Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Spamology, Gu'f Coast Style

Last Saturday a Spam™ quiche won top prize at the 9th annual Cedar Key, FL Eagles’ Club Spam cook-off. The creator of the winning concoction, Jimmy Wells, also won last year’s competition with his recipe for mushroom caps stuffed with the legendary Hormel product purportedly made from ham and pork shoulder (mostly).

Spam turnovers and a Spam casserole took this year’s 2nd and 3rd place honors. There were no dessert entries this year, which is probably a Good Thing.

This particular contest has one odd rule governing entries: Creators may not pre-test their recipes nor sample the finished dishes before submittal to the contest.

Wonderful Spam, Wonderful Spam.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Orange Finally Official Florida State Fruit!

Governor Jeb Bush finally signed a law most will not dispute. The orange is now the official State Fruit of Florida.

Oranges used to be farmed commercially here in north central Florida. Devastating freezes during the past century have convinced growers that they'd better not stray too far north of say, Frostproof. Which, incidentally, isn't immune from frost. Follow the previous link to read about how the hamlet received its unusual name.

Today's Flowers

Some blooming/fruiting plants I saw today at the staff retreat:

Orange Milkwort - pond and wetland margins - blooming.
Titi/Leatherwood - swamp and wetland margins -blooming.
Fetterbush - wet woods adjacent to swamplands - fruiting.
Swamp Tupelo - within and immediate to swamplands - fruiting.
Shiny Blueberry - controlled burn-managed pine flatwoods - fruiting.
Wax Myrtle/Bayberry - dry catkins on recently bloomed male plants.

Staff Retreat Friday

The whole Growth Management Department participated in a staff retreat today. A break from answering phones, doing inspections, and reviewing development plans in order to get inspired and envision how to provide better service to the citizens of the County. The retreat was held at the nice facilities of the University of Florida's Austin Cary Forest, nestled within a giant well-managed and intensively studied longleaf and slash pine flatwoods system.

First observation, upon arriving: Two 2-3 year-old alligators sunning on the bank of Lake Mize next to the conference center's observation deck, and two adults cruising the dark waters of the lake (pond, really).

There is a walking trail around the lake with native trees planted and/or identified by permanent markers. During the lunch break several of us collected numerous wood ticks on our clothing and persons as we wandered among the trees looking at trees and toads, jabbering about local ecology, and telling stories from our college botany, wildlife, and forestry courses.

Part of the day's proceedings included watching brief DVD snippets of Steven R. Covey's The Eighth Habit, which our county management staff are studying at the behest of the county manager. Well, my Secret Of The Day is that in the early 80's, I sat in on a whole semester organizational behavior course at Brigham Young that was taught by Covey himself, and that I've sort of followed his evolution and trajectory from the early sort-of Mormon publication of the book The Spiritual Roots of Human Relations; his 1980's stint at the helm of Eagle Marketing; his growth days as a business organization and communications consultant; publication of The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People; to finally, his Franklin-Covey company jugernaut of business efficiency/organization/motivation products.

I must say that Steven R. Covey has hewn close to his roots and principles and original message all these years. His presentation has changed with the times and his focus and expertise have expanded exponentially, yet his message pretty much has stayed the same. He ennunciated a good thing long ago, has built upon it, and has run with it all the way to the bank. It was a pleasure for this displaced Idahoan to hear that familiar California/Utah Mormon accent (listen to his R's sometime) way out here in sunny Florida.

But I'm not a business-is-everything, motivation sort of work drone, and I can take or leave all of that stuff in less than a heartbeat. [Shhhhh....Don't tell my bosses, I've put in for a new position and raise that would land me in that realm where that sort of thing IS everything.]

Ladies Tresses Orchid

I chanced upon a wild orchid yesterday: Spriranthes praecox, Grass-leaved Ladies Tresses. I was walking through an old pasture near the Santa Fe River in Alachua County and found 2 flowering individuals. Had I not been pressed to leave for a meeting in Gainesville I would have explored for more.

Thats the way life's little treasures are sometimes. You get to enjoy them for the briefest of moments, and then you must part with them, only to hold them forever after in your memory because your camera now lives on the backseat floorboards of your wife's automobile.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Kites and Kingbirds

Over the past couple of weeks I've sighted two recent Spring arrivals to north central Florida's bird population: the Mississippi Kite and the Eastern Kingbird. Both of these birds winter in South America. My my, what a journey.

