Thursday, September 20, 2018

Dirty Work is Afoot

   I spent a few days a few weeks back assisting my son in building a 10 feet by 20 feet rammed earth cabin. It involved some serious manual labor, shoveling dirt, gravel and cement into a mixter, adding the correct amount of water, then mixing it all until the water was evenly distributed.  I was quite happy to oblige, when after a few days of hard labor, they determined that the most helpful thing I could do was to take their kids off their hands for a week.

    Rammed earth construction has been around for a very long time. It simply involves mixing some dirt with a little water, then pounding the dirt into a form.  It is a little more complicated than that, but not a whole lot. The dirt has to be the right mixture of sand and clay. In my son’s case their soil contains a lot of clay. Therefore, they are mixing equal parts fine gravel with their native clay soil. After some experimentation they determined that 3 shovels of gravel and 3 shovels of their clay soil, mixed with a little less than a quart of portland cement and about a half gallon of water, produced a mixture with the right consistency. The cement serves as a stabilizer and makes the wall more resistant to moisture.

John Tunnell screening the native clay soil to remove clods, sticks, roots, etc

My son, James, working at the top of the form, added the mixture and tamped it into place

      They poured a very stout foundation for the cabin, 18 inches thick. I’m not sure how deep the foundation is. There are 3 foot long pieces of rebar sticking out of rhe foundation to help secure
The wall to the foundation. In addition, they are also planning to add a concrete cap to the top of the wall, intended to help bind the wall sections together.

The pile of fine gravel

The pile of sifted clay soil

Bags of portland cement

       There are some serious advantages to rammed earth construction.  The completed building has an incredible thermal mass which tends to stay cooler in the summer.  It also is relatively inexpensive.  The major down side that I could see was a whole lot of serious manual labor.  Also, if you are building it without the benefit of heavy equipment it seems to take quite a bit of time. However, with the heavy equipment it goes much faster but isn't so inexpensive.
A completed section of wall

Tunnell family picture on the scaffolding


Friday, September 14, 2018

Family History Friday - Jonathan Calvin Cunningham in the Civil War - Part I

    This post was inspired by a recent addition to the Richland Family History Center. Someone donated a 244 volume set entitled, "The War of the Rebellion, Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies".  It contains a massive amount of correspondence, reports and orders from both armies which the US Army started compiling shortly after the end of the Civil War.   Technically, it is around 130 volumes, but many volumes consist of more than one book.  There are a total of 244 thick books which take up a whole section of shelving in the basement of the Richland Family History Center.  There is a lot of detailed information about where particular units were assigned, specific orders given to those units, and after action reports.

     About a month ago, while searching on Ancestry, I discovered the enlistment, muster, and discharge records pertaining to Jonathan Calvin Cunningham, my third great-grandfather.  I was able to attach those documents to him in my Ancestry tree.  Since my tree is public, anyone is welcome to take a look at them. I have always been intrigued by Jonathan Cunningham's Civil War service.  First of all he was born in Tennessee, lived on a plantation with slaves, found slavery to be repugnant, and moved to the Ozarks in northern Arkansas to get away from it.  After the Civil War broke out, Jonathan Cunningham went to Missouri and enlisted in the Union Army.  When he returned home after the end of the war, his wife divorced him because she couldn't handle the shame of being married to a yankee. Obviously, he made some serious personal sacrifice in order to stand up for his principles.  I found a few stories about his Civil War service in "The History of Baxter County".  The muster records provided his unit and the dates of his service.

      I will start with facts that we know from his military muster records.  Jonathan Cunningham enlisted in the Union Army at Pilot Knob, Missouri on July 5, 1863.  Pilot Knob is in southern Missouri, east of Springfield and west of Cape Girardeau. He joined Company C of the Second Arkansas Cavalry and served in that unit until he was discharged in August, 1865.  He  may have had prior service in a Union infantry unit, but I've not been able to confirm this yet. There are bimonthly muster records which indicate the soldier's current rank and company and whether a soldier was present with his unit, absent, wounded, sick, etc.  A review of his muster records show that he was present with his unit from July, 1863 through October, 1863 and that he was promoted to Corporal in September, 1863.  During November and December, 1863, Jonathan Cunningham was absent from his unit, on detached service to Fort Smith, Arkansas.  From January, 1864 through June, 1864 he was present with his unit, but was sick in a government hospital in Springfield, Missouri from July, 1864 through October, 1864. He was again present with his unit in November and December, 1864 and had been promoted to Sergeant.  The nature of his illness is not mentioned. Serious illnesses were not uncommon for Civil War soldiers and many soldiers died from diseases such as dysentary, typhoid, and cholera.  He was then present with his unit from January through August, 1865. He served with Company C for his entire term of service.

