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HOMEMADE LIVING: HOME DAIRY

 

HOMEMADE LIVING: KEEPING BEES

 

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HOMEMADE LIVING: KEEPING CHICKENS


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  • He may be a newly minted 4 year-old, but he still has a round baby nose and says things like
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  • Montreat. Amazing every day of the year, especially today, on Huxley's birthday.
  • On the eve of his 4th birthday, being the wild gnome that he is. My one and only.
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  • One week ago today, Huxley, @glennbenglish, and I boarded a ferry and left our
  • Today was pretty rad. Any day that involves fall foliage, plaid flannel, good friends, vintage pickup trucks, pumpkin ale, twice -baked stuffed potatoes, roasted cheesy broccoli, and all beef chili is alright by me.
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Monthly Archives: February 2012

This Is My Life Now

You know those moments in your life when you suddenly pause and think, “This is my life now. This is what I’ve become”? Sometimes they happen at peak moments, when you’re flying high and feeling good because you confronted a fear, or learned a new skill, or had a great meal with friends. Others happen when you’ve had better days, and you find yourself yelling at the cat for meowing too loudly in her need for affection or swearing at the dog for moving in for a cuddle against your legs (I’m speaking completely personally here; this very mortal lady isn’t up for any sort of sainthood).

I had one of those “So, here I am” moments this past weekend. I’ve mentioned here before my interest in learning, with a group of amazing local ladies, to hunt. We met a few weeks ago and shared our motivation in acquiring this skill. For everyone, it came down to a desire to provide for our families, and our domestic pets, what we feel is the most choice, abundant, renewable, and sustainable animal protein we can procure.

To that end, we discussed the three components towards achieving this goal that we would all need to pursue (except for Jess; she grew up in northern Pennsylvania in a hunting family and will serve as our amazing, respectful, seasoned, knowledgeable mentor huntress. Plus, she’s just an all-around righteous lady whose company I benefit from every time I’m with her). These arenas, in order of acquisition, are: marksmanship, learning to hunt, and field dressing/butchering/storing our kill.

In order to determine what sort of weapon we’ll ultimately decide is the best “fit” for us individually, we had to try them on for size, as it were. Before Saturday, I’d never fired a weapon. In fact, I’d never even so much as held a firearm before. Actually, before Saturday, aside from the occasional kitchen knife or meat cleaver, I’d never so much as even touched a lethal weapon of any sort.

I’m sure a good number of you readers have, yourselves, disarmed a firearm before. With the interest growing in hunting, as well as their continued use in home and personal protection, many people are familiar with using firearms these days. For me, though, the decision to even consider giving hunting a go was a huge, profound, utterly transformative one. Until not that long ago, I didn’t even eat animal protein. And I certainly wanted nothing to do with guns.

I discussed here my return to meat-eating, and the impact it has had on me physically. Choosing to explore the use of firearms has profoundly affected me mentally. I’ve long lived in fear of guns, given the way they are depicted in films and their mention in the news and print media. As my friend Walter recently wrote, though, at the end of the day, a gun is simply a tool. What we do with it is up to us.

When I first fired on Saturday, at the private hunting range of a friend-of-a-friend, my reaction felt strange, detached. I told my companions that it felt incredibly unnatural, in the same sort of way learning to drive a car feels unnatural. Admittedly, that first firing happened with a .243 that had its barrel propped up with a bipod and its butt resting against a sandbag. I fixed the scope on the target, switched off the safety, took a deep breath, exhaled, and pulled the trigger. I walked away with the feeling of having dialed it in, like it hadn’t been as tactile as I’d imagined it would be.

Later, however, when I held a .30-06 and felt its full heft in my arms as I stood there, in high winds, with frigid fingers and toes, the magnitude of what I was doing fully engulfed me. “If I sneeze, and move this thing the wrong way, and it goes off, people could die” was my first thought. My second thought was, “I’m holding a loaded gun. I’m holding a loaded gun. I’m holding a loaded gun.” I found the target in the scope, fired, and felt the impact from the weapon immediately, in my shoulder (lightly) and my left wrist (intensely), with which I was holding the barrel up.

This is my life now. A former vegan, who used to go to non-violent rallies and demonstrations is now learning the ancient pursuit of hunting for food, with a gun. This was simply the first step. Once I’m there, in the woods, with a living, sentient creature in my line of sight, I’ll see how it goes. At this point, I can certainly say, though, without any hesitation that killing my own food will make me more appreciative of all of the life and blood and soil and grime and dung and absolute, sheer unparalleled beauty that pulses through every creature on this planet.

Any of you out there hunters yourselves? If so, got any pearls of wisdom you care to share? I’d be ever so grateful to hear them.

*To see more images from our firing range foray, go here.

