Monthly Archives: September 2008

Down she goes!

The blog was down starting yesterday afternoon sometime until now (if you didn’t notice, never mind…all is well). I host the blog on a machine in my office and someone here at the shop changed a router or something and kicked me offline. I have sufficiently beat them and all is well again. Sorry for the screw up!

Wooly worm

Wooly worm

If the tradition of the wooly worm is correct, we are in for a hard winter based on this one observation.  I found this little guy outside this weekend.  The tradition says that the black represents periods of hard winter and the rust color represents mild winter periods.  All black sounds pretty rough to me!  I love to pick up wooly worms and watch them curl in my hand.  The kids are pretty shaky on bugs and critters so they don’t often touch them.  The poor things, they don’t know what they are missing.  Fortunately, they do fully understand how to “get a good dirt on”.  We’ll have to work on bugs I guess.  Maybe we can ponder them around the fire this winter…

World’s Strongest Man

Keg toss

The World’s Strongest Man competition was in Charleston the past two weeks and drew quite a few folks to see the event. We watched the keg toss qualifying last weekend and tried to watch the plane pull in the finals this weekend. The guys who compete in these events are absolutely enormous and very intense. They were great with the crowds though so it was a good bit of fun. Charleston was showcased and the fans were fantastic…everyone was cheered regardless of where they came from. It was hard not to cheer for the guys performing these incredible tasks. Anyhow, my only complaint was at the plane pull.

Keg toss

The athletes were to pull a C-130 plane at the national guard air base. We waited for an hour after it was supposed to start on the scorching tarmac and they still hadn’t harnessed anyone to the plane.

Plane pull

There was no water and no excuse for not starting close to on time. Photo ops and warm-ups should have been done ahead of time. Ok, rant over. Still, it was neat to be at the airport to see the huge planes and the large crowd. Our local boy, Phil Pfister placed 4th overall this year after winning in 2006.

Monkeys?

Isaac the monkey

We had a family reunion last weekend and apparently we are descended from monkeys…My kids and their uncle shimmied up and down the lally columns in the basement of the house in which we met.  Isaac has always been a climber so he had no trouble.

Abigail the monkey

Abigail is definitely more hesitant but that’s her nature.  I am not sure about uncle though.  He looks natural in the picture but I can’t speak to his pole climbing experience.  Anyhow, we had a lot of fun at the reunion.  I am not sure if families do this much any more.  A monkey's uncle?

My grandpa’s people (there were 8 brothers and sisters that survived into adulthood) used to get together once a year.  All 200 or so cousins would goof around on the farm, swim in the pool, drink way too much pop from the fountain machine…you know, kids’ stuff.  Anyow, as the number of original brothers and sisters dwindled (my grandpa is the last at 94!), the reunion shrank significantly.  I am partly to blame as I didn’t make the trip back home.  Still, I wonder if it is a fading tradition.  Well, this new reunion is going strong and we surely enjoy attending.  My kids get to be monkeys just like I used to be.  I have learned though…no free soda fountain!

Tomato Press

Clean tomato press

If you grow tomatoes, you have to get a tomato press (aka food mill). We used to freeze tomatoes, let them defrost a little, then with numb fingers, slip the skins off and chop them up. This method works fine but oh my heck there is a better way! We found this Velox Tomato Press on the clearance rack at an Ace hardware for $15.00! It’s mostly plastic/nylon but appears to be pretty rugged. For $15.00, if it lasted me a season I figured I was way ahead. Anyhow, we attach the vacuum base to the glass stove top (which we hate, btw) and set up a big bowl to catch the good stuff and a plate to catch the skins and seeds. We quarter the tomatoes and drop them in the hopper. I grind them once, then take the skins/seeds/etc and run them through again. There is a ton of juice/pulp to be had on the second processing so don’t miss this part.

1st run tomato press

I suppose that this $15 tool has reduced our tomato-processing-time by 90% plus we can feel our fingers when we are done! We do tend to make a bit of a mess as tomatoes squirt and squish all over but it is no worse then when we did it by hand. If you are on the fence as to whether the $50 (normally) is worth it, I’d say YES!

tomato press after a lot of use

Edit:  Sorry…for some reason, comments were turned off for this post.  That should be fixed now…

My excellent wife!

Paul Morris Character Educator of the year

I posted about this earlier this Summer but Emily was awarded the Paul Morris Character Educator of the Year for the state of WV. She was formally presented the award yesterday and we attended a recognition dinner last night. There are some links here and here that talk about her and the award.  I know she hates the pictures and all of the attention but she is a great counselor and a great wife and I am super proud of her!