      Included with the muster records was a description of Jonathan Cunningham.  He was 5' 6 3/4" tall, with black hair, gray eyes, and a "florid" complexion. (I'm thinking of your basic red-faced irishman) The description indicated that he was a farmer,  33 years old, and further provided his place of birth as Hamilton, Tennessee. The final muster record shows that he was mustered out of the army in August, 1865 at Memphis, Tennessee.  At the time he left the army he turned in a revolver (probably a Colt), a Sharps carbine (a type of rifle with a relatively short barrel), and a saber.  So at this point we know when he served, his rank, that he served in a union cavalry regiment, what weapons he carried, and a brief physical description.

       Now back to the 244 volumes of "The War of Rebellion".  Each volume has on the spine of the book, the time period and the location covered.  I was able to determine which volumes pertained to Missouri and Arkansas, from July, 1863 through the end of the war.  I looked in the index of each relevant volume and found a list of all the pages which included a reference to the Second Arkansas Cavalry (Union).  This may sound like relatively dry research, but I found some of the reports and letters were very interesting and once in a while a bit funny.  One of the first things I learned is that during 1863 and 1864, the Second Arkansas Cavalry served primarily in southern Missouri and northern Arkansas. They were often used as single companies attached to other full regiments. It seemed that they were possibly used as scouts.  This would make sense to me as the unit consisted of men from the areas being patrolled who would be familiar with the territory.  For example, a regiment such as the Tenth Illinois Cavalry would go on a patrol or mission into northern Arkansas and would take with them one company of the Second Arkansas Cavalry.  A cavalry regiment seemed to consist of about 200 men while a company consisted of about 30 men.

       I found another reason why the Second Arkansas Cavalry may have often operated as individual companies. In a letter, dated November 12, 1863, General John Sanborn reported to his commander, General Schofield, that while on paper,  he appeared to have a sufficient force, much of his troops are not adequately armed and supplied. He listed the Second Arkansas Cavalry as a specific example, stating "A small portion of the Second Arkansas is mounted and armed."  I noticed that after action reports in addition to listing the number of men killed or wounded on each side, invariably mentioned how many horses they had captured and whether any horses had been killed.

      The first report I found pertaining to the Second Arkansas Cavalry is a somewhat funny story that I will term "The Great Bacon Debacle".   On July 25, 1863, just a few weeks after Jonathan Cunningham had enlisted in the Second Arkansas Cavalry, a company from that unit, commanded by a Captain Carpenter, was assigned to guard Union supplies in a small Missouri town with the colorful name of "Hogeye", also described in some of the reports as "Buchanan".  When the company was attacked by guerrillas, they burned the supplies and fell back to Cape Girardeau.  The supplies destroyed included 45,000 pounds of bacon.  I have a hard time imagining just how much bacon that would be.  Brigadier General Clinton B Fisk, the Union commander of the District of  Southwest Missouri, and obviously a bacon lover,  referred to the incident as follows:

         "The abandonment of Hogeye (Buchanan on the map) and the burning of the supplies by Captain Carpenter has the appearance of having been very disgraceful and cowardly. The captain and his company are now safe in Cape Girardeau.  I suppose I have no authority in the premises, as it occurred within General Davidson's jurisdiction."

      If bacon isn't worth fighting for, what is? I think it is unlikely that Jonathan Cunningham was involved in this incident as Company C was commanded by a Lieutenant Orr, rather than Captain Carpenter.  Also, the incident happen just three weeks into Jonathan Cunningham's military service.  It sounds like Captain Carpenter came very close to being court-martialed.  However, I found a number of instances in which a company of the Second Arkansas Cavalry was assigned to either guard supplies or escort a supply train.  The term "supply train" refers to a number of wagons pulled by mules and doesn't necessarily mean there was a locomotive involved.

