Change

Capture

Demographics,technology, politics, and fashion seem to be perpetually changing. The pace of change appears to be moving ever faster. In my half century or so on this planet this is the case. A couple of years after my graduation, my high school was closed. It was later reopened on the same site with a different name, to be renamed again back to the original, but with a different school mascot.

My undergraduate college was renamed as a university. My first graduate school was renamed to sound even more important. My second grad school was amalgamated into a larger institution, and both “noble names” were blended, until the grander name, as cream does, floated upwards thus eclipsing the other.

While I was in military A school, American sailors lost their beards. I still remember how odd it was to see Chief Pinkerton without his. In infantry school and when first in the fleet we had flat green field jackets, and flat green flack jackets. These were later replaced by new ones in woodlands camouflage pattern to match our uniforms. We also had Vietnam era steel pot helmets with liners. These went the way of the dinosaurs, being replaced with Kevlar ones, with which we could not cook, dig, or wash with. Though the details are now vague to me, I think we changed gas mask models about then also. With the woodland and Kevlar change the make up of the flack vest morphed as well, to include both.

When I was at Third MarDiv, Division HQ I was issued a 1911 model 45. This weapon was the butt of jokes, and later was in turn replaced. This, however was not an issue for me as I had been sent to a battalion by then, where my TO weapon was the M16A1 or in my case a relatively well worn XM16E1. It was essentially the same as the A1 I had used in ITS, full auto and semi options, etc.  But then change struck again, and we all were issued M16A2s.  This weapon with its semi-auto and 3 round bursts took some getting used to, but was probably a good design change.

Where the world seems to have really run away with change though is in information technology.  The forces had taught me another strange and valuable skill.  I could type. I used a Selectric electric typewriter and it was quick and far easier to use than a manual. Then I went to university.  Mistakes in typing required rewrites.  So we gave in and got a Apple 2C.  Yes, 138 k of data.  We could correct mistakes without starting over.  The 5 plus some inch disks were a marvel.  But then Apple (like in the garden) led to a fall from grace. PC was everywhere, and the disks were smaller too.  Then came the what seemed annual Microsoft upgrades, and just when an operating system seemed to become second nature, they changed it.  Enter the laptop, etc, etc, etc.

Home movies gave way to video; beta to VHS; VHS to CD; and now downloads and streaming. The post office phone gave way to the home phone; the pay phone to the mobile.  Phones became cameras. Walkman became Ipod. Ipod was swallowed by the phone.  It goes on.

Education has followed suit. Many students cannot imagine “taking notes.”  “Can we take a picture of the board on our phones?” is a common question. Books are mystical things housed in a dungeon like realm known as the library.  Having to actually turn a page is an arduous task, and what if the particular book doesn’t have all you need? Might you actually have to search for another?  What a terrible waste of time. Doesn’t GOOGLE “have it all?” Okay, I am overstating (a little), but the implications are clear.

In the face of it all, I can take comfort. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever ( Hebrews 13:8).” God is “I AM,” who – was, is, and will be. When the world is a whirlwind, there is peace in the eternal. I choose to lean on the unchanging.  How about you?

Padre

 

 

 

 

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Pan-fried Trout with Cream Cheese/Horseradish Sauce

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Trout, pan fried in butter is one of my favourite childhood memories.  My grandfather was an avid fly fisherman and I loved tying flies with him, and better still fishing.  The payoff was the ultimate win-win: time with my granddad, and yummy fish afterwards.

This recipe has the simple deliciousness of fried trout, and a more “sophisticated” embellishment of the tangy sauce.  It doesn’t take long to make, and makes for a quick meal that seems to have taken longer to prepare: another win-win.

