Thursday, December 31, 2009

For the Upcoming New Year

For my readers, for my family, for my friends. . . May you always have walls for the winds, a roof for the rain, tea beside the fire, laughter to cheer you, those you love near you and all your heart might desire. - Irish Blessing



Saturday, December 26, 2009

Bacon and Eggnog

Pancakes that is!

click to enlarge photos

"Every Christmas my Mom would get a fresh goose, for gooseburgers, and my Dad would whip up his special eggnog out of bourbon and ice cubes."
Fry - Futurama
Christmas breakfast was just a biscuit on the go. Today, even though it's not even light out yet, I'm making a real breakfast. You start with the best pre-made eggnog on the planet, Oberweis, if you can get it. This is not the time to use something out of a 3 gallon barrel that just says "eggnog" in black letters on it. The origins, even the ingredients used to make the first eggnog are subject to debate. with much history and life in this tasty little brew. It might have been tho developed from posset , a medieval beverage made with hot milk. It's been suggested that the "nog" came from the word "noggin", a Middle English term used to describe a small, wooden, carved mug used to serve alcohol. Yet another story is that the term derived from the name "egg-and-grog", a common Colonial term used to describe rum. Eventually, it was said, the term was shortened to "egg'n'grog", then "eggnog".

The drink made its way to the English colonies during the 18th century. Since brandy and wine were heavily taxed, rum from the Triangular Trade with the Caribbean was used as a substitute. When the supply of rum to our newly founded United States was reduced as a consequence of the Revolutionary War (too much taxation and there's a Revolution, imagine that) Americans turned to domestic whisky—and eventually bourbon in particular—as a substitute. Eggnog made without alcohol is available in stores during the holiday season and from this, comes the HOTR eggnog pancakes. Though they are alcohol free, there is no rule however about the cook not having any while preparing them for a late morning Brunch.

Even if you don't love eggnog, you will like these - light and tall, incredibly rich and worth the trouble.

The secret is clarified butter and the eggnog. The batter is quite thick and you have to watch the heat in the pan when cooking as they are, pardon my French, delicate little bastards. Too hot and they burn before they cook through, too cold and they are rubber. Try a test pancake for practice and then prepare yourself for a treat.

It's worth it.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Open Roads

I wish I could relay that I'm snug at home right now, surrounded by Christmas cookies and family but I'm working. I technically get holidays off, but tell that to the bat phone.



I was out the door in the very early morning hours yesterday. A quick message to the friend who takes care of Barkley if my day runs late. It would have been easy to feel sorry for myself, being up that early when half the world is on holiday leave, but I found something exhilarating about climbing into that truck, coffee in hand, and putting on some classic music. In my truck now a collection of songs from the 70's. Entering adulthood at the tail end of that decade I remember that music well.



I thought back to that time, as the miles clicked under my wheels, time when I could only dream of having a big truck like this, and freedom. Getting older doesn't bother me, living this life does not either. I may not be home 8 to 5 and the life can sometimes be lonely, but how many of the kids I graduated with have days where they get to drive a big 4 x 4 to the airport to be picked up by a private jet because someone needs my skills. I answer to just a few, mainly to myself, the hardest responsibility of all. I wouldn't trade it for anything, if only that I can finally own a cool vehicle or two.

My first set of wheels was technically a small blue bicycle that transported me from one adventure to the next. My first automobile was another matter. What I wanted was a muscle car. What I GOT was a high mileage VW Bug. NOT exactly the wheels I had envisioned. But all the family budget would allow.


Insurance was reasonable with straight A's, but gas was the biggest part of my budget. Dad expected us to pay our own expenses with a car, and he did keep tabs on where I was in it as best he could. It was a rural town, traffic was light and crime was nonexistent. We roamed in our cars as we did on our bikes, cruising up and down main street like sharks watching for tourists, anxious to see if anyone had anything nicer than we had, looking for new faces in a crowd of kids who had all played together since kindergarten. You never saw kids in their parent's expensive cars, what we were in, we bought ourselves, and fixed up ourselves, Glass Pack Mufflers, 8 Track Players and afternoons under a hood instead of hanging around a mall.


