Sunday, January 5, 2020

The merits of canning bone broth

Ever since visiting my 92 year old (retired farmer's wife) aunt this fall, I've become so curious about my life-style now compared to my Aunt's.  Or mine compared to my great grandparents.  I'm ready to learn time travel so I can go back and observe---any time now.

This week I've been working on canning bone broth (or stock as they used to call it in the old days).  I'm wondering about the merits of doing all this work for bone broth.  Is it really worth it?  I know it puts an aroma through the house that makes your mouth water.   I wonder if my relatives cut the bones, cooked the bones down enough to get the cartilage and bone marrow out.  How often did they eat it, all winter?  If the wood stove was going, I'm betting they had bones cooking.  (Nobody really used a pressure cooker until WWII)  Maybe they only used chicken bones.  Things to ponder....

My own history with bone marrow started in 1976 when I was in Anaktuvuk Pass for 2 weeks.  Our high school youth group offered to go there and teach Bible School.  This was back in the day when there was one phone for the whole village and no TVs.  The whole village showed up to meet the plane at the runway.  We stayed in James and Anna Nageak's house while they were out of town.  It was one of the few plywood houses in town.  The rest of the houses were very small hovels, some still sod houses.  The bigger the house, the harder it was to heat in the winter.

As luck would have it, our food didn't show up.  We had ordered it at the grocery store in Fairbanks and had it sent from there to Anaktuvuk Pass.  I still don't remember why our food didn't show up.  Maybe the planes were full.  Maybe the clouds came down and the plane over-headed.  But finally one day, Melinda Lord decided she would go to one of her relative's houses and ask for some food. (She was Inupiat from a well known family living in Fairbanks).  She came back triumphant with a frozen caribou leg.  She explained that they took her down into their ice cellar and she could pick out what she wanted.  I wished I would have gone with her now, since the ice cellars are all melting now.

She tossed it on the table and got out a sharp knife.  The rest of us Tunniks (whites) watched as she shaved off thin pieces of meat for us to fry up.  She ate some raw and we were horrified.  Then she got to the bone.  She thought she was going to have to fight for it.  So she asked quietly, "Who wants some marrow?"  I can't even imagine the faces we made.  I only remember her eyes getting really big, and her smile growing across her face, "Really?" she asked.  "Are you sure?"  We were sure.  Then she cracked the bone and started dipping her finger in, as if she were digging into the jelly jar.  She sat and worked that bone until she licked it clean.  How could I make sense of that???

When we got back to Fairbanks, I talked to my parents about that incident.  I was told never to eat raw meat and besides chicken gizzards, or liver, I had never heard of eating ALL of the animal before.  Of course I never really thought about how the Inupiat people survived 10,000 years in Alaska without much fruit or vegetables.  There were vitamins in the marrow.  Vitamins that were essential for survival in the far north.

It wasn't until the last 10 years (after I retired), that I started to be curious about the healing powers of bone broth.  One year we brought our moose to Indian Valley Meats near Girdwood to be processed.  To my surprise when we came back to pick up the boxes of meat, I saw people around several garbage cans.  What in the world? I thought.  In the cans were all the bones from everyone's moose. People were rooting through them to find the best bones.  So that day I brought some home too.

I put them in the sink and scrubbed them.  One moose hair can ruin the taste of the whole batch, so I cleaned them so well they looked fresh.   I put the bones in a regular pot and boiled them all day.  It turned into great soup.  But....not bone broth.  Or so I'm told.

This year I went in to get our yearly supply of Indian Valley's  jalepeno bratwurst.  I was later than usual in the year and it was a Sunday.  I explained how sorry I was that they weren't cutting moose 'cause I wanted some bones.  The gal looked to her boss and asked, "How about we give her that box that those folks never came back to get?"  He nodded and so I ended up carrying out a 50 pound box of carribou legs.

So this week was bone broth week.  I learned some more things.....

