Monday, September 30, 2013

On the Road Again

I am on my way to visit Big Bro at Dad's house.  This will be my first visit since the end of his chemo and radiation.  He's still not much more than 150 pounds on a six foot plus frame and is still pretty frail.  But not too frail his little sister can't come annoy him.

Partner in Grime is holding down the fort at the Range with Barkley and will take him to his follow up Vet appointment for his ears, so all will be well.

It's a long trip, 5 hours of flying, a long drive in a rental car and a ride on a ferry to the land of no internet service.  But I'll check in when I can via coffee shop in the big city and there are posts scheduled for those of you who visit regularly.


Sunday, September 29, 2013

That'll Buff Out - Weekend Adventures

I've got 36 hours free from all duty prior to an early flight tomorrow.  Time to get out and enjoy what's left of it.

First breakfast.
Then it's time to get outside and get some fresh air.

The leaves are barely turning but the air is cooler, the trails less crowded now that school has started.
Uh, Brigid -are you sure?
That's OK, I've got an app for that somewhere!

Breakfast seems like a long time ago. I'm getting hungry. Fire up the grill.

Barbecue burgers with smoked cheddar, garlic mayo and fresh baked pretzel buns.

But it's not all fun and games, there's dinner to go in the crockpot as there may be friends stopping by, you never know on a weekend. Chicken breasts covered with a chipotle corn salsa.  Salsa is easy.  Thickly slice 2 pounds of tomatoes, a small onion and a couple mostly seeded jalapenos, drizzle with a little olive oil and grill or roast until starting to char and soften.  Then give that and 3/4 c.  chopped cilantro a couple pulses in a food processor  (you want it chunky) and stir in a couple cups of roasted or grilled corn, the juice of a couple limes, a splash of ACV and honey, a dash or two of kosher salt, some ground pepper and a pinch of  dried Chipotle.  The accompaniments to build your own burritos are chopped  as required and put in the fridge and cornbread and rice are made that can be reheated as needed.  Dinner is set!
Then there's a workbench to straighten up.
Bulbs to plant and flowerbeds to be cleaned up.

And when it got a bit warmer after last night's rain, a black lab that wanted one last romp in his pool before it got put away for the winter.

There's no slide?!
Thanks Mom!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Flaming Hotscakes! -

Many of us remember the show Green Acres.  The premise of the show - a successful New York lawyer and his spoiled society wife move to the small town of Hooterville to live on a small farm. One of the more comical aspects to the show was stunning Lisa Douglas' attempts to cook, especially her specialty Hotscakes!, which could also be used as a replacement head gasket on a farm tractor and were served with Martini shaken coffee. 

Other kitchen specialties of Lisa included:
Fried dry oatmeal
Crepe Suzette (flaming hotscake)
Vaffles (hotscakes pressed in a waffle iron)
Tunafish and jelly sandwiches
Tortillas (actual paper plates)
Hot Kebobs (flaming hotscakes on a skewer)
Chicken Sandwich (a rubber chicken between two slices of white bread)
Polarized Chicken (it beeps when it's ready)
and for dessert  . . .
Fruitcake (which had the entire top of a whole pineapple sticking out of the top)

and the ever popular 20 Pound Pound Cake

Like many modern women, Lisa sometimes resorted to convenience foods such as Dee Dee's Dehydrated Mason Dixon Fried Chicken Dinner and Dee Dee's Dehydrated  New Orleans Pompano (which included a bottle of dehydrated wine).
Her loving husband took it in stride, however, somehow mustering the energy to spend the day working on the tractor on nothing more than hotscakes sandwiches and hot water soup.

I tend to like something a little better, at least on Saturdays.

Start with Bacon (don't worry Arnold, it was no one you knew).  

Then add a plate of Buttermilk Cornbread Hotscakes 

My last posted corn pancake recipe tasted like pancakes with a decided corn edge.  Tasty, but I was wanting to tweak the recipe a bit.  This version  tasted just like cornbread, but lighter, with all the crisp wonderful edges that cornbread gets.

