Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Goals for 2012

I think my goals, and my focus, for 2012 have to be mainly about getting ready for the move to the country house in 2013.  For one thing, it may actually end up happening sooner than that, and for another, there is so very much that needs to be done between now and then.

1. We must get the water fixed in the country house.  It is an inconvenience now, but it will be a disaster if not addressed well before the move. We also need to box up the knickknacks, get rid of most of the furniture and clothes, etc., fix the clothesline, and clear out the storage building....there are so many things we can do now to get the house ready.
2. We must have fenced in areas for the dogs..  This will be complicated by the feud between the two girls requiring that they be separated at all times.  It took the loss of the usefulness of my right index finger to make that point crystal clear. They cannot be together, ever.
3. Choose and prepare the main garden area. I think it would be beneficial to test the soil, then spend some time building it up until I can actually garden there.
4. Get serious about livestock.  This will require fencing pastures, building a barn, acquiring a trailer and a truck to pull it with, and finding a vet and a farrier.
5. Build a chicken coop and run.  Oh, I can't wait to have my own hens.  And guineas!
6.  I need to learn how to operate the tractor.  I secretly (or not, now) look forward to this part more than any other.  Whee!
7. We need to make a big effort to get our suburban house ready to go on the market.  Getting the roof fixed and repairing the rain damage will be the first step.  Maybe putting in a floor would be a good idea, too? Then we can worry about the yard and paint and details.

A lot of other things will have to slide this year so that I can focus on these things.  I will still have a small garden in my suburban front yard, but I won't try to replicate my mistake last year of having a huge garden 3 hours from home.  That just didn't work.  I will continue to can, and cook from scratch, and improve my skills with sourdough and I will make some sauerkraut (in the fancy German crock I got for Christmas!) but I have to get more organized about it so it takes lees of my time.  I spend almost all of my time at work or in my kitchen.  I never seem to get anything else done.

Purge, purge, purge.  Cull that clutter.  There is so much that just has to go.  Yard sale, Craigslist, Freecycle, Goodwill here I come!

What am I not thinking of that needs to be looked at or dealt with at this point?  

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas is Creeping Back Into My Heart

In spite of a few setbacks this week, I woke up this morning with Christmas in my heart.

I've been really inspired by the generosity of the folks paying off K-mart layaways and throwing gold coins worth 16K into Salvation Army cauldrons.  Haven't you?  Even though these stories have been offset by stories of people ripping off toys collected for needy kids, it still puts a feeling of peace and hope into my heart when I hear of the kindness and generosity people are showing each other at this time of the year.

Tomorrow Bren and I will pack up the sleigh and head over to my sister's.  I will depart from our long held tradition of making lasagna on Christmas Eve this year because the niece and nephew are going through that picky stage called childhood.  I'll whomp up a big batch of homemade spaghetti sauce the way my grandmother made it (her secret was to put in a big carrot and a chicken thigh) and an equally large batch of meatballs.  My sister and I will enjoy the Pioneer Woman's recipe for Olive Cheese Bread (Honestly, if you've never tried this you really should.  It is a greasy, buttery, cheesy, olivey, oniony slice of heaven!) We will make a salad with the lettuce growing in my front yard garden.  My Great Dane puppy (Kudzuki) will make some dog treats for my sister's dog (B.J.).  (Ok, I'll make them but 'Zuki would if he could.)  I will make badly decorated cookies with my niece.  Peace will reign on earth, and all will be well.

On Christmas day my sister's in-laws are all coming over for a big dinner.  Lots of cooking and baking to do.  I found the most astonishingly elaborate bread shaped like Rudolph's head with antlers and red nose and all at a local bakery.  I ordered one for dinner Christmas day and one to give to some of the attendees.  After dinner it will be home again where Bren and I will celebrate Christmas with all five dogs and three cats.  I'm so looking forward to the next few days.

