Archive for August, 2010

Photohunt: Framed


The Photohunt theme today is “Framed.”  Photohunt is graciously hosted each Saturday by TNChick.

I immediately thought of the raft trip I took from Phantom Ranch down to Whitmore Wash on the Colorado River.    The Grand Canyon of the Colorado River is possibly one of the most amazing places on Earth.   Granted, I haven’t gone everywhere, but this is a pretty amazing place, and the number and variety of frames the Canyon gave me during my 9 days there is the source of my offerings for today’s theme.

Visit the other photohunters.   Some beauties today!

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T-shirt Friday: Aug. 2010

Once again, Nursemyra is hosting a t-shirt Friday event.  It’s hard to believe that this is actually the last Friday in August; it seems like we just barely got started with the month.

My offering this time is a t-shirt I was given by one of my friends who has the great good fortune to live on Utopia Drive in our county.   He has created a veritable heaven in rock there.   The job has taken over 30 years to accomplish, but recently he finally got the amazing place –which has been called various names during the process, among which was “The Rock House — pretty much finished.   Right now it is being called The Castle.

To celebrate the fact, he threw a couple of epic parties, and distributed this t-shirt amongst the attendees.

If you have time, it is well worth clicking over to this site to view some pictures of the house, both exterior and interior.   It is truly an amazing place.

Don’t forget to visit Nursemyra and see what sort of t-shirt she’s got on today, plus find links to other players.

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Photohunt: Numerical

At first when I thought about the theme of today’s Photohunt, I was a little stymied.   I just couldn’t imagine how I was going to find something to photograph that would demonstrate such an esoteric concept.

I thought about taking a picture of my house number, and wax philosophical about how we have increased our numbers to the point where our houses must be numbered in order for us to be found.   I think back into past centuries where houses had names, and a letter was directed to Joe Blow in Anytown, Northern Territories, and it would eventually arrive.

Then I thought about how we are now defined by numbers:   our driver’s license number, our social security number, our phone number.   It isn’t enough for us to have our names, there must be a nine or ten digit number to describe us.

Then I looked at my date book.

All the days in numerical order, the hours in their serried ranks at the edges of each date.   Long ago, before mankind had invented numbers, our kind did not need date books.   We lived according to the seasons, and counted time by the phases of the moon rather than arbitrarily assigning Names and Numbers to the days of our lives.   I even know people who have their watches set to make a signal every hour on the hour.   When their watches make their noises, I think about how their hours are numbered.  I’m not sure I want to have every passing moment brought to my attention that way.

Of course, as you can see from the above photograph, I have never really become totally comfortable with the electronic and digital age.   I doubt if I will ever graduate to a PDA, or even keep my schedule on the calendar of a computer or cell phone.   I like the physicality of writing things down.   It pleases me to look at my date book and see the time that Jim and I had scheduled for celebrating our anniversary  so thoroughly blocked out, a visual reference that was there for several weeks, every time I looked at that page in the date book, anticipation and pleasure coursing through my being.

And it also gives me pleasure to cross things out emphatically when appointments get changed, or to underline important tasks.  Somehow, putting a digital star or an exclamation point, or prioritizing the list (as Franklin Covey urges you to do) just doesn’t have the same oomph.

Now, go off and visit some other enumerators.  I’m going to walk my dog.

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Today the Baco noir grapes were ready to pick.   We could tell because the bees were over there busily piercing the skins of the berries and getting sated with juice.

As he was testing the grape juice for sugar content, Jim commented, “I don’t know why I bought this expensive hand held refractometer.   All I have to do is ask the bees whether the grapes are ripe.”

It rained during the blossom period of this variety of grapes, so our harvest was not so copious as what we garnered from the Marechal foch vines.   Ultimately, we got another 7 gallons of must to add to the fermenter.

That fermenter is over in the corner of the dining room.

