a story from my childhood: a most deadly riff that you never, ever want to hear – especially like this

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This is a story from my childhood and one that I remember well.  This is a picture of me near my house in Florida which isn’t in the picture and one of my many beloved hand-me-down adult bikes that would have been taken within a few years of the time of the story I’m about to tell but unlike the story which happened at night this photo was taken in the day time.  As you may surmise from the photo, I grew up in a very rural area.   I spent a lot of time working on a farm and even though I went to school like every other kid there were many nights that I didn’t get home from the farm until late into the night.  The road I took in this story was less maintained than the one in the photo.  So let’s start shall we…

a story from my childhood: a farm kid, a bicycle and a pitch black night.

I was on a dark dirt road on this particular night when I was probably around 10 years old, part of the farm from where I had been working was to my back and had some dim lights which barely broke the firm grasp of the darkness.  Me and my bike were in a dark area pointing towards what looked like a dark swamp and to the untrained one wouldn’t have recognized it as a road.  Slightly to my left was the main road which was a wide well maintained dirt road but still pitch black except in the distance you could see dim lights of another part of the farm.  It’s the road I normally take home at night when I’m on my bike and forgot to bring a flashlight like on this night.  It would have been easy to take the main road even in pitch black darkness but it was a mile and a half home that way.  I was alone and it was late on a school night and I was exhausted and just wanted to get home to my warm comfy bed.  Through the dark swampy trail, it would have been around a 3/4 mile trek though much more challenging to navigate in the complete darkness with no stars or moonlight to speak of.

Decisions, decisions.  Standing in the dark on the road with my oversized bike, I contemplated the choice in front of me and I remember not being scared of anything as I made the careful necessary calculation.  Taking the swamp trail would be very challenging; I would have to rely purely off memory from where I took the trail countless times in the daytime but never at night.  It would be like taking the trail blindfolded or with my eyes closed but in the mind of my young 10 year-old self, “no problemo!”  It all boiled down to the time savings so off on my little journey into the darkness I went.

I had to build up speed and hit the ditch between me and the trail head.  The deep ditch was full of water and was muddy which could easily stop a bike and throw it’s rider right over the handle bars.  I had learned this the hard way one unsuspecting day.   But this night there were no magnificent handle bar acrobatics and bad physics experiments in store for me.  However, my bike hit the deep ditch full of water hard and bounced violently before I made it across to the other side.  I got soaked with water and mud but it was too dark to inventory the damage so I continued on having walk my bike up a steep embankment.  I knew the path ahead of me which I could not see in the total darkness was straight for about a quarter mile and made a hard right turn.  I knew there were always deep holes almost big enough and deep enough to swallow me and my bike about the distance of 20 bike lengths.  I couldnt see those either so I decided to push my bike until I passed those hazards.  The road, well if one could call it that, maybe a goat trail is a better name for it, was mostly grass and only about the width of an automobile tire or slightly wider was the dirt part of the trail.  It was easy to walk in the dark and feel the dirt under my old worn out shoes.  When I started venturing off the road which happened a couple of times, I could feel the rough grass and weeds under my shoes.  Each time I quickly corrected my direction to get back on the road.  Eventually, I stepped right into one of the deep holes and knew I was there.  Oddly the holes didn’t hold water long after storms so they were dry.  There were large hogs in this area so I always wondered if that was their little watering holes and they drank them dry.

Now, I knew I had a straight shot in the darkness until the road curved sharply to the right.  I knew the field past the curve would often get muddy with something I can only best describe as quicksand though rarely went deeper than waste deep and also tended to harbor a great briar patch which could slice up ones skin with all it’s barbs.  I surely need to avoid running into that field I thought to myself as  I got on my bike and began to pedal.  I ran off the road a few times but quickly corrected by just feeling the narrow but smooth road under my tires.  I picked up speed and tried to remember how far it was to the curve.  While I was pedaling, I noticed an eerie quietness in the cool night air.  Nights can sometimes be loud due to the magnificent orchestra of frogs and crickets and who knows what else in the wooded areas like this one.  But not on this night.  I made a mental note of it an continued onwards since by now I had gotten a little better at navigating the road and correcting course when needed to stay on the smooth dirt.

Then just as I got comfortable with my blind bike riding adventure, I ran through the curve into the field full of weeds.  My feet instinctively landed onto the soft muddy ground and kept me from falling and I paused a moment waiting for the strong sting of briars but it never came.  Wow, I thought I’m lucky these waste high weeds aren’t briars or I’d be shredded. I stood for a moment to see if I sank into the potential quicksand.  But tonight was my lucky night – no razor blade weeds and no quick sand.  Things are looking up for me so I by using nothing but the feel of the ground beneath my feet,  found the curved wannabe road that I had failed to recognize earlier on my bike and climbed back onto my bike.

