Friday, December 29, 2006

Rooster exchange accomplished

I met Maggie! She's awesome. And, although I don't know why I would have pictured her at any particular height, taller than I had expected.

We met at a nice little brewpub in Greenville, South Carolina--approximately halfway between our houses--to exchange roosters. She wanted a Speckled Sussex rooster, and I happened to have one extra. Meanwhile, she had a rooster that kept attacking her daughter. So we swapped. Here's mine, avoiding me:

I wish all of you could have seen the actual grabbing and exchanging of chickens in the parking deck. Yes, both of them tried to make a run/flap for it, but we were too quick for them. It was a moment for the ages.

I've met enough "internet people" that you'd think I would no longer be surprised by how cool they often turn out to be. But when you're brought together by common interests--and when you've already read the Cliff's Notes on their daily lives--it's just so easy. I highly recommend getting out there and meeting your bloggy pals!

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Is it just me, or... this the most insulting thing you've ever seen? "Oh, I thought triple meant four rolls."


The holiday is over, and now we can get back to reality for a few days (only a few, though, because we are having some friends over for Bloody Marys and Hoppin' John and whatnot on New Year's Day).

We drove to northwestern Georgia on Christmas Eve to visit the in-laws (or outlaws, as the case may be, since the s.o. and I are not actually technically married). We had a wonderful time, got to hang out with everyone for a while, and of course got to see our beloved ex-cat Taxi, who now lives with the s.o.'s dad and brother. She is fat and happy. I had my knitting gear with me, so I made her a pompon toy with a tail of curly sparkly gift ribbon.

Dad-outlaw has been watching Paula Deen on the Food Network, and I must say I approve heartily. He made these little bundles of fresh steamed green beans that were wrapped in streaky bacon, drizzled in olive oil, seasoned, and baked. The s.o. has been requesting them twice daily ever since we got home.

I missed being able to see my family at Christmas, especially since my uncle is really sick and I would have liked to be able to visit him. It's looking now as though he'll get better, but he had a bad spell of a Mystery Illness that will definitely mean lots of physical therapy and continued care, and may leave him permanently blind in one eye.

Mom and I have each sent each other multiple packages, and in each case there has been one that has utterly failed to arrive. *taps wristwatch impatiently* C'mon, Post Office!

The s.o. and I spent Christmas Day at home; in fact, we never left the property, and only grudgingly went outside. It was like a monsoon. When I bundled up and went to collect eggs in the afternoon, I found the chickens out in the lowest, wettest corner of their yard, pecking around ankle-deep in water. I hope it doesn't hurt them! They must be getting peer pressure from the ducks.

I spent most of the day doing laundry and vacuuming, with occasional breaks for book-reading* and TV-watching. I had originally meant to roast a duck for Christmas dinner, but Friday, Saturday, and Sunday came and went without us having any time to kill a duck, so we had to raid the freezer instead. We "settled" for Citrus-Braised Lamb Shanks with mashed potatoes, green beans, and white wine. And (urp) most of the rest of the Christmas cookies. Ooooh, the lamb was good. Quite a feast.

Today, since the weather created sloppy havoc out in Poultry World, I spent the bulk of my morning mucking out the chicken and duck houses. Glamorous! But them's the breaks.

* We have lots of good books to consume. The s.o. received a veritable library of home-brewing manuals, and I got a novel I've been wanting to read, a posthumous collection that has already made me laugh and cry about 10 times each, and two very different and utterly delicious-looking cookbooks.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Wet Christmas

Hey, Santa?

When I said this past summer that all I wanted for Christmas was some rain, I didn't mean I wanted it all at once on December 25!

Oh, well. At least the ducks will love it.

A slightly soggy toast to my readers: May you have a joyful Yule, and may all your holiday wishes come true!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

The Christmas lights earn their keep

At 4:10 this morning, the dogs went absolutely hysterical with barking. On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is something humans can't see and 10 is a Bernese Mountain Dog (don't ask me why, but they think that's the apocalypse), this was an 11. And then the doorbell rang, which escalated it to a 12.

The s.o. and I staggered out of bed, and he approached the front door to assess the situation. He glanced through the curtain. "It's a girl," he murmured, and fell back to let me do the talking. (This made sense because he was shirtless, whereas I was wearing a t-shirt and a lovely pair of flannel pyjama pants with holiday-themed kittycats all over them, given to me by J. And handknit socks, although that's neither here nor there--it's just nice.)

On our porch was a woman about our age, upper-middle-class or thereabouts, black, and extremely apologetic for waking us. She was from Atlanta, she explained, and she was lost. She wanted to know how to get to I-20.

As I gave her directions, it occurred to me how brave she was to stop. Imagine approaching an unknown house in the rural South at 4 in the morning, alone, and ringing the doorbell--then being greeted by a barrage of barking. Yet she did it, and she was still standing meekly on the porch by the time we opened the door. I felt a rush of compassion for her.

We chatted a bit. She had a daughter studying at Le Cordon Bleu who had needed to be dropped off somewhere (I don't know where or why; this part of the story didn't get filed in my long-term memory because I was too groggy). The place was supposed to be "just a couple exits past Covington," but had turned out to be an hour farther down the interstate. And now, having delivered the daughter to her destination, she'd gotten hopelessly turned around--and, considering the remoteness of our location, had probably been wandering for quite some time. I'm assuming her cell phone wasn't working, either. They often don't around here.

"I'm so sorry to bother you," she repeated.

"No, I'm glad you did," I said. "There's not much out here, and the roads feel really lonely if you don't know the area."

"I stopped here because of your lights," she confessed. "You looked like you had the Christmas spirit."

Usually we turn our holiday lights off when we go to bed. But I was suddenly very, very happy we had forgotten to flip the switch last night. I hope she found the Interstate easily and was home in bed by 6 am!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Poor confused creature

I almost don't know if I should write this. It is unsavory in some oddly undefinable way.

Yesterday when I went to feed the turkeys, I noticed that our Bourbon Red hen had flattened herself to the ground and wouldn't budge. I was mystified and worried; I suspected an orthopedic problem. Then I thought perhaps she was sitting on an egg, so I felt around under her (gingerly, as one does to avoid sticking fingers too deeply into potential unseen piles of turkey manure, which is possibly one of the nastiest substances in the known universe). But there was nothing. Just a hen who wouldn't move.

Then I had a sudden moment of clarity.

Around Chez 10 Signs, we have a habit of gobbling at our turkeys. Why? Because the tom turkey gobbles back, and it is intrinsically funny. GOBBLEGOBBLEGOBBLE! GOBBLEGOBBLEGOBBLE! Funny. But rarely do we imitate the hens, because they just say PIK! PIK!, which isn't nearly as amusing.

So of course our Bourbon Red hen had gotten the impression that we humans were especially large and magnificent tom turkeys. She was, er, making herself available to me.

I backed away slowly and watched as the actual tom turkey moved in. To his credit, he tried his best, but as far as I can tell, he mainly succeeded in stepping all over her.

I'm going to go out on a limb and predict that this will be the only blog entry written in the entire world today on the topic of turkey puberty.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006



The s.o. has tacked up thick, semitranslucent greenhouse plastic over the back porch's screened windows. This will not only keep the north wind from screaming through our sievelike kitchen door, but it will give us a place to start plenty of seedlings as we head into spring. (Am I the only one who is positively itching to start seedlings? For now I will have to content myself with planting experimental winter peas in the hoophouse.)

The only odd thing is walking out onto the porch and encountering milky whiteness instead of a view of the back yard. But it is a small price to pay for a cozier, less-expensive-to-heat house.

Sometime in 2007 we aspire to replace that kitchen door, too. Ever upward!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

A car by any other name

Today one of the s.o.'s friends fixed Squeaky The Car's namesake problem. It was a belt that had slipped, then had carved a big groove in itself because it was in the wrong position, then had been retightened in the correct position but was still making noises because it was carved up. He replaced the belt with the s.o.'s help.

So now the car needs a new name. "The Blue Car" doesn't really work--not because we have another blue car (we don't), but because we jokingly refer to the other car as The Blue Car.

Some of you might remember The Blue Car as the one that caused me to take an unplanned mini-vacation in central Illinois at the end of October.* It is actually an odd pale violet/sand/silver color that baffles all who try to define it. Before I brought the car home from Ohio, I called my uncle to get the information I'd need to get a Georgia license plate and title. Not being able to remember much about the car other than that it was a small Japanese sedan sitting idle in my grandparents' garage, I asked him, "What is it, blue?" "Yeah," he said, probably not remembering any more about it than I did. And so now the official Georgia title says that it is blue.

So now I have this low-level, probably unrealistic fear that one day I will be pulled over for some minor infraction--a burned-out tag light, for example--and will be hauled away to jail because the car doesn't match its registration information. It's a dumb thing to worry about, of course, because if I were stopped I would tell the police officer what I've just told you, and about three minutes into the story, the cop would decide I was too insane and blathery to bother with and would send me on my merry way.

But anyway, the s.o.'s friend, having already done us an amazing service by fixing Squeaky The Car (for the princely sum of a six-pack of Heineken and a dozen eggs), is now offering to repair the deer-shaped dent in the front of The Blue Car. And once that is done, he says he'll be glad to repaint the vehicle if we purchase the needed supplies.

We think we may buy some blue paint.

* The fuel system problem (you know, the one that stranded me in Illinois, was "fixed," and then reappeared almost immediately, causing me to have to drive hundreds of miles at a truly octogenarian speed) seems to be in remission. We are trying to pretend the incident never happened, but then again, we try to remember to take the cell phone along whenever we drive it somewhere.

