Sun Dog

Sun Dog 1-24-19

(Took that at sun set last night).


I love winter.

( I really do).

It gives me a chance to do things I normally don’t have time to do when I’m building houses.



80% finished with a book called Story Craft by John R. Erickson  on the topic of writing.   Came across an excerpt  last week called 8 Traits of Good Writers and said,  I have to get that book!  

The book is full of wisdom.

From the back of the book:

     “This book focuses on the vocation of the writer.   But it also works as a guide for anyone trying to find and live out his or her vocations, whatever they may be…”

     “John Erickson sets the table with the ingredients for honing one’s literary skills at any age.  The elements of good writing are masterfully presented and will be savored by his loyal following….”

So there’s that.


Bread making

This week  my  bread reading/ research has taken me deeper into the topic of ancient grains.  In the past, whenever I’ve heard words like “ancient grains”, my eyes would glaze over, I would think, yea, just another fad.

Not any more.

Processed, bleached flour that can sit on a shelf for months and months and not get rancid, can do that for a reason…It is sterile/devoid of life, then it is made stable with chemicals, synthetic vitamins and minerals.   Where as bread made with real flour, freshly ground from scratch is loaded,  loaded with real vitamins and minerals, and fiber, and flavor. 

As I sit here this morning, there is a loaf of  bread made from 100% freshly ground flour sitting on the kitchen counter made from spelt (3 cups)  rye (1 cup), 2 T of rapid rise yeast, 1 1/2 C water, 1 t salt,  and 4 T of honey.  (I soaked most of the spelt overnight in the water and 2 T of apple cider vinegar.  That is another topic for another day, (why soaking fresh grain is important).     What I liked about this experimental loaf, is it didn’t turn out dense, even though I didn’t use any white all-purpose baking poison flour.

And finally,  I  stumbled across an organic farmer  yesterday  who is growing several of these ancient grains in South Dakota.  Belle Valley Ancient Grains.

Here’s link to his website:

Check it out.  Tell him I sent you 🙂


Well, that’s a wrap.     DM







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Artisan bread making for a beginner

The smell of onion flakes, sour dough, caraway, black poppy and sesame seed is in the air….the darn stuff smells so good.

I am on a bread making kick (again).

For years my go-to recipe was a rye bread recipe my grandma taught me before she died.  She was one of those 5 loaves a week/ measure by feel/ use real lard /old school/ came from Germany when she was 19 kind of bakers.    I can still  see those loaves of rye bread cooling on her kitchen table.

The art of bread making is beginning to make just a little more sense this week.

There is definitely a learning curve.

I am interested in the big picture.

I want to know theory, not just be a slave to specific recipes.

I approach bread making the same way Vince Lombardi approached coaching football.

Start from the beginning.

Focus on the fundamentals.

“Mix some flour with enough water to form a dough, a touch of salt perhaps; shape it, bake it, the result is bread in it’s simplest, most fundamental form:

coarse, crusty

with rich true-spirited flavor

that one soon learns to love and crave.

       Everything else is extra; yeast, milk, oil, sweetening, eggs.  Extra to make bread more palatable, more “civilized”. more chewable and sliceable; yet in a way the extras only detract from the primitive simplicity of grain-tasting unyeasted bread.

The range of breads and other bakery goods is extra-ordinary, from the simplest flour-salt-water to the fanciest butter-eggs-milk-yeasted pastry…Yet basically it’s just you and the dough- ripening, maturing, baking, blossoming together.

from the Introduction to The Tassajara Bread Book


I’ve discovered the past several years,  an inner impulse  awakens inside of me  each fall to putter in the kitchen.   I’m secure enough in my masculinity to write about it.  For me, the kitchen is nothing more than a giant laboratory.  Cook books are no different than the blue prints I use to build a  house.  This impulse  tends to goes dormant once the weather warms up.  But come September, I start thinking about canning,  baking bread,   smoking meat,  butchering…

Ten years ago when I first started blogging, I became friends with a young woman who was a lawyer by day.  Found out she and I shared several interests besides blogging. She told me she had a single aunt she greatly admired who lived in the country at the end of a dirt road down in Missouri.  Aunt hunted,  chopped wood,  knew all of those self sufficient skills previous generations took for granted.   My young lawyer friend decided to come and pay us a visit.  Before she left,  she gifted me her personal copy of  The Tassajara Bread Book which I have been rereading this week.

