Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Best Ever

First, the bad news: this is going to be a photo-less place for a while. My camera is, well, not playing nice. Grr. I hope to do something about this soon, as without photos this space seems way more diary-like, which make me itchy.

Now that I have that off of my chest...

Asheville got 17 inches of snow this weekend! This is a big stinkin' deal, the most either of us have ever seen here is a wimpy inch or two that is gone by noon. The snow started Friday morning, and it just did not stop. Huge, fat, wet flakes, it just kept coming until before we knew it we were completely snowed in. That morning I managed to scoot out to the post office to mail Christmas packages and to the grocery store for food, and then B and I tucked in like we have never tucked in before. All through the end of this semester we had promised ourselves a day that we just spent entirely in bed. Or at least in our pajamas. Every time the alarm clock went off too early, we'd think of this day we were promising ourselves, and the deal was: lots of reading, lounging, eating, movies, ahem, etc., you get the idea. Well it turns out we got a few of those. Seriously just what two overworked people needed. Complete rest, and quiet. The power went out sometime Friday evening, and so for a good 24 hours we were treated to the loveliest peace from it all, ever. The phone went out, the cell phones died, the fridge made no noise, the oven still worked so the food was fine. True, it was 46 degrees in our house on Saturday, but we just bundled up under the covers and read to each other (we are killing Harry Potter over here). It was so great.

I feel like I had 900 other things to say, but now I am too relaxed to remember what they were. Oh wait, not true, B made these latkes and they were so durn good. He tinkered with the recipe, adding more egg and some flour, and holy moly, yum. He also made the best pizza ever. And he also made an amazing pot of red beans and rice, which I really will post the recipe for soon. I think he had some pent up culinary energy. Fine by me.

Oh, and I made some stockings. They are frickin' awesome, my girl Diets gave me the push I needed to hack up a gorgeous vintage circle skirt and although at one point the husband actually offered to leave the house so that I could curse with complete abandon (me: "I am actually cursing to impress you."), now that they are finished I am very happy. Seriously, I had to line them, make a fancy hook, and trim them, and I am a fucking sewing moron so it was pretty colorful around here, I think there might have been some head whacking onto the sewing machine. Right. When my camera stops acting like a twit I will show them to you, even if it's February.

Also, we went Christmas caroling last night with our awesome friend Jenni who seriously gets us to carol in four part harmony for hours. Try staying dry eyed when a motley crew of people stand on your porch and sing Oh Little Town of Bethlehem in the snow!

Also. Happy holidays out there.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Christmas Decorations

So. We have a Christmas tree. It's the most beautiful, ever, just like years past and the years to come. It was $20 because it was a 'second' and it is kind of awkward like a teenager and we love it. B does the lights, just simple white lights, and he's the kind of guy who has to really get the lights in there so that you can't see any wires. I love this. No ornaments. In years to come, but not yet, just a tall green tree with tiny white lights. We don't have any other Christmas decorations, and for the first time this year I really wanted some. I emailed my best friend and said "What is going on? I feel like I need a wreath. Help." She was helpful and told me to get a wreath, she's so good like that.

We did not end up with a wreath, but I did buy our first Christmas decorations last week. These are on par with the things I remember from my childhood, the things that I would begin dreaming about beginning in, oh, September. Magical special things that encourage inventive narrative and lots of gazing. These are little elf houses. There are six of them, all different sizes. They are so lovingly made, tiny, tiny pieces of paper cut and glued. I think their base is toilet paper rolls, awesome. They came with tiny flickering led candles to place inside, and at night they are so completely magical that B and I have eaten in the living room with just the tree and the elf houses for days now. I love illuminated things that don't have wires, and the light shines warmly out of the intricate windows. They are so cool. I wrote the sweet girl who made them an absolute love letter when they arrived. She replied that she is always relieved when people who make up elf stories end up with the houses, and thus the deal was even sweeter.

Monday, December 7, 2009

More Pie

Hoo-boy. There is a lot of craziness going on here. My man is in finals this week. I can honestly say that this semester sort of leapt up and bit us both in the ass. After two years of cruising through grad school on a big brain that can memorize stuff in a snap and take tests while half asleep, this third year roared in with a literal shit-ton of projects and papers and real clinic hours, not just scattershot obligations to follow some cool third or fourth year around for observation. It surprised us both to have this be hard and really f-ing busy-making. Intricate dinner making screeched to a halt, we haven't been on a hike in months, and it's not longer true that we play music every night after dinner. I am really, really proud of him for doing something hard. Grad school was shockingly underwhelming for me, and when I was finished I had this general feeling of "Really? That's it?" Which, I can tell you, is not how my husband is going to feel when he finishes. I think that's great. I think he will be glad that this has been hard, even while he might be wishing in the moment that things were easier. Easy for me to say!

