Sunday, January 18, 2015

Life: A Rant

I'm on antibiotics twice a day for five days. My lack of joy is so un-exuberant I can't find the words to express it. But, I'm grateful. Grateful for antibiotics. Without them I'd be quite the misery muffin. No worries out there, it's nothing serious. With medical care, this is no big deal. Without medical care, it may have been a whole different story.

With antibiotics, however, come certain side effects. It's only day two and my stomach is already preparing to go on strike. Yogurt is the best medicine for it. I hope the stuff in the fridge is still good, because it's on my to-nom list.

Medicine for medicine. It seems that's how the world goes 'round.

I have this worry about the world, especially the western world. Worries are useless, you do realize. Worrying does nothing. Worrying is that thing people do when they're helpless to do anything about something. Waiting for their kids to come home from a date. Watching international negotiations over nuclear weapons. Reading reports about searches for plane debris.

I worry about medication use. Overuse of antibiotics has gotten a lot of publicity, and I think most people paying the least bit of attention understand that they shouldn't take antibiotics without a positive diagnosis of a bacterial infection (not viral! antibiotics don't help with viral infections) and then, if they do end up on antibiotics, they must be very faithful about taking every dose exactly on time so that there's less of a chance of bugaboos surviving through weak or incomplete dosage regimens. Those survivor bugs have a chance of becoming an antibiotic-resistant strain, and those are very, very bad news.

But that's not what I worry about the most. What I worry about the most is the entire pharmaceutical mentality, most especially in the United States. I think it's linked to the litigation-happy society Americans live in . For example: I recently delivered a bookshelf to a woman's car. While she lowered the back seat to make room, she made the comment that the first time she lowered the seat, it just about knocked her out, and that the manufacturer was crazy because 'someone's child could be hurt and then they'll have a lawsuit on their hands.' First of all, I think it's been so long since she's had any kind of conk to the head (if she ever has) that she probably has no idea about what it feels like to actually be 'almost knocked out'. I'm sure it was very unpleasant. She may have even fallen and whacked her elbow and/or knees in the process. It may have even been the fault of the seat. But I strongly feel that the world is not a safe place and not everything in the universe must be turned into a Disneyland version of a functional device to limit the manufacturers' liability claims. Don't take away my sicklebar mower because it might mow a child's feet off. That's on me. My responsibility to make sure my child is under control enough to keep them safe. And if they do run in front of the mower, or release the seat catch and get smooshed (harmlessly, most likely) by the seat and cry, that's called an accident (fueled by the child's inexperience and lack of understanding). That is not the fault of the car manufacturer or the sicklebar mower. Period.

In court, the jury has this whole concept of 'reasonable' to look at in multiple ways. Reasonable doubt. What a reasonable person in a similar situation would do. Where is the reasonable-ness in safety? Putting poison on or into toys is unreasonable. Being forced to create a so-called child-proof latch and/or a super-slow release hinge to spare clumsy or inattentive people a bit of a padded blow to the noggin is not reasonable. I'm sick to death of such things. If people got hurt more often, they'd be less likely to get killed doing something stupid. Think about that. Pain is a great teacher. Without it, we quickly become oblivious, bumbling idiots bouncing from lucky encounter to lucky close call until we blunder in front of a bus and end up under it. And the bus driver is taken to court.

It's the same with medications. So many medications attempt to make people feel normal, happy, and completely well. There seems to be no allowance for the idea that if you're sick, injured, or otherwise damaged, you will be in pain and you won't function as well as someone who isn't sick, injured or otherwise damaged. I'm not saying make people suffer when they don't have to. But this impossible goal, and the extensive medicating that happens in an effort to reach that goal, is expensive and insane.

A lot of people I know are resistant to taking any kind of medication. I think that's a good thing. The body is remarkable and it does a better job of fixing most things than pharmaceuticals could ever hope to do. I don't think it's doctors. This seems to be driven by the patients and their expectations. Not only of what medication can do for them, but what they themselves have to do and/or live with.