Peace and joy to you this Christmas!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

I Have to Change My Life

There are a lot of things wrong with the way I'm living.  My health is just poor.  I don't eat right.  I don't get enough exercise.  My job makes me feel bad about myself daily.  My home, instead of being a cozy haven of contentment, is a chaotic, filthy mess.  We should be on a tv show like Hoarders or something.  I have no time to take care of any of the things that I feel like I should really be doing. This city is making me miserable.  Yeah, I know.  Whine, whine.

Three days ago I was driving near my office with my 11 year old nephew in the truck, on our way to get some pizza.  We drove up on quite a scene.  In the lane next to us but going in the other direction was a car that was sitting still at an angle in the lane.  There was also a police car.  And an officer with gun drawn and pointing in the car as he moved around to the driver's side, shouting at the occupants.  I couldn't see into the car through the pitch black tint, so I didn't know if it was full of bad guys with guns, or just a little old lady from Pasadena.  Considering the window tint and the officer's behavior, I'd have to bet on that first choice. Griffin got down and I hit the gas and got us the hell out of there.

I don't know if you can imagine how upsetting it was to have that going on right next to us with my nephew in the truck.  He was pretty shaken up and his mother told me it's still bothering him.  Me, too, Buddy.  Me, too.

Two days ago I was at Folks Restaurant picking up my catering order for my company's Christmas lunch. They weren't open for lunch yet, so the parking lot was deserted.  One of the employees helped me carry some jugs of tea to my car.  Then he went back inside to get the cart with all of the food on it.  I  stayed outside making room in the trunk for the food.

Around the corner came this shattered wreck of a human being, and he came straight at me.  Normally I am the most tolerant person in the world but excuse me if I describe this guy the way I perceived him - a filthy, smelly, crazy, dangerous, homeless crackhead.  I've been living in the city for almost 3 decades now and this was not my first time at the rodeo.  Normally I have no trouble warning off folks like this who approach me. 

Apparently I managed to encounter the one guy like this who wasn't looking for money.  He was horny.  Great. 

It got physical.  And it got ugly.  And scary.  And it was terribly upsetting.

Thankfully the Folks guy came through the door with the cart, saw what was happening and ran straight at us, scaring the crazy guy away. I need to take him some kind of thank you, don't you think? Maybe some home canned goodies and some cash?  He was literally my hero in a white kitchen coat pushing a shining catering cart.  Bless him.

Looking back now,  I realize, of course, that I should have called the police and done something about this maniac.  At the time it, though, it was like I was in a tunnel.  All I could see was getting back to the safety of my office.  I don't think I was thinking very clearly, really. I barely reacted at all until after the lunch was over and I had time to relax.

It took until I was shouting at my entire department at work yesterday for me to realize how upset I am about all of this.  

I realize that crime is everywhere and moving to the country won't guarantee I won't ever encounter a criminal or dangerous situation.  But it sure would be unlikely to happen to days in a row out there, right?  Also, not so many strangers wandering around out in the sticks where everybody knows everybody.

Time to rethink our schedule?  The move to our country home is scheduled for July 2013.  I just don't think I can wait that long. I feel like I have no control over my life here.  There, I can set my schedule, actually make choices about how to spend my time, go outside, live a life that is cleaner and healthier in many ways.

I really need to change my life.


Monday, December 5, 2011

Giving Back at Christmas and Through the Year

I feel weird posting about this but it seems that "Current Thinking" says that you are supposed to be more open about charitable donations in order for everyone  to see donating as a normal, popular, and positive activity.

So, ok.  I give all year, in very small amounts, to whatever charity or cause catches my fancy or interest or gets my blood up.  I do not donate to many of the huge non-profit organizations because I think that some of them (Susan G. Komen, for example) have allowed themselves to be co-opted by their biggest funders, like pharmaceutical and chemical companies, and because most of the larger non-profits don't give enough of the money to the cause it's supposed to go toward.  I also tend to give more to animal related charities, because I think that people are able to help themselves more than they do, while animals are at the mercy of people.

I tend go a little nuts at Christmas, but, again, I keep them amounts very, very small.  This year I have donated to:

Heifer International - Giving families the means to support and feed themselves and then requiring them to help others.  Brilliant!  I buy someone a flock of chicks at Christmas and on my birthday each year.  We have started a family tradition where my niece and nephew look the catalog over and choose a gift for us to give Heifer in their names as part of their Christmas.  It makes them happy that they can help other children feed themselves.   

