Sunday, September 30, 2007
I love organizing information, and was having a wonderful time with my neat, orderly plans for this year's medieval history and literature courses; I was trying to shoehorn all kinds of interesting things, like formal logic and the history of English and the history of mathematics, into the curriculum. But four weeks into the school year, it became clear that I was giving the kids too much, too fast, and I was driving them and me nuts. My son was overwhelmed with assignments and my daughter was frustrated because she couldn't spend time on the parts that interested her. And I was tired of trying to get them to finish their schoolwork.
So I jettisoned most of my carefully crafted plans and focused on my goals. I want them to read and write, to think and question, to have a sense of the major historical stories, to be able to make sense of the world around them; I want them to have time to explore subjects that interest them, to enjoy the excitement of learning new things. I want them to have time for community service, for fixing cars, for things that interest them, for friends and family. I don't want them to crank through school work without thinking about it, to race through assignments and go on to the next one, to memorize and move on.
To achieve my goals, this week, I have revamped their school assignments so that there are fewer topics and shorter assignments. I kept the structured review of mechanics - times tables, spelling, keyboarding. Reading still has to be done, but they can choose a book from a reading list and focus on it instead of racing through one book after another to stay on schedule. History will still include things I think they need to know from each topic, but will allow more time for them to study aspects they are interested in. I'm trying to craft assignments flexible enough that when my son's friend wants to improve the grounds at the Food Bank, my son can go help him without getting behind on school work. We'll see how it goes over the next month, but I think it's getting better, because my daughter is once again excited about studying history and literature, instead of frustrated.
Saturday, September 29, 2007
When the well-drillers were here, they took down part of our fence so they could get the trucks to the well. This means that the dogs have been pretty much trapped inside, making us all nuts. My son tried, half-heartedly, to get the fence put back together yesterday, while it was warm and dry, but didn't get it done. So today, my husband and two sons spent most of the day in the cold rain and wind, putting it back together. My youngest son was in charge of the post-hole digger; in order to soften the clay, he ran a hose into the hole and let it run while he dug. When he came inside for lunch, he was wet and muddy from his boot toes to his hat; even his boxers were muddy (how did he do that? No, I don't think I want to know.), and his boots were soaked. Cleaning up after him is going to take some work - there is mud everywhere now. The other two were wet and a little muddy, but my youngest definitely took the muddy-kid award today.
Friday, September 28, 2007
We are just above 5000 feet, so with luck, we will see snow tomorrow morning. On the other hand, these warnings this time of year frequently end in cold rain, so I'm not getting my hopes up. The warnings about driving seem a little silly - "significant amounts of snow" means two to six feet here, not two to six inches. But even Montanans forget how to drive in snow after a long summer, and the first snow always results in a ridiculous number of fender-benders in town, so maybe the warning isn't too extreme.
Thursday, September 27, 2007
The funny thing is that my kids understand that sometimes I need a nap, that I will be much more cheerful and less likely to take their heads off once I have a nap. They tell each other to leave me alone while I nap. And yet... I can only get an undisturbed nap if there is no one else in the house. Something urgent always comes up if I am napping. Sigh. At least a few minutes lying down is better than nothing.
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
I did a little research (asking friends what phone they have) and so did my husband (checking the internet). One thing he discovered is that "all phones bought by women are pink or purple". It makes women sound juvenile - until you realize that the options are all techno-geek phones in grey or black or silver. Women tend to treat cell phones as tools, not toys, so simplicity is good; you shouldn't need a computer science degree to run your phone. At the same time, woman like their tools to look nice, to have a little style. I hate to tell the phone designers, but silver and black with tiny buttons doesn't count as stylish, especially when every phone out there looks the same way. In desperation, we buy the few interesting, straightforward offerings, which happen to be in pink and purple. Given some options in cell phones with some interesting designs, a reasonable percentage of women would opt for something other than stereotypical pink and black - but there aren't any.
My sons are still embarrassed, because I got the basic mom phone, the same one my friends tend to have: bright pink with big buttons, without internet access, an MP3 player, video, or Bluetooth capability. I looked at a phone in a neat green, but the buttons on the pink phone felt and worked better for my hands (good tool design wins over good color). So even though I am up-to-date, I am nowhere near cutting-edge - which probably reassures my sons. Works for me!
