Friday, July 30, 2010

Many Apples, Many Pears

Our friend Carmen called last night to tell us her apples and pears were ready. This morning we picked three bushels of apples and two of pears. Marathon apple butter, applesauce and pear canning session is in the works. First get a batch of apple butter going in the crock pot since it takes 24 hours plus and then we can do some applesauce and pears. Going to pickle some of the smaller pears this year from Madam's recipe for Texas Pickled Pears and I am going to try and make old fashioned pear honey if I can find a recipe. I think my grandmother's went with her to the grave.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

TheTruth About Social Security

Move-On just sent this out to its members. If you know people that are not Internet users and need to know the truth send them this in an email. There is a continuous onslaught of propaganda being generated by the deficit hawks and most, if not all, is complete and utter bullshit. The reality is that Social Security and how it is funded and whether or not it affects the deficit are very simple. Social Security is funded by a separate tax paid by workers and employers and has absolutely no bearing on other government spending. If someone says that Social Security needs fixing to address the deficit then they are stupid or just plain lying through their teeth and you should just stop listening. Medicare and Medicaid are a different story but Social Security has nothing to do with the deficit.

Top 5 Social Security Myths

Rumors of Social Security's demise are greatly exaggerated. But some powerful people keep spreading lies about the program to scare people into accepting benefit cuts. Can you check out this list of Social Security myths and share it with your friends, family and coworkers?

Myth: Social Security is going broke.

Reality: There is no Social Security crisis. By 2023, Social Security will have a $4.6 trillion surplus (yes, trillion with a 'T'). It can pay out all scheduled benefits for the next quarter-century with no changes whatsoever.1 After 2037, it'll still be able to pay out 75% of scheduled benefits--and again, that's without any changes. The program started preparing for the Baby Boomers retirement decades ago. Anyone who insists Social Security is broke probably wants to break it themselves.

Myth: We have to raise the retirement age because people are living longer.

Reality: This is red-herring to trick you into agreeing to benefit cuts. Retirees are living about the same amount of time as they were in the 1930s. The reason average life expectancy is higher is mostly because many fewer people die as children than did 70 years ago.3 What's more, what gains there have been are distributed very unevenly--since 1972, life expectancy increased by 6.5 years for workers in the top half of the income brackets, but by less than 2 years for those in the bottom half.4 But those intent on cutting Social Security love this argument because raising the retirement age is the same as an across-the-board benefit cut.

Myth: Benefit cuts are the only way to fix Social Security.

Reality: Social Security doesn't need to be fixed. But if we want to strengthen it, here's a better way: Make the rich pay their fair share. If the very rich paid taxes on all of their income, Social Security would be sustainable for decades to come. Right now, high earners only pay Social Security taxes on the first $106,000 of their income. But conservatives insist benefit cuts are the only way because they want to protect the super-rich from paying their fair share.

Myth: The Social Security Trust Fund has been raided and is full of IOUs

Reality: Not even close to true. The Social Security Trust Fund isn't full of IOUs, it's full of U.S. Treasury Bonds. And those bonds are backed by the full faith and credit of the United States. The reason Social Security holds only treasury bonds is the same reason many Americans do: The federal government has never missed a single interest payment on its debts. President Bush wanted to put Social Security funds in the stock market--which would have been disastrous--but luckily, he failed. So the trillions of dollars in the Social Security Trust Fund, which are separate from the regular budget, are as safe as can be.

Myth: Social Security adds to the deficit

Reality: It's not just wrong -- it's impossible! By law, Social Security funds are separate from the budget, and it must pay its own way. That means that Social Security can't add one penny to the deficit.

There are two things driving the attack on Social Security. First, the GOP and wealthy have always been against Social Security. Being against things that really only benefit us peasants is part and parcel of their ideology..  They have been against it from the beginning and attack it every chance they get. Shrub trying to privatize it by investing it in the stock market was just the latest. Fortunately, that failed but they are attacking again using the lie of the deficit this time. Secondly, the wealthy don't want to pay for the losses due to Wall Street's malicious and insane gambling and they want the poor and middle class to pay for it. They are blaming Social Security for the deficit when it has absolutely nothing to do with it and want us to ignore the real causes which were Bush's tax cuts for the wealthy and Wall Street's insanity and greed and two frigging wars for nothing.

Just A Bunch of Scientific Claptrap and Lies

That's what you'll hear from the climate change denier fucktards who will dismiss the "The 2009 State of the Climate report."  just released by NOAA. They will use their millions of dollars from oil and coal interests to shout that it's just another misguided and sloppy scientific study by a bunch of 'hot air fanatics'. The reality, of course, is that this is another study "based on comprehensive data from multiple sources," and not from some single weather station in the parking lot of a Las Vegas hotel as the deniers will charge. It's just science after all so there is absolutely no reason for you to take it seriously. So believe the folks with a vested interest in denying a warming world if you want but... it's really happening:
The 2009 State of the Climate report released today draws on data for 10 key climate indicators that all point to the same finding: the scientific evidence that our world is warming is unmistakable. More than 300 scientists from 160 research groups in 48 countries contributed to the report, which confirms that the past decade was the warmest on record and that the Earth has been growing warmer over the last 50 years.

