A morning walk

P1050431The weather here has been gorgeous lately, making my morning walks with Farley even more enjoyable. We walk across the locks every morning into Ballard and then back again.P1050446This is the view of the BSNF railway bridge from the locks.

But what makes the walks really cool is the heron rookery that we walk under every day. (So far we haven’t been bombed.) I’ve heard estimates of up to 80 herons that nest here every year from March through May, and it’s quite a sight. We’re used to seeing herons as shore birds, wading through shallow water looking for something to each. Until we moved here, I had always assumed they had their nests on the ground. Not so. Their nests are high up in the trees. Here are a couple of shots I took this morning.P1050451P1050453I haven’t seen any baby herons yet, but I can hear them squawking for food. I’m looking forward to watching their first attempts to fly.

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A Random Act of Kindness

We had some friends over to the house yesterday, and for whatever reason Canada came into the conversation. One of our guests immediately piped up saying that she could name all nine provinces. With a bit of help, she did name all ten, even though she was sweating a bit when I told her that the Northwest Territories weren’t a province. Better than the average American, in any case.

What prompted this post was her mention of Quebec City and what a wonderful place it is. Well, that brought back a flood of memories from forty years ago. At the beginning of May 1974, I quit working for the CNR, packed up my stuff on my Honda CB350, and headed east. By the time the end of June rolled around, I was in Quebec. First in Montreal, and then in Quebec City, just in time for the St. Jean Baptiste long weekend. I haven’t been to Quebec City since then so I can’t say what it is like now, but forty years ago it wasn’t a very welcoming place for an Anglophone armed only with really crappy high school French.

But before I go on, a bit of a history lesson is needed. Americans seem to think they have a monopoly on terrorism, but back in the late 60′s, the Front de Liberation du Quebec (FLQ) was fighting for Quebec independence. At first they bombed mailboxes in predominately Anglophone areas, but ratcheted up the violence by bombing the Montreal Stock exchange and a few other public institutions. They supported themselves by robbing banks and using the proceeds to buy arms and explosives. I don’t think they actually killed anyone until October 1970 when they kidnapped the British Trade Commissioner James Cross and the Quebec Justice minister Pierre LaPorte. At that point, Prime Minister Trudeau essentially declared martial law. A huge constitutional crisis erupted while the Canadian Armed Forces patrolled the streets in various cities in Ontario and Quebec. Eventually Pierre LaPorte was strangled by his captors, James Cross was released, and the kidnappers were put on a plane to Cuba. Federal troops were finally withdrawn from Quebec in January 1971. The separatists switched from violence to politics, and even though the separatists have lost several referenda, separatist emotions run high to this day.

So in June 1974, 3-1/2 years after the end of the crisis, with anti-English sentiment still running high, I was in Quebec City. Just in time for the celebrations for St. Jean Baptiste, the patron saint of French Quebec. The welcome was cold. And wet. I had ridden in that day from Montreal in the driving rain, and was soaked to the skin. As I was headed into town, I stopped at a traffic light, and was surprised when the guy in a car plastered with TV logos (I think it was channel 9) pulled up beside me and rolled down his window and asked, “Did you really drive that thing all the way from Alberta?” I nodded yes as the light turned green. He told me to follow him. Wondering what I was getting into, I followed him. Having been raised in a conservative Mennonite family in a conservative Saskatchewan city, I was still uncomfortable with with guys hitting on me. I know, I know. It’s hard to imagine me being attractive to males of a certain sexual orientation, but judging by the number of times I had been hit upon, I must have been reasonably hot stuff way back in the day. In any case, I followed him all the way into the heart of Old Quebec City. We parked in a narrow street about a half block from the Chateau Frontenac, and I followed him up a couple of flights of stairs to a tiny apartment. Once we got in, he grabbed a couple of packed suitcases off the bed, told me that he had been in Alberta a couple of years ago, had been treated really well, and wanted to return the favor. He said he had to go to Montreal for the weekend, but on the way out he tossed me the apartment keys saying, “Have a good time and don’t rip off anything.” I never did get his name, and was so flabbergasted I didn’t thank him properly.

