Thursday, August 31, 2006

OLS 10: Delicious antioxidant explosion

This week has been, predictably, turkeypalooza. From last week's roasted bird, we progressed to turkey, bacon, and peas in a cream sauce over pasta; then to turkey soup; and tomorrow we expect to thicken the remaining soup into a filling for turkey pot pie. There is also turkey lunchmeat and a giant baggie of assorted turkey bits in the freezer.

But I already posted leftovers once for One Local Summer. It would seem like a cop-out to do it again. So here's something completely new and, if I do say so myself, representative of the very best Georgia has to offer.

Earlier this year we froze a big batch of the blackberry barbecue sauce from this recipe. Putting it up beforehand makes cooking the ribs a snap. And today was cool and rainy--¡Hola, Ernesto!--so I didn't hesitate to bake a giant rack of ribs from our Dyal Farms half-pig.

Meanwhile, I boiled a few cobs of corn that the s.o. froze during July while I was traveling. And we topped off the meal with the year's first luscious scuppernong grape pie. (The secret I learned today: Put foil all around the edges of the pie and bake it way longer than you think you need to. Finally the grape hulls will soften. And then--bliss.)

I am really proud of this week's meal. I think it's some of my best work! (The photos are uninspired. But can't you just smell the pork ribs?)

Here's where it all came from.

Blackberries - our own
Pork ribs - Dyal Farms, Cobbtown, Ga. (132 mi.)
Corn on the cob - our own
Scuppernong grapes - Paulk Vineyards, Wray, Ga. (213 mi.)
Southern Biscuit Flour - Newton, N.C. (245 mi.)

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Play ball (of yarn)!

We have just purchased a pair of tickets for this! Sometimes it's as if the world is engineered specifically for my enjoyment.

Sunday, August 27, 2006


We had guests for dinner today (the s.o.'s dad and brother), so it is not surprising that I totally forgot to take pictures of this week's One Local Summer meal.

So, um, this is what it looked like afterward.

Just about everything was our own: turkey, cucumbers, potatoes, golden beets, purslane, peas, bacon. The beer batter bread was homemade, but the ingredients weren't local.

By the way, 10Signs turkey fans--I don't know how or why, but that turkey was juicy. And it will keep feeding us for a long time to come. All meat, very little fat.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Kudzu blossom jelly

I have had, I admit, an uneasy relationship with kudzu. On one hand, I think the invasive Japanese vine has given the South a particularly haunting, Gothic appearance that, in some ways, has come to define the region. It is undeniably beautiful.

On the other hand, when we bought our property, kudzu had so completely taken it over that we had to hire a man with a front-loader to scrape it off (to the tune of several acres) and burn it. I will always remember that night in December 2002. It was incredibly cold for Georgia--maybe 7 degrees, or 11--and before attending the town Christmas party, I styled my hair by candlelight in the unfinished bathroom, with my breath visible before me. I walked outside and saw our yard red-embered in the frost and silence.

But the next year I discovered something no one had ever told me. In August, the remaining kudzu--hanging like a menace in the trees along the property line--bloomed. It bloomed purple. It bloomed with a scent that was like an explosion of grapes and pheromones.

Ever since then, even as we vigilantly protect our yard from the creeping vines, we look forward to the blossoming. You smell it before you see it. One day, usually a sunny day after a hard rain, you walk out the back door and the odor rushes over you like a sultry, delicious torrent.

This year, I determined to bottle it.

The jelly recipe in the link is phenomenally easy; I think it took me a total of half an hour, not including the time I spent tugging on tree limbs with a shepherd's crook to gather the blossoms. At first it seems as though it will be disappointing. The blossom "tea" is brownish and doesn't smell like the smell. But then when the lemon juice, pectin and sugar are added, it becomes brilliantly plum-red and begins to exude sexiness.

I'm stunned by the result. The jelly's flavor is a tiny bit vegetal, a little floral, and overwhelmingly Concord-grapey, just like the scent of the flowers. It is possibly the best jelly on earth. Why isn't it better known? Why haven't people declared it a local delicacy to be enjoyed on an international scale, like caviar or foie gras?