   I found a document called the "Organization of troops in the Department of the Missouri" dated December 31, 1863, which indicated that nine companies of the Second Arkansas Cavalry were then assigned to Cassville, Missouri, while one company, Company K, was at Springfield, Missouri.  Referring back to the muster records, Jonathan Cunningham was on detached service at Fort Smith, Arkansas during November and December, 1863.  Fort Smith is located south of Fayetteville in northwestern Arkansas.  There was a road that ran south from Cassville, Missouri through Fayetteville, Arkansas, on to Fort Smith.  It was referred to as the "Wire Road" because there was a telegraph line that ran along the road, which was also used by Union supply trains.  I found a number of reports of patrols conducted by companies of the Second Arkansas Cavalry along this road.  The telegraph line was in need of constant repair as Confederate troops, guerrillas, and even sympathizers were frequently cutting the line.  I found one report in which a mother and her daughter were caught attempting to cut the telegraph line.  Guarding supply trains, protecting the telegraph line along the wire road, and searching for Confederate regular troops and guerrillas seemed to have been the primary activities of the Second Arkansas Cavalry in the latter half of 1863. I also found a few Confederate dispatches which indicated that all or part of the Second Arkansas Cavalry was at Fort Smith on a few occasions.

   Some of the after action reports only refer to the fact that a company of the Second Arkansas Cavalry was present during the patrol and don't provide any additional details.  Usually the specific company isn't mentioned, but on a few occasions the commander is named.  If Company C or Lieutenant Orr are specifically mentioned and the muster records show that Jonathan Cunningham was present with his unit at the time of the action, then it is very likely that he was a participant.  However, even if I don't know whether Company C was specifically involved in a particular patrol or skirmish, all of the reports still provide a good sample of the types of activities he might have experienced. I will provide some specific examples in my next installment,


Sunday, September 2, 2018

Ukulele Number One

    Since moving to eastern Washington I have met a wonderful new friend, Bill Willis, who loves to make ukuleles.  Bill is an chemical engineer by profession and is a serious detail guy.  He has put his heart and soul into his hobby and has produced some gorgeous instruments. Even better, he was willing to share his talents and accepted me as an apprentice ukulele maker.

     As it just so happened I had a one inch thick birch board left over from a tree that used to grow at the corner of our yard in Snohomish.  The tree had been cut down by the power company because it grew too close to our power lines. They offered to cut it into firewood length for me, but I asked them to cut them into ten foot logs.  I had no idea what I would ever do with the wood, but it seemed a waste to turn this birch tree into firewood.  I then persuaded my son-in-law to help me load it onto a truck so I could haul it over to the house of a friend who owned a Wood Miser bandsaw mill.  Ten foot long freshly cut birch logs happen to be somewhat heavy. The slab cut boards ended up at the Beez Neez Apiary Supply where they dried until they became useable lumber. I used most of the wood for various projects at the bee store. Apparently, none of the projects were very memorable as I honestly can't recall what I did with a whole birch tree. However, I had this one board left, and it coincidentally had come from the middle portion of the tree so it was close to quarter sawn. That happens to be important when you are selecting wood to make into the body of an ukulele or guitar. It also had some beautiful spalt, which is a type of figure left in the wood by a fungus.

     I took my birch board over to my friend's house  where he resawed it into very thin boards on his bandsaw.  There were a lot of knots to avoid, but we ended up with some nice useable pieces for the back, front, and sides of an ukulele.  I'm not sure as to the exact date we started this project, but it was well over a year ago.  One reason it took so long was the fact that Bill was very patient in giving me the opportunity to do as much of the work as was appropriate for my skill level.  I can only claim to have done about one third of the work, but I was able to watch the entire process from start to finish.

       We finally finished it around the end of May, 2018 and it turned out to be very beautiful. It was so pretty that it was hard to do more than sit around and look at it for a few weeks.  That was just as well as it took several weeks for the strings to stretch sufficiently that I didn't need to retune after each song. I have a lot of photos of the ukulele as it progressed along which I intend to share in this blog. However, I'm now working on several other ukuleles which hopefullywill involve me doing a much greater portion of the work. The body of this first ukulele is made from spalted birch. Black walnut was used for the rosette, the binding, and the veneer on the head piece of the neck.  The neck itself is a combination of maple and black walnut. The fretboard and the bridge are made of macasser ebony, while the nut and saddle are made of Indonesian water buffalo bone. Spruce and pine were used for the internal bracing and the tone bars on the back and front of the ukulele body.

This is just after we glued on the top of the body of the ukulele.  It still needs to be trimmed.

This is a close-up of the black walnut rosette, with Bill's label visible.

