Making diamonds

I love hearing stories about what my kids are up to…heard this one this morning. DM

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“We decided to move our business here because of you!”  the young woman told my daughter yesterday with a grin.

(Daughter works behind the counter @ a local pharmacy.)

Daughter didn’t know who this person was, and had a puzzled look on her face.

Lady smiled and continued…

“Well, we are new to the community, and you stopped by where I work back on March 21st in celebration of World Down Syndrome Day, with those lottery tickets.  Your attitude really touched me.  I asked you if you  worked outside the home and mentioned you worked here…  My husband and I wanted to start doing business here because of you.”

Three years ago, our third grandchild was born.

Shortly after his birth, it was determined he had Down Syndrome.   The first several weeks of his life  were touch and go.  Even to this day, there are medical issues he is having to deal with related to Downs….

None of us really know how we will respond to  life’s challenges until we are in the middle of it.  Our daughter and her husband have decided to  celebrate the birth of their little boy by passing out lottery tickets in honor of him and raise awareness of those who have been blessed by down syndrome each March 21st.  (Those are her words)

Kasen celebrated his third birthday last week.  He is a hoot.  Loves to hang out with his dad, and grandpa when they cut firewood. He loves to sit on my lap and listen to Scottish drum music. His dad is a fire fighter, Kason has already been adopted by the local fire department as one of their own.

 

Kasen during one of his stays in the  Intensive Care Unit

Kasen and his new toy chainsaw

 

Life is good.

If you don’t want to watch all 9 minutes of that Scottish drum music (see link)  jump ahead to about 7 minutes…that last song is Kasen and my favorite. 😉 DM

 

Here and now I’m in the fire,
In above my head
Oh, oh, oh oh, oh, oh
Being held under the pressure,
Don’t know what’ll be left
Oh, oh, oh oh, oh, oh
But it’s here in the ashes
I’m finding treasure

He’s making diamonds, diamonds
Making diamonds out of dust
He is refining in his timing
He’s making diamonds out of us”

From the song Diamonds by Hawk Nelson

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Apiary Update

When I suggested to my wife in December, I was “starting to feel a stirring” to get into  honeybees…I prefaced my newfound interest by promising  I would not spend money we did not have. 😉

(I’m learning)

There is definitely a knack  to dreaming dreams and not letting money (or the lack thereof) from stifling ones ability to plan.

I got a little cash for Christmas, so I used that to pay for the six week beginning beekeeping class offered through a local community college ($35)

Out in my wood shop, I had some 1 by 12 pine boards just sitting around, got on-line and found some Do It Yourself plans for building the hive boxes.

Mid February,  I met with a woman who wanted to learn how to prune apple trees.  She spent the morning with me pruning, and over the course of our time together, shared, she herself had a small apiary, and if I did get honeybees, I was more than welcome to use her honey extracting equipment come August…

In addition to the cash from Christmas, I had a small reserve of petty cash from people who have tipped me  over  the  past year….normally, that is my coffee fund (Starbucks/ french roast/ beans/ not ground) but feeling as strongly as I do about getting a bee hive (or two), I decided to dip into that.

I did some work last Fall for a local electrician who offered to sell me one of his nucs this spring  (A Nuc is a new bee colony with 3 to 5 frames of bee larva, eggs, etc).  It is a great way to get a jump-start on raising a new colony.

So after totaling up what  two complete hive boxes, frames, smoker, gloves, bee hat, hive tools, bees would cost, the total came to $900.00.  I created a go-fund-me site a few weeks ago with a $1000 target goal.  (Go-fund-me and all of their related fees costs just under 10% of what you raise, so I figured, by the time I paid the fees, if $1000 came in, I would be set, and still live within my budget.

So yesterday, I sold some free range eggs to  someone locally. Our four free range hens have found their egg laying groove again.  They are laying more than we can eat, so I have started to sell them on a limited basis.

The four hens have  not cost us a cent since before Christmas.  100% of their daily food intake has been coming in from  foraging.  I do not have an electric water heater for them this winter either (normally that runs $30 a month in electricity), and when you’re watching pennies, $30 is not chump change….Instead, I use two plastic coffee cans and make sure they have access to fresh water a couple of times a day…birds in the wild, if there is no water, will eat snow, and I’ve noticed the hens are doing that as well.

