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Archive for the ‘learning’ Category

Posting from: Philipsburg, MT
Listening to: Carole King, I Feel the Earth Move

I am rarely sick, but when I am I find myself craving miso soup like nobody’s business. Unfortunately, I have never actually lived near miso soup, and as best I can tell I currently live almost an hour and a half away from my closest miso soup vendor. I have tried packets of instant miso soup with no satisfaction. I recently issued a desperate plea for help which was answered by M.R. Jarrell who pointed me to Alton Brown’s miso soup recipe and the dashi recipe required to keep it 100% from scratch. I made a couple of modifications to turn it into the miso soup I’ve always wanted but never had. All the variations I’ve had were good, but either lacked mushrooms or contained tofu or both.

Here is what I turned out with step-by-step instructions. I was able to find all the ingredients at the Good Food Store in Missoula, MT.

Dashi
Ingredients:
2 (4-inch) square pieces kombu
2 1/2 quarts water
1/2-ounce bonito flakes

Directions:
Put the kombu in a saucepan (at least 4-quart) or stock pot, cover with the water and soak for 30 minutes.

Heat on medium until the water reaches 150 to 160 degrees F and small bubbles appear around the sides of the pan, 9 to 10 minutes.

Remove the kombu from the pan. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil, 5 to 6 minutes.

Reduce the heat to low and add the bonito flakes. Simmer gently, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes.

Strain through a fine mesh strainer lined with muslin or several layers of cheesecloth.

Miso Soup
Ingredients:
2 quarts dashi
6 tablespoons dark or red miso
2 tablespoons light or white miso
4 scallions, thinly sliced
5-6 mushrooms thinly sliced
toasted nori strips

Directions:
If cool, heat the dashi over medium-high heat. If still hot, let the dashi cool. When the dashi reaches 100 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer, ladle 1 cup into a small bowl.

Add the miso, and whisk until smooth. Do a good job here so your final product doesn’t come out lumpy.

Bring the remaining dashi to a bare simmer, approximately 10 minutes. Add the miso mixture and whisk to combine.

Return to a slight simmer, being careful not to boil the mixture. Add the mushrooms and scallions and cook for another minute or until heated through.

Add a few toasted nori strips to the bottom of each soup bowl.

Remove from the heat, ladle into bowls and serve immediately.

I found this miso soup to be much more delicious than any of the instant packets I’ve tried and comparable to any restaurant version. The main differences I found were that this one was slightly less salty than restaurant versions I’ve had, not necessarily a bad thing, and when I had a second bowl I noticed a fair number of lumps. I’m not sure if those would have been solved by more whisking before adding the miso mixture to the soup, or if those happened because the soup had cooled a bit. Overall, I am very happy with the final product, and I will definitely be making it again.

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Posting from: Missoula, MT
Listening to: Something classical and pretty

Here’s a little garden update from my pantry. All my plants are still indoors.

This Siberia Tomato plant was doing well until it started producing. At last count there are seven fruits on it. Now many of the leaves are dying although there is a new vine growing well from the base of the plant. I moved it to a larger pot a few days ago so hopefully that will save it. Any other ideas?
Siberia Tomato- Productive but Dying?

My Brandywine Tomato plant is doing quite nicely and is finally producing fruit. You can see three small tomatoes here.
Brandywine Tomatoes

I picked up two strawberry plants from Walmart and so far they are doing well. I still have a bunch to plant assuming they are not yet dead. They came in bags and are currently in my refrigerator. I have no idea what they look like.
My First Strawberry Plants

I have spearmint, five or six varieties of tomatoes, and several Little Finger carrots sprouting.
Spearmint and Tomatoes Sprouting
Little Finger Carrots Sprouting

My two habanero plants continue to thrive with lots of blossoms and tiny new fruits. No pictures of those yet. I also have onion bulbs and some potatoes that need to be planted. My major deficiency at the moment is that I need to plant lettuce/greens. I want to keep some of these indoors so I can have homegrown salad year-round.

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Posting from: Missoula, MT
Listening to: The Merry Macs, Mairzy Doats

I am putting together my garden plans for the upcoming season and getting ready to start seeds indoors. I will be giving the Square Foot Gardening technique a whirl. I have all the materials purchased to build two 4X4 square foot gardens with trellises for vertical growing in the back row of each. I have modified a design I found in that book to make it as disassemblable as possible for easy winter storage. Hopefully, when I get to building the things, I will be able to post a material list, a line-item list of what it all cost, instructions, and step-by-step pictures of how to do it.

So far I have seeds for six varieties of heirloom tomatoes plus deals to trade for one more tomato variety and a lettuce variety. I also have mustard seed that I didn’t get planted last season. This year I would also like to add spinach, some potatoes, strawberries, more greens, possibly pickling cucumbers, maybe some green beans, turnips, carrots, maybe some onions, possibly corn, a small melon of some sort, possibly a pumpkin variety, and some more pepper varieties (I have two healthy habanero plants).

The tomato varieties I have are:
Siberian Tomato
Black from Tula Tomato
Silvery Fir Tree Tomato
Giant Syrian Tomato
Italian Heirloom Tomato
Hillbilly Potato Leaf Tomato

If anyone would like to trade seeds, please post a comment about what you have and/or what you want. This is an effort in increased self-sufficiency so I am really only interested in heirloom seeds. I am not interested in copyrighted or patented food that I can’t propogate.

