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Cattle Drive Chili – A Cowboys Staple Food – American Cattle Drives 1865-1886

This is a reworked, edited version of a 2011 posting.
With the holiday season fast approaching I thought it might be a fun to rework and repost this tidbit of American food history.

The first thing you must do is understand what life in the mid to late 19th Century [1865-1900] was like. You must understand what was and was not available to the average family or trail cook.

In many cases a cowboy was really a boy. Many young boys some only 12 years old moved millions of head of longhorn cows to market buyers. Many buyers headquartered in rail head towns like Abilene, Kansas. Longhorn cows were shipped to stockyards in Chicago and other midwest and eastern markets.
Trail drives were no place for old men or the weak.

Moving a herd of longhorns from Texas to Kansas was no small undertaking. Herds could number in 1 to 3 thousand head, could be moved only about 10 or 12 miles a day without the loss of much body weight. Cattle buyers would pay little if anything for poor starved down cows. It could take 2 or 3 months to move a large herd of longhorn cows from Texas to railheads in Kansas. It required as many as 20 sometimes more cowboys and a experienced, inventive trail cook.

Cattle drives were moving millions of cattle from Texas Midwest markets. There was stiff competition among different cattle drivers, recruiting a good cowboy was difficult. The Goodnight-Loving cattle trail, co-founded by Col. Charles Goodnight, decided to gain interest in his trail drives through good cooking.
Side note: An injured or dead cowboy was more easily replaced than a good trail cook.

Col. Goodnight needed a mobile kitchen and a good cook. He used a military wagon to hold supplies and a makeshift kitchen. The military wagon was strong enough for all the supplies and could withstand harsh weather and bumpy trails. With the help of his cook, Col. Goodnight developed an efficient layout that was soon adopted by all trail drivers across the west. It was named the chuck wagon after Charles “Chuck” Goodnight.

Cooks were the kings of the chuck wagon. Chuckwagon food typically included easy-to-preserve items like beans and salted meats, coffee, and sourdough biscuits. Wild game would also be harvested en route.
There was no fresh fruit, vegetables, or eggs available and meat was not fresh unless an animal was injured and had to be killed.
The meat they ate was greasy cloth-wrapped bacon, salt pork, and beef, usually dried, salted or smoked.
It was common for the “cook” who ran the wagon to be second in authority only to the “trailboss.” The cook would often act as doctor, barber, dentist, and banker.
You wouldn’t want to annoy the person cooking your food or treating your medical needs would you?
The cook enforced the rules of the wagon.
Cowboys were required to ride downwind so dust would not blow into the food, and no horses could be tied to the chuck wagon wheels. The cook worked the hardest with the least amount of sleep. He had to get up before the rest of the cowboys to prepare the food and had to clean up pots, pans and dishes after meals.

A typical day’s food on the trail was meat based generally beef or cured salt pork bacon, hot bread or biscuits, dried fruit and coffee for breakfast.
Lunch and dinner meals included roast beef, boiled potatoes, beans, brown gravy, bread or biscuits and coffee.
Dessert consisted of dried fruit pies, stewed dried fruit and spiced cake made without butter or eggs. These items would be cooked in a Dutch oven or skillet over hot coals.

Foods like butter, milk, eggs and fresh vegetables would soon spoil [no ice or refrigeration on the trail] and were not part of a cowboys daily menu.

Some say that ‘real’ chili can not contain beans, rice or other fillers. I disagree with this assessment. A chuck wagon cook had to feed 20 or more hungry boys 2 or 3 times a day. He had very limited resources in the variety of foods available, the number of cooking utensils and was always on a very tight time schedule to prepare and serve meals.
I think that it would not be uncommon to add fillers such as beans and rice to any one pot meal. It would cut down on preparation time, number of pots required and allow the cook to feed more cowboys using less meat.

There are thousands of ‘chili’ recipes that can be found when you do a chili recipe search. Find one that is to your liking, adjust spices to fit your taste. You can call bean soup with a bit of chili spices added chili [meatless] if that’s what you like.

