Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Go west, old man

El Borak doesn't actually ride a horse
Well, I took Tom Bridgeland's admonition to seek a bigger platform seriously, and as a result I will now be posting semi-regularly at Men of the West under my given name, El Borak.  My first piece will be up tomorrow before noon.

Some of my early stuff will not be original to y'all, as I intend to update a number of older pieces from here and Myopia for more generic and broader distribution.  Garden stories and the like will still appear here, as will shorter pieces.  Well-thought out longer pieces will appear there, though I may link to them from here.

There won't be a link back here from there, as this is not an attempt to garner more readers in this place. They just look like a bunch of good guys doing a good thing and I'm going to help them out.

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.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

I know what you did last night

Look, Ma, no seeds

Raspberry jelly recipe courtesy of Sure Jell*.  The kids fussed about the seeds in my bionic raspberry jam, even as they devoured it.  So with only two jars left I figured it was time for another batch or so, this time juicing the berries and making jelly instead of the (usually) easier jam.

Ingredients needed:
Four cups of raspberry juice
One box of Sure Jell
Five and a half cups of sugar.

1. Bring juice and Sure Jell together to a rolling boil.
2. Add the sugar and bring it again to a rolling boil.
3. Boil hard for one minute, then into jars it goes
4. Boil the jars five minutes in the open bath canner.

Simple, yes?  This recipe jelled perfectly and cleaned up quickly. Just don't double it, as others have reported problems with that. If you have lots of juice, it's not hard to knock out two or three batches in quick succession.

I ended up with enough juice on hand for another half batch or so, but the plants seem to be done with their spring production, so that juice has a new home in the freezer. Here's to hoping that the bionic raspberries decide a fall season is in order. The short case I made last night won't last even close to a year.

* Which, of course, demands that you buy Sure Jell to make it.  Good thing I had some on hand.

Monday, November 7, 2016

So who's gonna win?

Trump leads in Nevada and Iowa, FWIW
I don't know.  And the reasons I don't know are two:

1) I don't know how much my own desire overrides my analysis, and
2) I don't know who I want to win.

Oh, I voted for Trump, and I would love nothing more than to fall asleep tomorrow night to the dulcet sounds of MSNBC anchors weeping. I would love to see the Clintons hauled off in chains, the Bushes humiliated, the very cogs of the political establishment smashed to pieces.

But I'm also sympathetic to Huck's argument that a Hillary victory gets us through hell faster by driving headlong into it, as well as Kunstler's argument that only with a Hillary victory will the right (left) people take the blame when this whole political/economic facade collapses.

Do I want to be ruled by an Osirian blood cult in the hopes that people will throw them out after the collapse, or would I rather throw them out tomorrow and hope that the collapse - which is coming just the same - doesn't bring them back?  I don't know.

I have prayed for two things out of this election: that God's will be done, and that the result be a blowout.  And I'm not sure that those two prayers are compatible.  For there are certain things coming that may be hurried by the election being tied in the electoral vote, then tied in the courts, then maybe thrown to the House.  Is it God's will that all of federal government legitimacy be completely destroyed by lawyers?  As far as I know, it could be. Judgment is like that.

However, I do have an inkling of who the pros think (not say, think) is going to win, based not on my own analysis of phony polls* or my double-minded wishes, but on an objective measurement: what the candidates did yesterday.

A month ago, Hillary was taking 5 days a week off and campaigning in deep red states like Missouri.  Yesterday Trump, Pence, Hillary, Bill, and Obama all campaigned in Michigan. Michigan that no one ever had Trump competitive in. Deep blue, safe, voted-Democrat-six-times-in-a-row Michigan.

Given the assumption that candidates personally campaign where it will do them the most good at the time, the fact that both candidates and all of their surrogates were in deep blue Michigan yesterday tells me that Michigan is in play. And if Michigan is in play, so are other not-so-blue states, and Trump is probably going to be your next president.