This is the back of the ukulele body which still needs to be trimmed.

      I took up playing the Ukulele about five years ago. We do a bi-annual cousin camp for our grandchildren to encourage stronger relationships with their cousins.  We chose to do an Hawaiian theme that year. We had a friend from church who was willing to give hula lessons to some of our grand daughters. That required me to learn half a dozen chords on the ukulele so I could accompany their hula performance. Then Linda bought some cheap ukuleles on line which we made available for the kids throughout our weeklong cousin camp. Now, five years later, about half of our 26 grandchildren play the ukulele.  I therefore have a long waiting list of kids who would like me to make an ukulele for them. I'm only 66 years old and am pretty healthy. We'll see how far I get.

This is the completed ukulele

Saturday, June 9, 2018

     It has been a very busy fall.  As much as I am enjoying our extra acreage, there is a lot of work associated with more things to maintain. I am in the process of rehabbing our old barn.  It is structurally more sound than it first appeared to be.  It's primary faults are a few broken windows and a dilapidated west wall. In fact, half of the west wall was missing.  That is a significant problem as that is the direction of the prevailing wind.  I am in the process of reframing the west wall and replacing the two broken windows so that the barn is more weather tight and provides better shelter to the animals.

    I'm also working to replace or repair most of our frost free hydrants.  We have a total of five. The only one that was working was the one in the back of the quonset hut, the least convenient to use for watering the animals.  This past week I was able to replace the one in the back pasture near our well house.  Now I have two working frost free hydrants. This will save me a lot of work watering animals this winter.  It was also a major personal victory for me as plumbing isn't my strong suit.  There is another non-functioning frost free hydrant in the barn that is next in line.

     I'm planning to plant blueberries and raspberries next spring.  I've decided to plant them behind the house near our underground propane tank.  That patch of lawn is relatively small and is very difficult to mow with the riding lawn mower.  I don't think it will take any more work to tend the berries than it currently takes to keep that small portion of lawn mowed and edged. In order to get rid of the grass I'm covering it with a layer of straw and leaves from our maple trees, then covering it with a tarp.  Hopefully the grass will be gone by next spring.  

    I was really pleased with our vegetable garden this year.  Most things we planted did very well, with a few minor exceptions. First, the baby geese harvested my red cabbage prematurely.  Then Buster, our goat, got out and finished up what the geese hadn't eaten. We had already harvested a lot of the green cabbages so the cabbage crop wasn't a total bust.  My attempt at sweet corn was indeed a total bust.  I planted it a bit late and I simply picked the wrong spot in which to grow it.  That spot wasn't adequately watered by the sprinklers and was too far away from any hydrant to water it with a hose.   I also had somewhat of a crop failure with my Floriano Red Flint Corn, also because of sprinkler issues.  I did end up with enough of a harvest such that I can try it out.  This is a polenta variety.

    There are several different types of corn.  The primary difference between the different types is how much of the kernel is pericarp versus endocarp.   The pericarp is the outer layer of the kernel that has the color.  The endocarp is the white inner portion of the kernel.  Flour corn has a fairly thin pericarp with most of the kernel being endocarp.  Dent corn has a thicker pericarp and less endocarp. Flint corn is mostly pericarp, with little  or no endocarp   Everyone is pretty familiar with sweet corn, field corn, and pop corn.  Field corn is dent corn.  The endocarp dries and shrinks quicker than the pericarp, resulting in the characteristic dimple in the end of many of the kernels.   Pop corn and sweet corn are both types of flint corn.  Most people are less familiar with flour corn as it is not something you would normally find in either a grocery store or a farm stand.   The pericarp is best cooked by boiling as in corn meal mush or polenta.  Thus flint corns are best suited for polenta.  The endocarp is best cooked by baking. Thus flour corns make better cornbread than flint or dent corns.  Dent corns end up in the middle, not being best for anything, much like all-purpose flour.  You can grind up dent corn and make a decent cornbread, but flour corn works better.  Most of the corn grown in the United States is dent corn.  It is grown both for animal feed and for processing into a wide variety of food ingredients, such as high fructose corn syrup.

     My paternal grandparents and my maternal great grandparents all grew corn, undoubtedly field corn.  Enos Henry Sinor, my mother's grandfather, rented two miles of railroad right of way to grow corn.  He used a lot of it to feed animals, but he also took a significant amount to be ground into cornmeal. The miller kept a third of what he ground as his payment. They had fresh cornbread almost every single day.

