The Plank

After kicking smokes to the curb almost six months ago (5 months and 14 days….uhh…roughly), I’ve been trying to get into shape.  Actually, I think it has more to do with getting a bunch of new tattoos and wanting to do them justice by making my body less Andy Dwyer and more Starlord…but that’s a vanity issue that I’ll choose to ignore.

You're doing it wrong.

You’re doing it wrong, but I like your style.

Anyway, I prefer what are called body weight exercises.  I figure I have the mass, I may as well use it.  I had heard of something called The Plank from various Facebook posts as well as fitness sites. After a few weeks, I realized they didn’t mean ‘Planking’, but it was actually some kind of exercise thingy.


Not planking!

Basically, you get into push up position, but rest on your forearms instead of your palms.  Line up your arms straight with your shoulders, and then just hold it.  That’s it.  It’s meant to strengthen your core and be good for your abs.

Now, I like abs.  I used to have some and I wouldn’t mind having them again. I can’t really do sit ups because if I find a couch that my feet fit under, the whole damn thing will lift up every time to try to do a sit up.  It’s awkward.

So, I looked into this plank exercise. Seems like most people were doing a minute or two of planking at a time, seemed a little heavy in the ‘speedwalking’crowd so I opted for the high end because I’m a beefcake!  Sure, I’ll chill there for two minutes.  What the hell?  I downloaded a free stopwatch app and set it for 120 seconds.

Below is my account of the time in 5 second increments (mostly).

0-5: This is supposed to be hard?

5-10: Seriously, is this yoga? I’m not looking for tone here.

10-15: “Hey, Bender, I’m doing yoga like you!” (he does multiple sun salutations every morning with much zeal).

15-20: My elbows hurt.  Should I be doing this on carpet?

20-25: We don’t have any carpet…hmmm…these are stupid anyway.  Maybe I’ll just do weighted crunches or something. I’ll finish the two minutes though, just to laugh at people that say how hard it is.

25-30: Hey… abs are starting to tingle.

30-35: My shoulders are starting to ache a little, too.

35-40: There might be something to this. I wish I had set the time for 3 minutes or put some weight on my back or something.  Maximize this yoga thing!

40-45: Man, this is really starting to burn.  “Get away Bender, this shit just got real”.

45-50: Damn, maybe I shouldn’t have done push ups before this. “Seriously, Bender, get out of my face”.

50-55: I bet I have a full six pack after this!  Ooooh…feel the burn!  I wonder if I can set a time limit record?  Tell all those speedwalkers I did ten minutes!

55-60:  Hmm….time seems to be slowing down on that stopwatch

60-65: Shit, this really hurts.  I’m only halfway through?  Wait, how did three drops of sweat just fall off my head in under a second?  That’s not possible.

65-70: Okay, I think the stopwatch app is broken.  It definitely slowed down.

70-75:  Sweet Jesus, my abs hurt!  Can I just rest my head on the ground for a second?  I can do this.  Little scrawny people do this. C’mon!


80-85: “Bender, save yourself!  I’m caught in some kind of time dilation!  Seconds are taking minutes to go by!  A mini black hole must have formed in the dining room.  Quit licking my face!”  Wait…he’s moving at normal speed?  Oh no, he’s stuck in the dilation too!! I wonder how long it’s really been?  Hours?  Days?  What if it’s been days?!  I don’t even think I can move.  I can’t feel my shoulders!  I’M GOING TO DIE LIKE THIS!

85-90: Only one thing can save me.  “Fry!!!!”

90-92:  Fry jumps off the couch and walks straight into me. Knocking his chest into my shoulder and causing me to collapse.  While I lie there, writhing in stomach cramping agony, both dogs begin licking my face.  The fire in my shoulders is too great to push them away.

92-95: Mindy’s going to get home and find me dead on the living room floor, licked to death.  I bet my abs look great though!

95-110:  I wait for death to take me.  Fry farts twice.  Time begins to slow again.  I welcome death.

110-120:  Apparently I have thwarted whatever space-time shenanigans were taking place. I breathe a sigh of relief while gently rubbing my aching abs.  That was close.

To sum up:

Do not try The Plank.  It causes mini black holes to form and time to slow.  The Plank will destroy our world.  It is evil.


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It’s Not The Heat…..

It’s not the heat, it’s the stupidity.

Seriously, this is going to be a bit of a rant, you’ve been warned.  Bender helps explain it though.  This softens the blow, perhaps?

It’s the end of July in St Louis…’s hot.  With the exception of that weird Wyoming snow storm, it’s hot in most places in this country….because it’s the end of July.  This is a surprise to no one.

Remember to drink lots of water

Remember to drink lots of water

At least around here it’s actually been a very mild summer.  only a handful of days above 95 so far.  We didn’t even turn our AC on until July.  That’s nothing!  C’mon people.

