Hear Hear

docketNicoleSo, Nicole is advertising this.  April 11, 2017, Breckinridge County Courthouse, 1 p.m.

Mark your calendars.

chicks2015This is the interior of our egg incubator.  I know the photo quality is poor, but you try taking a good photo through dirty Plexiglas.  There are two chicks there, newly hatched and four more eggs.

I can’t remember how many of those four eventually hatched.

What I did know was not to count them.

chicks20113Here they are, several weeks later, the ones that, in fact, hatched.

They are coming home to roost.

Herds

francescalvesinfield

Frances, in the back looking at the camera.  Her own calf, in the foreground looking at the camera.  And a few of the other calves, hanging out.

We have total of ten bull calves at the moment, although only seven are out in the field with Frances.

They are her herd.  She’s Boss Cow. She loves it.  She does not want to be a mother after the first hour or so, but she loves, loves, loves having her boys later on when they are weaned.

It’s an instinct. She can’t help it.

Cattle are prey animals. They tend to herd up because there is safety in numbers.

Predators pick off the weak and vulnerable members of the herd.  They go after whoever is lagging behind, or whoever is older or younger and can’t keep up.  There is safety in staying in the middle, with the pack.

But you know what?  That’s not just a tiny herd of cattle in that photo. Those are all individuals.  Frances is obvious.  Her calf is obvious to me because I know what he looks like. He and all the others have ear tags. On those tags is information that tells us who they are (actually, who their dam is) so that when they go to the dairy, their papers can be properly filled out (these are all registered Jerseys).

Furthermore, each one of them has a personality.  Frances’ calf is friendlier, and we have to sort of shun him at this point because you don’t want a Jersey bull calf to be friendly.  He’ll start considering himself a human and that’s how farmers get killed.

There’s one little guy out there we call Houdini.  He managed to get out of his pen and into the paddock with the bigger calves one day. He had a wonderful time, but scared the shit out of us when we couldn’t find him.  He’s curious as hell and a total pain in the ass.

Those calves are all individuals.

And so are “trolls.”

All the critics, every single one, are individuals with different levels of interest in various things, with different experiences.

If you made a set of all the people who have ever criticized the Naugler parents, it would contain a whole lot of people.  Hundreds and hundreds of people.

Then you have the set of all the people who the Nauglers have pissed off, wronged, insulted, cheated or otherwise alienated, and that’s another huge set of people.

Some of those people criticized them once or twice online, failed for some reason to catch Nicole or Joe’s eye, and moved on about 18 months ago, having never looked at the story again.

Others fell in the rabbit hole and have never climbed back out. (I’m raising my hand here.)

Probably most people in that set fall someplace in the middle.

Some have had personal experience at the hands of either Joe or Nicole, personal negative experience, and have come by their enmity that way. Others have interacted with them online and been put off by that. And still others just find the whole debacle interesting as hell and can’t look away.

Nicole and Joe lump us all together. I know I’ve said this often, but I get very tired of it.  I am not a Siamese twin to Lisa.  I am not Al’s puppet.  None of us agree all the time about anything.

Some of the “trolls” are liberals, like me. Some are very conservative. Some have never said what they think about politics so I have no idea. Some are religious. Others are not.  Some are vehemently critical and like to rant and rave about it (often a bit too much from my point of view).  Still others are way more generous (often a bit too much from where I’m sitting).

Some of the “trolls” are very active. Others sit back quietly and watch. Most are in-between.

Nicole and Joe claim that somehow “the trolls” encompass one monolithic group that moves like a school of fish.  One group, with one purpose, moving in sync.

It’s not like that, of course. Life is never like that.

But we’re sort of a herd, in a way. A community has built up around this subject, something like the community that has built up around the subject of, say, cloth diapers, or making ukuleles.  You can find an online group or groups encompassing any subject you can imagine.  I bet everyone reading this has made friends online because of all sorts of different things, from music to knitting to political activism.

We’re a herd in the way that those calves are a herd. Notice in the photo that they aren’t in any particular position. They are facing every which way.  Some are looking at the camera. Others are ignoring it. And there are two calves who were someplace else when the photograph was taken.  What they have in common is that they are all Jersey bull calves (except Frances who is a cow).

Nobody tells anyone else what to write. Nobody dictates which pages do what, or even what page exists or how it’s run or anything even remotely resembling that. I’ve made it abundantly clear that I object to much of what occurs on Facebook and that’s why I don’t participate there.  But that doesn’t mean that anyone else has to listen to me or react to what I say, and they don’t.

What we have in common, and the only thing we have in common, is that for one reason or another, we’re following the Naugler saga, the one the Naugler parents have chosen to advertise and promulgate online widely and publicly.  Period.

We band together, disparate though we are, in very large part because prey animals have an instinct to do that.  There is safety in numbers, and there are predators out there.

Why Frances Doesn’t Get a Hickey

When we bought Frances, she was already in milk. We got her in February, 2011. She’d had her first calf the previous October.  She was not giving enough milk to make the dairy happy enough to keep her and they constantly have to cull the lower-producing cows to make space for the new young ones coming on, so we lucked out.  She simply needed some time to mature.  She regularly milks almost as well as any dairy cow anywhere now (and we don’t push her with lots of silage like they do).