Based on comprehensive data from multiple sources, the report defines 10 measurable planet-wide features used to gauge global temperature changes. The relative movement of each of these indicators proves consistent with a warming world. Seven indicators are rising: air temperature over land, sea-surface temperature, air temperature over oceans, sea level, ocean heat, humidity and tropospheric temperature in the “active-weather” layer of the atmosphere closest to the Earth’s surface. Three indicators are declining: Arctic sea ice, glaciers and spring snow cover in the Northern hemisphere.
We are in deep 'kimchee' and everyone with a lick of sense knows it. I don't even have to read the scientific data to know it's real...I can see it in my garden every day. This is a real problem that demands concrete and immediate solutions. Unfortunately, concrete and immediate solutions to real problems demands real leasdership and we are sorely lacking in that respect and besides, Al Gore flies in planes and has a big house and is fat and most of all we had a big snowfall last winter.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Stupid, Stupid

The American people are increasingly looking like the stupidest people on the planet. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's  Jay Bookman tried to wrap his head around the current political landscape, and felt like he'd been slipped LSD.
Here we are in the smoldering ruins of an economy recently wrecked by Wall Street greed, in a country where for 30 years almost all income growth has been concentrated among the richest 1 percent of Americans. Rising populist anger, massive long-term unemployment and record home foreclosures serve as counterpoints to soaring corporate profits, while the Supreme Court rules that corporations are people and can spend limitless amounts of money trying to elect candidates willing to serve their interests.
Meanwhile, the Republican Party defends massive tax breaks for the wealthy while blocking aid to the unemployed, fights bitterly against regulations designed to prevent a repeat of the Wall Street meltdown, blocks legislation that would at least require corporate and special interests to identify themselves when they invest in elections and does all that while proclaiming itself to be the party of the little people.
Do I have that right?
Not mentioned in the above is that congressional Republicans also hope to block a bill offering economic incentives to small businesses, not to mention blocking all other efforts to improve the economy, including aid to states. Then you have to ask yourself why they're the party that's expected to do extremely well in November?  The only sensible answer is that Americans are obviously getting dumber by the day and at the current rate of decline in cognitive skills will inevitably lead to the U.S. electing the Palin/Bachmann ticket in two years. Just shoot me!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Damn 'Skeeters'

This has been the worst year for mosquitoes that I ever remember. I used to go the whole summer with just the occasional bite even when I was outside for extended periods. This year I can't step outside the house without a bite or two. Pretty much the first thing I do in the morning is go out and fill the bird feeders and bird baths and this year I will get two or three bites every morning in just the short time outside. The morning trip to the garden this year has meant a dousing in 'Off" which I just hate. It could be that I am just sweeter this year but I am sure Madam would dissent.

Seriously, we have had more rain this year than in many a year but for the last couple of years I have shunned the use of pesticides on anything. I notice more lightning bugs than in recent memory and it may be that I have created an environment with less stress which has encouraged not only lightning bugs but 'skeeters' as well.

A Trillion There A Trillion There

The House had no problem with deficit spending today and voted to approve another emergency supplemental appropriation to fund the unnecessary wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. This appropriation takes the total Congress has allotted for these cluster fucks at over $1 Trillion with a capital T.

Among the countless tragedies both in cost and in human suffering is the reality that if the action in Iraq had not happened(and it shouldn't have) and distracted us from the 'real' mission we might actually have been out of the quagmire in Afghanistan by now. The minor trillion dollar distraction in Iraq has cost us failure in Afghanistan and nine years laters, it's still a mess with no foreseeable resolution.

Now that the GOP is busily trying to polish the turd of  George Bush and Dick Cheney's rule we should all remember one thing ... that $1 trillion is all deficit spending and it's money we could surely find a better use for if it is on the plastic.

A Well Deserved Result

In light of the damage BP has inflicted on families and industries around the Gulf  I can't honestly feel to bad for these guys.
BP announced Tuesday that it lost $17 billion in the second quarter of the year because of the mounting cost of halting and repairing damage from the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The company also said the executive who has led its spill response effort for the last month, Robert Dudley, would take over Oct. 1 as BP's next chief executive, becoming the first American to run the London-based company.

Dudley, 54, had been widely expected to be chosen to replace outgoing chief executive Tony Hayward, whose dismissal was confirmed after a BP board meeting Monday evening.

So long Tony Hayward. 'heck of a job' destroying the Gulf of Mexico. That's some legacy but with the reported millions in severance I guess he can afford enough booze to soften the pain.

