A Year of Picnics


The Essential Book of Homesteading
















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Monthly Archives: May 2012

What I’m Digging

Happy Friday, friends! Firstly, thank you so very much for your kind comments on my grandmother! She’s regaining her strength daily and has been coherent for the past few days, an enormous sea change from earlier in the week.

Also, I don’t know if you’ve been experienced the storms of spring like we have, but last night we had a rumbler so intense the very foundation of the house shook, the windows wavered, and the dog cowered like the end times were at hand. Huxley loves thunderstorms and runs around yelling “Ton Er, Ton Er” (his word for thunder). That sight alone makes all the risk of the house getting struck by a random lightening bolt worth it. Well, almost.

Here’s a smattering of this’s and that’s that caught my attention this week:
*The cover of Time is getting lots of attention (personally it seems a bit sensationalistic, but then, I guess that’s how you sell magazines!). 
*Pretty much loving all of their clothes.
*Pickled beets, I love thee so!
*Loving These Days In French Life (big thanks to Sacha Joy for tipping me off!)
*This summer to-do list sounds about perfect.
*Rhubarb Fool with Cardamom Cream, ya’ll!!!
*Check out Camille’s giveaway.
*Floating cloud geodesic city!
*Details on the great light bulb phase-out.
*Keeping Chickens is crazy discounted right now! 

I’ve got a post up on Design Sponge today. I’m chatting about making your own signature perfume. It’s amazingly easy to do and is a great idea for gift-giving.

Tonight we’re headed to a little cocktail party of Jen‘s house, which should be a blast. Tomorrow will find us in Knoxville for the International Biscuit Festival (I. KNOW!!!). I’ll be signing books in front of Union Ave Books at 1 p.m., so be sure to stop by and say “howdy” if you’re in the area.

Otherwise, wherever you go this weekend, whatever you do, and whomever you do it with, may it be grand!

*For any new readers, I always post a photo of Huxley on “What I’m Digging” because he’s truly what I dig the most. Yesterday, we were chowing down on some Cherry Vanilla Pot Pie left over from a photo shoot. You think he liked it?

The Long View

As I write this, my maternal grandmother (known to myself and my brother as “Nanny” and “Ruby” to the rest of the world) is lying in a hospital bed in the ICU at Mission, Asheville’s incredible gem of a hospital. After not feeling so well for a few days, she called herself an ambulance last Wednesday, only to discover she has pneumonia in both of her lungs (or, at least, that was the suspected condition, although that’s now being deliberated since being transferred yesterday from the small mountain hospital she was at for the 5 days prior). Early yesterday morning, she had a heart attack, and now has sepsis.

Nanny, just like both of my parents, has been a constant in my life. In my childhood, we lived near to each other. As a teenager, when my mom relocated us to the coast of North Carolina, Nanny relocated there, too. And, when my mother moved to the mountains of North Carolina over 15 years ago, Nanny decided the mountain life would be hers as well.

Her effect of my career cannot be overstated. She was the first person I ever witnessed can and preserve. She was the first person I knew who kept chickens, or had a garden, or owned a farm. Her tractor was the first I ever knew personally. Until I married and changed my name, I even bore part of her name in my own-we both were “Marie” in the middle.

She’ll be 87 on August 31st of this year. She’s youthful on every level. She tells off-color jokes, flirts with wait staff, and can dance a jig with the best of them. She comes over most Sundays, along with my mom, and plays with Huxley, typically festooning him with some gift or other. He’s pretty smitten with her, as is Hubs. Most people are.

Our friend Jon was up this weekend, moving the yome he and his wife Jen purchased onto our property, down in one of what we refer to as the “lower fields.” As we sat around the fire ring on our patio Saturday evening, roasting marshmallows, sipping wine and ruminating on our roles and lives as parents (his Awynn just turned 2), he mentioned how he’s begun taking the “long view”, as he called it. Both busy art teachers at private schools in the Atlanta area, Jon mentioned how he often finds himself frustrated at how much he wants to get done, in his garden, his studio, his home, only to find there’s just not enough time.

He went on to say the expected full lifespan of a human, if they were to live as long as humans can live, was 120 years. Considering that expanse of time, and its length, has helped him to consider the long view, instead of feeling like time is always slipping through his hands like sand. Maybe he won’t get as much planted and growing this year as he’d like, he said, but then, hey! There’s always next year, and the year after, and then year after that. And next decade, even.

If we lived our entire potential lifespan, there’s plenty of time to get things done. And, yes, focusing on every moment as the only moment we are promised is important, too, as it forces us to just enjoy and appreciate that opportunity, in all its fleeting glory. But the long view is important also, as it forces us to also be optimistic. We believe the sun will rise tomorrow, the seasons will change, and that the Earth will continue turning on its axis. We believe that life is rich and varied and ever in flux.

I’m taking the long view with Nanny. She’s lived a wonderful, full life, always in the company of loved ones. Whatever the outcome with her current situation, the present moments I have with her are wonderful, the past ones were formative, and the future ones will be magical, however they materialize.

*Here’s Nanny at Huxley’s Wild Things party, this past October. She’s dressed for the occasion and can be seen contemplating eating the entire tray of truffles Dan and Jael brought to share. Apologies for the blurry quality of the photo, but she was in motion!

