Summer

I’ve been a lousy blogger this year. Not sure why. My gardening is practically an afterthought, and my focus has several tangents, and I just haven’t felt like writing. The queues have slowed, which means my work day is broken up more, I’m working more evenings, and at loose ends at times during the day…and I’m finding different ways to fill that space. Applying for a  job or two (and getting zero nibbles back). Catching up financially from Les’s trip to Cali. Showering love on the cats, while wishing for a dog. House dreaming. I need a new phone. The aphids are eating the spearmint. I’d love a decent camera…my phone doesn’t capture the amazingness of the mountains here well enough. Mind’s bouncing a little, as you can see…

I started the Whole 30, my first real time doing it. Dropped my first post on that over at Melanie’s Gym. It means more time in the kitchen, more organization, and interestingly, more time cleaning, which for now I’m OK with…and that’s telling, because when I’m in a sugar brain fog, the dishes will pile up, and I have a very easygoing husband who doesn’t mind it, but after a couple days, it makes me nutty. Having stuff cleaner around here is nice. Yes, I know, he could clean too….problem is, we’re both hedonists. But I’m a Virgo, so I do everything.

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Image from smitten kitchen.

Lamenting that I’ve started this right as blueberry season hits here in WNC. While we still have some frozen beauties from last year, I look forward to buying more once they start showing at the local tailgate markets, and it has me itching to start trying out GF recipes…which I’m not supposed to do until I’ve at least reached the end of the Whole 30. I understand the reasoning, and will follow it, but it’s another exercise in patience. Show me a skinny chef, and I’ll show you a person with awesome genetics…..because I love food, and unfortunately, it will always show until I change my habits…which I’m doing and it feels phenomenal.

Plants this year are mostly seedlings from the local markets: arnica, comfrey, spearmint, peppermint, marshmallow, aloe, echinacea. I started catnip, basil, and more echinacea that will go into their own pots finally this weekend, and I’ll clean and reorganize that front area…it’s getting cobwebby and overflowing with crap. I need to suck it up and admit that some of the soil has to go, and some planters recycled. There’s too much out there and eventually the property management company will get grouchy, plus I’d love to be able to sit out there and not have it feel so cluttered. We procured a foldable porch table from my sister when we hopped down to Charlotte a couple of weeks ago, and it’s perfect for our needs. Makes me ache for sweet tea, but I’ll settle for unsweet with a little citrus squeezed in, sitting out there while my niece catches fireflies when they come up for July 4th next week. Hopefully anyway…..her parents are assholes and may not let her come.

The mountains are greengreengreen and teeming with life. It’s been an early and warm summer here, but when you’re used to 90° and 100% humidity, and instead you’re given 85° at 34% humidity, it’s a lovely lesson in perspective. To walk outside and not be greeted by the solid wall of heat is something I still can’t take for granted; it makes me grin and sigh and walk slower to drink it all in through my pores. Luckily, Les loves it here too, and when we finally are able to look for a house, I think we’ll focus around Asheville still, because the local food sitch is just too good to move far from, and it’s plain beautiful here.

Hi, have we met?

I’m looking in the mirror as I say this. And wondering when the shoe’s going to drop that prods me into the positive action necessary to make life changes. For my health. For my business. For this family’s livelihood.

Sorry, this one’s going to be introspective. But I guess I’m taking baby steps in the right direction.

I spent the morning listening to bits and pieces of the Hay House World Summit. Then, in my web wandering as I worked, I realized that the Small Business Summit that my company is holding in cities throughout the nation this year was arriving in Greenville this Friday. It’s a morning of how-to’s to help small businesses boost their internet and marketing presence, and I’ve wanted to attend since I first heard they were holding them. I went to similar conferences last year here in AVL, but don’t have access to them locally this year, and we’re talking about a topic that turns itself inside-out every 6 months.

So that sets me scrambling about getting my arse down there this Friday, when to leave, what to wear, getting my arse back in time to get work done cuz I’m a pinch behind this week because May 12 (more on that below), and hotdamn will I get to see my boss (who’s an ambassador for the company and one of those people who radiates light when she’s in a room), and various other mental meanderings…

The outfit concept is actually easy, because I only have one decent dress that nails business casual, and all my slacks are leaning out of that category, the curse of working from home. Your wardrobe goes to seed fast when you work from home, unless you’re a clothes horse, and it’s harder to be a clothes horse when you freelance. Not exactly a bad thing, until you realize you have to be in public for something, and yoga pants only fly at the Walmart.

