Saturday, December 31, 2016

Try a Happy New Year Soup has 150 recipes for foods used mark the death of the old year and to celebrate the birth of the New Year.  There are seven ingredients that are common among food celebrations at this time of year that include beans, greens, and pork most commonly, but also fish, cake, fruit, and noodle & grain dishes.   Beans, black eye peas, lentils, and other legumes are most popular throughout the South to promote prosperity in the New Year.  A good reason for this may be that they are inexpensive, so don’t bust the budget and carry you into January already in debt for celebrating a new beginning. 

I decided to do a mixed bean soup, which I think is so delicious that it would be great to share it.  The best part for a bean soup is that the preparation is done to reduce or nearly eliminate the food’s gas.  I got a kick of a new term I picked up today for this today, the chair trumpeter.  I hadn’t come across that one before.  It’s obviously something to be avoided both for the trumpeter and all those listening to the music. 

Another great thing about the soup is that it can be done in large quantity and enjoyed for a week.  This is something Lynn Johnson will appreciate.  We heated with a Fisher wood stove for decades.  Wood stove heat is one of the most enjoyable there is, but the down side is that it dries the house.  To kill two birds at once, we’d make a huge pot of bean or vegetable soup and set it on the back of the stove.  The simmering returned moisture to the house, and the soup was always on to enjoy after getting chilled working outside, or when company came in with appetites needing to be satisfied.  So, give this a try.

Mixed Bean Soup

Pour two cups of mixed, dried beans in a large sauce pan and cover with several inches of water.  Allow to soak for a minimum of overnight, or up to 24 hours.  Pour the soaked beans into a colander, drain, and rinse with running water.  This is how you get rid of the gas in the beans while also getting them clean.  Pour the beans back into the pot and cover with at least 2” of water.  Bring to a boil, covered with a lid, for a minimum of 10 minutes.  Turn the fire off and let sit for 30 minutes.  Pour into the colander and drain and rinse.  Be sure to watch the pot in this first boil in particular, as large quantities of gassy residue will come off and can make a mess of the stove.  Repeat the boil, soak, drain and rinse at least a second time. 

While this is going on, dice 2 cups of onion (two large onions), at least 2 stalks of celery, a couple carrots, and 4 garlic cloves.


Return the beans to the pot.

Pour in a full container of chicken broth, about 14 ozs..

1 tsp. olive oil.

Add chopped vegetables (I cheated by using a can each of carrots, whole corn, green beans, and diced Mexican flavored tomatoes.  I enjoy something resembling more of a stew than a thin soup.)

Begin heating.  Bring liquid level to within a couple inches of top of pan.  Including broth, this will be about 7 cups of broth/water.

Add to taste 2 tsp. savory leaves (or this can be replaced with 1 tsp. dried sage and 1 tsp. dried marjoram), 1-2 tsp. black pepper, ½ to 1 tsp. each of cumin and turmeric.

Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer for at least 2 hours.  In the last half-hour or so add 2 cups of shaped pasta of your choice.  If not simmering on the wood stove, refrigerate and reheat individual servings in the microwave.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Lazy Days

We seem to be in the middle of the lazy days of the holiday.  Nobody is reading blogs right now, so I figured I'd share this as a mark of the times, and come back in a couple days when everyone is home, exhausted, and ready to do something enjoyable, like just reading.  This couldn't typify the apparent mood any better.  These were our two granddaughters "relaxing" in the canoe.  There was a front approaching that would kick up the wind and bring it around on the nose.  I was trying to get them to lay on the paddles a bit more to get in before our conditions turned foul, but they just couldn't be bothered.  If they had been any more blase', they would have rolled right out of the canoe.  It's a good thing the Micmac has good initial stability.  We were still a mile from the landing when the wind hit.  It wasn't anything to be concerned about safety-wise, but being right on the nose, gave them some time to consider the cost of their indolence.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Pine Grove Furnace

The iron master's home.
We have a family tradition of pancakes every Sunday morning unless something cataclysmic intervenes.  So, this particular day was a pancake event.  To work off all that syrup, we headed to Laurel Lake at Pine Grove Furnace State Park.  Laura and Carl (daughter and son-in-law) rented a canoe and took Alaina, the youngest granddaughter, with them, and Zoey rode with me in Buffalo Gal.  Laurel is a small lake, only 25 acres, but it was a chance to get the girls in a canoe.  Inspiration for a lifelong pursuit can sometimes begin with small memories.

