Onion planting time

I order onions from south Texas and they arrive here before spring. I would prefer the plants arrive about April 1st but that doesn’t fit the schedule for Carrizo Springs, TX. Find the southern tip of Texas and follow the Mex-TX border for 225 miles to the northwest. On Monday morning the local airport there shows 79°F while the airport at Ellensburg shows 33°. It was 19° when I got up; the low for the day. This week is supposed to warm some.

I have been moving a pile of dirt – previously dug but not sifted. Have moved 10 cart-loads – rocks going onto a ramp, dirt onto the garden. Now I need to till that in with some fertilizer and stick the onion sets into rows.
They arrived Thursday.
Each bundle will have more than 50 plants, up to about 70. I’ll plant 350 and give the rest to Phyllis at the winery. I buy types that are supposed to keep well from harvest to March. For this year I have one exception.
Ailsa Craig {anglicisation of the Gaelic, Aillse Creag meaning “fairy rock”} is a white onion that can grow to several pounds. Some get to 8 pounds. These do not store for more than a month or two, but they make large onion rings.
Search Google Earth with the name “Ailsa Craig UK” to see the presumed source – the Fairy Rock. One other onion, the Kelsae Sweet Giant, will grow larger (15 pounds or more), but I don’t have access to that one.
Weather and schedules permitting, we have been pruning vines.

A bit of work is again underway on the house. Nothing worth a picture so far but soon. Materials are partly here. A new front door is here and some wood flooring – more arriving soon. Monday?

The wood stove is still the source of heat. Night time temperatures are still freezing or below and heat pumps are not highly efficient when the air is that cold. I expect to be using wood until Easter, this year, April 9th.

I’m late with this.
Outside air is now 36° and I can go work on the onion plot.

Keeping Track
on the Naneum Fan


Mid-March – all is calm

It is claimed that Saint James is buried in the city Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, in the north west of Spain. People trek there from all over Europe and arrive from other parts of the world to participate. The two most common routes are shown in red on this map. Here is a link.

Thursday evening there were two talks in EBRG. At 6 pm a retired CWU professor was giving a travelogue – the second in 4 years. I went for the first hour and then left to hear about pollinators, mostly bumblebees, in Washington State.
The bee one was hosted by the local Audubon group using a feed-in from Olympia. No one in the group has the skill to make the connection into the computer and out to the projector and sound system of the room. While the meeting was to start at 7 pm, I arrived about 7:25 and it was still 5 minutes before things got going. The time from 7 to 7:15 doesn’t count because the announcements of group officials always take about that long.
Anyway, the information was interesting, the photos great, and I got to ask a couple of questions.
I have many bees during spring and summer and am especially found of one that comes to the Siberian Pea Shrubs that I have.
Caragana arborescens (fruticosa)

The many flowers are bright yellow and medium-sized bumblebees think they are special. I now have a place to get mine identified. I just have to send a good photo. Now waiting for blossom time. Image is from the internet.

Three of us pruned vines on Thursday and Friday. Both nice days. This coming week – Monday & Tuesday – have rain forecast. Travel cameras on the West side already show mist or light rain. At this rate, we won’t finish pruning until May.

I visited with Walter, the contractor Saturday. There may be some action here this coming week or next. If nothing else, I expect the rooms that need new floors to get measured. The main room will get a Hickory wood floor. The adjacent kitchen and a bathroom floor will be renewed. Maybe not Hickory but the ancient Congoleum will go.

Keeping Track
on the Naneum Fan


Clocks get re-set tonight

I thought I was having a bad week. But I didn’t get stuck in a tree!
The temperature remains low, and snow keeps happening. There was 6 or 7 inches early in the week, then 2 more, and then a dusting. The eastern slopes of the Cascades are not keeping up – just a little below average.
Oh well, other places have snow measured in feet. Mountains along the west coast from B. C. to California are now at about double the average depth. The next couple of weeks in CA expect serious flooding.

