Archive for December, 2012

Getting some culture

Saturday, December 15th, 2012

The Wombat has embarked on a new project.  She is growing things.

A few months ago, I purchased Sandor Katz’s The Art of Fermentation.  I am here to report on my first few projects.

KEFIR:  For the past few years, I have been stretching my store-bought kefir ($5.49/quart!) by adding a cup at a time to fresh milk and leaving it sit out for a day.  But last week, I order my very own kefir grains, which arrived  from Ohio today.  I added some milk and in a mere 24 hours, I should have some new kefir to make into smoothies.  Yum.  I am, however, a little concerned about the beasties when I leave this Friday for two and a half weeks…

KOMBUCHA:  Last Saturday, I started a kombucha culture from store-bought.  By this morning, it had an oozy little film on the surface and it smelled just like it should.  I have added some more sweetened tea today and transferred it to a larger container.   I hope it will grow well until I have to refrigerate it for my trip…

MILLET PORRIDGE:   Well, Mr Katz gives an appealing description of millet porridge.  And, generally, the Wombat really loves her porridge — oatmeal, cream of wheat, cream of rice, and jook are all delicious!  So, I ground up some millet, added some water, and let it sit for a couple days until it fermented a bit, and then added more water and cooked it.  And it made my whole house smell unpleasantly of cheese.   Although cheese can be delicious, H pointed out that the smell of cheese is not always a good thing — when your feet, your yoga clothes, or a wound smell like cheese, this is a bad sign.  Well, my millet porridge smelled unappealingly of cheese and tasted bitter.  I decided that I would not feel guilty about throwing it out.  The Wombat does not care for cheesy millet porridge.

RED WINE VINEGAR:  Last Saturday, I picked up a cheap 1.5L bottle of red wine at CostCo for my first vinegar experiment.  I poured the wine into a large, 2-gal glass wide-mouth jar, added a cup or so of raw cider vinegar and covered with a towel to await transformation.  It is starting to smell more like vinegar.  On Monday, I will take a sample to the lab to test the pH and see how things are coming along.



Underwater wombat

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

Occasionally, this time of year, a high-pressure system stalls and the  tradewinds hold their breath.  By Thursday, when deadlines were passed, the mares’ tail cirrus clouds that I learned about in ninth grade earth science class hinted that the system would be moving soon.   But the weather held as we headed out of the Bay. Not much wind, but there are still rollers, so Jason drove the Whaler gently, like the considerate captain he is, and we made it to the offshore rocks. Our little crew of five divers (four female doctoral students and me — yes, marine biology will soon lose its prestige with its over-representation of women in the junior ranks, not to mention all the giggling) out for a ‘proficiency’ dive.

On our second dive, we entered a large cavern. The entrance to the cavern was in shadow, and it got darker as we went further back. Colors turned to gray-scale. Waves, sometimes gently, sometimes roughly, rocking you in the water. One got a little woozy from the motion and lack of contrast.

After we surfaced, the woozy one barfed and looked miserable. (Quid pro quo from a dive we did last summer where I was the one barfing). I surprised myself a little when the old dive instructor kicked in, and I told her to relax and briskly towed her back to the boat. She would have been fine, of course, but nausea can make fools of us all. I’ve been feeling weak and old, so it was nice to be superwoman again, if trivially and briefly.

Post-proposal pit… A plan!

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

I haven’t posted here in a while, and I’m not sure it’s a good day to start again. Writing proposals requires such hope, such investment in a possible future, and then I turn them in and feel drained. So I am now in a post-proposal pit. Pbbt. The proposal due yesterday would be interesting, but I am unsatisfied with how I wrote my part of it — there wasn’t enough time, and it was a bit out of my area to make a convincing case without time for research. That one won’t get funded. The one due today… Well… I am not sure I even want to do it. And I am such a terrible procrastinator that it is always a last minute panic. I thought I would grow out of that, but apparently not. So this evening I am in a rotten headspace to which my immediate emotion is to want to quit my job bc I am obviously no good at it. Perhaps one of these days, this will lose its potency, but not yet. And despite feeling like this since college, I haven’t quit yet. The Wombat can be rather tenacious. Or, perhaps, the Wombat is just afraid not to know what to do. Or both.

Luckily, I have already planned something fun for tomorrow. The weather has been exceptionally calm this week — a high pressure system is keeping the wind down– so I have scheduled a special lab dive to an offshore island. I dove at this site once, more than 15 years ago, and it was quite remarkable at the time. Maybe I will have some good pictures tomorrow.