I just got back from walking Nika and Piper on the Creek. I’d looked at my GPS track from yesterday’s walk on the Creek and saw an obvious shortcut (from point A to B on the map) to cut off some distance. My objective was to take the Creek out to a section line (at points D and E—click on the image to see a full size version) that I also saw from the satellite imagery for the area, and wanted a way to make the route shorter. Yesterday’s walk was more than five miles, even though a raven could have covered the distance in a little over a half mile.
We walked down the Creek, came to the start of the shortcut at point A, walked overland through the forest to point B back on the Creek, and I immediately turned the wrong direction. I’d already walked about halfway back to point A before I realized I went the wrong way. Next time, turn left!
It is amazing how disorienting the Creek is, even with a GPS. Because it winds back and forth so much, even if you know where you’re going and can see it on the little map your GPS is showing you, it’s really difficult to tell if you are getting closer to your objective. The good thing is that the Creek only goes two ways. If you went the wrong way, just turn around and go back.
After reading Richard Powers’s Capgras Syndrome novel The Echo Maker, I figured I should read Rivka Galchen’s take on the same disorder. The main character is hilarious (he believes his wife has been replaced by an imposter and frequently refers to her as “the simulcrum”):
Sleep did not visit me, but stray strands of of the simulacrum's hair gave me the continual illusion of fleas mutely festivaling on my body.
The book is written in first person, from the perspective of the person with Capgras, and it’s a particularly effective technique for the story. We know that his wife hasn’t been replaced, but we experience the rationalizations and logical contortions required for the main character to believe his delusion. If the book were longer, or if Galchen wasn’t such a good writer, it might have gotten tiresome, but I found it to be a very entertaining and refreshing read.
Probably a good book to read in advance of Gravity’s Rainbow…
The blueberries on the left cost $8 at the Farmer’s Market this morning. The blueberries on the right cost me two hours of hiking around the trails with Nika and Piper. We’ve got a lot of blueberry bushes on our property, but it’s been so cloudy and wet that ours didn’t get enough sun to produce very many berries. So I had to go farther afield.
It was a grand time, except for when Piper refused to cross over a two-foot wide area of deep water. She’s extremely food motivated, but no amount of coaxing would get her to jump across once she’d discovered there was deep water in between her and the treat. All the while, Nika kept jumping in and swimming around while Piper looked eagerly at the treat in my hand, trying to figure out how to get it without jumping or swimming. I finally had to step into the deep water (filling my left knee-high rubber boot with water) and help her across. She could have jumped the gap easily, but I don’t think there is a treat large enough to overcome her dislike of water.
Along the way we saw a flicker, four spruce grouse, gray jays and lots of smaller birds I couldn’t identify. I’ve still got the wonderful smell of Ledum palustre on my clothes.
Tomorrow morning: blueberry pancakes!
Another busy couple weeks, but I did manage to finish John Brandon’s first novel, Arkansas. I wasn’t as impressed with it as I have been with many of the McSweeney’s books introducing new authors, but that’s not to say it wasn’t a good book. It’s about small time crime in Arkansas, and sitting here recalling the characters and plot, it suddenly occurs to me that the Cohen brothers could make a great film out of it. I hadn’t drawn that connection while I was reading it, but now that I’m done I realize the book has a genuine sense of place that’s part of the good Cohen movies, and the two main characters often talk right past each other in a way that reminds me of the characters in Blood Simple. Plus: odd violence that’s not necessarily expected at the time it happens.
It’s probably not going to stick with me the way Icelander or The Children’s Hospital did, but I can certainly recommend it. And not insignificantly, it’s a beautifully produced hardcover with a sewn binding and some nice gold leaf on the cover.
Last weekend I brewed my favorite beer, Piper’s Irish-American Red Ale. I’m sure the beer will turn out fine, but the brew didn’t go as planned. I’m still struggling to get my mill to consistently produce a good crush, and I think my low yields this time around is almost certainly due to the mill. It’s a three roller mill; the first two rollers do a basic crush at a fixed gap, and then the grains pass between one of the top rollers and a lower roller that’s adjustable. For some reason, the grains sometimes come out between the lower roller and the wrong upper roller and they don’t get crushed a second time. Strange.
The big change with this brew was using Creek water to chill the boiled wort down to fermentation temperature. I’d assumed the Creek would still be very cold, but after pumping up twenty gallons, I discovered it was a balmy 55°F. So I pumped up another ten gallons in the hope that it would be enough to chill the wort. Not quite. I got it down to 72°F, which is pretty amazing, but I would have preferred something between 64–68°F.
Still, it was a nice relaxed brew session, and thus far Piper’s has always come out fantastic. We’ll know in about a month.
The other thing I’ve noticed is that the red cabin is starting to get too warm for primary fermentation. At our old house the garage temperature never got much above 60°F even in the summer, so I’d always do the primary fermentation in my insulated box, heated with a light bulb on a temperature controller. Luckily, we kept the old fridge that was here when we moved in and it’s keeping a nice stable 65°F on the same temperature controller I had been using to heat the fermentation chamber. Now I can ferment in the summer, and even experiment with lagering, which is a whole area of brewing that I’ve never attempted in all these years.