My favorite memory of her visit was watching her shoot a pistol grip 12 gauge shot-gun multiple times in a row.   (I wanted to make sure she had a chance to make some lasting memories and connect with her country roots.) 😉

Just went and checked on my latest creation.

Bread is done:

Attempt #6 of sourdough rye bread

Thinking about my lawyer friend  made me think about that song by Hank Williams….Country Boy Can Survive  again, so I’ll tack that on at the end.

Any bread makers out there in the audience?

Any tips for someone just starting out?

Care to share a favorite recipe?

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Solstice Day After 2018

The house is full of microbial activity this morning, much more than normal.

I like that word….


Sauerkraut in the basement….

Bread raising in the oven.

A new batch of sour dough starter on top of the frig.

And a bottle of home made apple wine on the counter.   Neighbor to the North sent it home with me last night.

I have to make a confession….I opened the bottle of wine this morning and took a sip while I was working with the bread dough…. I’m not a big consumer of alcohol at this point. Got that out of my system before we were married, 40 years this coming April.  But both of us have been known to enjoy a sip now and then, especially  when there something to celebrate.

In this case,  I decided to celebrate the day after Solstice.

The shortest day of the year.

Couple of winters  ago, I stumbled across  several things that kept me from getting sucked into dark maw of a winter funk.  The Midwest is not exactly known for sunshine if you know what I mean…  Day after day of little or no sunshine can begin to take its tole….Even on an optimist  like myself.

On a hunch I invested in what I call   “happy lights. ”  Two full spectrum LED fixtures, that light up our kitchen like an operating room.  Can’t recommend them enough!


I was between projects on Thursday, so I decided to celebrate by attempting to make my first batch of sauerkraut.

Former co-worker of mine had given me a jar of home made kraut back in August.  Nothing like the store bought  stuff.  Thursday morning, after  cutting two heads of cabbage with a knife, not really knowing if there was a right or wrong way to cut it, I watched a couple of short videos on YouTube… only to discover, we actually own  an antique cabbage slicer I’ve never used.

It was hanging on the wall in our storage room as a decoration.   Once I dusted off the cobwebs and gave it a good cleaning….


Talk about efficient.


One last random tidbit.

I finished reading a book written by the wife and widow of Patrick Swayze  recently chronicling  their lives the last year or so of his life battling pancreatic cancer, and the next year or so after he was gone.

Her words  touched me deeply.

I decided to write her a thank you note and let her know.

I heard back from her last night.


Well, just got word my 2 eggs over easy are done, so going sign off.

Take care. DM


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I miss my cat.

Pretty sure the coyote’s got him.

He’s a neutered tomcat, so that impulse to travel the neighborhood  in search of love  was not there.

The longest he has ever been gone before this was  4 days.

Today is day eleven.

The night he went missing we could hear coyote’s hunting just a few hundred yards to the south of us in a cornfield.

Some of you know I mentioned on my other blog, there were live traps  recently placed in the ditch near our home.

I checked both of them several times…nope.

I grew up on a farm…we had your typical herd of barn cats.  Never got emotionally attached to any of them like I have been with this cat.  He was a Russian Blue.  Rescued him when he was a little kitten two years ago.

Originally named him “Toodles”  

Can’t tell you how many times I have stuck my head out the door to call him,  wake up in the morning thinking, maybe today is the day, he will be back, scratching on our front door to come in for a snuggle.

I’m still processing.

I do have a couple of thoughts that console me.

First, he should have been dead two years ago.  Had I not stopped to rescue him,  pretty sure that would have been  the end of him that day.

Secondly, he LOVED being outside.  He was an out-door cat.  We locked him up a few weeks ago, in the garage while we had someone here treating a rat infestation.

That lasted one night.  He broke out a window.  Wasn’t having any of it.

And because he was an outdoor cat, who loved to hunt small birds, ground squirrels, mice, grasshoppers, you name it,  there was always a chance something would get him.

Better two years doing what he loved, than years and years, stuck in the house, as some de-clawed, depressed, shadow of a cat.

Doesn’t mean I don’t miss him.

I do.

Daughter and her family stopped last night before heading home after being in the area for Thanksgiving.  She was scrolling through the pictures on her phone showing us some photos from another family get-together.  One of the pictures showed her father-in-law sitting in his chair, with his favorite cat Larry on his lap. Granddaughter Addy told me, that Larry, loved to gently “knead” his paws against her grandpa’s arms when he held him.

Made me jealous.

