10 Minutes from the BRP

01bfc4fe6137cb38842159dd9f4acb4942d9756978After 25+ years in purgatory (aka Florida to a CT native), the gods really smiled on me when we moved up here. We acquired our apartment sight-unseen, because Les’s grandmother passed a month before our move and our travel money for one more trip to Asheville evaporated when we traveled to her memorials in SC. Certainly not faulting the dear lady for her exit, just it punctuated that we were jumping into a bit of an abyss.

Not only did our apartment turn out to be worlds better than our old place in Jax, not only were the mountain views on the main drag leading to our new place breath-taking, not only are we literally surrounded by local food sources, but we discovered within a month or three (give or take for snow) that the Blue Ridge Parkway was accessible from said main drag. I honestly don’t remember if that factored into my decision to grab this particular apartment…pretty sure my main concern was rent price, not location.

From Reems Creek, to Ox Creek, a 10- to 15-minute winding drive past farms and up S-curves, it drops you onto the Blue Ridge in the MP 370s, right in the middle between the Folk Art Center and Craggy Gardens. The area is also a hiker’s paradise, as the Mountains to Sea Trail cuts right through this area.

Spoiled rotten.

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Yesterday afternoon, I knew I had to get out of the house, and I’m so glad I did, because the color has been haphazard to reach peak, and thanks to the winter storm conditions we’re scheduled to get today/tomorrow, autumn should come in for a landing fast here. We’re supposed to get flurries starting tonight, and my joints are feeling it. There’s gonna be some diet adjustment after the Halloween candy disappears; I’m over feeling this old.

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Have a terrific Samhain, y’all! Stay safe!

Settling into Autumn

I catch movement out of the corner of my eye and take a moment to watch a fluffy grey squirrel traverse our back hill. He’s got a husked black walnut in his mouth, and I wonder if it’s the same squirrel from last week. I’ve yet to see a chipmunk since moving here, and bunnies are rare, so it’s squirrels and birds for entertainment around here. I should count my blessings…the black bear population should be bedding down soon for naps, which brings them closer to civilization for a decent meal before retiring.

Hormonal mood swings keeping me close to home this week, as the mountains turn to rust around me. It’s been a damp autumn, which means color not as vibrant as it could be, but it’s still nice to drive around and see those amazing flashes of orange, yellow, and the occasional red. No wonder I was so miserable in Florida…my heart was firmly planted in that John Muir quote: “The mountains are calling and I must go.” Every time we drive downtown, I’m struck dumb by the beauty, the layer upon layer of mountains greeting our eyes from the little valley that is Asheville. National Geographic named Asheville a “best city” in one of its new coffee table books, and I have to agree. I’m so glad we made the leap, instead of half-assing it in another city for want of a decent living wage. The mental health factor nearly makes up for how desperate we are for dough these days.

Finding my groove where that’s concerned…there are things I need, that I’m making myself settle into the “want” column, because other things must take precedent. It smacks against my hedonism rather mightily and makes me crave chocolate (since I can’t turn that craving into shoes, purses, books), and it’s a good lesson. If we had had kids, that lesson would’ve been learned a helluva lot sooner.

The power of suggestion is interesting…writing that, I notice my toes are getting chilly and walk out to the living room, to slide into a pair of loafers and step outside to toss last night’s litter cull into the dumpster and take a breath of fresh air. The shoes are an epically dowdy pair of Eastlands that I have christened house shoes for now, because my slippers are set for the trash heap and I can’t/shouldn’t invest in new ones. Slippers are a great footwear choice when you work from home, but I’ve found that everything under $40 is garbage that lasts a year and then dies, and if I’m going to invest in footwear this time of year, it’s going to be for duck boots for the both of us, to combat the slippery driveway in the coming months.

Saturday’s weather forecast is teasing flurries. After 2 days of indian summer in the high 70s, it’s a relief to have 50s and rain today. I’m about ready for the winding down of Mom Nature as we trudge inexorably toward winter, but setting the clocks back this weekend is still going to be jarring. I’m still feeling my groove where the new contract is concerned too, and last week’s laptop antics didn’t help. My system has a virus, that I only partially attended to last week by resetting a couple of items and removing others. I know it’s going to cost me money in the coming weeks to remedy that, and I cringe with the thought, when I still have to get my eyes checked, add new insurance to our budget, and the holidays loom.