So how did all that cost-cutting and skimping on safety work out for you BP?  The real tragedy beyond the destruction of a way of life and an large chunk of ocean is that other corporations will probably not take any notice of the results of such negligence and just keep on cutting corners in the name of profit. You'd like to think this would be a lesson, but don't count on it.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Now For the Butter Beans

Madam and I got out early this morning before the worst of the heat and picked butter beans. Now we have about a bushel to shell and freeze. The new chest freezer is full with the addition of the blueberries so we'll revert to the freezer in the basement fridge. Once that one is full we are at capacity. We are basically out of shelf space for jars as well but tomatoes are pretty much finished for canning and nothing else on the horizon for more jars either. I did four pints of roasted red peppers yesterday but unless we decide to do some of the butternut squash in jars for soup we probably won't have any more.
The  Mexican tree boys were back at the neighbors this morning and got another box full of stuff again. A lot of okra, sweet peppers, jalapeno, tomatillo, and pattypan squash. They are always so excited and grateful and the tomatillos were especially well received and I am sure none of it will go to waste. I just love sharing the fresh garden stuff with folks who appreciate it.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Minimonk's Latest - A Two Dog Table

Minimonk has been creating things from steel again. This happens to be a commissioned work from a friend that owns their favorite restaurant, 'Two Dog Cafe'.  The top is made from a solid slab of oak that they salvaged from a huge tree they took down in their yard. (I have at least one of those slabs with my name on it BTW.) I don't know if you can see but the tails of the two dogs converge into a little heart. Nice work Minimonk!

Blueberry Bonanza

Nice night at the symphony last night. A little hot but it was bearable. Our host has 'posh' seats...actually a table for four with nice padded chairs. The program was 'Broadway Rocks' and there were selections from Jesus Christ Superstar, Phantom, Wicked, Tommy, Dream Girls, Mama Mia, and others. Four great vocalists all of which are headliners from Broadway. One was actually the Phantom on the Broadway run and the other Mr. Hyde and Jekyll in the musical. Enjoyed it.
Our host mentioned that he had filled his freezer with blueberries but that there will still plenty coming on in his garden and asked if would like to come over a pick some. We did that this morning and in three hours picked these 10 2 pound yogurt containers full. I've just spent the last couple of hours cleaning and sorting and dividing them into 25 pints  and putting them in freezer bags and they are all freezing as we speak. This should keep me in blueberries with my Joe's "O's" until next blueberry season and make a few blueberry tarts to boot.

Madam managed to get in the way of some yellow jackets after we got home from the blueberry expedition. She felt the need to cut a couple of weeds in the front island since she was already dirty and hot from the picking and managed to stir up a nest. Only five or six stings but if you have ever tangled with a yellow jacket you know how painful they are. What's worse, most on on her hands. I gave her a Benadryl and painted the wounds with  Benadryl as well. She is sacked out watching an old movie and nursing her wounds.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Record High Today

Wow! Just came in from the morning gardening. It's already 90F and it is only 1130a. Supposed to hit 98F today which will break the record high for today which was 95F set in 2005. The humidity is just under 60% so the heat index is about 10 degrees higher and should peak at 106-108F by late today. We've been invited to the Atlanta Symphony tonight at the outdoor Verizon Amphitheater down the road...going to toast. Fortunately our host is an MD so if I swoon he'll be able to pronounce me dead quickly and get me to the air conditioned morgue.

I think this afternoon will be indoors with plenty of iced tea though I should be out moving compost and weeding. My late season cucumbers got about 6 inches high but decided it was too hot and have just fallen over dead. The only thing really enjoying the heat are the peppers which are all ripening at once. I just ignored them this morning as there is no more room in the fridge for them. I think there are enough cukes in the drawer for a batch of cold water dills so that may take a little time this afternoon and that will free up some space for more peppers. Madam 'rescued' three large  gallon pickled jars from somewhere and I think I can fill one for the refrigerator pickles though that will require another trip to the garden for dill. I guess I had better decide before it gets any hotter.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Peppers Stuffed with Feta

The new Saveur Magazine came yesterday and its main theme is the food of Greece. I love Greek food and Greek cooking and have since I was introduced to it in my teens when I worked for a Greek family in their small grocery. Later, when I was stationed in Cyprus, I got completely hooked on this ancient and wonderful food.
Saveur is the only magazine I read cover to cover and its monthly arrival is a cause for celebration. This issue, with all the Greek recipes, is a special treasure and I have cooked two dishes from it already. Since I am currently overrun with peppers the recipe for Peppers Stuffed with Feta seemed like a great choice. In Greek its 'Piperies Gemistes me Feta' and I can highly recommend it. As you can see from the picture, I made it for dinner tonight. Looks pretty good!  It is actually a 'meze' or appetizer/snack but I made it as a main course. I added a salad of tomato, cucumber and avocado and some grilled whole wheat pita. It made a nice little dinner. I cut the recipe in half for just the two of us and used Chervena Chuska peppers from the garden which I imagine are similar to the Florina peppers used in Greece judging from the pictures in the magazine(a sweet pointed red pepper). It is an easy recipe and definitely something you should try. Oh! and the other recipe I did last night was Zucchini Fritters or 'Kolokitho Keftedes' and while I think my batter was a little too thin (I tried to cut the recipe in half but its hard to halve an egg) they were very nice. I'll be trying a whole lot more of these Greek recipes in the very near future.

