bees had another hard winter
April 30, 2010, 10:20 am
Filed under: bees | Tags: ,

Bees had another hard winter. Read the story here.. Here’s an excerpt:

Nearly 34 percent of the country’s managed honeybee colonies were lost last winter, according to the survey of 4,331 beekeepers conducted by the Apiary Inspectors of America and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Honey Bee Lab in Beltsville, Md.

That compares to losses of 29 percent in 2008-09, 35.8 percent in 2007-08 and 31.8 percent in 2006-07.

In the past year, Dave Hackenberg of Lewisburg, Pennsylvania’s largest beekeeper, lost 62 percent of his colonies.

Scary news. Guess we should all start keeping bees to give them more of a chance out there. We’re getting excited for the bee pick up. We go out next Saturday! Two hives coming to Turd Acres. We’re in the final push to get their area set up.


quaint country living v. mumbai
April 28, 2010, 4:41 pm
Filed under: movies

On Monday got home to find that there was no water coming from the well, but that was instead a lot of rain water coming in from the roof–on two levels of the house no less. Sigh. The thought of having to manage more men doing (or more likely) not doing work around here is too depressing.

Reflecting on the utility debacle with the doode brought to mind the quaintness of country living. Yes each neighborhood has its own challenges–we’ve moved from the sideswipes and midnight oven dragging of Lawrenceville to the country charm of well and septic, and 3 months to get phone service on 50 year old wires at the end of a long trunk line. We wanted to move out here and we wanted to learn stuff. And boy aren’t we?!

I didn’t imagine that we could possibly ever have a connection with Peter Mayle’s Year in Provence, but alas, in some ways we can relate! All these guys are the same, the show up look at the job, and then they don’t do it! Yeah, naaah, the only we can do it is if…X. Etc. Etc. We checked in on a documentary on Sundance Channel (whew the cable still works which is cool) about Mumbai traffic. The link above has a nice summary by the filmmakers about it. Here’s a synopsis of the film:

“In the Indian city of Mumbai, 13 people die on public transportation every day. What’s more, traffic has increased so rapidly that the entire city becomes gridlocked during rush hour. The solution is a massive suspension bridge to be built off the coast, linking the north of the city to the south and providing considerable relief from the crippling and deadly traffic jams. But lack of funding has drawn construction of the bridge to a standstill, so the municipal government has come up with an alternative plan: to build split-level highways in 96 places around the city, in hopes of keeping the traffic moving. Mumbai Disconnected follows supporters and opponents of this project: a resident who is horrified by the building of the viaducts; a man who just wants to get to work every day, and sees a new car as the fulfilment of a lifetime ambition; and the vice president of the construction company that is erecting the bridge and the viaducts. Juxtaposition of these points of view creates an enlightening impression of an immense metropolis that is in danger of coming to a complete impasse because of conflicting interests.”

And the box blurb: Like a city on steroids, Mumbai is rapidly becoming one of the world’s biggest megacities. But it’s all happening on a narrow peninsula with an infrastructure on the verge of complete collapse. Every day, 10-12 people die from falling off the overcrowded public trains. On the roads, cars come to a stand-still in serial traffic jams. To make matters worse, the Nano, India’s new popular and affordable mini car, has just been launched. Through three interwoven human stories, we meet the people at the frontline of Mumbai’s infrastructural battle. One thing is certain: urban planning is not easy in the world’s largest democracy!

There was some humour in this ultimately sad and globally frightening tale. We could relate with the whole job responsibility issue. They’re trying to build a bridge and they’ve run out of money to finish it–shot pans to guys hand carving leaves into a couple of the piers that have been built!

mumbai disconnected

Priorities people! Ah we can relate to that!

One *humorous* segment in the movie:  The world bank has said that mature trees must be saved and relocated as part of their road funding. Guy goes to check on success of the replanting efforts. These are huge trees. Guys are ripping them out and driving them somewhere. Guy goes out to the place where the trees are replanted. Ok, so says here you have 64 trees. So, where are they? They count up and find that there are 34 trees planted (and most are dead). How do you “lose” 30 huge trees? Uh?? So many levels of accountability and some guys just figure hey let’s just keep on driving. We can sell these for firewood or whatever. Whoosh. Trees are gone! And in Mumbai–they left at .15 miles per hour. The supervisor guy is freaking out. Kind of like my cable guy. Speaking of whom, I’m so curious to see if they’ve come out to “finish” their job this morning.