Thursday, December 14, 2006


I just wrote this in an e-mail to a friend, and it struck me funny. So here it is for everyone's enjoyment:

I still haven't had time to carve my Jack O' Lantern. The pumpkin continues to sit, uncarved, on the front porch. Several weeks ago I downloaded a turkey stencil off the internet in hopes of making a Turk O' Lantern, but it never materialized. Now I suppose it will have to be Christmas-themed. Or maybe I should just carve "2007" in it and light it up on the night of the 31st.

I really hope it doesn't turn into the Easter Pumpkin.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Quick notes

Well, this is just about the most chaotic December I've ever had. Usually December is fairly mellow for me because most magazines work about two months ahead, and just about everyone's February issue has a strong tendency to be thin and pamphlet-like. But this year is very different. Dunno why.

So if family members are reading this: Your gifts may be late. I'm sorry. And my odds of sending out cards are approaching nil. Sorry about that, too.

But importantly, fruitcakes are in progress. I know of one reader out there who wants two. Anyone else? They are $8 apiece plus shipping, and I may have a few to spare. E-mail me offblog.

Update: The fruitcakes are all spoken for. Thank you everyone!!!

We had a protracted cold snap last week that finished off all my lettuces and about half my escarole. Not even the hoophouse was safe--it spelled the end for my basil and sun-drying tomatoes. No matter. The other half of the hoophouse is planted in a nice winter mix (lettuce, spinach, beets, radishes, turnips, kohlrabi, etc.) that is at the "large sprout" stage. And the half that is now full of blackened tomatoes will be cleared in favor of peas. I don't know if peas can be grown well in a hoophouse starting at the winter solstice, but I intend to find out.

The Royal Palm tom turkey is completely healed from the post-Thanksgiving melee, and now he is more magnificent than ever.

For a while I thought Marge the Buff Orpington chicken sounded wheezy, but she is eating voraciously, laying eggs, and acting normal now, so if she had a cold, it must be gone.

Our friend L decided that she didn't want the three humongous muscadines in her back yard--her space is limited and she wants to plant blueberries instead--so the s.o. dug them out and we moved them into our vineyard. It was no small effort. The roots were positively Lovecraftian: giant grey tentacles that reached ten or fifteen feet in every direction. We really hope they do well, because they are way, way ahead of our puny transplants (a few of which croaked in the drought).

Tomorrow is the town Christmas party!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

We love Jenny

Jenny has been here this weekend. We've been having a wonderful time, and she was a real trooper about the whole lamb carcass that was delivered on Saturday morning. We roasted a rack of lamb and OMG it was delicious.

I think she has gotten me addicted to birdwatching. I had wrongly assumed that the human race had done so much environmental damage that the only birds left would be starlings, turkey vultures, etc. I can't believe how wrong I was.* Phoebes, warblers, kinglets, thrushes, the list goes on. I watched a chipping sparrow for a while and was incredibly charmed by its cheerful manner. Birdwatching seems like a really cool and meditative activity that appeals to my inner science geek.

We just saw Casino Royale with J and her husband. What a fabulous movie--it far exceeded even my inflated expectations. And Daniel Craig? Rrrrraaaoooww. The theater was awash in Girl Drool.

* I mean, yes, we have destroyed the planet and caused a lot of extinctions, but nevertheless there are still a lot of really neat birds around here.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Two recipes that go hand in hand

Not because you eat them together, necessarily, but because you make them together.

As you are no doubt aware, we have a lot of eggs. We intend to start selling them soon, but in the meantime we have to be resourceful. We give them to friends. We make noodles. We make fried rice and egg-drop soup. We scramble them and boil them and devil them. We make clafoutis and quiches and spongecakes. And (helpfully) the two batches of fruitcakes I'll be making this week will consume 8 to 10 eggs per batch.

Yet we still have a lot of gorgeous, sunny free-range eggs. What to do? Let's start with what the s.o. said are "the best meringues I have ever had."


You'll need two batches of ingredients:

4 egg whites
1/2 to 2/3 c. granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla

4 egg whites
1/2 to 2/3 c. granulated sugar
1 tsp. almond extract
1 to 2 Tbs. cocoa powder

Preheat the oven to 225 degrees F. No, that's not a misprint.

Beat the first 4 egg whites in your mixer bowl until they start to form peaks. Add the sugar and vanilla and continue to beat until the mixture forms stiff peaks and can stand on its own. Dollop the mixture onto parchment-lined cookie sheets. (The size of the dollops is up to you, but be aware that larger meringues may stay a little marshmallowy in the middle no matter how long you cook and dry them. This is not necessarily a bad thing, just a matter of preference.)

Now, without bothering to wash the mixer bowl (because really, why should you?), beat the second 4 egg whites until they start to form peaks. Add the sugar and almond extract and beat for a few more seconds. Now stop the mixer a moment and gently fold in the cocoa powder. (Failure to stop the mixer will result in your entire kitchen being coated in a fine film of cocoa.) Beat until the mixture forms stiff peaks and can stand on its own. Because of the cocoa, it will never be quite as lofty as the first mixture, but it should still have some life to it.

Now dollop the second mixture onto parchment-lined cookie sheets.

Bake the meringues 50 minutes, rotating the pans to ensure even cooking. Then do one of the following: Either...

(a) DON'T OPEN THE OVEN, but turn the heat off, turn the light on, and leave the meringues overnight, or...

(b) Open the oven, "test" a meringue, and then for a couple of hours, cycle between turning the oven on and off until the meringues are as done as you like them. Your goal is to bake them incredibly slowly without browning them very much. You are almost using the oven as a dehydrator rather than a cooker.

The consistency I like best depends on the type of meringue. I like the vanilla ones dry almost all the way through. But the chocolate-almond ones are optimal with a glob of moussey goodness in the middle. Regardless of which you choose, make sure to put the cooled meringues in airtight containers to keep them from re-absorbing moisture. No one likes a flaccid meringue.

Now you are left with 8 egg yolks in your refrigerator. Luckily, the following recipe will use up 6 of them.


6 egg yolks
3/4 c. granulated sugar
2 c. milk
1 Tbs. vanilla

Beat the egg yolks with the sugar until they become pale yellow and form soft ribbons.
Put the milk in a saucepan and heat it slowly to a simmer, being careful not to boil. Now pour the milk in a thin stream into the egg mixture, beating constantly. Beat in the vanilla.
Transfer the mixture back into the saucepan, turn the heat to medium, and beat constantly for two minutes, making sure not to let it boil. Cool, then chill overnight.
Freeze according to your ice cream maker's directions.

When I transferred this gelato into a freezer container, I swirled in a handful of graham cracker crumbs and coconut flakes that were left over from last weekend's baking. You can, of course, come up with your own creative additions. Also, don't be afraid to replace the vanilla with some other kind of liqueur according to your preferences.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Getcher crumb cakes here!

The next town down the road from us had its Christmas Bazaar this weekend, and the 10 Signs Garden & Gourmet table was there. We didn't bring any vegetables; it was all baked goods and preserves. Buttermilk pie, apple pie, cinnamon crumb cakes, cowboy cookies, cranberry coffeecake, pumpkin cake, and the s.o.'s top secret "magic bars" were on the menu. We did a nice brisk business considering that the setup for the event was sort of diffuse. There were booths all along the parade route, and some areas were definitely more populated than others.

Did I say "parade route"? Oh, yes.

I am posting this snapshot of a very stylish drum corps mainly because (due to privacy concerns) I can't post a photo of the s.o. and his friends riding on our town's fire truck. Oh, was I proud. A lot of the firefighters' kids were riding on the truck along with them, and the s.o. was teaching them how to wave like the Queen of England. Beautiful.

The s.o. is a marketing genius, by the way. At the end of the day I had a whole plate of cinnamon crumb cakes left over. He suggested I take them with me as I walked to the lot where our car was parked, selling them at half price. I followed the parade route (where people were still gathered in small clusters) yelling like a peanut vendor in a ballpark. I sold every single one! Half price is a lot better than no price, and now I will not be obliged to eat them myself.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Hark! What light...

Am I the only person who likes to put on a coat and sit in a lawn chair on the brightly-lit porch on winter nights? Something about those little colored lights delights my soul. I think it reminds me of lying under the Christmas tree, looking up through the branches, when I was little.

Next year: expansion to the second story, or maybe to the left side of the house, which faces the crossroads.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Bears repeating

I've just stolen a big chunk of text from my friend Carl Wilson's blog because I think he's saying something that more people need to hear:

I've mentioned the project ArtistShare before on Zoilus. I wish I'd thought to bring it up yesterday: It organizes musicians' fans to fund projects up front, rather than just buying T-shirts and CDs at the back end - and that's a model that could be emulated in various forms for other endeavours. But also, as moderator Misha Glouberman said, it would be a simple step forward if arts audiences (music fans very much included) were encouraged to think of themselves as patrons rather than consumers - rather than trying to get a bargain price on a CD, pay extra for it. Buy the T-shirt even if you're not going to wear it. Who cares? Give it to your little sister. And if you're broke, what about forgoing that pint of beer at the bar so that you can help out the band? Because what you're doing is funding artists whose work you admire. It's not like trying to get the best price on breakfast cereal.

Yes, yes, and yes!

