All posts by idontdotrix

Beet This!

I just love beets. The redheaded stepchild of the root vegetable family, beets are often overlooked and underappreciated.  These firm golden to violet colored beauties are packed with potassium, magnesium, fiber, phosphorus, iron; vitamins A, B & C; beta-carotene, beta-cyanine; folic acid. They are natural antidepressants and mood elevators too; all the benefits of chocolate without the damage to your waistline.

Recipes abound for beets but this is a winter favorite of mine.  Give it a try 🙂

Its easiest to use a mandolin to shred but this can be done with a knife  Boil or roast four medium sized beets. Peel while still warm then refrigerate until cool. Shred the beets into small strips and toss with a tablespoon each of olive oil, balsamic vinegar and honey. Add a sprinkle of black pepper and salt. stir gently to incorporate ingredients. Crumble an ounce of chevre (soft goat cheese) over the top and serve.

Can you “beet this”?  Share your beet recipes in the comments!


Job Interviews: Selecting Working Dog Candidates from Puppy Litters

Copyrighted article republished with permission  To subscribe to Akita Planet, please email or visit


The Akita isn’t part of the Working group for nothing; these strong, intelligent canines excel at a multitude of tasks to help their human partners in everyday life. Whether guarding the home, hunting, pulling sleds or carts, or even tracking, the Akita is well-suited for the job. Over the years I have been blessed to have produced a number of pups that went on to become Service dogs, assisting their owners with the challenges of various disabilities.

It’s important to take the time to evaluate a litter for the traits that indicate what job each pup may be best at later in life. This is an exercise in patience, as you try to focus on a group of bouncing, bumbling fur balls! How exactly do you separate the pups with potential for occupational services?

I begin the process when the litter is about three weeks of age. By this time the pups are well on their feet and starting to explore the edges of their little world. Curiosity tempered with reserve is one characteristic to watch for. I’m looking for the puppy that boldly strikes out to explore – but then pauses to size things up from a short distance before going any further. This is a pup that is thinking the situation through, rather than rushing headlong into what could turn out to be a mistake. Does the puppy use all five senses to investigate people and objects? The pup that leaps into your arms is endearing and fun, but for service aptitude I want the puppy that looks at an object from all angles. I like to see her cock her head from side to side in order to hear better, reach out a paw to touch before pouncing, get a good, long nose full of scent, and maybe even take a tentative taste. You should be able to “see the wheels turning” as the puppy assimilates information. A good service dog is always assessing their surroundings – a natural multitasker who seems perfectly at ease while doing so.

I also evaluate how the dog reacts when I try to attract its attention. I’m looking for the pup that has eyes on me even when interrupted by others at play. When startled or distracted, how quickly does the puppy recover and refocus on the handler?

Any puppy for service jobs must have a high desire to please, so that is another important quality to screen for. Will the pup bring objects to you and retrieve on the toss? Can you direct the puppy to an object you prefer and make that preference clear to him? Once the pup understands your desire for a specific action, does he lose interest or does he seem to be waiting for the next directive? I want the puppy that wants to do the job, and I like to see initiative.

Play should be encouraged; a puppy needs to exercise body and mind and learn appropriate social cues from their dam and littermates. Observe the pup during playtime to assess how it reacts when play gets too rough. Look for pups that are able to accept correction from their dam and move on to the next adventure with little delay. The puppy should not be devastated at being corrected; no excessive whining, crying or hauling itself off to sulk. Neither should the pup refuse the correction and act out in an oppositional manner.

As the litter matures, begin teaching simple things such as paper or litterbox training. Is the puppy you’ve been giving high marks to so far picking up training quickly? How often must you demonstrate how to respond to a command before the pup performs properly? Does he respond best to voice or hand signals? Can he follow either without distraction? Expect natural puppy inquisitiveness and short attention spans to come into play, and you may not get the desired response every time – after all, they are still just babies. That’s OK; it’s a pattern of behavior over time that matters. Keep notes as you go.

A vital consideration during the evaluation period is prey drive –we are talking about the Akita, after all. Pups that perform the fastest, most efficient “squeaker-ectomies” on stuffed toys are not what I’m looking for. Although they should still show some interest in things around them, they need to be able to refocus on whatever they are currently doing. Pick a toy the puppy seems to prefer and engage in play, praising the puppy for working with you on this task. Then introduce a different interesting toy, tossing it around the area perimeter while simultaneously working on the interactive task you first introduced. It may take several tries, but give high marks to the puppy that continues to choose the interaction with you rather than the new distraction.

