Monday, January 15, 2018

A January tradition

The Frozen Chosen
So anyway, following my recovery from some bug that decided that I needed the last half of last week erased from my memory*, I figured there was no better way to celebrate the birthday of America's secular saint than by cleaning out the freezer and making salsa from the last of last year's tomatoes.

The good news is I probably will not have to make salsa for the rest of this year or next, as I now have about 5 cases of the stuff stashed. The bad news is... well, we shall see what the bad news is.

I mentioned before, though perhaps only in the comments, that I'm not a big believer in scalding tomatoes to remove their skins before making salsa or sauce or whatever. The ritual of dunk it in boiling water then dunk it in ice water then try to peel off the skin is hard on the hands if not the nerves. The cool tomatoes cool the boiling water and the boiling tomatoes melt the ice and it's just a huge pain in the knuckles and takes too long anyway.

Instead, what I do is freeze the tomatoes, then let them partially thaw. As they thaw from the outside in, the skin is ready to slip off while the inside is still frozen, which reduces the mess all around. Cut one end, slide the skin off, then coarse chop the insides and drop them into the pot for cooking. It's easy.

Separation anxiety
Except when you get this:

A little something I've never had before can be seen in the bottom of the middle three jars: a little more than a half-inch of water, separated from the rest of the salsa. It only happened in a few jars, and only in the first batch. It won't be hard to fix**, but it did make me wonder how it happened.

My current guess is this: I used a lot more Beefsteak tomatoes this year than normal (they're the big ones in the picture). And Beefsteaks tend to have a lot more liquid in them than the smaller Romas. Now, normally I drain off whatever water is there before I pop the batch onto the stove: it makes for a thicker salsa in the end.  But because the Beefsteaks were still mostly frozen, I failed to drain off that fluid, which then ended up in the salsa, which then separated out during the canning.

That's why -- I'm guessing again -- it only occurred in the first batch. By the time the second batch hit the stove, everything had thawed so the water could be properly drained away.

Perhaps we'll have a re-test next year to verify that theory, or perhaps not. As much as I like Beefsteak for huge and heavy harvests, they're really just more full of water than other tomatoes.

So as of now I'm only planning to plant Romas. 

But that can all change with nothing more than a late, Roma-killing frost.

* I recall some fever dreams and my rectum catching fire, but little else.
** Once the jar is finally opened some time in 2019, just shove a long spoon down one side, push the good stuff aside and drain the bad stuff out. Like a big, infected pustule, only tastier.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Is Bitcoin a bubble?

An admittedly ignorant man thinks so:
Warren Buffett doubled down on his criticism of bitcoin Wednesday during an interview with CNBC, where he said he's almost certain the cryptocurrency craze "will end badly" and that the current runup in value will be fleeting. 
But paradoxically, he also admitted that he "doesn't know anything" about digital currencies after saying he would eagerly buy five-year puts on "every one of the cryptocurrencies." 
I would imagine that a blanket put on all cryptocurrencies would end quite well for Mr. Buffett, as many of the 500+ cryptocurrencies are already dying. Others, like the new Kodakcoin announced yesterday by Kodak, seem destined to either join them or to change the cryptocurrency market in strange and fabulous ways. Who can tell?

Certainly, newly-rich groypers would assert that in no way is Bitcoin a bubble, because Technology. But that is where my own expectation arises that, if it's not a bubble*, it's going to act like one. Because Technology. 

You see, Bitcoin is based on technology that is almost a decade old, and which has been improved by others in the meantime.

New coins can smooth the rough edges and learn from others' mistakes. But Bitcoin cannot change with the times: its relative stasis - stability if you prefer - is part of its very makeup.

So what happens when the next Bitcoin, whether Litecoin or Bytecoin or Shiitecoin** comes along and does everything that Bitcoin does, twice as fast and with more privacy and less overhead?

People will begin to use the new coin instead***. What happens to Bitcoin then?

Bitcoin's sole utility is that it is a medium of exchange. You can buy things with it or sell things for it. You literally cannot do anything else with it. All of its value is ultimately tied up in whether and how people will use it in exchange for goods.

When people choose to use a new medium of exchange instead, I suspect that its price chart will be indistinguishable from that of a bubble.

Still, would a five-year put on  Bitcoin pay off for the Sage of Omaha?  I have no idea, because I don't know how long the hype wave will last. Nor does anyone else.

But will Bitcoin be the biggest cryptocurrency on the blockchain when it's based on 25-year-old technology? I doubt it very much.