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Girls are different. At least all the ones I hear about are. One mom of a girl reported, "I miss her so much, but we stay in touch. We text two or three times a day..." Two or three times a DAY? My son would refuse to answer after a day or two of that. Of course, I'm used to boys and so that seems excessive to me, too; I will probably feel differently when my daughter goes off to college. I saw this same thing at orientation in June: the boys were mostly on their own, or they were 6 steps ahead of their parents, while the girls were definitely with their parents, engaged in conversation, especially with their mothers. Boys are eager to make the break, go out on their own, while girls still want the support network as they figure things out. (Mostly, anyway.) I know some of this is cultural, but based on my four kids, I think some of it is hard-wired in them; my daughter simply communicates more than all her brothers combined, and about personal things rather than about their computer problems. It will be a very different experience when she goes off to college!
Monday, September 24, 2007
The rains we got in early September brought the Wicked Creek Fire complex under control. As of Sept. 6, the fires were steady at 28,600 acres and were 90% contained; the expert fire team is now able to turn the fire over to the local fire-fighting districts to finish up. Of course, the rain also washed debris onto one of the roads into the area, and it is (or was) impassable in areas.
The InciWeb report notes, "Please use caution if traveling in the fire area and carry the necessary tools to help clear debris."
Sunday, September 23, 2007
One of Lewistown's best events is the Chokecherry Festival every fall, the Saturday after Labor Day. Main Street closes and is filled with booths; in addition to chokecherry jellies, jams, and syrups, you can buy Mary Kay cosmetics, magnetic therapy jewlery, round etched saw blades, stained glass, log furniture, wildlife lampshades, painted birdhouses, Usborne books, painted hand saws, garlic braids, tabletop fountains, wood furniture, blankets, purses, yard art, knit scarves, custom-made stuffed animals, Pampered Chef kitchen items, marshmallow guns, bowls and mirrors made from dyed lariats, metal art, horseshoe furniture, painted cast-iron skillets, jewelry, lap quilts, painted plates, knitted baby hats, food from sweet popcorn to kabobs, embroidered vests and jackets, airbrush tattoos, painted license plates, pillows, windchimes, produce, candles, kitchen linens, rag rugs, etched wood, framed wildlife photos, pottery, kites, earrings, doll clothes, chainsaw art – bears and moose, dress-up crowns for little girls, barnboard frames for pictures, handmade brooms, and cribbage boards. Many of the produce and quilt booths are run by the local Hutterites, distinctive in their long dark dresses and kerchiefs, or their beards, striped shirts and suspenders. A motorcycle show shares the event, as do bicycle tricks and music by local kids. We went last year - it's not the best place for lots of excitement, but people were out having fun on a lovely late-summer day and we enjoyed it. This year, we were coping with water shortages and missed it.
Saturday, September 22, 2007
My kids appreciate it for several reasons, one of which is the return of meals that we only eat in the cooler weather. Last night we had spaghetti for the first time since mid-May, and tonight we'll have pot roast. I've already put the bottom round roast into a pot of water, with two chopped onions and plenty of salt and pepper, and started it simmering for six or more hours; about 45 minutes before dinner, I'll add small red potatoes, then carrot chunks half an hour later. With a little broth poured over the meat and some butter for the potatoes, it will be a good, calm dinner to welcome in fall (and I love the left-over meat for lunches!).
Friday, September 21, 2007
Looked at that way, it is a well-told story (assuming you care about either history or food). It is interesting to see how various strands of Indian food (there isn't one national food, there are many) came together in British kitchens to create an Anglo-Indian cuisine - which in some cases degenerated to bland boiled food with a little curry powder thrown in. Curry powder, of course, is profoundly unIndian, since in a true Indian kitchen, the spices will be ground fresh every morning, specifically for the dishes being cooked that day, and they will be added at different points in the cooking to maximize their effect, as she explains well.
