Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Controversial Post

I've been wanting to write this post for some time now, but I've been having issues with how exactly to say what I want to say. I could come off sounding like a real ass, but I don't want to mince words either. I want to talk about "green"and the "green revolution" and how I think it's kinda BS.

Let me start by saying that B and I are not "green". Whoa, whoa, whoa!!! Hang on and let me explain and please withhold judgement (or criticism) until the end. Now, when I say we're not green, that doesn't mean that we don't care. We do care. Very much. But, we don't live our lives around being "green". I drive a twenty-five year old truck that gets 12 miles per gallon for cryin' out loud. I'm not a recycling nazi. I don't take reusable bags to the grocery store. I don't visit the farmer's market to buy locally grown produce. And, I don't, don't, don't, absolutely do not buy "green" products that are marked up to three times the price of their evil, world-hating, environment-ruining counterparts. And, get ready for this, my garden is not organic. I know! I'm evil! The ruination of our fragile ecosystem rests squarely upon my selfish, world-hating shoulders. How do I sleep at night?

Those are the things I don't do. Here are the things I do on a regular basis.

I save water. I live in an earth-bermed house. I rarely use the air conditioner. I rarely drive. I hand wash and line dry laundry. I make my own cleaning products and toiletries. I grow and preserve my own food. I reuse plastic containers. I hand wash dishes. I don't turn on lights until it gets dark. I cook from scratch. I compost. I raise livestock.

And, do you know why I do those things, for the most part? Because I'm trying to live a frugal, simple, responsible, independent life.

I save water because if I don't, our well might run dry. I don't drain the tub after baths or showers and use that water for plants (decorative, not edible). I save every drip from every faucet. And I don't flush the toilet unless it's...necessary.

I live in an earth-bermed house because it's amazingly energy efficient. It stays cool with just fans and it faces southeast, so I get a ton of natural light.

I don't drive often because I don't need to. I have everything I need here. What I don't have, I either try to make, or wait until I need other things and run all my errands at once. I have a 25 yr old Blazer because we were able to pay for it in cash and it makes sense to have a 4x4 up here. It's practical for our lifestyle and location.

I hand wash and line dry laundry to save water and electricity. I make my own laundry detergent because it's unbelievably less expensive and I can reuse the container. I make dish detergent as well for the same reason. Same with shampoo and conditioner, face wash, and lotion. And, bonus to being cheap, I know exactly what I'm putting on my body.

In my day-to-day, I do some "green" stuff. But not because it's green. I'm not going to go down the list and explain the why's behind all the little things. I hope that most of it is pretty self-explanatory. I will, however, explain the why behind the whole deal.

When we decided to move up here, being green was the furthest thing from our minds. Our goal, in living this life and making the choices we make, is, really, our attempt to stick it to the man. We don't want to be dependent. We don't want our choices to be limited by what some faceless corporation decides is most cost-effective for them. We don't want to beg at the door of Proctor and Gamble or Monsanto. We want to live on our own terms. If by using vinegar and water to clean my windows and counters (and pretty much everything else...vinegar is one of the most useful things ever), I can take a few dollars from the pocket of Proctor and Gamble, then hell yeah. If I can save seeds and grow my own food and tell Monsanto and Conagra to shove it, why wouldn't I? If I can turn off my lights and my air conditioner and depend less on "The Grid"...it seems like a no-brainer. All of these things just make sense to me. And yeah, I realize I'm a sellout in several ways. My truck for one. But, again, it's practical to have it.

And, I never even really thought about the "green" aspect of our choices until I found this random blog. The writer of this blog listed all the "green" things she did on a daily basis and challenged her readers to list their "green" accomplishments for the day, which, in and of itself, is a fine and noble thing. But the tone of it was...rather condescending and holier-than-thou. And it got me to thinkin'. Does this woman really think she's better because she recycles her Starbucks cup and goes to a gas station that has 10% ethanol in the gas? Does she feel somehow validated by taking her reusable bags to the grocery store and loading them up with over priced "green" cleaners? When did saving the environment become a contest? When did it become a notch in the bedpost of suburbanites everywhere? Doing those things are important, yes, I'm not arguing that they're not. It just seemed...contrived.

And, please, please, please, don't feel like I'm judging. I'm really, really not. I'm just puzzled. I think that people living purposefully is a wonderful thing. But, I also think this whole green revolution has kind of marginalized the reality of the situation. Corporations that pollute and contaminate and dump are profiting off of their "green" product lines and people are falling for it. That's the pickle. And by listing the things I listed at the beginning of this post, I wasn't doing what that blogger did. I'm not trying to get all "I'm better than you" because I do a, b, and c and you don't. I will never be the person who thinks you suck because you don't clean with vinegar or make lotion or hand wash laundry. People make their own choices and do what's best for their particular situation and it's neither my place nor my responsibility to judge those choices. I was just trying to illustrate the main point of this post (which I seem to have drifted away from..I'll get back to it...hang on). I just don't get how other people DO feel justified in judging me or anyone else for our lack of "green" motivation. Those people get the finger just the same as the man, in my book.