Take a break in the shade

Take a break in the shade

Folks run around acting like some heat and humidity kills you the second you step out in it.  I know people that work inside all day but on hot days they still bounce around talking about how they need to stay hydrated because it’s ‘a hot one’.  All the while my shirt and shorts are totally soaked through, I’m chugging water but know it will be another 7 hours before I feel the urge to use the bathroom.  I’m as hydrated as I can get, but my body says “we’re not letting any of this go! My Precious!”.

Jump in a creek if you can find one

Jump in a creek if you can find one

And yes, the heat can be dangerous, no doubt about it.  It’s like a hurricane though….you get ample warning.  It will not come as a surprise.  (The elderly are given a pass in this rant because I understand they can get some signals crossed and not realize how hot they are.  Check on them when it’s hot, that’s real.)  If you’re out working in the sun, or even in the shade, and you get a little hit of dizziness, that’s a sign. You were just warned.  Take a break.  Keep working and maybe your stomach does a tumble…like a weird flip-flop.  That’s another sign. You have been warned twice.  Take a break, dummy.  Then you vomit.  Your body now hates you.  You are being stupid. Get out of the heat and go cool down.  Maybe don’t choose a day with a heat index of 110 to play your beer’lympics competition.  It’s not rocket science, people, it’s common sense.  Bitching about it won’t change a damn thing.

Don't be stupid

Don’t be stupid

Remember, it’s not the heat, it’s the stupidity that gets ya.


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On Colorful Skin

I have never hid my love of tattoos.  I think they’re great and, even if you get a few when you’re young, they represent who you were at that time (drunk and stupid?).



Tattoos are an outstanding way to tell a story on your body.  Each of mine represent something very special to me and I am happy to talk about them if anyone asks. Have you seen people look at a photo and kind of drift off for a bit with a slight upturn in the corner of their mouth? This happens pretty frequently.  Honestly, you sort of forget they are there, then you notice and remember.

I got my first tattoo at 17, then another at 18, then another at 20.  At this point, I think my mother quit caring.  One of my family members (who is tattooed) had previously told me that more than two and you are a ‘circus freak’. So I got three and stopped. Ha! To be honest, I got a little lucky.  When I was young I never got drunk and got a tattoo(a good artist won’t generally tattoo you then anyway and I think it’s illegal, at least in the US).  The point is I didn’t go into them on impulse.

I stopped getting tattoos because real life started and I needed to pinch every penny. For the past decade my wife and I have been talking about how we needed to get more and blah blah blah, but we never actually did.  Finally, just a few months ago, we decided to jump back in.  We had some extra cash and we have a great many tattoos that we have been thinking about for a long time.

Can you believe that isn't real?

Can you believe that isn’t real?

Let’s talk about the cost for a second, as this is frequently cited as a reason not to get them.  Yes, they can be expensive.  In tattoos, bargain shopping is not advised.  Most shops are around 100 bucks per hour of actual tattoo time.  Sure, some are more and some are less, but I’ve checked this with places all over the country and 100 seems to be average.  A very talented artist around me charges 150 an hour and he is worth every penny.  I hope one day to have one of his masterpieces on my skin.  The point is, dropping 100-1,000 dollars is a fair bit of cash. Indexed over the life of the tattoo it comes out to pennies, but the upfront costs are real.  Start squirreling away some money now.  Use little tricks if you have to….Hey look, I didn’t throw a sno-cone at a poodle today….5 bucks in the tattoo jar!

The second most common thing I hear is “I don’t think I like anything enough to have it tattooed on me”.  Seriously?  If you’re dead serious, then I am sad for you.  A small flower that you love?…..The name Elwood across your knuckles?….A simple star?…Okay, so let’s operate on the fact that you’re not the most depressing person on the planet and you can derive joy from something for more than 5 minutes…..I think it’s confidence that’s missing in this scenario.  You do like something enough to get it tattooed on you, but you are afraid others will think its silly. “Man, I would love to have a tri-force tattoo…I have such amazing memories of playing that game for hours as a kid.  That would be dumb though.”  My response would be, naturally, WTF?  Go get a tri-force tattoo. I’ll sit behind you and hum the theme music and make sword slashy noises and that chime from when a secret is found the Entire. Fucking. Time.

This little thing would cost around 150 bucks i would bet.

This little thing would cost around 150 bucks I would bet.

Okay, so now you have rewarded yourself enough times for not slapping your friend for saying vaccinations cause climate change, you picked a design that makes you happy and has meaning to you….now where do you go?  Sorry, this part’s on you.  If you live around St Louis I emphatically recommend The Washington Tattoo Collective, but anywhere else…….Just do some research, talk to others, maybe don’t go to some seedy death metal shop, or maybe do…hell if I know, you’re an adult.  Decide for yourself.

