Saturday, June 29, 2013

Google Reader Almost Gone

I really like Reader but it will go away on Monday. I've just switched everything over to use Feedly and it was very simple and painless since Google Reader is still active. While Feedly still actually uses the Google API it will switch to its own API when the lights go out on Monday. We'll see how seamless that transistion is. If you are going to switch to anything, including Feedly, do so this weekend so all your stuff can be integrated automatically. I looked at a lot of options and Feedly came out on top for me. It will take time to get used to all the differences but I like that there is an Android app which seems to work quite well and it too imported all the settings from Google Reader without a hitch. I installed it on my Nexus tablet and HTC 1 without any problems

Sorry to see Google reader go but things change and maybe Feedly will be even better once I get used to it. I also looked at Newsblur but they aren't currently accepting free signups so I couldn't test it without forking over 24 bucks. Feedly is still free.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Bits and Pieces

It's been quiet around these parts I know but I have an excuse. Anyhow, this is my last day of R&R before I go back to work tomorrow. Feeling pretty good with just the occasional twinge. Still some ugly bruises here and there but all in all not too bad. Still restricted to lifting no more than 10 pounds so I'll probably stand at the self check out all day even though I am scheduled for the garden center.

While I have actually been a slug as far as activity for the last week I did accomplish a few things besides snuggling with Betty the Beagle and taking nice afternoon naps.

Tried a recipe for Blueberry Corn muffins from Giada that turned out nice. Getting lots of blueberries and freezing most but you have to do something with them fresh. Going to make a BBQ sauce out of some this afternoon and roast some country style pork ribs. Methinks it will be delicious.Throw in some Hasselback potatoes and roasted squash and we're good.

Gotten very little done in the garden this week, needless to say, but between Madam and I we have kept most everything picked. Did find the annual overlooked zucchini monster yesterday so at least that is out of the way. It's pretty small for the overlooked zucchini prize compared to some years but good enough.

Corn is all tasseled out and ears are beginning to form...thank goodness we haven't had anymore violent wind/rain storms since the plants are at full height and hence vulnerability. Just a few more weeks please.  Should be getting serious okra by the first of next week. Picked  very early pods but not enough for a meal and surely not enough for a batch of pickles.

Madam volunteered to mow where she could in the garden yesterday and it looks a little better. All this rain (again last night) and the weeds are going like gang busters. Mowing will at least keeps some of them from going to seed and making next year another headache.

Finally made the decision and am committed to doing everything in raised beds as soon as I can get it done. An 8x8x16 cement block is $1.25 and I figure I can make a roughly 4x10 single row bed out of 24. That'll make it 30 bucks per bed not counting any amendments I decide to add. I'll just move dirt from the shade(low) end of the garden to fill them. It's actually the best dirt since it is at the bottom and is where all the "good stuff" washes when we have the deluges. I'll start with a goal to have 24 beds done by winter so I'll have to do 4 per month starting next month. Budget constraints might slow me down but we'll see. I actually have room for about 40 beds but I'll have to sneak up on that.

Don't tell Madam this but I might actually be a little glad she hasn't let me get a dozen chickens yet. My farmer neighbor down the road had 35 chickens last week and is now down to 5 with racoons the number 1 suspect. My writer friend Renea made Billy and his little truck farm famous with her book In the Garden with Billy but fame hasn't done much for him this year. He was damaged even worse than I by the torrential rains and his little road side stand is not going to make him much this year and his fresh eggs are going to be in very short supply as well. You an me both Bro'.

