Saturday, October 1, 2011

Citrus Melon Chicken

This was an impromptu excuse to use the dutch oven indoors during triple digit heat.

Set regular oven to 350
Then place a dutch oven on a stovetop burner, set to med-high.

Add the following into the dutch oven in whatever amounts suit you:
olive oil
orange juice
worcestershire sauce
crushed red pepper

Stir. Just until it tastes spicy good.

Slice an orange into about 16 slices and lay them into the dutch oven with the sauce.

Place 2 chicken leg quarters on top of the oranges. I left them intact.

Then chop about 1/2 to 3/4 of a large cantaloupe and cover the chicken pieces.

Cover the dutch oven and bake in the reg. oven for maybe an hour? 45 min? Until the chicken doesn't kill your loved one. (clear juices ~ 180 in the thigh)

If you are as lucky as I was, the melon gets smoky and meaty savory, and the chicken gets melony tangy spicy.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

So I Built A Patio

We recently had a fence installed that makes the entire backyard nice and private. (So no more trespassers wandering in for illicit sex in my backyard.) It really happened. Apparently they had not heard of Leave No Trace and thought I'd appreciate their latex donations.

Tell me about it.
At least it wasn't in the garden.

Let's move on. Once the fence went up, an odd space between our backyard gate and the rest of the garden/workshop area appeared. It's shady in the afternoon and we decided it was the perfect spot for a installing a patio. Our front porch is great, but it's narrow, L-shaped, and best suited for accommodating only 4 or 5 people. It's also blazing hot after 2 pm.

First, I used some salvaged wood to build a frame for the bench and a flower planter. The bench's lid is hinged and provides storage inside. The boxed open end will be filled with soil, then herbs and flowers. I also installed an old 2x6 connecting the bench to the fence as a step.

By the way, one of the best things is that the whole project cost less than $20. I bought a box of screws, 2 landscape timbers, 2 hinges, and a few cedar fencing planks. OK, maybe $25, but it was all made possible by delightfully generous neighbors and scrounging around the neighborhood.

A neighbor putting in a driveway had extra fill and river rocks. Score #1. I laid them directly on the lawn, watered, and tamped them down several times.

He also had at least 3/4 cu. yd. of decomposed granite (DG) he needed removed. Score #2. Scattered that, watered, tamped, repeat. And the foundation is done.

Another neighbor is a landscaper and had flagstone he couldn't use and wanted to get rid of. Why, thank you kind sir. Score #3. So I laid it, leveled it, and filled the gaps with the DG. A little water and little adjusting... We'll see what happens when it finally rains for real again.

All it took was moving 1000s of pounds of rock one wheelbarrow at a time. My other neighbors surely thought I was crazy.

On Gentrification.

2 new homes have been built across the street over the past year or so. One was built where a condemned house once stood, the other 10 feet away on what used to be a lawn. I watched a team of maybe 3 guys knock that old house down by hand over the course of one weekend. They said I could have anything I wanted, so I dragged old lumber (nice lumber!), tin roofing, plywood, and rebar across the street and into my backyard. Material from that house made the chicken coop, rain barrel supports, sawhorses, and the frame for the patio and its bench. And I still have a huge stockpile.

The house that rose up from the ruins is hideous. I can't imagine why anyone would have bought it. I've casually met the tenant and pray she's just renting. But it's better than the boarded up death trap where kids and drug addicts once competed for the most dangerous place on the block to hang out.

I have a hard time reconciling my feelings about gentrification and my role in it. I was thinking about it the other day out back relaxing with a chicken (Boutros Boutros Chicken) and a beer.

How did I appear to my neighbors while I physically participated in the transformation of my block? Carrying timbers from a decrepit house that had been there as long as anyone could remember into the backyard of my new house? Were they resigned to change? Resentful of it? Happy? All of the above?

Am I gentrifying? I think I have/am. I haven't lived in a suburb since I graduated high school. I've never bought property, but for the last 12 or so years I have always rented in areas undergoing gentrification. And I'm talking some places where I was the white dude everyone knew. Cause I was practically the only white dude. And I'm friendly.

