Thursday, December 10, 2015

Family History Friday, #18, Mary Ann Erskin and Jonathan Calvin Cunningham

     I thought I would write a little about my maternal third great grandmother, Mary Ann Erskin.  She was the second wife of Jonathan Calvin Cunningham, his first wife having divorced him at the end of the Civil War. Jonathan Cunningham served in the Union Army and it appears his first wife favored the other side.  We are descended through Laura Isabel Cunningham, born in 1872, the second daughter of Jonathan Cunningham's second wife.

     I have been searching for information about Mary Ann Erskin since I was sixteen years old, when I first started doing family history work.  At that time all I knew about Jonathan Cunningham's wives is what I learned from the census records.  On the 1860 census in Barren Creek Township, Marion County, Arkansas, I found Jonathan Cunningham living with his first wife, Sarah P Cunningham, each of them 30 years old, and living with two daughters, Elizabeth, age 3, and Nancy, age 7 months. On the 1870 census, still in Barren Creek Township, Marion County, Arkansas, I found Jonathan Cunningham living with his second wife, Mary Cunningham. the census listed his age as 38 and her age as 22. They were living with two daughters, Nancy, age 10 (from the first marriage) and Mary E, age 1.   On the 1880 census in Barren Creek Township, now in the newly formed Baxter County, Arkansas, I found Jonathan Cunningham as a widower, living with three daughters,  Nancy, age 19, Mary E, age 11, and Laura A, age 7.  At this point all I knew about Mary Ann Erskin was that her first name was Mary, she was born in about 1848 in Indiana, and that she probably had died before 1880.  All I found was the one census record that made any mention of Jonathan Cunningham's second wife, Mary.

    Over the years I would come back to Jonathan Calvin Cunningham's family and I did make some progress here and there.  Some years ago my mother purchased a book about the history of Baxter County, Arkansas.  Jonathan Calvin Cunningham is mentioned a number of times in the book, along with other relatives.  I learned that Jonathan Cunningham grew up in a slaveholding family in Tennessee, but was very strongly opposed to slavery.  He had moved to a part of Arkansas where there weren't many slaves in order to get away from slavery. He even declined his mother's offer to loan him sixteen slaves to clear his land in Arkansas.  Jonathan Cunningham owned a boat landing on the White River, but wouldn't allow boats to dock at his landing if they had slave help on board. When the Civil War began, he enlisted in the Union Army to fight against slavery.  Jonathan Cunningham is also mentioned in a book about men from Arkansas who fought in the Union Army, titled "Arkansas' Damn Yankees".  I also learned from the History of Baxter County that Jonathan Cunningham had married Minerva Casteel and after her death had married her older sister, Tabitha Casteel. That book described Minerva Casteel as his second wife and Tabitha as his third wife.

     Other interesting tidbits gleaned from the History of Baxter County include that fact that for a time Jonathan Cunningham was a riverboat pilot on the White River and that he was also part owner of a whiskey distillery. There was a story about a theft from the distillery that resulted in a serious fight between Jonathan Cunningham and one of the alleged thieves.  The distillery was built up on piers to protect it from the river flooding. The enterprising thieves bored a hole into some whiskey barrels from under the floor and drained out some of the inventory.  In the ensuing fight, Jonathan Cunningham is purported to have bitten off the man's ear.

     I tried repeatedly to find a marriage record for any of Jonathan Cunningham's marriages, in Tennessee for the first marriage and in Arkansas for the second marriage.  Eventually, I found a marriage record, dated 4 September, 1874 for Manevia Casteel, age 22, and Jonathan Cunningham, age 45. That would clearly make her the third wife rather than the second.  It would also indicate that Mary Ann Erskin, the second wife, probably died before September, 1874.  Some of this research was conducted on infrequent trips to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. Some was conducted the hard way by ordering microfilms from Salt Lake.

    At some point my mother turned up a letter from her great aunt Ellar  (Lurellar Sinor) which listed in detail most of her Baxter County relatives. Aunt Ellar's letter was written in 1970, the year I graduated from high school.  She listed four wives for Jonathan Calvin Cunningham as follows:

wife #1:  Unknown, who had one daughter named Nan Cunningham(not the Nan made famous by the limerick).

wife #2:   Mary Erskins, who had two daughters, Mary Evaline Cunningham and Laura Isabel Cunningham.

wife #3:  Minervia Casteel, who had one daughter who lived, Jane Cunningham (It saddens me to read the phrase "who lived" as I know some of the pain that lies behind that phrase)

wife #4:  Tabitha Casteel, who had two kids who lived, Caroline Cunningham and Jim Cunningham.

     I gradually obtained a little more information regarding Mary Ann Erskin, but it was a painstakingly slow process. I still had no marriage record and I had no clue as to her family other than she was born in about 1848 in Indiana. Now we enter the era of indexing, when thousands of people labor diligently to index many different types of records so that they are searchable on the computer.  Even better than that, Family Search and Ancestry do some searching for us and are always giving us little hints.

    About a week ago I logged into, looked at Jonathan Calvin Cunningham and saw such a little hint, the marriage of "Anna Jonathan Cunningham and Mary Ann Erskin" in Butler County, Missouri on October 10, 1867.  The combination of Jonathan Cunningham and Mary Ann Erskin in the same record instantly grabbed my attention. However, I just knew that the "Anna" had to be wrong.  Fortunately, I was able to look at the original record and verify that was indeed the case. The actual wording of the document (of course written in cursive) was "before me came Jonathan Cunningham and Mary Ann Erskin to be united in the holy bonds of matrimony".  Two indexers and one arbitrator all looked at the word "came" and read it as Anna. We really need to help more people learn to read cursive before it becomes like hieroglyphs.  It also shows just  how helpful indexing can be, in spite of mistakes.  So it wasn't indexed exactly correctly.  It was done well enough for me to finally locate this critical record.

