Earlier Nika was out in the dog yard with Deuce, barking up a storm near the dog shed. It was starting to get dark, so I couldn’t really see what she was barking at. I wanted a beer anyway, so I got my boots on for a walk out to the red cabin. About a quarter of the way out there I heard a strange screeching noise. At first I thought maybe it was moose antlers rubbing on metal behind the dog shed, but when I looked where the sound came from I saw a great big bird in the birch tree behind the sheds. Raven? Then it turned it’s head, looked at me and started moving it’s head up and down, back and forth, probably trying to figure out what I was.
The photo is pretty bad, but it’s a great horned owl. Honest! The camera has an ISO adjustment feature, which might have helped a bit, but I didn’t want to mess around with the settings too much in case it flew away. I snapped a couple photos and then watched it through my binoculars. After a couple minutes of looking around, it saw something over by the red cabin and flew over there.
I’d heard great horned owls calling at our old house, and thought I heard one here a week ago, but seeing one so close to the house was a real treat.
Meanwhile, Piper wanted out to see what Nika had been barking at. When I came back in to listen to the Rockies game (the wheels seem to be coming off for the Diamondbacks), you can see her petition to go outside in the photo. She can be very cute.
Not much more to say than that. What a huge relief.
Things are slowing down as the house is ready for winter and almost everything is gone from the old place. A couple more trips this weekend and I hope we’ll be done moving. We haven’t done much unpacking, but there will be plenty of time for that now that it’s starting to get cold.
After the sunrise this morning I took Nika out on one of the trails on the other side of the road from our driveway. There’s a trail that goes along the road, and off that is a trail that goes mostly east up over the ridge, which is where I took Nika. It’s about ¾ of a mile to where the trail intersects what looks like it might be a road, but since I didn’t know where I was, I turned around and came back. You can sort of see what the environment looks like from the photo on the right. The forest was dark and the sky was lit with the sunrise, so it was hard to get a good photo.
The other photo shows the toilet repair I did earlier today. The toilet didn’t flush “all the way,” even when there wasn’t anything but liquid in the bowl. I was worried that it was installed incorrectly, but the plumber that came to charge our glycol lines said it was just scale inside the toilet. He suggested getting some hydrochloric acid and letting it dissolve the scale by running it through the toilet. But since we’ve got our own sewage treatment plant that needs to be treated gently (the instruction manual says we need to treat it like a pet, since it's a living system), I pulled the toilet out of the house and ran acid through it from the top tank into the bowl. I’m glad I did it outside, since the reaction released some really nasty smelling (and probably poisonous) gases. The photo is what happened when I neutralized the acid with a couple boxes of baking soda. The acid came with a pH testing kit to verify the acid was neutralized before disposing of the solution.
After all that, I wiped it down, installed a new wax ring, and screwed the toilet back in place. Turns out the plumber was exactly right: now it flushes like a toilet should.
I also made some time to try out a recipe from Peter Reinhart’s Whole Grain Breads. I finished reading the book last night and prepared the soaker and biga for the basic whole wheat sandwich loaf. Reinhart calls his new baking method a delayed fermentation, “epoxy” method where a large percentage of the dough is prepared in advance. Half of it is a traditional pre-ferment, with either a small amount of yeast added, or is a sourdough; and the other half is a soaker or mash that sits overnight, allowing enzymes to develop flavor and enhance the dough structure and fuel for fermentation. On baking day, you mix the two blobs of dough with the remaining flour, yeast and other ingredients, knead and bake it. Most of the gluten and flavors are developed overnight, so even though the entire process takes more than one day, it involves less effort on each day.
It’s just out of the oven now. Tomorrow, when the bread has cooled, I’ll have a report on how it turned out, but it rose nicely, and I got enough oven spring that the loaf is quite round in cross section.
It was another cold day this morning, and since we moved all the split firewood from our old house yesterday, we decided to make a fire in our wood burning cookstove. We got the replacement firebox parts earlier in the week, and they slid right into place. We’ve got about a cord stacked in the woodshed, and another cord of spruce that’s been cut, but not split yet. Hopefully the split wood will last long enough to allow the spruce to dry once I’ve chopped it. With everything else going on, I haven’t had any opportunity to go logging, or even deal with the wood I got earlier in the spring.
The Stanley fired right up, and within about fifteen minutes the top cook surfaces ranged from 700°F above the firebox, to 200°F on the cooking plates on the right side of the stove. The oven peaked at 180°F after 45 minutes, but by then the house was already warm and I’d burned all the wood I brought into the house, so I didn’t let it go any longer. I’m not exactly sure how to use the flue controls on the stove to regulate the cooktop and oven temperatures, but it was easy to get the fire started, and then cinched down to burn slowly.
Since today was pancakes and bacon day, and the cookstove was already warm, I tried cooking the bacon on the wood stove. Like the electric stove six months ago, and our new gas stove last week, the wood burning stove heated the pan evenly and the bacon came out perfectly. The cooktop could have been hotter and the bacon would have browned a bit more than it did, but for my first attempt at renewable energy cooking, I’ll mark this one down as a complete success.
Now back to moving. Sigh.
Many months ago we planted a vegetable garden at our old house. We got a truckload of good soil, rented a rototiller and hoped for a great growing season. All those plans fell apart when we bought our new house, started packing and moving everything. Keeping the garden watered and properly fertilized wasn’t very high on our list of things to do, so the plants were all left to their own devices.
The Weather Service was predicting a hard frost over the Interior on Friday night (and it came—it was 16°F at our new house this morning and all the ponds in our driveway are frozen), so I harvested all the above-ground produce on Thursday night. The photo on the right shows the entire output from six broccoli and six cauliflower plants. They were tasty, especially the cauliflower, but not exactly the quantity I was hoping for. I also harvested two six-inch zucchinis (also far below expected production) and the cabbage. All ten cabbage plants produced some reasonably sized cabbage (bigger than a softball, smaller than a bowling ball), so I’ll have enough for a couple gallons of sauerkraut. We’ll probably harvest the potatoes in a few days. I don’t expect to find many large baking potatoes (we grew Russets this year), but we’ll probably have enough for making hash browns on Saturday mornings.
The other photo shows Piper on her new bed. We didn’t make this one, but it was “assembled in USA” and is composed of a minimum 90% postconsumer recycled plastic. I’m not a big fan of plastic products, but creating a market for recycling the stuff is certainly better than letting it all go into the landfills and waterways. And Piper really seems to like it, which is the most important thing!