Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Preparing for hell

As with the rest of Western America, we've been bracing ourselves for hell. Or at least, temperatures that approach it.

We've watched this coming for the last week. Whatever the west coast is experiencing, we can expect it a few days later.

Unfortunately we've learned the temperatures at our place are a few degrees higher than the nearest weather station. Wheee.

So we've spent the last week making sure we won't die of heat stress.

The most wonderful thing is the people we bought this house from actually left behind – can you believe it? – a window air conditioner. Don tested it and by golly it works. I have no idea why they left it behind, but God bless them for it.

Don built a stand for it.

He also built a frame with a double layer of plastic to fit into the window frame over the unit.

When the afternoon sun comes in through the window, we close the curtain and prop the rolled up curtain over the air conditioner with a roll of duct tape and some dog bones. Hey, redneck solutions.

I always feel guilty using an air conditioner, don't ask me why. However this heat wave is a doozy, and the inside of the house resembles an oven when things get hot.

I decided to keep us well supplied with Utterly Artificial Ice Cream, one of our favorites. (See this post for the recipe.)

Unfortunately our ice cream maker chose this time to give up the ghost...

...so I ended up just using a mixer to mix the ingredients for the ice cream, then freezing it. Turned out pretty well.

I've also been making ice cubes like crazy. Don't want to get caught short.

Most of what the ice cubes go into is sun tea. That's another thing we've been making like crazy – decaf sun tea. We go through about a gallon a day.

All outside chores get done very early. I've been watering the plants and walking Mr. Darcy around 6 am.

Lihn stays cool by taking baths.

After a good soaking, she can spend the next hour or two happily preening the water from her feathers.

Interestingly, in the midst of these preps for a heat wave, we had an unexpected thunderstorm cell pass over us (a few days ago).

We weren't expecting this, but we had no complaints! It dropped the temperature from 97F down to 70F within minutes. It was glorious.

It was also accompanied by huge 30 mph wind gusts that knocked over potted plants and tore branches off the trees.

In fact, one of the weeping willows lost a huge branch, but it's so tangled up in the tree we haven't yet taken it down (and it's been too hot outside to mess with it).

This little storm cell left behind some beautiful evening clouds which bathed the whole landscape in a gorgeous orange light.

Some deer grazing nearby seemed to enjoy the brief respite from the heat.

But that beautiful rainstorm was last week, and this week we're paying the piper in terms of heat. The news has been full of stories of hellish temperatures various places of hit, with some places seeing as high as 118F. In the northwest, no less! 

I know our church's basement is open as a cooling center for those who need it. Here at our new place, yesterday's temp reached 107F outside, and 80F inside. (Without the air conditioner, it would have been, well, 107F inside. Maybe a few degrees cooler.)

As I post this (2 pm), it's currently 106F and slated to go higher. I'll post whatever it tops out.

Update: We topped out at 109F. The thermometer briefly registered 111F, but it backed down from that within a few minutes. This was the hottest day. Things are supposed to get moderately cooler – say, the high 90s – starting later in the week.

Meanwhile, how is everyone doing during this week of hellish temperatures?

Monday, June 28, 2021

Knocking down those bowling pins

A few days ago, my mother called up to see if I was okay. When I told her I was fine, she said she had been getting concerned because I hadn't posted anything on the blog for a while.

I laughed and said it was because I had so many writing deadlines. As I mentioned earlier, the month of June was one of those bizarre "perfect storms" in which every outlet I write for had deadlines which coalesced in the same month.

Well, I'm done.

Seriously, I just finished my latest Love Inspired romance novel, tentatively entitled "The Animal Lover," and sent it to my agent.

I managed to also complete the other six articles and four columns I had due in June as well. I still have a column due this Friday, but since that falls in July, technically it doesn't "count" for June.

Whenever I have multiple pressing deadlines like this, I call it "knocking down bowling pins." So as not to get overwhelmed, I just knock down those pins one by one until they're done.

Anyway, that's why I've been so quiet on the blog just busy. I'm inclined just to take the day off and do nothing but drink iced tea. What do you think?

Saturday, June 19, 2021

For all you math nerds out there...

You know all those really annoying captcha checks on every retail website?

They're always asking you to do dumb things to prove you're not a robot.

So when I came across this captcha check, I laughed out loud.

I come from a family of math nerds. Trust me when I say they'll get a chuckle out of this.

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Care package for a sailor

Younger Daughter (who, as you remember, is in the Navy) is deployed once again. From her overseas duty station, she's now at sea for the next six months. Her internet is understandably spotty during this time – it gets worse the farther from shore they are – so we communicate when and how we can.

