You can contact me at jmlabeckjr@optimum.net - Please support this blog, either by visiting the ads, or making a donation. Thank you.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Things I Miss (Part I)

One thing that has changed this year is that I am finally coming to accept myself as disabled. I think that's a plus. It relaxes some turmoil in my brain, and allows me to see myself for what I really am. Also, I can let go of the things I can no longer do, and find new roads to follow.

I was prodded to write about the things that were no longer part of my life. Why did they matter? Why does it matter that they"re gone?

My 64th birthday is 9/11/17. From high school to the turn of the century, I enjoyed bowling, both alone, and as part of a team. The competition was only partially against the opposing team. Part of it was against the pins, the lane, my last game.

I enjoyed the competition, especially in close games, where every frame, every ball, could change the course of the match. If you have never gone through the experience, the feeling if very difficult to describe. I really enjoyed being a teammate you could depend on. I would get up for my turn, and get told, "Joe, we need this strike (spare, pin)." Being the person a match could turn on was a feeling I will always treasure.

There are sounds and feelings that will always stay with me. There's the soft "thunk" when you lay the ball perfectly on the lane, the sound of the ball as it rolls and spins its way to the pins. When the ball hits the pins, right in the 1-3 pocket, there's a sound that I remember fondly, but can't really describe. All the pins hitting each other, and falling down, in a fraction of a second, is a great sporting moment, and one I'm glad I got to experience.

Was I a great bowler? Not even close. There were many many others, much better than I. I'm very happy to say that, at times, I was pretty good. It's now part of my past, my memories. But, they're good memories, and ones that will always make me smile.

For my next installment, I want to write about the outdoors. There are a whole bunch of activities that are now beyond my capabilities.

Friday, August 25, 2017

A Tarot Journey





Since the late 80's, I've read Tarot cards for friends and acquaintances. For the last few years, I've tried to turn this hobby into an income producer, with mixed results. The above two pictures are my latest attempt.

I'm going to give free readings to all comers, for two hours on the second Tuesday of each month, to publicize my website. If you find yourself in the area on that day, stop by. It's 935 Buckingham St, Watertown, CT 06795, from 11 am to 1 pm, on the second Tue. of each month, in our community room.

If you can't make it, but know someone who can, forward this article to them. And, wish me luck.

Friday, August 11, 2017

A New Truth

I almost posted this on Facebook. I probably would have reached a wider audience. But, I think this is more important than how many eyeballs see it in the first few days.

I just watched a piece on CNN called "Why Trump Won". I was surprised how incisive and non-judgmental it was. The program postulated that Trump tapped into a deep sense of dis-satisfaction about the direction this country is taking. He won a narrow victory, but it was a victory. He won, and is the President.

Someone who wants to win subsequent elections, by bigger margins, must find a way to bridge these gaps. This person (whoever he or she may be) needs to make us realize that we all share the same heritage of freedom and liberty. It shouldn't matter if you make $1500 a month (like me) or whatever your average ball player or movie star pulls down.

Under the law, we should all be equal. Mitch McConnell, Chuck Schumer, Donald Trump, You, and Me, should all be the same. Rich, poor, black, white, Asian, hetero, LGBT, and anyone I forgot should all be equal.

To me, that's what America has always been about. We'll probably never actually get there, but we should always try, always strive, to be what Reagan called "that bright shining city on a hill".

That was the America I used to (and still do) pledge allegiance to, the one my son fought for (twice).

I'm on the opposite side of the political spectrum from many of you - maybe most of you. Believe it or not, you are on my friends list for a reason. You, and your opinions, have value. Whether you supported Trump, Clinton, Johnson, or Woody Woodpecker.

Please, let's stop calling each other names, and try to find a way to work together.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

WHAT THE HELL IS KOHLRABI?




I’ve been gardening for a long time (since I had brown hair, about 25 years ago). I’d like to think I learned a couple of things. Something always does well, and something always fails. Every year brings something new to try.

I’ve grown lettuce every year, and it has never failed for me, until this year. After re-planting several times, I looked at the empty pot and thought, “Maybe it’s time to try something new”.

I visited my friend Mark Woronek (Mark’s Garden & Gifts, 1115 Main St, Watertown, CT) and asked his advice on something new to try. I gave him some ideas, and he quickly returned with some kohlrabi plants. He asked me to try them, and document my experiences. That’s what this is.

This is the start of Wikipedia’s listing for kohlrabi. If you want to read the whole article, go to wikipedia.com and search for kohlrabi.


