Ridiculously Easy Dill

Seeds harvested today (7/31/16)
Seeds harvested today (7/31/16)

Dill is a savory spice, most often used to season rye bread, but it’s also good in beef and potato dishes.  It’s ridiculously easy to grow, and is tolerant to most abuse.  Except for its tastiness, it’s essentially a weed.

Put the seeds in the ground in the spring, it doesn’t much matter when, but make sure it’s a place where you’ll want dill in the future as it will reseed itself forever.  But don’t be unduly alarmed — this is a convenience rather than a curse as only a handful of plants will come up and they’re easy to pull out if you don’t want them.  Pull them out before they go to seed, and the extermination will be done.

The leaves are nice chopped up in omelets, or in potato salad.DSCN0787

To harvest the seeds, when the seeds turn brown, rub them off into a bowl.  If they don’t rub off easily, they aren’t ready, yet.  Put them in a little jar.  That’s it.

Volunteer dill in the corn patch. Each tiny flower, on each tiny stalk, will form a dill seed.


Morning Dog Walk

DSCN0744Several pictures from this morning’s dog walk.  The picture of the turkey’s (to the left) is blurry because it was free hand and they were about 800 yards away.  The squash is Kabocha Winter Squash from Johnny’s Selected Seeds that I planted in a rotting mulch pile — the honey bees were busy getting pollen from the blooms.  Pepper Pot (black dog with the red collar) and Griz (the grey dog) have shock collars, which is how I can walk them around the place with no leashes — these dogs only need the vibrate setting to be kept safe while being given a great deal of freedom.  The walk is about 3/4 of a mile around the edge of our field, and you can see the allure of the woods in some of the pictures; I only had to say, “Hey,” and back they came.  Also, Griz flushed the turkeys (that were by then hiding in the woods) and was chasing them as they flew.  When she go to the edge of the field, I was easily able to call her back.  There’s a lot of poison ivy in the field this year.  I don’t know why but I don’t like it.

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Dog Widget training collars are reasonably priced:  $70 for the two collar system I use and $42 for a single dog collar.  More expensive collars don’t work any better, and often lack the all-important vibrate setting.


Blackberry Cobbler

DSCN0717A friend of mine from work (Abbie Layne), long retired before I left, gave me some thornless blackberry canes that I rooted and planted.  They never did very well where I first planted them, and I was ready to give up and chuck them.  Instead I planted them in a raised bed filled with rotted wood chips.  This is their 2nd year, and they are producing like crazy.

Today I picked 4.5 cups:  enough for blackberry cobbler and 2 cups left over to eat on cottage cheese 🙂DSCN0733

This is the blackberry cobbler recipe I use, except I used half whole grain oat flour, and buttermilk since I had no milk.

Homemade Kentucky Blackberry Cobbler (Mary Stone)

There was no complaint.  As you can see, I didn’t get the final product picture done before a corner was gone!


Babylon 5 Review (1994 – 1998)

3 out of 5 stars for The Gathering (the pilot  movie)

5 out of 5 stars for Seasons 1 through 4

4 out of  5 stars for Season 5

This is not meant to be a full review of all five seasons, as books have been written about B5, and I haven’t watched most of it in ten years.  This is being written in remembrance of Jerry Doyle, a great actor who played head of security, Michael Garibaldi, and to encourage you to try the show if you haven’t watched it.  If you like science fiction at all, you won’t be disappointed.

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Babylon 5 actor Jerry Doyle dies aged 60

Babylon 5 (B5) was the first T.V. series structured like a book, with a beginning, middle and end — envisioned to be covered in five seasons — all outlined from the beginnng.   J. Michael Straczynski is 160729 Londothe creator of B5, the originator of this break-though approach, and did most of the writing (110 episodes).  Do not despair over changes in actors — all of the replacements until season 5 work well.  Do not be put off by the aliens, especially the Centauri (pictured to the right).  The acting is great, the different alien types are well thought-out and distinct as are the individual characters.  What makes this show excellent is that the story is complex, and the forces of events require drastic and unexpected changes in the people, how they view themselves, how they behave, and also the power and roles of their home-worlds — all of it orchestrated beautifully.  In extreme summary, B5 is an earth-created space station designed to be a neutral place for diplomacy for the five most powerful types of aliens, many of which have been at war or have long-held animosity — like the U.N. after WWII.

