Splitting Firewood

Though it is only August, with the rainy cool weather (some nights in the 40’s) we have been having it feels like we are a little behind in getting our firewood ready for winter.  We have many, many logs cut, some to size and some just thrown in the pile, but all of them must be split and stacked. 

There is room under one end of the pole barn, so we built some racks to hold the wood under cover this year.  No more standing in the snow fighting with the tarp that is covered with snow and ice! 


This is the second one.  They are ten feet long by four feet high and about two feet deep, so each one holds a little over half a cord when full.


I (Brenda) split it myself, aren’t you impressed?  Of course I did have my secret weapon. 

I’m sure I would be in much better shape if I used an axe to split the wood – assuming I lived through it and still had a few fingers attached.  I figure the log splitter is safer, and a lot easier! 

Please note the proper safety equipment being worn. 

Some of those logs have been on the wood pile for so long (“seasoning” Rick tells me) they are growing fungi of some type.  I am not looking those up in my mushroom book to see if they are edible. 

You have a lot of time to think while splitting wood, except for remembering to keep your fingers out of the way it is a pretty mindless task.  It occurs to me that people are a lot like wood.  Sometimes you split open a log that looks good from the outside only to find that it is rotten inside, decayed and full of bugs, worms and other creepy crawly things.  Some logs crumble when only a little pressure is applied and are hardly usable.  Some splits very straight and true, right along the grain line, easy to work with. Just like people. 

Little by little our log pile is getting smaller. 

And our  cut wood stack is growing.  

One trailer full at a time.

I feel like the ant in the kids story preparing for the long, cold winter. 

Just in case you were thinking we must have all the logs split, here is what is left in the wood pile.

These are mostly the trees our nephew Nick took out for us two winters ago before we cleared an area on the property.  When ( if ? ) we ever get them all cut, split and stacked we should have enough firewood to last for years!   


Back up North

We have returned to our lush, green, cool home.  We enjoyed seeing family and friends in California, but it is hard to match the beauty, and the weather, of this area. 

Our friends John and Mary invited us to their cabin for the afternoon.  It is three and a half miles off the pavement, nestled on the side of a mountain overlooking the Skagit River.   

A stream with a waterfall runs right outside the front door.

It is a beautiful place.  John and Mary bought it over thirty years ago when it was uncleared land.  They built all the structures, including their own hydroelectric plant (they are WAY off the grid), as well as the ponds. 

The guys were in charge of cooking our lunch, but first they had to catch them.

A little rain didn’t stop Frank from making a catch! 

Rick and John cleaning the fish.  Yes, they are wearing jackets in August, it was actually chilly in the rain.

Rainbow trout, they look good enough to eat don’t they?

In addition to being a great builder, John is a pretty good chef too.

Trout cooking on the grill.  Standing next to the fire felt pretty good in the chilly weather.  It is really hard to remember it is still summer on days like this. 

The view from the dining room.  You can just get a glimpse of the stream and waterfall on the right.

Raindrops hitting the pond. 

It is a truly beautiful place.  It was great to see it and spend time with our new friends.  We have been very fortunate to meet some wonderful people here, and John and Mary are two of the nicest.


After San Diego we came back home for a few days before the kids all went back to their respective colleges. 

We visited with family and friends and had a great time at the local slick track racing cars. 


                                         Speed Racers

Back row: Alex, Rick, Nick and Brandon.  Front row: Rod, Riah, Megan and Doug.

                                Start your Engines!!

Some of them drove so fast they were just a blur.

Some of these drivers competed at the race track in Tennessee a couple of years ago at a family reunion. 

Some people drove a little more aggressively than others . . . and not just the kids.

After the race when the results were printed there was a lot of discussion.

Who finished first?  I don’t think they really know – but a good time was had by all!


San Diego

After we left Disneyland and Los Angeles, we drove down to San Diego.  The weather was sunny and beautiful, but not too hot.  Southern California at its best!

We had a great view of the harbor from our hotel balcony.  Cruise ships regularly come into port there.   


San Diego is a very busy place, both the harbor with the private boats and many Navy and Coast Guard vessels.  The airspace is also crowded with Lindburgh Field – the local airport – just at the edge of the harbor and North Island NAS on Coronado Island.  You see lots of boats and planes of every description. 

We toured the USS Midway; the longest serving aircraft carrier in US history.  It is now a floating museum anchored in San Diego harbor.  It is amazing how huge the Midway is, and it is small by aircraft carrier standards.

This is taken from the flight deck. 

