden as an introduction to further articles that show more intense information about each variety.

  1. Alyssum, a ground-cover that I like to plant around other bigger guys.white alyssum ground cover blossoms
  2. Bachelor Button, a frequent bloomer gives a touch of color wherever they are.bachelor button blossoms
  3. Baby’s Breath, a small white flower used in bouquets.white baby's breath blossoms
  4. Bleeding Heart, the bush springs up just as the snow melts with heart shaped blossoms appearing as we ready for planting. Notice Mr Butterfly on the top right.bleeding heart blossoms
  5. Carnation, the cinnamon scent of these blossoms make it a pleasure to snuggle them with your face every time you pass by.red pink and white carnation blossoms
  6. Coneflower, a hardy bush that grows up tall and spreads arms wide showering the garden with yellow blossoms all-summer-long. yellow cone flower bush
  7. Cosmos, a favorite wildflower blooming throughout summer.lavender cosmos blossoms
  8. Crocus & Daffodill, 2 short time early spring guys who pop their head out of the snow, with heads that turn to follow the sun.purple crocus blossomsyellow daffodill
  9. Dahlia, comes in a multitude of bright colors, shapes and sizes.pink dahlias
  10. Daisy. We had daisies and red roses at our wedding.shasta daisy blossoms
  11. Geranium, I have to take into the house over winter.red geranium
  12. Gladiola, a flower that I love but so do all the gophers, an on-going war.red gladiola
  13. Iris, is planted all around in and out of the garden. The deer seem to leave it alone, most of the time.bearded iris blossoms
  14. Lilac, lavender spring bush blossoms with a heavenly fragrance.lavendar lilac blossoms
  15. Marigold, 2 years ago I scattered a coffee can of dried flower seeds. Wrongfully, thinking were no good. But, they were just fine, notice the height of those marigolds.tall marigolds
  16. Poppy, a wildflower self seeder.pink poppy blossoms
  17. Roses, one of my favorite flowers.pink rose
  18. Snapdragons, are very fragrant and colorful blossoms.snapdragon blossoms
  19. Sunflower, pale yellow, orange, to brown. Check out the bee zooming in for a landing here.golden brown sunflower
  20. Zinnia, splashes of color all summer long.

Our Garden Apothecary

mullein 01Diana Gabaldon’s bestselling book series, Outlander did a good job of introducing me to the role herbs play in human medicine. She is responsible for the intense interest I have in the herb section of our garden. Above is a typical day of herbal drying on our deck table. There are 3 mullein blossoms on the upper left, hyssop blossoms on the right top rack and then chamomile blossoms in the tray up front. Anything blooming gets picked and dried throughout summer.

Saturday, I had an earache and sore throat requiring a visit to an urgent care in town. They tested for COVID (negative) and then prescribed an antibiotic for which I am so very grateful. It is Tuesday, and I am doing so much better but the earache has not fully resolved yet.

What does a gardener that believes in herbal remedies do?

Rosemary Gladstar's Herbal RecipesI get out one of many handy books by Rosemary Gladstar, an Amerian herbalist. You should really check this author out (YouTube) if you are considering getting into healing herbs because her books are full of helpful info and real life solutions. Her books have indexes that make looking up info easy.

mullein 04
I knew some mullein was blooming outside the garden fenceline.

This book is entitled “Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health” and the recipe I tried was on page 82 Garlic-Mullein Flower Oil for ear infections.

mullein 03I made up this recipe in less than half an hour, and after putting three drops in each ear, got immediate relief.

mullein 02BTW, did you know that the pioneer’s used to call the mullein blossom the torch flower? Well, they did. Why? Because they’d dry the blossom stems and later fasten them to sticks and soak them in oil. They were used as torches to light their way at night. Wow. Did you think of that while you gazed at the yellow blossoms on a stick?

The definition of Apothecary is (noun), a person who prepared and sold medicines and drugs. Peter and I have become somewhat our own pharmacy as we use the information in reputable herbalist’s books with herbs we grow in the garden and the medicinal weeds growing around us.

Canning Berries

After Pickin’

strawberry 46After a strawberry picking morning in the garden, comes a lot of prep work. Cleaning, sorting, coring the harvest. I am lucky to have a sweet husband who stands at the kitchen counter coring and sorting with me. This batch, after prep work, measured 36 cups ready to be process.

