Archive for October, 2011

The Stars

Thursday, October 20th, 2011

Last night we had a late supper, so the dog and I didn’t get out for our walk until dark. There was no moon and the sky was clear. On the way up the hill, I happened to look up and saw what I thought was the light of a high altitude jet. It wasn’t blinking though, and as I watched, I noticed it was quite bright, and was moving very fast. It must be a satellite, I thought. If so, I reasoned, I must be seeing the sun’s reflection. If that was true, the direction the satellite was moving should take it away from the sun’s influence shortly. As I watched, the object stayed bright, then dimmed, and went out completely. Welcome to the season of celestial mechanics.

During the summer months, I seldom seem to be outside late enough to enjoy the dance of the stars. As the nights lengthen, I’m often lucky enough to be outside in the dark to watch the show. I enjoy trying to adjust my perspective so I understand how the stars, planets, and moon are moving as I’m standing on a rotating platform. Sometimes I get a flash of insight, but mostly I’m just standing there in awe. Last night in particular I felt the feeling of insignificance I often do when confronted with the stars. I also wondered what I’m really looking at. I wondered how many dimensions are right in front of me, compared to the three my senses allow me to see.

Food Everywhere

Saturday, October 15th, 2011

The harvest season is still upon us. We have onions and garlic hanging in the entryway, bags full of apples stacked in the sauna dressing room, squashes in boxes and sitting on tables, and tomatoes in the kitchen drain basket. We have another batch of de-skinned and sliced tomatoes humming away in the dehydrator. The freezer is so full of food we’ve been talking about how we want to prioritize the things we still need to put in there. Ten gallons of of cider wine have ceased bubbling and are now in their settling stage. It is a very nice problem to have.

All this food only amounts to a fraction of what we’ll need for the coming year, and it points out to me all the energy that goes into feeding a human. Were we to try to just feed ourselves, we’d be busy with that and little else, I think. And if we had a bad growing season, I’m guessing that no matter how hard we worked, we’d either have to buy food or go hungry. The food part of our world is a complicated place to be sure. It makes me wonder how things will change when fossil fuel availability become spotty, coupled with a planet bursting at the seams with more humans than it has ever seen.

Something You Don’t See Every Day

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

The other day I was on my way to the restaurant in Tapiola for breakfast when I noticed something unusual in the yard across the road. It was a cute little two-seater helicopter. I’ve seen all manner of terrestrial vehicles in and around the vicinity, but never a helicopter on the ground.

I walked in and found my seat, and asked the waitress what was up with the helicopter. She pointed at a table near mine at which two guys were eating their breakfast. I slid my chair back and asked them if the helicopter was theirs. One of the guys said yes in-between bites. I asked them what they were doing with it, and they told me they were surveying the powerlines. I mentioned that they might be able to help me out with a lift home in case my truck wouldn’t start, and they laughed. I left them to their breakfast after that, but was lucky enough to notice when they left.

I followed them outside and grabbed my “blog camera,” which I nearly always carry in a pouch on my belt. They got into the machine and started it up just as anyone would start their car. It idled for a minute or so and then they engaged the blades. They whirled for a short amount of time and then the pilot engaged the pitch which caused all manner of dirt and debris to fly out from around them. And up into the sky they went. They made a short spin to orient them in the direction they wanted to go, and away they went.

The owner of the restaurant also followed them outside and was trying to take a picture with her cell phone. I offered to have prints made and give them to her. Yesterday morning I dropped them off and we all enjoyed reliving that strange day when the guys dropped in for breakfast at the Feed Mill in Tapiola, Michigan.

The Ritual of Food

Saturday, October 1st, 2011

Our neighbors visited yesterday just when I was in the middle of blanching, peeling, slicing, and placing tomatoes in the dehydrator. They were good enough to visit with me while I kept on with my uninterruptable project. As we chatted, I told them I’d be getting the cider press out tomorrow, and they were welcome to gather some apples from the trees in their field, bring them down, and press some cider. They called me back today to tell me they wouldn’t be able to make it.

I believe the cider you make yourself tastes the best. In some ways, it is like the carpentry project you do for yourself… you forgive yourself for any mistakes. In some ways, though, I think there is something primal going on. Modern people seem divorced from the food they eat. We’re no longer hunters, and the only gathering most of us do is among the isles of the grocery store. Yet, whenever I involve myself with the food we eat, I get a deep sense of satisfaction from the transaction.

The tomatoes came out of the dehydrator about mid day today. A fairly large basket of tomatoes dried down to about 1/3 of a gallon jar of finished fruit. We’ll crunch these up and add them to our salads this winter. We’ve been doing this for a couple of years now, and really haven’t had to buy any tomatoes. The dried ones taste sweet and plump up nicely if the salad isn’t eaten the day we make it. I figure I’ll need to make 3 or 4 more batches to get us most of the way through the year.

Today’s project was really all about apples. The wind storm we had really knocked the apples from the trees, and from past experience, I’ve learned they need to get harvested before they spend too many days on the ground.

I worked most of the morning with my wheelbarrow and my hands, came in for a bit of lunch, then worked all afternoon to gather what you see in the picture. I also got the cider press down from the garage attic, so it will be ready to go to work tomorrow morning. I hope to get at least 10 gallons of cider from this batch, because that is what I plan to make into cider wine. If everything will be self sufficient by the time I leave on Friday, I really need to get this wine brewing soon.

This is how it is in the fall for us. Firewood, food harvesting, but a really nice satisfied feeling that as the years go by, we’re getting better at providing ourselves with at least some of the food we consume. And rather than having to be pulled across the country by diesel engines, leg power and a wheel barrow do the job just fine.