Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Men At Work

First I apologize for the quality of the photo taken through a screen window but I was afraid if I stepped out onto the front stoop, I would scare them all away. Since we moved into this place a year and a half ago, the power has gone out about a half dozen times. Once was due to a big tree that fell across the lines along the main road and pulled several blocks of them down. Another was due to a squirrel who thought he would replace the line fuse. The rest have happened at odd hours of the day due to a line buried in my front yard that evidently has seen its better days.

They tried rerouting the electricity for our street by switching it at the node box where everyone is standing but that didn't work out either so they hooked it up to the faulty line under my yard and said they would be back to fix it later. Several months pass and in a flurry of activity, all the utility companies showed up to mark their lines under my yard. As it turns out, the water, gas, phone and cable all run along with the electrical line. I figured once it was flagged and painted they would be out shortly to complete the work but as it turned out it was three weeks, a few showers and two lawn mowings later that they finally returned. By then all the paint had long ago been destroyed so the crews just sat around waiting for all the utility companies to come out and remark everything again.

They used a directional underground boring tool and buried a 200 yard long stretch of tubing that will hold the new electrical line. They only cut the cable and gas lines in doing so. What you see is them responding to the latter one. Eventually they got a fire extinguisher out of the truck and let me know what had happened after they had shut off gas service for the entire street. The got both lines repaired and even relit my water heater for me.

That was all two weeks ago. Today they finally showed up to install a new pole at the corner where the electrical cable goes from being underground to above ground. I'm guessing that is all they will get done today and it will probably be several weeks before they string the new line and actually make the connections. It would be nice if they get this done before winter so we don't have to worry about losing electricity while gone on vacation.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Bridge Affair

The title of my blog is Riverbend Journal for a couple reasons. I have kept a journal for over 20 years, my father has kept a journal for over 40 years and my grandfather kept one for nearly 50 years. All these journals have for the most part, been written around the river that you see in my header picture which flows diagonally through the county I grew up in, forming a big bend in the center of it. The county I now live in is also bisected by the same river. The picture above is of that river and if you look in my header picture, this spot is in the lower right corner. As you can also see, the river is pretty low as it has been all summer due to the on going drought.

I love the old steel bridges over this river which are becoming fewer and fewer as the years go by. Five years ago there were three of them in the county and now there are only two left. The one in this post is the only one you can actually cross and it is closed to all but foot traffic. I remember driving across this when I was just a young boy but as soon as they got the new modern bridge built on the other side of town which you can see in the picture below, this one was shut down to vehicles.

This is my favorite of the two steel bridges and I like this part of the county. If I had to pick a place to retire for the rest of my life, it would be somewhere on the river bluffs in this part of the county. But as you can see, the bridge is in pretty rough shape. One of these years I suspect that I will show up at one end and find it closed to foot traffic as well. The railings are buckled in many places and the decking is falling into the river. The center part of the bridge where they replaced the old decking with new steel and lumber to hold up those who walk across it is in good shape but it is just a small part of what makes a bridge safe to walk across.

Someday I would like to build some boats for a hobby/make some money and I've always thought I would use this river to sail them down to the Mississippi river downstream to various clients. As you can see from the sandbars and rock riffles, I would only be able to do so in the early spring these last couple years. On the bright side however, that would give me 10 months to build them without delivery interruptions. What you see in the picture above is some of that original decking that is now missing.

I had the opportunity to visit this bridge which shares my love in the middle of October during the fall festival that all the villages along the river in this county hold every year. While my wife, mother-in-law and youngest daughter were checking out the art being sold along the riverbank, my oldest daughter and I walked across the bridge and admired the view. It was beautiful. As the above picture suggested, we didn't climb on the railing though I did spend some time leaning on it and watch the water flow by.

Friday, October 25, 2013


This year the corn harvest has been wrapped up early and though it was a dry second half of the year, the record coolness to the summer saved the corn and it was a pretty good year. Most years however, corn harvest is still in full swing right now.

