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Here is the first of 11 videos the Leaf ninja’s made, feature all the great things Verge Permaculture Graduates are doing in the world. Luke and Kai came out and spent some time hanging out with us in the Koots, they filmed a feature on both Jordan and myself, along with 8 other graduates. Slowly they are being released so be sure to watch for the whole series: The guys did a FABULOUS job with the videos, both filming and editing. Well done!
May the sun gently warm the seeds you sow in the fertile and living soil, may the rains delicatly sprinkle and feed the plants in your field, may the winds strengthen their stocks and entice our flying friends to do a pollination dance upon their petals. May your harvests be abundant and your table full of people to share it with.
And may the sunshine of the summer season invigorate and refresh your spirits.
From our little homestead family to yours,
I know I have mentioned a few times already that we are hugel-ing a part of the new garden expansion… well the other day we finally got the bed underway!
The hugelkultur bed (mound culture as it translates from German) was pretty simple to assemble:
We started by staking out a contour line, and as we are building it on a hill side, we pounded some pole steaks into the ground to catch the load of the first and largest punky tree trunks, then we neatly stacked more and more woody materials (which we have been hoarding in hugel stacks for months) generally building the stack from biggest pieces to smallest as we went up. The overall shape is a long pie wedge that acts as the boarder from the road way to the new terraces.
The following day we utilized our new gravity spring fed water line and really saturated the mound, which made for a nice refreshing sprinkler cool down as we worked on a small excavation about 12 feet away in the beating heat. Having a hugel dump site directly behind a earthen excavation was peachy! All of the roots and twigs and duff we pulled out easily made there way to the mound.
What a lovely way to use us massive amounts of wood bits and bobs; branches punky stumps, rotten birch branches, roots, twigs, leaves, pine needles, old straw well packed in chicken manure, the contents of many pee buckets, leafy duff, pine shavings, and sandy soil from an excavation… what does this all amount to? A self watering nutrient rich raised bed, that may even ward off the kouch grass for a time!
Check out Paul Wheatons Great hugelkultur Page full of diagrams and pictures of more examples of hugels in action!
Our hugelbed will will planted out with squash and chickpeas, all of which will be heavily mulched of course. As we work on building good soil it will be exciting to watch it grow!
On the topic of mulch; For the last couple years I have used a great amount of straw to mulch all of my beds, but struggle with the fact that it is not even close to local out here, it’s expensive and has been pretty seedy in the past. So what is our local counterpart to straw? Well it’s wood chips my friends! Lucky for us we have a friend who owns a small (this is a relative term) mill just down the road and he is swimming in wood chips and shavings, he gives us the word once he has run pine or fir and we head down the road 5 minutes for truckloads. I like the look of the wood chips in the garden, and on the occasion of a chicken assault on the garden the birds seem less drawn to the wood chips than they are to straw! Best of all it’s free!
We will add more pictures as we get the bed planted and it starts to grow and we get underway the next garden bed projects: sheet mulch key hole beds!
On the topic of sheet mulch: Way way back 3 spring times agao, when all we had here was a waving hillside of kouch grass I eked out one 80 foot long bed using a lasagne or sheet multch technique. I built that bed right ontop of thriving fresh kouch grass, and still to this day it is one of my favorite and most nutrient rich beds in the garden. The grass is managable and not so vigorous and I feel like this is a really viable option for working with weedy long routed grass challenges! There are some things I have learned about that bed and my material selections I am set to improve this go round.
*** I am so stoked to have so much great news to report, having all the extra muscle and brain power around here is fabulous, we are making HUGE steps forward in all manor of food and human systems. Jordan erected a great shower house next to the yarn yurt and we finally got to use the bamboo walls Dayna gifted us last year for the task, The shower has a sturdy peeled pole bench and a pallet deck floor. We will have a double sink next to it for all manor of garden / toiletry / and kitchen camp uses both will be heated with a hot water on demand unit designed for outdoor camps. The open air view from the shower is wonderful and I can’t wait to jump in an enjoy a sunny outdoor shower!
Phil and Jordan hauled no end of big @ss boulders around today, improving access after days of bobcat disruption! We now have a raging water line across the garden and to the yarn yurt, and that was no small feat. Dyl had to learn how to drive a bobcat backhoe to get 140 feet of new water line in place, and that task was an all hands on deck pick axe-shovelling-racking fiasco! I kept singing “laying pipe all day long” and acknowledged that never before have I had 3 men “…working so hard to satisfy this woman”!
