Tuesday, February 27, 2007

In which long-awaited events come to pass

My carrots have sprouted!

If you don't garden, you probably have no idea how momentous this is. You see, carrots take so %&$#@ long to germinate that no matter how many times I plant them, they always fool me into thinking that they've failed. I follow the folk prescription of planting a row of radishes next to them in order to mark their eventual location. But the speedy appearance of the radishes only makes me more morose about the carrots' tardiness.

The only times the carrots haven't fooled me are the times when they have actually failed. It has happened more than once. When you're germinating seeds, you have to keep them evenly moist at all times. Try doing that with an outdoor plot in the windiest part of the year!

But this time there has been good, even germination: a soldierlike row of fine two-leafed sprouts. Enough for us, with maybe a few here and there to sell.

Supposedly the time for sowing carrots is over now. But I think I will try to get out in the garden in the next couple of days and plant a row or two of the tiny, round Parmex carrots I like so much. They reach maturity quickly, so maybe I can sneak them in under the wire. I definitely wish I had planted more earlier.

The indoor plant starts are coming along nicely, too. And when the time comes, there will be plenty of room for them in the hoophouse, because...are you ready for this?...there are NO MORE CHICKENS IN THE HOOPHOUSE!

Yesterday the s.o. and I were both working in the garden. The s.o. was planting onions, while I was applying pelletized gypsum to our acid soil. Suddenly, I got one of my whims. "Let's move the new chickens into the chickenhouse right now!" I suggested enthusiastically. To his infinite credit, he agreed.

I went into the chickenhouse and chased as many of the 21 chickens out into the yard as possible. I managed to shoo 19 of them out there before I slammed the door; the remaining two hens were laying, and I decided to leave them alone because I was pretty sure they would peck me if I tried anything. Then, one by one, we started carrying the new girls into the chickenhouse.

When all nine new birds were transferred, the s.o. and I joined them in the chickenhouse to watch and wait. After a few minutes, we opened the door again.

Our Light Brahma bantam rooster--affectionately known as Penguin because he looked like one when he was a chick--hopped in the door. We are certain we heard him say "Hello, ladies" in a Barry White voice. He strutted around, puffed himself up, and crowed a few times.

Soon the alpha hen--a Speckled Sussex named Dot--walked in and examined the new residents. She pecked one of them on the head, then stationed herself at the door to the chicken yard to regulate their comings and goings.

Eventually all the chickens began to mix a little. It didn't hurt that the new girls were huddled behind the waterer, and eventually the other chickens had to visit them because they became thirsty. When the new girls got hungry, they ventured out to the feeder and meekly pecked up some crumbles and scratch feed.

Eight of the nine new girls are New Hampshire Reds, completely identical to each other, a little shy but with delightful friendly personalities. The ninth is a Black Star we have named Etta. Etta is a character. While all the NHRs were still clustering in a corner of the chickenhouse calling all the other chickens "Your Majesty," Etta sneaked past Dot and checked out the yard. She took stock of her surroundings and immediately began sassing all the roosters. It's a good thing she's quick on her feet!

The s.o. and I eventually left the chickenhouse, but we continued to check on the birds until everyone went up to roost at dark. The older birds perched high, while the new girls clumped together in a corner. Peace reigned through the night. Now our chickens appear to be on their way to full integration, and I am very pleased to have a hoophouse again!

Monday, February 26, 2007


Literally hundreds of tomato seedlings, of approximately 15 different varieties, are sprouting Chez 10 Signs.

The s.o. decided this winter that I was not approaching the tomato issue with enough gusto. We use a lot of tomatoes. And people who go to farmers' markets buy more tomatoes than probably all other vegetables combined. It's the one veg where the message has gotten across loud and clear: Everyone knows that a homegrown tomato is better than a storebought one.

So the s.o. has marked off a large swath of the north field. It will be devoted almost completely to tomatoes, with a few Picklebush cukes and insect-repelling flowers thrown in. Meanwhile, I'll be raising the remaining tomatoes in the main garden.

We'll be growing tons of Sungolds and Sungellas again, because they are simply out of this world. There will be more Principe Borgheses, because we love our homemade sun-dried tomatoes. There will be a few kinds of Romas and Cherries, including tiny Riesentraubes. There will be Marmandes and Prudens Purples for the beefsteak tomato lovers.

But the one variety I'm most excited about is the Green Zebras. I used to grow them very successfully in Minnesota, and I loved their tart vegetal freshness and their cheerful stripes. Obviously I have no idea what they'll do in Georgia--maybe nothing! But I hope they flourish, and I hope everyone around here gets a chance to discover them.

Cross your fingers for NO MORE DROUGHT, everyone! Let's have, for once, a year with plenty of evenly spaced gentle rains, interspersed by mild warm sunniness. What a crazy dream...

Baby sweater update

As seen on actual baby!

