Thursday, June 30, 2016

Brigid Finally Speaks - On Speak Up Talk Radio Interview

Jim Curtis already let the cat out of the bag in the comments (from my Facebook page) but I had my first live radio interview as an author at Speak Up Talk Radio in Ohio! I was SO nervous but host/author Pat Rollo was great and she was happy to spread the word about animal rescue and adoption! Speak Up Talk Radio supports The Sewport Project, previously known as Sewport our Trops which furnishes handmade one of a kind soft pillowcases to troops overseas, homeless Veteran shelters, domestic abuse shelters and also cage comforters and cat-nipper to animal rescue shelters.  So I hope I brought some interest to their station to help out this group.

Here's the audio!

Just Kidding!

Here is the link for the interview. Learn more about some of the rescue organizations The Book of Barkley Supports as well as that one story I left out of the book so my Dad doesn't "ground me" at age fifty (mumble mumble).

I did laugh as one of my very long time blog readers who I know off blog and is on Facebook said he expected my voice to sound like Lana Turner and instead - with the upper Midwest Accent -   "sounded like Erma Bombeck."

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Telework dogs

Forger Reservoir Dogs - it's Telework Dogs.

Abby  pretty much just stays there where she can look out the window for the dreaded UPS man or watch me work away on the computer.

And she knows instinctively when it's noon and her dog walker shows up while I get dinner in the crockpot and get my lunch.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

A Muffin with Your Morning Mauser

Since the title of this blog IS Mausers and Muffins I'd be remiss if I didn't occasionally post a muffin recipe.  Yes, I like Mausers.

Some women go shopping for shoes.

I, on the other hand. . .
This very simple muffin is my all time favorite to serve with a meal, as good with dinner as breakfast. They are very rich and buttery and the yeast gives them a nice homemade taste, even as it doesn't cause them to "rise" in the time you mix them up.

Yeast Muffins.  They were easy, on the table in 30 minutes.

Mix 1 and 1/8 teaspoons active dry yeast (half a package) 
1 cup warm water (about 110-120 degrees)
Let stand 5 minutes while you preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

In a small bowl mix:

2 cups self rising flour 
1 Tablespoons plus 1/2  teaspoon sugar
Add yeast mixture to flour mixture and stir in:

6 Tablespoons salted butter, melted (yes, I know, these are NOT diet muffins)
1 egg whisked (if you use an extra large or jumbo egg, remove about a teaspoon of the egg mixture)

Batter will be slightly lumpy 

Spoon batter into 8 lightly greased muffin tins/
Bake in preheated oven about 20-23 minutes until lightly golden

Serve with butter, honey or preserves.  And maybe a Mauser.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Gun Sense and Sensibility

In the news too much lately - the taking of innocent lives by someone who either legally or illegally had possession of a firearm, their act having nothing at all to do with their personal attention to maintaining the law but by a personal or radical religious based mania that involves the taking of human life, by any means.  Had the gun not been available there are knifes, there are bombs.  Even if you are so inclined to discount terrorism, preferring to keeping your head in the sand about that - there is daily reminders that poverty, poor education and a lack of a effective mental health framework in this country is a factor in some of the spikes in gun violence.

There are studies from both sides - all with statistics  (and charts and graphs)  "increased gun ownership means more killings" vs. "more handguns in the hands of private citizens prevents violence!"  Yet what those studies don't tell you is  they are generally based on association, pass Law X and you get Y Effect.  But they don't tell you that the Y affect was solely because of X.  Y could happen due to X but it could also happen due to changes in demographics, economics and other factors that have no bearing on Law X.
As a responsible firearm owner and a child of LEO's,  I'm as upset by the senseless loss of life due to ANY violent crime - the family of six, including two small children, there in the Gage Park neighborhood in Chicago who were beaten and stabbed to death, and the 15 year old caught in a crossfire of a gang related shooting - their lives being no less important then the scores that lost their lives recently in Orlando.

When it comes to gun violence, the media's focus is pulled understandingly towards the appalling mass shootings in community gathering places, schools and government buildings, where firearms are banned, and where all should be safe.  Such events are indeed heart-rending.

But where the biggest loss of lives occur, on a daily basis, is in the cities, especially,the one where I make my home, one that has an incredibly high level of violent crime, even having some of the most strict gun laws on the books.
Young black men are especially vulnerable. In 2012 just a little over  6% of the US population were black men, but they accounted for more than 50% of all gun homicides that year. For black families in America, the chance of a male child dying from a gunshot wound more than double the risk than dying in a motor vehicle crash, a common cause of death as we all come of age and believe we are invincible. That chance is even greater for families in poor, high crime/high unemployment urban neighborhoods, from which the majority of these murders occur.