Yeah for water, and bobcats, and bamboo showers, and perky plants who loved the vermi-compost tea treatments!!!
Oh what a week we have had here!
Our new intern Jordan arrived last week just as Phil departed for a time, we are soaking up the the new and unstoppable energy and crossing many items of the ever building To Do list! Things are looking tidy around here and Dylan is bucking up stacks of trees and Jordan doesn’t ever put the axe down… which means the firewood stacks are growing to a promising size!
I moved my nightshade starts into their new temporary home in the sweet cold fame Jordan built and we have salad greens popping up everywhere! The garden has been all encompassing of my time these days and Jordan and I have been spending endless hours digging and double digging the new massive potato patch, edged on one side by shelling peas set to climb up the fence and on the other is a cabbage and onions mound edged with a whimsical olive oil tin kale / chard container boarder. We put 20+ lbs of potatoes in the ground today, 4 varieties, and are trying and interesting approach to planting… Firstly we set each start in the ground with a comfry leaf (to ward off scabs) placed 12″ apart in rows of triangles to maximize plants per space, then we gently covered them with dirt and will be building up layer after layer of straw mulch on top. The idea is that the potatoes grow in the straw rather than the ground, yielding clean and easily harvested potatoes, hundreds and hundreds of them! Here is a good example of a straw potato patch success storey. Next we tackle the purple barley field and the corn crop.
This week we travelled to a south slocan farm to meet our newest animal additions… a mating pair of rabbits. Just working on the design for hutch housing and dropping collection to easily feed the worms. The idea has spiralled into a bigger far more function stacked system, but while we have the skilled hands we might as well throw in a passive solar green house and compost tea brewing facility right!?! We have orderd a few more chicks to keep our little solo babe company and have finally got our hands on the two breeds we have been after for some time; Marans which lay chocolate brown coloured eggs and Silkies which have a big white poof of feathers on their heads and look an awful lot like fragil rock creatures.
Our strawberries are flowering (which is so exciting because they will turn into the first strawberries ever from our land) and out guilded fruit trees from last year all look healthy and are popping with green, as is everything around us!
We managed to get our new hillside seeded out and planted with hundreds of basket willow starts to attempt to stabile the lot after our road work last year. Much more willow basket weaving is certain to be in my future.
We all managed to get the final strapping of the yurt roof done, it’s tied down, insulated and almost decoratively covered (with white tarp). Last night we celebrated with a fooz tourney, as the long stored foos ball table now has a home in the man-yurt. It is all most move in ready, with a well working door and a new temporary (albeit ugly) roof cap, that is a repurposed fiberglas massive satelight dish. We have sweet vintage metal cabinets to use in the new yurt ( or the Murt; man-yurt as we have been lovingly referring to it as) and the makings of a nice little kitchenette, complete with a bar fridge and a sudo- sink.
This next week the boys will finally tackle the unfinished 3/10th’s of tin roof on woodhenge! This will mean dry storage and re-stacking of lumber in racking!
We built and have been monitoring a whopping HOT compost pile… Ahh nothing like the smell of steamy cooking compost to get you up in the morning! Actually the pile got a little too hot, and took some effort to cool it down, but it will be lovely and ready shortly. Jordan took an in depth soil studies class with Doug Weatherbee last year and there is another round of this class I am really interested in attending this month in Alberta hosted by Verge. I love the study of soil and making it and it would be dreamy to get out to this workshop.
Speaking of interesting things happening in Alberta, The Western Canada Permaculture Convergence is happening this August (24-26) and it is certain to be an amazing event! Many of our friends are involved in making it a success and it will be a fabulously inspiring weekend of learning and sharing and networking!
I have been working on this post for a number of days, and since starting it Phil has re joined our team here, and I was happy he made it back in time for all of us to take in the May Day – Water Celebration. Winlaw’s annual festival in celebration of our stunning water in this special place. The event is a long day of music and dancing and reuniting with friends as we all shake of the winter and celebrate the spring, complete with a drum lead parade from “downtown” to the river for a blessing. The whole community joined in singing “down to the river to pray” and it was a breathtaking and fabulous! What a special place to be.
a solid fir compression ring.