Kohlrabi


Kohlrabi (German turnip or turnip cabbage; Brassica oleracea Gongylodes Group) is a biennial vegetable, and is a low, stout cultivar of cabbage. Kohlrabi can be eaten raw as well as cooked. Edible preparations are made with both the stem and the leaves.

    Etymology

    The name comes from the German Kohl ("cabbage") plus RĂ¼be ~ Rabi (Swiss German variant) ("turnip"), because the swollen stem resembles the latter.[1] Kohlrabi is a commonly eaten vegetable in German-speaking countries, but is also very popular in the northern part of Vietnam where it is called 'su hao',[2] and in eastern parts of India (West Bengal) and Bangladesh where it is called 'Ol Kopi'.[3][4] It is also found in the Kashmir valley in north India and is there known as 'Monj-hakh',[5] 'monj' being the round part, and 'hakh' being the leafy part. This vegetable is called 'Nol Khol' in the north of India,[6] and in Ceylon as 'Nol col' (the Turnip Cabbage).[7]

    Description

    Kohlrabi has been created by artificial selection for lateral meristem growth (a swollen, nearly spherical shape); its origin in nature is the same as that of cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, collard greens, and Brussels sprouts: they are all bred from, and are the same species as, the wild cabbage plant (Brassica oleracea).
    The taste and texture of kohlrabi are similar to those of a broccoli stem or cabbage heart, but milder and sweeter, with a higher ratio of flesh to skin. The young stem in particular can be as crisp and juicy as an apple, although much less sweet.






Newly Planted


The printed instructions said to plant kohlrabi about 1 foot apart. However, I know that since you control the entire environment in a pot, you can squeeze your plants just a bit. You just have to be sure They have enough water, food, and sunlight. If you’re planting in pots, like me, you can use any good potting soil. Just remember they will depend on you for food and water. I like the water-soluble plant food, so I can water  and feed at the same time. You can make your own choice.

When planting in a garden, I would recommend adding some compost, without question. It improves the soil structure, and provides added nutrients. Don’t work any harder than you have to. Just put a layer on top of your garden soil. So, they’re planted in their pot, with a bottle of water, with dissolved plant food. They seem happy.

In the photo above, front to back, is, string beans, kohlrabi, bell peppers, tomatoes, and zucchini.








1 WEEK


After the first week, they’ve started to grow very nicely. Leaves have filled in and strengthened, and I can see new growth.

I’ve noticed they’re quite thirsty, needing a full bottle of water about every 3 days. If you’re using a watering can, be sure to check daily. Don’t let the soil dry out, but don’t get it muddy.

























2 WEEKS


Foliage has really filled out nicely. I can see some definite thickening of the stem. I can only assume this is the beginning of the bulb. Time will tell if I’m right.

The leaves, in texture and thickness, remind me a bit of cabbage. Understandable, since they are the same family. I was excited to find that the entire plant is usable (I hate waste)







Four Weeks


As you can see, I was right. This is a definite bulb forming. I also observed what may be a potential pest problem. I spotted two white cabbage moths fluttering about the plants. I have no idea as to their egg-laying habits. I’ll just have to keep an eye on them, and watch for cabbage worms. I’ve seen them before, so recognizing them won’t be a problem.

I guess now I just wait ‘till they get big enough.



























Six Weeks


Those bulbs are getting big!. According to what I’ve read, kohlrabi is harvested when the bulb is between 2.25 and 4 inches in diameter. So, I think I could actually take them now. But, I’ll wait a bit. Since I only have a few plants, I want to maximize my harvest. I plan to package and freeze each plant separately, greens and bulb together.

No cabbage worms, yet. Is it really possible I dodged a bullet? We’ll see!

Now, if I’m right, I’ll be harvesting before my next update. When I do, I promise to document the process.
























The Harvest


The cabbage worms did, in fact, appear. I lost some of the foliage to the little varmints. But, now I know. If I see the moths, the bugs will follow. I just have to be a bit more aggressive to control them.

I did find that preparing them for freezing was not as easy as I’d hoped. The plant (both leaves and bulb) needs to be blanched before freezing, and the bulb needs to be peeled. I tried with a vegetable peeler, then used a paring knife. That worked pretty well.

I peeled and cubed the bulb, and cut the leaves (after examining them for worms, and discarding the offensive ones) into 1.5 inch squares. Each plant (leaves and bulb together) was placed in a microwave-safe bowl with about 4 tablespoons of water. I zapped them for 3 minutes, drained them well, and placed them in the freezer.

