Thursday, December 6, 2007

books for snowdays

Ever since the industrial revolution people have been leaving the city to go back to the land, it’s an American cliché as common as singing 'Take me Out to the Ball Game' at the top of the seventh inning, but this book is hitting a nerve with me. I haven’t read it yet, but I’m intrigued. Two designers leave the city to open and B&B in rural Wisconsin. They have no agricultural experience and both decide to leave high paying advertising jobs to have alpacas in the sticks. I get it, hell, I’m trying to do it myself, but I’m curious what two world travelers who think pullet is a verb are going to do when all the fun of getting started is over? I’ll let you know when I finish reading it.

I love this book. Maybe it’s because I’m from Pennsylvania and the Amish have always been this mysterious local feral group of people. I have a lot of respect for them, crazy amounts. But not the kind of respect this Catholic MIT grad student and his wife have. For over a year they left Boston to live on a primitive Amish-type community. Hidden somewhere along the back roads of Middle America (undisclosed location) they live without even the simplest motor. Unlike Logan Wards new book, “See you in a Hundred years” the Brendes are satiated in a community living the same way. It’s more than a social experiment, a lot more. Eric and his wife become these people, and even have ea baby among the community. He ends up living just a few miles away and opening an inn and rickshaw business with his wife and two kids. I know my mom wonders why a KU student wants to have sheep, well mom, there are MIT students pulling rickshaws so don't lose heart.

Gene Logsdon is an amazing author. He’s been writing about agriculture for decades, but this fairly recent book of his is my favorite. It was given to me as a gift, and I’ve read through a few times already. It stressed common sense, logic and practicality over pride and other people’s opinions of how you work. It’s full of advice, plans, and conversations. If the Nearings wrote the Bible about “The Good Life” Logsdon has taken their inspiration to the cottage farmers. He explains whats wrong with modern methods of agriculture and how modern farmers drop 60k on a tractor they think they need when they could be selling christmas trees instead. It's full of sounds advice and critiques like that. A must read.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

leif is warm

my friend Leif sent me this picture of him sporting a cold antler knit hat in the blustery Midwestern streets of Cincinnati. Or in this case, at his place. Leif and I used to rock the cabash in Knoxville and I miss the old salt. He’s the only Scandinavian mariachi violinist I know, so far. Come home for christmas, son!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

almost there

I’m shipping out about 6 etsy orders today, if you’ve been patiently waiting I’m sorry and thanks. I have a bunch of domestic and Canadian orders, but also my music going to England, and soaps going to the Netherlands. Which is kinda cool. Besides keeping up with the farm store, things are starting to calm down at the farmhouse. The manuscript is hours away from completion and by Saturday it’ll be shipped off to Massachusetts with photography and notes. I’m so glad it’s done before the holiday break; the last thing I wanted was to be worrying about deadlines when I’m back in Palmerton. So, there will be a nice month long break between rewrites for just hanging out. I am grateful.

In other farm news I’ll be teaching my first fiddle lesson this weekend! A co-workers fiancé just got her first violin and wants to learn so she’s coming over to the farmhouse. I’m getting excited and making photocopies and burning cds so she can get started. Helping someone get started in making music is crazy satisfying. The whole teach a man to fish deal, you get the picture. The snow’s melting from rain, and north Idaho is damp and back to it’s usual self – cold and wet. It’s nearly 60 degrees today, a freak heatwave. The elk are psyched though. It’s like someone took the salad bar out of the freezer around my place. Cervine ruminants everywhere. Party!

Monday, December 3, 2007


I came home from lunch to let the dogs out and noticed there wasn’t any snow on the roof above the silkies coop. Oh no. If all three feet had gotten rain heavy and fallen on their pathetic apple crate coop, they were goners for certain. I trudged through the wet snow to the side of the house and there was a pile five feet high, the coop gone. I lost a rabbit Saturday morning, I didn’t want to find two suffocated chickens in a pile of rubble, but I had to know so I got out my shovel.

I stood on the top of the pile and started digging. When my snow shovel hit the aluminum roof I heard the faintest sound. A little coo and some chirps. My god, they were still alive under there? I frantically pulled apart the wood and roof and into a little pocket of air and apple crate that had turned on its side making a little serendipitous teepee. Inside the two wet birds were huddled together, Emily and Mac. I pulled them out and carried them in my arms back into the house. It was pouring outside and I was soaked through from the avalanche mission. I just put them down on the mudroom floor and left to change. I knew they were too out of sorts to go far. The dogs were asleep in their crates so they didn’t even stir when I carried the refugees through the house and into the garage. I placed them in a big cardboard box with pine shavings, clean water and some feed. I covered it with a section of wire fencing and let them go to dry off and relax.

The bird’s pocket of air from the snow couldn’t have been more than 20 square inches of space. Had I waited till after work to check on them I doubt they would’ve made it. Two lucky little black birds in the snow.

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.