This is compression ring number 3 here at tricycle acres… this one the most rudimentary by far, in fact as we starting slamming what is now known as the man yurt or the “murt” together a week a go today, we were dreaming of a self supporting reciprocal roof rafters, built from the poles our intern Phil has been peeling by the dozens. The reciprocal method was not going to work on this yurt we discovered after pole #4, but with the help of our friend Dino… steady on we kept at ‘er and threw up a car rim up as the centre point… the poles all fit in really nicely cut using the on the fly chain-saw method of precision cutting 30 degree angles, the structure almost built itself… until it didn’t. That is to say somewhere around pole number 20 (of a planned 32) something went array and the hugely tensile rim shifted to lay less than level to the world. We hummed and ratchet strapped and tweaked, and some poles rained down on us, before Dyl packed it in for the shop to build another compression ring for yet another round pole structure!
The new ring went up today and the roof plugged together in just a few short hours (now we were really practised). So today day 7 from newly cleared very uneven sloped land we now have a built from scratch 20 foot yurt complete with solid fir lattice walls and and cedar pole roof, sitting on a plywood deck built on a super solid foam block piling system engineered with with pallet wrap and some scrap plywood. We have not used one bit of manufacture yurt parts yet… but Tomorrow we haul the skins and insulation up from the barn (which is fast walking down the hill MUST GET IT STABILIZED..and soon). Then we go recover a HUGE old satelight dish that has been given to us to make the murt roof cap! The door comes from the Thread Guild heritage building complete with antique glass knobs (my favourite) ! Ahh Upcycled yurt in a week and a bit!
The yurt is sitting smack daub in the middle of what we now call PERMA-CAMP. Our intern / camper / overflow / friends and family outback! Can’t wait to watch this area evolve into a little camp town. I am a happy girl…. better amenities out there mean less impact in here. This tiny space seems ever tinier by the day. Soon we’ll have a heated shower and sink in perma camp, as well as a little kitchen in the yurt. I am hoping someone will build a couple tent decks so our tenting pals have some flat land to set up on. To day we hung a hammock at the camp and are talking about building a nice bench around the central yew tree. yew sit. yew think. yew rest, here. The view is stunning up at the camp and I am thrilled to be moving forward and crossing things off the fridge list each day.
Today the fruit tree’s got mulched heavily with wet straw and some poopy chicken straw all set above coils of soaker hose and perennial companion guilds. I have planted out a few beds so far… carrots and onions, and beets. My starts are exploding! I have the healthiest tomatoes and cucs starts of my gardening career right now! Eeee! The garden plan is in place and I am chewing away at it as I can fit it between yurting and cooking and baking.
I am looking forward to a few focused garden weeks ahead with our next intern, as we take on some raw couch grassy new land and put in some keyhole garden beds as well as the hugelkultur bed, which we have been amassing materials for. In fact “hugel” has become a verb around here… “hugel it” we say everyday as we add to the sorted orderly piles of forest materials: burn pit, rocket fuel, hugel bed, future build pile, firewood stack.. etc.
The spring clean is on, and we are sorting and hauling and stacking EVERYTING! even the red mossy van got hauled away today! The wagon is next and soon maybe even the old ford van and truck too!
The trees are about to burst… the buds look like they couldn’t possibly stay closed one more day, and the bee’s and the swallows and the song birds are all back, as are the eagles and the bears! Oh and we have found our first mating pair of rabbits.. and are off to meet them this week! Mating, and babies, meat and fur, vermicompost, compost tea … here we come.
Oh and moma bird looks to be a certified one hit wonder, again we only have 1 chickie. Funny we named her Madonna and yet her sister hen Cindy Lopper has yet to set but would have been a better name for our moma hen.
Yesterday I went to the annual yard and yardage sale at the Threads Guild and loaded up on sprawling flowering perennial plants to add to the “bee garden” and birch graveyard. We are drillingout old tree stumps for bee condos set amid rhododendron and bee balm and now motherwort and another 5 or so blue and purple flower plants I will likely never remember the names of!
I am so bagged… long hard days hauling heavy dirty shit around. And to think we are only weeks into it all. Living the good life.
