Saturday, October 31, 2009

Ghosts of Halloween Past

Halloween is always more fun when shared with children.  My son, Daniel,  is 18 now and starting a life and family of his own.  Next year we'll be having a first halloween for my granddaughter!  Over the years, Daniel & I have had loads of fun dressing up, trick or treating and carving pumpkins.

I'm a crafty sort and so most years I tried to make Daniel's costumes.  My favorite year was 1993.  Daniel was like most young boys of that time, enamored of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. That year he chose to dress up as Michaelangelo. 

Here's Daniel telling his Tia all about how
Michaelangelo would protect us when we went
out after dark.  That's me in the background
putting the finishing touches on the costume. 

In early October, we took a trip to the fabric store and found a fabulous pattern for his costume.  With the help of my sister, Heather, I completed the costume in time for the October 31 festivities.  What a great year.  We paraded cute little Daniel around to all of our local friends and family and then to the mall for some more trick or treats!

OMG!  So adorable!

Daniel's costume was a hit!  This was one of my earliest sewing projects and I was so proud of the outcome. He wore that costume all night and wanted to wear it for months after Halloween was over.  In fact, he kept the stuffed shell for years after that using it as a bed pillow.

My nephew Thomas and I showing off our jack-o-lanterns

Rockin halloween!

This year Thomas was Link and Sammi was the Grim Reaper!

Heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeere's Heather!

Samantha helping get the candies ready for the kids

Aubrei after having her Halloween candy last year

Mark showing off his beautiful daughter
wonder woman

Here's to all of you with little ones! Though it can be stressful, please remember to cherish days like today, because they pass quickly and little ones are soon grown and having little ones of their own.  Have a safe and happy halloween!

The scariest thing about this halloween is realizing how quickly the
kids have grown up!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Still time to plant your strawberries!

Today I went to check on my secret garden.  My dear friend down the road allows me a few beds in his organic garden to plant as I please.  This year I just took 1 bed for corn.  I planted late, so the corn never fully developed, but according to my motto "nothing to waste", I cut the corn stalks to use for harvest decorations. I cleaned up the corn bed to ready it for my spring planting.  Maybe pumpkins will go in there next year or ???? 

Ben posing with my "miniature" corn

This corn got planted too late to produce

But it sure looks nice as a harvest decoration near my new greenhouse!

After that I turned my attention to my friends strawberry bed.  He has a lot of everbearing berries in there and asked me to thin it out a bit.  The great thing about gardening and friendships is that there's always so much to be shared.  Where there is bounty in 1 garden, there is often need in another, and that was the case with us.

 I thinned out some of his beautiful strawberry plants from his bed, being careful not to over thin or leave any "bald" spots.  Each little berry plant that I pulled out was placed gently in my bucket to be transplanted in my home garden.

What a beautiful and abundant berry patch in the "secret" garden

The grey clouds held on to their rain long enough for me to get home and start my new strawberry bed.  I grabbed my bucket of strawberry starts and got right to work.

It's good to have friends who garden.  These are free starts for my own
strawberry patch.  If  I had purchased these it would have cost a pretty penny.

I chose an empty bed in my garden that receives plenty of sunlight.  Earlier this year this bed had purple cherokee tomatoes.  When planting in my garden from year to year, I try to rotate crops.  This rotation of crops helps to curb transfer of diseases from one season to the next.

This little bed is in direct sunlight most of the summer, a good choice for
everbearing strawberries

Fall is the perfect time to start a new strawberry bed.  When planted at this time of year, the plants have 2 seasons to develop good healthy root systems before the plant puts its energy into fruit. 

One thing to be aware of when you plant your strawberries is the crown.  These plants grow from a base and all new leaves and berries grow out of the crown.  When you transplant your starts be very careful about the depth.  You will want to bury all of the roots, but NOT the crown.  Be sure that the crown of leaves is at or slightly above ground level.  If you do cover the crowns, you will risk the entire plant which can rot below the soil surface.

