Monday, May 31, 2010

Homemade ginger ale--part 3 (by Kat)

Alternative title: It was the best of weekends, it was the worst of weekends.

I'm not sure where I'm going with this post, to be honest. I'm still digesting a lot of what happened this weekend. I'm still in a weird place, knowing I want to talk about it and yet not ready to meet the critics of the discussion. What I'm going to say today is my post--and not a reflection of Bet. Gripes come to me--not her. And yet, I'm not sure I want to hear them either. But, I do know I need to talk about what happened, and this is the place for me to do that. So there.

Anyway, some really great things happened this weekend. I'll start there...

I learned to make ginger ale. We're calling it ginger juice. For the second batch, I made a whole 2 liter bottle full. I used the half a lemon I had left, plus an equal amount of lemon juice from a jar. I reduced the amount of sugar, using just 3/4 cup for the 2 liters instead of the 1 cup my original spin on the recipe called for. Instead of cold water, I used slightly warm. I started it last night, then left it overnight in the bathtub. By noon the bottle was hard and ready to go in the refrigerator. I liked this timing better, as I didn't need to put the bottle in the fridge overnight, with its resulting slow-down of the fermentation process. This batch didn't taste as good as the first batch, but we've all been glugging it down anyway. I think fresh lemon juice is the key, and going full bore on the sugar. I'll keep you updated as our tests continue.

Mr. Boom has been contemplating a yard project for a while now, and decided this was the weekend to implement the plan. We have an outdoor fireplace that sits on our wood deck most of the year. We haul it off the deck and out onto the brick pathway of our backyard a few times a year in order to use it. But, presto-bingo! Not any more. I built the first rock wall, which was deemed "a menagerie of cockadoodoo" by Mr. Boom. Seriously, that was the word he used. I'd have been insulted, but I was laughing too hard.

He "disassembled" (name the movie!) my wall and rebuilt the structure. I have to hand it to him, it does look a lot better. I put the row of spiky rocks along the top in a tribute to the Teton Mountain Range, where we've had many a wonderful outdoor firepit experience. Mr. Boom conceded teh addition, and we lived merrily ever after. Well, the bricks still need to be laid underneath, but we can ignore that chore for a very loooooooong time, I'm sure.

Final really cool thing? "So Easy to Preserve" came in the mail. I've been devouring this book. I'm really looking forward to canning this summer.

Okay, on to the crap.

Um, if you don't like bad words, you might want to stop here. I'm quite likely to pull out a full slate of them, and working where I do, I know 'em all.

(After thinking it over, I've mad the bad words transparent. Read 'em if you want, or not, or whatever)


On Saturday evening, up in the hills, Mr. Boom and I found ourselves in the middle of a storm of bullets. Neither one of us was hit, but a branch a few feet over my head was snapped by a bullet.

Zweeeee---------bam. Zweeee---------bam. Over and over. We were hearing the bullets fly by before the sound of the gun firing them reached us. I hope to God I never ever hear that fucking sound again. We were hiding behind trees, but this isn't an old growth area, and the capability of a twenty year old pine to fully block a well-proportioned adult body is laughable. Except it isn't when the fucking bullets are flying by.

The odd thing is, they sound a little bit like hummingbirds.

Mr. Boom fired his shotgun in the air to let the ass-hats know that they were firing into an area with people in it. The shots only came faster at that point. I tried so hard to be skinny. And we had to move down the hill. Which meant not being behind trees. Then we had to cross a holy fucking shit swamp meadow to get to the car. While the shooting continued.

And then a couple young kids came up the road on dirt bikes. The shooting had stopped by then, and the kids turned around and went back down the road. We drove up the road to find out where the shooting was coming from. We couldn't find anybody. We figured that since the shots were so clustered, they must be shooting at a target and the bullets were going through. We thought they just didn't have a good enough backstop. But we couldn't find them. Maybe that's a good thing?