Some folks down the road here bought their kid a new SUV when he turned 16. He's been in and out of juvie so many times for fights and vandalism, I've lost count. When he wrecked it they bought him a new one. They pay for his gas and expenses because as Dad says "he doesn't want to work at McDonalds". They see no correlation between his spoiling and his growing criminal record.


My first car was as cheap as it came. It didn't even have a radio, so we stuck this giant tape player under the right hand glove box where I would come screaming home after classes (well as screaming as you could in a VW Bug) with music playing way too loud through the speakers.But soon I was graduated, and on my own and I had to buy my OWN wheels. There have been many cars, most not very new, a truck or two, and my all time favorite, a 67 Barracuda 383S which we somehow managed to stuff a 440 big block in to.


My love affair with machinery started young. Girlhood dreams sung to the tune of "Radar Love", a very well used tape from a Dutch band, one I inherited from my older brother and listened to regularly, years after it had faded from the airwaves. Miles and miles of dreaming about the freedom I'd have when I grew up and became an adult.Then somehow I became an adult and that much awaited freedom came with it too many things to do, responsibilities blocking that open road.

What happened to those days of curving roads and youth? Somehow they vanished with a mute, befitting, hollow sound, which drove for only a moment upon us, with the dreadful still hush of motion stopped, too abruptly to mourn.



As I headed out into the frozen night, I opened the door outside, the house still, myself, utterly motionless. In hastily donned black pants, jacket, granola bar, passport in bag, always with me, in case, I look out onto the driveway, listening. On my face is a look of adulthood come too early and following me around like a reservation dog. For many, today is one of rest, but I'm OK that it will not be for me, for within me I'm restless.

I open the door to my vehicle, the door creaking gently open so not to wake Barkley in the house. It's a large truck, extended cab, with a short bed. It cost as much as homes used to and serves me well, serves me practically. On it's stereo is Vivaldi and Celtic music, sedate adult music that I listened to on the drive home. As I go to climb in, I catch a reflection in the side window of my truck and see a small smile. I think today I'll listen to something else.


I look forward to the long drive; for just an hour, no chores, no errands, no responsibilities. No speed limits. I silently climb in, as if sneaking out, and fit my form into the leather seats with a lascivious eagerness that is wasted on youth. "Time to get going!" I say to myself as I do each morning in my quiet room, waking up cold, when that last full exhalation of sleep has left my form and I look from beyond the portals of sleep to yet another new day of adventure. As I turn on the stereo I head out of the drive.

Windows cleared, the road is mine. The neighborhood is still asleep. It's just me and my ride, miles of road interspersed with the angular cuts of farm land, ringed with blue/black sky. I sort through old CD's at a stop sign, selecting some not listened to for a long time. I salute the road, with a small burst of gravel, fabric against my skin, the sound of cotton and warm flesh in action, the heat of the road in me.

Ahead is only the miles, with nothing to do but take in the passing landscape. My home is more than a small house, my life more than work and heartache, it's this whole open world. Up ahead a horizon, up above a sky, inscrutable, desolate above the land it wombs. I surge from a stoplight, Billy Idol with a rebel yell, hitting the highway. Adulthood can wait for just a few hours. There will be enough time to put on my professional demeanor in just a few hours, but the hours are inconsequential to me now. Time doesn't matter when I'm on the road. My age doesn't matter with the steering wheel under my hand. The asphalt flows past, black sleeves and alabaster hands, my lips forming into soundless words, the thump of the beat of the music, pounding along with my youthful heart.



I've been drivin' all night, my hand's wet on the wheel

There's a voice in my head that drives my heel

It's my baby callin', says I need you here

And it's half past four and I'm shifting gear

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Weekend Warriors - Fueled by Guinness

The back room has been updated to make it more appealing, except for paint, insulated with new insulation (there was little to none in this previous owner room addition), storm windows to keep out the cold and a new door. Last weekend a lot was done to prep and the help this weekend was a really nice surprise with several of the guys from the Conservatino Club volunteering to help.
When they got into stuff I didn't have the skill set to do, I retired to the safety of the kitchen and made Guinness Stew for everyone.