I tried to make sure I was oriented in the right direction and not go back in the direction from which I had came and get well positioned on the road before I started pedaling.  This entire area was surrounded by thick forests so I couldn’t use any lights from the farm or from my house to help guide me.  I took another moment to calculate the distance of this leg of the obstacle course.  I knew the path ahead of me was straight for a little over a quarter mile and then veered left into a very swampy and wet area of the road that was usually under water.  I dreaded the thought of having to navigate that area as I’d likely have to travel through water on my bike.  I figured I’d wind up wading water on foot which didn’t sound at all pleasant to me.  I was still wet from the ditch encounter earlier.

I then paused and once again briefly noted how strange it was that it was so quiet on this night.  I don’t recall that ever happening before so it kind of creeped me out.  Other than that creepy feeling I remember not being scared of anything.  I got on my bike and continued on and by now I was pretty good at navigating this road in the darkness.  The road felt smooth under my tires and by now I rarely even ventured off the road into the grass.  So for a while I felt at ease in the quiet total darkness on my bike feeling the cool damp night air pass across my face.  With more speed I could hear the air passing by my ears slightly breaking the silence and the quiet pitter patter of mud from the tires hitting me in the back of the head and back of my shirt from where I ran into the muddy field and none of the adult bikes I inherited as a child had fenders to block the dirt and mud.  I continued on without many cares or concerns of what may or may not go wrong.  Little kid minds like mine at the time just don’t think of those things in great detail it’s more like as a kid we live minute by minute or second by second and don’t really ponder how a bad quick decision could go wrong and potentially affect you for the rest of your life.  A quick bad decision like I made on this particular pitch black night to take a narrow trail without a flashlight through a swampy area.  Anyway things were about to go very bad for me and I don’t remember what came first whether it was running over something big in the road or the sound, the piercing sound that I knew so, so well.  It was a natural riff played by one of the most deadly creatures in an arsenal of bad creatures also known as venomous snakes.  I could see nothing and all I had to go on was feeling something very evil under the tires of my bike and the piercing sound that now echoed against all the big trees that I couldn’t see.  And obviously by now a whole lot of adrenaline for a little kids body.  I heard this sound often in the daytime for which I never had a healthy enough dose of fear from it but in the day time I always knew where it was.  But tonight as I heard the loud dire warning, I had no idea where its lethal head was and for once in my little invincible kid mind, I was scared.  I think anyone can recognize the fear inducing sound of a very large rattlesnake, it’s almost like the fear response is coded into our very DNA.

Anyway, in the split second from the time I ran over the large creature and the instant warning sound, I instinctually pulled up on the handle bars to keep the bike from stalling out the forward speed and falling directly on top of or at least near whatever the offending object was.  Unfortunately or maybe fortunately, however you look at it, I had well rehearsed this response after some very nasty accidents in the past including some that irreparably damaged some earlier bikes.  I learned physics at an early age I suppose. So back to our story where at this moment the snake would have  been between my front and back tires and well within striking distance of my little legs and feet.  I pedaled hard knowing I had to make sure the back tire of the bike made it over the large lethal venomous snake that  I could not see but I could hear and sense quite well.  Imagining back I’m surprised I didn’t pedal with enough force to throw the snake backwards at least a 100 feet.  But I felt every bit of the creature under the back wheel and I was never happier to feel the bounce of the bike and continued forward motion.  I don’t remember taking inventory of my legs to see if I felt any large puncture wounds but for the 2nd half of the trail including the part of the road that was under water took no time at all to finish up.  I got home and as usual no one was waiting on me and no one would have missed me at least until the next day probably if I hadn’t have made it through the field that night.  I had a strange childhood with almost no rules, no curfew, and no supervision.  But I made it home that night without getting bit or breaking any limbs and without a flash light.  I don’t think I ever took that short-cut again in the dark without a flashlight and I’ve never forgot that night even though it was so many years ago.  I don’t know how I survived my childhood because this is only one of many stories just as bad as this one.  But I did survive it and I’m glad I’m able to write about it and laugh about it now.

 

 

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straight out of the uh and into the frying pan – YAOR for teh internets

Wow – what a coincidence.  I had planned on writing a post about my chickens and an omelet I made with their eggs this morning and the word of the day is egg.  I also figured I’d take a moment to mention some of my kitchen hacks and recipe variations for omelets which I’m sure is not all that original.  I mean there are only so many ways to crack an egg huh.  So here goes for this episode of Yet Another Omelet Recipe for teh internets.

