Thursday, May 19, 2011

POP Goes The . . . . .


Jalapeno Poppers

12 jalapeno peppers
6 oz cream cheese, softened
dash of salt
pinch Cumin
1/2 c flour
1 T cornmeal
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/4 c whole milk
1 T honey
1 t salt

1 c fine or Panko bread crumbs

1/2 teaspoon ancho chili powder (ancho is a smoky, not "hot" heat but you can use less or omit)

Roast peppers in 450°f oven, turning when they begin to brown and the skin blisters. Remove and place in a paper bag, closing the top, and let steam for 10 minutes so that the skin is easily removed. Allow to cool.

Heat 2″ of peanut oil to 325°F. (165 C) Note: 325 degrees is pretty much the minimum temperature required to ensure that food seals quickly enough to prevent oil absorption. You can fry foods at lower temperatures, but the final product will be "greasier". Once the proper oil temperature has been reached, the oil may drop in temperature by as much as 50 degrees when food is added. The "sealing" process in the first batch occurrs almost immediately so the food will cook properly. But after the first batch is removed, allow the tempereature to return to 325 before the next batch is added to the oil. This will keep your final product, crisp, not oily.

Mix together cream cheese salt and a pinch of cumin. To create the "boat shape" in the pepper, pinch a fold and cut around the your fingers from almost the top to almost the bottom (leave the stem). Scrape out seeds with a spoon and fill with cream cheese.

Mix together flour, cornmeal, milk, egg, honey, salt and peppers just until combined without any noticeable lumps to make the batter. Put breadcrumbs and ancho chili powder into small, seperate bowl. Using the stem as a little handle, dunk pepper into batter. Coat thoroughly, let excess drip off and then gently roll in the breadcrumbs.

Deep fry 2-3 minutes until golden brown, turning once. Drain on paper towels. Try and eat just one.
h/t to my gal friend E. for sending the photos (my battery died)

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Photo from the Road

By this, he seemed to mean, not only that the most reliable and useful courage was that which arises from the fair estimation of the encountered peril, but that an utterly fearless man is a far more dangerous comrade than a coward.

- Herman Melville "Moby Dick"

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Vacation Begins - Whisky for My Men and Beer for My Horses

Thanks for the well wishes. But I won't be around much for at least a week, window down, engine cranked, music loud.

Friday, May 6, 2011

To Dream

Despite my protests, the day started. I was in bed, lying there as the receding darkness blanketed my form, the covers having been wrapped around me tight as I tossed and turned. The June sunlight impending on grey sky, awoke me, diffused through thin clouds that danced and exposed bare sky with the wantonness of dawn. It was too early for this. In the trees, the chirpy sunshine of a bird that, although I didn't recognize the species of, wished to strangle the beak off of.

Work days normally start early, no matter what time I got of duty, and I will spring like a bow from that last hazy dream, into the light. Still, it's much better than those mornings that start at night, when I'm sound asleep and the phone rings. For there is a voice on the other end speaking with an impersonal dry cadence I know is more protection than uncaring. On such nights, I must quickly pull myself from bed, gathering my things, limbs wooden with regret.

But this day, I am off, not on call, no obligations. So I just lay there, not wishing to get up, snuggled face down, legs splayed, arms out, laid out on a small pillow top altar to the gods of sleep. I know that eventually I will have to get up, but for now I am not bound by some duty to leap out of bed. I'm simply hung up, trapped under a log in a current of time and environment, that has no direction, beneath a sullen sky that will continue to wane towards yet another evening, toying with me, until maybe I'm shot out into the current that had pulled me into sleep. In the meantime, it doesn't matter. Barkley just barely has an eye open, fighting between the urge to protect me from squirrels and that of more sleep.

Weekends are where I catch up on my sleep, but today there are things to do that I've neglected through the last week. A drive into the city for supplies in the truck, to get milk and bread, wine and cheese, some stuff at the hardware store to mount some shelves, the 50 pound bag of Barkley Chow. I pass through the small towns that make up a Midwest landscape, tenacious clusters of farms strung along a lonely river, old barns, listing and tumbling down, gone the way of the ancestors who built them long go, going West, to dust.

