Archive for August 2014

08-29-2014 Journal Entry– More Garden News!   Leave a comment

As the summer continues to wind down we’re slowly preparing for the end of the garden and this years growing season.  We still have a few tasks that need to be completed before I take it down for the last time. We have what seems to be an endless supply of cherry tomatoes this year which we’ll be eating steadily until the first frost.  My better-half has taken steps to can a few quarts of those tomatoes and they’ll be delicious during the upcoming Maine winter. Even though they’re canned they taste better than those hot house selections available in the food stores.

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This is the first year we’ve grown black beans and I have to say they grow fast and in great numbers.  We spent a hour yesterday shucking the beans and delivering them to the dehydrator.  We can store them for a longer period of time once they’ve been sufficiently dried.

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We also planted three varieties of kale which are in need of processing in some fashion. Earlier in the summer we blanched a quantity which went directly into the freezer.  I harvested what I thought was a large quantity of kale leaves yesterday thinking I would dehydrate them and store them in jars much like dried parsley.  Then they could be used in soups or sprinkled on almost any food as a flavor enhancer.  I really do love the smell and taste of kale and look forward to using it as often as possible. Unfortunately once dried and crushed my large pile of leaves turned into a single quart jar full.

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‘Picked’

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‘Blanched’

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‘Iced’

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‘Finished Product’

I’ve been maintaining  a fairly accurate record of what our garden has produced thus far and I’ll be posting that list within a week or so.  I feel the need to brag a little because this garden has produced more than we could ever have hoped for.

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As you can see the concord grape wine has taken one more step towards final bottling.  It looks and smells wonderful and I managed to sneak a taste and it was excellent. A few more weeks and this batch will be finished and bottled.

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08-28-2014 Journal Entry–Road Trip!   Leave a comment

Yesterday was predicted to be beautiful and for a change those prescient weather experts were correct.  With that in mind and my better-half having a day off we decided to take a one day road trip.  One of our favorite areas to visit and take photographs is the White Mountain in New Hampshire. We packed up the car, visited a Dunkin’ Donut for coffee and then hit the road. Our goal was to enjoy the day, have a nice lunch, do a little shopping, and take a few scenic photos that could be used as screen savers.

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This is the shot looking back towards Maine from the foothills of the White Mountains.  What you can see in these shots is the beginning of our climb into the mountains while working our way west towards Lake Winnipesaukee.

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Off course as we travel along my better-half is on the hunt for antiques (junk). She considers it an unsuccessful trip if she can’t fill the trunk with the more interesting New Hampshire junk.  Everyone knows their junk is soooo much better than Maine junk.  She also has a disturbing thing for signs and what did we stumble on but a sign shop.  That’s a half an hour of my life I’ll never get back.

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Believe it  or not  this shop  with hundreds of  signs  both  new  and  old, didn’t have that certain special sign she was looking for.  I actually found a couple of things that interested me but since everything is still being priced for the visiting tourists I decided to wait and possibly return when the prices are rolled back to off-season rates.

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After a few hours of enjoying the scenery we entered the town of North Conway well known for it’s proximity to Mt. Washington and it’s endless outlet malls.  What a shock, a shoppers paradise in the wilderness.  The better-half immediately became rejuvenated and was smiling a whole lot more.  Here’s their somewhat famous and totally restored railway station. I know it’s boring but it’s the biggest building in town.

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It’s hotter than blazes so what do we do? We park the car on Main Street and decide to walk around and visit some shops.  I was sweating through my shirt after ten minutes. Fortunately she made a few purchases and her shopping withdrawal was appeased.  She mulled over the purchase of a cute little cast iron pig soap dish (she has a huge pig collection) at the Naked Bohemian shop but at the last minute decided against it. The Naked Bohemian is a shop full of hippy paraphernalia and I had a flashback or two just walking around. Head bands, tie-dye everything, and peace signs as far as the eye can see.  I lived through the sixties and this reminded me I wouldn’t want to do it again.

