Showing posts from September, 2022

James Webb

  The James Webb telescope continues to prove itself an invaluable tool in the pursuit of knowledge. A couple weeks ago it took the first photo of an exo-planet or planet outside of our own solar system. Last week, it took the above picture of Neptune showing that it too has rings like Saturn. When I think of Neptune, our furthest planet since Pluto was kicked out, I think of the "blue marble" picture taken by the Voyager 2 spacecraft on its way by.  It has also conclusively found carbon dioxide around another planet. That in itself doesn't tell us much but if combined with methane, could be a signal of lifeforms. Unfortunately, this planet didn't have methane but perhaps the next one or one down the road will. I can't fathom a world where we aren't alone... yet, but that day may be coming. Below is a picture of a "cartwheel" galaxy somewhere out there. It makes me wonder if someday I'll get to see a "selfie" image of our own galaxy. I&

Joe Philippines: Geography Lesson

This entire post is new to this blog and not from my journals or archives. I thought I would give you a sense of Baguio City and it's location in this world. Above is my mother-in-law's house in the Philippines. Mostly my brother-in-law and his family live there though my mother-in-law has her own room still for when she visits and my wife and I still have a room when we visit though I'm sure one of my wife's nieces or nephew occupy it when we aren't there.  It is situated on an extremely steep mountain side though you can't tell that from satellite imagery. The road out front is actually level with what I would call as the fourth floor of the structure which contains a living room, dining room, kitchen, bathroom and MIL's bedroom. Above is the attic floor or 5th floor of the house and is where our bedroom is located along with several other bedrooms and a bathroom. On the 3rd floor which is below the grade of the road, is another level that occupies the sam

Beans and Gourds

 Although not yet done with our dry shell bean harvest, the remaining variety still has a way to go before being dry enough to pick. A couple of other varieties didn't do so well and of the varieties that did do well, when putting them in jars to store, I had some partial jars. So we took a half dozen partial jars, soaked them in a pot over night and made a ham and bean soup the following day for lunch. Above is a picture of the soaked beans before we started adding the flavorings and ham.  I tried eating some of the various types of beans separately for a taste test of sorts and couldn't really tell much of a difference in flavor. There were subtle texture differences but I'm not sure that is due to the bean variety or just the length of soaking time to get rehydrated fully. All the beans were very meaty and flavorful. When cooked with some ham and some spices, they were downright delightful. After I'm done writing this post, I'm going to have another bowl for toda

Joe Philippines: Riding a Jeepney

What do you get when you cross a Jeep with a mini bus? Although that question had never entered my mind, I discovered the answer while in the Philippines. What you get is called a Jeepney. The front end has the same grill, lights and shape of a Jeep but with wide flared fenders and the back end looks similar to a mini bus. They are everywhere in the Philippines and are a widely used source of public transportation.   Most Jeepneys had routes that they followed with a sign listing both end points. Once you found the vehicle going your way you just climbed in and gave them your money, which is really harder than it looks. The entrance to these vehicles is located where an emergency exit door would be on a school bus. Once inside, the distance between the roof and the floor was about four feet with one bench seat running along each wall from the driver to the door. Filipinos, being of small stature, could just hop right up and take a seat. Me being six foot two inches tall, had to scrunch

How About Them Apples

  The title of this post is perhaps my favorite line from the movie Good Will Hunting. The last remaining apple tree from our wedding orchard is still hanging in there after all these years and has provided us with many an apple over the years. In the past, we've always just picked a bucket full and let the rest go to fertilize the ground underneath or feed the populous deer. But since we fenced it in as part of our garden area expansion, we have been picking more and trying to preserve them for later use throughout the year. This preservation has usually been one of three ways. I freeze the apples to use in pies, tartes and crisps. I dehydrate apple slices for snacks. I cook down apples in a crockpot to make some applesauce. I plan to do more of the last two again this year but I was looking to do something different other than freezing apples. That method works well and isn't very time consuming but takes up a space in our deep freeze which is perpetually stuffed full. Findin

Joe Philippines: Heading Up Into the Mountains

Road to Baguio City Dawn was slowly starting to arrive as we neared the mountains of the northern Philippines. I had been riding in this mini van for almost six hours at this point and thought I was going to grow roots into the seat. We started up the mountain and the van immediately slowed down to a slow crawl, literally. I had thoughts of getting out and walking beside the van to stretch my legs but thought it might be insulting to the owner of the van to have me walking beside it while the pedal was pressed to the floor. Off to the left was a shear drop off into the river below and towards the right was the blunt face of a cliff with not much room in between where we were. I decided to lighten the mood by sarcastically asking if this was the type of vehicle that we always read about in the American newspapers that were plunging off cliffs killing the occupants. Instead of a knowing laughs, my hosts merely nodded and pointed to the upcoming curve and told me that a van had plunged of

Blogger Feed Problems

Is anyone else having problems with blogger feeds? My reading list to the left always updates when someone posts something new moving their blog and the post title to the top of the list. Suddenly a day ago, I have around ten blogs that now will not show the title of their last post and thus end up at the bottom of my blog roll where I have a bunch of defunct bloggers that I dream about their triumph return someday. When I click on their blog name at the bottom of my blog roll, I am greeted with a screen full of random characters until I delete the part of the URL dealing with the feed and then it is business as ususal. I'm not sure what is going on but wanted to see if it was just me or others too.

