Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Gentle On My Mind

I was saddened to learn of the passing of Glen Campbell after a battle with Alzheimer's. What a country music giant. He had such a pure voice and amazing guitar skills and listening to his music brings me back to my childhood.  One of the last, if not the last, song he recorded was, "I'm Not Gonna Miss You."  It is about Alzheimer's and is extremely touching.  You can click the arrow and watch the video below and if you don't tear up, you are a lot tougher man than I:

In case you can't watch the video, here are the lyrics:

I'm still here, but yet I'm gone
I don't play guitar or sing my songs
They never defined who I am
The man that loves you 'til the end

You're the last person I will love
You're the last face I will recall
And best of all, I'm not gonna miss you
Not gonna miss you

I'm never gonna hold you like I did
Or say I love you to the kids
You're never gonna see it in my eyes
It's not gonna hurt me when you cry

I'm never gonna know what you go through
All the things I say or do
All the hurt and all the pain
One thing selfishly remains

I'm not gonna miss you
I'm not gonna miss you

What a beautiful, but absolutely heart-breaking song.  I can't stay there.  Let me change the subject...

I don't know if you ever do this, but I'll pull up You tube and go down a "rabbit hole."  I'll pull up an old song and play it and then similar songs appear on the right side of the screen.  I'll click one of those and listen to it and then another and another and before you know it, I'm looking at the clock and it is after midnight and I have work in the morning!

In doing so with Glen Campbell songs, it is like getting into a time machine.  Playing "Gentle on my Mind," "Wichita Lineman," "Galveston," "By the Time I Get to Phoenix," "Southern Nights," "Country Boy," brings me way back.  When I play "Rhinestone Cowboy," it reminds me of family vacations in the back of the station wagon with the whole family singing every single word to the top of our lungs as we barreled down the highway.  I can remember singing "You Light Up My Life," by Debbie Boone too.  Wow, that must have sounded bad!!

So as I think of that old music, it reminds me of HOW we used to listen to music, too.  My parents had an old console stereo, pretty similar to the one below. The top would slide back and forth and I can remember getting my fingers smashed in those sliding doors.

If you opened it, it had a stereo and a record player in it that played the big 78 RPM vinyl records.  It looked sort of like the one below on the inside, except for the fact that the area on the right was for storing all the 78 vinyl records.  If I recall, Mom and Dad had Burt Bacharach, Barbara Streisand, Herb Alpert, and the Tijuana Brass Band, The Soundtrack to "The Graduate," etc.

Whoa!  Would you look at that.  It is 11:49 pm and I have work in the morning.  I gotta sign off...  Music, and life, seemed much more pure back then.  In many ways I know it wasn't, but the memories are truly Gentle on My Mind.  RIP Glen.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Jambalaya, Crawfish Pie, File' Gumbo

I drove home after work and into the driveway to a downpour of rain.  More rain. Unbearably muggy and mosquitoes swarming like nothing you've ever seen.  Mud knee deep by the barn.  Gardening or working outside with the animals is out today. Bummer!

As I opened the back door and entered the house, a pleasing aroma lifted my spirits a bit. Tricia was humming, "Jambalaya, Crawfish Pie, File' Gumbo..."  Yep, you guessed it.  She made Crawfish Pie with the crawfish tail meat leftover from our crawfish boil that I blogged about BACK IN THIS POST.l

At the end of Russ' Crawfish Boil, we peeled the remaining crawfish tail meat that we couldn't eat and froze it.  Tricia made a delicious crawfish pie with a homemade crust. The recipe she used didn't call for a top crust, but she added it, knowing my preference.

Normally, I like to get in and change out of my work clothes, put on some comfortable "play" clothes and head out to do chores and garden or whatever else I find to do prior to coming in to eat supper.  Today, however, we ate early!  I couldn't wait to serve a plate (and then another and another!)

Here is a zoomed in photo where you can make out some of the crawfish tails if you look closely.  It was seasoned to perfection and the crust was flaky and delicious.

Normally, I complain a bit when I get rained out.  Not today.  Not with a hot crawfish pie coming out of the oven!

Monday, August 14, 2017

Beaches or Mountains?

For family vacations we usually choose between beaches and mountains.  We love them both.  There's no mountains anywhere near here and our beaches are, well, pretty much mud.  After several mountain vacations full of hiking and sightseeing, this year we chose a beach vacation.

We brought food from home, namely fresh eggs that our girls lay, and Tricia started our day with a delicious omelet stuffed with tomatoes, mushrooms, onions and peppers!  My goodness, what a way to start a day off!  Look at how dark yellow those eggs are.  That tells you that the hens that laid them are out in the grass and not locked up in a cage.  It also tells you that the eggs are tasty AND healthy.

After a big breakfast, we set up the tent in the sugar white sand, put on sunscreen and relaxed.  All Day Long!  Oh every once in a while I would get up and wade out a hundred yards and float in the surf, dive for sand dollars, and ride waves.  I also read a couple of books.  It was relaxing and rejuvenating, to be sure.

