Country Living Series

Monday, December 31, 2018

Farewell 2018

Here it is, the last day of 2018. I thought a photo essay of our day might be in order.

It started with a subtle but pretty sunrise.


The weather was mostly clear and chilly, about 19F. Early morning shadows of the pines stretched a quarter-mile across the fields.



The day's chores included burning some trash in the burn barrel...


...and taking down the Christmas tree and decorations.


In the afternoon we took Mr. Darcy on his walk. Here he is posing with his latest favorite toy, a tire cut-out.


The partial cloudiness hinted at the possibility of a pretty sunset.


Not that Darcy was impressed. He just wanted to run.


And play with his tire cut-out.


The groundwater seeping across the pasture was iced over in most places...


...which was actually very artistic.



The lower part of our pasture has a shallow, icy flood.


The last sunset of the year broke through the clouds...


...and illuminated a corner of our house.


It also put some trees in shadow, and some in sunshine.



As hinted, the sunset was very pretty. The "column" effect is something we rarely see, and it always impresses us.




Tonight, as with every New Year's Eve, I'll be in bed by 9 pm. And as with every New Year's Eve, I'll be awakened at midnight by a happy neighbor shooting off his gun in celebration.

Happy New Year, everyone! May your upcoming year be blessed.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Happy Christmas, happy New Year!

Sorry for the blog silence over the past week, but we've been making merry! This is because we had both -- not one, but both -- daughters home with us for Christmas.

We had resolved ourselves not to have Younger Daughter with us this year. Due to a frustrating SNAFU (in the literal sense of that acronym), we thought she would have to depart for her first overseas duty station right before Christmas (despite having three weeks' leave saved up). But at the last minute, things got resolved and she was able to fly home on December 19. Older Daughter followed on December 22.


Suddenly we had a full house again, and what a joy it is! So I'll back up and show our Christmas celebrations over the last week.

We started out having a brown Christmas, but right after Older Daughter flew in, a couple inches of soft fluffy snow fell, to the consternation of the chickens who view snow with great suspicion.


The cows didn't seem to mind.


And it was lovely to watch.


Older Daughter says no one does winter better than Idaho, thanks to all the conifers which catch the flakes and look unspeakably decorative.


Even the car looked dressy.


Mr. Darcy, as you can imagine, was thrilled to have two built-in playmates.



The girls took him walking in the snow.


Don and I had thrown up the Christmas tree the day before Younger Daughter flew in, but the girls deemed the tree insufficiently decorated and joined forces to improve things.


We no longer have a television set (haven't had TV reception since 1993), but we set up a computer monitor and hooked it up to watch our favorite holiday movie, "A Christmas Carol" with the incomparable George C. Scott.



Don's and my comments throughout the movie are so predictable year after year that Older Daughter drew up a sort of "Christmas Carol Bingo." She scored high.


On Christmas Eve, we set up our annual Junk Food Feast (you can read about the origins of this bizarre and fun tradition here).


In our house, we open gifts on Christmas Eve. As the day went by, we all put our wrapped presents under the tree.



We always feed the livestock extra well on Christmas Eve. Legend has it animals are granted the gift of speech on Christmas Eve, and we can't have our beasties complaining to the neighbors about how they're treated!


We were expecting some neighbors, D and S, who have joined us each Christmas Eve since we arrived in Idaho in 2003. Poor Mr. Darcy was banished to the front room (where his kennel is), though he had a consolation prize.


We never open presents without first hearing Don read Luke 2 from his father's Bible.


After opening gifts, D and S took the girls on a short excursion to a nearby town to view the Christmas lights. I snapped this pic just before they departed.


Christmas Day was quieter. After church, we visited our beloved retired pastor who was in a nursing home, recuperating from open-heart quadruple bypass surgery. Thankfully he seemed to be mending. Then it was home for a quiet and restful day. It was nice to hear the piano being played again.


Yesterday the girls and I went into Coeur d'Alene for a very special reason.


We visited our favorite used bookstore, Browsers, which sadly is closing in a few months after 33 years. The owner, we learned, is undergoing dialysis three days a week and simply needs to cut back.


We've been going to this store since the kids were very young, and we are deeply sorry to see it closing.



We spent two hours searching every shelf and came away with a mountain of books. At 50 percent off, it not only benefited us, it benefited the store owner, since he's trying to reduce his inventory. Shucky-darn.


Younger Daughter only purchased one book (on art) she thinks she can take with her overseas, so I confess most of the purchases were made by Older Daughter and myself. We'll ship some of Older Daughter's books to her in New Jersey, others she'll keep here for the time being.

So that was our Christmas. Tonight we're hosting the neighborhood potluck, then Saturday Older Daughter flies back to New Jersey.

Younger Daughter will be with us until the first week in January, when she takes a military flight to her new duty station and adjusts to life in a foreign country and then on board a ship. Though of course we'll have her home for visits, we don't know how often we'll have her home for Christmas in the next few years, so we've wrung everything we could out of this holiday.

From the Lewis family, we hope you all had a blessed and wonderful Christmas.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Dry beans -- worth it or not?

Last week, when I covered the harvest from the garden this past year, I made some quasi-disparaging remarks about the volume of dried beans and whether growing dried beans is worth the garden space. I'd like to add to that.


What I said was this:
Prepper gardeners are almost obsessively focused on dried beans, with good reason. They pack a mighty punch in term of protein and nutrition. But they're not without their drawbacks.

Dried beans have a low yield when compared to other crops. From one tire, I can harvest 30 ears of corn, or 15 lbs. of potatoes, or 15 lbs. of carrots. But I'll only get eight ounces of dried beans.

For us, dried beans will only ever be an "overflow" crop, something to plant if I have spare room. That's because we have other protein sources -- chickens, eggs, beef, and eventually nuts. If beans are your only source of protein in a prepper-gardening situation, then yes, plant a lot. Just be aware of their low yield.

They're also labor-intensive. Sure, you can stuff the dried pods in a pillowcase and stomp around on it (highly recommended), but don't think for a minute that technique will dislodge every last bean. In fact, I've discovered it only dislodges about half the beans. There's no getting around the need to hand-pick through the stomped pods to maximize the harvest.
Our attitude toward beans is this: Beans are a field crop for a reason, since they take a bit of room to grow and have low yield. They're also cheap and easy to store, so buying is better than growing. Yet for a long-term (prepper) solution, this wasn't necessarily what people wanted to hear.

So here's my experience. I spent several days shelling the dried beans.


It was laborious, but not unpleasant. Kinda like doing puzzles, which I love doing. The thing is, I had no idea what my final yield would be.

As it turned out, I ended up with 13.25 lbs. of dried beans from 20 tires, or 0.66 lb. of beans (a bit over 10 ounces) per tire.


This came out to two gallons.


When compared to the 15 pounds of carrots or potatoes I can get from a tire, this quantity seems pathetically small.

Yet I can't forget, dried beans swell to three times their volume when cooked. So now, I can see those two gallons of dried beans and envision six gallons of cooked beans. That's a lot of beans.

So I'm officially revising my prepper gardening recommendations. Growing dried beans on a small scale is, indeed, worth it. We have a lot of horizontal space but not much vertical space, so bush beans are our choice. Those with space constraints have the option to grow pole beans. Either way, they're a worthwhile contribution for every prepper garden, but only a part. Like anything else, beans should be part of a balanced whole.