Sarah is in Missouri this week working for the National Park Service, so I'm bachelorizing it in Madison. Of course, I'm not the only ones here. Sarah left Dalla and Ira with explicit instructions to keep me out of trouble.
Last night, I had a quite healthy dinner consisting of grilled tilapia, rice, and peas. Tonight, I made up for that dinner by shoveling in two bratwurst, two German-style pretzels, and a beer. For vegetables, I decided that kraut and really coarse mustard both counted. Sarah probably would disagree with that assessment, but she's not here to argue. Dalla, on the other hand, wasn't distressed in the least with my choice of victuals. After work last weekend, and the week before, we finally have our gardens in for this year. We once again have a community garden plot at the University, so we have vegetables both at home and in our community garden plot. We planted all of our tomatoes at home this year because we discovered that tomatoes do not suffer the pains of a bicycle trip home from the gardens very well. I decided that I wanted to try growing broccoli this year, so we've got a couple of plants in both places. We're also growing habanero, jalapeno, and so-called 'super chili' peppers in both places. I expect that we'll get higher yields from the plants at the garden since the plot there gets more sunshine. Sarah planted several sets of pole beans at the garden plot this year which required construction of bamboo teepees. I grumbled often about the wisdom of growing a vegetable that not only doesn't taste very good, but that requires extensive infrastructure. She ignored my grumblings.
The flower garden in the front of our house is in transition between its spring and summer states. The tulips aren't quite dead yet, so we've got some ugly green and yellow tulip leaves hanging on. The native sunflowers that we planted two years ago are now over four feet tall and growing. However, I expect they will stop growing shortly and start flowering as their flower buds are growing. The milkweed we planted in years past has also been growing heartily and I'm looking forward to finding monarch butterflies on them in the future.
In late May, we finally got our back yard fenced in with four-foot chain-link fence. We had discussed doing that for the last couple of years, but the planets finally aligned and we got the fence installed just before Memorial Day weekend. We couldn't have cared less about installing the fence for ourselves (after all, we're not in danger of wandering off), but Dalla likes the freedom of going outside without having to be attached to a stake in the ground by a twenty food metal cable. We enjoy watching her bound through the hostas at the back of the yard to chase squirrels and rabbits (both real and imagined by her) up the trees or out of the yards. In fact, she generally only likes to come in the house when she's tired or hungry now. The rest of the time she can be found in the yard, starting up into the trees and waiting for a squirrel to come down. In some ways, I'm bitter about the change the increased freedom has brought about in her. I liked it better when she was around the house; now I feel like part of the hired help who keeps her fed, watered, and walked. Hopefully, she will eventually grow used to having more freedom and she won't be so single-minded about sitting in the yard. Today, for instance, she really wanted to play, so we went out in the yard and I threw the tennis ball for five or so minutes (which is about as long as she is usually willing to play that game). I'm hoping that is a sign that she's ready to become part of the family/pack again.
My sister, Amy, came out to visit us over Memorial Day again this year. Or, maybe she just came out for BratFest and we're convenient and cheap lodging. Hmmm....
Regardless, we had fun going places and doing things with her as company. Unfortunately, the weather was quite unseasonably warm for May (90+° F with higher than normal humidity), so maybe we weren't outside quite as much as might otherwise have been. On the Sunday before Memorial Day, Sarah ran a 10K here in Madison, and afterwards, we all piled into the car and headed for Milwaukee. The theory was that the weather would be more tolerable inside the car (with air conditioning), than out on a hiking or biking trail. The plan was to head to Milwaukee, pick up something to eat, and then check out an exhibit at the Milwaukee Art Museum (which would also be air conditioned). We got to Milwaukee, and picked up a picnic lunch at the new Milwaukee Public Market. Once we had our lunch in hand, we headed for the lakeshore parks. That turned out to be a great idea as it was a very pleasant 73°F on the shore of Lake Michigan with sunny skies, a pleasant breeze, and a kite festival to provide entertainment. We really enjoyed our time on the lakeshore, even when a kite piloted by a small child crashed into our little picnic. After our picnic, we walked down the lakeshore to the Museum and took in the exhibit. At that point, it was time to head back to Madison to take care of Dalla.
It is at this point that I should reveal that neither of my traveling companions really understand the basic concepts of the road trip. In my experience and understanding, all members of the road tripping team, minus the driver, should not sleep for the majority of the trip, in both directions. Unfortunately, that is what happened on our road trip. I did all the driving, and Sarah and Amy did all the sleeping. I gave them a deservedly hard time about that.
What would Memorial Day in Madison be without BratFest? Was there life before BratFest? Scientists are still investigating that question. This year, BratFest added beer to the menu, which is about time given our states reputation for alcohol consumption, especially beer. Fortunately, the event was still very family friendly and I didn't see a single person wandering around who had had too much to drink. For the record, I ate six brats over the course of the weekend. Amy ate six; Sarah had maybe three (counting one veggie brat). And yet, we still failed to eat more than 200,000 brats as a community.
Over Memorial Day weekend I made my first cheese. My boss and I have been discussing the fine art of cheese making and we both decided to take the plunge. He's a bit more dedicated to the cause, and has produced a wider variety of cheeses in greater numbers than I have so far. However, I did finally get around to producing my first cheese which was a mozzarella that I made out of a gallon of cream-line whole milk that I purchased at the Farmer's Market. If you've never made cheese before, I highly recommend the experience. It is really amazing to watching the milk curdle just so, and then, out of nowhere, curds rise to the surface and whey is left in the pan. I used too much rennet in my first batch, so it resembled something more like commercial pizza mozzarella, when what I was going for was a texture closer to fresh mozzarella. However, I know what I did wrong, so I can adjust and try again. For my next cheese, I'll probably try fromage blanc, which is a soft spreadable cheese that takes more time, but less labor.
I should mention that I now have a fancypants spell checker plugin for my web browser, so you should expect misspellings on this site to go down. That does not mean, however, that overall lucidity will go up.
Finally, I had my first Wisconsin-grown strawberry of the season today. It was mouth-wateringly good.