And what might those "other endeavours" be? For starters, note the parallels between artists and farmers. ArtistShare seems to me to be a lot like a CSA, which helps fund planting up front rather than requiring the farmer to take out a loan. And I like the idea of being patrons rather than consumers. I think it's important for those of us who have the means to pay a living wage to farmers to do so. Support what is excellent! If we patronize the art of sustainable agriculture, maybe one day everyone will have access to better food.

Places we go, things we do

It hasn't escaped my notice that I haven't done much writing on my blog lately. I've put stuff up, sure, but there hasn't been much text. I apologize for that. Part of it is that... (pauses for dramatic effect) ...I have been working on a book. All I will say is that it is sort of a cookbook and sort of not. I have a lot of friends cheering me on and offering help, so I have high hopes that I will finish it someday. But anyway, lately it has been sucking up what few creative juices I've been able to produce.

Nevertheless, here's an update, because we've been doing fun and interesting things. Someone started an auction house in the next town down the road, and the Saturday evening auction has become "date night" for the s.o. and me. The items up for bid are mostly overstock merchandise, and they're extremely random in nature. We've accumulated a few bargain-priced things (a small canister vacuum, a rug, a couple of holiday presents, etc.), but most of the fun is in the people-watching and the festive atmosphere. We try not to buy anything we don't need--which is more than I can say for a lot of the people there!

A lot of times there are cases and cases of whatever thing they're auctioning off, so the entire crowd will pile on as soon as the high bidder gets his or her item. This has led to the whole town owning the same stuff. So now I guess everyone in our area will have citrus Listerine breath, will carry a pink psychedelic handbag, will eat Lindt white chocolate truffles, will decorate their house with a holographic light wreath, will cover their spare bed with a Dean Miller surf-themed comforter, and will be giving their children a small beginner's guitar and a talking Spongebob for Christmas. Heh.

Meanwhile, I have continued going to yoga with J. Sometimes she is not able to come, though, so I have popped in on the Kundalini yoga class instead of our usual Hatha yoga class. Anyone else done Kundalini? I have racked my brains and finally decided it's the weirdest thing I've ever done. Maybe it's our class in particular, taught by a bearded Sikh convert who wears a turban and all-white clothes and sits on a little animal-skin rug. There is a lot of chanting and a lot of very dramatic breathing--hooting and whistling and puffing.

I have a little bit of a love-hate relationship with the Kundalini class. Some of the kriyas are horribly uncomfortable for me to do, and I suspect one in particular was responsible for a two-week bout of "numb tailbone" I had a while ago. On the other hand, all that super-oxygenation does produce a nice glow afterward. Still, I think the class I went to last night might be the last of its kind for a while. I like the instructor much better when I'm talking with him after class (his family owns a farm southeast of our place) than when he's yelling "FIRE BREATH! KEEP UP!"

The s.o. has, predictably, been putting up Christmas lights. He loves doing it, and although we know it's a waste of energy (I hope someday we'll put the lights on a solar-powered battery so it's a little less egregious), it is so festive. We live right on the highway, so everyone gets to see our decorations. Anyway, he's about halfway done with this year's display, and it's both ridiculous and beautiful. I'll post a picture when it's complete. Wear your sunglasses.

The s.o. has also done something big--something that has made me really proud. He has joined our town's volunteer fire department! Once or twice a week, he has been attending meetings and going to First Responder class. He has learned to work the hoses on the truck and to find everything in the ambulance in case the paramedics need help. He has gotten re-certified in CPR and has learned how to assess an accident scene and proceed safely. I can tell he regards it with extreme seriousness, but at the same time he has made a bunch of new friends and finds the training really interesting and fun. I could not be more thrilled. I want to tell the world how great he is...and I guess I just did.

Sunday, November 26, 2006


Just when I was looking forward to spending a nice relaxing Sunday reading a Terry Pratchett novel, the s.o. alerted me that our two remaining tom turkeys had decided to kill each other. They were tearing at each other's faces with their beaks. Both were a bloody mess, and they weren't stopping. It was horrible.

I suppose a bigtime commercial farmer would have debeaked them, but for us there was no use disfiguring both of them when one was already marked for the table later in the season. So we went ahead and killed the remaining Bourbon Red tom and put him in the freezer. Honestly, I'm hard pressed to think of a single thing I would less rather have done with my afternoon. I am sick of having to kill birds. It is the opposite of fun. But at least it is done.

So now we have three turkeys: a Royal Palm tom (who is now favoring us with a big flamboyant strutting display, and whose face will no doubt heal nicely), a Blue Slate hen, and a Bourbon Red hen.

Meanwhile, the ducks practically gave us a heart attack by disappearing utterly. The s.o. found them under the poultry house. Sometimes I wonder what goes through their little duck minds.

On the bright side, we have had our first nine-egg day. At least the chickens seem to be doing fine! (And in order to help keep it that way, Maggie is going to have herself a new Speckled Sussex rooster pretty soon...)


They're at the "ugly" stage (three and a half or four weeks, I think), but they're still cute despite their scraggly pinfeathers!

The s.o. is planning to build a new, larger two-part henhouse for our grownup chickens. We will then convert our existing one into a brooder house, where we can raise new generations to adulthood. These gals will go in there when they get too big for the attic. Then they'll move up to the big henhouse to make room for our spring chicks.

Have I mentioned that we love chickens? They are just a joy to have around.

If anyone's looking for the Thanksgiving menu, it's here.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Post-holiday findings

Thanks, everyone, for the Thanksgiving wishes! I hope my fellow Americans all had a great time with family and friends--and actually, I hope the same for everyone, holiday or no.

We discovered this year that:

• The carrying capacity of our dining room (and my wits) is about 11 or 12.

• Brining a turkey is a really good idea--a foolproof guarantee of juicy, succulent tenderness, even if your meat thermometer breaks and you cook the entire bird to an internal temperature of 200-plus degrees.

• Boiled eggs should be peeled while warm, or else the deviled eggs will be pockmarked.

• It takes exponentially more time to cook for 11 than it does to cook for two or four. But you can make it happen if you have the help of a wonderful mom who has cooked Thanksgiving dinner for a crowd for 30 years straight.

• The six or eight three-week-old mystery chicks that my stepsister promised us turned out to be NINE in number. After much perusal of the McMurray catalog, we think they are eight Red Stars and a Black Star. But we didn't see them when they were first born, so we could be utterly wrong.

• An excellent day-after-the-holiday brunch can be created by pouring all the leftover eggnog* in a buttered panful of ripped-up French bread and sliced pears, then baking it for 50 minutes. Instant bread pudding!


* Ours was alcohol-free, since we grownups were doctoring ours on the side. But bourbon- or brandy-spiked eggnog would probably make a killer bread pudding, too.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

A big event

The winter ryegrass I planted in Chicken Run B has sprouted lush and green! The chix are looking hungrily at the tiny seedlings through the fence*, but it will still be quite a while before they can be let in. They will have to content themselves with the perfectly adequate Chicken Run A for the time being.

I know it sounds odd to say this, but this is the first time I really feel like a farmer instead of, say, a rather obsessive gardener. It's the first time I have planted pasture for animals. Cool, eh?

Sorry if I am a little bit scarce this week. The family is in town for Thanksgiving, and I'm much more focused on hanging out with them than on sitting at the computer. I'll be back in my usual chair by the weekend!


* At least two of the birds have a firsthand understanding of what's going on over there. While I was planting, a couple of the Barred Rock girls wormed their way out the door and started eating seeds as fast as they could. A chicken rodeo ensued.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

I would like to take this opportunity... wish my little brother a happy 30th birthday. Greg, I don't think there's been a day since you were born that I haven't felt proud of you.

I hope you find, as I have, that the 30s are where it's at! xxoo

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


We ran out of potatoes for our 100-Mile Thanksgiving, so yesterday I sent out an S.O.S. to my fellow farmer's marketers. Luckily someone will be able to help me out with some nice floury bakers! But along the way I have learned one important thing:

If you ask Southerners for potatoes, be sure to say white potatoes, or many people will assume you mean sweet potatoes.

Who knew sweet potatoes could be the default? Fascinating.

In other news, I have started using the old Manor Menu blog again after a long lapse. It's now called 10 Signs Food Diary and is at a new URL. I'm doing it for two reasons:

• I'm eager to see how much the Eat Local Challenge has changed my diet over the long term.

• I have a sneaking suspicion I sometimes eat overly rich food containing too few vegetables. I know, it's shocking! But I think it may be true. And it makes me wonder: If a person who grows her own vegetables and cooks almost 100% of her food from scratch can have this problem, how is the average American doing?

Follow along and see how I do! I will note local (100-mile) and regional (contiguous states) foods as they occur, and I will link to the cookbook I've used wherever possible.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Fall in the garden

More show and tell...sort of a blogging cop-out, but hey, I've been busy!

It's hard to believe, when the morning frost lies thick and white on the grass and there is ice on the water tanks, that the garden can look like this:

My friend L. has become very enamored of that Tendergreen mustard in the foreground. It's much milder and (as per its name) more tender than India mustard. Two other things that are really incredible right now are the baby bok choy and the Quatre Saisons lettuces. So green and fresh!

Meanwhile, the hoophouse looks like this:

Now you see why I like Principe Borghese sun-drying tomatoes so much! Our food dehydrator has been working overtime. The resulting nuggets of intense tomatoey goodness will be very welcome come January.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

The personal is political

Chicken life should be like this:

Not like this. Don't you think?

