Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Pie, frost, and friends

Super-easy apple slicing
Making Pie:
I was working on book edits and basically missed Thanksgiving.  I've been waiting for the right day to bake a make-up pie for Ernie's folks, and today was that day.

Making Friends:
I was inspired in part by a great conversation with some folks who are very into home cooking - we started the conversation as acquaintances, and by the time it was finished I think we're definitely moving into the "friends" category, if not some Anne of Green Gables mushy title like "Kindred Spirits."

Wilson and Chaya from Pantry Paratus ( were asking about hiring us for help on a water purification project.  Wilson's in nursing school, and going down to South America for an infectious disease prevention course.  He wanted to scope out options for doing water purification - a boiler, a distiller, maybe something else?  And of course, Ernie has dozens of ideas on the topic, it's been on his back burner for several years now. 

And then Chaya and I got talking about running a web-based business, and raising kids (she also organizes a home-schooling group; I used to do a lot of work in hands-on education including homeschool group support), and the nature of the human brain, and so on. 

It's funny how when you are doing a preliminary conversation about a consultation, you are thinking "OK, this is about an hour, we have a game plan and we should count this hour as billable. Do you want to keep talking now on the clock, or do our homework and come back?" 

But when it switches gears to connecting on topics of mutual interest, like how to keep the family healthy while running a small business .... how to balance the time-suck factor with the promotion and mission-related aspects of online business.... what it's like being "the conservative one" to all your liberal friends, and "liberal hippies" to your conservative friends and neighbors.... swapping good book recommendations, insights, and so on ... you can spend like 4 or 5 hours and not notice the time going by.  It's mutual pleasure, intrinsic benefit. 

"Someone" couldn't wait for the picture....
oh wait, that was me. ;-)
I'm hereby adding Chaya to my list of people to have tea with by phone.  Possibly with pie.

And I'm also hereby making a plug:
We got the cool apple-peeler above ("Apple Master") from our friends' business at Pantry Paratus.

They are a niche retailer for homesteading equipment - mostly drool-worthy kitchen stuff, but they also have good general info like animal-husbandry books, wild-crafting, etc. 
If you are still working on a Christmas gift list, or gearing up to do your own holiday cooking, I definitely recommend them.  Not just because they carry good products and give reliable advice about how to use them, but because I like them personally, and I want to see them succeed. 

They are the kind of people whose success tends to cause other people's lives to get better too.  Dedicated, one-foot-in-front-of-the-other, making-a-difference-as-we-go-along caretakers. 

My wish for 2016 is that both our businesses have so much self-maintaining cash flow that we can get together for a couple of weeks and just tinker around and research the best ways to promote clean water in remote mountain areas - as always, with a big-picture plan that helps reduce pollution as well as improve daily quality of life.

Hoarfrost on pine
On our way down to take the pie to his folks, Ernie pointed out that the hoarfrost is thicker up at the tops of the trees - they catch more fog and wind, apparently.  It's not obvious on all of them, but you can also see it sometimes where the tips are whiter than the inside branches.

It's probably for the same reason that snowflakes are pointy, and boats have tall sails, and your fingers and nose get cold faster than your belly button: there is more air movement at the edges of things.  More moisture moves past the exposed edges of things, and they the wind blows harder higher up where it's not broken by brush and land contours.

"Dendrites" - branch shapes - are formed naturally in snow and other crystals when the exposed points grow faster than the sheltered stems.  And trees and plants evolved to grow in similar, feathery, branching shapes, because this gets their nutrient-collecting leaves and roots out where they can swap more of what they need: exchanging carbon dioxide and oxygen from the air; exchanging water, sugars, and minerals with other soil-dwellers at their roots.  Rivers have this branching shape too, as their main channels like stems gather the moisture that arrived in the area as dispersed vapor and precipitation.  The branching structure does something cool when there's a transition between liquid and vapor, or vapor and sold, or dispersed and accumulated concentrations going on.

There might be a case to be made for temperature differences due to biology, as well.  Our fingers get short shrift when our body is conserving warmth for the core.  Air that filters through the interior of the tree gives up its moisture relatively quickly, and may just be a little more tapped-out like it would going through a snowflake, but the tree might be a scosh warmer on the inside, too.  Our pines and firs tend to have dark trunks, which may help them warm up the sap when it's time to photo synthesize in winter.

Regardless, this is a big reason why we have more forests higher up our mountains: they collect their own water.  In a quiet breeze, you can hear the hoarfrost tinkling to the ground, home-made snow these trees are scraping out of the clouds whether or not there is enough water for "official" precipitation.

Here's to making your own rain.