City Pioneer

Global warming? Collapse of the economy? Horsemen of the apocalypse? Uh-oh looks like it’s time to learn some survival skills!

Hey! It’s End Times!

So, it looks like the end is nigh. May 21st folks, don’t worry. I got my information from a very reputable information source a.k.a. pretty much the first result that came up in a google search. It’s pretty clear that I am not going to be raptured on up what with all of the heathening I’ve been doing. Then upon further reflection, I thought of what a pain in the ass it would be if I did get raptured. For some reason I just imagine a ton of paperwork. Is that just me?

I am going to be in Spain next week with the parents, and I am confident in the fact that if this jam does go down, we are going to spend those final five months just drinking wine and repeating, “really? I mean seriously? Who the fuck saw that coming? I mean who SANE saw that coming?” So, if this goes down I will be keeping busy in the end of days is what I’m saying. Or perhaps I’m saying the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree? I mean THE apple of course. Thanks Eve, I would love a snack.

Now, the reason why I’m mentioning this at all is twofold. First, I just finished a great book called “Jesus Interrupted” by Bart Ehrman which was a good reminder that many religious folks are really quite sane and intelligent. Others are filled with some fierce fear induced anger and hatred which I really can’t wait for them to get over. Then there are the whackos. Save the date? I mean, I didn’t get God’s evite, so I’m out. So basically it takes all kinds, but go ahead God and come harvest the crazies if you can stand them. It’s your party. The second reason I bring any of this up is that all of the Armageddon, end of the world talk made me realize how far behind I am on getting together my survival skills for the aftermath. I mean, can I fly a plane yet? No. Have I started my roof deck (a.k.a. fire escape) garden yet? No. So in essence all of these crazy train billboards have really been a wake up call for me to get my shit together in preparation for the real end of world event. Most likely zombies.

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I am possessed by someone’s Eastern European Grandmother

It has been a while since I have done anything productive towards gaining skills for our post apocalyptic society. Well, FAIL on my part.

In recent months I did brush up on my rock climbing skills and if per chance the apocalypse involves having to climb a wall with hand grips, I am your woman. I can tie the knots and yell “On Belay!” and everything. One thing that I do seem to lack is a great amount of arm strength. Oh baby like strength, why do you plague me?? Fortunately, I went out and picked up some weights to help out with that. Those weights come in the form of cast iron cookware. For crying out loud.

Yesterday, I began the process of figuring out what to do with cabbage. I get a box of vegetables every two weeks and they seem to really want me to eat cabbage. Last week I made some cole slaw which was fine and allowed me to use a hot little Christmas gift item, the Julienne-er. I julienned some carrots. No big. How much cole slaw can you really eat though? So with the next two heads—yup two more heads to go—I decided to make some stuffed cabbage. I looked up a recipe and found one on this site along with a whole lot of information on stuffed cabbage. One fun fact is that in Croatia 97% of women over 25 eat stuffed cabbage. I’m Croatian. I’m over 25. It’s true! The down side is that 97% of Croatian women over 25 can also tuck their boobs into their skirts. Okay, I am not entirely sure of the numbers on that fact. So I set off to stuff some cabbage. It’s easy! In just 17 hours you can have enough food to feed an entire village!

I went for the Hungarian Stuffed Cabbage complete with zaprashka. I made a couple changes that might horrify Hungarians but I stand by. I used ground turkey instead of ground beef, but I stuck with pork. Sorry pigs. I also used brown rice. Also for the side of mashed potatoes, I mashed potato and celery root. That might not be exactly the right taste combo, but I had a lot of celery root. This is how I cook these days. It’s all based on what starts to take over my refrigerator. Pears anyone? I didn’t read the recipe all the way through, and I began it too late in the evening. I didn’t make the rice until I read that the rice needed to be cooked. I was a bit of a disaster. I got the whole thing on the stove to cook (approximately 75 lbs of cabbage, meat, and iron cookware) at about 9:00 p.m. SO! At midnight, it was all done minus the final stage of making the zaprashka which is a sort of gravy made out of the juices from cooking and added back in at the end. I hauled the pot off the stove, questioned the ability of my refrigerator shelf to hold the weight, looked briefly at the porch with a thought that in the winter outside is like nature’s refrigerator. Then, with brief roommate consultation, he pointed out that outside was like nature’s freezer. So I tossed it in the fridge and went to sleep. Oh by the way, boiled cabbage smells exactly like boiled cabbage. This is not a plus.

