Harrison Farm

for now, the only thing we're growing on this farm is kids - not the goat variety

Month: March 2013 (page 1 of 2)

Book Report: The Adventures of Hans Sterk

This book was published in 1869 by Alfred W. Drayson as a compiling of all the information found about Hans Sterk, a young Dutchman living the wild areas of South Africa in 1835.

He and the other Dutch in South Africa (known as Boers) were primarily elephant hunters in the tribe-inhabited wilderness. There were many battles with the local tribes and a lot of violence; the book reads like a fiction story.

The details are not very well filled in by the author. There seems to be some stretching to the limit of what would be considered possible for a non-fiction book, and there were some important points that were not explained satisfactorily. For the most part though, I enjoyed reading it, and I think it gives an accurate presentation of what things were really like in South Africa around that time.

What happened to the Boers? The British invaded their nation (the Orange Free State) in 1889 because they wanted to expand their reign (like all empires do) and because there was a huge diamond deposit on Boer territory. The Boers were either sent overseas as prisoners or put in concentration camps.

Lacto-Fermented Carrots

We've always eaten a lot of carrots. I mostly served them raw, because they're good for you, my family likes them that way, and they're quick and easy. Everyone preferred the sweeter baby carrots, but I seldom purchased those. Mostly we ate the bigger, more bitter carrots.

Upon coming to Chile, we we've been amazed at the sweetness of the regular carrots. Even the huge carrots are really sweet. So, we've been eating a LOT of carrots!

A few weeks ago, I got a large mesh bag full of carrots at La Vega. The contents of the mesh bag completely filled two wal-mart sized bags. It was a lot of carrots. I didn't have room in my fridge for them all. Indeed, I only had room for two gallon-sized ziplocks full. The rest sat on the loggia (laundry room) floor, and we started eating carrots at practically every meal. After about a few days, it hit me: I could lacto-ferment these!

I had made carrot relish before with grated carrots. But I really didn't want to grate all those carrots! I did some digging and found that I could lacto-ferment carrot sticks -- the fermentation process would just take longer (about a week.)

I processed 3 jars full, and they were a big hit. So last week, we made more. I experimented with two types: Garlic and Honey Cinnamon.

For both types, I...

Cut carrots into sticks, like I normally would, fit for munching on at the table, except I cut them the same length so that I could pack two layers tightly into jars.

For the Garlic Carrots, add to the jar...

2 cloves garlic, minced

about 1 Tbsp salt for a quart-sized jar

water to cover the carrots

For the Honey Cinnamon Carrots, add to the jar...

1/4 cup of honey, dissolved in 1 cup of water

1 cinnamon stick (pack the carrots around it); another time I used powdered cinnamon

about 1 Tbsp salt for a quart-sized jar

add enough water to cover the carrots

As with all lacto-fermented products, it's a good idea to leave about 1 inch of air space at the top of the jar. I didn't leave quite that much and so "burped" the jars every couple of days during the fermenting process.

Brita Filter

The drinking water here in Santiago, Chile comes from the Andes mountains. The water is hard with a high mineral content. When we wash eating utensils, if spoons are left laying flat to dry, cup up, there will be an opaque white film in the cup of the spoon when it dries.

Shortly after arriving here, we learned from some other gringos that kidney stones are common here among gringos. Our bodies are not accustomed to handling the high mineral content of the water. So, we consider the Brita filter a necessity for us here. So far, we haven't had any problems. It seems to be serving us well.

Cab versus Bus Driver

A couple of weeks ago, Marathon and I were heading into Centro. We caught an already full bus on a busy street. We didn't have time to get situated before the bus started rolling again, which is not unusual. But before we could get a good hold of a handle or pole, the driver slammed on his brakes. Marathon and I lurched backward, reaching for a pole to keep us from falling down. My upper left arm hit something hard -- I think it was the electronic card swiper/reader -- and left a bruise. At the time of the quick braking, we were facing the back of the bus, so we we didn't see it coming and didn't know what had happened.

