Saturday, June 3, 2017

Sicilian Frittata on the Grill

It doesn't get much better than this on a warm Spring morning.

I just binged the word "frittata" and found that Wikipedia says it is an Italian dish. I always thought it was Mexican.

Anyhow, life in the country involves many activities, most of which are enjoyable, like cooking, and especially, eating.

Having cooked for myself (and others, and nobody's died, yet!) for over 40 years, I like to think I'm pretty good at it and maybe can offer some tips from time to time.

Here's one. You can't just throw all ingredients together at the same time and expect a delicious meal to be produced. Proper cooking takes preparation, time, and patience.

And that brings us to today's topic: Sicilian Frittata on the Grill.

I'm not really good at writing recipes, but I'll give this one my best shot.

Ingredients (and these are subject to your own likes and whims or whatever might be on hand).

Two eggs
Butter (about 1/8 of a stick)
Olive oil
1/4 medium onion
1/4 large tomato
1 large potato
1 Italian sausage (pre-cooked)
1 slice of cheese (any you like)
garlic pepper
seasoned salt

Cut up the potato into long thin strips, along the lines of string fries. Cut tomato into small 1/4-1/2-inch cubes. Heat pan to melt butter and warm olive oil (I use both to get the best of both worlds). Drop in the cut potatoes and tomatoes and begin to slowly fry them (Getting the right temperature is important as you don't want to burn anything. Use low heat. It takes a little longer, but the end result is worth it.). Add seasonings.

While the potatoes/tomatoes are cooking, slice up your onion and sausage. Revel in the beauty of nature while you're outside at the grill. Slice up the Italian sausage into roughly 1/4-inch slices.

When the first of the potatoes begin to brown, drop in the sliced onion. Keep using your spatula, flipper or whatever you call it to turn everything over every few minutes. Total cooking time for the potatoes is about 15-20 minutes. The onions should be in the pan for about 8-10.

When things are looking good, toss in the sliced sausage, get that all cooking, and finally crack open the eggs (mine were farm fresh, thanks to Brenda and Dennis, and of course, their chickens), drop them into the pan (I like mine a little off to the side) and whisk them around. After the eggs have been in the pan for about 1/2 minute, throw in strips of cheese (I used American, but this is also great with Swiss, Gouda, or Provolone).

Once the eggs firm up and the cheese is a little melted, you're on your way to the best part, eating.

Buon appetito!

Friday, November 25, 2016

The Price Of Freedom: Shoveling Your Lawn

Editor’s Note: This post is being published simultaneously on the Money Daily and Accidental Farmer blogs.

Greetings from Camp Alpha

Here’s something I thought I’d never say: “I just finished shoveling my lawn.”

Well, turns out, I did, the day after a two-day snow storm which, by most accounts, was the second, third, or fifth-worse November winter storm around these parts.

Yep, that's what a lawn driveway looks like.
What made the storm so severe was not the amount of snow that fell, but the winds, which howled for the better part of two-and-a-half days at a sustained 20-30 mph, with frequent gusts of 40 mph or higher.

Those who live in hurricane or twister areas may scoff at those numbers, but anything over forty miles per hour here in upstate New York know that those kinds of numbers are not a trifling matter. And, when you’re essentially living off the grid in a camper or (like me) a motorhome, a storm like that can be downright challenging.

But, those are the choices we make. Thankfully, I had secured the motorhome sufficiently and provided for enough emergency measures that I was barely impacted, if, by barely, one means no electricity. Since I’m on solar power for the most part and I haven’t yet gotten around to augmenting my battery backup to a higher level, I was pretty much electricity-free by Sunday evening.

The storm began gathering momentum just after noon on Saturday, when the winds began picking up. I spent most of the afternoon putting away loose items in the yard and covering up wood and other building materials with tarps. By the time the sun was going down, I had just about everything secured for what I figured might be some strong winds and maybe a half foot of snow.

Sunday wasn’t so bad, though the winds kept blowing and it snowed the better part of the day, though accumulation was light. I was actually laughing over the forecasters who had predicted a major event, but, when the winds kept howling into the night, I thought maybe they were on to something.

By Monday morning, most of upstate New York was blanketed with at least six inches of snow, When light came, I could see that there was plenty of snow, along with drifts approaching a couple of feet high. My antenna and solar panels had been blown over, so I ventured out and righted them, though the effort was pretty much for naught. No sun meant no power and no power meant no TV or lights. Fortunately, I had plenty of batteries, candles and lanterns and a solar-and-hand-cranked emergency radio-flashlight made the evening tolerable and even enjoyable.

