Whirlwind New Orleans!

NOLA Vacation 011Ma and I got back from New Orleans Saturday, nigh onto midnight. It was a quick trip, but lots of fun. Wednesday night, we were treated to a fancy dinner in the French Quarter, at Muriel’s. The Grilled Puppy Drum (fish, not canine) with toasted pecan and cracked caper dressing in a gruyere sauce was delectable. And ooh-la-la, Crème Brulee afterwards.

The next day we worked the vision clinic all day. I helped folks fill out the complicated forms most if the NOLA Vacation 006time, then switched to helping them pick out their frames. In the end, we gave 353 people free eye exams and on-the-spot glasses courtesy of the VSP lab in the van out back. Tiring but wonderful!

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Ma, with the Prize-Worthy Glasses

Friday, the only full day we had on our own, started at Café du Monde for beignets followed by a Natchez steamboat trip down the Mississippi and back, with a jazz band serenade. Shop, shop, souvenir, French Market, walk, walk, look, look, pralines, t-shirts, gator hats.

I had intended to end the evening at a Cajun club for dinner and zydeco but on the way, we stumbled upon a stage sitting right smack in the middle of Decatur Street. Turns out we’d happened on the  Frank’s Italian Ristorante 50th anniversary celebration; soon the quirky Rock ‘n Roll oldies and funnies band captured Mama’s heart. I backed her roller against the curb and soon Frank himself brought us two plates of free food – muffeletas. Ma said yick to that, so I went in and bought a mess of fried oysters for her. You’d though I’d been starving her! I had to treat her right since the story I won the trip with was about her getting glasses…not that I wouldn’t have anyway.

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Alas, Saturday’s flight home came far too quickly. Still, we had a blast and loved every minute of it. Now if I could only find some more of that Abita Springs Turbodog ale, hmmm.

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500 Words = New Orleans!

Hey, I won a trip to New Orleans! Where I work, we have VSP vision insurance. I deal they do is go to different cities with a mobile clinic and provide free eye exams and glasses. They posted an essay contest on how access to vision care has affected me or someone I love. I wrote about Ma because Medicare doesn’t pay for glasses, just diseases. I wrote about the comical way she went about choosing her glasses and apparently the VSP judges thought was entertaining, too. Cash, a posh hotel, airfare, wow!

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One whole day I get to be part of the vision care outreach, right at the scene. That is going to be so cool and I will absolutely take pictures to share. Since I haven’t been there yet, here are some miscellaneous cabin shots…why not? Especially needed is the shot of Ma, with her glasses on!

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One more thing, my newest sci-fi book is officially out! Yippee! It’s only $2.99 for the eBook, and if you have an Amazon deal it could be free. Give it a try – and leave a review if you can. Thanks!

 

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September Butterflies

Woods  Blue ButterflyEvery year in the dog days of late summer, I get dozens of spicebush swallowtail Butterfly road 2butterflies congregating on the grave road where it bends at the base of my driveway. Ages ago a gravel truck put a but rut between the road and the drainage ditch. That rut retains water. The combination of the hot afternoon sun on the gravel, the fine limestone dust and the shallow water draws these guys like a magnet. I drive very slowly to let them fly away. Few folks do…

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There are also brilliant fritillaries, red admirals, sulphurs, tiger swallowtails and some fast little fellas that may be skippers.

As the weather cools, this beauty will end, sigh.

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Water the Filberts!

I get a newsletter from Chelsea Green, a homestead and resilient farmer kind of publisher. I like adding nuts into my whole wheat bread and gosh, they’re expensive. I tried planting English walnuts a decade ago and they would still be maturing if they’d lived. I am not that fond of the common black walnuts around here though I do use them. I’m not generally one of those instant gratification types, however three years for a filbert, AKA hazelnut, to mature is a persuasive argument for them.

