I first had cioppino in 1977. Bruce Wright and I drove a pickup load of stuff out to San Diego for my sister Anne who was moving there. My Uncle Dean (one of my Mom’s brothers) lived there and he took us to the Brigantine [1] on Shelter Island Drive for cioppino.

Cioppino, at least in its roots [2], is a rustic seafood stew. For a 20 year old Indiana country mouse, it was about the most exotic thing I’d ever eaten.

I make cioppino every now and then, and with the weather turning cold it sounded good so I made it again today.


It’s just a tomato and seafood broth with shrimp, fish, mussels, and crab. [3] It’s light and tasty and exotic, and for me, nostalgic.

This is how I made it tonight. I’m the furthest thing in the world from an itinerant fisherman, so there’s probably nothing authentic about it. But it was the best cioppino I’ve ever made, and almost rivaled my memory of the Brigantine’s from 1977.


Main course for 2, with leftovers

Yellow onion
Fennel bulb (with fronds)
Olive oil
4 garlic cloves
4 ice cubes of tomato paste (maybe the same as an 8oz can, I make tomato paste and freeze it in ice cube trays)
2 pint jars crushed tomatoes
3/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
1 1/2 cups of white wine
5 cups seafood stock
bay leaf
seafood (I had a small tilapia fillet, a pound of mussels, one cluster of crab legs, and 10 oz of shrimp)

Roughly chop the onion, fennel bulb, and garlic. Saute them in 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil on low heat until they’re softened.

Add the tomato paste, tomatoes, wine, stock, salt, pepper, and bay leaf. Toss in the fennel fronds. Simmer for a half hour or so.

Fish out the bay leaf and fennel fronds, then puree it in a blender.

Return to the pan and cook until it’s thickened a bit. Taste and add salt, pepper, and red pepper to your taste.

At this point you can refrigerate or let it simmer until it’s almost time to eat.

About 10 minutes before eating time throw in your seafood. Bring it to a boil and then crank back to a simmer until the seafood is done.

Enjoy with crusty bread and remember 1977.

1. It’s still there. But there’s no cioppino on their online menu. I was in San Diego in 2006 or thereabouts and went there for supper out of nostalgia.

2. In its roots it’s what the fisherman ate, cooking what they couldn’t otherwise sell. Now it’s an expensive restaurant dish.

3. That’s what I had left over after selling my catch at the docks! Hahaha! No, that’s what looked good in our very limited seafood choices here in northeastern Indiana.

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A Good Time to Quit

I quit day to day farming at the end of harvest last year and handed my part over to my nephew Tom. The farm magazines keep coming though. I don’t generally read them, but John Phipps who writes for the Farm Journal magazines is one of my favorite commentators. So today when a Top Producer[1] magazine (a Farm Journal publication) showed up in our mailbox I flipped it open to the back page where John’s column runs.

And this was John’s column

(It’ll be available in text format in a few weeks, click the image above to read the scanned in magazine page in the meantime.)

I love you, Tom, but I’m glad I’m out.

1. I in general despise Top Producer. It’s all about glamorizing big farmers. I usually read it just to get outraged.

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Still Standing

On December 1st, 2016 I tipped the scales at 234 pounds, the most I’d ever weighed in my life, a good 50 pounds overweight. I felt every pound of it. My feet hurt, my knees hurt, my back hurt. I couldn’t keep my pants up because my gut was bigger than my hips and I had constant heartburn. I was getting through the day with Aleve and Tums. Something had to change.

My nephew Tom was ready to take over the farm, and I was happy to turn the day to day work and worry over to him. I had been working part-time for Complete Wellness Solutions doing computer programming, and on December 1st I started full-time with them.

With the change – back to a regular Monday through Friday job, I started exercising daily and eating lighter. Running was excruciating, I’d run 100 feet, and walk 300. Foot pain, shin pain, knee pain, hip pain… I ran a marathon 20 years ago at a faster pace than I could maintain for 100 feet now. I was embarrassed to be me.

The weight started to come off, fast. The running improved, but not as fast. I was still lumbering along, trying (and failing) to run more than a half mile at a time. But I was improving, and in a paroxysm of optimism I signed up to run the Turtle Days 5K.

