Vinegar Time



With the apple harvest comes an opportunity to make apple cider vinegar.

Since 2012, when I began to wake up to local food, I’ve posted about vinegar twice: Bottling Apple Cider Vinegar in 2013, and Making Vinegar in 2014.

Without a home apple crop, this year’s batch is a little different.

The continuum of vinegar making goes back a long time: it’s the mother. Mine was procured from a neighbor and has been present since I began home fermentation of apples. His mother of vinegar had been in the family since the 19th century when Iowa was first settled. Traces of vinegar have been found in Egyptian urns dated the third millennium BCE.

The recipe for vinegar is simple. Keep a container of vinegar with the mother in the pantry and add apple juice from time to time. Cover with a cotton cloth for ventilation and let it ferment. After the bacteria have converted sugars to alcohol, then alcohol to vinegar, it’s ready to bottle and use. Currently there is a gallon ready to use and a gallon just started this year. At least one jar never goes empty to preserve the mother.

My production is small compared to the orchard where I work on weekends. We both use the same mother, although he uses brewer’s yeast to hasten production of alcohol. My method, using apples from my back yard and no yeast, works as well but takes more time. Making vinegar is about time more than anything.

This year I stopped at a shop that caters to people who ferment their own beer and wine to ask about brewer’s yeast. The proprietor said I was the first customer to arrive asking about making vinegar. Not a lot of people make their own.

After studying a few things on the internet he recommended a yeast made by a major company that would produce about 14 percent alcohol. He said too much alcohol may kill the vinegar bacteria. Both of us thought the low end of alcohol production would not. The $0.99 packet I bought will ferment a lot of apple cider.

Without a crop at home, I’m using cider from where I work. It is flash pasteurized, which will allow my bacteria to drive the process. I hope it is a better result. I bought half-gallon Mason jars  for the project and have two started about 3 weeks apart.

I trimmed the mother with a pair of kitchen scissors and put part in the jar. I added a scant half gallon of cider and let it warm to room temperature. I added a 16th teaspoon of yeast which began producing alcohol within a couple of days. The liquid tastes more like hard cider today with hints of vinegar. The process appears to be working.

I organized and bottled last year’s production and am ready for winter. I’ll keep making it and making pickles and dressings with it.

Making apple cider vinegar is one way we emulate an agrarian life in a modern kitchen. It’s also how we sustain our lives in a turbulent world.

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A Place To Work

Garage Selfie

Garage Selfie

Only after a couple of days away from daily routine can a person begin to be themselves.

That’s where I am this morning.

I crave a place to work.

Desire is a blessing and a curse. When we want something, we set ourselves up for disappointment. We may get it, but can’t always get what we want.

It is a difficult path to nirvana. I do my best to void consciousness of self. It persists. There are selfies.

Like Eugene Henderson we feel restless and unfulfilled, harboring a spiritual void that manifests itself as an inner voice crying out I want, I want, I want.

Work is a cure for that.

Busy hands make happy children and happy children build a new world.

That’s where I am this morning.

Childlike and craving a place to work.

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After the Latest Flood

Cedar River at Iowa Highway One Sept. 27, 11:36 a.m.

Cedar River at Iowa Highway One on Sept. 27, 2016 at 11:36 a.m.

The Cedar River crested in Cedar Rapids at 21.91 feet at 11 a.m. yesterday.

As the river recedes over the next few days the temporary flood wall and earthen berms built over the weekend will be monitored for breaches.

They held during the crest, protecting people and property from damage. Here’s a link to a news story about the flood.

State Senator Rob Hogg announced a “Flood Relief, Recovery and Resilience Tour” of  Cedar Falls, Waverly, Clarksville, Shell Rock, Charles City, Vinton and Palo today and tomorrow. Hogg hopes to learn about the damage done, what kind of help people need, what worked and what didn’t work, and how we can do more together to reduce future flood damage, including better flood mitigation infrastructure and better watershed and floodplain management according to the event page on Facebook.

The City of Cedar Rapids knew what to do when flooding was predicted after heavy precipitation events upstream. Over the weekend officials executed a plan to build a temporary flood wall, evacuated low-lying areas and ramped up emergency services to prevent large-scale damage to homes, property and people living in Iowa’s second largest city. News media stories focused on the human drama of reaction to the impending flood. There has been little coverage of the causes of the heavy precipitation events that produced rain that caused the flooding in northeastern Iowa.

“Iowa is already experiencing the effects of climate change,” according to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources website. This includes “increased frequency of precipitation extremes that lead to flooding.”

Flooded Farm Near the Cedar River, Sept. 27, 2016

Flooded Farm Near the Cedar River, Sept. 27, 2016

Because this is the second major flood in Cedar Rapids since 2008, solutions to protecting people and assets going forward have been discussed and are clear.

