Happy Fourth Of July, Now, Please Go Protect Your Pets

I am beginning to see the truth in the way New Jersey handled this back in the day.

They banned anything that went “bang”.

Luckily we have some “doggy downers” from the vet in the house.  I have learned to dose him about a half hour before sunset which takes the edge off.

Rack, my McNab SuperDog (TM) is like just about every other dog I can think of.  He hates Thunderstorms and Fireworks.  It turns him into a shivering mess.

This is the day where more dogs go missing than any other.  He will be hiding in the corner, trying to merge with the couch.  It’s where I sit at night until the sun comes in the front window, then again where I reappear when the sun goes behind the taller buildings to my west.

I expect that since the rednecks down the block are staying here instead of going to someplace else where they can get bit by mosquitoes and go Fish in’ and Hun tin’, they will be shooting off an obscene amount of fireworks tonight.  If not them, someone else will pick up the slack.

Rack is in for it.

Mind you, I like fireworks and the way they look.  Ooh and Ahh and all that.  I used to go to a park in Cherry Hill NJ near the house and watch a number of professional fireworks from a chair or in the comfort of my car.  A good friend Laurie cued me into that you can park in a lot in Cooper River Park and see more fireworks than you could possibly consider firing off in a lifetime from there.  Plus the reflection on the river itself was rather nice.

Bring a camera, preferrably a time lapse one.

So since sundown here is 8:16 PM, We will have gotten our walk in, and I’ll give him his happy pills about a half hour before that.  Hopefully we will get back before they turn this street into a war zone.

Then again, it is wet season and we have an 80% chance of rain.  I’m praying for rain.

On the other hand, I do have a time lapse camera and a porch, and I know how to use them.

Watch over your dogs.  This is not a night to leave them out.  Cats too should be brought inside, well every day since an Outdoor Cat is merely a stray.  People can be evil to strays.

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Florida Is No Place If You Hate Spiders

I’m up early.  Usually about early enough to get a good long dog walk in and feed both of us before dawn even struggles to send first light over the hedge.

Being tall, you should thank me.  It is a public service that I do.

What service would that be, you ask?

I clear spider webs from the walks and paths of this town.

Terrified of spiders?

I am not, in fact, generally I ignore them.  Their purpose is to eat the creatures that I do not care for like the mosquitoes and gnats.

Yes, this being the tropics, or tropics adjacent – depending on your definition, we do have mosquitoes.  Legions of the blasted creatures.  Evil blood sucking things.

This being the tropics here in South Florida, everything grows.   Fast.  Quick.  Assertively.

That sidewalk I depend on has palm fronds on it, every block, that I have to dodge.  You may not, but I most certainly do.

If the frond wasn’t there yesterday, it’s here today.  People don’t tend to clear walkways to seven feet or 2 and a half meters, or what ever measure your area thinks is traditionally appropriate.

Sometimes I may help that along, but it can be a lot of work trimming leaves.

That open area is where the spider web clearing comes along.

Sorry, Charlotte, but your web was in my way.  I’ll be sure to take a bit home with me in my hair or on my arms or clothes.  Thanks, but I really don’t need that.

Getting in to feed the dog, I brush myself down looking for hitchhikers and calling it good, I prepare for a later foray into the yard.

The 7:30AM yard inspection is just after sunrise by a bit.  As they say “Lather, Rinse, Repeat” and I am back outside trying to avoid bugs.

That has its own reward.  This is more human scaled agriculture, or rather my own human scaled.  I look over closely the plants I do want in the yard, remove those I don’t and sometimes spot something.

In this case, Bougainvillea.  It blooms almost all year around.  I can’t think of when it isn’t blooming.  If you get just the right angle, it makes for quite a nice display.

If you don’t just remember that those things will bite you with the spikes on the limbs.

I never work on a bougainvillea without a little blood loss.

Not from the spiders, but the spines.  Spiders are everywhere, even if you don’t see them in the flowers.

Go eat a mosquito, spider, I’ll leave you alone.

Frog in The Shutters

Once upon a time, there was a house.

The house had some truly awful windows.

They leaked air when the wind blew.  They leaked water when it rained.  They were more complex than necessary.  In an air conditioned house, they were expensive.  In winter, it was colder than necessary.

They had to go.

They did go, but the problem was that in that weird construction, and all that complexity, there was a guest sheltering there at night.  My tree frogs.

When the windows were gone, they were evicted.

I hoped that they would come back, but they never did.

