Saturday, October 9, 2010

Ode to Garden Huckleberry Jam

Garden huckleberries are a pretty plant, related to tomatoes and peppers.

Pretty berries.  They aren't especially sweet even when ripe, but they make great jam.

Here are about 16 cups of berries (which took Annie and me the better part of a day to pick - they aren't very big) with about 6 cups of chopped apple.

When you add 22 of sugar to 22 cups of fruit - typical jam ratios - you get a very full pot.

Here is the fruit and sugar mixed together but still cold.  The only extra liquid in this batch is about 1/3 cup of lemon juice added to the apples when I was chopping them in the food processor. 

This was really too big of a batch.... I should have done it in two batches.  When you are making jam, you have to boil the mixture for at least 10 minutes.  This has the effect of melting all of the sugar, and making it into a syrup, it also dissolves and activates the pectin (follow the directions on the box.  Measure the fruit, add the right amount of sugar - too much is better than too little.  Add the right amount of pectin - again too much is better than too little.), and cooks the fruit.  I had trouble with this batch because I was afraid to turn the heat up to where it would boil for fear that I would burn the bottom.  So I cooked it for about 30 minutes, and still had to take a mixer to the top layer of berries to make sure they were all broken.

As the fruit mixture cooks it will form a foam on it.  You have to stir it constantly, and be ready for the foam to boil up and over the top of the pan.  It can be rather exciting.  Pull the pan off of the burner to stop the foam from boiling over.  You can control the heat a lot better by pulling it part way off the burner than you can by trying to use the heat adjustment knob - it's way too slow.

You have to realize that you really are making a candy or confection, rather than a healthy fruit treat.  It will taste a lot better than store bought jams, but it is mostly fruit flavored sugar syrup.  But tasty!  :)

After it has boiled for 10 minutes you put it in hot, clean jars.  I like to put them in the oven, and have it heated to about 180 degrees.  This makes  it very unlikely that the jars will crack when you put the hot liquid in them.  You could probably add the hot liquid to cold jars and not have a lot of trouble, but if there is a tiny crack or flaw in the glass, and the bottom cracks around and falls out, you will wish that you had heated the jar first.

These are pints - 12 to a box.  Narrow neck are fine.  Actually old jars of any kind are fine.  More on that later.

If you are going to water-bath process the jam, then you need to leave about 3/4" of air space between the top of the jam and the top of the jar.  When the jar is heated in the steam or water bath, the water in the jam will boil a little, and displace the air at the top of the jar.  It will be filled with water vapor.  As it cools the water vapor condenses and that forms the vacuum that hold the lid to the top of the jar.  If you put too much liquid in the jar, their won't be enough room for the vacuum to form.  Also, the liquid might get in between the rubber seal on the lid and the jar top.  Then it won't seal.  In this picture, the lids are in a hot water bath to soften the rubber, and I'm rubbing my finger around the top of the jar top to make sure that there are no nicks in the top of the glass, and there is no jam on top of the glass.  It has to be smooth and clean.

If you have old glass peanut butter, ragu, or other old jars, they can be used for jam.  Clean them well, heat them in the oven and put the hot jam in them just as if you were going to water bath process them.  Put some paraffin in the clean can and put it in a water bath and melt the wax.  Make sure to use a water bath as heating on the stove directly can be a fire hazard.

Clean the inside neck of the jar carefully after you add the jam.  Pour about 3/8" of melted wax directly on top of the jam and let it cool.  The was will keep any mold spoor from growing on the top of the jam, and can be used again and again.  Also, if you give extra jam away, you don't have to worry about getting your jar back. 

That is about it for jam.  I had a lot of trouble getting this to work.  It was hard to put in the amount of sugar that is called for in the recipes.  So - measure everything. Some things in cooking you can be casual with your quantities - but in making jam it pays to make sure you have the right amounts.  Make sure to boil the mixture for 10 minutes.  If you don't, you might have a yummy fruit syrup, but you won't have jam.

