Sunday, October 26, 2008

Family Secrets in: We want yours. in: Your favorite recipes.

We are hoping to put together a cookbook as a fundraiser for Amelia's service dog (see sidebar). We thought this would be a good way to let people contribute in a way that didn't involve those ever-more-precious dollars and cents. Hopefully the cookbook itself would have lasting value too.

So if you've got something good you want to share (or even something mediocre if it comes with a good story attached) leave us a comment, drop us an email, send us a telepathic message, or whatever other method of communication you favor.

It can be traditional, modern, ethnic, offbeat, vegetarian, breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert, midnight snack, something for company, something for holidays, something for just you, your grandma's secret, your own invention, something you stole, something blue, a canning recipe, dog treats, easy, hard, fast, slow, long, short, extremely healthy, or a heart attack drizzled with cheese sauce. Just no seafood. ;-)




Friday, October 24, 2008

The Incredible Shrinking... Everything

Maybe Richard Heinberg had it right when he titled his book "Peak Everything." I mean, usually when there's a recession, certain sectors do well. Not the same sectors every time, but the money usually moves somewhere - bonds, commodities, precious metals, real estate... somewhere.

But this time, everything is falling dramatically, and all at the same time. The stock market is nearing a 50% drop from it's peak. Oil is already over 50% down. As is corn. Houses are off about 20%, depending on who you ask. Gold is off 30% from it's peak. Bonds and money markets are both very shaky. All levels of government are reporting shortfalls, sometimes to the point of cutting municipal services.

So where have all those trillions of dollars gone?

Best I can figure is that they just went *poof*. As in massive deflation. Investors would love to buy or hold their gold, but they have to sell to cover their stock losses. And vice versa.

What does it all mean?

I don't know. But I don't think I really like it all that much.

An Indian friend of mine who has been through bank failures, economic swings, and other such nonsense likes to say that at times like this, you shouldn't worry so much about the return on your money, just the return of your money.



Monday, October 20, 2008

The (Cherry) Pits

I've talked here before about my difficulty in choosing the "best" winter heating fuel. We have a "biomass" stove, designed to burn wood pellets, corn, or other small, "pellety" fuels. Not that there have been many other options available up until now, but our appliance can hypothetically burn oats, sunflower seeds, grass pellets, and various other things.

I struggled with the ethical dilemma of burning corn for the same reasons I think ethanol is a flawed option. Namely, that you're pitting food and fuel against each other, which can only drive up prices. Not good in a world of seven billion people who all need to eat.

But it does burn hot and clean, and I can get it unbagged, in bulk, from very local sources - so I could "heat local." I could even theoretically grow enough myself to get me through a winter, which I keep hoping to try. Storage is a pain, because it attracts rodents and other critters, but once we got the chickens, at least we had a crack clean-up crew.

The other option, wood pellets, has its own pluses and minuses. Currently most of the wood pellets made come from sawdust - a byproduct of other industries. The downside is the sawdust has to be dried, formed into pellets, bagged, and shipped. It's usually been shipped a long way, but I can pick up the pellets within about 5 miles of my house.

From a practical standpoint, they both have their good and bad points as well. The ash from the corn is much easier to clean up. It's kind of sandy, and cools quickly, as opposed to the fine, fluffy ash from the pellets that stays hot for an hour after the fire is out. But the corn tends to form "clinkers" when burned - hard, black chunks of pure carbon that adhere to the stirring mechanism and have to be busted out from time to time.

Last year we settled on a mix of corn and pellets. It was kind of the best of both worlds. The ash was easier to deal with, there were no clinkers, and we could get some of the benefit of the lower cost and higher temperature of the corn, balanced with the easier and less ethically muddy pellets.

This fall, I was surprised to find my local supplier offering a third option: cherry pits. Like pellets, they are essentially a waste product. Like pellets, they have to be bagged and shipped. But unlike pellets, they are not manufactured. They also come from a much closer source: Michigan.

So I decided to give them a shot this year. I'm hedging my bets, with a fuel supply of two-thirds pellets to one-third cherry pits.

The cherry pits are less dense than the pellets, so a 40 lb bag is bulkier. This resulted in comically (and precariously) tall stack of bags in the back of the pickup truck. Their lower density means you can't pack as many into the stove's hopper, at least by weight.

I'm told they burn hotter and faster than pellets. They were priced the same. They have a lovely sound rustling together that reminds me of... something. A rain stick. And the exhaust (I can't really call it smoke) smells like cherry wood burning instead of roasted grain.

I'll have to report back after we've had some really cold weather to give a full report, but I have to say I like the concept. It's got a bit of a permaculture feel to it. I have high hopes.

I know I should end with some twist on a bowl of cherries and the pits. But I won't.


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Friday, October 17, 2008

Pushing the Pie Party Platform

It has come to my attention that presidential hopeful Barrack Obama is apparently a regular reader of my friend Sharon's highly influential blog.

