Goldfinch Bird Visits Garden

American Goldfinch
American Goldfinch

A beautiful American Goldfinch yellow bird has been visiting in and around our garden this year. He seems to enjoy the flowers & berries in the garden. I have been unable to get a picture of him, because every time I would notice him I wouldn’t have my camera with me. Darn! That little phone camera is absolutely useless in getting a good enough shot of a faraway flying munchkin, only producing a blurry spec in the sky to see. More detail is needed to be able to identify what a new bird specie for me, but I had my trusty real camera Nikon with a decent lens when he showed up yesterday. I got this and used this picture to find him in our reference book and we do have beautiful birds here.

No Longer a Mystery Bird

Peter and I have, “A Field Guide to the BIRDS of North America” by Michael Vanner. This great reference, lets us discover what we are looking at. Following is the  info on page 252 quoted. Get this book if you like to look at birds.

American Goldfinch
(Cardulelis Tristis)

Common across most of North America with the exception of the far north, the American Goldfinch is a familiar visitor to bird feeders with its striking plumage. It is gregarious and will often mix with other birds in large feeding flocks. It breeds relatively late in the year, building a small tightly woven cup nest of grass and plant fibers high in a bush or tree. This holds 3-6 plain blue-white eggs which are incubated by the female for 2 weeks. The young can fend for themselves 12-17 days later and juvenile birds are brownish with dark wings and tail. It eats mainly seeds, but will also eat berries and insects. It shows a particular fondness for thistles, which it eats and uses to line its nest.

Thistle absolutely loves our place, and we are constantly at-war with those voracious thorns. I am never sure if we are just loosing a battle or if we have already lost the war. Weeds, weeds, weeds. Thistle is a never tiring foe. Now, I fully understand why he loves it here so much.

Broccoli Treats

Garden Treats Are Here

broccoli spears in strainer
broccoli spears in strainer

Broccoli treats greet us from the garden daily now. I just can’t get over how much better home grown vegetables and fruit taste, you would not believe how sweet the flavor is. Now, store bought broccoli is a somewhat bitter second place loser to me. We planted one packet of seed and all of them came up, so our broccoli patch is surprisingly bigger than planned.

 

broccoli patch
broccoli patch

Broccoli treats are not the only vegetable we have. The first vegetable was the asparagus which peeked their heads out while the snow was still melting. It is a crop we started years ago and it finally is producing quite well. We love it and next year I am planning to figure out how it is pickle it. Though we appreciate the treat of asparagus spears, we actually got a little tired of them before it went into seed production.

asparagus going to seed
asparagus going to seed

Nature Treat Shows

Gardens are amazing nature shows. Our garden was planted 2-3 weeks late due to tractor mechanical issues. For awhile we were worried that we would not have much produce this year, but everything is growing real fast in the warm days we have had lately with temperatures of 80-90 degree daytimes with 40-50 nights. Again it seems like a wonderful carousel of delicious garden treats as everything matures at it’s own pace.

I weed and water for my daily (almost) meditation. This physical effort is well worth it, for healthy food that tastes so phenomenally good.

two pea pods
two pea pods

The peas seem ready to begin picking tomorrow, so we will be busy shucking pods while we watch tv at night. Beans and zucchini are almost ready and lets not forget the corn tasseling or grapes forming on the vines. The most candy-like treats are all the berries and fruits which are gearing up to be our next garden treat. There are many more items. Blackberry, blueberry, choke-cherry, raspberry, elderberry, cucumbers, tomatoes…. followed by apple, and pears later.

blackberry hedge, apples
blackberry hedge, apples

 

 

Retirement Woelk Style

RetirementPete06

What does retirement Woelk style, look like? This World’s Best, trophy holding, Woelk just retired…. completing 31 years at Kaiser Aluminum Trentwood, Spokane Washington plant. Friday was his last workday. He has 4 weeks of vacation before his “real” retirement starts. So, he is actually “on vacation” so, this is really his first week of vacation. Doesn’t look like vacation to me, does it look like vacation to you? Hmmmmm.

RetirementPete05 RetirementPete04

In all honesty, I am glad he is getting the tractor fixed because we need it to finish getting the garden in, but honestly, this is NOT how I picture  retirement or vacation. Not even close.

