Source: Our Pond and Wet Meadow
The weather forecast was for a miserable cold rainy day followed by a typically Canadian abrupt switch to summer. The high was a mere 12C (54F) for the day I decide to bake but only two days later the forecast high was 27C (81F). I decided it was a good day to get ahead on home baked bread. This would heat our little house without using the furnace so the heat would serve two uses on a cold day. Plus making my own bread costs a small fraction of buying store bought bread.
I bake my own bread for many reason. I started when I lived in a rural community where fresh bread was hard to come by without a long trip to the grocery store. In those days I had no machine to knead the bread and it was a chore. I quit when we left the farm and I went back to work. A few years later the local kosher bakery closed up and I was given a bread maker. On top of that, hubby dearest was told to go on a no salt diet and commercial bread is very high salt. I started using the bread maker. It was perfect for a busy career woman. Set it up on a timer in the morning and at supper walk in to the smell of fresh bread. The bread maker worked very well but….
Bread makers don’t seem to bake evenly. In such a small batch the variations of any batch of bread that have to do with moisture in the flour, temperatures, yeast and so forth get really magnified. You can get a bad “batch” often enough to be annoying and to feel the bread maker is unreliable. I eventually settled on using a Kitchen Aide with a dough hook for the kneading part. I make a four loaf double batch which is far more forgiving of subtle variations compared to the one loaf bread maker. It is a lot easier to get consistently good bread. I also like to make my loaves small so hubby dearest can have a two small slices of bread with crust all around rather than one huge slice produced by the bread machine which has to be cut in half and which will fall apart far more easily. I initially began giving up the bread maker by letting the bread maker do the kneading and then moving the dough to my own bowl and pan. With the Kitchen Aide the bread maker sat idle enough I eventually gave it away.
This particular day I make four double batches of our favourite types of bread. They all ended up in the freezer to be taken out and used on one of those hot summer days when the last thing I want to do is be baking bread.
Batch one is my husband’s special favourite which I can’t stand. It is dark pumpernickel with cocoa, instant coffee and dark rye flour. We both like sesame and poppy seeds so I almost always do an egg wash and add these on the outside. (One advantage off doing four double batches is one egg was enough for all the loaves.) This bread also has a hefty dose of caraway seed. As you can see, someone stole a piece before I got these loaves into the freezer. I don’t think it was one of the dogs although they have been known to sneak a whole loaf. This is my own recipe
1 ¼ water
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1/3 cup molasses
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup dark rye flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 ½ cups bread flour
3 tablespoons gluten
3 tablespoons baking cocoa
1 tablespoon caraway seed
1 tsp instant coffee
2 teaspoon bread machine or quick active dry yeast
In addition to poppy and sesame seeds I also top with oatmeal flakes and corn meal and small sprinkling of additional caraway seeds.
The second batch I made was a light rye bread. The recipe is from CooksRecipes.com originally.
Light Rye Bread
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon canola or vegetable oil
2 1/4 cups unbleached white bread flour
3/4 cup rye flour
2 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon stone ground corn meal
2 teaspoons caraway seeds
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
The third batch of bread was honey, oatmeal, whole wheat bread, my own favourite.
Honey Oatmeal Whole Wheat
1 1/2 cup warm water
2 tablespoon margarine
4 cups while wheat bread flour
1/4 cup honey
1 teaspoons salt
1 cup dry oatmeal flakes
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
And the final two loaves are the special braided Sabbath egg bread called challah.
1 1/2 cup warm water
1/4 cup olive oil
6 cups unbleached white bread flour (approx you may need more or less to get the tight texture)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
3 whole eggs
I normally try to bake challah each Friday so we always have two fresh warm challah for the sabbath. Life doesn’t always cooperate so we have two pairs of emergency challah in the freezer.
All fourteen loaves (less one slice) were double wrapped and slipped into the freezer for future use. We normally use about two loaves a week so I should not have to bake bread again (except for Friday Challah) until midsummer.