The media has often neglected to tell this tragic story, Yet the truth is that homicide in America is largely driven by day-to-day gun violence in poor, minority communities that the media fails to report. The majority of America's mass shootings don't happen on a college campus or in a movie theater. They happen at family cookouts, on basketball courts, and at block parties, in housing projects and in poor but tidy neighborhoods .  They happen in places where I would not safely pass and in places where in broad daylight a mother believes her child is safe to walk to school.

For example, a total of 90 people were killed in mass shootings in 2012, including the horrific assault weapon massacre at a movie theater in Aurora, CO. That same year, 2,363 young people, mostly minorities were murdered in gang related homicides ( In 2014, 82 people were shot in Chicago over the Fourth of July weekend alone.  Most who are arrested with illegal weapons serve the absolute minimum sentence allowed by law and then are released.
But the solution expressed by too many in politics:

More gun laws.

How simple is that.  I'm all for reducing violent crime - why didn't I think of that?

Because the whole "murder is illegal" kept Columbine from happening, Newton, San Bernardino, Aurora, Fort Hood. Right?

So make it EXTRA illegal to have a firearm, or own a particular type, and that's sure to stop these mass murders in gun free zones and we can see a major shift in the loss of life in Chicago.
But let's go that extra step.  Since pretty much everything you need to manufacture a firearm is available in most Big Box Hardware stores, you need to make it illegal to buy those things.  What happens if you ban firearms, and every plumber, electrician and handyman has access to things from which a weapon can be formed?   Society as we know it would end, if you believe the gun control crowd's thinking that access equals intent.

If you're going to follow THAT particular line of reasoning, - we need to look even beyond things we can buy.

With a growing concern over access to AR 15 style rifles and how you can fashion one for yourself many people have shown concern as to access to 80%  receivers which would allow someone with basic machining skills to have access to a firearm without undergoing a background check. Furthermore, there should be some concern that anyone operating a foundry manufacturing aluminum castings should be subject to similar scrutiny classifying most forms of aluminum castings as 50% receivers. A more stringent set of regulations possibly proposed by East coast mayors (and those that follow them on Twitter) would require that bauxite ore be categorized as a 10% AR 15 receiver requiring a special permit for the refinement of the ore and BATFE approval for anyone who attempts to obtain mineral rights to property that may contain bauxite ore.

Does that make sense to you?

Me either, that's just silly.
The issue with gun violence is much more of an issue than pieces and parts and permits.  Just as it is anyone's threat, it's everyone's responsibility - those that wish for an Utopian peace with no evil or weapons.those of us who chose to carry a firearm, but only legally and responsibly.   Because those that don't follow the laws - would take out either of us if given the opportunity.

Firearms are currently the Pandora's Box of all political parties.  The box is open - and you can't force it shut with  by simply enacting further laws, added to the current laws which are neither followed or strictly enforced. We need to do more than blame the tool.  We need to address the source of the lawlessness and the terror that's behind it, keeping our eyes open to the ideologies of those that wish to harm us, support proactive mental health assistance in this country, as we work as a community to support and establish programs that keep kids in school and off the streets.

All are equally important for sensible gun laws alone are not going to take care of the root cause behind the violence.

A piece of paper won't deter those who don't obey the laws - that's something we can never forget.(c)

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Tea Time!

I love English Muffins (similar to crumpets but made with yeast instead of baking soda, and booked on both sides, unlike crumpets).  But making them from scratch is a bit more work than I wanted to do this weekend.  So I made a loaf of English Muffin bread. It's low in sugar and fat and makes incredible toast that has a texture and crumb just like English muffins!

For I do like my afternoon tea.  My Dad  who adopted me is English, though second generation U.S. born, and my biological mother was a Woodworth (descendant of Walter Woodworth, one of the original colonists in America) so there's more than a small amount of English blood in these veins.
The tea is a little tradition that means a lot to me.

I made this with my Azure Standard wild yeast sourdough starter but if you just wish to make it without, use the ingredients amounts in the (parenthesis). Adapted from a recipe on the King Arthur flour website, I simply modified it to compensate for the flour and liquid that occurs naturally in the starter.
It's pillowy enough to satisfy that morning carb craving, but sturdy enough to toast just enough to stand up to that thick slather of jam.  Plus it has all those little nooks and crannies of English muffins that trap your butter (if so inclined) in creamy pools or just soak up the sweetness of spread fruit. Plus it  just slices and toasts, perfect on those extra mornings when an attempt to separate a store bought English muffin before caffeine might might result in bloodshed..

