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Horsetail Falls Loop

January 7, 2014

Over the weekend we hiked the Horsetail Falls Loop in the Columbia Gorge. This fairly short hike packs in three separate waterfalls and a few gorge views. It has some elevation gain and even a peek into Oneonta Gorge. The trail was quite rocky and we had to hold the girls hands often to navigate the rough terrain. Here we are in the parking lot with Horsetail Falls in the background.Image

 

After a few ascending switchbacks we reached level ground far above the parking lot. Around a corner we came to Ponytail Falls.Image

 

The trail passes behind these falls. We decided the cave was a good place to stop for snacks.

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We had to stop a few times for breaks and once to let the silliness out.Image

 

After the hike we had a picnic in the warm car. After the peek at Oneonta we can’t wait to explore it during the summer.

Book Review: Silent Spring

December 7, 2013

This is a book everyone should read. The relevance is outstanding considering it was written in 1962. The dangers of pesticides and herbicides cannot be overlooked in our current Monsanto based food system. Rachel Carson outlines the dangers of chemical warfare on our planet and how so called “safe for human” poisons often end up hurting people, animals, and the very plants they claim to protect. A common result of herbicides and pesticides is sterility. It has been documented hundreds of times in bird species. It is also well documented that these poisons build up in the body of all animals.

In the natural food chain the big fish eats the smaller fish and, along with it consumes the poisons carried by the smaller fish. The process repeats itself until the poisons build up to a fatal amount. At the top of the food chain, we should be very worried about this fact. But far before the toxins reach a lethal dose the poisons start affecting biological systems. One of the first affected is the reproductive system. Massive populations of birds across the country have been wiped out because they can no longer reproduce. It may be just a matter of time before these effects reach humans. The movie Children of Men is about an infertile world. After reading this book, the movie doesn’t seem like such a stretch.

The book gives examples of government supported programs that were supposed to kill bugs endangering a crop. After one program failed Rachel had this to say:

“It is an outstanding example of an ill-conceived, badly executed, and thoroughly detrimental experiment in the mass control of insects, an experiment so expensive in dollars, in destruction of animal life, and in loss of public confidence in the Agricultural Department that it is incomprehensible that any funds should still be devoted to it.”

More and more I could say this about the FDA as well. These agencies are put in place to protect our food supply and ultimately us as consumers. It seems like these days they are in place to protect the profits of agri-business and corporate farming.

Rachel combats these pesticide programs with examples of species control using natures methods. For example, introducing a predator for an invasive, crop-killing species. These natural methods have proven far superior. She explains that nature has had millennia to perfect itself.

“The balance of nature is not a status quo; it is fluid, ever shifting, in a constant state of adjustment. Man, too, is part of this balance. Sometimes the balance is in his favor; sometimes–and all too often through his own activities–it is shifted to his disadvantage.”

This book focuses on the disadvantage of pesticides wiping out beneficial bugs along with the bad ones. But, unfortunately, this is a valid statement for environmental impacts as well. We are starting to see the balancing of nature almost daily as huge storms tear countries apart. Nature is adjusting to the pollution we are creating. The balance of added CO2 in the atmosphere is violent storms across the globe.

Both with pollution and chemical control, the effects are slow to materialize. By the time we know something is wrong, it may be too late.

Garden Potatoes

September 5, 2013

I picked about 10 potatoes from our garden today to add to a roast for dinner. We planted four red variety potatoes this Spring and I picked about 1.5 plants worth today. A couple of the potatoes were about baseball size ranging down to a couple about ping pong ball sized. In other garden news I picked the first of five Gala apples on our espalier tree yesterday. It was really good. I also picked a pear about a week ago and two are still on the tree.

Removing Wasted Time

September 5, 2013

With the beginning of Kindergarten for Claire on September 3rd I made a change myself. I stopped playing mindless video games. These are the games that don’t have an ending. The ones you check on throughout the day and play whenever you have five minutes to spare. The problem is that time adds up. Even a few minutes in the morning and a few in the evening make a difference. I can spend that time in a hundred more productive ways, so I quit cold turkey. The thought of quitting them first came up in church. It was during the topic of idolatry. While I don’t think it was that bad it got me thinking. Did these games control me? Was I checking in on them because they were waiting for me? I didn’t like that feeling. I want to be in control of my time. Also, habits is what make you, good or bad. I want to build myself with good habits and video games like that are not on my way to a happy life.