Here is another Texas Red Chili Recipe
In Texas, they often refer to Texas Chili as ‘a bowl of red’ which is an old slang term carried over from the trail drive days. Unlike most other Chili, real Texas Red Chili never contains beans or other fillers. It is generally made with beef, but it can be made with goat meat.

1 pound lean ground beef [it is unlikely trail cooks had meat grinders on the chuck wagon.] More likely it was cubed meat.
6 cups water
2 pounds boneless stew meat or ground meat(beef or goat)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil [trail cooks used beef fat or pork lard. Vegetable oil had not been invented].
1 strong flavored yellow onion coarsely chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
2 teaspoons salt
6 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon white vinegar
Black pepper to taste (about 1 teaspoon)
Ground red pepper to taste (to start, about 1/2 teaspoon)
6 tablespoons Masa Harina (Mexican corn flour) or [trail cooks would have most likely used 4 tablespoons of regular yellow corn meal]

**Please note this recipe does not call for tomatoes, tomato sauce or that awful tasting ketchup. Tomato’s would go bad quickly on a trail drive.

Meantime, heat oil. When hot, brown meat, searing on all sides. When browned, add goat and or beef mixture in pot.

Place meat, beef or goat into a large pot with water. Stir vigorously to separate meat and incorporate it throughout water.

Stir in onion, garlic, salt, chili powder, cumin, vinegar, black and red pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for a minimum of two hours, 4 to 6 hours is better.
Add water if necessary.
Just before serving, stirring briskly to keep from forming lump slowly add Masa Harina. Continue to stir briskly to make a smooth, thick sauce.

Adjust salt and red pepper to your taste.

Do’s And Dont’s of a Texas Chili Cook Off

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Safe Minimum Cooking Temperature Is….

You can’t tell whether meat has reached the safe cooked temperature by looking at it.
Cooked, uncured red meats including pork can be pink, even when the meat has reached a safe internal temperature.

Rest Time is Important
After you remove meat from a grill, oven, or other heat source, allow it to rest for the specified amount of time. During the rest time, its temperature will remain constant or continue to rise, which destroys harmful germs.

Instant read meat thermometers are inexpensive and are an essential kitchen tool to ensure food safety for you and your family. If you don’t have one consider food safety and invest in a quality thermometer.

United States Department of Agriculture recommended minimum safe cooking temperature chart.

Category Food Temperature (°F)  Rest Time 
Ground Meat & Meat Mixtures Beef, Pork, Veal, Lamb 160 None
Turkey, Chicken 165 None
Fresh Beef, Veal, Lamb Steaks, roasts, chops 145 3 minutes
Poultry Chicken & Turkey, whole 165 None
Poultry breasts, roasts 165 None
Poultry thighs, legs, wings 165 None
Duck & Goose 165 None
Stuffing (cooked alone or in bird) 165 None
Pork and Ham Fresh pork 145 3 minutes
Fresh ham (raw) 145 3 minutes
Precooked ham (to reheat) 140 None
Eggs & Egg Dishes Eggs Cook until yolk and white are firm None
Egg dishes 160 None
Leftovers & Casseroles Leftovers 165 None
Casseroles 165 None
Seafood Fin Fish 145 or cook until flesh is opaque and separates easily with a fork. None
Shrimp, lobster, and crabs Cook until flesh is pearly and opaque. None
Clams, oysters, and mussels Cook until shells open during cooking. None
Scallops Cook until flesh is milky white or opaque and firm. None

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Chow Chow Relish – Using Late Season Garden Vegetables

Grandma’s CHOW CHOW

1 peck (1/4 bushel) green tomatoes about {12 or 15 pounds}
5 lbs. strong flavored yellow onions
1 large head of cabbage course chopped
5 lbs. sugar
5 red hot chili peppers {you need at least 2 of these and more if you like your chow chow hot and spicy}
2+ cups chopped sweet green bell peppers
2+ cups chopped sweet red bell peppers
2 to 5 tablespoons mustard seed
1 tablespoon turmeric
3 or 4 tablespoons celery seed
Optional – 1 package of pickling spices
About 1 qt. of cider vinegar

Slice or dice tomatoes and sprinkle with 1 cup salt, place them in a clean old white pillowcase and hang them from a close line pole over night. {This will remove most of the green tomato juice from your bag of sliced green tomato’s} I’ll bet wrapping your sliced tomato’s in cheese cloth would work just as well.