This picture taken in my early teens shows me running the tractor as I was unloading my father in the combine "on the go" as we referred to it. It was a necessity in fields like this one where the rows stretched on forever and a combine couldn't make it clear through the field without overflowing. In this picture, the hedge row in the background was right on the Missouri - Iowa border and the other end of the field was a half mile north.

When my father was full in the combine, he would signal me unless I already knew from the repetition of the rest of the field already cut where and when he would need to unload. As he approached the designated spot, I would start the tractor and let it warm up a bit. Then as he neared, I would put the tractor in gear and inch forward until the tractor was straddling the proper rows so that the combine auger would dump the grain in the center of the wagon. On a hill, I would have to learn to cheat one way or the other to compensate so that the grain always fell in the center of the wagon from side to side.

As he overtook me, I would throttle up the tractor sending a belch of black diesel smoke into the sky as the John Deere 4020 strained to get the wagons up to speed. Once I had reasonably matched the combines speed and the auger was centered front to back over the wagon needing filling, I would stop adjusting the throttle and let my father do the fine speed adjustments to keep the grain in the center of the wagon. As it reached the top of the wagon, my father would ease forwards and back to make sure as much grain as possible was emptied into the wagon to not waste time or fuel hauling it from the field to the grain bin. Occasionally if we reached softer ground, headed up a steep hill, or other terrain variations, the engine in my tractor wouldn't be able to keep the wagons in the correct speed range the combine needed to efficiently harvest the grain so I always had to keep an eye out for hand signals from my father to speed up or slow down accordingly.

When he had filled the wagons or at least emptied the tank of the combine, I would peel off to the side to avoid being hit by the chopped up corn stalks being shot out the back of the combine and head back to the next fill point or pull the wagons to the end of the field where I dropped them off for someone to haul back to the farm and unload while I hooked onto some more empty wagons. In a bad year and we were close to the farm, I might have enough time to just haul them into the farm and unload them myself while someone else was hauling empties back to the field and catching the grain on the go.

These days things are much the same and yet much different. The combines have gotten bigger and can hold more grain before needing to unload. Now we instead of many small wagons that are much harder to fill without spilling grain, it is caught in a very large catch wagon that has its own auger to unload the grain in smaller wagons that stay parked along the edge of the field. These wagons of course are much larger than the ones in the photo above but much smaller than the large catch wagon. By not pulling full wagons with road tires through the field, the soil isn't compacted nearly as much and the large catch wagon uses large wide tires to help lesson the compaction even more. The large catch wagon is also easier to fill from the combine on the go which increases the speed of harvest overall. The full wagons are still pulled from the field to the farm and unloaded into grain bins much the same way we have always done. The old 4020 in the picture above is still used to run augers and occasionally pull a single wagon up to the auger but that is rarer since the wagons are much bigger and hold much more corn than those two little wagons did back then.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Pepsi Junkie

I have blogged about my dog Ted many times over the years and I'm fairly certain that I've relayed this story before but I doubt that a picture has ever been used to reinforce it and so with the discovery of this picture, I tell it again.

Ted was dumped over at my grandfather's farm most likely by a hunter who wasn't too happy about him being gun shy and have his a parting shot in his rear hip as a going away present. Although he recovered from his wounds and lived a decade longer, that buckshot ended up killing him just the same.

Later in my teens, my parents got into the hog business and we spent a summer building a farrowing building at the end of our lane. Every afternoon we would have a Pepsi break in the shade to relax for a few minutes and cool down. Pepsi never tasted better than it did in cold glass bottles and that is still true today.

I don't know how it started or who exactly started it but one of us poured some Pepsi in a bowl for Ted to drink and register a reaction. To our amusement, he would drink a few laps of it, wrinkle his lips and smack his tongue at the fizz and then drink some more. Had we known what was to come, we would never had done so but we did and we lived with the consequences there rest of Ted's life.

It didn't take long before Ted would bring his bowl to every Pepsi break on the farm and he would not leave you alone until you had contributed a portion of your pop to his bowl. Every single one of us. By the time we made our contribution, he probably had more in his bowl than any of us had in our bottles. He would then lay down by his bowl and lap it all up, pausing for a few seconds here and there to let the fizz effect dissipate.