I don't like to preach--heaven knows I am far from perfect--but please don't buy factory-farmed chicken and eggs! You personally, in your everyday food choices, have the ability to support either happiness or misery.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Not available in stores

The two-and-a-half-inch-long (yes, really!) egg that I just cracked into a batch of pumpkin corn bread turned out to contain two yolks. So cool. I have never seen that before in my life, although I've heard of it.

In other news, remember that blue-green pumpkin of unknown breed that I bought up in the mountains? I'm using that in the bread. I'll have to remember to stock up on them next year; I think I like them even better than the Long Island Cheese. Lots of sweet, dense, orange flesh around a small, flattened, seed-packed cavity. After he roasts the seeds, the s.o. will be able to assess their quality, but so far I'm wowed.

Is it just me, or is this weekend particularly welcome?

Thursday, November 09, 2006

My favorite kind of November weather

Last year I remember being stunned by the fact that in Georgia, the month of November--synonymous my entire life with sleet and gales and greyness--can sometimes be downright idyllic. So it is today: 75 and sunny, with bright fall leaves and woodsy decay scenting the air.

I cleared the last of the tomato and pepper plants out of the main garden. I mucked out the duck and chicken houses, hoed some weeds, and piled everything on the compost heap.

I actually saw a Barred Rock hen lay a large dark-brown egg. Clunk. Here's the part where I ask you all for advice. I suspect our friendly Barred gals are doing a lot of the "heavy lifting" when it comes to egg laying. But they are not my favorite chickens looks-wise, and our current Barred Rock rooster is slated for elimination because he is neither attractive nor pleasant to be around. Should we nevertheless add more BR hens as part of next spring's chick order? Surely there are aesthetic considerations here, since much of what I love about raising chickens is simply being around them. But then again, we need good producers.

Here's another thought: Our friend V., a chicken farmer, says Barred Rocks mix well with other breeds, producing spectacular multicolored/test-patterned offspring. Maybe we should just breed our current four BR gals with other types?

The s.o. spent most of the day at our friend Diane's, learning how to bottle a few different kinds of fermented beverages. I am especially looking forward to the tej (Ethiopian honey wine).

I am nearly two-thirds done knitting one of my Christmas projects. I did a lot of it on the porch.

A lizard got into the kitchen and I managed to move it outside before the dogs found it. It ran halfway up my arm, but I managed to remain calm. Lizards are awesome, but their little feet are sticky/prickly.

Everything seems really glowy and happy right now. Maybe it's the election.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

It ain't perfect...

...but this is the first time I have felt really happy on Election Day since 1992. First female Speaker of the House ever--that alone is reason for celebration. But what a turnaround in the House, and maybe even (dare we hope?) the Senate! And my home state of Ohio has finally come to its senses.


Georgia is one of the very few places where Republicans gained any ground this time, which I suppose will make people wonder whether we feel comfortable in such a conservative climate. I maintain we liberals are more needed here. Everyone needs to be reminded, daily, that not all people think the same way--it helps to broaden minds and build empathy. May we be a reminder to our neighbors, and may they be a reminder to us.

But even rural Georgia is only about 65 percent conservative, which means it's 35 percent not conservative. That's not a monolith. (Nearby Athens is quite skewed in the other direction--but that's a whole nother story.) And the country as a whole lingers close to 50-50, regardless of which way the pendulum swings in any given election year. The President and his supporters would do well to remember that 51 percent is not a mandate, and that they don't have a lock on what it means to be an American.

On another topic completely, I have written a new post at the Eat Local Challenge blog.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Project Cholesterol, cont'd

Yesterday: Moussaka

Today: Deviled Eggs

Tomorrow: Who can say?

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Some thoughts on the 2006 garden

This will be a purely self-indulgent post, probably better kept to our gardening journal. But I thought some of you might be interested in how things have gone in the 10 Signs veg garden this year.

Arugula - I switched to Astro arugula this year because someone at the Athens Green Market was growing it successfully in August. Well, it does bolt a little less quickly than most varieties, but I think the real answer is to grow it in the cool season and/or put a row cover on it. And keep it picked.

Beans - All varieties successful (green, wax, Borlotti, etc.), although for some reason Scarlet Runner Beans took forever to start producing. Must remember to keep making successive plantings. New fence should keep deer from using them as salad bar.

Beets - Detroit Dark Red are easiest to grow. Burpee's Golden and Chiogga are much trickier to get going. They seem to like early spring better than fall.

Cabbage - Charleston Wakefield variety is by far the best. Chinese cabbage is also doing nicely. Both are best started in mid-August. Spring never seems like a good idea because the fall plantings are bearing by then.

Carrots - God, they're just awful to keep weeded, aren't they? But they are pretty easy otherwise. Parmex is still our choice for clayey soil, although it does seem to fare better in spring than fall.

Celeriac - I planted it early in flats, then transplanted it into the garden in spring. It's still in the ground, growing slowly and steadily. I figure I'll pick some soon. The only problem has been that I should have been more rigorous about separating seedlings that were growing next to each other. Most of my plants are doubled, and as a result the roots are crowded and small.

Chard - Variety doesn't seem to matter. It always thrives. I currently have a new batch growing (planted September 7), but last year's plants keep chugging along, despite (or perhaps thanks to) being cropped repeatedly by deer.

Cilantro - Variety doesn't matter, but it can definitely only be grown in the cool season. This year I lucked out and found countless volunteer plants growing in the shade of my late tomatoes. Now the tomatoes are gone, and there they are! Plenty to get us through fall.

Collards - I have been limping along on the same aged packet of Georgia Southern collards for years now. Predictably, the germination is getting a little patchy. But once begun, they are unstoppable. Spring and fall plantings do fine.

Corn - We give up. To hell with it.

Cucumber - Picklebush is the most wonderful variety! Can't say enough good things about it. Early plantings do better than later ones. Never bothered by pests.

Eggplant - Stunning success. Liked Ichiban especially well for its ease and tenderness. But the slightly trickier Rosa Bianca had beautiful, firm snow-white flesh and was also worth growing. Kept chugging all season and only gave up the ghost this week.

Escarole - Last year I tried planting it in spring, but it bolted awfully quickly and was useless. Can't remember what variety that was--something I got at the dollar store. Anyway, this fall I planted Biona a Cuore Pieno escarole on a couple of different dates in late September and early October. So far it is doing really well.

Kale - I no longer bother with anything but Lacinato, because the others taste like lawn to me. Fall planting is best; it lasts all through the year.

Kohlrabi - Better germination in spring than in fall. No idea why. Seems to grow well here. Must not leave it in the ground too long, or it gets woody.

Lentils - Low yield from much work. Might have eventually eked out a few pods if I hadn't accidentally weed-whacked them. Eh.

Lettuce - Always successful in both early spring and late fall. I keep planting Black-Seeded Simpson because it is so exuberant, but frankly, it's a little bitter even when it's small. Our favorites this year have been Lolla Rossa and Merveille des Quatre Saisons. They both take longer than most lettuces to get going, but then become lavish.

Mache - Still rotten luck, no matter what season. To hell with it.

Melon - Moderate success with Moon & Stars watermelons. They seemed very pest-resistant. I suspect if we try them in yummier soil next year, they will do fabulously. Charentais melons didn't do as well, but again, once they're moved to better soil, they may fare better.

Mustard greens - In the spring, I should only plant India mustard for eating; the more delicate Tendergreen mustard attracts flea beetles and is decimated. (This is actually useful if done intentionally. It is a nice decoy when you're trying to save something more valuable, such as eggplant.) In the fall, both varieties can be planted as late as the end of September. They are gorgeous and untouched by insects.

Okra - Stupidly easy to grow, if only I can keep the deer out of them. Their roots are deep and thick, and they are able to get nutrition out of even the clayiest soil.

Pac Choy - No success so far planting them in spring. But my fall plantings (Sept. 15 and 26) are gorgeous. I planted both Choko and White Stemmed varieties.

Parsley - Giant Italian variety has done really well this year. Planted in spring, but it didn't really start to excel until fall. It's still going, and will probably keep through spring--maybe forever.

Peas - Three words: Super Sugar Snap. They're productive and delicious. Tried a bush variety of shelling peas this spring and was unimpressed; the bushiness made them much more difficult to pick, so we'll go back to vine types in the future. This winter we plan to try to start some peas super-early in the hoophouse, then progress to our usual outdoor early spring planting.

Peppers - Jalapeño always dependable and very productive. Ditto Cayenne. Friggitello, Hot Wax, and Satvros Peperoncini all did moderately well but were a little puny. I think I need to mulch and fertilize better to get larger, juicier fruits.

Potatoes - Grew Superior and Red Pontiac. Both were successful. We are now finding out that the Superior are very good keepers, but the Red Pontiac are not at all, so we should have dug all of the latter as new potatoes throughout the season. Overall, if I had to choose only one, I would definitely select the Superior. Might swap Red Pontiac for Red Norland next year.

Pumpkins - Disaster. Rouge Vif d'Etampes pumpkins especially susceptible to squash bugs and vine borers. May try them again, trellised up on the fence with tinfoil wrapped around their stems and board traps on the ground.

Purple Sprouting Broccoli - Plant in August for unbridled success in March. Gorgeous. Had good luck with Victory Seeds' PSB this past year. Currently, it and Nine Star Perennial White are both going gangbusters. No luck whatsoever with summer wok-broc types.

Purslane - Goldgelber is a great variety. Does really well in the heat of summer.