Who can forget her seminal post, "We're Going to Need More Pie"?

If I may quote:
I’m in favor of pie. I mean, what could be better than pie? It is commonly associated with good, noble things like motherhood, America, light bondage and domination, clowns and the federal reserve, so how could we not be for pie? In fact, who isn’t for pie? Well…I have to tell you the ugly truth. There are powerful anti-pie interests in our government, and people working night and day to restrict your pie access. But we here at Casaubons book (Who is “we” you ask in puzzlement? Well, Sharon has obviously gone off the deep end writing her book, as you can tell from this post, so mostly the voices in her head. But they sometimes wear cool hats, and one of them is named “Leo.”) are committed to bringing you the truth about pie access and other equally crucial issues, like socks and beer.
Now let me quote from a recent stump speech by Obama. This speech was given almost one year to the day after Sharon's Pie Post. In his speech, Obama mentions pie no less than 15 times in under two minutes:
We decided to stop at a diner because I was hungry and I decided I wanted some pie. Pie - That's what I wanted. You make pie? What kind of pie you make? Sweet potato pie? I like sweet potato pie. I'm thinking of having a sweet potato pie here in Philadelphia. Because I've heard a lot of people are saying they can make sweet potato pie. I'll put it up against my mother-in-law's sweet potato pie. Alright, you give up? ... So anyway, they did not have sweet potato pie in Southern Ohio. So I had coconut cream pie. The governor of Ohio, he had lemon meringue pie. So we ordered our pie and I decide that I'm going to take a picture with the wait staff, because they all say that the owner of the diner is a die-hard Republican, so they want to take a picture with me so they can give him a hard time. And just as we're finished taking the picture, the owner comes out, with our pie. So I take my pie, and I say I hear you're a die-hard Republican, sir...
Sounds like a solid endorsement of Sharon's revolutionary Pie Platform to me.

Here's the video clip of Obama's Pro-Pie speech:

In other news, I got a big kick out of both Obama's and John McCain's speeches at a recent charity event. I thought both candidates were very funny.

McCain, parts 1 and 2:

Obama, parts 1 and 2:

And finally, to further alienate any readers who have low-bandwidth connections (or who are uncomfortable with profanity), here's a three-part series from Funny or Die. I love the premise - "John McCain's 7th House is an apartment. Where he has 2 roommates."
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See more funny videos at Funny or Die


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Thursday, October 16, 2008

More stuff

Today's topic:
Global Financial Armageddon!!! AAAAAHHH!!
Cute Stuff About My Kids

After our computer literate five-year-old son used up most of the time on a software trial period, we had to establish a new rule. He took it upon himself to make a sign so nobody would forget the new rule:

I had to tell him each letter, but he composed the message and wrote all the letters. For some reason, this made me smile...


*** WARNING: Cute Baby Alert ***


And in the interest of equal time, here's a picture of Amelia after an all night party in her room:



Tuesday, October 14, 2008

I got nothin' - now in bite-sized chunks.

You know that capitalism has run its course when you learn, through a baseball-oriented blog no less, that there is an entire series of NASCAR-themed Harlequin romance novels. Go on. Click Here. You know you want to.


For all those who are wondering what I decided to do about our cow issue... After consulting with two different vets and one choose-your-own-adventure poll, I did dry off the cow. For those who care about the details, here's what I did: I stopped her grain and kept milking for 3 more days. Then after milking her out completely, I treated her with a dry cow treatment. Then I waited 3 more days and milked her out again and treated her again. For future reference, I also found that changing technique can alleviate carpal tunnel problems - the key, apparently, is to use more wrist and arm instead of relying mostly on finger and hand muscles alone. I made some adjustments just after I posted that poll, and it did help some, but not enough for the moment. Next time I will definitely start that way from the get-go. And keep an eye out for a good deal on used milking equipment, just in case.


My older son has determined, using a line of reasoning available only to those five and under, that the person doling out punishments is to blame for all the problems of the recipient. Punishing is mean and unfair. He'd behave better if only we wouldn't punish him any more. So, yeah...


My daughter has determined, using a line of reasoning available only to her, that all clothing from the waist down is considered optional. It is her solemn duty to remove shoes and socks within 3 minutes of having them put on. It is also her solemn duty to remove all pants, skirts, dresses, overalls, pajamas and diapers at every opportunity. I'll spare you the story that really pushes this over the top, but let's just say she's practicing to be the Michelangelo of fecal matter. The Picasso of Poo. The Dada of Doodoo.


Speaking of special needs and artistic talents, check out this guy, dubbed "The Human Camera":


Our youngest, Owen, is well on his way to taking over the world by the force of sheer cuteness. He's almost 7 months, and bursting the seams of his 12-month clothes. His latest skills include crawling, saying "Mama," and eating everything he can get his hands on. He gets really mad when you don't share your food with him. Beans, peas, carrots, rice, cookies, crackers, pasta - and none of that pureed crap. He wants the real thing. In fact, when I tried to spoon feed him some bits of apple scraped off the one I was eating, he rejected it in favor of gnawing on the apple itself. Those one-and-a-half teeth don't do much, but apparently there's a lot of satisfaction in being self-sufficient.

