A four power tool weekend

It wasn’t that restful but it was a good weekend. An early start for an ambulance shift in Taumarunui saw an extension into the afternoon after two jobs in the morning…no more eventuated but the afternoon was a good opportunity to get some hands-on with the on-board monitors. I got home with the best intentions of starting on the lawns but my pre-mow poo patrol took us into twilight.

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“Never repeat”? I wish but unlikely…

That, with a 4AM alarm, saw an easy dinner of sous vide corn beef with another crack at Jen Rice’s broccoli and cranberry salad.

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Sous vide brings out the colour in red meat…

The original recipe on the Anova website recommended cooking for 48-72 hours (gives a whole new meaning to slow cooking!) but the follow-on comments suggested that this was over-cook and likely to result in a mushy mess. As the uncooked beef felt a little mushy, I let it run in the sous vide for ‘only’ about ten hours. I’ve mastered by sous vide technique and use clothes pegs to secure a shopping bag around the top of the cooking pot to prevent the water evaporating and then stack a few tea towels on top to keep in the heat. Comfortable that running low on water during an untended sous vide won’t be an issue, I could have left this on much longer – just would have needed to have a Plan B for dinner on Saturday night…

While nice, the corned beef was still a little gristley…I expect that a 3-4 times increase in the cook time would address this…Unlike the normal cooking method for corned beef i.e. in a pot of water, sous vide traps all the fluids and flavours in the bag. With corn beef this means that the salt taste is much more defined…not so much stronger as sharper…definitely onto something with this dish! The salty beef works so well with the sweetness of the cranberries and the bitter effect of the balsamic broccoli.

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Dessert was a nibble on these coconut almond cookies – sweeter than the ones I made last year – than leaven the coconut almond meal (which is quite heavy) with homeground flour and coconut flour. It also has more sugar so are a tad sweeter. These are really filling and it only takes a couple to fill any post-main gaps…They’re based on this recipe from Celebrating Sweets but modified to lighten the heavier meal left-over from my nut milk production…

I’m not sure what scales exist for measuring the satisfaction of an outdoor working day but the number of power tools used must surely be one of them. Sunday was a glorious bluebird day that boded well for getting on top of lawns and clearing the scrubby self-seeds from the lounge windows outlook. Four power tools this day…I fired up the cheap Chinese chainsaw and diced up the logs that had been sitting opposite the garage for months, then laid into the scrub in front of the lounge.

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The plan is to eventually open access into all the punga groves in front of the lounge…

Powertool #2 was the dropsaw mounted on an old school desk that we use for dicing up wood for the chippy, anything less than about five inches in thickness. It makes reducing logs to chippy-sized chunks a breeze and the saw dust goes into the compost bin as a dry mix to offset the wet mass waste from the kitchen.

The old reliable mulcher was #3 into the mix, converting leaves and smaller branches into four bags of mulch to fill out hollows in the ground for later landscaping. The mulcher has had a long hard life but keeps on keeping on. It’s more than paid for itself in unpaid dumping fees at the transfer station and the associated fuel costs for the round trip with the each trailer load of green waste…

It’s been a very wet not-summer – the recent break of ten days or so of sunny weather were the longest such break we have had for the better part of a year – and I have resorted to using the big ride-on to just keep on top of the lawns and prevent them totally running away. Even they were quite long and it felt good to finally be able to power up the mower and knock them down to a respectable level. Even more satisfying to be able to mow around the area when the now diced logs had been residing for so long. The many loads of grass went with the mulch to smooth out hollows in the ground for later compacting and shaping….

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So nice to finally clear this area…the baths will go up on blocks next…

It’s been a long time since I had such a satisfying day in the garden: I crashed with a V (a now rare sweet treat!) to start on the next series of JAG (so shoot me!) as my reward…

Pistachio, chia seeds and vanilla “icecream”…

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The first fire training night after I got back from my training course the Fire Services’s  National Training Centre in Rotorua was our first Brigade meeting for the year. These are every two month and are where we decided on allocation of funds and resource, develop training programmes etc. In our Brigade we always lay on a dinner.