By this time your puppies are nearing placement age. Ideally you’ve been working on general socialization skills, such as walking on at least five different kinds of surfaces and socializing outside of the family unit. Can the puppy continue to remain on task despite alternative distractions? For these tests I put the puppy on a leash, allowing it to drag the length a bit to feel some resistance without a jarring impact. I keep a small bin of scrunchies (soft, fabric-covered elastic) with bits of ribbon, small bells and other lightweight items sewn on. I have these in several sizes, some to fit around the leg and others large enough to go over the neck or chest. The puppy needs to be able to regain and maintain concentration on you and the current task, rather than constantly stopping to look at, play with or remove the distractions she is wearing. This is building a handler/puppy relationship, teaching them to trust in the process and ignore certain harmless things around them. Eventually add immobile and then moving toys to the ground work around the puppy as you walk her, in order to acclimate her to environmental distractions. Gauge her response. Being initially startled is acceptable if the puppy can recover with confidence. Start small, and praise often for correct responses.

I keep puppies with the highest marks in these areas for up to 16 weeks, further evaluating which types of service work they are best suited for. For instance, a puppy that responded best to hand signals went on to learn hearing-assistance work. Other pups that excelled at voice commands and had the physical structure to support a human with gait and movement disabilities went on to become mobility service dogs.

Paying close attention to the strengths and abilities of each pup can help make the strongest placement in an environment that not only helps owners in need, but is rewarding to the dog as well.


La Dolce Far Niente

A general translation for this is, “the sweetness of doing nothing”. It is a reminder to stop and smell the roses.To use the good China. To open that bottle of wine you’ve been saving for a special occasion. To just BE for a moment in time.

It’s a well honed joke these days about how everyone is together, but in their own little world, usually on personal electronic devices.  There are times we need to disconnect from the digital world and reconnect with the warm, real, tactile world around us. When was the last time you enjoyed doing….well,  nothing?

Know what I did today? After scratching Penny cat’s ears, she lazily stretched, sauntered to a warm stone on my entry way, and languidly laid her form upon the rocks to bask in the afternoon sun. As I sat on the stoop watching her, wondering how could a cat just walk away from everything around her and nap in the light, I rested my head on my knees. And fell asleep.   It was a catnap in the purest sense of the word. It lasted just minutes. Out there, in the sunshine, I lost every care in the world and was able to achieve complete peace. And I felt more rested than I have in months.

We tend to try to micromanage the people and situations on our lives. At some point we must admit that this level of control is an ego-centric construct. We think we feel better about ourselves if we believe we can handle every possibility right down to the day’s rainfall.  It’s silly really. Or so says my cat.  She’d much rather resume that nap.

I may join her.

I have to remind myself once in a while to enjoy the simple pleasure of doing absolutely nothing.  My day is usually so planned, so precise, so restrictive I’m amazed my google calendar isn’t giving me alarm alerts on when I’m allowed to breathe.  I need to give myself permission to enjoy small moments of quiet clarity without a schedule. For a very long time, I wasn’t sure that was possible.

I started small. Part of that objective was learning when to say NO. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to help, or that my  friends and family were unappreciative; it was simply that i was pushing myself beyond my limits and I needed to learn how to respect my OWN boundaries.  The ones who had my best interests at heart understood.

I began to carve out time just for me, and also, just for US. I’m married We still need date nights. Time for us to be just with one another and remind us why we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together. I strongly believe this is a vital building block for a lifetime commitment.

But sometimes I need ME time too. It isn’t selfish or wrong. It is what t is, and it helps make me a stronger person inside. It is in these moments I recite the phrase and recommit myself to finding a place in my own soul where i am comfortable.

In moments like this I will open a bottle of wine or a brew a pot of tea, take my time preparing a plate of fruits and cheese and delicious snacks I didn’t need to put much thought or effort into; keeping it simple. I may load up my kayak and go to the lake in this state. I may take a map and go exploring the nearby hills. I may go no further than the 40+ acres we reside on and just melt into the forest floor shadows for a while on a blanket under the wise old oaks.  I need to have time to recall that there truly is a certain sweetness in accomplishing absolutely nothing.

Pick up a book and read it though. Snuggle the puppy. Make cookie dough and eat half the bowl with a friend or your kids.Walk in the rain.   Look closer for those defining moments of internal clarity in the quiet spaces between. I promise, they are there. You just have to want them badly enough.

Little Susie Homesteader

My friends know me well.

I’m chatting with a buddy who is a commercial distance transportation specialist (that’s “trucker” to most folks) because when you’re stuck in traffic with a few tons of marketable goods or hazardous materials, you can’t read a book.  Sometimes you call up a friend and chat them up to keep your sanity as the jerk who can’t read the LANE ENDS MERGE RIGHT signage topples a cone to dash into the inches worth of space between your rig’s nose the tail of the one in front of you.

He asks how the family is doing and bring him up to speed; the teenager is sulking today for some reason or other, as teens will often do. The husband is fine, prepping for another road trip in search of a podium finish. I mention his eye is doing better; he recently had to have a small piece of metal removed and has been on prescription drops since.  The perils of working in a race shop.