The pilot movie was barely good enough to inspire me to start to watch this show — the characters seemed to have odd sharp corners to their personalities that didn’t fit.  Unfortunately, the pilot contains important plot points.  I suggest reading the summary of the pilot, linked below, and then start watching B5 with the series.

B5 Pilot (The Gathering) Summary

I just re-watched season one episodes one and two, and the special effects are dated.  Even though the show had cutting edge CGI, it was 20 years ago and does look a bit cheesy.  In the first episode some of the actors are still fitting into the skin of their characters, and there’s a little too much explanation for the viewers going on in the first few scenes.  (Jerry Doyle is in the first scene.)  By the second episode that is all over.

In season two, the captain of B5 changes from the beloved Michael O’Hare’s Jeffrey Sinclair to Bruce Boxleitner’s John Sheridan.  I thought it would be a terrible change, but after the initial disappointment, Bruce was fine.  (Michael O’Hare had mental health issues, which weren’t disclosed until after his death in 2012.)

A special treat is Walter Koenig, a frequent guest star from 1994-1998 as Alfred Bester, a senior Psi Corps officer (mind readers and controllers).  I thought, “Oh, no, how can Chekov do this role, it’s going to be awful,” but instead he was deliciously malevolent.  I had no idea Walter has such dark evil eyes.

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So what happened to Season 5?  The three main blows were:

  1. 160729 ivanovaClaudia Christian, who played second in command Susan Ivanova, quit the show.  She was one of the best characters, one of the most frequently used, and a strong woman in science fiction when so many female actors were not able to seem commanding, or bring forth a truly menacing vibe.  I felt her loss keenly. This brings me to the Lurkers Guide to Babylon 5 , a still-active fan-site for B5 that still looks like a 1995 website.  It was such a friendly, gossipy site, and here you can read both JMS’ and Claudia’s version of what happened:  http://www.midwinter.com/lurk/misc/cc-leave.html.  It is quite long, but at the end I recall deciding Claudia was a dirty rat for destroying a big chunk of my beloved B5.  I note the movie career she left the show for never happened.  The fifth star in season 5 was lost mainly because of this.
  2. Bruce Boxleitner, B5’s Captain John Sheridan, left the show (I don’t remember why, but there was no drama), to be replaced by Tracy Scoggins’ Captain Elizabeth Lockley.  She was not a very good actress, and the most menacing she gets is to emanate superior frostiness.  She’s not horrible, actually had a few good scenes, and it was possible to continue to enjoy the show in spite of this change.  One third of a star was lost because of this, but Patricia Tallman came back as Lyta Alexander (a telepath) in Season 5, so that added a third of a star back.
  3. Warner Brothers had told JMS to plan for only four seasons, and so the end of the fourth season is a little odd as he was trying to wrap as many things up as possible, but psych!, you will be getting a fifth season after all.  It led to some disjointedness.

In spite of all this, that last season still earned a 4 out of 5 stars, and you won’t even mind so much out of eagerness to find out how it ends, and since you’re prepared now for the loss of important actors.

There were also several movies made as part of the B5 fictional universe, and a spin-off series Crusade.  The diagram at this webpage shows how to watch them all in chronological order (B5 time).

Order to Watch B5

160729 mira furlanTriva:

  • Adam Nimoy, Leonard Nimoy’s son, directed two B5 episodes:  Passing Through Gethsemane (1995) and Z’ha’dum (1996).
  • Mira Furlan, the actress who plays Delenn, was a stage star in Yugoslavia until she moved to the U.S. in 1991.  She also played Rousseau in Lost.
  • Dr. Sheldon Cooper, on Big Bang Theory, is not a fan of B5.  This came up early in the show and I had a beady eye on the writers after that as it was enough to make one lose faith.  They have not made a second idiotic blunder in Sheldon’s character, so I let it go.

Babylon 5 is available from Netflix — DVDs only

Amazon streaming videos cost $19.99 per season.


Updated & Finished: The Making of a Logo

2013-12-25_13.27.00Making the logo for this website was a horrible experience — artists are not paid enough.

After setting up this webpage, I couldn’t stand the thought of more computers, so used a picture, an idea, tracing paper (in the junk office supplies drawer), black magic marker, and a camera.  I always keep acrylic paints on hand, but there was no white and the black was running low, so I bought new paints and sprung for some good detail brushes while I was at it.  I cut the picture out, did some tracing, picked my favorite, and then used magic marker.  Not too bad; going well!  Then I painted it, third picture below.

