Sunday, February 10, 2019

2/4 Snow in Eugene!!

No, it does not often snow in Eugene, Oregon.  

However, this is winter, and although temperatures are milder than a lot of surrounding areas, it can get below freezing at night here in the Willamette Valley.  Mostly, it just does a lot of raining here--in fact this time of year, it rains almost every day and the ground is always wet.

So, on this morning I woke up early and peeked out of my curtains to see a lot of white stuff on the ground.  This was about an inch of very slushy snow, so I got dressed quickly and went outside to take photos because it was already above freezing and I knew it would not last long.  The colors are all grayish because the sun had just risen.  


Notice that the trees, even the small tree next to my driveway are covered in wet snow.  And because the branches are covered with moss, the snow sticks much better than it would on bare branches.  There are two nests in this little tree--a larger one and a smaller one just above it. 

I even had some snow on the top of my motorhome!  First time, ever, because I make a point to avoid cold weather and snow. 

The trees in the distance are pretty in the snow!  My next door neighbor, to the right, left his awning open all night, so it filled up with snow.  A younger man who is also a neighbor is on the ladder sweeping the snow off.  Not quite sure why he bothered because it will all be gone in a couple of hours.  High is going to be 42 today. 


 So, how do I stay warm when temps are close to or below freezing?  Motorhomes and all recreational vehicles are notoriously under-insulated. That why nearly all of us are "snow-birds."  We head to warmer places when it gets cold.  

I have been trying to find ways to keep the cold  air from my living space. This is how my cab area looks during the day.  There is a queen-sized bunk up here, and a privacy curtain to the left that is usually kept tied open. The problem with this big front open area is that there are horrible cold air leaks in this area, and the vehicle windows do very little to keep cold air out.  

Notice that I also have a small electric heater on the floor to the lower left. I have two of them and keep them both running constantly during cold weather.  I also use my front and rear built-in propane furnaces, but they use up propane fast and my propane tank is built into my motorhome.  That means I have to unhook my motorhome and take the whole thing to a place to have it refilled.  Lately, I am been having to do that every 12-14 days, so I try to conserve propane as much as possible.

On the top, over the bunk, you can see the privacy curtain that can be used by the person sleeping in the upper bunk.  My grandkids love sleeping up there with the curtain closed because it makes kind of a little house.

At night, I put up a small curtain over the cab area that prevents anyone from seeing in through the front windshield and side windows.  I greenish pillows fill in the spaces to the side of the drapes. 

The problem, as you can see, is that it leaves a huge open area for cold air to come in from the cab!!  Pretty useless as an air barrier.
So, a couple of weeks ago, after staring at this area for an hour of so, I decided to do some experimenting.  I had this extra drape provided when I bought my RV, but I think it was a mistake as it is long, but too narrow to fit anything.  I also had some very large safety pins, so I decided to pin the extra panel in the middle with the safety pins.  MY TV is on a swing arm, so I just had to pull it forward and fit the curtain behind it.  


The problem is that the panel is too narrow to go all across, so I may end up trying a sheet or finding a cheap drapery panel to fit across.  In the meantime, I stuck a yellow bath mat in the area on the left where air was coming in next to the driver's seat.  

My solution is not ideal, but it helps.  And I will be here only another three weeks and then heading to warmer places in northern California and the Las Vegas area.  

I have not been posting, but that is because nothing is going on right now, other than getting some medical things taken care of and working on the class I teach online.  I also have been planning out my spring and summer travels and making reservations for the busy summer times.  So, that has kept me pretty busy.  

When I head south, I will be going through the passes along I-5 in Southern Oregon and then in the far north parts of Northern California.  I will have to make sure the roads are dry when I drive through, but i expect there will be a lot of snow in the area. 

Thursday, January 10, 2019

1/10 Wet Stuff Growing in Eugene, Oregon

The part of Oregon I am staying in for the winter is really wet.  It gets about 46" of rain each year here, but unlike Michigan where I am from, it comes here almost entirely in the late fall and winter.  In fact, it has rained almost every day since I came here in late October.  For example, compare these two weather charts:
  • Ann Arbor, MI - https://www.usclimatedata.com/climate/ann-arbor/michigan/united-states/usmi0028 
  • Eugene, OR - https://www.usclimatedata.com/climate/eugene/oregon/united-states/usor0118
Notice also that the weather has more extreme highs and lows in Ann Arbor, compared to Eugene.  Eugene gets frost and a few freezes, but the ground does not freeze.  

