Category Archives: Culture

Observations on life in America, the environment, politics, and more.

In Praise of Cast Iron

I  respect copper, I appreciate Teflon, but I LOVE my cast iron cookware!

Copyright Mike L Raether

Check out the advantages –

  • Lasts virtually forever
  • Retains heat
  • Adds a small amount of iron to your diet
  • Can be placed in a hot oven, even used for cooking one dish meals
  • Once properly seasoned, cast iron has a non stick surface

The rub is that last bullet point. How do you properly season cast iron to get that famous non stick surface? And once having obtained that non stick surface, how do you retain it?

How to properly season cast iron –

Start by washing inside and out with warm water and a mild detergent. Dry thoroughly. It’s a good idea to place the cookware on a stove top  burner set to low for a few minutes to make sure all moisture is driven off. Next, using a paper towel rub a small amount of cooking oil (less is more) on the inside and outside of the pan. What kind of cooking oil? Vegetable, olive, and melted shortening all work equally well. Lastly, place the pan on the center shelf of a cold oven and  heat to 375 degrees – give or take. Set a timer for about an hour, and turn off the oven when the time is elapsed. Let the oven cool with the cookware still inside. Remove the cookware when cooled.

How to retain the seasoning –

Most important: Do not wash! Even mild soap and water can degrade the non stick surface. Simply wipe clean with a paper towel. Isn’t this a little unsanitary? Perhaps. But what’s gonna live on a hot cast iron surface? If food sticks, use a scrapper such as the one made by Pampered Chef (no, I don’t own stock or get a kickback).

Lastly: You may have to repeat the seasoning steps to improve the non stick surface.

Oops. One more lastliest thing. They don’t make cast iron cookware like they used to. Your best bet for obtaining quality cast iron is garage sales, flea markets, swap meets and so on. Most important thing to look for (other than a sweet deal) is a smooth cooking surface. Some of today’s cast iron cookware has a pebbly cooking surface with just about defeats the non stick advantage.

So what do you think of cast iron cookware? Got any good tips or tricks? You can leave a comment here or even subscribe.

 

 

How Do I Love Thee, My Pack Goat?

The news from the doc wasn’t encouraging.

“You’re done carrying 50 pound packs, splitting wood, and packing out game on your back. You’re wearing out your spine. Keep it up and you’re looking at another back surgery. I don’t want you lifting over 25 pounds.”

Yeah, right. I’m an outdoorsman, okay? Carrying a heavy pack, splitting wood, and packing out game on my back is what I do. But that first surgery hurt much more than carrying a heavy pack, splitting firewood, and carrying out game on my back. I sure didn’t want another back surgery. So…

“Grover” – photo copyright by Mike L. Raether

Enter the pack goat.

For some time I’d been intrigued with the idea of goat packing. Goats have many advantages over other types of pack stock. True, you can’t ride them and they can’t carry as much weight at llamas, mules, and horses but as far as I’m concerned, the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages.

How do I love thee, my pack goat? Let me count the ways –

  • I don’t need a big stock trailer. Goats can be transported in the back of a pickup, but personally I use a little half ton trailer with extended sides.
  • Goats can carry up to 25% of their weight. My pack goat weighs about 165 and carries about 40 pounds. That’s 40 pounds on his back instead of mine. I like this idea. A lot. As some pack goats can go over 200 pounds, this means 50 pounds or more on their backs instead of yours.
  • I don’t have to shoe my goat or even trim his hooves, as long as we hike enough. A goat’s  hooves wear down pretty fast on a hard trail.
  • I don’t have to pack feed. Goats eat just about anything (except tin cans), although they do like a handful of grain as a treat.
  • Goats usually don’t buck or bite, but they might nibble on your shirttail to see if it’s edible.
  • They’re affectionate, but they have bad breath. Goat burps are stinky. Then again, so are human burps.
  • They’re easy to keep. Currently my pack goat lives in a 16X48’ enclosure using 50 inch tall cattle panels. In addition, he has a little house where he can get out of the weather. I could easily add a couple more goats to this set up.
  • They don’t eat much and their feed doesn’t have to be top quality. Last summer I bought a ton of grass hay for my pack goat and he’s just now getting to the last bale.
  • They don’t drink much water. In fact, they can go for a few days without drinking. Dry camps don’t bother them.
  • Pack goats are usually cheap to buy, but you may have to raise them from kids as trained and experienced pack goats are pretty spendy – if you can even find one for sale.
  • They’re incredibly sure footed; they can go everywhere you go and places you can’t (or won’t) go.
  • They’re recycling machines. Goat raisins make great compost.

