Adventures of a Modern Day, Middle-Aged Hero, on the Glory Road(to family security)


I am so done.

No, not with this blog, even though I haven't done anything for the last week...just with some of the stuff that has been occupying the time I could have been using around here.  It's not the holiday's, it's not Handel's Messiah, which has clicked for me much more than Brahm's did...it's the hunting.

Part of the 'being done' is based on the calendar...today is the last day of late muzzleloader season, but a big part of it(since I am here typing instead of you know...actually being out hunting) is mental.  It's funny how you can roll into mid-September with such high hopes, and by the end of November, just feel done in.  The last few days have especially burned me out, with a healthy dose of Murphy's Law following me. 

After getting teased by a buck a week ago, the next day I got in position where I watched nice looking doe head into a draw and bed down.  After giving her 30-minutes to relax, I headed in after her.  I shucked my back pack, and got to within about 40-yards of where I thought she was before she jumped up, and gave me a shot as she started trotting away.  All I heard when I pulled the trigger was a click...the percussion cap was dented, but hadn't fired...and by the time I cocked the rifle again, she had disappeared into the sage brush, and I couldn't get a second chance.  My rifle is a Traditions Vortex NW Magnum...and when I got home that night I did some research, and found that I am not alone in having this issue.  In the garage(working with just a cap, no poweder in the gun) I found that I am having roughly a 30% failure rate...meaning the cap does not fire when the trigger is pulled.  According to the internet, there are a few things you can do...but none of them are a guarantee of success.  In the middle of the season, the day before Thanksgiving, I didn't feel like totally disassembling the gun and trying any of them, so I just dealt with the increased chance that the gun might not fire the first time I pulled the trigger. 

Turns out it didn't matte, because I wouldn't get another shot the next three times I went out hunting.  Two days in a row, with goofy windy weather, I saw nothing, and then yesterday morning, to change my luck, I tried hunting a slightly different area...same farm, just walk in a little further, and pick a spot further up on the hill.  It gave me a better chance to maybe see something in the distance, and repeat my stalk on a bedded animal. 

It paid off early...at about 8:00, I saw a group of 9 does a few hundred yards away...and they were heading my direction, so I decided to stay put.  The bummer is, they must have jumped the road from another property, because their path was going to take them past where I had been sitting the last few days...and then...I get mad still thinking about it.  Another hunter popped up the ridgeline that the herd was working down...and spooked them away from me.  I'm not sure he even saw them...but he did see me...and instead of giving me a wide berth, he walked right up to where I had been sitting for 2.5 hours, and tried to have a conversation with me!  'Hey, are you the maroon truck out there?  Have you seen anything?'  Nope...ain't seen nothing...and as soon as I could I headed off in the direction that the herd of does had gone, but I never did see them again. 

What I did see were not one, not two, but THREE other rigs parked within 30-yards of my truck. I had been parked at this particular spot at 5:40 in the morning, all by myself.  My preferred entry point to the farm was a very distinct set of tractor tracks...let me get in a good half-mile from the road before having to head off through the thigh high wheat/sage.  So...three other groups of hunters(or one group with three rigs working together), showed up, saw my truck parked there...and didn't care.  The farm I was on is private land, but it's posted 'Feel Free to Hunt', so it might as well be public land...but Who Does That?  I know I don't...after I have identified a few areas I want to hunt...if someone beats me to that spot, I don't just park there anyway and crowd them...I have never once parked with a quarter of a mile of another car....and usually further away than that. 

So, yeah...between a gun I couldn't trust, and other hunters I couldn't stand...I packed it in.  I was not having a good time anymore, and there are other things I could be doing with my family. 

As a hunting wrap up...bummer of a year...but, made some good memories with my daughter, and I spent a lot of time hunting by myself without getting hurt, or getting myself in a situation I couldn't gt out of. 


I'm so wasting my time.

While I am out in the hills and wheat fields trying to find a mule deer, the off-duty police officers in Indiana are knocking down bucks inside the local Wal-Marts. 

Someone on facebook even posted a picture from the scene.

That's a nice looking buck...and I believe the reports that it was causing a holy ruckus before an off-duty officer stepped up and tazed the buck, and then later had to taze it again after the crowd wouldn't give it space. 

The deer did not survive.  One can only hope that the meat went to a good cause. 


Okay...where is the hidden camera?

Went out yesterday to do a spot of hunting for the late muzzleloader season.  Conditions could hardly be more different than they were during the early seasons in September.  Then I was complaining about it being 80+ degrees in the afternoon...Saturday it started out frosty and foggy, and stayed overcast and cold all day.