      I took the next step and looked at the 1860 census in Butler County, Missouri and found Mary A Erskin, age 12, living with her parents, John and Mary Erskin, and her six siblings.  There is still a little conflict as to her place of birth. The 1870 census indicates she was born in Indiana. The 1860 census lists Illinois as her place of birth.  I also found her family on the 1850 census in Crawford County, Missouri. The surname was spelled Earskin, but the ages and names of the parents and children matched up. That record also lists her place of birth as Indiana.  I haven't yet looked yet to figure out the locations of Butler and Crawford Counties in Missouri. Their marriage in Butler County raises all sorts of interesting questions. How did they meet?  Did Jonathan Cunningham serve in the army with her father or brother?  I'm also a bit curious about the difference in their ages.  They both lived through the Civil War as well. Obviously they lived both interesting and difficult lives.  I'll look forward to getting to know them better some day.



Saturday, November 21, 2015

The Blustery Day

    We had a serious blustery day this week, although if came on Tuesday rather than "Windsday" ala Winnie the Pooh.  I don't know what the winds got up to but we had two tree falls.  One wasn't very tall, a big leaf maple that the goats had girdled a few years back. That one came up by the roots, but failed to do significant damage. It crushed one section of fence which wasn't actually fencing anything in at the moment. It had the decency to fall in such a way that it didn't damage any of my bee hives. The other tree fall was of much greater consequence.  One of the main upper trunks of one of the big leaf maples broke off and fell to earth.  The trunk section is about a foot in diameter at the point where it broke off the tree.  It is stretched out about seventy feet across my bamboo, my raspberry patch, my Hudson sweet cherry tree, our glass and steel picnic table and chairs, and finally taking out one of my small espalier apple trees and part of our picket fence.
The remains of our picnic table

Looking back towards the tree from which it fell

   It could have been much worse. At least two people were killed in the storm. One man's car was hit by a falling tree somewhere near Monroe.  The other fatality that I know of was electrocuted by power lines. A lot of people haves been left without power too. Depending where they live that can sometimes take as long as a week to be fixed.  We have friends who now have a tree laying through their living room.  I feel fortunate that all we have to deal with is a little inconvenience and cleaning up a mess.  The goat pen, the chicken pen and the duck pen are all still in tact.  I don't have any animal containment problems that require immediate attention. It definitely could have been much worse.  Besides, now my sweetie is telling me I need to buy a new chain saw.
The smaller maple came up by the roots

    I was at the Bee Store when we lost power there at around 4:00 pm.  Since it gets dark so early there was really no reason to sit around in the store in the dark. I just closed up and came home.  While driving home I noticed that a significant section of Snohomish was without power.  Some time after I got home, Linda sent me to the store to pick up a few things we needed. While at Fred Myers they lost their power. When I arrived home I found we were without power as well. It was a good excuse to light some candles.  The world was a much darker place before the invention of the electric light.

     On a different subject, we in the

Friday, October 30, 2015

Wild Mushroom Stroganoff with Moose Hamburger

      I went on a mushroom foray with my friend Ian a few days ago.  We drove up onto Tonga Ridge  where Linda and I had found the mother lode of Boletus Edulis a few weeks ago.  We walked a lot more and found a lot less mushrooms than I had before.  I suspect its late in the season for a place with that altitude. However, we did find three King Boletes, two of them very large prime specimens.  We also found a gallon or so of Woodland Blewits and Golden Chanterelles.  I sent Ian home with the Boletes while I kept the Chanterelles and Blewits. Chanterelles are relatively easy to identify.  Their gills are blunt edged rather than sharp edged like most gilled mushrooms. Also the gills run down onto the stem as evident in the specimens below.  I included the photo of the non-chanterelle as a warning.  This mushroom was growing among the Chanterelles, but is obviously not a Chanterelle. It is important to look at each and every mushroom and not just throw them in the bucket because they are all the same color.
Chanterelles. Note that the gills run down onto the stem

Not a Chanterelle. Note that the gills end at the stem

     I found a package of moose hamburger in the freezer last week. It was a gift from a friend that had gotten misplaced in the freezer.  I decided to use the hamburgers and my Chanterelles and Blewits to make a lovely Moose and Wild Mushroom Stroganoff. It turned out quite tasty.

Moose and Wild Mushroom Stroganoff
      The other excitement we had this week was Linda's broken foot.  As we were leaving Tuesday evening to attend grand daughter Abby's band concert, Linda slipped on the back steps. At first she thought she had just bruised her foot. By the time we got to Granite Falls High School her foot was hurting much worse.  We passed on the concert and went to the emergency room instead. As it turns out she had broken the outside metatarsal bone in her right foot.  Fortunately the bone was in the right place so it didn't require setting. They put a boot on it to protect it and gave her a pair of crutches.  Today we went into Everett and they put a pretty purple cast on her foot.  Its been an inconvenient week for all concerned.

The finishing touches on Linda's pretty purple cast

Sunday, October 11, 2015

A Pleasant Weekend with Grand Children

    Linda and I have had a very nice weekend hanging out with the Veatch children.  Linda picked them up Friday evening so they could spend the night Friday night.   I got up early on Saturday to drive Madelynn to Granite Falls High School so she could catch the bus to her cross country meet.  After I got back home, I coached Natalie through making homemade biscuits.  She did a pretty good job and should soon reach biscuit self-sufficiency.
Natalie cutting out biscuits

Natalie rolling out the biscuits

     After breakfast, we went to Lakewood High School to watch part of the Hole in the Wall Cross Country Invitational.  We specifically wanted to just watch Madelynn's race, scheduled to start at 11:40 am.  We arrived ten minutes late, which was okay as Madelynn's race started 20 minutes late.  It turned out to be a much bigger event than we had expected, with about sixty schools participating . That is an estimated 750 runners divided into ten separate races.  This was the third year Madelynn has ran in this event. They have a shorter middle school race while the high school kids run 5,000 meters.  While she didn't come close to winning her race, she made substantial improvement on her time with a personal best of 25:05.  It rained cats and dogs throughout her race so she gets extra credit for grit. After the race, we took Madelynn back to her house while we took the  rest of the Veatchlings back home with us.
Madelynn crosses the finish line

