Sunday, January 30, 2011

Chili, Fulfilled

Are you ready for the secret ingredient?

Are you sure?

Okay. Use responsibly.

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Unsweetened. An ounce (one cube) or so per stockpot. This brand from the supermarket is okay, but we like the better-quality bulk stuff we can get at the co-op or specialty stores. Just toss it in when you add the tomato paste.

I have also used some unsweetened powdered cocoa that was so dark that no light could escape its surface, and that worked well. You want that wholesome bitterness to interact with the acid ingredients, meat and fats.

It adds richness, complexity, and authenticity to the chili. Chiles, beans and chocolate are traditional partners in Mayan cuisine.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Snapshot Sunday: Sibling Rivalry

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The Indiana Plague Puppies duke it out to see who gets her very own Barry White.

Because you are all teh awesome, video to come.

I Don't Have to Gouge Out His Eyes After All!

Dear Heather,

During the BISSELL MVP Photo Contest, we aim to create a fun and fair experience for all contest participants. We have measures in place to detect votes that violate our contest rules, and have unfortunately discovered a number of invalid votes for some of the voting period 1 and 2 winners.

We removed the invalid votes for the voting period 1 and 2 winners and as a result, your dog, Cole is now the 5th place winner for Voting Period 2.

Cole will also advance to the semi-finals for our new pet model selection, which will take place in April.

For more information, please refer to the contest rules, specifically section 6A. We apologize that your winning pet was not announced sooner and have implemented more stringent security measures to ensure we do not announce winners before the validation process is complete in future weeks.



Edit: Remember, every day this week, Vote for Skye

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Equal Time

It has come to our attention on this, the last day that you can vote for Cole, that the Fairness In Blogging Act of 2007 requires us to air a rebuttal by those who oppose Cole's candidacy for the office of Bissell Most Valuable Pet 2011.

As it happens, foster puppies Bob, Susie, Amy and Donna brought some friends with them when they came to stay at Brandywine Bone 'n' Breakfast. Quite a few friends. So many friends that one is moved to wonder how puppies so young could have networked so effectively and developed such a fanatical and loyal cadre of little buddies. So without further editorial intrusion, we present the spokescritters for the "No on Cole 2011" campaign.

A guy's just minding his own business, just hanging in there as it were, a lot of his efforts going down the shitter, but getting by, and along comes some snob like Cole with all his being shiny and not stinking and never having things that look like rice crawling around his ass. Like he's so great. His supporters claim that he was born in Montana and has the common touch, even used to hang out with guys like me, but have you ever seen a birth certificate? Let me answer that for you No You Have Not! Look at the name -- an "English" shepherd. And claiming to be a "Canine Good Citizen?" That dog is not even a regular citizen. He's not eligible for the office of MVP.

When Cole is defeated in the MVP election, we are going to take back what is ours. Starting with Bob's leg. And then on to Mrs. Evans' second-grade class. Cole's compulsory plan to apply zymox to our homes and workplaces is nothing less than socialism.

National English Shepherd Rescue is a known terrorist organization. It harbors all kinds of dangerous extremists. I have documentation here that proves that it has directly funded the deployment of chemical weapons -- referred to by the code names Revolution and Frontline -- on innocent civilian populations. Cole has pledged his MVP salary to this den of subversives. If you vote for Cole, the terrorists win. Also, I can see Russia from Susie's left ear, you betcha.

Cole is on-record as favoring firm, well-formed, and moderately infrequent poop. The Bible tells us that we are to go forth and multiply and then be expelled in a burst of mucous-and-blood-tinged diarrhea every hour or so. Cole and his so-called "science" is a threat to our traditional way of life and the values we hold dear.

Tax and spend, tax and spend, all those Cole-sponsored government entitlements for Safeguard. It's people like Cole and his lapdogs at NESR that are bankrupting this country with ridiculous runaway appropriations squandered on veterinarians and gas and pull fees at dog pounds. It's got to stop now! But hands off the kibble budget. You have to keep the kibble coming right on through Amy's gastrointestinal tract -- that's our right as Americans!

