Saturday, June 30, 2012

A Rose by Any Other Name...

   We had a fun visit with James and Beth this evening, the big occasion being a party to celebrate grandson John Wesley Tunnell's second birthday.  I have particularly enjoyed being John's grandpa as he is pretty free with hugs and we have always seemed to hit it off pretty well.  I've always considered it a significant miracle that my grandchildren really like me. Grandchildren are such a great blessing.  We had a wonderfully fun dinner of homemade pizza grilled on the barbecue and a dirt cake birthday cake,

   After the festivities were over we heard the sad tale of how the Tunnells have lost two chickens in the last week to a raccoon.  James had bought a pellet gun to help scare the raccoon away, but they were very concerned for the safety of their sole surviving chicken. This particular chicken, named Rose, is a very special pet to Britton and Lucy. She actually seems to enjoy being petted and will let the girls carry her around. A decision was made that Rose should enter the Chicken Protection Program and take up temporary residence in a safe coop in Snohomish. Britton was very sad to be parted from her pet and it was an extended tearful farewell on Britton's part.  Rose handled the parting very stoically, "Stiff upper beak and all that."
Rose in her safe temporary quarters

     I had a busy Saturday at the bee store. However, I did manage to spend about 15 quality minutes with my wood lathe and roughed out a wooden spoon for the upcoming Mormon Pioneer Handcart Trek.  I just did a round spoon shape on the lathe then cut it in half on the bandsaw. I carved out much of the bowl of the spoon while playing scrabble with Linda at the dining room table.  Note the pile of shavings in the background.
I'm sure the pioneers would preferred to have used wood latches to rough carve their spoons

     I had purchased an Oregon Sweetmeat Squash last October and it has been sitting in a basket in our laundry room ever since.  Linda assumed it had gone bad and put it outside for me to dispose of it. It is after all the last day of June and long after the normal expected expiration date of a winter squash.  When I picked the thing up I noted that it was still pretty firm. I could find no soft spots that would indicate it had started to decay.  The color had changed a little in that it last fall it was a pale green and it had started to turn more salmon colored.  Since it appeared to still be in good shape I took it into the kitchen and cut it in half. The inside looked good too so I decided to bake it. I am absolutely amazed that a winter squash would keep 8 months in out laundry room. This is a variety with some serious potential.
Still looking good after 8 months of storage. I am impressed

    I was persuaded to try out an Oregon Sweetmeat squash after reading about them in a book titled, "The Resilient Gardener" by Carol Deppe.  She described them as good keepers and raved about their flavor so I wanted to try eating one. My only concern about this variety is that they take longer to reach maturity than some other varieties I have tried to raise so far.  I'm saving the seeds for next year. Hopefully it will be able to reach maturity if I start it in a cold frame.  I did quite a bit of cooking with squash last fall. I just never got around to cooking this one. The fact that it is so big makes it a little harder to cook as who wants to eat winter squash for three weeks. Carol Deppe actually uses the cooked sweetmeat squash to help feed her ducks.  Since the squash lasted this long it would be a terrible shame for it to go to waste now.  It is currently being baked in the oven at 375 degrees in a baking pan with a little water in the bottom of the pan.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Deception Pass

The view looking west from Deception Pass Bridge

A view of the North Beach from the Deception Pass Bridge

This is the view from the North Beach looking back at the Deception Pass Bridge

From left to right, Abby, Nancy, and Jessica holding Abram
   I got to visit Deception Pass yesterday, one of my favorite places in Western Washington.  I went as a sort of tour guide for Nancy Sweet, her daughter, Jessica, along with Jessica's husband, Gary, and their  three kids. I had great time.  We arrived at low tide so we were able to enjoy the tide pools, and collect a lot of wonderful rocks.  If I had picked up any more agates it would have hurt our gas milage on the trip home.

