Friday, October 29, 2010

A Little Sunshine

Speaking of Professor Krugman. I'll relay this bit of sunshine for your Friday morning.

Krugman paints a happy portrait of our political future:
This is going to be terrible. In fact, future historians will probably look back at the 2010 election as a catastrophe for America, one that condemned the nation to years of political chaos and economic weakness.
I couldn't have said it better myself.


If you are still not planning to vote because of your misguided “plague on both your houses” thinking. Then ask yourself:  that if both major parties are the same why are the billionaires like the Koch brothers and corporations throwing millions of dollars into this election to elect Republicans and against Democrats?

The shrill one also gives us another reason to consider voting.

The economy, weighed down by the debt that households ran up during the Bush-era bubble, is in dire straits; deflation, not inflation, is the clear and present danger. And it’s not at all clear that the Fed has the tools to head off this danger. Right now we very much need active policies on the part of the federal government to get us out of our economic trap.
But we won’t get those policies if Republicans control the House. In fact, if they get their way, we’ll get the worst of both worlds: They’ll refuse to do anything to boost the economy now, claiming to be worried about the deficit, while simultaneously increasing long-run deficits with irresponsible tax cuts — cuts they have already announced won’t have to be offset with spending cuts.
While I am at it...I should like to remind you that voting is actually not about yourself but about your country and its citizens. Your enfranchisement allows you participate in the governance of the country and how you and your fellow citizens will work together to "form a more perfect union". One of greatest, if not the greatest, mistakes people make when casting their vote is considering whether to vote themselves "bread and circuses" instead of what is best for the country, county, town as a whole and in today's global interdependent world our votes determine, to a great extent, what will happen in the rest of the world and to the billions of global inhabitants. Yes, your vote will affect you but it is not about you and to vote your own self interest above that of the country as a whole is a great disservice to your country and ultimately to yourself.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Mumble, Mumble

Finally quit storming and raining. We dodged the worst of it but North of us got whacked (North Carolina)...very strange weather for October. It was almost like it was the remnant of a tropical storm.

I actually went for a job interview this morning. Nothing much and just part time. Madam mentioned that I was getting "hermity" so I thought I might just find something to while away a few hours and get out among 'em. Since the job involves handling money I have to have a background check, credit check and I went and peed in a cup this morning as well( I sure hope they don't test for Cabernet Sauvignon!). We'll see what  comes of it.

In honor of being accused of being a hermit and since Madam was hinting that she needed cookies with her Trader Joe's French Vanilla ice cream (very nice ice cream BTW) I baked her a batch of Hermits yesterday. She pronounced them acceptable and it is really nice to smell those spicy things baking. One of the great cookie recipes of all time.

I blew off cooking dinner last night and we just had grilled ham and cheese sandwiches and salad though they were made with Vermont Extra Sharp Cheddar and homemade semolina sourdough. Tonight I decided to make amends for last night's rough grub by making a slow cooked Italian meat sauce which is on the stove now and smelling very good. This one is hot Italian sausage based and using some of my home canned tomatoes from last year and sauce from this year. We canned a lot of damn tomatoes last year! The cool air is back after the storms so a big plate of whole grain spaghetti with meat sauce will be nice and yes there will be Cabernet involved.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

It's Going To Be Ugly

Next Tuesday will tell the tale. Judging by the last two years the next two years are going to be an even more intense political disaster than we have seen so far., Regardless of whether the GOP takes back one or both houses of Congress, the obvious political success of the strategy of obstruction will encourage them to raise the ante even higher. The real question is whether we will just collapse into a complete paralysis or just wallow in  incompetence while the economy withers further and joblessness continues apace.
Paul Krugman wrote yesterday:
The resurgent Republicans have learned nothing from the economic crisis, except that doing everything they can to undermine Mr. Obama is a winning political strategy. Tax cuts and deregulation are still the alpha and omega of their economic vision.
And if they take one or both houses of Congress, complete policy paralysis — which will mean, among other things, a cutoff of desperately needed aid to the unemployed and a freeze on further help for state and local governments — is a given. The only question is whether we’ll have political chaos as well, with Republicans’ shutting down the government at some point over the next two years. And the odds are that we will.
No one can argue that their continuous obstruction has been politically popular as evidenced by the forecast gains in Congress. It also abundantly clear that, if anything, their obsession with reducing government and taxes is stronger and just as misguided as ever.  They refuse to admit or recognize that job losses peaked the month before President Obama took office and that now, after a severely weakened stimulus, we are now, after two years, finally seeing some private sector job growth. Somehow, in their very strange world view, they really seem to believe that the solution to improving the economy is doing nothing.