I really wanted to try it in something, so I adapted an old recipe for a vegetable cheese soup. The picture appears above, and it was delicious.

In both taste and texture, the bulbs reminded me very much of broccoli stems (maybe a little less stringy).




Vegetable Cheese Soup

INGREDIENTS

12-16 oz vegetables, cooked (I used 1 kohlrabi plant, including the greens, 1 can of corn, and about 1/2 can of green beans.)
1/4 cup butter or margarine
1/4 cup flour
2 cups milk
8 oz of cheese, shredded, grated, or chopped (Cheddar works well. I used Swiss and Mozzarella. American, Velveeta or any melty cheese should work.)
12 oz beer (or more milk)
1/4 tsp ground mustard
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS

In a saucepan (or pot) big enough to hold 2 quarts, melt the butter over medium heat.
When butter is melted, add the flour, and combine thoroughly. Add milk.
Continue heating, stirring frequently, until it starts to thicken.
Add cheese, stir until melted.
Add vegetables, and  continue heating.
Add beer (or milk) ground mustard, Worcestershire sauce, (and salt and pepper, if desired).
Heat, stirring, until hot.
Serves 2 to 4

In using the kohlrabi greens, I pureed them partially, with the milk. I wanted to incorporated the greens into the milk (I thought it would help thicken it.), but I also wanted to leave some flakes visible. You can puree them more, or less, depending on what you prefer.

The option is there to use either beer, or more milk. My wife hates beer, so for the family, my choice is obvious. If you’re not sure, I would try it with a light-colored beer. You might be surprised.



Final Verdict


Kohlrabi is one of the oddest vegetables I’ve ever seen. Peeling it isn’t extremely hard, but more difficult than I thought it would be.

Once the prep is done, cooking and eating is a snap, and it is really good, and versatile.

I’m definitely going to grow this again.

Friday, August 4, 2017

I Would Like Your Help

A friend of mine asked me to write an article about growing kohlrabi (a relative of cabbage and broccoli). After I finished the article, it looked incomplete, but I can't pinpoint why. That's where I need your help.

Please read the article, and tell me what I may have missed. You can put your answer in the comments, email me at homebrewedtarot@optimum.net, or if we're friends on Facebook, just message me. Thanks.




https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B411Z28ntG1EaTRjdEl6dFl5ZFE

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Being President Is Hard? Duh.

About our President. I can't believe he said being President was harder than he thought.

George didn't say that. Neither did Abraham, Theodore, Franklin, John, Lyndon, Dick, or Bill. Even "W" was OK with it.

Why was The Donald the only one to have trouble?

Friday, March 24, 2017

Buy this book! Read it! Enjoy it! Or else!

 Years ago, I found myself unemployed, again. I wasn't able to find anyone willing to hire me, so I decided to try and find a way to generate my own income. I found I wasn't too bad at putting words together, so I decided to become a freelance writer.

For the next five years, I wrote for local businesses; brochures, ad copy, manuals. I didn't make a lot of money, and I eventually gave it up to become a restaurant manager. But, I did make money, and at that time, that was all I needed to do.

One result of that exercise was a soft spot in my heart for anyone who tries their hand at wordsmithing. One such person is my friend, Will Siss, teacher, reporter, beer drinker, author.




 

I was surprised and pleased to see that Will had written a book on Connecticut beers.




http://www.amazon.com/Connecticut-Beer-American-Will-Siss/dp/1626197938/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1430546112&sr=8-1&keywords=will+siss


 As with many books of this type, it was probably out-of-date before it came out. But, it gives a nice overview of the brewing scene in our state, which is surprisingly healthy. I've read it, and I'll recommend it to anyone.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

What Are We?

I just cut the cord. We sent the cable boxes back, hooked up an internet streamer, and installed a bunch of free channels. We save almost $100 a month. Admittedly, there's a bunch we can't watch. It's hard to find a baseball game. But, there's a lot I wasn't even aware of.

Among these are science shows, and one of these posed a question that is really sticking with me. What is consciousness? What is it that makes me, me? How do you explain the feeling that I'm in charge, and not just reacting to stimuli? How do you define, or describe, an inner life?

For most religions, it's easy. You simply separate the physical from the spiritual. The spirit, the soul, is where all the "me-ness" is. It's harder for science, because you can't find anything to grasp, or measure.

I know why this is on my mind so much. My dad died a little over a year ago. Where is he? Is he gone forever? Is he in heaven, or that other place, or some undefined afterlife? What happens when we die? What happens to "me"? What has happened to all the "me"'s who have ever lived?