Filbert Dead 4Alas, the State of Kentucky apparently has some pernicious anti-filbert disease rampant such that nobody grows them here. Ha! Not until an outfit called Badgersett hybridized some resistant ones. They have a research station where they have many versions of filbert depending on what you want, geared toward the commercial growers.

I got six in the mail. Their customer service is slow and frustrating but the little seedlings eventually arrived with each in its own cozy tube (hence they call them ‘tublings’) and I planted them according to instructions, taking all the precautions against squirrels I could. You see, these seedlings still have their little nut attached and would seem to present a great temptation Filbert Liveto the fluff-tailed rodents.

One positively (negatively?) dried up in a blink, prompting me to dedicate myself as Aquarius the Water Bearer (actually I’m under Cancer the Crab). Two more succumbed during August. One seemed to be hanging in there last Friday, but this Monday it was a goner. ONE SURVIVOR! Isn’t this tiny fella a true beauty? This tender darling deserves an extra dollop of attention.

 

A Disappointment and a Funny

blog june 068I crowed about the bread conditioner and gluten and the healthy ingredients. I gave myself unwarranted confidence. Sunday I made a Sally Lunn with 2/3 whole wheat and a handful each of blueberries and walnuts, my standard. Instead of molasses, I used demara sugar. I’ve never had trouble with a Sally Lunn.

This loaf came out half the height I expected. A little better than that, but not lofty like the others Dogged if I know why. I did use half the conditioner as usual as I thought I was being to profligate with it. I may have cut back too much but thought it only affected texture.

Yes, yes, I know: Measure twice, bake once. The main thing might be not enough of the demara sugar; I usually put a calibrated slurp of sorghum molasses in but don’t have the feel for how much of the sugar. I’m ‘sticking’ with sorghum molasses for the foreseeable future.

Here’s the funny, the Dog Puzzle on the front porch!

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Cockleburs and Goldenrods!

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Maybe I’m perverse, but I think the cocklebur plant is a work of wonder and the thistle in bloom is a fresh beauty. Clever of these guys to develop those stickers. The cockleburs are most impressive hitchhikers…just a brush and the little thing has ride. Look at the gnarly plant with clusters of burr-bombs all over it!

The thistles can grow over six feet tall around here. I know because a couple years ago I had a solid wall of them in front of the garage door I never open. The deep green spine-covered leaves set the blazing flower off well. I dense grouping of then in bloom is a real sight to see. I would have a picture of that array except I needed to get an appraisal for a refinance. I thought the appraiser would not appreciate the natural encroachment and would ask about whether the garage door even worked (it doesn’t), so with heavy heart I chopped them. As a consolation, they were spent by then anyway. I guarantee they are in no way endangered around here!

Our state flower is the goldenrod, and I have a widespread distribution of them I know there are a hundred subspecies of them anDownload 090915 035d confess that I don’t remember which these are, or even if there are several different ones. All I do know is they are a sure sign the autumn is on the way. They seem a bit more scraggly that in years before. Maybe the effect of another record hot summer?

Volunteer tulip treeAnd just because I didn’t want to leave his poor little fella out, here’s a tiny tulip tree. A doomed tulip tree cannot be left here next to the strawberries, tis not a good place for it. Yes, I will attempt a transplant. How can I not?

The Last Batches

Nose flattened on the old grindstone, I got all my beverages bottled last weekend! Hooray! That’s three of the six-gallon merlot wine batches, a six-gallon Old Ale and a six-gallon Yorkshire Bitter. That came to 34 fruit juice bottles of the wine and 44 bottles of the ales. For the uninitiated, scrounging, cleaning and sanitizing all of those bottles is more work than making the stuff.Beer 001

That’s all for this year; in fact this is the latest in the year I’ve put any up. Cleaning and stowing all of the fermentation buckets, the bottling buckets, the airlocks and stacking the final finished good really drove the end of summer theme into my brain.

