Sunday, October 30, 2011


 I'm not sure what previous generations have done to make meatloaf instill fear and loathing in the general populous, but it's a damn shame.  If you want something filling, easy and delicious, meatloaf fits the bill.  It is something that has to be cooked by feel / taste so the first turn out might not be perfect but I've yet to have a bad turn out with these basics.

Basic ingredients:
ground beef
Italian bread crumbs
salt, pepper, garlic, tarragon & marjoram.

Start with 2lbs ground beef (substitute 1/4 lb with ground sausage for a spicier turnout), 2 - 3 med eggs, 1 med onion, ~ 1 1/2 c bread crumbs, ~ 1 c oatmeal (uncooked) & then add spices to taste.  When combined, it should be tacky without being soupy and hold its shape.

Shape it however you want but I'd recommend keeping it relatively short / squat.  I have no idea why folks like to used bread pans for meatloaf, it just doesn't end well.  I use a standard oval corningware dish and bake it covered until the thermometer reads med-well for beef then uncover and let the top brown until it reads well done.  You can cook it at 350F or 375F seems to come out well either way.

If you've ended up with more than 4 tbsp of fat / grease try adding more oatmeal or bread crumbs next time.  If there's no grease, well geez just how much oatmeal did you add?!

For the top sauce you can use my husband's method - random bbq sauce & done - or my method:

Mustard (any kind will do, but I'm spoiled with Grandpa's Cheese Barn's Roasted Garlic)
Brown Sugar
Lemon Juice

This is strictly to taste!  Just mix the above together until you've got something nice & tangy (yeah, I know, that's not helpful).  For 2 lbs of meat you'll need to start with over a cup of Ketchup to get the volume.  So ~1 c Ketchup, ~3 tbsp Mustard, < 1/4 c Brown Sugar, ~ 2 tsp Lemon Juice and go easy with the Worcestershire since there's no good way to 'undo'.  Don't cook it with the sauce on - put it on after it's done.

Normally, I'd include pictures but it's gone so it'll have to wait for next time :-D

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Gear Bleg

My last trail ride gave me a pointed reminded that I need a new carry belt, my old one just isn't up to snuff.  I made a brief sortie onto Google for said item and backed away slowly, lest the avalanche of options bury me alive.  So, any thoughts, guidelines, or recommendations for a solid, every-day gun belt?  I usually carry OWB (pistol pouch or holster) as I've yet to find IWB comfortable; maybe I need new ccw-friendly pants, too.  I'm sure somewhere there's a forum thread dedicated to carry belts, but posing the question here might actually garner some comments! 

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Solo Trail Ride

This seems like a silly milestone for someone who's been riding for 16 years, but today I managed my first completely solo trail ride.  I've ridden alone on the farm dozens of times, been on more trails that I can recall and even ridden alone off our property, but I've never hitched up, drove out, rode, and come back without someone else along for at least one part of the journey.  The Beast has finally fulfilled its purpose; I'm no longer dependent on anyone to go out for a ride.  Damn does that make me happy! 

Now, I just have to work on timing.  The first beautiful day at the end of October at a Metropark is a bad time to try and log miles.  They have a tendency to put on Halloween-themed carnivals with all sorts of horse-eating monsters.  This lead to several impromptu desensitizing lessons, yay for learning experiences!  Even with all the spooky things, it was a really good ride.  Freedom's gaiting was dead on today, there was no jarring trot and he had good, ground-covering strides with a wonderful head bob; I think he really enjoyed himself, I know I did.  Thank you, Weather Gods, for at least one nice day this Fall; I will sacrifice a pumpkin in your honor!    

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Great Saddle Search of 2011

This year, I've felt a little like Goldilocks when it comes to saddles.  My dressage saddle was a tight fit in college (read: it was cheap and I made it work) & not suited for a gaited horse, my all purpose was under-padded for long trails and the western I had was heavy, bulky & made my knees ache.  So this spring I had a rack full of saddles and none that really fit me & Freedom... bugger.  So I went to the trusty internet to find something that met the following criteria:

1. Light - under 25lbs
2. Under $2,000 (preferably under $1,500)
3. Built for a gaited horse
4. Deep seated, no horn, English stirrup placement & no extemporaneous leather 
5. Somewhat customizable
6. Reputable Company

I looked at: treeless saddles (all different varieties), Trail Masters, Tuckers, Crest Ridge Saddles, Sycamore Creek Saddlery, and many more.  I put hours into comparing, reading reviews and investigating the options available with each company.  