We all drank Pepsi in the beginning but my father and younger brother eventually switched over to Mountain Dew. Although they wouldn't admit it, I am sure it was because Ted never liked Mountain Dew and thus they never had to contribute any of their pop when drinking it.

Eventually the farrowing building was built and the Pepsi breaks became more infrequent but Ted never got over his habit. If we did have a Pepsi break outside when he was around, he was sure to find a container to bring over to get his share. He even learned how to hold the bottle in his mouth and drink directly from it so if a container wasn't handy, he would just hound us until we gave him the last few swallows from the bottle.

After Ted died from the medicine we gave him to relieve the arthritis pains in his rear hip from the old gunshot wound, I rarely could drink a bottle of Pepsi outside without thinking of him and pouring the last swallow onto the ground in his memory. Eventually they quit making bottles and sometime when I was in college, I was forced into drinking it from a can. I'm not sure how Ted would have managed the cans but I'm guessing he would have figured something out.

Monday, October 21, 2013


Every year about this time, my mind turns to those orange pumpkins and of my youth. I'm not sure how old I was when the birth of a pumpkin grower began but judging from this picture (I'm the tall one on the right), I must have been around ten or eleven. That was the year we planted several hills of pumpkins for Halloween and had a bumper crop which is displayed on either side of our driveway. As you can see, we were very proud of our crop of pumpkins.

Not needing that many pumpkins, we loaded them up into the family truck and sold them 30 miles down the road at the 'local' grocery store for a hundred dollars. I have rarely felt so rich as I did back them with fifty of those dollars burning a hole in my pocket. Most importantly, the grocery store promised they would buy pumpkins from us next year if we raised them and thus began my first business, one that would pay my way through six years of college and set me on a debt free track for the rest of my life.

My younger brother and I grew that business, with some help from our parents, from selling pumpkins to the local store by the pickup truck load to selling to St. Louis and Chicago by the semi-load. It was a lot of work, mostly in the coolness of fall, but a labor of love. Even after we got big, we still kept our local roots and sold them every year at the local fall festival for a song compared to what you paid for them at the grocery stores. We even carried them to your car with a smile even it you were parked a half mile away on the bluff above the river bottom.

College intervened and our pumpkin business closed up shop with the fall crop of '91. My younger brother and I both moved away from the farm though I still bought a pumpkin every fall from a local farmer if I could find one to carve and display for Halloween. After I moved back to southeast Iowa and nearer my parent's farm, they started growing a few hills of pumpkins in their garden for my daughter to pick her pumpkin. It is one of the greatest joys in my life to see the joy in her eyes as she wanders the patch. When there is a bumper year and my parents have more pumpkins than they know what to do with, we will load up our van and turn into a pumpkin fairy of sorts dropping off pumpkins on the doorsteps of friends who have children who will appreciate them. This year due to the dry summer and below average yield, that won't happen.

One of these days when/if grandchildren start entering my life, I am going to have to start raising a patch of my own again. Orange gold. The building blocks of two farm boys from southeast Iowa.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Jesse James: The Banjoist

As a child, my parents taught me the art of whitewater boating and we often headed south into the wilds of northwest Arkansas to practice the craft on the Buffalo and Mulberry rivers. On one foray to the Mulberry river, we struck up a conversation with the person doing a car shuttle for us and ended up becoming friends with him for awhile. He would let us camp out on his property near the overflow of his lake where we could be lulled to sleep by the gurgling of spring fed waters. In the morning we would top off our water at one of the springs above the pond and head off again for another round of paddling.

One evening, our friend introduced us to a neighbor up the road, a man by the name of Jesse James. Jesse was an old timer to the parts and lived in a little ramshackle of a house surrounded by what most would call junk. I'm not sure what Jesse did or had done for a living but I saw what he did for subsistence. Out back was a bulldozer he had built from his junkyard and used at neighbors' request. He carved wooden chains from 20 feet logs of timber and a pocket knife. He also built banjos from the same junkyard and played them. Pretty much he could build anything out of anything, a good talent to have.

