This blog contains 1000 posts. Posting to Blogger with such a large archive has become unwieldy. Also, your blogista, who is sewing a kesa, is not writing much at present. She has ceased adding new posts. Still-active links are here.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

First a dream


Dear Stony Run

Day three dawned gray and stayed gray; from Omaha to Chicago one's impressions are of plowed stubble, grain elevators, water-filled ditches, coal-fired plants, and coal trains. Lots of coal trains.


It is depressing to me to think of all the triumphalism among the climate know-nothings, when hundreds of thousands of trainloads of this stuff have been pumped into the sky, to say nothing of the effect of billions of petroleum cars and trucks, airplanes, ships -- and trains. In spite of this year's la nina, we hear from NASA and NOAA that 2010 is pulling away from 1998 and 2005 to be the hottest year in recorded history, and with nowhere much to go but up.

I suspect, that with so many other things, that which goes by the name of "scepticism" in this matter will boil down to, at the last, racism -- that those leaders and industrialists that so embrace coal and oil and its money do know, implicitly or explicitly, that they are propagating one of the most devastating lies in history, but are quite happy to do so, as the majority of those who will suffer, and die by the millions will largely be "those" people -- in places like Senegal, Bangladesh, and the poorer neighborhoods of New Orleans.

Do not think that I do not know of my complicity. Yet it bears saying, as a step toward something better. As I thought of these things, I noted that Carl Sandburg is depicted in a mural by the tracks in Galesburg, and this is the quote they chose from his works: "Nothing happens unless first a dream."


I am seeing many, many houses and yards but almost no gardens; this affects me even more than the coal trains. Happily, one meets wonderful people on trains -- and so many of them have stories of how they dealt with the rality of aging parents.

From Galesburg it is all suburbs, pretty much, into Chicago. I got one good look at the imposing skyline before we plunged ito the station, and then for all purposes it was night, as the Capitol Limited would be leaving at 6:40.

Love to all,
Risa.

Gone East


Dear Stony Run

The day dawned, gray and unremarkable. As I had a pair of seats to myself, I had slept off and on through much of the night, including Salt Lake City, and light began to filter through the windows and into my brain at Green River. I sat up and took notice of my surroundings, as I'd often gone east or west from Green River, but this was southeast, into Colorado.

The desert gave way to agriculture, the agriculture gave way to canyons, and we were traveling along the Colorado River, with many red cliffs that remimded me of the Grand Canyon, which I'd seen some thirty-five years before. At the foot of one of the mighty buttes, a bright red rib cage -- deer? -- it had been picked pretty clean -- flashed by, brilliant against the snow.

The Rockies are what they are, but on the whole I'm confirmed in my preference for the Cascades. Despite the distractions of huge mountains in all directions I managed to finished the chapter I began yesterday -- maybe will proof it tomorrow.

At Glenwood Springs there were many new passengers to accomodate, so I made the acquaintance of a lady on her way to Chicago, and we talked -- she's lost her dad, still has her mom -- and slept sitting up -- all the way through Denver. In the night, at Lincoln, Nebraska, the train thinned out a little and she was able to get a two-seat bedroom for herself and I lay down with my pillow and slept into Omaha.

It's not yet dawn. Just now I felt the train slow down and the air around my window grow clammy, and on a hunch I sat up and peered into the darkness -- yes, the mighty Missouri. So I suppose I have truly Gone East.

Love to all,
Risa

Waking up in Reno


Dear Stony Run

On the Coast Starlight it was all pretty much hoot-owl, with lights out at ten. I had a seat to myself until Klamath Falls, then got a seatmate in Klamath Falls. We talked into the night much about taking care of frail parents (she's 67), then we both slept into Sacramento. Here I sat in the station for four very warm but hard-benched hours. A pigeon walked about, to the consternation of the many three-year-olds, and a young man slept the morning away on one of the heated benches. He had no luggage. I enjoyed a lively hour-long conversation with a young woman born blind. She was led away to her train to San Jose and I was directed to Track Two to catch the Zephyr. As I got up to go, I left a small baggie of trail mix by the young man's elbow. My waistline certainly does not need it as much as his does.

