We had to take Dunkel to the vet today to get his teeth cleaned. His litter mate Mia has Bartonella’s which often causes dental problems. Porter, who’s genetically unrelated has no issues, but Dunkel needed a good cleaning. He’s getting tested for Bartonella’s as a precaution, but the expectation is he won’t have it.
Anyway, we dropped him off at the vet this morning. I picked him up around 3:30pm. The hours between were odd. Dunkel is the straw that stirs the drink around here. Mia looked for him. Porter was nonplussed.
I’m glad he’s home. Sure, I was able to go several hours without him sticking his ass in my face, but it wasn’t worth it. I missed the head butts. He’s a big goofball with enough fur to make another cat, but we wouldn’t trade him for the world.
Late in the afternoon it can get pretty hard to get anything done around here. I tend to pick up an audience. Porter has taken to getting up on the back of my chair and making little whining noises. What he really wants is for me to get up because he really likes sleeping in this chair. I’m in the way. That’s all he’s trying to tell me. Mia, on the other hand, seems to wake up from her late afternoon nap and comes down to let me know she hasn’t been fed or generally catered to in several hoursseveral minutes since the last time it occurred to her. I need to hurry up because there’s an early evening nap to get in. Dunkel is nothing if not consistent. He wants to play.
It can make it tough to get anything done.
Especially if you’re not trying to hard.
This time it’s worked. Truth be told, it usually does.
“Don’t get upset. I’m OK,” she said, “I’ve been in a car accident.”
“Where are you?”
She tells me. Central Parkway, Idiot driving too fast loses control and smacks into her. Spins her around. Side airbag deploys. EMTs check her out. She’ll probably have a bruise from the seatbelt. She couldn’t open the driver’s side door.
I drive down to the District 1 Police Station to get her. A Sergeant helped her get some stuff out of the back and drove her down. I circle the block once before I see her.
Home. I’d had dinner already cooked. We eat. Mia is on her lap. Dunkel is on the back of the couch watching over her. We’re waiting for a call from the Sergeant to give us some information. The insurance dance begins in the morning.
It’s not that we had any elaborate plans this weekend, but they got changed anyway. Carla’s dad had to go into the hospital yesterday. I don’t want to say it’s not serious because it’s something that landed him in the hospital, but it’s something that’s manageable and he’s probably getting out tomorrow. Carla drove over there this morning and, with any luck, will be home Monday. Then we’ll head back over there early Friday morning as we’d been planning to do for quite a while. Never a dull moment.
So it’s me and the cats this weekend. Porter and Dunkel are used to being with just me, but it’s not something Mia has much experience with I’m alone with them during the day a lot, but she sleeps most of the day. Tonight is a new thing for her. Either we’re both supposed to be gone at night or we’re both supposed to be here.
Long about 5 or 6 PM she’s gotten into the habit of coming out and begging Carla to be fed. The boys eat dry food that we just leave out all the time, but we’ve had to feed her wet because she had a lot of dental issues. Those were dealt with Tuesday, but the habit is there now. One that will take a while to break. I wondered what would happen if Carla wasn’t here to see the “Oh, woe is me, I’m being starved” act. Answer: she’s perfectly happy to put on the show for me. You’d never know she’s maintained a strict 3-foot exclusion zone around herself for the last month. We were the best buds. I joke about it, but it makes me happy. We don’t know the whole story of what went on in her previous home, but something made her very afraid of men. Bit by bit she’s getting over it and that makes me very happy.
One thing that’s been a challenge is we’ve had to give her oral antibiotics since her dental work on Tuesday. If’s been. Interesting. We hit on a solution. We keep tubes of this malt-based hairball prevention paste around. Porter and Dunkel love it, which is good because Dunkel sheds enough to build another cat every three days. But it’s Porter who gets the hairballs — from grooming Dunkel. Turns out Mia likes the stuff too AND we can mix in the antibiotic. We know she gets the whole dose because she licks the plate clean. She’ll forgive Carla for shoving a syringe in her mouth. Me? Not so much.
Porter and Dunkel will wake us up in the morning, but they actually require environmental cues. Don’t set an alarm or let the lights come up on a timer and they’ll stay sacked out. Not Mia. She’s literally in Carla’s face first thing in the morning. After getting the begging routine this evening, I’m not bothering to set an alarm for the morning. Miss Mia will handle my wake up call. The joke’s on her, though. Malt and antibiotic before food.
