Thursday, February 15, 2018

Can We Talk?

I'm not going to preach. I just want to ask a few questions. Do you remember that Heston quote, "I'll give you my gun when you can pry it from my cold, dead hands?" It became the NRA slogan--kind of their battle cry. Do you think Heston would have said that if it were his son or daughter lying on the tile floor of Columbine, Sandy Hook, or now in Parkland? Do you think if he had felt the cold hands of one of his children as a result of one of these shooters carrying one of these guns, he would have the same attitude? My question is, what's it going to take for people that choose to dig their heals in on this "Second Amendment" crap to have rational discussions about reasonable gun legislation? Does it have to be their child that get's gunned down? Is there just no room in this gun culture for empathy anymore?

Let me ask you another question; for those folks that point to the obvious mental illness that this shooter and many other shooters have displayed, what should we do about it? You realize that last year, this administration actually rolled back legislation that would prevent severely handicapped sufferers of mental illness from purchasing weapons? So now what? Do we pass more laws addressing mental illness and purchasing weapons? Do we bring back the laws that were repealed? And even those laws wouldn't have prevented this person, or the guy that blasted over 500 people in Vegas from purchasing these weapons. These shooters had no record. They were completely legal to purchase and own weapons that were used for only one purpose--mass destruction.

We should have seen the signs on social media, right? Yeah, a lot kids did but they didn't know what to do with it because they are kids. You've heard the of the invincibility theory in teenagers, right? It's why they engage in risky behavior because they don't think the negative consequences will affect them. They believe they are above it all so when they see things like some other teen going off on social media, they don't get involved because they don't perceive it as a risk nearly as much as the risk of being wrong or just being a patsy that would rat someone else out. So, do we open up social media to law enforcement to have free reigns to check in on us? Do we force parents to somehow monitor all kid's behaviors on Facebook? Do we make it illegal for kids to be able to block their parents? And even so, this guy is 19 years old. He is an adult so who was suppose to be checking in on him? Big brother? Oh yeah, but we don't want to give up any of our freedoms to privacy, right?

I've also heard that we should ramp up the security at our schools. And listen, I agree. I think there are a lot of areas we could be better at to prevent some of this. But don't you think it's sad that we would have to employ guards and metal detectors in EVERY school? What does that say about our culture? And I say EVERY school because we have no idea where the next shooting is going to take place. All we know, with absolute certainty, is that there will be another shooting and please, PLEASE, can we not excuse the behavior by saying something like, "Well, that's just the reality of having our freedoms?" Are you f'n kidding me? That is a quote from someone on Twitter this morning! Do you think other countries with similar freedoms deal with this number of shootings? Look at the numbers before you blast me. Do some research. Eighteen school shooting in the USA this year and it's only February. Compare that to any other industrial country, adjust for population if you want and you will be shocked. (You should be shocked.)

And besides just the morality behind all of this, who's going to pay for it? How many times have you voted in support of school levies? How hard is it to get local home owners to vote to raise their taxes to support schools? And on a federal level, how important was that twenty or thirty extra dollars in your paycheck in the name of a tax cut? Not to mention the billions of dollars being saved by the 1 percenters. We all say we should ramp up security. We should have metal detectors. We should do any number of things to prevent this but then the bill comes and we all get alligator arms. You know what I'm talking about. The check is sitting on the table and we just somehow can't reach it so we wait for the other guy to pick it up. And then we say, "Oh, are you sure? Well, thanks! I'll get the next one."

So here's my final question, how fun would it be to throw hand grenades into a pond and watch the water, mud, weeds, and maybe even fish fly? To have that kind of power would be insane! It would be so fricken cool, right? But we can't because you or I or most Americans cannot purchase live hand grenades. Why? Because of the massive destruction one can wield. In this last shooting, the shooter pulled a fire alarm so that there would be a high density of people in an area where he could just start pulling the trigger, easily firing off 30 rounds or more in seconds and not even really having to aim. He killed 17 people and wounded over a dozen more. Could you imagine what would have happened if he had a hand grenade? But he didn't because a hand grenade isn't legal for the average citizen. He couldn't purchase one so the next best thing...

Keep 'em where they live...

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Day One: Demolition!