And then my ego stopped by. I’d just set pizza dough to rise and was wondering when the UPS man was going to show, because I have a couple of Paleo cookbooks coming today. We’re changing our habits drastically once Les gets back from Cali. He’s attending a conference at Joshua Tree the last week of May/first week of June, and then I want to implement some major changes for the both of us. He’s had food allergy problems that have him skipping meals and losing weight, and I’m on the opposite end of the spectrum.

Without even looking in the mirror, I start berating myself. You’ve lived here for 2½ years. That’s 2½ years away from the godawfulevil that was Florida. And you look…exactly….the….same. I make a mental note to ask Les the minute he wakes up, if he’ll color my hair tonight (he actually enjoys doing this…yes, I know, ladies, I’m spoiled. And no, you can’t have him). I ponder whether my girdle and slip are where they should be…I’ll definitely want to wear those, since the weather’s so amazeballs lately, I won’t wear hose…and I’m a mid-40s gal, so that’s a rather huge concession toward fashion on my part (I mean, seriously, does anyone wear hose anymore?). Should I practice with makeup a bit before Friday morning, since it’s been ages and I don’t want to look like a $3 whore, plus I’m hitting the road at 6:30 a.m. so my eyes will barely be open to doll myself up anyway….and I need to deforest the eyebrows.

All this to see maybe-one friend, but otherwise to be in a room full of strangers learning for a couple of hours. I’ve already changed my purse back to the satchel, because I don’t want to look like an Asheville hippie…I’ve been in a boho mood since Tuesday, but the crazy patterns of those purses would clash with my dress anyway. But I’m turning into an Asheville hippie, and I’m totally OK with that…it’s more than a style of dress; it’s a way of life. So yes, I’ll dress in the dotcom’s version of business casual for this gig, but I may change back into me before I even get in the car to drive back to Asheville afterward.

Ever so slowly, I’m adding sandals and long skirts to my wardrobe, and unclenching about showing my bare legs to the world. I went through a phase recently of trying to figure out what I wanted to look like, because I’m 45 and that makes me think harried mothers or country club, airbrushed, frigid housewives, neither of which I am. I purged a bunch of my purses because they felt too casual for someone my age to be walking around with…and yea, some of them were purchased in the juniors department on a whim…but who dictates what purse looks right for what age group? A bunch of overpaid creative types straight out of a screen test for Devil Wears Prada? I’m not looking to walk a runway; I just need something with enough pockets to hold my shit, but not so many that it makes me crazy.

All this rambling to wrap my head around getting dressed for a public appearance that will involve bending over a laptop for 3 hours…

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Seedlings have been started, but I’m half-assing them and not expecting them to take. Already warned Les that in about 2 weeks, I’ll bag those and want to buy seedlings. We bought spearmint, peppermint, and comfrey a while back, and they’re looking good; and Les added an aloe recently. His mom brought up a begonia, which I’m hoping will attract bees.

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May 12 marked 8 years since Dad passed. It hurt, until I realized I wanted to make May 12 “Be Kind to Yourself” Day. I caught up on sleep, took it easy on work, did a little shopping, and just listened carefully to myself and treated myself well. The results were rather invigorating. I’ve had nerve pain in my left shoulder blade the last couple of days, but after this morning’s Advil and listening to the words of Dr. Dyer in his movie The Shift, I’ve had such an amazing work day, and the pain seems to be abating.

The mountains are greening (and I must go…)

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Paraphasing the oft-quoted John Muir. Just learned this week that he was born in Scotland and basically founded what we know today as the Sierra Club. Thank you, NYTNow.

We got a serious amount of rain in March, and April has been more of the same, so I don’t know why I’m surprised by the sudden beauty filling in the blanks all around me, like some kid grabbed every green Crayola in the box and went to town on our mountains. The dogwoods, apple, and crabapple are stretching their arms out in showy pink and white, the red maples are doing their thing, and everywhere else is filling in greeeeeeeeen. It’s waking me up inside.

Chalk it up to this only being my 3rd year back in seasons. I also blame it on apartment living, a lack of green space to call my own, so I note that it’s mud season, and I crave a pair of muck boots for it, but know I don’t actually need them yet. Gotta hate when frugality and an attempt to scale back on hedonism results in depriving oneself of shoe shopping. I’ll make up for it with a new pair of hiking shoes in a couple of weeks.

