Wednesday, November 28, 2012

In Poland, There Was a Type of Bagel. . .

The one I ate in Krakow.
In the city of Krakow in southern Poland I bought one roll at this street stall. Just a bread roll. Like a bagel but different: twisted, & crisp outside but French-bread-like inside, and sprinkled with poppy seeds, sesame seeds, cheeses -- your choice. Price 1.5 zlotys, or 45 cents.

I bought one and sat down to lunch on it. Oh my. Before eating it all, I took its photo. And returned to the U.S. and within 6 weeks, homesick for Poland, I had to have these rolls again. Searched international bakeries around town. I didn't know what they were called. Googling "Krakow bagels" I found two recipes in English: One to serve 100 people, and one for 1 dozen. (Here's the link. Scroll down for the 1-dozen recipe.) Two recipes on the whole Internet and only one I could use. They are called, get this, "Krakowskie Obwarzanki," and made only in Krakow.

It's baking season, so I set to work after buying "diastatic malt powder," an essential ingredient. The recipe said to knead until the dough was "silky and stretchy." I kneaded the dough, determinedly, for 30 minutes by hand, y'all. If I will do that, you KNOW how much I wanted them! And let the dough rise. And cut and rolled it in ropes. And twisted the ropes to make open circles. And chilled them overnight and boiled them for one minute and then dipped 'em in black and white sesame seeds and baked 'em.

Oh my! Krakowskie Obwarzanki!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Field of Battle

Sorry if the picture makes you queasy but it's a lot worse in person. I buy mousetraps a bagful at a time. I've stuffed mouse thruways and hideaways in this house with steel wool. I've tried poisons, glue traps, live traps -- nothing works as well as a classic Victor spring-loaded trap, which I haven't been able to find for a whole year. Instead, Victor now sells the "Easy Set" (TM) model with the large yellow plastic bait platform supposedly scented with invisible mouse attractant.

After a year I am qualified to say that the new model does not work well. The "cheeselike" platform, complete with Swiss-like holes, has never worked; I dollop the platform with never-fail peanut butter. The trigger is so stupid-sensitive I have to hook the end with a pliers to set it. Worst of all, it doesn't kill mice outright. Good traps kill mice instantly, snap, by breaking their necks. I hate meeses to pieces, but worse is hearing the trap snap beneath the sink and then hearing struggles within.

These two mice were caught within 20 minutes of each other. The one at the top went first, and writhed and knocked around for 10 minutes while I fought to hold my dinner down --because as much as I hate any mouse, I won't pour bleach on it or hammer-crush its skull to put it out of its misery, nor will I put it to sleep in my freezer, as some humane people do. So I have to listen to it die (meanwhile fearing that it won't die, that it'll get away). The other body shows the problem with the "Easy Set" model. Instead of hitting the mouse on the neck, the large platform permits the mouse to nibble from the edge where the trap hits not the neck but the "craniofacial" region. This is not a quick, humane kill. They wriggle, bleed and convulse. I like the older model which they don't sell in the hardware stores around here any more. They do sell it online, though.

Friday, November 23, 2012


Somebody sawed down a red cedar. Inside is a heart red and blooming just like ours. A botany teacher once told us that plant cells and animal cells are alike, except plant cells have walls, and animal cells don't. What does that mean, we asked. "It indicates a common origin," he said.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Tracks by the Creek

Whose tracks are these in the white silica sand by the creek? Hint: It's a bird people traditionally like eating today. But these birds are running free and wild on the Divine property, thanks be.

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Beavers are Back

At dawn hearing shotguns too close to the property, I later suited up to look for trespassers, and instead found enchantment: a new beaver dam across LaBarque Creek. (Video: 2 minutes 20 seconds.)