    Linda has always had a strong liking for all baked goods made with pumpkin. That includes, pumpkin bread, pumpkin roll, pumpkin pie, pumpkin pancakes, and pumpkin waffles.  I saw an interesting recipe on the Yummly website a few days ago that I thought she just might like. Pumpkin Snickerdoodles. Combining one of Linda's favorite cookies with pumpkin seemed like a surefire winner.  This particular recipe came to Yummly from the Iheartnaptime blog.  The blogger adapted it from a Martha Stewart snicker doodle recipe.  She had simply added cooked pumpkin and traditional pumpkin pie spices to Martha's recipe. This seemed like a worthy use of the leftover baked Potimarron squash I had in the fridge so I mixed up a batch of the cookies in my tangerine colored kitchen aid mixer. The cookies turned out very well. They even met with Linda's approval and she maintains pretty high standards when it comes to cookies.  The only unfortunate thing was that I had made three dozen wonderfully tasty cookies just before Fast Sunday. However, the cookies will still be there to enjoy on Sunday evening.
Unbaked pumpkin snickerdoodles

The finished product

    Linda was a bit tired after watching Madelynn run three miles in the rain.  While Linda took a nap to recuperate, I took the rest of the Veatchlings to see the new Peter Pan movie.  The outing turned out well although Conner was pretty squirmy during the action parts.   We returned home to one of the Veatchlings' favorite dinners, orange chicken.

    A little follow-up to my previous post about the King Bolete Mushrooms we gathered last Monday. I sautéed some in butter which Linda had then used to make a very yummy beef stroganoff. I dried most of them in our little dehydrator which reduced them substantially in volume.  Last night I ran the dried mushrooms through the blender which reduced four gallons of fresh mushrooms into four half pint jars.  That wonderfully tasty powdered mushroom can be added to soups and sauces.  The best pasta dish I have ever eaten was a fetuccini which had the powdered mushroom added to the pasta itself. It was absolutely heavenly.

Dried King Bolete mushrooms from the dehydrator

Into the blender 

The very compact finished product


Tuesday, October 6, 2015

A Glorious Day in the Mountains

    I took advantage of my day off on Monday to drive up into the mountains to find a nice place to sight in my rifle before deer season. I invited Linda to come along and we had a very nice day together.  First of all the weather was beautiful, the leaves of the Big Leaf Maples in the mountains are turning yellow, and the temperature was comfortably balmy.  The drive up to Tonga ridge was absolutely beautiful.  I found a nice quiet place off the road part way up the ridge that gave me an adequate distance with a good backstop for sighting in the rifle.  We actually stopped about 100 yards past the famous "Mother of All Huckleberry Patches" that I discovered with my mother almost twenty years ago, a good story that I will save for another time.  Sighting in the rifle went quickly. We then decided to drive further up the ridge to see if there were any huckleberries left.

     We drove another mile or two up the gravel road until the terrain leveled out some.  We parked alongside the road and explored one of the numerous old logging roads that crisscross that part of Tonga Ridge.  The bad news was that there was no sign of any huckleberries.  I suspect that it had been a bad year for the berries due to the extremely dry summer. October is rather late to be looking for berries anyhow.  We did notice a few mushrooms. There were some Panther Amanitas as well as some Amanita Muscaras. Both of them are very pretty, but poisonous.  We also found a few Russulas and various other types, but nothing to get my mouth watering.  Linda paid me a huge compliment when she told me that I was about the only person she would trust to tell her that a mushroom was edible. We decided to give up on the mushrooms and drive further up the ridge to find a place with a good view.  As I was waiting for Linda at the truck, I heard her call out my name.  She had stepped a little bit off the logging road and had stumbled upon a mushroom she thought looked interesting.  As it turns out it was a Boletus Edulis, known in English as the King Bolete, and mushroom that is not only edible, but described as choice and delectable.  As we explored the immediate vicinity we discovered a large number of the King Boletes and picked enough to fill our small ice chest.
Boletus Edulus or King Bolete

   Further up the ridge, near the trailhead, we found a place with a better view, suitable for a nice selfie of the two of us.  The views from the road are not as expansive as they used to be. I hadn't gone up to Tonga  Ridge in about ten years. During that time the trees have grown considerably taller.  After the photo op we drove back down the mountain, heading for home.  We stopped at Zeke's Drive-in on our way home for a celebratory ice cream cone and blackberry milk shake. We arrive home in time for me to watch the last three quarters of the Seahawks vs Detroit on Monday Night Football.
Me with my favorite mushroom hunting buddy

    I spent most of the evening cleaning and preparing the boletus for drying or cooking. The boletus dry very easily and can also be easily reconstituted. the dried mushrooms can also be powdered in the blender and used to flavor soups and sauces. The mushroom powder can even be used to make mushroom flavored pasta. The King Bolete is the only mushroom whose name I know in five languages. They are called Porcini in Italian, Cepes in French, Baravik in Russian, and Steinpilz in German.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Family History Pie and Grape Harvest Update

    I held a training session this evening for the family history consultants in our ward.  I felt that it went well. I'm particularly concerned about motivating our youth consultants to have more confidence in their abilities and the faith to trust God that He will give them the help they need.  As a post-training treat I served two pumpkin pies.  One pie was made with a "normal" pumpkin pie recipe, spiced with cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves.  The second pie was spiced with just ground allspice.  This was how my grandmother, Sylvia Lee, made "squash" pies.  I really liked her squash pies, but I can't seem to get mine to turn out exactly how her squash pies tasted.  When I asked her for a recipe many years ago she told me that the only difference between her squash pies and her pumpkin pies was that the squash pies were seasoned only with ground allspice. As she didn't measure exactly, she couldn't tell me how much allspice to use.  I suspect I may be using too much allspice. I have been mirroring the cumulative amount of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves from my pumpkin pie recipe to determine how much ground allspice to use. I will have to start reducing the amount and see if that turns out closer to the taste of Grandma Silvia's squash pies.

