Thursday, May 31, 2012

Puppy Bath Time

We're sending off another batch of puppies tomorrow, and before they go they needed to have a bath.


Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Some canning "firsts" this week

Recently, Rachel tried making apple butter for the first time. It came out so well, she decided to make a big batch and can it, so we'd have a supply of apple butter in our pantry.

As it happens, we've only canned using the pressure method so far, and apple butter only needs to be water bath canned. We used the same pot for this, but found that water bath canning is much faster and easier. Boo and Rachel worked together peeling, coring, and grating up all those apples.

Rachel spiced the apples and cooked and cooked and cooked until eventually the mixture was relatively smooth. We don't worry about getting it extremely smooth, as we don't mind chunky apple butter.

We ended up with 16 pints of apple butter. That should keep us for a while!

When Rachel and I went grocery shopping this week, we discovered that the local berries, known as "Mora" are in season right now. We really enjoy these berries cooked up as a cobbler, but the berries are only available for a few weeks each year. So, we decided to try canning up some of these berries.

This was another first for us, as we had to do some guesswork/adapting to come up with a recipe for canning these. We're new to canning, and we're still most comfortable following a recipe and set of directions to a "T", but we had to wing it this time, as there aren't any directions available for canning mora berries!

Boo and David sorted through the berries, to pull out the bad ones and make sure no stems or leaves made it into the canning jars. Then Rachel canned up 14 quarts of berries. Off season cobbler for us!

We're needing to can some more chicken, as we've used up our supply, but I don't supposed we'll be getting to that anytime soon - we're all pretty tired of canning at the moment. At the same time, we're feeling pretty proud of our canning accomplishments, and especially of our recently acquired skills in new areas!

Catching up on posting about the Las Flores Bridge Project

The menfolk are still working on the bridge construction, even though the rainy season is officially here! I'd like to be sharing the current, exciting, progress, but I'm committed to presenting the posts in chronological order, so I'm going to rush through the pouring of the second support wall. Here are some photos:

As the two support walls - one on each bank of the river - were completed, the men switched to creating the gigantic beams which will sit atop the walls and the yet-to-be-complete piers in the riverbed.

Here are some photos of the process of preparing the forms to pour the beams:

Below are photos of some beams being poured, and then some of the completed beams. I think these beams are amazing and impressive. For these huge beams (there will eventually be 12 of them), we will definitely be hiring cranes to move them into place.

(To the left in this photo, you can see the second completed support wall)

There you go. That gets us caught up to the point where the men started working in the riverbed. I'll try to get to that next batch of photos pretty soon.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Flowers by Boo

Just a few photos of local wildflowers, taken by Boo.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Some photos from around the place this week

Yummmmm - here's the bread from that new recipe!

The gate on our driveway - the one that's kept closed, to keep the cows in, and must be opened if I'm to drive in.

The steep driveway, leading up to that gate.

See Gus in the rafters? Wanna guess what he's doing with that broom wrapped in a rag? Well, if you guessed "knocking down termite parts" you can congratulate yourself on your amazing guessing skills. Now, wanna guess what I'm cleaning up all over the lower regions of my house again? Yup. Sigh.

Friday, May 25, 2012

What's Cookin'?

Recently we tried a new whole wheat bread recipe. I found the recipe here, and tried it specifically because we wanted a bread which would successfully hold together when sliced and used for sandwiches. This is the one! Although the bread isn't especially flavorful, it's a nice, simple sandwich bread. The only adjustment we made to the recipe was to change the ratio of white to whole wheat flour. We used about 2 cups of white and 6 cups of whole wheat, instead of 5 cups of white and 3 cups of whole wheat - and it still worked out great.

I'm quite excited with this find, so I wanted to share the recipe with any of you who might be looking for something like this!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Probably my last post about termites (at least I hope so)

I discovered that Boo was able to get a few pictures of the termites swarming outside of our house, and I knew you'd want to see those!

And now I believe you have probably heard and seen all you want to about our annual termite swarming!