What is even stranger is that they seem genuinely proud of their paralysis and obstruction and they are already crowing that it will get even worse. For example, Mike Pence, the number three House Republican, pledges that the GOP will refuse to compromise with the Obama administration or Democrats in Congress on anything. His actual words were "Look, there will be no compromise" . Mitch McConnell the GOP leader in the Senate actually said,  "The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president." that says it all.

One would hope, that in a saner world, the Republicans would take the message from the voters and make an attempt to actually govern for a change. That is not going to happen. The GOP are going to pursue paralysis with gusto....the hell with America's problems. It's going to be very ugly and if the GOP does retake the house we can look forward to basically nothing getting done over the next two years and we'll be lucky if they don't manage to shut down the government completely. The only chance for something positive to come out of this is for the President to fight them tooth and nail and for the Democrats to make clear that there is an alternative to just doing nothing. It is, however, going to take leadership by Obama and we'll just have to see if he has gotten over his insistence at doing everything to reach a bipartisan solution. The GOP is going to have nothing to do with bipartisan and it should be clear to the White House by now that the coming two years are going to require a little more spine.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Finally A Little Rain

Woke up to rain this morning...hooray! Since it is a rainy day I think some more baking experimentation is called for. There was a recipe for 'fienbrot' posted on The Fresh Loaf forums from a German baker that might be my answer in my search for the 'perfect' sourdough rye. Evidently, one of the secrets to getting the most out of rye(or any whole grain) when it comes to flavor is to soak it for 24 hours in a lightly salted water mixture. The salt retards fermentation but allows the natural enzymes in the flour to do their magic. I'm going to give it a whirl even though it is a two plus day process as is my process for my 'daily' sourdough which I bake every week. If this keeps up I will have bread dough in some stage of fermenting or soaking 24x7! Madam likes the bread but not my assortment of containers with various concoctions sitting about the kitchen nor the various bags of flour. Right now on the counter are whole wheat flour, whole rye flour, spelt flour, bread flour, semolina flour, and A/P flour. So I ma off to start two long process doughs. My Poilane style sourdough which uses a little rye an spelt in addition to bread flour and requires an overnight levain and the new recipe for fienbrot which has both a whole grain flour soaker and a levain. I might be a nice guy and pre weigh all my flours and at least put away the flour bags since I will have four bowls out on the counter. I can meet Madam half way.

BTW the semolina sourdough turned out brilliant and is definitely a keeper recipe.

Saturday, October 23, 2010


Another beautiful weekend but alas no rain either. Still feeling the effects of the 'epizudic' or whatever and have that irritating post head cold hack. The faeries didn't stack all the logs left from the fallen pine that I cut up and I thought sure the full moon would bring them out. Alas, I guess I shouldn't wait for the next full moon to see if they get around to it.

Going to do some more experimental baking this weekend since last weekend's was so successful. Susan at Wild Yeast posted a recipe for soft semolina sourdough that looks good so I'll give it whirl. I have also been buying the occasional bag of whole wheat flat bread from the grocery. It's real bread and nice but I should be able to bake my own much cheaper. I'll give it a try and if I succeed I'll share the recipe.

Money For Nothing and Your Chicks Aren't Free

With apologies to Dire Straits.

I read in the paper this morning that the 'virtual' fence thing along the Mexican border has sucked up a billion dollars or so and proven itself completely useless. The administration and DHS are going to announce 'Oh it's just money' and cancel the whole thing. A lot of contractors made some big bucks, billed some mighty profitable hours so that's OK and some folks in the DHA have a guaranteed job when they are finished feeding at the government trough.

It got me to thinking about this whole DHS thing and TSA. Probably because I was also remembering about the pilot who refused to go through the full body scan at Memphis the other day and the airport shakedown of the Dalai Lama. The thing is I am having trouble remembering any actual thwarting of a terrorist attack or hijacking by all this additional cost and hassle precipitated on us by the DHS/TSA since 9/11. We have paid out billions of dollars but I sure can't remember or see what we have gotten for it other than more hassles. Some events have been prevented but the ones I remember where discovered or thwarted after the perp was on the plane and well on the way. Have they caught anyone with a bomb yet? They have stopped a few people with guns but they weren't hijackers as far as I can remember.

Can someone explain to me what we have gotten from the new TSA bureaucracy other than a big pain in the ass and a huge, huge bill. I might be wrong but I don't feel like we are getting such a good deal.

