Thursday, November 5, 2009

on the rag

i'm on the rag. the black mountain rag, that is. some of you know that i've been infected by the bluegrass bug for years. when i lived in the bucolic shenandoah valley, fresh bluegrass wasn't hard to come by. now that i'm a colorado resident, i find myself lacking in good quality pickin' and grinnin' (despite the fact that the most famous yearly bluegrass festival is held in telluride). one of my only sources for the tinny treble trinity of banjo, mandolin, and guitar is a local band called Grass It Up. i first heard them several months ago at my absolute favorite watering hole, Trinity Brewery, and my bluegrass fever shot through the roof.

after hearing classics like "sittin' on top of the world" and "take me in your lifeboat," an awesome version of "stickshifts and safety belts" by CAKE, and the BEST rendition of "voodoo child" that i've ever heard, i knew i had to get in on the action. during a set break, i struck up a conversation with Grass It Up's main guitarist, Shannon Carr, and arranged for a lesson.

i've "played" guitar for about 15 years now but i'll be the first to admit that i don't play nearly as well as i should for having played for that long. i've always played by ear and by watching others and i don't practice as much as i should. that said, my first lesson went well. i've self-taught myself some bad habits but i didn't leave feeling like a total boob. i made a CD of artists i'd like to emulate and some tunes i'd like to learn and after listening to it, my instructor decided that my first lesson would revolve around doc watson's version of black mountain rag.

here are three somewhat divergent versions of black mountain rag for your listening pleasure. doc's version:

chet atkins' version:

and brian setzer's version:

*blisters and hand cramps ensue*



Wednesday, November 4, 2009

various and sundry wtf's

every few months, it seems, i end up with a collection of pictures i've taken or collected. some are depictions of something i'd intended to blog about, some are just funny or strange, and some are just taken for this catch-all post. we'll begin with a trip to the asian market. like our friends at have shown, having a laugh at someone else's failed grasp on english is fun. balls!
so many jokes to be made here. i digress.
vermont: new england's curry capitol.
try our other great flavor: go fuck yourself!
your favorite vegetable is now a dessert pop! also try our broccoli brittle and beet flavored toothpaste!

ok, ok...enough picking on the asians...especially when there's so much to make fun of everywhere else :-) how about these:
i mean, seriously. you're not THAT pressed for time. give your kid a normal bath like everyone else.

from the makers of ParanoidPals and FreneticFriends!
when your merken needs a lift, try merken spice! (yes, i know it's not spelled like that....relax)
man! who knew that sticker placement could be so important?
this is a children's coloring/drawing/workbook. in the upper left hand corner, the instructions read, "color only the things you like." enlarge this if you can and look at the items. wtf?!
wow. wtf kind of kids book IS this? incidentally, this page is easier if you're from baltimore.
for all of those times when you've needed to "instantly disguise" yourself as thomas jefferson.
finally you can sit on your couch watching TV in a blanket with sleeves AND express your "wild side." that IS wild!

and our final entry for today:
where do you fall?

until i have more time,

p.s. i welcome your caption additions!

Friday, October 16, 2009

fighting back

we've lived here in colorado springs long enough to know that the weather patterns here are schizophrenic (at best) and can lull you into short sleeves one minute only to cover you in snow the next but this past week has been one of the best examples of this area's meteorological mental illness i've ever seen. we were enjoying early fall temperatures last week and bundling in thermals and stocking caps only days later. in a matter of hours, we went from clear skies to a two day ice storm that resulted in 282 reported traffic collisions and practically paralyzed the city. (mostly because people are fucking idiots....but that'll be another post)

when the cold has forced you into floppy socks and sweatpants mode, what better way to fight back than with a big pot of homemade soup? this one came together pretty easily, was a good way to use up an acorn squash that had been lurking on the counter, and was REALLY good. when the days are cold and dreary, try this yet-unnamed soup to warm you up. (especially if a stubborn gourd is stalking you from the corner of the the kitchen)

1 onion
2 ribs celery
2 med carrots
1 leek
3 cloves garlic
1 acorn squash
4-5 stems chard or other dark leafy green

10 oz. vegan sausage analogue (or sausage if you MUST)
2 cans white cannelini beans (drained)