I had a bucket to milk in.  A stainless steel bucket, a stool to sit on, and my two hands.  I already knew how to milk, but it was challenging to develop those muscles again.

To milk a cow by hand, you squeeze the teat while simultaneously pinching off the top so that the milk comes out and doesn’t go back up into the cow’s udder. It takes a little practice to figure out the exact motion involved.

Then you repeat that approximately 4000 times.  I am not exaggerating.  A cow has one udder which is divided internally into four quarters. Each quarter has a teat.

udder anatomy
click image to link to source

See how the teat opening narrows up at the base of the udder?  That’s the part you need to pinch off when milking by hand and then you squeeze and push the milk out the hole at the bottom.

The milk is created in lobes which are all over the udder and filled with alveoli. Alveoli are just little sacs.  Milk is created in them and held there until let-down occurs.  Let-down is hormonal, and happens when the cow (or human or cat or elephant) is stimulated either by her offspring or something else and the milk is released from all those bazillion alveoli and travels down the ducts to the cistern which is located just above the teat.

I can watch Frances go into let-down.  Her udder at the bottom where the teats are visibly increases in size.  She is triggered by getting in the stanchion and having her teats cleaned with warm water.

So, each quarter has to be milked out separately. They don’t connect anywhere.  Two hands, squeezing over and over and over again, two teats at a time.

Milking Frances by hand used to take me anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes. She was more or less patient about it, but clearly wondered what in the hell was wrong with her people since the dairy didn’t have to take nearly so long to do the same damn thing.  And I developed some serious muscles in my forearms and hands.

I did it for two years, finishing out the lactation period she was in when we got her, and all through the next one.

And then she calved for a third time. Remember, she was maturing all this time, gaining udder capacity and body size.  When she calved that third time, her udder was simply enormous.  She had a lot of swelling (immediately after birth, that’s common but she had more than normal. We ended up treating it with steroids) and I literally could not reach the teats on the far side of her.

Dave helped me milk her out at first. He would milk one side and I’d do the other.  One solid hour, twice a day.

It didn’t take too many of those sessions before I was online buying a milking machine.

I was a total clueless newbie. I had no idea how they worked, where to buy one, nothing.

The dairy, of course, has an elaborate system involving all sorts of glass tubing everywhere, but has eight separate milking stanchions. Jason brings in four cows at a time on one side of the parlor, gets them all ready, hooks them up, and then while they are milking, he brings in four on the other side, and gets them prepared. Back and forth he goes, milking a total of about 85 cows twice a day.

I needed something to milk one.

delavalold
click image to link to source

This is an old one. It’s beautiful, isn’t it?

The whole thing was invented by Dr. Gustaf De Laval, and finally brought to the wider market around the beginning of the twentieth century.  DeLaval milkers are still an industry standard and that is what I have.

milkingcartThere’s my machine on the right.  To the left is the motor which now resides permanently in the barn.

But the milker itself consists of several parts.

The stainless steel bucket holds the milk.  I have two of them, one small for when she’s kind of waning in production, and another much larger for when she first calves. The lid fits either one.

On the lid is a blue thing called a pulsator.

pulsator

Here is it.  There is a black orifice at the left back in the photo.  That one connects with tubing to the vacuum pump. The round black rubber base seats into a hole in the bucket lid.

There are two blue orifices in the front.  One we don’t use, so it’s blocked with a yellow stopped. The other connects with tubing to the claw.

clawThat’s a claw. You can see mine in the cart photo above, hooked to the lid of the bucket.

Here’s a close up of mine.

clawmine

There are two tubes coming from/to the claw. The small tube (coming from the black thing) goes to the pulsator.  The larger tube coming from the plastic part of the claw goes directly to the bucket.

There are four things coming out of the claw. The blue/silver things are called inflations.

inflationsHere is what they look like. The blue stuff is silicone.  You can also buy them in black rubber. Silicone costs about four times as much but lasts much, much longer (like years and years).  Silicone also is impervious to heat and cold, which means that it doesn’t get stiff or even feel cold in winter, and I can clean them with boiling water without damaging them.

The blue silicone insert attaches to the claw on the bottom end and fits on the cow’s teat at the top.

The stainless steel shell serves two purposes.  It keeps the silicone or rubber inflation stiff and it also makes the milking machine work.

Notice the little thing sticking out of the side of the shell?

If you look back up at the photo, you’ll see that there is a black rubber tube going from the shell to the bottom of the claw.

Everything in black is connected and it all goes back to the pulsator.

And here’s where hickeys come in.

hickeyphoto

You get a hickey when suction is applied to your skin for a long time.  It pops blood vessels.

So why don’t nursing mothers typically get them?

They don’t because babies don’t suck unremittingly. They suck to get milk, sort of like you’d suck through a straw.  It’s a pulsating suction. It’s not steady.

Because it’s not steady, the tiny blood vessels in the tissue don’t pop and there’s no bruise there. No hickey.

Consider this.

ezmilker
click image to link to source

This is an EZ Milker. As you can imagine, it costs a whole lot less than my DeLaval milking machine.  For a cow, the EZ Milker is $189.  My milking machine was about $1000.

The EZ Milker is not designed to be used as a milker all the time. It’s designed to be used as a one-time deal, to store some colostrum, or to milk out a quarter that has mastitis and is hard to do by hand.