He suggests to me I visit my local Tractor Supply and pick up welder’s caps. The brim he says helps keep bits of ground metal from getting into his eyes, and the cover prevents pieces from embedding in the scalp or becoming caught in the hair and falling into the face and eyes later.  Hmm, not a bad idea. Then he suggests I could just whip out the trusty old Singer and make a few myself.

I scoff at this suggestion.   “Honey, what do I look like to  you, Little Susie Homemaker?”

“Nope”, he laughs, “you’re Little Susie Freaking Homesteader!”

I realize he has a point.

It wouldn’t take much for us to be completely self sufficient here.  Though my summer garden is much smaller than prior years (still recovering from that broken ankle) it will be more than enough to keep our family of three in fresh produce for months.  The surplus will be dried, frozen or canned and put up into the pantry for cooking during the winter.  Nothing like breaking open a few quart jars of my chili base in mid January, the tomatoes, peppers, onions and garlic smelling like I picked them yesterday.  Richard can eat an entire pint of pickles in a single siting, he adores them. The fruit trees are bearing well too. The pie cherries are coming along. The apples are already weighing down every branch and I’ve been getting my supplies together to make batches of apple butter and packages of dried apple slices.   My peaches need another year to produce enough to put up a few quarts of preserves but we can wait.

Our small flock of egg layers  and our rabbitry residents love the garden surplus too.   The back meadow gives us cuttings of orchard grass hay for the bunnies to snack on in colder months and during the warmer ones, our pasture boxes allow the rabbits to graze on a natural diet and exhibit natural behaviors.  Every other day, we just move the habitat to keep them in fresh clover.  What we do not eat is traded with friends; our rabbits are large and tender and in demand.  The flock free ranges around the property during the day, eating their fill and basking in the sun. The ducks lounge around their pool quite a bit. Rough gig, right?   The extra drakes, when we have them, go to freezer camp.

The back 40 provides a few other wonderful things for us. Wild mushrooms. Beneficial herbs and plants. If you know where to  look and what you’re looking at.

The freezer is often supplemented with wild game, too. Whatever is in season at the time. The dogs enjoy the bones and organ meats, and we have a great variety of excellent nutrition for the whole year.  You should try my venison stroganoff!

We’ve brought in lambs to ‘finish’ before processing before. We have enough space to add a steer for beef, a hog or two for pork and even a couple of goats for milk , weed control and meat.  Our long terms plans involve getting the right knowledge base for care of these animals and structures and shelters to support and contain them first.  No cart before the horse here. These are not decisions we enter into lightly.

“drizzle”, a temporary resident at the homestead.

We’ve established barters between some like minded folks; trading one another what we have for what we don’t.  Sharing tips and tricks along the way.  I love where I live!

We already have rain barrels and gravity fed systems for some of the animals so they always have a steady supply of drinking water. Add a few solar panels across the roof and my stock tank fish ponds and we’re good to go.

So I guess my friend is right.  And I admit it- I do own and know how to use that sewing machine. Being able care for yourself and your family with hands on skills for planting, harvesting, hunting, processing, and what used to be called the “housewifely arts” before the advent of political correctness, is fast becoming extinct.  If this entire system of instant gratification fell apart tomorrow, if the stores were all closed or empty, would you be able to feed your family?  Mend clothes? Care for an illness or injury?   We can.

Want to learn? Start small. Try a garden with your kids to show them where food comes from and maybe even try eating things they may ordinarily turn down.  Its different when they can say “I did this!”.Turn the computers off and go outside. play a game with your children of naming the tree and plant species you see. Extra points if the know a fun fact about them.  Get back in touch with life- open a window, a real window, not an electronic one!  Take your shoes off.  Dig your hands in a rich pile of garden soil.  Slow down and get back in touch with the world.   You’ll be glad you did 🙂


Insanity is doing the same thing over and over….

…and expecting different results.

Responses to the New York Daily News’ article on the “terrifying” experience of shooting an AR15 prompted its author to write a follow up piece to be sure everyone knows just how mean the world is to him.   You didn’t think I was going to let that one go, did you?  Hang on boys and girls……

Oh poor dear. Your feelings were hurt. You exercised your First Amendment rights to support your opinions and were astounded, flabbergasted, offended and outright shocked that anyone might respond with anything other than glowing praise.

We have First Amendment rights, too.

In your fervor to once again promote yourself as a champion of peace loving peoples among a world run amok with gun loving zealots, you managed to completely gloss over the points where those of us who responded took a red pen to erroneous facts. Instead, you chose, quite intentionally I believe, to focus on how you were maligned and mistreated and called a whiny little girl with a skinned knee, or words to that affect. Let me be perfectly clear, I do not disagree with those assessments however your characterization that this is a gender war upon your poor soul is ludicrous. Or did you miss the fact that many of us in the law abiding world of responsible gun owners are women?