So, yeah, wow. I kind of went off on a tangent. Suffice it to say, that when people decide to break their dependence on what we've come to think of as comfort, a whole slew of "greening" takes place. It's just a matter of deciding what's important. If sticking it to the man is important (and it should be!!!!!), then you will live a greener, less impactful life even if it's kind of by accident.

Grow your own food. Make your own stuff. Turn off your lights. Walk. Be green. But don't do it because you're trying to "out-green" the Joneses. Do it because you want to give the finger to the man and live on your own terms. If we all did that, we wouldn't have to try be "green", we just would be.

Whew. Sorry. Tomorrow, back to picking stuff and canning stuff and garden folly and humorous anecdotes about various two- and four-legged beasts.

And I'm really tempted to turn off comments for this post...but, just for kicks, we'll see what happens.

Monday, June 28, 2010

On Chiggers and Birthday Cakes

The celebratory midweek of the year is complete and I gotta tell ya, I don't have much to show for it. It was a splendid, fantastic week, but now I have more to do than I did before. B took last Thursday and Friday off work for the anniversary and anytime that man is home for more than just a weekend, we get really, really slack and really, really messy. My house looks like a crashpad for a group of people who use too many cups and never brush their dogs. So, while it was awesome having him home and just lazing about relaxing, it's time to get back to work for both of us.

We weren't totally slack though. We got maybe two or three things accomplished. B cleared the area where the new chicken pen will go, we built a proper tomato trellis for one little section of wildly sprawling plants, and I did some canning. Saturday morning, I was in the kitchen, preparing to put up some turkey stock when B called me on the walkie-talkie (yeah, we have walkie-talkies. Shut it. They're awesome.). The conversation went something like this:

"Harken unto me, Goodwife. If it would please you, present yourself to me forthwith and cast your gaze upon the wondrous treasure I behold."

"What nonsense is this, husband of mine? What treasure hast thou discovered? And must I look upon it now? My kettle is nigh boiling."

"Dear wife, you must come now. 'Tis a treasure like none other and demandeth our attentions. I daresay your heart will burst with regret should you choose otherwise."

"Very well then. Allow me to don my slippers and I will be at your side."

Ok. The conversation really didn't go like that at all. It was like this:

"Hey baby, you gotta come see this!!"

"What? I'm busy."

"You just gotta see it. You won't believe it."

"Fine. Lemme get some shoes."

And I trudged down the hill wondering what had him all worked up. Then, what to my wondering eyes doth appear? The biggest, most insane, most prolific, crazy-fullest blackberry patch I've ever seen in my life. Seriously. Gigantor.

That's just one part of it. The pictures really don't do it justice. All the places where you can kinda see something red? Those are blackberries. There must be thousands. It's gotta be twenty feet tall in places, and at least ten or twelve feet deep. And it just kept going! I've never seen anything like it. We spent roughly 45 minutes or so picking berries and got three quarts. The canes are simply loaded with unripe berries that we'll get over the next few weeks.

There's B, wading in deep, defying thorns and bugs alike, risking
life and limb for a chance at the big ones in the back.

Now, because neither of us were planning on doing any berry picking, we were dressed wholly inappropriately. "K," you may ask, "how can you be dressed inappropriately for berry picking? Such a mundane thing surely requires no special attire." HA! We dubbed these "danger-berries" when we were deep in the thicket. We were both wearing shorts, and since I had been in the kitchen barefoot, I tossed on a pair of Birkenstocks before I went down, and now, now, dear people, my legs look like some crazy samurai took to them with a tiny little sword. B and I were both cut and scratched to the point of bleeding when we finally exhausted the thicket. And, let's not even talk about the chiggers.

Nah, let's talk about the chiggers. They are evil and I must besmirch them at every opportunity. I don't know how many of you are familiar with that particular pest, but chiggers are pretty much omnipresent down here in the south. They are tiny, little bugs, that actually burrow into your skin and do something atrocious when they get in there. I'm not sure what it is, but it itches like nothing else. And you get these huge, nasty welts. So, suffice it say, neither B nor myself will be in the running for foot modeling anytime soon.

But oh, the bounty!! This kind of discovery makes me glad that I suck at yard work and never cleared that bramble. I was going to, I just never got around to it. Ah, fortuitous procrastination! I put up eleven jars of blackberry jam and still have a quart of berries in the fridge to deal with today. The jam...well...the flavor is REALLY good, but it didn't jell appropriately, so it's more like blackberry syrup with chunks of fruit. But,whatever, syrup's good. And, since we have SO MANY BERRIES, I'll be able to practice my jam and jelly making until it's perfect and gift-worthy. So, I hope you all like blackberries, cause that's what you're getting for Christmas.

In other news, remember last week on my birthday, when I said I was making a cake? And it would be ugly? I did. And, it is. I'm posting a photo of it so you guys can all get a little chuckle.

I never learned how to ice a cake. And apparently three layers does not a tall cake make. But it was delicious. Devil's food with vanilla buttercream icing. Ugly food DOES taste better!

