National Dog Day?

Apparently yesterday was National Dog Day.  I don’t know if this is a ‘real’ thing or some Facebook meme run rampant (notice that every week is mental health awareness week now?) and I don’t much care.  Dogs are great, they shouldn’t have one day, they should get them all.
I’ve often wondered what it is about dogs that is just so good.  I’ve had plenty of cats and some of them were good, but I never got the feeling that they actually liked me…they just wanted some scratches, food, or a soft spot to lay.  A dog, on the other hand, just wants to be near you.

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I’m exfoliating!

About a month ago I was sitting on a rock overlooking a valley.  It was a warm afternoon and I was visualizing all the spring colors that would come with the lengthening days.  I could practically hear the spring peepers peeping and the red-shouldered hawks screaming out “Kee-Yah Kee-Yah”.  Fry, the older and larger hound, was sitting next to me.  He had no idea what we were doing.  He sat there, leaning back a little on his hips the way old dogs do, staring over the valley and occasionally smacking his lips for no discernible reason.
I realized on that day that I have never spent as much time with any critter, be it human or otherwise, as I have spent with Fry.  I’ve thought about this a great deal since then.  Mostly about what it means, I suppose.

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Few people are really given the chance to spend as much time with another creature as I have spent with Fry over the last ten years.  Homeschooling parents are about the only other instance I can think of.  Dogs, particularly old dogs, have a vastly different disposition than human children though.  Sometimes I think he has sort of become my Jiminy Cricket.  I’ll look at a crevice and think “I bet I can jump over that” and then I’ll hear a rustling of the leaves behind me and turn to see a dour faced old hound advising me otherwise with only his deep amber eyes.  I’ll be in traffic and someone will cut me off….the murder will come out in my eyes and then suddenly a big, square hound head will literally be on my shoulder reminding me that it’s not really a big deal at all.


Seriously, don’t do that.

Fry is turning into a silver faced dog, slowly but surely.  He needs to be picked up and lifted into and out of my Jeep or any work trucks now.  He’ll still try to make the jump given the chance, but more often than not he just can’t quite make it.  If allowed to jump out he’ll limp around for an hour or so after (but not one of those limps for attention that some dogs do, this is more of an old man style “yeah, my leg fell off but you don’t need to make a big deal out of it, just go about your bidness”).
Much like my own grandmother, Fry does not trust any ramp I build and simply will not walk on it.  I threw a big maple board down over our creek after intense rains scoured it out…he still won’t cross it.  It’s wide, it doesn’t wobble, but nope, he’s not trusting that thing.  I think this is probably due to the amount of times he’s heard me say “ahh, fuck it.  I’m getting a beer.”  I tried convincing him that I whole-assed it, but he’s not buying what I’m selling.


It’s interesting having one dog that’s relatively young and the other that’s old. Bender (the younger) is always up for an adventure.  Fry wants to go, but generally can’t walk for more than about ten minutes without developing a pronounced limp.  This often times mean two walks, one shorter with Fry and then we sneak back out with Bender for a longer walk or run while Fry rests.  If I didn’t think he would hate every second of it I would fashion one of those backpack baby carriers and hoist his 90 lbs up on my shoulders for as long as I could take it.




Start the boat, I’m ready!

These are the things we do for our dogs.  Every single day. National Dog Day seems as ridiculous to me as Valentines Day.  As if there was just this one day when you are supposed to appreciate one of the main focal points of your life?  It’s absurd.
Now go hug your dogs, people.  Chances are damn good that they deserve it.

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Damn Snobs!

A: “Hey man, want some black jelly beans? I have a whole bag!  I know you love jelly beans!”
B: “Gross!  I love jellybeans, but those taste bad”
A: “Yeah, I get that a lot”

A: “Hey lady, want some Brazil nuts?”
B: “No thanks, I’m more of an almond and cashew girl”
A: “They are a little more ‘meaty’ I guess.”

A: “You want an orange soda?”
B: “No thanks.  Do you have any white sodas?”
A: “Nope”
B: “I’m good with water, thanks”


A:”Hungry?  I’ve got some chicken thighs”
B: “I like the white meat”
A: “More for me!”


A: “You want a Bud Light?”
B: ” No, thanks.  I mostly just drink IPA.”
A: “You’re a beer snob!”