We have been drown in deep fluffy snow, and for the last 24 hours it has barely stopped… inches and inches have accumulated and finally after a really COLD week (the first one of the year) it is warm and wintery! I actually starting whistling Christmas songs this morning as I was ploughing through feet of snow in a virgin parking lot! Today is a lot like last winter… I guess I had forgotten the fun of big snow, and doughnuts in he snow!
Dave and Colin are here this week (Dyl’s Dad and Bro) and the boys have been hard at work building a hunting blind up in the forest, way way way up in some trees! It looks a little scary, but I am sure once it has railings and some camping chairs and a beer cooler it will be a great place to piss away a day. Dave tucked into the shovel today and carved out a path all the way down to the barn and his car, which was well buried. Thankfully they have delayed their departure due to the epic snow storm we have on hand. We have been catching up on our Settlers of Catan gaming, and all this extra Fidler testosterone.
Colin was the first to carve out a snowboard track on our driveway ever… I think Dylan is envious that his bro thought it up first… Colin didn’t so much like the treck uphill but enjoyed the runs down both driveways. The dogs sure loved chasing him down!
Unfortunately and sadly as I was running down to snap a picture of him carving up the new road I notices a bunch of black feather on top of the crisp white snow… followed by the prompt departure of a beautiful bastard hawk, who murdered one of our “little blackie hens” (an amerucana) poor dear:( I screeched at the hawk and it did a tricky tango with the deer netting before taking off… and while I sat in the coop with a loaded gun, I hoped and preyed his chicken buffet days were over and I am hopeful he was spooked enough between me and the fencing tangle to not return.. but tomorrow I will net the girls into their tiny snowed in winter space, and hope for the best. Otherwise this moma bear is going to get mean.. because I am getting sick of loosing my food security, and I take a lost bird pretty seriously. I know Dylan thinks I am a little overboard but I have raised these chooks from babes and everyday I trudge out to make sure they are safe, and sound, warm and fed, loved and happy, I thankfully receive their beautiful rainbows of eggs each day and I count them as a commodity and blessing. These gals (and the cocks too) are a huge part of our food security and I’ll be damned if that hawk is going to dig in to my pantry!
Today’s snowy morning was the perfect time to FINALY finish my million hour socks! I am wearing and loving them, and was happily toasting my tootsies by the fire before noon today. Thanks ever so much to my back road girlfriend Renata at the Red Snow Shoe, who gave me “some assemble required” hand knit socks for my Birthday! I think in actuality I spent about 40 hours total knitting these babies… and while I am eager to dress my toes in more hand knit wool sock.. I am not sure just how eager I am to knit more.. just at this moment, though like child birth I am sure I will forget the pain, and start another pair soon!
We just said good bye to our friends Rob & Michelle (and baby Rowan) from Verge Permaculture, who enjoyed our yarn yurt for a few nights on there travel though the Koot’s, a winter oasis from the crazy urban centre of Calgary. It was great to spend time visiting, cross country skiing, and dreaming up exciting futures!
I am offering an Introduction to Permaculture class, March 17th at the Slocan Valley Hall, through the SVRC and Rob Avis has been super supportive and helpful, as I prep for my first full day permaculture class! Thanks Rob for everything!
To Register or Inquire call: 250-226-0008
I know lots of you think we are crazy living in the sticks on the side of this mountain, and mostly I think your all crazy for living in a concrete jungle … but the other night I had a stomach dropping few minutes of fear, walking in our forest, this though actually crossed my mind… “Am I insane living here???… OMG there is a cougar killing something in my yard!!!”
Thats right… Dylan and I went for a forest stroll to enjoy the last little bit of light before the sun went down, we though we would check our “hare snare” when all of the sudden the dogs went quiet (from a crazed barking frenzie) long enough for us to hear, not 200 feet away a crazy loud BIG CAT hiss and snarl and yowl, followed by the cow like moans of some unfortunate deer (or the like) being eaten. More dogs, more hissing, more panic rising in me, picturing my faithful dogs on the menu as they were out of eye site and silent again, more yelping, moaning, hissing…. shit! time to get out of the bush… calling the dogs, heading down the mountain… do we get the gun? are the dogs dead? why is there a cougar in my yard??? all these things raced through my mind.