Now, so you all know that beautiful, amazing cakes are indeed possible at home, I give you this:

I know, right? My poor little cake feels so inadequate now! Sister in law Shell made this cake for niece's birthday. Herself. In her own kitchen. Herself. Ridiculous. While her cake straight up embarrasses my cake (I can hear it calling names and pointing fingers up the page), it gives me hope that one day, I might be able to get my icing to go on smoothly!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Who wants cake?!

Today is a glorious day. A momentous day. An all important, universally relevant, awe-inspiring day. Today is...


My birthday.

*roar of the crowd*

I'm kidding, I'm kidding. Not about the birthday part, that's true. But, whatever, it's really just Wednesday. When I was younger, I celebrated my birthday throughout the entire month of June. My birthday was the highlight of my year. The most important day ever. It was MY day and I could do whatever in the world I wanted, spend that 24 hours in whatever manner I chose. Now, though, age and responsibility and maybe even a bit of cynicism have lessened the all-encompassing importance of my birthday.

Don't get me wrong, I'm still gonna chill and do some K stuff today. But, I have chores and animals to tend and gardens to de-grass. After that stuff is done though, I'm totally making a birthday cake. And I'm going to eat most of it myself, preferably in one sitting. Then!! Yes, then, I'm going to have bacon for supper. Cause it's my birthday :)

This week actually has two special days. Tomorrow is an even more important day than today. Tomorrow marks the tenth anniversary of the day that elemental forces collided, the stars aligned, heaven and earth sang out in perfect harmony and craziness ensued. Tomorrow is mine and B's tenth wedding anniversary. I know, right? Ten years? Insane. That's a long freaking time! But, it's been a great time. And who'da thunk that ten years later, after many bumps and twists and turns in our road, that we'd be up here, livin' the dream so to speak.

All that being said, I had another, probably controversial, post in mind for today. I may wait till later in the week, or you guys may get a twofer day. We'll see. After all, it's my birthday and I make the rules all day long!

Have a fantastic day everyone!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Dog days of summer a bit early this year

Well, folks, I feel like I have been beaten squarely about the head and shoulders with the lazy stick today. I cannot seem to force myself to move in any direction that doesn't lead me directly to a chair (preferably a chair with a computer in close proximity). Between the heat and the seven some odd hours spent in the kitchen yesterday, every ounce of my energy is totally zapped.

The canning yesterday went well, for the most part. I used my pressure canner for the first time and succeeded in NOT exploding my kitchen with steam, shrapnel, and glass shards, so I count it as a win. It was pretty scary at the beginning though, for sure. I ended up processing ten pints of squash and six pints of pickles (only the squash in the pressure canner, pickles get boiled), and man, it kicked my butt. I don't know how these people put up dozens and dozens of pints of stuff in one day. It simply blows my mind.

I also made two loaves of bread...which kinda flopped. This is the first time my loaves have ever fallen. I had two perfectly domed, beautifully arced, wonderful to behold loaves of dough when they went into the oven. When the came out, however, not so much. I blame all the other activity. I was canning during the baking, so I think I just rattled the oven or bumped it one too many times for my delicate little loaves to withstand. But, they are still pretty tasty. And I always say ugly food tastes best anyway.

With all the kitchen activity yesterday, I finally broke down and turned on the AC. First time this year, half way through June...not too bad!! I promptly turned it off once the cooking was done and it stayed nice and cool all night and hasn't been too bad today, considering it's OPPRESSIVELY hot outside. Today it's the kind of hot that makes it difficult to breathe. I went out to feed all the animals at 7:30 this morning and broke a sweat before I even filled the first feeder. I definitely need to start getting up earlier in the summer. And forget working outside at all after around 10am or so, that's just asking for sunburn and dehydration. So, while I've been working on making a plan, it seems I'll have to revise it before it was ever put into action. Get up earlier, get back inside before I turn crispy...or Krispy, as a dear friend's family called me when we were kids. It's WAY too early in the summer to be this kind of crazy hot. What's up with that, Nature??

I guess the lazy stick I was beaten with included blogging too. Sorry no revelations or insightful commentary today...or ever, really, for that matter.

I think I'll go eat some ice cream now.

Monday, June 21, 2010

What's that berry? I dunno, taste it!!

Well, folks, the weekend's over and it's back to the workaday world. We had a pretty chill weekend up here on the farm, aside from the fact that my phone was on the fritz yesterday. Yesterday marked our first trip down to the Chattanooga Market, a big farmer's market they hold every Sunday. It was, in all honesty, a little disappointing. There were only three vendors selling actual produce. Everyone else was art or soap or handmade clothes or other things that we didn't go to the farmer's market to see. But, B got some of the biggest blackberries I've ever encountered. Seriously, they're freakishly huge. Big as a golf ball. I'm partial to the tiny little blackberries I get off my wild vines. Blackberries are just tart enough that if you eat a HUGE one, it's a little overwhelming.

Mutant berries.

Here, with a teaspoon for scale. I never knew blackberries came that big!

