The Midnight Carver

Friday, June 26, 2020

Rainy Day Strawberries!

Looks like the rain has stopped just in time! 
It has been raining on and off all day today.   And the Humidity is AWFUL!   For this reason, we decided not to go running/biking today.  We had actually prepared for it, figuring the rain would let up before we got to Coralville....  it did not.  So, some banking, some shopping, and back home we went.  However, along the way we noticed the "You Pick" strawberry patch was open!   And wouldn't you know it, the rain had stopped!
And we have the entire field to

So,  being in a "Berry Mood" lately, we decided to check it out.   The conditions were not terrible.. at first.   The clouds kept the sun away and we were able to pick with relative ease.

Smaller than the ones in the store. 
By the way,it has been DECADES since I last picked strawberries.  And now I remember why.   It is back breaking work for the un-initiated.   We started out with  our knees bent and searching intently.   I even ditched my rain coat so I would not overheat.

It looks fun!  For now...
Looks like the tub is getting full.
But eventually,  our knees got sore and strained and we began bending down from our hips.   This causes he lower back to become strained!   I ended up doing a combination of both, with my knees slightly bent, and my elbow on my knee for support.   This method, however, does not allow you the best access to the berries. 

Stretching the back andlegs is required
 for the  second row.
8 lbs of Berries! 
Cheryl and I set a goal to at first pick at least enough for a pie.   Then we set the goal for "two full rows" worth of berries.   About halfway through the second row, we were both beginning to question our goals.   We both had to sit up and stretch our sore muscles and aching joints.   And I thought we were in SHAPE!   Cheryl says she used muscles she never knew she had... and they are all sore now. Oh!  Did I mention that the Sun also came out?  Just in time to heat things up on the second row.

More people are showing up. 
And we are exhausted!  Time to go!
It is a strange thing to think that you can achieve muscle failure picking small red berries off the ground.  But I think we did just that.   We somehow managed to get to the end of the second row.  And the crowds were beginning to gather, so it was a great time to get our berries and get out.   I found myself initially being very methodical and thorough at the beginning.   However, they the end, we were just skipping over sections.  I'm sure we missed more and a few along the way.

Wonder what we will do with all of these.
But in the end, we picked 8 lbs!   That seems like a lot for some reason.   Perhaps even more than I was hoping for.   What the heck are we going to do with 8 lbs of Strawberries?   The wild conditions make holding on to them seem a little risky.  I'm sure they will begin to mold and deteriorate very quickly unless we take immediate steps.   I think Cheryl has a plan, with all those baking books sprawling out over the floor.   A Pie?  A Tart?   Maybe simple Strawberry Shortcake...   We shall see what she has in mind.  I'm sure it will be delicious.

For not going running or biking, it certainly feels like we had a serious workout!   My Grandpa would pick three rows of Strawberries all by himself!  I think it was a "Zen" thing for him.  I doubt I would have the same passion for picking berries if I felt this way every day.  I'm glad the Berry Basket Farm are the ones with all the passion.   We can pick what we want and be done with it.   If I had to clear the rows every day, I think I would end up hating berries altogether.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Stop Motion Horse...With Blender and Openshot Software.

This little project has taken too long and it is time to move on.   I finally figured out, with a LOT of trial and error and You_Tube Videos,  how to render a green screen stop motion onto a background video.   Openshot is far simpler, but has limited uses.  I'm thinking it is possible to get better results if I ever explore it to its full potential.   

But Blender is really the Top of the Line when it comes to everything Video editing, 3D sculpting, special effects...  You name it!   It is the same software the Big Guys use and it is every bit as complicated.   So.... I have been wrestling with this thing for a week now  and have a few of the basics down.   

Oh!  And the Tutorials are, on average, TERRIBLE!   The Geeks and Nerds that make these videos are NOT very good TEACHERS.   I never thought teaching was such a skill until you discover people who can not teach.   (Including me... I'll admit I sucked at teaching.) 
Video Nerds!   And I am relying on
Either the videos are overly complicated or so boring I find myself skipping ahead because we have not even gotten past the "let's get started" mode after 10 minutes!   Bottom line,  you have to have a TREMENDOUS amount of patience, persistence, and passion to sludge through those tutorials.   At least there is more than one  single guy out there making them.   I should be grateful for that. And when I'm not throwing my computer out the window out of frustration, I can sometimes glean a scrap of knowledge from one of them. 

So...  Here is what I have so far.    Slightly cleaned up, but I still have a long way to go.   But I'm done with this video for now.   This will end up being the one I post on my You-Tube channel. Enjoy! 

