Preps for emergencies and daily use

We take comfort in the fact that our house has managed 96 years in this spot we’ve chosen to plant ourselves at. Especially when outside, the wind coils up like a turbo-charged hammer and we hear it roaring first through the trees to the east and south of us before it strikes our little piece of earth. The Douglas Fir trees surrounding us bow furiously away from the wind as needles and branches spin down, littering both yard and drive. Pine cones hit the mark from time to time, and we all – cats, dogs, humans and parrot – jump at their report.

We had a wicked storm in 2006, the Hanukkah Eve storm, which was our first year here and initiation to the ferocious weather that can spin out of typhoon remnants in the Pacific ocean. Power was out for nearly a week, but thanks to a kind neighbor and a generator on loan, we made it through in relative comfort.

The second week of this October 2016 had another storm bearing down from the remnants of Typhoon Songda and even though the weekend was supposed to be the worst, Friday the 14th is when it hit us hardest. The power went out sometime after noon that day and we expected it to stay down good a while, especially with another round of wind to follow Saturday.

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Image: NOAA/NASA

Needless to say over the years we’ve found a few inexpensive hacks that add some comfort during these tempests. Even if your preps budget is slim, there are some very simple items can be practical and lift spirits when it’s dark, dreary and your power is out for who knows how long.

One of our favorite finds was  the Eneloops rechargeable battery kit from Costco.  We just make sure we have ample pre-charged batteries from it when we hear the storm is on the way. These are useful for flashlights, radios, or whatever devices you may have in your home.

The Eneloops work great for one of my favorite inexpensive light sources, which is battery LED light strings with timers. You can get them a number of places, but we found a good selection at our local Michaels store. Also if your a procrastinator, a craft store isn’t generally being overrun by last minute panic buyers for prep items. I decided to grab a couple more strings on storm eve this last event, and found it was cricket noises at Michaels, while other stores with more typical prep items were packed with shoppers.

My favorite find this last visit was a tiny wire string of little stars that we placed around the bathroom mirror, and set to come on via timer in the afternoon. After the designated time they shut off, but while on, provide cheery illumination with minimal power use. We also have a brighter string for use in our chicken coop that lights up as it gets dark. Not only does it guide the chickens to their roost, it’s very handy for us two legs as well should we need to pop in the coop on these short winter days or when the power is out and we need some back up lighting.

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Another good thing to keep on hand is a set of small hand held radios for communication, especially should the storm be severe enough to take out cell service. We purchased some very basic Uniden radios for home use some years ago that still work fine today. The only thing we’ve done is replace the rechargeable battery pack. Newer models have greater range, NOAA weather alerts or other features, and prices are fairly reasonable. It’s nice to be able to quickly communicate even if just around the farmstead day to day and may be invaluable in an emergency.

Another handy Costco product was an 1100 lumen CAT brand rechargeable work light we came upon. This unit lasts up to 6 hours and can also charge peripheral devices via an outbound USB port. I’ve actually used it as an incredible handheld spotlight when checking on livestock or fence after dark. It’s a daily driver and another must have in emergencies.

We love our old fashion Dietz hurricane lanterns, but sometimes the odor, CO and fire danger make the modern rechargeable lights the better option. And when trying to act quickly in a crisis, having the quick to hand modern variety, without fumbling with matches or lighters can’t be overstated; whether it’s dealing with a Pacific hurricane or because the fence blew down and the cows are out.

Ready, even portable heat is also really awesome to have if needed. The portable Buddy heater we bought years ago has been useful in power outages as well as for heat when working in the shop. It’s even come in handy at a party when our bonfire was rained out, and we all huddled around it in the pole barn in our lawn chairs. The show must go on and it’s awesome to be able to ensure we can function no matter what comes our way.

No matter where you live, farm or apartment, on the coast or the high country, these days having things on hand for emergencies is essential, but don’t forget some things to add comfort as well.

Excalibur stays sharp

Not the sword Excalibur, but the spiffy 9-tray dehydrator we bought almost 10 years ago. excalibur

Our storage onions lasted from September through April, but May flowers means the onions are trying to flower along with everything else. After sorting through the 100 or so pounds stacked in harvest trays in the garage, we ended up with about half in good enough shape for processing.

