Thursday, July 31, 2008

Bringing Home the Pot Roast

Vegetarians might wanna give tonight a pass. Just a suggestion. Come back tomorrow, I promise this will be all over with.

(Looks around) They gone? Good. Nothing bad meant to my wandering leaf-munching friends, but this gal is stuck in her omnivorous ways and I really don't see that changing anytime soon. I've tried the veggie path – and to me it will never be more than just a side dish. I'll grant you, this last year nearly scared me away from meat – red and white, scaled or furry, I nearly walked away shaking in my shoes. One recall after another filling my nightmares with e. coli and salmonella, horror stories of unbelievable cruelty in slaughterhouses that belong only in slasher movies, mystery meat of unknown providence being brought in under inspectors unsuspecting noses. Too many aseptic packages of graying meat plumped with “flavor enhancing” injections, too many bundles of meat from who knows where.

The Prime Geek and I sat down one morning a few months ago and agreed it was time for some serious changes. A few weeks of searching (unnecessary in the end, my mom found our supplier. Ah well, at least we did the footwork for the future.) and we found ourselves waiting for a phone call to change our eating habits for the next year. Five weeks of slowly eating our way through mystery packages tucked into the standing freezer since our move in over a year ago, meals of “I'll tell you when it thaws!”, and wondering why in the world we had so many packages of frozen zucchini.*

A phone call at last, some shuffling of coolers, and we were off. A visit to my folks, a mildly strained back, and some seriously tasty cookies fresh from Amish country and we're back.

170 pounds of beef. If it sounds like a lot... and it is. 70 pounds of ground beef and the rest in roasts, chops, steaks, and stew meat – all the red meat we'll eat this year. Alright, maybe not all... we do entertain quite a bit (although you'd be shocked how far I can stretch a stew). But a good chuck tucked away for the winter. At 2.09 a pound (a bit more for hamburger than I usually pay, but a heck of a lot cheaper for ribeye steaks) it was a deal I couldn't pass over – good thing too. The corn crunch and fuel expenses have since made the butcher/farmer double their prices on meat. We squeaked by in the last two days of the old price.

Now. Is it organic? Nope. But I know the family that owns the farm (and the butcher shop) and according to the owner (who went to school with my brother, how much more local can you get? Gotta love a shop where if something is off you can call his mother to complain!) they can't afford to go through the whole “organic thing”. But he says with a shrug, “Its cheaper to let them eat grass while its growing, we only feed corn in the winter. Why give them shots they really don't need, its easier to treat if they get sick.” In other words, do the right thing, keep your head down, and you'll get some great quality product in the end. I feel pretty happy about supporting a family business, even better that its helping to keep a friend afloat, thrilled to know exactly where my meat came from, and even happier that I have that much more prepared for the upcoming winter.

I'll admit a certain... sadness? No, finality I suppose is a better term, for knowing I – me personally – helped to cause the life of a critter to end. My order tied up the last one needed on one specific cow, so as the phone hung up, J went out and brought the bull in for the final night. But... I've been to that farm, I know the boys who drop the hammer, I know the life that critter lead, and how after 10 years those farmboys still go quiet when its time to end it all. Quick and clean, a good comfortable life ended as well as can be expected.

I'll be doing this again, in fact I doubt I'll be buying meat from a grocery ever again. A good day all around, I think.

Plus... my mother just called. She tried her first hamburger today out of her order. To quote her -

“I didn't know THIS is what its supposed to taste like! What crap have I been shoveling in before this?”

Now she wants to start looking at this whole “green thing” a lot closer. With little steps the changes get made.

*I swear, I think the stuff breeds in there. That would explain the odd random sounds coming from my freezer at night........

Monday, July 28, 2008

Mind the Tumbleweeds...

And... we're back. Again.

Mostly. More or less. Alright, how about – I'm really working on it?

Sheesh, take a month or so off and the world thinks you've up and died*. This last month or so has found the Prime Geek and myself wandering around in a bit of a daze as we stumble around trying to gather our sadly scattered wits. We've been dealing with family “issues”, oddly driven ant-like behavior, and a mountain of projects to tackle.

To sum up for friends and family alike who wander through here in an attempt to keep up with hubby and I, the family issues in brief are:

Baby Grace – still alive, but clearly enjoying her ability to turn family members into nervous wrecks. I swear, this child has had more “She's Better!” followed by “Crap, what do you mean she isn't breathing?” moments then a year of soap opera hijinx. If/when she reaches 18, I swear I'll be joining a long list of family who will be sending her our bills for either the years of costly therapy caused by nervous tics... or our bar tabs caused by the same.

Prime Geeks mother – well. Let us just say that in a few months once things are resolved we may very well be having a sit down regarding her tendency to avoid doctors for too long and how I'm perfectly capable of drop kicking her 4'9 tuckus into a car and forcing the issue next go-round. Not going to go into details, but if your doctor has told you to get a colonoscopy and you've ducked it? Get off your rear and go. Seriously. Now. I'll wait.

School – both the PG and myself are headed back. Him to finish his Bachelor's, me to grab another Associate's (I seem to collect them like stamps and beanie babies.)

As for making like an ant and our projects? While it may be the middle of summer, for reasons known only to our hindbrains we've been scurrying around trying to nail down ever loose thread for the upcoming winter. I'm not sure if its the weird economy, the sad fact that hotter summers seem to lead to colder winters, or just a hardwired need to nest, but our to-do lists keep growing and the feeling of needing to get things ready is pretty pressing.

