Ghost Town

When I was on vacation in October I detoured to the town where I lived 35 years ago. I went to scatter the ashes of a former resident. The town has been reclaimed by nature. Somehow, I thought ghost towns lasted longer than their final residents.

In 1854 cinnabar containing Mercury was discovered and the mining town of New Idria sprang up on the side of San Benito Mountain, The town was built on the baked tailings from the mine. It produced Mercury with the first Gould Rotary Furnace and operated until 1972. Everyone left in the years that followed the closure of the mine. After it became abandoned my family was hired as it’s caretaker, and I grew up in a ghost town.

Originally the town had over 100 building with a school and a post office but a few years ago a fire destroyed most of the town and none of the remaining buildings have been preserved or maintained in any way for several decades. There wasn’t much for me to take pictures of with the buildings burned and the plants growing up. The wind and rain has caused a lot of the steel to fall in on itself. Time recycles all thing.

As contrast, these are photos I took over 20 years earlier.

Turkey Day For Two

first things first

We are just cooking for two today so we shall not go overboard as we used to when cooking a thanksgiving meal. This is another occasion where measurement is not a part of meal preparation for me. Also, with just two, I do not want food to go to waste. So I am going with smaller portions and focus on quick and easy, but there are a few things I cannot make compromise on, stuffing, cranberry sauce must be made from scratch. I buy a smaller turkey without the wings and legs it is easy to position it in a way that holds herbed butter under the skin when balanced upright, or should I say… upside down.

I add the herbs and seasoning to unsalted dairy free butter and cook the flavor in gently. I am infusing quite a lot of sage, thyme, parsley, rosemary, salt and pepper into the butter.

The important part is to separate the skin from the meat, getting under the membrane without tearing any holes in it so the liquid cannot escape. If done right there you will not compromise the pocket you have created and you will have a juicy turkey. I cooked it in this upright position the entire time and covered it with tinfoil after the first hour. It seems to cook faster in this position.

In a large crockpot, fill half way with cornbread and a whole grain nut and seed bread, dried and in small pieces. I use more herbed butter for the stuffing, you will need 1 lb of it, divided into two equal parts. I add one portion of the butter to the pan with a chopped onion, mushrooms and celery and cook until soft and beginning to brown. This will seem like an excessive amount of butter but it will pick up the flavor of the onion, mushrooms and celery and in turn they will taste buttery but the important part is that the bread really picks up all of the flavors through the butter. Once the onion is mostly translucent remove the pan from the heat and add onion mixture to the crock pot. Mix everything together really well and drizzle on the remaining half of the butter. From this point on you will want to add turkey broth until you reach a proper level of moisture. Cover the crockpot and cook on high for one to one and a half hours. At the half way point stir and do a taste test to adjust seasoning.

I am cutting corners, the yams are just tossed in on the sidelines, they aren’t in an elaborate desert or candied. I picked up a frozen dairy free pie, but I cannot bring myself to use canned cranberry. They are also selling cranberries in two pound bags this year so I think I may need to make some other cranberry recipes. Perhaps Cranberry bars or a coconut cream cranberry tart… But for now I will just start with jellied cranberries.

Spearmint Eucalyptus Salt Bars

I like to add a little extra to my salt bars to improve the conditioning properties of the soap but you could use 100% coconut oil as long as you keep the sf% around 10%-20%. This recipe is a 12% super fat and I am using 75% of the oil weight in sea salt. This makes soap that hardens quickly and cannot be cut easily, and can be unmolded in a few hours, because of this I am not using a water discount.

I never like the look of my round bars, but I haven’t really made any effort to find a replacement mold so I guess I cannot complain.

Ingredients

  • 127.57 grams olive oil
  • 42.57 grams cocoa butter
  • 680.39 grams coconut oil
  • 323.18 grams distilled water
  • 130 grams sodium hydroxide
  • 637 grams Breton sea salt
  • 34.1 grams fragrance oil

Combine and melt oils in a heat safe bowl. In another container measure the water and place it in the freezer until it is starting to freeze. Measure the salt in a seaparate bowl and prepare any colorants you have into separate cups and have your fragrance, mold and stickblender ready.

Put on, long sleeves, pants and shoes, safety glasses and a 3M mask before handling lye. Measure your lye in a well ventilated area, preferably out doors and in a secure area. Add your lye to the cold near freezing water and mix gently until dissolved. Wait until it cools down to about 110 degrees before adding the lye water to the oils. Add your fragrance oil and mix by hand for a moment before stick blending to thin trace.

Add salt and mix by hand. Add colorant into the bowl on opposite sides and mix well into a small area. Drag a spatula through the entire bowl in a figure 8 to mix the colorants and then poor soap batter into individual molds. This batter is very crumbly so it is not advised to use delicate molds. I gave it a try but they all crumbled. Spray with alcohol and cover. Unmold when cooled and solid. Cure for 4-6 weeks.

Houseplant Lighting

It’s nice when the sun doesn’t set in the summer until about 10 PM however in the winter all my plants die in the darkness but not anymore. I use low cost daylight bulbs with clamp lights and I replace some of my regular lighting fixtures with them as well. There are higher intensity lights than what I am showing here but I do not have the box any longer to compare what it is I have. Look for the ones that say ‘daylight’, nearly everything I looked at in stock at Lowe’s or other home renovation stores would have worked for what I need so I went with cost efficiency. You want at least 1600 lumens and something that falls on the light spectrum at 5000K or higher.

When doing research I find most people were using shop lights and I have had no issue with them. The light fixtures can be clipped onto things or hung as a pendant, the hood is designed to house and focus a high intensity light for long hours so it works perfect as a plant light you can place it anywhere easily and safely though some types of bulbs will give off more light than others. There are two main types of hoods for these lights, a narrow and a wider focus of the light. As long as they aren’t to close or too far away they should live happily under the artificial lights. You can buy a light meter if you are not certain about distance and placement. Lighting timers cost only a few dollars so you don’t have to worry about forgetting to turn the lights on and off.

In addition to this lighting I also group my smaller plants around my aerogardens.