Monday, August 31, 2009

A Little Taste of Late Summer

I was thinking last night, as I was cooking a little feast for my family just for the fun of it, that I wish I could bottle up the smells of my summer kitchen to send over the internet to my far away readers. I've been whipping up delicious showcase entrees using the freshest of the fresh veggies from my garden and our CSA farm. It is so very delightful! Here's a few recipes from last night:

Eggplant and Summer Vegetable Gratin

olive oil
2 lbs globe eggplant, preferably on the small size, sliced into 1/2 inch thick rounds
2 large onions, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 large bell pepper
2-3 large, ripe tomatoes, skinned and seeded and chopped
10 basil leaves, chopped
1 cup breadcrumbs
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
sausage or other meat (optional)

Oil the eggplant slices and roast in a 425 oven for about 30 minutes, flipping over halfway through. Remove from oven and salt and pepper. Turn the oven down to 325. Meanwhile, saute the onion in 3 tbsp olive oil until it wilts. Add the garlic, stir for a moment, and add the bell pepper and tomato. Cook for a while, stirring every once in a while, until it forms a jam. Turn off the heat and stir in the basil. Layer the eggplant and tomato sauce in thirds in a 2 1/2 quart casserole dish. Cover and bake at 325 for 45 minutes. Moisten the breadcrumbs in olive oil and mix with the parmesan. Uncover the gratin and add the breadcrumb/cheese mixture and bake uncovered for another 25 minutes.

Pear Almond Pudding

1/4 cup honey
1 1/2 cup milk
3 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt

4 ripe but firm pears, peeled, cored, and sliced thinly
Crumble topping: 3 tbsp. butter, 1/4 c sugar, 1/2 cup flour, pinch of salt, cinnamon to taste, 1/2 cup chopped almonds, all mixed together.

Mix the first set of ingredients in a blender or with an immersion blender. Place the sliced pears in a 2 quart dish. Pour the pudding liquid mixture over the pears. Top with the crumble. Bake at 325 for approximately 50 minutes, until golden and puffed all over. Serve warm with whipped cream...mmmm.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

My New 55mm/Macro Lens

A few months back, I had the pleasure of test driving a really fun, old-school 55mm macro lens that belongs to my photo-friend Kira. I really enjoyed it, and to my surprise, Drew bought me one! I've had it now for at least a month, but I haven't had a chance to play with it at all, until today. Here's a sampling of this morning's shots at the beach.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Be Careful, the Things You Imagine

Maybe it was coincidence, maybe a sixth sense that works over a longer time span than I realize, but last evening, after viewing that autumn sky and early dark, I decided to check the weather, only to discover that there was some actual rain forecast for today. And though true raindrops descended from the sky for only a short 20 minutes or so, it fills one-without-a-roof with a certain, hmmm, je ne sais quoi, deeper anxiety?

No harm done, at this point, but still. This early season sprinkle, which happens with regular regularity, serves each year to remind: the rain WILL return, and soon.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Keep Moving

I keep avoiding writing, because it feels as though we are in a holding pattern. I keep looking for charismatic completion tasks to highlight, but mostly what this week has been about are unseen details, such as blocking, sister joists, end-wall joists, rim joists, etc. Nothing that looks very exciting, unless you are familiar with building process, and what it really means. I keep leaving home for a half day, and hoping it will be different when I return, but it's not.

Karl is leaving tomorrow for two weeks, to head to Burning Man, so our crew will be without the master-brain for a little while. And I am beginning to feel a little pressured about weather, as we are almost to September. At any turn here, we could expect a little or a lot of precipitation. I guess nothing would be very damaged at this point, if at all, but it still creates anxiety. Just this evening, as I collected the laundry off the clothesline, I looked west, and saw a decidedly autumn looking sunset sky. And I notice, with a hint of alarm, that it is getting dark much earlier, seemingly all of a sudden.

Thankfully, the garden makes up for anxiety, nurturing my gastric senses. Eggplant, beans, zucchini, cucumbers, arugula, carrots, kale, tomatoes, raspberries, and herbs, with a whole crop of brassicas on the way behind. And some onions almost ready. Mmmmmm. I love the summer garden.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Roof Rafters and Clerestory

Clerestory, as viewed from the living room (you won't be able to see them from here when the roof is finished).

I-Joist Rafters over the Master Bedroom section of the house

Roof rafters are going on the house, as I type. This step, more than any other so far, feels the most significant and exciting! Karl finished building the clerestory this week, and things are really getting going out there. There's not much more to say about it, the photos speak for themselves...

Another Potential Disaster Averted

Yesterday, while I relaxedly exited my massage studio after giving a nice rub to a client, I heard an airplane flying low. I thought to myself, that sounds like the CalFire spotter plane. I waited to catch a glimpse before I carried on my way, and indeed, noted the telltale double tail of the white spotter plane, circling low over Petrolia. Hmmm. That's not such a good sign. Next, I contemplated whether or not I could smell smoke. I could not. But my internal alarms began to go off a few moments later when a much larger bomber airplane circled in and flew overhead, barely above the tall fir trees in Seth's backyard. Then I knew that they were dumping retardant on a fire in the immediate vicinity. Knowing the geography, I surmised that the fire must be in the direction of my house. It was time to go investigate.