Syrup

canning Strawberry 00724 cups are split into 2 pans on the stove. Pete’s Mom gave me the recipe and I remember Dorothy every time I make it. 12 cups fruit to 8 cups sugar, brought to a boil then immediately add 1 tsp of butter & turn down to simmer for 10 minutes. Turn the heat off, add 3 Tbls lemon juice. This image shows it ready to foam over the top on the stove.

canning Strawberry 008Beware, boiling it is where it gets a little tricky. Only fill the pans about half-way full, Be careful to turn the temp down quickly when they boil, it can very easily and quickly boil right over the top. Have a teaspoon of butter ready and drop it into the foamy rising syrup. You’ll see the level recede back down into the pan rather quickly.

canning colander 05I place a colander cone in the sink with a bowl below it. In the sink is lower and easier to reach, and spills are no problem. Pour through the colander to strain the fruit pulp out and put aside to make fruit roll-up’s later. Then, pour syrup into the jars and proceed with seal steps.

I know syrup makes a sticky mess on everything including all your utensils and pans. Clean up is a challenge, but remember, you don’t have to fight with it. Soak everything in warm soapy water, and it will soften, allowing a really easy cleanup.

Fruit Roll-ups

canning Strawberry RU 003Making fruit roll-ups with the already sweetened pulp is easy cause you have already done all the work. I line a cookie sheet with plastic wrap that can be microwaved. Then, spread the pulp 1/8″ – 1/4″ thick on the sheets.

canning Strawberry RU 004Place them in a 150º oven overnight to dehydrate. In the morning, it is done if it is not sticky to touch. If it is still sticky, put it back in and let it go longer.canning Strawberry RU 006

Juice

Okay I got too tired to process the remaining 12 cups of fresh strawberries. Instead of staying up late into the night, I freeze the remaining 12 cups in a zip lock bag. I’ll make strawberry juice later.

Strawberry Patch History

Berry Patch History

strawberry 01aGrowing strawberries for the family took us a little while to get right. Pete and I started seriously growing them in 2015 at our place in Elk, WA. Beginning with seed, because of budget restrictions gave me very little success, but I didn’t give up and kept planting for 3 years. Looking at this picture they look pretty scraggly. Finally we determined that the location they were put in the garden was not good for them.

Moving

strawberry 02aWhen we expanded our garden in 2018, I decided to move the strawberry patch to the other side. First, building a 8″ raised bed approx 16 ft long x 2.5 ft wide using old concrete blocks and then transplanting the plants. We were blessed with a gift of more starts from my friend’s beautiful patch, and she also showed me how to pull the runners as I picked. Even though this was a new patch, because of the move, these 2 suggestions really made a noticeable improvement to the strawberry harvest and fruit size.

Bigger

strawberry 12In the spring of 2019 my strawberries were overcrowded and desperately needing thinning. I removed the concrete blocks (CMU) surrounding the raised bed. Then we tilled the area around the original raised patch, and lowered the soil level to be equal with the surrounding garden. We could disc the soil with our tractor then.

strawberry 19Thinning the overgrown area, I transplanted them to the newly tilled area in rows about 4-6 inches apart. The strawberry area became a 20 ft x 8 ft patch.

strawberry 42This is what it looks like this year and now this old gardening girl is beginning to wonder, “What was I thinking?” We are already harvesting a lot of berries this summer. Sometimes my body talks to me about it and I am making friends with Tylenol and Aspirin in the evenings.

Strawberry Heaven

strawberry 41A couple days ago was my first time picking  this year and it amounted to 1-1/2 gallons.

strawberry 44I picked 5 gallons of fresh strawberries in the garden this morning. Looks like I am going to be real busy with these berries this year, picking, eating, processing and canning.

strawberry 47If you are in need, call us and we will share… or you can get permission to come pick yourself. We are considering selling at a minimal price to our friends and family or maybe a farmer’s market because we will probably have quite a nice harvest this year.

strawberry 46We do love these beautiful red berries. Today, I plan on making syrup, juice and fruit roll-ups after it cools a little more this evening.

