Monday, December 12, 2011

Our Christmas Tree!

Greg and I both recently returned from (separate) conferences in CA (that were occurring at the same time). This year we had a great plan to get a Christmas tree, since we aren't taking any big trips for the holidays. The Coop was selling some nice trees for $40, but we were both pretty interested in chopping down our own tree, so we figured we would see if the trees at the farm just down the road from Greg's had good tree deals. I know you are really supposed to set up a tree only shortly before Christmas, and then keep it up during the Christmas season (aka the 12 days of Christmas, aka the 12 days starting on Christmas day and extending to the Epiphany (I am under the impression that most of our society is confused by this, considering Christmas music is playing now and will stop the day after Christmas)). But once we both got home I just really wanted to go find out tree, so off we went. First we went to the hardware store to buy some rope. We also bought a strand of Christmas lights. For anyone wondering, one strand of 100 lights is probably not really an appropriate amount for a 5-6 foot tall tree.

Then, after wandering around basically the entire tree yard, we found this beauty!

It was the best one in the lot, and we were both really happy about it (despite Greg's face, which is entirely due to the sun shining directly in his eyes).

Greg let me start the sawing process.

And I let him finish the sawing process.

It would have been really fun to let the tree fall over just after yelling "timber!" or something, but I haven't ever been to a tree farm like this, and I kind of doubt that is part of the proper etiquette. So instead I just braced the tree, and then Greg picked it up off the stump.

Then Greg carried it up to the front, where we paid for it (only $30!) and got it baled by this fantastical machine.

We managed to secure it to the roof of the civic, and when we got to Greg's house we were happy to see it had not shifted at all!

See how we were smart enough to tie it through the windows of the backseat so that we would be able to open our doors and get in the car? Physicists in action.

Now the tree is all set up, complete with the manger scene underneath!

The lighting may be minimal, but the smell is phenomenal! You can't tell it from the picture above, but I am happy to introduce you to our hockey & Peanuts-themed tree. I don't know why it surprised me at the time, but I took a quick tally, and it turns out that Greg really only has hockey and Peanuts ornaments. And those are mainly hockey ornaments, thirteen to be exact.

Thanks for making our tree spectacular Mario!

P.S. Mom, if we have a tree again next year, I might be ready to get my ornaments out of storage in your basement. Then maybe the number of ornaments that are non-hockey will be more comparable to the number of hockey ornaments. :D

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Wilderness Excursion

This weekend started off right. Not only did it start a day early, but it was a day full of hiking, cabin-dwelling, and cabin-dwelling activities. Meghan's brother and his two friends are currently on a road trip from Wisconsin attempting to see as much of the East coast as they can in the time they have allotted. Naturally, NH was on the list of places to visit. In lieu of the standard visitation activities (see Dartmouth, eat VT cheese, drink NH/VT beer) we adopted to spend the night in one of the several cabins owned by Dartmouth. 

Good hiking trails nearby was a must. No electricity was pretty high on the list. Wood stove was entirely necessary. Our options were quickly limited to a couple options. We settled on one of the two cabins at the base of Mt. Moosilauke. In the end, we had no choice, only the John Rand cabin was available. Turns out this was a great choice. Ole Johnny's cabin was exactly what we were looking for.

At 11:00am, we arrived at the base of the mountain, by the Mousilauke Ravine Lodge. No time to unload at the cabin first, we were going to need to start hiking if we were going to definitely finish before sun down. The hike up was beautiful. Scenery changes occurred every so often - leaf covered muddy ground, followed by non-muddy leaf covered ground, to ground with a bit of snow, then on to ground with a fair bit of snow cover surrounded by snow covered fir trees, and then finally the barren arctic alpine region. 

Adam, Erik, and Mike basically dominated the mountain, needing about 3 hours to complete the round trip. It took them a bit longer since they waited for Meghan and I before summitting. Crossing the barren arctic wasteland that is the summit was pretty awesome. Unrelenting wind, fridge conditions, and snow blasting in our faces. Still, we took time to hang out and take a few pictures while we were up there. To the left is Mike standing behind the sign indicating we were at the summit. We couldn't really tell what it said due to all the snow and ice, but I at least assume it said we were at the summit.