This is all you need (OK, and coffee). I bet most of you have these things on hand. This makes enough to feed several hungry people, with leftovers, as I doubled the regular recipe.
Toss 4 pounds of stew meat in a mixture of flour (about 6 T. seasoned with a bit of salt and pepper and a dash of cayenne or Penzey's Northwoods Seasoning) and then brown on all side in a large, deep pan in which 5 tablespoons of olive oil is heated until hot, not smoking (add in more oil as needed as it cooks up).
Barkley wants a poster made out of this picture.
After the meat is removed to keep warm, saute six cloves of garlic, or the equivalent of chopped garlic, in the pan with two chopped onions, stirring up the little bits of meat and juice from the bottom of the pan until the onion starts to caramelize. Add in 3 tablespoons of tomato paste and six chopped carrots and cook 4 minutes. Add in six potatoes, peeled and diced into big pieces, and the meat. Pour 32 ounces of room temperature Guinness and a 32 ounce can of beef broth over the top until the meat is covered, adding more of both if needed.
Bring to a boil and boil 3 minutes, then reduce heat, stir and cover. Simmer for an hour, until the vegetables are tender, adding in 2 tablespoons of parsley and a another pinch of salt and pepper (to taste) about 10 minutes before it is done. To thicken broth slightly prior to serving, make a roux out of a small spoonful of flour and some cold water in a large coffee mug. Slowly stir in a little of the hot broth into the mug, stirring so the flour doesn't congeal, and then pour that, in a thin stream, into the stew to thicken, stirring as you do. It's also good unthickened, more like a rich soup than a stew. The broth does not taste like beer, but it's wonderful.

Sprinkle with more parsley if you like and serve with a loaf or two of fresh bread to dunk in the rich broth and you are set.

click to enlarge photos

Friday, December 18, 2009

CALGON, TAKE ME AWAY

I made it back ahead of the worst of the weather and am safely home and warm. Yesterday afternoon was interesting. The truck had a shimmy from the right front tire/brake area, as if it was hung up. I'd been driving through snow and slush and it was about 10 degrees when the truck sat for a couple of hours, so I wondered if something stuck in there and then froze. Just to be on the safe side, I stopped by a small Chevy dealer on the way home. I explained the problem and they said they'd check the tire and brake and the brake lines and such. They said they usually charge about $85 for simple diagnostic work but that should be about it, unless there was a problem with the brakes requiring repair.

I waited for an hour while they went over it thoroughly. The shop supervisor said they found nothing wrong and like me, figured it was packed snow or ice. When I got out my credit card, he quickly said "Oh Miss, no charge, no charge at all.", shooing me out the door with a fresh cup of hot coffee. I was really pleased.

Then after I got home I noticed, that having come from a hunt recently, and a field dressing, the truck bed was covered in blood stains. No wonder they didn't charge me. :-) They either figured me for a fellow hunter or an axe murderer.

But I'm home, Barkley happy to see his "Mom" and I'm ready to unwind. Tomorrow, a bit more "home improvement" to be done. to the tune of a big pot of Guinness beef stew and fresh bread. Later, some time to write a real post.

Tonight, a long, hot bubble bath.
Uh. . . . Or maybe not.

(I had asked Barkley to put away the stuff in the bathroom but he used that "opposable thumb" excuse again)

B Sharp

Neighbor: "What orchestra do you play in?'

Me: "huh?????"

Neighbor: "I see the musical instrument cases you carry out of the house all the time."

Me - "oh look, a squirrel!" (escapes to truck)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Road Poems

photo by Malamute Bill
Nature's light so softly speaks,
that heaven shines upon these peaks.
In our view, celestial light,
so we can see past mortal sight.
- Brigid

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Household Wish Lists

Brigid:
1. Midway shooters bag
2. ammo cans
3. Konus Spotting Scope 20-60x 80mm with Tripod, Photo Adapter and Soft Case Armored Green
4. Shell Sorter Brass Sorter 380 ACP Adapter Plate
5. Mossberg Sight Kit Ghost Ring Mossberg 590
6. The Barrett 82A1 rifle kit. Featuring the 82A1 semi-automatic rifle. Includes-
Semi-automatic Rifle, 50BMG, 29" Bbl, Black Finish, Composite Stock, with Leupold Vari-X III 4.5-14X50 Scope, Cleaning Equipment, Air/Watertight Carrying Case, and M1913 Accessory Rail, One 10-Round Magazines (on sale at Impact Guns for only $9,999)
7. Lyman Trigger Pull Gage Electronic Digital 0 to 12 lb
8. Lyman "Reloading Handbook: 49th Edition" Reloading Manual Softcover
9. Ney Certified Pure Tin Bullet Casting Alloy (99.85% Pure), 4 of them please
10. Hornady Lock-N-Load Bullet Comparator Basic Set with 6 Inserts
11. Any of the Lee 6 cavity Bullet Molds
12. A new coffeepot
13. and a tank (well I can ask)

