Evening in Idaho


Moo Cow–Meat and More

03SEP13_DSCF1730To the left is an image from the back deck.  In the past two days we have had a dust storm, a rain storm, and now simply heavy winds with beautiful clouds.  It has really been a nice couple of days.

Picked up 300 plus pounds of fresh beef from the butcher today (our pig comes later this week). With all of that meat, and with the great selection of cuts available for meals, it was a bit difficult to decide what we wanted for dinner. Finally, I remembered Michas’ Miracle Chicken Cooker that she purchased in Seattle on the way down from Alaska, so we decided to make short ribs.

The “Miracle Chicken Cooker” is actually an electric pressure cooker that can also be used for fermentation of soy beans, garlic, dairy products (for yogurt), and other items Asians like to ferment.  What I think it excels at is cooking chicken , and tonight, short ribs.

All the various functions are already programmed, so it is simply a matter of following directions and pressing 03SEP13_DSCF1702buttons.  However, the directions are in Korean and an interestingly translated English, while all of the buttons are in Korean.  Makes life fun I suppose.  To the right is the pressure cooker with a chicken ready to cook.  We usually get four cups of broth from this, some of which we freeze for later use.  

Anyway, to make the ribs I used about 1/2 cup soy sauce, a few tablespoons dark brown sugar, 1/4 cup or so of red wine, ground pepper, 10 cloves of garlic, a splash of raw honey, a tablespoon of corn starch, one onion and one carrot.  I pressed the correct button and added 30 minutes to the time, and two hours thirty minutes later we had some great tender and moist short ribs.


The sauce that was produced was also excellent over the brown rice we also made.  In fact, we had 3 cups left over that will be used as a gravy on potatoes or on corn bread.  Look left!

In other news:  Took the BCS tractor for a test today using the sickle bar mower attachment.  It did an excellent job, and after a bit of learning how to control the BCS, it was quite easy.  I may try the rototiller attachment tomorrow or the next day, as the ground should be a bit softer due to the rain.   

Below is a plate of ribs and some tomato sauce.


New Camera

Test_10_Apr_11_DSCF0009Decided I wanted a camera to take hiking and other activities where lugging my D300 was impractical, and something better than my Canon PowerShot SD980 IS (a camera I have never been happy with), l, so I decided to get the new Fujifilm HS20EXR.  A couple of things that I noticed were that the lens was filthy with a smear of grease, and there was dust in the lens tube.  It took about an hour to completely clean the lens, using a quality lens cleaner and a micro-fiber cloth.  The dust in the tube is not evident on images, so I am undecided if I should be concerned and return the camera.  So far however, the two negatives are not that concerning to me.

The images of the chickens in a previous post were the first images taken with the HS20, and I was very satisfied with them.  The detail is good, though the chickens were a bit overexposed ruining some of the feather detail.  That was my fault however.  Today, I decided to use the “SuperMacro” and took a few pictures of my orchids.  The setup was fast since this was a curiosity test more than a accurate test of the cameras capabilities.  Overall, I have to say I am satisfied.  The other picture I took today was on a hike, and it also turned out fine considering it was a cloudy and snowy day, and it was simply a snapshot moment. 

Overall, for a “bridge” camera, the HS20 is doing fine.  As I play with it and figure out the camera, I am sure it will do even better. 




Chickens–2 Days Old

The chicks are getting along fine after 2 days.  Then can find their food and water without issues.  They like the heater, so all is well.


100 Bottles of Beer

19Sep01_Beer__3001076Last and this weekend, I brewed beer. Last weekend was a Robust Porter, and this weekend I did an Blonde Ale. Today, I racked last weeks Robust Porter and all I can say is that even after only one week, it is very tasty. Still needs to sit for a few weeks, but it is nice.

I had a small issue starting the Porter, and it took 40 hours for the yeast to kick in, and when it did the temps went up pretty fast.  It hit 75  degrees for a few hours while I was at work, but settled down when I cooled it.  It is not resting at 64 degrees along with this weeks Ale, which is fermenting away.