* Under my personal definition - an asset driven to high prices by hype, manipulation, and momentum - it certainly is. Under other definitions that demand the ability to create unlimited assets (e.g. US Dollars), it is not.
** Reputedly under development in Iran.
*** "So why aren't people using those other coins already?" It's a good question.  I would argue that very few are actually "using" Bitcoin at all. They are merely buying it for dollars in hopes of selling it to others for more dollars. Which is another reason I think it's a fad, rather than an investment. If the market matures and they begin to "use" Bitcoin as it is intended, they'll gravitate to something easier to use.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Goals and Misgivings

Predictions coming up short...
So after failing miserably to predict what was going to happen in each of the past 2* current years, I've decided to forego this new year's prognostications and spend that time explaining what I intend to make happen.**

There are two things informing this change. The first one, that I'm not predicting***, is The Storm and its many variations. The internet and the newspapers are gnashing and muttering respectively about sealed indictments, pizza, Qanon, upside down Saudi princes, arms deals in Las Vegas hotel rooms, high-level suicides, medical boots, straight flights to Guantanamo. That rabbit hole goes deep. Sure, it could just be conspiracy mongering. In fact, I expect that most of it is. What one can read on the Doompr0n is pretty much exactly what I do not expect to happen.

But it takes a blind man not to see that there is a war going on within our government, whatever one chooses to call it, and that it is going to continue until one side wins decisively. When that happens, if it's not already close to happening, a lot of people's lives are going to change, including millions who are not even involved. So it's time to reduce fragility even more. I'm not predicting anything specific. I'm watching it and I don't like where it looks to me like it's headed. This is Marius versus Sulla, lacking only uniformed soldiers in the streets. Thank God our Founders were wise enough to eschew personal armies. We are getting them anyway, however slowly.

The second was inspired by David the Good's video at Men of the West this morning, Can you grow 2000 pounds of food?  The challenge, of course, is to grow for the family, not just for the weight, otherwise we'd all just grow huge pumpkins and forego the lettuce and raspberries. But as I'm sitting in my office on the last day of Campus-is-Closed, planning out the garden, I'm beginning to think of it as a serious challenge.

I don't know if I can grow literally a ton of food in a year.  I've been quite light on the root crops and other dense veggies, preferring to grow the more expensive stuff and buy potatoes by the ton instead.  On the other hand, with a banner year in pears and apples, I could have a not-insignificant portion of it covered already.

I'm not sure I'll weigh everything I grow. But this year I have a place I can plant seedlings indoors and will be adding a month to my season in that way. I also doubled the Lazy Man beds and will add another 100 square feet as soon as we get a nice weekend. I have the blocks, and the cows are pooping away in the north field, so that last bed may not be ready for spring planting but surely for fall.

I have the seeds. As March will mark 3 years without me watching TV, I probably have the time. I have the expertise and experience***. So I'm going to grow as much of everything as I can this year, on purpose, starting with indoor seeds in 33 days. I'm going to grow a ton of food this year, maybe literally, certainly figuratively.

Nothing about the new tax plan or DACA or North Korea fixes the very real problems we are facing as a nation. While Trump will probably address them as well as anyone could, I expect there is going to be fallout, maybe caused a-purpose, and that tying his reputation to the Dow 30 will prove to have been a mistake. On the other hand, maybe I'll be pleasantly surprised.  I have been so far, and that's saying something.

But I really don't know anything. I'm just a guy who grows lots of garlic. And this year, lots and lots and lots of potatoes to go with it.

UPDATE: Manafort is suing the Special Counsel, Steve Bannon pisses off his entire party in one quote, and the Clintons' house is on fire. CurrentYear() is going to be something special.

* ok, 10
** All told, probably a better use of time anyway.
*** see paragraph 1.
*** Except for in the ginger, turmeric, St. John's Wort, and witch hazel I'm growing this year for the first time.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

El B's Double Victory Chili

"El Borak ain't got no chili" -- No one ever.
A recipe for the Coyote:

You'll need:
  • 2 lbs of 85/15 ground beef.  
  • 2 15oz cans of Bush's hot chili beans.
  • 2 cans of Rotel chili fixins
  • 1 small (6oz?) can of tomato paste
  • 1 15oz can of tomato sauce
  • 10-15 oz of diced tomatoes
  • Arizona Cowboy or similar jalapeno sauce
  • Tabasco Chipotle pepper sauce
  • Other peppers or tomatoes as desired

1. Brown up the ground beef and throw everything in the crock pot on low

2. Add Beans, fixins, sauce, paste. If you like bigger tomato chunks, add the chunks here but not the water from the can. Home-canned tomatoes are fine, but I don't like fresh ones here (personal preference).

