Saturday, November 30, 2013

There is a new weatherman in town!

            I have always had an interest in weather such as chasing storms or lightning. I scared my wife once in Kansas because I was trying to find a tornado...but no such luck. While searching weather in our area I noticed a couple of voluntary sites connected with NOAA, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
          I called Mark Tuner, the NOAA representative in Spokane, and asked if I could volunteer for any weather observation. He explained that "official" stations are limited to one every 25 miles but he then asked to come up to the house when he found out where we lived.
         Mark really wanted some observations from my area and told me about CoCoRaHS, a co-op of volunteers across the nation of which he supervises the Eastern Washington group. I'd like nothing more than to help out and learn more about weather. Mark, with a laugh, gave me with an official rain-gage after I showed him my $1.99 one from Ace Hardware.

Mark suggested two area's in my yard, one for the rain-gage and an other for my weather station. When I first started pounding the steel stake in the ground I got nowhere, nada and zilch. The top soil was frozen solid down four inches which required me to first use a chisel and hammer down to soft soil so I could then pound that baby down to the depth I need.
CoCoRaHS (Community Collaborative Rain, Hail & Snow Network) is a group of over 4000 stations across the nation reporting every day their weather to NOAA who uses all the reports in building forecasts and maps.

Following Marks directions (not my strongest trait) I sunk the pole to the depth needed and lucky for me it was rather plumb.

I cut and sanded the 4x4 that will forever hold the gage.

I used braces to attach the 4x4 to the steel can see our future garden behind me.

Here is the finished gage, ready for the first storm. My job is to go out every morning, at approximately the same time, and measure what precipitation has fallen in the previous 24 hours. If no rain or snow has fallen they would also like to know that and I would report 0.00. The gage has a 4 inch capacity and produced by the U.S. Department of Commerce NOAA-National Weather Service. My "official" weather map designation is, WA-ST-14.

Mounted, with less precision, is a snow depth board and calibrated 40 inch stick. Although it hasn't rained we did have an unexpected snowstorm the day after thanksgiving where I measured our snow and reported .9 tenths of snow to NOAA.

CoCoRaHS website provides us with some great online lessons on how to take measurements, converting snow into water content for the report along with many other weather related lessons.

My weather station came a few days later which gave me plenty of time to chisel out another hole in the back yard for the steel stake to which a 1 1/2" galvanized pipe is used to secure the station about 8 feet high. If anyone has a question in the back of their mind such as "does he own more than one sweatshirt"? Yes, a store I'd rather not name, had these for $1.00...yep, a buck! I bought as many as I could.:-)

The Davis Vantage Vue weather station is not the best, but also not a cheap station...sort of in the middle. After setting longitude/latitude we receive temperature inside and out, humidity for both, barometric pressure, wind speed and rainfall. You might ask why not just use the weather stations rainfall measurements...they are not nearly as exacting as the one I get from the front yard gage.

The console for the Davis weather station receives all the information by wifi which is good for me since mounting it on the back hill could of presented a problem going up or down with snow and ice. The console provides all the info plus the ability to create graphs. Next week I should receive the USB software so all information can be automatically uploaded to CWOP, Citizen Weather Observer Program.
Other than the blog I needed a hobby in retirement...this should suffice for some of my time at no more expense going forward.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

How to make sausage.

There was an opportunity to learn a little about sausage making from a downtown Colville store, so I signed Donna and I up.

The class was held in Barmans Historic Country Store on Main Street...does every town in America have a Main St? The second floor where our class was held in this awesome building was built in 1892. Every squeaky step on this original wood floor was like a step back in time. I explored the third floor which was very much like the second...empty both with old single pane windows and high ceilings. Calling Barmans a country store might be a slight exaggeration but they do carry antiques, gifts, cards, a soda fountain that also served sandwiches and a jerky shop.

Class size was an acceptable 11 people which gave us plenty of time for questioning. Del talked at great length about smoker temperatures, styles and how never to let your hanging meats touch or they will leave unsightly white streaks. We also learned a great deal on how to position a thermometer both in the meat and where in the smoker to put a second one.

Del Harford, in the middle, has 35 years experience as a butcher/sausage maker who is now retired. A lot of the class was directed towards game sausage which really doesn't apply to Donna or I but it was still worth the $10...besides, we took home $7 or $8 worth of sausage to boot!