Tree frogs are gentle and harmless.  They will eat bugs and nasty bite-y creatures that you don’t want living close to you.  These frogs are mainly quiet, and just hide near you asking nothing but a hiding place to sleep.

There was a single return the other day for two separate nights.

A much smaller tree frog than the previous ones perched itself in the shutter of my front bedroom.

It didn’t mind us, we didn’t mind it.  Of course getting a picture was a requirement.

We live much closer to wildlife here than we did up north, and that is quite fine.  I could do without the iguanas jumping into my swimming pool at dawn, and the ducks are a major nuisance these days.  If I ever have to mop duck droppings that were tracked into the house again, it will be too soon.  It’s been a while since a gecko decided to try to hunt inside, and the patented Gecko Safe Removal Tool is going dusty.

But as for the frogs, well they don’t come by that often.

Have You Ever Really Looked At A Coleus Flower?

I spend a lot of time in my garden.

At 7:30, every single morning, I have an alarm set.  It tells me that I have to go outside to the yard to inspect the irrigation system.

There’s a ritual here.

I stand up, put some water into the French Press coffee mug I have and call Rack The McNab SuperDog if he isn’t paying attention.

Usually he has beat me to the back door by now.  Only if there is an active thunderstorm will he hold back.

I open the sliding glass door with a “Hi Oscar” to the parrot, and walk outside.

That coffee mug gets emptied into the garden with a chuckle.   I’ve been told “it’s Gardener’s Gold and must not be wasted.  Parts of my garden is more than half coffee grounds and the rest is that beach sand that passes for soil here.

But I do have to go out, inspect the swimming pool and make sure that the pots are getting watered.  They have a short, ten minute time period, where the irrigation pump is dribbling water into the orchids, mangos, various cuttings, onions, and green onions, and all the rest of the things that I have in a little terra cotta prison.

They get drip fed their water, and I walk around and enjoy them.

It also is what the photographers know as the Golden Hour.  The sun is up, now in mid May, but not up so much as to be harsh.  There’s a golden glow on everything.  Shadows are prominent.  Flowers are back-lit to a brilliance that the noon sun’s harshness would overpower.

Everything is burnished in gold.

If you are fortunate, you will get to see this.  Just at the right time, just at the right angle, simple things become amazing.  The forgettable becomes something to remember.

I was fortunate that day.

Inspecting the Milkweed plants that were being turned into stumps by baby Monarch caterpillars, I looked closely at every single pot.  I wanted to know if my green onion was going to be the temporary home for a pupa, as it has happened before.

My showy leaves on my involuntary coleus were shining.  Usually their reds, greens, and yellows were more muted, but this particular morning, at this particular time, they were radiating a glowing show of colors.  My friendly office plants that insist on dropping seeds into pots that I would rather not have them in so thickly were singing a chorus of beauty.

Then I spotted it.  The Inflorescence.  Coleus bloom dozens of little pale purple and lavender flowers on a flower spike, called an inflorescence.  This one inflorescence was backlit perfectly.

I had to remind Rack that I had pictures to take, this was too good to miss.

When I got back inside, I looked at the tiny flower.  There were hairs that were radiating as if they were shine lines on a comic drawing.

I had taken the time to smell the Coleus flowers and it showed me a side of it that I have never expected.

Sometimes, the very things that you have in abundance that have faded to become mundane, can be so beautiful you have a new appreciation for them.

They’re all over my yard.  I have been pulling them up and tossing them in the thick tangle that is the utility easement behind the pool.  They taunt me by growing even back there in the shade.

I guess that if they can grow in a ninth floor north facing single pane window in a cold Philadelphia winter, they can gather enough sunlight to grow here in the riverine wetness that is South Florida.

And if you are lucky enough, you just may be treated to their shine.

 

Downtown Fort Lauderdale From The Causeway

I get asked to do things by people.  For some reason I get drafted to do a fair amount of heavy lifting.  Sure go ask the 6’4″ guy, 193 CM, he’ll do it.

Well I did whine a bit, probably more than I should.  Ok, Ok, a lot more.  I’ll shaddap.

This was for a very good friend who has done quite a lot for me.  I have helped him and his company out a lot in the past with technology issues, as well as this sort of thing.  Sometimes it even goes both ways like the time I installed a power battery backup for their servers.  Bolted that right into a cabinet.  I had to do the same thing for the company I was working for very shortly thereafter so it was nice not to have to use my own responsibilities as a guinea pig for that sort of thing.  I will call it on the job training.

I was told that mine later had to be cut out of that rack because batteries in a power conditioner and battery backup have a nasty tendency to swell.  Given about three years, swollen batteries will warp the case and lock everything in place in the server rack.  Get out the tin snips, it looks like a giant iPhone blew its battery pack.