The radio was a constant companion throughout the day on Monday, and it should be mentioned that heat was being supplied by two Mr. Heater portable propane units, one the Portable Buddy, as it is known, in the bedroom, and the Big Buddy, which packs essentially twice the heating punch, in the main ling area. For the entirety of the storm, a couple of 20-pound propane tanks attached by hoses to my heaters kept the motorhome right around a comfortable 67-72 degrees with little effort on my part. (That’s why, at Thanksgiving dinner, when we were called upon to recite the things we were thankful for, I made particular note of propane.)

The snow and high winds persisted throughout Monday into the evening, but by Tuesday morning, the snow had ceased, though the winds were still a bit gusty, having diminished to about a steady 15 mph with gusts up to 30-35. That’s when I made the decision to dg out. I had parked the van Saturday night close to the motorhome, maybe a mistake on this prepper’s part, but keeping essentials - like food and tools - close by was my decision.

So, since out here in flyover country, some of us don’t actually believe we need driveways, I had about 60 feet of lawn to clear, and the best way I knew how to do that was with my own hands and a shovel. It wasn’t nearly as imposing a task as I imagined. Sure, I could have bought a snow-blower and done what most of you do on your driveways, or hired a plow truck to come and clear the area in a matter of minutes, but, in an hour-and-a-half I had carved out a nice, winding path from the road to my appointed parking spot. An added benefit was the nice workout for my aging but still-able body which the shoveling provided. I’m telling you fellows out there in thermal world, don’t challenge me to arm-wrestling or other feats of strength. You’ll lose, and likely, very badly. The van fired up without incident and I was able to make my way back to civilization, without the need of snowshoes, an ATV or any kind of four-wheel-drive vehicle.

But I thought about shoveling my lawn, and how odd that was, took a picture and posted it here. My point is that whatever choices we make, we’re always left with consequences, some known, others unknown, some seen, some unforeseen. In my endless pursuit of freedom, my choices freed me from a number of civilized evils which most of you will know as monthly utility bills, monthly cable bills and, recently, a regularly-ghastly cellular phone bill, for what ostensibly all of you out there in the real world consider essential comforts. Seriously, I’ll trade a constant internet connection and Facebook updates for the serenity of a slowly flowing stream, chirping birds and the occasional deer or rabbit any damn day. Wi-fi is my friend, and it’s widely available at no cost.

I’m here to tell you that none of it, from dedicated internet service to electricity supplied by some faceless power company, to piped-in gas heat or pumped-in oil heat are entirely necessary. Sure, if you want to pay continuously for everything that keeps you alive (I forgot to mention running water, which I also do not currently have) and well, go right ahead. For almost all of my life I’ve done the same. By this time next year, I’ll have a more solar panels and more battery backup, a wood stove, an addition onto the motorhome which I’ll build myself, and running water courtesy of the clouds above, some 55-gallon holding barrels, gutters and pipes.

As many of you are surely aware, all of the creature comforts of our modern world can get expensive, so, as I got to my retirement years (what a joke, and a topic for another time), I thought I’d see just what living without all the niceties and essentials of civilized society would be like, and the result is not so bad. In fact, it’s downright liberating. Having to make do without what everybody just takes for granted gives one a feeling of self-reliance, but more importantly, freedom.

To know that one could survive - and I might add, survive quite well - without the monthly money-grubbing gatekeepers, is a joy and a liberty I wish everyone could experience. It’s been made even more possible by technology (seriously, our pioneer ancestors didn’t have solar panels and propane heaters and stoves, nor did they have well-built motorhomes, mobile homes, campers, computers and other gee-whiz gadgets.). Technology has made life off the grid not only possible, but actually very, very enjoyable and rewarding.

That is, if you don’t mind shoveling your lawn every now and then.

Happy Thanksgiving,

—Fearless Rick

Monday, March 21, 2016

Heat Check

If you live out in the country, it's likely that you did some tree trimming last fall, and some of the twigs, limbs, bark and branches are still aground around the yard.

We did some serious cutting last fall, knocking down a trio of chestnut trees that had died the year earlier, and, luckily, the larger pieces were sufficinetly dried-out that we were able to use lots of it for heating this winter in the trusty wood-burning stoves.

In the fall, I had piled up all the loose branches with small twigs still attached and have gone about breaking them down over the course of the winter for use as kindling. Now, since we haven't had significant snowfall or snow on the ground for the past three weeks, I am gathering all the branches up and cutting them into burnable bundles.

Going around the yard, I picked up everything from 1/4-inch diameter (kindling) to logs and branches as much as four to six inches across, pulled out the chain saw and went to work... for about an hour.