The way down was also leisurely (for Meghan and me), however, team Weird Beards practically ran down the mountain and made the descent in no time at all. While they were running, Meghan was taking pictures! The alpine zone was covered with ice and snow and made for great photography. On the right is a nice image of the snow that had piled up on the tip of a pine tree.

After the 7 mile hike it came time to unload our gear into the cabin. No vehicles were allowed up the road, only foot traffic, so we hiked the gear up. First order of business was getting the wood stove fired up as the temperature had dropped well below freezing. A couple of hours later and the cabin was finally warm! Evening was spent eating, drinking, and playing Pictionary. Oh, and story time near the end of the night. Erik enjoyed that activity the most, I would say.

Morning came quickly. We all slept soundly after the long day of hiking and awoke well rested and ready to hike down from the cabin. The fire had burned out in the wood stove and the dishes were washed with boiled stream water before we turned in the night before. That meant clean up was speedy and we were on the road by 9:30am. Team Weird Beards were off to Maine to see Acadia National Park and Meghan and I traveled home to prepare for this night - potluck and contra dancing!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Red Barn Brewing, Take 2

It has been far too long since we brewed Night Barn, our delicious nut brown ale. As an ode to the end of summer, we thought it necessary to brew another ale. Though it would have been perfect in the mid-summer's heat, the persistent heat of mid-September will prove an equally perfect setting to sip on our newest creation: a Kölsch style ale with a hint of chamomile. Technically, we won't be able to label it as a Kölsch since we are adding the chamomile, but that's okay. Either way, this should turn out to be one tasty beverage.

As I type, the wort is chilling in the sink eagerly waiting for the yeast to be pitched. I'm not sure if the wort is eager, but I sure am. This recipe didn't quite make the standard 5 gallons, it's more around 3 or 3.5 gallons (darn, only 3.5 gallons), but that's quite alright. More updates will be necessary to keep everyone updated on the status (and flavor) of this one.

Oh, and if you are curious, this ale recipe is one step more "difficult" than the last. Instead of using purely extract, we have elevated our brewing skills to the "grain steeping" level. The beers snobs refer to this as "partial mash". I'm sure if a beer snob is reading this and affirm that it is indeed a partial mash (it truly is one), they're likely resenting being called a beers snob. However, think about it. If you know what a Kölsch is and can appreciate the style of the beer and the potential for awesomeness that chamomile adds: you're a beer snob.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Great Outdoors (again!)

So long to the days of blogging exclusively about our garden. So long to the monotony of hearing about garden destruction. So long to the days of Greg sometimes writing posts:P

We have entered the time of outdoor blog posts!

Last Friday we finally got down to the river and did some canoeing! I was super excited to get back on the river. I hadn't had a Ledyard Canoe Club membership for the last summer or maybe two, so it is good to have my canoe-renting-powers returned to me. Hopefully before the summer is up there will be an opportunity for camping on the island to make this membership really worth it.

We took out the lovely "O Be Joyful" since my favorite canoe was nowhere to be seen. It was a good choice.

I liked matching the canoe, both in color, and state of joyfulness.

I made Greg do the steering.

I figured it would be a great opportunity to give him some practice, plus I was feeling lazy. First he chased down these ducks for us:

Then he paddled us right near a place where a Great Blue Heron was hiding out. It started squacking and flew out and away from us. I don't think I've ever been so close to one of those guys before. Here was his new hiding spot:

Then I took some pictures of these lily pads. I promise I was helping to canoe at some points during this trip.

Fun times in the canoe!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Ascutney photos!

And the photos!

This is me at the first lookout point. I guess there used to be a quarry on Ascutney? There were remnants of huge cables and chunks of cut rock near the trail at this point.