The market wasn't a complete bust though. I finally found a butterfly bush! Mother in Law gave me one for housewarming when we bought our first home and I loved it. I've been looking for one ever since I moved to the little farm and have had no luck. Until yesterday!! It's pretty small, but it has the deepest purple blooms I've ever seen. I need to find a place to plant it today. Preferably, right next to the porch, in my direct line of sight, so I can laze about in my rocking chair and watch butterflies frolic and dance hither and yon.

The most exciting part of the weekend, though, was all about walking in the woods Saturday evening. With my basket. I have this basket, see. It's my picking-stuff basket. Every time I go anywhere on this farm where there might be things to be picked, I take my basket (it was a gift from Big Sister for Christmas this past year, and up to now, she has no idea how useful it's become). My basket, generally just makes short forays into the garden and has been known to hit the strawberry patch a time or two. Saturday was the first time my basket ventured into the woods. And it came back loaded with these little jewels:

And, no, they're not just random berries we found in the woods and decided to experiment with. I've had my eye on these guys for a while now. I first noticed them growing when the in laws came to visit and we drug them around the trail. I thought they looked a lot like the blueberries we have growing in the yard. So, I googled (of course). I learned, via the omniscient Google, that wild blueberries are native to this area. But then someone said they were huckleberries. So, I asked Google again. Turns out, huckleberries and wild blueberries are pretty much the same, aside from a difference in the seeds. Seeds, schmeeds. I care not about seeds! I care only that they are 100% edible and will not kill me if made into a tasty pie.

So, armed only with my basket and an insatiable greed, B and I set forth on our first foraging expedition. At first, it was slim pickin's. It seemed as though I had waited a bit too long and the industrious birds had gotten the best of my huckleberry/blueberry harvest. Or a bear. I was hoping it was birds. But, alas, we came upon the motherlode. We broke K's rule number two for walking in the woods. We left the trail (which has historically been rule number one, but was recently supplanted by "bring your basket" at the top o' the list). And my goodness, were we rewarded for our foolhardy behavior. Apparently birds don't leave the trail.

What you see in that colander was the sum total of about an hour and a half spent in the woods (with a few NORMAL sized blackberries that we found along the way), but I think it's enough for a pie.

So, between baking a huckleberry/blueberry pie, baking bread, making biscuits for supper tonight, and canning all these veggies from the garden, I have a full day of kitchenn duty ahead of me. I'll be attempting to put up some squash and making pickles for the first time as well. The cucumber spears have been soaking in brine for a while, and all that remains (I think) is to wash em, do some vinegar thing to them, add some spices, and can them. The squash should be a little more straight forward, as they will not be pickled (pickled squash? bleh. As if regular squash isn't bad enough!). I've canned a few times in the past, but this is my first go-round with large volumes. If, in a few weeks, you haven't heard from me, I'm probably dead of botulism.

I'll report back tomorrow. Wish me luck!

Are any of you canning anything yet? Got any pointers?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

It Seemed Like Such a Good Idea!!

Yesterday, I posted a few photos of my grass-choked garden to show you guys why it's a bad idea to plant grass in your garden. I have another photo to share with you on that same topic. This photo also illustrates the principle of companion planting. Or rather, it illustrates the principle of companion planting gone awry.

Companion planting is based on the idea that some plants are beneficial to other plants and if you plant them in tandem, they form a sort of symbiotic relationship. An example (and the plants I used for my first experiment in companion planting) is squash, corn, and pole beans. Native Americans discovered that when those three plants were planted close to one another, each plant did better than those that were segregated. It is called "The Three Sisters". Google it. It's real.

Corn is a heavy nitrogen user, typically eating up all the nitrogen in the soil and needing to be supplemented. Beans (like all legumes) are nitrogen fixers. Basically, they take nitrogen from the air and stick it in the ground. Squash provides more of a mechanical than chemical advantage. By the very nature of squash, it spreads out and becomes huge and has very, very prickly stems. By planting squash between other plants, you are 1) mulching and keeping weeds down because the squash plant shades the ground from the sun, and 2) helping to keep critters at bay because of the prickly pokey stems. The idea is that you plant all three of those together, let the beans run up the corn stalks instead of the traditional trellis or teepee, and plant squash in between.

Makes sense, right?

In theory, yes. In practice, at least in MY practice it was a very, very bad idea. I'd been wanting to try this for a while, so when the day came, I loaded up all my seeds and hit the garden with high hopes. I planted and planted. And watered and watered. And finally, things grew. Some grew faster than others though, which is what caused the first problem. The beans completely out grew the corn. I had bean vines that were four or five feet long that should've been running on corn that was only up to my knees. So, I had to put up trellises after all. Fail number one.

Next, the squash, which was supposed to spread out and kill weeds and smother grass and be prickly and pokey and keep bunnies away, did indeed spread out. But it has not succeeded at it's preordained task of keeping weeds at bay. The only thing planting squash in the corn patch has accomplished is to make weeding VERY difficult and VERY uncomfortable. Not only have it's prickly, pokey stalks kept bunnies away, they've made weeding nigh impossible without the implementation of long sleeves and gloves...which is ridiculous because it's so unbearably hot.

