Kate's Queen City Notes

Blundering through Cincinnati, laughing all the way

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Homemade Peanut Butter: How I Put on Ten Pounds

As mentioned in my last blog on cooking, I discovered a recipe for Thai peanut noodles that I love. I ran out of peanut butter while making the noodles. I had some unsalted roasted peanuts on hand.

Necessity is the mother of invention? In my case, necessity is the mother of googling peanut butter recipes. I found this.


I pulled out the food processor and threw in some peanuts with a pinch of salt and a dash of peanut oil. I was thinking that I would have a pleasant adventure and return to buying peanut butter at the grocery. That thought couldn’t have been more wrong.

I went back to prepping the noodles and let the food processor do its thing. After about 5 minutes, the butter started to have a consistency that I recognized. I tasted and added some local wild flower honey. I was shocked at how much flavor the peanut butter had, sans sweetener. A tablespoon of local honey kicked it up to AMAZING.

This discovery piqued my curiosity. Did you look at the link above? Did you see the chocolate peanut butter? Obviously, I had to make some. One idea will adequately express the results of my chocolate peanut butter experiment; I was inventing things to eat with this. I would put it on bananas, strawberries, in hot breakfast cereal, and in peanut butter cookies. You understand why this caused me to gain ten pounds now, yeah?

This is basically Nutella but with peanuts instead of hazelnuts. Speaking of Nutella, I discovered a minor modification for this recipe that makes it even more irresistible. I used hazelnut oil instead of peanut oil. The results are subtle, but it adds just a touch of aromatic hazelnuts that really deepens the flavor. That’s now my standard modification to this recipe.

I struggle to explain why homemade peanut butter is so good. It’s hard to express how much better peanut butter is when you can customize it for your personal tastes. Maybe it’s because there aren’t any perservatives. Maybe it’s because that local honey imparts so many subtle flavors. Maybe it’s because the quality of peanuts that I buy are higher than those that get milled into commercial peanut butter. Maybe it’s simply that I’ve taken 15 minutes to prepare it, and I consume it more mindfully. Maybe it’s the culmination of all of these things that make my own taste so much better. I don’t know. What I do know is that I won’t be buying peanut butter ever again.

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Food Unicorn: Tasty Tofu

Ohio doesn’t have much local produce this time of year, and the polar vortex has kept me from outdoor activities like skiing and biking. Holed up in my home for weeks, I’ve been enjoying the canning off-season by making some new recipes. Here’s a couple of my favorites.

My partner is a vegetarian. She’s a vegetarian that doesn’t like vegetables. She’s been working to expand her palate though, so I’m not complaining. I’m just setting the scene. While I am a omnivore, I don’t cook with meat at home. All of these things lead to us eating many meat substitutes. I like Gardein, Quorn, MorningStar Farms, tempeh, seitan, and others. Notice, tofu is not in that list.

Tofu, without modification, achieves something unthinkable. It tastes like nothing, while simultaneously being unpleasant. I don’t know how something that lacks taste can be gross, but tofu manages it. My tofu arithmetic: no flavor + no texture = bleck.

Then I found this. http://www.daringgourmet.com/2013/02/27/thai-peanut-tofu-noodles/ This recipe has all the things that I love: fresh ginger, peanut butter, noodles, noodles, garlic, carrots, chilis, and green onions. Whip all of this up and top with Sriracha, and I am in heaven. But that tofu.

The first time I try a recipe, I always make it exactly as instructed. I like to start with a baseline before I customize it to my taste. This recipe was no different, in spite of my troubled past with tofu.

Imagine my surprise at finding this method of tofu preparation quite good. Let’s be honest, when you salt the shit out of something it will taste pretty good. This tofu treatment is a testament to that. The sherry, sesame oil, and soy combo add some nice complexity to round out the salt in the soy. The sesame oil imparts a great nuttiness, and the soy brings much needed umami to the tofu.

Pairing this salty, nutty tofu with the peanut sauce in this recipe is heaven. I’ve made this compulsively since I discovered it. If it didn’t feel too self-indulgent, I would have a bowl of these noodles in my fridge at all times.