Day two of the cooking process. I tossed my iron dutch oven into the American oven and cooked it for about 30 minutes. Then I made the gravy and added it back in and cooked it for another 30 minutes. I also discovered that while leaning into the oven to deal with a 75 lb iron pot, I come very close at times to toppling over. This was a problem with making bread and even more so now that I was making much weightier food. Also, my necklace, which is made of metal gets hot and starts to burn my neck. Dangerous times folks. Dangerous times.

Upon completion I patted myself on the back for how I had taken a simple head of cabbage and turned it into a high sodium, meaty and unhealthy meal. Thank you Hungary! It is a great comfort food though. I also have enough of it to feed about 8 more people. Come by?

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Moving chickens…

Physically moving them of course. Chickens can’t be moved emotionally. Then again, that might be a very narrow-minded view on my part. I will make attempts in the future to sing arias to chickens and see what happens. At the present time, I am talking about your basic physical movement.

I made my way out to Martha’s Vineyard to visit a friend living out between Edgartown and West Tisbury. As opposed to my simple city porch farm, he is far more serious about gaining post-apocalyptic life skills. He just happens to call it going local. When we first met he had started a decent sized garden and over the summer had a pretty successful season. He has now moved from lettuce and tomatoes to ducks and pigs. A part of me aspires to this. I was so impressed when my plants began to give me food that the idea of having a pet that when you come home says, “hey, while you were at work, I made eggs,” would be amazing. For now though, I have a landlord and neighbors and for some reason Cambridge doesn’t seem like a great place to put out a chicken coop. So, upon my arrival I was asked whether I wanted to go feed the pig, move some chickens and then head out for drinks. The clear answer to this was yes, I do want to do a couple light farm tasks, feel close to the land, and then have a beer and talk like an old farm hand.

We threw down some compost for the pig, scratched behind his ear and talked about bacon. This is perhaps a bit perverse, but it’s like reading to babies, as long as you say it in a nice calming tone, they don’t know what you are saying. Also, if you look at it in a different way, pigs are yummy in a way that seems to welcome you to eat them. On the flip side, bitter greens are fighting with every evolutionary muscle that they have to be unappetizing and yet the cruel vegetarian, armed with cream dressing, insists on consuming. After the pig, we drove over to a nearby farm to pick up some chickens he had purchased. I asked what would be required of me and was told that I would basically grab a chicken and put it in that box in the back of the truck.

Chickens are really quite ridiculous. I feel like they are always saying one line, “oh my god.” They just repeat this at different levels of alarm. They were in their coops and we needed to go in, grab them and move them. Walking into the coop, I was unclear about what they would do when I tried to make a grab. I have no qualms with touching a chicken, but I was guessing that they didn’t want to be picked up and didn’t know what their defense mechanisms would be. Trying to put a cat into a cat carrier to bring it to the vet can leave you bleeding and defeated with your cat embedded deep under your bed. Trying to grab a chicken results in a slow chase in which you will be stooped over in an undignified manner ready to grab. If you lose your balance you might kneel in something unappealing. I grabbed though, and once I got the wings under control I was fine. We were now done with a long hard half hour of farm work and went to reward ourselves with drinking.

Another life skill for our post apocalyptic world learned. Check. Go here for pictures of chickens, the vineyard, and a clam bake.

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The last frontier…

Besides space. And also the depths of the ocean. And certain rain forests. And perhaps death, but no one can say (except for all of those religious folks who talk about the afterlife as though they visit it yearly at their timeshare). Yes, I’m talking about Alaskasplendor The last frontier...
: the last frontier!