The Fat Lady Hasn't Sung Yet

I know there has been a lot of media talk about how this upcoming election will be a tidal wave for the Rethugs and the wingnuts but "It ain't over 'til it's over". The latest polls are showing that the Democrats are still in the game. If you are one of those that just isn't going to vote whether it be because of disgust with the Dems (understandable) or whether you just don't see any difference in the two parties then consider rethinking your position. As bad as the last two years have been and as disgusted as I am with Barack Obama's performance to date, I still consider handing over the keys without a fight to the Republicans and wingnuts a, disaster. It's not much different than suicide in my book. This election is being bought by the big boys. Somebody has even coined the phrase "Billionaires' Coup" because that is what it is. Big money wants to destroy the social safety net, destroy unions and give ultimate control to themselves. They want us all 'barefoot and pregnant' as it were where we are so grateful for the scraps from their tables that we will work for nothing, gladly die when our upkeep outstrips our ability to cater to their whims and keep the wax on the limo. The difference in our current crop of Democrats and Republicans is very small and both are kowtowing to the big money folks. There is a difference though, however slight, and as close as this election is there is no excuse to just give up and turn the wheel over the crazy people. Not voting against the crazy people is voting for the crazy people. If the vote comes down to one or ten votes in your area and the crazies won by just a few votes and you didn't vote out for some misguided noble head up ass reason then consider yourself part of the problem.

Despite doom-saying about Democrats’ chances in the midterms, the latest NEWSWEEK poll (full results) shows that they remain in a close race with Republicans 12 days before Election Day, while the president’s approval ratings have climbed sharply. The poll finds that 48 percent of registered voters would be more likely to vote for Democrats, compared to 42 percent who lean Republican (those numbers are similar to those in the last NEWSWEEK poll, which found Democrats favored 48 percent to 43 percent). President Obama’s approval ratings have jumped substantially, crossing the magic halfway threshold to 54 percent, up from 48 percent in late September, while the portion of respondents who disapprove of the president dropped to 40 percent, the lowest disapproval rating in a NEWSWEEK poll since February 2010. However, his approval rating, which is notably higher than many recent polls of the president’s popularity, may be evidence of a closing "enthusiasm gap" more than a sea change in voter attitudes, and may not substantially affect Democrats’ fortunes come Election Day. In 1994, NEWSWEEK polls showed a similar steep climb in President Clinton’s approval between late September and late October, but Democrats still suffered a rout in the midterms.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Not just Hot But Dry

A lot of people use the phrase Global Warming when referring to the ongoing changes in our climate. Increasing temperatures, decreasing polar ice caps, rising ocean levels are all a part of the global climate change process. Being a serious gardener I am extremely focused on rainfall and especially the lack of it. We had a good winter and spring and lake levels are pretty much normal but we are nearly 5 inches behind on rainfall for the year and we haven't had any significant rainfall in weeks and weeks. The AJC has declared that we are in a minor drought and that the La Nina this year is mostly the cause.

Kevin Drum points out something this morning that we really should be paying attention to.

Here are a few recent data points for you: (1) The New York Times reports that "skepticism and outright denial of global warming are among the articles of faith of the Tea Party movement." (2) In the National Journal, Ron Brownstein notes that "The GOP is stampeding toward an absolutist rejection of climate science that appears unmatched among major political parties around the globe, even conservative ones....Of the 20 serious GOP Senate challengers who have taken a position, 19 have declared that the science of climate change is inconclusive or flat-out incorrect." (3) It's not just Senate candidates. ThinkProgress notes that an analysis by Wonk Room "finds that 22 of the 37 Republican candidates for governor this November are deniers of the scientific consensus on global warming pollution." (4) The Wall Street Journal reports that "extreme drought" has taken hold in parts of nine states stretching from the Southeast to the lower Midwest.
One of the most glaring effects of climate change is the change in rainfall patterns around the world. And if predictions for the upcoming election hold true then we are electing a wave of "climate change deniers" that will make it virtually impossible to take any positive action to ameliorate the effects of the coming "Mega-drought". There are a lot of problems facing us in the short care, defensive spending, unemployment. stagnate economy, and climate change and we are electing people that don't want to do anything about any of it. There is going to be much sadness and pain.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Frisking The Dalai Lama

According to BadTux the TSA actually had the temerity to pat down the Dalai Lama when he was recently entering the country. He is actually here in Atlanta at Emory U.