RetirementPete03 RetirementPete02

This Machine Has Needed This

Every nook and cranny of the machine has been inspected, cleaned, greased and put back together and now he is taking apart the front-end to find the noise it made. Hopefully, it will stay fixed all season after this thorough go through. This is a Kubota we bought from Ann and Dan when they moved to Arkansas. I pray for safety and protection for him every morning. We own stock in Band Aid and Tylenol now.

RetirementPete04 RetirementPete02 RetirementPete01

Retiring Woelk Style isn’t Normal

Who Cares? I’ve never really cared much about normal anyhow. I’m Just As Guilty As Pete…I am working in the garden this week. Got the strawberry patch transplanted and spaced so they are not overcrowded. Hoping to be able to replenish the strawberry jam, strawberry syrup and strawberry juice this year. Un Huh! I will put up the before and after pictures of that in later posts.

Will get on the berry bushes and fruit tree bases clearing next so that they stay healthy and should be ready for when the tractor is back together and ready to plow and disc the rest of the garden so we can seed. We already have the other starts in the house waiting to go in.

But, I already had steamed asparagus for breakfast this morning. Yummm.  Our roses are budding, fruit trees are blossoming,  iris are getting ready to do their thing. Love the warm weather and the hummingbirds, life is great in the fast lane here in Elk. Never thought this ski bum would say that, did ya? Neener neener neener!

Purple Blossoms

crocus 11 purple blossomsFirst Purple Blossoms Appear

The first bright purple blossoms peek their heads out for me, as crocus planted last year along the driveway come up. All that work from the previous year rewards us with spring flowers, that I love. They are such welcome splashes of color after a period of cool grays. Pete and I took some pictures to allow me to come back in to the studio and paint them, instead of getting frosty outside. After all, the temperatures are not balmy yet.

crocus 01  purple blossoms crocus 06  purple blossomsI look up the name crocus and find that they are a part of the iris family. Really? Who would have thought that? Thank goodness for the ease of using Wikipedia, soon I will forget how to turn the pages of a dictionary.

Focus

Here is a deep artistic concept, check out these two photographs. They are a perfect example showing how a different “depth-of-field” or “focus” totally changes an image. It almost seems as though these two pictures were taken at different places, but they were not. Only the focal point changed. Clearly, where we choose to focus our attention is really important. Think about that all throughout your life.

Where do you focus your attention?

crocus 10  purple blossoms crocus 09  purple blossoms

The fleeting beauty of the crocus in early spring is a short term glance at the wonder of nature. Finding that crocus is part of the iris family kind of explains why I was drawn to them in the store last year. Since the first time I saw them, iris have been a favorite of mine. Their sturdiness, prolific qualities, combined with their limitless supply of color and combinations never cease to amaze me. If they are one of those bright flowers that give a wonderful perfume, that is even better.

I will do plein air sketches from the blossoms and post them with pictures as things progress, in the next few days. In fact, my focus artistically is leaning heavy to plein air….. I confess.

 

Melons & Cantelopes

canteloupe 2Canteloupes and melons are a welcome surprise for those of us in the Inland Pacific Northwest Region gardens. We were able to successfully get some canteloupe to produce in the garden this year. But, with our season so short we were surprised when these guys actually grew in time to harvest. The taste is sweet and great, spoiling us for store bought melon forever. We will be starting them earlier inside before putting out to see if we can actually get them up to a larger size and ripe before things get colder.

I found this article by Susan Mulvihill, about growing them here that has a lot of helpful tips.

In the Garden: Melons worth the extra effort

It is possible that we planted Napoli canteloupe but I am not sure as I did not write it down. I know that is a crime but I did have some distractions this year. Will try to improve in the future.

 

Winesap Apple Tree

This tree was trimmed back drastically year before last year after damage in a wind storm and last year had no apples. Here are the first apples coming in this year, less than a dozen, but absolutely heavenly! Sometimes the wait is worth it. Can’t wait till we have a full crop next year…

I can smell the applesauce, bubbling on the stove. The cinammon throughout the house with the apple cider stirring. Oh, and don’t forget the heavenly scent of Pete’s pies… apple pie, Yummmm. Washington State has the worlds best apples! I love them.