With all that said, we will be celebrating something fierce this Wednesday when he turns in the last things and takes the last exams. I got started early and baked another butternut pie with a gingersnap/pecan crust. Holy shit, it is a tasty pie. The one at Thanksgiving was good, but we ate it before it had cooled completely so it was more like pumpkin (butternut) pudding in the center. Yummy, but not right. This pie is quite right and this time we do not have to share. Plus pie is just more exciting when you haven't just eaten two plates the size of your head filled with turkey and stuffing and salad and cranberry and mashed potatoes and... The recipe I use was stolen from a really fancy restaurant and it's for something like six pies at once so everything is like .83 cups and .2 teaspoons but nonetheless it seems to work out every time.

Anyway out there. Hope you are all warm and that the weekends were great.

P.S. Ruby is now a flock hen again. She is so fine out there, and after a tense ten minutes of all the Hench Hens giving her a little chase and psych out, the peace seems to be pretty normal out there. No more chicken in the basement, and I for one am pretty glad about that.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Chick in a Box

Ha ha. I am so funny.

First, how were all the Thanksgivings out there??? Oh my gosh, I hope they were every bit as lovely as ours. We had such a grand time. Seriously perfect food, lovely walks, even a few snow flurries on Friday morning. A cute baby to pass around the table, folks to talk to around every corner. Even a backyard football game. My pies came out tip top, although next year I might need to make a few more. Must have leftover pie, c'mon, and it was slim pickings Friday morning.

The big goofy part of our trip was that we brought Ruby Sue with us. She is our Rhode Island red who survived the possum attack about a month ago. Ruby is a champ. She has been fine pretty much from day one, but was sporting a fairly sizable bare spot on her rump. And boy do other chickens love to peck a girl when she's down, and we had legitimate worries about infection. So she's been our little house chicken for quite some time now, heading out into her own little run when the weather is fine. After the surprise of it all wore off she even started laying eggs again. What a chicken. Our super duper fabulous neighbors (Hi Sarah and Meg and Claire! Hi Liz and Kara!) took on our regular flock duties, but tending a house chicken seemed like pushing the communal goodwill that is actually present in boatloads in our neighborhood so into a travel box and off Ruby went. There was one successful escape attempt, but all in all it was pretty uneventful. She even laid my mom and egg. I think she's glad to be home though. We're going to try to put her back with the other ladies in a week or two, 'cause Ruby isn't coming with us on the airplane to Maine for Christmas. Right.

Anyway, we came home with a possum trap, and darn it, we are going to trap some vermin around here.

We also came home to the first head of winter broccoli, yum. Also to B's delicious pancakes with blueberry sauce on them. Life is pretty fine in our neck of the woods. My man is finishing up a hell of a semester and we will both enjoy his lack of homework when he's finally finished. And I've just got three little weeks left to go before my own winter break is stretching out luxuriously in front of me. Also, there is eggnog at the store now, and we will have a tree up any day now. Nog and tree is just about all it takes for me to get that lucky cozy holiday feeling. May your holiday coziness be available in scads.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Pears and Such

Right. I am still kicking over here. How many times can I say that work is nuts? I think I have hit the limit, so I will stop with that.

I have been reading David Foster Wallace essays lately. His fiction makes me feel incredibly stupid so I avoid it at all costs, but his essays leave me lying on the couch giggling so hard that B comes in to make sure that I haven't gone completely off the deep end. So now I am sad all over again that he had to go and knock himself off. Fucker.

Jane Goodall on John Stewart. Seriously, I just love putting eyes on the woman, but I completely cringed through the entire interview. We love us some John Stewart, but he is such a terrible interviewer, and this had to be one of his worst. When he told her at the end that she was a wonderful person I nearly died. I suggested that she stab him with her condor feather, but she did not hear me through the intertubes.

Pears. B and I have taken to buying one Bartlett pear each week at the grocery store. Just one. It is cosseted through the entire shopping process, and I literally carry it home in my hand because you can't throw a pear in a shopping satchel with sharp milk cartons and hard jars and whatever, you just can't. It sits on the counter for two and a half days, and then on Tuesday night we have a pear for dessert. It seriously blows our minds every time. A good pear, at least if you are asking me right now, kicks the ass of any apple or peach or plum or orange or whatever. These pears taste like a thousand wildflowers - nectar and honey and sunshine and every summer scent that is sweet. We can't buy more than one pear, because if there is anything to know about a pear, it's that it must be eaten at exactly the right moment. With Bartletts, I think that this is just a hairsbreadth on the side of unripe. A hairsbreadth. One nudge in the wrong direction and the texture will be mealy. No good. Also, I believe you should eat a pear with a knife. Now you know how I feel about pears, and maybe you should pick one up soon and have some summer in your mouth.