This year I used the pressure cooker to conserve fossil fuels. We cook with Natural Gas, so shortening the time it takes to cook down the bones makes it more sustainable. I cooked the bones for 4. 5 hours at 15 pounds of pressure. That gives all of the Collagen, the protein matrix in bones, tendons, ligaments, and other flexible tissues, time to brake down. When I took off the lid the next morning, this is what I saw. Lots of fat on top.

After reading up on fat on the internet, we decided to keep the fat instead of skimming it off.  You only want to keep it, apparently, if the animal has not been farmed.  That's where all the toxins are stored.  Since these bones were from wild caribou, we decided it would be good for us.  I did try some of the fat on my dry hands.  It was good until it wore off.

I noticed, after this first batch, that the marrow couldn't come out of the bones if the bones are still in tact, duh!  So that night, I held the bones and Curt cut them in half with the sawzall.

Although that opened the bone up for the marrow to come out, it didn't just float out.  I ended up sticking the shish kabob skewers in the bone cavity and coaxing the long marrow casings out.  Next time I will cut the joints off the bone instead, so that you can see through the bone when the marrow is gone.  It requires more time sawing, but less time poking and prodding.

Finally I had all the bone broth out and brought it to a boil.   I tried some and I didn't like chunks of things, sometimes meat, sometimes marrow left floating around. So I used my immersion blender to blend it all into small pieces. I added some spices to taste and it was perfect.

I cleaned out the pressure cooker, washed my quart jars in the dishwasher and then filled the jars with broth.  I cooked them for 25 minutes at 15 pounds of pressure.

The jars in the video look grimy because, for the first time ever, the alarm went off on the pressure cooker.  My husband was wondering why we couldn't use the smaller pressure cooker knob instead of the larger one.  Note:  our last pressure cooker had a circular weight that you could place on the top at either a 10, 15 or 20 pound pressure.  Our new one just came with one weight.  In the center of the lid was the pressure gauge.

Somehow it didn't like the littler weight and when we opened it up, two jars had NO lids!  The rings were off.  Yes, I did put them on tight!  And the rubberized seals were off!  The bone broth was mixed in with the water bath.  So of course I couldn't waste it.  I boiled it down and re-canned them with the proper weight on the pressure cooker.

Here's what happened after I pulled them out!  You have to see how they dance!

I called my mom to see if she remembers trying to get marrow out of the bones, but she didn't.  She was 12 years younger than her sister and suspects that she just didn't know what was going on.  But I'm imagining on cold winter nights, my relatives would get out some bone broth from the basement (root cellar), add potatoes and carrots and had a very nice meal with some fresh bread.  At -10 degrees here today....we will be doing the same thing.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

New Year......New Decade....New Committment

Yes....2020.  I see you.  You have arrived.  Something my sister and I never could believe we'd ever see.  Mom was doing laundry in the cement basement with the old washer.  There was an electric ringer she had to put the clothes through before she could hang them up in the basement.  Sandee and I were riding our bikes or trikes around before all the clothes were hung up.  Mom wouldn't let us help.  She thought we'd get our fingers stuck in the ringer and be maimed for life.  So we were contemplating how long we'd live.  It's so funny that I remember that moment so clearly.

I'm guessing it was close to New Years 1967.   I would have been 7 and she, 5.  We were counting the years by 5s, but since she couldn't do that yet, I was announcing each year.  The grey concrete seemed to make my pronouncement of each year more profound in the moist dark basement.  "Could we live to 1975?"  Yeah!  She and I would scream.  Then we would take a lap around the 2 poles that held the basement up.  Could we live to 1980? '85? 90?  Each year was a resounding YEAH!  Until I reached 2000.  My sister screamed NO!!!  We could never live until the year 2000.  So I started figuring it out.  In 2000 we would be 39 and 41, I told her.  Would we live that long?  Well our mom was 29, and we knew plenty of people older than her.  So my sister agreed we could live that long.  And we took our obligatory lap around the poles.

