I haven’t written about restaurants for a while. Honestly? I’ve been too discouraged and disappointed to write about it. is a happy place, I don’t want to dwell on the negative here.

I’m talking about, for example, Eddie Merlot’s. Nice enough, but the last time I was there it was 48 dollars for a New York strip – just the steak, sides are extra. Around here you can buy a New York strip that will make you weep with joy when you eat it at retail for 8 dollars a pound. A 6X markup over retail is banditry. It’s good, the food is generally cooked well, the service is ok. But it’s not 48 dollars for a steak good.

Or, for another example, Joseph Decuis used to be our go-to spot for celebratory dinners. Amazing food, perfect service. It was expensive, but you got what you paid for. But recently Joseph Decuis seems to have returned to its roots: Pete Eschelman’s private club. Joseph Decuis started out as the private dining room for his business. The last few times we’ve been there it’s been like since we’re outsiders we get ignored. Service has been indifferent. The last time we were there we ordered, got a glass of wine, and then were ignored for 45 minutes. Literally ignored – no wait staff visited our table until I finally got up and hunted them down. Food has been inexcusably bad. Debbie got a piece of fish that was raw in the middle. It seems like all attention of the kitchen and wait staff was going to groups that they knew.


Which brings me to my happy place – Shorty’s in Garrett.

Shorty’s is located in the heart of Garrett, just south of the train tracks. It’s just a neighborhood place. There’s a beautiful old bar as you walk in, and incredible pressed tin ceilings and then just some vinyl-clad booths and diner style tables.

The Beautiful Bar
The Beautiful Bar

It’s not fancy, but the food is oh so good. If I don’t know or trust a restaurant I order a steak cooked medium. I like my steaks medium rare, but at too many places medium rare comes out rare [1]. At Shorty’s every steak I’ve had (unlike Joseph Decuis) has come out perfectly cooked.

Shorty’s full name is Shorty’s Steakhouse, and that’s fair, because their steaks are worth top billing. But they run specials every weekend (they have a Facebook page you can check for the specials) and they are at once as delicious and innovative as anything anyone is doing, and still hometown.

Debbie and I went up there last weekend for one of those specials: bluegills.


Debbie and I normally order different things so we can taste each others [2], but when it came to bluegills we both ordered them. And like everything at Shorty’s they didn’t disappoint. Which is saying a lot, because we take our bluegills seriously. They were just lightly breaded, dusted I’d guess with a bit of flour, cornmeal, salt, and pepper. And then fried until crisp outside and still tender and juicy inside. Served with red cabbage slaw and another side of your choice.

We got there early and by 6 pm [3] the place was packed. But despite the crowd, Shorty’s was ready for it, and unlike Joseph Decuis, the service was spot-on. Every plate hit the table exactly when it should, the wait staff checked back often, and our glasses were never empty.

Our most recent visit, and everytime we’ve been Shorty’s, was just splendid.

1. Medium rare is warm, red, and firm in the middle, rare is cold, red, and soft. If you want a steak warm through and get it cold, it’s just gross. It ain’t rocket science, it only takes a modicum of care and skill to get a steak cooked right.

2. As usual, when I say “we”, I mean “me.” I taste Debbie’s and any attempt by her to taste mine is met by growls and threatening gestures with the silverware.

3. Here in hillbilly heaven 6 pm is late for supper. And we have dinner at 11:30 am, in case you were wondering.

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Cold and Tired

Spenser [1] spent several hours today digging down through the snow


into the unfrozen ground underneath. He can’t hear, and his eyesight’s not that good, but he can still smell rodents under the ground. He came in with ice and mud caked on his paws and has been resting ever since.

When I come home
Cold and tired
It’s good to warm my bones
Beside the fire
– Pink Floyd

1. The Wonder DOg

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Chicken Excitement

I went out just before suppertime to shut the chickens in. It was getting dark and it was cold and windy. I wanted to get cleaned up and have supper and not have to go out again.

But the chickens were all still in the outside pen, clucking their stupid heads off, and one of them was throwing itself around the closed in pen, fluttering and banging off the fence. What sort of chicken drama was playing out in their tiny chicken brains?

I got closer and realized the “chicken” throwing itself about in the enclosed pen was actually a sharp-shinned hawk. It had flown in there somehow and couldn’t find a way out.

Sharp-shinned Hawk
Sharp-shinned Hawk

That’s a generic picture of a sharp-shinned hawk. We’ve had one hanging around our place all fall. He hangs on the wind over Skunk Hill and captures rodents in our native planting areas.

While the hawk was bashing about in the enclosed pen, our rooster was on the other side of the fence, throwing himself at the hawk, quite willing to take on the predator to defend his hens.