Ingredients:

  • Trout Fillets 2 x 100-120 g
  • Butter 1 1/2 to 2 Tbs (salted)
  • Cream Cheese (full fat) 100 grams
  • Creamed Horseradish 2 Tbs
  • Dijon Mustard 1 tsp

Method:

Melt the butter in a suitable sized frying pan on medium heat. Raise temperature slightly and place the fillets skin side down into the butter. Allow to cook for about 3 minutes, sliding a spatula under them occasionally to keep them from sticking. Then flip the fish and cook the other side for 2 minutes or so.  Move the fillets to the side of the pan and reduce the heat. Spoon the horseradish and mustard into the centre of the pan, and scrape any available butter into it.  Mix well, then spoon the cream cheese on top.  Turn off the heat, but do not remove the pan from the burner. Mix the sauce well and then spoon over the fish.  Place the fish onto serving plates and then add any additional sauce from the pan.  Serve with peas or similar.

Padre

0311: Pride

0311

photo from ebay

I arrived at Camp Geiger a day early. Bravo Company had already been formed, and I was dropped off at the company street for Charlie. Here I was on what could just as well been Mars. White prefab timber buildings in the North Carolina woods. It was bright, and warm (but not as warm as the Air Force base in Mississippi, I had arrived from). I was met by a sergeant who gave me an immediate task of phone watch. There I sat, monitoring the phone, which did not ring.  I was in my still factory scented battle dress uniform, camouflage forest green, and my Navy E-2 rank hashes on my collar still shiny from the box.  Yes, I was a sailor beginning my journey in the FMF, first stop Infantry Training School.  Here I was to train as an 0311 Rifleman.

Second Platoon, C Company and with the “Elevens.” My journey began at Recruit Training Command Orlando, Florida. Here I learned the basics of being a sailor in the US Navy (something I never did do much of). I was then sent to my Rating (MOS) training in a joint service school at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Mississippi. On completion I was given a choice of two duty stations: an aircraft carrier or the FMF.  One of the reasons I had gone for my rating was for the possibility of serving with the Marines, so the decision was simple.

But here I was at Camp Lejeune, literally “a squid out of water.” My rating (Religious Program Specialist) had existed for a little over two years. The job description called for RPs to serve with Navy chaplains in support of the FMF.  But this early in the RPs’ existence, there was yet to be a Navy school to train us (thus Keesler), and neither was there a dedicated training facility (which there is today) for training RPs and Chaplains in the necessary field craft and combat skills for serving with the Marines. The solution was to send the RPs to Infantry Training School (ITS).  Every Marine is a rifleman, and now a handful of sailors (with a clear acknowledgement of the Sea Bees and SEALs as being expert naval infantrymen) would become 0311 Riflemen.

Up to this point, there seems to have been a practice of sending RPs to ITS in pairs.  My fellow sailor, however, had returned from leave early and been put into Bravo. This left me to train “alone.” I was there, an E-2 sailor, and “the phone private.” As the day went on more of the company began to arrive.  We were later sorted into barracks, and classified by MOS.  There was some talk of putting me with the “31s” to become a machine gunner, but this was quickly reversed as the specification for RPs was that we were to be “11s.”

I was treated alright by the Marines I trained with.  I did everything they did, we were taught the basics of grenades, mines, the M203 launcher, and the LAW tube. We drilled, we shot, we trained, we ran, and we trained some more. The only real difference was when we were in barracks and sang the Marines’ Hymn before getting in our bunks for the night, when we got to the third verse and all of my colleagues would turn to me when they sang the words “if the Army and the Navy ever look of heaven’s scenes, they will find the streets are guarded by United States Marines.” I was sometimes referred to as “the Squid,” and the guys in my fire team addressed me as “Squidly,” but it was respectful, and I would hope generally affectionate.  In fact, more than once I was referred to by men in the squad and platoon more generally as “our squid.”

In the end I did earn the respect of the Marines (both the trainees and the NCOs), in the end I was even named as the platoon honor man.  I was the first “squid” to gain the title.  The meritorious mast I received from the Corps reads that I was “to only sailor” to be so recognized, while the one I later received from the Chief of Chaplains reads a more optimistic “the first sailor” to be so recognized.