Winesap ApplesWhat are Winesap Apples?

These are kind of medium sized fruit fitting in the palm of your hand. They are solid skinned with firm sweet/sour honey flavored white or slightly yellow flesh. They are red with yellow/green stripes on the outside. When you sit them on the table they don’t sit perfectly straight as they are a little unevenly grown with the stem kind of off center. They are superb apple pie fruit and tasty lunch partners anytime! If you’d like to learn more about these kinds of apples check out this Apple site.

Canning Tomatoes

Garden Canning

tomato canning fooling aroundI was fortunate to have a 12-year-old fabulous helper today named Nathanael, who is doing this canning tomatoes thing for his first time. He did not volunteer for the position, but instead was coerced into it by his Grandma. We were down in the garden today and have some tomatoes harvested. You can see some of them on the table being sorted through to find the ripe ones to put in the canning pile.

 

Wait a minute. Is that worker fooling around there instead of sorting?

variety of tomatoes on counterHours later, we are finally ready to can our tomatoes with a good selection on the counter. We had quite a wide variety this year due to many volunteers popping up all over our garden. Beef steaks, Burgundy Reds, Glaciers, Early Girls, Romas and Large Cherry tomatoes. Really, really large cherry tomatoes.

 

Complicated, canning tomatoes

Nathanael learned the whole canning process this year. How to blanch the tomatoes in boiling water for 10-12 seconds and then quickly set in cold water in the sink. It is fun to see how easy it is to peel and core them this way. We work to get our jar funnel with hot lid seals and rings ready and waiting for us on the counter next to the stove.Nathanael getting jarstomato canning jar bath

After a simmer in the saucepan with us stirring constantly, we are ready for the next step. Pouring the hot tomato sauce into hot jars lined-up on the counter, cleaning the jar lids and carefully placing the seal and tightening the ring. During this simmering process for the tomatoes we are also heating up our big canning pot “water bath” so we can seal the jars in it after we put the sauce into the jars.

Putting the jars into the boiling water bath is kind of tricky. Hot and a little dangerous. Canning has one of the strangest tools ever invented. Here is Nathanael getting used to the thing-a-ma-jig plier thingy used to pick up the steaming hot jars out of the boiling water.got tomatoes canned

Every year we put a supply of products; tomato sauce, catsup and salsa in the pantry covering our needs for the next 9-12 months. We also end up giving canned foods to family and friends but only if they return the empty jars. It is kind of an unspoken rule. We enjoy eating fresher, sweeter vegetables without additives.

Yellow Rose Blooms

Treasured Fragrance

Yellow Rose Blossom
Blossom Yellow Rose

A golden hybrid tea rose that we planted as a bare root one year ago, offered its first yellow rose blossom today and it is a true beauty. There is a slight fragrance from it’s petals and it is opening in a most graceful form. Though these floral beauties have an abundance of thorns, they are still a favored flowers for many gardeners. There is just an overpowering attraction to the fragrance that they fill the air with along with their soft fluffy petals.

My husband and I both love roses and gardening. The first date we had, I saw his rose garden. His green thumb showed beautifully with a dark red rose bush covering the whole corner of his garden right at the sidewalk that you walked into his house. This rose looked so happy and full of fragrant blossoms I immediately knew he was a man to take a really close look at, a keeper.

Ongoing Growth

Many years have passed since we first met, and we have both built a large garden now in the wilderness of Elk WA, a beautiful mountainous area in the rural areas of northern Spokane. We do not have an unlimited budget so the planting of beautiful flowers has taken longer than the staples like vegetables, berries, fruit, and spices, one thing at a time.

I will have to render this beauty in the studio.

 

Thrift Store Score

pot on the shelf with price tag
innocuous pot on shelf

It Pays to Keep Your Eyes Open

I was on the lookout for a thrift store score  while shopping at Value Village in downtown Spokane. I was casually walking through the kitchen utensils, pots and pans even though I had no need for more stuff like that. Suddenly, I noticed this item on the top shelf, I could see what looked like a large aluminum canning boiler for $14.99. Hmmmm, why would the price for this aluminum pot be $14.99 when the one next to it was an enamel coated canner at $8.99? Strange.