I know I feel safer now that one of the most peaceful men on the planet has been shaken down for concealed weapons by the brown suits. They probably scored them a few 75 year old grandmothers the same day.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Still Punk

Still fighting this damn cold. It's a struggle to work up enough spit to do anything and there is mountains of stuff to do. That not withstanding I just went out and bought two flats of pansies for the beds at the end of the driveway. I was feeling poor last year so I didn't plant anything in the fall out there not anything in the spring and they have looked miserable for a year as a result. So I have the two beds to prepare, pansies to plant, lettuce and spinach to transplant in the greenhouse, chard to move to the garden, garden to finish cleaning up, the meager crop of sweet potatoes to dig and much, much more. That and sniffling, blowing my nose and coughing from post nasal drip. However, the weather is brilliant even though they have now declared that we are in minor drought conditions and no rain is forecast anywhere in the near term. The nights are cool and lots of sunshine during the day. It could be a lot worse.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Madam's Birthday

Today is Madam's birthday. A friend took her out to lunch and shopping and I am cooking one of her favorite meals tonight. Grilled lamb chops, grilled asparagus, potatoes Anna and for dessert an apple tart from just picked Georgia apples. She has had a thing for lamb chops since she was a kid and living with her parents for a few years in Greece so it is always her choice when asked what she wants as a special meal. She had a choice of creme caramel for dessert or the apple tart and she opted for the apples since a friend brought us a bag from their mountain trip this weekend.

I also cooked her a German dinner last night of bratwurst, sauerkraut(homemade) and steamed potatoes and the michbrot I made yesterday which turned out very nice. She might be from Texas but her German family from the hill country never lost their love of German food though they did add BBQ and TexMex into the mix and her good German dad could cook up some mean enchiladas and was no slouch around the BBQ either.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Seasonal Cold

I woke up this morning with a cold. Not serious yet but a bit of scratchy throat and stuffy head. Let's hope it gets no worse. I had plans for garden work but I am going to chill instead and do a little baking. I gave away one my daily loaves this week...well actually I traded it for a dozen eggs from my friends Kelly and Carmen down the road who have some chickens in the backyard. Good trade. So anyway, I need to bake the daily bread twice this week. I am also going to try to make 'michbrot' again. That's 'mixed bread' in German. Traditionally, Germans have used rye for their breads as rye grows better in the central European climate than wheat so the traditional German bread tends to be mostly rye...sometimes the heavy dark 100% rye or the lighter 'michbrot' which has wheat flour as well. I'm going for a 60% rye/40% wheat sourdough version and in order to make it traditionally, I am starting with a levain. Typically, a levain is a small piece of dough made from another small piece of dough left from the previous bake(a chef). The chef is mixed with a small amount of water and flour and left to ferment for 12 hours or so producing the levain which is then used to leaven the full bread recipe instead of or in addition to baker's yeast. Using a levain increases the flavor of bread immensely as the lactobacillus and various yeasts in it have a chance to produce many more flavor compounds than just baker's yeast alone. The secret to good bread is a long slow ferment. I've got my levain started using my sourdough starter instead of a piece of left over bread dough but the principle is the same.

So I am sniffing and baking today and not gardening which is a shame as it is a brilliant day.

World Food Day

Today marks World Food DayWorld Food Day, October 16th, is a worldwide event designed to increase awareness, understanding and informed,  year-around action to alleviate hunger.  Think about what you can do today or in the future to support the increase of local food economies and food sustainability. Just planting a small garden is a positive action as is support local farmers and farmer's markets.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Calling Tyranny By Its Name

There is an excellent piece over at Truthdig by Chris Hedges "How Democracy Dies: Lessons From a Master" where he uses the examples of the Greek playwright Aristophanes from plays such as The Wasps and Lysistrata to illustrate what is happening in today's America. It's a disturbing but worthwhile read. Here is a sample:

“The truth is, they want you, you see, to be poor,” Aristophanes wrote in his play “The Wasps.” “If you don’t know the reason, I’ll tell you. It’s to train you to know who your tamer is. Then, whenever he gives you a whistle and sets you against an opponent of his, you jump out and tear them to pieces.”
Our democracy, through years of war, theft and corruption, is also being diminished. But the example Aristophanes offers is not a hopeful one. He held up the same corruption to his fellow Greeks. He repeatedly chided them for not rising up and fighting back. He warned, ominously, that by the time most citizens awoke it would be too late. And he was right. The appearance of normality lulls us into a false hope and submission. Those who shout most loudly in defense of the ideals of the founding fathers, the sacredness of Constitution and the values of the Christian religion are those who most actively seek to subvert the principles they claim to champion. They hold up the icons and language of traditional patriotism, the rule of law and Christian charity to demolish the belief systems that give them cultural and political legitimacy. And those who should defend these beliefs are cowed and silent.
h/t Susie

The Lowdown On Organic Cage Free Eggs

The Cornucopia Institute has just come out with the results of a research project on organic free range eggs that, if you eat eggs and buy organic cage free eggs, you should study carefully. Included in the report is a scorecard by producer on how well they meet the standards. Of  course, the right answer is to get your eggs from a local producer that treats its chickens properly. You may be able to find one using one of these two links:

Eggs are a really good food and can be a part of everyone's healthy diet but it is important know the quality of the eggs you buy and eat. An egg-testing project performed by Mother Earth News in 2007 found there were significant differences in nutrition between factory-farmed and organically raised eggs.
Compared to official U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) nutrient data for commercial eggs, eggs from hens raised on pasture may contain:
  • 1/3 less cholesterol
  • 1/4 less saturated fat
  • 2/3 more vitamin A
  • 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids
  • 3 times more vitamin E
  • 7 times more beta carotene 
If you have ever been to Europe and eaten the eggs there, which are typically from small local producers you have seen the brilliant orange of the yolks compared to the pale yellow we see here in the states from the factory produced ones. Enough said.