I was unprepared for how difficult the fog made range estimation.  Two separate times early on, I clearly saw a deer silhouetted out in the fog, but...they were backlit against the horizon, and with this being the first time I had hunted this property, the fog prevented me from having any idea what kind of backstop there was behind those deer, so I passed on the shots.

In the current season, I can shoot either a doe, or a 3-point minimum buck, so of course it should be no surprise that at around 10:00 as the fog was burning off, I had a nice big-bodied spike buck walk right up on me, and proceed to prance around within 50 yards of me for over half-an-hour.  I saw him approaching, and until he got to within 100 yards, I would have sworn he was a doe...his antlers looked like someone had taken a #2 pencil, broke it in half, and glued both halves between his ears.  It felt like such a set-up that I kept looking over my shoulder for the hidden camera. 

The afternoon was less exciting.  Even though the fog lifted, it stayed overcast and never got much over 34.  I believe in layers when I am hunting, and when needed, I have a nice waterproof outer layer, and it kept me dry through the occasional round of drizzle/freezing rain.  All I really saw in the afternoon though were a few coyotes, and while I was tempted to take a shot at the 2nd one(his CPA was within 40-yards of me), I passed.  Nothing against shooting coyotes(in fact, it's the price some land-owners ask of you)...I just hate to make noise shooting a coyote if there is any chance that a deer might be getting ready to round a corner into my draw, or crest that next ridge over.

Hey...it couldn't have been that bad of a day...I'm looking forward to going out again Sunday!


It's also just plain fun to say.

We had our big Thanksgiving lunch at work this week, and since(no need for false modesty here) I am the best cook at work, I jumped on the grenade of preparing the turkey.  With access to two Traeger's at work, I planned on smoking the turkey instead of hogging the ovens that people were going to need to warm up other food in.  Since I was not motivated enough to spend the night before at work, I initially discarded the idea of doing whole turkey's and started looking at just throwing some faster cooking breasts on the grill.

But, even though it wasn't just my money I was spending, the cheapskate in me took over.  Restaurant style REAL boneless turkey breasts(not the boneless 2.5 pound breast roasts you can find at all the stores) was over $3.20 a pound...and even bone-in breasts were almost $2.00 a pound.  At Win-co, I could get whole turkeys for .88 cents a pound...but there was the time issue, which had me all tied up in knot's, until the internet machine taught me about Spatchcocking.

Spatchcocking is basically a fun to say, attention grabbing word for 'butterflying'.  You take your turkey, and with a nice pair of kitchen shears, you snip along each side of the back-bone, removing it.
From there you can either use a knife to remove the wish bone, or just give the bird CPR, breaking the breastbone and cartilage until you get the bird to lay adequately flat.

The first one was tough, but by numbers 4 and 5...it was going to pretty okay.  After opening the birds up, I lightly brined them(only 1/3rd cup of salt per gallon of water) because they were Jennie-O pre-basted turkeys, and then brought them into work and then split 5 birds between two Traegers. 

I was a popular guy...and the turkey was AMAZING.  No fewer than 8 other guys were saying that they were now going to try this technique for their turkeys next week.  Because it was cold, I ran the Traegers at about 300 degrees for almost three hours.  I could have probably done 275...but I didn't want them to take too long, plus...you don't want them in the 'Danger Zone' too long...better to get them heating faster.

Too bad you there is no scratch and sniff around here. 


So...it's a fancy donut?

Earlier this week, my wife and I were watching America's Test Kitchen(as we are wont to do), and they were making up a batch of beignets.  They looked pretty good, and I committed to my wife that I would make a batch for breakfast this weekend. 

Now, I couldn't follow the Test Kitchen's recipe exactly, because I didn't write it down, and they are a pay site....but with a bit of searching, I settled on a common looking recipe. 

For ease, I whipped up the dough last night, and after letting it rise on the counter for an hour, I stuck it in the fridge overnight.  This made the dough much easier to work with this morning, and the end results were scrumdiddlyumptious, and picture worthy.

With a disclaimer that I have not been to New Orleans for the famous CafĂ© du Monde beignets...mine tasted pretty good...but I am not sure I got them Authentic.  Most of the ones I have seen pictures of have a 'puffy' air pocket in the middle.  Mine were very uniform inside, and tasted almost like an apple-less apple fritter.  It's possible I overmixed them...

But heck, even if they weren't beignets, they were fresh, warm fired dough pillows...which are never a bad thing.


