OK So Crow begrudgingly logged me in to do a guest post. Again. I like think that it is not my ego (but thanks for all the kind words on previous guest post) so much as it is the contemplative state I achieve on Friday or Saturday nights, knowing that the next day's schedule allows for a few extra ales or lagers, and a few more minutes or sleep, or the satisfaction of knowing that (although I love my job) the coming day is full of productivity on things that make Crow and I happy. Full of elbow-grease and tidying up loose ends and maybe shoveling a stall or two, or sorting through salvaged produce for crisp greens for the various fowl, or splitting old locust logs into kindling and smallwood burners for the kitchen woodstove...
Those things make me happy. So if you see what Crow and I do here, and you see the level of happiness, keep in mind that it is mostly because those day to day things are things that we knew would be enjoyable, and difficult, all at the same time. This place is a paradise, but only for those who find satisfaction and peacefulness is hard work and the expenditure of effort for things they can call their own. At least that is my view of it. Crow's may differ, depending on the day, phase of the moon, etc... I don't really know. That is a secret I haven't shared here. Despite our connectedness and beautiful story of meeting each other, and how well we mesh, I generally have absolutely not goddam idea what she is on about, usually. For example, a few nights ago I came home from work:
She had sent me an email while I was at work, telling me about all the kind folks in one of her "Duck Groups" or "Poultry Groups" (Sorry if you are a member and reading this, you really DO all sort of blend together for me, but NOT for Crow) who had heard about the subject matter of the last post (sorta my fault) and had started sending gift certificates for a certain hatchery, lets call it "Bob's", so she could replace the losses. Her email read (and I am paraphrasing "Holy SHIT! I was really sad but so many kind people are offering to send stuff to help replace what I lost because they heard the story and that makes me feel better, but Holy SHIT! What if I use that to get more and then something bad happens to them?" So I emailed her back something like "Please take some pork chops out of the freezer. I think we also have some frozen turnip greens. I will be working a little bit late. About the ducks and chickens, etc... we will talk when I get home, but I think they are just being nice, so you are not obligated to create a miracle just because they are being nice. Thank them for being nice, and then stop feeling guilty or whatever subtle emotion you are feeling that I don't have words for and can't really understand. Also, please feed Izzy I forgot to feed her last night."
Because the farm stuff is my weekend interest, while throughout the week I do ecological consulting. I can't explain what that entails, because its mostly just doing what I think is appropriate and billing various clients. Crow, however, knows each animal like it was her baby. They are all her babies.
So I got home from work, and eventually started to unwind on the couch, killing time while reading various news on my laptop. Crow spoke up (that is her favorite time to tell me stuff) "So they sent all this gift certificate stuff to Bob's, I'd like you to look at this breed of duck, because it might be hardier than the runners."
"Who?" I asked, because the 'Bob's' name didn't ring a bell.
"All those kind people who sent certificates so that I could replace the losses" Crow said.
"Right, they sent the stuff. I get that. So what are you asking?" I said.
"Well I am wondering about the etc. etc. etc. at Bob's for the stuff they sent." said Crow.
"Who?" I asked
"The nice people" said Crow.
I wanted to scream, but I didn't want to scare Bella the beagle who was on my lap doing her traditional Bella weaseling. I just nodded and said "MmmHmmm" because I was too tired to explain why I kept asking "Who?" Bob's is. It grew quiet again. I went back to reading.
She spoke up again "I was talking to Nicky and she was telling me etc. etc. etc. about Bob's, so what do you think about etc. etc." Here was my chance, so I asked her, very plainly "Who?"
"You know, Nicky," said Crow, "remember when she came here and she was moving and she brought all the ducks and geese..."
I wanted to scream again. Who in the hell was 'Bob's'? (By the way, Nicky, I will never forget you, your talks and subsequent visit here with Crow injected a whole new level of interest, and you gave her so much trust, and you got to eat a part of Slingblade, and we shared a smoke... I knew who she was talking about when she said Nicky :-) "
So that is my example of how I hardly ever know what she is going on about. Just one example. There are probably lots of them, more than I even know. But it doesn't matter, because I know who she is, and she knows who I am, and even if we don't know what the other is talking about, we know where they are coming from.