“Will it hurt?”
Well, yes…a little, but not for long.

I will tell you this:  When I look at any of my tattoos, I smile. Sure, my earlier ones are of lower quality than what I am getting now at The Washington Tattoo Collective, but I don’t love them less.  They still look fine. I see them and think of what I was doing then, who I was hanging out with, even the tattoo artist who was the size of Andre the Giant but had such a soft voice.

Anybody want a tattoo?

Anybody want a tattoo?

You are walking around with a blank canvas.  I’m not saying you need full sleeves, but get a little something to remember someone or something by. I’ve noticed recently that it’s becoming common now for sisters or mother/daughters to get matching, or in some way related, tattoos. When you look at that tattoo, you will think of them for the rest of your life.  Most people should probably think of their siblings more often, so this is money well spent.

Put something on your canvas.  I think you’ll be very happy with the results.

Why the hell not?!?

Why the hell not?!?


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On Quitting

I have now gone about 6 weeks without a cigarette (or any nicotine of any kind) willfully entering my bloodstream.  I smoked cigs for about 16 years or so.  Until I finally quit last month, I hadn’t gone an entire day without a cigarette in this century.  (Right about now non-smokers are like “what?” but it’s true.  Smokers smoke.  Even if they have a sore throat or the flu.  Sometimes even in their sleep.)

A few weeks ago I went to buy some chickens from a dude I didn’t know.  He was a constant smoker.  He smelled so strongly of that sweet sweet smell that I waited for the craving to hit.  I waited for that voice in my head to say “he’s nice, he’ll totally bum you one. What’s one? C’mon!”
That little voice is a total fucker and he has gotten me into plenty of trouble over the years, but this time he never came.  I took my new chickens and went home.  My detox symptoms were gone.  All of the ones that I had noticed during the single worst month of my life….it had finally ended.
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Now, I am not writing this for a bunch of glad handing.  I told you all that stuff so you could understand the context of the rest of what I will say. This post is for other people who might be thinking about quitting or who have just quit a day or two ago and are searching for answers the way I was.  Knowing what is coming is important. GI Joe taught me preparation is key, even mentally, and quitting is far more than having a craving every now and again.

First, how I quit:
Everyone is different and I am no exception.  I don’t like chewing gum.  I hate the entire idea of a film of plastic leaching chemicals into my skin.  I really don’t like pills.  So, I decided to wean myself off.  I started by switching to only smoking half cigarettes.  I would pinch the cherry off and save the rest of the smoke for later.  That last part is important because it would be easy to throw the rest away, but then you don’t have to own up to cheating.  If you smoke more than half…whatever you have left is all that remains the next time you smoke.  Your whole pack of smokes smells like total shit.  Plus, it starts saving you money right off the bat which serves as a nice positive reinforcement.  Extra money for coke and hookers!

I continued down this path until I switched to only taking 4 puffs off the cigarette at one time.  For me, taking four puffs and pinching the remaining cherry off means one cigarrette will last me three smoking ‘sessions’, if that makes sense.  This may seem overly complicated or rigid or something but I tend to obsess on method in things just like this so it worked well for me.  And as I said, all along the way you are saving money, which is a nice incentive (remember the blow!).  My wife and I were just joking about how often I have said “I can pay for that with cigarette money!” in the last month. I have spent that money at least four times and I’m quite happy with that.

Eventually I was down to only one cigarette a day, spread out over three ‘sessions’.  It took me about two months to get to that point from my normal 15 a day habit. I figured it would be pretty easy to just stop from that point.

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The night I took my last puff I thought I knew what I was in for.  I had read all the stuff on WebMD and all the other sites about withdrawal symptoms…blah blah blah. While those sites weren’t wrong, they kind of glossed over a few things.

The first day with no nicotine was bad news bears. I was jittery.  I just felt ‘hollow’ or like I was in a long tunnel…I don’t honestly know how to explain that one, and I was dizzy/nauseous all day. But then I went to sleep and expected to sleep poorly (which is what happened) and then I woke up in the morning.
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I had gone an entire day without a smoke!!  I felt a huge sense of accomplishment.  The previous day had sucked, but I could handle that.  As I lay there in bed, still tired from not sleeping all that well, I felt like I could take on the world!  Then I got out of bed and began day two.

Day two is important, but I am going to lump it in with day three because they may as well be the same day.  I hope to remember those two days for the rest of my life.  Even trying to describe them right now is almost impossible.  They were absolute hell.  I wanted nicotine but I wouldn’t feed that particular beast so my body demanded food or booze instead.  Well, I was so dizzy most of the time that I didn’t want to eat anything.  Booze!  Glorious Booze!  Teacher, Mother, Secret lover.  You can save me!

