Snow is here! What is a pedaler to do? I could put studded tires on my single speed mountain bicycle and go for a ride, but when the weather is this bad, I am glad I want for nothing. I can stay home, attend to the shoveling and write to you.
I sold my small snow blower two years ago. My neighbor who bought it is running it just now. I can’t complain about the noise. Not only did I sell it to him, but there seems to be an unwritten exception to noise ordinances allowing any amount of racket so long as it is produced by gas powered tools designed to manage nature. The snow blower was useful to me in Omaha where our driveway ran from the street to the back of the property, and our home and our neighbors all but touched the driveway on both sides. I had to move snow forward the length of our homes rather than throwing it to the side. Not terrible when the snow was modest, but bigger snows threatened to break my spirit. We have a less challenging set up here in Albany, though, such that I hadn’t started the snow blower since moving here five years ago despite some heavy and frequent snowfalls.
Shoveling is great exercise. Work in, not out, right? I also like that it is quiet and doesn’t stink. Amazing how two or three snow blowers going at once can spoil an hour in the fresh snow. The air is choked with angry noise and heavy exhaust from the dirty two stroke motors. My first shoveling session today was at 6:00 a.m. I was the only one out and it was beautiful and quiet. Shoveling appeals to me in the same way that bicycling does. A chance to be outside without imposing myself on the world more than necessary. The slight mechanical noise made by a well tuned bicycle appeals to me, so maybe it does to a few others, too. I remember a neighbor that complimented the sound made by my reel lawnmower. It does make a pleasing mechanical sound and the sound stops the instant the mower is done. What an invention!
Today, in addition to shoveling four times, I attended to work, enjoyed a session of laying on the floor with our dog (at one point she garnered the courage to lay her head on my shoulder; I hoped it would never end) and, here is what I am really excited about, nibbled on one day old batches of sauerkraut and kimchi. For this, I owe big bubbling thanks to Sandor Ellix Katz and Lagusta. Sandor wrote Wild Fermentation, from which I have so far learned how to arrive at the one day old ferments I am already enjoying. Lagusta put Sandor on my radar. I learn all my best vegan cooking and baking tips from Lagusta, so when Lagusta promotes something, I try it right away or add it to my ever growing list.
I’d like to say fermentation and friendship with Lagusta are an indivisible pair, like reading the Rivendell Reader and twining bars, but I do not know how many of Lagusta’s readers have followed her advice to get started with fermenting. It took me more than a year. I think I got pushed over the hump of inertia by becoming uncomfortable paying $6.00 for pints of living sauerkraut and kimchi from local fermenters. Don’t get me wrong, I think the price is fair (like Lagusta, I think people should allocate more money to buying good local food). I am just too devoted to too many good local foods. Tends to run the grocery bills into a place where I wonder if it is sustainable. So I bought Wild Fermentation, ordered some stoneware crocks from Lehman’s and yesterday chopped cabbage.
The sauerkraut went together first. I mixed one and a half heads of chopped cabbage, a couple of grated carrots, three tablespoons of salt and some dill seed from our garden and pounded them tightly with a wooden pestle into a one gallon crock. A plate went on top of the kraut and on top of that, a scrubbed and boiled rock. Should I admit how much fun I had scrubbing and boiling a rock? After a couple of hours, the cabbage had already released enough water to create a brine that covered the cabbage. The kraut is protected from undesirable bacteria by hiding in the brine. By evening, it was already bubbling as the wild lactobacilli ate the sugars and started letting off gas. Magic, I tell you!
Then I put together the kimchi. I soaked in a brine solution for a couple of hours two heads of chopped Napa cabbage, two sliced carrots and two cups of sliced turnip root. I ground into a paste in a mortar a third of a cup of grated ginger, eight cloves of garlic, three onions and three jalapeno peppers. I drained the brine off the soaking vegetables, mixed the vegetables with the spice paste and packed it into a gallon jar. I added half a cup of the reserved brine solution to the jar to be sure the kimchi was completely covered. Then I covered both the crock of kraut and the jar of kimchi with a pillow case. Time and lactobacilli do the rest! Too easy and too wonderful.
I am supposed to taste each daily to monitor the sourness. It is so exciting and they are so yummy already that I have and will taste them many times a day. They could be done in a week, but it depends on how much salt was used, the temperature of the ferments and your personal taste. When the ferments are to your liking, you can transfer them to smaller jars and refrigerate them. This will stop the fermentation, but not kill the living goodness. Or you can scoop some out and leave the rest to continue developing and even add more vegetables to replace what you took. Very much like a sourdough starter.