Barkley
My very own cat
and a pot roast

Sunday, December 13, 2009

A day in the life . . .fun and games

Click to enlarge food photos, don't be shy.
Household work party this weekend with some of the hunting gang. I've got just a few tools, a hammer being one of the few I can be trusted with, but I'm learning more and more all of the time. This weekend - some better insulation in the room that faces the cold winds, and drywall to cover, a new back door and later, blowing some insulation in the attic. I made a whole bunch of bacon-rich Range Chili , which is in the crockpot, a simple recipe which won the "chili cook off" at work. The secret, among other things than bacon, Penzey's Chili 9000 seasoning and two small small squares of dark unsweetened baking chocolate, finely chopped and mixed in. For dessert of course, a fresh baked crumb-topped apple pie. (recipe towards the end of the comments).The conversations ranged from framing to whether Darth Vadar was framed, the morphology of neurons, to what our porn star name would be (the name of your first pet followed by the name of the first street you lived on). I was Pepper Maryland, Rangebuddy was Max Wood (I am SO not going to go there). We all laughed, put a bunch of screws in the new drywall, a nail or two up around the new door. We paused only to enjoy some good homemade chow, looking around at a room refinished, with the men's hands, numb with wear and full of splinters, myself cleaning up and putting the tools away. As the sun went low in the sky, we looked around at the work done with the sharp, spent astonishment of people having done so much in so little time, and without a contractor, stimulus, or a government instruction guide. My friends, with few exceptions, are in the medical field, engineering or law enforcement. Our favorite Geek Goddess. someone I'm proud to just hang out with sometimes, Roberta X , often amazes me with her talent and the stories of the work that she does. (By the way, she just finished"Another Day" at her "I Work On A Starship" blog, and she has organized the links of the various installments so you can enjoy reading it straight through. To read, go here.) These friends are a small knit group but we are all very much alike in our interests, we all read sci-fi and history, and play just as hard as adults as we did as children. We all have learned to take care of ourselves and we continue to learn. And we all still have toys. Today, there is no starship to fix around here, however there was a gaming computer that needed to be fed. Two radiators, more power than you can shake your joystick at, and all cooled by what looks like Mr. Spock's blood but is actually secret squirrel coolant.

People laugh at me because I have this simple cell phone that does nothing but ring, no blackberry but there are some things that just beg to be built by hand and I just marvel at stuff like this.

In high school I was the shy, geeky kid that skipped a few grades, and not a lot has changed. I'll never be the "it" girl of either the prom or the blogosphere, and I don't care to be. With these people that are my family, with toys we all share and the ability to work and laugh hard and well, I think I will survive most anything. Even selling a big old house and soon, building my own cabin, with a little help from my friends.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Together or Alone?

"The true measure of the patriot is steadfastness. We all have small moments of wanderlust in us, tearing off on solitary paths that others may not follow, testing limits, testing ourselves. That is the nature of man. Yet when we strive to hold true, to stand firm to our beliefs as free men, together, to carry our weapons and defend our land, the weak become strong, and the wandering hold together as one. For then we are united in something much greater than the elemental whims of man. Together as patriots, we are much more of the courageous and less of the selfish, we are brothers in arms."- Brigid - Home on the Range 2oo9

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Pure and Simple Pleasures

I love vanilla ice cream. But most of the store brands taste like someone massacred a bunch of vanilla wafers to get the flavor. An artificial sort of vanilla taste, sans the crumbs. The texture more like half melted cool whip. Real vanilla ice cream when melted down a bit smells like cream, with a hint of egg and vanilla.

Of store Brands I like Blue Bell (from those years living down south with the annoying Texas Longhorns). It's not totally natural, but it is, in my opinion, one of the best store ice creams for the price, hands down.

