Dinner with Fred (posted from web, not IOS)


Back in October I began the process of thinning out our roosters.  We started with six chickens, but I wasn’t sure it was six hens that we had.  Later we discovered it was three cocks and three ladies.  Having three roosters and three females is like having, having three ladies, one alpha male and two guys who might be girls or might not.  The rooster pecking order subjects all other males to a submissive state, neither female nor male.  I think the males sometimes  try to sneak a cockadoodledoo in, but otherwise it’s a weird life for them. 

I know I’m not making any ground breaking assertion to animal husbandry. My first kill was “Jerry” he had a magnificent crow, it was loud and proud.  Jerry would demand dawn long before she was scheduled to arrive.  He’d rest his cords awhile and then in the middle of the day he’d let rip with the occasional random cockadoodledoo, his crowing was in all caps. 

When I took out Jerry, it was in the cover of darkness, with a shovel turned sideways.  I nearly beheaded him with a homerun turning strike that I launched from behind.  And then I finished my deed, severing his head with the end of the shovel.  I couldn’t imagine eating him though.  I felt shame for ending his life.  I’ve eaten my fair share of chicken, I’ve had it anyway you can make it, but not the way that starts with you killing one of the all grown up chicks who lived in your backyard. 

Tom and Fred were next, in cowardly fashion I hoped that they’d reached puberty with no interest in crowing.  Weeks later my theory was wrong.  The first wave of tentative cockadoodledoo wafted back around the property. I once again decided to not worry about it, I reasoned that Jerry was just unnaturally loud.  You will tell yourself anything to put off more murder.  But my killers reluctance drew to an end one Saturday morning and I came to the conclusion that both Fred and Tom would be sent on their way.

I’m not gonna talk about it here, maybe later.

Well, old Fred came out of the freezer last week.  He’d been prepped, then brined and wrapped like a prized research specimen.  I’d learned the technique for slaughter and dressing from an old farmer, I did not realize there were further refinements in the process pf prepping a rooster. I brined out of instinct.  Rooster on a good day, straight from slaughter isn’t good for much; that much I knew. And I was aware the French have specific recipes for the male chicken; it’s called coq au vin. Nigel Slater has a great wit about the event of old chicken cooking, quite a good read. 


Oh golly, if only I’d read this recipe.  I knew  coq au vin, but I really like to understand meat in it's natural capacity, before I recipe it.  If I’d had my way I’d have cooked Fred with my broiler recipe, but it was Sunday and Dana bakes on those days, so I instead fired up the charcoal grill.  I hate the charcoal grill.  And thus Fred was taken into me in much the same brutal spirit that I took him from this world, with respect, but in the end to just serve my base needs to exist, by way of being food for me.  Later this week I will cook all the essence out of his bones and then I’ll throw his bones to wild dogs that roam our creek.  


Doris & Jane

We had guests for dinner this Sunday, it was pretty pleasant.  We awoke after sunrise, sans the cry of any cock. who might want to rouse us pre dawn.  It was my suggestion that we have guests over for dinner, though admittedly I did not remind or encourage my wife after fact, though she remembered and they’re arrival was for noon thirty.  Living in a vegetarian household cooking for guests by my choice could be viewed as a complicated affair. 

It used to be that I like to serve two meats and three sides, I’ve found the sides can balloon to twice that number though as I have recipes which I enjoy to make which have meat components in them.  This weekend I compromised.  We had roasted chicken, honey glazed sesame seed coated green beans, miso greens (made with five leafy greens,) seared neckbones and miso sautéed greens, for the meat eaters. Followed with a fresh nappa cabbage salad, home made biscuits and fresh baked poppy seed cookies.  All the ingredients were local and save the Georgia green beans, which were hundred mile, the all the other ingredients were produced in a five mile radius of our house; pretty spectacular for a couple of kids who used to chow down on processed food like anyone else. 

The meal in it’s entirety took about three and half hours to prepare, had I conformed to just making three sides it would have taken two hours, less really.  In that time I was able to tasks the girls for cleaning, not call anyone in as a sous chef and I had a good time.  Not bad. 

We ate outside on the picnic table-I’ve given up on trying to get it to be known as our “outdoor dining table”. It’s so peculiar how you can want something to “exist” a certain way, so much so that you cringe if people refer to it differently than you like. “What? It’s not a picnic table, why just look at it.  It’s an outdoor dining table! Harrumph!” When really it’s the worlds best picnic table and I should own it, not shun it’s roots.  Not like anyone has any other point of reference for dining room tables outside. 