Ah decisions, decisions...well, it  comes down to how much you want to fix after you're done, right? But all three are key to tearing apart a shitter. 

It took me a few hours to get that tub and shower insert out of this bathroom. Let me just tell you, there are two things I think should be outlawed in new constructions. One is linoleum and the second are the F'#$% inserts for tubs and showers. And if you think you can get them out in less than 8 pieces, good luck. I'm glad I bought that saws-all. 

And here's the deal, things are going to get broken. Just about everything can be fixed. Waters lines and electrical? Definitely try to avoid those things but when moving those fricken tubs around trying to get to the couplings, things break. They can be fixed. Oh yeah, when busting out the sheet-rock, don't swing for the fence. I'll have to fix this too as it overlooks the dining room.

Keep 'em where they live...

Monday, February 12, 2018

Winter Projects: Say Goodbye to the Sh#$ House

Yeah, it's still winter. In fact, it just keeps coming and coming so getting out and doing any fishing hasn't been that high on my priorities. Plus, I've been sick as hell so finding the motivation to do much of anything has been tough. However, today I feel good...real good and that might be a problem for this cheap crapper.

Jill and I bought this house in May of 2015. She had just started her new job in Helena and we were kind of desperate to find something. This house was the first house we looked at. The big reason was it was close to a great school and it had an amazing back yard for the dogs and Patrick and to have parties and such. BUT, the entire house looked like this bathroom and they were asking a price that would lead one to believe it had all these amazing upgrades, which it did not. In fact, it was all cheap crap like you see in the picture so we actually kept looking.

After looking at about 20 houses and even contemplating renting while we had a house built, we went back to this house. Again, they were asking way too much for what it had as fixtures and flooring, etc., so we figured we'd offer about $30K less and if we could even get it for $20K less, we could redo a lot of the crap the original building put in on our own. They bit and we bought and we went to work immediately. You can check out the initial remodel here:

I was pretty proud of what we were able to accomplish but every time I go into the bathrooms, all I see is crap. Crap lighting, crap counter, crap faucet, crap insert for shower and tub, crap, crap, crap! The rest of the house is actually pretty nice now with solid wood flooring, granite counters, cool fixtures and lighting...and then this crap. It's time to go.

So fishing will be out for a little while. Skiing? Maybe a little. There's a lot of snow so I should hit the hill a few times anyway. The majority of my time, however, will be spent doing something I have absolutely no experience in except for what I did in the remodeling. So follow along as I'm sure I will screw some things up but in the end, I'm confident this bathroom will look better than it does right now.

Keep 'em where they live...

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Montana Dream Swag Store

Ok, I know. It's not really all that much of store yet but you can get one of the coolest t-shirts in the world here. Yeah, it's The MEAT WAGON! And if you want to catch bruiser browns like this, you better have a Montana Dream lucky hat! Just go to the website and check it out. Ordering is a piece of cake and you'd be doing me a favor.

Montana Dream Swag!

Keep 'em where they live...

Monday, January 29, 2018

Winter Projects: Duck/Goose Snack Sticks

It was a good waterfowl season this year. We did well to shoot plenty of birds but now you got to do something with them. The reality is, a lot of folks don't duck and goose hunt because although it's fun, they're not big fans of eating them. That's why we turn most of ours into either snack sticks or brats or just smoke the breasts and use them for cold-cuts. This last weekend was spent making 75 pounds of snack sticks. Pretty crazy. I'll tell you, there were some ups and definitely some downs and like always, a lot of lessons I wish I had been privy to me on the front side of the project. I guess it will make things that much easier next time.

First things first. You have to grind your birds and mix them with your favorite seasoning. I'm not going to go through my recipes but what I will do is direct you to the place I get all my stuff. They also put together some great instructional videos so here you go: 

I went with sriracha and cheddar, Willies Classic and pepper cheese, and teriyaki. They are delicious. The only problem with Walton's is they make so many different varieties it's hard to chose but trust me; If you're going to take on this project, you don't need to go anywhere else for supplies or spices. They package everything in batch sizes--usually 25 lbs so all you do is bring the meat. Just remember to go through the instructions so you get everything you need like the pre-portioned bag of spices, the curing agent, high temp cheese, and the meat binder. You'll also obviously need casings that match the size of links you want to make that work with your gear. Stuffing tubes are not all the same size so go to the chart provided on the site and make sure your tubes will work with the size casings you're ordering. That may have saved me a trip to the store only to find they don't typically sell stuffing tubes on their own. 