 

Life Drawing in Summer

Here are 2 of my attempts at portrait drawings (25 minute sessions) from this Monday night “life drawing” class. We did portraits of  a beautiful high school volleyball player who sat real still, which makes the drawing or painting much easier on all of us.figure drawing 2

When I started going in January 2021, I was terrible. No matter how hard I tried, I could not get a likeness of the model. Now, things are improving. It is amazing what a little practice can do.

figure drawing 1This class is an artist date night for me. I get to see fellow artists and visit with what is important to us. We are a fun group of artist’s and we have all become friends. We meet for a three hour life drawing session with a live model every Monday evening at Terry Lee’s studio in Coeur d’Alene, ID. However thanks to good old COVID, attendance dropped, so we changed to 2 Monday’s each month for the rest of the summer. You can contact Terry at the link above or myself anytime if you’d like to come join us. There is nothing more challenging to draw than the human form.

Dogs & Sprinklers

Max Sprinkler 001We discovered an entertaining sprinkler fascination for one of our dogs. He goes crazy playing with any sprinkler as he takes off running, jumping and trying to snatch droplets out of the sky. Here is his serious face as he notices that I have the sprinkler ready to spray in my hand.

Max Sprinkler 002Of our two children in retirement, “Max” is our tri color guy who is a running child, and the more sedentary redhead is “Hurley” who is more elderly. Hurley likes to sit in pools of water or mud instead of chasing a sprinkler around. Hurley sits in the background watching as Max sprints to catch the water.

Max Sprinkler 008 Max Sprinkler 007Max Sprinkler 005 Max Sprinkler 004 Max Sprinkler 003 Max Sprinkler 002 Max Sprinkler 010 Max Sprinkler 009 Max Sprinkler 006

Max loves to play in the water and we love to be able to enjoy this with him.

Playground Rock

rock Placing 008During our rock wall adventure in landscape, sometimes, you run into a really large boulder that really should be made into a piece of solid playground equipment. Here is one that we found this week.  This had to be moved so we could cut a dead tree down where we are going to build our rock wall in front of our house.

rock Placing 011How many tires are actually on the ground as Pete moves it around with the Kubota? As we move this heavy rock, notice the squished front tires when the rock is being pushed. Do you think it just may be a little beyond this piece of equipment’s capacity? Sure hope this little tractor is up to the test.

rock Placing 022 rock Placing 028 rock Placing 031Roll, roll, roll. Push, then tilt.

rock Placing 034This granite guy has a flat top just perfect for climbing on, and two stairs on one side with a single stair on the other, it’s perfect for the lawn area. The grandkids have already tried all the surfaces out for us.

Rock Movers in Elk WA

rock Pile 02If you are an expert “operator” of equipment, or rock mover, anything is possible. Really, just ask Pete!

Kubota Repair 001BTW. Expert, as defined by my father, is a drip under extreme pressure.

Kubota Repair 002

Besides, if Peter breaks the tractor he knows how to order the parts and fix it himself. What is the problem? It takes real talent to move rocks while using equipment that is lighter than the object that you are trying to pick up or move. Just last week Pete had to re-weld the shift lever twice for this poor little tractor. It broke while doing “the impossible”. I wonder what this Kubota tells all the other pieces of equipment in the yard… after the moon comes up each night. It would be interesting to put a baby monitor down there at night to see what the tractor tells the lawn mower, and rototiller when we are not there.

rock Moving 01Here is a pictorial sequence of hooking up to move a big rock with a tiny garden tractor and a chain. Simple, really! Sometimes you have to start with digging a little to be able to reach underneath and put the chain around it.

rock Moving 03Then you hook the chain to the bucket and start to back up real slow and pulllllllll.

rock Moving 07I can see this little orange Kubota sweating as it strains.

rock Moving 05Look at how interested Max is in seeing the rock move. Not even.

rock Moving 08When it reaches where it is going to rest for now, placing a rock under one edge allows us to easily hook a chain around it next time without having to dig under it.

rock Moving 10Okay, now imagine doing that all day long, to make a Ph. D pile like the one at the top of this post. Are you wondering what a Ph. D pile is? A quote from Pete, “It is a stack of rock Piled Higher and Deeper!”