Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Crooked Fences and Surprise Flowers

Here’s the fence that I mentioned in my last post, which farmer John and his father built from ice damaged limbs and barbed wire.  My father-in-law decided that we should name our future farm Crooked Fence Farms.  Another name we thought of a wihle back was Dailey Acres.  Which one do you like more?
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Notice below how he’s planted some cucumbers along the fence so it has something to climb.  He’s also planted beans that will climb the fence as well and of course, sunflowers. Maria 199
Today I stayed home from work due to a persistent sore throat, which I’m certain came from flying last week.  I felt I needed a day of rest and I’m definitely feeling better.  Years ago, I stumbled upon a website called Earth Clinic.  It’s a site full of folk remedies for hippies like myself who don’t like taking medicine.  I’m not really a hippie, but some city folk would say that I am.  According to their site, 354 people have found that gargling with cayenne pepper cures their sore throats.  I just finished my second gargle and have already found it to be productive without going into more detail. 
Farmer John came home for lunch and we took a stroll out by the row of greens.  He suggested that I weed around the small plants if I felt up to it today.  I know the sunshine has some healing properties, so I brought my stadium cushion and got after it.  I’m pretty excited about my progress!  Check it out….
Mixed greens, used to be surrounded by weeds -
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Kale.  Didn’t take off like we had hoped, so we’ll have to plant some more.
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From bottom to top:  brussel sprouts, broccoli, onions, mixed greens, kale, arugula, collards, and carrots.
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Like I told you before, we have stumbled upon a new flowers each day in our massive perennial garden.  Here are a few of the flowers that are popping up.  Some I haven’t identifed yet so let me know if you know what they are!
Purple Iris
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Shasta Daisy
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Not sure on the next two…
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And we also have TONS of wild strawberries.  Still a little unsure if they’ll taste ok, but some are almost ready to pick!
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We also have concord grapevines!  This also came with our house and we recently learned that vines were birthed at Cone Manor many many years ago and planted at our house by our patriarchal neighbor/farmer down the road.  He and his wife both grew up on the estate because their parents worked for Mr. Cone.  They also have grapes from the same vine.  Their marriage is still going strong after 53 years!  We plan to learn a lot from them during our stay on Paradise Lane. 
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Grape clusters are popping out everywhere!
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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

As the Frogs Croak…

As I’m settling in to write this post, the sound of bullfrogs croaking from the pond next door is sneaking through our windows.  My Pandora station is set to Brandi Carlile…of course with the volume down low so as not to drown out the froggies.  My belly is satisfied and full after a lovely dinner in front of  the final American Idol show (don’t judge me) and a delicious dessert of fresh local/organic strawberries, vanilla ice cream (just a sneak for those of you who know my lactose issues) and strawberry preserves, which were both grown and preserved by our favorite Black Mountain friends.  I am content.  If I could only freeze moments like this. 

I was in the Asheville area last week, so I got to hang out with little Graham twice!   He was very hungry when I walked in the door, so I ran outside to pick as many strawberries as possible while he fed!  And because I adore their backyard view, I captured it once again as an inspirational backdrop to these almost fake looking strawberries.  Does this not make your heart melt?  Fresh homegrown strawberries with the sun shining and the mountains beckoning us!  I ask (beg) John about once a month if we can move back to the Asheville area.  It holds a very special place deep inside me.

berries and mountains

Then I went inside to hold the Grahamster, as his uncle calls him, who was very happily fed and ready to hang. 

Graham and Aunt Mary 

A few things have happened recently that I wanted to share and they are both a result of suggestions from my older sister, Margaret.  She’s a wise woman.  I’ve been listening to her for 30 years now.  For Christmas, she and Dave got us the book Animal, Vegetable Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. 

animal vegetable

I’m still not even half-way through the book as I find it very hard to sit and read for long periods of time, but what I have read has been very inspiring.  She and her family committed to eating only what they could grow or find locally for a whole year.  She terms her family as “Locavores”.  I definitely think this is a growing trend that’s been around for a while, but that we’re going to see more and more of in the near future.  It will be very exciting to take part in this trend as growers and buyers.  She also highlights the pitfalls of large-scale industrialized farming and how the majority of our food travels miles and miles (sometimes over oceans!) just to reach our plates.  A lot of it is grown for the purpose of being sturdy enough to travel and pretty to look at, while flavor gets dropped to maybe 4th or 5th place.  WHAT?  That’s why we freak out when we taste the first homegrown tomato every summer.  That’s what a tomato tastes like people!  Why do we have to settle for less?  Ok, step down from the soapbox, Mary. 

I don’t imagine that we’ll become as extreme as Barbara and her family, but I’m certainly becoming more and more conscious of where our food is coming from and valuing what’s available locally.  Speaking of local food, look at what my hardworking, overall-wearing, hot stuff husband was into last week. 

The red cover is for one of the tomato rows.  I forgot the purpose in the red color.  I’m sure there is a scientific reason.  I can find that out tomorrow when farmer John wakes up. 


And here are some of the tomato plants growing quite nicely in the greenhouse, now settled into their final soil block before being introduced to the ground in a few days!


Here’s the row for the melons – a few have already been planted!  We actually saved the watermelon seeds from a small melon we bought in Maine at a fruit stand last summer.  We figured if it would grow up there, it would grow down here.  Yum.

watermelons, canteloupe

And here’s my little herb garden.  I come home from work and check on it everyday.  Lots of stuff poking their little green heads out of the soil.  And that’s my little walkway in the middle, which was farmer John’s idea.

herb garden

Of course, there are way more things to post from the garden, as well as our yard, including the fence that John and his father built last week while I was away.  I’ll post pictures soon. 