Sandor’s book teaches so much more. The next projects I will undertake are miso and tempeh. I need a few more specialized ingredients to undertake these projects. Remember that I got started to save money. As is so often the case, it will take so very many batches of everything before I save a penny if the cost of the equipment is taken into account. The crocks aren’t necessary, any glass or food grade plastic container will do, but the crocks were too beautiful to resist. Made in Zanesville, Ohio, too. I enjoy having the chance to support a domestic supplier. If I handle them carefully, they will easily outlast me.
I ordered three crocks, one of which holds one gallon, another three gallons and the final five gallons. If I had it to do again, I would have ordered more one gallon crocks. I am not sure I will need the capacity of the larger crocks. Despite excellent packaging, the five gallon crock arrived with a crack in the bottom. I was sick upon discovering it, knowing that the time, energy and materials devoted to making the crock and then delivering it to me might be wasted. Lehman’s customer service was first rate. Taking me on my word and not requiring a return of the cracked crock, they are shipping a replacement crock. No questions asked, beyond a few to determine that the package hadn’t been mishandled by the shipper (no evidence of that).
Happily, the damaged crock won’t be wasted. I found a picture on Sandor’s site showing the use of melted beeswax to seal a crack in a crock. I have beeswax on hand from Rivendell, which I bought in my pre-vegan days. Rivendell sells it for use, among other things, as a mild thread lock. While I have used it as a mild thread lock with good results, so little is used that I feared I may not ever use up the dixie cup quantity. I pressed a line of wax along the crack both inside and outside the crock, and then used a hairdryer to melt the wax into the crack. Capillary action should have carried the wax into the crack, so I am hoping the crock can still be used. Too bad I will now have two five gallon crocks when what I might make better use of many smaller crocks. Learn from my mistake!
It has been some time since I posted. Late last week, before the snow arrived, I pedaled out to the closest parcel making up the Pine Bush preserve. I enjoyed one of the last unseasonably warm afternoons pedaling along flat dirt trails skirting ponds and rivers. I am sorry to have not had a camera with me. Despite having a number of mountain bicycles, I have never pedaled in the mountains. The closest I have ever come is pedaling along mostly flat dirt trails in the woods. I suspect flat and wide dirt trails are more suited to my tastes. I have plenty of fun getting off the roads, pedaling through trees and looking for critters. Now that we are back east, I could easily head to the mountains. Even so, I try to avoid putting my bicycle on a car to go bicycle. Better to make use of what you can reach by bicycle.
I was happy to find other people in the Pine Bush, too. So often I am alone on the trails. I think local woods are too often passed over for more dramatic hikes further out in the mountains. Best to hike and pedal locally as much as possible. This day folks were eating lunch by the pond and others were walking along the trails. I hope they were happy to see me, too. I was pedaling slowly and courteously, to be sure.
I wasn’t aware until this recent trip that the closest parcel in the Pine Bush had nice trails for biking, but it does indeed. I used to pedal farther out to the second closest parcel, but won’t need to any longer. The trails further out were nice, but the only route there involves pedaling along very big and busy roads. In fact, I recently learned while reading the Albany Bicycle Master Plan that the road I was using to get to the further out parcel is designated a highway and bicycles are prohibited. Very surprising, since the road is wholly within the city and it is the only way to get to very many businesses along its length.
Since I didn’t have a camera, I have posted above older pictures of the further out parcel. A very nice woods, to be sure. They were taken on a sunny day, about 45 degrees, in the middle of winter, February 6, 2006, to be exact. My dog and I had a wonderful midwinter treat. A cautionary tale, though. It was on this day and in these woods that our dog picked up ticks and developed Lyme disease. We had stopped her tick preventative for the winter, thinking ticks and fleas are dormant all winter. Not so. All it took was a single warm day to awaken the ticks. The next day we found a couple of ticks on her. Our friend and vet gave her some high doses of antibiotics to try to stem the disease. Our dog has been Lyme positive for many years now, without any visible symptoms. Certain breeds are more susceptible to arthritis, organ failure and death from Lyme disease. Again, please learn from my mistakes.
One other bit of news. I tried to pedal the Goodrich to the co-op for non-iodized salt yesterday (better for fermenting). Rolling down the driveway there was a soft rhythmic thump coming from the rear of the bicycle. The tire had in one spot all but given up on its job of holding in the tube. It let go enough to form a bubble on the sidewall. The bubble was rubbing on the fender. Not long to failure and a long walk home. Instead I switched bikes. The Goodrich will need new shoes to be reliable. I think I have just the set downstairs. Actually many sets. I bought roughly ten vintage whitewall Bridgestone tires years ago. They are old and cracked, so not terribly reliable, but I am not very worried about tires on this bicycle. Low pressure and even lower speeds give me the comfort I need to experiment with old rubber. Another project!