It’s a steady-vacuum milker. It has a hand-held trigger-style pump that you use to create the vacuum.

I wouldn’t have one here if it was given to me.  They are, in my personal opinion, dangerous if used all the time.  Cow’s teats are not made to withstand that kind of constant suction.

So what does my milking machine do, for $800, that the EZ does not?

It pulses.

What happens is that suction is applied via the vacuum pump to the bucket and the pulsator.  There is suction pulling the milk out of the teat and into the claw where it collects in the clear plastic reservoir and then is sucked into the bucket.

But the pulsator is not sitting there doing nothing.

The pulsator is pulsing.  It has a mechanism in it that is spring-operated that releases the vacuum approximately once per second  in the space between the stainless steel shell and the blue silicone liner. That liner, which of course is pliable, moves back and forth inside the shell, alternating pressure on the teat.

It imitates a calf sucking.  It makes a loud ticking sound as it works. And if it doesn’t work, the whole machine quits.  No milk, of course, enters the pulsator. It only affects the vacuum created.

Dr. DeLaval was, of course, a genius.  He managed to create this wonderful machine that works as long as you have a vacuum. They have even made versions that can be powered by somebody riding a stationary bicycle (for use in third-world nations).

Here’s our friend, Jason, milking at the local dairy where Frances was born.  This is an all-Jersey dairy milking about 85 cows daily.

You can see that each milking claw has dual tubing running to it, one is clear (that’s the vacuum tubing) and one has milk in it. The milk goes into the large glass container and then is emptied via suction into a large refrigerated vat in an adjacent room.

The young heifer who enters the milking parlor is new and doesn’t quite have the routine down, so Jason has to nudge her a little bit.  He knows every single cow. He can tell you her calving history, her health record, and her milking stats, and he recognizes them pretty much by their udders.

Between milkings, that entire parlor is hosed down with disinfectant. The machine itself has an elaborate automatic cleaning system.

CleaningMilker

I have a couple of coat hangers in my laundry room tub.

And a happy cow.

 

 

PSA

I am going to be adding some stuff here over the next few days (maybe weeks).  I’m archiving all the Romancing the Victims stuff here.

To do that, I believe they will show up as new posts, unless I can figure out another way.

They may or may not interest you.  Don’t worry about it if they don’t.  They’re older stuff, and they were of interest to a very limited audience. Most people have trouble understanding what it’s even about.

They will all be categorized as  “Romancing Archive.”

And simultaneously, I will also be doing something similar with the stuff from my other blog.  I have too many blogs. They need to be consolidated into one, in part for economy and in part just because why not.

Frances and the Very Scary Chair

Dave had an old desk chair out in the garage. It was broken. He was going to toss it but then took a second look and decided it might make a really plush, nice milking stool.

chairNice, huh?  I thought so.  It was a bit higher than the overturned milk crate I had been using, but that was not a huge trade-off for such comfort.

So he put it in the milking stall.

milkingstallHere’s the milking stall.  Frances comes in the doorway (out of sight to the right), walks around to the rear of the stanchion, and ends up standing with her head sticking out the hole in the head catch.  Her feed bowl is on the outside.

The vacuum motor on the left is for the milking machine, which we bring in on a cart after she’s in place.

After she is finished milking, she has alfalfa hay in the rack just out of view on the left, and Dave always fixes her a pail of molasses-laced water (which we call “coffee”) and places it in the corner where the red X is.  I go back out and get her after she’s had about 45 minutes of peace and quiet to enjoy her meal and take her back out to the pasture.

Saying that a cow is a creature of habit is a massive understatement.  Their idea of perfection in the universe is complete boredom. They want everything to be done exactly the same way forever. The same routine. The same pathway. The same water bucket. The same grain ration (wanna have trouble – just change the ration). The same hay from the same field.

They are also incurably curious.  They notice everything. We try to sneak out to the field with a new bale of hay when they are over the hill and won’t see us so they won’t come “help.”  It never works.

When Frances comes into the milk room, she pauses in the door, always, and gives the room a once-over, checking everything.  She always stops and smells the vacuum machine. I have no idea why, but it’s a habit and I’ve learned to just wait for her to satisfy herself that it hasn’t changed in the past twelve hours. If a lead rope is in the wrong place, she notices and has to check.

francesinstanchionUltimately, she ends up like this.  Her head is caught so that she can’t just decide she’s all done with her grain and tired of being milked and it’s time to leave.  The dire process of milking takes exactly 8 minutes, so it’s not really much that we ask of her.

franceswithmilkercartAnd then I bring in the cart. We use a cart for a very good reason. Our barn is old. We have gravel in the milk stanchion, but dirt everywhere else.  Barns just aren’t the cleanest places on earth.

A dairy milk room is all concrete with drains everywhere.  They hose it all down twice a day after milking is complete. I can’t do that.  We’ve talked about building a separate milk room and have a concrete slab where it could go, but so far that has remained a “plan.”  And we know how “plans” often go.

So I put everything in the cart.  Nothing in that cart touches the ground, with the exception of the middle-sized bucket which contains warm water mixed with a bit of detergent and some Clorox and a sponge. That’s to clean her udder.

The large bucket holds baby bottles and nipples and the spray bottle hooked on the side is the teat-dip I spray her with. It consists of chlorhexidine (disinfectant) and lanolin (skin conditioner).