Radish - Regardless of the time of year, they must be picked young or they get woody. Some plantings do better than others, but I think it has more to do with the short-term weather at the time of planting than with the season overall. Heavy rains at maturity cause them to split. French Breakfast is milder, but rather susceptible to ugly greyish discoloration. Cherry Belle is very dependable--and gorgeous, to boot--but a little sharper-tasting. No luck with Sparkler.

Salsify - Finally got some going this year, although we haven't eaten it yet, so I can't vouch for it. Seems like kind of a pain. I mean, you buy these giant expensive packs of seeds that stop being viable after approximately five minutes. What a waste. Can someone sell me a packet of about 20 to 40 seeds?

Spinach - Finally got some Teton Hybrid to germinate at the end of September. Still not very impressive. Probably not worth it when the world is so full of lovely chard.

Summer squash - Exhausting, but I think doable. Different times of year bring different pests. Row covers may be key. One thing I know for sure is that the ground around the plants must be absolute scorched earth with no conceivable shelter for squash bugs. This year I think I will try to find some disease-resistant varieties, because the squash bugs carry so many bacterial wilts, etc.

Sweet Potatoes - Planted Porto Rico bush variety and liked it quite well. Next year, in looser soil, we expect an even better harvest. A little trouble with nematodes and scurf, but nothing crippling.

Tomatoes - Still on the learning curve. I do know one thing: Sungolds are absolutely indispensible. We started them indoors in spring, then again in the ground in August, and both times we had rampant success. We found Tigerella (AKA Mr. Stripey) very disappointing; ditto Marmande, which cracked terribly and grew in strange, fibrous shapes. San Marzano II was a complete failure, but then again it was in a clayey part of the garden that should have been prepared better. Maybe if we had amended the soil, we wouldn't have lost every single tomato to blossom end rot. Moderate success with an August planting of Big Boy Hybrid. Very pleased indeed with August planting of Principe Borghese, although now that the plastic is on the hoophouse, they are a little susceptible to blight. (The tomatoes are still coming in droves, though. We'll be growing them every year) We like Sungella a lot for their flavor, texture, and appearance, although now that the plastic is on, they keep cracking. Brandywine were useless earlier in the season, then much more successful in the fall, but now they've been frozen out. This winter we will be trying to grow Estiva and Valley Girl tomatoes in the hoophouse; they're supposed to be good greenhouse varieties.

Turnips - Shogoin turnips are supposed to do well here, but they always germinate like absolute crap. Never again. Purple-Top turnips are dependable and fast-growing in both spring and fall. Somewhat susceptible to grasshoppers.

Winter Squash - Butternut and Hasta La Pasta both horrible; see Pumpkins. Delicata slightly better but still unusable. Will be trying Tiptop F1 hybrid next year.

I agree wholeheartedly

From the newest Miles of Music newsletter:

Every so often a local police department will sponsor a "guns for goods" drive where you bring in an old firearm and get something useful in return. Someone needs to come up with a way for me to take my big stack of political junk mail and exchange it for something useful, like a tree that's still alive.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Home sweet home

Ah, yes.

I went to bed at 10:00 last night--actually, 9:00 if you count the hour I spent snoring in front of a perfectly good episode of CSI. I got up this morning, made a pear clafoutis, started drying some Principe Borghese tomatoes in the dehydrator, and have been writing my current article very industriously.

The leaves are in their fullest burst of fall color, and the air is crisp. While I was gone, the s.o. built a new chicken run (they will now be able to be switched back and forth between two, so that they have better pasture) and has almost finished a fence around the garden.

It was a really wonderful wedding, and a productive and well-put-on conference, but I am so glad to have some time at home. I even get tomorrow morning off, because in my absence, my farmer's market friends have decided to close up shop for the season. Yes, I'm a little sad about that, but right now I am not looking a gift horse in the mouth.

So let's catch up, shall we? There was truly lovely weather in St. Louis for the wedding, and the event was of the relaxed, happy type where everyone stands around with a drink in his or her hand and pokes fun at the groom, who is forced to leave the bride, minister, and audience in mid-ceremony while he procures a set of car keys and runs to get the rings out of the glove box. The venue was decorated with bright-colored Japanese lanterns. There were lots of props--at one point, everyone at my table was wearing wax lips (some regular, some with vampire fangs). I noticed the bride's parents wearing them, too.

Because the groom is a musician and the bride is a booking agent, the music at the reception was outlandishly good: Steve Dawson (of Dolly Varden) backed by Kelly Hogan's band, playing soul classics. Many wedding bands know "Let's Stay Together." Very few can nail it like they did.

I saw a lot of dear friends that I don't see often enough. I also made some new friends: the bride's best friend is a large-animal vet tech student, and we got along like gangbusters. And my roommate, a booking agent from Austin, Texas, was a gem. She was even gracious when I overenthusiastically invited everyone to our hotel room for the afterparty.

Some of you may recall that a certain baseball team won the World Series while we were in their town. One of my favorite moments of the weekend was when some friends and I were walking near the Soulard Farmer's Market on Saturday morning. A very drunk gentleman lurched up to me on the street and demanded: "Where's the parade?" (I don't know, but I do know it was scheduled for Sunday.)

After a little shopping, I attempted to leave town on Sunday afternoon. I didn't get far. About half an hour into Illinois, my car started intermittently losing power at highway speeds. I couldn't get above 60 miles per hour without it stalling. So I stopped at the next exit, New Baden. There was a girl named Holly at the Shell station there who let me use her cell phone (mine had, of course, just run out of minutes) to call AAA. Then, when we determined that AAA couldn't find a single soul within a 40-mile radius to work on a car on Sunday, she called all her friends in order to find some help for me. Two brothers named Sean and Mike showed up, popped the hood of my car, and stood around pointing at things for a while. They didn't fix it--I don't think they could have, unless it had happened to be something really simple--but they did something almost as valuable: They gave me really solid, kind advice at a time when I desperately needed it. I followed their instructions and backtracked three exits to a Holiday Inn Express that happened to be practically next door to a Dobbs Tire Center.

Sean and Mike wouldn't take the beer Holly and I had promised them. All three of the Good Samaritans told me the same thing: "Just do the same for someone else next time they need it." What wonderful people.

Monday morning the folks at Dobbs Tire Center swapped out my fuel filter, which was 50 percent clogged, and I drove without incident all the way to Clarksville, Tennessee. Then the stalling began again, although less severely. I tearfully called the guy at the repair shop (I don't think the recurrence was his fault, but I didn't know what else to do). Their business was a St. Louis-area one, so there were no Dobbs stores near me who could honor their warranty. I was pretty sure there might be rust in the gas tank that was causing the fuel system to re-clog. What could I do?

Finally the old joke came to me:

Doctor, doctor! It hurts when I do this.

Well, stop doing that!

If the car stalled at speeds of 60 mph or greater, the obvious solution was to drive home at 55 mph. So I did. And I got home at midnight, having experienced no further trouble.

The next morning I was due at a big three-day conference in Atlanta that was hosted by my biggest magazine client. (I took the other car, of course. It makes three distinct, er, interesting noises that it probably shouldn't make, but it can be driven much faster.) I got to see a lot of great people, and even took a couple of my editors out on the town Wednesday night. It was a blast, frankly, but it would have been even better if I had had more sleep and less stress the day before it started. Oh, well. Can't have everything!

Did you know we are now getting 5 eggs a day? Sweet.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

I'm here

But I am attending a conference in Atlanta, and am so tired I am seeing double.

Lots to tell. The supposedly better of our two old cars stranded me in Illinois on my way home from St. Louis, but eventually I got here by driving 55 mph the entire way...more about that as soon as I get a chance!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Brief absence

I apologize for the low number of posts this week. I've been scrambling to get 1001 things done before driving to St. Louis for a wedding (yes, it's 11 hours, but wouldn't you rather drive than fly these days? and plus, I can bring back cases of Two-Buck Chuck and other whatnot that would be inadmissible on the airlines). I'll be leaving this afternoon, back Monday.

This week we have managed to:

• Get the plastic on the hoophouse (this was mostly the s.o.'s doing, but I helped hold the plastic to keep it from flapping in the gale that decided to blow that day)
• Dig a ton of bulbs (completely the s.o.)
• Transplant 13 healthy little radicchios into the garden
• Dig the sweet potatoes--and there were more than I expected, considering what a hopelessly clayey, unimproved section of the garden I had put them in
• Dry quite a lot of Principe Borghese tomatoes--and there are plenty more ripening in the hoophouse
• Put up 5 jars of radish relish and 20 of pear-citrus marmalade (most of the previous batch was sold at the farmer's market, and we can't have that, can we? we needs it)
• Pick almost all the rest of the pears; there are not as many as last year, but they are better quality.

Whew! Now to finish a little work before I hit the road...

Monday, October 23, 2006

Theme meme

Ally has asked me to find the theme music from the children's TV show I am most nostalgic about. Being me, of course, I am unable to settle on just one show.

As a very young child, I was particularly attracted to programs about canine superheroes.

When I got a little older, this was all-consuming.

Anyone else want to share?

A perfect day for a wedding

This weekend two of our local farmer friends got married. All season, the bride had been growing spectacular flowers throughout the vegetable garden. For months, as the couple picked tomatoes, leeks, and long red beans for the farmer's market, they did so among blossoms intended for their wedding.

And then last week there was a hard frost.*

So there was no profusion of flowers for the wedding. They were terribly disappointed, of course. But as you can see, they took it in stride.

