Thursday, November 11, 2010

Pioneering in the Modern World

When you think of pioneers you probably bring to mind images of perseverance, patience, and moving on despite facing great difficulties.

Sometimes I hear people say things like "I wish I could have been a pioneer" the thought that immediately comes to my mind is "Are you crazy?"

...but to those people who feel that they have somehow missed out on the whole pioneering experience, I have discovered how you can get the results of a 1,000 mile trek by foot, right within the comfort of your own kitchen...

It is most often "mistakenly" referred to as "Canning", what it should really be called is "Caning" (Someone accidentally added an extra "N" to the word to hide its true meaning) for those of you who don't know, Caning is a form of corporal punishment where the offender is struck with a cane several times across the back or buttocks causing severe pain.

As Canning causes similar severe back pain from standing for unending hours on the kitchen tile, Caning is an appropriate alternative word for the whole process... ( as a side note there is also a reason that people call the results of canning "Preserves"...because it preserves the pain of crossing the plains without shoes, pushing through snow up to your waist, going up hill in a 70 mile hour head wind, and dragging a handcart with a broken wheel.)

Canning (or Caning) is not for wimps, not that I want to discourage anyone who is thinking of making the effort, (it can be very rewarding) I just want to make sure you understand what your getting yourself into.

Randie and I decided in early October that we wanted to make some juice this year...(see earlier post "Life is Grape") the grapes weren't actually that hard, they juiced quickly and it ended up taking us about 8-10 hours. (we split it into 2 evenings so it wasn't that bad) we were a little tired, but ended up with almost 40 quarts of grape juice.

While we were in Utah picking up the grapes from my wife's parents, my parents wanted to know if we also wanted some apples, and we thought "wow...grape juice and apple juice", "sure, we would love to have some apples" (Here is where you should seriously think about how much stuff your going to put into your "canning handcart".

Apples are not just "Bigger" grapes, they are not even closely related. We quickly learned that Apples take almost twice as long to juice (per/batch) as the grapes did, you also have to quarter the apples so when they steam the apple juice can escape more easily.

After steaming the apples for their juice we had all this apple pulp, and not wanting to waste it, we decided to make the extra effort of making "Apple Sauce" (here is where you should decide if a side trip on your canning trek is worth it)

I have to say that whoever invented the food strainer was a genius, and should be found in the history books right next to the guy that invented the wheel. Even with the food strainer, it took forrrrrevvvvvver. I swear we would empty a box half way, and someone was sneaking into the kitchen and putting more apples in the box...we would do a batch, and the box was still half full. (sometimes you just don't want the miracle of the widow's cruz of oil that never emptied)...

To be totally honest, we were so excited about the first bottles of juice and applesauce. I felt like they should be put on display somewhere, so everyone could see what we had accomplished. But as we got further into the boxes of apples (I know when we picked them up from my parent's there were only 3, but I swear we must have canned 7 or 8 boxes) Randie and I both looked at each other and seriously contemplated tossing the remaining apples out of the handcart..(coyote's like apples right) I just couldn't bring myself to do it though, so we "girded up our loins" (scripture speak for "biting the bullet") and persevered.

I have to say that it was a great feeling as we came into valley, and we could see all the bottles lined up on the counter ready to make the final trek to our storage room down stairs....Somehow it made it all worth while, and that feeling of accomplishment still hasn't quite gone away yet.

"Was it worth it?" that is the question everyone asks of the pioneers.
I would say that anything you accomplish that is difficult is worth it...and I have the juice and applesauce to prove it.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Sarah In Wonderland

Sarah has finally outgrown "trick or treating".

I remember the first time she went, when it was all new... you could see the moment the light went on in her head. "If I knock on peoples door, and say trick or treat, they give me CANDY" you could see the little wheels turning in her mind as her eyes followed the candy from the bowl to her bag, and then the synapes fire, the light goes on....and then she is running to the next door like all of a sudden there's a realization that there's not nearly enouph time to knock on all the doors in Colorado Springs in one night.