Collingham generally does a good job of treating everyone equally (neither the colonizers nor the colonized are patronized), but she slips at one point when she dismisses the British tendency to take Indian flavors and incorporate them into British cooking as complacency. It is the one place she invokes a double standard: earlier in the book, the Indian tendency to take new ingredients introduced by the British and incorporate them into Indian food is a sign of creativity and the resilience of Indian cookery, but when the British do the same, it is complacency.
Thursday, September 20, 2007
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
The primordial leavening ingredient is yeast, but you don't always want that in a cookie, so there are chemical ingredients you can use instead. The most common one is baking soda; it is a base (or alkaline), and when it reacts with an acidic ingredient in the presence of water, they form lots of little bubbles that cause the bread or cookie to rise (think: vinegar and baking soda). This is why recipes that call for baking soda as the only leavener always have an acidic liquid in them: lemon juice, sour milk, buttermilk, even molasses or honey. I've used this info in the past to subsitute baking soda for baking powder by changing my sweetener from sugar to honey (it's not perfect if there is much sugar in the recipe, but it's better than nothing).
Lots of baking recipes call for baking powder, which is baking soda with an acidic salt added and only needs liquid to start the bubbles forming. Cream of tartar is an acidic salt, and in fact, you can add it to baking soda to get baking powder: two teaspoons cream of tartar plus one teaspoon baking soda is equivalent to 3/4 teaspoon of baking powder. Maybe not surprisingly, our recipe called for twice as much cream of tartar as baking soda, so we could substitute baking powder - except that the baking soda was already in the flour. So we cut back on the baking powder by the amount of the soda and crossed our fingers. It worked perfectly; if anything, the cookies are even better than the usual recipe. So we got good cookies, no grocery-store run, and a good chemistry lesson - not bad for an hour in the kitchen!
Looking for a link for vinegar and baking soda experiments, I also learned that you can use vinegar and baking soda to open sluggish or clogged drains: pour 1/2 cup baking soda down the drain. Add 1/2 cup white vinegar and cover the drain if possible. Let set for a few minutes. Then pour a kettle of 6 or more cups of boiling water down the drain to flush it. The combination of baking soda and vinegar breaks down fatty acids into soap and glycerin, allowing the clog to wash down the drain. (Do not use if any commerical drain opener has been used or is present.)
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
It may be a trick of spotty preservation, but many of the surviving poems are riddles. One of my favorites is Number 27 (or 25 in some lists):
Ic wiht geseah wundorlice
hornum bitweonum huþe lædan,
lyftfæt leohtlic, listum gegierwed,
huþe to þam ham of þam heresiþe;
walde hyre on þære byrig bur atimbran,
searwum asettan, gif hit swa meahte.
ða cwom wundorlicu wiht ofer wealles hrof,
seo is eallum cuð eorðbuendum,
ahredde þa þa huþe ond to ham bedraf
wreccan ofer willan, gewat hyre west þonan
fæhþum feran, forð onette.
Dust stonc to heofonum, deaw feol on eorþan,
niht forð gewat. Nænig siþþan
wera gewiste þære wihte sið.
No, I can't read that, although I can pick out some words; and "deaw feol on eorþan" will make anyone feel pretty good about translating. (þ and ð are both versions of "th".)
Translated, this is:
I saw a wonderful creature carrying
Light plunder between its horns.
Curved lamp of the air, cunningly formed,
It fetched home its booty from the day's raid
And plotted to build in its castle if it could,
A night-chamber brightly adorned.
Then over the east wall came another creature
Well known to earth-dwellers. Wonderful as well,
It seized back its booty and sent the plunderer home
Like an unwilling wanderer. The wretch went west,
Moved morosely and murderously on.
Dust rose to the heavens, dew fell on earth—
Night moved on. Afterwards no one
In the world knew where the wanderer had gone.
And the answer to the riddle is: the sun and the moon.
Monday, September 17, 2007
Sunday, September 16, 2007
The jelly I was making is crabapple jelly, and it turned out really well. But after all the research, I couldn't get my thermometer to work the way it should, and the spoon-drop tricks in The Joy of Cooking never work for me, so I had to eyeball it. My jars came out nicely jelled anyway, at least once I switched to the right size pot; the large one I was using at first let the syrup cool too much around the edges, so the jelly came out very well set. Crabapples make a great jelly, not too sweet and very pretty. It's worth all the work (although I didn't neccesarily think so when I finished up last night).