Once, while walking home from work, a woman dressed in her Sunday best yelled at me to "get out of Harlem white boy, and take that white trash with you." (referring to my girlfriend who was walking alongside me) And this was on Frederick Douglass Blvd. a block North of Central Park. We didn't say anything back- I was just shocked. But as I was silently contemplating the irony of the street name, a few of the ubiquitous corner guys who saw it go down approached and apologized to us. I appreciated that.

I'm not sure how to feel about the woman though. She was at least 60 at the time. Maybe she had a point. Maybe she had horrible experiences in the 50's and 60's in the south, moved to New York only to endure the 70's and 80's there. And just when Harlem was turning around and getting safer and nicer, all these newcomers started pushing longtime residents out. I'd probably be mad, too.

My block in Austin is diverse. Oddly diverse. And it is a tiny slice of East Austin. This really is my block: Poor college kids. Middle class, lower-middle class, poor people. Crazy people living in a defunct Winnebago in the side yard of a house full of maybe 8? people. Hispanic Multi-family compound- double digits. White yuppies that make at least 6 figures. African American families who've been in the neighborhood since segregation when East Austin was the only place they could settle. Even an Asian guy.

But it's clear which way the winds are blowing. And this close to downtown, money more than anything is the determining factor. Taxes will keep going up and jobs for unskilled workers keep disappearing. The incentive to sell to developers and move elsewhere will be unavoidable. This could be Hyde Park in 50 years.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

So If It Ever Rains...

In this wonderful Austin heat you could spend hours every week watering your garden. I find it soothing and relaxing, but it is time consuming. Not to mention wasteful, and a hassle when you leave town.

I mean what I say about a wonderful heat. It's remarkable. Even as Austin increasingly becomes the polar opposite of Winnipeg, I'd still prefer a 9 month summer to a 9 month winter. Hands down. Living up North, you prep for battle against the elements every morning before going outside. Gloves, scarves, hats, socks and more socks, layers of clothing, glacier-climbing boots, etc. In Austin you don't dig through yards of snow to get to your car. As much as people complain, it's only hot and dry. Just get on your bike, and soon you will arrive at your destination to find yourself ensconced in the chilly womb of air conditioning. And you will be very sweaty.

This Spring, before I realized it would never rain again, I installed an irrigation system for our backyard vegetable garden.

Dear Leader Rick Perry prayed for the health of my fruits and vegetables, God bless his heart, but it seems they were far too sinfully liberal to deserve any heaven-sent precipitation. So they've made due all year with my secular watering.

The system is just a "rain" barrel connected to the "rain" gutter on one side of the house. There's an on/off valve at the base of the barrel, and from there a hose connects to drip irrigation lines for the garden. Throughout this drought I've set a spigot timer on a hose (from the house) which fills the barrel halfway twice a day- at dawn and dusk. Gravity takes care of the rest since the barrel is about a meter off the ground.

It's easy to make and expand along with your gardening aspirations. My local brewery supply store that sells empty food-grade barrels for $10. I'm sure there are other sources, but I take comfort in knowing for sure what was in that barrel before I douse my garden with its contents.

The rest of the kit is a few washers, silicone caulk, a hose clamp, and the valve. Then you'll just need some garden hose, and the drip irrigation lines for however large your garden is. We've used the tape type and it's worked just fine. Just a short trip to the orange big box candy store. Drill a hole in the bottom of the barrel, place locking washers on each side of the valve, caulk the gaps, make a good seal, and you're done. I also put screens on top of the barrel to keep animals and debris out of the irrigation lines.

But the sad truth is we've stopped watering now. Except for the mushroom logs and the peppers. (bell, jalapeno, & serrano) They'll make it with a simple hosing every couple of days. Everything else is a lost cause. And when I'm out in the garden hanging with chickens, the sneaky tomatoes that bravely survived the heat and squirrels immediately find their way into my mouth. Too bad for them.

Special thanks to K. Crosier for engineering assistance.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Willie Covers Coldplay

Greenwashing! I abhor corporate greenwashing. You see it every day in advertising. But I'll make an exception with this Willie Nelson cover of Coldplay. I enjoy each of them. Plus a nice animated short film with a fine message.

