The Winter Garden In April

by A.J. Coltrane

The backyard garden hasn’t yet fully transitioned to “summer”. Maybe next week. The whiskey barrels have some energetic flower starts — Territorial Seed’s Bee Mix, Bug Mix, and Nasturtiums (Jewel Mix).

As of March 2nd, these containers only had gravel in the bottom. They’re in the coldest, shadiest part of the yard that will eventually see good sun as the season progresses:

160425 whiskey barrel

(Front to back — a container of Bee Mix, a container of Bug Mix, a container of 1/2 Bee Mix and 1/2 Bug Mix, a container of Nasturtiums. We’re now planted Marigolds – “Brocade Mix” in the spots that haven’t germinated.)

Next, a close-up picture of the Nasturtiums. We planted about nine seeds. Seven of those germinated. It looks like seven plants is going to be plenty:

160425 nasturtium

The raspberry plant (with a blooming rhododendron behind it):

160425 raspberry

The raspberry plant needs some pruning. I’m holding off until I’m dead certain nothing is going to grow out of the older stems.

As far as everything else:  The mache and chard bolted at the first sign of warm weather. I’m hoping we can harvest mache seed at some point — they’re blooming now. The carrots continue to size up, and it looks like we should be able to harvest those in the next 30 days.

The garlic will need to be harvested in the next 30 days to make room for the summer vegetables as well:

160425 garlic


The actual work on the backyard garden starts soon.

Container Garden Update — April 17, 2016

by A.J. Coltrane

This weekend it was time to harvest the rest of the bunch onions that were planted last fall. It turned out to be just over four pounds:

160417 bunch onion

We separated the onions into whites, stems, and greens and ran them through the slicing disk of the food processor. It wasn’t perfect, but it was a huge time savings. The boy cat had to check it out:

160417 processed bunch onion

I think the processor actually did a better job than the photo implies. The bigger pieces mostly wound up on top.

All in all, it turned into about fifty bags at one-half cup per bag.

The salad table is finally moving forward. Direct seeding is slow in the spring. It seems the better idea would be to start the seedlings inside and transplant. The “tall” stuff towards the right side is arugula:

160417 salad table

The peas were planted on February 8. They’ve now getting grabby with the netting:

160417 peas

Sometime in February a critter came through and dug in the pots. Look what has popped up on the other side of the walkway:

160417 rogue pea

Can’t stop ’em.


GNOIF: GNOIF’s Three Hour Tour

by A.J. Coltrane

GNOIF #22 recap — GNOIF’s Three Hour Tour (Games about water, islands, and pirates.)

Games That Got Played:  Avalon – Resistance, Dominion (Seaside), Pandemic, Pirate’s Cove, Pirate Fluxx, Forbidden Island, Ultimate Werewolf.

Games That Didn’t Get Played:  Amerigo, Carcassonne, Forbidden Desert, Island Port.

I enjoy teaching new people Fluxx for the first time. It’s quick to learn, and players always have fun once they wrap their heads around the idea that the rules change almost every turn. It’s a goofy game, but planning still gets rewarded sometimes.

Fittingly, the forces of failure were everywhere — we managed to lose at least one game each of Forbidden Island and Pandemic. The evil team won two out of three games of Avalon. The werewolves won two out of three games of Ultimate Werewolf.

Thanks to everyone who played!

Those Poor People….

Galaxy Quest: A must-see movie if you haven’t already watched it.


In other news, we just passed 1 million sp*m, thank goodness for filters.

The Belated 2016 Bracket Of Peril Results

by A.J. Coltrane

Congratulations to Annie S. for winning the 2016 Bracket Of Peril! She finished at the 94.7 percentile, despite not having the eventual winner, Villanova.

Of course, that means that nobody else picked Villanova either, despite the fact that they wound up #1 in Ken Pomeroy’s ratings. They were likely only picked by Villanova alumni and a couple of other weirdos.

Annie S., have fun with your big prize — a great big bunch of nothing!


I believe that this also makes it something like seven out of the last eight years that a top 21 defense has won the title — Villanova was #2 in defense. And #6 in offense somehow. Offense helps win games too.


Peter Reinhart’s Challah

by A.J. Coltrane

Easter called for another Challah, this time I tried Peter Reinhart’s, from his book Artisan Breads Every Day. (Last year was his “Double Celebration Challah“. For comparison, here is my 2nd attempt at Rose Levy Beranbaum’s Brioche, a recipe which I found to be a pain to parse.)

This year’s Challah was fairly simple and easy — combine all ingredients, knead, cover, then put it in the refrigerator overnight (or up to three days). The dough is then shaped into braids, braided, covered with egg wash, allowed to rise, covered with egg wash (again) and sesame seeds, allowed to rise (again), then baked:

160329 challah

The recipe is here, on Michael Ruhlman’s website. Note that I halved all of the ingredients — I didn’t need to make two loaves. I don’t know why Reinhart often writes recipes for two (or four, or eleventytwelve) doughs. Though at least this time he used grams, so I didn’t have to mess with figuring out what a one-third portion of 7-1/4 cups of flour computes to.

I like this recipe better than either of the other two that I referenced at the start of this post. The Double Celebration Challah calls for an indeterminate amount of water, 10.5 to 12 ounces — that’s a big range! The Beranbaum Brioche recipe is very poorly worded, and I feel like the recipe is broken into more steps than is necessary.

From a taste standpoint, this Challah was better 2015’s. It may be that including the optional vanilla extract made a difference, though no one mentioned that they detected it. I also think the salt level was very close to correct this time, in contrast to the 2015 bread which seemed to be lacking salt.

