Saturday, March 29, 2014

Sort of Ikibana

   I had to prune our contorted hazelnut a week ago. It was encroaching over the sidewalk and into the area where we keep our trash cans. I thought I should do something useful with the prunings so I put together a kind of sort of Ikibana center piece for the dining room table. I'm sure it doesn't meet the rules for a true Ikibana but it reminded me of the Ikibana displays I've seen at the Seattle Flower and Garden Show. Linda interfered with my sense of artistry a bit by clipping off the catkins.  She got tired of wiping up pollen. Its amazing how much pollen can be produced by just a few little hazelnut catkins.

My contorted hazel centerpiece

   I was actually hopeful that the hazel nut cuttings might grow some little rootlets as a willow branch would do. I even put a little rooting hormone in their water to encourage that. Their leaves started to develop so my hope was growing.  That hope was dashed a few days later by a knowledgeable bee store customer who has a significant experience propagating hazelnut trees.  Apparently, they are very difficult to root. It requires both a heat bench and rooting hormone. Even then, the best they get is just a few percent of the cuttings take root. Hazel nuts are generally propagated by grafting, just like fruit trees.  They use Turkish root stocks for the contorted hazels as they are less inclined to sucker than American root stocks. The contorted hazels, also known as Harry Lauder's Walking Stick, stay relatively small as long as they don't produce suckers. If a sucker is allowed to remain the suckers will grow straight and tall,  much larger than the contorted hazel would ever grow. So far our contorted hazel has produced no suckers so I'm guessing it was grafted onto a good Turkish root stock.

   I think I should also give a little progress report on our hen duck.  I haven't seen her off the nest in over a week.  She is persevering in her determination to produce ducklings. She hisses at me whenever I go into their pen to change their water. I'm taking that protective behavior as a sign of a strong mother instinct. I think we are still on track to have duckings hatch out sometime around my birthday, April 14th. I will have to put out some food and water sources appropriate for ducklings before I leave for California to get the bees. I think I may also have to remove my shortest water container lest a duckling get into it and drown.

Mon Cherie Canard giving her best threatening hiss

    Ducklings are not born water proof. Their oil glands aren't fully functional until they are about a month old. Until that time their mother oils them down so they can swim. Even with that waterproofing from their mother they can't necessarily swim for long periods of time. I've heard of young ducklings drowning in water containers. I'd rather not leave a potential hazard in the duck pen. I'll also spread some fresh straw in their pen before the ducklings hatch.

    This afternoon we are driving over to Ellensburg to attend my grand daughter Britton's baptism. I'll be working at the Beez Neez right up until one o'clock when Linda is going to pick me up. I was very happy the baptism was moved back three hours from the original time. That way I won't have to abandon Quentin at the store all day on a Saturday during our busiest time of year. I will feel a bit odd working at the store with a white shirt and tie but that will be easier than trying to change into church clothes right before we leave.  While I miss having the Tunnells living nearby in Monroe, I'm grateful they are still relatively close. Its just a two hour drive to Ellensburg.


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Setting on Duck Eggs

     Since the sad demise of one of our hen ducks I decided to stop collecting duck eggs. I let our remaining hen duck collect a clutch of eggs to see if we could hatch out some baby ducks. She had collected about 9 eggs as of yesterday morning, then decided she had enough to start sitting. Duck eggs require 28 days to incubate. That means the baby ducks will be due to hatch out close to my birthday, April 14. Our previous ducks, fawn and white India Runner ducks, were too nervous to successfully hatch out ducklings. They were just like Jemima Puddle Duck in the Beatrice Potter story. Long on ambition, but short on perseverance. I tried to hatch some duck eggs in an incubator only to discover that our previous drake was also a slacker so none of the eggs were fertilized. I'm hoping this hen duck will be successful.

A clutch of nine duck eggs

Mon Cherie Canard starting to set on her eggs

      I was fortunate to be home while a crew was cutting down limbs and trees to clear the area near the power lines. They were very happy when I offered them a place to dump the chipped branches.  Now I am the proud owner of a big pile of chips that I can use on pathways and to put fresh mulch on the area in front of my bee hives.  It also made a good little mountain for my grandson to climb. 
My grandson John Wesley Tunnell on top of my pile of bark mulch

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Sunday Sick Day

    I was informed by my sweetie that I would not be going to church today. She apparently thinks my sense of duty might overcome my desire to not be a Typhoid Mary and spread my cold to the rest of ward. I'm pretty sure I would have stayed home on my own but her edict certainly made the decision easier on my conscience. I'm enjoying a rather leisurely Sunday. I did still have to go outside and take care of the goats and the poultry. I spent some time on I read an interesting article by Elder Uchtdorf about the Dead Sea Scrolls and listened to some chapters from the Book of Mormon while I spun some wool. I was interested to learn that there are about a dozen names used in the Book of Mormon that aren't found in the Bible but somehow turned up in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Included in the list are the names Sariah, Hagoth, Alma, Muloki, and Ammonihah.