When it’s not raining, the weather’s so dang beautiful it makes me ache and want to go climb said mountains, even though I’m still in winter shape and it would seriously kick my ass. As soon as the brace comes in for my iliotibial pain (it’s not just a runner’s problem, it’s a “fat chicks who overexert themselves” problem), I’m working my quads on a hill somewhere.

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What I learned at this year’s Mother Earth News Fair continues to sink in slowly, and sadly, it’s the American food industry helping push my motivations away from itself. I touched on this over at Melanie’s Gym, but the upshot is that what started as a small voluntary recall by Blue Bell, has snowballed my desire for greenhouses, a milk cow, and much more food independence than we currently have. I’m so glad I bought The Nourishing Homestead, and I look forward to tucking into that when time allows in the coming weeks.

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01f8623ea4126ebab66ff58f649df2d38c585bd978We haven’t even started seeds yet, mostly because of logistics. Ansel turned 1 yesterday, and a couple of weeks back it dawned on me that last year’s setup of an electric blanket and seedlings spread out on the guest room bed wasn’t going to fly at. all. because he’s a climber and uses that bed frequently. So I’m thinking I’ll start them on the kitchen table and just stagger it as space allows. Since we’re only doing herbs to start, there’s less concern about timing. We bought 2 mints and a comfrey at the tailgate market last week, and damn, that felt good, so I’m definitely ready to get my hands in the dirt. Just gotta find the time.

Mother Earth News Fair

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I’ve attended 3 of these fairs now, so the effects are more gradual. Saturday was overwhelming as usual, all the walking, all the things to see. There’s more free time once you’ve been to a couple of these, and it was nice to not feel so rushed to take everything in. And in true Murphy’s Law fashion, some of the workshops you do want to attend hit at the same time, but that’s a hard complaint to have when there’s so much good there.

For the uninformed, Mother Earth News Fair is a “hands-on sustainable lifestyle event” of workshops, lectures, demonstrations, and vendors focused on the tenets espoused in the Mother Earth publications. If you are a farmer, gardener, wannabe, or granola, it’s a 2- to 3-day love-in.

This is Asheville’s 2nd year, and I pray their numbers are good enough to go for a third; because I really do love this fair and the next closest one is 8 hours from here. Even though it felt initially like we had more free time, more workshops to blow off because we had already attended them at previous fairs, I find myself still processing everything I learned this year and wishing I could have attended X, Y, and Z. Sunday definitely isn’t as populated as Saturday, hence my concern about the numbers.

I have turned into a seriously easygoing adult, so I don’t understand people who go to these things and then spend their time complaining. I can only guess that they’re exhausted from being parents, and I’m childless. I’d like to see more animals and some fresh workshops, but by and large I go, expecting to have a blast, and it has yet to disappoint.

The food truck sitch was MUCH better this year, lots of options; and Sierra Nevada brewery just opened a facility next door to Asheville in Mills River, so they had a beer garden this year. Props to them for several things: the hydrogen and solar powered trailer serving icy cold beer with 100% of the proceeds being donated to the Organic Growers School. Great promotion! I indulged on Sunday and it hit the spot nicely.

Les and I both seem to learn something new, take away something that engages us, gets us excited to learn more. This year, it was mushrooms for him and butchering for me. I learned about charcuterie, butchering a hog, processing and butchering chickens, and a smattering of gardening.

The above images are all courtesy of Mother Earth News, because the one drawback to the fair being held at the WNC Ag Center is that it’s an impressive cell phone suck zone. It’s located directly across from the airport, which I’m guessing is the reason texting is a joke, cell reception is sketchy, and your phone battery literally seems to drain faster than normal. As a result you forget to take pictures because your phone becomes a source of frustration.

There’s plenty more I’ll be talking about later, about the delightful Meredith Leigh and her butchering expertise, about how fascinating the chicken processing was, how Joel’s talk did not disappoint, but WordPress is being difficult, and I’ve got pesky sites waiting to be edited.

Nutshell: if you suffer from Barnheart, get thee to the Mother Earth News Fair! Totally worth your money and time!

An Ill West Wind in Upstate NY

I don’t post often enough here these days, and I hope to change that soon, especially as the world starts to wake back up from winter. But this week and topic have struck a chord, and I hope if you feel so moved, you will help Josh and his family if you can.

