Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Hello Katrina... Now Go Away

The edge of what is now Tropical Storm Katrina brushed by us today. Damn her. It was odd weather. It would downpour, then stop. The wind would blow, then stop. I'd go outside, then run inside. I didn't get much done besides meet my friend, Tanya, for coffee this morning and run to Target while Monkey was at school. At Target they were losing ceiling tiles in the foyer every time the front doors opened. The sky was a lovely shade of green-grey at that moment. I had a living in the Midwest flashback. We had tornado watches and flood warnings, but nothing seemed to happen. We lost power for a couple of hours. We lose power every time the wind kicks up around here. We lose power a lot.

I managed to make and can some quarts of marinara sauce today. We are running out of room to store all the fruits of our garden labors. The potatoes are being stored under our bed at the moment. It's the coolest, darkest place in the house. I took in a couple pounds of cherry and yellow pear tomatoes to the Farmer's Market and managed to get some organic couscous and a pound of buffalo meat. I wonder if there is some twisted recipe where I could combine them? The buffalo is raised right outside of Asheville. I like this bartering thing. Next time maybe I'll come home with Magic Beans!

I think I am catching whatever Monkey had. I've got the tell-tale scratchy throat and post nasal drip. Lovely, I know.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Watching the Animals

I am addicted to this website. Antelopes and warthogs, oh my! I keep waiting for the elephants. They will come.

So Much for Silence

Monkey is home today. After her first day of school she came down with a cold. Hooray. She's got a slight fever and a stuffy nose and a nasty little cough. So I've doped her up on kiddie cold medicine and she's lounging on the couch watching "Dragon Tales".

I would like to watch some news and see updates on the whole nasty Hurricane Katrina thing. I've negotiated for news time after "Dragon Tales" and before "Sesame Street". This means "Caillou" (a whiney little kid, if there ever was one...) and "Barney" are safely out of the picture for today.

I've fed the chickens, played ball with Gigi for about 20 minutes and folded the last of the laundry. Hopefully the sun will pop out and the dew will go away and I can work in the garden for a while. The radishes, spinach, mesclun, arugula, lettuce and mache that I planted are all coming up. I'm clearing out the squash, turning over the soil and will be planting some more spinach and kale. Then it's time to rip out the cucumbers and plant more radishes and some beets.

Oh no, it's starting to rain. I may have to put off the gardening today. If the Katrina heads our way, I may have to put it off for a few more days. I'm hopeful that it will only give us some rain. We suffered quite a bit from Ivan last year (and many areas are still recovering). And I'm still waiting on the road man to come repair our driveway.

Thoughts and prayers out to those poor people stuck in New Orleans. I just heard that the roof is coming off the Super Dome. How terrible. I hope they will be o.k.

Friday, August 26, 2005

The Barter System - It's Not Just for the Dark Ages Anymore

This little bungalow houses the Black Mountain Farmers' Market. On Saturdays they host a tailgate market. I never knew of it's existence until yesterday. I stopped in on my way to pick up Monkey from her new student orientation. I picked up four lovely, freshly picked Ginger Gold apples. I chatted with the proprietess, Elaine, and found out that they stock mostly local produce and wares. They order non-local produce and other items through an organic wholesaler. They even carry jeans and overalls made an hour away in Tennessee.

It seemed Elaine was running out of some produce as the season winds down. She had a lot of people requesting cucumbers. I happen to have cucumbers. She said she'd take ten. Today I brought her ten cucumbers of nice size, weighing close to five pounds. In exchange I took home about five pounds of apples for the Monkey. Maybe we'll make some apple crisp this weekend.
On Monday I'm going to go exchange some of my surplus of cherry and yellow pear tomatoes for homemade pasta. Bartering is good.

Got Milk?
I found out an answer to my continuing confusion about why there seemed to be no local organic dairies. It is quite difficult and expensive to get certification. In North Carolina all milk must be pasteurized. I'm a skim milk kind of girl, so I don't mind pasteurization. And I guess I was spoiled coming from a dairy and beef raising region of the country. I was used to my milk coming from local dairies and co-ops. My parents would buy a half a cow from someone they knew (or a relative of someone they knew) and stock the freezer.

Now, I'm going to share with you a big secret. There are no such laws in South Carolina and you can buy un-pasteurized whole milk from small dairies. So, every two weeks, the market takes orders for milk and someone travels to South Carolina to buy milk. It's $8 a gallon (about double the price than if you went to the dairy yourself, but you have to cover those gas costs). I don't think I'll be paying for that luxury. However, a local farm just got certification to make cow cheese and they will be carrying it soon. I love cheese...