We got our balance, and found a more secure place facing forward, when we noticed someone exiting the front of bus. This was unusual because we were stopped behind a line of cars for a red light. And generally you exit from the middle of the bus and only enter from the front. Then we realized that it was our bus driver who had gotten off. As in, no one was behind the wheel!

We looked out the front window in time to see our driver march up to the driver's side of the taxi cab in front of us, open the cab driver's door, and chew him out. He kept going on and demonstrating until the the light turned green. Then our driver finished up his rebuke, slammed the cab door, walked back to his bus, and we calmly went on our way. (Evidently the cab had cut in front of the bus and was the cause of our lurching stop.)

I don't know how unusual this type of situation is. There were raised eyebrows and shrugs from other passengers on the bus, so it doesn't seem like an everyday occurrence. Thankfully.

Ripe Avocados

Most everyone here in Chile eats and loves avocados ("palta"). Having a sandwich? It's not complete without either guacamole or a slice of avocado.

Now, before coming to Chile, the way I selected avocados in the store was to find one that was uniformly slightly soft - about the same squishiness of an peach that would be perfectly ripe in a day or two. Got it? If it was more squishy than that, it was bound to have some dark, bad-tasting bruised spots on the inside.

A few weeks ago, when I went to La Vega for the first time, I asked my palta-loving Chilean friend Andrea how she selects her avocados. We were standing by a big box of avocados, and almost all of them seemed overripe to me. Squishy they were. Squishier than a perfectly ripe peach. "Aren't these too ripe?" I asked. "No, no," she said and squeezed one open until the skin cracked. Sure enough, it looked lovely on the inside.

Still, I selected ones on the firmer end. They were all yummy.

The next time we were at the market, the avocados were even riper. I started to not buy any. Andrea assured me they would be good for a few days. So, I bought a few. The ones we had that day and the next were just delicious. By the following day, some brown spots were visible on the inside of the remaining ones; by that point, they were very soft.

The moral of the story? I guess it's just that - like many other things, avocados just taste better when they haven't been shipped a long distance, when they are allowed to ripen (at least partly) on the vine. Of course, some things ship and keep better than others. With avocados, there's a noticeable difference.

Snow-capped mountains and trigonometry

My dad and I were stretching/exercising one morning in our apartment when the sun came up over the mountain on the east side of the city. The room suddenly lit up significantly, and the light from the window was on the wall. Thus, the top of the light on the wall, the top of the window, and the top of the mountain where in line with each other.

"You should be able to figure out how tall that mountain is" said my dad. After breakfast I worked on it, and within 10 minutes had procured an answer. Accounting for the elevation of Santiago, the height of our building, how far away the top of the mountain is (using google maps), and the angle that the point on the wall and the top of the window create (I used right triangles (A run of _ feet results in a gain of _ feet)), and my answer was just under 10,000 feet.

Then my dad noticed -- sighting off of our porch rail -- that the snow-capped (at the end of summer!) mountains to the northeast were at roughly the same angle up from us as the closer ones directly east. So, I got back on google maps and then re-calculated the angle over the new distance. My answer was 18,600 feet.

Later, I looked up the big mountain (Cerro el Plomo) on wikipedia, and It's official height is 17,800 feet.

Here is the smaller, closer, 10000 footer.

Math Boy

Since coming to Chile, Doodle has been making rapid progress in math. The reason? Well, doing math has become his default time-filler when he gets bored. Not having a plethora of toys or books, he has started gravitating to the old laptop to continue his work on Khan Academy. (Here's a video that explains how this free, online math program started.) He's motivated by the badges and stars he's earning, and is enjoying seeing his own progress. And, for whatever reason, he's latching onto new concepts really quickly.

A week or so ago, he was introduced to squares and then square roots. Here's the leftovers from a teaching session Marathon had with Doodle. Marathon loves these teaching sessions. A questions arises, he and the pupil sit by the sliding glass doors, pull out the dry erase markers, and the teaching begins. Doodle does a lot of smiling, nodding his head. He really seems to "get" this stuff and seems to be enjoying himself too.

Bad Translation

Since one of us needs to eat gluten-free, I was so glad to see that my local supermercado carries a few different types of rice pasta. Most packaged food here has cooking instructions only on Spanish. These Asian brand noodles also had English instructions, though they're a bit confusing...