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You’ll be surprised to hear that she’s been second guessing her pig purchase decision and has been reminding me about it every fifteen minutes all the way home.  Off course I had my own issues.  I found a cool backpack made from feed sacks that caught my eye.  Just what everyone needs, right? Every time she mentioned the soap dish I immediately brought up the damn backpack. We’ll both still whining about it today. 

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The trip home was a pleasant drive and we stopped along the way to snap a few pictures at a group of smaller lakes and ponds.  These two were taken at Purity Lake.  A small puddle out in the woods in the middle of almost nowhere. A really beautiful spot.   It has greatly improved the look of my desktop already.

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All in all it was a pleasant day except for the good food we never had. We were so busy farting around we forgot to stop and eat.  We decided to stop on the way home but we passed only one restaurant along the unpopulated route we traveled and it was totally unacceptable.  We finally ate late in the afternoon at a place just ten minutes from our  home.  Oh well, nothings perfect.

08-25-2014 Journal Entry – Kimchi For Me!   1 comment

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‘Korean Kimchi’

With the Harvest season in full swing I’ve been wanting to come up with a recipe for something new and out of the ordinary.  I’m tired of the same old things and need to step out of the proverbial box if I can.  I reached back into my past for inspiration and actually found some.

Having spent a few years in the Republic of South Korea I was introduced to hundreds of dishes I couldn’t have ever imagined.  Some were killer and some were more than a little disgusting.  After my first year there I was able to adapt my pallet to a much more exotic range of foods.

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One thing in particular that at first glance turned my stomach was Korean kimchi, a foul smelling concoction that is eaten by every Korean at every meal. It smells to high heaven and is as hot as blazes. It’s a fermented Korean cabbage dish covered in a smoking hot red pepper mixture and fermented in clay pots buried in the ground for a month or two. Sounds pretty nasty I know but I eventually I came to like it a great deal. Thankfully, once you’ve eaten some of it you can’t smell it on the breath of others which was a blessing when you intended to spend time with native Koreans. It was a learned survival technique.

I decided I’d make an attempt to create a kimchi dish that had less stench, more flavor, and still have a decent level of heat. Much of the kimchi available here in the US is a milder Americanized version with a medium heat level for the faint of heart. I also have an real aversion to eating food that’s been left to ferment in the ground. I prefer something a bit more sanitary.

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Step one was to purchase ten pounds of good old American cabbage and a quantity of good quality habanero peppers.  Instead of fermenting the cabbage I decided to pickle it to allow for longer term storage.

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I shredded the cabbage into smaller than normal pieces to make it easier to handle when filling the jars.  I grated the onions and fresh ginger, mixed it together with the shredded cabbage and minced garlic.  I’ve developed a pickling mixture of jalapeño vinegar and a handful of other spices and seeds which I think should mimic the Korean flavor pallet.  I decided to make only six pounds of the mixture in case this first attempt failed.

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As you can see the end result looks good but will it taste good?  It’s been a week since I completed the batch and I’m about to give it my taste test.  It has that familiar pungent aroma and the level of heat is exactly where I wanted it to be. I’m pleased to announce that the flavor is a little sweet with a serious bite of vinegar. The spice mixture works well with everything else and of course the habaneros are working their magic. I’m a very happy person. This will make an excellent side dish for any meal and could even be used as a relish of sorts for hot dogs, hamburgers, and the  occasional taco. 

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‘Actual Korean Kimchi’

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‘My Version’

I look forward to many meals with this dish as a main component. I do anticipate a few adjustments in future batch’s to increase the heat and to refine the flavor to be closer to the original.  Cooking is such fun.

08-24-2014 Journal Entry–Swamp Stomp!   Leave a comment

What does beautiful weather and a lack of humidity mean to you? To me it means a day in the woods and swamps with my camera and a gallon of bug spray.  This summer hasn’t allowed me as much time as I’d like to roam around. We’ve been much too busy to take the time and I’m not at all happy about that. So today I decided to make time for a little of Mother Nature’s healing influences.

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I’ve been attempting this summer to collect as many photo’s as possible of the illusive dragonfly.  I packed up the car and made my way back to my favorite swamp for another attempt.  In years past there were a constant supply of dragonflies beginning in July and lasting until Labor Day.  This year has been quite a bit different possibly due to the higher than normal rainfall.  The number of dragonflies in the skies around our home has steadily increased over the last few weeks and I’m hoping for the best here in the swamp.