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Poor sweet thing

Silver doesn't like thunderstorms. I was just sitting here reading an e-mail when I felt a furry body brush past my knees. She is hiding under my desk.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

America has spoken

Last night I had an American Idol anxiety dream.

It seems I had tried out for the show. This in itself is impossible. I would never do such a thing. For one thing, I am extremely self-conscious; for another, I can't sing. Well, I can sort of sing. I can sing well enough to take part in an average church choir--not the really sensational gospel kind, but the reedy white Protestant kind whose performances people sit through with polite tolerance.

So anyway, I had impossibly tried out for American Idol. And then, to make matters worse, I had by some huge clerical error made it to the top 24. Now the first live-in-front-of-millions-of-people performance was looming, and I was in a blind panic. I would be humiliated because my incompetance would be exposed. How would I even make it through one-minute-thirty of my song?

My mother, who is quite a good pianist, had come to the hotel to help me prepare. But we were having a lot of trouble picking a song for me to sing. I figured we should pick a fast, rough-edged indie rock song that would not require me to hold any high notes. Or alternately, we could pick some sort of soft, breathy Norah Jones-type jazz-pop schlock that wouldn't require me to actually project my voice.

We were still brainstorming in the hallways of the hotel when I rounded a corner and slammed face-first into Simon Cowell. Randy Jackson was there and laughed heartily.

I was really glad to wake up from that dream.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Everyday natural wonders

It is 70 degrees and sunny today. Hallelujah!

While filling the turkeys' waterer, I spotted no fewer than 10 happy, fuzzy honeybees in my immediate vicinity. They were sucking nectar from those purple-flowered minty-looking plants that (ahem) dominate poorly maintained lawns. I love our bees' ability to find food all through the winter. Our bee teacher has not been so lucky; some of his bees got overenthusiastic during the warm January weather and laid more eggs than they could keep up with. When it got cold again, they starved to death before he even knew there was a problem and could start feeding them.

And then there was a third turkey egg, just as beautiful as the first two. I thought turkeys were supposed to be poor layers! Maybe this is just their best season.

To top it all off, we are having our friend L2 and her husband over for Indian food and Idol results tonight. I wish more days were like today.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Almost like grownups

Aaaaaaaaah! So happy!

We just bought this dining room set from a friend in town. We are absolutely in love with it. It's the warmth it brings to the room that I find especially pleasing. And I love its curvy sleekness.

I think it's from the 1940s--anyone know enough about furniture to say for sure? (The image pops to full size if you need to see it more closely.) The banquette and china cabinet have very cool tortoiseshell Bakelite discs on their handles. The table has something we've never seen before: a self-storing leaf that can be swung up from underneath when you pull the two halves of the table apart.

It still has the tags on the back from when it was delivered by train to its original owner! It was manufactured by the Lenoir Furniture Company in North Carolina and sold through Sears Roebuck.

Hey, Mom? We'd like to host Thanksgiving again this year...now that we have a table and everything. :-)

Monday, February 19, 2007

Lovely and amazing

The first turkey egg! So beautiful and speckledy. The foodie in me wonders what it tastes like.

Today has been a busy day. There was a lot to do in the office; also, tomato, pepper, and eggplant seeds needed to be started. I made some headway here and there. On top of that, our yearly Trees of Antiquity order showed up. The s.o. and I planted:

• Three apples - Winesap, Calville Blanc, Monark
• A Smyrna quince
• Two Seckel pears

It was a really beautiful afternoon, and the s.o. and I enjoyed working out in the yard together. I daresay it was as romantic as anything we've done. It's a great feeling to build something for posterity together.

Friday, February 16, 2007


This guy wins my Wingnut of the Year award. I really don't know what to say to a person who doesn't believe the earth revolves around the sun!


Whose desk is this, and why is it on fire?

In the last couple of days, almost every person I know has called me. The only people who haven't are people I ought to call. Yikes! So much to do.

I am sad to report that one of yesterday's phone calls was to tell me that this weekend's Knit-In has been cancelled. Apparently very few of the knitters who encouraged the yarn store to host the event actually signed up. Very poor follow-through on their part.

I am desperate to make the Calorimetry headwrap that simply everyone is making, but I am looking for the perfect yarn. I've already swatched almost everything in my stash, and nothing has the character I want. It's a simple thing, so it needs to be cool yarn. Any ideas? It must be cheap.

In other news, I've made a batch of banana jam in anticipation of the coming farmers' market season. I've been out of commission, canning-wise, because during the recent brining of various pork products, my already dodgy enameled canning pot sprang a leak and had to be thrown out. (Oops! Salt + exposed unstainless steel = hole!) But luckily, our friend D has a gorgeous 22-qt. Mirro pressure canner that she is prepared to part with for surprisingly little money. I gave it a test run today--unpressurized, for now--and liked it a LOT. So the cash is on its way, D!

This weekend is the time to start seedlings for our summer vegetables. It is probably a good thing I will not be spending 15 hours at the yarn store.


Literally 15 minutes after I hit "Publish" on this post, the mail carrier showed up at our house with a box from Jenny. I opened it, and lo and behold, it was full of gorgeous skeins of wool--all kinds! She had decided she was unlikely to use it, and sent it to me. Wow--what a friend, eh? Not only is she generous, but she reads my mind!

So now I will be swatching some brown wool/mohair and some flecked oatmeal Irish superwash wool to see if either one is suitable for Calorimetry. The yarn is all GORGEOUS. There is a heart-melting skein of bulky Lopi that has "mittens" written all over it. *sigh*

Thursday, February 15, 2007

A dinner for sweethearts

I seem to have gotten away from publishing foodie things lately, so I decided to take a photo of the delicious, rosy little dinner that the s.o. and I had last night. Clockwise from the top, there is:

• A bowl of homemade cranberry applesauce, brought out from the freezer. I made it in the fall, during Georgia apple season--I think after our first trip to Ellijay.

• A bottle of Cava.

• A pork tenderloin (from our half-pig) brushed with University of Georgia Entomology Department honey and crusted with cracked mustard seed, kosher salt, and pepper, then seared in a cast-iron pan.

• Boiled rutabaga (from our friends down the road) with butter and salt and pepper.

• A tart of fresh Florida strawberries.

There is a lot going on here. The s.o. has dug the holes for the new fruit trees which should be arriving from Trees of Antiquity at any moment. He has also built a new potato bed. Meanwhile, I have planted arugula and radishes and peas and tendergreen mustard and bok choy. I have also started some seeds in flats: sorrel, mint, Greek oregano, nettle, purslane, mache. Some of my earlier plantings, such as the peas I put in a couple of weeks ago, seem to have been eaten by some kind of animal. Par for the course, I guess.

The farmers' market is humming along pretty well. J and I had a strategy meeting two nights ago, and I am working on the legal hoo-hah that must be ironed out. This week I placed public service announcements in a few newspapers and radio stations, and this morning when the local paper came out, I had a call from a woman in town who would like to sell vegetables and peaches. She was really nice, and I am shocked and appalled that I haven't met her before. Whew! So now I hope I can put to bed my recurring, insomnia-causing anxieties about being the only vegetable vendor...

Monday, February 12, 2007

More knitting

One of the nice things about being sick--maybe the only nice thing about being sick--is that it gives you time to work on things you wouldn't have otherwise had time for. Thus, I present my latest finished items:

The mittens I actually started a long time ago. I designed them to match my Cherry Garcia Neck Tube, which I knitted last March on the beach in Florida. It's the same delicious purple bulky Ironstone yarn I used before. I finished the mittens while I was in Ohio, with the frigid weather providing plenty of inspiration.

The hat I made very quickly this weekend. It's a much-altered version of the three-cornered hat from Elizabeth Zimmermann's Knitter's Almanac. I started with her pattern, then used a less bulky yarn (Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride in Tahiti Teal), then decided I didn't want it three-cornered, then softened the edges. So basically, er, it's not her hat at all. It's sort of a little mushroom cap that can be mooshed into several shapes. It still needs to have the bumps blocked out of it, but I'm already very fond of it.

I have now begun swatching for the Pippi Kneestockings in Stitch 'n' Bitch. I'm really hoping that my tendency to knit tightly will mean that my size 3 and 4 Addi Turbos will suffice, and that I won't have to buy a 2.

So here's where I admit that I've signed up for something spectacularly geeky this coming Saturday. It's an all-night "knit-in" at my local yarn store. I think I am going to need one or two additional projects to work on in order to keep my interest for 15 hours. What do you think they ought to be? The s.o. would love more socks and hats--he is a most grateful patron of the fiber arts--and I am thinking of making myself a striped nightcap. Or I could start a sweater for myself, although I don't really feel like shelling out the $$$ for the yarn right now. Hmm...

Friday, February 09, 2007

Under the weather

Not our weather--Ohio's weather. I was up there from Saturday to Wednesday, and I came back with a wicked cold.

Yesterday I was so useless that I managed to watch the entire amazing Up Series (on loan from friend L2) in one day. She has a copy of 49 Up too, which I guess I'll need to borrow now.

Send virtual orange juice.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007


I finished the Blasted Baby Sweater and gave it to the intended recipient (my little cousin Lia) before she outgrew it! Yay me! I'm really proud of it.

Elizabeth Zimmermann aficionados will notice a deviation from the original pattern: those little rows of lacy holes at the top. What happened was, by the third time I restarted the sweater, I had temporarily forgotten that you have to knit into the back of the stitch when you do a "make one." It created holes, of course. But then I decided I was damned if I was going to restart the sweater a fourth time. The holes look fairly intentional anyhow.

So now I'm ready to start a grownup sweater...for myself!

Thursday, February 01, 2007


Congratulations to the s.o., who, as part of his volunteer firefighting-related activities, has successfully completed First Responder training!

Not only am I extremely proud of him, but now that the class is over, I suspect I will be seeing him more often. Happiness all round.