Sunday, June 27, 2010

Tent City

Every June, sign of summer, we see this tent bubble up right past the bridge over the Meramec, where St. Louis County becomes Jeff County where it's legal to sell and buy fireworks. Eventually I get there. Open 24/7 until July 6, last night at 10 p.m. the parking lot hosted carloads of city families stocking up for the 4th. Their carefree fun however was spoiled by a police sobriety check not a mile ahead of said bridge. I'd never been in a sobriety check, and seeing the line of cops and their cars and cones I thought, "an accident so terrible they are telling everyone to make sure not to even look," but all they wanted was to see my license. "Goin' home?" the cop said. This is a question I am always happy to answer in the affirmative.

P.S. I wanted a reward or prize for being stopped and found sober. Hey, tin stars: How about a gross of bottle rockets....?

On my last trip across Missouri I saw that these tents -- not as big as this one -- go up alongside highways all over the state. Brick-and-mortar fireworks stores are few and year-round some of them sell other things like Stuckey's confections and furniture.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Longview Methodist Protestant Church, Purdy, MO

I like country churches, and Missouri's are the best. And there really is a long view, of a field, to the left, and cows lounging beneath the trees out back.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Keep Those Home Fries Burning

Salivate over the potato-and-egg salad that could be made outa these, or red-potato home fries that will make your friends get up and kiss you without even takin off the napkin from around their necks.

Delighted to see fresh produce, including zucchini, now available from a place not far from here that's a cross between a garden and a farm field, and bought these little gems -- averaging about ping-pong ball size -- for their blushing beauty and of course to think of a hundred decadent ways to cook them.

Demetrius grew these in his garden. Potatoes are mysterious and I had no idea when they'd be ready to dig, but he knew, and I helped him harvest his little red edible gems that began their growth in clusters, kind of like grapes underground. While spading them up you can't help but scar some of them, but I was so bewitched that I turned every inch of earth around there to get 'em all, backache or no backache. This year at the "honor" vegetable stand (where you leave your money on a table next to the road) these were 2 lbs for $2.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Nearly a Murder

Yesterday when mowing fairly deep grass in the meadow the mower struck an immovable object. I pushed and pushed but the mower balked and would not go over. Finally saw what the obstacle was: a turtle with shell about five inches across, all pulled in of course. Was upset and concerned I might have decapitated or maimed it...but by the time I got the mower to level ground and shut it off the turtle had walked off and was nowhere in sight. Smart turtle.

It's turtle-crossing-the-highway season here and I keep an eye out as I drive and do all in my power to help them, including -- when to get out of the car and nab the turtle out of the road would be foolish -- pray that the turtle will make it across. Young males migrate looking for their own territory. They can be teensy, adorable things not three inches across, or more valiant and mature.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

It's Bread

Tried the Almost No-Knead Bread Recipe 2.0 from Cooks Illustrated, and this is what I got. So gorgeous I had to take the photo to admire forever. Tasted as good as it looks, did not need butter to be delectable. Has miniscule amounts of vinegar and beer to get the "artisan" taste and texture. I let it rise overnight. Recipe asked for a Dutch oven to bake it in -- that's the secret of the crust -- but my heavy stockpot was a good substitute, obviously. Because the bread is oil-free it does not keep, but I softened up the next day's bread with a zap in the microwave -- best way to "save" stale bread. I can't post the recipe because of copyright, but you can find it by googling "Almost No-Knead Bread 2.0." Cook's Illustrated and Cook's Country are two of my favorite magazines, and everything I make from them awes my friends.

A friend was amazed to hear bread had protein in it, from the wheat gluten. Of course it does; that's why they call it "the staff of life."

My best bread story: Went to a Filipino home for dinner. They eat rice, not bread, but they had bought bread for the American guest and had it in a basket on the table; so very thoughtful of them, although I ate rice like everyone else.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Powered by Steam

This 12-inch-gauge steam railway gives half-hour, two-mile rides through the woods along the Meramec River, on Sundays May through October from 11 to 4. Pictured is just one of the several steam locomotives of the all-volunteer "Wabash Frisco & Pacific Railroad." Has a roundhouse, switches, a real railroad bridge, water tank, delights everybody including me who finally went for the first time today. There was a single seat left on the first train; as the rare single at this big-butt family thing, I got it. Have always adored trains and it used to be my preferred method of travel. (Grew up next to a railroad spur. I remember the manual seesaw handcars, remember seeing a worker who was fleetingly in my sight at dusk, oh, about 45 years ago.) The train's departure point is the vanished town of Glencoe; it travels also through the the sites of the lost Missouri towns of Bluffs, Mohan, and Yeatman.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

New Rifle Range

Tore down the other -- its straw bales were soaked and moldy -- and chopped briars, baby cedars, and poison ivy down by hand to extend my meadow's rifle range by 12 feet, for a total of 100 feet, suggested shooting distance for .22s to minimize chance of ricochets. Forked the rotten straw over the weeds at the margins, hoping to put a damper on their regrowth. Bales of straw are expensive, $5 apiece, and really hard for me to carry -- so this time I brought home two rather than five. All bales are belted with twine around the middle, and this time I got smart and lay them on their sides so the binding wouldn't be cut by shots gone astray. I set the bales atop metal shelving that got fatigued and lay down and twisted itself until it was an inch or so high; this serves to raise the bottom bale a bit above the ground. The shelf was in the garage, as scrap.

Did this all by myself over about a week. Clearing twelve-plus feet of virgin brush and then mowing it was the sweatiest part.

The lower target is a "Dirty Bird" "splatter" target that makes hits easier to see at a distance of 100 feet. Note the bull's eye! The upper target is an "auto-reset" target, made of iron, cleverly designed, I bought from a store incongruously called Midwest Marine. The targets in a row, when hit, will fly backwards and upwards, sticking there until you hit the top target, which will release them all to the original position you see here. This target folds flat for storage, very cool.