Anyway, while it rained last night (as usual), the sun came out for a few hours today, so I marched off to do my laundry in the RV park laundromat.  While I was out, I took some photos of the stuff growing here in January.

I took this photo walking back from the office, where I went to pick up a couple of packages and my mail.  There are still a lot of clouds, but the blue sky is unusual!  Notice that the trees are leafless, but the grass is green and the pavement is still wet from the overnight rain.  (The grey-green stuff in the distant trees is oakmoss, by the way, not new leaves. See below for details on this moss.) 
 

The first thing I noticed is the moss (or lichen?) on the side of this tree.  Must be the north side??

Here is a closeup.  
 

I don't know what kind of a shrub this is, but it has large buds on it in preparation for warmer weather. 


There is even moss growing on the side of the roadway!   Notice the stick on the lower left that has something grey-green growing on it. 

My motorhome is on the right.  

This is a small, ornamental tree growing next to my site.  Notice that it has something growing on the branches.  

A little research showed me that this is Oakmoss, which means this little tree must be a variety of oak:  https://www.inaturalist.org/taxa/123175-Evernia-prunastri.  Actually, it is really a form of lichen, in spite of its name.  What is interesting is that it reminds me a lot of a kind of tree lichen found in Florida and called "Old Man's Beard."  Here is an article on it:  http://www.wildsouthflorida.com/old.mans.beard.lichen.html#.XDgx4Wl7mpo 

Neither of these plants causes any damage to the trees because they get their nutrients and water from the air and stuff that lands on them.  And strangely enough, they are used by the French perfume industry.  I will have to sniff a sample on the next sunny day.  

A lot of plants in Oregon remind me of the ones in swamps in Southern Georgia and Florida--lots of ferns, moss, and lichen.  Here is a closeup of the small tree.     

This is a very well-cared-for and nicely landscaped RV park.  As you can see, the daffodils are also waiting for spring!  

I am hoping to be back in warmer and sunnier locations by spring, however.  With all the lichens and moss, I am afraid if I stay much longer, I will get covered.  

Monday, January 7, 2019

1/7 My Recipe for Peameal Bacon

Two foods I grew up with are pasties and peameal bacon.  Peameal bacon is what is sometimes called “real Canadian bacon,” but nearly all Canadians call it peameal bacon. You can buy it almost anywhere in Ontario and a few other provinces. Note that I posted some of these same photos way back in January, 2016, but did not include a recipe then.   

There are two problems with the name “peameal bacon.”  The first is that it is rolled in yellow corn meal, not peameal as it was originally, and the second is that it is really not bacon!  Real ground meal made of peas is just not very available anymore, and I have no idea why the name included the word “bacon” because it is made of boneless pork loin.  I had heard that it got that name in WWII because the Canadians sent it to the British who had little meat available during and immediately after the war.  This article gives more details:  https://www.foodnetwork.ca/shows/great-canadian-cookbook/blog/the-history-of-canadian-peameal-bacon/
 
In any case, the important thing is that peameal bacon is preserved by brining, not by smoking, as other bacon is.  This means you need to cook the brined meat, just as you would any unsmoked or precooked pork product.  It makes wonderful sandwiches or breakfast meat with eggs if you just pan fry it in a little butter.  It can also be roasted, although I have never done that.  The point is that this meat does not resemble the smoked and sliced stuff you can buy in this country that is called “Canadian Bacon.”  (Clarification: You can buy the real peameal bacon in a few specialty stores in cities that border Ontario, like Detroit and Buffalo.)

It took some internet searching for recipes and some experimenting to get a recipe that tasted the way I knew it should.  (Hint: If the recipe tells you to smoke it, forget it!)
The pork loin it is made from is the chunk of meat that the pork chops come from, except without the bone.  Do not cut it up or trim off the layer of fat on one side—it is so lean that it needs this fat!  If you don't find a pork loin in the meat case, ask the butcher.  It should look like this and weigh about 3-4 pounds:  


Next, you need a large plastic container with a lid that will hold the meat in one or two chunks and still fit into your refrigerator.  Because I have a very small refrigerator, I cut the pork loin in two pieces and stuff it in a small, square container that will fit.  

