Typical ranch weekend


This is the time of year when camellias bloom in Northern California.

Since it hasn’t rained in February, I found a photo from a year that it actually did rain.

This weekend, we did the following:

  • Smoked 4 turkey legs and 1 large turkey breast (for lunches)
  • Brushed and burned 3 brush piles
  • Weeded the onions and garlic
  • Put mulch on the gladiolus rows
  • Cut lots of firewood — 3 hours every day for 3 days
  • Had friends over for dinner and played a few games of “42” (Texas domino game)
  • Removed some overgrown landscaping along the east side of the barn

Now it’s time to cap it off with a little of our home-made cider, turkey pot pie, roasted pumpkin, beets, and salad.  All these things grown here on the ranch.

Oh, and then a movie by the fireplace — if we can stay awake!  *smile*


Wonders and Wonderings

Humans have limited vision, limited hearing — and most likely limited understanding of just about everything.   Others tell us that some things are unlimited, like imagination, or love — and maybe they are, but they are probably limited by our own beliefs, perceptions, experience, fears, hopes.  If we have access to something unlimited, then we probably never come to a resting place — if we are at rest, we have decided we are at a limit we are comfortable with.

gazing ball

At this point in time, humanity has amazing access to technology, and to information/knowledge accumulated over our entire, known history  (which is probably also pretty limited).  Still, it’s all pretty amazing, and amazing to wonder about it all.

Which brings me to the point of this post — the “Wonder game”.  In 2018, it’s almost like talking to Star Trek’s “Computer”.  We just type our question into a search engine and see what comes back!

Here are a couple of my recent wonderings:

  • Is Christianity incompatible with Libertarianism?
  • How can we teach “work ethic” to adults?

Pursuing the various “hits” to these questions I’ve entered into search engines can be interesting, enlightening, entertaining, unsettling.

Keep your wits.  Think for yourself.  Reflect. Discuss.  Consume or dismiss. Compare. Weigh.  Consider.

Please feel free to share your own wondering adventures here, in reply to this post.

We really aren’t at rest, are we?


Nuts over nuts!

We eat a lot of English walnuts — every day, actually.

Since we don’t have enough walnut trees for us and the squirrels, we rely on generosity of friends and strangers, gleaning as many as we can from trees in people’s yards.

Most are happy to get rid of the “messy” things.

From left to right:  cracked English walnuts; cracking English walnuts; shelled, raw, English walnuts.

The second part of the process (not pictured here), happens in the Fall — the walnut hulls are peeled off the nuts and the nuts dried well before storing.  The first part of the process is bending over to pick the nuts off the ground, fighting squirrels, and beating other gleaners to the trees!

Yes, stereotypically, gleaners are first-generation immigrant families who can’t  believe how much food falls onto the ground here in California.  Warning — do NOT pick walnuts up out of someone’s orchard or yard without express permission to do so.

David manually processes about 30 gallons of walnuts each year.

The 2000 lb. outhouse has landed!

Okay.  It’s not an outhouse.  But, it sort of looks like one and certainly does weigh that much.

We are very excited about this project, but have some work to do yet to hook this wood-fired boiler up to our hydronic, home heating system, pool and water heater.

You can see the rock wall behind — some serious jack-hammering had to happen before we could pour the concrete pad for the boiler.

We’ll share updates here as the project progresses — but don’t hold your breath, the boiler has been setting in the driveway since June, 2017!


Sprouting bulbs and record freezing temps

This morning we broke a record low set in 1960 — 27 degrees F.   So far this morning, and still dropping, 22.8 degrees F.

Yesterday, we planted several thousand gladiolus bulbs — because record warm temps earlier this month pushed them into sprouting.  They are safely in the ground this morning, and eventually they should look like this again later in the year!


Weather Extremes: 2018

Precipitation Graph for Northern CaliforniaPLOT_ESI

This graph shows a green plot — the highest line on the graph.  That was last year, 94.7″

This year has a little arrow with current daily at 19.6″ so far.

In addition to our extreme rainfall shortage this year, our temperatures have been really hard on plants.  First in February, weeks of warm, sunny, record-breaking weather often in the high 70s.  Next week, we will have temperatures in the low 20s here at our house.

So, for February 2018, we have had dry when we should have wet, and temperatures both 20 degrees above normal and 20 degrees below normal.

Next week will be especially hard on all the trees — fruit trees, all deciduous trees. Their swollen buds hastened by a torrent of warm will likely be frozen solid here in our little valley.  Down in the valley, they may escape low 20s, but we will not.

3/14/2018 Update:  I’m happy to report a 7.3″ increase in this index in the past month!

Making lemonade, the bubbly kind

The first step to a refreshing, summer beverage starts in late winter around here.

Pick lemons.

Juice lemons.

Ferment juice.

Decant a couple times.

Bottle up!

We juiced a sack of lemons, which yielded about 2 gallons of lemon juice.  We used the juicing attachment on the KitchenAid mixer to juice the lemons.  We set aside one gallon of juice in the freezer to add to the mix a little later in the process.


In a 5 gallon bucket, mix three parts water with 1 part juice (add a little of other kinds of fruit juice for subtle flavor and color if desired, for example, raspberry juice), add 2 Camden tablets (potassium or sodium metabisulfite) to kill any bacteria or foreign yeasts and let sit for 24 hours.  Then add yeast, yeast nutrient and sugar, cover with cloth, and stir twice daily until the foaming settled down.  At this point, the liquid is ready for transfer to a carboy for additional fermentation (more pictures coming when we get to that point).  This is all approximate — at this point in the process, precision is not required, so don’t worry about getting it right or doing it wrong.

Approximate Recipe

Mix the yeast and yeast nutrient in a cup of warm (not hot) water with a little sugar to get it to bubble or foam a little before adding to the juice.  Pictured below is our favorite yeast (Safcider).  (Yeast, yeast nutrient, and Camden tablets can be purchased at a local brew shop or online).


Add about 6 quarts of sugar to the juice and yeast.  We do use organic sugar, but not required.


2/24/2018 update — fermentation not happening — that means too much lemon juice and not enough water — too acidic for fermentation — will dilute, add more sugar and more yeast nutrient …

2/25/2018 update — fermentation happening!  Before changing anything, we set the bucket closer to the fireplace so it could be warmer (CA is having abnormally cold temperatures right now).  You can hear it fizzing away!  Next up: put the fermenting juice in the carboy with more sugar.

03/01/2018 update – moved fermenting juice into carboy.  A carboy is a glass jar that holds about 5 gallons.  Once the juice is poured in, a stopper is placed into the carboy with an air lock (which is just a plastic, water-filled bubbler that allows CO2 to escape and no air to go in.  The carboy is covered with a bag or cloth to keep sunlight out and to discourage other things to grow in the juice.  Images below (the stainless canister in the photos is for cider that has already been fermented).Cloth-covered fermentation carboy and stainless canisterFermentation carboy and stainless steel cannister







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