By next fall I'll be thinning my own strawberry patch and be able
to share some starts with other friends

With a little bit of work and the satisfaction of assisting a friend, I came away with a brand new full bed of strawberries.  These everbearings will set fruit throughout the spring and summer next year.  Even now, some of these little plants still have berries and flowers!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Greenhouse: Extending my growing season!

The leaves are falling to the ground and there is a new chilly crispness to the air.  Even still I'm thinking of my garden. 

A sure sign that cold weather is coming soon

I've been nursing along a couple of volunteer yellow pear tomato plants that sprouted up in my boat garden this year.  About 2 weeks ago I harvested the first of the juicy little salad tomatoes from the plants and they were delicious.  Because of our short season, these plants haven't yet hit their peak of tomato production.  I placed several jugs of water around them.  The idea is that the water will absorb the heat of the day and help insulate these plants in the colder hours of darkness. 

Here's the tomato plants with the reused jugs of water

Hoping to extend my growing season a little longer, I asked Ben to help me by enclosing the boat garden with a greenhouse.  This is a quick, cheap and easy project that we finished in a few hours.

First we took a trip into town for materials.  Whenever possible I try to use recycled materials in my garden, but this project required a few purchases.  I think we spent about $25 on the following materials:
                 *1/2 inch PVC pipe, several 8 foot lengths
                 *1/2 inch rebar stakes
                 *Heavy clear plastic

Checking the flexibility of the pipe

Now Ben is, by trade, a carpenter, so this project was a piece of cake for him.  I helped when I could, but for the most part, I tried to stay out of the way.

The first thing he did was to pound in the rebar stakes on either side of the garden.  Then he placed the pvc pipe onto the rebar on one side and then bent the pipe over and placed it over the rebar stake on the opposite side. 

Forming the support hoops for the greenhouse

Repeating this process, he formed 3 hoops over the garden bed.

Rebar stakes help secure the hoops in the ground

Next he added a support "beam" down the center.  Using a small drill bit, he drilled through the pipes where they over lapped and wired the support to the center of the hoops.

This hoop house is starting to take shape!

Now that this was fully supported, it was time to add the thick plastic sheeting.  We got ours in the paint department of the hardware store. 

Attaching the plastic to the frame with wire

Here's where things got tricky.  I explained to Ben that whatever method he used to hold the plastic down would have to be removable so that I could pull the plastic back in order to tend to the plants inside.  He figured out a way to wire the plastic sheeting on to the supports so that I could still open the sides.

He finished up at the last light of the day and just before the rain began.

The capsule is complete!

Some men bite their tongues when working with their
wives.  Ben's solution, Duct Tape!!!

While all of that was going on, I did some more fall clean up out in the veggie beds.  I cleared out the remaining tomato plants from my raised beds and turned the soil.  I think we have enough plastic left to enclose these for the winter too.  If that works out I'll keep planting salad greens in these 2 beds. 

2 more beds ready for winter

I've had some strawberry pots going for about 2 years now.  I've noticed that they really don't do as well in the pots as they do in the ground, so I took this time to transplant them over my previously planted garlic.  This is just a temporary spot for them to winter over.  In the spring, I will be moving all of my strawberries into their own permanent bed.

A short term solution for my berries
I love my little organic garden!  There's always something to be done out here, but I enjoy the work and it's a great hobby for Ben and I to share.

 Now with my little greenhouse, I should be able to get an extra month to 6 weeks of growing time at both ends of the season!  That could add up to 3 extra months of food production!!!  I'll be sure to keep you all posted to what kind of trials and successes we have with our new enclosed growing area.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Waiting for the frost and more green tomatoes

Beautiful Mount Baker and the sisters view  from the Lummi Island ferry dock 

Looking out at the fresh snow on Mount Baker is a good reminder that the first killing frost is not long off. Of course the trick is knowing when it will hit my garden and of that I'm not certain.

My neighbors a few miles down the road have all had a hard frost.  Not me! My garden seems to have a nice warm micro-climate this year.When I woke up yesterday morning and checked the temperature it was just dipping into the 30's at 39 degrees, still a lot of wiggle room for a hard freeze. But that little nippiness made me nervous.