You will need 2 bowls and a hand or stand mixer. There's no kneading involved and just a short rise time.

No Knead Sourdough English Muffin Bread

2 and 1/4 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour (3 cups if no sourdough starter)
1 cup sourdough starter (optional)
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 and 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 Tablespoon instant yeast
1/2 cup milk (1 cup if no sourdough starter)
1/4 cup water (add up to 3 Tablespoons more if needed while mixing if it is dry)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
cornmeal, to sprinkle in pan


Whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, and instant yeast in a large mixing bowl.
Combine the milk, water, and oil in a separate, microwave-safe bowl, and heat to between 120°F and 130°F. (about a minute and forth seconds in my little microwave)  Stir and take the temperature with a meat thermometer or check with your finger - it should be hotter than lukewarm but not so hot you couldn't take a bath at water that temperature).

Pour the wet into the dry ingredients and beat with the mixer on HIGH for 1 minute, scraping down the sides with a spatula.  You will see little threads of gluten forming at the end of a minute. That is good!  The dough will be very soft, thicker than cupcake batter and thinner than traditional muffin batter.

I ended up adding 3 tablespoons more of water as my batter was fairly dry - that's dependent on the liquid in your sourdough starter.  You  don't want a runny batter but the mixer should be able to mix it on high without it bogging down.

Lightly grease an 8  and 1/2" x 4 and  1/2" loaf pan, and sprinkle the bottom and sides with cornmeal, shaking it around to coat bottom and sides.

Scoop the soft dough into the pan, leveling it in the pan as much as possible.

Cover the pan, and let the dough rise in a warm spot until it's just barely crowned the rim of the pan (no more than 1/4 inch over).  For my loaf it was about an hour and a half rise time.
Bake in 400 F preheated oven 22 to 28 minutes, till it's golden brown and its interior temperature is 190°F.
Let cool 10 minutes in the pan on a wire rack.then carefully work  knife around the edges to loosen it
Remove from pan, slice and toast while you get the rest of afternoon tea put together.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Getting Rid of Bambi - Keeping Deer Out of Your Garden

Something ate the new plants.  But it wasn't Abby Lab~

Common culprits with low lying vegetation around town is usually rabbits.  But you'd be surprised where deer wander.  Perhaps not in the heart of a city, but in communities where there are parks and cornfields at hand, deer will travel far and wide, looking for a tasty, easy snack behind or near a low fence, or in an open yard. Our Chicago area village is surrounded on two sides by an enormous stretch of woods and the deer will happily wander across a busy street onto yours if you have tastier plants than in their own home.

Those people think deer and envision Bambi. But having lived out in the country and in the Northwest I see deer and think large wood rat with a rack. Deer are beautiful, in form and function but they are also incredibly destructive.

We lost a few of our newly planted spruce to the rabbits this winter, and I'm going to try my best to keep the deer from eating the rest of them (deer aren't particular fond of spruce but if starving will eat about anything green).
How do you know it's a deer that's been nibbling on your landscaping? "Have a Nice Day" spelled out in deer poop near your depleted maples might be a good way, but it's not always that obvious.  There are ways to tell however.  Deer lack upper incisors, so browsed twigs and stems show a rough, shredded surface. Rabbit damage has more of a neat, sharp 45-degree cut. Rodents leave narrow teeth marks when feeding on branches. Deer strip the bark and leave no teeth marks. Hungry deer will find just about any plant tasty, going at it like a Weed-eater on crack.
There really is no "deer proof" plant. There are species however that they find less appetizing if given a choice (you know, like turkey bacon). These include purple coneflower (4th photo from the bottom which is ALSO pet safe), thyme, grape Hyacinth, daffodil's, juniper, hawthorn, pinion pine and Douglas fir. For your flowerbeds specifically, they usually won't eat Lady's Mantle, Butterfly Weed, Foxglove, St. John's Wort, Lavender, Daffodil, Poppy and most pungent herbs. Favorites are apple, maple and plum trees, geraniums and tulips.

What I know doesn't work. No Deer Allowed signs. That works about as well as "no guns allowed" in gun free zones.