I liked this tofu so well that I added it to this recipe too. http://www.monsoonspice.com/2009/03/tofu-pineapple-thai-yellow-curry.html

I bake the tofu separately and top the curry with it. The coconut-based sauce is sweet. The baked tofu is salty. Top this with a bit of Sriracha or some Thai chilis, and you have a the sweet, salty, spicy trifecta that Thai food nails.

These recipes led me on a couple of other food adventures that I will save for a subsequent blog. Coming up… canning homemade veggie stock, homemade mustard, and making nut butters.

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Pie Crusts with Leaf Lard: Better than Rainbows and Unicorns

Peach Pie

Here’s me sealing off the upper crust of the peach pie.

Finished peach pie, before we devoured it.

Finished peach pie, before we devoured it.

Peach pie after we scarfed some pieces down.

Peach pie after we scarfed some pieces down.

I’ve been making pie crusts for more than a decade. They are tricky. I’ve heard my grandmothers say that pies haven’t been the same since cooking with lard fell out of fashion. Like the bratty young adults that most of us were in our early 20’s, I was dismissive of these statements. As a cook, I’ve come to notice that the things my grandmothers said about cooking were right on the mark. Given that they cooked for their enormous families for twenty plus years prior to the advent of boxed meals, they have accumulated lots of cooking and baking wisdom.

When my foodie friend said that she could get us leaf lard, I said, “YES YES YES YES.” I’ve got a recipe for pie crust with blend of butter and shortening that has given me the best balance of flaky and tender, but I’ve always been curious about pie crust with lard. The recipe that I’ve linked to is by far the best recipe for a butter/shortening crust. I’ve tried at least 10 or 15 recipes over the years. This one yields the most consistent, flaky, and tender crust.

The lard that we got was unprocessed. It looks like what it is, a giant hunk of fat. To render it we put it in a slow cooker overnight. Once rendered and cooled to room temperature, the lard looked very much like plain shortening. One of the reasons that leaf lard is prized for baking is because it’s the most neural fat on the pig. Back fat and other lard has a distinctly pork favor that doesn’t lend itself to sweet pastries. Leaf lard can be found around the kidneys of the pig. Leaf lard doesn’t really have much of a flavor aside from the rich mouth-feel that fat typically has. It’s also difficult to find. Small butcher shops are the best places to start your leaf lard search.

We decided to make one savory and one sweet pie. We settled on peach pie and chicken pot pie. We canned peaches this past summer, and we used some that we packed with cinnamon, vanilla, cardamom, and star anise. We used Alton Brown’s recipe for pie crust with lard. We considered just using all lard, but we were thinking that we actually wanted a bit of butter flavor in the crust. We tried a new technique with the butter. We took the butter from the freezer and grated it into the flour as opposed to cutting it in. This seemed to make the crust more consistent, and it was a little easier to work with. I liked this method so much that I will probably use it from this point forward. There’s one other thing to note about that Alton Brown recipe. The fat to flour ratio was really high, higher than most other crust recipes.

Throughout my years of cooking from scratch, I have repeatedly noticed that home cooked foods almost always crush their store-bought counter-parts. This has consistently been true for fruit pies, so it shouldn’t have shocked me that the chicken pot pie was spectacular. We didn’t do anything fancy with it. It had the standard peas, carrots, celery, and onions. We roasted the chicken. Once fully cooked, we removed the chicken an put the veggies directly in the pan with the chicken drippings. Once the veggies were softened but not completely cooked, we mixed in flour. Then we added a bit of water followed by half and half. Nothing out of the ordinary. This pie was anything but ordinary. I loved the Banquet pot pies in college. I was broke most of the time; for ninety-nine cents I could have a hot filling meal. Our pot pie blew that Banquet pot pie out of the water.

The peach pie was divine. Our spiced peaches were perfect with the salty, crisp pie crust. The fact that we used our canned peached allowed us to perfectly control how much moisture was in the pie.

I need a whole paragraph to describe the crust. This crust was like a cross between typical pie crust and a French butter pastry. It was at once crisp, chewy, tender, and flaky. I didn’t know a crust could manage to be all of these things at once. I’ve managed flaky and tender crusts, but they’ve never been chewy. I’ve managed very crisp crusts, but they are rarely tender. I think it’s quite possible that this lard pie crust has ruined me for anything but lard pie crusts from this point forward. Grandma was right… again. Now, I just need to figure out how to get more lard.