The evening we visited him, his wife and one son were there, a partial set of teeth between the three, and they offered to play us some music. It was an experience I'll never forget. At one point, Jesse asked if we wanted to see a trick and he began playing the banjo, made from an old pressure cooker, behind his back in the picture shown above. Eventually I must have grown tired and Jesse's son noticed for he asked me if I wanted him to play something more modern like a Hank William's song. Yes, that was an experience I'll never forget.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Burning Comfort

Man has been around fire for thousands of years and for good reason. It provides warmth, it can make food tastier, it can be used as a tool and perhaps most importantly, it provides comfort. I can't think of a single time when I have sat down in front of a fire and not felt comfort. When you are sitting staring into the embers of a fire, all things on the periphery fade to black.

As a young boy, my parents would take my brother and I down to some bottom grounds with a fairly large tract of woods and we would go camping for an evening. There they taught me the art of building a good fire. These were training missions for our longer two week backpacking trips into the mountains of the west or canoeing trips down various rivers. I took great pride in digging a fire pit, building fires with one match on the first day and from old embers subsequent days and finally disguising the pit so you would never know I had been there.

Sitting around the fire, one felt free to talk without repercussion. You bared your soul and others listened. You reminisced about the good times, talked about politics and the current world and pondered the future. You laughed, talked and drifted into long periods of comfortable silence. Then the fire did the talking with a snap, crackle and pop.

With plenty of firewood and a fire pit left by a previous owner, I have built several fires outside and positioned myself near in a nice folding canvas chair. I have't done so nearly as often as I should but as often as needed to sooth my soul. After the others have left, I like to linger for another hour or so watching the fire burn down into a bed of glowing embers and let my mind wander or be silently, deliciously blank. During these times, I have not a care in the world. I am comfortable.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Ready, Set, Fire!

Cross another project off my list! As you recall, there used to be a beautiful arched brick fireplace in this house until the last occupants butchered it up to install a cheesy electric fireplace with three glow settings! Yuck. So I got rid of it via Craigslist and searched around for an insert replacement that actually burns wood. Above is the insert we ended up getting.

Since nobody had one in stock, we had to just look at brochures to make our decision. They said this one would burn a maximum 18 inch long and listed the cubic feet of the firebox. I should have sat down and thought about how big the cubic feet actually were but my mind just said 18 inch logs are bigger than I ever use so no problem. Well the firebox can burn an 18 inch log with perhaps an 1/8" on each side to spare and probably no more than 8 inches in diameter which leaves no room for kindling or coals. That part is a bit disappointing but in reality, I don't think it will be much of a problem. We are only using this for emergency heat in a winter power outage situation and as something to just enjoy reading a good book in front of during those cold winter days. I think it will do both admirably. I just need to remember its size when splitting wood here in a few weeks.

The fireplace was ordered with the largest surround which is the flat black metal part around the actual fireplace. This was to cover up the butchered opening in the brick. It did that but when installed, it looked like a floppy piece of metal and didn't look real attractive. So I headed to the lumber store and bought a small pile of oak boards and made the mantel surround you see in the picture. The last mantel I made at my last house was 2 dimensional and rather plain. I took my lessons from it and designed this one to be more 3 dimensional. Since the last time I have a few more power tools so this time around I made most of my own bead and other detail work and stepped the whole thing up a notch. For a finish, I thought about using the same cherry finish I used on my book shelves on the other side of the room but I thought it wouldn't be enough contrast with the bricks so I went with a darker 'red mahogany' stain. Learning my lesson from the bookshelf, I used regular stain instead of gel stain and it was much easier getting into all the nooks and crannies.