Senator Hogg outlined three essential strategies: get Congress to help fund permanent flood protection that has already received state and local funding; better upstream watershed and floodplain management to reduce peak flooding; and action on climate change to stop extreme precipitation events from getting worse.

U.S. Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst sent a letter to the Army Corps of Engineers “demanding answers on why they have neglected to complete flood mitigation projects in the Cedar Rapids region and have put the public’s safety at risk.”

They wrote:

With all due respect, it is no longer sufficient to say that your hands are tied and that nothing short of a congressional earmark can help communities like Cedar Rapids that have lower property values. You have some discretion to help and have simply made the decision to forego the assistance even though the community endured a 500-year flood event in 2008, worked with the Corps to develop a project to address that flood risk, and worked with Congress to get it authorized. Due to your refusal to budget for this project, Cedar Rapids is now facing another major flood event without the needed levee improvements.

Hidden in this tough language is a bitter irony. Congress won’t appropriate money for the project, yet the senators expect the Corps of Engineers to find it somewhere else in their budget. This is what austerity policies look like and they are not good for the people of Cedar Rapids and other flood impacted areas.

While Iowans impacted by flooding are concerned, in the upper atmosphere carbon dioxide levels maintained a level above 400 part per million according to monitors in Hawaii. Atmospheric carbon dioxide level is a key contributor to global warming which increases the intensity of precipitation events that have led to Iowa flooding.

“September is usually the month when carbon dioxide is at its lowest after a summer of plants growing and sucking it up in the northern hemisphere,” Brian Kahn wrote in an article on Climate Central. “As fall wears on, those plants lose their leaves, which in turn decompose, releasing the stored carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere. At Mauna Loa Observatory, the world’s marquee site for monitoring carbon dioxide, there are signs that the process has begun but levels have remained above 400 ppm.”

Why is 400 ppm important? The lower limit of the safe operating zone boundary for carbon dioxide on Earth is 350 ppm. We passed that level in 1986.

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s fifth Assessment Report notes that, “continued emission of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and long-lasting changes in all components of the climate system, increasing the likelihood of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems.”

That means more flooding in Iowa similar to this week’s event. While politicians like Senator Hogg are well-attuned to the urgency of this climate crisis, too many politicians and public officials are dismissive of climate change.

Governmental action to mitigate the effects of climate change is needed. If our current crop of politicians isn’t willing to take action, we should replace them with people who will.

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Vacation – Hour 12

Soup Ingredients

Soup Ingredients

A political meet up, dinner using orchard-fresh apples, watching the presidential political debate on my phone, and five hours of sleep highlighted the first 12 of 96 hours of vacation this week.

I need to get more rest, but not now. Not today.

Awake and writing, soon to be picking detritus from the yard, I expect to spend most of the day outside. According to my weather widget, sunrise is three hours away with zero percent chance of precipitation until after sundown.

The beginning of soup is on the stove — three jars of tomato-y liquid from the ice box and a bag of onions. I’ll add vegetables and seasonings from the garden, ice box and pantry through the day, progressing toward a peasant’s meal tonight.

In the United States we aren’t peasants and homegrown vegetables owe fealty to no one. Raising vegetables is a revolt against those who would enslave us.

I paid my taxes so the land is ours… at least for now. Property rights are an American common denominator stronger than any political party. Having dispossessed those who lived here before, we are free until someone dispossesses us.

A long list of tasks resides on my phone. I left the device on the night stand while I bask in this window of freedom before sunup. Feeling the breeze from the lake, and for a brief moment, being myself against the wind — resisting for a while, then giving way to its cool waves in the predawn darkness.

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Evacuation of Cedar Rapids Under Way


Extreme One-Day Precipitation Events in the Contiguous 48 States. Bars = years; line = 9-year trend. Image Credit: U.S. EPA

The headline from this morning’s Des Moines Register was that residents of 5,000 Cedar Rapids homes were asked to evacuate in advance of the flood crest predicted to arrive Tuesday morning. The height of the crest has been revised downward to 23 feet, however, damage is expected to be severe.

Cedar Rapids fire officials plan to ask for the names of next of kin of residents who refuse to leave the flood zone.

City officials say government has been preparing for a major flood since the record-breaking 2008 event.

There is bravura in the execution of the local preparations indicating the city knows how to mobilize to prevent anticipated damage — better than it did in 2008. It is always good to see people coming together in times of natural disaster to help each other.

At the same time, almost everyone in government, in news media and in other accounts of the disaster fail to consider the root causes of the heavy precipitation events driving record flooding. The world continues to annually dump more than 38 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere like it was an open sewer. That’s 2.4 million pounds per second.