We'll know tomorrow night by 9:00 central time.  If Trump wins New Hampshire or especially Virginia, you're probably going to see a Trumpslide.  If he loses North Carolina or Georgia, it's probably going hard the other way.  If things go as the map says above**, it's going to be a very long winter.

* LA Times has Trump up by 5, ABC has Hillary up by 5.  They cannot both be correct, and ergo at least one of them - and every other poll with results close to that one - is phony. The problem is that you cannot really know which one.
** Because there's one thing the map doesn't note: Maine divvies up its electoral votes by congressional district, and Trump is leading in district #2.  Give him one of Maine's votes and it's 269-269.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Hillary's Body Double

So much for "sleuths":
Clinton canceled a campaign fundraising trip to California scheduled for Monday and Tuesday in order to rest and recover, but when she appeared smiling and healthy following a visit to her daughter Chelsea’s apartment to rest up on Sunday. Online sleuths found it odd that she was not surrounded by secret service to both protect her and help her in case she fell ill again.
If Hillary cancelled a fundraising trip, then you know her ailment is far more serious than walking pneumonia*. And if she really emerged alone, and walked around alone - as in "the Secret Service was not around" - well, that might just be grist for the conspiracy mill. I even read one wag who noted - probably quite correctly  - that the Secret Service could not guard a fake Hillary. Their absence was therefore proof that we are seeing one.

That said,  Sometimes it helps to take a wider angle:
Here's Hillary being ragdolled into her hearse at 9:30a.  Note the people marked Agent 1 and Agent 2.

Here's Hillary at 1:00p emerging from Chelsea's apartment building:
Pretty sure that's those same two people on the left.

So, why is it that she "appeared" alone in the press pictures?  No doctor, no handler, no SS?  Because it's a managed press event, designed to make her look strong and not at all sick** for the benefit of all you proles.  She got cleaned up, some new makeup, newly-fixed hair, waddled*** out, waved, and waddled away. The very picture of health. Or so you're supposed to believe.

Until next time.

UPDATE: So what is it?

I suspect it's some sort of a neurological attack that a) she can feel coming, and b) lasts less than an hour. When she feels the first tremors, it's time to boogie (or not come back), when it's over, it's over.  Except that it seems to be getting worse. What does that add up to? I have no idea.

* Besides, what kind of a person would go to her grandchildrens' house or hug a young girl while suffering from pneumonia?
** Remember, this was done when the story was still "overheated in the 75 degree morning" and not "pneumonia."
*** Notice her foot placement - wide-set and spread to keep her from shaking/wobbling.  If this is a stunt double, it's a very ill one.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Bionic Raspberry Chronicles II - The Jammening

Note the consistent distribution of seeds
The quest for the world's simplest jam recipe continues, though it may have reached a conclusion here:

1) 6 cups of raspberries* and 3 cups of sugar.
2) Mash 'em up and boil them hard for 5 minutes and soft for 20.
3) Seal them in a boiling water bath for 5 minutes.

It's a bit sour, tbh. Most raspberry jam recipes - and most berry recipes in general - are more on the order of 1 part berries to 1 part sugar.  But this one boiled up just fine and gelled just fine** and it tastes really freaking good on a fresh Bisquick biscuit.

So now that we have passed proof of concept I'll probably can another 8 or 12 half-pints tomorrow.  Because, yeah it's good. And because man cannot live on apple jelly alone, or so I've read.

* the original recipe calls for 5 cups of "perfectly ripe" raspberries and 2.5 cups of sugar, but whatevs. Canning is a rather forgiving science so long as you don't double or triple the batch.
** Though one of the 4 half pints didn't seal I suspect that's on me and not on the recipe.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Bionic raspberry chronicles

Someday, Lad,
all this will be yours...
We always had a raspberry patch when I was a kid.  I remember* it being a 10'x20' area filled with singular, spindly stalks, attached to one side of the 'real' garden, that produced berries that I don't remember ever actually eating. But I must have eaten some of them, for I've always wanted raspberries here.  I just could never grow them.** Until last year.

