Friday, August 31, 2012

Greenhouse update, finally

For the whole summer, I've spent part of every week (and most days) doing this. Foundation preparation. I would lean on my shovel, and stab my foot down on top of my shovel, and hit rocks, and fantasize about the day I could start building something.

Slowly, it grew.

Slowly, I was able to set the 4x4 corner posts in concrete, two feet deep. I measured and remeasured, and spent a lot of time on a tippy ladder cutting the vinyl away from the garage.

Then I started putting up the header. Big heavy 2x6 pressure-treated pieces.

Then suddenly, one day I went out and was able to build a wall! I laid out the salvaged windows I'd been waiting to use all summer, and framed around them, and screwed everything together. By some miracle, it was square. By some miracle, it was level, too.

After spending all summer digging into rocky, compacted clay, this week I have been dancing framing-jigs. This week I have been rewarded. This week I have been smiling. 

I built another wall yesterday morning. I put in the door I found on the curb, two houses up, the door I tucked under my arm and carried home, in April, and have been waiting to put into service for months.

The next thing is gravel. By the end of the weekend, I should have that in place, and be ready to move ahead with the third and final wall before diving into the great scary unknown of actually putting a roof on the darn thing. I have a carpentry book on loan from my dad. I have a pile of rafters. I have no idea what I'm doing, but I am smiling anyway. 

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Wednesday, August 29, 2012


The garden, and this busy season of food preservation, has given me a lot to do lately. There are bundles of herbs hanging from the rafters of my shed, and three enormous bags of corn immured in my chest freezer and tomatoes lined up on windowsills like a battalion awaiting a barrage.

These beets were pickled shortly after picking-- the first time I've ever grown enough beets to pickle some. This year, I've been diligent about one thing: multiple plantings of carrots and beets. Not diligent about pulling crab grass, or about finding something new to try to keep out the deer (they finally summoned the temerity to leap my improved fence a few weeks ago... sigh), but yes, diligent about root vegetables. I made an April 10th planting and a June 1st planting and a July 1st planting. The April 10th beets became pickles, and now the June planting is ready and I have no idea what to do with them. It isn't roasted roots season yet. The April carrots are mostly used up-- we ate plenty of carrot sticks and dip this summer-- and most of the June planting, which is ready now, will go to canned escabeche, and frozen carrot-tomato soup.

(Does anyone else make escabeche? It's a Mexican-style pickled vegetable mix, endlessly customizable. I make mine with cauliflower, carrots, celery, lots of garlic, and jalapenos. Maybe I'll post about it, when I get around to making it...)

This is the subterranean scene, in our cellar. You know those shelves were a huge selling point, don't you? Oh baby, I still remember the day I saw those shelves and promptly fell in love with this house. I've been canning LOTS of tomatoes-- ketchup, puree, stewed, sauce, paste-- because it's what I have, and what we love. I'm feeling pretty good about all that, and ready to move into the more autumn-ward pursuits of canned vegetable broth, applesauce, and roasted red peppers.

In between, I'm working on the greenhouse. Update Friday. Slow going. In between, I'm relying on Patrick to think up fun and totally non-garden-house-work-kitchen-related things to do. It's that time of year, the most overwhelming time for homesteaders, I think. The before-winter projects converge with the food preservation projects, and in the meantime there's still a garden and a yard to maintain.

Thankfully, Pete's been on an unprecedented roll of photogenicity:

Super kitty, away!

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Monday, August 27, 2012


When I saw this picture, I snorted into my iced tea. Doesn't Pete look like he's saying "HI FROM CHICKENLAND! Lunches served daily!"?

Introducing the chickens to the open range has been one of the biggest joys of the past two weeks. It's terrifying, in a way, the same way letting your cat outside is terrifying. Something could happen.

But, I remind myself, chickens were meant to range. They were not meant to live in a plywood box and eat nothing but scratch and the occasional overgrown zucchini. They're terrific foragers; they eat bugs and snails and grass and dandelion seeds, and from an ecology standpoint, it just seemed right for them to be out in the open. What's a chicken life worth if it can't fulfill its chicken-ness?

Genevieve is ranging, too, though she's been a lone chicken so long she's sort of forgotten how the whole flock concept works. She spends time with this flock, but it just as likely to turn up following around our neighbors' chickens, or me working in my flower garden, or Pete taking a sunbath. Also, Genevieve has terrible mealtime habits. It's hilarious, but also something we're trying to discourage: she will fly into your lap, or perch on the arm of your lawn chair, while you eat your lunch. Bad chicken! But oh, funny funny chicken, too.