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The Cushaw: My Moby Dick of Gourds

I’ve heard rumors that a gourd exists that would taste better in pumpkin pie than pumpkin. I’ve heard these rumors for some years. As described in an earlier blog post, I’ve established a fledgling relationship with a few farmers at the Lunken Farmers Market. They are crusty old men who seem to grow the food they are selling, no wholesalers here. When I picked up 9 pumpkins for canning, one of the old curmudgeons pointed to a very large green and white gourd and asked if I’ve ever made a pie with one. Pretentiousness is pointless with curmudgeon, so admitted that I’d never seen one of those before. As soon as he said that it would make a better pumpkin pie than pumpkin, I knew a new cooking adventure must happen.

The gourd in question is called a cushaw; it’s a winter squash. The internets tells me they are more common in the south. I don’t know how these turned up in Cincinnati. Geographically speaking, calling Cincinnati part of The South is nonsense. If you want to read a bit more about cushaws try this blog out.

The cushaw before I started hacking away at it.

The cushaw before I started hacking away at it.

If you have ever engaged in the laborious process of getting pumpkin puree out of a fresh pumpkin, you know that only an intense love of pumpkin can drive you to such lengths. The cushaw has one obvious and one not so obvious advantage over pumpkins in terms of getting them to an edible status. The cushaw’s shape and structure matches that of a butternut squash; so gourd for gourd the cushaw is going to yield considerably more puree than a pumpkin due to the cushaw’s seed cavity taking up considerably less volume. The not so obvious advantage is that the cushaw was much easier to cut through than pumpkin. My cushaw was about 16 inches tall and 10 inches in diameter at its widest. I had visions of getting out my Dewalt reciprocating saw to hack that thing apart. I was pleasantly surprised to find it quite easy to cut through. Cushaw FTW in prep round.

The cushaw with seeds intact.

The cushaw with seeds intact.

I split the cushaw. I scraped out the seeds. I put them cut side down on cookie sheets with a bit of olive oil to prevent sticking. I roasted them in the oven on 350 for a little over 1 hour. We scraped out the pulp and ran it through the food processor. Oops. I skipped the part where I ate forkfuls of the pulp out of the roasted gourd, still seaming from the oven. I also skipped the part where we spooned the puree into our mouths. This gourd is tasty. This gourd is tasty without additional embellishments, like pie crusts or cinnamon.

The scraped cushaw.

The scraped cushaw.

My writing skills are not quite up to the task of describing how cushaw is different from butternut squash or pumpkin. Cushaw is creamy but more neutral in flavor than pumpkin, acorn, or butternut squash. Whipping cream doesn’t so much have a flavor as it has a mouth-feel. Cushaw has a similar effect. It’s not as sweet as pumpkin, and it’s lacking that distinctive pumpkin flavor. This gourd is a little more like a blank canvas that will reflect the ingredients you pair it with. A creamy canvas.

The puree that didn’t make it to my belly went into three recipes. I used recipes that I have made many times with pumpkin. I felt like this would be the most direct comparison.

Libby’s standard pumpkin pie recipe

Pumpkin bread

Pumpkin roll

The pie was excellent. It turned out a delicate custard. It was rich without being overwhelming. It completely lacked that mealy quality that canned pumpkin pies typically have.

Here's what the pies looked like right out of the oven.

Here’s what the pies looked like right out of the oven.

The pumpkin bread was interesting. Because the cushaw lacks pumpkin flavor, the bread tasted more like chai spice bread than pumpkin bread only with the same dense, rich texture that squashes add to breads. This recipe was excellent, although, if you are jonesing for pumpkin bread, I don’t think this bread will satisfy your desire.

The pumpkin roll was tricky. I think the recipe should have been amended such that the cake stayed in the oven a bit longer. The cushaw seemed to make the cake stickier than it turns out with canned pumpkin. So, the pumpkin rolls turned out pretty ugly. But for what they lacked in beauty, they made up for in taste. Longer cooking time, and maybe draining the cushaw would have helped this recipe out a bit.