I normally draw dessert – our dinners are all self-cooked: everyone contributes to a course. This time I wanted to play with some of the ideas I’d hoovered up off the ‘Net in the previous few weeks. I settled on three recipes to make a single disk but the way it panned out, I ended up with two separate desserts.

Plan A was for a  pistachio chia pudding layered with a plum cream topped with a dairy-free vanilla ice cream. The layered part went together OK, although my layering needs work as you can see from the image above.

I had to double both recipes as I was preparing for fourteen – that’s a lot of pistachios to shell and ideally to fill the cups I would have needed the same again. The pistachio flavour is very strong and distinctive: it went OK with the plum cream layer but both would have been better if served separately- next time I do this recipe, I’ll be thinking more along the lines of three sampler deserts with plain ice cream…

The ice cream just didn’t work and, going on many comments on the page, that’s more down to the recipe than anything that I did or didn’t do. Simply the recipe, Jamie Oliver or not, does not contain any ingredients that will set it. A more recent note on the recipe page says that the staff will have a look at it. What I ended up with was a large vanilla-flavoured ice block with not the slightest creamy characteristic.

My Plan B recovery plan was to grab a tub of TipTop vanilla ice cream from the local GAS petrol station and Four Square dairy – when they learned it was for the Brigade dinner, they kindly refused to charge me for it…thanks, team!

The ice cream was the common denominator between the pistachio and plum dessert and what was now a rich vanilla cream over ice cream dessert. The pistachio and plum dessert would have been better served as two separate option and not layered in the same cup – next I’ll serve each of the three desserts in separate corners of a dinner plate, with a scope of ice cream in the middle.

I’m quite keen to play more with pistachios as the flavour is so distinctive and strong; the plum cream I could take or leave but the vanilla ‘cream’ was to die for – seriously: rich, sweet and strong…unfortunately not enough survived for any photos…next time..

No cheese cheesecake #4

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If I stopped looking at Facebook, I’d stop getting these inspirations…I thought I was done with the ‘ no cheese’ cheesecake thing (#1, #2, #3) but this one just looked too good not to try…It’s another Nadia Lim creation, a bit pricier than the others only because avos area  little pricey at the moment: not a problem in season or if you are lucky enough to have your own tree…

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I need some more practice building a  level base as it always seems to build up unevenly around the edges, giving this untidy appearance of more base than filling: it is actually, more filling than base, just doesn’t look it…

My base was simply the meal left over from a batch of almond/coconut milk (a litre of milk gives up exactly the right amount of meal for the base). The avocado gives the filling a silky smooth texture and the lime zest and juice adds a real zing to the flavour – or it would if the only limes at New World that week weren’t nasty little dried up things with nary a drop of juice….and if my back bottle of lime juice had more than half the required cup of lime juice.

I’m tempted to try this again this week with the full charge of lime to see how much zingier it is…it was OK this time but I felt the lost zing potential…

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I did make the berry coulis recommended in the recipe but tossed in the last of the coconut milk just to expend it…tasted OK but the milk neutered the sharp crisp berry taste…should have just used water like last time…

Still…it went very nicely with ice cream down at the station…

 

Beetroot and prunes in breadless burgers

While not in the market for another burger mix, the bright colours that accompanied the recipe on Sugar Soil hooked me: any healthy benefits aside, most beetroot recipes have striking colours and this one was no exception…

I made the mix i n accordance with the recipe on line but next time I thin l’ll aim for a mix with more even proportions of the beans, beetroot and prunes: I foud that the sweetness of the prunes rather underwhelming even though I did add more than the recipe quantities.