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Turnovers, Muscatine, Beetles. and Even MOREMushrooms!

Muscatine in Action! Trucks
Bring it! 
Barge is full.  Time to call the Tug. 
Today, we ran in Muscatine, where the temps and cool breeze allowed Cheryl to run ten miles.   It was a pretty good day.   There was a lot of activity and the people I talked to seemed to be getting back to normal...  meaning:  Friendly, mask free and outside.

Tug hooks up while workers close the
My favorite Beetle.  The
Dogbane Beetle. 
While running the longer distance, we came across my favorite insect:  The DOGBANE Beetle!   The Bridgestone Tire office near the trail hosts a "nature preserve" around the trail.   Unfortunately, they mowed all the Dogbane plants off at the beginning of the spring this year.   A few of the plants have been popping up and are at least a few inches high.   Normally they are about three feet high by this time of year.   They are very similar to Milkweed.

But the limited amount of foliage has had an unseen impact on the beetle!   I can actually FIND them easily!    Normally, these guys are few and far between on the various underbrush levels.   I have to hunt for them if I am not lucky enough to see one on the top of the plant. 

So shiny and colorful. 
But today,  there were easily 3-5 beetles on each plant!  With those shiny shells, they were easy to spot.   My only regret is that I did not have any brightly colored shirt on so the colors would reflect in the shell.   Last year, I think I had on my orange jersey and it made the carapace shine with a rainbow of colors.
Purple Thistle Puff Ball Flower

I took several shots, because I guess I'm still amazed by these little guys' colors.

After our run and visit to Tee's,  Cheryl offered we check out the Wildcat Caves for Mushrooms.   We went down the same trail where we found Morals earlier this Spring.  However, It appears we missed the Oyster blooms.   We found several trees with "expired" oyster mushrooms on them, so I guess if we had been earlier, we would have been able to find plenty. 
Crowned Coral Mushrooms. 

However,  we DID find several other mushrooms and brought a few home.   We found the Crowned Coral Mushroom.   Many of them were a little older than I would have liked.   They usually have a sharp "peppery " taste to them, so I don't normally throw them in the basket.

Woodear!   We are harvesting these! 
Later on we found a nice cluster of Wood Ear Mushrooms.   ( Or Black Fungus.... For some people of Asian decent)  These guys are edible and have a tasty and chewy texture similar to cabage.   they also explode if you cook them while they are filled with water...  It seems to be a "thing" for people.   Probably like Mexican Jumping beans.

They glow in the dark! 
Our last find was a small cluster of Jack-O-Lanterns.   Bright Orange,  Cheryl was able to ID them from a distance.   Besides the color, they also are known to glow in the dark with Bio-Luminescence.  I would not recommend eating them, though.   They are "toxic" and will cause "sever digestive distress" if you eat them.   (Probably will no kill you though... Probably....)

Mulberry Fruit Pies. 
Soft and tender,  She may have to
use this crust for the real pies!
Other than that,  a few butterflies and deer were the only other wildlife sightings.    Cheryl baked up some Mulberry Turnovers/fruit Pies yesterday and they are the BOMB!   Another failure at weight control has been established.   Ah well, you have to live a little, right?   The problem is I seem to want to enjoy all of life's offerings with very little moderation.   I guess I will have to work on it.

10 miles in Muscatine!  Yeah! 
Hope everyone is having a wonderful Wednesday.   It was certainly a pleasant time to be outside.   But whenever we go to Muscatine, it seems we can do little else.   Time simply will not wait for us.  So  we might as well enjoy the time we have...  Thanks for stopping in.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Mulberries, Miles and MUSHROOMS!In JUNE!

Preparing for the Mile Run
At the "Start Line"
Yesterday was kind of a big deal!  Cheryl had scheduled a virtual  Mile Run  so she could report her "Best Time"  for a single mile.   She had been preparing this for weeks and we had a wonderful downhill slope so she could get an advantage with Gravity.   The course was exactly one mile and I kicked her off and raced to the end to capture her victory finish.  There were no other runners on the course.

It is raining... HARD! 
Cheryl completes the Mile 
But wouldn't you know it.  In the short period of the race,  it began to pour down rain!   The rain was causing the sidewalk to become slippery and Cheryl was wearing her Super Fly  Nike Shoes. ( No tread for maximum grip on flat dry surface.) 

Lots of water on the course. 
They are great on the dry road, but not on water.   So Cheryl ended up breaking on the downhill... which was the ENTIRE mile!  (Opps!  Best laid plans....)    However, she did turn in a 6:59  mile.  Not her best mile ever, but it was her best mile so far this year.

