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July 31, 2010

Yeah, I bought a Kayak today!

Filed under: Outdoors — Tags: , — Marcus @ 5:20 pm

So today was quite the day, I have been wanting to try kayaking for quite awhile, I keep meaning to go to a kayak rental place near my house (http://www.eastlakecanoe.com/) but I just never seem to get around to it.  Well today I made it down there just after they opened, I rented one of their kayak’s, got some quick instruction on how to use them and I was off.  I spent two hours paddling around the Chagrin river and then I headed out and paddled around lake Erie for awhile.

All in all, I loved it, the kayak I rented was nice, but I could really see where having a nicer one would make it a lot nicer.  I ended up talking to the person that heads up the local kayak club here (http://www.chagrinriverckc.org/) and discussed what type of kayak I would most likely enjoy, she also mentioned that many of the kayaks were on sale right now because it is towards the end of the season.

So of course, while I was running some errands this afternoon I stopped by one of the stores and found they were very much on sale, after agonizing in the store for about an hour I finally decided to bite the bullet and purchase one, I got a Future Beach Vector 144.  I ended up saving about $250 on the kayak and associated equipment.

Right now I have been trying to run 3 miles 3 times a week, I am really hoping that I can take two of the other mornings and go out and kayak on the lake.  Based off from my trip today, kayaking is quite the upper body workout, also from reading and from what is currently sore :-), kayaking will really work out my core muscles.  This kayak is a pretty large kayak, my other hope is that I can do some weekend survival camping/kayaking trips.  I would like to be able to pack the kayak and head down a river for a couple of days camping as I go.

I know this really seems like an impulse buy, but I have been thinking (and saving) for the last couple months for it, I really just wanted to get out and confirm that I would enjoy being out on the lake in a kayak.  After my trip today it really confirmed how much fun I think it will be.  Also I keep saying its a shame to live as close as I do to lake Erie and to never actually do anything on it.

July 26, 2010

Picture of the week (Rimrock)

Filed under: Outdoors,Picture of the week — Tags: , , — Marcus @ 2:00 am

Meagan and I went to Rimrock down in the Allegheny National Forest a few weeks ago with some friends to do a picnic and hike around in the woods there.  For being this time of the summer we could not have asked for a nicer day, it was sunny out, but the temperature was in the mid to upper 70’s and in the woods it was quite comfortable.  Walking through this part of the woods there are so many cool rock formations and such to see, its hard to not take a picture every couple steps.  I took my backpack and tripod with me on the hike so we were able to get some pictures with everyone in the group.

July 19, 2010

Homeade Sumac Tea

Filed under: Food,Outdoors — Tags: , , , — Marcus @ 2:00 am

A quick disclaimer, any time you are harvesting wild edibles, please make sure to positively identify the plant, there are many very poisonous plants growing naturally, and it is up to you to make sure you are certain of what you are picking.   Please check out http://www.poison-sumac.org/ for more information on identifying staghorn sumac VS poison sumac.

I love finding wild edibles, from eating dandelion flowers, to finding a nice patch of black rasberries.  I also actively learn how to identify wild edibles in my area, while I would still consider myself a beginner at identifying plants I try to add more to my knowledge as often as I can.

I have been reading about how to make a drink from the berries on a sumac tree and that sounded like a really fun idea, I tried making pine needle tea last year and that turned out good, why not sumac?  However, I keep putting it off because I was afraid of getting my hands on poison sumac and being in a world of hurt.  Each time I mention making sumac tea to other people I get the same response, “Isn’t that poisonous?”.

In short no its not poisonous.  After doing some research I found that around our area (Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York) there are two main types of sumac, poison sumac and staghorn sumac.  If you ask someone to point out sumac, they will always point out staghorn sumac, that is the one most people recognize as being sumac.  Actually after doing some research into it I found out that poison sumac looks nothing like staghorn sumac.

