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 - JalapeƱo 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!