Over the years I've bought and planted a number of raspberry plants, usually on a whim, and usually within a year or two of tearing out the dead stalks of the last raspberry plants that never produced anything for me.

Two years ago I splurged and purchased four at once, which I planted in a circular raised bed in back.  Three of them promptly died. No surprise there.  But like Swamp Castle, the fourth one stayed up. 

It was just a spindly little thing at first. No fruit, but transplants seldom produce their first year anyway. And I was just glad the pathetic thing survived the summer.  I was sure it would not survive the winter. But it did, and how.  Last year it went crazy, overrunning the whole raised bed, crowding out everything else in it but a couple of ragweeds.  No berries in evidence again, but now that I had a raspberry plant that seemed well-adjusted to the yard I could be patient.

This year it's back, twice as big, and sending suckers everywhere. I've already dug and replanted almost a dozen of them along one fence line that I hate to mow, and they seem to be taking to the place like crazy.  And wow do I have berries.  I picked just over a quart in about 20 minutes this afternoon, and it looks like in a few days I'll have at least another.

Which is all I need to make this really simple raspberry jam I found last week. Given the volume of strawberry-honey I put up last week and the leftover apple, cherry, and blackberry in the pantry, if I can get a case of raspberry half-pints, I might be done with jam for this year before the summer even officially kicks off.

Which reminds me: Five Boy's Mom, if you need some tomato plants, I have a dozen foot-tall plants here that I can give you tomorrow.  I have about 30 planted and have no room for any more. Leave me a note if you're interested.

* This doesn't mean that's actually how it was, only that this is how I remember it.  My mom's memory is sure to differ.
** Thus they joined rhubarb, blueberries, and a few others in the Might-Have-Been club.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Compost Cage

As I've discussed elsewhere, composting is the process of speed-rotting organic material to make the perfect garden nourishment. And while you can follow formulas and build lidded wooden bins and fuss and fret over your compost, the truth is that it's very hard to screw up. Still, even with a regular-old rotpile, you'll probably need to turn it on occasion if you have lots of grass clippings.*  The compost cage eliminates even that little bit of work.

My compost cage is made of:
One 20' x 6' section of chicken fencing 
One fence post

Drive the fence post in the ground, zip tie one end of the fence to the post, then attach the other end of the fence to the first end by wrapping the loose end wires around it**.  What you end up with is a round, vertical 'cage' about 6' tall and 4' across.

I set mine up last spring and put exactly two ingredients into it, grass clippings and shredded paper. Both can be problematic, because when wet they tend to pack, making an oxygen-proof mat that can force a slower, anaerobic rot in your pile.  But the tall, slender cage keeps the whole inside oxygenated without mixing. 

The clippings I just raked up from around the cage after mowing and tossed them in. It takes surprisingly little to fill 6' of cage.  It does settle pretty quickly, so there's room for more every time you mow.

The shredded paper took a little preparation.  I shred everything I can: newspapers, junk mail other than the little plastic envelope windows, Taco Bell boxes.  Once I get a 5-gallon bucket-full, I fill it up with water and let the mix soak overnight. The water gets soaked up by the paper, which helps break down the fibers. It also helps the pile stay moist.  I don't add any other water to the pile.

All through the summer, the cage looked like a greenish-brown pillar at the back of the yard. It was even taken over for a month or so by red-flowered trumpet vines. But worms and rolly-pollys were working the whole time.  When I removed the cage this morning and knocked it over I got about 20 cubic feet of compost, enough to fill one brand new 4'x4' bed and to cover the 4'x10' bed I'll be planting with garlic this week. What you see in the picture is all that had not rotted, plus a new bucket of paper.

The compost cage is a slow-rot, also known as "cold composting." It's not going to steam in winter.  It's not going to drop noticeably over the course of a few days. But if you have lots of materials and lots of time to wait for them it's the easiest way to get wheelbarrow loads of good compost with almost no work at all.