The verdict is that the pie was better. The roll and the bread were good, but I wouldn’t say they directly compete with pumpkin. I feel like they were more like new recipes with cushaw in them as opposed to subtly different forms of their pumpkin counterparts.

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Pressure Canning: Shit Just Got Real

I have been canning for a few years. I knew this day would come. I bought a pressure canner. Pumpkin is what sealed this deal. Stocks and meats just don’t excite me like pumpkin. When faced with the possibility of using that sad, metallic-tasting paste that comes out of a can for another year, I went to the internets in search of pressure canners.

The first thing you should know about this canner is that it looks like it is not to be trifled with. The second thing you should know is that after perusing the directions I became anxious that I could literally cause an explosion in my kitchen. Looks, in this case, were not deceiving.

Pressure Canner


This was our most ambitious canning session to date. We planned to can a couple of varieties of apple sauce, apple butter, pumpkin butter, and pumpkin cubes. Note that we chose to can cubes because it’s not advisable to can pumpkin puree at home. The cubes will just need to be run through my food processor before they are added to my favorite recipes.

We started off with a half bushel of apples and nine pumpkins. Here’s the recipes/instructions for what we did.

Big pot of apples.

Here’s the apples when we were cooking them down. After this we put the apples through a food mill. We brought the resulting sauce back to boiling before canning it.

Here's the apples after we processed about half of them.

Here’s the apples after we processed about half of them.

These pumpkins looked amazing.

These pumpkins looked amazing.

Pumpkin cubes: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/he266

Apple sauce: http://www.freshpreserving.com/recipe.aspx?r=126 (we made half the batch plain as instructed here except with less sugar. We got golden delicious apples, and they were pretty sweet without the sugar. We made the other half the batch with cinnamon and vanilla bean w/ seeds.

Apple butter: http://www.canningacrossamerica.com/recipes/apple-butter/

Pumpkin butter: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/pumpkin-butter/

Here’s the random things that we learned. I think we accidentally put 2 tsps of nutmeg in the pumpkin butter as opposed to the 1 tsp that the recipe called for. Two tsps is great if you want the nutmeg to overwhelm all the other flavors including the pumpkin. (FAIL) The pumpkin butter thickened really quickly on the stove. I don’t think we cooked it for more than 20 minutes, and in that time the concoction got much darker and thicker.

Finished jars of apple butter.

Finished jars of apple butter.

Here's a jar of apple butter coming out of the pot after processing.

Here’s a jar of apple butter coming out of the pot after processing.

The apple sauce was excellent. It was so excellent that we needed to stop ourselves from eating it before it made to the jars. If we do another fall canning session, it will be to do more apple sauce.

The pumpkin that we canned bears almost no resemblance to what comes out of store-bought cans. The color is a bright yellow and the flavor is closer to acorn or butternut squash. This made me wonder what they do to the pumpkin to get it that color and to get that mealy flavor. I don’t know if you have ever eaten a spoonful of pumpkin from the can, but it has that non-taste that commercial baby food often has. The pumpkin that we put in the jars had this slightly sweet, creamy flavor.


I mentioned in a past blog that I get my produce for canning at the Lunken Airport farmers market (if you aren’t from Cincinnati just ignore that last sentence). The people who go there aren’t wholesalers; they are the actual farmers. For what they may lack in customer service skills, they more than make up for it with knowledge about the produce. The old curmudgeon farmer that I work with most often, while doubtful of my intentions at first, has now warmed to my tattooed self. It seems like I keep clearing hurdles with him. On my pumpkin purchase, he seemed pleased that I recognized the pie pumpkins from the mess of decorative gourds and pumpkins.

While we were bagging up my pumpkins he pointed to a huge green and white mottled gourd. He asked if I had ever made pie with one of those. I said no, because I had never seen this type of gourd before. He pushed his vintage (NOT RETRO) John Deere hat further back on his head and said, “Once you make pie with one of those, you’ll never want a pumpkin again.” I have heard of a gourd that is fabled to be more tasty than pumpkin. I’m pretty sure curmudgeon farmer just pointed out my gourd Moby Dick. Needless to say I will be going back next week to get one of those gourds. Be on the look out for the Moby Dick gourd blog post next week.

