Sunday, February 17, 2013

Fermentation Pot - Our First Sauerkraut

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Left: Our Handsome and Homemade Fermentation Pot.  Right: The Resulting Sauerkraut in a Jar (3 weeks from the start)
Our Homemade Fermentation PotThe Resulting Sauerkraut in a Jar

Over Christmas break a friend gave us this wonderful kimchi - fermentation pot that he made. (Thanks Dennis!) He also turned us on to the fermentation movement and books by Sandor Katz: The Art of Fermentation and Wild Fermentation. Our first try a few days later back in Seattle was simple sauerkraut using green cabbage (Brassica oleracea Capitata Group) following the sauerkraut recipe in Chapter 5 of Wild Fermentation. We thoroughly enjoyed the result and now are on our second attempt (result is here). This time we are using turnips (white and red) and cabbage (white and red), about five pounds all together, and a little salt, 2-3 tablespoons.

The Preparation for Fermenting the Cabbage for Sauerkraut
Making sauerkrautMaking sauerkrautMaking sauerkrautMaking sauerkrautMaking sauerkrautMaking sauerkraut

Sandor Katz References
Sandor Katz - The Art of Fermentation - CoverSandor Katz

Lehmann Keramik Vase and Starfruit (Carambola)

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Lehmann Vase and Starfruit
Lehmann Vase and StarfruitLehmann Vase and Starfruit

We’ve had this Lehmann vase for over a decade, the result of a random purchase at a now defunct antique mall in South Lake Union (before it went upscale). I’ve always liked the green glaze contrasted against the mat brown-black lower part. As we started researching more, we realized that information is hard to come by for this pottery maker, at least in English. Here’s what we know for sure because we can see and measure: the label reads “Lehmann Keramik Langeland Danmark” and “Lehmann” is stamped on the bottom. The vase is 4.5 inches high and the base is just shy of 3.25 inches in diameter. Other than that, the rest is just “stuff we read on the internet”. An Etsy seller stated that the body of a similar looking piece was made from volcanic clay. Really? Many sites say that similar pieces are mid-century Danish, listing 1960s to the 1970s.

In terms of the flora, we paired three carambola (Averrhoa carambola) fruits with the vase. Carambola, commonly known as starfruit - cut the fruit and look at its shape - is a tree native to South Asia. The starfruit shown here is grown by Brooks Tropicals in Florida. They describe its taste as “similar to that of a tart apple when green.” The generic name, Averrhoa, is in honor of the 12th century Arabian physician, astronomer, and philosopher Averroes (his Latinized name). The specific epithet is described (here) as deriving from the Spanish vernacular name for the tree which may itself have come from the Marathi language.

Quattrocchi gives a long (well, relatively long by the standards of that reference book) origin to the generic name. One part stood out: Averroes was the author of The Incoherence of the Incoherence, “all in defense of the philosophical study of religion against the theologians (1179 -80).”

Left: Lehmann Vase and Starfruit with Label. Right: Bottom of Lehmann Vase.
Lehmann Vase and StarfruitLehmann Vase and Starfruit

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Bus Stop Biosphere III

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The photos in the post are objects I’ve seen going back and forth to the bus stop in the last few months. The bus stop means work; my mind wanders to anything but work as I walk. In particular, when I walk in the city I instinctively look for nature amidst the paved spaces. And, I find it.

< Bus Stop Biosphere II | Bus Stop Biosphere IV >

Find 1: We seem to have a period once or twice a year that we get a series of cold nights in Seattle. These nights are best when followed by a bright, sunny day where you can view your plants with a coating of ice crystal, a soft rime?

January 2013: Front Yard - on a crisp morning. Plants with ice. Geranium x cantabrigiense - 'Biokovo' and Thuja occidentalis leaf.
Geranium x cantabrigiense - 'Biokovo' Thuja occidentalis

Find 2: These pictures show evidence of the work of a Northern Flicker (bird) (Colaptes auratus). We have a couple in our neighborhood and they are amusing to watch as they pull dirt, moss, and plants out of cracks looking for food (insects, beetles, snails). Flickers are part of the woodpecker family (Picidae), but unlike woodpeckers frequently feed on the ground. Not until writing this did I realize we have had many less snails in our yard, perhaps due to the flickers?

February 2013: Cement Cracks Back Alley. Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus) handiwork.
Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus) handiwork. 

Find 3: It always amazes me to lift up a leaf on cement or asphalt and find worms.

February 2013: Back Alley. Worms.
Worms in the back alley.

Find4: It’s  February and a sunny day to boot. Time for a dandelion (Taraxacum) to unfurl its flowers?

February 2013: Fremont Ave bus stop. Dandelion (Taraxacum).

Find 5: One of the test subject areas for bus stop biosphere.

February 2013: Fremont Ave bus stop. Patch of ground.
Test subject areas for bus stop biosphere.

Find 6: An over-wintered leaf of Himalayan Blackberry (Rubus armeniacus syn. Rubus discolor) tinge burgundy-brown. From the King County Noxious Weed web site. “Himalayan and evergreen blackberry are European species of blackberry that are highly invasive and difficult to control. Originally introduced for fruit production, they are now naturalized and widespread throughout the Pacific Northwest. They are easy to spot by their large, vigorous, thicket-forming growth and sharp spines covering the stems.” They didn’t mention the burgundy-brown color of the leaves.