     Most of the corn I have grown over the past ten years have been various types of flour corns. Since I was living in western Washington for most of that time, I was very limited in the varieties that I could grow successfully.  We just didn't have enough heat in the summer to grow most kinds of corn. I did have success growing some very short season varieties such as Painted Mountain, Mandan Red Clay, and Ruby Gold, all flour corns.  Usually the rains would start before the corn had adequately dried down and I would have to bring the corn under cover so it didn't go moldy.  Now I am living in a place with plenty of summer heat.  I can probably grow about any variety of corn I chose.

     Last Saturday I paid a visit to Bill's Berry Farm near Grandview.  I went to get a load of straw bales to use as bedding for the animals and mulch for the vegetable garden.  The straw was located next to a five acre corn maze.  Bill was lamenting the fact that the corn was going to go to waste.  Apparently not many local Grandview farmers still grow field corn to harvest as grain. Most of the local corn is now harvested green and made into silage for dairy cows.  The only nearby farmer with a corn combine didn't want to get his equipment dirty for just five acres.  I asked him if I could have some and he said I could.  After loading my straw I picked enough field corn to fill half of the back seat of my pickup.  Most of it will go to my chickens this winter.   I will keep some of it on the cob as the chickens seem to enjoy having something to peck at.  I will run some of it through my corn sheller and crack it for the chickens.

      Author's Note:   I was looking at my blog this morning as I had not been posting for some months.  I discovered this draft from last fall and decided I should go ahead and post it.  A lot has happened in the past six months, to include a wonderful experience with bottle lambs, the hatching of a new generation of geese, progress on the old barn rehab, and the completion of my ukulele.  I'm going to try to get caught up and cover those subjects in my next few posts.


Friday, October 20, 2017

Moon and Stars Watermelons

     A serious up side to our move to from the west side to the east side of Washington State is the increased warmth and the resultant longer growing season.  This allowed me to grow watermelons in my garden for the first time since 1977.  I grew four different kinds.  One plant was a Sugar Baby, a type of small personal sized watermelon.  I grew that at Linda's request.  I have to confess that I am a little unclear on the concept when it comes to growing small watermelons on purpose.  I misplaced one of the seed packets so I'm unsure of the names of one of the varieties that I grew.  It was a nice round red-fleshed watermelon that ripened earlier than the others.  I also grew an orange-fleshed variety called Tendersweet.  Those melons were medium sized and were somewhat elongated.  However, the obvious  "Star" attractions of the watermelon patch were the red-fleshed Moon and Stars watermelons.  These were the last to ripen, but they were easily the largest melons.  That plant set two melons, the largest one weighing 34 pounds.  The reason for that name is pretty obvious.  The melons start out green striped, but at some point the skin turns darker green and lots of yellow dots appear all over the melon.  The yellow dots are the stars while the big yellow patch on the underside of the melon is the moon. They are really quite pretty watermelons.

     Moon and Stars is an heirloom variety.  Obviously it has seeds. Another trait of many of the older watermelon varieties is a much thicker rind than most modern watermelons.  Obviously some people considered a thick rind to be the sort of flaw that needed to be bred out of watermelons.  Anyone who has raised chickens would disagree.  Watermelon rind is my chicken's favorite treat.  I usually throw all of the watermelon rinds into the chicken pen. The following day the rinds are like curled up pieces of green paper.  The chickens peck out everything except the green skin.

Moon and Stars Watermelon

    Another benefit to a thicker rind is the possibility of pickled watermelon rind.  I remember my mother making pickled watermelon rind when I was a child.  This is a well known pickle in the South.  On the other hand, when the subject of pickled watermelon rind is raised, people from the North will often comment that they had never heard of such a thing.  I wasn't raised in the South, but my mother was.

    Recently my sweet wife gave me a special gift, a book entitled "The Joy of Pickling".  This book happened to have three different watermelon rind pickle recipes.  I tried out two of them.  The first recipe was called Gingery Watermelon Pickles and involved first soaking the peeled watermelon rind in pickling salt.  After a six to twelve hour salt soak, the pieces of rind are rinsed and cooked in a syrup seasoned with lemon, ginger, cinnamon, cardamon seeds, cloves, and allspice berries.  The second recipe was called Minty Watermelon Pickles.  In this recipe the peeled watermelon rind was first soaked in pickling lime (CalciumOxide) for eight to twelve hours.  After rinsing, the pieces of rind were cooked in a seasoned syrup containing the same seasonings as the first recipe.  The only difference was the addition of a sprig of mint to each jar before it was sealed.  Both recipes turned out well.  The primary difference was that the first recipe produced a somewhat soft pickle while second recipe produced a very crisp pickle.  I actually found the pickles made with lime to be a little too crisp.   I will have to try it again with a reduced time soaking in the lime water.