There is something mystical and connected about making homemade bread. Even though I let the machine do most of the kneading I do get to handle the dough, work it my hands and feel the connection to our earth home. Baking bread becomes an exercise in philosophy, meditation and prayer. And is there anything to compare with the sweet scent of homemade bread? Homemade bread makes a house a home and sanctifies a holiday. It was a perfect way to pass a cold miserable day and prepare for summer.
I have been watching the posts from southern gardener friends with great envy. Some of them are already getting fresh beans and greens! I live just a bit to the south of the 51st parallel and winter has barely left. My plants are still in the greenhouse. The locals say you cannot put out bedding plants until either the big northern geese have continued on north or until the first full moon in June. I learned the hard way my first year here that you can’t rush the bedding plants.
This year I cut back on my ambition and started only tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini and eggplant indoors under a grow light. As soon as the daytime got warm enough I moved the plants outdoors into my mini greenhouse. I have replanted everything I started from seed into larger containers. At night if the temperature is supposed to go below freezing I put a small electric oil filled heater in set on law. If it is going to snow or get below freezing even daytime (which can happen here even in May) the plants are moved indoors and back under the grow lights for a while. As you can see, my favourite container is the tall yogurt one. It is sturdy, flexible and just the right depth for encouraging deep roots. We have long spells of hot dry weather followed by monsoon prairie downpours. Deep roots are really important for survival under our demanding conditions. It will be another three or maybe even four weeks before these plants will be planted out in the garden.
Today I moved the zucchini plants into their final container. I will set these out in the yard and let them grow. Last year I got an enormous crop of zucchini from pots and I hoping for one this year. However, I can’t relax yet. Though it is a lovely 22C (72F) right now, the forecast for tomorrow night is below zero and flurries. In spring, I get my exercise carrying pots in and out of the house. The first hard frost does not generally show up until late September here at the 51st parallel but we have gotten them as early as midAugust. Sometimes I am carrying pots in and out again in early fall. For really tender plants like zucchini I find big pots work best. If you plant in the garden you will get zucchini only in some years when conditions are right.
Two years ago I planted a raspberry cane. I haven’t gotten much fruit in those two years but the plants have grown like crazy and spread, as I hoped they would. We want the raspberries to eventually fill the space between the sump pump pipe and the rainwater pipe. Maybe this year we will get enough fruit to do more than taste. I made sure to get a local hardy variety that can take our extremely cold winters.
My strawberries I started last year all survived. I planted three varieties, one June, and two ever-bearing. Last year we had about five strawberries. This year I am hoping for more. I am also hoping to create second box for more strawberry plants off runners.
This is my herb box. It has oregano and sage from last year and lemon balm. I also tried an experiment. I started onions (light green top) and garlic (lower darker green single stalks) from seed produced in my garden last year. I collected the seed. I started it indoors in a couple of pots. Garlic and onions are tough and take the cold so I have already planted those into my herb box. The onions were far more prolific in coming up. I will thin those and use the thinned plants for greens as the season progresses. I have lots of large garlic that survived the winter so I will leave these tiny garlic for next year. I will also be planting some parsley and cilantro. Last year the parsley and cilantro survived the winter and I didn’t have to plant again. This year was not so lucky.
My chives are from my first year and they are doing very well. I have one flower formed. In a couple of more weeks it will be covered in lovely blooms. We have already been enjoying fresh chives in salad.
Rhubarb is another plant that does well in our northern garden. I use rhubarb for juice and pies and as fruit bits in muffins, sweet breads and cakes. It also freezes very well. Sliced and frozen on a cookie sheet and then loose packed in a bag, we can enjoy a taste of spring in winter. Rhubarb is extremely tart and so I typically blend it with other fruit. These plants were already in my garden when I moved in but they are small. The previous owner did not like rhubarb and mowed them every chance he got. Last year I got enough rhubarb for only one single pie. You can only harvest about half the stalks once they are fully out. I made Rhuberry (rhubarb and strawberry) pie with store bought strawberries. My husband declared it the best pie he had ever had. Maybe this year I will get enough strawberries and rhubarb to make one from entirely from my own produce. We shall see. Rhuberry jam is another special favourite of mine but these plants will have to grow a lot more before I can do that again.