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As I arrived at the sanctuary I discovered a few vehicles parked around meaning other visitors in the area. Hopefully they’re here to pick black berries and aren’t stumbling around near the swamp scaring the wildlife away.  I cover myself in bug spray and head into the woods. The milkweed pods are in bloom in really large numbers this year. I’ve also noticed a much large number of thistle plants as well which always makes for interesting photographs.

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The closer I get to the swamp the more dragonflies I’m seeing and as I enter the swamp they’re everywhere.  I also notice that most of the ones I’m seeing are all the same color.  In a normal year I would see at least a dozen brightly colored variations but not today. 

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There are a few mallard ducks flying around but they refuse to sit still long enough for me to get a few photo’s.  They seem a little jumpy which could mean a few visitors had been in the area before my arrival.  I stumbled into an area with a large cluster of dragonflies so I stood perfectly still and waited for them to come around to check me out. This was my best picture of the day. This guy was a rather small specimen who’s actual size was only about an inch and a half long.

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Since the selection was somewhat limited I decided to move on to a secondary swamp located nearby that usually has large numbers of frogs and turtles.  I hope to find a little more activity there.  It’s unusually quiet today which can only mean previous visitors which for me isn’t a good thing. I arrive in the area and there’s no wildlife activity at all except for this stupid frog.  No dragonflies, one frog, and no turtles.  I decided to call it a day and began my trek back to my car.  It seems today was a wasted trip.

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As I made my way along the trail I came upon that group of visitors. They were all clustered around my favorite blackberry patch filling up their containers.  It appears a number of new people have stumbled onto the patch which translates to less berries for me and my better-half.  We’ll need to stop by in a few days and hopefully collect enough berries to make our usual batch of summer jam. 

We shall see.

08-22-2014 Journal Entry–Fair Season Begins!   Leave a comment

This weekend began the process of harvesting and the start of Fair Season here in Maine.  My better-half, her daughter and grandson decided to attend a small fair held in the town of nearby Acton, Maine.  Compared to some of the larger fairs it left a lot to be desired but that being said it has four things everyone loves here in Maine. There was livestock (and plenty of it), there was kids rides, dozens of food booths, and of course a country and western singer. Throw in a fat guy and tree and you got Christmas.

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I totally ignored my year long weight loss program to pig out a little on funnel cakes  and french fries and it was wonderful.  I’ve been looking for a good excuse or even a bad excuse to eat something bad for me because it’s been a long, long year.  I was even followed around for a bit by this yoyo who insisted I take his picture, so I did.  Munch this, bozo.

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There was a large variety of livestock for such a small fair and if you like cows you’d have been in heaven.

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The country singer was just barely acceptable and that’s an opinion from a person who dislikes all Country and Western music.  Even my better-half, the person who hums C&W music in her sleep, wasn’t impressed. There were a few interesting animals besides just cows like alpacas and goats but I couldn’t for the life of me find a horse anywhere to photograph.  I learned that today was only the first day of the fair and the horses weren’t scheduled to make an appearance until the weekend.  Too bad for me cause I’m not coming back.

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As I walked around I came upon this sheep being sheared.  I felt sorry for the poor thing because it looked very unhappy with it’s entire situation.

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It was a gray and cloudy day with a nip in the air to remind us all that Fall is arriving a little early this year.  We had a great time nonetheless and when the grandson got tired of being pushed around in the stroller it was time to go. This final picture I snapped as we drove away. This was a member of the traffic control team who was parking cars.  No uniformed police here in Acton, he was on lunch.

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08-20-2014 Journal Entry–Dangerous Stupidity!   Leave a comment

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Today has suddenly become a day of rest.  It wasn’t planned this way but I’m nothing if not flexible when it comes to loafing.  My better-half is gone to work, the cat is snoring at the bottom of the bed, and I’m watching an old rerun of Unsolved Mysteries while I type.  I had a bit of a scare yesterday so I’m relaxing today and trying to recuperate.  And of course it was a case of sheer stupidity on my part.

