Friday, August 27, 2010

Crater Lake

Us at approximately the half-way point of the ride - tired but still smiling!

So for the past 5 years or so, I've drooled over pictures of Crater Lake in southern Oregon. When we first decided to move out this way a few years ago, one of the first ideas that popped into my head was "oh yay! We can ride the Crater Lake Century!". The first year we were here, we were just moving into our house on the farm. We had just purchased a goat and we desparately needed to build a fence and shelter...and of course, milk her. Travelling 6+ hours away for a bike ride was impossible.

The second summer we were here, we actually signed up for the ride. We still had a goat in milk, chickens laying eggs and a garden that was difficult to manage. In addition, we were out of shape and overweight and both of us were working too many hours at our day jobs. We had to cancel.

THIS year, I was determined that we would go. I was so excited that I signed up right away (as evidenced by our bib numbers - 35 and 36!) and began making plans to do the ride. I stalled on breeding our first Nigerian Dwarf goat so that she wouldn't give birth until AFTER the ride. I was already training for triathlons, so I felt that I'd be in shape if we could manage a couple of longer rides. I found a girl to watch our farm (and with no goats currently in milk, it worked out) through a web site I frequent. We were really going to do it this time!

And we did. And boy, what a great ride it was! It was well supported, well organized and worth the 6+ hour drive. The weather was gorgeous (if a tad windy) and the route was challenging but satisfiying. And of course, the lake was spectacular.

Some of the most spectacularly blue water I've ever seen!

We started as late as we dared (start time was 6:30 to 8:30 am at our leisure) so that the air could warm up a bit. We headed out of the parking lot in Fort Klamath at about 8 am. We were registered for the century ride, but we had no intention of actually riding 100 miles just to say we rode 100 miles. We wanted to ride to the lake! So we skipped the 18+ mile tour of the valley floor and headed strait up the road that went to the lake. We climbed in the forest and while it didn't look all that steep, it was a pretty good incline. In addition, Ft Klamath was at 4200ft so to us flat-landers, it was a challenge.

We made it up to the rim and then turned left on to Rim Drive West (while the metric century riders turned right). This is where the climbing got difficult. It was steep. I was in my 'granny gear' and working hard to keep the pedals turning. It was also pretty hot as this part of the climb was in the sun and sheltered from the wind. But we plodded along and finally made it up the rim and FINALLY got the views. Spectacular!

Requisite photo of my bike taken at our very first view of the lake.

The ride continued in a clock-wise direction around the lake with plenty more climbing to be had. Spectacular views dotted the route both towards the lake and out towards the south as well.

Everytime I started thinking 'hmmm, I'm hungry' a rest stop came along. They were remarkably well placed and very well stocked. A handlful of grapes, a homemade cookie, a small subway sandwich, some water and we were on our way again.

There were a couple of spots where I felt pretty discouraged. It was hard to look down at my computer, realize we still had 40 miles to go and then figure that since we were only going 6 mph, that we'd be out there FOREVER. Luckily, there were a few downhills as well. By the time the last descent came our way (about mile 60), I was ready for it. My legs were done, my rear was killing me from the saddle and my shoulders hurt from riding in the drops so much to fight the wind. We FLEW down the mountain and back into Fort Klamath not a moment too soon as far as my rear end was concerned. Total distance: 78+ miles. Total climbing: 7500+ miles Average speed: ~13 mph (better than I expected!).

See the way the water is blowing in the wind? It was worse up on the rim - we almost bit it a few times due to super strong cross-winds.

We enjoyed the provided pulled pork sandwiches and baked beans and then headed back to the hotel for a nice hot shower and a nap. I'm so glad we finally got to do this ride.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Honey Harvest!

Slicing the caps off the honey comb prior to extraction.

So our hives are huge and full. We have two of them, one of which already has two FULL supers on it (the large box that tops the hive and where the honey gets stored). We pulled a few frames to give the bees more room about a month ago, and we needed to harvest that honey so that we could reuse the frames. We rented an extractor from the local bee place and invited some friends over to watch/help/learn.

