Friday, June 20, 2008

like the ravens in the corn

A few months ago I was given a copy of Sew What, Fleece, a book about small projects you can make with polar fleece using instinct over patterns. I loved the book. It's simple, fun, and has some cool stuff in it I could make for gifts or myself. I found a bunch of ideas, but none as cool as the hooded fleece vest. I wanted to make one for myself so I got some warm brown fleece and hand-sewed myself a zip front, giant-hooded version of the one in the book. For kicks I took an old pair of blue cords and made a giant raven patch for the back of it.

I've never lived in a place without crows and ravens. I like them, always have. When I drive to work or walk the dogs in the morning they swoop and dive through the maples like acrobat fighter planes. Beautiful pagan angels. Here in the hollow they seem to be watching over my place. When a hawk comes through, they swarm and chase it away - making the world a little safer for my chickens. While I know it's because they don't want to compete for food, I like to think of them as my own security force. And so, in homage, I wear one proudly on my back every morning when I go out to feed the chickens and haul water to the garden.

Monday, June 16, 2008

romania eh?

The longer I live in Sandgate, the more I think I'm in Romania. Sandgate feels like a pre-industrial farm society nestled in big dark mountains. The roads are dirt, and there are more horses on them than cars. There are more farm animals than people in general. Ravens and crows are more common than sparrows, and the rolling hills of ancient farmhouses (some I'm sure older than America itself), make the place seem ancient and worldly. I adore this place. I don't even miss the sounds of trains.

So yesterday, while on my usual Romanian jog, I stopped at a barbed-wire fence by the side of the road to pet some neighbor's horses and give them a big fistful of green grass just out of their long neck's reach. I was patting their heads and tussling with their manes when I heard a "Ba Buck BAWW!" and turned around. Behind me, Alfred Hitchcock style, were about seven chickens. All just staring at me on the dirt road. They had snuck up behind me from the farm across the way while I was in horseland.

Now, these aren't the docile dumpy chickens I'm used too, but like, a gang of underprivileged youth chickens. They should've all had matching bandanas and switchblades with the way they looked me, casing me for a weakness. The horses behind me I swear nearly laughed. "You're on your own kid," and they trotted away to the other pasture. At my thigh was a giant white rooster, looking up at me with little dinosaur eyes. I reached down to pet him, tell him I'm okay with his bad self, and "BAW CAAAAAWWWWW BUCK BAWW!" He jumped up and slashed at me with his spurs! he cut open my hand and then started coming back for more. I yelled, sweaty and stupid in the pastoral Eden "WHAT'S YOUR PROBLEM BIRD!" and he strutted and hissed circles around me. The dairy goat and her kids on the hill watched, amused I'm sure, with muted thrills. Not wanting to temp the jerk by fighting back or running, I just stepped over him and continued my jog. Apparently, not all roosters are nice as my Rufus.

As I jogged back to my cabin, I came across a neighbor with two draft horses on a cart. The little rhinos without horns were plodding along in what looked like it had once been an old tractor converted into a draft cart. They ambled on past me, hand bloody as I waved, and headed back to their farm with polite but concerned looks. Now I've never been to eastern Europe. But I have a feeling on the backroads 45 minutes outside of Prague, a similar event probably went down.

P.S. The top image in this post is Sandgate, the one below, Romania...

just say no to powder mix, son

I'm a big fan of fresh lemonade and real brewed ice tea. But since I'm usually the only one drinking it, it's silly to make a giant piutcher for one. I found a way to make my own single serving version in portable containers. Which is great when you're on the run into town and want a cold drink for the road, or have been out in the garden and need something instantly cold and sweet to boost up your blood sugar. Enter - MasonAdes.

Ingredients
Box of pint mason jars (with lids)
Fresh lemons
Water
Ice cubes
Sugar
Lemon juice
Black tea bags
Fresh mint or lemon verbena from the garden

MasonAdes are soda-can sized servings of hand-squeezed lemonade or iced Tea. You can make enough for a whole weekend in about 5 minutes, which makes me wonder how powdered mix ever even made it in the public market?

Take your jars and fill them up half way with cold water. Then cut half a lemon and squeeze it's juice into the jar and then plop the whole half into the jar as well, making the water tart and filled with little bits of pulp and flavor. If you really want to kick the tartness up - add some fresh lemon juice (about a teaspoon) to it as well. Then add as much sugar as you feel appropriate (depending on mood and heat it could be as little as a teaspoon or as much as 2 tablespoons) and then top it off with ice. Seal the lid and shake the hell out of it till it's one big frothy delight.

I make a few of these and stash them in the fridge. Instead of grabbing a can of soda, I grab a cold jar of real lemonade. Which not only tastes amazing, but feels a little more authentic than most beverages. MasonAdes can also be made into iced tea - which is a healthier alternative. I just pour hot water from a kettle into room-temperature jars with a black tea-bag and let it cool on the kitchen counter. Then I add in a little lemon slice and a pinch of sugar, some ice, and a sprig of lemon verbena or mint and let it sit in the fridge alongside the jars of lemonade. When it's cold enough to condense water off the sides, it's manna from the still.