When in snow country buildings need strong and steep roofs. Only once since 1989 has there been snow here that approached being serious, and only then because rain was predicted.
Several of us shoveled all the snow off a neighbor’s home. It was older and not built to modern codes. I took about half of the snow off our house – just in case. The same story played out in Idaho years ago. In that case the roof of a hay barn (not ours) collapsed and we removed snow from an identical structure.

We bottled Roussanne on Tuesday.
Nancy named our last Brittany after this grape but we called her Anne. Roussanne is a white-wine grape named after its skin color (when ripe), a reddish-gold pigment that equates to the French word roux (meaning “russet”, or reddish-brown).

We pruned one day but the temperature and wind made that unpleasant. For various reasons we won’t try again until Thursday when the report is for “Sunny, with a high near 46.” Locally, all the recent snow has warmed, melted, evaporated or just thinned. It is still very white around.
I have to be home on Friday for a visit from a Culligan technician to change out the 4 filters under the kitchen sink.
Electricity cost $207 last month. The house is all-electric, and the wood stove is providing most of the warmth.

The 2022 taxes have been submitted.

Keeping Track
on the Naneum Fan

Seeing stars

I (finally) managed to access the local newspaper and discovered I was paying $21.25 per month. That is $255 per year. Years ago, it was close to $100 per year. Then it came 6 days each week. About 7 years ago the Friday edition was canceled. Two years ago, the Monday edition was gone.
The paper, and 126 others, is owned by Adams Publishing Group. Hometown of APG is Coon Rapids, Minnesota. There is often only one article of local news, local high school sports, obituaries, and comics. My mother would say “Throw it in the air and you can read it before it hits the ground.”
So, I canceled it. There was a pop-up that asked Why? – with about 10 possible responses, the last being “deceased”, and that I clicked. Not untrue because it was in Nancy’s name.
The return response was: “We are sorry to see you go.” Well, of course!
The next day I had an automated call saying the subscription was about to run out and I should renew. Clumsy programming, I think.

Thursday the CWU Retired group had a gathering at the Planetarium run by the Physics Department. The display is spectacular, although the seats don’t swivel, but should. Bruce Palmquist orchestrated the presentation and answered questions. Such is recommended if you can get to one. Snacks and wine followed.
This is a photo from a prior group; with Bruce at the lower right with red sweater showing behind the control monitor.

And this really bums me out. Strict rules have applied about “Swissness” since 2017. So, …
Toblerone will remove the Matterhorn mountain peak from its packaging when some of the chocolate’s production is moved from Switzerland to Slovakia.
The pyramid-shaped bar, which mirrors the Alpine peak, will get a more generic summit on the packaging.

Our weather for March – actually most of the USA – is to be below normal temperatures with higher precipitation. The local 7-day forecast is similar but we won’t get much precipitation. WA’s mountains will continue to get both rain and snow. Better there than here.
However, pruning weather this is not. We are going to bottle something Tuesday morning. What? I didn’t ask.

Keeping Track
on the Naneum Fan


Veterinarians and Kitty Teeth

On Tuesday morning I realized Tzar had an issue with his mouth. As it turned out he had a tooth –
In mammalian oral anatomy, the canine teeth, also called cuspids, dog teeth, or (in the context of the upper jaw) fangs, eye teeth, vampire teeth, or vampire fangs, are the relatively long, pointed teeth.

– that was bent sidewise into his mouth. {Photo from web}
Tzar arrived, uninvited, by following our animals into the house. Nancy spelled the name Czar, the Vet used Tzar. Nancy found him bedded down under a chair in the room with the animal door. That room wasn’t used much since we stopped watching television 15 years ago.
[ https://www.rbth.com/education/330683-tsar-or-czar-russia-monarch ]

He has been here 5 or 6 years or some other number. We had all the cats neutered when a local group hauled about 20 cats to Lynden (almost to Vancouver B. C.). They also got required vaccines.
Well, I haven’t had anything to do with the local vets for about 5 years and nothing regarding cats for much longer. I began calling the local offices. One place suggested I call the next morning and ask for an emergency visit, with no guarantee of a place. That also sounded like an extra fee, but I didn’t ask. One of the next 5 had an opening in a week. I was told there is an emergency clinic in Yakima. That’s 50 miles south.