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I dream of my little patch of land, and the dream gets closer. It will have a copse of woods for us to draw our heat from (and replenish as we go), and hopefully a small water source. There will be a well on the property, and some pasture for at least chickens and pigs. The house will be a fixer-upper with good bones, and the land will hopefully have a barn that may be described the same way. We will live off this land, and share our wealth where we can.

Anyone with this dream educates themselves. Even before watching Food Inc., I had heard the stories of “Monsanto’s Men in Black” coming to accuse the smaller farmers of stealing their seed (because it had blown quite literally onto their land by nature); of a seemingly well-meaning animal lover calling the cops on Jenna when her farm was in its infancy (because that neighbor had zero clue about the positive points of deep bedding, or that a farm could be ::gasp!:: muddy around the edges); about farmers hosting farm to table dinners on their land in the great outdoors, only to be told they can’t serve said food because it hasn’t passed inspection to be served to the public…food that was grown without pesticides, on the premises, transparently!

The stories are infuriating in the face of what the USDA and the American Food Industry think passes for food nowadays. It’s why the Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund exists, and I pray, thrives as people clue into the fact that the “food” on grocery store shelves cannot be allowed to enter our bodies if we want to live long lives.

Yea, I digress. If you read Jenna, or Jon Katz, or keep your ear to the ground on Facebook, you’ve already heard the story of West Wind Acres, a farm in West Charlton/Amsterdam, New York, that raises chickens, pigs, and cows on a transparent, rotational grazing ala Salatin system. They also have horses and dogs on the property, or did, until the local authorities responded to complaints about the animals being kept outside (not true) and raided their home and property. The horses were seized and taken to a local rescue, in spite of not one, but two local veterinarians certifying that the animals were in good health. If you read between the lines, you have to wonder if the authorities planned their visit mid-afternoon because they knew things would “look” lax since enough time had passed since morning chores. Their animals were not being neglected, but still Josh was charged with 13 counts ranging from animal cruelty to unsanitary conditions.

Yes, upstate New York has had a hard winter, but the animal loving freaks who call the cops anonymously on people like Josh simply don’t understand enough about animals, the conditions that they live in, and the conditions they can withstand. There’s a reason people build shelters instead of barns in a pinch. These animals, be it sheep, horses, cows, or pigs, lived outside for centuries. Their shelters, barns, and mangers barely kept out the cold, did not have heat, and still these creatures survived, because their coats and central nervous systems evolved to do so.

I’ve already said too much, and can feel the animal lovers going “what about chickens getting frostbitten combs! what about the water buckets freezing!” My point is a responsible farmer takes all the “what if’s” into account, and judging a farm book by its cover is what’s irresponsible. This ignorance is, in fact, painfully detrimental to the small farmer, just trying to earn a living doing what they love, giving back to the land and its people.

I was so glad to see that the gofundme account set up to help Josh and his family with their legal expenses was up to 78%! Because if you ask me, that goal is on the low side, considering what his family will have to endure in the coming months to get their animals back, get the charges cleared up, and try to repair the damage this has done to their business, their livelihood. If you are able to give, please do. I gave, and y’all know how tight-fisted I am. But I don’t have to clap eyes on their farm to know that an injustice is being done, and I pray their story only strengthens the resolve of all the other dreamers like me out there, just waiting for the pieces to fall into place on their own little patches of land.

Almost Back

I know, it’s been ages since I’ve posted. Believe me, it feels like it, and with Spring around the corner, my mind starts to itch with plans. What will we plant this year? How to keep the GD neighbor’s dog from pissing all over everything? Yea, the weather’s ever-so-slowly starting to turn, but patience is key in the WNC…put stuff out before May 15 and you’re asking for lost crops, no matter how small…and I really want this year to be about smaller batches with bigger yields.

February was a frenetic month of snow and electronic failures. My laptop went into a networking coma about 3 weeks ago…plain stopped being able to access the internet at all. I took a 2-week forced vacation, binge-watched West Wing, and nearly went out of my gourd from the lack of real computer access. Still processing the lessons that come with that…..I bought a zafu and zabaton, and I’m exercising more.