Horse radish is one of our northern treats. I planted two plants two years ago. One plant has taken off and is doing very well. The second plant is unhappy and I don’t know why. It barely puts its head up. I have not yet been able to use my own horse radish roots. Fortunately my neighbour has been very generous with hers which are well established and many years old. And of course dandelions are blooming everywhere now.
Last year I planted Saskatoons. These are northern natives small trees/large bushes. They produce a small blueberry size dark purple fruit. They grow wild everywhere around here but each patch has a jealous guardian and it is considered the height of unneighbourly behaviour to pick from someone else’s patch, and unless you are a bear, you will be chased away. I purchased five little trees last year. The Saskatoon is a close relative of the apple tree and should grow into a hardy apple tree sized bush that will have white blossoms in spring and will produce abundant fruit about the end of June. The taste of the berries is halfway between apple and blue berry. These berries freeze and can beautifully, and make great jam, jellies and pies. They are also one of the reasons people were able to settle in the north. The berries are exceptionally high in vitamin C and when dried and pounded into powder, the powder retains much of its vitamin C. If you mix one part dried Saskatoons with two parts dried powdered lean game meat and stick it together in with some grease or fat, you have traditional pemmican. Pemmican is a perfect food for humans containing every nutrient we need to stay healthy and it will keep for years. Without pemmican, Canada would not have been settled. All five of my teeny Saskatoons survived the winter. It will be few years before I can look forward to harvesting my own. Until then I will have to beg to be permitted to go berry picking with a generous neighbour.
Sorry about the fuzzy picture but this is tamarack. Again a native tree, this looks like an evergreen tree but in the fall turns golden and then drops its needle like leaves. I had a low wet spot in the yard where the preexisting evergreen had died from drowning. Last year I pulled it up and went hunting for a tamarack to put in its place. Tamaracks can grow in the nastiest wet marshy soggy soil. I found this little one in a ditch outside of town in an area that gets mowed for hay. I transplanted it before haying season and it is coming back. If I can avoid mowing it, the tamarack should one day be big enough to fill in the holes in my windbreak where the ground is so soggy.
I have the loveliest perennial garden. I can take no credit for it. It came with the house but I love it. The one daffodil I saw bloomed this year. Right now the violets are blooming. I will soon have tulips and columbine. After that come lilies of assorted types and colours and Canada anemones. Later into year it will have delphiniums and other late season flowers. If I can keep the grass out, I will enjoy blooms all season. The previous gardener was a clever lady and planted the perennial flower bed with both local native plants and hardy exotics. I am trying my best to preserve her delightful legacy. Last fall I added a bunch of tulip blooms and they are coming up among the older tulips. I plan to add more daffodils this fall.
The grass has needed its first mowing and it is full of this little lovely, creeping charlie. I know most gardeners abhor creeping charlie but I like it.It has lovely little purple blooms all summer, it grows in places the grass doesn’t like and it does not need mowing. It happily accepts trampling and traffic. If my entire lawn were taken over by creeping charlie I would be delighted. Right now it has a lot of strong reddish colour. Every spring we have high UV in May. The annual ozone northern hole means we get a lot of UV. The native plants adjust without a problem. Bedding plants need to be exposed gradually by a couple of hours a day or they get sunburnt.
My vegetable garden is not yet started beyond a few onions and some garlic. It is simply too soon to seed anything. The packages say you can plant as soon as the ground can be worked but it really isn’t so in the north. If you plant too soon, the plants come up scraggly and miserable and don’t produce much. So this time of year you just rototill every week or so to kill the native weeds and remind yourself you need to wait. At least this makes the robins happy. The know what a rototiller sounds like and congregate nearby eagerly awaiting my departure after which the dirt gets thoroughly inspected for bugs. I will plant cold hardy seeds that can take a freeze next weekend on the Victoria Day Weekend in Canada. Anything cold fragile will have to wait until that full moon in June.
Today the sunrise was at 5:49am and sunset and the sun will set at 9:40pm. We have very long days in spring and they will be even longer come June. This means that once the stuff is actually in the ground and growing, it will grow much faster than my southern neighbour’s can boast. By the end of July you would be hard pressed to tell my garden is so far north. It will be all caught up.