The serious thing is the stainless steel bucket with the milking inflations hanging on it. That is hooked to the vacuum pump and does the work.

And I sit on the upside down crate.

Until last night.

Last night, Dave put the new soft cushy milking stool in the room where the red X is.  He moved the water bucket to the other side.

farsidemilkingstallThere’s the bucket of “coffee” on the far side. Calves waiting for their bottles are in the stall beyond.

You can see that this isn’t a huge area.

However, I should have known better.

We’d done two things. Two big things.

We’d introduced a new thing – the chair – and we’d moved the water bucket.

To say that Frances was offended is putting it mildly. She came in, stopped dead in her tracks with her head in the doorway and had a fit.  That chair.  It was clearly evil.

We had to coax her into the stanchion. She was unhappy as hell but then got distracted by dinner.

Milking went fine.

I removed the cart after milking, and pushed the evil chair back in its corner and then we went to feed the babies.

She ate her alfalfa.  I assumed that she’d find the water bucket and all would be well.

I assumed wrong.

When I came back out to the barn, she was standing in her stanchion with her head out in the breezeway. She didn’t even want to look at that damn chair.

She had refused to touch the water.  It was in the wrong place and obviously was poisoned.

I put on her lead rope and tried to lead her to the water. She was having no part of it.

She charged through the doorway and out of the barn, pulling me behind her.

That was a very bad, scary chair.

She went out to the pasture in a huff and headed straight for the safe, familiar water trough that always lives in the same place.  No molasses, but who gives a damn when your keepers poison stuff?

And I managed to get a bloody finger in the process (pinched in the lead rope when she jerked on it).

francesalfalfaSo this was the scene this morning.  You’ll notice that the bucket is back in the proper place and she’s happily having her alfalfa breakfast.  And the evil horrible chair is gone.

Sometimes the cow simply wins.

Gee, Ghee

Since the subject has come up, and even though I don’t have good photos of making it, and even though I can’t get any right now because I don’t need to make any, we’ll do ghee anyway.

Ghee is clarified butter.

Butter is a type of fat.  Pork fat is another.  Beef fat is another.  So is chicken fat.

But if you take a slab of pork fat and leave it sitting out on your counter for a few days, it will be horrible. It goes bad.  It stinks to high heaven.

It isn’t the fat that goes bad.

It’s the muscle protein that is in the piece of fat. As it comes from the pig, you simply can’t cut it clean.

So, long ago, people figured out that if they “rendered” it, or “clarified” it, they could get rid of that protein that goes bad and the result would be a product that is pretty much shelf stable. It’s pure fat.

Another issue is that if you take a spoonful of butter and put it in a pan and heat it, it will brown.  Keep doing that and it will burn. What if you don’t want that?

What is browning and burning is that same protein (in butter, it’s milk) that is in the butter and there is no way to remove it completely without rendering the butter.

So here’s how I make ghee.

Morningmilking

We store milk in gallon-sized glass jars.  This is the milk from the morning’s milking, what is left after the calves are fed.  That’s quite a bit, and means that at the time that photo was taken, we needed to get a couple of new calves.

That goes in a frig in the basement.  I can put nine gallon jars in there. After a couple of days, the cream rises to the surface.  It’s easy to see the cream line, so I dip out the cream and store it in separate jars.

jarsofcreamSee the cream line near the bottom of those jars?

When I want to churn butter, I take out the jars of cream and let them come to room temperature, or slightly cooler.  Cream right out of the frig won’t churn well, and it also won’t churn well if it’s too warm.  It’s fiddly if you’re using a manual churn; much less so if you’re using a food processor.

And you can do this two different ways, with shades of gray all in between. You can let the cream sit overnight or even 24 hours and sour a bit, which produces a tangier butter. We like it.  Some people do not.  Or you can churn it as soon as the temp is right, and the butter will be sweeter.  Or anything in between.  Most of the time, our butter is whatever I got around to doing.

creaminprocessorThis is cream, in the food processor.  I also have a manual butter churn (glass with a handle), but life is too short if the electricity works.  With the manual churn, it takes ten to fifteen minutes of cranking that handle. With the food processor, it takes about three minutes with no effort on my part.

butterinprocessor

When the cream is churning in the processor, you can hear the change when the butter precipitates out.  Open the food processor and you’ll see the clumps of yellow butter floating about in the skim milk.

butterinstrainerHere’s the butter in the strainer. You can see the skim milk in the jar below. We feed that to the pig and/or chickens.  After letting it strain for a few minutes, I then put it under the cold water tap and wash it well, right in the strainer.

Mark this point.  Here’s where I diverge from making butter to making ghee.

But first let’s finish the butter.  That butter still has a good bit of milk in it. Even washing it won’t get it all out.

washingbutterSo then I dump the butter onto any available flat thing, in this case, an upside down casserole lid.  If you look closely, you can see the skim milk around the edges of the blob of butter.  You’ve gotta get as much of that out as possible.

So I wash it.  I knead it, run it under the cold water tap (gently), and then knead some more.

kneadingbutterSee the milky water?  That gets clearer and clearer as you go.

You never get it all out, but I try to get as much as possible. And then I salt it.