The wedding day started out pouring rain, which was ironic in a way Alanis Morrissette could never have dreamed of, since the couple have often spoken of a "forcefield" that seems to prevent atmospheric moisture from reaching their crops. But by lunchtime, the clouds had cleared. When we arrived around 1 pm, the day was already in the process of changing from "sweater weather" to "balmy." It was hard to stop remarking about the perfect weather.

We immediately went to visit Rose the llama and Bud the alpaca, who had been adorned with a knitted rose and bowtie, respectively, by the bride. Soon we noticed that every creature on the farm--dog, cat, whatever--was similarly decorated.

The wedding was Kabbalistic, involving the services of the rabbi from Athens (note the use of the definite article rather than the indefinite one) and the groom's L.A.-based Kabbala teacher. The rabbi noted that he was pretty sure we were all bearing witness to a truly historic event: the first chuppah ever erected in that rural county. It was a really interesting and beautiful service, although quite long.

Then came the potluck dinner. Some of you may be picturing an average potluck, with a table full of casseroles and cookies. This was nothing like that. It was an entire houseful of food, literally. The buffet tables began in the foyer (dips and appetizers), progressed through the kitchen (pasta), continued into the living room (main dishes and salads), and proceeded through the dining room (desserts) before parading right out the back door (beverages). Every single item was vegetarian, and dishes were labeled with little tent cards that indicated what they were, who had brought them, and whether they were vegan or contained wheat. Only a tiny minority fell under the category of "bland hippie food". Almost all of them were absolutely delicious. I was especially enamored of the moussaka, the homemade three-bean salad, the beyond-decadent carrot cake, and one of the three (three!) hummuses.

In case you were wondering, our contribution was homemade fig ice cream, made with figs that the bridal couple had supplied to us in August. It was especially good with the vegan chocolate cake.

Good luck and happiness to two of our favorite people!

* We haven't had a hard frost at 10 Signs yet. These two live about 30 minutes northeast of us on high, sandy land, and apparently that made all the difference. In fact, because most of our grower friends live a little bit north of us, we are actually the only people we know who haven't had our tomatoes wiped out.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

We diurnal creatures miss out on all the fun

This morning when I went out to feed the birds, I encountered a "situation." The portable electric fence was down in two different places, and stakes had been flung every which way. Upon closer inspection, I found a couple of tears in the netting. It took me a good half hour to return the fence to some semblance of its former glory--and all of it had to be done before the ducks (who were noisily quacking in the background) could be let out to play.

Our best guess is that a deer got itself tangled in the fence. The s.o. had changed the configuration the previous day, so probably the animal just blundered into it, got caught, and was shocked repeatedly before it managed to rip itself free. I'll speculate that the deer had no antlers, because if it had, the destruction probably would have been total!

I am part annoyed, part amused. Luckily for the deer, the fence is low-voltage and the pulse is intermittent. So it's not as though the poor animal was getting tasered; more like it was having involuntary electrolysis. Nevertheless, it didn't like it one bit.

I wonder if we will have fewer hooved visitors for a while. Do deer talk amongst themselves?

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Vegetable-Industrial Complex

Check out this new Michael Pollan article to find out why the only thing scarier than contamination at factory farms may be the federal government's approach to dealing with it.


I was in the middle of feeding the poultry Monday morning when I noticed the extra-beautiful sunrise. I absentmindedly set down the tub of feed (much to the turkeys' dismay, because they were next in line) and ran in to get the camera. I probably stood there, staring at the eastern sky, for about 10 or 15 minutes.

Soon afterward, the clouds rolled in and the rain began. It hasn't rained hard--it's mostly misting and sprinkling--but the garden is loving it. I hope the weather stays like this for a while, then turns sunny in time to ripen some more tomatoes for Saturday. (As if I could dictate the weather!)

J and I made another quick trip to the mountains for apples and pumpkins yesterday. The cool, moist weather was invigorating, and we didn't mind it at all. What a difference a month makes: Burt's Pumpkin Farm was a hellaceous mess of parents and elementary-schoolers (why weren't they in school?!) with lines stretching out the door from the cash register. Never mind--we got our pumpkins! I brought home one big carving pumpkin, three good-sized Long Island Cheeses, one Rouge Vif d'Etampes, and two butternut squashes. I wanted a giant banana squash, but theirs were looking a bit worse for wear. Eventually I found a better one at a roadside stand.

That roadside stand also came in handy apple-wise. Most of the apple houses didn't have their tiny, tart Yates apples in yet; apparently they like to wait for the first couple of good frosts before harvesting them, and that had only just happened. But I found half a bushel there. I also found a few of the last remaining Empires, which in my opinion are some of the best cooking apples on earth.

At Mack Aaron's Apple House, the Arkansas Black apples were in (J refers to them as "blapples," which amuses me). I got some of those, plus a gallon of apple cider. Last time we were there the cider was insipid, but now it was tangy and delicious. I guess the different varieties of ripe apples are the reason.

We went back to the Cantaberry Café, whose banana cake with cream cheese frosting had sorely tempted us last time. We were eternally grateful to find that there was banana cake on the menu again. It was everything we had hoped for, and even the two of us together could not finish the massive slice the owner cut for us.

Now my week looks busy, to say the least. There is "work work," and plenty of it. And on top of that, I have a grueling amount of stuff to make for this weekend's farmer's market, which coincides with the Watkinsville Fall Festival. I have been told to expect a Big Day. Our pear tree is starting to drop pears in earnest, so one of the first orders of business will be a big batch of our house special: pear-citrus marmalade. Also apple butter, of course. And pies, pies, pies.

Saturday, October 14, 2006


Here it is--my farmer's market table at the beginning of the morning, before I had a chance to disorganize it (which I do very skillfully). Note the chalkboards, made lovingly by the s.o. Your eyes aren't going bad; I have blurred out our town and phone number on the sign.

I did pretty well again, this time selling a nice even mix of baked goods and preserves (as well as almost all my produce). Mainly I just love the people.

I tried to take a pic of the rest of the market, too, but when I got home and brought it up on the computer, it became apparent that all I had done was take a picture of a few people's backs, and none of the actual tables or booths. Cut me some slack, please--the market happens early in the morning, and all the coffee in the world doesn't make me sentient at that hour!

Friday, October 13, 2006

I hereby present...

...the only presentable Victoria sponge cake I have ever made. It doesn't look sat-upon! I am so proud.

(Props once again go to The River Cottage Family Cookbook. I guess I need a children's recipe to pull this one off. Fair enough!)

Thursday, October 12, 2006


You know how sometimes a friend does something so kind and generous that it literally takes your breath away?

Today my friend Diane gave me a Squeezo strainer. Just gave it to me. Because, she said, she wasn't using it and I would.

I almost cried. Actually, the s.o. says I did cry a little.

I am going to hug it and pet it and name it George.

Dragging my feet

Advisory: Somewhat traumatic topic.

Here it is, a really beautiful day, and I have to mar it by killing a rooster.

It is for the greater good. We have too many boys in the flock, and this particular Partridge Rock has been terrorizing the other birds, even bloodying the comb of a poor benighted Barred Rock rooster. It is heartbreaking to see a chicken hiding its head because it is being injured by someone higher in the pecking order.

But all the same, I am dreading this task. I do not enjoy it, not one bit, and I find myself inventing anything, anything, anything else to do. On the bright side, the house is now vacuumed.

Okay. Steeling myself. Repeating to myself, "Tandoori Chicken. Tandoori Chicken." Which should make me more eager, but it doesn't, really.

Off I go.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Which fair shall we go to this week?

Yes, we went to another one! (October is really a wonderful time to be in Georgia, let me tell you.)

This time it was the Morgan County Fair, which was comparable in size and offerings to last week's Madison County Fair. The difference: This one had 4-H sheep and goat judging! We arrived near the end of the goat contests, but got a chance to see all the sheep. The numbers were quite meager--sheep aren't big around here, and in fact most of the animals were shown by the same few youngsters, who'd leave the ring after one round only to enter it at the beginning of the next. But there was a judge from the University of Georgia who was really interesting to listen to, and it was cool to see how the kids handled the animals. I learned a few things.

The girl in the background of this photo (sorry it's so dark and blurry--I obviously didn't want to spook the sheep with the flash) raked in the ribbons, big time. Having your sheep come in third or fourth in its weight class at the Morgan County Fair must be kind of discouraging, because that means you really didn't cut it.

Immediately after the sheep show, the s.o. and I headed for the food vendors, and I ate an assortment of food so godawful that I tremble at typing it: a corn dog and part of an order of chili cheese fries. I figure "When in Rome," etc. The corn dog, despite being at heart a nasty amalgamation of animal pieces-parts that I normally wouldn't touch with a ten-foot pole, was actually extraordinarily good--really crispily fried and flavorful. But the s.o. was squeamish at the very sight of it, having had a memorable corn-dog-sick experience as a youth. (He finished my chili cheese fries, though.)

Finally, unrelatedly, here is the photo I probably ought to have posted with yesterday's entry. Woo hoo!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006


I'm just putting up this picture because I think purple-top turnips are so beautiful.

What I'm really here to say is:

We have had all kinds of egg-cellent occurrences lately. (Sorry, I couldn't help it.) Two days ago we accumulated enough small homegrown eggs to have scrambled eggs--with homemade sausage and bacon, of course--for dinner. The scrambled eggs were absolutely technicolor yellow. Obviously the hens' varied diet agrees with them.

Yesterday's landmark was TWO EGGS IN ONE DAY. Sweet! And they were completely different shades of tan, which makes me pretty sure we've got multiple breeds laying now. The only hen I've caught in the act was a Barred Rock; beyond that, it's all conjecture.