So that was the beginning of a great weekend in potentially hostile territory. I’ll never forget that random act of kindness.

Here, for your viewing pleasure, is a shot of me and my faithful steed that same summer in St. John’s, Newfoundland.

nfld1And for an extra added bonus, here’s a shot from the same trip that I took of Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau speaking to a crowd on a street in Ottawa.


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I’m back out here at the cabin, indulging my passions for pork and beer. The snow is melting so fast there’s no way the snowmobiles will get out again this season.

P1050417I kegged the batch of my Light Brown Haus Ale, and put up my first batch of Steambrau, a California Common Ale made popular by the folks at Anchor Steam in San Francisco. Steam beer is interesting because it’s a bit of a cross between a lager and and ale. It’s basically an ale made with lager yeast. I’ll see how it turns out.

Ever since our European adventure, I’ve been trying to duplicate that Bavarian delicacy known as Schweinshaxe. At first I couldn’t find any fresh pork hocks, so I tried it with ham hocks. They looked great, and even though they tasted pretty good, they were too hammy to be the real thing. So last week I went to Bill the Butcher, ordered some fresh pork hocks, and picked them up on Sunday. So I did one yesterday and one today.

P1050418I think I was too impatient for yesterday’s version and pulled it off the spit before its time. The meat was good, but not fall-off-the-bone tender like the ones I had in Munich. And the skin was so tough I was tempted to get out my Skilsaw to cut it. So today, I let it cook for another hour. The meat was fall-off-the-bone tender, but the skin still was really tough, unlike the flaky, delicious crackling I was hoping for.

I surfed the internets looking for recipes. Some called for brining the hocks and most called for roasting in the oven. One recipe I saw called for them to be oven-roasted in lard, and another called for deep frying. I saw them roasted on spits in Munich, so I figured I’d go with that. It didn’t work. I still have two more hocks in Seattle, so I’ll try the oven-roasting route. If that doesn’t work, I guess I’ll just have to let the mystery be because I hate the mess of deep-frying anything.


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A pox on both their houses

I’m up at the cabin, and have successfully installed another batch of soon-to-be beer in the fermenter. I’m pretty much done with the cleanup and had a bite to eat, and thought that maybe it was time for a political rant. I haven’t done one of them for a while. What inspired me was this clip in which Danielle Martin, a Canadian physician and health policy professor takes on Richard Burr, a Republican senator from North Carolina. The whole thing is about 18 minutes long, but you can see their exchange starting around 4:20.

But it’s like talking science to a young earth Christian. Facts don’t matter.

I guess that’s one reason I’m getting tired of the political debate. Lots of heat, but no light. In so many ways, there is no difference between Republicans and Democrats. They are both entirely in the pockets of the banks and Wall Street, the medical/pharma-industrial establishment, the military/security-industrial establishment, the oil-industrial establishment, the ordinary industrial establishment, and of course, most of the media. They might have differences on social and cultural issues, but on the big issues like war, civil liberties, health, the environment, and income disparity, there isn’t really a whiff of distance between them.

I actually thought Obama would be different, but he too has failed. He hasn’t prosecuted a single Wall Street warrior or a single Bush-era war criminal. He could have done those two things without any permission from the GOP. Yes, he did pass a half-assed health insurance plan, but he hasn’t bothered trying to sell it.  The Republicans have stymied just about every other initiative he had. I think he tried to get along for a while, but when that didn’t work, he just gave up. 

The Republicans are even worse. They live in a constant state of fear. They fear nonwhites in general, but especially brown people who kneel toward Mecca when they pray. They fear homosexuals, especially those who want to get married. They fear women, both for their sexuality and their desire to have control over their own bodies. They fear science and facts. They fear Russians and Chinese, but especially Mexicans. They fear the possibility of someone getting something for nothing, whether it’s food stamps or an affirmative action entry to college. They fear the government might take away their guns. The list of their fears could go on and on, but it’s too depressing.

