books

A Year of Picnics


 

The Essential Book of Homesteading


 

QUENCH

 

HANDMADE GATHERINGS

 

A YEAR OF PIES!

 

HOMEMADE LIVING: HOME DAIRY

 

HOMEMADE LIVING: KEEPING BEES

 

HOMEMADE LIVING: CANNING & PRESERVING

 

HOMEMADE LIVING: KEEPING CHICKENS


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Monthly Archives: June 2013

What I’m Digging

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Happy Friday, friends! Here’s hoping that wherever you are isn’t floundering in heat or drowning in rain (or, if you’re down under, too chilly!). It’s hot and humid here in the mountains of Western North Carolina. I’m trying to do my best to just embrace it, which seems most easily achieved by consuming copious amounts of watermelon, blackberries, and corn on the cob. Oh, and cold beer!

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

*Picked up a bottle of this at our local co-op last week. Been dabbing it around my eyes before bed each night and, I have to admit, I’ve already noticed an improvement. Bonus=it smells like a rose garden melted into my face!

*Three DIY toiletries you can easily make at home.

*Glenn introduced me to Montreal-based Blue Hawaii. Good stuff there.

*Leinenlugel’s Summer Shandy is where it’s at, friends.

*Less common summer herbs need some love, too.

*Got mosquitos? Put the kibosh on ’em, naturally.

*Love this screen printed tote.

*A sustainable music festival? Now that I can get behind.

*Pretty much am smitten with everything she makes (the shop is closed for the summer for selling at festivals, but her wares are worth viewing now!).

*Jen just had a big solstice sale last week, so I treated myself to a bottle of Hunter Eau de Parfum. I’ve been wearing their perfume oil for the past year and am so in love with this fragrance.

Big weekend ahead for our little guy. He’s going to two little girl’s birthday parties, one tomorrow for a 6 year-old and one on Sunday, for a 5 year-old. He loves older girls, so I’m sure he’ll be in heaven. As will I, since the party tomorrow has an “80’s Pop Icon” theme (I think I’ll be turning him into a mini Billy Idol) and Sunday’s theme is pool party. Good times ahead, for all!

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

*I post an image of Huxley here every Friday because, truly, he’s what his Papa and I dig the most. Here he is covered in Blueberry Crostada (the recipe came from Secrets of the Best Chefs, which I wrote about here, and promised I’d be baking-I tend to make good on my promises!). I’ve got another one currently baking in the oven for tonight’s dinner guests, and I have a feeling a similar toddler-stained sight will be had this evening! 

Catching A Buzz (+Giveaway!!!)

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Some debts you can repay straight away. You borrow $10 from a friend after realizing the venue you’re at only takes cash and return it to them via the ATM machine down the street. Your grandmother loans you a bit to cover some dental work, and you pay it back in monthly installments over a year. Easily repayable debts. Some, though, aren’t as easy to atone for. Some debts of service are incurred without our even realizing it. Such is the case with the debt we owe to pollinators.

From honeybees to butterflies, ladybugs to lace wigs, pollinators, going about the business of feeding themselves, are helping us in immeasurable ways feed ourselves. Were it not for their tireless efforts, many of the food crops we’ve come to rely on for our everyday dietary needs wouldn’t be available without expensive, labor-intensive work on our part. As the images above show, 1 in every 3 bites of food is made possible because of the work of pollinators, especially honeybees utilized in the pollination of commercial crops.

Whole Foods Market has partnered up with one of my most beloved organizations ever, the Xerces Society, to bring attention to the issue. The Xerces Society is a non-profit dedicated to the stewardship and conservation of invertebrates and their habitats. In the images above, you can see what the produce section of one Whole Foods store looks like with and without the help of pollinators. From their website:

At Whole Foods Market in University Heights, Rhode Island, some customers recently found out just how this may affect their lives.To raise awareness of just how crucial pollinators are to our food system, the University Heights Whole Foods Market store removed all produce that comes from plants dependent on honeybees and other pollinators.The before-and-after photos above are shocking – as are the statistics. Whole Foods Market’s produce team pulled from shelves 237 of 453 products – 52 percent of the normal product mix in the department. Among the removed products were some of the most popular produce items:

