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Two Ways

I decided since we live so perilous close to the edge out here in the pucker brush that needful action is in order for 2014.   It is not just the blowdown winds, big hails or buzz tails as big as your arm and long as your leg we gotta worry about doin’ our gate guard thing.  King Obama could unleash the hounds of hell on us most any day as well .  I think it prudent to get the house in order much as it is possible and that means havin’ two ways to do most things.  Two ways to provide the needful things we gotta have to get by.

Cookin’ was on the ‘Two Way‘ list.  Sure, we have the gas stove and oven in the Princess Palace as well as the Masterbuilt Propane Smoker and the Weber Q Grill but all that needs propane.  I even bought some extra 30 Pound Propane Cylinders; several as a matter of fact.  They are all nestled snug in the DTB.  Propane keeps forever and never goes bad; just seemed like the thing to do.

Frying hen all browned up in a Lode cast iron skillet

Frying hen all browned up in a Lodge cast iron skillet

So Saturday was my day out as I hadn’t left the Res in 30 days and there was clothes to wash and two empty propane tanks to get filled.  Along the way I picked up a frying hen to cook up on Sunday.  I got some bad history chicken cookin’ that goes back years.  Times are different now and I can’t suffer the loss of a meal that was indifferently ruined and tossed into the bush for a critter feast.   My Plan B cooking scheme involves a Volcano Collapsible Cook Stove and a Lodge Cast Iron Cookware Set.  It really doesn’t get much more basic than this folks. The Volcano Stove will cook with wood, charcoal or propane. It is a rather ingenious contraption.  It collapses down to about 5″ tall and when it is blowin’ amd goin’ the outside is cool enough to lay your hand on meaning you can set it on top of a table or whatever and get after it.  The Volcano Stove  can be used as a grill but it is also engineered such that you can set a 10″ or 12″ dutch oven right down inside it.  I don’t need to school y’all on cast iron cookware.  They used it back in the day because it by God worked.  Still does.  Bonus points for both items being Made in America Lodge cookware being Made in America. The Volcano Stove is made in China. Bastards!

I am the outside cooker man around these parts. I have been grillin’ and smokin’ stuff since I started wearing long pants. Miss K usually does the prep work because she knows how to hoodoo all those spices and such so things turn out uber delicious.  Saturday night she stuffed that bird with some celery, onion, garlic, fresh thyme, fresh rosemary and most likely some secret stuff I wouldn’t understand any way.  She put the bird in a big ziploc and throwed it in the fridge for the night.  Sunday morning I was gonna get up and put the fire to the hen while she slept the mornin’ away all snug in a warm bed.

Sunday morning I got up loaded for bear and planned on putting that bird on about daylight. One thing about life in the pucker brush:  Plans Change.  Just before the sun came up, the Palace rocked back and forth a couple of times.  I thought it was Tuco the Dog changing position on the couch.  She is a big dog and when she moves around the trailer house will shift a tad. Then the awning started to boom.  WTF?  I stuck my head out the door and the wind near snatched it outta my hand.  I knew we had a Blue Norther on the way because John Girard on the San Antone news said so the night before.  He had told me it wouldn’t be here till about noon or so; he had the Blue Norther part right but damned sure missed the ETA.  Looked like I was dealing with a 25 degree drop in temps and winds out of the north at 20-25mph.  It was decision time.

The Volcano Stove and Lodge Dutch Oven cooking Sunday Chicken Dinner in less than perfect conditions

The Volcano Stove and Lodge Dutch Oven cooking Sunday Chicken Dinner in less than perfect conditions

It would be easy peasy  to just throw the bird in the dutch oven and put it in the gas oven for two hours to cook.  No muss, no fuss and no wind burned faces nor cold feet. Then I thought to myself ‘Hell No! Gotta put the big boy pants on and MAN UP.’  After all, this was a test of of my Two Way Plan and if comes down to nut cuttin’ time, I gotta be ready to go even if conditions are not ideal.  I rubbed that bird down with rosemary olive oil, poultry seasoning and lemon pepper.  The plan was to get a skoosh of oil smokin’  hot in the bottom of the dutch oven and sear that yard bird top and bottom before I added the potatoes and liquid.  BTW, I used lard for cooking oil.  I know, I know. Gotta remember back a few weeks ago when I said I was all done up with being politically or socially abiding.  2014 is MY year to do it MY way.  If folks don’t like it all’s I can say is ‘Adios! Don’t let the door hit ya in the ass!’  Lard and cast iron go together like brisket and beans.  It is shelf stable, it don’t get all blinky after sittin’ awhile  and it tastes good.

I had a good plan, I really did ‘cept for the weather.  I put that dutch oven in the Volcano Stove and arranged the coals ’round it and put two tablespoons of lard in the bottom. I went back inside the Princess Palace figurin’ that lard would be near smokin’ hot in about 15 minutes.  Well, it wasn’t.  It was no where near smokin’ hot.  That damned wind was rippin’ hard enough that it was nearly blowin’ the coals outta the stove.  It was certainly blowing all the heat away.  Dammit!  What now?  All I knew to do was add some more charcoal to the Volcano and re-group.  The whole thing reminded me of that city boy from Houston who bought 5 acres of desert down Terlingua way and then read every book he could get his hands on and watched the youtubes about going off grid in the desert.  There is readin’ and then there is doin’ friends and neighbors. It was January, it was cold and the wind was blowin’.  Sound familiar?  Best I can remember he lasted 4-5 days at most. Every time he tried to cook something, the wind would blow his fire out toward Lubbock somewhere and sleepin’ in the car to stay warm got old in a hurry.  He turned tail and ran back to Houston.  Never heard from him again.  I ain’t disparaging the boy but you gotta have sand in your craw when it gets rough goin’.