First step was to cut the caps off the honey comb. This is done in multiple ways, but we used a hot knife to slice them open on both sides of the frame.

Each frame has a notch in the spinning mechanism inside the extractor - the centrifugal force pulls all the honey from the comb.
Then the frames get inserted into the extractor. This particular extractor holds 9 frames. We are looking to buy a slightly smaller one to use for future use as we anticipate rarely harvesting so many frames at once.

The frames are spinning in this picture (barely visable) while we held the extractor from shaking too much.
The lid gets closed once all the spaces are filled and the spinning begins. Everyone took turns. We actually had to hold the extractor pretty tightly because we were short two frames and it created enough of an inbalance to wobble. We did bolt it down to a wooden board, but it still shook quite a bit. Next time, we'll make sure to fill the extractor!

Here comes the first of the honey!
We had a special filter pan sitting on a bucket to catch the honey as it came out of the extractor. This makes sure that you capture any and all non-honey bits (like wax).
The empty frames can go back into the super for storage or reinsertion into the hive. The header on the blog shows a close up of the comb after extraction. (above)
After all the honey is out of the frames, we can reuse them by inserting them back into the super. This is actually helpful to the bees because they don't have to build more comb...they only have to fill it and then cap it.

This shows some of the beeswax caught by the filter as the last of the honey comes out of the extractor.

Lastly, we tilted the extractor to help the last of the honey flow out of the spout and into our filter. It was just beautiful as it glowed in the sunlight! And man...nothing beats fresh, raw honey for taste - it's heavenly!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Summer Fun

I admit it. That's what I've been having. Summer fun. I've been having so much of it, in fact, that I just haven't had time to blog. Shame on me, I know.

Let's see - what has been happening? On a personal level, I signed up for and have been training and competing in triathlons. Yes, triathlons. This non-runner, former swimmer decided to give it a shot and sure enough...I got hooked. I've now completed 3 sprint triathlons and 1 super sprint (all approx 0.5 mile swim, 13 mile bike and 3.1 mile run). I've got one more on my schedule for the end of the summer and then I will take the winter off from racing and focus only on improving my running (which is pathetic, at best). In the process, I've lost about 25 lbs and I feel 100% better about myself and my health.

We have also finally ventured off farm this summer. We found a lovely local girl to watch our animals and we went for a weekend hiking trip this past weekend. It was our first time leaving the farm together in over 2 years! We had a great time. The photo above was taken of me as I stood at the edge of our campsite with one of many waterfalls behind me. I'll post more photos later - it was a beautiful area called Goat Rocks Wilderness of all places!

We have one more weekend trip planned in a couple of weeks. We will be traveling to southern Oregon to complete the Crater Lake Century bike ride. We feel woefully ill-trained, but we are going anyway. I think it'll be a blast!

On the farm front, things are moving along. We think that Skylark is pregnant (it's kind of hard to tell on goats!) and if so, she is due the end of the month. We cannot wait to have goat babies around again, but I'm not really looking forward to the twice daily milking routine again. It will be nice to have fresh milk though. We still need to find a mate for Pepper. We've also asked a barn builder to draw up some designs for us, so there may be a REAL barn in our future. We'll see what he comes up with and how it'll sit with us financially, of course. I am just giddy at the thought of having a real barn with a real milking parlor. Strange that these things make me 'giddy', huh?

The fruit trees and grape vines are producing and the garden is exploding. We've had some successes and some failures, and I will definitely be back to share those stories with some accompanying photos.

The new chickens are shooting out eggs faster than we can eat them, so I'm once again on the hunt for egg recipes. And of course, now that we have more friends, we have more people with whom we can share eggs...thankfully!

Work is the same for both of us. We joke that if we ever come into enough money to pay off our mortgage, we'll probably get a divorce fighting over who gets to quit their job first! It's not that either of our jobs are so's just that we've both finally found so many other things that we'd rather be doing that work just gets in the way. I guess it's nice to have such a full life. I should not complain. :-)