Apples
Onions
Avocados
Carrots
Mangos
Lemons
Limes
Honeydew
Cantaloupe
Zucchini
Summer squash
Eggplant
Cucumbers
Celery
Green onions
Cauliflower
Leeks
Bok choy
Kale
Broccoli
Broccoli rabe
Mustard greens

 

This link will take you to Whole Foods’ Share the Buzz campaign, full of excellent information on the plight of pollinators. I especially appreciate their nine simple ways to “Bee the Solution”:

1) Go organic. By choosing organic food, you’re supporting farm practices that promote healthy ecosystems and avoid toxic and persistent pesticides.

2) Bee a leader. Encourage your community to plant pollinator-friendly flowers at schools, parks, businesses and golf courses.

3) Host a hive. The backyard beekeeping movement is growing! Look for local communities online and consult books like The Practical Beekeeper for in-depth information (or my own book, Keeping Bees).

4) Bee generous. Help fund a state-of-the-art Bee Research and Discovery Center at the University of Minnesota.

5) Mix it up. Plant bee-friendly flowers with different colors, shapes and bloom times. Visit our Floral Department or Garden Center for high-quality seeds and plants suited to your local climate. Ask for a bee-friendly list!

6) Bee a smart shopper. Several suppliers have donated funds to support honey bee preservation. Look for “Share the Buzz” signs on their products throughout the store.

7) Don’t spray it! Pesticides can impact bees’ learning and foraging skills. If you can, skip the pesticides all together.

8) Bee sweet. Visit our Allegro® coffee bar for a limited edition coffee with 365 Everyday Value® Organic Honey. For every Café con Miel sold, Allegro will donate 25¢ to Whole Kids Foundation® to support bee hive grants for schools. (Note: This campaign ran June 12-25 and has since concluded. It’s SUCH a great endeavor, though, and I’m beyond thrilled that Whole Foods is helping sponsor bee hives in schools).

9) Share the Buzz. Social media can be a powerful tool for busy bees. Share stories, videos and more honey bee action ideas from Whole Foods Market®’s Pinterest and Twitter posts.

 

Whole Foods Market generously sent me two $25 gift cards to help spread the message about their Share the Buzz campaign, one for myself, and one to giveaway to a small measure reader. To be entered in the giveaway, please leave a comment below sharing any actions you’re taking to help pollinators. Whether it’s a garden you’ve planted or tend to, shopping organically, building wild pollinator houses, or keeping a hive of honeybees, I’d love to know about your own buzz-worthy activities.

I’ll run the giveaway for one week, concluding midnight EST July 4th, 2013. Please leave a means of contacting you in your comment, either by leaving a link back to your own blog or website, or by leaving your email address in your comment. I’d hate for you to be the winner of the $25 gift card and not be able to get it to you!

Whether you win or not, or whether or not you shop at a Whole Foods Market where you live, one fact remains. Pollinators are in trouble, and there’s a great deal we can do towards helping them in their recovery, and help ourselves in the process. Let’s repay that debt, together.

Class Act

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Hi friends! Want to chat chickens and canning, all up close and personal like? Let’s! Do! It! I’ll be teaching classes on both topics over the summer, and would love to meet some of you kind, dear small measure readers real time. Here’s the details for what, when, where, and why (you already know the “who” ;^) ):

 

What: Backyard Chickens Workshop (UPDATE 6/27: This class has been cancelled). 
When: June 27th, 6-8 p.m., $25/person
Where: Small Terrain, 278 Haywood Rd., Asheville, NC 28806, 828/215-9569
Why: Interested in keeping a flock of backyard chickens? This workshop will give you the low-down on all that’s involved. From what to consider in advance, to determining the right breed for your specific needs, to obtaining, feeding, housing, and caring for your flock,  we’ll discuss the nuts and bolts of “chicken-tendering.”