That is where my garden is today. Northern gardening requires rethinking and more planning but it can be just as bountiful and rewarding as southern gardening.
Where is your garden at these days?
I finished recounting our trip home. We are now comfortably settled in our little house on the prairie and I am back to being a retired stay at home grandma type. So until next trip, my posts will reflect that part of my life. We live simply and frugally.
As a society we have become more and more dependant on Big Food to provide us with ready made meals. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this. Moms these days often have two or three jobs including raising children. There is nothing wrong with trading a little money for some convenience and time. The problem is sometimes the skills we once learned from our mothers and grandmothers get lost. So this blog is for the young woman I met in the store who was buying cut up chicken and soup base and complaining to me that she just couldn’t get soup and stew to turn out like her Grandma made it and it was costing her a fortune. My recipe is for two-three people using a small crock pot so if you have a bigger family you may want to increase the size.
Step one is the chicken parts. I buy whole fresh chickens and cut them up myself. This works for us because my husband likes dark meat and I like light meat so very little is wasted. I prepare packages of half a breast and a thigh and leg in small packets and freeze them. If the “three-fresh-chicken” packs are on sale, I’ll buy those. I will put all the wings in one bag and we will have hot wings one night. In this case, single chickens were on sale and only one was left at the store. After I cut up the chicken I ended up with the back, ribs and wings in one packet. If you don’t buy whole chicken you could use any chicken parts. Back and ribs typically sell for very cheap.
Broth base requires not just chicken but some vegetable and herbs. I root around in my fridge and find whatever I can that is older. In this case I used grated carrot, chopped onions, and some herbs from my freezer. Each year I “put by” celery, cilantro, parsley and young greens from thinning garden rows. I simply wash them thoroughly, drain the water, and put them on a cookie sheet and freeze them. I then put the frozen herbs in freezer backs, loose pack. I can them use them for cooking. The green in this picture are celery leaves, turnip greens and parsley. I like the grated carrot because not only does it give a nice flavour, the carotene adds a nice rich colour. You can use fresh celery and/or dried herbs instead.
This step is one that requires patience and oil. The whole thing has to gently fry in order to brown the chicken and the vegetables. This step can’t be rushed. If you have the heat to high it will be burn instead of brown. If you don’t do it for long enough, you won’t get the essential brownings that are the real base of the broth. I tend to put this to brown and do the dishes and tidy up the kitchen, pausing to stir it around as it browns. It may need a little more vegetable oil depending on how fatty your chicken it. In this image you see browning about half done. it should take 30 minutes to get the chicken browned and the vegetables cooked.
I like to do anything that requires a long slow cooking in my crock pot. It saves power and looks neat and the inner crock can go right on the table as a serving dish. When the browning is done, everything goes into the crock pot. I also add a dash of salt and a teaspoon of sugar. Adding the salt and sugar chances the osmolarity of the water during cooking so that juices are drawn out and shared in the broth. I know everything these days is about the dangers of salt and sugar, but honestly, it just tastes so much better and we eat very low salt generally so the extra favour is worth it, especially compared to the amount of salt in a typical purchased can of broth. If you like things like pearl barley or lentils and beans that are dried, this is where you would add them.
The next step both enriches the broth and saves time with the crock pot. One of things that drives me bonkers about the crock pot is that it takes forever to heat up. This means if I don’t get around to getting the soup on until after lunch it won’t have enough cooking time. This step gives me a little more flexibility in addition to flavour. I used a nonstick pan to brown but I still have a sticky mess in the bottom of the pan. So I add just enough water to cover.
I bring the liquid up to a boil. I scrape the simmering water and the brown stuff comes up. I then dump this hot water with the pan leavings into the crock pot. I repeat this until the pan is almost clean and there is enough liquid in the pot to continue simmering. Because the water goes into the pot already hot, the crock pot doesn’t take hours to heat. Plus the pan goes into the dishwater practically already clean.
The last step is to boil some water in the kettle and top up the whole pile in the crock pot with boiling water. I then let the broth simmer until the chicken is falling apart. Depending on your crock pot and how much you started with, your time will vary. In my small crock pot, and starting with hot water, it takes about two hours on high or five to six hours on low setting. Once the chicken is falling apart, I lift out the pieces of chicken with a slotted spoon and separate meat from bones. The meat goes back into the pot and I discard the bones.