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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The fair

Oh man, I'm having a hard relationship with my desk right now. I wake up in the morning, and... I'll be honest. I don't even want to waste the time to brush my teeth before getting out there to make tracks on whatever I deem the worthy project-of-the-day. Fortunately, I usually force myself towards good dental hygiene before planting my boots in the dirt and getting under way. Checking email, washing dishes, blogging, doing laundry... not so much. I have a scant five-week grace period before the next blistering round of assignments comes calling, and the clock is ticking. Autumn it will be, in not very long at all, and this damn greenhouse thing must get itself finished before snow flies. That is taking precedent over all else right now, and, happily, things have started moving along at a pretty good clip in the past week.

Please excuse my absence here. I'm going to climb back on the wagon, or try, at least. And if I don't, at least sometime this fall I'll have a finished greenhouse update for you all, by way of consolation prize. Which isn't bad, as consolation prizes go. See you soon.

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Monday, August 13, 2012

Wedding weekend, two

Oh, what a weekend! The wedding was Saturday, and I'm still sore, after two days and two hot showers with epsom salts. My ankles, from fancy shoes, my toes, from blisters, my legs from crouching so the groomsmen were visible in group photos, and my wrists, worst of all, for some reason I'm not sure of. 

Saturday morning was a red-purple-yellow-green whirlwind of staple guns, scotch tape, paper lanterns, and a lot of sweat. Alexis and Li don't have the benefit of big, nearby, handy families to execute the setup and decor, so the capable team of bridesmaids and groomsmen spread out to fill the void. For me, that was honestly the best part. I love being part of a team, but it was more than that. It was seeing the incredible support present in everyone who helped set up that day-- the guys hanging lanterns, setting up speakers and chairs, sprinkling dried flower petals on the aisle. The women wrapping ivy in the pavilion, shoving tables around, mixing sangria, hanging curtains. The guys handled some of the most delicate duties, and the girls handled some of the most burl-intensive, which I loved. We worked from nine AM right up until the ceremony at 2pm, and then we worked from 7:30 to 9:30 breaking everything down. 

Sweet Patrick showed up at a little after ten on Saturday, and worked the whole day. He even danced with me, to They Can't Take That Away from Me, and we twirled. He took a video of Li swinging at the pinata, and posted it on Facebook. He drove to get ice, and garbage bags, five minutes before the ceremony. Whaddaguy.

Alexis had this incredible picture of how everything would look, and it was a total joy realizing her vision. 

I promised to cry, and I cried. I stood up to give my maid of honor toast to this big room full of friends and family, and I was standing where I could see Alexis' face as I read (MISTAKE) and we both just... streamed. It was my favorite part of the day-- getting to stand up there and pay tribute to her, and what she means to me, and everything we've come through together. 

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Thursday, August 9, 2012

Postcards from Summer, 3

Butterfly weed.
The Frankensquash that grows in our compost heap.
What I've been waiting for, all summer. RIPE TOMATOES.
Off to Alexis' wedding this weekend! I'm going to cry, a lot, when they say their vows, and when I read my toast, and when I watch them dance to Wonderful Tonight. Oh, heavens. I can't believe this day is finally almost here for my best friend in the whole world.

All this time
The sun never says
To the Earth,
"You owe me."
What happens
With a love like that:
It lights the

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Wednesday, August 8, 2012

A little retail therapy

This is the time of year when I start to get the antiquing itch again. Really, it's the nesting itch-- the cozy realization that winter is, in fact, coming, (eventually, after this mountain of tomatoes gets itself canned) and inside had better be ready.

Finding myself idle last Friday, and-- it must be said-- thoroughly put-out with spending a bit too much time sitting home alone working, and also quite put out with humid high 80s temperatures, I drove to Oxford, bought an iced coffee, and got lost for like an hour and a half in one of my favorite newly discovered antiques stores.

I brought my camera in with me, fully intent on documenting its splendor, but was too invested in plucking the perfect treasures from shelves full of milk glass and old house parts to remember.

Shelves nearly floor-to-ceiling. The building might've been a garage at one time, I'm not sure. It is big. Lots of furniture heaped in great dusty piles, everything dimly lit and reluctant to reveal its potential. The best place to get lost with an iced coffee and a checkbook.

Three frames, a twig basket, two white vases and a McCoy bowl. And that perfect little easel. At the register, she took one or two dollars off everything I'd picked out, without me asking. I love it when they do that. 

Equilibrium restored.

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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Postcards from summer, 2

Blackened green bean tacos with corn salsa.

Coming in to roost. The "babies" are all bigger than Genevieve, now, though they still peep.

This is the last of the busy weeks for awhile, and I'm happy about that. A few weeks without deadlines to enjoy the first cool days of summer turning into fall, gently... a few mornings to finally, finally finish digging out the greenhouse foundation, and set my corner posts, and order my gravel... and a few empty afternoons to make great progress on this season's canning... I am looking forward to it. 

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Friday, August 3, 2012

At the fair

(The arm is Patrick's)

Sausage with peppers and onions. Oh, fair food.

Dear lord, why did you make Jersey cows? Why did you make something so heartbreakingly beautiful that I can't have?

Happy pigs.

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