I awoke yesterday, had a cup of coffee, and then immediately headed for the treadmill for forty minutes of fun and torture.  That workout is fairly intense and I’m usually soaked and exhausted after I’ve finished.  I then took a short ride to Lowe’s to see my girl and to buy some supplies for what I hoped would be my last project of the summer.  I purchased 25 gallon of driveway sealer and returned home intending to store the cans and to do the job another day.

During the ride home I kept thinking about the project and convinced myself I could get it done today. The weather was in the eighties and the sun was beating down. The perfect day for this type of project I thought.  I swept the driveway, changed my clothes, and got to it.

In my bicycling days I was always told to avoid dehydration, "drink when your not thirsty".  One one occasion I fell from my bike during a 100 mile ride because I hadn’t consumed enough water. I ended up in a clinic being treated after almost passing out. Did I follow that hydration rule today? Of course not! I was in a hurry to get the job completed so I started immediately without drinking anything.

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An hour later I’m still at it, my clothes are soaking wet, and all of a sudden my legs gave out forcing me to sit in the yard for a few minutes to catch my breath. I knew what was happening so I slowly made my way into the house for water.  I drank two bottles of water and sat for a bit to cool off. I should have stopped at that point but the job was only half done and I wanted to finish.  I returned to it after putting on a hat and drinking another bottle of water.

Another half hour goes by and I find myself so weak I can barely stand. I sat down right where I was and couldn’t get up.  It took almost five minutes before I had the strength to move and return to the house.  More water and rest which didn’t help all that much. I knew I only had about ten more minutes of work to finish the job and decided to just do it, regardless of how I was feeling. That was stupid mistake number three.  I finished the job and barely had enough strength to return to the house. I took a cold shower and drank more water but felt no better. 

For the rest of the day and well into the night I wasn’t myself.  I couldn’t focus on any one thing and had lost my appetite completely.  I also slept badly during the night but it seems this morning I’m pretty much back to normal.  I still feel a little shaky but better.

I’m only relating this story as a warning to others not to be as stupid as I’ve been.  I could just as easily have dropped over and ended up in an ambulance rushing me to a hospital. This is from a person who knew better but said the hell with the circumstances, I can handle it.  I couldn’t. It was more than a little scary but I guess it takes absolute terror to get through to me.

Remember to hydrate before your thirsty, while your thirsty, and again after you’re no longer thirsty.  This has been my first and hopefully last health related Public Service Announcement.

08-18-2014 Journal Entry – Doctor’s Suck!   Leave a comment

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I have a few least favorite things but two in particular. First, I hate having my teeth drilled. The sound and smell of teeth drilling makes me cringe because it’s been done all to often over the years. Second, I hate doctors, nurses and hospitals. I do realize they’re  a necessary evil but I hate them none the less. 

My late mother was never a well person. Through all of her illnesses and surgeries there paraded scores of doctors who spent more time spending her money than fixing her problems. Each specialist prescribed different medicines and drugs with little or no thought to the many others doing the same damn thing.  They almost killed her a couple of times with their constant insistence that the next drug was the one that would fix everything.  She trusted them with her life but I will not. 

I’m ranting about doctors because I spent yesterday afternoon being manhandled by the new and improved healthcare system.  Obamacare cost me my doctor of fifteen years when he threw up his hands last year, sold his practice, and left the country. I really wish I could have gone with him.

I arrived yesterday to go through an annoying series of blood tests which are required every time I turn around.  I arrived early being the obedience dumb ass  that I am and then sat for forty minutes while I waited for a computer person to enter my name into a freaking computer. Big surprise, they had no record of my blood test request or my upcoming doctors appointment.  My obedient behavior became a thing of the past as I intimidated everyone involved to pull their heads out of their collective asses and get their act together.  After another half hour I was advised that my doctors appointment I thought was scheduled for next week had been changed. Oops, no one sent me an email or letter telling me that.  After much bitching and complaining on my part they agreed to fast-track my blood work to have it ready for my newly scheduled appointment tomorrow at 10am.