On a whim, I also decided to have a play with breadless burgers…Empowered Sustenace had some good ideas...it wasn’t difficult and I’m keen to try some of the other ideas as well. The most successful in this go-round was the mushroom evolution: fried just enough to bring out the flavour, and then stacked with the usual fillings burger-style…

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Mushroom ‘buns’

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Open burger on an eggplant ‘bun’

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Open burgers on pepper ring bases

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Mushroom and eggplant ‘buns’

Very tasty, with crisp clear flavours and surprisingly filling…no dairy, no nuts, no meat, no bread, no sugars, no hassle…

Coconut Flour Muffins

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I had a pumpkin that was rapidly approaching its ‘best by’ date so I pureed it through the food mill and then looked for recipes to consume the product (being – allegedly – summer, I wasn’t leaning towards soups) I also had a bag of coconut that was had yet to contribute meaningfully to my Green Journey. This recipe from Small Footprint Family helped solve part of my problem…

The Makin’s

  • 6 eggs, room temperature
  • 4 tablespoons of coconut oil or butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup of pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup of honey
  • 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon of ground mace or pumpkin spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla
  • 1/2 cup of sifted coconut flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder

The Making

Blend together the eggs, coconut oil, pumpkin puree, sweetener, cinnamon, mace, salt and vanilla.

Add the coconut flour and baking powder and blend into a batter until there are no lumps.

Pour the batter into greased muffin cups.

Decorate the muffin tops with a pecan or shredded coconut. I skipped this because I was in a hurry.

Bake at 400 degrees F for 18 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean.

Insights

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Tasted OK.

Would have tasted better with a topping.

A bit heavy for my liking but my last exploration with coconut flour had a similar effect – I’m not sure if that is inherent in that sort of flour of if it’s just me..

DIY Butter

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Part of my Green Journey has been working to reduce the number of processing steps between me and the raw materials of my diet…In many on my experiments, I have been using alternatives to staples like butter but, sometimes, nothing butters like butter…

Growing up, strawberries and cream was a Sunday dinner treat but the risk always was that we would be a little too enthusiastic with the beating and the cream would become butter. This was the first time that I set out deliberately to take cream as far as it would go…like many such ventures, the doing was a lot easier than the thinking about the doing prior…

The recipe I used I found, like most, via Google, this one on Stuff, it is so simple. I bought a litre of cream because I thought that there would be more loss than there was – that litre made me a good 250 grams of butter and, if I hadn’t accidentally spilled it all, an easy 250mls of buttermilk (know you know where that comes from)  .

As you can see from the Stuff article, the process is dead easy: beat the cream with an electric mixer – a hand one won’t cut it once it starts to thicken up – until it is thick and lumpy, then beat it some more. Drain off the buttermilk – without spilling it! – and, using your hands knead some fresh chilled water through the butter to rinse out the rest of the buttermilk. Strain the water out through some cheese cloth or voile et voila, your own homemade butter…

I actually made way too much for my needs, I just wanted to try it in my stock [insert your vege here] cake recipe but had made so much that I had to keep using it before it went off…next time I’ll probably only use a quarter litre of cream and just make enough for a the menu at hand…

Looks like butter, tastes butter, butters like butter, can’t beat it, it is butter…

 

 

If I could…

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On the trail to Oturere Hut

…what would I say to any one venturing into Tongariro National Park for a day walk or an overnighter..? I had been thinking about writing something like this after my Brutal post yesterday but this comment on my Carry a Big Stick post from my last excursion up Mt Ngauruhoe pretty much made the decision for me (thanks, Rob!)…

I would start with the weather. I would say to only check the Metservice forecast for Tongariro National Park. There may be other sites and apps that may tell you want to want to hear but only Metservice has trained meteorologists in the analytical loop. The Metservice forecast for the park is only for five days: three in detail for Whakapapa Village at 1135m and Red Crater at 1868m; the last two days in outline.

