The Visa Quest Nearly Finished

Lughnasa                                       Waning Harvest Moon

Today we moved from conjecture to certainty.  The top person at English Gate Academy, Ahmed, e-mailed Mark and said he would write a personal note to the Saudi Embassy asking them to speed Mark’s visa application along.

His papers cleared the Saudi Cultural Mission today and are at the Embassy so it should be a matter of days now before he has his passport back with his Saudi work visa in place.  At that point English Gate will send him an e-ticket.  He’ll pack and I’ll take him out the same airport where I picked him up in April, just as spring began to try breaking through the long and persistent grip of our long winter.

It’s been a long and not always straightforward journey for Mark, but he’s got his head and heart in better alignment plus he pulled off the difficult in this US economy; he found a good paying job, better pay than he’s ever made.

We spent the morning harvesting wild grapes, talking through the vine.  With the freeze tonight we had to get the sensitive crops inside.  Kate picked the tomatoes that will ripen over the next few weeks and a small bucket of raspberries while Mark and I picked a rose cone full of the small purple grapes.

That means Kate the jelly and jam maker will appear, working with her alchemical apparatus to strain the grapes, add the sugar and pectin and can the result.  Wild grape jelly has a special and tangy taste.  Great for those cold winter breakfasts.

Bee and Garden Diary

Mid-Summer                                                                                          Waning Garlic Moon

Today I performed partial hive box reversals in all three colonies.  The second hive box of three gets rotated to the bottom and the first or bottom box rotates up to take its place.  This means that all the hive boxes have to be moved, so it is a labor intensive activity, especially so now that some honey has begun to be stored.  One hive box was very heavy, my back a bit reluctant.  Having done that I checked the top box on colony 1 and the top two honey supers in colonies 2 and 3.  None of these have much honey.

Since I put queen excluders on 2 and 3, I pulled those off, intending to leave them off for a couple of days.  At the hobby bee-keeper meetings I’m told this is a common way to get the bees to move up into the honey supers.  I’ll put the queen excluders back on maybe Wednesday.  Since I reversed the bottom and second hive boxes, there’s not much chance the queen will get up there.

So far the bee season seems to have hurdled the early cold and rain and settled into a more normal pattern.

The potatoes and leeks both have mounds around their stalks now, blanching for the leeks and more space for the potato plants to produce tubers.  A lot of gardening tasks are very time sensitive and these were among them.  When the potato plants flower (now), they begin to set the tubers.  As the leeks grow, only the parts covered by soil will blanch, turn white, and be useful for cooking.  As the young apples begin to grow, the bags have to go on before the apple maggots come out to play.  Also now.

The bees, too, require definite care and different kinds of care all through early spring and summer, then less attention around now, when the honey flow begins.  Later in August will come extraction, then preparation of colony 1 for overwintering.  Gonna try one more time.  Colonies 2 and 3 will move out near the truck lane, into the sunny part.  That’s for next year.

Our tomato plants started from seed have begun to mature, though they are far behind the two plants Kate bought at the green barn.  Those plants have blooms and green tomatoes.  It remains to be seen whether we’ll get any tomatoes from the others.

We’ve harvested one full planting of spinach, several of lettuce, some sugar snap peas and just this week, lots of strawberries.  We have onions, carrots, beets, more lettuce and spinach, plus pole and bush beans all underway.  There are cherries and plums in the orchard in addition to the apples and the raspberry canes are in good mid-season form.  We’re going to have a good season as we continue to learn how to use our garden to complement and supplement what we buy at the grocery store.

Chicken Pot Pies and Memories

Fall                                                 Waning Back to School Moon

Before the Vikings game on Sunday I made two chicken pot pies, whole pies filled with chicken, vegetables and a thickened vegetable broth made in the process.  These are my second and third meat pies and I find I enjoy making them as much as I do soup.  Something about baking a pie that has meat and vegetables intrigues me.  This one had our leeks, potatoes, onions, carrots, garlic, parsley and thyme.  My favorite vegetable from this garden is the leek.  The subtle flavor and the delicate flesh of the leek both appeal to my palate.

Here are a few of the ingredients plus a tomato and raspberries from our garden.  This potato looks similar to the woman of la mouthe in the MIA’s collection.  At least to my eye.670_0300 Fresh ingredients are key to Italian, Chinese and vegetarian cooking so a garden facilitates those cuisines, at least during the harvest system.  Our best meals of the summer happen in September.