That’s a slippery road, for obvious reasons.  Now, I’m not one to get drunk and stop caring about quitting and then smoke again.  That’s not my style.  I’m more of a get drunk and fall out of a tree kind of dude.  A little booze can seriously help take the edge off the cravings, just realize that you’re playing with fire and you’ll be fine.  Besides, a dance with the devil every now and again has to be a good thing, right?
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The worst part about those two days was the depression.  I’m not, nor have I ever been, a depressed person.  My flavor of psychological disorder is anxiety and it never overlapped into it’s close cousin of depression.  Sure, I thought I got depressed in the winter but as I quickly realized, that was just sadness.  What I felt in those two days was a “why should I give a fuck about anything’, ‘Maybe jump off this deck’ sort of depression.  I am not kidding at all.  It was a very dark place.  I was waiting for it to improve on day three but it didn’t. Fuck.
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On day four, things began looking up, just a little. Because I have problems with anxiety, I am very aware in changes in my body and, as I said, I had looked up what sorts of withdrawal symptoms I could expect.
They claimed I might experience some discomfort in my lungs, like having a cold.  That doesn’t sound so bad.  Yeah….my lungs ached…all the time…for two weeks.  I never coughed a bunch or anything, just aching so much it hurt to walk or lean certain ways into a chair, or lay down to sleep….you know, life.  Life made my lungs hurt.

As long as we’re talking about discomfort…my hands and feet itched like I had chiggers all over them for a little more than a week.  Not like “oh, my skin feels dry”…more like “ANTS, ANTS MUST BE CRAWLING ALL OVER ME!” No worries though, this is normal (and kind of cool).  It’s the circulation improving in your extremities.  Literally, your own blood is making your skin itch as it creeps into places it couldn’t easily get into before.  Like a sponge finally tasting water.  I like it.

One of the other symptoms mentioned was insomnia and ‘slight sleep disturbance’.  Fuck that description.  I was getting around 2-3 hours a night. Why?  Because I had the worst heartburn imaginable anytime I would lay down.  The kind of heartburn that, when coupled with that serious lung ache, makes you pay special attention to your left arm…”do I feel any stabbing pains?”.
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The insomnia and the heartburn lasted the longest, by far, of any of the symptoms.  A solid 4 weeks.  I finally realized just a few days ago that I was back to my normal sleeping patterns, that was nice.

Oh, and several times in the last few weeks, my skin decided to just swell up like a balloon.  Couldn’t fit my wedding ring on, my face was puffy, just weird shit.

Basically, I am describing chaos inside your body.  Without any nicotine, the brain just pulls whatever string it feels like to try to make you smoke again.  So, if you’re trying this or are thinking about trying it, whatever weird shit you experience in that first month is normal.

Did your fingers fall off?  That’s normal.  Just put them in a bag and put them in the fridge.  Worry about it later.  Stay the course.  If your body is still in chaos after a month, you should go see a doctor because something else might be going on.

For instance: Did you quit smoking but start freebasing cocaine?  That’ll produce some weird results, better to wait to start something like that until you’ve established a baseline.
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One final weird thing that some may be able to relate to…for at least two weeks my internal mood would constantly flip from anger, to sadness, to elation.  These moods would change every few minutes.  It felt like my brain was trying to find the mood that would cause me to ingest nicotine, or it was just being a fucker.  I really can’t tell.  That guy’s a dick sometimes. That whole thing was weird as hell though. I suggest loud music or loud television and absolutely no quiet and introverted reflection because ‘Thar Be Dragons, Son’.

Now, I certainly don’t want to talk anybody out of quitting.  It was well worth it.  I am just trying to tell you what to expect because knowing that stuff would help me.  Quit if you want to, I don’t much care.  My time with cigarettes was done, perhaps yours is too.  If not, keep smoking, I’m not here to judge anybody.  And frankly, when done right, it really does look cool (watch Don Draper do it).  I just didn’t want to smoke anymore.

I will tell you that after a few short weeks, even in the grip of withdrawals, I could feel my health improving.  I was lifting some logs that will be firewood for this winter and I stopped to catch my breath only to realize that I hadn’t lost it in the first place! (cue emotional roller coaster starting with happiness and turning into anger for not doing it sooner, then into thoughts of perhaps needing to poop).
Seriously, it was a weird time.

Best of luck.

Posted in Other stuff | 5 Comments

Loin Porchetta

Porchetta is typically a fatty, stuffed, and rolled pork roast that is slow cooked.  We ground up the shoulders from the last pig we butchered (gotta make salami out of something!) so I had to dig around in the freezer for a different hank of meat.

Normally, I just turn the loins from the pigs we butcher into back bacon (Canadian bacon if you must), but this time I wanted to try something different.