We had decided to spend the night in the yurt and had it well warmed up after a day of loom set up, and the forest was alive with the food chain in action. What a musical! My interpretation of what happened from the soundtrack went something like this… The dogs finally got the cougar off on his way after an hour or so, and that is when the murder of crows chimed in which invited a pack of howling yelping coyotes to the carcass. Poor dogs they worked for hours patrolling the cougar kill and mountain side, before they got to enjoy any of what was left. Dylan and I will venture out soon and see if the scavengers have left behind any antlers for his new hobby of knife making. I was so happy that Mia was at the local outdoor rink sating with friends, rather than in the bush with us. Oh the joys of living in a wildlife corridor in a scarcely inhabited wilderness area!
With all of that excitement I feel like the rest of what we have been up to seems far less thrilling…
Like I said I have been getting my first (solo) warp set up on my loom, and am looking forward to turning this basket of creamy recycled yarns into a warm and cozy throw!
I spent a few hours with my weaving mentor JC going over my design and having a set up refresher, then Mia gave me a hand winding the warp and my friend Renata came by to help me with my threading. It’s a big loom an a big job, so It was lovely to have so many eager helpers!
I can’t tell you enough just how much we have been loving this yurt space, as a family creative outlet, and our own cozy private home away from home. We spend probably 25% of our nights sleeping in the yurt and I am out there working and organizing as much as I can manage! It’s turning into a really lovely place to be.
We are looking forward to having Dylans Dad and brother out here in the next week or so, which will be great! We sure missed our family this holiday season, but we were happy we made the decision to stay home, as the road conditions just after Christmas were horrible in the passes with avalanches, and fatal collisions and crazy storms. whew, nice to forgo all of those stresses.
Still plugging away on garden and house plans, and trying to finalize designs for the worm bin system as well as the rabbit housing and how they will work together. We have also decided to do a run of turkeys in the spring.. and now I am thinking Bacon….?! hmm it would be easy to work a couple pigs into the mix here and have them do some ground work for me! Get the benefits of rotational grazing and play with curing meats!
Mia is back on the slopes with school and is trading in her ski’s for a snowboard this week! Lets hope she has better luck than I did with that sport!
We are drowning in eggs still so I am cooking lots with all the food I put up and as many eggs as I can muster into any meal. I am blogging lots on my food blog sharing yummy recipes for eating from the root cellar.
Must dash, the dishes are calling and the wood needs hauling.
Best to all,
Yeah we have a yurt skeleton!
What an exciting weekend, after all these weeks and weeks of making yurt parts, moving earth, leveling ground, playing with foam blocks, and building decking.. it all came together over the past 3 days!
By 4:30 today we had lattice walls up, centre ring up and standing proud on top of all the roof rafters, complete with compression cable and lovely wood door… with two big pushes and the help of some good friends we are one giant step closer to my art studio / guest house!
The woodwork Dylan did is amazing! beautiful clear fir with lovely round overs, and snug custom pieces.
You can see in the image of the garden gates where the yurt sits cozied up to the back of the garden, which sits just below the new road, eventually I see the yurt as a part of the garden, rather than separated from it.
We have come a long way to get here and have a lot more to go before I am cozied up at my loom in a wood fire heated yarn yurt! Just wanted to share the joy
of our latest achievements, while we rush to beat the winter weather.
OH.. and check out the big fish I caught last weekend on our thanksgiving fishing trip!
We have been so busy this season…. I always forget in spring when I think it’s so busy planting, and planning.. how entirely crazy it is in the fall with harvest and getting ready for the snow!
Here is an except from my eating with SOLE blog entry today.. which about summarizes what has been keeping me oh so busy, while Dylan is working away at yurt parts (getting so close to yurt raising day), roof patching, road maintenance and target practice with the bow.. as the hunting season is upon us and Dylan is ready to bring home some meat, we even got a new deep freeze for just the occasion!
Tomorrow we are celebrating the harvest with a day away from the homestead for a trip up to arrow lake with some friends to fish dolly varden, along with some chanterelle mushroom picking, and a mineral hot spring soak!
“giving thanks for abundance…
Along with the abundant joy and abundant fulfillment that comes with living and building our little farmstead on this stunning mountain side, in this magical valley… comes the abundance of harvest time. What a wonderful thing it is to be exhausted with putting up food. Good food, grown with love in my very own dutifully built soil… or from the overflow of abundance our friends are also sharing in. We are thankful to be in this place, in this pinnacle time, drowning in food that needs putting up.