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Snow in December

Updates are issued each day around 7-30AM and around midday: each update may be quite different from the forecast it replaces. Do not expect the actual weather to always conform to the letter of the forecast. In the end it is your decision to carry on: if you think the conditions are taking you outside your comfort zone (perhaps too hot, too cold, too windy, too wet, too slippery i.e. icy, too cloudy, etc) stop and think about what you are doing and review your options…

The weather here is very changeable so sometimes even the five day forecast is subject the swings of extreme: unlike the South Island which has long mountain ranges that keep the weather pattern relatively stable, our weather can not only switch just like that but can also manifest itself as radically different micro-climates in close proximity to each other..a couple of years back, two inches of hail were dumped at Mangatepopo without even darkening the blue skies over Whakapapa Village…

Regardless of the forecast, be prepared for four season in one day: a good thermal layer and a good wind- and rain-proof layer, gloves and beanie but also sun hat, sunglasses and sunblock; good walking shoes or boots – not jandals or heels; enough water, at least 1.5 litres, for the day and enough food for the day: good snacky energy food…

So what if something happens…?

In New Zealand, cell phone coverage generally follows the highways : Tongariro National Park is sandwiched between four highways and enjoys reasonable but NOT PERFECT coverage – a lot may depend on the specific model of phone and your service provider – if you need assistance, for example, you are lost, injured or assisting someone else, dial 111 and ask for Police – in New Zealand, the Police are responsible for all off-road rescues. Even if it is an injury: if you are off the road, ask for the Police!!

Three safety questions

Regardless of whether you are going out for a day or overnight, there are three questions you need to ask yourself:

Does someone I trust know what my detailed plans are? Contrary to some myths, this does not have to be someone in New Zealand. It is better that it is someone you trust at home than some bloke you met the night before in the backpackers.

Does this person know when I will contact them after the walk to say I am OK? Ideally this would be no later than the night you finish the walk. If your trusted person is overseas, be very clear about whose time zone it is that you will contact them.

Does this person know who to call if I do not return? If they are in New Zealand, they should dial 111, ask for police and say that they have  a friend or family member in Tongariro National Park on the XXXX walk, that you did not contact them when expected and that they are unable to contact them. Information that it is good for your trusted person to have ready to pass onto the Police:

Your DOC booking number if you are booked into one of the huts or campsites. If you are just on a day walk, where are you staying that night?

Your car registration number. This allows Police to check cars parked around the Park and also to check to see if you may have left the Park and then been involved in an accident somewhere else.

Your cell number – written out not just as a number in an address book: for when the Police ask for the number.

Your Personal Locator Beacon ID number, if you have one. If you do not, especially if travelling on your own, a PLB can be rented for about $10 from various locations around the Park.

Any medical history you or anyone in your group may have that may affect your ability to complete the walk and/or that may be useful for a search party to know.

It is quite important that your trusted person does not fall into the trap of ‘Oh, I’ll just give it another couple of hours’ or ‘I’m sure they’re OK, I’ll call in the morning‘. If they do not hear from you when they expect to and cannot contact you they should make the call.

If your trusted person does not speak good English, it is a good idea for you or them to write down what they want to say in English so they can just read it out (www.translate.com is your friend)

If you are the trusted person for someone, don’t waste time playing amateur detective trying to find someone. Under New Zealand law, companies and agencies cannot release information on who may be booked with them or not. All you are doing is wasting time – call the Police and let them do this.

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New Zealand is a beautiful place and we all want everyone to come here to enjoy it but…

We don’t close things if they might be unsafe: we rely on visitors to make informed decisions against their own experience and equipment. If in doubt don’t…

Don’t believe everything you read on Facebook or hear in the backpackers about what is or is not doable…

Take responsibility for your safety and that of your friends and family…

Have a Plan B…and C and probably D…

There is no view worth a free helicopter ride…

Brutal

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My temporary office/shelter at Soda Springs, about 1200m ASL

A few weeks back, work was pretty slow, so i decided to go for a walk up to Red Crater to check the ground conditions: even though the rest of the country might have been enjoying Spring, Tongariro weather is always changeable  and even now, almost into December, the forecast promises gale force winds and snow to low levels…

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The original forecast for my day in the Park looked quite nice but turned for the worse overnight…I almost gave it a miss but decided to go up to see how many people also decided to ventured into the mess…I’m always interested to learn where our visitors get their information from and what decision process they apply (or perhaps not) when deciding to venture out into the Park when the weather is less than its best.

