Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Perfect BLT

The perfect BLT sandwich occurs annually in a narrow time span. It appears in the summer only when juicy, red tomatoes ripen in the garden and ends when the first frost comes or a bit later, depending on how many ripening tomatoes are on hand.

Given ripe, homegrown tomatoes, one must turn attention to the other ingredients, each important, for the BLT is a meld of tastes and textures made in heaven, if made well.

The bacon should be free of nitrates and nitrites and thinly sliced. It should be chosen for its generous streaks of lean and be slowly fried over medium low heat. It must be turned frequently during this process, and when it is uniformly crispy, drained on a paper towel.

The perfect BLT is built on thinly sliced bread that has structural integrity, meaning that it does not smush or crumble or break.  The best bread for this purpose is Slow Rise Bread (see post of July 4, 2011 for the recipe). A good, thinly sliced sourdough also has integrity and will suffice. (see post of August 12, 2013)

The lightly toasted bread is slathered with Miracle Whip. Personally, I will accept no substitute, but some unenlightened souls use mayonnaise.

The lettuce must be that demeaned and under-appreciated variety, iceberg. What gives iceberg the advantage in this instance is its tight layers of leaves and its slight crunch. Limp lettuce has no place in the perfect BLT.

Here is it, ready for final assembly, and here’s to BLT season!

Copyright 2013 by Shirley Domer

Good News and Bad News

First the good news, isn’t that how it’s supposed to go?

I can use my arm again. It was paralyzed for eight weeks. I had to pick up my left hand with the right one and lift it into its sling. Then I had several electro-acupuncture treatments. Noticeable improvement came from the first treatment and each subsequent one, but then it was time to go to Colorado and the treatments stopped.

To my delight and surprise, improvements kept coming. Each day I can do a little more with my arm and yesterday I drove my car for the first time in three months. I was thrilled to be going somewhere without help from anyone. I can cook now and bathe and use the keyboard. I can carry things and lift them to a table. I’m not finished improving yet, but I’m almost there.

Now for the bad news: during these three months since my shoulder surgery I have been waited on hand and foot. Even when I wanted to do something, someone would step in and take over. Dependency has been my downfall, I’m afraid. I played the queen bee too long and have become accustomed to being served. In short, I’ve become lazy!

Will I recover from this secondary illness? I surly hope so.

Copyright 2013 by Shirley Domer

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Garden Experiments

We have kept a vegetable garden for many years and have favorite vegetables that we always grow, but each year I like to try something new just to keep things interesting. This year the experiments are corno di toro peppers (a sweet, slightly spicy Italian pepper), blue potatoes, and leeks.

I chose the pepper from the R.H. Shumway catalog, which described it as long and thick fleshed with few seeds. I started the corno di toro seeds indoors on April 3, along with pimento seeds saved from our 2008 crop. (Pepper seeds are long lived.) Both varieties were ready to transplant outdoors in mid-May, after our last frost. I intended to set out four pimentos and only two corno di toros, but I must have mixed up the plant labels because we ended up with five corno di toros and only one pimento. Luckily, the prolific corno di toros are quite delicious and amazingly long.

We have been eating them in salads, and will use some in stir-fry. I also will roast some in place of the pimentos I usually roast and freeze for winter use. The corno di toro flesh is not as thick as the pimento, but it will suffice, I think. I like them well enough to save seed for next year.

The blue potatoes are just a novelty and I won’t grow them again. I roasted some of the smaller ones recently. They tasted like any other potato and weren’t blue all the way through. Here they are in preparation.

Last spring I bought a 4-inch pot of leek seedlings on a whim for $1.29. There were 14 little plants in the pot. They resembled blades of grass. We lost two of them to garden cutworms before Dennis stuck a ten-penny nail in the soil beside each seedling. They seem to have no other pests and require no care beyond weeding. The leeks are still growing and not ready for harvest, but they are robust plants and I have high hopes for them. Leeks in the grocery store cost about a dollar each, making this little crop worth $12.