Barron used to do the same thing.  I read it was a behavior cats sometimes do…it mimics what they do when they are little kittens wanting to nurse, trying to get their mother to let her milk down.

Barron (initially called “Toodles”) my missing tomcat.

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Just Because….

Too good to keep to myself. 🙂


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Trying to BEE Careful. Bee Hive update 9/2/2018

I am right in the middle of putting the apiguard

mite treatment in the bee hive.  (ie. 5 minutes ago)

I was standing there in my bee keepers suit.  Had the top off the hive, was filling the tray feeder with a fresh batch of sugar-water when BAM there was a big crack of lightning.

1001  10002      (then a flash).

Then 30 seconds later it started to pour.

Doing the math to calculate how close the lightning was, according to that link above, I took 2  seconds divided by 5 = means the lightning was 4 /10’s of a mile from me.




Soooooooooo,  I put the lid back on the hive and headed for the house, where I am now sitting until the rain lets up. ( I am still damp).   This is my first attempt @ using a mite treatment. ( This is just my second season with bees.)  Pretty sure one of the main reasons our honey bees didn’t make it last year was because of the lack of mite treatment.  Just a guess.

Wish I had a local bee keeper here to walk me through some of this stuff.

I had one super on the hive. (that is the box with frames in it you put on the hive for honey)

Well, you’re supposed to not have that on the hive when you treat for mites with the apiguard, because it will make the honey stink.  Wasn’t sure what to do with the hundreds (1000’s?) of bees hanging out on the frames.  Decided to take each frame out one by one, brush the bees off with a bee brush back into the main hive, and hope most of them stay put.

In order to keep the bees calm you’re supposed to blow a little smoke on the bees. I tried to find some burlap for the smoker,  (as per  AVWalters suggestion)

but couldn’t find any, and the pine needles are all wet.  I tried to generate enough smoke with the newspaper and cotton seed fiber I have on hand. What a joke.  Smoked for 20 seconds, then felt like I was trying to calm down a hoard of barbarians who would at any second realize, I the intruder of their inner sanctuary was standing right outside their hive unarmed.  The tone of the hive (the pitch of their buzzing sound, went from calm to agitated pretty quick.

Planning to go to my first local bee keepers meeting in two weeks.  It won’t be soon enough.

I read (and was told) this is the time to treat for mites in our area.

Maybe I will finish tonight, and maybe I won’t. 😉

2018 bee hive.



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Already there is the hint of Fall in the air.

The Ginger-golds (my personal favorite) are picked and in the cooler.  The Cortland’s will be ready to pick this week. Already the earliest ones have started to drop.  The Japanese beetle plague is winding down.  The morning fog has been making an appearance for the past couple of weeks….the cool morning temps combined with the warmer earth temperatures….love, love, love the effect, especially in the valleys, and around some of the farmsteads on my way to work.  (See picture of blog header/ that is a view to my east @ the top of the hill.)

This morning as I went out to check on the bees, I noticed already at 7 AM a flurry of activity around the hive. When I attended the bee keeping class two winters ago, our teacher commented that honeybees tend to be sleepy heads…don’t really see too much activity until 9:30 or 10.  Well,  my girls must be the exception then, because they were hard at it at 7 AM.

While I was standing a safe distance away from the hive (hoping to take a short video clip)  an agitated squirrel was making his feelings known about me just over the deer fence in the wind break.  Could not see him…looked for his shaking tail…but he was too well hidden.

I’ve noticed something about the pumpkin blossoms this year, more so for some reason than previous years… when I step out in the morning they are in full glory, but by mid morning (or when it starts to heat up) the flowers close up.  There has got to be a spiritual, or life lessons in them ..(maybe multiple lessons), I just haven’t cracked the code (yet).

The tomato harvest this year has been a little sparse.  I grow two varieties.  Amish Paste (which are large  Roma’s )  and Brandy wines.   My sister first turned me on to the Brandy wine several years ago.   An heirloom tomato…large, beautiful and prolific.  I save their seeds each season.  It’s one of the simple harvest rituals that keeps me grounded and engaged .  Doing that makes me think of sustainability.

I’m a reader.  One of my favorite books growing up was the Lord of the Rings series….So  I tend to have thoughts about hobbits and Middle earth flitting through my brain whenever I have any dealings with the Brandy wines.  Something about the name makes me think of the Shire.

When I first stepped out side this morning, I could hear crows.  I love the sound of crows.   They are one of my favorite creatures I get to share the neighborhood with.

I’ll close with a video I uploaded on You tube a few years ago.



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