We will be giving a toy to the Toys For Tots drive at Bren's office. 

Petfinder - The best place to turn to when you want to adopt a pet and so much more  These folks do a lot to help animals.

Daffy's Pet Soup Kitchen - What a great idea!  Helping people who are struggling financially so that they can keep their pets and keep them fed. This is one organization I have volunteered with.

Edgewood Longears Sanctuary - A donkey rescue that recently saved many, many pregnant jennies.  Wowza, that's a lot of long ears!  I don't have a webiste for them but the donation info and the story on those jennies can be found on Morning Bray Farm's blog

Angel Acres Horse Rescue - I donate to their nationwide anti horse slaughter billboard campaign.

Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund - I love these folks for being there for those who have the nerve to raise sheep instead of being sheep.  Boy, have they been busy this year with all of the government raids of raw milk producers, organic food growers' dinner parties, etc. Their t-shirts make me laugh out loud, especially the Got Moo'shine? one.

The Horse Rescue, Relief, and Retirement Fund is a horse rescue in Cumming, GA.  These people are amazing.  Not only have they taken in approximately half a bazillion horses and other assorted equines, they also do dog rescue and have taken in pigs, chickens, the biggest goat I have ever seen in my life (really, he's almost scary!), and more.  I have volunteered with these folks a time or two and I would do more of it if they were closer to my home. 

Farm Aid -I have no idea if their efforts are actually helping family farmers but I do know that they consistently bring the problem to the public's attention, bless them.

My favorite way to give back, though, has to be when I see an immediate, specific need and address it personally and directly. 

Being a Secret Santa for underprivileged kids (There are so many places and ways to do this. Try local news or radio station websites) and filling their Christmas wish lists is an awesome way to give and know for sure you are making someone happy.

When Katrina devastated New Orleans, one of my co-workers took in a displaced family.  They literally had only what they were wearing.  We were able to provide them with food, brand new clothing, and other necessities.  

Earlier this year I heard about a recently widowed local woman with a house full of kids and grandkids who lost absolutely everything in a fire.  We managed to get in touch with her, found out what they needed (everything) and started looking for stuff for them.  We got my family, my office, Face Book and other friends, and even a church involved and we checked almost everything off of their list, item by item.  They were so grateful and relieved to have beds to sleep in, and underwear, and toothbrushes, and plates, and shoes, and so on.  What a great experience, to be able to do that for someone.

These projects were really satisfying and meaningful to me. It seems that looking for meaning is a common theme in the lives of homesteading type folks, don't you think?

How do you give back?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Best. Cornbread. Ever.

Yesterday was chilly and windy and that made it perfect weather for a big (huge!) pot of chili and some home made cornbread.  

My friend Jeff Reed gave me the perfect cornbread recipe a few years ago.  I realize that just saying that a particular recipe is the perfect recipe is fighting words for some folks, especially when it comes to cornbread.  Some foods just seem to divide people sharply along lines of opinion.  Here are my cornbread rules, you probably have your own:

1.  No cornbread worth eating ever came from a mix.
2.  Sugar can be added if you are using it for dessert.  Dessert cornbread is delicious.  Otherwise sweet cornbread is yucky cornbread.
3.  It's better with buttermilk.
4.  It must be cooked in greased and preheated cast iron! You just won't get the right crust otherwise.
5.  I like yellow cornmeal so much better than white.  I think it tastes more strongly of corn, but that may just be a visual prejudice.
6.  Never cook cornbread while shirtless.  Especially don't accidentally lean your shirtless self up against the cast iron skillet when it is just out of the 450 degree oven, you hussy, you.  Don't ask me how I know about that, but I will say I have two permanent reminders on my tummy.