Now, I know I could suck it up and deal with squash prickles, and I guess I will. But, it's the principle of the matter, people! This wasn't even supposed to be an issue. And if it had worked it wouldn't have been. OR!! If I had segregated my garden it wouldn't have been. Alas, it seems that I am an equal opportunity gardener, a melting pot gardener. So, I will have squash prickle splinters before the day is over.

Here is a photo of my failed attempt:

And here is a photo of our newest grass-in-the-garden control method:

Three chickens in a movable,open bottom cage do a much better job of killing grass than squash could ever dream of. Eat it squash! Next year, you're fired!

And here, Sancho Panza shirks his duty. There was actually a very brazen crow just outside the frame.

And here (cause it's fun), making his first official Little Farm Blog appearance, the one, the only


Sherlock Combs!!!!

I LOVE that rooster. He's one of the chicks we bought when we bought too many chickens. He's a Tolbunt Polish and he cracks me up. He's just learning to crow now and he sounds like a twelve year old boy whose voice is cracking. We have five of these chickens and they will be totally useless as farm birds. They aren't good layers and they're skinny, so no good for meat. But I am SO glad we got them. They are hilarious and they make me smile every time I see them.

And the name Sherlock Combs? It came to me in a dream. No really. It honestly did. I woke myself and B up late, late one night laughing. Sound asleep and laughing my head off. I was dreaming that someone had a chicken named Sherlock Combs. So, naturally, I stole the name from the dream person and bestowed it upon that handsome fella. I think it suits him!

Anyone out there actually have a successful companion garden? Please tell me about it! I'm discouraged and need tales of hope!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Grass is Always Greener in the Garden

All that talk yesterday about routines and order? Yeah, still working on it. We'll call it a rain delay. We had a series of crazy, hardcore thunderstorms yesterday afternoon and evening, with wind so intense I just knew I was going to walk outside into Munchkinland. So, with all the foul weather and general sogginess outside, I decided to stay in and...



Yep. I sewed. I actually made something too; my first successful attempt at homemade wearables! I created, with my very own hands, a shirt. And man...is it ugly! I mean, in theory, it's pretty cute, but, my inexperience definitely shines through. The hems aren't straight and there are a couple places where the thread got all bunched up and I had a bit of trouble attaching the straps. But that's beside the point. I SEWED something. I will not, however, be posting pictures of it. It's just too ugly. Give me a couple more practice rounds, then I'll wow you with my couture.

The shirt will be perfect for garden work, though. And holy crap, do I have alot of THAT ahead of me. My garden, which is actually making vegetables, is overrun with grass. Overrun is not an overstatement. The previous owners of the little farm did something which, to me at least, defies conventional wisdom. The PLANTED GRASS in the garden. Yep. Grass. In between the rows. I can't for the life of me figure out why they did that. Aesthetics? Maybe. But if you don't have thirty seven hours a day to devote solely to keeping the grass from spreading, it just looks heinous weedy. Which is where I am. Heinous, heinous garden.

Here, let me show you just how heinous:

Can't even tell where the plants that are supposed to be there are, can you? It takes a well trained eye!

The lettuce is fighting the good fight.

Ooohhh, but look at that!

I may have to force myself to like tomatoes this year. Those and the cucumbers are about the only things that are thriving.

So, yeah, just in case you guys think it's a good idea to plant grass in your garden, I urge you to rethink your position.

Do any of you have gardens this year? Are you battling against weeds as well?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

On Things Misplaced and Lessons Learned

Every morning when I wake up, one of the first things I do upon pouring my coffee is sit down and read through my blog list. I subscribe to several, most of them written by women. There are women who run homesteads alone, women who have a passel of children and manage to write books and sew beautiful things, women who live their lives with purpose and accomplish goals every day while still appreciating the beauty of little moments that pass in the blink of an eye. I read these blogs for inspiration and motivation. I peek into these women's lives hoping to learn their secrets.

If you ask anyone who knows me to describe me, I can guarantee you, 100%, that no one will say "Wow, that K, she sure does have her s**t together." It just won't happen. I've never been that girl. My s**t has always been decidedly untogether. And that's been kind of by choice. I've always been a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants, let-the-wind-take-you kind of girl. Historically, I've let the universe make most of my major decisions. And, I really don't consider that a fault. I think it opens me up to all sorts of possibilities that I would miss if I were more structured. It allows me to be easy going and not freak out when something unexpected happens. I tend to roll with change very easily. In short, my untogetherness has made me quite adaptable and very laid back. I experience things that some people don't ever see and savor all those little, unexpected things that happen when you roll through your day. On the other had, I spend a good bit of time looking for things I've misplaced (because I lack order), bumbling through my day missing opportunities to complete tasks (because I don't have a plan), and forgetting to do things (because I don't have a routine).

B, conversely, is the embodiment of order. He is structure. He plans and plots and uses foresight. Where I am the "path less travelled by" one, he is the one with the maps and compass. An example: A few years ago, we decided to go on an epic roadtrip vacation. We were going to fly to San Francisco, spend a few days with sister-in-law Sars, rent a car and drive up the coast to Seattle, then fly home. B wanted an itinerary. He wanted to plan how long we would stay in each place, wanted to know in advance which roads we would take and how long each leg of the trip would last, wanted to know where we would spend each night and what attractions we would visit along the way. I, on the other hand, just wanted to drive from San Francisco to Seattle. That was as far as my plan went.