If you have any way at all of getting hold of kudzu blossoms, I implore you to try it.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Sin noticias de Jamie

I'm so sorry there's no new content. I have a lot of work this week, plus this evening we slaughtered our two broad-breasted turkeys...which means that now, having finished, I am practically catatonic.

Those birds are big. I'll tell you how big after I weigh them.

More soon, really.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Use the Force

I just made a half-sized peach pie without consulting any recipes. Look, ma, no hands!

Sunday, August 20, 2006

The makings of a summer salad

She can try shade cloth; she can buy bolt-resistant varieties. She can water to her heart's content. But eventually the hapless Yankee transplant comes to understand that lettuces (and most other tender salad greens, for that matter) simply cannot be grown in the summer in Georgia. If she did not know better, she would say that they appear to spring from the ground already bitter and bolted.

So she learns, instead, what does work.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

No, thanks

Mmm, delicious--yet another Frankenfoodish way for the food distribution industry to prolong the saleability of old, rank meat.

Or maybe I'm just suspicious because I've had to throw out three shrink-wrapped chickens (organic ones, even) in the past year because they were rotten before their sell-by date. The producers would have hidden or mitigated the decay if they could've. And we would have eaten it, never suspecting that it had sat too long, been kept too warm, or been dropped on the filthy floor.

Bacteria-eating viruses sound as though they might make food safer and potentially save lives, but we all know processors will use the new technology to make up for even more sloppiness and corner-cutting in their meat production. And there's no way bacteriophages can eat all the types of sickness-causing bacteria that grow on rotten meat. If they were broad-spectrum enough to do that, they'd be dangerous for us to consume.

And people wonder why we are raising our own poultry!

Thursday, August 17, 2006

On the bright side

I may be limping and itching, but there is some cause for celebration chez 10Signs. We have our new DSL service, and it downloads at about 2550 kbps--nearly twice as fast as our cable internet connection did. Sweet. Also, I had a little trouble with the installation, so I called customer support and they helped me. Lap of luxury.

Test your internet connection speed here. Or, if you're me, test it several times, a little obsessively.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Ow ow ow

Today, while watering the garden at dusk, I:

(1) Picked up a sprinkler to move it, not realizing until too late that it had been sitting in a fire ant hill;
(2) Scrambled to brush all the ants off, getting bitten repeatedly between my fingers;
(3) Discovered that I had been standing in additional ants, which were now biting my feet inside my garden clogs;
(4) Killed every ant I could find on my body;
(5) Ran to go get the other sprinkler and fell into a post hole;
(6) Ascertained that while my ankle was twisted badly, it wasn't broken;
(7) Struggled to my feet and hobbled to the second sprinkler;
(8) Picked it up and realized that it, too, was covered in fire ants;

All the parts of me that aren't coated with Benadryl gel are covered in ice packs. I've had better evenings.

OLS 8: Marx Bros. version

It's One Local Summer time again. I had thought this week's entry might be roast turkey, but it's looking as though I won't get a chance to slaughter a turkey before the weekend. And then it'll have to rest for a couple of days before I roast it. So maybe next week!

So here, instead, is something that should look slightly familiar. This hearty pot of duck soup is the third meal we've gotten from the duck we roasted last week. (The other was duck and gravy with ciabatta bread.) The soup is full of our homegrown vegetables and herbs, and is a perfect venue for our creamy white potatoes, which are practically melting into the broth.

We wrapped up the meal with whole wheat blueberry cornmeal cake--something I adapted from a recipe in Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.


Duck - our own (0 miles)
Vidalia onion - south Georgia (about 150 miles)
Garlic - either ours (0 miles) or a friend's (25 miles), I can't remember which
Carrots, potatoes, green and wax beans, parsley, and oregano - our own (0 miles)
Salt, pepper, sherry, and a handful of orzo - not local

Blueberries - Watkinsville, Ga. (30 miles)
Red Mule Cornmeal - Athens, Ga. (35 miles)
Logan Turnpike Mill whole wheat flour - Blairsville, Ga. (125 miles)
Most other ingredients (eggs, sugar, etc.) from various locations in Florida and North Carolina

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

A break in the weather

We had cool weather over the weekend. Not just less hot, mind you, but crisp--the kind of weather that makes you want to drink dark beer and build bonfires. Yesterday got a little muggy again, but today dawned foggy and cool.

