Tuesday, April 29, 2014

No self respecting Ridgeback would do this!

Little Miss Pond Scum
Somebody got a little warm on her long walk Sunday with DH and the Monkeys!  I'm pretty sure no self respecting purebred Ridgie would do this, thus I suspect there is a bit of waterdog in her!  She's certainly soft mouthed enough for having some waterdog, but actually retrieving anything seems to be beneath her dignity.

Friday, April 25, 2014

The Booster Campaign for TIRR got cancelled...

Sadly, the TIRR Rescue T-shirt campaign on Booster has been cancelled. For anyone who chose to buy a shirt, or to make a monetary donation through Booster,  TIRR will issue a full refund of all monies.  All purchasers/donators will receive an email informing them of their refund in progress.

And if anyone out there wishes to still donate to TIRR, you are welcome and encouraged to do so through their Paypal options on the TIRR Petfinder website.  All donations are tax deductible.

Thank you all, my friends.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

What to put on all that dirt?

You may be wondering what we did with that six yards of dirt from last Thursday.  Well, it got distributed along the north side of the house, around the new patio, and all over the shelter mound...one cart load at a time!
Starting sod in a dry Texas can be a challenge.  We are permitted to water it by hand, daily, for a total of 30 days.  After that, once per week on trash day.  Same for the seed we had to put on the mound.
The white-looking fluffy stuff, is a shredded wood product turf mat.  It's job is to protect the seeded area from runoff (and the fresh dirt there too!), and to help keep it from drying out.  The seed should sprout and grow up through the matting, and it should slowly decay into the soil.  The challenge will come the first time or two we try to mow the grass and matting.

Everything else got sod.  A whole pallet of TIFF 419 Bermuda, according to our turf supplier.  Oh and there are 11 pieces of some other Bermuda variety (the really green stuff) I snagged at Home Depot, when we didn't think we would be able to get the sod on a pallet from the other supplier.

Sod went all around the patio, and on the east face of the mound.  We put up a series of walls with T-posts and orange construction fencing, in an attempt to keep children and dogs OUT of the area.  We were kind enough to leave them an exit off the patio, out into the rest of the back yard, for play, and other 'business'.

This part of the back yard renovation was the easiest in my mind, since I got to go pick up the sod, and return the rental truck, whereas DH had to finish prepping the soil, and tamp it down with the 10" stamping plate.  He and the Monkeys set most of the sod too.  Our hope is that the sod and seed will all take, and we will be able later this year to enjoy a green and somewhat shaded, cool back yard, perhaps with some as yet unacquired patio furniture.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

For Brigid...

John 3:16
King James Version (KJV)

16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

By the time you read this, it will be Easter Sunday.  I had planned a post on the conclusion of the yard project this week.  That post's been put on hold, as I sadly learned my friend Brigid's brother has passed away on Good Friday evening, about the time our Tenebrae service was held.

For Brigid, her father, and all her family, you have my heartfelt sympathy for your loss.  May these far more eloquent words of others bring you some small comfort in this time of grief.

Psalm 107:23-30
King James Version (KJV)

23 They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters;
24 These see the works of the Lord, and his wonders in the deep.
25 For he commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof.
26 They mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the depths: their soul is melted because of trouble.
27 They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wit's end.
28 Then they cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their distresses.
29 He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still.
30 Then are they glad because they be quiet; so he bringeth them unto their desired haven.

Sea Fever

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking,

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.

Friday, April 18, 2014

This week's hard work project...

Though I have been fairly quiet on the blog this week, I have been working.  We decided that there was a need to redo the retaining edge strips for the paver patio, and to redo the dirt both around the patio, and the north side of the foundation.  Oh, and don't forget the storm shelter!  That always needs more dirt around it, especially after certain Monkeys decided to fight WWI again on the west side, complete with GI Joe scale trenches for proper trench warfare.

Wednesday I spent a couple hours digging out the edge of the patio.  With a Sharpshooter shovel it wasn't hard, but I had to make sure not to disturb the paver base material lest the stones shift.

The retaining strips were then set at the bottom of the trench and nailed down with the supplied plastic nails.  The old dirt was then filled back in, resulting in a much nicer looking edge with no visible plastic.

Part two of the project arrived at 09:20 Thursday morning.  Six cubic yards of slightly damp Texas topsoil.

With DH back at work this week, that left myself and 3 Monkeys to shift all that dirt into the back yard before it rained!  Fortunately, the kids can manage a full load in the Gorilla Cart, so two of us shoveled, and two did the dump 'n run trick....until...

Yes, a large construction ring-nail was found imbedded in one of the cart tires.  Oops!  Hard to haul dirt with a flat tire.  After managing to get one side of the tire off the rim, and extracting the offending nail, and the damaged tube, I was able to patch the hole with the old style vulcanizing bike tire patch kit.   (rubber cement and the patch.)  The tire went back on without tools--YAY!  And the patch held air.