Anyway, we came back into town (three hours of driving for nothing!) and thought we'd call the sheriff in the morning. What could/would they do at 10:00 at night, anyway. Mr. Boom did some math, and figured that based on the number of rounds they were firing without reloading, the fact that the bullets going by were sub-sonic, the time between the bullet sound and the gun blast sound (think counting for the thunder after seeing lightening), and geography, the fucking assholes were more than 500 yards away, shooting an AK-47. There was no backstop involved. I thought about that distance for awhile, remembering the branch cracking above my head, and wondered what kind of force was behind those bullets. More math, and then the answer. The same as a 9mm at point blank.

Sunday I was shaky, but okay. Today I spent a good deal of the day in or near tears.

I'm feeling better now, but fully anticipate a third night of terrible dreams.

But you know what?

I fully support our right to keep and bear arms. All kinds.

I just really fucking hate 90% of the people behind those guns.

I just about died on Saturday, and I'm not ready, and the asshole who did it was more than 1/3rd of a mile away. Fuck'em!

You're still here? Wow.

You deserve something nice.

Here's the mommy bird in our birdhouse checking that the coast is clear.

Coast is clear--she's on her way to get more grub!

Daddy taking over, just like all good daddy's do.
Rock on, Daddy.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Homemade ginger ale--part 2 (by Kat)

Well, here it is. My first attempt at homemade ginger ale!

Here's the scorecard:

Taste: Very good. Sweeter than I'd confess (in public) to liking; lemon is strong but not at all bitter; ginger is perfect--not so strong that it burns, but definitely announces it's presence. I was concerned that the yeast flavor would come through, but it's only just barely there.

Carbonation: Okay. The shot above is after two days on the counter in a cool kitchen and two nights in the fridge. I'd like more carbonation, so I'll play with leaving it out a little longer. I don't think I'd add more yeast, as I really don't want a yeasty flavor. I'm still eyeballing Mr.Boom's home-brew yeasts....

Color: Pretty! I filtered this through a coarse sieve to take out the big chunks of ginger. There's still a bit of cloudiness from the lemon, but it's not an icky cloudy. You could run it through a coffee filter to clear it up further, if clarity is important to you. I'm okay with some turbidity.

Easiness: Super easy! I looked at many recipes, but the following three are representative of the entire batch. I might try Aran's and Alton's slightly fussier preparations if I ever make this for fancy company. I didn't use filtered water as suggested by Frankhauser and Alton, just regular ol' city tap water.

I'm satisfied enough with what I made to do it the same next time. I'm also a bit curious, so I'll likely be playing with recipe a bit more.

Just think of the other fruits you could add....

Instead of ginger, what about cloves?

Instead of lemon, what about green grape?


1:30 PM updated to add that we've drunk this all up, and are making more. Lots more. New addiction!

Aran Goyoaga from Canelle et Vanille, posted at Design*Sponge

Homemade Ginger Ale:
2 Tbs grated fresh ginger
1 cup sugar
½ cup water
Juice of 1 lemon
1/8 tsp active dry yeast
7 cups wate
In a small pot, add the grated ginger, sugar and ½ cup water. Bring to a boil and let sugar dissolve. Remove pan from heat and let the syrup steep and cool for about 30 minutes.
Strain the syrup through a fine sieve. Mix with the lemon juice, yeast and 2 qts of water. Whisk together and using a funnel, pour into a plastic bottle. Screw the cap on the bottle. Make sure it is a plastic bottle and not glass as the gases from the fermentation can crack the glass jar.
Let it ferment at room temperature for about 2 days until carbonation forms. Make sure to refrigerate after it starts to carbonate.

David B. Fankhauser, Ph.D.

cane (table) sugar [sucrose] (1 cup)
Freshly grated ginger root (1 1/2-2 tablespoons)
Juice of one lemon
fresh granular baker's yeast (1/4 teaspoon)
cold fresh pure water

Combine first four ingredients in a 2 liter bottle, top off with the water, and let rest at room temperature 24-48 hours.

Alton Brown

1 1/2 ounces finely grated fresh ginger
6 ounces sugar
7 1/2 cups filtered water
1/8 teaspoon active dry yeast
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Place the ginger, sugar, and 1/2 cup of the water into a 2-quart saucepan and set over medium-high heat. Stir until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat, cover and allow to steep for 1 hour.