We are getting a land line. We are ridiculously excited about this, as two cell-phones-off-and-at-the-bottom-of-a-bag-anyway kind of people. For example, it bothers me that we don't talk to each other's friends and family very often, not because we aren't extremely fond of all our people but rather because my best friend is going to call my cell phone, duh. Plus I hate the cell phone hiccup delay thingie that makes normal people interrupt one another. So, now we will have emergency cell phones and a real phone for all our people to call. That is when the telephone people get it working, because of course it didn't just work when we plugged the phone in.

And that, I believe, is the news. Oh wait, I learned another completely kickass fiddle tune, complete with a tricky many fingered chord bow rock thingie that makes me stupid happy.

Be well.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Oh man, I just keep forgetting about this here blog. Work has been dunking my head underwater fairly regular like lately, and by the time I get home all I want to do is wrap myself in a quilt and float on the couch. I have even worked out how to play fiddle tunes on the couch in said quilt. It is not ergonomic but it is warm. Our house is really cold in the winter, darn it. My banjo is really lonely, and the guitar only slightly less so. Sorry old friends, there's a new toy in town. It is really rewarding to practice; the improvement curve is fast when you start out sounding like you are stepping on a cat.

Garlic is in, four kinds, easily twice as much as last year. Between the red onions and the garlic, and the yellow onions that we will plant in the spring, I am guessing a good fourth or fifth of the garden will be lovely allium plants next summer.

The House Chicken (see Kelly, you got your chicken name after all!) is doing fine. We even let her out for a little romp last weekend, although the behavior of our other girls (who could not reach her because she was outside their run) suggests that the reintegration may be difficult. She didn't rank high to begin with, and now she's got this tempting spot to peck at. She may be a basement chicken for some time to come, poor thing, she'll need every last feather to cover her behind.

Anyway. I'm afraid that's the news. I have been killing books right and left, but none so good as to mention. Looking forward to Thanksgiving with family. I'm on the menu for blueberry and pumpkin pie. I just want my mom's stuffing. Yeah.

Be well out there.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Well Shit

Shit shit shit. I am really mad about this. I am mad about it every time it happens, but since my man is from Maine, and my best girlfriend is from Maine (I like Mainers, it's true) and she and her gal are headed back to Maine, this struck a little closer to home. There was some really great, creative campaigning on the no side - I don't know that anyone is calling this a campaign failure. Just a dumb American failure.

In other shit, last weekend a predator, likely a possum, ate one of our chickens. This chicken. Our sweetest, dopiest chicken. One of our best layers. A family favorite because she had been through a lot and was scrappy as hell and had a neck about a mile long and when she stretched it in your direction you had to giggle. Ben found her, and then I found her sister, Ruby, who had been chewed on but was still looking spry. She's in the basement infirmary now, being fed yogurt and vitamin e mashes and greens and other special treats. We cleaned her up, clipped feathers that would impede healing, and covered her in neosporin and choice chinese herbs. She is lonely, but eating like a champ, and we are hopeful. We learned about 300 lessons in the span of 12 hours, and I feel tougher, sadder, and wiser. The other girls are all fine, and looking fine - the molting has feathered them in with shiny new tail and wing feathers, along with sweet downy feathers on their tushes and undersides. I take a lot of joy in seeing them look so handsome.

In still more shit, my camera is really issuing a death rattle. I think that's why I haven't been here much. The camera want is pretty strong over here right now, I miss seeing the world that way.

Need a haircut. This may be as long as it gets, washing my thick mop is driving me nuts.

Can I express complete and total bewilderment, even disgust, at the crafting trend of making food objects out of felt and soap and yarn?? Who on earth would want a FELT piece of pumpkin pie? Or a knitted doughnut? Or a soap piece of pizza? Seriously, I look at these items and just feel disappointment, like big "oh the world" disappointment.

In random other food thoughts: we discovered oat groats and now I cannot stand oatmeal. Groats are the bomb, just cook them up the night before and heat them up in the morning. Awesome. Also: pickles in your barley soup. I read this old recipe that did that and was speechless for a moment and then I made the best barley soup ever and diced up the last of our summer pickles and it was truly amazing. You will probably be all "woah, there are pickles in here" even when you put them in there yourself, but it will be good.

Also, this movie is lame, even if Hilary is sure nice to look at.

May the shit avoid you all.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Back to Work

Well, my lovely fall break is now over. It was so great. I read a bazillion books, slept in, saw friends I don't see enough, did some garden construction, walked our neighborhood, yapped on the phone, learned a new fiddle tune, and did some sewing. Oh, and I tried making croissants. Jesus, the butter. The dough was super agreeable to work with, but I was not happy with the results; great flavor, from multiple fermentations, but the texture was not ok - no shatter. I am going to go out on a limb here and state that I think it might have something to do with our oven, however cute it is, it's a little bit wonky to say the least. I only did half the dough, and I am going to bring the other half to my mum's for Thanksgiving, because her oven is like a space ship and then we will know for sure if this is an oven thing. It sure was fun to move that much butter around though...

