Spring is hard

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Confession: I haven’t started seeds yet.

As a wannabe farmer, I’m quite ticked with myself over that. I let life get in the way as a general rule around here, but that shit shouldn’t fly in the Spring. Yes, my work can run long, but it doesn’t have to take all day, and that’s the big hurdle I’m addressing this week. They bumped up my quota, which is lovely for the paychecks, but means time management is a must. My weekends have been BUSY, and my weeks are busy, and stuff falls through the cracks so easily.

So Thursday is payday, and I swear the first thing I’m doing is a) going to the bank to pull cash to repay a debt that never should’ve happened, and b) running to Reems Creek Nursery for seed starting soil. Les is itching to start his herbs, I’m itching to start my own, and the 2nd bedroom is going to be taken over with trays, egg cartons, desk lamps, and electric blankets.

Side note: the apartment never got inspected. Not a word. I have a couple of containers out front right now, and our porch furniture, and it must be OK, because I’m pretty sure the contractor whose job it is to keep an eye on the place drives through every week or so, and we’ve had nary a knock at the door. I’m taking it as a good sign, and it’ll only look better once stuff starts greening up out there. But it’s also still tenuous, and I’m so motivated to improve our sitch. Just no clue how I’m going to accomplish that in 7 months. Why 7 months? Because our lease goes til end of November.

So I’m working hard at getting my quotas done, and it’s been a surprisingly successful week so far…like, I actually have time in the evenings to read lately or watch a TV show without one eye on the laptop.

I think we’re finally into Spring proper around here. I say that with one eye on the Weather Channel, keeping track of the lows at night, but it’s only been dipping into the 40s this week and another week or so, I should be able to put up the row cover for the season. As my photos show, we do have potatoes starting out there, and they’re flourishing for the most part, which is hilarious since it’s our first attempt at just cutting up an sprouting spud and tossing it into the dirt. I also bought some Yukon Gold seed starts at the fair, which will go into the ground/containers this weekend. And I’ll take an inventory of the containers and stock up, since it’s payday weekend. I hate working with containers, but there’s no way I’m risking raised beds after the landlord’s memo.

I’m able to really watch Spring this year. I was so dang delighted at just being back in real seasons last year (still am!!!), I didn’t have a chance to really study it. This year, I’m doing that, noticing stuff, like how Winter ran so late, the big trees are slower to leaf out (the oaks, black walnuts, and the like). The mountains still have a colorless look to them, even as the smaller trees (like the above crabapple) are showing their color. I keep telling myself in another month, it’ll be a different story, but we’ve been bare for just long enough that I’m skeptical of the former statement, so I’m looking forward to my own surprise as Nature shakes out her skirts and starts getting showy.

A final note: as a pagan, I felt quite left out for not celebrating Easter this year. Facebook exploded with people’s pictures of their cute kids in their Easter clothes, dying eggs, hunting for eggs, and exploring the Easter bunny’s loot. It’s not just because I’m childless that I felt left out; it was an inability to see beyond the Christianity of the holiday.

Amanda’s blog is finally back up (not her fault…Typepad got hacked hard), and her latest post includes shots from their Eastover celebration with friends and neighbors at Broadturn Farm. The minute I saw the name of the party, my closed mind opened back up, and I remembered that JC and company aren’t the only game in town. What a lovely way to celebrate the holiday!


01f74a40ffb95735ccbfeee182fb4678bb8fc40ef3The Mother Earth News Fair was terrific. The funny thing is it was almost a letdown, but that’s totally a mindset thing (and a body endurance thing) and not a reflection of the fair. Trust me, most of the letdown stems from the fact that my body takes 2 days to recover from that level of activity. More on that over at Melanie’s Gym.

Last year when we went, it was a true vacation: we traveled by car 8ish hours north to Pennsylvania, where we stayed in a semi-crappy hotel and the fair was a 3-day event. The ride was long, but gorgeous, with amazing mountain scenery, especially in West Virginia. Somerset wasn’t much to look at, but the ski resort where the fair was held was lush. The weather was an interesting mix of sunny and rainy, with some mud thrown in, but Les had never been that far north before, and I was just in heaven to be seeing that part of our nation again. Everything about that trip was interesting, from the corn fields owned by Chevron (unlike) to the stars on people’s barns. We were overwhelmed by the amount of workshops offered, and had trouble deciding what to go to when. But it was life-changing, in that it’s kept this dream alive for me, and helped Les develop a new hobby (herbalism) that will only assist our continued health goals.