That is a fifty gallon container that was used to ship calamata olives to the US from Greece.  We have a whole slew of these containers in various sizes, which we purchased at a recycling place about 20 years ago.   We use them for storing everything from green coffee to chocolate chips, dried beans, flour, etc etc.   The largest ones, which were 65 gallon sized, made a brief appearance as rain barrels.   Unfortunately, they died a horrible death during the winter when they filled up with melted snow and then froze.  We had drained them at the beginning of the winter, but forgot about the water running into them when snow melts.

However, I am digressing from the topic.   The fermenter sits in the dining room and the yeast is quite busy making the grape juice into wine, converting sugar to alcohol at a great rate.   The vapor lock that allows the fermenter breathe while protecting the wine from being contaminated by sundry molds and bacteria is perking away over in the corner at a great rate.

The bubbles of carbon dioxide rising through the fluid air lock make a soft busy noise.  Every once in a while my brain interprets it as water dripping or something boiling on the stove, causing a bit of a “start” until I remember what is really going on.

When you walk in the front door, the house is redolent of fermenting grape.

The complex smell of that process is mixed liberally with the aromas of roasting tomatoes and squash added to concord grape juice scent.   Soon the perfume of baking bread will be added in.

We picked concord grapes today, too, and I have cooked them.  Now the juice is dripping out of the mass of fruit.   When that is finished, I will can the juice in quart jars.   I believe that I have about 2 1/2 gallons of juice over there, I haven’t measured it yet.   It will be tasty drinking come winter.

I brought in the butternut squash.   It filled the wheel barrow three times.   I haven’t counted them yet, but it was a grand year for winter squash.

I pulled the cucumber vines yesterday as well as the pole beans.   The cucumbers were pretty much done, and the pole beans were dead.   I built a nice compost pile with those vines, as well as the broccoli, which I pulled out of their bed a couple of days ago.   I was tired of fighting off the harlequin bugs and caterpillars.   It was amazing to watch how the tiny black ants that make the garden their home attacked the hapless worms that fell off the plants during the removal process.  It took about a minute and a half for ten or twenty ants to kill a worm, and then within minutes they would eat the whole thing.

Caterpillars must be quite tasty.   At least if you are an ant.  I wish those ants would climb up into the plants and do the same thing when those worms are making lace of the leaves.

I had a rather magical experience today as we were picking the grapes.   One of the sated honey bees flew off a bunch I was picking.  She could barely fly, and she sort of fell onto my cheek, just below my left eye.   I could peer  out the corner of my eye and see her as she strolled gently about, exploring this new territory.   I’m sure she wondered what sort of flower I was.   Her feet were feathery light on my face.   After a bit she noticed that I had been sweating, and I felt the soft touch of her tongue as she sipped the salty liquid from my skin.

I didn’t want to alarm her, after all I have no desire to be stung.   I tried to encourage her to leave by blowing air out the corner of my mouth up on my cheek.   She didn’t care.  She hadn’t a care in the world, seemingly.   Finally Jim came over and put a grape leaf next to her, and she promenaded up onto it, to be safely carried out of harms way.

I was kissed by a bee today.    Very cool.

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It’s been a very busy few weeks here at The Havens.   What with running off to the Big City to party, my massage business and Jim’s job, it almost seems like there isn’t time for anything else.

Of course, anyone who believed that would be buying into a lie.  We’ve been getting a lot done along with all the mundane money earning pastimes and various festivities.   Yesterday I finished up a batch of cucumber relish.  I make it every few years or so.   We don’t eat  that much relish, so I don’t make it every year, just like I don’t make catsup every year either.   But with the bumper crop of cucumbers we had this year, when I did inventory I realized I only had one pint of relish left, so I put together a batch the other day and canned it yesterday.   Now I have 8 pints in the food room, about four years’ supply.

