Some Stings Never Die

I decided that I wanted to do some mountain biking. I pulled the bike out from under the front porch, where it had spent all summer, unused. So, of course, now that it has turned cold, I want to ride it. In all fairness, it was really just too hot to ride it up here this summer.

It was covered with spider webs, dead spiders, and cat hair. Both tires were flat, which was expected. There was no air left in the compressor and we don’t have a generator that will power it.

We do have a bicycle tire pump, the old manual kind. I tried it, but it was broken. Since I know next to nothing at all about tire pumps, I decided to take it apart to find out what was wrong with it. After pulling it completely apart, the problem revealed itself: instead of sending air into the tire, the pump was allowing air to escape through cracked plastic.

It seemed easy enough to fix. I had some extra strength RTV sealant left over from resealing the valve cover gasket on the Jeep. I sealed up the cracks. Now it was time for the hard part: letting it set until the RTV was cured, which is somewhere between 12 and 24 hours.

This morning, after it was completely cured, I tried it out. It appeared to be working. Halfway through pumping up the front tire, I realized that I had put it back together incorrectly. The pump started sucking air from the tire instead of pumping into the tire.

It took a few tries, but I got it back together correctly. While inflating the back tire, I pushed down on the tire with my hand. I was immediately rewarded with a severe stinging sensation.

It has been cold for a while now. Wasp and bees aren’t very plentiful today. I haven’t seen a wasp in weeks. The bees only come out when the temp gets warm in the afternoons now. However, I thought I would look just to make sure.

There was no wasp; no bees; no anything. I thought maybe I had just got a splinter. No, it was whelping up just like a sting.

The best I can figure, I had to have been stung by the stinger of a long dead wasp. There is a reason for my hypothesis. First, there was a lot of debris from the front porch on the tire as well as the whole bike. The bike was under the front porch. There were wasp nests over the front porch this summer. I think a wasp died, for whatever reason wasps die, and its stinger came to rest in the spider webs on the bike. It was just my bad luck that I chose the exact resting place of the deceased wasp’s stinger to test the air pressure in the tire.

Is it possible to be stung by a long dead wasp? I did a little research. Yes, it is possible. Someone on the interwebs hypothesized that a stinger, with venom sac attached, could act just like a hypodermic needle if the stinger were to penetrate the skin and the venom were squeezed out of the sac.

Makes sense to me, since that’s exactly what I think happened.

My hand still hurts, and is slightly numb at the same time. That sting was over 12 hours ago. I’m not sure when the creature to which the stinger was originally attached died, but his sting is still alive.


Smoking Funny Things

Thanks to my sister and her husband, we had lots of peppers this year. So many, in fact, that I tried smoking some of them.

Our neighbor Joe smoked some last year and was kind enough to share his smoked jalapenos (chipotles) and smoked cayennes with us. Since they turned out so well, I asked him for some guidance. He happily explained the quite simple process:

Put some peppers in a smoker. Smoke them with low, indirect heat until they are dry.

His smoked peppers were great. I found they were wonderful additions to a pot of beans or to rice. I would often drop them into a pot of soup. They also made a great salsa when crushed up into a bowl of tomato sauce. They lend a smoky and slightly spicy flavor to anything.

So, here’s what we did:

We put some peppers in a smoker. I smoked them over low heat until they were dry.

We smoked some chocolate habaneros, ghost peppers, and some little white pepper. The pictures on the left of the page show the peppers during different stages of the smoking process: beginning, middle, and end. The ghost peppers are on the back of the grill, the chocolate habaneros on the front left, and the white ones for which we have no name are on the front right.

I crushed one of the chocolate habaneros and one of the white peppers into some tomato sauce to make a simple salsa.

We took the resulting salsa out to the sitting area overlooking the pond and tried it. Hot doesn’t really describe it. The smoke flavor is there, and so is a spiciness that borders on the level of uncomfortable. I’m going to play around with the ratio of peppers to tomato sauce to see if I can retain the smoky flavor and dilute the spice.

If you would like to try a smoky sauce, but don’t want to make it, chipotle sauce is easily purchased at most grocery stores. Perhaps you should try that before going through the trouble of making your own.

If you are interested in the smoked ghost peppers, let us know. We aren’t brave enough to try them. Maybe ghost peppers are funny things that shouldn’t be smoked.

Homestead Update 10/15/13

Rained all day today. Rained all day yesterday. Probably will rain all day tomorrow.

We slept in this morning. It was easy to do. A light rain falling on the metal roof provided the perfect sleeping soundtrack.

Boomer wasn’t having it though. He kept whining until he made it to the bed. Then he was good.

The other dogs cried until we opened the door. Once they saw the rain, they were more than happy to go back into their crates without a sound.

We learned today that our meal worms were contaminated by mites. I’m not sure if they can hurt the meal worms or not, but they are disgusting. At a glance, they just look like dust. On closer inspection, one can see the little critters moving around slowly. There are thousands of them.