The paymaster's office.  Workers would walk up one side, turn
in their pay sheet, collect their pay, cross over and walk down
the steps on the other side.

This would have been the stables and shop, but is now the
general store and site of the ice cream challenge.
Pine Grove Furnace is an interesting place for those who have not been there.  The state park is 696 acres that straddles the Appalachian Trail.  This is the mid-point on the 2,186-mile Appalachian Trail, and there is a tradition of an Ice Cream Challenge that hikers must stop there and celebrate by the eating of a half-gallon of ice cream.  Being young enough and athletic enough to eat a half-gallon of ice cream without ill effect is worthy of celebration whether you have just walked over a thousand miles or not.  The park was the site of a historic iron works, and the iron masters home, which is still there, was built in 1829.  Trail hikers can spend the night in the iron master’s home.  Also preserved at the site are the furnace,  stables and general store, where hikers may be seen working on that ½ gallon ice cream challenge, the pay master’s office, and the mill, which is now the Appalachian Trail Museum.  The park was also the site of a prisoner of war camp during World War II, but most of that is gone but for a few foundations.

The old mill is now the Appalachian Trail Museum.

Thursday, December 22, 2016


It is always encouraging after making a hard decision to find there are others who understand and support the decisions we made.  Turning my back on the Northern Forest Canoe Trail was the right thing to do from a purely objective point of view.  Knowing I made the right decision hasn’t made that choice any easier or less regrettable from a personal perspective, but I just read an account in the NFCT newsletter of another couple that faced the same conditions and made similar choices.  The couple started the same day I was going to, 9 June.  They departed later in the day.  They chose to take their dog with them, but once they made Long Lake in a couple days, they realized the dog was suffering with the cold and wet conditions.  They chose to abandon the trail and get the dog back home.  As I would have done if other problems hadn’t surfaced, they returned on the 22nd of June to resume the trip.  They did find that the entire trip suffered from low water levels, and they also found lengthy portages that totaled 110 miles on foot.
Alaina enjoying her new rabbit.
On an aside, there is little that can compare with bringing a smile to a little girl’s face.  Our daughter sent us a picture of Alaina as she received her rabbit in the mail.  As I had earlier with the ram and turkey, I made each of the grandkids a rabbit.  These come from The Winfield Collection, and are part of a series of patterns for layered animals.  The animals are created from several pieces cut from plywood.  These are then assembled by shaping and gluing the pieces together and painting.


Sunday, December 18, 2016

Is It Winter Yet?


As a matter of fact, no.  Winter doesn’t come until Wednesday, but you’d never know it by the weather.  I know this is called autumn weather by our friends up in the North, but it really is still autumn here too.  It was 3.2-deg.F when we got up this morning.  After being up repeatedly all night checking the water lines, I was relieved to see the plumbing still intact this morning.  This is making me very happy about all those days I spent crawling under the house putting foam insulation on every inch of waterline.  This is the coldest we’ve seen here in Oklahoma in a decade-plus.  The picture is of the hoarfrost on the clothesline, and the patio is covered with small birds in survival mode.  Jean’s tropical birds are singing happily in the heated, insulated room we built for them in the garage.  So, as long as the heaters and utilities hold up, life is still good.  (A little paddling would make it better.)  You know it's cold when the cats won't even get out of bed for tuna fish.

A big thank you to those that have recently joined our club of loyal followers.  If you read the blog and enjoy it, which I sincerely hope you do, please follow us.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Attack of the Winter Storm

The temp right now is 20F with 22-31mph winds and a 5 degree wind chill, and the cold front is just starting.  Tonight 5-deg. will be the actual temperature, minus 15F wind chill with 40 mph winds for the next two days.  Other than taking warm water out for the birds, which they flocked to in large numbers, I’ve been a bit slow to run outside.

For the birds, Jean takes two heavy plastic cat food dishes and stacks them together with paper towels in between.  It slows the freezing, so the water remains accessible much longer for drinking before it starts to freeze.  With the inner dish thus insulated, the cold can only access the water surface.

I’ve been enjoying the morning by watching some nibimocs videos (Larry Ricker).  He has been asking for people to subscribe to his video channel, so I’m passing it along in the hopes you will help him out.  He does great videos of canoe/camping trips in the Boundary Waters with soothing accompanying music.  I had to chuckle a bit this morning as he was sitting under his tarp complaining about how hot it was.  Here is a link to his 14-day trip this August.  I think you will enjoy it, and maybe subscribe to enjoy his future work.