There are a number of different breeds of goats, and some are better for packing than others. Alpines, Toggenburgs, and Saanans are all larger breeds that make good pack goats. You’ll want a goat that will weigh a minimum of 160 pounds when mature. Most pack goats are wethers (castrated males). But if you like goat’s milk get a doe for packing and you can have fresh milk in camp.

So – are you ready to do it with a goat?

But wait, there’s more! (I’m being facetious of course, but there really is more). I’m interested in your thoughts. You can reply, send me an email, and/or help design the new monthly newsletter –

Why Haters Hate

Hate: No matter how the story is told, it’s a sad story.

“Stop hating (all way)” by sylvar is licensed under CC 4.0

Why do people hate? Not “just because.” No, not at all. There are reasons behind every form of hatred, and all are ugly.

I came up with four base-level forms of hatred. I call them “base-level” because a lot of ugliness gets built on each one.

  • jealously,
  • a desire to feel superior,
  • a need for attention, and
  • for revenge.

But where does all this hate come from? Some would say from the fallen nature of man, and that’s the larger truth. But the smaller truth is that much of the hatred within us was deposited within us by our parents or through our peers. What kind of an example am I leaving for others?

I grew up in the greater Seattle area, a multicultural mecca where prejudice was pretty much unnamed. But I learned at an early age that not everyone considers others as equals.

For example, I remember one family that moved into my neighborhood from a southern state known for its racial tension. One day their son and I got talking. He told me how much he hated blacks, only he didn’t call them blacks. He used another word. Because I was a mean widdow kid (and a lot bigger than the new kid) I thought it would be great sport to sit on the kid, hold him down, and call him “n” “n” and “n” over and over again. Which I did.

The kid turned so red in the face I thought he was going to stroke out. I finally let him up, me laughing and him sputtering and spitting. This, by the way, ended our fledgling friendship.

As I considered all this, I mused, “Did Jesus ever use the word “hate?” He did, actually.  My favorite passage comes from Matthew 5:43-48 –

“‘You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore you are to be perfect [complete], as your heavenly Father is perfect.'” (NASU, emphasis mine).

Of course, the only way we can become perfect, or complete, is by placing our faith in Jesus as Savior (as in, save me from myself and the consequences of my knucklheadedness). He is the only one Who can teach us to truly love. May we yield to Him, so that He can make us perfect, as He is perfect.

So why do haters hate? Because they don’t know how to love.

But wait, there’s more! (I’m being facetious of course, but there really is more). I’m interested in your thoughts. You can reply, send me an email, and/or help design the new monthly newsletter –

“The Sky Is Falling!”

Ever hear the story of Chicken Little?

The children’s story or fable of Chicken Little has been told various ways, but the gist of the fairy tale is this:

Courtesy of Creative Commons, copyright Raul Remirez, IMG_0004

Chicken Little was a member of a barnyard who liked to go for walks in the nearby woods. One day while out walking, Chicken Little felt something fall on his head. He assumed it was a piece of the sky, which he surmised was falling. Running as fast as his little legs would carry him, he rushed back to the barnyard to warn the rest of the animals.

“The sky is falling! The sky is falling!”

At first the other barnyard animals panicked. “Oh, no!” They said. “What shall we do?” And they all ran for cover.

However, they soon discovered that the sky was NOT falling and calmed down. But Chicken Little was impressed with all the attention he’d received. Suddenly Chicken Little was catapulted to stardom! So the very next day Chicken Little again screamed out his warning:

“The sky is falling! The sky is falling!”