We procured funds from our last safety net (don’t get me started about how that feels, or how it’s forcing serious budgeting like never before) and sent the laptop to a local repair shop, where thanks to snow days and the flu, it’s been languishing a bit … I’m calling them Monday. We purchased a laptop for Les, which has been a long time coming, as he’s an unpaid producer for an internet radio show and has been doing all manner of administrative tasks from his iPhone 5 for like, 6 months now. I ordered a nice desktop model, but it needed some custom building and is only now on its way to us. I’ve been working from Les’s new laptop for a week now, and I ache for my own system back, any system to call my own. The end of this coming week, the desktop and a new office chair should arrive, and late Christmas will fall in Melanie’s world.

I’m behind on my computer class and my book proposals, and there’s nothing to do but wait just a little longer. I’ll start work on the taxes tomorrow, and knock them out fully next weekend. 2013 is paid off, thanks to that safety net, and I’m starting to think that the big chunk I was hoping to put toward a future house payment needs to go to the 2014 taxes, and we’ll just have to save for the house payment the old fashioned way…because there’s not much point in only paying off half the 2014 year and then trying to save for both at the same time, not with the hideous penalties and fees the IRS tacks onto every month.

To all you wannabe freelancers out there, the concept is doable and wonderful and amazingly freeing, but for the love of all the gods, do your homework first! I figured this out the hard way, and this makes me look stupid, but I bring it up here to illustrate how important it is to read the fine print. When I called the IRS to negotiate an installment payment plan, they were wonderfully flexible…the agent told me that since I was negotiating a payment plan, I would not incur additional penalties. That was a bold-faced lie. The second key point was their flexibility about how much I could pay…I wasn’t budgeting well at the time and told them I could really only afford $50 a month to start. They said no problem, and I did just that for about 6 months…and recently looked at the statements they sent me and discovered that thanks to those additional penalties and late fees, I was making virtually no headway on my debt…in fact, I was owing a couple bucks more per each month!

So. I’m back to pulling X amount from each check to go toward quarterlies. I actually started that when I first went independent back in 2013, but when you don’t budget properly for everything else, that concept quickly takes a backseat. I’m over that nonsense. Momma wants a house!

Figaro’s dealt with fleas this winter. She and Ansel both got fat, so we’re regulating their food (no more silo!) and she’s lost weight. Ansel’s been a little slower to drop the pooch, as he eats compulsively when he’s bored or gets admonished. But the little guy’s not yet a year old, so I’m determined to get him back to fighting weight.

New Year, New Look

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I renew the URL for this blog in February, and with it usually comes an antsyness, a desire to look a little different. Don’t know if I’ll keep this template, but I’ve been itching to get writing here again, so we’re going with that for now.

January came and went without too much fanfare. Winter came in like a lion here in November, shocking us with that fast and early snowfall, and we’ve had little more than 24-hour flurries ever since. I have trouble empathizing with the folks who are sick of winter, and have to remind myself that if I was stuck daily with the tasks of shoveling out different routes through 4 feet of snow, I’d likely be singing a different tune. I really wonder how much of the crazy weather New England’s been getting this month can be at least partially blamed on human-induced climate change. Scary thought.

Every time I step outside to cold temperatures and low humidity, it pulls my time in Florida further away in my memory, and I heal a little more. I really hated it there, and this place is a balm for my soul.

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I made a much better living here last year than the first year. I have a lot of fear about finances, about keeping the roof over our heads and the wolf at the door, but seeing those numbers on the 1099 have helped me gain some serious perspective and see where budgeting needs to change.

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This winter, the pressure canner’s been getting a workout. We freeze the leftover turkey at Thanksgiving, and recently it finally became soup. It was a helpful reminder of how much better homemade tastes than your average can of Progresso. I followed that up this past weekend with Beef & Barley, and since I do enjoy the Progresso Chicken Vegetable Rotini, I’m planning to reincarnate that in homemade fashion next.

Jam season should arrive on the heels of all that soup making. I’m focusing on strawberry and blueberry jams only this year, as it’s becoming clearer what gets eaten around here. I should add peach jam to that list too though, because the Hubs loves it, even though we still have plenty in the pantry.

They maintain an indoor tailgate market around here in the winter, but it lacks some of our key favorite farms, and we’ve been busy/money’s been tight coming off the holidays. We’re both already looking ahead to farmer’s market season though, getting fresh local veggies back in the fridge. I’m going to be experimenting with more veggie-focused recipes this year, as I work to lose weight/get healthier.