    I had originally planned to bake bread on Monday, but since I will be home all day I've decided to do it today.  I took the dough out of the fridge at about 10 a.m., then formed it into loaves at about noon. I divided the dough into two loaves. One loaf (about 1/3 of the dough) I made into the standard "batard" while I used a banneton to help shape the other loaf into a "boule". The batard is the standard torpedo shaped loaf while the boule is a circular loaf.  I received the banneton, a reed proofing basket, as a birthday gift from my daughter Rachel.  I was really tickled to get the banneton but I'm a bit embarrassed to admit that it's been almost a year and I'm just now using it for the first time.
The dough at noon after a two hour rise
     After the two hour rise, the dough has to be shaped, then allowed to "proof" for another two hours in its final shape.  The use of the banneton or proofing basket allows the boule loaf to develop a little more height.
My banneton, oiled, floured, and ready to use
    My boule loaf came out of the banneton without mishap. Since it was the first time I had used it I was concerned it might stick to the basket in some place. I used a razor blade to put the cuts in the tops of the loaves. The cuts are decorative, but also allow the loaves to rise better. The oven was already preheated to 550 degrees fahrenheit so into the oven they went. I was so excited to get them into the oven that I neglected to take a photo of proofed and cut loaves. The below photo of the loaves newly placed in the oven will have to suffice.
Boule loaf almost finished proofing

Proofed batard loaf
Proofed and cut loaves just placed in the oven. Note the decorative swirls on the boule
Voila! Home baked sour dough bread
    The bread turned out well. I think I need to make my cuts a bit longer. The batard loaf started to blow out on one side.  The boule loaf had a small blowout on one end that caused it to resemble a turtle starting to poke his head out of his shell.  Longer cuts on the top of the loaf would allow the bread to rise in the oven better without trying to escape to one side or the other. I was dying to cut into one, but the book said they need to cool for an hour before cutting. Bishop Nielson told me once that serving bread hot is a way to compensate for poor quality bread as it all tastes good hot from the oven. At Linda's suggestion I did butter the crust while the bread was still hot.
The crust is a bit dark but the interior is perfect

    Today represents such a stark contrast to last Sunday.  A week ago I arose at 6:00 a.m. in order to have time to feed the animals and get ready for a 7:30 a.m. bishopric meeting. That meeting ended at about 9:30 a.m. giving me an hour and a half break before Sacrament Meeting at 11:00 a.m. I spent part of that break on the computer at the bee store indexing. I conducted Sacrament Meeting due to Brother Sessions being out of town, then taught a family history lesson in a youth Sunday School class. Our normal three hour block of Sunday meetings ended at 2:00 p.m.  I stayed at the church to wait for the deacons to return from collecting Fast Offerings, then counted tithing with the ward financial clerk, Brother Fabela. After dropping off the tithing deposit at the bank I just had time to get back to the church for 4:30 p.m. choir practice.  I got home at about 6:00 p.m., ate dinner, then went to Bishop Nielson's house at 7:30 p.m. to practice a musical number the bishopric was supposed to perform today in church.  I'm not complaining about the time I spend in church service. I really enjoy my Sundays, as busy as they are. However, choir practice is my favorite part of Sunday. I feel the spirit singing the hymns of Zion more than anything else I do on Sunday. I'm grateful that our current choir director is pretty hard core in that we have choir practice almost every Sunday. While I enjoyed my Sunday of leisure today, I really missed going to church.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

The Sad Fate of Sidonie Canard

    I have been home with a cold for the past three days and now it looks like I will miss church tomorrow as well. I am so grateful for Quentin in that I can just stay home and be sick. We've taken in about 50 package bee orders during the three days I have been home sleeping my cold away. After the first day or so of serious cold as I started to feel a little better, I have taken advantage of the enforced indolence to watch a few more Rootstech videos. I really enjoyed one about getting the most from The speaker was telling the story of her nephews' first visit to a cemetery near her home where they have ancestors buried. The youngest child's reaction was "We're sure related to a lot of dead people." That is a serious understatement. Hopefully I will be back in the saddle by Monday evening when I am scheduled to teach yet another beginning beekeeping class.