I took the boneless loin and cut it with a very sharp knife to try to get the entire thing to be about 3/4″ thick.  This will essentially ‘unroll’ the piece of meat.  If you start wondering if this might be a little easier if the meat is still partially frozen, let me save you some time. It is not.  Don’t make my mistake, wait until it is fully thawed.

An unrolled loin

An unrolled loin

I chose one of the fattier ends of the loin just because I knew I would smoke it for a few hours and I didn’t want it to dry out.

For the stuffing, I chose broccoli and onions blurred into a paste in the food processor and then mixed with some ricotta cheese.  It made sense at the time.


Stuffing ready to be mixed

Then all I had to do as smear it all over the meat.

This looks.....odd

This looks…..odd

Once that was done, it was time to break out my…uhhh….rolling skills.  Please fight the urge to lick the end to seal it closed.  Use Butchers twine instead.

I didn't even need to use a dollar bill.

I didn’t even need to use a dollar bill.

I mixed up a little dry rub with brown sugar, salt, paprika, and some other stuff because it looked like it needed it.



All that was left was to smoke this beast.  As I usually do, I cut my smoking into thirds.  First third is with oak, second is hickory, third is cherry.  I think this creates the most delicious blend of smoke flavor on pork, but use whatever wood you want.

Just about done

Just about done

I smoked it for 4 hours at around 250.  Being a leaner cut of meat it didn’t need the 8+ hours to break down a bunch of connective tissue but you still want to to go slow in order to get a good smoke in there.

Finished product

Finished product

It turned out pretty tasty.  If you look at the picture above, I don’t have a clue why the filling wasn’t spiraled inside there.  Its something I will pay more attention to next time.  Also, the meat was a touch dry. I think that’s an effect of using the loin. It just doesn’t have the fat content needed in order to be cooked the way I did it.  Next time I will brine the meat first if I use a loin again.

Overall, it was a successful project.  It made my mouth very happy.  Next time I’ll make the few changes I mentioned and see how it goes.


Posted in Meat Stuff | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Let’s Have A Raffle!

Humid is available for pre-sale!!

Now it’s time for a raffle for anyone who purchases the book from amazon in this two week pre-sale period.  This is a great raffle because no one walks away empty handed!  All you have to do is click the pre-order button on the top right side of the sale page and then comment on this post and let me know that you pre-ordered.  No proof required, because I trust in you (and in karma). Amazon is not affiliated with the raffle.

***This is open to anyone in any country.***

Before I show you the homemade goods that are being given away, here is a blurb of the new book.  It’s got a little something for everyone, except romance. Sorry, but trust me, you don’t want me to try to fumble my way through some kind of sexy scene.  It would be like “Then he saw her boobs and cheered!”

As Memorial Day weekend heralds the beginning of summer, no one in St. Louis is alarmed by a few warm and humid days. Only as the humidity continues to steadily increase worldwide is it apparent that this unprecedented weather could be the death of mankind. As water saturates the air and disappears from the land, one meteorologist begins to suspect that this anomaly isn’t a natural one.
Survivors flee from dying cities, but meteorologist Wendy Makani remains behind to try to discover the truth behind this lethal aberration.  When her research produces startling results, the last thing she expects is for the answers she seeks to come looking for her. Wendy and her new partner must work together against the clock to stop this catastrophe that began in the dawn of Earth’s creation.

So….interested?  Even if not you can still order the ebook for 2.99 and be entered in this cool raffle!  (Then give the ebook to anyone who enjoys sci-fi books)

Here are the goods:

This is a heavily figured bird's eye mape cutting board.

This is a heavily figured bird’s eye maple cutting board. (Value 50$)

This is a kitchen spoon spatula hybrid made out of bird's eye maple

This is a kitchen spoon spatula hybrid made out of bird’s eye maple (Value 25$)

This 1" thick end-grain cutting board made from Purpleheart and Pau Amarello will easily last a lifetime with very minimal care.

This 1″ thick end-grain cutting board made from Purpleheart and Pau Amarello will easily last a lifetime with very minimal care. (Value 100$)

It's a SteamPunk pen!!  The wooden center is made from Australian Red Mallee Burl.  (Value 75$)

It’s a SteamPunk pen!! The wooden center is made from Australian Red Mallee Burl. (Value 75$)

The Neapolitan Bowl!  This bowl is hand turned and made from alternating pieces of sycamore, walnut, and cedar.  (Value 50$)

The Neapolitan Bowl! This bowl is hand turned and made from alternating pieces of sycamore, walnut, and cedar. (Value 50$)

This a new crazy awesome handmade puzzle  quilt from the Frydog Stitch shop.  (Value 200$)

This a new crazy awesome handmade puzzle quilt from the Frydog Stitch shop. (Value 200$)

Those are all the items in the first round.  All of the stuff came straight out of our shop, Frydog Creations.