Chop all vegetables and combine in a large kettle. Stir in salt, let stand covered at room temperature overnight, or at least 8 hours. Drain well.

Rinse and drain green tomato’s and other vegetables only once.
Using a meat grinder, {or course chop by hand} coarse grind tomatoes, cabbage, onions, peppers. In a large pot, add sugar, spices to mixture. Add enough vinegar to almost cover. Cook uncovered over a very low fire for 4 hours. Adding additional vinegar as necessary.

Fill hot sterilized 1 pint canning jars to 1/2 inch from the top and seal.
Makes 8 to 10 pints.
Note: Sterilize jars in a boiling water bath insuring jars are completely covered with water. Don’t forget to sterilize jar tops as well.

Process in a boiling water bath for 15 to 20 minutes. Allow jars to cool over night. Check to insure all jars sealed properly. Any jar that did not properly seal should be refrigerated and consumed with in a week or so.

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Excess Green Tomato’s? – Fry Them!

Fried Green Tomato Recipe
They taste great, and it’s a good way to use up excess green tomato’s from your garden.
Many people prepare them the same way they would prepare squash or egg plant for pan frying.

I stole this serving hint idea from an Italian sidewalk cafe near Lake Como in northern Italy, whether it be fried green tomato’s, okra, french fries, squash or egg plant, grate a little ‘real’ Parmesan cheese on them just before serving.
{Don’t even think about using that stuff in a can or box, doing a bad imitation of Parmesan cheese}.

Ingredients
medium size, firm green tomatoes
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup milk
2 beaten eggs
2/3 cup fine dry bread crumbs or cornmeal {Being from the Southwest, I like cornmeal}
1/4 cup good quality olive oil or canola oil if you prefer
Hint: Try replacing 1/2 of the oil with melted butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Cut unpeeled green tomatoes into 1/2 inch slices. Sprinkle slices with salt and pepper. Let tomato slices stand for 45 minutes or more to drain excess water. Meanwhile, place flour, milk, eggs, and cornmeal/bread crumbs in separate shallow dishes.

Heat 2 Tbsp of lard or good quality olive or canola oil in a skillet on medium/medium high heat. Dip tomato slices in milk, then flour, then well beaten eggs, then cornmeal/bread crumbs. In the skillet, (fairly low heat) fry half of the coated tomato slices at a time, for 4-6 minutes on each side (turn only once) until brown. As you cook the rest of the tomatoes, add more lard or oil as needed. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

___________________________________________________________________________
ORIGINAL SOUTHERNER’S FRIED GREEN TOMATOES
fresh green tomatoes
flour or cornmeal or corn bread mix
(corn bread mix – 1/2 flour mixed with 1/2 corn meal)
salt
pepper
Pork Lard (Or a good quality Olive oil or vegetable oil)
Slice tomatoes about 1/4 to 3/8 inch thick. Spread on plate. Sprinkle salt evenly over tomatoes. Continue placing tomato slices in layer over previous layer and sprinkle with salt until all tomatoes have been salted.
IMPORTANT: Let tomato’s drain for 1 to 2 hours. This removes excess water from tomatoes so that they will cook up nice and crispy.

Remove tomatoes from container, rinse off excess salt, pat dry using paper towels.
Mix flour/corn meal, a little salt and pepper (to taste) in bowl. Coat each tomato slice with flour/corn meal. Let tomato slices set 10 – 20 minutes. (This fixes the flour/cornmeal to your tomato’s so it stays affixed to your tomato’s while frying.)

Heat lard/oil in a skillet to medium to medium high. Place tomatoes in oil. (Reduce heat as necessary). Let tomatoes brown on one side, then turn (turn only once) and brown on the other. When tomatoes are a golden brown, remove one at a time and place on paper towels to drain.

