Scraping Away

Tyvex suits in 90°+ temps is not fun. Matt can attest to that. He spent most of last week scraping the west side of our house, and this weekend I donned my suit and mask to help spot on the ladder/scaffolding work. The good news: we got the west side scraped, HEPA vacuumed and all cleaned up. It is ready for caulk, repairs and paint!IMG_4856[1]

This week we are tackling the south side of the house. We have already gone through ¾ of a roll of plastic sheeting, 2 rolls of blue tape and so many hours of work. But we are making progress! Scraping out house in prep for paint is a slow process because there is some residual lead left from last time the house was scraped. We are following all the protocols for safe removal and taking out time to get it right. It will feel good to not have peeling paint.

Let me tell you. We are ready for a camping break for the 4th of July.

Solstice Strawberry Jam

A few weeks ago, I came home to Matt running frantically around the kitchen in the midst of his first jam making experience. He had run out of jars, was confounded by the amount of sugar in all the recipes, had way more berries than pectin…you can probably see it. I jumped in the car to procure more jars (thank goodness town is only 5 minutes away).

When I returned the scene was much calmer. The jars we had were filled, and the jam was the perfect level of sweet. We washed the final few, added the jam and off to the freezer they went. Fresh picked strawberry freezer jam round one was a success!

IMG_4546[1]As I mentioned, that was a few weeks ago. We have already plowed our way through two jars of this delicious treat; using it on toast, ice cream, in lemonade or milk…it is seriously awesome. So when the opportunity to pick more strawberries came up we jumped on it.

June 21: summer solstice. We picked another 18 lbs of bright red Shuksan berries on a weekend trip to Whatcom County. The season is winding down and the berries are smaller, but still oh so sweet and bright. IMG_4788[1]

We drove back to the island, took care of the chickens and sat down to an evening of hulling berries and watching Netflix. 18 lbs is a lot of berries, and we already had 17lbs made into jam, so we froze half of these. Today Matt turned the rest into round two of freezer jam. This time around we had enough jars, the right amount of pectin and a lot more confidence. Our freezer is full of sweet, solstice goodness.

IMG_4798[1]

8:37 PM, Wednesday, June 10

IMG_4571[1]

I snapped this photo at 8:37 last evening. It is so light out still we can hardly believe it. The chickens can’t either…they don’t put themselves to bed until nearly nine o’clock these days! I love seeing them come out in the dusk light. During the day they take shelter along the edges of our property, foraging under bushes and trees out of the heat and sightline of predators. But, when the glorious time between full sun and sunset comes they wander the lawn; picking up spiders and worms and crane flies as they go. Nine fat, funny, colorful ground birds on patrol. I love this sight.

Poor Dude Man Roo

Our poor rooster, Dude. His job just got a whole lot harder.

Back in the days of 4 hens, he was clearly in charge. The ladies came when he called them over for food, followed him around, and basically did whatever he said. He would make awesome dinosaur sounds whenever a threatening creature (hawk, eagle, raven, raccoon, etc) would come by…and yes, sometimes when his ladies were threatened by the ominous robin flying by. He was really good at his job.

Then we added two young birds, Dee Dee and Baja. These two really want nothing to do with him or the older gals and stick to themselves. You can tell that Dude still feels responsible for them because he wanders between the two groups and tries to call them all together.

Of course, it did not stop there. The final straw was this weekend when we brought home yet another two young hens, Lemon and Penny. Dude man does not know what to make of this. These two girls also just want to stick to themselves. Again, basically ignore him. But he is the Dude Man Roo! He is in charge gosh darn it! It is up to him to protect these fine ladies! Poor guy is struggling with his job. The hens are scattered in 3 little flocks, he is patrolling the center of the yard in the hot sunshine.

Thankfully, we think things will settle down for him. The young hens are getting bigger (which is important if they are going to stand up to Mary the moody bully) and more comfortable in their new home. The coop is pretty calm at night and there have been no significant scuffles. I think Dude man will regain his reign soon, and have those hens in line my mid-summer. After all, it is his job. In the meantime, he gets extra treats to get him through the transition.IMG_4543[1]

10 Years

This past weekend we celebrated 10 years of life since high school. Can it have really been that long ago? We had an informal meet up at Boundary Bay in Bellingham on Friday night, and then the official reunion Saturday. It was wonderful to see and catch up with so many people in person. I’ll admit, I was skeptical on how much I would enjoy the reunion. With Facebook and Instagram I have a pretty good idea of what everyone is up to. What I did not expect was how much fun it would be to reconnect with those people that I actually don’t talk with much. Friends, well, maybe not even, but rather classmates that are only on the fringe of my social spectrum now were so much fun to get to know as adults! Our lives are different, the social groups from Ferndale High are gone, and it was just plain fun.