Once home there is food to store, laundry, a Labrador retriever to walk, bills to sort through and a friend or two to talk to. A firearm to be cleaned, a book to be read. Then later a bowl of stew and sleep with a soft goodnight to someone far away, invisible words on my lips. Barkley has gone out one last time, the doors are locked, the computer off. The outside is beyond quiet except for the wind. The neighbors all seem to be in for the night, the earth hanging suspending in space, cooling, wearing only a thin veil of smoke from a grill. Time for bed, the rustle of cotton, the panting whisper of breath, the prelation of the night assuming a hundred avatars of dreams.

The house, still and quiet, as if marooned in space by the dwindling of day. Sounds outside fallen to a low fragmentary pitch. Way off in the fields behind, a coyote's howl at the indignation of clouds that cover the moon, no other sound made; prey gone into hiding, insects silent with the dark, everything else assuming their own mantle of hibernation or predation. There are things I'd rather be doing then hunkering down here, but for tonight sleep is what I need. As Shakespeare said, sleep, perchance to dream.

A dream of a day alone in the woods, outlook and perception all contained within a small stand of trees, emotion and thought amplified within the narrow bench of a small tree blind. Dreaming dreams of a whitetail buck tip-toeing across fresh snow, the moon now peering out from beneath the clouds, that deer and myself in perfect isolation, flirting with each other, a dance of life and death, even as the air of our inhibition signals to the rest of the world what they can not possess.

Even as I dream of a brisk fall hunt, outside another season shifts and with it comes the knowing. Lethal winter storms so white on white, as we count the days and worry of a land soon heavy with thirst. Early summer and the death gray-green skies, new life and heavy blood, the silence before the wind. That wind beyond wind, wrapping its fury around us. Full summer harvest, wheat then corn and milo and sunflower. Growth and rendering, loss and life, trickling through the hands like grain.

The sheet gathers around my sleeping form as the images come unbidden, corn and land and a stand of trees. There in the distance, a whitetail, emerging suddenly from the trees as my thoughts coalesced. The winds wail a hymn of our mortality. Our remoteness stands guard over a vulnerability heightened by solitude.

The deer does not answer to me, nor I him, neither answering to one another and thereby maintaining their own sense of mystery, of self. I pull up my weapon to fire, but in my dream the deer just looks at me with eyes that look vaguely familiar and nods. I lower my weapon and let him pass, an invisible whisper on my lips remaining. This night, for now, he deserves the wilderness of his isolation, as do I, to wander windswept dreams.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Henry Lever Action Rifles - a review

In 1860, Benjamin Tyler Henry received a patent for the first practical, lever-action repeating rifle. America was engulfed in the armed conflict of the Civil War, and the first Henry rifles were in the hands of Union soldiers by mid 1862. Noted for it's rapid rate of fire and revolutionary design, it became popular with both military and civilian purchases. It's success in Civil War fire power was reported in numerous sources including Major William Ludlow's account of the Battle of Altoona Pass. "What saved us that day was the fact that we had a number of Henry rifles," wrote Major Ludlow. "This company of 16 shooters sprang to the parapet and poured out such a multiplied, rapid and deadly fire, that no men could stand in front of it and no serious effort was made thereafter to take the fort by assault."

After an encounter with the 7th Illinois Volunteer Infantry, which had the good fortune to be armed with Henrys, one Confederate officer is credited with the phrase, "It's a rifle that you could load on Sunday and shoot all week long." In the years following, the Henry rifle gained even greater popularity as the nation moved West, gaining dominance as the rifle of choice in the American West, as it continued to be a favorite of collectors, hunters and plinkers.

The Henry rifle is a true forerunner of the Winchester rifle. As it's popularity gained, further developments continued and in 1866 a new system for loading the magazine was adopted. Developed by Nelson King, of the Henry company, this consisted of a spring loaded port on the side of the action. The rounds were fed in through this to the magazine and thus the weapon could be loaded from the firing position or when lying down. This is the system that continues in use to present time. The popularity has not waned, it's a lever action rifle many consider as a first choice when they want a reliable smooth rifle to get a youngster into shooting, or for themselves for plinking, general light game hunting or cowboy shooting. Even now, I still can hold it and go back to when I was six and playing "Rifleman" with my brothers and a toy gun.