That day was simpler.  Get a small refrigerator to the roof of the office block and leave it open to allow it to drain.  Come back the next day.

While I was waiting for things to settle and get ready, I was invited to a cup of what I call Office Coffee.  That’s appropriate since I was the taste tester for these things.

One sip and “It doesn’t taste right.  Your water temp is too high.  It’s bitter”.

Office coffee has a bad reputation but any bitter coffee can taste better by reducing the brew temperature.  Don’t even get me started with Starbucks, I won’t drink it willingly.

I have had this exact Kona blend before but I made it with my French Press.  Bring water in a kettle to a complete vigorous boil.  Wait 20 seconds, no less, for the kettle to cool to the correct temp, then brew normally.

Ahhh, coffee nirvana.  But this was … wanting.  There is a coffee company in the London that brews at 92C to 93C if you are looking for exact numbers.  I do it by waving my kettle in the air for 20 seconds.

I finished the brew, then we went upstairs.  With the refrigerator.  And my hands slipping and sliding the whole way with my mind repeating “I Think I Can! I Think I Can!”

Truth be told it wasn’t so horrible, and the view up there was quite nice.  Coffee or the heavy lifting both.

The city centers of South Florida from Jupiter through West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale, and Miami are in discrete pods.  If you stand in the right place they line up like you would waiting in a queue.  Plop! There’s downtown Miami with Miami Beach next to it.  A little ways North is Aventura.  A little further is Hallandale with its massive towering condos packed too closely together.  Hollywood, then downtown Fort Lauderdale and the Beach behind it.

That day was brilliant, beautiful, and breezy.  Fort Lauderdale shined in the sun, becoming a playground once again for the sun worshipers.  A couple miles away over the palm trees it rose above the squatting homes below the tree line.

And all I had to do was help move an office fridge to get to see it.  Rather a nice bargain if you ask me.

The next day we moved it back downstairs after we chased the mosquitoes that colonized the water dripping from the little freezer in that short time.

Taking a sip of coffee, I commented “If you can, drop the temperature in this coffee machine a few degrees.  It will taste better.”

The look I got I think was a bit disbelieving but I know if it happens, I’ll get a report back.

Don’t overheat your coffee while brewing.  You may end up on a roof with a story to tell.

My Noisy Neighbor

The other day, I had a weird moment.

Walked out into the yard, and there was a bird.

Grey, black and white.  Perched in my Bougainvillea arbor.

It was singing.  Well if you could call that singing.  It was making a row.

For the family here in Los Estados Unidos, that means it was bloody loud.

It was also my Snow White moment.  It stayed there long enough for me to get quite close and quite a few pictures of it.  The whole while it was there, it was making noise.   Loud enough to echo off the shed and some of the other buildings around us.

As I walked around my yard and the pool, I was being serenaded by my little friend.  Loudly.

Of course me, being who I am, I would chatter back.  Loudly.

“Hey Bird!  Noisy Bird!”

BRAKKK FWEEP BEE BEE BEE BEE!

Rack was out with me, he just cocked his head to one side.  Then he cocked his leg to another and added some uric acid to my green onions.  In a pot.

“Rack, don’t water my pots!”

More head tilts as a Monarch butterfly dive bombs his head.

There was another butterfly strobing along the hedges.  Flashing yellow pinstripes on a black suit, this second butterfly was hovering around me, and what was left of the Night Blooming Jasmine hedge that is hedge in name only.

BEE BEE BEE BEE!

“What’s up NoisyBurd?”

More indiscriminate loud chatter from my feathered friend.

“Man you are LOUD today”

BEE BEE BEE BEE!

At this point the butterflies have dispersed, Rack was hovering around me.  He may have zero hunting ability, and zero prey drive, but he does know how to herd ME.

Looking down at my feet I saw two brown jeweled eyes set in black fur.  Rack wanted back in the house.

I get in and I say Goodbye from my shouty little bird friend.

I’m told that my neighbors are also hearing my bird.  It’s keeping them up.  Ok, so it’s March.  Spring Time.  Male Birds are feeling Testosterone from their testicles that have grown to allow the next generation to be produced, what did you expect, Silence?

This has been going on for the next couple days.  More chatter.  Every morning, he’s parked himself on top of the bougainvillea.

Thankfully I haven’t discovered a nest in my yard.  My Neighbor Joe is hoping he doesn’t discover one there.  His windows aren’t Hurricane Impact Glass.  They let sound and breezes in.  Maybe he’ll take our suggestion that he get those done before the next storm season.