So, you see, I generally don't have a plan. And it's really never been too much of a problem until now. Up to this point in my life, I've always had a job, so I had fewer hours to fill at home. I had chores and housework that had to be done, but laundry and dishes were pretty easy to fit into the scheme of my unplanned day. Now though...now I have all these things to do and it seems like they all have to be done in a certain order. I have all these things I WANT to do, but never seem to have time because the other things, the things that have to get done, are never done. I have all these hours to fill up everyday, but can never seem to think of what needs to be done next, so the next day things are still undone. It's a vicious cycle.

And I know how to fix it. I need to set goals. I need to establish a routine. I need to create order and go through my days with purpose. I need to make a plan.

My free-spirit shudders at the thought.

And I know it can be done. I know, without a doubt, that there are enough hours in the day to accomplish the things that need to be done and have time left over for unplanned whimsy. I know because I see all those other women, with more on their plates than me, doing all the things I need to do AND raising children or working at a day job or doing volunteer work. So I know it CAN be done.

The question now is how the hell do I do it? I make lists, I really do (sometimes). But, I never cross everything off. I make calendars, but things always get pushed to the next day. I start off in the mornings with a general idea of what I want to get done, but somewhere along the line, inevitably, I get distracted and move onto something else.

So, yeah, by choosing to live this life, I've opened myself up to change on many levels, physically, emotionally, mentally. I'm learning to sew and milk goats and make pickles and pluck chickens. I can totally learn to make a plan. I'm learning so many things everyday, about myself and the world around me, that learning how to live with a bit of purpose should be a piece of cake.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Summer, with a decisive win

***Yep, I made a few changes here at the little farm blog. Leave me a comment and let me know what you think!***

Well, summer finally nudged spring out of the way here in Tennessee, and she came on with a vengeance. Yesterday was our first really, really, ridiculously, stupid hot day, with the mercury topping out somewhere around 95 or so. We didn't turn on the air conditioner, but our mettle was tested, especially in the kitchen.

I cooked what I hope will be the first of many gloriously indulgent, super tasty sunday dinners. Big sunday meals were never a tradition in my family when I was growing up nor were they in B's (I don't think. I could be totally wrong.). But, Friday, when I was poking around in the freezer for supper, inspiration struck! There, in the corner, hidden from the light of day, was a turkey. Can I get a hallelujah! Yep, B's Christmas turkey was still in the freezer. Now, I know, I know, you're grossed out. Six month old frozen turkey? But trust me, I've cooked turkeys that have been frozen for longer and they've been a-ok. Promise.

So, out came the turkey to thaw in the sink over night. The next morning, I dropped the ol' girl into a brine and let her soak for what should've been eight hours but turned into more like eleven. Out of her bath and into a dish in the fridge to air dry overnight, and into the oven Sunday morning. While the bird was roasting away, I dug up a bunch of new potatoes and shelled some peas to add to the feast. I'd never had freshly dug potatoes until yesterday and holy cow. They were delicious. Yukon Gold. Definitely grow them if you haven't.

Now, back to the heat. It was around 12:30 or 1:00 when I came in from digging potatoes. I walked into my kitchen and almost turned around and went right back outside to cool off in the the 95 degree outside air. I lacked the foresight to understand that a 400 degree oven would heat up my kitchen right proper. But, I persevered!! I plugged in a box fan and went about my business. No air conditioner. I'm not sure how much longer we'll be able to put it off, but I refuse to buckle after only one day! And after I turned off the oven, we had a much more manageable temperature inside.

So, yes, Summer is upon us in all her glory. Long days, lightning bugs, heat lightning, thunderstorms,all the good things. And, unfortunately, at least one very, very bad thing. This year, summer brought with her our first predator. I won't go into detail cause I'm still pretty bummed, but our luck finally ran out. We hadn't had even a hint of any hungry visitors since we've been here. But, something visited Saturday night and left undeniable proof of a very macabre dinner party. So, Sunday, along with filling our bellies to bursting, we scrambled to move chickens and duck (yeah, singular duck *sniff*) into what B dubbed "bear-proof" housing. So far, so good. Last night, if our visitor showed up, he went home with an empty belly.

We have to understand that livestock losses are part of the game. When you put a bunch of tasty morsels in a pen together, it's like a buffet for all the sharp-toothed, woodland creatures. However, trying to be practical about it is tough. You just have to keep everyone as safe as possible and when nature wins, reevaluate your strategy. Living up here, doing what we do, it's all about adapting.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Peace and Tranquility

Many times in these posts, I wax rhapsodic about the joys of this life I live. I talk about green and growing things; I talk about solitude and peace; I talk about simplicity and the satisfaction of doing things by hand. Today's post is not going to be like that. Today's post stems from a seething feeling of annoyance I have right now.

Today's post is about noisy goats.