Pumpkin Pie on the left, Squash Pie on the right

     The squash pie was well received by the family history consultants as well as by Linda, Don Jensen, and his wife Heidi.  I even got some compliments on my pie crust. I gave everyone a slice from each pie.  Everybody seems to like both pies, some preferring the pumpkin pie and some preferring the squash pie. Actually, they were technically both squash pies as they were made from the same Potimarron winter squash. I may have already done that little rant in my blog how the term "pumpkin" is botanically meaningless. There are four separate subspecies of squash, Maxima, Moscata, Pepo, and Mixta, all of which have some cultivars which are called pumpkins. Potimarron is from the Maxima subspecies which includes the hubbards and most of the better winter keepers. It looks like a Red Kuri and I still have a lot of them.

      Grandma Sylvia was not a wonderful cook in that she had a somewhat limited repertoire. I don't think she did much cooking for her family as she grew up. Then she married my grandpa Guy Dudley Tunnell when she was just 18 and suddenly had to cook for Grandpa Tunnell and his three boys from his first marriage. I'm sure that was quite the "Trial by Fire". However, she made the best of it and there were a few things she became quite good at making. Besides her squash pies, she made the most wonderful beans and cornbread.

    I finished juicing grapes yesterday evening. My total production for 2015 was 16 gallons of canned grape juice and a little more than 9 quarts of raisins. I may have made 10 quarts of raisins as Linda and some of the grandkids have been helping themselves to the raisins during the past few weeks. That is an incredible harvest from just eight grape vines.  Now the only canning projects looming on my horizon are chickens and finishing the applesauce.

     I had a wonderful surprise at work this past Friday.  My good friend Ian brought by a nice little bag of Chanterelle mushrooms.  I used part of them to make an eggplant dish.  The recipe didn't call for mushrooms, but it seemed like a good fit. I made this sauce using onions, white wine vinegar, chanterelle mushrooms, and cream. I wasn't particularly crazy about the eggplant by itself, but the sauce was very good.  As long as there was lots of sauce on the eggplant, it was tasty. Since I have more eggplant in the garden I need to find a few more good eggplant recipes.  The rest of the Chanterelles are going into a French mushroom soup. I went ahead and cut up the mushrooms and sautéed them in butter as Chanterelles don't keep very well as fresh mushrooms.

Cantharellus cibarius

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Fall Canning

    As we are approaching General Conference weekend, I'm almost done processing our plentiful grape harvest.  So far I've made about two gallons of raisins with our little dehydrator and I'm up to 11 gallons of grape juice.  That is all from just eight grape vines. The grapes have taken a back seat for the past few days while I've been canning apple sauce. I bought 100 pounds of Jonagold apples to go along with the harvest from our own trees. I've done 20 quarts of  apple sauce thus far and I am not quite half done.  I know that is a lot of apple sauce and grape juice, but I look at it as canning for the entire family.  We try to distribute a fair amount of our home canned juice, pickles, and apple sauce among the family.   Besides, home canned apple sauce is so much better than anything they sell in the grocery store.  On the other hand, we can easily use several gallons of raisins in a year.  We probably have oatmeal with raisins three or four times in a week.

Freshly canned apple sauce is a beautiful sight
    I always look forward to General Conference.  I try to watch as many of the sessions as I can and listen to all of the talks several times. I love the sincerity of the brethren. They present such a stark contrast to your garden variety tele evangelist.  I will wait until the weekend to finish juicing the grapes just for the tradition of juicing the grapes between conference sessions.

     I ordered a load of dirt today so we can replace the big divit left from the above ground pool.  We're going to try to level our yard while we're at it.  Both the back yard and the side yard have a significant number of uneven areas which are difficult to mow. Three yards of dirt will be delivered to our driveway tomorrow morning.   I've already arranged for one of my young minions from work to do most of the shoveling.  It wasn't a hard choice. I could either pay him to hold down the fort at the Beez Neez while I did all of the shoveling, or I could run the store and send him to my house for some quality time with my shovel and wheel barrow.

     October is a good time of year to put in a lawn in Western Washington. Soon after we plant the grass seed, the fall rains will start, watering the grass more gently and regularly that I ever could. Grass grows very well in the cooler weather. Also once it starts raining we won't have to protect the new grass from visiting grandkids. No one wants to go outside to play in the rain.


Friday, September 18, 2015

A Fun but Brief Trip to Oregon

     I made a trip to the Portland area this past week. The primary purpose of the trip was to deliver Linda's baby blue Vespa to its new owner, our daughter Rachel.  Linda wasn't riding it and wanted it to get better use than merely as an ornament for our driveway.  I have to admit that I was a bit sad to think that Linda won't be riding her Vespa with an ear to ear grin any more. However, I'm very happy that its going to a good home. I'm confident the Vespa will make Rachel's heart go pitter-pat and provide the same happy place that it did for Linda.  Rachel will have to endure a little delayed gratification with the Vespa. It seems that Oregon has slightly stricter rules in that Vespa riding requires a motorcycle endorsement.  In Washington that wasn't necessary because the Vespa was less than 50 cc.  Rachel will have to take a class and pass a driving test before the Vespa can become her new happy place.

     I spent Wednesday with the Arnetts in Hillsboro, Oregon and enjoyed an evening of fine dining.  Rachel made alfredo sauce from scratch.  I know I shouldn't have been, but I was amazed at how much better it was than any alfredo sauce from a jar.  Rachel claims scratch alfredo sauce is pretty easy to make. We chopped up some smoked salmon I had brought down and sprinkled it over the fettucini alfredo for a little Northwest touch.  Rachel also transformed one of my sourdough loaves into the most marvelous garlic bread. She added some chopped herbs (Rosemary, Oregano, and Thyme) to the garlic butter she put on the bread. The meal was served with a simple salad with olive oil and vinegar as the dressing and aqua minerale.  We had plans to use some of Rachel's figs to make fresh fig clafouti.  As it turned out, we were all too full to even consider dessert.  She made the clafouti (a type of pudding) several days later and seemed pretty happy with how it turned out.