The prizes will be in order of who gets chosen first.  The first lucky name drawn will get to pick whatever prize they want.  The second gets to pick from whatever is left, and so on and so on.
But what the hell, If we hit over 100 pre-orders, I’ll add stretch prizes and let me tell you, they will be awesome because I will be thrilled to hit that number and be feeling very generous.

Here is the link to the book for pre-ordering


I may have an extra prize or two to dole out for people that share this contest a bunch as well.  Please help me spread the word and give away a bunch of great stuff!

Posted in Book stuff | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

What is “Gamey”?

I hear this word tossed around frequently and I wanted to explore it for some people who may have the wrong impression.

First, the word “gamey” is loaded.  It basically means the meat has an off-flavor, but by calling it gamey it becomes tied to wild game.  This is bullshit.  You see, it’s all in how the animal is butchered.  If I wanted to, I could make a piece of cow taste gamey as all hell, which is not the easiest feat since cows are generally bred to have pretty much no actual flavor, but I’ll explain later.

Like I said, it’s all in how the meat is butchered.  Hang the animal for a week in perfect conditions if you want, this won’t affect the flavor (although if done properly it will have a drastic effect on the texture).  Deer, moose, and elk are not cows and pigs, and therefore should not be butchered as if they were.  Unlike those domesticated critters, the venison does not have good tasting fat.  In fact, the fat tastes funky as hell and it’s not meant to be eaten.

A good comparison is lamb.  Lamb fat has a strong flavor, almost earthy.  Personally, I love this flavor, but I understand why some people don’t since it’s just on the tasty side of funky.  Venison fat is even more strongly flavored than that.

Most good butchers know to remove as much as they can and they do a fine job.  However, they get inundated by wild game all at the same time and can’t possibly spend as much time and attention on the meat as a knowledgeable person only doing a few for personal consumption, specifically on the ground meat.  The steaks are usually final trimmed just before cooking.

The bottom line is to limit the white flecking in the meat.  If you see it, remove it.  The white is one of two things:  either fat or tough, chewy tendons.  Both have bad flavors and one contributes a texture that no one likes, so get rid of it.

All wrapped up in shiny white bits

All wrapped up in shiny white bits

The piece of meat above is cut straight off a deer and is destined for the grinder.  You can see some of the thicker tendons have been removed already, but plenty of white is still there and needs to be removed.  This is easy to accomplish, but it adds time to the process which is why people generally just toss this chunk into the grinder without the extra step.

eeek...i'm naked!

Eeek…I’m naked!

The next picture is the same piece of meat pretty much ready for the grinder.  After this I would cube it up, trim off any other little bits of white, and feed it to my deer-O-matic 5000.  The above step took around 2 minutes, at the most.  It doesn’t sound like much but it will add up to around a half hour over the whole animal, which is an excellent investment if you ask me. My wife and I have done this for several years now and it takes us 30 minutes total per animal to go from the large de-boned chunks of meat straight off the carcass to finished, ground deliciousness.

Since deer has  little intra-muscular fat, the finished product is very nearly totally deep red. Deer meat does not marble, as cows do.  It doesn’t have, and shouldn’t have, the characteristic white splotches that you find in ground beef.  Yes, this is why deer meat is so lean.

Om nom nom nom!

Om nom nom nom!

You can see a small amount of white in there because no one is perfect (and we butchered four deer that day), but as long as it is almost completely absent you won’t have any problems.  After shooting our deer in the woods, we remove the fancy meats (tenderloin and backstrap) and then de-bone the rest and freeze it.  Once hunting season draws to a close we pull it all out and finish the processing.

The other culprit of off-flavors is far more sinister, and much worse tasting, than fat.  The meat has various lymph nodes all over the place, just like you do.  They are important in proper immune system functioning. Consider them to be military bases for your body to send troops out of to fight an infection.  Some are easy to find and live inside the fat just on the top of the meat, so they get trimmed off normally.  Others can be better at hiding…

You sneaky bastard!

You sneaky bastard!

See the gray looking circle shrouded in fat but hidden under a cap of meat?  Yeah, that one little marble sized thing, if allowed to go through the grinder and mix with the rest of the meat, will funkify a whole batch.  This one was hiding just inside the front shoulder, essentially in an armpit.

lymph nodes are not good.  Ever.

I said I could make cow taste funky, this is how.  Include a few lymph nodes.

These are different than scent glands, which are just under the skin of a deer in certain spots and they exude funky oils into the hairs which allow the deer to rub their scent on various things to mark territory.  Some folks remove those glands (especially the tarsal glands on the hind legs) before even field dressing the animal, but I never mess with them. They are like little grease bombs and anyone who has ever worked on a car knows that once you get a small bit of grease on you, it spreads….everywhere.  It’s extra tricky in this situation since you can’t actually see the grease.  Cutting off a scent gland greatly increases your chances of getting that oily funk on the meat. Just leave those tufts of discolored hair alone and discard them along with the rest of the carcass.  If you like a musky, deep forest smell, take a strong whiff….

