Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The First Day of Spring

Back in Alabama, we know that Spring has really arrived when the Pecan trees bud out. The Pecans are the first to go dormant in the winter, and the last to come out in the spring. After they get leaves, there aren't any more frosts.

For anyone who hasn't noticed, things are done a little differently in Nebraska. The beginning of spring is apparently announced by the movement of snakes, of all things. Snakes. At home, the awakening is a time to be dreaded, requiring the use of extreme caution, sprinkling of sulfur and other snake repellents, and just generally hoping that the snakes stay in their place, away from the people and the chickens. Ninety percent of the snakes I have seen in the wild in my life were venomous, not friendly little creatures who slip through the grass. No. Six foot Diamond Back Rattlers, well, they don't exactly inspire warm, happy thoughts. And of course, there is the alarming takeover of Florida by giant pythons.... This might explain the violence with which this crew often reacts to the news of a snake in the yard.

But that is an Alabama norm. When in Rome and all that. so, the Commodore decided that we should take part in a custom of the natives of these parts. So...

Brant is a Western Plains Garter snake. He is about two and a half feet long, which, according to the book that the Commodore dug up is about as large as these guys get. Brant is a very pleasant snake who doesn't mind being handled by a crowd of boys. He proved that he really wasn't bothered too much by eating the worms that they dug up for him.

Although the 1st Mate and the 1st AB look smooth in these shots, it was actually the Commodore who was the first to hold Brant, courageously picking him up off the ground when he escaped from his bowl. Of course, once the Commodore had handled him, the rest of the crew fell in.

Well, except for the 2nd AB who needed a little convincing.

But he got the hang of it.

Only the Ship's dog was really set against handling the snake. She really didn't seem to get the idea that the boys were in no danger, and continued to desire the snakes demise, particularly when he nearly escaped in the house. I suppose there are just some tricks you can't teach an old dog.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Adventures in Doughworld

Lately all adventures center around bread.  A friend of the Commodore's over in the Bonny Glen mentioned a bread book, that after reviewing the Commodore decided that we simply could not manage any longer without. She is tired of the squishy sliced stuff that we have been able to acquire, and yet did not care to fill the galley with the equipment it would take to make bread with the usual method. This book, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day promised that it held the answer within its covers. At this point, most of the crew are willing to believe that it has fulfilled its oath.

We began our adventures with a loaf of bread whose name I cannot now recall. It disappeared rather quickly.
The next morning, as a surprise breakfast for the Admiral, we had cinnamon rolls for breakfast. They were devoured at once, long before a photograph could be taken. 

For dinner Ciabatta bread for dipping. Fortunately, this time, I was able to snap a picture before the hordes swept in. 

Although it was meant as a side, the bread was not all eaten at once, owing to the fact that there was quite a bit of it, and the Commodore also made crab legs, stromboli, and other feastly items. Of course, it is not all feasting. The next day, the Commodore forced us to eat the leftover bread, this time cooked as sandwiches she called paninis. We, a willing and well trained crew, obeyed her orders.

Of course, as with any adventure worth the time it takes, there have been mishaps. The cinnamon rolls, delicious as they were, might have been even better if...um...Someone hadn't forgotten the eggs. And then there are scenarios like this one.

The truth remains that small disasters can be overlooked when the final results of it look like this:

Or this:
(More Ciabatta.)

Voila! Modern day hardtack and gruel.

After the Admiral begged for days, we gave in and made more cinnamon rolls. The Commodore requested a separate tray of them be made into sticky buns. These are the sticky ones. Once again, the not sticky ones vanished far too quickly to pose for the camera.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The 2nd Mate's New Look.

After three long years of growing it, the 2nd Mate finally trimmed her hair, with a whopping 18 in for donation. Here's the picture.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Of Vast Importance

The 2nd AB, after a long and noble struggle, has succeeded in completing a marvelous achievement. He has pulled his tooth out. Well, to be perfectly accurate, the Admiral pulled the tooth, but the 2nd AB very kindly refrained from biting. It was a rather trying effort, with many suggestions of tying the tooth to the front door and letting the lovely Nebraska breeze jerk it out for him. as many a youngster before him, however, the 2nd AB remained steadfast, and allowed his tooth to be pulled out more gently. And his reward, the envy of every child with a loose tooth, and many without, a visit from the tooth fairy, and

 A gap.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Something in the Water.

"Adventure is out there!!"

Early one morning, after we had set the Admiral off on his way to work, the rest of us decided that an adventure was called for.

The only trouble with snowy adventures is that it takes so much work to get ready for them. Consequently, there is less time for the actual adventure.
Especially if the entire crew gets hauled back by the Commodore because they forgot to wash the dishes.

But we finally did get under way. It may be noted that the Commodore was not very happy, but she was still willing to come, and the sight was really worth it. We were all just walking along when we spotted them.

We were simply flabbergasted.

And the 1st AB was just a little bit envious. Back at home base, geese either fly through the air, walk on the grass, or swim. Geese in Nebraska have discovered a different method for walking.


Of course, this being a scientific voyage, we were very curious. Was it some skill that this particular flock had learned? Was it because the geese in Alabama are heavier from their less wintry diet? Or was it something in Nebraska's water? The 1st Mate and the 1st AB decided to get to the bottom of it.

