Processing Oats

I've always thought of oats, or any grains for that matter, to be one of the least processed food stuffs. Some form of grain is at the base of most diets around the world. You can imagine my surprise, then, when I found that getting oats from the stalk to my belly to be such an ordeal.

Step 1: Harvesting - I first attempted pulling up the whole stalk (or cutting it off low to the ground). To separate the grains from the stalk, I tried whacking the stalks around in a big bucket. A few grains were freed, but the majority stayed on. I ended up having to run my fingers down each stalk to free the grains, much like you get the thyme leaves from the stem. For my second field, I bypassed pulling up the whole stalk and instead just did the seed pinch thing with the stalks still in the ground.

Step 2: Separating Seed from Hull - (I know I am using the incorrect terms all over the place here, but hopefully you will still get the point) So when an oat comes off the stalk, it has a papery hull on it. You're not supposed to eat this part. To separate it, I first tried rubbing between my hands (as if you were warming your hands). This worked pretty well, but many seeds still had their hulls, apparently because they were dried out well enough. To remedy this, I put them in the oven for 20 minutes on low heat. This dried them out sufficiently to be able to disengage the seed from the hull, again via the hand warming method.

Step 3: Filtering Chaff from Seed - Now that the seeds and hull were not connected, I needed to actually separate them. This is possibly the most ingenious part of the process to me. Since the seeds are a good deal heavier than the papery hulls, a good cross-wind will aid in the separating. I used a fan to keep a constant airflow.

After all this processing, I ended up with maybe 2 quarts of oat seed. Thinking about how much effort went into preparing the soil, obtaining and planting the seed, harvesting, and processing, I have a much better appreciation of all grains. I realize, of course, that using a machine to do all the work makes it significantly easier (and arguably more efficient). That said, however, there was a time that combines didn't exist and people did it by hand. In those days, the work equal to a bowl of oatmeal was nothing to sneeze at.

Future Step 4: Maybe Another Separating Step? - So now I've got a bunch of seeds. I thought I was done. The seed that is remaining, however, is still in 2 parts, one kind of enveloping the other. I might need to separate those from each other, but I don't know.

Future Step 5: Making the Seeds Usable - Most of us are used to oats as rolled oats or steel cut oats for oatmeal. It turns out that rolling oats is really hard (needs a big old machine) and I have no idea what steel cutting is, except maybe just cutting somewhat regularly. I'm thinking that the most accessible way to prepare my oats for my belly is to grind it into oat flour. From there, I'm sure there is something I can come up with.
Wednesday October 21 2009File under: food

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Anacortes Pictures (through the eyes of a visitor)

I know Anacortes is a beautiful place. Seeing it through the eyes of a visitor always serves as a pretty good reminder, though. Julie, the visitor, also happens to be a bit of a shutterbug. She took these photos and agreed to let me make a post out of it. Enjoy!


Monday October 19 2009File under: Anacortes, pics

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The Lion Juggles Tonight

I recently had my on stage solo juggling debut at this month's Vaudevillingham. I overcame my persistent reluctance to perform on stage by making the act to be more about the music, costume, and props than about what I actually did. It sure does take the pressure off.

The place was packed probably past capacity which only added to the intimidation factor, but that's okay. I would be lyin' if I said I killed it, but the audeince roared with laughter and appreciation a few times. Not bad for a debut. And if it wasn't for the costume being borrowed and Vaudevillingham's rule against performing an act more than one time, I might be able to work out the kinks and turn it into a really neat act. Maybe if I can find another venue...

Here is another picture of me on stage. I saw someone got some video of the show, so maybe I'll be able to track down a clip and post it (because the music really adds to the whole gag. The juggling...not so much).
Friday October 16 2009File under:

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FC 85 - Getting From Heeah to Theah

It's kind of funny how much drawing time goes into background elements. "Yeah", I think, "I could probably leave the wall blank, but it just doesn't sit well with me. Sure, I'll just throw some picture frames up there. Oh, those picture frames now need pictures. There went another hour."

But it's good. It gives me practice drawing things not too precisely*. I've been trying to use clip art and cut and paste less recently, as the pros don't do that, but I did go and grab that pretty kitty from the internet (although with a tweak to the direction she is looking).

Anyway, just another interesting tidbit from the world of comic drawing through the eyes of yours truly*.
Thursday October 15 2009File under: comic

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Wedding Pics

Katy and Jule tied the knot this weekend over in Spokane. It was a lovely ceremony, a great time with friends and family, and a rockin' party afterwards. There was a good turn out of people to wish them the best, with a spirit of support and love all around.

For those of you that couldn't make it, here are a few of the pictures I took.