Some believe older deer taste worse.  This is simply not true.  The meat from an older animal can certainly be more chewy and tough, but a marinade, or even letting it sit on a rack in the fridge for a few days before cooking, can solve that problem.  The reason this is a common belief is because older deer tend to have more fat.  With more fat it becomes more time consuming to remove it all and corners tend to be cut during processing with more bad tasting white stuff making it into the final product.

A quick word about flavor:
Venison, like most wild game, has not been domesticated.  They eat a varied diet that depends on season and can be greatly different from year to year depending on the growing conditions of any given year.  Flavor is good.  Deer meat naturally has a rich, meaty flavor.  This is not gamey.  This is the opposite of gamey.  When you remove the funky stuff from the meat, you allow the true delicious flavor of the animal to shine through.  Here in the southern half of Missouri, our deer eat primarily acorns, hickory nuts, and other forest goodness.  In my opinion they are the best tasting deer anyone will ever find.  Acorn fed meat tastes delicious, just ask the Spaniards that make Jamon Iberico.  The deer in the northern half of the state eat lots of corn and lack the richness in the meat.  Some of them taste more like lean beef, which is to say they don’t taste like anything at all.  Flavor is good.  Off-flavors are bad.

I would love to start a campaign to stop using the word gamey entirely, but I feel it’s probably too ingrained now.  Instead, just try to remember that gamey doesn’t really have much to do with wild-game, but is instead a butchering error.  Blame the person with the knife, not the delicious animal.

Speaking of animals, you know what two hound dogs do while over 100 pounds of meat is sitting on large trays for hours in the kitchen?  Pretty much just this:

Drop something? Drop something? Drop something? Drop something? Drop something? Drop something? Drop something? Drop something? Drop something? Drop something?

Drop something? Drop something? Drop something? Drop something? Drop something? Drop something? Drop something? Drop something? Drop something? Drop something?


Posted in Meat Stuff | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A log into a bowl

It’s been over a year since I have turned wood, so I’m trying to get back into the groove.  Like anything else, turning is a skill that must be nurtured.  Unlike some other things, turning is fairly dangerous and requires an amount of muscle memory in order to dodge the piece of wood flying through the air at 200 miles an hour.  

Anyway, to that end, I’m grabbing sub-par wood from around the house and making it into various things as practice.  

Below, is a series of pictures detailing the creation of a bowl from a piece of two year old firewood that had been sitting on the driveway for a long time.  My apologies to the gorgeous black widow who I had to shoo off the log.  

photo (62)

This is a chunk of black cherry (Prunus serotina) firewood


Once cut in half, I drew out a circle and then cut that out.  This allows the pith to run from side to side of the bowl instead of plunging my gouges into end-grain.

Once cut in half, I drew out a circle and then cut that out. This allows the pith to run from side to side of the bowl instead of plunging my gouges into end-grain.

This is my least favorite part.  It's roughing out the general shape and it tends to make my hands hurt.

This is my least favorite part. It’s roughing out the general shape and it tends to make my hands hurt.

All roughed out and the tenon is cut into the bottom for mounting in my bowl chuck.  Now it gets fun!

All roughed out and the tenon is cut into the bottom for mounting in my bowl chuck. Now it gets fun!

Once in the chuck, it's quick work to clean up the sides.  This isn't the shape I was hoping for, but the wood dictates what it is sometimes, especially when using mostly rotten firewood.

Once in the chuck, it’s quick work to clean up the sides. This isn’t the shape I was hoping for, but the wood dictates what it is sometimes, especially when using mostly rotten firewood.

Few things are as fun as hollowing out a bowl.  If you do it right the chips come off in long ribbons, even with really dry wood.

Few things are as fun as hollowing out a bowl. If you do it right the chips come off in long ribbons, even with really dry wood.

I have finishing gouges to clean up all the rough cuts from the regular gauges.  After this all I have to do is sand and finish.

I have finishing gouges to clean up all the rough cuts from the regular gauges. After this all I have to do is sand and finish.

And this is the finished product.  It's not a very exciting bowl, but it was mainly to work on my techniques.  I'll fill it with candy or chips or something.  Start to finish this took about an hour.

And this is the finished product. It’s nothing special but I’ll fill it with candy or chips or something. Start to finish this took about an hour.


Posted in Wood stuff | 5 Comments

Making A Board

I thought some folks might want to see the steps I go through in making one of those fancy cutting boards, so I took some photos while I was making one.  You have to guess at the design as we go along….

So…first things first…..we need music.