Luckily, the very projects and twitchy behavior are forcing us even farther into our green dreams. Now that I'm back, I'll be letting ya'll in on our successes AND our failures. (Frankly, I expect the latter will be rather more often then I'd like... but at least its usually entertaining.)

Tomorrow a few picture of our latest foray into local living... and how I now know exactly how many bodies I can stuff into my freezer.


*I've actually come to the conclusion I'm immortal. Between a dicky heart and a serious case of the klutzes, I've shuffled off the mortal coil a few dozen plus times – only to be rather rudely shoved back into a world I can apparently take taxes as my only certainty. Men with Scottish accents make me a tad nervous.**
** Sometimes, my level of nerdiness can scare even me.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Just Doing My Part

Sometimes, the search for steps to make a lighter impact is a tough one. Being green these days can be hard and often backbreaking work – from digging out the garden, to rerouting the rain gutters into water barrels.

And sometimes?

Its as easy as sitting on the front porch pitting cherries while you listen to a summer rainstorm.
This morning found me sprawled over my porch's beat up couch, idly working my way through a pound or so of local organic cherries I picked up yesterday at a new farmer's market the Prime Geek and myself checked out. With fingers stained a cheery red (I look like I'm about to go sleepwalking while plotting the death of my husband's foes – Out, Out, Da... well. You know.), I finished the last of the luscious orbs as the well trickled to a halt at last.

What to do, what to do.

Normally, I'll flash freeze fruit and have it sitting safe and chilly for the upcoming winter. Or perhaps make a batch of jellies to smear on homemade bread when the snow swirls. However, I'm desperately trying clear the freezer at the moment – in time for an upcoming delivery weighing in at a staggering 175 pounds* – and space is at a premium. Jams? Nice... but it was 93' yesterday, and while the heat has broken a bit thanks to the rain... I'm still not looking forward to a long haul in a steamy kitchen. Drying? That's a job for tomorrow (I'm picking up more of these lovelies in the morning – far too good a deal to pass by) I do believe.

Instead, I think I'll see what it takes to make a cherry bounce.

No, I'm not chucking them for distance – I'm getting them well and truly drunk. Two quart mason jars – complete with lids and rings, two pint jars – ditto, a bottle of VSOP brandy, another of white rum, a wee bit of raw sugar, and two lemons. That should get my fruit lit.

A simple formula to make yourself some holiday cheer. Just wash the jars good and clean (same with the lids) them into each drop a few inches of pitted cherries**. A handful of the raw sugar, lemon zest & its juice sprinkled on top. Glug into one quart and one pint the run, into the remaining two the brandy. Lid and shake until dizzy and your pets are looking at you oddly. Or at least odder than usual.

Keep in a sunny spot for two weeks, then hide your jewels in a cool dark place until the chilly holiday of your choice arrives. Strain – and... well. We'll see. Sounds tasty at least.

Ahhh. Just doing my part to make the world a little cleaner.

*More on this later.
**Okay. Fine. Mine aren't pitted, I sliced mine in half and dug out the pits. The one piece of kitchen schmeck I don't own happens to be a cherry pitter.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

And.... We're back.

Sorry about the prolonged absence, its been a long month. As my brain is stilled crispy around the edges, I'll give a simple list as a snapshot of what the nerd has been up to. Normal updates will resume later this week.

1- The company the Prime Geek works for? Rocks. While I'll never book a trip on Monarch of the Seas myself* send my spouse and I for free and I'll be packed in an hour.

2- Ohio when we left - 92'. Mexico when we arrived – 52'. Some aspects of the global warning issues got joked about.

3- Children on airlines are often better then adults, I'm sadly out of my depth when a tween star from Disney sits beside me (seriously, I think I crushed a young soul when I had to explain I had no idea who the Jonas Brothers are. Still don't.), and some grownups need remedial lessons in manners when stuck in a confined space with other humans.

4- Pandas can bounce on their bums after 40+ feet drops, I now have far too many pictures of koala bums then is really necessary, and when confronted by any itty bitty of the animal kingdom I will still issue a high pitched squeal more in keeping with an eleven year old girl.

5- NEVER EVER book a trip through Monarch of the Seas. Repeated food poisoning and a pretty careless time sense (never a good thing when being left in a country not your own is a possible outcome to a late bus.) make for a difficult time. I WOULD however offer any of the people working on board from 26 countries a job anytime. Quite possibly the friendliest, best trained, highest educated bunch of folks this nerd has ever met. The blue hair went over well with most of the workers from Asian countries as well.

6- Attempting to camp for 8 days after being out of the country less than a week before is a game for younger people. This nerd is too old for that horse pucky.

7- When to leave the campout early = RAIN OF FROGS! Seriously. Hail, flood, rather harsh injuries on the field, lightening... all fine and dealable. When the locusts and the june bugs hit we were still fine. Frogs suddenly hitting our tent? Packed and loaded while keeping an eye out for a tall skinny dude carrying a farming implement.


*Okay, here's the issue. Monarch of the Seas? Beautiful boat. Service? Amazing. But here's the thing for me... the sheer mountain of cross contamination regarding food allergies was something that is going to get someone killed. We'd filled out the forms listing my allergies, I still got plate after plate of shrimp tossed in front of me. Everything cooked together, nothing posted (oh so fun to reach for some plain rice at a buffet and suddenly seeing a random crab claw sticking out), no warnings or options given. We even talked to the head waiter and was told “Oh yes. Some people where telling us they had children with severe peanut allergies as well” then they walked off. Okay.... so you KNOW you could kill someone, you just don't care. Greeeaaat.