Its ok if you did, I certainly couldn’t expect you to have noticed such details when your first article was so peppered with glaring omissions and outright fabrications.

As I type this over my morning coffee with my cat on my lap and my dog at my feet, I imagine you in your mother’s basement, desperately calling for more Hot Pockets while you read the scathing reviews of your so called journalism. “Mom, here’s another one, they said MEAN THINGS about me!”.

Suck it up, buttercup. Because here’s the thing: you don’t have a right not to be offended. Shocking, I know but it’s true.

You have a right to your own opinion but you do not have the right to your own facts, and using a Platform such as the New York Daily News to promote them, knowing they are false, undermines the credibility of the press entirely. You’re certainly not alone in these endeavors, Katie Couric recently participated in a heavily edited video piece that should properly be labeled propaganda, then doubled down defending its Conclusions First, Questions Later position. I could name a slew of other celebrities and media personalities who have done the same but it would take too much time and effort; their journalistic sins are legion. You saw an opportunity to jump on the bandwagon and finally sit with the cool kids at lunch. Yay, you!

Except that you, like Couric, chose to double down and respond to the backlash your highly excitable work product generated. And you’ve chosen to portray yourself as a victim of the big-scary-gun owning public. You carefully cherry picked a few comments, while refusing to publish the responses in toto, to present yourself in a positive light, while vilifying the big-scary-meanies who used words to hurt you.
You are upset because after you willfully offended people who exercise their Second Amendment Rights they used their First Amendment rights in a way that offended you. The horror! The humanity! How dare they!

Nevermind that you made light of a serious psychiatric condition to describe your alleged terror at firing a simple small caliber rifle. Nevermind that you completely fabricated a narrative where you allegedly switched this particular firearm to full automatic fire, and were traumatized for life, when it was absolutely impossible to do so. Nevermind that you preyed on the fears of the public by allowing, no, purposefully attempting to make them believe that all such firearms are a push of a button away from being machine guns. You lied. You got called out on it. Instead of confessing that you took creative license a little too far, you tried to engage in a war of words about how badly you’ve been treated. You lied. You were called a liar. You stomped your feet and threw a temper tantrum in the New York Daily News. The lady doth protest too much.

And yes, I wholly support that it is your right to do so. As misguided, ridiculous, idiotic, puerile, callow and petty as it was. For the simple fact that it is your right. The First Amendment is not the ONLY Amendment, though. And your right to the First, and every other liberty you claim as an American, holds in this nation only as long as men and women with the Second have the means to defend it. From your comfortable little place in the universe, where every kid gets a trophy and you should be treated like the special little snowflake you are, you have no concept of what oppression or tyranny really are. So you create it as it relates to your reality.

Don’t be surprised when the rest of us give you a reality check.

Dannielle Romeo, southwest Virginia
wife. mother. domestic violence survivor. member NRA

ps I’m including a photo of me, taken at my property where we have a shooting range. The firearm I am holding is nearly identical to the one you claimed to have operated in Philadelphia. Please note that I am in what a friend has dubbed the “supported and chill” firing position due to a lower leg cast for a broken ankle. It is important to train for every scenario, and be able to accurately strike a target despite an infirmity. If being sent videos of pink swathed little girls at the range upset you so much, this ought to really make your day.

cast foot shooting


Did he just go ‘there’? He DID!

On June 15, 2016 an article appeared in the New York Daily News, sorted under, all all things, Crime News.  You can find the original article here.  Since I have a low tolerance threshold for fools,  my response to the author and a separate letter to his editor follows.

(to author- and posted through “join the conversation” link)