The Far Side (of the river)

It's been a while since I posted about the big bridge project. These photos, in fact, are from back in January or so - that's how far behind I am! If you want to read the story of this bridge construction project from the beginning, see the links listed at the end of this post.

When the men started working on the second bridge support wall - the one on the other side of the river - they had to deal with large amounts of water seeping into their trench. In the photo above you can see several long tubes, which are connected to the pumps, trying to remove the water. Unfortunately the pumps weren't winning the fight against the ever-rising water.

The back-up plan for handling this wet situation was to start putting concrete into the trench on the end where the water was coming in, using a very dry mixture since the concrete would be soaking up some of the water. Eventually the concrete plugged up the place where the water had been coming in, and the men were able to continue to add concrete at that end of the trench, gradually moving from that end toward the other end, displacing the water with the heavier concrete as they went along.

As always, the process involved:

Workers filling buckets with sand, gravel, and water, and delivering those to the mixers.

Materials being poured into the mixers in the correct proportions for this specific part of the bridge.

Allen and Gus, usually, are in charge of running the mixers.

In this case, the men were able to create a chute, so that some of the concrete was simply pushed down the chute to fall into the trench.

There goes the concrete!

The men working down in the trench push and pull the concrete along the footer.

These final pictures show how very much the chute was decreasing the workload. The second mixer was set up near the other end of the trench (which will be more convenient toward the end of this pour).

At this point, though, the men needed to carry the buckets of concrete to the other end of the footer, so they hauled the heavy buckets down into the trench . . .

. . . and carried them along the side of the footer, to pour the concrete in at the right location.

I don't have any pictures of the finished footer from this work day. Boo has suggested that perhaps the camera battery ran out part way through.

Now, here are those links to the previous posts relating to this project:

Las Flores - Our biggest bridge project ever!

More on the big bridge project

Big Bridge Construction Project - still digging

The Big Bridge Project - the first concrete pour

The Big Bridge Project - another update

Another Bridge Construction Update

I've been remiss, so here's an update on the bridge construction project

Another day on the bridge project

Bridge Building Progress at Las Flores

Footnote: Boo noticed that the photo which says "they hauled the heavy buckets down into the trench . . ." actually shows men carrying empty buckets into the trench. They sometimes did that, to haul water up from the river in those buckets. Sorry for the mislabeled photo. LOL

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A full day - and it's not even noon yet!

Rachel and I went into Gracias today, on a purchasing trip. We left the house at 6:30, along with the men who were heading to the bridge project. They were dropped off at Russell's house, so they could all drive to the bridge project together in the one vehicle, while Rachel and I could drive around to do our errands and then drive home in the other vehicle.

We had several errands to do in town, including buying groceries. Our little puppy, Nutmeg, has an infection inside the skin on the top of her head, which is looking pretty nasty, so we needed to get some antibiotics for her. We also wanted to see about purchasing a grinder for grinding up coffee beans, as our little electric one has given up. This time we figured we'd get a heavy, local style, manual grinder. We use an electric grinder for our wheat, but we don't grind up all that much coffee, so we thought we could manage with a manual version for this (the electric wheat grinder isn't the correct type for use with coffee beans).

After dropping off the men, Rachel and I hit our first stop - the vegetable market. While we were there, Allen called. I figured he'd left something in the car we had, and needed us to drive it out to him at the bridge, but it was worse than that - he needed something from home!

Rachel and I revamped the plan. We quickly finished the grocery shopping by only getting the absolute necessities, and then we headed home. With me driving (I don't go very fast on the very rough roads - I like my "comfort") it takes us about 25 minutes to get home from Gracias. We pulled in, unloaded groceries and loaded up the materials Allen needed. We also decided to take Nutmeg into town with us this time, as she might need a shot, and the "vet" (really just the guy who owns the agricultural supply place) would administer the shot for us, if we had the dog along. Otherwise, he'd send the syringe of medicine with us, and we'd have to give the shot.

