Whack 'em, Stack 'em, Burn 'em Up

  After having two nights where there were a few hours below freezing, I decided it was time to put our garden boxes to bed.  I'm kicking myself right now for not taking pictures as I uprooted our okra, shook the dirt off, and cut the 8-10 ft stalks into short pieces that fit in the bottom of my wheelbarrow.  Once I got them all pulled up, shook off and whacked up, I put the pieces in the compost heap, and hoed and raked the garden level, then removed the string that we use to divide the bed into a square foot grid.  Once the bed was all leveled off with fertilizer and compost worked in, me and my 'assistant yard helper', Beaux, loaded a bale of hay into the wheelbarrow to spread out on some of our box beds.  Peggy stepped out with the camera when she heard me laughing at my helper.

As soon as I loaded the hay, he naturally had to jump in and climb on top and assume command of his yard chariot.  "We" spread the hay over the new garden bed, our asparagus patch, and over the larger garden bed.

We left Peggy's herb garden and the strawberry patch uncovered since they both have green things growing in 'em.  On cold nights we can just cover them with towels or old sheets.  The strawberries won't get their straw for another month or two. 
Looking close at or garden bed, you can see some green onions growing through the hay.  They should be fine this winter, barring some errant deep freeze.
  The next morning I rode over to good friend Sam's and from there we went to see Sam's kin, Lance. Lance is also a member in our 'trading country boy network'.  The place Lance works was changing out their scaffolding boards, so rather than see them go to the dump, he loaded them in a trailer and brought them home.  Sam and I loaded up a truckload of these solid oak 6' long boards and dumped them in my yard.
The boards are heavy oak 2" by 12" inchs and on each end have an iron pin through them.
With that in mind, I got out our sawhorses and my skill saw and went to whacking each 6' board into 4-18" pieces.  These I stacked in two different places in the yard.  The end pieces got  put in a pile by the new big fire-pit I'd made, while the middle pieces with no pins in them got stacked on the back wood rack (by the doghouse, now 'cathouse').  Since the ones that don't have pins in them are very easy to split, we'll use them in our smaller fire pit.

So after whacking away at them, the pile got smaller, until after a couple water breaks and a couple hours went by, they were all whacked up.
After whacking and stacking and toting and sweating, there wasn't but one more thing to do.  Sit back and enjoy the fruits of my labor. (MarkyBear lurked under the chair waiting for an appearance of the new tiny yard kitties)

The pit worked wonderful and even passed a grilling test with flying colors. The corner drafted well and did a great job, giving a few pork chops a great smokey flavor.  Of course my sweet spicy rub didn't hurt anything.
Life in our backyard aint all 'work and no play', and after all that whacking and stacking was over it was time to sit back, relax and be thankful for my well-stocked fire pit and woodpile all from our country boy network. As I lifted my first beer in salute, I gave ol' Sam a call and hollered, "Hey, where yat? Why aint ya here?"  but he wasn't around to hear it. Well, I figure, after all that whacking and stacking and hauling and hoeing and raking that all cost me nothing, but gained me a lot; I sat back and enjoyed the satisfaction of a well-earned rest by a nice roaring fire; priceless.


Yard Cats

I got kinda bored sittin' around the house last Thursday, while Peg was busy, so I decided to go sit at the boat landing and 'drown a few worms'.  I got home around 4 o'clock, walked into the backyard and immediately drew a kitty crowd.
Mama yard cat came tumbling out with her 4 tiny kittens as soon as I started moving things around in the yard.
What a nice greeting; they all came wobbling out of their hidey places from around and under the house we had put for them, (installed with two heating pads and topped with a warm blanket because of the freezing temps we've had lately.) I soon came to realize it wasn't me they were coming out for.
Even the small, timid 4th kitten cautiously peeked out with his startlingly blue eyes.  What brought them out of hiding wasn't me but the other "Cat" I brought into the yard.

Catfish that is.  The quickest way to get kitties out of hiding is to plop fresh fish liver in their bowl.  As soon as I had
 "Mr. Whisker-fish" skinned, they all pounced on their bowl, 
            They seemed quite happy with this other cat in the yard.