I find that brewing beer is quite a bit more interesting, and more difficult, than making wine or mead.  There are so many variations on what ingredients you can use, how long and how to handle your mash, different ways to sparge, and how long to boil.  Not to mention hops.  So far though, I am hitting my numbers, and am turning out a 75% efficiency, which I am happy with. 

Pictures – Set up in the garage; dark, dark Porter; boiling the Ale; grain for future beer.

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Thirteen month ago, I started a Blueberry Wine and a Blueberry Mead.  I tasted both today, and the wine if OK, and the mead is fairly good.  I plan on bottling them next week and letting them age in the bottle for a while.  I would say that I went to high on the alcohol with both of them.  Next time I will shoot for 10% rather than 14. 

The Strawberry-Rhubarb wine from the summer is good, though there is a Rhubarb taste that only Rhubarb lovers could like.  I racked and stabilized the wine, and will see what it tastes like in two weeks and see if it could benefit from sweetening. 

The Jalapeno wine was also racked.  I did not stabilize it, as I am not going to sweeten it.   It is a bit harsh from the peppers, but it is fairly good considering how hot it is.  This, I think, will make an excellent cooking wine. 

One last photo – The wines!


The two wines under the towel are a Cabernet, which tasted great, and a Merlot, which is even better.  The Cabernet will be bottled next week, and the Merlot the following week.

Hops, Crab Apples, and Beer

12Sep10_Beer_IMG_0494After a week of being quite sick, I was out this weekend looking for various plants.  Though I was seeking a source of Bog Myrtle, Heather, and Mugwort, I found instead, a rather abundant source of Oregon (Pacific) Crab Apples.  In less than 15 minutes, I picked about a gallon of the apples, probably making more than a few bears very unhappy.  As for the plants I was looking for; I will have to wait until next year, as most of the plants are either succumbing to fall, or are in the mountains, and I have not recovered from my cold sufficiently to hike so where mountain heather grows.

What I found interesting is that I have passed by the same place several times per year for the past 30 years, and have never seen the apple trees before.  Several of the trees looked quite old, with bent and mangled trunks.  I tried to pull up one of the new trees, but it was too firmly attached.  I plan on returning to the site in the Spring to bring home two or so of the trees for my garden. 

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I returned to the Jensen-Olson Arboretum yesterday to see if the hops had developed cones yet.  They have not, unfortunately.  I spoke with one of the volunteers about the hops plants, and he stated that they are quite old, initially growing on one of the sheds on the property.  He had no idea if cones ever developed, so I suppose I will have to find out by growing my own next year. 

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Bottled a batch of Bock today.  Three weeks and it should be ready, if it all does not explode in the bath tub, that is.

An extra picture today!  While at the arboretum, the volunteer cave us some poppy seeds from the poppies I like, as well as a Golden Delicious Apple that had fallen from the tree.  It is not large, as can be seen, but in Juneau, for an apple it is almost a miracle…


Meat and Bread

Meet_28Aug10_IMG_0401Nothing like a picture of raw meat in a blog.  What this actually is is freshly ground chuck that I ground using an attachment for my Kitchen Aid.  I have had the grinding attachment for years, and used it once to make sausage, which was not that good.  A few months ago I thought it would be interesting to grind my own hamburger meat so I would know exactly what I was eating.  So, I purchased a chuck roast and ground it last Friday. 

All that I can say is that it was the best hamburger that I have ever eaten.  The taste was excellent and fresh, and the texture was very pleasant.  Not chewy, but not soft or mushy.  Just a nice consistency that even my wife, who is not really a meat person, commented on.  It is my intention to grind my own burger meat from now on.  I intent on trying different cuts of meat, and blend them when I can.  Thinking of maybe taking a New York steak or two and making some good burgers this weekend. 

As mentioned in an earlier post, I like to make my own bread, and I also now grind wheat for whole wheat bread flour.  My loafs are now entirely whole wheat flour, with a little barley flour, sesame, poppy, sun flower, and caraway seeds, as well as salt, honey, olive oil, and of course, yeast.  The bread is becoming so easy to make that I do not even measure, just add ingredients until it looks right. 

