Sunday, October 31, 2010

Colors of Fall

We had a few days of color!

The seasonal changes here in New England tend to be bold. Every season I like to get that one picture that I feel best reflects the season. Because of the dry summer this year the foliage season was late and the colors were expected to be dull. The colors were late but we did have a couple of days of brilliant color.

Here, I think "Fall 2010" has to be one of these:

Trail tip!

If I should..oh.."lose my seat" on the trail I really don't think L is going to go far without me. But just in case - one never knows, I have a dog tag with an emergency phone number on her bridle. Oh, and those are little pieces of reflector tape on her browband. There in front of her ears. Sometimes we ride in the dark. Not in the street. But still.

And of course Fall in New England is time for apples!

Have cheddar cheese with your McIntosh apples. I think this is actually called an "orchard lunch" or something like that. Carr's Whole Wheat crackers are delicious with McIntosh apples!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Mid term elections

My blog is about indulging my passions and prattling on about things I feel are important. Like my horses. Food. Minding the simple things. I don't go out of my way looking for drama and controversy. I'll have to include that one in my rules to live by

But I just have to say. The mid term elections have me convinced the business of politics in the USA is really just a huge practical joke.

I'm..well..just gobsmacked.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

War horses

She always looks better than I do!

She's almost camouflaged this time of year!

Canadian Horses are directly descended from the royal stable of Louis XIV. Intended as riding mounts for the nobility, military and clergy of New France, these animals were of the very highest quality from the finest horses of their day.

Louis XIV did not keep a royal stable of show horses. These were war horses. The "armored division" of the time, they were bred and trained for use in battle. Contrary to popular belief soldiers in earlier times did not ride fire breathing nutbags into battle. Strong, fit, smart, steady and sensible horses were highly prized battlefield partners.

Here is an excellent online article with a historical description of the Canadian Horse.

Their ancestry of battlefield mounts comes to mind as I've been reading Xenophon. Every horseman should read Xenophon's On Horsemanship. Poetic and practical, On Horsemanship is as relevant today as the day it was written. Roughly 2400 years ago.

To a large extent what Xenophon has to say is written for the soldier. Regarding posture and balance, for example. About how to sit and being supple and flexible. It's about making it harder for your adversary to knock you off your horse!

Things like "...the brilliant horse must be the agent of his own graceful motion ...", "Beauty of motion depends upon the mover initiating the motion willingly ..." and " of little annoyance to the horse as possible..." are philosophical things riders should think about. Often. I've always thought handling a horse was a lot like dancing when you get it right. I'm an awful dancer.

Of course I always finish a good ride with a beer. Good rides only. I can't remember the last time I had a bad ride. Although I have had plenty. It's a personal tradition. I'll explain that one of these days. I have a story for almost everything.

I'll confess I was a little disappointed with this.

It seemed the thing to have this time of year. I don't know what I was expecting, it wasn't bad by any means but it just ... didn't work for me. Of course I have 5 more to ponder so I might change my mind too.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Typical Friday night

Starts with antipasto:

It varies a lot. Always has olives. I love olives. Always has salami. Almost always has marinated mushrooms. I'm working on the marinated mushrooms. Those were pretty good but not the best I ever made. As soon as I perfect those I'll post a recipe!

Sometimes I have some pickles. Sometimes I have some roasted peppers. I usually have some bread.

I'll sip wine and munch on all that while I cook.

I lost a ton of weight. I didn't diet. I completely changed the way I ate. But when I did that I made a deal with myself. On Friday night I can eat as much of anything I want. Period. For a long time it was chips and Oreos. And ice cream.

But often times I felt like crap when I got up on Saturday morning. So last Spring I compromised. Rather than chips and Oreos I'll just be more sensible. I'll fix things I wouldn't normally have. But the deal stays the same. So. Radishes and butter? Yes of course!

While I was munching and cooking I noticed this!

Ok I didn't quite get what I wanted there. It was getting dark. Those ripples - I have otters outside! Really. That pond outside my window is the Charles River. The headwaters are just a few miles away. The Charles River is filthy. The water is like tea. But that's from all the rotting organic matter in it - mostly leaves. The fact is the Charles River is chemically clean and most people don't know that. But this is proof. Otters require extremely clean water to survive. They've been here for years now and I usually see them 3 or 4 times a year.

It's all about the clams!