Trader Joe's vanilla is pretty good. But Trader Joe's is an hour's drive away.

My brother always has some Tillamook in his freezer. The Marion berry flavor is my favorite. It has corn syrup but it doesn't feel like a visit back there if I don't eat some.There are others that have the little specks of vanilla bean, but specks don't always translate into flavor. Breyers at one time used to be really good, almost like a fresh gelato, but since they were taken over by Unilever, they removed the "pledge of purity" which used to be on every carton and added some gums and chemicals. The label now? MILK, CREAM, SUGAR, CORN SYRUP, EGG YOLKS, NATURAL FLAVOR, NATURAL GUAR GUM, SALT, ANNATTO (FOR COLOR), NATURAL CAROB BEAN GUM.

I don't care if it's "natural" I don't want "carob bean gum, guar gum and corn syrup in my ice cream. The taste? It shows.

Hagan Daz is good but still, for the price, has a strong alcohol and vanilla odor. If you take a sniff after it's melted it smells sour. They have a new one that is five ingredients only. The vanilla and coffee flavor of those are excellent.

Ben and Jerry's? There was one that I liked that was some chocolate brownie thing but it's off the shelf now, at least at my local store. For the most part I like my ice cream pretty simple That's strictly a personal thing. I want my ice cream plain not with chunks and monkeys and granola, gummy bears or ground up hippies in it. But Ben and Jerry's IS a high quality ice cream for those of you who like the add ins.

Everyone should gave a great recipe for Vanilla Ice Cream in their repertoire. Here's my favorite, which comes from The Perfect Scoop (Ten Speed Press)

It's not super quick to make and real vanilla beans and the pure extract aren't cheap, vanilla being most of the most labor-intensive of all crops, but it's worth it.

The three most common cooking vanillas are Bourbon, Tahitian, and Mexican. Bourbon vanilla, from Madagascar has a bold, very-pronounced flavor. Tahitian is more floral, and a rare find. Real Mexican is strong, yet creamy-tasting. But don't buy the cheap Mexican impostors. They can contain coumarin, which is toxic and banned in the U.S. True Mexican vanilla will be similarly priced to the best stuff (not cheap, and worth it).

I know it's winter, but take yourself back to summer with a bowl. What's the fun of being an adult if you can't be a kid every once in a while. - Brigid

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Life Lived Sharp

I'm taking a few days off from blogging folks. I'll be back Thursday with some posts on turning venison into smoked sausage (cough, YUM! cough, cough, YUM), some recipes (Brown Butter Banana Bundt Cake), and perhaps more of life with the Range friends.
Now life's sometimes a battle
You just try to get what you're after
A world full of stories
You won't live to tell
But going on is all we know
Like rivers always flow
It seems the years just fly right past
While the days go by so slow
-Lowen and Navarro

At the James farm, arrowheads have been found. In my state, one can find arrowheads made out of obsidian, which is one of the more common gemstones found in this state, as well as where much of my family lives now.

Obsidian is used in cardiac surgery, as well-crafted obsidian blades have a cutting edge many times sharper than high-quality steel surgical scalpels. Even the sharpest metal knife has a jagged, irregular blade when viewed under a strong enough microscope. When examined under an electron microscope an obsidian blade is still smooth and even. A obsidian knife is one of the most ancient of weapons, with a blade as dark as death, and as sharp as life.

As a gemstone it possesses the peculiar property of presenting a different appearance according to the manner in which it is cut. When cut in one direction it is a beautiful jet black; when cut across another direction it is glistening gray.
Sharpened, obsidian, like words, can be an instrument of hurt or healing. Polished smooth it is a thing of rare beauty. How obsidian is cut reveals its use. How our souls are cut, shapes ours. Everything we experience in our life, in some way, chisels and shapes what is left, making it sharper, or grinding it to bits.

I had family visit a few months ago and we went through some old photo albums, memories to share. The comment was made that I had saved so many pieces of things of the past, of my family. I'm not sure why. I think it's because the past has been such a tumbling series of changes that having the artifacts of memory helps me remember how each piece shaped my life. The grade cards from school, a picture of a model rocket built in junior high. My Mom's badge from the Sheriff's department. A petal from a wedding bouquet, that unwittingly survived every other keepsake of that decade being burned up in a fire. A notice from my 20th high school reunion. Things that touch the memory.

