Thursday, August 30, 2012

Rock of Goose

See the goose?  No?  See the rock?  It is the brown lump to the left of the bonfire pit.  Dancer looked out the slider door and there was a huge Canadian goose majestically standing all by itself in the yard.  When we opened the door to take a picture it quick sunk to the ground, put its head down and lay still like a rock. 

I didn't know that geese did that but it is pretty smart on their part.  It stayed like that for a long, long time.  We finally realized that the goose had a lot more patience for us to go back inside than we did for it to stand up so we went back inside. 

Later when we checked on him he was strutting around the yard, and even though he saw us, he must have thought we were safe because he didn't turn into a rock again.  He is gorgeous, I love when wildlife comes in the yard, well as long as it doesn't eat the garden. 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

State Fair

We headed down the fair bright, well not that bright we left before the sun was even up, and early Monday morning.  Dancer entered her needle arts project and her orientation judging time was 8:30.  That is early when you live over two hours away.  After the 10 minute orientation she gets her judging time of 9:45.  Wish they would tell you your time before you get there because if we had know that we could have left at a more civilized hour and drove into the sun or rush hour. We spent a good part of the day doing tons of walking and checking out all the sights until our feet told us it was time to go.   


The cutest grill ever, but at $1,700 we didn't bring it home. 

In the 4-H building they had a huge tray of water and corn starch.  If it was walked over quickly you came out easily on the other side.

Stand still and sink like you are in quick sand.  We have made this at home before but the amount they had in the tray, and in big bowls on the side, had to have taken a couple hundred pounds of corn starch.  I don't know where you would even get that much.

Beth earned a blue ribbon for her needle arts project.   
Spark building a Lego robot. 
Dancer finally got to try a falafel.  She has been trying for over a year to have one of these and I think this may have been her first and last falafel.  They were "okay" but not great.
The potato twisty thing we get every year.
The cutest bed bug ever.  If they were all this cute no one would mind if they invaded their house.
Two more bad bugs.  An odd thing for a cut out but I guess it did get people to pay attention to the message.
Another fun year at the fair! 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

National Dog Day

Nikki and her boy.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Eating Bugs

Fresh out of marinated, grilled crickets...

we settled for these instead.   Mini pretzel twists, a mini Reese's, mini M&Ms and a pretzel stick broken in two. 

Don't need to dare anyone to eat these bugs!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Indoor Goat

Desdemona is not what you would call a nature girl.  To get her to go outside we physically have to drag her over to the gate, push her out and quick shut it before she can get back past us into the barn.  The problem is that she is "over conditioned."   That is the nice way in animal talk of saying that she is fat, not what we want if she gets pregnant this year so she needs to get out and move a little.  That's all we ask, just a little.

She hates being outdoors so much that when we put her out two days ago we came out later to find that she had some how squeezed her over conditioned body through the side of the gate and was laying asleep in front of her pen.   The next day we shoved her outside and we put an extra latch on the door so that there would be no way she could get back in.  She found a way.  Her pen door had been left open and when we went out to the barn she was back in her house. 

Dad made some more changes to the gate so she is going back out tomorrow.  That is if we can get her out.  She is on to us, when we go out to the barn she runs to the other side of her pen and will only look out the middle door.   Maybe we will have to put a treadmill and yoga mat in her pen. 

Monday, August 20, 2012

Make A Survival Stove or Lantern

Supplies needed are a tin can, something for a wick (a strip of old rag), rocks and some type of oil or fuel.  NOT GAS!!!!!!!!!!  Did you read that?  NOT GAS!!!!!!!!  Add to that warning anything that is highly flammable.

Pour about a half of inch of oil in the can, we used bacon grease - hey, it is recycling and it smells good.  Put a couple of rocks in the can that are taller than the oil.

Make a hole in the top of the can, the easiest way is to use a nail and hammer.  Thread the wick through the top of the lid.  Set the lid in the can, this is where the rocks come in, they keep the lid out of the oil so that the oil doesn't run over the lid and make a big fire.  Wait for the wick to absorb the oil.  Put the stove on a flat surface and leave it there the whole time it is burning and until it cools completely. 

Light the wick.  Do not start this on fire on your counter unless you are the person who goes to work and makes the money to pay the house insurance.  Dad lit this stove and even I, the person who is married to the person who makes the money to pay the house insurance, knows that this would have been much safer to do outside.  But I thought if something happens I won't be the one who has to explain it so go ahead.

What to do with this little stove?

Use it to melt chocolate to dip your bacon in. 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Homemade Mayonnaise

When we run out of something it is not cost effective to just run into town to pick some up.  Yesterday, while making chicken salad, we ran out of mayo which prompted us to try our hand at homemade. 

An egg, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp mustard, 1/4 cup oil and 1 Tbsp lemon juice.  Whirl these in the blender for a few seconds to mix.

Add 3/4 cup of oil in a slow drizzle.  Using a blender is great because it has a removable piece on top to add ingredients.  No blender?  You can do the same thing using a whisk.  You can hear the whine of the blender change as the emulsion of egg and oil begins to form.

