Friday, July 18, 2008

Summer Camping

John and I went camping and fishing at Burke Lake Park last Saturday/Sunday. He packed his backpack and sleeping bag and was well-prepared for the adventure.

We went to the sporting goods store and got him and I fishing poles and him a headlamp. He was pretty excited to have a headlamp just like mine (except his is brighter:).

Burke Lake is nice because it has a nice little train ride and a carousel right in the middle of the woods. I think both of us really enjoyed the train which went nearly roller-coaster fast. Next time, he'll ride the carousel solo though.

After making camp and riding the train and such, it was time for dinner. I brought the portable grill to make things easier and kept it simple with dogs and chips. John approved.

And of course, no evening camping would be complete without some s'mores.

I don't think John's quite ready for ghost stories by the campfire so we opted instead for silly faces into the camera while we're both wearing our headlamps.

I've got to say that I was reluctant to spend the extra money on the Weber Baby-Q but am now glad I did. It's proven itself with dogs, burgers, etc., but baking cinnamon rolls to perfection definitely makes it worth it.

They were *really* good too...

Unfortunately, the fishing part of the trip didn't go quite so smoothly. I went into the sporting goods store intending to get a cheap Zebco 404 because that's really all I've known. I think the guy in the fishing department must have thought it'd be funny to make me look like a complete idiot in front of my kid or something since he recommended an open real combo deal. Anyway, John and I get out there and he's happily fishing away with his new Superman fishing pole...

... while I'm in the background desperately trying to figure out how my reel works. It turns out the guy who put the line on got some wound up in the gear on the inside so I had to take it apart and clear the gear out, rewind a bunch of line, then spend another 10 minutes figuring out how to cast the silly thing. Meanwhile, John is looking back saying, "Daddy, why don't you just do it like me?".

Unfortunately, no fish were caught that day or the next morning but I caught part of someone else's fishing pole.

We both had a blast and are looking forward to taking the girls out and teaching them how to go camping like the big boys do.

Bean planting

Rebecca and I rode up to our Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm last Saturday to help out a little. I love that we can get great quality organic produce picked the same day at prices that are at or below the supermarket. The idea is that we share the risk and reward with the local farmer - if it's a good season, we're all happy, if it's tough season, then the farmer is guaranteed income anyway. There's also the invaluable benefit of supporting a good hardworking local farmer too.

The idea of a CSA is that the community also comes out to the farm during the season to help out with the farm work. This serves several functions: it helps build the relationship with the farmer, it helps lower labor costs, and it helps us appreciate and be mindful of all the work going into putting food on our table.

Anyway, as I was saying, Rebecca and I went out Friday to help out.  The job of the day was bean planting.  It's amazing to me how much more thought and science goes into organic farming.  I mean, with a chemical enhanced farm, you could just throw some seeds in the ground and compensate for soil quality by spraying.  With organic farming, it's critical to factor in how you might inject nutrients into all phases of the growing cycle.  With our beans for example, prior to putting them in the ground, we had to coat them with a thick sticky syrup (Yucca extract, I think) that will allow them to produce their own nitrogen and ultimately lead to a more productive crop.  Of course, the downside is that it makes planting slow and difficult - imagine molasses covered seeds.

Farmer Allen has a cow down right now too.  During the birthing process, it pinched a nerve causing its hind legs to be temporarily paralyzed.  He thinks they're no longer paralyzed and that it's just afraid to try now so in the meantime, he's having to flip the cow over a couple times a day and give it physical therapy.  We walked over to the pasture to help flip it over too.  First time either of us has been cow-flipping.

All and all, it was an interesting experience.  Now that we know what to expect, I'm hoping we can get out there with the kids a few times this season too.  Rebecca and I were also hot after working for a few hours and needed a way to cool down.  The farm is enticingly close to the Shenandoah River, so we found a tube rental place and took a couple hour lazy float down the river.  It was a nice compensation for our earlier farm work:)