The first leg up to Soda Springs was quite pleasant, drizzly but not really cold and just a light wind. I made good time as they were only a very few people on the trail – a stark change from the ant farm of a decent weather day…a few hundred metres short of the Springs, there was a distinct temperature gradient and the light drizzle changed into a quite brutal sleet shower: not pleasant at all. It was clearly snowing further up and I didn’t see much point pressing on…

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A guided group preparing to head further up the trail – going with a guide in these conditions adds an extra layer of safety

A group of three that I had passed on my way up stopped for a chat. They had checked the forecast before departing but were unaware that the first morning update comes though about 7-30. The previous forecast had been for nicer weather and improving as the day progressed: the guy leading them had fixated on this improvement and was expecting this ti happen as they worked their way up the Crossing. One of the girls only had a light jacket and was only wearing tight-fitting track pants: it wasn’t hard to see the early signs of hypothermia…dragging feet, slurred speech, diminished motor control…. I suggested that perhaps they might to turn back and get her dried off and warmed up…

I walked back with them to make sure they made it back alright. The guy, Eric, was quite a good bloke and we chatted on that walk back: Chinese he had attended high School in Hamilton and had considered himself reasonably experienced in the New Zealand bush: many weekends he and his fellow boarders had been dispatched  on bush tramps and walks. He was quite annoyed that no one at the lodge they were staying at had warned them about the weather or told them to wait until the morning update before checking the weather.

As we descended towards Mangatepopo car park, and away from tat temperature gradient, the weather warmed up and Eric’s friend improved along the way. Misinformation about conditions and hazards in Tongariro National Park is common. Where information does exist it is more often of a tourism promotion ‘ happy happy joy joy’nature and less of the simple easy to understand bullet points that should be shaping visitor expectations from the time they first consider visiting New Zealand.

All’s well that ends well and Eric and his friends came in the next day to say thank you for the assist.That notwithstanding, there have been some gnarly rescues in this area of the Park, most of of which have been caused by the rescuees aspirations getting a head of their capabilities…

Come visit but be safe…

All Aboard!!

 

When I was growing up, we’d look out our dining room window and see the smoke from the steam engine on the railway line out to the Oamaru stone quarry at Weston. Once, earlier, this line ran all the way out to the coal mine at Ngapara. Sadly most of New Zealand secondary railway network is long defunct with the rails ripped up and recycles for their steel. Some of the routes are still accessible as cycle-ways – which is cool – but few of the actual lines still exist.

One exception to the rip it up model is the line that runs from Taumarunui on the Central Plateau to Stratford on the Taranaki Plain. Withdrawn from railway service in the late 90s due to the high number of derailments, it somehow escaped being stripped for its steel. Now, once again, you can ride those rails…

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Based in Taumarunui (opposite the New World), Forgotten World Adventures has taken a  30 year lease on the line, and runs daily trips between Okahukura and Stratford and points in between…

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The journey starts with a short (10 minute) bus ride from the Forgotten World base to the rail head at Okahukura. It would be nice to be able to start the ride from Taumarunui itself – the rail yard is only a few hundred metres from the office – but in addition to obvious issues sharing the main trunk line with the ‘big kids’ the railway bridge that connected the side line to the main trunk was removed a couple of year ago to make more room for over-height loads on State Highway 4.

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Every rail journey starts with tickets…these ones are big and flash and great souvenirs…we only did the first leg to Matiere but the full day “21 tunnel” runs through to (the former Republic of) Whangamomona…and with the ticket cones the safety brief…

The carts operate under the normal Land Transport rules…imagine them as little cars…so…

No alcohol.

Seat belts are mandatory as are car seats for small children.

