Stay Away from Farmers Insurance–Very Far Away

According to Farmers, This May or May not be a Building

Building or outdoor equipment? You can decide, but our insurance adjuster said this could be considered either–depending on what his boss says. Outdoor equipment means much less money for replacement. Go figure.

The good cop-bad cop ploy was as transparent as plastic wrap. Here’s what he saw:

Definitely not a Building Now

Five days later, after the storm/tornado laid one tree on this and one on our house, we have nary a penny out of Farmers. We have no timeline for when they might cover our property. We hired a tree service and paid out of our pocket for the two trees to be removed. No notice on when we might be reimbursed.

Our policy from Met Life–excellent insurance–was bought out as Met Life Home and Auto was sold to Farmers in a corporate takeover last fall. A tree service owner said his two worst insurance companies to deal with are-drum roll-Farmers and Allstate. As Groucho would say, make a note of that, Jameson.

Farmers. Anyone who stays with them is dumb-dumb-dumb, dumb-dumb-dumb, DUMB.

Axe Me Again Tomorrow

A Bad Axe Swedish Hatchet

I have been blessed and/or cursed with a lifetime supply of wood, and it only took about fifteen seconds. To make it a very short story, I now have around fifty storm damaged trees to work with.

2/23, Melanie Jane’s birthday, a loud WHOOSE sound woke us up around four o’clock, followed by some heavy rain. We had heard the same sound in the tornado outbreak of 2011, and it meant only one thing–blown down trees. Sure enough, there is a leaner on our house right now.

The brick oven got the worst of it, with the chimney knocked off, the dome cracked, and the enclosure destroyed by a mature pine tree. However, Jose and his crew of landscapers are coming by tomorrow to get rid of the two trees, and the insurance adjuster is scheduled for Monday. And as usual, I have plans.

If I were the character from the movie Bull Durham, who had to work on his cliches, I would say I am going to give it 110 percent and make some lemonade, but I don’t even like lemonade. My new pine chopping block came from my driveway, and I have multiples candidates for the second one. Then there is the plan for an even fancier brick oven, with an enclosure with pine shingles, and a roof covered with pine shakes. When life gives you wood, make shingles.

Making Rubbed Sage

Here’s the Rub

Supermarket Sage can be a sorry thing, with as many stems as leaves. A high quality rubbed Sage like this can get pricey, and usually can only be found via mail order. So I grabbed the Sage by the leaves and made my own.

Sage “Berggarten”

I clipped these leaves of Berggarten with a small pair of pruners, but scissors will work just as well. The leaves of this cultivar are large and strong of flavor. Clipping individual leaves is tedious, but spring growth is about a month away, and I want as many leaves for the fall as possible–think cornbread dressing for Thanksgiving. Then entire branches will be sacrificed, and I can clip off all those stems while sitting, and enjoying a beverage.

Our convection oven has a pre-programmed dehydration setting, which is 120 degrees F for six hours. That is perfect for this many leaves, and I left plenty of room to avoid crowding. The same setting could be used for any oven.

Rubbing is simple. Add a handful of leaves into the palm of your non-dominant hand, and commence rubbing the dried leaves between two fingers of your dominant hand. Collect them in your palm, and funnel them into a spice jar. This amount of leaves made one third of a standard spice jar, as pictured.

I leave mine uncovered for a week or so to make certain they are perfectly dried. Then it is into the spice cabinet, next to some ground sage. That’s when you notice that this is like a whole different herb.

Growing Mushrooms, Part Four–Mushrooms for Life

And They’re Off

I admit to being skeptical of the sites on the inter webs that claim you can grow mushrooms from stems on moist cardboard, but I will kiss your butt on Twentieth Street in Birmingham if they’re not right. Those white furry things you see are mycelium, which are the mushroom equivalent of roots–only they grow incredibly fast. In fact, oyster mushrooms will feed on almost any kind of cellulose, including cardboard.

Being of an experimental nature, and having a workshop full of hardwood sawdust, I decided to try this. The base of this mixture is about three fourths of a cup of sawdust. On top of that is a layer of Amazon box cardboard. Then there are two clumps of King Blue Oyster mushroom bases, from the Oyster mushrooms that I recently grew. Both clumps cloned themselves, and when they hit the sawdust, it was all she wrote.