    I am in the process of making another batch of sour dough bread.  It doesn't take all that much time to prepare the dough, but I do have to plan ahead so that the bread is ready to bake on a day when I will have about a five hour block of time at home. On one hand Peter Reinhart's instructions are a bit complicated for me to remember without referring back to his book. On the other hand the results were so wonderful and the actual time required to do the various steps is pretty minimal. I plan to buy the book eventually. In the meantime I can just keep renewing the book as it comes due. It's not like my recipe for sour dough pancakes or waffles, or my biscuit recipe. Those recipes were pretty easy to commit to memory. The sour dough bread recipe would take half a dozen note cards for all of the instructions.

    We had a very sad experience with our ducks last night.  I had let them out earlier in the day, then fell asleep on the couch upstairs and forgot about the ducks being out.  I woke up at about three in the morning with a need to drink another dose of Niquil in order to breath and fall back asleep. As I was stumbling to the kitchen I heard the ducks quacking and remembered that I had forgot to herd them back into their pen. The quacking wasn't their usual contented, all is right with the world kind of a quack, but a very frantic quacking.  By the time I got outside I had just two ducks and one little pile of feathers.  One female escaped unharmed but I noticed a bit of blood on the drake this morning. I'm assuming he had a close encounter with a coyote so he is very lucky to be alive.  I imagined Jean Luc Canard quacking with a French accent dismissing his own wound as merely a flesh wound as he mourned the loss of his lovely Sidonie Canard.

    I'm sure there is a significant moral here for teenagers who want to stay out late.  My ducks love to spend time outside the pen and were probably quite happy I had neglected to put them back in the pen. While the pen represents a significant restriction on their freedom, it also represents safety. Teenagers have their own kind of "coyotes" who mean them harm and are also somewhat nocturnal. Generally speaking, nothing good happens when teenagers are out late at night.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Rootstech Online

    This past week I have been watching some of the Rootstech videos online.  Rootstech is a big family history conference that is sponsored by Family Search, a family history company owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (also known as Mormons). My wife and my daughter Sarah drove down to Salt Lake City and attended the conference in person. While I couldn't make the trip to Salt Lake (the bee store is very busy this time of year), I'm very grateful that a lot of the sessions are available on the internet.  I watched one yesterday on my nominal Monday off. The particular session I watched appeared to be the opening session. It lasted 90 minutes and included a number of different speakers. The one I enjoyed the most was the concluding speaker, Ree Drummond, well known for her blog, Confessions of a Pioneeer Woman.

      Drummond started out in 2006 blogging about everyday life on their Oklahoma cattle ranch.  At one point she started doing recipes in her blog which resulted in a popular televised cooking show and a cookbook.   I have only watched her show one time but I could tell right away that she was a cook after my own heart.  She was preparing a large meal to take out to a crew on the ranch that was doing some fairly demanding physical labor involving calves. They had started work very early in the day and were going to be very hungry by the time dinner showed up at the work site. The emphasis in her cooking was on flavor and hearty.  The recipes she used would never make it into a weight watcher's cookbook.  

      Drummond became interested in family history when she got married. She was a city girl who ended up marrying an Oklahoma rancher.  She thought the little town of about 35,000 she grew up in was too small for her. Now she lives out in the country and  the nearest town is about 3,000. Shortly before her marriage her soon to be in-laws presented her with a book about the Drummond family.  She immersed herself in the book and was hooked on family history. She wanted to make her own contribution to recording their family history and started a blog about the everyday life of her family on the ranch. She didn't foresee a television show or a popular cookbook, Drummond is very content with her family and life on their ranch.  While she has enjoyed doing the tv cooking show and all that went with it, she feels the most important thing she did is her blog. She described that as a journal of their family.

    As both a blogger and a family history buff I was inspired by Drummond's presentation. She blogs about their every day life, which includes lots of photos of their children, their dogs, cattle, as well as the things they eat. I felt somewhat validated in that I also like to blog about our animals and I also include recipes in my bog. Food is an important part of our family history. I enjoy that aspect of family history research. I want to know who they were, where they lived, what they did for a living, and even what they ate.  Knowing details of how somebody lived helps me feel more of a connection to their lives.

    Food is an interesting aspect of culture in that it seems to be very persistent.  Long after German immigrant families have lost all knowledge of the German language some of the food culture remains. Linda's family is a very good example of that. Her maternal grandfather was German, consequently sausage and sauerkraut are comfort foods for her.  I can also find similar examples in my own family. Growing up, I thought my mother just didn't know how to make good pancakes. I like a good fluffy pancake and mom's pancakes were always more like crepes. I later learned that she made pancakes that way on purpose because that is how my dad liked his pancakes. That was the way his mom made pancakes. Now I'm wondering if the preference for crepe-like pancakes doesn't stem from my dad's French ancestry.  Linda's closest German speaking ancestor is about four generations back. My closest French speaking ancestor is about ten generations back.