Country Living Series

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Boot camp graduation

Well, she did it -- Younger Daughter has now graduated from Navy boot camp!

The graduation ceremony was Wednesday, Nov. 22 (the day before Thanksgiving). The link to the ceremony is here, but it won't be active for much longer (maybe a week or so).


Y.D. was in Division 020, and was placed in such a location as to make finding her virtually impossible from the television screen. Fortunately she was able to tell us in advance about where she was located, so Don downloaded the ceremony and slowed down the video until he was able to pick her out and put a red circle around her. (All the graduates started the ceremony wearing heavy coats and ear muffs since it was 22F outside. They later took them off.)



We watched every minute of the ceremony, from the beginning to the end, when the newly minted sailors were given liberty.



Younger Daughter very much enjoyed boot camp. She liked the discipline and camaraderie, and the challenge of learning the military way of life. In fact now that she's across the street and getting ready for "A" school, she says she misses the military bearing so strictly enforced in boot camp.

While at the moment she's not certain when her classes will start, it looks like she'll be able to come home for Christmas. So will Older Daughter. I doubt we'll have many other times when both our girls will be with us during this holiday, so we'll enjoy the blessing of their company while we can. (sniff)

Friday, November 24, 2017

Tankards are available!

Our tankard page is now live! Please click this link to see what stock we have available.


Remember, these tankards are suitable for either hot or cold beverages. They should be hand-washed and never put in the microwave.

A few things need explaining.

First, shipping. The website where the tankards are listed has limited options for shipping. We ship USPS Priority Mail, which costs almost exactly $10 for domestic shipping for one tankard. If any additional tankards are shipping to the same address, we’ll need to add $2 for each additional tankard.

However if tankards are shipped to different addresses, each address will require that $10 base shipping charge. We’ll notify you by email if any additional shipping costs are incurred.

Second, we’re offering a special limited-edition Rural Revolution tankard. This tankard has solid-wood sides (as opposed to multi-wood sides) of alternating maple and walnut. On the face of the tankard is one of my oil lamps and the words Rural Revolution. They’re absolutely beautiful! Don actually talked me into signing the bottoms of the tankards as well (he seems to think that’s a selling point, ha!).


Since these Rural Revolution tankards are made to order, they’ll take a bit longer to ship than any of the ready-made pieces otherwise on display. The run for these Rural Revolution tankards is limited to 99 pieces, and each piece is numbered. (Another glitch on the website is the custom Rural Revolution tankards will move down the page whenever we add any new stock, so be sure to look for them.)

Thank you all for your support!

UPDATE: Oops. I accidentally hit "delete" instead of "approve" on a few comments that came through. Unfortunately there's no way to retrieve deleted comments. Please accept my apologies!

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Gotta love garlic

If there's one thing I love to grow in the garden each year, it's garlic.


Year after year, this beautiful allium produces a dependable crop of huge cloves.



After harvesting, I work in the shade of the barn where I trim off all the stems. I grow a German porcelain-neck garlic. Rather than those annoying cloves that get smaller and smaller toward the center, this kind of garlic has large (and sometimes huge) cloves around a central stiff (or "porcelain") stem. It's got a nice bite to it, just as garlic should.




A friend wanted to grow some of her own, so I passed on several heads for planting.


After pulling garlic, it needs to dry out for a few days. I laid the garlic out on cardboard on some wire shelves we have in the house.


Over time, I peeled the garlic. It's kind of a laborious task, but for some reason I don't mind it. I do a bit at a time and rather enjoy pulling shining creamy-white garlic cloves from the dirty skins.


I kept back 150 of the largest cloves for planting, and on October 29, I went out to plant them in the garlic boat. Mr. Darcy was a huge help.




So huge, in fact, that I had to put him back in the house until I was finished. There's only so much help I can take, doncha know.

I started by scraping back the pine needle mulch, thinking I could plant half the bed at a time.


But since I like to lay the whole bed out before planting, I ended up removing all the mulch for the moment.


Planting takes no time at all. Shove a trowel into the dirt, angle it out to create a space, drop in the clove (root side down), remove the trowel, and it's on to the next clove.


Then I recovered the bed with pine needle mulch, and that's it for garlic in the garden until next summer.


But I still had to preserve the garlic. I usually can my garlic, since we don't have a basement or root cellar for long-term storage of cloves. This year's harvest was kinda light, about 7.5 lbs altogether.