Cold, dark, and early.

Next Thursday, late muzzleloader season opens up...and of course, it's NOT in the same unit where I previously hunted this year.  Nope...instead, it's an area about 45 minutes away from here, out in the wheat fields that make up the start of the Palouse.

There is very little, as in NO,  publicly owned land in this area...it's all privately owned farms...and roughly half of that is posted no hunting.  In actuality most of that land is leased by a couple of local hunting clubs.  Of the rest, there is a decent amount posted 'feel free to hunt', as well as a few 'hunting by written permission' properties.  Because I had hoped to shoot something earlier in the year, I had not put much effort into pre-planning for this late season.  It's really kind of a 'target of opportunity'...only a 45 minute drive from the house, and an opportunity to putz around a few places to shoot a doe. 

The goal of heading out this morning was to learn how accurate my maps are, and to learn how many of the 'feel free to hunt' websites listed on the Fish and Wildlife Departments website actually exist.  Any deer I saw would be gravy.

Turns out there was a fair amount of gravy. 

The only real hiccup is that these deer were on a piece of land posted 'hunting by written permission only'...and with the season only a few days away, what kind of dirt-bag is still trying to get permission to hunt on private property.

This kind of dirt-bag.  I mean...the worst they can do is say no. 

They didn't say no...but they haven't said yes yet.  In this case, the landowner would rather just not say 'yes' to someone he doesn't know...there are liability issues, and...'earning' it issues, neither of which I begrudge them.  He pointed out that the hunting leases on the properties around him charge upwards of $1500 for access.  He would like to see people put in $200 worth of value around the farm....either helping with labor stuff, or donating supplies, or whatever else you can think of...which all makes perfect sense.  That's kind of the reason I started trying to find a place for my daughter to hunt back in August...so I had time to earn that opportunity if it was expected.  In this case, I saw so many deer on this property today that I couldn't NOT ask. 

So, I'll send the guy an e-mail with details of my skills(strong back, weak mind), and see if he has an opportunity to schedule me in over the next few weeks.  If not, I'll take my chance on a few of the 'feel free to hunt' properties.


Double Damn.

In the past, I have written a few times about a young man named Quincy

For those of you who don't feel like clicking on the links, the nephew/son of some friends I have had since 5th grade,  Quincy suffered from the Duchenne type of Muscular Dystrophy, which is considered one of the more deadly forms of M.D.  Earlier this week, shy of his 14th birthday, Quincy passed away from heart failure.

It...it hit me pretty hard.  Even knowing that this was going to happen to this young man sooner rather than later...seeing him going from walking, to walking with braces, and then a full on walker, and then a wheel chair, and finally ending up bed ridden, as medicine after medicine failed to help. 

Maybe it's because he is so close in age to my older daughter...and, we have been so lucky.  There are so many things that can go wrong in this world...and we have been lucky to dodge them all...so far.  Past returns are no guarantee of future success. 

It makes me want to appreciate my kids so much...look them in the eye and say 'I love you' each time I give them a hug.   Instead,  I still come home and grumble at them because they didn't think to go out any time since lunch and look for chicken eggs.

During the last few years, what has really impressed me has been his parents...knowing that some point this was going to happen, they have done what they can to enjoy every minute of it.  I'm not sure I am that strong.  Just thinking about having to deal with watching your child fade away makes me quiver...I mean, crap...I get pouty on Sunday afternoon's when I think about having to go to work on Monday.  How do you deal with people on an everyday basis when you know your child is not going to make it another 9 months? 

Anyway...as you can tell, I've been dwelling on it a lot, and I finally had to write about it because I couldn't stand the idea of trying to write about stupid politics, or filthy fracking animals that hang a 3-year old kid upside down and beat him to death, without honoring Quincy first.



When I got home from work today, I had to get about 5 things down before I could start on dinner...none of them really tough, but all of them needing to get done before the sun set, and all of them related to the chickens, and draining my sprinklers as we are supposed to get below 27 degrees tonight.  I didn't mean to wait until the last minute, but this last weekend was spoken for with a few concerts, and this cold front moved in in a hurry.

One of the things I had to do was clean the chicken coop out, and while doing so I found two eggs, which I was smart enough to stick in two different pockets so they didn't grind against each other when I bent over. Hooray foresight. 

Unfortunately, 15 minutes later when I headed into the house, I had an 'ewwww' moment, when I discovered that I had forgotten to take my keys out of my right-hand coat pocket...and it appears that egg shells are no match for truck keys. 