This is Greg at the summit. Or at least near the summit. This lookout was actually on a little trail off the summit. This is also where we ate our lunch. And I saw a contra person.

The view from our lunching point.

This was taken at the top of the fire tower. Watch out for the straw hat, it'll get you every time.

At the bottom of the Windsor Trail.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Mount Ascutney

Hi Everyone!

Last Saturday Greg and I had a chance to go hiking, which we hadn't done in a long while. The weather was perfect for a hike, so we headed to Mount Ascutney for the afternoon.

We followed the trails recommended by the DOC.

All in all it was a great hike with multiple scenic views! Pictures to come soon!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

More Garden Destruction

It happened again. The garden is hopefully growing stronger with all of the difficulties it is encountering.

The peas are getting their tops eaten off.

And other plants are getting uprooted and bearing the scratch marks of some crazy animal.

But luckily,

The tomatoes still exist!!!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Our poor garden

This weekend our garden suffered some destruction. Here is the evidence:

I don't know about you, but it sure looks to me like someone decided to trudge through our garden and stomp on our beets, parsnips, dill, brussels sprouts, and one sunflower.

I don't really want to be the one to falsely accuse anyone of destroying our beautiful garden, but well, let's be honest... I have a sneaky suspicion our bratty little garden-destroying neighborhood kids had something to do with it.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

More cooking lately

Greg and I have been doing more cooking lately. Or really, more cooking of new and different things lately. My mom got me two of the Moosewood cookbooks for my birthday, so we have been trying some of the new recipes in there. So far everything has been SO SUPER tasty!

This is a shrimp bisque. The salad was just arugula, tomato, and feta with olive oil + balsamic vinegar for dressing, no fancy recipe there.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Red Barn Brewing

Our latest and greatest adventure: home brewing. We had purchased a book a while back in hopes of actually getting started, however, we found ourselves limited by time and not wanting to get in way over our head. A visit from my friend Bruce, though, changed our mind on the whole concept. With his encouragement, he and I paid a visit to the Lebanon Health Food Store (LHFS) where he informed me of the equipment which would be necessary to get our feet wet. A day later, and we had read the first "beginner's chapter" of our brewing book and were off to LHFS to get our supplies!

While what we did is still considered brewing, it was by no means complicated. The simplest way to start is by brewing with only malt extracts. This means that all of the grains have been malted, mashed and evaporated with the hop extracts mixed in (for the case of hopped extracts). In terms of brewing, this greatly reduces the amount of time and effort necessary for a successful brew; perfect for newbies.

The very first thing is to sanitize EVERYTHING that could possibly come into contact with the beer. This is accomplished using StarSan, an acid based, food safe, rinse free solution. Mix with water and soak whatever needs to get sanitized. After a quick air dry the tools are ready to go!

Actually brewing was quite simple: we mixed the malt extracts (hopped and unhopped) in a large stock pot with 1.5 gallons of water and boiled the mixture for 45 minutes. The wort (the hot mix of grain and hops) is then added to 3 (in our case 3.5) gallons of cold tap water in a Better Bottle and left to cool down to ~75 degrees F. If you've ever taken a course on Thermodynamics or even basic chemistry you know cooling 5 gallons of a water mixture takes FOREVER.

Finally, though, the wort reached the desired temperature and we were able to measure the original gravity (a measure of the wort density to that of water) and pitch the yeast (pitch is a fancy brewing term for add).

Above we see the wort in a state where the yeast has started to work it's magic and is beginning to produce the first bit of CO2. Below, we have the wort with the yeast several hours later. The yeast has really started to pick up the pace and is creating a vast amount of CO2 as it produces the alcohol for the beer.

Oh, so you're wondering some of the specifics of the beer? Well, right now we don't have a lot of information to give, as the wort is currently fermenting. We can provide some simple details:

Name: Night Barn
Style: Nut Brown Ale
Original gravity: 1.046

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Garden Update!

Our garden has some tiny sprouts, growing bigger by the day! Soon it will be safe to plant the seeds and seedlings that are more sensitive to frost (yes there is still a chance of that happening this year). Until then, just one quarter of our garden has made the transformation from "looks like a grave" to "looks like a garden."