An aircraft carrier is truly a floating city with all the facilities needed to sustain its thousands of personnel on long sea voyages. Megan and Brandon found the brig.   

The USS Nimitz , the first nuclear powered carrier, is in port undergoing renovations.  After they are complete, it will deploy to Japan.

We saw the USS New Orleans a Navy LPD (Landing Portable Dock) being guided to its berth by the tugboat.  Security is pretty tight post 9/11.  The smaller gray boat in the foreground is Naval Security patrol that always stayed between our tour boat and the New Orleans. 

There is a large dry dock in the harbor, it is used to make repairs or renovations to large vessels.    

Ships aren’t the only things you see in the harbor.  The sea lions were enjoying the sun too.



A Visit Home

We have been in California for a week or so, visiting and catching up on some business.  Before they left on their cruise to Alaska, we had dinner with Rick’s parents Russell and Mary Lou.  Alex came up from Riverside for a few days too.  We know they will have a great time on their trip.

After she finished summer school and being a Fish Camp Counselor (Fish is Aggie for Freshman) in Texas Megan flew home for a week or so.  She brought along her boyfriend Brandon.  Brandon is a Texan and has only been to California once so we were off to Disneyland. 

The first day we went to California Adventures.  We had never been there before so it was new to all of us.  We had a lot of fun, rode some wild and not so wild rides.  

 Alex was able to take a few days off work and go with us.  It was good to have the whole family together.

                         Alex was especially excited to ride the carousel.  I guess he thought riding a dolphin would hurt his image as a tough marine? 

The next day we were at Disneyland.  Though it was prime time for vacations, it really wasn’t too crowded and we all had a good time.  He had been to Disneyworld in Florida, but this was Brandon’s first trip to Disneyland.

                                          Here are Rick and I and the finger of the person who took this picture.  Hmmm, I wonder why Mom always takes the pictures?

 We did a lot of fun things, but my favorite was watching the fireworks.

And then on to San Diego!  To be continued. . . 

More on Huckleberries

Tammie’s comment made me wonder how many berries there are that are called “Huckleberry.”  Turns out, there are quite a few!  So here is some more information on Huckleberries for those of you who may be interested.  The following came from the huckleberries.org website- yes there is a whole website devoted to huckleberries!  Ours are the Red Huckleberry. 

Huckleberry and Bilberry Species Native to the Northwest

There are various huckleberry and bilberry species in the Northwest.  Several types are shown below. 

All of the photographs on this page are the property of the University of Idaho. The photographer is Danny L. Barney P.H.D.copyright 2005

Click on each description for a link to a much larger photo view.

hcontain.JPG Huckleberries grown in containers 

fldcorvalis.jpg.jpg Huckleberry Field Corvallis Oregon

caespinor.JPG Vaccinium Caespitosum, Nordman Idahocata.gif

Dwarf huckleberry, dwarf blueberry, dwarf bilberry, or dwarf whortleberry (V. caespitosum) is native throughout North America. The plants grow three to twenty-four inches tall and bear bright blue berries with excellent flavor. This species is adaptable and is found on dry or wet acidic sites from sea level to 10,000 feet. It can form extensive colonies. Although used for food and trade by Native Americans, commercial pickers do not presently target it due to small berry size.

caespitf.JPG Vaccinium Caespitosum fruit


deliciosum.jpg Vacciniun Deliciosum colony  

Cascade huckleberry, Cascade bilberry, or blue huckleberry

(V. deliciosum) is native to California, Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia in alpine meadows and subalpine coniferous woods at elevations from 2,000 to 6,000 feet. The plants grow six to thirty-six inches tall, although the procumbent canes can be six feet long or longer). The large, bright blue, glaucous berries have outstanding flavor and aroma due to high concentrations of esters and ketones. Yield potential may be low due to the fruit being borne only at the ends of the canes. Adapted to wet soils and often found at edges of ponds, Cascade huckleberry also grows on drier upland soils and can form dense heaths covering hundreds to thousands of square feet. The berries are very popular for commercial use, but the small, scattered populations limit available volumes.

vdeliciosumfru.jpg Vaccinium Deliciosum fruit


membrabl.jpg.jpg  Vaccinium Membranaceum black fruit

Mountain huckleberry, mountain bilberry, black huckleberry, tall huckleberry, big huckleberry, thin-leaved huckleberry, globe huckleberry, or Montana huckleberry

