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Friday, April 30, 2010

Matchless Boxes

Something I started doing a long, long time ago when I have time for it is covering matchboxes with lovely pictures I've cut out of magazines.  Sometimes you can find auction catalogs in used book stores, and they have lots of pictures of beautiful antique paintings.  These are nicer to leave around the house next to candles or lamps (or cigarette holders or bongs, if that's your wont) than a glaring red box that says "HY TOP 32 STRIKE ON BOX POCKET MATCHES" or, "Home Best STRIKE ON BOX Matches".  And three or four of these tied up with a ribbon make a thoughtful but inexpensive hostess gift when you need one in a pinch. 

And you can cover up that little insult to your intelligence that says, "CAUTION: CLOSE BOX BEFORE STRIKING MATCH..."

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Rise and Fall of Rufus Garner

Rufus Garner was a dog of many names. Roofy-doofy-big-and-goofy was one. When we visited Steve's sister and Rufus became very interested in her chickens, it was quickly Roofy-doofy-big-and-toothy and we kept a close eye on him.  Roody-toot was another, occasionally it was R-Dog.  Sometimes just "Roof!" barked at him, which he understood.  You don't earn nicknames unless people love you, and a lot of people loved Rufus, probably none more so than me.  Today we had to put him down, but let me tell you his story first.

Rufus came to me one Saturday morning when I was at the PetsMart buying dog food for Tank, my six year-old Rhodesian Ridgeback/Rottweiler bitch.  It was the one Saturday a month that the Humane Society had stray dogs at the store in temporary pens, trying to get them all adopted.  I hadn't planned on adopting that day, but when I passed by Rufus, he was the only dog who dropped what he was chewing and came over to say hello.  He was a swell dog from the start.  I asked them to hold him for me for forty-five minutes so that I could rush home and get my dog and bring her back, to make sure she liked him.  She liked him just fine, and he her.   Fifty bucks later, I drove home with two large dogs in the back of the car, who played Bite Your Face the whole way home.  Five minutes after getting home, Tank let me know she was done with him. 

"Sorry sister- he's staying." I said to her. "Get used to it."

A few days later, a neighbor who trained show dogs for a living, watched Rufus sniffing around the front yard and interacting with people milling about.  "That dog's gonna bite somebody some day," he said.  And Rufus did, eventually.  He bit me, my ex-boyfriend, and my neighbor across the street.  I thought about trying to find him a new home, but decided I wasn't ready for that. I also decided that Rufus didn't know how to play with people, and stopped engaging him in rough play, and generally kept him away from people.  He mellowed a little, and the two dogs and I got along.  They played Bite Your Face everyday, and Tag every chance they got- usually in the house when I was on the phone.

Then Steve came into the picture.  Right after Steve moved in, the dynamic of the pack changed, and Rufus started asserting himself.  He became aggressive, particularly with me.  I thought about getting rid of him again, but Steve suggested that we talk to the vet about it, and see what she said.  Dogs have different reasons for becoming aggressive, and she gave us a handout for dealing with every kind of aggression.  They all pretty much suggested the same fix, which was to get the dog where he wants to please you again, so we worked on that with him. It worked! He mellowed out again, and found his place back in the pack in the Omega position, and all was well for awhile.

Then in October of 2005, I lost Tank. We mourned her for awhile, and then the following spring, I was ready for another dog.  I decided that I wanted the poodle I'd always wanted and started working on Steve.  He finally came around, but insisted that we should rescue a pound puppy, so I found Sophie from Florida Poodle Rescue. We drove down to the other side of Orlando on July 7 and picked her up.   Right about the same time, Rufus started moping.  At least I thought he was moping.  It took me several weeks to realize that this dog was pretty sick, and that he was running a fever.

To make a long story short, it took us (the vet and Steve and I) nearly three months to finally figure out that he'd been bitten by a tick and had Lupus.  So off to the specialist we went, who did joint taps.  The Lupus had ulcerated his tongue, which we couldn't see, and had left him with arthritis in every joint.  Fixing him was going to be a bundle, but as I told Steve at the time, it hadn't even been a year since losing Tank, and I just wasn't ready to lose another dog. So we spent the money and brought him back to health.