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Canning Tomatoes and Old Curmudgeons

I am not wholly convinced that the plastic that lines tomato cans will kill me, but why take chances when I like canning? We did two rounds of tomato canning. We canned Brandywine and other heirloom varieties in round one. We canned standard  non-heirloom tomatoes in round two. Below I will summarize how we did it.


Tomatoes from the old curmudgeon farmer.

Here’s what we used


Lemon juice (for the citric acid)

Very hot water


3 cases of 1 1/2 pint wide-mouth ball jars




Curry spices

Crushed garlic cloves


Here’s the herbs we used. They were gathered from my friend’s garden.

Like my peach canning blog, I will break this blog up into 4 functional groups. Bear in mind that at any given point in the canning process we probably had jars in all functional states.

Sanitizing the Jars

The first step in the process is making sure your jars are sanitary and ready for fruit. In our past jamming sessions we let the jars boil in water for several minutes to kill the microscopic critters. After some internet searching, we found that you can also put the glass jars in the oven for 20 minutes at 250 degrees. We used the oven technique for our tomato jars, partially because the jars a bigger would be more difficult to manage in a pot of boiling water. This also freed-up an all-important heating element on the stove. We sanitized our rings and lids in boiling water.

Processing the Tomatoes

To skin the tomatoes, we dropped them in boiling water for about 2 minutes. Then we put them in an ice bath for a minute. This allowed easy removal of the skins. This was probably the most laborious part of the process. Our tomatoes were a little large, so we quartered them to enable us to fit them in the jars.

Assembling the Jars

We put the desired herbs and spices in the jars. Then we packed the tomatoes in. We topped all the jars with one teaspoon of salt and two tablespoons of lemon juice. Then will filled the jars with boiling water leaving about a half inch breathing room at the top of each jar. We made three different varieties. We packed some with curry spices (these spices were a combo of mustard seeds, coriander seeds, cumin seeds and such that had been bloomed). We packed some with rosemary and garlic. We packed some with thyme, oregano, and garlic. We were thinking that the oregano and thyme variety would be well used in pasta sauces. The rosemary variety would be a great base for a tomato soups. They curry will be used for curry, of course.

Sealing the Jars

We put the jars in boiling water for 45 minutes. All the jars sealed perfectly.


Here’s what the processing jars looked like in the pot.

A Word about Heirloom vs Plum vs Standard Tomatoes

Since we canned a few varieties, I thought I would comment on the differences between them. The standard and Plum tomatoes skinned the easiest. They were a breeze. The heirlooms were more difficult to skin and were generally more delicate to handle. They were also considerably more expensive. Unless I taste heaven in those heirloom jars when I crack them open, I won’t be canning those again. The heirlooms were about 40 bucks for roughly 10 lbs. I got lucky with the standard tomatoes. I got a tip to try the framers market at Lunken Airport (if you aren’t a Cincinnati native this will mean nothing to you). And those folks are the real deal out there. There’s a parking lot where trucks pull up; the people selling are clearly the growers. Upon my approach I was listening to a BMW driver fussing about what bag his produce is put in. Watching this guy in loafers and seersucker shorts get cranky over the size of his brown paper bag made me miss providing customer service in no way whatsoever. I approached an old curmudgeon farmer just beyond seersucker. Now reader, you should know what I look like to fully grasp the interaction to follow. I am tattooed. My hair is buzzed off into a very short mohawk. I am 37, but people seem to guess me as younger than that. I asked the farmer how much for 25lbs of tomatoes. His eyes narrowed into a hard look. After a pause that was too long for comfort, he asked what I was using them for. I said canning. Disbelief quickly followed by a little burgeoning esteem for me flashed across his face.  He leaned back and hollered to the farmer next to him. After a brief conversation he brought out a half-bushel basket of tomatoes from the truck. He had prepared the basket for someone else who failed to show. The tomatoes had minor blemishes making them perfect for canning and at a discounted price. I paid 10 bucks for 25lbs of tomatoes. AWESOME.

Walnut the cat

This is Walnut the cat. He did his best to be underfoot while we canned. He also offered unsolicited mews at regular intervals.