One of these fictional interactions is a little different than the other.  Does anyone care to explain?


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A Failure

This is going to be a visual depiction of all the stages of turning a spalted bowl.
FYI: Spalting is the process of allowing wood to go through a sort of controlled rot where fungal mycelium start growing in the wood creating intricate patterns.  It softens the wood and makes it riddled with unseen fault lines.


Here are some sugar maple logs I cut three years ago and left in the woods to spalt.  They were on bricks for air flow but the leaves and forest grew up around them. 


Sweet!  It looks like it’s spalted nicely


Bender likes to sit in the Jeep and watch.  The tools scare him and he feels safe (apparently) in the Jeep.  


The wood is still good and hard  This is going to make a nice bowl. 


Hmmm…the wood seems a little moist in spots….the rot may have gone too far. 


I’m sure it’ll be fine. I’ll just spin it at a millon miles an hour close to my head.  No problem. 


Quick Bender check.  Yep, still there.  Time to start turning, hooray!




Fuck!  That’s some deep tearout. It’s okay, I’ll just sharpen my skew and trim it off gently. 


Okay, my skills paid off.  I’m the boss of you sugar maple!


I left a big angle in the top so it was fancy. This was about 1.5 hours in. Just starting to hollow it. 


Bender check. He’s in the front seat barely peering over.  See him?  Fry came out to watch because he has a sixth sense for when I am going to need a friend to console me. 


Picking up a wobble from the base.  That tells me the glue block isn’t holding.  Fuck!  Okay, I can handle this.  I’ll just turn a tenon in the base very carefully and then mount it in my bowl chuck. I don’t like glue blocks anyway but spalted wood is soft and a bowl chuck can press too hard if you’re not careful. 


Yup, that’s the big problem with spalted wood and bowl chucks.  Seriously, fuck you, sugar maple.  This is a little over 2 hours in and now the dream of this wood becoming a bowl is effectively over.  I could make it a smaller bowl but realistically I don’t want to mess with it anymore. 


HA!  Who got the last laugh now you helicopter-seeded jackwagon!  I cut you into scales so I’ll still use you for knife handles!

And there you have it. This is generally why woodturned items, particularly bowls and especially spalted bowls tend to be so expensive.  Many things just don’t even make it to the finish line.  Most turners laugh it off, because we have to.  The folks who can’t laugh it off quickly leave the hobby.

I’m going to go drink some scotch and get back in the woodshop tomorrow to start something anew.  Maybe it will blow up in my face, maybe it won’t.



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On Delaying Gratitude

I try to live in the moment and all that hippy nonsense, but my ways sneak out on their own all the time.


This is what I’ve been waiting for!

I need your help trying to figure out if I’m weird or relatively normal in my eating habits.  Let’s explore!
Let’s assume you sit down to eat dinner and you have three items on your plate–call them A, B, and C

A is your favorite thing to eat.
B is pretty tasty.
C is not so good but you’ll eat it anyway.

In what order to do you eat that plate?
(Please disregard things like B cooling down and becoming gross, this is hypothetical, don’t be dificult)
Some folks might just smoosh it all together and gobble it down.  I want to party with these people, although I’m not to sure why.  It just seems like a good time to smash all your food together into a smeary food painting before eating.  I couldn’t do it, but I want to chill with those that can.
Other people are instant gratification types and they will eat A first and end up with things on their plate that they don’t really want to eat. I assume they then get depressed and eat C while wondering what their life has boiled down to or they do something even worse–Throw away food–that’s a dick move, man.
Others nibble things separately but at consistent rates….I don’t understand these people at all.  Seriously, are you following an eating program to make yourself appear human?  Because you’re doing it wrong. Wait, do some real humans actually do it this way?
And then we come to me and my delayed gratification. I eat the things I’m not excited about first to clear out the boring stuff, pretty much instantly forget about it, and then relish in A. Delicious A! When the meal is done, I can still taste A, rather than the bummer that was C…which I don’t even remember anymore but I probably ate it because it kills cancer or makes me poop or something. This is just the most rational approach really.

This also shows up in both my wife and I when we check our freezers. Inevitably, every single year at around the end of July I notice that we have a bunch of venison backstrap that we have been squirreling away….and now it needs to be eaten to make room for the animals we are about to murder.