1 and 1/4 cup stone ground cornmeal (get the good stuff, not No Name Brand Cornmeal Dust).
1/2 cup flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon sugar
2 dashes salt
1 egg
1 and 1/4 cups buttermilk (or make your own by adding 1 T, lemon juice to milk).
1 Tablespoon melted lard
1 Tablespoon melted butter

Mix, cook on a cast iron griddle.

Served with butter and maple syrup or molasses, they are tasty and filling.

Perfect for a day with the tractor mangler (watch out,  it's now running and it heats)
A full stomach and machines, what kind of trouble could I possibly get into :-)

Friday, September 27, 2013

Perfect Timing - a Day at Camp Chronograph

There's a lot of good information in various reloading manuals as to how much powder to put in a particular reload. But like anything where humans are involved, there can be a lot of "hit or miss" as well, especially in manufacturer's claims as to the velocity of a load in your gun.


Because they did the measurements with THEIR gun. NOT yours. Variations in bore smoothness, chamber dimensions, throat shape, headspace and other factors make your firearm unique, even if your buddy next to you is shooting the exact same make and model of firearm (maybe it's just me but I seemed to notice that 9 mm round bore diameters vary wildly between manufactuers).

Finally, be especially careful with near maximum loads; never assume that because a maximum load is safe in one gun that it will be safe in others.
Knowing the velocity of your loads allows you to refine them for the best possible accuracy at distance as well as removes the guesswork from holdover while insuring optimum bullet performance on game.

I'll be honest. I knew almost nothing about such things when I was new at reloading.Reloading isn't just for the self sufficient crowd. Many folks are finding that reloading not only saves them money per round but I've found that carefully assembled handloads will almost always yield more consistent velocities than commercial ammunition.  If you're going to reload though, the chronograph, as nifty as it is, wouldn't be my first purchase. Frankly for me, then, and even post Chronograph, my favorite reference for reloading is my well worn  Lyman manual. But the information from the chronograph is not just interesting it IS useful.

I have seen several chronographs since then and I can tell you, when it comes to buying the equipment, there IS a difference. Many of the chronographs are manufactured overseas. They are cheaper.

But as my Dad always told me, you get what you pay for.

The Brand in use here is the PACT one. The brand was a friend's recommendation, after owning a couple of them. There are several good chronograph brands out there, such as the Shooting Chrony Alpha, which, for my friends up North who shoot, keeps Canadian Jobs in Canada.  This isn't a product you want to go for cheap (but babe, if I get the Sam's Club Chronograph, I get a free camo snuggee!) Certainly PACT could make them overseas and cheaper, but they choose not to, and the quality is evident (not to mention keeping jobs at home for Americans as well).

In addition, you don't have to have a CSI ballistic lab to measure bullet velocity, all you need is a good quality chronograph. And unlike a TV CSI, you don't have to carry your gear around while wearing a $800 suit, solving all crimes in an hour, all the while looking like a supermodel.
I had four bags of "test" rounds to start with (three pictured) Two bag were Missouri Bullet Company bullets (a company I've had great service from) with different powder loads. Two bags were Roger's Better Bullets (a gift from a friend) also with different loads. All the ones I tried were .45 acp.

Why a Chronograph?
In simple, the velocity of a given round is a byproduct of the average pressure in that round. Simply put, velocity is the speed of the bullet. There is no free lunch here folks. Velocity reflects pressure and velocity and pressure translate into performance and safety for the reloader. If you compare the actual velocity of a particular charge to the predicated velocity you can determine if you're getting adequate ignition or if you are rapidly approaching the "Danger Will Robinson" zone on pressure even if you are below the "maximum" recommended load.

Taking One for the Team:
Being a chronograph is not without its risks. Chronographs are, by their very function, constantly in the line of fire when in use. They're positioned downrange, and most shooters will manage to nail at least one chronograph sometime in their years of use. I've been lucky and just winged a support arm once, for which cheap replacements are usually on hand. But because it is necessary to shoot between the supports and the diffuser on a chronograph, inaccurate shooting can readily lead to a bullet going through the chronograph instead of the empty space which it monitors for speeding bullets. Outside of taking a job as a target stand, there's not many jobs at the range riskier than that of the chronograph.For that reason, it's not a toy. I wouldn't let a new shooter have a go at it, unless you have a couple hundred dollars laying around you want to get rid of.