Some things are too important to experiment with, such as the roma tomato that I always start from saved seeds. This is the tomato I preserve for winter use. The roma is fleshy, flavorful and has relatively little juice. When we returned from Colorado Dennis picked more than half a bushel of romas from our seven plants.

This afternoon I will blanch them, remove the skins, cut them in three or four slices and simmer them for about 10 or 15 minutes. When they have cooled I will ladle them into plastic containers and put them in the freezer. They will be there, ready for soup, sauce or stewed tomato dishes all winter and into the spring.

Copyright 2013 by Shirley Domer

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Up and Down in The Rocky Mountains

High in the Rocky Mountains along the Cache de Poudre River Valley many wonders await the visitor from Kansas.

Ox-eye daisies, which bloom in June back home, blooming along side goldenrod, which blooms in September at home…

Bones of trees decaying over many decades…

A glory of rose hips…

Lichens on age-old rocks…

Rushing water…

And towering rock heaps everywhere one turns…

I have enjoyed these sights and many more for thirty-eight years, but this year will be my last. High elevations and rheumatoid arthritis are incompatible. Every approaching storm  has nearly paralyzed me with pain. I don’t expect to pass this way again on my life's journey.

Copyright 2013 by Shirley Domer

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Good Samaritan

Living on a busy street Nancy is inevitably drawn into crises. A couple of years ago Nancy came outside to greet Dennis and me when we had just arrived for a visit, but before we said a word a van hit a bicyclist right in front of the house. In a flash Nancy had her cell phone out, calling 911 and describing the situation to the dispatcher who took her call.

Recently a homeless man rang Nancy’s doorbell, asking for help. He said he was having a heart attack. Nancy asked him to sit in a chair on her porch while she called for an ambulance. While they waited for help to come she stood by him, rubbing his back and whispering words of encouragement.

The latest incident occurred on Saturday afternoon. Returning from a shopping trip, Nancy and I had just pulled into her circular driveway when a motorcycle crashed right in front of us. The young man who was driving and the young woman who rode behind him managed to extricate themselves from beneath the machine but they clearly were injured.

Nancy jumped out of the car, rushing to help. She herded the limping, bleeding pair up the stairs of her porch and into the house. By the time I followed them in, she had first aid supplies out, cleaning bits of gravel out of the palms of their hands. Both the young people were rubbing their legs that had been pinned under the machine, but the most serious injury turned out to be torn skin on the young man’s abdomen, baring muscle tissue and causing great pain.

Nancy covered the tear with a huge bandage and announced, “We’re going to the emergency room.” Todd, Nancy’s husband, wheeled the Yamaha into the fenced-in back yard while Nancy loaded the young people into the car. Todd drove, the young woman sitting beside him, while Nancy sat in back with the young man. At the emergency room Nancy called the young man’s mother, then left the injured pair in the care of emergency personnel.

The Yamaha fared better than its passengers, with just a few scratches and a broken foot rest.

I’m very proud of my daughter, the Good Samaritan, whose compassion and cool thinking help people whose misfortunes occur at her front door.

Copyright 2013 by Shirley Domer

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Chicken Woes

Laurie and Greg are co-owners of our chicken, which gives both families the freedom to go away for a few days. Now that we are in Colorado, Laurie and Greg are caring for the flock, but things are not going well.

The day we left, Laurie went to give the hens some kitchen scraps and gather the eggs. Instead of eggs, she found a huge blacksnake in one of the nests. Laurie rushed home to get Greg, but the snake was gone when Greg arrived.

Greg and Dennis dispatched two blacksnakes earlier this summer, but we have suspected another one was raiding the nests because some days we were getting only one or two eggs. We don’t like to kill blacksnakes because they eat rodents and even other snakes such as copperheads. However, the snakes’ favorite food seems to be chicken eggs.

We know only two ways to get rid of blacksnakes. One is to kill them directly. Dennis whacks them with an oak garden stake. The other way is to put a china egg in the nest. When a snake swallows the egg it will eventually die because it can neither digest nor eliminate the egg. This method seems cruel, but sometimes that is the only way to catch the snake. Now Laurie may resort to that method.