We have tried to get better about squirreling stuff away, and I think we’ve made some progress, but it’s still a struggle.  I can’t say it sucks to have backstrap on the menu for breakfast, lunch , and dinner, but it is kind of stupid.
Even worse is foods that aren’t replaced every year.  Something really special that gets squirreled away because “c’mon, that’s too special to eat!  We need to wait until it’s degraded and less special before we eat it.”  I really hate it when this happens and it forces me to kick my own ass.

I mostly seem to do this with food and I don’t know why that is.  I don’t delay gratification when it comes to purchasing other stuff.  Fallout 4 was in my dry and scratchy hands on release day, as was The Martian and a number of other things.  I didn’t wait for the “perfect time” to start either of those.  I had them and then opened and enjoyed! Instant!

But what is it about food?  Is it a learned trait?  When I was little I had to eat all my veggies and drink all my milk before I was allowed to get up from the table.  Did that carry over?  Because I love veggies and hate milk so that might be a wash.  Any brain squishers or junior brain squishers want to take a crack at explaining this?  Is it just good old fashioned hoarding?


What makes you think I’m a food hoarder?

What say you folks?  What order do you eat this hypothetical meal in?  And don’t be bound by my categories.  If you eat A, then C, and then throw B against a wall because you don’t do half measures, let me know.


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On Inconvenient Cooking

I enjoy living.
To this end, I need a few basic things…air, clean water, scotch, red wine, and FOOD.


Don’t eat treefrogs

Right now I’m going to focus on the food.
I like the term “Inconvenient Cooking” because people ruined “Slow Food” for me–probably because I’m an asshole.  See, I realized that most of the people who bark about Slow Food are really just people who like to eat at trendy restaurants…most of the ones I encountered never did anything themselves.
So anyway, if you’ve read any of this blog before you know I am into doing things myself. Also, I kind of think I love to wash pots (it’s a zen thing) but feel free to use a dishwasher.


A boneless venison neck that will be cooked for 8 hours at 225. It took maybe ten minutes to prep. 

Many folks think that cooking is an all day affair, or you need lots of fancy stuff to make charcuterie….that’s not true.  I’ve detailed on this blog all the ways I messed up my first time making bacon (and it was still delicious!).  I have since evolved my bacon recipe far beyond that blog post.  That’s the glory of Inconvenient Cooking, you’re not hemmed in, you can do whatever you want–within reason, don’t eat that treefrog.


Saucisson sec .75 pork and .25 venison

You don’t need to buy into a clear pyramid scheme and make a bunch of freezer meals at what is, essentially, an in-person infomercial for stale spices.  Cooking was re-branded as a chore and something we needed to avoid back when the microwave was invented and people have been cashing in on that ever since. That’s just bullshit.


Fennel and orange flavored lonza

The internet frees us from a world of expensive and cumbersome cookbooks.  Sites like TheKitchn are where I learned pretty much everything I needed to know about asian soups…and it was free.  Sure, websites DO NOT replace an actual culinary education, but they’re great resources for your average Joe, Jane, or Fry.
If it’s interaction you crave, forums and Facebook groups abound!  The Handcrafted Larder is on Facebook and it is filled with like-minded people of all different skill sets and specialties.  Another related group, The Salt Cured Pig, has given my Charcuteri knowledge far more depth than it had before and helped me to produce the best salami I have ever made just this past year.  These groups exist for whatever you might be into or wanting to get into….things like pickling, fermenting, sex dungeons, and collecting wild mushrooms.
What I’m trying to say here is that the time for inconvenient food is now.  The time of cracking open a can of Cream of Mushroom to make a hot dish is over.  Try using, I don’t know, a little cream or whole milk and some mushrooms instead.  You will quickly discover that what you thought was daunting is not.  What you thought would take forever doesn’t.
Most people have a food processor, right?  Then you can make a pate’!  You don’t need to put sausage into a casing if you don’t have a stuffer.  You can just mix it up with some spices, park it in the fridge for a few days, and then cook it as loose sausage.  Do you have a cabbage you bought but don’t know what do with?  Try making some kimchi!


Boneless whole turkey stuffed with venison and and herbs.

