Got a lot of blackberries? Then check out this recipe for Blackberry Mojito Fruit Leather.

I'm not a huge fan of fruit leathers, but this turned out super good! And, really, you can't go wrong with blackberries, mint and rum.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Keeping the old cars kicking

My cars are old. Decrepit even, by today's standards. I'm still driving around in my 2002 Honda CRV that has just a hair under 70,000 miles on it. But, from my standpoint, it's as good as new. Sure, it doesn't have the fancy bluetooth, automatic cellphone pairing, big screen satellite XM radio and other whozywhatsits on it.

But, it does have a functioning air conditioner, radio and CD player!, cruise control and automatic windows and door locks. I've kept the exterior and interior pretty newish looking, so you wouldn't be able to tell that it's 17 years old. It has all wheel drive (AWD), which is worth something or other. This will be more useful the more time I spend crossing Snoqualmie Pass and hanging out in snowier territories than Seattle, which rarely sees snow.

Luigi!
My other car is a 2013 Fiat Pop. It's yellow with black racing stripes and we call him Luigi. Because, that's his name. He has a paltry 15,000 miles on him. I really don't need two vehicles these days, but I figure that some day, one of my kids will want to learn how to drive. And the trade-in value for him is remarkably abysmal. Like, less than a new, full-suspension mountain bike. It's freaking crazy, really. So, it makes no sense to sell him. Plus, he's super easy to drive and park in Seattle - I can squeeze into spots that no other car can, except maybe a Smart Car.

Both my vehicles are 5-speed manual transmission, which is hard to come by these days and were actually difficult to get when I bought them (both were special ordered to get the manual transmission). This fact also makes them seems like relics from the ice age. They are, however, great conversation starters when I drive anyone around who is less than 35. Or European. Or both. Oh! And, more importantly. Both of my cars are paid off.

I took the CRV in to get emissions tested on it the other day. It passed, fortunately. I did find out that the state of Washington will no longer be requiring vehicle emission testing starting in 2020. The reasons for it are actually good:

1. The air is cleaner
2. Fuels are cleaner
3. Newer engines run cleaner

What underlies this good news is possibly some bad news. A 17-year-old car probably doesn't have a newer engine that runs cleaner (although I suppose it does compared to a classic car from the 60s), but then again most people don't keep their cars around for 17 years. Cars these days can run for 200,000 miles or more but the average American replaces their vehicle every 11.6 years.

I was actually surprised to hear this average because my experience with friends and family has been more like them replacing their cars on the 6 - 7 year average. The average has gone up, I think, because the cost of a new car has gone up faster than inflation over the years. I cannot even fathom spending more than $21,000 on a new car. And, even that seems ridiculously high.

How old are your cars (if you have any)? Do you buy new or used when you do replace a vehicle?

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Growing hops in high mountain country

Centennial and Nugget
hops
My partner, Daniel, was looking for plants that grow quickly to cover the side of his house in the mountains and he settled on growing hops. Okay, so 2200 feet isn't exactly Mt. Everest but, compared to my house in Seattle (at 200 feet), the growing conditions are very different. Add to the fact that his place is on the east side of the Cascade mountain range, and you have a radically different climate than maritime Puget Sound.

Varietals
I picked out two different types of hops and purchased two plants of each, hoping they'd do well in this area:

1. Nugget Hops - Humulus lupulus 'Nugget', an American bred variety for use in brewing beer. It is a bittering type of hop that is used in all styles of beer.

2. Centennial Hops - Humulus lupulus 'Centennial', an American variety that was also bred for use in brewing beer. It is an aroma variety that is very popular in American craft ales, stouts and porters.

The super grower!
Both types grow 15 - 25 feet per season and are hardy to 30 degrees F. They also die back to the ground each winter (I suspect this is the case for all hops).

One of the Centennial hops plants is totally kicking the other 3 plants' asses and is almost twice as tall as the Nugget hops. It's fascinating to watch them grow - we will literally place a marker where the plant has reached and come back up to the mountains a few days later and it's grown a half a foot or more.

We have the hops set up on a drip timer since half the week they are left to their own devices.

Reuse, reduce, recycle
In order to support the four plants, Daniel built a trellis system out of leftover hog wire and wood from one of his construction sites. And, some of the drip lines are also leftovers from a landscaping job or two. The upgrades he's making to this house is being done predominantly with found or leftover building materials. I'll be showing you more of what he's doing over the next few months!

What about the beer?!
Well, ultimately, I'd like to dabble making my own beer. I'm not sure if that's going to happen this year or not, but I have the summer to start fiddling around with small batches before these hops are even ready for harvest. I have so many projects planned for the summer that the brewing might go on the back burner.

But, in the meantime, we'll be drinking a lot of beer as research while we're perfecting our hop growing techniques. Which basically seems to be - plant in ground and watch grow. At the very least I'll be drying this year's hops for future use.

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