P.S. As a bonus there is a report and scorecard on organic dairies at the Cornucopia website. You can also subscribe to their email newsletter if you are so inclined.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Lotsa Peppers

As I have mentioned it's garden cleanup time. The first possible frost date for this area is set at October 20th by the NWS and I like to have all the tender stuff out by no later than the end of October. Today I started on cleaning up some of the peppers. I hate to waste anything so the first step is to pick any late fruit. I started picking just the Carmen, Poblano and Jalapenos. I kept picking and I kept picking. I limited myself to only the red Carmens but I picked all but the smallest Poblano and Jalapeno. I filled up  both my garden baskets and had to stop. You can see the result in the picture as I have a kitchen table full of the little monkeys. There is nothing to do but spend the afternoon doing something with them and I have decided to make a pepper sauce. The combination of sweet red Carmen, mildly hot Poblano and the quite hot Jalapeno should make a sauce that won't blow your head off but have plenty of pepper flavor. I'm thinking it will need some garlic and for sweetness I'll use raisins. I've had a very nice pepper sauce that used raisins and it was delicious. I'll process it pretty fine and leave the pulp so it won't be a Tabasco like liquid but more of a thin paste. I refuse to let it all go to waste and I have plenty of canned roasted red peppers and pickled Jalapenos so there is really nothing left to do with them all. Since I didn't pick nearly all the peppers out there it looks like I'm going to have peppers at least until the first frost.  Truth be told I could just haul them all down to the food bank and be done with them but I feel the need to preserve them myself. There is my afternoon all planned out. Madam is going to freak when she sees the pile of peppers on the table but maybe I will have put a dent in them before she gets home. It is always hard to estimate but I would guess I'm going to wind up with about a gallon and a half, maybe two of pepper sauce and I've still got some of last year's on the shelf.

Update: Five and a half hours and it is done. I'll jar it up tomorrow. What am I going to do with 2 gallons of pepper sauce? Turned out nice and hot but not overly so.

Update 2: Turns out I have 22 pints of pepper sauce after all is said and done.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Lots of Lying Goin' On

The crazy right learned something important during the Kerry campaign for president. There is no downside for lying in television and radio ads and regardless of how full of lies and misinformation they will make an impact in an election. The swift boaters took an American war hero and turned him into a lying traitor and all with lies and they did so with impunity.

Well it is happening once again. So far right wing groups have run some 60,052 ads  since the beginning of August. While many have been objectively proven to be just a bunch of distortion and lies they are making an impact. Greg Sargent has a partial list, just of the Chamber of Commerce and American Crossroads ads, and just on the Senate side.
Here's something important that's getting lost in the firefight over the money funding the ads by the U.S. Chamber and Karl Rove's groups: Many of the ads themselves have been debunked by independent fact checkers as false, grossly misleading, or marred with distortions....
Not only are the ads themselves getting widely debunked, but the justifications the groups are offering for the ad onslaught attacking Democrats (that liberals and labor do this too) are also demonstrably false or misleading. We're witnessing a massive disinformation campaign flooding airwaves across the country that could change the outcome of major races and shift the balance of power in Congress, funded by money from undisclosed sources, justified with still more falsehoods and disinformation.
Here's a partial list of debunked ads hitting Dems from the Chamber, and Rove's groups, Crossroads GPS and American Crossroads:
* A Chamber ad was yanked from two Pennsylvania TV stations after they determined its claim about Pennsylvania Senate Dem candidate Joe Sestak and Nancy Pelosi was false.
* A Crossroads GPS ad slamming Sestak over health care reform and Medicare was skewered by for its "wild exaggeration" and dismissed as "badly misleading."
* A Crossroads GPS ad attacking California Senator Barbara Boxer for voting to cut Medicare spending by $500 billion was rated by Politifact as "barely true" and "seriously misleading."
* Two Chamber ads attacking Boxer for favoring freshwater fish over jobs were dismissed by, though with some caveats, as follows: "Strictly speaking, both ads are untrue."
* Also in the above link, slammed Crossroads GPS for making similiarly misleading claims about health reform in an ad targeting Kentucky Dem Senate candidate Jack Conway.'s conclusion: "Don't let Crossroads GPS steer you down the wrong road."
* An American Crossroads ad blasting Harry Reid with various claims about unemployment and the stimulus was dismissed by the Las Vegas Sun for "egregious" stretching of the facts and "gross distortions."
* That same ad was also ripped by for distorting the truth and by Politifact as "false."
* An American Crossroads ad hammering Ohio Dem Senate candidate Lee Fisher over job creation and tax hikes was skewered by the Cleveland Plain Dealer as "incomplete" and "mucked up with distortions."
* An ABC affiliate in Colorado found that a Crossroads GPS ad attacking Senator Michael Bennet made a misleading claim about Bennet on government spending and conflated opinion for fact on the stimulus.
And so on. Those are just Senate races; I may follow up with House races.
Once the poison, factual or not, is out there some damage has been done. People hear the ad but not the discrediting part. Once the lie is out there the damage is done. As I said above the right learned that lesson with the swift boat attacks on John Kerry. The sorry bit is that there is no downside for this kind of stuff. The right knows these ads do damage and they can run them with impunity. These folks are being funded by some very deep corporate and foreign pockets that are keenly interested in seeing any semblance of progressive politics stifled completely. It's a tragedy for America but they are going to win the day.