The broth can be home canned or frozen at this point, if you want to use it for later.
Using the broth for soup:
For soup, you may wish to strain out the cooking vegetables. Some people strain out the cooking vegetables and puree them and add them back in. After this much cooking they won’t add much flavour back in. I usually just leave the cooking vegetables in the broth as is unless I had some thick older stringy type greens. Those I discard with the bones. I then add additional vegetables we like such as potatoes in chunks, carrots, beans, broccoli, squash, or whatever I have handy and simmer until the vegetables are tender but not cooked to mush.
Using the broth for stew:
To turn the broth into a thick stew you need to add about a quarter cup of flour mixed with a cup of cold water. I put flour and water in a jar and shake well before adding. Let it come back to a simmer and it will thicken. You can top it with dumplings.
Using the broth for chowder:
To make a rich chowder, add finely grated potato with the cut up vegetables and let it come back to a boil.
This recipe also works for fish. When I buy fish I have the fish monger fillet it for me but I ask to keep the bones, skin and head and use this same technique to make fish chowder.
Comments? Can I improve? Do you do something similar? Do you have any tips for me? I would love to hear from you.
We left Sioux City north and drove up I29. This has to be the most boring stretch of highway in North America. Miles and miles and miles of nothing. We had some luck in the city of Sioux Falls. We got a recommendation from a store clerk in Staples for a grocery store big on ethnic food. We arrived to find enough kosher-for-passover items that we were able to stock up for the whole eight days. On arrival in Sisseton the folks at Camp Dakota were welcoming as they had been last year and we set up. Our host for tomorrow’s visit, Sister Patrice Colette met us and we had dinner at the nearby Casino. Profits from the Casino go right back into the tribe including the school we were going to be presenting at. We had an excellent meal and turned in early. Sister was going to be picking us up at 6:30am. We fell asleep to the sound of enormous flocks of starlings and black birds feasting on the remnants of last year’s corn crop in the adjacent field.
The school we were going to visit is the Tiospa Zina Tribal School of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Dakota Reservation. Last year we presented to the class and then got a tour of the band offices. This year we spent the entire school day participating and visiting. This was our second stop as visiting scientists and much as I enjoyed the first visit last year, this one went even better. Our day started out with breakfast at the school. All students get a nutritious start to their day. Breakfast was scrambled egg omelet with cheese filling, bacon (which we skipped), vegetables and fruit. Cereal was available, as was milk, but not as the main item and not many kids picked those for breakfast.
After breakfast we attended a ceremony to start the academic day. This included a drum circle and songs in Dakota. I saw a lot of older students watching out for and caring for younger students. Our conference was interrupted by a break for school awards for excellent work, for personal improvement, for good attendance an to announce successes students had outside the school. Students not only got nice little printed certificates. They got something I never got in school, which was nice crisp new bills as cash awards. There was strong emphasis on personal responsibility, duty to the tribe and community as a whole and respect for elders and each other in the ceremony. Everyone helped clear up when the award ceremony was finished.
Officially we were there as keynote speakers for a science conference. The student prepared in advance and then I presented on sea turtles, their embryology, evolution, the dangers they face and how people can help them. Hubby dearest presented his latest research on the original of life in our universe and slipped in a talk about the age of the universe and powers of ten. We closed off our presentations by giving the students chunks of marine fossils in soft sandstone. Their objective was to break out a fossil and use Google and some books to identify what the fossil was. And they succeeded. We have done many of these classroom visits to schools over the years. In this school we were delighted to find curious minds, intense interest, and well thought out questions. We were not just questioned about the science itself. We were questioned about important practical things like how do you balance work and family and why did we become scientists. We were not once subjected to snarky misbehaviour or nasty background tomfoolery that has happened to us in other schools.
We learned a lot too, getting a glimpse into the life of students at the tribal school. Manitoba already has powerful connections to this reserve because they are related to the Dakota people on the reserve south of Portage LaPrairie and many of the students have family in Canada that come and visit them or they come and visit in South Dakota. The Manitoba connections made us feel right at home.