For this night's adventure, we wanted to see if recent reloading was measuring up to speed for match performance, or should just be kept on hand for practice. It only takes a small variance in shot to shot velocity to make the difference between a load that goes "bang", and one that goes "Wow"

How they work is really pretty simple. Just like the opposite sex, you can usually manage to operate one even if you don't have a clue as to how they actually work. They are however, VERY sensitive devices and need to be handled with a little care (also like the opposite sex). The chronograph contains an extremely high-speed digital clock that starts running the instant you turn the chronograph on. This internal clock generates millions of quick pulses that are needed to calculate the speed of your bullet.

Most photo switches are mounted on this type of device, and it's their job to signal the chronograph when your bullet passes overhead. The first photo switch is activated by the shadow of the bullet passing overhead, and it signals the unit to "begin time" (counting the clock pulses). When second photo switch sees the bullet it signals the unit to stop counting the pulses.
Simple in theory but pretty amazing if you consider just how quickly and with what accuracy, these photo switches have to react. When the number of clock pulses is captured, the chronograph immediately and easily calculates and displays the exact speed of your round with a little microprocessor chip

It's a simple formula

velocity = distance/time
In this case, the average feet per second for a magazine from one bag was about 795.. It should have been a little higher, so these rounds for my P220 likely needed just a bit more powder. The round ejected quite nicely though, and accuracy was good.

But a higher velocity is not necessarily a good thing. For most shooting applications the accuracy is more important then the max velocity. If you gain 100 to 200 feet per second in most rifle cartridges, neither you or the target are likely to notice. For hunters, trajectory changes due to these small velocity increases are usually so small as to not really make a difference, and reloading for higher accuracy may even degrade accuracy. In a pistol load, intended for competition we might wish to fine tune them a little more. Why the chronograph is even more important.

But although velocity is what we are looking at here, it's relationship to pressure is just as important, not just for accuracy but for safety. Pressure does the work to move the bullet through the barrel and on to Mr. Target (if Mr. Target would quit MOVING around!)
If the pressure is too low, the bullet could stick in the bore or fail to generate enough velocity to do the intended task (sorry dear, I'm just tired tonight). If the pressure is too high, not only could your fine firearm be damaged, but there is a genuine risk for injury.

I'm not going to get in any greater detail here. I'm a beginner and I'm sure I have a few readers who are as well. If you want to read an excellent discussion of velocity variations, pick up a Speer Reloading Manual for Rifle and Pistol and check out "Why Ballisticians Get Gray" in the handgun section.

In the meantime, if you are getting serious about reloading or just want to check out the accuracy of those rounds you are depending on, consider a Chronograph. Add a couple of patient friends and a few bags of your favorite rounds and fire when ready.
When you're done and home, you can compare your notes, recalculate what you wish to do next time and for myself anyway, worry about that one thing that all the supermodel forensic scientists on TV worry about.

Which of my favorite bath products remove GSR the best?

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Barkley - Beer Connoisseur


Sorry Barkley, the imported beer reserves were a little short.

Someone made Guinness Brownies last weekend. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Half Priced Books - Another Flying story

If you are reading this, the bat phone went off.   So enjoy a post I saved for a rainy day.

All of this for less than $25.  I was especially excited to find the old Cessna Manual of Flight, which was the exact same book (year included) I got my Private Pilot License (even if it was Half Priced Books Priced at $10)   I look it it now, and compare it to another often used reference book, and just laugh, but at the time it was some serious reading.

As a  teen,  I worked at the little local airport most  weeknights and every weekend, while going to the local college.  After we closed for the day, I'd often remain behind with that Cessna book.  The 70+ year old owners upstairs in the apartment built above the place, were within earshot, enjoying their time together, kindly doing all they could to help with my flying education.  I'd stay there for a couple of hours, flipping through a Cessna Pilot Training tape on Cassette, "beep", turn the page, "beep", go get another cup of really horrific machine coffee.  I was working 30-40 hours a week and going to college full time.  Coffee was my friend.