I took the opportunity to continue doing what I'd started over the weekend: dragging the garden back from its annual precipice. Every July, the heat overcomes me and I find myself unable to care for the garden. I can't bear to look at it. And it's depressing, anyway--full of insects and rot. So it is abandoned for weeks and it goes straight to shit, brimming with weeds and grasshoppers and squashed tomatillos. And I feel inadequate and fall into a surly mood.

But now the worst has passed, and I have been pulling weeds and discarding spent plants. The s.o. helped me on Friday: he wrestled out all the cornstalks and cast them onto the compost heap. The shape of the garden is re-emerging from the jungly tangle. And because it is now August 15, there is something more encouraging and fun to do. It is time for the first round of fall planting.

I am indulging myself, putting in too much of everything. There is one final planting of summery zucchini and yellow crookneck squash. There are three kinds of beet seeds, three breeds of cabbages, two varieties of turnips. There is lacinato kale, purple sprouting broccoli, collards, parsnips, kohlrabi.

I stopped work for lunch and came inside to wash my hands. As I did so, the rain began. Perfect.

Note to self: I need to go to the feed & seed so I can buy cauliflower plants and cilantro seeds. Plus, we are out of poultry feed...again.

Speaking of poultry, we moved the ducks to more spacious accommodations yesterday and I learned the definitive answer to my question: How many hens remain? The answer (learned by listening to quacks versus wheezes as we picked up the ducks) is two. One of the Rouens is a hen, and so is the odd duck that looks like a Buff but has a puffy crest on its head. So it's settled, then--some of our future generations of ducks are going to be Rouens, as planned, and the others are going to be a little bizarre-looking.

We also checked in on our bees Sunday evening. As usual, I forgot to bring the camera, which is just as well because it is always all I can do to keep the smoker lit. The bees are succeeding beyond our wildest expectations. They have almost filled a second hive body, and we may actually get some honey this year! Which reminds me, I keep forgetting to order a queen excluder (a screen that lets workers through, but not the queen, so the queen cannot lay eggs in the top storey of your hive, and therefore it is all honey and no brood). I had better get on the phone and do that.

Wedding feast

"The table had been set up in the cart shed. On it were four sirloin roasts, six chicken fricassees, a veal casserole, three legs of mutton and, in the center, a beautiful roast suckling pig flanked by four large sausages made of chitterlings and sorrel. At the corners stood decanters of brandy. The cider was foaming up around the corks and every glass had been filled to the brim with wine. Big dishes of yellow custard, on whose smooth surface the newlyweds' initials had been inscribed in arabesques of sugar-coated almonds, quivered whenever the table was given the slightest knock. The pies and nougat had been ordered from a confectioner in Yvetot. Since he had just opened up shop in the district he had done his best to make a good impression, and when it was time for dessert he personally carried in a wedding cake which brought forth a chorus of exclamations. Its base was a square of blue cardboard representing a temple with porticos and colonnades, adorned on all sides with stucco statuettes standing in niches studded with gilded paper stars. The second tier consisted of a fortified castle tower made of spongecake, surrounded by smaller fortifications of angelica, almonds, raisins and sections of orange. And finally, on the top layer, which was a green meadow with rocks, jelly lakes and hazelnut-shell boats, a little cupid was swinging in a chocolate swing whose two uprights were tipped with real rosebuds."

--Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary

Friday, August 11, 2006

OLS 7: Gratitude

As of yesterday morning, the yard was a little bit quieter. We slaughtered our two female Pekin ducks--one for us, and one for a friend. (The third Pekin, a drake, is being saved for a friend who isn't quite ready yet.)

Remember how our turkey last Thanksgiving was the Best Ever? Ditto for our home-raised duck. A little meatier than a store-bought one, and much more tender and juicy. Sublime flavor. I followed Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's advice and started it at 450ºF for 20 minutes, then (for a 3-lb. duck) continued roasting it, basting occasionally, an hour and 20 minutes more at 350º.