We left Sisseton feeling very positive and began the last leg of our journey. We made a brief stop in Fargo to buy lefse. Lefse is a traditional food of my father’s Scandinavian ancestors, far better than lutefisk and it is not readily available in stores. Additionally, making it from scratch produces a lot of smoke so I had to give up doing it myself due to my asthma. At Freddy’s we picked up enough fresh frozen to last us and our family members to the next trip to North Dakota.
Our original plan was to stop at a state park on the border with Canada. I had checked the webpage and it said the campground was open. I called the park and I got an answering machine message that cheerfully declared the campground was open and if we needed fresh water we could get it at the ranger station. When we arrived it was different story. As it turned out, the only camping available was walk in winter camping and the roads and campsites were under too much snow to even think of driving in with a truck and trailer. We were subjected to a particularly stupid bureaucrat/ranger who seemed to think we were the stupid ones for not knowing all that in spite of what their message said. I politely suggested the message be changed to better reflect reality. Each time I said that, I was told why I was so stupid for thinking I could get the camper into the park in March. Eventually we gave up and left, muttering imprecations about how government seems to attract a larger proportion of particularly stupid people as employees than other organizations.
We were about three and a half hours from home and it was 3:00pm. We got waved through at the border by the cheerful guard. We stopped to stock up on groceries in the Winkler just over the border. We then just kept driving. We pulled into our driveway at our little house on the northern prairie. To our relief the driveway had been thoughtfully cleared of ice and snowdrifts by a neighbour for our return. It was SO good to be home. We found our house exactly as we had left it except for some extra cobwebs. Our migration was complete.
According to Google we traveled over 2300 miles. If we had driven nonstop, the trip would have taken a mere 37 hours. We took 35 days, most days did not drive more than three hours and stayed for at least two days at each stop. It was easily our best trip yet! The birds were even slower than us. It was two more weeks before the birds we left in South Dakota showed up. They were the smart ones. There was a blizzard between our arrival home and their return to the north.
Our next drive was a longer one. We were now far enough north that it made sense to put in a longer drive and make some progress. There were no more government associated campground to go to. We were limited to a very few private ones that are opened year around. We decided we were going to check out a state park in South Dakota that was supposedly open. We have done that before and arrived to find that while the campground is technically open in March, there is no running water or dump site and the campsites are under several feet of snow. Our original plan was to drive to this state park and if it was unsuitable continue on to the Sioux City North KOA. There just one small problem. I misread the map and mixed up Sioux City North and Sioux Falls and the KOA came up first. We were both tired. We decided that since this KOA is a familiar and comfortable place, one that we stop at practically every trip, we would just turn in. We would try out the state park the next night. When we checked in, we discovered we had a $25 credit with KOA for our first night. We had also stopped at this particular KOA enough times to have earned a second free night on their own private promotional special. It worked out to $12 for two nights in a full service campsite and it just too tempting to turn down. We decided to skip the state park altogether.
We had a quiet two days. I spent most of my time preparing my talk for our next stop. We had both been invited to speak at Tiospa Zina Tribal School in Sisseton South Dakota. We had emails going back and forth with our host about content and preparations for our visit. We took one long walk on the walk past the campground because the weather was lovely. We had some friends call to announce they would come to visit us for Passover in Alonsa. It was a delightful treat to hear from them and we were happy about having company for Passover. I began planning putting on a full seder. This did leave us with the question of where to get enough Passover supplies to put on decent seder on the trip between here and home. There are not exactly a lot of Jews in North and South Dakota and rural Manitoba. Too bad we hadn’t known one day before as we drove right past Omaha, Nebraska, which is something of a kosher food grand central station. Much of the kosher beef used in New York comes out of a facility in Omaha.
We pulled out after two days. I had my presentation prepared and we set out for Sisseton SD, still wondering where we might find Kosher food for our Passover meal.
