Monday, March 22, 2010

Old photos - Families can be together

This was Mom and Dad's place in Brawley. Dad's folks came over and we got them to pose with us and the boys. My Grandmother had alzheimer's and I think it was setting in pretty hard at this time.

I think this is in Washington. Or Oregon?

Liz with Mica and Grandpa Benac.
Liz is holding a bowl of peaches. Grandpa usually made me trim his hedges to earn my keep, but Mica showered us with food. She'd cook two chickens to go with all the other stuff, not eat any herself, and insist we take it all with us when we left.

Cutting a christmas tree on the Olympic Penninsula. I loved going over there.

Look at all the hair on that girl. I loved Liz in long hair, but I understand why she wants it shorter and less work.

Ruth adoring her mother and her kitty.

This one of my very favorite photos of Liz. She looked so dapper in her cub scout uniform, and the flowers and growth were one of the reasons we loved being in Washington. This location is Bainbridge Island.

Old photos - Who's that with Mom?

This is our 1 year anniversary. We were still in deep smitt.

Since these are all love shots, I thought I'd put in one of some nice trout I caught in Salem Lake, just down the hill from where we lived.

More smitt

This is when we were engaged. Liz's parents kept telling us how young we were. They were right, but we didn't care.

Seriously deep smitt!

At our wedding reception in Naperville, although I think this was actually taken at the house on West Road.

Old photos - Group shots

Who knows the dates on these?
Clearly the white one is older than the other.

These look like when we lived in Poulsbo.

This one is at Glen Rose, TX, at the state park where you can see dinosaur tracks in the creek bottom. Angela and Roscoe were visiting, and I think Joe was on his mission

This is my siblings and spouses and Dad beside Oleve's house in Fillmore.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Spring? What spring?

I will tell my story mostly with photos:

We have an evergreen, broadleaf bush growing outside Mom's kitchen window. It is big and it is behind the grey bush, behind the leafless bush. This is after the big snow a month or two ago. Snow slid down the roof and landed on the bush. It has been SO VERY wet this year that the ground is pretty much mush. My plan is to cut this bush to the ground and let it regrow in an upright position.

This is a before and after: Saturday morning - the first day of spring, and almost exactly 24 hours later on the 2nd day of spring..

10:00 pm Saturday:

There were a few flakes during the day, but it really started late.

Sunday morning

I paused to take photos - and was late for my first meeting at church. More amazing - I was the only one late for the meeting.

Liz took this one early in the morning, of the car across the street from us.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Popcorn popping on the Bradford Pear Tree.

Here in TX we don't have so many apricot trees, but we have TONS of decorative pear trees. The builders like to put them in our yards because they grow quickly, are a beautiful shape and who cares if they break during every wind storm as long as it happens After the sale.

- segway -

Last week I got home early enough to take little Ginger with me on an errand to help out a friend. As we drove down the streets lined with pear trees in full bloom, I started singing "popcorn popping on the apricot tree". She doesn't like me to sing to her (which wounds my pride, but she usually gets what she wants) and told me to stop. But the trees were in full bloom. So I asked, "Do you see the popcorn trees?" as I pointed at one. It suddenly struck me that she had no idea what I was talking about and wasn't even looking at the right tree. So I stopped under one and pointed out the blossoms and explained how the blossoms look like popcorn, and when the song says, "a popcorn ball that smells so sweet" it's because the song is about the flowers. What a treat to see her eyes suddenly get large as she made the connection. We made the rest of the drive happily singing the song together and pointing out particularly outstanding examples to each other.

"Spring had brought me such a nice surprise,
Popcorn popping right before my eyes."

Sadly, a late winter storm is moving in today and snow is forecast. It means the popcorn season is over for this year.

It may also mean that the woodworker in the family will have an opportunity to harvest some freshly broken wood. Fruitwood is hard to come by commercially, but it's easy to get it in these parts. Milling it is difficult, but do-able with persistance, and the results are quite stunning.

Monday, March 15, 2010

What to do when the honey gets hard

Last year I had a bumper crop of honey and many of my fam have some of the abundance. Trouble is, it is the first batch of Texas wildflower honey I've ever harvested that has a tendency to crystallize. When the sugar granulates like you can see in Angela's BLOG, the danger is that the water in the honey doesn't participate, so the honey on top is loosing sugar to crystals until it is watery enough to ferment. Yuck! So, what are you gonna do? (Asked in rising tones like Mark likes to do.)
I use my canner for this. I put as many jars as I can in the canner while the hot water is running in the sink. The point is to get water as hot as the water heater (usually 120 degrees or lower). I make sure each bottle has a ring, screwed down tight so water can't get into the jar. Then I fill the canner to about the top of the jars and cover it. I try not to inundate the jars. Then I go about my business for a half hour or so before returning to remove the jars, dump the now-cold water, replace the jars, refill with hot water, and re-cover. I repeat this cycle at least 4 times, or until the sugar crystals are melted.
Why take this complicated path? Simple. Honey looses flavor and micro-nutrients when heated above 110-120 degrees F. Commercial honey is routinely heated at or above this point, which is why it tastes flat, though still sweet. My honey tastes like blossoms and I like it that way! You can use a double boiler, but the risk of exceeding 110 degrees is too great. Soaking in hot tap water makes it nearly impossible to raise the honey temp above 110.
Of course, you can also stir the crystallized honey to distribute the thinner stuff throughout, which is an attractive alternative in some cases. Just remember that a little bit of fermentation will ruin the entire batch of honey, so get that thin stuff out of there! How do you know if there is fermentation? Bubbles and foam and pressure.