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Saturday, November 20, 2010

Canning Grape Juice

It's been a busy few months as we've harvested our garden. The tomatoes, potatoes and squash were a bust, perhaps because of a cool spring and early summer. But, we had an abundant crop of raspberries, peaches, and apples. We've canned peaches, made several different batches of fruit leather (which is already gone), and just recently I canned grape juice.

Grape Juice

1. Pick grapes.
2. Prepare quart bottles. I washed mine in the dishwasher on a sani-rinse.
3. Fill basin of steamer approximately 3/4 full of water.
4. Rinse grapes, picking out leaves or debris. Leave grapes on the stems.

5. Place grapes into steamer. Pack, but don't press.
6. Bring water in basin to a boil. Turn down to medium heat.
7. After about 50 minutes, you will be able to fill one or two still-hot quart bottles.
8. Place flats on full bottles and finger-tighten the rings.
9. Check water in basin. Refill if necessary.

10. After an additional 20 to 40 minutes, you should be able to fill approximately three or four more bottles. Place flats and rings.
11. Process in a water bath for 5 minutes (adjust for elevation). The USDA also adds sugar (which is optional) and an additional step of refrigerating, straining and reheating the grape juice before processing in order to reduce tartaric acid. The tartaric acid crystals don't bother me, so I skip this step. I add my own sugar when using the juice.
Here is a link to official recipes and water bath times: UGA - Grape Juice.

A. If you aren't going to strain the juice, don't stir or push the grapes or you will get a lot of debris in your bottles.
B. After filling my quarts, I did stir the grapes in the pot and then let it cook a little longer. I saved that juice to strain and serve that day. Approximately two total quarts were taken after the grapes were stirred.
C. I had an apple box and a full shopping bag full of concord grapes. It yielded about 20 total quarts.
D. We reconstitute our juice with a little more than a full additional bottle of water and 1/2 to 1 cup of sugar. Each crop of grapes is different. Adjust to your own taste.

10 Items to Have With You When You Are Stranded in an Airport

Airport terminal at the Eindhoven AirportImage via Wikipedia
I still have a few more weeks of flying before I get back home for a month or so, then it will be off to Asia, most likely before the new year. If there is one thing that is nearly a guarantee for travelers, it is that you will be stranded in an airport during at least some point in your journey. Here's ten items you need to have with you in order to be prepared for these inevitable delays:
  1. A cell phone. Actually I can't think of anyone who doesn't travel with a cell phone these days and I can't imagine being stuck without the ability to contact friends and relatives who are expecting me or being able to call the airlines to rebook a missed flight.
  2. Internet access. Actually I have redundant systems for this. I always carry a netbook with me for the occasional airport that offers free wi-fi access, and I also have internet on my cell phone.
  3. Food. There are a few airports that have pretty great food in their (highly over priced) restaurants, but sometimes I just want a snack so I tend to carry a small bag of food with me whenever I travel. Items include: granola bars, beef jerky, trail mix, nuts, dried fruit, candy, etc. I've also been known to travel with fried chicken and separately packed components of a subway sandwich which I can put together on the run.
  4. Entertainment of some sort. Whether it is a book, a Kindle, a deck of cards, games on an iPod Touch, music on your cell phone, or something else that takes your mind off of being stranded, some sort of entertainment will help wile away the hours in an airport.
  5. Contact numbers. For those times when a slight delay turns into a day or more "stranded in the airport" situation, I like having numbers of local contacts that I can call up for everything from a ride into the city (for more rural airports that lack public transportation) to a meet up for a coffee or impromptu business meeting.
  6. A way to secure my bag to me. Since I only travel with one bag, it makes it easier to both have all of my stuff (a change of clothes, toiletries, etc) with me and keep an eye on it. For those times, however, when you end up sleeping in an airport, a way to both secure your bag itself and secure the bag to you is a good idea. Fortunately I am a pretty light sleeper and I tend to put my bag where someone would have to hop over me to get to it.
  7. Plenty of cash. This should include both cash on hand and adequate reserves in your ATM-accessible bank account and/or on a credit card. On rare occasions you could end up stranded for literally days (think 9/11 when all aircraft were grounded for days or the Iceland volcano incident which similarly grounded all flights in the area for days). In these situations, airlines won't usually cover the cost of a hotel, and if you really need to get somewhere, you may end up renting a car or taking ground transport to your destination, all of which will require additional cash you didn't plan on needing.
  8. Items to make sleeping in an airport more palatable. Even though I am a light sleeper, I an fortunately able to sleep anywhere, any time. On a rock in the desert in broad daylight, above a rambunctious bar in downtown Manila, doesn't matter, I can sleep easily. Others, however, have trouble sleeping without ear plugs, eye shades, a blanket, a pillow, etc. If this is the case, either bring these items or be able to improvise them.
  9. Business cards. You never know who you will meet while slogging through long hours of boredom in a shut down airport. It's a nice idea to have business cards with you in case you want to trade info with people you meet.
  10. A personal info sheet. My personal info sheet has all sort of important info on it that comes in handy in a variety of travel situations. For example, I lost--probably misplaced although it could have been stolen--an ATM card from one of my bank accounts a few days ago. By looking at my info sheet, I simply called the bank (number was on the sheet), gave them my account and ATM card numbers (ditto), and had them cancel the card. Obviously I could have called information for the bank's number then asked them to look up the information but it is much more efficient to have all of this important info at my fingertips. I keep all sorts of other information on this sheet as well including airline phone numbers and frequent flier account numbers, user names and passwords for all of my online accounts (the passwords are in code of course), personal info (allergies, blood type), etc.
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"Bugout Versus Hunker" Short Story by Christopher Young - Chapter 1