One last thing... The estate seems to be infested with yellow jackets. We didn't have them last year, but they are all over now, front and back of the house.  They don't bother you unless you get near their home, which is near my home, which is a problem.  They exhibited weird behavior though.  The roasted chicken was coated in a rub of fresh onion, salt and pepper and the yellow jackets loved it.  They would literally swoop though, nibble on a piece of crumb and then they'd gather it up and fly off with it, totally weird, we had no idea they ate human stuff, figured maybe sugary stuff, but not the savory, weird, huh.

Last Weekend…

Previous on “The Life of Paul” All last weekend I found myself working on computers and cleaning the house. Until Sunday afternoon when I pestered my carpenter for side work and he finally said “I got a house you can tarp for me, if you want. I gotta do it before it rains anymore.” House tarping is like any other job, you need 10,000 hours of training and immersion to be your best. I’ve probably got about 4 hours under my belt. I really and conscious though that as a civilian I’m basically asking to be accepted not as a jaw jacking tourist. I’d like to work with my carpenter as much as possible, the only way I’ll continue to build my skills is if I’m staying inside the walls of houses. I need a transition path and carpentry is so honest feeling. Likewise I have no interest in working outside when it’s hot, if there are bugs around or heights involved; please see again my apt comment on being a tourist. These guys do that all the time, they don’t work through the rain, but they do sometimes work against the rain, like the house in figure 1. It’s in some chic-chi neighborhood that neither you nor I could afford and a second floor is being added. In addition to everything else this is a project where the homeowners wanted to say parts of the lower level, like ceilings, floors, stuff like that. Rule 1 of remodeling, try to save everything you can, but do not be penny wise and pound foolish.

Sidebar: Anytime you can gut your drywall and insulation I think it’s an upgrade; ok, sure you’ll need 6k for that opinion to bear fruition, but I like pristine walls and there is so much to opportunity to really seal a house better these days.

side shot of house for tarp job

side shot of house for tarp job

I took the job. Immediately after he gave it to me though, he said “You really don’t have to do it. I mean, it’s nothing you’re going to want to do.” He was so right about that, but I didn’t want to cherry pick. If you want to get on the leader board of your friends paid business and he already has a “crew” of people who survive by working for him, you can’t just do what you want, bad enough he’s training you for free, even if “training” means that he’s letting you take the chance of ruining someone elses wall and insulation and floors; let’s just move that 6k up to 11k.

So naturally I took my seven year old with me. Lilith has been on job sites since she was five. She has already seen two houses gutted and rebuilt. For her it’s not magical or daunting or impossible, for her it’s just something you do. Again, no one reading anything I’m writing is likely rich, but conside this theory. What if your kids already had CDs, a retirement fund & were working on their own house, before they were deep into their twenties. Oh no, I don’t mean our interpretation (maybe your interpretation) of a house, I mean like they bought a money pit and gutted it and were working on building it out. Ok, not every kid is going to be a carpenter, so scratch the last part. Do the math though, what if you took sixty percent of all the money your kid received and put it in a bank account for them, every year. What if you eventually rolled that money into certificates of depost, what if you made sure they got it and were enthused about it. What if you made a trust for them before they were 18, locking the money away from them, until well into their thirties? Rich folks do it all the time. What if you then told them that you’d match everything after that mandatory 60% that they “invested”. What if you then made them invested in their education future, so that they understood the cost and carried the burden of choice with you. All this is crazy I know. Our parents did none of this for us and statistics say our kids will barely get up to our level of living.

Let’s continue the what if barrage though… What if you then also told them that you had a great car for them, but that they’d have to buy it from you, build an emergency fund for it, and also figure out how to do insurance for it and if they couldn’t do that, they’d have to work out a lease with you. What if you worked all of your resources to make your kids prepared, like Sarah Connor, for the times when you couldn’t just take care of everything for them.

We know what affluent people do to make life better for their kids, not all affluent people do that, many people of means spoil and ruin their children, think of all the people who do wrong by their children, ok, we’re not talking about them, we’re just talking about the people who do right by their children; really though, what does this have to do with houses and tarps. Are we engaging our children to understand our struggles or are we just trying to figure out how to distract them, so we can do our own distractions. Is it possible even to do any of those things for our kids if we can’t figure out how important it is for us to be doing all these same things. Too much living right in the now. Maybe we’ll do it, but let’s not do it with the excuse of making our kids happy. Our goal is to be the shepherd and lead them to a strong future, one we’ve mapped out and then made them well aware of. We have to show them why it’s important to save their money, we have to show them why it’s important to rig the tarp and walk consciously about a job site. If we don’t provide for our kids and reveal how and why to them they will not provide for themselves, they’ll always be dependent on us.

How does anyone find a soap box to stand on these days, mine is vintage, I lovingly restored it from depression era photographs and working with a scholar who is an expert in early American industrial packaging; you can’t have mine.

