Sunday, July 31, 2011

Red Hot Art and Fun

Last night, my friend Gabriela and I attended the very swanky Red Hot party and auction at Tacoma's Museum of Glass.  Gabriela Cowan is half of the mother-daughter team that comprises Hexen Glass Studio in Olympia, and they create custom stained and fused glass artwork.  We each juried into this exhibit, in which all proceeds benefit the museum's education programs.  I also attended last year's event, and it has proven to be a great opportunity to network and gain exposure.

As both Gabi and I are introverted country girls who spend almost all of our time on farms and in studios, we were giddy with the excitement of dressing up and going to a fancy party.  Walking into the Museum of Glass during the exhibit is like entering a glass artist's wonderland.  The whole main space gets set up as a huge maze of every kind of glass art, nicely lit and displayed.
This is one of my favorites, blown and hand-sculpted glass by Shelley Muzylowski Allen.

With our glasses of wine, we perused the art, commenting on how important it is to get out of our comfort zones once in a while, and to look at art made by other people.  I enjoy eavesdropping on people as they look at my work.  Whether they like it or hate it, I find it interesting to hear their perspectives.  In this case, I overheard rave reviews, and watched as the bidding sheet quickly filled up!  Here's the piece they won:

Gabi's fused glass cityscape also received many bids, and it looked great.
I can't find a digital image of her piece, but here is one that is similar:
We were both invited to give an interview for a live webcast, and I agreed.  Always nervous when put on the spot, I don't remember much of what I said.  I was completely hypnotized by the tall, gorgeous woman interviewing me.

After the silent auction, we were called in for dinner.  After a week of eating without groceries, it was great to be served a delicious meal, but the very best part (possibly the best part of the whole evening) was the chocolate wine they served with dessert!  Chocolate Wine...I didn't even know such a thing existed!  It was absolutely divine, especially paired with a dark chocolate truffle.  What a treat, and what a fun night.  I'm so glad I was able to share the experience with a good friend.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Late July on the Farm

In early June, Mike was putting together a drip irrigation system in our garden.  Sadly, his mom passed away before it was finished, so he gave me a quick tutorial before he flew to California.  We wanted to have it ready for someone to easily water in our absence.  Now, drip lines pinned to the soil feed mini sprayers and drip spouts throughout the perennial garden when the spigots are turned on.  In the veggie garden, we have timers for drip lines to the pumpkins and sprinklers for the raised beds.  The greenhouse needs to be watered by hand every couple of days.  This whole system saves hours of time and many gallons of water.

I drove down to join Mike in California, and we have only been home a few days since mid-June.  The gardens are full of weeds and many of our veggies were ravaged by slugs, but it's still flourishing.
From this view, you can see a bed of beets on the left, which we will freeze and use throughout the winter.  The bed to the right has a zucchini in the foreground and the rest is carrots.  Beyond that are raised beds with cabbage, broccoli, fennel, potatoes, kale, spinach, and salad greens.  On the far end is a huge winter squash patch, and there is a bee hive in the far right corner.
Inside the greenhouse (it was hard to shoot a full view), the left side is full of tomatoes and there are snap peas beyond them.  There are cucumbers on the right, training up twine suspended from the roof.  Calendula and basil are planted in between everything else.  So far, I've only been able to eat one ripe cherry tomato, but there are many green tomatoes that will be ripe soon.  I eat the snap peas straight off the vines, and I have more cukes than I can eat on my own right now.  They are delicious!
The turkeys are growing fast, and are always famished.  You can see the ducks peeking out from behind them.  The black rouens are absolutely gorgeous.

Most of these chickens were babies only a few months ago.  They have finally gotten through their awkward teenage phase and are coming into their own.  I am only getting about one egg per day right now, so I look forward to these hens beginning to lay.
And the goats are sweet as ever, though Pan has been getting abrasions of some kind on his face, and Isabel currently has a similar injury on her face.  I have no idea what could be causing them.