Monday, January 24, 2011

If Rosie Can Walk on Water

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GPS track of a short trail I did with Rosie at training last week.
Aged about four hours.

Some pup, trailing across Lake Arthur* that way, eh?

As Perfesser Chaos set out on skis to lay the trail, our teammate Rebecca -- who had declined to emulate Our Lord And Savior yada yada yada -- asked me how we expertly determined when the ice was thick enough to walk (or ski) on.

Oh hell, I dunno. I just watch to see if there are ice fishermen and tracks, if there's snow on the ice. And it had been bloody damned cold for a while.

At the end of training, after the trail had aged in the stiff wind for several hours** and I prepared to run it with Rosie, I did start to wish I had made myself a set of these guys. Wondered whether the snowshoes that more safely distributed my weight would also trap me underwater with their drag. Happy thoughts!

Strange that a claustrophobe such as yours truly can cheerfully negotiate cave crawls so tight that one must exhale before pushing forward a few inches, but the thought of all that cold water under my feet was intrusive and gave me serious wiggums. When I'm frustrated about some weird fear or obscure superstition that has a dog hung up, and wishing I could figure out what was going on in his furry brain, it pays to remember that I can't even fully delve my own tangled neurons and force them to make sense. Or even explain why they don't make sense.

My goal for the task was to present Rosie with a trail where there was absolutely no terrain or vegetation to hold the scent.

Of course, there's no avoiding the fact of the ski tracks and their visual cue. If there had been lots of falling snow or hard-blowing powdery snow, they might be filled in after some hours of aging, but there wasn't. So PC started out in a tramped out trail used by ice fishermen and then diverged from it when it turned more northerly. The older, more traveled trail was downwind of his, so it did present a little challenge at the divergence -- the ridges of the sled tracks held as much scent as PC's ski tracks, and significantly more scent than the smooth snow just downind of them. Rosie did great on that.

PC bushwhacked through a dense pine plantation on the east shore, and then cut back to the other side and up through some fairly thick woods to finish. Nice short trailing task with an interesting technical challenge. Also, I used a small keychain multi-tool that had been sitting out for a scent article, so that was a nice challenge. Should have been. Rosie has mad scent-article skillz, so it didn't faze her a bit.

When Rosie finds something challenging or somehow unsatisfactory about a trail she -- and I know this will come as a shock to those who have met her -- talks about it.

Bitches about it, at rhythmic intervals, all the while working her fuzzy butt off.

The smooth going afforded by the lake ice allowed me to capture this on the video setting of my regular camera, which happened to be secreted within my fleece layers.

Video starts around 2/3 of the way across the ice on the return leg.

So here's my question, for all who read this post today, the day it is posted, or tomorrow, Tuesday, which are the last two days you can vote for Cole and help him win big money for National English Shepherd Rescue --

If a snarky, loudmouthed little bitch (and her dog, too) can track across a lake -- the scary cold lake -- to make a video for you to watch, then can you take a few seconds to register, a few seconds to click, and a few minutes to harass your friends to vote for Cole and help more dogs in need make it out alive?

We're down to the wire here. Vote tallies do not seem high enough to launch him into the finals unless we have an exponential surge today and tomorrow. So vote for Cole. We're not asking you to walk on water.

* Okay peanut gallery, smart guys, tell us why the water is pinky-purple on the map. (Yes this is one I always pose to my map & compass students.)

** We don't make our subjects sit at the end of the trail while it ages. PC did several training tasks in areas west and north of his trail during this period, then returned to a hiding spot at the end of it when it was time for us to run it.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Four Puppies of the Poopocalypse

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Why only three puppies? Because in all photos of three puppies, puppy #4 is attempting to murder me via tripping.

I have always insisted that it would take a pistol held to my head to persuade me to deliberately breed a winter litter.

I leave it to you to define the brand of insanity that had me declaring "No problem! I'll take 'em!" when someone else "allowed" a winter litter to come into the world, then decided that they were too much unprofitable trouble and it would be the dog pound's problem now.