Our Rooster
Our Rooster

That is a picture of our rooster. He as full of himself as any creature can be. But he went after that hawk without a thought of himself, despite the fact that the hawk would’ve surely have torn him apart if he had gotten through the fence. You can attribute that to his chicken sized brain, or to the insane belief in their own immortality and invincibility of all young males. Whatever the reason, it was impressive to watch.

I opened the door to the pen so the hawk could find his way out, and Spenser the Wonder Dog immediately dashed in. Spenser is deaf as a post, so he didn’t hear me screaming at him that the hawk would tear his eyes out. Spenser trotted over, sniffed the hawk, evidently found it not interesting and wandered into the chicken coop to look for eggs – which he finds very interesting.

In the meantime the rooster continues to throw himself at the fence to try to get to the hawk, and the hawk flies into the fence right by me and hangs onto the fence with its talons and stares at me, evidently wanting to rip my throat out.

Being only slightly smarter than the rooster, it took a while for me to realize I should move away from the open door. When I did the hawk burst through the open door and disappeared over the roof of our house like a fighter jet on afterburners.

I went into the coop to retrieve the Wonder Dog and there was one dead chicken that the hawk had killed. Spenser, being senile as well as deaf, didn’t notice it until I picked it up.

As soon as I stepped back outside the hens and the rooster bolted for the coop. I sealed the doors up, and as I did I heard the contented, interrogative “chook, chook, chook?” noise they make as they settle onto their perches for the night.

Minus one chicken, all was well again.

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November 3rd, 1981

November 3rd, 1981 [1]. A Tuesday. I was 24 years old.

We were harvesting corn. It was a wet fall and we were slopping through the mud to get the corn in.

I was taking German that year at IPFW and the class met Tuesday and Thursday evenings. About 4 PM on the 3rd I was running the combine at the Harrold Place and the combine went down in a mud hole and I stuck one of the snouts [2] in the mud and bent it up.


Well, I wasn’t going to make it to German class that night. Annoyed, mad at myself, and in a hurry I pulled the snout off. We went back up to our shop, 3 miles up the road, and hammered and welded the snout straight.

Then back to the field. I started bolting the snout back on and said to my brother Dave, “While I’m finishing this, tighten up that hydraulic line that’s been dripping.”

As soon as he put a wrench on that hydraulic line the fitting broke and, because I was in a hurry, we hadn’t engaged the lock that would hold the header up and the header dropped onto me.

By modern standards that’s a tiny combine, and a 3 row corn header is quaintly small, practically a toy. But still it weighed something over 3000 pounds, and without hydraulics to hold it up, every one of those 3000 pounds dropped on me.

I was sitting under it, bolting the snout on, when it came down. It folded me forward, driving my head into the ground beside my knee. I discovered later my right ear was cut by a cornstalk as it was driven into the ground. I screamed once and then was so compressed that I couldn’t draw another breath.

My brother Dave was strong as a bull. He ran around the combine and heaved up on the snout, bending it enough that my head and torso came free and I could breath.

My leg was still pinned under the header. My Dad was there and he said, “We’ve got to get it off him. Dave, back it away.” “Bleeping, bleeping no,” I yelled, “you’ll drag it right across my legs!” “Do it, Dave,” Dad said, “he may be bleeding out under there.” Dad was a strong man too, and understood what was important.

And Dave did it. The combine had my right ankle pinned but I wasn’t bleeding. I did have a dent in my ankle that was made by a bolt head and the dent was visible for years. It’s gone now.

Free at last I went to stand up and discovered I couldn’t straighten up. I was bent at 90 degrees.

The Harrold Place is about as remote as you can get in Whitley County. I got into Dad’s pickup, this was long before cell phones and 911 and we were miles from anywhere. Dad drove me to Dr. Minnick’s office in Churubusco. Dr. Minnick looked at me and said to Dad, “You better take him into the hospital in Ft. Wayne.” Then he turned to me where I was bent over the examining table, grabbed a sheet of paper, and started drawing, “Here’s what happened,” he said.

Dr. Minnick's Sketch
Dr. Minnick’s Sketch [3]

A compression fracture of several vertebrae. Then he got behind me, grabbed my shoulders, put his knee just above my butt and pulled me upright. “There.” he said. I was upright all right, but I couldn’t bend forward now. Dad got me into his pickup and away to the hospital we went. They took x-rays of my back and Dr. Minnick was exactly right.

3 weeks flat on my back, another 3 months in a back brace, and I was as right as rain.

And I got an ‘A’ in German, despite missing 3 weeks of classes.

I shouldn’t have been in such a hurry on November 3rd.