I wholeheartedly embrace the concept, but highly doubt it is true in practice in large scale franchises like Chipotle.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Motorcycle Defense

Welcome to Texas. I bet no one cuts this guy off after they catch a glimpse of what's on his hip. Click on the image for a closer view.

I should get one for when I ride my bicycle. Or maybe just put a sling on my shotgun and carry it across my back. That might be better. I could attach one of those cute orange triangular flags to the barrel for added safety.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


I believe a bicycle to be one of the simplest pleasures a woman or man might encounter.

It's an odd thing when you sit down and think about it. Something you loved so much as a child, replete with countless memories and scars and tales. Something you held dear to your teenage heart while you scorned so many countless others. Years pass, and suddenly there you are: An adult. Occupied with a career, offspring, wars, family, debt, whatever. But you still love your bicycle just as much.

Don't take my word for all this, just ask Freddie Mercury.

Bike lanes are bike lanes, and I really like that cities are installing more bicycling infrastructure. But what I really love is the way old railways are being re-purposed. Like this place in British Columbia. I biked here once with some friends. Good guys, good memories. We biked in grizzly country past streams so full of salmon it almost seemed you could walk across them.

Also, my first and only encounter with police brutality happened on my bike. A bicycle officer (irony) whacked the hell out of my head/shoulder at a Critical Mass protest during the 2004 Republican National Convention in NYC.
This Is How They Roll In NYC.
Apparently I didn't move fast enough for him. No one could move anywhere, since it was so crowded, so he just started hitting people. He just kept yelling "F*cking move!" and went at it. People started moving after that. It frightened me, but didn't hurt that much. I kind of feel like I should have at least mouthed off in order to deserve that treatment. It's unlike me to hold my tongue after the fact, but I really just wanted to get out of there.

On a less serious note, please enjoy these three videos while you ponder how much you want to ride your bike. The first has Band of Horses, but the second two are far prettier. Especially if you love the UK. They are all just amazing, and the music in each suits them perfectly. If you are a musician, understand this guy would the cycling version of Mozart. Just pure creative genius and technical perfection.

You should theoretically be able to "hop" your bike as high as you can jump while holding it. For instance, riding pretty fast straight into a curb, you should be able to hop and clear it. But I can just manage a curb. And even then I am a little wary.

And wheelies. I really need to work on wheelies.

Monday, August 15, 2011


Kubb is a wonderfully fun yard game from Sweden. It was invented by Agnetha Fältskog.

I'd compare Kubb to bocce, horseshoes, or washers. But the pitch (playing area) is mobile. And you can play it on any surface. Except water, unless it is frozen. Any solid surface.

It's played with wooden blocks and batons. You throw the batons at your opponent's blocks to topple them, but once knocked down they are rearranged on your side of the pitch. Your opponent has to hit those "field" pieces before they can strike yours. And there's a King piece you would wisely avoid until the proper time. Like a real King.

I could explain the rules, but you should instead just take my word that Kubb is not complicated. And read that link. It's closer to checkers than chess, but the luck involved when chucking chunks of wood comes into play. And there is considerable strategy, which I always find agreeable.

Once you google it, you'll get about 10 different sets of rules. Choose your own adventure. Youtube is more funny than useful. The wikipedia entry is wikipedia-y.

I am so amazed IKEA has not capitalized (socialized) on this.

They must have had some high-level meeting in Stockholm that went something like: "We will give them the meatballs, but NOT! THE! KUBB!" And I bet that sentence sounds amazing when yelled in Swedish. Imagine a red-faced obese blond man screaming and pounding his plump fists on a cheaply made particle board desk.

I spent less that $20 on this kit. Including stain and urethane top coat.
6ft 4"x4" (Fir)
6ft 1-1/2" dowel rod (Pine, could be up to 1-3/4" thick)

Then you just rip the lumber. I only used a circular saw, sandpaper, and chisels. But if Mother Earth has blessed you with a table saw and router, then you are golden.

