Monday, September 29, 2008

Sometimes A Negative Can Be Positive

For about the past month, I haven't been feeling well. At first, I started getting tremendous headaches. Then all-over achiness showed up to the party leaving me feeling like I had a grand case of the Flu. My DH took me to breakfast one Saturday morning knowing that I just didn't have it in me to make breakfast that day plus I hadn't been off the farm for two weeks.
It was at breakfast that he posed the question to me: Did I think it could be West Nile Virus? A few years ago our chicken flock was the sentinel flock for our county. When they finally came up with a positive reading, we knew the risk was high that we could have WNV with us each summer as a large wetlands preserve is right behind our place. So, we don long pants and long-sleeved shirts when working outside at dusk and dawn during the summer months. We also slather ourselves with DEET. Still, this year, two of the little bugger mosquitoes got me. It was about two weeks after that incident I started feeling "non-optimal".
So, after the breakfast I began to think maybe I should actually see our doctor and see if maybe DH was on to something. After all, I'm in that over 50 group with "problems". Better safe than sorry, right? A week ago I went in and was sent for the obligatory blood-letting. It was only today I received the results. Negative for WNV. Whew! I dodged it for another year! The assessment made was that I actually did have the flu combined with massive allergy reactions to the bountiful pollen season this year.
So, like the mammatus clouds you see below, something negative can be a positive in life!

(I took this photograph of these beautiful storm clouds from the pasture. Where I was standing there was dead-silence, but these signify great turbulence in the high elevation winds aloft.)
And now that I'm feeling better, on to making some hard decisions as to whom to keep, and who goes from our little flock...in this economy and with hay at $20/bale I can not over-winter any but the best of the flock. So now I must make some very hard decisions. I'll keep you posted...

Monday, September 15, 2008

Pickles, Part Deux

After a week (In the previous post the Rabbi teaching the class recommended a four-day minimum for making pickles), I decided it was time to try the pickles. I did notice that the contents of the plastic "crock" has changed color. Also some of the spices in the pickling mix had soaked in enough moisture to make them sink to the bottom of the container.


Everything smelled OK...while the dill weed that had been placed on top of the pickling mix had now become soggy and unappealing in look, it still smelled like dill. And now I could smell the definite aroma of garlic mixed in with the dill fragrance. Hmmm...dare I try a taste? Sure. Why not?

I cut a small section out of the middle of a slice from one of the cucumbers. At first, I tasted salt. It was almost overwhelming in its intensity. After the salt flavor receded I did notice some of the other spices and the garlic/dill combination coming through. But over all was that heaviness of the salt.
Now I like salt, don't get me wrong, but this was so intense it was startling. I could see where if you left these "pickles" in this brine bath for a long time they would attain a more sour flavor not unlike cabbage turning into sauerkraut. But after embarking on this educational endeavour, I would have to admit that I prefer my pickles with vinegar. I missed the twang that a good apple cider vinegar imparts in a pickle.

Maybe someday I will appreciate a good true Jewish Kosher pickle. For now, I think I'll stick with my Bread & Butters and the "Kosher Dills" preserved in vinegars. Would I take that class again? Ja, sure ting, you betchya! :)






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Tuesday, September 09, 2008

In A Pickle

About ten days ago, I saw a very interesting little announcement in our local paper. Anyone wishing to learn how to make true Kosher pickles was welcome to sign up for a class being hosted by our local Jewish church. My curiosity now being peaked, I RSVP'd to go.
This past Sunday saw a small group meeting on the campus of NAU (Northern Arizona University). As I walked in to the meeting room I was greeted by two rabbi, both in traditional dress.
There were a few Jewish families there, but I was very glad to see I was not the only Shikseh there. And, Boy! Did I ever learn about Jewish pickles!
The first thing I learned was that a true Kosher pickle is made using no vinegar whatsoever. Those Kosher Dills you buy in the glass jars at the Mega-Marts are not true Kosher pickles! The Kosher pickle is made through a fermentation process and is bought/served/eaten/enjoyed fresh, never canned (as we can Bread and Butter pickles).

Each of us was given a plastic tub, as you see in the picture. In this tub we made a brine using approximately one scant 1/4 cup of Kosher salt to about 12 oz. of water. To this brine we added seedless Persian cukes (I never knew they existed!), broken into pieces for convenience. Apparently Persian cucumbers are seedless and lower in water content making the best use of this method of preservation.

Next we added 2 - 4 cloves of garlic, two tablespoons of pickling spices (if we chose to), and topped it all off with sprigs of fresh dill just set on top of the whole shebang. Then the lids went on with instructions that at our altitude we could leave this on our kitchen counters from 4 days to two weeks depending on how sour a pickle we wanted. Or, we could put them in our refrigerator if we felt better about not leaving them on the counters due to the risk of "small explosions", as Rabbi Mendi (aka "Rabbi Pickle") called them. Mine is in my refrigerator.

The Rabbi also mentioned that you may see white "scuzz" form on the top of the pickle batch. This was OK and just spoon it off and you'll be fine. Or so he says. :)
The whole idea is to let these pickles be until they ferment enough to actually become pickled. I will let you know how they turn out...

Somehow, this person of Celtic/Scandinavian descent just can't get her brain wrapped around pickling something without the use of good vinegar. But then, I grew up with everything having vinegar and dill...after all...the dill was our "green stuff". :)

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Route 66 Days or I've Seen One Too Many Mustangs

Every year in Flagstaff, there is some sort of Route 66 festival to pay homage to the "Mother Road", Route 66, that was such a big part in the lives and livelihoods of the towns growing up along it. Flagstaff is one of those towns. Along with the railroads, Route 66 brought both travelers through and goods and transport along its length.

We try to go every year. Last year we were accompanied by Val and Hugo, part of our family from New Zealand. (It wasn't too long after my back surgery so I mainly remember there were alot of cars and it was hot...and the cool lemonade we all had in the shade of the city park.)

This year it was just my DH and myself strolling up and down the closed off streets of downtown Flagstaff, cars lining both sides of what are usually busy streets.

The car above included its own carhop!

This car made use of an old parking meter for a signpost. What a great idea! Some of the histories of these cars were absolutely fascinating. Most owners had notebooks with pictures of the vehicles as they were found, many in terrible condition, then showing the steps toward resurrection to show quality vehicles.

Some were even given names. I should mention here that Ralph's work-in-progress is a '53 Merc whose name is "Betty" after his aunt who originally owned the vehicle. "Betty" is the "Other Woman" in my life. Ralph feels toward Betty as I do toward my sheep. I keep threatening to cover the seats with plastic, prop Colin and Shaun up in her seats with their legs and noses hanging out of the windows...My own version of "Sheep in a Jeep" as it were.

And here's Himself, looking over someones work in progress.
You could tell that people spent many, many hours in restoring these vehicles. A very few had original engines or at the least the engines that came with them...the ones they were meant to have. Most other cars had bigger engines than what was installed at the factory when they were made. Ralph's a "Flathead" enthusiast so we always search out to see if there are any other cars with flathead V8 engines in them. I only saw two out of all the cars there today.
Some cars had interesting paint jobs, others had been chopped to where they looked only like ghosts of their former selves. I tend to be a lover of old cars...cars such as Model A's or T's, old farm trucks or delivery vehicles restored to look like they did originally. My favorite was a 1903 Olvera horseless carriage, made in Mexico, one cylinder and was listed as "10 Burro Power".

Naturally, that's the one I was so engrossed in I forgot to take a photo of it. Darn!