You Know You’re Having Fun When…

you come in from the jardin and your face looks like this.

Rosebud has a favorite friend in the jardin: Cata. When Rosebud returns from being out to play, I generally know by the amount of visible dirt on her if Cata was also out playing. Those two play hard when they're together: exploring, making dirt/mud pies, etc., as evidenced by the dirty face.

New (to me) Zucchini Recipes

Two weeks ago I went to La Vega with Andrea again. We were shopping among the trucks. I had a small list, but mainly we were just shopping for deals. If spinach is a great deal, you just plan to eat and/or process lots of spinach for the next couple of weeks. So, we were out hunting for the bargains.

Well, I was at Andrea's car, trying to find a good spot for the huge bag of carrots I bought, a spot where I wouldn't crush the lettuce, tomatoes, blueberries, or strawberries, when here came Andrea with a huge grin on her face giving me two thumbs up. A man was walking behind her carrying a box. "$6 for a box of zucchini!" she says. She was really excited. I was too until she opened the box. They were big, big zucchinis. Not the young tender kind. These looked like they'd been on the vine too long. I smiled back anyway; after all she was doing me a huge favor just to take me with her and split bulk items with me.

For perspective, that's a 1 cup measure

For perspective, that is a 1 cup measure

Upon getting home, I was pleasantly surprised by this zucchini. It was tender and was not full of seeds as I had feared. What seeds there were, were small and tender.

I came home with 22 of these large zucchini. We've sliced them raw and used the thin rounds as a bread substitute for our sandwiches, grated them into salads, put them into soup, sauteed them... But here are a couple of recipes I found that were big hits. I tweaked them just a bit. These are the tweaked versions.

Zucchini Cornbread

Ingredients:

1 medium zucchini (about 10 ounces) - I used a large
2 cups cornmeal
1/4 cup honey
1 teaspoon baking powder
teaspoon baking soda
teaspoon salt
cup butter, melted and cooled
2 eggs
cup buttermilk or yogurt

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9x5x3-inch loaf pan or 8x8x2 square pan; set aside.

2. Trim the ends off the zucchini and thinly slice 3 to 5 rounds from one end of the zucchini and reserve for garnish. Shred the remaining zucchini, toss with 2 teaspoons of coarse salt and place in a colander. Allow to drain for 20-30 minutes, then squeeze out any excess water.

3. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk together the butter, eggs, honey and buttermilk. Gently stir the zucchini into the butter mixture. Pour the wet ingredients into the flour mixture and use a rubber spatula to gently fold together until no traces of flour remain. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and top with the reserved zucchini slices.

4. Bake until the bread is golden brown and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 55 to 65 minutes. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn the loaf out onto a wire rack to cool completely. The bread can be stored at room temperature, wrapped in plastic wrap, for up to 3 days.

Zucchini Pizza

Ingredients:

For the "Crust":
4 cups shredded zucchini
teaspoon salt
cup shredded cheddar cheese
cup shredded mozzarella cheese
2 eggs, lightly beaten

For the Toppings:
1 pound ground beef

1 cup chopped green pepper

1 large eggplant, cubed

1 onion, chopped
8oz mushrooms
teaspoon garlic powder
teaspoon dried oregano
15-oz can tomato sauce
cup shredded mozzarella cheese
cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

2. Sprinkle the shredded zucchini with the salt and let stand for 10-20 minutes. Drain well and squeeze dry

3. Stir together the zucchini, shredded cheddar and mozzarella cheeses and the eggs. Once combined, spread the mixture onto the bottom of a 9x13-inch pan. Bake for 20 minutes or until set and golden brown in spots.

4. Meanwhile, brown the ground beef along with the onions and pepper until the beef is cooked through and the vegetables are soft. Stir in the mushrooms, garlic powder and dried oregano. Let simmer together for about 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in the tomato sauce.

5. Spoon the filling onto the prepared zucchini "crust" and top with the shredded mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses. Return to the oven for an additional 10 to 20 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly.

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