So tomorrow will be a quiet day with me and the cats and probably the Big Green Egg. As I said, we didn’t have any solid plans, but these weren’t it. Could be worse. Definitely not complaining.
It’s been a great trip. It’s going to take a bit of time to process. It was a week ago today that the conference in Williamsburg, VA wrapped up and we spent a rainy afternoon and evening driving the Colonial Parkway from Jamestown to Yorktown. Didn’t know about the serial killer at the time. Probably for the best. My first overnight train trip was still a day away. It’s amazing how much we packed into just four days in Florida.
Some things that are going to stick with me:
Mountains. I miss them. The drive across West Virginia and western Virginia made that pretty clear. Even today we got off I-75 for a bit to cut down on the amount of traffic we had to sit through to get past the rock slide in Tennessee. We used an old state highway that winds up the mountain paralleling a railroad track and crisis-crossing a stream on a series of one-lane bridges that look like they date back to the WPA or CCC. It all seemed so right somehow.
I’ve never been a big fan of vinegar-based barbecue sauces, but there is a Virginia version that I actually want to try out for myself. I had it on a pulled chicken sandwich for lunch last Saturday and I haven’t been able to quit thinking about how good it would be on pulled pork. The weather is supposed to be nice tomorrow….
Words cannot describe how miserable I was about 2AM on Tuesday as I tried to sleep in that tiny roomette on the Auto Train. More than once I muttered to myself that I was in hell. So understand when I say I’d take another train trip in a heartbeat that I’m saying this with my eyes wide open. In a roomette? Not on your life. I’d rather just try to sleep in a coach seat. I think if we’d been in one of the larger sleeping compartments you would have had a hard time getting us off that train. Nothing that was unpleasant about our experience was anything Amtrak could control. I’m a fan.
The staff of Osceola County Stadium in Kissimmee, FL. It wasn’t supposed to be the case, but we saw the last two Astros Spring Training games that will ever be played in Kissimmee. There was supposed to be a game yesterday that we couldn’t go to that was supposed to be the last one, but it got rained out. It was already a bittersweet ending to a 32-year run there, and I so wish they could have ended it with tha bang they deserved. I love minor league ballparks because they’re usually so friendly. That’s what it was like at Osceloa. The only way you would have known the Astros were getting ready to leave is because there was a PA announcement asking folks to share pictures of their experiences at the park. Every single employee was a complete pro. You’d have thought nothing out of the ordinary was going on. It’s a great place to watch a game. I truly hope they find another tenant to go in there. They know how to do it right.
I’m ready for the season to get started. I’m excited about the Astros. I’m bracing myself for the wailing and gnashing of teeth from Reds fans this year. We lost 111 games in 2013. 107 the year before that. Reds fans have trouble being positive when they’re winning. This isn’t going to be pretty. I hope the weather is good Opening Day. It may be the highlight of the year.
But mainly we’re home now. Porter, Dunkel, and Mia have each given us our scolding for leaving them and let both of us know we’re tentatively forgiven. Carla has a long day at work tomorrow. I can’t avoid leaving the house for a couple of reasons, but I don’t plan to be gone long.
DISCLAIMER: No brain cells were harmed in the writing of this blog post.
After having a couple of days writing about something I enjoy doing I found myself stuck today. I can’t think of something to write about that’s not serious. I don’t want to be serious. Everything is so damned serious now. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t getting to me a little. I’m OK. If I wasn’t trying to post everyday I’d just let today go by without a post until I get my head on a little straighter. Like tomorrow. Since I feel a sense of responsibility to not miss any more days, I’m going to forge ahead here.
Hey! Wait! The only rule is that I have to post. This is a post. Carry on with what you were doing. I think I’m done now.
Here’s a picture of Porter playing with Dunkel so the time you spent coming here was worth it.
There’s really only one question to be answered when you write a post like the one I wrote yesterday: how did the meat turn out? In a word? Delicious. You’re not going to get off that easy, though. There will be more words. But first, a picture.