Things that make noise, like sheets of foil (they get used to it). Dogs, (effective in the day but if the dog is in the house at night sleeping, the deer simply wait until dark. Deer voodoo dolls. Spotlights (they get used to them).
Chemical vs. Natural: Some folks recommend chemical repellents to deter deer. I've used both chemically based, and naturally based but ONLY used the chemically based when the only pet was an indoor cat. Some I've tried with some success, Deer Away (good product, lousy dispenser) and Deer Off . Chemicals that don't work well in testing include denatonium benzoate, so check the label. The best "over the counter" product I've tried with success was Plantskydd, which like the Deer Away is a "fear inducing" repellent. However, it's not a product for the aroma sensitive or those whose bedroom window is directly downwind, for Plantskydd's effective ingredient is pig's blood in a veggie oil binder that helps to keep the product from being washed away too quickly. Ewwww!  The pigs' blood works by emitting an odor that animals associate with predator activity and stimulates a fear-based response which will have deer and other mammals looking for somewhere else to dine lest they be the next woodland creature slaughtered.

In short, it smells REALLY bad and will last for a while on any clothing you get it on.. Just be careful, when and where you spray, but typically the odor fades to the human nose after a day.. It can also discolor leaves, so spray it around the soil at the base of the plants. Of all the "non green" things I've tried, hands down, it worked the best but I was NOT a fan of the smell at all on day one.
There are also taste repellents. some of which you can make at home, naturally and some which you can buy, such as Tree e Guard®, or the McDonald's Big Mac.

The BEST pet and child safe product is that I've tried and been very pleased with is called "Deer Scram" and it requires no special handling - just use the scoop and sprinkle it around your plants. A totally "green" mixture, formulated out of organic ingredients, Deer Scram forms a protective odor barrier around your plants and shrubs.  To humans it smells like a very mild fertilizer (which it is) but it's the "smell of death" to deer (and hungry bunnies don't like it either) and you only have to apply it every 45 days or so. (Normal rainfall actually enhances it's effectiveness).  

to order

Though not as effective as Deer Scram, a natural DIY repellents that does seem to work is a mixture of 20% eggs and 80% water. This may clog your sprayer so if you can remove the white membrane attached to the yoke before mixing, that will help. This will need to be reapplied every 30 days but it can be a less expensive alternative, especially if you have chickens handy.There are other "home remedy" methods to repel deer. Hot sauce has been said to repel (though it does not work on Cajun deer). Try 3 tsp per gallon of water and respray after rain, or watering. Others swear by coyote urine (100%). I've had a hard time getting the coyote to pee in the cup so I'll stick with either the egg mixture or Deer Scram

Home-remedy repellents can be questionable at best. Some call for scattering human hair or soap shavings around the plants, or hanging bars of soap and fine mesh bags of hair from the trees, Blair Witch style (replacing both soap and hair bags monthly). Deer have been reported to simply eat the soap bars, and frankly hanging bags of hair from your trees and plants is only going to repel the neighbors (who think you've gone crazy on them and if you've got the freshly slaughtered blood smell wafting from your soil as well from a spray of Playtskydd, you'll find kids won't even come to your house on Halloween any more.)

Materials that work in one area or for one person may not work at all in an area more highly frequented by deer, and there are differences in feeding habits that run state to state.
Netting and Tubing. Tubes of Vexar netting around individual seedlings are an effective method to reduce deer damage to small trees. The material degrades in sunlight and breaks down in three to five years. These tubes can protect just the growing terminals or can completely enclose small trees. Attach tubes to a support stake to keep them upright. Tubes may not protect the trunk from damage when the buck uses the trees to scrape the velvet off of the antlers. A buck in the mood is not going to be deterred by a tube. Another option is flexible, sunlight-degradable netting that expands to slip over seedlings.

Paper or Reemay budcaps. These are used to protect a trees terminal bud during dormant season. They may help reduce browse damage. Budcaps are rectangular pieces of material folded lengthwise and stapled around the terminal leader. These are used most commonly on conifers since deer normally munch on the conifer seedlings in the late fall and early spring when the caps can be installed without interfering with tree growth.
Fencing: Adequate fencing to exclude deer is the only sure way to control deer damage. But don't think the standard fence will do it. Driving down from the Northern part of the state into the city, I pass through a park that is fenced to keep deer out. I've seen a dozen cars hit deer there in the last couple years commuting that way. The deer just pop right over it. A standard deer-proof fence is 8 feet high and made of woven wire.

Some people have luck with tying white plastic shopping bags on the fence every couple of feet. The noise and movement of the plastic bags seems to scare deer and keep them away.

