Friday, November 13, 2009

Worth Your Salt

My oldest son, Chad, decided he wanted to see how much salt was in sea water. What is cool about this is that Chad has never been too interested in science - he's a history/music guy. So, of course, I took him down to the beach and let him brave the wind and rain to gather two gallons of sea water. One thing I love about Oregon beaches is how desolate they are on days like that. It was just Chad down by the water with nothing but the shipwrecked Peter Iredale (the iron remains of a ship that ran aground about 100 years ago) for company. Of course, as soon as he left the car, my Prius decided to flash an unfamiliar warning light at me. While he was enjoying the surf, I was frantically thumbing through my owner's manual, trying to decipher this strange symbol lit up on my dashboard. The bad thing about Oregon beaches on days like this is that they are desolate - just me and my Prius and possibly in need of a tow home. Todd was at home asleep (he had to work later) and the younger two were home but they would be of little use. I did have my cell phone but, fortunately, I figured out what that dang light meant. I had put my cell phone on the car charger for the first time and this light was to politely tell me that my phone was fully charged. AS IF I NEEDED TO BE TOLD! The symbol was of a key with an exclamation point through it. I ask you, does that mean "cell phone fully charged" to you? And the owner's manual showed the symbol but conveniently forgot to say what it meant. I discovered on my own by unplugging the cell phone charger, thinking that it might have something to do with the light. It's a good thing I have a few wits about me.

Anyway ... We got home with the water but waited until the following day to start boiling. We were thinking it would take all day. We have been discussing Lewis & Clark for the last month or so, since we just went through some of the places that they traveled. And the Salt Works where the Corps of Discovery made their salt during their winter stay here on the coast is down south of us in Seaside, about 17 miles away. We have visited this place in Seaside and during the summer, there is a Salt Work reenactment down on the beach where the actors immerse themselves in the roles of the Corps. If you ask them about anything modern, they don't understand but they'll tell you all about the Lewis & Clark expedition and the making of salt from sea water. So, now, Chad wanted to make his own salt. It actually didn't take that long. We got it boiling pretty good and after about 45 minutes, salt started boiling over onto the stove top. I think it took about an hour for the water to boil away. Chad ended up with nearly a cup of salt. It was pretty amazing to me. He spread the salt out on a cookie sheet to let it dry out thoroughly. We are not going to consume this salt as it has a lot of impurities in it but the boys will be using it for further science experiments. I think they want to figure out some kind of fuel source involving salt, something like that. So I think the experiment was a success. Chad enjoyed the process and we all learned something. Fortunately, we don't need this salt to season rotting elk meat, as I believe that was the reason Lewis & Clark needed their men to make salt. The next time you use your salt shaker, be thankful you don't have to work too hard for it. I know I am.


jugglingpaynes said...

That is very cool! And we're near an ocean. Hmmmm....

Peace and Laughter,

Cate said...

Would love to see some pics of your area - sounds gorgeous.

Good on Chad - he sounds like a real thinker.


Mama Self said...

What a great experiment! And I'm glad you didn't really have anything wrong with your car. :)

We have been enjoying the snow because it's thick and wet. We'll get the thin dry stuff in the winter that the wind will try to drive THROUGH anything/anyone who dares to venture outside...