I had an interesting day yesterday.  Jean had gone to the library to get enough books to get her through the frigid spell.  When she came back, she told me about encountering a man there making a cross-country bike tour.  Knowing there was no way he could survive the next couple nights, I went to the library hoping to find him and explore the possibility of putting him up in comfort and safety for a couple nights.

He said the police had found him in the laundromat the night before.  They had called a couple local churches, which went together and put him up in a motel for the night.  I unfortunately didn’t get much of a chance to talk with him.  I had just gotten through introductions with Patrick when his parents pulled up.  Hearing about the forecast, he had called them in Mississippi, and they had driven up to get him back to a warm home.  Hoping to make the round trip back to Mississippi in the one day, they were anxious to use the facilities at the library and get back on the road.  I thought it a bit gutsy attempting a cross-country trip in this season, but the two important things are that he was following his ambition, and once facing a safety issue, had been able to get someplace safe and warm.  As he needed no assistance as he broke his kit down to put it in the pickup, I wished him well and continued on my walk.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Happy Anniversary

Straight out of the Smithsonian.

We spent the day quietly relaxing in the RV and taking a couple strolls around the campground.  After 53 years of marriage, we’re a bit too old to get real crazy.  We spent the evening with our daughter and son-in-law and the grandkids.  Then we talked about the issue that was going to end our trip for sure.
Since just before leaving home, Jean had been suffering with an agonizing, blistering rash on her right side that both itched and burned.  Laura’s husband, Carl, is a nurse that specializes in nursing home care.  As soon as Jean brought the issue up, he looked at her and told her she had shingles.  He suggested that we go as soon as possible to the area clinic, ABC Care.
As soon as we finished breakfast the next morning, we went to the clinic where they confirmed her shingles.  They sent her to the pharmacy, and since it is contagious by contact, they also recommended that I get the vaccine.  The shot is not cheap at $120, but with our insurance, the co-pay was $28, so I was inoculated.  That is not a guarantee of immunity, but is expected to minimize the chances of contracting the shingles, as well as minimizing the severity of the outbreak if I do get them. 
I usually discount anything that some personality comes on TV promoting, but in retrospect, everything Terry Bradshaw said about shingles is true about the rash, the discomfort, and the advisability of getting the shot if you had chickenpox and are over age 60.  They said that shingles is an autoimmune problem, so illness, stress, or anything that compromises the immune system can be the catalyst that starts the shingles outbreak.  Besides the prescription she got, Jean seemed to get the greatest relief from “Anti-Monkey Butt Powder.”  It is a skin moisture and friction preventer.  So, in retrospect, I was glad that I had not taken off on the trip and left her to deal with this on her own, and certainly wasn’t going to leave her now in such discomfort.  Once started, shingles can take from a couple months to a year to clear up.
I thought of maybe getting some time on the lake, but the afternoon brought intense, severe thunderstorms, so even little Lake Opossum was not going to be a possibility this day.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Opossum Lake

We had met Robert and Ellen on several previous trips.  They had been caretakers for the Western Village campground, him in maintenance, and her in housekeeping.  They had both retired since our last visit, and were now permanent residents of the next campsite.  We would frequently see them out early to walk their dog.  One morning Robert asked what I planned to do with the canoe on top of the truck.  After a short explanation about our thwarted trip, he suggested I just go out to Opossum Lake and paddle about just to get on the water.  He said there was no way he could give me directions, but after breakfast, he could take me out there.
 A map of the old country Pennsylvania roads looks like a bunch of worms thrown on a saucer.  Even with his local knowledge, although it had been some time since he had last been out there, we made several attempts at reaching the lake, which was only six miles away.  It appeared there were at least four ways of getting there.  Finally, we ran into a detour, but Robert thought he knew how to get around it.  He did, although we drove 15 miles to get back on the main road.  It is a nice lake.  It is small, but has enough headwater fingers to make it interesting.  Also, given it is so close to the commercialization of Carlisle and Harrisburg, it has a surprising amount of wildlife.  Camping is not allowed.  Still, I got on the water and did some paddling.

A training paddle for some ducklings on Opossum Lake.
After lunch, I decided to use my newly acquired knowledge to drive back to the lake, decide on the best route before I began to forget all the turns, and draw myself a map.  This became interesting, and is another testimonial to how confusing some of the back roads can become.  In spite of the campground having been here for a half-century, when word started to get out that I had a map and directions for finding the park and lake, I became the local expert and spent several evenings redrawing and writing directions for Opossum Lake.