We are currently experiencing a bit of a renaissance for food.  Have a peek at some of those websites and groups and I truly believe you will be inspired to try something new.  Once the veil of intimidation is removed, the world will be your salt-cured oyster.

(I fully realize all the picks on here are of meat. Sorry. I’ll take more veggie photos at some point). 


Posted in Meat Stuff, Other stuff | 4 Comments

Gotta Be A Record!

In the late summer of 2012 we had a new shiny and extra-efficient woodstove installed with a big blower in it. That fall was also quite warm, so using the new woodstove (which I was quite proud of) we were able to not turn on the actual house furnace until December 9th! Sure, several mornings were 51 degrees, but we got dressed and went to work and as soon as I came home I started a fire and warmed the place up.  We planned on leaving the furnace on 55 when we eventually turned it on anyway to allow the woodstove to provide the extra umph, so this didn’t seem like a huge deal to me. Also, Mindy was totally on board with this endeavor. Completely! She loved it!  Uhhh..yeah…sooooo anyway, I was shocked that we had been able to wait so long to turn on the furnace and just figured that would be the standard thing from now on.


Luxuriously warm

Then, in the fall of 2013, I watched the house temperature spiral down like water into a sinkhole. I wailed unto the heavens to make it stop! I crammed the woodstove with so much gnarly, dense oak and hickory I expected to melt the steel (seriously, I called the company because I was nervous but it was all good)…alas, I lost that battle in mid-November and hung my head in shame.  It wasn’t that I didn’t beat my record, it was that I didn’t even seem to show up to the game!  Pathetic.


We must huddle for warmth

That winter ended up being the coldest of my life in this area so I felt like it was just a one-off kind of deal. “It’s cool, man, that was just a terrible winter that came straight from the icy heart of Beelzebub and Jack Frost’s love child”. (His name is Jack Bub and he’s actually an alright dude once you get him drunk).

But then last fall, the same damn thing happened! They were talking about an El Nino forming but that just dissolved and then I watched the house temperature fall down and down like a colorful slinky on an escalator.  The daytime highs just weren’t enough to offset the night-time lows. Then it snowed in mid-November and my will broke.  We don’t typically get snow in the fall.  I clicked on the house furnace only 2 days into November.  2 DAYS!  But I figured maybe we were going to have another insanely cold winter…Nope.

In December it warmed up to above normal temps, but the furnace was already on.  The battle had been lost.  It was the ultimate insult.  It was mama-nature saying “Hey, screw off, ya hoser”.  I shattered my Galileo thermometer and tossed the colorful, liquid-filled balls into the bleak sky in disgust (then I ran because gravity is a son of a bitch, I was more than a little drunk and shouldn’t have been standing in the street throwing things at clouds as if they gave a shit).


Turn on the heat!  I don’t like always being close to the little one. Surrsly.

But this year….oh this year, my friends! I watched the southern oscillation build back in June and I was hopeful. Sure, these sorts of things wreak havoc upon the world but it’s not like I can stop it so don’t give me any grief.   In August talk of El Nino became greater and greater and I grinned like the Grinch.  Would it happen this year?  Was redemption in the cards for me?  Success!  In October it was a done deal! The warm water was in place. It had not collapsed as it had the year before. I had some promises to honor. Certain deals were made and I was not one to cross Jack Bub.  I don’t even think Bender has a soul, he won’t miss it.

Anyhoodle, today is December 10th and it hit 70 degrees. My gorgeous wife–again, she is totally on board with this–has barely complained about the house temp at all and that was back when it is 25 degrees outside for a few days. Hell, I think I can push this. In 15 days it’s Christmas and I’ll have a bunch of people at my house…all those 100 degree bio-organic heaters walking around and spreading warmth…plus I’ll have the woodstove blaring….I mean, with that kind of heat, plus being off for that whole week between the holidays and having fires all day long….yeah….I bet we can make it until the new year! Mindy will be so excited!!!
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A Perfect Circle

Cooking beans is one of the easiest things you can do in the kitchen, right?
You just soak the beans overnight, drain the water, put more water in, and boil the piss out of them for an hour.  Then drain with a colander and blammo!  Beans!

This is not what I mean.

This is not what I mean.

