Monday, August 27, 2012

Splish Splash

Yesterday afternoon was warm and muggy and Bert hadn't napped long enough. We were all feeling a little restless. The thought of going to the town pool crossed my mind, but packing up towels and sunscreen and swim diapers and changing in and out of bathing suits, and paying about $10 for Keith and I to get in for a whopping fifteen minutes of entertainment for Bert made me tired just thinking about it. Then I remembered a suggestion from someone at story time at the library: the fountain up at the university. It's wet, it has steps for Bert to climb up and down, and it's free. It did still involve a swim diaper and suit for Bert, but Keith and I didn't have to change so it was a lot easier.

I hesitated for just a moment because all the college students moved back in this weekend, but we decided if it was crowded, we would just come back home with the benefit of having a nice walk. Lucky for us, there were a few kids that passed by and took their shoes off to walk in the water, but mostly it was just us. And Bert had a blast.

He climbed up and down, splashed in the water, and pointed and talked to the students passing by.

On the other side of the plaza is another fountain, with a pool around it. We put Bert in, expecting him to climb right back out. Much to our surprise, he started running around in the water, which was a little above his knees.

When Keith tried to get him, he just ran faster.

Which was ok until he stumbled, and went down on his hands and knees. When he tried to get up, he pretty much belly flopped and got a face full of water.

Then he was not so thrilled. No tears, but it was obvious he wasn't into being completely soaked.

So, back over to the big fountain, where he carried rocks around.

 Still not sure what he thinks about the waterfall coming down on his head.

It was a fun afternoon, and he was actually tired enough when we got back to take a short nap before dinner, which means he was much more pleasant for the rest of the evening. And that makes us all happy.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Milkin' It

Now that Bert drinks whole milk morning and night, we've been going through it pretty quickly. We had been buying organic milk at the grocery store, but recently the doughnut shop here in town started carrying local milk in glass bottles. An initial, one-time, $2 deposit is required on the bottle, and then we just return the empty one each time we go back. We get whole milk for Bert, and skim for us about once a week. Most of the time, we walk up to get it so it's exercise too! The milk is from local, grass-fed cows, not treated with hormones or antibiotics. It's pasteurized and homogenized which is good, because I just can't get into the raw milk deal. I love that it comes in reusable glass bottles since the organic milk we had been buying was in cartons that we can't recycle in our area. They carry both half-gallons and quarts (usually we get a half-gallon for Bert and a quart for us and that lasts us about a week).

If you had any reservations about how good this milk is, let Bert demonstrate his fondness for it:

(Here is the link if it isn't working right on the blog here: click here.)

And in case you are wondering, no, I don't buy doughnuts every time we get milk. Even though Bert points and jabbers enthusiastically. He must think I'm a pushover like his daddy (who does buy doughnuts when he is sent to get the milk).

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Doing the Can-Can

You saw a couple weeks ago when we canned peaches (and got a new range). Since then, we've been canning tomato sauce, salsa, carrots, and green beans. For the carrots and green beans, I got brave and finally pulled out the pressure cooker my mom gave us a few years ago for Christmas. It was a little scary at first, with all the steam and rattling going on, but once I knew what to expect it didn't seem so bad for the next canner full. The first time around though, I set the timer and grabbed Bert and went outside while the jars processed. I figured we'd be safer out there in the event the whole thing exploded. But it all went off without a hitch, and as I looked over things more closely, I saw that the pressure cooker is built with at least three different pressure-relief valves for safety. I won't give you a step-by-step guide because it's probably better if you read the directions for yourself, but here's a few photos of our canned food. Because that's terribly exciting, isn't it?

 I do find it a little thrilling to see the pantry fill up with jars of food we have grown and canned ourselves.

I forgot to take a picture of the salsa, but I'll share the recipe from my mom with you.


7 1/2 pounds tomatoes (about 4 quarts, seeded)
2 c. onion, chopped
2 c. celery, chopped (optional)
1 c. green pepper, chopped (we left out the celery and used more green peppers)
1 c. jalapenos, seeded and chopped
8 Tbsp. wine vinegar
1/2 c. olive oil
4 tsp. salt
3-4 tsp. dried cilantro
1/2 tsp. pepper
4 tsp. mustard seed
4 cloves garlic, crushed

Combine everything and bring to a boil; simmer for 20-30 minutes. Process in water bath canner 15 minutes. Makes 8 pints.