That is about the extent of my experience.  Good luck.  Homemade jam on fresh homemade whole wheat bread.....mmmmmmmmmm

Friday, August 27, 2010

Bike Lane Signs

In math they would say this was 'elegant' - simple, straight and to the point.  :)

Saturday, August 14, 2010

One Oven Sunday Chicken Dinner

Time hurries on, and if I don't get this posted, the leaves that are green will have turned to brown.  My sloth and schedule have let about 3 weeks go by since we had this dinner.  It was a broiling hot Sunday, and the swamp cooler and the one-room AC and all the little fans were going full blast and I didn't want to add any heat to the house.  I had a Lemon Pepper Chicken all thawed (not un-thawed) and we had some squash from the garden and come corn from earlier in the week. 

I decided to see how much I could get into one dutch oven.   It all fit, as you can see.  This was a deep 12" oven, and it has a little more capacity, but I think a standard 12" would do just fine.

The zucchini recipe is one that we got a year or two ago.  It is actually was for eggplant, but we prefer the squash, and it works really well with more mature fruits.  Scoop out the fruit with a melon baller and saute with onions, peppers, and tomatoes- or just what you want.  We season it with pesto and garlic, and Italian Seasoning - basil and oregano, and a little black pepper and Parmesan cheese.  Add some fried sausage and bake for 30 minutes. 

Since we had the chicken to cook, we didn't do the sausage, but seasoned it Italian and assembled it and put it into the DO.  You wouldn't really have to saute the stuffing I don't think, but I had a chicken and some corn in there too, and was worried that I might not have enough heat in one  batch of coals.

Recently, B & T were down and we did some chicken in a DO, but it was still a little frozen, and the wind was blowing hard.   If you have conditions like that, you should probably cut the chicken into pieces as it would cook a lot faster.  Ours was done.... but not falling-off-the-bone done.  Until I put it in the oven after dinner and finished it off.

Anyway, there you have it.  I had a bunch of little videos to use instead of the pictures, but they ended up being about 350 MB, and it just wouldn't load into Blogger.  Have fun.

Friday, July 16, 2010

White Panel Vans and Robbers

Today I read a scary article written by a lady that survived a home invasion robbery .  Here are three response letters you might want to read as well.  Also, I ran across this blog on rape prevention - another scary but related topic.

I couldn't help think about my dear daughter that recently had her home burglarized.  She has always been a tender heart, and very afraid of white, windowless panel vans - Robber Vans.  Fortunately no one was home, but the burglars took what they wanted and left.

When I read this article I kind of put myself in this ladies (home invasion) position. I thought about running back to our bedroom, and that I don't have a gun on the night stand, loaded and ready.  I would have to ask the robbers to wait while I retrieved a gun from it's hiding place and found the bullets and carefully loaded that wouldn't happen.  I could run to the kitchen and maybe find a kitchen knife...but likely many of them would be in the dishwasher.  Baseball bat in the coat closet?  Run like heck out the back door, race back to the front to the side yard and run over to the Sheriff's house?  Not too practical, but the best plan yet. So, no, I don't have a plan.  Barricade in the bathroom and call 911 on the cell....

You who know me know how much I like to shoot, and you might be thinking that I would be agreeing with Susan G. and recommend that you get your concealed carry permit and carry a loaded  weapon at all times.  While I think this might be kind of fun in a 'I'm Magnum P.I.' kind of way, I don't think that it would be appropriate at this time for most of the circumstances of the people that I know and love.  Things may change,  and that might be the best solution for some of us at some time, but I hope not.

I was telling Susan G.'s story to the guy that I ride to work with, and told him of my daughter's recent burglary, and how this Dear Daughter was something of a lightening rod for burglaries .... and started counting up the scary incidences that had happened to people that I care about.  And I came to the conclusion that it's not as safe a world out there as we think it is.  Let's count them up.  Maybe you can think of more incidents, or perhaps you are aware of some that I don't know about.  I would welcome corrections/additions/etc in Comments.

