Saturday, November 21, 2009

Spring Fall Cleaning

All the leaves are brown, and the sky is gray...

So goes fall, winter and sometimes a chunk of spring here in beautiful Western Washington. We've been huddled up inside increasingly often these days, which seems to have triggered a mild case of cabin fever/organizational mania in me. On my list of to-do's for today -

*Rake leaves. This might sound like moderately simple chore to anyone who hasn't seen my yard, but trust me, it's a good day's work. True, though we have just 1/4 acre, the previous owner was, to say the least, an avid tree-planter. Therefore, we have around 20 trees of varying sorts in our yard, all of them deciduous.

*Trim grape vines.

*Muck out (or get husband to muck out) chicken coop.

*Drop bags full of ill-fitting clothes off at the neighborhood clothing bank.

*Sort through books for Powells. If you've never been to Powells, well, you need to see it to believe it. They are the independent bookseller here on the west coast, located in downtown Portland. The store covers and entire city block and requires a map to navigate - seriously. Once or twice per year we purge the ol' book collection and take them down to Powells Books to trade in for store credit for new, used books.

*Make stock. We're going to be out of town for a few days and I need to empty out the veggie drawer before we go. Bubble, bubble...

Oof - I'm tired just writing that. I actually started the leaf raking this morning before the sky opened up and drove me back in the house. I don't mind doing yard work in the rain or cold, but I draw the line at rain and cold. You have a message for me, Mother Nature, and I hear you. You clearly said Get out of the miserable weather and go fritter away an hour on the computer with a big cup of strong coffee, my child.

Yes, Ma.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Freaky Egg

When I went out to lock the hens up tonight, I checked the nest box just for good measure, and this freaky mess is what I found -

Amelia hadn't laid for 2 days previous to this. By the way - the shell is basically non-existent. It felt like a warmish water balloon. Ew...

So, my questions now are -

a) Should I be concerned about Amelia's health?

b) Can I eat this egg?

c) Do I even WANT to eat this egg? (At the moment - NO.)


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A Windfall

We had ourselves a mighty bit of wind and rain here in Western Washington last night. So much so, that I could barely sleep for fear that the next wicked gust would topple my sad and dying ash trees, and send them straight through my bedroom window. I probably needn't have worried overly much about that, since the trees in question are so thouroughly rotted that in the event that they did fall and strike something on the way down, they would probably just explode in a shower of spongy bark chunks. But I digress from the point of this post.

The result of last evening's mighty wind was to remove the last of the leaves from my trees, leaving my yard suddenly, startling bare. In such a state of nakedness - the yard, not me - I found a few hidden treasures. I was scrounging up some old bricks that we salvaged from our very old chimney to shore up one of my hothouses that has lately been under daily assault by the chickens. In collecting the bricks I happened to look up and see some completely unexpected kiwis. Amazing!

The plants leaves, which are at this time of the year about the same color as the fruit, had been removed to reveal our little surprise fruit. We found seven in total, which is pretty awesome, considering that our male kiwi plant, has yet again died. I don't know if "he" managed to fertilize our enormous female kiwi before biting the dust or if, as has happened in the past, a bee has made it's way from my neighbor's yard to mine with a bit of kiwi pollen on board. We also found a little four inch delicata squash near the kiwi plant. I hadn't noticed that a vine had wandered over there, but it obviously must have.

I love little surprises like that! Alas, my joy will be short lived, since now that the leaves are all down, I have no more excuses to delay raking them up.

By the way - kiwi pics by Olivia - copyright 2009. :)

Monday, November 16, 2009

This appliance will self-destruct in 3 ...2 ...

We've been having clothes dryer issues lately, which may or may not be attributable to a rodent of some sort making a home in our crawlspace. The dryer's misbehavior coincided with the discovery of the varmint break-in, thereby leading us to believe that the two were connected. About the time that the mystery critter started living under the house, the dryer stopped venting to the outside, and began making a weird high-pitched whine. One friend suggested that our dryer hose might have been obstructed by a nest or a stash of winter walnuts, so we took things apart and checked them out. Even after thoroughly cleaning and re-sealing the dryer vent hose, the dryer is still producing the weird noise, but seems to be drying clothes well enough. So I'm debating on calling out the dryer repair man to see what's what, and I am positively dreading it.

If you have needed a service call for an appliance lately, you'll be familiar with all of the little joys that accompany it - the vague appointment time, the minimum service charge, and often in my experience, the cranky attitude. Am I the only one who feels like I pay $90+ to have an insolent little old man come into my home and shame me for the way I treat my appliances? As if that weren't irritating enough, add to that the fact that with increasing frequency, any given appliance can be deemed unfixable by virtue of - a) the complexity of accessing the problem area b) the impossibility of obtaining a now-obsolete part c) the cost of repair being the same as or greater than the cost of replacing the appliance altogether.

This "problem" is actually a well-designed scheme called Planned Obsolescence that exists to encourage our consumption of the "latest and greatest" that the world of technology has to offer, and trading heaps of money for heaps of trash. It is so commonplace that even the most steadfastly Granola among us is likely to question the wisdom of fixing a however-many-years-old clothes dryer for $300 or buying a spanking-new energy efficient one for four hundred.

But what happens to the old one? Why is that one little cog so complicated and expensive that it is worth everyones while to junk a hundred-plus pounds of metal and plastic in favor of another that will also, inevitably fail? We covet shiny new things, and the manufacturers and marketers of the world have seized upon that by designing products with an inborn propensity for failure. They don't want you to repair your microwave, they want you to toss it out and upgrade. Have you ever even heard of anyone repairing a microwave?

This is just another area where our culture has given in to our lazier nature and taken the path of least resistance, and we need to stop it, NOW. Next time you're faced with repairing or replacing an appliance or anything else, take just a few seconds to think about the process that your choice sets in motion and the consequences of it.

Ok - I'll get down off of the soapbox now and back away slowly... for now.

For more info and opinions on the evils of planned obsolescence -

The New York Times, December 10, 2008

These Days in French Life - A wonderful blog - one of my very favorites! (Update - Unfortunately Rianna has decided to no longer publish her blog publicly.)