Years later when we were having our 2000 bonfire on the beach near her house in Texas, waiting for the Y2K disaster to strike, I reminded her of this ceremony we had done when we were little.  She had no recollection.  But she was distracted with her 7 kids of various ages (5 adopted) swinging marshmellow sticks around the fire.

It's ominous now....but we continued the game and when I got to 2020, she said no, we would never live to see 2020.  I said we would.  We'd only be 60 and 58.   I can't remember what happened next.  Maybe mom called us to help hang the clothes on the basement clothes line, but I don't remember doing our obligatory race around the poles.

In November 2018 she died of a pulmonary embolism.  She predicted it back when she was little.  So here I am welcoming 2020 without her.  I'm the one left to remember and to document life in the 20s.  So my new decade's resolution is to do more writing about life, not only for my sister....but for my grandchildren and those who come after me.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Lessons I Learned in Alaska (from my Wwoofer)

Alaska, according to Shea O'Brien, 20, who grew up and lived her whole life on the east coast where everything is tame.  (Note:  she spent weekends hiking and time with another family....not just ours)

Really Alaskans are pretty crazy:  1.  to live here;   2. to STAY here.  Life is so much harder here.  There's a certain practicality and toughness of the people.  It doesn't work out so well for you if you aren't tough.  I value their moxie.  It's a git 'er done quality.

Alaskans really think they are better than every one else, even the term "Lower 48" says it all!

They all really like to talk about bears.  BUT, when you mention that fact, they bring out all sorts of other stories of moose, fish, and other vermin.

Another thing:  cracked windshields!  No one even bothers to change them.....the nicest cars can have just totally shattered windshields.

They believe they are their own country.  Everyone just kinda does whatever they want.

There's an outdoor culture here that's just wild.  A certain point at the top of every mountain that runs out of trail where there are no trees and you scramble up however you can.  Once you realize there's no rules and no fences, you just do as much as you can without dying!

Shea peeling logs

Shea conquers the cottonwoods

Bear terror is the worst---never mind the earthquakes, avalanches, high murder rate, moose, high cost of living, the snow and ice with extreme temperatures. Everyone just shrugs it off and eats a lot of ice-cream.

First of all, there are some really cool things about Alaska.  They have their own time zone AND the whole state is the SAME area code!  But they are still more than twice the size of Texas.

It's so strange that there's a near complete lack of amphibians, reptiles, and fireflies.

There's a strange lack of tree variety here.  They are, for the most part, all one color and all the same height:  tall.

It's crazy that you have to fly everywhere---most towns and villages have no roads to them!

The first thing I noticed about the buildings is that they are square.  I started calling them lego buildings---everything is a log cabin or legos!  There's a complete lack of architecture.

Pull offs are NOT NORMAL.  Why are people pulling over so much?  What is there to see, anyway?

Names of everything are so straight forward and literal.  The street names are funny enough (Denali, Northern Lights, but the creeks....we passed Mountain Creek....duh, a creek coming from a mountain; then goat creek, then 20 mile creek.  Hmmm I wonder how long the creek is?  At least the names are doesn't end.  No John Doe memorial street, or civil war battle field creek.  It's just very clear how everything got its name. I just can't stop:  there's a lake called Beach Lake with a little trail going to the beach.  Oh look!  There are a couple eagles flying around this river:  Eagle River.  So funny!

Mosquitoes are the size of quarters---you can see 'em and git 'em.

Lessons I learned the hard way:  
     1.  Bring a raincoat 100% of the time, especially if you are sure you won't need it!
     2.  Hiking boots means actual hiking boots, not work boots.  There's a difference. Whatever you THINK the weather's gonna be, you're wrong.

So if you are visiting prepared.

****Cindee Karns, scribe

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Is Silence Really Golden?