Conclusion Number One: There is something in the water in Nebraska.We believe it is called "ice," a thing that only appears in Alabama freezers.
Conclusion Number Two: Once a great mystery such as this has been solved, it is time to head back to the ship for Hot Chocolate.

Chili Verde

Good food and good times go together like bread and butter. It is a fact of life that even modern science cannot find grounds to refute. When one is ill, one wants comfort foods, when one is happy one wants party foods, and when one grows just a bit homesick, one wants home food. Yesterday, wandering around in the cold, watching the snow geese, staring at frozen rivers and, looking at the weather report that calls for a week of snow, we began to miss home. And we realized that it had been a long time since we had one of the meals for which the Master and Mistress of Swampwood are famed. As we are separated by more than a thousand miles at the moment, it was necessary to make do with what we could scrounge up. Chili Verde.

After calling up the Master of Swampwood to ensure that the result of our efforts would not be terrible, the Commodore began by burning the skin off of the peppers. This is a fragrant task, to say the least, and within seconds, Tallulah was filled with the spicy smell of burning peppers, after which these same peppers were carefully skinned. Then the Commodore had to taste them. It is not often that the Commodore is outdone by a pepper. She has a fairly heat tolerant mouth, and usually she can at least fake a smile until she gets something to drink. I do not think it is very much to the crew’s disgrace that we had a bit of a chuckle as we hastily handed our bold Commodore the cheese and crackers that she begged for. In went the pepper, which somehow grew tamer during the process. In fact, even the Admiral ate the finished product.

And when the supper was finished, we sat down to eat. The food did not really taste like the food we get when we are at Swampwood, but it was good enough. By the time we finished eating, we were not so homesick, and today, the sun even came out.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Duffers and Owls.

Sometimes while traveling one comes across persons who defy explanation, and whose actions make absolutely no sense. We came across such a person yesterday.

Yesterday we made the move from Pueblo, CO to Junction City, KS. It was a long drive, but not more than we could handle. At lunchtime, we stopped at the Kansas welcome center for sandwiches. We found some advertising booklets with lists of RV parks in them. We narrowed our choices down to two parks, three hours apart. The first was a city park with water and electric, the other a fully equipped campground with the usual amenities. After the Admiral called to check the parks' rates, we decided on the latter. It would make for a long day, but it was advertised as having attractions in the area, and seemed and interesting place.
When we arrived, dusk had faded into dark, and all we could make out of the entrance was a sign.
Covered Wagon RV Park, and underneath the unmistakable and highly unappreciated word:
So the Admiral called the number he had dialed before, hoping that there had been some mistake, that there was another Covered Wagon RV park in , Abilene, KS, and that we had not just driven three hours longer than we wanted to for nothing. The owner assured us that the park was closed. 
"I wish you had told me that before we drove three extra hours to get here," said the Admiral. "Well, goodbye," said the owner, and hung up. 

We began a rather depressed search for the next closest campground. For some minutes, we believed it to be 47 miles on down the road, not a cheering prospect after dark in strange territory.  Then we found one only twenty-one miles down the road, the Owls Nest Campground. We stopped our hastily begun dinner preparations and headed towards our new destination.Upon arriving, we were...well, not happy. Perhaps even more depressing than the original sign was one that read "overnight sites available now" followed by  the words:
Sorry, We're FULL
Here follows another desperate search conducted in the entrance to this park. About twenty minutes later, a little car drive by us. The park was very crowded, and several cars had already gone by, so we did not pay this one much attention. Until there was a knock on the door. 
I hope that considering the events of the night, the thoughts of most persons in the bus upon hearing that knock can be forgiven. Fortunately, the Admiral opened the door quite calmly. It was the owner. He very politely explained that he had been gone for a week, and he knew that the sign said full, but if we were still looking for a site, he had some spaces that had been reserved but were still empty, and he would see what he could do. He then removed the picnic table from the middle of a nice pull through. 
Friendly campground owners are always nice, but they never seem so nice as at 10:00 at night when there is nowhere else to go.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Letters from home.

Before we left base camp to begin our exploration of the vast territories of the U.S., we appointed the Harbor Master and the Frog as caretakers. Today along with a package of much needed and inconveniently forgotten items (the 1st A.B.'s favorite tie, the beaters and dough hooks for the Commodore's favorite mixer...) we received a report of their success in keeping the place free of troubles and potential dangers.

The report read as follows.

Dear Everybody,
Thanks for the house. [It is only proper that they should thank us. before we left, we were making them live in the boat shed.] We hope you enjoy the renovations when you return, i.e. the electric purple walls in the living room. [I would imagine that electric purple is a great improvement. At the Admiral's insistence, the walls in the living room were painted toasted marshmallow. Although it sounds warmer and nicer, there is actually no difference between toasted marshmallow and raw marshmallow.] The color reminded us of the Admiral back in his teenage years. [Rumor has it that years ago the Admiral approved of colors that were darker and brighter than toasted marshmallow.] Hopefully, he will appreciate them the most. We put a T.V. in the bathroom, and a skylight in the closets to save on electricity. [We knew we could count on the harbor master for frugality.] The good news is that it only leaks a little. (Don't worry, there's a bucket underneath them all.) [And good sense.]
Well, have fun in the desert. I hope it doesn't turn into a tundra. [Nonsense, all the natives are talking about how nice all this Spring whether is.]

The Harbor Master and the Frog.

It is so good to know that all is well at home base.