FARM FRESH TUNA: THE PRICKLY PEAR CACTUS

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Ripe “tunas” or “pears” from the Prickly Pear Cactus (courtesy of Desert Sun)

The fruit of the Prickly Pear Cactus (Opuntia polyacantha) are known as “Tuna’s” in Mexico where they are a delicacy, used in everything from jams to salsas to juices and even margaritas. Maureen Gilmer, who writes for the Coachella Valley based DESERT SUN newspaper (visit them at http://www.mydesert.com), has an excellent article discussing the various uses of the plants edible parts, including younger pads called “nopalitos” which are used in a traditional recipe with eggs.

We’re preparing to plant a handful of Prickly Pear Cactuses in hopes of a harvest next spring.

Read Maureen’s great article which provides online resources for recipes as well as information on nurseries that carry the cactuses in the Coachella Valley. You can find it at http://www.mydesert.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2013305310010&nclick_check=1

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Ensalada Nopales (photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

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BLUEBERRY’D (blue buried?) TREASURE…

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So I was digging in the yard and found these two beautiful blue berry colored tiles. It is amazing what you can find in the desert dirt. It’s not a wasteland. It’s a treasure chest.

I take pleasure in small things and unexpected finds. These two work perfectly as coasters to protect the antique suitcase I use as a nightstand next to my bed.

Reminds me of the plot of my favorite Swedish children’s film from the 1970’s. No, it’s not one of the Pippi Longstocking yarns. It’s DUNDERKLUMPEN!, a mixed animation/live action (think Roger Rabbit) written by and starring Beppe Wolgers. He’s the guy who played Pippi Longstocking’s father, so there is a connection. I guess the world of children’s film in Sweden circa 1974 was small after all.

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Beppe’s son Jens has a treasure chest which gets stolen by a lonely old man named Dunderklumpen. He also steals some of Jens toys which come to life and call out to their pal to rescue them. So Jens and his father begin the chase. Dunderklumpen hightails it out of the woods and all over Southern Sweden, never having time to stop and open the treasure chest which he is convinced must be full of money.

[SPOILER ALERT : I REVEAL THE ENDING BELOW]

When at last the chest is opened, those looking on find only the treasures of a child: a feather, a dandelion, and a rock. Those are the kinds of things I’d like to keep in my treasure chest. And those are the kinds of treasures (and simple pleasures) I like to find. 

You can catch the trailer for the film at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KzdSLN-Dmrk

SHAVING IS FANTASTIC WITHOUT ALL THAT PLASTIC

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Phoenix poses next to the new tools for shaving the mug at Second Chance Homestead (also suitable for armpit, head and leg shaving – and if you are a hobbit, for foot shaving)

One goal when I moved to the Homestead: CUT DOWN ON PLASTIC. And if you shave in the modern world, you know just how much plastic can be involved.

 I’ve got a brother who is blessed with a mug that sprouts a bit of scrub about once a week. For him to try and grow a beard is an unbearable chore. He’s got enough hair on his head and chest to not get too depressed about it, but he can get by on one shave a week if that. So he doesn’t contribute too much shaving plastic waste to the local landfill. But he does his part.

 I on the other hand, am built like my father, which means that the scrub you shave off this morning is looking like a pretty strong shadow this afternoon. In short, if I want to look like a respectable gent with a clean-shaven face I need to take a razor to my cheeks and chin at least once a day. I’ve even had to shave twice when going out later in the evening if I wanted that “clean” look.

 What did this mean? Plastic, plastic, plastic. Five amazing blades wrapped in disposable plastic. Four blades if that is your style. Blades that pivot, rivet, and even sit Shiva if you want them to.  All of them encased in plastic. And you buy them in packaging made of plastic. You buy them OFTEN, because they don’t stay sharp too long. And that is just the BLADES. Then there is the razor (the part that goes in your hand).  If you’re like me, you are constantly replacing razors because you bought the wrong blades which don’t fit the razor you bought last time. Gilette has it’s own system and it’s own systems within systems and it is all so complicated. So if you buy the Gilette Super Plus it won’t fit the Superior and so on and so on.  And then Schick has got a whole other scheme. And Target and Walmart have their knockoffs. After years of shaving you’ve got a drawer full of razors and an empty wallet. And you don’t even get a really good shave.

