Monday, May 7, 2012

Cinco de Mayo Weekend

Saturday morning, bright and sunny.  The forecast is for sunny days and temperatures in the 80s this weekend.  The first thing I needed to do, as soon as the critters were cared for, was to take a look at the carnage at the greenhouse.  There was a breeze the night before, but not strong enough or from the direction it would have taken to push the greenhouse over the way it went.  With the gate being slightly nudged open, it appeared to me that a creature had been after prey, and that prey had run into the small space between the greenhouse and solid portion of the fence.  If the predator dove in back there, it would have knocked the small, top heavy structure over.

I lifted it up and secured the bottom with stakes again, this time adding a piece of wood at the front to stabilize and level it.  Then I looked at the trays and plants dumped onto the ground.  The good news was that the three varieties of corn had stayed inside their separate containers, with their markers intact.  I can still tell the difference between blue corn, painted corn, and popcorn.  The peaches and cream variety was the only type still in the trays, and corn is easy to differentiate from the other plants for me.

The tray that had dropped previously was the worst, and the sorting I'd done previously was undone completely.  Luckily, I remembered what some of the plants looked like and was able to get some grouped into their proper categories.

Then I looked at the next tray, which had not been previously tipped over.  Amazingly, most of the plants were still securely in the tray, and I was able to carefully turn it over and insert orderly rows back inside.  It still took an incredible amount of time to get everything in place.  I had the sprinklers going while I was working in the greenhouse, and then after watering everything inside I was able to get some of the weeds down that are always growing around the raised beds.  I may see if we can just truck in the old straw from the barn as a mulch to keep down that area.  I know some farmers use barn mulch on pathways and around gardens to prevent weed growth.

On a happy note, here's a picture of the Aussie Tea Tree I planted yesterday.

And beautiful Zeus, happy to be outside:

This was opening day for the Healdsburg Farmers Market.  We got a late start, and then were later still because there was a bicycling event scheduled.  We made it 15 minutes before the market closed, and they were out of what we wanted.  There's always Windsor's market tomorrow.

And now a moment to discuss bicycling on Westside and other narrow county roads.  I understand the attraction, believe me.  If I were a bicyclist, I'd want to ride these roads.  I love living out here for a reason.  I also have a father who is an avid bicyclist and many friends who are, as well.  All of the people that I know personally are rational, safe, reasonable, and follow the rules of the road.  They truly know how to share the road.

Today I reached a boiling point.  I am on the verge of calling for a moratorium on these huge events on Westside and the other well-traveled back roads.  This road is home to hundreds of people, and about a dozen busy wineries.  It is not a back country road that has little traffic.  Today was an especially harrowing experience.

Not only was the pack mentality in full force (the photos are small packs - we didn't pull out the camera until we'd passed three groups of 10-15 riders covering the roadway) as huge groups of cyclists took over the lanes - often in both directions - but I was also behind an ambulance, who was behind a big rig with a long trailer meant to haul huge tractors.  Not long after I got onto the road and into this line, there were seven cars lined up behind me with more added all the time, all of us traveling at about 5 mph at times, and never more than 15, on a road that posts a 45 mph speed limit except for turns.  Some cyclists wisely got off the road and took a 15 second breather when they saw the big rig behind them.  Others didn't give a damn.  The guy in the huge SUV directly behind me dealt with this for about 15 minutes and then started crazily honking his horn, then sped past me and the two other vehicles (remember that one was a very long tractor/trailer), crossing the double yellow to do so, approaching a blind turn.  The big rig took massive risks going around the bikes with little visibility, as did the ambulance.  It was an insane trip into town that had me gripping the steering wheel, white-knuckled, and gritting my teeth.  There were two CHP cars at an intersection to stop traffic and allow the bikes to make a turn across the road, but no patrols of the insanity in between.