Pour the syrup through a fine mesh strainer set over a bowl, pressing down to get all of the juice out of the mixture. Chill quickly by placing over and ice bath and stirring or set in the refrigerator, uncovered, until at least room temperature, 68 to 72 degrees F.

Using a funnel, pour the syrup into a clean 2-liter plastic bottle and add the yeast, lemon juice and remaining 7 cups of water. Place the cap on the bottle, gently shake to combine and leave the bottle at room temperature for 48 hours. Open and check for desired amount of carbonation. It is important that once you achieve your desired amount of carbonation that you refrigerate the ginger ale. Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks, opening the bottle at least once a day to let out excess carbonation.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Homemade ginger ale--part 1 (by Kat)

Bet and I have a very long history.

One time, I said very, very, very long and she said that was overstating it a little bit. I, for one, have accepted my grey hair naturally. Bet, perpetually surrounded by teenagers, is in a bit more denial, I guess. All I can say is that our 20th high school reunion is this summer...and we've been friends since sixth grade. Isn't that very, very, very long? At least very, very, if you ask me.

I'm not sure if it was during that first summer of our friendship or if it was the second. I suppose it could have even been our third, but since we get to write our own history, we'll just go back to that hot summer day shortly after school was out for the year. I lived about a mile out of town to the east, and she lived about a mile to the north of town. We had our bikes, though, so we had our freedom.

On this hot day, we were plopped on the floor of my family's den. My folks were at work, I suppose, and I couldn't tell you where my brother was. Maybe next door at my grandparent's house? Who knows....

Anyway, we got the brilliant idea to walk into town to get root beer floats at the Dairy Queen. We jumped the back fence and headed down the train tracks on foot. At some point, my dog (Samantha) decided to follow. I don't know why we didn't think this would happen, but I'm not sure we were thinking anything at all. It was summer vacation, after all.

Anyway, we followed the tracks to the edge of town, at which point we had to cross a very main street. I laugh at that description of it now, as there are now two lanes in each direction, PLUS a turning lane. Now that's a main road! At least it is in my little town. Have I ever mentioned that I never left? Bet did, but not me. Somehow I got stuck here, but I wouldn't have it any other way now.

Anyway, we had to cross the main road with my dog who wasn't on a leash and didn't even really know her own name. That dog was the dumbest dog, and we never did bond. I wish I'd tried harder, but there you go. So, we finally got the two of us and the dumb dog across the road, and were confronted with what to do with Samantha while we went in to get our drinks. I don't know why we didn't use the drive-through, but it was summer break and we weren't really thinking. I mentioned that already, right?

For the life of me I can't remember how this part happened, but we found a rope and were able to tie her up to the railing. We bought our floats, and ate them outside under the hot hot sun. Never had a root beer float tasted so good to me before that day. Somehow, we finally made it back home and flopped in front of the TV again.

Luckily, we arrived just in time to watch Bet's favorite show. We HAD to watch that show. I would have watched anything to keep her happy. I had a friend.

The next summer, we hit the DQ again. Root beer floats, again.

Pretty soon we were driving to the DQ, drinking root beer floats.

We still do it, but sometimes we don't get them until July or August. But, if it's summer, Bet and I have to go get our root beer floats.

Are you still reading this? Wondering what the heck this has to do with ginger ale? Yesterday Bet left the following comment on my Daring Bakers Challenge post:

"Num. Why did I move so far away? Ever think about homemade rootbeer? What do you think that takes? That is not a challenge.

Not a challenge my patooty!!!!!

So, to make root beer at home, you have to have root beer extract. Boring! And, I don't feel like going to the store.

But ginger ale?!

I had all the ingredients here in the house, so I started a little batch.

I hope it doesn't explode. Mr. Boom's homebrew wine has exploded, his homebrew beer has exploded, and I'd really rather not repeat those experiences!

Ginger ale:

1/2 cup sugar
1-2 tablespoons lemon juice (I used one half of a large-ish lemon)
small knob of ginger
1/8 teaspoon regular old bread yeast (I eyed Mr. Boom's champagne yeast, I admit...)
water (I used town tap, but imagine that spring water would be better)

I like to keep a bit of ginger in the freezer.
It keeps very well, and once frozen, ginger is very easy to mince.