Not long after this, our neighbor Frank stopped by, and volunteered to help.  What a true lifesaver he was!  He came with a shovel and a two-wheel wheelbarrow, and worked with us for some 4 hours, shoveling and hauling, raking and leveling dirt. 
See?  It's shrinking!
They say, "How does one eat an elephant?"  Well, one bite at a time, or in this case, one shovelful at a time!  We didn't quite manage to shift all six yards of dirt before DH got home from work, but we came close. 
Almost done!
We finished up before 18:00, and while I went out to get some dinner and seed matting for grass, DH and the kids cleaned up the driveway mess.  After dinner, we worked more on raking out the dirt where we wanted it, and got the matting down to keep the dogs off of the fresh damp dirt.  Hopefully, the matting will not only protect the seed we will be spreading, but also keep the expected rains from relocating all our dirt through erosion!

Tomorrow's project?  Laying down SOD!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Blood Moon, Red Planet, and Spica

That is a Blood Moon, as seen over DFW at 02:45 04/15/14.  The bright "star" to the upper right is actually Mars, the Red Planet.  The small dimmer star is Spica. 

Taken with a Samsung Galaxy S4, in Night Mode, held by hand, supported by a ladder.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Blood Moon Tetrad begins

Tonight begins a series of four total eclipses of the moon within the next 18 months.  A total eclipse of the moon is commonly known as a Blood Moon, because the moon appears a deep reddish color when the eclipse is at its maximum.

Some folks feel that this will precipitate major social upheavals, or even more dramatic, the End Times.  While I do not subscribe to that particular belief, I do find it somewhat ironic that tomorrow is Tax Day, April 15th in the USA.

Though it is rather chilly here today, what with a big front that came through last night, it is supposed to be clear skies by 10pm, well before the eclipse begins.  Temps overnight are forecast to freeze here (29F for the low).  However it is a chance for the Monkeys to see a neat astronomical event.

After DH made me aware of tonight's eclipse, I asked the Monkeys if they wanted to get up/stay up to witness it.  The cacophony of affirmations was funny.  M1 expressed a sincere desire to see the event.  M2 expressed a desire for lots of coffee in order to stay up.  (he is the early sleeper/early riser in the family).  M3 wanted caffeinated soda and pizza to eat all night long.

Since somebody just returned to work from being off on disability (remember the CPAP?), and doesn't need to lose a night's sleep mucking about with Monkeys and an eclipse, I guess I will be the one trying to stay up all night!  It could be fun.  It will be exhausting.  Thank goodness I am a night owl at heart.

Come to think of it, perhaps it would be a good idea to roast some coffee beans for myself.  And maybe sneak in a nap today too...  If I am feeling generous, and if they behave well today, I might be persuaded to get a freezer pizza and a 2L of Dr Pepper for us all to share.  It could be a party of sorts if they are quiet enough to not wake DH up.

If you want to know if you will be able to see this lunar eclipse,(assuming clear skies) this link will tell you.  Eclipse viewing.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Brisket Experiment

Brisket...BBQ bane or blessing?  I will be honest with y'all, I have never really enjoyed my own smoked brisket.  That's not to say the rest of the diners did not like them, but I, the cook, did not.

I've never been totally clear either, on what it is, I am doing wrong, or not doing...  Normally I prefer to smoke delicious dead pig.  I get excellent results on pretty well anything pig.  I also grill a mean steak, but brisket?  Eh, how about a smoked pork shoulder instead, love?

But I love DH, and he really likes brisket.  So when he found the brisket recipe in the latest Penzey's catalog, I found myself on the receiving end of some not so subtle hints.  Thus on our trip this week to said spice store, we acquired the things listed in their employee-tested recipe.  There will be a summary of the recipe at the end of all this.
Right side wet rub. Left side dry rub.
The big brisket was unpacked and trimmed up on the edges, but not for fat removal.  The little tip brisket and its bacon was soaked in Guinness Stout for around 10 hours before the rubs were applied and it was wrapped in bacon.
Big brisket
Beer soaked little brisket
Wet rub application
Cook's prerogative!

After applying the wet and dry rubs to both briskets, I wrapped the small one in bacon.  Then I sprinkled some more dry rub on the bacon for good measure.   Things were then covered and put in the fridge overnight.

06:00 came far too soon for my taste, but DH got up with me to help start the smoker.  The goal is to keep it cooking for 10-12hrs at as close to 275F as I can manage.

On heat at 6a.m.