Capitol of WV

WV Capitol

A while back we took a visit to the WV Capitol grounds and were able to tour and take pictures of the area (and play a little soccer on the grounds).  The Capitol building is imposing at 535,000 square feet but sits upon a magnificient grounds of proportional size.  The exterior is made of Indiana limestone and the majority of the interior is marble.  What we all noticed is how beautiful the golden dome is.  It turns out to be covered in 3 inch squares of gold leaf over copper and lead.

WV Capitol

WV Capitol

It’s amazing!  In its current form and location, the capitol was built between 1924 and 1932 at a cost of $10 million.  Inside, there are numerous offices but also several displays taken from the exhibits in the nearby WV Cultural Center.  We saw displays on shoes and walking sticks (much more interesting than it sounds) and talked to the folks stuck working on a Saturday when we visited.  It’s really an interesting place to walk through, especially on weekends when it is not busy. We saw tons of beautiful bits of artwork formed into the building as well as incredible craftsmanship around the rotunda area.

Bell at WV Capitol

Some folks say it is overdone and wasteful but I think it beautifully illustrates that good government should be beautiful and strong, neither extravagant nor cut to the bone.  Meh, I won’t get all political here, but I think the Capitol building is a beautiful symbol of WV!

More green

Green Cayennes

Well, yesterday’s post was about bad green. Actually, green is my favorite color and there are tons of green things that I have snapped pics of this summer. These greens are much better than Soylent green.
Green bug on black locust

Humans have three types of color receptors in the eye.  Basically, they are for sensing red, green, and blue.  In general, humans are most sensitive to greenish wavelengths.  I suppose that is why greens seem so vivid (or is it just me?).  I used to do some physiological research on various critters, among them, zebrafish.  Zebrafish have four sensor types and are most sensitive to UV.  I wonder what their favorite color is…
Green zucchini pickles

I guess I am sort of glad, but also bummed that a camera just rarely seems to capture colors as vividly as they are in real life.  I guess that’s one of the things that makes the moment so special.
Green sunflower
Green Hillside

This hillside is outside my office and has been very interesting to watch evolve in color through the summer.  Right now, there are plants that are turning bright red and goldenrod has also really cropped up.  Green dominates but the hillside is alive with color!

My favorite green!

This is my favorite green…I am trying to avoid caffeine and drink more water and milk so it’s rare that I get to enjoy any of this nectar…so sad…

Soylent Green

Soylent Green Movie Poster

Emily and I watched on old 1973 movie called Soylent Green starring Charleton Heston.   The movie is set in the year 2022 when the Earth is overcrowded and polluted. People are forced to scrape by with little to eat except Soylent food wafers which come in various colors including green.  Nearly all food products are made by the Soylent corporation which basically owns the world because of its importance.  It has a wierd twist at the end and the line Charleton Heston delivers was provided to me in another context by a friend which is what made me originally watch this movie (I’ll say no more).

The cool thing about the movie is that it made me think on two separate topics.  First, I wonder if we are headed down the same general road of overcrowding, pollution, disassociation from our food, etc.  There are large corporations that genetically modify food/seeds/etc to increase viability, production, and whatever else they can.  At the same time, they may be introducing a monoculture future where varieties of corn and beets and peppers, etc are non-existent. With reduced genetic diversity comes danger.  These corporations are also holders of the patents for these seeds/genetic variations which may give them additional power over what is available to us to eat in the future.

Secondly, I wonder how the human race ever survived the 1970s.  Older movies highlight hair styles and clothes and make me wonder how people were able get past how goofy they looked so they could procreate.  It amazes me.  Of course, I am a 1970s child and the fact that my parents procreated even further horrifies me (though, for my sake, I am glad they did).  I can write no more…

Cicadas

Cicada in the backyardCicadas go through life cycles where they appear in adult form every 2 to 17 years.  Most of their lives they live underground and are harmlessly out of the way.  As I understand it, this year was the time for the 17-year-between-adults type to hatch in WV.  Sure enough, we have had a bunch of them.  The big hatch where they molt and leave their dried, older shells everywhere occurred earlier this year.  I am not sure how long the adults remain, laying their eggs and such, but they are still active in great number.  Cicadas are harmless, except I think they can make a person deaf if proper hearing protection is not worn.  We had one land on our kitchen door the other night while Emily and I were doing something.  It started its “song” and nearly drove us from the room.  I went around outside and was able to record the racket it was making for your listening pleasure. 

I don’t think this recording does the volume justice, but it goes on constantly in the evenings.  Really, they are fun to watch bumble through the air.  They are harmless, crazy, prehistoric-looking bugs that the kids are almost brave enough to try and catch.  I always enjoy hearing them is some ways as it is a definite sound of summer!

[audio:http://www.MyHomeAmongTheHills.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/09/cicada-on-the-kitchen-door-2.mp3]