“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.


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

Somebody asked me why . . .

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Somebody asked me last week why I wanted to open a summer camp.  I have been thinking about that for several days now.  Today I want to open – and operate – a summer camp because that was the one constant in my life as a kid growing up in Texas in the ‘50s and ‘60s.

School subjects and classmates changed.  I went to summer camp and my camp friends and I found a transition to the next grade.  We moved from one house to another . . . and the same raggedy  weatherproofed canvas wall tents were at summer camp under the post oaks and junipers at the foot of Big Split Mountain.  We bought newer furniture and softer mattresses;  those same rusty Army-surplus cots with the 90-pound canvas-duck concrete-filled mattresses were there to sleep on at summer camp.  My mom got adventurous with new recipes in the kitchen, and the girls I dated (hot stuff in 1959) wanted me to take them to nice restaurants . . . and the same two grandmothers who had been cooking at summer camp since before General Pershing went to France still put pork chops and mashed potatoes and cornbread on the table in small mountains.  And my mother never whipped up a gallon of purple bug juice in her life.  But it was always on the table at summer camp.

I started shaving when I went away to the University of Texas, and Navy ROTC sent me cruising on a destroyer (USS Forrest B. Royal, DD872) to Norway, England, Belgium, and France.  I saw the Atlantic Ocean way up close.  I saw different faces and different girls, and I heard different languages and different musics.  I came back to Texas and took a job as the office manager at summer camp where I had been a camper.  And the air was sweeter.  And the bunk was more comfortable.  And the food was more fulfilling.  And the language sang in my ears.

I went from a summer of loading 55-pound-projectiles into the breech of a naval deck gun that fired over twenty miles to a handful of .22LR bullets in a bolt-action rifle with iron sights on a hundred-yard range.  And the archery butts.  (Lord, how we snickered and elbowed each other at that.)  And the canoe dock on the Brazos.  And the unchanging Texas hills and trees that used to be the bottom of a sixty-five-million-year-old ocean.  And the turkey vultures riding the thermals all the way to the far horizon.

Summer camp taught me how to share the task.  And how to share the credit.  It taught me how to lead by example and to do without being asked.  It taught me how to be a conscious  individual in a group.

I want to open WindWalkerCamp so I can  share that experience.  I started summer camp driving my own kids and their friends all over Texas and from Cape Canaveral to Mount Rushmore.  Like Shakespeare’s witches . . . “in thunder, lightning, and in rain.”  There were lots of clear days, too.  I can’t believe how much I want to share that same experience with their kids . . . and with their friends’ kids.  They’re getting old enough.

I want to show them how to rustle up a skillet of camper stew.  (I remember once asking my mom once why she never cooked that for us at home.  I also remember the expression on her face at my question.  What I don’t really remember is whether she ever actually answered . . .)  I want to show them how to build a campfire and how to shoot a rifle and use a bow and arrows.  And turn a screwdriver and a wrench.  And swing a hammer and an axe.

I want to give them the time and the place to find their own around-the-fire songs and traditions.  And bunkhouse scary stories after lights-out.  And favorite hideouts in the walnut and oak and juniper where they can see the dry waterfall that rolls and tumbles after a two-inch rain.  And smell the sassafras and the sage.

And shared values . . . truth, trustworthiness, friendship, your word, appreciation of the wild world around us. The peace of a clear-to-cloudy sky.  The songs of the stars.

Today that’s why I want to open WindWalkerCamp. I’ll have other reasons tomorrow.  They’ll look a lot like these.

Thanks for reading.  Stay outdoors, my friends.

Uncle Pat


What the hands learn the mind cannot forget.

To pour or not to pour a foundation, that . . .

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Thanksgiving Break is officially over . . . well, it will be when I crater into the sack tonight.  I’ve been back from WindWalkerCamp two days now, and I’m missing it even more.

This week I am ordering the first batch of bottles to test my root beer brewing skills with . . . a single batch makes fifty-three twelve-ounce bottles.  I’m going to have to find a testing audience . . . I feel like the Little Red Hen.

Tomorrow on the way home I’ll be stopping by the auto parts house to pick up some plastic auto-body-filler and the teacher supply store for some modeling clay.  I have a couple of spoons and forks I want to be able to cast, and I have lots of pewter ingots and “dead” lead soldiers.  (Lead soldiers are pewter.)  While I have, indeed, cast a couple of thousand knights and soldiers, I have never cast a spoon or a fork.  Something new to try.  And share.

I have been researching what kind of “alternative” insulation to use in the walls as I build out the covered deck to make it a lodge.  My intent is to make the entire camp as authentic an experience as humanly possible.  I’ve explored raw wool – straight from the sheep, shredded recycled blue jeans, straw, cellulose (shredded newspaper).  I don’t want to use fiberglass.  The windows need to be large enough to take in all the beauty of the hills . . . so I’m looking for recycled storefront glass or recycled patio doors . . . that sort of thing.

The power co-op will run a power line a given distance into the place if we have a foundation.  Hmmm.  That will give us electric power from the grid to run the tools to build the solar collectors and the wind turbine towers.  I’m going to have to look at that.  Again, the design objective is to have a summer camp (actually year-round camp) completely off the grid.  One of the questions is: how do we get there from here?

Lots to do.  Lots to think about.  Right now I’m mid-process in building a pinewood derby car based on a 1912 Mercer Raceabout.  I’ve spent four hours in the woodshop, and my glasses were so covered in sawdust from exotic woods that I couldn’t really see.  So I cleaned my glasses and washed my clothes.  Now I feel more human.  It would be more fun out in the Missouri Ozark foothills.  With solar/wind-generated power for the shop tools.

Come summer camping with us, and give us your input.  And pour your own root beer and your own fork and spoon.  And eat like a prince off the grill.  And sleep like a chief in a tipi.  And track the deer through the forest like a Choctaw.  That’s what we’ve been doing.

Thanks for reading.  Stay thirsty for root beer, my friends.

Uncle Pat

This week I’ll also update some of the stuff at www.windwalkercamp.com.

What the hands learn the mind cannot forget.


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