Mom rejoins the class.

The next morning, I decided to return to Opossum Lake for another paddle.  Fitted with my notes and map, I had hopes of a simple, foolproof six-mile drive.  Then I started seeing flashing red and blue lights, lots of them.  Some kid had flipped his car onto its roof right in the middle of an intersection.  It totally blocked the two primary roads for getting into the surrounding countryside.  I was sure I could find a way around the accident with some local help.  At one point I even pulled into a driveway and knocked on the door to ask a woman for directions.  She called her husband, and the three of us stood there on their front porch discussion possible routes.  I did get to the lake, but it was yet another 15-mile detour, and no, not the same detour from the day before.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Screw This

It had been a long and mostly sleepless night.  If the normal pre-trip issues weren’t enough to interfere with sleep, I laid there listening to the return of the wind.  I was up and dressed at 5:45.  I walked back down to the lake.  The wind was 25 and gusting higher with drizzle and heavy mist and fog.  Everything was soaked.  The wind chill was terrible.  Even with three layers and my new fleece jacket, the cold cut right through me like I was standing there in nothing but a t-shirt.  The water, the sky, the view down the lake for the short distance I could see, the asphalt parking lot, and my mood were all colored the same slate gray.  Any trip can find one weather-bound for a day or two, maybe even three, but it is disgustingly disheartening for that to be day 1, 2, and 3 of the trip with an unchanging five-day forecast, especially if that means just sitting in a motel burning money.  I stood there looking at my prospects as I got colder and wetter.  Finally, having gotten wet enough and cold enough, I sadly said, “Screw this!”  I turned and walked back to the motel where Jean and Laura were still asleep, and went back to bed.

Laura had to get back to work the next day.  Even if I left the motel and just paddled out to the first campsite, if I got sick, relief would then be 750 miles away.  The only plausible solution seemed to be giving the weather a week or so to straighten out, and hit it again.  Also, our wedding anniversary was a matter of days away, so the break would avoid my being away then. It just made sense to throw in the towel for a few days.  After breakfast and a little walkabout in town, we headed back south.  We got back to Carlisle at 5p.m.  We had added 750 miles to the odometer, were exhausted, and had nothing to show for the effort.  We threw in a couple quick microwave dinners, and put the cap on the day and the trip by collapsing into bed.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

To Old Forge

It would be a long drive to Old Forge, NY, and back.  To keep Jean from having to make the long drive back alone, Laura, our daughter, agreed to take a day off from work to make the trip with us, and ride back with Jean.  Her employer only owed her about a thousand days of accumulated time.  We picked her up at 0630 and left Carlisle by seven.

I had been watching the weather forecasts for the beginning of the NFCT every day for a couple weeks.  To minimize weight, the issue was to take only the gear needed, as my trip plan revealed that there was a potential 189 miles of portaging.  The NFCT is sometimes referred to as a portaging trail with occasional opportunities for paddling.  That is an exaggeration, somewhat, but still one certainly shouldn’t want more weight than absolutely essential. 

When the rain stopped, we drove out of town to capture the
beautifully carved welcome sign.
The weather was making a freak change that would leave me unprepared for unusual cold.  It quickly became obvious that both my outer wear and sleeping bag would be underweight.  We were driving north, but it wasn’t long before the sudden temperature changes were becoming uncomfortable.  After breakfast, we stopped at a Bass Pro to replace my existing sleeping bag and add a thermal bag liner.  The weather was going from uncomfortable to abysmal.  The rain was torrential, and was blown sideways by 20-25 mph winds and gusts of 35.  I have no idea what the wind chill was, but it was cold.  Just standing outside to pump gas felt like we were back to mid-winter. 
By mid-afternoon, the talk was all about the cold, and Jean insisted I stop at another Bass Pro to get a fleece jacket.  The staff there was as unprepared for the weather change as I was, as all the winter apparel had been removed from racks for storage and replaced with light spring/summer clothing.  The sales clerk asked what I was looking for, and I pointed at the full-zipper Columbia fleece jacket she was wearing inside the store.  She had to go to the warehouse to find one, but came back with it.