Big ass Suburban as a windbreak

Big ass Suburban as a windbreak

I made a concession at that point.   I put a cast iron skillet on the stove and melted some lard in it.   When it was smokin’ hot, I browned that bird nicely top and bottom all the while schemin’ as to how I was gonna beat that wind. When you are this far out in the boonies you can’t run to china-mart or borrow something from Neighbor Bill.  It is me and Miss Kathy and Tuco the Dog and their ain’t nothing else.  It is what it is.

The solution was the big ass Suburban.  I gauged the wind direction and eased the truck up to the cooking table just so and then got out to check the effect.  Nice!  The only drawback was the snout of the big ass Suburban stickin’ out in the roadway just a bit.  Knowin’ how oblivious to the world those boys driving the vac trucks can be,  I set me a traffic cone about two feet out in front of the bumper. Well, that did the trick.  I added that bird and fixin’s to the dutch oven and 15 minutes later everything was bubblin’ nicely when I cracked the lid for a peak.  Miss Kathy surfaced about 90 minutes later.  She said the smell of that hen simmerin’ right along in the dutch oven woke her up.  I gotta tell ya folks that was as fine a Sunday Chicken as I ever ate. There is just something about cooking with cast iron that imparts a special unique flavor.  Part of my Two Way Plan is to cook something outside ’bout every week ’til I get good and practiced at it.

Now thinkin’ back on that Houston boy and his shattered Terlingua dream; there is a lesson there.  You could read a thousand books on somethin’ and still not be prepared for every eventuality.  If you are laying back stuff for the Long Decline in front of us it is useless to leave it in the box unused until the item might be pressed into desperate service.  The time to figure out the  how to is now.   My outdoor cooking plan came up short because I didn’t count on the wind bein’ strong enough to take my heat away.   I shoulda thought of that.  This is Texas. The wind blows.  So I am going to add the Lodge Dutch Oven Cooking Table to my outdoor kitchen which will take care of future wind problems.  Problem solved.

The three of us might live harder and rougher than most folks are accustomed.  The key factor is we don’t live bad — not even close to it.

End Note: Early in the Morning by Harry Nilsson from Nilsson Schmilsson (remastered).

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15 comments to Two Ways

  • joel

    Funny!

    Yeah, I’ve been grilling dinner most days on the back porch. I’m a big fan of lump charcoal (not briquettes). Chicken, pork, fish, even asparagus and zucchini. S’all good.

    Lookin’ forward to a great 2014, and I wish you the same!

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    • LJ

      yep, Brick-quits need tending or at least watching and adding to, when a long term grill session is under way, but those lumpy coal chunks do last longer

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  • Rob

    I just took the link ride & read about the guy from Houston who sold it all & went to Terlingua. He tried, it didn’t work out but he tried.
    There must be 1000 talkers for every one who actually tries. I wonder if gave up the dream?

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  • Miss Kathy

    Dreams are often “modified”. We sold our Terlingua patch specifically due to the lack of water issue. In a shtf scenario that is just not viable.
    I am now looking for a long term lease to park the RV at.

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  • Ken

    Miss Kathy, have you investigated a trailer park? Might not have all the amenities for an RV’er, but they are a lot less expensive than an RV park. Some people I know did just that while he worked on a contract. They seem to be happy with it, and they found a nearby laundromat that fits their needs. Of course no showerhouse, but you have been doing without a showerhouse now for a long time.

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  • joel

    Living off the grid in Terlingua:

    http://finance.yahoo.com/news/family-life-off-the-grid-abe-connally-vela-creations-144054081.html

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    • Andrew

      Used to be Terlingua… they went north several years ago to an area with more rainfall and arable land.

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      • joel

        Yeah. Used to be off the grid, too. Now decidedly on the internet. Can’t be off the grid and on the internet.

        Still, they were able to establish a viable homestead at the first location. They just wanted to raise kids, too.

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        • Andrew

          I give ’em props Joel. They sold their Terlingua homestead to an older, mildly disabled single gentleman and he is still handily living there with a few cats for company.

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  • joel

    Cats. Ugh. Aren’t there enough vermin in Terlingua already?

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  • David

    Hey Andy,

    Did you look at the Rocket Stove style before buying the Volcano?

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    • Andrew

      Sure did David. It did not have the propane option nor was it as flexible as far as usage. It also is not as compact to store.

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  • AndyM

    Hi Andy
    Did you have a look at the sun oven. This things heats up to 360 – 400 degrees and I have cooked a roast, chicken, bread. It handles most anything. No heat in the RV from the ol stove cooker and no propane or a anything else to worry about. Folds down nice for storage. Where u are with the sun..it would get super hot.

    http://www.sunoven.com/all-american-sun-oven

    just a thought..keep on keeping on

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    • Andrew

      Thanks Andy

      I looked at those briefly in the past and dismissed as being too flimsy to survive long out here.

      Maybe I will re-visit.

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