Thursday, February 24, 2011

We Have Pork Belly

I managed to score two nice 4# pork bellies at Whole Foods today and the bonus is that they are locally grown. They said that they don't always have it available but I timed it just right it seems. According to my curing salt should arrive today via UPS so I should be in the bacon and pancetta business by this evening. The price is right as well. Fresh, locally grown pork belly was $1.99 a pound. Check out the price of artisan cured bacon sometime. I'll need less than a dollar's worth of Kosher salt and pink salt(sodium nitrite) plus some sugar and a week of waiting and I'll have bacon... a little longer for the pancetta which will have to be air dried after curing. A new culinary adventure begins and if all goes well with this trial I'll invest in some Berkshire pork belly which is also available locally from a few growers. It takes so little to get me excited.
Now it is out to plow a bit of garden for the potatoes and peas. It's playing in the dirt time!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Divide And Conquer

In case you haven't figured it out, let let me share a little secret. This latest effort to destroy the public service unions is just a distraction. The oligarchy has done its job on us...the non union, non public service worker. Our wages have stagnated, we have no retirement or pension, we have no health care. The wealthy have more of the wealth and we are worse off than we were 20 years ago...and the outlook is not good either. Not so with the union protected public service worker. They still have pensions (though somewhat miserly), they have health care, they still make a fair wage but not the outrageous amounts being reported. The public service folks are the last bastion of middle class folks with some prospect of a retirement without cat food on the the table.
The oligarchy has decided that as long as we can be distracted by pointing out that the public service folks have it somewhat better than we do(and Goddess forbid on our tax money), we'll focus our wrath on them (or is it jealousy?). If the oligarchs can keep us focused on how less screwed those public servants are than we are, we won't have the time or energy to focus on what's really happening and that is the wealthiest few percent of the country are taking it all and the rest of us can just suck it up. We are being repeatedly and deeply screwed and the best way to distract us is to point to someone who is less frequently and not as deeply raped as we are especially since they are being less screwed on the taxpayer's dime.
You can point out all the other facets of this you want, but this is root.

Fight among yourselves rabble for what bits of food and security you can find and don't bother us.

Still Good

Miscellaneous stuff.

Weather still holding beautiful. More work done in the yard and all the rest of the seeds in flats. Got all the crepe myrtle trimmed back but I was getting tired and the fallen limbs will have to wait until tomorrow since I have to work again this evening and I don't want to go in dog tired. I got two new 4x4 beds put in next to the greenhouse yesterday and now I just need to get some soil to fill them. Probably going to be an herb bed and a rhubarb and horseradish bed.

Everybody keep good thoughts going out to the Kiwi's. Christchurch got hit by a bad earthquake and we need to send some good energy that way. Looks like a bad one. Bryan has more details.

Libya going to worse from bad. People dying. Military pilots defecting rather than bombing their fellow citizens. No real information coming out but all indications are that Qadaffi is in serious trouble. It is long past time for him to go.

Mini revolts here in Wisconsin and Indiana. The GOP attack on unions is creating some major hate and discontent and it seems both governors underestimated public support for the right of people to have unions to protect them from the oligarchy. This could be the beginning of something bigger.

All in all not a lot of great news out there.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Glorius Day

Going to be a fabulous day. Seventy degrees and sunny...a great day for getting out and gardening...too bad I have to work but if I am lucky I will be outside in the garden center. Got the garlic planted yesterday and the greenhouse cleaned and straightened for the next pile of seed flats. Harvested some spinach and chard from the greenhouse and pulled a few overwintering leeks which made for a nice little tart when added to a few of Carmen and Kelly's eggs from down the street. Thank you ladies and your chickens too!

Off to work for me, but you guys that have it, enjoy the springlike day.

Great flocks of large birds (sandhill cranes??) overhead yesterday headed North. What an inspiring spectacle!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Seeds Are Started

Though somewhat delayed by the circumstances of life, I got the first of my spring seeds started yesterday. I'll get some more done this morning before I head off to work the afternoon/evening shift. So far only broccoli, cabbage and chard are started but I will get the tomatoes, peppers, okra, eggplant and other stuff going in the next few days. It is always and exciting time for me. It just fascinates and thrills me when I take those tiny, tiny and apparently lifeless seeds and merely put them in moist earth and they respond by bursting forth with a promise of good food later on. I planted leeks a few weeks ago and they are up nicely and will soon need to be transplanted into individual little pots before going out to the garden. If it stays dry until the weekend(which is forecast) I should be able to get the small raised bed tilled and the garlic in. I look forward to this time of year every year. I renews my being when I can get to playing in the dirt and growing things. The seed potatoes and peas are waiting too and they may get to see dirt this weekend as well. Oh Joy!

