Thursday, December 24, 2015

Final canning and dehydrating of 2015

Well, 2015 is winding down.  Here's my last batch of food preservation for the year:

Final canning of 2015

Left to right, that's

  • five pints of dehydrated cremini mushrooms
  • eight pint-and-a-half jars of cranberry juice
  • two quarts of dehydrated homegrown tomatoes
  • eight quarts of amazing turkey stock
  • one pint-and-a-half jar of turkey meat with the last bit of stock

This is the first time I've dehydrated mushrooms in a couple years.  The first time I tried, it wasn't successful at all.  The mushrooms dried fine, but they are so hygroscopic when dry that they started rehydrating immediately just from the humidity in the air.  I tried storing them in Ziplocs, in jars, and in Ziplocs IN jars.  Nothing worked to keep the moisture out, and they got leathery and floppy within a couple days, and moldy within a month.  Very disappointing.

This time around, I immediately sealed them in jars using the vacuum sealer attachment of my FoodSaver.  This worked brilliantly.  A week later, and they are still crispy dry and rattle in the jars.  Success!  I love my FoodSaver.

The cranberry juice is the leftover liquid from making dehydrated cranberries (which are still finishing in the dehydrator, but I estimate there will be three pints). I prepared the cranberries by boiling them in water until they popped, then soaked them in an orange juice and honey mixture for an hour to sweeten them before dehydrating.  The cooking/sweetener liquids had too much good flavor to waste, so I mixed them and canned it up.  Yum!

The tomatoes, well..... I'm still processing tomatoes.  You can see in the background of the pictures that I still have garden tomatoes ripening in my dining room, and I've been dehydrating them as they ripen.  I think this is it, though.  We're getting ready to go on vacation for a week and a half, so the last batch that's still not quite ready to dehydrate will be bagged up and tossed in the freezer.  I'll probably sauce them some time after we get back.  Not bad, to still have fresh garden tomatoes at the end of December!  I am officially calling my 2015 tomato harvest a RESOUNDING success.

The turkey stock is also a first for me- the first time canning it, anyway.  I've been freezing stock for years, but I'm out of room in my freezer and am delighted to have pressure canning in my arsenal now.  This batch of stock is one turkey carcass from Thanksgiving, one chicken carcass from several months ago, and four steak bones from some point this summer, plus a big bag of mixed veggie trimmings collected over the past few months.  I was cleaning out the freezer, obviously!  The stock is gorgeous and flavorful, and I'm very excited to have it on hand.

I did the single jar of turkey meat because I had 3/4 pound left over from the batch I got out to make soup the other day, and I knew it wouldn't last in the fridge until we got back from vacation.  So I jarred it, added the last bit of stock that wasn't enough for a full quart, and topped it off with water. Easy peasy, and ready for another batch of soup.

Canning and dehydrating is so satisfying.

Monday, December 21, 2015


Be still.  Be at peace.  Light has returned.

Solstice quiet.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Turkey soup and BreadOnSunday

It was blustery today, with snow showers off and on all day, and I felt like making soup.  I never got around to making turkey stock after Thanksgiving, just pulled all the meat off the carcass and tossed it in the freezer along with the bones.  Today I pulled out the package of bones and did up a big pot of stock.  I'll can most of it, but took out some to make soup for dinner.

This soup is entirely from my food storage shelves and freezer: dehydrated corn, peas, celery, carrots, and potatoes, half of a 1-pound package of frozen turkey meat, and homemade stock.  Not shown are the home-grown dried thyme and oregano, home-dehydrated onion and garlic powders, and frozen grated ginger.

Turkey soup "fixins"

The recipe was so easy.  I just put two cups of stock plus two cups of water into a pan, threw in a scant handful of each of the veggies, the chopped turkey meat, a tablespoon-ish of the thyme, oregano, and ginger, and a hearty dash of onion and garlic powders, simmered for 20 minutes until the potatoes were rehydrated, and voila!  Dinner is done, with enough left over for my lunch tomorrow.

20 minutes later, turkey soup accomplished!

And because it's Sunday, we had already made bread earlier, which went great with the soup.  The pineapple was dessert.  Yum!

Saturday, December 19, 2015

I may still be a kid...

Emma and I are going to see Star Wars VII this afternoon, and despite the fact that I'm a 44-year-old mom with a job and a mortgage, I am ridiculously excited.




Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Macro with an iPhone

Dude.  DUDE.

The clip-on macro lens for my iPhone came today.  This is going to be so much fun.

This is an uncropped photo of the spike on the Lepanthes telipogoniflora, taken with full iPhone zoom through the 12.5x macro lens.

Lepanthes telipogoniflora closeup with 12.5x macro lens!


To compare, this is the same shot with the lens off (though it shifted slightly when I unclipped the lens),  My poor phone was so confused and distressed.

No macro lens, same distance

And this is an uncropped photo of the closest the phone could focus without the lens.  Even this is pushed in a bit too close.

Closest focus without macro lens

And just as a point of reference as to the actual size of what I'm photographing, this is the flower spike with the edge of a dime.

Lepanthes telipogoniflora closeup with the edge of a dime.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Two-week terrarium update, and an experiment

It's been two weeks, and my terrarium is still looking good.  And in the last week, several little mushrooms have popped up from the sphagnum!

Shrooms in my terrarium

I like the way it looks- hopefully the fungi won't get out of hand.

Glass globe terrarium update

The Lepanthes in the glass teardrop is also doing well.  The spike (or leaf, I'm not entirely sure which) is growing.

I took this picture through the 5x portion of my magnifying glass, which was only moderately successful.  Still fuzzy, even with my little tripod. I ordered a macro lens for my phone, and though I'm somewhat skeptical that an external lens on a cell phone will actually be worth using, it will be interesting to see if I can get clearer closeup photos.

Lepanthes telipogoniflora spike

I have also started a moss experiment.  I got these pieces off eBay, where they are marketed to go in aquariums even though terrestrial moss doesn't usually do well submerged and I expect that most people who buy them kill them almost immediately.  I sure did when I didn't know better and bought a piece for my aquarium many years ago!

The plan this time around is to grow them in the air, not submerged, with the goal of putting them in my terrariums.  We'll see.

For now they're just in a recycled clear plastic takeout box, to see if they even grow.  These are Plagiomnium trichomanes on the left and Tortula ruralis on the right. Or at least that's what they were sold as, who knows if those are actually the species.

Moss growing experiment

I got these because supposedly they stay short and will grow in cultivation.  I can't find much info online about Plagiomnium trichomanes, but what's funny is that I know Tortula ruralis has a world-wide distribution and is probably found in northeastern Oregon.  Who knows, maybe some of the moss I collected in the woods last week for the Lepanthes telipogoniflora terrarium is this species!  There are a couple clumps that look similar to a Tortula species, but I don't know mosses very well at all.  I need to get a good guide for this area (if there is one)!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Computers are stupid

My current laptop is an HP run-of-the-mill Windows dealie, and I got it in November 2010 when the motherboard and other mysterious bits fried on my previous computer, which was just over five years old at the time.

Lately, I've been seeing signs that my "new" laptop, which is coincidentally just over five years old, is suffering the occasional head cold and has difficulty getting out of bed in the morning.

I realize that a five year old computer is considered rather geriatric these days, but this is still SO FRUSTRATING.  A piece of equipment that costs multiple hundreds of dollars should not wear out, become obsolete, or otherwise become useless after only five years.


One of the most annoying things recently has been trying to use the internet.  Web pages were taking between two and five minutes to load, which is a short space of time in real life, but is eons and eons when there are Things To Find Out About Stuff.  And don't even try to watch Netflix or Amazon Prime video.  Not happening.

I've used Firefox for years and it never let me down until recently.  So I tried Internet Explorer (yuck, even worse) and finally settled on Google Chrome as the best of all the horribly slow browser choices.  Hilariously, I did discover that if I uncheck the box in the Google Chrome settings called "use hardware acceleration when available," the browser runs better.  In other words, turning off the acceleration makes it run faster.  Huh.  Whatever.

Yet still, the internet is slow, programs randomly freeze, and sometimes shut down altogether.  I don't even try to read email on my computer anymore, it's just so much easier on my phone.  My laptop has also decided that it no longer recognizes my phone and iTunes won't talk to it at all.

I have virus-checked, malware-checked, cleared caches, eaten all the cookies, offloaded unneeded files to an external hard drive, and done All The Things.

And yet still a web page takes an excessive amount of time to load and I can't watch movies on my laptop without them catching and seizing a few times a minute, and the video lagging behind the audio.

