Archive for November, 2012

More photogenic chickens at NYT

November 26, 2012

The NYT just can’t resist photo-ops involving people demonstrating their affection to chickens:

ImageThere’s a sad story attached to this one – some folks got flooded out in Sandy, and their search for a temporary place to live is complicated by the need to house their pet hens –


The birch of Damocles; thinning south of the orchard

November 25, 2012

After the last storm blew through, someone in Five Islands noticed that a birch tree just to the west of the orchard had partially crumpled about 20′ up, and leaned over into a tall maple tree to the south, where it threatened to crash down on the orchard fence.  So while I was up for the holiday, Dave and I pulled it down and added it to the firewood pile.

The leaning tree was perhaps 14″ at the butt, one of a cluster of three, and all of them were dead or dying – we’d been watching them for some time, but obviously should have acted sooner.  We winched the two west-facing trunks downhill with a rope-a-long into a slot we cut in the underbrush, then skidded them out to the firewood area opposite from Um and Pops’ house.  The leaning tree was trickier – the trunk was flattened and bent maybe 15 degrees, with more than half of the fibers of the trunk broken.  The top was pretty well enmeshed in the maple it fell against, so it wasn’t likely to roll off to the west if we winched the whole tree that way; it could easily slide off to the east and crush the fence if we pulled the base out from under it.  There was enough dead wood in the top of the tree to make a serious headache for anybody standing too close to the base when it started moving. I considered just hooking the cable of the logging winch to the tree above the break and attempting to rip it off the lower trunk and drag it toward the northwest,but there was a chance that the lower trunk would force the top against the fence as it fell.  So we ended up with a hybrid approach, and in the end it worked out slick.  We put up a ladder and rigged chokers both above and below the break, and I put a little bit of tension on the cable.  Then Dave cut the tree at the base, leaving a hinge significantly stouter than normal, and cleared well out of the way.  Then I winched it over, with the chokers holding the two ends together after the wood broke, such that the whole mess just doubled up on itself and fell clear of the fence, landing with a big crash. It turned out the break corresponded to a giant hole that had been made by a pileated woodpecker, who was probably after ants in the soft core of the tree.

Then this morning we had an hour and a half free, so we went back over and started thinning in the woods across the stone wall to the south of the orchard, in preparation for finally putting up the woven wire fence to define the permanent southerly extent of the orchard.  We cut out a bunch of small maple and oak that had been topped over by the dominant trees; my thought is to thin down to the really nice specimens (mostly oak) closest to the fence, so as to let more light in, and then there are a bunch of nice maples a bit further south, so selectively thin that as sugarbush.  The route around the east side of the orchard is mostly high and dry, and gives good access to the woods to the south and further down the hill to the west, so someday we will probably use that access to improve the stand further afield.  But for now, keeping the orchard project moving forward is at least as much as I can handle in sparse free time.

The right way to make oatmeal for breakfast

November 20, 2012

A couple years back I figured out the right way to make oatmeal for breakfast.  The basic problem with oatmeal is that if you cook it in the usual way (boil water, add oats, stir it to keep it from burning as it gets increasingly thick), you end up with slimy glop.  Quick-cooking oats basically guarantee glop no matter what you do.  Steel-cut oats are one solution to the glop problem, but they take a long time to cook, and I’m not a hipster.  Some people cook them overnight in a thermos, but this requires way more forethought than I can muster regarding breakfast.

So here’s the deal.  Boil water in a teakettle (I’m doing this anyway to make a cup of tea). Put 1c (or however much you want) dry old fashioned rolled oats in a big (but still single-serving) ceramic bowl.  Optionally add chopped up apricots or whatever.  When the water boils, first pour the tea, then pour water over the oats until they’re just barely fluidized – not swimming around freely, but so the water breaks the surface of the flakes.  Then microwave for 2 mins.  It quickly comes to a boil; use a big bowl so it doesn’t overflow.  The exact time depends on the microwave.  On the microwave we have now, I actually hit the ‘1 min’ button, let it steep for a minute or so after it beeps, then hit the ‘1 min’ button again – just to be sure it doesn’t overflow.  If I bothered to figure out how to adjust the power level, I could avoid this.  The resulting oatmeal is not slimy in the least; the individual flakes are distinct, and there’s no extra pot to wash.

Try it – it works great.  I add a small hunk of salted butter and a splash of Five Islands maple syrup.

Related: check out David MacKay with a delightful series of kitchen experiments to determine the most efficient way to boil water:


Pics from cider year 8 at Holly’s blog

November 16, 2012

Holly wrote a much nicer writeup of this year’s cidering than mine: