Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas dinner

What did you have for your holiday celebrations? We had an extremely local dinner:

Local goat cheese mixed with local raw cream and herbs
Bagel chips

Terrine of goose giblets (from our own goose, with local sausage and our own fresh sage)
Homemade Major Grey's chutney

Roasted goose breast (see above)
Red wine gravy

Parsnips, carrots, potatoes, and turnips roasted in goose fat (the carrots and turnips were our own)

Spinach salad with carrots, green onions, and fennel (100% ours!)

Buttered cooked cabbage (also ours!)

Homemade applesauce (not local--Georgia apples were very hard to come by this year)

Mini mince pies made with homemade pear mincemeat
Whipped local raw cream

Steamed date pudding
Brandied hard sauce

So delicious--and shared with good friends. Happy holidays, everyone!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Christmas is dead

The goose, not the holiday.

Am I a wuss for deciding not to be present?

Are we wusses for being so daunted by the prospect of wrestling a large, mean goose for its very life that we had our friend shoot it with a shotgun?

I am told I have a monstrous plucking job in front of me...but it's a chilly day, so we'll let the weather keep our goose cold for us while we have a cozy, unrelated dinner. I'll deal with the pre-holiday carcass-wrangling this evening.

Thursday, December 13, 2007


Hi everyone! I haven't felt very writerly lately, and I've been awfully busy--in a fun way, mostly. But it has been called to my attention that I am neglecting my blog. I guess this is probably not the first time someone's blog has suffered as a result of the holiday season. And it is probably not the first time it has happened as a result of someone's Ravelry invitation coming through...or of some well-intentioned person introducing her to Scrabulous.

Anyway, things have been pretty good. The s.o. put up his lights again, only gloriously more so. If anyone in town was in doubt about the location of our house, they shouldn't be now, since they can see it all the way from the crossroads.

We are ranging our three turkeys with the waterfowl. It's working out great, although Amelia* the Royal Palm turkey is a smart aleck.

I made my first traditional English pudding out of local, grass-fed beef suet. This one is apple with orange and ginger. It's fabulous, and you can find the recipe in Sophie Grigson's Country Kitchen.

I am going to Ohio from Saturday through Wednesday to visit family, so cross your fingers for mild weather! It'll be hard to leave the 75-and-sunny weather we've had here.


* According to the s.o.: "Because she flies, and one day we're not gonna be able to find her ass."

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Hot damn

The new Knitty is really above and beyond the call of duty, isn't it? I want it all. And I think I'm going to use those laughing carrots to make something truly disturbing.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


As many of you know, after our recent bear attack we were left with four turkeys: two toms and two hens. Three or more toms can live together in perfect harmony. Unfortunately, two toms will often fight to the death.

So we were left with a very unsatisfactory situation. Our new pet, Lucky, roamed free among the ducks and geese. His somewhat chewed-upon counterpart, UnLucky, was stuck in the infirmary with the two hens. Lucky could tell they were all in there, and developed a poignant habit of standing at the top of the stairs with his head cocked against the door. The turkeys were healing up nicely, but they were not happy.

But the situation has been resolved! My friend L2's father, who lives about an hour away on a lovely woodsy piece of land, keeps chickens and absolutely dotes on them. He volunteered to take UnLucky in--and as an added bonus, he decided to adopt a first-year Langshan rooster that had been destined for the stockpot.

Today L2 and I drove the two boys to their new abode. They're being kept together in a fenced-off part of the chicken pen until they learn where home is. Then, once they get their bearings, they'll be free to mix with the other birds and to range freely during the day.

We were a little nervous about keeping the two birds together, because until now they've only known each other through a fence. But when we put them in the pen, absolutely nothing happened. They pecked at some scratch grain together, and L2's dad fed them some grapes.

These are two lucky, lucky birds. They'll be treated better than most people's kids, I bet. In fact, they're so lucky that UnLucky has been renamed Tom, and the previously unnamed rooster now goes by the name Leroy.

Meanwhile, back at home, the hen turkeys have been relocated to an outdoor pen where they can socialize through the fences, but they're kept safe from Lucky's amorous advances and the geese's pinching bills. This is their first night back out in the world, and they seem to be pleased.

I love it when things turn out so well for everyone involved!

Monday, November 26, 2007


Finally, finally, finally, we got some rain today. Real rain. I think we got more than most areas of the state, because the meteorologists on the news were all talking about how this storm system failed to live up to its potential.

Isn't it amazing how quickly plants respond to the first few drops of rain? The lawn greens instantly, and everything seems to put on new growth within minutes. The spinach and arugula I planted near the end of October are starting to look like rows of baby vegetables instead of rows of little green specks.

The weather today was not what it appeared to be. I walked outside expecting a chilly blast, and was greeted instead by a soft puff of warm, humid, rain-scented air. It was 65 degrees, and so pleasant that I lingered unnecessarily in the garden, picking played-out vegetables and feeding them to the eager chickens.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

What would you do?

See this stripey sock? I've been working on it since February. Not really, of course; for several months during the gardening season, I ignored it. In fact, the only time I touched it between February and now was when I took it to Stitch 'n' Pitch at Turner Field.

Nevertheless, I am finally approaching the end of Sock #1. Unfortunately, the set of size 3 Addi Turbos that's in the sock is the exact same one I need to swatch for my Neiman sweater. I have the yarn for the sweater in a bag next to the sofa, and I can't wait to start it. Meanwhile, I'm kind of bored of the socks--although I will admit I would love to be wearing them right now!

Do I:

(a) Grind my way through the stripey socks before starting my sweater?

(b) Put the sock on a stitch holder and start swatching the sweater right away?

(c) Buy another circular needle, because it's an awfully useful size and you can never have too many Addi Turbos?

(d) Do something else I haven't figured out yet?

Friday, November 23, 2007


This is what I now see when I look upward in my office:

Kind of "tropical getaway," isn't it? The wallpaper in the frames is from the dining room of my grandparents' house. I stripped it off and saved it when we sold the property.

The Christmas lights are there just because I like Christmas lights. They have nostalgic holiday associations, certainly, but they also remind me of the sort of funky little outdoor eating places I love best--Shady Grove in Austin, Texas, comes to mind.

I don't know if it'll improve my ability to work, but it certainly looks good to me.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Good riddance to a bad idea

From the Nov. 21 issue of the Georgia Department of Agriculture's Farmers and Consumers Market Bulletin:

Commissioner of Agriculture Tommy Irvin has announced that he is dropping the proposal to add dye to raw milk sold as pet food.
The addition of dye was proposed as a possible amendment to the rules relating to Georgia Feed Laws and was intended to prevent any confusion between milk sold for human consumption with that sold for animal consumption.
"There is overwhelming consensus that labeling will be sufficient for consumers to tell the difference between the two kinds of milk," Irvin said.
"We will delete the dye proposal and concentrate on labeling. Everyone seems to support having clear, recognizable labeling. We will re-publish the proposed rule changes and hold another hearing in order to receive public comments."
A pre-hearing on the proposed rule changes was held November 2 at the State Farmers Market in Atlanta. Of the 160–170 people attending, approximately 50 provided comments with all speaking against the addition of the dye.

Well, yeah. I have two comments regarding dye in raw milk sold as pet food.

(1) If I wanted artificial dyes in my pets' food, I'd feed them the junk they sell in giant bags at the grocery store. Note that I do not.

(2) If I had to drink purple or green milk in order to express my utter disdain for Tommy Irvin's ill-considered opinions, I'd probably put my food-purist ways aside and guzzle. Luckily, I can just get raw milk from South Carolina. It's even labeled for human consumption.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Writer's block

Who has had it? And what did you do about it?

I'm not talking about problems with blog writing. I'm talking about the kind of thing that can really mess with one's professional life as a writer. The kind of thing that can make the mind go blank and the deadlines go flying by.

At first I thought I was experiencing regular procrastination issues. But no--it's a whole different beast that's far more insidious. We suspect my new office space may be part of the problem. We describe it as having a unique, newly discovered property called "f*ck shui."

Luckily, I think I may be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. A change of scenery has been helpful. We are having gorgeous 70-degree sunny weather (the positive aspect of the drought!), and I spent several hours working on my laptop outdoors yesterday. But what happens when it inevitably gets cold again? I can work on the sofa, but that puts me in the middle of everyday life, with TV and dogs and who knows what-all.

Your thoughts? Back in grad school I used to write in coffee shops, but now that we live in the country, that's an awfully long way to go to bang out a few paragraphs.

Friday, November 16, 2007

This is getting ridiculous

I used to wonder if our bird-of-prey netting was really necessary. Then there was the Cooper's Hawk incident in the quail pen, which was pretty convincing.

But surely the chickens didn't really need netting overhead? Wrong again. This morning I spent several minutes staring in the eyes of this creature, which had perched on the edge of Chicken Run #2b. It was not alarmed by me. It observed me.

I might not have even noticed the owl if it hadn't been for two crows, which were heckling it loudly, occasionally swooping down from a nearby pine tree. I wonder if it had caught its feet in the netting? Well, it must have resolved the problem, because after staring into my eyes for several minutes, it unfurled its wings and flapped slowly into the woods.

Off you go, buddy. You are magnificent, but you are not welcome here.

I swear I need to start carrying a camera at all times.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Temporarily, the ground doesn't go "puff" when you step on it

We had a couple of hours of steady rain during the night. The air smells wonderful, and the red choy sum I'm taking to market today will be unexpectedly crisp. Now, however, we are experiencing such powerful gusting winds that I expect the soil to be turned back into dust within a day.

Apparently these same winds caused heavy damage and injuries in Tennessee. And also, there's no more rain in this week's forecast, which is a problem because we need the equivalent of about five years of English weather to even begin to get us out of the mess we're in. If I were our governor, I'd keep those facts in mind before giving God too much direct responsibility for this weather system.

I sound so cynical--sorry! Hearts, bunnies, unicorns, fuzzy yellow chicks.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Predator parade

Listen, world. Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom was one of my favorite shows when I was young, but I never suspected I would actually have to live it. I want out.

As I was putting the large poultries up for the night, I heard repeated "flushing" in the quail pen. I marched over to find out what was the matter and discovered that a small hawk had found its way into the pen, but couldn't find its way back out again. Somewhat ironically, it kept bouncing off the inside of the anti-bird-of-prey netting.

I tried stretching the netting up to let the hawk out, but of course it wanted nothing to do with me. So instead I had to go inside, leave the door open, and try to chase the hawk out. This was much more difficult than it sounds. Fortunately the quail were trying their hardest to be invisible, so they didn't all rush out the door. But instead of flying away, the hawk kept crouching down, wings spread, and trying to attack my feet. It watched me, well, like a hawk (to steal a joke from the late Douglas Adams). It did not want to go anywhere that I wanted it to go.

Eventually I got my way, locked the pen door, and disposed of the one quail that the hawk had been in the middle of eating. Gah. Poor little quail.

And now I must address the question that has been plaguing Stew since she began reading this entry: What kind of hawk was it? Surely I can answer the question, having looked at it at extremely close range for more than five minutes?

No. Not at all. Why? Because it was an immature hawk, and ALL IMMATURE HAWKS LOOK ABSOLUTELY FREAKING IDENTICAL. They have brown backs and buff chests with brown speckles and stripes. They are the size of an especially muscular raven. So I'm frustrated and sorry, dear Stew. All we have to go on is the fact that it was eating a small bird, which maybe/probably/possibly puts it in the accipiter family.

I am hoping that the hawk had a negative enough experience that it will avoid our quail pen in the future. But we'll have to take a good look at that netting in the morning.


Either the geese have been playing with door latches again, or Lucky decided he needed to find himself a new flock.

I know turkeys and chickens are not supposed to share the same ground because of certain diseases, but there's no harm in a turkey ranging with ducks and geese, is there? They seem to be getting along fine.

Remember back in the spring, when the turkey poults thought they were goslings and the goslings thought the turkey poults were tiny geese? I wonder if they remember each other.

Oh dear

Does anyone want a (now perfectly healthy) tom turkey with a partly-bitten-off tail? As a pet, I mean?

We're having the same problem we had last year--that when you get down to only two tom turkeys, they want to fight each other nonstop. We can't bear to kill the one we rescued from the woods, so we are looking for a good home for him.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Turkey update

It's too early to tell for sure, but it looks as if Blue (the s.o.'s favorite hen) may have rounded the corner. She is up and walking, as opposed to down and sleeping.

Unfortunately, the Bourbon Red hen that the neighbor found walking in the road took a turn for the worse. We had to put her down this afternoon because she had developed gangrene in several areas...which was, I'm sure you can imagine, one of the worst things I've ever seen.

For the record

First frost this morning! It's probably only enough to kill the basil and not much else, but there is a definite sheen of icy crystals on the grass.


I was wrong! The basil, okra, sweet potatoes, peppers, eggplant, and tomatoes are all done for the year. The s.o. has gathered the remaining green tomatoes, and I'm planning to go dig all the sweet potatoes that are still in the ground.

It's strange how different every gardening season is. Last year, you may remember, we were fighting the first frosts tooth and nail, covering tomato plants with sheets, etc. This year we (and our garden) are ready for the change. Onward and winterward.

Monday, November 05, 2007


We didn't hear a thing during the night. The dogs didn't bark. The geese didn't honk. But this was what I saw when I stepped outside Sunday morning:

Total and complete catastrophe. The PVC turkey pen was smashed--the pipes weren't disconnected, they were splintered. Something even pushed its body straight through the chicken wire. And somehow, something popped the door latch on the wooden pen and got into it, too.

At first it didn't sink in, because it was too terrible to contemplate. Four turkeys missing, presumed dragged away and eaten. A tom dead in the pen. Four birds mauled so badly--wings broken, lungs full of fluid, tails torn off, chest muscles exposed--that they had to be put down. Two hens traumatized but mobile, one staggering like a drunkard and one with flaps of skin open on her back.

And, miraculously, one tom with a bloodied face, standing in the middle of the yard. He warbled quietly and took cautious steps toward me. I went to get some scratch grain and led him into the fallow section of the garden.

We don't know if it was stray dogs or coyotes. There are both in the neighborhood. We're furious, made even more furious by the fact that we have no one specific to be angry at. We called animal control, as if that'll do any good. (They've ignored us before, and they'll probably ignore us again.)

I went to L2's to borrow some extra electric fence wire, and I ended up sobbing on her shoulder. She cried too. She was our poultry watcher when we were on vacation, and she had taken a special shine to our turkeys.

Turkeys are so sweet and guileless and friendly, and we are supposed to be protecting them from things like this. But we had tractored turkeys for two years with no incidents--not even any threats. This came out of nowhere, and we can hardly believe how complete the devastation is.

Now everyone is behind a double perimeter of electric fencing. We still can't sleep, but at least it will help deter a second visit.

The tom has been named Lucky and will be a pet. We feel that somehow it would be wrong to eat him for Thanksgiving dinner after all he's been through. He seems to understand that we are the good guys, and he comes to the fence and calls for us when we are near the garden.

Everyone please cross your fingers for the two hens--terramycin may help, but then again, it may not.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Bie zoukai

That's Chinese for "don't leave," and it represents one of the most important, yet least talked about, aspects of raising livestock.

When you hear zany anecdotes about the difficulties of animal husbandry, they usually center around one thing: catching animals that have somehow worked their way out of the enclosure you keep them in.* There are sayings that go along with this: "Any fence that won't hold water won't hold a pig," farmers warn. Doing too little too late is described as "shutting the barn door after the horse is out."

Longtime readers will remember that we once acquired a pair of skittish Barbados ewes that got spooked by a vet's visit, leapt over our fence, and disappeared into the woods, never to be seen again. If we had had them longer, they might have developed a homing instinct...or maybe not. All we can tell you for sure is that they were extremely shy and fleet of foot.

What animal-care books rarely tell you is that there are some animals that are much easier to contain than others. There are two aspects of animal temperament that are of import: (1) being easily caught, and (2) not wanting to leave in the first place.

Chickens and turkeys possess the latter quality. If a chicken gets out, it will spend most of its time trying to get back in with the rest of the flock. (Unfortunately, they rarely can figure out how.) Once I found an escaped turkey roosting on top of the turkey tractor it had wiggled out of. It really, really wanted to hang out with its friends again.

Unfortunately, when chickens and turkeys see you coming, their instinct is to play keep-away. Your only hope is to act casual, corner them, and then make a flying tackle. (In the case of a chicken, a net helps immeasurably.) You have one chance before it gets really difficult--both types of animals can fly, and they get much flightier after you've missed your first grab. Additional difficulty: You need to grasp both legs at once or risk injuring the animal.

When a duck or goose gets loose, it's a completely different story. Ducks and geese possess both of the attractive qualities I listed above. They don't want to leave, and they're incredibly easy to corral. It is possible to catch three ducks with one arm.** They have a tendency to clump up in corners and quack frantically. Not very adaptive, but really useful from a human standpoint.

Geese, although harder to lay hands on, are easy to lead. This morning we found one of our geese on the outside of our portable electric fence.*** I turned off the fence, laid a section of it down, and herded the goose back in. Then I stuck the fencepost back into the ground and turned the fence back on. Thirty seconds, and it was done.

Coturnix quail are an interesting case. They seem to have a profound desire to find their way out of their bird netting, either by exploiting a gap or by tunneling out underneath. But then, having done so, they always remain in the general vicinity. We are always finding random quail in the garden area--sitting in the lawn, flushing out of the cabbages, pecking at our garden clogs. We simply pick the friendly little creatures up and place them back inside the pen.

Nobody tells you these things...but I think everyone who is interested in raising farm animals should know them.


* Indeed, when we came back from Las Vegas, our friend L2 shared a madcap story about an escaped Mille Fleur bantam. To her infinite credit, she managed to head him off before he flew away to roost in the woods.

** This information doesn't apply to Mallard and Muscovy ducks, both of which are excellent fliers. Why anyone would want to keep them is a mystery to me.

*** Believe it or not, a 4-foot-high electrified mesh is all you need to protect a flock of ducks and geese from the outside world. Your main interest is keeping dogs and other predators out. Keeping the birds in is the least of your worries.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Important news bulletin

Not to distract us from the task at hand, but I am pleased to announce that we've just had our first Ameraucana egg from the young ladies in Chicken House #2. It's a pale bluish-green one. So beautiful! Now, I don't know if the girls are taking requests, but I'd like to see someone lay olive green, if at all possible...


Sir Albert Howard, in 1940:

Mother earth never attempts to farm without livestock; she always raises mixed crops; great pains are taken to preserve the soil and prevent erosion; the mixed vegetable and animal wastes are converted into humus; there is no waste; the processes of growth and the processes of decay balance one another; ample provision is made to maintain large reserves of fertility; the greatest care is taken to store the rainfall; both plants and animals are left to protect themselves from disease.

I find this quote profoundly interesting. It's from An Agricultural Testament, one of the foundational writings of the organic movement. Yet during the 16 years that I spent as a vegetarian, not a single person ever said to me, "But, Jamie, isn't it impossible to farm in a truly sustainable manner without animal inputs?"

Isn't it?

And isn't the implication that, while vegetarianism is an honorable and morally consistent position (indeed, I would say the only honorable and morally consistent position) for people who cannot stomach the idea of killing animals for food, vegetarian evangelism is unwarranted? Shouldn't humankind as a whole aspire to eat a smaller quantity of meat, raised humanely, rather than to eat no meat at all?

After all, if animals were raised only for milk and eggs and to provide on-farm fertility, what would happen to those animals when they grew too old to produce? Surely it's not economically feasible to keep cows solely for their cowpies?

I will admit that finding inconsistencies in arguments has never been my strongest suit. So help me out here. Is there any way that truly organic (i.e., sustainable) agriculture can exist in the absence of meat production?

Thursday, October 25, 2007


The other day I drove into the next town to go to the print shop. As I left our little village, I noted a police cruiser driving in the other direction. Then, a mile or two down the road, I was startled to see the same cruiser in my rear view mirror.

I looked at my speedometer: Not bad. 57 in a 55 zone. Should be no problem. I slowed to 55 as a formality.

The cruiser followed me for another half mile, then turned on its lights and pulled me over.

A beefy, freckly young officer approached my window. I kept my hands on the steering wheel and tried to look harmless. (I watch a lot of crimefighting shows on TV.)

"Ma'am, do you have your driver's license on you?" he asked.

"Sure, just a second." I rummaged in my purse's credit card pocket until I found it, then handed it to him. He read it slowly, thoroughly.

Then he handed it back to me and assumed a cheerful demeanor.

"You're not in any trouble, Miz ______," he said. I experienced two emotions: First, relief; second, astonishment that he'd pronounced my last name correctly. It's not the sort of last name people have around here, and most locals mangle it or fade into embarrassed silence when they try to decipher it.

He continued: "The reason I turned around is that we have a warrant out on a woman who bears a striking resemblance to you. I just had to check to make sure you weren't her. Have a nice day." He waved and smiled, then returned to his car.

I edged my battered Camry back out onto the road and continued on my way. As I drove, my mind raced: a person who looks like me! And ooh, is she ever in trouble! I wonder what she did? (I told you, I watch a lot of crimefighting shows on TV.)

At the print shop, I told the story to the front desk lady and to the Better Hometown Manager, who happened to be waiting for a fax to go through. Neither of them knew anyone else in the county who looked like me. Very mysterious indeed.

Now I keep my eyes peeled for the Bad Jamie. Is she a Britney-style flouter of traffic laws? Does she deal meth? Did she hire someone to go after her ex-husband with an aluminum baseball bat? We may never know.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

I get knocked down, but I get up again

So I've been laid out flat for nearly two days straight, thanks to a stomach bug or food poisoning or something of that stripe. (All I know is, I'm going to be off hot and sour soup for a very long time. But that might have been too much information.)

However, I'm definitely on the mend. This afternoon I managed to concentrate long enough to write a post for the Eat Local Challenge blog. Have a look, and regular programming will resume here soon!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

It's still no excuse for being blog-delinquent this long

Guess what the s.o. and I did a week and a half ago, while we were in Las Vegas for business?

If you were going to guess "saw the Ronnie James Dio incarnation of Black Sabbath perform at the Palms, and from really good seats, too" that answer is also correct, but it's not what I'm trying to get at.

Life is, indeed, sweet.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Why September is so much better than August

Late September is prime time for the s.o.'s flower garden. It's close to the road so everyone in town can enjoy it--and indeed, we often get compliments on it. He is always improving it; the goal for next year, I'm told, is "to plant so many perennials that there's no room for weeds." A worthy goal.

And now that the worst of the heat is over, the vegetable garden finally has a chance to revive. These are the very first of the fall produce: a bunch of Jaune D'Or radishes.

The other big plus is that now the nights are cool and foggy. Interesting to drive in sometimes (where IS the road, anyway?), but much easier on the plant life and on the soul.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Bark in the Park

Here are some long-overdue pics of our beloved boy Cairo enjoying a baseball game at Turner Field earlier this month.

A couple of times a year, the Atlanta Braves have a promotion called Bark in the Park where they rope off a section of the upper deck for people with canines. It was fantastic--they had kiddie pools and misters and lots of water bowls and free dog-appropriate frozen yogurt (Cairo, the Dairy Dog, had two).

Amazingly, everyone seemed to get the clue that they should only bring sociable dogs. There was very little disruption, aside from a few outbreaks of excited barking. All the people and dogs just hung out and enjoyed themselves.

We'll definitely go again next time they do it. All baseball games should be dog-friendly. Don't you think?

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Hello world

I'm connected to the internet WIRELESSLY, using my NEW COMPUTER!!!! Sweet, sweet, sweet. More to come, as soon as I play with it for a while. Oh, and get some arugula and mizuna planted...

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Shot down in a blaze of I/O errors

I've ordered a new MacBook. My trusty eMac had been deteriorating fast--unexplained crashes, weird sparkly "snow," etc. I ran some cleanup utilities and thought it was a bit better, but then it locked up and destroyed 8 hours of work (probably the best writing I'd done in six months). I'm typing this blog post on the eMac, but I'm obviously not using it for anything mission-critical. I'm currently trying to remember the lost article and reconstruct it on my old "toilet seat" iBook. Argh.

On the bright side...NEW COMPUTER! AIRPORT HUB! SHINY!

As soon as I have a computer I'm not nervous about, I'll post some photos of the fall garden, which is coming along quite nicely.

Friday, September 07, 2007

It all comes out in the wash

Previously I complained that blister beetles had ravaged an entire row of my chard--which, indeed, they did. They skeletonized it. I was forced to cut it down to nubs.

But I can't complain too bitterly about the situation, because here's what that row of chard looks like now, after regrowing (click to enlarge):

Maybe those bugs aren't so bad after all. No, wait, they are. They also took out my Dragon Langerie beans (although the heat had damaged the plants pretty badly beforehand). And they've been making tomato-picking a harrowing experience.

By the way, note the young cabbages at the left of the photo. Also note the netted chicken runs in the back, draped with overenthusiastic vines of bottle gourd. On the right of the chard (currently not yet poking through the soil) will be a row of variegated land cress.

The fall garden is in progress. So much more fun than summer.

Monday, September 03, 2007

OLS 10

Another One Local Summer comes to an end. Which, I guess, means that summer is coming to an end, too.

OLS has helped us mark the ups and downs of a challenging season. When it comes to cooking, scarcity is as telling as plenty. What have we got, and what can we make of it?

Kudos to Liz for dreaming OLS up and for making it hugely successful. Ready for next year, my friend? Heh.

This was our final meal in the series:

Pork - Dyal Farm, Cobbtown, Ga. (150 miles)

Tomatoes - ours
Cucumbers - ours
Parsley and basil - ours
French bread - Luna Baking Co., Athens, Ga. (35 miles)
Red and green bell peppers - L2's (1/4 mile)
Vidalia onion - Vidalia, Ga. (130 miles)
Capers, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, seasonings - elsewhere

Friday, August 31, 2007

Eat Local Challenge begins tomorrow!

Holy cow...as I was looking at seed planting dates, it occurred to me that September starts tomorrow. That means it's time for the 2007 Eat Local Challenge. The focus this time around is on food preservation, so keep an eye out on the aforelinked site to see what participants learn and accomplish.

This year, there are a zillion different ways to participate, ranging from simple and minimal to big and life-changing. You don't have to be ascetic or hardcore; you could choose, for example, to merely add one local item per week to your repertoire. You could photograph your farmers' market and talk about what you buy there. Anything goes, so there's no reason everyone can't join in.

If you do post something localish, let me know and I'll link to it on the ELC site. I would especially like to see certain bloggers who make homemade wines and liqueurs talk a little bit about the process!


Today I managed to clear and fertilize small portions of the garden. Then I planted one row of purple sprouting broccoli and half a row each of red kale and yellow radishes.

Then it began to rain. Gently, yet amply.

Another first

Two quail eggs this morning--our first. I'm amazed that such tiny birds can lay such...well, the eggs are tiny, too, but if you compare them to the birds, they're sort of the equivalent of a chicken laying a goose egg.

I tried to take a picture, but our camera can't handle the smallness. They look just about like the eggs on this page.

I have to take issue with the usual assertion that Coturnix quail thrive in cages. They stay alive in cages, sure. But we noticed a marked difference in the happiness of our birds when the s.o. created Quail World, their outdoor daytime enclosure. They dustbathe and hide in the tall grass and do helicopter imitations. They obviously enjoy it. And it's worth noting that, given the opportunity, they picked a protected area under some branches to nest.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

August is...well, just August

August in Georgia has only one mitigating virtue: that from within it, one can just see autumn on the horizon.

The record-setting three-week heat wave seems to have broken, if you are prepared to accept the idea that a drop from the 105 range into the mid-90s represents the end of a heat wave. The one thing that makes it feel real is that we are getting a few refreshing, life-giving thunderstorms.

I think the heat wave may have killed our tiny nascent farmers' market. For three weeks, because the National Weather Service was rightfully telegraphing DEATH DEATH DEATH about the idea of spending any time outdoors, we were forced to cancel. This week, after enthusiastic e-mails to our customer base, we started up again. But we had only one visitor, and she was one of our vendors. That's what you call a small turnout. People are creatures of habit, and the hiatus undid whatever shopping habits we had managed to inspire.

But believe it or not, we are okay with this turn of events. We've slowly been coming to the realization that (a) our town may not be quite ready for a farmers' market, and (b) there are a lot of new farmers' markets in the area, each with not very many vendors. So we spent our idle hours last night hatching some plans for a tiny, just-us-neighbors gardening collective. One entity; a few back yards. Instead of adding another marginal farmers' market to the fray, we'll team up to take our wares to some of the existing outlets. More on that next year, I think.

Meanwhile, it is still the dog days of summer. L2 and I sat, flushed with plans for World Domination via backyard market gardening (or was it the humidity?), and picked out our seeds for fall planting. I ordered them all last night.

Time to start pulling out spent plants and dreaming of cool leafy things. We'll plant as soon as we can get the beds prepared.

Monday, August 27, 2007

One Local Summer, week 9

I never did finish this year's half-pig charcuterie. Many months have passed since January, yet there are still bags labeled "future sausage" in our freezer. (Oops!) So on Friday when we wanted spaghetti with Italian sausage, I had to actually grind meat in order to get it done.

Overall, we're trying to dispatch some of the things lurking in our freezer. We're currently thawing the last of last year's turkeys, which may appear as OLS 10. Part of the reason is that we need freezer space for current endeavors. We're making a lot of changes in the farmyard. Slowly but surely, extra roosters are being yanked from the flock and processed. (Anyone want some standard Light Brahma roosters? They're magnificent, but they're total jerks. And we have four of them, thanks to the fact that they're only available straight-run from McMurray. We've put them in the Market Bulletin in hopes of repatriating them.)

Some boy animals are luckier than others. Instead of killing one of our two gorgeous, sweet Royal Palm tom turkeys, we opted to trade one of them for four little Japanese bantam hens. Making the swap meant a several-county trip, but it was worth it. The woman we traded with was overjoyed with Puff Daddy the turkey; she hopes to breed him. And we're pleased as punch with our new tenants. Now we have six bantam hens total, so we're hoping to get lots of teeny eggs.

Anyway, back to the dinner:


Tomatoes, garlic, oregano, and red bell peppers - our own
Candy onions - Sundance Farm, Danielsville, Ga. (50 miles)
Pork - Dyal Farm, Cobbtown, Ga. (150 miles)
Bread - Luna Baking Co., Athens, Ga. (35 miles)
Pasta, olive oil, and spices - elsewhere

Monday, August 20, 2007

A stunning discovery

The s.o. just found a native persimmon tree at the edge of our woods. It is starting to drop fruit.

This calls for a search party! Where there's one, there may be more...

Perfect, perfect, perfect!

Remember my "eh" muscadine cobbler from last week? The cloying, goopy one? And how I said I thought the grapes might do better in a clafouti?

I made one, and I was right. It's one of the best things I've ever eaten. WOW. If you have access to muscadines (this means you, my fellow residents of the south), grab your copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking: Vol. 1 and follow the basic clafouti recipe, substituting halved, seeded muscadines for the cherries. Use brandy (which is, after all, made of grapes) instead of vanilla.

I could eat this whole thing. Mmm.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Another week goes roaring past

Still a heat wave.

Still too much to do and no energy to do it with.

Still a dog in need of extra hugs: Cairo's rear has been healing very nicely, but his first batch of antibiotics made him awfully sick, and we had to take him back into the vet's office to get different ones. He is doing better now--fuzzy and happy and loyal as ever--and thanks you for your kind wishes.

I spent about an hour today floating in L2's pool, which went a long way toward making me enjoy the weather for a change. I should do that more often.

I canned tomato sauce AND salsa on Monday and Tuesday. I made the salsa with Green Zebra tomatoes, so it has an unusual appearance. But if you close your eyes, it's regular hot salsa.

I cooked a lot of local food this week. Unfortunately, none of it was grouped together in a single meal. Local eggplant, squash, and onion shared a plate with exotic tofu. Our own chicken was served, taco-seasoned, with homegrown tomato in storebought tortillas.

So I got to Sunday and hadn't made a single OLS meal. What's more, I couldn't bring myself to make the gumbo I knew would bring it all together: okra! tomatoes! seafood! Carolina Gold rice! So instead, I just boiled some peel-and-eat shrimp. That was it.

I must say these shrimp are pretty special. They're sort of a test run for an agreement that our food-buying club is working out with a Savannah-based fisherman. They're bringing in five-pound bags of freshly caught shrimp--mixed sizes, heads on, straight off the boat. They are really good and fantastically fresh. It's almost like being on vacation, especially if you wear coconut-scented sunblock and mash some Old Bay seasoning into your cuticles.

Here's proof that I grew up landlocked: I had never seen shrimp with their heads on before! It takes some getting used to. For one thing, it's hard to cram all the antennae into the freezer bags; they keep wanting to work their way back out, which is not so good if you're hoping to get a good, tight seal when you "zip" them shut.

A small price to pay, though. I wonder if these people can get us blue crab, too.

Monday, August 13, 2007

A proud moment

I don't know whether to yell "WOOO HOOOOO!" or "NOOOOOOOOOOOO!" Tucker Taylor, one of our most talented local farmers, has been hired away by Thomas Keller.

I met Tucker and his business partner Celia Barss this spring when I profiled their farm for Edible Atlanta magazine. They're supercool people, very dedicated and talented. I hope Celia takes the helm now--otherwise, who'll supply our local restaurants with salsify and sweet turnips? Who'll be the first ones to the market with tomatoes in April?


But what a wonderful opportunity for Tucker!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Make it stop


We did manage to have a wonderful visit this week with my mother and stepdad, but only despite rather sobering obstacles.

On Monday, their arrival day, I was just starting to work up my One Local Summer post when I noticed Cairo licking his under-tail area. Remembering that the s.o. had complained of not being able to sleep because of "Cairo licking himself," I took a look. It turned out he was oozing and bleeding from a vicious wound that looked like someone had stabbed him with an ice pick. As soon as we stopped him from licking it, it started to get everywhere. We tried stopping the flow, but it worsened. We called the vet and they told us to get his butt (so to speak) into the office pronto.

Four or five hours later, the s.o. brought an unhappy e-collar-wearing Cairo home with a bag full of antibiotics and painkillers. Cairo had an abscessed gland. He was still bleeding and oozing like crazy and, for the first 24 hours until it dried up a bit, had to be locked in the bathroom. This caused him to cry all night, and Gracie to whimper constantly because (obviously) something was wrong among the pack.

Mom and John slept. We didn't. Two out of four ain't bad.

Pretty much at the same time as they arrived, the temperature rose to 105 degrees (yes, that's a record, even for Georgia) and has stayed there every day since. This was almost tolerable while we were in the house or in their car; however, once John left for Atlanta and took his car, we had to run errands in mine, which has a broken A/C unit. I don't know when I've sweated so much.

We lost a young hen to the heat. She was a favorite of mine, unfortunately. Also, blister beetles came and ate an entire row of chard in one day. Apparently they like 100-plus weather just fine.

We canceled the Wednesday farmers' market because nobody wanted to sit outdoors from 4 to 7 p.m. It would have been dangerous, frankly.

On Thursday afternoon the upstairs air conditioner in our house broke. The upstairs is the guest room, so Mom was the one to discover it. ("It's 96 degrees up there!") We shuffled accommodations for the night. I took the floor. The repair guy came on Friday afternoon and informed us that ants had gotten into our heat pump and shorted it out by scorching themselves to death on the wire contacts. A cheap fix, thank goodness.

Friday I drove Mom to Atlanta to reunite her with John at my stepsister's house. The s.o. had the bright idea that I should make the drive in my bikini top. It was absolute genius--I was able to wear a dry, unsticky shirt to dinner because of his quick thinking. Only a couple of truckers honked at me along the way.

We had a great Indian meal here, which made up for a lot of the ickiness.

After the horror of this heat wave, I think our family will still get up the courage to come to visit us. But maybe not in summer!

One Local Summer, week 7

For OLS week 7, it's Greek food again. I can't help myself--Greek food lends itself so well to the type of meat and produce we can get here. It's not typical Greek, though, because these little omelet-roll things look and taste suspiciously like crepes.

Dessert was a cobbler made of Muscadine grapes grown by our friend Mary Lynn. It didn't turn out exactly as I'd hoped, though. Too liquid-y, and for some reason really a jackhammer sugar rush. I think I may have to admit to myself that Muscadines aren't a one-to-one substitution for Concords, no matter how similar their flavor. I recently saw a recipe for a Muscadine clafouti, which is maybe a better idea: isolating them in a matrix of less-intensity.


Ground beef - White Oak Pastures, Bluffton, Ga. (240 miles--but I'm friends with 'em!)
Vidalia onions - Vidalia, Ga. (130 miles)
Tomatoes - our own
Eggs - our own
Flour, spices - elsewhere


Yellow crookneck squash - our own
Salt and pepper - elsewhere


Muscadine grapes - our friend's (5 miles)
Buttermilk - Diamond Hill Dairy, Antreville, S.C. (70 miles)
Soft wheat flour - Mills Farm, Athens, Ga. (35 miles)
Southern Biscuit flour - see Jenny's OLS Week 6 post!
Butter, sugar, baking powder, baking soda - elsewhere

Thursday, August 02, 2007


I can't even begin to process that the 35W Bridge in Minneapolis has collapsed. I lived in the Twin Cities for about a decade, and used to hang out in the neighborhood that's the vantage point for many of the photos and videos. It's so surreal and unbelievable.

When the s.o. told me it had happened, I literally felt every hair on my body stand on end--as though I'd had an electric shock.

I hope my Twin Cities friends are all right, and my condolences go out to anyone who's lost someone.

Tomatoes, Southern style

Do you think this is a problem at all?

Would you think it was a problem if I told you this was only half of what's currently been picked?

Yeah. I know. To our credit, we have been selling quite a lot of them, but it's still a little daunting. And I still haven't canned any of them because I keep using up all the ripest ones in our dinners. There was a gorgeous shrimp fra diavolo the other day. And last night there was this:

Let's call it One Local Summer meal #6. Despite its simplicity, it was actually one of the best meals I've made in ages. For one thing, I make a damn fine biscuit; I use Deborah Madison's recipe from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, but I substitute half of the white flour with soft whole-wheat flour. Knead exactly twice. Use a sharp cutter. They come out fluffy and layery every time.

And the country ham was possibly the best I've ever had. Let's face it: there is a lot of really nasty, dry, oversalted, rancid-tasting country ham out there. But this stuff was outstanding. The package recommended frying it with a little bit of diluted Coca-cola in the pan. Since I didn't have that on hand, I added a dash of unbleached organic sugar to the water. Excellent. And very quickly devoured.

The okra was our first of the season and, as such, even more appreciated than usual!

Okra and tomatoes - our own
Vidalia onions - Vidalia, Ga. (130 miles)
Louisiana pepper sauce, salt, and pepper - elsewhere

Center-sliced country ham - Clifty Farm, Paris, Tenn. (450 miles, but don't I get some credit for an indigenous southern specialty?)
Sugar - elsewhere

Red Mule soft wheat flour - Athens, Ga. (35 miles)
Southern Biscuit flour - Newton, N.C. (240 miles)
Buttermilk - Peeler Farm, Starr, S.C. (68 miles)
Baking powder, baking soda, butter, salt - elsewhere

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Really, really unfair

Jacques Pépin was making omelets in my dream. And then my wretched alarm woke me before I had a chance to eat one.


Monday, July 30, 2007

This, er, rocks

We woke up the other day to find this. One of our best friends in town is the water meter reader, and he had left us a message!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Iron Chef Summertime

Week 5 of One Local Summer has come and gone, and this week the main goal was to use up three rather urgent items:

(1) A young turkey, about 5 pounds, that suffered a severe injury and had to be processed. This was agonizing. It's always terrible to see an animal in pain, but this was also our only male of a variety that we'd very much like to breed in the future. (That's Blue Slate, if you're curious. Really nice birds.) So I steeled myself, as you do in those situations, and did what had to be done. And then I tried my best to think of it as an ingredient. Not "the turkey," but "turkey." Ouch, what a way to ruin your day.

(2) Tomatoes. Thousands of them. Sooooo many tomatoes. Delicious tomatoes, all ripening at once. We've sold pound after pound (people are pretty impressed with the spread at the farmers' market, I think), dried some, froze some, meant to can some but didn't get to it yet, and still all the horizontal surfaces in the house are covered with toms.

(3) Ditto cucumbers. Not only do I grow them myself (three varieties!), but my friend L2 keeps foisting her extra slicers on anyone who'll take them.

What I made out of these three ingredients was sort of pan-Iberian: half Spanish and half Mexican. For the record, the two dishes didn't go together particularly well. But individually, they were both excellent.

Here's the turkey in mole sauce:

And here's the gazpacho:

The photos are awful, aren't they? Especially the mole one, which looks suspiciously like something you'd scrape off your shoe. Ew. But the flavors were outstanding.

Turkey - our own
Tomatoes - our own
Onions and garlic - our own
Dried cayenne peppers - our own
Almonds, raisins, baking chocolate, ancho chiles, lard, and other seasonings - elsewhere

Tomatoes - our own
Cucumbers - our own, and L2's (.25 mile)
Vidalia onion - central Georgia (about 130 miles)
Green pepper - L2's (.25 mile)
Stale bread - Luna Baking Corp., Athens, Ga. (35 miles)
Garlic - our own
Vinegar, olive oil, seasonings - elsewhere

As for dessert, we are struggling to keep up with a burgeoning supply of watermelons--because, I mean, who can turn one down? Fruit salads, licuados, you name it. Our most recent one was a yellow-fleshed watermelon from south Georgia that was one of the sweetest and best I've ever had. I was shocked to find that hardly anyone around here had ever seen a yellow-fleshed watermelon; I remember them from my childhood in Ohio. Maybe it's a regional thing.

Sunday, July 22, 2007


Sorry I've been so tardy about this. Last week after my One Local Summer post, a couple of you requested recipes. Here they are, with my changes noted:

. . . . . .

adapted from Molly Katzen's The Enchanted Broccoli Forest

2 Tbs. butter (I omitted this, because I fried up a few strips' worth of bacon and used both the bacon and the grease in the chowder)
1 c. chopped onion
1/2 c. chopped celery (I omitted this because I didn't have it, and it wouldn't have been local if I did)
1 sweet red bell pepper, minced (I used green because we had it)
4-5 cobs' worth of fresh sweet corn
1/2 tsp. salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. dried thyme (I used fresh, so I used a bit more)
1/2 tsp. dried basil (ditto)
1 c. stock or water (I used water)
1 c. evaporated or whole milk (I used whole)

Cook the onions in the butter or grease until soft, then add peppers and corn. Add seasonings, stir well, and cover. Reduce heat and let cook 5 minutes.

Add water, cover, and simmer 10-20 minutes (Molly says 10, but that's pretty bare-bones if you ask me). Using a blender, pureé half the soup and add it back into the pot.

About 10 minutes before serving time, add the milk. Don't actually cook it; just warm it gently until it's hot enough to eat.

adapted rather loosely from Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone

6 to 8 c. sliced ripe peaches
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 c. flour
1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 c. flour (I prefer a mix of soft wheat and all-purpose, but in this case I used only the former)
1/3 c. sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
6 Tbs. cold butter, cut up
1/2 c. buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter an 8x10-ish oval or rectangular dish.

In the dish, toss together the peaches, brown sugar, cinnamon, 1/4 c. flour, and lemon juice.

In a bowl, mix the 1 1/2 c. flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Rub in the butter with your fingers until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in the buttermilk until dough clings together. Scoop up large spoonfuls of dough and "cobble" them onto the top of the fruit.

Bake about 30 minutes, or until fruit is bubbling and topping is golden and has lost its doughiness underneath (you may have to stick a spoon in near the center to ascertain this). Serve warm.

. . . . . .

By the way, what are your favorite fresh fig recipes? They're in season right now and I've just bought a LOT of them from a nice elderly gentleman at the farmers' market, so I need your help. I already make that classic delicious salad with the fresh mozzarella and basil and prosciutto (mmmmmm). I eat a lot of them plain, of course. I have been known to make fresh fig ice cream, but I'm not in the mood for heavy creamy stuff lately. What else should I do?

The world in mid-Georgia

I think my international cooking craze started when we moved out to the country. Because we were no longer surrounded by restaurants, I got it in my head that if I wanted to eat decent world cuisine, I was going to have to Iron Chef it myself.

About that time, my cookbook collection--already a couple of U-Haul boxes in size--truly began to explode. Now it is all we can do to find places for the new entries. Major collections began to accumulate, especially when I discovered how frequently volumes from the justifiably renowned Time-Life Foods of the World series showed up in thrift stores. (I think I have almost all of them now, both hardbound cultural studies and spiral-bound recipe books. And, as with almost all my cookbooks, I got them for a song.)

For a long time, Asian food has been a weak spot in my repertoire. But a couple of months ago I started learning spoken and written Mandarin, and it seemed as good a time as any to whip my Chinese cooking into shape. So far, reviews have been mixed: I loved my tea-cooked eggs, but the s.o. thought they were "funky" and my friends looked askance at their goth-style cobweb markings. A batch of bitterish almond cookies satisfied no one.

But there's one recipe that has produced a fantastically snackalicious addition to my repertoire. From the Foods of the World China volume, I present...


2 medium cucumbers
1 tsp. soy sauce
1 Tbs. white vinegar
1 Tbs. sugar
2 tsp. sesame oil
1/4 tsp. Tabasco
1/2 tsp. salt

Peel and seed the cucumbers, and cut them into 1/4-inch slices. Toss with remaining ingredients. Chill.

Easy, eh? Don't blame me when you eat two batches of it per day. Remember, I said "snackalicious."

That salad, along with the tasty Fish Fillet Soup Noodles from Stella Lau Fessler's Chinese Seafood Cooking, made up this week's One Local Summer meal. Neither the noodles nor the seasonings were local, but the dishes made such excellent use of our homegrown and home-caught foods that I decided to go with it.

Cucumbers - our own
Seasonings - elsewhere

White bass - caught in Oconee River (20 miles)
Fish stock - frozen from fish caught at local fishing creek (12 miles)
Green onions and jalapeño peppers - our own
Noodles and seasonings - elsewhere

Saturday, July 14, 2007

One Local Summer: Week 3

Back in the old days, produce wasn't the only thing that ebbed and flowed according to the seasons. Meat was seasonal, too. People ate quick-maturing, quick-to-prepare poultry in fair weather, then slaughtered a hog when the first cold snap arrived. With no refrigeration, they depended on the weather to chill the larger animal's meat while they hurried to process and cure it.

Well, we definitely have refrigeration, but the same is turning out to be true for us. We always get our pig in midwinter and eat more poultry throughout the rest of the year. 2007 marks the first time we've raised any chickens specifically for meat, and we're starting to reap the benefits now. Dark Cornishes are flighty, but they are really worth raising!

This is what we ate for this week's One Local Summer meal:

Chicken - our own
Thyme - our own
Vinegar, butter, and wine - elsewhere

Corn - Athens, Ga. (35 miles)
Milk - Starr, S.C. (73 miles)
Green pepper - my neighbor's (.25 mile)
Onion - Vidalia, Ga. (136 miles)
Bacon - our own, from a central Georgia pig
Basil and thyme - our own
Butter - elsewhere

Peaches - south Georgia, because all the peaches in north and central Georgia were killed in the spring frost
Soft wheat flour - Athens, Ga. (35 miles)
Buttermilk - Starr, S.C. (73 miles)
Butter, baking powder, sugar, lemon - elsewhere


Ah, the summer slump...

...when I just can't seem to make myself blog anything.

Well, never fear. I am still here, doing all the usual: eating local food, taking naps with dogs, studying Mandarin Chinese while weeding the garden, etc. I heart podcasts. When your body has to do the dishes, it's great to let your brain do something else.

We have also been battling these:

And playing with these:

Monday, July 09, 2007

Fuzzy math

I counted the quail. There are FORTY of them. OMG.

My excuse is that they are small and move quickly.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Identity crisis

Can someone help me figure out what the heck this mystery cockerel is? Yes, this is our friend the mystery chick, all grown up and as enigmatic as ever.

It has naked blue legs, a beard, no crest, and what so far appears to be a pea or rose comb...

...and its feathers are white spattered with black. It is unusually tall and fairly slender in build.

It came from Murray McMurray, so one would assume it's something they sell. In other words, it's probably not an Appenzeller Barthuhner or anything really weird like that.

Anyone? Anyone?

Thursday, July 05, 2007

This is how we get overcommitted

Whew! Long time no post, I know. I've just been very busy. First we had a delightful visit from Ms. Jenny, AKA Stew (about which, more later). But right after she left, a friend dropped by to give us a gift: a box of tiny, peeping, chipmunky Coturnix quail chicks. We have so far been unable to count them, but there seem to be at least 20.

I've put off posting about them until I was fairly certain (from web searches, etc.) that we don't need a breeder license to have them. And it appears we don't--that's just native Bobwhite quail, and it's just if you're going to sell live birds. So all is revealed.

Do you know how difficult it is to photograph a constantly-moving animal the size of a shrew? Blursville. Oh, well.

We hadn't planned on getting quail--I mean, we have enough to deal with!--but that's sort of how things work in the country. People have animals, the animals change owners, people take up unexpected hobbies. These do seem relatively low-maintenance, at least: They are kept in rabbit-hutch-type accommodations, and they start laying one egg per hen per day at age 6 weeks. The males are ready to eat at about the same time.

I picture myself from now on cooking like Bobby Flay on Iron Chef: Tiny fried quail eggs on top of nearly everything I put on the table.

In other bird-related news, we took down the partition between the ducks and geese, and they have not bothered each other in the least. Victory! One pen is much more convenient than two when it comes to feeding, watering, etc. Maybe that sort of makes up for the unexpected foray into quail.

So, Jenny. She came on Sunday and we had a really fun pool party over at L2's house. For a while it looked as though we wouldn't be doing any outdoor activities; lightning struck on our property when we were getting in the car. Despite seeing the bolt spark off our power lines, the s.o. heroically managed not to drop the fruit salad he was carrying. Then the skies opened and it rained buckets for about 20 minutes. Then the sun came out again. After a nervous peek at weather.com, we commenced swimming and hot-tubbing.

On Monday we lazed around a lot and then went to our favorite fishing spot. I caught the world's smallest largemouth bass (catching minuscule fish is a special talent of mine) and Jenny got in some quality birdwatching. We saw an indigo bunting, a belted kingfisher, a common yellowthroat, and a prothonotary warbler. The birds there really are spectacular! (Jenny, don't be jealous, but the next night we went back again and I accidentally flushed out a pair of great blue herons at very close range!

And lest I forget to mention it, on Monday afternoon we had an all-local Greek-themed meal, which I respectfully submit for this week's One Local Summer entry:

Milk - Starr, S.C. (73 miles)
Cornmeal - Athens, Ga. (35 miles)
Feta cheese - Athens, Ga. (35 miles)
Lamb's quarters - Royston, Ga. (55 miles)
Mint, dill, sorrel, chard - our own
Olive oil - exempt

Lamb - I am having an awful time remembering what town our lamb source is in, and I can't find their business card; let's just say it's no more than 150 miles away and is somewhere in middle Georgia.
Oregano - our own
Olive oil and lemon - exempt

And now, speaking of food, I have to go feed the dogs...

Monday, July 02, 2007

Look! Look!

Liz has started a whole new blog to house the burgeoning One Local Summer project. I've just posted a roundup of the southern participants' Week 1 meals. Go check it out!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Accidentally local

It's week 1 of Liz's One Local Summer event, and I have been very, very distracted. More to the point, I've spent most of my waking hours doing two things: (1) picking wild blackberries, and (2) processing birds and putting them into the freezer. It was only last night, when I sat down to a plate of tandoori chicken with Indian-spiced vegetables, that it occurred to me: Hey, this is a completely local meal. A really, really local meal. These chickens and vegetables, they are ours.

So here's my Week 1 effort. A wrap-up of all the southern U.S. participants (for indeed, I am the regional OLS wrangler!) will follow on Monday morning. Those of you who are participating, make sure to blog or e-mail or Flickr-post by midday Sunday.


TANDOORI CHICKEN: our own, with a marinade that included our own garlic

INDIAN-SPICED VEGETABLES: our own green beans, onions, and garlic; half the potatoes were ours and half were from a grower in Athens (35 miles away)


Thursday, June 21, 2007

Open letters

Dear Snake,

Please stop hanging out in the henhouse. You are making the hens uncomfortable, and a couple of times you have nearly given me a coronary. I am forever shooing you out of the coop with a shovel. One of these days, I'm going to decide you've had enough warnings.



Dear Tommy Irvin and Zippy Duvall,

Surely, as Ag Commissioner and Farm Bureau President (respectively), you have better things to do than to hold a formal government-sanctioned religious service at which you pray for rain. I know we're all a little desperate, but let's leave that to the ministers, shall we?



Dear Visitors,

Our house is spotless. Gorgeously spotless. The reason we won't let you in has nothing to do with a housekeeping disaster of monstrous proportions. There's a perfectly good explanation, really, which is... um... let us get back to you on that.

Not Hiding Anything


Dear Noncompliant Goose,

Lately I have been having a terrible time convincing you to go indoors for the night. All the other geese line up contentedly and wait their turn to go in the door. You, however, always decide to make a run for it at the last moment. Last night you sprinted away from me and got caught in the electric fence. I actually saw sparks fly off you. I am pretty sure our neighbors think I am torturing an opera singer over here.

It is no wonder that tonight you lined up with the other geese. I hope and trust that this improved behavior will continue.

The Management

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

One Local Summer 2007

Starting this Sunday, Liz is running her One Local Summer event again. I participated last year and really enjoyed it; it's low-key, because it's only one dinner per week, but it's still educational and creates a fun sense of community among the participants. It's so cool to see what everyone comes up with.

This year she's had such an enthusiastic response (more than 100 people!) that she's had to close further registration. Any more people, and there'd just be too much to handle. As it is, she has delegated some of the clerical work to several regional wranglers (I'm in charge of the southern U.S.). The good news is, you can still follow along if you haven't signed up--we just won't be able to include you in the weekly wrap-ups, and you won't be eligible for the incentives.

If you are a participant, hi! and welcome! Liz gives some great advice on her OLS Questions and Answers page, but if you have any other questions, please feel free to contact me. I'll be watching your blog (or waiting for your e-mail) every week, then including you in a weekly summary (either posted here, or on a subpage of Pocket Farm, we're not sure which yet).

I will be sourcing my OLS meals from Georgia only--and where possible, from a 100-mile radius. In the past I would have said it'd be incredibly difficult, but the more you eat locally, the more sources you find. It's funny how it works.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

What's goin' on

• After years of making do with a percolator, we bought a new drip coffeemaker. It is programmable, so it can make coffee all by itself and have it waiting for me when I get up in the morning. Needless to say, this represents a huge jump in Quality of Life.

• The s.o. completed an outdoor chickenwire-and-netting aviary for Chicken House #2--a porch-covered vestibule area that will later lead to a number of separate pens--and today the young chickens and turkeys ventured into the great outdoors for the first time. Bravery is definitely breed-specific: Barred Rocks were the first out the door, followed by Red Star boys (remember them--the padding in the shipment? they are nice guys and we will be rather sorry to eat them, but there's nothing that can be done, because we all know the problems associated with Too Many Roosters), then Speckled Sussexes. Cornish boys were curious, but very flighty and scaredy. Ameraucanas were so docile that they would stay outside if placed there, but they took no initiative. Brahmas, Langshans, and Mille Fleur banties wanted nothing to do with the strangeness, and only ventured out after everyone else had been happily pecking grass for quite a while.

• We are harvesting the first Sungold tomatoes. There is a small Lemon cucumber on the vine, and green beans are starting to roll in in quantity.

• My back is getting better.

• My chores--the ones I can do with a delicate back, at least--have recently been made more interesting by heavy use of podcastable language lessons. I'm taking three languages at once, something my mom did one semester in college. "It won't screw you up," she reassured me. Which is a good thing, because I am enjoying all three. The Mandarin is the best by far, and I have actually plunked down money for a basic yearly subscription so I can download the pdfs. That same company also offers Spanish, but I wasn't crazy about the hosts, so I went with this one instead. It's clear and sensible, and kind of quirkily fun because it's taught by Scots. (I hope I'm not picking up an odd accent.) Lastly, I'm doing French. I already read it pretty well, but I speak it quite badly, so I'm using this for review and reinforcement. I recommend podcast language lessons to anyone; they're great for keeping your mind busy when your body has to do the dishes.

• We have bees again, magically. A while ago our hive swarmed, and half the bees absconded to the top of a 60-foot pine tree, from which we were unable to recover them. We watched the remaining bees closely and were horrified that no brood appeared--they seemed to have been unsuccessful in raising a new queen. The colony began, predictably, to die out. And then...inexplicably...there was a healthy hive again, full of young fuzzy bees that are now busily pollinating the garden. We are extremely puzzled, but have decided not to look a gift bee in the proboscis.

• Lately I am all about this recipe, made with shrimp instead of avocado. I love avocado, but trust me when I say shrimp rocks all over it in this particular instance. I suppose one could use both. Hmm.

Friday, June 15, 2007

This is pretty much how I see it, too

Food for thought. Even our leaders should be able to conceive of the climate change problem in Clint Eastwood terms, no?

Could you move over? I gotta rest.

A couple of days ago I must have slept wrong, because I woke up with my back, as they say, "out." Ever since then the s.o. has had to do a lot of my chores, which is especially unfair considering that he did all my chores while I was away in St. Louis. Poor guy!

I think I did something to one of my lumbar muscles. Probably it started with luggage-carrying. I almost rue the $70 worth of spices I brought home from Penzey's in my carry-on! Almost.

My initial thought was to go for the Midol. You know, muscle relaxant. But then when I looked at the packaging, there was nothing but a pain reliever, a diuretic, and some caffeine. So I went to Target and looked through every single box of, er, female-troubles medication. No muscle relaxant. What the...? Obviously I can't be misremembering this; if there had never been a muscle relaxant in Midol, that wedding scene in Sixteen Candles would never have been written.