After the first couple of years, most of the memories are about costumes that don't fit right, and are so thin that they dont keep in nearly enouph heat, , Icy roads and sidewalks, below freezing winds, and frozen toes. All for a bag of candy that would feed a small city that somehow translates into dental bills the size of Texas.

Last year instead of Trick or Treating, Sarah invited some of her friends over for a Halloween party. She and her mom made a huge assortment of "Scary" treats, Dry Ice "Witches brew" and all the decorations to transform our home into Spooky delight.

It is now officially a "tradition"... this year it's a theme party "Alice in Wonderland" (the new Johny Deb movie is scary in it's own right) so our basment is undergoing a transformation from TV room to Rabbit Hole and Wonderland.

Sarah wanted a "Mad Hatter's" Cake for a centerpiece, and somehow talked me into making it. The nice thing about it is everything didn't have to be straight, and perfect since it was the Mad Hatter's it turned out pretty well.

Life goes on, and it's the memories that you have forever, so we'll do this for the next few years, and will always be able to look back on Sarah's Halloween Party's.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Life's Grape

I blame most of this on my mother, somehow she managed to pass on to me a love for the soil and anything that grows... maybe it has something to do with countless hours spent "weeding" the garden, or "picking rocks" out of the ground, so the plants would have a fighting chance at growing. Whatever the reason, it is in my blood now.

When we first moved to the Springs, I planted some grape vines... (that was 10 years ago) I imagined in my mind how nice it would be to make grape juice in the fall, and how nice it would be to have fresh grape juice thoughout the winter months. There are few things as comforting as a nice glass of fresh grape juice, (not "Welche's" from Wal Mart) but the real thing.

I knew that grape vines took a few years to get established, and you had to keep them pruned, and all of that, and I'm a pretty patient guy. My parent's and my wife's parents both had grape vines growing in their back yards in Utah, and they would have had to take an axe and flame torch to them to kill them off. Every year they would have grapes hanging in beautiful clusters all along the fence, with little to no effort on their part, so it couldn't be that hard to grow grapes could it.

Utah and Colorado....NOT THE SAME. I started out with 5 vines, now I have 2. Through freezing winters, hail the size of golf balls, wind storms, Ice storms, and rain that would make Noah envious, it is amazing I still have these 2 vines left.

So you can imagine my elation after 10 years of waiting to finaly have grapes on my vines this year. Ok there wasn't bushels of them, but there were a lot...Ok, maybe not alot but there were quite a few...well, at least 5 lbs, OK, Ok it was like 5 small clusters. But they were beautiful.

I convinced my wife that we couldn't let these beautiful grapes go to waste, and that it would be a good "Investment" for future bountiful crops to come, if we purchased a steam juicer.

The Juicer arrived via UPS a few days later, and I went out and picked my grapes, brought them into the house, got everything set up and 1 hour later had 1 quart of fresh grape juice, right from my own grape vines.

Yes, factoring in the cost of the juicer, that 1 quart cost me about $60.00, it somehow didn't matter. And next's going to be a bumper crop.

To offset the cost of the Juicer it didn't take much convincing from my wife to make the 9 hour drive to Utah, to some more grapes from her parents...

We ended up with about 3 bushels of grapes, and we also got 3 boxes of apples from my parents. So now we are the proud owner of 34 quarts of Grape juice, fresh apple juice and some wonderful apple sauce...

So thanks Mom, I'll send you a bottle

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Steamboat Springs

We went to Steamboat Spings on vacation last week. We wanted a little family time with Justin, before he leaves on his mission. It's kind of sad to think that this will be one of the last vacations with him. They grow up so fast, and then they are gone.

If you haven't been to Steamboat, it's gorgeous, and we had a great time...I put all the pictures into a slideshow and attached it below for your viewing pleaasure.

Justin's girlfriend Kelsey went with us and we were glad to have her along. It gave us some time to get to know her better as well.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

How to eat Crow

Ok, So it's been a long time since my wife has been able to say those 4 words that every man 'loves' to hear..."I told you so".