     While visiting with the Arnetts I also spent some time in Chet's recording studio.  It was a little brutal listening to a recording of myself singing. If I always remembered how badly I sound when I sing I would be much less inclined to play and sing in public.  Since I enjoy doing it, I've decided to exercise some selective memory and just forget about that incident. I will continue to sing in public and let the poor folks who have to listen to it to just deal with the consequences. The moral of the story is that it is always always better to sing and play with other people so there is some camouflage.
Honest, I really am very happy on the inside

      The following morning I drove to Forest Grove, Oregon for some quality time with the Kangs. A half hour after my arrival we were on our way to Tillamook.  We had a very fun visit to the Tillamook Cheese factory (as always), bought some cheese, and enjoyed some ice cream.   While eating ice cream at the cheese factory it was forcefully brought home to me that I need to make a concerted effort to smile more.  Sarah took a selfy of us enjoying our ice cream and I looked seriously grumpy in the photo.  I guarantee that I wasn't feeling the least bit grumpy on the inside, but I sure looked grumpy on the outside.  After the cheese factory and a mandatory stop by the jerky factory, we finally drove to the beach at Oceanside, Oregon.   It was a bit windy, but we all had a great time.
Yes, it was a very windy day at the beach

This was the best Chloe could do for the wind-blown look

    After we drove home from the beach, we went to Autumn's soccer game (a 6 to 0 win for the Forest Grove JV) and took girls to dance class.  Fortunately, the dance class was located near Momo's Hawaiian Shaved Ice. I finally got to experience shaved ice nirvana.  We then visited Barnes and Noble before we picked up the girls from dance class and went home.  It was a pretty busy day, but probably pretty typical for Sarah.  Somehow we managed to squeeze in a little ukulele time before we spent the evening working on family history. Sarah helped me get my iPad better set up for family history and gave then me a little tutorial on using the Keynote program.

    I drove home the following morning as I always do much better driving in the morning.  Just for some variety, I took the back way to Ranier, Oregon before crossing the Columbia over to Kelso, Washington. It wasn't any faster, but it was nice not driving through Portland and having less freeway driving. I had a great time hanging out with my daughters and grandchildren, but as always, the visit was way too short.


Sunday, September 13, 2015

Making Sauerkraut

    I helped teach a little provident living class this past week at the Snohomish Ward's annual Labor Day picnic.  This is my second year in a row teaching such a class so it now has become as much of a tradition as the ultimate frisbee game.  Last year we taught how to make dill pickles. This year the class was on making sauerkraut.  I was gratified that there was a fair amount of interest in the topic of home production and storage and that I wasn't the only sauerkraut fan in the ward.  The class was hands on and about a dozen people participated in making the sauerkraut.

     Sauerkraut is a great home production and storage project for a number of reasons.  First of all, cabbage are relatively easy to grow in our maritime climate.  The only serious crop failure I've had growing cabbage in Western Washington involved a goat that escaped confinement. The goat was quite satisfied with my crop of "baby" cabbages, but I considered it a serious crop failure. Secondly, cabbage are relatively inexpensive to purchase and are plentiful in the grocery stores and farm stands at this time of year.  Thus one can practice making sauerkraut even if they are currently unable to have a vegetable garden.  Thirdly, sauerkraut is pretty easy to make. I know there are things that can go wrong in the process, but I've been making sauerkraut off and on for about ten years and it has always turned out well.  Lastly, sauerkraut is very nutritious, even more so than the raw cabbage it was made from.

    In preparation for my class, I printed out a little internet article about a Captain Cook voyage (I don't believe it was the fateful one he made to Hawaii). This was the first long sea voyage undertaken by the British Navy that involved zero deaths from scurvy, a disease caused by a lack of vitamin C in the diet.  A previous voyage lead by another captain, consisted of four ships and 2,000 men and had resulted in 1,300 deaths from scurvy. The big difference stemmed from the fact that Captain Cook brought along 4 tons of sauerkraut. This wasn't canned sauerkraut. It was simply fresh sauerkraut packed into wooden barrels.  It was a two year voyage and the kraut lasted all that time in wooden barrels. They still had a bit of the sauerkraut left as they neared England. Supposedly, they gave the last of their sauerkraut to an Italian fishing boat. I don't know if that was part of a trade or if they were just sick of sauerkraut after eating it for two years.  I knew before that sauerkraut is a great source of vitamin C. I only recently learned that there is more vitamin C in sauerkraut than there is in raw cabbage. Somehow, the lactobacilli actually manufacture vitamin C while they are converting the cabbage into sauerkraut.

    The process of making sauerkraut is not complicated.  I got my sauerkraut recipe from a Rodale Press book titled "Stocking Up".  They credit the USDA as the source of their recipe.   50 pounds of cabbage, shredded and mixed properly with one pound of pickling salt, and given three to four weeks to ferment  under the right conditions,  results in a whole lot of sauerkraut.  This recipe can easily be adjusted to whatever amount of cabbage is available.  In our case we shredded about twenty-five pounds of cabbage so we used half a pound of salt.  That was an amount that fit comfortably into a five gallon food grade bucket.  Sauerkraut can be made in all sorts of containers, including expensive crocks and glass jars.  I prefer used food grade five gallon buckets as I already have a lot of them and they are a nice convenient size.  The bucket or crock doesn't need to be sterilized. It just has to be clean.

      I was assisted in teaching the class by Lynell Nielson. She is an avid fan of fresh lacto-fermented food and is knowledgeable about its health benefits. In addition to being a good source of vitamin C, lacto-femented foods offer probiotic benefits.  They contribute to a healthy intestinal flora. There are numerous cultures which have some sort of lacto-fermented food as a daily part of their diet. An example of that is the Koreans eating kimchee on a daily basis.  There are other purported benefits besides the probiotic aspect.  I  found an interesting internet article about sauerkraut and the incidence of breast cancer in Polish women.  In Poland most women eat fresh lacto-fermented sauerkraut about three times per week. Polish women living in the Chicago area eat less fresh lacto-fermented sauerkraut, averaging about once a week.  The rate of breast cancer was significantly higher among the Polish women living in the Chicago area.  While there may be other factors which could have contributed to this result, there is a great deal of evidence regarding the health benefits of fresh lacto-fermented foods.