So, I called the Vet office in Quincy. That’s 50 miles away also and only 10 miles from the vineyard owned by Phyllis and Cameron. They have used that office for years when a friend, Laura, owned it. Now in Germany, that is where Phyllis and Cameron went in December. The place now has 2 vets, so I called and got an appointment – giving me time to get prepared here and travel the 50 miles to Quincy. Then I talked to Cameron and told them to expect a visit.
Phyllis had knee-replacement on Monday and my reasoning was – rather than go to Yakima – I could go there after getting Tzar looked at. It only took a minute for the vet (Lindsey) and her assistant to extract the tooth and give him a required rabies shot. I was out of there by 4 p.m., with (only) a bill if $117.36. I got a discount because of my charm and the simpleness of the issue.
After that, I visited with Phyllis and Cameron for two hours while Tzar relaxed in the back of the truck. By the time I got home he was ready for a trip to the potty and a nap.
All’s well that ends well.

All of the region had below average temperatures with lows near 5°F here for two nights. The rest of the week was not as cold (20s at night, 30s daytime) and next Thursday maybe 42°. There is a sign that warmth is 2 weeks away.
All of the region had below average temperatures with lows near 5°F here for two nights. The rest of the week was not as cold (20s at night, 30s daytime) and next Thursday maybe 42°. There is a sign that warmth is 2 weeks away.
Local lore on the Naneum Fan is that spring is two weeks away when the first Redwing Blackbirds arrive. Range maps show them here all year but Washington is a diverse region and in our winter they leave. Anyway, some came to the feeder this week. Thus, hope is that by the 8th of March, or so, there will be a change to warmer days. (Frosts will still come.)
My onion-set order is scheduled to ship on the 27th of March, from southern Texas. Maybe I can get the 400 planted by April. At the moment I have about 10 left from last summer’s harvest. I did give away quite a few.

Thinking of food – I may give this a try:

Keeping Track on
the Naneum Fan


Pruning, cleaning, balloons

Pruners only worked Wed/Thur/Fri this week. The weather is going to shut us down next week. Monday would be good but Cameron will likely not be available. The rest of the week is compliments of Punxsutawney Phil – winter is hard upon the Northwest. Looks to be messy or cold; maybe single digit temperature by mid-week.

I’ve worked on the wood stove and the flue. The picture below shows what the catalytic combustor looks like. It is 10 inches by 3.5 inches and has about 1,750 holes. I’m using white pipe cleaners (2 shown). The bright spot in the middle is from a small flashlight behind a cleaned part.

The next image shows ash encrusted holes (top) and cleaned holes below. On the left is my last dollar smothered with the fine light brown ash. These are tiny grains of minerals that could not burn even at a temperature above 500°F. Most of the burning time is closer to 1,000°F.
Unfortunately, I didn’t think to keep and measure it all. I’ll guess there will be between ½ and a cup. I’ve run the pipe cleaners through about 80% (1,400) holes. This is a slow and tedious process, so I have been doing only about 4 rows per session. Thus, 2 more sessions to go.
I need to get the stove working again by Tuesday – when the Arctic air begins to seep onto the Naneum Fan.

New combustors for my stove are $300.00. There are other shapes and sizes of catalytic combustors for wood stoves. Some can be seen using an image search with the following:

steelcat condor catalytic combustor

My stove is a Blaze King and there is one shown for it. Autos and trucks have similar things but searching for images is unhelpful. What a search shows is the outside view of the “housing” and the working part is hidden.

The funniest sign for the week:

Of interest from 1983: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/99_Luftballons

Keeping Track
on the Naneum Fan


Pruning is under way

We started pruning on Monday. Because of low temperature, we didn’t start until 12:30. Wednesday Cameron had an afternoon meeting so we started at 9 am. The weather cooperated, but my feet were cold by 11. In the coming week we will skip Mon & Tues because Cameron will be in Seattle.
Below is a photo (from the web) of what our job looks like.