Owl Chatter

For the last couple of nights the owls have been especially talkative. There must be quite a gaggle of them out there judging by the conversation. Whowhohawho- who-who. Is it a question? Is it a comment? All of them are asking or saying pretty much the same thing but the tone is comforting and supportive and not threatening. If you go outside and stand in the trees you can sometimes feel them soar by on their silent wings and on rare occasions you can catch a glimpse of one sitting quietly and waiting for some small creature to make the mistake of becoming visible. Somehow it is very comforting to lay down to sleep with the owls chatting outside your window.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

More Expensive to Die Sooner

The U.S. continues its slide in mortality and now ranks 49th in terms of life expectancy. A new study just released by Health Affairs shows that compared to countries with similar populations and GDP(Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom) we are dying sooner that all these other folks. Right wing crazies, teabaggers and other crazies will blame the fact on all the blacks, Hispanics, gays and other ner-do-wells are included with all the white, christian, hetero folks and pull the numbers down. The study proves otherwise and shows that whites are dying sooner as well and the inclusion of immigrant populations with the populations of whites in the U.S. actually improves the overall numbers. It is an interesting study but not very encouraging.

There is a bonus though and that is we in the U.S. get to pay twice the median for "finest" health care in the world as the other countries. Isn't that good news?

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Hard Part

There is so much stupid going on leading up to the elections and in the world in general I am not even going to comment. What's with the White House coming out against a freeze on foreclosures when it is so obvious that there is serious criminal activity involved in a lot of them? Why is Newt getting serious air time? Why is the Chamber of Commerce being allowed to buy an election? Why is the stock market(rich people) so happy to see unemployment climb? There seem to be a whole lot more questions without good answers than the other way around.
Me? I just going to hunker down and get some good old fashioned work done. The hardest part of a big garden(at least for me) is the fall clean up. All you can do is try to look forward to having it all done and the garden being ready to start in the spring. I've got a quarter of it tilled and planted with the fall stuff and I still have a few more peas and some Swiss Chard to plant but the balance is just dead or dying stuff with plenty of morning glory vines and other weeds all mixed in. The vines make it pretty near impossible to till until they are removed which is nothing but plain hard work. You can till but the constant stopping and clearing of the tiller tines of all the wrapped vines makes it pretty frustrating. A giant dead pine finally fell last week and it is laying across part of the garden and it is going to have to be cut up and hauled away which is going to make for even more work. I only have a small 14 inch chain saw and this tree is going to challenge it severely. Being so large it is going to have to be cut into pretty small chunks so that I can even lift them. Every time I get into this kind of stuff I just try to imagine my ancestors trying to clear the virgin forests in Western Virginia with nothing but axes and a couple of horses. Acres and acres of huge hardwoods that must have taken them days apiece to cut down and then there was the stump to get rid of. Now that's hard work and if they didn't get it done they starved. I should complain.
Anyhow, off to the garden to try and make a dent. I do have some sweet potatoes to get out of the ground but the sampling I've done has shown that the depredation of the deer has really limited the size and number of potatoes. I'll be lucky if I get a bushel out of nearly 100 feet of plants where I should get 3 or 4. When I walked to the garden this morning at first light there were three of the creatures standing there giving me the eye. I guess I should be grateful they don't seem to care too much for broccoli or cabbage as they have just sampled a few leaves. It is probably only because there is still tastier forage and when that goes they'll stoop to the garden. They have eaten all the leaves off the okra and there are now just barren stalks standing which will make for easier clean up.
Like I said at the is just getting too strange out there so I'll just focus on the simple stuff for now.
If you happen to be Canadian...Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, October 08, 2010