The last day of my 58th year around the sun turned out to be a whopper!  All was fine---despite the very unusual wind---until I lost cell service around 11am during a phone call with my mom.  Not to worry.  I have a land line and could call her back.  The winds started howling. The empty pots outside the door starting hitting the door and flying around in small tornados.  I made my way down to the greenhouse with 2 armloads of wood to split to start the stove.  I'm telling you, the wind was so cold, it was sucking heat out of the greenhouse so fast!  We are so lucky that the roof didn't blow off since last summer Curt fell off the roof putting the last screws in and decided to leave the last screws until this summer.

Anyway, it was nice sitting next to the stove.  But still, the wind howled.  By the time I got back up to the house, I had internet service again and thought I'd watch a TV show and wait for the wind to die down.  It never happened and my phone died.  Since I couldn't do much outside, I thought I'd go to town.  I needed my restless leg medicine. , I knew from experience I wouldn't sleep much that night without it.

I went down the 31 stairs to the garage and remembered ---after I punched in the code to the garage door--that it was an electric garage door and it wouldn't open.  So I walked back up the 31 stairs to check on the "speck,"  our junk car we keep for visitors.  Curt had just charged it up the day before so it would start.  I got in and no matter what I tried, it just wouldn't turn over.  So.... back down the 31 stairs to try the Suburban, our boat puller that we don't drive in the winter.  Curt had also charged up the Suburban.  What a crazy racket the Suburban made.  I'm guessing we need a new starter.  So.... I thought I'd go back up the 31 stairs to have lunch and think about my options.  Maybe the power would come back on.

An hour later----still no power.  I decided Curt would know how to open the garage door without power, but I had no cell phone battery left.  Choice one:  get out the emergency cook stove that has a phone charger on it, or go down to the car and charge the phone.  Back down the 31 stairs.  Yes, I started the car in the closed garage.  I did leave the man door open so the fumes wouldn't be that bad, but the kept wind slamming it shut.  Luckily, the phone came on before I lost consciousness (just kidding--it wasn't bad) and I called Curt.  He picked up and explained that there's some string next to the garage door motor.  I couldn't see a string by the motor, but there was a different string by the door.  I pulled and tugged.  I dragged a log over to stand on to get a better look, but to no avail.

What to do?  I got back in the car and started it again.  I blocked open the man door so I wouldn't die and I started watching You Tube videos to teach me how to do it.  I had already done what those videos said to do.  I tied a piece of wood onto the string to see if that would help me pull it.  Nope.  Then I glanced over to the other garage door and that string was different.  It had a loop.  I pulled it and VIOLA!  I heard a snap and pushed open the garage door!  I was FREE AT LAST!

Driving to town was no easy feat either.  The wind was pushing me all over the road---debris was flying.  I drove by a guy walking.  He had his elbow over his eyes and shirt over his mouth and nose, so I turned around.  I was going to pick him up.  By the time I caught back up to him, I saw he was carrying what looked like a whiskey bottle, so I left him walking.  I swerved around a tree that was down.  A truck in front of me (happened to be my neighbor) turned in there and later I found out, she had her chain saw in the back of the truck and cut the tree out of the road.

I made it to Carrs and luckily the generator was working so the cash registers could still work.  I went to the pharmacy and THEIR registers were not working.  I begged for my pills -- just enough for the night and I'd come back the next day.  She took pity on me and wrote an I.O.U. which I'll have to go and pay today sometime.  So with that, I ventured into the dark aisles with my cell phone flash light gathering the stuff I needed---not much:  milk, yogurt, salad, fruit and cinnamon.  When I started whistling, since it was so creepy in there, my neighbor found me (the one who cut the tree out of the road) and we went through the aisles together.  Just as we finished our shopping, the generator died.  That meant only those with cash (not even checks) could buy their groceries.  What?  I saw a woman in near panic, "I've GOT to have matches! We can't eat if I can't buy matches!"  Another said that Walmart was out.  Someone else told terrible stories of the carts going crazy over at Fred Meyers (since no one wanted to take them back) and they were damaging all the cars in the parking lot.  So..... I had to abandon my cart and drive home.  All that and no way to buy groceries.