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They are peeled and chopped, not so small that they fall through the dehydrator racks as they shrink, and spread out to dry. File May 10, 8 10 23 AM

After a brief cool-down, the wheelbarrow-load is reduced enough to fit into a gallon jar, and provides a ready supply of flavor boost to soups and casseroles when fresh onions aren’t available. File May 10, 7 03 28 AM

The jar on the right is a previous year’s batch, still tasty, if a little depleted. We also use the Excalibur to dry garlic and soup celery, plus a variety of herbs. If you like to grow and preserve your own garden goodies, this is the tool for you. Newer models have a lot more bells & whistles than our classic, but definitely worth the investment.

This spring has been one of the busiest ever at Seven Trees Farm. Job changes, new flooring, new windows, pond building and so on, pretty much non-stop from last fall. Sometimes nature intervenes with a rainy day recess (though a bit of hail crept into this shower)…

Lucky is adapting to being an only bird again, after losing Percy to age-related complications. He enjoys weather watching with a snack of sweet potato fries.File May 10, 8 12 14 AM

As our little trough pond gets established, more critters are finding their way to us. A huge, brightly-colored garter snake was sunning itself near the driveway, and took off nearly faster than I could snap pictures. While our native snakes take a toll on the frog population, they also eat plenty of bugs and small varmints, and it’s nice to know they feel welcome here. File May 10, 7 06 21 AM

We added a spigot to the trough pond so we can water plants without disturbing the goldfish, and also to run a trickle of water to the ground level bog that we’ll add soon. File May 06, 10 54 40 AM

See if you can spot the Pacific tree frog nestled in the watercress. File May 10, 8 14 00 AM

There are still plenty of modifications in the works for the pond, like raising the bog tub a bit more for better waterfall action and adding a better sun screen, but it’s already a peaceful oasis in the middle of our busy planting zones.

Local warming is not a hoax

bleedingheartWinter is slowly being flushed out of Cascadia by our customary barrage of spring storms. Even though the days are longer, it’s hard to spend much time on outside chores in the mud and wind. Naturally the assorted plant life, wanted and unwanted, are taking advantage of the situation.

trillium

Local lore has always placed the bloom time of trilliums closer to Mother’s Day (with morel season coming after the first warm rain following Mother’s Day and the trilliums’ flowering). The past few years have not followed that pattern though, and we are always observing and adjusting our growing style to keep up.

Even though we got a few hard freezes this winter, we were finally able to winter over robust rosemary plants. Being against the south-facing wall of the garage, and out of the frigid winter winds from the north, made the difference. rosemary

The cold snaps also didn’t hurt the greens we wintered over. A little Sluggo, some floating row cover during the coldest nights, and we managed a few salads. Now the kale is bolting and the red leaf lettuce has taken on a lovely color. Time to get more starts going, but the garden won’t be dry enough to till for a while yet. Perfect timing for the hen house compost to start settling into the cover crop before being turned under. wintergarden

The bay laurel trees we bought by mail back in 2011 arrived in tiny 4″ pots. Four years later, they are picking up speed and providing us with fresh herbage all year long. They are native to coastal rain forests a bit south of us, but seem to have adapted to our microclimate just fine. baylaurel

Our mad-scientist chicken experiments are starting to pay off. This year we barely had a dip in egg production, and made sure to hatch a LOT of eggs from those hard-working gals to keep winter laying genes in our bloodlines. Spring fever is starting to spread though, and our little Japanese banty, Marble, has gone broody. Teeny tiny dragon lady, sitting on someone else’s eggs 😀 broodybantyOur ’emergency’ tub pond we made mid-drought last summer ended up housing five pet store feeder fish and a few more plants.NewPond  Amazingly, the fish survived all winter, as did most of the plants (though not the water lily, whose corpse is in the basket beside the pond). In the lower left of the current picture is a thriving grocery-store watercress plant. tubpond The roots are contained in the plastic wrapper it came in, hopefully keeping it alive until we can move everything to the new pond. After much consideration (i.e. pondering pinboards) we abandoned our original concept of a large, naturalistic water feature for a more practical, productive above-ground stock tank pond. We’ll set it near the garden, and add an elevated bog filter, pumping water up through pea gravel planted with pretty plants as well as edible ones. This keeps the water healthy for fish and other critters and we get to use nutrient-rich pond water on the garden. In the meantime, our ‘pond’ is getting some practice holding rainwater. So far, so good!newpond The Pond Digger has an excellent video series on building a patio pond with bog filter. Check it out –  and stay tuned for updates.