I grew up in a small logging town, one of dozens nestled around beautiful, forested mountains in the West. Ever present was the noticeable rotten egg smell of the pulp mill that I never noticed as a child, but is as constant as death and taxes. There were no malls, simply a main street, a roller rink, a movie theater and only two fast food restaurants. It was a town where my best friend and I could ride our bikes over streets unconfined and unhurried, until darkness or hunger for family dinner around the table brought us home. It was a town where you could raise your family in relative comfort and safety. Life was routine, life was predictable. You graduated high school, married the first or second person you ever slept with. Had several kids, a mortgage, a dog, a cat. You retired and got a gold watch and watched the next generation take over the positions in the mills. The incredible open sky and mountains notwithstanding, it was a flat landscape of life, and one that I knew, probably by the age of 12, that I had to escape from.

I had never really fit in. I had skipped several grades, starting college at 14. I was outgoing, yet painfully shy, and though I usually had one or two girlfriends, the majority of painted, attention seeking girls hated me on sight, making cruel, catty remarks if ever I stumbled, when all I wanted to do was to go to organic chemistry unmolested.

I could not wait to leave.

At the time, and still today, the biggest employers was the factory and mills, and the majority of my graduating class, attracted by pay an 18 year old can only dream of, were working the green chain or in the pulp rooms right after high school. It's honest work, hard work, and dangerous work. It stole the youth from your bones and the hope from your horizon, for by the time you were 25, you have a modest home, kids, a bass boat and the prerequisite four wheel drive. College and a distant city are beyond thought and the pay that was incredible at 18, required more and more shift work and overtime to provide for your family.

Life would have it's moments of fun, watching your kid play softball where you once played, watching the sun come up over the river. But, for many, it's not what you dreamed of when you were 12 and the spaces between your dreams, once lined up like pickets on a fence, get farther and further apart. And all you have to fill those spaces were a few lonely hours with a book or out hiking a walk path, striding further and further away from yourself. Simply existing, as the daily repetition of just breathing, eating and paying a growing pile of bills, hammered you into an attenuation of wasted hope and frustrated longings as dull and pale as spiritless ashes.
I visit every few years, to see my Dad who settled there, lured by the fishing and the cost of living. Usually my family meets at a siblings, at a central location we can all get to easily so I'm not there often. I enjoy seeing my Dad, but I don't look forward to revisiting what my future might have been had I not ever left.

For when I step away from his house, I don't really belong. After 7 years of college and a substantial career, I am a stranger in what many would call my home town. I'm one of the few who left, as soon as I was old enough to get to Seattle and fill my life with books and knowledge, travel and new mountains. I wasn't the only one that went, we heard about each other in bits and pieces, a scholarship notice here, a medical school graduation there. But those kids and myself soon drifted away from peoples thoughts and faded away, until we return for a visit and people look at us long and hard, as if they might remember us from a grainy photograph somewhere. No one knows exactly what to say. It's as we stepped over some invisible line in the sand when we left, and are never seen quite the same way.

Visiting Dad one summer I ran into someone at a grocers with whom I played with as a child. She's been working the register as long as I remember, and although she is as pretty as she always was, there's a roughness to her, like a piece of beautiful fabric that's become worn and frayed over time. "How have you been?" she asks, but the question doesn't reach her eyes - beautiful eyes fragile and the color of tea, the color only deepened by the wrinkles I already see around them. I don't think she recognized me either, age and life has its ways of changing us, but she saw the name on the credit card. She asks what I'm doing now and when I tell her, I might as well be telling her I was just abducted by aliens and returned, my life so foreign to the life she leads. "Well you have a nice day" she says and I nod and take the receipt for Dad, not knowing what else to say. We're strangers, and though as children we shared bike rides and ice cream, now we are looking at the world from completely different places.

I can't live my life that way, in a sepia toned existence of just eating and breathing and going to a job I hate to pay the bills for people who care as little for my dreams as I soon will myself. Waking up each and every day with tastes dulled by the grind of life with no flavor; skies cloudy with the dark reassurance that living life far back from the edge gives. Comfortable, safe, and as stale, bland and artificial as a Twinkie.