     My mother sampled the Gingery Watermelon Pickles and commented that they tasted very close to the watermelon pickles she remembered growing up in Arkansas.  However, the watermelon pickles she had as a child had more sugar and less vinegar.  I was surprised by this as there was a lot of sugar in the syrup used in each of the two recipes.

Gingery Pickled Watermelon Rind

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Mom's Very Well Used Cookbook

        My sister recently shared with me a cookbook my mother had given her.  It was a very well used cookbook that my mother had received as a wedding gift about 67 years ago.  The cover was gone so I don't know the name of the cookbook other than it isn't The Joy of Cooking.  I know that only because that was Mom's other "Go to" cookbook.   Of particular interest to me was the fact that the book contained 5 recipes my mother had added in places where there was a convenient amount of blank space.  That seems to me to be a very good feature in a cookbook, room to add additional recipes.  I thought I should preserve these recipes and some of the stories behind them.

      The first recipe is called quart relish.  This recipe came from Mrs Washburn, the mother of Glen Washburn.  My father met Glen when they lived in Rock Island, Illinois. They were both members of a local motorcycle club and became good friends.  Glen was a large man and owned his own heating and refrigeration business.  He lived at home with his parents until he finally got married in his thirties.  My mother indicated that his living at home wasn't a case of failure to launch, but simply a matter of taking care of his parents due to their limited income.  Glen Washburn had an incredible knack of showing up at my parent's home whenever my mother had just baked a pie or his favorite banana cake. His mother's quart relish recipe is a fitting memorial to their friendship.

      Quart relish gets it's name from the fact that the relish is made from a quart each of the seven main ingredients. The recipe for Quart Relish is as follows;

   Mix together  one quart each of ground Cabbage, Green Tomatoes, Onions, Unpeeled Apples, and Bell Peppers. (However, the apples should be cored)

    Press out the excess liquid and add one quart of vinegar, one quart of sugar, one tablespoon of mustard seeds, and one tablespoon of salt (obviously pickling salt).

   Mix all of this together and bring to a boiling point. Simmer for five minutes and pack into sterilized jars.   Makes approximately 5 quarts.

   I would like top add a few editorial comments.  This recipe is elegantly simple. The only thing difficult about making this or any other relish is grinding up the vegetables in a meat grinder. Note that the instructions didn't include water bath canning of the finished product.   When my mother was a young housewife, this type of open kettle canning of jams, jellies, and pickles was common.  Since the relish contains a fair amount of vinegar and sugar,  chances are good that it would keep well without water bath canning. I don't ever remember any of Mom's quart relish lasting long enough to go bad. All the same, I would recommend processing the finished relish in a water bath canner for ten minutes.   I have not used this particular recipe although I have eaten a fair amount of quart relish over the years.  It is quite tasty and the recipe is worthy of recording for posterity.  My sister and her daughters recently made a batch of quart relish and I was a fortunate recipient of a pint.  I haven't opened it yet only because the flavor of most pickled products improves if one has the patience to wait three weeks after the pickles are made before the pickles are eaten.

    While we are on the subject of relish I think we should list Green Tomato Relish as the second recipe.   I made this relish just a few days ago and I was very pleased with the results.  It came out very close to the store bought sweet pickle relish that I love to put on hotdogs.   Mom was fairly certain that she got this recipe from her grandmother, Lillie Etta Heiskill, the wife of Enos Henry Sinor.   The Sinors were subsistence farmers in Baxter County, Arkansas.  They raised most of their own food in a one acre vegetable garden and as my mother put it, "They weren't the kind of people who wasted stuff."