Since the fuzzbutts were apparently born in a hole under a corn crib around Thanksgiving time, they came to me well-acclimated to the normal winter cold. They could spend plenty of daylight time in the three-sided pole-building and its attached outdoor play yard, processing their anthelmintic and pooping out all the little gut friends they brought with them in a place where the critters would freeze immediately. Nice place for the spot-on flea treatment to do its work, too.

Now, notsomuch. About twenty minutes playing outside is their limit since it turned relentlessly, bitterly cold Thursday night.

While I sanitize the basement pen, they profane the kitchen. Then we reverse the procedure. They do hit the newspapers 90% of the time, but there is still constant clean up. Nothing like seeing a brilliant lil' pup half wake up from her nap, toddle over to the newspaper, carefully make her deposit, and then walk right through it on her way to go run circles around the kitchen table.

Oh, also, we no longer take a dead-tree paper. The nice people at the newstand in town gave me a decent stack, as did the clerk at the gas station, but supplies are getting low. Help!*

They sure are cute on their walkies, though. Experienced puppy-aunt, GSD Sophia, comes with us now, and they all play hound-pack and coyote, whether Sophia wants to or not. I think she experiences it much like this. This gives Momma Hope a break from the kids. She chooses to use her Me time walking at my heel. A true ES velcro dog.

I bet you all would love to break the cabin fever with video footage of adorable ES fuzzbutts romping in a winter wonderland.

And I would love to show it to you. Really I would.

But we're still lacking momentum in the quest to help young Cole win $10,000 for National English Shepherd Rescue.

You know -- the guys who made it possible to for Momma Hope and her babies to get out of the dog pound alive? The folks footing the bills and finding the adopters? The leanest, most talented, focused, and effective breed rescue group on the planet? The ones who brought us a living, loving, laughing Cole instead of "This one fails his 'temperament test,' pass the needle?"

Those guys?

Or, you know, we could let HSUS or ASPCA or Best Friends -- with their massive mailing lists, social media machines, full-time PR departments, and zombie armies -- use the $10K for some more teevee ads or private airplane fuel.

So you want to know the secret chili ingredient, you want adorable puppy video -- then make it happen.

Vote for Cole today, tomorrow, Monday and Tuesday -- once a day, every day. Everyone in your house.

And campaign for Cole on your blog, Facebook, Twitter, message boards, email lists, and by email-bombing your friends. Do it now. Every day lost is another day that the people you haven't browbeaten can't cast their votes.

Because Cole can't win the beauty contest and help more of his relatives unless he first at least places in the popularity contest.


*FOB (Friend o' the blog) Gina Spadafori has suggested a bumper sticker: "Save Our Newspapers -- Because It's Hard To Raise Puppies Without Them"


Friday, January 21, 2011

Can we Hope to Change the voting tally?

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Cole is not getting nearly enough votes in what we here at Brandywine Bone & Breakfast think of as the Vacuum Cleaners for English Shepherds Sweepstakes.

Please don't make the nice people in the Bissell marketing department choose between a selection of eyeless cats when all is said and done. Because sure, we love our animals no matter what their handicap, but fact is, advertising models are not supposed to make the viewer jump back and shriek "Gaaah! What happened to him?!"

The sneaky spying statcounter tells me that lots of you blog readers aren't taking a few seconds and going to the Bissell site to vote for Cole.

I guess you are not only uninterested in yesterday's Secret Ingredient, but you don't want to see photos and video of effing adorable English shepherd puppies, either.

Adorable English shepherd puppies whose vet bills are not being covered by The Rescue Fairy.

Remember, it's Chicago-style voting -- early and often. Vote for Cole every day.

More important, get your friends, co-workers, and family to vote for Cole. Tweet him, Facebook him, have your Grandma post him on MySpace, email-bomb your contacts. Get him into the finals, and he'll do the rest. Don't just vote for Cole -- I'm asking you to Campaign for Cole.

In case you haven't grokked the pattern, this is Raised by Wolves' version of a PBS pledge week. Except we're not asking for any money, just a few seconds of your time. And I promise you, I can be just as annoying as Nina Totenberg with a travel mug.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Chili, Interrupted

Everyone who has tasted it wants to know how to make my chili.

Seriously. Everyone.

So here it is, almost, as you shall see.