 

Communing with Cascadia

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Ozette Island from Cape Alava

We don’t have any road trips on the schedule this fall, but October is often a good time to take a break from choring to enjoy Cascadian scenery up close & personal. One of our favorite places to visit is the Ozette Village site and surrounding areas. So much bang for your travel buck – isolated rocky beaches, old growth rainforest, archaeology, and a chance to stand in the place where Makah people watched a tsunami overtake their village following the last known rupture of the Cascadia subduction fault over 300 years ago.

Cape Flattery
Cape Flattery

We shared some history and our experiences there on a site about sacred places in the new world –

History

Makah village c.1900

On January 26, 1700 a +9 magnitude earthquake ocurred on the Cascadia Subduction Zone, resulting in a tsunami recorded across the Pacific Ocean in Japan, and a catastrophic mudslide that buried six longhouses of the Makah village at Ozette, WA. In 1970, severe storms uncovered these longhouses and spurred an emergency recovery effort. The archaeological record shows that this site was inhabited continuously from 400 BCE to the 1920s, when residents were moved to Neah Bay to facilitate schooling opportunities. The Makah Tribe, who also held inland territory, obtained most of their food and resources from the sea. Economic mainstays were halibut, ling cod, shellfish, salmon and a variety of sea mammals (primarily grey whale, fur seal and hair seal). Spanish explorers in the 1790s introduced potatoes, as well as European diseases and religion.

Slavery was common among the tribes of the Pacific Northwest long before European contact. Among the Makah, slaves were captured in warfare, or sometimes they were purchased from other tribes who had acquired them by capture. In 1833. Hudson’s Bay Company bought shipwrecked Japanese sailors from the Makah hoping to use them to open up trading with the Japanese.

Folklore

Many Northwest Native legends describe battles between Thunderbird and Whale:

Whale was a monster, killing other whales and depriving the Quileute tribe of meat and oil. Thunderbird, a benevolent supernatural being, saw from its home high in the mountains that the people were starving. It soared out over the coastal waters, then plunged into the ocean and seized Whale. A struggle ensued; the ocean receded and rose again. Many canoes were flung into trees and many people were killed. Thunderbird eventually succeeded in lifting Whale out of the ocean, carrying it high into the air and then dropping it. Then another great battle occurred on land. In light of modern seismic and archaeological findings, these legends seem to describe the massive earthquake and tsunami of 1700.

Ozette archaeological site in the 1970’s

Aiornis, the prehistoric giant bird on which the Thunderbird mythology seems to be partly based, was a carrion feeder known from fossils found near Los Angeles. It is most likely that these birds, which were encountered by the first human settlers of the Americas, would feed on stranded whale carcasses.

Experiences

Bone Hut interior

Being a native of the Pacific Northwest, exploring the rugged north Washington coast is a rite of passage. The pilgrimage to the Ozette village site involves a drive out to the Olympic Peninsula, a hike on a mossy tree-shadowed boardwalk, then a low-tide scramble up a rugged beach. Following the discovery of the 1700s slide-buried village, modern folk reconstructed a cedar-planked house looking out towards Cannonball Island and the Pacific Ocean. This hut is now a magnet for offerings of whale, seal and otter bones collected from the beach in front of the house. My last visit there, in 2011, still provided a seal rib and otter jaw bone that we brought back to our home altar, plus other bones left in the house as offerings to the local wights.

Bone Hut exterior

The terrain surrounding the Salish Sea very closely resembles that of our Scandinavian ancestors. Fjords, whales, seals, skraelings, raiding, trading, and even potlatches. Heathens travelling in the far reaches of the Pacific Northwest will be greatly rewarded by visiting the Makah Cultural and Research Center, hiking out to Cape Flattery to see Tatoosh Island and the sea stacks and caves at the northwestern-most point of the contiguous 48 states, then makng the trek to Ozette Lake and Cape Alava, where people lived and died to the rhythm of the sea for thousands of years. Explore the middens and tide strands, then find your own piece of bone to leave as an offering for the wights of this unique and majestic place.

Further reading

Native American groups of the Olympic Peninsula

Non-Indians and the Makah, 1788 to 1855

Native American legends of tsunamis in the Pacific Northwest

Searching for Native stories about Cascadia subduction zone earthquakes

Earthquakes and tsunami as elemants of environmental disturbance on the Northwest Coast of North America

The Home of My Family: Ozette, the Makahs, and Doc Daugherty