Free Form Friday, No. 5

Living room sofa; cloudy, 52 F 0625

It is “Black Friday.” I do not plan to go shopping. I believe that the rampant consumerism is driving the current environmental problems and also reduces our lives to a treadmill. I think it is nice to buy interesting things, however, I do not need the newest iPhone or other slick thing.

I took a bit of a break from writing this. It does not seem to matter as no one is reading. Last week was pretty hectic with work and all of the other things going on. I will get back into daily writing this week.

I have about ten posts in the draft stage. This includes one about installing the Photovoltaic system. I realize now that I took no pictures during the installation work. I suppose I will have to come up with a three line drawing showing how the system is connected to the grid.

Thanksgiving was nice. I had the kids here and no one else. It was supposed to be the entire family (13 people), however, we all decided that it would be safer to just have a small gathering. I make an apple stuffed pork roast, which was delicious. I am looking forward to the leftovers tonight. After dinner, we had a nice conversation around the table.

The weather has been warmer than usual. I do not necessarily mind this. The less snow, the better in my mind because it means less winter driving.

I am in the planning stages for what course I might want to take next year. NY State is offering “Coursica” for unemployed or under employed people within the state. I signed up and was accepted. I am looking at several sales courses, since that is my weakest area.

Free Form Friday, No. 4

Living room sofa; Cloudy, 38.1 F 0647

I have missed a few days posting, mostly because I have been busy with work and other things. As of this writing, there still have been zero visitors according to statcounter. Google says one visitor back on the 16th, but that may have been me. It has been one month since I started this and I plan on continuing to post things here for a period of one year.

Since there are no visitors here, I am make this somewhat more personal than I have been. It may just turn into my journal instead of something for other people to read.

Hockey practice last night was good. William says he is having fun practicing but wishes we could play a game. It looks like that might not happen this year at all. In any case, it seems like people are generally being flexible in their approach and that is all we can do. It is good for him to go out and get exercise and see other people.

I am planning to have Thanksgiving here for everyone. It is starting to get scaled back as people are concerned about COVID-19. There is an increase of cases in the area. Of course, we must be careful; Mom is 88 years old and not in the best of health. Thus, it may end up just being William, Eliza and myself here. I am good with that, we will have a nice dinner.

Prior to people coming here, I need to clean the house. It is not terribly dirty, I just need to call away sweepers and give the place a good once over.

Sweepers, Sweepers, Man your brooms. Give the ship a clean sweep down fore and aft! Sweep out all lower decks, ladder wells and passageways. Dump all trash clean of the fantail. Now sweepers.

As heard on the 1MC

All of the leaves are off of the trees and the view from the front window has improved. I like the living room arranged this way. Instead of placing my back to the outside, I and now look out and see everything.

I am also working on setting up a remote TV receiver in Albany. The plan is to call it a “monitoring system” for Intrigue TV’s channel 5 (RF channel 30). However, I will be able to change channels and watch all of the over the air signals from Albany. I look forward to it. I receive no over the air TV signals here.

Homemade Pizza

Living room sofa; mostly cloudy, 27.1 F, 0605

Many years ago, I began a family tradition of making Homemade Pizza every Saturday afternoon. It was a part of family movie night, which is, as the name implies, a night when we would all sit down and watch a movie together. They were mostly kids movies like Cars, Cars II, Cars III, Toy Story, Toy Story II, Toy Story III, etc. Of course, the family unit has since been broken up and movie night is no longer a thing. However, every other Saturday, when the kids are here, the Homemade Pizza is still a hit.

The Dough

Whole wheat bread machine pizza dough

Here is the basic bread machine dough recipe:

  • 1 1/2 cups of water
  • 1 1/2 tsp of sea salt
  • 1 cup of bread flour or regular flour
  • 3 cups of whole wheat flour (freshly milled)
  • 1/4 cup of olive oil
  • 2 tsp of SAF instant rise yeast
  • 2 tsp of powered milk

I have a Zojirushi bread machine which works great. The dough making setting takes 1:50 to complete. When the dough cycle is complete, remove the dough, divide into two and make rounds. Place the rounds on the pizza sheets and let stand under a damp cloth for 20 minutes.