Meanwhile I’m wishing my feathered friend to pay him a visit next door.  He has been at 3 in the morning in full voice.

I’ll keep my hearing protection handy for the next couple weeks.  I don’t hear him, but Joe does.

Sunny Anderson Was Right, Low and Slow is the Way To Go when roasting Pork

The recipe is simple.

The night before, marinade.

I used a half of a bottle of store bought Barbecue Sauce to 2 1/2 pounds (1 KG or so) of Pork Loin that was thawed.  Lets call that about a pint or a half liter of sauce.  Pick one you like, we won’t judge.

Place all that in a plastic bag in the refrigerator and allow to sit overnight.

The next morning, or about 5 hours before the meal, pour your marinaded pork into a baking pan, uncovered, and make sure the marinade gets into the pan with your pork.

Slide in oven and cook at 250F/120C for about 2 to 2 1/2 hours per pound.

Cook until tender, however I cooked to 175F/80C internally and got THE BEST PORK I EVER HAD.

So that back story.  There’s always a backstory.  And if you’re looking for a recipe, you probably don’t care, huh?

You see, Dad cooked Pork Chops when I was a child.  I could have used them to resole some work boots.

Shake and Bake coated, Dry and Hard, horrendous.

But that was normal back then.  You HAD to cook pork well.  There were parasites back then.  The rule was cook it well, and hope for the best.

Or so I remember from the bad old “analog” days back when dates started with a 19.  You know, when I was a kid, everything was black and white, and my pet was a house sized Triceratops named Trixie?

According to popular theory (word of mouth, maybe a lot of crap),  Pork wasn’t a very clean food.  I suspect that someone in the back woods somewhere got sick and it became A Thing that you had to do.

Since then, The Pork Industry cleaned up its act.  So much so that the USDA has lowered the temperature that you cook pork to from 165F/75C to 140F/60C with a 3 minute resting time.

There are supposed to be no more parasites in USDA inspected Pork than there are in Beef, and that is at 1/3 to 1/4 the cost.

If cooked right, Pork Loin is tender and mild flavored.

So I have been thinking that I should get some of that pork loin out of the freezer and try again.  While I was planning this meal, I heard that bubbly TV Personality, Sunny Anderson say “Low and Slow! Low and Slow is the way to go!” over and over and over in my head.

I had tried making this recipe in a crock pot, and it was much better than Dad’s Pork, but it could be better.

I wonder should I try Low and Slow in the oven?  Can I Do it?

I started researching recipes.  Some cooked low at 225F, some as high as 300F.  I settled on 250F because it seemed to be what the majority of the web pages cooked at.

That was the Low.  The Slow makes sense.  The longer amount of time the meat takes to get “done” the more likely that the muscle fibers will break down.

That’s what we call “tender”.

Since there was a lot of marinade and a lot of humidity in the environment, and the lower temperature, I did not expect it to dry out.

Barbecue?  I have a lot of recipes for this, but I wanted just to make it easy so I used a commerically prepared sauce I liked.  I do have a couple different recipes on this blog for

Barbecue

Carnitas

and Chinese Barbecue

But I wanted quick and simple and I wanted something that I couldn’t mess up by adding too much of something in it.

I dumped that half bottle in the bag, sealed it the night before, and cooked in a slow oven starting at breakfast.

Yes, 6:45 on a Sunday Morning, I was making Lunch.

The alarm went off on the electronic thermometer around 10:30 when the internal temp hit 165F.

But it stayed there for the next hour.

I was watching that temperature closely because I was basting this meat in Barbecue sauce from the pan every 30 minutes to an hour.

When it hit 175F, it was just before 12 Noon.

I poked that meat with a steak knife.

The knife went into that meat like it was butter.  Plunged right into it.  The last time I saw something like that, I was in a beautiful Polynesian restaurant and paying $26 for a Pork Tenderloin dinner that was perfectly and artfully made.

Mine was Pork Loin, a lesser cut, and this was as good as that meal.

I was able to hand slice that meat down into “Cold Cut Thin” slices.

The proof was in the tasting, this was awesome.  So good that Rack the SuperDog (TM) was hovering around asking for some.

Rack liked it too!

So Sunny Anderson, you were right, Low and Slow!

The Sandwich I made from that meat the next day was just as good.  I had a winner of a recipe.

Here it is, story and all, I saved it for my family, myself, and you all.

I am thinking this “process” should work on Beef Brisket as well, but that’s a task to research for later.