BEEP! The alarm on the weather alert sounded. A
hairy hand reached out from under the bed covers,
and turned the switch from alert to monitor. The
speaker stooped squalling, and changed to voice.
The voice said: .... rioting has been observed
in the five counties including.... all persons
are advised to stay home, and call 911 if they
see trouble. Travel advisory is in place. No
unnecessary travel."

Butch knew it would happen, it was only a question
of when. The economy had been failing. People were
unable to get basic services such as food, gasoline,
and medical care. The government people had been
blaming each other. But no one seemed to be able
to do anything sensible. All the proposals included
raising taxes, and more spending. Unemployment was
over 48% and the economy could not tolerate any
more taxes. But, still that's what they were

Butch got out of bed, and logged onto his computer.
He typed in his username Butch, and his password,
Samurai. He clicked the favorite blog, Survival
Samurai. He used the same user name and password,
figured no one would think to hijack his ISP. An
alert had been posted, by Sam Samurai, the webmaster.
Butch had private messaged Sam enough times, he
knew his real name was Sam  Johnson, and he was a
postal clerk in another state.

The alert said that the cities would soon be
uninhabitable, and that he should bug out
immediately. Sam had been right every time
before, and there was no reason to doubt it now.

Down the street, Charles Mingham was also
listening to the same alert on hs weather radio.
Folks had taken to calling him Caspar Milqutoast,
after the fictional character who was mild
mannered to extreme. Charles turned on the television.
He saw some news reporting  of riots int he city near
him. Charles also checked his computer. He logged
on with his name Charles, and his password Belinda.
He and his wife had enough trust in each other,
they didnt need to know each others pass words.
Still, if Belinda had asked, he'd have been only
pleased to tell her. Charles aso logged onto the
Samurai web site, and looked at the main page.
Charles and Butch had messaged before, and found
out they lived in the same city. Neither knew
that they lived about two blocks away from each

Charles considered the matter. Belinda was still
asleep in the master bedroom. The girls were
nestled into their twin beds, sharing a bedroom.
At ages 6 and 8, they were best buddies. His son,
12, had his own bedroom. He'd be fast asleep
until at least 8 AM. What to do? Should he wake
the kids and flee to the hills? Charles decided
he didn't really have enough information. Charles
got dressed, and put on his winter coat. He opened
the front door, quietly. Pushed the storm door open.
The three inches of fresh light snow pushed aside,
leaving a cheese wedge of fresh trimmed snow on the
front step. Charles steped out about half a step.
Looked both ways. The street was empty, but for a
couple parked cars. The street lights shone, as far
as he could see. And then the lights went off.