Del brought 20 pounds of pork for us to grind and cook.

The four different types of casings are hog, sheep, collagen and fibrous casings. Hog casing are easy to work with while sheep casings are great but you have a lot of experience to use it without problems. Collagen are the easiest of all but the most expensive. Fibrous casings are not edible and are the ones most used for the hard summer sausage you'll find at the local supermarket.

Del talked to us about seasoning, scales, grinders, mixing tubs, smokers and a stuffer. We learned quite a bit about how and what types of curing are needed to avoid medical problems. Curing is only going to be necessary if the meat will be between 40 degrees and 140 degrees for two hours or more. Higher temps will eliminate the need for curing if that's your choice. If you do have to cure, sodium nitrite and sodium nitrate are two common ingredients you'll find in many curing recipes.  Del loves converting refrigerators from 1950's or 60's into smokers, besides the large room inside...they are without a lot of the plastics that can foul the taste of the meat.

Since I was doing the photography, I got out of mixing the seasoning, water and meat before it goes to the stuffer...too much work for a retiree.

Here Del is showing us how to fit the collagen casing onto the stuffer neck and using your fingers as a guide to pack the correct amount into the casing.

I think this young lady has had some experience before...she was that good. Twisting the sausage towards you on one link and the opposite way the next link is the trick to keep the links from unraveling. 

Daili...the young lady flipping sausage, was Del assistant. Daili cooked the extra meat as paddy sausage for us and as Del was fond of saying, one was a sage sausage while the second one was "I"-talian style sausage. 

Donna gives her "good housekeeping approval" to the sausage and with the packs of uncooked link on the table in front of her that we get to take home.
Now as far as us doing a whole lot of sausage making...I don't see that happening. I enjoyed learning about sausage making but for the 3 or 4 times a year that Donna and I do eat sausage, it wouldn't justify the money to buy all the equipment...besides we are on a fixed income.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Our first snow of the year. 2013

November 5th of 2013 is the date of our first snow. Donna and I have lived in Floriston, Truckee and Reno in years past so snow is not at all unfamiliar to us.

As luck would have it, my fed-ex package with Donna's
willow tree (she wanted a willow on the property) came a day or two before the first snow. I planted it in the same hole of a pine I took out last week...we have plenty of pines elsewhere.

The morning before our snow we had rain and Donna wanted me to take a close up of this patio bush or tree.

I awoke at 7 am and this is the scene from our bedroom slider. It is pretty easy to tell when snow has falling at night because the silence is so deafening, not that we have much sound anyway.

This is the first time in about a week I noticed merriam's turkeys in the yard, they must feel safe since hunting them won't start for another week or so. I found out that northeastern Washington (where we are) has more turkeys than the rest of the state combined. Some folks think they cause a mess, I consider it "free fertilizer".  

Donna got up early (8:00 is early for my lovely wife of 35 years) to partake in festivities held in Colville...ours is the first town the convoy will visit on the road to Washington D.C., 5000 miles away where it will be set up on the capital lawn.
The dogs are like "WTH"? "You get us up and out of our heated California king bed so you can go see a tree. REALLY, we pee on trees"?

I have often thought that I would be a good fit as a "long haul" truck driver because of my love of road. Had I seen this hot truck 35 years ago I would not have gotten into the casino business.

This cool driver even had his "Mack Truck" bulldog mascot dressed for the holidays...ha ha! The mascot has been in existence since 1917 when the British solders coined the term because of the toughness of the truck.

There were fewer people to greet the tree in Colville but I suspect the weather and the fact that the tree is completely covered may of had some effect. One small area on the back of the trailer was Plexiglas but you had to hold it open while taking a photo...not easy.

While driving across the valley to our home in the hills you can see why our area has it's own "micro-climate". Even though we are only about 500 feet higher than the town of Colville, we were in the clouds most of the day and 4 degrees cooler.

Even with having the wood stove burning all day, here it is late afternoon and there is still 1 inch of snow on the roof...apparently the house is well insulated.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

The 2013 National Christmas Tree from the Colville National Forest.

Donna and I were excited to learn that the tree which will grace the front lawn of our nations capital is being chopped down right here in our neighborhood forest lands.

The evening before our trip to the tree cutting ceremony I decided to get into the holiday spirit with a yard fire and glass of wine. Well, actually I was just burning some brush but it's all the same, right?

