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Monthly Archives: January 2013

Ashevillage Urban Farm School

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I have moved away from the mountains of North Carolina twice . Once when I was 15, when we relocated to the state’s coast, to be closer to my mother’s father (my grandfather). And then again, when I was 20. After graduating high school, I returned to the mountains to attend UNC-Asheville for two years. Thinking I wanted to become a fashion designer and live in NYC, I left the area and set my compass north, only to return 4 years later, in 2000.

I was *this* close to leaving again, around 2003, and if the relationship I was in hadn’t ended, I’d likely have joined my ex in a relocation to San Francisco (or, as it’s known out there, the Bay Area). For some time, I felt like Asheville and its environs lacked what I was looking for. There were so many things and businesses that I just couldn’t seem to find here. And now, the longer I stay, the harder it gets to think of ever leaving (although I do wish there was, you know, a rocky, craggy ocean here, and, clearly, that’s not going to happen, so maybe a little retreat to the PNW each summer would be in order, yes?).

This area has seriously got it going on. The local food scene is off the chain. The independent business scene is bustling. The family/parent/kid scene is incredibly friendly. Most notably, though, might be Asheville’s thriving sustainable living scene. The area is rapidly becoming a go-to source of creative ideas and individuals in the realm of green living and design, and my friend Janell Kapoor is about to take things in this realm to the next level.

The force behind the Ashevillage Institute, Asheville’s urban eco-living sanctuary and learning center, Janell is launching an Urban Farm School. Running this coming May-October, the school will educate students in all manner of urban sustainable living, from aquaponics to beekeeping, fermentation to permaculture. We sat down for a cup of tea and a chat about  a week ago. As she described what she has in store for the program, I could feel my pulse quicken. It’s exciting, what she’s doing. It’s riveting, and inspirational, and so, so very beneficial.

Below is the press release on the venture. I invite you to check it out, and, if you feel so inclined, spread the word. With projects like the Urban Farm School happening, I’ve seen the writing on the wall. It says that Asheville really does have everything I want (vast oceans notwithstanding), and that you’ll likely want, too. Oh, and if you do choose to sign up for the school, be sure to tell Janell I sent you!!!


The Urban Farm School is a comprehensive, 730 hour, 25-week program that runs from May 6 to October 30, 2013. The School will train people of all ages and experience levels who aim to work on urban food projects, such as: neighborhood CSA’s, community gardens, green schoolyards, farm-to-restaurant plots, edible parks, church food yards, and food programs within organizations. Students will help manage a neighborhood CSA + gain a Permaculture certification + work with 25 practitioners and sites in the city of Asheville + 25 rural farmers + 50 community food leaders, including businesses owners, nonprofit directors, and city officials related to urban farming.

The curriculum will be taught through hands-on projects, workshops, classes, field trips, meet-the-experts and more. A full range of topics include: seasonal cycles, soil fertility, composting, biodynamics, aquaponics, herbal medicine-making, beekeeping, fermentation, food preservation, forest gardens, orcharding, seed-saving, mapping, designing and budgeting of small-scale operations, community outreach, client relations, and more. The school runs Mondays thru Wednesdays, 9am – 5pm, plus four independent project hours per week. Students will also participate in one of the Institute’s weeklong learning immersions: Bee City USA, Local Food Culture, or Natural Building. Multimedia storytelling, documentation and internet outreach will be a weekly activity facilitated by a team of Asheville’s media talent. Students will learn how to tell their own stories about what they are doing and why it is important to them, their communities, and in today’s world. A database of potential employers, community mentors and educational resources will be shared with students so that they can build ongoing relationships year-round.

The goal of the Urban Farm School is for students to learn how to 1) manage a CSA, 2) maximize yields in minimal spaces, 3) diversify farm production, 4) further the meaning of community-led food security, and 5) connect the dots between farming, policy, potential partners, clients, community collaborators and stakeholders so that urban farming projects and people can establish deep roots on a community scale. This food-centric school brings together farm and food-growing students with the vision, practitioners, projects, networks and skills to effectively farm in the city.

The school’s main ‘campus’ is at the Ashevillage Institute, a one-acre living learning laboratory in downtown Asheville. Hands-on field trips and workshops will be hosted at the other sites around Asheville and the area on a weekly basis. In its first year, the school will accept 10 students. Applications are being accepted now. The total program cost is either $4,600 before April 15th, or $4,900 based on a $1,300 deposit + eight monthly installments of $450 each.