You start the night before with a couple-three pounds of dried small red chili beans, or half and half the small red chili beans and pink beans.

Don't use kidney beans, and whatever you do, don't even try using canned beans. Dried small red chili beans, and/or pink beans. Most supermarkets have them in the section with Mexican foods if they aren't with all the other dried beans. I buy them at the East End Food Co-op or one of the stores in Pittsburgh's Strip that sell Mexican foods or bulk dry goods.

You rinse the dust off of 'em, pick out any little rocks. (How do the rocks get into the beans? Seriously, how? I never have this problem when I dry beans at home.) Then put them in a great big stockpot and soak overnight in cold water.

Before you go to bed, and before midnight, you get online, go to the Bissell MVP contest website, and vote for Cole.

Next day, pour out the soaking water, rinse the beans well, and refill the pot. Bring the pot to a boil and then simmer for maybe half an hour. Pour out the boiling water, rinse well again, add fresh water, and bring the beans back to a boil, then simmer.

When the beans are just done -- just about the texture that you want in your finished chili -- discard the second pot of boil water and rinse one last time.

Seriously -- two changes of water, both discarded, you won't regret it, because these beans will taste good and will not give you gas. They will not get any softer after you add the acid ingredients (tomatoes, tomato paste, wine).

Take a break, get online, and go vote for Cole, because you can vote once every day, and really, you ought to, oughtn't you?

While the beans are cooking, get out your biggest frying pan. Chop up three or four medium storage onions, chop or press about four or five big garlic cloves, and fry them up until the onions are wilted and a little bit brown.

I usually use peanut oil for frying, but this time I used lard. Yeah, lard. Because I serve the chili at parties and to guests a lot, and a fair number of people have peanut allergies. Nobody has a lard allergy. If you are making the veggie version, duh, don't use lard. Also, skip the next bit.

While the onions are frying, cut up about three pounds of beef or venison. This time I used chuck roast. Venison is better, but not everyone will eat it, so this batch is all beef. Cube the meat about the size of a die -- much smaller than for stew. (This is easier if the meat is partly frozen.)

Remove the puppy from your shoelace. Wash your hands. Use soap!

Put the onions aside. Brown the cubed meat.

Put the browned, cubed meat aside with the onions. Brown about three pounds of ground beef or venison.

Why, you ask, do you not brown the onions and all the meat together? Good question. Because I've got some big-ass frying pans, but none big enough to cook all that stuff in one go.

Throw the meat and onions in with the the rinsed, cooked beans. At this point I divide everything in half and start a second stock pot, because leftovers are everything with this chili, and there's no point making a small batch. Two big stockpots full make enough for a couple of dinners plus about five quarts of frozen or canned chili for later.

If you don't have two big stockpots, then just use half as much of everything.

Now add a quart or two of beef stock. (Use vegetable stock or miso if you are making the veggie version.) I use either homemade beef stock or this stuff,

which is not cheap hydrolyzed fake stuff, but real concentrated beef stock. For this batch I used some of each because I used up the last of the homemade.

Step carefully around the obstruction that limits access to both sink and stove.

Put the pot with the beans and stock back on the flame (low heat) and start throwing in the rest of the stuff --

Coupla big cans of tomatoes (crushed, chopped, whole -- doesn't matter)
Coupla small cans of tomato paste

Stop and observe the adorableness.

Get those pots up to a firm simmer.

Add the mystery ingredient.

The very important secret ingredient that makes it all hang together.

The one you just don't expect.

And I'm not going to tell you.

Unless Cole makes the finals in the damned vacuum cleaner contest. If he makes the finals and advances to possibly win big bucks for National English Shepherd Rescue, then I will come back and revise this post and reveal the secret ingredient.

So if you want to know, you will not only vote for Cole yourself, you will mail-bomb everyone you know, tweet, facebook harass, and blog to get them to vote for Cole so that your chili will also have that mysterious and authentic richness and body.

Cook this for a while, maybe a half-hour, hour. Stir from time to time. Remove food critic from field of play.

Wash hands. Use soap.