1ft off the 4x4 for the King piece
The remainder sawed into 10 pieces, each 6 inches long, 2-3/4" wide/high.

Dowel sawed into 6 1ft pieces.

4 random stakes or objects to demarcate the pitch.

Sand and Stain to your liking. Spar urethane top coat.

It's that easy. And if you begin practicing now, you'll be in fine shape by tailgating season.


I own 8 chickens. Various breeds. All hens. It sounds like a lot, but they have enough space even on my little urban farm. And as you can see from above, when it's 100+ they really love the insect-ruined cantaloupe. They dig the water hose. Tiny avian toddlers playing in the sprinklers.

As for me, I like eating eggs. And eating chicken meat that has been humanely and responsibly raised.

I don't slaughter the hens often, since we keep them principally for their eggs. So when we do eat one, it's an important meal that I take very seriously.

Shooting and cleaning a dove or a duck I plucked from the sky, or cleaning a fish I reeled in minutes earlier has a profound effect on me. I can't deny that these wild creatures flying past me or swimming beneath me were probably just looking for food or shelter. Just like I search out food and shelter every day. Well, I personally and violently ended their search for shelter, and they became my food.

I love my hens. As much as you love your dog or cat. They all get names. They all have distinct personalities. I feed and water them each day. I give them treats. And they live for years, just like more common pets.

Even though I love them, it's hard for me to reconcile my relationship with my flock. Hens who depend on me for survival and respond to my calls and routines.

Tomorrow morning I will lovingly hold a trusting chicken in my arms as it eats from my hand. And the hen will be thankful. As will I.

The vexing thing for me is knowing that deep down, I have every intention of killing it someday. Knowing for sure, the last time those trustworthy hands pick her up won't be for feeding.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Make Your Own Ketchup

Dating advice:
Never date anyone who prefers catsup to ketchup. Dealbreaker.

Can one adore cheese and date a vegan? Jesus says in the Bible that this type of relationship will end in disaster, and you will die alone. Would you love someone who doesn't love Parmesan?

Back to Ketchup. It's so very easy/fun to make. And vegan. I think of ketchup as a sauce, although Important People call it a condiment. I used the recipe below as a marinade, while baking, and as a sauce with baked chicken recently. It was very tasty.

You may even get 2nd degree burns while making it. Pretend you're using a hand blender and decide a little splashing of molten lava ketchup drops are what you'd like. Lots of fun. Pure joy.

Spicy Ketchup Recipe:

Large stock pot... hot (high/med-high)
Olive oil
1 diced red onion... brown it in the oil
3 stalks celery chopped
1 fennel bulb chopped
1 handful of cilantro
1 minced Serrano pepper (a bold jalapeno or 2 would work as well)
3 minced garlic cloves
2 28 oz cans whole tomatoes
1/2lb fresh tomatoes, crushed
1 thumb-sized piece of raw ginger, minced
2 tbsp crushed red pepper
1/4c dark brown sugar
1/4c molasses
red wine vinegar to taste, 1/2c at least
salt to taste

Use your hand blender to mix all this up. Try for no large vegetable pieces.

Then simmer for a long time. Go for a run. You're looking for viscosity.

Use your trusty hand blender to puree periodically as the mixture simmers down. Take care, and enjoy your interactions with the boiling ketchup lava.

Taste often and if necessary, add more vinegar or sugar to adjust taste while simmering.

How will you know when it's done?

Because you will be looking at a pot of tasty ketchup. And blisters from those wonderful scalds on your arm.

Saturday, August 13, 2011


To get things started I'll give THE INTERNETS my prediction of what this blog might become.

I enjoy life, but my journal-keeping habits are quite lacking. I overuse hyphens. And not to be too morbid, I kind of hope this blog might remain as a written history of the things I enjoyed doing once my life is over. Hopefully this is a long term project. I mean dang, to start a blog at 33 and keel over in the next few years would be a waste of time.

But mostly I want to share my life a little and try to communicate more with people I care about and love but never talk to enough.

Maybe I'll brag about my super-intelligent, super-hot girlfriends. They're both named Caroline. What are the chances of that?