Not having to travel this time (the fair was 2 days this time and held in Asheville) meant more money to spend at said fair, and spend we did. While the fair bookstore seemed to be missing some key tomes (like anything by my favorites: Jenna, Ashley, and Ben), they did carry lots of good stuff and we took advantage of our 25% off coupons big-time. The workshops were a mix of stuff we saw at the last fair, combined with quite a few local teachers and the requisite folks who are trying to educate others while hocking their books at the same time. I don’t mind that, so long as they’re not too blunt about it, which is why I adore Dawn Combs, who’s there certainly to sell her wares and promote her book coming out in September, but spends her talks shoving knowledge into your head in a clear and amiable manner. Very smart lady!

Knowing about a good chunk of the workshops this time around allowed us a bit more time to wander, and the exhibitors and vendors did not disappoint. John C. Campbell had half a dozen demonstrations going on at any one time, and most of the vendors are sustainability- or homesteading-centric, so there’s lots to see. Les and I both treated ourselves to hats. His is a handmade leather that will be great for our hikes; mine has a massive brim to protect my face from the sun while gardening. We also grabbed a seed-starting kit that should be more stable than my electric blanket and egg carton concept (actually, we’ll use both this year and take notes).

Since we’re not ready for animals yet, we tend to shy away from those talks, but I was curious this year. That’s where the presence of books lends relief. I wanted to wander the animal barn before the Raising Goats Naturally talk, but unfortunately hadn’t counted on the crowd for that one. Once I’d had my fill of adorable baby goats and beautiful horses, I found the lecture area to be standing room only. But since Deborah Niemann just published an entire tome on the subject, I didn’t feel bad about blowing it off, because when we’re ready, I know her knowledge will be out there for me.

That’s also what kept me from buying a couple of books I definitely want: the Storey Books on Raising Chickens, Sheep, and Goats. oooo! There’s one on Pigs too! There will be time for that, when we are closer to having the land. Meantime, there’s a new collector on my credit report, taxes due, and some serious organizing to get to, so that land isn’t just a pipe dream. I’m on it!

Good stuff

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Where did the week go?

I had every intention of posting over here earlier in the week about the amazing time I had at Ashley’s on Saturday. Even with the paycheck adding more sites to my quota, I figured I’d at least make the time to gush about meeting one of my homesteading heroes. And here it is Friday…

The weather that day dawned cool and gradually climbed in temperature to comfortable. I’ve seen pictures of her place before on her blog, but it’s interesting how pictures can make you imagine things totally differently from actual placement. I’ve imagined her land before as if the chicken coop and gardens were below the house; they’re actually above. But it really is a cove, nestled in the midst of Pisgah National Forest land with mountains looming behind them. Her raised bed garden stretches beyond the deer fence borders, itching to be planted, and the chickens coo quietly next door. The bees are protected by electric fencing just south of the gardens. Slice. of. Heaven. Y’all.

I like to think we’re pretty rural here in Weaverville, but our driveway is on a main thoroughfare, and I hear fire trucks and other traffic daily. At Ashley’s house, it was nothing but nature, and I let it fill my ears and head with its luxurious sound, trees creaking and swaying, birds waking up, wind through branches, creek bubblings. I truly grounded for the first time in ages, as we walked a small stretch of their property, learning about wild edibles.

Keri Evjy is a wonderful resource (and a very nice lady too!). It seems like she digresses as she talks, but it’s not digression, because every bit of what she speaks is knowledge about what we’re seeing around us. She’s an encyclopedia of botany in a 5’6″ female body. Her explanations pass easily from Latin names to English, and her ability to identify plants is insane. I get that it’s knowledge and practice on her part, but man, everything that normal folks pass off as a weed has a name, a story, and in about 75% of cases, is quite edible so long as the area around it is safe. It’s also about knowing the plant’s purpose, what good or bad it will do for your body, before you ingest or apply it. Seriously fascinating stuff and I look forward to learning more.