Before long, I had enough good wood to last probably ten days to two weeks, since the heating requirements going forward are not that daunting. Temperatures in this part of the world (upstate NY) run generally between lows in the 25-35-degree range and highs in the 45-60-degree range from now through the latter part of April.

At this very moment, I'm heating with some cut-up branches that were - less than an hour ago - cluttering up the ground. My indoor temperature is a pleasant 68 degrees.

Sure, some of the wood will be a little moist, so you may have to pick and choose what to burn, but bring some inside to dry out and you'll not only have gotten a little exercise, but cleaned up your yard and saved a little money on your wood heat bill.

Worst case scenario is that you'll have some intermediate-sized branches that can sit for nine months, dry out and age, and will be available when the chill comes next fall.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Building a DIY Solar Heater, Part 1: The Part That Goes Down Easy

Well, it's been a while since I posted here, so, I apologize to all 11 readers and anyone who might have been looking for updates on Rick's Natural.

First, word's out that I'm not moving to South Carolina, as planned, thanks, almost exclusively, to Bank of America. It's a long, sordid story, but the bottom line is that, apparently, they prefer to have me living here for practically free instead of paying me to leave. So, good luck to them; upstate New York gains by my continued presence. I guess the South will have to rise again without me.

Suffice to say that the backyard garden was something of a success, as successful crops of cucumbers, broccoli, corn (11 feet high!), three tomato varieties, ambercup squash, spaghetti squash, eggplant, lettuce, melons and watermelons were produced.

I believe the local rabbits truly enjoyed almost all of the peas and most of the spinach, though, oddly enough, the bunnies in my backyard didn't have a taste for lettuce. I had them fenced out for most of the growing season, but they found ways in at the beginning and as the season wore on into September. One thing about hungry rabbits: they are persistent.

Tobacco was almost a complete bust. The weather was either too cold early or too wet for seeds to propagate, though about 12 plants did survive, prosper, get cut, cured and smoked. More on tobacco planning for upstate NY as we get closer to Spring.

This being the middle of winter and having a very Southern-facing patio on the back of my house, I've always considered using the area (about 16x20) as a kind of greenhouse, especially in March and April, when temperatures are beginning to warm up.

With two large windows on the South face, there's plenty of sun at the proper azimuth to send my imagination soaring to thoughts of solar heat, so, for about the next month, I'll be posting progress on building a pair of my own passive solar heating units.

Part one began today, when I went to Rite-Aid and purchased two six-packs of Labatt Blue in 16-ounce cans, which will eventually serve as the main heat conduits, though first, they have to be drained, making this part of the do-it-yourself (DIY) project not only the most time-consuming, but also the most enjoyable. Should take a few night's work to get all that darn beer out of them.

I was a bit disappointed on the price. In the summer, these six-packs can be had for as little as $4.49, making them a real bargain over the 12-ounce "specials."

Today's were $5.99 per six-pack, making them absolutely comparable to the $8.99 12-ounce 12-packs, so no savings to speak of, being that for about $6.00 you get 96 ounces of beer and 144 for $9.00. Either way, it's 0.0625 per ounce. Probably should have stocked up over the summer.

Cme to think of it, I could have saved a bundle of money by just hanging out at a recycling center and paying people five cents for their empty cans, or even a dime, but, then it wouldn't be quite as much fun getting the cans ready to use as heaters.

I'm likely to need about 24 of these cans, so I'll be posting again when they're all empty. Believe me, the first 12 will not make it to the Super Bowl, as it's pretty dry inside the Accidental Farmer homestead.

Bottoms up!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Accidental Farmer Scores Again!

Well, sometimes you just get lucky, but always and everywhere, it pays to ask.

I was looking for a wheelbarrow, because with the new property under contract (more about this later, when time permits), I have had the need to haul things around an acre of land and figured that instead of breaking my back, a good wheelbarrow would make sense.

Contacted a fellow out in Geneseo through Craigslist, who had a nifty, vintage 4 cu. ft. Radio Flyer listed. After speaking to him a bit, he informed me that he and his wife were moving to North Carolina and needed to sell everything, so I asked if he had any other farming or gardening implements.

He replied that he did, and agreed to meet me about half-way, in the parking lot of Dick's Sporting Goods at Marketplace Mall in Henrietta, bringing with him some other, unspecified things he thought might interest me.

After sizing up the wheelbarrow for $25, I figured this was a pretty good deal and started looking through the rest of what he'd brought along. All of it was in excellent condition and high quality, so I just asked, "how much for everything?"

The answer to that question is below the photo and description of what I bought, which, as shown in the photo, was a nice selection of great farm/garden tools.

