Friday, September 30, 2011

God told me to blog

I have a poor memory.  I don't think I'm alone in my deficiency, especially among my contemporaries.  In fact, I think people in general have had bad memories throughout most of history (with a possible exception during a short period in the Garden of Eden).  Marshall Foster said as much at the Providential History Festival a couple weeks ago when he talked about God's commandment to Joshua to set up twelve stones near the Jordan River. God had just cut off the waters of the Jordan River so the nation of Israel could pass through, and God commanded a memorial to be built at the spot before the river returned to its normal state.  Why did God give that edict?  Because people forget.

Joshua explained the purpose of the stones at Gilgal:

"When your children ask their fathers in times to come, 'What do these stones mean?' then you shall let your children know, 'Israel passed over this Jordan on dry ground.'  For the LORD your God dried up the waters of the Jordan for you until you passed over, as the LORD your God did to the Red Sea, which he dried up for us until we passed over, so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the LORD is mighty, that you may fear the LORD your God forever."  -- Joshua 4:21-24

God knew that people forget.  God knew there would be some in Israel that would forget to tell their children about the Jordan River crossing, so he gave them a reminder.  I find that I remember a lot more when I have reminders.  Photos help me remember.  Taking notes helps me remember.  Writing blog posts helps me remember too.  In fact, this blog was started several years ago as a way to document some of my activities, but I think its value has grown beyond that.  Not that everything I need to remember is documented here, or that everything documented here is worth remembering, but God has helped me remember more through these posts than I would have remembered otherwise.  I'm grateful for that, because it's good to remember.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Basement Bathroom Project

We have a strange room in our basement.  It has two windows, one door, and is about 17 feet long and 5 and a half feet wide.  I'm not sure what it was intended for, but I think it's location and size are simply a function of the shape of the house, and the need to support floor joists with basement walls.  Although it has served as useful storage for the first few years we've lived here, it always impressed me as wasted space.  Until now.  Given our desire to add another full bathroom to the house, this awkward little room looked like the perfect location.

This is the way the room looked when we started tearing into it.  In this image the floor has been removed where the plumbing needs to be located, including a sewage ejector pit, and drain for a tub, toilet, and sink.  Note the conveniently placed drain pipe on the back wall that runs out into the septic tank in the front yard.  What better spot for a sewage ejector pit than right under the drain pipe?

Since we didn't really want the sewage ejector in the bathroom, we built a small room for that pump behind the bathroom, and added this doorway so the room could be accessed independent of the bathroom.

There was a good bit of rubble generated by the new door opening, and the floor removal.  Our neighbors blessed us by carrying this rubble out of the basement and using it as fill on their own property.

A couple weeks later we had walls framed, plumbing in place, and wires run.  The layout of the room is a little more apparent in this shot, as the tub will be placed across the room against the far wall, the toilet next to the tub, and the sink and vanity closest to the camera.  The long, thin shape of the room made this galley-type layout one of the few viable options.
This photo was taken from the tub end of the room looking back to the original door.  The room was just a little shy of the perfect width, in that the wall studs in the wall on the right were trimmed down a bit so the room width perfectly matched the length of the tub.  As you can see, we still had room for standard size electrical boxes, so the construction was not too "nonstandard."
The tub successfully fit where it was intended.

Meanwhile, behind the tub, the sewage ejector was partially plumbed to pump into the existing drain.  At this point, the project was starting to resemble a bathroom, and our hope of eventually enjoying its conveniences was growing stronger.  Next time we'll lay out more of the subsequent steps in this project -- you won't want to miss it!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Corn in the backyard 2011, harvest!

September 8

Growing degree days since planting = 2931
Historical average since planting = 2608

Harvest started on September 7 and finished the next day, and appeared to be a bit more challenging than normal.  Farmer Wagenbach identified stalk rot in sections of the field and chose to harvest quickly before more stalks fell over (which is evidently called "lodging" in farmer-speak).  I didn't actually see the corn go in the ground in the spring, but I believe there were 121 days between planting and the first day of harvest.

No report on the yield yet, but you can see plenty of pretty yellow kernels flowing into the combine hopper in this photo.  The weather cooperated nicely for harvest, although now that the field behind our house is done, I'd like to see a good bit of rain.

The season ended sooner than I expected this year, so I apologize to all those that were looking forward to a few more corn posts.  I guess we'll just have to busy ourselves with something else until next spring.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Corn in the backyard 2011, week 16

September 4

Last week growing degree days = 198
Historical average growing degree days = 152

Growing degree days since planting = 2868
Historical average since planting = 2508

A few days back near 100°F meant plenty of GDUs and good drying weather for most of our area.  If it hadn't reached black layer before this week, this corn is surely there now. 

Here's a look at the stalks and ears we've been watching,  Lots of dried plant matter in this photo.

I found an ear whose husk had peeled away to reveal all these lovely kernels.  I think this ear is a good indication that despite the hot weather at pollination, there aren't many kernels that did not develop.  That's the good news.

The bad news came with a bit of rain on Saturday.  As the front moved through, the winds leading the rain were strong enough to knock over some significant sections of stalks.  That darker brown area in the middle of the photo contains many damaged stalks that may prove difficult for the combine to pick up at harvest.  We'll pray that Farmer Wagenbach is successful in gathering all the grain in the field, so his yield doesn't suffer.  Who said growing corn wasn't exciting?

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Hops harvest

You probably noticed in the last hops post that I'm cautiously plodding through my first try at growing this crop.  Harvest has been proceeding just as tentatively as every other part of this experience.

I'm drying the cones in a very simple-technology manner by spreading them on a window screen that has been stapled to a crude wooden frame.  That rack is a few feet off the floor in the upper level of our barn, an area that is typically warmer than outside, especially on hot, sunny days like the ones we've had lately.  The picture above shows the first small batch of Cascade cones freshly picked and slightly dry off the bine.

So far the cones have dried to a very dry and papery state in three days or less.  The image above shows the second batch just before I moved them off the drying screen for bagging.  Even though we've got plenty of Cascade cones to harvest, they are so lightweight that a full gallon weighs well under a pound.  I'll have to get the scale out some day soon and make an official weighing.

In an attempt to keep the lupulin fresh until it's time to use it, the cones are placed in Ziploc bags with the excess air squeezed out, and stored in the freezer.  My expectations for the harvest have changed dramatically since the cones first began appearing in July.  There are MANY more cones than I anticipated, and plenty in various stages of ripeness still on the bine.  Unless something unforeseen happens to them, the two Cascade bines should produce several gallons of cones.

The Willamette bines, on the other hand, appear to be finished after producing less than a quart between all four bines.  Perhaps with a bit of loving care on the rhizomes this fall and next spring, we may see better results next year.  As it is, I'm plenty busy with the two Cascade bines, and would probably be overwhelmed if the Willamette were as productive.  Feel free to stop by if you'd like to see the plants and process first-hand: tours are easy to schedule, and if you're good, I may even give you the opportunity to harvest a few hundred cones.