Use a funnel to get all the ingredients into a one-liter bottle.
This is Mr. Boom's water bottle. He forgot to take it to work today.

Lemon bits and yeast critters are floating about in suspension.

Let the bottle sit out overnight or until the pressure on the bottle
is so great that you can't press the side in.


Thursday, May 27, 2010

May Daring Bakers (by Kat)

Blog checking lines:
The May 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Cat of Little Miss Cupcake. Cat challenged everyone to make a piece montée, or croquembouche, based on recipes from Peter Kump’s Baking School in Manhattan and Nick Malgieri.

Oh boy, was this ever a fun month for Daring Bakers! I actually made the challenge twice. While it was very good the first time, the second time was even better.

No, it's not le Tour d'Eiffel...
it's une Croquembouche
(ou un Croquembouche?).
(Masculine or feminine, Je ne s'ais quoi...)

First, prepare a very simple vanilla pastry cream.
(I modified the recipe to include a vanilla bean)

Second, prepare a choux pastry.
(Ten minutes or less, baby. This is EASY!)

Third, stuff your baked puffs with the pastry cream.
(Lick your fingers lots)

Finally, dip each puff in melted sugar and build a tower.
Feel free to use the leftover caramel to make swirls, spirals,
spun sugar, or (awwww) hearts!

Here's the recipe, with my mods as noted:

For the Vanilla Crème Patissiere (Half Batch)
1 cup (225 ml.) whole milk
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
6 Tbsp. (100 g.) sugar
1 large egg
2 large egg yolks
2 Tbsp. (30 g.) unsalted butter
1 Tsp. Vanilla [I omitted this and used 1/4 vanilla bean the second time, and it was much better.]

Dissolve cornstarch in ¼ cup of milk. Combine the remaining milk [and vanilla bean, split open, if using] with the sugar in a saucepan; bring to boil; remove from heat.

Beat the whole egg, then the yolks into the cornstarch mixture. Pour 1/3 of boiling milk into the egg mixture, whisking constantly so that the eggs do not begin to cook.

Return the remaining milk to boil. Pour in the hot egg mixture in a stream, continuing whisking.

Continue whisking (this is important – you do not want the eggs to solidify/cook) until the cream thickens and comes to a boil. Remove from heat and beat in the butter and vanilla.

Pour cream into a stainless steel/ceramic bowl. Press plastic wrap firmly against the surface. Chill immediately and until ready to use.

For Chocolate Pastry Cream (Half Batch Recipe):
Bring ¼ cup (about 50 cl.) milk to a boil in a small pan; remove from heat and add in 3 ounces (about 80 g.) semisweet chocolate, finely chopped, and mix until smooth. Whisk into pastry cream when you add the butter and vanilla.

For Coffee Pastry Cream (Half Batch recipe)
Dissolve 1 ½ teaspoons instant espresso powder in 1 ½ teaspoons boiling water. Whisk into pastry cream with butter and vanilla.

Pate a Choux (Yield: About 28)
¾ cup (175 ml.) water
6 Tbsp. (85 g.) unsalted butter
¼ Tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 cup (125 g.) all-purpose flour
4 large eggs [I used three eggs the second time, and the results were much improved]

For Egg Wash: 1 egg and pinch of salt

Pre-heat oven to 425◦F/220◦C degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Preparing batter:
Combine water, butter, salt and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and stir occasionally. At boil, remove from heat and sift in the flour, stirring to combine completely.

Return to heat and cook, stirring constantly until the batter dries slightly and begins to pull away from the sides of the pan.

Transfer to a bowl and stir with a wooden spoon 1 minute to cool slightly.

Add 1 egg. The batter will appear loose and shiny.

As you stir, the batter will become dry-looking like lightly buttered mashed potatoes.

It is at this point that you will add in the next egg. Repeat until you have incorporated all the eggs.

Transfer batter to a pastry bag fitted with a large open tip (I piped directly from the bag opening without a tip). Pipe choux about 1 inch-part in the baking sheets. Choux should be about 1 inch high about 1 inch wide.

Using a clean finger dipped in hot water, gently press down on any tips that have formed on the top of choux when piping. You want them to retain their ball shape, but be smoothly curved on top.