I am selling the free range eggs for $2.50 a dozen….so when I went out into the shop yesterday to get the $5.00 for the two dozen eggs…this is what I saw:

To date,  counting yesterday’s gift, $370 has come in..which will pay for all of my initial gear, and the forty  frames for one hive…enough to get started.

I have kept my promise.

I have not spent $ we do not have.

Lest you think I am a mooch, I/ we, have also been on the giving end of the equation, multiple times over the years.

I have a very detached attitude about money.  I can give it away and receive it with equal grace.

How To: Wild Child

Yesterday I made my third batch of “Wild Child.”

What in the heck is “Wild Child”?

When I am in the lab kitchen and make something new, if it turns out, it gets named….in this case,  I named my latest creation “Wild Child” the moment I tasted it.

The multiple flavors and textures  exploded in my mouth,it was visually beautiful to behold and it was good for me…with all of that going for it, it had to have a name that popped.

I continue to work my way, slowly  into the world of fermentation. As per Sando Katz’s suggestion to experiment with texture as well as with various fruit and vegetable combinations, I upped the ante and tripled the amount of peanuts  sweet peppers, and apples yesterday.

Wild Child is 1000% more tasty than its cousin sauerkraut.

This  lacto-fermenting colorful mixture will soon be “brimming with healthy probiotics.”

Wild child 1

Raw ingredients of Wild Child

Don’t have the time to unpack  the health benefits attributed to eating fresh unpasteurized foods this morning vs the pasteurized crap   foods , but they are in two different leagues.  Here’s a link if you’re curious. That article talks about Sauerkraut, but it applies to all fermented foods.

I’ve chosen to use air locks when I’m making small batches of fermented  foods.  You don’t have to, as long as you keep whatever you are fermenting weighed down below the brine.  I just think those little gizmo’s look neat, plus when the fermentation process starts to kick in,  (after a day or two) I like watching it bubble.

Yea, I know, I’m easily entertained. 😉

 

wild child ready to ferment

Ingredients ready to rock

in air locked jars

 

Wild Child

(1) head of cabbage

(1 or 2)  colorful peppers

(1) small can of nuts  (I used salted Spanish peanuts this time)

(3) large apples

(1) cup of raisins

(1) t cumin    (Mrs DM doesn’t care for that spice so I made her a separate batch and skipped this.  I prefer it, because it adds another layer of flavor, and is supposed to be good for you 😉

(2) T pickling salt or slightly less.

Directions:  cut everything up in small pieces, then sprinkle the pickling salt over it.  Knead for 3 to 5 minutes until everything gets limp and juicy…If you’ve never “kneaded” raw vegetables before with a dash of pickling salt, you’re in for a surprise.

At this point, I packed the above ingredients into a 2 qt jar.  Keep packing it in until you absolutely can’t get any more in, and everything is submerged in liquid…I will add just a little water if needed.  put the cap with the air lock on  (or put it in crock that you can cover lightly..

  Do not just put it in a jar with a lid, or it will explode.

That quantity of fruits, vegetables and nuts yielded about 3 quarts. I filled my jars and ate the rest  fresh.

Time to run.  DM

 

 

You Can Keep Your Socks On….

I got to the clinic a few minutes early.  Two women sat behind the counter.  One smiled as I approached, the other didn’t.

I made a bee-line to the smiling one. 😉

After she scanned my driver’s license, and took my $100, she pointed to a table at the far end of the hall, next to the coffee pots, and told me  I should wait there…someone would be with me shortly.

Few minutes later, another person who was all business asked me to follow her to the lab  where I was told to pee in a cup.

Side note: My baby sister works at this same hospital, and sometimes I will let that slip in hopes it will loosen up the person I’m dealing with.  She (my sister) is a fire cracker.  Works in rehab. Her patients (and co-workers) love her.

After I was finished peeing into the cup, I was told to sit and wait for the results.  Couple of minutes later, a grizzly bear of a nurse appeared. (She looked and sounded like a bear) She started barking about something in the bathroom I’d just left..said she was going to write someone up…!

I watched her, thinking I was thankful I didn’t have to work with her on a daily basis.

Next I was introduced to the nurse  in charge of the DOT physical.

Anyway, after taking my blood pressure, she tested my vision, and hearing from 10 ft away…then she took me to another examination room.

