I have no idea what’s going on in my garden today. For about the umpteenth day in a row, we had triple-digit heat. I didn’t feel like wandering around in it, so I stayed inside in the air conditioning. I’ll check the garden tomorrow and see if any tomatoes are ripe.

I need to thin the vines, get rid of the unproductive ones, stake up the rest, and see if I can coax a little more productivity out of them. Hopefully it will cool down enough for me to spend time in the garden later this week.

Hope you’re staying cool wherever you are.



Home of the Gorillas


While I was out Mother Roading today on an errand for the National Historic Route 66 Federation, I took a detour two miles off 66 to Picher, where I had never been before, and where I found this terrific old sign languishing outside a shuttered ice-cream stand called “The Gorilla Cage.”

I did not follow the football to Picher Schools, Home of the Gorillas. In retrospect, I probably should have. Schools in teeny little towns like Picher tend to fall into one of two categories: pole barns, or WPA masterpieces. My Spidey-sense tells me Picher’s schools probably fall into that second category. Guess we’ll have to drive back out there and find out one of these days.


A PR of sorts

I set a PR tonight in that 5K. Not the kind I was hoping for … but considering the temperature, I’ll take it.

When I looked at the forecast last night, it said the temperature would be 89 at 7 p.m. Warm, but not bad. I’ve run in worse. Much worse. I ran in triple digits last week, which was stupid but didn’t kill me. When I got home tonight at 8:30, the Dashboard on my Mac was showing 95 … which means it was probably closer to 97 or 98 when we started running at 7:30.

With that in mind, I’m not gonna fuss too much about the fact that my clock time was well over 32 minutes — my slowest-ever 5K finish. (By the time I actually got to the finish line, I forgot to check my time. I was too focused on getting to the Wild Oats tent, where I knew they were handing out orange slices and bottles of cold water. I’ll check my exact time once they put it online.)

I set my last PR on a 75-degree September morning, with several months of consistent training under my belt, and I paced myself much better. That 20-degree difference, my lackadaisical approach to training in recent months, and the fact that I started out running this evening as if I intended to set some kind of land-speed record all wound up slowing me down. I ran out of steam somewhere around 2K and wound up walking a LOT in the second half of the race. Stupid. Very stupid. I know better.

Still, it wasn’t a terrible run. The heat did not kill me. I learned some things about race strategy. I got another race number to tack up on my wall, so that’s another seven and a half inches of dorky wallpaper border that I won’t have to look at. (OK, so making a border out of racing numbers is probably more dorky than this flowery wallpaper … but at least it’s my style of dorkiness, and not some foo-foo Laura-Ashley-knockoff style of dorkiness.)

Best of all, I recovered quickly and felt good enough by the time I got home to fix myself a pan of mac and cheese, which I thoroughly enjoyed. 🙂

Other little blessings today: I saw a goldfinch in my sunflowers. I had an awesome BLT from Crow’s Drive-In for lunch. I defused a potentially ugly situation that fell into my lap, and I think I did it gracefully, in a way that will pay dividends in the future. And I had a ball watching the little kids at Cascia before and after the race. A lot of Dillon supporters had brought their young’uns out to participate in the little festival near the start line, so several toddlers were bopping around out there, dancing and grinning and reveling in the attention they were getting from complete strangers. They were really cute.

Hope you had a good Friday evening.


Wake up and run

I’d been thinking of going to St. Louis for a one-mile race on the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge, but I decided not to bother. I’ve been ridiculously sleepy all week, and I just don’t feel like I have the energy to spend 14 hours on the road this weekend.

The Old Chain of Rocks Bridge carried Route 66 across the Mississippi River for many years. It’s closed to vehicle traffic now, but you can still jog or ride a bike across it. I used to run across the bridge all the time when I lived near St. Louis, so this race would have some sentimental value, and the idea of running a mile as hard as I can go after spending two and a half years shuffling along for distance rather than time sort of intrigues me.

I decided against it, though, because I’m really not up for driving that far, and I need to spend Saturday doing some volunteer work I promised to do for the National Historic Route 66 Federation, and besides all that, I don’t want to miss the Run for the Children tomorrow night. It’s a 5K, and the proceeds go to an orphan-care program run by Dillon International, which is a local agency that helps people adopt homeless children from other countries. The people who own Fleet Feet adopted their son through Dillon, so the race obviously means a lot to them. It’s a great cause, too, so I really can’t pass it up. If you happen to be in Tulsa tomorrow evening, and you happen to be in the mood for a 5K, the race starts at 7:30 p.m. at Cascia Hall; registration is at 6, or you can preregister until 4 p.m. at Fleet Feet.

If it isn’t ridiculously hot tomorrow night (forecast right now says 89, which isn’t so bad), I might just run this one with an eye toward a PR. My best 5K time ever was a 28:40. I don’t normally run for speed, but I might push myself a little bit this time around, just for fun. It would be nice to finish in the top half of my age group instead of the bottom for once. We’re only running five miles or something like that on Saturday morning, so if I’m totally wiped out when I finish, I can always make up the mileage before church Sunday morning.

I think the big trick will be staying awake long enough to get to the finish line.

Speaking of awake, I’m not sure why I’m still up. I think it’s time to let the dogs back in and go to sleep.

Hope you’ve got a relaxing weekend planned.