Everything grows in the garden. Although Red Russian is our go-to kale variety (grows so fast, keeps growing, nice broad leaves, sweet), we also have some beautiful purple and green types this year that are lovely. The broccoli and cabbages are making their little heads, the beets are bright and lovely. This is a good winter garden - the first year was over the top, just way too much for us to handle (don't even ask me about the fava beans), last year was late and too small, and I think this year might finally be just the right amount planted at just the right time. We learn, and now we finally write it down in a little messy book, the dates, the seed types, the reminders. Fun.

Anyhoo, hope the weekends were good out there. Don't forget to eat your greens.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Dahlias for Puff

Ok, this is really the last of the flowers-in-the-vase shots. First frost came this week, and it was a really hard frost. Nipped our butternuts even, which supposedly takes a pretty serious frost. Anyway, in anticipation we picked huge bouquets of dahlias. It was killing me that it was going to frost, because the plants were still covered with buds. Argh. But it was also kind of special because we have refrained from picking very many dahlias since they don't last long cut whereas they last outside for ages. B's auntie gave us this dahlia so we call it Puff's Dahlia. I am besotted with the color.

I have been on fall break this week save for a trip into work today, and in driving there I realized that I had missed the fundraising week on my local public radio station. I am a little embarrassed to admit how fantastic I thought this coincidence was. Can I just say again how much I love my job? I was so tired at the end of last week, I felt like someone was giving me the biggest present in the land - a week of sleeping in.

Reading Coetzee lately. I think it's been a while since I read any decent political fiction, I have been really moved by some of his earlier work.

Eating fall carrots from the garden. So sweet. We covered them for the frost and then picked them so they'd be even sweeter.

Still engineering our winter hooping plans, but getting there.

Still feels too early to plant garlic, we are having a warm fall. The onions look great, they are now mulched and netted (f*^%ing squirrels) for the winter.

Still sawing away at that old fiddle. Good times.

Watched this and just loved it all over again. Watched this and was seriously disturbed in too many ways to count. Saw this, mostly because I really just wanted to go to the movies, and was pleasantly surprised. I did not know her paintings and loved seeing them.

Ok, I have to go back to vacation now. Hope all is well out there.

P.S. Any Sigg water bottle owners out there? Have y'all heard about this? Man, I am so pissed. They have been lying for years now about whether their lining contained BPA. I am trading all of ours in, but that will be the end of me and Sigg stuff. Grr. (With thanks to Dietlind, who really does tell me things all the time, no matter what she says.)

Monday, October 12, 2009

Fall Feet

Mmmm, I love cozy socks. I wear these clogs all the time, yet I am not entirely sure if I like them. I generally hate shiny shoes, and patent leather must have kicked me when I was a child because I generally hate that too, but here I am in shiny patent leather red clogs. Right.

We had a really, really nice weekend. Super yummy breakfasts on both days, all made by the husband because being married to him has so atrophied my breakfast skills that we both know from experience that it's best if he makes the waffles and eggs. Nice girlie lunch with a friend, dinner with probably our favorite couple around here, a beautiful fall bike ride with some quality lounging in a park under beautiful trees, and a fiddle lesson that completely made my head explode. Seriously, I started crying because I was so excited, how dorky is that? It is just so flipping amazing to learn these tunes that I have loved and played for years, and god, it takes so much fucking concentration to absorb the bowing and the notes together. B is completely stellar at teaching me this stuff. Seriously. There is no way that I could break down stuff that I can already play - he just shows me and I woodshed it and then it's in my head and my hands but ain't no way it could ever come out of my mouth. So. Fun. Anyway. Then last night we ate a lovely supper and did a bunch of cleaning out the garden and winter prep. Everything looks so good out there, and I think those last huge butternuts are going to beat the frost. Hey, does anyone else have chickens who completely flip out for pepper plants? Our girls seriously lose it over them, they cannot get those leaves down fast enough. Meanwhile the kale and chard stuffs that we toss them are clearly Not Very Exciting. They completely give me the "I ran all the way across the back yard for this?" look when that's what I've thrown in there. Crazy hens.

Hope the weekends were good out there.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Fall Firsts

Today is the first really, really, really bright, really, really windy fall day. Everything is crystal clear, the sky is as blue as can be, and leaves are swirling everywhere. This is one of my favorite times to hike around here, and itch I hope to scratch this weekend.

We roasted our first chicken since last winter. We seem to go mostly veggie over the summer. With lots of cheeses, yum. I made my first stock since last winter too, with all of those lovely chicken bones and skins and bits, also yum.

The last eggplant went here, sans the sausage because after all that lasagna we needed something a little less piggy. I thought these biscuits were terrible - not biscuity not cornbready, just floury. But all the veggies were great, and I am thrilled to say, without lying, that we ate or put up every single eggplant that we grew this year. I think there is an award for that, because hell, we had a lot of flippin' eggplant out there and this is not a vegetable that can be thrown in just anything. STILL with the peppers. I am now just coring them, cutting them into quarters, and freezing them. Surely they will do for soups? If not, please don't tell me now, I really don't want to know. Thanks.