   I had so much fun that I forgot to take very many pictures. The above photos are from the few I took with my iPhone. Fortunately, Gary took a lot of pictures (almost 300) with their SLR digital camera.  They were very nice to let me download them onto my computer,  The trip finished with a short ferry ride from Clinton to Mukilteo. The kids were very excited to get to ride on a boat and of course the view from the ferry was breathtaking. We ended the evening with a hot dog roast at our house with all of the local grandkids attending. The two Abbys hit it off so well it didn't seem like they had just met.  It truly was a wonderful day.
Linda instructing in proper s'mores technique

Everybody loves sitting around a campfire
Abby and Abby

    I took advantage of the presence of Nancy and her family to use them as biscuit guinea pigs. I made biscuits for breakfast Tuesday morning using my favorite recipe (thus far). Nancy told me they were the best biscuits she had ever had in her life.  Since she has lived all of her life in the South I consider that to be very high praise.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Duckling and Chick Update

    I tried to do a formal head count and cleared out the unhatched eggs from the nest box.  I only found one unhatched duck egg and one unhatched chicken egg, both of which appeared to have not been fertilized.  At least I opened them and found no developing chick or duckling inside. I was unable to count the little ones as they either hide under mom or scramble around. I am assuming we have seven ducklings as I had originally put 8 duck eggs under the hen.  I'm not sure whether there were two or three chicken eggs added to the mix so we have either one or two chicks.  I've only seen one chick at a time so I don't know for sure. The mother hen, now formally christened Aiglentine, certainly has some grit.  She stuck it out for three additional days to make sure all of the viable eggs could hatch. I added a wooden ramp so the little ones can get into and out of the nest box more easily.  It appears they are doing that as there was dirt and bits of chick starter in the water I had given them.  It is very important to use non-medicated chick starter with ducklings. They eat more than the baby chicks and can overdose on the medication.  Besides, ducks are susceptible to only a small percentage of the diseases that affect chickens so they don't really need the medications.

     As I was feeding the chickens and collecting eggs I discovered that I have yet another hen wanting to go broody on me.  She pecked at me and drew blood when I collected the eggs this morning. If I let her have her way we will be eating a lot of chicken this fall.

     I made biscuits this morning using my favorite recipe thus far.  They turned out nicely and I took advantage of our company to make Nancy Sweet serve as a biscuit guinea pig. I already had to heat up the oven so I could bake short cake for tomorrow night.   Short cake is really just a sweet biscuit so I baked them together, 12 minutes at 425 degrees.  I used Short Cake Recipe II on page 83 of my favorite retro cook book, the Fannie Farmer Boston Cooking School Cookbook.  The ingredients are 2 cups flour, 4 teaspoons baking powder,  1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 tablespoon sugar, 3/4 cup milk, and 1/3 cup butter.  I mixed the dry ingredients, cut in the butter, added the milk, rolled them out on a floured board, and cut them into heart shapes.  I did modify the recipe a little in that I substituted buttermilk and 1 teaspoon of baking soda rather than the milk and baking powder.  I'd rather not have the extraneous aluminum phosphate and corn starch that comes from baking powder in my baked goods.
Freshly baked short cake

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Soapstone at Lake Wenatchee

     I went with Linda and our friend Nancy over to Lake Wenatchee in eastern Washington to collect some soapstone.  The reason I need the soapstone is for a project I'm doing for my daughter Sarah and their Stake's pioneer trek activity.  They needed a block of stone to use as a facsimile of a temple cornerstone and soapstone seemed like a good choice.  I'm not sure we have anyone with either the skill or tools necessary to cut and shape a good size piece of granite. Soapstone, on the other hand, can be filed, sanded, and otherwise shaped pretty easily. Besides, it was common knowledge in the family that I knew a place where soapstone could be collected.