Hey...at least I had my cell phone in my pants pocket...that would have been really nasty.


Let that be a lesson.

This weekend, the Mid-Columbia Musical Master Singers had our performance of Brahm's Ein Deutch Requiem.  Prior to Saturday's performance with the Yakima Symphony Orchestra, we had two rehearsals with the Orchestra and their choir...Friday night and Saturday morning at 10am.  With that timing, it just didn't seem to make sense to drive back and forth between Yakima and the Tri-cities(90 miles) just to sleep 7 hours and wake up to drive back, so I got a hotel room in Yakima instead...and learned a major lesson.

Back in 2005, Washington passed a fairly draconian  anti-smoking law...no smoking in bars, or restaurants, or most other public places like museums, or bowling alleys, or...most other places.  If you want to step outside to smoke, you legally need to be 25-feet from a doorway.  After almost 10 years, you just get used to not having to deal with smoke inside...and while I am a small 'l' libertarian...I've kind of gotten used to it.  About the only place you do have to deal with smoke is some of the Native American Casino's.

But...when I went and opened the door on my hotel room Friday night, I was greeted by an old familiar scent...cigarette smoke.  Growing up, my parents were both smokers, so I recognize the odor, and unusually for me, I  went right back down to the front desk, because not 5 minutes earlier, I had signed a piece of paper saying that I acknowledge that if I smoke in a non-smoking room, it was a $150 fine, and they weren't going to pin this one on me. 

Except...you see, the room I was in was a smoking room, because apparently the law passed back in 2005 allowed hotels to maintain 25% of their rooms as SMOKING rooms.  And, when I made my reservations, I didn't specify non-smoking.  With the hotel booked to capacity, and other people specifying that they wanted non-smoking rooms, I was stuck...there was no place to move me. 

I'm not running the hotel down on this one...the room wasn't bad other than the smell...it's more a learning experience...and I have been sharing it with people ever since, because...a lot of folks, like me, assume you flat out can't smoke inside of all public places, and this 25% thing was news to a lot of us. 

I just need to be more careful in the future.  My wife and I probably spend 2-3 nights a year in hotels on date-nights, and I can't once remember specifying wanting a 'non-smoking' room...guess it's just been luck and good karma that have kept us out of smoking rooms in the past(my wife's good karma...that explains why the first time I go off on my own, I get stuck in a smoking room). 

Now I know...and if you watched G.I. Joe as a kid, I don't need to finish that one for you.


We all know that saying...

Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice, shame on me.

Well...this one won't happen again. 

While raiding my daughters candy haul, I came across a Butterfinger Peanut Butter Cup, and I shamelessly stole it.

Big mistake. 

Reese's Peanut Butter Cup's are close to my favorite candy...easily in the Top 5, probably even Top 3(although I advise folks to stay away from the white chocolate cups...they just don't do it for me.)  I had high hopes for this Butterfinger Cup...but...ick.

I don't mind a Butterfingers Bar...it has it's own special indescribable flavor.  But, their attempt at a Peanut Butter Cup...well, to steal from Douglas Adams, it was 'almost, but not entirely unlike' a GOOD Peanut Butter Cup. 

Yeah...I'm not stealing another one of those from my daughters. 


Election Wrap Up.

After choir wrapped up last night, I went out for drinks with a few folks including our director.  While I consider myself a little 'l' libertarian, among this group I was the gun loving, tin-foil hat wearing right-wing wacko.  The funny thing is that NONE of were thrilled with the results rolling in last night. 

While they were all bummed out about how the Democrats lost control of the Senate, I was dealing with the fact that very little I voted for seemed to be passing on statewide basis.  I-594, requiring background checks on all firearms transactions(and other unpleasant things), passed by a wide margin, while I-591(the opposite of 594) failed by an equal margin.  Clint Didier, the more earnest of the two Republican candidates in our Congressional district is currently down by 2200 votes with 40,000 estimated remaining to be counted. 

And truthfully, I really don't care much about the Republican's taking over the Senate...it was not a fair trade for the negative results on the gun control initiatives here in Washington.  I'm not one of those folks who will say there is NO difference between Democrats and Republicans...but they both have their failings...it's just when I prioritize what's important to me, I tend to align more with the Republican's than the Democrats.  My Pro-Gun, anti-Union, Smaller Government side out-weighs my pro-choice, Gay Marriage side. 

So...what is a Republican Controlled Senate/House going to accomplish?  The answer is I think: not much.  I think they will pass a few things that they will force Barry to veto, in the next year, and then everyone will stare at each other as we start saber-rattling for the 2016 election.