Other necessities you'll find there are pre-cut vacuum pack bags, labels, etc. One thing I'd suggest is don't skimp on casings. I knew I would be cutting it close on the amount of casings I ordered and I ran out, which subsequently led to one of the many trips to Sportsman's Warehouse and they didn't have the right size and color of casings I was looking for. Yeah, they come in clear and smoke colored so now I have a handful of sticks that don't match--not a big deal but I would have liked them to be consistent. The reality is, is you're not going to be proficient right out of the gate and you'll blow through more casings than you think until you get a feel for it. Plan for making some mistakes.

Another tip I'd recommend for waterfowl grinding is invest in a metal detector. It may take a little while to get it dialed in and it won't pick up every piece of shot but it will help find most of it. The more diligent you are at going through every piece of meat with the detector, the more you'll find and the less head-aches down the road. Steel shot is hard and can really mess up a grinder. It can also scare the crap out of you if it gets into your garbage disposal. Just sayin. And if you break a blade or a grinding plate, you might be SOL until you can order one. There aren't a lot of places you can buy those things on the weekend in town.

This is a grinder. No matter what anyone tells you or how it's marketed; it is a grinder and not a sausage stuffer. 

This is a sausage stuffer and is well worth the $150. 

I stuffed 75 lbs of fresh sausages using a mixture of elk, deer, and pork with the grinder. It worked okay but I definitely thought there was a better way. My brother suggested I buy a stuffer as it would save a lot of time and frustration. I'm cheap though so I thought I'd just tough it out with the stuffing attachment on the grinder. The problem is, is that waterfowl turns mushy and with the curing agent and meat binder you need to use for snack sticks, it becomes that much stickier and won't go through the grinder plate and tube very well. What happens then, is you'll get air pockets and blow-outs and then your grinder will start shutting down every 30 seconds or so because it's just too much work for it. That or the hopper pops up off the feed tube and then you have crap flying all over the fricken place. Breathe...

It took me about 4 hours to stuff 25 pounds of sausages with the grinder. With the stuffer...literally 20 minutes and everything is consistently packed and no blow-outs. There are still some tricks to it like making sure there's enough water in the mixture and letting the meat warm up a bit. The colder the meat is the harder and less pliable. You definitely want it soft and mushy and you'll be stuffing like a pro and you know what? It's actually kind of fun and maybe even a bit therapeutic. 

Here's my smoking set-up. You'll notice, it's really just a two part grill with gas on one side and charcoal on the other with a little kicker off the side.  

To smoke, you'll have to load up the charcoal side with meat racks and then use the kicker for the heat and wood. You don't need much charcoal to heat things up so be patient. A few briquettes and a chunk of wood goes a long ways and make sure you don't put meat in direct contact with the flow of the smoke and heat. I just use foil to create a barrier.  

Cooking instructions can be found on the Walton's website that I shared above. It's really important not to cook too fast and be sure to bring all of the links up to 170 degrees to finish. Temperature control is always an issue when smoking; especially with such a rudimentary system like what I have. But it is what I have so here's a little tip; start out by smoking your sticks for a couple hours at around 130 degrees. There are a lot of really cool thermometers out there that will connect with your phone and are able to alert you when the temps get too hot or too cold. I use the EasyBBQ Pro. After a couple hours in the smoke, finish your sticks in the oven. It's way more consistent and you can set it at 200 degrees and just let the sticks come up to temp. Be patient. It will take a few hours but it's worth it. 

Once the sticks are to temp, dump them in an ice-water bath to cool them rapidly and to get the skins to tighten up. Let them dry a bit and they're ready to package. 

I started this project Wednesday and finished packaging them all up today, which is Monday. That seems like a long time, right? Was is worth it? I could have just brought all the meat to the butcher and had them do it but here's the deal; I know what I have. I also had way more options for flavors and without bragging, these sticks are WAY better than anything I've ever gotten back from the processor's. The other thing is I can be proud of these sticks and feel good about the process of bringing an animal from the field to the table all by myself. (Well, Jill and I anyway. Thanks for the help, Jill.)