I'm afraid that I will need to buy my quinquennial computer soon.  I have been seriously considering a Mac because I'm so fed up with PCs.  Macs seem more reliable and the people I know who have them really like them.  And I really like my iPhone, iPad, and iPod.  Apparently, I'm an Apple aficionado in iDenial, since I've always said I like PCs better.

I'm just having a really, really hard time wrapping my head around spending that much money (OMG, Apple products are so expensive) on a laptop that doesn't even have a CD/DVD drive built in.


So many first-world problems in this post.  Sorry.


Monday, December 07, 2015

Yes, another.

I am so enamored with my little Lepanthes telipogoniflora that I have at home that I got another one to keep at work.  This is a plant that likes lower-light conditions, and I'm hoping that my office lighting will suffice.  If not, I have a window in my office that will work, or I'll bring it home.  I'd really love to keep it next to my computer, though, where I can look at it between paragraphs.

Leoanthes telipogoniflora #2, at my office

It's just so tiny and cool.

Lepanthes telipogoniflora #2, at my office. It came with two spikes started!

I looked at this one with my dissecting microscope (well, it's not mine, but it lives on my desk at work...), which certainly makes it easier to see what's going on with this tiny, tiny plant.

It has three flower spikes started!

Wednesday, December 02, 2015


Since...forever, Emma has not liked to be alone.  She has always stuck pretty tight to me, first as a baby/toddler and especially after things blew up between Shaun and me and he moved out.  That was a really tough thing for a six-year-old to process, and for several years her way of dealing was to pretty much always have me in sight or earshot, and in arm's reach at night since she would only sleep in my bed. For a long time, it was to the extent that if I went out to the garage or yard and didn't tell her, she panicked.  Totally understandable abandonment issues.

Off and on for the past year or so, I've casually asked if she wants to stay home while I run to the store, or go up to the Tomato Annex, or do some other short errand.  She always refused and rushed to put on her shoes to come with me.  She wouldn't even entertain the thought of staying alone.  She turned 12 in September, but I didn't push it.  If she wasn't ready, she wasn't ready.

There was a little progress last summer when she walked six blocks by herself from swim practice to Kids Club (daycare) so I didn't have to leave work every morning and pick her up.  I got her a phone and she talked to me during that entire half-mile journey.  She wasn't entirely comfortable doing it, but it was mostly OK except for the times when she was nervous about a dog or a person or it was raining or whatever, and begged me to come get her.  And I did, because she is my daughter and I love her, and she trumps any work project.  Besides, I live in a small town and work for an understanding company, and taking 10 minutes off to drive across town and pick her up was not that big a deal.

Since school started this fall, her swim practice time has been soon-ish after school, so she just takes the bus to the pool and hangs out there until practice, then I pick her up after.  She's been a little burned out on swimming recently, so I told her she could take December off.  Now she suddenly has no activities after school, except that I said she needs to come to the gym with me (I joined a gym again!) a few times a week to still get some exercise.  The original plan was to have her go to Kids Club after school until I was done with work.

Last week, however, she confronted me with A New Plan.  Out of the blue, she said that she felt like it was time that she started learning how to be comfortable staying home alone.  She said that.  Herself. Unprompted.

Her plan is to walk to the town library on two days a week and hang out there for an hour and a half until I am done with work, then I would pick her up and we would go to the gym.  On two other days, she would have a friend walk home with her after school, and they would stay here at the house while I finished work and went to the gym.  On Fridays she could go to Kids Club.

"Eventually, Mom, I'll get used to doing stuff by myself."

Well, wow. My girl is growing up.

I accepted her plan, secretly glad not to have to pay for her to go to Kids Club every day in December, and implementation started this week.

Monday she went to the library.  She called when she got there at 3:15, and she called at 5:03 to make sure that I was coming to get her, since I said I'd pick her up at 5:00 and I was late.  :-)

Yesterday she and her friend walked home from school.  She called when they got to the house, and there was much happiness and laughing on their end of that short call.  I finished work and went to the gym.  Did my workout, headed home.  It was the weirdest feeling ever to pull into the driveway, see the lights on and know that Emma had been there with no grownups for the past two hours.

It wan't until later that it fully hit me.  I had done something by myself, for myself, during a time when I would normally have had to make care arrangements for Emma. This time, she took care of herself (with a friend for company).  It was a little wrenching and sad, but also exciting.

I think this was a watershed moment in my parenting journey.