Anyhow, going to enjoy the rest of my last day of rest, do a little creative cooking and maybe even take a nap with a warm beagle. See ya.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Ending World Hunger

No, it is not a joke! It is completely doable. The Borgen Project at the UN estimates that the cost to end world hunger is $30 Billion per year (and yes that includes all the people starving here in the USA as well). Consider that we spent $90 Billion last year "winding down" the war in Afghanistan and it puts it in a little bit of a perspective. BTW, don't even think about what it is costing us to listen to everyone's email and phone conversations. Just Sayin'

Just to add a little insult to injury....the estimates are that we throw $ 43 Billion worth of perfectly good food in the bin in the U.S. every year and that it costs us over a Billion dollars to dispose of it.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

White Trash

First, let me say that I cannot believe the Paula Deen thing is getting as much play as it is. Who in the world is surprised that a 60+ year old white woman from South Georgia has some racist baggage? She may be worth millions today but she is basically what is called white trash here in the South and I can say that because I come from the same place. My late mother could have filled in for Paula without missing a step. Everything from the heart stopping recipes and bad mouth and thinly veiled racism.

I'm not defending her and it is probably in the best interest of the Food Network to distance itself from her but it will piss off her dedicated supporters who actually don't see much wrong in it all. They, like my mother, are cut from the same cloth.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Not So bad

Well the surgery wasn't too bad. In and out in just 4 hours. Just some tenderness and slowness this morning but I have had to take the Percoset. Belly button is black and blue, of course, but it is not bad. Not allowed to lift anything over 10 pounds for the next two weeks. I was concerned that I couldn't get to the garden as beans were ready to be picked and the squash and cukes are coming in faster and faster. Fortunately I have two very good friends, Carmen and Kelly, who garden and live just down the road who came over and picked everything last night so I don't have to worry for a couple of days and I should be able to do a little of that myself in a couple of day as long as I don't get any 10 pound zucchini's or load my basket too much.I took a week off from the Depot and don't have to go in until next Saturday by which time I should be in good shape.

I hope everyone celebrated Litha (Summer Solstice) appropriately and had a better time than I. Then again I guess having to go under the knife on such a power day wasn't such a bad thing. Everyone enjoy your summer and if you are a gardener, much bounty, good rain and few bugs.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Frog Strangler

Same as last night, torrential rain and rapid fire lightning. Goddess only knows how much rain we have had this month already and it is forecast to do the same for the next 5 or  6 days. Needless to say I am losing the battle in the garden. The weeds are loving it and I can't keep ahead of them. Oh well the life of the farmer. Even worse is that I have to have some minor surgery to fix a hernia on Friday which will put me pretty much out of commission for a couple of weeks and I'll really be overwhelmed. Maybe Madam can harvest what actually survives the storms but she won't be able to fight back the weeds. Going to be ugly but fortunately I have machete.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Speaking of Wild Fermentation

I mentioned Michael Pollan's newest book "Cooked" a while back and I should also mention his article a while back in the New York Times Magazine about the microbes that live with us and in us. Where you aware that from a strict DNA standpoint you are only 10% human and the other 90% of the DNA you carry around is that of microbes? For every human cell we have there are 10 microbes in or on our body. Cook Stuff!

Wild Pickles

I harvested enough pickling cukes this morning to make another batch of pickles. The one I have going are from my family recipe which uses 1 part cider vinegar to 4 parts brine and it makes a fine pickle but isn't actually a true pickle because of the vinegar. True pickles are made with just a brine and natural fermentation. This latest batch is an attempt at true pickles and I turned to fermentation guru Sandor Katz and his recipe for old fashioned sour pickles. You can find the recipe, if your interested, on his web site Wild Fermentation. I remember my grandmother and mother using vinegar in their naturally fermented dill pickles but I also seem to remember my great-grandmother using nothing but brine and she was the one who had the big barrels and the root cellar. She was a master at "putting by" food from the summer to have all winter and I am really eager to see if this new batch of pickles triggers that pickle taste memory from so so long ago.

Nowadays about the only place you can find "true" sour pickles is in the Jewish areas of New York where pickle masters still serve the local population. There are no pickles available in the markets today that aren't quick pickles made with vinegar and brine and  that is understandable since natural fermentation takes time and can be quite fickle depending upon temperature and other things. We'll see what happens.

