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)

Monday, May 16, 2011

Going Home Again

Washington is the state where I was born, in Swedish Hospital in Seattle. It's a land of mountains and water, and of course, the ferries. Seattle was where I went after graduation, where my first real job was as the counter muffin receptionist at a freight forwarding office near the port. I think I was hired more for the fact that I was five foot 11 in high heels and I could cuss in Swedish AND Norwegian, than for any ability whatsoever on a switchboard, but it paid for some college.

I loved the city back then, and when I was able to go back there for a night with a friend, it felt good to be back. Seattle is one of the most beautiful cities in the country, the sun skipping off the Olympic Mountains, their serrated edges outlined in gold and white. On rare days it's a jewel of a city, diamond brilliance on blue clarity. But it is also a grey city, grey with the comfort of low clouds that drap over mountains like a shawl, keeping you warm.

My Dad's left Montana and moved out towards the coast where it's a little warmer, and someone asked me if I'd consider moving back. As I gazed out across the Sound, the call of the ferry a soliloquy to a life long ago, I did think about it. I had always thought that area was a part of me I'd bequeath to my past. Could I live here again? Reliving memories of college and friends and family long since dead. What would it be like? As I think of the ferries, I can picture the spray against my face as I dash towards my car, the memory a brief childhood dash through the sprinklers on a hot summer day.

I love the Midwest, and I've been here longer than anywhere. It's not really anything I planned on, it's just been the life I have led. I guess the wandering spirit runs in my blood, passed on my from Air Force father to me. Seems like ever since I got a control yoke in my hand I've been wandering across miles of land . . . across rivers and towns. My Mom would have preferred I marry a hometown boy and stay in the tiny town in which I was raised, but once I tasted adventure, I was born into that gypsy life and have never really known another.

St. Expurey said "he who would travel happily must travel light". And this adventurer did travel light for so many years, my books my biggest possessions and my photos of friends and family around my bed my only company most nights. There have been so many flights, so many moment that shine in my memory, milestones along the uncharted airway that made up my life. In the early years, I remember not just the airplanes themselves as I instructed to pay for college, but the feel of the cotton shirt I wore, the smell of my students aftershave, the song that was playing inside when I ran in to check the weather again. It seems as if all my early years were reflected in the window of those moving airplanes. I see my reflection, my past, through bug sprayed glass that tints the world bright.

The airplane, the destination and the years changed, as did the landscape of my career,but some things never changed. The firm tension of the throttles, the ever varying display of numbers on gauges that ranged from the antique to the technically sublime. My memory just remembers my hands, clasped on the yoke, a testament to their refusal to be separated for long. The voices of the controllers reminding me that I was of the earth, the window reflecting the satisfied smile of being exactly where I wanted to be. It might have been Fall or Spring, morning or night, but the feeling deep within the remembrance always stays the same. My life's journey have have changed and if I didn't have roots, there was that one constant. That of my reflection in that little plane window, still enraptured by a cockpit's illumination of a dream. No one could take that from me.

Certainly, not all the changes I chose, but I found crying about it didn't make it easier, it's easier to pack what remains and look onward. So I looked at each new move, each progression in my career, like a new page, a chance to experience each day, each sky in all its glory Another bag to unpack, full of memories of adventure. Besides, I wouldn't know what to do with a full size bar of soap anyway.

Freedom. For now, at an age when many friends have 2 kids and a huge mortgage, I've downsized, house sold, land leased, and am living out of boxes again, with more money and time to travel and spend times with friends and family. Live simply, love hard. It beats the heck out of stress and 12 rooms one doesn't need. It's freedom, it's time.

Time. To crawl in the cockpit of a little plane once in a while, watching a new day slowly unfold above the clouds. The sun casting a pink haze over the sky, long before I could actually see its rays, as the ridges that rose from the land took on a glow you can't see from the ground. For just a moment there are no sounds but life whispering the reverent hum of a Lycoming engine. It's a moment in space where you can feel the depth and potential of your existence there in a snippet of sky. There's no time for earthly worries, for when the earth turned on its axis one more time and I saw that sun rising over the nose of my airplane, it was universe reminding me of all that I did have. Amongst which was yet another day aloft, breathing deep the freedom of choice.

Choices, like when I moved to a place I had never been, for a chance at a new career. Packing up books and a 12 point deer mount that sat on the front seat of my car, Bambi wearing a baseball cap, I drove two solid days, to arrive in the middle of the night in a place I'd never set foot except for a brief job interview. Miles and hours spent watching the landscape, silver grain elevators, red winged birds, gold winged motorcycles and farm trucks all blending into a bright diorama of my new life. From my view point in that tiny car I was sitting tall, this new land rushing past me, racing at me, then away from me, the bug spattering on the window and the chatter of the DJ in my ear. I watched a dozen cumulus clouds erupt, mass assassination of mayflies and the disappearance of a slice of cherry pie at a tiny diner and the trip was just beginning.

As I sat under the calm grey of that Washington sky, I realize that a journey is not going back, it's going forward. Home is where the heart is, not where you hang your hat or even where you grew up. It's simply home. It's someone that loves you beyond measure. Its faith and strength in the countless days marked with bitter cold and radiating warmth, monotonous wonderful days of work and friends, gunfire and laughter, water and sky. It's countless days of joy now receding like ancient glaciers that once crept down upon the place where my life sits now, leaving the land flat in their wake, leaving an ancient mark upon my heart. A gypsy heart that's finally taking root.

I had a few hours before my flight back so I took public transport down to the waterline and watched the ferries one last time. I simply stood and looked, seeing their wake rippling outwards towards where I watched from a great distance, the movement bringing up a smell of the water that reminds me of so many years ago, so many memories, moving away. The ferry's shadow moved away too, towards the vacant sweep of water, empty of movement, empty of the present. I could see nothing in the distance in the evening mist, it was as if the ferry was going to crash into a wall of smoke, only to fade into it and disappear, as if it had never been. To keep it in my minds eye I had to draw upon memory, the world before me material without being real, memory drifting like lost ghosts breathing the air of forlorn dreams.

That's when I realized, that this land, this city, is composed of memories not likely not to be recreated simply by moving back here. The house where I spent so much time with my Aunt and Uncle here has been razed. The flight school where I got my commercial license has been torn down. The streets are crowded and unfamiliar. I'm not a liberal and I hate traffic. I'm a stranger here only tied to this spot by ghosts on the water. Everything left is spirit and illusion and no matter how hard I try to look out across the Sound, the ferry is gone.

So in those last hours in the city, I stood at the shoreline and looked up. Alone again, having said my goodbyes, already planning the next adventure. Untended under heedless sky, the short broken puffs of smoke that linger on the wake, only a forgotten whisper, I turn from the water towards home.

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.