Then he became a whole new dog.  Any kind of aggression was completely gone, and Rufus became a docile sweetheart.  The Lupus had knocked all the stuffing out of him, and he became super-sweet.  Once, when we took him back to the specialist's for a check up, the vet tech came in first and asked a bunch of questions about him, and then said, "Okay, I need to take him in the back now."  I asked her if there was something she needed to do to him.  "No- the girls will just want to see him."  And after she closed the door behind them, we could hear a chorus of female voices exclaiming "Rufus! Rufus is here! Hi Rufus!"  He'd made himself pretty popular with the ladies.

When we drove across the country from Florida to Oregon in March of 2007, Sophie was ensconced in her crate in the back of the car, which was really the best thing to do with her.  Driving in the car made her very agitated and she'd chatter with sounds that sound more like a rodent or a monkey than a dog.  After a few miles of this bizarre chatter she'd settle down and sleep for hours.  Rufus, on the other hand, stayed awake most of the time.  We had put the back seat down, and strung his leash through one of the seat belts, and then up between the split in the seats.  His bed went on top of the seat backs, and then he went on top of the bed, tethered by his driving harness.  He was perfectly happy up there, and had unobstructed views out the windows, out of which he spent a lot of time looking.  I've never seen anything like it.  Even through the lonely expanses of Nebraska, he'd find something to see, and his head would follow the object as we passed by it at seventy miles an hour.

Then a little over a year later, he came down with what turned out to be pneumonia.  We'd been dealing with an allergy to something for years at that point, but he appeared to be really struggling.  So we took him to the vet, who took an xray of his lungs. One lobe was particularly opaque, and the vet thought it was pneumonia, and sent us off to a specialist.  Well, the specialist was in Cooperstown on vacation, and in the week we had to wait for him to come back, Rufus's lung cleared up on its own.  The films the specialist took showed two healthy lungs, and all he could guess was that it was an allergic reaction to something.  Steve and I figured that it might have been construction dust, because we'd taken him with us to the house we'd just bought, with which we were busy every weekend pulling apart.  So we decided that Rufus needed to stay home while we finished up the new house.

This last year though, Rufus had pneumonia two more times, which responded to antibiotics and cleared up.  Then he got it a fourth time, and this time it was here to stay.  Between his hip dysplasia, which was diagnosed at the time his Lupus was discovered, and the poly-arthritis from the Lupus, we'd had him on several pain killers at different times, none of which he was tolerating very well.  Now he had pneumonia as well, which wasn't responding to the various antibiotics we tried.  Finally, the vet tried Gabapentin for the pain, which worked, and an old-fashioned sulfa drug for the pneumonia, which also worked. Finally! We could make him comfortable.  He did fine for many months.  He still liked to go lie out on the deck and sniff the air, or take himself off to a shady spot on the lawn and take a nap.  He enjoyed his dinner and his breakfast everyday, and every night he chewed his Virbac chew enthusiastically. He was still enjoying life.

We noticed a change in his eyes a few weeks ago. Rufus was finally starting to look like an old dog, even though he never developed any gray around his muzzle.  All this time, he looked like himself, but finally with the change in his eyes, he was looking his age.  Then a week ago, his pneumonia came back strong, in spite of the drugs he was on.  He'd gone from coughing once or twice a day, to many times an hour.  His breathing became shallow, and his abdomen was somewhat large- almost distended. If I had to guess, it looked like something was growing in his abdomen and was pushing on his lungs.  And even though he was eating, he had to be encouraged to come get it. He struggled to get up, and staggered while walking. He no longer wanted to go lie on the deck, and his activity was now confined to moving from his bed to the living room rug and back, and sleeping.  And all the while huffing this funny, shallow breath.