For inquiries about the Urban Farm School contact:, 828.279.1955.

For further information on Ashevillage Institute visit:

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On Crisps, Friendships, and Order

I like to think that there’s a bit of order to life. While I don’t necessarily believe in fate, I do feel pretty strongly that there’s some latent, underlying intelligence and order and structure that permeates our reality. The cycles and flows and ebbs that characterize the existence of every organism on this planet are in a perpetual dance, an ecstatic rhythm. Which is about as good of a segue into talking about the glorious Pear, Cranberry & Ginger Crumble shown above as any.

Back in November, I held a gathering for my new book, Handmade Gatherings, at Small Terrain, the small-scale homesteading supply shop run by my dear friend Natalie. Since it was her shop, I asked her to craft the guest list. One of the guests I had the pleasure of meeting that day was Karie. In her denim smock dress (with pockets! Love me a dress with pockets, and  a woman who similarly appreciates them), Karie and her boyfriend, Rob, were adorable, interesting, creative, and personable. A winning mix. And while I was instantly taken by their company, I was even more so smitten by their crisp.

Many a crisp has been egregiously wronged, in my estimation. Not enough butter, oil instead of butter (horror of horrors), a watery interior, too damp of a topping, excess sweetener, a browned top-the list of transgressions I’ve witnessed inflicted upon crisps far and wide is extensive, and sad. That fateful autumn day, though, Karie redeemed all the crisps that have preceded hers for me.

Based on Smitten Kitchen’s recipe, Karie’s offering was buttery, crunchy, gingery, perfectly sweet, well-set, toothsome, and, well, crisp. It hit every note. Last week, I became obsessed with making it. Cold winter evenings beg for a bowl of warmed crisp, preferably topped with something creamy, sweet, and dairy-based.

Thank you, Karie, for your stand-up crisp. Thank you, universe, for sending her my way, and for the friendship and eats that have been developed as a result.

Here’s the recipe, with Karie’s amended ingredients and Deb’s instructions:


Pear, Cranberry and Ginger Crumble

-1 cup AP flour
-1/4 cup demerara sugar
-3 tablespoons packed light brown sugar (or more demerara sugar with maple syrup in it)
-1 cup gingersnap crumbs (about 16 cookies)
-1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
-1/8 teaspoon sea salt
-1/2 cup (4 ounces or 1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
*I put them in a bag and hit them with a jar and it was SO SATISFYING

-2 pounds (about 4 to 5) large ripe pears (I used 2 Barlett, 2 Asian pears)
-1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) fresh cranberries
-1 tablespoon lemon juice
-3/4 teaspoon lemon zest
-1 teaspoon maple syrup (I don’t know if this really does anything or just makes me feel better about the world)
-1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
-1/2 cup demerara sugar
-2 tablespoons cornstarch


Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Stir together the flour, granulated sugar, brown sugar, gingersnap crumbs, ginger and salt. Stir in the melted butter until large crumbs form.

In a 1 1/2 to 2 quart baking dish, mix the pears, cranberries, lemon juice, lemon zest and vanilla. In a small bowl, whisk the sugar and cornstarch together then toss it with the fruit mixture in the pan.

Sprinkle the gingersnap crumble over the fruit. Set the crumble on a foil-lined baking sheet (in a 2 quart dish, mine didn’t come close to bubbling over but I see no reason to risk it) and bake it for about 45 minutes, until the crumble is a shade darker and you see juices bubbling through the crumbs.


Weekend Review

Happy Monday! Hope you all had a wonderful weekend. Ours involved the rest, relaxation and inspiration I was looking for. A walk in the forest beside the house on Saturday (Glenn is bending over in the top photo, loppers to clear the path in hand) was followed by a class on fermented beverages that left me seriously jazzed about mixing and stirring and air-locking and car-boying and otherwise culturing a bevy of beverages.

Yesterday we finally, finally got the orchard down in the area we call the “lower field” planted! Yes, I know it’s late January. The thing is, the ground hasn’t frozen here, at all. So, although we’re late to the game (trees are typically planted in autumn), the ground was pliant and workable enough to puts the trees in. I’ve now got enormously high hopes for one apple (we have two other apple trees up beside the house), two cherry, two peach, two pear, and one plum tree. Oh, the jams, chutneys, butters, sauces, and cellaring deliciousness I’m imaging!