I’m wondering if the author acquired PTSD from making Jiffy Pop.
Sugar if you’re gonna try to write a big bad scary gun article ( and establish your man card bona fides by adding that you have some sort of experience with pistols) you might want to learn the proper terminology and equipment. You might also want to leave out the part where you soil yourself.
Let’s start with which AR platform you were ….insert sigh of exasperation here….able to shoot. The most popular is chambered in .223. This recoil and sound of a round being fired is roughly equivalent to the average .22 long rifle . Something we actual shooters call a “plinking” gun. They aren’t loud, another good feature and if you were wearing your safety equipment like ear protection it’s audible but not Godzilla epic proportions as you made it out to be. Pumpkin, I drop pans in my kitchen that make more noise.
A standard magazine, not clip (every time you call it a clip god kills a kitten. Please, think of the kittens!) holds 30 rounds. Not 40. I actually work part time in a gun shop and can’t for the life of me recall seeing a single AR there with a forty round mag…there’s a reason for that so that’s your homework assignment today, k?
fully auto, huh? See this is where I know you are completely full of organic fertilizer. Esp when you claimed one could be obtained in seven minutes. Automatic weapons are not available on the general market. You need a dealer (yes even if you want to buy from an individual collector) who is certified as an NFA dealer. You have to pay for additional permits called a tax stamp. The application goes directly to BATFE.You typically also need finger print cards and a sign off by the sheriff of your county. The application process takes upwards of a year. Once you have the ok then you can pay for the gun (automatics will run you upwards of ten to thirty grand. Or more) and complete your state forms and Federal form for your NICS background check. Yes, you still have to go through these.
while it is remotely possible a gun shop had a fully automatic firearm for you to try its not probable. They would not have allowed you to potentially damage a customer’s order (or mess with their very expensive property) . They likely would not have allowed you to shoot one of their own as inexperienced as you are and for the purposes of such an article. And the probably didn’t even have one.
So darling i’m calling bullshit on your propaganda piece. I’ve spent a lot of time on the range, much of it teaching new shooters to responsibly handle the big-scary-gun. Know what they thought after shooting it? That much of what they read, pieces like yours, were written by imbeciles. In crayon.
I’d suggest you go review something more your speed like chewing gum but I’m afraid that if you tried to blow a bubble and it popped, you would be terrified and need a safe space for your trauma to subside.
The ‪#‎nydailynews‬ should be ashamed to have you on staff. . If they’d like to send a real reporter over here, I’d be happy to take him or her to the range and to a few gun shops and show them the steps it takes to make such a purchase. They won’t be able to complete a purchase here though if they like something…fed law requires that an out of state buyer must have the guns shipped to a federally licensed dealer to complete the necessary paperwork and id verification process in person. Yes- a background check.
I’ll close simply with what I though the moment I read your absolutely astounding piece of trash journalism….Bless your heart!

(to editor)

Honestly do you bother to vet any pieces submitted by your writers anymore? Did Mr. Kuntzman come out of his safe space long enough to go through editing? Or is he still in therapy (that you’ll end up paying for) over his “terrifying” experience?

The firearm shown in the photos and video is an AR style rifle chambered in .223; this is only slightly louder than the average .22 long rifle that many enthusiasts use for “plinking” (cheap target practice, low caliber). They are so scary that we often have to stop practice to clear my flock of domestic ducks from down range. Curious little things. But safety first!

With even simple foam ear protection a shot is audible but nowhere near the epic proportions of noise so eloquently described in horrific detail by your author. There’s also next to no recoil. I’ve had worse recoil from a bra strap (in the interests of full disclosure, they are pretty good sized bras).

Your author goes on to embellish the smell of sulfur and her (oops, his) terror at taking “a few shots” with the firearms, going on to explain his need for counseling services for a raging case of immediate onset PTSD. The fact that he makes sport of such a serious condition affecting American veterans and people who have actually survived life or death situations is appalling. However he continues to discuss “full automatic fire. At this point I have to demand your publication issue an immediate retraction and correction for piss-poor journalism. Your author did not fire an automatic weapon and claiming to have turned this rifle to automatic fire when it was absolutely impossible on this firearm is an outright fabrication of the highest order, meant only for shock value. Fully automatic firearms are highly regulated. The AR he was able to get his hands on fires only one round for each time the trigger is pulled. There is no way in the world he was able to make that firearm shoot multiple rounds at a time, and making this false claim with the statement that “this is how you kill 49 people in 60 seconds”, a clear reference to the Orlando massacre by an Islamic extremist, is nothing short of reprehensible.

If you’d like to foot the bill for a real reporter to visit a real life owner and take a real life hands on walk through of shooting several different calibers of the AR platform, please let me know. After all, you sent him to Philly the first time (why is that?). We’ll also be happy to show your reporters, and give them the opportunity, to fire other types of rifles, because I guarantee you that my muzzle loader black powder gun ( a primitive style rifle where each round must be individually loaded) makes a hell of a lot more noise than any of my AR style firearms.

Your publication is not the Maury Povich show. I thought you needed reminding since this individual’s so called journalism reads as if it should end with “You are NOT the father!”. You might also want to post a sign in the break room warning other employees not to make microwave popcorn when Mr. Kuntzman is nearby; it could trigger his PTSD. Hopefully your company medical policy covered the surgical removal of his cranium from his rectal orifice. If not, I’m sure we can start a GoFundMe.

Dannielle Romeo, southwest Virginia.
Wife. Mother. Member VACDL. Member NRA. Secretary, local Chapter FONRA. Domestic violence survivor. Firearms enthusiast and proud responsible owner.


