Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Beeswax Candles

     I just finished my last scheduled candle class for this year last Tuesday evening.   We've been selling a lot more beeswax candles than years past so I spent most of my time at work this past week making candles.  Once someone has tried a real beeswax candle, it's hard for them to ever go back to paraffin candles.  I've done votives, tea lights, dipped tapers, all sorts of poured candles, and even some hand dipped 1/2 inch diameter tapers for birthday candles. Our newly setup Christmas tree also got me in the mood to do some beeswax ornaments.  I was even able to persuade Linda to let me put some of them on our tree.
Rustic Fern Piller

Hand dipped beeswax tapers

Beeswax ornaments

Votives

Tea lights

     The bee store doesn't make much money doing the candles, but it comes at a slow time of year.  Its good to stay busy at this time of year and anything that brings in a little revenue is nice. In past years, I've used the extra candles from the classes to stock the bee store with candles.  This year, the students have purchased almost all of the candles we have made in class. Consequently, I've had to spend more time at work pouring candles.  I don't know how many candles I can sell at the store, but I know I can't  sell them if I haven't made them.  I usually pass on to the customers a favorite quote from Jonathan Swift; the one where he refers to honey and beeswax as the gifts of  "sweetness and light".

    I have to admit that I really enjoy making candles and playing with the beeswax.  Our primary source of beeswax is cappings that we purchase from some local Ukrainian commercial beekeepers.  I have a cappings melter that does a pretty good job rendering the beeswax. Last year we rendered over three hundred pounds of beeswax.  I say we, but really my minion Quentin did most of the work rendering the wax.  I personally have twelve beehives and I only got about three pounds of beeswax from my own hives. My preferred way to render beeswax is to use a solar wax melter. Cappings wax done in a solar wax melter turns out a light cream color as opposed to the yellow wax we get from the water jacket cappings melter.  The big problem with that is we only have about six weeks during the year when it is sunny enough and warm enough for my solar wax melter to work.  Also we have more time to fool with rendering beeswax in November and December.  Hence most of our beeswax is done with the water jacket cappings melter.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

French Christmas Carols

    I've been working on learning French for the past year or so.  This is partly to atone for the only D grade I ever received in my life which was in first year French in the eighth grade. The reason for my poor grades in French are pretty obvious to me now. At the time I had little or no understanding of English grammar and I had very poor study habits.  I was smart, a good reader, and was able to get by just fine in most classes without putting in much effort. Foreign languages on the other hand, were not like most other classes. They require diligent study and consistent effort. I'm sure my high school French teacher would have never believed that I would ever learn any foreign language, let alone two. I'm sure she also would never have picked me as a likely candidate to become a professional linguist. So here I am with a moderate fluency in Italian and Russian, along with a smattering of German and French.

     Last week, as part of my continuing efforts to learn French, I decided to learn some Christmas carols in French. Songs can really stick in our brains. I can still remember a children's song from first year French class, "Sul La Pont d'Avignon".  If a "D" student can still remember a French children's song after 40 years that shows what a powerful memory tool music can be.  I picked three carols to learn this month,  "Angels We Have Heard on High "(Les Anges Dans Nos Campagnes), "Oh Christmas Tree" (Mon Beau Sapin), and one that we don't appear to sing in English called "Il Est Ne Le Divin Enfant".  At least I haven't found an English version of that carol yet.  I found a number of helpful YouTube videos that included the lyrics of each carol.  I just looked up Christmas carols in French and found lots to chose from.

     "Angels We Have Heard on High" is one of my favorite Christmas carols and happens to be of French origin.  I didn't have to look very hard to find the French lyrics as they are available on the LDS.org website.  I simply looked up the hymn and selected French as the language option. I love the bass line in the Chorus of this song.  The church website didn't give me any help with the French pronunciation, but that was easy enough to find that on YouTube. 

     I remember having heard "Il Est Ne Le Divin Enfant" as an instrumental but I don't recall having heard it sung before I started this little project. I don't know what it was titled in English. I think I may even have it on a Celtic Christmas CD.  It is really quite a lovely carol, especially when sung by children.  Maybe I can teach the chorus to some of my grand children who will be visiting us over the Christmas holiday. There is a line in the chorus that translates to "Play the oboe, resonate the bagpipes". The Scots and Irish apparently don't have a monopoly on bagpipes.  Bagpipes were a traditional celtic instrument.  They survive in some form in the folk music of both France and Italy and probably other countries as well.  In parts of northern Italy it was traditional to have shepherds come into town to play music around Christmas. Along with other instruments, they played some kind of bagpipe. A French country bagpipe is called a musette.

     Oh Christmas Tree is an old German carol but I picked it because it seemed pretty easy to learn. The phrase "Mon Beau Sapin" is repeated six times.  Once you have the title of the song down you are almost halfway to having the whole carol memorized.

    I really love Christmas carols in any language. I like to get an early start on singing and listening to Christmas music.  One of the many reasons I enjoy singing in our ward choir is the opportunity to start singing Christmas music in October.  While she doesn't care for my Klezmer Christmas CD, Linda and I both agree on the subject of early Christmas music. My favorite Christmas CDs at present are "Oy to the World" by the Klezmonauts,  "Irish and Celtic Christmas Music", and the Gothard Sisters Christmas CD.

     The Gothard Sisters are from Edmonds, Washington. They combine celtic music with Irish dance. They first started performing as a means to earn the money to travel to an Irish dance competition in Ireland.  They did so well that they forgot about the dance competition. One sister plays the guitar while two of them play fiddle.  Several of them play the Irish drum as well and all three of them do Irish dance. One of the things I like about them is the fact that although their voices are very good, they don't sound professional.  They don't clutter up a beautiful song with all of the "performance" aspects. Its generally about singing the songs and not about showing off their voices. I guess they get the showing off out of their systems when it comes to dancing.  We have tickets to attend one of their Christmas concerts this coming Thursday in Lynden, Washington.  Our schedule didn't work for any of the closer concert locations. We're looking forward to taking some of the Veatch kids with us. It should be fun.  