Maybe at some point, I’ll enjoy the debate again, and write more self-righteous rants about what ass-hat idiots the Republicans. There’s nothing more invigorating than knowing you’re right and your opponents are fools. But for now, most of my posts will be about beer and babies.

I’ll continue to vote Democrat most of the time, but in the end it really doesn’t much matter, and what I say will make no difference. A pox on both their houses.




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The views from our windows

I haven’t written much about our new place because we’ve been outrageously busy, and I haven’t felt the urge – until now.  And besides, we’ve got most of the boxes emptied out now, so we’re not playing dodge-the-box every time we move around.

This place is very different than Fremont. I loved Fremont for it’s vitality, but one thing that always annoyed me about the condo was the lack of natural light, especially on the main floor. We don’t have that issue here, even on a typical overcast and gloomy Seattle morning.

P1050412This is the view from the dining area through the living room.

P1050410This is the view from the kitchen window above the sink. We’re looking southwest, so we get a lot of afternoon and early evening sun (assuming the sun is shining in Seattle). I love not having to turn on the lights every time I go into the kitchen.

P1050407From our bedroom window, looking more or less east, we have a good view of the locks, and best of all, a heron rookery not far away. You can see a few of the many nests in the trees, where dozens of herons raise their young.

P1050409Looking to the northwest, past the BNSF railway bridge, we see Shilshole Bay and Puget Sound.

The house itself is perhaps best described as quirky and in need of renovation, but it has good bones. We’ve already done a few things already (I’m good at knocking down walls), and the place is quite livable, but we’re a long way from making this house the showplace it could be. I’ll keep you posted.

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The end of an era

I marked the end of an era a few days ago when I slept in my Stonewater condo for the last time. I bought the place in late 2000, and have lived there longer than any other place. 402 J in Saskatoon is the runner-up at 12 years. 549 Schrader Farm Drive in St. Peters, MO lasted almost 10. No other place has even come close.

I went through a lot of life changes in Fremont. When I moved in I was still working, but I quit a few months later, and have been mentally retired ever since. So living there came to represent my new post-work life. I learned to live life as a bachelor, had some grand times and had my heart broken a few times. I went to UW full time for three years, and for the second time in 35 years, I dropped out of university without a degree. I enjoyed the three years that daughter Caroline lived with me while she finished her Masters and started teaching. I traveled quite a lot, and always had my place in Fremont to welcome me back. Angus the Airedale died there, and Farley the Perrier has known no other home.

I met future-wife Megan while living there, and eventually we married and started our life together there. So now we’re in Magnolia, not too far away, but a world away in many ways. Just as Fremont was the World of Walter, Magnolia will become the World of Walter and Megan.

Fremont was pretty good to me, but with Megan at my side, Magnolia will be even better.

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Time to brew some more beer

I’m back up at the cabin after what seems like forever. And there’s snow here! Other than the initial snowfall, it’s been warm and dry up here for the last couple of months, and snowmobiling has been out of the question. I might have to take some time out from brewing to take a spin on the beasts.


And yes, I did watch the Super Bowl yesterday, and yes, I was rooting for the Seahawks, and yes, I was thoroughly entertained. But the Super Bowl is only one of many stupid things that can entertain me at times.

As well as brewing beer on this trip, I wanted to try my hand at making a Schweinshaxe. I couldn’t find any fresh pork hocks, so I’m trying to grill a smoked one on the rotisserie. I don’t think I’ll get the crackling from the skin on the smoked hock, but I’ll give it a try anyway. It sure looks good.


Tomorrow I’m going to brew an Imperial IPA that in spite of some technical issues turned out pretty well the last time I brewed it more than a year ago. With dry-hopping and bottling, I’ll have to make a couple more trips to the cabin in the next couple of weeks. I think I’ll need those breaks from the hassle of moving to our new digs by the end of the month.

commodoreFor some reason, I don’t have many pictures of the house on this computer, but here’s one taken from the deck. It’s an exciting time, and I’ll be sure to keep you posted.


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