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The paint wrinkled the paper and was shiny, the camera picked up every brush stroke, and when I tried to scan it in, where black parts in the white and the black lines were white in the middle.  Many prints and fixes later, black and white are as they should be, there are no brushstrokes and the lines are more uniform, but the still insufficiently polished logo has a squashed skull and puffy hair.  I like the 3rd one, above, better.  As Scarlett would say, “Tomorrow is another day!”



UPDATE:  Just finished both the icon and the logo.  It’s utterly ridiculous how long it took to get these simple things done and sort-of working — probably would have taken less time if I had normal hand eye coordination.  I’m done with art for the next 50 years, at least.

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2nd update, really the last:

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Tomatoes and Wall O’ Water Success

Using Wall O’ Waters, I was able to plant tomatoes in the garden in mid-April, resulting in ripe garden tomatoes at least 2 weeks earlier than plants put in the garden on May 20th.  It’s some work to set them up.  They last for many years.  This is what Wall O’ Waters look like:

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(These are not pictures from my garden.)

Since the Wall O’ Water plants had a month head start, but produced only two weeks earlier, I don’t think planting even earlier will result in earlier tomatoes.


Butchered 12 Chickens This Morning…

…and I didn’t like it very much.  Maybe someday I’ll write an article on how to do it, but not today.

Look how cute they look!  But then, some time later you will hear the rusty, muted crowing of young roosters, and then you will deeply regret letting this cuteness happen.  Half of all chicks are male; a flock needs at the most two roosters.  So six of the birds I butchered were surplus young males, some of them these chicks grown up.

DSCN0527 (1)Then there’s the blessing and curse of broody hens.  To brood, is to sit on eggs until they hatch.  A broody hen wants to do this.  She no longer creates eggs, and will sit on nests where other hens lay eggs, ruining them with her body heat.  Once a fertile egg feels that heat, it starts to make a chick.  Almost immediately the white gets runny and the yolk weird — I’ve notice when scrambled, the dogs don’t mind that a bit.

I like using hens to make new chickens, but I don’t need most of my flock doing that!  Any hen used to hatch eggs is not creating eggs while she sits on the nest for 21 days, nor while she is caring for her chicks (three-four weeks).  Some of them will hatch out two-three batches of chicks each summer, essentially making them useless for anything else.

Last time I did an inventory I had 47 chickens, but more have hatched since then.  Nineteen are adult hens.  Last night I got one egg.  One.  The night before:  four.  A hen should lay about two-three eggs every four days — more if you have egg-laying breeds and only young birds.  So why, you may ask, so few eggs?  The answer is I have too many broody hens, and some older hens.  I started banding broody hens and banded six actively broody hens, and butchered these hens today.  There will still be plenty of hens to raise chicks next year, since there are  three hens tending chicks, and one sitting on eggs.

It took me three and a half hours to butcher 12 chickens, including set up, doing it, processing the giblets (gizzards are a pain), putting the meat in gallon bags, labeling the bags, toting them to the freezer, and cleanup.  I netted six gallon bags of chicken, each bag holding two birds.

I want to point out three things:

DSCN0635(1) The cockerels (immature roosters) — the front three bags — are a little smaller than the mature hens.  The birds bought in grocery stores are all male, and are all butchered at less than half their adult size.  I butcher when they start to crow.  Let a male reach adult size and the skin, meat and joints are so tough that butchering and eating it would be miserable

(2) There is a lot more fat on the hens —  back three bags — even after cutting some away.  Fat will cut down on egg production and there’s the proof that I’ve been feeding them too much!  They follow me around, looking desperate, and I think, “Poor things!” and throw cracked corn at them.  Liars!  The fat I pulled out of their abdomens could have fed a Medieval village for a week.

(3) Notice the fat is yellow.  It is supposed to be yellow, but chickens in the store have white fat.  That’s Ag-Science for you.  However, Ag-Science makes tender birds, probably because they’re sickly.  They say predators mostly catch the weak and sick, so maybe that’s why we like the squishy meat from unhealthy chickens.

That last point sounds judgemental, but I like that squishy meat, too!  Of the chickens I raise, the cockerels are used for soup or stew, and the hens are used for making stock and chopped fine for soup or chicken salad.  The flavor is outstanding, but the meat of birds that run free is chewy, because their muscles do work.  I’ve read articles stating that to create meat suitable for frying or roasting:  buy hybrid meat birds and feed them high protein commercial feed.  I bet you also have to restrict their activity.  Seems easier to buy a roasted bird from Sam’s, and may even cost less!