I took these photos almost a week ago.

By now the beets are tall enough to need thinning out. And the rows of carrots and parsnips are also looking quite good.

The peas are also growing rather quickly.

Hopefully they will start to grow up this stick thing we built for them to grow on. We figured, why buy something for the peas to grow on, when we can just construct one with forest-items. We gathered up these sticks and tied them into this lattice using the crazy huge root we dug up while make the garden, as well as some of the bark I pulled off of the sticks we gathered.

We are so resourceful. Not that I'm proud of that or anything ;)

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Foraging Fiddleheads

Spring in the Northeast is a glorious time of year. The snow is kinda, almost gone, the trees are beginning to bud, the Sun returns after a 6 month hiatus, and all varieties of birds start reappearing. With this change in season, we have taken more interest in the latter part of hunting and gathering.

Recently, we have taken to scouring the forests on our respective lands in search of the elusive morel. Unfortunately, we have yet to gather any, most likely due to the chillier weather that is still hanging around from Winter. However, while venturing for morels last evening, we happened upon another great gatherer's find!


It was an accidental find, but one we were happy to capitalize on, despite not knowing if we actually enjoy the taste of fiddleheads. We therefore picked conservatively. It appeared that the fiddlehead season is slightly past it's prime, as many of the fronds had already unraveled into ferns.

How does one eat a fiddlehead fern? We weren't sure either, before yesterday, but it just so happens that before we went morel/fiddlehead gathering we stumbled upon a basket of fiddleheads in the Hanover Coop (priced at $6.99 per lb, mind you) and above the basket was a tag which described the cooking process. We didn't think much of it until we actually found the fiddleheads last night! Turns out, to reduce the risk of side effects of potential toxins, boiling the fiddleheads for 10 minutes is recommended with at least one or two changes of water. Mmmm, delicious.

The boiling and eating process will likely take place tonight before we head to contra. So a warning to the contra people, if we're hunched over in pain, it's probably due to the food borne illness that may or may not be associated with fiddleheads.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Our Garden!

This weekend it was time to construct our garden. Two weeks ago we took a trip to the Home Depot to buy supplies to make some beautiful raised garden beds. We left the store with one packet of zucchini seeds. For the amount of space we wanted, the cost of building the garden boxes was high. As in, over $100 high. Plus the dirt to fill them would have been another $150 at least. So we left the Home Depot feeling very disappointed, but got some dinner and felt slightly less disappointed.

We spent a lot of time trying to figure out a new plan. After talking with Julie we thought my landlord would have some spare lumber under the barn that we could use. There was really only enough for one garden box though. Plus we would still have to buy a lot of dirt.

There was also talk by one of the meg'n'greg team (I'll let you figure out who that was) of acquiring some of the old railroad ties that were piled up all along the railroad that runs by the barn. Unfortunately this did not seem entirely legal, and we also figured that these might be pressure treated, in which case we would not want to be growing food out of them.

A new hope for our plans of a beautiful garden was restored when my landlord told us, "You only need to make the boxes if you want to be fancy." Good point! I do like to be fancy, but strongly prefer being thrifty. The soil at the barn is not good, so we would still need to get a scoop of dirt, but we had known that would be a cost the whole time. So the latest and greatest plan would be: borrow my landlord's tiller and build a garden in the ground. I think a classic, in-ground garden is more our style anyhow. And we would get one scoop of dirt to spread on top to make the soil good for growing. This way we could have a bigger area for gardening, without needing two scoops of dirt, since we could spread the top layer a bit thinner. Mind you, when I say "dirt" I mean composted cow manure. Nothing but the best for our garden.

This past weekend was a beautiful, warm and sunny weekend. On Saturday morning we checked in with my landlord to get some tools and the tiller. He suggested, and Greg agreed, that it would be best to pull up the sod first, and then till the dirt underneath. I was thinking that tilling the grass was fine with me, but I had to agree that the extra work would be worth it, so that we would not have a bunch of grass and weeds (at least not as many) growing in the garden in a couple months.