Yeah, that’s one way to do it…but if you do that method you’re missing out on a lot of bean-y goodness!
And sure you can buy beans in a can, but those don’t even taste much like beans and the selection is seriously limited. You can buy whole chickens in a can too, but most people don’t…

First, let’s get the farting conversation out of the way right now because it always comes up…also, I just like talking about farting.
If you eat beans regularly, you won’t be farting all the time, sadly.  The gas you pass after eating a bowl of chili is mostly because, since you don’t eat enough beans, your body doesn’t really know how to handle them.  The wee beasties in your guts aren’t properly trained, so they improperly digest them and shoo a bunch of gas out the back door.
The good news?  You can train them just by eating more beans!  Hooray!  If you’re like me, it’s actually a little disappointing when your wee beasties get better because farts are fun.  Oh well.

Still not right

Still not right

Okay, farting is covered.  Are we done there?  Do you have any questions?  Yes, the same principal applies to eating broccoli and onions but as heavy sulfur vegetables, that sulfur still remains and will stink up the place eventually.
Any other questions?  If you want to fart more just chew gum or smoke.  Both of those activities lead to the swallowing of vast quantities of air that only has two ways to escape (both ways are funny).

Okay, on to cooking beans!  Hooray!

Now we're talking!

Now we’re talking!

First, quit soaking your beans.  They just don’t need it and you can actually screw some stuff up by doing it for too long.  If it’s so ingrained in you to soak them, just do it for an hour or two to satiate your psychosis and move along.  Those all night bean soaks are bad news.  The beans frequently absorb too much water and split which ruins the delicate texture.

Take your delicious beans and put them in a pot.  I suggest a nice Domingo Rojo or possibly a Good Mother Stallard but just about any beans will work.  Cover the beans with about an inch of water, a little more is fine.  Throw some other stuff into the pot if you want.  I frequently put in a chopped up small sweet tater, diced onion, carrots, a chunk of bacon skin, whatever you have around or need to use up.  I included a bunch of shiitakes yesterday because I needed to use them.  Do not add any salt at this point.  Beans aren’t pasta and adding salt right now will screw with the texture.

Cover the pot and bring this up to a hard boil and let it go for 5-10 minutes, but no more than that.  Then dial the heat way down (still covered) so it just barely simmers….and then walk the hell away.  Just leave.  Go get a pizza, take a nap, watch The Princess Bride, whatever.  Come back in 3-4 hours.

Okay…nap complete.  Movie watched.  Anybody want a peanut?


Time to check the beans!  The little protein bombs should be soft (but not soft and mooshy since you didn’t soak them overnight!) and delicious.  Now is when you want to add salt to the pot and gently stir it in.

The liquid that you see in there is referred to as ‘bean liquor’ or ‘pot liquor’ and it is a thing of beauty not to be wasted!  If you want to strain it out to use your beans in a salad or something, do that now, but please, for all that is holy, save that goodness!!  It’s amazing stock. And no, that liquid is not where all the farts are.

Nine times out of ten I just leave the liquor in the pot and reduce the whole thing down for another hour.   I like the beans to have the consistency of a thicker baked bean dish (but without the sweetness and cooked on the stovetop).

Yeah, now we're ready to eat some beans!

Yeah, now we’re ready to eat some beans!

That’s it.  Your beans are done.  Put some spoonfuls on a plate, chop up some cilantro and sprinkle that soapy bastard over the top, squish some lime juice on there too maybe, whatever you feel like doing.  I like a dollop of greek yogurt alongside the pile of beans.  Take this, guts!!

Making beans this way, and leaving the liquor in, makes these bad boys a serious treat on any plate.  Take them for lunch, dip stuff into them, whatever, just get them into your belly and get those wee beasties trheadjarained up good and proper.  (And enjoy the training!)



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6 Months

I have now been six months free from nicotine, tobacco, and generally inhaling anything except sweet baby atmospheric mix and whatever hound scent is made of.  This is just a quick update post for those who may be following along (or folks who want to see pics of dogs).

Like the last post, I’m not writing this for slaps on the back or encouragement, it is for other people who might be quitting or thinking about quitting and want to know first-hand accounts of what others experience.


I detailed what happened in the first six weeks already in an earlier post.  Revisit if you want a refresher on my personal hell.  The previous 4.5 months has been decidedly better…mostly.  Plus, I’ve saved around 600$ which is almost a case a delicious scotch!