Brush tops with egg wash (1 egg lightly beaten with pinch of salt).

Bake the choux at 425◦F/220◦C degrees until well-puffed and turning lightly golden in color, about 10 minutes.

Lower the temperature to 350◦F/180◦C degrees and continue baking until well-colored and dry, about 20 minutes more. Remove to a rack and cool.

Can be stored in a airtight box overnight. [If you store them overnight, be sure to crisp them up in the oven before filling. I didn't, and I regretted. On my second run through, I filled the little buggers about an hour after cooking them, and they were much better.]

When you are ready to assemble your piece montée, using a plain pastry tip, pierce the bottom of each choux. Fill the choux with pastry cream using either the same tip or a star tip, and place on a paper-lined sheet. Choux can be refrigerated briefly at this point while you make your glaze.

Use one of these to top your choux and assemble your piece montée.

Chocolate Glaze:
8 ounces/200 g. finely chopped chocolate (use the finest quality you can afford as the taste will be quite pronounced; I recommend semi-sweet)

Melt chocolate in microwave or double boiler. Stir at regular intervals to avoid burning. Use the best quality chocolate you can afford. Use immediately.

Hard Caramel Glaze: [this could be halved]
1 cup (225 g.) sugar
½ teaspoon lemon juice

Combine sugar and lemon juice in a saucepan with a metal kitchen spoon stirring until the sugar resembles wet sand. Place on medium heat; heat without stirring until sugar starts to melt around the sides of the pan and the center begins to smoke. Begin to stir sugar. Continue heating, stirring occasionally until the sugar is a clear, amber color. Remove from heat immediately; place bottom of pan in ice water to stop the cooking. Use immediately.

Assembly of your Piece Montée:
You may want to lay out your unfilled, unglazed choux in a practice design to get a feel for how to assemble the final dessert. For example, if making a conical shape, trace a circle (no bigger than 8 inches) on a piece of parchment to use as a pattern. Then take some of the larger choux and assemble them in the circle for the bottom layer. Practice seeing which pieces fit together best.

Once you are ready to assemble your piece montée, dip the top of each choux in your glaze (careful it may be still hot!), and start assembling on your cake board/plate/sheet. Continue dipping and adding choux in levels using the glaze to hold them together as you build up. (You may want to use toothpicks to hold them in place – see video #4 below).

When you have finished the design of your piece montée, you may drizzle with remaining glaze or use ribbons, sugar cookie cut-outs, almonds, flowers, etc. to decorate. Have fun and enjoy! Bon appétit!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

You don't have to do everything... (by Bet)

Yesterday my teaching partner opened up a Dove chocolate and found this message inside the wrapper:  "You don't have to do everything".  This may be true but it sure feels as if you should.

I am hoping that writing about my "everything" at school will help put it into perspective.  Then again, maybe I just want someone to complain to.

Fourteen days of school left for most, ten days of school left for seniors. 

In my ninth/tenth grade class students are learning to classify leaves (remember bug collections?) and  finishing Earth Abides.  Well, most are finishing, some are just starting.  There are three essays in my outbox and a new one coming into my in box on Friday.  Essays in my class are used to both show learning and practice writing skills.  I can't hope to keep up if I want them to actually write on a regular basis.  Justification at its best, maybe I am just lazy.

In my eleventh/twelfth grade class students are learning Parli Pro and are preparing for Model UN.  This is the first year we are embarking in Model UN at our little high school.  The teacher who wanted to do it just had a new child and it turns out has no idea how Model UN is organized.  This has been left to myself and before mentioned partner.  We are in over our head.  We only have eight more school days left to pull it off.   The other English teachers who have seniors are not even interested in learning about it.

In twelfth grade AP the students are also preparing for Model UN and studying Theater of the Absurd.  Finals for this class will include three more essays.  I have a twelve inch stack of revisions to grade for them.

Yesterday at the staff meeting I was told that I had to have grades in for seniors in six days.  That is four days before their last day of school.  I was informed that I needed to get things graded quickly because otherwise they could not do their job.  I believe they were trying to make me feel guilty because they had to work on a weekend.  I wonder if they wake up at 2 am to grade papers so that their job won't interfere with their family life?  Wow.  That sounded bitter.