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Oh Christmas Tree!

    We put up our Christmas tree earlier this week. Its a bit on the small side for my taste but it is a very pretty tree.  Linda and I have a running disagreement on the best size for a Christmas tree. She likes them smaller, while I like them larger.  I cut down one of the Dwarf Alberta Spruces that Linda planted some years back. She originally planted them with the idea that they could be used for Christmas trees.  Being dwarf trees, they have grown slowly and are just now approaching six feet in height. They are also full to a fault. While I would have liked a bigger tree, it was very nice to cut one down in the back yard. It was also very convenient.
Our newly installed Christmas tree, yet undecorated.

      Linda took charge of decorating the Christmas tree.  Of course it turned out very cute.  I thought her enthusiasm for decorating the tree was even cuter. I realize that some of our Christmas traditions have pagan origins. However, we can chose to have as much Christ in our Christmas as we want. We can focus on either material things or the true meaning of the celebration. In that vein Linda made some new ornaments for our tree that display 12 names for Christ. She found a font she liked and printed them out on the computer. Then she used some wide mouth canning rings, painted white, which she used to frame them. They turned out very nice. I didn't think to ask if she thought it up by herself or if she found the idea on Pinterest or in Martha Stewart Living. Personally, I think recognizing someone else's good idea is almost as good as having one on your own. Now for a little photographic tour of our Christmas tree.

One of Linda's new ornaments

A tatted ornament made by Grandma Cozy

A tatted angel made by Grandma Cozy

An ornament Beth made at a Relief Society activity

An ornament made by a good friend from an old Christmas card

Another one of Linda's new ornaments
Linda got this at the Relief Society Christmas party

I think we've had this star for a long time.
     Our Christmas tree has a general color scheme of green white and gold. However, it still has a lot of handmade ornaments, many of which came from family and friends. I've persuaded Linda to let me add some beeswax ornaments, natural color of course so they don't violate the color scheme.  The thing I like best about our little tree is that it helps remind us what are supposed to be celebrating, the birth of the Savior.

Our Christmas tree fully decorated



Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Gratitude

   We had a lovely Thanksgiving.  It was a wonderfully happy chaos with only half of our grandkids in attendance.  One of the things I am most grateful for is my family. How could I not love a holiday which provides quality time with loved ones and a good excuse to enjoy some of our favorite foods.

     I think we showed a little restraint this year in that we only had seven pies this year. I made one heavenly hazelnut pie, three pumpkin pies, and a cherry pie. My daughter, Rachel, made a blender lemon pie and a banana creme pie.  I also made fish eye pudding (tapioca) and Linda bought some Costco pumpkin rolls.  The guest of honor was a pretty good sized turkey, accompanied by the usual mashed potatoes and turkey gravy. We had bought a ham that we didn't use. We also had a lovely fruit salad, sweet potatoes, olives, Beth's dinner rolls, a quinoa dish, Grandma Cozy's scalloped corn, and a number of other tasty dishes. The amazing thing was how much food we had left over at the end.  With a head count of 25 and only one turkey, I didn't expect there would be much turkey left at the end of the day.   Yet somehow I made two gallons of turkey and noodles from the carcass and I am still eating leftover turkey a week later.
Lucy Tunnell helping herself to the fruit salad

Madelynn Veatch and Cassy Parrot

Luna Wessel and Abby Veatch
       Mike Veatch brought his electronic drum set.  After dinner we enjoyed a nice little jam session with Mike on drums, Chet Arnett on guitar, and Madelynn on trumpet.  I was really amazed at how good Madelynn sounds on her trumpet. She sounds like she had been playing it for a lot longer than just a year and some change.  After the big boys were through playing with the drums some of the younger kids gave them a try. John Tunnell was really rocking out. I was so grateful the drums were electronic with a volume control.





Thursday, November 28, 2013

Beekeeper Kids

    Linda recently visited some of our kids and grandkids living near Portland.  My only serious regret about owning the Beez Neez Apiary Supply is that it often ties me down and keeps me from spending as much time as I would like with my children and grandchildren.  I'm more than a little envious at times and wish I could pick up and go with her more on grandkid trips. Her latest trip  included spending a day or two with Lance and Luna, seven and nine respectively. Their mother was previously our partner in running the bee store and an avid beekeeper. However, due to a serious allergy to bee stings, she now has to avoid the little darlings. She has made several trips to the emergency room over the past year or so due to inadvertent bee stings. Her most recent incident involved a sting that happened while she was minding her own business, weeding her vegetable garden.

     In spite of their current lack of bees, Luna and Lance are very clear about their continued affiliation with the brotherhood of beekeepers.  Recently, one of their friends from school was freaking out over a "bee" flying nearby. Luna told her "That's a wasp. It's not a bee. We know. We're beekeepers."  I'm very happy that they still use the title of "beekeeper" as part of their identity.

    I have two other grandchildren who are actively keeping bees. I started Chloe and Autumn with bee hives this past spring.  I wasn't able to get down to visit them often enough to be a very good mentor. I don't know whether their bees will make it through the winter. If they don't, I will have to shoulder a good portion of the blame for being such an absentee mentor.  Their major accomplishment this year as beginning beekeepers was to become very comfortable with the bees.  I realized just how comfortable they had become when I received a photo attached to a text message that showed Autumn ready to work her beehive while wearing capris and slippers. Amazingly, in spite of a fair amount of exposed skin when working their bees, neither Autumn or Chloe was stung this year.
Autumn Kang, ready to open a bee hive.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Fishing with Mike and Gavin

    I went  and visited my brother Mike this past weekend.  Friday we made an unsuccessful attempt at turkey hunting near Dayton, Washington. Saturday morning we went fishing for whitefish on the Columbia River. Gavin, Mike's oldest son, came with us.  We put in the boat just upstream from the Vernita Bridge. That is a free flowing portion of the Columbia, upstream of the McNary Pool and downstream from Priest Rapids Dam.   Chinook Salmon spawn in the gravel bottom there and the whitefish come in behind them to eat any loose eggs the current pushes out of their nests.  It is pretty fun fishing as we usually do fairly well. The average size of the whitefish we catch is about 14 to 15 inches long and the limit is 15 fish per angler.
My nephew Gavin