       The site where we gathered the soapstone has a wonderful view of  Lake Wenatchee and the surrounding mountains. It really is quite picturesque.  Not that I remembered to take any pictures of the view.  Fortunately, Linda took some good scenery photos, as well as some good nature photos.  I took my chainsaw to cut off the soapstone. I knew from personal experience that it is a tedious task with hand tools, especially if a larger chunk of stone is needed. It still took about an hour to carve off a piece of the stone and do some rough shaping of the piece into something rectangular.  The main reason I had to do the rough shaping on site was also to get it down to a size I could carry.  We're allowed to collect 25 pounds each so I was limited to 75 pounds which was already more than I wanted to carry.  The chainsaw worked pretty well, but I had to take my time as it was very easy for the blade to overheat.  The chainsaw generated a pretty good cloud of talc dust as well as enough talc dust on the ground to make for some slippery footing. I had a brand new chain on the saw, which I am sure is now severely trashed.
One very heavy, somewhat rectangular piece of soapstone
     Now that the soapstone has been collected, I still need to take a belt sander to it and get the sides more square and smooth.  I think they also want a date carved into it.  I haven't weighed the block yet, but I would guess it is somewhere near 60 pounds. I was lucky I didn't have to carry it very far to get it to the car.  Some of the pieces I trimmed off can also be used for some carving projects when I have some free time. I just need to think of something worthy of being memorialized in soapstone. If any of my blog followers are interested in trying their hand at carving soapstone, please let me know.  I have enough to share.
Linda with our good friend, Nancy Sweet

     Some other interesting events associated with our trip to Lake Wenatchee included milk shakes at Zips, the sighting of a mule deer doe with a very young fawn, the delivery of a queen bee along with her entourage to a customer from Wenatchee, and a chipmunk being temporarily trapped in our car.  The beekeeper was someone to whom I had shipped a queen several weeks earlier.  Unfortunately, the post office did not effect a timely delivery and the previous queen arrived in a severely stressed condition. Consequently, she didn't start laying once she had been installed in the hive.  Not wanting to give the  post office a chance to damage the replacement queen, I took advantage of the opportunity to make a personal delivery.  We arranged to meet the customer in the parking lot of the Squirrel Tree Restaurant in Coles Corner. They were thrilled to have a new queen for their hive.  I won't elaborate on the chipmunk or the fawn as I will leave that for Linda to blog about.

    The milk shakes are certainly worthy of mention.  Zips is located on the south side of Highway 2 out past Gold Bar. This burger joint has been there for as long as we have lived here and has been a traditional stop on the way home from scout activities and other trips to the mountains. They have the most wonderful milk shakes, my favorite being their black cap raspberry. This time I was seduced by another flavor when I noticed they made rhubarb milk shakes.  I thought this was something new, but the server assured me that they had been making rhubarb milk shakes for a very long time.  I got rhubarb, Linda got black cap raspberry, and Nancy got a banana malt.  After trying each other's milk shakes we all agreed that the raspberry was definitely the best.  Although I thought the rhubarb shake was pretty good, Linda made a face when she tried it.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

We have ducklings

    Yesterday was the day I expected to have some ducklings hatch out and I wasn't disappointed.  When I checked under the hen yesterday afternoon I was able to pull out the empty shells from three duck eggs. The newly hatched ducklings were hiding under their surrogate mother. I didn't want to disturb them too much as there were other eggs that might still have been hatching. The jury was still out on several chicken eggs and another 5 duck eggs.  This morning  I moved nest box with the hen and her adopted ducklings to the chicken tractor so she can mother them without any harassment by the roosters.  As I did some checking I found that I now have 4 ducklings and one chick with another two ducklings in the process of hatching.  I don't know who will turn out the stranger, the ducklings raised by a hen or the lone chick with ducklings for siblings.
Not the best photo, but still pretty darn cute.

     Our friend Nancy flew in from Texas last night.  This triggered the usual flurry of cleaning that company brings.  When I got home from work, Linda was waiting with a chore list for me.  I should have taken the occasion to butcher one of the roosters so we could sing, "Oh we'll all have chicken and dumplings when she comes!"  I'm anxious to try out my new biscuit flour in dumplings.  I've also committed to make shortcakes for a little gathering following our ward temple night Saturday evening.  If the new flour makes as much difference on the shortcake as it did with the biscuits, they should be extraordinary.  Our strawberry production is ramping up just in the nick of time.  Our everbearing strawberries have been giving us fruit for over a week. Our June bearing strawberries just started to kick in this week. The strawberries seem bigger this year, possibly because I weeded out the strawberry patch a little earlier.

