Friday, December 10, 2010

Raindrops On Roses

"Raindrops On Roses..." I've totally blanked out the rest of the song, save for "These are a few of my favorite things." Yup, it's that time of year again.

It's snowed twice in the past week and half. The first, a big dump and the second a light dumpling. Each has been followed by biting cold. The kitchen thermometer the other day read one degree above zero. I'm not enthused about standing outside while Mandy chases birds gathered around the bird feeder.

My outside activities are curtailed and limited to hauling the compost out to the front field and covering the pile with wood ashes. The shovel I left next to the pile is frozen solid in the ground. The ashes discourage wolves, bears, raccoons and other varmints from gathering at the pile for a gourmet feast of coffee grounds and egg shells.

It's that time of year. More wine. Ask Dawn.

I call Johann at 9:00 am waking him up. He sounds like he's been drinking. "Wash yew want," he says. Slowly as he becomes more awake, the slurred words disappear and he sound's like the mountain man I know. The rise of the roof line of the new addition to the cabin has caused problems with the draft on the wood stove in the original shack. The peak of the two story addition acts like another chimney and forces serious downdrafts on his existing wood stove. At one point in the sleepless night, he explains, he awakens to a room filled with a smoky haze. I shudder thinking of paramedics removing him from his cabin, dead from smoke inhalation. That is, if they could drive down the road to his place. Snow, soft mud underneath and deep ruts would quickly foil an ambulance tire.

Jorge and I make plans for a shopping trip. The primary focus of the trip is an air compressor. They're on sale everywhere. After using Jorge's air compressor to inflate the new faulty tires on my truck, I learn that size does indeed matter. Each time I press the nozzle to the tire valve, his compressor shoots out air as it starts to fill the tire. The motor starts running and the tank quickly empties. As the gauge falls below 25 lbs, I shut off the valve and wait for the thing to recover. It takes four repetitions to get my tire up to snuff.

Oil filled or oiless, cfm's, horsepower, tank capacity all are significant factors in the purchase of an air compressor. It'll be a Christmas present to myself. I'm the number one person on my list. In the long range, I'll need a compressor for an air nailer when I begin building my greenhouse and chicken coop. The price varies from 39.95 up to $800. There's one in Madison at a tool supply business at a price I think is reasonable, but wait, I check a flier that came with the Shopping News There's one in Lacrosse $10 cheaper. I tell Mandy, "Road trip." I make a list. We'll be gone for a half day.

The start of the trip is delayed until my local branch bank opens. During the week, they're open from 10-2. I've been online researching Christmas presents. Rectangular baking stones 1/2 inch thick for bread making are not easy to find. The price is daunting. They insist on calling a wooden paddle for removing bread from an oven a pizza peel. There is no peeling in the procedure. Up to now I've been using a long handled metal spatula with a rivet missing on the grip. To slide the bread in the oven on a round pizza stone, I use parchment paper and cuss at the loves as they twist and turn while I burn my hands on the oven rack. I started forming my loves in a crescent shape to get them on the round pizza stone, but recently I rethunk my technique to making shorter french bread loaves.

The pizza peels are as expensive as the stone and come in a variety of woods. For some, the handle is replaceable. If one has a true brick oven, you can get the extra long handle at an extra cost. I find one made from bamboo which Dawn says is better because of a resistance to bacteria. The handle folds away for storage. That bothers me because I imagine the handle trying to store itself away while I'm putting loaf in a 400 degree oven.

I remember the rest of the line, "crisp apple strudel."

So Jorge and I are on the road. The short version of the trip: A stop to return the portable drill the glass installers left behind, grumpy clerks, unhelpful employees who don't know squat about merchandise and run away if you ask a detailed question, "I don't know sir what happened to the air compressor on the shelf. There was a display model there yesterday" and aisles filled with petarded customers whose shopping carts are overflowing with slow cookers and kitchen gadgets.

Food prices are out of control. Butter, unbelievable. Turkey ham-it used to be a staple and substitute for the more expensive version which is loaded with salt and chemicals is now more expensive than ham. WTF?

Dawn wants me to get yogurt. Finding a low fat version without a lot of sugar is comparable to research for a PHD dissertation. Jorge buys Greek yogurt which Dawn claims is all the rage now. She says it tastes like crap (my label) and is ridiculously expensive. The whole point is moot for me, since I'm lactose intolerable. I wouldn't be sitting here writing if I ate yogurt. I culture my own version of yogurt from raw, whole milk loaded with cream. I set it in the closet in my office where the chimney runs from the basement which is usually so warm I keep the door open to prevent items in the closet from being damaged. "Add some honey or strawberry jam," I tell Dawn. I still don't know if it meets her taste standards or if it qualifies for animal food.

The cat's probably frozen solid, since I left him outside after he ate breakfast. He'll make a good door stop until he thaws. I wanted to go into detail about the Asiago cheese bread I made, the mechanics of french bread cuisine, the staff of life, my library angel's comment, "What do you do with all that bread?" fleas, rennet, ricotta cheese-all sorts of things, but I've run out of gas.

So scroll up to Dawn's Christmas gnome. While you're gazing at the rosy cheeked elf, let me tell you about a guy walking through the grocery store on our road trip. I've seen and done a lot. This guy had me gaping, if only from the effrontery of appearing in public.

Substitute the tall elf hat for a knitted cap equally as high with a large Wisconsin W on the front. Add satin shorts, tights, a gray Wisconsin sweatshirt( I don't remember if he had the curled elf shoes on) a long horse face and a happy "hiya'll greeting to everyone as he passed by.

I started to wonder if I've been on the farm too long.

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