Perspective

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It’s been a while, so prepare for a ramble.

I’m looking outside at the grey cold. Actually, only the sky is grey; the back hill is flush with pine tree teenagers still boasting their green needles. The upstairs neighbor has the heat on, and his new unit goes louder before it shuts down; it sits outside the 2nd bedroom window. The quiet when it shuts down is lovely. Les doesn’t leave the TV on much anymore, as he’s glued to his phone (radio shows, podcasts, etc.), and I welcome the quiet. We’ll probably cancel cable after the holidays.

I’m simultaneously bummed and glad the snow’s holding off til evening, because we haven’t been to the grocery store yet this paycheck. The weekend got away from us and likely, I’ll send Hubs off to the EBBS* by himself later, because I need to work. But my focus is fleeting a bit today, hence this post. I just read Jenna’s latest, and it was wonderful…like, print-that-sucker-out-and-post-it-on-the-fridge-for-motivation-wonderful. Just a basic “day in the life” post, but for those of us who don’t have our farms yet, it sings with anticipation.

I put the new lease in the mail this week with a sigh of relief, a bit of sadness, and a healthy dose of determination. Things need to change this coming year, but for now, there’s still a roof over our heads and food on the table.

I woke up this morning as I have been lately, around 7:20 a.m. because the kitten climbs over my head and on my hair to get to the bedroom window. He hops up from the bed to the top of the short bookcase and just looks and looks, tail wagging like a dog. I’ve gotten enough sleep, but the awakening is startling and makes me grumpy, and thus it takes me longer to get my motor running. There’s no animals to walk or wood stove to tend, so I make a cup of coffee and try to settle in at the laptop. Check email, play on FB, do a site. Unfortunately, that’s a bit of a theme during the week for me though, which makes me fall behind quickly and work more Saturdays than I’d like. For someone who has 3 other living creatures counting on her, I could really use some more self-discipline.

I think about looking for office work after the holidays. I don’t know if this will actually happen, or if I’ll budget us differently and soldier on. I know deep-down that I’d rather do the latter, but I’m also uncertain about the intelligence of that scenario.

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The holidays are sneaking up on us. We’ll put the tree up this week, and spend the next 3 weeks disciplining the kitten probably. I’m quite devoid of spirit this year, so I’m hoping the tree will give me a morale boost in that area. It’s going to be a very thin holiday, but that’s probably a good thing. I tend to let my hedonism go bonkers this time of year, but between new insurance, new glasses, and a host of other bills, it’s plain not possible right now.

We don’t want to travel, but we will, hopefully just for an overnight at his mom’s. His mom’s house is not a healthy environment, but she’s only almost-3 years widowed and needs the family support around the holidays.

Thanksgiving was a bit of a puzzlement, and the cause of my lack of holiday spirit, I think. I usually kick off the season that day with Macy’s on the tube and a hearty meal, and we did just that. His mom visited, and we bought a local bird. But I made way too much food this time around, and the week coincided with an offer for more money at work, so I was chained to my laptop when I wasn’t listening to his mom sigh and feel sorry for herself. That sounds cold, but it’s a situation that’s been going on for years, long before Les’s dad passed, and the parties in question are in some serious denial as to how to change things for the better, so all we can do is listen and advise (and then get frustrated when our advise falls on deaf ears). I was out of sorts for 3 full days after she left, needing naps and chocolate, and my moods swung wildly.

Not coincidentally, I dove into Buddhism last week, attending several sessions at the local sangha in downtown AVL to see if it’s my cup of tea. It both is and isn’t, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to investigate that for myself. I’m too shy lately to desire much community. I dropped in on Ashley at Malaprop’s the other day for a hug and a chat, and got overwhelmed toward the end. Such a silly thing to have happen when you’re just chatting with an acquaintance, but it happens. So I’m recognizing that I need to meditate more, that it feels terrific to do so; but I’m steering clear of individual sangha activities until I know more about what area of Buddhism speaks to me the most. I respect the religion too much to interlope without more knowledge.

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The kitten chirps himself awake, turns around once, and curls back up to sleep, next to me on the guest room bed. He’s my anam cara, and the lap time he sometimes affords me in the evenings is a balm. My cyclothymia was kicking my ass on Sunday, but when he hopped in my lap for a spell that evening, his presence filled in some of my cracked spots. The juxtaposition of barely keeping the wolf at the door while noting how incredibly lucky we are to live how we do is not lost on me, and I find myself more grateful and humbled this time of year. The key is keeping up that mindset year-round.

* EBBS = Evil Big-Box Store, in our case, Walmart

Turkey Time

No, this post didn’t hit early by accident. Turkey time for us means getting the bird from the local farm.

Have I mentioned lately how much I love it here?

Hickory Nut Gap Farm sits in Fairview, about 20 minutes outside of Asheville. We got our bird from them last year, and roasted it with just butter and herbs. It was easily the best turkey I’ve ever had in my life.

HNG is a multi-family pasture operation with an impressive regional span; I’m pretty sure I remember my sister saying she saw their beef in Charlotte once.

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The images are theirs, from their Facebook page. I was so delighted to be there, I forgot to take pictures.

The temperature was around 25°F as we set out this morning, clear and cold. We hit the North Asheville Farmers Market first, chatting up the locals and grabbing some greens; and then we headed southeast.

We stepped into the farm store and quickly tried to blend in; there weren’t a lot of customers yet, but Channel 13 was filming an interview on local eating at Thanksgiving time. We waited patiently for them to be done, because they were blocking the turkey cooler. I checked out the local jewelry and jams, and we hemmed and hawed over bird parts for giblet gravy, before deciding to just grab sausage and bacon and get the rest at Greenlife. Hot cider and coffee were set up near the front, and we both partook of the cider, which was delicious.