Booker is not hooking me up here people. I could not even finish this. And this was sweet and even slyly if slightly moving, but really just kind of a poof-and-its-gone kind of book. I am seriously about to go read some teenage lit here pretty soon just to bolster my spirits. Oh wait, I already did. Laughably antiquated (1916), deliciously predictable, quite delightful.

Thursday, October 1, 2009


Oh, oh, oh it's so Fall here. Tomorrow we are roasting our butternut squash for the first of many fall soups. I could not be happier with our squash harvest; it was a tough year for mildews but yet the space under our sink is packed with what seems to me like a treasure chest of butternuts. Still more ripen on the vine as I type this; they are racing Jack Frost. This morning I picked more peppers - at this point we are roasting and freezing them, and this seems to be just fine. We did a trial run of this and they tasted great on sandwiches and pizza, so there you go. Beans are finished, the last bag of them waiting in the fridge, and that about wraps it up for the summer vegetables. Oh wait: one last eggplant still dangles out there. I haven't the heart to compost it, but my inspiration in this department is somewhat fatigued. I think it can stay on the vine for another week or so unless it frosts.

Alliums. That handful up there is one of tiny onion thinnings. I mourn every single one of them, I kid you not. Well, mourn and give thanks. They smell just like onions, even at that size. Soon for garlic, but not quite.

Minor list of annoyances. The idiots defending Polanski, people who write checks at the grocery store and post office, dogs in my garden, insomnia, and of course squirrels.

Patterns. I will confess to acquiring a few new fall items, but I consider them to be free because I sold a bunch of vintage clothing on etsy and a few people even traded with me. I love to trade, I am always looking to trade eggs for things but so far my hens have not scored me any fancy shoes. Yet.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Scattered Monday Things

Tomatillo husks.

Ooph. This was not the best weekend of my life. Let's just leave it at that.

The good news:

The onions appear to have survived the flood and my four rows of tiny green threads have grown into four rows of tiny green strings. After my seed started leeks - the pencil leeks - I was wary of the liliaceae family when it came to direct sowing, but these red onions have renewed my enthusiasm.

The chickens are molting. I think this is good news. Our chickens have had some feather issues, to the point where I have read more about chicken health and disease than any person who would like to continue enjoying chickens and eggs ever should. We appear to have a spread of early molters and late molters. As per convention, our best layers are either just now beginning to molt or haven't even started molting. I am nonplussed to realize that our Hench Hens, the two Wyandottes, appear to be early molters. So they are mean and lousy layers. Humph.

I made lasagna this weekend. I actually don't make this very often, in part because if I buy everything that I really like to have in lasagna it costs about a million dollars. Here's what went into this weekend's pan: leeks, garlic, red pepper, green pepper, eggplant, tomatoes, roasted sungolds, mushrooms, kale, chard, italian sausage, noodles, parmesan cheese, parrano cheese, ricotta cheese, eggs, fresh thyme, pesto, salt, pepper. Of that huge long list I had to buy: mushrooms, noodles, and cheeses. Oh wait, and the sausage, but we buy that in large quantities from my work and it lives in the bat freezer until we need it and thus I don't feel like I am buying it when I can go get some in my nightgown. Let me just say here that adding pesto to the ricotta-egg-chard mixture has quite possibly set the bar for lasagnas.

Also in the Pan of Food Department: this recipe. I used leeks instead of onions and put in about three times the amount of greens called for and it was extremely tasty, especially with a fried egg on top. Oh, and I also did not use "low-fat mozarella" - gak. I used parrano and parmesan, pretty much my favorite cheese combination, as you can see. Both B and I are really, really tired and busy right now, so on Sundays I am doing my darndest to knock out some serious dinner making. So far so good.

The fall garden is screaming. This time last year I was fretting over smallish starts, so this year we got our butts in gear and planted early. It's a sea of green out there right now, and B and I have talked all summer about new ways to better hoop our beds. We are over the huge sails of plastic that get caught in the wind and freeze your fingers to the bone. More on that later.

In less pretty but to me no less fascinating news: predatory nematodes. Pest control is such an interesting part of our garden. When B and I cut ground on our front lawn, we were crestfallen to discover that our perfect garden plot was pretty much a big chunk of greasy red clay. Enter in some cash, some backbreaking soil amending, and a bunch of compost. And I do mean a bunch. We've grown some amazing vegetables out of it, but I think it also came with some creepy crawlies that we might not have had to deal with otherwise. Who really knows though. Anyway, a few of the things that have been bothering our plants are pests that incubate in the soil. Rather than try to wipe them out as adults, we put some one million microscopic nematodes into our garden and compost pile, and we're hopeful that we have timed the application with the cold weather such that we will never see another wireworm or flea beetle again! Ok, I realize that might be asking a bit much, but hope springs eternal. Thank goodness.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

An Uncle, Days of Rain, and a Secret

Holy phujezus it has been raining for days. Literally. There were spotty rains on Friday and Saturday, and then Saturday night a slow steady rain arrived and it only just stopped this morning, with plans to return this afternoon. Rain for that long becomes a little sinister, and for the first time in years I have risen to the sound of rain and not been ecstatic over it. I have been fretting over my newly planted red onions - a week after I put them in, four shiny rows of little onions popped up but then about four inches of rain fell so I am a little worried that they might be drowning out there. Humph, although I can probably get away with a replant if I need to. I will pickle my own red onions, I swear it.