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Posting from: Missoula, MT

Last weekend, in commemoration of the inauguration of our next gungrabber-in-chief, I participated in an Obama Inauguration Commemorative Shooting Match- OInC for short. Most of the participants found it tougher than they expected, but I was very pleased with my results even though I didn’t have a qualifying target.

You had to have five consecutive hits on a 9-inch paper plate target from 100 meters. Alternatively, you could enter the cheater category wherein you only had to get five hits on a target of any size. I didn’t understand the cheater category was not five consecutive hits so I didn’t end up with a qualifying target before the deadline.

Out of ten shots, I put three on my targets from 100 meters which were bigger than the paper plate targets by a few inches in each direction. This was only my third time shooting any rifle, and only my second time shooting my own rifle so I was pretty happy that I hit my targets at all.

Here is a photo of the paper plate targets taken from the firing line roughly 100 meters away:
Targets at 100 Meters (Roughly)

Here is a picture of my targets (I thought the bright colors would be easier than white paper plates against a snowy background):
My Targets

Here I am attempting to hit them while wearing my Jayne Cobb hat (courtesy of the woman not to be referred to as Mrs. Fungusmunkey):
Channeling Jayne

Interestingly, I got twice as many hits on the target while channeling Jayne via my hat as I did when not wearing it. I was shooting a Mosin-Nagant Model M-44 with Czechoslovakian 1964 7.62x54r Hollow Core Short Range ammo.

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Posting from: Philipsburg, MT
Listening to: Eastmountainsouth, Winter

I just want to turn my damned heater off. The fan runs nearly constantly. It does shut off occasionally, but by what algorithm it chooses to do so I have no knowledge. Here’s all I have in this rental house as a temperature control:

Temperature Out of Control

At my house in Arizona, I have a switch that let’s me choose Cool, Heat, Fan Only or Off altogether. When I use the heater in Arizona, if the temperature drops below my setting, the heater kicks on. If it is above my setting, the heater turns off. That is what I want here. I would be happy if it is warmer than 65 in here, if I’m getting that for free such as via the sun through my south windows.

However, my heater doesn’t seem to allow that. With the exception of the mysterious random shutoffs, if the house temperature is below my setting of 65, it blows hot air. If the house temperature is above 65 IT BLOWS COLD AIR. >:-( It is about 25 F outside right now. If I get too hot inside WHICH I WON’T!, I could just open the window for five minutes. Instead, I am sitting here at my dining room table with the fan blowing cold air on me unless I turn up the heat so it will blow hot air on me. This is a huge waste of energy and money. I just want to turn it off. Does anyone know what it would take for me to do this? I am in a rental house and don’t want to replace the thermostat if I don’t have to, but I am now seriously considering this.

Here’s what it looks like inside. Does this tell me anything useful?

Not Intel Inside

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The idea that I am somehow incompetent at things Montana-ish, country-like, and rural-fied because I grew up in and have pretty much always lived in an urban setting is quickly falling by the wayside. Once I get one winter in Montana under my belt, I should have it licked completely.

For the past few days, I had the fun of livestock-sitting seven goats, five ducks and somewhere between 30 and 40 chickens while living in an off-grid house in the mountains powered by a generator and heated by wood stove. I barely used any electricity, never let my fire go out, lost no animals on my watch, and slept cozily by the stove on the floor with just a couple of blankets between me and the concrete (I had the option of a bed upstairs, but I love a firm mattress and this was perfect!).

I came prepared to be snowed in for a couple of days, but that didn’t happen. That was fortunate because one of the homeowners was driving back a big moving van full of furniture and other stuff (e.g. several hundred pounds of his rock collection) which he and I then moved up the mountain the next day. We didn’t think it was a good idea to try and drive the moving van all the way up given the unmaintained road conditions, so he drove it halfway up and we ferried everything the rest of the way up the mountain in the back of his truck and moved it into the house. In the rain. And wind. And mud. And the last load we moved in the dark.

Hopefully, in a few days I will be helping butcher a large, four-legged mammal. That should put another nail in this coffin.

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I have learned, mostly from others but a little from experience, some important things about winter in Montana (or apparently anywhere else where winter does not normally include sunny days with highs in the upper sixties or lower seventies):

1. When possible, walk on dirt instead of snow, snow instead of ice.

2. When walking on ice, do not push off at an angle with your foot as you normally would. Instead, lift it vertically off the ground, move it forward through the air and set it back down vertically.

3. Twenty degrees isn’t that cold in still air. Forty degrees with a breeze can be downright fucking chilly.

4. Even if it’s not that cold out, you will learn not to parade around in a short-sleeved t-shirt without a sweater or jacket the first time you get locked out or stuck somewhere for three hours without more layers.

5. Go outside and start your car. Then go back inside and get your things together. This will save you from sitting in the car for five or ten minutes freezing your ass off while the car warms up and the windshield defrosts.

6. Do not crank up the defrost and blow it on maximum speed on your windshield. Warm it up slowly.

7. If you are driving in snow and start to slip, do not gun the engine or you will probably dig in where you are and your tires will just spin in place. Just keep moving forward slowly and your tires will probably regain traction shortly thereafter.

8. An engine block heater is a good alternative to leaving your car running for two weeks straight when the temperature dips below -20 F.

9. There’s nothing like wood heat.

10. It’s easier to stay warm than to warm back up once you’ve gotten cold.

11. There is no reason for beer to take up space in the refrigerator in the winter. Just put it outside.

Please add your tips in the comments below.

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