Dirt Doesn’t Hurt

Those of you know that know me personally are aware of the sort of house I try to keep (when the fastidious folks at Martha Stewart Living recently published a special “Best Of” organizing magazine, I was all over it). However, those of you that have known me for a long time (Mom, Dad, brothers & sisters-I’m looking at you) know that, well, let’s just say, the old brown mare, she ain’t what she used to me.

Sure, I still leave the kitchen spotless before going to bed every night (I mean, really, who wants to start the day staring down a messy kitchen?), and I have maintained a very close relationship with my broom for eons (so much so, in fact, that “broom” was one of Huxley’s first words). That said, with Huxley and Hubs in my life, let alone a menagerie of dogs, cats, friends and forest grime, dust bunnies move along like tumbleweed considerably more than they used to and my pantry and drawers aren’t quite up to the rigorous organizational standards I’ve held myself to since I was, oh, 7 years old.

But enough of all that. Life is messy, and glorious, all at once. And that’s exactly what I’m chatting about in my column this month in Verve. There might be a bit more dirt on the floors. The basement might exist in a perpetual state of undoing. There might be dust on the ceiling fan blades. But there’s laughter coming from the baby, kisses from the big guy, belly rubs with the furry beasts, and so. much. happiness.

*Image by Lynne Harty.

What I’m Digging

Happy Friday, friends! We’ve had an interesting week, to say the least. Tuesday witnessed my first knitting class. I must admit, it’s not a skill I intuitively picked up straightaway. Quite the contrary. I figured out making a slip knot and casting on, but actually making a knit stitch? What? How? Where? I was totally lost. That’s alright. I’m a tenacious sort of gal, so I’ll figure it out, one way or another (big, heartfelt thanks to all of you that set me suggestions on Twitter for books, websites, blogs and videos on gettin’ ‘er done).

On Wednesday, a book idea I’m pretty passionate about was turned down by a literary agent I’ve been chatting with. That’s alright, too. I’m not done with the idea yet, so I’m squirreling it away and letting it simmer for now. Wednesday also presented the death of our two hot water heaters. The average lifespan of hot water heaters, according to our plumber, is 8-12 years. Ours were 8, and totally bit the dust. Hello huge unexpected replacement expense! Yesterday we had a new, single water heater installed. My mom came over and offered me a bit of a mental and physical reprieve by playing outside with Huxley in the garden (or, as he calls it, the “gar-dy”), reading him countless books inside, and otherwise smothering him with the love and affection he so very much enjoys.

Tonight, my friend Jenny is coming over for dinner. The nice twist is that she’s bringing the meal with her. She’s been on a Middle Eastern food kick lately and will be festooning us with meat pies (MEAT! PIES!), some sort of yogurt sauce, and an arugula salad, while I provide the dessert (I’m planning on making Diana Henry‘s “Middle Eastern Orange Cake with Marmalade and Orange-Flower Cream“). Tomorrow, I’m headed with some lady friends to Double G Farm to test out some of Lance’s firearms. I’m still trying to “find my weapon” for my hunting pursuits. That excursion will be followed up by dinner at the home of some beloved friends (who, by the way, are building a chocolate factory!).

The weather is amazing right now. So much so, in fact, that I’m writing this from my covered porch, where we recently relocated the breakfast table to in order to create a larger play space for Huxley in the kitchen. The wind is blowing, the temperature is just right, I’ve got a hot mug of cardamom coffee beside me, and Huxley is busying himself by moving things around on the porch (he watches Hubs and I constantly moving things around and about the kitchen and gets all “business” when he starts moving things himself-right now, it’s candleholders and little bits of soil from some dormant houseplants).

Here’s my round-up of this’s and that’s that drew me in this week:
*The Jam Labelizer (via Marisa).
*Beautiful beets!
*The stories of Gilt Taste are incredibly well crafted.
*Chocolate Earl Grey Cake? I’m in.
*Locals, come meet your farmers!
*Coconut muffins.
*The Edible Balcony looks like a great read for urban growers.
*Learn how to cure your own lox.
*Having just taken on knitting, now I’m ready to quilt, too!
*It’s the season of citrus and these preserved lemons (and salty lemonade recipe) look great.

Wherever you go this weekend, whomever you spend it with, whatever you do, may it be grand!

*Our tiny Englishman is pictured above in the goat pen from last week’s visit to Red Wing Farm. I’ve got goats on the brain, friends! 