An hour in...
It was a slow day, basting the meat with mop sauce around every hour.  After about 7hrs on the smoker, I wrapped the big brisket in foil and let it continue, wrapped, until 5pm.    This is the results of my labors.
That's not burnt--that's spiced, blackened bacon, that tastes slightly sweet from the mop sauce.  You can see part of the "smoke ring" where the meat appears pink/red.  It came out tender, and not too dry.  The guys passed verdict on it as Tasty and Fit for Human Consumption!  Though they did think the cayenne pepper needs to be reduced down to a total of 1/2T.  I had already cut it down from the suggested 2T to only 1T, but that proved a little warm still.  I guess it all turned out ok, and the left overs (actually the entire big brisket is left overs...) are making for some tasty sandwiches for lunch today.
Next time, it's a pork shoulder--my personal favorite and probably a slab of ribs.  Perhaps I will try a simple cracked pepper and brown sugar rub.  Or maybe just sea salt and cracked pepper?  Either way, I think the Penzey's rub was good, but too complicated.

For those interested, here is a picture of the Penzey's info.  Enlarge it to read it better.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Culinary Pilgrimage

After reading many times, on Brigid's blog, of the wonders of visiting a Penzey's Spices store, DH and I made the trip down to Farmers Branch to visit the nearest site.  DH had been once before, when he used to work in the area, but I had never been there.

Wow...they really do have just about everything imaginable to the inner gourmet cook in all of us.  They have all manner of sizes of product, along with sample/sniff jars of everything.  I found out the 8oz jar of Mexican Vanilla DH had gotten me on his original trip was only available in select stores (including this store), and also runs over $22/8oz.  At that price, I had to pass, since the Monkeys are as yet unable to distinguish between my expensive Mexican Vanilla Extract, and the $1.89 bottle of Imitation Vanilla Extract I buy for them to use in vanilla milk and their cookie baking projects.

We came away with a bag full of goodies, including my new favorite, crystallized ginger!  (Now if I can just stop sneaking little bits of it!)  Most of the rest of them were for this weekend's smoking project, a large beef brisket, which I am supposed to smoke on Saturday, using the Penzey's spices DH selected for the rub. Oh, and if you have not yet tried their 4S Smoky seasoned salt, you are seriously missing out on a good thing!

A side benefit was the decision/need to purge the spice cabinet in the kitchen.  Two whole shelves got sorted, purged, cleaned and reloaded.  I would estimate I should be able to find things for at least a week now, or until the Monkeys get in there and rearrange all of it!

If you've never tried Penzey's, they have a nice website, and a paper catalog they love to mail out.  It has recipes that they test on the warehouse staff, plus usually a coupon for a specific free spice on your next order.  The coupon is also good in the store if you happen to have one near by.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

And it is not even June yet

Just when you thought it was safe after dark,to leave
the porch light on...
The June April-bug massacree!

(Stomp them all if you can, as they are the main source of grubs in your yard.)

Monday, April 7, 2014

Gear review: Fenix PD35 light

Wow, about time I did a gear review of something, eh?  I know it has been a while, so bear with me.  This is a review of my new Fenix PD-35 LED flashlight with the XML-U2 LED. 
It represents a bit of a sea-change in my flashlight EDC desires and needs.  I have for years, stuck to single cell CR123 lights to achieve a compact form and to reduce the potential for a flashlight kaboom when using lithium ion batteries (either primary or rechargeable).  I even went so far as to change battery chemistry to the LiFePO4 battery to remove the vent-with-flame potential of a multi-cell light.

For those not familiar with lithium ion chemistry and the vent-with-flame potential I happily refer you to this Candlepower forum area:  Battery Kabooms
It will educate you more than you probably ever wanted about batteries, their chemistry, their faults and benefits. 

So why the change?  Because I got a chance to check out a PD35 light at REI this weekend on DH's birthday, and having a 20% coupon there along with my dividend, it was remarkably inexpensive for a light capable of taking an 18650 single cell Li-Ion battery.  The light typically retails for $80USD.  DH liked it so much that he encouraged me to buy it--"Here, love, twist my arm to make me buy another flashlight!"

There are a number of nice things about this PD35 light.  For a light capable of running on a single 18650 battery, it is very compact.  It is not really any longer than DH's Nitecore MH1C 1xAA light.  That's pretty impressive if you ask me, since an 18650 packs a lot more power into it, than a 14500 battery.  It also has a small head/reflector on it, which means it fits comfortably in one's front pocket.  This is nice, if you don't want to have it in a belt pouch.  The pocket clip is removable, though I plan to leave it in place regardless, to use it as an indexing point to find the grey side switch.  The notched fins on the head help prevent rolling when you set the light down, and also increase the heat dissipation when running the light on the higher output levels.
The beam from the reflector is very nice.  It is very smooth from the bright hotspot to the wide spill, so that at distance it is almost like a pure flood beam.  Also, for a small 20mm reflector, it throws pretty well outside.  When I tested it in the front yard the other night, I was getting good illumination out to 50+yds, which is plenty for visual ID of hazards, including the 2 legged kind.  The reflector is smooth, and the LED centered.  This contributes greatly to the really nice beam pattern.