  • 197something   Sister has house broken into while at work.  Front door latch beaten in with a hammer.
  • 197something   Sister has Peeping Tom.  Doberman is completely baffled as sister tosses dog abruptly out of door to chase Peeper. Peeper escapes, dog surely questioned sister's sanity.
  • 1977 Sister-in-law seriously wounded and nearly murdered in home by ex-boyfriend.
  •  1970 or 80something Sister works at store where women are escorted to cars by male employees as a female employee was abducted and raped. (this is kind of fuzzy Dot, but I'm pretty sure you told me this story.)
  • 1990something: Sister-in-law surprises man/burglar in garage.  Screams break glass and scare off burglar...not really with the glass.  But she scared him off.
  • 2003 Daughter(1)'s car burglarized.  Leather bound scriptures and some change stolen.
  • 2004 Daughter(3)'s car burglarized. Stereo and two nice sets of tools stolen (Thanks for the comment J).
  •  2005 Daughter(1)'s car burglarized.  Stereo stolen.
  • 2006? Son-in-law(1)'s car burglarized, window broken, sunglasses stolen...stereo too?
  •  2006-9? Daughter(2)'s friend was murdered in her home when she surprised a burglar.
That is about all that I can think of at this time.  But I am surprised at how much has happened over the years, and how serious some of it is.  The Marshwiggle in me finds it hard to believe that with police budgets being cut, criminals being let out of jail early to save money (especially CA), and Arizona feeling a lot of crime from the Mexican drug cartel turf wars, that things will be better any time soon.

(Much later) I've thought a lot about this topic since I started the blog entry and I haven't really come to any sweeping conclusions other than security is a topic that is very personal, and very different for each of us, but also one that probably deserves some thought and action.  What are somethings that could help make you a less inviting target?

  • pepper spray
  • flash light on keychain - no fumbling when getting in house or car
  • motion sensing perimeter lighting
  • security system including alarm
  • good door hardware and deadbolt
  • replacing door hinge screws with 3+" screws that screw deeply into framing 2x4's
  • window, especially basement window security hardware. 
  • yappy little dog, or big scary doberman type.  Effective if not targeted by bad guy
  • I would really like to say martial arts training, and some would be better than none, but unless you are going to get really good at this, maybe it would provide a false security... a la Rachael and Phoebe.
  • concealed carry.  Not for everyone.  Or most people.  
  • tasers

The simplest thing that I can think of, the one that will give you the biggest bang (metaphorically) for the buck is probably pepper spray.  For $15 or so you can get an aerosol pepper spray with UV dye in it as well.  Like most things you carry in your pocket or purse, a pepper spray aerosol container would probably be a quiet annoyance most of the time.  But the time when you feel creeped out, when your Unagi is telling you that you are not in a good spot, well  then you will be glad you have it.  If, perish the thought, you ever would have to use such a device,  then it would sooo be worth the $15 bucks.  In the wild, the predators most often go after the animal that will give it the least fight and provide the easiest meal.  Human predators are not so different.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Unagi = Relaxed Awareness

We make fun of Ross, and his state of Unagi, but Scott Stewart of STRATFOR talks about 'relaxed awareness' in terms of spotting dangerous situations in our personal lives, and in our national security.

"This report is republished with permission of STRATFOR"

"A Primer on Situational Awareness:

By Scott Stewart
The world is a wonderful place, but it can also be a dangerous one. In almost every corner of the globe militants of some political persuasion are plotting terror attacks — and these attacks can happen in London or New York, not just in Peshawar or Baghdad. Meanwhile, criminals operate wherever there are people, seeking to steal, rape, kidnap or kill.
Regardless of the threat, it is very important to recognize that criminal and terrorist attacks do not materialize out of thin air. In fact, quite the opposite is true. Criminals and terrorists follow a process when planning their actions, and this process has several distinct steps. This process has traditionally been referred to as the “terrorist attack cycle,” but if one looks at the issue thoughtfully, it becomes apparent that the same steps apply to nearly all crimes. Of course, there will be more time between steps in a complex crime like a kidnapping or car bombing than there will be between steps in a simple crime such as purse-snatching or shoplifting, where the steps can be completed quite rapidly. Nevertheless, the same steps are usually followed.
People who practice situational awareness can often spot this planning process as it unfolds and then take appropriate steps to avoid the dangerous situation or prevent it from happening altogether. Because of this, situational awareness is one of the key building blocks of effective personal security — and when exercised by large numbers of people, it can also be an important facet of national security. Since situational awareness is so important, and because we discuss situational awareness so frequently in our analyses, we thought it would be helpful to discuss the subject in detail and provide a primer that can be used by people in all sorts of situations.