While I worked Lilith somehow figured out how to use gravity to pump rain water through a tube into a water bottle, she didn’t drink it, she was just playing with gravity and later on went to capture bugs, also acted like she was a t-rex for awhile. It is fascinating to watch my uniquely unicorn child entertain herself without nary a screen or plastic enshrouded distraction. I then had to seize the situation. The rain hadn’t come back, but this was a one story house being converted, no internal stairs leading to the new second floor, and since they were trying to save ceilings, no easy hole punched through ceiling. There were two ladders and both-like all ladders, seemed really sketchy. There is no upside to climbing a stick to get somewhere, no one ever does what I expect someone would do, like place a brace at the bottom and tie it up at the top, y’know so it can’t move or slip out of place. The job took about an hour and was tarp riggery at it’s worse. I learned a lot though. I still hate ladders. Rigging tarps takes time and thought, you can’t help but imagine sailing. And you really spend a lot of time trying to anticipate how water is going to collect. You have to have the right amount of slack and you then have to make sure the points where the tarps end aren’t just feeding water into the place you’re trying to protect. Lilith helped by threading tarps at the bottom and feeding them up to me and playing in the mud. It was pretty fun, a lot scary and as always I got really excited to be in an exposed house. A house is three layers, internal finishing, framing and exterior cladding, seeing those things revealed, maybe even more important is seeing how they come together. You have two dozen specialty trades who overlap each other, who add on to that layer; it’s so fascinating to see how it all comes together.

So you probably won’t ever tarp a house right? Right. Sadly you probably won’t convince your kids to save all of their money, you probably won’t hammer home the importance of compound interest. You may tell them that they should do more than you did but you won’t reinforce it with guidance and leadership, so they’ll hear you, will resent you later, but they also won’t do it, unless today you change it up and do more. This is the new me. On the weekend I go tarp strangers houses and I’m equally obsessed about my children's financial future as I am my own.


2nd floor framing of the "tarp job"

2nd floor framing of the "tarp job"

By the time we were done we were both soaked, the t-rex had a little whine it's chirpy roar and I had to get back down the ladder. I survived, thus these words and I felt pretty happy, all in all it was a break from the monotony of computer work and it was a breath to be hold. I didn't carve my name in the wood or take a souvenir, save for these thoughts and a few pictures. 


Life with Lilith is fascinating; it's easy to see why the old spoil children. Really, you're way pas the palm glow and you just hope things are good for them. That's a pretty deep well of guilt to draw from.

I think the grandparent creature is lost to good intentioned desires, hopeful to see their grand children live idyllic lives. Ego and legacy do play a part and at what costs, almost always at odd with ones own children, truly fascinating.


Resurfacing continues!


The dining room table continues in it's 3rd incarnation. 95% of the black poly coat has been removed and a little bit of texture has been added with a fifty year old wire brush. The remaining polycoat is pixilated and dispersed throughout the grain, and around the edges. The big question now is do I work it all away or attempt to compliment the residual black poly with a fresh coat, just added around the edges.

I had a client once who over the course of a year redid her fireplace three times. Each time she did the space it was a magnificent upgrade to the previous iteration. She was obsessive and comfortable enough with the thought of just changing it. The fact that the only reason why she changed it was cause it wasn't nice enough was the point. This clients house is magazine worthy, she general contracted it herself, with little experience, outside of having done a house before, with the same exacting detail. And it helped that she was always comfortable with redoing work, regardless of price.

You have to be willing to undo work you've done, regardless of time or financial investment, if you want the best results. The table is a work in progress, it's not so finished that we can't play with it. It took about two hours to get it back down to the bare wood. At various intervals I almost stopped, as the wood had an interesting vibe about it. Now the question is do I clear coat it and lose the detail, or do I use a tinted a stain to make the table a focal point.


The big point is that this detail is really striking, and hopefully the goal is that we'll be able to keep it's rich texture, that the poly coat –or stain won't just muddy it all up and make it look well, like a tan wooden table. I want a little more pop than that.

TFAL Grinder


I'm sure this was a wedding gift, like people who get married request this right, people with money; or for that matter, people without money.

When I had a chance to buy one though I did, it was $2.50, it's so worth it. It's one of those things that if I find another one I'll buy that one to.

It's ability to grind through raw nuts is totally graceful, and it puts a feather texture on raw almonds

It turns cheese into parchment.

It breaks down like a boat action rifle.

I've machine washed it, but recently I realized it was a score, now I break it down and hand clean it. It feels solid, but plastic just gives up one day. So I limit UV exposure and just use hot water.

Tefal Cheese, Nut & Seasonings Grinder. from Paul Sibley on Vimeo.

If you have problems with the video loading on the page, click on Tefal Cheese, Nut & Seasonings Grinder.  and try it from the vimeo page.