Today I am gone because I have the last of a series of ELL trainings.  I got elected via the Life Cereal motto.  Remember the slogan, "Mikey will try it" when no one else wants to?  In my school when it has to do with English and no one else knows how or what to do it becomes, "Bet will do it."  The scary thing is is that I am not sure I want it any other way. 

Our state's reading and writing portfolio for students who can't pass the state test is due early next week.  Guess who gets to make sure they are done, put together correctly and sufficient?  No, I don't get paid to do it.

The Environmental Club received a grant to make over a portion of my classes vegetable garden into a habitat garden.  (As mentioned before, I don't garden.  Things tend to just die.)  The group finally got it together and spent yesterday afternoon cleaning things out.  When I visited the local nursery I was told they don't even know the plants on the list.  What?  I said.  Turns out that the people they hire at the local nursery don't garden either.  A very nice employee followed me out and said that she worked at a different nursery in a different town and they had everything on my list.  So my drive time became two hours instead of fifteen minutes.  The garden needs to be in and the report written by June 2. 

I have a zoo field trip to plan and execute on the fourth of June with the Older/Younger program I run with the local day care.  It is our culminating activity and the little kids first experience on a real school bus.  It will be fun if my hair doesn't turn completely white before that.

Sometime in there I need to go the middle school and interview kids for my ninth grade class.  I run the alternative class and this year students are finally going to have a choice about whether they want to join.  I'm tired of people deciding to put kids in my program because they look like the kind of kid they believe should be in my class.  It drives me crazy.

I'm sure I'm missing something that will come back to bite me later, but I do feel better.  Plus, if you've made it this far you have to be wishing I'd just finish up or put in a picture or two.  The camera is still a nightmare, so blogging will continue to be picture-less. Sorry.

My own children are happy despite the craziness at school.  The husband went back to work this week which is a good thing, despite him leaving at 4:30 am and coming home at 6.  The girl has a record player which has been so much fun.  I found a bunch of records with songs that took me back at Goodwill and we have been having a good time dancing.   The boy has a real lab in which he has been gleefully mixing colors and growing severed body parts in.  Thank you Steve Spangler Science!

What is your "everything"?

 Oh, and Kat?  You proofread my work, not the other way around. 

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Catching up (by Kat)

Knock on wood, or your skulls, or cross your fingers, or do whatever it is you do...
(I think I finally kicked the big bad pneumonia in the butt.)

Having done so, I ran out of excuses for not doing all the things "I've been supposed to have been doing." Obviously my brain isn't quite all back yet. But you know what, I just diagrammed that sentence and I do believe it's correct grammar. Huh. Bet? Will you let me know if that's an okay sentence?

Anyway, I have to shout out a TREMENDOUSLY BIG THANK YOU to Marisa of the absolutely drop dead gorgeous blog Food in Jars. Marisa's recent give-a-way was for a copy of her favorite canning book, So Easy to Preserve.

My aunt found a wonderful old pressure canner at an estate sale last year, and knowing how badly I wanted one, she picked it up for me. A quick visit to the local extension office later on revealed that the pressure gauge was very, very, very, very bad, so I picked a new one up at the local hardware store.

Sadly, by this time, all the fruits were ripened and done for the year, and none of my beets ended up having roots--just leaves. So the canner sits and waits patiently in the shop, awaiting its maiden voyage this year. I can't wait to pore over this new book and dream of all the things I'll be able to make. Thanks, Marisa!

On a similar note, thanks go out to the so so beautiful Tanya of the TASMANIAN Suburban Jubilee for her shout out today. I love the fact that this Internet thingy lets me view the world through a set of eyes so far away. Right now, she's heading into a glorious fall as I'm begging for spring to really set in. She's nesting up for the autumn while I'm throwing open the vernal windows.

In other news, the garden is planted, the first peony opened yesterday, and one of the chicks might be a rooster. Dawg, previously known as None, has little tiny bumps growing on his legs, right where you'd expect to see spurs on a rooster. PussyCow, the chick previously known as Brown, doesn't have these bumps.

For those of you not in the northwest US, please follow this link to understand the source of PussyCow's name. I don't blame you if you decide to never return...but I hope you do!