3. Add 1/2 TBSP of Jalapeno sauce and 1/2 TBSP Chipotle sauce.

4. Now, since I was shooting for the spiciest chili trophy, I took a dozen dehydrated tabasco peppers from the garden and diced* them up, but you can use whatever you like. Put them in a little bowl and cover them with water, microwave until it boils, then add the water (not the peppers) slowly, stirring and tasting. The idea here is NOT to burn your tongue off (Spicy <> hot), but to get noticeable heat with the deep, smoky flavor of the other two sauces.

5. Cook it for 3 hours on low, then refrigerate overnight.

6. Next morning, bring it back up to temp (crock pot on high).

7. Profit!

* more like 'crunched', but you get the idea.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Shredded leaves vs shredded paper

Just settled in for a long winter's nap.
So anyway, one of my lovely neighbors* popped by with a present for me the other day: three refrigerator-sized boxes packed full of shredded oak leaves.  There's probably 600 pounds total, sitting in a pile in my field next to the new raised beds.  Now that the rain has stopped, and before everything freezes again, I figured I would pack about 100 gallons of that into a few of the older raised beds.  So I pulled the shredded paper out of this bed and piled in about 3" of leaves.  I might as well give an explanation why I swapped them out...

There's probably nothing better for your raised bed than shredded leaves left to rot on top of it over the winter.  In fact, I won't even bother to fertilize any of the beds that I so treat - no compost, certainly no chemicals - even though I plan to plant heavy-feeding sweet corn in this bed next year. A few inches of leaves rotted into the soil provide everything you'll need, even after doing the yeoman's work of smothering everything that tries to sprout from that bed in the next 5 months. It is, IMO, the best thing you can do for a raised bed.  You just have to have enough leaves.**

That said, you'll notice that there are three 2'x2' beds behind this 4'x8' one, and they don't look like they've received the same courtesy.  That's because they haven't, and may not at all this winter. The bed on the top left has no cover at all. It's got spinach growing in it, and obviously will not flourish if I pile a bunch of shredded leaves on it.  The one on the right has shredded paper that is nearly rotted in.  There's no sense in removing that.  But the one in the center has a brand new crop of shredded paper just added, and the reason for that is that it's got a bunch of 6" garlic plants growing out of it.

Shredded paper is not nearly as good for your soil as leaves. While keeping the soil protected like leaves do, it really provides no nutrients. Your soil needs far more added than this sterile cap can provide. 

But there's one thing it's great for: keeping its form.  When I have 15 little garlic shoots growing, I can pack around them with wet, shredded paper and be certain that the paper, once dried, will hold that exact form until I rip it out. Rain doesn't faze it, wind doesn't move it. The garlic will die back over winter, but when it pops out in the spring there will be a little hole in the bed's cap in exactly the right place.  Leaves will give you no such courtesy.

Once I pull the garlic, about July 1, I'll add a couple inches of compost before I plant again, probably from these very leaves. After all, in addition to my new 600 pounds of leaves, I have all the leaves that I would normally rake and rot.  And the ladies are not terribly happy about that....

* Well, not next-door type neighbor. More like next-town-over. Hi, Dorothy and Marvin. Love you guys.
** Obviously, the more beds you have, the harder it becomes to give them all the treatment. Thus my casting about for other people's yard waste. Preferably delivered.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The political stuff

Don't look now...
New York Times has a change of heart. Or at least calculation:
Yet despite the right’s evident bad faith, I agree with Hayes. In this #MeToo moment, when we’re reassessing decades of male misbehavior and turning open secrets into exposes, we should look clearly at the credible evidence that Juanita Broaddrick told the truth when she accused Clinton of raping her. But revisiting* the Clinton scandals in light of today’s politics is complicated as well as painful...
"I Believe Juanita".
Interesting times, to say the least.

The Times just threw Bill Clinton under the bus. DNC/CNN cheater Donna Brazile recently provided the same services for Hillary Clinton and Debbie Wasserman Schultz. There are two ways to read this. Either the Democrats know the Clintons are finished and so no longer fear them, or they know the Clintons are going up the river and are trying to distance themselves. Maybe it's both.  I think we can be certain from the public manner in which the Clintons have been shivved by their former supporter-enablers, Hillary will not be the Dem' nominee in 2020.

Conservatives screaming "Fire Jeff" because our current AG has not chained the Clintons up yet are hilarious. It's coming from him in good time or it's not coming at all. My suspicion is that the aforementioned distancing is a result of NYT being privy to leaks they have not shared with you. "In light of today's politics" means that The Narrative is still in play and there are plenty of things they are not telling you. Sessions has never really respected the Narrative, so much. Nor does he respect the loud impatience of anons on Twitter.