Once more, the other barnyard animals were alarmed. But they soon discovered that Chicken Little’s warning was false. Over the course of the next few days, Chicken Little kept repeating his dire warning of doom and gloom. But soon the other barnyard animals just laughed him off. Chicken Little’s message was ignored as Fake News.

But then came the day when the sky really WAS falling! Chicken Little sounded the alarm once more, but nobody paid any attention. The result was that every animal in the barnyard was destroyed, including Chicken Little.

The moral of the story is this: Don’t scream doom and gloom unless your report is true. Fake News puts everyone at risk.

Are you listening, liberal mainstream media?

But wait, there’s more! (I’m being facetious of course, but there really is more). I’m interested in your thoughts. You can reply, send me an email, and/or help design the new monthly newsletter –

The Poodle Doodle

During Montana’s fishing season I work part time at a local fly shop. The owner, fishing guide Joe Cantrell is great guy. He lets me bring my dog to work. Allow me to rephrase that last remark: I’m required to bring my dog to work. I think that if I didn’t bring Sophie to work, Joe would send me home to get her. I really think she ought to be on the payroll, but so far I haven’t been able to get Joe to sign off on that.

You may remember meeting Sophie in my blog entry of June, 2014. Sophie is my standard poodle who will be three years of age in a few weeks. Her birthday is Feb. 17, just in case you want to send her a card. Or a dog bone. Or maybe both.

Sophie loves everybody. When a customer enters the shop, she often stands on her hind legs with both of her front feet straight in the air as if to offer a High Ten.

It’s amazing how many people in Montana aren’t familiar with standard poodles. Maybe it’s because not many are seen in Montana. I’ve received comments like, “I didn’t know poodles could be so big!” (Sophie weighs about 50 pounds). But my favorite comment came from a customer who entered the shop, took a look at Sophie and asked, “What kind of a doodle is this?”

You’re probably aware that standard poodles are sometimes crossed with Labrador Retrievers and Golden Retrievers. The results are called, “Labradoodles” and “Golden Doodles” respectively. The hoped-for product in both cases is a dog that features a heavier build, has a strong hunting instinct, retains the intelligence of all three breeds, and has the hallmark, non-shedding coat of the poodle.

So the customer’s question, “What kind of a doodle is this?” was fair question – but I just couldn’t resist offering a smart-aleck reply:

“She’s a poodle-doodle.”

There’s a story behind how this Montana outdoorsman ended up with a poodle, and for that I refer you to article mentioned above. I really didn’t know much about standard poodles when I got her. But now I wouldn’t trade her for a whole herd of Labs.

How do I love thee, my poodle? Let me count the ways –

  • Poodles do not shed. They have hair instead of fur, making them pretty much hypoallergenic.
  • Sophie doesn’t smell like a dog, although sometimes her feet get a little stinky.
  • They’re scary-smart. I remember taking Sophie on a cross country hike last summer. The grass was taller than she was, so as she wandered out ahead she kept losing track of me. Finally she jumped up on a stump to see where I was. I’ve never seen a dog use a stump as a step stool before. That’s pretty smart.
  • They’re incredible watch dogs. We have a large front window in our living room with a bench underneath. Sophie spends hours sitting on that bench staring and out of the window. If anything moves out in the pasture, be it nothing more than a mouse, Sophie will let me know about it.
  • She’s exceptionally “birdy” and has a great nose. Most people don’t know it, but poodles were originally used as hunting dogs and they still make great hunters if they’re bred for it. She even has the webbed feet of a water retriever.

So my advice to you? If you’re ready for a dog, get a poodle-doodle. They’re only #8 on the American Kennel Club’s list of most popular dogs, but I’ve concluded that Poodles Are America’s Best Dogs. But then again, this advice is from a guy that owns a pack goat.

But wait, there’s more! (I’m being facetious of course, but there really is more). I’m interested in your thoughts. You can reply, send me an email, and/or help design the new monthly newsletter –

 

 

Thanks, Sierra Club; I Needed a Good Laugh

I don’t know why the letter found its way into my mailbox. As an outdoorsman I’m a deeply- committed environmentalist, but I’m not a radical environmentalist. So when I found the Sierra Club’s recent fund raising letter in my mail, I settled down for a good laugh.