Using the terms in the drawing (below), the long horizontal cordon will have a few to a dozen or so arms – places where growth occurs, like tree limbs. We cut off old growth – note the gray color in the above image, extra of last year’s growth. The gray is 2-year old wood while the others are one year old. We cut most of the wood away, leaving just one spur with two buds. A new cane will grow from this point, perhaps 2 to 10 feet long.

About May, the growth is so fast you can almost see it happen. Grape clusters form on the new cane close to the arm.
There are other ways of training vines and pruning. Methods are easily found on the web. The idea is to reduce the potential crop to a level the vine (roots and leaves) can ripen for quality wine. The weather has to cooperate.
For red wines the sugar content at harvest will be about 25%; the seedless table grapes bought at a grocery store will be about 17%. Such table grapes would make a wine of under 10% alcohol.
We have an early start for this year, so we may finish before April. But our fastest pruner will be gone for a week – so maybe not. That is Tom, and I always take a row next to him. He helps in my row and then I keep up. Thereby, he and I stay with the others – Cameron, Eric, and Mark. (Mark has had a cold but should be with us on Wednesday).

I’ve stopped the wood stove and I am waiting for a gasket to go around the catalytic combustor. I should have the cleaning and reassembly done by Tuesday.

I think my microwave is wearing out. The turntable alternates in its direction. It appears to be built to turn clockwise most of the time, then it will reverse on a start and go counterclockwise. I don’t know why it wasn’t built to alternate equally, but it never did.
Now its preferred direction produces a clunking sound. Something is wrong with the motor or turning mechanism. If I stop it and make it go counter-clockwise, it works fine.
It is about 20 years old, so I’m investigation new ones. My current choice will cost (with tax) about $300. I’ll have to see what BiMart and Costco have. The current one hasn’t died yet.

Keeping Track on the
Naneum Fan


A week for reading

This has been a low activity week. I went to EBRG on Monday, stopped by the Law Office and signed a paper, and bought groceries. I haven’t moved the truck but twice in the past 2 weeks.
I have lots to read and learn. The history of pigments for the color blue was in a magazine I get. The article is also on the web:

Even if you don’t wish to read – there are photos.

Another more difficult topic was about the numbers. In this case I learned about the square root of 2, and a few other things.
The number 1.414213562373095048801688 … is an approximate value for the square root of 2, but the digits just keep going on and on. Likewise, 3.1415926253 … is such a number (the ratio π of a circle’s circumference to its diameter. Both are called irrational. The odd thing is that while the digits go on and on, it has a position on the number line.
You can see how this is done here: {replace XXX with www}

Actually, I did do something. I read and watched videos about how my wood stove works and about proper maintenance. So, I have allowed it to cool.I cleaned the flue cap and its protector wire mesh. This is a photo from the web, but it is the same model as mine. This one is about 97% covered with creosote.
Yikes! I use a wire brush about every six weeks. If air can’t flow out, the stove won’t burn properly, or at all. The mesh keeps sparks from flying out, but it is also the coldest part, allowing the material to condense and cling to it.
I have ordered a brush to clean the flue (arriving Monday). The rest of the stove looks normal, although I will have to clean it after using the brush. I also ordered pipe cleaners to dust out the holes in the catalytic converter. I’ll do this without taking it out. Otherwise I need to replace a flimsy gasket around it. (Next year, maybe.) The photo here shows one similar to mine with some of the passages clogged. This clogging reduces flow of hot gasses and its function because the “air” cannot touch the coating.

Keeping up with news: The US shot a balloon drifting over the North American continent. Those that paid attention got schooled on wind currents at 60,000 feet. This week there was rapidly moving cold air following the same path. Relatives in North Central Pennsylvania had a minus 1 this morning (Sat) at dawn.
Next week we may learn what this was about. In any case, we have learned that the US Air Force is capable of knocking a big fat balloon out of the sky.

Keeping Track on
the Naneum Fan


January is ending with a cold

The sky over Washington is clear making radiation cooling pronounced. It is 28°F in late afternoon so there should be a sharp drop in temperature after 5 pm when the sun sets. Cold air from the Arctic Region has made its way south over the last couple of days. However, at Calgary the temperature is 2°F but beginning to rise. Clouds are developing. I’m doubtful that I will get down to 8°F – and will likely be proved wrong.
Weather forecasting technology is not as good as sliced bread.