Dragon Mulberry Pie,   Soft in the
middle,  chewy on the outside. 
Makes a Great Hand Pie!
Cheryl Continues to experiment with pie.   As I write this, she just pulled out a Mulberry Hand Pie... which shows signs of a break through!   I could possibly explain it in the blog post, but I have so many other things to chat about.   Let me just say that her Mulberry "Dragon Pie" was delicious, but still hard and chewy.   She was disappointed, but I ended up eating the entire thing ( minus one piece...  Cheryl's sample!)
A Beautiful sight to behold!
Finding Gold in the Forest!
Rhubarb Raspberry Pie!  Softer
crust achievement. 
 It was firm enough to eat with your hand, so that is what I ended up doing.   I suggested that the harder pie crust should be used for a hand pie... so she just made one, using the Norwegian Tart recipe for the crust...  So tender and flaky!    So now all she has to do is switch the recipes!  Norwegian Tart Crust for the pie, and the "Award Winning TOUGH pie" recipe for the hand pie.   I only hope we have enough Mulberries for such a thing.

Dehydration time!  (Note the
bucket of Mulberries...again) 
Handful of Golden Goodness!  
And finally,  during our bike ride last night,  Cheryl spotted a tree covered in newly formed Golden Oyster Mushrooms!   We took them all home and Cheryl chopped them up for dehydration.   The smell fills the entire apartment with "Earthy Tones" of mushrooms!   I thought she was cooking them up last night!

Trays are filled.  They fill the room
with Mushroom Earth smell. 
Fast forward to today!   We went out to Coralville to check out our favorite Mushroom trees!  And possibly search for others along the way.   Turns out, the spring ( uh, Summer, now!)   Rains have triggered the Mushrooms to bloom!
Cheryl is saving these for A
Mushroom Tart

Some Older Oysters we missed.
Were they out last week? 
 We packed our baskets full with everything we could find.   We even found several bunches that were too old to harvest.   Perhaps we should have been checking our mushrooms places last week!   

Russulas ( Brittle Gills) Are OUT! 
Yellow Slime Mold. 
I wanted to log this for the blog to tell Future Cheryl and Ethan that the Oyster Mushrooms were popping out in  Late June!   I believe the earliest we ever found them in the past was mid-July.   So this will tell us to begin our search earlier if the conditions are right,  ( I can only assume, lots of rain?)

Pearly Eye Butterfly 
Red Elfin Cup! 
In addition!   We found Brittle Gills in the Park and along the path.   I found three Chanerelles in the yard!  Looks like Cheryl will be having to make a Mushroom Tart tomorrow with all of these mushrooms piling up.   However,   we are currently drying all the ones we will not be cooking up  so we will have a stash for the future.   I'm loving the Dehydrator already!

Hackberry Butterfly. 
Our wildlife sighting for the day was a pair of Butterflies.   A Pearly Eye and a Hackberry.   The Hackberry Butterfly is a serious find for us, as former butterfly hunters. ( Lepodopterists.  for those in the "know"....) We found one so many years ago in a part of Northern Michigan.  ( U.P. , maybe?)

Notice the White Spots on the
antennae? ( I drew them in to help) 

We chased it for what seemed like forever, because we knew it was not a Wood Satyr nor a Pearly Eye by the way it flew.   If you look really close, you will see the two antenna have a very bright white spot on the end.   He was nice enough to allow me to capture him with my Phone....  So cool.

Filling the Dehydrator again! 
Bannana Cakes?  
And Cheryl continues to experiment with Banana Bread.   She recently got a request from Glen, the Cashier at Casey's...    He is an Iowa Transplant like us, so we kind of bonded right away 8 years ago.   And if He will end up eating the Baked goods,  that is a good thing for me.   Because I can't afford to eat ALL of Cheryl's Experiments.

Adding Ganache 
So to change things up, she has baked the Banana Bread in round cake tins with Ganache and Walnuts on top.    They sure look pretty.   And we did end up eating one for "quality control".

The look like flowers! 
Blooming from Logs. 
The point of this blog post was to alert Future me of the Mushroom Blooms!   Cheryl says the Goldens look like yellow Flowers on mossy logs.   I tend to agree!   They are so pretty  and it is so fun to find them when they bloom.  Now that we can preserve them,  we have the license to harvest as much as we want!  Cheryl estimates we harvested at least $60 bucks worth of Oysters today!   So we are saving money when we forage from the wild...  And I love saving money. And I love Mushrooms!   Thanks for stopping in .


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