Anyway. We had a lovely weekend of Uncle. We hiked out Mount Mitchell again for berries, knocked some bowling pins over, and watched a film that we had all been planning to watch for forever. Lots of good foods, some good sleep in cozy beds listening to rain. Plus he got to meet his chicken. Our girl Gonzo is named after him because she is the fastest most curious kind of crazy chicken out there. Fun.

Here's my secret:

Those aren't B's fingers up there, those skinny little things are mine. I am learning to play the fiddle. Which at first seemed completely and totally preposterous and I vowed that I would never ever tell anyone ever. And then B started showing me bowing patterns and I just about lost my mind with the incredible and I don't think I could keep this a secret if you paid me. Here's something I have always suspected: I don't know if anyone falls all the way in love with old-time music without wanting to play the fiddle. An unknowable thing, I realize, and really the knowable truth here is that I have always wanted to play the fiddle. I picked up a banjo because I wanted to play with fiddlers, and because I wanted to sit in a tight circle with a bunch of musicians and bow my head down into the the center of the music and really listen, instead of really listening from a doorway where my wanting for the music nearly hurt. That wanting made those first years of learning banjo tunes really hard; I wanted to be so much better than I was and in some way I was always fighting with myself about it. And in some weird way I feel like that lack of ease will always show up in my playing of the banjo. Because I have felt completely different about playing guitar and now again learning fiddle tunes. They both feel light. It's not like I don't want to be good at either of them, but I never showed up and said I was the guitar player so who cares if it takes me three time through the tune to hear that chord in the middle of the B part. Seriously, this stuff is supposed to be fun, and oddly I've found more fun in trying some things that I know a lot less about.

ANYWAY, that was significantly more expository than I intended to be. The long story short is that holy hell, you can make an amazing amount of sound with two fiddles. B says that I look like I am 5 years old when I play because I am concentrating so hard:

But when he says that I make myself smile, because I believe the face you play music with is actually so important. I love playing with smiling musicians, and there is no one who smiles more from behind a fiddle than my husband.

P.S. You can tell how rainy it's been from how crazy the hair on my head is!

Thursday, September 17, 2009


When I was a kid these two things sitting on the stove would send me racing around the house looking for my mother so I could ask her what she was going to bake. My life is full of moments when I feel my mother in my hands; the way I bump the broom on the floor in between sweeps in order to shake off the dust, the way I snap laundry before I fold it, my habit of tearing absolutely everything to shreds before it goes in the recycling, no matter how many times I have had to dig through puzzle pieces of paper for something I needed that I thought I didn't. Putting butter out to soften is one of those things. And yes mum, I save the wrappers for greasing pans, folded into neat squares and piled in the butter compartment of the fridge, just like you. I love you to the moon and back, have I told you that lately?

The weather is turning and turning here. The chickens are laying fewer eggs, the windows in the house are closed as often as open, and the peach tree is sending down stray yellow leaves, long yellow fingers scattered around the front yard. The garden is offering up its last beans and eggplant and peppers, turning back into a sea of greens: kales, chard, broccoli, beets, lettuces, arugula, cabbage, cauliflower. Soon it will be time to plant the garlic again. We hauled home our first bushel of apples last weekend, and yesterday I warmed myself over a huge pot of applesauce, now that is the smell of fall. B and I are tucking into the darkening evenings, playing music after supper until we turn in. It will be flannel sheet time before we know it.

Be warm out there.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

This Guy

Two years ago today, this guy woke up at the crack of dawn and hid a ring in our garden. Then he climbed back in bed, and a few hours later when we were out there picking arugula for our breakfast, he asked me to marry him. He surprised the socks right off of me, and I said yes before he was even finished asking. I am so lucky, so grateful, and so happy to be living my life with him.

Monday, September 14, 2009

This Post Doesn't Have a Title

Titles are too much effort this morning.