Now add about half a bottle of red wine or a bottle or two of dark beer. Either is good. Use more if the chili is a bit dry. If you run out of wine or beer, add more stock as needed. And start adding the spices:

Throw in the chili powder, cayenne, black pepper, white pepper (I was out of it this time), red pepper flakes, and cumin. Amounts up to you. Each pot gets at least a tablespoon of chili powder, lesser amounts of the other spices.

If you are making the veggie version, this is the time to add a cup or two of textured vegetable protein (TVP). Yeah, it sounds godawful. It isn't. It is a passable imitation of ground beef, texture-wise. Devoted meat-eaters like my vegetarian chili, and some vegetarians think I am trying to trick them. Don't overdo the TVP -- it really blows up when it gets wet.

My chili comes out moderately hot. I don't salt until about ten minutes before serving. Hot sauce is available at the table for those who want a hotter chili.

Serve with cornbread or stoned wheat crackers and any good beer.

Let the leftovers mellow in the pot in the fridge overnight. The next morning, get up, vote for Cole, and then portion it out into quart-sized containers. This chili freezes well. I will can it in a pressure-canner to save freezer space. Freezing is easier.


It's Bissell vacuum contest time again.

We are in week two of voting for finalists. The weekly finalists will be eligible to win big cash prizes for the animal shelter or rescue of their owners' choice.

This year my candidate is Cole, and as always, my choice of charities is National English Shepherd Rescue.

The grand prize for the winning charity is $10,000. Barely a drop for giant animal charities that use their mailing lists to campaign; what is that, two new bespoke suits for Wayne Pacelle? But $10,000 goes a very long way for a small, lean, focused all-volunteer organization that always puts the animals first.

English shepherds that make the finals have a history of winning -- cute faces, and the kind of hair that says "You need a new vacuum cleaner" -- but they have to make the finals.

Click on the link
and go right to Cole's voting page. Yes, you have to register to vote -- but I promise you, Bissell has never sent me any spam in over two years.

If you have to search for some reason, make sure it is Cole the black-and-white English shepherd, Entrant #17534, not some other Cole. That's the exact picture above.

Cole's story, in brief, for those who are not regular readers of this blog --

Cole was only about four weeks old when he was pulled from in or under a freezing trailer on his abuser's property in the dead of a Montana winter. Along with more than 200 of his relatives, he spent the next eight months as criminal evidence in the prosecution of his former owner. Cole grew up in dog jail for a crime someone else had committed. Fortunately, he was cared for by dedicated and loving volunteers. Unfortunately, a talented young English shepherd cannot properly develop his mind while confined behind walls. By the time he was released from custody, he was a very troubled young fellow. He came to Brandywine Farm to foster, so that he could shed his pathological aggression and find a mission in life.

Turns out, Cole's mission in life was to stay at Brandywine Farm and learn two careers -- invaluable farm dog, and search and rescue partner.

Cole is now in training to be my sixth SAR partner; he should join the ranks of Allegheny Mountain Rescue Group's operational dogs some time in late 2011.

Many human beings made personal sacrifices and took risks to save Cole and his entire extended family; he seems determined to pay that back in spades.

Forward forward forward! Share on Facebook! Tweet it! Blogger friends -- do me a solid, would ya? And vote every day this week. You can vote once each day, every day, until next Tuesday.

Vote for Cole!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Which Question?

The first question which the priest and the Levite asked was: "If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?" But... the good Samaritan reversed the question: "If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?"
-- Martin Luther King, Jr.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Photo Phriday: Filthy Little Monkeys

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Mother English shepherd and four pups arrived yesterday from a rural dog pound in Indiana.

We got a transport relay together at more or less the last minute. Net effect was to profane three cars instead of one. I could smell the little family in the second driver's closed car when she drove up.

Finished the last bath at 02:30 this morning. I consider them to be first draft baths; the initial step towards somewhat clean puppies of the future.

The male puppy (tricolor, bobtailed) is spoken for, as is (likely) Momma Hope. NESR is accepting applications on the three girls.

Thursday, January 6, 2011


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Congratulations to Terrie Kirkpatrick and Brandywine Tia Maria.

Front Range Rescue Dogs' newest operational airscenting SAR team.