Backroads is officially open!

I finished the official web page for the Backroads to Bavaria event, and Dave uploaded it today. Time to officially open up registration. It's kind of scary, but cool at the same time. I've organized quite a few events, but this one is major. Backroads to Bavaria is our club's regional event, and this year is the 11th annual. We expect 150 people from multiple clubs and states, all descending upon Leavenworth, WA the first weekend in October, just in time for Oktoberfest. I've got lots to do between now and October!


Hunting the elusive blues

Today was the start of a weekend with our friends Bernie & Linda, who moved to Ellensburg a few years ago. Linda quit her Boeing job and took the girls east, living her dream of being in the town where she went to college. Bernie is also living his dream, of retiring from Boeing at 55. (Neither of them really retired, though... both work part time for the city.)

Anyway, we head for Eburg as often as we can, since these guys are our best friends, and we miss them. Linda & I planned this weekend two months ago, because we know how it goes: if you don't set the time aside, your days fill up.

Linda got me started on looking for for this particular stone, as she lives in the only place in the world where you can find it. The Ellensburg Blue agate is so rare, it's considered by many gemologists to be a precious (rarity & hardness, actually... this agate is harder than your typical agate). She's developed a reputation in town as someone who can usually find them. Pretty good, considering that the public land in agate territory is shrinking. And the local landowners are not usually willing to let people traipse over their acres.

We started our weekend visit with a few hours in the hills, hiking in to an area where they typically find Blues, then walking around with heads bent to the ground, looking for that flash of color. We found a lot of stuff today: pure white quartz, agates filled with crystals, and a few pieces of agate that have the telltale orange halo of a Blue, but so pale you can't really call them blue agates. If I ever find my geology hardness kit, I'll know for sure. If I can't scratch these with a piece of quartz, can I call them Blues... even if they're not blue?


I need a goat

The weather's been so nice the past couple of weeks--spring in the middle of winter is kind of nice (especially when I look back on last winter!). So yesterday, in spite of housecleaning and laundry that desperately needed to be done, I changed to jeans and a sweatshirt, grabbed my leather gloves and pruners, and tackled the brambles.

The John Deere is "down" at present, but the blackberries wait for no man (or tractor). They're already sprouting, and if I don't get after them now, they'll take over. I can't do anything about the huge patches in the pastures, but I can at least clean up the fencelines.

Yesterday I spent a couple of hours pruning, and made pretty good progress. Today I could hardly wait to get home from work and get back out there. I'm halfway to the chicken coop now; should make it there tomorrow.

The soles of my Merrels are full of thorns that catch on the carpet... once I finish the pruning, I can see spending a few hours with needlenose pliers to clean them out!


New uses for a barley bag

OK, you already know I love the barley bed-warming bags that my sister made us for Christmas. They're simple, cotton fabric bags filled with barley. Heat them in the microwave (time depends on size of bag), and you've got a toasty package to slide between cold sheets.

So far, I've found a few more uses for these handy bags:

  • Tuck it behind my back when sitting on the sofa. When my muscles are tight from overuse or cold, this works like a charm to warm me up.
  • Put it inside a bath towel, then on the footstool in front of my chair on cold mornings. Warming up my bare feet on a cold morning (in a cold house) warms up my whole body.
  • My oh-so-unique double jointed thumbs are getting weak, and I pulled a muscle in my hand last week. Instead of a heating pad, I sandwich my hand inside a folded barley bag for a little relief.
  • When it's cold, my neck gets stiff. The long shape of the barley bag is perfect for hanging around my neck to warm up my cold muscles.
Thanks, sis!