So it was clear that it was time to do the right thing by him.  We had an appointment for 3:30 this afternoon, but Steve insisted that I call Dr. Wood this morning and let him know our plans instead of just springing it on him.  I'd made the appointment for him on Tuesday, but Dr. Wood is off on Tuesdays, and this Wednesday as well.  I had hope for Rufus on Tuesday, but it became really clear yesterday what our appointment would be all about.  So warning Dr. Wood, who really likes Rufus, was the decent thing to do.  Dr. Wood and I talked for a little bit, and he said that while he doubted that Rufus was in pain, it was obvious that he was pretty miserable.  He'd warn the staff, and they would bring us in through one of the exam rooms through to the resource room, where they'd have everything set up.  Then he asked if I wanted to take Rufus home or have them cremate him. I wanted them to take care of it. Rufus was 76 pounds the last time we weighed him.  Did I want his ashes back? Yes, I wanted his ashes back.  That costs extra (Dr. Wood is aware that I'm unemployed)- yes, I know, and I'm prepared for that.

True to his word, they were ready for us when we came in, and ushered us into the resource room.  Dr. Wood came in and examined Rufus, and gently thumped his abdomen. 

"See that ripple?" he asked as he thumped it again. "That's not air. That means that there's fluid collecting in his abdomen, and it's one of three things causing it, and none of them are good."  He walked us through the possibilities:  a tumor, cancer, or his kidneys failing.  Considering everything else that was wrong with him, we were doing the right thing.  He assured us of this several times.   He gave him a shot to relax him, and said he'd be back in about five minutes.  Rufus got very sleepy, and we stroked his head and told him what a good boy he was.  Doc came back in a few minutes and shaved a little fur off the back of Rufus's hind leg, and then told us he was administering the second injection.  We continued to stroke Rufus's head and told him what a good boy he was.  I told him to look for Tank, and then it was all over.

I feel like I lost my dearest friend in the world. I shall miss looking out on the deck and seeing him lying there in the sun and sniffing the air.  I shall miss him growling at big trucks in the street, or getting up from his bed and rushing the door, hackles up when the UPS man delivered something.  I shall miss looking down at my left side at the table and seeing him sprawled at my feet.  I shall miss him lying in the doorway of the kitchen and watching me when I cook.  I shall miss him showing up for a treat when he heard me peeling carrots or when I opened the lettuce box.

I shall miss my Roofy-doofy-big-and-goofy. He was thirteen.

Oh, Hail NO!

Last weekend, because they were languishing on the bench in the garage, I planted the peppers and pickling cucumbers, with some trepidation.  It's really too early for them, especially since the weather has been cooler than normal for this time of year.

They've been doing okay- not really growing, but not continuing to languish either.  I had hope.

Then yesterday it started to hail. It hailed for about ten minutes solid, and at one point, it was really coming down.

I wasn't terribly worried about my cole crops, because they are pretty sturdy, but I was worried about my lettuces, and the peppers and cucumbers I'd just planted.  The lettuces did really well, surprisingly.  I only found one leaf that was torn.  But the cukes and peppers got shredded.

They're not completely pulverized, so I may pull them off anyway, but the ensuing hail sitting around them icily, and the subsequent low forties of the night was probably not good for them either.  I'm not giving up on them yet, though.

But now I have an idea of the heartache through which real farmers go, but on a much smaller scale.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Tea and Strawberries

Today I got up to Concentrates in Portland, which is on SE 8th between Powell and Division.  I've been wanting to check them out for awhile, but today was as good as any day because One Green World, which is a huge nursery in Molalla, was up at Concentrates with plants to sell.  OGW is another place that I've been meaning to get to- I wanted to get some Camellia sinensis, which is the plant from which black tea is harvested (although it's not black tea at harvest time), and I wanted to get some strawberries, specifically an alpine variety which has smaller and fewer fruits than regular strawberries, but sport a more intense strawberry taste.  They had both, so I bought both.