The goat area is right beside the kitchen. I can look out the window above the sink and see them. They are about thirty feet from the house. Now, that seems nice, right? To be able to gaze out my window at my goats, idly munching away, doing all the things goats do seems like a nice way to spend time devoted to sink tasks, right? The only problem? They can see me through the window as well.

When I wake up in the morning, which by farm standards may be kinda late, and walk into my kitchen for my first cup of coffee, they see me through the window. They call to me. They scream my name. The bellow their discontent at the fact that I have not yet come to feed them. They have no regard for the fact that the sun has just barely cracked the horizon. They care not that within the sound of their voluminous voices there are people sleeping. And they don't stop.

They continue their attack upon my ear drums until they get their all important bucket o' feed. They are relentless. And woe unto me if I should desire to walk around the garden with my morning libation before seeing to their gluttony. As soon as I set foot upon the ground, they besiege me with noise.

I'm not sure how many of you have ever heard a malcontent, spoiled goat, but they remind me of a whining toddler...only about 100 decibels louder. And there are six of them. And when I say they're persistent, I mean quite literally, they go on until I feed them. And it's not like they're hungry. They have plenty of hay and forage. They are, quite simply, very, very spoiled.

Add the rooster and his morning salutation to the ruminants' attack on the senses, and it makes for very noisy mornings here. And to make matters worse, we leave the windows open, so there's literally no escaping the noise. Now, I could, I realize, close the windows. Common sense dictates that I probably SHOULD close the windows. But then I'd have to turn on the air conditioner (with would further dampen the noise...but still). I really don't want to turn on the AC. I haven't had to yet. Crazy, huh? Mid-June in the south and I haven't had a day over 85 degrees. Earth bermed houses are awesome like that. It stays nice and breezy cool indoors with open windows and ceiling fans! But, I digress...

It's stupid noisy. I want them to wait patiently for me to arrive with their feed. I want them to graciously accept my gift, eat, then demurely go back to eating what Nature provided. I want them to be quiet. I absolutely don't want them to eat their feed then an hour later start screaming for the alfalfa cubes I mistakenly started giving them as treats.

They are divas. Pure and simple.

But on the other hand, at least it's not sirens and horns and car alarms. I'd trade those for noisy goats any day.

Now I'm off to feed my divas and attend to their every need. Next thing you know, they're going to start demanding that I separate out certain parts of the feed. And only drink water from the spring. And insist upon clover flavored dewormer. And complain that they must have only the softest straw upon which to lay their weary heads.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Nature Revealed

I awoke this morning fairly buzzing with optimism for the day with none of my usual dragging about, drinking coffee, and waiting for the day to prod me to action. I was up and ready to begin. I was excited by the prospect of making my home into a better place, of tending to my garden, of caring for my brood of animals, and of enjoying a beautiful day in a beautiful place. But then, ah, duplicitous Nature thwarted me once again! No sooner had I begun reclaiming forgotten corners of the yard from the encroachment of the forest did the sky darkened to an inky grey, full of foreboding. Thunder crackled and the heavens opened up.

I call Nature duplicitous because this torrential shower which has kept me inside all morning has ruined my plans but has also nourished my garden. It has refilled my well but has also provided nourishment to the weeds and saplings that I intended to remove. Such is life as we live it, up here on the ridge. Nature wields a double edged sword and to depend on her in such a vital way is both empowering and enlightening.

B always tells me that I should have a rain contingency plan. And, as much as I am not a planner, I suppose I do. If the power stays on, I will do the various inside chores that never seem to be finished. Dishes, vacuuming, laundry (I have a dryer now, so I’m not impeded by the rain in that regard!), and all the other mundane things we do to maintain order in our homes. If the power goes out…I have no idea. Without power, there is no water as the well pump is electric. So that nixes dishes and laundry. Obviously, the vacuum is electricity dependent. There will be no possibility of baking unless I use the woodstove…and, that’s not something I particularly feel like tackling today. So, aside from general straightening up, I’ll be left to my own devices. Crocheting comes to mind. Or knitting. Or sewing something by hand (which I definitely need to practice). I could practice my guitar or harmonica. I could even take a nap.

And while all these possibilities are inviting, I’m still disappointed. I had high hopes for the day. But, I suppose that while depending on Mother Nature is both empowering and enlightening, it also teaches us to be flexible in our plans.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The One That Got Away; or How I Learned to Shoot Twice

Another lapse. I apologize. Things have been exceedingly busy around the little farm for the last couple weeks. Between the garden and the profuse number of chickens and the regular chores, it seems all my time gets eaten up before I get a chance to do anything new! One thing that has monopolized a fair chunk of my time is yard work.

I think a lot of folks (or just us...we're stupid that way) don't realize that when you move to a place in the middle of a very vast wilderness that said wilderness will try whole-heartedly to reclaim the little portion you took. Everywhere I look there are saplings growing, vines encroaching, weeds overtaking, bugs eating, and most recently animals lounging. Yep, animals. I had my first run-in with a creature of the wild sort yesterday...and it was most ghastly! I was eating lunch and heard the chickens (who are fairly close to the house) making a ruckus. Now, much as parents can understand the different cooings of an infant, I can understand, or at least differentiate the different squawks, chirps, cackles, and whistles of these birds, and the noise that went up was not one with which I was familiar. I immediately ran to the porch and out of the corner of my eye, caught sight of a long, scaly, black tail sliding under some shelves by the bedroom window...right beside the open cat door that leads into the bedroom, right beside the bed.