He also imitates cat noises. Seriously. When we take him out on the front porch to sit on the swing, Kiki, our resident barn cat, almost always comes running. She greets everyone with her squeaky little meow, and Owen replies with a fantastic cat impression. If I can capture it on video, I'll post it. Assuming I can figure out how. I'll also try to capture his absurd laugh. It sounds like a cross between a baby dinosaur and someone choking. I don't think he can top this laugh though:


In other news, Lori's blog is back from the dead.

Our tractor, however, is not. I guess I'll be headed to the parts store one more time...


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Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Diversion... or career change...

Well, I'm so glad we threw the better part of a trillion dollars onto that bonfire. I'm sick of reading about, hearing about, and thinking about the financial meltdown. Que sera sera.

I used to draw a comic strip for a little college newspaper. It was only a weekly paper, but I still ran out of ideas pretty quickly. Every once in a while I have one of those comic strip ideas, but never do much with them. But today I decided to amuse & distract myself for a few minutes:

After I got done with it, I realized it comes across more like a greeting card than a comic strip. Oh well. C'est la vie, as long as we're throwing around cliches from other languages. I mean really, carpe diem!

[ For the record, the artwork came from a clip art repository at I'm to lazy to do my own illustration at this point. And our scanner's not working anyway. ]



Sunday, October 05, 2008

Where tractors go to die

Long-time readers of this blog may know that I have a love/hate relationship with our tractor. It's really mostly hate, but I do love how much work it can do on a gallon of gas.

The trouble is, I can't keep it running. I'm getting better, little by little. But I just don't know enough, or I don't have the right tools or parts, or I have a lot of bad luck. Of course, this tractor is over a half century old, so I'm willing to cut it some slack. Even so, I don't ask a lot of it, and it does keep getting more creative with it's breakdowns.

All I've wanted to do for the last several months is cut down the weeds engulfing our property. Ever since it became apparent that my distant neighbor's promise of some loaner cattle was not going to happen, and ever since we figured out that our pasture gates were too narrow for any haymaking equipment short of a scythe and a rake, I've just wanted to cut it all down. Waist high weeds going to seed are not something that you want to have around in vast quantities.

The tractor broke down a couple times during the summer, and I was able to fix it. Just not for long. Now it's got an electrical problem that I can't track down. I've got a friend helping me, but since he's several hundred miles away and mired in his own fixes, I thought I'd just try borrowing my next door neighbor's tractor.

He's got a finish mower rather than a bush hog, but the grass and weeds are all pretty brown and crunchy, so I figured it wouldn't be a big deal. If it got to be too much, I could just raise the mowing deck, or stop.

It actually worked pretty well. For the first acre. Then it died. I tried getting it going. I had it running again for about 5 minutes before it conked out again. Then my neighbor came over and spent an hour with it. He got it running, sort of, but only enough so that he and the tractor could limp home.

At that point it occured to me that every single tractor that has been on our property since we bought it has broken down. When our distant neighbor cut hay off our one unfenced field, his big tractor broke down twice. The second time, he had to call for reinforcements. Way back when our builder was finishing up our house, they paid one of our soon-to-be neighbors to come down and clear the brush. We happened to stop by that day, only to see his tractor overheating. I think it took him quite a while to get it running well enough to finish the job.

So I'm coming to the conclusion that our property has some sort of anti-tractor curse. Maybe we accidentally built on some ancient sacred burial ground. Maybe the previous owner was a Luddite with a minor in witchcraft. Perhaps it's somehow related to those black helicopters I see flying around here so often.

Whatever the case, I guess I'd better start brushing up on my scything skills.


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Thursday, October 02, 2008

Checking the hole cards one more time....

Okay, so the US Government didn't quite go all in yet. But I thought it was interesting that when the no vote came through on the $700 billion bailout, the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 777 points. The next morning, it was reported that the loss in the market meant the US economy lost $1.2 trillion just in that day. Which suddenly that $700 billion seem a bit small.

So let's play with that ratio a little.

So if -777 points = -1.2 trillion dollars
700 billion dollars = 400 points

So if that bailout money were directly injected into the economy, that would theoretically amount to an increase of 400 points. A pretty good increase for a single day.

But what about the next day?

If the DJIA is sitting at 10,000 points and we bring the above ratio into this, then those 10,000 points would equal $17 trillion.

Billions, trillions... Gah. These numbers are way to big. Let's shrink the economy WAAAY down.

I hereby declare that the entire US economy is valued at $100.

Good old Ben.

Now, if my math is right - which is always a risky assumption, I'll admit - that puts the bailout package at about $4.12.

One quarter, one dime, one nickel, and two pennies.

I hope they don't spend it all in one place.


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