Pickled Cherry Peppers

Since it is way to hot to work outside today and enough cherry peppers had turned bright red to justify a canning effort that is just what I did, as you can see. I haven't shared many pictures of the canning and preserving efforts this year so I thought I would this time since they are so pretty all packed in their little jars. While these are all cherry peppers you can pickle any pepper and the recipe below will work for any of them. No real special equipment other than the jars and a pot big enough to process them in and it really takes no time at all to preserve a little summer sunshine. I would suggest getting a 'jar lifter' so you can handle the jars going into and out of the boiling water. I tend to prefer thick walled peppers for pickling as they hold up to the processing a little better and the cherry peppers fit the bill perfectly.

Pickled Peppers

2 pounds Hungarian or banana peppers*
2 pounds sweet peppers (in strips)*
1 pound cherry peppers*
1 Jalapeno per jar (optional but nice for a little kick)
1 clove garlic per jar
6 cups white vinegar
2 cups water
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon pickling salt
1 tablespoon sugar (optional)
4-5 whole black peppercorns per jar (optional)
1-2 whole allspice per jar (optional)

*Note: You can use a variety of peppers to equal 5 pounds (4 quarts) but small peppers like the cherry pepper are not very easy to densely pack so I have found that about 3 pounds of cherry peppers will satisfy this recipe. It helps to sort the cherry peppers into two piles of big and small. When you are packing the jars you can fill in with small peppers where a big one won't fit and having them segregated makes it much easier. P.S. If you use the jalapeno don't forget to slit them as well.

Yield: Makes 7 to 8 pints

Get all your jars in the canning pot and heating while you process the peppers. In a separate pot cover the lids and rings with water and get them heating as well but you should not boil them as with the jars. I like wide mouth jars as they are easier to pack but regular jars will work just fine as well. In another non reactive pot get your vinegar/water solution mixed and heating. Another preliminary step is to peel the garlic and get your spices all sorted out and ready to go. Having everything organized before you begin makes for a quick and painless process.

Wash peppers. Small peppers may be left whole with two small slits in each pepper. Core and cut large peppers into strips. Pack one clove garlic and a variety of peppers tightly into clean, hot, sterilized jars, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Combine vinegar, water, salt and sugar. Bring to boil and reduce to simmer. Pour hot pickling solution over peppers, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles and insure the peppers are filled with the vinegar solution by pressing down gently and a table knife slid down the inside of the jar and pressed on the peppers helps as well. Re-adjust head space to 1/4 inch. Wipe jar rims. Seal with canning lids and process in boiling water bath. If your altitude is below 6,000 feet then process pints for 10 minutes and quarts for 15. Above 6,000 feet you need to add 5 minutes to the processing time. Start your timing after the water bath comes back to a slow boil and adjust the heat as necessary to keep it at a slow boil. Keeping a cover on the canner helps a lot to control the temperature and bring it to a boil a lot faster. After the jars are removed from the water bath and cool completely check to insure all have properly sealed and remove the screw rings for storage. These are going to have their full flavor in about five to six weeks.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A New Low For The Georgia GOP

Karen Handel led the GOP race for Governor in the primary yesterday and will face Nathan Deal in a runoff August 4th. Karen was trailing the front runner John Oxendine until last week when Karen received the endorsement of Caribou Barbie and she surged into the lead. It's a new low for the Georgia GOP when someone like Palin can affect a primary election. How embarrassing for them.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Unemployment Extension Passes

Well the Senate finally got the shitty bill passed. It will help some 2.6 million unemployed but it leaves a lot of folks out in the cold. It does not include the extra $25 added to unemployment benefits for the last year-plus through the Recovery Act. It does not include a fifth tier of benefits, so anyone who has exhausted 99 weeks is out of luck. It does not include anything for anyone out of work in a state with lower than an 8% unemployment rate. This is really a bare bones bill and we'll just have to see if it has any impact on the economy. A lot of folks that have lost benefits will get caught up with a lump sum payment but I don't imagine it mean new cars or even a new fridge. These folk are so far behind right now that it probably won't even help them get even.
There was a lot of energy wasted on this crap bill but at least a few folks will get a hand up. The Dems lost another one.