Zojirushi bread machine

If you want to make the dough by hand, set aside time for kneeding, rising, kneeding, rising, etc.

Grinding wheat berries for whole wheat flour

A note on the whole wheat flour; I have found store bought whole wheat flour does not work very well. Whole wheat kernels have oil in them, which tends to go rancid (oxidize) if the flour is not used right away. I buy wheat berries in bulk and grind up what I need on the day I use it will the WonderMill WM2000.

When the pizza dough is ready, roll out with a rolling pin or pastry roller. I have never tried throw it up in the air, as the ceiling in the kitchen is rather low and I don’t think I would have a good result.

Pizza dough ready to go in the oven

I normally get two sixteen inch pizzas. Prick the rolled out dough liberally with a fork or use a dough docker. This will prevent large air pockets from forming in the dough when it bakes.

Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees F.

The basic procedure is to put the rolled out dough in the preheated oven for 10 minutes, remove, unstick from the pan with a spatula, place the sauce and toppings on, return to the oven for 12 minutes, remove, enjoy!

The Sauce

Pizza Sauce

The sauce recipe:

  • 8-12 plumb, Roma or other sauce type tomatoes (or 2 quart jar home canned or 1 28 oz can store bought)
  • 1 8 oz can tomato paste
  • 1/3 cup of olive oil
  • 1/2 medium sized chopped onion, chopped
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • fresh or dried basil to taste (many leaves chopped or 1 tsp)
  • oregano to taste (usually 1/2 to 3/4 tsp)
Tomatoes canned from the garden last fall

In a large pot, blanch and peel the tomatoes if using fresh, set aside. Clean out pot and over medium heat, add the olive oil, onion and garlic. Brown and then add the rest of the ingredients, reduce heat and simmer for 1 1/2 hours.

The Pizza

Pizza toppings; fresh spinach, green pepper, onion, mushrooms, artichoke hearts, olives and pepperoni

As far as toppings go, I have made several different types of pizza, all of which are delicious. The types and flavors are only limited by your imagination. Here are a few examples of my favorites:

  • Spinach and artichoke heart
  • Italian sausage, pepper and onion
  • Five cheese (Mozzarella, Parmesan, Asiago, Cheddar and Colby)
  • Fresh tomato, basil and garlic
  • Seafood (white pizza; mozzarella, lobster, shrimp, bay scallops, fresh basil, thinly sliced garlic, fresh tomato on an olive oil brushed crust)
  • Chicken Bacon Ranch (white pizza, ranch dressing or chipotle ranch dressing, mozzarella, diced chicken and crumbled bacon)
  • Fresh salsa, taco meat and cheddar cheese.
Bon Appetit!

Free Form Friday No. 3

On the sofa; cloudy, 37.1 F, 0548

This week is my son’s birthday. It is hard to believe that fourteen years ago, I was holding a crying, slimy, purple thing just seconds after he was born. Yet, here we are. He has really taken an interesting in fishing and all things related to the pond. I am happy to see him out of doors.

Taking an interest in fish

It took a while, but it seems we have a new president. I am happy that the process is over. Most people on either side of the issue feel the same. Regarding the man himself; meet the new boss, same as the old boss. It does not seem to matter who occupies that office, the same stupid shit continues to happen. I think people put way too much stock in the presidency and do not pay attention to congress. It seems to me, the real center of power is with those who set the agenda; the DNC and RNC.

We had a very nice stretch of warm weather. I managed to get a good deal of yard cleanup done. It has turned colder (seasonal) again.

This weekend, I have to spend time cleaning the house. I am having Thanksgiving here and I would like the place to be at least clean, if not neat. There is also the list of normal chores to complete.

Last weekend, I discovered that there is a bad bearing in the mower deck of the lawn tractor. I thought I could wait until spring to fix it, however, I think I will tackle that on Saturday.

There are a few other projects I would work on; investigate rebuilding the water filters or at least replacing the filter medium, finishing the electrical outlets in the basement, the house monitoring system and so on.