Another moist layer of cardboard is on the top, and I fear that it is not aware of the death penalty that it faces. Mushrooms are more like animals than vegetables, and Oyster mushrooms are documented to have killed both nematodes and various bacteria, and then eat them. And then, all things made of wood are on the menu.

I did manage to kill off a sourdough starter that I nursed for more than a decade, but that was just negligence. As we both love fresh mushrooms, I think these are keepers. So there it is–$13.99 for a lifetime supply of mushrooms, plus some ingredients that would have ended up in the compost bin.

Smokehouse, Part Four–It’s Almost Finito Mussolini

My Future is Nothing but Smoke

Friday, 2/11, was a warm 68 degrees F, so we smoked some wild Salmon in the new smokehouse. Life is hard.

I snaked the recipe from Hank Shaw, who has the great website Hunter Angler Gardener Cook. It’s simple and delicious.

Smoked Salmon

1 medium wild Salmon Fillet

Marinade of Sea Salt, brown Sugar, and Water

Start about six hours before smoking, and marry-nate the salmon in this mixture. Then let it dry, skin side down, for another two hours.

This is a warm smoke cook, so here are the rough guidelines. Cold smoke is from about 70-100F, warm smoke is 100-130F, and hot smoke is 130-190F. These rough guidelines are for people who happen to own cooking thermometers.

Not us. Old timers around here would laugh at the idea of wasting money on a thermometer, when you can just open the damn door and stick your hand inside to see how warm the smokehouse is. Besides, they had those free advertising thermometers nailed up on the front porch (usually Coca-Cola). They would have pulled that down and used it. A lack of money leads to a surplus of creativity.

At any rate, the Salmon smokes for around two hours. After an hour, brush on some sweetener. Shaw uses birch syrup; we went with honey, as we have a beekeeper who lives a mile from here, as the bee flies. We have already seen one of his bees on some blooming crocus we have.

Naturally, after an hour and a half we got impatient and hungry, and finished the Salmon in the oven. It was a bit dry and overcooked, but still nice and smoky. It made superb Salmon cakes as well.

The last bit is fitting this thing for real winter cold smoking, which is going to take some serious labor, hooking up an old steel wood stove to this smoke mansion, in a way that will result in the whole thing not burning to the ground. Good thing my labor is free.

The Gazpacho Police Are Coming for You

The South is famous for such things as laid back folks, college sports, good food, a variable climate, and elected officials of questionable intellectual capacity. One, in fact, fears that a Spanish soup is trying to hunt her down.

The honorable US Representative for northwest Georgia apparently doesn’t know from Gazpacho. She stated, in her typical ranting fashion, that the Speaker of the House was sicking the Gazpacho police on her. I am of the firm conviction that a Gazpacho bath would be the best remedy for removing any skunk smell that a person might have.

Some countries do in fact have food police, in particular, Italy (sorry Spain, but we had to switch countries). The Carabinieri (think Italian FBI), which is actually part of the Italian Army, in fact has an agricultural division, that enforces Italian and EU food laws. Olive oil fraud is a major illegal activity in Italy, (author Tom Mueller estimates that 75-80% of the extra virgin oil sold in the US is fake) and wine is the number ten export. So the Carabinieri are charged with everything from dealing with organized crime to enforcing European Union Egg Directive 1028, which requires inspection and labeling of eggs. Italians really hate that last one.

Which in a round about way brings me to the topic of Ur-Fascism, a term coined by the great Italian writer Umberto Eco. His 1995 essay of the same title, published in The New York Review of Books, has become justifiably famous. Eco recalls winning a writing award given by the Italian Fascistas when he was only ten. He said all he had to do was agree with them.

The distinction Eco makes is between Italian Ur-Fascism and Nazism. Ur-Fascists are dangerous, but almost comically incompetent. Unlike the single minded and ruthlessly efficient Nazi party, the Ur-Fascists were and are primarily interested in lining their pockets and running off at the mouth. My favorite sentence from the essay has to be the following: “Mussolini did not have any philosophy: he had only rhetoric.” From that point, Eco outlines his analysis of fascist rhetoric, now usually called the Fascist playbook. Don’t read it and then watch the news, and really don’t dare to watch C-span afterward.

So we should probably add one party rule and Ur-Fascism as a Southern trait. Recently both Alabama and Mississippi were ranked as two of the most corrupt states in the Union by a good government group. Alabama is using Covid relief money to build new prisons, while having a former football coach as a senator, who couldn’t name the three branches of the US government when asked. He should have punted.