In addition to the veggie garden, we have berries and fruit growing all over the property.  I've frozen 5 gallons of raspberries, and I've been snacking on blueberries and strawberries.  I'm trying to spend some time harvesting lavender each day, and the herbs are just going to seed.  Our grape vines are huge, and little grape bunches are just starting to grow from them. 

I'm so glad to be home for the summer, and enjoying the beginning of the harvest season.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Bee Swarm

Earlier this summer, Anouk ran in the house announcing that the bees were swarming.  Sure enough, when I checked the back yard, the air was filled with buzzing bees.  It's impossible to describe this experience, and when I tried to catch it on film, it simply looked like the sound and image was poor quality.  As we watched, the buzzing swarm slowly condensed into a thick cloud of bees, and they eventually began to cling to a post in our raspberry patch, covering it in a thick blanket of bees (referred to as a "beard.")
We brought out an empty super, then we moved the swarm into the box. We had only read about this process before, and it was surreal how docile the bees were.  We were literally scooping handfuls of bees, like they were liquid.  Mike cut the stalk they had gathered on and shook that into the box, then we put a feeder full of sugar water in the top box, put the lid on, and left them to settle in.  Bees are expensive, so we were thankful that we had an empty super on hand, because we now have a third hive, and it appears to be building comb very quickly.

We left the feeder on when we needed to leave town in June, and when we came home, they had built crazy comb to fill every inch of open space between the feeder and frames.  Here is a photo of a smaller crazy comb formation (from a different hive:)
Crazy comb is when the bees build free form Dr. Seuss-style structures to fill empty spaces in the hive.  We have learned to remove it so that the frames don't get welded together, making it impossible to tend the bees.  After removing that larger comb, I spent about an hour pressing the honey out, then melting the wax.  I decided to try using the microwave on thaw setting, and it worked perfectly.  Remaining honey sank to the bottom of the bowl, impurities were in the center, and the pure wax floated and hardened on top.  From just a bunch of excess comb, I have 12 ounces of honey and a big chunk of wax for use in soap and lotion-making! 

Eating without groceries for 2 weeks

It has been a crazy busy summer, including travel for a funeral, art exhibit, family reunion and a wedding.  None of my travels allowed me computer access, and it was a refreshing break.

During the last trip, I spent 10 days in Northern Michigan wilderness, where I grew up.  While I was away, my husband, Mike, was working a summer position in Olympia, so he ate his meals there and snacked on what little was left in the house.  As a result, I returned to find there was almost no food in the fridge, and the rest of my little family turned around and left the following day to go settle an estate.

Left alone with part of a jar of peanut butter, some rice milk, and a can of tuna, I considered a run to the grocery store.  But, then I harvested 3 gallons of raspberries, which I was putting in our garage freezer when I realized we still had a few bags of tamales that we made during the winter, two frozen chicken breasts, and some turkey, along with quite a few bags of frozen veggies.  Plus, the garden, while severely neglected, is producing a lot of fresh food.  So, I made it my goal to survive on what is here on our property until my family returns.

We have made an effort to eat a lot food that we grow ourselves, but I've been lazy about it lately.  My daughter has been eating nonstop and I am not the kind of mom who will spend a lot of time preparing food.  It's one of my least favorite chores, and I had fallen back into the habit of using store bought groceries for the main components of our meals.  I hope this exercise will remind me that I can make better meals using the eggs and produce we grow. So far, I've had turkey with kohlrabi and zucchini, a couple of salads with grilled chicken, a lot of cucumber slices, fresh berries, quite a few tamales, and I've been cooking chili in a crock pot, made with dried beans, turkey, zucchini, tomatoes and spices.

So far, I'm enjoying every meal, I'm eating more healthfully than I have in a long time, our grocery budget for this month will be almost nothing, and I wash and reuse my freezer bags, so there has been almost no garbage!