While the “Atta Boys” are nice, what I am most proud of from my time at Geiger is that I earned the MOS 0311.  My DD-214 clearly notes me has having the Navy Rating Religious Program Specialist, but also the Marine Corps MOS 0311.  I am a grunt, and proud of it.

Padre

 

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With Ninth Marines, Korea

The Greener Grass

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I was reflecting on Psalm 73 and the psalmist’s reflection of his own weakness.

“But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold (verse 2).”

What then was the cause of this near slip? Put simply, misguided desire and misguided envy. His gaze moved from God to the ways of the world,

“For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked (verse 4).”

It seemed to the writer that the ungodly had it made,

“They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong. They are free from common human burdens; they are not plagued by human ills (verse 5).”

Who wouldn’t want such a life? Wow, no struggles, no illness, a life of ease.

It is interesting that in the Nazis’ rise to power there was one recurrent theme.  Prosperity!  Prosperity! and Prosperity!  Hitler promised jobs, living space, and yet again prosperity.  This may have been a big lie, but it was a big lie told simply, and repeated until it sank in. Much as no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong. They are free from common human burdens; they are not plagued by human ills does.  But at what cost?  The Psalmist next catches a glimpse of this,

“Therefore pride is their necklace; they clothe themselves with violence. From their callous hearts comes iniquity their evil imaginations have no limits. They scoff, and speak with malice; with arrogance they threaten oppression. Their mouths lay claim to heaven, and their tongues take possession of the earth. Therefore their people turn to them and drink up waters in abundance. They say, “How would God know? Does the Most High know anything?” This is what the wicked are like— always free of care, they go on amassing wealth (verses 6-12).”

Solomon had written that “there is nothing new under the sun,” and this violent, selfish, boastfulness is evident throughout the ages.  The illusion of worldly wealth, and not just keeping up with the Jones, but being the Jones is sought after by many.  The psalmist saw it in Psalm 73, historians and political scientists such as Andreas Clemens see it in Hitler’s promises, and even much of the “new right” takes the view today.

“We shall prosper!” Yet to do so sometimes relies on violence (actual or threatened), it has a callousness to the plight of others.  The abundance for one is at the expense of another. Scapegoats are exploited, and the “have littles” are relegated to being “have nots,” so others can be “have mores.”

But the psalmist does not leave us here with his own “slipping” towards the lie.  He rather returns to the truth.  Evil may appear to prosper, but it will in the end have its comeuppance! Those who are far from you will perish; you destroy all who are unfaithful  to you. But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds (verses 27-28).”

Where is your refuge today.  In the “greener grass” of someone else’s field, the prosperity of this age, or in the Lord?

Padre

North Wales Adventure: Homeward Bound

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Criccieth Castle

It has been about a month since our visit in North Wales. As our stay was ending we made an additional photo call at Criccieth Castle, then headed into Porthmadog for some drinks and snacks for the road.

We then headed northward to check out the great Edward the First castles of Caernarfon and Conwy.

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Caernarfon Castle

I had visited Caernarfon years ago, and well remembered the impressive castle. On this recent visit I had the opportunity to renew those memories, and to take in the spectacular battlements and towers. Parking in on most sides of the castle and while a brief walk might be in store, with a little patience you can get parked close by.
It was a very busy day when we visited, and a pirate festival (I believe) was going on so it made for a even more crowded feel on the approaches to the castle. That said, it was well worth the journey to see again.

Nearby are the Medieval walls of the town. I have seen lots of Medieval town walls (Norwich, etc) which have portions intact. While Caernarfon’s are not as extensive as York’s or Chester’s, they are nonetheless impressive with their thickness and they along with the castle must have been an imposing reminder of Edward I’s conquest to the local population.

Beyond these two features, we found the town a bit too crowded (on the day) for more exploring, so set off for the next port of call Conwy.