2C water
2 star anise pods
2 bay leaves
8 juniper berries (if you have them)
1t dried thyme
salt and pepper
olive oil

brown crumbled sausage in olive oil in dutch oven or large pot. remove from pan.
peel, seed, chop, and blanch that creepy acorn squash. 1/2 inch cubes worked for me.
chop your mirepoix however you'd like. 1/4 inch dice worked nicely.
sweat leeks, onions, carrots, celery, and garlic in olive oil until translucent and "melted."
add berbere seasoning, star anise, bay, and thyme.
add broth, water, beans, sausage, and squash.
bring to boil, put on lid, drop to med-low for an hour.
chop chard, throw in pot, lid, simmer for another 15 mins.
remove anise pods and bay leaves.
eat warm soup with crusty bread.
grin smugly.

you could use other meats but the subtle spicy sage notes of the sausage really elevate this dish.
the anise is the real star here and it does so in the most brilliantly unobtrusive way. don't skip it.
you can add the constituent spices in the berbere seasoning in smaller amounts if you don't have it.
the juniper berries are nice but not essential.
don't be a sissy with the pepper.

happy souping,

p.s. i'm taking suggestions for names for this awesome soup :-)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

"living off the fatta' the lan'" - the next generation

when last we spoke, my garden was in it's infancy. spring lettuces were young and tender, tomato plants had just been nestled in the earth, and the potatoes had not yet been planted. after three beautiful months of colorado summer, things look quite different. the broccoli, cabbage, and lettuces have now all been harvested, the tomatoes (as you'll see) are downright prolific, the herbs have all taken off, and the legumes, potatoes, and carrots have flourished.
pictured left: legume patch - purple bush beans, sugar snap peas, broad beans, and one ornamental gourd for good measure.

pictured right
: first of the "purple haze" carrots.

pictured below: harvest of "kennebec white" and "purple peruvian" potatoes.

while i'm truly proud of ALL of the offerings from my very first garden, it's the TOMATOES that have really impressed me this year. in what i've been told had been a "bad tomato year" here in colorado springs, our 12 tomato varieties have surpassed anything we could have hoped for. we've enjoyed tiny, sweet, juicy orange "sun sugar," pointy pink "sugary," mild but tangy "green zebras," plump and rich "black cherry," mild and bright "lemon boy," and the complex, intense, sexy "black from tula." the others (including "pineapple," "brandywine red," "lisa king," and "mortgage lifter") haven't fully ripened yet but all are bearing promising fruit.

because a picture is said to be worth a thousand words and because formatting text and pictures with Blogger is such a pain in the ass, here are some pictures of our produce bounty:
it was daunting at first and i still have TONS to learn, but this gardening year has already been more rewarding than i could have imagined. we're living on less than half an acre here (much of which is not plantable) and i think we've really gotten a lot out of what little area we have planted. i'm learning more every day and i just set some seed today for fall harvests of parsley, arugula, leaf lettuces, collards, broccoli, and spinach.
i'd eventually like to get to something much more organized, calculated, and productive (like a system reasonably close to what the Dervaes family has accomplished) but, for our first year gardening here, i could scarcely be happier.

gardening, like i've preached about in my previous vegan-hippie-tree-hugger posts, is another way YOU, yes, YOU can take a step toward self-sufficiency and away from the commercial food machine. dirt is cheap, seeds are cheap, water is relatively cheap (and sometimes free!), sunlight is free. homegrown food is fresher, more nutritious, tastier, cheaper, and more fun than what you'll find at the store. here is the Dervaes family to get you inspired:

there are tons of online resources, and, for you neo-Luddites out there, your local library is sure to have enough info to get you started growing on your own. take a chance - throw some seeds in the ground. you might be surprised at how much fun (and food) you get out of it.


~thorny appleseed

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Looks like it worked! Yay technology!

a test and an update

a test and a tiny update: i've just enabled mobile blogging from my cell and i'm hoping this makes it through space and lands where it's supposed to. that covered, this little guy is the first product from the zucchini plant that volunteered in our compost bin. i know i have been woefully remiss in my updates and i hope that this new mobile blogging capability will help remedy that least a little bit. later, ~thorns

Thursday, July 23, 2009

cake for dinner

this one goes out to all you naysayers out there :-) i know it's hard for some to believe that one can have a fulfilling food life without the inclusion of animal products but here is the proof that such fulfillment can be attained!