Now I have quite the collection of plants in the garage that I'd better get planted: five Alexandra alpine strawberries, two tea plants, one mint, one lavender, one snapdragon, and four marigolds.  The marigolds are for the tomatoes.  The mint goes into a pot, and I have five horseradish roots that need to be planted as well.  Horseradish is also invasive, so I think I'm going to recycle the sprinkler valve covers that I have and take their lids off and turn them upside down for horseradish planters. I was going to plant the strawberries into hanging planters but I think I'll just put them in one of the veggie beds so that I can increase and multiply them.

The other items that I got from Concentrates was a 50lb bag of greensand, and a 5lb bag of kelp meal, so I am pretty well set for organic soil additives for awhile.   Greensand is good for tightening sandy soil, and loosening clay soil, the latter of which is what I'm trying to correct.  The kelp meal is for adding trace elements to the soil, and a little bit of that goes a long way.  Tomorrow is supposed to be a nice day- sunny and in the upper sixties/lower seventies, so tomorrow is a plant day.  Now all I need to do is figure out where to put the tea plants.....

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

It's (Almost) All Going According To Plan...

Jef, my contractor, and Jim, his partner were here this week to get the pergola done.  I didn't expect them until next week because they had a kitchen to finish elsewhere, but evidently the floor hadn't been completed on time at that job, so they showed up here Monday.  With the exception of several lengths of 1x4s, which Jef underestimated, and the addition of 4X10 beams across the ends which I decided I wanted, and the paint of course, the pergola is finished, and here it is.

It goes across the entire back of the house, from one end to the other, and I am pretty pleased with it.  I'll have to wait until much later in the summer to finish painting it because the pressure treated wood needs to continue to dry which will take awhile.  The very tops of the joists and the 1x4s that cross them are painted, however, so I can get my reed fencing up there for this summer since I won't be able to plant anything to grow on it until next fall.  I'll probably put in grapes. I also need to get a fascia board installed along the front of the deck.  All in good time.  I also got the end of the fence and the old, falling-apart gate replaced!

From the other side of the fence, the top of the arbor looks fine, but in this picture, it doesn't look level, does it?  I'll have to ask Jef about that when he comes back.  I'm hoping to grow something like a clematis over that arbor.  The new gate is great! It swings in, instead of out, and everything is pretty solid.  I'm happy about this development as well.

 I also finished getting the spot for the three sisters dug up.  What you see just beyond the patch is a sod wall.  I didn't know what else to do with it, so I just stacked it up.  Steve mentioned that it will be useful for when Santa Ana attacks, and I said maybe so, but it won't hold up to cannon fire, and Santa Ana will surely bring cannon with him.  Such a smart aleck.

Then last but not least today, I emptied the corner of the kitchen where I've been stacking up cardboard boxes so that I can get a start on the hutch corner, which is probably just going to be a set of open shelving.  We'll see. Anyway- the cardboard is for laying under bark in the backyard. I'm not sure that I have enough, actually.  It sure seemed like a lot stacked up in the corner of the kitchen, but all broken down in the garage, my stash no longer looks so robust and adequate.

And grand news- all the Tulameen raspberries, save two, are now up, and I expect the last two to follow suit.  The last of the Autumn Britten raspberries is up now as well- it's a good two or three weeks later than the others, which makes me wonder if maybe the nursery packed an extra Tulameen, and shorted me an Autumn Britten, since it's now emerging with the rest of the Tulameen. What do you think?  The boysenberries are still stuck at only one out of five emerging, but the last of the apples to break dormancy have done so, and I'm truly relieved.  The Bramleys' appear to be two-year old whips instead of one-year olds like the rest of the apples, and I had butched them pretty low for espaliering.  So when they took their time breaking dormancy, I was getting pretty nervous that I'd killed them.  But yay! I didn't!   So everything is up and sprouting leaves, except the aforementioned berries.  I also have beets, carrots, and radishes sprouting outside, and the asparagus appears to be taking off.  Everything is going according to plan!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Answers and Inspirations

Sometimes, God answers my prayers so fast it's really amazing. 