Today I went into the henhouse to find the biggest egg yet, which was under the fierce protection of our teeny little Black Japanese Bantam hen. She was not pleased when I took it.

"C'mon, pretty girl, it's not even yours," I wheedled.

"Craaaaaaa!" she screeched.

"It's half your size," I reasoned.


So I guess the guidebooks are correct when they say bantams are good broody hens. Nice job, little gal--you are doing what you do best. But you will have to wait.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Another fine fall weekend

On my way into town, I often drive on a back road that goes through a large dairy farm. There are signs--I'll confess they've long been favorites of mine, since how many people get to see these kinds of signs on their commute?--that say CATTLE XING 35 MPH. But until yesterday, I never actually saw any cattle crossing, just lots and lots of them in the pastures and pens on both sides of the road.

But yesterday as I was driving home from the farmer's market, I rounded a curve and was suddenly forced to brake for about 200 Holsteins. As I idled and watched, I began to sort out what was going on. The milk-heavy cows were being herded from a pasture to the milking barn by two men on ATVs, one with a bouncy cattle dog at his side. All three herders were really good at their jobs, expertly zipping around the edges of the herd and hurrying the cows that lagged.

One of the men pulled up at a gate and opened it. As he did so, we caught each other's eye, so I waved and smiled. He turned off his ATV to hear what I had to say, and instantly I felt bad; I had just meant to greet him, not to get in the way of his work. I hastily called out, "Just saying hi!"

"No English. Muy poquito," he yelled back.

I was caught off guard for a moment, not having noticed that the men were Mexican. Then I managed to shout "¡Hola!"

"¡Hola!" he yelled, smiling.

Real cowboys. Cool.

I had had a good morning at the market. Everyone snapped up my Sungold tomatoes, and one woman even called the night before to reserve some vegetables. I had to harvest more so the table wouldn't look bare! I continued my streak of selling all the sorrel I brought. It is my personal goal to convert every resident of the Oconee County area to sorrel-eating...and then, in the spring, to purple-sprouting-broccoli-eating.

In some ways, as I've been told to expect, this week was completely different than last. Where previously I had sold lots of preserves but no baked goods, this time I sold few preserves and almost all my baked goods. The flapjacks sold out and will, I suspect, become a regular offering. People also bought slices of muscadine-apple pie, which is impressive to me because I charge rather a lot more than some of the other pie-makers. (I make deeper, wider pies with more expensive ingredients. I figure I've gotta get paid.)

Pie-makers proliferated this time. My newest colleagues in the trade are the preteen daughters of a well-known local African-American artist. The two girls grow their own sweet potatoes and make them into pie. They sold out by 11 a.m.! They make good pie, but what really makes me love having them around is that their table is festooned with a gigantic banner that says YOUNG FEMALE FARMERS. I like that a lot.

I also met two longtime vendors who hadn't been around the previous few weeks. One man sells chemical-free greens and eggs and gave me a ton of useful advice and encouragement. (This winter I aim to take the Georgia Department of Agriculture's egg grading and candling class so I can sell eggs. He made it sound pretty easy.) Another is a really witty Asian guy who sells stunning cut flowers and naturally grown vegetables. His shiny stack of bitter melons (I wonder if he sold any?) made me nostalgic for St. Paul, where the market is full of Hmong vendors with exotic backyard-grown wares.

I'm really enjoying the farmer's market. I've noticed--and the woman who runs it corroborates this--a sense of "ownership" among the patrons. They all seem to feel that it's their own little market, and they're proud of it. They like to get to know the vendors and are not shy about asking for what they want.

I plan on making an order-form-type thingie so that people can order holiday pies and fruitcakes from me. Until Saturday, it hadn't occurred to me that anyone would want fruitcake; after all, it has such an evil reputation. But fruitcake is a strong Southern tradition all the same, so I may have been off the mark. At any rate, when I described the homemade brandy-soaked fruit bombs (sans weird geleéd stuff) that I call fruitcake, the market manager told me to put her down for two. Who knew?

Thursday, October 05, 2006

While I'm handing out recipe accolades

Hats off to the current issue of Bust*, which contains a very easy and delicious recipe for homemade chai. It's basically a half-cup of good black tea and a lot of nice whole spices, simmered in 12 cups of water for half an hour. (This makes a concentrate, which you combine with milk and sugar as you need it.) I made it last night and drank a couple of cups while watching a movie.

The s.o. walked into the kitchen while the spiced tea was simmering. "It smells like Pier 1 in here," he remarked.

Yeah, but it's good stuff. What's left has been stored in an ex-vodka bottle in the fridge for future occasions. I am very pleased to have learned this new trick!

* By the way, I bought the magazine because it contained an article featuring several 30-something female veggie farmers in Providence. They're all kind of punk-rock and vintage-clothesy, but they are dead serious. They are raising awareness and working their tails off. The article makes the point that the average Rhode Island farmer is 58 years old and male. We need to grow more farmers!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006


The house smells wonderful because I'm making a batch of Nicola's Zesty Flapjacks from the River Cottage Family Cookbook. I thought twice about buying this book, because I don't have any children, don't plan to have any, and indeed, don't see children very often (although I do enjoy their company pretty well when they are around). But I was wise to ante up. For one thing, the book includes the clearest, most sensible recipe for a Victoria spongecake I've ever seen. And for another, it has these flapjacks.

Several British blogfriends of mine have extolled the virtues of flapjacks, initially confusing me because Americans use the word to refer to a type of fluffy pancake. I couldn't picture people tucking into a short stack with maple syrup at the local coffee shop in mid-afternoon (although, come to think of it, I've heard worse ideas). But it turns out British flapjacks are a kind of oatmeal bar cookie.

These particular flapjacks are full of orange and lemon juice and zest. The recipe calls for pine nuts, but I have taken the liberty of substituting our own backyard pecans. I've also switched out the golden syrup (expensive and hard to find here) in favor of tupelo honey. I may sell some of these at the farmer's market this weekend, but that'll mean making a second batch; I couldn't possibly part with so many of these.

In her indispensable book Fine Preserving, Catherine Plagemann writes, "Whenever I get a new cookbook, I consider myself lucky if even one or two new recipes happen to add something permanently to the routine of our lives." This is definitely my way of measuring a cookbook: Has it improved our quality of life?

I think it's safe to say that the new River Cottage book is earning its keep. Mmmmmm.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

News flash

Hooray--our first teeny li'l egg! We suspect a Partridge Rock is the "artist." This is very exciting!

What a weekend

Some days, the clear sunny sky and the cool breeze are just irresistible. And if those days happen to coincide with a weekend...well, then!

As you may infer from the photo, we went to a nearby county fair on Saturday. Not our own county, mind you--longtime 10 Signs aficionados will recall that the Greene County Fair is beyond pathetic. This was the Madison County Fair, a few minutes' drive to our north.

There was livestock: only beef cattle, but still extremely interesting and fun. We watched the 4-Hers preparing their cows for the show ring. They used blowers to fluff the animals' fur, then hairsprayed and backcombed the fur around the bovines' ankles to make them look pleasingly stout and fuzzy. At one point I saw a young lady walking a cow on a halter with a sort of chokechain. "Mooooooooooo!" complained the cow. "Hush!" the girl stage-whispered, giving the collar a little jerk. The cow hushed. It behaved exactly like a one-ton dog in obedience class.

In the exhibits building, I eyeballed all the contest winners and weighed my chances of earning a ribbon next year. Where could I make the best impression...knitting? Canned goods? There were no pies in evidence, but then again, one doesn't leave pies sitting out in an exhibit building. I made a mental note to ask the Lion's Club people before September 2007.

On our way to the midway, we passed a petting zoo where a gorgeous little pony was being raffled off. I entered not once, but three times. No, I didn't win. *sigh*

There was a booth where the World's Sketchiest Carnie was standing in a pile of wood shavings among scores of tiny adorable bunnies. In the center, wooden ducks bobbed in a kiddie pool. If you threw a ring and it landed around a duck's neck, you won a cage. And if you won a cage, you could--get this--purchase a bunny for a dollar. We watched several hapless parents burn through $15, even $20, buying rings for their children to throw. It was a lot harder than it looked, because the rings barely fit over the ducks' heads, and then only in one direction. I stifled my urge to demand that the s.o. win me a bunny cage.

I had a lemonade. We looked at all the fair food, but opted out. The s.o. and I made one more circuit of the midway, then left in favor of Carmine's in Comer, sharing a stromboli and a predictable case of heartburn.

Overall, the fair was fabulous. My whole weekend has been great, come to think of it.

Early Saturday I started my day at the Oconee Farmers Market, where I sold a whole lot of produce and preserves--although hardly any baked goods (there were too many people selling too much sweet stuff). Everyone there is so welcoming, and the customers are friendly and interested in where their food comes from. I am already planning for next weekend!

Today I have spent mostly in the garden, weeding, moving seedlings, and adding nutrients. I find myself stopping every once in a while to admire the sunny landscape and bask in the sun. I give damaged Sungold tomatoes to the chickens, and usually Our Little Penguin Friend (AKA the Light Brahma Bantam) darts in and runs off with them. The s.o. has turned last year's compost heap--finding gorgeous soil at the bottom, plus an adorable little brown snake.

I smell like a giant salmon because I've been fertilizing my vegetables with fish emulsion. There's no point complaining about the stink--it's unavoidable, and anyway, it makes the dogs all the more affectionate.

If only this weekend could go on forever...

