Want to know if you have big bones? March 12, 2014Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
Tags: are you big-boned, big bones, bone health, bones, how to tell if you have big bones, Neanderthals
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Silence Dogood here. This morning I read a great article about how to tell if you have big bones, medium-sized bones, or small bones.
I never had to wonder about this. I had to wear adult shoes from the youngest age because of my huge feet and could never wear bangle bracelets because of my huge hands; I just couldn’t get the bracelets over them. One look at my gigantic skull would strike awe into the smaller-headed geniuses I dated. (They should have recalled that head size didn’t help Neanderthals survive the onslaught of their human relatives; it’s what’s in the brain, not the size of it, that matters.)
But if you’ve always wondered about your own bone size, the article suggested this simple tip to find out: Circle your wrist with the thumb and index finger of your other hand. If your fingers overlap, you’re small-boned. If they touch, you’re medium-boned. If they don’t meet, you’re large-boned. (In my case, there was an inch of space between my fingers, and I have not an ounce of fat on my wrists.)
Does the size of your bones have any meaning as far as your health is concerned? The article assured readers that it didn’t, that your bones’ density and mineral content were what mattered, not their size.
My own guess, being large-boned, is that it’s a throwback survival strategy, when living rough meant that bigger, stronger bones might have helped early man survive, avoiding potentially deadly bone breaks and keeping people upright and moving in the face of an attack, keeping them able to walk and walk and walk from one site of food and shelter to another. Today, it’s just a curiosity.
Anyway, if you’re wondering, try the test and see how you rate. And whatever your bones’ size, take good care of them! Plenty of weight-bearing exercise, calcium from natural sources like dairy and tofu, and vitamin D-3, coupled with normal precautions like making sure you don’t slip on the ice or engage in bone-breaking sports, should help you keep your skeleton healthy.
‘Til next time,
Mud season. March 11, 2014Posted by ourfriendben in gardening, homesteading, wit and wisdom.
Tags: endless snow, hazards of mud, mud season, Pennsylvania winter, Vermont, where is spring, winter
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In Vermont, spring is known as “mud season,” when the snow finally gives way to deep, wet, slippery mud. But where our friend Ben and Silence Dogood live in scenic PA, mud season has just been a good reason not to visit Vermont until the mud has dried and the blackflies have subsided… until now.
Last fall, we planted 200 daffodils and tulips in great swaths in the front yard, taking advantage of generous gift certificates from OFB’s brother and his family. Because it was fall, this also left great swaths of exposed soil along each side of the sloping path we climb to reach our parking square and mailbox. We knew that grass would return with the spring, and with our recent mild winters, it never occurred to us that this could be a problem.
Unfortunately, this winter’s relentless snow and ice has been kinder to the bulbs—which appreciate the insulating blanket—than to us. Trying to climb an ice-slicked slope to reach your car or the mailbox is horrific enough. But now that a tiny bit of ground has emerged from the snow cover, it’s foot-deep mud of unspeakably slippery proportions. After Silence slid backwards down the muddy, snowy, icy slope while trying to get the mail, she proclaimed that unless I accompanied her, she wasn’t going to try the climb again until the ground was dry. Which, given our snow cover, may not be until May.
Vermonters, we sympathize.
Please love your dog. March 10, 2014Posted by ourfriendben in pets, wit and wisdom.
Tags: Border collies, dogs, German shepherds, Maremma sheepdogs, sheepdogs, shepherds, working dogs
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This morning, a friend e-mailed our friend Ben a poster for a dog that had gone missing in our area over the weekend. The dog, a young male named Flynn, was a breed I’d never heard of, a Maremma sheepdog, fluffy and white with caramel-colored ears. He apparently got loose in his training collar. His owners had him microchipped (so vets can identify him) and have contacted all the appropriate authorities, and he’s only been gone two full days, so hopefully he’s already been reunited with them.
Our friend Ben and Silence Dogood are dog lovers, so of course we’ll keep our eyes peeled for Flynn in case he’s wandering lost, thirsty, hungry, and sad. But I was appalled by the language used on the poster asking for his return. Flynn’s owners made the poor youngster sound like a monster: If you see him, do not approach him, chase him, make eye contact, try to grab him, or otherwise interact with him in any way. Just call our number (they did not reveal their names) and tell us where you saw him.