The only fault I have with the whole thing is that I masked off the bricks before staining using painting tape and the regular stain leached behind it in a number of spots and stained the bricks. I ended up using some coarse sand paper to scuff up those spots and though it doesn't get rid of the stains, it blends them in more to look like the natural colors of old bricks and isn't real noticeable unless you look intentionally for them. I'm not sure how to prevent that in the future except possibly to build the mantel with a layer of plastic between the mantel and the brick which can be trimmed off with a sharp knife after staining. All in all though I am really happy with the end result. I'm looking forward to enjoying our first fire soon.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Out of Gas!

So there we were on the outskirts of the urban jungle and its maze of freeways and road construction, heading home after a social event for my wife, when out of the blue a large objects comes streaking out from underneath the van in the slow lane that we were on the verge of overtaking.


I had seen the thing come flying so it wasn't totally a surprise for me but it scared the bejeebers out of my wife. I thought it had been a large chunk of concrete since we were on the edge of a major construction zone but it was also pitch black and happened in less than a second. There was room for error in my judgement.

I felt the impact vibration and could tell that it hit rear of the drivers seat somewhere so I told my wife that everything was probably okay. All that is back there is the plastic gas tank. Oh the irony I would soon discover. I monitored the gas gauge for a few minutes and it was holding steady so I set the cruise and kept on going. There wasn't much I could do all dressed up and in the dark so as long as the vehicle was running... make hay.

About 15 minutes later I glanced down at the gas gauge and saw that it was a quarter of a tank lower than I remembered. Had I really had slightly over half a tank the first time I checked it? My mind was playing tricks on me perhaps? I stared at the gas gauge and thought I could see it moving now and it was going down fast. I went through my mental list of places and the nearest place to get off with any hope of service was 20 miles away down a long and mostly deserted highway. Long story short, we made it to a gas station in that town with the needle well below one eighth of a tank on the gauge. I pulled up to a gas pump thinking if it was a sI might be able to get some tape or something that could stop the flow long enough to limp the rest of the way home. But when I shut the engine off, I could hear the sound of gas hitting the pavement at a good clip and a quick inspection confirmed it. There would be no fixing that in MacGuyver fashion.

Not wanting to pollute the who pump island with a pond of gas, I pulled off to the downhill side of the parking lot and shut the vehicle off and listened to the sound and smell the smell of the last of our gas running out into a little pond by the curb to evaporate off.

I kept toying with the thought of filling up again and racing home since I had already come about halfway home from the urban jungle since the object had hit our car. But I didn't know exactly what had broke and worried that it might break further leaving us stranded out in the middle of nowhere. I also figured having flammable liquid pouring out of your vehicle near hot exhaust was probably not a wise thing either. So I moved my mind into figuring out how we were going to get home. We quickly ran through the list of friends and family but it was late on a weeknight and they were all gone, too far or probably already in bed. I was also thinking about getting my car towed home the next day when it hit me. Why not call an emergency tow service to tow my car home that night and just ride with them? That sounded like a good plan.

I pulled out my smart phone, thank god for them, and located a towing service web page with a 24 hour number in the town we lived in and hit dial. After two hours of waiting in the car watching people fill up their cars without holes in the gas tanks, the tow truck showed up and we were headed home. Although it normally takes me 45 minutes to drive home from that point, I can see why it took him nearly 2 hours to reach us. His tow truck was so ancient that it struggled to reach 45 miles per hour, the minimum speed on much of the road we were heading home on. But as far as tows go, it was a pleasant experience and in the wee hours of morning, he dropped us off at home, parted us from $200 of our money and headed downtown to drop off our car at the repair shop.

I called the repair shop first thing in the morning to let them know whose car was out in their parking lot and later dropped off my key. It was then in the morning daylight that I laid down by the van to see exactly what was wrong and took the picture at the top of the post. Instead of the ruptured fuel line I thought had happened, I saw a large rod with an end on one end the size of a large fist piercing through my gas tank and into the right rear suspension system. As it turned out, it came within 1/2" of piercing my tire rim on the inside! Since you can't just patch a plastic tank like a metal one, it was a very expensive fix of buying a whole new tank but fortunately, this vehicle is the only one I have collision insurance on so I was just out my deductible. The positive thing is that I didn't have to juggle a job without a car or getting everything taken care of without missing a lot of work. Also, I had just taken two of our guests off to the airport two days earlier for their trip home. I wouldn't have been able to fit them and all their luggage into our remaining vehicle.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Technical Difficulties Hopefully Are Over