Bottom line, I feel great.  I can breath so much better that it has spurred me to exercise.   I gained a few pounds while quitting, which is to be expected, but I found it very easy to lose that weight since suddenly I could walk up hills without breathing hard.  Also, now that I don’t smoke, I seem to give a fuck about my body again.  That’s kind of nice.


While I still like the smell of cigarette smoke, especially my old brand, I don’t feel the tug to smoke when I smell it.  When the aroma hits my nose I think “cigarettes, I remember those.”
I don’t get physical cravings to smoke and I no longer feel a hungry beast needing to be fed inside me. One thing that is interesting is that the little devil and his little voice still live in my head and come out at predictable, and sometimes unpredictable, times.
When we went on vacation in August it entailed a ten hour drive.  The drive was fine without smokes–which kind of surprised me, but once we got to the vacation house the little devil was like “Hooray.  We have arrived.  Time for a smoke!”  and I found myself patting my pocket absently, then I caught myself and started smiling.  This voice has no teeth anymore.  No power at all.

Also, I find myself really enjoying some of the little aspects of not being a smoker.  This little dude hangs out in my office a few times a week.  He wasn’t even born when I quit smoking.  He’s fond of grabbing onto my fingers.  I still sometimes reflexively worry that my hands smell like smoke, then I realize they don’t.   That simple thing brings a pretty stupid amount of pride.  Smokers will understand what I’m talking about.

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I’ve talked to many others who have quit after smoking more than a decade and the pattern seems to hold true. That voice never really goes away, but instead slinks into a corner.  One of the unpredictable times it came out was when I had a terrific sales day in the woodshop.  The sales were piling up and Mindy and I were celebrating.  The little voice peeped out and was like “Hooray. Let’s smoke.”  My response is always to laugh and ignore…sometime I tell it to eat a bag of dicks, depending on my mood.  I never feel an actual craving to smoke.  It’s just like an odd subconscious tug.  Sort of like when you try to put your seatbelt on after it’s already on and you think “why would I do that?”.


Seriously, your analogies suck lately.

The ‘mostly’ part I mentioned earlier came in the form of a terrible cold that tore me down and laid my soul open for people to poke at with sticks.  Seriously, that’s what it felt like.  Bender took full advantage and had his soul pokin’ stick handy.  It was no good.  I wondered a little about the severity.  It was around five months, maybe a little less, after quitting.  Then, a few weeks ago I had to see a doctor for something else and I mentioned it to him.  He just chuckled and said that it is VERY common to get hit with something really shitty a few months after quitting.  He didn’t have any hard and fast answers and admitted that it was just observational data, but the first cold and flu season for someone who has quit that year typically leaves a few bruises.  You have been warned. The sort of awesome thing is that, as a non-smoker, your recuperation time from the sickness is way better than it would be otherwise.  Your lungs are actually regaining the ability to expel things rather than just wallow in their own tarry filth.


Like all things, that illness came and went and I got better.  Like a true saiyan I believe I got stronger because of it and I expect my hair to burst into yellow flames any day now.  Any damn day now. But I digress.


The other point I want to clarify is that after six months I am not angry with people who choose to smoke.  I don’t understand why some people get that way.  An ex-smoker understands perfectly why those people are smoking.   I have friends that smoke, they are not jackasses about it but I have told them they don’t need to alter their behavior on my account.  If others want to smoke, knock yourselves out.  I understand the attraction, trust me.  If you’re one of those folks who quits and now rails against anyone who smokes and also fights to make the entire world ‘smoke free’…lighten up….maybe have a smoke…you’re clearly not over them.



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The Loveliest Smile Indeed

This time of year I get asked about the leaves changing color pretty frequently.  Sometimes by adults, sometimes by kids, even sometimes by hippies.  Pretty much always after asking me, and before giving me time to answer, they hit me with their own answer.  Sometimes it’s correct (hooray!) but usually it’s only partially correct.  In the case of the hippies, no, that’s not Gaia’s inner skin or the tree’s aura peeking out—we’ll just clear that up right now.

**All the pics in this post are fairly huge.  Click to see some of the colors close up. Steal pics if you want, but credit where due, please**

Sassafras: good for root beer and illustrating what a micro climate is.

Sassafras: good for root beer and illustrating what a micro climate is.