This makes poor Flynn, who is probably still an adolescent pup since he was in a training collar, sound like an attack dog. But their training program has a different goal: to alienate the poor dog from human companionship so that he identifies with and guards his flock of sheep. I have seen this with Great Pyrenees, the giant white dogs who also herd sheep, barking and snarling nonstop as they guard their flocks, completely unacclimated to humans, even those who’re just walking up the road, in Virginia. The dogs live outside with the flock and never experience the richness of human companionship. To me, this is the greatest disservice to an intelligent dog that there could be.
We own a sheepdog, a German shepherd. We don’t have sheep, but we appreciate our shepherd Shiloh’s keenly honed herding instincts as she tries to collect us, our cats, and her numerous toys all in the same room. She may not always succeed, but her herding instinct is very evident, and she’s never happier than when she can keep an eye on us (her flock) while reclining in our midst. In Scotland, the prized Border collies, perhaps the ultimate herding dogs, are allowed back in the house at the end of their workday, allowed to take their place among their human families. Like them, they deserve some R&R for a day’s work well done.
To isolate a dog from human contact so that it may serve a “purpose” seems to me to be a sin. The purpose of the dog-human bond is to work together, to rest together, to play together. Not to banish the dog to the outer reaches, away from human contact, even eye contact with strangers. Maybe Flynn realized that when he ran away.
We love labels. March 10, 2014Posted by ourfriendben in recipes, wit and wisdom.
Tags: flexitarians, food allergies, gluten-free, gluten-intolerant, lactose-intolerant, locavores, nutritarians, omnivores, piscatarians, relgious dietary restrictions, vegans, vegetarians
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We humans just love to label ourselves. And that’s never more true than in our dietary habits.
Silence Dogood here. Humans are all born omnivores—pretty much capable of eating anything they can get their hands on. We share this useful adaptive trait with apes and monkeys, dogs, bears, parrots, rats, and flies, among others. It helped our species spread and thrive wherever there was anything edible to be found.
Of course, some of us are more omnivorous than others. There are those with intolerances, such as to lactose or gluten, and those with allergies, as to peanuts or shellfish. These people have labels, but they’re not of their choosing. And there are people who won’t eat certain foods like pork and seafood for religious reasons. It’s the rest of us I’m writing about here.
Take me. I’m a vegetarian. This means that I choose to avoid all types of meat and foods containing meat products (such as lard and gelatin). But I’ll eat sterile eggs from free-range hens if they’re organic and the hens haven’t eaten feed enriched with fish offal to up the eggs’ omega-3 content. And I’ll eat organic dairy products from humanely raised cows. This is quite different from vegans, who are basically vegetarians who also won’t eat eggs, dairy, honey, or any other animal derivative. Vegans typically make their food choices for moral reasons, while vegetarians may make theirs for moral or health reasons.
Then there are piscatarians (from pisces, fish), who refrain from all meat but fish and seafood. Since killing and eating fish and seafood is the same as killing and eating other animals for meat, I presume that these folks follow this lifestyle for health rather than moral reasons.
Next come the flexitarians, who sometimes eat meat and sometimes don’t, as it suits them. Basically, they’re omnivores who wanted to call themselves by a fancier name.
Let’s not forget the locavores, omnivores who pride themselves on eating what’s in season in their immediate area. While I applaud everyone who supports local farms and wineries, who patronizes their local farmers’ markets, who joins a CSA (subscription produce farm, typically organic), and the like, unless you live in a warm climate or are really invested in canning and freezing in season, winter can be rather bleak for those of us trying to eat out of our gardens or local farmers’ gardens when we’re buried under two feet of ice and snow for three months.
Today, I discovered a new label for people who want to set themselves apart from the omnivorous herd. These people are omnivores, too, but they’ve chosen to call themselves “nutritarians,” to emphasize the wholesome nature of their diet, i.e., stripping all the life and flavor out of food in the name of nutritional guidelines. The sample recipe I saw was horrifying to behold. It was a dish containing kale, potatoes, carrots, two kinds of legumes (black beans and chickpeas), onion, and garlic.