    I too had a large vegetable garden this year, although I don't think it was anything close to an acre.  It was probably closer to a quarter of an acre. That is still a fairly large garden by today's standards.  I planted about ten tomato plants and they produced profusely.  In anticipation of frosts in the not too distant future, I started pulling up the tomato vines for the compost pile and harvesting the tomatoes, ripe or not (mostly not).   I ended up with three five gallon buckets full of green tomatoes.  Some of them I plan to store and let them continue to ripen.  However, that isn't a workable strategy for 15 gallons of green tomatoes. Therefore, I was very happy to give the green tomato relish a try.  Between the green tomato relish and three other green tomato pickle recipes I've tried, I'm now down to a mere ten gallons of green tomatoes ripening in my shop.

         Green Tomato Relish

   1 cup of salt ( pickling salt of course)
   1 gallon green tomatoes
   1 gallon ground cabbage
   1 dozen medium onions, ground
   1 dozen sweet peppers, ground
   12 to 16 hot peppers, ground (according to taste).  I only added a few JalapeƱo peppers, partly because I only had a few hot peppers on hand and partly because I don't like really hot food.
   6 cups of sugar (or more)
   2 teaspoons of powdered dry mustard
   1 teaspoon of ground cloves
   1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
   1 teaspoon of ground turmeric
   1 teaspoon of celery seed
   1/2 gallon of vinegar.

   Add the salt to the ground tomatoes and let stand.  (The instructions didn't indicate how long to let the salted ground tomatoes stand.  I simply ground up the tomatoes first and let them stand while I ground up the other vegetables.)
   Drain the remaining ground vegetables in a cloth bag.
   Drain the tomatoes.
   Mix the drained vegetables with the tomatoes.
   Add the sugar, mustard, cloves, cinnamon, turmeric and vinegar.
   Boil five minutes.
   Add the celery seed.
   Pour while hot into sterile jars and seal.
   Makes approximately 20 pints.

Green Tomato Relish

     I have a few comments to make about this recipe.  Note again the absence of water bath canning in the instructions.  I processed my relish in a water bath canner for ten minutes.   Also note that most recipes from the 40s and 50s made large volumes of finished product.  Big families were more the rule then.  Also, while this recipe is not complicated, the grinding is a bit of work.  My feeling is "In for a penny, in for a pound."  If I'm going to the trouble of getting the meat grinder attachment for my KitchenAid mixer dirty, I'd rather do it for 20 pints of relish, rather than for a mere five pints.  Besides, the relish turned out so well that we will probably end up giving some of it as gifts.   If I don't make 20 pints, there may not be enough relish to last me until the next time I have a serious surplus of green tomatoes.


Thursday, June 29, 2017

An Adventurous Trip to the River.

      A few days ago (I believe it was Monday) Linda and I took two visiting grand children to Leslie Grove Park in Richland. It is a nice park on the Columbia River in the north part of town.  The purpose of our visit was to give Natalie (9) and Conner (7) a chance to cool off playing in the river.  As we arrived at the park I noticed the wind had picked up a bit. As I blew up an air mattress (shaped like a sea turtle) I was questioning the wisdom of letting the kids play at the river with this much wind. I knew there was no diplomatic way to be the wet blanket. Just as I was about to tell the kids that it was too windy, I looked down river and saw a big blur that was heading our way. It was like the sandstorm scene in the movie Hidalgo on a smaller scale.  You could see lightning and rain coming our way.

     The front hit about ten seconds later as the wind changed almost instantly from about 15 mph to 40 mph. We were running to the car as we were pelted by sand from the nearby beach volleyball courts. Shortly after we managed to get the kids and our stuff loaded into the car the deluge hit. Richland gets less than ten inches of rain in a year so it is a very rare occasion to see serious rain.  Instead of an afternoon at the river we settled for a bit of an adventure and a trip to Wendy's. 

     Our granddaughter Natalie is a serious cat lover and has been trying hard to win the affection of our somewhat grumpy cat, Mrs Buzz Saw.  It is a source of serious frustration to Natalie that Mrs Buzz Saw spurns her efforts to make friends. It irritates Natalie all the more that I generally ignore the cat, who responds by showering her affection on me. I'm not the one who dispenses kitty treats. I'm not the one who feeds her or calls "kitty kitty".  Yet I'm the person Buzz Saw follows around when I'm working outside. When I sit down to watch a Mariner game the cat always comes to me when she wants to be petted.   Natalie has made an effort the past few days to try pretending she didn't like cats. She was hoping some aloofness would help draw the cat to her. Sadly, she just couldn't pull it off. The cat seemed to recognize that Natalie's apparent apathy towards cats was insincere.