A local commuter two-car train, much like a Metro, almost got me -- I didn't hear a thing. A half-deaf Risa unleashed on the world is a danger and an inconvenience, but there it is. Really, though, they should at least have a sign; the thing just comes out of nowhere.

We left Sacramento at about eleven, to a running commentary, over the public address system, on the history of the American River, site of the gold rush, and the building of the Sierra Nevada portion of the transcontinental railroad. I noticed there was no mention of the Chinese workers who did most of the actual work, hundreds of whom were buried in the roadbed over which we were traveling.

It was snowing very hard in the pass, and as we approached the summit, I could see that the engine was plowing through actual drifts. I couldn't get a picture of this for you as we were near the front of the train, but it was really spectacular. At a little over five thousand feet, sure enough, the Zephyr bogged down in heavy snow. My seatmate was a young woman from Southern California, en route to visit family at Lake Tahoe. We marveled together at the depth of the snow, the fragility of human endeavor, and joys of junk food consumed in train seats. Eventually a plow train came and led us out, and we made Truckee (which was her stop) not too far behind schedule.

I thought the Truckee River canyon very scenic. There was a huge eight-point buck standing on the side of the tracks watching us go by -- but that was the last thing I remembered before waking up in Reno.

It's dark now; we are east of Sparks and pointed in the general direction of Salt Lake. Everyone is watching DVDs and I am listening to some Russian Orthodox choral music. If I pull myself together enough, maybe I can start on a chapter for Starvation Ridge.

G'night; love to all
Risa

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Tears flowed

Risa's parents are eighty-two and ninety-three, and they are having the kinds of issues a couple has when legally blind, on oxygen 24/7, in need of surgery for life-threatening conditions, uninterested in old-folk-homes, and in possession of one, and only one, child, who is sixty-one and living three thousand miles away.

She'll be journeying and sojourning for awhile. Not being at all fond of air travel, she's going to be spending a few days on the Coast Starlight, the Empire Builder, and the Silver Meteor.

The farm is in good hands, as is Beloved, so, no worries. It's been a good first year of retirement, and, as much of what's been going on has been preparation for exactly this contingency, we're on it. Beloved's parents are approaching the same difficulties, and she might have to do the same at some point -- though she has two sisters who are near her parents, which helps a lot.


Risa, for whatever reason, before she knew she would be making this one-way-ticket expedition, had put out an all-call for friends and family to come to Thanksgiving dinner at Stony Run, and we were eighteen at dinner. Everything went over well, and Risa's seasonal specialty -- sweet potato pie with pecans -- was wiped out. The yellow rice too. Things actually grown here are less popular, so it was a high-food-miles occasion. But people took a lot of home-canned goods home with them, as well as seed potatoes and saved seeds.

It was the loveliest such time we have ever had here, and as it became clear that this was also a send-off, the hugs multiplied. A dear heart undertook to carry away and set up the Stony Run Press items for the craft sale at the Library next week. Two dear friends donned aprons, shooed Risa away from the dishes, and took on the massive clean-up in our bucket-under-the-sink kitchen with grace and aplomb. The grown-up kids took turns talking to their grandma on the phone. Everyone was absolutely in top form.

Tears flowed. If there is something in life more precious than love and friendship, Risa certainly can't think of it at the moment.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Make your own seasoning


Though the color did not come through in the photo, believe me that the product is a lovely shade of green.

What we have here is veggie and herb foliage from this summer's solar drying campaign. When we don't have tomatoes and apples in the dryers, we cut leaves from whatever and dry those. This year's mix is mostly collard greens with kale, red cabbage, green cabbage, chard, broccoli leaves, cauliflower leaves, beet greens, spinach, bok choi, nasturtiums, mint, garlic and onion leaves, basil, lettuce, dandelions, chickweed, lambs-quarters, marjoram, rosemary, sage, thyme, cilantro, celery, parsley (not necessarily in descending order). 2009 featured most of the above, except turnip greens in the place of collards.

The leaves, when onion-skin dry, are then manually crumbled with the veins and midribs picked out, then stored in airtight jars. They can be used in breads, soups, and such as is, and any excess can be mixed with the poultry's winter feed as a supplement.