First and foremost, it needs to be noted that being aware of one’s surroundings and identifying potential threats and dangerous situations is more of a mindset than a hard skill. Because of this, situational awareness is not something that can be practiced only by highly trained government agents or specialized corporate security countersurveillance teams. Indeed, it can be exercised by anyone with the will and the discipline to do so.
An important element of the proper mindset is to first recognize that threats exist. Ignorance or denial of a threat — or completely tuning out one’s surroundings while in a public place — makes a person’s chances of quickly recognizing the threat and avoiding it slim to none. This is why apathy, denial and complacency can be (and often are) deadly. A second important element is understanding the need to take responsibility for one’s own security. The resources of any government are finite and the authorities simply cannot be everywhere and cannot stop every criminal action. The same principle applies to private security at businesses or other institutions, like places of worship. Therefore, people need to look out for themselves and their neighbors.
Another important facet of this mindset is learning to trust your “gut” or intuition. Many times a person’s subconscious can notice subtle signs of danger that the conscious mind has difficulty quantifying or articulating. Many people who are victimized frequently experience such feelings of danger prior to an incident, but choose to ignore them. Even a potentially threatening person not making an immediate move — or even if the person wanders off quickly after a moment of eye contact — does not mean there was no threat.

read the rest on the STRATFOR site.

Fuel Pump Protection

FYI: In order to help your in-tank gasoline fuel pump to have adequate cooling and not to suffer damage, try to run on the top half of the tank.  If the distance to payday is just too great, run above 1/3 or even 1/4 full.

Pump replacement is not easy, or cheap, and pumps not only need adequate suction head (gas level in the tank) in order to operated without damage, but they use the gasoline to cool the motor.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

DIY Mopeds

In a couple of earlier posts (Bike Trailers, More Bike Trailers, Electric and Cargo Bikes, and Sport Utility Bicycles ) I  wrote about ways to make your bicycle more than just a machine for the occasional spin around the block.  A couple of days ago I ran into a site that sells small 2 and 4 cycle engine kits to make your bike into a mo-ped.

These conversions are not nearly as expensive as an electric motor and battery system would be, and look like so much fun that I'm thinking hard on getting one.

Legally (in Utah), motorizing a bicycle requires that you have a motorcycle endorsement on your drivers license.... and I have no idea whether or not you would need to register it as a motor vehicle or not....I'm thinking they probably wouldn't make a big deal out of it unless you went into the bike-to-moped conversion business.

Here is the engine buyer's guide page.... the 4 stroke 49 cc engine kit looks the best to me.  Not that I don't have enough to do already.  I just don't know if I will be able to resist. 

Have fun.  There is a ton of information on these....I had no idea.  Also, look at - they have a discussion forum with a lot of information.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Buying a Right Sized Generator

All of us have had the experience of having the power go out. This summer we had a short outage of an hour or so. One minute Annie was sewing, the lights were on, the computers were on and the TV might have been on as well. The next minute - Nada. The house was dark, the sewing machines were off, the computers were dark and quiet. I think I might have been working on supper, but with no stove, that quickly came to a halt. We wandered around for a while, wondering what had happened, and when the power would be restored.

After a few minutes I saw a neighbor who has a police/fire/emergency scanner, and who's husband is a Deputy Sheriff - she often knows what is going on. She said that a fire in a neighboring town had burned down a half a dozen power poles, and it would be Monday before they got them repaired. My conclusion was that it might be Monday (it was Saturday afternoon) before we got our power restored. I don't know how long it took to actually fix the poles and line, but they were able to re-route power to town in an hour or so, and we went back to normal living.

But I have pondered that all winter long. Every time I put a log on the fire, or turned on the furnace I thought - what would we be doing if we didn't have power. If for some reason, in the middle of the winter, we lost power it would be a pretty dark and cold house. If we didn't get it back in a day or two, I would be draining the waterlines and the water heater - you don't want to think of the pipes freezing in your walls, breaking in several places, and then soaking your house down when the power came on, and things warmed up a little. We are fairly lucky to have most of our pipes in the interior walls. We can easily let our house temperature go to 45 or probably even 35 before we would worry too much about frozen pipes. Some of my friends aren't so lucky, and in their new homes, they have all the pipes routed in their outer walls.

Summer time is easier - maybe not too comfortable, but we could probably find a way to can/bottle most of the food in the freezer if we couldn't run the refrigerator/freezer.