Saturday, September 15, 2007
Friday, September 14, 2007
Last week I purchased a burger at Burger King for $1.58. The counter girl took my $2 and I was digging for my change when I pulled 8 cents from my pocket and gave it to her. She stood there, holding the nickel and 3 pennies, while looking at the screen on her register. I sensed her discomfort and tried to tell her to just give me two quarters, but she hailed the manager for help . While he tried to explain the transaction to her, she stood there and cried. Why do I tell you this? Because of the evolution in teaching math since the 1950s:
1. Teaching Math in 1950
A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is 4/5 of the price. What is his profit?
2. Teaching Math in 1960
A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is 4/5 of the price, or $80. What is his profit?
3. Teaching Math in 1970
A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is $80. Did he make a profit?
4. Teaching Math in 1980
A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is $80 and his profit is $20. Your assignment: Underline the number 20.
5. Teaching Math in 1990
A logger cuts down a beautiful forest because he is selfish and inconsiderate and cares nothing for the habitat of animals or the preservation of our woodlands. He does this so he can make a profit of $20. What do you think of this way of making a living? Topic for class participation after answering the question: How did the birds and squirrels feel as the logger cut down their homes? (There are no wrong answers.)
6. Teaching Math in 2006
Un hachero vende una carretada de madera para $100. El costo de la producciones es $80. Cuanto dinero?
Thursday, September 13, 2007
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
I knew that during Europe's Dark Ages, Islamic countries were in the midst of a cultural flowering; that the math and science that they preserved and developed sparked the explosion of science that started in the late Middle Ages and hasn't ended yet; and that the books that Arabic translators transmitted from Greece and Rome back to Europe led to the Renaissance. But I didn't realize just how advanced Muslim doctors were until I started researching it for my history unit on medieval Muslim culture.
Medicine was a central part of medieval Islamic culture, in large measure because the Qur'an and the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad encouraged it: "Make use of medical treatment, for Allah has not made a disease without appointing a remedy for it, with the exception of one disease, namely old age." Medical literature was not specialized in the sense that modern medical literature is, but was integrated with philosophy, natural science, mathematics, astrology, alchemy, and religion. Islamic medicine was built on tradition, primarily from Greece and Rome. Islamic scholars translated medical texts from Greek into Arabic, collated and collected them in systematic and comprehensive summaries and encyclopedias, and then produced new medical knowledge based on those texts; hundreds of medical works were also translated into Latin, introducing the Greek medical traditions to Europe in the late Middle Ages.
Following Muhammad's advice, Muslims made use of medical treatment, and it was widely available. Every major Arabic city had an hospital; the one in Cairo had over 8000 beds, with separate wards for fevers, ophthalmic, dysentery and surgical cases. The doctors who worked in these hospitals and the universities both treated patients and did medical research, with surprisingly modern results. Al-Rhazes, one of the most famous Muslim doctors, discovered the origin of smallpox and showed the existence of the immune system and how it worked. He found a treatment for kidney and gall stones, and explained the nature of various infectious diseases. He was the first to introduce the use of alcohol for medical purposes. He was also an expert surgeon and was the first to use opium for anesthesia. Another doctor, Ibn Sina, first recognized the contagious nature of tuberculosis and the spread of disease by water and soil; he described diseases caused by intestinal worms, and the surgical use of oral anesthetics. A surgeon, Al-Zahravi, performed many delicate operations, including caesareans, and was the first to use silk thread for stitching wounds; he developed many surgical tools that were used for centuries. He wrote a Medical Encyclopedia which contained 30 sections of surgical knowledge and illustrations of 200 surgical instruments, most of which he designed himself.
It took Europe nearly eight centuries to catch up to the medieval Muslim doctors.
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
Things I have learned in the last three weeks:
1. Running water and indoor plumbing are wonderful. I won't take them for granted any time soon.
2. If you don't have water, it takes a lot of time out of your day to take care of ordinary household chores. A shower that should take 20 minutes takes at least an hour when you have to gather everyone up, drive to your parents' house, shower, and drive back. Getting drinking water takes half an hour every other day for my youngest son. Even wiping down the kitchen counters takes longer when you have to go get water out of a jug and then heat it up in the microwave. I begin to understand just how much time is spent acquiring water in communities where indoor plumbing doesn't exist.