I have a very scientific method of salting butter. I get the salt shaker and shake it. And then I knead it some more to mix it and then I taste it.

butterformedHere is the butter being wrapped for freezing. I shape it that way because that’s what fits in my butter dish.

packagesAnd there we are, all done. That represents around two gallons of cream.

But let’s go back to ghee. That butter, above, cannot be used to make ghee, or rather, cannot be made into ghee that I like.  The divergent point is the salt.

I don’t like ghee made from salted butter. I want to salt food myself. I don’t want the salt in the ghee.

If I’m making ghee, after I wash as much milk off the butter as possible, I dump the butter in a crock pot.  Then I churn some more and repeat until I’ve done all I want/have, or the crock pot is full.

I set the crock pot on low, adding just a little bit of water to keep it from scorching while the butter melts, and put the lid on temporarily.  Once the butter has melted, I tilt the lid so that moisture can escape. You don’t want any water in ghee. Just the fat.

The idea here is to heat the butter, melt it and then cook the hell out of all the protein in the milk.  It will brown and separate from the fat.  And foam will form on the top. You will think that it’s ruined, but all that foam and the browned particles will strain out.

You can do this in a pot on the stove, but the crock pot is so much easier it’s not even funny.  I typically make ghee in the evening, set the crock pot and go to bed. In the morning, it’s done.  It won’t burn. I cannot mess it up.  I don’t have to watch it.  I’ve tried this both ways and the crock pot wins, hands down.

In the morning, I strain the fat out of the pot into mason jars and immediately put lids on them. The heat will cause them to seal.  This is an extra step I take which might not really be necessary, but it’s easy so I do it.

ghee So, how do you use ghee?

It’s fat.  It’s just like oil, only it’s a solid at room temperature.  I make lard the exact same way.  I cut up the pork fat, put it in the crock pot, let it heat. Identical.  There are more solids to strain out of lard.  Lard is white, not yellow.

lardonshelf

Beef fat?  Identical. The result is called tallow. It is very hard, even at room temperature.  I use it in French fries. (So did McDonald’s until the vegetarians threw a fit and they quit.  That’s why McDonald’s fries used to taste so good.)

tallowonshelf

Chicken fat? You guessed it. Identical. It’s called schmaltz.  I use it to fry chicken.

But ghee is hands down our favorite.  We use it every day.  Dave had no idea what in the world I was making and no idea how to use it, but is a convert now.  He fries eggs with it.  He pops popcorn with it.

Ghee has a slightly buttery taste. It’s not pronounced, like butter. But it’s there.  It does not brown.  It’s fat.  You can get it to a much higher temperature than butter, which means you can fry with it.

You can also bake with both ghee and lard. I have made cakes with both. I use either in biscuits, or pie crusts. Schmaltz is good in baking too, but I typically don’t have a lot of it and I’m sort of stingy with it.

In fact, the only use I have for oil is in mayonnaise and salad dressings.

We typically store these fats in mason jars, just like the jar in the photo. They are on the shelf in the basement.  Our basement stays at about 55 degrees year round. And they are sealed with mason jar lids (although I’m not certain that’s necessary.)

This drove me a little crazy in the beginning. I worried about the lard/ghee/tallow/schmaltz spoiling.  I still generally store schmaltz in the frig just because, well, it’s chicken.  None of it has ever gone rancid or spoiled, and I have stored it for more than two years.

Once the jar is open, we generally keep it in the frig for no reason at all except that is where Dave inevitably hunts for it.

So, now, what do you do if you don’t have a cow?

You wait for butter to go on sale and buy some. Unsalted.  Render it.  That’s certainly what I would do.  I’m sure that’s way cheaper than hunting for and buying commercially made ghee.

Health issues

Inevitably, somebody asks me if this is not a terrible, awful thing to do. You know to use, gasp, animal fats instead of lovely extra-virgin olive oil.

The answer is pretty much no.

Dave is soon going to be 78.  He just recently went off his blood pressure medicine. We’re monitoring his blood pressure now pretty closely so he can report back to his doctor, but we all think (doc included) that he can come off it safely.  He takes cholesterol medication, but even the necessity of that is debatable. At his last checkup, his doctor told him that he’s in a cohort of a very tiny percentage of men his age who take almost no medications.

I am on no medications of any kind and never have been.

Neither of those things means that our very good fortune at having good health up to this point is a result of our lifestyle. It’s much more likely a result of our genes. We both have parents who lived into their nineties.  But my point is that we don’t just drown in these fats. We use them reasonably.

Harvard weighed in on this debate, and takes a sort of middle position.

Remember, we eat very small portions of meat. We eat lots of vegetables and whole grains and beans.  We also raise the pork and the beef and the chicken and we milk the cow.  The sheer work of doing all that makes a difference, I suspect.

It makes no sense at all to me to toss away all these lovely fats that are by-products of animal husbandry and go buy olive oil that is not in any way sustainable.

This is one of my favorite cookbooks in the whole world.  It’s not just that the recipes are good. It’s that it is so beautiful.

So get some butter and try it. If you already have a crock pot, you’re in business.

gheeinstoreJust in case you wondered, this is what ghee was selling for in the last couple of days at a regular large chain grocery store.

I am not going to tell Frances. She’s insufferable as it is, and knowing this would make her worse.

 

 

 

 

 

Drawing Lines

From Bizarro Land, we have this.