Did I save money? Sure. I think you'd pay about $4/lb at the game processor. I payed around $2.50, not including the gear I bought so I saved a little over $110. You'd also have to decide for yourselves what your time is worth. I have the time right now so I'm ok with that and now with the right tools, and knowing a few tricks, future projects will cut the process in half. You can only cook so fast but the preparation will be a breeze. And if you bring your friends and family into it with the right brews and maybe some wine, you can make it into a party. Seriously. Back home I knew plenty of folks that would have maple syrup parties, meat cutting parties and now, sausage parties!! Wait. I've been to some sausage parties so maybe we need to call it something else.

Keep 'em where they live...

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

When to Say Goodbye to Your Best Friend

Anyone who has a pet has put themselves into a position to potential have to make the hardest decision of their lives. If you've done your job as their guardian and kept them safe for all these years, you very well may have to say when enough is enough. It's 12:30 on Tuesday. In four hours, we will say goodbye to the beautiful chocolate lab playing fetch in the clip above and even though she's not mine, it's still tough and for Jill, I know her heart is breaking. 

Jill and I have both done some reading and in every piece of literature out there on the topic of when to say when, the two common themes are, it's better to be a couple days early than a couple days late and once you make the decision, don't turn back. The appointment has been set for days now and I'd be lying if I didn't admit that at times, I've thought about trying to trump that decision and make the argument that she's still happy and still has something to give but then I think back at all the things we've read and what friends have shared and what we've witnessed ourselves in Daisy's rapid decline and I know how selfish that would be. You see the question is, "Are you hanging on for what's best for you or what's best for your dog?"

I'm not going to go into the details of the decline. Let's just say that Daisy is a shell of what she was when the video above was taken. That has put a lot of stress on us as we've had to sacrifice quite a bit in order to take care of her. The biggest thing is sleep. She can't be comfortable as she paces the floors all night long going from one bed to the other or to a part of the house that is warmer or cooler depending on how she's feeling. It's sad to see her like that. It's also sad to watch her struggle to even get up off the floor, let alone navigate the stairs to go out into the yard. Her quality of life has diminished significantly and we can't do anything for her. 

I know it sounds selfish but money is a factor as well and I've always figured if a dog's medical bills are twice as much as mine, then I'd need to re-asses the relationship. How much are you going to spend in order to keep your pet around a few more months or maybe a year? What makes sense rationally? 

When you take on a pet like a dog, your whole purpose is to keep them safe and in return, they give you unconditional love. So when you get to this point in their lives, it's natural to want to try to save them or to question that decision to put them down. But again, who would you be keeping them alive for? Your job of protection also is to make sure they aren't going through unnecessary suffering so that you can have a few more days. I have to give Jill a lot of props for making a decision I might not be able to make. In fact, if Cutter lives that long, she'll probably have to be the voice of reason as I don't know that I would be strong enough to make the call. 

But why does it hurt so much? We've known this day was coming. Since the day you get your new puppy, you know that the chances are, you are going to outlive them. And as we see them slowing down and developing different ailments, we start preparing ourselves but for some reason, that day still comes with such a significant blow. Why? When my grandpa died, he was 93, which in dog years, is about where Daisy is. When he died I cried. But then I remembered what he said when they found that he had cancer and he was like, "I'm good." He elected not to have treatments and he died peacefully a few weeks later. We know what's best for Daisy. We know what's rational but why isn't it the same?

A lot of grief comes down to change. Your dog has been with you for how long? In Daisy's case, 13 1/2 years! That's a pretty significant amount time and it's going to take some time to get used to the fact that she's not going to be there to greet us when we get home. She was a permanent fixture that brought some humor, companionship and joy to the family. She will be missed just like any other significant member would. But there's something more about a dog and what I'd say is it comes down to a little bit of guilt and a whole lot of humility.