I am a little concerned that these are going to be too salty for my taste since they use a 5.4% brine and my family recipe is more like 3% but you never know until you try. If they are too salty I may try a batch using less salt and see if I can get a successful fermentation.

It Starts - Produce That is

Yellow squash, zucchini, pickling and table cukes out of the garden this morning. Already have 2 gallons of old fashioned dill pickles fermenting away in the kitchen. In spite of the damage from the heavy rain and wind we are starting to see some stuff to eat. Not to mention the corn is tasseling so there could be corn for the fourth and yes tomatoes even sooner. All this rain has caused a lot of vine growth but tomatoes are there and growing so it looks like we will have a garden after all...ugly as it may be.

The rain and wet has kept me from getting all the planting done as I still have pumkins and more beans to put in as well as beets and chard. Just have to be patient. It'll get it done and the pumpkins donn't actually have to be planted before the middle of July to get a crop by Halloween.

Also harvested the potatoes and the garlic. The garlic was planted last fall and the nice mild winter produced a good crop which is now drying in the green house. The potatoes were a whim this spring and I just planted a few in some unused space in a raised bed but they still managed to make about a bushel...or more than we can ear before they go to the bad. I'll pass the excess around to friends. My great grandmother used to keep potatoes from one summer until the next spring and planted the remainders for the new crop but she had a nice big root cellar (actually two) and she kept beets, carrots, turnips, onions, apples and other assorted things for months at a time. That's also where she kept the pickle barrels and kraut crocks and it enabled her to have them pretty much all year around without actual refrigeration. I can still remember the experience of reaching down in that pickle barrel for a big old pickle.

Off to work in a bit but there was gardening done today.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Cooking Will Help - Eggplant Parm

Egads! We are getting still more rain today(my day off of course) and we had torrential rains last night that have done even more damage to the garden. Lots of work washed away. Anyhow, as is true when I am stuck inside I will cook. Went to the market and grabbed a nice eggplant and some Pecorino Romano and fresh mozzarella and and I'll get it assembled this afternoon...Funny, the best eggplant parm you will find doesn't have Parmesan cheese at all, well, at least in my experience.
The key to the best flavor is to slice the eggplant long wise and about a quarter inch thick(hint: leave the skin on for a little more eggplant flavor). Dredge in flour, then beaten egg and then seasoned bread crumbs. Saute in olive oil until brown and then assemble like a small lasagna with Pecorino and homemade marinara in between the layers. Top with marinara and fresh mozzarella and bake at 350F for about 30-40 minutes until the cheese starts to brown. Let it rest for 10 minutes and then serve. Really simple but very nice. Another hint: don't overwhelm this with the Pecorino, it's a strong sheep's milk cheese and just a little between the layers will let itself be known but not hide the taste of the aubergine, unless you are trying to hide the taste of the aubergine ;-)

While I'm at it and since I am too lazy to look it up to see if I have posted it before, I'll share a recipe for a marinara that is my go to for everything. No long simmering or meat or anything just taste.

Really Quick Marinara

28oz  canned whole tomatoes(San Marzano are nice) and I typically just use a quart of my home canned tomatoes
3 Tbsp    extra virgin olive oil
1     small onion chopped finely
2     cloves of garlic crushed/chopped very fine
1     Tsp dried basil
1     Tsp dried oregano
       salt and pepper to taste
       pinch  of crushed red peppers or to taste

In a small sauce pan saute the chopped onion in the olive oil and if your using it the red pepper flakes. When the onions are translucent add the garlic and cook for a couple of minutes more but be careful not to color the garlic or it will be bitter. Add the tomatoes and herbs and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes. Depending on how 'chunky' you want the sauce either use the spoon or an immersion blender to break up the tomatoes. This will work over pasta or as the sauce for lasagna or an eggplant parm as above. The recipe will easily double or triple and the sauce will keep in the fridge for a week or more and freezes great. If you are going to use it on a pizza try letting it simmer a while longer to reduce some of the moisture.