Beavers dive and swim beautifully. The dam creates a pond deep enough to discourage predators and hides an underwater entrance to their lodge, where they sleep just above the rushing water. At right is a photo of what they did to a tree. If a tree trunk is too big for their purposes, they gnaw off and use the branches. Beavers eat the tree bark and the cambium (the soft tissue growing between bark and wood), and adults are 40 pounds or more, and sleek.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Tiny Orange Fungi

To the best of my research ability, the electric-orange embroidery on this fallen branch of dead, wet oak is fresh Phlebia radiata, in its rarely-seen early phase. Usually we see Phlebia after it has all spread and grown together, dried out, and formed a greenish-brownish-white crust or medallion that I always took for lichen. Found this branch lying by the garage while I had my eyes pensively downcast. You can't stay downcast long in the country, where marvels upon marvels are everywhere, including beneath your feet, and death is just a phase in the cycle of life. I heart the mysterious and colorful world of fungi and might have become a mycologist had I known it was an option.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Out This Way, Please. . .

After 11 years of seeing these crossing my flooring like they owned the place, mostly during autumn, these two- to three-inch-long semi-glossy mahogany brown creatures segmented like worms finally got looked up and identified. This is an American millipede (Narceus americanus). They never have1000 legs, although they might have 750. A giant African millipede can be kept as a pet by other people, whom I hope are strangers living very far away from me. The millipedes' legs operate elegantly, in waves, and they move so swiftly it's been hard to get a clear-ish photo; but these harmless things really belong outside in the soil dining on the decaying plant matter they enjoy and helping gardeners. If after I show them the egress they don't take the hint, I humanely pick them up (they curl into perfect little spirals) and drop them outside; indoors they quickly dehydrate. 

Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Old French Trading Post

Toured the private historic site Fort LaCharrette with its proprietor, architectural historian Wheelock Crosby Brown, who showed me around the oldest horizontal-log cabin west of the Mississippi and the fur-trading post founded in 1762 by Frenchman Joseph Chadron and his Osage Indian wife. Lewis and Clark visited Fort LaCharrette, the last white settlement on their way west, in 1804. Brown, a specialist in historic restorations, saved the buildings from ruin and lovingly restored or rebuilt every inch with original materials or as close as he could get. The cabin, trading post and authentic outbuildings perch on a bluff high above the Missouri River near Washington, Mo., and Brown (the bearded guy; degree from Stanford) flies there the old French flag and the 17-star American flag of Lewis and Clark's time. He gives tours, by appointment, to groups or to individuals such as myself. I got to sit in an 18th-century chair hollowed out of a log and upholstered with a blanket, and listen as Brown described the Chadrons' business and home lives. The fireplaces work.

Brown explained that Fort LaCharrette wasn't a military fort. Back then, anyplace people could run for safety and shelter was called a fort. A "charrette" is a wooden wagon (pictured) of the kind that Joseph Chadron filled with furs he bought or bartered from white and Indian trappers, and took down the bluff to a boat and to St. Louis to resell.

Things to remember: "Osage" is from the French "Aux sage," meaning "wise ones." "Missouri" is from the Siouxan, "Ouimisourite," meaning "men of long canoes." Here's another article about Fort LaCharrette.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Reporting a Poacher

The new Glassberg Conservation Area (see Oct. 31 entry) attracted quite a few hikers and explorers over the weekend, including me, every day; I even met an angler trying her luck, and got so jealous I went home and readied my own fishing rods for the next sunny day. But there's always the scofflaw city guy with his accursed two dogs running unleashed upsetting the wildlife, and although no hunting is allowed at Glassberg until spring, I saw a hunter in his green camo in the parking lot today, gearing up; no other vehicle was there. So I drove straight home where I had the number on the wall and phoned the Missouri "Report Poachers" hotline at 1-800-392-1111.

Starting on September 15 with the deer and turkey archery season, hunters are common in this area because there's so much conservation land, some of this adjacent to this property. "Conservation" doesn't mean "no hunting" -- deer hunting is an important part of conservation. Remember I got my hunter's certification back in March and although I don't hunt I learned how it's done right -- legal and humane -- and how it's done wrong. Either bow or firearm, it doesn't matter which when it's posted "no hunting." The main deer-firearms season is Nov. 10-20 (not a good time to hike, everybody! Boom, boom, dawn to dusk daily!); and hunters may use firearms in the woods until Dec. 30.