Saturday, March 31, 2012

I still love the rain

Today was a soggy day.  Even the salmonberry blossom was hanging its head, hunkering down for drier days.  I love seeing these pink polka dots beginning to decorate the brush.  It reminds me of the tasty berries that are to follow.  This wetness and scrunching of shoulder and bowing of heads makes me even more ready to lift my eyes to the sky when at last there's a break in the clouds.  

I love the rain because it's beautiful on flowers and leaves.  It is adorable on the eyelashes and shoulders of children fresh from play in it.  It can transform soil into a liquid that splashes and oozes.  It drips and spills over and out of everything,  and bounces with the kids on the trampoline.  I can smell the dampness of it on the soil and I miss it when it's gone.  I love the rain the most though because it's the opposite of clear skies.  Its wet, sparkly muted beauty is perfectly contrasted by the bright and brilliant blue days that it promises, and I am compelled to love both wet and dry all the more.

How to make a worm bin

Saraiah's worm bin with newsprint drawings from college art class days.   We shredded uncolored newsprint for our worm bin bedding, then got it nicely damp, suitable for helping the worms to breathe through their skin as they do.
 My daughter Saraiah turned six this week.  She has every kind of toy she could ever want, and really what she loves to do most is draw and dress up.  I wanted to give her a gift that she could enjoy all year, instead of enjoying with it for a week or even a day, then forgetting about it.  The other kids seemed to think a worm bin was an odd idea for a present for her, so I figured I'd ask her myself.

Slyly, I asked, "what do you want for your birthday?" "I don't know." she replied. "I would like a real puppy."  "Well, I know we can't get another puppy right now.  What about some worms?  Would you like a worm bin?"  "Yeah, that would be cool! (big smile and squeezy hug)"  And that was it.  I had to figure out how to make a worm bin.  I didn't think she'd remember that conversation because we'd had many conversations about what she'd like, the items changing every time she saw a new thing a friend had, or saw an advertisement somewhere.

I think she was happily surprised with her present.  It wasn't the only thing she got...she's a girly girl, so we gave her a flowery hairbrush, a mirror and headband, her very own shovel for her garden, some pink gloves and a little flowery hand rake for the worm bin.  Today she informed me that she had moved two new garden worms into the bin and had fed them a bit of wilted lettuce.  I think the present is a success.  If you'd like to try a worm bin in your home, here's what to do.

Drill holes in the bottom of your bin for drainage and aeration.  The worms will produce worm compost tea, a liquid rich in nutrients that you can pour over your garden.  It can drain here...or you can devise a better solution than me.  

Get some food for your wormies, preferably something soft.  It can't be starchy, citrusy or oniony.  No meats, oils or breads.  

Get a little dirt from your garden.  This was some well rotted compost I had gathered from a log in the goat pen for a new garden bed in my upper yard.  This part is not really necessary, I've read, but I feel like wormies might like a little taste of nature. Other sources say it's very helpful because it provides grit, which helps the worms to grind their food in their little gullet, somewhat like a chicken does.
Get some worms!  My friend dawn kindly rehomed about fifty of her worms with me.  She told me they will reproduce every seven days, so I guess once they feel settled in, I'll be having a growing population.  If you don't have a friend like Dawn, there are many sources online.  From all the worm bin people I've talked to, the most successful worm bin worms are called "red wigglers."  They are the most efficient at eating up the goods and producing righteously good compost for your garden or houseplants.  
My friend sent them with some paper bedding from their former home, as well a some carrot peel snacks for the road.  She told me that I should keep them very still as I transported them so I wouldn't stress them out, and that I should leave them alone for a week while they settle into their new place.  She said they wouldn't really eat much in that first week.  
Look closely...there they are in the middle of the carrot shreds!  She told me to put them in the corner of the bin, cover them up and leave them be.
I sprinkled the dirt over the moistened newsprint bedding.   
Green lettuce sprinkled in the bin, for when they start to have an appetite again.

My hubby drilled holes in the shape of a flower on the lid of the bin for Saraiah.

We took an extra lid to go beneath the bin, then put some old wooden blocks on it to elevate the bin. so air and drainage could flow.