To can it, I start by chopping it up using a food processor.


Then I parboil it by heating water to boiling, turning off the heat, then adding the chopped garlic and letting it sit for about ten minutes.


Then I drain the pot, reserving the cook water.


I fill the jars with the heated, drained chopped garlic, then later top off the jars with garlic-y cook water.


Scalding the Tattler lids.


I ended up with twelve pints. Garlic is low-acid, of course, so I used the pressure canner.


Adjusted for our elevation, I held it at 12 lbs. pressure for 25 minutes.


During the course of canning it, I heard a loud "PANG" from inside the canner. "Lost a jar," I remarked to Don. Sure enough, after things had cooled down and I removed the canner lid, I had a jar which broke out its bottom. I didn't dare keep the garlic from the jar since I didn't want to risk ground glass. Eh, this stuff happens.


And meanwhile I had 11 other jars of beautifully preserved garlic to last us over the next year.


Gotta love garlic. And canning.

Talk about bad timing

Recently the Georgia Dome in Atlanta was undergoing a controlled implosion. It's always fascinating to watch the precision of these controlled demolitions, and incident has been watched many times on many different videos and news reports.



But wait! It seems the Weather Channel had set up for a live shot of the implosion, when it was photobombed by a bus:



Don and I watched this and howled.

Let's put it this way: plenty of people videotaped the Georgia Dome implosion. The bus photo bomb was FAR more memorable, in large part because of the BLEEPS for edited language. I know the Weather Channel guys were disappointed their shoot was interrupted, but a lot more people are watching, laughing, and remembering this over the uninterrupted versions.

So ... cheer up, Weather Channel guys. You were great.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Just another cruddy day....

This time of year, we see a lot of Canada geese (the most common goose around here) flying south. Or north. Or east or west. It doesn't seem like these critters always have the best sense of direction since we see them heading every-which-way, but whatever. They're cool to watch.

We were walking Mr. Darcy on the road near a neighbor's house one afternoon when we heard the telltale honking of distant flying geese, but on an unprecedented scale. Sure enough, within a few minutes enormous quantities of geese flew over -- sadly, far too many to capture in a single camera frame. It was flock after flock after flock.



The noise was so loud the neighbors, whose house we were near, stepped outside to watch as well.


I'd never seen so many geese flying together at one time -- there were definitely hundreds, possibly thousands.





Even more beautiful than the geese are the swans. These are tundra swans, which breed in the nearby lake each March.


We don't see them fly over in the sheer quantities as we do geese, but there's something magical about swans flying overhead. They're easy to distinguish: Geese honk, swans hoot.




A few days ago, early in the morning long before dawn, I stepped out on the porch to get some firewood. Everything was silent, and the sky was clear with stars and a half-moon. Suddenly I froze at a noise: the sound of swans. I stood in the darkness, listening to their calls echoing through the black forest as they flew overhead. Their voices gradually faded as they moved farther away. It was one of those magical moments, a brief glimpse of heaven, to hear swans at night.


As Don likes to say, "Just another cruddy day in Paradise."

Friday, November 17, 2017

We're back in business

A post from Don:

It's been an interesting few months. As some of you are aware, I quite happily gave up Don Lewis Designs, our tankard-making business, after 25 continuous years. Those years saw (and paid for) the birth of our children, the purchase of our home in Idaho, and the building of a lot of infrastructure for our homestead.

But I finally got tired of all the shop time (especially the cold weather in the scantily clad tool shed). Fortunately, Patrice and I developed an online business that actually allowed me to hang up my shop glasses and multi-layered coats. So about eight months ago, I notified all my customers of my business closure and settled down to a working retirement that happily kept me near the woodstove.

However, nothing is forever and our major online employer was forced to downsize us. We saw it coming and managed to squirrel away some money, but certainly not enough to allow me to spend my days fishing on the lake.

So I've been obliged to fire up the table saw again and re-open Don Lewis Designs.


In the next week or so, we'll be placing some new wooden tankards up for sale here on a separate blog page. Clicking one of those pictures will take you to an off-site sales platform where you can use either Paypal or a credit/debit card to buy a wooden cup, should you desire.

I hope you'll find something you like. I'll be adding more cups (and other things) as I get spun back up. I'd like to say "Buy a cup, it's for the children" – except my two kids have cleverly jumped ship prior to the course change. A smart move on their part, sure ... but I still have access to their local bank accounts.

So instead:


Thanks all,
Don