Wa Po headline from the Washington Post

Here’s the synopsis.

Nathan Larson is a young man who, as young men often do, has embraced libertarianism in an extreme form. He calls himself an “anarcho-capitalist.” It’s sort of like being a “voluntaryist.”

He appears to have had a checkered childhood and young adulthood, culminating in a weird idea that he would threaten to kill the US president, go to prison, do a hunger strike and die so that everyone would know the government is evil.  Or something.

He got his wish only he just didn’t quite make it with the hunger thing and didn’t die, but served some time (not many years, as one source has it,  but 16 months).

And now he’s trying to run for office.  He looks terribly normal and nicely clean-cut, doesn’t he?

Nathan Larson

But it gets way weirder than that.

Nathan Larson is married, to his second wife.  She’s Filipino, and assumed to be properly subservient, because Nathan believes that women are inferior to men, should not have voting rights,  should remain poorly educated because hell, all they are good for is sex and babies and keeping house and what do you need with an education to do any of that.  For the record, reading Nathan’s statements about his ideas is scary.  On that link, scroll down to “Issues” and follow the links.  But don’t do it while eating.

It’s his first wife, though,  who makes this story even more bizarre than you can imagine.

She married him. She was also very troubled.  She said that he raped her during the marriage (and yes, rape in marriage is absolutely possible and happens pretty often) and impregnated her against her will, or at least she thought he did, but wasn’t sure because of multiple sexual partners.  They appear to have separated during the pregnancy (which he didn’t know about) and she was admitted to a mental hospital.  Due to her very severe mental health issues, the child, a little girl,  was taken at birth and placed with her parents.

Four months later, this very troubled person committed suicide. This remains the real tragedy of this story.

To properly understand all this (as far as it’s possible to understand this bat-shit crazy story), you have to understand that the mother was transgendered.  Just because a person is trans does not mean they are “out.”  If he was trans, then he was always trans.  You don’t just wake up one morning and find you’ve become transgendered. And trans people in our society are treated horribly, and that’s putting it mildly.

So imagine the situation.  A transgendered man marries a straight (well, sort of straight – we’ll get to that) man.  The straight guy rapes the trans guy producing an undesired pregnancy, or maybe somebody else did.  Who knows? The trans guy has to carry this pregnancy, that he did not want, to term.  The child is given to his parents who are apparently religiously very conservative and hell, no, do not accept the trans thing at all.

I suspect I’d have been in a mental hospital too if I’d had to deal with all that.  I might also have checked into the mental hospital had I been one of the parents.

But of course there is more. You knew there was more.

The supposed straight guy isn’t totally straight.  He’s sort of a wanna-be pedophile. He’s written about it.  He’s said that if he had access to a child, he’d engage in sexual activity with her, and that includes his daughter.

So he sought custody.

This went over really well with the Child Protective Services folks and the court system, as you can imagine.

Thankfully, everyone said, “Gee, this is absolutely beyond nuts,” and told him to fuck off.

So he went home to Virginia where the governor and the legislature opened up the law regarding felons to allow them to run for office.

Are you totally weirded out yet?

beat wife
click image to link to source

Obviously, he’s never going to be elected to anything.  Nobody who supports the idea that men have a right to beat their wives could possibly be elected in the United States to anything.  Right?

I mean, it’s okay to do that in Russia.

And about 25% of the American electorate lost their fucking minds and elected a man to the presidency who very likely got into office by colluding with the Russian government, but that’s got nothing to do with this, since Russia also hates the gays. The same guy thinks it’s perfectly okay to “grab” women “by the pussy.”

But it’s all okay.

Right?

Sometimes I just want to quit reading the news altogether and go visit with Frances. She thinks  humans are just plain crazy.

francesinstanchion

Alexa

Last July, an ad scrolled by on my Facebook feed.

It was an Amazon Prime ad, showing a photo of a black, cylindrical thing called an “Echo” and proclaiming that it was on super sale, for three or so hours only.

Being a total Amazon junky, I was suckered in (tell me those ads don’t work) and clicked on it.

I work in the kitchen a good bit. Some of the stuff I do, like canning and cheese-making, is tedious as hell. You try heating a vat of milk curds from 86 degrees to 100 degrees over a thirty minute period, evenly spaced out, stirring frequently, and see how bored you get.

So I listen to audio books. I listen to so many of them that I have an Audible account and prepay for a dozen or so books annually. That reduces the price per book to a bit less than $10, which is cheap to get somebody to read to you for hours. In addition, once you have credits with them, they run these wonderful sales where you can get three books for two credits.

Anyway, I have blown through several iPods listening to audio books. And I kill them all the same way. They are in the kitchen. To turn them on or off, I have to touch them. And eventually, they get too much moisture on them and they die. Additionally, it’s a pain. Dave comes in the kitchen, I’m deep into peeling peaches and a murder mystery, and he wants to talk to me. He has to yell over the recording and then I have to wash my hands, dry my hands, turn off the iPod and have a conversation. When he’s finished, and I resume listening, I always have to back up to catch the part I missed due to the distraction, and it’s just a royal pain.

To add insult to injury, Dave always has felt like I didn’t want him to interrupt me, and hence would be pissed that he even has to do it.

So, when I read about the Echo, I thought “Bingo!”