For small gardens and stands of trees (no more than 3 to 4 acres) you can use invisible polypropylene mesh barriers. These are 7 and a half to 8 feet high, UV treated with a high tensile strength that blends in. It comes in rolls 100 to 330 feet long and is attached with hog ring staples to high tension line. The bottom is either staked to the ground or attached to another high tension wire to keep the deer from limbo dancing underneath. Some people use a slanting type deer fence or fortify their electric fences by baiting with peanut butter. Baiting is NOT legal for hunting but it is for teaching a deer what Mr. Fence is all about. The peanut butter will draw them in to a fence/nose encounter (Choosy Mothers Choose . . . Son of a Bitch!) The deer will remember that and will associate the fence with stay the heck away.

If you are in the country and you and your neighbors HAVE NO OUTDOOR PETS- a last resort - the electric fence.  Electric fences also can be used if you are dead serious about it. . Electric fences should be of triple-galvanized, high-tensile, 13.5-gauge wire carrying a current of 35 milliamps .  Several configurations of electric fences are commonly used: vertical five-, seven-, or nine-wire; slanted seven-wire; single strand; and others.

There are restrictions in many areas as to the use of an electric fence and for good reason. If the fence is legal by local or state statute, there may be restrictions as to purpose, number of strands, size and type of charger (might have to be Less Than Lethal approved), must be inside the perimeter of a mechanical fence, setbacks from property lines and public access, etc. (If electric fences are outlawed only outlaws will have electric fences.) So you should check your local ordinances before purchasing and installing. In any event, when using a single strand electric fence you will want to mark the wire with reflective tape or a cloth strip, something to catch the deers eye. Otherwise they won't see it until they've gone right through it.
And remember, if all else fails.

Remind yourselves you don't live in Thailand where giant monitor lizards try and enter your home.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

RIP Ruger - Memories of a Dog

I don't know how many of you know
at God, Gals, Guns, Grub.  A university Educator  and firearms instructor of many years who now owns a school and protection consulting business in Ohio with his talented wife, Dann and his family have been friends of mine for years and their dog Ruger was a pal of Barkley.

It is with sadness that I have to share that Ruger lost his fight of a long time with some serious health issues.  He will be missed and I know how much his family is hurting.  For them, I share my thoughts and a few words. - Brigid


  • In rough wool socks, in a cooling room, I read from the books of the Old Testament, dipping my finger in a glass of whiskey, salvaging all I can from myth and truth, as reality comes through the window like a tossed brick.

    Outside there was nothing, the world outside the window, only a long, steady dusting of snow, the dark and constant presence of winter’s scorn. Somewhere in the distance, a snowplow scrapes the day’s history from the streets as I pull a sweater around me, small comfort in this empty house.

    We find comfort in various ways. For some, it's food, human warmth and need or the acquisition of possessions.   For some, it's drugs or alcohol, a balm to the self we deceive ourselves into believing as being measurably containable.   We're not though; days come in which we're like a glass too full, barely preventing ourselves from spilling over through surface tension.

    Our comforts can be our healing, but if left unchecked, they can be our curse, carried in an empty bag, a broken bottle, harsh words that scatter like empty containers, the hiss of a snake as we toss it away.   They can also be our savior, keeping us from that isolating inward spiral, the soul’s needle that rips free the bindings, thus letting our wounds heal.

    For me, my comfort this night is the written Word of God, of man, or a mere mortal woman, the thoughts in a journal that spring from my own day.  Those words laid out unfolded, are my way of savoring what it means to be alive; and the most striking measure of life is the literal odds against it.  For every way that there is of being here, humanity and nature have derived an infinite number of ways of not being here. Calamities of man and nature can wipe out entire civilizations even as the smallest of things can render us completely and totally undone, a meteorite and a microbe carrying the same weight. Statistics belittles our very existence; thermodynamics prohibits us, and gravity usually wins.  That's if we're not taken out first by hurricane, flood, donkey accident, tainted food, terrorists or that offer of a ride home by that nice guy at the bar with an eye patch and a hook for a hand.

    I spent much of my early adulthood as a jet pilot, learning very quickly that, not only can't you always save the world, sometimes you cannot even save yourself.  But the effort is often worth it. If you're lucky, your brushes with life will only leave a few small physical scars. If I raise up my bangs, right at the hairline, there’s a tiny, faint scar from a tumble off my bike down a hill as a kid. There's a small ding in my forehead where the bungee cord of the J60-P-3 turbojet engine cover whacked me on the ramp at warp speed when I lost the wrestling contest with it.  But for most people, like me, the bigger scars are internal, and you only touch them softly, with trepidation, not remorse, in the late night hours of "what if’s."

