Saturday, November 30, 2019

Our Thanksgiving blessings

Here's what our Thanksgiving was like.

Like most holiday cooks, the secret is to start the day before (Wednesday). This was the day the weather report promised high winds.

I decided to clean and refill our oil lamps, which were dusty and in need of topping off, in case of a power outage.



My goal for Wednesday was to get both types of stuffing made, along with dinner rolls and pies. We started with the bread stuffing.

Into the wood cookstove oven. I figured since the cookstove was hot anyway, I might as well be efficient and use the oven.

Next, dinner rolls (Older Daughter's particular favorite). I tried a new recipe this year called "Half-time spoon rolls" by the incomparable Jackie Clay in her book Backwoods Home Cooking. Easy and delicious. Here's the unrisen dough:

For the second rising, the dough is spoon-dropped into cupcake tins. Here they've already risen and I'm putting them in the oven.

Hot out of the oven, they're brushed with a bit of melted butter. Yum.

While the rolls were rising, I made wild rice stuffing. No one else in my family likes it, so this is my once-a-year indulgence.

I'm draining some carrots I canned last year, and ready to chop up some of this year's onions.

Sautéing the carrots and onions. After adding the rices and boiling water, it cooks on the stove top.

While it cooked, I tackled the blueberry pies. I still haven't gotten around to canning this year's blueberries, so I started with frozen fruit.

In fact the berries were a little too frozen, so I let them defrost on the warming shelf while I made the pie crust.

Typical happy pre-Thanksgiving chaos.

By 2 pm, everything was done (except the blueberry pies weren't yet baked). I was pleased at how many ingredients came from our own efforts: Eggs, onions, garlic, carrots, potatoes, blueberries, bread, chicken stock. But many ingredients were purchased: flour, sugar, yeast, and of course the turkey.

Since it was early and the kitchen was tidy...

...Older Daughter and I decided to stretch our legs and take Mr. Darcy hiking on the same trail we hiked a few days ago.

It was very cold (about 30F) and windy, so we bundled up.

We expected to be blasted from the ridge top by high winds, but in fact we were protected by another ridge, so it wasn't so bad. Below us, the lake surface was choppy with whitecaps.

On the downhill side of the hike, we were thrilled to spy a distant moose across a draw.

Correction, make that two moose! I've lived in Idaho nearly 17 years and have not, in my opinion, seen nearly as many moose as I'd like.

We admired these beauties for a few minutes before continuing our descent.

We noticed some woodland graffiti on the trail.

We also noticed another hiker had dutifully bagged up his/her dog's poop, but left the bag by the side of the trail. Older Daughter thought perhaps they meant to fetch it on the way back and simply forgot. I was a little less magnanimous in my thoughts, but at any rate we picked up the bag and deposited it in the trash can left at the trail head.

The trail head has a bag dispenser for the convenience of hikers with dogs. Since I had extra bags at home, I brought some and stuffed them into the dispenser.

It was dusky by the time we left the park, and passed some roadside deer eating their own Thanksgiving dinner.

It also occurred to us, as we drove home, that on a day when so many people were tied up in massive traffic trying to be with their loved ones for Thanksgiving, we had just spent two hours hiking and had seen not a single soul.

Back home, I finished baking the pies and the last of the rolls.

"Voila," I said as I pulled the last pie from the oven. "All the pre-Thanksgiving cooking is done. And ALL of it was done in the wood cookstove." "Oh, you homesteading nerd," Older Daughter pronounced. (Guilty!)

Since most of the cooking was already done, Thanksgiving Day was a rather leisurely affair. I caught some photos of our barn cat, Simba, dreaming of his own Thanksgiving feast of fresh quail. Simba is quite a hunter, so those were some brave quail.

Here's the turkey, just out of the oven.

Don does the carving.

Setting the table. We had two neighbors joining us.

Older Daughter folded the dinner napkins in a particularly pretty way, with a slot for each utensil.

Last-minute things: making gravy and heating the dinner rolls and stuffing.

Because one of our guests works for the highway department and is currently on the night shift, we had dinner very early (2 pm). As it turns out, he had the day off after all, so everyone could linger over coffee and pie as long as we wished. Still, by 5:45 pm the guests had left and the dishes were done. I was able to sit down with a glass of wine and a book.

Then Younger Daughter called from her overseas duty station and we all chatted for about half an hour, so altogether it was a very wonderful day.

We finished by simmering the turkey carcass overnight...

...and canning up a nice batch of turkey stock.