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I had a surly and annoying young lady stick me and remove a number of tubes of my beautiful red blood.  She was in quite the mood about something but decided to be an asshole toward me.  Little did she know that I was once married for a very long time and that my-ex wife made her look like an freaking amateur when it came to pissing me off.

It’s now tomorrow and I’ve just returned from my annual doctors appointment  All my numbers were perfect but he insisted on giving me the old one fingered prostate exam while a female assistant looked on. She was hot enough to be one of my hundreds of sexual fantasies but not after today. That ship has sailed.  He then announced that he had an early Christmas gift for me this year. He’ll be scheduling me for my fifth colonoscopy in the last 9 years. My ass seemed to be very popular today for some reason.

Just to reiterate, I hate effing doctors, Medicare, Obamacare and Obama as well.

08-16-2014 Journal Entry – Fall is Beginning!   Leave a comment

My better-half has announced a day-off today so we’ve planned an outside workday at home. Believe it or not Fall is just a few weeks away and we’ll be starting the process of closing down the garden soon.  If we do a little each week then it won’t be such a challenge.

I really was in denial about Summer being over until yesterday.  We were driving around enjoying the nice day when horror of horrors I noticed a few trees whose leaves have begun to turn red. I was a little surprised but a few days before I’d also noticed a large flock of birds gathering  in a wooded area near our home.  Both signs of an impending season change.

I guess it’s time to plan the work for today. Job #1: Cut the grass.  That’ll have to wait until afternoon when the grass has dried somewhat. All the rain we’ve been receiving of late makes cutting in the morning impossible. 

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This morning will entail us working in the least favorite job we have.  If you’ve ever seen the movie Apocalypse Now, you’ll remember that famous quote of Robert Duvall’s, "I love the smell of napalm in the morning."  Here in Maine during this time of the year we have a quote of our own, "We love the smell of compost in the morning." If you’ve never had the opportunity to work in compost you don’t know what you’ve been missing. There’s nothing that says Fall like standing knee deep in a large pile of decomposing vegetable matter that oddly smells like an outhouse. If on a hot, sticky and humid day you took a rotten egg, wrapped it in a smelly old sock, then wrapped it in a really nasty pair of old filthy underwear, and rubbed it under your nose, you’d understand.  That will be our morning today.

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‘Piles 1, 2 and 3”

Pile 1 will be used for the garden in 2015. Pile 2 will be used in two weeks. Pile 3 will be used 2016.

A compost pile is crucial to keeping your garden happy and healthy. It replaces many of the nutrients needed to grow vegetables and they must be replaced every year. Unfortunately there are certain things a compost piles needs.  It needs vegetable matter, water, heat, and stirring.  Stirring is just taking the pile and turning it over with a pitchfork to allow more air to get into the mix and to help grow the bacteria that accelerates the decomposition process. That being said the reality is that it smells bad, really bad.  After working in it today I’ll be smelling that smell for a day or so. It’s gross and more than a little disgusting.  A typical day in the life of most farmers and part-time gardeners like us.

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‘A big moist and steamy pile.’

I need to get to work soon but I wanted to tell you about my fun yesterday. Each year we do a large amount of canning but we always like to try new recipes we’ve found or created.  Yesterday I made for the first time a batch of hot Radish Relish. It takes  a few pounds of radishes, vinegar, habaneros, sugar, salt, and a few other spices. The result as you can see is a beautiful and savory red relish that will be great on burgers, hotdogs and can add a little zing to your tacos as well. Sometimes these experimental things fail miserably but not this one.  I look forward to making it many more times in the future.

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‘Start’

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‘Finish’

08-14-2014 Journal Entry–Wet Weather & Hot Salsa!   Leave a comment

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Now that the rain has finally stopped I might be able to get out the house for a few hours. The last week minus two days has been pretty damn wet.  Last night at 2am I took a peek out the rear window and surprise surprise, there was three feet of water in the back yard.  The runoff from the surrounding hills became so heavy there was nowhere else for it to go. Fortunately the yard drains very quickly and once the rain stopped the flood disappeared. 

