Friday, February 28, 2014

Motorcycles and Vegetables

My two youngest brothers have a great love for machines with motors.  They love quads.  They love snowmobiles.  They (even) love lawn mowers.  But most of all, they love motorcycles. For a period in their lives they competed against one another.

My family's interactions with motorcycles has been spotty.  Any attraction I had for them ended when my dad came back from a quick spin around the block on a neighbor's dirt bike.  The entire length of this right leg was bleeding.  At that time, he explained to me that there is no such thing as "soft gravel."  Yes, loose gravel exists.  But it is not soft.  He had the evidence to prove it.

My youngest brothers, Johnny and Jimmy, were too young to absorb that lesson.

As they came of age they raced each other.  They made tracks through the woods.

I almost killed my youngest brother.  It was purely by accident.  One of the orchard trees was leaning due to the effects of prolonged rain and wind.  I stretched a nylon line from an adjacent tree to the leaning tree.

Jimmy never saw the line.  He was accelerating up the hill as he hit it.  It flipped him off the bike an yanked the tree out of the ground, as cleanly as a radish is plucked from moist, garden soil.  Had he been a couple of feet to the north it would have decapitated him.  My concerns about lingering brain damage are still in a flux.  He became a radiologist but I suspect he sometimes votes for Liberals.

Spiky HP curves

Jimmy was sure that he was going to kick Johnny's butt.  He bought himself a RACING bike. 

He took it to the same stretch of gravel road that dad had ridden the neighbor's dirt bike.  He filled it with mixed gas, using the premium Castrol racing two-stroke oil the previous owner recommended.

His anticipation was palpable.

It fired up but was running a little lumpy.  Jimmy figured it was due to not having been run in a while.  He put it in first, gave it a little gas and eased off the clutch.


and it flipped him off the back of the bike.

Jimmy did a little bit of research.  He discovered that racing bikes make astronomical amounts of horsepower.  But that occurs in a very narrow range of RPM.  The art of riding a racing bike is to keep the RPM in that band.

If you recall from an earlier post, Bruce Kelly's definition of a Robust Process,

A Robust Process is a process that can absorb anticipateable variation in the inputs and still produce an acceptable output.

It is a lot of work to keep the RPM between 8500RPM and 10,000RPM.  You live and die by the tachometer.  Minor variation in the RPM resulted unacceptable variation in torque.

Jimmy did not keep that bike.  He rode bikes for fun.  Racing bikes were like trophy girlfriends....much envy from friends, some fun in the riding but extremely unforgiving and the maintenance costs far outweighed the tangible benefits.


There are some vegetables that are like the racing bike.  Huge output but under a restrictively narrow range of conditions.

And then there are vegetables that are like Mrs ERJ who punches well above her weight and exemplifies resilience and accommodation.  These are the vegetables that will feed your family even when...or perhaps especially when...things do not go according to plan.

Eaton Rapids Joe's List of Robust, Season-extending Vegetables

Deadon Savoy Cabbage

Savoy cabbage, in general, exhibit rock solid coldhardiness.  I have some heads of Deadon cabbage that are beneath 18" of snow.  I am confident that they will be in edible condition when the snow melts.

Deadon cabbage is delicious.

Deadon cabbage is a purple tinted cabbage.  Cabbage worms are green.  They show up against Deadon leaves like neon lights.  The birds are not oblivious to the easy pickings. 

Deadon cabbage that is seeded May 15 (in zipcode 48827) is not bothered by cabbage worms because the heads do not start to form until after the peak pressure from cabbage loopers have past.  The worms cannot hide in the tightly packed heads because those do not start to form until late August, long after peak bug pressure pasted.

Cooked cabbage has a bad reputation.  It is due to institutional cooks boiling it to within an inch of its life.  My one recipe for Deadon savoy cabbage is to cut it into wedges (usually eighths).  Cut the head so each wedge is held together by part of the core.  Pat/rub the cut surfaces of the wedges with olive oil, or bacon grease, or butter or salad oil.  Dust the wet surface with your choice of uniodized salt, or black pepper or garlic powder.  Stand the wedges on a cookie sheet.  Bake in an oven at about 350 degree F for about 25 minutes.  You will know when they are done when they start smelling good, the wedges start falling over or the tip is browned.

Mini Broccoli

I have grown Happy Rich, a interspecies cross between European broccoli and Asian Kailon.  It is sometimes called "cut-and-come-again broccoli".  Similar varieties are Green Lance and Apollo.

Brussels Sprouts

Another vegetable destroyed by institutional cooking.

Cook similar to savoy cabbage but slice spouts in half, season cut surface the same as the cabbage.  Bake the sprouts with the cut-side-up.

Brussels sprouts were selected from savoy cabbage and exhibit similar resistance to the cold and rain of November-through-March.

If there was one vegetable that exemplified the British Victory Gardens of WWII, it was Brussels sprouts.  They are prodigious producers of vitamin rich vegetables through the depths of the "hungry time" of the year.  Brussels sprouts were the vegetable of choice during the most dire hours of the Battle of Britain.

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