So, we’ve all heard that the colors we see in the fall are always there, hiding under the chlorophyll, and as the green chlorophyll breaks down the other colors show through. This is the partial truth I was talking about, but the devil is in the details.


The yellows and oranges come from a class of pigments called carotenoids, (root word of carrot, get it?  Words are fun!) and they are underneath the chlorophyll.  However, they begin breaking down at the same time as the greens, they’re just more stable so they do it slower in a “good color” year.

I don't like sugar maples, but damn it they can put on a show sometimes.

I don’t like sugar maples, but damn it they can put on a show sometimes.

Fun Facts: Some of the yellow in leaves comes from a type of Carotenoid called ‘Lutein’.  You might be going “where have I heard that word before…?”–it’s from eggs!  The same pigment that makes egg yolks yellow colored is present in leaves (not just trees, leafy edible greens too!).
Also, some of the orange color is beta-carotene, which is what makes carrots orange.  The underlying chemistry of our world is highly interconnected, check it out sometime.

Not too shabby

So, we’ve covered what causes the oranges and yellows, but why, in some years, do the leaves not fully turn yellow and instead just fall off?
Typically, this is due to climate and overall stress on the tree.
Leaves attach to a tree with their petiole.  At the base of that petiole there are two layers of cells right where it attaches to the twig.  That area is called the abscission zone. The top layer is composed of weak walled cells and the bottom layer is made of special cells that can expand.  In response to the waning sunlight, that bottom layer expands, breaking the weak top layer and popping off the leaf.  In wet years, this layer expands slowly and the tree holds the leaf longer, allowing the chlorophyll to break down slowly and show lots of yellows and oranges.  In dry seasons the pigments all break down quickly, leaving a brown leaf that is clipped off by a fast forming abscission zone.  I like to imagine this like walking from your car into your office…on a nice day you will walk slowly and enjoy yourself, on a crappy day you just want to get from your car to the building!

That analogy was as weak as the top layer of an abscission zone.

That analogy was as weak as the top layer of an abscission zone.

The reds and purples are different and have some biological mysteries going on. Whereas the other colors really are there hiding under the leaf, the reds and purples are created inside the leaf and are highly dependent on the immediate climate. The group of pigments that are responsible for these colors are called anthocyanins.

This Viburnum rufidulum is crushing it!

This Viburnum rufidulum is crushing it!

We all know that the leaf is like a solar cell for the tree, right?  They gather sunlight and use it to power the various processes needed to allow the tree to not only live, but also grow.  Well, as the days begin getting shorter, the leaves start making anthocyanins.  I won’t get into exactly why they start making more of these as this is a debated topic among professionals and nobody wants to see botanists fight — Latin gets thrown around, the puns are terrible, it’s a whole scene, man.
Anyway, if the day is bright and sunny those little solar panels are cranking out the sugars in the form of anthocyanins.  As the temperature decreases, the activity inside the cell slows, so if you have a warm sunny day that gets chilly as soon as the sun sets, all those anthocyanins concentrate in the leaf and you get a stunning display of deep reds.

Rhus copallina strutting its stuff.

Rhus copallina strutting its stuff.

Hooray for learning!

Now that that’s all cleared up, I want to cover one other little thing that tends to grind my gears.
Every year I hear one of two things:
1: This is a terrible year for fall color
2: I have never seen the trees so beautiful.

I like number two, but number one just doesn’t happen around Missouri. Ever. Pretty much every year is pretty in the fall, we have no terrible years.  Take this year for example.  It’s rained at my house only one time in the past six weeks. Seriously, I keep notes. We usually have a dry fall, but this is a little more dry than normal.  So, because of the reasons stated above, the elms, sugar maples, sycamores, and hickories are less than stunning. Bummer.  But the dogwoods are having a phenomenal year!  The Virginia Creeper is really putting on a show too. Even the Paw-Paw groves are a bright limey yellow (probably because they like wetter spots).  And the main push of canopy trees turning red, like the red maples, red oaks, and ash hasn’t even started yet.



The point is, most of us live in a place where many different trees exist and all those trees lose leaves and change color at different times and different intensities. Take a touch of optimism from those weird hippies who think fall color comes from where rainbows touch down.  Don’t let some brown hickories spoil the beauty of a magenta dogwood.