Those interesting Historical Markers

On the porch; cloudy, 60.2 F 0612

Local Historical Markers:

Example of a Historical Marker owned by New York State

There are many of these erected by the New York State department of Education in the 1920’s and 30’s although the program continued on through the 1960’s. According the the New York State Museum:

In 1923 the New York Historical Association was directed to suggest possible celebrations for the upcoming “150th Anniversary of the American Revolution”….While details are sketchy, apparently markers could be acquired from the State Education Department for as little as $2, after an application form detailing the text, location, and supporting historic documentation was filed and approved.

Lord, P., Jr. (2018). Office of State History. Retrieved November 08, 2020, from http://www.nysm.nysed.gov/research-collections/state-history/resources/historicalmarkers

There are many of these markers are on the major roadway going north to Kingston. That makes sense because it is one of the oldest routes in continuous use in the United States. Unfortunately is it a busy road. Thus, zipping by the various markers does not give enough time to read them. I have often though that there should be an online database. Alas, someone else had the same though. The Historical Marker Data Base is exactly that.

Example of Historical marker owned by New York State

I spent perhaps much longer than I should have looking up all of the Historical Markers around this area. The great thing about this website is it contains all of the known markers in any given area. People and organizations have privately erected markers and memorials in addition to those erected by the state education department. Many of those markers look similar to the state erected markers, however, there are subtle differences in shape and wording.

Example of a privately erected and owned historical marker

One such is the Fantinekill Massacre monument near Ellenville. Life was not always peaceful around here.

Several markers appear faded and are in need of some attention. The New York Museum website gives good information on how to clean and repaint the markers:

  • Remove rust and scale with a wire brush. A heavily rusted surface will require a wire wheel and drill to clean. Be sure to wear the appropriate personal protection gear.
  • Paint the background surface with Rustoleum Gloss Exterior metal paint, color #7727, Royal Blue.
  • Paint the raised lettering with a small brush or foam pad with Rustoleum Gloss Exterior metal paint, color #7747, Sunburst Yellow.

Markers are often placed on the edge of the public road right of way. If the marker is on private property, then permission from the property owner must be obtained before entering said property. Markers that say “State Education Department,” are the property of New York State. If the marker does not say that, then the marker itself is also private property.

Here are a selection of interesting markers:

Privately erected and owned
Most likely privately owned
Privately owned, needs a touch up
State owned
State owned, on state road right of way
State owned, on private property
State owned, along a US Highway

Free Form Friday, No. 2

Living room sofa; Mostly clear, 52.5 F 0542

I enjoy sitting on the sofa in the living room and typing these posts. It is a comfortable spot and is away from the distractions in the home office. Often, when I am in there, I start looking at my work related to-do list.

It has been an interesting week. The US Election was held on Tuesday, yet we still do not know who the President will be. It is looking like Joe Biden will win. My only question on that is, will he last four years? I have the feeling we may end up with Kamala Harris as president at some point. That will be fine, she seems like a competent government bureaucrat.

My son will be fourteen soon. That is difficult to believe. He wants some fishing gear for his birthday. His Xbox stopped working last week, which prompted some grumbling. I believe the hard drive has failed, so I purchased a new 1TB SSD to replace the original drive. I may do a post on fixing that.

The schools are still in COVID mode. My son goes to school for two days a week every other week. My daughter is doing full time distance learning. It has been a big adjustment for both of them. I believe that this situation will continue through the end of the school year.

I have been living in this house for 16 years, 5 months and 5 days. That is the second longest period of time that I have ever lived in one place. The first is where I grew up. That was for 18 years, 5 months and 5 days. Thus, two more years here and I will overtake that.

With the leaves now off of the trees, annual yard clean up begins. I usually try to vacuum most of the leaves up with the lawn mower. Cutting the grass short one last time, the rest of the leaves will blow back into the woods and by spring and everything will be in good shape. The one area in the front near the neighbor’s weeping willow tree always needs extra attention in the spring.

The other late fall, early winter task is pruning the grape vines. This year, there were very few grapes, so the vines were not properly pruned last year. I believe I need to cut them way back and almost start over. This may wait until late winter or early spring.

I am working on various ideas for this blog, I would like to include some of the more interesting features of living in this area. Of course there are many and I tend to concentrate on the things that I like. Thus, I will be trying to get out of that zone and explore some new things. Unfortunately, some things are still closed because of COVID-19.

