Tuesday, November 27, 2007

you grow girl

I found a wonderful gardening site online, based on a women's book for new and urban gardeners called "You Grow Girl." It's an online community and blog geared for a younger generation of green thumbs. Seems like a lively resource, solid design and lots of tips and forums for information relating from your strawberry plant in the kitchen to your corn out on the lawn.


Monday, November 26, 2007

pretty saro

My friend Sara just reminded me of a sweet movie I adore. Songcatcher might be the best introduction to mountain music available to the masses. It certainly wasn't a block buster, but does retell the stories of the true ballad collectors of the early 19th century who scoured the mountain people for their songs. If you have no idea what all the fuss is about with this wonderful music it's worth adding to your netflix list to find out. This clip is of my favorite fiddle tune, pretty saro. Which has a lot of verses and versions, but goes like this.

When I first come to this country in Eighteen and Forty-nine
I saw many fair lovers but I never saw mine
I viewed it all around me, saw I was quite alone
and me a poor stranger and a long way from home

Fair the well to ol' mother, fair the well to my father too
I'm going for to ramble this wide world all through
And when I get weary, I'll sit down and cry
and think of my Saro, pretty Saro, my bride

Well, I wished I was a turtle dove
Had wings and could fly
Far away to my lover's lodgings
Tonight I'd drawn the line
And there in her lilywhite arms I'd lay there all night
and watch through them little wind'ers
for the dawning of day

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

i think they know I'm vegetarian

Took this a few weeks ago when i noticed soemthing moving around the yard. Right in the driveway was this lady and her kid, which was the most awkward looking young animal I have ever seen. With things being busy, thought I'd say happy thanksgiving early, unless you're a native american, which in that case is happy sorry.

i make sick pj pants

I’ve really gotten into the practicality of sewing. I’m just learning and haven’t whipped up anything amazing but the mentality that I can make what I want to wear, and not look like a hobbit is pretty appealing. Recently I wanted a pair of mittens and after shopping online found out that the cheapest high quality polar fleece or knit set was 20 bones. Which in my world is a month of chicken feed or half a bag of dog food, both of which are more important than my preference to have warm hands when the dogs are peeing in 24-degree weather.

So I went to Ben Franklin (which is the name of our craft store) and bought half a yard of the thickest fleece they had. This cost me five dollars. I took it home and layed it on the table. Then I traced a generous space around my hand till I had what looked like a retarded lobster claw. I cut out four of them, sewed up a hem along the wrists and then sewed along the edges. Lastly I turned them inside out and ta da, mittens. Really warm, custom fitting, high quality, favorite color mittens for five bucks and 15 minutes of labor. I even have enough fabric left to make a kids pair or start another set.

Sewing really just comes down to this after you decide what you want to make

1. Buy fabric
2. Buy pattern
3. Trace pattern on fabric
4. Cut it out
5. Sew it together

That’s it. Give it a try.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

this is a real magazine


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

sullivan ballou's letter

July 14,1861
Camp Clark, Washington DC

Dear Sarah:

The indications are very strong that we shall move in a few days - perhaps tomorrow. And lest I should not be able to write you again I feel impelled to write a few lines that may fall under your eye when I am no more.

I have no misgivings about, or lack of confidence in the cause in which I am engaged, and my courage does not halt or falter. I know how American Civilization now leans upon the triumph of the government and how great a debt we owe to those who went before us through the blood and suffering of the Revolution. And I am willing - perfectly willing - to lay down all my joys in this life, to help maintain this government, and to pay that debt.

Sarah, my love for you is deathless, it seems to bind me with mighty cables that nothing but omnipotence can break; and yet my love of Country comes over me like a strong wind and bears me irresistibly with all those chains to the battlefield. The memory of all the blissful moments I have enjoyed with you come crowding over me, and I feel most deeply grateful to God and you, that I have enjoyed them for so long. And how hard it is for me to give them up and burn to ashes the hopes and future years, when, God willing, we might still have lived and loved together, and see our boys grown up to honorable manhood around us.

If I do not return, my dear Sarah, never forget how much I loved you, nor that when my last breath escapes me on the battle field, it will whisper your name...

Forgive my many faults, and the many pains I have caused you. How thoughtless, how foolish I have sometimes been!...

But, 0 Sarah, if the dead can come back to this earth and flit unseen around those they love, I shall always be with you, in the brightest day and in the darkest night... always, always. And when the soft breeze fans your cheek, it shall be my breath, or the cool air your throbbing temple, it shall be my spirit passing by.

Sarah do not mourn me dead; think I am gone and wait for me, for we shall meet again...

Sullivan Ballou was killed a week later at the 1st Battle of Bull Run.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

the game

Everything right now is the waiting game. Waiting for the first chicks to hatch from under Emily with fervent anticipation. Waiting for the first flakes of snow to cover all the hayfields. Waiting to harness the dogs and hit the trails. Waiting for the book to be completed in it’s rough draft form so I can turn it over to the editors and feel the relief of ages. Waiting for the holidays. It’s not bad, not at all. But this stretch of November can get you anxious. You just want something to happen to shake things up.

crooked road

I found out from one of the people in my Tuesday night jam there was a special event going on last night. The 16 musicians, ballad singers and dancers from “the Crooked Road” were playing an open jam at Di Luna’s café in town. It was the night before their big show at the Panida, and they were playing with local musicians for kicks. The crooked road of Virginia is a musical heritage trail, and these performers were exactly what I am working towards when I’m practicing at home.