We thought it was pretty salty, so next time we will use 1/4 tsp of salt.  The mayonnaise tasted great.  One odd thing though, usually home made stuff tastes way better than store bought, but the homemade mayo tasted almost exactly the same!!!  Weird, but good.  The point was to not drive into town so it worked great.  From this recipe you can go on to create many other sauces like tartar sauce.  The basic technique for mayo can be used with other ingredients, like melted butter to make fancier things like hollandaise sauce and the even more refined Béarnaise sauce.

You might be wondering what the difference is between salad dressing (like Miracle Whip) or salad cream and mayonnaise.  Salad dressing uses less egg yolk and oil instead substituting corn starch, corn syrup, vinegar and water. It became popular in the 1930's because it was less expensive as it is made with cheaper ingredients.

Catching Insects

Spark is going to be doing an insect study this year and, because we never know when the first frost is going to hit, we started collecting the bugs.

We found that the best way to catch them is to run with a net along the grass and weeds and then stop after about 10 - 15 feet and shake whatever you got into a Ziploc baggie.

For those insects that are calmly on a leaf it worked to put the bag over the leaf and gently scrape them into the bag. 

Spark kept all his super scientific equipment in this super scientific case disguised as a gift bag.

To keep the bugs in good shape he put the bugs in freezer to kill them.  One thing we found out was that with more than one bug in a bag, because those bag are too expensive for each bug to have their our, we set up a perfect confined food chain.  This was especially true of the bags that had ants, dragon flies and spiders in them.  They started eating each other.  And yes, we know that spiders aren't insects but it will be way easier to sort them out when they are frozen than trying to coax them out before and risk letting other bugs go.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Wait For It.....

Dancer and Spark meet with friends to play volleyball every Friday night.  Spark actually gets together with all the younger brothers and they play some boy themed thing they think up. 

I need to preface this next part by saying that Spark is called Spark for a reason.  He can be rather focused and spontaneous, not always thinking through what he does or says like many other 11 year old boys.  Even so, I worry.  Worry that he is going to do, or say, something that will have my phone ringing with a parent on the other end wondering if we are raising a barbarian.  Well, barbarian might be a little extreme.  Maybe.  Most of the time.  We do go over all the rules you should follow at someones house though all the way there.

We pick them up last night and they are both talking a hundred miles an hour about the evening and Spark says, "I had a really intense..." and then he pauses.  During his pause I inhale deeply with my head frantically swimming with all the intense things he could have done.  He goes on, "....An intense Ninja battle with (whoever)."  At that point I am so relieved that the end included a Ninja battle that I didn't even listen to who it was.  Whew!  I see maturity in our future.

Thursday, August 16, 2012


All in churches in the town that our church is in go together and have one big vacation bible school.  There are only three churches, Catholic, Lutheran and ours so it isn't like thousands of kids, probably there were about 150 there.   The theme was Sonrise National Forest and all the kids were campers. 

Camper Spark with his class ready for music.

Dancer and I were part of the music group.  We didn't know what our job was until we got there on Sunday night.  The leader asked if we would do hand motions for the song time.  Sure, no problem we said as vision of cute little motions much like Itsy Bitsy Spider flashed through my mind.  Not even close.  This was dancing and waving your arms over your head which seemed like 99% of the time.  Dancer was right in her element, I on the other hand felt every year I have lived when I woke up sore every morning.  There were six songs in the program and we sang all of them each night with five groups and then the opening and closing ("the show" as one little girl called it) program.  If we got done early the kids could request songs from other years.  Tonight alone we sang and danced to 43 songs making me glad that VBS is only five nights even though we really enjoyed it.

This is the bag the kids made to hold their other crafts during the week.  I wasn't surprised when Spark showed me his and his moose had three eyes but, I did feel better when I saw another boy made a cyclops moose.  I still think it is cute.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Back to School Painting

Our co-op  meets in the basement of an old school and it was painted a nice sterile institutional blue.  Given the okay to repaint, we all got together tackled the job.

Spark and Dancer love to paint so they grabbed a paint brush and jumped right in to help.

After several hours of painting and cleaning it is ready for a new year.    It matches the color in our bathroom and someone else said it matched their living room so we should all feel at home there.  Now if we just felt ready for school to start.  Not happening yet.  Not even a little.

The Beef Commercial

This is a lunch special staple in cafes and diners around here.  We just recently found out that the name "Beef Commerical" is only used in Minnesota.  The story behind the name starts out over 100 years ago when business travelers were more commonly called commercial travelers.  In those days, most people traveled by train, and right by the train tracks would be a hotel, often times called the "Commerical Hotel."  This was a dish that the hotel kitchen could keep warm all day and serve quickly when trains came in and people might only have a short lay over or want a good meal before retiring for the evening. 

My mom's dad was one of these travelers.  He sold nursery stock, and although he had a car and didn't ride the train, I do know that he had a route where he stayed often over night in these hotels.  By todays standards his route would be small but, in those days, the 1930's, cars and roads were not what they are today either.

