Saturday, December 21, 2013

In Praise of Liberty Orchards

A couple times a year, most years of my conscious life, I've had the pleasure of tasting Aplets & Cotlets. And for the first time this year I had the Peach Walnut Fruit Delights, which I find worthy of sharing shelf-space with Aplets & Cotlets.

This year I realized Liberty Orchards is a national treasure.

Aplets and Cotlets stand out from the crowd for their texture and flavor.

Flavor: These candies are on an entirely different (higher) plane than what comes to mind when you use the word "candies". I don't want to speculate, but I believe it is because they are using real fruit and are wholly dedicated to quality. When I taste an Aplet or Cotlet, my tongue tells me that the very essence, spirit and soul of a perfectly ripe fruit has been carefully wrapped in silky pectin, like a genie in a bottle in order to grant me one wish: to know what fruit tastes like in heaven.

Texture:  The texture of Aplets & Cotlets is a gentle firmness that melts away readily, allowing you to enjoy the wonderful sensation of perfectly ripe summer fruit with no distracting or unpleasant stiff, sticky or chewy textures.

The only affiliation I have with Liberty Orchards is that I am a lifelong resident of Washington State. I'll admit there may be some home-state pride involved in this review.

Monday, December 02, 2013

Cool Cool Tools

Most catalogs are compiled out of a motivation to funnel consumers to a specific business.

The Cool Tools catalog, by Kevin Kelly is curated to give you a window into the best tools available to enhance your life and others by the use and consideration of a massive collection of highly functional tools.

I'd give the book 5 stars, but won't let me review the book yet, since it is still in "Pre-Order" (I got my copy for contributing a product to the book). At $25 for the Pre-Order price, the book is a steal.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Mushrooming Success At Last

After years of pining for wild mushrooms, last year I finally remembered to search for them after the first rains of fall. By unfortunate coincidence for me it was a notably bad year, having been spectacularly dry until the 15th of October.

Yesterday my unfulfilled mushrooming desires were finally satisfied. And, my work the previous year was put to use. You see, despite the dearth of edibles last year, I was able to find a very distinctive specimen, which I later found out is edible. So, this year, wanting not to be "skunked", I took our group to the same location I found those "Lobster Mushrooms" from the year before.

Here I am holding one from yesterday's trip:
This is a "Lobster Mushroom", which is actually two mushrooms, one parasitizing the other. Despite the perhaps unappetizing sound of that, they are edible and satisfyingly large and plentiful, so that your basket rapidly gains heft.

As satisfying as the easy-to-find and hefty Lobster's were, we nonetheless were not satisfied, having set as our goal the elusive and purportedly delicious chanterelle.

By the book, our location should have been perfect for chanterelles. It has a nice spongey, moss-covered forest floor. 

But first we found some conspicuous specimens, perhaps Amanita pachycholea:
As this picture demonstrates, the span of this cap is somewhere between saucer and salad plate!

And this one has a known characteristic of Amanita, the "membraneous patch" on the cap. Yes, that random-looking "fried egg" on the top of this one was formed on the mushroom, not dropped there by a careless camper. The patch was literally the size of a fried-egg from a bantam hen.

These Amanitas are not recommended for eating. Anyway we were eschewing every "gilled" variety and following the advice of the book "Mushrooming Without Fear", since we are amateur mushroom hunters.

We had reached the apex of our search, turned around and perhaps started to believe that there would be no chanterelles for us that day. 

But then, among all the yellowish brown maple leaves and the yellowish brown gilled mushrooms and the ones coming out of fallen branches, of which none were our target, Arthur spotted something slightly different. I was prepared to dispense with this find in much the same manner I had reasoned away all previous proposals. 

But I could not.

There is, after all, no good reason that a mushroom hunter should reject a golden, trumpet-shaped, erratically ridged mushroom (that also matches the color bar in his book!). The ridges were a matte, ever-so-slightly to the pink of the rest of the stem, which was predominantly yellowish-white.

Here's the first one Arthur found:
Cantharellus cascadensis
The-eh first chanterelle of the season...oh the first chanterelle....of the year!

Once that first little "gold nugget" was found, it may as well have been actual gold, we got the fever so bad. We scoured the area with heightened excitement. Soon gathering enough to fill a dinner-plate:
This cooked down to about 25% the volume, but increased in flavor by about 1,000%

A great time was really had by all. I fulfilled my years-long obsession with finding delicious cuisine in the forest. And everyone enjoyed "the hunt".

I fried them with olive-oil, butter, salt and thyme and served them with linguini and neapolitan-style red-sauce from our home-grown tomatoes (that recipe shown to us by my aunt Mimi on our honeymoon in Italy).

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Fresh Eggs

My lovely wife sells eggs. I made her a sign graphic. (inspired by vintage sign found on google image search)

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Grow Your Own

A friend of mine convinced me to try growing my own Lactobacillus GG in what is essentially sugar water.

I then wondered, "is there a more complete probiotic regimen I could use?" And, "how do I know the same probiotics I started with are what is still living in my culture?"

The answer to the first question is VSL#3.

According to some impressive-looking sources I found, this stuff is proven to work for serious digestive troubles.
The answer to the second question I'm still working on. For now I'll go on the principle that it's better to start with all the strains and hope they survive than to not start with all the strains.

The plan? Get some VSL#3 and make Coconut Yogurt with it. If it works, the cost of the VSL#3 could be mitigated by keeping an active culture going.