I hate to sound so meh. Life is hard right now, and I’m finding my way through it. Les caught guilt from his mom for not visiting, and that feeling lingers, stretches itself out, and colors my mood. His mom lives in an unacceptable situation that she’s not strong enough to free herself from, and she emotionally manipulates people to feel sorry for her. It’s gotta be causing my latest curiosity in Buddhism, the desire to free myself from that nonsense. I’m a hard person, a tough love advocate, and it’s not going to assist me in my relationship with her; but if she thinks our not visiting is bad now, wait til we have more animals and land. She visits here every couple of months now, so really she was just feeling sorry for herself when she talked to Les, and had to get a dig in. But I reminded Les that that just meant we couldn’t visit now if we wanted to, because the last thing you want is to reward that kind of manipulation. But that’s not the only reason we don’t visit: there’s 2 cats who don’t get along here, and gas prices, and work, and the fact that she lives with one person I’d like to call the cops on, one person I’d like to go up one side and down the other to shove back into the land of the living, and one child I’d like to kidnap and deprogram.

Hopefully writing about it means it’ll get the hell out of my head now. My focus turns to crap when I’m hormonal, and I’m behind on work, and would very much like Saturday to be spent curled in the big chair, hot cocoa and Dragonfly in Amber in hand, watching for flurries.

Autumn Days

In spite of that subject line, I probably don’t have any decent images of leaves changing. I need to go for a couple of drives this week. We’re almost at peak here in the WNC, and the temperatures are heavenly. Should be smelling wood smoke in the air any day now.

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It’s been far too long since my last post, and no help for it. I’ve been letting life live me, working in front of the tube and then wondering why it takes twice as long to get anything done. A new contract was presented to me, and that nonsense may be finally nipped in the bud, because my favorite sites are no longer worth my time until the bulk of my work for the day is completed now. So I’m back at a desk and hopefully getting my proverbial excrement together.

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Early autumn was a time of food processing. The pressure cooker and water bath canner both saw some action. There’s just not enough money or space yet to do the putting up that I want to do, but I’m making do where it counts. The kitchen always becomes a learning experience in some way. I have a bad habit of creating soups that turn into stews because of the lack of broth, and I look forward to working on that. My last batch of chicken and wild rice was delicious, but I froze the leftovers because there plain wasn’t enough broth to can them and I wasn’t going to put forth the effort only to have the seals not take. Darn freezer’s full to bursting though…that deep freeze idea is looking better and better….

We hit Sky Top Orchard about an hour south of us to stock up on apples and cider doughnuts. Need to hit them in September next year…it was a serious walk to the back of the orchard for the good stuff. Came home with at least 2 bushels of Granny Smiths, Pink Ladies, and Romes. I got an apple peeler/corer a couple of Christmases ago, thank the gods, and now, a week and a half later, there’s several bags of apples in the freezer for pies, half a dozen jars of apple butter, 12½ pints of applesauce, a large pie, and a leftover bag of Romes for snacking.

That new contract also meant investing in Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom, so I’m hoping to get better at image presentation in future posts, just as soon as I can dig into the tutorials.

Autumnal Equinox!

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Gratuitous kitten shot

Where does the time go? I’ve been neglecting the blogs and no excuse, just the random busyness of life.

September is my birthday month. A pinch of hedonism followed by a slathering of responsibility. The state got proactive about my past due taxes and started garnishing, and that was the kick in the ass I needed to contact the IRS and get myself on a payment plan for the federal past dues. It’s a relief to be out of collections, per se, but it means some serious budgeting on the horizon. We’re talking about ditching cable finally, and I’m shopping for cheaper insurance for myself once the open enrollment hits in November. I throw some resumes into the ether every couple of weeks and by and large, I’m ignored; so if I can keep us afloat through the holidays, the next step after the first of the year will probably be some temp work through an agency. We’re encouraging family members to come to us for the holidays, because we can’t afford to travel this year.

I’m so happy to have been canning more this year! Put up more tomatoes last week and I’m hoping for at least two more big batches, if I can find the money for them, because I have my eye on recipes for tomato paste and pizza sauce (and the pizza sauce jones is totally thanks to Jenna, the evil temptress…winkwink). Did an inventory of our pantry this past weekend, and enjoyed the assessment…lotta jars in there, dry goods, preserves, etc. I’m partial to strawberry jelly so I’m making a mental note to make more next year, because I can already tell it won’t last the winter.

I’m also looking ahead to winter from a preparation viewpoint. We took the car in to get an alignment and discovered what it really needed was 2 new tires, so that expenditure was taken care of this month. It’s a relief to have that done, and we got all-weather tires, but I still want to be uber-prepared this year, so that if we don’t want to hit the roads (when it’s snowy or icey), we won’t have to. That means preparing foods on the weekends for the week ahead, having a well-stocked larder/freezer, and stocking up on stuff like candles, water, etc. for just in case. Trolling the web for cookie recipes, soup and stew ideas, and dreaming of a larger freezer someday…and LOVING the pressure canner for taking up the slack that our freezer can’t handle.

*****

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I’m in an amazing mood today! First day of fall and the weather’s reflecting it here in the WNC, with clear skies, temps just around 70, and the leaf colors starting to turn. We’ve been opening the windows at night finally, and I look forward to the electric bill decreasing a pinch.