The Haul:

Foreground: Radio Flyer 4 cu. ft. wheelbarrow; 5 Gallon Gas Can; WeedEater electric "GroundSweeper" leaf blower; Flo-Master 1 gal. all-purpose sprayer; 100-foot heavy duty extension cord.

Back row, left to right: 6-foot wooden step-ladder; 2 straight-edge shovels; long-handled axe; garden claw; long-handle shovel; bow saw with blade; double-edge grass whip; sod chopper; crowbar; adjustable pipe wrench; shovel; Black & Decker cordless string trimmer with two battery packs and charger; three rakes, 24 in. shop broom (not shown: snow shovel).

OK, so how much did the fellow want and how much did I pay.

I looked this stuff up on the internet and to buy it all new would be well over $600.

OK, OK, so how much did I pay?

$300? Nope.

$200? No sir-ee.

$100? Come on!

The fellow said everything for fifty-five dollars and I thought about it for maybe a nano-second and said, "deal," whipped out three twenties and handed them to him. He got out his wallet, gave me five back and helped me load it all into my van, and away I went, happy as a kid in a candy shop.

Yep. I'm gonna be a farmer, accidentally, of course.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Rick's Natural Website Up and Running...

OK, things are beginning to take shape around the old accidental farm. Seeds are either in the mulch, already turned into seedlings or about to be and some (peas) have sprouted from the mulch.

Today and tomorrow the rest of the garden gets planted.

I've updated the Rick's Natural website with a slideshow that outlines my travails trying to buy some property and the progress thus far on the home-farm.

I'm actually a much better coder than the website shows right now, but I've been busy "out in the field," so the site looks a bit sparse right now. I'll be cleaning up the website and adding products (wood ash, all-natural salsa, and eventually, fresh produce) when time allows (sometime this year ;-).

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

NY Farm Workers' Bill Will Be Bad for Consumers

Ever worked on a farm?

One wonders whether the state Assembly and Senate members who are so intent on passing the Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act have any idea how demanding, time-constricted and physically-challenging farm work is.

Preparing fields for planting, sowing seeds or starting seedlings in fields, caring for and irrigation and eventually, harvesting crops takes time, supreme effort and exceptional timing. There are times when a field (depending on the size) of crops will need just a few workers, other times when it requires 10 or 100 times that number because Mother Nature just doesn't care about human schedules.

When a crop needs to go into the ground, the time element is a matter of days or weeks. The same is true for harvesting. Many hands are needed to ensure that crops are picked when at the height of their ripeness, a period that can last for a few days to a few weeks. In between planting and harvesting, there isn't much work, because Mother Nature does most of what's necessary, supplying sun, wind and rain in usually unpredictable amounts.

The bill before the legislature is one which is more appropriate for factory or hourly workers. Farm work - especially here in New York where the growing season is short - is very seasonal and sporadic. What should farmers do? Pay migrant workers minimum wage or more throughout the summer to stand idly around while crops grow in their fields?

Imagine what that extra time paid out by farmers would do to their bottom lines. Most small-to-medium-sized farms, which employ less than five full-timers year-round, often including the farmer and his/her spouse, would be put out of business by having unionized, pay-scale workers demanding full-time work regardless of whether there's work to do or not.

These legislators in favor of the bill's passage would be well-advised to talk to a few farmers before taking the plunge into another idiotic, socialistic endeavor that does not comport with the realities of farming, but, on its surface, sounds like a great idea to keep people employed and working. It's not.

When tomatoes are $8 a pound, cucumbers are $4 apiece and half the farms in New York shut down because they cant comply with another stupid mandate from Albany, maybe the legislators will understand why this measure should never even be considered at all. If we're to follow the lead of California - which has a form of such a law on its books - we're sure to follow them down the road to bankruptcy, price inflation and an overtaxed state from which people are fleeing in droves.

California's example should be well-noted. The state is a shambles, with high taxes, high costs and regulation piled atop regulation. New York is following along quite well, though we don't share the kind of weather the Golden State has - one that allows for multiple, long growing seasons for a wide array of crops.

As usual, our lawmakers don't or can't perceive the real costs behind passing their proposed legislation. The only thing guiding them is the usual need to buy more votes for their re-election campaigns, based on the false promises of "fairness" and "equality," all along ignoring the real-world strictures of the farm industry, for both large and small farmers.

Eight dollar a pound tomatoes sounds like a good idea to me. I'll grow and sell dozens in my back yard and make a fortune. Oh, and then the state can come and tax me, too.

What New York farmers and Americans need now is not more regulations, but less. The politicians just don't get it and probably never will.