For those of you who haven't been to our house, we have a pretty nice leather sofa, that we've had for 10+ years, it was a nice light tan when we purchased it, but over the years it seems that the oils from peoples hair has caused dark spots to appear on the back cushions. We tried cleaning it with several different leather cleaners, but nothing we tried worked, and it seemed to be getting worse.

I've worked with leather a little bit, (I mean, I did get my leather working merit badge when I was in scouts) and I was looking at the sofa one day and had a small epiphany, why not stain the couch the same color as the dark spots on the cushions.

It was a GREAT idea, Save the couch, revitalize the color scheme in the living room, and make my wife happy all at the same time, and if I did my research, and took the proper precautions, what could go wrong?

So, I got online and looked up the address for the nearest Tandy Leather company, (luckily for me they were just a few miles away) I jumped in the car and went down to talk with them and see if this was something that was feasible. They were very helpful, and assured me that it shouldn't be a problem, and showed me what products I would need, and the options I had for different shades of stain.

One of the options was a little aerosol unit for about $10.00, they told me it would make the stain go farther and would make application allot easier, you just poured the stain in a small bottle on the bottom, and like magic you had you own personal stain sprayer, for $10.00 it seemed like a bargain.

I realized that with a spray there would most likely be some over spray, so I went to Walmart and got a 10 x 20 foot plastic sheet that painters use to put under the sofa and protect the carpet from any possible spills, and over spray, I also picked up some latex gloves to protect my hands, I was all set.

I started with the cushions, and they went pretty quick, it probably took me about 1/2 an hour to do all 3, and then I started on the sofa itself. I had been kneeling on the plastic and realized that the over spray was settling on the plastic (as intended) but I was getting it on my pants as I crawled around on the plastic (not great, but if I lost a pair of older jeans, to the project it was an acceptable loss, sometimes there is collateral damage)

I had purchased 1 quart of Dark Brown stain, and one aerosol unit and realized at this point that it wasn't going to be enough. and I would need at least one more quart to finish the couch, so I thought this would be a good time to take a break and run down to the leather store to pick up another quart of Stain.

(This is where I should have started to get really concerned) I pulled off the latex gloves, and discovered that they hadn't protected my hands nearly as much as one would have thought, in fact my hands were pretty much stained bright orange, I also noticed that the blow back from the spray had stained my arms a nice light orange...almost like a spray on Tan. "Hmmm", I thought, "I'm starting to look like an Umpa Loompa from Charley and the Chocolate Factory, I'm going to need to put on an old long sleeved shirt, when I get back and maybe a painters mask" I also noticed when I looked in the rear view mirror that there were some orange stains under my nose and on my lip where I must have rubbed my nose with my finger..."That's not good" I thought "People are going to wonder at church tomorrow why an Umpa Lumpa is teaching the Gospel Doctrine Class?"

I arrived at the leather store and Nancy the lady I had been working with asked how things were going, and commented on my new tan. I told her the sofa was looking good but I was going to need another quart of stain to finish and possible another two spray units. She went back to get the stain, and of course they were out. "Ok, This isn't good" I knew a half stained couch and husband wasn't going to work for Randie. Nancy pulled out the catalog and we looked at what other stains they had, I told her that a darker stain would probably work, and i could just quickly go over the area's I'd previously stained. Luckily they had one that was darker, I got two quarts this time, and Nancy assured me that I could bring one back if i didn't use it, and I also got two new sprayers.

The new stain worked great, and I actually liked the color better than before, I went over the cushions again, and finished the rest of the couch. Including the trip to the store, and everything it took me about 4 hrs to finish, but it was worth it, the couch looked fantastic. I just needed to clean everything up before Randie got home from work, so she could walk in and see her new couch.

I moved the couch and pulled up all the plastic, and re situated everything in the living looked really good. I had been using the kitchen table kind of as my work bench, and All the stain and rag's etc were on the table (don't worry the top is covered with glass) So I cleaned all that up and then got a clean wet rag to wipe off the table top so it would be nice and clean.