But I don't know if any of the readers here really know where I am coming from. Probably very few, because I have only posted a few entries here. So tonight I thought I would share something at the core of where I am coming from. Yes, I know, that was a long prelude. That is because I was doing lots of other stuff in the interim and couldn't figure how to transition. So here goes - a recipe for happiness. I made this tonight and I am eating it right now. It is a local variation on Chili con carne:
1 1/2 lbs. fresh ground pork sausage with Taylor's spicy seasoning
1 1/2 lbs. fresh ground venison
2 TBSP. of olive oil (unless the venison was ground with some fatty meat, in which case you won't need oil"
1 small can of RO-TEL diced tomatoes and green chilis
1 small can of RO-TEL tomato sauce with green chilis
(I say small can because I can't be bothered to read the label. I just know that it is good. I'm guessing about 8 ounces each)
5 medium, juicy tomatoes, diced
Two large green bell peppers, diced
One quart of fresh-shelled October beans grown by the neighbor (I don't know of a supermarket equivalent, not sure if there is one or not)
Two cups of soaked pinto beans
Four cups of soaked kidney beans
One large onion
Twelve - 16 oz bottles of a hoppy IPA (Harpoon is OK, Lucky Star is also nice, but feel free to have fun with this one)
5 TBSP Coarse ground black pepper
3 TBSP coarse salt
2 TBSP fine paprika
1TBSP fine cinnamon powder
1/2 cup cola (RC, if you can get it :-))
1TBSP crushed, dried Cayenne
Finish at least two bottle of IPA before starting.
Brown the sausage in a large stock pot. Don't drain it. Taylor's doesn't add fat, anyway. Add half of the spices, at various intervals, as you feel like it, while having another IPA. Let the sausage get really brown. If it starts to get too hot or smell of burning, sploosh a little of the IPA on it to cool it. Keep stirring it. Try a hard plastic spatula, then a metal one. Spend a few minutes looking for the spatula - if you find it in the dishwater then rinse it really well and continue. Butter knives work OK, too, just make sure you don't let the sausage stick in the stock pot.
Once it is nice and brown and the whole house smells of sausage, open the ROTEL cans. Both of them. Pour them onto the sausage and stir. Add some IPA if you want, maybe just a sploosh. Whatever amount feels stylish and awesome. Taste the stuff in the pot. Taste some more. Spoon out a little bowl of it and eat it, and get another IPA.
Set that pot on the back burner, on low heat. Get out a frying pan and place the ground venison in it, along with the olive oil, on medium heat. Chop the hell out of it with the spatula (either one, but if you are using a teflon coated pan, go easy with the metal spatula) as it browns in the oil. At some point, it will be about half brown and half pink. That is a good time to spread it all over the pan evenly and get another beer. Yeah, I don't know what happened to the other one, either. No way in hell I already drank the whole thing.
Go ahead and start the hunt for the cutting board. It will take awhile. Once you find it, you should probably have another drink. Then find the cinnamon and the paprika. I am not even sure what the paprika adds, its just that I did it once in my chili and I thought it was great so now I always use it. We don't use paprika in anything else that I know of, so between chili cooking intervals it has a way of hiding in the very back of the highest cabinet, behind the green food coloring and the dog antibiotics with two tablets left. Because it is such a high cabinet you may want to push a stool over, but remember that the three legged ones are unstable. So have another drink, muster up your willpower (it all smells so good at this point) and push the tekewood Balinesian bench across the hardwood into the kitchen and stand on that. It is very stable.
So now, the venison is ready to be seasoned. If you can't remember whether you did already, or not, its OK. Just do it again. Then stir it up some more and finish that current beer while you add the soaked beans to the other pot that has the sausage and stuff. Stir all that, and crank the heat up to halfway between medium and high. Drink.
Stir the venison. Do that same cool-off trick you did with the sausage, keeping in mind that you should drink more than you cool with, because the pan is shallow and you don't want to spill the beer onto the burner. Taste the vension. Clear your palate with beer. Add some of the red pepper. Taste again. Finish the current beer.
Did we chop the pepper and onion yet? Who cares, if we did, we're good, take a break and have a beer. If not, we're good, do that now and have a beer.
Add that stuff, the vension, the chopped pepper and onion, and any drained, soaked beans that you havent added, to the stock pot. If there is anything else laying around that looks like it might belong in the pot, put that in, too. If you drained everything correctly, the stock pot is almost full to the top with a really thick, steamy mess of ground meat and beans. It needs more liquid. Sacrifice a beer, except for one big gulp. Stir it all up. Put the rest of the spices in, and put a lid on the stock pot. Turn the heat down to simmer and go feed the dogs. Surf the web a little and have some more beer.
After awhile, you will smell the sweet gloriousness wafting in from the kitchen. That is your cue to taste it. Add whatever you think it needs. Probably nothing at this point. Ladle a large bowlful and kick yourself that you didn't think about cornbread. Grab another beer and settle onto the couch, and smile to yourself that life is so awesome.