Fried Okra, Southern Style

I know I have mentioned fried okra here and for the life of me thought I had posted a recipe. I did a search and see I was having another 'senior moment'. There is probably no other food more Southern than fried okra with exception of maybe grits. That being said, if you aren't familiar with fried okra then you should be. It makes a great side dish and is actually a good snack as well. There are loads of recipes out there and I am sure each family has their own but this one is the one I grew up on more or less, simple and very tasty. This is what is known as a pan fried okra and not a deep fried okra. There are many who batter and deep fry okra and they are welcome to do so but this method is more traditional I think. This fried okra will even make people who swear they don't like okra change their minds. Another cool thing is that you can do all the coating of the okra and just freeze it in a single layer for later bagging and then pull out the okra for cooking when you need it. If you are a gardener you know what I mean by freezing for later. When the okra starts coming in it comes fast. It keeps in the freezer like a champ when it is coated like this.

This recipe makes enough for 6 or 8 folks but you can adjust it with no problem.

4 cups peanut or canola oil for frying
2 large eggs, beaten
3/4 cup buttermilk or regular milk but I like buttermilk
2 cups cornmeal preferably stone ground, I use yellow but white works but just fine don't use self-rising however.
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
Tabasco or other hot sauce to taste
2 pounds fresh okra, stemmed and sliced into 1/2 to 3/4 inch rounds

You're going to have to fry in batches so its a good idea to get an oven warmed to about 225 degrees or so.
Heat the oil in a 12-inch cast-iron skillet or other heavy bottomed pot like a dutch oven or casserole until the oils reaches 375 degrees on a candy thermometer.
While your oil is heating whisk together the eggs, a few dashes of hot sauce and buttermilk milk in a largish bowl(you'll be adding the okra too). In another bowl, mix the cornmeal, flour, salt, and pepper together, making sure it is well mixed. Add the okra to the egg mixture and toss until it is evenly coated. Scatter half the cornmeal mix over the okra and toss to coat, after its well coated add the rest of the mix and toss again. The okra should be evenly coated.

Note: if you are adjusting the volumes in this recipe you may wind up with a little extra egg mixture after all the okra is well coated and in that case just drain it off. You don't want the okra sitting in a pool when you add the cornmeal mixture.

In order to keep from crowding the pan and cooling the oil too much you should cook in three batches. Use a slotted cooking spoon to put one-third of the okra into the oil turn as necessary with the slotted spoon until the slices are golden brown all over. If your oil is the right temperature it shouldn't take but about 2 minutes per batch.
Again with the slotted spoon, put the cooked okra on a plate lined with a couple of layers of paper towels to drain. After it has drained, move it to an oven proof serving dish serving dish and keep in the oven until ready to serve. I usually sprinkle a little kosher salt on the okra as it comes out of the oil.
It is pretty common for people to use hot sauce (Tabasco) on their fried okra in the South but pepper vinegar is good too(You'll see it in the stores...a little bottle stuffed with small peppers and vinegar.)

I should note that there are some that say you should just use the slime from the sliced okra to make the cornmeal stick but I don't think it keeps enough cornmeal on...but whatever.

UPDATE: Not that I am implying you lack imagination but I am cooking okra tonight but instead of using all okra I am mixing in Japanese eggplant and some peppers. You can do the same. Instead of all okra mix in something else for variety. I've got both eggplant and okra coming out my ears and boatloads of peppers. I'll add a salad of cucumber, onion and tomato. Not scads of protein but a satisfying meal. If you want more protein there is always tofu. Just cube it(use firm) and bread it and fry it with the okra and whatever else.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Worms, Computer That Is

For all you geeks out there... if you didn't read Mark Bowden's Atlantic piece about the Conficker worm, "The Enemy Within," when it came out a few weeks ago, it's worth the bit of read. While I am not the nerd I used to be I found the story riveting and it intrigued me to find out a little more. It sure sounds to me like the 'bad guys' are at winning at this point.

I guess the first thing I need to do is find out if I am Conficker protected or vulnerable.

UPDATE: Here is a link from the conficker working group that allows you to quickly check for infection. It is the Conficker Eye Chart

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Tomatillo Time

No one suggested any recipes for the tomatillos now maturing in the garden so I am going to have to fake it. I want a main so I think some kind of soup is the answer. I Googled tomatillo soup but none of the recipes sound like what I want. I think I will fall back on my basic soup making skills and see what I can come up with.
chicken broth
chili powder
green pepper and jalapeno
saute the veges in EVOO add the seasonings and add the stock and simmer. Thicken with some tortillas and garnish with sour cream. I'll have to make corn tortillas but it is really not that difficult. All I have is flour tortilla on hand. Got the masa flour and the tortilla press so off we go.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Stopped For Now