I knew that Drew would already be at the scene with the Petrolia Volunteer Fire Department, in his wildfire turnout gear, running an engine, but I wasn't sure where Ella was, as she had gone with a babysitter that morning. As I drove to the firehall to drop off Drew's wayward two-way radio, I quickly saw the smoke, billowing in a tall column just above Petrolia, on the west side of the knoll that borders our property, in a thick stand of scotch broom. Uh. Oh.

But fortunately for all, the day was not so excessively dry or windy, as the fog and dew had been heavy the night before, and the wind was rather calm. CalFire was quick with their air support. Not long after the three bombers arrived to dump borate on the fire, the helicopter with a bucket arrived, and made quick trips to the river (?) or the estuary (?), and two private bulldozers cut a fireline to the east of the fire. The fire was less than a mile from the fire hall in Petrolia. Drew had also mowed a little of the broom on that hill a few months back, which allowed the firefighters to get better access to the active fire. Within an hour or so, it was under control, and everyone went back to their regular day.

Each time it happens, we all get a little rattled, and are reminded that it's not a matter of if, but when a fire will happen. We wonder if we'll be ready. We have so much more we should do to be prepared, including storing more water, having a stand pipe with fittings that work with the fire department's hoses, having an independent pump, and of course, having really solid "defensible space". May we all be more careful, and prepare as our means allow, so we can all help keep each other safe.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Winter Garden in the Ground

Spent a few hours digging in the dirt this morning with Drew and Ella, getting the bed ready, pulling out old lettuce and spent cabbage and broccoli, to make room for more broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts, and spinach. It feels so satisfying! It's not only right on time, but I am very happy with how the plants turned out, they look very healthy and solid. May they flourish and feed us well all through until next spring!

Meanwhile, Drew did a little weedwhacking around the garden paths. I so need to do some sheet mulching on the paths so the grass can't grow anymore. Sometimes it's hard to find time to do ALL the small little projects I want to do to make our place nice. Anyhow, after all that, I harvested a whole basket of green beans, 7 full length Japanese cucumbers, and a large zuchinni (oops!). I am loving the garden right now, it is full of food. Late summer is amazing!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Chick on the Jobsite

It hasn't happened very frequently in the last several years, since I became pregnant, and subsequently, a parent, but today I donned the tool belt, laden with tape measure, speed square, and other miscellaneous macho tools, and kicked it with the boys on the jobsite. The project for today: hang our long, 27-foot rafters, over the master suite section of the house.

It's actually quite hard work, schlepping 27-foot I-joists around, each of which required a plumb cut on each end, attachment of some plywood scabs, and a level cut at the building end. There were 14 of them, and it took all morning just to do the cutting and hauling of all of them. I was beat by lunch, and sent Drew out to do the hanging after lunch. It dramatically changes the feeling of that section of the house already, giving a semi-permeable ceiling of wind-waggling joists, allowing fantasizing about what the room will be like when finished. Clerestory construction also began in earnest today.

If you'd like to see me in my construction getup, you can check out this link:

It's an old picture, but you get the idea!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

It Must Be August

It must be August, as we are roofing, and there are raspberries, and I have a whole crop of winter garden starts begging to be put in the ground immediately. We are eating fresh tomatillo salsa and cucumber salad, fresh strawberries in our breakfast cereal, and crisp green beans, lightly steamed with butter with our dinners. The zucchinis are out of control, and we are anxiously awaiting that first, garden-ripe, home-grown tomato, which I just noticed is beginning to yellow around its shoulders--AT LAST! We even have bell peppers and eggplants. There are pickles fermenting on the counter, and the fridge is full of produce from our garden and the local CSA. I hear that pears are ripe, too. It's not too far until the first apples, probably just a few weeks. My raised bed crops are poking their seed leaves above the soil, ready to get big before the nights cool down: arugula, beets, carrots, radishes, scallions, and spinach. It's amazing to me how the garden schedule really doesn't let up until it begins to rain in November. To keep food on the table, I need to continue to plant from February all the way through August, culminating with the garlic and winter wheat in October.

Regarding roofs, the crew just started raising rafters on the main house today. Earlier this week, they did most of the carport rafters, and they have been working on trimming the main beam, getting it ready to build the clerestory, which will support the north side rafters.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Big Beams

The building process has led to this: two solid days spent wrangling and getting all Egyptian with some large pieces of redwood. Jim Groeling found us these 10"x12" beams from his latest reconstruction project: taking apart Field's Landing. Field's Landing is a little unincorporated community south of Eureka, located on Humboldt Bay, and the wharf that our beams were a part of served as a way for redwood products to ship out of our area, and from the 1940's until 1951, Field's Landing was the last operating whaling port in the United States. Our beams were girders on the wharf.

A little mechanical brushing wiped away the salty flavor of the sea, and the tar from the spots where they rested on posts. They truly are gorgeous, with very tight grain. We are so grateful to have these amazing pieces of wood.

In the above photo, our crew wrestled with the shorter of the two, with a scaffold, a come-along, pulleys, webbing, and a static jin pole to maneuver it into position, before successfully lowering it onto the posts with metal buckets on top. Today, the crew decided that it would be easier and safer to lift the beam with the forklifts on the tractor, if I was willing to allow them to drive the tractor into the house. Well, I think that's all going to work out fine, I hope!