It is Still Coming

I thought I had picked the last of the eggplant the other week. I happened to wander over to the eggplant section today while I was weeding the fall garden and lo and behold there were many eggplant. As you can see the peppers are also still going strong despite the dry weather and my inattention. The lack of moisture has made the poblano quite hot as I discovered this afternoon when I thought I was taking a bite out of a sweet red pepper. Hot but tasty. Looks like Madam will get another meal of Aubergine Parmesan this weekend. I have already thawed a chicken(yes it is local and free range) for the grill tonight but I think some peppers stuffed with feta would make a nice addition.

A New Pizza

The last of the Cherokee Purple tomatoes insisted I make a pizza. I only had smoked mozzarella so here is the result. Smoked Mozzarella pizza with Cherokee Purple tomatoes. There is a finely sliced shallot in there as well as some fresh basil and Parmigiano Reggiano. An excellent combination if I do say so myself.

Update: I should add that if you are going to use fresh tomato slices like this on a pizza you should lower the moisture in them a bit. I slice them no more than 1/8 inch thick and lightly sprinkle them with sea salt. I then sandwich them between some paper towels for 15 or 20 minutes. It sucks out a lot of the water and keeps the pizza from getting soggy. It also helps to put them on top of the cheese as they evaporate a little more in the hot oven. Mozzarella on the bottom sprinkled with the herbs and chopped shallots then the slices of tomato and finally a sprinkle of good Parmesan. Hottest oven you can manage(mine gets to 550F) and on a pizza stone or quarry tiles. Let the oven heat for at least 45 minutes or an hour so that the stone is fully heated before cooking. I spread my dough on parchment which doesn't affect the crispiness of the crust but it makes handling a wet dough much, much easier. Enjoy.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Five Guys Burgers

On my way home I stopped in at the new Five Guys. Madam had said it was pretty good so I was hungry and it was lunchtime. The fries, being made from fresh potatoes, were good but way to many in a regular order. Burger was better than average but not a great burger. Biggest downside was the plastic bun that basically turned into white goo when it got wet. Upgrade the bun and it might be worth $10.50 for a burger, fries and a soda but as it is it was a little too steep for any regular visits and I can make a better burger at home(I make the buns.) I might be persuaded to go back for fries though. I have yet to try the upscale burger place in town called "The Counter" but again reports are that it is pricey as well though they use local beef and have about a thousand things to put on a burger. Maybe for a special occasion.


I broke down and ran electricity to the greenhouse yesterday. I didn't do it when I did the initial construction because I was in a hurry to get it up but I knew that I would eventually have to do so for heat and light. As winter approaches and the mornings get darker and cooler it became apparent that I need light and heat now. At 6am in the dark of the moon it's darker than an ape's armpit out there and with the night temps falling into the 40's it is getting too cool as well. I've been collected plastic gallon water jugs and filling them with water to add "thermal mass" to the greenhouse but there aren't enough yet to moderate the temperature.

The problem is I am a believer in following the electrical code which required running conduit since I didn't want to bury the cable a foot deep. Running conduit required drilling a 7/8" hole through the into the basement which I did through the wooden frame around the sliding glass door. All total it took almost 30 feet of 1/2" PVC conduit and three 90 degree turns to get to the greenhouse. More than one turn with 1/2" conduit and 12/2 Romex cable requires you to run the cable through all of the pieces of conduit and 90's before you glue it together or you will never get the cable through. Needless to say I got all the cable pulled through the straight and curved pieces of conduit only to discover that I had left out one union and had to pull out most of the cable, add the union and do it all over again. Silly me! Anyhow, got the one duplex outlet installed and hooked to a GFI 20 amp breaker in the box and so I had power for the heater last night. Today I am off to get a little more cable and a few more pieces of conduit bends so I can run a light and switch.
I am off to Home Depot to resupply and get to work. I also have to weed the garden. It seems like I am busier now than when I had a full time job as there is a constant list of things to do. My friends have also not forgotten that I mentioned building a wood fired oven and have asked me repeatedly when they could come for wood fired pizza so that is hanging over my head as well.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Butternut Squash Soup

In honor of the cooler weather I made a batch of butternut squash soup last night. It is so simple and good that I wonder why I don't make it more often especially since I have a large basket of the things in the basement.