This was a pretty big deal, a chance for anyone willing to show up with her instrument and play with professionals in a stress free environment. I got to watch an amazing clawhammer banjo player, and kept taking all these mental notes on technique. You can only get so far yourself in this gig. Watching how good people play in a jam and processing it is more valuable than a hundred lessons in a studio. Di Luna’s café turned itself upside down for us. They moved all their chairs and tables and made the entire center of the restaurant an open space for music. Soon Soldiers Joy was ringing through all of town, followed by other favorites. The road players had mountain music in their veins, all of them Virginian locals. There was dancing, singing, and a real songcatcher (ballad keeper) belting out the old songs. I heard the best version of Darling Corey ever.

The usual Sandpoint gang and some other players I never met got together that night. It was nice seeing the familiar faces, greg the old billy goat in the corner beating his drum. Chris, our jam leader keeping his own and playing a great solo on BlackBerry Blossom. I tried to keep up but I know when I’m beat. I put my fiddle back in the case and just watched in awe. Last night showed me just how much there is to learn, and how little I know. It wasn’t frustrating at all though; it was like sitting around a pile of Christmas presents knowing sometime you’ll eventually open them. I stuck around till the last verse of Knoxville Girl and decided that was a good endpoint for my evening. Tonight Music from the Crooked Road is putting on a mountain music performance at the Panida. I hope to go and see them again before they skip town.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

i want to grow these

Friday, November 2, 2007

when sister Laurie says Amen
we won't hear anything
that ten-car train will take that word
that fledgling bird

and the fallen house across the way
it'll keep everything
the baby's breath
our bravery wasted
and our shame

Thursday, November 1, 2007

big news

Emily, the 7-month old black Japanese silkie bantam I raised from a chick is now all grown up. Her and Mac, the high combed silkie rooster are going to be parents. Yesterday I couldn't find emily anywhere, she usually is out in the yard with everyone else but only Mac was scratching around near her coop. I looked inside and there was a quiet pile of feathers. Being a pesimist when it comes to livestock, i assumed she died in the night. But when I went to touch her she snapped at me. I lifted her up and found a HUGE pile of bantam eggs under her, a toasty 90 degrees in the Idaho fall. We're going to be parents!

Mac and Em are the only two bantams left on the farm (the others went to other homes, and we suffered one casualty, a passion crime by Mac himself I suspect). And they have their own ramshackle coop that apparently is quite the loveshack. Emily is sitting on a clutch of 17 eggs!! Now, chances are ¾ of those can’t hatch and the ¼ left that might doesn’t have much of a shot if they do. She’s a new mom and probably isn’t doing things like she should, but if any of them do manage I’ll be scooping the mother, father and her brood and moving them into the garage for winter childbearing. So that’s the big news, possibility of little black chicks on the farm in the next few weeks!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Hallows

Happy Halloween everyone! After last night's jam I came home all worked up and musical so I recorded that sordid banjo tune I was talking about as a little audio treat. It was made up here at the farm while I watched the ravens glide and hop around the back hayfields. I'm new to the banjo so there's mistakes in there, but it's just for kicks so enjoy.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Jackapple cake

I’ve been baking my father’s apple cake recipe and adding my own little experiments with it. I think this one takes the prize, try it this weekend, you won’t regret it.

Jackapple cake

3 large farm eggs
2 ¾ cup flour
3 large apples (go with braeburn or gala, if you get fuji use 4)
No red delicious apples, bake like garbage
¼ cup fresh press cider
2 cups sugar
¼ cup honey, heated
1 stick butter (half melted)
1 ¾ cup vegetable oil
Tablespoon vanilla extract
Tablespoon baking powder

Peel and dice apples and place in a large bowl with 1 ½ cups sugar (set aside other half cup for topping), sprinkle over them a light coating of cinnamon, and mix into a cobbler, then dribble warm honey over and mix that in as well. Set in fridge for 2 hours to let cure. Do not skip this step. When apples are cured, add all wet ingredients (half melted stick off butter, eggs, oil, extract) and mix with large wooden spoon. Add in tablespoon baking powder. Add flour half a cup at a time and stir in batter more than you think you need too. Batter will seem wet and yellow. Good. Pour into greased cake pan. Now melt other half stick of butter, add to it the sugar and some cinnamon and mix them into a wet paste. Use a pastery brush to lather it over the batter, making a sugar crust to bake into the cake. Bake at 350 degrees 30-40 minutes. Check after 27, when knife comes out clean it’s done. Serve warm with stove-top cider.

raven music

Things are cold on the farm. The grass is all white tipped and the chicken’s water fonts are frozen in the morning. When I take the dogs out at dawn, William the rooster crows and his breathe rises like a little puff of smoke. His girls are laying again. The light in the coop did the trick. Now they have 12 hours of simulated daylight and I’m getting about 2 eggs a day from the production reds (Mary Todd and Mindy). Compared to July’s 20 eggs a week it’s not much at all, but enough to keep me in baking and breakfasts, so I really can’t complain. I’ll be insulating their coop this weekend and getting a fireproof heat bulb to keep the coop a toasty 55 degrees all winter long. I think the silkies will be moving into the garage in a cage, they can stretch their legs in the kitchen like the rabbits do. I can’t keep them out in -10 degree weather without some sort of apparatus like the big girls have, and I’m not about to build them their own contraption so inside it is.

The banjo and I are now consistent acquaintances, but not yet friends. I have three songs down and memorized and am getting better at the clawhammer strumming, but it’s not second nature like the fiddle is. Plucking is more work for me than bowing, but it sounds so nice and even Annie doesn’t complain about it. She’ll curl up right at my feet on the couch when I play. I’m writing a song now that’s perfect for Halloween in double C tuning. It’s working title is “black footed raven” because the music sounds how the ravens look when they hop in the hayfields behind the house.