I don't want to sound new-agey or to horn in on other people's cultural traditions, but I've always liked the Native American idea of thanking the animal who becomes your dinner. To eat an animal is not something to be taken lightly. And maybe for that reason, I felt today that it was important to roast this duck the very, very best I could, because wouldn't it be a colossal waste if it wasn't perfect?

I do feel as though I did my best. And it was not a waste. It brought us a lot of joy, and for that I am truly grateful.

The duck was served with our own potatoes, carrots, and parsley root. (The parsley root, a German type of parsley that is grown specifically for its root, tastes a lot like celeriac--a great discovery, especially since our celeriac doesn't appear to be doing that well.) We finished the meal with peach cobbler made from juicy, flavorful Georgia peaches (from Big 6 Farm, Fort Valley, Ga., 103 miles) and Southern Biscuit flour (from Midstate Mills, Inc., Newton, N.C., 245 miles).

Thursday, August 10, 2006


Has anyone ever heard of a lilac reblooming, albeit thinly, in August? I nearly tripped over my own feet when I saw it.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006


It's easy to take pictures of turkeys. They see you coming and they all crowd up close, curious, eyeing you. They want to know: Are you bringing us food? (No, you already have a full feeder.) Water? (Nope, the waterer's full, too.) Shiny rivets on your clothes? (Yes, but don't even think about pecking at them! Hey! Back off, buddy!)

Now, taking good pictures of turkeys--well, that's another thing entirely, a thing that I'm not sure I will ever figure out.

This morning I was feeding the ducks when an ambulance wailed past. The ducks waddled and flapped at top speed into their night pen, and then when that failed to accomplish anything, they waddled back out again. The turkeys froze, stared, and then in unison, called out


I love that about turkeys. Gobbling is their version of barking.

Then I saw something I haven't seen before in our ten-week-old turks: One of the Bourbon Reds slowly, ostentatiously puffed up its body, fanned out its tail, and started strutting. I watched, transfixed. And then our meek little Blue Slate turkey (the s.o.'s sentimental favorite) walked up and pecked the offending Bourbon Red on the ass. The nail that sticks up will be hammered down!

We seem to have established an uneasy truce with the neighborhood dogs and cats. The turkeys and the ducks are protected by our portable electric fence--you know, the one the sheep jumped over. The ducks run loose within the fence, since they can't fly. The turkeys can fly, very much so, so they are confined to the turkey tractor, which is sort of like a gigantic parrot cage. It allows them to live three-dimensionally, roosting way up high. It's pretty big, but not as huge as we'd like it to be; there was a limit to how large it could be built and still be portable (the s.o. and I can just barely drag it by attaching straps to its eye-bolts). But the situation will be ameliorated soon. For one thing, the two big, heavy broad-breasted bronzes are due for slaughter, and that'll free up about 50 percent more space. For another, the s.o. plans to make a giant net-topped playpen for them.

It's a tricky thing, this free-ranging business. We'd like to let the turkeys really roam around, but that would involve clipping their wings, and they are creatures who love to fly and roost. Our Storey's Guide says when you clip turkeys' wings, there's a risk of them injuring themselves trying to fly; they simply won't accept that they can't do it.

Of course, we could really let them roam. But then we'd never be able to lay hands on them again, because they'd be up in a tree somewhere. Maybe in the National Forest. Probably in Crazy Neighbor Ed's yard. So barring that, we are doing the best we can do.

Anyway, I was talking about the electric fence. We put it around the turkeys and ducks when I got tired of being awakened at 4 AM by packs of feral dogs. Now we have no problems. The dogs figured out once and for all that they couldn't get into the henhouse. And early one morning we heard a distinct, satisfying yelp! as a neighborhood dog learned about the miracle of electricity. Since then, nothing.

Meanwhile, we solved the chicken problem by learning the dogs' schedule. Our neighbor Eddie Lee (a completely different person from CNE--in fact, someone we like very much) told us that he saw a pack of dogs return to our yard at about 8:30 or 9:00 every morning. They kept trying to get into the chicken-wire run, and eventually they would surely succeed. So I simply started waiting until 9:30 to let the chickens out. Again, so far it has worked.