The doing is the hardest part. So many people come to the store and park in the handicapped parking space when they can function so much better than Gary, victim of a massive car accident that permanently damaged his short-term memory abilities, and barely gives him the ability to hobble with the use of a cane through the store. He fights for every step. He'll never get any better, but do you know what? He won't get weaker and weaker and weaker as his remaining muscles atrophy because that amazing bastard fights to keep what he has. And it's hard. And it hurts. And it's no fun. And yes, people who haven't been in an accident, or who are old, or who have cancer do not have it as easy as people who are young and in perfect health. I want those handicapped spaces there, especially for those really, really bad days when it's a struggle just to get out of bed, but damnit, they need a can of soup and some bread and they're going to rally and shop. That fighting spirit leaves me in awe. It doesn't have to be exceptional. So many sunsets are breathtaking ... and normal. That's what human life should be like. The miracle of a garden in springtime is created through the battle for space, light, moisture and nutrients by every plant that sprouts there.

I don't know what's going on with a given person. I do my best not to judge those who do whatever they do on a given day, because I don't know them or what they're going through. Yet, over time, patterns emerge. The woman who claims to be in too much pain to pick up something off the bottom shelf at the store, but runs, waving her arms, screaming at someone because they parked in the handicapped spot and they don't look like they need it. Seriously.


What risks, and what pain and suffering can we live with, if we truly understand that it's not the destination, but the journey itself that makes us strong and makes the world a beautiful and wonderful place? What if everyone understood that feeling healthy is a gift, and that feeling awful is normal. That's right, normal. It doesn't always need to be fixed. A lot of times it can't be fixed, and the mitigation is worse than the symptoms not just because a medication makes you feel dull but because you stop fighting and let something else take control. Sometimes, not always but sometimes, illness just has to be battled in our own bodies on our own if we ever have a hope of coming out the other side as free beings. How less screwed up would our society be if people admitted that yes, this sucks, but you're not alone or abnormal in some way? Stop Googling new treatments for your friend's disease and f***ing appreciate the time you have with them and encourage them to keep fighting. Because it's exhausting, and sometimes the best medicine is to vent, or go to the movies, or to have a cheerleader hold your hand to get through the really, really bad stuff. Read the book Gimp sometime. Or The Fault in Our Stars. Fight. Live. Not to be normal. Just, to be all that you can, and to attempt to achieve what you want most to achieve. There are no guarantees, no promises, no happy endings, but that's ....


Monday, January 12, 2015

Goatie Poopie Dog

Today my DH and I spent most of the daylight hours working on the farm. How much did we get done? Oh, about 1 percent. Maybe. Hopefully.

The big project was getting gravel on the main paths that my DH uses to feed the animals every day. He has an unstable knee that won't see surgery until late spring, so traction is crucial or he'll tear what's left of the support system. He turned Brian and Finn, the Great Pyr puppies, loose in the upper pasture so that the goats would be on their best behavior. Then we got a load of gravel and went to work. He loaded up the wheelbarrow and ran it up and down the hill, while I cleared out the accumulated manure and old, slimy, moldy alfalfa that had turned into a disgusting slip-n-slide near the gate where we fed the boys alfalfa on the way to the shed where they got their grain. I slung pitchfork-fuls of this fragrant slop over the fence into a pile, to be delivered to the veggie garden later.

Meanwhile, Chase, the border collie mix, ran along outside the fenceline, following Rory up and down the hill and occasionally making a run at the fence in a lame attempt to scare the goats into running. At some point we stopped paying attention to her until Rory let out an oath of disgust. "Chase, no!!"

I looked over and guess who was playing in the pile of ick? Guess who had rolled in it thoroughly and now was covered in partially dry goat poop, mole hole dirt, and whose fur was stained green from rolling in rotted, piss-soaked alfalfa? Well, I can tell you this. It was not me.

Chase was so gross, so filthy that Rory didn't want to let her trot through the house to the bathroom, so he picked her up at the door and carried her straight to the tub.

Her white fur is now once again white, and her black fur doesn't look suspiciously olive-toned. Clean dog. She got a lot of exercise today, watching us work, so she's curled up in an adorable ball on the sofa. The way she's acting, she worked harder than any of us. And maybe she has.

We've had some beautiful days, with lots of opportunity to work outside. I hope Mother Nature keeps them coming. There's plenty more out there to do. Next time, though, I think I'll stage a second wheelbarrow outside the the fence right next to the goat shed to avoid future, ah, breaks to play.

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Roasty Goodness

This is for all of you who either have a toaster oven you never use, or you just got one for Christmas and you're thinking it's going to take up way more counter space than it's worth.

You are going to cook like a gourmet cook because of this device. Seriously.