     I'm not sure where Linda found this, but it is a fun place to put the eggs until we have enough to fill an egg carton. One of our hens lays just brown eggs, while another hen lays brown eggs with little dark brown speckles.  This egg tree will be even more colorful when our Ameraucana hens start to lay. We will then have blue and possibly green eggs added to the mix. The Ameraucana chickens are descended from Chilean chickens that were imported to the Falkland Islands, then to Great Britain,  then to North America.  The original Araucana stock was interbred with other varieties of chickens to produce the Ameraucana.  They come in a variety of colors, but all have little feather muffs on their face and pea combs.   They are supposed to be pretty good egg layers for a medium size chicken, laying about 250 eggs per year. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Biscuit Update III

    I made biscuits this past evening using liquid bacon grease.  I wanted to try this method as this was the way my mother made biscuits on a daily basis when she lived with her grandparents in Arkansas.  I wasn't real happy with how they turned out, but I'm certain that was more a matter of operator error than a problem with the technique.  Since she had no exact recipe to give me I should have waited until she was here to make helpful suggestions as to amounts.  I did learn one important thing.  When liquid bacon grease is used it seems that a little grease goes a long way.  I had difficulty mixing the dough because the flour wouldn't absorb the buttermilk as well as it normally would have if I had used chilled butter or lard. In order to get the dough to the point where I could use it I had to add more flour, more baking soda, and more buttermilk.  Normally I use 1/2 cup of chilled butter, lard, or shortening.  I suspect that with liquid bacon grease, 1/4 cup would be more than enough.
Rather rough looking, but reasonably fluffy

    I ended up making drop biscuits as the dough was way too wet to roll so I could cut out the biscuits as I normally would do.  That was okay since Mom never rolled out her biscuits either.  The biscuits were kind of rough looking, but they were reasonably fluffy.  Also, I forgot the salt.  I normally use about half of the salt that my recipe calls for.  I like low salt, but I can't say that I care for no salt. This was definitely a step backward from my recent results. Fortunately the chickens are less discriminating about the level of salt in their biscuits so they won't go to waste. I will give this method another try with a smaller amount of liquid bacon grease. I'm thinking 1/4 cup would be more than adequate.  .

      Linda finally got home last night from visiting relatives.  We celebrated by playing scrabble as we enjoyed some coconut cream pudding. The pudding was the leftover filling from a coconut cream pie I made for one of the boy scouts. Linda was very happy with the way the garden looks out front. I was a little concerned she might come down with a  case of buyer's remorse regarding the front yard garden.
Coconut Cream Pudding

    I guess it is officially summer now that my water lily has bloomed.  I was also able to get a photo of our elusive gold fish that lives among the water lilies.  I put quite a few feeder gold fish into my water garden last year and this is the only survivor. He lasted through the winter in the water garden. It was probably the gold fish equivalent of the Donner party.  I'm accepting suggestions for a name for the gold fish. I'd like to put some more fish in this year, but I've been waiting for an opportunity to take one of the grand kids to the pet store.

Gold fish hiding under a lily pad

Summer is here

Monday, June 18, 2012

Joshua's Wedding

   I made a quick trip to eastern Washington on Saturday to attend my nephew's wedding.  I say quick trip as I had to drive pretty fast to get there in time (or almost in time). The wedding started at 1:00 p.m. and I arrived at 1:05p.m.  It was held at the Riverview Baptist Church in Pasco and was a very nice ceremony other than the fact that the Baptist preacher got a little carried away at the end.  He couldn't resist a captive audience for a little hellfire and damnation call to repentance.  Joshua's new bride, Kelsey, is a real peach and I expect they will have a happy life together.  It was nice to see relatives and I enjoyed hanging out with grandchildren as both the Kangs and Tunnells made the trip.