I have also been roasting tomatoes on a daily basis.   We put a few trays in the oven every evening, and in the morning they look like this:

Roasting tomatoes is a great past time for people who like to play with their food.   At the stage they are in the above photograph, what I do is wash my hands well and then just get in there and pull those skins off (dead easy) and mush the tomato flesh and juice around to find any of the hard “core” sections in the pulp.   Then I scrape the roasting pan thoroughly to loosen up all that caramelized tomato that is stuck to the pans.   After all that, I pour it off into a bowl, and this is what it looks like right before I package it and freeze it.

You’ve never eaten a tastier pizza sauce, I’ll tell you.  We’ve got about 2 dozen pints of that in the freezer, so far, with lots more tomatoes coming along.

I went across the street to the garden plot we put over on the rental property and harvested my corn crop.

I planted Hopi blue, Hopi pink, and Rainbow Inca corn seeds.   My observation is that the Rainbow Inca did not pollinate very successfully, and what did get pollinated turned out to be MUCH tastier than the Hopi varieties, so the Inca corn had lots of bug damage.   However, it was a successful “sacrificial” plant in that respect, my Hope blue corn produced quite nicely and had minimal bug damage.  The Hopi pink did not produce very well either, but at least it wasn’t attractive to the bugs.

All the corn cobs are now in the sauna with a nice hot fire built.   We’ll take the temperature in there up to about 180°F and then let it sit all night.   That ought to kill any bugs that are still in the cobs, and then I can let the corn dry without losing any more of it.   When it is all very dry, I will remove the kernels from the cobs, grind them into corn meal and store that in the freezer.

I store it in the freezer because it has the germ in it, which means all the corn oil is still there.   Not only is whole grain corn meal very attractive to moths and other bugs, if you store it at room temperature it tends to get rancid.   After all the trouble to grow and make it, I’m not interested in having it go bad on the shelf.

This is why we have two freezers.  Well, three if you count the one in the basement of the rental house that we let the tenants use as long as if we need space they let us use it.   Well, four if you count the one in Jim’s workshop that has an external auxiliary thermostat that keeps it between 35 and 40 degrees, which is where we are storing melons, onions, and potatoes right now.

The other thing we did this morning was pick the first row of grapes, the Marechal foch, which were definitely ready to be picked, if you believe the bees and wasps, anyway.

This one was too full of grape juice to fly.   She’s sitting on a grape leaf about 2 inches from the bunch that I just shooed her off of so I could cut it.   Just in case you are wondering, all the little splotches on that leaf are what bordeaux mix looks like after it has dried out.   The copper sulfate on the grape leaves and vines makes the autumn bonfire quite interesting with green and blue flames.

This is the row we picked, after the netting had been removed.

We really had a great crop this year.

It’s a world of grapes in there.

Anyway, all those happy bees and wasps are why we wear gloves to harvest our grapes.

In spite of the bird netting, there is still loss to the birds.  They have figured out that they can sit on the branches under the net and reach through it to get grapes that are within their reach.   In the upper right corner of that picture above, you can see how very much they would like to have our grapes.   If we didn’t have netting on the vines, the whole vineyard would look just like those empty grape stems.

Anyway, off that row of grapes, which has 15 vines in it, we got 161 pounds of grapes, which pressed out to 23 gallons of must.   That is a substantial improvement from last year, when we got 140 pounds of grapes and 18 gallons of must.  We don’t know whether the increase in production is because the vines are another year older, or because we got such great pollination this year.

Whatever the reason, we did get very good pollination, which is why we don’t begrudge the bees and wasps their share of the juice.  I made the tactical error of walking barefoot around the area where we did the crush afterwards, and managed to offend a drunken yellow jacket, who made an admonishing brush against the sole of my foot, a light sting.   Her heart wasn’t really in it, I guess.

Now we are off to a party to celebrate the 60th birthday of one of our good friends.

It’s just party, party, party, all the time around here.   Except when it is work, work, work!

Moderation in all things, as my mother used to say.

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