Steve had received an 'attaboy' from his boss, which meant a $50 gift card of some sort.  He had to go to a website to see what was on offer, which didn't really sport any restaurants that are in our area, except The Chart House.  We went to their website and finally found a menu with prices on it, and quickly decided that going to The Chart House would cost us money in the long run.  This didn't appeal to us, so we opted for a little portable heater, which we were planning on buying anyway for Steve's office.  Not to heat the room for the whole day; just to warm it up in the morning until the wood stove's heat made it back there.  The UPS man delivered it yesterday afternoon, and I thought to myself, "great- we got that heater for free- now if we could just get our hands on some more free firewood."

Then much later, right as we were getting ready to go out to dinner, the door bell rings.  I was nowhere close to being able to answer the door; as it was, Steve had to put his pants on to get it, which he did.  Then I hear my neighbor Lisa say that they lost another tree and they heard that we heat with wood- did we want their wood? Because all we needed to do was come get it.   !!!   Just like that! And it wasn't even a real prayer; I just mentioned it kind of casually, and it was a matter of a just a few hours before He'd answered!  I'm pretty sure it's pine, but after spending the summer in our hot garage, it'll burn just fine this winter.

See, this is why I'm not worried about finding a job.  He'll find me something good when the time is right, and in the meantime, I'm building a garden.  Today I broke ground on the area for the Three Sisters.  This is all I got done today.  I found that I could actually get more done if I scooped out little shovel-shaped chunks in a fish scale pattern, rather than trying to keep the chunks square. Lots faster.

And then, even though I was tired, God gave me a flash of insight late in the day.  I was worrying about the paper bags holding my bone meal and rock phosphate that I got from The Urban Farm Store.  If the bags broke, there'd be fertilizer everywhere, and the rock phosphate is particularly dusty.  Then I spied the couple of half-gallon buttermilk cartons that I'd set aside for starting seeds and voila!

Doling it out will be a lot easier now, too!

How do I go through so much buttermilk? I drink it. Copiously. Can't get enough of it. Plus, the calcium is good for me.  Think I'll go have another glass right now.  Seriously.  I love the stuff.

Monday, April 12, 2010

What I've Been Up To, The Last Week Or So

Not much is going on, and not much is getting done, which is why I haven't posted in awhile.  The contractor came by last week and got the holes for the uprights dug, which promptly filled with rain.  Then he came by later in the week and pumped the water out of the holes and set the 4X4s in them and plumbed them up.  They'll be back next week to pump water out of the holes again and fill them full of concrete.

I finally got the asparagus planted.  I paid for twenty-five plants and the grower packed thirty, so I gave the last five to my neighbor whose husband has just built her a big planter box. I have planter box envy. It's really nice.  Anyway, the asparagus came with detailed planting instructions, which I passed on to Suni, with the advice that the new shoots are e*x*t*r*e*m*e*l*y fragile, which the instructions don't mention, so be careful.  I had only room for twenty-five plants in my asparagus bed, so Suni lucks out.

I emailed the nursery last week that none of the Tulameen raspberries are up, although almost all the Autumn Britten are up and have been for awhile, and they were planted on the same day.  Then over the weekend I notice that finally! two of the Tulameen are breaking the soil. I'm waiting to hear what the nursery says before I report that two are up- they may be the only two, after all.

I also direct seeded some carrots, beets, radishes and leeks into the beds, and built the planter box that goes on top of the flower bed and then planted a Wonderblue lilac in it.  Lilacs evidently need really good drainage and I wasn't about to take a chance on our clay, so I built a box to raise it up.  There were fence boards lying around because we are getting a new end of the fence and gate, so I recycled fence board. It should last a couple of years and then I can decide what to do next.

Then last, but not least in the getting-things-done department, I transplanted the rest of the seedlings from the styrofoam cell tray to larger quarters. I've decided that I don't like the styrofoam cell tray, because it's hard to dig delicate little seedlings out of it.  I like that you can cram a bunch of seedlings in together, but I'll look at reusable black plastic trays, like a flat of start cells, and see if those are better. At least when you're transplanting from a six pack from the nursery, it's easy to squeeze the plants out of those things.

