“Houston, We have root beer!

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“The clock is running!

My fellow Americans, the first batch of root beer has been brewed.  (Brewn?)  Know what?  It tastes like root beer!  And it’s goooood.  Nice dark, sweet flavor.  Sassafras tang sort of lingers a bit on the back of your tongue.

But it’s not so sweet that it’s cloying.  Has just the smallest hint of a bite to it.  I like it.  If it weren’t so doggone late right now, I would go taste test another bottle.  It’s all in the interests of science, right.

Since it is too late for root beer, and, of course, the blackberries were starting to be in the refrigerator too long, Kathryn and I decided to put them (the blackberries) out of their misery and have a half pint of them with a small bowl of blackberry ice cream . . . did I post here about blackberries frozen in homemade ice cream being like eating very delicious marbles?  Well, they’re good, but I’m going to whang the bee-hoopers out of ‘em next time.

Oh, mercy; there’s only tomorrow and Friday of Mid-Term tests before Christmas Break.  Then I can think and plan about and for WindWalkerCamp full time for two weeks!

Give me strength.

Thanks for reading.  Stay thirsty, my friends.


What the hands learn, the mind cannot forget.


Root Beer, Campfire Onions, Family Camp

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The weather is staying cool enough that I can stash root beer in the woodshop.  Other people have a garage where they park the family cars . . . I have a woodshop where kids and I can build pinewood derby cars (www.pinewoodderebyworkshop.com).  I like my way better.   So I’m going to move a shelf into a corner of the shop over the weekend and stash fifty-three 12-ounce bottles of root beer out there after they have fermented for three days.  I’m wondering if I should rig up some kind of basin around the base to contain the overflow should any of them pop their tops.  Well I’m just going to have to figure that out.  Keep reading;  I’m never totally sure where tomorrow is going to wind up.

 That was prognostication.

 This two bits is history.  “Campfire Onions” is a really simple recipe for baking onions in aluminum foil in the embers of a fire or in your oven in the kitchen.  My Fellow Americans, this recipe works.  Delightfully so.  After forty-five minutes at 350 degrees, the onions came out just crunchy enough, not at all squishy.  And the flavor is sweet without the tang of a raw onion because of the brown sugar.  I’m not certain what the beer added (I use non- alcoholic) except, possibly, undertones to the brown sugar.  But this is a delightful addition to the family/camp cookbook.

 I’m still working on the mold for pewter-casting a spoon and a fork.  I will figure it out.

 I’m looking at the last week of WindWalkerCamp schedule this summer – 21-27 July—–

and I’m figuring out how to work this.  We’re going to have a ga- boodle of options.  I think we’re going to set it up so that each family has a tent . . . as opposed to camping kids away from parents . . . then having separate activities for moms, for dads, for kids, for moms and dads together.  It’ll be “interesting” to schedule, but it’ll be a good time.

 Thanks for reading.  Stay thirsty, My Friends.


 What the hands learn the mind cannot forget.


The Weather and the Woods

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It’s colder in Missouri . . . on the outside.

Right now the weather is 29 degrees at WindWalkerCamp outside Joplin, Missouri.  The wind chill has it down to 22.  Outside my bedroom office window in Carrollton, Texas, it’s a balmy 58 with a wind.  We’ve closed the windows tonight.

A few years ago we were family-camping out there, and it got down to 13 degrees.  Now, friends, that was cold.  I had ice on my pillow from the condensation of my breath.  It was not a whole lot of fun when I had to make a run for the outhouse.  I mean to say the seat was a whole new experience for me.

But the morning broke clear, and the day go up to forty-something, and we had a fire going, and it was kind of nice out of the wind.

. . . And we deep-fried a turkey.  It was a wonderful day, actually.  And a wonderful weekend overall.

That’s why we’re going to enclose the covered deck to make it the Lodge.

Lots of windows on the east side to overlook the flying field and to catch the morning sunrise.

A big fireplace built out of the stone from the place spang in the middle of the west side.

An indoor dining area either at the north or south end.  Right now it doesn’t really matter.

We’ve found a sawmill to slab-cut an oak or two from the hill behind us.  I haven’t heard back yet from the fellow who logs with a team of horses to skid it out of the woods.  The logs’ll go to the mill on a truck.  But as I write this, I’ve started to think, “Why not just hire a guy to set up a portable mill out here to saw it right on the place?”  That way we’d wind up with the timbers to frame out the sawmill we’re going to put down by the ford across the Gerald at the same time we got the siding for the lodge.  We’d just sticker the slabs up and let them dry in the shed we built of the wood at the center of their logs.

This is starting to get to be a better idea than it was originally.

I’ve been looking at all manner of architectural images for the last several years, and I really like “carven doors.”  I’ve been thinking about carving up something with lots of glass and maybe a dragon or a bear or a dinosaur . . . but now I’m also thinking about carving the door from our own trees.  It’s getting kind of exciting.

Thanks for reading.  Stay toasty my friends.


What the hands learn the mind cannot forget.





Life in WindWalkerCamp’s Kitchen is Good

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First . . . to report on the Cranberry-Vanilla Ice Cream. . .
I’m not going to make a larger batch right yet. The first was really a bit less than a one-quart batch, and it’s lasting Kathryn and me a week. We’re sort of rationing it out rather than pigging out. And it seems that the longer it stays in the freezer the harder it gets. I wonder if it’s the same way with the ice at the bottom of the Greenland icecap.

It’s supposed to get really cold this weekend, so I checked the extended weather report . . . well, even for Texas, 55 degrees at night is not particularly cold. And 45 degrees on Monday?  I’m going to have to keep holding off on the root beer brewing. I need the weather to really chill out for a week or so. I think my students and PineWoodDerbyWorkshop kids are going to become the lab rats for my root beer brewing session. We’ll just have to see. The root beer is fermented naturally with yeast and sugar. Root beer uses ale yeast which goes dormant when it gets cool, otherwise the bottle can blow up. Not good. At camp, of course, we’ll have several coolers and just keep them iced down. (I’m going to have to trek up to the attic and check to verify how many coolers we actually have already. Maybe that’ll be enough for a first brew-up.)

Here’s a recipe for “campfire onions” I have to try out this weekend. It just looks like a vegetable candy. (And, besides, onions come right after tomatoes and jalapenos on my must-eat list.) It all comes in fours: Four onions (the big sweet Vidalias); four TBSP Brown Sugar; four TBSP Beer (O’Doul’s and Sharp’s are non-alcoholic); Four TBSP of Butter. Cut off the top of the onion; leave the root. Dig a cavity in the middle of the onion. Fill each onion with one of each. Wrap in aluminum foil. Set them in a baking pan at home or in the coals at camp. Bake forty-five minutes at 350 degrees. I’m going to try these this weekend. You try ‘em too, and tell me what you think.

Wednesday I had a pasta dish called “Chicken Spaghetti” for lunch.   Friends and neighbors, this one is glorious. It goes like this: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
1 whole chicken, cut into pieces (2 cups of light & dark meat)
(I’m personally going to boil the chicken first, then tear it apart.)
1 pound thin spaghetti, broken into 2-inch pieces
2 cans cream of mushroom soup
2 ½ cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
¼ cup fine diced green pepper
¼ cup finely diced red bell pepper
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/8 to ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste

Cooking directions:

1. Add the chicken pieces to boiling water, stew it till it’s done , then simmer for 30 to 45 minutes. (See comment under “1 chicken” above.)
2. Remove the chicken and 2 cups of the chicken broth from the pot. When
chicken is hot, remove the skin and pick out the meat to make 2 generous cups.
3. Cook the spaghetti in the same chicken cooking broth until al dente.
4. When the spaghetti is cooked, combine with the chicken, mushroom soup,
1 ½ cups cheese, the green peppers, red peppers, onions, seasoned salt, cayenne, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
5. Stir in 1 cup of the reserved chicken cooking broth, adding an additional
cup if necessary.
6. Place the mixture in a (hotel pan) and top with the remaining 1 cup of cheese.
(One cup? Is it possible to put too much cheese in a recipe? Really?)
7. Bake until bubbly, about 45 minutes. Cover with foil if the cheese starts to
get too brown.