Lilly Kang anxiously waiting to release her balloon

And there they go.
    After the wedding ceremony they had a reception at the Hampton Inn in Richland.  The food was good and I got to spend some quality time with my grandson John watching the boats in the river. The kids enjoyed the balloon release they did when the happy couple departed.  Somehow Hannah Kang ended up with the bridal bouquet.  I didn't think to take any pictures until the reception was almost over.

good times at the wading pool 

     After the reception, Linda and I hung out with James and his little family in Howard Ammon Park and the little Tunnell children got to play in the very same wading pool that Grandma Linda played in as a kid.  It started out as they were just going to get their feet wet, but took less than a minute to escalate into a full scale swim party.  I rode home to Snohomish with James and Beth as Linda needed to stay in Richland for another day to attend a barbecue at her brother Mark's house on Sunday afternoon.  It was a fun ride home other than the fact that Beth beat me like a gong at scrabble. I think it was the worst drubbing I had ever received at Scrabble.  She started the game with a seven letter word and it went downhill from there.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Road Construction Completed

    The work on the access road is complete for the time being. The road is past our property through to the site where they need to do some repair on some of their equipment. That work is scheduled to take place next week, after which we probably won't see the water people again for some time.  Eventually they want to put the road all the way through to the next street, but that probably won't happen this year.  When it does happen it won't have any impact on us.

Access road looking west

Access road looking east

    In the process of working on the road they cut down a number of good sized red alder trees and two bitter cherries.  Its very tempting to try and salvage some of the wood for something other than firewood.  Alas I already have two maple trees that will need to come down some time in the coming year. The goats girdled the trunks so they are in the process of dying. Linda has expressed skepticism that the trees are really dying because they still have leaves. I think she is suspicious that I am merely lusting after the wood. I would like to have some nice Maple buzzed up into 2 inch thick planks. However, I currently  have a good part of my garage space filled with 1x6 cedar planks that will soon be ready to plane into tongue and groove for our ceiling.  So much good wood and so little disposable time.

    One happy outcome of the water right of way access road is that we now are pretty clear about the location of the property line on the north side of our lot.  Other than a portion of our blueberry patch, almost all of the property on our side of the access road belongs to us.  I am going to end up with an additional eight feet in the area I'm using for my bee yard.  That will make the beehives less crowded. A small portion of my erstwhile corn patch remains.  Now that the construction is through I will be able to use that for a small garden area on the north side of the duck pen(emphasis on the word small).  There isn't enough room there to grow corn, but a lot of other things will work there.  I have about 20 corn plants left there so I will at least get to see how my new variety of indian corn works out.  I just won't expect the ears to be filled out well.  Also there will be enough room for another clothes line for Linda. I have resolved to build a more sturdy clothes line this time around. The last one was somewhat ramshackle.
The Dry Beans are doing well

Pole Beans and Broccoli

    Our garden out front is looking pretty good. I spent some time this past week transplanting the broccoli and lettuce starts that Rachel sent home with me. Both the pole beans and the dry beans are up in the front garden.  I planted some of Linda's flowers around the birdbath as requested.  I've gathered some Indian Plum withes for a cutesy fence surrounding the garden in front, the fence being one of Linda's prerequisites.

    Hopefully we are getting close to the hatch date for some ducklings.  I checked on the hen this morning and she is still happily setting away.  June 19th was the date I estimated we should be able to expect something to hatch out.  My plan is to see if the hen will try and mother the little ducklings. If not, I will have to transfer them to a cage and take care of them myself.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Oregon Trip

   I drove down to the Portland area with Linda on Thursday and spent a few lovely days with grandchildren before I had to come home again on Saturday.  I am so grateful for Quentin who helps makes family time like this possible. My primary reason for making the trip was Linda's sore back which made it difficult if not impossible for her to drive.  However, It was a lot of fun to see the Oregon grandkids.
Hannah Kang with her new sweater and tam hat

     I was able to deliver our latest sweater collaboration to Hannah Kang.  I say "our" because I spin the yarn and my mother knits the sweaters.  If the grandkids had to wait for me to knit the sweaters there wouldn't be very many sweaters yet.  As it is I think we are up to 7.  Only 14 more to go.  My mother finished this sweater several weeks ago, but I wanted to knit a matching tam hat to go with it.  I spun the yarn from a blend of sheep wool and wool I sheared from Black Jack, one of our two pygora goats.  The addition of some sheep wool results in a yarn that has memory and can be blocked to a particular shape.