    We got up pretty early so that we reached the Vernita Bridge at about 7:00 am.  It was ten degrees and still, which didn't feel too bad when we were putting the boat into the water.  It was a different story when we started to motor upstream towards the dam.  It felt pretty frigid at that point. I felt sorry for Mike who was steering the boat and had to face into the wind.  At least I could turn around and face the stern. Gavin pulled his head down into his coat like a turtle. Once we stopped and started to drift downstream it felt much better.  I hooked a fish within a minute or so after getting my line into the water.
Another whitefish in the boat

    We always drift fish for whitefish.  We use a couple of rubber salmon eggs for bait on a relatively small hook with several feet of leader.  A slinky weight is attached right at the swivel along with the leader. The slinky weight will drift along the bottom and will rarely get snagged.  For the whitefish our bait looks like just a few more salmon eggs drifting downstream in the current.
My brother Mike has to face into the cold wind to drive the boat.

    There were still a lot of Chinook Salmon in the river, but they were a pretty sorry looking lot.  They looked like zombie fish that were dead but didn't know it. Some of the salmon still had the energy to jump clear out of the water but most of them quietly swam in the current, patiently waiting for the end. There were a lot of dead salmon on the bank and a lot of other animals gathered to feed on them.  We saw a coyote on the far bank and lots of seagulls and Blue Herons on the near bank. We stayed on the shallower north side of the river and the water was very clear. We could usually see the river bottom passing beneath us. In some places the water was only three or four feet deep. At times I could see the schools of whitefish beneath us. Surprisingly, the whitefish I saw in the water looked larger than most of the fish we were catching. I don't know if that was because the bigger fish were merely easier to spot or if it was due to the fact that the larger fish were less inclined to fall for our artificial bait.
The end of the road for the salmon

    We ended up catching just fourteen whitefish. That is a lot less than we usually catch. I brought home eight fish while Gavin kept the rest. I filleted them out and put them in a seasoned brine to get them ready for my smoker. I found a brine recipe on the internet at justsmokedsalmon.com. The recipe I loosely followed was called "Matt's Favorite Salmon Brine Recipe". The ingredients were as follows:

Ingredients:   1/2 cup salt
                      1 cup brown sugar
                      1/4 tsp garlic powder
                      1/4 tsp liquid smoke
                      1/4 tsp Lowry's seasoned salt
                      4 Tbsp molasses
                      1 quart water

Instructions:  1.  Mix all ingredients until salts and sugar dissolve
                      2. Soak fish for 6-8 hours in covered container.
                      3. Lay out chunks of fish on smoker racks and sprinkle with lemon pepper.
                      4. Allow to drip dry for about 15 minutes.
                      5. Smoke for 8 hours.

       Obviously, I modified the recipe a bit as usual. I used knotweed honey in place of the molasses. I did not use liquid smoke but rather used alder chips in my smoker. I also used fresh ground pepper and Trader Joe's "Everyday Seasoning" in place of the Lowry's seasoned salt and the lemon pepper.  Since its rather cold out I wasn't sure the smoker would get hot enough. I finished it up in the oven for about an hour to make sure it was done.  So shortly before the timer dings, Linda calls out "Are you doing something with fish?"  Happily, the smoked whitefish turned out well and even Linda thought it was tasty.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Plucking Chickens with Friends

    I had a request from a young couple in our Ward who wanted a lesson in plucking chickens.  I don't really consider myself an expert on the topic, but I have plucked more than a few chickens, geese and ducks over the past few years.  I was very happy to accommodate them. Not everyone shows an interest in my quirky hobbies. They came over on Saturday morning and brought their two young children (three years and one year old respectively). Three year old Lucas showed an active interest in the process while his younger brother, Eli, seemed more interested the various toys in our back yard. I think its a good thing for kids to know where their food comes from. Most of them seem to handle it much better than some adults I know.

     I first demonstrated the easiest way I know to kill a chicken. I had learned years ago from my mother that it was easier to decapitate a chicken with a piece of pipe than it was to cut their heads off.  You simply hold the chicken by its legs, place the chicken's head under the pipe, stand on the pipe, then give a sharp pull.  I prefer to continue to hold on to the chicken until its wings stop flapping. I let go of one once and it ran off into the street.  I find the pipe to be much quicker and more humane than cutting off their heads with a knife.

     After I had killed three chickens, I suspended each one from a different limb of our plum tree and we sat down to a communal chicken plucking.  I prefer to dry pluck them as I hate dealing with wet feathers. My mother came out in the middle of the process and asked why we hadn't scalded the birds to loosen their feathers. I'm sure that I am doing it the hard way.  If I were doing a lot of birds at a time I would probably rent the processing equipment from the Snohomish Co-op and go ahead and scald them. Like I said, I hate dealing with wet feathers.

    It was an enjoyable morning in spite of the unpleasant task. It is amazing how good company can make almost any job enjoyable.  We were also very fortunate that it didn't rain. Throughout the plucking, Lucas had lots of interesting questions. He is a very outspoken three year old who like some of my grandchildren, only has one volume setting. He hasn't yet mastered the concept of speaking quietly. I was imagining what comments he might make the following day in Primary about plucking chickens at Brother Tunnell's house. As it turned out he didn't mention it at all during Primary. Rather on Saturday night at Red Robin Lucas chose to regale their waitress with a graphic description of butchering and plucking chickens. Those with small children have no secrets.

   

Monday, November 18, 2013

Speaking in Church

    One of my responsibilities as a Bishop's counselor is to conduct our weekly Sacrament Meeting every third month. Part of that responsibility includes asking people to speak.  Some people are a little  nervous about speaking in church, but most are pretty willing in spite of their fears. I've served in the Bishopric for several years this time around and I've only had a few people who absolutely refused the invitation to speak in church. The way our rotation is set up I have the months of January, April, July, and October.  Between General Conference on the first Sunday of October, Fast and Testimony Meeting the following Sunday, and the Primary Program the last Sunday, there was only one week in October for which I had to recruit speakers. There is a pre-determined theme for most meetings so when I ask someone to speak I am asking them to speak on a particular gospel topic.