Right behind the chicken spaghetti Wednesday came the dessert.  . . . Wait for it. . . . French Silk Pie. Yes; yes; I know; you’ve tried it; it’s wonderful . . . but have you had it with crushed salted pretzel crust. Oh, my stars, Maude Applegate! That’s amazing. The basic recipe, I learned, came from (http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2008/02/the_meal_of_love_part_iv_de-licious_chocolate_pie/). I’m not sure where the chef came up with the crust.

Anyway, I have a herd of parents and their kids coming to PineWoodDerbyWorkshop this weekend, and I’m going to be busy with that. But not so busy I (we) can’t cook up something.

Thank you for reading. Stay hungry, my friends.


What the hands learn the mind cannot forget.

Homemade Cranberry-Vanilla Ice Cream

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It’s really rather tasty.  As in “Really tasty.”  The cranberries are just barely “untart,” and they’re crunchy . . . like pecans.  But without being chewy.

The way you make this WindWalkerCamp specialty is to start off looking for frozen cherries in the grocery freezer case, picking up the bag with the red circles on it that says “unsweetened” and completely overlooking the twice-as-high lettering that says in retrospect – very clearly – “cranberries.”

This is what my family used to call “lanyap.”   Sometimes we called it “lenyoppy”.  That’s what we kids called it, anyway.  I didn’t know how to spell it till I got to UT.  Shame, really, such a wonderful word.  No self-respecting buzz-cut kid I grew up with would ever spell it with all the extra letters.  I suppose it’s better that I know how to spell it right.  But it just doesn’t ring in my ear the way my uncles or my mom said it with that “g” and the extra “p” and “e” in there like that.  “Lanyap” is pure Texan.  We figured “lenyoppy” was Spanish. “Lagniappe” is just big-city.   Like Fort Worth.   Probably foreign.

Here’s the recipe – because you are going to want to make this –
2 cups  heavy cream
1 cup  whole milk
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
pinch of kosher salt (I can never understand why)
1 cup of frozen cranberries – sliced into quarters  (run those puppies through the food processor)

The recipe says to chill it for a couple of hours, then put in a quarter of the liquids then a quarter of the cranberries, then another quarter and another quarter . . .  uh-uh.  No.  That’s too much like cooking.  What you do is mix everything together in a bowl.  Then whang the poo-dookie out of the cranberries and dump them into the milk and cream and sugar and vanilla.  And that ubiquitous pinch of salt.  Stir it a minute or so with a rubber spatula, and scrape it into the churn. I know what you’re thinking, but the more you scrape into the churn, the more ice cream you get back.

Now this is important: Lick The Spatula.  A real pro doesn’t try to get the whole thing into his mouth at once . . . that can be painful.  Just take your time, and do a thorough job.   When the spatula is clean enough to sneak back in the drawer  go on to the bag–of-ice-and-the-salt step.

When you’ve sealed the churn (salt water is good for taffy, bad for ice cream), and clamped the churn into the bucket by the motor or crank, and flipped the flip-lock in place to keep everything together, pour some of the ice into the bucket.  Pick up the chunks of ice from the floor and counter, rinse them under the faucet, and put them into the bucket too.  Pour about a quarter-cup of rock salt on them.  Your wife will think you are “much man” if you clean the ice chunks off the floor.

I’m having difficulty finding rock salt; I’m having to buy “Ice Cream Salt.”  The store can charge more for “Ice Cream Salt.”   That’s probably so you won’t inadvertently sprinkle this particular element on the iced-over back porch stairs.  It might turn into ice cream, and then where would we all be?