First for some pictures:

 

I used the 3 eggs on the cutting board to make the omelet – those are small to medium eggs (unlike that one giant egg in the corner of the egg carton photo).  This size omelet is really two servings so I cut it in half and only had half of for breakfast.  It actually keeps ok in the fridge so I had the other half for dinner with some grits.  As you may infer from multicolored eggs, my chickens are also multicolored.  I have some Rhode Island Reds, California Whites, and some Australorps which are black.  I’ll post some pictures of them another day – maybe when the word of the day is chicken.  🙂

Eggs used to be considered unhealthy but due to the healthy fats organic eggs have, I think expert opinion is shifting as long one doesn’t overdo it.  An omelet with salsa is fairly low carb for diabetics such as myself but they do have fat and calories.  I’ve been able to lose weight and keep my blood sugar down if I usually just eat one egg for breakfast.

So how do you cook an omelet?  Here are the steps I use and some tricks I’ve learned:

  1. Before I turn the stove on, I prepare part of the veggies.  They are the ones in the small cup on the back of the cutting board in the photos.  One thing that I’ve found is I don’t use green or red peppers fast enough to leave them in the fridge but if you go ahead wash, de-seed and slice them right after you buy them, you can put them in a zip-lock bag or if you want a smaller carbon footprint and less waste then use a re-usable freezer container.  They wont be as crunchy and fresh out of the freezer but they are tasty in stir-fry and aren’t too soggy – just don’t cook them too long.
  2. So I take only as much out of the freezer as I need of the sliced red or green pepper and chop it frozen – it’s easier to do than you’d think.  I normally keep vidalia or sweet onion chopped up in the fridge – I use it more often than red or green pepper and it keeps pretty well in the fridge.  So I add the chopped onion to the pepper at about a 3 to 1 ratio since i like onion and it’s more mild than pepper.
  3. This is optional but to that small plastic cup of onion and pepper I take about 3 jalapeno slices out of a small jar i keep in the fridge.  I chop the 3 small rings of jalapeno up into small bits and add it the cup of onions and peppers.  It doesn’t seem to add too much heat for me.
  4. Another thing i keep in the fridge is green onions.  If I’m making one omelet, I’ll take one green onion stalk out and wash it and chop it up.  If it has that hairy root stem on the very end just cut that small piece off and throw it away but I’m sure you already knew to do that.  I add the chopped up green onion to the cup with the sweet onions, peppers and jalapenos.
  5. Now the veggies are sitting pretty in the plastic cup and raring to go, but I sit them aside for now.
  6. I use a separate small pan for cooking the filling and i add a teaspoon or two of olive oil and heat the pan on medium.  Once the oil heats up I add a teaspoon or two of minced garlic – I get the kind that is in the small jar you put in the fridge and is already minced. This flavors the oil with garlic but it’s not real strong.  If you don’t like garlic you can leave it out.
  7. If i have uncooked sausage I usually chop it up and add it to the frying pan at this point.  I don’t normally use the same cutting board for meat that I use for veggies.  I use the wooden cutting board in the picture mostly for veggies.  You can use precooked breakfast meat, or you can chop up sandwich meat such as ham or turkey.  If you have left over grilled pork chop you can also chop it up and add it.  Occasionally, I buy a slice of ready to serve ham steak and keep in the freezer and it can also be used in this step.  Oh and the precooked real bacon bits in the bag in the photo are also a convenient choice.
  8. While that is cooking I wash the fresh mushrooms and slice them and set them aside.  If the meat is mostly done (no longer pink), I go ahead and add the mushrooms and stir occasionally.  If you’re not using raw meat and you’ve chopped up already cooked meat or sandwich meat you can add the mushrooms immediately.
  9.   Once the mushrooms have cooked a little bit but aren’t cooked all the way, I add the cup of fresh veggies.  These will only need to cook for about 2 to 3 minutes on medium until the sweet onions look a little shiny.  Once that is ready go ahead and remove it from the hot eye but you can leave it in the pan until you’re ready for it.
  10. if you notice the picture with the bacon bits bag, there is a large pancake spatula in it.  One challenge some people have with omelets is flipping the half cooked egg so that large spatula makes it easier to do without the egg falling apart.  I add about two teaspoons of olive oil to a medium sized fryer (it’s bigger than the one i cook the filling in) or you can use butter or spray oil.  Just crack the eggs into a bowl and beat with a fork or wire whisk and add a dash of salt and pepper if desired.  You’ll want to cook the egg pretty slow on medium heat so it doesn’t brown too much.  If the egg cooks too fast just pick up the frying pan and shake it a little to move the egg around and turn the heat down some.  This part will take some practice but just cook it until there is just a thin layer of liquid on top.  Then use the large spatula to flip it over.  Now this only needs to cook for about one to two minutes usually.  I go ahead and add the filling from the other frying pan to the top of the cooking egg mixture in a line in the middle of the egg.  Then I add a pinch of shredded mozzarella cheese and about 3 pinches of shredded cheddar cheese – you could use american cheese also.  By now the other half of the egg will probably be done enough you can fold the omelet – i use a smaller spatula for this.  You probably won’t have to flip the folded omelet at this point as it’ll likely be cooked soon.  You can hold the skillet up and slide the omelet into the serving plate and eat by itself or with some salsa.
  11.  One thing to note is the bag of precooked bacon bits which i get from Sam’s club comes in handy for a lot of dishes.  I use it in egg scramble dishes, grits, and i use it when cooking a variety of veggies such as green beans, lima beans, turnips, collards, and black eyed peas, etc.  It works in canned, frozen, or dried beans etc.