Butch had reached into the hidden drawer under the
computer, and pulled out his 9 MM pistol. It wasn't
registered in the state, and he knew he could be
facing jail time if the cops found out. Butch was
a law abiding citizen, but he also knew that some
day "they" would come for his family, and he wanted
to be ready. Butch fel the weight of the pistol in
his hand. He set the pistol in his lap, and then
reached for the computer mouse. At that moment,
the computer and rest of the house went dark.
Totally dark, only a trace of light from the stars.
Butch reached back under the computer table, and his
hadn't slowly gripped the pistol.

At this moment, both men made decisions. Decisions
which would affect thier families forever. Neither
would have the chance to talk to the other one, and
they would not have the chance to share notes, as
to what they could have done differently.

Usa today on the front page of life

Photograph of the Starfish Prime high-altitude...Image via Wikipedia

was randomly reading and found this, I was quite suprised too.

One EMP burst and the world goes dark

By Dan Vergano, USA TODAY
The sky erupts. Cities darken, food spoils and homes fall silent. Civilization collapses.

End-of-the-world novel? A video game? Or could such a scenario loom in America's future?

There is talk of catastrophe ahead, depending on whom you believe, because of the threat of an electromagnetic pulse triggered by either a supersized solar storm or terrorist A-bomb, both capable of disabling the electric grid that powers modern life.

Electromagnetic pulses (EMP) are oversized outbursts of atmospheric electricity. Whether powered by geomagnetic storms or by nuclear blasts, their resultant intense magnetic fields can induce ground currents strong enough to burn out power lines and electrical equipment across state lines.

The threat has even become political fodder, drawing warnings from former House speaker Newt Gingrich, a likely presidential contender.

"We are not today hardened against this," he told a Heritage Foundation audience last year. "It is an enormous catastrophic threat."

Meanwhile, in Congress, a "Grid Act" bill aimed at the threat awaits Senate action, having passed in the House of Representatives.

Fear is evident. With the sun's 11-year solar cycle ramping up for its stormy maximum in 2012, and nuclear concerns swirling about Iran and North Korea, a drumbeat of reports and blue-ribbon panels center on electromagnetic pulse scenarios.

"We're taking this seriously," says Ed Legge of the Edison Electric Institute in Washington, which represents utilities. He points to a North American Electric Reliability Corp. (NERC) report in June, conducted with the Energy Department, that found pulse threats to the grid "may be much greater than anticipated."

There are "some important reasons for concern," says physicist Yousaf Butt of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass. "But there is also a lot of fluff."

At risk are the more than 200,000 miles of high-voltage transmission lines that cross North America, supplying 1,800 utilities the power for TVs, lights, refrigerators and air conditioners in homes, and for the businesses, hospitals and police stations that take care of us all.

"The electric grid's vulnerability to cyber and to other attacks is one of the single greatest threats to our national security," Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., said in June as he introduced the bill to the House of Representatives.

Markey and others point to the August 2003 blackout that struck states from Michigan to Massachusetts, and southeastern Canada, as a sign of the grid's vulnerability. Triggered by high-voltage lines stretched by heat until they sagged onto overgrown tree branches, the two-day blackout shut down 100 power plants, cut juice to about 55 million people and cost $6 billion, says the 2004 U.S.-Canada Power System Outage Task Force.

Despite the costs, most of them from lost work, a National Center for Environmental Health report in 2005 found "minimal" death or injuries tied directly to the 2003 blackout — a few people died in carbon monoxide poisonings as a result of generators running in their homes or from fires started from candles. But the effects were pervasive: Television and radio stations went off the air in Detroit, traffic lights and train lines stopped running in New York, turning Manhattan into the world's largest pedestrian mall, and water had to be boiled after water mains lost pressure in Cleveland.

Simple physics, big worry

The electromagnetic pulse threat is a function of simple physics: Electromagnetic pulses and geomagnetic storms can alter Earth's magnetic field. Changing magnetic fields in the atmosphere, in turn, can trigger surging currents in power lines.

"It is a well-understood phenomenon," says Butt, who this year reviewed geomagnetic and nuke blast worries in The Space Review.

