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HOMEMADE LIVING: KEEPING CHICKENS


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Monthly Archives: March 2010

Turn On, Tune In

Exciting news, friends! I’ve been asked to be on Martha Stewart Living Radio’s “Morning Living” program! I’ll be on for a live interview April 13th at 7:00 a.m..


The program is on Sirius XM radio, which is a paid programming gig. If you don’t have Sirius, but want to give it a whirl (and catch my interview!), you can sign up for a free 30-day trial. Check it out here.

The interview will be with Morning Living hosts Kim Fernandez and Betsy Karetnick. I couldn’t be more thrilled!

*Image from here.

Spring Fever

Spring in the mountains of western N.C. is a fickle muse. One day it’s warm and sunny, the next wet, rainy, and dreary. Other days it’s sunny and crazy windy, making outdoor tasks a real chore.


As the daffodils have begun to emerge and crocuses pop up in the most unexpected locations (um, the chicken coop? who knew?), I’ve found myself pining, yearning, aching for warm days and springtime loveliness. Working fastidiously from home on my books over what was an admittedly rather rough winter has me chomping at the bit to get outdoors, eat asparagus, lay in the grass with a good book, cloud gaze, and eat berries.

Oh, berries. Lately all I can think about are strawberries and blackberries and raspberries and more, their tart, plump sweetness satisfying every imaginable craving. I’m looking forward to picnics and brunch on the patio and open windows and a generally less dusty and animal-fur riddled house. I’m itching to go swimming and hiking and linger lazily in the rocking chair on the front porch. I’d also really love to learn how to sail, drifting aimlessly over swells and crests, putting down anchor, cracking open a bottle of white wine and soaking up sun. Seeing as that I live in the mountains, however, that urge is on indefinite pause…

What about you? What bit of spring fever has seized and captivated your thoughts and longings?

*Image from here.

Water Stewardship

My “Small Measures with Ashley” post is up over at Design Sponge. This week, in recognition of World Water Day (which occurred this past Monday, March 22nd), I discuss water conservation, preservation, and overall stewardship. There are several links to documentary films in the post. I highly encourage you to check them out. “Acid Test” can be viewed in its entirety, as can “The Story of Bottled Water“, which “Flow” can be picked up at your local video store or added to your home delivery queue.


I’m so excited about the gardening class I begin tomorrow. My friends Beth and Christopher debut the first of a four-part, four month-long organic gardening workshop at their Swannanoa, NC outpost, Red Wing Farm. Tomorrow morning, after filming a few quick promotional videos with my best gal pal and editrix-extraordinnaire Nicole, I’ll be meeting up with these amazing ladies and then heading for brunch at Posana. From there, Alisa and I will go get our dirt on, learning all about tomorrow’s introductory topic, “Starting from Seed.” The course will cover everything from making your own soil starting mix to germination, direct sowing, beginning seeds indoors, heirloom preservation, seed-saving, and becoming a seed steward. Should be incredible, and the weather appears to agree, with forecasts indicating a day full of sunshine and upper-50 degree temps.

Have a great weekend! And don’t forget, the 2-hour premiere of Jamie’s Food Revolution is at 8 p.m. ET tonight!
*Image from here.

Talkin’ Bout A Revolution


I have always been tremendously inspired by folks who give of themselves simply out of a sense of obligation towards the good of their fellow humans. If those folks also happen to be rich and famous and in a position to otherwise live their lives large and grand and wholly ignorant of the plight of those around them, let alone the state of their planet, I commend them even more. I cannot speak highly enough of the advocacy that
Coldplay does for Fair Trade, or Radiohead does for Greenpeace and other environmental organizations, or Brad Pitt does for affordable, sustainable housing.

Because food, and nutrition are so important to me personally (for those of you that don’t know, I have a bachelor’s degree in Holistic Nutrition, as well as a second bachelor’s in Sociology; my thesis specifically addressed child nutrition and socioeconomic status), individuals that campaign tirelessly, when it is certainly not required of them, for the health and welfare of those they share this planet with fill my heart with gratitude and my mouth with infinite praise. Jamie Oliver is one such individual.

Already on a trajectory for wild fame and success, Oliver’s empathic leanings caused him to reassess his position and clout mid-career. Becoming aware of the unique position he held for captivating people’s attention, he embarked on a number of causes to lift people out of paths of poverty and diets destined for death. In 2005, he created a British program entitled “Feed Me Better” that worked towards moving schoolchildren in his native country away from unhealthy diets and towards healthier foods and dietary habits. He gained the support of the British government and his cause was chronicled in the t.v. show “Jamie’s School Dinners.” From there, he began an effort to teach the townsfolk of Rotherham, South Yorkshire how to incorporate fresh foods into their diets and cook easy, delicious, healthy meals. This project was captured in the series “Jamie’s Ministry of Food.” And if that weren’t enough, Oliver would go on to campaign on behalf of sustainable animal husbandry, providing revealing exposes of the practices of industrialized British poultry and pork production in “Jamie’s Fowl Dinners” and “Jamie Saves Our Bacon.”