I spent yesterday in food prep mode: bread, bread crumbs, granola, and energy bars. The bread crumbs were to kill a loaf of whole wheat that I knew wouldn’t get eaten and was taking up space in the freezer; Les and I are both suckers for white bread (and still in love with this recipe). As I did not trust myself to dry them out completely on first run, I left the food processor til the end. But I was low on Ziploc bags too, so crushing them with a rolling pin was out; hence the pic of the wooden mallet. It worked fine. Took a lot longer than I thought it would (I’ll make the pieces smaller next time), but I just kept rotating trays in the oven while doing other stuff.

Tried the granola recipe from From Scratch magazine. It didn’t clump as well as I would’ve liked, so I may try another recipe next time; though I admit it could also be because I added coconut flakes and didn’t add more moist-something to compensate. Hindsight. Sorry no energy bar recipe link…it’s from Terry Walters.

We’re almost out of cash til Thursday, but jack o’ lantern pumpkins are 3 for $12 at Ingles….I see some financial shuffling occuring…..

Merry Mabon, y’all!

Harvest Time

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“A garden is never so good as it will be next year”

- Thomas Cooper

With thanks to Chiot’s Run, from where I snitched the quote.

I’m dragging my feet on digging the potatoes. The reasoning is twofold: I needed a weekend of doing very little, and that was accomplished. And I think I’m putting it off because then I’ll know it’s time to really rearrange things out there for fall. But I’m also worried they’ve been in the ground (so to speak) too long, so it will get done this weekend.

I have my eye on a 4 foot mini greenhouse for the winter out there. Unfortunately, it’s close to $100 at Lowe’s, and that kind of money always goes toward something else here. I still have a large amount of plastic sheeting, so there’s a chance I could jerry-rig something with PVC pipe, but that’s one of those projects where you’d almost rather shell out the dough for the nice mini greenhouse instead. Especially when the landlord gives a crap about outside aesthetics.

Labor Day. Can’t believe it’s almost September. 

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Yes, that middle shot is Ansel sitting up like a human, feet out in front of him, so he can bathe the privates. Why do you ask?

Discovering Food

Yea, can’t shut me up. This post probably belongs in my cache of essays for the book I’m laying out, but I’m itching to talk today…

One of the downsides to binge-watching TV (I’m unable to ignore it when Science Channel decides to throw a Firefly marathon…Browncoats unite!) via plain old cable is being stuck with the same types of commercials for hours on end. McDonald’s latest campaign to drag office drones thru their drive-thru before work involves extreme close-up shots of the ingredients behind an Egg McMuffin and coffee…the egg being fried, the Canadian bacon sizzling on the grill, the English muffin being brushed with butter, the coffee being poured. I’m not a Canadian bacon fan, but even if I was, all I could think while watching it was how the “butter” being brushed on the muffin was likely three types of oil with butter flavoring (like the stuff you pour over your movie popcorn), GMO’d to the hilt, the eggs from battery cage hens tortured throughout their short lives, the bacon created from pigs that were never able to turn around in their cement floor and metal cage pens…..

I don’t lament the abuse I performed on my body during the dotcom years, hitting the revolving door of their drive-thru at lunchtime because it was the closest crap near work. It’s in the past. But I’ve never been so happy that my food habits have changed. The Hubs made brunch yesterday, fried egg sandwiches with bacon on top. Both the eggs and the bacon come from a farm in Fairview, a half hour from here, where the pigs and chickens are pasture-raised. The bread is homemade, this recipe with organic flour from the local co-op, which means even the flour may be local, since the co-op is working harder to stock Carolina Ground lately. It was a scrumptious, sigh-inducing meal that I reflected on often as I burned through Firefly episodes. I may still overeat and not treat my body right, but where we live and the decisions I make now…so much healthier!

I was reminded of this as I read Ben’s post today. Even when you don’t create the food yourself, it’s entirely possible to take pride in the food choices you make. I’m incredibly lucky to live where I do, and it’s thanks to where I live that I’m able to make the choices I do. I’ve noticed Jacksonville (FL) has been trying harder to pull in outlying farmers and set up smaller farmer’s markets since we left. But the pull to grab crap when crap is so convenient is a very difficult struggle. My sister encounters it daily, living in Charlotte. 

So this is mainly a gratitude post, because ever since I did my homework, I haven’t been able to darken the doorstep of a single drive-thru (and while we live in BFE, there are a wealth of choices within a short driving distance), and that. is. so. liberating! 

Wild Geese

With thanks to Kris Carr, for putting it on her FB. I needed this today and will reread it several times to get through this Monday. Canada geese especially, have a special place in my heart. I got to know them well as they flew over our field on Above All in Connecticut. They carry the spirit of my dad, from the flock that visited the cemetery when we took him home.

Wild Geese
You do not need to be good.
You do not need to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting-
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
Mary Oliver