A Ride To Peg's Pultneyville

One weekend while we were camped out at Dan's house in western New York State, Peggy said we were gonna ride up to Lake Ontario.  I was a little reluctant on accounta having just spent a month camped out at the Webster campground, which was on the shore of the lake.  She assured me I would enjoy the ride to Pultneyville, but still I unenthusiastically climbed into the SUV and only a grumbled a 'little' bit about it, shrugging, 'okay, back to da lake'.  Our time in New York was growing short cuz we'd been there six weeks already and November was fast approaching bringing with it what I feared might be snow, so I dreaded having to be 'wasting' one of our precious days together seeing the same area again we'd already been seeing for all this time.  She assured me I wouldn't be disappointed, and boy! was she ever right.  We drove back up to Webster and were met by the family of deer we had been seeing on a daily basis. Well, okay, you can never get tired of seeing that.

But then as we rode by way of the special scenic road called the Seaway Trail along the lake, the scenery changed dramatically as we rode through amazing apple orchards.  For a South Louisiana country boy, I was bug-eyed, nose-to-the-window as we passed all the trees loaded with all kinds of varieties of apples I aint nevah heard of.  I had no idea there was so many different kinds of apples.  And then, of course, there were grapes growing alongside them in many places, that being grape country as well. Peggy was right I was far from disappointed seeing all this.

When we got to the lake she took me to a park she usta love to come to and relax while gazing out over the lake.

    Okay, Cappy wanted me to tell you about this little park. The name is Forman Park. Just being in the park makes me feel as though I'm stepping back in time, to a more peaceful era. There's just something about the place. Even in summer, the air coming off the lake is cool and crisp. If the park is crowded; people everywhere, families picnicking or just relaxing, everyone is polite to one another, and still there's the quiet and restfulness. Often, I'd make the long drive by myself on weekdays when the kids were in school and folks were at work, leaving the park almost desolate. I'd go just to spend time alone to read, I might have my art supplies along, or just being still and listening to my own thoughts, or, and especially to try listen to what the Lord might be trying to tell me. And still today, when it's time to go home, it's always with sadness and regret that I have to leave, but I always do so with a sense of having been refreshed and with a longing to return soon. I hope Cappy felt that way, too. (To get a good feel for the place, click on the pictures to make them bigger)

The park was very nice and surprisingly not crowded.  I guess with all the apple orchards and harvest festivities around, everyone was elsewhere, so that made our visit all the better. We stopped at a restaurant/ice cream stand/bar there in Pultneyville and had a nice visit looking at the boats in this marina, while she had some frozen raspberry sorbet, keeping the windows of the SUV up and the heater on, cuz it was cold out up there already. The heater on...eatin' ice cream cuz it's cold outside. Shakin' my head. We're always laughing about one thing or another wherever we go, so that's a good thing.
      On the drive back to our camper we passed several front yard fruit and vegetable stands where folks were selling their harvest goodies.
 I learned from Peg that the 'Honey Crisp' apples were a local favorite prized for their flavor.  She said, tho', that when she was a kid, MacIntosh was the apples her family bought by the bushel load and snacked on them every night while watchin' tv, till the basket was empty. There were also pumpkins every where. Pumpkins and squashes.

It was an amazing trip and I learned something. In New York sumac is not poison like poison ivy like I'd always heard it was, and in the Fall it's quite beautiful. Peg says the Indians...nowadays to be politically correct I guess I should say, 'Native Americans', but they used to make a 'lemonade' kind of drink out of the dark red fuzzy 'berries'. Ya learn something new every day, it seems.
It sure added to a wonderful Saturday drive. I'm so glad we went that day and look forward to doin' it again sometime. When it's warm again.


Teaching Joe To Make My Cajun Chicken Spaghetti

  Son, Joe, came over one Saturday and I passed on a little Cajun cooking lesson.  I love teaching the guys how to cook the dishes my father cooked and passed on to me.  I came into their lives late, but am slowly trying to pass on a little knowledge of my family's Cajun traditional things.  I have taught Dan how to cook a few things and it really makes me feel good when he calls and tells me he is cooking this or that, that I taught him, for his family.
Dan and "Beaux Bear" greeted Joe as he arrived carrying a sack of munchies.
Since I had left my metal wind break for the outside propane stove back home in Louisiana, I improvised with a pizza box and with Joe looking on and helping to stir,
I started by browning half a dozen chicken thighs, and we visited while they cooked.