(V. membranaceum) is native to the northwestern U.S. and western Canada, with outcroppings in Arizona and Minnesota. The plants are usually found in coniferous woods from 2,000 to 11,000 feet elevation, primarily in or around clearings. Canes grow one to nine feet tall. The bushes are rhizomatous and transplant poorly from the wild. The berries are red, blue, purple, black, or rarely white and have good to excellent flavor and aroma. Named Idaho’s state fruit in 2000. The berries are harvested from the wild for commercial processors and represent the most widely harvested western huckleberry.

membramr.jpg.jpg  Vaccinium Membranaceum red fruit

membrawf.JPG Vaccinium Membranaceum white fruit

 myrtillu.JPG Vaccinium Myrtillus fruit

Bilberry, dwarf bilberry, dwarf huckleberry, or whortleberry

(V. myrtillus) is native to North America, Europe, and Asia. It is found in open, moist, coniferous woods, usually above 2,000 feet elevation in North America. In Europe, this species grows to near sea level and often forms large, dominant colonies. Plants grow six to twenty-four inches tall. The berries contain antioxidants and compounds beneficial to human health and are popular in Europe for culinary and medicinal use. Not presently harvested commercially in North America, although it is harvested commercially from the wild in Finland and other European countries. Limited attempts have been made to grow the crop in cultivation. Commercial prospects for medicinal and nutritional supplement products may be promising.

ovalifo.JPG  Vaccinium Ovalifolium fruit

Oval-leaved bilberry, oval-leaved blueberry, Alaska blueberry, or highbush blueberry

(V. ovalifolium) is native across the northern United States, southern Canada, and parts of Asia and Europe from sea level to 6,500 feet elevation at the edges of forest clearings and under light to moderate canopies. The plants grow 1.5 to 12 feet tall. The berries are glaucous blue and rich in anthocyanins and antioxidant capacity. The flavor is mild to sour due to low esters and ketones, but the crop may have commercial potential for botanical extracts and nutritional supplements.

vovatum.jpg.jpg  Vaccinium Ovatum fruit

Evergreen, shot, or blackwinter huckleberry

(Vaccinium ovatum) is native along the Pacific coast from southern California to Central British Columbia. This species is found in coniferous forests along roadsides and the edges of clearings. The bushes grow one to twelve feet tall and form dense stands. The stiff, serrated leaves make the plant commercially valuable for floral arrangements and foliage is harvested from wild stands. Evergreen huckleberry is occasionally grown on small farms along the Pacific coast. The black berries ripen late in the fall and contain very high concentrations of anthocyanins and antioxidants. Fruit yields are low. Adaptation to areas away from the coast remains to be determined.

parvifol.JPG Vaccinium Parvifolium fruit


Red huckleberry or red bilberry (V. parvifolium) is native to western Oregon, Washington, California, and British Columbia. Scattered populations have also been reported in interior and eastern British Columbia. This species grows from sea level to 3,500 feet elevation in and around clearings. The bushes grow from three to more than twenty feet tall. The red, waxy fruits were popular in jams and preserves with all coastal Indian tribes, although the flavor tends to be sour. Berries can hang on the branches until early winter. The fruit contains low concentrations of anthocyanins and low antioxidant capacity, although it is rich in p-hydroxybenzoic acid. Red huckleberries would probably be among the easiest of the western species to grow, but appear to be of limited commercial value, at this time. Given product development and creative marketing, however, commercially viable red huckleberry products may be possible.

uliginosum.jpg.jpg Vaccinium Uliginosum

Alpine bilberry, bilberry, bog bilberry or tundra bilberry

(V. uliginosum) is native to North America, Europe, and Asia from 38o to 78o north latitudes and from sea level to 9,000 + feet elevation. This species grows on wet or dry, acidic, organic or mineral soils and is often found at the edges of lakes and streams. The plants grow from several inches to about 36 inches tall, bearing single berries or clusters of two or three glaucous, blue berries one-fourth inch in diameter. Flavor is good, but yields are often low. Alpine bilberry is harvested from the wild for domestic and commercial use in Asia and northern Europe. Some attempts have been made in Europe to cultivate the crop. Not presently a commercially important crop in North America.


The wild huckleberries are ripe.  For those of you who haven’t seen them, they grow on a bush a lot like a blueberry – in fact they are in the same plant family. 

They don’t taste especially good to me raw, but they do make great jam and are wonderful in muffins.  The bears like them just fine right on the bush though.  We are racing the bears to get to them before they eat them all.


The berries are pretty small, so it does take quite a lot to make a batch of jam.  Rick complains the whole time he picks, but he eats the jam very happily.