Other notes:

  1.  This Challah called for coating the dough with egg wash twice, at one hour intervals. The dough rests uncovered the entire time. It sounds really odd, but it worked.
  2.  Last year’s Challah split — almost exploded. I read somewhere that splitting tends to happen if the braiding is too tight, which definitely could have been the case.
  3.  When it came to the “knead on the counter until the dough is tacky but not sticky” — at least this time the dough was very wet and shaggy at the start of the kneading, and it took a fair amount of flour to get to “tacky”. Maybe it was just humid(?)

Overall it’s a low-hassle, nice tasting bread, and it’s attractive too. I can see making this again even if it isn’t a special occasion.


Back From Vegas 2016

by A.J. Coltrane

The gambling on basketball didn’t go quite as well this year — the total was a few more losses than wins. Not a disaster, but it could have gone better. The over/unders didn’t go well. There were a few missed late free throws (two teams I picked combined to go 1-7 from the line late, blowing two covers in the process.) And so on.

So let’s see if I can make up my losses in real money with fake picks:


Thursday (selections are in CAPS):

MARYLAND +7 vs Kansas

MIAMI +4 vs Villanova

OREGON -2.5 vs Duke

OKLAHOMA -2.5 vs Texas A&M



NORTH CAROLINA -6 vs Indiana

NOTRE DAME -1.5 vs Wisconsin

VIRGINIA -5 vs Iowa State

GONZAGA -4.5 vs Syracuse


Here goes nothing. Literally.



The 2016 Bracket Of Peril!

by A.J. Coltrane

The Most Perilous tourney bracket is back!

Link Here.

The group name is Cheap Seat Eats. Password is TakeMeOut. If you played in the group last year you can simply select “Rejoin Group”.

As always, the winner gets a whole bunch of nothing!

Join soon, the tournament starts Thursday, with the play-in games on Tuesday.


It’s a commercial, but it features some funny “Life Advice” from Latrell Sprewell:


The Salad Table And Peas On March 9, 2016

by A.J. Coltrane

An update of the salad table and peas, one month later. It’s raining hard today.

Here are the peas, which were planted on February 8. Last weekend we put up the stakes and netting:

160309 peas

I may try running some twine from the pots to the netting to help the peas figure it out. The netting is to the south of the pots though, so hopefully the peas will just sort of lean that way.

The very small arugula:

160309 arugula

The front of the salad table (the peas and netting are about two feet to my left):

160309 salad table

That’s a big pile of miner’s lettuce. It’s proving to be a weed — I may need to put a board or something down widthwise across the table to keep it from completely taking over.

One nice thing about gardening in the winter and spring — no need to be worried about watering.


The Winter Garden In March

by A.J. Coltrane

The winter (backyard) garden… I’m going to call it a success. Not a smashing success though. There’s definitely a theme to what worked and what didn’t.

The garlic is doing well. It still has another couple of months to size up before it needs to make way for the summer vegetables:

160302 garlic

Mache (left) and Dragon Radishes (right). Bunch Onions were interplanted in most of the containers because slugs are supposed to dislike alliums:

160302 mache radish

Mache again. It grew bigger with less competition:

160302 mache

The carrots are still small (and they may be too crowded):

160302 carrot

The last four EarthBoxes to be planted. An assortment of Mache, Chard, Arugula, and Spinach. Squirrels were digging in them so bird netting was draped over everything… I see Mache and a little Chard:

160302 assorted


I think if I’m really going to “winter garden” I need to start seeds no later than sometime in August. (Which is the same thing I said in the November post.) As it is, the backyard gets zero sun all winter. Not much growth happened until the last couple of weeks.

In summary:  The Mache did well. All of the alliums did well. The carrots and radishes did ok. Maybe other stuff with do better with a bigger head start..

The newly acquired “whiskey barrels” are pictured below. Purchased at a big box store, they were somewhat smaller than our existing barrels. I’ve gotten as far as drilling drainage holes and filling the bottom with gravel. They will house “Bee & Beneficial Bug” flowers this summer. And Nasturtiums:

160302 new barrels


For reference, here’s the backyard on November 8.


GNOIF Throws A Posse Together

by A.J. Coltrane

GNOIF #21 recap — GNOIF Throws Together A Posse (A fairly random cross-section of games.)

Games That Got Played:  Dark Gothic, Forbidden Island, Letters To Santa, Seven Wonders.

Games That Didn’t Get Played:  Castle Panic, Poo, RoboRally, Small World, Ticket To Ride Card Game, Tiny Epic Kingdoms.

#21 — GNOIF is old enough to drink(!) Last minute invites meant that lots of people already had plans. Turnout was small, which was ok. We got in some good gameplay.

Dark Gothic is the “new thing” — it’s a deck building “colonial horror” themed game. Each player starts with a slightly different deck and a different hero ability. That adds some welcome asymmetry to a genre that can get a little static in terms of strategy. The object is for the players to sort of work together to defeat evil villains before too many “bad things” happen. There’s still one winner.. so players cooperate, but not too hard. The game is by the same studio that does Last Night On Earth, and the “photo” artwork is excellent. It’s one of my new favorites. BoardGameGeek page is here.

A few Dark Gothic cards.

A few Dark Gothic cards.

I enjoyed Seven Wonders as well. My “Recommended Game” summary is here.

Thanks to the few intrepid folks who showed, and thanks to everyone who brought awesome beer and food.