Monday, September 2, 2013

A Point-to-Point Kayak Trip

The boys and I went on a point-to-point kayak trip this morning.  Usually we start and finish our kayak adventures in the same place, so this added some excitement by traversing new (to us) waters.  It also introduced the concept of "coordination," as we had to coordinate drop-off and pick-up times and locations with Mom.

We began our trip at a boat launch in the Susquehanna River, and planned to meet up with my wife at our town park, which is where we normally kayak.

It is in the kayak that I really know how much my kids are growing.  Our draft is getting quite deep.  And the two of them together weigh almost as much as me.

U.S. Route 40.  Another discussion on our voyage was "perspective," as in "we see this view almost every day, but usually we see it from bridge level."

Stopping to skip rocks on an island at the mouth of the Susquehanna River (Garrett Island).  Perryville, MD is in the background.

An old bridge support at the mouth of the Susquehanna River, with Havre de Grace, MD in the background.  I love the tree.

An Amtrak train crosses the Susquehanna River's most downriver bridge before her waters empty into the Chesapeake Bay.

Geese buzz our flank.

My younger son, who will do almost anything to forego a nap, fell asleep near the end of our trip...

Arriving at the town park, our voyage complete, we just had to wait a few minutes for Mom to pick us up.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Tortellini Time

I was inspired to try making tortellini this week.  With a few changes, I followed this recipe and was pleasantly surprised with how easy it is to make tortellini (CAVEAT: by easy I mean it is something edible that I was able make without causing too much disruption in our house - and does not mean I just whipped up some five-star restaurant-quality tortellini).

My younger son loves pasta and he was happy to help roll the dough.  Once rolled (to what we thought was thin enough) I cut the dough.  Unfortunately we don't have a round cooking cutter, so I improvised and used a wine glass...

I don't have the tortellini fold perfected, but there was noticeable aesthetic improvement from the start of the process to the end.

And dinner did resemble tortellini...

The first batch of anything is always more of a learning process, and I'm fortunate to have an easy crowd that puts up with my food experiments as of late.  The biggest tortellini lesson I learned from the first batch is to roll the dough in smaller sections in order to be able to roll it thinner.  Dinner wasn't bad, but the tortellini was a little bit doughy.  But this is something that is definitely worth trying again, and it doesn't take very long to make.  Cheers! 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Swamped with Books

I like to read, although much of my reading is done in the evening, in bed, and as the last activity of my day before sleep overcomes me.  Thus, it usually takes me a week or two to read an entire book. 

I get most of my books from the library.  Occasionally the books I want are checked out and I’ll have to wait several weeks in the queue.  So, when I was recently 7th in line for one book, I figured it would be safe to reserve another book.  And when I was 5th in line for that book, I figured I could reserve another book.  This strategy ordinarily works just fine and I never am long without the book of my choosing.  Today, however, my strategy blew up when the library notified me that all three of my reserved books were ready for pick up.  Now it looks as if I just might have to forego sleep to finish these books within three weeks:

The Ultimate Guide to Permaculture, by Nicole Faires – truthfully, I probably won’t read this book cover to cover.  But I will read many sections that are applicable to my skill level and available resources and take notes for further research.  I learned about soil blocks in a similar book.

Catch-22, by Joseph Heller – I never read this, but the phrase and meaning is so common, I figured I should.

Orange is the New Black, by Piper Kerman – I heard people talking about a new TV series by the same name and was surprised to learn it is based on Kerman’s real life experiences.  I find out about a lot of good books in this manner; Winter’s Bone, by Daniel Woodrell, is one such book.  I was reading a movie review of The Hunger Games and the critic praised Jennifer Lawrence's (who played Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games) talent based on her role in Winter’s Bone

And with that, I’ve got some reading to do…          

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Fall Planting

We've had success in recent years planting spinach and kale and other cool tolerant plants for a fall harvest.  By success, I should clarify that to mean seedlings that survived in their struggle against the wild animals.  And by wild animals, I guess I mean stray cats.  Um, I mean stray cats that find our neighborhood to be a good place to be a stray... mitigate the loss due to the "wild animals" we got a soil block and started our fall plants inside. We start our seeds inside for the spring, but this is the first time starting seedlings inside for the fall.

I like the soil block maker for several reasons, but mostly because you have to get your hands dirty.  On the more practical side, I like how we'll no longer need to find little containers to start seeds.

For our soil mix we used soil from the garden mixed with finished compost, worm castings, and vermiculite
Now we have lettuce, kale, and spinach seedlings growing inside, as well as more basil and cilantro that we'll continue to grow inside.

Or maybe we (and several of the neighbors) could just stop feeding those "wild animals."  

Friday, August 9, 2013

The Fat Cat Heir of the du Ponts

We visited Longwood Gardens for an afternoon last weekend.  We visit a few times each year and it is usually a relaxing time.  The boys love the elaborate tree houses, my wife really likes the conservatory, and I just like the vast fields of flowers and the ponds and fountains.

Longwood Gardens got its start from Pierre du Pont, who purchased the property with (probably only a part of) the fortune he amassed while leading the DuPont Company.  It's an interesting story.

Mr. du Pont had this house built, complete with an adjoining conservatory.  At the entrance to the house was a fat cat.  Most cats can really let people know that "you are only here because I let you," and Mr. du Pont's cat fit that bill.  "Annoyed" is what I think his bubble caption said.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

It's a Bug Eat Bug Kind of World

Man, I love nature.  While I was at work today, my wife was checking the garden beds and found this:

It's a tomato hornworm (bad) with wasp cocoons (good) protruding from its body.  I've seen hornworms, but never as a visible parasitic host.  That's a picture to remember next time I'm having a bad day, because things could certainly be a lot worse!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Fruits (and Roots) of Our Labor

Although unruly, our tomato plants are big producers.  We've been filling several bowls every few days with tomatoes, which is amazing as my kids are off-the-vine tomato eaters - they even eat the roma tomatoes like apples.  And the little grape tomatoes are splendid.

We made our first batch of salsa with the homegrown tomatoes over the weekend, along with peppers, garlic, and onions from the farmers market.  I had to check out several stands before finding the peppers; many of our farmers have had substantial crop loss due to the unusually wet summer.  Growing potatoes in pots this year is what likely allowed us to harvest potatoes at all.

Chester the neighborhood cat checks on the progress of the potato pot harvest

We harvested just over twelve pounds of potatoes.  To increase future yields I'll plant the same quantity, but in more pots.  I think our plants would have enjoyed more space (or volume...).  The potatoes we harvested look nice with purple skins and very light purple flesh, and they have a nice flavor that is somewhat different than the varieties we commonly see.