But I loved finding the book.

Look Jon Bon Jovi is using the radio!
Correction - "Jon" is  wearing  huge earrings.  Maybe it wasn't Jon Bon Jovi.  Still, it was  so much fun to look through that book again.

Sleep well, and stay safe.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Tie me to the Zip Line and Start the Bacon Frying - It's Sunday!

BACON.  Because I can.

But first, a little Range construction  A zip line was needed off the back porch  so that Barkley could go out without a leash when the weather turns nasty. Sure he'll mind a redhead standing on the porch in her jammies yelling at him to get inside (who wouldn't) but friends sometimes take care of him, and I want him to be able to get in and out easily. He got a line set up off the front porch after I blew out my knee, but something for the back was needed, the steps there too narrow and steep for anyone wanting to deal with him in inclement weather.
  • Mr. B. engineered a similar zip line for Barkley at the house he shares with Midwest Chick, so the idea is not an original one, but it worked.  Especially after he learned not to get himself wrapped around a tree.
But one was needed here, for not everyone is up for the leash and the "Nantucket Sleigh Ride" on a slippery driveway with a dog that has to go "NOW!"

 First, a check for the right height before securing the slide hook completely.

Then it's attached to a very large tree on the other side of the driveway and a couple test runs were made before securing anything on either end permanently. Coming down the steps, the line clears both rail and shrubs and he has to make a hard right turn at the bottom, so he can't build up enough speed to hurt himself if he comes to a sudden stop.  There is a bungee on the end for extra cushioning. just in case.
He can sniff and do his business on both sides of the driveway (which is long enough anyone would have time to call him in before a visitors car approached) AND he can see what's going on in the garage.
You think I haven't noticed that I can't reach bacon OR power tools on this thing.

Then, it was time for breakfast.  What can I say. Silver Dollar (well, more like sand dollar) sized pancakes and Amish Bacon.

Then time to "Putter". As happens around here, strange things show up at the Range via Craigslist, many of which are "free to a good evil laboratory". This is a Silvertone circa late 1930's. (Sears and Roebuck, back when they built good stuff and not crap designed by a Kardashian).
 The autopsy is done, now we'll work on probable cause.
Dammit Jim - I'm a Doctor Not a Radio Repairman!

Hey, it was free, maybe Roberta X will want to give it a good home, but it was too cool to pass up.

Then, in the afternoon it was a trip with Partner in Grime to an old Mill in Illinois which is now a museum, where I got some stone ground grains, a demonstration of weaving (the kind that doesn't involve Irish Whiskey and an automobile) and a lot of hiking around the area.
More another day but it was very interesting and educational.

Pretty soon, the sun was starting to get low in the sky and the stomach was growling. Tired and a little dusty from tromping around the museum and park trails, we needed something easy.  But after a big breakfast, I was also wanting something fairly light and healthy.  Cheap is also good (you know, in case I find something on Craigslist that people actually want money for to take off their hands).
Garlic Brown Sugar Chicken. Saute 2 Tablespoons of jarred minced garlic in a good splash of olive oil  on medium heat until softened, remove from heat and  add 5 Tablespoons of brown sugar and a few shakes of crushed red pepper and stir until the sugar melts. Spoon on chicken (makes enough for 2-4 big pieces).  Sprinkle with cracked black pepper and salt and bake 20 to 30 minutes at 450 F. (these bone- in pieces took 30)
Chicken leg and thigh quarters that I got for $2 for a four pack were incredibly juicy and the glaze was amazing, hot and sweet and caramelized onto the skin. Cooking at the high temperature is the trick.

Quick, a close up while the light is still decent.  Yumm.

Partner in Grime gave it a big thumbs up.  The whole meal, including seasoned brown rice and steamed broccoli, made enough to serve four people for less than $2 a serving, even including the two buck chuck style wine.

Easy and cheap, always handy to have in the recipe collection.
Mom, the zip line is great but I'm ignoring you til you build me a Slide-inator to get into the neighbor's pool.