Then you need to get some pink #1 curing salt. This is an absolute requirement and cannot be substituted!  You will probably have to go to a specialty spice store to get the pink salt.  Make sure whoever you buy the pink salt from knows you are using it to cure meat, so you do NOT accidentally get Himalayan pink salt, which is entirely different. You can get it from Cabela’s and butcher supply companies.  Amazon carries this as well:  https://www.amazon.com/Boise-Salt-Co-Prague-Gluten/dp/B07JVHSRK9/ref=sr_1_11_s_it?s=grocery&ie=UTF8&qid=1546908012&sr=1-11&keywords=pink+curing+salt+%231
 
While you are getting the pink salt, you might want to get a brine injector, although in a pinch, you can make do with just sticking holes in the meat with one of those long nails you use to tie up a turkey.  Mine looks like this one from Amazon, although there are nicer stainless steel models:  https://www.amazon.com/Ofargo-Plastic-Marinade-Injector-Download/dp/B078CQ3369/ref=sr_1_cc_4?s=aps&ie=UTF8&qid=1546908399&sr=1-4-catcorr&keywords=brine+injector     

When you have the container, meat, and pink curing salt, gather the following:

  • 3 quarts cold water
  • 1 cup maple syrup (The real stuff! No substitutes.)
  • 3/4 cup kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons Prague powder #1 cure (pink curing salt)
  • 2 tablespoons of pickling spices
  • 1 tsp garlic powder (optional)
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
Put the water, maple syrup, kosher salt, pink curing salt, and pickling spices in a pan and bring them to a boil.  Take off the stove and stir to make sure all the salt is dissolved.  Cool and pour all but one cup over the meat in the plastic container.  

Fill the brine injector with some of the reserved brine and inject it into the meat about every inch.  It will drip out, so this is best done in the container or over another container. 
When you are done injecting the meat, dump the remainder of the reserved brine onto the meat in the container. Put the lid on and put the container in the refrigerator.  Let the pork loin sit in the brine for four full days.  Hopefully, the brine will cover the meat entirely, but it is always a good idea to turn the meat every day.  If the meat is floating in the brine and not covered, you could add something heavy, like a clean plate, to weigh it down.  

After four days, take the meat out of the brine and dry it off with paper towels.  Then roll it in the cup of yellow corn meal and let it sit for a couple of hours in the refrigerator.  I use a plastic bag to coat the meat with the corn meal--much less messy. 
At this point, I usually cut off several slices for immediate cooking and then cut the rest of the loin into a couple of chunks and freeze it.  Slices should be about 1/3” thick, no thinner, or it will cook too fast and not be juicy.  
 
Fry in butter at medium heat until the meat is no longer a dark pink.  The photo below shows the dark pink color of the meat before it is cooked.   

Thee next two photos show how it should look when cooked.  I don’t like it overcooked, so I cook it just until done, as shown in the first photo, but others like it a little more cooked, as shown in the second photo.  (The top piece here was really cut too thin. The bottom piece will be a lot more juicy.) 


Some people like to put mustard on it in a sandwich, but I like it plain.  It also goes well with eggs at breakfast, but make sure however you eat it, that you eat it hot from the pan.



Sunday, January 6, 2019

1/3 U of Oregon's Museum of Natural and Cultural History

I have been incredibly bored lately, mostly because it has been too cold and rainy to go outside or do much of anything and also because I am sitting around waiting for approval to start a new medication.  The sooner I can start this new medication, the sooner I can resume my travels to warmer and dryer places!!  So, I rented a car for a week and spent a few hours one day visiting this nearby museum. (There is also a museum I might visit in Portland, but I decided it was just too damp and dreary for that long drive.)   

Anyway, this museum on campus was small and not very expensive, so I decided to give it a try.  And because classes do not start for a few days, there was also lots of street parking right in front! 


There are two halves to this museum--one focused on natural history and one on the culture of the ancient people who lived here thousands of years ago.  

The sculpture on the top of the entrance to this building is a migrating male salmon.  These fish change the shapes of their mouths and even their backs as the swim up rivers.  Once they fertilize the eggs that females lay, they die.   