      I apologize to any blog followers I have who are not Mormons as the preceding paragraph is full of  unfamiliar terms. I guess I should provide a brief explanation and glossary.  Mormon readers can feel free to skip to the next paragraph. First of all, we have no paid ministers in our church. Everybody who is an active member has the opportunity to provide voluntary service in some capacity.  The Bishop is the man who serves as the equivalent of a Pastor in Protestant churches. The Bishop is assisted by two counselors, of which I am one.  Sacrament Meeting is our main Sunday Service in which we take part in the Sacrament, referred to as Communion in most Protestant churches. The Primary is the children's organization within the LDS Church.  General Conference takes place twice a year.  On those two weekends, instead of our normal church meetings, we watch and listen to speakers broadcast from Church Headquarters in Salt Lake City. Fast and Testimony Meeting is one of our weekly Sacrament Meetings for which there are no pre-arranged speakers. Anyone who feels inspired by the Spirit can walk up to the podium and address the congregation. Now, with the relevant terms explained, I will proceed with the narrative.

     The one Sunday this past month for which I had to recruit speakers was October 20th. The theme for that particular week was Music in the Church. I have strong feelings about the importance of music. Though I am not a talented singer, I love to sing the hymns. I have enjoyed participating in the ward choir wherever we have lived.  It is also one of my specific assignments within the Bishopric. Consequently, I felt I should "call my own number" and put myself on the program as the concluding speaker.  The last speaker is sometimes referred to as the accordion, since they have to either expand or curtail their remarks to fit the available time remaining.  I prepared my talk in segments so I could easily shorten it if necessary. One of the more important segments in my mind was a brief recruiting pitch for participation in the Ward Choir. I prepared a lot more talk than I expected I would need.

     As it happened, the other adult speakers were also very enthusiastic about the topic. They addressed it well and covered many points I had included in my talk.  They also both spoke longer than planned.  I was not particularly disappointed that the time expired with my talk still in my pocket.  However, the Bishop decided I would not be pre-empted, but merely deferred to the following Sunday. I was assigned to fill any time remaining from the annual Primary Sacrament Program.

     The Primary Sacrament Program happens once a year and provides the Primary children (ages three to eleven) the opportunity to both sing and speak in our Sacrament Meeting.  It is one of my favorite meetings as we literally hear wisdom from the "mouths of babes". I love to listen to the children sing. The program never seems to happen exactly as planned and it always includes some unintended humor.  As it turned out, the Primary children did not use all of their available time and I did finally give a portion of my talk.

     In a nutshell, my talk consisted of expressing gratitude for our wonderful hymns and the way they can help me feel the spirit.  I love how a hymn can bring back memories and feelings.  Forty years ago I served a mission for the Church in Northern Italy. At that time we only had about 50 LDS hymns translated into Italian so it was a pretty small hymnal. Those hymns in particular now have very special meaning to me.  I was also able to put in a plug for the ward choir.  Attendance at choir is up, but I'm not sure I deserve any credit for that. We usually have better participation in the fall when we are working on the Christmas program.  That is another reason I love singing in the choir. I get to start singing Christmas music several months earlier.

     I personally don't mind speaking in church.  Most of my serious public speaking miscues have happened when I was conducting the meeting, rather than on the program as a speaker.  My most horrendous mistake happened when I was doing the sustainings in a Sacrament Meeting earlier in the year.  Adding to my previous explanation of Mormon terminology, we try to give every member the opportunity to serve in some capacity. They don't really volunteer but rather are asked to serve. A part of that process includes the principle of common consent. We present the name of each individual newly called to serve in our Sacrament Meeting so that the ward members have the opportunity to either sustain that calling or to actually oppose it. Votes to oppose a call are very rare.  So I'm presenting Pat Fawcett to be sustained in some capacity and instead of saying Pat Fawcett, I blurted out an involuntary spoonerism, "Fat Pawcett". It was far and away my most embarrassing moment in public speaking. Fortunately for me, Pat has a great sense of humor.  She suggested that a home made cherry pie would make it all better. I was very grateful to get off the hook that easily.

   


Sunday, November 17, 2013

Canning Meat

     I've spent a lot of time over the past few weeks adding some canned meat to our food storage.  As of the current date I've done more than a dozen pints of chicken and 28 pints of venison.  While canning meat is a bit labor intensive, the resulting product is a pretty wonderful convenience food to have stored away.  You can fix a tasty stew in no more time than it takes to cook potatoes or carrots. I also like the security of not having all of our meat stored in the freezer.  A lack of power is often included in the aftermath of natural disasters. If all of your meat is frozen you can eat like a king for three days after which all you have left is stuff like rice, beans, and oatmeal. Not that I don't enjoy rice and beans, but I think I would enjoy them a lot more with some chicken or venison added to the meal.

      Canning meat requires a pressure cooker and a longer processing time than most home canned items. Pint jars of chicken or venison need to be cooked at ten pounds of pressure for 75 minutes. That limits the amount of canning that can be done in a particular day. However, I'd rather spread out the joy of plucking chickens anyhow.  I had to persevere to get all of the deer deboned and canned quickly as we didn't have much empty space in our freezer.

      I saved out 4 pounds of the venison which is now marinating in the fridge so it can be made into jerky. I'll do that tomorrow so I will be home most of the day to keep an eye on it. I'm using two different jerky recipes this year. One is experimental and came from a wild game cookbook I've had for a number of years.  The other is the tried and true recipe I've used in the past, a commercially made seasoning and cure mix.  I bought the commercial product for two reasons. First of all, I've used it before so I know it will turn out well.  That will give me a frame of reference in judging the "experimental" recipe from my wild game cookbook.  Secondly, it was advertised on the package as an "Authentic Wyoming Recipe", made in Riverton, Wyoming.

