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Sunday, July 24, 2022

The SkyCastle has dogs again

It's been a year and a few weeks since my baby girl Zoe had passed, she was my dog, and so much more than that. She was a rescue, and absolutely everything I didn't want in a dog, I wanted a long hair female chihuahua like I had when I came out to far west Texas. That little chihuahua Pekoe is buried next to the garden in what has become our pet cemetary. 

I knew after Zoe had passed that I would want to get another dog, but I've learned not to actively look for one, I knew the right one would drop into my lap. I wanted a chihuahua and was determined to get one this time. If you have followed my story for any time at all, you will know that I loved my Zoe, even though she wasn't a chihuahua, I also loved Casper, the other dog who decided that he wanted to move in with us about a year after we rescued Zoe, he was already an old man and lived out the rest of his life with us in comfort and love, he is buried next to Zoe and Pekoe.

I have now begun to actively look for the chihuahua I was wanting, and even had a couple of opportunities to get a couple, but each time it would get close to happening, something would happen and the deal would fall through. I am a person of faith and knew that the right one would come along, my "job" was to wait and be ready when the time came.

I wanted a chihuahua AND I have fallen in love with pit bulls, I know they have a bad reputation, but I know them as loving cuddle bugs, I figured I'd get a chihuahua first, then after a year I'd start looking for a pitty.

Last week, I found out a local resident had passed away, I knew him but was not close, he had been in bad health for some time.  He had a (wait for it!) chihuahua and pit bull/boxer mix. His family gave permission for the people who had rescued and were fostering the dogs in to find them a good home, preferably together. When I saw the photos of these 2 sweet dogs, my heart jumped, I knew these were for me.

I posted a reply stating my interest, but I would need to speak to PB about it first, if it had just been one dog, especially a chihuahua, I would have just brought it home, but since this was 2 dogs, and from "circumstances", I decided I needed to discuss it first.

PB was cautiously agreeable, his main concern was how these dogs would behave, especially in the situation they had just come from, I'll explain more in a later post, but let's just say these dogs were stuck inside their house with their deceased owner for at least a week, possibly 2 weeks, they had the potential for physical and/or behavioral issues.

I went to visit with these dogs two weeks ago Sunday after church, I spoke at length with the people who were fostering these dogs. It really only took me a few minutes to decide that they were coming home with me. The people watching them had dogs and couldn't take on any more dogs. 

The chihuahua is named Sweet Pea, she is around 5 years old, she is such wonderful dog, the bigger dog is named Mr Pups, he is an older dog, around 8 or 9 years old. They both have settled in quite nicely, they are already potty trained, they are well past the puppy stage, no chewing, in fact they have not displayed any negative behavior. 

Their first 4'ish days they ate and drank ravenously, they couldn't get enough food or water, that's understandable because of their situation. Now they are slowing down, eating and drinking normally.

We've had them for going on 3 weeks now, I want to write so much more about these two wonderful God sent dogs, but I'll cut it off here and write more about them later. 

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Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Saying goodbye to an old friend...

I am saying goodbye to an old friend, we brought this with us from Irving (near Dallas for those who don't know where that is)... It's our original water tank, it is a 300 gallon white/translucent cube with a metal cage around it (if you know what these are called, leave a comment and let me know, thanks!).  We started out our life out here very much on the cheap, and this was about as inexpensive a way to store water as we could find. 

These containers are used for lots of different liquids in their first life, some are nasty chemicals that you don't want any part of, others are used for things meant for human consumption. Ours had been filled with Hawaiian punch concentrate, I honestly can't imagine 300 gallons of Hawaiian punch concentrate, but that's what the label said. Do you remember the commercials? How'd you like a nice Hawaiian punch? POW!

I remember when we first set it up and began using it, it gave our water a slightly fruity scent, not much of a flavor, but the scent of the punch flavor could be detected. That eventually went away, it wasn't a bad thing though...

Over the years we did upgrade and add to our water system, it's still very simple, but just much bigger storage capacity. We now have 2 large water tanks to carry us through, one is a black poly plastic tank, 1250 gallons, and the newest one is a tan colored poly tank that holds 1550 gallons of water, that one has a funny story.

One of my neighbor's had purchased it from a local hardware store, it had been damaged and had a hole in it, my neighbor got it for a really good price, he had the intentions of fixing the hole and using it. We all happened to be down by the road as my neighbor was driving by with that tank on a trailer, he stopped and talked to us about his great deal. We ended up buying it from him right there, it was a good deal for all of us.

PB fixed the hole and we are using it with no problems. It's located under one end of the SkyCastle, we had been pumping water from it to the small 300 gallon tank that was located under the porch. We had the smaller tank already plumbed and it was just easier to keep using it as it was, just transferring water from the bigger tank as we needed it.

Recently we decided it was time to (more) properly plumb the big tank and get the water we needed directly from the big tank. The smaller 300 gallon tank is going to a good home, it's going to PB's son who just purchased a property on the other side of the neighborhood. His property, much like ours when we first started out is raw land, no infrastructure at all. I'm sure he will probably invest in a larger water tank much sooner than we did, but until he does, he will use the one we relied on.