Last night, as I was roasting baby peppers as an ingredient for dinner, while simultaneously toasting an old, hardened croissant in a damp paper towel (which came out incredibly tender and even more delicious than when I bought them fresh), I thought: I have arrived in gourmet heaven. And I didn't spend all night in the kitchen cooking, either. It went by fast.

So I decided to share my morning cooking with you. It took a little longer than usual because I was snapping pics the whole time.

First, the roasted peppers. I bought a whole bag of baby peppers because I thought they would make good New Year's Day nibbles, especially with some onion dip. Did I actually cut them up and serve them? Of course not. BTW, I could have as easily used tomatoes, eggplant, mushrooms, or whatever as the roasted yummy. But, I have this huge bag of peppers, so peppers it is.
 I got some olive oil, pepper, sage, sea salt, and I chopped and crushed a clove of fresh garlic. I put them into a cheap plastic sandwich bag with my slices of baby peppers and mushed it all around until the peppers were coated with oil and seasonings. Yum!

Then, I stuck them in my wonderful toaster oven. You can see how mine has a warming chamber above my main oven compartment. They're nice to have, but not strictly necessary. That's where I warmed up my croissant. (Delicious! Wish I had one more left.)

I set the toaster oven to broil, low, and set the timer for ten minutes. I've roasted peppers for as long as fifteen minutes before. It blackens their edges a bit, which actually adds a lot of flavor without making them taste nasty and burnt. But suit yourself.

A word about eggplant. They will soak up an infinite amount of oil. Put as much oil as you care to in the bag, and no more than that.

 Meanwhile, back at the range ....
Here I have my last two eggs in the whole world, because my lazy chickens don't lay in the wintertime. Actually, I could make them using a light, but I think they need the rest after working hard all spring, summer and fall.

I add milk, seasonings, some more of the crushed garlic (which is roasting with the peppers in the toaster oven and making the kitchen smell awesome), a touch of salt, and I use a fork to beat it all together.

 Now comes the weird part for some of you. You can be satisfied with eggs scrambled with roasted peppers, which is admittedly delicious, or you can be daring and pull a slice of your favorite bread (I like eight grain) into small chunks and mix it into the egg.

Heat up the pan with butter. I don't want to hear about your obsession with vegetable oils. These are eggs. They like butter. :) I pour the eggs and bread into the pan when it's hot enough to make pancakes.
 So, what's going on in the toaster oven in the meantime? Roasted goodness, that's what! I just pull out the peppers and admire their delicious, garlic-y goodness. I can't help but set one aside for nom nom nom all by itself. Because I'm like that.
 Look how clean the bottom of the pan is when I stir in the peppers! Cast iron should work basically like a non-stick pan, except without the weird peeling-off bad-for-you coatings and the risk of cutting the pan, causing irreparable harm if you should be so foolish as to use a metal implement. Do you know what happens when I scratch my cast iron pan? I rub oil into it and keep on a going. In a month you'll never even know it was scratched. They're gorgeous. But I digress.

No egg (cooked with butter!) dish is complete without cheese. I throw caution to the wind and finish the cheese inside my cast iron pan because I don't fear no cheese in my pan. It'll come right out. Besides, then the cheese has a chance to do a tiny bit of browning here and there and I love that. Love love love it.

Check it out. I clean the cast iron pan right after I pour out the egg stuff. A little stuck here and there, but you know what? It came out easy. I cleaned the pan under full hot running water in the sink. If you like you can spray on some diluted soap to get rid of any excess grease, but never full strength soap and don't stop the water flow. You can do emergency cleaning by boiling (slightly!) soapy water in your cast iron pan, but it will smell soapy when you heat it up for the next couple of times. It's only worth it if you didn't clean it while it was still hot after cooking (you foolish mortal, you!) and you have really stubborn food remains that are glued in there like cement. Baked dishes that use rice are a little famous for doing this.

Toaster ovens and cast iron pans. Awesome. And if you don't like roasted veggies, fine, be that way. Your toaster oven is still awesome. You never, ever have an excuse not to make garlic bread because you don't want to heat up your oven 'just for bread.' You have the toaster oven now, you lucky dog, you. Plus, there's no better way to reheat leftover french fries or to put the crispiness back in fried chicken that you take home from Popeyes but leave on the counter or in the car just a little too long. Enjoy!