Wednesday, April 20, 2011

I'm Shaking My Head

It is 8:00 PM.  It is also 82 degrees.  And we haven't had rain of any consequence in weeks.  We check the weather channel and other sources and eagerly anticipate the various percentages of rain possibilities per the prognostications each week.  :(  But, the April showers have taken residence up the country from us--sometimes, apparently in the form of snow, ice and hail, unfortunately.  It amazes me that what is usually a very wet spring month for us is anything but.

82 degrees at 8:00 PM.  Unbelievable.  For April.  This is not June.  Or did I just forget to turn the calendar over???

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Disaster Missed, and Other Ramblings

Sunday I was browning a post roast when it slipped from my cooking fork and splashed hot oil in my face.  Ouch.  And.  Really OUCH, again.  I first got cold water on my fingers and applied them to the area around my eyes--where it burned the worst.  But I didn't want to ruin my pot roast, so I slid the pot it was in off the front burner to the back.  Then I grabbed my small rice bag from the freezer and put it on my face.  So essentially I was blind to do much else.  The cold bag was ever so welcomed as immediate relief but can't see with bag covering eyes!  Fortunately, and blessedly I had not been splashed in the eyes with the hot oil!  I am so grateful.

Now, I've been spattered with popping grease from frying bacon and tons of other foods in a frying pan or otherwise, but never like this particular incident.  I hollered for my daughter to please come take over the roast cooking operation.  She was alarmed when I explained what had happened and demanded that I let her see the damage--which I knew wasn't serious, it just hurt like burns do!  She told me to wash the grease off so it wouldn't continue to burn.  (It wasn't, but I was a dutiful Mom and washed--very gently-- around my eyes and patted my face dry and immediately went back to assuaging my discomfort with the cold rice bag.)

The damage upon later assessment was very minor and mostly around the outer edge of my right eye, less so under my left and one small blister under my nose.  (Wasn't able to get the rice bag over my nose while covering my eyes and frankly didn't feel the burn there until much later.)  I'm pretty confident that the cold rice bag inhibited the blistering around my eyes that could have occurred--like under my nose--without its application!

I will ever be grateful no hot oil got into my eyes!  (Do you think OSHA will now require me to wear safety eye gear while cooking?  Just kidding!)

I have been cooking now for . . . let's see . . . about 53 years without a disaster of this kind, though like I mentioned earlier I've been popped with hot grease/oil on many occasions.  The worst cooking disaster I can remember in all those years, however, was when I was canning fresh green beans from our garden some years ago.  A friend and I were co-oping our time and efforts in helping each other with the project.  Because we had several batches to process I got a little impatient and forced the pressure cooker lid off prematurely and got a very nasty steam burn on my fingers of one hand.  Burns are the pits.

I learned after another burn incident with a soldiering iron years before the pressure cooker incident that plunging your hand into a cup of ice water--and mostly keeping it there--numbs the pain and halts the burn.  Yes.  The ice water hurts, too.  You have to decide which hurt is greater or lesser.  I choose (and chose) the lesser of two evils, for me anyway, and that was:  keep the hand IN the ice water.  Numb from cold was more tolerable than hurt from burning.

Now on to more pleasant things.  When finished cooking, the post roast--involved in the near disaster--was WONDERFUL!  It was delicious, tender and wasn't burned up because of my mishap.  I cooked carrots and onions with it and added mashed potatoes, gravy and corn to the menu and we all seemed to enjoy it quite well.

Last night I took the remaining pound of roast and made an Italian roast beef stew.  I sauteed onions, garlic and sweet red bell pepper then added a jar of  tomato basil spaghetti sauce, a can of beef consume, a can of sliced mushrooms, the leftover beef roast gravy, the leftover beef cut into small cubes, some salt, and oregano and let it simmer.  We served it with spaghetti noodles and the leftover corn.  It was pretty good, if I do say so!