Fermentation does not need to end, though, as I am a fermentin’ fool. In the past, I bought plain yoghurt from the grocery as a starter. Those batches turned out okay even if a little soupy. I remember making a slobber-good coffeecake with some of that, but it wasn’t too toothsome for straight eating. This time I bought a dried starter from Adventures in Homebrewing and some unflavored gelatin for a more robust ferment and for help with thickening. It’s on the calendar for next weekend!

The Sewing Marathon!

 

I threaded up early and kept on until almost midnight Monday night. Take a gander at what I sewed up:

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This is all from one three-day weekend, in between making a devil’s food cake with fudge icing, a double rice pudding, routine meals and clean-up, laundry, yard work and enjoying music and movies. This was not ‘trying to see how much I could do’, it was rather, ‘let’s get this backlog of sewing out of the away’! Some backlog remains, but this weekend it dedicated to my book – it does not write and promote its own self.

 

071415 067Although there is one really lovely tropic print that yanks my attention every time I waltz by to the kitchen. It calls out, “Just some thread, a little elastic! Stitch me up! I’ll be fantastic!”

 

Making Wine Is Healthy?

Labor Day signals the waning of summer. It sends a strong signal to me that I’d better get all my fermentation done. Fermentation does best, especially for the ale, in a warm house. I am really frugal with using heat that costs me so summer ’tis the season. Therefore today there is a batch of old ale, a batch of Yorkshire bitter and three batches of red wine in fermentation.Cabin June 2015 087

I think I have the hundred bottles I need for the ales, unless some are uncappable. Better find some spares. Okay for the ales. What about the wine?

There are enough bale-top Italian wine bottles for one six-gallon batch, maybe. There are enough plastic fruit juice bottles (think Cabin June 2015 074cranberry juice) for one batch and part of the third one. Time to drink up that healthy fruity juice, at least four half-gallon bottles of it, by next weekend!

You Need A Dowser!

I mentioned my water quality and well recently. This is a true story. When I moved from sunny California back to Kentucky to Cabin June 2015 036build the cabin so many years ago, I needed a well – the place was all trees and county water didn’t run there. A fellow came out from Princeton (Kentucky) and asked where I wanted it. As someone immersed in a very technical field for the previous 16 years, I expected he would survey and probe or whatever, use geological survey maps and check the characteristics of neighboring wells and thus tell me where to site it. Very seriously, he explained the hollers and benches in the geology make the aquifer fold around and features could easily vary every few yards. A friend lightly commented that with all of the springs and creeks about, we should be able to stick a pipe anywhere and get water. The driller gave him the eye and said he could drill us 10 holes, all dry and we would pay for every one because he cases (uses pipe) as he drills – you need a dowser.
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It so happened, the driller said his son was a dowser and he could show one of us what his son did.  Always adventurous, I said would try so he taught me how his son did it. We cut a cherry stick and and I practiced holding it level, loose and springy. He direct me to start pacing across the property with the intent to site a good well. The exhileration I felt when that stick decisively pointed down is unmatched to date. He said that indicated one line, now I had to walk from a quarter turn out to see where the lines intersected. I calmed myslef down and did it, finding the intersection.
All the while, my mind was trying to figure how that stick in my hands Cabin June 2015 011could be so sensitive to the water. Magnetic? EMF? That’s when the driller confounded me. He said to think about where we would hit water, one pace away would equal 10 feet deep. Okie-dokie, sounds hokey. I got an indication 3 paces (30 feet) away, but he said that was surface water, to keep going. By then I couldn’t stop, I had to have the map. I had a so-so indication at 50 feet, a good one at 80 feet and a trickle at 100.  On I trod: white sand at 140 feet, an excellent dip indicating a generous flow.
He scheduled us in. He drilled and hit each spot predicted. At 100 feet we had enough water for just us, but the driller had mentioned the white sand aquifer had pristine water – I wanted it. We hit a grand gush at 140 feet, the beautiful silvery-white sand. I have the best water ever, never treated, I could bottle it, 20 years and still going strong – aside from the occasional chunk of mud.