We spent a good part of the day trying to remedy that particular infestation. We would love to hear from anyone who has had the same problem. We would really like to know what to do and what not to do. So far, I filtered out just the worms and transferred them to a well cleaned container with dry wheat bran. I am hoping that the dry bran will take care of the problem.

The temperature seemed to drop all day. Feels like summer is gone for good.

We let the dogs out just before dark. They all ran off. All of the dogs came back except for Toby. Hope he’s ok.

Anyway, that’s the update from The Gray Homestead.

Pain In the Back

I hurt my back yesterday. I’m not the kind of person to say that I have back problems because I don’t consider my back to be a problem. But it is becoming a problem.

A couple of weeks back, I picked up a 100’ roll of fencing. I knew it was a problem as soon as I did it. Within hours I was flat of my back in bed. That lasted for days.

I told Jennifer that as soon as it was better, I would start exercising my core again. That seems to keep the pain in check. Well, it did get better, but I didn’t feel it was strong enough to start exercising.

Over the past few days, I have been sitting much more than usual. Writing seems to be much easier to do when seated. It is my belief that the sitting, combined with the recent fencing injury, probably precipitated the current episode. I am standing to write this.

My back “problem” started when I was young. I remember the first time it happened. I was “pulling” milk at Hays Superwarehouse, in Jonesboro, AR. I worked for the grocery store, and on Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons, I would fill up the milk cases for the guy who delivered milk to the store.

I’m not sure how milk is now delivered or merchandised since I try not to buy cow’s milk. At the time, the milk man delivered the milk. The milk and other dairy products came in “milk crates.” You are probably familiar with these crates. They hold four one gallon jugs of milk, and varying amounts of other measures of dairy products.

Four gallons of milk plus the crate weighs somewhere between 24 and 30 pounds in my estimation. Instead of carrying each crate individually, we would stack one on top of the other, about six high. 25 pounds thus becomes 150 pounds. Those stacks were then pulled around by attaching a metal hook to the crate on the bottom of the stack.

At the time, I weighed in at about 125 pounds. One night while I was “pulling” milk, something snapped in my lower back and I was out for about three days. It was years before I had any other problems with my back.

I managed to get the chickens and ducks feed and watered this morning with Boomer’s help. He didn’t really help. He was actually in the way most of the time, but his being there with me provided much needed moral support and sometimes provided actual, physical support as I steadied myself with a hand on his shoulder. He seemed to sense that I was having problems getting around. He walked just in front of me or right beside me, stopping every time that I did, some times turning to make sure that I was ok. He waited patiently while I took care of the birds, and then escorted me up the hill to the cabin. I let the other dogs out to eat and take care of their other dogly duties, then put them back up. Boomer and I went back to bed with that particular set of chores done.

Eventually, I had to make a little breakfast while the goats were out free-ranging. Boomer stayed in bed. He is still there as far as I know.

So, now I stand here, writing. Since I can’t really walk around on the uneven ground that comprises the homestead, I don’t have any excuse not to write. Well, no valid excuses anyway.

Will Work for Treats

If snow falling from the limbs of trees onto the metal roof our humble little cabin sounds like fairies on a bombing raid, then hickory nuts falling from those same trees onto that same metal roof sound like hobgoblin snipers armed with .50 caliber rifles. The fruit of the hickory falls from such a height before impacting upon the rigid metal, that it results in an impressive, if abbreviated, resonating blast. I suppose that one could calculate the speed achieved by the nut and thus the force of impact, if one were inclined to understand such formulae, and if the height of the tree and the weight of the nut were known. I assure you that the force of impact would not be inconsequential. The impacts upon the front porch are most often the worst because there is nothing under the metal of that particular part of the cabin to muffle the sound. The trees have no rhyme or reason as to when they will release their seed – we are just as likely to be surprised by the gift at dusk as we are at dawn or anytime in between for that matter. And when we hear that startling crack, we may jump into the air or perhaps we will not even flinch. It’s not that we have much control over our response to the horrendous stimuli; it’s more a matter of timing – not ours, mind you, but that of the tree.

I have little use for the hickory nuts, but some of our dogs do. Evidently, hickory nuts are a tasty treat to our four legged canine companions. Apollo, fascinated by all things taste and smell, learned from Boomer that hickory nuts are to be savored as much as any treat ever is. Both spend an inordinate amount of time working to separate the fruit of the nut from its protective casing.

Acorns fall in the same fashion as the hickory nuts, only they aren’t as loud when they strike the roof. The acorns also seem to provide tasty treats, but do not seem to require as much work as the hickory nuts. Maybe that is why the dogs favor the hickory nut over the acorn. Perhaps, just as with us, their human companions, a treat is better when it is earned through hard work.

Left: The hickory nut (pictured lower center) rolled out of Apollo’s mouth just as I walked up to him, giving him a guilty appearance.

Upper Right: Boomer munching unashamedly on a hickory nut.

1 October, 2013 13:31

Boomer enjoying a hickory nut while I was putting up the new and improved dog pen.