    Pilots get that.  Adventurers get that.  So, usually, does anyone who has challenged their fears. There are times when it seems as if the world is going to pieces around you, a sense of this enormous elemental power beyond your reason or control.  You think "what am I doing; this is nuts!"  As you squeak past the reaper one more time, you say “well, that wasn’t as bad as I thought” already planning on when you will chase the experience again.  For you are called to the altar of the infinite, the bread of life on the tongue, tasting faintly of salt, the sweetness, just underneath.  It's reaching your hand out to receive glory even as your world cranks up to red line with the knowledge that if mistakes are made, there will be no saving grace; you may be lost.  But if are not, then the world will, for that instant, have one moment of equilibrium, of order, of peace.

    Those moments, perfect moments of transcendence, almost worthy of the reckoning.

    It's moments like this, like these here now, that are our way of saying that, in the face of the impossible, life is worth savoring.  It's acknowledging that when life lobs something our way like a grenade, shards of pain exploding across our world, that life still can be a gift, still a story to be told.

    It is a story, not one of science, one that may not be remembered past this one lifetime. It is the story of someone that did not know his destiny, but followed it with unfaltering step, bound to me, not by vows or paper, but in the name of the trust that was the best part of his nature. It is a story of the one that taught me to love even as he occasionally barfed on my carpet.  It is simply the tale of a black Labrador retriever named Barkley.
     It was the beginning I never anticipated--belief that there were no limits that made tragedy inevitable, a gentle nuzzle that made the walls fall away, and the pull of the leash into the day’s infinitude.

    It was an ending I did not expect; a leash laid across the chair, an empty bed, a glass tipped over, spilling the blood of wine.  The noise that empty rooms make is as clear as tears.

    In between, there are the stories of friends, of joy and dog hair, of a small pink ball with feet known as Mr. Squeaky, which became my mortal enemy at dawn, as I tried to sleep. There are tales of the great "bacon incident" and how I know more about how to clean carpet than should be allowed by law. There are words that twist and turn in the shade of an ancient tree, a sonnet to an old dog, who lies between the bones of poets, to be unearthed as he releases me to remember.

    A couch sits across from me, absent of a form that claimed it for ten years. Under the table, are a few favorite toys, sticks and stones that now break my bones, even as I cannot bear to part with them.  I sit, the solitary dreamer, pulled to the perimeters of memory that can’t yet be mapped.  I sit, a cowboy without his sidekick, my defense laid down on the bar, nursing the hurt with one part tears and two parts single malt. Barkley's things are stacked by the door, as ordered as rifle cartridges, a dog's length from the barrel of the bottle.  That bottle is a place I do not want to lose myself, I think as small sounds come from my chest, as the rumble of thunder infinitely remote, the vibration of grief down deep inside, tremulous and impartial and waiting.

    But grieving with memories is better than nothing without them and the only thing worse than not being alive, is not having anything to remember.

    So for tonight, I will simply pour a finger of warmth and put the bottle aside to sit, to wait for something I cannot name, but of which I can still remember.   I will remember the alone as a white shirt on the line, fluttering in the hot wind. I'll remember the together as the sound of a puppy's whimper.  I will remember it all as an open field under cloudless skies, as we learned to walk together, of fresh grass and soft ice cream, wood smoke and black powder, of black fur and white knights and love unexpected.  I'll remember it and write of it, as a renouncement of pain, as a leap into unknown air, a dog, a moment, so worthy of the price.

    Our wounds we wear like temporary garments until they are forgotten, but our stories, we don them as forever.
  •  - From The Book of Barkley - Outskirts Press 2014

Monday, June 20, 2016

Cloudy with a Chance of Cheeseburgers

Sunday was perfect weather for barbecuing, just enough cloud cover to cool the temperatures down a bit. We use an old barbecue - no fancy gas grill for us. We start with using a "chimney" which is often made from scrap in the basement or garage, open on both ends with small holes or vents to light off the newspaper.
Where scrapple comes from - explains the chewiness

Then stuff the bottom with newspaper, turn it over place it on the bottom grill grate and fill, Some lump charcoal will go next to the chimney the newspaper within is then lighted through a little vent made in the chimney.  If you're going to be cooking for a while (for a crowd, or a large tenderloin) consider using a mixture of lump charcoal and briquettes, the lump charcoal being placed on the grill, unlit, next to the chimney, then mixed with the briquettes when they're going strong.  Why does this work? The briquettes burn steadily for a long time and the lump charcoal burns very hot and adds flavor.