When I arrived home, I decided to get out the emergency radio that I haven't used in 8 years or so.  I became so aware of how much I rely on noise:  TV, or music, radio, or books on tape, or podcasts.  All of that was not possible.  I made a mental note to start practicing working in silence.  So, I happily pulled down the wind-up radio.  Wouldn't you know?  You have to replace the batteries every 5 years or so or they won't take a charge!  What kind of an emergency radio is that?  So....I went on the hunt for batteries.  So lucky!  I had 4 AAs still in the charger that were charged.  Ah.....the sound of voices warning me that there's a wind storm out there.  Ahhhh.

So....what to eat?  I wanted comfort food and my granddaughter had just told me about the wonderful banana bread she ate.  So--because we have gas appliances,  I pulled the frozen bananas out of the freezer and let them thaw (no microwave to defrost things) and started mixing.  When I turned on the oven, it didn't sound right.  Then I remembered ...... no electric start.  So I abandoned my banana bread and made rice on the stove.  But to light the stove I had to find matches!  So funny!  My matches were totally dead.  They had oxidized or something.  They wouldn't strike on the box.  So I knew there were emergency candles and lighters upstairs in the bathroom, so I lit a candle and brought it down---even though the sun is setting at 9pm now and I didn't really need a candle.  It was useful to start the stove with anyway.

With warm rice in my belly, I wondered what I should do next?  Curt wasn't coming home until 10pm or so.  We usually watch a TV show or two and then go to bed.  Oh....yeah....bed.  All the sheets were in the washer and it didn't finish its spin!  I wondered if I should try and hang them on the clothes line or would they just make their way down to the river at the bottom of the hill? I left them in the washer.

It started getting cool in the house.  I decided instead of going outside to haul and split more wood to start a fire, I would go put my long johns on.  With no good book to read, or TV to watch, I curled under the blankets on the couch and listened to Public Radio.  The cat curled up next to me and it was very cozy.

When Curt came home at 10, he said HE had cell phone service, why didn't I?  Hmmmmm.  I re-booted my phone and, what do you know?  I had it too.  So.....we turned off the emergency radio and we watched "Lost in Space" on his cell phone.  Creatures of habit, I guess.

So today, while I treasure hunt down the mountain and in the woods for all the things that blew away, I'm pondering if I'm really up for a long emergency?  I take pride in being prepared.  But am I prepared for silence?

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Homer's Natural Built Birthing Center

Curt and I took time to stop at the Birthing Center in Homer.  We were so impressed! 

The entry way. 

The waiting room/living room.

The guillotine --- cuts off the airflow so the heat doesn't go up the rocket stove leaving the bench cold.
The pizza oven above the wood input on the rocket stove.

 The top of the heat riser is a stove top in the kitchen

The rocket stove mass heater bench.
The clean-out for the horizontal chimney

The pantry----adding driftwood really makes it more natural.

Nice little wooded details added and then the extra detail of the whale tail!  

Clay TV stand----very artsy.   Fake fire place

The birthing bathtub---details of stone

Bottles adorn the wall between the entry and the bedroom.

Artsy Windows

Nice cubbies in random places.

Cindee with the head Birthing Lady (Doula?)

The walls are 8 inches clay-straw, 8 inches of clay brick in the middle and 8 inches of clay-straw on the outside.  The building took 4-5 years to complete and it is approved by the city of Homer. 

Sunday, June 11, 2017

There's a bear in my Subaru!


The neighborhood black bear found us.

Cathy, my intern, and I were unloading plants from the Subaru and taking them down to plant in the orchard area, right below the driveway.  Cathy had just been up to the garage to look for a shovel.  We decided to use our hands to plant with.