I don't see any reason at all why I can't make my own stuffed quahogs. Those of you that aren't New Englanders - that's a big stuffed clam. Pronounced "co-hawg". But the last time I tried was a complete and total disaster. Oh I had the bright idea I'd chop up some preserved lemon and add it to the mix and I'd add some thyme and I'd do this and I'd do that and well, I couldn't even eat them they were so bad. The lemon really clashed with the clam. Who would have thought. And I didn't use enough broth and they dried out too much in the oven.

I remembered a lesson I learned making clam chowder. It's all about the clams! Duh!

I finally got it right.

This will serve 2.

Take maybe a half cup of bread crumbs, use homemade bread crumbs, add a pinch of salt and mix with 1/4 cup of finely chopped celery, a tablespoon onion powder and 8 oz. of chopped (cooked) clams. Add a little parsley. Mix in a tablespoon of melted butter and 1/4 cup or so of clam broth. Mix it good and pack it into some clam shells.

Add a little bit of dry bread crumbs on top of the mix - the dry bread crumbs will get toasty and brown.

Put them in a pre-heated 425 degree oven for 12 to 15 minutes. The clams are cooked, you just want to heat them up and get the flavors working together.

When they come out put some paprika and fresh parsley on top.


Now, what does really good ravioli look like?

No no. It looks like this! Ravioli in brown butter. With crushed red pepper and sage. Yummy! Have some fresh grated parmesan over it.

Edited Oct. 30: Of course there's garlic in that brown butter!

Grappa is the perfect dessert!

I really look forward to Friday night.

Saturday, October 16, 2010 an Artiste!

I love this picture:

It speaks volumes to me. On the one hand it is truly mundane. I was just walking by this house one afternoon. But it's bold. I think it's inviting and stark at the same time. I think it has some shape and interest. I think one can plainly see it's a well kept little house and it engages the mind a little.

Walking L is one of my most favorite things in all the world. And ...oh, I think it was last May sometime I got to thinking gee, I can walk without a horse. Funny how that thought just never occurred to me before! So one day, after work, I went home and took a walk. I've lived here for over 20 years and I never walked further than the mailbox!

I live in a village. No really, it's a village. The building I live in is in the National Register and anchors an Historic District on a designated Scenic Road. What I mean here is I live in a charming little neighborhood.

Something I noticed that I enjoyed during my walk - it was late Spring and as I walked I noticed things I just hadn't paid much attention to before. Oh it looked like Spring but more than that, it "felt" like Spring. In every way. It sounded like Spring and it smelled like Spring.

Sometime later as the 4th of July approached I walk by this house here:

Like I said, charming little neighborhood. Of course I'd noticed this house before, but walking by I was really struck by the way it spoke. I think it has Americana written all over it.

There are all kinds of cute little well kept houses around here.

And I can almost hear the crickets in the grass looking at this picture:

I think between digital imagery and the internets and things like blogs this has to be one of the most well documented periods in the history of humankind. For all I know my silly pictures of daily life will be my sole legacy and most significant achievement in the grander scheme.

Sunday, October 10, 2010


L has just beautiful dapples this year!

Rolling is still one of her most favorite things. So that nice shiny butt didn't last long!

Those dark smudgy spots she has. Did you know they have a name? I guess just about everything has a name. Those are called Bend-Or spots.

We had our first frost last night. It wasn't a hard frost but still, good thing I harvested my cucumbers!

Stop laughing. Those really are cucumbers! Aw, there's always next year. They were actually pretty good.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Who picked whom? Part 2.

Did I mention what a dreary day it was? Here, a rest stop in New Hampshire on the way to Quebec. It was foggy, it was cold and it was either raining or misting all day.

But Vermont is always pretty and we packed Dorito's and vegetables and dip for the trip.

Go back and read part 1.

I wasn't there shopping. I was just hanging out. Normand Litjens has a beautiful Canadian Horse farm with lovely stock. Nice people too. We'd arrived around noon, a little earlier than expected. Normand had a bunch of yearlings and two year olds in his barn for my friend M to see. I don't know how many he'd brought in, but there were quite a few. Only two of them were chestnuts. My friend M and our trainer were looking at horses and I wandered around the barn a bit just looking at horse butts. I scanned the lines one way, then the other, and something made me stop.

Cue the singing angels.

I saw this one chestnut filly with her face in a pile of hay and all I can think of is the phrase "whoa, do you see what I see?". That was it. I didn't see a single other horse.

I asked Normand to bring this horse out for me to get a better look.

