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Archive for February, 2009

 

Outdoor rooms are one of the best gifts one can give themselves. I enjoy sitting on my patio, with a nice little garden the only separation from the open valley behind my home. With Southern exposure, the chilly winter mornings are a great place to wakeup with a cup of coffee and listen to nature start it’s day.

A Start to Your Own Outdoor Room

A Start to Your Own Outdoor Room

 

I have an outdoor carpet with a couple of adirondack chairs and a small table to really expand the living space from the square footage of my home. Another end of the patio has our grill and a large butcher block table with bar stools. My patio is very long and narrow, so I’ve never been able to find an outdoor dining set that one could sit at comfortably. Instead, I focused on making smaller sitting areas that are actually great for entertaining. At the far end of my outdoor space, I found the perfect bistro table with barstools. This allows for micro areas for everyone to to have separate conversations, yet still be close enough to mingle. 

We built an arbor across the length of the house to provide more versatility. During the winter, it allows the sun to do its job, warming the house as well as melting snow on the concrete. In the summer we are able to drape it with fabric to provide shade as a relief from the sun in it’s higher zenith and cool the house as well. We do not have air conditioning and I find that I’ve never had the need for it. I enjoy the investment of the arbor more than the electric bill and noise of a condenser!

Everyone should have an outdoor room, no matter how big or small it is.

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As a pet owner/keeper, mud during the winter and spring is pure misery. As a parent, it means my mop spends a lot of time on fire cleaning the muck in the house. But as a gardener, oh how my heart smiles!Gardens

Our wet clay is a sticky, staining nightmare. My solution? Remove as much carpet from the house as possible to make the cleanup easier. I hate to quit living, simply to keep a clean house. And I always remember that the mud is one of the most life giving gifts we are given in the high mountain desert.

 

One of the extra perks I found in the mud is propagating more plants for my garden. I prune back the willow shrubs and walk around my property shoving them as deep in the mud as I can. I usually have a couple make it through the summer as a new free shrub. I heard concerns that willows aren’t the most water conservative plants, but I’ve discovered differently. A deep soak occasionally and you can forget about them. They are obviously deciduous so they add fire safe, leafy appeal. I can’t say enough good about such an easy plant.

 

Of course, gardens need variety. I try, and kill, many different species every year. I never give up until I’ve killed a plant at least 3 times, just in case I chose the wrong site or had a poor plant. My standard is a plant should be tough enough to handle little water, cold nights and blazing direct sun. The varieties at the chain stores very seldom survive. I spend 90% of my money at the local nursery. Most employees have a wealth of knowledge to share about the plants they carry, recommendations for tough areas and hardier plants in stock.

 

back gardenWhen we have a dry spring, the clay leeches all the water away from plants so it takes more water to keep the garden from suffering. It’s not that I mind watering, I just hate using a drop more water than necessary. Mud means that I can water less and I feel better about having the beauty through the season. I hope the mud lasts until May. I’m sure the nursery’s do too!

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Snowshoe From Home!

Snowshoe From Home!

If you aren’t interested in skiing, snowshoeing is a wonderful way to get around. Especially the back country, where all is quiet and pristine. This is a relatively inexpensive sport but it is more physical than most people think.

 

When I take the kids sledding, near Mount Rose, my husband usually takes off shoeing. My husband is an extreme hiker. By that, I mean he goes places he shouldn’t and I can’t keep up! The last set of shoes I bought him for Christmas came with my version of a safety kit. That means I invested in GPS/walkie talkies so I can find him in an emergency.

 

Going off marked trails is dangerous. We hear news reports all winter about various situations that lead to SAR (Search And Rescue) operations. Even for experienced winter snow sport fanatics. That doesn’t worry him so I worry for both of us. I know he’s going to go, and I can’t stop him. But, if something happened, I have a way to find him.

 

He also goes off with a buddy who hikes mountains all over the world. They take off and come back with stories of the views and the animals they see and I realize there is an entire world here that most people never see. They never have to queue for a lift or worry about traffic on the slopes. It is probably one of the best kept secrets around. Not a lot of people, I know of, snow shoe and I’m not sure why. My husband went for the first time with a borrowed set of shoes from his buddy and I knew that he would enjoy this sport forever.

 

All a person needs to enjoy snowshoeing is access to go. Investing in the snowshoes wasn’t expensive. It can be, but I figured he could upgrade to something different or better when he knew what he wanted. The walkie talkies were a little bit more spendy, but not everyone has to go off the beaten path to have a good time! snow-shoe1

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Ski the Sierra Nevada Mountains

Ski the Sierra Nevada Mountains

Living close to ski resorts gives outdoor lovers the advantage of year round activities. Mount Rose Ski Resort is only 30 minutes away. Everyone I know, that skis, has a season pass to go play all winter long. No suffering winter blues for them!

 

I take my kids to lessons or go with a group of friends to have a day of family sledding. Unfortunately, I have yet to learn to ski. I did go up the mountain with some girlfriends once. A few rudimentary lessons and they thought I was ready. Geez. I still look back on that day and wonder what I did to make them hate me so much! I didn’t mind the lifts, and getting on and off was easy. I have good balance so staying up wasn’t a problem either. The problem came in when I wasn’t afraid to go fast; mixed with the inability to stop!

 

You would think friends would make sure you had that little skill covered, right? Nope. Instead, We would try to go down a section of a slope and they would tell me where to stop. Nuh-huh. I would head in that direction but (pardon the pun) it was all down hill from there. I would try to stop, like I was shown on a less-steep hill. But, when I didn’t slow down immediately, I would get closer to the ground. Do you really want to know what happens when you crouch down on skis? You go FASTER! Luckily, I grew up riding motorcycles, so I would hit the ground like I was laying down a bike. Feet/skis first, release poles, hope for the best. At least there isn’t any gravel involved.