I tossed treeless out after a few weeks of reading - they're Murphy's Law magnets. Being moderately to completely adjustable, there are too many integral components to fiddle with to get the saddle to fit.  IMHO that's the saddle maker's job, not mine & I'm not about to make a muck of it!  Also, if the saddle was reasonably priced, it had lukewarm reviews and warnings regarding poor distribution of weight - or - if the price was sky-high, it had rave reviews but similar warnings regarding back protection.  If I have to buy a +$200 pad to ensure my saddle will stay on and not harm my horse, then the technology just doesn't support the theory yet. (YMMV)  

Trail Masters... I yearn for one of their saddles but the >$2,000 price tag is simply unobtainable.  I like their rigging style with the cord running the perimeter of the tree creating equal tension on the entire saddle.  The styles are appealing and the thought of a saddle made with a woman's structure in mind was extremely tempting.  I couldn't find any egregious reviews and most folks were thrilled with their saddles.  So, I've filed them away amongst my "WANT!" bookmarks for better days. 

Tuckers... pass.  I just couldn't get into the hype about Tucker saddles.  They're moderately customizable, pricey - for a mass produced product - and just didn't do anything for me when I tried them at tack stores.

Crest Ridge Saddlery... almost had me, but just didn't pan out.  They offer a nice variety of saddles within the $900 - $2,000+ range that are customizable.  They have consistently good feedback and are American made.  What's not to like, right?  Well, I had the opportunity to check out the saddles at Equine Affaire this spring and my original top pick fell a little flat.  The saddles were as nice as advertised & the staff was courteous.  However, I wasn't 100% comfortable in the saddle I could afford and I didn't relish settling on the 1/2 cordura version.  So, I spent a bit of time talking with them about options and such.  Then they asked me who else I was looking at... the owner wasn't overly couth regarding her opinion of her competition.  She was dismissive and fairly condescending when I asked her to explain how her saddles' were better.  It was truly disappointing.  I firmly believe that if you say your product is superior to a competitor's then you should be able to defend your position.  The rest of her staff did a nice job of damage control but it just put me off, so I tabled them to second choice.

Sycamore Creek Saddlery ... I cannot say enough good things about this company.  Their saddles are light, comfortable, utterly customizable (i.e. I sketched the saddle I wanted & now I've got it) and affordable.  Tony was wonderful to work with and made sure I got what I wanted.  Heck, the hardest part was the waiting - which you'll have with any custom saddle, so that really isn't a complaint.  The saddles are made in Columbia but the quality and workmanship are excellent; I've already put 40ish miles on the saddle and I can't find any faults.  It fits Freedom extremely well and I no longer have the grinding knee pain I had when riding in my western.  I've even used it on Gambler and it fits well - so custom doesn't mean "one horse only".  Final price?  ~$700.00  for the saddle, breast collar, girth, crupper & shipping.  Yes, I was skeptical regarding the quality with that price tag, but it really is a nice saddle.  Regarding the comparison to Crest Ridge: I could buy 2 complete rigs from Sycamore for the price of 1 saddle (no accessories) of similar style by Crest Ridge - I just couldn't ignore that side of the equation.*  Plus, Tony's attitude & return policy / satisfaction principles made the choice easy.  So, I'm tickled pink with my saddle but pissed as hell that the weather won't cooperate so I can get on trail! 

Just right!

  *For the gunnies reading this that may equate this to buying a really cheap holster vs one of Dennis' really nice custom ones ... it's more like having Dennis' twin set up shop outside the US and making holsters with the advantage of cheaper overhead.  

** Again for any .gov out there - I paid for my gorram saddle - so bugger off!