1.I meant to post this on November 3rd…

2. Bent the one the second from the right.

3. My recollection of Dr. Minnick’s sketch. Wish I’d grabbed the original.

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Zippy For President

Now here’s a candidate I can get behind.

Corgis for everyone!
Corgis for everyone!

Corgis for everyone! Although I’m not sure why you’d name them Ralph.

Zippy may strike some as a taste you have to acquire, but I’ve loved it from my first read when I lived in the Washington DC area in the 80’s and Zippy was in the Washington Post.

Brushed Owen
A Corgi named Owen

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Sun Going Down

It sure is pretty to be out in the fields as the sun goes down.


But I sure hate to run at night.

Sun Down

You can just see a little bit in front you. You can’t see the edge of the field, or where the truck is parked. A lot of the time you detect problems by looking at the pass you just made to your left or right. You can’t see that previous pass at night.

I’m a dawn to dark kind of guy. I like to be home at night.

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Lots of apples this year. Tom and I picked my pickup about half full from just a couple of neighbors trees.

We pressed them tonight, ending up with about 16 gallons of cider.

Pickup load o' apples
Pickup load o’ apples
Hillary's saying, "are you taking a picture?"
Hillary’s saying, “Are you taking a picture?”
Tom pressing smarter, not harder
Tom pressing smarter, not harder

We ended up with about 16 gallons of cider. We’re going to ferment around 13 gallons of it, and drink the rest fresh. Fresh cider is so incredibly delicious, pasteurizing may make it safe, but it also kills all the taste.

We also had some nice grapes and ended up with a half gallon of grape juice that I’m going turn into red wine vinegar.

My Dad (Tom’s Grandpa of course) built that press about 40 years ago. 3 generations of pressing apples and good times.

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Bread and Soup

Several restaurants we visited in Iceland offered bread and soup. They had a big kettle of soup that you served yourself from, and loaves of bread beside it that you sliced your own slabs of bread from [1].

And it was cheap [2], appealing to the backpacking crowd.

Since it was a cold and rainy day here [3] I made my own version. Potato and leek soup and rye bread, made with rye flour from rye we grew.

Bread and Soup
Bread and Soup


1.You sliced your slabs holding the bread with your bare hands, no latex gloves. And if you wanted another bowl of soup you used the same bowl. Eeek! That must be why there are so few people in Iceland, they’ve all died from food poisoning. [4]

2. Don’t believe it when anyone tells you how cheap it is to visit Iceland. That bowl of soup will cost you many kr√≥na, I tell you what.

3. But still about 30 degrees warmer than Iceland.

4. That’s sarcasm. It’s so hard to tell.

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Tomatoes, Spinach, and Polenta

We had some small tomatoes from the garden to use up. Debbie found this recipe and it was incredibly delicious.


What you’ll need

A nice bunch of small tomatoes. Cherry tomatoes are great, golf ball sized ones are good too. If they’re bigger just cut them in half.
Olive oil
Fresh herbs
About 6 cloves of garlic
A big bunch of spinach
A cup of polenta
About 4 oz of soft goat cheese

How to do it

Heat the oven to 425. Line a baking pan with parchment paper (or not, you’ll just have to scrub the pan)
Put the tomatoes in the pan and drizzle with olive oil, roll them around to coat on all sides
Toss in some fresh herbs if you have them, sprigs of rosemary, thyme, and oregano are all nice.
A few cloves of garlic are nice too. Leave the papery husks on.

Cook for 20 minutes or so, toss and cook a bit more.
Remove from the oven.
When they’ve cooled remove the herb sprigs, squeeze the garlic out over the tomatoes, and give them a rough chop.

Finely chop, or even mince, 3 cloves of garlic.
Add some olive oil to a big pan and simmer the garlic over very low heat. Don’t brown it, just poach it in the oil.
In the meantime take a nice big bunch of spinach and remove the stems and roughly chop it.
Put the spinach in with the garlic and cook until the spinach is wilted.
Remove the spinach from the pan and season the spinach with salt to taste.

Add 3 cups water to the pan and bring it to a boil.
Add a cup of polenta and a 1/2 teaspoon of salt.
Cook, stirring often, until it’s creamy.
Add 4 oz of goat cheese, a soft fresh one. Any cheese you like will be splendid.
Stir until the cheese is melted.
Give it a nice seasoning with pepper.

Serve by putting a big dollop of polenta on a plate, then topping with spinach, then with the tomatoes.

You may have noted at this point that in the picture my tomatoes aren’t chopped, and neither is the spinach. And the spinach has its stems. I didn’t chop the tomatoes or the spinach or remove the stems, but it would’ve been so much better if I had.

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