Next stop in the garden: I need to prepare an area in the ground for and do some research on the Three Sisters.  The Three Sisters, if you've no idea, is a planting practice from the ever-wise Native Americans.  You plant corn, squash and beans in the same hill.   The corn provides a stalk for the beans to grow up, the beans fix nitrogen from the air for the corn and squash, and the squash leaves provide shade for the the corn and bean roots.  A perfect symbiotic relationship. I've been wanting to try it ever since learning about it, and almost passed it up because of the no legumes, no grains part of Steve's diet.  But I decided that it should be okay, as long as I don't serve it to him during the day.  I have one corn to plant called Quickie Hybrid, which is a sugar-enhanced hybrid and very early- only 64 days, and I have another open-pollinated corn called Golden Bantam, which is a high-yielding heirloom. It also has an excellent reputation for freezing on the  cob.  I'll only plant one kind of green bean, Roma II, which is a lovely flat Italian bean. I'll be freezing as much of those as I can- they are supposed to be excellent for freezing, and I dearly love this kind of green bean! For squash I'm planting some organic small sugar pumpkins, which is an heirloom variety and is supposed to make "mouth-watering pies". Which is funny, because all I need them to do is make pumpkin pies.  Steve doesn't like pumpkin pie (I think it's the ginger) and I love them (I think it's the delicious) and I'm tired of not having pumpkin pie, so I am growing my own and I'll be canning my own, and making, baking, and ultimately eating my own!!  The other squash is a beautiful gray squash with an impossibly orange interior, the seeds for which I got from Novella Carpenter of Farm City fame.  She generously passed out the Triamble seeds to anyone who wanted to try them, so I signed up.  If you haven't read Farm City, you should- it's a great read.

And speaking of freezing, I ordered our quarter steer this weekend as well.  This necessitates buying a freezer, but that was in the plans anyway.  Carman Ranch is in northeastern Oregon and they do humanely-raised, grass-fed cattle.  Steve and I have been wanting to do this for awhile, and I managed to time checking their website just right because the 2010 order form was available.  Cory is going to let me have livers, oxtails, and tongue, as well.  I know what you're thinking, but Steve likes tongue, so I'm going to learn how to cook it for him.  I may not learn to like it, but I'm going to learn to cook it properly.  Anyway- I'm really excited that in June, somewhere in Portland I'll be picking up a couple of boxes of frozen beef.  I'll be picking up my friends Dave and Carl at the airport on the same trip, so it'll be an interesting question of cramming luggage and beef into the back of the wagon.  If the boys travel the way they always do, which is very light-usually just a knapsack, there will be plenty of room.  And guess what?  When we get home, they can help me load the freezer.  After I make cocktails, of course.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Home Remedies

Where possible, I always try to use a home remedy before I'll use a pharmaceutical one, and some home remedies are better than others.  I'm reminded of the story of Cinderella, whose steply ug-sisters' feet would not fit into the glass slipper.   One cut off her toes and the other cut off her heel.  These are examples of home remedies whose efficacy is in question.  Of the home remedies that I've found that do work better than pharmaceuticals, the best so far is the use of a corn meal soak for toenail fungus.

The first time that I asked the doctor about my affliction, she wanted to prescribe a popular medicine for it whose side effects were possible damage to the liver, such that I would have to go get a blood test so they'd have a baseline to which they could compare more blood tests while I was taking the stuff.  The burden of living with my fungus seemed nothing compared to having blood drawn multiple times, not to mention the possibility that it could damage my liver, which was being kept plenty busy filtering adult beverages, thank you very much, so I opted to live with the fungus.

Then the next year, after things just got a little more gruesome, I asked the doctor again.  This time she had a remedy called 'Penlac', which was a German product that you painted on like nail polish, no blood tests required.  This seemed a reasonable solution, so I applied the stuff as directed and my fungus eventually went away.  Then it eventually came back.