In the event of an apocalypse, which I am sad to report will still be coming in the form of giant floods due to global warming and not zombies, I thought it would be prudent to make a pioneering trek to the last frontier in order to put some of my recently learned survival skills to the test. I whittled a small boatboat The last frontier...
small boat
and set sail to the wilds.

To understand what traveling on a cruise ship is like go to an airport. Imagine that laws are a little different and add a casino. Then imagine that instead of getting on a plane and leaving the airport the airport just starts moving towards your destination. As it starts to move a bunch of people start doing the electric slide in the middle. Toss in more bingo than you would have ever guessed and an unnatural over-use of Purel and there you go. You are now a pioneer on your way to Alaska!

So with the impending apocalypse I thought it would be important to first gaze on what will eventually melt, raise sea levels, flood coastal cities, and cause the desalination of ocean waters thereby lowering freezing temperatures and result in flash freezing and an eventual second ice age. Glaciers!glacier The last frontier...
I then made sure that the people in the area were adhering to a radical fringe religion so that once the apocalypse comes they will attribute it to end times and the wrath of an angry God. Check.zealotry The last frontier...

So what skills did I pick up while I was there? I conquered a giant sea creature.crabs The last frontier...
sea creature.
Ziplining.zipline The last frontier...
Which will be key as there is a possibility that will be forced to live high up in trees. How to handle wildlife.wildlife The last frontier...
And dogsledding.dogsled The last frontier...
Where is the snow you ask? It all melted because of global warming. Pack your apocalypse bags folks. If you are still wondering whether or not you want me on your team in disaster times then stop your doubts. I didn’t just have the full-grown dogs pull my sled, I woke up the puppiessleeping The last frontier...
and made them face reality too. We are all going to have to make sacrifices. So all in all I would count this as a success. Bring it on.

For more Alaska pictures and a lovely drive down the Oregon Coast to Portland, visit here.

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Peanut, peanut butter, and jelly.

Well, no jelly yet. But I did make some peanut butter and I must say it’s rather yummy. I shelled the peanuts and tossed them in the blender with a bit of oil and some honey and just a bit of salt and there you go. On a side note, I own perhaps the cheapest blender that it is possible to buy and it acts as such. If you have a really expensive blender are they wonderful? I don’t know if I believe it. Feel free to let me know if I am missing out on a really great blending experience and am just a fool to not be getting on board.

On a separate side-note, after spending more than a week neglecting my plants, long story, my tomato plant is looking horrid, yet the tomatoes are looking better. Before I stared at the plant endlessly and it was gorgeous but my tomatoes had the rot, now it looks like I found this plant in the trash but the tomatoes are looking considerably better. What is the take home message here? I am not sure. I will go implore my plant to tell me and if it says nothing then I’ll eat it.

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Julie and Julia

How is the porch garden you ask? Well it has been a while since I have written and here are my updates. My peppers are coming along, my lettuce did great! Many salads were enjoyed. My basil looked sickly at first because all it did was rain forever and ever. Then the sun came out and it absolutely blew up. I just made pesto the other night. It was good but I used a little too much garlic and unfortunately I only have a blender, not a food processor. My tomatoes though, are a tragedy. I am embarrassed to admit this, but I have blossom end rot. I think that the soil I used was too high in nitrogen but perhaps I under watered. I used the emergency calcium chloride solution and managed to terrorize the poor plant and well, sadly it seems to be a loss. I feel much more garden confidence than last year though when I killed herbs with a vengeance. I now know that I can make food come up from the ground!

So while this has been going on, I noticed that the new movie Julie and Julia came out and listened to a review of the movie. I figured I would bring this up because it is both food related and relates to providing entertainment in our post-apocalyptic village. I haven’t seen the movie. I will most likely watch it at some point. Perhaps I will get to a theater or maybe it will sneak up on me while I am on a plane one day. Once I see it, maybe I will offer a movie review of my own. That is not what I want to talk about right now though. I want to talk about Meryl Streep.