Two other possible explainations for the name of the substantial dinner was that it was made in a commerical kitchen or that they used commerical grade beef.  If I had to guess, I would go with the first definition of clever advertising to link the meal to what a commercial traveler would love to eat.

Beef Commerical

Throw a beef roast in the crock pot and cook until it is practically falling apart.  You can use instant mashed potatoes but it is best with real mashed potatoes with the skins left on.  Make a sandwhich out of the beef, meat loaf is a wonderful subtitution, and cut it in half.  In between the two halves put a big blop of potatoes and cover the whole thing with gravy.   No side dishes are really needed for this meal because, by the time you finish the sandwich, you will be way too full for anything else.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Outside Family Fun

Every year several environment groups (County Soil & Water Conservation District, DNR, County Parks, a university, local sportsman's clubs, businesses and others), get together and offer a free hands on day at a park.  This was the first year we had gone and now we wished we had known about it in previous years.

There were a few make it and take it activities.   

The pieces were all precut so all we had to do was screw it together.  Dancer loves to use the nail gun for any project she does but, in this setting the screws were probably safer.

We should have at least two happy birds in our yard next year.

They got to try archery, Dancer's second time but this was Spark's first.

They guy helping Spark said, "He shoots a gun doesn't he?"  I guess archery aiming is different that aiming a gun.  They only got to try six arrows.  The guy said to get back in line and they could do more but, the line was quite long and we didn't want to wait and miss the other activities.

Along the Mississippi, this looked like a movie set to me.  The perfect setting for a sword fight.

This vine reminded us of those cut out board where you put your face in.  Glad I was the one taking the picture because both Spark and Dad spent a lot time after this scratching their legs.  There wasn't any poison ivy or burn weed so not sure what those plants were, either way Dad and Spark are both highly allergic to them.

A pontoon tour to learn about bank erosion. 

We got a bonus on our tour, a mother deer and two fawns.  Almost every time we are in the car at least one deer runs in front of us, no different when we are on the water.

We got a second pontoon ride to learn about electrofishing.  The first part of the demonstration going along the river follow this stunboat.  The booms in the front are the electrodes that stun the fish for up to two minutes.  Those two guys watched for fish and then scooped up different fish species.  It was amazing how many fish they got and how many more were jumping in the water.  Now, if we were on the side of the river fishing we would be lucky to get a few little ones.  On a side note, there was a booth set up to test if you knew how many fish of each kind was the legal limit.  I told the lady how funny that was because we have never had to worry about such a problem.  She also asked how many Northerns you can have over 30 inches.  I told her if I caught Northern that was 30 inches I would probably get it mounted not eat it.  Actually, when we fish we usually don't keep the fish because all the lakes have recommendations on how often you should eat out of them.  The Mississippi is no more than once a month.  Um, no thanks, we will go with the recommendation of never.  We are pretty close to the start of the river and I wouldn't even swim it much less eat from it. 

After they were done with the electrofishing demonstration, the two pontoons pulled up to each side of the boat and they went went through all the fish in their live well. 

We also learned the proper way to measure fish, again, never had a fish that was worth measuring but, who knows, maybe some day that information will come in handy.  We can hope anyway.  This is one of the main reasons we went to this event because this would be Dancer's dream job and she wanted to see the demonstration.

At all the booths and activities all the kids under 12 got a ticket.  When they collected six tickets they could turn them in for a prize.  When we got up the booth that had the prizes they had a wheel that you spun to see what prize you got.  As we were walking up a kid was walking away with a duck call but the table was full of bag of chips.  I thought it would be cool to win a duck call but it would be great, since we were hungry at this point and the next thing we were going to do was eat lunch, if Spark would win a bag of chips to go with this sandwich.  I figured the rest of the prizes would be bouncy balls or some other little plastic trinket.  Spark got up there and spun the wheel and it landed on backpack.  I thought, and he said later that he thought too, that it would be one of those nylon bags with the drawstring top.  No, it was a full size canvas backpack.  They had tons of other great prizes too.  Very generous on the part of the sportsman club that donated all those prizes and then manned a both all day to give them away.

On the way to the car for lunch we saw why unicorns are extinct. 

We pulled out our lunch and lawn chairs and pretty soon a lot of other people started to do the same thing.  It was a long way to the picnic area and they must have thought the same thing and if those crazy people are doing it, we will too.

There was a program called "Wild Animals Everybody Loves To Hate."  The point was to tell us that these animals are really not what people think they are.  That was all well and good until the presenter said, "But don't get any closer than four feet to the porcupine, we don't want to agitate him." 

This was station about water and one of the activities was making huge bubbles.  Here I just happen to catch a bubble right as it was breaking.  When they broke it was so fast that you never saw this so it was cool that the camera caught it.

The event was six hours long and it took us five hours to look at everything.  Good return on our entry fee of $0.00.  We are already looking forward to next year.