February 2013: Fremont Ave bus stop. Last year’s blackberry leaf.
Last year’s blackberry leaf.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Bus Stop Biosphere II

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The photos in the post are objects I’ve seen going back and forth to the bus stop in the last few months. The bus stop means work; my mind wanders to anything but work as I walk. In particular, when I walk in the city I instinctively look for nature amidst the paved spaces. And, I find it.

< Bus Stop Biosphere I  |  Bus Stop Biosphere III >

Find 1: Flowers in a patch located near Wheelhouse Coffee in downtown Seattle. I have walked by this patch of ground surrounding a tree many times and never paid it much attention. One day in fall, the patch was filled with white flowers. As best as I could tell, this is autumn clematis (Clematis ternifora).

October 2012: Near Wheelhouse Coffee. Autumn clematis (Clematis terniflora).
Autumn clematis (Clematis terniflora)

Find 2: The part of Fremont Avenue North where I wait for the bus has a block-long row of Horse-chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) trees. They are part of the planting around the BF Day Playground. The pictures below show the smooth brown nuts outside of their formidable casings. The nuts find their way across the street and far away from the trees partly by rolling down the hill and partly by squirrels transporting them. The nuts are pleasing to roll around in your hand, a sort of big worry bead.

October 2012: Fremont Ave N. Horse-chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum).
Horse-chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum)Horse-chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum)Horse-chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum)

Find 3: On a sunny day at the right time in the fall, the leaves of Liquidambar are flaming red. I only manage to capture the fruits this time.

October 2012: 8th Ave near Denny Park. Liquidambar fruits.
Liquidambar fruits

Find 4: An imposter in the ivy: a red maple leaf hides in the ivy. The legal status of four cultivars of ivy, Hedera helix, in King Country (in which Seattle is located) is a Class C noxious weed. Washington State has three classes of noxious weeds, Class A (the worse), B, and C. Counties within Washington State can chose to enforce Class C weeds or educate residents about controlling them. Here is a part of King County’s education for ivy. In my observation of urban Seattle, Himalayan blackberry (Rubus armeniacus) and ivy are rampant.

November 2012: Fremont Ave N. Ivy and Maple Leaf.
Ivy and Maple Leaf

Find 5: While waiting for the bus, I suddenly noticed these spots on the Big Leaf Maple (Acer macrophyllum) leaves. From what I can tell, they are called Speckled Tar Spot (Rhytisma punctatum), a fungus, and to my eyes, they are cool looking. Rhytisma p. will overwinter on the leaves, patiently waiting for spring when its fruiting bodies burst out and get carried to new leaves.

November 2012: Fremont Ave N. Speckled Tar Spot (Ryhtisma punctatum).
Speckled Tar Spot (Ryhtisma punctatum)

Find 6: There is a stairway that connects Fremont Ave N and Evanston Ave N. The edges of the steps glow with moss, a pleasant site in the middle of winter makes me happy (like a daily dose of vitamin D). I wish I could identify this moss more specifically, but I can’t. According to Arthur Lee’s The Cryptogamic Carpet - Mosses in Seattle, a good estimate of the number of species of moss in Seattle is about 100.

These stairs were “spruced” up in 1980 as part of the Fremont Stair Project. There are concrete slabs with incised designs in which moss has happily filled in. Good planning.

January 2013 - February 2013: N 40th St Steps. Bryophte - Moss.

Moss Fremont Stair ProjectMoss Fremont Stair ProjectMoss Fremont Stair ProjectMoss Fremont Stair ProjectMoss in Design - Fremont Stair ProjectMoss in Design - Fremont Stair ProjectMoss in Design - Fremont Stair ProjectMoss in Design - Fremont Stair ProjectMoss in Design - Fremont Stair ProjectMoss in Design - Fremont Stair ProjectMoss in Design - Fremont Stair ProjectFremont Stair Project

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Murals - Wallingford’s Happy Home

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Left: Wally the Robot. Right: Wallingford Happy House Mural.
Wally the RobotHappy House Mural
On the west wall of the building that houses Bottleworks and City Cellars on N 45th there are two murals. The first is on the part of the wall closest to N 45th St and features the Wallingford Art Walk mascot “Wally” created by Maggie Sneider and Silo Thompson. The robot shows a coffee level of half full. The project is described on the Wallyhood site.

The mural on the part of the wall farthest from the N 45th is by the artist is Carlos G. Guilar and he appears to call the mural Wallingford’s Happy Home. The mural features happy, if not slightly spooky, houses and haystacks (at least to my eyes). Four words appear and one, if I squint my eyes the right way, looks like Poulsbo. Is there an inside joke here?

Another mural we saw this same day is on the east wall of Bartell Drug Mural, Wallingford corner at the corner N 45th and Burke Ave N. This chipper mural features a view of the Seattle skyline more or less from Gas Works Park (now on the National Register of Historic Places). The remains of the coal gasification infrastructure are pictured in the left of the mural.

Left: Bartell Drug Wallingford Mural.  Right: More Happy House.
Bartell Drug Wallingford MuralMore Happy House

Sections of the Happy House Mural.
Sections of the Happy House Mural

A Photo Stitch of the Happy House Mural.A Photo Stitch of the Happy House Mural.