Savouring the Silence

Today is Monkey's first full day of preschool. Except for the jingling of dog collars, it is absolutely still in the house. What am I to do? Why I think I'll enjoy my coffee, pick some green beans, read the paper and relax until I need to pick her up at noon.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

A Whole Lot of Shaking Going On

Last night a little after 11 p.m. I was sitting here in front of the computer enjoying the fact that the house was all quiet and getting ready to go to bed. Then a large truck drove through the front yard and there was a deep boom. The house shook just a little. Truthfully there was no truck, but it felt like it. Or maybe a train. Or a car with one of those ridiculously loud stereo systems playing some very fast music. It was an earthquake!

An earthquake. A 3.8 earthquake. In the mountains. How likely is that? I had no idea what it was last night. Rather, I found out this morning as they reported it on the news. You can read the story. I didn't even think earthquake. I'm from Missouri. Tornadoes? Yes. Earthquakes? No.

It seems that every time Big Daddy goes out of town on business something is going to happen - chickens slaughtered... Earthquakes... I wonder what's next?

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Alone Again

Big Daddy is in Virginia again this week for work. It looks like this will be a weekly occurence for the next month or so. He called this evening and said he was safe and sound in his hotel. I should say motel. He's still looking for internet access.

Tonight I had to go to my agility training class. I sprayed Monkey down with mosquito repellent, loaded her and all her favorite toys in the car. I tossed in Biscuit and we drove across town to class. Halfway there Monkey was fast asleep. She slept through the whole class and the ride home. She slept as I changed her into her pajamas and tucked her into bed. She's still asleep. Bliss.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Dear Lord...

What is with all the spam comments??? Who came up with that brilliant marketing tool? Someone should find out their address and t.p. their house. Seriously.

And Gigi Makes Two

Nobody told me that having a border collie was like having another three year old in the house. Actually that's a lie. I think I read that somewhere and chose to ignore it. Foolish me. But then she looks at me with those big eyes and tilts her head to one side and I forgive her for being a wild crazed beast.

Two things Gigi can do that the Monkey can't: She can jump over my head and she can be spayed (I don't think that's an option for the Monkey...).

The newest member of the household is responding well to positive training and is sitting and doing a down. She seems to be easier to potty train than the Monkey, so there is hope.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Another Weekend Gone

Let's see. This weekend was overly busy. We adopted Gigi, who is fitting in nicely. It's very funny to watch her experience new things. She obviously wasn't allowed inside before. Hardwood floors terrified her the first two days. The television is very interesting, as is the computer keyboard. House training is going well. And she sleeps in a crate at night. She has no manners on a leash, but fortunately isn't a big tugger. She's learned sit and down. She's also figured out that string cheese (her new favorite treat) comes from the fridge. Considering we had house guests all weekend, she is doing very well.

Jim & Beth, our long time friends, came up with their little boy for a visit this weekend. We did a lot of hanging out downtown and sitting on the front porch. Their little guy got to pick blueberries and cherry tomatoes with Monkey. He was also quite fascinated by the chickens.

On Saturday morning we took them along for our favorite routine - breakfast at the French bakery followed by a trip to the farmer's market. We bought more goat cheese, steaks for dinner, bacon for Sunday's breakfast, oyster mushrooms, eggs, and fresh honey. Summer is here and the living is easy...

Monkey starts school this Wednesday. We are in the final preparation stage. She's pretty excited. I'm a little nervous.

Oh, and we canned 12 pints of green beans, 6 pints of peach jam, and 9 pints of salsa.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Call Me An Idiot

But how could anyone resist? I'm a sucker for big brown eyes and the fleet of foot. What can I say?

Say hello to the newest member of our family. The Monkey has christened her "Gigi". And you must say it with a soft "g" and an inflection at the end. Monkey must have learned French in the womb. I'm not sure if it's a truly appropriate name for a border collie, but we put it on her name tag, so that's it. She'll just be "Gee" for all official training purposes.

Gigi is about a year old. We decided to adopt her with maybe a little to little introspection. But, she needed a home and we could give her one. And any dog is pretty gosh darned lucky to end up as one of our dogs. It will be a brand new world for her from this day forward. Hey, she sure is sweet, she loves Monkey and she will be my next agility champion. And if not an agility superstar, she'll make one damn fine chicken herder.

I'm in love.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Ho Hum

It looks like it will be raining all day. In some ways this is good. I have a lot of house cleaning to do before our friends arrive tomorrow for a visit. Lots of house cleaning. If it weren't raining I would find some excuse to be outside. I don't have to look far. So this morning it's clean, clean, clean (ah, the drudgery).