Saturday, we had about 8 pounds of chicken breasts (boneless/skinless) to grill--which I did with the very last of the propane in the tank.  (I did have another tank on hand--mostly because I wasn't sure there was enough in the one to finish the job.)  Now we ate some of the grilled chicken with our great salad of greens and fresh tomatoes with mozerella cheese chuncks and cibatta bread.  It was all good.  But the side benefit(s): of grilling all that chicken at once
  1. only had to clean/fire-up the grill once
  2. we now have 5 freezer bags of grilled chicken to use whenever we need to put a meal together quickly--and we've already anticipated more of those than we have grilled chicken to put into them!
  3. thawing raw chicken and then having to cook it is NOT gonna be necessary
  4. its much cheaper than buying pre-grilled frozen, or rotisserie chicken 
  5. we're happy with this arrangement!
So, I've survived a near disaster, and I've grilled chicken, and I've rambled through it all.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Fire Ants--The Bane of Southerners

For those of you who have lived or currently live in the "Deep South" of the USofA know what I'm talking about.  Fire ants are insidious, well organized, demonic creatures that dig exceptionally deep tunnels in terra firma, and protect their queens like nobodies business.  You simply CANNOT eradicate them.  You might kill a few thousand here and there.  You might encourage them to move their surface entrances from one place to another, but you CANNOT induce them to leave you alone.

If you till up a garden, they will exercise willful disregard for your hard work and joyfully pop up another entrance or three from which they will plunder whatever plants you place there for your own consumption.  And, just out of pure meanness, they will attack you with vengeance if you try to eliminate them--AGAIN--from your premises.

And, after a good rain they gleefully pop up jillions of new hills--their surface entrances.  They work non-stop.  I've seen cow pastures after a rain with hundreds of new fire ant hills.  I certainly wouldn't want to be the cattle in those pastures!!!!  And, we've had some "hills" that border our back patio that we've poisoned over and over for years.  Those particular entrances will be dormant for long periods of time--months and even a few years.  Then, bingo!  After a good rain, we'll see they've moved back in to create havoc for us once again.

Now when I said they will attack you a minute ago, I mean a full-blown military attack.  The soldier ants in the group--all female, I hate to say--will pour out of the nest and literally cover your feet, or whatever is closest and begin to bite and urinate into that bite. (Yes.  A lovely thought.)  That's what makes the bitten site feel "on fire"!  It is very painful and festers in a short time.  For some it is literally deadly--even one bite--if a person is allergic to their "sting".

I remember some years ago when we lived north of Houston, Texas.  Our garden was great.  Raised beds for intense use of a small space.  It had begun to rain, and I ran out to shut off the water hose that was trying to keep the plants from burning up--since we'd been without rain for an extended period. In my haste I didn't watch where I was stepping.  I felt a sting and looked down to discover both my feet were swarming with fire ants.  Thank Heaven I had on shoes and socks and NOT flipflops!!!  I did quite a dance in the rain that day, stomping and yelling and stomping wildly around the yard to disengage as many of the vile insects as possible before chucking said shoes/socks and running inside to view the destruction to my ankles, etc.  I remember brushing off what I could of the little monsters before they carted me, piece by piece, down into the infernal pit of their deepest tunnel to feed their hordes of fiendish little sisters, and perhaps a few drone brothers, along with their super fat, egg-laying machine we designate as "queen."

I didn't escape unscathed.  I had several bites around my ankles.  Those kinds of bites have lingered on my feet and elsewhere for weeks, even with popping the festered spot and applying a good antibiotic salve to quell the mess.  They itch like all get-out, too.  I have had scars on my feet from some particularly vicious bites for over a year.

With all that vitriolic-ness spewing from my thoughts, I have to admit that ants are quite incredible creatures.  (Doesn't mean I like fire ants anyway.)  Last Saturday, in preparation for my husband tilling up the garden, I lifted up all the paving stones we had placed there last spring between the vegetable rows to clear the way for his tiller.  As I lifted two or three stones, I squealed like a little girl and ran.  Guess what I found underneath those stones?  Uh huh!  Fire ants and a lot of their eggs and tunnels.  They immediately went into action.  And, yes!  I did the fire ant stomp once again and got out of their way.  It didn't take them long to go into hyper-drive and cart those little embryos out of harms way.  In just minutes there was not a little white egg to be seen.  Then I doused them with a healthy (for us) sprinkling of Sevin dust before my mate was tilling away without disturbance.  A little later I found a stray ant or two doin' their thing.  One made it to my chest, close to my pacemaker and the other got me on the back of my neck.  I still have a hard knot on the back of my neck, but I managed to dislodge the one on my chest before much damage was done.

Oh, and another thing I found rather interesting:  Under the second row of paving stones I discovered more ant tunnels and ants, but these were the tiny little black ants we used to find in our kitchen--the ones that love to get into sugar and oil.  I was really surprised to find them such extremely close neighbors to the fire ants.  Do you suppose they have some kind of symbiotic relationship?  I don't know if that's such a good thing.  It disturbs me to think about it.