So back to Jeff's simple recipe for perfect golden goodness:

2 beaten eggs
2 c buttermilk
2 T melted butter 
2 c self-rising (Yellow!) cornmeal

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Grease a cast iron skillet.  (I used to use Crisco shortening, but now that I know shortening is trying to kill me, I have been trying other things.  Last night I used a combo of butter and olive oil and got the best crust ever.  The crust is key.)  Put the greased skillet into the oven and leave it there until it is really hot.  Mix the ingredients together without over mixing, then pour the batter into the very hot skillet.  It should sizzle like crazy.  If it doesn't, then the pan wasn't hot enough and your cornbread is ruined and you should just go to bed now and cry yourself to sleep. Or am I the only one who would do that?  Really? Oh, well, never mind, then.  Bake it until it is done to your liking.  I like it dry but not dried out.  You kind of have to experiment with time to see how you like it.

The thing is, I get bored, even with perfect cornbread.  Last night I was feeling cheesy, and oniony, and chile -y, so I added:

1c shredded extra sharp cheddar
1/2 c finely diced onion
1 small can diced chiles
a tiny splash of extra buttermilk

It was, simply, the best cornbread I have ever had.  It smelled so good baking I almost couldn't stand it.  The crust came out beautifully with the butter/olive oil.  The cornbread was moist and the extra sharp cheddar, onions, and chiles created tiny bits of heavenly flavor throughout. The cheese was particularly awesome.

I had some for breakfast this morning.  Cold.  It is that good. 

When I get home tonight I'm going to can 7 quarts of that ginormous Jethro pot of chili so it will be ready to go the next time I want some.  The rest will go into the freezer.  Real convenience food!

Does colder weather get you excited about cooking like it does me?

Monday, October 10, 2011

Ham Broth

I am a terrible blogger.  I don't write often enough and when I am immersed in something I almost never remember to take pictures.  Please forgive me, all 7 of you! Let me try to make up for all of my past and future indiscretions with this one post about a useful and fabulous food that no one ever seems to talk about.

The subject most on my mind today is Ham Broth.  Why don't people talk about it more?  I just don't understand.  Yes it is salty and more fattening than chicken broth, but that is because it tastes like ham, People.  Yum!

What do I use it for?  Everything!  I make soup with it, especially bean soups; put it in casseroles; cook rice with it; cook veggies in it (Oh yes, I do!).  My two favorites uses for ham broth have to be ham & dumplings and ham gravy.

Ham & dumplings is exactly what it sounds like.  My mom is not a from scratch cook.  Really.  As a child I thought that Campbell's was the only kind of soup to be had in this world and Swanson were the people who froze our dinner for us every night.  In the late '70s, though, my mom and step-dad bought a farm out in the sticks and built a house complete with a woodstove in the basement.  One day in the deep, dark cold of an Upstate New York winter, my mom put a picnic ham into a huge pot, filled the pot with water and set it on the woodstove to cook.  The smell of that brought me and my sister down the stairs to the basement like in one of those cartoons where you kind of fly though the air led by your nose.  You know what I'm taking about?  It was incredible to smell real food cooking.  After hours and hours on the woodstove the ham fell apart into the broth and mom made dumplings right on top of all that scrumptious goodness.  Hot Dog!  Or, rather, real, actual food!

Years later, as I was making my own boiled ham I thought "Why have I never had ham gravy?"  It sounds really good, right? You should be able to make it like any other gravy - fat, broth, thickener, right?  Right!  It is simple to make and you should see the look on someone's face the first time they put a forkful of mashed potatoes with ham gravy into their pie hole.  You can almost hear angels singing.

Geez, that yogurt I had for breakfast was a long time ago and I'm making myself hungry, here. You know I'm having a ham sandwich for lunch, right?