      As I looked over the ingredient list for the commercial product I did experience a bit of buyer's remorse.  The commercial recipe has salt, sugar, sodium nitrites, caramel color, spice (not further described), spice extractive (also not further identified),garlic powder, soy sauce powder, and less than 2% propylene glycol added to prevent caking. I don't know if the consumption of propylene glycol is a health risk, but I have heard that nitrites are very good for you.  The cookbook recipe seemed simpler. It includes salt, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce (pronounced wooster), onion powder, garlic powder, and freshly ground pepper.  I looked at the ingredients for my onion powder and garlic powder and was pleased to learn they contained just onion and garlic respectively. No artificial colors, preservatives, or anti-caking agents. Then I decided to look to see what preservatives might be lurking in the Worcestershire sauce.  I found no apparent preservatives but I did find caramel color, dextrose, natural flavors (not further described), malice acid, hydrolyzed soy and corn protein.  I guess that is a step up from nitrites and propylene glycol. The soy sauce had hydrolyzed soy protein, corn syrup, caramel color, lactic acid, and potassium sorbate as a preservative.  I guess the moral of the story is to stop reading the labels if you really don't want to know all of the ingredients.

Canned chicken and chicken broth

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Deer Hunting near Dayton

     This past weekend I went deer hunting with my son James. It is actually more harvesting than hunting as does are much easier to find than a buck with a minimum of three points on each side of his antlers. I had planned on going deer and elk hunting with my brother Mike but it didn't work out this year. However, I had drawn a doe tag for the Marengo area just north of Dayton and I didn't want it to go to waste. James didn't have a license but graciously agreed to accompany me so I would have help packing the deer to the car.

     The place I hunted was on property leased by a wind farm on the ridge above the Tucannon River valley.  The first day we spent about 4 hours driving around to various locations on the ridge where we saw a lot of mule deer does, but no white tails. My tag was specifically for a white tail doe. As it got closer to evening we set up where we had some cover on a little hill overlooking an alfalfa field in the valley. As I had hoped, as evening approached, some white tail does came out into the field to graze on the alfalfa. I had a good shot, but unfortunately I missed. That was the only deer I remember having missed over the past ten or fifteen years.  I tried a second shot on a moving target which I also missed. My tag was good from the first of November through the twelfth so I had until the following Tuesday before my doe tag expired.  We drove back to Ellensburg to spend Sunday with James and his family, with the plan that I would return Monday morning and try again.

     I had a wonderful sabbath day with the Tunnells.  I got to spend some quality time with the new baby, Nora Lavender, while Britton, Lucy, and John always make me feel welcome.  Nora seemed very inclined to sleep while I held her. Either she finds me very soothing or very boring. I would prefer to think soothing.  I am so very grateful for the love of my grand children and I can't begin to describe the joy they give me. The highlights of church for me were the privilege of sitting with my grandchildren through Sacrament Meeting and a very moving Sunday School lesson about the importance of Family History work. I left church with a desire to repent and get busy again with my genealogy. Later that evening I went with James and his family to a dinner at a friend's house. There were about four other young couples there, all members of one of the other Ellensburg wards, with a goodly quantity of young children. I was the sole representative of the older generation.  The dinner was wonderful. The host had made a tasty lasagna and Beth had brought her fantastic home made bread sticks.

       James decided to accompany me back to Dayton. Whether it was an effort to keep me out of trouble or just the opportunity to spend time together, I was grateful for his company.  James and I left Ellensburg at about 8 pm Sunday evening and drove to Pasco. We spent the night at my nephew Gavin's home to shorten our drive to Dayton early Monday morning.  We needed to be in our chosen location before daylight. We got up at about 4:30 am the next morning and arrived at the field at 6:10 am.  James dropped me off and drove back to Dayton to handle an important errand that required cell phone service. The chosen location was the same field where I had missed my shot on Saturday. It is an alfalfa field in the Tucannon River Valley which has a lower part and an upper part, separated by a band of ground too steep to plow, about 50 feet wide. The weeds that grow in the unplowed portion of the field provided good cover for an ambush of the deer grazing in the lower portion of the field.

     As I started to walk across the field it was just light enough that I could see to walk. I walked slowly and carefully across the field, trying to avoid making noise lest I spook any deer who might be grazing in the lower portion of the field.  As I approached the unplowed band of weeds I was able to see part of the lower field.  As I reached the weeds I saw two white tail does in the field below, about 100 yards away. One of them happened to be looking in my direction. I had read that deer notice movement more than anything else so I just stood still for about ten minutes until the deer again lowered their heads to graze. At that point I raised the rifle and shot the deer that presented the best target. One deer was standing broadside to me while the other one was bladed to one side. This time I was successful. By 7:30 am the deer had been field dressed and loaded into the back of the car and we were driving back towards Ellensburg. It didn't require a great deal of physical effort or hunting skill, but success always feels good. Besides, I didn't want to disappoint grandchildren to whom I had promised some venison jerky.
The scene of the successful hunt.  The deer in this photo is barely visible in my iPhone's telephoto lens.

      When we arrived in Ellensburg we had a celebratory lunch with Beth and the kids at their new IHOP restaurant. With all of the wonderful fun things they had on the menu the kids chose a grilled cheese sandwich, a cheeseburger, and chicken nuggets.  Not many kids have an adventurous palate. They always seem to prefer the familiar.  John was wearing his spiderman shirt and kept wanting to climb the walls of our restaurant booth.

John and Lucy sharing a booth at IHOP with their very grubby grandpa.


      I really do enjoy going hunting once in a while.  I have a lot of fond childhood memories associated with hunting with my dad and brothers.  The best part of this particular hunting trip was getting to see grand kids and spending several days with my son James.


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Goat Shearing and Spinning

   It's that time of year again. I've starting spinning again.  I find its almost like meditation when I'm listening to something. Besides,  I like to have my hands busy.  I usually don't spin very much in the summer as I am too busy trying to keep up with the vegetable garden. After taking the spring and summer off from spinning Miss Buzz Saw acts like the wheel is a brand new cat toy.  It is much more of a challenge to try to spin while the cat is playing with the wheel and slowing it down. I've had to throw her outside a few times so I could spin in peace.