I dropped Rachel and Nutmeg off in town. Nutmeg is about 3.5 months old, but pretty big, and had never worn a collar or leash before today. She also wasn't familiar with the traffic and strange dogs of town. She's a rather timid dog, so she wasn't going to get into trouble, but she did suggest rather strongly to Rachel that going a different direction, to avoid some strange dog, would be a better idea than going where Rachel wanted to go. Eventually she got used to the new things, and did well the rest of the time. She received liquid antibiotics and also a couple of her puppy shots, for which she was due.

Meanwhile, I headed out of town to the bridge project, in the nearby town of Las Flores. At the risk of making myself sound like a wimp, I have to admit that this was the furthest from home I've driven in Honduras, since I started driving here almost two years ago. I have driven to Gracias, and home again, and that's all. My manual transmission skills are just barely passable, and I haven't had any reason to go any farther. So, today was the day. I was driving much faster than usual, as this was on the main paved road between Gracias and Santa Rosa de Copan. It was a new experience for me, driving on paved roads. It took much more shifting than I'm used to, as it also involved lots of speed bumps and some ups-and-downs over mountains. One other thing made this trip a bit extra-stressful - I left my cell phone with the kids at home, so that they would be able to contact us in the event of an emergency, so I didn't have a phone with me. I thought about that a few times, as I struggled with downshifting while climbing hills. I got better over the course of the round trip, though.

After dropping off the materials at the bridge site and returning to pick up Rachel and Nutmeg in town, we headed home, again. I had another "first" in my driving today. We have a gate we have to open, to enter our property, and the gate is located at a very steep spot in our driveway. Usually I call ahead, and have someone from the house (usually Ben) run out and open the gate for me, so I don't have to stop on the hill. Today, for the first time, I stopped on the hill while Rachel opened the gate, and then I . . . restarted on the hill! And nobody died!

It was a big day for me, and all that was before 11am!

Monday, May 21, 2012

And now, back to those pesky termites

I never did write that post about cleaning up after the termite invasions. After the first one I spent a large chunk of the next day cleaning bug parts out of the kitchen. They were stuck to the clean dishes in the drying rack, and were all over the counters (and behind everything that sits out on the counters). The floor was sprinkled with them, and many were stuck to the walls and sitting on the shelves - these were strategically located to fall onto already-cleaned areas as necessary to keep the whole process going as long as possible. Of course they were in the sinks, and on the dirty dishes, and they stuck to dishtowels and to skin and to pretty much everything.

At the end of that cleaning session, I still had bug parts in lots of other areas of the house, but the kitchen was basically termite free. Then I got pulled into the computer switching project and never really did complete the whole house debugification process. Which turned out to be fine, because we then had another termite visitation, and the whole kitchen was as bad - possibly worse - than it was the first time. That's just a bit frustrating.

We grabbed a couple quick pictures of the more recent termite invasion. It was pretty dark, as it was raining at the time, so the pictures aren't very clear, but I do think this will give you some idea of the situation. It's the floor in front of our metal security door, and the termites that came in the gap between the door and the floor. Lots more bugs flew in from the open areas higher up, but this picture especially seemed to speak to me about the yuckiness of the situation..

Hopefully we're done with termites for this year . . . but just in case, I'm not killing myself to get every single one cleaned up just yet . . .

An update on the water situation

Our water tank (9'9" high, with about a 10' diameter) is full! It rained, hard, almost all night last night, and the water pressure coming into the tank was nice and strong. Unfortunately, when there's this much rain, the rivers carry lots of dirt, and that dirty water is what we're receiving in our tank right now. And in our kitchen sink. And in our washing machine. And in our toilet - but no one cares too much about that. LOL.

So, in spite of having a full water tank, we're using up our emergency supply of drinking water which we have stored in our house. We generally keep about a dozen 3 liter bottles of clean water in the laundry room, and another dozen or so in the freezer (more or less depending on how much of the freezer is full of food).