Danni’s (in)famous roasted redskin potato salad

I typically make this is large batches , around 4x  this version, for big gatherings. At one for my husband’s car enthusiasts group, an attendee remarked there was “more meat int he salad than there was on the bbq”.   I go heavy on the bacon and buy blocks of ends and pieces like some folks do loaves of bread.  If you’re a veg-head, just skip it. If you’re like me, load it up!

start with 5 lbs of redskin potatoes. dice, then toss with a splash of oil, herbs and spices. I  use fresh rosemary, sage, dill, and some salt and pepper. dump on a baking sheet- I cover mine with a silpat first, the potatoes come off easier- and roast at 450 for 30-40 mins until the top ones are looking good and crispy and the lower ones are fork tender. you want this different texture in the salad.

while that’s cooking chop and pan fry at least one lb of bacon. I often use 2 lbs bacon for each 5 lbs of potatoes bc that’s how my crew likes it and I recommend a block of the bacon “ends and pieces” for better flavor, be sure to watch them carefully during cooking since they aren’t evenly cut, and give them an additional chop before adding to the salad. set aside bacon.

hard boil half a dozen eggs, cool, peel, chop.

dice half a head of celery and one bunch of green onions, plus several large dill pickles, maybe four or five.

when your potatoes are cool, assemble salad with potatoes, bacon, eggs, veggies. add a generous spoonful or two of horseradish, a little mustard if you like it, and mayo to blend it all together.

Race season. Sigh.

I’m a “race widow”.   For an every varying number of weeks per month, my husband packs his suitcases, backpack of essential travel gear, gives me a long kiss goodbye and sets off for parts unknown.  Ok, the parts are known, at least to him and the fine folks across the country who are fans of automobile racing.

My husband won’t usually tell you what he does for a living. “I grout tile on the space shuttle” he says with his I’m-up-to-something grin.   He’s being silly. And modest.

We have a general idea of what each year’s schedule is going to look like ahead of time, but as the saying goes, “men make plans, and God laughs“.  The circuit sets the number of races per year, the locations and dates.  Events usually start in late January and run through early September. Knowing in advance he has thirteen races on the calendar is only the tip of the iceberg. There’s mandatory test days. There’s voluntary test days, made at the request of his drivers or due to the development or replacement of certain equipment.  There’s practice sessions simply because the drivers want more track time to perfect their craft and need their crew present.  Then there may be promotional events or trade shows where his expertise is necessary. And because the team he works for encourages new people in the sport with hands on training and car builds, he may be told on a Tuesday evening that he’s needed in another town or state (or country)  by Thursday with a trailer full of track ready speed machines.  I get it- he’s awesome, and I have to share him with the world.

Flexibility is the name of the game in this household.  I dread the arrival of wedding invitations, reunion announcements or other notices requiring an RSVP and potentially, an expense incurred by our gracious hosts because it could well be that I ‘ll need to place an uncomfortable phone call saying “I’m so sorry, but something’s come up…”   We are grateful to have such understanding and gracious friends; some are in the same industry and understand. Others are simply that good-hearted.

These are things we’ve come to expect, along with the need for high quality detergent (lemme tell you that track worn garments stuffed inside a bag and stashed on the semi for the return trip home after ten days on the road are smeeeelllllllllyyyyyyyyy). What you can’t expect is how empty the house feels when he’s gone.

We eat dinner as a family, many nights at the dining table; I mean, really, who even uses a dining room anymore? We do.  We talk about our day.  And I love to cook. Home made meals with flair, healthy and prettily plated.  If he’s traveling, there’s nothing special about mealtimes.  I’m accompanied by the teenager, who, being the sweet sort she is, is chatting away amiably about all the subjects she loves, but it isn’t the conversation we usually have. And dinner is often something very simple; spaghetti in meat sauce, leftover baked chicken, you get the idea.  The teenager isn’t impressed by veal marsala or shrimp diablo. Sure she’ll eat most of what I put in front of her but when we’re all together the meal becomes so much more than just good food. Its OUR time.

I don’t sleep much when he’s gone. This isn’t due to the fact I have more to do around the homestead when our strongest pair of hands is away.  If anything,  I should be more ready to hit the hay after hauling it.  But there’s this big empty spot where the other half of me usually is and I find it difficult to get much rest in that suddenly open space.  His cat knows when he’s gone and assumes ownership of his pillows. I’m not permitted on that side even if I wanted to be there…Whiskey has a stare that reminds you the average domestic cat isn’t all that far removed from their larger cousins in the jungles and savannas of the planet.  We call her a house panther. She gets the spot.

Normal Monday to Friday we say our ‘see you laters”  and go about our day. I still get a happy little jump in my heartbeat when I hear his car come up the drive every evening.  Trip weeks? I’m on my own and those simple little daily things I’ve come to adore so much, like the perfect cup of coffee he makes just for me each morning to the way he walks up behind me and wraps his arms around my waist, leaning his chin into my shoulder with a sweet sigh when he gets home.

