Friday, September 9, 2011

Bed Linens Laundry Day

Today was bed linens fall laundry day. Here in the high desert, summers are hot and winters cold. In order to sleep comfortably, spring and fall I change the bedding. Right now, it's still warm enough that we're sleeping with the windows open, closing everything up by nine in the morning to keep the house cooler through the day. But come September, I'm ready to get my fall decor out - replacing the whites, blues, and yellows of summer with tans, golds and burgundy of autumn.

It's still warm enough for cotton percale sheets, but I just replaced our light cotton quilted bedspread with a fall-colored heavier one. As nights get cooler, blankets washed last spring are added, then the flannel sheets, and by January, the down comforter too.

Then, there's Albert to figure into this too. Albert is our big tuxedo cat. Besides being covered with black hair, he'll immediately roll in the dirt whenever he gets outside. And then comes back in to nap in the middle of the bed (as well as ending up between us most nights too). My summer bedspread is peach-colored floral pieces on a cream-colored background. Between the cat and nightly opened windows downwind of a canyon with a dirt road, that quilt (and the one on the guest bed - also a favorite Albert napping spot) definitely need to be washed.

This is a small house. Our washer and dryer is a Thin Twin stacked unit - about a third the size of a standard washing machine. It's fine for our usual laundry use (a Cal-King flannel sheet set really pushes it - I wash the pillowcases in a different load). Spring and fall, when I change the bedding, I bundle everything up (in the bag I made from legs of old blue jeans - usually, it's storage for my sleeping bag) and make a trip to a laundromat at the other end of town - one that has a big, 50-pound front-loading washer.

It only takes about an hour - especially if I go in early enough in the morning that I don't have to wait for the big machine. And you know, I actually enjoy it - it's just one of my rituals to accompany the change in the seasons (plus, there's a McDonald's in the same shopping center - it's an excuse to treat myself to a Sausage McGriddle, something I never do, for breakfast and a San Francisco newspaper to read while I wait for the machine to finish). I do have to check the weather report first, though. My quilts are cotton, and I love the smell of cotton bedding dried in the sun and fresh air. So I need a warm day with only light winds. I bring everything back, damp right out of the washer, and hang it out to dry at home.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Curing Onions

I'd pulled the soaker hoses off the rest of the onions a few weeks ago, and bent down those tops still upright. After a couple of weeks of drying and dying, I used a garden fork to loosen the soil, then my hands to scoop up the bulbs. I then wheeled them into the shade up by the house to cure.

Onions need to be cured for storage. Set out in a single layer in a warm and airy spot, the roots die, the neck shrinks down, and the outer-most layers dry and toughen up. Properly cured yellow Copra onions, I've found, will successfully store for close to a year - easily until the following July. Of my long-day sampler bunch trials, the Walla Wallas are already harvested and in the kitchen, as they'll only hold for a month. Of the rest of that bunch, the white Ringmasters should store up to 4 months and the Red Zeppelins six to eight. I've liked having some red onions this year. I've been using them in the kitchen throughout the summer. I'm also very interested in seeing how the Ringmasters hold up in storage. They produced some beautiful big bulbs with small necks (necessary for good storage potential), and more importantly are an open-pollinated variety (as opposed to a hybrid). I might replant one or two of those late this fall, to let go to seed next year. Onion self-sufficiency is an eventual goal of mine.

Our weather is gradually sliding towards fall. Days are still quite warm though, and the nights cooler but still nice enough to sleep with the windows open. Last night, I hadn't been asleep long when I awakened to the pitty-pat sound of raindrops. Oh no, if the onions got soaked it would ruin their curing. I got out of bed and grabbed a vinyl tablecloth from the camping gear in the closet. The rain had just started; the tree had kept most of the water off the onions. Quickly tucking the doubled tablecloth around the onions, I went back to bed. When the flash of a full-on booming thunderstorm woke me again a little later, I just smiled and went back to sleep. My onions were safe. The next morning, I uncovered them before the day warmed up. If I'd left them under the waterproof cover, they'd have started to sweat, also threatening the curing process. With a slight chance of thunderstorms this upcoming week, I thought it best to move the onions into the garage. I can open up the doors to let the air move through, and not have to worry about any storms coming though when I'm not at home.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Tragedy in the Neighborhood

I heard a series of loud pops. I thought neighbor kids had set off a string of big firecrackers in the open dirt field across our north fence, over towards the theater. Ten minutes later, the dog started howling out on the deck, as siren after siren went by on the highway two blocks below. My first thought, especially this time of year, was a wildfire someplace. But a quick scan around the horizon showed no sign of smoke. With the sirens still coming up from the south, I looked and realized all of them were fire station paramedic vehicles - lots of them.

