Saturday, May 15, 2010

the new hive is installed!

The new hive is installed, and Lord do I hope they stay. There's always a chance your bees will decide the hollow tree across the street or the neighbors' old rusted pickup range would make a better home. Unlike other "livestock" we never really domesticated bees, we just learned how to make them comfortable. I hope mine agree their small home (loaded with feeder pollen) will do. It's good to have a hive back on the land. It's been a long time since the last one got destroyed by a bear, and this one will be surrounded by an electric fence. Wish us luck. We like honey around here.

stop making fun of my banjo

First published on the Huffington Post. July 16th, 2008
I recently discovered this little eco-gadget that let's you listen to all you're favorite music whenever you want (for as long as you want) on 100% renewable energy. It's this amazing nature-based technology that requires no offshore drilling, leaves no trace of Co2, and even polar bears occasionally enjoy them. It's cordless. It's free. And you can paint the tips all sorts of fancy colors. You know where I'm going with this.

Yes, gentle readers, your hands.

It's time we put down our ipods and picked up actual instruments. Stop listening to all that music and start making your own. I'm serious, dust off that guitar you haven't touched since college or finally order that banjo you've been joking about for the last six years and take on the completely green alternative to cds and turntables. It'll help reduce your energy consumption, save you a little money, and possibly help you get email addresses at that next impromptu-bonfire party. Score.

I am not going to follow this declaration with any statistics. Mostly because that would be ridiculous. We do not need numbers to back up the fact that your Martin DM uses less electricity than your stereo that takes up the same amount of shelf space as a bullmastiff. And even if your stereo is attached to a solar panel or a wind turbine - playing your own music still wins. Hands down. Here's why.

You and I, we live in an ear-budded world. Everywhere you go, from farmers markets to subway stations - America is plugged in. I think all that internal rocking out throws us inside our heads and outside of our communities. Something we all enjoy occasionally, but imagine the people you could meet and the kilowatts saved if for just one day every machine that plays music was turned off because people where making their own?

So what if you can't read music, never held a pick before, or think a fiddle and a violin are two different instruments? There are a million books, online classes, DVDs, and other resources out there for wannabe bluegrass kings. Get that used mandolin off eBay and figure it out. Even if you pull off a few simple songs you'll get the very real sense of accomplishment your day job skipped town on years ago. Plus, learning music uses all sorts of new parts of your brain you forgot you had. It requires determination, dedication, and possibly the help of members of your community. You know, actual people, and that's something you can't get from iTunes. There's the guy on Craigslist you bought the banjo from, the kid upstairs who offered to teach you the basics, and the jam you found on meetup.com that will take you under their wing and then out to the pub. Opting to participate in the world of music instead of passively observing it gives your mind a workout, new friends, and you'll learn a new skill to boot. When was the last time you could do all that without involving paperwork and merit badges?

I'm not saying you shouldn't enjoy the recorded music you own. Lord knows I've got so many cds, records and computers blaring here at the cabin, it's borderline indecent. But ever since I started teaching myself the fiddle and banjo - the electronics have been on less and less. When I come home from work the first thing I want to do to unwind is, well, hang out with the dogs. But the second thing, is sit outside on the porch and pluck a few songs on the banjo. Sure, it may look and sound a little...inexperienced. But, all mocking of peers aside, I'm getting more relaxation and general fun out of learning old waltzes then I've gotten from any new pop album in months. The hardwiring is different, and I like that. Plus, it's nice knowing I don't need to recharge it every 45 minutes.

So in a world that's swilling energy like a fat kid sucking back a snackpack, why don't you and I grab our guitars, go outside, and enjoy some tunes without being hooked up to the city grid? We can revel the company of new people, dive deep into a creative outlet, feel something emotionally tangible, and end our day feeling pretty damn satisfied for pulling it off. And those are things we just don't get enough of when our hands are tied.

pickin' print from yeehaw industries

the flock on the hill at dusk

Posted on this very blog, September, 26th 2007:

the big one

I just want to be a shepherd on a hill. That's my life's goal.
A flock of sheep.
A hill.

Friday, May 14, 2010

a heavy may

The past week took me down—a little too much is happening all at once here. To give you an idea of what I'm talking about, in the last few weeks I have: bought a farm, moved, unpacked, painted a kitchen, prepared to install a hive of bees, slaughtered chickens, started another twenty chicks, planted a garden, started tilling more, cooked all meals at home, kept a near-daily blog, tended a farm's daily needs, finishing edits on one book while finishing a manuscript on another, am hosting a photo shoot this weekend, have my parents coming to visit next weekend. I also have more guests possibly over memorial day, repairs, magazine articles, home projects, and I'm raising a puppy. I also have a 40-hour work week at the office, leaving 4:45 AM - midnight to do everything else....

When I say I'm overwhelmed, I mean it.

It's all good stuff, great stuff really, but for girl to juggle all that: the pressures of publisher deadlines, the office politics, a farm, I have found myself worn just as thin as I am pulled every May. May is the month gardens hit the dirt, chicks hit the heat lamps, and new animals meet the farm. All the other events are happy accidents and big life changes. Please don't think I am complaining, I am just a very tired girl. Sometimes just crashing on the couch instead of posting on the blog is the extra 45 minutes of rest that maintain my sanity.