I hope the prove me wrong...I would LOVE to see some programs rolled back...something to prove that the Republicans are willing to do something painful about the budget. 

At least there isn't much damage they can do.  Even the doom and gloom liberals at feel that Marriage Equality has passed the tipping point.  While there might be a few hold-out states, things are pretty secure at the federal level.  I suppose there is still some flex on abortion...but, realistically, I think the best hope is two years of stalemate...gridlock is better than things moving in the wrong direction.


The Magical Fruit.

Last night, being a slave driver, I put the kids to work, hulling beans.

Between my wife and I we tried to convince the girls that hulling beans was the 1800's equivalent of MTV...a very exciting time.  Heck, we even kept them working longer by me working in my nightly reading of Harry Potter. 

In the end, we ended up getting about 4.5 pounds of beans, which I loaded into the dehydrator, to make sure they get good and dry before we put them up.  Not really using any heat...just moving air over them for a day or so.

Did learn a few lessons.  Once again, like with my tomatillo's, I think these could have gone a little bit longer...and I also learned I should have stopped watering them a few days ago...it would have promoted the pods starting to dry, making them easier to hull. 

Next year.  It's like 'tomorrow', only bigger.


Now, the wait.

Rolling the clock back for Daylight Savings Time proved no challenge for my bladder, so I was up dark and early this morning. Since I have some tomatillo's to do something with, I figured why dilly-dally, so I got busy on making a batch of Roasted Salsa Verde

Rather than roast my veggies, I decided to throw them out on the grill.

It doesn't make a huge batch, but then again, it wasn't that many tomatillos I was starting with.  I used both pasilla peppers and Anaheim's in addition to the jalapeno for heat.  I kind of wish the finished product had a little more heat, but...with canning, I didn't want to mess too much with the approved ratio's.  Chemistry is important.

Like I said, not a huge batch...just 5 half-pints, but...come January, once the flavors have had a chance to mix and mingle, it will be nice to be able to pull on of these out of the garage. 


Last Harvest

Temperatures the last few nights have been dipping down to below 40-degrees, and realistically, we could get a freeze any day now.  While I have been overall unhappy with my garden this year, three things have done well...cherry tomatoes(how do you not have good luck with them), tomatillos, and in a completely shocking turn of events since September, my Scarlett Emperor Runner Beans.

Rather than wait for the freeze, I put the kids to work today pulling every viable looking bean and tomatillo off the plants.  Figured I'd sort through them in the kitchen afterwards.

My daughter followed directions to the letter...she pulled every tomatillo larger than a marble off the three plants I have.  Once I sorted everything I knew was too small, I was still left with about two and a half pounds of ripe/almost ripe tomatillos. 

My plan for these is canning up a batch of Salsa Verde tomorrow.

As for the runner beans, after all the complaining I did about lack of production, we had pretty good output.  Lesson #1 from runner beans, year one: If you think you want to eat these as 'green beans', you need to be Johnny-on-the-spot...these things go from nice little 4-inch fresh green beans to leathery seed pods in about 36 hours.  Once they get more than 6-inches or so long, your options narrow...you can get a 'frencher' which basically shreds the green beans so that they are edible, or you let them go all the way, and harvest them so you can shuck them and dry the beans.

Which is what we did.

I'd say we got about 15 pounds of pods off the plants...kind of curious to see what that comes out to in terms of dried beans. 

Rest assured, I'll report back when that is done.  Given that you can buy 5 pounds of dried beans for less money than a cup of coffee costs, these better be some tasty, tasty beans.

Sugar.....Need more Sugar....

November 1st...that day of the year when my house as much candy in it as it ever will. 

First...I always buy too much.  My wife brought home 5 bags, but when we opened them and dumped them into a bowl, that just didn't look like much...and when we had a dozen or so kids visit the house before 5:30, I panicked and ran to the store to buy a few more bags.  But, the crowds never really materialized after that, and 4 of the bags I bought remain unopened. I'd bring them into work Monday, but everyone else is going to do that too.  Maybe I'll sort through the garage today and donate that candy with and cans I find that are getting close to their 'best by' dates.

Then, of course, there was the candy my young in's brought in, much of which I will need to sample for their safety.

What we have here are a ninja, and a Corpse Bride.  It was my pleasure to escort them while mom stayed home and gave out the candy.  We walked for just about an hour...there was no real nasty weather to speed us along our way.  Realistically, the older one only has 2-3 more years of this, so...it's something to be savored rather than done begrudgingly.