mountain mama natural foods is a local family-operated natural food store located just up the hill from our house. about a month ago, we started noticing that their in-house bakery was putting out vegan, gluten-free cakes. our first thought was: how good can a vegan, gluten-free cake be? our second thought (after trying a piece) was: where has this cake been all my life? my third thought: is it possible to legally marry a piece of cake? people, this cake was out-freakin'-standing. how good? well here is a picture of it:
i felt so bad for eating it all without sharing with you guys that i HAD to get another piece just to show you. so here is the second, yet-to-be-eaten version:
it is chocolate cake with peanut butter cream icing made from freshly ground peanut butter and other magical ingredients. Kendra is the bakery magician and i'm sure she sold her soul at a dusty crossroads somewhere to be able to do what she does with vegan and gluten-free ingredients. we liked the cake so much that we ordered a whole one for our anniversary. here's what we got...heaven in a pastry box:
besides the peanut butter version shown here, she's done chocolate-cherry, chocolate-orange, raspberry, mocha, and a couple others. all were amazing and i challenge ANYONE to be able to tell that it's made without animal products. for those of you reading from afar, i wish i could send you some of this amazing stuff. for those here in the springs, go see Kendra for your own'll change your world!

hiding the scales and mirrors,


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

unplug yourself: part two

over a year ago, i extolled the virtues of investing in your health by educating yourself and examining the sources of the food you eat. the essential message was to take off the blinders that commercial food producers force on us through advertising, media, etc., and to seek better, more sustainable food sources. if you missed part one, shame on you but here it is once again.

barbara kingsolver, in her book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, chronicles her family's year-long pledge to eat things they grew on their farm, could trade their home grown items for, or could get from other homesteaders in their community. one cue that i took from the kingsolvers is to abide by the tenet of eating SLOWly, a philosophy that has been acronymed as Seasonal, Local, Organic, and Whole. in doing so, i strive to unplug from the frenzy of commercial grocery purveyors and choose to patronize the community-supported food chain from days of old...the food chain of our grandparents... the food chain i'm glad to see being revived.

one of the best ways i've found to participate in that revival is to purchase a share in a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm. farmers who sell to large supermarkets traditionally get a woefully small percentage on the dollar from the sale of the produce they grow. as such, if they experience a bad crop year, they're seldom able to mitigate that hardship and survive til the next year. with the purchase of a share, you are assured that ALL of the dollar goes to them and you share in the bounty (or lack thereof) that their hard work yields. this year, we chose the Greenhorn Acres Farm. for the cost of our share we get 26 weeks of fresh produce that was organically grown and picked fresh by caring hands. the variety is inspiring, the freshness is unbeatable, and having met the family that works the land and tends the plants makes it even more rewarding.

this is the typical share basket we collect each week.
there's a head of beautiful crisp lettuce, swiss chard, chiogga beets, pattypan and ball zucchini, fava beans, and english peas. with the two latter treats, i took inspiration from jamie oliver's recipe for "posh beans on toast" which another blogger transcribed for our convenience. it was incredibly fresh and really delicious. the mystery of the weekly bag's unknown contents really lends to inspired cooking and forces one to eat or preserve what the earth provides when she provides it. i've experimented a little with canning and pickling and expect a lot more in my near future. good thing i got this book as an father's day present this year :-)

so, again, i'm not preaching but inviting you to find a CSA near you or at the very least visit a weekly farmers market and directly support the people who take the time and put forth the effort to grow our food. you'll be rewarded with fresher, tastier, more nutrient-rich food that was honestly grown and lovingly harvested for you. you'll be glad you did.


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

"living off the fatta' the lan'"

my grandfather was a phenomenal farmer. every year he had fantastic, wildly productive gardens and orchards that provided food for our table and the tables of friends and neighbors as well. i've often hyperbolized the green-ness of his thumb by saying that he could plant a set of keys and grow a Buick but it wouldn't surprise me if he'd actually done it. i was only 12 years old when he died and i never got a chance to really learn what he knew about how to make things grow but i've been learning all i can, jamming things in the dirt, and tending to them like i know Pa would have.

these are pictures of what the yard looked like when we bought the house back in november. i'm told that a previous owner once had beautiful flower gardens but they'd been left unattended for about 10 years and had gotten badly overgrown with noxious weeds and elm saplings.

after lots of time and labor, here's the transformation..

the 5 raised beds are vegetable beds and the wedge-shaped bed is the herb garden.

today marks one month in the ground and we've already begun to enjoy our garden's offerings. we've had fresh broccoli, wonderful fresh salads, and beautiful "china flash" cabbage.