The South, everything from soup to nuts. Especially the nuts.

Growing Mushrooms, Part Three–Harvest Day

So Long to Two of You

Barbara Kingsolver, in her great book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, describes her family’s “Harvest Day,” when they would dispatch a few turkeys and chickens to meet their maker, and also to say hello to the freezer. Later, her young daughter Lily won a 4-H award for a presentation called “You Can’t Run Away on Harvest Day.” So true.

Especially if you are harvesting mushrooms. Their mycelium may run, but not so for the edible parts. We only needed a couple of these for breakfast, so I took the two largest ones from the back.

Enough for Two People

The goal was to turn these into part of an Omelette, and here is the process. This is for two people.

Oyster Mushroom Omelette


2 jumbo or 3 medium Eggs

2 large Oyster Mushrooms

1/2 large French Shallot

Shredded Cheddar Cheese

Salt and Pepper

Olive Oil

Simple enough, but not as much as it seems. The first step is to sauté the Shroom and Shallot, both of which have been chopped. However, remove the caps from the stems of the mushrooms before chopping. Even with a hybrid mushroom like these King Blue monsters, the stem is still harder and chewier than the caps. So cook them in this order.

Using your favorite omelette skillet, and naturally ours is cast iron, sauté the stems in olive oil until they begin to soften. Then and only then add the caps and shallot, and cook only briefly, as shallots are easy to burn. These just happen to be echalote traditionelle longue, straight outta France. Those were recently the subject of more than one political controversy.

In the early 2000’s some air headed US politicians banned several food imports from France, including shallots, in an attempt to score cheap political points–fortunately now they are on to similarly idiotic ideas, like banning vaccine mandates, books, and CRT. I never knew that cathode ray tubes were that bad. At least these short attention span dudes forgot about the dangers of shallots.

When the shallots and shrooms have cooked just the right length, add a mixture of eggs and cheese. Cook briefly on the stove top, and then throw the whole thing in the oven, and cook until the omelette firms up. Our oven was pre-heated, because were eating the following with this:

Drop Biscuits

We served the biscuits with:

Strawberry Preserves

Naturally the preserves were made by yours truly. It makes a great combination, and disappeared quickly. We also still check the weather on our old Trinitron tv, which is only hooked up to an antenna. It’s CRT has withstood the years without fail.

Great Food Poetry–Susie Asado, by Gertrude Stein

This poem is out there a bit, and furthermore, I don’t even drink sweet tea. Still, it is a beverage poem, sort of.

Susie Asado


Sweet sweet sweet sweet sweet tea.

       Susie Asado.

Sweet sweet sweet sweet sweet tea.

       Susie Asado.

Susie Asado which is a told tray sure.

A lean on the shoe this means slips slips hers.

When the ancient light grey is clean it is yellow, it is a silver seller.

This is a please this is a please there are the saids to jelly. These are the wets these say the sets to leave a crown to Incy.

Incy is short for incubus.

A pot. A pot is a beginning of a rare bit of trees. Trees tremble, the old vats are in bobbles, bobbles which shade and shove and render clean, render clean must.   

       Drink pups.   

Drink pups drink pups lease a sash hold, see it shine and a bobolink has pins. It shows a nail.

What is a nail. A nail is unison.

Sweet sweet sweet sweet sweet tea.

Thanks again to the Poetry Foundation, though I still prefer my tea hot, and my poetry non-Modernist.

Growing Mushrooms, Part Two–Shrooms Happen

The Drama Happens Also

Instead of waiting for a mushroom porn photo of a giant clump of Oyster mushrooms, here is an update. These are at the fast growth stage, and get larger overnight. My estimate is that they grew a quarter to half inch last night.

The King Blue Oysters are actually a hybrid mushroom, bred to combine the cap texture of the Blue Oyster with the size and tender stem of the King. Another perk is that they have the storage length of the King, which is rare for an Oyster mushroom.

The substrate here is just coffee grounds and filters, but we only use the unbleached (brown) filters. This has proven to be so effective that we are going to try another Oyster species soon, and drink a lot of coffee.

Time to look for some good mushroom pasta recipes. I’m thinking linguine in a mushroom garlic cream sauce.


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