Monday on the heels of another "let's take it easy" weekend that somehow didn't take itself all that easy. It was a good one though, and the garden is that much closer to some version of fall season done for now. I planted overwintering red onion seeds, which I am pretty excited about. My fall food fatigue has me especially fond of our crops that don't demand immediate eating: garlic, squash, potatoes, onions, leeks. So patient, so fine with being eaten later! That up there is a four pound butternut, isn't she a beauty? Our squash plants were so weird this year - first they looked great, then like hell, then great again, then like hell, and now they look like a big proper green squash jungle. I think the mildews were just insane this year, both powdery and downy, but we got on it with our milk spray and our bacillus subtilis, and all was well, twice. We have harvested about a dozen pretty sizable squash, and now the vines are covered with little guys. Will they make it before the frost comes?

Now that up there is a bowl of fifteen (15) peppers, who are not so patient about when they get eaten. This after picking about a dozen last week. Guess who is having stuffed peppers for dinner again tonight? Right.

Lastly, this bouquet is for Sally. She was a mom in my life, and she died a few days ago. She read this blog sometimes, and she told my mom that it seemed so hopeful, and I guess that is so. I hadn't seen her in years, but I can see her face in my mind as clear as can be. What a beauty, and better than that I can hear her laugh.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Weekend with Hands

Jeez, is it the weather? I am tired in the mornings even while putting myself to bed early.

B had school things all weekend so I spent mine making another blueberry pie. I put spelt in the crust this time and I think it was a good move. I am known for making fun of hippie baking but I am looking for some additional heft and flavor. Mum says to add some ground up golden flax, so I will try that too.

I also played a lot of music. Is this picture too gross for this blog of flowers and vegetables? My hands go in phases, but they look like this a lot. Our guitar chews them up and spits them out, it's kind of a beast and I feel tough when I successfully boss it around.

Also: the last, I swear it, huge batch of tomato sauce. We have the making of this down to a serious science, but I am ready to give it up. I think the chickens might get the remaining tomatoes. Speaking of chickens, I recently realized that we have small chickens. What is up with this? Is it good? I do not know.

Also: the peppers. I put lots in the sauce and then roasted a huge tray of the red ones. They are for lunch and what doesn't get eaten that way I may throw into this sauce recommended by this girl. Roasted red peppers are so happy making.

Also, I am going through a huge purge in the clothing department. I get possessed like this pretty regularly, but this feels extreme. Etsy here I come.

Also, I am reading this and it gave me very lousy dreams. I am taken with the structure yet completely unimpressed with the characterization of evil; I've read it before and so have you. I am gunning for the Booker longlist next - Booker usually does me right, although last year sucked quite a lot.

Also. It is slipper time at our house. B used to shuffle around in the most decrepit mangy slippers you can imagine. It took me a few years to deal with that, but now we are both snazzy and warm in the foot department. I like slippers.


Thursday, September 3, 2009


Red peppers are one of my biggest ethical weaknesses at the grocery store. I buy them all damn year round, regardless of where they come from. I love them. I love them fresh, sauteed, in soups, and definitely roasted under the broiler. Last year we bought pepper starts from some very nice fellow, but the behavior of the plants suggested that they might have seen some low evening temperatures - late fruit set, and also some sun scald due to plants that were not really leafed out enough. This year we started our peppers from seeds, and wouldn't you know, we put them out and they saw some low evening temperatures. Just a night or two, but we were worried. Man, little did we know. We have been eating red peppers since early August, and plenty of green ones have gone into our tomato-eggplant sauces. We are kind of racking our brains because the trickle has turned into a deluge, and damn if I won't start eating them for breakfast before I let such riches spoil. I have heard tell of frozen roasted red peppers, but gah - that just sounds sorta bad to me. I am eyeballing this recipe, but in the meantime: stuffed red peppers. Oh the yum. Just prep your peppers, throw them in a pot of boiling water for 5 minutes, and stuff them with a mixture of leeks, the scraps of pepper you have from prepping them (finely diced), some sort of yummy sausage, basil, kale, brown rice, and feta cheese. Bake them until your husband gets home and enjoy the leftovers tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


And just like that, it feels like fall. Leaves are giving way in strong winds, the mornings have been noticeably darker, and that telltale chill is flirting with the breeze. I'm ready. We spent another weekend doing food things - the last huge batch of pesto, wild blueberry picking, another huge pot of tomato-eggplant-leek-pepper-garlic sauce, a bunch of work in the garden. I am grateful for the bounty, but never have I been more ready for winter than I am right now. I am peering into the calendar and equating these coming winter months with some serious relaxation. We took everything out of our chest freezer this weekend and organized and counted and tallied and recorded. Inquiring minds want to know: are 25 cups of pesto really enough?? Will 15 gallons of blueberries get us by? Etc. We intend to find out.