I hope everyone had a similarly blessed Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 29, 2019

How to be a jerk

While doing a bit of online research on the subject of gratitude, I came across a progressive advice column ("Dear Prudence") with an extraordinary letter as follows:

"Thanksgiving will soon be here. Each year we gather for a festive and warm time at my parents’ home with my siblings and all our spouses and children. My family are Christians who are active in the Episcopal Church. Faith is a very positive experience to us and inspires us to be good to others. My husband is an atheist. Last year, to everyone’s shock, he volunteered to give the blessing at Thanksgiving. However, instead of a prayer he took us all by surprise with a two-minute rant about 'the myth of God.' Everyone was upset, and it ruined the meal. My husband just sat there with a grin on his face and ate. This caused numerous arguments between us since. I respect his nonbelief but not his in-your-face approach.

Last night he just informed me he plans to wear a T-shirt to Thanksgiving this year with a dead frog nailed to a cross with the words 'He died for you.' Well, we had the fight to outdo all other fights. Still, he insists on wearing the T-shirt for all to see on Thanksgiving. He admits he wants to see my family 'blow a gasket.' Please give me some coaching on how to be direct with him. Frankly, Prudence, if he follows through with this childishness it may cause me to leave him."

The point is not that this woman's husband is an atheist (I know plenty of polite, civilized atheists). The point is her husband is a jerk. This is one instance where I actually have to agree with "Prudence" -- divorce the guy. There's trouble ahead.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Travel woes

Travel woes have been in the news lately. Storms have closed roads and snarled/canceled/delayed plane flights. This article noted "At the airport in Denver, which was hit with a foot of snow, nearly 500 flights were canceled and another 500 were delayed. On Monday night, 1,000 people slept at the airport. ... Out west, a dangerous storm hit southern Oregon and northern California that meteorologists are calling a 'bomb cyclone' -- a rapidly intensifying winter storm caused by a precipitous drop in atmospheric pressure."

This video showed traffic on Hwy. 405 through West Los Angeles:

Please be safe this week, dear readers.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

The do-it-yourself gateway drug

Here's an interesting article that appeared in the Los Angeles Times -- Los Angeles, no less! -- last March. Entitled "This homesteader’s dream shop comes outfitted with a sound-proofed grain mill," it discusses a small urban storefront that sells many homesteading do-it-yourself items, a "tiny shop outfitted like a survivalist’s root cellar."

The owner of the store, a fellow named Roe Sie, decided to take his urban homesteading hobby and turn it into a retail establishment to cater to other urbanites with the itch to do things for themselves, everything from making soap to grinding grain for homemade bread.

Apparently -- and this is the phrasing I found so amusing and accurate -- backyard chickens "were Roe’s DIY gateway drug."

Gateway drug. Yeah, I get it. I get it.

Homesteading -- even in urban areas -- can indeed become a fever in the veins, a longing to get away from modern conveniences and learn how to do things yourself.

Gateway drug. Guilty.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

A walk in the woods

In the few days since she's been home, Older Daughter has done something we haven't done in over 16 years of living here: Made use of some of the excellent hiking trails in a nearby park.

For this, I have no excuse. We live in God's country, and I never bothered to hike the trails to prove it.

So after hearing her rhapsodies and seeing her photos of one modest trail (which she hiked with Mr. Darcy in tow), we decided to take advantage of some good weather so I could see it for myself.

Mr. Darcy, of course, wondered what took us so long.

We took a trail called Indian Cliffs.

It's not easy to see through the woods, but if you peer beyond the tree trunks you can see the cliffs in question. We were heading for the top.

Is this gorgeous or what?

We agreed Mr. Darcy blended in to a remarkable degree.

When we got to the turn of the first switchback...

...we saw park personnel had thoughtfully placed a bench for hikers to catch their breath.

Darcy though this whole breath-catching nonsense was a colossal waste of time. "C'mon, let's go! There are scents to follow!"

Here's a rocky slope we had passed from below.

Too steep even for Mr. Darcy.

Pretty soon the views became impressive. The marsh in the distance is where thousands of swans nest each spring.

See that dark streak in the middle of the photo? That's a railroad trestle.

When we finally hauled ourselves to the top of the ridge, the views were absolutely sensational.

Far below, near the lake surface, we could hear a flock of geese fly by.

If this looks like a river within a lake, it is. This segment of river used to connect two smaller lakes. When a dam was built near Coeur d'Alene many decades ago, the lake level rose and joined the two lakes, which also flooded the river.

At this elevation, even Mr. Darcy seemed glad to take a break. Have you ever seen a happier face?

The trail wound around and started its descent.

We passed this informative sign.

Evidence of this fire was still visible.

We started switchbacking on the descent. From waaaaaay below us, we saw another couple on a different trail ... with a dog.

Mr. Darcy saw them too, and I had to keep a firm grip on his leash lest he bound downhill to join them because, y'know, of course they wanted to see him.

So that was our brief walk in the woods. As long as the weather holds, we'll do a little more exploring some of these excellent trails.