You know what happened, don’t you?

Not only did I want one of these devices, it was on super sale. Like really super sale. Like $50 off. Like $129. I clicked “Buy now.”

Here she is.

I just wanted you to hear her voice. Dave loves her.

I don’t have to get my hands wet. She will find my book, play my book, turn the volume up or down, pause, rewind slightly, move to the next chapter, all by voice.

When I bought her, I thought she would merely play my books and allow me to eliminate the dreaded iPod war, but she does so much more than that. She will play music, anything I have in the cloud, and also anything from Prime Music. She serves like a mini-Google.

In the middle of a recipe, if you need to convert tablespoons to ounces, Alexa is your girl. If you run out of soy sauce, just tell Alexa and she will add it to your shopping list (which is then accessible at the store via the Alexa app on your phone). If you want the news, you can either go with the preset stuff or go into the app and select what sources you want to hear and Alexa will bring it to you with your bacon and eggs.

My two favorite Alexa stories are these:

When we had the electrician at our house rewiring our kitchen, we had to leave him one evening and go to the barn to milk. He continued to work while we were gone. When we got back, he asked me what in the world that black thing was. He said that he had to cut the power to that outlet, do some wiring and then power it back up. When he did, of course, the Echo reset.

As soon as he told me, I started laughing.

When the Echo is first turned on, it finds WiFi and then the blue lighted ring lights up, accompanied by some sort of weird music, and finally Alexa says, “Hello.” And as you can see from the little video, she’s not subtle or quiet.

Imagine this guy who never saw one of these things before. He’s paying no attention to the black speaker until suddenly a woman says “Hello.” He said he almost fell off the ladder.

The other story involves a family with four teenagers who came to stay with us over Thanksgiving last fall. The kids found the Echo. They are very smart, very computer-savvy kids, but had never seen an Echo. They wore Alexa out. I am quite certain that she demanded a raise. She was the best entertainment you can think of.

They played with that thing for several hours. She played music. She answered every question you can imagine. She did all sorts of math problems.

And in doing that, they learned something about her. She isn’t the brightest thing on earth. She’s a computer and is very, very literal. If you don’t word the question or command exactly right, she becomes mystified. She can’t intuit very well.

And that’s why I was surprised to see this.

This, of course, is ridiculous.

But if you look around, you can find people who believe this kind of crazy stuff.

Intellihub

When a source is called “Intellihub,” you can bet that it is 1) not a “hub” of anything, and 2) not intelligent. And when they add a nice purple eye-catcher thing saying “SCI-TECH,” well, you know it’s probably bullshit.

If you scroll down the page, you’ll find that the article came from naturalnews.com.

Of course it did.

My goodness, Alexa is recording everything we say?

Chicago Tribune

This, from the Chicago Tribune, is at least a better source than naturalnews.com.

It seems that a guy was found dead in a hot tub with an Echo nearby. And the police thought that they could get Amazon to give them the recording from the Echo and there it would be: the murder happening.

But apparently, law enforcement folks have no idea how the Echo works.

They, like the writer of the silly article above that, thought that Alexa makes a recording of everything you say. Seriously.

Can you imagine the amount of storage space necessary to hold all the conversations that occur in a single home, say, mine, around Alexa? She is on the kitchen counter. Our dining area is adjacent to her. Sometimes Dave and I sit there and talk for an hour or more.

And Alexa is recording all that? All that stuff about which calf might need his horns burned in the next week, or whether or not it’s going to rain and can we put sealer on the deck today? That stuff. Oh, and a recording of me taking Dave’s blood pressure and later on, asking Minnie if she needs to go outside.

They think that because Alexa is “listening,” she’s also recording.

She is not.

She is sort of listening, in a computer kind of way. She’s waiting for the “wake up word,” which we have set as “Alexa.”  If she hears that word, she responds, and yes, at that point, she does, in fact, start recording.  One of the things you can do with an Echo is conveniently order shit you don’t need from Amazon.  Of course you can.  They’re not stupid, so Alexa can do this. They need a recording of that.

And apparently, she does keep track of what you asked, and it’s time and date-stamped and stored in the cloud.

Boy, I bet the cloud was crying on Thanksgiving Day.

If I go to the app, which is on my phone, right now, and look, I can find a list of all the things I asked Alexa today.  On some of them, I’m asked to confirm if Alexa did what I asked to help the software “learn” my voice.  If Alexa didn’t understand me, I can go to the app and answer the questions and help her learn.

The recording for me today consists of:

9 a.m.  Alexa, play audiobook.

9:09 a.m. Alexa, pause.

9:11 a.m.  Alexa, resume.

9:30 a.m.  Alexa, pause.

10:15 a.m.  Alexa, add spinach to my shopping list.

12:06: Alexa, what’s the weather?

1:25 p.m. Alexa, what is goldbach’s conjecture?  [She looked it up for me.]

1:53 p.m. Alexa, king to the last night.  [We have no idea. She somehow decided we’d said her name while we were talking. This happens occasionally, but not often.  It probably was a gerund that she separated into “Alexa” and “king.” But notice that she recorded no more than the immediate phrase following what she had interpreted as her wake up word. Not even a whole sentence. You’re not going to solve a murder mystery with that.]

You get the idea.

Interesting stuff, huh?