News media and politicians may be enamored of the story of human resistance to the forces of nature, but failure to address the root cause of increased levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere through proper governance should be unacceptable.

Government plays a significant role in mitigating the effects of climate change. Perhaps it’s time we changed the current crop of politicians who fill elected office seats from those who are cheer leaders for reaction to natural disasters to those who will take action to prevent them.

Without action, the chart above from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will continue to map a direction that puts people and assets in jeopardy.

We should know better and do something about global warming and climate change as a society.

Godspeed Cedar Rapids. May your elected officials who don’t already do so perceive tomorrow’s flooding as a wake-up call to action.

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Crashing into September

Openings to the Dual Septic Tanks

Openings to the Dual Septic Tanks

Things are falling apart so Tuesday I begin four days paid vacation from the home, farm and auto supply store. I plan to catch up around the house and run a few errands in and near the county seat — and try to regain a sense of being in control.

Not counting one paid sick day, I will have made it 64 of 100 in my plan to work 100 straight days.

It is time to deal with existential realities in the life of a sixty-something.

There is a lot of crap going on.

As I posted Friday, autumn began with a flood, one wholly predictable, but still catching many by surprise. Politicians talked about doing something after the 2008 flood to mitigate future flood damage. Not much talk turned into action. One doesn’t need to be Jeane Dixon to predict there will be more, similar flooding caused by heavy precipitation events during the next ten years.

The presidential election is sucking up space to the extent even I’m tuning it out. Tomorrow is the first televised debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. If it is streaming I’ll tune in for as long as I can take it (still haven’t solved the problem of owning an analog television set).

Trump is a ridiculous candidate supported by many of my neighbors and co-workers. The Republican Party of Iowa appears to be running a superior ground game when compared to the Iowa Democratic Party. However, this presidential election is changing the rules, tactics and values of ground games. If both parties have mastered similar Get Out The Vote practices, the next winner will breakout with something new. Trump is trying to do that. The outcome is uncertain even if Clinton continues to lead in the polls. Trump would make a disastrous president if elected.

Perhaps a few days of retreat will help me get centered and facilitate positive action going forward. At least that’s the hope. Right now it feels like crashing into September with a long skid into insanity if I don’t do something about it. I intend to take corrective action.

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Protect Environment; Stop Nuclear Weapons

Paul Deaton

Paul Deaton

(Editor’s Note: When this guest column ran in the Cedar Rapids Gazette on Wednesday, Sept. 21, its abstract nature became real as heavy precipitation events pummeled Butler County and other parts of northeastern Iowa, disrupting lives there and downstream. Living in an environment where rain damages crops instead of nurturing them; where rivers jump their banks, close schools and displace people; and where Cedar Rapids must protect the city from record amounts of floodwater multiple times in eight years, something’s wrong. We must take action that includes electing a government that will address the causes of global warming and nuclear proliferation, not just deal with the actuality we have created).

Protect environment; stop nuclear weapons
By Paul Deaton

Guest column for the Cedar Rapids Gazette Sept. 21, 2016.
Reprinted with permission of the author

If we accept the premise articulated by Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, that we are stronger together, there is a lot in society requiring our collective attention.

There are no lone wolves in human society, although a number of people want to get away from the pack. Can we blame them? Being stronger together is a fundamental characteristic of Homo sapiens. It’s what we do as a species.

What should we be working on?

It is hard to avoid the primacy of following the golden rule. We should be applying the golden rule, better than we have been, to everything we already do. This is basic.

Two other issues call for our attention, the threat of nuclear weapons, and mitigating the effects of climate change.

Today, on very short notice, nuclear powers can unleash a holocaust ending life as we know it. Nuclear war is not talked about much in the 21st Century; however the threat is as real today as it was when President Truman authorized the Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuclear bombings. The United States should take the lead in eliminating nuclear weapons. We need a transformational change in our nuclear policy that recognizes these weapons are the gravest threat to our security and must be banned and abolished.

We are wrecking our environment and should stop. Just 90 companies are to blame for most climate change, taking carbon out of the ground and putting it in the atmosphere, geographer Richard Heede said. If that’s the case, the move to eliminate fossil fuel use can’t come quick enough. These companies should be targeted for regulation by governments. Companies say they are not to blame for the demand from billions of consumers that drives fossil fuel use. Technologies exist to eliminate fossil fuels, and we should adopt them with haste. One purpose of government is to act as a voice for people who have no voice. Regulating business to protect our lives in the environment would serve that purpose.

After the 2016 election these issues will remain. The first can gain wide support easily. It is time the other two gain parity.

~ Paul Deaton retired from CRST Logistics in 2009.

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