What I first noticed was the instruction manual that came with it. It's probably the most detailed one I've seen from any manufacturer, truly a hands on manual for caring for, loading, cleaning and using the weapon. Written for someone with little to no experience it's really well done, and I particularly enjoyed the photo of the experienced fellow teaching two young boys how to handle the gun, a past-time that I hope the next generations continue.

photo from
The instruction manual has everything you need to know about the basics so I'm not going to talk about that here. I'm just going to add a few things that are found through practice and use. If you're particular about sighting it in, you must know that the rear sight has only a ramp type elevation adjustment, and the way to move point of impact is to drive either the front or rear side sideways to correct aim. Out of the box, sighted at 50 feet, a reasonable range for a game of "Kill da Wabbit" it shot 3 inches to the right. Not good enough.

But the front sight is made of plastic and formed in one piece with the front barrel band. I just am not a big fan of that, for there is NO adjusting there. So you're left with drifting the rear sight sideways in it's dovetail. At it's maximum movement, before leaving one end of the sight hanging off the rifle, it would only move the group half as far as I needed it. In other words, the factory sights cannot be adjusted enough to bring the group to point of aim. (insert choice Gaelic words here). The group spread to a little over an inch and you could always factor in some "Kentucky windage" but the serious shooter may not be happy with that.
The solution. A scope. There is a 7/8" groove on the receiver specifically for rimfire scope mounts. Voila'! If you've a family budget to consider, or like me, you are simply half Scot and uh.- "frugal", there's the Simmons scope. It's cheap but it makes up for it by being seriously ugly. But the varmints tearing up your crops or the garden brawling rabbits taking out your vegetable patch won't have the time to check the price tag.

It took 24 clicks left and 22 down to put the group on point of aim, but once there it really helped with accurate shooting. With cheapo .22 bulk ammo the rifle shot 1/2" groups to just above point of aim. That makes it a wonderful woodchuck rifle out to 50 yards.

Moving over to CCI .22 CB longs, you can reset the scope to be sighted to point of aim with those low power/low noise rounds. The Henry seems to like that ammo better, and the groups tightened a bit. With the bullet traveling around 700 FPS, they are definitely more powerful than the kids air rifle and no more noisy. Good for wabbit ewadication. Unless it's one of these.

Too bad the Knights didn't have a Henry lever Action.

The action itself is held together with machine screws and serrated washers. They use these washers because the screws thread into plastic and alloy and thus can't really be tightened. The washer therefore keeps the screw from falling out

The barrel bands on this model as well are plastic. Henry offers a version known as the "Golden boy" which has a brass receiver instead of cast alloy. For this rifle you can order a nice brass barrel band for $27 as an accessory.
Overall impression though - I liked it but there were a few negatives -it's a cheap rifle, cheaply made with some plastic parts. The cast alloy receiver is painted and the off the shelf accuracy was not quite as good in my opinion as the Savage and Marlin as far as .22 cal rifles go. Lever actions are not known to provide as much accuracy as bolt action. It may not have the power for a beginner to kill much more than small game cleanly. On the plus side, it's cheap. Yes. You can afford to get one, heck, buy two, of these for the kids to learn or for family members that want to try their hand at shooting or varmint hunting. It handles well, the best way to describe it is that it's just smooth. It's easy to use and reliable, like it's maker, and shoots straight after a scope is mounted. The wood is really beautiful for a gun in this price range.

Would I buy one for myself? Probably not. Decent quality used bolt action .22's can be had for $100 all day long, and they will be made of blued steel and solid wood. But for a colleague's son who wanted his first gun, it is a great choice and one I know he will be tickled to get.

But I really  like the concept of the company, American made parts, and American jobs, promoting the shooting sports for youth and safe handling. One person I know that had a problem with his gun wrote the company and the President wrote him back personally. You don't find that kind of service much any more. Henry is a reputable company with a motto "Made in America and Priced Right" standing as true today as it did in 1860.