Monthly Archives: June 2009

Vacation List: Eastern Oregon

I’ve been away because I was on vacation. It was lovely; there were a few minor surprises, but they all tended to end the best way. I have a lot to say about this trip. I’ll probably run out of steam before I run out of information, but such is life. I stopped by the garden today and it is just plain burgeoning, so I will have to move on to current events soon. But I’m still excited from our vacation to the west, and here is my first list of thoughts from our trip:
1. Have you ever heard that Eastern Oregon is ugly? Put the thought aside — it comes from unenlightened people. I have no pictorial proof, sorry. You’ll just have to trust me.
2. I did not drive across southeastern Oregon on this trip. That is a little different landscape. I have seen it before, and still maintain that people who believe it is worthless or ugly are unenlightened, but I will not be talking about that section of the state.
3. Eastern and central Oregon from Highway 26 or I-84 is rad.
4. Going west, you drive across a bit of high semi-arid land before you get to the Blue Mountains. The endless sugar beets and potatoes of Idaho give way to more varied farmland — still potatoes and sugar beets, but more onions, wheat, corn, alfalfa, and zinnias. Zinnias, I’m not kidding. Awesomeness. Plus, I saw a bald eagle. I’m not one to pee my pants for seeing an eagle, but I am always pleased to see one in a new-to-me landscape. I saw many raptors during the entire trip, actually, but I’m pretty poor at ID-ing raptors in flight, so I don’t really know what they were. I suspect I saw an osprey. Man, I wish I hadn’t been driving so I could have ogled it more.
5. The Blue Mountains are beautiful. Really, really beautiful. And almost entirely skipped by our Oregon guidebook. Apparently, the author is unenlightened. Maybe he experienced a terrifying childhood event involving Ponderosa pine forests and stunning, low mountains with pretty little rivers in them. Who can say?
6. The towns along 26 appear surprisingly prosperous. Anyone who doesn’t feel like moving to John Day, OR after they see it must be crazy. And Unity, and Dayville, and all of them up to, oh, I guess Lebanon seemed a little run down, but not utterly so.
7. We did only fancy-pants camping on this trip. We didn’t bust out the tent once. The first night was spent in a big teepee at a state park. With electrical outlets and mattresses. And a little opening at the top where a sleepless baby can stare and stare and stare.C in Teepee in ClydeHolidayStPrk_061909_1
8. Oregon has a ton of state parks and they really nice. There is a fee for all of them, as far as I could tell, but the fees are low. And worth it. The state obviously invests a lot in these parks.
9. Oregon supposedly has no chiggers. However, H and I suffered multiple tiny itchy bite-type things after we sat in the grass on the bank of the John Day River for a long time poking around with a stick. They are suspiciously chigger-like. I hate chiggers so much that it’s almost a deal-breaker for me and eastern Oregon, but not quite. They finally stopped itching about two days ago. Before that they were maddening.

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Caution about New World monkeys

So I was listening to Science Friday this past Saturday (!) and I learned something I cannot stop pondering:

New World monkeys have tailprints.  That’s right, little ridges on the prehensile part of their tails like fingerprints.

Do you know what this means? This means that if one plans to train/hire a New World monkey to do one’s criminal dirty work ONE NOW NEEDS TO MAKE SURE HIS/HER TAILPRINTS ARE NOT ALREADY IN POLICE DATABASES.

You’ve been warned.

It’s a struggle

It’s a struggle for plants trying to live in the planter bed out back, where it’s shady in the best of times, shady and dry and hot in the harder times, and freezing and covered with snow at the worst of times.

I thought the Japanese Painted Fern had given up after a goose plucked what fronds it had managed to put out this spring, but look.Jap Pnt Fern Revives_061209

OK, so the fern is persistent.  Thing is, I kept a sweet potato too long in the kitchen awhile back  and it sprouted —  a lot.  I cut off the sprouts and planted them.  I left hardly any tuber, since I had no idea what I was doing other than “not throwing away the pretty pinkish leaves.”  Brad didn’t think they’d make it, but look.Sw Pot_061209

The problem?  I planted the sweet potatoes sorta really really close to the fern I thought was dead.  It’s a pathetic miracle plant throwdown!

Mr. Yakkety-Yak

Unlike many other people, my parents did not ever say to me when I was growing up “Someday you’ll have a child just like you and then it’ll be payback time.”

It happened anyway, without the explicit parental curse.