Ok, Grace, how does one make ham broth?  Put a big ham in an even bigger pot, fill it with as much water as you can get in there, and simmer it for hours and hours.  When the meat is falling off the bone, remove the meat, allow it to cool, and pull the meat off.  I divide it into two cup portions and freeze it.  The skin, fat, and bones go right back into the stockpot.  I put in a good splash of apple cider vinegar in the batch I made this weekend, and let simmer it even longer, until the broth is rich and concentrated and the bones have given up all of the good stuff.  Oh yummyness.  I have it in bowls in my fridge right now.  When I get home from work tonight I will skim the fat off and freeze it for making ham gravy later.  I will also put the bones and some of the broth and fat in my most enormous pot (My beloved cousin-in-law Debra calls pots like this Jethro pots.) with a huge amount of collard greens (and some water and red pepper flakes and plenty of apple cider vinegar) and cook that for a good, long time because I like collards cooked all the way until they are good and soft.  There are only two people in my house but we go through collards like an army.  Tomorrow night for dinner we will have some of the boiled ham which I will pop briefly into the oven to crisp it up a little; collards; and mashed potatoes with ham gravy.  I can't wait to chow down on all of that.  Too snug jeans, here I come!

Later this winter when it is good and cold I will make a pot of ham & dumplings. It is awesome comfort food for a cold, blustery winter's day.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Checking Another Item Off The To-Learn List. Woot!

I'm so geeked out!  I did make bread and butter pickles this year, but that wasn't really what I had in mind when I added fermenting foods onto my To-Learn List for this year.  Today Riverview Farms sent me an e-mail announcing that Slow Food Atlanta is having Sandor Katz teach a fermenting class here in town on the 24th!  I had to think that over for, oh, about 1/16th of a second before I was on the brown paper ticket website ordering my ticket.  

Isn't it funny the things we get worked up about?  I'm so excited I can hardly stand it!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Losing Pip, a Preserving List, and a Little Garden Clarity

I haven't been blogging because I am depressed, devastated, bereft, and forlorn.  I lost my partner in crime, my travel companion, my sweet little doggie, Pip.  My angel went peacefully to sleep in my arms over two months ago.  I didn't sleep for 9 days.  I want my dog back.

Let's move on, shall we?

Here is a list of what I have put up so far this year:

 Mandarin oranges in Spiced Syrup - (6) 1/2 pints (These are bitter and horrible!)
Peaches - 7 qts.
Pinto Beans - 14 qts.
Strawberry Preserves - (11) 12 oz. jars
Strawberry/Fig Jam (so good!) - (9) 1/2 pints
Bread and Butter pickles - 6 pints  (I grew the cukes!)
Beef/Vegetable soup - 7 qts.

I'm forgetting something, I think.

Not really canning but I did 2 jars of fridge pickles, also with cukes I grew.

2 gallons whole strawberries
1/2 gallon sliced strawberries in sugar
6 c peas (Almost my entire harvest. Need to put in way more peas next time.)
1/2 gallon peaches in sugar
3 cups tomatoes (The first of the Romas)
1 pint of tomato juice


From the garden and patio, I have harvested peas, lots of cucumbers, potatoes, tomatoes, and carrots.  A lot of the garden in South Carolina just up and died. The weirdest thing is that the red cabbage I  planted in February is just now making heads!  That's just wrong, right?

I learned a lot about gardening this year.  Most notably, I learned that you cannot successfully have a garden in another state.  Life intrudes, and it became impossible to get there, sometimes for a month or longer.  I plan to go exploring in that jungle soon to see if I can find my onions in all that mess.   Fortunately, we had to cut a big tree down in our front yard at home in Atlanta, and suddenly my greedy gardener's eye sees potential for a garden in right in my own front yard.  Raised beds are about to be built for the fall garden. Hopefully I won't be the next Julie Bass. Hey, if a garden in the yard is ok at the White House...

 The best surprise for me this year was to find that we have a prolific pear tree in our yard in South Carolina. That  thing is huge and so laden with pears some of the branches have broken.  I plan to do a lot of canning with those pears.  Fruit cocktail, salted caramel pear butter, pear sauce, canned pear crisp filling, just pears in syrup, oh my!  We also have a fig tree I didn't know about.  FROG Jam and more Strawberry/Fig Jam coming up as soon as they are ready!

I want to put up a lot more soup, more veggies, lots more meat (I did pork last year and it was wonderful!), more beans because the pinto beans are so delicious and easy to make something from.  I want to do some kidneys, limas, and white beans, at least.  I still haven't done my tomato canning for this year.  My tomatoes are not producing so well, so I'm going to have to buy them, but I need to have tomatoes in my pantry, especially my mom's recipe for stewed tomatoes. I need to remember to get a new gasket for my pressure canner!