3. Being able to flush toilets in the middle of the night is a great luxury.
4. Family is good. We use my parents' showers, my sister's dishwasher, and it makes life a little simpler.
5. Be nice to your neighbors. Our neighbor allows us to come over and use her spigot nearly every day to fill water jugs.
6. Laundromats are expensive. My weekly trip is running about $15 in quarters; added up, that would pay for a decent washer and dryer in under two years. On the other hand, you can get a lot of laundry done in two hours.
7. A laundromat dryer takes 48 minutes to get everything dry. The big ones cost 25 cents for 4 or 6 minutes, so you have to know how long you want it to run.
8. You can dry a lot of clothes in a triple-load dryer.
Monday, September 10, 2007
It also means it is time to start making soups again. Last winter, I made soup of one type or another every Monday night, and I plan to do it again this year. It is nice knowing what dinner will be without having to think about it, and soup is a great meal for using up left-overs in ways no one recognizes. I've got veggies stocked in the freezer, along with some ham bones for ham bone-white bean soup. I have a few jars of broth, from pot roasts and shredded pork, frozen, and I'll add more as the fall goes on; I'll also add some chicken broth from carcasses and some turkey broth at Thanksgiving, so I'll have bases for soups all winter. Since I don't cook my soups all day, just long enough to get everything thoroughly hot and brothy, I can make soup very quickly after a long day - which all Mondays seem to be.
Last night, we started a family snow pool - everyone guessed when the first real snow would come (meaning snow that covers the ground and sticks for at least an hour). Guesses ranged from September 25 to November 5.
Sunday, September 9, 2007
I pureed a bunch of the odder ones (who knows how hot?), along with pickled ginger and the vinegar that it was pickled in, some garlic, and a little salt. It was very hot, very tasty; the ginger was subtle but effective. I froze several small jars and plan to send a small one to my college son.
Most of the rest I sliced very thin and put in a jar with enough vinegar to cover; I topped it with a thin layer of olive oil to seal it. One batch is of the little tiny peppers, in green, red, and orange; one is jalapenos, and one is green habaneros. These will be sitting on my counter for a couple days before going in the refrigerator; I'm not sure how I will use them yet. That left some dark-green Anaheims (or something similar) and some green chilis, which I sliced and froze.
To make the salsa, we cored tomatoes, threw them in a pot of boiling water for a few minutes, then transferred them to ice water; this made their skins slip right off. Then we chopped them and put them in a large bowl. We added minced peppers, minced garlic, chopped onion, a few rogue tomatillos that had hidden in the pepper bag, some salt, and lemon juice. We spooned it into jars with a slotted spoon and stuck them in the freezer; I would swear I canned it last time, several years ago, but I can't find any indication of how I did that safely, so we are going with freezing this time. At the bottom of the bowl, we had soup with a few onions in it. I strained some of the juice to use for breakfast, and my daughter claimed the rest as a cold, gazpacho-style soup.
It feels good to have those vegetables out of the refrigerator, and I don't have to feel guilty about letting them spoil.
Saturday, September 8, 2007
Red-tailed hawks are our most common summer hawk, perched on power poles all over the valley. I love to listen to their calls; it is so quintessentially "raptor" that it is used in movies for just about any hawk or eagle (especially the bald eagle, which has a call similar to a sea gull's). In the fall, they move out of the northern Rockies and Canada to the rest of the US. Instead, we get the rough-legged hawks, named for the feathers that cover their legs all the way down to the talons; they seamlessly take over both the power-pole perches and the rodent-control program that the red-taileds run in the summer.
Friday, September 7, 2007
When they first appear in history, the Magyars were in Asia Minor, but their language is closer to Finnish, so many historians think they may have originated in the central Russia, then migrated south to the Crimean around 460 CE. According to Infoplease, "Although in the past it was thought a common origin existed among the Magyars, the Huns, the Mongols, and the Turks, modern research has disproved this claim. The only similarity between the Magyars and the peoples named above was their mode of life when they first appeared in Europe in the 9th cent. The Magyar or Hungarian language belongs to the Finno-Ugric family."