The festivities were in the town of Newport, Washington but as expected they (forestry service) were having trouble getting the 100 long trailer around some of the logging roads and needed a few more hours. With that in mind we decided to run up to Sandpoint, Idaho 25 miles away.  Here is Lake Pend Oreille about 10 feet lower  than normal which I assume is for winter flood control. Nearly all private and public docks were high and dry. The Pend Oreille is one of the deepest natural bodies of water in the United States, only four other natural lakes are deeper... Crater, Tahoe, Flathead and Chelan.

 With a rule breaker for a wife...I am always on the look out for the local gestapo. 

We thought about settling here but did not find what we were looking at this time of our lives. (and thought it was sort of uppity too) Besides...I might of been embarrassed living in a community that has drive-thru convenience stores. But then come January, this might look a little better to me.

On the way back to Newport we stopped to let the dogs run around at the Albeni Falls Dam visitor center. It is a self guided tour that explains the 90ft tall dam that backs up the river to create a "head" which forces water down the scroll case, where it falls on the turbine blades causing the turbine to rotate. This and a lot of other hocus pocus that I don't understand, produce 200 million kilowatts from the three generators. We never saw the falls which I believe were most likely under the dam.
By the way, Albeni is pronounced "Albany", Pend Oreille is pronounced "Pond O Ray" and Colville is pronounced "Call-ville". I found out the last one a few days ago from the police officer who pulled me over for not having a front license plate. I begged forgiveness seeing that we were new to Washington. His comment was that he knew we were not from the area because I called it  "coal-ville" instead of its proper pronunciation "call-ville". Whatever, I still got out of a ticket! But I did put the  license plate on the front bumper (its the law here in Washington not so in Nevada).

I thought this Union Pacific railroad bridge that crosses just upstream from the Albeni Falls Dam was scenic even on a cloudy day.

Back to Newport and still waiting for the tree to come to town. They are bringing the tree to Colville in a few days but today will be the only chance to see the tree before they put it into a protective wrap.

The Big Wheel steam engine was manufactured in 1909 by Allis Chalmers (I wasn't aware the company was that old) and cut over a billion feet of lumber here in Newport.

Since we still had time to cruise the town we stopped off at the Pend Oreille Historical Museum and gift shop. Donna shopped and I talked to this "old timer" (late 80's) who grew up in the area and drove a logging truck for a living. He and another lady (sorry I didn't ask names) were volunteers at the museum. She added that the gentleman had over 3 million miles hauling logs. I'm impressed because I have about 1.1 million miles in vehicles and this guy had three times that amount. They were both a wealth of local info and I enjoyed learning about the valley. I did ask one question about hitting deer. "Do you know about how many you have hit with your logging truck"? (thinking 20 or 30 would be about right) He didn't even hesitate, "hundreds, but never a moose or elk". I then forgot to ask how long before a person doesn't "jerk" the wheel when the deer try to commit suicide?

Time we joined the festivities. Here is "Woodsy Owl" from the U.S. forest service telling the kids how to enjoy and protect the forests. 

The Newport population is just north of 2000 but we saw many more folks then that. I heard people from Idaho (just across the bridge), Spokane, Chewelah, Colville and towns up and down the river that seemed to support this event by coming on down.

The whole downtown was shut off to traffic, it's like one big mall. Food, games, bands and all the shops were open for your holiday shopping pleasure.

One of the caroling groups.

Carriage rides were doing a booming business.

Donna got to meet "Smokey the Bear" who told her...only "YOU" can prevent forest fires. Donna thought this was a lot of pressure to put on just one person :-)

Here was a map at City Hall showing us where they are cutting the tree. The public was not allowed to drive back to the cutting but the forest service provided free shuttle service if you wanted to go to the cutting site. 

Finally, 2 1/2 hours late but well worth the wait. This is such a beautiful tree...even laying down. To think that after 65 years I can say I was one of the first people to see our countries 2013 Christmas tree. From this link you can see the journey the tree takes with Colville being the first official we get to see it twice!

 The closer it got to us the more beautiful it became. (truck pretty hot too!)

There won't be many in the country that get this close to the tree.

Donna took an excellent video of the 88 foot Engelmann Spruce as it passed us.
Till next time, happy holidays.