So these musings led me to the KSL Classifieds and the search for a generator. I quickly found that there is a huge variety in generators, and they vary widely in price as well. I worked through a lot of scenarios of how much load we would need/want and confused my self some in the process, but finally came to a conclusion, at least about how to calculate the load.

Load, or watts are found by multiplying amps x volts. We are only calculating load for 120 volt loads, so that makes things a little simpler. I don't know how much load my furnace takes, or my water heater, but I know they have run for years on a 15 amp breaker. So I know they are less, and probably quite a bit less than 15 x 120 or 1800 watts. Because they have motors in them, I'm going to leave the estimate at 1800 for extra safety when starting. Motors draw extra current when they start. The bigger the motor, the bigger the power spike.

I know that everything in my list will run on 15 ampss, as they have for years. So they are not tripping the breakers, and hopefully the generator motor will take the load. Here is my little worksheet. There are three scenarios here.

  1. I've got to have everything on the list running all the time.
  2. OK, I can do some trading of loads to buy a smaller and cheaper generator.
  3. Economy - only the essentials. But I can still trade one for the other. Cheapest option.

Generator Scaling Worksheet

Winter - Gotta Have It All Mode

Furnace 15 x 120 = 1800 watts
Water Heater 15 x 120 = 1800 watts
Wood Stove Fan 15 x 120 = 1800 watts
Freezer 15 x 120 = 1800 watts
Refrigerator 15 x 120 = 1800 watts

Total 9000 watts = 9 kw


Whole House 15 x 120 = 1800 watts
Swamp Cooler 15 x 120 = 1800 watts
Freezer 15 x 120 = 1800 watts
Refrigerator 15 x 120 = 1800 watts
Water Heater 15 x 120 = 1800 watts

Total 9000 watts = 9 kw

Can Get By With A Little Less


Furnace or Water Heater 15 x 120 = 1800 watts
Wood Stove Fan 15 x 120 = 1800 watts
Freezer or Refrigerator 15 x 120 = 1800 watts

Total 5400 watts = 5.4 kw


Whole House or Swamp Cooler 15 x 120 = 1800 watts
Freezer or Refrigerator 15 x 120 = 1800 watts
Water Heater 15 x 120 = 1800 watts

Total 5400 watts = 5.4 kw

Winter - Economy Mode

Furnace or Water Heater or
Freezer or Refrigerator
15 x 120 = 1800 watts

Wood Stove Fan
15 x 120 = 1800 watts

Total 3600 watts = 3.6 kw

Summer - Economy Mode

Whole House or Swamp Cooler or
Freezer or Refrigerator or Water Heater
15 x 120 = 1800 watts

Total 1800 watts = 1.8 kw

Annie will probably note that I don't have the hair dryer and curling iron on the list.... but they can be traded, and she is always beautiful anyway. So there you have it. You can get a 3.6 kw generator for a few hundred dollars, probably about the price of a new iPod or Blackberry. But seriously, if you need it, there will be very few things you would trade for it. More later on this adventure.

So You (Don't Particularly)Want to Become A Farmer

This is a great article, for all you who might be married to someone that is catching farming fever, or might have caught it yourself. You should know, that this often starts out with liking the best of food on your table....and then comes the garden..... and after a few years the thought of really fresh farm eggs - yolks almost orange - becomes just a little too tempting. That is about where I am now.... and even thinking that a goat might be a possibility - they aren't any bigger than a good sized dog after all. Dangerous, dangerous thoughts.

Monday, February 1, 2010

More on Bicycle Trailers

We had a lot of fun this weekend with D&A down with the kids, and lots of fun conversation. One thing that D and I talked about a little was bicycle trailers, and how useful they could be if you wanted to make any kind of extended trip on a bicycle.

I was looking around on KSL Classifieds today and found this:

This looks like a permanent ad that he runs ( click on Bike Trailers). There are a variety of designs offered, with prices from $200 to $300. Locally manufactured.

For those of us that don't know when to quit, just seeing how they are built might be enough of a blueprint to get one built.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Grafting Designer Fruit Trees

A great article. I've been looking for a good article on grafting fruit trees for some time. I've never tried this yet, but I think I will be working on it this summer.

The author (Jackie Gray) shows you not only how to do the grafting, but how to get the root stock (plant seeds of trees that you like) for free, how to get scion stock (the part that you graft on and actually get the fruit from).

Have fun. I'll let you know how my experiments go.