Ashley is a sweetheart, small and slight, with an openness to her personality that extends well beyond the welcoming hugs she gives. Her participation was less active at first, because it depended on the personality of the luminous Huxley, her 3-year-old, who was feeling a bit clingy that morning. It’s funny though, because he’s also a social little guy, who welcomed everybody with big hellos as we walked up to the house. He’s obviously used to crowds, just has the attention span of a 3-year-old (go figure! haha!) Goodness, you want to scoop him up for a snuggle! But I kept my distance, because my childless uterus tends to make me stare at kids with longing, and I didn’t want to freak him out. Glenn, her husband, reminds me of Les…helpful, eager, studious, kind of a quiet mannerism, but you know there’s a lot going on under the ole brainpan.

After the walk, we did some lunch prep and then ate out front in the sun. It was hard not to linger, and luckily, she was using us as guinea pigs for a couple of dessert recipes for a freelance article at the same time, so it made meandering a bit more acceptable. We finally left around mid-afternoon, and all that fresh air exhausted us into naps when we got home. I still had to charge out some sites afterward, and it took quite a bit of Lyons work ethic and caffeine to pull it off, cuz all that fresh air, man, I was wiped!


On Sunday, I took my slightly sore body out to Candler again, this time for my first 5K in years. More about that over at Melanie’s Gym. Looking forward to organizing myself for the next one.


This weekend, we’re at the Mother Earth News Fair! For more on that, check out my gushing over at Ember Madrone.

Have a great weekend, y’all! Get outside!



So Very Much Good

I can’t afford to write right now. They’re paying extra at my work if I can knock out an additional 15 sites tonight, and I’m determined to get in on that nonsense.

But I can’t not write, just a little. I had a most extraordinary day today. I’m bone tired, my face got sun, and my body and brain soaked up nature like a sponge. I was surrounded by trees. No traffic noises. Roosters crowing. We ate outside, good foods created by hand. I don’t even want to get into specifics yet, I’m still replaying scenes in my head and enjoying how grounded I’m feeling.

More later. Walking a 5K tomorrow.

Out of Practice

securedownloadSo I put out my container plants, planted half a dozen russets from a grocery spud that had sprouted, celebrated Vernal Equinox last week, and what happens…..

Yup, snow.

I’m lousy at heeding my own advice, it turns out (see about 2 posts ago, when I railed about not planting until May 15th), but in my defense, we had a really mild winter last year, and I’ve only been back at this seasons thing for a year. Sure, I lived in CT from birth to age 15, but then I spent more than 25 years in FL, land of two seasons: summer and not-quite summer. My CT time was kid time; I reveled in the snow and just knew not to say goodbye to winter until after the first week of April, because more often than not, the weather had one more snowstorm in her that would blast us right after April started. I remember this well, but as a grown-up who’s itching to get planting and aches for the ability to exercise outdoors….yea, not so much.

The crabapple out front started budding last week; in another month or so, it’ll be ablaze in pink. The snow will be gone in another day, giving way to mild temperatures, so I’m enjoying it while it lasts. But today I just stared in disbelief as it flurried on and off all. day. I read blogs of folks in Maine and Vermont who are still crotch-deep in the white stuff, and there it makes sense. I live in the NC mountains. I’m learning the key word here is “North”.

But remember, boys and girls, there’s no such thing as climate change…

I need to buy a couple of desk lamps for seed starting, so I’m not starting seeds til after this weekend. Payday is Thursday, but my mom-in-law is visiting this weekend, too,  and the spare room has the space I need, so I’m waiting just a bit longer. Watching ‘em grow is the easy part; getting started is hard.

I’m studying gardening books, researching goat milk vs. cow milk, and the bloggers posting about kidding and lambing have me jonesing to get my hands on critters. Rereading Barnheart too, which is a delight. Pivot Channel has been playing Food Inc., and I watched it again this morning, reinforcing my determination to get off processed food. I’m in a good place.


securedownloadI like to think there will come a time when I’m happy with my blog’s theme/background. Obviously, I’m not there yet.

Vernal equinox. I’d forgotten, until my Lil Sis pointed me to today’s Google Doodle. But don’t let that sound like I’m seasonally clueless. In fact, I’m starting to move through life with an eye on the sky, the ground, and the almanac.

I worry I don’t want the farm enough. But I dream of a milk cow these days, when we’re in hock to the government and stuck in this apartment. We stop on our hikes to rest, and I look down on the pastures and barns in the valleys and ache. I think about how to grow vegetables and herbs in spite of whatever the apartment management company may say. I scrutinize the house and realize that there’s exactly 1 decent window for sun in the whole place, which is why our plants didn’t stand a chance this winter…I didn’t think about it enough, and placement sucked for the most part.