    Linda and the grandkids sheared the goats on Saturday.  I'm going to try and get the fiber from this shearing and the previous shearings washed and carded in the next few weeks. I'm planning to card it together with some wool so it will be suitable sweater yarn. Wool has better "memory" than most other fibers so it can be blocked to a particular shape. Hence it works better in a sweater or socks than something like alpaca.  However, blending two different fibers together can give you the best of both worlds. Then I can have the memory of wool and the softness of our little pygora goats.  I'm sure some of the grandkids would enjoy having a sweater from one of their favorite goats.  Since Buster is white it will be pretty easy to find some relatively white wool to blend with his fleece.  Blackjack presents more of a problem. I either have to buy some charcoal grey fleece or dye some  of my current wool stash to match his fleece. There is also the third option of blending his dark gray fleece with white wool. I've got enough of his fleece saved up where I might try multiple options.
Not quite a crew cut, but hopefully short enough to help Buster's eczema.

   I hate to shear the goats this late in the season but they really do need shearing twice a year. If we let them go the entire year, much of their fleece felts up and goes to waste. Also Buster develops a nasty skin condition if he isn't sheared twice a year. A goat with serious eczema is a pretty pathetic sight. Consequently we have to shear them both late in the fall and early in the spring.  That still gives them a little time to grow a bit more of a winter coat before it gets seriously cold while the spring shearing happens after the worst of the winter is past. The twice a year shearing results in a shorter length for spinning but I was planning to blend their fleeces with wool anyhow.

     I have a pretty good supply of raw wool, thanks to another bee store friend. This fellow shears sheep for people who often don't want the wool. I'm not sure what the motivation is for someone to have sheep who has no use for the wool. If they were just interested in eating lamb once in a while there are specific breeds of sheep that are designated as meat breeds. As one would expect, the meat breeds have a meatier carcass. As a general rule, the wool from the meat breeds is also less attractive to hand spinners.  This summer my friend gave me three big garbage bags of Border Leicester fleece, definitely not a meat breed.  For those unfamiliar with the more common breeds of sheep, I believe Farmer Hogget's flock in the movie "Babe" were Border Leicester sheep (pronounced like the name Lester).

     There is a fair amount of labor that happens to turn a raw fleece into spinnable wool. There is an amazing amount of lanolin and dirt that accumulates in the fleece which produces a fairly strong odor. It doesn't turn from dirty, nasty, smelly into soft,clean and fluffy all on its own.  A certain amount of caution is required in "scouring", the technical term for washing a raw fleece. Temperature changes plus agitation can cause the wool fibers to felt together. Some wools are more inclined to felt than others. I always try to wash the fleeces by hand with a minimum of agitation and use cold water to avoid temperature changes.  Basically, I let the fleece sit over night in five gallon buckets of cold soapy water.  I remove the fleece the next day and transfer it to five gallon buckets of cold clean rinse water.  I repeat the rinse cycle until the water is relatively clean. I say relatively clean because the water from the first few rinses are Mississippi River brown. If I can see the bottom of the bucket I consider the rinse water to be pretty clean

    After the fleece has been scoured and has dried it still needs to be carded before it can be spun into wool. I have a pair of hand cards as well as a drum carder. The drum carder is faster but is located in the garage. The hand carders are slower but can be used upstairs while watching a football game.  It should therefore come as no surprise that I use the hand carders more often than the drum carder.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Applying gel coat to my boat

     Yesterday, after months of sanding and other prep work, I finally applied the first coat of bright yellow gel coat to my row boat.  It was definitely a learning experience.  First of all I learned that the roller worked much better than the brush.  It went on both faster and smoother with the roller.  I had to buy a natural fiber roller as chemicals in the gel coat will dissolve rollers made of foam. The roller puts on a much thinner coat so it will take more coats to get the thickness I want. However, I think I will be much happier with the results. The second thing I learned was that I only have time to apply a half pint of gel coat before it sets up in the container.  I now have a bright yellow gel coat paper weight left from the half pint I didn't get applied in time.  Just like fiberglass resin, a catalyst is added to the gel coat which causes it to set up. It doesn't dry like paint. I had mixed up a pint because I was expecting to put on a thicker coat than I ended up doing.  I also expected to have a little more working time as the temperature in the shop was at the lower end of the recommended range. The cooler the temperature, the longer the working time. The good news is that a half pint is sufficient for one coat on the entire exterior of the boat. Gel coat is pretty expensive so I'm hoping not to waste any more than that half pint left over from my first effort. After I finish with the row boat I have a couple of kayaks that also need new gel coat.
Did I say it was bright yellow?

It still needs a few more coats so the color will be more even.

      My preparations for the new gel coat consisted of first removing all of the wood trim work. It was in bad shape and needed to be replaced any how. Secondly, I had to sand the boat to remove all of the old white gel coat which had oxidized, collected a layer of algae, and had numerous scratches and dings. It was in very sad shape. The most difficult part of the sanding was removing the name of the boat from its prior life,   "Dalliance". That was probably the name of the larger boat for which it had served as the tender or dingy.  The boat's new name will be the "Linda Joye". Linda is anything but a dalliance in my life so I didn't want the old name showing through the new gel coat. The painted name had protected the gel coat underneath it so it had to be sanded flat to match the rest of the surface. Lastly, I had to use bondo to fill in any cracks and gouges and sand it yet again to make for a nice smooth surface.

     As gel coat cures it produces some fairly noxious fumes, so appropriate lung protection is in order. I actually have a nice chemical respirator (i.e. gas mask) that is intended for jobs like this. I couldn't smell the fumes at all until I finished the job and took off the mask. Hopefully the fumes will have diminished  significantly by the time I open the bee store this morning. It was very obvious that I can only do gel coat at the end of the day, right after I close the store. That is just as well, as the limited working
time requires about a half hour without any interruptions.