* Composting works best when you have a mix of "browns" (like leaves) for carbon and "greens" (like grass clippings) for nitrogen. One problem you might face is that it's hard to have both at the same time.
** You could use zipties here, but I don't because I want it easy to disassemble.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Too Much Magic

Low tech, FTW
Even those convinced the technological world is dying can't seem to let it go:
We’re likely to lose many of the books printed on acidic paper between 1850 and most of the 20th century within decades. For the last twenty years, many books and journals have been printed on non-acidic paper and put on microfiche.  Both can last for centuries if kept at an ideal temperature and humidity.  But that isn’t permanent enough...

If it is possible to etch words into metallic or other extremely durable substances, we ought to do it, not only for the coming dark ages, but to enable some knowledge to survive through future climate changes.

After all, we once put a disk on a space probe to explain humanity to potential aliens, why can’t we do that for our descendants?
We can, but that doesn't save it from being a really stupid idea.

Imagine, if you will, mankind passing through a 500-year dark age featuring not only the end of fossil fuels, but global warming climate change of such magnitude that Al Gore himself must change his rather sizable skivvies. World populations are reduced by 90%, individual lifespans by 50%. Agriculture, while it allows people to survive brutal winters, also makes them targets of ubiquitous bands of hairy horsemen, and is thus hidden where it is not outright eschewed. There is not a single bus, train, tram, car, or computer running, and has not been for centuries. In short, the year 2491 looks a lot more like 1491 in New York than it does 1991.  On Summer Solstice of that year, a wandering tribe of hunter gatherers, their asses painted blue in the most noble pagan tradition, discovers somewhere near Lake Erie a metallic strongbox containing a half dozen late 20th-century academic journals printed on rolled sheets of aluminum.

What good could such a preservation of knowledge possibly do them?

The first likelihood is that they would not be able to read it anyway. The average college student today, even after $150,000 worth of education, cannot read Shakespeare in Elizabethan English, much less Bede or Caesar in Latin. And dark ages are not known for their universal literacy.  But even if they could read it, how much value could these hairy horsemen possibly get from a technical treatise filled with 21st century, politically-correct academic jargon?  Such 'knowledge' as preserved by us would likely avail the future nothing.*

Here's a better idea: we should rediscover how to make paper and ink and the block printing press using low technology, and pass our knowledge on that way.

Books don't have to last 500 years: they need only last long enough to share their contents with lots of people and to be copied. The proof is that despite the fact that books have never lasted 500 years, we possess the 3500-year-old book of Genesis today.  Far better to have 20 generations of Common Sense block-printed on sheep skin than to save a single copy stamped into copper that no one will ever read.**  Passing books by hand - people writing them and printing them and binding them and trading them - assures that the people living in the 'dark ages' can actually profit from their contents.

But there's a second reason why relying on the ephemeral is in this case wiser than relying on the permanent: we don't know what knowledge will prove useful in 500 years. Gauging by history, we humans don't even know what will be valuable in 50.  So who should decide what is worthy of saving?  I propose that it's the very people for whom such knowledge will prove a lifesaver. Since we cannot do it, our children should be the ones who jettison forever the riffraff of our modern, narcissistic culture-circus.

As the author sagely notes, we cannot save everything, nor should we. But based on how humans collectively act here in post-modernism's dotage, we are far more likely to preserve what strikes our fancy and strokes our ego than anything actually useful to our descendants. We would surely save Vonnegut, because his work so masterfully distills the essence of our generation. Those in a future dark age, like those in the last one, will preserve Aristotle.

Considering ourselves in any sense the saviors of society a half a millennium in the future may be a very Boomer way to see the world. But that doesn't make it desirable, feasible, or wise.  It's not our job to preserve knowledge for people 5 centuries into the future. Rather it's our charge to pass wisdom and ability to those 20 years in the future, from which the next transfer becomes their responsibility.

* Just as 99% of it avails us nothing. And we're the ones writing it.

** I'm not sure some future discoverer would not a) turn it into an idol or b) pound it into a necklace, anyway.