Staghorn Sumac Berries (Not Poisonous)

Poison Sumac Berries (Poisonous)

Now armed with the knowledge of how to tell staghorn from poison sumac I was ready to try it.  You have to wait until the berries are red to harvest them, and you should also make sure it hasn’t rained in a few days (more on that in a bit).  I found some sumac out at one of the parks that I walk Madison at and I stopped before work and grabbed five of the heads off the sumac tree.  After I got home, dropped the berry heads into a mixing bowl full of cold water and I squeezed the heads a bit to try and get the water through them (they have a velvet over them, they seem almost waterproof).  I then just let the bowl with the berry heads sit out for about 5 hours.  After it had finished sitting, I squeezed the berry heads one more time and then tossed them.  Next I strained the water through several layers of cheescloth into a pitcher and put it in the fridge.  That is really all there is to making sumac tea.

After the tea was cold again I very hesitantly took a sip, half expecting it to kill me (I have spent years viewing that tree as being poisonous!) and low and behold, it was pretty good.  Another name for this is Indian Lemonade, and I think that is much more fitting than calling it tea.  It is pretty tart, the batch I made tastes a bit like watered down lemonade (the made from scratch stuff, not powdered).  I think there are a couple things I can do to make it stronger next time:

  1. I have read a couple places about sitting your bowl of water out in the sun while it is steeping, I think that would help.  However a quick note, never boil it, boiling the berry heads will release tannins into the water (which will make the drink very bitter).
  2. Next time I will be adding more berry heads to the water, it seems the more the merrier on this one.  Also another quick note, when you are steeping the sumac, use a wide shallow bowl instead of a pitcher, the berry heads float very well and I don’t think they would work well stacked on top of each other.
  3. Next time I am going to wait for a dry spell of at least a week before picking the berry heads, it had just rained the day before I picked these.  Much of the tart taste comes from a coating on the outside of the berries, so if its rained recently then the tartness will have been washed off.  Also along the same lines, you don’t rinse off the berry heads before you put it in the water to steep.

So to sum it up, I am very happy with my sumac tea.  I will be making it as often as I can as it was so much fun, it was really an easy process as well.  The staghorn sumac has really gotten a bad rap because another plant with the same name happens to be poisonous, however spending just a few minutes familiarizing yourself with the differences and you can enjoy a truly unique beverage!

July 4, 2010

I’m Back!

Filed under: Misc — Tags: , , , , , , — Marcus @ 5:31 am

So, it has been a very long time since my last post, and no, I haven’t forgotten about my blog.  The last month has been a bit crazy around here; this is just a few of the highlights from the last month:

  • Meagan was in the hospital for a couple days do to being extremely anemic, this was a pretty scary time, and she has been very busy going back and forth to doctors over the last month since she got out of the hospital to try and fix the issue she had so she doesn’t end up back in the hospital again.
  • We paid off the last of our credit card debt!  We have been working to pay off some old debt for some time now and we just mailed in the final payment on our credit cards.  From now on its all cash (or debit card) for us.  Actually we have not used credit cards for a couple years now; we have just been working to pay them all off.
  • I am still running, and I have broken my running record several times, my current best time for running 3 miles is 25:31.  My ultimate goal is 24:00 which will be 8 minute miles, it feels like I will never get there, but at the same time, I have been shaving off some pretty substantial time lately.
  • We have planted tomatoes in our back yard, we are quite late getting them planted, but we are most years and it doesn’t seem to matter much.  We are very much looking forward to having some fresh home grown tomatoes.
  • I have been reading the book “Getting Things Done” and working to integrate the ideas in the book into my every day life.  Basically the book is written for “Knowledge Workers” that is someone that spends their day doing mental work and not really physical work.  The book focuses on how to organize your tasks and projects at work as well as at home.  I have been putting some of the recommendations into practice and they seem to be very helpful so far.
  • I participated in the Ham Radio field day competition, I spent the weekend back at my parents farm making contacts along with KC2TOO, we had a great time, the weather turned out great, and I can’t wait for the next competition.
  • I have started building a robot, I am calling it an “autonomous dog toy”.  I will be posting more about it soon on the blog here.

So that is a quick snapshot of the last month.  It’s been crazy busy, but I am hoping to get back to my regular posting schedule this month, I really enjoy writing for the blog and watching the traffic grow to the site here.  I have a bunch of fun articles planned that I just need to put the finishing touches on before I can publish them here.

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