But Magyars have many Asiatic features, and at least a few people think that they originated in the vast grassland of central Asia, an an area known as the Turanian Plain, and somehow transferred their language to the Finnish people. "It is possible that Finns and Ugors received strong linguistic strains from a Magyar branch which had broken away from the main body on the Turanian Plain [ancient Scythia], and migrated to West Siberia." This would fit in with Magyar folklore, which holds that the Magyars were related to the Scythians.
So based on language, the Magyars came from central Russia; based on lifestyle and physical characteristics, they came from the plains of central Asia. As far as I can tell, there is no evolving consensus yet - so when I wrote about the Magyars and their attacks on Europe around 900 CE, I simply ignored their pre-ninth century origins.
Thursday, September 6, 2007
Kabul Beauty School, by Deborah Rodriguez and Kristin Ohlson, is a very personal story of one American woman's experiences in Afghanistan, with the country almost incidental to her narrative. The focus is on Rodriguez's experience when confronted with a foreign way of life, and how she comes to love the Afghan women. The view it gives of Afghani life is intimate, centered in the beauty school she starts as a way to help the women in Kabul; although Rodriguez, a foreigner, is allowed to be seen in public, most of the women she works with are not, and working in an all-female beauty salon is their only chance to earn money of their own. Like Three Cups, it is the story of a person transformed by the effort to help others.
Three Cups of Tea, by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin, is, in a way, the masculine version of Beauty School. It is also a personal narrative, of how Mortenson came to dedicate his life to building schools in Afghanistan, but its focus is wider, covering more of the country as Mortenson travels to different communities. Of the three books, Three Cups provides the best picture of the various tribes and the physical geography of the northern part of the country, and the most dramatic moments. (This is also the most popular in Montana, since Mortenson lives in Bozeman; freshman at both Montana State University and the University of Montana were asked to read it before school started this fall.)
The Bookseller of Kabul, by Asne Seierstad, is an impersonal narrative of a family living in Kabul; the focus is firmly on the Afghans themselves rather than the author's reactions to them. It provides a clear picture of family life in a traditional partriarchal family, without judging the people, their relationships with one another, or their way of life. Seierstad lived with an Afghan family for six months, able to follow both men and women through their daily lives, so while Beauty School focuses primarily on the Afghan women and Three Cups on the men, Bookseller shows, in great detail, the relationship between them and how it affects each. Without personal filters, the book gives a clear picture of Afghani culture; according to some friends who have spent much of their lives living in or studying Afghanistan, it is an accurate depiction of the Afghans.
All three books do a good job of showing real human beings, with all the strengths and weaknesses of any poeple. Of the three, Bookseller is best for understanding the lives of Afghan women and how men and women interact; Three Cup is best for understanding the tribal tensions in the north of the country. Having read all three, I at least know exactly where Afghanistan is (rather than just "over there") and I'm developing a sense of who the Afghan people are. Now I wonder what related book will turn up next.
Wednesday, September 5, 2007
Tuesday, September 4, 2007
To make the soup, I defrosted a spaghetti-jar of pork and onion broth in the microwave and poured it into a dutch oven, along with half a jar of water and a bottle of Corona. I added about 2 cups of ground beef spiced for tacos (the amount I had in the fridge), 2 cans of stewed tomatoes, 1 can of corn, and some salsa verde. (I know, why am I using canned tomatoes when I have 15 pounds of fresh tomatoes in the fridge? Because it is simpler, and tonight that mattered.) After the broth came to a boil, I turned the heat down, added salt and cumin, and simmered it for a few minutes. It doesn't take long before the soup is ready to serve; in this case, with some rice and beans left-over from a Mexican restaurant. My kids call it taco soup, and eat it cheerfully. I'm just happy to see soup season return - it makes left-overs much easier to cope with creatively. Next is to buy spaghetti makings, for the first cold day this fall.