Monday October 12 2009File under: pics

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FC 84 - A Personal Aroma Calling Card

I know you've all been anxiously awaiting the stink lines that I promised a couple of weeks ago. And since I am a man* of my word, here you go. The stink lines didn't turn out great, but hopefully they convey the idea appropriately enough.

So I was going to use my name instead of "Mike" because I have noticed that dogs tend to recognize me earlier leading to less barking when I've just come from frisbee or wearing clothes for the 3rd day in a row. It has proven to be very convenient, actually. But when my comic goes international*, people won't get it. They might not even get that it is a name or whatever. So I went with Mike, not because I think this applies to any Mike that I know, but because it is a good universally recognized name. (I bet you didn't realize so much planning and scheming went into my comics, didja?)
Friday October 9 2009File under: comic

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Plants Grow

Back in May, I embarked on a little experiment. I planted oats (remember?). The skeptical among you might be saying to yourselves, "That doesn't sound like much of an experiment." To that I say, "Please save your questions until I'm finished."* The premise of my experiment was this: plants grow. That's what they are programmed to do. All this micro-managing that we impose on our growing of plants helps increase yield, allows us to grow plants not well-suited for our climate, etc. but my theory is that it isn't necessary. If you put some seeds in the ground and walk away, they will grow.

I'm pleased to report that my oats did just that. Despite having one of the longest rain-less periods in years, my oats, which I didn't weed, water, or fertilize, grew just fine. Had I done any of the above, I'm sure they would have grown better, but without doing anything, I still produced a yield. And while I'm sure this plant-and-walk-away method won't work for every crop, it works for oats here in the Northwest.

This concept, that plants grow, really makes me happy for some reason. It reminds me that many things in life are often much simpler than we are taught. It makes food production accessible to me, even though I may not be willing to devote 2 hours every other day to its pursuit. It reinforces that biology hasn't been completely reversed with all our fancy cross-breeding and specializations. Basically, I just think it is neat.

Now what to do with the oats? Stay tuned and you will see.
Thursday October 8 2009File under: food, misc

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Kinetics in Port Townsend

This weekend, I cruised on through Port Townsend to check out their much talked about kinetic sculpture race, basically human powered sculptures that have to navigate road, sea, and mud but somehow put the majority of the focus on showmanship. Luck would have it that I missed out on seeing the race and instead had to settle for the tail end of a parade and the safety check, but I wasn't disappointed.

The entries(/sculptures/racers?) were pretty dang cool, both with creative decoration and sometimes creative propulsion, like this vehicle that is powered by the driver essentially bobbing up and down. You can tell that all the participants put a lot of time into their creations, whether they looked race worthy or not.

The theme for the event was something to do with Alice in Wonderland*. People dressed up, many of the entries were themed, there were tea parties in the street, etc. From the brief exposure I had to the whole thing*, it seemed that just as much focus is placed on the non-racing participants (judges, supporters, general crowd, etc.) as on the racers themselves. Basically it was just a big happy creative event. I'm glad I got a peek.
Saturday October 3 2009File under: events, misc

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FC 83 - We Demand Total Coverage

Buried deep within this comic, there are some hints as to my thoughts on the current health care reform debate, most specifically the insurance portion of it*. But I went through various revisions of this until I found a framing/wording that made it less of an editorial comic than an attempt at being funny. I hope I did well enough that you chuckled rather than felt whatever editorial comics are supposed to make you feel*.

The drawing of this comic, however, took much longer than usual*. Luckily it is a labor of love, both for comics in general, but also circus-y stuff. If a protest like this was happening, I would turn out just to see the show. Hmmm...maybe that is a possible revenue stream for my circus performing buddies - a way to bring attention to a client's rally or protest. Who knows if that would be breaking moral bounds by joining a protest you didn't believe in just because they gave you money. I suppose being a performer's agent to organize something like that would be seedier still. Alas.
Thursday October 1 2009File under: comic

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Worlds Fastest Knot

So as anyone who has crossed paths with me for more than 10 minutes in the past 3 years probably already knows, I'm big into so-called flying knots. I find them a great diversion for my ever fidgeting hands and they occasionally impress people to boot*. Occasionally, when I am practicing my knot tricks, someone gets inspired enough to want to learn. There isn't a whole lot of material out there to point them to and many of the tricks take more instruction than can be given in a brief 5-minute interaction.

The excitement people get when they do learn one of the tricks got me thinking about wanting to find a way to share these tricks with people in a more effective manner. Since I dabble in comic drawing, I thought maybe doing a little diagram/instructional thing might be a fun exercise. It turns out it was! So if you want to learn how to tie the world's fastest knot, check this out.

Hopefully I will put together a few more of these, maybe enough to fill a small educational pamphlet. Then everywhere I go, people will be throwing flying knots and giggling with glee. That way I won't be the only giggling knot thrower out there. Tee hee.
Wednesday September 30 2009File under: misc, juggling

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