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Wednesday, October 23, 2019

God be with you, Spike

Today a neighbor called with some horrifically sad news: our retired pastor, David "Spike" Shine, had passed away.

Spike was our pastor for many, many years. More than that, he was a dear friend. He was instrumental in bringing us all back to our faith, and his influence on our family was profound. His sermons were phenomenal and I can't count the number of times I asked him to email one or another to me so I could refer to them later.

After his retirement, and after he moved to another town, we kept in touch. Through his last illness, he was unrelentingly cheerful and funny, as he'd always been.

Rest in peace, dear Spike. You will be missed, but now you can deliver your wonderful sermons to a wider audience.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Making raisins

With such an abundance of grapes this year -- but not to the point where we can consider making wine -- I was tasked with processing the fruit.

I decided to make grape juice and raisins (stand by for a future post on grape juice). I've never made raisins before, but we use a fair bit of them, so I was eager to give it a try.

I started with the green Himrod grapes. A few of the grapes had already "raisin-ified" on their own, but I wanted a bit more control over the process.

I sat down and started picking through grapes, selecting only the best for the dehydrator.

Any grapes that didn’t pass inspection – too squishy, too flawed, whatever – went into a separate bowl to be fed to Mr. Darcy, for whom grapes were a marvelous discovery.

That is, until our alert Younger Daughter mentioned in an email that grapes are toxic to dogs. Holy cow, she probably saved Mr. Darcy's life! I was completely unaware of this. Okay, no more grapes for Mr. Darcy.

I used the fine mesh strainer in the dehydrator so no raisins would fall through the cracks.

Each tray held three-quarters of a pound of grapes, or 4.5 lbs. for all six trays.

I like to put the dehydrator in a room where I can shut the door, since it tends to be noisy.

I set it at 135F for 24 hours.

But 24 hours later, the grapes were nowhere near raisin status.

Baffled, I reset the dehydrator for a few more hours. And then a few more. And then a few more. By the time the grapes had turned into raisins, they'd been in the dehydrator for a full 48 hours.

This was discouraging, especially since the 4.5 lbs. of grapes only created one pound of raisins.

Was it worth the cost of running the dehydrator for two solid days to produce one pound of raisins? Sadly, I concluded it was not.

Until I tasted one.

It was one of those eye-widening moments. The taste of these homegrown and homemade raisins was unbelievably better than the store-bought ones.

Okay, there had to be a better way. This time I took the precaution of consulting my beloved food preservation bible, Putting Food By. Duh, I should have done that to start with.

The book recommended dipping the grapes in boiling water for about 30 seconds to "check" (open) the skins, then immediately cooling them.

So I started a second batch of raisins, this time using the sweeter red Canadice grapes. I had a lot more of this variety, and planned to juice most of it, but spared 4.5 lbs. for another batch of raisins.

Here's the boiling-water bath.

After dipping the grapes in cold water, I spread them on the dehydrator sheets.

Back in the dehydrator for another round.

This time it still took longer than 24 hours, but considerably shorter than 48 -- perhaps 30 hours total.

So is it worthwhile making our own raisins? We crunched some numbers for just the cost of electricity (not counting other stuff like my time growing the grapes, processing the grapes, etc.), and it came to $4.10 total, or $2.05 in electricity per pound of grapes. (This is based on 750 watts the dehydrator used for 78 hours of running time at $0.07/kWh we spend on electricity.) So you decide.

But one thing's for sure, these are the best durn raisins I've ever had.

I'm all for making more next year.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Come see Don's new blog!!

If there's one thing my husband is known for, it's his opinions. He has a lot to say -- and finally decided the best place to say it is on a blog.

Therefore I'm pleased to introduce "The Daily Malcontent."

Don's biggest limitation on writing is he's a two-fingered typist. He overcomes this by sheer orneriness (and the occasional use of voice dictation software) and plans to post something at least every day (as well as a his famous/infamous humor pieces weekly).

Additionally, Don is "coming out of the closet" with a Big Reveal: He is none other than Pat McLene, whose prepper columns were prominently featured on WND for several years. He will be reprinting and updating some of those columns over time.

I hope everyone will bookmark his site, subscribe to his RSS feed, and follow him on a regular basis. He's good!

Friday, October 18, 2019

Millennials trying to farm

Reader Ken sent this. Cracked me up.