H talks constantly. And lately, with increasing certainty of his correctness and absurd confidence in his abilities (“I know how to build a TV,” “I can sew a beautiful wedding dress in one day, better than Gramma can,” “When I’m bigger I will build a house and I’ll show you how to do it.  Like when I’m nine.  Or maybe we can start tomorrow.”)  It suddenly hit a me a few days ago that I was just like that.  Maybe still am (notice the name of this blog?  Or the fact that I have a personal, blathering-style blog at all?)  Upon reflection, here is how I know I have produced a copy of myself in this regard:

  1. When I was 11, I made my sister a tape in which I talked and played music the entire time.  She recently re-discovered it and burned it to CD for me.  It consists of the observations of a very-certain 11-year-old on everything in front of her —  the style of an orchestra conductor, attempted performance and commentary on Monty Python skits I had never actually heard, and repeated, loud exclamations of “HA!”
  2. I played this CD in part for some friends, and they laughed and said I still talk exactly the same way — different-sounding voice, same way of expressing myself.
  3. When I was a child I regularly was chastised for “talking back.”  I generally felt unjustly punished, as from my point of view, I was simply trying to explain myself more clearly.
  4. I mentioned #3 to  Brad, and he laughed (a little hysterically — why?) and said “It’s a wonder your mother didn’t kill you.”
  5. I told my father of my realization too, and he told a story of my attempts to build a windmill that did all sorts of amazing things around the age of eight.  He was unable to dissuade me from my plans, and helped as best he could to get it to do, well, anything.  THIS IS A REGULAR OCCURRENCE HERE IN MY HOME.

Sigh.  Will Baby C be this damn loquacious and certain?  Probably so.  These children really are easy — normally developing but cautious about their own safety.  What could be easier?  (Answer: occasional silence).

Finally some finished objects

Well, one WIP. But it sorta looks finished.
Pink and Wht Tat Bookmrk_061009
This bookmark is from this pattern. I’ve tatted it once before and I learned about the wildness that can result from not making sure your chains are all pulled to about the same tension. I’d post a pic of the first one too, but I’ve been letting the baby chew and twist it, so it’s looking pretty ragged at the moment.

And here, finally, is a baby dress I’ve been knitting. It should have only taken about three days or maybe four, but I needed to redo the crocheted edging. Topaz Baby dress_061009_1When I attempted to unpick the edging on one side, I succeeded instead in unpicked the kitchener-stitched joining. Argh! So there was more work to fix that up. I sure hope the parents of the intended recipient like it. I am not so happy with the yarn choice now I see it all done — it’s Vanna’s Choice, which has heretofore been my favored acrylic. Maybe it still is, but I just don’t like it in a stockinette-based garment. I had planned to do it with Cotton-Ease but was seduced by the acrylic. Wrong choice, I think.

Broccoli Raab recommendation revised

I stand behind my statements about the deliciousness of b.r.

But please note something else I’ve learned — it needs some regular harvestin’. If it doesn’t get it, it bolts to high heaven and everything is over. So maybe not the best choice for a rented plot a few miles away that only gets visited every few days. Very good, though, for a backyard. Someday I will grow it again.

Sprouted Bread

The original recipe says you’ll need an 8 1/2- or 4 1/2-inch loaf pan or a willow basket or round bowl and a cloth (I use a baking stone for a completely unformed loaf. I’ve done it in a loaf pan and I dunna like it.).

  • 3 cups assorted whole grains (some combination of wheat berries, rye berries, barley, spelt, lentils, soybeans, mung beans, chickpeas)
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons vital wheat gluten
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 2 tablespoons honey, barley malt, agave nectar, or granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup water, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup mixed sesame, pumpkin, sunflower, and flax seeds (optional)
  • Vegetable oil (for the bowl)
  • Butter (for the loaf pan, if using)
  • Whole-wheat flour (for shaping)

1. Two to three days before baking, soak the 3 cups of grains in a container of cold water for 12 to 24 hours at room temperature.

2. Drain them, return them to the container, cover with plastic wrap, and leave on the kitchen counter. Wait 2 to 3 days until the grains begin to sprout, (mine start sprouting within 8 hours) rinsing and draining them once or twice so they are always damp. As soon as little tails appear, the grains have sprouted and are ready (quarter inch sprouts are good). The mixture should have grown to about 4 1/2 cups. Store in the fridge until you are ready to make the dough.

3. Grind the grains to a fine pulp in a manual meat grinder (or an electric one or a food processor as long as you don’t heat the sprouts up.)

4. To mix by hand: In a bowl with a wooden spoon, combine the sprout pulp, vital wheat gluten, salt, yeast, honey, 1/4 cup of the water (and seeds, if using).  Stir vigorously. Or, knead with wet hands for about 2 minutes or until all the ingredients are evenly integrated and distributed. The dough should be soft and slightly sticky; if not, add more of the water to form a sticky ball of dough.