Here's the deal. I said before that our job was to protect our four-legged friends and give them a good quality of life. We take them for walks. We feed them. We hunt with them or play fetch with them. We have fun with them and in return, they give us unconditional love. (It's not really in return because that would be conditional. They just give it freely.) Those days when you work your ass off and nobody appreciates you and you come home and slam the door or maybe get in an argument with you spouse? Who comes to your side to comfort you? But it's more than that. Let's say you're so frustrated with all the crap going on in your life that when you take your pooch for a walk or to play fetch and they act like a moron and don't bring the ball back to you or they take off down the street and won't come back right away, you get angry and take out your frustration on them but what do they do? All they can do is look at you and give you love. They don't hold grudges. They just love you and when you look back at all the times you yelled at them or maybe forgot about them or left them alone in the house for a few hours too long or maybe missed a feeding you know that they have never dropped the ball and it's easy to start feeling guilty. They've never stopped loving you and the bottom line is there is always this question of did I give enough? Did I even come close to giving my best friend what they gave to me and the answer is always going to be no. It's just not possible because we are flawed and as much of a meathead as they can be, they never give up on their end of the deal. They always just love us.

The other thing that makes it particularly hard is that they can't communicate with us the way we'd like. We want to be affirmed that we are making the right decision and we want to hear from them that it's all going to be okay and that they're not going to hold it against us but that's not going to happen either. They can't tell us how much pain they're in and they're not going to show it because it's just not in their nature. They're going to fight to live regardless of how much they are suffering and as much as you'd like to hear from them that they understand, you have to believe that what you're doing is in their best interest because you love them and you don't want them to suffer anymore. You can read the signs and see that they are suffering by the way they struggle to get up to eat or drink or by the way they slip or fall when going down the steps but there will always be that doubt because they can't tell you how they feel and that's incredibly difficult. You know that the decisions you're making are out of love and you have to trust you're doing the right thing for them. 

There are only a few more hours left. I think I'll spend them helping Jill make peace with this decision and by showing Daisy one last time what she has given us. She likes fried duck.

Keep 'em where they live...

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Michelle Hirschi's Golden Eye Recipe

I know. That's not a golden eye. It's proof that we have wood ducks in Montana. The problem is, they are usually the first ducks to get out of dodge in the fall. I did find a couple in town today, though. However, in this little honey-hole, you'll have to bring your camera if you want to shoot one. 

Last week, my podcast co-host's wife made some golden eyes for Scott to bring over and have me taste-test on air. So I did. If you want to get my reaction, listen in.

Here's her version of the recipe, verbatim as she wrote it down. She may have been drinking wine.

Golden eye recipe or something...
Water - lots. Cover breast by at least an inch in container. Or so...
Coarse Salt- enough, but not like dry out your tongue salty, more like when your mom made you rinse if you had a sore throat salty.
Vinegar- some, more than a splash, almost like a measured couple of teaspoons.
Molasses- yeah, I guess I put in about a tablespoon? And don't look at me like that. I like molasses. Could lick it off the spoon.
Liquid aminos- Scott tried last time, worked then, so about a Tbsp
Let it set for two nights in refrigerator
Marinade: look I was trying something different...
H2O- oh I'd say two Tbsp.
Greek yogurt- this one had honey in it(I was thinking buttermilk) about maybe 1/4 cup. Or less or more, I'm just guessing here. I used a heaping big soup spoon.
Vinegar- splash, maybe a tsp, another guess.
Red pepper seeds/flakes - like the packets from Pizza Hut delivery, couple shakes maybe a 1/2 tsp
Liquid Aminos & Redused salt soy sauce- both to get umami flavor, I just poured some in, um maybe two tsp each?
Steak seasoning- I got mine at Big Lots, Kansas City style, about a Tbsp-ish. I like the fennel in it...
Cinnamon- dusting, pinch, tiny bit
Powdered ginger- Mckormic brand. Little red lid shaker bottle, pinch or two. I tapped the bottom of the bottle twice.
Salt and pepper- probably if I had to think about it maybe a tsp each
I'm sorry I'm not more precise with my measurements. I just go by what I like the flavor of and try to remember some basics of cooking, what my mom taught me, what my grandma taught me and  different flavor profiles. This is why I can't bake.  Too many rules, cooking is just fun and you can wing whatever you want. Or put whatever you want on wings...

Thanks Michelle and keep 'em where they live...