In the last 3 days alone I have:
Shucked a mountain of dry beans, harvested nearly 1lb of dill seeds, harvested and passively dried dozens of kung pow hot peppers, in fear of the tomato blight I harvested everyone of my pounds and pounds of green tomatoes many of which are destine for a spicy green tomato salsa type relish to be canned today, we picked 3 enormous baskets of apples and pears which are drying into sweet snacking chips in a borrowed electric cadillac dryer, tonight I do both pear and apple butter batches too, I pulled blanched and froze a good little supply of purple carrots, I stowed away the last of the ancient Peruvian fingerling potato’s, I have bagged up the last of the passively dried bee balm leaves for earl grey tea, and the ancho chillies a precious few are also passively drying. I have fruit leather to make still at my daughters request (this will be shocking news to those of you who know her), and I want to dry a bunch more kale and some onion flakes from some of my wee little onions while I have the big food dryer here.
Whew! To think this season alone (with the help of many many people I adore) I have :
canned and added to the pantry:
grape jelly, hibiscus jelly, strawberry jam, kung pow crab apple pepper jelly, smoked salmon, HP sauce, pickled carrots, dilly beans, dill pickles, & drunken apricot jam.
dried and stowed:
bushels of peppermint (or mosquito mint as I like to call it), bee balm, mullen, comfry, oregano, coriander, dill, basil, kale, peppers, peas and beans beans and more beans.
harvested and frozen:
fried chanterelle and shaggy main mushrooms, blanched carrots, beans beans and more beans, salmon steaks, dill, some roosters, strawberries, saskatoon berries, and huckleberries.
That my friends is a good amount of foraged and grown food all ready for the cold winter ahead.
no recipe today… just gratitude for the bounty of mother earth and the lessons we are learning in utilizing healing foods and giving back.”
We have finally said good bye to mosquitoes, and +30 temperatures, as well to our month of family visitors, we are saying good bye to our horrible old road and are embracing the harvest, new access and just a little quiet.
We have had a really busy August, our little home has been bursting at the seems with all of our family and friends… we put some of them to work and have managed to accomplish some fun stuff; new benches for the picnic table (thanks Dave), new deer antler door pulls for my garden gates (Dayna), another mountain of foam blocks moves (Kim) garden cleaning, harvesting, drying, and jamming (Chris, Helen, Gabby, Zoe …and everyone else)
Last week we had a giant excavator come and build us a whole new road… in two days so much has changed; the garden is swimming in new sunlight, a yurt deck is ready for a final level and deck construction, we can now see the view we will have from our future home, and it all seems way more plausible now, our firewood stack is unbelievable, and our non-4×4 friends now stand a chance at getting up our hill!
The new road sweeps around the lower property and up past the shop and outhouse (which now sits awfully close to the road) up through the woods, and comes out above the garden then finally loops down to connect with the existing road. The yurt will live at the end of the garden below the new road and now I am planning on growing the garden space to envelope the yurt entirely. The road is very silty and needs some good compaction and some moisture, but certainly it makes life more accessible that it has been.
There are a million foods ready for harvest in the garden and I am pretty overwhelmed with to do’s and the putting up’s, but managing to get through it all.
Dylan got the canoe finished and it is a real recycled beauty; the seats are made with old seat belts woven over a fir frame (see our private junk yard has come in handy yet again), it has a spanky orange paint job, and tracks like a dream on the lake. It is so nice to have an extra canoe now for visitors to enjoy our favourite past time.
While Dayna and Zoe spent an extended week here, Dyaln and I slipped away for an Anniversary celebration which got the new canoe on both Box and Arrow Lakes, and we enjoyed the steamy minreal soaks at both Helcyon and St. Leon a more private and undeveloped hot springs. Life is pretty good, I must say.
We also 4×4’d in the new toyota up to the top of Pedro Creek, which overlooks our valley with a vast expansive view, it was amazing to se as far as Nelson and Thrums as well as our lazy spot on the road from so high above.
The idea of winter just around the corner is a litttle daunting, but it looks like we are in for a sunny and long, warm fall, and I am soaking up every minute of it I can… wondering when we will have to stoke the fireplace for the first time?
Anyway there is a truck load of wild sokeye salmon calling me, yurt deck racking and beans to collect, so must dash.