This month's Daring Baker's challenge is in the oven. I hope I didn't burn it. I got lost in the YouTube videos of PussyCow. Thursday is the reveal day for this month's challenge--you'll have to see what happened!

I'll try to put up some pictures of the garden and Dawg's rooster legs later on. Hopefully it won't be another week...

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

What a difference a week makes--okay, two (by Kat)

Two weeks ago, while out and about downloading data loggers, I came upon this nest of eggs inside a large metal box alongside a local stream.

Since soooooo many swallows hang out in this area, I figured I was looking at swallow eggs.
Anyone familiar with my inability to correctly identify even the easiest of the adult birds living around here will now start to laugh. Adults are hard enough, so what was I thinking, trying to identify a pile of sweet little eggs.

Judging by the clamoring of the red-winged blackbirds today when I revisited the same spot, I'm guessing we have a nest of those guys here. Just a guess--feel free to laugh your heads off.

Okay then.

After switching out the battery and resetting the logger after downloading the data, I was just about to close the box back up when one of the little feather folk decided to make a break for it.

He flopped himself out of the box, down the embankment, and almost landed himself in the stream. It took a few tense moments before we found him, buried in the tall grass, hunkering down as invisibly as he could.

I got him back into the box, but he refused to stay in the nest.

Hopefully, one of the parents entered soon after we left and told him to straighten up!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Morels! (by Kat)

This was a jam-packed weekend at our house. I built a few new birdhouses and put them up, though I'm a little bit concerned that their installation may be too late for this year's use.

Can I say I'm really early for next year?

I also put the hummingbird feeder up, and TA-DA!!!!

This might not seem amazing to many (or maybe even most) of you. To me, this was a thrill. I've put up hummingbird feeders every summer for 15 years.

Last year, one hummingbird came through the yard a few times over the course of two days.
That. Was. It.

But this year, I actually have two hummingbirds who've been sharing the feeder since Saturday. We're on day three here, folks, a wonderful new record!

Most importantly, this weekend brought us our first of many seasonal forays into the hills for morels. I love morels.

Any way you want to slice 'em...

or dice em'...

or throw them in a stew...
(or, er, homemade fettuccine noodles with leeks, garlic, and parm)

I love morels!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The culprit (by Kat)

Ladies and gentlemen,
distinguished members of the jury,

I submit to you this evidence of the cold-hearted chick killer.

No eye-witnesses were prepared to present their
beaked testimony to the court.

However, the next night the killer returned to the scene of the crime.

Luckily, the two remaining chicks were under the court's,
I mean the new coop's,

No one was harmed.

Evidence number one:

Evidence number two:

Align Center

Hooray for trail cams!
Infra-red spy gear to the max!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Happy Friday (by Kat)

Happy Friday everyone!
Need a reason to smile?
How about bread raising in the sun?

Chicks under a blooming lilac bush...

A garden begging someone to come out in the sun and weed the rows?
Don't worry garlic, peas, and potatoes, I'll be out again soon!

A beauty berry start, now four years old, and still alive...

What? You can't pick it out from amongst the hops?
Let me zoom in for you...

Bet's mom provided this little start so long ago;
I just know that one of these years it will finally grow
more than a few inches high.

Or not...

Either way, it makes me smile.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

And then there were two (by Kat)

I'm trying so hard to get over this pneumonia, but for some reason I haven't quite got it kicked yet.

So many things are falling by the wayside, including this poor little blog! But, due to a series of tragedies, I have time today to post something of an update!

I really needed to go to work today, and by 8:00 I'd managed to haul my body out of bed and was debating the energy expenditure required for taking a shower. Chirp-chirp was well on her way to getting out of the house and to school on time, judging from the sounds in the kitchen below, so in I stepped. I came downstairs and poured dry cereal into a bowl just as she was stepping out the door. Then I poured on the milk and collapsed into my chair.


Oh joy. Mr Boom's cousin attempted suicide (again) last night, and we were part of the frantic calls trying to find him and rescue him. We hadn't heard whether he'd pulled through last night, so I figured the pounding on the door was related to that whole fiasco.