I've observed the kites winging over pastures bordered by woodlands near Evinston, Florida, presumably in search of dragonflies, which the kites take on the wing. Great descriptions, data, and photos of Mississippi kites can be found at the following sites: The Peregrine Fund; The Hawk Conservancy Trust; and the Florida Breeding Bird Atlas. A pair of Mississippi kites have nested for the past couple of seasons at the Micanopy home of my fiddler friend and fellow antique corkscrew collector Tom S.

Eastern Kingbirds that I've observed have replaced the visiting Fall/Winter Eastern Phoebes common to fence wires, powerlines, and outer branches of pasture trees. The latter birds, with their distinctive phee-bee calls have migrated north for the Summer. Kingbirds don't mess around - they nest within a couple of weeks of their arrival, and they'll challenge just about any hawk, crow or jay that dares invade their nesting territory. This pugnacity is apropos of their scientific name: Tyrannus tyrannus. I've yet to see the infrequently observed orange crown patch/stripe of this species. Both kingbirds and phoebes are classified among the tyrant flycatchers.

The eastern phoebe was, incidentally, probably the first bird species to be banded. In 1840 none other than Audubon himself tied a silver wire to the legs of some nestling phoebes and observed one of his marked birds nesting in the same vicinity a year later, proving that birds migrate and return to the place of their birth to nest as adults.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Eat More Broccoli....Sprouts

If you haven’t eaten broccoli lately, its time to start. This article at The World’s Healthiest Foods convinced me that I need to eat this vegetable more often. Sulphoraphane, one of several important phytochemicals found in broccoli, is a strong anti-cancer and anti-tumor agent that also boosts the liver’s detoxification enzymes.

I’ve noticed broccoli sprouts next to the alfalfa sprouts at my grocer’s lately. A recent study has shown that 3-day old broccoli sprouts have
20-50 times more sulphoraphane than mature plants.

Next time I prepare my rocket salad, I’m going to toss in some broccoli sprouts.

Who Owns This Peacock?

This past weekend, I'm laying in bed, half-asleep and half-aware of the night sounds seeping in through the open window above the bed. I hear this bird call that doesn't quite register the first time. The second time the bird calls I struggle from the grogginess of sleep and the first thought in my mind is "old black-and-white Tarzan movies". The third time the bird calls I think to myself, "peacock, somewhere between this place and the shore of Orange Lake."

Yesterday afternoon, as I picked up my mail from the historic Evinston post office/general store, I asked my neighbor/store proprietor, 7-decade Evinston resident and local historian/community fixture, Freddy Wood, "Do you folks have a peacock?" He replied, "No, but I hear one early every morning when I'm picking my peaches as the sun comes up."

I said, "Maybe there's a wild one out there running with the turkeys." He said, "I saw 2 turkeys down there early yesterday morning." "Down there" meaning at the end of the 2-rut sand road that runs a hundred yards past our driveway and ends at a gate separating a few hundred acres of fenced lakeshore pastures and woods from the rest of the land adjacent to the paved county road and former railroad right-of-way. Freddy farms a couple of acres there.

Freddy then went on to say that about 5 years ago an acquaintance in Cross Creek, across Orange Lake from Evinston, had a flock of peacocks that up and disappeared, never to be seen again.

So the mystery remains. Who owns this vocal peacock, that Freddy and I have been hearing lately?

Getting Stewed, Evinston Style

Dinner last night: Stewed tomato, okra, onion and green pepper, ladled over steamed white rice. All but the tomato fresh from Freddy Wood's vegetable farm in Evinston. Oregano and rosemary, recently harvested from nursery friends Bill and Beebee, also from Evinston. Basil - well, grocery store purchased. You just can't beat fresh. I repeat, you just can't beat fresh.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

In Praise of Walking

Book Review: In Praise of Walking. Essays by Hazlitt, Stevenson & Thoreau

WestPort, Connecticut, The Redcoat Press. 1942. vii[i], 48[2] pp. Colophon: #108 of 210 copies. 12mo. Dull green cloth, 7 illustrations after Thomas Bewick woodcuts. Includes (loose) the 4-page printer's advertisement (title page and foreword) announcing the book's availability "In time for Christmas!" at $1.75.