After five minutes or so, when the ice is starting to melt down a little, add some more ice and some more salt.  At this point you really ought to go get a towel out of the bathroom linen cabinet to put under the bucket.  The wood shrinks when it dries out.  Now, if that’s not a reason to make ice cream often I don’t know what is.  “But, Honey, the bucket’ll dry out and leak all over the counter.”  (I’m gonna have to hone that one a little. But she’ll think I’m cute for trying it.  Because she’ll want some ice cream  too.)

Anyway, crank the mixture for twenty minutes or so, then clear the ice and salt off the lid of the churn and see how your ice cream is coming along.  This is a very small amount of ice cream . . . after all, there are only the two of us, and it goes a long way (and I’ll probably tote it around a long time).  If you double or treble the measures, it’ll probably take longer to freeze up.  I’ll have to check.  If I remember, I’ll report back to you.

I remember when I was a kid that dildapping crank was a beast to turn after while because there were four or six quarts of ice cream freezing solid in that churn.  To the best of my memory it was always peach.  And friends, that is OK, ‘cause I surely do admire a bowl of homemade peach ice cream. (I can hear Aunt Betty and Uncle Bill and Aunt Myrt and Uncle Tommy laughing and telling stories on the big screened-in back porch around the card table.)

But homemade cranberry ice cream is truly tasty.

This summer out on our forty-five acres we’ll be churning other flavors as well.  As in wild blackberries right out of the woods.  And honey from our bees hived in the clearing.  And sassafras bark from all over the place, but mostly down by Gerald Creek.

I haven’t got around to making greenbriar jelly — after all the blood I have nourished that plant, I am seriously looking forward to eating it right down to the ground.  I have been told it’s flavorful.  If so, well, we’ll have to try a quart or two of ice cream.  I’d love to see my grandparents’ faces on that one.

And WindWalkerCamp will be the only place to get “a bowl of the fresh.”

Thank you for reading.  Lick the dasher, my friends.


What the hands learn the mind cannot forget.

Root Beer Brewing and Texas Weather

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The instructions say, and I quote, “ . . . let the bottles sit a room temperature for a day or two to let the yeast eat some of the sugar and carbonate the root beer or soda, then we chill the bottles to 45oF or lower to stop the yeast.”

It’s not 45 degrees outside right now.  The challenge is that a five-gallon batch makes fifty-three bottles of root beer.  Therefore, half a batch makes 27 bottles of root beer.  Kathryn and I only have a single refrigerator here at the house.  I am not going to put a second refrigerator in the shop just to chill root beer.  (. . . Now that’s not a bad idea when I come to think about it.)

At summer camp we’ll have to come up with a way to keep it cool in the Missouri Ozark summer.  Set the bottles in the creek when it’s flowing.  Talk to the neighbors across the road about stashing them in the Buffalo River.  Set a hose drip on a burlap sack.  This sounds like an engineering challenge to me.

Theoretically I can proportionally divide the recipe, but that can get squirrelly in a hurry.  I just checked the five-day weather forecast . . . holy cow!  It doesn’t even get that cool at night.  WindWalkerCamp is a rustic camp . . . that means “tents.”  That is a good thing.

I guess I’ll have to go to Plan “B” or Plan “C” or just “Fake it; smile; tell ‘em it’s in the Lesson Plan.”

Fortunately Plan B is “mix up a batch of homemade ice cream” (after all, somebody has to test the recipe), and Plan C is “start collecting lumber to build the trebuchet.”  This one is a project I’ve been working toward for half a dozen years.

So those are in the works.  Also this week is testing an “E”-series model rocket to see how it flies on a “D.”

Thanks for reading.  Stay thirsty, my friends.


What the hands learn the mind cannot forget.

Unloading Lumber for the Tipi Deck

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Unloading Lumber for the Tipi Deck

This is what a bunk of 2x6s and 2x8x, all 20-feet long looks like coming off the truck.

In the foreground you can see one corner of the tipi deck laid out with 2x4s in the channels of the footers. Tomorrow’s post will show the whole process of building the first tipi deck at WindWalkerCamp. Life is Good