Last week I posted about ripening some of my green tomatoes indoors.  At that time I harvested 1 box of fully developed green tomatoes and ripened those in my kitchen.  I still have 3 or 4 from that batch that are partially ripe and the rest have found their way into salsas, salads and tomato sandwiches.

This morning I felt was the right time to finish the harvest.  I had so many beautiful green tomatoes on my 5 remaining roma plants that I couldn't justify risking the frost taking a bite out of them.  With pruners in hand, I snatched up all the ones that looked fully developed and left only a few of the small weak ones on the plants.

Can you believe the loads of tomatoes still going in October? 

These Roma won't be as sweet as sun-ripened.
They will be better than store bought!

These tiny yellow pear tomatoes should be ready for topping
my autumn lettuce salad by next week

I've placed them all in shallow boxes with newspaper covers and added a ripened apple to assist the process.  I came away with 3 boxes of them!  What a fantastic harvest!

p.s - My dahlias are still blooming! 

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Make your own FatBottomBag

Today I'm revisiting these video tutorials I made a while back. I'm planning to update them for better lighting but will have to wait until I have a new video camera. Enjoy!

If you like FatBottomBags, but don't want to make one of your own, why not sign up for the Free Green for the Holidays drawing at the top of this page on the right.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Full circle: Chitenango returns home to the wild

What a great day.  A group of about 10 of us from Whatcom Marine Mammal Stranding Network (WMMSN) traveled to Friday Harbor to see the culmination of care and release of Chitenango and 2 other seal pups that had been cared for by Wolf Hollow Wildlife Rehabilitation on San Juan Island.  

After 2 ferry trips, we arrived at Friday Harbor with some time to spare before the release so I had a chance to wander this cute little town.  I found a neat little shop full of saucy soveniers, the San Juan Hot Shop Flavor Emporium .  I had a great experience speaking with Eddie, one of the shop owners, about some of their delicious and spicy selections and life on the island.  What a nice guy!

I love the sinage here all painted placards as you walk down this street.
Fantastic selection!  And every sauce is chosen for it's flavor.  
The motto here is "spice is nice, but it's gotta have flavor!"
Eddie has tasted every one of these saucy treats!

After a little bit of shopping and sight seeing, we convened at the Churchhill Coffee House and grabbed a light lunch while waiting for the members of Wolf Hollow to show us to the release site.

Once we arrived at the location, Shona gave us a quick briefing on the process of releasing Chitenango, Lotus and Dragonfly, the 3 seals that were scheduled for today.  The site was a small inlet that was close to an outcropping where seals often haul out of the water.  The idea is to release them in a place where they can easily  reconnect with other wild seals.

We were directed to a nice location for the viewing. There was quite a crowd of observers including a reporter from the San Juan Journal who was covering the release for the local paper.  Chitenango, as you have heard, was found on Village Point on Lummi Island.  The other 2 pups, Lotus and Dragonfly were both found on San Juan Island.  Dragonfly was a bit of a local celebrity having been found on the beach near Downriggers Restaurant.  Here's a link to the article about when she was found.
Some of our group from WMMSN and other observers

The release was very quick and smooth.  The staff from Wolf Hollow brought the pups to the beach in covered carriers.  Simultaneously all 3 were uncovered and the doors opened at the waters edge.  One of the pups came out of it's carrier into the water like a flash and quickly swam out into the bay.  The other 2 pups took a minute to contemplate the situation before splashing into the water.  Then once in the water, all three stayed close to the shore for sometime and seemed to take comfort in the presence of eachother, but after about 10 minutes of acclimating to their new environment they too headed out into the bay.

It was fantastic to see this story come full circle!  Thanks to the folks at Wolf Hollow Wildlife Rehab, these little creatures got a second chance at a healthy life!

The staff opens the carriers and the pups get their first view of the inlet

Chitenango was the last of the 3 to hit the water 

 Lotis, Dragonfly and Chitenago enjoying their new found freedom!