More about our evolving water system later, stay tuned! 

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Thursday, June 16, 2022

What is BBQ sauce made of?

Another food post? You betcha! I have been craving some BBQ sauce, normally I'd just grab a bottle from the condiments section at the store, I don't eat it enough to warrant keeping a supply at the SkyCastle, it just goes bad before I can finish it... So as I was saying, I normally just grab a bottle from the store and run with it. And by running, I mean I soup it up. I add my own touches to it, adding extra honey is my go-to touch up. 

Since I'm striving to eat healthier, one of the things I'm working to cut out of my "diet" is high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). I just watched a mini-documentary on YouTube about what a minefield that substance is for your body. Wellllll, no matter what bottle of BBQ sauce I pick up in the store, everyone of them have HFCS as one of the top ingredients, if not the number one ingredient.  Why oh why do the food companies do that to us??? 

I could have gone over to the healthfood store, I'm sure I would have found a healthier bottle of BBQ sauce, I'm also sure it would have been a pricy little bottle, and no guarantees I would have liked it, or worse, if I did really like it, I would have been stuck liking something harder to find and expensive. 
So my next thought, I wonder what BBQ sauce is made from, I'm a pretty good cook, I even make my own mayonnaise (commercial mayo smells like rancid oil to me now), surely I could make BBQ sauce, how hard could it be? 

Sidestory, I didn't tell you before, but I grew up in a family BBQ joint. My uncle Marvin and my dad had the business, I did my tour of duty working there, got pretty good at trimming brisket, I still have the scar on my thumb to prove it. 

I learned a lot about making great smoked meats, but the BBQ sauce, well that was my uncle's secret, I don't know if he ever shared the recipe, he always made it himself. That combined with the fact that we were BBQ snobs, we always said properly cooked meat doesn't need a sauce, you only needed sauce to cover up medeocre BBQ... But if you felt that you wanted a sauce, my uncles BBQ sauce was top notch. 

Back to yesterday, I'm standing in the condiments section of the store, picking up, reading the label, and putting back bottle after bottle of BBQ sauce, I'm sure I picked each bottle twice, hoping the HFCS would vanish from the ingredient list... No such luck. 

I decided to consult chef Google, doing a quick search for homemade BBQ sauce. I didn't need a full recipe, I just needed a guideline, the basics of what goes into BBQ sauce. I read a couple of recipes and had all the information I needed. Turns out BBQ sauce is pretty simple, it's basically a sweetened smoky flavored ketchup, the main ingredient is a can of plain tomato sauce (not spaghetti sauce), the plainer, the better, then tomato paste, apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, a few spices, a quick simmer on the stove and voila, almost instant BBQ sauce. 

I was missing liquid smoke, paprika, and a couple of other spices,  but for me, that's part of the fun, the challenge is to make something from what I have on hand or can get now where I am... and one of my challenges is the fact that I'm shopping in a dollar store (the company I work for services dollar stores) and I just don't want to go over to the grocery store. I did find a spice blend that had most of the flavors I needed so I grabbed that too. McCormick Grill Mates Smokehouse Maple seasoning

Once I got home, I told PB about my idea to make my own BBQ sauce and he couldn't wait to try it. I don't have a recipe for this that I can exactly write down for you, I tend to cook by the seat of my pants, adjusting as I go. I'll do my best to explain my process. 

It started out with a 15oz can of tomato sauce, half a can of tomato paste, I poured in some apple cider vinegar, it was probably around 3/4 of a cup, I think next time I'll add less, it was a tad too vinegery for my tastes, if you like the Kansas City style, you'd love it! I dumped in around a half cup of brown sugar, I wish I had some honey to add, I really love that flavor in BBQ sauce. Next came a generous few dashes of Worcestershire sauce, 3-4 tablespoons at least, next a few tablespoons of the powdered spice mix. I mixed this with a whisk in a heavy sauce pan, I brought it to a boil, then let it slow simmer, stirring often for about 20-30 minutes. 

Like a lot of things, the longer you simmer it, especially low and slow, the better it tastes, the raw vinegar taste mellowed out, and everything else had a chance to get friendly with each other. 

By then the breaded chicken strips in the oven were done, I know I mentioned eating healthier, no judging ๐Ÿ˜€๐Ÿ˜‰๐Ÿ˜‚...  The BBQ sauce turned out very tasty. We have eaten it on several occasions now (several days later), on both chicken strips and smoked sausage. It made enough to mostly fill 2 one quart canning jars, one of which has already been fully consumed. I purchased another can of tomato sauce with the intention of making another batch. 

What will I do differently next time? I'll go easier on the vinegar, perhaps a half cup, I might even measure it LOL, I'll look around to see if I have any honey, I might need to buy another jar, that's something that I don't mind cheaping out on since it's not medicinal or anything like that, it's just for flavor in a sauce that will be consumed in short order. 

Everything else about the BBQ sauce came out great, I'm very happy with my first attempt, and I know it will just get better and better each time I make it, and the best part, no HFCS! 

Have you ever tried making your own BBQ sauce? If so, what is your recipe? Let me know if you try this or already do it, bon Appรฉtit! 

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