How goes your gardening and preserving this year?


Friday, August 12, 2011

For Mikey

 I made this Peanut Butter Pie because recently widowed Jennifer from In Jennie's Kitchen asked her readers and fellow food bloggers to make her husband's favorite pie today in remembrance of him.  She regrets putting off making his pie, which touched me deeply.  Mikey's death was very sudden and unexpected.  Like mine and yours and everyone's, Jennie's life was busy and filled with a million things that get in the way of seemilngly unimportant things like pie. 

I can only imagine, thank goodness, the shock of suddenly having one's world shattered like that.  All their plans for the future, gone.  Their daughters will now grow up without their dad.  Jennie has lost the husband she loved so much.  Everything was changed in an instant.

This could have happened to any of us.  Thank you, Jennie, for taking the time to remind us all to make the moments count.  I am so grateful to have Bren and I love her so much, I want to make sure that I never have regrets about what I didn't do for her.  That will be an ongoing project, but for today, I made her favorite pie, too. 
Rest in peace, Mikey.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Overboard in the Garden

Please, somebody stop me!

Do you think 54 tomato plants night be just a tad more than 2 people will need?

Why do I keep overdoing this even though I am killing myself in this garden? Honestly, I'm beginning to resent the garden for the work and the travel and the stuff I miss out on when I'm there.  My nephew was the hero of his baseball game Saturday, for instance, when, thanks largely to him, his team beat their seemingly unstoppable, and heretofore unbeaten, rivals.  I miss too much going from state to state for this garden. I miss my wife!  So does that slow me down when buying and planting seeds and tranplants?  No.

What is holding me back is that my physical limitations are much worse than I had thought.  Some of it I can overcome if I will just get into better shape.  Arthritis, advancing years, and my many illnesses will always make me weak and sore, but it doesn't have to be this bad!  This weekend reminded me that losing a bunch of weight does not mean that you are any stronger or have more stamina than before.  It took all day and a whole lot of breaks to get those tomatoes in (and the cantaloupe, peppers, watermelon, and green beans.)  I finally just couldn't do anymore and I ended up bringing the zucchini, yellow squash, and picking cucumbers home to try to plant on my patio and in my front yard.  I'll figure it out.

I am excited, however, about some heritage tomatoes the local nursery had in stock.  I have always wanted to try Mortgage Lifter and Cherokee Purple and now I can!  I also planted a whole lot of Roma type tomatoes, a first for me, as I hope to make a lot of sauce and paste for myself this year.

I harvested a few peas, enough for a nice side dish one night, but most just weren't ready. It looks likely to be a bumper crop when they are ready, though.  Awesome!

The cabbages are most unhappy and it's getting so hot now I suspect they will bolt without making heads.  They've been in since February and are just now starting to get some size.  That's the red cabbage, the green cabbages all died right off. 

Lots of lettuce almost ready for picking.  The beets, swiss chard, and carrots are coming along nicely.  Unfortunately many of my garden markers washed away in the storms and, as I have no experience with most of what I'm growing this year, I have no idea what is what.  Hopefully I'll come across the sketch I did of what is where.  Note to self - a designated notebook with all the notes, lists, sketches, and comments would be most useful and a better idea than the bunch of scribbled sheets on different sizes of paper scattered randomly throughout my 2 houses, my office, and my car.  A sorry state of affairs.

I really need to become friends with my new elliptical machine, because this weekend about killed me!


Thursday, April 21, 2011

Garden Crazy

Reading the blogs of gardeners from other areas of the country and the world, I am becoming aware of just how blessed we are to live in a climate suitable for growing something most of the year.  In appreciation of this, I've just joined The Growing Challenge to have a four season garden this year.  You can find them at:

I had made up a planting schedule for the whole year ahead of time this year with some help from Clemson University's website.  They had South Carolina divided up into specific regions, and gave great advice that has probably saved me time, money, and aggravation.  For instance, I was going to plant Collards with my early crops, but Clemson suggests waiting for a Fall crop.  They would grow fine, it seems, as an early season crop.  They would also be bitter and awful without that Fall frost required to make them worth eating.  Bless them for sparing me that disappointment!