On to the switches on this light.  There are two.  This is less complicated than it sounds.  The main switch, is on the rear of the light.  It is a "tactical" switch, in that it has a momentary forward press as well as a forward click to turn on the light.  The switch is large enough to find easily with a thumb.  When pressed, the light will come on at whatever power setting it was used at last (except for strobe).  So if you turn it off in Eco mode, it will turn back on, in Eco mode.
The second switch is the mode switch located on the side of the light body.  This enables you to select how bright the light is.  It is important to note that this switch does NOT change the settings of the light if the light is turned off.  That means it will not switch modes in your pocket.  The primary modes of this light are as follows:  Eco-Low-Med-Hi-Turbo.  The factory ratings can be seen in this picture.
There is also a hidden strobe mode.  You can have the light shift into a rapid strobe mode by pressing the side switch and holding it down for approximately 1 second.  The strobe is fairly disorienting if it is shined in your eyes.  It's also stunningly bright!  Fortunately, this light does not include the typical extraneous flashing modes that so irritate us flashaholics.  There is no SOS, and no beacon slow flash.  Plus with the strobe not loaded into the main mode sequence, if you don't want to use it, you will never encounter it unless you press and hold the side switch.

The steps in brightness in the main output settings are fairly well spaced.  Even turbo is significantly brighter than High, especially when using an 18650 battery.  Eco, which is the lowest mode, is fine for wandering around the house in the middle of the night to avoid stepping on sleeping dogs and kiddie caltrops.  It's a bit too bright to truly preserve your night adapted vision--for that you would want a sub-one lumen output.  Eco mode is about 10 lumens.  There is available, a red filter, that fits this light if preserving night vision is important to you.

Because this is a 2xCR123 or 1x18650 light, it is long enough to use the Harries Method when carrying a pistol.  My small 1xCR123 lights were really too small (and all twisty lights) to use in conjunction with a pistol.  So why not use a pistol mounted light?  Because I don't want to have to point a pistol at something just to put light on it.  Think about that for a second...

Overall, I really like this light.  It is very unobtrusive on the belt or in the pocket.  The light comes with a pouch, a small lanyard, spare o-rings, a pocket clip, and a spare rubber tail cap.  The cordura nylon belt pouch has a velcro flap and the belt loop on the back will handle a 1 1/2" wide belt.  I don't know if it will handle a 1 3/4" belt but it might.  If you register your light with Fenix online, they will extend the 2 year warranty an additional 6 months, which is nice.

For those of you who want to see beam shots at night, and some white wall hunting pics, I will gladly refer you to FlashLion's review on CPF.  It is a very detailed review and includes some output measurements in a real-world setting.  He's also a better photographer than I am with my cell phone!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Sporty weather tonight

We are having a night of sporty weather here.  There were three tornado warnings issued, though most of the bad weather went east of us.  Some damage was reported in Farmersville they said on the weather net. Skywarn is doing a good job, though folks are a bit exciteable as it's the first real call out of the year.  

The Monkeys are tired of being cooped up in the storm shelter, and are being snippy with each other.  Ya gotta love the snarl on the face of the oldest!
Still, despite being crowded together for about 2hrs, we did get some much needed rain here. That's much appreciated, and luckily here at the casa, we did not have any severe hail, unlike many parts of NTX just a couple miles north of the casa.

Here are links to a couple sites that show some pictures/damage etc. This one is to wfaa.com's pictures, but I compressed the url as it was cumbersome.

This one is to a thread on ar15.com showing some of the damage to area cars.  It is also compressed.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Prayers for Ft Hood

Prayers for the wounded, their families and loved ones at Ft Hood today.  There is an active shooter situation ongoing there, and news reports are highly unreliable at this point.

Cavtrooper21, I am so glad you are not there any more.  Call me if you want to, my friend.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

A year is a long time

Soaking up sunshine.
It's been a year now, since Charlie had to be put down.  I know it was the right decision, and I don't feel guilty for it.  But I miss him.

You can cram two big dogs into one bed!
It surprises me a little, how easily even now, right now to be honest, the tears still flow.  I had thought I had a better handle on that now...I guess I was wrong.
Ever tolerant.
While I know my heart is ready to love another Ridgie in need, I also have to accept that my old dog Cody, that brindle beast in some of the pics, is not ready.  He likely never will be ready.  So that dog-shaped hole inside will stay vacant a while longer.

I see pieces of Charles in other dogs sometimes--in the tilt of the head, the cant of the ears, the eyes.  Roy said that would happen.  He was right.
 Roy, thank you for letting us have Charlie, all those years ago.  And thank you for all you do for the other unwanted, unloved Ridgebacks and mixed breeds that you take in at TIRR

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