I paid $3.50 for the book, double the original 1942 price. Abebooks presently lists 4 copies for sale around the country, ranging from $25-50. None of these listings mentions the printer's advert.

I chanced upon this book at an antique store in McIntosh, FL this past weekend and have gotten halfway through it in just one sitting. A brief quote from the foreword indicates the tone of the delightful essays:
"The road he travels, the fields he saunters over, the spring of water that refreshes him, the distant hills he looks upon, the bypath that tempts him to some never-before-seen spot, the smell of hay in the field, -- all these linger with him as permanent possessions in a way and to a degree no other kind of travel can bring to pass."
I thoroughly enjoy the essays presented in this book, both as examples of fine writing, and as impassioned musings upon the delights of contemplation at the slow pace walking provides.

The Clog-wife and I have done a fair bit of extremely enjoyable walking of the sort praised in this book. My personal accounts of some of these 8-11 mile rambles in the north central Florida countryside can be found here.

Monday, May 16, 2005

World Jump Day: Jump On This

The Clog Almanac is pleased to post this very early reminder that July 20, 2006 is World Jump Day.

The idea being that, if 600,000,000 people in the western hemisphere jump into the air at exactly the same time, the Earth's orbit will change sufficiently to solve all sorts of imbalances, global warming in particular.

So far, 143,405,786 jumpers-to-be have registered.
[Hat-tip to Steph Mineart at A Commonplace Book]

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Lovely Day For Potatoes

For once I had a relatively leisure Saturday. The Clog-wife had a series of dance lessons and was away until late afternoon. I indulged myself in a spate of the most manly of weekend activities, puttering around, interupted by brief flurries of activity involving playing my piano, practicing Morris Dance whistle tunes I'm to play at the Florida Folk Festival, and cooking.

The Clog-wife is tired and hungry after a day of dance teaching and practice, and I try to have a nice hot meal waiting for her. So early on I made potato soup in the crock-pot. This time I used yellow "creamer" spuds and finely diced purple onions from Freddy Wood's onion patch. I finished the soup by stirring in a chunk of butter, splash of milk, dash of dry basil, and grated parmesan cheese.

I must say I prefer the flavor and texture of good old russet bakers over any other variety, in just about any recipe. Thats what comes from growing up in Idaho, where the russet is king. Come to think of it, until I was about 20 years old I thought red potatoes were quite inferior alien life forms placed on earth to confuse the non-Idahoan population. Since then, I've come to appreciate the value of differences, even in potatoes, and have eaten red ones, yellow ones, and even tiny black and purple ones carried to the US by a Peruvian friend.

Here in Evinston, when you say "potatoes" you really mean southern "red potatoes." If you mean traditional russet or baking potatoes, you say "arsh potatoes". One last word: please remove the skins from your red potatoes before you cook them. The skins are very bitter and can't be chewed up, comminuted, or otherwise masticated as easily as russet skins.

The meal of potato soup and To the Moon Rocket Salad (this time with black olives too) hit the spot for me. Afterwards Clog-wife and I rode our bicycles to a little town south of us called McIntosh and back. The bobwhites were just starting in with their distinctive calls, and the sun was slipping behind the oak trees.

We finished the evening enjoying the Bette Midler remake of "Gypsy". Two comments on the movie: (1.) I kept waiting for the blonde daughter to waltz back in at the end and wreck everything for everybody, but she didn't. (2.) For the life of me I couldn't help laughing and imagining Martin Short singing in his Ethyl Merman voice every time Midler blasted out the
"I Had a Dream!" theme. Now I'm keen to watch some films featuring Martin Short.

[4:48 Three revisions and two dictionary checks later (Chambers's Twentieth Century Dictionary and Funk & Wagnalls Standard Desk Dictionary), and I think I've finally gotten the spelling of potatoes correct. The Clog Almanac apologizes deeply for these Dan Quayle-esque spelling blunders.]

Friday, May 13, 2005

Friday Recipe Blog: To The Moon Rocket Salad

To a salad bowl of young arugula leaves add:
1C each tiny cherry tomatoes and diced cucumber
1/2C purple onions sliced shoestring-style.

I tossed these ingredients with a little fresh cracked pepper, the juice of ½ a small lemon, and a very nice creamy cucumber/garlic specialty dressing that is bottled for the Pearl Store in Micanopy FL.