I'm off to my SC garden tomorrow night and I'll be red-faced, sweaty and sore Saturday morning.  I wouldn't have it any other way.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Ahhhhh, Ranger

Ranger has been growing - and eating - and eating - and committing crimes.

Crime #1.  Dumpster diving.

Ranger has developed the charming habit of excavating things from the recycling bin, chewing them to shreds, swallowing some of it and evenly distributing the rest all over the house.  One of these days I expect to have my vet tell me we'll have to surgically remove something from his gut.  I'll think about it.

Why don't we just move the recycling you ask?  Because his obsession with the recyclables means he isn't eating as many shoes, purses, hats, couches, etc.  That's why.

Crime #2.  Excavation #1

Our neighbors on the other side of the fence have a herd of dogs that makes ours look small.  One of those dogs is a vicious, dog killing, beautiful, intact blue Pit Bull.  Did I mention he's unusually large for a Pit?  He has killed some of their other dogs, including Snoopy, my favorite.  I don't like that damned dog and I'm always scared he will get into my yard and hurt my babies.  Ranger decided, for whatever reason, to dig under the fence and under the neighbor's shed.  He made a cave big enough to turn his 87 lb.self around in.  There can only be a few inches of dirt left between him and the evil dog over there.  Did I mention the killer dog's name is Danger?  Bren and I countered with this:

He uses these giant mitts to move all that dirt.

Crime #3.  Excavation #2

Ranger is the reason why I will never have any compost for my garden.  He digs under the compost bin, knocks the side door off, and eats every nasty, disgusting bit of rotting vegetation I put in there.  The few things he won't actually eat, like leek tops, he carries around the yard as trophies and toys.  Damn it.

Crime #4.  The front and back doors.
This is what he does when I'm out and he's in.  Or when I'm in and he's out.  Buy some stock in vinegar production, folks, 'cause I'm going to be doing a lot of windows.

Crime #5.  Beating his Mama up.

He didn't mean to.  He just forgets how big he is.  So while I was looking out the front door at the rain, a clap of thunder startled everyone.  I heard him coming down the hall like a thundering herd of wildebeest.  I turned just in time to catch 87 lbs. of terrified dog right in the gut.  I think he was attempting to jump into my arms.  I fell backward, striking the back of my head on the edge of the open door.  As I fell with my hip hitting the metal edge of the landing, Ranger fell with me, his front feet driving all of the breath from my body. Oof!  I was just down for the count for a minute there.  My ancient, terribly ill rat terrier Pip is very protective of his mama.  He was beside himself, so he decided the right thing to do was to launch himself at poor Ranger, who was scared and scrambling to regain his footing (still on my stomach, God help me.) Just picture it, if you will.  The hysterical small dog attacking the big, frightened dog and me trying to move so I could separate them before someone got hurt.  Ah, the joys of motherhood!

Why would we keep such a pain in the tuchas, you ask?

Well....he is really sweet.  And really, really lovey.  And it's almost cute when he forgets how big he is and sits on someone's lap.  But mostly we put up with his doofiness because we rescued him as a companion for Chewie and they are great together.

He makes Chewie happy and that makes us happy.

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Garden is Growing!

I've been spending a lot of time at the country house in South Carolina so I could get the garden started.  It is at my brother-in-law's house just down the road.  Here are some pics after he had plowed it.

Three weeks and some torrential rain later, it looks like this:

In the foreground are the peas and their trellising. Off to the far left you can just glimpse the end of the long line of cabbages. In between are beets, carrots, 3 kinds of lettuce, mustard, onions, turnips, and I can't remember what else.  The storms have washed little areas of seed out of the rows and into pools of mystery veggies.  Isn't gardening exciting?