Well the oil has stopped flowing for now. We'll keep out fingers crossed that all holds and that the integrity of the well is good enough to withstand the pressure. In celebration we are going to can pickled beets and bake a batch of sourdough bread. The excitement continues.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Excitement Squared

The excitement around Chez Monk is endless. Seriously, the sauerkraut we started about 6 weeks ago is now in jars. The 25 pounds of cabbage fermented down into 8 quarts of kraut and it is pretty good if I do say so myself. Another batch of dill pickles is in the jar and believe it or not another couple of bushels of tomatoes are ready for canning. Definitely need to rethink the number of tomatoes I put the in the garden next year. There were more than a few days when we picked a bushel of tomatoes in our morning trip to the garden. Madam took a big basket of produce, eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, squash etc. to the library archives yesterday and it was all taken. We just can't eat or can fast enough to keep up. Once I get this batch of tomatoes done we should be close to a lapse in harvest and can use the daily output before it goes bad but even with the tomatoes slowing down I have beets calling for pickling and butterbeans within a week of needing harvest and we just finishing freezing the second batch of Dixie Butter Peas. We only had a few butter peas last year as the chipmunks decided they liked them and helped themselves. For some reason they didn't want them this year so we managed to freeze about two dozen 225g bags and there are probably that many left to mature. Not a big fan of butter beans but the Dixie Butter Peas I really like. Interestingly enough I never had them growing up here in the South and it wasn't until I had lunch in the Whistle Stop Cafe in Juliette, Georgia (made famous in the movie Fried Green Tomatoes) that I discovered them and yes the fried green tomatoes were nice too. I loved the line in that movie by Cicely Tyson chiding the white man at the counter about not wanting to eat with blacks while sitting there eating eggs that just shot out of chicken's ass.

We are also starting to get a few tomatillos which is a first in the garden this year. They are a funny plant to grow as they get quite large and it looks like you are just growing little green balloons until all of a sudden they fill out and inside the balloon is a nice little fruit. Evidently they are a relative of the gooseberry. Other than salsa I don't really know much about cooking them so a little research is needed. If anyone has a good recipe let me know.

Anyhow, the tomatoes are calling and this will be diced tomatoes so it means scalding and peeling and seeding for a couple of hours. Never fear though, there is cold beer in the fridge and it helps pass the time and besides Madam will be home from her stint at the Hysterical Society in a while and she will pitch in and we'll have more jars of tomatoes, which we don't have room for in the basement, in a few hours.

Now isn't that exciting.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Latest Food Recalls

Just in case you are not paying attention. There are two new food recalls. One for bagged spinach and one for frozen bison meat. If you use such products pay attention.

Ready Pac Foods Inc. is recalling bagged spinach sold under "Ready Pack Baby Spinach" and "Spinach Temptations" in California, Washington and Arizona because of possible E. coli contamination, although no illnesses have been reported. The recalled products have a use-by date of July 4 (product code I1707B or IR127121) and July 8 (product code I2007B or IR130373).

Rocky Mountain Natural Meats is recalling 66,000 pounds of ground and tenderized steak bison products after an E. coli O157:H7 outbreak was linked to the products. Five cases in Colorado and one case in New York have been attributed to the bison products. E. coli O157:H7 can cause bloody diarrhea, dehydration and, in severe cases, kidney failure.

Just An Old Parasite

Thanks to Digby who pointed at the following from Dave Johnson who has an interesting post about some of those lazy folks who allegedly refuse to take work at minimum wage as they should:
Here is a fact: There. Are. No. Jobs. I'm in Silicon Valley where the official unemployment rate dipped in May to 11.2%. This dip was, of course, because of so many people just giving up trying to get a job, certainly not because of some wave of hiring. The underemployed figure, known as "U-6," is 21.7% in California, 16.7% nationally.
You have to know someone to get a humiliating job standing on a corner waving a sign. And if you are over 40, things are even worse than that. Don't give me any conservative Rush Limbaugh-Ayn Rand dehumanizing nonsense about parasitic lazy people who won't lookthere are no jobs.
I know so many people here who are over 40, were laid off in the 2000-era dot com crash, still haven't found a regular job and aren't going to. They have had occasional "contract" positions—which means no benefits, no security, a 15% "self-employment" tax and no unemployment check when the job ends. And now, 10 years later they're a lot over 40 and are not going to find a job because so many employers here won't hire people over 40.
And now there are so many more who lost their jobs in the mass layoffs of 2008-2009 and can't find a job. So many of them are also over 40. In fact, many were laid off in obvious purges of over-40 workers, offered a small severance that they could only receive if they promised to take no age-discrimination action against the employer. (I don't say "company" because some of these worked at nonprofits.)
Most of these people will not find another job, but are too young for Medicare and Social Security.