John was very excited about a surprise that he had planned for me after I returned home from Asheville and Grand Rapids on work trips.  He hollowed this tree stump out and planted a few colorful plants found at the Mustard Seed Market down the road.  Isn’t he the greatest?  Gosh I know how to pick a good man!

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The other thing I wanted to share about is a little less exciting.  My sister found out that she had a gluten intolerance/sensitivity about 2 years ago and has never been healthier since going 100% gluten-free.  She has been encouraging my family and I to give it a try in response to a myriad of digestive and health issues that we all similarly face.  I have been putting this off because I simply adore bread.  Just look at it.  What could be better than freshly baked, warm bread straight out of the oven with melted butter on top? 

crusty bread

How and why would one give up such deliciousness?  Well, to feel better I guess.  I’m calling this a trial, so I’m not diving in all the way, but I imagine a lot of my symptoms will begin to subside quickly.  I started a few weeks ago, but found that it was very difficult while traveling and I wasn’t prepared enough.  So I began again yesterday and am fully stocked to give it my all this time, thanks to a few stops in Asheville and my friend, Jamie, who gave me a gift card to Bare Essentials Market for my birthday.  Jamie has been gluten-free for a week now, although this is her second go ‘round.  I’m so glad to have some accountability!

Let me just say that the bread I’ve had so far doesn’t hold a stick to wheat.  Gluten is what gives bread it's doughy texture and elasticity.  Bread without gluten has quite a peculiar texture.  It’s not the same, but I’ll keep plugging along. 

One great thing is that A) it’s becoming more and more popular, hence, there are more supplies in stores, particularly health food stores, and B) there are a lot of fun blogs out there that are dedicated to those who are gluten-free, or GF as the gluten-free world calls it.  I’m joining a new club that has a special acronym.  That’s the only redeeming factor i’ve found so far :) 

Here are a few that I’ve found worth returning to!  Of course, there are many many more, but it’s late.  My husband has already fallen asleep, and the frogs are lulling me to dreamland. 

Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef – she makes things like these brownies, which give me hope that food can still be good!  I just need to carve out more time for baking!

brownies GF

I am Gluten Free

As Bad as it Looks

Stay tuned for some pictures from our perennial garden.  This is our first spring in this rental home, so each day is like Christmas when discovering what exactly is growing right outside our door!  And let me tell you, it’s a wild mess out there.  I began the season weeding it and keeping up with it, but now, I would only be kidding myself to think that I could keep some form of order in that garden!   

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Playing Catch Up!

So it’s been a few weeks since I last wrote and I’ve only had a blog for about a month, but guess what…it’s my blog.  I reserve the right to write when I’m able, right?  I mean, that’s the point, right?  This is a means for me to express myself.  I’m absolutely not looking for another task to add to my list at the moment, so I’m holding myself accountable to allow this blog to be a guilt-free-write-when-i-can kind of place.  Welcome to this guilt-free zone!  And because I’m not obligated to anything, I plan to post a lot of pictures today but may not write much!  

Since I last wrote, my husband came home from the Middle East bearing wonderful gifts (tea, Dead Sea salt, baklava, and a necklace that I cannot pronounce but it’s some special type of beautiful blue beads) as well as a lot more facial hair.  He sports the facial Brillo pad.

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While he was still gone, I hosted my good friend and her little ones.  She’s a super mom as you can see. 

Maria 083I also worked in the yard a lot.   I love before and afters, but I keep forgetting to take befores.  I get so excited about really getting after it in the yard, that I completely forget.  I’ll work on it though.  For those curious about what happened to my little seedlings, they came up quite nicely, although i planted one too many seeds in each pod.  We had to thin them out a bit, but otherwise, my work was not in vain. 


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My farmer husband didn’t waste a single moment after he landed in the US of A before he had his overalls on and was out in the yard, working to prepare our garden beds.  It pumps deep through his blood.  It’s becoming more and more apparent with each day that he was born for this.  Kind of like Adam in the garden of Eden.  Guess that makes me Eve.  I like the names Eden or Eve for girl’s names.  I know someone very close to me who plans to name their potential baby girl Eden.  A.D.D.

The next few photos show John’s progress in the yard…

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                                                                                      Greenhouse shelving

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On the left is his homemade trellis made from ice storm damaged limbs and twine.  He only had to buy the line the stretches between the two.  This is where the many tomatoes will grow.  On the right is his homemade hoop house.  This also came from limbs in our yard, as well as twine and cv pipes.  He’s so innovative and creative. 

Maria 133 The back of our house view from the garden.  Brilliant color and beauty in the sunshine!

We’ve also been experimenting with making soil blocks.  They aren’t cheap in the beginning, but over the years, we will save a lot of money by not using pots. 

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I also put my friend Jessica to work while she was visiting.  We’re stripping an old coffee table to refinish it.  Thanks, Jess!  It’s still unfinished by the way and sits in our living room as is.  One day we’ll get to it. 

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We also had our much anticipated first cookout in our fabulous outdoor fire pit area that came with the house.  Our friends Ashley and Matt came over for the festivities and brought delicious food with them as only can be expected from Martha Stewart…I mean, Ashley

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And lastly, John has been wildly busy planting every last seed into the soil blocks and figuring out how to make them grow!  It’s been quite the task!   I’m confident that we’ll have an amazing garden this year. 

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