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Common Sense Will Avoid Big Debts

Equinox arrives at Tiny Farm on Friday, September 22, 2017 at 3:02 pm CDT. This is the official start of Oklahoma’s Fall season.
Sun rise 7:22 am
Sunset: 7:29 pm

We are still having a few day’s reaching near 100 degrees, Monday’s forecast is calling for a high of 97 degrees, but, most day’s are now topping out closer to the mid-80’s and lows have been dropping into the high 50’s and low 60’s just before sunrise.

The holiday season count down begins.
1 day till Labor day
3 weeks to the start of Fall.
8 weeks to Halloween
12 weeks to Thanksgiving feast
16 weeks till Christmas
17 weeks and it will the start of our 2018 gardening season

Those fine folk at all those ‘mart’ stores are gearing up to relieve you of carrying around all that excess cash. Holiday sales are being advertised every where.

Don’t let all those store and website flashy sales pitches trick you into an impulse buy of products you don’t really need.
Ask yourself, do I really need a TV/entertainment system that cost more that my yearly food expense?

Make yourself a holiday budget and ‘Stick’ to your budget.
Don’t spring for a $1000.00 smart phone when the phone you have is working fine.

Treat yourself to an evening cuddled up with a cup of tea or hot coco and a good seed catalog.

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Now is the time to start planning your 2018 Spring garden

Independent scientific studies from university programs confirm that late summer and fall are especially good times to fertilize lawns and gardens.

Fall is the time when cool season grasses recover from summer stresses such as drought, heat, and disease. If the lawn has been properly fertilized in the late summer and fall, turf grass can begin to store carbohydrate reserves in the stems, rhizomes, and stolons. These carbohydrate reserves help grass resist winter injury and disease, and serve as a source of energy for root and shoot growth the following spring. A late fall fertilization will also provide better winter color, enhanced spring green up and increased rooting.

The final fertilizer application should be when the grass has stopped growing or has slowed down to the point of not needing to be mowed. Do not wait until the ground freezes.
A recommended rate for lawns is 1 lb. of soluble nitrogen be applied for each 1000 square feet, or 1.5 to 2 lb. of slow-release nitrogen for each 1000 square feet. A complete fertilizer with a high ratio of both nitrogen (N) and potassium (K) is essential for enhanced rooting, cold hardiness, disease resistance and wear tolerance. Use something like NPK 24-4-12.

Flower and vegetable gardens are similar. A mild fertilizer feeding in the fall will replenish the soil and prepare it for a quicker green-up when planting begins the following spring. Gardens do better with this approach than with a heavy dose of fertilizer in the early spring.

Using natural sources of nutrients, such as compost on the garden or mulching lawn clippings rather than bagging them, can replace some of the traditional chemical fertilizer applications.
Many studies conclude that one late to mid-summer feeding of a lawn, followed by a light fall feeding, produces a better lawn than the old recommendation for three or four major feedings for each growing season.
Most gardens do very well with one feeding shortly after planting and one as the growing season concludes.

DIY Test Compost for Herbicides
Compost from grass clippings or cow manure can have persistent herbicides.

Fill a pot with the compost. Add seeds of red clover (Trifolium pratense) or use regular garden beans. Failure to grow is a good indicator of persistent herbicides.
See fact sheet from NC State University Cooperative Extension for more information about herbicide persistence in compost. Herbicide Carryover in Hay, Manure, Compost & Grass Clippings

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Wheat – What Is In Your Bag Of Flour

American Wheat farmers, supplying the world with quality wheat for breads, cakes, noodles and pasta.

There are six classes of wheat grown in the United States they are designated by color, hardness and their growing season. Millers and bakers can produce and use flours made from U.S. wheat for almost every possible end product.

Hard Red Winter Wheat
Versatile, with excellent milling and baking characteristics for pan bread, HRW is also a choice wheat for Asian style noodles, hard rolls, flat breads, tortillas, general purpose flour and cereal.

Hard Red Spring Wheat
The aristocrat of wheat when it comes to “designer” wheat foods like hearth breads, rolls, croissants, bagels and pizza crust, HRS is also a valued improver in flour blends for bread and Asian style noodles.