I left that life, as quickly as I could. Left in a trail of exhaust from a small airplane that would as soon kill me as carry me forward; leaving it perhaps a bit worse for wear, but alive. Flying out into a night as black as obsidian, senses sharp, and ready to jab at whatever life threw my way. Yes, it's been a life of changes, of mistakes, of tears, but it's brought me to this spot, here today.

Here where I keep small snippets of memory in a folder in my desk drawer to remember why it was all worth it. For memory feels before knowing remembers. It feels stronger than knowing recognizes. Memory feels with nerves sharpened by pain, and aged like wine, until every nuance of life is clear. Every choice you have made, laid out on a stainless steel table for your review.

In this small town in which I keep to myself, I am mostly a stranger but it doesn't bother me, as those who do include me in their circles do so for who I am now, and not what they expected me to be. Those that judge or prejudge aren't those I welcome in my life. My group of friends is small, but true; people like me, those that share that same elemental feeling of living that seems to have escaped so many. Last time I was back there I couldn't help but notice that the huge field back behind my Dad's home, where once we hunted for shiny black arrowheads, is now the parking lot of a Walgreens, and the forested hills behind me are crowded with homes, hills I could still see if not for the large Burger King sign that blocks the view. As I walked back from the store to my Dad's house I searched the once familiar sky for the clouds that fueled my dreams and strained my ears to hear the beloved sound of a log train. But the train no longer runs along that route and I only hear the clatter of traffic.I don't really belong here any more. Somehow today, I don't belong anywhere but here in this place, now, but here, I am at home.

Would I change my past, even the most profoundly painful parts of it, knowing I would not be the person I am today, in this moment of time, in this place? A past that, had it been less stressful, might only have ended diminished and foreshortened in it's outcome. For without all of those tears and struggles and changes in landscapes, I would not have ended up in just this one spot, in just this one moment, breath teeming with promise. Alongside me in the truck, the touch of soft black fur against me, my lab Barkley, my companion. Like me, he is ready for today's play as we head out into the countryside, resting up against my own arm, my skin smooth as obsidian, yet strong as steel, muscles taut with the excitement of just being alive.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

It's not Saturday without malt, brass and an old English Poet or two.

It's Saturday which means there's some cleaning to be done before time to play.
Now for breakfast.
And malt does more than Milton can
To justify God's ways to man.
A.E. Housman
English classical scholar, poet, & satirist (1859 - 1936)
My favorite outdoor range is very close to a tiny little town well north of the city. In that little town, there's a Dairy Queen right across the small street from a gun store . Can it get better than that? Dairy Queen AND a gun store right next to each other? Liberals are still aghast that no one has shot up the little town after a brain freeze from a Mr. Misty.

It's a great way to spend a Saturday. though. Go to the range, have some Dairy Queen and then wander across the street to see what is new in stock. I tend to order the same thing each time at DQ though. A small chocolate malt. I love malt. Malt is what is often used in "diner" type pancakes and waffles in place of sugar and gives it that unique "can't get at home" flavor.

Malting is a process applied to grains, in which the grains are made to germinate by soaking in water and are then quickly halted from germinating further by drying and heating.

The term "malt" refers to several products of the process, the most common we know and love in this household as beer, whisky, malted milk balls, malted vinegar and of course malt powder.

Malt powder, also known as diastactic malt powder, is pure maltose, the sugar achieved when you ferment barley. Malted milk powder is maltose plus powdered milk and other ingredients. The two are not interchangeable, so be sure to use what the recipe calls for. Malted Milk Waffles. This one calls for the malted milk powder and makes light, delicious waffles with a nice undertone of vanilla and barley. I like my beer very hoppy and my waffles very malty.

Throw in some fresh .223 and temps in the low 50's and it could just be a perfect day.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Monday, November 23, 2009

The hunters return

The hunters and their four Marlins return from the hunt

Something old,
Something new

Something borrowed

Something blued.


We were staying in an old farmhouse that belongs to a friend, empty of furniture and appliances, but clean and warm. Roughing it? No, but after last years season of public hunting ground, tents and rain, this was heaven. Plenty of room to lay out the sleeping bags.


I survived the Camp Cocktails. Propane, Coke, Dried Fruit and Rum! MMMM. I'm just kidding, we left out the dried fruit.