I read on because I could see how to make it a good dish—saute the onion and garlic in olive oil, and when the onion had clarified, add the kale and seasonings (red pepper flakes, fresh-cracked black pepper, salt, oregano, thyme, basil, and rosemary), cooking just until the kale turned shiny bright green. Meanwhile, boil the potatoes and sliced carrots until soft but not mushy. Quarter the potatoes and stir them, the carrots, and the canned beans into the kale-onion-garlic mix, heat until the beans were heated through, then serve.
But no. The “nutritarian” had noted that she’d modified a friend’s recipe to fit nutritarian guidelines, which meant that all the ingredients (minus the oil and most of the seasonings) were boiled together at the same time, then served up as a kind of stewed slop. Eeeewww!!! Doesn’t this person realize that olive oil and seasonings are good for you, making food more digestible as well as more flavorful?! Guess not.
Whatever the case, maybe it’s time to stop labeling ourselves and just eat.
‘Til next time,
Cherish the green things. March 9, 2014Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
Tags: farmland destruction, greed, Jaindl, William Blake
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“The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way.”
Reading Blake’s quote instantly brings to mind the destruction of the rainforests, clear-cutting in logging operations, stripping the land for strip-mining or fracking.
But in our friend Ben’s immediate neighborhood, it brings to mind much more. A foul (or perhaps in this case, fowl), greedy turkey magnate has strong-armed the local town council into agreeing to change the status of some spare land of his from protected agricultural heritage status to “put up as many warehouses, developments, and strip malls as you can cram on what was once serene farmland” status, and to hell with the farmland and everyone who lives anywhere near it.
Mind you, David Jaindl, of Jaindl turkey farms, is an incredibly wealthy man, thanks to inheriting his grandfather’s and father’s turkey operation. The last thing he needs is more money. If he’s sick of renting out this beautiful green stretch of land to local farmers, he could sell it to the Amish, who desperately need farmland for their children.
But oh, no. The greedy monster threatened the council that if they didn’t give him free reign to turn his green fields into tarmac—remember “They paved paradise, put up a parking lot?”—and destroy the local water table and clog traffic, he would turn his beautiful, supposedly protected farmland into a 700-acre quarry.
Well, I think a quarry would be far better than a filthy, truck-clogged urban monstrosity in the middle of a countryside full of farm fields, vineyards, and horse-and-buggy traffic, but I still don’t see how changing the status of the land could possibly be legal, even from farmland to quarry land. But oh, oh, how money talks and buys people. How quickly the council laid down on its back and said “Okay, do whatever you want!” How David Jaindl must have rubbed his hand in delight at the prospect of killing the green things that stood in his way.
Please don’t be a Jaindl. Cherish the green things, and every living thing, for whom you’re a caretaker.
Save milkweeds, save monarchs. March 7, 2014Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom, homesteading, gardening, critters, pets.
Tags: monarch butterflies, Monsanto, milkweed, save the monarch butterflies, milkweed for monarchs
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Another reason to hate Monsanto. Our friend Ben read an article on LiveScience this morning that said that monarch butterfly populations were being driven to extinction because of Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup (generic: glyphosate). Because Roundup is so widely used in this country, milkweeds are being killed countrywide. And because milkweeds are the only food of monarch butterfly larvae and the only plants on which monarch females will lay their eggs, the monarch population has declined drastically, from over 1 billion to 3.3 million in just ten years. Our yard used to be full of monarchs; last summer, we didn’t see one.
People sometimes ask me why I hate Monsanto. Is it because of their “Frankenfoods,” GMOs (for “genetically modified organisms”) like corn and soybeans created out of things like mouse DNA to withstand massive applications of Roundup, with no thought to how these so-called foods might affect the animals and humans that eat them? No, not really. Is it because of the trick Monsanto pulled on farmers, forcing them to buy the GMO seeds, which they produce and sell, AND the Roundup in ever-increasing quantities every year to keep weeds at bay? No, not really. Surely farmers are smart enough to figure out this devil’s bargain for themselves.