The second day we were gone Laurie found a red sex-link hen in the nest box with her head hanging out, dead as a doornail. This is unique in our many years of chicken keeping. Laurie said there was no sign of a struggle and there were no apparent injuries to the hen. Her death is a mystery.

Two red sex-link hens and a black sex-link hen 

Keeping chickens may seem like a win-win proposition, but that isn’t the case. Still, we have no intention of giving it up. I hope Laurie and Greg feel the same.

Copyright 2013 by Shirley Domer

Monday, August 12, 2013

Colorado Traditions

Every summer when I visit the Reinking family in Colorado Springs I look forward to lunch at Shoppers Grill. Nancy took us there for a late lunch today. Before we went in I asked my granddaughter Cleo to pose for a photo.

Shoppers Grill serves great BLT sandwiches on sourdough bread. The bacon is crisp and the tomatoes are juicy.

Back home I opted for a nap. Just as I was falling asleep someone started throwing rocks at the window, but no! It was hail stones and plenty of them. After the hail came a torrent of rain with thunder and lightning. Annie was a nervous wreck.

After things settled down I went out to view the damage. Leaves from the apple tree floated in an icy lake on the patio.

In the front Nancy’s beautiful flowers were shredded.

Deep water in the street made driving hazardous. This, too, is a tradition. The storm drain on Uintah isn’t capable of handling heavy rain.

It's great to be back, enjoying Colorado Springs traditions.

Copyright 2013 by Shirley Domer

Friday, August 9, 2013

Into Each Life

Lately every day is a rainy day. Grey skies greet us in the morning, lightning wakes us in the night. We long for a day of sunshine.

The weather matches my spirits today. I’m thinking of Linda, Nan, Ron and Debbie, Fay, Sue Ann and others, including myself, into whose lives too much rain is falling. We wake each morning now to serious challenges and search our hearts for the courage to carry on with grace and determination.

Last week a horde of blister beetles stripped our sweet autumn clematis bare of leaves. But it's a brave vine, on the rebound and putting forth new leaves at an amazing rate. May we all meet our challenges with such vigor.

Just for the fun of it, here's “Into Each Life Some Rain Must Fall.”  The  Ink Spots recorded it decades ago. 

Copyright 2013 by Shirley Domer

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Autumn in August

July and August are hot and dry in Kansas. That’s just how it is, but this year it isn’t.

It’s cool. It’s wet. Nearly seven inches of rain have fallen in the past two weeks, including another half inch from a spectacular thunderstorm at four this morning.

More than a week ago we noticed something strange: leaves on all the elms are turning yellow.

This morning’s thunderstorm decorated the deck with yellow leaves.

Is this an early autumn? In August?

Keep an eye out for black wooly worms.

Copyright 2013 by Shirley Domer

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Voodoo Doll

Getting an acupuncture treatment is amusing, in a way. I always think of my body as a voodoo doll, bristling with needles. But the analogy breaks down immediately because Gina, the acupuncturist, pokes needles into me, not with malice, but with intent to restore my injured nerve.

I started acupuncture treatments a couple of weeks ago out of desperation, having read research reports showing that electro-acupuncture speeds nerve healing, but I was skeptical. Gina told me not to expect immediate results; that healing would accelerate with repeated treatments.

Just as she predicted, the first three treatments brought only tiny improvements, but the last two brought dramatic results. I now can raise my forearm so that my hand is vertical.

There's still a long way to go before complete recovery. I still can’t raise my forearm with an object in my hand, but I believe that, too, will come. Thumb and forefinger are still partially numb and my forearm doesn't raise straight up but is slightly canted inward. This, too, will be resolved, I believe. I also believe that belief in recovery is essential for healing to occur.

For the first time in eight weeks I have hope of recovery. I envision driving my car to renew my driver’s license next month. I can see myself kneading bread dough with both hands. I imagine myself sewing again. I do believe my life isn’t over yet.

Acupuncture may remind me of voodoo, but it sure is good medicine. I’m a skeptic no more.

Copyright 2013 by Shirley Domer