“DIY dip dye hair” by mommyknows ( Kim Becker) available at https://www.flickr.com/photos/mommyknows/7847448616, under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0. Full terms at http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0

The letter abounded in scare tactics and alarmist statements, all designed to extract money from my pocket to help support the Sierra Club. They claimed, “…endangered species legislation is under attack… especially with the recent election of Donald Trump…”  The letter identified a number of animals it considers in deep weeds: “…lynx, ocelot, grizzly bear, gray wolf, and wolverine…”

I’m not too familiar with lynx, ocelots, grizzlies or wolverines, but as I live close to the land and deep in the mountains of Western Montana, I’m very familiar with wolves and the problems they cause. So let’s consider wolves and what the Sierra Club has to say about them.

“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed the Endangered Species Act [ESA] protections be removed for the gray wolf in the lower 48 states, allowing this iconic species to become a victim of unlimited hunting, trapping, and poisoning across the United States.”

Unlimited hunting? Really? Hunting is tightly controlled all over the country by game laws in order to protect the resource. Poisoning? Currently the only country that allows poisoning is Russia – and why? Russia has a history of huge problems with wolf predation.

The Sierra Club’s letter continued, “…the wolf is considered fair game for hunting by any method including trapping – a painful, inhumane, and cowardly way to kill.” While it’s true that, at least in Montana wolves can be hunted by many means, including bow, rifle, handgun and shotgun, the picture we’re offered is that of drooling, crazed hunters lusting after a chance to kill a wolf.

What about trapping? I’m not a trapper and I don’t think I’ll ever become one, but it’s a free country. If people want to trap, I say let ’em trap. But what about trapping being “…inhumane and cowardly…”? Traps usually don’t kill; they simply hold an animal until the trapper returns to the trap and dispatches the trapped animal quickly and humanly. In fact, the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Website talks at length about the ethics of trapping. Trappers are encouraged to Use dispatching methods that are quick and humane.” And according to Montana trapping regulations, traps must be checked at least every 48 hours.

The Sierra Club letter had more to say about gray wolves: “…when congress removed [ESA] protections for the gray wolf in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming in 2011, massive public hunts ensued. Since then more than 1,700 wolves have been senselessly slaughtered.”

Where did they get this figure of “1,700 wolves”?  And “senselessly slaughtered”? Since when is it senseless to destroy a group of animals that are running amok and eating themselves out of house and home? When deer, elk, and pronghorns overpopulate in Montana, hunting regulations are relaxed allowing increased harvests of animals that might starve to death otherwise. And since when is it senseless to kill wolves that are attacking a farmer’s or rancher’s stock?

What about the health of the Northern Rockies’ wolf packs? According to this report by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, “The NRM [Northern Rocky Mountain] wolf population continues to be robust, stable and self-sustaining. As of December 31, 2015, there were at least 1,704 wolves in 282 packs (including 95 breeding pairs) in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming. The wolf population has exceeded recovery goals identified by the Service and partner biologists since 2002. Wolves continue to expand their range westward in eastern Oregon and Washington. An additional 200 wolves in 34 packs (including 19 breeding pairs) were estimated in Oregon and Washington. The total wolf population in Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Oregon and Washington was estimated to be 1,904 wolves.”

This report by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was a cooperative effort by the fish and game management  units of Idaho, Wyoming, Oregon, Washington, and Montana with the help of the National Park Service, the Utah Department of Natural Resources, the USDA and seven Native American nations.

What??? No help from the Sierra Club or any other environmental organization? I have to ask, Why not?

The Sierra Club closes with the warning, “…the Trump Administration is …working hand and hand with anti-environment extremists… [and therefore] our work has taken on an added urgency.”

If that isn’t alarmist propaganda I don’t know what is.

Now, don’t get the wrong idea. I’m not trying to talk you out of supporting the Sierra Club. It’s your money. However, check out the claims before you reach into your pocket. You have a brain. Use it. Think before you drink the Kool-Aid.

