Saturday, February 18, 2012

Guest Post: Rusty - A Recipe for Happiness

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.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


We had a little tragedy here at the farm. Due to a heater in the uphill barn house too much carbon monoxide built up and suddenly took out many of my ducks and chicks. Everybody up there is either a rabbit, a hospital patient, or too young or fragile or precious to be mixed in with the flock. I lost many. Too many to list.

I originally thought it was the food or water and in a panic removed it all, but when more birds began to die, that had been fed different food and different water, I knew it was not that. It happened too quickly if it was an illness, as they would have got sick at intervals. Not all drop at once. By the time I figured it out, more were going down hill. Rusty and I rushed to open windows and pump fresh air in. We desperately picked up ducks and brought then to the windows, attempted to keep them awake so they would keep breathing and cycle the carbon monoxide out. We worked on everybody. Talking to them, holding them. Trying to will them back, when they had no more will in them to come back. For many it was too late.

All I could do after the house aired out was to make them nice cozy nests and keep warming lights on. After being emotionally and physically exhausted, I said goodnight to them and tucked them all in.

This morning, as much as I had hoped for the best, it was somewhat expected to walk in and see that all the birds that were affected badly the night before, did not, in fact, make it through the night. I guess I went into shock, and systematically picked up dead birds and stacked them in a box. I then cared for all of the survivors and went outside with ice pick in hand to break the thick ice in the all of the water bins and pools. I broke the pick doing so.

It has been a tough week.

Last week, I found out the results of my thoracic MRI on my back. Basically, from discs 5-6 all the way to 10-11  are bad. That was just the middle back scan. I have yet to have them do a scan on the cervical or lumbar. The neurologist said it would likely get worse.

Also, I found out that my 24 hour heart holter showed "frequent PVCs" (nothing new just documented) and some sort of tachycardia event. I have an appointment at the cardiologist. I went through all of this in FL. Beta blockers make my blood pressure drop too low, and heart anti-arrhythmia medicine makes my heart go crazy.I was set to get a cardiac ablation in FL, but my heart specialist felt the need to tell me how I needed to find Jesus and gave me a bible at one of my appointments. He had obviously saw what I listed as my religion when I was in the cardiac unit at the hospital. A heart ablation is when they go in through your groin up the main artery to the heart and kill the misfiring cells. Imagine, me letting this doctor burn this witch's heart. I left and never went back to him. I refused to pay the copay too. (I am so tough.) My primary doctor was LIVID when he found out and called the specialist up while I waited in the exam room. The walls were thin. He was mad, swearing mad. I was supposed to go to another specialist, but I moved and I have been busy healing myself, and stuff here.

The weird thing is, I feel, as a whole person, much better than I ever had. I feel healthier, even though all hell  might be breaking loose around me. I feel more strong, satisfied and centered.

How is that?

Anyway, I was not happy hearing I was worse. I am better, damn it! I hated loosing the very little ones I had brought in or raised up, and had an obligation to protect. I do not like things happening that is beyond my control... because I would have to admit that there are things that are beyond my control. Ok. Fine I admit it. BUT. I do not have to succumb to it. I do have control of how I react to what life gives me and what I choose to do with it.

Not everything was tough this week.
I learned a whole bunch. I got many surprises.
An artisan crow necklace came from Nicky, my wonderful friend who when moving to Scotland gave me her ducks and geese to care for. I held the clay crow pendant in my hand today, thinking of her.
A card from my Mom and Stepfather that said they were proud of who I have grown to be.
A box of hospital supplies, from my dear bloggy friend. I mean everything. More about this later.
Same friend left a song for me... One of my very favorites that I haven't heard in a long, long time. It was spooky that she left this for me. Good spooky. I got the chills.

Today I received an awesome homesteading book from my brother with a live lizard that hopped out of the box when I opened it. (Spooky time) Immediately, I had to look up the Animal Medicine Card for the Lizard. I mean I had just got done stacking up dead birds, when I came inside and sat down to open the box. Here is what the lizard card says:

"Lizard medicine is the shadow side of reality where your dreams are reviewed
before you manifest them physically.

If you have a Lizard totem, listen to our own intuition above anyone else's.
Pay attention to your dreams for they show us
what we do not perceive when awake.
Dreams are shadows showing your fears and hopes.
Make a dream log and record your dreams.
Look for your symbolic and reoccurring dreams and study them carefully.

Lizard can also teach you to become more detached in life.
Sometimes it is necessary to separate yourself from others
to accomplish what is necessary.
Lizard helps you awaken the ability for objective detachment.
It can show you how to break from the past."

Just tonight and out of the blue, I got something back that I wrote to a friend when I first moved here. (He is a healer, a clergy man, and obviously a tad in tune with the flow.) Here is part of what I wrote:

I know the body is the last red flag that the ship will go down if you do not go down to the hull and see the hole. I have to tell my cells and organs that have lived so long in battle, that they/we have won. I have to go there, not for long, but I have to visit the core. I travel as not a victim, but as a victor.

I would say my ship is sailing despite the rough seas. More good spooky stuff.

Today, as I told my bird friends or (friends with birds) about my farm tragedy, I got messages of love and support. Offers to help, and loads of compassion. When something like this happens, what you need most is to feel loved. I do. Nobody judged me, as I tried very hard not to judge myself.Thank you all.

Perhaps in all of this is the answer to my question above:

How is that?

I guess I have to add it all up. All the pieces to the puzzle are always right there in front of us on the table of life. One just has to figure out how to put together all the pieces.Nothing like death to make you go back to the basics of puzzle solving.

I better stop rambling and get some sleep.

good night, or good morning-- good everything