This is a parody from the YouTube channel of a fifth-generation Minnesota farming family. Their video page, called Millennial Farmer, depicts the reality of farm life. I'll have to explore this page more thoroughly.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Buried in beans

At the moment, I am buried in beans. Specifically, dry beans.

I prefer to grow bush beans as opposed to climbing beans, and this year I planted eight tires of Jacob's cattle beans and six tires of calypso beans (both heirloom varieties, of course).

This year the Jacob's cattle beans outdid themselves.

The day I chose to pick them was windy, with rain in the forecast. I decided it wasn't such a bad task to pick a couple thousand rattling bean pods on a blustery day.

Rather than yank up the plants and then later remove the pods, this time I stripped the pods directly from the plants.

I got two bushel baskets of bean pods.

The Jacob's cattle beans were so productive that I held aside one tire's worth of beans to weigh the result.

From that one tire, I got almost 2.25 lbs. of beans, which is actually a decent amount for dry beans.

In theory, then, I should end up with about 18 lbs. of dry beans. We'll see. Shelling is slow work, but it's peaceful. I shell a few beans here and there between other tasks.

Here's an interesting anomaly: a hole bored into a pod...

...resulting in a hollowed-out bean. Must have been one hungry bug.

Here are the calypso beans. There were not as fruitful this year as in years past.

Since I was late picking these beans, a couple of the pods had already popped...

...and spewed the beans on the dirt.

Fewer tires as well as less production resulted in just one-third of a basket of bean pods.

Most of these beans -- both varieties -- will end up in a ginormous post of end-of-the-world chili.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Comes with the house

This is our latest barn cat.

We call him Simba because he looks like a lion. He's one of four or five adult cats someone abandoned in a nearby rental. The other cats gradually disappeared -- presumably picked off by coyotes -- but Simba seems to have adopted us.

We can't bring him with us when we move (Don's allergic to indoor cats, and Darcy does everything in his power to kill him) so he'll stay with the house.

It's clear Simba used to be an indoor cat. He often sits by our front door (which drives Darcy nuts), silently asking to come in.

But we can't let him or we'll have a dead cat (and a sneezing husband). However he's becoming a fine shop cat and is an incredible mouser. An unbelievable mouser, in fact.

Don made a nice cozy box for him in the shop, complete with comfy blankie piled on top a hot pad set on low during colder weather. Simba already knows where to go during chilly temperatures.

Simba will be a credit to whomever buys the house. After all, every farm needs a good barn cat.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Excellent news site

Lately Don and I have become soured on the Drudge Report, since Drudge seems to be soured on our president. However Don discovered an excellent news agglomerate site entitled Whatfinger.

Check it out.

Friday, October 11, 2019

A bird in the mouth...

Mr. Darcy has a new philosophy in life.

On our twice-a-day walks, we let Darcy loose for the first half (on the flats) and keep him on his retractable leash as we head down the hill through the woods (or he'll dash off and we'll never see him again). Frequently after he's leashed up and the road goes into the woods, we'll see flocks of quail.

Needless to say, Darcy sees them too.

Being a hunting breed, his instincts are to chase after everything that moves, so whenever we see quail, we keep a tight grip on the leash. Until last week.

One afternoon we saw a small flock of quail which trotted on the road ahead of us, well out of Darcy's reach. Then suddenly, as quail do, the flock flew off into some bushes away from the road. Thinking they were out of danger, we released Darcy's leash length and let him roam a bit further ahead. Suddenly he lunged into an embankment and seized a stray bird.

Well, no sense trying to force him to release the quail only to have an injured bird flopping about. May as well let him mercifully kill it, so we let him keep the quail in his mouth.

Well I must say we had a most peaceful walk after that. Darcy didn't tack from side to side across the road, chasing after scents. He didn't pull or yank on the leash. He just walked sedately ahead, conveniently out of close grabbing reach, with his trophy. "Uffing 'oo 'ee 'ere, I'm uss 'ine..."

He didn't dare drop the bird, of course, or we'd have taken it away.

Most of the time he stayed well ahead of us, clutching his prize. And oh, was he a proud boy. He caught a quail! All by himself!

The only time he would release his precious trophy was when he knew we were too far away to grab it from him.

So Darcy's new philosophy is: "A bird in the mouth is worth two in the bush." Why chase after other quail when he has one firmly in his mouth?