Don’t dismount the cart unless your guide has OK’d it: there’s not much clearance off the side of the track in many places and there are loads of bridges, drains and trenches alongside the tracks.

Maintain a 3-4 cart space between carts – while steering is not negotiable, you do control the speed and the brakes and it’s uncool to rear-end the cart in front.

Attach bags and cameras and the like to you or the cart: if it goes over the side it’s most likely not going to be recoverable.

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The day wasn’t that tidy but this is a great activity for those less than stellar days…the valleys are narrow enough that even quite low cloud doesn’t really obstruct the views. The carts are open but even on a quite wet day like this, we didn’t need to drop down the plastic sides. Each cart has blankets but again, even on this damp day we’d weren’t tempted…the speed of the cart isn’t enough to generate a cold draft…

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There are five tunnels on this leg: most short like this one but the longest is a mile-long S under a hill: very dark inside!!! And a testament to the land navigation skills of the builders who had no GPS, lasers or even decent maps _just an excellent sense of where they were and where they were going…

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90 minutes brought us to Matiere and lunch…

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…in the community hall…

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…with strong links to its past…

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Couldn’t fault lunch at all!! Hot soup, fresh bread buns, home-baked fruit slice and caramel crunch and juicy fresh mandarins with tea and coffee for those who wish….

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Meantime, the the ground crew is busy outside: very ingenious and so well-balanced that one person can turn the carts…

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And then we were homeward bound…funny, after lunch we didn’t seem to be going as fast…dscf0572

…tunnels…dscf0578

…bridges…dscf0627

…the occasional curiosity…dscf0621

…sometimes almost like trundling through someone’s garden…dscf0632

Carts range from two seats to six but next time we’ll be in for a pedal:

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Much appreciated to the team at Forgotten World Adventures for hosting us and providing a great day of travel, entertainment and fine food…

Forgotten World Facebook                               Forgotten World TripAdvisor

I Miss My Mate

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Today, it’s been a year since my best mate, Kirk, passed away from cancer…it’s been a year and I still miss him so much…

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We raised him from a puppy…because I was able to take him to work with me -rank really does have its privileges – I guess he bonded more closely with me…I don’t think he was really that interested in doctrine or lessons learned but he clearly loved coming on base with me.

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He was always very dignified…

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…but not always the sharpest “Hey, look! I got up on the trailer…but now I can’t get down…” And in a situation like this he would cry and cry, not bark, just cry…

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Puppy poses aside, Kirky really was very dignified…he would play with other dogs but I really think he thought of himself more as a person and, apart from Lulu his sister, he would associate with other dogs more out of politeness than anything else…

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Kirk and Lulu snuggle time…

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Nowhere was Kirk’s association with people clearer than in his favourite past time: watching TV. This started with a growing interest in It’s Me or the Dog and we soon realised that he would only take notice if the sound of dogs was live/genuine and not canned…it grew from there and his favourites were David Attenborough and B grade science fiction, especially the BBC rubber costume genre…

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I used to leave the TV on for him when I went out. This had to stop after the polar bear incident: a few years back one of the banks had an ad that featured a polar bear leaping ‘out’ of the screen. Kirk left three deep scratches on the screen where he ‘defended’ himself against the attacking bear…

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Watching TV with Kirk was often like gettinga  seat at the movies behind the guy with the Afro hair style…

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He may have looked big and scary to some but he was really just a gentle giant…so careful around small children…and all he really wanted was to be with me…if I went away he would sit by the front door and pine til I came home. The sole exception to this was when he went to the Creature Comforts kennel in Sanson – just at the end of the runway at RNZAF Ohakea, handy for me – I think Kirk was a little bit in luff with Irene one of the ladies who ran the kennel: normally he would get quite agitated at free-ranging stock (it probably offended his German sense of order) but at Creature Comforts which had free-range everything…chickens, pigs, sheep, alpacas, etc…he only had eyes for Irene and never batted an eyelid at the errant wandering stock…

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A rare Happy Meal treat…

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Running free…wherever he is…