We're also catching rain water and boiling that for drinking water. We can't use our regular ceramic filters right now (the ones we ordinarily use for cleaning our river water into drinking water), because they simply clog up immediately when there's this much dirt to be filtered out. We're also bucketing rainwater into the washing machine, because the filters on the intake hoses are clogged, and when cleaned they immediately clog up again. Yes, there's that much dirt in the water.

Rachel took the photo of the water in the glass, and she said I should tell you that the water in-real-life looks much worse than that picture portrays. That water was also drawn at about noon, after the water had settled for about 12 hours or so.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Got 'er done!

Water is now flowing into our tank! The crew was successful at cleaning out the gunk and debris which was clogging the water intake from the river. They came home, only to find that water was still not flowing into our tank. So they went back out again, and discovered that the increased water pressure had blown a connection in the water lines. (We share this water system with a neighbor, who apparently doesn't see the wisdom of gluing the connections. This is about the fourth or fifth time we've had to repair his part of the system because of lack of glue.) Once this was repaired our tank started filling.

Currently our water is dark and scummy, because the yuckiness which settles to the bottom of the tank was being sucked into the house, but soon we should be back to "normal" around here!

Today's Water (and other) Woes

We've been having some issues with not getting much water in our water tank recently. We made it through the dry season easily this year, but even though we know there's plenty of water in the river, the amount making it through the pipes to our tank has been very small - barely enough for our basic needs.

Today is Sunday, the only day the guys take off from the bridge project, but they had already planned to use a few hours of their day off to find and fix the water intake problem. We were down to about 3' of water in our tank.

Last night, however, Allen got up around midnight to use the bathroom, and he discovered that we had no water coming into the house at all. He went outside and found that the pipe which drains the water tank had been broken - almost certainly one of the cows stepped on an exposed section - and the tank was drained dry.

First thing this morning Allen and Gus repaired that broken line, and now Allen, Gus, Josiah, Boo and Ben are out on a mission to repair the water lines. They will follow the lines from the halfway point back to the river (from the halfway point to our tank the lines are all underground), looking for the problem which is causing our low water pressure situation.

Josiah is getting a good taste of mission field life in rustic rural conditions - last night we had limited water, limited power (due to the overcast weather conditions), and another major onslaught of swarming flying termites, all at the same time! I was attempting to cook dinner during the worst of the swarming, and unfortunately I was all prepped to fry potato patties on the griddle. It was the wrong meal to try to cook at that moment, as the bugs kept flying down and getting stuck in the wet, sticky, uncooked tops of the potato patties. What a mess!

Today should be a better day, right?

Friday, May 18, 2012

Well that's done!

I've got the computers switched, and everything is back up and running! Considering how old and abused some of our equipment is, and how very much we rely on the computer and internet for communications this is always a big praise!

I'm still working on getting those termite wings cleaned up. Today, when I was doing school with Ben, we discovered that he had left his math book open on the night of the termite flight. We turned to the page he was on and discovered about 20 termite wings marking the spot where we'd been working!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Well here's . . . something . . .

I've mentioned, in some previous posts, my interest in identifying the wild plants on our property, and especially the plants which are good to eat. The plant you see in the picture above grows all over our yard, seeming to prefer full sun. The cows will eat these plants, but not until they're pretty much out of everything else to eat, during the time when all the plants are dying in the dry season.

The reluctance of the cows may have something to do with the spiky thorns all over this plant. I'd sure be careful, if I was going to eat those leaves!

The fruits appear on the plants as small green balls. Gradually the solid green changes over to the watermelon look of the immature fruits you can see in the first photo. The lighter color goes from white to yellow, the darker green gradually fade, and as the fruit becomes fully ripe it turns entirely yellow.

The mature fruits are about the size of ping pong balls. We brought one into the kitchen and cut it open. Although it smelled like melon, none of us thought it would be a good idea to try it, until we know more about the plant.

So there it is --- whatever it is! LOL