Election Day

Home office; cloudy, breezy, 43 F, 0605

The polls are open! Today is the day when we get to vote. If early indicators hold true, it should be a record turn out. That is a good thing for elected officials to understand that the electorate is engaged and is paying attention. Like the current president or not, there is one thing that he has done; stir up the population.

I am interested in the outcome of this election for a different reasons. I am interested to see how accurate the pre-election polls are. As of this writing, the Democratic candidate is forecast to win in key swing states, just like last election. If that does not happen, it brings up two possible problems. Polling groups are not reaching a representative cross section of the electorate or people are lying. I feel that the second possibility is the most likely.

Supporters of the current president are vilified as racist, misogynist, anti Muslim, anti immigrant, white supremacists and so on. Nobody wants to be identified with that group. Yet, if you disagree with the the Democratic party line on any matter, large or small, you are instantly branded a Trump supporter. We no longer can debate on policy but rather must conform to party identity. That will not be good in the long run.

The other problem is the big tech hegemony on information. Facebook, Twitter and Google (and to some extent other search engines like Bing and Yahoo) have far more power to control the dialog then most people imagine. Through selective search engine results and filtered news feeds, information can be skewed to one side of the political spectrum. It is difficult to say whether or not this is happening because search engine algorithms are trade secrets. We, the general public, can only guess when and how much our information is being censored.

All of those considerations aside, it is still my fundamental right to go out and cast a ballot for whom I think will be the best suited person. Not only for the office of President, but also for the US house of Representatives, the New York State Senate and Assembly. I am leaving in a few minutes.

The DeWalt DCCS620 Battery Powered Chain Saw

Disclaimer: This is NOT a paid product endorsement, I do not have any affiliation with any retailers or companies associated with this product.

Living room sofa; mostly cloudy, breezy, 34.9F, 0530

My property includes a small wood lot behind the house. Over the years, trees grow and die, fall down and rot away. This is normal and natural. Every once in a while, I go back and try to clean up the area, getting rid of dried, dead standing wood. I also make sure that all fallen trees are completely on the ground so they can uptake water to facilitate decay. Decay, in this case, is good.

I own a gas powered Husqvarna 240 chains saw, which is great for general work. However, I don’t use it enough to keep the gas fresh. Thus, after sitting for several months or a year, I have to empty the gas tank, mix up new gas, change the spark plug, etc. In short, it is a pain in the ass.

I decided to try a Lithium Ion battery unit on a recommendation of a friend. On recommendation of a friend, I ordered the chainsaw on line and it arrived via UPS in a couple of days. I was pleasantly surprised at the build quality of the unit, as it was not at all expensive. After a quick recharge of the batteries, I went out and tried out cutting some fallen timber.

I was very surprised at the power and ability to cut through large logs. The battery also lasted much longer than I thought it would. My curiosity peaked, I decided to try cutting through some black locust logs, a heavy, dense wood. I found that this chainsaw, while slightly smaller than the Husqvarna 240, is just as able to cut though hardwood logs.

A small wood pile for the winter

Of course, there are some notable differences. The bar on the DeWalt is 10 inches vs the 14 inch bar on the Husqvarna. The DeWalt is much quieter, lighter in weight, there is no mixing of gas and oil, no two cycle smoke, etc. Depending on the work load, the DeWalt battery lasts 30-40 minutes. After each battery change, I topped off the bar oil reservoir. For intermittent use, such as clean up, cutting and clearing, the DeWalt with one or two extra batteries will work just fine. If a project requires long periods of cutting, then the gas powered saw is the right tool.

I would have no problem with keeping this chain saw in the back of my car over the winter. It will also be useful for work. Sometimes having a chain saw available decides whether or not a transmitter site can be accessed.

Jotul F100 wood stove

In a matter of a few hours, I was able to clean up several dead standing trees. As the wood is still sound, I split it for use in the wood stove this winter. It was a good afternoon of work. I enjoy having a nice warm fire in the wood stove on a cold winter night.

Free Form Friday

Living room sofa; rain/sleet, 38.3 F, 0506

I woke up early for some reason, then began thinking about the sump pumps. Last I knew, I had unplugged sump #1 so I could run an extension cord outside to use some power tools. Naturally, once I started thinking about that I couldn’t go back to sleep. So, I went down in the basement, sure enough, the sump pump was unplugged. However, it didn’t matter because the water level in the sump was still low. We have had 2.42 inches of rain in the last week.