The kiddo and I try to make these weeks our own.  We go out to a movie. We pick up a box of ice cream sandwiches and make sure we destroy the evidence before he returns.  We have girl days where we do things just for us and smile conspiratorially “don’t tell dad!”.  I love our time together.   But once we’re home, she’s back to her books; she writes graphic novels and they’re quite good.  She’s consumed by her art projects.  She’s completing her homework.  And I’m…..drifting.

I knew what I signed up for.  I just have to redirect that energy that usually goes into US into something just for ME and its harder some days than others.  A cup of tea on the porch. A good book.  Catching up on chatting with friends. Volunteer duties. They all get caught up and then some.

He sends me text messages from the road. Small reminders to let me know he’s thinking about me too. I treasure them all until the best one eventually arrives: “made it to the shop, home soon

And its just fifteen more minutes until that happy little heartbeat jump and we’re a family again.


The Call

Being a responsible Breeder (with a capital B) is a time consuming work of heart. The joy of holding that precious new life in your hands, the bittersweet moment you wave goodbye when they leave with their new family and the inevitable tears when The Call comes.

I stay in touch with my families. Always have, always will. You aren’t buying a dog here, you’re marrying into my clan.  To do so you’ve got to pass muster and after that it isn’t hard to stay in my good graces. I’m a benevolent mother-in-law, I don’t need to be up in your kool-aid all the time but send me an email, pick up a phone, ask me for advice or brag a little about your furball’s latest accomplishments. I love this contact.  We’re something bigger and better than a single transaction.  And we’re united in our love for the dogs.

That amazing unconditional love these magnificent animals gives us comes with a price. And when the bill comes due, your heart shatters into millions of painful shards.

The  Call comes when you least expect it. You’ve had a long day, a good one by all accounts. Then the soft chime of the cell phone lets you know a new message is waiting.   Its a beautiful picture of  the pup you bred so many years ago, muzzle now silvered with age, looking tired but peaceful that says ” I’m ready to go rest with my daddy now. I love you”. And you lose it.  You live three thousands miles away and you wish with everything you are that you could stroke that beautiful face just one last time, and hold the hand of the person sitting beside him.

Once a BK baby, always a BK baby.  This litter wasn’t really even supposed to be “mine”.  Typically when you offer stud services you bring your boy to the date or mail a carefully packaged shipment of puppy juice in liquid nitrogen to the bitch’s owners.  Not so in this case.  I was present when the pups were born, helped clear nostrils and tie off cords and rub wet coats until the little ones squawked in response.   And a week later, when their dam came down with a serious life threatening infection and the pups had to be removed for her treatment and recovery, I stepped in to take them home with me and hand raise the whole crew. All ten of them.  We’re blessed in this breed to have what we refer to as super moms; a bitch will frequently adopt a litter not her own and care for them if they are orphaned. I’ve even had females who began lactating in the presence of a new litter.  I was lucky enough to own one of these very special girls at the time and we split the work load. She cuddle-curled around the babies and offered immediate nurturing. I was up every two hours for bottle feedings.  I think she got the better end of the deal.

When the time came for placements, I handled those too, to my standards.   The litter had a carbon copy  of their sire, Justice (CH Bk’s America’s Most Wanted, CGC, TDI) .  Moms aren’t supposed to have favorites. Riiiiigggghhhhhhttttttt.  This lovely boy went to an exceptional family not too far away, and came back for a stint at Camp Black Knight when he threw a teenage temper tantrum and thought being the Bad Boy was cool (not). I offer lifetime support including free training, and this family took me up on it.  Nitro never put a paw out of place again and all contacts from them over the years were very positive.

A few years back I moved across the country but that didn’t stop us from staying in touch.   As Nitro aged, and as happens with age, declined, his owner called and texted more for advice on what he could do to make his dear boy more comfortable.  We both knew where this was going with each progressive talk.

Yesterday, his owner made The Call.  And we cried together across the distance.

Nitro was born May 6, 2003 and left us shortly after his thirteenth birthday on May 10, 2016; a great run for an Akita. His family- all of us- will miss him greatly.  Joe, I couldn’t have picked a better friend for Nitro than you. Thank you for being part of the family.  And for letting me hold your hand through the Call.




Would you like a side of propaganda with that?

Originally published Jan 27, 2012 on my first blogsite- moved here for posterity! 🙂

I’m still trying to figure out when efficiency and economy became a bad thing.

During the Great Depression, Americans were forced to find ways to make more with less. Fear of another devastating recession led to changes in industry that made businesses more productive and more profitable.  Along the way, improvements were made for worker safety and other concerns.

Animal agriculture was no different from other players in the game.  Livestock owners needed to care well for their animals, since failure to do so would be counter productive. Let’s face it, a poorly maintained machine doesn’t run well, and a poorly maintained animal doesn’t create healthy young, eggs, milk or muscle mass for meat out of thin air.