With a last goodbye, these pups went out into the Puget Soundto live out their natural lives

After the release, we were invited up to the facility to learn a bit more about how Wolf Hollow is helping marine mammals and other wildlife in need of rehabilitation.  This was quite a special treat because their facility is not open to the public. 

Our main interest was  the marine mammal area where we learned the process for caring for the seal pups Each pup is first placed in an isolation tub and they are evaluated for injuries.  Blood work is done to check the general health of the pups.  Each rescue is different according to the needs of the animal, and can include formula feedings, medication, wound cleaning and care.  Human contact is limited to an as needed basis in order to maintain the wildness of these creatures.
Here's one of the rehab pools.  These 2 pups are waiting for their
clean bill of health and then will be released too

As the pups begin to recover from their distress they move from eating formula to fish.  They are hand fed to begin with, but the ultimate goal is for these pups to be able to fend for themselves in the wild.  They are soon "fishing" their own food from the bottom of their tubs. Once the pups are healthy enough, they are exposed to a larger tank where they can be together with other seals and swim and dive.  Each pup is individually evaluated by the care staff, and when they have gained sufficient weight, are able to feed themselves and have a clean bill of health, they are ready for release!

We then toured the rest of the facility.  Wolf Hollow is a 40 acre facility and they care for all kinds of wildlife including eagles, hawks, squirrels, deer, otters, racoons, and foxes.  What a fantastic place and a phenominal staff of dedicated people!

Some of the pens used for small species

Our wonderful hosts: Shona, Vanessa & Penny

After our lovely tour, we returned to Friday Harbor.  We had a couple more hours to tour about the town.   I really wanted to get a feel for this island community so I stopped in at Herbs Tavern to rub elbows with the locals.  The highlight of my time in the city of Friday Harbor was being mistaken for a local at the bar where a couple of visitors asked me for directions.  I guess I must radiate "islander" or it could be my lucky camo cap.  Either way I felt it was a true compliment!

Local humor on the ceiling at Herb's Tavern

With happy hearts we reboarded the Elwa, and started our
long journey home.  What a fantastic day!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Wolf Hollow field trip

If you've been a fan or follower of me on FatBottomBags for a while,  you'll remember the little seal pup that we found out here on Lummi Island back on July 27th. He's the cute pup in the picture above.

Here's Chitenango napping on the beach at Lummi Island

A few of us in the Whatcom Marine Stranding Network live out here and so we all took turns observing him on the beach.  Unless an animal is in distress that's what we do, observe and keep the public back far enough from the marine mammal so that it can be undisturbed.

Fortunately, he was on a private beach area, so there was no pressing need to have an observer there at all times.  We checked in on him every few hours over the daylight hours of the next 2 days.

The first evening we were hopeful because he had moved down the beach on his own.  We thought that this might indicate his mother was coming in during the dark hours to nurse him.

The first night at sunset he'd moved down the beach about 200 yards

Unfortunately by the second day it was obvious that he had been abandoned on this stretch of beach and he was too young to fend for himself.  So one of our volunteers took him in a carrier by boat to Wolf Hollow Wildlife Rehabilitation Center to be cared for.

By the next morning he'd moved back and looked very thin.
Now he was crying out in distress and was becoming a little 
too friendly toward the volunteer observers.
He was a sickly 14.6 pounds upon his arrival.  The great folks at Wolf Hollow named him Chitenango and  nurtured him with formula feedings, medicine and eventually whole fish.  Now that our little Chitenango is eating fish on his own he's up to a healthy weight of 49.8 pounds as of  10/9/09.

So now Chitenango is healthy and ready to be released and live the life of a harbor seal.  Today I'm off on a field trip to tour the rehab facility and to witness  his return to the wild along with 2 other rehabilitated pups, Lotis and Dragonfly.

I will be posting to Twitter and Facebook throughout the day with interesting facts and I will blog about the full story tomorrow, so stay tuned.

Being a volunteer with WMMSN has been extremely rewarding and I get to learn so much!  Hope you will consider supporting our efforts by donating or volunteering.


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