     Lynell brought a very nice shredding device intended specifically for making sauerkraut.  It worked very well such that it only took about 45 minutes to core and shred the cabbage.  We tried to make sure all of the attendees had to opportunity to shred cabbage.  We mixed in the salt as we added cabbage to the bucket.  When we finished shredding the cabbage, the bucket was full up to about an inch or so from the top.  I took the bucket home and dumped it into a large plastic tote and mixed it some more to insure the salt was evenly distributed.  After I had repacked the shredded, salted cabbage back into the bucket, a lot of water was being exuded by the cabbage. This time I was able to pack the shredded cabbage down such that it was about six inches from the top of the bucket. I placed a plate on top of the cabbage and weighted it down with a gallon of water in a used milk jug.  Within a few hours the plate was submerged under the liquid.
Our bucket of sauerkraut after six days
    The sauerkraut seems to be coming along just fine.  After six days of fermentation it has reduced itself down to a little more than half the height of the bucket. there3 is plenty of liquid to cover the sauerkraut. The liquid has a little foam on the top, but no evidence of anything moldy.  I skimmed off the foam and tasted a piece of the sauerkraut from the liquid above the plate. It passed the taste test as well, but is still several weeks from being done. When the sauerkraut is finished I will take it to a Relief Society activity where it can be divided up amongst the participants of the class.

    The process of lacto-fermentation doesn't depend on sterile conditions but rather on conditions that favor the lactobacilli over other bacteria.  The addition of the salt and the fact of the kraut being under liquid and thus not exposed to oxygen are both conditions which favor the lactobacilli. It is essential that the fermenting cabbage remain covered by the liquid.  Another important condition is the temperature.  Making sauerkraut won't work in hot or cold conditions.  The lactobacilli favor a temperature range from  50 to 70 degrees. That range is pretty easy to come by in Western Washington.  I usually make sauerkraut in September so that temperature range is pretty much what we get for most of the month.  In warmer climates, it might be wise to make the sauerkraut in the basement.  How long the process takes is a function of the temperature.  The cabbage becomes sauerkraut quicker in the warmer portion of the range and slower in the cooler portion.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Harvest Time

    I had to harvest my corn a little early. Some enterprising bushy tailed rats (often called squirrels) were starting to raid the corn patch.  Also the weather turned rainy just as the corn had started to dry down.  I can't imagine the stress of someone growing these crops on a larger scale and depending on them for their living.  I grew Mandan Red Clay Parchiing corn this year. I'm not unhappy with the results, but I'm not sure it would be suitable for a serious field crop.  First of all it sends out numerous tillers (side shoots) that tend to fall over onto one another.  It sent out ears inconsistently, that is not all at the same time, such that I had more partially filled ears than I like. Pollination might have turned out better with a larger patch, but I'm not sure.  My corn patch was ten feet by thirty feet this year. The filled out ears of lavender colored corn are quite pretty.  I'm not sure I will grow this variety again. I guess the ultimate test will be when I eat it.  I have several other short season corn varieties I still want to try out.

Mandan Red Clay Parching Corn
Dill slices

    My cucumbers have been quite productive, way beyond my ability to keep up with them.  I grew three kinds this year, a regular slicing variety (straight eight), an English variety (tall telegraph), and a German pickling variety (Vorgebirgstrauben).  Try to say Vorgebirgstrauben just once, let alone fast three times. I sent a box of pickling cucumbers home with my daughter-in-law and I've done several dozen quarts of dill slices. I given lots of the slicing cucumbers away as well.  I've also dumped several five gallon buckets of overripe cucumbers into my compost pile. On one hand I hate to see any of them go to waste, but it is very hard to find them all when they are ready to pick in my jungle of a cucumber patch.  Especially when I am busy and don't have the time to search the cucumber patch on a regular basis.  On the other hand, it is so much easier to find them after they are oversized, overripe, and have turned yellow.

Canadice seedless grapes

    My grapes are also ripening.  The Valant (a type of very early concord) and Canadice ( a red seedless variety) are ready to pick.  The Interlaken (a green seedless variety) are not far behind them and should be ready soon. Usually I am juicing grapes around the time of General Conference.  Thanks to our overly warm summer I may be done with the grapes by the time I'm normally just starting. I'm going to try dehydrating a larger percentage of our grape harvest into raisins this year. Our home made raisins are very good, just a little tarter and less sweet than store-bought raisins. We actually use quite a bit of raisins as Linda and I both like to put them into our oatmeal. I love grapes for a lot of reasons.  They require so very little care. They have minimal pest problems. They are wind pollinated such that they always set fruit. Grapes put down really deep roots such that they don't require watering in our climate.  The biggest chores are pruning and the harvest. Turning the harvest into grape juice is also a pretty easy task with a steamer juicer.

    One thing I really love about grapes is that they are so very easy to propagate.  Most grape varieties can easily be rooted from cuttings.  If anyone who reads my blog (within the continental United States) would like to get into grapes I would be happy to provide dormant cuttings when I prune them during the winter.  I have had very good success just sticking them into the ground and using them as a trellis for my peas. By the time the peas are done most of the grape starts have roots and leaves.  The three varieties I listed above are  very early varieties that will work in the Puget Sound area. If you live in a place with warmer summers you have a lot more options available than what I can offer.  Lon Rombaugh, is a table grape expert who lives in Aurora, Oregon. He has written a book titled "The Grape Grower" which I would strongly recommend to anyone interested in growing grapes. He also sells cuttings for about 100 varieties of table grapes.

Potimarron Winter Squash

     We did very well on winter squash again.  The Potimarron I planted in the front have produced about 25-30 squash. I planted them next to the corn so they rambled throughout the corn patch. The number is approximate as I won't have an exact head count until after I finish removing all of the corn stalks. It is a bit of a treasure hunt. I also have one Oregon Sweetmeat and about 8 spaghetti squash.  I was very pleased with the Potimarron. It produced every bit as well as the Red Kuri I grew last year.  It is a Hubbard type so it should be a good keeper. The size is also similar to Red Kuri in that it is appropriate for smaller families.  The squash aren't so large that it takes weeks to eat one squash.  I can easily get several pies, or make soup and one pie from one squash.  I guess the ultimate test is always in the eating. We'll see if I like the flavor as well as the Red Kuri. This is a French variety. The name translates to "Brown Squash"  They are quite pretty, not brown at all,  and will look nice piled up on the porch for a few weeks.  I have a lot more than Linda and I will eat so I am very happy to share them if some of my readers need more squash in their life.  However, unlike grape cuttings, they are not a convenient size to put into the mail.