Hopefully the worst is over. I have been reading Roundrockjournal for many years now and enjoy it but evidently Pablo has got himself a nasty malware bug. Because I had his wordpress blog linked on my sidebar and also because I was listed as a 'follower' of his blog, my blog was being flagged by Google Chrome. I have removed his blog for the time being from my reading list and I am no longer 'following' his blog through blogger. I have also grabbed a new template to replace my old one to remove any vestiges of malware that might have been implanted on my blog. Hopefully that resolves any issues people were having accessing my blog. Thanks for your patience.

Building Capital

I got the call a week before the hottest week of the year as it turned out, was to begin. Can you help me shingle my roof? I of course put in two half days on the two hottest days of the year helping to shingle one half of the house and last week after a break, I helped finish up the other side. They offered me money but I settled on a lunch after we finished up. It was worth the effort.

I'm a firm believer in helping out thy neighbor and have practiced that my whole life. It makes for a good relationship, builds up my knowledge on how to do things and it builds capital. One of these days I may have a big project that many hands would make quick work of and I can call in some of that capital.  It doesn't always work out that way but in theory. Back when I lived in Minnesota for six years, I helped three people shingle their houses and then got laid off and moved to another state before I ever collected on that capital.

Perhaps most importantly, helping people is just the right thing to do and it makes me feel good doing it. Well mentally that is. Physically I'm still a little sore.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Caddy Shack

Okay, the better term would be caddy garage because I built these two caddies for my wife in the garage but I couldn't resist the title. I'm not sure if Bill Murray or the groundhog would approve but oh well.

My wife has some plastic caddies in her office that she uses for various supplies that she needs to take with her from time to time. They are one size fits all things and didn't look very attractive. I on the other hand was canning a lot of stuff and needed something that I could take small breaks to work on in the garage. So the idea of building my wife some custom caddies was born.

She laid out the approximate overall size and location of various compartments and I came up with a design to put it all together. I've had some leftover walnut from a previous project years and years ago that I've been hauling around for some time and decided that the time to use it had arrived. It wasn't enough for both boxes so I had to buy a little more. I used it to create the four sides and the new stuff I bought to build the center divider with the handle. The thin dividers and the box bottoms I built out of some leftover plywood I had from my built-in book case project. All in all, I had about $20 worth of wood and finish in this project.

I used dovetail construction for the box for strong joints. I made a simple jig and my dado blade on my table saw to create them. I made a jewelry box a few years ago using a different jig but the same technique and though it turned out alright, I learned some things to do differently. This jig worked well and I have it saved for future use in other projects. All told I probably have about 10 hours of time invested in those two boxes spread out over a week.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Fireplace Update

The fireplace installation crew arrived last week and after two hours, I had a new wood burning insert. I was a bit disappointed but it was my fault. The crew did an excellent job.

Back when I was looking for an insert, nobody I called had any in stock that they could show me. Most of their floor models were stand along wood stoves, gas and electric inserts. They just didn't install that many wood burning inserts to stock them. So after I found a place that had reasonable pricing, I looked through their catalog at various wood burning inserts.

Most couldn't fit in the opening I had for one dimension or another but there were three that I could choose from. One was a pretty attractive model and after double checking the outside installation dimensions to make sure it would fit, I ordered it. What I neglected to do was to check the dimensions of the actually wood burning part of it. Technically, I didn't really have a choice if I wanted an insert but I could have just torn out all the brick work and started over from scratch to make any fireplace I desired work.

When they unpacked the insert, the firebox was pretty tiny. It is about 18 inches wide, 14 inches deep and about 16 inches tall. It is about a sixth of the size of the fireplace that we had at our last house. I can probably only put a couple logs into it at one time instead of the four or five in the other fireplace and that won't leave much room for any kindling to get the fire going. I also suspect that some of my existing firewood is too big to really fit into the opening.