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‘The Beginning’

With all the rain keeping us inside I decided to take care of another cooking chore while I had the chance. I spent a good part of the day yesterday making salsa.  My normal salsa recipe makes 10 quarts or 20 pints but I decided to increase it by fifty percent. I purchased the necessary ingredients, returned home and got to work.  It took longer for me to dice the peppers, onions, and tomatoes than it did to complete the entire batch.  Three hours later the kitchen looked like a tomato bomb had exploded but the end result was well worth the effort. I finished the batch with 13 quarts and 8 pints of some killer Roasted Corn & Black Bean salsa.

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I changed the recipe a bit and added more habaneros, less jalapeños, and a healthy heaping tablespoon of cayenne pepper.  I call this batch my Commando salsa. As your eating it,  it slowly creeps up behind you when your not paying attention and blows the top of your head off.  It has an immediate hit of habanero to jolt you a little and then the jalapeños lessen the burn somewhat.  Just when the heat is subsiding from those jalapeño’s the cayenne kicks in at the  back of your throat and nails you hard.  With that mixture of peppers the more you eat the hotter it gets but man it’s a wonderful pain.

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‘The End Result’

As of this morning it’s been canned, labeled and placed on the shelf. There should be more than enough to keep us salsa happy for this entire winter. I’ve worked my winter cooking list down to just two remaining items.  I need to make a huge batch of chili and some hot pickle relish. Once those are complete I’ll pretty much be done with the garden for this year.  I should be able to start removing some plants and begin the cleanup in two or three weeks. 

Fall is fast approaching and I can’t wait. 

08-14-2014 A Load of Useless Information!   Leave a comment

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After a little reflection it occurred to me that many of you have heard enough about gardens, canning, and other assorted foolishness I’m involved with. There will certainly be more of that soon enough but not today.

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This blog was named Every Useless Thing for a reason.  I love odd facts and facts that aren’t commonly known.  I’ve drifted away from that of late and that needs to be remedied.  I’ve been collecting sources of  useless information for many years and still have a lot to pass on to all you.

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As I sit here trying to concentrate I keep praying that this Novocain my dentist shot me full of wears off soon.  I’m afraid to drink any hot coffee for fear of scalding my mouth.  He said it’s effects should pass after an hour or so.  It’s not that I think he doesn’t know what he’s talking about but dammit it’s already been two and half hours.  I‘m sure you’ll be glad to know that after his fine work this morning I’m beautiful again. The world can once again rest easy.

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Let’s get to the good stuff.  More things you could care less about unless you hope to win a trivia contest or a few bar bets.

  • In case anyone ever asks, here are the seven Japanese gods of luck:

Bishamon, Daikoku, Ebisu, Fukurokuju, Jurojin

  • Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon using his left foot first.
  • President Andrew Jackson’s pet parrot had to be removed from his funeral in 1845 because it was swearing.
  • Lee Harvey Oswald was dyslexic.
  • Joseph Stalin, whose  left arm was noticeably shorter than his right, also had webbed toes on his left foot.
  • In the eight year period Ronald Reagan was president, the White House bought 12 tons of his favorite jelly beans.

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I know you’ve missed this stuff no matter what you tell me.  It just keeps getting more interesting and exciting. (sarcasm off)

  • The difference between a nook and a cranny is that the nook is a corner and the cranny is a crack.
  • Race car is a palindrome.
  • Mick Jagger turned down a 3.5 million pound advance offer on his memoirs from a publisher because, he said, “couldn’t remember” enough significant details from his own life.
  • Idiot quote: “Everything that can be invented has been invented.” U.S. Patent Office 1899
  • A cat has four rows of whiskers.

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I’m almost finished so hang in there for a minute. It’s not really as boring as you seem to think.

  • The license number of the General Lee in The Dukes of Hazard was CNH 320.
  • There are 1,943 names listed in the closing credits of The Matrix Reloaded.
  • Virginia Woolf wrote all her books standing up.
  • “Most cars on our roads have only one occupant, usually the driver.” –Carol Malia, BBC TV presenter.
  • Pasta vermicelli means “little worms”.

All finished, another installment of useless crap has been distributed. Use it at your own risk, it can sometimes piss people off. You’ve been warned.