    The boat has been taking up space at the bee store's wood shop for the last few months. After the new gel coat is finished, Quentin is going to help me install the new wood trim. That is a pretty complex task as it involves building a steam cabinet in order to bend the white oak trim to match the curve of the boat. I had originally intended to use some of the maple I have drying in the shop in order to replace the wood trim. As we looked into it we learned that white oak (also referred to as "bendy oak") is best suited for this purpose. Most of the old wood trim was installed using copper nails and washers in order to make rivets. I looked at all of the local marine supply places and nobody carried them.  It took a serious internet search but I was finally able to locate a source for the copper nails and washers as well as the specialized tool needed for the job.

     The whole point of restoring the row boat is to be able to use it for taking grand kids fishing.  I have personally developed a serious fishing deficit over the past few years. Rumor has it that a number of my grand kids share that fishing deficit and would like me to take them fishing. Judging from my experience at cousin camp this past summer I think it will take quite a while to fully remedy the situation. Once I have sold the store next summer I plan on spending a lot more time fishing with grand kids. Maybe Linda will also want to take a ride in the boat once in a while.  One nice thing about this row boat is that it is small enough to fit in the back of my old beater cargo van. Also it is light enough that I should be able to get it into and out of the van with only "short help" available.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Official Declaration of Victory

   I've finally declared victory in my efforts to preserve this year's harvest from my grape vines.  The official total for 2013 stands at eleven gallons of grape juice processed with my steamer juicer. If eleven gallons seems like a lot, realize that the juice is somewhat concentrated and we have to dilute it 50:50 with water to get it to where it is drinkable. That actually makes 22 gallons of juice to drink. For those unfamiliar with a steamer juicer I'll include a little tutorial. This is a very handy tool for the home canner and can be used to juice and preserve all kinds of  fruits.
2013's harvest of grape juice

     The steamer juicer consists of four parts. The lower part is filled with water and sits on the burner of the stove. The next section is the reservoir  where the juice collects.  This section has a short outlet tube which has a piece of surgical tubing attached which is kept closed with a small clamp. The next section is the strainer basket which holds the target fruit. The last piece is the lid. This device is the handiest way to process grapes or any other fruit into juice.

This is the first section which holds the water and sits directly on the stove burner.

This is the second section in which the juice collects.

                   
This is the an inside view of the collecting reservoir.
                  
The basket which holds the fruit
Fully loaded steamer juicer

     I have used a steamer juicer to make grape juice for years. The steamer juicer was a gift from my mother. The juicer basket holds about two gallons of grapes which makes one gallon of juice.  This year I only harvested grapes from six grape vines.  I had pruned several vines way back in order to transplant them so they didn't produce grapes this year. I had another grape vine die for unknown reasons.  I think 22 gallons of grapes is a pretty good harvest from six vines. The vine that died was an early Concord variety called "Valiant". I have another Valiant vine but it is only three years old and just produced a few clusters. Consequently, I got no purple grape juice this year, just different shades of pink grape juice.


Our entire 2013 harvest of hardy kiwi.

   I finally harvest some fruit from one of our hardy kiwi vines.  The harvest wasn't bountiful to say the least. Just one little bowl of cherry sized smooth skinned kiwi fruit.  That is a pretty meager harvest when compared with the grape vines. The little hardy kiwi do taste like kiwi and there is no fuzzy skin. We're hoping to have a better harvest from the kiwi next year.

 

Friday, October 4, 2013

Cats and Heights

    What is it with cats and heights? Our cat, Little Miss Buzz Saw, loves to climb trees and ladders. She occasionally gets into spots where she requires a little assistance.  However, she routinely goes up and down my 14 foot orchard ladder. I suspect birdwatching is her primary motivation.


The cat climbed this particular tree in order to have a better view of a chicken plucking

I'm assuming she climbed the ladder just for the wonderful view.


I'm not sure why the cat chose to climb out onto this skinny little limb.



She loves the ladder even more when I use it to refill the bird feeder.


I had no idea that cloths pins were so fascinating.



One of Miss Buzz Saw's kittens was similarly attracted to heights.


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Hanging Out with My Honeybees

   I spent a few hours this morning hanging out with "the girls". I know for a fact that I enjoy their company a lot more than they enjoy mine. In fact they would rather I just leave them alone.  I would be more inclined to let them have their space if not for the fact that the bees do derive some benefit from my unappreciated attention.  This morning I was giving them sugar syrup and some varroa mite medication. The particular treatment I used, "Apilife Var" is pretty benign as far as medicines go. Its actually more like an herbal treatment. The active ingredients are Thymol (you've experienced this personally if you've ever gargled with Listerine), Eucalyptus, and Menthol. It is as effective as the "hard chemicals" without the nasty residue problems.  I also gave them an antibiotic in their sugar syrup intended to thwart a fungal parasite called Nosema Cerana.  I don't like using the antibiotic but I have lost a lot more hives during the few years I didn't use it than I do during the years I have used it.
The base of my modified Warre hive

    I harvested the top box of my modified Warre hive. I had just used starter strips in that box rather than full sheets of foundation. The bees actually did a fairly good job of drawing out the comb on most of the frames but the comb did lean a little bit to one side in a few of the frames.  There was the equivalent of one full frame of honey scattered over three frames. Part of my incentive to harvest this box is to see if the frames will work in my Italian SAF honey extractor. I think the bees will be better off without the partially drawn comb as there wasn't much honey in that box anyway. That leaves them with three full boxes, which is probably the equivalent of two eight frame deep boxes.  I haven't done much management with my Warre hive this year other than the normal feedings and medications. I'm curious to see if they manage to overwinter this year. I am also going to put a mouse guard over the entrance as I had a mouse move into the bottom box last winter. The base of the Warre hive sits on some flat rocks right on the ground so it provides easier access for mice during the winter.