Visiting Westminster today brought up all kinds of memories.  Don Meisel, former head pastor, came into the men’s room once during a Presbytery meeting.  I had a report on top of the urinal, reading it.  Don said, “My, you must get a lot of work done.”  Presbyterian humor. Another surprising Don Meisel moment.  There on the wall of a hallway was the exact same Granlund sculpture, the Tree of Life, that I bought Kate for her 50th birthday.  Don had given it to the church in memory of his wife.

Jim Campbell’s name came up, too.  Jim was a top exec of Northwest Bank and a leader on the Community Involvement Program’s board.  I worked at CIP for 4+ years, starting as a janitor and week-end staff person during seminary and moving up to Director of Residential programs.  Jim came to me at one point and asked if I would take on directing both the Residential programs and the Day Activity Centers.  I thought about it and said no.  That surprised him, I could tell.  It surprised me a bit, too.  I had no interest then or later in advancement, even though I did end up as an Associate Executive Presbyter.

Then, the chapel.  What a peaceful space,  a definite English feel to it wood, limestone, slate floor, a beautiful organ.  Wilson Yates, then professor of society and religion at United Seminary, married Raeone and me in that chapel in 1979.  Ed Berryman, the organist, refused to play the music we wanted.  I don’t remember what it was.  We had Handel’s Water Music.  Ed liked it.

There were, too, many mornings of bible study with urban clergy in the now much renovated basement area.  Bible study was always one of the fun parts because Presbyterian clergy pride themselves on their scholarly ability.

Well, off to bed.  Gotta catch the Empire Builder at 7:30 am.

A Green Neighbor

Lughnasa                                               Waxing Back to School Moon

Early am picked wild grapes.  Kate makes them into a grape jelly.  The harvest was not as bountiful this year because we arrived about three weeks late to the banquet.  Others had gotten there first.  So it goes.  More than compensated for by the abundance of raspberries.

After the wild grapes I had an hour long session over skype with United Theological Seminary student.  I’m her mentor as she starts out on the long road to becoming a minister in the UU tradition.  The fact of listening to her, helping her sort through feelings and plans as she begins her internship, helped me remember why I agreed to do this.  Each person in a new endeavor needs someone who has walked roughly the same ancientrail.

After that time I went back into the garden and picked yet more raspberries, greens and some tomatoes.  While working in our raspberry patch, I came across this guy sitting high atop one of the raspberry canes.  frog6002_2010-09-18_0292He kept me company while I picked the ripe red and golden fruit.  He waited yet longer while I got Kate.  He waited even longer when I went back inside and got the camera.

One invasive close-up to many got him to move.  He leaped away and I lost my friend.  After a quick search, he appears to be a gray tree frog, Hyla versicolor.

We also have skinks, salamanders and toads, all reflecting a healthy eco-system here where no pesticides or artificial fertilizers contaminate the plants and wild life.

Having a chance to visit with this guy is one of the perks of that choice.

After lunch, I popped the garlic cloves from my largest garlic bulbs.  They go in the ground this afternoon or tomorrow.

Extra Work Raises Grade

Lughnasa                                 Waxing Artemis Moon

Up early and out in the garden.  This is the way I like it, working in the garden before and during sunrise, a coolness, some damp lingering from the night, stillness carrying only the softest of sounds, the earth friable and eager, weeds willing to come up and the garden’s purpose easy to discern.

Kate worked on in the orchard, going back over intensive weeding of a week ago and pulling up sprouts and rhizomes, making the place just that more inhospitable for the weedy plants.  With a second load of mulch we’ll have this place looking ship-shape heading into fall.

A few grasses have begun to turn brown and there’s a slight hint of autumn in the morning air, a certain clarity and crispness.

After inspecting the garden again yesterday, I’m moving my grade from a B- to a B+.  Why?  I did three plantings of beets, greens, carrots and beans.  Now the second planting has come to maturity after many other plants finished their summer and gave up their yield.  We have a good crop of young beets, a lot of juicy carrots, plenty of greens and enough beans for a couple more freezer bags at least.  This planting weekly or so for a while, creates a series of gardens, all in the same place.  We even have a number of Cherokee Purple tomato plants which I did not plant.  They are volunteers from last year’s tomatoes.

Add to these the onions, garlic, greens, beans, beets and various fruits already harvested we have a good gardening year, not a great one, but a good one.