The chimney is so much better than the aroma of lighter fluid on the back of your tongue as you sip your pre-barbecue beer.

Once the charcoal catches fire, wait about 20 minutes for the flames to die down and the briquettes to be glowing hot and ashed over. Dump the briquettes onto the unlit lump charcoal and arrange them with your tongs or your HOTR Universal Pot Handle Tool ™
Put on the top grate and wait 10 minutes for the lump charcoal to catch fire before cooking (this set up should last about 45 minutes). If you're just doing a few burgers use the chimney and forget the lump charcoal.
First fry up some bacon (we had leftovers from breakfast). Amish bacon from Beef Mart in Valporaiso is pretty hard to beat, it cooks up thick with a deep red color and a wonderful smokey taste.
Be prepared for an audience as you put things together.

We'll start with the burger:

Note: Use ground chuck, not sirloin, you want a little fat in these., a mixture of 80/20 making for the juiciest burgers that won't fall apart.

Spread a pound of beef out flat in a pan.  Sprinkle with:

Several shakes of Worcestershire sauce
A teaspoon of Lipton onion soup mix or DIY Soup Mix*
Some cracked black pepper
1/4 teaspoon Penzey's roasted garlic (powdered).

Grab 5-6 ounces of meat, squeezing gently to distribute the spices and and lightly toss from hand to hand, forming a ball
Gently pat into patties that are as wide as the buns. (Yes we had two small sesame ones and a leftover homemade one) and 3/4 to one inch thick, handling the meat as little as possible.  Make sure the edges are round and put an indentation in the middle with your thumb (this keeps them from shrinking as much).
There were burgers here a minute ago - I can still smell them!

Cook over medium-high direct heat (food is directly over hot coals) 5 minutes, then flip and cook 3 minutes more for medium. A hint that it's ready to flip is that the burger will release from the grate without sticking. Whatever you do, resist the urge to flatten or squish your burgers with a spatula as they cook, you might as well pick them up and squeeze out the juice.  With the dent in them they're much less likely to puff up, but still, don't do it.

Partner usually cooks them six minutes near the coals, flipping once, then a minute and a half on indirect heat, covered.  Only flip once as as the meat cooks, the heat pushes the juices away from the heat source and you don't want to disrupt those juices any more than necessary.
There is a friendly debate on which heat and timing makes for the more juicy burger. I won the debate, not because my burger is better, but because I have red hair :-)

The last minute or so, lightly brush  your burger buns with olive oil and place on the grill to toast.

Served on sesame seed buns with white cheddar goat cheese, romaine, bacon slices and "secret sauce" (double sauce if serving more than 3-4 burgers)

No Longer Secret Sauce

1/4 cup mayo
3 Tablespoons tomato sauce
1/2 teaspoon honey
3/4 teaspoon honey vinegar or sherry vinegar
1/4 tsp Sciracha (add a couple more drops to taste if you like it hotter)
1/4 teaspoon crushed garlic
salt and cracked black pepper

Blend in food processor or blender until smooth.

Serve with Sour Cream/Cheddar Macaroni Salad

1 box of macaroni (8 oz.)
1/4 cup finely diced red pepper
2 tablespoons finely diced green pepper OR celery
1 cup mayo
3/4 cup sour cream
1 Tablespoon white sugar
3 Tablespoons white vinegar
1/4 cup milk
1 and 1/4 cup finely cubed or shredded cheddar.

Cook macaroni until still firm to the bite, drain and allow to cool. Mix dressing ingredients and add to cooled pasta just before serving.

 Partner said it was the best burger all year and I have to agree.

*DIY Soup Mix  (no MSG)

3/4 cup dried onion
1/3 cup Penzey's beef soup base or bouillon powder
1/4 tsp celery seed
1 tsp parsley flakes
1 tsp turmeric,
1/4  tsp pepper. 

Store in air tight container and use 4 Tablespoons for most recipes that call for a  whole package of soup mix.  

Friday, June 17, 2016

Stone Angels

Barkley is ever watchful, be it in the yard with a treat filled dog toy or inside.

He diligently watches the front and back doors, especially if I'm in the shower or sleeping during the day after a long trek home. He does it when we're at a friend's house.