I'm so geeked out about the garden, I should be embarrassed.  Really, though, I'm just excited and can't wait to get warm weather stuff in.  I have an extensive and perhaps unrealistic list.  One thing I will certainly be growing a lot of this year is tomatoes.  I'm fed up with tired of the stuff in cans at the store.  My own tastes so much better and I don't have to wonder what is in it.

This is my new favorite t-shirt I got from Tractor Supply Company:

Gotta love tractor humor.

My little, old, sick, beloved Rat Terrier goes with me most trips.  Although the three hour ride each way is hard on his old, achy bones, (Mine, too!) Pip loves his time in the country.  Here he is basking in the sun and then, well, you know how dogs are about squirrels right?

All in all, Pip and I are having a great time on our weekend trips to the sticks!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Urban Homesteading

Also Urban Homestead. So there!

Sticking my tongue out at people who let their egos get the better of them.

I'm embarrassed by their behavior and I really don't understand why they aren't?.

Friday, February 11, 2011

I Still Have So Very Far To Go - Mea Culpa

I've been feeling pretty good about the way we've been recycling lately.  We've changed our system around a little and are producing mountains of recycling.  Factor in the composting, and I've found that we hardly have any garbage going to the landfill. Great, right?  Right?

Wrong!  Something is terribly wrong here.  Mountains of recycling???

That's right, mountains.  We fill all three of our huge, oversized recycling bins to overflowing every week, and we usually still have some left over.  I can't believe how long it took me to stop feeling proud of that and realize we have a problem. We have a couple of problems.  One is that we keep buying processed foods contained in insane amounts of packaging.  I've been aware of the evils of processed foods since I was old enough to think, yet I still buy them too often.  I have many reuseable grocery bags, I even have some specifically for produce, but how often do I actually remember to use them?  The answer is almost never.

I know that instant foods in plastic packing to be heated up in the microwave at work for lunch are just bad for me, and the earth, on any number of levels, but I still buy them sometimes.

And what about the water I waste preparing food containers for the recycling?  Good clean water lost.  Wasted.  I'm ashamed.

I have taken some baby steps to right some of these problems, but I need to get tough and try harder.  I need to stop rushing off to the grocery store in a panicky state and buy whatever I see.  I need to get better at planning out my meals and making sure that the food I buy is, whenever possible, better quality, local, organic, and more sustainable.  I certainly can't afford to shop at the mobile Farmer's Market again (Hey, thanks for the $26.00 whole chicken and the $9.00 teeny, tiny bag of collards.  You have to be kidding!), but I can learn to grow my own veggies and take advantage of people's offers for windfalls (like my cousin in law's apples and blueberries later this year.)

I also need to create some kind of gray water collection system in my home, to deal with wasteful water uses like rinsing recycling and prewashing dishes before using the dishwasher.

I have so far to go.  It's a little intimidating, but I'm on my way and determined to do better.  The proof will be there in front of my house on Friday mornings, in the amount of recycling waiting to be picked up.

Friday, January 21, 2011

January Spice Rack Challenge - Rosemary

I decided to join Mother's Kitchen's Spice Rack Challenge because I need a challenge to get me out of my spice rut.  I have a cupboard full of spices, but really only use 10 or so in my everyday cooking.  I'm looking forward to trying some new ones and to using familiar ones in different ways.

My recipe for this month is Roasted Whole Carrots with Rosemary.  I recently discovered that my husbian (Yes, she's the tomboyish one, lol) will eat carrots if I roast them.  What a nice and easy side dish they make!

The ingredients are:

1 bag whole carrots, NOT baby carrots
2 T olive oil - I used a lemon flavored olive oil and it was really good in this
2 T fresh Rosemary leaves, stripped from stems and lightly chopped
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Coarse Kosher salt to taste

Wash and lightly scrub the carrots.  I try to peel only the blemished spots.

Place the oil in an oven baking bag or on some aluminum foil;.  Add the carrots and the rosemary and roll around to coat.

Grind some pepper over this and add a little salt. 

Close the bag or the foil packet, place in a roasting pan and bake at 350 degrees until tender.  The time this takes will vary depending on the thickness of the carrots. 

I love this dish!  It's so pretty when you plate this up.  It smells heavenly and tastes fab.