When I opened the door I saw Chirp-chirp, tears streaming down her face, sobs issuing from her gut, and one chick in her hand. On her way out of the yard on her way to school, she discovered this chick out of the pen. When she went to return the chick to the pen, she found another chick mutilated. No sign of the third chick. The deceased was Black, of course, her favorite of the three.

We eventually found the missing chick, who appeared to be physically unhurt, if not totally mentally traumatized.

Obviously, turning around and heading back toward school was out of the question, so I had her come inside so I could finish my (now very soggy, grrrr) cereal. Then we designed and built a new coop for the chicks.

I suppose you'd like pictures. Well, I'd be happy to give them to you, but I can't. The dad-gum coop is stuck mostly-upside-down-but-kinda-at-an-angle between a rock wall and a wood fence. There it will stay until Mr. Boom comes home and helps me get it into place.

A friend called just a few minutes ago. She wants to go morel hunting. It sure beats heading to the psyche ward in the big city this evening!

(I really don't want to get too close to one of those places in case they realize I'm on the wrong side of the wall!)

Thursday, May 6, 2010

A fine how-de-doo! (by Kat)

"No" said the birds.
"No, you may not use your box for monitoring equipment."

The sparrows dove and screeched in the air above.

"No! The box is ours and we'll do with it what we want!"
We unhooked both your loggers from your battery!
We've incorporated your wires into our nest!"

Okay, possession is 9/10ths of the law.

"I'll be back in two weeks" I said.
"And I'm downloading my data!"

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Port Townsend suggestions? (by Kat)

We're heading off to Port Townsend later this summer with Mr. Boom's brother and family.
Four adults, two teens, and one pre-teen.
Any suggestions of good places to stay? Eat? Play?
Has anyone stayed at Fort Worden State Park?
Do you know a good house to rent?
Is the Dungeness Spit worth the trip?
Help me out here, folks.

In other news, I just baked the first rhubarb crisp of the season. I'm the only one here who likes it, so I felt justified in eating most of it in one sitting, right out of the dish. The dish was nice and warm, which helped allay the shivering.

The dish has since cooled, my tummy is warm and full, and I'm heading off to bed.

Guess I shouldn't have gone to work today. Today's wind is less than yesterday's, but I think any wind is really detrimental to this whole "getting over pneumonia" thing I'm supposed to be doing.

Over and out.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Wind and whine (by Kat)

Lord oh lord am I ever tired of being sick!

I was doing better by the end of last week, but then Saturday found me outside from 8:30-2:30 engaged with the public in an outreach event. My little town has a reputation for it's breeze, and, true to form, the breeze showed up to the big event adorned with all her bells and whistles. She celebrated in style, did our blustery friend, with sustained breezes of 18-39 mph with gusts up to 50 mph.

The hardiest of the bunch, the archaeologists, stuck it out the whole day. I threw my exhibit into the back of my work rig a little early so I could hear their final lecture. The snake biologists packed it in quite a bit earlier, much to the dismay of my daughter and her friends.

After a so-called "slumber" party the night before to celebrate Chirp-chirp's 13th birthday, Mr Boom brought the truckload of adolescent sleep-deprived girls to the park so they could participate in the scheduled snake sneak outing. When they discovered the trip was canceled, Mr Boom (my hero!) put the girls back into the truck, drove them down the canyon, and took them on their own private snake sneak. They only found one rattlesnake, but they called it a triumph since the "professionals" said none were to be found.

Anyway, Sunday morning found me nasty sick again, but with a tremendous urge to be...


I wanted out of the wind that's been howling around our house, I wanted out of the shrub-steppe despite the previous day's extolling of her beauty. I wanted trees and water and stillness and beauty.

I got it.

I love this tiny little pond nestled high in the hills.
It's not always this color blue, usually it's even blue-er.

I started meandering down the old road, but hacking as I was on the way down,
I realized that coming back up would likely kill me.

Something to look forward to...

PS Right now our local breeze is 40 mph with little gusts of 60 mph. I wonder when the real spring winds will hit? Hah!

PPS Beaufort Scale I recorded an "8" on Saturday, today's land conditions indicate a "9," although that's higher than the weather report says.

PPPS Sick people are boring. I apologize.