   Linda spent a good part of the day helping a friend sort through her stuff. Sadly, this friend has recently been forced by ill health to move into a nursing home.  The task took longer than planned so I ended up dining alone.  That seemed like a good occasion to make sushi as Linda doesn't care for it. A good friend had recently given me some tuna and I've been wanting to use my salmon caviar with it to make sushi. I used a rice cooker this time so the rice turned out better than my last attempt at sushi. I was glad that my Korean son-in-law wasn't here to try them. First of all, they had way too much salt for his health due to the caviar.  Secondly, I'm sure they were far below his standards for sushi.  Linda commented when she returned home that I always had to make things complicated. It actually was pretty simple to make, not any harder than a salad and easier than most soups.
Tuna caviar rolls

Monday, September 23, 2013

Home Made Ketchup

   I had to do something with all of the tomatoes ripening on our kitchen counters. I thought about salsa, spaghetti sauce, or simply canned tomatoes. As I looked though the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving I noticed they had several ketchup recipes. That struck me as a worthy use of the tomatoes. As it turned out, I had about 25 pounds of ripe tomatoes, just enough to make one batch of ketchup, I cored and quartered the whole lot of them with a little help from my favorite daughter-in-law. Before long I had a whole big kettle of tomatoes cooking on the stove.
Three gallons of cooked tomatoes

   The next step involved running all the cooked tomatoes through the "Juicemaster" strainer I had purchased a week earlier. This device effectively purees the tomatoes and removes all of the skins and seeds. That part went relatively quickly.  I also had to make up a spice bag containing allspice, celery seed, cinnamon stick, and ginger which was then used to make an infused vinegar that was later added to the ketchup before I cooked it down.  The only other seasonings used were salt, sugar, and a teaspoon of cayenne pepper. I actually followed the recipe very closely and resisted the urge to get creative on the seasoning.  It was pretty easy up to this point. As it turned out, the big task was cooking the three gallons of seasoned tomato sauce down to about ten pints of ketchup without burning it on the bottom. It took a lot longer than the book suggested.  I'm sure it would have been much easier if I had used just Roma tomatoes or some other type of paste tomato.  The 25 pounds of tomatoes I used were a serious mixed lot of about ten different varieties. As we had various visitors throughout the day, I let them sample the unfinished product. Most of them commented, "It tastes like ketchup", sounding a little surprised. It was like they all had expected it to taste like something other than ketchup.
Home made ketchup; both tastier and more satisfying than store bought.

    At the end of the day, I thought it turned out rather well. It indeed tasted like ketchup and looked like ketchup, although spicier than the ketchup from the store.  A teaspoon of cayenne pepper didn't seem like much when I put it into three gallons of tomato sauce. It was significantly more concentrated in the finished product. Now that I have made both hot dog relish and ketchup I'm thinking I should try my hand at mustard and barbecue sauce.  I would then be pretty close to attaining true condiment self-sufficiency. The Ball canning book mentioned above happens to have both mustard and barbecue sauce recipes.
   

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Green Tomato Surplus

     I knew it wouldn't last forever, but I have really enjoyed our abundant fresh tomatoes for the past month or so. Now the inevitable has happened. Late Blight has reared its ugly head. I've worked diligently to keep it at bay. I planted the tomatoes through a three inch deep straw mulch. I put up a row cover to keep the rain off the plants and I've avoided wetting the leaves when I watered. After the past few weeks of wetter weather the tell tale patches of brown have started to appear on the vines,  Now I have several five gallon buckets of unripe tomatoes still on the vines. If I pull up blight invested vines and hang them in the garage, the tomatoes won't continue to ripen but will be ruined by the blight. However, I can pick them green and use them right away.

    I looked in my big Ball Canning book and found two likely uses for green tomatoes. One was a recipe for Green Tomato Chutney. It called for 16 cups of sliced green tomatoes, 16 cups of chopped apples, 3 cups of chopped onion, and 3 cups of chopped bell pepper. I still had half of my 50 pound bag of onions left and I had apples available for the picking. The only thing I had to buy was the bell peppers. I spent a good part of the SeaHawk game slicing green tomatoes and peeling them. The slicing went pretty quickly, but the peeling was a lot of work.  The recipe was supposed to make 7 pints, but I ended up with about 12 pints. That may be due to the fact that I estimated the 16 cups of green tomatoes. The seasoning was just three tablespoons of pickling spice in a spice bag and a teaspoon of chili powder.  It turned out to be quite tasty. I let both Linda and my son James sample the finished product. They both liked it then asked, "What do you use it for?" Traditionally chutneys are used as a topping over rice or a condiment on meat or fish. I think this would go very well with chicken or pork chops. It ended up looking very much like applesauce, only with telltale tomato seeds sprinkled throughout.

Green Tomato Chutney

     The second recipe I found was for Green Tomato Hot Dog Relish.  I plan to try that recipe as well.  The big advantage of the recipe for hot dog relish is that I don't have to peel the tomatoes. I just have to chop them finely. The other ingredients are chopped red and green bell peppers and chopped onions. All I have to buy is celery seed and a few red bell peppers.  I would consider using the green tomatoes for Salsa Verde but I have plenty of tomatillos growing in the garden. The tomatillos are totally immune to Late Blight and I think they are better for Salsa Verde anyway. In addition to the hot dog relish I have several other canning projects in immediate my future.  I need to find something to make with all of the red tomatoes ripening on our countertops and I have a large quantity of green beans demanding my attention. I'm planning to pickle the green beans and I will make either salsa or spaghetti sauce with the tomatoes.

I'm ready for my pole beans to give out on me.
    Early in  the spring I was looking for ways to garden later into the fall with row covers and my cold frame.  Now I'm ready for a break from the vegetable garden.  Before I can finish one canning project something else in the garden is demanding to be preserved.

Gerrit and Linda

      Gerrit and his girlfriend, Linda, left this past Friday to continue their vacation into British Columbia.  They had planned to rent a car but ran into the complication of Linda's age (24).  Rental car companies are very untrusting of young people (for good reason in many cases) and want to charge them much higher fees. (Darn those actuarial tables) They decided instead to take the ferry to Victoria and Vancouver and wait to rent a car in Vancouver. My Linda drove them to the Anacortes Ferry.  I thought I should post a photo of them in which neither of them are wearing a bee veil.