If you’re not from around here, Turtle Days is our annual summer fair commemorating a farmer who thought he saw a turtle “as big as the roof of a car” in a local lake back in the 1940’s. My Dad was a teenager then and remembered driving out to the lake to watch the attempts to find the turtle (spoiler alert: they don’t find it).

I hadn’t run a race since 2006. When I started farming after we lost my brother Dave running fell by the wayside. I still liked to run, but there was no time for it in the planting and harvest seasons. It got harder and harder each year as I got older to pick it up after the 2 month layoff for planting or harvesting.

And so on June 17th I toed the line in front of Churubusco High School for my first race in over 10 years. The course went around through town and finished with a lap around the track at the high school.

I last ran around that track in 1974. Back then I could run 800 meters [1] in 2 minutes and change. It was strange to trundle around it, 40 plus years gone by at a 5 minute per 800 meter pace.

But I finished, still standing in 30:02, exactly 10 minutes over my personal best for a 5K. And I couldn’t be more proud of that time.

I promised myself a prize after I reached my first set of goals, which were to run a 5K and to get under 200 pounds [2] . When I finished the Turtle Days 5K I’d reached both of those, so after the race I went into Summit City Bicycles and picked out my prize, a Specialized Roubaix.

I love to bike, and I’d been riding a 20 year old Cannondale I’d bought over 10 years ago secondhand from a buddy of mine. A Roubaix is way more bike than I need, but I love to get out and ride, and I love the precision and quality of the bike.

I’ll turn 60 years old in just a few days now, and I figure on July 22nd I’ll be cranking out some miles on the Roubaix, still standing.

1.Back then we ran yards, not meters. But despite whatever you may have heard, a yard and a meter are the same thing.

2. I’m at 192, down 42 pounds as of July 4th.


This chart is from the application I program at Complete Wellness Solutions. It hasn’t hurt my progress to be working at a company whose business is wellness.

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Raspberries 2017

Owen and Spenser (the Wonder Dogs) and I went picking wild black raspberries today.

We went to the hay field first that has raspberries growing around it, but the Japanese beetles had decimated those vines. I gathered up the Wonder Dogs (Spenser couldn’t believe we were leaving so soon, he practically defined “hang dog” coming back to the truck). But little did Spenser know we were heading for the woods at the home farm.

I parked on the north side of the woods and we worked our way around the north side and then down the east side. There’s a swamp on the east side and around it the raspberries were plentiful.

I was picking and Spenser was getting his hound on, running through the woods and howling as he tracked various woodland creatures. Owen was following me, but when we got to the swamp he turned aside and I heard him getting a drink in the swamp.

I kept picking and Spenser kept running and howling and I didn’t hear anything from Owen. That wasn’t unusual. He tends to loll in the shade as much as possible.

A half hour or so later it was getting on towards lunchtime and I had enough berries. Spenser was coming around in one of his howling passes near me so I captured his attention and said, “Let’s get Owen and head home.” And then I looked around and Owen was nowhere to be seen.

Now Owen is a little dog (or at least short) and the grass is tall, so I didn’t think much of it. “Ohh-En” I called… Nothing…

“Well, bleep,” I said. I started slogging around the swamp. Owen’s stubby and I imagined him bogged down somewhere. I fought all the way around the swamp through muck and brambles and fallen trees. No Owen.

“Maybe he went back to the truck,” I thought. So I stumbled across the northeast corner of the woods to the truck, still calling “Ohhh-En” thinking that if he had cut through the woods heading for the truck I might find him in the woods. I get through the woods to my truck and… no Owen. I went back around the outside of the woods to the swamp, thinking he might be hunkered down in the shade along the edge of the woods. Still no Owen.

“Spenser,” I said, “go find Owen.” He dutifully ran off into the woods howling while I made another lap around the swamp.

No Owen.

I was about to call Debbie and ask her to come over help me comb the woods for the Prodigal Corgi when I thought, “surely he wouldn’t have gone back up to the barn?” It’s a hard half mile from the woods to the barn, through brush and trees and up and down hills. But before I called Debbie and admitted I’d lost Owen I figured I’d check.

I thrashed across the woods yet again, got in my truck and drove up to the barn. And there was Owen.