Plus those potatoes are still in the ground, the raspberries have begun to fruit and the fennel and leeks look good.  All in all, not bad.  I said at the beginning of the growing season that I saw this as a consolidation year, a year when we make sure we can care for what we have.  A week ago I would have said we hadn’t even met that mark, but now I believe we have.  Caring for the orchard, the vegetable garden and the new plantings from last year in there, managing the bees and getting ready for the honey harvest, plus pruning out and restoration in the perennial flower beds.

This advance is mostly thanks to Kate’s back surgery and her hip surgery.  She can now care for the garden, too, as she has in the past and it requires the both of us, what we have now.  Getting back to normal speed.

Hooray for the Red, White and Blue

Summer                                            Waning Strawberry Moon

Hooray for the red, white and blue.  That is, the blueberries, the raspberries and the white clover among which I picked them this morning.  Worked outside for an hour and a half, moving an outdoor table back to its original place on the brick patio outside our garden doors, a plastic table into the honey house for some  more space.  Can’t set the smoker on it though.

(Georgia O’Keefe, 1931)

This all has two purposes, getting the house nicer and in better shape for our own use as the summer begins to take up residence and for our guests in July:  Jon, Jen, Gabe and Ruth and the Woolly Mammoths.  I also moved some potted plants around and am mulling painting a post I stuck in concrete a few years ago.  Painting it some bright, contrasty color that will make the green pop.

Only 83 this morning but the dew point’s already at 67.  Glad the bee work got done yesterday.  On the bees.  The president of the Beekeeper’s Association lives in Champlin (near us, sort of ) and has offered to come over himself after the fourth.  I’ll be glad to have his experience looking in on my colonies.

While I picked mustard greens this morning, I noticed a bee making a nectar run on a clover blossom near my hand. “Keep up the good work.  Glad to see you out here and hard at work,” I told him, rather her.  She jumped at the sound of my voice.  One of those workers best left to her own initiative.

Haven’t heard yet from Kate but the plan is for her to come home today at some point.

Weed

Summer                                            Waning Strawberry Moon

Nice weather for weeding so I took the opportunity and finally got into the second and third tiers of our back perennial garden.  Out go the raspberry canes.  Out go the stinging nettles.  Out go the dogwood suckers.  Out go the switch grass and and other weedy plants.  In stays the poison ivy (one small plant) because I kill them.  Out goes the slumped daffodil stems.  I’m not finished, but it already looks a hell of a lot better.

Kate planted marigolds this morning in the kitchen garden and in long narrow window boxes.  This all nourished by last nights meal from the garden and the currant jam this morning.

Paul Douglas had a big happy sun on the forecast for today, but so far all I’ve seen is  clouds.  I’m glad.  It kept the air cool enough for a good session outside.

Fall Clean-up

Fall                                         Waxing Blood Moon

Out in the garden this morning taking down plants that have finished their labors.  Large cruciform vegetable plants grew from the seeds I started inside, but they never developed any fruits.  They’re in the compost now.  All the tomato vines save one have come down.  The last tomato harvest went inside today, too.  A few straggling yellow and orange tomatoes and a cluster of green tomatoes for a last fried green tomatoes.

A new crop of lettuce, beets and beans are well underway, lending an air of spring to the dying garden.  While examiningdieback091 carrots I have in the ground awaiting the frost, I discovered golden raspberries large as my thumb.  A real treat at this late stage in the year.  They await the vanilla ice cream I’m going to buy when I go to the grocery store.

The 49 degree weather made doing these choirs a pleasure.  Odd as it may seem, I like the fall clean-up part of gardening as well as I do any other part, perhaps a little bit more.  Most of these plants I started as seeds in February, March or April and they have matured under my care, borne their fruits and run through their life cycle.  From some of them I have collected seeds to plant for next year.  The clean up then represents a completion that goes one step beyond the harvest.  It honors these living entities by caring for their spent forms in the most full way possible:  helping them return their remaining nutrients back to the soil.  I want no less for myself.

Got a new toaster and a new ladder in the mail yesterday from Amazon.  Boy, shopping has changed.  I rarely go to a big box store anymore, once in a while to Best Buy to check out DVD’s or for some computer accessory.  I still go to hardware stores and grocery stores, the things you need weekly or right now or fresh, but everything else I buy online.

The bee guy, Mark Nordeen, had to cancel again today.  His wife, Kate’s colleague, got kicked in the head by her brand new black mare.  E.R. and a concussion later she’s home off work.  Guess I’m gonna have to figure out how to over winter my bees all by myself.