There's the bin all propped up kind of awkwardly.  It was better after we moved it into the garage.  

There's Saraiah meeting her worms.  She was very excited to take a quick peek at them.  

Friday, March 30, 2012

Sourdough Resilience

The latest batch rising in spite of my various neglectful actions!
I think sourdough starter is a little more hardy than I originally thought it should be.  It has survived my distracted attention as I am feeding it or neglecting to feed it, and has faithfully bubbled whenever I got around to giving it the correct hydration according to the Northwest Sourdough basic white bread recipe.

I think sourdough is a kind of bread I could become good friends with.  It likes to rise slowly, overnight or throughout the course of the day, meaning I can forget it to a certain extent and won't get a loaf that looks like a deflated balloon.  Its starter waits patiently in the refrigerator until I remember I would love to make some more, then bursts to life when fed.  It makes bread, but when I make silly mistakes, like putting extra water into my dough instead of my starter, it also makes pizza dough.  With this fourth batch of bread,  I thought I could have killed the starter because I had added extra water to my dough, thus having to make the pizza dough, and thought maybe I had added too much to the starter too!  But survived and made me some happy little breads.

Today I had a friend over who I really missed seeing, but because I can't manage sit for more than 15 minutes, I decided to start the sourdough process while we were visiting.  I thought I was following the recipe for feeding the starter, and pretty soon realized I was making a loaf of bread.  Then, for some reason, i used ALL of my starter in my dough.  So I sheepishly pulled some dough out of the mix, mixed in some water, let it sit, then added some flour so it was back to the starter consistency, and it began to bubble!  Note to self: please make bread after visiting hours.  I'm looking forward to seeing if the sourdough saga will continue, or if this will be the last chapter.  I'm hoping it will be the story of the victorious underdog, prevailing in spite of insurmountable odds.  But if it's not, I am pretty sure my friend will give me some new starter.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Kayak Point

I think Kayak Point is one of the most picturesque areas I can imagine.  It's just down the road from the mud flats of Warm Beach.  The water is often very calm and clear, and if it's not a sunny day, the park is usually pleasantly empty.  It's a Snohomish County Park, so there is a $7 or $8 fee to enter.  It really pays to buy an annual county parks pass if you go often to any parks around here.  We used our Christmas money from my grandpa to buy both state and county passes.  It's been a great help!

We went to Kayak point with my parents when they were first in town and had the park nearly to ourselves.  The kids played on the extensive playground, walked the empty dock, then combed the empty beach.  It was a beautiful afternoon.

Levi needed a picture of himself at the top of this thing.


Grandma joined in the fun!

the water was so clear!

Throwing rocks!

tide lines

Monday, March 26, 2012

Snowflakes and Dandelions

These were the first dandelions Maia gave me this spring
This has probably been the funniest transition from winter to spring that I've ever experienced in the Northwest.  March came in with snow that stuck and endless rain and clouds.  The rain part is pretty normal for March, so is hail, and maybe the occasional light dusting of snow, but four times of snow?  Maybe it's because my parents were in town from Hawaii, and rather missed seeing the snow they knew so well as kids growing up in Indiana.  By the end of their time here, we were switching to sandals, forgetting coats and picking dandelions.  If nothing can surprise a person in the Northwest, the weather certainly can come close!

This is Maia and my niece on a walk with me and grandma just a few days ago.  Our neighbor was super nice and filled our mammoth potholes.  The cones made our road seem like some sort of driver's training course. 
The girls love their grandma!

Contemplating the dandelions
Blast to the beginning of the month...SNOW!  My dad was here for the entire month of March.  It snowed 4 times while he was here!  
Last year's ferns


alder catkins
Levi and Saraiah
poor confused wormie.  Saraiah dug down to the dirt for him.

These looked like galls maybe on the willows.
My dad was just like a kid in this snow.  All you have to do is take a Hawaiian straight out of Hawaii, plop them in dreary Washington, then make it snow on one of their first days in town!
the last of last summer's blackberries

daffodils not quite open!

Uh oh, I better watch out!

walking to grandpa's

The traditional snack at grandma and grandpa's
I love this picture of my dad...appreciating the winter beauty.