Meryl Streep is of course, other worldly. She is an amazing actor. From Out of Africa to The Devil Wears Prada—wait. There it is. There is the problem. Poor Martin Mull, you had to take any roll that was offered to you. Julia Sweeney? You were under a terrible SNL contract and so when they said, the movie will be based on your character Pat. What could you do? Meryl Streep, I don’t care if you can save the movie. Maybe there are some scripts that you should not take on. In this movie, it is true. You took an amazing iconic character, Julia Child and you brought her to life on screen. Yes you are amazing. You are so amazing that maybe you should say, “make me a movie that is JUST about Julia Child. That is where the brilliant story and movie lies! Get it done!” You don’t though, you do the movie and the reviews come in and they perhaps are nearing comical.

Julie and Julia got mixed reviews. The “Julie” half of the movie was reviewed as thin and not engaging. The New York Times, on the other hand, writes about Meryl Streep, “Often when gifted actors impersonate real, familiar people, they overshadow the originals, so that, for example, you can’t think of Ray Charles without seeing Jamie Foxx, or Truman Capote without envisioning Philip Seymour Hoffman. But Ms. Streep’s incarnation of Julia Child has the opposite effect, making the real Julia, who died in 2004, more vivid, more alive, than ever.” More alive than ever. Ever? Ms. Streep, you have made Julia Child more alive than when she was alive, somehow without overshadowing her. Show off.

The movie Mama Mia? Was there even a plot written for the young female character? Sure, I can see that it was a fun staged musical but when you take it to screen, the plot of the young girl searching for her father. I couldn’t care less. And I don’t remember at all who she was engaged to. Give me Meryl Streep rocking out on a Greek Isle to ABBA any day though. I will watch that for hours. Meryl on stage? Of “Mother Courage and Her Children”, again the Times says, “If you ever wanted to watch one willowy human being lift a 12-ton play onto her shoulders and hold it there for hours, even as her muscles buckle and breath comes short, join the line of hopefuls waiting at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park for cancellations to see Meryl Streep burning energy like a supernova in the title role of Bertolt Brecht’s ‘Mother Courage and Her Children.’” Wow. So here’s the game. “Meryl Streep, please save my movie”.

There will be long boring hours in our post-apocalyptic village. Folks, we may not have an internet connection. During these hard times I suggest this game. Come up with a terrible movie. Take whoever the lead of that movie was and replace them with Meryl Streep and then review the movie. Let’s take the 1997 movie, Spice World. “Tell you what I want what I really really want? I wanna really really really really zigga zig ah-mazing! A light hearted plot about pop stars, Posh, Baby, Scary, Ginger and Sporty Spice, there seems to not be much there, but Meryl Streep, cast as the sixth spice, Cardamom transforms this movie. She turns a penny candy movie into a fine french parfait all while looking absolutely fantastic in a mini-skirt and platform boots.” I could continue, but there will be time later on while I’m waiting for the bread to rise. If I don’t have Scrabulous, at least I’ll have this.

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Horse Balls

In our post-apocalyptic village I realized that we were going to be well fed but bored. I got worried that we would all become lazy and instead of being a Shangri-La it would instead look more like Disneyworld. I decided that I needed to begin learning to build some diversions to help keep our hand-eye coordination sharp and get us up and moving.

I built a little ladder golf. Bolo toss. Horse balls if you would. All right, I admit, it isn’t that active at all. Yes, you can play it while holding a beer in one hand. I wanted to make it because it seemed really easy to make and I had access to a drill and a vise.

I tried first to head to the hardware store across the street from me so that I could support local businesses. Unfortunately they didn’t have the kind of PVC pipe I needed. I was following directions that required 1 inch PVC and the smallest they had was 1 1/2 inch. I sucked it up and headed to the Home Depot which was located near a K-Mart also so I would be able to pick up the golf balls I needed. I am not proud.

I was following these directions. Just as a warning, they work great except for the size of the rope. I don’t know how he got that rope through the balls but I got frustrated and needed thinner rope. Judge by your own patience and ingenuity, I was at a BBQ and the dilemma  was preventing me from getting to my burger. Additionally, I found another set of directions on-line that suggested gluing 3/4 inch pieces inside of 1 inch pieces and wanted me to cut 60 pieces of PVC pipe. I don’t care how beautiful the thing would look in the end, if you find yourself doing that then you should just go buy a set. It is just not worth that kind of time investment.

