Solar Tracking

Solar Tracking
How low can you go? Snow and ice and cancelled school.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Zucchini!

                There is a small Zucchini problem in our back garden this fall. The bush plants started pumping out fruits in mid-June and slowed down in August, just in time for the Italian climbing variety to shift into high gear. We have been well supplied with zucchini this year. One is four feet long and hanging off of the back trellis; it has not grown in a few days, so I think it is as big as it is going to get.  This means that we are creative in our zucchini cooking; it appears everywhere. Tonight—cream of zucchini soup and some zucchini muffins. Tomorrow—fritters. Wednesday—calzones. And then we will have to shift to cucumbers and tomatoes again.

Zucchini Muffins:
3 c flour—half whole wheat
1T BP
½ t BS
1t salt
2 t cinnamon
1 t nutmeg
½ t cloves
½ c milk
½ c oil
½ c sugar
2 c shredded zucchini
1.5 c ground walnuts
Large handful of dried blueberries
Mix dry together. Mix wet together. Mix dry and wet. Scoop into muffin tins and bake in 350 oven.


Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Fall Equinox

                This is the week of the turning of the season, of Fall Equinox, the shift from light to dark begins now.  In recognition of this shift, we spent Friday Evening watching the harvest moon rise over the prairie at Finley Wildlife refuge
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                We arrived at the boardwalk about an hour before the moonrise. The tall grasses were golden in the evening light. Birds were rushing about, finishing up the day’s business. Crickets were talking about the coming dark. To the west, the sun went down slowly over Mary’s Peak, sending pink light back over the open fields. The sky was huge above. We settled down with our dinner to wait for the moon. “I think it will come up over there,” Mark pointed east, where some thin clouds were obscuring the foothills of the Cascades. We watched. Suddenly, Mark gasped. “It’s there,” he pointed further south. Right then, the moon was a molten glow on the horizon. As we watched, it raced up into the sky, banded by clouds. A half moon…a full round moon, huge and orange in the dusky light, then a half moon again, looking like a photo of Jupiter with its bands of color across its face.  A few geese honked overhead. The wind died. The world was quiet as the moon rose, slowly shrinking and fading as it rose. When it was high in the sky, we gathered our dishes and left, coming home to the same moon playing on the tomato and bean leaves that are growing over our living room windows.

                We returned to Finley this morning to walk the marshes. Clouds had settled over the landscape so low that it was not really raining—we were walking in the clouds. The world was flat and open. We walked the long and winding boardwalk through the ash swale which is totally flooded in the winter time, observing the long, complex strands of usnea hanging from the trees like Spanish moss. The boardwalk ends in a bird blind looking over the marshes. Pelicans and ducks were hanging out on the snags in the middle; great blue herons stalked through the shallow water on one end; some mysterious fish swirled and leaped in front of us. We studied the landscape, and then turned onto the path along the marsh which leads to the cattail ponds. Swallows darted overhead. Elk track led across a recently plowed field. Quail trotted ahead of us, looking for their runs into the blackberry thickets. The air was moist and spicy. When we walked under a huge beach tree, it hummed. Why? We looked more closely; wasps covered the hanging catkins. Rain fell on our faces as we looked up into the sky, then the sun broke through and dried us off again.  The changing season was evident in the slant of the light.

                This week, we will begin to clear out the garden beds. I have already brought in the pumpkins, corn, and beans from  the Three Sisters bed. It will hold the chicken coop by Friday morning, when we give the annual house tour to the high school sustainability class. Some plants will have a final burst of growth from the rain but, for most annuals, the dying light is a clear signal to shut down production. What growth will happen has happened. I will arrange the hoops over the two beds I hope to over-winter, so that, when a cold spell comes, I am ready, but I will not cover them and cut off any light now. Soon, we will gather in leaves from the street and pile them on the beds and in the compost hoops, tucking everything in for the winter. But now, we wander outside, soaking in the last of the sunshine, seeking a balance in our lives.

                

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Local Eating

                There is, in Corvallis, a deeply head belief that, when the apocalypse comes, in the form of a 9.9 earthquake (we were all profoundly impacted by the New Yorker article last summer), we will be saved by eating from our neighborhood gardens. Although I am a deep believer in local food, eating from my own backyard, and supporting local farmers, I am a realist. I know that we would be VERY hungry if we tried to survive on our backyard.  Even now, in the peak of ripeness, when there are vegetables all around us, we would be hungry. I would hate to try and survive on our garden and basement storage in late March, when there is mustard and kale and little else.
                I have tracked our consumption, by volume and by calories, several times in the past  few years. We are 99% local in our vegetable consumption, year round.  We raise most of our own produce during the summer months and purchase the rest from very local farmers, directly and from the market. We also store potatoes, squashes, and onions for the winter and put up canned and dried fruit from neighborhood trees.  This is a clear positive for all of us. Our food is fresher and more alive; our local farmers benefit from the support; it requires less (if any) fuel to transport. Local produce is a clear winner.
                We eat about 90% of our dairy from within one hundred miles of home, which is also quite easy. Our milk comes from a local dairy and I make our yogurt from it. Most cheese and eggs are local as well—eggs travel about fifty feet from hen to pan. At one point, I knew where our butter came from, but the dairy is no longer selling anywhere in town.  We like having local dairy products and have adjusted some of our tastes to focus on the local cheese. Aside from eggs, the calories from dairy are not produced in the backyard or the neighborhood.
                Beans and grains form the backbone of our diet. About half of our calories come from local sources.  I but wheat berries, oatmeal, and barley from local farmers. The wheat, after being ground in the kitchen aid mill, is added to white flour from Eastern Washington to make our daily bread. We eat a great deal of bread! Oatmeal is standard breakfast fare. Our beans also come from local farmers; we can purchase garbanzos, pintos, Indian woman, and black beans from farmers and the co-op Almost all of our beans come from within ten miles of home.   We do not produce significant amount of beans and grains. It requires far more land than we have in our back yard.
 However, we also eat pasta, rice, and other grains for dinner, and none of those are locally produced—yet.  When I add in the oils, spices, and vinegars that liven up our foods, it is clear that we do not begin to produce what we would need to survive. We purchase and produce about half of our calories locally. And we are committed to the process, willing to pay more for our food to help expand the local markets. I don’t think a community garden is going to go very far towards feeding the neighborhood.



Early September Menu
Friday: oatmeal with grapes
                Potato and chard curry, rice leftovers)
                Whole wheat pasta with eggplant, tomato, zucchini, onion
Saturday: oatmeal waffles
                Pasta leftovers
                Black bean soup, coleslaw
Sunday: toast and tea
                Out for lunch
                Baked potatoes, melon and cucumber salad
Monday: yogurt and granola
                Out for lunch (very unusual to have to lunches out in a week)
                Tomato pie and apple pie
Tuesday: oatmeal and grapes
                Tomato pie leftovers
                Zucchini soup, whole wheat bread, salad
Wednesday: cereal
                Zucchini soup

                Bulgur salad with nuts, dried cherries, tomatoes on a bed of lettuce

Sources for our local foods:
Sunbow Farm-- beans and veg, best around
GreenWillow Grains-- wheat and oatmeal
Denison Farms--CSA and bulk onions