Age discrimination is a thing with me because it is so blatant here. It's the culture here, some even say that for programmers it is "35 and out." At various times looking for work I've been told I "seemed tired" and things like that. I was even told once that I wouldn't be able to market some software because I "wouldn't be able to get my mind around" how it worked—when I had designed and written part of it in a previous life. One company here is said to have only 200 over-40 employees out of 20,000.

What are people supposed to do?
You can't get Medicare until you are 65, and Social Security until 67. But it's near-impossible to get a job or health insurance if you are over 50.
According to the Republicans I am supposed to be taking some job that is currently being done by undocumented immigrants like mowing lawns or grooming golf courses ... maybe washing a few dishes or busing tables. The Republicans insist that I am just living "high off the hog" on my unemployment and I am just too lazy to work and would rather sit back and be on the dole...the government is encouraging me to not look for work. Not extending the paltry unemployment benefits for me and millions of others is "tough love" according to Rand Paul. Maybe they need to talk to some of the hundreds of companies that never even responded to my resume...many for jobs I was perfectly qualified for or even over qualified for. . I have spent thousands of dollars on an employment consultant, employment websites and who knows what else. I've networked and networked and the harsh fact is that in this economy and I am 60 and there are no jobs for me. We won't even discuss losing my health insurance an not being able to get any at any price and even if I could get it I couldn't afford it. If I hadn't been prudent and put a little back over my 40 years of work I would be in a world of trouble right now and I know that there are millions who, for one good reason or another, who weren't prepared to be unemployed for the rest of the lives.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Trigger for Sale

Roy Rogers' horse, Trigger, will be auctioned off at Christie's next week, along with other Roy Rogers memorabilia. Since his death in 1965, Trigger has been on display at the Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Museum in Branson, Missouri. Due to sagging attendance, the museum closed its doors at the end of 2009.

Somehow I think this is just wrong. Has anybody asked the Smithsonian if the want it? They have Julia Childs' kitchen and surely Trigger is just as important an icon of the age.

It's also a little sad.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Harvest In The Jars

It took forever to reduce the gallons of tomato pulp and juice into proper tomato sauce but it is all done. Twenty Six pints of Georgia sunshine all ready to brighten many a meal next winter. It's one thing to core and chop the pounds and pounds of tomatoes but the real chore is cooking it down into a proper tomato sauce. It took about 6 hours of diligent stirring and nurturing but it is in the jars and it is gorgeous if I do say so myself. In between the tomatoes I also managed to get a batch of dill pickles started and can some pickled okra with Madam's help.
Nothing much here except hot. Even the early morning cruise of the garden to harvest the day's bounty is guaranteed to bring a little glow. We are reaching the summer peak with respect to summer gardening....lots of things just melt in the afternoon heat with the exception of okra which seems to thrive the hotter and drier it gets. Tomatoes and squash are showing the stress but most of the peppers are thriving in the heat. Probably have about a month now where the garden will slowly succumb to the summer stresses but come August we will start planting for the fall and winter garden. Beets, carrots, turnips, chard, spinach, cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and whatever else I can find. Early spring and late summer are the prime gardening times here in the South and fall gardens almost always get the advantage of a late frost which "fingers crossed" won't happen until Thanksgiving or so.
We're bushed and off to bed now but dill pickles are waiting for me in the morning. Again, the reality is that I could buy pickles cheaper especially considering how much effort I have put forth but they wouldn't be my pickles..

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Our Turn To Roast

It's already been in the mid 90's several times for for several days in a row this summer but now it's our turn to see 100F today and join the Northeast in scorching. Needless to say I won't be in the garden or mowing the lawn today. Just as well since there is a literal mountain of tomatoes that need dealing with today. I posted a pic of the dining room table a few days back, well there are twice as many tomatoes or maybe even more.
Going to make sauce today since that is the easiest. No peeling or seeding just core and whack them up and run them through the food mill. Then just cook down the sauce until it is as thick as you want. Since you pack it hot the processing time is only 10 minutes. My guess is 20 plus pints so it will be a full day of canning. Got a big jug of iced tea made and plenty of lemons so I am good to go.

Everybody watch the heat and keep hydrated. Remember that evaporation is a very effective way to cool off and just a damp washcloth over the face does wonders to lower your temperature. If you have to be out in the sun wear light colored clothes and a hat that is ventilated and find shade whenever you can as it is always a few degrees cooler.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Post Holiday

The holiday weekend is over and everybody is back to work...well except for Congress. The stock market seems to be moving in the right direction this morning and is up already 150 points. Maybe it will recover a portion of the 450 or so points its lost in the last few weeks. The oil is still flowing and now Texas is getting their ration of tar balls. What a total disaster. What is even worse is that I was reading the other day that the way the tax laws work it is better for BP to clean up the oil after it reaches shore than try and mitigate it at sea. The can amortize the cost over 15 years for cleanup but not the costs for real time skimming. Oh and the tax laws were saving them about a quarter of a million a day in taxes for leasing the Deepwater Horizon as well.