I had made a third lap around her before M and our trainer even noticed "something was going on". I was just being formal. I'd made my mind up. I found myself a horse. This filly looked over her shoulder at me with this "oh you think so huh?" look on her face and that was it.

I had Normand turn her loose in the yard and my trainer came over, looked at the horse, looked at me, looked at the horse, looked at me and kind of said "uh-oh" to herself. She was thinking there better be nothing wrong with this horse.

She looked her over and we turned her loose in one of the bigger pastures with one of her little herdmates.

Nope, nothing wrong with that horse.

Yes, I'll take that one thanks.

Early on it was clear. Rolling is one of her most favorite things.

We brought both of those fillies home. L, the chestnut and my friend M brought home her little black herdmate, M. M was a yearling.

It was gonna take a month or so to process the paperwork and bring them across the border. Much to everyone's surprise I had myself a horse. To this day we don't really if I picked the horse or the horse picked me. Everyone on the property was slack jawed when they saw we had this electric thing going on.

I really had no idea what was in store for me!

L has beautiful blood lines. Here's her sire Nava. He'd just take your breath away.

L comes from the LG Royal bloodline through Nava. While I don't know very much about it I think her dam has some really interesting bloodlines. Her dam's bloodlines include some Brio from which has come some beautiful beasts. L is definitely the "Little Iron Horse" type of Canadian Horse. Probably gets that as much from her dam as her sire.

And she's everything a Canadian Horse is supposed to be. I'm not always sure it started out that way. Oh, I suppose it did. She was pretty sensible 3 year old.

Edit 19 Dec 2010 to add: Let the Training Begin.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Salt 101

October means comfort food season is coming. Here's some New England fish chowder. I've been craving this for weeks now!

And if you want to learn to use salt well, make some soup! Or chowder.

New England fish chowder is peasant food. I love peasant food. You take what you have and work with it. I really like Yukon Gold potatoes in my chowder. I forgot to get them. So I used a couple of Russets. I really like fish stock for fish chowder. I couldn't find any. So I used some clam broth. And then I screwed up! I'd already put in some dried thyme when I remembered I wanted to try some Herbs de Provence in my next chowder. So I used some Herbs de Provence anyway.

It was *delicious*.

  • One tablespoon butter
  • Finely chopped celery, about 1/3 of a cup
  • Sliced onions, about 1/3 of a cup. Slice them and just cut the slices in half.
  • One half cup white wine. Whatever you're drinking. You can skip this if you want.
  • Two potatoes, pretty much any kind, I like Yukon Gold
  • One or two cups of fish stock. You can use clam broth
  • One pound of white fish - cod or haddock
  • One cup of milk. You can use half and half, light cream or even heavy cream. If it were heavy cream I'd use a half cup.
  • One teaspoon of dried thyme or one tablespoon of chopped fresh thyme
  • A bay leaf
  • Maybe...some salt
Sweat the chopped celery and onions in the butter in a sauce pan for oh, 7 or 8 minutes, until they're soft. Raise the heat and add the wine and your herbs and bay leaf. You can skip the wine if you want. If you use wine, reduce by half. You can use dry vermouth too. Peel and chop the potatoes into 1 inch cubes, add to the pot with the fish stock. Gently boil for maybe 8 minutes. Add the milk or cream. If you use milk or half and half or light cream DO NOT LET IT BOIL. It will separate and curdle if it boils. Now, take your fish, sliced into 1 or 2 inch strips, add it to the pot and let it poach for 10 minutes or so.

Taste it. If it needs salt, add a tiny pinch of salt and taste it. Keep doing this until it's right.

Have a nice loaf of rustic bread with it.

Now, what was that about salt?

I used clam broth. I hardly ever use salt when I use clam broth. But for some reason this time, I tasted my chowder and ... it was flat! I added a pinch of salt. Flat. Pinch of salt. Flat. I must have done this 6 or 8 times when all of a more pinch chowder was bursting with flavor. Salt really is the most amazing thing. I have a favorite lentil soup which, when I use homemade chicken stock, I have the same thing happen. It's just flat and boring until I get the salt just right and it's that one pinch that puts it over.

It's so striking that I think I've learned about seasoning in general by making soups and chowders more than by any other means.

There's nothing fussy about this recipe. You can make it countless ways and there's a lot of latitude. Put some olive oil in with your butter. But I wouldn't use salmon or bluefish. Or swordfish. But ...Red Bliss potatoes? Sure. Tilapia? Sure. If it goes for 15 minutes instead of 10? No big deal. Use whatever herbs you like. I just like thyme.
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