Fast forward to a few years later.  I read an article about a guy in Texas listening to a popular garden show on the radio.  This fellow had had a toenail fungus for twenty-seven years.  The gardener host was answering a woman's question about what to do about the fungus on her roses, which was to mix up a solution of cornmeal and warm water and spray it on her roses.  So the light bulb went off in the Texan's head, and for a year every Saturday, he soaked his feet in a solution of cornmeal and warm water, and after mooching off his host for twenty-seven years, the fungus finally packed up and left.

This was encouraging, to say the least! So I tried it, although I didn't manage to do it every week for a year.  It was more like once a month when I remembered it, for as long as it took for a new healthy toenail to grow out. More like six months.  And this time, the remedy stuck; I haven't had a relapse in over eight years.

All you need to do is clip off as much of the damaged toenail as you can.  Then fill a little tub with at least warm water (I used hot- it feels good and stays warm longer) and some cornmeal.  You might want to run the cornmeal through your coffee grinder if it's coarse because the grit feels kind of weird on your feet.  Then grab a book and soak for an hour.  You have to use at least warm water because evidently the so-called experts think that the warm water activates enzymes in the corn that eat the fungus.  I don't know if this is true or not, but I do know that this remedy works, and it works really well for next to nothing.

So well, in fact, that I could wear glass slippers if I wanted to.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Friday Night is Pizza Night

 Homemade pizza with fresh mushroom, oil-cured olives, and fresh basil

I live for Friday nights because it's Pizza and Beer Night.  Steve makes the dough, which he develops overnight and then portions into four and freezes.  Thursday night the dough comes out of the freezer and goes into the fridge.  Then Friday afternoon around noon it goes on top of the fridge to come to room temperature.

Friday night, when I go to make the pizza, I preheat the oven at 500 degrees- it has a pizza stone in the bottom of it.  The oven takes a good half hour to come to 500 and then we let the stone continue heating for another half hour.  I cut a half pound chunk of mozz off the log (which we get cheap at Costco) and put it in the freezer to harden up which will make slicing it easier later.  If I need sauce, I make it from a pint of our tomato sauce which we put up last summer.  I can get enough cooked-down sauce for two or three pizzas, because I learned not to cook all the liquid out of the sauce.  The pizzas are better if the sauce flavor is closer to the tomatoes. I'm not sure that makes sense; just don't overcook your sauce.

Then while the sauce is cooling, I roll out the dough to roughly the same shape and size as one of my cookie sheets, which I use for the peel.  The cookie sheet is covered pretty liberally with corn meal so that the pizza doesn't stick to it.  I like my pizza crust pretty thin, and Steve has figured out just exactly how much to make the dough so that each of the four portions is exactly right.  While the rolled-out dough is resting, I slice the cheese and mushrooms or whatever else is going on the pizza.

Next I carefully pick up the dough and stretch it out on the peel.  Then it gets spread with olive oil and I'll be honest: before I spread the sauce I sprinkle a little garlic salt around the edge.  Sauce goes on (thinly- too much sauce makes the toppings slide off), cheese goes on, then the toppings go on.  The whole thing is then slid onto the hot pizza stone and bakes for 7 minutes.  I usually leave it in for another minute because I like the crust really crunchy, but I'm watching it like a hawk that last minute.

Then it comes out and is slid onto the large cutting board, gets sliced into eight pieces, and gets served on the board.  With beer. Always with beer.

Big Batch No-Knead Pizza Dough

5 1/3 cups bread flour
2 cups water
1 1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons salt

Mix ingredients together and put into covered proofing container.  Leave 24 hours in a warm place, like the top of the refrigerator.

The next day, punch it all down, weigh it out into four equal portions, and place each into an oiled Ziploc bag.  Freeze until needed.  We have four bags that are marked for pizza and they get washed and reused so we're not wasting bags or over filling the landfills.