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Conwy Castle

I had also visited Conwy’s castle years (decades) ago, and climbed the towers, and taken it all in. On this visit we just took in the majesty of the structure from below. This is a really awesome fortification, and it easy to see how it took so much of the English budget to build it for Edward. It dominates the town, and is a wonderful example with its towers. When we visited this time, there was renovation/preservation going on, so some of the outer walls were under scaffolding, but it was nonetheless an impressive sight.

What I enjoyed more was the quayside. The Quay at Conway is what many people would picture of the ideal seaside vista. The quayside with its stacks of crab/lobster pots, the boats resting in the harbour, and the old town behind, and the sea afore.
We arrived an found parking by the RNLI and we were able to spend a brief time taking in the views, before I headed down the key to find more venues to visit.

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Quay

There are a few shops, and the public toilets are about midway down the quay from the castle end heading towards the smallest house. There is a pub as well, and if facing towards the castle there are some good views of it as well.

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Bay View

There is also a harbour boat tour which departs from the quay as well.

One of the great features of Conwy is the “Smallest House in Great Britain.”  As huge as the castle is, the other end of the scale is not to be missed either. This little gem is a “must see” It is a mere 72 inches across, 122 inches high and 120 inches deep. It is near the Quay and is basically pedestrianized now, but is easy to reach from the parking near the RNLI. It has a bold coat of paint, so even though small is not easy to miss.

We next made our way to Llandudno. We have been to many seaside towns in Britain, and many have areas which maintain the Georgian and Victorian terraced frontages (Hastings for example). Llandudno seems unique to me in that the entire Promenade area is unchanged. There are no arcades, shops, or eateries breaking the pattern of terrace, These are primarily guest houses, hotels, and other accommodation, but it does give a feel of the past. The terraces overlook the water, and there is a certain calm to it all. It does ave many of the usual seaside activities, but most of these are found a street or two inland.

I didn’t think I would every write a negative review of Costa Coffee. I am in fact a Costa fan. That said, the Llandudno branch was a real disappointment. This seems a very popular, or at least busy outlet. There was a steady queue, and the baristas were pushed to the limit. This may be the source of the problem. There were no available tables, which is fine, as we were prepared to drink in the car, but the drinks themselves were almost undrinkable. We had ordered two large coconut chais, and they in turn, and after a long wait were ready. They were hot, so we didn’t taste them right away, so decided to go to the seafront to drink them. When we got there, they were so strong, as to leave a spice burn, and an aftertaste. I don’t know if the chai mix was inadvertently increased, or if it was somehow off. I assume the former rather than the latter. But, we were not in a mood to go back and deal with parking, and the queue again. So homeward bound, next stop East Anglia.

Padre

 

Smallest House Site

Explaining Perfection to Imperfect Minds

Trinity

Let me first say that I too have an imperfect mind.  I have all of the human limitations in grasping complexity. Yet, here I am at the beginning of a new academic year faced with teaching the fundamentals of theology to a largely biblically and spiritually illiterate generation.

I need to get the idea across then that what I am teaching is imperfect, but is the best that we, with our limitations can express. God is all loving, all  knowing, all powerful, and ever present (omnibenevolent, omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent). In short hand I explain to my students that He is beyond our comprehension as He is omni-omnent (the all in all – perfection).

Even more challenging is the idea of theism as a whole. I have (and will) face the challenges of empirical observation.  “But, you can’t see Him.” Here again, I must make clear the limitations of our five senses.  They are fallible. They are also self-limiting.  Empirical reasoning focuses on “the provable” or at least on the probable, it shies from the possible. But, disproving deity is as difficult as giving definitive proof for divinity.  It comes down to an open and inquiring mind as to what can we learn.

The trinity is likewise a challenge.  Monotheism calls for God in a singular form.  Without going into essence and other key ideas beyond the entry level of understanding, I need to rely on more imperfect tools.  The diagram at the beginning of this post is a simple (if somewhat simplified) attempt to show the three in one nature of God. While the word trinity does not appear in the Bible, the concept is clear in such passages as Mark 1:9 and following.  Jesus (the Son), the Spirit (in the form of a dove), and the Father (in the heavenly voice) are all distinctly present, and their relationship clearly established.  God is “tri” in His unity.