Speaking of pizza...if you make your own at home (and you should) try making the sauce fresh. Chopped fresh tomato, onion, garlic and basil with a dash of olive oil (Think Italian salsa). It cooks in the oven and it really makes a great pizza.

Friday, June 07, 2013

No Surprise

It's absolutely no surprise to me that virtually everything on the Internet is subject to capture and analysis by the good folks at NSA. They've had the capability of one sort of another since electronic communication began and they have kept up with the growth  of technology and 'social media' and all that. That's what they do. Never forget that if they can do it they will.

However, you should keep in mind that just the 'metadata' alone (calling number, called number, etc) for just the telephone side is probably on the order of 10 - 12 terabits per day and even with very sophisticated data mining there is no way they can look at more than a tiny fraction of it. Then again, if you pop up on a target list then you can pretty much guarantee you're entire life will be captured. Bank transactions, email, blog posts, Facebook, Twitter, all of it. If you happen to use cloud storage, as I do, for Quicken and PC Backup then they've got that too.

Remember when you gave Google your cell number for 'emergency contact'
or when you gave Bank of America your cell for verification of account changes?
Did you give your doctor your cell number for emergency contact? How about your employer?
Isn't it convenient to be able to use Google or Facebook accounts to log into other apps?

On the positive side the mind numbing volume of data probably means that if a given piece of data doesn't trip some alert it is probably lost forever. If it does meet the search or mining trigger then it probably means that it is stored, if not forever then a very long time.

Big Brother of 1984 fame was a piker in comparison.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

The Need For Some Balance

If you, unlike me, shop at Wal-Mart because of the low prices and you have to make each dollar go as far as it can, that's cool and understandable but please so so with the knowledge that, while necessary, it is a dance with the devil. Know that each one of your hard earned dollars is feeding a beast that is successful, in large part, because taxpayers are subsidizing there operations since most employees can't survive on Wal-Mart wages without public assistance in various forms.

Also keep in mind the following:

The six human beings who are heir to the Wal-Mmart fortune have as much wealth as the bottom 40% of all Americans combined. That’s six people on one side of the scale and approximately 125,600,000 on the other. Read the second number carefully and say it aloud. "One Hundred Twenty Five Million Six Hundred Thousand".

Never forget that each dollar you spend is a vote for the kind of world you want to live in.

So, if you have to buy stuff at Wal-Mart for whatever reason just do so with an open mind and don't let the resident evil that you can sense when you walk through the doors overwhelm you while you are there.

What a Mess!

Very hard and long rain last night and it did me no favors in the garden. The days and days of spreading mulch was wasted as it is all piled in the Eastern edge which is the lowest. Lost a few plants but not too bad on that front. A few okra washed out and some of the second corn planted is lodged. Most of the tomatoes and peppers which are mostly caged survived though they are a little shell shocked this morning. Got two days off coming after today so I should be able to get some of the damage minimized. Whatever happened to nice gentle spring rains? Now all we seem to get are "frog stranglers".

Saturday, June 01, 2013

I Got Rescued

Whew! That was close! I was only two days away from being forcibly removed from this plane of existence when my forever parents came to the rescue yesterday. My pound name is Betty but I'm not sure that will stay my name, we'll have to see. I might be 6 years old and weigh about 20 pounds...kind of on the small side for a beagle. I am very smart and friendly and I think I am going to like it here. Huge fenced back yard and I've already spent a couple of hours chasing voles, chipmunks and squirrels in the back and I even chased off a stray cat that was lurking in the bushes waiting for breakfast. Those are my critters now cat.
I've got a new bed and some toys and I already know where the treats are kept....Yep it's looking up.

Note from FM: Yes, a friend found this young lady and fostered her out of the pound but her already dog didn't take to company and we now have a new buddy. We've been resisting the urge to get another dog and have been canine free for years and years since Calamity Jane and Watts our previous beagles left us. Betty was just too cute to pass up and so now we are beagle people again.