Some of today's school was done at the laundromat while we washed 6 loads of laundry. My youngest son and I worked on a logic puzzle, did some drawing (I drew with my left hand so my drawing wasn't so much better than his that he got discouraged), and started his math; the last was a challenge because he took his mind "out of gear" over the summer and forgot to put it back in for school. But he's starting to remember how to think, so he'll figure it out pretty quickly. And we got a lot done in an otherwise wasted time, without competition from his siblings.
Monday, September 3, 2007
Besides their distinctive flight patterns, northern harriers are easy to spot because they have a white rump. Rough-legged hawks have a similar white streak at the base of the tail and hunt over open areas, but it has broader wings and a shorter tail, and shows white at the base of the underside of the tail. So if you can see the white from below, it's a rough-legged; if it is summer, it's probably a harrier. Besides, their flight patterns are different; the rough-legged doesn't hover and swoop the exhilerating way a harrier does.
However, I've also seen a fair number of bike riders who seem to believe the opposite: that bikes have unlimited rights on the road and that cars shouldn't be there. They ride three abreast on two-lane roads and don't drop into single-file when a car comes up behind them so it can pass safely. They refuse to move to the right in traffic, even when there is plenty of room. They dart into intersections from unexpected directions, without slowing down or looking for cars; bikes are so much faster than pedestrians that when they use pedestrian manners, it frequently results in startled drivers and sometimes near-misses. They switch from car manners to pedestrian manners as it suits them, making them unpredictable for other traffic. In general, they behave as if everyone should and will make way for them, regarldess of their actions.
Thank goodness there are also bike riders who fall into single-file when being passed by a car and who wave at drivers who pass them safely. And bike riders who make a real effort to use the shoulders even when they are rough. It's unfortunate that, drivers and bike riders alike, there are a few bad apples who make life less pleasant for all concerned.
Sunday, September 2, 2007
To make gazpacho, toss into the blender, in order:
3-4 gloves of garlic, peeled and chopped coarsely
1/2 a large onion, chopped
1 medium cucumber, peeled and cubed
4-6 beautiful red tomatoes, chopped into 8 or 12 pieces
1 tsp each cumin and oregano
1/4-1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 olive oil
Blend thoroughly and salt to taste. Refrigerate until ready to serve, or freeze for later use (leave a little room for expansion in the jar or container).
Saturday, September 1, 2007
Ignoring costs for our time (since we enjoy the picking as long as there aren't any wasps out) and the gas used to drive to the trees and to Rocky Creek Farm, it costs $4/gallon of cider to get it pressed. But that assumes that everything goes right. On our second trip to pick apples, one of our dogs cut herself on the leg, all the way to the bone (on barbed wire, we assume); there wasn't much blood, but it definitely needed stitches. So add a trip to the vet to the cost of the cider. At $120, spread out over 12 gallons of cider, that makes the cider worth $14/gallon. It's good cider, but I'm not sure I can justify that price. I guess we'll just have to pick more apples so we can amortize the vet bill over more gallons, maybe get it down to $9/gallon. Of course, that creates more opportunities for someone to get hurt or something to break...
When we have enough cider to justify it, I like to make hard cider (or rather, present it as a chemistry experiment to my high schoolers). To make a gallon of hard cider, you need a glass gallon jug, an airlock to fit, and some wine or champagne yeast from a homebrew store. Boil 1 gallon of cider, then pour it into the glass jug. Add 1 cup sugar, more or less, depending on how hard you want the cider; the more sugar you add, the harder the cider. Dissolve 1 gram of yeast in a little luke warm water for 15 minutes, then add it to the jug. Add enough water to the airlock to seal it, then fit it firmly into the jug mouth.
Put the jug in a cool (55 degree) spot for a month. The cider should start to push bubbles through the airlock in a day; when it quits, the cider is ready. Be sure to check the airlock regularly to make sure it has enough water in it to seal; yeast makes alcohol if there is no oxygen present, acetic acid (vinegar) if oxygen is present. If things go awry, call your local homebrew store. When the cider is ready, pour it into bottles and seal tightly; try to leave the sediment in the jug. Refrigerate until ready to use. If you are lucky, the result will be similar to Normandy cider, full of apple flavor but with the sweetness gone. It is great with pork dishes, especially ones with apples or pears. Or serve it with crepes for an authentic pairing.