To make the seasoning, simply run it all through the grinder as shown. If the moisture content is higher than you thought, this is when you will notice, as the grinder will clog. But otherwise it is easy. The result tastes great, and a pinch of it sprinkled over your breakfast eggs, or added to mashed or baked potatoes and so on, gives meals a certain sophistication -- or anyway Risa thinks so ...

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A light dusting

 A light dusting of the white stuff. Chickens, geese and Khaki Campbells are not fazed, but the Ancona ducks are sulking in their shed.
 It will go to 16F tonight, they're now saying. Risa will try to cover a few things and reset the mudroom door, which is leaking too much heat.


For once, we're not the only house in the neighborhood with a white roof!

Update: It only went down to 29. That's a long way from 16. Predicting weather seems to be getting more difficult as time goes by. Are you noticing this too?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Hang onto the bucket

It's about to be serious cooking time here at Stony Run, with fifteen invited guests. Heck, if you're nearby, come on over! But please watch the road reports. Many people we know will have snow tonight, maybe even us, and tomorrow night is predicted for a low of 18F.

We have never owned a dishwasher, and our kitchen sink currently does not have a drain connection. So, you may well wonder how we function for an occasion such as this.

In warmer weather, I like to go into the washer room, where there is a spigot over the laundry sink, right by the hot water heater, that dispenses very hot water. I carry a big pitcher out to that spigot for my dish water, because the pipes, though they are insulated, seem to take a long, long time getting hot enough water to the kitchen for actual use.

In wood-burning weather, our dishwater heats up on the wood heat stove in the dining room.

We use a biodegradable garden-safe dish soap.

Two dishpans, a wash and a rinse. When the water needs changing we pour it into a white bucket. This is also the compost bucket. Between us, the chickens, and the ducks, very little kitchen waste actually makes it to the bucket.

After its contents have cooled (capture all heat in the house) the bucket goes out to the mudroom and an empty one is brought in.

When opportunity arises, kitchen buckets go to fruit trees. A little straw now and then does the cosmetic number on any crushed eggshells that might otherwise be regarded as unsightly.

As these bucketfuls tend to be slightly alkaline, they are not offered to blueberries, rhodies and the like.

We clean the sink from time to time, perhaps with some Dr. Bronners or with homemade vinegar, and let it drain into a bucket under the sink. This water goes on the small lawn (about 1/8 the size of the lawn that was here when we got here).

It's very hard to fix pipes in our crawl space. Even though we expect to climb under there and do the work sometime, we might still hang onto the bucket system as it saves on irrigation.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Woodchuck's Holiday


Woodchuck's Holiday, originally uploaded by risabee2007.

Risa has been playing with her "new" freebie electric chainsaw that was built in the 1960s (or even earlier). But she's hoping to entice her son over for the splitting. This is lodgepole pine, which can be hard to split. Cherry logs do the same thing. With those she learned to zip a stripe down the side of each log through the bark down into the cambium, and now she does this with lodgepole as well; this seems to help. This is the last of the Craigslist woodpile that we got thirteen months ago.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Slugs into eggs

The ducks, unlike the chickens, don't nuke the garden when allowed into it; so we keep the chickens in the chicken moat, which here is hidden behind the forest of sunchokes behind the collards. There are ducks that live in the moat as well -- Khaki Campbells. They would do just as well in the garden, but separating them out would be more work than we're really up for. These are Anconas.

Still no frost, so there is lots going on in those beds to interest the ducks. They chow down whenever they're not napping -- mostly slugs, pill bugs, earwigs, and various kinds of bug eggs. All this gets converted into duck eggs for quiche and such. They would eat kale eventually if they ran out of bugs, but so far, so good. They need the bucket of water while visiting as it's a ways to their pools from here, and their beaks cake up with mud. They have to run to the bucket whenever the mud covers their nostrils. So the bucket's pretty important to them.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Double duty

In the crock pot is chicken and rice with chopped celery and onions, and spices. Risa has removed the lid, inserted a bowl of collard, chard, kale, and beet greens, and popped the pot lid over the greens. The one will steam while the other cooks. No other dinner prep needed today -- or tomorrow, she thinks.

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