What really frosts my flakes about Monsanto is its ruthless pursuit of world domination. When its horrible GMO pollen gets into the field of a small farmer who’s nurturing an heirloom strain passed down in his family for generations, instead of the farmer suing Monsanto for contaminating his crop, Monsanto sues him for “stealing” its seeds. And wins. Money talks, and Monsanto has ever so much of that. Every time a state wants to have GMO ingredients listed on food labels so its citizens can make an informed decision about whether to buy them or not, Monsanto throws big money around and buys so many votes that not one of the many GMO-labelling initiatives has passed.
Worst of all, Monsanto goes to Third World countries and persuades their small farmers, who have grown crops suited to their areas for thousands of years, to give them up in favor of Monsanto’s supercrops. And suddenly, they too find themselves paying for seed every year instead of saving their own, seed that isn’t suited to their climate or their diet. Or else.
Meanwhile, the rest of us are faced with Roundup residue in our food and water and soil and pet food, whether we want it or not. (Soon to be combined with 2,4-D, one of the herbicides used in Agent Orange, to give its waning efficacy a boost.) And we’re seeing the die-off of beautiful species like the monarch butterflies as a result, and wondering why our own cancer rate and our pets’ is shooting up.
I’d like to encourage everyone who loves monarch butterflies to stop using Roundup on your property and to plant milkweed. If you feel the need to fight weeds on your property and don’t want to pull them up, use one of the flamethrower weedkillers, sort of like a bigger version of a grill starter. (Except in the case of poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac; you really need to keep after these while they’re small and pull them up wth latex gloves, then toss them and the gloves out in a plastic bag. Flame could blow the active ingredient, urushiol, on you, and give you a rash like you can’t imagine.)
We have encouraged the growth of our native milkweed (showy milkweed, Asclepias speciosa) here at Hawk’s Haven, as well as planting the aptly named butterfly weed (A. tuberosa). Both are highly decorative; showy milkweed has dense heads of pink flowers, and you can now find butterfly weed in every shade from yellow through orange to red. Showy milkweed will form sturdy colonies if you let it, and butterfly weed is one of the perennial joys of summer. Please try to help the monarchs. And defeat Monsanto.
As the Catholic crusader for workers’ rights Dorothy Day said, “People say, ‘What is the sense of our small effort?’ They cannot see that we must lay one brick at a time, take one step at a time.”
And now my watch begins. March 5, 2014Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
Tags: Game of Thrones, Harry Potter, long waits between seasons, long waits between series releases, The Hobbit, The Hunger Games
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Fans of “Game of Thrones” may recall Lord Tyrion Lannister saying these words on his unfortunate wedding night, alluding to the vow of perpetual celibacy made by members of the Night Watch. But those of us who enjoy the occasional movie or TV series are in the same boat when it comes to waiting (and waiting, and waiting) for the next installment of our series to come out.
Mind you, we’re just starting 2014. Our friend Ben and Silence Dogood just read that the next season of “Sherlock” won’t be aired until 2016. The three “Hobbit” movies have been stretched over three years; the three books of “The Hunger Games” series have been made into four movies to be aired over four years. As for “Game of Thrones” itself, if, like us, you don’t get cable TV, you can’t rent a season on Netflix or buy it on Amazon until a year after it’s aired. We finally received season 3 from Amazon last week, over a year after ordering it, because HBO wouldn’t release it any earlier.
It strikes us as amazing in the age of instant gratification, when people complain on social media if they have to wait ten minutes to receive their food in a restaurant and use that as a perfectly justified example of unfair, awful time wasted, that everyone seems perfectly happy to wait years to see movies and series they’ve been eagerly anticipating.
We don’t understand what holds their interest as year after barren year goes by. If you’re a child growing up with the Harry Potter books, you could keep reading and keep watching. But if you’ve already read The Hobbit or the Hunger Games trilogy years ago, how do you sustain your interest or even remember what happened, as eons go by between films? We’re not elves, after all, we don’t live forever.
It seems to us that studios are losing money and we’re not getting any younger while waiting and waiting and waiting. Please, people, won’t you hurry up?
