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.

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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.

Fry

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.

 

 

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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.
headjar

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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?

headjar

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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.

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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. 

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Sweet!  It looks like it’s spalted nicely

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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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. 

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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. 

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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. 

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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.

headjar

 

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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.

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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?

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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.

headjar

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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). 

headjar

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.

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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.

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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).

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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!!!
headjar
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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?

DoEYA

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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