This afternoon I need to make a run to the library with the Monkey (Sometimes, I wish she were a real monkey, because then that would be just too cool - "I'm taking my monkey to the library"). Just picture a small blonde child with big blue eyes wearing a little red fez and fringed red vest maniacally clapping a pair of small brass cymbals together...

I've also started creating my own blog roll over there in the side bar. It will be growing. I'm not too sure about the etiquette of the thing. Should I ask first? Should I just do it? I hope to figure it out soon.

For now - On to sweeping, mopping, toilet cleaning and laundry. Hooray!!!

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

What I Want To Do:

Bake a couple dozen flourless peanut butter/oatmeal/peanut and chocolate chip cookies and eat every last one of them.

What I will do:

Pop some popcorn and eat it lightly salted.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

I Love Free Stuff

These seeds came with an order I had made for my fall garden. I can't wait to try these tomatoes next spring. I'll be planting Rouge d'Hiver lettuce and arugula today. Unfortunately the Black Spanish and China Rose radishes were out of stock. I guess I'll be planting more French Breakfast instead.

For Your Viewing Pleasure

I realize that I haven't posted many pictures lately. Here's the view over coffee this morning at around 7:25. I hope you enjoy.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Weekend Round Up

This weekend we:

  • Went to the North Asheville Farmers Market and bought goat cheese rolled in cracked black pepper from the Spinning Spider Creamery, eggs, and pork chops from Spring House Meats,
  • Visited Animal Haven and their new thrift store,
  • Picked blueberries and made blueberry muffins,
  • Went to lunch with friends,
  • Mowed the lawn,
  • Picked loads of tomatoes and made salsa,
  • Babied the chickens,
  • Started the last step of refinishing Monkey's big girl bed.
  • And listened to the Monkey talk and babble non-stop.

Animal Haven is an animal rescue in Asheville. If you check out the adoption page you will see two dogs that I just fell in love with. I am especially in love with Blue, an Irish Wolfhound/Terrier (yes, just imagine that breeding...). He and his brother, Black, were rescued and then "enrolled" in a dog training program at the Black Mountain Women's Correctional Facility. They passed with flying colors and are now up for adoption fully-trained. Big Daddy reminded me to be realistic and realize that I didn't need a dog quite so large and that I was looking for a pure bred this time to train for agility, obedience, and tracking. He sure was sweet though and he really isn't THAT big...

Thursday, August 11, 2005

A Little Ray of Sunshine

I was gone all day to a dog agility training seminar. When I came home there was the missing hen, Blanche, sitting outstide the coop under a pumpkin vine. She spent all night by herself somewhere in the woods. Her's must have been a very harrowing close call as she is missing quite a few feathers, but physically she seems fine. She seemed quite grateful to be caught and placed back in the safety of the coop.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

"Well, the meds must be working because I can't imagine what you'd be like right now if they weren't," said Big Daddy. "You didn't hear me crying like a baby until I couldn't breath, " I replied.

Big Daddy is away on business in Virginia. Monkey and I are at home. We had a rather pleasant day up until dinner time. We were planning to go to my weekly dog training session in about an hour when I looked outside and noticed that everything was very quiet. No crowing. No gentle cackles. There were just lifeless forms littering the front yard. Minutes before I had seen the neighbor's German Shepherd. I ran down into the yard I found my little hen, Penny, mauled, but still alive. Then I found one of the Polish hens, then Jimmy, the Polish rooster. Next it was Stella, the Wyandotte and then one of my lovely Black Australorps. I broke down.

I called and called, and finally the survivors started to come out of the woods. First Mooney, the Hamburg rooster flew out of a tree. Then the two Australorps, Colette and Gigi, came out of the woods with Ruby, the Rhode Island Red and Rufus, the Wyandotte rooster. Next I could hear cackling in the woods and went in search of the others. Pruett and Beatrice, lovely Dominiques that they are, came to my voice and clucked nervously as I led them back to the coop. While leading them out through the underbrush I found my other Polish hen dead. I kept hearing a scared and nervous cackle from the far side of the creek and finally located Rosalind. It took an awful lot of calling to get her back. The two other Dominique hens, Heloise and Miranda, crept out of cover with Curly the rooster. Finally Jack, my favorite, came out limping slightly with almost all of his fabulous tail feathers missing. I'm still missing Blanche, the Wyandotte, and fear she is dead.

Penny's entire right thigh was basically skinned and she couldn't walk. I had to do the only thing I could and put her out of her misery. Considering how I had broken down earlier, I surprised how calm I became. It crushes my heart to think about it now, but at that moment I was filled with calm and reserve. I did it as quickly as I could and I hope she didn't suffer too much.