I just finished reading Jenna’s One Woman Farm. It’s like having a soulmate, even though I have no interest in horses and can’t play a guitar yet, let alone a fiddle. She gets it, deep in her bones, and helps me remember that I have that same affliction, that pesky Barnheart, and it ain’t going away, no matter how long we’re stuck in apartment living.


As it warms, I see other things too. Chives are a particularly hardy plant, it turns out (see above), because my best efforts to kill them dissolved under the changing temperatures. Even left out in our snow dustings the last couple of weeks, they are sprouting fresh and green today. Makes me wonder how the other plants would have fared, if I’d greenhoused them in front of the apartment instead of bringing them inside.

I can’t not plant. The inspectors haven’t shown up yet, and we haven’t received any calls. So I will plan, and start seeds, and find a way to make it work when they need to go out. I’ll start a rotational system, one batch, then another, and so on.  We cut up a potato to stick in the ground and I was going to wait until after frost to plant them, until I realized I’d get 2 harvests of potatoes if I start now. These things are so basic to an actual farmer, but I’m still just learning, and these things open themselves to me like flowers.


Mother Earth News Fair lands in Asheville the 2nd weekend in April, and I’m getting stoked. The workshop schedule is up, and I’ll troll it this weekend, thinking about what I want to check out. Joel Salatin is back, and the Combs from Mockingbird Meadows; can’t wait to buy some of their honey remedies! We got our tickets and bookstore coupons in the mail last week. It’s gonna be a blast!


Weather’s gorgeous here, windows are open, mid-50s. We hit the MST yesterday for a 1.3 mile hike. I can be in the shittiest mood, and once we hit a stride on the trail, I’m better. We carry Camelbaks and walking sticks. Hubs explores the woods, while I focus more on the walk itself, how my feet and knees take the rocky terrain. The endorphin memory lasts, and I look forward to the next hike.


There’s a wonderful quote in the Mitford books, that I hang onto now that I live up here. Hessie Mayhew’s character writes a gardening column in the Mitford Muse, where she waxes rhapsodic about spring, with a healthy dose of Wordsworth-style language, to the delight of Father Tim. But she always ends the column by reminding the locals that no matter how gorgeous the weather may appear, no matter how elusively warm and pretty it is out….DO NOT PLANT UNTIL MAY 15TH!!! It’s our last frost date, and when you live in Zone 7 and your brain still operates in Zone 9A, it’s the difference between alive plants and frozen.

It’s only the middle of March. We’re due for a dusting of snow tonight. I fear the rosemary and lavender have died, and must decide if I’m covering it or bringing it in. We tell ourselves the plants we tried to overwinter are dormant, but with the exception of some hilariously stunted and still green Echinacea leaves, I’m pretty sure the plants have died. This makes me sad, and determined.

I mentioned last post how the landlord is balking at us having too much stuff out front. I broke down the eyesore that was the plastic shelving, and our car trunk is currently chock full of clutter for the recycling center. But I desperately want to plant again this year. I broke down the soil I’d saved into 2 large plastic bins, and tossed the rest. It has a slightly off odor from spending the winter breaking down itself, and I look forward to mixing it with compost mid-summer. I hope to get the chance. Thinking of writing the landlord a letter…


Whatever I do end up planting is going to have to be controlled, small batches, and that’s the hardest thing to reconcile myself to. We drive past farmland to get to the Parkway for our hikes, and I find myself aching for the space to build a greenhouse. I want to grow so much more of our food, and the patience that requires goes far beyond a growing season, when you’re stuck in an apartment for the f0reseeable future.

Closest I may get to “homesteading” this year is getting completely off processed food, making our food from scratch. With the exception of some local stuff (like Imladris jams when my canning skills are lax), I’m hoping to make our meals from real food from scratch. That’s both easier and harder than it sounds, and it’s plain sad how tall an order that can be at times. I can’t wait for farmer’s market season.


I pulled out of my internship with Ashevillage. They weren’t asking much of me, but it was too much, and any free time I get needs to be spent on a) me, or b) figuring out how to make more money. I have other things coming up to get me out of the house…a wild foods walk with Ashley English and Keri Evjy, the Mother Earth News Fair, and an Intro to Zen workshop. That’s plenty for now.

Well, that and seed starting. And rearranging the entire house so that the plants will get window light. Patience.