Then I had a three-hour chat with a dear friend over here yesterday afternoon. We’ve got a very fun idea we’re working on. You’ll know more about it soon enough, but, in the meantime, know that it involves things like lights, cameras, and action!

Here’s wishing the week ahead is filled with health and happiness for you and yours!

What I’m Digging

Happy Friday, friends! As I type, the sky is becoming increasingly dark and ominous, with threats of ice and sleet in the forecast. It’s a good day for staying in, sipping coffee (the adults) and hot tea (the tiny Englishman), making a pear gingersnap crisp (photos to come), working on manuscript edits, and otherwise remaining safe from the ravages of the day.

Yesterday, we 3 Englishes got hair cuts from the photographer-by-day, hair-cutting-goddess-by-request Meg. We all needed some sprucing up (I joke, sort of, that we tend to go a bit ‘feral’ out here), and nothing beats hanging out in your friend’s living room and chatting as they cut your hair and keep you laughing.

I’ve got a Small Measures post up today on Design Sponge. I’m sharing recipes for several homemade cleaning products, including an olive oil-based furniture polish and an insanely easy, and cheap, abrasive cleaner (think Soft Scrub au natural).

Also, National Pie Day happened this Wednesday (yes, there is such a thing, thankfully!). You can read my thoughts on all things pie and get hold of the recipe for my Mushroom & Chèvre Galette here.

In other news, here’s a smattering of this’s and that’s that caught my attention this week:

*Homemade flavored butters are where it’s at.
*My friend Debra is amazingly connected to her honeybees.
*Can’t stop listening to this.
*Or this.
*Karen’s DIY Tooth Polish
*Shetland ponies in Shetland sweaters!
*Our buddy Dave is opening an all-local pizza joint.
*Just discovered the books of Pip & Posy; we’re all seriously smitten, Huxley especially.
*Got a sneak peek at this book, photographed by my girl Jen, styled by my man Chris, and illustrated by my homeslice Kristina. Looks great.
*My newest blog crush.

If the weather doesn’t cloak us in ice, I’m planning to take this Fermented Beverages class at Small Terrain tomorrow. There’s also talk of a bit of quality time with my mom and grandmother on Sunday, as well as a little chat with my buddy Ian (we have a very fun idea up our sleeves!).

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

I always post a photo of Huxley here on Friday, because, truly, he’s what his Papa and I dig the most! 


Recent Acquisitions


You know how it goes. You see something in a magazine, or perhaps at a book store, fall in love with it, pine for it, determine it is completely out of your price range and that you just need to get over it, and then turn around, a mere two days later, and find it for sale, half off? You know how that happens just about all of the time? No? It never happens to you? Right. Me neither. Until this weekend, that is.

I fell in love with British organic gardening expert Bob Flowerdew (the name! the braided pony tail!) when I picked up his book Grow Your Own, Eat Your Own several years ago. I was initially intrigued by the book itself, but came to be smitten more so by its author. He’s cheeky, and clever, and, well, it’s not every day that you find a Brit describing himself thusly:

I love: gardening, scented plants, good food, cats, beautiful women, erudite conversation, reading, etymology, public speaking, invention, outrageous ideas, scuba diving, and whinging on about the state of things. I dislike: bad, bland and factory food, over egged political correctness, the state of things, humour-less prigs, self-opinionated hypocrites and anyone else like me continually whinging on about the state of things.

You love him now too, right? So, when I first glanced his newest book 6-volume organic gardening series at a big book store a few weeks ago, I knew I wanted it straight away. But, alas, it was a bit out of my price range, at least, to acquire all 6 books at once. Then I saw that Martha was digging on Bob, too. The series, it would be mine, I decided, but when?

And then. AND THEN. In a most auspicious pop into the book store attached to the Screen Door over the weekend, I saw the series. All 6 books. At half price. The deal was done. The books, they were mine. As we move into the season of seeds and soil and potting and planting, I can’t wait to have Bob alongside, sharing his sage advice with wit, humor, and whimsy. I too love scented plants, good food, cats, and the like. Me and Bob. We’d be tight. I might just even fashion my wild mane of hair into a braided ponytail, as an homage.