5. Mist a work surface with a spray of water. Place the dough on the surface and knead with wet hands for 1 to 2 minutes. Although the dough will be sticky on the surface, it should have the strength and feel of normal bread dough (it doesn’t seem much like regular bread dough to me, incidentally.  And it stays crack-y, doesn’t develop like regular dough.  It is strong, though).  Form the dough into a ball and let it rest on the work surface for 5 minutes.  Meanwhile, lightly oil a bowl.

6. Resume kneading the dough for 1 minute with wet hands to strengthen it.  The dough should have strength yet still feel soft, supple, and very tacky.  Form the dough into a ball and transfer it to the bowl, rolling to coat with oil.  Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let it rise at room temperature for 45 to 60 minutes or until it is about 1 1/2 times its original size.

7. Meanwhile, butter the loaf pan, if using. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and form it into either a loaf or a freestanding batard.  For the loaf pan, set the dough in the pan or for an unformed loaf, make it all pretty and put it on a baking stone or some other surface if you like to pre-heat the stone. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature for 45 to 60 minutes or until it is about 1 1/2 times its original size.

8. Set the oven at 425 degrees. If baking a freestanding loaf, set a pizza stone on the middle shelf of the oven and place a roasting pan on a rack underneath it. Place the dough on the stone, pour 1 cup of hot water into the pan, lower the temperature to 350 degrees, and bake for 20 minutes.

9. Rotate the loaf 180 degrees and continue baking for 20 to 30 minutes or until the loaf is a rich brown on all sides, sounds hollow when thumped on the bottom, and registers at least 200 degrees in the center. Transfer the bread to a wire rack and let it cool for at least 1 hour before slicing.

Adapted from an article by Ted Weesner Jr., at The Boston Globe — my added comments in italics.

Down days

Finally (finally!), I have no unusual activity to report.  Here’s a very rare shot of the boys in which neither one is staring at the camera:C and H Laugh_060509

And here’s a shot of the garden, moments after I put down an absurdly thick layer of straw around the non-tiny plants. Garden 060609_2 I’m hoping a rainstorm will beat it down a little bit, but being as it’s June already, we might not have any more good showers for two or three months.  So we shall see.  Look at the shallots!  I guess I need to double-check how and when one harvests those.

Catching up, this time with pictures

I wish, oh I wish, I had remembered to take my camera out last week when I went to see my father’s old hayground.  He told me some stories that occurred there, like when his father shot himself in the knee there but managed to get on top of the haywagon and get back to the road a mile or so away and flag down a group of passers-by.  And his first “adventure” when his mother let him ride out alone to bring his father and brothers some cheese after a few days out mowing the wild hay — he memorized all the gates he was to go through and arrived without mishap.  They were very happy to see him, having mistakenly brought cans and cans of BEETS to eat, thinking they were pork and beans.  I love beets, really love them, but camping out, doing days of hard manual labor, with only beets to sustain me does not sound appealing.  The hayground itself used to be a spring-fed wetland, with ponds.  It is now dry and half-covered with sandhills that blew in, but you can see the tall Russian Olives growing there from a long way off.  There is still water there, even if the sand is covering it and even if it is deeper due to agricultural pumping on the neighboring properties.  Noxious though they are, Russian Olives do have their charm.

Here’s a picture from the Lamb and Wool Fest I attended with my parents and the boys last Saturday (don’t get excited, it was a festival for kids, not a wool-vending venue.  That said, it was maybe the best kids-festival I’ve been to — no huge inflatable jumping pods or slides or rides to distract, not too big or crowded, with lots of different things to see and do.  And I got to watch a pretty little Jacob get sheared.)

Aaaand a few of our hike last Sunday, complete with the rattlesnake that crawled out a few feet up the path just as we were finishing lunch.  It rattled once to let us know it was there, and then slithered in a leisurely way across the trail.  No harm, no worry, but I’m glad no one decided to sit wherever it had been hiding.  And, no, I didn’t rush right up to it to get a picture.  Sheesh.

Click’em to see ’em bigger.

And hey!  The baby learned to clap!

In the interim

I have been very busy.  My family has been very busy.  There have been visitors and travel around the state.  And sailing.  And rattlesnakes.  I even have pictures of (some of) it.  But I’m not sure where my camera is.  It’s… I don’t know.  I lose things.  It’s here somewhere.

Meanwhile, enjoy a funny YouTube video my brother showed me.