This is where things started to go downhill...I've worked with spray paint over spray before, usually the over spray (all the microscopic paint particles that are atomized by the aerosol) dries before it lands, and leaves a fine dust that you can just wipe up or vacuum up) Stain over spray...TOTALLY Different.

It seems that when stain particles become air born, and land on an object, even though they might be dry, they still maintain their staining capabilities. As I wiped the table the water in the rag REACTIVATED the stain (thank goodness the table was covered with glass) when I looked at the rag it was completely dark orange. and you couldn't even see the stain particles on the table...HUGE WARNING BELLS started ringing in my head, If there was this much over spray on the table, how much was there everywhere else?

As it turns out, it was throughout the whole main level...and it had settled on any Flat surface (thank goodness it didn't stick to the walls) Luckily for me, our kitchen floor and counter tops are all Dark Brown Tile, so no worries there, and all of our wood furniture is pine, so even with a little staining, it just enhanced the pine look.

To Stain an old couch and make it look new: $75 Dollars
To Stain the Carpet along with the Couch and get NEW Carpet: $1000.00 Dollars
To Hear those 4 words "I told you So": Priceless

Yes I had plastic down, but if you remember earlier the Latex gloves didn't seem to do much to stop the it would seem held true with the plastic. When I tried to clean the carpet we had nice Splotches and Streaks of browns and looked like someone threw several pots of coffee all over the carpet, and then tried to wipe it up.

I guess your never to old to learn...some lessons are just more painful than others.

I have to say in closing that Randie was great throughout the whole thing... she only mentioned once "I told you so", (and when I originally proposed the idea, she did say that I should take it out in the Garage... I of course told her I would be extremely careful, and she had nothing to worry about.)

but to be fair she did get a new looking couch AND new Carpet... So I don't think she's too upset about the whole thing... I'll just get to hear her tell this story for several years to come :-)

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Milk and Cereal for 21st Anniversary

Yesterday was our 21st Anniversary, and we spent most of the night shopping for Milk and Cereal(Don't worry were going out to celebrate next week)... I'm guessing like most of you, we try to save a buck werever we can...and we did pretty good this week. King Super's is having a sale were if you buy 4 boxes of cereal (Kellogs Brand) for 6 dollars you get 2 Gallons of Milk for free.

When I saw the add I showed it to Randie and after running some errands we stopped and got 4 boxes and 2 gallons of milk, sure enouph when we went through the checkout it rang up for $6.00 Thats not to bad at all.

What the add didn't say is that you also got a store coupon with your reciept for $3.00 off your next purchase.

I'm not a rocket scientist but the little light that is in there clicked on...if we go back and get 4 more boxes and 2 more gallons then we would get another $3.00 coupon, which means we could get the next 4 boxes and two gallons for free.

You know what? It worked... So when it was all said and done we ended up with 20 boxes of cereal and 10 Gallons of milk (we gave 4 of the gallons to a neighbor)for a grand Total of $22.00

You might ask, What will you do with 6 Gallons of Milk, (It just seems to disapear magically). I figured out tonight that we go through about 5 Gallons of milk every week.. you would think with 5 people that would work out nicely to 1 gallon per person, in reality I think Randie and Stephen dring 2 gallons each and Sarah, me and Justin drink the other gallon.

I ran some numbers just for fun. We'll say that milk averages $2.50 a gallon, thats $10.00 a week, or $40.00 a month, or $480.00 a year (Holy COW), How much does a cow cost anyway?

I looked it up and I could probably get one for around $600-700, average milk from a cow is anywere from 6 to 10 gallons a day, or course the kids would REALLY complain about cleaning up after it, (they complain about picking up after Jake our miniature schnauzer as it is now), and we would have to move, I don't think the neighbors would believe it was an overgrown greyhound for very long, and we would probably need about 4 acres for alphalfa, a tractor, combine, hay baler....

I figure I can pay up to $10.00 a gallon for milk and it would still be worth while. So when I can get it for Free it's a pretty good Anniversary.