Has anyone noticed that they're taking all the medication out of our over-the-counter medication? I understand the pseudoephedrine thing--even if I don't like it--but why have they defanged Midol?

Disappointed, and ever-so-slightly crippled from pain, I ended up trying Aleve for the first time. I actually like it pretty well. Millions of older Americans with arthritis can't be wrong, it turns out.

Every day my back is getting a little better. Which is a good thing, because the garden really needs to be weeded now that we have started getting a little rain.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

I'm back

I had a great time, but it's taking me longer to recover from the late nights than it has in the past.

I came back to find a zucchini in the garden as big as a cantaloupe. We ate half of it, and the other half went into a doggie dinner.

There's fresh basil, and the first of the wild blackberries are ready!

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

I think this means summer's here

That's about a 14-inch colander, by the way, if it helps you get the scale. The Tondo Chiaro di Nizza zucchini got rather large overnight!

Tonight I'll cook one of my favorite recipes: Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's pasta with creamy zucchini sauce. For those who don't own the River Cottage Cookbook, all you do is slice a couple of pounds of zucchini very thinly and cook them quite slowly with a couple of good glugs of olive oil and some minced garlic, without browning, until it all completely breaks down. This removes the wateriness from the squash and turns it into a sauce. Then you season it, add a few tablespoons of cream, and grate in some Parmesan cheese. Serve it over any kind of pasta you like.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Flying the, er, friendly skies

From Thursday to Sunday of this week, I'm traveling to St. Louis to attend a music festival that, over the course of a decade or so, has become quite dear to my heart. I'll see a lot of my best friends from far-flung locales. And in a gorgeous harmonic convergence, some of my other best friends from Athens are attending this year for the first time. Can you feel the love?

Instead of driving, which would be excruciatingly expensive at current gas prices, I'm flying. That means putting a lid on my usual Stevie Nicks-like luggage tendencies (i.e., lots of costume changes) and, even worse, coping with draconian air travel regulations. So I've been scouring the drugstores, looking for travel-sized containers for my toiletries.

I find it interesting that, while the regs specify that your shampoo, etc., must not be in a container larger than 3 ounces, the vast majority of travel bottles on the market are... wait for it... 4 ounces.

Who did this?! They deserve to be bitchslapped.

Well, never mind. I still feel the love.


Briefly noted:

My mother took me at my word when I said that everyone ought to have geese. In my honor, she purchased a Flock of Hope from Heifer International. Someone out there will have birds of their very own--and a leg up in this uncertain world--because of her generosity.

Heifer is one of my very favorite charities. I'd love it if this post inspired a few of my readers to give the gift of sustainability. Give a goat! Choose a chicken! Transfer a tree!

Sunday, June 03, 2007

A long time coming

The Cleveland Cavaliers have finally won the Eastern Conference--and against the loathsome Detroit Pistons, to boot.

I'm not a sports maniac, but I think it's fair to say that I've waited for this day my whole life. The Cavs were born in northeastern Ohio the same year I was, and this is the first time they've managed to win the East. This victory is all the sweeter for the fact that star LeBron James is a local hero, a high school prodigy from Akron.

Anyone with really good sense would avoid Ohio pro sports altogether, because it's been a story of injury, disappointment, last-minute choking, bad coaching, stupid trades, generally lackluster play, etc., from time immemorial. But I have a soft spot for my hometown basketball team because my ex-stepmother worked in the Cavs' marketing department in the late 1980s and early 1990s. As a result, we had really great seats at the old Richfield Coliseum--right behind the players' wives--during a time when the Cavaliers actually showed promise and might have even won something if it hadn't been for a fellow named Michael Jordan on an opposing team. It's enough to make anyone enjoy sports. To this day, we have a Cavs ornament on our Christmas tree every year.

The Cavaliers are up against the San Antonio Spurs in the finals, a team that the s.o. finds as repellent as I do the Pistons. So you can bet we'll be glued to the TV.

In other sports news, I trust you've all seen this video? I can't remember the last time I laughed so hard. Amazing.

Saturday, June 02, 2007


Goose #1: Say, this is extraordinary. It appears that water is actually falling out of the sky!

Goose #2: I know! This has never happened before in our entire lives!

Goose #1: HONK!

Goose #2: HONK, indeed!

Friday, June 01, 2007

Rain, please!

They're saying we may get some rain in the next several days. If we do, it'll be the first real rain in weeks--maybe months, I've lost count. We're experiencing a major, historic drought.

On Wednesday I was talking with my friend L, and she told me that an acquaintance who lives down the road from us was forced to send his cattle to slaughter because he couldn't afford to feed them anymore. Pastures are brown and crackly, and the price of hay has gotten up to $70 per large round bale. As we stood in the park talking, we saw a cattle trailer turn the corner, as if on cue, bearing another farmer's cattle toward the sale barn.

Yesterday we had one of our smoky days. It was a full moon, and the moon shone eerily orange through the haze.

I heard from a fellow vegetable vendor that he has nothing to sell because of the dryness. We have that problem to some extent, too: You can water all you want (or all you can afford), but all it seems to do is keep the plants alive. They don't really grow the way they ought to.

WE NEED WATER! Please cross your fingers.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

A hairy tale

I've promised Kitchen Witch, who recently wrote about her run-in with some Canadian bears, that I will tell the story of "the time I punched a baboon." Everyone should have a story like that, don't you think?

It happened in 2002. I went on a trip to South Africa with my mom and stepdad. We had a lovely tour guide named Colin who said things like "jolly good" all the time. (The older generation of English-heritage South Africans have a vocabulary that is sort of hilariously Jeeves and Wooster-like, because they were essentially walled off from global pop culture during much of the 20th century, due to apartheid. This leads to phrases such as "ring the doorbell" being translated as "touch the goodie." I would love to see a thorough linguistic examination of the phenomenon. But I digress.)

We had a lot of amazing experiences, including walking through the Cape Malay district of Capetown, visiting the botanical gardens at the base of Table Mountain, touring the Stellenbosch and Paarl wine country, and checking out a lot of really pretty beaches and seaside towns.

Near the end of the week we took a day trip to Cape Point, which is part of the national parks system. It's a breathtakingly beautiful place where we were able to see some very large elands and other wildlife.

If you followed the link in the previous paragraph, you may have read this:

"At the car park there’s a reputable restaurant with great big windows which take in the awesome views and dizzying drop below. Here one can retreat from the wind and have a bite to eat with no danger of baboons snatching your scoff."

That pair of sentences is one of the best I've ever seen written about South Africa. It is awesomely prophetic, because the park is awash in hairy, fanged primates.

On the way to the park's main gate, we had to stop several times to wait for baboons to scuttle across the road. At the gate, we were handed a pamphlet that offered helpful advice such as "Keep your car doors shut when you get out to take photographs. Once a baboon gets into your vehicle, it is very difficult to get it back out again." There were entire baboon families perched atop many of the vehicles in the parking lot. And the restaurant had installed barbed-wire fencing along the edge of its roof, because apparently in the past there had been a problem with baboons waiting up there, then jumping down on hapless patrons who were leaving with takeaway lunches.

After a hike to the lighthouse, we were hungry, so we decided to have a meal at the restaurant. We sat down at a white-tableclothed, Evian-umbrella'd table on the outdoor balcony. We were perched directly on the stony cliffs that led down to the crashing waves of the Atlantic Ocean. An immaculately dressed waiter brought us a basket of bread rolls. Then he reached into his apron and handed me a generous double handful of smooth rocks.

"Keep the bread rolls covered," he said. "And if the baboons come for them, throw these rocks."

I stared blankly. I had a sense, at that moment, that no odder sentence would be spoken to me for years to come.

But seeing no apparent danger, I ordered a sparkling water and a springbok carpaccio, and we fell into lively conversation.

Jabbering about something or other, I distractedly opened the cloth napkin that enclosed the bread rolls and began to pull out a roll. It was at that moment that I saw, over my mother's shoulder, a dark shape bounding over the balcony wall. A 40-pound baboon arced through the air and, with a thump, landed on the table in front of me.

My first thought was of the little pile of rocks next to my plate, but the baboon's face was at most two feet from mine, so throwing something wasn't really the way to go. I panicked. Instinct took over, and I reached out and punched the baboon in the chest.

Startled, the baboon sprang, frog-like, over my shoulder and narrowly missed landing on the next table. The family at the table screamed and scattered. The baboon disappeared over the low stone wall.

"Good heavens," said Colin. My mother and I stared at each other incredulously.

Then the food arrived. It's really a very good restaurant.