 The cream that goes along with shaving also comes in plastic just in case you were worried you weren’t using enough. Or non-recyclable cans of gel. Take your pick.  You still end up a guilty litter monster in the shaving department.

 For the truly decadent there are the  “Disposable” one-time “”disposable” razor/blade combinations that come in packs of 10 and 20. What a WASTE of plastic. But they are CHEAP, and if you live like I do they are a BIG temptation to a SMALL budget.

 But when I moved here to the homestead I decided to do the right thing. I made a decision to switch to old school shaving.Yep. Razor. Blade. Brush. Soap. Re-useable. Wow. What a concept.

Now, you can’t go to Walmart or Target or any drugstore and find anything that will help you make this switch. I know. I tried. The only source I could find was online. Perhaps in a bigger city at an old-school pharmacy you might be able to find a nice shaver, a bowl, a shave soap bar, and a brush – but good luck tryin’.

 Luckily I’m not the only guy who has shifted back in time when it comes to a good, clean (and green) shave. There is a MOVEMENT out there. It’s called VINTAGE SHAVING. Seriously. There are all these sites that sell antique refurbished razors that are amazing – and pricey. But you got to admire the effort they make to restore these things. Many sites have before and after pictures. You can’t believe the transformation. Some even have history on the shaver itself. There are rare ones, gold-plated, “once owned by…” – you name it – all with commensurate price tags. The guys at http://www.razoremporium.com/store/ have a great selection and take restoration and shaving seriously. But there are loads of options – just Google it and see.  And at SCH we really like the idea of giving these old razors a second chance at life.

 Remember – a USED razor gets a NEW blade put into it. So the part that mows your “face grass” is brand new, clean, hygienic. Don’t be scared off by the fact that the device that holds your blade is used. It’s been cleaned. If you don’t believe the guys who sold it to you, boil it in water or send it through a dishwasher cycle. There. You’re guaranteed a germ free shave. No need to be paranoid.

 I do aspire to own an amazing one of a kind refurbished several hundred dollar razor one of these days, but for now I had to stay within my low budget. You can do this LOW budget. But steer clear of “vintage” sites and hit up Amazon.com.

I bought a great shaver through Amazon made in Egypt by the Lord Company and it works just fine. Even better, the English language packaging had me bowled over with laughter:

 “LORD PREMIUM. The Art of Shaving. LORD brings you the smoothness feeling. LORD sterling Razor is made according to high standards to give you a premium shave you can ever get. It’s durable metal parts hold the blade at the perfect angle to the face. This critical angle along with LORD Blade makes your shaving smooth and close all days long.”

In SoCal we’re always talking about Spanglish. Now I know Egyptlish too. You can find the Lord Company at http://www.razorslord.com/

Lord sells blades too, a pack of thirty for under ten bucks. Contrast that with the four lousy blade heads you get from Gilette or Shick at around $14.00 per pack.

 To complete the package I needed a brush, a shave soap, and a ceramic bowl to be able to get the foam just right. Luckily Van Der Hagen Enterprises at http://vdhent.com/ could outfit me with a set that would work just fine (save the plastic handle of the brush – but hey – I’m going to keep this brush for a long, long time).

I don’t really like to just run the tap and then wet and clean my razor in between strokes. It wastes water and I I feel that the tap never gets hot enough. So I like to have a second bowl of boiling hot water to sink my razor into in between strokes. I went to my local thrift store and found that really cool green one you can see to Phoenix’s left. It set me back $1.00 and works just fine.

I used to always cut myself shaving. I have the used styptic pencils to prove it. But using this old method I have only cut myself once when I was trying to get the angle right. Once you understand how this old-school method is done, it’s like a dance with your blade and face every single morning. I love the ritual of it. Boil my water, fill my ceramic water reservoir. Ahhhh….look at the steam rise. Dip my brush in to get it wet, then swirl it around the ceramic soap bowl where it lathers up and cools just enough to not burn my face.  Then transfer the lather to my face with sensual brush strokes that feel great and really lift and lubricate each hair. It’s like masturbation of the jaw. And you’ve never gotten such a clean (green) shave. Trust me.