Thursday, August 20, 2015

Cousin Camp Menu

   As part of the continuing saga of cousin camp, I'd like to talk about the food.  First of all, I'd like to thank my daughters Sarah, Lia, and Beth for the wonderful job they did as cousin camp cooks. In some ways a successful cousin camp isn't too difficult to pull off.  As long as the kids get to spend time with their favorite cousins they usually are all pretty happy.  The only other essential ingredient is the food being both good and plentiful.  The girls hit a serious home run with the food.

     The cooks' task was a little more complicated as we had asked for certain menu items to give the kids a taste of some of the things their ancestors ate.   Some of our requests were pretty easy to fulfill. I know for a fact that all of my ancestors from Arkansas, Iowa, and Missouri enjoyed watermelon in the summer time.  I have memory of a particular watermelon in Iowa when I was about ten years old. I was with my grandfather, Guy Dudley Tunnell, when he bought a watermelon from a farmer.  The cost of the watermelon was 60 cents at a penny per pound. That watermelon was both big and tasty.  That was years before the abomination of seedless watermelons showed up.  Not only are seedless watermelons lacking in flavor, but the also lack the recreational aspect of seed spitting. In the 1960s and  earlier the watermelons came with both seeds and flavor. Its pretty difficult to find a watermelon in the grocery store with seeds.  Occasionally I am lucky enough to find one at a fruit stand.

    We had beans and cornbread for one meal to commemorate what was probably my father's most common meal while he was growing up on a farm in southern Iowa.  I made the cornbread using freshly ground cornmeal from last year's crop of Painted Mountain flour corn. All of my ancestors who were farmers ate a lot of cornbread.  When my mother lived in northern Arkansas with her grandparents, Enos Henry Sinor and Lillie Etta Heiskill, they had hot cornbread every day for dinner (the noontime meal) and often had cornbread and milk for supper.  Their cornmeal came from the same field corn that Enos Henry Sinor grew to feed their animals. He would have a portion of the crop ground into cornmeal. The miller kept about a third of the cornmeal as his compensation for doing the grinding.  I know that the John Maythem family in Ohio also ate lots of cornbread. According to the Agricultural schedule of the 1850 census, indian corn was the primary crop that John Maythem grew.

   One morning we had biscuits and gravy for breakfast.  When my mother lived in Arkansas they had hot biscuits every day for breakfast.  At some point her grandmother decided that Cozette made better biscuits than she did so Cozette inherited that daily task.  She didn't follow a specific recipe. They had a flour barrel that had a big bowl which functioned as the lid.  She simply put an approximate amount of flour in the bowl, mixed in some baking powder, then added some bacon grease and then some milk. If the dough was too wet she would add a little more flour. If it was too dry she would add some more milk.  The biscuits were baked in a wood-fired cook stove so there was no temperature gauge. Her grandma would simply briefly put her hand in the oven to feel if it was hot enough. To this day one of my mother's favorite breakfasts is biscuits and gravy.

    On another morning we had pancakes. That stemmed from a great story about my dad and his brother Johnny.  They were having pancakes for breakfast and my dad (James Wesley Tunnell) thought that his brother (Guy John Tunnell, aka Johnny)had eaten more than his fair share of the pancakes.  Dad added some extra salt into a pancake that was cooking on the griddle.  When  he bit into the pancake with extra salt, Johnny complained that the pancakes didn't taste very good. My dad simply replied that "Nothing tastes good to a pig when his belly is full" as he continued to chow down on the pancakes. You've got to love good sibling rivalry stories and we have a few more from those same two brothers.  Once, when my dad was getting the worst of a scuffle with his older brother, he simply dragged Johnny into a poison ivy patch. Johnny was allergic to poison ivy while Dad was not.  The ultimate sibling rivalry took place when they were both attempting to court my mother.  Both brothers had motorcycles. Johnny rode a Harley-Davidson while Dad rode an Indian.  Johnny gave Mom a Harley-Davidson hat and Dad then gave her a big Indian pin to cover up the Harley-Davidson logo on the hat. Obviously, Dad ultimately won that contest.

    Another morning we had oatmeal for breakfast. This is obviously not the favorite of many children, but our Irish ancestors undoubtedly ate a lot of oatmeal. I suspect the Irish ancestors probably didn't have the luxury of adding lots of raisins and brown sugar to improve the flavor of their oatmeal.  Personally, I really like to eat oatmeal for breakfast, but I like to add lots of raisins, brown sugar, and cinnamon.  Sometimes I will even cut up an apple or add some rhubarb to the boiling water before I put in the oatmeal. We also had potatoes to commemorate our Irish ancestors, Cathrine Guckian and Jonathan Calvin Cunningham.  Those are the only two I know off the top of my head to have been Irish.

   I would have added some mealtime photos, but I failed to take any. If someone else did take any relevant mealtime photos or a group photo of our cooks that I can add to this post I would appreciate it.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Cousin Camp Hoedown

  We held our fifth biannual cousin camp this summer during the last week of July. The fact that I am just now getting around to blogging about cousin camp is indicative of just how much fun it was and how tired both Linda and I were at its completion. We are up to 25 grandchildren and all 25 of them were present and accounted for during cousin camp. Even the two youngest grandchildren, Nora and Tommy, were there. They are not old enough to qualify to attend cousin camp (five year old is the cutoff), but managed to sneak in with their mothers who had volunteered to cook.  Much of what we planned to do never happened, but we had a lot of quality time with our grandchildren and they had a lot of quality time with their cousins. It was a wonderfully happy chaos.