With the bird (13 pounder and terrific looking) and the oink products stowed in the car, I took another look around. The horses weren’t penned out front, but a quick perusal of the property showed they were still set up for field trips and fall festivities, because there were animals within walking distance to peek at. We said hi to the occupants of a small chicken coop, but the real prize was in their new animal structure, an open-air barn with a high roof and no sides, housing a multitude of pigs and goats. A nicely trained bunch too, because they were being held without much more than an electric fence wire maybe a foot off the ground. I could’ve stayed all morning, but the bird was fresh in our car, not frozen, and we had 2 more errands to run.

*****

I love this time of year, and have already mentioned how it motivates me. I mentioned to Hubs on our errands this morning that I have a new goal in mind: holding a 20-year anniversary party with our families/friends on OUR land. He agreed that that would be nice.

That’s a tall order. Our debt is not insignificant unfortunately. But the past 2 weeks in particular have brought home to me the importance of money for certain things, while other things can easily be done without. We were painfully poverty-stricken the last 2 weeks, our safety net is nonexistent, and two things happened: my laptop finally said “enough! get these damn viruses out of me!” and I developed an eye irritation that required medical attention. We had to borrow from family.

That’s something that has decreased significantly since both our fathers passed, thanks to a combination of pride and circumstance, and I couldn’t be happier about that. We’re in our 40s, for pete’s sake!

So, as we march toward the holidays, Dark Meadow is also marching toward a true budget that will make this blog more than just a name. I read blogs like Cold Antler, Going Slowly, and Soule Mama with a catch in my throat because they are living the dream. I step outside in the mornings for a fresh air stretch and resist hopping across the creek to watch the neighbor split wood. Part of my life is meant to be outdoors, and I will find a way for that to be more than just a dream.

Easing into Winter

Autumn was fast and hard. It’s still around some days, but given that our first snowfall this year was November 1st (!), I’d say the mentality is sliding into winter. I’m not in the holiday spirit yet, but with Thanksgiving next week, I’m sure I’ll dredge up some happy. Thanksgiving is MY holiday; I throw on the Macy’s parade and cook up a friggin’ storm. We’re getting a turkey again from Hickory Nut Gap, and Les’s mom is visiting.

The one fairly painful sticking point is that his mom hits Walmart after Thanksgiving dinner. I was toasted last year when we went, so it wasn’t too bad; but everything about that scene makes me want to scream. I’m really resenting the blatant materialism of the commercials on TV this year too, the pushing of gaming systems and big screen TVs and toys just because it’s that time of year. Our gifts are going to be mostly handmades again this year, and there’s that feeling of being resented because they’re handmades, when if the people in question paid any attention to the true meaning of the holiday at all,…ah, I’ll cut that whine/rant off at the pass. Instead, when faced with something that goes so very against my philosophies, I’m forced into a “can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” attitude. I’m sure this appears wishy-washy to some, but accompanying the mom-in-law to Walmart is a very literal means of supporting her in her endeavors (sad, but true), and the woman doesn’t get nearly enough of that in her day-to-day, raising our niece herself in the company of two of the most reprehensible parent figures ever to walk this earth. And if I get a new office chair out of it in the process, so be it. ;)

Money fears have me making silly decisions, like sending my resume in for retail work, which I then think better of once they call for an interview. Never mind that I’m barely physically capable of that kind of work, but the plain truth is that it would equal more stress on my mind and body, and a car commute (and the wear and tear that goes along with that), for shitty pay, and it’s just not worth it. I need to be looking for real work, in an office, with benefits that make it doable to toss my freelancing dream to the wind for now, because it’s a lovely life, but it’s bankrupting us (or it would if I had any desire to go that route again, which I do not, thus we must dig our way out).

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The scenery this morning from last night’s snowfall. It’s been flurrying all morning, but not sticking, which is a godsend, because I have to hit the doc’s office later and didn’t want to be driving on a skating rink. I’ve had an eye thing for days now that’s clearing up, but my overprotective Hubs and mom-in-law are making me go in and make sure it’s resolving itself.

*****

The homesteading dream seems farther away these days, but I know it’s still very present, from the way I ached this fall to run across the street and ask the guy with the log splitter if I could watch and help. I didn’t, but stuff like that is coming. If I’m unable to find office work this spring, you can be damn sure I’m going to look for a farm nearby to intern at…I know those gigs pay almost nothing, but I have to get some workable experience beyond my container gardening. Also changing my tune about acquiring certain books…I haven’t wanted to spend the money on books like the Storey’s series on Raising Sheep or Chickens because that dream is still so far out there…but I have to learn this stuff sometime. This winter is going to be all about digging into the homesteading shelf and actually reading the materials we already have, which are plentiful.

I’m also studying Ayurveda, trying to get a handle on my health. My prediabetic condition can only go on so long before it turns into the real thing, which it will most certainly do if I keep on the way I am. They have some interesting ideas that I think could help me with my overeating, and coincidentally, one of the foremost voices in Ayurveda is right here in Asheville. Snagged this book out of the library and am diving in. Stay tuned!

Flurries

Ehem…

Slight miscalculation, NOAA.

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This weather energizes me, thank the gods! Sure, it’s a time to turn inward, but it’s definitely not a time to sit on my laurels. I have to work today, but I can’t wait to make some lists, fall on some books, drink in some ideas. I like the feeling of having everything we need in our home and not needing to go out. I like the feeling that if we needed to go out, we could without too much worry. The brakes still need work on the car, but the tires are sound. I like being able to work from home, that’s for damn sure.

Our money sitch and certain family members make it hard to look forward to the holidays. Today’s snow is taking the edges off that stress. I’m itching to bake, to continue to take stock, and to make things with my hands.

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.