Here I have to make an even more tenuous link with H2O.  Water is H2O yet in a liquid form.  Steam is a gas of the same essence.  Ice a frozen manifestation of the liquid.  All the same, yet different.  Theologically this is weak, but to someone unversed in the concepts it offers a stepping stone into understanding.

We may never fully understand the nature of God.  Perfection is something we aspire to, but which is far beyond most of our capacities.  But as the new year begins, I shall as in the past, seek to explain perfection to imperfect minds.

Padre

Wimpole Hall

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Hall

It was a pretty early Autumn afternoon, and we had errands to run near Stansted, so decided to make a visit to National Trust’s Wimpole Estate. We have visited before (back in 2013) and while some of what we took in this weekend was “re-visited” much of what we saw this time were portions we had missed before.

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Entrance to Stable Block

The Hall is the largest house in Cambridgeshire and is the former residence of the Duke of Newcastle-upon-Tyne and later of Elise, the daughter of Rudyard Kipling.

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Clock Tower Detail

There are hundreds of acres to the estate and paths, fields, and follies are all part of the experience.  Parking is near the old stable block where the national Trust has its ticket office, a small takeaway cafe, and shop.  A restaurant is a short distance away towards the formal gardens.

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Garden Shop

On the recent visit there was a vendor selling locally produced honey and bees’ wax products in the stable block area.  There was also a small garden centre, and a woman using a spinning wheel and selling woolen knit products.

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Spinning

The gardens include areas by Capability Brown and other noted landscape artists and gardeners. I found the formal beds absolutely beautiful.imageedit_33_2660688225 (1).jpg

 

The house itself is huge, and extremely grand. At first glance I assumed it was Georgian, but it is cited as being 17th Century in its construction.

It has libraries, a lovely chapel, and many other “must see” features inside.

As is our custom we had a couple cups of tea and a scone at the cafe. In this case it was takeaway in paper cups, and a cheese scone which we had in the stables courtyard.  Later we went to the restaurant where we had a Stilton soup  which was thick and tasty and some very nice granary bread with butter.

This is a splendid place to visit, and well worth making a day of.

 

Padre

National Trust Site

Nutri Ninja Blender: Review

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I haven’t written much about kitchen gadgets in the past.  Recipes and tips, but not gadgets.  About two months ago my faithful ol’ Morphy Richards blender gave up the ghost. I began looking for a replacement and needed to acquire one quickly as my wife’s food regime calls for a morning kefir smoothie, and I am often mixing up mocktails as well.

What I happened onto (and in the original plan as a temporary measure) was a Nutri Ninja 700W blender & smoothie maker.  This small single serving device has been perfect to my needs. It has two 470 ml cups, with individual “sipping” lids, and a blade mechanism which is placed onto the top of the cup when the raw ingredients have been placed in.  It forms a tight seal, and it is then turned upside down into the motor unit.  This uses gravity to pull the ingredients into the blades when the cup is pressed downward in a pulsing motion.  I have found that four or five ten second blitzes are enough to make perfect smoothies. Once done, the cup is turned upright, and the blade unit removed (and rinsed) and drinking lid put on, and you are ready to go.

Since the same cup is used to drink from as is used for blending, there is no immediate need to clean a blending jug, which is really convenient on a hectic morning.  When the drink is finished, the flask is easy to clean with hot soapy water (I use a baby bottle brush which works perfectly for the Ninja’s size).

As I noted, this was bought as a stop gap measure, but now I am hooked.  It really does all I need in the smoothie and mixed drink department, and makes really smooth drinks with a minimum of mess and often far faster than conventional blenders. It easily liquefies avocado (without lumps), is very efficient with ice, and even pomegranate seeds are blended to a relatively smooth texture.

Padre

Lavenham: Olde England

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Lavenham

I have done several posts on period villages and towns (Kersey, Stratford, Castle Comb) and many have wonderful timber frame buildings which give a sense of the nation’s past. Constable Country (Suffolk, and Essex border area) have a large number of these settlements, but one of the best preserved is Lavenham.