What I’m Digging

 Happy Friday, friends! The rain from earlier this week has moved on and things are bright and sunny outside. Oh, and cool, too! It’s cool outside for the first time in weeks. I even had to put on a coat to head out to the chicken coop this morning, and sleep under the down comforter last night!

Here’s a smattering of things that inspired and intrigued me this week:
*Tips for successful planting.
*Juggling motherhood and business
*Growing potatoes in straw.
*Nature and kiddos
*Oh, Weck shop, you temptress, you.
*So beautiful.
*NPR and Beach House, a perfect union (via Kate). 
*Chive blossom vinegar.
*My most favorite cookie.

Happy Mother’s Day to all you mamas out there! I’m thinking of making Martha’s Chiffon Cake with Strawberries & Cream for my mom and grandmother this week. I found a farm selling organic U-Pick strawberries less than 1/2 mile down the road from our house this week. I am over the MOON with excitement about this discovery!

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

Home Sweet Homegrown (+ Giveaway!!!)

The time of gardening is upon us friends! From spring weather-loving crops to those heat-cravings vegetables of summer, the days of seeds and soil and planting and gathering are here. Hubs and Huxley and I have been out in our garden every day, mucking around, getting dirty, and loving it all!

While I’ve been gardening for some time, there’s always so much more to learn. The gardening and growing learning curve is so very steep, and long, it seems, perhaps owing to the variability of successful techniques from region to region, climate to climate, and even one growing season to the next. Adaptability and an “oh, well!” disposition are essentials in gardening, just as much as good gloves, compost, and a trusty trowel, I’ve decided!

To help me, though, and you, too, thankfully we’ve got Robyn Jasko. Introduced to me via my buddy Jodi (proprietress extraordinaire of Asheville’s beloved Short Street Cakes), Robyn has just published a lovely little book on how to grow, and grow well. Home Sweet Homegrown takes your hand and lovingly walks you through the entire growing spectrum, from seed-starting to sowing to harvesting all the way up through cooking and even preserving what you’ve grown. It’s compact enough to fit in your the back pocket of your gardening jeans, but dense enough to become a go-to source time and time again.

Robyn and her publisher, Microcosm Publishing, have generously offered two small measure readers copies of her book, along with the 5-packet seed kit pictured above. How cool is that?! All that’s needed to enter the giveaway is a comment saying what you’re looking forward to growing. For me, it’s pumpkins. I have 6 varieties started and I can’t wait to bake, carve and decorate with them come Autumn. YES!

I’ll run the giveaway through next Wednesday, May 16th, midnight EST. In your comment, please leave a means of reaching you should you be the winner(s), via a link back to your blog or website or by leaving your email address in your comment (don’t forget this essential step, folks! I’ve had far too many numbers selected by the Random Widget only to find there’s no way whatsoever of reaching the commenter!).

Even if you don’t win, do check out Robyn’s book and her website, This lady knows what she’s doing and has got an enormous amount of seasoned gardening wisdom at her (dirty!) fingertips! Thank you, Robyn, and thank you Microcosm!

Recent Acquisitions

I love considering other ways of being, of doing. When we were visiting Amanda in Maine this past March, at one point our conversation turned to schooling and education. She articulated her views on the importance of presenting children with different ways to living one’s life, that the path from point A to point B, in terms of career and livelihood and education, needn’t be always the same one, that there’s a multiplicity of ways to achieve what you want in life.

Those sorts of “Well, what about?” or “Have you ever considered?” ways of thinking always grab me by the throat, pull back my cranium and make me realize that there are so, so very many different ways of living and doing and thinking on this lovely planet of ours. Which is wonderful, and challenging, all at the same time.

I think about those alternate views often. The way I parent my child, though similar to that of many of our close friends, is wildly different from many. The vocation and manner of our livelihood is unusual for many. And I think, underneath it all, is a pervasive love of “wildness” that calls to Hubs and I so very strongly.

We love wild, open spaces. We love wild, open thinking. We love wild, uncultivated foods. The idea of spaces and mindsets and foods untouched and unbound by human hands calls to us on a very core level, so much so, that it’s our son’s middle name, Huxley Wild English.

And so, owing to this love of wildness in all of its permutations, when Hubs recently gifted me with the book above, I couldn’t have been more elated. The Wild Table: Seasonal Foraged Food & Recipes is stunning, and inspiring, and everything a good cookbook should be, in my estimation. It traverses the calender year (and even includes “Indian Summer”, which is pure genius). Foraging huntress Connie Green and chef and culinary consultant Sarah Scott are highly innovative while inherently primitive, all at once.

The book is teeming with forest-to-fork recipes (Hedgehog Mushroom and Caramelized Onion Tart? Yes, please!), while also packed with stories, essays, tips and techniques for turning 40 mushrooms and plants into fresh and preserved dishes. Hubs scored this gem at the bookstore in the Screen Door. Locals, if cookbooks or gardening books or children’s books or decorating books and saving money are your thing, you must go there, immediately. The deals to be had in that store are jaw-dropping.

I heard mention today of fiddlehead ferns ‘a plenty nearby. There’s also two big patches of woodland nettles on the way to the chicken coop begging to be rendered into pesto. And before too long, the wild wineberries on our property and the wild blueberries along the Blue Ridge Parkway will be ripening. I can’t get enough of it! Let the wild rompus begin!