Life aboard a ship, I gather, obsessively centers on one thing: food. Frequently Younger Daughter is served "midrats" (midnight rations), meals provided for those who are working nights, and apparently the monotony and indifferent quality are a common complaint.

So a couple weeks ago she happened to see the blog post I put up about dehydrating broccoli and wistfully mentioned she would love some dehydrated broccoli. Younger Daughter is fond of a particular soup she used to make when she was a teenager consisting of noodles and various vegetables, and she thought she might be able to cobble together something similar with ramen noodles, a microwave, and boiling water – if only she had dried vegetables.

Well how can any mother resist that kind of cry for help? Next thing I knew, out came the dehydrators and I was trying my hand at drying a variety of new things.

First thing I did was list the vegetables I had canned up in the pantry. Of them, Younger Daughter especially craved corn. I have lots and lots of corn canned up, but I had never tried dehydrating canned corn. Time to experiment.

I started with seven pints...

...which I drained and rinsed.

I used the fine-mesh inserts on the trays.

I wasn't sure how many trays seven pints of corn would fill up, so I just kept spreading and stacking. Of the twelve possible trays (between two dehydrators), the corn filled eight.

Then I divvied them between the two machines, set them up outside (where the noise wouldn't drive us nuts), set the temperature at 125F, and let them run for eight hours.

It turned out better than I hoped.

Each kernel was golden and perfectly dry, yet somehow chewy (not hard like popcorn). The occasional dark kernel is from corn that was a bit above water-level in the jars when canned up. They're discolored, but otherwise fine.

I put the dried corn into a bowl...

...and turned my attention to another one of Younger Daughter's favorite veggies, cabbage.

Cabbage is certainly not something I'd ever tried dehydrating before, so this was unknown territory. The little instruction book that came with the dehydrator didn't even cover it. But a touch of online research suggested slicing the cabbage thin and drying it at 125F for eight hours.

So I peeled off the outer leaves...

...and sliced it thin.

I cut out the core, since the online source said it's too tough and dense to dry. Makes sense.

Four heads of cabbage filled two large bowls.

Those four heads also filled all twelve dehydrator trays full. In fact, I probably crowded the shredded cabbage on the trays a little thicker than I should have, but oh well.

I set the temp at 125F for four hours, rotated the trays, and set them for another four hours.

It turned out much better than I anticipated. I figured the cabbage would have dried down to thin threads of nothingness, but actually it turned out quite decent and with more substance than I expected. However a few pieces were still "damp," so I separated the majority of dried cabbage into a large bowl, and put the still-damp pieces into a smaller bowl.

I snipped these pieces smaller and spread them on a couple of trays for another hour of drying, which did the trick.

It's worth nothing that dehydrating cabbage makes no sense from an economic viewpoint, unless it's spread out in the sun and dried that way. The amount of electricity we used to run two dehydrators for a total of eight hour (or nine, depending on whether you count the extra drying time) far exceeds the cost of the cabbages. The biggest benefit is feeding a hungry sailor stuck out in the middle of the ocean.

After this it was easy to pull together everything else, since it was already dry. In the end I packed up cabbage, corn, broccoli, garlic, and onions. The corn, onions, and garlic came from our own garden, so it will be truly a taste of home.

I also slipped a box of tea into the care package (she requested tea bags, not loose leaf).

What the heck. There are worse things a kid could ask for than a box of dehydrated vegetables.

In only a few short weeks, this box will find its way to the middle of the ocean. Hopefully the veggies will relieve the tedium of midrats.

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

The wonder of grasses

Have you ever stopped to marvel at grasses?

Seriously, I never gave grasses much thought except at a subliminal level when it comes to pasturage for cows. But here in our new home, all the wild grasses are out in force. As we walk the dog morning and evening, I was struck by how lovely they are.

I decided to document what's growing around here. I'm not a botanist so I don't know what they are, but here's as sampling. In fact, I'll label the photos so you can help identify them. (I might have duplicated some entries; sorry.)

Exhibit 1:

Exhibit 2:

Exhibit 3 (baltic rush?):

Exhibit 4:

Exhibit 5 (timothy?):

Exhibit 6:

Exhibit 7:

Exhibit 8:

Exhibit 9:

Exhibit 10:

Exhibit11:

Many of these grasses are blooming like mad, to Don's distress (allergies). Whenever Mr. Darcy diverges off the road, we can follow his progress through the grass by the little puffs of pollen that follow him.

I know things will dry out as the summer progresses, so I'll admire the lush beauty of these grasses while I can.