This is the cultural side of the museum.  Paisley Caves is where they have found bones and artifacts of some of the oldest Americans--over 9,000 years old!  So, the focus in this museum is on these ancient peoples instead of the more modern Native Americans who lived here only hundreds of years ago.  


It is amazing that these sandals made of sagebrush bark have lasted over 9,000 years in such good condition!  And they have several pairs on display--mostly the same design but in various sizes. 

Here is an article about these sandals and where they were found.  https://oregonencyclopedia.org/articles/fort_rock_cave/#.XDKWH2l7mpo  

The shoes on the lower left have rabbit skin woven in to make them warmer.  Rabbit skin was cut into long strips and used to make woven blankets and coats as well as shoes.  

And a reconstruction of an early shelter.  

A fragment of an 9,600 year old basket.


This reconstructed plank home represents a later group of peoples.  Northwest peoples have long known how to split logs into rough planks to build their homes.  A fishing trap is next to the building. 

These are some of the tools and artifacts found in Oregon.  Notice that the basket on the upper right is made of strips of wood, not woven from plant fibers as most baskets are.

I thought this was an interesting map of Oregon.  Like Michigan and much of the Midwest, Washington and Oregon experienced glaciers that mostly wiped the landscape clean, so there are no dinosaurs and very early animals or plants found in these states.  However, the geology is varied because of the Cascade mountains, volcanoes, and other events that occurred both before and after the glaciers.  

As you can see, I spent most of my time on the Cultural side of this museum.  The next few photos were from the Natural History side, but I really ran out of time here.  

This is a model of a large ground sloth, one of the animals that survived the glaciers and was hunted by ancient humans.


And another interesting map showing ancient animals and where they have been found in this state.  There are a lot more models and bones of these animals at the Thomas Condon Paleontology Visitor Center in the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument.  It is located about 100 miles east of Bend, Oregon.  Check my posting on 10/3/2018 for photos.

I spent a couple of hours here and could have spent more time, but I wanted to run the rest of my errands and get home before dark.  Well worth the $3 entrance fee for seniors.

1/1 University of Oregon Tour

I have been VERY lazy and sitting on these photos throughout the holidays. A very kind lady who teaches at the University took me to lunch and gave me a short walking tour of the campus. It was a short tour because it was cold and damp, as is usual for this time of year.  Some day when I am here, and it is warm and sunny, I will take advantage of Eugene's many bike trails and do some exploring on my own.  And, I confess that this happened way back on December 13!! 

The University of Oregon is the largest university in Oregon and its flagship, so to speak.  It was founded in 1875 and currently has about 19,000 undergrads and almost 4,000 graduate students. Their teams are the Ducks, and you can see a lot of Duck memorabilia on people and around town.  One thing that having such a substantial university in town is that there are more cultural programs and a lot more upscale stores than you would expect in a city the size of Eugene.  

This is where we had lunch.  It is a very interesting looking bed and breakfast and restaurant.  

Looking from the commercial area into the campus. 

Just a sample of some of the buildings.  Looks pretty much like a lot of other colleges. 


I thought this building was interesting because it looked a bit like it came from Amsterdam in the Netherlands. 

Those of you who are familiar with my alma mater, U of Michigan, can you imagine actual street parking right in the middle of campus???  Amazing!  


Apparently, a lot of the trees were planted on campus.  What is surprising on this one are the ferns growing on the large branches.  The tree was labeled as a large-leafed maple, and these ferns look a LOT like the ones they call resurrection ferns in Florida.  They are called that because in dry weather they dry up and look dead, but in a few short hours after a rain, they become green and look alive again.  I will have to check these out in the middle of a dry summer.  

Directly behind this tree, as shown above, is Deady Hall, one of the oldest buildings on campus.  This building is said to be haunted and it looks like a good candidate for a horror movie, but very interesting architecture. 


The fern tree is in the background, just in front of Deady Hall. 

This is a statue of "The Pioneer" and was dedicated in 1919, so almost a 100 years old.  

If this looks familiar, it is because it is the main library.  Reminds me of a lot of libraries, including the main Detroit library and the one in Ann Arbor.   

 Eugene is an interesting town that is enriched by having a major university.  I have been given a map of its many parks and bike trails, so someday I will do more exploring.