There's also my own age. I'm 63. So many really famous and talented people passed away well before that age. I might live for another 30 or 40 years. I might be gone by the time you read this. Where will I be? Will I be?

I don't know. There are no answers, only questions. I guess I have to be OK with that.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Beer!


As I look over my beer activities for this past week, I notice that two of my favorite things about brewing are both present.

On the one hand, I'm making a beer I've done before. I know what to do, what to expect, and I can look forward to the taste of the beer. There's absolutely nothing wrong with knowing what you're gonna get. That's why McDonald's and Budweiser have such success.
I remember being surprised at how much the yeast influence the flavor. I was told to expect banana and clove in the taste, but I really someone was being a bit snobbish in their evaluation. Then I tasted it. Sonofagun! Banana and clove!
Batch Size2.000 galBoil Size1.750 gal
Boil Time60.000 minEfficiency70%
OG1.062FG1.016
ABV6.0%IBU23.2 (Tinseth)
Color16.8 srm (Morey)Calories (per 12 oz.)206

Fermentables

Total grain: 3.500 lb
NameTypeAmountMashedLateYieldColor
Briess DME - Bavarian WheatDry Extract2.000 lbNoNo95%3.0 srm
Briess - 2 Row Brewers MaltGrain1.000 lbYesNo80%2.0 srm
Caramel/Crystal Malt - 120LGrain8.000 ozYesNo72%120.0 srm

Hops

NameAlphaAmountUseTimeFormIBU
Williamette3.0%1.000 ozBoil60.000 minPellet23.2

Yeast

NameTypeFormAmountStage
Windsor - Hefeweizen Ale YeastWheatDry1.0 tspPrimary











On the other hand, I made  a cream ale, something I always wanted to try, but never got around to. Strange, but I've never used corn in my beer, but some of my old favorites use a lot, and actually have a noticeable corn taste. I'm really looking forward to seeing how this comes out. I liked Genesee Cream Ale, and if I get close, I'll be happy.


Batch Size2.000 galBoil Size1.750 gal
Boil Time60.000 minEfficiency70%
OG1.051FG1.010
ABV5.3%IBU19.2 (Tinseth)
Color4.4 srm (Morey)Calories (per 12 oz.)168

Fermentables

Total grain: 3.500 lb
NameTypeAmountMashedLateYieldColor
Briess - 2 Row Brewers MaltGrain1.000 lbYesNo80%2.0 srm
Briess - Yellow Corn FlakesAdjunct1.000 lbYesNo75%0.8 srm
Briess DME - Pilsen LightDry Extract1.000 lbNoNo95%2.0 srm
Briess - Caramel Malt 10LGrain8.000 ozYesNo76%10.0 srm

Hops

NameAlphaAmountUseTimeFormIBU
Willamette4.5%0.500 ozBoil60.000 minPellet19.2
Willamette4.5%0.500 ozDry Hop0.000 sPellet0.0

Yeast

NameTypeFormAmountStage
Muntons aleAleDry0.500 tspPrimary


In both beers, I did what's called a partial mash. Most of the fermentable sugar comes from malt extract, to save time and space (necessary in a small apartment). But, I also get some sugars, and flavor, from actual grains and enzymes. A very easy way to accompish this is a method called "Brew in a bag". I need no extra equipment, except a big nylon bag, to line my pot.

It adds a couple of hours to my brewing session, but the extra time is well worth it.

Now, I wait. When the yeasties have finished their work, I can bottle, and see how I did.










Friday, January 20, 2017

Another post-Election Thought

I think I have over 170 friends on Facebook. Most, I know personally. A few are "Facebook friends".

This election highlighted something that I sorta knew, but hadn't dwelled on. My friends are from all over the political map. As we got near Election Day, some friends told me I had to vote for Clinton, others insisted Trump was the choice. When I replied I didn't want either one, I was accused of wasting my vote.

My choice didn't win. Did I waste my vote? Well, by that logic, I also wasted my vote on McGovern, Dole, and McCain. Voting for someone who doesn't win is never wasting your vote. Blindly following someone else's lead is.

I don't expect any of you to remember this. I will listen to your arguments. I promise to consider them seriously. But, when I make my choice, it's going to be my choice. I make the choice that I think is best for the country, not to make some silly statement.

The President is not all-powerful. In our system of government, there's only so much he can do alone. And, to think that the other two branches will just allow him to is to sell them very short. Read your history. Our nation survived some pretty terrible Presidents. We'll be OK. And, who knows? Maybe he won't be as bad as we think.