Changes need to be made before someone gets killed or seriously injured.  At the least, residents along the routes should be notified prior to events, so we can plan ahead.  Otherwise, we need a moratorium on events on this road and others like it, or start developing real bike paths alongside (have a portion of the fees for the races go to paying for them), or have CHP patrolling the route to ensure that both cyclists and motorists are being safe and obeying the laws.  We passed one guy (number 1070 - his rear-end was in front of me for a long time, off and on), who later proceeded to pass the entire line on the right again, including the big rig and other cyclists, with inches to spare on an extremely narrow stretch of road.  We ended up passing him again.  I kept hoping that the ambulance wouldn't be needed!

That's my rant on bicycling for the day.  I don't know what it will take to get people - motorists, motorcyclists, and bicyclists - to get sane and truly SHARE THE ROAD, but this annual insanity has to stop.

On a lighter note...  One of the things that we found at the market was a stand selling horchata.  For those of you who don't know what this is, it's an icy cold Mexican beverage made from rice and sweetened milk with cinnamon.  It sounds strange, but until you've tasted good horchata, you don't know what you're missing.  I'm not a big fan of the stuff.  At least I wasn't until I tried some made by Maricella, who is Becca's friend Saul's mom.  Whenever I am at their house, I consume massive amounts of horchata.  Becca got some today at the farmers market (it was close, but not nearly as good as Maricella's), and I decided to finally look up an authentic recipe and give it a try.  Horchata takes time, I discovered, so I put the rice in the blender then into a bowl, covered it with warm water, added a stick of cinnamon, and put it in the fridge.  We will be able to finish it Sunday morning and see if I've been able to duplicate Maricella's magic.

Since it was Cinco de Mayo, Bex and I broke out a simple dinner of bean burritos with homemade pico de gallo (I am so looking forward to when our garden is producing tomatoes again!)  A glass of sangria for me, and we were set.  Cheers!

Sunday morning, I waited until Becca was awake to finish making the horchata, as it required using our loud blender.  I whirled the rice and water mixture until it was as smooth as possible, then strained it through cheesecloth, then added sugar and milk.  It was done!  We tasted it, and though it is very close to Maricella's, something is slightly different.  We were really happy with it, though, and I think I'll have to figure out how to make a larger recipe to keep it on hand for the summer.  Though it won't be traditional, I may add a little vanilla to see if that brings it closer to Maricella's.  It might just be the warm and relaxing environment at her house that gives it that special flavor.  Who knows?  If you want to try making horchata yourself, the recipe can be found here, and at the bottom of this post.

The day got hot quickly, so I did what had to be done early, and then we enjoyed the afternoon with my other two daughters and their husbands at a great barbecue just south of us.  It was the perfect end to a good weekend.

Makes about 6 cups
 Adapted from Paletas (Ten Speed) by Fany Gerson

Start off with the smaller amount of sugar and add more if you wish.  This is very sweet, even with the smaller amount.

2/3 cup white rice (long grain if you have it)
3 cups warm water
One 2-inch cinnamon stick
3/4 to 1 cup sugar
2 cups milk

Ground cinnamon, for serving (optional)

Ina blender, grind the rice so it is in fine pieces, roughly the consistency of very coarse polenta.  (If your blender won't go that fine, that's okay, and just break up the rice as much as possible.)

Transfer the rice to a bowl and pour warm water over it, and add the cinnamon stick.  Cover and refrigerate at least eight hours, but preferably overnight.

Pluck out the cinnamon stick, then puree the rice and water until it is as smooth as possible.  Strain the mixture through a sieve lined with a few layers of cheesecloth, squeezing it relatively firmly to extract as much of the rice flavor as possible.

Stir in the sugar and milk, mixing until the sugar is dissolved.  Taste, and adjust sweetness, if necessary.  Refrigerate until completely chilled.

Serve over ice with a sprinkling of ground cinnamon on top.

Store the horchata in the refrigerator for up to four days (if it lasts that long!).

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