Lentsanity and the meat police. March 4, 2014Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
Tags: Ash Wednesday, Lent, Lenten fast, Lenten sacrifice, Lentsanity, meat police, PopeAlarm
Silence Dogood here. Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, is tomorrow. As a result, I’ve been receiving some unintentionally hilarious e-mails from an organization called “PopeAlarm” (which, despite its name, isn’t trying to alarm anyone about the Pope but rather to spread the faith through timely updates). This year, they’re promoting “Lentsanity,” featuring a giveaway of 20 spiritual books plus two “special penitential prizes” (a whip and a hair shirt, no doubt).
The concept of the special penitential prizes, well-intentioned though they doubtless were, just about killed me. But today’s update was even more hilarious: You can now get a free Lentsanity app featuring the meat police. Every Friday in Lent, as you’re about to shove a forkful of bacon or slice of pepperoni pizza or burger in your mouth, you’ll get a warning from the meat police part of the app reminding you that meat is off-limits on Friday. Bad dog! No, no!!!
As a vegetarian, it’s screamingly funny to me that it’s considered such a huge sacrifice to give up meat for a whole day a week for the 40-day period of Lent, even though, of course, fish, which is somehow not considered meat but is definitely considered a sacrifice, is still allowed.
There are so many foods that don’t contain meat or fish and are perfectly delicious and filling: fettucine Alfredo with vegetables, penne with vodka sauce, good old spaghetti with marinara and cheese, mac’n'cheese, cheese pizza with veggie toppings, eggplant parmigiana, Szechuan bean curd and rice, eggplant with garlic sauce, vegetable fried rice, vegetable lo mein, General Tso’s bean curd, vegetable curry, dal, falafel sandwiches, hummus wraps, bean and cheese burritos or tacos, vegetarian bean chili, black bean soup. And on and on and on.
But even these don’t reflect the true spirit of the Lenten sacrifice. The Church in her wisdom recognized that most people in the Middle Ages who lived in cold climates, such as France, England, and Germany, ran out of pretty much everything by February, and were left cold and hungry with little to nothing. So they made a virtue of necessity and instituted the Lenten fast. Today’s Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday), Carnivale, etc. were the final feasts, meant to use up the last of the butter, oil and sweeteners and revel in abundance one last time before the hunger set in. From Ash Wednesday to Easter, everyone could suffer daily, hourly deprivation and relate on a very physical level to the sufferings of the Lord who died for them.
In modern times, our sacrifices and sufferings have been a bit reduced. Giving up meat for fish one day a week doesn’t really seem like much of a sacrifice. But neither does giving up Coca-Cola and chocolate, my favorite indulgences, which I used to “sacrifice” every Lent. In my own family, there was a saying that long predated modern supermarkets, “I’m giving up watermelon for Lent.” Watermelon was only available in late summer, long after Lent was gone.
All of which is simply to say that perhaps the idea of “giving up” for Lent is a mistake in our comparatively opulent age. The whole point of giving something up—be it meat, your morning cup of coffee, your favorite creamy salad dressing, doughnuts or muffins, beer or wine—is that, each time you mindlessly reach for whatever you normally mindlessly indulge in, you recall the ultimate sacrifice of the Lord who died that you might live. The more banal, trivial, the thing you give up, as in chewing gum or your favorite TV show, the more often you automatically reach for it, the more effective giving it up is as a Lenten sacrifice.
But what about adding on instead? What about adding morning prayers to your family’s pre-breakfast routine, reading the Bible together, going to church more often, volunteering at a soup kitchen or assisted-living facility? Our Lord never turned His face from anyone in need. He cherished the poor and outcast. This Lent, rather than bemoaning that we have to give up meat for—gasp—a whole day every week and eat fish instead, still taking life but oh what a sacrifice, we might try to think what a meaningful Lenten sacrifice (such as actually fasting, refraining from food) or adding-on (such as serious prayer and meditation and helping those less fortunate than ourselves) might be.
Meanwhile, watch out for those meat police.