Nothing special around the manor for the holidays. Same old same old. Worked in the garden, canned tomatoes, put away butter beans in the freezer. Exciting huh? More of the same coming today and the next. The picture of the dining room table loaded with tomatoes I posted a few days ago is pretty much how it looks this morning as well. In spite of lots new jars in the basement the table is completely piled with new tomatoes and another big basket from this morning's trip to the garden is not even added. Maybe 70 tomato plants is a little too many?

The little respite in the heat is over and we should see the low 90's again today. It was nice while it lasted. It looks like the whole East coast is in for some sweating over the next few days. My Mom said is was 95 yesterday in the Virginia mountains which is really hot for up there. Very rarely see above 90. I am off to the garden to take out the pole beans which have produced their last few beans. I'll just let the space go fallow for a few weeks until August when I'll think about the fall garden. It is just too hot in July to get anything going. Besides the deer have discovered the garden and are nibbling on the okra and sweet potatoes every night and no use giving them some young shoots of anything else. Maybe they will find better pickings somewhere else.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Still Learning

Despite all the years I've been vegetable gardening I am still learning. The most recent discovery is that in a pretty much ideal growing environment peppers will grow so tall and set so much fruit high on the plant that just the small addition of damp leaves from a light rain will topple them flat even though they are reinforced with small bamboo sticks. Going to require cages of some sorts like tomatoes as staking is too labor intensive. I had three pepper plants lodged this morning from the light rain yesterday and the week before pretty much the whole row of Carmen (a long sweet red pepper) flopped over in spite of their bamboo supports. Everybody is standing back up but it is rather Rube Goldbergish and not the way I like the garden to look.

More canning yesterday with pickled okra, and jalapeno slices. In order to keep the jalapenos from lodging I had picked all the full size peppers and wound up with almost 5 pounds...way to much to eat fresh so sliced and pickled was the call. I added fresh garlic and oregano to these so we'll see how they come out.

It is that time of year when the garden has produced its first harvest and is taking a deep breath for the next push. If I had planted corn it would be ready for the 4th weekend but the beets are ready and need to be put in jars. All the new cucumbers and pumpkins are up and butter beans are a couple of weeks from harvest. All the green beans are finished and in the freezer. Winter squash are just about ready to start harvesting and it is time to get the garden ready for the fall crops.

Everybody have a great holiday weekend and don't forget to put out the flag. Oh, in case you don't remember I like chili, onions and coleslaw on my tube steaks and I'll bring the beer.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

No BP Probe For You!

From Steve Benen at The Washington Monthly

Most reasonable people can probably agree that there are some pretty stark ideological divisions in the House of Representatives. With that in mind, when a measure passes the chamber 420 to 1, it stands to reason that it's a no-brainer.
Or at least, it should be. Last week, the House overwhelmingly approved giving subpoena power to the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling. The panel was created by the White House to investigate the worst environmental catastrophe in U.S. history, and needs subpoena power to get answers from private industries and government agencies.
Given the 420 to 1 vote, Senate Democrats sought unanimous consent yesterday to resolve the issue and let the commission do its job. It's an easy one, right? Wrong. Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) refused, objecting on behalf of others in the Republican conference that he would not name.
If you perhaps were unsure about whether the rethuglicans were actually serious about representing the people who elected them instead of the people who actually pay them then this should help you make up your mind.

Screwed Up System

I got a good look at how screwed up the medical system is here in the U.S. yesterday. I received the bill for my portion of the latest doctors visit that I felt was needed since, as of today, I am uninsured. It was a fairly complete blood test including lipids, hemoglobin A1c, thyroid, calcium, etc. I also had an electrocardiogram, and a brief check by Madam Doctor. The total bill to Blue Cross was $1107.00. but evidently under their deal with the BCBS PPO Blue Cross only paid $209.87 after taking their $704.35 adjustment leaving me on the hook for $192.78. So, evidently BCBS has negotiated roughly a 70% discount from the regular charges which makes me wonder what the actual costs are. Surely the LLC of 5 doctors who make up the clinic I use wouldn't accept a deal where the insurance would pay less than cost? The frightening thing is that now that I don't have insurance and need the same checkup I would have to pay the full $1107.00. Ouch! Then again that is less that 2 months worth of insurance premiums.

Seems to me that somewhere in this mess is a clue to where all our money for medical care is going. Are the doctors charging 70% plus over cost for routine care? How can the insurance companies justify $800 - $900 a month for insurance when they are paying only 30% or so of the actual medical care costs. There sure seems to be a big gap somewhere in the equation. I guess if I were a doctor I would seeking out uninsured patients with means to pay for all its worth...maybe even offering big discounts while still making more than I would from an insured patient. I could even offer half off and still be better off than dealing with the insurance companies and save the paperwork headache to boot.