The first time the UPS guy showed up at this address, the bark was deep and ferocious, to the point the UPS guy STOPPED in his tracks on the walkway, hesitating.  I cracked open the window and said "black lab!"

He smiled and came on up.  I slid open the door and said "do you want to meet him?"  And he said, "sure" at which point Barkley came out in full "I can't handle my licker" mode and got lots of pets.  I figured after that; they'd be fast friends, but the next time the big brown truck showed up with a box of reloading supplies, Barkley sounded off as if he wished to personally eat the bearer of all things Amazon.

So he sits, and he watches like some great dark stone angel.

I think of the stone angels that stand above the broken flowers that are laid upon the ground at the cemetery.  On any particular day, there will be a dark river of vehicles, washed and polished fluid flowing onto the grounds, circling and stopping around that depression in the earth that neither time nor sufficient airspeed will prevent our passage into. The vehicles move, almost as one, giving a sense of speed when speed itself is absent, even as those that held fast the wheels, unite in that implacable knowledge that the speed is no longer necessary.

We don't always plan on assuming the role of a guardian.  Defenders and protectors are often appointed (or what we refer to at work as Voluntold). Some are chosen by talent and bravery, some, simply because they are the only one available.

As a small child, I was asked by my best friend to take care of her "pet" frog while she was away for the weekend with her parents. I didn't want to do it, but felt like I had to. It wasn't a real frog, being made of some stretchy, green iridescent rubber, but she loved playing with it, dubbing it an "enchanted frog" able to lift any evil spell her brother could place on her princess dolls.

Unfortunately, Mr. Frog Prince was involved in an industrial accident involving an Erector Set and the laws of physics pertaining to stretchy rubber. He lost a couple of legs as an outcome.

I was heartsick for what I'd done, especially as it was never the intent, just another childhood experiment with tools and toys. I placed the remains gently in a piece of Kleenex and put them in a box and cried my eyes out. My Mom was less than pleased and visions of Lutheran hell (which likely involved Lutefisk and 1970's gym class wear) danced in my head as she made me write my apology. I delivered it with the ruined toy and a new, better toy to replace it, paid for with my allowance for the next month.

My friend forgave me, but I did not forgive me. Not for a while.

Years later, frogs fared no better in my care, but eventually I was entrusted with not just power tools, but hearts and lives. It is why I do what I do. On my head is a ball cap with the letters of my duty.  In my pocket is a piece of brass on which rests a number that will retire with me.  It is shown only with respect to access those places where the sanctity and story of what remains are inviolate. In my truck is a blue lunch box that looks like the Tardis. All are parts of me, the one who will be forever the child amazed by the unknown, and the other, the one who was entrusted with something precious, determined this time, not to break it.

In another place, far away, comes a river of vehicles, mostly trucks, still flowing in towards desecrated ground. It is a landscape of scarred ground, in which the rumble of thunder and the banshee scream of the wind still echoes. Those traveling within are unprepared for what they see, a hundred streets now a single vista, with missing corners and trees whose roots now seek their moisture directly from heaven, all broken by intervals of splintered lives and stolen plans.

Through the area, there is movement, those still looking for survivors or simply what was home, here in that interchangeable section of streets without form, without remembered names.  The vehicles silently pass by, in as much shock as respect. Though the vehicles bear souls inside, they also bear much more behind - water, food, diapers, wet naps, pet food, small things, even the smallest of which will fall as coins from the sky for those that have nothing.

There are  times that even the bravest can not protect, when the stoutest of hearts and the firmest of faiths can not defend from the wrath of mother nature or the evil intents of man. But this is a land where they still trust in God even as He watches as the sky smites the earth.  It is a place where they still trust in mankind's goodness, even as they know, how man can smite innocence as well as any natural disaster. This is a place where they know that people will band together with hands and hearts and sweat and prayer, to help. Some might term those that arrive to help as angels.  But they are not. They are simply flawed human beings who remember what it is like to hurt, from the pain they've received, for pain they've unwittingly caused.

The vehicles continue on to their destination, drivers pressing the foot to the gas even as they are mindful of the dangers. For on this day, speed is of the essence as there are so many waiting, and needing.  The vehicles try to stay together in some sense of orderly uproar, even as dust causes the eyes to weep, the remnants of bitten branches waving in a brightening sky as they pass.

They are not here specifically to protect or defend, or even, perhaps, to keep. Perhaps like Barkley, they are here, humbly and quietly, to leave some healing water for broken flowers, before heading back to home

 - excerpt from The Book of Barkley by LB Johnson  (Outskirts Press 2014)