We ate well, with coolers and ice, and a little camp stove, taking turns cooking. The pie didn't last long.

Og made this cheesy beef, Rotel dip in a crockpot that didn't last long either. It was incredible. For breakfast, there were ham and egg sandwiches and and since someone made the remark LAST hunting trip about being tired of corned beef hash I couldn't resist throwing this in the box of food. (We didn't open it.)
There was some technical difficulties. What do you mean no one brought duct tape?
And somehow I managed to do a faceplant in a corn row while walking alongside Og  (wow Og, you can really see the detail in this soil close up:-). But still, we got out in time for the late day hunt on day one, Og bringing down a nice buck 5 minutes after he walked into the fields. That night, good food, some board games (yes that WAS an actual board game from the 80's that someone brought. Just the board itself would be a whole post). Hilarious.
(click on the picture to read the box)
Day two, we were up at 5, getting ready to head out. There was a lot of laughter. As we all piled into my king cab truck, half way to the field someone starts in with the theme song to the A Team and off we went.

Where we were hunting was a pretty good section of land. No trees of the owner to put blinds on, but some slight rises on the edges where a few of the neighbors trees were, from which we could look down into rows that had been cut a day or two before. As the farmer worked the field, a couple of deer moved out and away, popping up into these lanes when you least expected it. Sit motionless for hours in the cold. Nothing. Stand up for 5 minutes to tell a joke? Look Deer!

I can honestly say it was the most fun I've had hunting in years, Staying out dawn to dusk as a hunter you see things few do, and think thoughts that come unbidden, there in the quiet. Good times, whether you bring home a trophy or not. My grandparents and great-grandparents were farmers, ranchers or lumberjacks. My Dad's parents, were originally from this area, moving West. Hard stock. Good people. As people of the land they understand the checks of nature, the culling of a herd to keep it healthy, the sacrifices of both the land and the beasts to feed us, to keep us healthy.

I write of the farmer often here, though it's been years since I lived on anything more than a hobby farm. Seeing it out here, watching these men work such long hours, literally sun up to sun down, I came home with a renewed respect for the single family farmer, for all of those who make their living from the soil, or tend to its bounty, providing sustenance to their family with the stores of God's earth.

We were asleep by 9 and up much before the sunrise. With tags allowing us more than one deer, and a farmer with some prize corn that was happy to see the deer population gleaned a bit, we headed back out each day for new adventure. I learned how to better wield a knife to field dress and got to see a squirrel pee on Og on day two. Day three, after a lot of the corn was taken down, leaving just a small area in which there were tracks going in we decided to flush them out, if there was one or two in there still. as though we had a couple of deer, we still could get more. Two of us walked the edges of that area while the other two guys went through the middle trying to make noise to flush them out towards us. It was deathly silent, then from inside the corn rows, I hear the vocal strains of "Ode to Joy" which then segued into Back Home in Indiana, in an incredibly rich, clear tenor that blew me away. I couldn't see who was singing but I broke out in a wide smile. Then the same voice broke into a rousing chorus of The Scrotum Song. Ahhh. Hunting with the guys. You never know what to expect.

But you will expect a wonderful time. There's nothing like hunting the small hills and rows of an Indiana cornfield with people you like and trust. For our host, there is not enough thanks. We appreciate it more than you know, and look forward to returning again. For now, the rounds have been removed from our Marlins, and we're ready to load up the truck for the day.

A neighboring farm still had 650 acres up in corn, backed by a nature preserve, so a good portion of the deer were still in there. But we all got to try our hand and came home with more than one deer, with memories of a great time. There will be more, with muzzleloader and archery season around the corner, and some more deer still hiding out there in the corn, waiting for the A-team.

Thanks for all your well wishes folks. I didn't come home empty handed, though none of us got a chance at the big buck whose prints we saw in and around when the sun came up. With a lot of corn still up due to the cold summer and late harvest, the deer, bucks and does, were scarce. But, with the genorisity of a landowner and the support of friends. I got a nice doe. Not a trophy, but fat and healthy, with tenderloins which now, are resting in my fridge after processing in the kitchen. Tomorrow, some of the remainder will be mixed with beef and pork and spice to make sausage in a new grinder purchased for the future. All in all, enough meat for a couple of months for this small household. To be eaten with thankful respect.