I biked to the superstore complex which was a bit scary in itself. Any time I go under a highway outside of the protection of a vehicle I feel a little bit like I am going to be killed. Instead I was offered flowers. There is a man who sells roses under the Rt. 93 overpass. I am assuming that he knocks on people’s car windows. I personally think his business plan might be lacking. I arrived at the Depot and a really nice guy working there was actually going to cut all of the pieces for me. I began to feel bad though and just had him cut them down to reasonable size. At this point I also still believe that I would be able to bike all of this home by just strapping it to my bike side-bag. I am a dreamer.

So I purchased all of the pipe and joints and rope and wheeled my stuff outside in the cart. I looked at my bike. I called my friend Liz who mocked me a reasonable amount and came and picked me up along with loading my bike onto her car. With the aid of a hacksaw and a vice I cut the pieces. Drilled holes in the golfballs and thread the rope through. Easy as that. Entertainment created.

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I got the Mozz.

I made mozzarella from scratch last night. I am both amazed and somewhat freaked out by milk right now. I also now have a whole different picture in my mind when I picture Little Miss Moffitt. She seemed to be sitting on a tuffet eating separated milk. Who can rhyme that though?

So thanks to the 30 minute cheesemaking kit I made some homemade mozzarella. The kit comes with a thermometer, some rennet tablets, citric acid, cheese salt and instructions. So I went on a search for the gallon of whole milk needed to make the cheese. You need milk that has not been Ultra-Pasteurized.

Don’t even go to Shaw’s (which is a generally irritating place anyway). Their Wild Harvest organic milk says that it has been pasteurized but when I got home, I looked it up on-line and found that it was actually Ultra-Pasteurized (read more about this process here and of course also, why this process will kill you and why you should buy local). So I brought it back to the store and returned it! Ha! (I am actually really proud of that because usually I just say, oh well that sucks. Anyone who wants to praise me can feel free to do so.) I then went to the Dairy Bar (an extension of Kickass Cupcakes in Davis Square). I do not like their cupcakes (sorry Kickass…a lot of people do but I find them dry) but they sell dairy products from Shaw Farm in Dracut MA. Their milk is pasteurized using a low temperature vat processing which means that you can make cheese. It also was cheaper than Shaw’s by a penny and it supports a local farm.

Finally, having gotten the milk, I went home and followed the directions and about an hour and a half later (not quite the promised 30 minutes, but I’m a beginner) I had mozzarella that looked and tasted like mozzarella. I will make one note. The directions show you a picture of what it should look like once the curd forms and their picture promises this neat and lovely looking situation. I panicked as I did not have that and almost chucked it and went to drink wine and watch 30 Rock until I found this site. The pictures on this site helped me to soldier on and I made cheese.

When you finish the process you will have a ton of whey. I didn’t do anything with it and so I am guilty of wasting stuff that has nutritional value which will totally get me kicked out of the post-apocalyptic village, but I was tired and the whole process had been a little chaotic. In the future you can save it, it refrigerates well for a couple weeks and you can make biscuits, rice, shakes, use it in place of stock, give it to pets to keep their coat shiny, use it in place of milk in bread recipes, give it to arachnophobic children sitting on toffets, and all other such things. It doesn’t look yummy though, so I am just taking the word of the internet. Here are some pics. I also included a picture of my iTunes list as I would suggest that while you make cheese you have a small kitchen dance party.

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Last night I made salad! Food that I had raised right up from the ground! I don’t know why that is so exciting. Of course after I picked the lettuce I packed it in plastic, rented a truck, drove it 200 miles (100 hundred miles away from my house and then 100 back) and then I put it in my refridgerator for 3 days and THEN I ate it. I mean, I just was nostalgic for that mass produced taste…

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Pepper balls!

I looked at my pepper plant and I actually seem to be growing peppers! I am perhaps overly impressed by this, but there you go. Also I noticed when I took the picture that I am kind of proud of my pepper plant for having grown a pair. The lettuce also seems to be becoming more lettuce. Two points for me!

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