Maybe five minutes later I hear something.  I decide it was Curt.  I call out to him, but he doesn't answer.  I decide that he has his ear buds in and is working in the garage.  Then....another noise.  I decide to go up and check it out.  I'm calling for Curt.  When he doesn't answer, I start calling for the neighborhood dogs to come to my rescue.  I walk slowly up the old garden steps next to the garage.  Since I'm still calling for dogs, I think it's got to be Curt working in the garage.  Just as I'm about to stick my head around the corner of the open garage door, I see garbage all over the garage floor.  I knew then, it was the bear.  Dang.

I jump in Curt's car and I call for Cathy to come up.  She of course didn't want to come up next to the garage, so she climbs up the cliff and jumps in the little mazda.  I lay on the horn.  What a dump horn that is---why didn't I jump in the Suburban---something with a substantial horn??  I roll down the window and we still hear the bear in the garage.  We can't see anything though---it's a black bear in the dark garage.  We start calling the bear out of the garage.  No luck.  I decide to open the 2nd garage door to see if that would move him.  Sure enough.  He moseys out of the garage and right next to Cathy's window that she is struggling to get up.  He's heading to the driveway.  Good, we think. bear picture

Then he takes a wiff at my Subaru.  I remember the cinnamon gum in there and more importantly, the bag of trash I should have emptied.  My last Wwoofer loved chocolate, so we splurged more than once on expensive chocolate bars and some reese's cups.  He comes back around and decides to check it out.  Bear Picture  Gingerly he steps into the back of the open Subaru and makes his way to the driver's seat.  He starts picking through the garbage bag that's on the passenger's seat floor!

Well, Cathy and I start up the Mazda and put it in reverse.  That of course did not phase the bear and we decide it wouldn't be able to get out the back of the car again. Who wants it going out the closed window?  So I get out of the car.  I call Curt on the phone---nervously--- to bring the bear spray down from the house.  By the time he comes down, Cathy and I are yelling at the bear to get out of the car and the bear is turning around in my driver's seat. He honks the horn with his butt. (The steering wheel was wet afterwards---let's hope it was slobber. The horn startles him some and he starts coming out of the back of the car. So nice of him to step around all my plants.  Bear Picture

Then, instead of running off like a good bear should.  It decides to go after Latte, who was just sitting there watching the whole spectacle.  She ducks under the suburban and the bear barks at her and pounces on his two front feet.  If you haven't ever heard a bear bark---it's a warning sound.  He claws under the suburban to try to reach her. Bear Picture We are all screaming at the bear to leave.  Reluctantly he leaves the cat and saunters to the top of the driveway.  But he stops and just looks at us, like "so what are you going to do, make me?"   Bear Picture  Curt, Cathy and I start moving forward, yelling.  Curt has the bear spray at the ready along with our house sign "Karns" because he couldn't get it untangled from the bear spray.  Too bad I didn't take that picture.  It looked like he was going to paddle the bear with the board.  Anyway, Curt had to escort that bear all the way down the driveway and across the road so he'd leave.  Bear Picture

We then practiced with the bear spray to see if it would have reached the bear.  That stuff only sprayed like 3 feet and so it might have just made him mad.  He kept about 5 feet away from us.

Anyway, he's been a real nuisance around the neighborhood (IF IT'S THE SAME BEAR).  A neighbor took this picture of him at the post boxes at the bottom of the hill.  Bear Picture

Needless to say our guns are loaded.  We would NEVER shoot a bear unless he were chewing on a leg.  It's just too dangerous with so many houses around.  But we DID go out and buy 4 new cans of bear spray.

Lesson learned:  even if you are working and talking right outside, always turn on the radio.    That was always my Wwoofer's job this year.  When he left, I just didn't do it.  Dumb.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Part II: Rammed Earth House

MAY 2017
House looks great from the outside----no one lives in it yet.

Finishing touches around windows and doors.

Nice color on the walls.  Some sheetrock.

Hard to plan all of the electrical and other wires ahead of time.