Thursday, November 16, 2017

The New Stove

This was a sight I hadn't seen for 16 years -- the fireplace minus the Buck Stove insert.

I can remember the winter I insisted on getting an insert -- electric rates had skyrocketed and we were enduring rolling blackouts while PG&E scrambled trying to buy energy. Some nights I sat with my shoulder nearly in that firebox, trying to stay warm, getting madder and madder by the hour.

The Buck Stove insert heated our whole house ever since.

Nevertheless, it wasn't really what I thought it would be. Like a lot of people in unfamiliar circumstances, I didn't really know what questions to ask. I wanted a woodstove that I could feel radiate the heat, that I could put a kettle on top of and have the water warm to provide a little humidity for wood burning's dry air.

The Buck Stove didn't do that. Even when it was burning hot, hot, hot, you could put your hand on the top and not be burned. To get the stove's heat out into the room, you had to run the fan.

But that was the other problem. As dust accumulated over each winter, (and this is the Central Valley, whose dusty conditions gum everything up) the fan would imbalance slightly and rattle at certain speeds. By each Spring, I was so sick of hearing a running fan I couldn't wait to get out to the studio for the quiet.

This year, we did a little research, and just happened to walk into Valley Fire Place the day after a woman saw her new stove and decided it was "too small." She sent it back to the store. What mad coincidence -- this was just what we were looking for! So since it had been unpacked (but never used) VFP gave us a discount on it. Nice.

And there it is, on its adorable little legs, awaiting installation.

We did a winter configuration of furniture, moving the big table out into the front room, the little table into the kitchen, and the rolling island to the side under the bird pictures on the wall. We know what a wood stove does to the temperature in a room, and we wanted plenty of space in front of the heater so that we could bring chairs in if we were in need of great heat, or just lounge on a rug on the floor, basking. (I used to wrangle with our border collie Desi and the two cats for the hot space in front of our wood stove when we were back East in Pennsylvania.)

We had been scheduled for installation on the 17th, but yesterday VFP called with news of a cancellation, did we want the stove in early? Considering that we knew there was rain on the way, and a bit of a cold snap -- oh, yes, we did.

 By nightfall, it was in, standing on the hearth like it should always have been there. A chindi rug -- again, how about the coincidence -- that was supposed to arrive Thursday also arrived Wednesday morning, so as soon as the work was done, the new rug went down.

And within minutes of starting our first fire in the new stove, Kermit realized that a certain Great Dane mix with no undercoat never had to be cold again.

See the screen? We're probably going to use that for the forseeable future -- that little stove gets HOT!

The dear lady who thought the stove was too small ... bless her heart. She was probably wrong, unless she was trying to heat a whole mansion; we're certain this model will heat our house AND my garage studio for all but the coldest days of the year. I wish I knew who she was, I'd send her a thank you note.

Know anyone who wants a Buck Stove insert?


Saturday, November 11, 2017

Morning in the 2017 Fall Garden

I haven't been very successful at growing cabbage in the garden -- up until now.

Last year I tried purple cabbage, and some of them looked gorgeous, (but not all) and the flavor was a little astringent for my tastes. This year is green, and they are simply breath-taking.

The cabbage you buy in the store is round and light green, but I can attest from experience that those big blue leaves make a wonderful golumpki. I used to buy whole cabbages untrimmed when we lived back East, and freeze some of those big leaves for winter cabbage rolls. I look at these plants and see not only golumpki, but blue leaves for stir-fry, and for fried cabbage with onion as well.

Years roll by more quickly all the time, so this morning, I decided to take portraits of my current garden so I remember what worked, and how beautiful vegetables can be. The full set of portraits can be seen in my Flickr account, Palmprint Gallery.

This morning was also our first foggy morning, dressing the garden in wispy whiteness. My pictures were taken just after the fog lifted.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Too Cute Dog Haiku


A hot afternoon. 
Long walk this morning with me. 
Kermit needs a nap.

Lisianthus

Why I decided to buy a six-pack of lisianthus this past spring is a mystery to me. I paired them with some yellow and red striped zinnias in a half wine barrel in the front yard.

Never did like the way the planting looked. Although the two varieties were supposed to be the same height, the zinnias on the outside row got much taller than the lisianthus, and what should have been a pretty arrangement looked like a car wreck.

The zinnias got yanked out. I allowed the lisianthus to remain only because of how many buds were forming. I thought maybe they'd grow on me, so to speak.

They did not, but even though I loathe them, I have to admit that they are magnificent. All the visitors to my garden comment on how lush and lovely they are. Maybe I dislike them because they are too perfect -- to me, they look like the fake flowers people put on graves in cemeteries.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

When Life Hands You Lemons?

This beast came off our Eureka Lemon tree on the back patio. I've never seen anything quite like it in the 20 years since we planted the tree.

With nine gnarly claws, the lemon seemed to warrant a photo-op.

Kind of reminds me of the citrus called "Buddha's Hand."


Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Lillian and Sand Knock It Out of the Park

Mmmm, steak.

Some weeks ago, Lil and I were about to once again make a modified "Bloody Mary Marinade" for a tri-tip. However, we did not have any horseradish or Louisiana Hot Sauce on hand. So we collaborated and came up with our own.

First of all, the tri-tip ... the cut of meat has a long tail. You don't start with that. The second angle is about 30 degrees -- don't cut that way either. You want to cut your steaks from the tip that is more of a right angle. Okay, fine, next time I'll take pictures. You just want your cut steaks against the grain, because tri-tip can be tough. This particular tri-tip was only $2.49/lb, a promotional sale at the supermarket. Yes, I bought more than 20 pounds that day.

Even cut right, tri-tip steaks can be unpleasantly chewy, so you marinate them from two to twelve hours in advance, with:

Lillian and Sand's Excellent Marinade

2 cups tomato juice (16 oz.)
1/3 cup lemon juice
2 tablespoons sriracha sauce
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
a few shakes of your favorite other hot sauce
a heaping tablespoon of sour cream
four or five big cloves of garlic, smashed with the side of your chef's knife or your meat tenderizer's flat side
salt
pepper

Lillian and Bernie grilled the marinated steaks for a couple minutes on each side on the barbecue. The open flame does a fabulous caramelization on the edges.

They were so good that I don't know if I'll ever want to do tri-tip any other way again. Bernie says, "You will if it's raining."

*Photo is from public domain images. We ate all the steak before I could remember the camera.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Feathers of Autumn

The black phoebe was perched in our potted plum tree, putting his feathers in order when he spotted me standing in the doorway with my camera. He doesn't look too pleased about the photoshoot.

Autumn equinox was Friday; on Saturday the white-crowned sparrows showed up on the back patio, making tiny cheeps. Then one of them let out a loud territorial call, marking the change of season.

Bluebirds are gathering into loose flocks, dusting themselves here and there on the sidewalks and streets; blackbirds are packing themselves into huge flocks and swirling like dust devils above fields and trees. I hear the flights of geese overhead, and curlews, and kildeer.

It's Fall.