Does anyone still read National Review?

Once you accept "trans" as a thing instead of a mental illness, you have no argument against a white guy who identifies as a Filipino woman. Set yourself against reality, even to save the feelings of the insane, and you're riding that poppy path to the end.

Nancy Pelosi is utterly insane.  The longer she remains Minority Leader, the better.

That signs saying "It's OK to be White" triggered college administrators across the fruited plain says plenty about the current state of higher education. But it's #NotAllColleges -- we have exactly zero of that crap here.** It's really only prevalent on campuses large enough and liberal enough that one can assemble a critical mass of mentally ill - both in the faculty and the student body - to raise a ruckus.

I'm really enjoying watching Hollywood self-immolate.

The entire Middle East is about to go to war.  Won't that be nice?

Obvious hit is obvious. Now I want Roy Moore to win, not because I agree with him***, not even because it matters in any real sense, but because he lays bare all the pretensions of the GOP's Respectable Class. Jeb Bush popped his head out this morning to say that Moore was unfit because he gropes young women. David Cop-a-Feel could not be reached for comment.

* This is "revisiting" in the "we studiously ignored them the first time" sense.
** We also have a reassuring dearth of clown hair and ear gauges.
*** I never saw statues of the 10 Commandments as a hill worth fighting on, much less dying on (2Cor 3:6-8).

Thursday, October 26, 2017

The chiggers die tonight

Picked the last peppers and any remaining tomatoes bigger than my hand.  The late squash/zuc/pumpkin planting yielded 2 zucchini, 1 grenade-sized squash, and a pumpkin the size of a doll's head that Mr. Charisma broke off from the stem before it could really amount to anything. Not winning, but I'll take it.

If your pumpkins were as sparse as mine, you'll be able to buy up enough grocery store pumpkins on November 1st to make pies and cakes for all of 2018 at about a dollar each. Never look a gift pumpkin in the mouth.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Winter Garden

So anyway, in preparation for the next month of cool temps, I've planted radishes, spinach, lettuce, some cilantro, and other good stuff that can take a little frost with cover.

Digging Dog decided that the planting would not be complete without a cow femur right in the middle of it.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Punching down

Horns. How do they work?

It's probably not kind to make fun of cows for being stupid. But cows are exceptionally stupid.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Harvest and hanging

The Rose of Alabama
So anyway, it was 38 degrees this morning: time to wrap this garden up for the year.  Not a great year, to be sure.  If I had to live the winter off of its bounty I would not have to worry about shedding those extra pounds. But this is why we make our mistakes while there's still time to learn from them.

Mistake #1: Don't plant what you don't want to eat. I planted all kinds of peppers* this year, mostly in an effort to see what grew best here. Unfortunately, the one that grew best is not one that I like to eat: banana peppers. Also, that accidental deer corn is pretty harsh. The chickens enjoy both, so there is that...

Mistake #2: Shade trees make shade. A few years ago we planted some oaks south of the back raised beds, and for years they broke up the sun just enough to avoid scorch. They are now so large that I either need to remove them or move the beds. I'm moving the beds.

Mistake #3: Container planting gets expensive. Unlike dirt, which you get to re-use every year, potting mix is a once-or-twice (at most) product that then needs to be added to the garden or composted. There was an enormous difference in the results of my "first year" and "second year" containers. However, buying potting mix in October is one way to reduce the costs substantially.

Mistake #4: If you plant your squash-type plants late summer in an effort to avoid squash bugs, they will likely fall prey to powdery mildew.

Mistake #5: Don't plant grape vines on the shady side of the post you want them to ascend, even if it's much more convenient to do so.

Still, it was a pretty good year for potatoes and tomatoes and a great year for cukes, garlic, raspberries, and herbs of all sorts. Of the tobacco plants I kept, I got a few pounds of leaves for hanging in the barn, though I have enough seeds left that I didn't bother to save any.

Next year's plans are already on the move. On the back yard cinder block beds I am expanding from six 12'x4' beds to four 25'x4' beds and moving everything to the field south of the house. I'm going to try planting horseradish as an annual instead of just letting it go wild. I'm going to plant only Roma tomatoes next year, as those seem to be the best for salsa and sauces. Finally, the die sales have provided enough fiscal overage that I might get to put in a small greenhouse. The problem there is that I'll have to water much more frequently, for which I'll likely need a second well first. My hundred-year-old, hand-dug cistern is reliable, but I don't like to push it too hard.

Oh, the woes of  prole self-sufficiency.

* Well, not ALL kinds.  I didn't grow jalapenos, but I will need to next year, as my current supply will run low this winter.