Sweet, Sticky & Delicious

Growing up, I was just about as opposed to the consumption of Brussels sprouts as possibly imaginable. If there were a superlative to “loathe,” than it could have been applied to my youthful opinion of what I then referred to as “Barbie cabbages.” In short, I detested them.
Not to slight my mom’s cooking, but I think a good part of what informed my stance on Brussels sprouts could be chalked up to how she prepared them. To truly be delicious, these babies need a bit of coaxing. They need a bit of flavoring tucked in. And they need a nice amount of fat to smooth out their sulfurous bite. The sprouts of my youth left much to be desired because they weren’t provided with the right conditions for them to truly shine. Mom typically boiled them, often overdoing it. Any time in the pot over 7-8 minutes releases the glucosinolate sinigrin, which, in turn, unleashes an intensely sulphurous odor. A nasty odor. An “I hope to never have to eat those”-inducing sort of odor.
Well, no more of that. The Brussels sprouts we eat chez English are the stuff of hungry dreams, friends. Imbued with a bit of sorghum syrup, grain mustard, and hard cider and pan-braised, these babies are sweet, sticky, earthy and delicious. Continuing on our sorghum syrup-cooking adventures, we made these sprouts last week and partnered them up with some sorghum & bourbon-glazed salmon. The combination was perfection. Groan-worthy, even. If you’re not the fish-eating type, then skip that part and give these sprouts a go. I’ll make a Brussels sprouts lover out of you yet!

Brussels Sprouts Braised In Sorghum & Hard Cider
The Goods:
-2 tablespoons butter or cooking oil
-2 cloves garlic, minced
-1 pound brussels sprouts, halved
-2 tablespoons sorghum syrup
-2 tablespoons grain mustard
-1 teaspoon sea salt
-A few grinds black pepper
-12 ounces hard cider

The Deal:
1) Melt the butter in a medium-size pan over medium heat.
2) Place the minced garlic in the pan, stirring to incorporate fully into the butter.
3) Add the Brussels sprouts. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4) Add the sorghum syrup, grain mustard, salt and pepper. Stir well.
5) Add the hard cider. Cook down, stirring occasionally, for about 25-30 minutes, until all but a couple tablespoons of the liquid is gone.
6) Serve and enjoy.

Sorghum & Bourbon Salmon 
The Goods:
-1 pound salmon
-2 tablespoons butter
-2 cloves garlic, minced
-1/4 cup bourbon
-3 tablespoons sorghum syrup
-2 tablespoons soy sauce
-A few grinds of black pepper

The Deal:
1) Over medium heat, place the salmon skin-side down onto a dry pan for about 20-30 seconds.
2) Transfer the salmon to a plate, and gently remove the skin, which should peel right off.
3) Scrape any leftover skin off the pan and discard (or feed to any cats and dogs that will have inevitably gathered on account of the heavenly aroma!).
4) Melt the butter in the same pan used to sear off the salmon skin; add the minced garlic.
5) After about 30 seconds, add the bourbon, sorghum syrup, and soy sauce. Gently whisk to combine.
6) Return the fish to the pan with the liquid mixture.
7) Spoon some of the sauce over the fish. Grind a little black pepper over the fish. Cook over medium heat 4-5 minutes.
8) Lift the fish up, giving the sauce a chance to cover the bottom of the pan again, then flip the fish. Spoon some more of the sauce over the top of the fish. Cook 3-4 minutes, then remove the salmon from the pan and plate individual portions.
9) Drizzle the remaining sauce over the fish.
10) Serve and enjoy. 

Eco Craft (Humpday Giveaway!!!)

If you’ve spent almost any time around here, you’ve heard me make mention of my campaign against waste. From crafting an attractive, utilitarian recycling station to using biodegradable trash bags, from posting items on Freecycle to reusing plastic bags, if there’s a way to keep things out of the landfill, I’m all over it.

Which is why today’s giveaway is so near and dear to me. Not only is it published by my beloved publisher, Lark Crafts, its subject matter is completely in step with my interests. Eco Craft, by Susan Wasinger, is full of clever, creative ideas for breathing new life into objects that might otherwise get tossed. Divided into sections offering suggestions to “Decorate,” “Create,” “Illuminate,” and “Celebrate,” Eco Crafts contains 30 inspired eco-friendly projects for turning trash into treasures.

Lark has generously offered a copy of Eco Crafts to one small measure reader. To enter the giveaway, simply leave a comment below. If you’d like to share something you’ve eco-crafted yourself, feel free, but if you just want to leave a comment, that’s fine, too.

I’ll share something I repurposed, and kept out of the landfill in the process. I took an interior panel from a large metal dog crate that was used as a divider and turned it into a holder for my earrings. It’s large and industrial-looking, but completely utilitarian and, with its matte black finish, blends seamlessly into the large built-in cabinet unit in our bedroom. There’s also the cold frame we made last year out of old windows, that is currently housing a large pot of arugula and will soon host a whole mess of vegetable starts. What about you?

I’ll run the giveaway through next Wednesday, ending at midnight EST. Please leave a way of contacting you, should you be the winner, either via a link back to your blog or website, or with your email address in your comment.

I wish you all a world of winning success and may the odds be ever in your favor!

UPDATE: The winner of Eco Craft, as chosen by the Random Widget, is Kristy Lynn, lucky #60. Thank you so much to all that entered! I loved reading your ideas for repurposing!