So many emergency medical care vehicles. "Do you think there was a school bus accident?" I asked Aries, as we stood out on our deck, looking down towards the highway. The first CareFlight helicopter showed up overhead, then swung around to set down just beyond the Marriott below us, in the parking area across the highway. That's when I went inside to check the news on the internet.

Multiple people shot at the International House of Pancakes. That wasn't firecrackers I heard - that was automatic weapon fire. This is the kind of thing I thought you only read about, someplace else. Is it really happening right down the street?

Sadly enough, it was. Four people dead, seven more injured, plus the shooter a suicide out in the parking lot. Many of the dead and injured, inside the IHOP, were uniformed Nevada National Guard personnel.

The upcoming tenth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorism had many questioning if the military were the target, if this was a terrorist act . Federal, state, and local governments, as well as our local National Guard facility have heightened already increased security. Although the investigation is on-going, it appears to have been the work of just a solitary mentally ill person. No one can say why he did it. Our community is grieving, and in shock.

Like a genteel dinner guest of old, I don't discuss politics or religion on this blog. I respect the rights of others to hold opinions different from my own, and realize that anything I say here isn't likely to change anyone's ideas. And I respect the rights of gun owners. I come from a family of hunters. I've been through the Hunter's Safety class. We own rifles, shotguns, and a handgun, and I know how to use them. But I really don't understand why we as a nation still think it's ok for a mentally ill person (or anyone, really) to have multiple automatic weapons in his possession; the ability to empty a 30-round clip in a 360ยบ sweep of a parking lot, pause to reload, and then walk into a crowded restaurant. Our community is grieving, and in shock. And the tragedy is in our nation.

Monday, September 5, 2011

My Garden Chair

I think every garden, no matter how large or small, needs a place to sit. Maybe just as a place to rest a bit, or your spot to enjoy the sights and sounds of nature, or maybe it's a secret hideaway. It could be a folding chair, the tailgate of a truck, an old bench, an upright chunk of log, a low stool underneath a bean teepee, or maybe even a swing. Extra points if you also have a table close by - a place to set a cold drink, seeds and tools, your gathering basket, maybe even a radio.

I have an old cast-aluminum chair just inside my garden gate, next to an old cable spool that serves as a table. The plastic arms cracked apart from the sun years ago, but once I removed the screws holding the shattered bits the metal arms were quite comfortable. Then, the cheap cushion I had on it finally fell irreparably apart last season. However, I could still sit on the metal frame, so that's what I've been doing. It wasn't very comfortable though, and a bit too low besides.

Then, a couple of days ago I rediscovered a slab of foam up in the rafters of the shed - and it was just the right size for a new chair cushion. We have a mill ends fabric store in town, so I stopped by to check prices and their stock of outdoor canvas (aka Sunbrella). A beautiful floral stripe remnant caught my eye right away, and amazingly it turned out to be just big enough (plus, perfectly sized to be able to center the flower part on both front and reverse sides, back and seat, too). Isn't it wonderful when things work out so perfectly? Ten dollars spent, an afternoon spent sewing, and once again I have a comfortable place to sit while out in my garden.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Walla Walla Onion Harvest

I'm very happy with my Walla Walla onion trial this year. The plants, ordered in February, received mid-March, and planted in early April, did very well for me.

According to the Dixondale day-length map, I'm in the middle of the intermediate-day section. I went with the long-day onions because most of those varieties have a longer storage time. The storage potential of the Walla Walla, at approximately one month, is the shortest of those I grew this year. Knowing this, I've been using them fresh out of the garden for the past couple of months. The tops were the first to fall over, so I harvested the rest of the Walla Walla onions a couple of weeks ago.

The Walla Walla were one-third of a long-day sampler bunch, supposed to do ok here if planted early enough. Despite pulling some for fresh use throughout the latter part of the summer, after trimming and curing I ended up with almost 14 pounds of Walla Walla onions. I've been using the smaller and thick-necked ones in daily cooking, and hung the rest in a net bag in the pantry for short-term storage. Even though they have a rather thin wrapper layer, they should keep until the tomatoes and tomatillos are ready to start canning sauce and salsa.