Urban sprawl and the creation of zoning ordinances codified livestock ownership out of grandma’s yard and into far removed rural areas.  Could you imagine what it would be like living in your neighborhood if everyone had their own chickens, dairy cows, beef cattle, swine, or other animals?   I know some of you throw fits when Mrs Murphy’s dog barks after 9 pm, so you’ve come to expect that food production animals belong, well, on a farm.

America’s farmers did exactly that and took the production to centralized locations where issues such as noise, odor, and waste could be addressed and leave families free to enjoy their little bedroom communities without a couple of hundred  roosters waking them at the crack of dawn.  Feeds were managed to provide optimum nutrition and quicker market weight gains, meaning more food could be made in less time, and still be affordable and delicious. Housing systems were discussed, researched and implemented in a manner that kept the animals safest from predators, injury from other animals and ability to quickly identify and separate those that were ill.  What’s wrong with that?

The more comfortable people got in their cozy homes, the less they understood what it took to bring a meal to the table. And with the advances of the internet, information can be passed between large numbers of individuals at lightening speed. Which is a scary thought if that information is false.

Some people and groups enjoy disbursing misinformation in an effort to manipulate a response. And predictably, the masses follow.   Several times this week I’ve received postings from friends about “scary foods”.  Perhaps you’ve seen them? In one we’re shown food items from a well known fast food chain with the claim that this person’s very own doctor set these on the counter, dated them and left them there, where they failed to rot, proving they are not food at all but some insidious replica, perhaps made of plastics.  Funny, I didn’t know that so many folks I knew all had the same physician.  In another version, it’s a housewife or mother who did this experiment, with the same results; the meat patty and other ingredients remained largely unchanged.

First off I’d love to commend these folks for having the cleanest homes I’ve ever heard of.  They must have even taken a Swiffer to the food items because there isn’t a speck of dust to be seen. Me, I can’t come in from walking the dogs without leaving a little trail of dust motes behind me. Outstanding!  Secondly, any mother of a toddler can tell you about the mummified remains of what was once food, home cooked no less, excavated from between the cushions of the couch (and the seams of the high chair, and the side of the refrigerator, and between the range and counters…).   It resembles jerky and that’s pretty much what it is. Small, thin, portions rapidly lose moisture and dry out.  Ever enjoy a sun dried tomato? Or Portuguese bacalhau? Open air drying is the oldest preservation method known to man. It’s absolutely nothing new and you can find instruction on air drying just about anthing edible on sites such as or homesteading sites.

So I find the assertion  that this food cannot possibly be food because, goodness, it dried out! completely absurd.   When you think about, you will too, but was that your reaction when you saw the photo and read a description sent to you by a friend?

Another photo is allegedly of a product called mechanically separated meat. The story goes that entire carcasses of animals are thrown into the grinder, reduced to a hot pink paste and used in one chain store’s chicken nuggets, among other foods.

The gullibility of people I have previously thought to be intelligent astounds me.

Sure, there’s a product called mechanically separated meat, and here’s where the efficiency issues once again raises it’s head.  When you remove the best usable cuts from a carcass, what do you do with the rest? Instead of relegating it to garbage, which raises the price of the products and increases useless waste, processors take the remaining parts (excluding things like fur, feathers, entrails and everything else that was already removed) and grind them.  The mass is pushed through a sieve, removing inedible parts such as bone chips.  The resulting product is then used as a base for formed foods like inexpensive chicken meat patties. It’s nutritionally sound, safe and affordable. And no, it isn’t hot pink, though it is pinkish. Meat does that you know.

Details can easily be found on Snopes but how many people actually look up and verify what they’ve just been told? You’re already been horrified by an image out of context, edited, altered and then propagandized to the moon and back. And probably already hit “share” to several hundred (or thousands) of your closest virtual friends.

Back before the internet, we used to call this an Urban Legend and it took them a while to circulate. Now, with the touch of a mouse pad, the entire world can read something completely ludicrous before lunch. Twice.

The Snopes page has a short video clip attacked showing how one well known chef recreated the process with household appliances- and the reaction of the participants. It didn’t go quite the way he had hoped.  It’s worth the four minutes to see how this type of intentional manipulation works, and how it can backfire.

Here at home, I reuse what’s left too but I’m forced to do it the old fashioned way.  I add poultry carcasses or bone in meat to a pot with water, onions, garlic, celery, carrots, and spices, bring it to a boil, reduce to a simmer and let it cook down a while. I strain the ingredients and after it’s cool enough to touch, manually pick out the good meat and toss it back into the pot with the stock. Back in the days when people actually used their kitchens, we called this SOUP.

Perhaps you’ve heard of it?