Friday, September 29, 2006

More cheerfully

Here's the nice new Italian sausage recipe I've worked up. It's heavy on the fennel, just the way we like it.


2 1/2 lb. pork meat and fat
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 c. white wine
3 Tbs. finely grated Parmesan cheese
3 Tbs. fennel seed, lightly crushed
1 tsp. (or a little more, to taste) red pepper flakes
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp. salt

Grind the meat and fat coarsely, then add the remaining ingredients and work them through with your hands. Don't reduce it to mush, but do distribute the ingredients evenly.
Fry up a test patty. Taste and adjust seasonings. Fry up another test patty. Taste. Repeat as necessary.
Stuff into casings or freeze in bulk.


Remember how I finally defeated the squash bugs and squash vine borers? Well, now I have these.

*beats head against wall*

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

I like the cut of their jib

Anyone else want to join in?

Mountain vacation

North Georgia's mountains are hardly even mountains in the grand scheme of things. They are not the sort of mountains you hire a sherpa to navigate; rather, they are gentle, woodsy uprisings whose main effect is to create bendy, fun-to-drive roads and to make the air a little bit clearer so that you feel really good all of the sudden. They are peppered with horse-riding stables and river-tubing liveries and state parks. And, unfortunately, tourists--but that is to be expected, I guess.

The tourists are the reason J and I chose a nice quiet Monday to heed the call of the Georgia mountains. It is apple season, after all, and as we discovered last year, that in itself is reason enough to go to the town of Ellijay.

Last year we had a sudden bout of "English" weather on the day of our trip--which was actually rather refreshing, since it was warm and muggy back home. But this time we really lucked out: It was 75, breezy, and mostly sunny, with clouds so striking and unusual that I had to keep reminding myself to keep my eyes on the road.

Before lunchtime we were in good ol' Mack Aaron's Apple House, picking up half-bushel and peck bags of Mutsus and Stayman Winesaps and greedily purchasing multiple fried pies for later. Every apple we sampled was delicious, and I don't mean Red Delicious. I managed to get a sugar rush just from apples.

The only disappointment was the cider, which was insipid. I guess I shouldn't expect great things, since the varieties that make good eating are not the same ones that make good cider.

We visited most of the other apple houses along that stretch of Highway 52, and I managed to find some Cameos and Empires for my apple collection. Then it was time for lunch.

The Mexican place we'd enjoyed last year was closed for renovations, so we were forced to experiment with a little sandwich shop across the road. It was just, y'know, sandwiches, but we appreciated a note on the menu that said they tried to use local or organic produce whenever possible. And when we had finished our entrees, the friendly proprietor came around with the Most Gorgeous Banana Cake Of All Time, piled with great shiny heaps of sour cream frosting. We couldn't possibly have any, of course, since we had all those fried pies in the car. But I very nearly bought a slice to go, and now I kind of wish I had.

Antiquing was next on the itinerary. We didn't buy much, but we enjoyed it nonetheless.

And finally we headed home...except that we didn't. I got an idea in my head that I wanted to see downtown Dahlonega, so I took a turn off the main road. Quickly we realized we didn't want to go to Dahlonega after all, because it was 18 miles. But just as we were looking for a place to turn around, we saw a sign for Burt's Farm. "Pumpkins," it said.

That was an understatement. Our first eyeful was of wheelbarrows, hundreds of them, with a sign that said you weren't allowed to navigate one unless you were 15 or older. And then the pumpkins began, and continued as far as the eye could see. A good acre of them were the giant, prizewinning kind that aren't any good to eat. But plenty more were of the kind I prefer--the kind that are both beautiful and edible.

I came away with a Long Island Cheese, a Kuri, two Sweetie Pies, and a lovely blue-grey-green pumpkin whose name they told me, but which I promptly forgot and now can't find anywhere on the internet. It's similar to some of the Australian blue pumpkins, so I will treat it accordingly.

What was strange is how bright the place was. Technicolor. We walked around almost stunned by the combination of the clear air and the riotous hues. "The s.o. has to see this," I said. J echoed the sentiment regarding her husband.

So we are thinking: Another trip to the mountains in October? After all, we'll need Halloween pumpkins, and the Yates and Arkansas Black apples will be ripe...

Friday, September 22, 2006


At last I'm getting a decent harvest of summer squash! These are ready to eat, and there are more in the wings. Here's how I finally nailed it:

(1) Successive plantings until the crop happens to coincide with a natural dip in squash bug population (and an absence of squash vine borers).

(2) Planting squashes far away from one another, mixed in with other plants such as tomatoes and radishes.

(3) Patrolling the garden every single morning, while the insects are sluggish, picking the bugs off and dropping them into a jar of soapy water (this is also how I finally got ahead of the leaf-footed bugs that were blemishing the tomatoes).


I am taking a few things to the Oconee Farmer's Market in the morning, but these are not among them. They are ours, all ours. In fact, we already ate the zucchini, and it was delicious.

Thursday, September 21, 2006


Blogger throttled my last attempt to post, so I'm slapping this up quickly in hopes of outwitting it. Here, at least, is a photo of the contents of the gift bags the s.o. and I got at Stitch 'n' Pitch! What a fantastic experience.

Best part: Two elderly bearded gentleman a couple of rows behind us, knitting gorgeous stuff. One wore a t-shirt that said "Man enough to knit, strong enough to purl." The cameramen kept putting them up on the big screen (which, at Turner Field, is mightily big).

Second best part: A woman in the row in front of us cross-stitching a very complex and (admittedly) very beautiful science fiction motif. I have decided that sci-fi/fantasy cross-stitchers are the true badasses of the hobby world, blissfully double-geeking their way through life.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Linky linky

Here's a really inspiring and informative forum on how to change what's wrong with our food industry.

And, if you like, here's what I've just written for the Eat Local Challenge blog.

Also: My radicchio has sprouted! It is camera-defyingly tiny.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Time flies when you're having fun

How can One Local Summer be over so soon? Do it again next year, Liz. I'll be there with bells on.

I went to the DeKalb Farmer's Market today. It's so pleasurable to shop there--the foodstuffs are all meticulously labeled with their place of origin, and so many of them are southern! I bought a bunch of things: Georgia shrimp, Georgia whole wheat flour, Georgia muscadines, Georgia zipper peas. I am easily tempted.

Here are some more of the spoils:


Farmed rainbow trout - north Georgia (about 125 miles)


Pole beans - North Carolina (distance unknown)
Sungold tomatoes - our own (0 miles)
Vidalia onions - middle Georgia (about 125-150 miles)


Potatoes and sorrel - our own (0 miles)

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Up to no good, as usual

I've just received packages from two seed companies: Johnny's, and Gourmet Seed International. I guess that explains why I've been standing out in a steady rain with a trowel in my hand. I'm late planting some of my fall seeds. Again.

From Johnny's:

Oliver F1 hybrid brussels sprouts - This is what I was standing outside planting. I knew I was way, way late in getting them, so I purchased a super-early hybrid in hopes of ekeing out Christmas veggies. It won't work, of course--the cold will slow them down too fast and too early--but I think a few of them will stagger to maturity in the early spring, which is what happened this year.

Edonis F1 hybrid Charentais melon - For next spring. Supposed to be resistant to some of the various wilts and blights we get, which will make them an improvement over the plain Charentais melons we grew this year. I am trying Charentais again because, even though they performed poorly this year (due to several factors ranging from drought to poor placement), they were one of the few cucurbits that the squash bugs didn't care about. That in itself makes them SOLID GOLD, baby.

Tiptop F1 hybrid green acorn squash - Bought because I read somewhere that acorn squashes were remarkably tough in the face of squash bug attacks. Will find out if this is apocryphal next spring.

Stinging nettle - My importation of this annoying plant is final, resounding proof that watching the River Cottage shows over and over has warped my brain. I picture myself making nettle gnocchi just like Hugh. To doubters, I point to the fact that my Greek cookbook has several recipes that actually call for nettles.

Baby Pam pumpkin - Supposed to be the ultimate pie pumpkin. Say no more, eh? Also small and early, which may help me to harvest some before they all die from squash bugs and vine borers.

Estiva F1 hybrid tomato and Valley Girl F1 hybrid tomato - Both chosen for their potential as early-spring hoophouse tomatoes. Did I mention that we're going to try to start selling at the farmer's market? Oh, I didn't? Well, we are.

Tauro F1 hybrid radicchio - Absolutely have to attempt this gorgeous pastel-colored radicchio. Johnny's sent an entire page of literature on how to grow it. The text suggested starting them indoors and then transplanting them, so there are two little six-packs germinating in the kitchen as we speak. The late planting should be no problem because radicchio matures quickly and is not at all bothered by frost.

From Gourmet Seed:

Mr. Fothergill's Easy Grow Bean Collection - Four kinds of beans (one wax bush, one green bush, one green climbing, one purple climbing) for one low price. Couldn't resist. Like the tomatoes, some of these will be planted super-early in the hoophouse.

Parmex carrots - Our standard. Mustn't ever run out of these seeds.

Meraviglia delle 4 Stagioni lettuce - AKA Merveille des Quatre Saisons, but these are Bavicchi seeds, so it's all in Italian. I love Bavicchi seeds above all others, mostly (I admit) for the spectacularly pretty packets, but also for the broad selection of seeds that usually aren't available in the States. Some of the breeds don't do well here, but I get a lot of joy from trying them all. Some end up working beautifully. So anyway, I bought a packet of this gorgeous red-painted lettuce because it's just about time to plant lettuce here. Finally.