Trying Something New

August 24, 2013

In an effort to kick start this blog again I am trying a new angle. I want to write about the adventures of being a dad. Some will be actual adventures like hiking or camping while others will be more figurative along the lines of gardening or working on the house. I will also include my personal adventures with photographing and reading, a couple of my favorite things. To start things off I will flash back a couple months to our road trip through Oregon and California.

Favorite Sites

April 16, 2013
I just compiled this list for a friend and thought others might be interested as well. It is some of my favorite minimalist/homesteading blogs and websites. I went out on a limb toward the end and added some entrepreneurship and big dream stuff.
http://www.theminimalists.com/ Tons of great articles about minimalism with a definition that I like (being happy with less). The website is better than the blog.
http://lloydkahn-ongoing.blogspot.com/ A fairly random blog about small houses from a guy that literally wrote the book on small houses. He also muses about music, surfing, photography, etc.
http://waywardspark.com/ A family in Oregon living an off the grid lifestyle. Her posts are about gardening, chickens, goats, honey bees and other great stuff.
http://www.hipchickdigs.com/ A Portland mother talks about her urban homestead that includes a huge garden and chickens. She wrote a great book on the topic as well.
http://zenhabits.net/ General good living advice covering many topics including habits, meditation, tea, and exercise.
http://www.scotthyoung.com/blog/ Good advice on learning, networking, and thinking. His free e-book is good.
http://www.the1bigthing.com/ Another really good e-book about making dreams happen.
http://chrisguillebeau.com/3×5/ One of my very favorites. He just got back from visiting every country on the planet. His manifesto is awesome and both his books are very good. His blog is great and his website has tons of free info.
http://www.thisepiclife.com/ I just came across this site but really like his message. It is all about being you. His e-book is also very good.
http://hackthesystem.com/ Also a new site to me. I am still getting into it but some interesting stuff here too.

Cider Tour 2013

February 19, 2013

I am planning a cider tour this year. I don’t know when but I want to visit 5-10 cideries in the Willamette Valley. My goal is to find out what kind of apples they are using and where they get them from. I would like to start my own apple orchard to supply local cideries. After some reading most brewers agree that mixing apples produces the best cider. Selecting different apples based on varying qualities help round out the cider for the best taste. I would like to grow one or more popular varieties.

On my starter list is all the Oregon cideries listed here:  https://cydermarket.com/Oregon.html. I will make some email inquiries to determine the short list. I am hoping to find some willing to share what kinds of apples they use.

My interest started a couple years ago when Tonya and I visited three cideries near Port Townsend, Wa. We were immediately hooked on the beverage but also loved the process of growing apples. I started my own “orchard” adventure last year by planting a few fruit trees in our backyard. We have 2 apple, 1 pear, and 1 peach tree. I am using a tiered espalier style along a south facing fence for the apple and pear trees. I am hoping for an apple or two this year.

I would love to expand the fruit tree operation and even get some land of my own. I have seen some impressive espalier orchards, including one at a cidery in Washington. This style allows for maximum output and keeps the trees healthy and productive much longer than a typical orchard. The low growing style also makes harvesting quick and easy. I am eying a few books to bolster my knowledge but I am also using some online forums and YouTube videos. I would love to get my own small cider press and even brew some hard cider.

Books: The Holistic Orchard, The Apple Grower

Forum: Home Brew Talk,

From internet searches I am starting a list of possible apple varietals. Here is a list of websites with information about cider apple trees:

http://www.orangepippintrees.com/cider-apple-trees

http://cideruk.com/cider_making/cider_apples

http://www.greenmantlenursery.com/fruit/apple-cider.htm

http://www.evescidery.com/our-orchard/apple-varieties/

http://www.foggyridgecider.com/our-cider/our-apples.php

http://groworganic.com/organic-gardening/articles/mix-apple-varieties-for-the-best-cider

I found this on Wikipedia:

“Normally, ciders are blended using juice from several apple cultivars to give the best results. There are few varieties that will make a good cider all by themselves, Golden Russet is one such variety, and is prized in both single variety and multi-variety blends of cider.

Three apple cultivars from England are ‘Kingston Black’, ‘Stoke Red’, and ‘Dymock Red’:

Famous American cider apple cultivars are Harrison Cider Apple, ‘Campfield’, Hewe’s Virginia Crab,[3] and Yates. The first two originated in Essex County, New Jersey before 1776.[4] The Hewe’s was grown from early 1700s and by Thomas Jefferson in his cider orchard.”