Soft Red Winter Wheat
SRW is versatile weak gluten wheat with excellent milling and baking characteristics for cookies, crackers, pretzels, pastries and flat breads.

Soft White Wheat
A low moisture wheat with high extraction rates, providing a whiter product for exquisite cakes, pastries and Asian style noodles, SW is also ideally suited to Middle Eastern flat breads.

Hard White Wheat
HW receives enthusiastic reviews when used for Asian style noodles, whole wheat white flour, tortillas, pan breads and flat breads.

Durum Wheat
The hardest of all wheat’s, durum has a rich amber color with high protein content and gluten strength that is ideal for premium pasta, couscous and some Mediterranean breads.

If you have bread on your table Thank A Farmer.

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Preserving (canning) excess peppers

4 peppers For your safety and the safety of your family I Strongly Recommend that you read and understand all safety tips provided by the United Stated Department of Agricultural. National Center for Home Food Preservation.
Canning (using no vinegar) Peppers Hot or sweet, including chilies, jalapeno, and pimiento.
You will need about 1 pound of peppers for each pint of processed peppers.
A bushel of peppers about weighs 25 pounds and will yield 20 to 30 pints.
Hint: Use only firm peppers. Avoid using soft or diseased peppers.

Wear plastic or rubber gloves and do not touch your face while handling hot peppers.
Oven or broiler Place peppers in a hot oven (400° F) or broiler for 6-8 minutes until skins blister.
Range top Cover hot burner, either gas or electric, with heavy wire mesh. Place peppers on burner for several minutes, turning often, until skins blister.

Allow peppers to cool in a pan covered with a damp cloth. This will make peeling the peppers easier. After several minutes, peel each pepper. Flatten whole peppers. {Optional} Add 1/2 teaspoon of salt to each pint jar. Fill jars loosely with peppers and add fresh boiled water, leaving 1/2-inch headspace.

Another option is to drop in 1 clove of garlic and pack with peppers fill jar with olive oil leaving 1/2 of headspace. Seal tightly and store peppers in your refrigerator up to 1 month.
Avoid using salt when packing in olive oil.
* For the adventurous, use pepper oil when making vinegar and oil salad dressing.

Table 1. Recommended
process time for Peppers in a dial-gauge pressure
canner.
Canner Pressure (PSI) at Altitudes of
Style of Pack Jar Size Process Time 0 – 2,000 ft 2,001 – 4,000 ft 4,001 – 6,000 ft 6,001 – 8,000 ft
Hot Half-pints or Pints 35 min 11 lb 12 lb 13 lb 14 lb
Table 2. Recommended
process time for Peppers in a weighted-gauge pressure
canner.
Canner Pressure (PSI) at Altitudes of
Style of Pack Jar Size Process Time 0 – 1,000 ft Above 1,000 ft
Hot Half-pints or Pints 35 min 10 lb 15 lb

pickled peppers

Pickled Hot Peppers

Hot long red, green, or yellow peppers
{Optional} sweet red and green peppers, mixed
5 cups vinegar (5%)
1 cup water
4 tsp canning or pickling salt
2 tbsp sugar
2 cloves garlic
{Optional} Pickling Spices

Wash peppers. If small peppers are left whole, slash 2 to 4 slits in each. Quarter large peppers. Hint Peppers can be pickled with or without skins, whole, sliced or diced.
Blanch in boiling water or blister in order to peel. Fill jars, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Combine and heat other ingredients to boiling and simmer 10 minutes. Remove garlic. Add hot pickling solution over peppers, leaving 1/2-inch headspace.

Adjust lids and process according to the recommendations in Table 1.

