Saturday, April 23, 2011

Weeds and seeds

Today was a good day. I took a hoe to all the weeds and dirt among a row of potatoes, and upon seeing the farmer doing a much better job on his row, went back and redid mine to standards I could accept. Not quite as good as him, but not too shabby. Sometimes, when hoeing the rocky dirt, instead of the clank of metal hitting stone, I got a sound almost like metal hitting glass. Investigation showed some of the rocks looked an awful lot like broken-open geodes, and I was striking chunks of solid quartz. Next time I'm taking a break from farm work or shooting, I'll wash a few off in the creek and see if any make pretty paperweights.

The butter beans will be awfully sparse. When bean sprouts come up through the soil, they bring the bean with them - and to the few surviving roosters too canny for coyotes and foxes, the beans looked awfully tasty.

Some of the other plants also suffered from a cow getting loose. Fortunately, not everything has sprouted yet, so there was less damage than there could have been.

Cats like basil. Not quite as much as catnip, but I'm down to four out of the original twelve basil seedlings. I've started more seeds, and will try for better survival rates on round two.

Parsley seeds take a month to germinate. Once they've poked their first set of leaves above the soil, they then take weeks to get their first true leaves out. I'm clinging with hope to the advice that they take a long time in the beginning, but the more greenery they get, the faster they grow. (Next year, I think I'll just buy a plant from the nursery.)

I cannot find mint for sale anywhere. This is the south - land of mint juleps, right? Can I not find mint because everybody is already supposed to have it? Or did it get labeled as an invasive weed? Why may I not have my own minty weed with aspirations of kudzu held in check by minty peas, and mint teas, and lamb?

Strangely enough, I can find catnip. It may be a member of the mint family, but I refuse to plant it - no sense in training the beasts to dig about in the container garden.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Mine! .38 Special edition

Today, I shot a gun in a caliber I haven't been able to in years - .38 special. No, it was not a snubby, and no, it was not pink. Sadly, the Pachmayr Compac Pro grips weren't in purple, either. Calmer Half spent a couple of hours with ten different guns and at least six different grips once the guns were narrowed down, trying to find something comfortable to my hand. He finally found a pair of grips that came on a gun he'd gotten, and were way too small for his hands.

(This being one of those points gunnies and airplane restorers agree wholeheartedly on: "Never throw useful parts away! Even if you can't use them!" Poor Calmer Half is not so at ease with the lengths to which this is taken by airplane restoration, which continue on to say "All parts are useful, even if it'll take far more than you can do to rebuild them! They might be needed as a ferry part or template, or shim, or something, someday!")

So, now exercising the grand tradition of cats and wives, I have declared "What's mine is mine and what's yours is mine, and this is my gun now!" with his Smith & Wesson Model 65. He seems perfectly at ease with this, and indeed is making happy noises about me and concealed carry class.

Once we got back from the range, our housemate broke out the gun cleaning stuff, and taught me how to clean 'my' gun. Having cleaned it, it's as surely mine as when the "Just because you can fit into it again doesn't mean you should" shirt that Calmer Half unboxed gets absconded as my new nightshirt, and ends up in my laundry.

All this exercising at the gym we're doing is paying off. Calmer Half is finding new nightshirts for me, and I'm able to take the weight and recoil of more of his guns... Maybe, just maybe, soon it'll mean I have to go pants shopping for a smaller size, with belt loops that will actually hold up to a holster! ...Nah, not while I'm using up extra apples that started to go mealy by making apple pie.

I swear, I take the shirt off a man's... clean laundry pile, and one of his guns, and all he does is smile at me with this fond expression. It's darned hard to rile Calmer Half. I'm so glad he's mine!

Monday, April 4, 2011

50nm at a time, stewing all the way

Today, I sat down and started plotting how to get from Alaska to Nashville. The first thousand miles are easy; I fly to Northway, and take the Alcan down, cutting a little east to cross the border at Montana instead of Seattle. Then, I started picking my way south down the mountains to Ogden, UT to visit a friend and crash on the couch. From there I tried to find an easy way out and east that didn't take me through Salt Lake City's airspace, and then a rough shot east with a descending southern curve.

Theoretically it's 3500 miles, with two couches (and more importantly, showers) assured between there and here. Hmm. More planning required.

While all this plotting and line-drawing was going on, a line of storms hit, and the house shuddered in the wind. I realized exactly why tying your plane down outside in the lower 48 seems less wise than in Alaska, and took a break from the computer to sear some cubed venison steak in a mix of olive oil and a hint of bacon grease, and follow with browning some minced garlic, then deglazing the pan with an oatmeal stout and a glass of lambrusco. (The original recipe called for sugar added, but lambrusco is a sweet enough red no extra sugar was needed.) With more thyme than I was comfortable with, a full tablespoon of my nemesis, Worcestershire sauce (Calmer Half loves the taste. I loathe it.), and two tablespoons of tomato baste, I added three cans of low-sodium beef broth and set it to simmer for an hour. Then I diced and sauteed potatoes, two carrots, and an onion in two tablespoons of butter. When the broth had simmered for the hour, I transferred it all to a crockpot to simmer merrily on high for another hour. Then I added a bag of frozen mixed vegetables and a teaspoon of pepper, and reset the crockpot to low. That kept the non-sauteed vegetables crisp and flavorful, while the rest of the stew blended together.

Then I pulled out the sourdough starter and the cast iron pan, and made Sourdough biscuits to go with the stew. Since my starter is thick, I added a little milk to thin it, and next time I'll cut the sugar to 1 tablespoon - but otherwise, followed the recipe at the end of the post. The biscuits came out of the oven as the stew was smelling irresistible, and our housemate finally made it home past downed trees and blacked out traffic lights. Dinner was good.

Now back to stewing over the route. Maybe there are state parks with camping facilities between Ogden and Nashville. Hmm. Maybe just cool places to land I could throw up a solar shower in the heat of the day, and fly in the evening calm to dry out my hair? Sadly, I have an addiction to hot water that makes being a dirty hippie slumming across the US a despicable thing to shun.

Irish Beef Stew Recipe
with venison instead
Dutch Oven Sourdough Biscuits made in the oven with a cast iron pan