My Work

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

'Tis The Season

I was sitting in the middle of the living room floor the other day, playing with the dog and feeling sorry for myself. It was the third day of a long series of storms coming through, each bringing snow and rain and snow and rain, all leading to mud, mud, and more mud. Can’t work outside. Can’t play outside.

As I threw the tennis ball for the fiftieth time, and Sparky caught it again, I saw the word Chili, written in snow on a frozen windowpane. My heart leaped, my mouth watered, my tongue burned in anticipation. I love chili. Real chili. Tasty, blazing hot chili.

Chili is an art form, and as in every art form, there are more than five ways to accomplish and create chili as art. Each artist believes his is the best way, and I’m sure you feel yours is best, old Sam there, feels his is best, and I’m rather sure mine is best.

By its very nature, chili is hot, but the best chili is far more flavorful than it is just hot. One can boil a pot of chili peppers and it would be hot, but it takes a combination of fine meats, vegetables, herbs, and chili spices to make a pot of really good chili. Many prefer using dried chilies, some use a mixture of dry and fresh, and of course, others use fresh only.

A pound or two of beef or venison and a pound or two of pork, and don’t trim the fat, that’s where the taste is. A yellow or white onion or three, a bulb of minced garlic, a couple of big cans of stewed tomatoes, half a pound of chilies, and a well seasoned cast iron Dutch oven, and enough beer to allow you the time it takes to simmer that pot, and you will find yourself close to heaven.

I like equal amounts of Serrano and Jalapeño peppers, fresh and minced. Leave the seeds in, thank you. Add a goodly dose of smoked paprika, some crushed cumin and turmeric for the extra zip in flavor.

Cut the meat in one inch or so chunks and brown it in bacon grease. Brown the onions in bacon grease. Use the Dutch oven for this and all that flavor stays where it’s supposed to be. Add the rest of everything and bring the pot to a full rolling boil. Let ‘er boil for a couple of minutes, then reduce the heat to simmer, put the lid on the pot and walk away with that six-pack.

In an hour or so, slowly lift the lid on the pot to savor all those flavors rising so temptingly to your open nostrils, and give the pot a nice stir. Take a large spoon and carefully taste the juices. At this point the hot might be strong, but it’s the other flavors you’re looking for. A little salt? Some more black pepper? Okay, you’ve made the adjustments.

Add two bottles of dark ale, put the lid back on the pot and go back to your six-pack. That pot of chili will be ready to eat in about another two hours, and will be absolutely the best tomorrow, not tonight. A large bowl of chili, some crusty French bread or tortilla chips, and another six-pack and you will have one fine supper. I’ve never had leftovers, but they tell me this can be frozen for use another day.

Until next time, read good books and stay regular.

Johnny Gunn, member, Western Fictioneers
Will you join me on facebook from time to time?
Or Tweet with me, darlin’?

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Then, Now, and Tomorrow

We said goodbye to 2015 reluctantly around these parts. As some like to say, 2015, you were a good year in many respects. Financially? No, we’ve done a lot better, but building a foundation on which to grow? A big ole yes on that one. It was a wonderful year for my publishing with four books out plus being part of an anthology that became an Amazon best seller.

If we owned our little rancho there would have been many improvements, but leasing something that was a disaster to start with doesn’t give one much impetus, particularly when the actual owner doesn’t give a damn. Patty and I are looking to buy a small rancho somewhere in Nevada this year. That is a major goal. We’re both good with animals and with growing food, and while we don’t consider ourselves among those looking to be fully self sufficient, we plan on coming much closer than we’ve been.

Patty’s business is finally coming into its own. She’s a trucker’s broker and has men and machines moving all over the country, and it is only necessary for her to have phone and Internet service, so we can live almost anywhere. Somewhere in Humboldt County would be about “Damn Good.” If you have ten or more acres that we can get into on the cheap, let me know. Preferably in Nevada and not in Washoe County.

As for me and my publishing? As any writer, I would love to see more reviews of my work, and I refuse to pay for any. That is simply unethical in my opinion, but it certainly is done by many. I’m working on three major projects right now, one a historical fiction piece centered in about 1851, which may or may not develop into a series; a second book in the Jacob Chance, U.S. Marshal series; and a second book in the Simon Sol Dorsey mystery series. The first Dorsey book is currently under review at a publishing house.

If you would like to take a look at any of my current books on the market, click onto my Amazon author’s page, Several people have asked if I plan a sequel to The Quest, and I have that on my list, but not until I finish my current projects. I have enough work spread out in front of me that will have to live to the century mark to get’er done.

With some luck, and the weather people are cooperating, we’ll have a goodly supply of water for growing food this year. A wet fall and early winter are making me anticipate spending hours with seed catalogs, plotting the land we have available, and doing everything I can to not get on the tractor. It would sink past the hubs I think right now. I haven’t had much luck with heritage tomatoes the last few years. Get big healthy plants and little fruit.

Patty loves to can tomatoes, corn, and green beans, and I love to eat those goodies all winter and following spring. Last season was not as fruitful as we wanted, so I’m getting primed for this year. Let there be another ten or twenty feet of snow along the Sierra crest and several inches of rain in the valley, and a goodly supply of diesel for the tractor. That’s not asking for too much is it?

Yeah, 2015 was a fun year and I’m anticipating excitement in 2016. I just hope it’s positive excitement. No more wars, someone with class, integrity, and intellect in the White House, and a strong economy would fill that bill.

Until next time, read good books and stay regular.

Will you join me on facebook from time to time?
Or Tweet with me, darlin’?

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Dancing With the Marmots

It appears that many of us have made it through the jumble of holiday events and are striving to make 2016 just as preposterous as most previous years. I was looking forward to reading about Jolly Old St. Nick running down some in Washington with his sleigh, but that didn’t happen, so we’ll have to oust the buggers by way of the ballot box

Contrary to what you might read in advertisements from the big box stores, the next holiday of any import is not Valentine’s Day, it is February 2, Ground Hog Day. Because so many now live surrounded by concrete and asphalt, not planting anything past a window garden, Ground Hog Day has lost its significance.

There are two major celestial events that drive the agricultural calendars around the world, winter solstice and summer solstice. Each of those periods of time have been split into the spring equinox and autumnal equinox. Spring for planting, autumn for harvest. The old legends about burrowing and hibernating animals coming out into the world to see what’s going on sometime around February two on our current means to detailing a year, was used by old timers to determine whether or not winter might end early.

There are thirteen weeks, give or take a day or two, between December 21 and March 21, and you might check this out, February two just happens at the halfway mark. Calendar-wise, there will be six weeks before the actual beginning of spring, but as we all know, spring can show its beauty and wonder a little early. Those in agriculture are always hoping for that early spring without a late frost, to get a head start on growing.

For the most part, we depend on the grocery store for our victuals, but some legends and traditions have a serous side and Ground Hog Day is one of them. An early start on corn meant you would have stalks up when the early rains came, and that would fill the bin for next winter. Getting those beans sprouted early meant a long summer crop, which meant a full larder for next winter.

So, I say, let’s party. To hell with the box stores and their Valentine’s Day promotions, lets all go out and do a dance with the neighborhood Marmot, and get the seeds separated and ready for an early planting. That is, after our nice heavy snow fall here in the west, wends its way into our ground water system so we can sprinkle that large crop all summer.

When we’re tired and muddy from all our dancing, it will then be time to look for our favorite Valentine. I have mine and her name is Patty. We’ll dance with the marmots and then, St. Valentine, you better get ready for some serious early spring-time romance.

Until next time, read good books and stay regular.

Will you join me on facebook from time to time?
Or Tweet with me, darlin’?