But there are some features this insert has that our last fireplace didn't have. In this one, the flue is always open and the seal to prevent cold air from seeping into the house when not in use is on the door. Our last fireplace had glass bi-fold doors that didn't seat anything, including smoke if there wasn't a proper draft. This one should allow smoke free use. The old one we had to open the bi-fold doors to allow heat to escape into the room to warm us up. This one has a built in blower so we can leave the door closed and still get heat.

Not having properly sized firewood to use isn't really that big a deal. I have about a cord and a half cut but I can use that in the outside firepit instead. I also have three or four cord on the stump waiting for me to cut later this fall and I will probably cut those in smaller sized pieces to use in the fireplace. All will be well.

The insert came with an extra wide surround to cover up the butchered opening that the previous owners created in the wood fireplace to install their cheesy electric insert and thus rend the wood fireplace forever more unusable. Aesthetically it just didn't look quite right so I decided to build a mantel surround to go around the metal surround and to spiff things up. I am mid-way through that project and I already know that it was the right choice. When I get that project done, I will do a project wrap-up post on here with some pictures of everything. I will also be able to cross off a fairly large project from my list and that makes me feel great!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Recipes: By Popular Request

I should have known that you wouldn't let me slide by posting pictures of delicious food without wanting the recipe too! Well here for your tastebud delight:

Salmon Cakes

Panko breakcrumbs
1 green onion thinly sliced
1 shallot minced
2 Tbsp fresh parsley minced
2 Tbsp mayonnaise
4 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp dijon mustard
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
pinch cayenne pepper
1-1/4 lb salmon
vegetable oil

Skin and cut salmon into 1" cubes and pulse in a food processor. Add 3 Tbsp Panko and the rest of the ingredients except for the oil. Fold together and using a 1/3 cup measurer as a mold, form into cakes and place on baking sheet. Makes about 8 cakes. Dip faces and edges of cakes into more panko breadcrumbs. In a 12" skillet, heat 1/2 cup of oil until it starts to shimmer. Cook cakes 2 min per side and let drain on paper towel.

Squash Feta Casserole

2 large acorn or 1 butternut squash
1 med onion chopped
2 cloves garlic minced
3 Tbsp butter
1/2 c. chopped green pepper
1/2 c. chopped red pepper
2 eggs
1 c. plain yogurt
1 c. crumbled feta cheese
1-1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
pinch cayenne pepper
1/4 c. sunflower seeds

Cut squash in half and scoop out seeds. Place cut side down in a greased pan with 1/2" of water and bake 350 degrees for 40 min. Drain water and turn squash cut side up. Bake another 10 min or until tender. Cool slightly. Scoop out squash and mash in a bowl. Saute onion and garlic in better until tender. Add peppers and saute until crisp-tender. Add to squash. In another bowl, whisk eggs and yogurt and add to squash. Add the rest of the ingredients except seeds, stir and transfer to 11 x 7 baking dish. Sprinkle with the seeds and bake covered at 375 degrees for 25 min. Uncover and bake 25-30 min longer.

Acharang Sili (Pickling Brine)

This is a Filipino pickling brine that works really well with all sorts of vegetables. It is my favorite way to pickle peppers and onions. One note is that with peppers and onions, you need to let this stuff sit for awhile after pickling before eating them. The first time I did this recipe I opened a jar after a month or two and it was terrible. I decided a few months later that I was going to throw everything away and opened another jar to do so and tried one. It was outstanding. Since then I usually store them at least four to six months before I open up to eat.

1 qt. can sugar vinegar
2 c. brown sugar
1 c white sugar
2 Tbsp salt
black pepper

In a pan add the ingredients and bring to a slight boil. Cool some and pour over vegetables in canning jars. Though I don't think it is required, I usually pressure can the jars at 5 lbs of pressure for about 5 min to seal the canning lids to the jar. Makes enough for about 8 to 10 pints of veggies or 4 to 5 quarts depending on how tightly the veggies are packed in the jar.