1 good sized butternut squash roasted
1 medium yellow onion chopped
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter for sauteing the onion
1 quart low sodium chicken broth
1 clove of garlic chopped
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme or rosemary
1/2 to 1 cup heavy cream to taste
salt and pepper to taste

A good sized butternut will make enough soup for 4 people. You'll want about 3-4 cups of cooked pulp.
Cut the squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Put the squash cut side down on a baking sheet and roast it in a 350F oven for an hour. I use parchment paper to reduce clean up time and I hit the cut side of the squash with a bit of canola spray. Remove the squash from the oven and set it aside until cool enough to handle. While it is cooling, saute 1 medium yellow onion(chopped) until it just begins to caramelize...right at the end add a clove of garlic chopped finely. Once you can handle the squash, scoop out the pulp and along with the onions add it to a quart of low sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth. Season with a bit of salt and pepper and I like about a teaspoon of fresh thyme(rosemary works too). Simmer for thirty minutes. I blend mine with an immersion blender to make a puree and then add about a half to a cup of heavy cream.

I served mine with cheddar and thyme buttermilk biscuits.

Nice on a cool fall evening.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Tomato Season's End

The temperature dropped to 46F last night so I guess that means we are for real and truly into fall. If you are like me and have a garden you are seeing the final blush of peppers and a few straggling tomatoes. The tomatoes are small but still taste a world better than grocery store tomatoes and I am going to be sorry to see them go.

I don't know if I have mentioned it before here(and I am too lazy to go and look) but I often make a simple pasta sauce out of nothing but chopped fresh tomatoes cooked for a while in olive oil or butter. Sometimes a little shallot or onion and a dash of garlic but all the fresh tomatoes really need is a little salt and pepper. If you haven't tried this simple sauce for pasta you should give it a whirl. You can have a very nice supper on the table in the time it takes you to boil the pasta. I would suggest finishing the sauce with a little fresh basil to highlight the tomatoes. Try in both ways...cooked in olive oil and cooked in butter. Two different flavors but both nice. You can also through in a couple of anchovy filets for a change and they give the sauce a very interesting dimension and you won't taste the anchovies in the finished sauce as they just disappear.

Once the garden tomatoes are gone then you are going to have to rely on any you may have canned yourself or the canned tomatoes from the grocery. I try and avoid the domestic canned tomatoes in favor of the ones from Italy which are much better. Look for brands that say they are San Marzano tomatoes but be careful, there is also a brand called San Marzano which isn't nice at all. With these canned Italian tomatoes you can get a respectable sauce though it will lack that brilliance that you will get from your own or locally grown.
I should also mention that if you have the time and inclination, homemade pasta is hands above dried pasta from the box and it isn't hard. Be forewarned however, that once you start making your own pasta you will be spoiled and won't be happy with the boxed stuff. It's the same as having real Parmesan cheese or any proper hard cheese from Italy. One taste of Grana Padano or Parmigiana-Reggiano and you will wonder why you ever settled for the stuff in the green cardboard can or even fresh domestic Parmesan cheese.
Of course, the above simple tomato sauce is even better with a little good cheese on top.

Hard Work

Still finishing up tasks from the weekend flea market. I think the Hysterical Society must have borrowed folding tables from everyone in town but everything is returned to its owner. Overall very successful and a good chunk of change for the preservation project. Since all the stuff was donated all the sales were profit and expenses were pretty low. Portopotty rent for a weekend, hot dogs, ice, sodas etc. but not much. It's interesting to see how much money you can accumulate selling stuff for little or nothing. We did have some leftovers which went to the North Fulton Community Charities and we nearly filled their truck with various and sundry things. Thank goodness this comes only once a year as all that tent putting up and taking down, table hauling and all took its toll on the old man. I should be out in the garden weeding and cleaning up but I just don't think I can bend over for any time.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Great Day

Had a really good day at the 'Flea Fling' for Hembree Farm. Lots of people came out and we did pretty well on the money front but as always we need more. Most of the good stuff is gone but there are still some bargains to be had and we'll be back out there this afternoon.
Thanks to Dr. Know from Gone Like The Wind for coming out. He even bought some biscotti. We had a nice chat and now I understand why he hasn't been blogging since last year. Maybe he'll be back.
Off to fix breakfast and get my ducks in a row so we can head back out to the farm this morning.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Tent Day

Off to spend the day at the Hembree Farm setting up tents and tables for the big Historical Society flea market tomorrow and Sunday. This is big fundraiser for preserving the farm so it is big deal as money from other sources has really dried up. Used to be you could count on some corporate support but that money has all but disappeared. If you happen to be in the area of North Fulton/Roswell Saturday or Sunday there is some good stuff cheap and lots of good books. There are also some really good biscotti and chocolate walnut cookies for sale.

Updated to correct stupid spelling mistakes.