My mom would tell you she plays around with the recipe some every year, so feel free to use different spices or different amounts, or add more jalapenos for more heat, or whatever suits your tastes!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Well Worth It

Every once in awhile, Keith states that he needs a change of scenery. This past weekend was one of those times. Without a lot of planning, we headed out Sunday morning to Hopewell Furnace, a National Historic Site about 45 minutes away. Neither of us had ever been there before (and of course, Bert hadn't either) and it is always fun for us to go places that are new to all of us. Oh, and it never hurts if those places are free.

We arrived around 11:00 or so, having stopped for breakfast on the way. At the visitors' center, they were just starting a 15-minute film about the site so we slipped in quickly. The park ranger pointed out a basket of stuffed animals that we could grab to entertain Bert but he still only lasted about 5 minutes in the little theater so Keith took him out and looked at some of the displays while I watched the rest of the film. To sum it up, Hopewell Furnace produced iron goods, from cookstoves and household goods to cannons used in both the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. It operated until 1883, when it could no longer keep up with more modern steel production. The site was more or less abandoned for the next fifty years, until it was restored as a Civilian Conservation Corps project. Pretty much all the buildings are open to the public and there are demonstrations on weekends as well.

I think this was the cooling shed, where charcoal was brought from
the woods to the furnace.

The ironmaster's mansion

The ironmasters' mansion has 19 rooms, several of which you can view on the first floor.


I didn't notice anything about guided tours but visitors are free to walk all over the grounds.

The company store

The barnyard was fascinating to Bert.

Behind the house there was a spring house with water running through it. The sign said it was where they did laundry and butchering.

Looking down into the spring house
There was also a blacksmith's shop, with a gentleman doing demonstrations and explaining the differences between different kinds of iron (cast, wrought, steel, etc.). It was full of all kinds of tools.


A pretty little stream running through the site.
The furnace workers and their families rented homes from the furnace owner and lived nearby. Several of the homes are intact and one was furnished for viewing. The sign invited visitors to pick up and touch anything in the house as everything was replicas.

At 12:30, there was a demonstration in the furnace house showing how the workers made sand molds and explaining how the furnace operated. They told us that the furnace took three weeks to reach temperatures hot enough to make iron and when it was ready to be poured, a bell would ring and the molders would rush to the building to fill their molds. 

This is where the term "pound sand" comes from.
Really, I'm being serious.

A mold for the door of a woodstove. Hopewell Furnace had 23 models
and sizes of wood and cookstoves at its peak. An experienced worker could
mold 3 stoves in 2 days while the furnace was running.
The opening to the furnace where the iron
poured out.

Ladles for dipping the hot iron as it came out of
the furnace.

Iron that couldn't be put in molds fast enough was run out into troughs
as pig iron.
I think my favorite part was the huge waterwheel at the back of the furnace house.

Bert was pretty impressed too.

Bert plays with a cannon.
Hopewell Furnace tried to modernize their production by switching to an anthracite coal-fired furnace but after 4 years of disappointing results, it was shut down.

You can walk all through the coal furnace ruins.
Hopewell Furnace was heated with charcoal, made from the wood in the surrounding forests. The furnace consumed 5000 to 6000 cords of woods a year, all chopped by hand and made into charcoal in charcoal pits like this one. It looked like they must do demonstrations here sometimes.

The people who tended the charcoal pits in the woods (I think they were called colliers) lived in primitive huts that looked something like this. A collier could tend several pits at once and sometimes as many as three would live together in a hut so they could tend up to nine pits at a time.

There were some other really interesting things we learned, like for most jobs, men and women worked side by side, as did blacks and whites. Hopewell Furnace had "equal pay for equal work," so they were pretty progressive for their time in terms of equality. Interestingly enough, when it became a CCC project, blacks and whites worked separately. 

I think on Saturdays they do a demonstration where they heat up a smaller furnace and melt aluminum and cast it in the molds, which would be neat to see. It's worth checking out their website and reading up on what events are going on, like apple picking in the fall, and other trails you can walk. We had a nice time and were happy to wander around on our own (rather than worry about Bert getting antsy on a tour) and think this would be a great place to go back to when he is old enough to be learning some of these things in school. We spent almost three hours there, which seemed like plenty of time to do what we wanted but you could make a longer day of it with the trails and other demonstrations.
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