The loafs are heavy and dense, but also light in a way that makes them pleasant to eat.  Below is a strange picture of this weeks loaf, as well as the mini-loaf (which is a bit undercooked) that is always the first to go, and some rising dough.  The bumps in the baked loaf are all of the sunflower seeds. 

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In other news, the hot pepper wine is in the secondary and is clearing a bit.  It has the color that reminds me of pineapple juice, so it should clear to a sort of off yellow.  I tasted it last week and it was very hot, with a sweetness that must come from the peppers, because it fermented dry, so the sweetness is not from the sugars.  I think it is going to be good.

I plan on bottling both the Blueberry Wine and the Blueberry Mead this weekend.  They could bulk age for another 6-plus months, but I need the table space for other wines an beers.  I now am resorting to using the floor to hold aging and fermenting items. 

Beer, and a Flower

Flower_25Aug10_IMG_0366Went to the Jensen-Olson Arboretum last weekend to see what was still glooming.  Saw this flower and took its picture.  Saw that they were growing hops and have added hops to my list of new plants to grow for next year.  Apparently, they grow well in Juneau, they just may not produce cones as it may not be hot enough.  Or so I am told.

This weekend I had my first beer since 31 December, 1999 – News Year Eve waiting for the end of the world à la Y2K, which apparently did not happen.  Yet.  The beer was quite good (Deschutes Brewery – Mirror Pond Pale Ale and Black Butte Porter).  So, I figured since I make my own wine, I can make my own beer, which I am now doing.

From my local cooking store, which also sells brewing gear, I picked-up a True Brew Bock kit, as pictured below.  Started it on Sunday night, and it was somewhat of an experience.  One thing I now know I need, and have an excuse to buy, is a propane burner type stove for garage and outside use.  I mentioned it to my wife, and she actually thought it was a good idea to get one, probably because she saw the mess that putting a large kettle on the stove makes.  Apparently, smoke from food and oils that may be in the burner trays turns to smoke and other vapors, and deposits on the stove top in an epoxy type formation.  Not fun to clean, though I did try.

The beer kit contained grain and extract, so it was easy to make as a first try.  Roasting one of the grains was necessary, and they smelled quite nice as they roasted.  Tasted good also.  I pitched the yeast prior to going to bed on Sunday, and this morning , as you can see in the last image, things are progressing well.

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Opened the fermenter when I came home tonight – smells like a good beer. No off odors, just good beer smells. 

If there are any errors in this post, it is the fault of my new glasses.  Picked them up last Tuesday or Wednesday and I still am getting used to them. 

Granite Creek – 31 Jul 10

 Granite_Creek_31Jul10_IMG_0247Went for a short hike yesterday, to Granite Creek. The hike was a total of 9.15 miles, with a total ascent of 1660 feet, and a total elevation of 1539 feet (where we stopped).   Because of berries, bears, porcupines, a duck, and a lot of Salmon Berries, the hike took us 4 hours 35 minutes. 

This is our second time on Granite Creek this year, the first being in the early spring, when there was still a lot of snow and ice on the trail.  Looking at my exercise log from last year shows that I was there 14 times by this time last year.  My hiking experiences this year have been very limited unfortunately.  However, I intend to make up for my lack of hiking by changing my gym program from a 5 day split routine to a three day full body routine.  That will give me time to hike after work rather than going to the gym.  This is going to be especially important in the winter.  Last winter we hiked only a couple of times because we were always at the gym.  This winter I intend to hike at least 3 times per week, and also include a few overnight backpacking trips.  Should work out.  Hopefully.

As for the hike.  It was a cloudy day with off and on drizzle from almost the start of the hike.  However, because of the humidity it was best that we did not wear out rain jackets, as we would have been wetter inside the jackets than out.  At least when we walked the water could evaporate.  Our plans were to take Granite Creek to Mt. Juneau, but because of the weather (and because we were hiking so slowly) we decided to turn back early.

On the way back, we saw a bear who was busy eating berries and paying absolutely no attention to us. 

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A few more pictures on a foggy, drizzly day:

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More pics in the image gallery!

Total hiking mileage for the week of 24 – 31 July 2010:  26.5.

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