Matt and I got many comments on our homesteading life on Vashon (made me question if I over-Instagram things!) We talked to friends that single and married, with and without kids, living far away or still in Ferndale. It was great to see people and reconnect in person. The class of 2005 really was a wonderful group of people.IMG_4538[1]

So a trip to Ferndale for the class reunion also meant visiting my family, and the slew of activity that those usually entail. This time the focus was deck demo. Their 17ish year old cedar deck has finally been given the boot to make way for maintenance free composite. Dad and Matt were crowbarring, unscrewing and sawing away for two days, and have the blisters to prove it. I helped by trimming and moving boards, planting tomatoes, and delivering lemonade.

IMG_4482[1]IMG_4466[1]

Speaking of lemons, we brought home two new hens: Lemon and Penny! My mom found them from the kids of a friend that needed to rehome school-project chicks. We happily added these two ladies to our flock and are now up to 8 + Dude rooster. They were very patient in the hot (super packed!) car ride back to Vashon.IMG_4536[1]IMG_4537[1]

We also adopted a sea kayak! A family friend was looking to rehome one of their singles and we happily took it off their hands. (Bonus: it matches the mini!) Unfortunately it is still in Ferndale since we were not quite set up to bring it home with our current roof rack setup. Hopefully we can bring it down soon though and get her in the water!

IMG_4461[1]

We also picked strawberries. And went to the dairy for ice cream. Busy enough?IMG_4526[1]IMG_4525[1]

Sunday night we pulled into the ferry line just as a boat was pulling up. I swear, living on the island gives you magical ferry timing (knock on wood). 30 minutes later we pulled up to our little house, let the chickens out, pet the cats, unloaded 17 lbs of strawberries, watered the garden, made dinner, ate while we watched an episode of Parenthood on Netflix, and finally collapsed into bed. And you know what? It was one of the most rejuvenating weekends I have had in a long time.

Growing

Planting has slowed and the garden is in growing stage. Matt waters each morning and checks for signs of new sprouting veggies. The tomatoes produced their first phase of flowers which have since been plucked to conserve energy for roots and height. A final bed was formed on the southern side of the garden for pumpkins, squash, cucumbers and broccoli. Now we wait.

Well, not quite. Now we focus attention on finishing the cedar edge to the garden and removing paint in preparation for a new house color. We never seem to get as much done as we expect to in a day or week.The list continues to loom.

Our homestead is a bit more fun with the addition of two new young hens. Dee Dee (or if you ask Matt, Didi) and Baja are our two newbies from another island farm. Baja is some sort of Easter egger and Dee Dee a barred rock. Both are very sweet, but too small to add into the “big girl” flock. They are content to be in a playpen eating treats while the big girls roam the yard. Little Baja was obviously picked on in her old flock…she has some injured tail feathers (they should replace just fine in a molt) and some crooked toes. We are splinting the toes to (we hope) straighten them out, but she may already be too old. She sure is cute! In two more weeks we adopt 2 more young hens from a friend of a friend and those 4 can grow bigger together. It is fun to add more hens, but also stressful. There are always fears of health issues and conflict, but that is also just part of the reality. Our older hens are laying less often so we need some young birds to pick up the slack.

Life on the island. Busy, busy busy, and good. We are going to take one day this long Memorial Day weekend to step back from projects and just have fun.

IMG_4089[1] IMG_4041[1] IMG_4057[1] IMG_4029[1]

Rules of the Farm

With nearly 15 hours of daylight right now we can put in some majorly long days in the garden. We have found a few ground rules (found through trial and error of course) help keep things smooth, on track, and productive around the farm.

IMG_3889

  • Drink water. We always have a water bottle in the garden with us and remind each other to use it! No passing out or headaches allowed.
  • Wear eye/ear protection always. Matt and I both make a point to emphasize this so it becomes second nature. Safety glasses may not look too sexy, but have saved our eyes many times from routine disturbances like flying soil, and more extreme things like flying nails or brackets when hanging the fence.
  • Eat breakfast. We take time to eat before we hit the garden. Again, no headaches or passing out (or getting grumpy) allowed.
  • Team decisions on project priorities. We learned very quickly that we can have different opinions and visions for what needs to get done when. This could lead to conflict with unmet expectations on what was going to get done. So now, we talk about it…a lot. We prioritize and stick to the list. When it gets derailed, we agree on when to take the alternate path and when to keep pressing on. Lots and lots of communication is key!
  • Take breaks. Matt and I are always checking in on how things are going. When one of us needs a break, we take it. No “just one more post” or “let’s just finish this”…we take the break. Drink lemonade, eat a snack, sit down. There is no shame in not powering through on our farm.
  • Always put the tools away. Always. The shovels are hung, extension cords coiled up and hand tools stored in the shed or basement. Always.
  • Laughter is not optional. There must always be teasing, laughing and fun! Even on those long, hard days when we are sore to the bone.

The result? More work gets done, fewer toes get stepped on and we are happy and healthy at the end of the day.