“I’m not sure if anyone as told you what to expect for this physical…”  She points to one of those hospital gowns with the open back…you’ll need to slip off your clothes, and put this on.  You can keep your underwear on, as well as your socks.  The Doctor will need to examine your skin for scars…just to make sure you haven’t had any hernia  surgeries.  Believe it or not, we’ve had people lie about that.”

At some point in this conversation, I realized the Doctor I was about to see was a she.

I liked her the minute she stepped into the room. I’m going to guess, early to mid 40’s.  No airs about her.   Relaxed.  Personable.

I told her about the grumpy guy who I’d hired to teach me to double clutch. Told her, “I am not used to getting chewed out for something like that, and by golly, I let it slide that time, but it better not happen again, because I wasn’t a kid with a low self-esteem, and even though he was 350 pounds, he didn’t intimidate me!”

We were just about finished, when she asked me to stand up.  Said she needed to check for any hernia’s…

Up came the gown, down came my fruit of the looms.

That part of the exam was over in 10 seconds..(which I had no idea was coming )

One of the beautiful things about aging, is after you’ve had a couple of colonoscopies and a few other invasive procedures, the buck naked stuff doesn’t bother me as much.

Anyway, I laughed and told her, that was a piece of cake compared to my visits to the urologist!

Here’s a shout out to all of you in the medical field who still have your sense of humor and people skills.

I don’t take you for granted. DM

 

 

Apfelwein…..already at 5 %

Apfelwein: German for Apple Cider

There is 5 gallons of raw,(  freshly pressed) apple cider,  sitting  in a food grade five gallon plastic bucket, fermenting behind me as I write.  I checked it with the hydrometer yesterday, it is already up to 5% alcohol content since I started.

This is my first attempt at making hard cider (freshly pressed, raw apple cider juice intentionally handled to morph into alcohol.)

I mentioned a few weeks ago, my latest life goal/ project is to become a fermentation master.

Some of it I hope to bottle up for gifts, some of it I hope to make into apple cider vinegar and some of it for personal consumption.

It is almost impossible to find (or buy) raw unpasteurized apple cider. Big brother has made it illegal to sell to the public without first being pasteurized, which is all well and good, but in the process, the good stuff is killed along with any potential harmful bugs. (just like its almost impossible to buy raw milk…unless you own a cow or buy it on the black market, it is not to be had)

I had to grind and press 2 bushel of apples to get 4 and 1/2 gallons of cider. The  #2 apples sell for $30 a bushel.   $60 worth of fruit,  2 hours of my time. and over $1000 of equipment  ( the whizbang apple grinder and a cider press.)   When someone recently suggested I could sell the cider for $6 to $8 a gallon I just kept quiet.    I told my wife, this stuff is conservatively worth $25 a gallon before it’s fermented.

I have no very little tolerance  for people who try to work me over  on a price of something I’m selling.

On another fermentation note…

I wanted to transfer the peach mead that I started fermenting a few weeks ago into another container this week.

Sampled some of it first.

My oh my.

Smooth and mellow.

Again, you can’t buy this stuff anywhere.

And finally, I am experimenting with a batch of what I will probably  call Jailhouse hooch.  Had a guy that used to work with me that did a little time in the Cook County jail.  One day over coffee break he gave me skinny on how they made hooch when he was in jail. …the only change I am making is instead of using a garbage bag and hiding it under my bed, I’m using a food grade plastic pail  😉

I started a batch this morning.

1 pound of firm fresh strawberries, 3 pounds of sugar, 3/4 t of baking yeast, one gallon of cold water and a 1 gallon food safe plastic bucket.   Before the fermentation process started I got a reading on the hydrometer.  It registered 60./ potential alcohol content 15%.

We will see.

I am taking copious notes in case I hit one out of the park. DM

Fermentation

Two weeks ago , I spoke at our library on  the publication of my latest book on local history.  At one point during the question and answer period, Terri asked me if I had any new projects in the works.

Her question took me off guard, but since I sensed she really wanted to know I told her this:

“Well, actually I do. There are two.  One requires a good chunk of money so until that piece of the puzzle comes together ….

My first project in the wings is this….I would like to retrace (on foot) the Scottish pioneer settlers that came to our area late 1830…they started in the Red River Area of Manitoba Canada..worked their way down through Minnesota and into eastern Iowa.   All told, a 1300 mile trek on foot.  Realistically, I would need two and 1/2 to three months to pull that off. and because I would not be working,  enough money to off set the lost income…so until that piece of the puzzle comes together…..