My nerves are completely shot right now. Although Big Daddy is probably right. Those little blue pills must be working because I didn't throw or break a thing. I managed to have a rather even-keeled discussion on the phone with the neighbor, who has offered to pay for the chickens. It won't bring them back, but I think he is genuinely upset as well. Who wants to think that their pet is a killer?

I am weak and couldn't seem to dig a hole big enough for six chickens. So tonight as it was getting dark I built a funeral pyre and laid the fallen comrades to rest on the flames. Perhaps I'm trying to find some humor to lessen my grief because I have to tell you that the smell coming fire was like a barbecue from heaven. I think I'll have myself a nice cold beer in their memory and head off for a warm bath. If you can, raise a toast to some sweet poultry whose lives ended way too soon. And I promise to keep a rather watchful eye on the survivors so that they may stay safe and healthy.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

To Do

  1. Clean chicken house. check.
  2. Weed and prepare 3 rows for fall veggies. check.
  3. Allow the Monkey to wear her pink princess dress, tights and black patent leather shoes (on the wrong feet) to avoid time-consuming and illogical argument with three year old. check.
  4. Make tomato sauce and can. will have to wait until tonight.

I also managed to order seeds for the fall garden.

Piedmont Corn Salad
Rembrandt Spinach
Provencal Mesclun Mix
Winterbor Kale
Rouge d'Hiver Lettuce
Round Black Spanish Radish
China Rose Radish

I hope they arrive soon. I am covered in mud and indescribable chicken ick, so I think I shall go freshen up a bit.

Monday, August 08, 2005

It's a beautiful day for a rain shower!

That's what the Monkey said to me as we were leaving the grocery store. And she is right as always...

Rainy Days and Mondays

It rained all day yesterday. Monkey and I never got to the Village Art and Craft Fair. Big Daddy did bring home a present though. He bought me a coffee mug to add to my growing collection. That means another mass-produced mug I get to toss!

I spent the day cleaning and doing laundry and catching up on magazine reading. My mother-in-law gave us a subscription to Mother Earth News for Christmas. The August/September issue is full of articles that I actually enjoyed reading. An article on the real food revival made me think of Jamie's month of local foods. Another article cited a magazine-based study of cholesterol in free-range eggs. It states that in the study free-range eggs had half the cholesterol of factory raised hens' eggs. And I thought they just tasted so much better! I also learned that there are native bees that only pollinate flowers in the squash family. A description for Golden Corn Salad (Valerianella eriocarpa) has me itching to order some seeds for the fall and winter garden. Mother Earth News is sometimes a little crunchy for my sensibilities, but this issue had a lot to offer.

It is still raining today - a somewhat nasty fine drizzle that shows now sign of abating. I would like to be outside planting another row of beans and starting some lettuce, but it looks like I'll have lots of time to clean the office instead.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Weekends are Relaxing, Right???

This is the weekend of the Village Art and Craft Fair. Our church provides all the food. Parishioners spend weeks before baking bread, cooking meats, making cookies and cakes to sell. All profits are then donated to local charities. It's a good thing, but a busy thing. Big Daddy is spending the weekend grilling hotdogs for sale. In the past they were boiled in the kitchen. Big Daddy would have none of that. Apparently his new system is working because they ran out of hot dogs yesterday and sold more by 2 o'clock than they had sold the entire festival last year.

While BD was doing the cooking thing I was running around town with the Monkey. First we had a soccer game. Then we went to Monkey's new school to volunteer some time. In the true spirit of Montessori parents are asked to donate about 40 hours of volunteer time to the school each school year. I scrubbed the porch and mowed the lawn and knocked three hours out. Monkey played on the playground with her new friends and got unbelievably filthy. She was very happy. We came home and I worked in the garden for a couple more hours with the help of the uppity chickens. A couple are learning that if they follow me, I toss them bugs and tasty weeds (their favorite is wood sorrel).

Today BD has already left to go back down to the fair. I think Monkey and I may go down later. It's drizzling right now so I'm planning a swift cleaning of the house. If it clears up we'll head out to check out the art and BD's cooking. The only problem with the art fairs in this area is that there is an extreme amount of pottery. I would love to buy handmade plates and bowls to use everyday, but my budget right now won't allow it. So I tend to get all forlorn and collect potter's cards and wish I had more moolah. I am thinking though that I could start a very interesting mix and match collection by buying one or two pieces at a time and tossing out the old mass-produced dinnerware as I get pretty handmade things. Hmm, that might be a plan - I could support other artists and end up with an interesting collection.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Storing Up for the Lean Season

Well, I made blueberry jam this morning. Our pantry is filling up with lots of home grown goodness - beans, jams, tomato sauce, carrots, peas and beets. I'm becoming quite the country girl.