Finished jar

Finished jar with thyme, oregano, and garlic

I might update this blog when I sample the tomatoes that we canned. I have some recipes coming up that will cause me to crack open some jars.

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Adventures in Cooking: Canning Peaches

Neither of my grandmothers cooked much with processed/packaged foods; this is more to do with their age than an ideology. I canned jams and jellies with my dad’s mom until I was school-aged. I grew up eating homemade breads, jellies, jams, and assorted baked goods. It made me picky. I started making my own jams because I grew dissatisfied with store-bought. This little taste of canning made me bold.

A good friend and I got a basket of South Carolina peaches, a mess of jars, and an assortment of spices. We were unsure how well any of this was going to work. Here’s what we started with.

Peaches and jars

Here’s the peaches and jars. That basket was full. We where half way done with processing them at the moment that I snapped this picture.

3-4 vanilla beans

20-20 green cardamom seed pods

15 1 inch cinnamon sticks

20-30 star anise

Several types of chai tea (this will make more sense later)

Several cups of sugar

A few tablespoons of lemon juice

A bottle of bourbon (Ancient Age)

3 cases of 1 1/2 pint wide-mouth ball jars

I’m going to break this up into 4 functional groups. Bear in mind that at any given point in the canning process we probably had jars in all functional states. This is critical to understanding how we managed to do this in about 4 hours.

Sanitizing the Jars

The first step in the process is making sure your jars are sanitary and ready for fruit. In our past jamming sessions we let the jars boil in water for several minutes to kill the microscopic critters. After some internet searching, we found that you can also put the glass jars in the oven for 20 minutes at 250 degrees. We used the oven technique for our peach jars, partially because the jars a bigger would be more difficult to manage in a pot of boiling water. This also freed-up an all-important heating element on the stove. We sanitized our rings and lids in boiling water.

Processing the Peaches

To skin the peaches, we dropped them in boiling water for about 2 minutes. Then we put them in an ice bath for a minute. This allowed easy removal of the skins. This was probably the most laborious part of the process.

Assembling the Jars

We threw the desired spices in the bottom of the jars first. We did a mix of plain vanilla, plain cinnamon, and mixed spices. The jars got roughly one quarter of a vanilla bean, a once inch cinnamon stick, a couple of slightly crushed cardamom pods, and one star anise. We hand packed the peaches in the jars over the spices. Then we poured very hot simple syrup (one quarter sugar to three quarters water) over the peaches. We added 2 tablespoons of bourbon to the jars as desired. We put Indian traditional chai tea in one of the jars, and we put green passion fruit tea in the other. Picture below.

Tea with the peaches

We aren’t sure how the peaches will do with the tea. We have already agreed that we both must be present when the peaches are sampled.

Sealing the Jars

We put the jars in boiling water for 20 minutes. About 9 out of 10 jars came out and sealed nicely. There were a handful that we need to put back in to get them to seal.

Then we waited. I didn’t wait very long. This is partially because I am impatient and partially because I wanted to taste test how we did. We had planned to do another canning session the following weekend. I wanted to know if we should make any adjustments.

I had only eaten commercially canned peaches prior to opening a jar of ours. Eating those peaches was life-altering. Not only do I not understand why no one has commercially canned peaches with some of the spices we used, but I also don’t understand why more people aren’t canning their own peaches. My god. Those were absolutely delicious. I’m ruined for peaches in heavy syrup forever. The simple syrup we used was enough to make the peaches sweet, but not overwhelming. The sugar just complements the flavor of the fruit as opposed to drowning it. I suspect one of the reasons the sweetness in our peaches wasn’t as cloying as commercially canned peaches might be that we used cane sugar as opposed to the high fructose corn syrup.

Some of my friends have offered me money for a jar of our peaches. I am typically generous with our jams. But the peaches. I don’t think I can part with the peaches. My parents will be lucky to get any of the peaches.

Update: we opened the peaches that we packed with tea. They were delicious! We ate them with some homemade vanilla custard. It was divine.

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Hard Decisions

This has been such a stressful experience that I am not sure where to begin. I have an appointment to get my cat put to sleep on Monday. I have such mixed feelings about it, and I don’t really know how to go about explaining them in a succinct fashion.