Despite forecasts of rain, the rainfall stayed offshore and didn't really threaten us at all. While swimming out in the deep water, Benjamin and I saw a dolphin jump out of the water right near us.  Pretty cool.

The surf crashing on the shore is a very peaceful sound in my opinion.  We woke to the noise of the waves and could hear it all night long from our balcony.  The waves keep coming and coming...

On the morning of our last day there, Benjamin and I walked way down the beach as we dodged the encroaching waves.  I may post a few thoughts about this later on. Brown pelicans flew over us, seagulls ran to and fro and little crabs skittered across the sand.  It was quiet and beautiful.

And soon, it was time to go home.  The beach and our little farm couldn't be more different.  From looking at sand and not a blade of grass to looking at dirt and fields of grass.  Both are beautiful and peaceful in their own way.  As much as I love getting away, I always love coming back home!

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Sonnier's Shed of Snakes

Here is the feed room in our barn. The brown plastic bins on the right contain, beginning with the first one, Dairy Ration for the cows and goats.  The middle bin has Laying Pellets for the hens and the last bin contains rice for the chickens.  The black bin in the back left contains Alfalfa "mulch" for the cows and the yellow bins in front of it contain extra storage for Laying Pellets.  The feed room is not really neat and orderly and needs to be cleaned up and organized.  Of course that will take place when it is about 30 degrees cooler.

Yesterday as I was pouring Laying pellets into the yellow bins, I moved the top one out of the way to begin pouring into the bottom one.  As I moved them, I was surprised by an unwelcome guest.

It was a long chicken snake.  The official name is Rat Snake. They aren't really dangerous, but they get so cotton-pickin' big, they scare you.  I have a buddy who will not kill them. He says they are "heat-seeking missiles" that destroy rats in his barn.  That may be the case in his barn, but in mine, the chicken snakes are lazy. Rather than seeking out and destroying rats, they would much rather destroy our eggs, since eggs don't move!

Because of their penchant for egg-eating, our rat snakes must go.  We had seen a reduction in our egg production and now I know why!  Doggone snakes! Fortunately I had a stick that I was able to beat the snake with until he was dead.  I killed him and threw him outside the door of the feed room on the barn floor.  The old boy was caught red-handed. Can you see TWO EGGS in his belly?  See the bulges right by my foot?

Remember back in high school biology class when you had to dissect worms or fetal pigs? Let's dissect this snake and retrieve the eggs!  I went back into the feed room to get a knife to perform the surgery with and wouldn't you know it, I got into a skirmish with a second snake!  This one put up quite a fight, striking at me, but he finally got the business-end of my stick and was incapacitated.  This one didn't have any "egg-bulges" in him, but he would have if he had gotten the opportunity.

The rat snakes laid side by side are roughly the same size.  Perhaps they were a husband and wife pair.  I'll keep a sharp eye out for their offspring!

It is clear that there are two chicken eggs in the snake's stomach.  What they will do is crawl through a small space, rubbing their side and burst the eggs inside them so that they can digest the contents of the egg.  I tried stomping on the bulges, but the eggs would not burst.  I think I know what is going on here!

To prove my suspicion, we must make an incision in the snake's belly to retrieve the stolen eggs.

Once the snake's belly has been cut in half, I use my foot to squeeze the egg out, revealing an egg that proves my suspicion - A Fake Egg!  It is not real, but ceramic. See the black line around the egg?  That is how I mark the nest eggs so we don't pick them up when gathering eggs.

I squeezed out the second egg and it was another fake egg.  This one is made of wood and is another nest egg.  What are nest eggs?  Well, for us they serve two purposes: We put them in the nesting boxes to encourage the hens to lay.  If they see an "egg" in the box, they'll lay their eggs with the nest egg and not out on the ground or in weird, hard-to-find places.  The second reason is to kill snakes.  If a snake eats the nest eggs, like this one did, he will have a case of constipation that no amount of Raisin Bran can cure and will die. When he finally dies and decomposes, we'll find his carcass and retrieve our fake eggs - only this time, we didn't have to wait for that to happen.  We got our eggs back fast!

With the egg thieves executed, the chickens joined me in dancing around the perpetrators, happy that justice had been served.

My wife was also happy that Sonnier's Shed of Snakes is now snake-less. Hopefully...

Thursday, August 10, 2017

A Cool Thing to Do on a Beach Vacation That Doesn't Involve the Beach

The end of vacation is always sad.  As we ended our beach vacation, we headed east instead of back west toward home.  Just a short 30 minute drive took us over the Alabama/Florida state line and to the Naval Air Station at Pensacola.  We had gotten word that on certain Wednesdays during the summer, tourists are invited to watch the Blue Angels practice for free.  A Free Air Show?  Are you kidding me?  We were on that like white on rice.

Many other people had the same idea. The traffic was especially backed up at the Main Gate where security was checking everyone's IDs, but we got there with a few minutes to spare.  We walked up to the flight line and stood on a grassy hill and watched as the solo Blue Angel pilot took off first.