Go home baby oak leaves, you're drunk.

Go home baby oak leaves, you’re drunk.


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The 5 Samoans

Hi Everybody!

Everyone is starting fitness trends so I decided to make one up too!

I’ve seen dozens of various workout programs recently. Many of them try to sound mysterious by being named after some far off land.  Also, including a prime number is key. Just trust me. Anyway, for those following a trendy workout program please continue to eat your breakfast of fruit and drink your whey protein because that fruit plate, while pretty, isn’t cutting it for protein.  Seriously, just eat lots of beans and fish.  Unless you’re a professional bodybuilder you don’t need whey protein isolates.  They’re the same thing as when a casual lap swimmer shaves his whole body or someone cycling to work puts on a Lance Armstrong body suit.  Dude, chill, just eat right.  But…I digress.

The point is, up until recently (before the introduction of junk food from…uhh…places), the Samoan people were powerhouses of fitness.  Just naturally.  I assume. I truly don’t know.  I’m literally making this all up.  It’s based on the fact that both The Rock and his father are massive dudes.  That’s it.  I have no other evidence, nor do I need it.


The Elder Rock

The Younger Rock










So anyway, I have decided that if you want to look like the The Rock, you need to do these 5 exercises.

I call them The 5 Samoans!!
To be clear, like every other fitness workout in the past decade, this is all taken from basic knowledge of pretty much any workout.  And just like every other, if this is all you do and don’t switch stuff up you will not get any real long term results.  Also, it’s probably going to be hard and suck.  Especially at first. Hooray!!  Extra bonus, doing this stuff could probably hurt you.  Maybe an arm could fall off.  Dogs could lick you to death. Black holes could form in your dining room and destroy the universe.  This shit could really happen. I am not kidding.  You have been warned.  Do three sets of all these exercises because 3 is a prime number and Optimus Prime was pretty strong.   It’s solid logic, shut up.


Samoan The First:
Do push-ups really really slow, and keep your bicep/tricep pinned against your body as you go down and up. This makes your boobs twitch and hurt a little. That’s good.  If you are doing sets of more than 12, you are going too fast.  Shoot for failure at ten because that’s a nice number.  Much more than that and you are going to be working on stamina instead of becoming a big Samoan and rescuing franchise movies like GI JOE.


Samoan The Second:
Plank!  This shit is terrible and detailed in an earlier blog post .  Go back to your push up pose, but rest on your forearms.  Keep your body straight. Hold.
Just hold there for like a minute.
Eventually, work up to 2 minutes if you haven’t destroyed space-time.

Samoan The Third:
Wall sit!  Same basic thing as the Plank except instead of being timed just do this until you fail. Get into a sitting position with your back against a wall, except you have no chair.  Just hold there. Don’t poop. Don’t slide down.  Just hold there.  Much like the plank, it starts out stupid easy. Then your world melts and you wonder who lit your legs on fire and you want to die.
That means it’s working.

Samoan The Fourth:
Body Squats!!  Just squat down reeeeeeeaaaaaaaallllly slow until your butt almost hits the ground. It’s important to do this slowly.  You are forcing your muscles to work harder by doing it slowly.  I think. I don’t know. It hurts more when you go slow, I know that for sure.

Samoan The Fifth:
This is perhaps the most important one because I don’t see it on other workout regimens. Clearly, this is the Samoan secret!



Wikipedia told me that coconuts were the most eaten food on that island nation, so it instantly becomes the cornerstone of this workout!
Don’t work out with them, just eat them.  I guess you could work out with them before you eat them?  I’ll save that for The 5 Samoans Revised.  It’ll be out soon enough.
Anyway, coconuts are versatile!  You can eat them.  Make them into soap.  Use the shell to imitate horses.  It’s great!

That’s it folks.  Just follow that totally made up workout and something will happen!  It’ll probably change your life…I guess. Honestly, how the hell would I know?  I’m not in that great of shape myself, and even if I was it probably would be because of something more complicated than this….like genetics and a totally different lifestyle than someone that is out of shape.  Alternately, I could have a killer body but cholesterol so high it’s building up on my teeth.
Point is, quit looking for easy answers, unless these easy answers are the ones for you!  If they are, Hooray!!!!  I’m going to pour another scotch.


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