I'll be on a more even keel by June. Just getting through. Patience is appreciated.

photo by tim bronson

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

overwhelmed

true story

The paperback of Made From Scratch is out now, and the new cover shows me driving down the road with a car full of livestock. It's a cool illustration, but this photo from the recent move to the Jackson farm proves it's based on a true story. Actually. I've moved all my animals in the station wagon at some point (Save Gibson, who has only been here a week, and has only been in the truck). Puppy aside: all my sheep, my goat, ducks, chickens, geese, dogs, bees, and 17 jillion bags of compost and bedding plants have been farmed in the station wagon. It took me five years to pay it off. It's dented, stained, smells funny and looks a horror. It's a damn mess. I love it.

That's me at the wheel (forgive the hair) transporting my small flock from Vermont to New York. My friend Zach took the photo while we navigated through Shushan to Cambridge. It was a fairly calm ride, and as you can see, Sal and Maude are showing us their better halves as they stare out the back window. Luckily, no cops stopped us. I'm not sure where the law stands when it comes to sheep trafficking.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

an introduction

Monday, May 10, 2010

the story of a salad

Tonight for dinner I ate a simple salad. Greens, shredded cheese, chicken breast, and honey mustard dressing with a side of bread. Nothing fancy. But this dinner, as humble as it is, stands for so much more than a full stomach. This salad contains a chick I held in my hands, flour that sifted between my fingers, milk I stirred over the stove into stretchy mozzarella, and greens bought at the supermarket with organic stamped on the side. It's a collection of work, and choices, and young life, and a bloody death.

This salad inhales and exhales; it is so alive.
Every bite is a story.

I know the chicken part, which I raised here on Cold Antler and harvested on Saturday. It was my third of this crop. I have ten left to dispatch. With every bird I get more comfortable, more adept, and thus, more kind to the birds. The thank yous are sincere, the sacrifice is real, and the work is precise. I end each chickens life quickly as possible and without remorse. My birds all live a good life, and are now totally free range. I gave up on the tractor and simply let them strut around the coop and sprawl on the lawn. They seem happy. They are like the laying hens, free and sassy. I'm proud of what I've raised.

I now own boning knives and butcher string. Who knew?

The cheese was nothing more than a gallon of pasteurized organic milk dumped into a steel pot over medium high heat and stirred with nothing but a tablespoon of citric acid till the thermometer hit 85 degrees. Then a small 1/4 cup solution of water and a quarter of a crushed rennet tablet were added and mixed in. As the milk curdled around 115 degrees, I pulled out the white curds with a slotted spoon and set it in a cheesecloth lining a pyrex bowl. I squeezed out the water, zapped it in the microwave a few times, kneaded it like bread will the ball turned shiny and smooth and salted it. I wrapped it in plastic wrap and set it in the fridge. It keeps well long as the air stays away.

The greens are just plain old Earthbound Farms from Shaws, an industrial organic joint as big and loud as any conventional farm, but at least the slew of chemical pesticides and fertilizers were spared from the acres they grew on. As were the workers who had to pick them and work in those fields weeding. At least my dinner wasn't forcing a person who could be a friend to inhale things with warning labels.

It cost 99 cents more than the alternative.
Most people spend more on tolls.

The bread was kneaded last night as I listened to this American Life on the radio. It was made from a local mill in Vermont and sweetened with local honey. I don't even think about baking bread anymore. It is just something that happens, like rain or Seinfeld reruns. The way it smells in the oven makes my house feel like I lived in it for a hundred years. It makes me so happy to know it's in there. It's good for the soul of the place, and my own.

You know, I really think if every house had a loaf of bread in the oven the divorce rate would go down about 27%.

The point of this post is not to boast, or guilt, or condemn conventional food. I am not interested in green elitism, nor do I tolerate the argument that healty food is only for the rich. I am not rich, and there was nothing elitist about standing outside in the cold rain pulling white feathers off a dead bird hanging from a tree. The point of this post is to share the story of one meal and how all those small ingredients turned into voting ballets. How all those small choices meant chemicals were pulled off a few acres, and a bird felt sunlight and stretched her wings, and a cow wasn't force-fed hormones and antibiotics, and cheese wasn't shipped 1500 miles on a truck soaking the curds in petroleum. It helped employ my neighbors, and bees, and kept the distance between me and this dinner's history a little thinner. And while yes, there are contradictions and imperfections in the meal (as well as my fair share of fuel and consumption)—it is a meal trying to be something else:

A little safer. A little kinder. A little smarter.

And I'm not asking you to raise meat, or stir curds, or buy organic, or shop local. I'm just explaining that there's another way to sit down at the table and feel full. And to honestly admit, right here, right now, that that was the best damn salad I have ever eaten. It was more than dinner. It was my the rest of my life.

Sometimes a good story is all it takes.

specials board hanging in the kitchen

the new guy

My internet is down at the house, has been since Saturday morning. I'm not sure why. It's frustrating. It's why we went through a weekend without updates at CAF, and for that I apologize. I wanted to just send a quick update about the dogs since people have been asking how they are getting along. There seems to be some concern about Jazz and Annie adapting to the new puppy?

So far, so good. Annie plays, sleeps, and entertains Gibson best she can and Jazz tolerates him with his nose in the air. There have been as many warning growls for stealing food and biting tails as necessary—but so far not so much as a snap at the little guy. We all spent the weekend together, at home, and while I won't let the three alone unsupervised yet, there hasn't been any signs of danger in their pack. I think we'll be okay.