     The trip to Oregon included attendance at a dance event in which some Kang family friends participated (Woodwards and Knaup). It was held at a Masonic Hall in Portland and was a fun time.  Rachel Kang is on the waiting list and hopefully will be a member of the group next year. Friday evening we had dinner at The Arnett's home and got to tour Rachel's garden.  She has a serious green thumb plus their spring is several weeks ahead of ours.  On Saturday morning we had breakfast at Maggie's Buns in Forest Grove and experienced their maple-bacon cinnamon rolls. They were pretty darn good.
Chloe Kang with her first batch of biscuits

     I took advantage of the trip to share some of my cake flour with the Kangs so they could experience biscuit nirvana without the salt.  I gave a biscuit lesson to Chloe Kang on Friday morning. We had to make fake buttermilk by adding lemon juice to regular milk and we had to use vegetable  shortening.  The biscuits turned out pretty well and didn't end up tasting lemony.  I don't know if the one lesson will be enough for Chloe to start cranking out biscuits several days a week. (More a reflection on my teaching skills than Chloe's aptitude) However, I can always do a few refresher lessons during the summer.  Four year old Lilly gave the ultimate compliment on Saturday morning when she asked me if we could have biscuits for breakfast again.

     It was sad to have to leave.  Its such a wonderful thing to have grandchildren who are so glad to see us and we are so glad to see them.  I will just have to a settle for some vicarious grand children time through Linda, who is spending an additional week with the Kangs.  She is going to take a genealogy trip with them to Dayton, Washington.  It sounds like fun.  I will see them again at my nephew Josh's wedding this coming weekend.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Access Road Update

View of new road looking west

The blueberry bushes escape the construction destruction
    Work finally started on the access road on Tuesday morning.  They moved the big pile of the mulched up remains of the large cedar tree.  It only took a couple of bucket loads of the big scoop loader to move it out of their way over to a new pile by the other large cedar tree.  Now I will really be under the gun to get it all moved and distributed as it is currently impedes the use of the little swing there. I would have enjoyed watching the heavy equipment at work, but I had to work at the bee store Tuesday and Wednesday. You will note the blueberry bushes were just south of the roadway. I'm glad I only had to transplant onions and potatoes,  Transplanting 14 mature blueberry bushes would have been a serious ordeal and it would have set the plants back severely.
   I walked two miles this morning.  I'm trying to get into good shape for Trek.  I've not been very consistent in my first week of walking, as I'm only up to a total of 6 miles so far.  I've set a goal to walk 100 miles by the end of June. Progress on that goal will be much faster once I am going farther than two miles each day.  I'm sure I'll have encouragement to walk while visiting the Kangs this weekend.

    I tried another variation on my biscuit recipe.  We fried some bacon for some wonderful bacon, lettuce, tomato, and avocado on toasted wheat bread sandwiches.  I poured the bacon grease through a paper towel and saved it for my next batch of biscuits. I didn't pour it into the dry ingredients while liquid (Grandma Cozette's method) as I wanted to test one variation at a time. I cut in the bacon grease using a pastry cutter.  Also the bacon grease was room temperature as opposed to chilled. The biscuits were wonderful, but not any more wonderful than the ones made with butter.  Possibly they were a smudge less flakey because of the fact that the bacon grease wasn't cold.  I couldn't really tell without a side by side comparison and I can't really afford to make two batches of biscuits for side by side comparisons unless I have a lot of biscuit guinea pigs visiting to eat them all. The bacon grease added flavor, but yet the biscuits didn't taste like bacon. Not that it would be a bad thing to have bacon flavored biscuits.  I took the extra biscuits to work and let the neighbors try them. I took some to the guys at the electric motor repair place to the north and one to the ice cream business to the south.