He was followed by four others who flew VERY close to one another in tight formation. It was amazing to watch them.

The F/A 18 aircraft zoomed by us so fast it made our heads spin.

However while we watched the four aircraft in front of us, the solo pilot flew around behind us and came racing right above us flying very low and very fast and scared us all to death.  I jumped along with almost everyone else.  For the remainder of the 55 minute air show, I made sure that I could see all five of the aircraft together.  I didn't want to me scared like that again.

The solo pilot joined up in formation with the other four...

They soared heavenward at breakneck speed.

The announcer had names for each of the aerial stunts they performed. I thought they all were impressive.

After the air show concluded, we went into a couple of hangars there that housed the Naval Aviation Museum where they have all sorts of interesting aircraft on display.  We could have spent a long time in there, but had to get back on the road. Benjamin picked up a souvenir Blue Angels T-shirt

Before turning our car toward home, I snapped a photo of Benjamin and Tricia by one of the Blue Angels aircraft.  I really like that photo!

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Black Beans to Refried Beans

Back in THIS POST we talked about making homemade corn tortillas and the side dish with that meal was refried black beans.  When we can, we like to grow things and I had never grown black beans.  I ordered a package of Black Beans (Turtle Beans) from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds and we discussed planting and harvesting them In This Earlier Post.

Now the growing conditions were not favorable for growing beans during this time. In fact, it rained every day and a lot of the beans were unable to dry in the pods and actually sprouted in the pod and had to be discarded.  We did salvage some, however, and ended up with a white bowl full of shiny black beans.

I can remember back when my brother-in-law got married down in Mexico City, we went to eat breakfast and they served refried black beans as a side dish TO BREAKFAST!  It seemed weird, but it worked.  It was very good.  We like to eat black beans as a side dish. To get these beans into edible form, it takes a little bit of work, but not too much.  Here's what we did:

First Tricia soaked the beans overnight in filtered water mixed with a little vinegar. This causes the beans to swell up.  Soaking the beans reduces phytic acid that is present in them that reduces the bodies ability to absorb minerals.  By soaking beans, you are making them healthier!

Then Tricia pours out the water and rinses off the beans. She puts them in a pot, adds water to cover and adds kosher salt and then covers and cooks for about an hour.  Once they are all cooked, she tastes them for doneness and seasoning.  Now comes the usage of Tricia's favorite kitchen gadget.  My parents gave us an immersion blender that we use all the time.  Using the immersion blender, she purees the black beans.

The consistency of the black beans is still not right, though - too much liquid.  She adds a Tablespoon of cooking oil and continues cooking and stirring until some of the liquid evaporates and the consistency is perfect.  And there you have it - Refried Black Beans! They may not LOOK appetizing from the picture, but they are delicious!

We'll do this again, but I broke the cardinal rule of gardening - I "ate my 'seedcorn'". Because of the weather that contributed to a small harvest, I didn't save any of the heirloom seed I harvested to grow again next year.  When I sit down to take inventory of seed this Fall, I will definitely order more Black Beans.

Monday, August 7, 2017

"I Got My Toes in the Water.."

Benjamin starts up his Junior year of High School on Friday.  I can't even imagine. A Junior?  Tricia & I will soon be empty nesters...  Anyway, we wanted to get away for a well-needed vacation to relax and recharge.  A brief 6 hour journey east down I-10 gets us far away from the Mississippi River so that the sand is white and the water is blue.

Here is the view from our balcony.  The waves crashing against the surf, the Gulf Breeze, being away from work and life's responsibilities immediately slowed the pace of life down.  How nice it is when you don't need a clock or schedule?

It was Sunday and as Tricia was reading the Gospel of Matthew while we had "church" on the balcony, a dove flew in and lit in a palm tree so that he could attend 'services.'  His wife was in attendance as well on the other side of the tree, but a palm frond blocked her from view.

We kept in contact with some good friends of ours who were gathering eggs and feeding the animals while we vacation.  Everyone in the barnyard back home seems to be doing just fine.  We went to a restaurant that we had gone to years ago called Gulf Shores Steamer.  Their specialty is steamed seafood and we got a huge platter that feeds 4 that included Crab, Shrimp, Mussels, corn and potatoes.

The boys seemed to enjoy it and when we left there was nothing left except for corn cobs and shells.  We cleaned that platter off!  It was a full moon so we got back to our lodging and walked way down the beach, listening to the surf with our toes in the sand.  We turned the flashlight on our phones and caught crabs as they scurried along the beach.

I didn't want to leave our friends with more responsibilities at home, sooo....  We brought our fall crop of tomatoes with us on vacation.  They're just seedlings and very fragile right now.  Unfortunately, the rough trip in the trunk down I-10 for 6 hours broke some of them, but that is why I always plant twice as much as I need. That allows a cushion for some that won't germinate, some that die, and leaves me some seedlings left over to give away.

So as we continue to put our toes in the sand and turn our faces to the sun...

so do the tomato seedlings!  Perhaps taking the tomatoes on vacation will give the fruit a natural sea-salt infused flavor?
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