On Fire

  One thing about having so many dead trees (I've had another nine removed a month ago), I have a plethora of firewood. Last spring, we had a derecho rip though the area that took out a couple of the live trees in our yard and I cut up the one that was in a part I mow and because I still have about a 10 year supply of split and well seasoned wood from the previous 30+ trees I have cut down, I just tossed the derecho wood into a pile in the part of our lot I don't mow. I was able to burn 1/3 of the smaller branches last winter and still have two more large brush piles to burn perhaps this winter. I tried giving away the wood but nobody is interested because it isn't split and delivered for free. So I thought I would just leave it there to burn in backyard bonfires or rot back into the earth, whichever comes first. I started a bonfire this spring around the largest piece that remained after I cut it up and it was still green enough that it only burnt up halfway and it took an

Joe Philippines: My Arrival

So begins another series I am resurrecting from the way deep archives of my blog. As chance would have it, I fell in love with someone from another culture than mine. She was born in the Philippines though I met her while on a vacation in England of all places. After we were engaged, I finally was able to make it to her home country to meet her family and experience a culture very unlike my own. Since that time, we have been married, had kids and have been back so many times that it has become like a second home to me. Over the next days/weeks I will polish up some of the posts for republication and perhaps add some additional words from today's perspective in italics at the end. Also, due to the era, I had a film camera and didn't take many pictures that didn't include family and so many of the pictures accompanying  the post are found elsewhere on the internet and are used to just give you a visual taste of what I saw. The stale cold air changed to a heavy dampness that i

Kuck Family History: Figuring Out the Black Sheep

Without anything new to post, I'm writing another genealogy post in the Kuck family series. It is a resurrected post from the past but with some new research to flesh out more of the story. Coming up, I have some posts pertaining to the Philippines and my visits to that country which I may start sprinkling into my schedule.    Josephine Francis Kuck Previously, I mentioned that my great great grandparents had only two children twelve years apart. My great grandfather (The One Who Went to War) born in 1895 and his younger sister Josephine born in 1907. I don't know where the Josephine part of her name came from but I assume the Francis middle name is from her maternal grandmother Frances Hubbard. I can't explain why Josephine had the typical masculine spelling ending in "cis" instead of "ces" typically given to females. I only have two records spelling it out and most used "cis" so it is correct or a typo repeated twice. As mentioned previously,

More Garden Harvest

 The garden is still producing well and we seem to come home with all our baskets and buckets filled each time. We made a trip down to the garden with the intention of picking the rest of the dried beans that were ready to pick and we did accomplish that. We still have a few rows left that are green and a couple more rows that while the plants have died, still had loads of green pods on them. We picked the dried up ones and left the green ones for another week. While doing that, the kids picked a basket of apples. Always before, the apples have been full of insect damage which I just cut out during the preservation stage but this year, they have been almost immaculate. The only thing I can guess is that my periodic mowing of the grass under the tree, has eliminated a habitat for the bugs that were doing the damage. These apples went towards immediate consumption in an apple tarte tatin and just plain eating. I think the next time, I will have the kids pick a bunch and try out a new can

The Great Bean Reduction

  We made a mid-week trip down to our garden to harvest some flowers, odds and ends and start on some of the dry shell beans. Unfortunately, our entire family caught Covid for the second time this pandemic. Fortunately, we only had mild cold like symptoms so it seemed like a good time to isolate in our garden. As you can see, we had quite a few dry shell beans that we picked which ended up being about three rows out of I think somewhere around 10 that we planted. Back home in our isolation, we were real party animals and shelled those beans over the next several days. Planting had been a little fast and hectic and so we didn't know exactly what we were picking and indeed, one row on the end had been planted half and half which made for fun sorting as you were going along. After a couple days of further drying in the sun on every cookie sheet we had available on our back deck, I deemed them dry enough to store in glass jars. Because at the moment I have a plethora of pint glass jars

Belated Garden Update

  With posts on our vacation and other things, I'm trying to clear my phone of photos so here is a belated garden update from two weeks ago when we returned home from our vacation and saw our garden for the first time in three weeks. Above was a picture of our harvest. Above is where we dug the three buckets of potatoes that remained. We had pillaged about a third of the crop for fingerling or new potatoes earlier in the year. To the right are the row of strawberries which seem to be doing okay. In fact, before we left on vacation my wife cut the shoots off of them, as recommended for the first year, and now they are loaded with unripe berries.  The heat and dry weather is taking a toll our our dry shell bean crop. These three climbing varieties showed so much promise earlier in the season but apparently didn't produce a lot of pods. We were so busy with other aspects of our garden we didn't inspect them closer so we'll see in the coming weeks when we are able to get a