I am still working on exactly what this blog thing is going to be about. I thought today I would just write extemporaneously and see what happens. I am also thinking about how much personal information I should include. Right now, it does not seem to matter, as I have had zero visitors. Perhaps that is the way it is going to be and I will simply be writing to myself. I am good with that.

This week has been low key work wise. That is okay, last week was a bit hectic.

This weekend it is supposed to be clear but cold. I need to do some work around yard, so hopefully it will dry out enough. I am also wanting to finish up the generator connection and emergency power panel. I have been picking away at it because I don’t want to spend too much money all at once, but I think I should wrap things up because winter is coming. I will make a post about that.

I am hosting Thanksgiving at my house this year. Anticipated guests are 13 or 14. It should be fun, but I have to clean everything and move some stuff out into the barn. Since COVID-19 the trade and donate bin at the transfer station has been closed. I’d like to get rid of some things, but I don’t want to throw them in the garbage.

Large Mouth Bass

William’s birthday is coming up soon. He wants another medium sized fishing pole, gift cards to Dick’s and Walmart so he can buy fishing tackle, some new cloths (he is growing fast) and a blue tooth headset. Walmart actually has some good fishing lures and such.

A brief history of the Catskills

Living room sofa; cloudy, 44.6 F, 0545

This is a link heavy brief summary of the history around these parts.

For anyone in the NYC metro area, the Catskills will likely be familiar. The area was, for many years, a summertime vacation destination for city folk looking to escape the city rigors and enjoy some fresh air.

Technically, this house is not in the Catskill Mountains, but just to the east of them. Still, they are close enough that I can go out on my front porch and see their low, rounded peaks to the north and west of here. The mountains themselves are not mountains, but rather an eroded plateau.

The general area has been used by humans for at least 6000 years, perhaps longer. A discovery of a native American site along the Momboccus creek dates back that far.

European settlers began to arrive not too long after Henry Hudson sailed up the river which now bears his name in 1609. Sometime around 1620, the dutch established a trading post in the area of Kingston where the Rondout creek meets the Hudson river. From there, settlement pushed out along the Rondout valley. A military expedition entered the area in 1663 and by 1680, there were permanent settlers. The present town was founded in 1703.

For the next hundred years or so, the area was mostly agrarian. During the war of independence, it was called the “Breadbasket of the Revolution.” Thus it received some special attention; in 1777 the city of Kingston was burned by a British force from New York. In 1779, the Fantinekill Massacre took place just south of here. Nine members (some accounts say eleven) of the same family were killed by loyalist militia and their native American counterparts.

By the early 19th century, the soils in the area had become depleted and much of the forest began to be cleared away for making lumber and charcoal. Mid 19th century saw the beginnings of the resort era.

Large hotels were built in prime locations, offering a respite for those seeking it. Very few of those survive today, but one is the Mohonk Mountain House.

The Delaware and Hudson canal was established in 1828, to bring Pennsylvania coal to NYC and fuel the rapidly growing industrial era. Shortly after, Rosendale Cement was discovered and transported along with bricks manufactured from large clay deposits along the Rondout creek and Hudson River. Later, the canal was replaced with the Ontario and Western railroad, which ran until 1955.

An entire industry sprung up to service the resorts and their guests. Transport, food production and hospitality were the main work sectors. That era peaked in the 1950’s with the Borscht Belt or Jewish Alps. The Amazon series “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” has a very good depiction of the Catskill Resorts during the late 1950s to early 1960s.

By the 1970’s the resorts began to decline, as airfare got cheaper, attitudes changed and more exotic destinations began economically available. A long economic slump ensued, most resorts closed down and stood abandoned for years. Many are in the process of being torn down even now.

At present, the area has many weekend homes from NYC residents. Small farms and CSA type operations dot the area. New York state has several correctional facilities around which are major sources of employment. New York City has a gigantic water reservoir system to supply the metro area with fresh water. The Catskill Park is a great destination for outdoor activities such as hiking, camping, fishing and hunting.