Now, I'm not necessarily afraid of snakes. They don't send me into paroxysmal fits or fainting spells or hysterics of any kind. But, man, they are pretty freaking creepy when you're not expecting to see one. And when the one you aren't expecting to see is coiled up right behind your favorite rocking chair, well...it's enough to shake even the most stalwart (right? all you stalwart folks think snakes are creepy right? cause they are. it's not just me). So, I did what any brave and stalwart soul would do...I called my dad! I know, I know. He's like seven hours away but he knows what to do! Surely he can give me advice on some magical, old-school, country way to rid myself of this heinous, heinous visitor.

"Daddy, there's a huge snake on my porch!"

"Well, kill it," he says.

Ahh!! Kill it! Yes. That's what I'll do. I'll kill it.

( As an aside, I can hear many of you saying to yourselves, "But, K...aren't you kind of...you know...a hippie or something? Doesn't that mean you should want the snake to be all groovy and snakey and do his own thing and live in peace and harmony with nature and stuff?" And the answer is thus: I am so cool with snakes being snakey and groovy it's ridiculous. But as soon as one tries to groove onto my porch and plot his next chicken killing mission, I feel it's my duty as chicken protector to intervene.)

To continue:

Hmm...I have a .22 and am not a bad shot (keeping in mind that I've only ever shot at very stationary and lifeless paper targets). But, the nasty little bugger is right beside the house, and even in my current state, I knew that shooting the house was not an option. See? Rational.

"Daddy, I can't shoot it. He's right next to the house!"

"Well get a stick and move it," says my wise old sage.

Yes! A stick. So I set out in search of the perfect (very, very long) stick, and as luck would have it the previous owners of this little slice of heaven had a very diverse collection of walking sticks they had found in the woods (no doubt when they were out beating back nature from stealing back the property! But I digress...). I found the perfect one. A stout pole, around seven feet long.

By this point, I had gone in and gotten the little rifle, and being so armed, stick in one hand, gun in the other, I set out to poke and prod this snake. Also, by this point, I had googled. I decided that this was a common rat or chicken snake (which Dad also said, but I had to check for myself), which is rumored to not be aggressive and was described as being something of a pansy.

So, I poked and poked and poked (from a very safe distance, of course.). And this scaredy cat of a snake didn't move an inch. He looked at me and my stick and went right back to lounging. So, I poked more. I think I may have hit him on the head, which got his attention and got him moving...right up the wall of the house. Not acceptable. I knew, in my rational, calm, logical mind, that I could no more shoot him out of the rafters as I could off the floor. So I hit him again with my trusty stick and off he went, slithering around the corner of the house.

Success! Now I can get him out into the grass and single-handedly defeat him! Unless he goes under the box in which we keep our recycling. Which he promptly did. So, I poked and poked and poked. And he finally stuck his head out. I knew the time was almost upon me! A little further and the house would be out of the way and I could take my shot! Unless he crawled onto that big slab of stone. Which he did. Again, logic and rationale won out and one half of my brain explained to the other that shooting at a big piece of stone from four feet away was a very bad idea. So, what did I do? Poked him with the stick, of course. And alas! After, what felt like ages, he moved into the perfect area for me to shoot him. I picked up the rifle, aimed, and did that whole inhale/exhale thing like my dad taught me to do when I was little (and yes, down here, little girls shoot guns with their daddies. It's just how we roll in the south.), and squeezed the trigger.

And missed. I freaking missed. And, never having shot at something alive and moving before, I did not immediately understand that you generally only get one shot before the thing at which you shot hauls ass. Which it did. He sequestered himself under a woodpile. Now, at this point, I was determined to get him. And allaying my fears, decided to root him out. And, being the sensible girl that I am, I decided now was the time for boots and jeans instead of shorts and birkenstocks. So, after I changed clothes, I grabbed stick and gun and went back out to the woodpile. Before I missed my shot, my dad had suggested using a hoe to remove the snake's head from it's body. I set aside this option as it would require me to get closer to the scoundrel than I wanted. But now, in the midst of snake killing zeal, it seemed a perfectly reasonable alternative to the gun. So, hoe, stick, and gun in hand I began to not very systematically dismantle the woodpile.

And I never saw the bloody snake again.

Let this be a lesson to all you would-be vermin slayers out there. If you shoot at something that can run away from you, don't miss. And if you think you might miss, shoot at it more than once.

Lessons learned!

Now, I'm off to fight the good fight. I go now to protect both man and beast (and driveway and lawn) from the encroachment of a most persistent and insidious enemy. I take with me naught but loppers, shovel, hoe (and my snake poking stick) to do battle with the woods.

Have a good day everyone! I'll try to keep my posting lapses to more reasonable amounts of time in the future!!