But wait, there’s more! (I’m being facetious of course, but there really is more). I’m interested in your thoughts. You can reply below, send me an email, and/or help design the new monthly newsletter –

If You’re Not Like Me, You Suck

He gave me that classic “deer in the headlights” look.

Photo courtesy of Fabrice Florin (IMG_4419.JPG) and Creative Commons

My comment had been unpretentious, or so I thought: “What a sad and boring world it would be if we all looked the same, talked the same, dressed the same,  thought the same; shared the same opinions and likes and dislikes.” He didn’t say a word, but the look on his face spoke clearly –

“I think the world would be a whole lot better if everyone was just like me.”

This is Inauguration Week. On Friday, Trump becomes the president of the United States of America. And the United States of America have never been so ununited. Those on the left are especially unhappy. The tolerant left is no longer so tolerant. Apparently their tolerance only extends toward those who look the same, talk the same, think the same, and share the same opinions as them.

But wait: it’s not just those on the left who are intolerant.  Some on the right are just as critical and judgmental toward those who are different than them.

I was listening to a conservative talk radio program last week. The guest host was busy castigating an American couple for spending thousands of dollars on vet bills to nurse their pup back to health when they could have, in his opinion, better spent their money on helping rescue dogs find homes. The host was really big into rescue dogs, and in his view the world would be a whole lot better if everyone was like him.

About a year ago a relative gave me a book and asked my opinion. What he really wanted was an endorsement of his opinion. But when I gave him my opinion, which differed from his, his head exploded.

There is the division even in our Christian churches. I once attended a church where they worshipped with upraised hands. I wasn’t comfortable raising my hands, so I didn’t. The hand-raisers looked at me like I had a big ugly growth in the center of my forehead. I then tried a church where only a few people raised their hands. Those who didn’t raise their hands looked at those who did like they had cholera.

I dare you: reach out and become a friend to someone who is different than you. Risk engagement with others who may be different than you socially, politically, culturally, or economically. Why should you take my dare? Because this world would not be a better place if everyone was just like you.

But wait, there’s more! (I’m being facetious of course, but there really is more). I’m interested in your thoughts. You can post a comment right here online, send me an email and more –  

 

Got Hope?

So we had this election… And ever since, I’ve been struggling to understand the actions and attitudes of my progressive friends. The light finally went on as I listened to Michelle Obama being interviewed by Oprah earlier this month.

"'The Scream" by Edward Munch, 1893. Courtesy Creative Commons.
“‘The Scream” by Edward Munch, 1893. Courtesy Creative Commons.

Oprah asked Ms. Obama how she was feeling about the Trump election. Michelle responded, “…see, now, we are feeling what not having hope feels like.”

And there it is. Despair is in the air. Some of my progressive friends, especially those those who are dependent on the government fear that their entitlements will go away, particularly such things as Social Security and Medicare. Other progressives are afraid that their pet agendas will be a negatively impacted.

Some have said, “C’mon, it was only an election !” But to those on the left, it was much more than an election. It was an assault on their hope. As Michelle said later in the same interview, “Hope is a necessary concept.” True dat. And when people lose hope, they’re flooded by despair.

As the Bible says in the first half of Proverbs 29:18, “Where there is no vision [hope], the people perish…” (KJV). Or as Peterson’s paraphrase has it, “If people can’t see what God is doing, they stumble all over themselves…”*

I don’t know if Trump will be a good president or not. But I’m not too concerned about this as I don’t place my hope in government; my hope is in Jesus Christ. I know God is at work, and that He’s got this.

This isn’t the time to gloat, especially if we’re Christians. This is the time to reach out to those who are in despair and seek to understand the situation from their perspective. To do this, we must first be willing to listen. As David Bohm observed, “…communication can lead to the creation of something new only if people are able freely to listen to each other, without prejudice, and without trying to influence each other. Each has to be interested primarily in truth and coherence, so that he is ready to drop his old ideas and intentions, and be ready to go on to something different, when this is called for.”