I took the chicken out and put in some sliced sausage and diced onion. We tried in vain to try to find some authentic Cajun sausage, so used Hillshire brand.
After they cooked down somewhat, I added a can of diced tomatoes and a can of Rotel tomatoes and let that cook down some more.  It started getting cool outside, as the sun dropped for the horizon, so I moved the whole project into our lil camper.  That way it would be warm and cozy for the photographer, (Peggy, who had been hiding out in the warmth of the camper) to visit with Joe, too.  I bet yall were wondering if I ever cook on the camper stove and the answer is, "hardly ever, but yes."

Joe paid close attention and helped with the stirring and such while we had a wonderful visit.
I showed him a couple tricks to get that particular flavor that we all love that makes our Cajun Chicken Spaghetti so special.

We had a good time and boy! did our lil camper smell wonderful.
Joe loved the stuff and polished off 2 big plates of it.  It was all I could do to save Dan a plateful.
With Peggy's gluten-free pasta stirred in, it was very good if I do say so myself, and very difficult to sacrifice my own second helping for Dan, who had gone in to work that night for some light-duty paper pushing, but I was proud to do it; aint that what Step-pops are 'posed to do? When Dan got home from work at 4:30 in the morning (he's a nightclub manager), first thing, he dove into his spaghetti, licked his fingers and fought the urge to come beat on the camper door to see if there was any more left and tell us how good it was.
   For those of you not familiar with my Chicken spaghetti, here is the recipe, complete with a how-to video from our other blog: http://theroundrobincajuncountrycooking.blogspot.com/2014/03/cajun-style-chicken-spaghetti.html


Saying Goodbye To An Old 'Friend'

   Don't worry; it's not our good friend, "Smokin" Sam aka "Bobec", but his old beloved, well-seasoned, well-used, plywood smokehouse.
Those of you, who regularly read our Blog, will recognize the ole plywood smoker. The "07" sign on the front of it, designates the year it was put into service, and over the years, it has made several appearances on these postings.  I hated to see the old thing go, but you can see from it's inside, that it was probably time.     
Last night I scored a Boston Butt roast and slathered it with our South Louisiana's Steen's cane syrup; both sides, top and bottom. 
Then I sprinkled on our own Cajun spice. 
...then some Worcestershire sauce.  
 ...followed by Chrystal Hot sauce; all of which is gluten free for Peggy.  
 Since it was nice and cold last night, I parked the roast in the bbq pit outside. I got up this morning and seasoned the three baking hens we had also thawed, using the same spices and "woo", but without the cane syrup, because these hens are destined for future gumbos and we don't want them smoked 'sweet'. By 7:30 this morning, our pork roast and the three hens, along with what Sam had goin' on, were all occupying prime locations in Sam's spacious new cypress smokehouse.   

  Sam had a couple chickens and a couple slabs or ribs, and boy, everybody looked so pretty by the time he was done with 'em.
Drivin' home, can you just imagine how my Jeep musta smelled, bringin' all those smoked goodies home after they'd been sitting' in some really good smoke for five hours??   
  Two of the smoked hens went directly into the freezer (after they cooled down, of course), and one of them went into the fridge; can smokey gumbo be far away? The smoked Boston butt went into the oven for about another four or five hours, taking it's time till it was 'fall apart done'. 
This being done, it was well-cooked, and once cooled enough to handle, we pulled it apart by hand.

 Actually shredded it by hand, then we poured Peggy's homemade bbq sauce onto it.  
  We stirred this together and it's now and amazing pulled pork, that we just can't stay out of. We shared some of it with a couple of our neighbors, who have shared some of their prized dishes with us, and we are awaiting their verdict.  

Personally, we say the stuff is guilty of being so danged good that we can't stay out of it, and we'd better hurry up and get the rest of it into the freezer before we hurt ourselves. We could say we miss our old 'friend', Sam's original smoker, that he built himself, but this brand new, foot deeper smokehouse that his son, Stan, built for him, has fast become our newest best smoker friend, with our good buddy, Smokin' Sam at the helm.