Table 1. Recommended
process time for Pickled Hot Peppers in a boiling-water
canner.
Process Time at Altitudes of
Style of Pack Jar Size 0 – 1,000 ft 1,001 – 6,000 ft Above 6,000 ft
Raw Half-pints or Pints 10 min 15 20

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Salsa The Spice Of Summer


Salsa {This is a good basic Salsa}
Prep Time: About 20 minutes
Recipe Yield about 4 cups (2 pints)
Ingredients
4 or 5 large tomatoes, de-seeded and chopped
1 strong yellow onion, chopped
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
3 to 5 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano or {1 Tablespoon dried}
1 tablespoon lime or lemon juice
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1 tomatillo, diced (optional) {Best roasted}
salt to taste
2 – medium or 1 large size mild green Chili peppers de-seeded and course chopped
1 or 2 green or red jalapeno peppers, minced {de-seed and de-vane peppers for pepper flavor and less heat from the peppers}(Use 1 pepper, taste Salsa, adjust salt and pepper to your taste.)

Directions
In a food processor or blender, combine tomatoes, onion, cilantro, garlic, oregano, lime juice, vinegar, tomatillo, hot pepper, mild chili pepper(s), salt to taste. Chop /blend a scant 20 or 30 seconds.
In a non-aluminum pan, over medium heat, warm until Salsa reaches 165 to 180 degrees. {Use meat thermometer to check temperature} Pack into (2) hot sterilized pint jars, Seal tightly, when cool, this may take several hours, refrigerate Salsa. Salsa will keep safely under refrigeration for 1 or 2 months.
For longer storage, process Salsa for 20 minutes in a boiling water bath. Cool over night, check to insure jars sealed properly. Store in a cool dark place. Salsa will safely keep 1 or more years.

Nutritional Information open nutritional information.
Calories: 53
Total Fat: 0.5g
Cholesterol: 0mg
Sodium: 13mg
Total Carbs: 11.7g
Dietary Fiber: 3.1g
Protein: 2.3g

Avocado Feta cheese Dip
A chunky, savory summer dip that tastes great with tortilla or corn chips or as a topping for corn or flour tacos.
Prep Time: About 20 Minutes
Recipe Yields about 12 servings
Ingredients

2 plum tomatoes, chopped
1 ripe avocado – peeled, pitted and chopped
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon snipped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano or {1/2 Tablespoon dried}
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon red or white wine vinegar {replace with fresh squeezed lemon or lime juice}
4 ounces crumbled feta cheese or {Diced / Grated cheese that you like}
(1 de-seeded finely chopped green or red hot pepper to add more spice to your life)

Directions:
In a bowl, gently stir together avocado, pepper, onion, and garlic. Mix in tomatoes, parsley and oregano. Gently stir in olive oil and vinegar. Then stir in feta {cheese of your choice}. Cover with plastic wrap. Best served chilled for 2 hours.

Nutritional Information
Servings Per Recipe: 12
Calories: 66
Total Fat: 5.6g
Cholesterol: 8mg
Sodium: 108mg
Total Carbs: 2.8g
Dietary Fiber: 1.3g
Protein: 1.8g

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Grandson’s DIY House Project, July Update

Grandson’s home/hand built house is now dried in. Walls, roof sheeting, windows and doors are in place. Roof, window, door and corner flashing were completed this weekend. Now begins the long and costly process of interior framing, installation of plumbing and routing electrical wiring to wall plugs and lighting. Wall and ceiling insulating (fiberglass R19) will soon follow.

A few isolated thunderstorms have passed over southwest Oklahoma in the past few day’s but in my little corner of SW OK I recorded just over 1/2 inch of rain. Not very helpful, but, it’s better than nothing. So hose watering trees and vines continue.

I must be getting old, when I hear the popping sounds of fireworks my first thought is to set a sprinkler to wet grass neat my tiny home.
This year we have had enough spring and summer rains to produce a good amount of hay. That means that in most places pasture grass lands have been mowed and bailed for hay. Wheat has been harvested and fields plowed. This will be very helpful in limiting the spread of any accidental fires set by careless people discharging fireworks this July holiday.
Just to be on the safe side today I will mow grass and weeds very short around my tiny house, chicken coop and storage building and keep a water hose at the ready in the event a fire does breakout.

I’m not sure if this is good or bad news, but, a good number of city sponsored firework displays have been canceled due to funding short falls.

Happy and safe 4th holiday.

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