Monday, March 04, 2013


We've recently taken some classes in reduction printmaking. It's been loads of fun and the results are pleasing too, even if they are a bit rough due to our inexperience.
Three attempts to colorize my sockeye salmon print. This one was only 2"x 3". 

After printing on pure white paper for a while, our instructor allowed us to print on photos. This bison comes out looking fairly natural against a blue sky with white clouds.

Heidi's gorgeous stylized chicken using blended red and white ink.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Garlic...In the Ground...Finally

Last year I grew 5 types of garlic, then promptly lost my markers showing which type was which.

Anyway the season was rough; it stayed wet so long into June that much of the garlic molded.

I think I was a bit disheartened and failed to find the energy to plant in October, per plan. But finally, in January I managed (with Heidi's help) to get the Garlic planted.

This year will see an expanded crop of Elephant, since we had such a great experience using it in soup instead of shallots. And in the "true-garlic" category, I bought only Chesnok Red from the local organic farm, since those seemed to have a strong flavor and held up well to last years soggy conditions. (Unlike the Kettle River, which molded like strawberries)

The varieties that resisted the mold from last year went back into the ground in a grab-bag that will contain Italian Red, Purple Stripe, Mt. St. Helens, Spanish Roja and Kazakhstan.

The First(s) of March

Two days ago I took a stroll around the grounds and noted quite a few firsts of the season.

  1. First Rhubarb bud pokes through the soil
  2. First Oregon Wood Sorrel does the same
  3. First garden greens sprouting
  4. First willow-buds emerging
  5. First horseradish leaves emerge
And there are some things that have been happening for a few weeks, such as the emergence of snow-drops and other bulb-plants, like garlic, iris and chives.

In other fun garden-news, we're attempting to make new plants from cuttings of our friend's fruit trees. Among them are numerous apple varieties and a 100-year-old Royal Anne cherry, which produces the most unbelievably delicious sour fruit.

I really hope the propagation succeeds!

I also think this year will see some grapes on the vines Heidi bought me 3+ years ago. I finally provided them something to climb on (a climbing arch toy upcycled from my brother's neighborhood park)

We have big plans to expand the garden this year. Cascara trees have been invading and swallowing up our usable land, so I plan to mount an offensive to take back a bunch of prime territory. We also should have a nice, large plot for greens once we provide a new yard for the chickens.

Spring is coming. It's feeling good. We've only heated our house for a couple hours in the past 72. Our wood-pile is low, but traditionally we stop needing it around the first of April. It's looking clear that we'll finish the heating season having consumed less than 1.5 cords of wood.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Asthma and Vinegar

This post is kind of long. If you aren't interested in the prose version, I'll give you the bottom-line right now:
I believe that Apple Cider Vinegar (in pill form) cured a sinus infection and eliminated my need for asthma medicine in two days.

Now the extended version.

I had a rough bout with my lungs this winter. If I had to guess, I'd say I had something like walking pneumonia.

Onset of asthma symptoms was pretty sudden and intense. I managed it with Albuterol sulfate, but only just. Normally I can go an entire year using little or no albuterol. This year was different, I went through one canister in a couple weeks. At times the 4-hour wait between doses was almost too much.
When I made it to the doctor's office, he prescribed azithromycin, QVar, Prednisone and more albuterol (my lungs sounded like a symphony of broken harmonicas).

The azithromycin helped noticeably, the QVar....hard to say, Predinsone helped I think.
After the antibiotics, I was able to cut back on the albuterol substantially, to the point where if I had to, I could go most of the day without it. Things were delicate though and any minor trigger (exercise or dust) could have me quickly in need of a puff.

Another step I took after the antibiotic treatment was a thorough top-to-bottom cleaning of my bedroom. I learned that dust-mites are my number 1 allergy. I also bought an encasement for my mattress and a new pillow to protect me from the dust of mites of Christmas-past, so to speak. This may also have contributed to a reduction in asthma symptoms, but it didn't eliminate my need for albuterol.

My need for albuterol had tapered off significantly but it never quite disappeared. This surprised me because asthma for me has always come and gone in episodes lasting no more than one to three weeks.
This episode was solidly in three-month territory with no end in sight.

That's when my body gave me yet one more blow: a sinus-infection (presumed). Only on the right side of my face, my cheek below the eye, next to the nose and the area above my teeth ached fairly intensely.

At this point, I thought I was destined to go back to the doctor for more antibiotics. But it had only been a month or less since my previous course. It didn't seem right that I should need another dose so quickly.

So, on a Friday afternoon I decided to see if the internet had any wisdom to share with me on the topic.
Searching for "Sinus Infection Home Remedies" revealed a page that claimed to have some. At the top of their list was Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV).

We happened to have some pills in the pantry (my wife has apparently been clued-in to some other benefits of ACV for years).

Within 2 days of taking the pills (2 a day, 1 morning, 1 night) my sinus infection symptoms were 90% abated. This surprised me, since I've never had experience beating a sinus infection without antibiotics.
Miraculous as the turnaround was to me, I was yet more astonished when I noticed that simultaneously my asthma symptoms had lessened to about 5% of what they were.

After 4 days on the ACV pills, both sinus and lungs were almost completely healthy! I am now almost completely unable to generate wheezing sounds, no matter how hard I try.

This turn of events has taken me so much by surprise, the results so dramatic and quick, I felt the need to share.

I want to be scientific and not read too much into this. After all, it is possibly a coincidence that I got better just as I began to take the ACV pills. However, as I said, the dramatic speed and quality of my recovery makes me feel strongly that I've discovered a powerful medicine. And the best thing is, you can take it with your salad, if you like.