Chicks, Chives, & Grate Steampunk

A rear wheel on the push mower broke today – the plastic frame just gave up. It looks as if its twin is ready to follow suit shortly. I ordered new wheels, but the mower is out of commission until they arrive. We are in a holding pattern, alternately watering and mowing large portions of the property to keep them from drying up and blowing away until we can build the soil more deliberately.

Did some work to finish a raised bed. It already has carrots growing in one end, but the other end is getting closed off so we can fill it completely. The kids continued scooping manure out of the barn stalls and dumping it where more veggie beds are planned.

Since none of this was terribly photo-worthy, I’ll play catch-up with pictures from this spring. I bring you chicks, chives, and a really nifty steampunk iron grating I saw near the river in Spokane earlier this year. If I could salvage something like it, I’m sure I’d find a use for it on the homestead. Perhaps a post-apocalypse jaunt to Spokane would be in order, whenever that is.





A Hike and More Wild Berries


Berry picking wasn’t the end goal, but we did enjoy the variety as we hiked up B*** Creek Canyon so the kids could swim at the waterfall yesterday. Lots of thimbleberries, Oregon grape, wax currants (these ones were tastier than others I’ve tried before – sweeter and less waxy), and whitestem gooseberries. Also saw some sticky currants.



Thimbleberries are my favorite trailside snack. They’re like a tart, velvety raspberry liqueur in a fruit. They fall apart in your hand and it’s easy to see why they aren’t widely cultivated. They have enormous leaves and produce just a few berries per cane, but are well worth a wade through the underbrush.



Oregon grapes are kind of tart, but should be good to add some vitamin C and other nutrition to our kefir smoothies.

There are a few very poisonous berries around, and a good guidebook is a must. This one is our favorite. It’s small enough to fit into a cargo pocket, and exhaustive in its coverage.

Wild Berries & Fruits Field Guide of the Rocky Mountain States
by Teresa Marrone



Mower Troubleshooting

Yesterday I encountered the ongoing problem of our push mower refusing to re-start after it gets hot. We are already behind on the mowing, since we waited several days for a replacement primer bulb to come in the mail last week. Apparently the hot-start problem is very common in 7- to 10-year-old Briggs & Stratton engines. It can be caused by issues with the valves, the coil, or a plethora of other things – in other words, a two or three day troubleshooting process for a shade tree mechanic like myself. In other words, not something I have time to tackle right now.

I don’t think it’s a compression problem in our case, as you can clearly feel the compression stroke when pulling the starter rope. A common bit of advice on internet forums suggests solving this problem by sitting in the shade with your mower while downing a couple of beers (the beer is for you, not the mower, silly), and then starting it again after it’s cooled down.

I put the mower in the shade and spent about 20 minutes reading up on the problem online. No beer, unfortunately, as I was trying to get this done and get out the door to hike. The shade definitely shortens the refractory period, and it started right up when I was done reading. In the end, I did get the dry grass cut at the top of the hill, so I will no longer get foxtails down my boots when I go troubleshoot the soaker hoses on the caragana hedge.

Wildcrafted Huckleberries


What’s even better than eating food harvested from a food forest you planted? Free food harvested from the woods, that’s what!

We drove up into the National Forest east of here in search of huckleberries this afternoon. We found some huckleberries and a lot more of what we think are serviceberries, or another similar wild berry in the blueberry family. Huckleberries must be a truly slimming food – I’m sure you burn more calories moving around and bending over to pick the minuscule things up than you get from eating them. And we’re not even getting into the gas we burn to drive up to where they grow. But it’s an excuse to hang out in the woods, and that’s enough. Yummy berries are just the icing on the cake. Speaking of baked things, some will probably end up in muffins, although some will be jealously guarded from the bakers by yours truly, as I like them best fresh.

My youngest said she was chilly, so I loaned her my long-sleeved shirt.



Rouens Run



Acquired two free, young Rouen drakes (ducks), whose advances were roundly rejected by the immature laying ducks. The lady who dropped them off had hatched them, but apparently she had a roughly 1:1 ratio of drakes to females, and the latter group were feeling roundly harassed. We thought she was bringing two drakes and a duck (female) but she was only getting rid of her drakes. This is fine, as our 10 straight-run Rouens are due to make their way to the freezer any day now, so a free drake past the ideal slaughter age means one more at prime in the freezer. We will probably find another home for the second free drake. At the moment they are a little shy of people, so I had to try to capture them while running past, hence the blurry images. My second son did manage to catch one and bond with it, sort of.

Mrs. D. and I spent the morning removing a circle of railroad ties from the front lawn and putting them in a neat stack next to the shed. They were part of a landscaping plan that pre-dated our presence here, but they looked a mess and required a whole lot of unnecessary weed-whacking. With a little smoothing of the bumps, it will now be possible to cut it all with the mower. Found a huge colony of large red ants under some of the ties, which reminds me that I need to order or formulate some orange oil/molasses hormicide for when the biting critters are close enough to the house to create a hazard.

Took the kids to the movies in the afternoon.