Once others see that you’re sincerely interested in what interests them, you may find that others are interested in what interests you. And they might even give you an opportunity to tell them of the great hope that is in you: Jesus Christ the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6).

But wait, there’s more! (I’m being facetious of course, but there really is more). I’m interested in your thoughts. You can send me an email, post a comment right here online and more –  

Election Muck and Mud

As of today, the election of the next president of United States is 11 days away. But you knew that, didn’t you? Don’t you wish it was over? What a choice we have for president!

I’m so tired of the hatred coming not only from the mouths of the

Courtesy Creative Commons/Flikr, by KAZVorpal
Courtesy Creative Commons/Flikr, by KAZVorpal

candidates, but from the people who have chosen one candidate over the other. I saw a Facebook post a few days ago from a left-leaning person who said something about getting rid of the “F-tards” and working towards removing hate from the word. I couldn’t resist. I posted back, “Isn’t it hateful to call people names? Maybe getting rid of the hatred should start with you. He who is not guilty should get to throw the first stone.”

I’m tired of the spin coming from the left-leaning media. I’m also tired of the spin coming from the right-leaning media. Our country is so divided: “I’m a progressive” or, “I’m a conservative” or, “I’m a Democrat” or, “I’m a Republican.” I understand people are different and they have differing opinions. I get that. But if my opinion differs from your opinion, if my choice for president differs from your choice, can’t we just accept each other’s differences, even if we disagree? Why not?

I have an answer for this. It’s because something within us wants to feel superior to others. I call that something “pride.” For example, pride whispers that I’m better than you because my political opinions are, of course, right, and yours are wrong, or because I caught more fish than you, or shot a bigger buck than you. Or as Mick Jagger sung so many years ago, “He can’t be a man because he doesn’t smoke the same kind of cigarettes as me” (from the Rolling Stones song, “I Can’t No Satisfaction”).

Here in Montana some have looked down on me or even thought there’s something wrong with me because instead of owning a horse and a Labrador retriever, I own a pack goat and a poodle (which, by the way, I was once told sounded like a country western song: “A Pack Goat and a Poodle.” But of course, I hate country western and I feel superior because of it. Who listens to such tripe?).

The solution is to imitate God, who is “kind to those who are unthankful and wicked.” ( Luke 6:35 in part, Holy Bible, New Living Translation).

“Love is patient, love is kind and  is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered,  does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”  (1 Corinthians 13:4-7, New American Updated Standard Bible translation).

But wait, there’s more! I’m interested in your thoughts. You can send me an email, post a comment right here online and more –  

Are You an “Innie” or an “Outie”?

First off, to be clear, we’re not talking about belly buttons here. My title refers to whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert.

I happen to be an introvert. I love reading, privacy, and thinking.

The Extrovert's View: "Nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live here!"
The Extrovert’s View: “Nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live here!”

I spend a lot of time in my head. I don’t like crowds and you may never see me at a party, because people drain me. I do not like chit-chat, but prefer a deeper interaction with others. I have a handful of close friends with whom I do life, but otherwise I recharge in silence and solitude. On the negative side, I can be viewed as shy or even antisocial.

Extroverts are at home in crowds. In fact, they are usually recharged by interaction with people. For example, I have a extrovert friend who has to have a regular “people fix” or he gets depressed. Accordingly, extroverts tend to have many friends but develop few deep relationships. Extroverts enjoy small talk, and often engage in chit chat just for the sake of communication. While extroverts can be thinkers and planners, they tend more to “thinking on their feet,” or going with their gut instincts.

One personality type is not better than another; they are just different. In a marriage, introverts and extroverts can balance each other. Unfortunately, our culture is oriented towards extroverts. We admire the quick-on-his-feet talker, the one who makes quick decisions, the guy or gal who is bold and outward-focused. We don’t want to wait for the introvert’s advice, even though his advice is usually more thought-out and therefore often avoids the risks of off-the-cuff, knee-jerk decisions.

In her fine book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, author Susan Cain has a lots to say about introverts and extroverts. If you are curious, you can take a free online personality test that you might find helpful.

So which are you, an “innie” or an “outie”? And what are your thoughts about the two personality types?