Here is my review of the Sioux City North KOA:
One of the few campground open year round in the north this is a standard KOA with a better than usual store. We seem to always end up back here going north or south from Canada. WIFI is excellent. staff are wonderful. They have specials to encourage people to return. You can buy propane and the laundry is clean and big. Some permanent residents but it’s neat and clean. A better than average KOA. Office closes at 6:00pm promptly. This KOA is in town at the edge of north Sioux City and right off the interstate so traffic and city noise is a problem.
We left Cherryvale and headed north hoping to get to our next stop before any of the predicted severe weather started. During our discussions with the electrician who came to fix our site’s broken 30amp connection, we got a recommendation to check out Kansas RV Centre in Canute. We were promised lots of parts at reasonable prices. That’s what we found. In spite of impending stormy weather we ended up spending an hour checking out stuff and, to our delight, we found replacement covers for our RV light covers that had cracked, larger size chocks, and a new housing for our truck’s electrical receiver. We couldn’t resist having a look at some of the newer RVs even though we are not ready for a new one. Still it was a treat. We headed north with the sky turning an ominous churning grey.
We pulled into the the Topeka Kansas KOA with no small amount of relief. The owner was on duty and he welcomed us warmly and soon we were set up in a site with directions for what to do if we needed to be safe from severe weather. People from Oklahoma and Kansas do not fool around with severe weather. The campground has a big barn with a shelter in the basement. We didn’t do much in Topeka. It rained and rained and rained almost from when we got set up until we left.
One thing we found really frustrating was that it was cool but when we tried to start our furnace it wouldn’t fire up. Fortunately we had our electric blanket and electric oil filled space heaters. I made a loaf of bread and the little stove top electric oven also provides a lot of heat. Redundancy paid off again. We had cable at the KOA so I left it on the Weather Channel while I tried to figure out what the problem was. Getting at the furnace was tricky. I hadn’t ever tried it before because gas stuff is scary. The furnace was hidden under the fridge area. I found a great video that showed me how to get at my furnace. I was able to see by the trouble shooting lights the problem was air access. I also found layers and layers of dust and dog fur. It was almost like a mat of felt it was so thick. Ugh! I diligently and carefully cleaned and vacuumed and held my breath and tried the furnace….and nothing happened. ARRG!! We called a couple of repair places and it looked like this was going to be a major job costing major bucks. Since we had electric back up, we decided to leave it until we were home at our own dealer we trust. I took advantage of my frustration to do a whole bunch of long overdue cleaning elsewhere in the trailer.
As it turned out we did not need to test the KOA’s storm shelter. There were warnings about severe weather west, east, and south of us but nothing closer than a couple of miles away. I was very glad we had decided to move here. The only thing I didn’t like was that I felt really hemmed in. After all the long lazy days in national forest, state parks, and army corp campsites the close proximity of spaces in the KOA felt claustrophobic, a feeling enhanced by pouring rain.
The second morning we packed up and left for our next stop in South Dakota. To our astonishment and delight, on arrival in South Dakota the furnace cheerful fired up working beautifully as if nothing had happened. I have no explanation. I will guess it was clogged with dust and dog hair and that blocked the intake and it remained blocked until another road trip knocked stuff around and it unstuck. It may be the furnace has some kind of reset that needed to occur by going off shore power and then going back on. Whatever the reason, we were delighted to have our furnace working and I leaned over and I apologized for neglecting it and promised the furnace that from now on, I would be cleaning the cabinet of all dust and dog hair on a regular basis.
This is my review of the Topeka City KOA
We stayed here two days during a period of foul weather, severe storms nearby, high winds and rain all day. This KOA has a big red barn with a basement severe storm shelter which is why we picked it. There is a row of permanent residents but those campers are well kept and seemed to consist of young families with school age children. It felt very park like and safe. The office is only open 3:00 to 8:00 pm but the fellow was there was nice and helpful. WIFI was excellent although it would stop and restart every couple of hours. Campground layout was pleasing and well thought out. There was no mud in spite of all the rain we had due to nice grass and gravel/sand on our sites. There is a very nice children’s park and fishing ponds. Our site was fine but a bit short. It is set in a place between two interstates so there was some traffic noise but not too bad. A nicer than average KOA. We will stop again, especially if we need a place to sit out storms.