The wild blueberry picking was breathtaking. I moved here in the middle of a drought that only let up this summer, so every time I've been up to this spot it has been parched, if a green sort of parched. This year the trees and rhododendrons and blueberries and blackberries and asters and yarrow and joe pye and everything else - shockingly verdant and green and growing. The berries were beautiful, if just a hair on the early side, and B and I picnicked near a stream and picked for what turned out to be hours and hours. It was actually the most relaxing thing we've done in weeks. Having already picked a gazillion gallons of berries took the pressure off and we moved slowly, took in the view, and listened to the ambient buzz of all kinds of bees and other pollinators. (What? You don't stress about how many blueberries you put up? I'm sorry, we can't be friends.) As we hiked out, I turned to B and said something dorky like "I married you!" and he threw back his head and laughed and said "Right at that very moment I was thinking that if I wasn't already married to you I would be proposing to you right now." How appallingly sweet, I know.

I think something happened this summer between me and this place. I moved here, if a bit indirectly, from San Francisco. The transition was really, really hard. I missed good restaurants, a thriving local political scene, riding my bike, and my friends. This place had fiddle tunes and a geography that was lodged in nostalgia for me; it is beautiful to me but it is also my geography of teenage angst and uncertainty. It has been over three years now, and the rolling mountains and the katydids at night and the colors in the fall and the crocuses in spring have grown out of being something from my past; they are me, now - gardener, musician, wife, librarian, chicken keeper, berry picker, fruit scavenger, daughter who actually drives home for family reunions and holiday gatherings. I have felt of this place this summer, collecting events that mark the passing of the seasons - now we plant the summer garden, now we pick cherries, now we drive on two lane roads out to our favorite swimming hole, now for corn, now for peaches, now for blueberries, now for the fall garden, soon for apples. I know where I am, for the first time in many years. It's good.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Git 'Er Done

Ok, the goal of this post is to stop abusing the word 'awesome' - I know I can do it.

This weekend went by in a blur. The film was so good. Like many, I thought the contemporary storyline was a bit of a snooze, but I loved the Julia/Meryl bits so very, very much, even if I did wish that there was more food in the film. The peach sauce came out the best yet, and what we didn't freeze we enjoyed on the first waffles since summer hit. The eggplant/tomato/garlic/leek/pepper sauce came out tip top. The second to last enormous batch of pesto was made and put away for later. The tunes were way fun.

Hey, that's our friend Jenni up there who gives us all sorts of garden advice. And B picking enormous leeks for supper...

Oh, and I nearly forgot: we also sheet mulched the remainder of the front yard. No...more...grass. Note that I am able to be so flip about it because the husband pretty much kicked this project's ass single handedly. I did some mulch shoveling and loading and spreading, but B did all the edging and cardboarding and brick lining and bed making. I did, however, charm some free mulch out of the forestry guys here at work. Yay free.

Anyway, we are so happy to have this project done. We added a half circle bed under the bedroom windows, for mostly shade loving plants, and one more smaller bed that we'll try to use for things that go crazy like squash one year, then tomatoes, then beans, or whatever. The mulch still needs to settle some and get tromped down, but a good rain and our usual running around out there should fix that in no time. We dumped the last wheelbarrow of mulch and looked at each other and said "We are done out here for a while." For real. Now we just garden in it, which compared to desodding and fruit tree planting and bed making is a lovely breeze of effort.

Friday, August 21, 2009


Woot! Friday! These past two weeks have been zingers, between all the freakin’ food in the front yard and nine thousand oh-shit-the-semester-is-about-to-start kinds of meetings at work. I am ready; I love when all of our crazy intense students come back and ratchet things up around here.

This weekend we are planning to see Julie & Julia, the release of which has gotten me watching things like this or this – good grief I find her to be so completely awesome. In all honesty I was never that interested in Julia Child until Michael Pollan recently described her voice as “vaguely European, breathy and singsongy, and weirdly suggestive of a man doing a falsetto impression of a woman” so of course I had to go check that out and donate more of my workday to youtube. Also we plan to make more pesto (we made over five cups of it last night in our new food processor!), play some tunes with a banjo player rolling through town, and make more peach sauce. Also we need to relax, darn it.

Anyway. I keep forgetting to take a picture of my new shoes, but let it be known that I have some awesome new shoes. Just in case anyone here thought I was only into bugs and dirt.

Also, I read this and kind of lost steam for the crazy by the end. Too bad because I really liked all of his other books, maybe I am just lazy right now. I also just read this because the author is giving the commencement speech here this year and it was quite sweet in a very quaint way, which is to say completely formulaic while being totally charming. Speaking of formulaic and charming, The New Yorker had an awesome article about Laura Ingalls Wilder and her daughter Rose. Actually, I am not sure it was awesome, as much as a little painful to read. Sounds like Laura’s adulthood was perhaps a little bitter and unhappy, and that just about breaks my heart into a bazillion pieces. Anyway, Rose grew up to be something of a libertarian nut and evidently had quite a heavy hand in the writing of Laura’s books so there’s a whole genre of study devoted to arguing about what in those books is Laura and what is Rose and all that good stuff. Juicy!

Our beautiful dahlia and queen anne's lace that I started from seeds picked at my Grampa's farm are both blooming like crazy. Happy making.

Hope all the weekends are good out there.