Two historic incidents often figure in the discussion:

• On July 9, 1962, the Atomic Energy Commission and the Defense Atomic Support Agency detonated the Starfish Prime, a 1.4-megaton H-bomb test at an altitude of 250 miles, some 900 miles southwest of Hawaii over the Pacific Ocean. The pulse shorted out streetlights in Oahu.

• On March 9, 1989, the sun spat a million-mile-wide blast of high-temperature charged solar gas straight at the Earth. The "coronal mass ejection" struck the planet three days later, triggering a geomagnetic storm that made the northern lights visible in Texas. The storm also induced currents in Quebec's power grid that knocked out power for 6 million people in Canada and the USA for at least nine hours.

"A lot of the questions are what steps does it make sense to take," Legge says. "We could effectively gold-plate every component in the system, but the cost would mean that people can't afford the rates that would result to pay for it."

"The high-altitude nuclear-weapon-generated electromagnetic pulse is one of a small number of threats that has the potential to hold our society seriously at risk," concluded a 2008 EMP Commission report headed by William Graham, a former science adviser to President Reagan.

The terror effect

In the nuclear scenario, the detonation of an atomic bomb anywhere from 25 to 500 miles high electrifies, or ionizes, the atmosphere about 25 miles up, triggering a series of electromagnetic pulses. The pulse's reach varies with the size of the bomb, the height of its blast and design.

Gingrich last year cited the EMP Commission report in warning, "One weapon of this kind that went off over Omaha would eliminate most of the electrical production in the United States."

But some take issue with that.

"You would really need something the size of a Soviet H-bomb to have effects that cross many states," Butt says. The massive Starfish Prime blast, he notes, was at least 70 times more powerful than the atomic bomb detonated over Hiroshima in 1945, and it may have blown out streetlights but it left the grid in Hawaii intact.

One complication for rogue nations or terrorists contemplating a high-altitude nuclear blast is that such an attack requires a missile to take the weapon at least 25 miles high to trigger the electromagnetic pulse. For nations, such a launch would invite massive nuclear retaliation from the USA's current stockpile of 5,000 warheads, many of them riding in submarines far from any pulse effects.

Any nation giving a terror group an atomic weapon and missile would face retaliation, Butt and others note, as nuclear forensics capabilities at the U.S. national labs would quickly trace the origins of the bomb, Butt says. "It would be suicide."

Super solar storm

On the solar front, the big fear is a solar super storm, a large, fast, coronal mass ejection with a magnetic field that lines up with an orientation perfectly opposite the Earth's own magnetic field, says solar physicist Bruce Tsurutani of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.

Tsuritani and other solar physicists view such an event as inevitable in the next 10 to 100 years.

"It has to be the perfect storm," Tsuratani says.

"We are almost guaranteed a very large solar storm at some point, but we are talking about a risk over decades," Butt says. Three power grids gird the continental U.S. — one crossing 39 Eastern states, one for 11 Western states and one for Texas.


In June, national security analyst Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists described congressional debate over power-grid security as "a somewhat jarring mix of prudent anticipation and extravagant doomsday warnings."

Although the physics underlying the geomagnetic and nuclear pulses are fundamentally the same, they have different solutions. A geomagnetic storm essentially produces a long-building surge dangerous to power lines and large transformers. A nuclear blast produces three waves of pulses.

Limiting the risk from the geomagnetic-storm-type threat involves stockpiling large transformers and installing dampers, essentially lightning rods, to dump surges into the ground from the grid. Even if such steps cost billions, the numbers come out looking reasonable compared with the $119 billion that a 2005 Electric Power Research Institute report estimated was the total nationwide cost of normal blackouts every year.

"EMP is one of a small number of threats that can hold our society at risk of catastrophic consequences," Graham testified to a congressional committee last year, endorsing such mitigation steps.

Stephen Younger, former head of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, last year argued against the catastrophic scenarios in his book, The Bomb, suggesting the effects of a pulse would be more random, temporary and limited than Graham and others suggest.

The June NERC report essentially calls for more study of the problem, warning of excessive costs to harden too much equipment against the nuclear risk. "If there are nuclear bombs exploding, we have lots of really, really big problems besides the power grid," Legge says.
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Home Canning Basics Part 5