 I have discovered another area of life, that combines several things.  I have been intrigued for years about various processes (making cheese, fermenting wine, starting sour dough starter from scratch with wild yeast… etc)  I realized a few weeks ago, they all fall under a general category of fermentation….so my latest quest is to become a “Fermentation Master”   (whether it’s sour dough, wine, sauerkraut, or cheese, curing meat, food preservation, etc.  I want to understand the theory behind these life skills…”

(Fermentation master is a term I DM have coined for myself…like acquiring a masters degree in college). 🙂

Pause

If you were to stop by our home currently, you would discover I have 2 things currently fermenting.   A two quart jar of peach mead, (from local raw honey and some peaches off one of our trees)  and 2 jars of red sauerkraut.  I’ve been nibbling out of one jar of  sauerkraut the past few weeks just to have a handle on the taste…I’ve noticed my incessant food cravings have tapered back between 50% to 75%…(which I have battled for years.   I’ve also dropped 8 pounds).  In some of the literature I’ve read about lactic acid fermentation  (which is what is going on when making sauerkraut)..it mentioned the link between food cravings,  obesity, healthy gut bacteria, the brain/ probiotic links etc.

So last night, I messaged a friend who also happens to be a family doctor that specializes in nutritional and lifestyle choices  (who is much more up to speed on the medical angle of these things) and asked her if there could be a connection…here is what she said:

“It makes perfect sense, Doug! What happens is that by eating the sauerkraut you have been changing the microbiome of your GI tract. You may have had an imbalance of yeast, which ALWAYS causes you to crave carbs and sugar.”

Pause.

Anyway,  here is a link to a great blog with  information about fermentation and some recipe’s you can try yourself at home that I stumbled across recently:

http://modernhippiehousewife.com/fermented-food/

And here is a link to a user friendly, in depth book on fermentation by Fermentation Master  Sandor Katz.  I  got my hard cover copy two weeks ago.   It is  so readable and full of practical wisdom.

It should be on every person’s book shelf.

https://www.amazon.com/Art-Fermentation-Depth-Exploration-Essential/dp/160358286X

And finally, here’s a link to Sandor Katz  on Youtube talking about how to make your own sauerkraut and the health benefits.  Check it out!

So that’s some of what’s been on my mind the past month.   DM

 

Racing Daughters

The first year I raced my daughter was in 1989.

Ringwood manor in Northern New Jersey.

We were there for a family outing, and the long south lawn had “race” written all over it.

She was nine.

I was thirty-one.

Lots of laughter as we crossed the finish line.

I kicked her butt. 🙂

As her thirty first birthday approached, I asked if she was game for  a rematch?

“Yes!” she told me.

Thought it was an excellent idea. 🙂

I had no idea how this race would pan out but I thought, what a great  way to make a memory with one of my kids..  (Can’t imagine for the life of me, racing my dad like that.)

I’m a blessed man to be able to have the kind of relationship I do with each of my kids.  The ultimate goal of parenting as I understood it, was to work myself out of a job….go from authority figure, to peer.

Several months leading up to our rematch, my daughter was going to the gym, going on long bike rides, eating healthy. She was focused and excited about how great she felt, and I felt in some small way, I was a part of it.

One day over coffee, my mom, quietly suggested I let her win, if it looked like I might beat her.

“No way!” I said. 🙂

“It is a real race, and if she doesn’t win this time, there is always next year.”

 

I won….barely.

after the race 6-16-2011

Just after our rematch  in 2011 

Afterwards, she confided in me, there was a part of her, that was glad I won, because if I hadn’t, it meant her dad was getting older.  Plus there was always the chance I might keel over from a heart attack or stroke, and she didn’t want that on her conscience. 🙂

Well, this past Saturday morning,  we had another rematch.

If you’re doing the math, you know I am now 58, and she is 36.  At some point, she is going to win. That’s just how it works.

(The last time we raced, I think she would have won, if it had been a longer distance. I’m fine in a short sprint, but a long distance…don’t feel quite so confident 🙂

We settled on a mile this year.  Four times around the track.

This year, I asked if we could walk it, so we did.

Thought it was a great way to transition into yet another season of our relationship…

The papa (that’s me) is starting to not be able to do all the things he used to be able to do…and that’s fine by me.