 

After finally repeating this process about 5 times, I made it down the hill. I have never been so ready for a drink. Do you really want to know what those Demon women did next? They convinced me to go up again. Don’t know why but I did. Only 2 falls that time. Then they convince me to go a THIRD time. I think my brain had been dislodged by this time, because I did it again. No falling. I was done. I let them go play while I eased my very achy body.

 

At the lodge, people would give me wide berth and eyeball me as they walked by. I wanted to say “Yes, I’m the fool that almost took you out on the mountain.” but I refrained. A few actually asked me how I learned to ski like that. I looked like a racer and I guess I faked it well enough to look like I knew what I was doing. Apparently they didn’t see my crash landings!

 

My goal this winter is to get proper lessons. I’m sure my chiropractor will be disappointed but the innocents on the mountain will appreciate it.

Living in View of Skiing!

Living in View of Skiing!

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As I leave my house this morning, I’m worried about my horses. Every morning when I go out to feed, they are running around playing. The past week has brought us steady, but light, snow. Now the sun is out and as they walk on that snow, it turns to a sheet of ice.

About a year ago, a friend down the road had her horse slide right into a tree. The horse hit his pole and died instantly. It was a sad day, because at almost 3 years old, he had the makings of becoming a great partner for her. She burried him and wondered what we could do different to protect our buddies out on the ice. Unfortunately, we couldn’t think of a solution.

I keep my horses ‘barefoot’, so cleated shoes is out. Salt can get in there frog and cause burns. Topping the ice with grit isn’t practicle.

I guess I will continue to worry and hope the ice melts quickly. It is another part of life that we can’t control.

3 Year Old Sunshine, Relaxing in the Snow

3 Year Old Sunshine, Relaxing in the Snow

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Is your property fire safe?

Is your property fire safe?

I have to step up on my soap box and talk about fire safe landscaping, also known as fire-scaping. If you live in a fire prone area, please take a look at your property. Be critical of your defensible space and make sure it is planted with fire safe choices. There are many!

 

 

 

 

With the heart breaking disaster in Australia, killing hundreds and leaving thousands homeless, we really need to open our eyes to what we can do to help ourselves. This is a time to remember that this is simple way to keep you safe, but also the fire fighters who are going to try and defend your home should a fire come your way.

 

This is a subject that can be explored forever. But the basics from the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension are….

  • 30 foot defensible space around all buildings(more if there is a slope a fire can climb)
  • Remove dead vegetation
  • Limb up trees and create separation between layers of vegetation (this helps prevent fuel fires)
  • Keep it green & low growing – “lean, clean, and green.”

 

Minimize use of evergreen shrubs and trees within 30 feet of a structure, because junipers, other conifers, and broadleaf evergreens contain oils, resins, and waxes that make these plants burn with great intensity.”

 

This is an understatement in my opinion. To see a Juniper explode like a bomb will have you removing, or at least severely pruning, the evergreens close to your home.

 

Please be fire wise when considering your next home or while enjoying where you are now!Firescaping

 

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Our boat in Alaska

Our boat in Alaska

 

I have also lived in Alaska. A land of beauty and cleanliness like so few places in the world. Urban living is relatively small. I can’t think of anyone who wasn’t aware of their subsistence advantages provided by living in a wilderness state. Subsistence fishing was common. We would stretch a net across a river, catch our limit of 25 of the best red salmon per family member, then take it home for processing.

 

We would brine about 1/3 of the catch in our refrigerator produce drawers for 24 hours in preparation for the smoker. My husband taught me how to can (jar) fish, so we processed about a 1/3 that way. The last was vacuum sealed. We’d developed quite the system for vacuum sealing but it allowed us to have fillets available until next season.

 

Vacuum sealing was hours of work but always worth it. We would clean all of our fish on the boat and bring it home to our kitchen assembly line. My husband and I would each take a station. The first being the person rinsing fillets, cutting into approximately 1 lb. Portions and wrapping tightly in plastic wrap. The second station was vacuum sealing and wrapping in butcher paper or newspaper. The plastic wrap prevented the moisture from being sucked out during the vacuum process. The butcher paper or newspaper at the end, protected the plastic from cracking during storage. We would load our deep freezer with milk crates of each type of meat for organization purposes; venison, elk, moose, salmon, halibut, etc. but they were still were knocked around. We’d suffered loss due to the vacuum bags getting too beaten up, so this was learned through experience.

 

When we smoke our fish, some would be fully smoked and vacuumed sealed as well. To extend my variety of stored fish, I would take some out after a couple of hours of smoking and can it. Canning our own fish gave us variety hard to come by in the lower 48. A major consideration was how healthy this was. I rolled fish fillets, skin and bones included, and put them in the jar. When I put them in the pressure cooker, the nutrients from the fish oil combined with the meat. For a dish like salmon salad, or a salmon log (like a cheese log) I pulled the skin off and combined the meat, bones and all in my Kitchenaid mixer. The bones would be cooked and easily mixed to give a concentration of calcium and there was no worry of choking. People today are taking supplements of fish oil, which we enjoyed in our daily diet without trying. There were years I never even missed tuna because I had the tastiest canned fish available, and I could do anything with it that I could do with canned tuna.

 

My favorite smoked fish is ‘squaw candy’. It might not be a politically correct name, but I know it by no other. Brine your fish in a sweet mix, smoke and vacuum seal. I had no desire for chocolate when this was easily accessible. I would literally have a fillet always ready in the fridge for when I needed a sweet treat!

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