Ok so here’s a trailer to the broader series. There are pieces of the mumbai one interspersed throughout the trailer. It’s a pretty important and scary topic. Very depressing.

utility update
April 27, 2010, 9:28 am
Filed under: pittsburgh, utilities

Ok, so this another link in the ongoing utilities issue. Part one is here.
After the big rush the comcast man said give me a week or so and we’ll have it done. So as not to be a big pain–I let it be for a week. Now it’s Tuesday of the following week and methinks–hey wonder what’s up with those dudes, guess I’ll have to call them. Note to self–IT NEVER PAYS TO LET THINGS BE. THERE IS NO PAY OFF FOR NOT BEING A PAIN IN SOMEONE’S BACKSIDE!!

9am two big trucks arrive. Verizon. Oh. So I go out and then realize that these are the stage two people, and stage one (comcast) has not been completed. ARGH!! They’re going to raise things they say but not where their supervisor said and they can’t raise anyways because there’s no room. But they get out the trucks and say they’re going to do something. This is not the biker crew this time. Clean cut dudes who say how much is a hand? You want to ride horses here right?

Anyhow I digress. I call comcast dude who tells me oh yeah our job is done. It was done on Thursday. Hmm.. really? No sir don’t think so. I go out to double check and no way nothing has been done. Sigh.

I feel so betrayed. My main man let me down.

Well anyhow–here’s a photo of the dudes in action. See the guy up there and two below? Maybe they’re actually doing something up there?

notice the azalea and dogwood?

Update 1030 am. The job is done. Sort of. Phone guys raised their line. It now crosses the cable line, but the phone line (dark black one) is 14 feet. Can it be true? Yes I walked under the line and it seems pretty high! Cable guy can fix their part now, later whatever. For now it looks done. Woohoo!

note line cross near pole

bye bye phone guy

while we're out let's admire the azalea

OH. MY. GOD. Ok so now it’s 11am. I just looked out and there was a truck in the drive. Can you believe this? It’s my main man. It must be an emergency because he told me couldn’t come up until this afternoon. Sigh. The phone guys gave him a raw deal. They just crossed the lines and tacked themselves up, and cable guy got screwed. Poor guy. He says “they took out their belly, but they’ve put us both in violation.” They’re both violating the 30 inch to electric lines. He seemed really mad! And he did the measuring thing and said we’re at 13’6″ and his lines will be the same as theirs. I don’t really understand all this, but it’s clearly a crap job those phone dudes put over. It violates all the things cable guy told me were proper–12 inch between phone and cable and 30 to the electric.

And turns out cable contractor guy went to the WRONG house on the street on Thursday. So he’s all mad about that. So he says that by today or first thing tomorrow his dudes will be back to finish the crappy job. And it should be ok unless the power co decides to do a “pole audit”. He said they just settled a lawsuit out of court based on a pole audit and they settled it for 24 million in back pole rent because comcast didn’t have the right permits to be on some of the poles. Yikes! I said, I sure hope you get a lot of vacation. Sounds like a nertz kind of job if you ask me.

Anyhow that’s the scoop. 13′ and change and in violation but no one will ever check it.

this some sort of joke? chocolate baby formula
April 26, 2010, 8:16 pm
Filed under: dessert, food issues, recipe | Tags: , , ,

Check out this latest food invention–and it’s not a joke apparently–chocolate flavored baby formula? It must be joke, right?

Reputable food politics person describes the scene here.

Well not a great segue but speaking of chocolate–here’s my latest go to recipe for chocolate sauce for ice cream. It’s really good! I tried the Smitten Kitchen/ David Lebovitz/ Silver Palate version but found it was a tad complicated–corn syrup, etc. This one is quick easy and just plain good!

Ready for the recipe?
1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup whipping cream (I have also used regular 1 or 2% milk
1 tsp vanilla

Yep it’s that easy.
In a small saucepan over low heat, heat chocolate chips and whipping cream, stirring constantly. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until chocolate is melted and sauce is smooth. Stir in vanilla.
Serve over dessert or ice cream.
Makes about 1 1/4 cups. You can store the rest in the fridge and reheat it next time.

The other kind of chocolate sauce I sometimes make is a homemade version of Magic Shell–you know like a chocolate dip for a soft serve ice cream? It’s good! The stuff you buy at the store has a lot of crazy hard to pronounce ingredients. This one is better.

1 cup coconut oil
about 1-2 cups semi-sweet, bittersweet, or dark chocolate chips or chunks

1. Melt the coconut oil over very low heat in a small saucepan.
2. A little at a time, whisk in the chocolate chips, until the mixture resembles very thin, chocolate syrup (those of you who’ve had Magic Shell know exactly what this looks like). We needed about 1 1/2 cups.

As for the appropriate ICE CREAM, we choose Turkey Hill Philadelphia style. It’s in the black container. It’s got only those essential natural ingredients nothing weird. And it tastes good! We’re boycotting Breyer’s ever since doode’s mom told us how they started the insidious downsize container at same price thing that all the other companies immediately picked up on. Shame on you!!