Well, I'm not so country that I hang confederate flags from the trees around my house and put my trash in with neighbor's on trash pick up day, like someone in the valley does. I think you can figure out who from previous posts and the fact that that same person's PUPPIES are showing up daily in my yard. Now one would think that after you've had the sherriff to your house and animal control fining you over $1000, you'd keep your dogs at home. I think I'm expecting a little too much from that gene pool. Would it be morally reprehensible to buy a pellet gun and take aim at said puppies? It would only be a pellet gun.... Those puppies bark at me in my own yard. My yard. Not theirs. Bad dogs. Bad. Hillbilly puppies for God's sake.

O.K., I'm done with the rant. Now I can get on with my day. We had a rather large and abrupt thunderstorm earlier. The temperature is now quite nice. My chickens are all wet. They refused to go inside their house. They were free ranging at the time and they just get a little carried away with the "we're free!" attitude. The chickens are getting a little uppity these days. I would say they think they are running the place, but so does the cat and at least one of the dogs. My animals have no respect for my authority. And I think it's rubbing off on my daughter. While I've been writing I think she's swiped at least one, if not two popsicles. It's sad really. Time for a freezer intervention.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Today's Big Plan

Between a meeting this morning, a veterinarian appointment this afternoon and soccer practice (that is to say, wild rumpus with crying boys) tonight I need to pick green beans and make blueberry jam. Our bushes have finally produced enough berries to make a batch of jam! The problem is keeping the Monkey away from the berries until I can make the jam. The kid is a berry fanatic. Her new favorite book is Blueberries for Sal. We read it again and again and again... You get the picture.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

You Say To-may-to...

I've been busy this morning. I picked 25 pounds of yummy. I think I will make some sauce and can it today. I'll leave out the Cherokee Purple tomatoes as I think they will make the sauce brown. Most of the other tomatoes are in the yellow orange range. Anyone with a rudimentary understanding of color theory (and I have way too much knowledge of it) would understand that purple and yellow make ick. And ick is not a good color for tomato sauce. And for those of you wondering; ick is a color - it's yellow and purple.

Monday, August 01, 2005

More Fun with Abundant Produce

Big Daddy found a recipe for Sweet Potato and Zucchini Bread on Epicurious.com and we decided to try it utilizing the overstock of carrots in our fridge. Below is the result and it is quite tasty. As with all of our new creations, we tried it out on the staff in Big Daddy's office. The bread was gone within the first few minutes. Success!

Carrot and Zucchini Bread

2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups grated zucchini
1 1/2 cups grated carrots
1 cup chopped walnuts, toasted

Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter and flour 9x5x3-inch loaf pan. Sift first 5 ingredients into a medium bowl. Beat sugar, oil, eggs and vanilla to blend in large bowl. Mix in zucchini and carrot. Add dry ingredients and walnuts; stir well.

Transfer batter to prepared pan. Bake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 1 hour and 20 minutes. Cool bread in pan on rack 15 minutes. Cut around bread to loosen. Turn out onto rack and cool completely.

This weekend we managed to can 13 quarts of pickles, 1 quart of dilly beans and 5 quarts of green beans. We had a big pot luck party to attend on Saturday night and made summer squash souffle and a giant tomato and cucumber salad. As lots of gardeners were in attendance, there was an abundance of squash and zucchini recipes and at least four dishes involving fresh tomatoes and/or cucumbers. So much for originality on our part, but the feast sure was spectacular.

The party was fabulous. We were invited by my relatively new friend, Kelley to her annual "Thanksgiving in July" party. There were several deep fried turkeys and traditional fixins'. It was a unique concept that worked beautifully. Kelley and I met through a mutual friend when Kelley was looking for a few chickens to start her own backyard flock. She bought four of my little hens. In talking we found out we shared a lot of the same interests and more than one friend. In fact, Kelley and her husband are friends with practically half of the people we've met in the area over the last year. It's odd how that can happen.

What is more amazing is that almost all of these mutual friends are also musicians. They aren't professional musicians (I've known many of those.), but people with other careers - dentist, farmer, engineer, professor... who all have a love of blue grass and get together to play whenever they can. And man, can they play! I'm not someone who generally listens to blue grass, but there is nothing better to listen to on a perfect evening in the North Carolina mountains, under the stars, with a glass of Highland Gaelic Ale in your hand. Thank you Kelley.

Here's to new friends and an over abundance of produce!