Anyway, our Echo is one of those appliances that, like our phones, or our computers, or the refrigerator, would be replaced immediately when/if she dies.

And if the ebil guvmint wants to listen to our dinner conversation, they are welcome.

Disclaimer:  I do not work for Amazon. If you happen to be interested in an Amazon Echo (or the smaller Tap, or the tiny Dot), use this link.  It doesn’t do a thing for me, but does donate a wee bit of change to the Kentucky Sheriff’s Boys and Girls Ranch.

What in the Hell?

Several years ago, I got involved with a group of folks who were either graduates of or former students from Bob Jones University, in Greenville, South Carolina.  It’s a fairly small segment of the population but BJU has a way of injecting itself and its religion into its students and the scars last a very long time.

Discord developed, as discord often does in groups, and there were a couple of women who were particularly successful and cruel in their attempts to manipulate the dialog.

They had a Facebook page, which one of them still runs, although it’s a shadow now of its former self.

Somebody started another Facebook page in opposition to them, and the result was a Facebook war. Multiple pages were started. People began slinging mud everywhere.  Most of the claims were simply “she said/she said” kind of things. Everyone tried to get everyone else taken down, or put in Facebook timeout.

I watched all this unfold and figured that there was only one avenue to success.

First, it had to get off Facebook.  If you play on Facebook, you’re subject to Facebook’s rules.

Second, it had stop being about “she said/she said.”  Facts were all that mattered.  Nothing else. And mostly, it needed to consist of the words of the other side.

So, I started a website, called Romancing the Victims. In the beginning, it was simply a static website, and it stayed that way for about a year. I finally added a blog section and began writing relatively frequently, allowing comments.

It reached a good many people, considering the extremely limited audience.  And it was successful in doing what I wanted to do, which was to counteract the malicious crap being spewed by these two particular women (and a third who was added later).  My goal was to have a place where, if somebody said “Who is Cathy Harris?” or “Who is Camille Lewis?” one could say, “Go here.”

When this Naugler thing caught my eye, and after Joe dragged me into it by reacting to a comment that I made by coming over to my Facebook page and threatening me with a lawsuit, I realized that I was seeing the same sort of situation develop, only on steroids because the story reaches a much wider audience.

There were a zillion pages, pro and con, most of them beyond silly.  Sharing photos of the Naugler kids and discussing their bug bites or fantasizing over their imagined illnesses is just ridiculous.  They made accusations that were clearly not grounded in any sort of fact, and many of them (on both sides) were either libelous or very, very close to being libel. I only made a few (less than five) comments on any of those pages, and was banned from the one run by Teresa Frogue for pointing out that her accusations against Nicole were not founded in fact.

So, I did what I’d done before. I started a website.  Only this time, I made it a blog right from the start.

I thought it would serve as a way to get all the shit off Facebook, to eliminate most of the bogus, ridiculous claims (on both sides) and to publish nothing that wasn’t based in fact.  I grant you that I offer up my opinions here, but it’s quite clear when I’m writing factual stuff and when I’m stating an opinion.  Nobody has trouble telling the difference.

And I made all sorts of relatively strict rules about not only my commentary but also the comments.

Nothing about the children.  No names, no faces, no inspection of bug bites, no speculation about the likelihood of jail time for any of them. Nothing.

Nothing about Nicole’s business.  Not the name of the business, no speculation about its perceived success or failure. Nothing.

I think for the most part, I have managed to keep this blog focused on factual data combined with my personal snarky opinion.  I’ve also managed to make nearly everyone mad at me at one time or another.

But the pages – those godawful, stupid, idiotic Facebook pages – remain. Not only do they remain, they are just as bad as they ever were.

Nicole asserts over and over again that people are stalking her online, that they are monitoring her every move and criticizing her every word. And she’s right.  Yes, she fans the fire. I understand that.  But the pages contribute to this by giving her firewood and often kerosene.

As an example, and perhaps the most egregious one, Nancy Furman is the person who very conveniently let Viv Smith know that Nicole had posted a video of her shop with the dog tied out front. Viv wouldn’t have known this, folks, if that person hadn’t taken it upon herself to make sure Viv knew about it.

The result of that has been that both Viv and Eric and Lisa, whose services were volunteered to Viv and Eric by Nancy, are in court over and over again.  Nancy isn’t paying any of their legal fees. She’s not dealing with her business being placed in jeopardy. She doesn’t have the aggravation of one court appearance after another. She’s just sitting back enjoying the whole scene.

I feel very much like I am fighting a war on two fronts.  One side is the enemy. The other front is the allies.  When I attempt to move forward and gain ground, I have people grabbing my ankles and pulling me back, over and over again.

I know that legally I am on solid ground. I know that Nicole cannot file a civil suit against me and win. I am totally aware of that.  I know that I have nothing to do with any of those stupid pages, that I have never participated on any of them (except for a few comments a very long time ago) and that my sole participation in any of this has been restricted to this blog and a very brief time on Free Jinger. There is no co-author here.

But Nicole and Joe lump me together with all of it. They insist that we’re all one monolithic thing.

I’m tired of dealing with it, frankly.

I have shit to do. Real life stuff. And I am going to do some of it.

You guys who run all those pages – have at it.  You insist that you have a right to free speech just like I do, and you are right.  You do.

Enjoy it.