Thursday, September 28, 2006

Somehow I Don't See the Logic

Early this week my partner and I took a trip down to central Illinois to visit her family. Most of the land is occupied by corn and soybeans, which seems unfortunate given the fertile quality of the soil. It seems like more of the land could be devoted to food for us rather than for subsidized crops for livestock feed, high fructose cornsyrup, hydrogenated soybean oil, and other similar products that are poisoning us. Anyhow, as we were driving down a state highway outside of McLean, Illinois I came across these mind-boggling signs set up in sequence.

According to their website there are more of these signs scattered around (especially central Illinois). Best of all, they are asking for more ideas for creating more signs. Still, I fail to see any logic whatsoever in these signs. It's like saying the more cars we have on the highway the less accidents we will have.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Autumn Has Come To The NorthWoods

Today was a typical autumn day here in northern Wisco, high in the lower sixties and another freeze advisory tonight. I've seen a few flock of geese flying south and the deer are turning from brown to gray. The squirrels are burying nuts and although I haven't seen an for a couple weeks, I'm sure the black bear are fattening themselves up. As for my preparations; continue chopping wood, can some more apples, get the sugarbush ready for spring, and enjoy as many pleasant days outside as possible. That's exactly what I did today. I got a chance to go hiking and enjoy the crisp autumn air. The leaves are changing colors, but because we have had a severe drought this summer, they are not as brilliant as they typically are.

I was even lucky enough to find some oyster mushrooms on an aspen log. I fried them up in a little butter and enjoyed them with orzo and some local broccoli. What a treat.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Old Ways Can Still Be The Most Enjoyable

I inherited an old coffee grinder and drip coffee maker from my grandfather a little over a year ago, and I haven't used an electric coffee grinder since. I can still remember the first time I used it. My partner and I were heading back to Idaho from New York. My grandfather gave me the grinder in Illinois when we stopped to visit. Anyhow, we picked up some organic Mexican coffee beans in Jamestown, North Dakota earlier that day. We stopped at an old abandoned school on highway 13 just south of Wolf Point, Montana for a snack and to brew some coffee (a lesson for any coffee drinker driving through the plains-bring your own, there are very few coffee shops. Several times I tried to muscle down the free coffee I got when I filled up my gas tank, but could never finish a whole cup.) We ground the beans in the grinder and heated some water on the coleman stove. I gotta say, the grinding of coffee creates a much better cup than the chopped beans from home grinders. Plus the beans can stay fresher by not grinding them at the store in advance. Or if you're like me and find yourself living for days or months out of your car or without electricity, a non electric grinder is fantastic. The following is my coffee procedure:
Grind the Beans in the Grinder.
Place the grounds in the filter.
Pour hot water into the chamber. The water drips through tiny holes into the grounds. Then it's ready to drink.

I have really been into collecting non-electric appliances (oil lamps, waffle iron, grain mill, etc. perhaps more on these in the future). The Lehmans store has a lot of great items for sale. I had the chance to visit last year (the same NY-Idaho trip) and was really impressed. My wish list item is a cider press. I'm still up to my eyeballs in apples so cider would be a great way to make use of them.

Friday, September 15, 2006

More Productive Neighborhood Foraging

I had another successful fruit harvest yesterday. The wild plums were beginning to fall off the branches because of the couple frosts that we had, so I picked a lot of underipe ones. They will still make good jam. I experimented with a small batch of grape-plum jam yesterday. I used local black concord grapes and my wild plums. For a sweetener I used Cascadian Farm grape juice concentrate. I also surrendered to using a natural pectin from the food co-op. I have a recipe to make my own pectin from apples, but I haven't tried it yet. As for the jam? After much boiling down I ended up with 4 pints of delicious, thick yet tart jam.

Anyhow, I really encourage people to try neighborhood foraging. The results are wonderful- delicious food at no cost, becoming familiar with your neighborhood, and sometimes a good conversation starter because someone will ask what you are doing. Here are some foraging tips:

1. If you live in a rural area, pay attention to the landscape as you drive to town. Look for abandoned homesteads. Almost all farms and old homes had orchards and gardens to provide food for themselves. Chances are you will find an apple tree. Plum trees and cherry trees are also common. Rhubarb patches and asparagus patches also can be found often next to old barns.

2. If you live in town, alleys are the best bet. Look for older neighborhoods with large backyards. When I lived in Sandpoint, ID the alleys were like a cafeteria-Bing cherries, grapes, raspberries, apples, plums, even nectarines. People often have old fences between their yard and the alley so bushes and vines often grow up which may contain fruit. Fruit trees often hang into the alley which makes the fruit up for grabs. I have even had the owners come out and tell me it was okay to come in their yard and harvest the tree because they weren't going to do anymore picking.

3. Pay attention to the trees when visiting parks and cemeteries. These are often good for nut trees.

If anyone has any other tips please let me know. As I always tell myself-it's a shame to see all of that food go to waste, especially when so much food gets shipped into the town from hundreds of miles away. Foraging is a sure fire way to eat local.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Primary Day in Wisconsin

Today on the way home from work I stopped at the Keystone Town Hall to place my primary votes. The ballots are still paper with a pen to mark the little circles. I felt like I was taking a standardized test. In Wisconsin one must pick a party and only vote for candidates in that party. So I only focused on the Democrats that were running for office. Here were the choices I had and my picks in bold:

Attorney general:
Kathleen Falk and Incumbent Peggy A. Lautenschlager

US Senate:
Incumbent Herb Kohl and Ben Masel (I emailed Kohl after he gave Bush the go-ahead for the war and told him I would not vote for him-I'm making a point)

Secretary of State:
Incumbent Doug La Follette and Scot Ross

74th Assembly:
Incumbent Gary Sherman was unopposed

State Senate District 25
Incumbent Bob Jauch and Gary Kauther

Bayfield County Sheriff:
Incumbent Bob Follis and Mark Pope

There were also a handful of Democrat incumbents for local offices that were unopposed.