Well good luck.  Cooking for yourself isn’t as bad as you may think if you’re not already doing it.  And you can better control what goes into your food – how much fat, salt, etc.  If you trying to eat healthier and don’t want to add meat just remove it from the recipe.  I use the veggie part of this recipe for several dishes including some Chinese dishes and some homemade soups.    The great thing about doing your own cooking is you are in control.

you got to be jolting me

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you got to be jolting me

So today on the way home from work I stopped and picked up some Chinese food, including chicken and brocolli which was in brown sauce that had gotten on the plastic bag the plate was in.  And predictably the unavoidable happened, the brown sauce got all over my right hand.  I scrubbed my hand incessantly with a napkin because I knew I had to make one more stop on the way home.  I had to get my new baby chicks a chicken feeder and waterer so I could keep their cage cleaner than it is with the temporary bowls and such.  So i went into the farm supply store and grabbed what i needed and then some additional items so I could get out quickly.  The girl at the register was very nice and chatty.  I told her i had just bought 8 baby chicks from them a few days ago so I needed to buy them a feeder and waterer;  she held up the ceramic eggs i had also bought and gave me a strange look.  She said wow they grow up fast don’t they – meaning the ceramic eggs are used to encourage fully grown hens to lay eggs in a nest.  I smiled and said well I have older chickens too that are already laying eggs.  And I explained my purpose in buying each additional item as she scanned it.  I paid for all the items and she reached forward to hand me my receipt and she snatched her hand back initially with a quite “shocked” look on her face and carefully handed me the receipt as to keep her distance from me.  Her chatty demeanor had changed also and she wasn’t interested in conversation all of a sudden.  I kind of looked at her with a puzzled glance and shrugged my shoulders and walked out.  As I was walking out the door I saw streaks of peculiar brown sauce now partially dried on my right thumb.  Apparently in my rush to wipe all the Chinese sauce off my hand and finish my errands I had missed some.  I felt like i should go back in and explain the situation at once but I was too embarrassed so i continued onward to the car and drove off quickly.

the new baby chicks were a little cranky when they first arrived

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the new baby chicks were a little cranky when they first arrived

I have 5 chickens currently and two are so old they can barely walk.  I don’t normally cull/euthanize them as I let them pick their own time to go or unfortunately sometimes a predator decides for them.  Today, I decided to start a new flock so I bought 8 baby chicks from Tractor Supply – I’m keeping the old flock also but I’ll probably keep them separated.  I use chickens to help recycle kitchen vegetable food waste so we send less to the landfill.  I also throw leaves that I rake up from the yard into their pen and I let them free range as much as possible in fenced in areas I’ve created.  Chickens are much more efficient at composting than using compost tumblers or compost piles.

I try to let them get as close to my garden as I can depending on the crop type and I think they help control insects so I can keep my garden more organic and use less pesticides.  I only use pesticides when I have no other choice and sometimes even then I don’t use them.  LOL.  I’ve lost entire crops to insects sometimes because I didn’t use pesticides.  And when that happens I feed the lost crops including the insects (if possible) to the chickens.  Of course another benefit of having chickens are eggs.

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I find it ironic that the box i brought them home in is shaped a lot like a KFC box.  A few interesting notes about terminology.  If you buy straight run chickens of any breed then that means it contains males and females randomly since with most breeds you can’t easily distinguish between males and females when they are young.  If you buy pullets only then it only contains females.

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The low here in Florida tonight is 62 degrees Fahrenheit so that’s a wee bit chilly for young chicks as you can tell by them huddling close together to stay warm.  I hooked up a 75 watt incandescent light bulb to give them a tad bit of heat to get them through the night.  The government has cracked down on the old light bulb types so it’s getting harder to find them when you really need them for their heat.  The gov wants everyone to buy the new non-incandescent types that are more energy efficient and give off little heat.  I’m ok with that because it makes the country more energy efficient but it doesn’t make it any easier for me raising baby chicks.