‘Til next time,
It’s okay to hate vegetarians. March 3, 2014Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
Tags: hatred of vegetarians, persecution of vegetarians, Plenty, prejudice against vegetarians, vegetarian cookbooks, vegetarianism, Yotam Ottolenghi
“Nobody likes vegetarians.”
Silence Dogood here. I was reminded of this quote, which took my breath away when I read it, casually inserted into some op-ed piece a few months ago, when I ordered a cookbook from Amazon this morning.
Now, picture opening a paper or magazine or clicking on an article and seeing statements such as “Nobody likes people who go gluten-free,” “Nobody likes biologists,” “Nobody likes Zen monks,” “Nobody likes people with heart disease,” or “Nobody likes female racecar drivers.” (Or pick any “Nobody likes” ending you can think of.) If anyone made a statement like that, there would be a huge uproar. But there isn’t, because people don’t make sweeping generalizations about others, at least not in print, unless their name is Phil Robertson of “Duck Dynasty” infamy. Apparently, however, vegetarians are (un)fair game.
It’s sadly true that being a vegetarian really pushes people’s hot buttons. I’ve been attacked by numerous people, many of them virtual strangers, who felt it necessary to defend their consumption of meat upon learning that I was a vegetarian (and often not learning it from me). I’ve even been attacked in comments on a post I wrote about being vegetarian on my other blog. The immediate response seems to be “How dare you assume you’re superior to us because you don’t eat meat?! Hey, you’re killing vegetables!”
I have never once claimed to be superior to anyone, for being a vegetarian or for any other reason. To do so would be ludicrous, stupid, arrogant, and pathetic. I have chosen to live my life as a vegetarian, as I have chosen to garden organically, for the good of all life and for the health of our beautiful home world. Others choose other ways to do good in the world, ways I would never be brave enough or smart enough or rich enough to attempt. As Pope Francis would say, “Who am I to judge?”
And yet, people can’t distance themselves from even the possibility of vegetarian leanings fast enough. Getting back to that cookbook, it was Chef Yotam Ottolenghi’s bestselling, beautiful, innovative book, Plenty, which “happens” to be vegetarian.
The reviewers couldn’t wait to proclaim that the dishes were great, even by their standards, though of course—they hastened to announce—none of them were vegetarians themselves. That Chef Ottolenghi isn’t a vegetarian, which is, according to them, why his vegetarian cookbook is so brilliant. That every meat-eater would love this book and “never miss meat.” (Perhaps they should ask celebrity meat-lover Tony Bourdain about that.)
Every single reviewer felt compelled to declare their non-vegetarianism and reassure apparently terrified omnivores everywhere that the book was nothing to fear. God forbid that the publisher, wishing to maximize sales, should have even one person review the book who actually was a vegetarian, such as acclaimed Chef Deborah Madison. Cooties!!!
After all, nobody likes vegetarians.
‘Til next time,
Is it safe to eat food from a rusted can? March 2, 2014Posted by ourfriendben in homesteading, wit and wisdom.
Tags: can you eat food in rusted cans, canned tomatoes, food safety, rusted cans, safety of food in rusted cans
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Silence Dogood here. I was making chili on Friday and grabbed a can of pureed tomatoes, only to find that the top had rusted around the rim. Yikes! I had never encountered a rusted can before.
Considering that tomatoes are acidic, and that acidity and rust sounds like a pretty bad combination, I tossed the can. But I hated to waste the food, especially when the can was showing no obvious signs of peril such as warping and bulging. (Unless you want to die of botulism poisoning, throw a can with a bulging lid out!)
I was still curious, so I Googled the topic of rusted cans. The general consensus was that if the rust had reached the inside of the can, throw it out. If it was just on the outside, and the can was still the appropriate can shape, the food was safe to eat. The way to tell was to empty the food out of the can and make sure there was no rust on the inside.
My can’s problem was that the rust wasn’t on the inside but on the rim. To open the can, the can-opener would inevitably drop rust into the pureed tomatoes. Better safe than sorry!
Why this one can rusted when no can had ever rusted before continues to baffle me. But I think my safety, and our friend Ben’s, is worth tossing the occasional rusted can, however much guilt it produces.
‘Til next time,