And so we begin.

Here is Greg, shoveling the border of the garden. He also used the shovel to mark out a grid through the whole garden, in order to have squares of sod that we (really just he) could pick up and move. After Greg shoveled the squares, I used the pitchfork tool to pull the square of sod up from the ground.

I also focused on rock removal. I doubt this pile comprised even 1/10th of what we were to pull out of the plot.

This photo actually has nothing to do with the garden. This is the trench my landlord dug to bury the wire for the well pump. It was a day for manual labor at the barn.

Meanwhile, back at the garden, Greg was busy finding the second yield of the garden (the first being rocks).

We kept finding these root vegetable-looking things. They looked like little parsnips, and smelled like carrots. Greg tasted a bit and said it was alright.

Here we have some action shots of sod removal.

Pick it up.

And carry it to the wheelbarrow. I promise that all of the other sod squares were more perfect squares which could be carried with much more grace.

Here is proof that I worked too.

This is how I used the pronger-tool to rip up the sod square.

At the end of the day on Saturday we were quite exhausted. Too exhausted to bother taking a photo of the final plot of sod-free ground that was slowly but surely becoming our garden. Or maybe, as the designated rock-remover, I was just too embarrassed to have a photo showing just how many rocks were not removed from the plot.

On Sunday afternoon our dirt scoop was delivered. We smoothed it out, and then put some of the rocks back in. As footpaths. We figured it would be good to have designated footpaths through the garden. Plus it looks good that way. And we had so many rocks leftover that we surrounded the entire thing with rocks. And we still had two wheelbarrows-full of rocks leftover. For sure, we got a lot of rocks.

I present to you, our garden (plants coming soon).

It turns out, the in-ground garden can look pretty fancy after all! Here is another view, which shows the footpaths rather well.

I am definitely of the opinion that all the hard work was worth it.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Rain Barrel

After a torrential rain storm last night, we awoke this morning with hopes of finding our rain barrel (read about it at Tuesday Adventures) partially full with water. Instead, to our delight, it was entirely full! Yes, an entire garbage can full of rain water! We have since moved the barrel from the middle of the yard to under the roof (slightly less white-trash) but have also added two more cinder blocks (more white-trash; net gain of 0 white-trash points). It seems to have been a smart decision as we can now gather an entire barrel of water in one big rain storm! Now we just need a garden to water.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter to everyone! As part of the celebration of Easter, Meghan and I decided to construct a Lamb cake... a cake shaped like a lamb... not a cake made of lamb, this is an important distinction. Meghan owns a Lamb cake pan, which greatly aided our endeavor, as carving a lamb from a giant brick of cake would have proved quite difficult.

In order to create a successful Lamb cake, it is important to select the appropriate cake. Past experience with making a Lamb cake for other occasions (because what occasion isn't a Lamb cake appropriate?) had shown that using a (typical) moist, fluffy cake lead to an unstable lamb and immense frosting difficulties, as the cake would crumble when being frosted. To combat this issue, we decided on pound cake as it is both delicious and rather dense.

A quick mix of two store bought batters (one for each half of lamb) and we were out of the gate quickly.

With that, we put the cake in the oven and baked for approximately 45 minutes. A beautiful cake of lamb resulted.

As the cake baked up quite a bit, we had to then shave Lamby (all Lamb cakes are named Lamby) down to match the edges and ensure a smooth fit when we frosted them together. An initial layer of frosting was used to "glue" the two halves together. We placed the first frosted lamb in the fridge to allow it to set and followed it up with a final layer of delicious vanilla frosting.

Purple jelly beans for eyes and a pink one for the nose, and you have a finished Lamb cake! Note of warning: the eyes are directional. My initial positioning of the eyes created an angry Lamby. Luckily, a quick rotation gave a cute lamb expression.

And there you have it! An adorable Lamb cake!