Curiosity getting the best of me, I turned the pot a little and caught site of the tube that was hiding on the back side. Oh My Gosh!

You’d have to know me better to understand why I grabbed this as fast as I could. After placing it in my cart I was doing a little jig and dancing down the isle. GIG! People started making large arcs around me in their travel patterns like there was really something wrong with me.

A Note of Explanation

This is a great canning tool I have been wanting for a long time. I’ve been saving change in the little coffee can to purchase us one.  Even though I always kept an eye out for one, I had not been successful in finding a thrift store score, or even any at garage sales for at least two canning seasons. I was no where near saving enough to buy a new one yet, even the $80 one was way out of sight for us. Here are some Google’d available purchase options from the internet to show you about these steamer juicers.

Back to Basics Aluminum Steam Juicer – A12 (Discontinued by Manufacturer) selling for $182

or this one

Victorio Steam Juicer with Glass Lid (Aluminum) selling for $80

steam juicer aluminum
aluminun steam juicer & canner

Borrowing

I have a sister-in-law whom I borrowed this exact same unit from, on a regular basis to make juices, jams, syrups etc etc etc. I honestly believe that Dan and Ann got so tired of Pete and I using her juicer every canning season, that they simply decided to move away. Not just a little move either, it was far enough away so I could not drive over and borrow the steamer again. It was all the way to Alabama from Washington state… is that far enough? Actually, I think they would have to start doing the South America thing if they wanted to get any further away. It really had nothing to do with their grandkids living there, I’m sure. LOL!

Ann! look at what I found :)! Could you send up some peaches and pears so we can make some juices? LOL!

I get a real kick out of going to garage sales, thrift stores and online at Craigslist or other places. Sometimes, people make fun of me because of the scores I find, and how I absolutely jump up and down in joy when I get a find like this.  I feel safer hoping and finding in estate sales, garage sales and thrift stores because I won’t be spending our hard earned cash on overpriced items? I don’t know. It is truly fun for me to find useful things out of someone else’s throw aways. I may be just fulfilling a deep desire or fixation to shop combined with fears of bankruptcy. This cheaper avenue to shop is probably so I don’t bankrupt our budget? What do you think?

Flowers Blooming Everywhere

They’re everywhere

The garden has flowers blooming everywhere and it has become quite an inspiration to my artistic soul. I can’t seem to quit painting the bright petals waving in the wind. Walking down with the intention of weeding, harvesting and checking everything, and the next thing I know, I am photographing the beautiful explosions of color everywhere. I can’t help myself, there really are flowers blooming where ever I look.

garden flowers
garden flowers and house

Progressive accumulation of beauty

We have spent years building the fences and slowly planting the whole garden as economically as we can. Flowers were not as high on the list as vegetables and fruit bushes and trees. But now, I have saved seeds for most all the established crops that we plant every year, so now I can buy a couple nice flower seeds or starts each year. We want plenty of flowers blooming that attract the bees and butterflies so pollination happens, and the marigolds are being planted as a deterrent to the buggy pests that don’t like their smell. We are using old fashioned methods that don’t have chemicals to worry about in our food.

First Impression Entering Garden

In this picture you can see the view from standing right when you enter the main garden gate and turn right to look back up the hill.

This thick patch of flowers up close were actually accidental. I had been spreading marigold and dahlia seeds along our driveway and couldn’t figure out why they were not sprouting up. I thought that I must have not dried them correctly and I had screwed them up. When I walked in the garden, I gave up and just scattered half a coffee can full of flower seed on the ground. Marigolds, dahlias, marigolds, dahlias.

Walked away thinking some should sprout.

A couple of weeks later, there were more marigolds and dahlias sprouting up than I have ever seen. I started transplanting the marigolds in a row along the fenceline and have done just over 3/4 of the whole garden. Our garden is big, and it is true that marigolds help keep away pests. I read it in a real book and also on the internet here.

I tried transplanting more blossoms outside of the garden and found out that Bambi absolutely loves to eat marigolds. Now I know, why none of my seeds came up along the driveway at the beginning of the season, they were hors d’ouvres for the deer population.

More posts like this?