    Breaking news on the vegetable garden.  My Rockwell and Yin Tang dry beans both started to poke out of the soil yesterday.  One day there was nothing showing and the next about half of the beans were up.   I think in western Washington it really speeds up the process with any kind of bean if they are pre-germinated as they germinate best if the soil is about 60 degrees. We are currently lucky to see 60 degrees as a daytime high. I'm sure our soil temperatures are still a little cooler than that.

Newly emerged Rockwell dry beans

Monday, June 4, 2012

Sour Milk Griddle-Cakes and the Great Maple Syrup Contraversy

    We had two of our grandchildren spend the night on Saturday.  When I fixed breakfast for them on Sunday morning. Natalie chose to have pancakes.  I usually just use a mix, but there wasn't enough left in the bag.  I looked in my Fannie Farmer cookbook for a good pancake recipe and settled on Sour Milk Griddle-Cakes on page 77.  I had buttermilk on hand as I've been using it in my continuing quest for the perfect biscuit.  The recipe called for 2 1/2 cups of flour, 2 cups of sour milk (i.e. buttermilk), 1 egg, 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.  The batter turned out very thick, about half way between what I normally do for pancakes and biscuit dough.  Sometime I will have to try making the griddle-cakes exactly according to the recipe, but I didn't want to end up with something too different from what the kids  were used to eating. Therefore, I added a bit more buttermilk the thin out the batter.  I used my biscuit flour rather than all-purpose flour.  They turned out very well. Conner and Natalie each ate two.  I made up some syrup using sugar, water, and maple flavoring as some of the grandchildren have a strong preference for syrup on their pancakes.  When I asked the kids which they wanted, Conner shouted out "Honey!"  It made me feel proud.

    Linda thought the pancakes turned out well too, but questioned me on how I made the syrup. Unfortunately, Linda is not a big honey fan.  I told her that I had brought two cups of water to a boil, added two cups of sugar, and when he sugar was dissolved added about a teaspoon of maple flavoring.  She then told me how to make maple syrup the way she had been taught by her mother.  Heat one cup of water, but don't let it come to a boil.  Add two cups of sugar, stir until dissolved and add the maple flavoring. Linda had been taught by her mother that if the water came to a boil they syrup would later crystalize. Apparently she thought my syrup was a bit thin. She explained to me that this is how she had been taught by her mother and it was how her grandmother and great grandmother had made the syrup.  It was also the way she had made the syrup all the years that our kids were growing up.  I prefer to  have honey on my pancakes and had never paid much attention to the making of the syrup.  However, in the future my syrup efforts will conform to the traditional family recipe.

    Just out of curiosity I looked in the Fannie Farmer cookbook to see if it had any instructions regarding maple syrup, real or adulterated.  To my surprise there was no mention of it other than as an ingredient.  It is possible that artificial maple flavoring didn't exist in 1896, when Fannie Farmer's Boston Cooking-School Cookbook was first published.  It is also possible that since she was from New England the concept of artificially flavored maple syrup might have been high heresy.

Garden Removal Completed

   The garden removal job is finally finished. I was getting really tired of spending so much quality time with my new wheelbarrow.  I still have a few more things to plant in the new garden in the front yard, but all the dirt moving is finished.  So here I sit at my computer at 9:45 a.m. working on this blog post and the work crew still hasn't shown up.  I guess I'd rather be ready and not have them show up on the scheduled day than have them show up before I was ready.

      I had another complication added to my life this past Friday.  A man from the City of Everett Public Works dropped off a piece of heavy equipment for the access road project. I talked to him for a while and learned that the road wasn't going in exactly where I thought it was going to be.  There was a minor glitch in the placement of the stakes and the road was actually going to cut across the corner of the goat pen fence.  This meant I had to take down the affected portion of the fence and redo it .  I was already planning to redo the goat fence as I needed to fell a few trees within the goat pen.  However, I would have preferred to move the fence at my leisure rather than as an emergency project with a very short deadline.  To make matters worse I had church and work obligations for most of the weekend.