The Prodigal

He looked at me with an expression like, “what are you doing here?” I boosted him up into the truck and we went back to the woods to get Spenser. Spenser had realized he’d been left and was heading up the lane pell-mell. He’d run so much I thought I was going have to boost him into the truck too, but after only a couple tries he got in himself.

And now we’re all enjoying the fruits of our labors.

The Wonder Dogs are sacked out.

Tired Spenser
Tired Owen

And Debbie and I are enjoying delicious wild raspberry pie.

Black Raspberry Pie

(Through enormous self restraint I got a picture of the pie before devouring the last slice.)

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4 Dead in Ohio

I’m the furthest thing in the world from a Trump apologist. He is a puerile, filthy, degenerate, incestuous pig, a national embarrassment and disgrace.

But I’m old enough to remember May 4th, 1970 when the National Guard (under another Republican embarrassment of a president) used automatic weapons [1] on protesting college students at Kent State, killing 4 of them.

Trump’s minor league compared to that.

1. I went on a live fire exercise once with the 82nd Airborne at Fort Bragg. This would’ve been 15 years ago at least. I’ve never heard anything as horrifying as a machine gun. It’s not “rat-a-tat-tat”, it’s a ripping noise as the hail of bullets tear the air apart. It gives me the creeps to this day. And to use that on rock throwing college students? Inexcusable.

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Sheep and Goats

Since I’m on a biblical tear here at I’ll offer up another one.

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
– Matthew 25:31-46

Our so-called representatives [1] just passed a bill to take health insurance from the least in our country. Not for any good reason, just to score a few political points to pander to their base.

I guess we know who the goats are now.


Jim Banks (IN-03)

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Plowshares and Swords

On this Maundy Thursday, while that jackass occupying the White House and his sycophants spread violence and hate and it seems they are leading us down the road to a global holocaust, I found myself thinking of this verse:

And He will judge between the nations, And will render decisions for many peoples; And they will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, And never again will they learn war.

— Isaiah 2:4

Thousands and thousands will die because we put weapons of mass destruction in the hands of this incompetent fool. As for me, I’ve laid down my sword and shield and I won’t study war. I won’t fight, and I won’t support or admire those who do.


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Sharp Tools

I was splitting wood the other day with my second favorite ax. That ax belonged to my wife’s grandfather, Glen Buckmaster. I like to split wood and remember him. I only knew him for a few years, but he was a fine man.

The ax was bouncing back at me, so I figured it needed sharpened. I hit it with the grinder to reshape the bevel and then honed it with a file. The wood exploded apart when I hit it with the sharpened ax. I clearly need to sharpen my tools more often.

And this is a good excuse to quote one of my favorite poems.

“Except as a fellow handled an ax,
They had no way of knowing a fool.”

Robert Frost in the poem “Two Tramps in Mud Time”.

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Horseradish Season

Any month with an ‘r’ in it, that’s horseradish season. April’s a good time to do it, because the ground’s not frozen.

Spenser and Owen (the Wonder Dogs) and I went out and dug 4 nice roots today.


Here they are all cleaned up. Then I peel them with a vegetable peeler.


Next I chopped them up and into the food processor they go.


Those chunks were too big, they just spun in the food processor. I dumped them out and chopped them up a little more. That worked.


The longer the chopped horseradish is exposed to air, the hotter it gets. This stuff was hot to start with and soon was suitable for use as a chemical weapon. I poured in a few tablespoons of white vinegar and a pinch of salt and gave it a buzz in the processor to stop the heat.

Of course we had a pretty jar to put it in.


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Laissez les bons temps rouler!

Well, not exactly a trip to New Orleans but we celebrated Mardi Gras in style on Skunk Hill.

Champagne (prosecco, actually)

A Bit of the Bubbly

Then as we call it, “Fish, Debbie Style.” Pan fried fish with a dusting of cajun spices and a generous dollop of meunière sauce. Add a side of creamy seafood dirty rice.

Fish – Debbie Style

And because we’re letting the good times roll we topped it off it with sweet potato pecan pie.

Sweet Potato Pecan Pie

I like to end these posts with a wry, yet poignant comment, but tonight I’m just enjoying the good times with my beloved.

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