Fire & Iron:

Summer is upon us, with all her unmercies. The heat today was nearly a hundred degrees. The heat index, which factors the humidity, was one hundred ten.

The heat in the summer's one hundred and ten
Too hot for the devil, too hot for men.
A man does what he can. Last week I cleared out a patch of pokeweed that was flowering, because the boy might have decided that its poison berries were edible like the blackberries and raspberries he already knows. I took a pair of machetes, one in each hand, and went to work until the whole field was laid down. This is a good exercise for those of you interested in bladework, who might wish to learn to fight with two hands. The exercise of cutting needs that your limbs be hard, and your grip both strong and wise enough to keep the blade aligned with the work. This is a four-stroke exercise: Two right (to your inside, and then to your outside), two left (in-out). Cutting out last keeps your off-arm out of the way of the incoming cut.

The next day I mowed over the field, to make sure it was unable to regrow; and then, with some old concrete blocks I found in the clearing, I built a fire lay. I have a cast iron five-quart dutch oven, as well as a few iron skillets that I inherited from my grandmother. These allow me to cook outside in the summer. The heat of supper-making is thereby kept outside of the house, and the food you eat has the flavor of hardwood smoke. Tonight we are having pork chops and beans.

If you didn't happen to inherit such things, they can still be bought from the Lodge Manufacturing Company, in business since 1896. Having a cast iron oven is as good as having a stove outside, which is just the thing for the burning of summer. With a bit of care you can make the whole meal inside or atop one: turn the self-basting lid over, and you can roast biscuits atop it while your meal bakes inside. If you have two, mix that biscuit dough with a can of pie apples, and roast that on the lid or inside. Fry bacon while you roast steaks. Add some onions and jalepenos. I saw a recipie recently for pork or cheap beef cooked in a jar of grape jelly, mixed with chile sauce. Sounds good to me, though I haven't tried it.

Cooking over fire is trickier than using an electric range, but you'll get the hang of it quickly enough. It's a tie to your ancestors, as it is to mine. And it will keep your house cooler to boot.

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