Not all dogs are created equal. Silver (no feral chicken-hunting mutt!) is so good that she is allowed to be my Partner In Chores. She and I have developed a little chicken-releasing ritual. I take her out to the chicken area and put her in a down-stay. Then I go inside the henhouse and open up the door to the run. All the chickens flap and squawk and cock-a-doodle out into the sunlight, and Silver watches, completely fascinated. Of course, she didn't hold her down-stay very well the first few times, but soon she learned that if she was good, she could watch Chicken TV for as long as she liked.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Works in progress

Time for a knitting post, I guess; In the earlier part of the summer, I allowed myself a brief lull in yarn-wrangling activity, but now I seem to have gotten back in gear.

Actually, I wasn't completely slack. I did knit my mother a pair of yoga socks on and off from May to early July. But other than that, I've been more or less idle. Maybe it's the hot weather. Nothing appeals like wool when it's 95 degrees out, eh?

What got me going again was a conversation with my cousin Beth (the mother of my new niece Liadan). I had a moment of inspiration and asked her what size Lia would be by Christmas. And then I promised to knit the baby a sweater...which is kind of ballsy when you consider that I haven't even finished a dog sweater yet.

Luckily, Main Street Yarns & Fibers stepped into the knowledge gap and offered a baby sweater class. I signed up and no one else did--and would you believe they didn't cancel the class! So I've essentially stumbled into a series of private lessons. Perfect.

The first class was yesterday. We're making this sweater from Elizabeth Zimmermann's Knitter's Almanac, a book so astoundingly funny, useful, and ultraliterate that I would have paid the class fee just for the privilege of knowing about it.

You can see my progress so far in the photo. It's the mauve thing. The yarn is Silky Wool (why don't they name their colors? the number "12" really doesn't capture it), and what you're looking at is the yoke. Note the buttonholes at each end. My instructor very wisely suggested that I mirror-image the buttonholes because it makes it much easier to sew on the buttons on straight. I like the way she thinks! This is actually the second iteration. I had to frog my first attempt because in an increase row I somehow created three gaping holes. (For the curious knitters reading this, my guess is that I picked up the wrong piece of yarn once in a while when I was doing "make ones." But I'm all better now.) I managed to fix two of them--maybe even sort of correctly--but the third one was hopeless. Much better to start over and be really satisfied with the results.

And of course the grey things in the photo are the pair of socks I have been knitting...forever...for the s.o. I finally finished the first one last night. To avoid Single Sock Syndrome, I then proceeded to cast on for the second. I've already warned the s.o. not to expect any future plain grey socks from me. They turn out lovely, but they're simply too boring to knit. Future socks will have stripes, argyles, or stitch patterns. Anything to break up the tedium.

I'm so glad to be knitting again. Maybe my latent northernness is kicking in, telling me that sweater weather will be on its way soon! That's not actually true, but whatever works...

Friday, August 04, 2006

Weather report sticker shock

Yesterday I casually mentioned to some friends that Georgia really hadn't had it so bad, weather-wise, compared to a lot of other areas of the country.

Hi. My name is Jamie, and I tempt fate.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Check it out

I've just written a new post on the Eat Local Challenge site. It's about sexiness, sort of, so you'll want to read it.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

OLS 6: Tiny and tasty

In this, the sixth week of One Local Summer, we partook of something that's a specialty around these parts: quail. Quail hunting is practically a religion in central Georgia. What we ate tonight was farmed; I suspect the producer supplies coveys of live quail for Dick Cheney-style shooting expeditions.

I think this meal might be our local-est ever. See what you think:

Quail (Greensboro, Ga.) - 13 miles
Bacon grease - see below

White potatoes - 0 miles
Golden beets - 0 miles
Purslane - 0 miles
Parsley - 0 miles
Bacon (our own, made from a pig raised in Cobbtown, Ga.) - 132 miles
Duke's mayonnaise (Greenville, S.C.) - 137 miles
Sour cream, horseradish*, salt, pepper, and rice vinegar - not local

Red Brick Summer Hefeweizen (Atlanta, Ga.) - 80 miles

* One day, we hope to make our own prepared horseradish from scratch. But our plants are just yearlings now, so it'll have to wait.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Nothing to say

So I'll let a couple of the Buff Orpington ladies keep an eye on things while I regroup.