    I was finally able to start moving the goat fence on Sunday afternoon.  I try not to work on Sunday but I considered this to be a serious "ox in the mire" case.  I staked Buster and Black Jack out in our little woods and left them to an afternoon of gorging on blackberry bushes.  I then worked furiously to complete the project before dark, at least it was furiously by my standards.  I finally finished at about 9:00 p.m. with the light just starting to fade.  I was even able to move a little tree for Linda before it got pitch dark.
The new goat fence

The old fence line looking west

The old fence line looking east

    I generally let beans and peas soak overnight before I plant them.  I think they germinate faster that way and I can tell which seeds are viable before I plant them.  It's just like that scripture in Alma where it talks about being able to tell it is a good seed as it swells and begins to grow.  I had purchased a cheap package of Blue Lake pole beans that were on sale several months ago.  When I soaked them only 72 percent of the seeds turned out to be viable.  In this case it didn't matter much as I only needed about two dozen seeds to germinate. Several weeks ago I had done the same thing with the two dry bean varieties I planted in the new garden in the front yard. The difference was that every last bean of the Rockwell and Yin Yang beans germinated.  Seeds that are on sale are not always a bargain. Often they are old and of poor quality. The Yin Yang beans came from a friend and were harvested this past fall.  The Rockwell beans were purchased from Uprising Seeds in Bellingham, Washington.
73 percent germination 


Sunday, June 3, 2012

Wasting Away

     I've been working on loosing some of my excess weight the past few months.  Package bee season helped me get started as I'm often so busy that I end up missing lunch.  I've had the additional incentive of Trek coming up in another month.  For anyone who isn't LDS that reads this blog, Trek is a "pioneer" experience where we take our older youth on a week long 20 mile trek pushing hand carts like some of the earlyMormon pioneers. I was involved in a Trek experience with our stake about six years ago.  My daughter, Sarah, enlisted me to go with their Stake when they do their Trek activity in early July. This will take place in eastern Washington where it is a very safe assumption that it will be hot and sandy.  I figured I would do much better hiking in the heat if I lost about 20 pounds.  Yet another incentive is the fact that losing weight makes a huge difference with my sleep apnea.  In the past two months I have lost 14 pounds.  I am down to 186 having peaked at 200.  I would like to get down to 175.  I think if I can get down to 180 before Trek, the 20 mile hike through the desert may help me lose the last five pounds.

   I was looking at my blueberries yesterday morning and it appears they are setting fruit very well. I'm expecting a bumper crop of blueberries. We have 14 blueberry bushes at present as we lost one bush this past winter. I imagine some of you are surprised I didn't invite you to a funeral. I do love my fruit trees and bushes but I try to keep things rational.  All three varieties of plums on my plum tree also appear to have set fruit well and it is looking very good so far for the sweet cherries. All six sweet cherry trees have set at least some fruit. The forecast is less rosy for the apples and my two little pie cherry trees as we had more rain when they were blooming. The strawberries, on the other hand, are loaded with developing fruit.  We picked our first strawberry just a few days ago.  For the benefit of those who live nearby I'm sure I will be anxious for someone to give me a break on the strawberry picking within a few weeks.
A few of 50 or so Chojuru pears on my Korean pear tree

    I have a little asian pear tree.  Excuse me, I should say I have a little Korean pear tree.  Chris, my Korean son-in-law, always corrects me on that point.  I have grafted four different varieties onto the one tree.  Last year was the first year it fruited, with just the first or lower variety bearing fruit.  I think I harvested a total of 12 pears.  This year it is producing a much larger crop, most of it still from the lower branches. However, it has set at least one pear for each of the other three varieties so I'll get a little taste of its ultimate potential.  The four varieties on the tree are Chojuru, Mishirasu, Shinseiki, and Hamese.  There is one very odd thing with my Korean pear. It seems that all of the different varieties have Japanese names.  I'm thinking that the Koreans may need to lodge a strong protest with the Japanese over that.