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Guildhall

The Guildhall at the centre of the town is a national Trust property.  It is large for the type of building and is really impressive as it commands the market square.  The Guildhall is well worth seeing, and like most National Trust houses has a nice tea room and is great to just chill and take in the history.

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Tea Room

 

The market is (apart from the paved road and auto traffic) really easy to picture the past at. There are several buildings which cry out character, and the owners so a superb job in their upkeep and presentation.

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House on Market Square

The town (unlike many of its type) is not limited to just the central preservation area. The Swan Hotel is an excellent example of a late Medieval inn and well worth exploring in its own right.

Swan - Lavenham (15th Century)

The Swan

It is easy to imagine the Mother Goose rhyme, “There was a crooked man, and he walked a crooked mile, He found a crooked sixpence against a crooked stile; He bought a crooked cat which caught a crooked mouse, And they all lived together in a little crooked house,” as you explore the streets and lanes of Lavenham as well.

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Crooked House

Such fabulous architecture has not been overlooked by popular culture.  The Godrick’s Hollow of the Harry Potter films found some of its location shots in Lavenham.  In fact Harry’s home in infancy was filmed using the town’s de Vere House.

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“The Hallow”

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de Vere House

There is much to take-in in this picturesque town. There are tea rooms, cafes, and at least two large period inns. The parish church is also well in keeping with this time capsule of England’s past.

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The Little Hall

Padre

Beef (Bone) Broth

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I have seen several sources which cite the origin of our present term restaurant as having been a health food eatery.  In the late 18th Century, Mathurin Roze de Chantoiseau established a  “restaurateur” or “restorer” in Paris  where a special bouillon or broth was Its main product was a special type of bouillon called a “restorant.”  Such wholesome broths have long been served to the ill, (think of “Jewish Penicillin” or chicken soup).”

As my wife is seeking to deal with the problems with her liver, we are leaning to the keto and the wholesome to strengthen her.  This has led me to going back to the restorant basics.  To do this we acquired some very good, grass fed organic beef bones, and I set out to to make the mega broth.

Ingredients:

  • Beef Bones 1 to 2 kilos
  • Water 2-3 litres
  • Cider Vinegar 1/2 cup (120 ml) [we used organic]
  • Salt 1 tsp
  • Ground Black Pepper 1/2 tsp
  • Onion 1 large
  • Celery 2 stocks [we used organic]
  • Carrots 2 large [we used organic]

Method:

Rinse the bones and place in the bottom of a large stew pot. Add the vinegar and just enough water to cover the bones. Cover and let the bones soak in the liquid for about 30 minutes. Peel the carrots and onion. Cut the onion in half, and cut the carrots into four large pieces and halve the celery stocks.  Place the pot onto high heat and bring to a boil.  When at a good boil, add the veg and continue to boil covered for about 10 minutes. Now add enough water to allow for boiling without overflowing the pan.  Bring back to a high boil and then reduce to a low bubbling boil, skimming off any initial grey-white foam. Cover and allow to boil for about one hour. Move the covered pot to a back burner and bring heat to a constant simmer for 36 to 48 hours. Check about every 12 hours and top off the liquid if necessary (though I only needed to add about 200 ml of water over 2 days).  Place a colander over a very large bowl and strain the liquid through the colander. Discard all of the bone and veg. Add the salt and pepper to the broth and allow to cool to just above room temperature, then decant into 1 to 1.5 litre storage containers.   On the batch pictured, it produced 2.5 litres of finished broth. Cover and chill.  A layer of solid lard/dripping may form on the surface of the gelatin like cooled broth.  This can be skimmed or cut off and used for frying (or discard of course).  I froze the 1 litre container of broth for future use, and we worked our way through the larger container as a daily supplement, needing only a couple of minutes each day to warm it to a hot bouillon soup/drink.

Padre