“Easy” Tractor Repair

This is hard to believe. With the riding mower shot, I’ve been cutting the grass at the farm with a beautiful Italian finish mower implement for the tractor. A little challenging maneuvering the tractor around blueberry rows, but manageable, and it cuts like nobody’s business. Then, a couple weeks ago, I broke a blade. Easy fix, I thought. Of course, there’s only one parts dealer for this brand on the West Coast, but I tracked him down and he sent me a new blade. Now…easy fix, I thought.

But after two weeks and five different tractor-owning friends helping out, plus countless calls working my way up the chain of this brand’s American distributors…the broken blade remained firmly in place. Not an easy fix. Finally, I received an e-mail from the company’s Italian owner (his name is the name of the company) sent from his vacation home in Sardinia, no doubt. That in of itself was pretty hard to believe–like if you had a problem with your Ford truck and William Clay Ford Jr called to answer your questions.

What he told me is what I’m still having trouble believing. He said the solution was easy, all I had to do was make a tool to fit into the space above the blade and I could work it free. Make a tool? I have to make a tool to fix the tool to do the work I need to do?  Someone manufactures a machine that requires users to make a tool for simple repairs? Mind blowing. But here it is…a 30 mm open-end wrench that I ground 1/8 of inch off of to make it fit. So maybe I didn’t exactly make it, but it did require some work. Holy smokes. And now, at last…back to the mowing.


Every day I work at the farm, I try to remember to stop, pick a handful or two of berries and eat them. It’s a simple pleasure, and as the different varieties ripen, it’s fun to taste the subtle differences in flavor and texture. This is a picture of Weston holding some jumbo Darrows, which are just starting to develop their sugar now. Darrows are an old-fashioned blueberry, with an almost cinnamon or spice-note flavor, and they are among my favorites.

But everyone seems to have their own opinion. Some like the smaller, sweeter, early-ripening Hardi Blues, while others prefer the bigger, firmer, sweet-tart taste of the Legacies, which are just peaking now. They’re all good to me–in muffins, pancakes, smoothies, mixed with yogurt and honey, or just by the  handful. Which is about all I seem to have time for these days.

This summer has been crazy busy for us. Between the farm (I could probably write a dissertation on Italian tractor implement repair and lawn mower specifications), pre-publication book work, other writing jobs, family activities and the best king salmon season in recent memory, I’ve been burning it at both ends. All good stuff, and I wouldn’t trade any of it, but there hasn’t been much time for sleep. Which brings me back to the blueberries. I don’t know about all the science that goes into naming something a “superfood,” but I will say this: I eat my daily handful and in spite of our hectic pace…I feel great. Better than I have in years. I think it’s the blueberries.



Event Tour Update

And now for a brief commercial interruption: I will be hitting the road to promote Closer To The Ground in October and November. I’m posting the latest schedule in the hopes that some of you will come out to hear me read and talk about the book. You know, so my mom isn’t the only one in the audience. Here are the confirmed dates we have booked as of today:

Bainbridge Island, WA:  Eagle Harbor Book Co…………7:30pm, Thursday, October 18th, 2012

Seattle, WA:  Elliott Bay Books……………………………2:00pm, Sunday, October 21st, 2012

Corvallis, OR:  Grass Roots Books……………………….7:00pm, Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

Portland, OR:  Powell’s City of Books……………………7:30pm, Thursday, October 25th, 2012

Bellingham, WA:  Village Books……………………………7:00pm, Tuesday, October 30th, 2012

Olympia, WA:  Orca Books…………………………………3:00pm, Saturday, November 3rd, 2012

Sante Fe, NM:  Collected Works…………………………..6:00pm, Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

Salt Lake City, UT:  The King’s English…………………..7:00pm, Thursday, November 15th, 2012

That’s it for now, but we’re in the process of booking further dates now. Look for more events in the Mountain West and Northeast on the website (www.dylantomine.com) as we confirm dates and times. I’m looking forward to meeting you in person if I’m anywhere nearby, and remember, if for nothing else, come out to keep my mom company. Thanks!

Living Large

This is Skyla digging into her favorite summer meal–grilled king salmon collar or kama, peas and beans from the garden, and a mix of wild and brown rice cooked in chicken stock. To raise the stakes even further, the collar is from the fish she and Weston teamed up to boat on my birthday. It takes a dedicated eater to pick through all the bones in this cut of fish, but the reward is the most flavorful, highest-fat content morsels.

Kama is the Japanese word for the collar, which comes from  right behind a fish’s gill plates. I like to cook it the way my grandmothers did: marinate overnight in sea salt, soy sauce and mirin, the sweet Japanese cooking wine. Or sometimes I substitute brown sugar for the mirin. Then I just put it on a hot grill for about 4 or 5 minutes a side until it’s caramelized and crisp on the outside and dripping melted fat from the inside. For some people, the collar is the least desirable part of the fish, often saved for crab bait. For us, though, it’s the prize.

Our local king season closed this week, so I’m thankful we were able to fill the freezer early this year. But of course, I’m already looking at reports from other parts of the state and trying to figure out if I can find time to fish the ocean or coastal bays where it’s still open. No matter how much king salmon we have, I know we’ll want to eat more.

Birthday Fish

Friday was my birthday, and since Stacy was working at the farm, the kids and I celebrated by going fishing. What a great day. It was the last of a short three-day heat wave, and even on the water, we sweltered. The kids spent hours leaning over the gunwale, splashing water on each other and looking for jellyfish. When it got too hot, we cranked up and ran to another spot just to have a cool breeze.

We were rewarded for our efforts with three nice king hookups around the low slack. The kids recovered nicely (better than Dad) from losing the first two and teamed up to fight and boat a gorgeous, fat 15 pounder. When it was safely aboard, we high-fived and danced around like lunatics. Later, we had a picnic at the farm with friends and felt the weather starting to turn.

Now it’s 30 degrees cooler and the summer heat seems like a distant memory, even though it was just a few days ago. Summer isn’t over yet, but the light is different now, and you can feel change in the air. School starts next week. I can hardly believe it.