Barley sandwich, fer real
April 22, 2010, 8:38 pm
Filed under: bread, recipe | Tags: , , ,

For some strange reason the doode claims to have never heard the term barley sandwich. Fer real! Anyhow here’s a link to a news item on the subject “More dough required for barley sandwich. This year’s May “two four” weekend just got more expensive: Beer prices will rise $1.25 per 12-pack as of Monday, March 8.” It’s a real word! Yes barley sandwich means beer. Hello??!

Anyways speaking of beer, and barley sandwiches, we had a busy night last night. The doode finally got the hops out of the freezer and he brewed up some beer!

nugget hops 2009 crop from freezer

stirring and stirring

bowl of spent grain

spent grain in bowl

And while he was boiling and stirring, I had nothing to do. And there was this pile of spent grain. So I did some quick googling and found yes there was a recipe for spent grain bread. So I gave it a shot.

pretty good bread!

Spent Grain Bread
Recipe from the Realbeer.com forum.

3 cups of spent grain (wet)
1.5 cups warm (~100 F) water
1 tablespoon dry yeast
1/3 cup brown sugar
3-5 or 7 cups flour
Dash of salt

Proof yeast in mixture of water and sugar. Mix in the spent grain, and add one cup of flour at a time as you knead with the mixer. Keep adding flour until dough is smooth and no longer sticky. Recipe said 3-5 cups of flour. I used at least 7. That’s right! It took forever! Place dough in a large bowl, cover with a clean towel, and let rise until doubled. Punch down dough, and shape into loaves. I made four.

Allow loaf(ves) to double in size, bake in 375 F oven 30 to 40 minutes until browned and a long pin, such as a turkey pin, comes out clean after being inserted into the center of the loaf.

The bread is pretty good. Hearty. Good with honey, or cheese and mustard, or chili. We had chili for dinner with it, and kiddos liked it a lot.

cabbage and white bean soup
April 20, 2010, 9:23 am
Filed under: beans, cabbage, recipe | Tags:

Cabbage was on sale for St.Patrick’s Day, so I bought 3 heads. Fast forward to post-tax season and there were two left! Hmmm. What to make? The weather turned cold and a soup seemed in order. I looked around and found Heidi Swanson’s Rustic Cabbage Soup. Sounded good.

Cabbage and White Bean Soup

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
a big pinch of salt
1/2 pound potatoes, skin on, cut 1/4-inch pieces
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
5 cups stock
1 15 oz. can white beans, (drained & rinsed well)
1/2 medium cabbage, cored and sliced into 1/4-inch pieces

more good-quality extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated

She suggests this method: Warm the olive oil in a large thick-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Stir in the salt and potatoes. Cover and cook until they are a bit tender and starting to brown a bit, about 5 minutes – it’s o.k. to uncover to stir a couple times. Stir in the garlic and onion and cook for another minute or two.

Alas, I didn’t read the recipe–fried up the onions and then added the potatoes.

Add the stock and the beans and bring the pot to a simmer. Stir in the cabbage and cook for a couple more minutes, until the cabbage softens up a bit. Now adjust the seasoning – getting the seasoning right is important or your soup will taste flat and uninteresting. Taste and add more salt if needed, the amount of salt you will need to add will depend on how salty your stock is.

Serve drizzled with a bit of olive oil and a generous dusting of cheese. Serves 4.

She talks a lot about the stock issue for this, and I have to admit she’s right. I used my jar of bouillion “better than bouillion brand”–and I used one big tsp for this as sometimes I find it’s too strong. But I should have used a bit more I think. I added some red pepper flakes, but it was still needing improvement. But it was a pretty good soup!

We also had toasted baguette slices with butter. Yum!

The goaties and chickens enjoyed the cabbage core and outer leaves, and I’m sure the chickens will also get the end of the soup. One head left to go.

meyer lemon
April 19, 2010, 9:33 am
Filed under: gardening, it lives! | Tags: ,

Another installation in the “it lives!” series of blog posts. I bought a meyer lemon tree a couple of years ago. It looked good for the first while and then it got scale pretty bad and nearly died. I treated scale with alcohol swabs–very tedious–but then it only had a few leaves left. It recovered a bit, then the scale came back. In frustration I put the dang pot outside and left it to die. Alas, the natural predators out there must have liked the scale because the stupid charlie brown tree lived. So I brought it inside again. It spent the winter, got scale naturally. But this year, I was able to pollinate the flowers and as a result, behold:

look! It's a mini-lemon!

Here’s a picture of the tree in bloom–to give you a sense of the scale of the poor thing. The blooms smelled AMAZING!

tree in bloom in february

We’ll see if the tree is able to bear the weight of the thing when it gets bigger. Seems doubtful!