The two races that may be close are the Attorney General race and our local sheriff race.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Wonderful Apple Harvest

This year is shaping up for a great apple harvest here in the northland. The orchards are doing much better than the last few previous years. The wild apple crop is pretty good too-which of course is what I take advantage of. About a qurter of a mile from my house, past the catholic church, is an old farmstead. One can still make out some old barns or sheds, but no decent buildings still stand. There is however, about a dozen apple trees and numerous plum trees. This weekend I set out with a bag, five gallon bucket, and my camera. Although the orchard is not maintained and overgrown it has some great fruit.

Within no time I had a bucket full of apples and a bag full of plums. I guess I'll have to go back for more later.

Ah, but the fun doesn't stop there. The best part of wild foraging is preserving the bounty. Today the specialty was an apple-plum spread. I took a bunch of the small tart apples, cut them in half and boiled them with some plums. Then I pushed the contents through a sieve to get a nice thick pulp. I then cooked the pulp with about two cups of honey and a cup of maple sugar until I got a lovely thick red sauce.
After getting burnt a couple of times from the spattering sauce, I put the spread into jars and put them in the water bath.
And finally the finished product.
I had some on my toast tonight and it came out pretty well. I may have some holiday gifts to pass out after all.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Hunting for Agates on Minnesota's North Shore

Lake Superior has some of the most scenic coast line I've seen. This weekend I made a trip north of Duluth to do some hiking and beach combing. Beaver Bay is an ideal place to hunt for agates.

Much of the time I just spent sitting on some drifwood watching the waves and looking for agates among the stones.

Within a few minutes I had a few agates and other interesting stones to take home and put in my polisher.

Emma enjoyed playing fetch with sticks and trying to herd the waves.

A few miles to the south is a picturesque lighthouse called Split Rock.

Now if I can just get up to the Boundary Waters this year I'll be happy.

Labels: , ,

Friday, September 01, 2006

My Letter From Senator Craig of Idaho

Several months ago when the whole NSA wire tapping was breaking, I emailed my Senator at the time, Larry Craig, who is a conservative Republican and voiced my concerns on privacy. Idaho is known for its strong conservative values, but many of the residents are very unhappy with the violations of privacy issues. You know, they actually believe in small government. Those wacky conservatives. Who ever gave them the idea that the GOP party stood for small government....oh wait. Anyhow I tried to make my letter sound like it was from a regular good ol' boy who was 'skeered' the Government was invading my privacy and perhaps would be after my guns. Here was his response.

September 1, 2006

Quinn Andreas
Sandpoint, Idaho 83864

Dear Quinn:

Thank you for contacting me about the electronic surveillance program run by the National Security Agency (NSA), which has been criticized for collecting information about U.S. persons within the United States, without obtaining a warrant or court order. I appreciated hearing from you and apologize for the delay in my response.

The President's first priority is to protect and defend our country against our enemies. Congress also granted the President special authority to act decisively with regard to engaging those responsible for the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. It is the position of the President and his advisors that the NSA program is fully supported by his constitutional authority, federal law, and this Congressional authorization.

However, on August 17, a federal judge ruled that the NSA's actions violated the First and Fourth amendments to the Constitution, as well as the doctrine of separation of powers. It remains to be seen if and how this issue is settled by the courts through the appeal process.

Meanwhile, several different bills relating to the NSA program are working their way through the Congress. There are options to increase oversight over the program, force judicial review of it, amend various aspects of it, or specifically authorize it in federal law. It is expected that in September, legislation along these lines will be considered by the Senate Judiciary Committee, followed by the Senate Intelligence Committee. It is unclear whether such legislation will reach the Senate floor for a vote before Congress adjourns for the elections.

Complicating legislative action is the fact that many specifics about the NSA's operations are classified and cannot easily be probed and discussed, even if members of Congress felt that was appropriate in a time of war.

Because many different legal and political cross-currents could influence the development of this issue, it is simply not possible to predict what options I will have to cast a vote or provide input. However, I can tell you generally what my concerns are: First of all, in matters of national security, I want the President to have the authority to act immediately to protect our country against our enemies. From what we know to date, his approval of the NSA program does not constitute misconduct or warrant sanctions; despite the court ruling, even legal experts disagree as to the extent of his authority in this particular instance.

That said, I am wary of giving our intelligence agencies carte blanche in the name of fighting terrorism. The Constitution cannot simply be waived or ignored by federal authorities when its restrictions become inconvenient, and the President cannot unilaterally shift the balance of power just because the constitutional process for making such changes is difficult. Last year, I took a stand against certain provisions of the PATRIOT Act that I felt unnecessarily threatened the civil liberties of innocent Americans, and I succeeded in gaining changes in the law to avoid that harm without hindering legitimate law enforcement operations. I would not hesitate to take such action again in this case, if it becomes necessary.

In any event, you can be sure that I will continue to follow this issue closely and will keep your comments in mind. Again, thank you for contacting me about this critically important issue. Please let me know whenever I can be of further assistance to you in the U.S. Senate.


United States Senator


There you have it. If you can believe what he says, even Bush supporters will bend so far. I love his line "The Constitution cannot simply be waived or ignored by federal authorities when its restrictions become inconvenient, and the President cannot unilaterally shift the balance of power just because the constitutional process for making such changes is difficult." We need to pressure all of Congressmen to stand up to Bush and remind them of upholding the Constitution.