You have likely heard someone say “This is the greatest thing since sliced bread.” Apparently, the first to say that was comedian Red Skelton. He began comedic work at the age of 10 and was on radio in 1937, then TV in 1951. Then he claimed “Television is the greatest invention since sliced bread.” Now, the comedian is mostly forgotten, as has been the inventor of sliced bread. You can look up Red’s story, but here is a link to sliced bread.


Home type electric bread slicers cost over $500.
There are numerous cutting-board things with side rails. You can get uniform thickness for between $30 to $50 dollars. I could make one with scrap wood. If I counted my time I won’t bother. I’m still able to cut uniform slices with a regular serrated knife that I have. Oh well.

Carrot cake is good too and here is a photo of me with the cake from last Saturday’s party. I was the person with the nearest birth day even though it was past and a couple of others were in the near future. I only had one candle, seen here in my hand.

Cameron and Phyllis brought party masks from German. These are flat paper with a description – in German – on the back. I have no idea what they were about. They had to be tied behind. Cameron’s appears to fit the best. Likely that is because the masks were wide and he has the largest head. I did not prepare anything. Phyllis and others prepared the food.
I had sorted my remaining onions from last summer’s garden. I took half to Phyllis and kept the other half.
I dug the onions six months ago, the 3rd week of July. I cannot keep them as cool as I would like – me about 68°; best 45°, but I do store them in single layers in darkness. Every couple of weeks I use or cut & freeze any that show signs of changing. What I have will last another month. With a cooler temperature I could expect some to last until the middle of March. For cooking, cutting them and freezing works.

I did manage to get several auto-pay accounts, such as the electric bill, converted to a new card. Each one saves the writing and mailing of a check. In talking to the Power Cooperative, found they did not change our rate for 2023. We are not the lowest in the Nation, but there are only a few lower. With a fully electric house, that’s nice.

I need to add wood to the stove.
Keeping Track on the
Naneum Fan.

John H.

Finally, a party

The weather cooperated and 10 of us got together at Phyllis and Cameron’s house – White Heron Winery. My birthday was the 4th, but now two more folks are about to have birthdays.
Some photos were taken but not by me. Maybe I’ll get sent some and show them next week. I left home at 9:30 and got back at 5:30, just before dark. Although not a lot, the daylight is noticeably longer.

I had 2 cold mornings – – 16°F. Two inches of snow Sunday morning. For Monday morning I expect 20° with slowly warming during the week. There is a rumor that next Sunday will bring more cold air. There is very cold air in the Arctic Region – 800 miles north of Washington State. Winter is still with us.
Unless one is interested in the President’s Corvette the national news is dull.
However, I did find a report from 2016 when a film was made for the season premiere of CNBC’s “Jay Leno’s Garage”. Retired four-star general Colin Powell also owns a Corvette. There is a fake race. All good fun.

There is a usatoday story with this title:
Jay Leno on Biden’s sick burnout: ‘It was fun’ (usatoday.com)
The TV segment has the following title.
(1) Joe Biden Does a Burnout In His Corvette Stingray – Jay Leno’s Garage – YouTube

In other news, the price of eggs went up. For folks that eat lots of eggs (not me), that’s important. I got a dozen free from a neighbor and froze them. So the problem seems to be Covid or Bird Flu – is there a difference?
Millions of egg-layers have been disposed of, apparently by “on-site” composting. Enough of that topic.
Someone has suggested a solution to bird flu, also known as Avian Influenza. This method employs sewers and fitters. I’ll pass.

We raised chickens while living in Troy ID and both turkeys and chickens here in Washington. The turkeys were Broad Breasted Bronze.

Turkeys lay large eggs, and they are nicely speckled. When friend Gina was teaching mid-grade students, I sent a few eggs to her in Houston. She still has them 25 years later. In the photo below, the turkey egg is the 2nd from left, top row.

Keeping track on the Naneum Fan

John H.