The Old Forge covered bridge just above the historic dam.
We had lunch at a nice Italian restaurant in New Berlin, NY.  Once we arrived at Old Forge at 5:30, we checked into the Clark’s Beach Motel.  Just before dark, the wind and rain simultaneously turned off for a couple hours.  We ran outside to get a few pictures, and to walk over to the launch and sign in at the NFCT kiosk.  Tomorrow was going to be an early start, so we hit a couple of stores before they closed.  It wasn’t easy to accomplish the requisite tourist shopping.  Their tourist season still hadn’t started, in spite of it being the second week of June, and most businesses were still closed.  In talking to the locals, we got an entirely different picture of the weather than what the official forecasters had been giving us.  One lady said, “Oh, you missed the snow.  That was yesterday. But, rain, high winds, and snow are still forecast for the next five days.”  I began to get that sinking feeling, like I had just swallowed a bag of lead fishing weights.
We had dinner at Slickers, which due to the weather, was more than appropriate.  I got a Smutty Nose Ale from New Hampshire with dinner.  That was a new one.  With the cold weather giving me continually running nose, Smutty Nose was as close to reality as possible. 

Laura and I by the NFCT kiosk and launch site.
As we were driving through town on Main Street, I noticed a couple deer to my left coming from between a couple houses.  They were obviously intent on coming right across the road, so I stopped, as did a car coming from the other direction, and another stopped behind me.  Apparently this was normal, as everyone just sat and waited patiently. The deer slowly sauntered across between the stopped cars.  The second doe was only two feet in front of the truck, and it stopped to look intently over the hood and into the windshield as Laura took its picture. With the photo op done, it casually carried on as if it had the rest of the day to get wherever it was going.  It was getting dark, so it was time for us to settle into the motel.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

The Polar Express

Photo credit: trainz forum

For a momentary diversion, Stephen Wilkinson has posted a video on his Facebook page that he made last year of the annual passing of the Polar Express, the real one.  It lives in a museum now, but comes out once a year for the famous run that has made its way to a book and movie that are popular with kids at Christmas. 


My Dad was a railroad engineer, and started out in steam locomotives like this.  I have fond memories of riding out with Mom and my brother to the railroad crossing to hear Dad go through.  He would lay on the whistle like you hear in the video.  Once in a while, if he was running a freight train and had some time, we would take a picnic lunch.  He would stop the train at the crossing where we, Dad, and the fireman would have a lunch.  My brother and I could climb into the locomotive, throw a small shovel of coal into the boiler so he could deliver the freight, then climb down as the huge pistons began to turn the wheels and drive the train down the tracks.


This is a wonderful sound that kids no longer have the chance to be thrilled by.  Gather the kids around (regardless of age), turn the volume up, and enjoy the experience.  You will find the post on his timeline page for December 1.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Last Minute NFCT Details

For a nice relief from the usual garden gnome, a frog nods off
in hammock to soak in pure tranquility.
I reached our insurance agent this morning and arranged for a declaration page of the policy to be faxed to Western Village.  Just before lunch, I walked back to the office again to confirm that they had received the fax and that it met their needs.  I called B&H and told them of the shipping error.  Here’s the advantage of dealing with a reputable company.  The flash cards needed to be sent back, but they wouldn’t need to wait for their arrival to replace them, but would send out the correct SD cards right away, overnight them, and cover the shipping costs themselves.
I usually handle everything involved with the RV, so I needed to take time to show Jean how to handle the septic issues and raise and lower the trailer’s awning.  There is nothing available near where we live without having it shipped in, so I took my list of a few remaining needed items to a Cabela’s in Harrisburg.  There haven’t been any leaking issues with my tent, but decided to reseal all the tent and fly seams and give them a couple hours to dry before repacking.
I hadn’t been back at the campground long before Jim, a neighbor at the campground, pulled in after also making a Cabela’s run.  He had received a gift card for Cabela’s when he retired, so had picked up a hammock and a campfire hanging tripod and Dutch oven.  He said he was planning on breaking in the tripod and oven by doing a pineapple upside-down cake, so we should plan on having some dessert after dinner if he was successful.  I ran back out to pick up some beer, so we could share a couple drinks together around the campfire after enjoying that pineapple upside-down cake, which, by the way, was perfect.
The next day was going to be the long ride to Old Forge, NY.  I called NFCT to check on any last minute flooding or trail issues, made a final check on the weather forecast for the area, and then called Clark’s Beach Motel for a reservation for the next night.  Clark’s is located just across the parking lot from the launch ramp and the beginning of the 740-mile trail.  As Ben Franklin recommended, it was going to be early to bed, and early to rise.