I really love the smoky, peppery flavor of arugula, otherwise known as rocket or rucola. It is a hardy Spring/early Summer herb in the mustard family and grows from seed to harvest in about 50 days. You've tasted it if you've eaten baby greens salads (mesclun) at restaurants, or from cello packages sold by grocers.

I strongly urge my brothers to plant some out in their gardens this year. Arugula has only about 1 calorie per cup of leaves, and it is a good source of vitamin C.

Try these salad combinations with a vinaigrette dressing: crispy bacon, avocado and arugula; grilled shrimp, mango and arugula; previously cooked and drained red, white or garbanzo beans, arugula, and toasted slivered almonds. Serve a grilled fish filet on a bed of fresh arugula leaves and drizzle with lemon juice. You will in nowise be disappointed.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

The Answer Is "33" - And Thanks For All The Fish

Reuters reports today that up 5% of commercially farmed salmon in Norway are deformed in one way or another. Just your usual unsightly physical defects like curved spines, jaws that won't close, or no gills. No, this is not a review of a Frankenfish scene from "The Simpsons". The deformities have been blamed as the result of a variety of benign causes that don't affect the food value of the *product*.

However, more and more studies are showing that farmed salmon have higher levels of toxic contaminants than do their wild counterparts, PCBs in particular. Two studies have even shown that commercial feed is one very likely culprit. There are concerns that the chemicals in the feed may adversely impact fisheries and local waters far beyond the commercial netcage operations, including streams and lakes to which fish that have consumed the commercial feed migrate.

Environmental concerns about farmed salmon also include the introductions of escaped exotic salmonid species into native habitats, and the transfer of diseases and parasites from densely farmed fish to migratory wild stocks. The latter is a nicely-contrasted real-world example of the old density-dependent-factors meme familiar to ecologists and disease pathologists.

The Fanatic Cook asks:
"How about some antibiotics, pesticides, PCB's and artificial color with that salmon?"
Then the cook shows us an example of the SalmoFan(tm) color wheel that lets commercial farmed salmon producers pick the correct dye color to stain their fish with, according to what consumers perceive as "good". The dyes are petrochemical derivatives manufactured by chemical/pharmaceutical giant Hoffman-La Roche. So focus a hairy eyeball upon, or, tip your hat to Hoffman-La Roche when you admire the palatable-looking hue of that salmon filet or steak labled by your grocer as "farm-raised".

Oh, and, the artificial color of the fish you purchased is likely color #33 on the SalmoFan(tm) spectrum, since that color is the one focus groups selected 2:1 over other artificial shades.

In the end, the answer to life, the universe, and everything else may be "What color would that be called in the interior/exterior house paint pallet", and, "Would it taste as good as a nice wild salmon filet?"

Monday, May 09, 2005

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Bicycling Florida Backroads

Lovely Spring days like today are perfect for riding a bicycle in north central Florida. The Clog-wife and I attended the Mothers' Day service at the historic Evinston United Methodist church just up the hill from our home - a beautiful turn-of-the- (past) century white clapboard, bell and belfry church constructed entirely of longleaf pine.

Afterwards we grabbed the bicycles and headed off on through the canopied dirt/limerock backroads that lead to
Micanopy. The Old Florida Cafe is exactly 4 miles from our doorstep. We luncheoned there, as we always do on our little walking/riding treks to that quaint and historic village. Stopped at friend Larry Robert's antique store and visited on the lawn with him about antiques and personal collections. Browsed the old and used books at O. Brisky's antiquarian bookstore - Clog-wife purchased a guide to mounting dance productions, and two more books to feed her passion about the history of the British monarchy.

Content with the sunshine, the breeze, the conversations, and, old book lover that I am, the smell of many of
Mr. Brisky's 40,000 old books, I purchased nothing but our lunches. Round trip from Evinston - Micanopy - Evinston: 8 miles.

Yet, I do declare, Clog-wife is learning lessons about queening from reading all those books, and has been practicing them on me and her son. We generally maintain our good humor in this regard, and still feel like we're not on the outs, and, er, are still regarded as her princes, more or less.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

A True Morris-Man

This past week marked my first visit to the Greenwood Morris practice, to learn some Morris tunes on the tin whistle in preparation for accompanying "the side" in its performances at the 53rd annual Florida Folk Festival later this month.