For today I have chosen some Paul Simon, but listen to whatever you want.

For today I have chosen some Paul Simon, but listen to whatever you want.

Now….I suppose….we need some kind of plan.  So scribble some stuff down if you’re into that kind of thing.

My handwriting is sort of like a code.  It works for me.

My handwriting is sort of like a code. It works for me.

Now I will cut a bunch of rough stock to about 28″ in length, which means I will be able to make two identical boards with very little extra work.

This is (top to bottom) padauk, bloodwood, walnut, and sycamore

This is (top to bottom) padauk, bloodwood, walnut, and sycamore

Then I run those boards through my planer to get them all to the same thickness.  FunFact…bloodwood is super hard so the planer is deafening when you run it through.

smooth and pretty!

smooth and pretty!

Next I look back at my handy dandy scribble sheet and I can easily see how many boards I need and at what width they should be.  Before cutting to final width, I joint one side of each full size board because gaps are where the devil lives.

Got them all cut...still have my fingers...hooray!

Got them all cut…still have my fingers…hooray!

With the boards cut it’s time to make sure the idea is feasible….

Yep, that's pretty much what I was looking for.

Yep, that’s pretty much what I was looking for.

So then we just glue our three boards up, clamp them good, and wait 24 hours.

I really should clean my shop up, but that's winter work!

I really should clean my shop up, but that’s winter work!

After 24 hours the glue is fully hardened.  In order to make a perfectly fitting end-grain board, these three boards need to be planed dead flat and also the exact same thickness as each other.  So they get run through the planer again.

After that, it’s time for final slices!  To get cuts without any burring or splintering along the cut edge, you really need a nice crosscut blade.

a crosscut sled helps a whole bunch too.

a crosscut sled helps a whole bunch too.

With all three boards cut to the same width, all we have to do is flip them onto the end-grain and start assembling the pattern.

See the pattern yet?

See the pattern yet?

Once we have the pattern set, we very very carefully align everything and then glue it and clamp it another time.

This is just before the final glue up

This is just before the final glue up.  It’s a double helix!

After 24 hours it’s time to take it out of the clamps yet again.  Glue will have bubbled up in places and hardened and no matter how careful you were certain boards have raised a millimeter or two.  Cutting boards need to be flat, so flatten the end-grain however you see fit.  some people use a planer (a subset of these people then break their planer), some people use a router, some crazy folks just sand it flat (which takes a very very long time), other have a drum sander(which I really want to buy).

After it’s flattened all that is left is some finish sanding to make it silky smooth and then apply a finish like mineral oil, beeswax, salad bowl finish, or any other product out there.  They each have positives and negatives, I usually grab a bottle of whatever is closest to me, which is either mineral oil or salad bowl finish.

It's all done!

It’s all done!

If you have any other questions about how to make these, please drop me a line in the comments section or bring over a six pack of Ruination IPA (and something for yourself if you want) and I will run through the whole process again.


Posted in Wood stuff | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Optimism, it’s what’s for dinner!

Amazon has announced that it will have a book borrowing program called Kindle Unlimited.  Quick explanation:  For ten bucks you can borrow unlimited ebooks, but only those in the Kindle Select program (the ones you could borrow once a month if you had a Prime account).  This borrowing program also allows for audiobooks for those that have that option.  Got it?  Okay, great!

Now….I have many authors as friends on Facebook (probably too many).  The response to this has been disheartening.  I have heard a few people just outright saying it was a terrible idea while shaking their fist at the clouds.  Others just saying they thought it probably wouldn’t work and they (the authors) were getting ripped off of sales.  Another camp of folks seemed to tremulously say “we’ll have to see how it goes”.

Hasn’t Amazon earned just a bit of faith at this point, people?  Truly though, faith in Amazon isn’t the main point here…where is the optimism?

My view on this whole thing is “Hell Yeah!”  I hope it’s awesome for readers and authors and I choose to go into this assuming that it will be.  Maybe I’ll be wrong. I won’t care, I’ll just move on to the next thing.  I would much rather head into something with a positive outlook and hope for success than dip a toe in, worried about failure.

I’m sure Abraham Lincoln has a quote about worrying about ebook failure inhibiting success or something along those lines.  Maybe it was Ghandi.  As far as I can tell, all quotes get assigned to those two gentlemen.  I’ll find one and get back to you.

The point is that we’ve never had an unlimited borrowing service from Amazon, much the same way as we’ve never really had a post-apocalyptic survival situation.  Why must people just assume it will be terrible?  C’mon, look on the bright side.  Drink from the half-full glass.  You may be shocked how it changes your entire outlook.

Now go sign up for Kindle Unlimited.  I think it’s going to be awesome!!

Posted in Book stuff | Tagged , , , , , , , | 5 Comments