A culinary “Public Citizen”, Oliver’s latest attempt at offering education and radical change about food practices and dietary habits comes in the form of a reality show based in Huntington, West Virginia, a city recently deemed the most unhealthy city in the United States (over half of the adult population is categorically obese). Airing its 2-hour premiere this coming Friday on ABC (8 p.m. ET), “Jamie’s Food Revolution“, previewed in the video above, chronicles the chef’s attempts at overhauling the health and well-being on the entire city, placing heavy emphasis on its schoolchildren.

From the preview, it’s clear that he’s up against some formidable naysayers. I’m confident, though. It took me some time to come around to Oliver myself. When he was simply “The Naked Chef”, his perfectly rumpled hair and cheeky talk didn’t do much for me. Perhaps becoming a father is what changed him, though, and a changed man he certainly is. A clip in the preview shows a tearful Oliver, sitting in one of Huntington’s playgrounds, declaring how deeply he cares of Huntington’s population. He also offers a reproach, stating that if people don’t find dietary education and healthful change important “well then, shame on you.” I couldn’t agree more.

I think it’s so easy to live our lives in isolation and detachment from the strangers in our communities and in our larger human community. We’re not that different, though, in the end. We breathe the same air. We drink the same water. We want to love and be loved. We all deserve healthy, nutritious, life-giving and life-affirming foods. I support Oliver’s efforts as though they were my own, because, in fact, they are. He’s just got the name recognition, camera crew, and perfectly coiffed bed head to get the work started now.

Come Friday night, I’ll be parked on my couch, watching “Jamie’s Food Revolution.” I hope that you will, as well.

Onion, Orange & Thyme Relish

This month’s Tigress’ Can Jam was all about alliums. I should know. I choose the topic (after a bit of consulting with Mrs. Tigress herself). My mad, wild, frenzied schedule had me down to the wire, working feverishly to get my recipe in by midnight tonight. I did it, though, folks, my burning eyes a testament to my allium accomplishment.

I didn’t go necessarily big or bold or molecularly gastronomic with this month’s challenge. I simply made something that used alliums, sounded delicious, accommodated my schedule, and rendered an end product that hubs and I would definitely eat. Onion & Thyme relish seemed just the thing. Using a recipe adapted from this book, I tweaked the ingredients a bit, substituting thyme for tarragon and tossing in some orange zest because it sounded delicious.

Looking forward to this olfactory arousing concoction to work its way into all sorts of dishes over the next year. Happy Allium-ing, ya’ll!

Onion, Orange & Thyme Relish
adapted from Blue Ribbon Preserves

You will need:

-8 c. chopped onions
-1 Tbsp. pickling salt
-1 c. granulated sugar
-1 3/4 c. red wine vinegar
-1 tsp. dried thyme (or 1 Tbsp. fresh)
-2 garlic cloves, minced
-1 Tbsp. fresh orange zest

To make:
1) Layer 4 cups of the chopped onions in a large bowl. Sprinkle 1/2 of the salt over them. Top off with remaining onions and then cover with last bit of salt.
2) Stir with a wooden spoon or clean hands. Cover loosely with a cloth and set aside at room temperature for 4 hours.
3) At the end of 4 hours, drain onions in a colander. No need to rinse them, simply press with the back of a large spoon to remove any excess liquid.
4) Sterilize 4 pint-sized mason jars, lids, and screw rings. Fill a canner or large stockpot with water and set over medium-high heat. Bring just to boiling point. Place lids in a small saucepan, fill with water, bring to a boil, turn off heat, remove from stovetop, and set aside.
5) While your canner works towards boiling, combine the sugar, vinegar, thyme, orange zest and garlic in a large saucepan or stockpot. Heat gradually over medium-low heat until sugar is completely dissolved. Bring heat to medium-high until mixture comes to a boil.
6) Add onions to syrup, reduce heat to medium, stir to combine thoroughly, and simmer 10 minutes. Remove pan from heat.
7) Remove sterilized jars from canner; place jars on top of a kitchen cloth on the counter. With the help of a canning funnel, fill jars with onion relish, reserving 1/2-inch headspace.
8) Use a non-metallic spatula to remove any trapped air bubbles and wipe rims clean with a damp cloth. Place on lids and screw bands, tightening only until fingertip-tight.
9) Using a jar lifter, place jars in canner. Process 15 minutes in a boiling-water bath (remember, don’t begin to count your processing time until the water is at a constant, rapid boil). Adjust for altitude, as needed.
10) Remove the jars from the canner. Check that a proper seal has formed (lids should become concave, you’ll have heard a popping sound, and the lids should remain attached to the jar when lifted without screw band).
11) Take off screw bands, wipe jars dry, and store in a cool, dark location. Use within one year.