She has always been a difficult cat. My older cat is attentive and responds to positive and negative reinforcement. But this cat has resisted training from day one. She has never managed her claws very well. She has always required a lot of affection, but she regularly draws blood when enjoying affection.

Aside from these things, she is a very sweet and affectionate cat. In the ten years that I have had her, I have alternately felt frustrated with her and guilty for not responding to her in the same way I do to my other cat. I don’t feel that I have been a particularly good owner to the cat. She doesn’t get on well with other animals, but I have repeatedly put her in households with more animals than she can handle. Some of these choices where solely mine. Some of the choices where outside my realm of control.

She has had diabetes for the last 2 years. During that time, I have spend more on my cat’s health care in the two years than I have on my own. The correct dose of insulin for her seemed to take several vet visits over a few months. She lost most of her muscle mass and excess fat in the first six months of the disease. She started to limp and lose her ability to jump.

Now she is resistant to the type of insulin she is taking and requires a more expensive insulin. This would in turn require many blood glucose curves to establish the correct dose. She hates the vets. The little joy that is still left in her life is when she gets affection. After a return from the vets, she hides from me for days stealing what’s left of her joy.

I’m realizing that I have been continuing treatment to assuage my own guilt for not creating the best environment for her and not doting on her as much as my other cat. While I have not been the most responsible pet owner in the past, I cannot make up for that by extending her life now through vet visits that clearly distress her. I know I am making the right decision to put her to sleep. It doesn’t change the fact that this is in the top 10 of difficult things I have done as an adult.

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They Live!

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The seedlings have made lots of progress since I last blogged. Here’s a picture of the sweetie tomato, zucchini and broccoli seedlings. These were taken prior to my week of vacation, on March 31st. As of this point, only one of the jalapeno peppers had come up; none of the bell peppers had germinated.

I was concerned that the plants wouldn’t survive the vacation. It’s not that I didn’t have faith in the folks looking after them. It’s that I do a fine job of killing plants and assume that others have that same talent.

My plant munching cat gets a little angry when I leave town. I got out the bags and started packing. Devil cat noticed. Ten minutes later, I went upstairs and saw that the cat had managed to get one of the corn seedlings through the chicken-wire and snarf it down. All that was left was the roots.

The devil cat is a spiteful little creature. She was content to leave the seedlings alone until she noticed the luggage out. I am certain she felt compelled to send me a message about the vacation.

Upon my return from vacation, the seedlings look a little wilted. I gave them a good watering. There were a couple of sunflowers and a couple of peas that might not return from the wilt. If that’s the worst fallout from seven days away, I will consider that success. I will have newer pictures with my next post. This week I will attempt to build my beds. This will involve me using power tools, so I’m excited.

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The Motorcycle Diaries and Planting Stuff

Spring has nudged its way to the Nati in the last couple of weeks. I manage to get to the driving range with my new golf clubs. I also managed to wind my motorcycle mechanic odyssey to an end. I kicked off my attempts at growing things.

I’ll start off with the motorcycle. My motorcycle clutch started slipping last fall. The bike had to sit though most of the winter without attention. I ordered the friction discs and clutch plates over the winter and waited for the spring thaw. After facing several set backs, I stripped the screws holding in the bike’s oil pump. After several failed methods of getting the screws out, I finally found a solution. The Black and Decker tools to removed stripped screws are utter crap. Do not buy those. While attempting to use one of them the bit broke off in the drilled out stripped screw. There was a lot of cursing after that. The Alden Prograbit was awesome! They took those screws out in about 5 minutes.

Once that problem was solved, I set about tearing the clutch apart to replace the friction discs. After taking several parts off, I get to the lock nut. Note that the Honda Clymer manual says something deceptively easy like, remove the lock nut. After pawing at the nut for a while, I decided to consult the internet gods. The gods tell me that the lock nut is “staked” and will require a dremel tool to grind it out. The lock nut will also require a special lock nut tool from Honda for removal.

That’s it. I give up. I called the Honda Motor Sports. They are going to come get the bike this week. There a moments where you just have to raise the white flag of defeat and call a professional.

My quest to grow things has been more successful. I built a grow light stand to get my seedlings started early. That project went very smoothly. I planted all my seeds. I’ll post again when the first seedlings turn up.