our complete produce lineup so far is: cabbage, broccoli, mesclun mix, lettuce mix, purple peruvian potatoes, kennebec white potatoes, 12 varieties of tomatoes, onions, garlic, purple haze carrots, thai basil, purple basil, regular basil, salad burnette, oregano, rosemary, orange rocket thyme, lemon thyme, traditional thyme, chives, garlic chives, lavender, spearmint, peppermint, chocolate mint, pineapple mint, strawberries, purple bush beans, broadbeans, ornamental gourds, sugar snap peas, snow peas, one watermelon plant, and one beautiful dwarf elberta peach tree.

i'm learning more every day, enjoying the fruits (and vegetables) of my labor, and trying to make Pa proud :-)

updates to come,


Thursday, June 4, 2009

the world may never be the same.....part 2

upon my first post on the subject of my developing progeny, "the bean" was really no bigger than, well, a bean. now, after 20 weeks of stewing, the bean is now a titan 11 ounces and appears to be a healthy, rapidly growing.....wait for it.....wait for it.....BOY!

more baby news as it develops :-)

already a proud daddy,

Monday, May 25, 2009

the thin blue line

memorial day. a day set aside to commemorate the men and women who have given their lives in defense of our country. while the commonly observed U.S. memorial day memorializes soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, and other members of the U.S. military who have fought and died for the freedoms we enjoy, another yearly day of memorial is celebrated by the hundreds of thousands of warriors who go to war HERE every day to uphold and protect those same freedoms.
may 15th is national peace officer memorial day and is a day when the 800,000 U.S. law enforcement officers (and countless others from foreign agencies) honor those among us who have served and fallen. each year, the NLEOMF (National Law Enforcement Memorial Fund) sponsors a week of activities, ceremonies, and seminars, commonly called "Police Week," in washington, d.c. which focuses on the fallen officers, their families, and their coworkers.
for me, the police fraternity has supplanted (for the most part) my own biological family and my emotions and loyalties run deep with what has come to be known as "the blue brotherhood." each year since i became a police officer (way back in 2003) i have made the trek to the national memorial in d.c. and have paid my respects to my fallen brothers and sisters. last year was the first time in 6 years that i didn't get to go (because i was in another academy here in the springs) and it hurt me deeply to have to miss it. fortunately, the stars aligned this year and i made it back east for at least part of the festivities.

i selflessly braved sleep deprivation and alcohol poisoning to make it there and back in a 4 day window but i reunited once again with my east coast colleagues and likewise with the spirit of the memorial week. it's a great time. in a lot of ways, it's like a week-long wake. there's camaraderie, sharing of stories, bearing of secrets, purging of guilts, and lots and lots of the police officer's stress reliever of choice, alcohol. sparing the gory's always a bittersweet event for me. i always leave there with a better understanding of the job we do and of myself in general. i get intensely emotional (even now as i write this) and really connect with that intangible link that joins all police officers as family.

the one event that especially wrecks me every year is the candlelight vigil. the family metaphor is punctuated by the hundreds of officers standing shoulder to shoulder around the fallen officer's memorial sharing the flame from a central candle lighted in remembrance of officers killed in the line of duty and the observance of a bright blue laser beam cast skyward representing "the thin blue line" that all members of the police profession comprise. i'm going to need a amongst yourselves....
for ALL of the warriors who have fought and fallen...

shedding a tear,


Thursday, May 21, 2009

on easy decisions

amidst all the weighty things we routinely have to toil over from day to day, every once in a while we get to enjoy the respite of a truly easy decision. i was recently visited by two such easy choices. the first came after i hastily pledged to my lady friend that i would abstain from alcoholic beverages for the entire duration of her pregnancy/nursing. (clearly a case of my chivalry galloping off with my logic before i could do the math that it would be almost two years without beer!) the problem is that there were several bottles of unique microbrews including Rogue's Hazelnut Nectar and Dogfish Head's Raison D'Etre still left in the fridge from before i learned of our impending critter. so here's the easy decision: my aforementioned lady friend said, "you'll have to drink them or give them away." i tried not to knock her over getting to the bottle opener.
the other easy decision spawned from my recent research regarding vegan-friendly fast food places. through various vegan blogs and forums on the web, i learned that certain configurations of ingredients at both little caesar's and papa john's will render them vegan-friendly. so a couple weeks ago on a snowy thursday, i had to make the choice...still true to PJ's after all these years :-)

hoping YOU get some easy ones soon too,



i've already broken my no-alcohol pledge...badly. progress, not perfection *sheepish grin*