    Our theme for cousin camp this year was family history.  Many of the activities, including the meals, were planned with the lives of our ancestors in mind.   One of the fun events we planned was a hoedown, which actually did happen. The hoedown pertained to a story about my mother's father, James Wilburn Sinor.  When Cozette was living in Baxter County, Arkansas with her father, they occasionally hosted dances in their home. The way a dance usually came about was that several teenagers would stop by and ask "Mr Sinor" if they could have a dance at their house. He was usually willing. Preparation for the dance included moving all of the furniture to the outside walls in order to have more room for the dancers. It was also necessary to make arrangements for live music. The band consisted of Uncle Estel (brother of James Wilburn Sinor) on the guitar,  Uncle Estel's wife, Dorothy, on the mandolin, and Uncle Don Haney on the fiddle.  James Wilburn Sinor was the caller for the square dances.  Most of the kids who attended the dances were Cozette's cousins, as she was related in some way to most of the kids who lived nearby (defined as about a three mile circle in rural Baxter County Arkansas).  The square dancing was alternated with "round dancing".  I had falsely assumed that a round dance was some sort of folk dance.  The term round dance actually meant a waltz.  Unfortunately, Mom couldn't remember any of the songs her uncles and aunt played at their dances.  Neither could my Aunt Dolores name any of the tunes the band played. She didn't get into playing music until a bit later in her life. She did tell me that Uncle Don was an incredibly gifted fiddle player.  Dolores said that Uncle Don could have played professionally in Nashville, but for his drinking problem.  Apparently their little country square dances had some serious music.
The hoedown band, i.e. me
    Two granddaughters, Autumn and Chloe Kang,  took on the responsibility of teaching the rest of the grandkids how to square dance.  My job was to provide the music. mainly playing Oh Susanna on my fiddle.  Based on the wide variation in age and attention span among the dancers teaching square dance turned out to be difficult. We still had a great time. Teaching the birdie dance turned out to be quite a bit easier since it didn't depend so much on coordinating movements with a partner.  I also played that tune on the fiddle as well as King of the Fairies. My five year old grandson, John Tunnell, later came up to me and asked me to play a song. I tried several songs before I finally figured out that he wanted me to play King of the Fairies again.  Happiness is having a young grandson that already likes Irish fiddle music.  Since I was otherwise occupied playing the fiddle I passed my iPhone to grandson Jonathan Romero. He was a very diligent photographer and took all of the hoedown photos shown below, along with quite a few others:

Britton Tunnell, Luna Arnett, Chloe Kang, and Autumn Kang promenading

Madelynn Veatch and Hannah Yaden

Sofia Romero, Hannah Kang, Rachel Yaden, and Annika Romero

Notice the severe shortage of male dancers

Conner Veatch intently watching the action

John Tunnell decides he'll pass on the hand holding

Nora Tunnell and her mom enjoyed watching

Rachel Kang with Aunt Beth

Elise Kang and neighbor Sierra

Chloe Kang giving instructions

Not pouting, just patiently waiting for more instructions


Sunday, August 16, 2015

Senior Center Luau

     Yesterday I was very fortunate to be able to attend a luau with my sweetie and my granddaughter Madelynn.  The luau was put on by my ukulele teacher, Auntie Amelia, who teaches free ukulele and hula lessons at the Lake Stevens Senior Center. Auntie Amelia stated that the purpose of the luau was to showcase the talents of her ukulele and hula students. In spite of that stated purpose, she still let me play with the group.

My Sweetie and I at the Luau

     The meal was wonderful. There was a lot more pulled pork and teriyaki chicken on my plate that was probably wise to eat at one setting, along with rice, a salad, and various other Hawaiian delicacies.  One thing I particularly enjoyed was a raw tuna dish called ahi poke.  It was  simply cubed raw bluefin tuna that had been tossed with some chopped onion and other seasonings.  It was really delightful (assuming one likes sushi). I only ate a little of it as they didn't bring it out until I had already consumed a considerable amount of pulled pork and teriyaki chicken.  There was also a wonderful salmon dish but I failed to get its name. I also discovered that I do like poi if its fixed right.  The definition of "fixed right" included the addition of cream, sugar, and a few other ingredients. I feel somewhat sorry for the ancient Hawaiians who didn't have the necessary ingredients to fix the poi right.
That is my hat barely showing over the right shoulder of the hula dancer on the left

   After the lovely meal, I played my ukulele with the larger group which included both Auntie Amelia's beginning and intermediate ukulele students.  Her hula students danced during some of the songs.  After about eight songs, all of the students sat down to enjoy the rest of the show, consisting of the serious musicians and hula dancers.  I am truly amazed by the hula. It is the epitome of grace. And it isn't just the women, who are somewhat naturally more graceful. Even when big burly Hawaiian men dance the hula they look graceful.  I can't add a photo of myself while performing as my grand daughter took videos instead of photos. I'm insufficiently technically savvy to figure out how to add a video clip to a blog post.  You'll just have to take my word that I was playing the ukulele and that is indeed my hat showing over the shoulder of one of the hula dancers.

    I had a great time and I think both Madelynn and Linda really enjoyed themselves as well. They were actually talking about signing up for hula lessons as we left.  I apologize for the lack of a photo of Madelynn. I gave her my phone to take pictures and then neglected to insure she appeared in one herself.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Fun Times with the Romeros

   I have been enjoying having the Romeros visiting for the past week.  I've seriously taken advantage of grandsons Anthony and Jonnie to get some manual labor accomplished in preparation for our upcoming Fifth Biannual Cousin Camp.  Besides general cleanup they have been involved in site preparation for the above ground pool and the patio and foundation for the outdoor bread oven.

    On Friday evening I went with Lia and the kids to the little carnival associated with the Kla Ha Ya Days festival in Snohomish.  The kids rode the rides while I took some pictures. We all shared a few elephant ears and curly fries.  Granddaughter Annika is a serious daredevil when it comes to carnival rides.  No ride is too high, too fast or too upside down for her.  She could easily get her money's worth from one of the ride wrist bands. Granddaughter Cozette seemed to enjoy the little alligator roller coaster but was convinced that it was a dragon.

Front end of the "Dragon" roller coaster

Cozy really liked this little roller coaster

Cozy enjoying a ride on the carousel

Tommy liked the carousel more than is apparent in this photo

Grandson James as the Kung Fu Panda

Seriously Cute Clown Cozette

Clown Tommy

Clown Annika

Kung Fu Panda Cozette