Before long they'll get me dancing, and I'll be on my way to becoming a true Morris-man.
"When he is dancing, the true Morris-man is serious of countenance, yet gay of heart; vigorous, yet restrained; a strong man rejoicing in his strength, yet graceful, controlled, and perfectly dignified withal." -- Cecil Sharp
Truth be told, I can't wait. I'm a pushover for tradition, and Morris dancing goes back centuries. Neither I nor the Clog-wife are strangers to dancing. She, Irish, Appalachian clogging, contra, and Morris dancing; I, contra, Appalachian clogging, and soon, Morris. And we're both learning some basic Cape Breton strathspey stepdance figures to perform in the Fall at another venue.

Here is a lengthy article documenting 150 years of Morris fiddlers and dancers in Bampton, England, ancient Oxfordshire home of some of the dances that are performed by Greenwood Morris of Gainesville, Fl. Very old photographs of Morris dancers and numerous footnoted references are highlights of this article.

There are Morris sides practicing and performing all over the globe.

Friday, May 06, 2005

No Break In This Gas Line

The "Gate" gas station/convenience store on NW 13th Street in Gainesville, Florida dropped the price of 87 octane unleaded gasoline to $2.01/gallon this morning, undercutting local competitors by up to $0.30/gallon. Lines of Smiling Happy People crowded the block all day. Lucky SUV owners swamped the station to save several dollars on their prepare-for-the-weekend fill-up.

This particular station typically sells its gas for a few cents less than other Gainesville stations, and is well-known among locals. The Jacksonville, FL owner of the station
was not available for comment. We'll watch what happens to petrol prices in this area in the next day or two and report whether it was a stunt or a trend-setting move.

Note to gasoline retailers nationwide: Summon your honesty and tell us all, why don't you do the same?

Briefly Noted

May 6, 2005 is International No Pants Day.
(Hat-tip to Chaz at Dustbury.com)

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Let Them Eat Salami

Here’s a human interest story you can sink your teeth into. US troops stationed in Iraq are to receive 23,000 salamis from a pair of brothers who run Hobby’s Deli in Newark. The two have dubbed their idea “Operation Salami Drop”.

Money quotes from the two brothers:
“You have to do something. I can do salamis.” -- Marc Brummer
“Once they dry, they’ll be digging them up like they dig up dinosaur bones. That’s what makes them so great” – Michael Brummer
There is no connection to Alawi Salah al-Salami, current deputy prime minister of Yemen.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Field of Illusions

Driving by the llama field at mid-day I spotted the head and neck silhouettes of several llamas laying in the tall grass in the dark shade beneath the scattered oak trees. It was very easy to imagine they were elk bedded down for the day along the Firehole River in Yellowstone Nat’l Park.

I’ve had the West on my mind today, since this day the Clog-wife will purchase airline tickets for the trip to Idaho in July. The Call clan will meet in the mountains just west of Jackson, Wyoming for the big family reunion that occurs once every three years.

Next, I’ll be imagining cutthroat trout rising in the alligator swamps.

By the by, I've taken pan-sized trout on a fly from the Firehole near the thermal area, and have picked and eaten handfulls of wild strawberries there as well. Here are 2 hooks I mean links for the fisherfolk:

Fishing the Firehole, with *Engrish* commentary.
Firehole River fishing guide for the serious fisherfolk.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Back ToThe Good Old Days

Spring Satudays were made for this: riding a bicycle through the quiet streets of small-town America (Micanopy, FL), stopping at the town ball park to watch Little Leaguers play baseball and to enjoy a booster-club hamburger, browsing the antique shops, then lunching outdoors bistro-style at a distinctive cafe in a unique setting.

Saturday evening's fun at a friends' irish music session/birthday party was flavored and cut short by the sort of turmoil that only a teenager can so masterfully engineer. The Clog-wife and I left the party early and returned home in a rainstorm to find that the electricity was out. No lights and no water, again.

No problem. Since last years' hurricanes we have an ample supply of candles and fire-making implements. Clog-wife and I salvaged the balance of the evening by a return to the good old days before electricity, sitting at my piano and singing irish balads by candlelight. Just the sort of old-fashioned enjoyment that brings loved ones together and that reminds us of what we miss in today's world of video games and dumb reruns on the boob-tube.

We actually interacted, and even conversed with one another between songs. Amazing, really. You ought to try it some time.