New Fun In the Kitchen

All you regulars know that I like to cook and learn new 'food things'. I've shared my adventures in bread baking, cheese and butter making, homemade pickles, kraut and all that. The thing is that once you start making your own mozzarella and ricotta(the easiest cheese in the world to make) the store bought stuff just pales. My latest adventure is to learn charcuterie(the craft of curing, smoking and preserving meats). I just received my copy of Michael Ruhlman's  Charcuterie and I am off and experimenting. I'll start off slow with making bacon and pancetta but I intend to go the whole route including dry cured sausages. The challenge is going to be finding a local source for the meats such as pork bellies and back fat. The book has Internet resources for the supplies such as nitrites and nitrates and bacterial cultures and casings but the high quality meat required is going to be tough. We have one artisan charcuterier here in Atlanta the Pine Street Market but I want to be able to do it myself. I love bacon, pancetta, dry sausage, summer sausage and all that so it is a natural next step in becoming as self sufficient as possible. This time next year I expect to have at least one home cured ham hanging in the basement. Stay tuned.

Monday, February 14, 2011

A Week to Remember

I mentioned that Madam was ill for our trip home but I came down with the same stomach virus Saturday. I managed an hour at work and then had to come home. I didn't make it home without a mess however. The nausea was short lived but the virus put me down until this afternoon. I've managed a bowl of Cream of Wheat, a soft boiled egg and a couple of cups of chicken broth over the weekend. The gallons of water consumed over the weekend went through me like a "June Bug through a duck" and its left me a bit fragile but  I think I am well enough to head back to work tomorrow however, as I am recovering quickly. Madam is still rather punk.
We both must have picked up the virus from the nursing home when we went to pick up Mom's things. The place was quarantined and the staff brought everything to the lobby but I am convinced that is where we were infected even though we were careful. It is surely the same virus that sent Mom into the death spiral. Stomach flu, dehydration, bronchitis, pneumonia. From its effect on me, an otherwise healthy 6'2" 250 pound man, I can see what it might do to fragile 82 year old and 3 other 'inmates' including Mom's roommate passed away in the last week.
Feeling almost human and had a bowl of somen noodles with broth for dinner. I think I will live.
We'll be back when we have more time to chat and no it wasn't much of a Hallmark Day for Madam and I.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Thanks For Your Thoughts

I'm back home (Friday night). Thanks to all of you for your sympathies and they are much appreciated. The three of us sons made it home and between the three of us the arrangements weren't too difficult. The small and only funeral service in the town has known the family for many, many years. They buried my grandmother and grandfather, uncle, father and now my mother. Madam Monk was there to do the clothes, pick the music and write the obituary. It all went quite well, in spite of the cold temperatures and the snow the night before. If you are interested the obituary can be found here.

I'm exhausted, what with the drive and stress and I will need a couple of days to recover though I work the weekend and both are the early shifts. Arrgh!Madam has caught a nasty bug and is down hard. She managed the drive back without crisis somehow but she is now crashed.

Thanks again for the support and good vibes. She was a strong woman (which you will see if you read the obituary) and spent a lot of her life in service to others. She and Dad did a great job with us three boys and I just hope I told her often enough how grateful I was for everything she did for us.

Another milestone in life crossed and I am now the patriarch of the family.

P.S. and yes the obituary reveals my secret identity(well at least secret to some of you) but them's the breaks.
The picture is mom and dad on their wedding day 10-17-1947.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Sad News

Sorry for being missing but I am in Virginia arranging for my mother's funeral. She fell ill with pneumonia on Friday, was moved from the nursing home to a hospital on Saturday and passed on Monday at noon. We'll  be back sometime next weekend. Thanks for your thoughts.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Nothing Good Will Come Out of Egypt

I haven't waded in on the mess in Egypt. If you have visited here over the years you know how I feel about U.S. support for Israel (we should have cut them off years and years ago) and I feel exactly the same about our aid to Egypt. We have a long history of supporting oppressive dictatorships all over the world and especially in the Middle East. Juan Cole expresses my views completely. We continually make the the wrong choices on Israel and Egypt and all the rest. Don't forget Ortega, Saddam Hussein, and the Shah of Iran, just to name a few.

Here is another view from Foreign Policy that basically says the same.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

St. Brigid's Day

Today we celebrate Imbolc,or St Brigid’s Day. In Scottish it's Là Fhèill Brìghde and in Irish Lá Fhéile Bríde, it is an Irish festival marking the beginning of spring. Most commonly it is celebrated on February 1 or 2 which falls halfway between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox  here in the northern hemisphere. Traditionally it is the day when the ewes begin to lactate in readiness for the coming of the spring lambs. It is one of the 8 holy days of Wicca. This is a day when you should reinforce and cherish your connection to the earth and your land. It is a good time to begin your preparations for spring with the planting of seeds that will be transplanted a bit later after the danger of frost is past.

I am going to be a bit late this year since one, I have to work today and two my seeds haven't arrived. I have some saved seeds that I will get to on Thursday but I have, at least, gotten my rhubarb and horseradish starts in the dirt.

Go out into your yard(or a park) today and reaffirm your connection to the earth and express your thanks for its place in your life. Thank the universe for the coming of another spring.

Blessed Be.