Ask the Hippie, Vol. 1, Issue 5

Q. Several readers have asked: Where did you get your fence material?

A. We had to special-order it. You can get it through I want to say it cost us about $200 for a 100-foot roll, but don’t hold me to that. If you go to Hutchison’s Web site, you can click “where to buy” and fill out a form to get more information. I think we wound up having to order it direct from them, because the places that supposedly carry their products locally didn’t have any fencing in the height we needed. They don’t carry gates, so you’ll have to make your own — or do what we did and hire some guys to come out and install it and make a gate for you. We used Aaron Fencing for the installation. They’re right here in Red Fork. They do nice work.

Royale with cheese

“But I’m tryin’, Ringo. I’m tryin’ real hard to be a shepherd.”
— Samuel L. Jackson
, Pulp Fiction

Man, I hate it when somebody else’s mistake creates a situation that tests my morals.

Without going into too much detail, I recently discovered that someone had plagiarized heavily from something I wrote several years ago.

A year ago, I would have eaten the culprit for breakfast. But — to borrow another line from Pulp Fiction — he “happened to pull this s*** while I’m in a transitional period,” so I can’t really bare my fangs here. I have to try to see past this guy’s actions to the real man — the honest, innocent child of God — underneath, and I have to find a way to address this erroneous behavior without tearing the man himself to shreds.

Between my dad and my practitioner (who both give awesome advice), I’ve come up with what I think is a reasonable solution. But it’s messier and more time-consuming than I really want to deal with, and it requires me to treat this guy with something like “tough love,” as the expression goes, which isn’t nearly as quick and easy as either mauling him to death or letting him off the hook entirely.

I hate it when people do things to provoke me — things so offensive and immoral that I physically recoil against them — and then I’m the one who has to grab a machete and go whacking through a whole jungle of anger and outrage and confusion just to find that high road I’m supposed to be taking. It’s not fair. I shouldn’t have to deal with somebody else’s problem.

But I guess those problems wouldn’t come into my sphere of influence if I couldn’t handle them and didn’t have anything to learn from them. I don’t turn away hungry cats that show up on my doorstep, even if they duck away or hiss when I approach. So I guess I can’t really turn away people who are starving for higher thought, either, can I?


Cucumber salsa

The main reason I garden is so I can make fresh salsa. Unfortunately, despite the fact that we planted 32 tomato vines this year, we have yet to bring in a big enough harvest to make a batch of salsa enormous enough to justify breaking out the canner.

We do, however, have a surplus of cucumbers, thanks in large part to the volunteer vine that came up in the middle of the garden. I’ve never seen a more productive vine than this volunteer, which is some kind of multipurpose variety that’s smallish and black-spined like a pickler, but firm enough to hold its own as a slicer.

Ron loves tomatoes and hates cucumbers, so I’ve built up quite a surplus, despite regular trips to visit friends, a grocery bag full of cucumbers in hand.

This afternoon, I took care of that surplus. I love cold cucumber soup. I love gazpacho. And while I had the food processor out, I decided to try something.

Home-grown tomatoes are infinitely more flavorful than the store-bought kind, and I have, in a pinch, made a respectable batch of salsa with tomatoes from the grocery store. I got to thinking about it, and I decided that if I could make decent salsa out of grocery-store tomatoes (which have less flavor than the average cucumber anyway, and roughly the same texture), I could probably substitute cucumbers for half the homegrown tomatoes in my salsa recipe and come up with something worth eating. I was right — the substitution worked fine.

When I’m talking about salsa, I use the term “recipe” loosely. But this is basically the way you make it:

Boatload of tomatoes
About half a boatload of tomatillos, if you have them
About half a boatload of sweet peppers (bell, banana, Nardello, poblano, whatever)
About one-tenth boatload of onion — preferably yellow, but anything will work
Bunch of cilantro
As much garlic as you want
Whatever hot peppers you’ve got on hand
Lime juice
Ground cumin
Chili powder
Cucumbers, if you have some you need to use up

Chunk up all your vegetables with a big ol’ chef’s knife. If the onion and garlic seem hot, saute them lightly in olive oil to knock off the edge.

Put the garlic, hot peppers, and cilantro in your food processor and whirl ’em at high speed until they’re minced very finely. The mixture will be stuck all over the sides when you finish. Add enough lime juice to sort of loosen it up, add your onion, and process again. Add your sweet peppers, tomatillos, and cucumbers, if you’re using them. Process again.

You’ll end up with a slightly chunky, light green froth. Dump it into a big bowl and add enough cumin to knock down the froth a little bit. Toss your tomatoes into the food processor and process until they’re whatever texture you like.

Stir the tomatoes into the pepper and onion mixture. The whole mess will look pale. Add enough chili powder to make your salsa respectably red. If it doesn’t taste right, add more of whatever seems to be missing. There’s no big secret to it; you just have to dink around with it until it tastes the way you want it.

Chill as long as you can stand to wait and serve with tortilla chips. If your grocery store carries those ultra-thin Tia Rosa chips, get some — they’re killer.

If you have a lot of salsa, you can put it up in pint jars (leave about an inch of headspace) and process in a boiling-water bath for 30 minutes. As canning goes, salsa is pretty idiot-proof, but read this article if you’ve never done it before. Call your mama if you still aren’t sure how to do it. If she doesn’t know, call the extension service.

Oh, and here’s a free tip: If you use habanero peppers, they can overpower all the other flavors quickly. To prevent that, pierce each pepper to keep it from blowing up, throw it in a dish of water with a chopped-up carrot, and nuke it until the carrot is soft. The carrot will draw a lot of the heat out of the pepper, leaving behind the flavor. Habaneros have a lovely, delicate flavor, but you have to draw out some of the capsaicin to get to it.

Happy canning!