So it wound up being pulled pork and not sliced pork, but it’s not like that’s a problem. The reason is simple. Fatty tissues start to convert to gelatin at around 160-degrees Fahrenheit. It keeps happening as long as you stay above that temperature. The data show that the outer part of the butt hit 160 around 3:30 AM and the center reached that an hour later. I don’t pull it off the heat for another 12 hours. There was no way there was going to be enough connective tissue strong enough to allow slicing. I used Bear Paws to lift it off the grate and it held together just fine. It was when I tried to slice it that it started to shred. So I went with it.
One thing this cook has taught me is that I am now very suspicious of target temperatures. Some temperatures you have to be conscious of. You have to be aware of 40 – 140F because it’s the danger zone for bacterial growth. 140F is the temperature around which meat will quit taking in smoke. I’ve already talked about what happens to fat and connective tissue at 160F. After that? You’ll get browning and the Maillard reaction faster once you get above 170 or so, but it can happen at lower temperatures. In terms of getting the result you want, hitting a temperature is only half the battle. Holding that temperature has an effect as well. Normally people talk about the target temperature for pulled pork to be 190 or above, but I never got close to that. I may have hit the high 180s when it was wrapped and stashed in the cooler, but that was it. But the cook laster 20 hours. Of course it was pulled pork.
I tend to go light on the smoke with only a half-dozen wood chunks in the entire load of fuel. Given their distribution throughout the lump there’s always plenty left. One thing I was happy that I did this time is letting the pit come up fully to temperature before putting the meat on. That let the smoke get cleaned up. It was dark by the time I put the butt on, but the smoke was nearly transparent. That’s really what you want. I hate seeing people put meat on blllowing smokers. You only get heavy particulates with incomplete combustion. A layer of ash isn’t what you’re going for. At that point you might as well eat the lump. I don’t obsess about lump that much. While I’m glad a site like the Naked Whiz exists, I can get by just fine with Kroger lump. In fact, it’s pretty good.
The other component of the meal were the rolls. Here they are.
I didn’t make them into smooth balls, but the texture was very good. These rolls are starting to turn me into a bun snob. They are tender, but they have some staying power.
The last picture is kind of funny. As I mentioned before, I used a set of Bear Paws to get the meat off the smoker. While bringing everything upstairs I managed to drop one on the stairs to the basement. It went bouncing down and I cussed a little about having to go back down later to get it. I shouldn’t have worried. Our cat Dunkel, for whom everything is a toy, thought it was great that I gave him something new to play with. So he brought it upstairs for me.
I’ve been hitting on serious stuff all week and I’ve just about overloaded on it. It’s time to write about the cats. The last time I wrote about them Miss Mia had just decided that maybe we were OK and she could actually stand to be seen with us. I’m happy to say that trend has continued. About the only time she’s not in the same room with us now is if we’re both working downstairs in the basement and it’s cold outside. The basement stays a good bit cooler than upstairs and she hates being cold even more than Porter.
She’s the lap cat Carla’s always wanted. She’ll crawl up onto Carla while she’s on the couch and either sack out or squirm around to extract the most petting possible. Her sweet spot for scratching is right on the back of the neck. If I’m on the couch the same time as Carla I get to participate. She’s trained me to brush her when she nuzzles at the brush we keep nearby. Carla has to be there though, she’s still very skittish around me otherwise. We understand from her foster family that it’s true of men in general. If she’s in the room and I move, she watches me like a hawk. You can almost see the “run or stay” calculations happening. The vibe I’m getting is that over time there will be less running and more staying. Whatever hesitation she has toward me disappears if I’m mixing her up a treat of wet cat food and dry. She likes me just fine then.
She gets along with Porter and Dunkel great. I’m pretty sure Porter would be grooming her routinely if she’d only let him. The skittishness she has with me extends to Porter to some degree. It’s breaking down, but she’s got to decide we’re OK on her own schedule. It’s different with Dunkel. They may not remember they’re litter mates, but they’re wired the same way. They play. The same sorts of things are attractive to them. They shadowbox with each other and take turns chasing the other.
Tomorrow we get to take all of them to the vet for the first time as a group. That should be interesting. Don’t think Miss Mia is going to be terribly happy with us when it’s all said and done, but at least she’ll be able to commiserate with the boys.