 

What: Canning & Preserving Workshop
When: July 28th, 10:30 a.m.-12:00 p.m., Free
Where: Williams-Sonoma, 10 Brook St., #140, Asheville, NC 28803, 828/277-3707
Why: Want a quick & dirty introduction to the basics of water bath canning? Then this is the class for you. We’ll chat about the fundamentals of what it takes to create jam and pickles. Attendees will take home a 4-ounce jar of jam. I will have copies of my book, Canning & Preserving with Ashley English, on hand to sell and sign. The class is free, but space is limited to 30. To reserve a space, call the store. Workshop attendees will receive 10% off any purchases made at the store the day of.

 

What: Canning & Preserving Workshop
When: July 31st, 6-8 p.m., $25/person
Where: Small Terrain, 278 Haywood Rd., Asheville, NC 28806, 828/215-9569
Why: Want to chat about all things home canning, from overcoming your fears of pressure canning to learning what makes a jam set? This workshop is for you! We’ll do a hand’s on class, creating and canning pickles or jam (not sure which yet!) together.

Weekend Review

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Happy Monday, friends! Hope you had a lovely weekend. We sure did. What with elderflower hunting & gathering, and pie baking & munching, and crafty lady business visiting, ’twas a good one, indeed.

I’ve been eyeballing the elderflowers flanking our driveway (we live at the end of a 1-mile dirt road), watching for the perfect time to gather them, for a few weeks now. The buds needed to be open, but not too much so, and they needed to be dry (harvesting them wet diminishes the flavor, and encourages mold in the syrup). Living in a temperate rain forest as we do, it’s been hard to find a dry day for harvesting. Friday, though, the weather was ideal and the blooms had hit the sweet spot (clearly, as there were all kinds of pollinating creatures over them!). It really seemed like the ideal “Howdy Do!” to summer, gathering those blossoms. I came back to the house, brushed the bugs off the blooms, made a simple syrup with lemon zest and juice, and infused them over the next 24 hours. Ambrosial nectar all up in the house, y’all!!!

We popped into the Dry Goods Shop in West Asheville, also. My friend Meri Hannon, of Urban Olive goodness, had agreed to hem a new pair of pants I’d recently purchased (at 5’4, this shorty has a hard time finding off-the-rack items that compliment my height). While there, I had the pleasure of meeting Wheeler Munroe, upholster, maker of amazing leather gardening belts (which she’s modeling above), and, because that’s not enough, co-owner of a maple syrup farm, in western North Carolina’s High Country (I think she said they were in Ashe County). Several other makers/crafts rent out space at the Dry Goods Shop, which regularly hosts classes and events. Check ’em out, if you haven’t already. Goodness abounds.

Finally, Saturday evening, as promised, we stuffed our faces with pie. Pie, pie, and a bit more pie, because, why not? Note to self: choose the wine next year, not the beer, as your pre-pie bonanza beverage. Oof! Beer belly and pie upon pie just don’t mix. In other, happier news, my pie, a Peach & Plum Mint Pesto Tart (last image, the recipe is in A Year of Pies) won best in its category. Yay! And Glenn’s entry, for a Spicy Smokey Corn & Pepper Pie (in the cast iron pie pan above, based on the recipe for Roasted Corn & Pepper Pie, also from A Year of Pies) didn’t win, but it should have! That pie was some kind of wonderful, and garnered lots of groans of happiness from the folks consuming it whenever I walked by it. No worry-Glenn’s a winner in my book, always! My sweet and talented buddy Jodi, of Short Street Cakes (where I worked back in the day, when I was pregnant), was at the event, and wrote a wonderful post about it, which you can read here. I also met a wonderful small measure reader (hi Jessica!) and her husband and adorable curly-haired cutie, Iris, while Huxley followed around a precocious 3 1/2 year-old boy named “Cedar” with wide-eyed devotion. A good time, all around.

Here’s hoping the week ahead is filled with love, health, and happiness, from me and mine to you and yours.

What I’m Digging

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Happy Friday, friends, and Happy Solstice, too! Last night, before turning in, I pulled out a hooded sweatshirt and put it on the floor beside the bed (let me pause for one minute and give a shout out to hoodies; love ’em!). I anticipated needing it the minute I awoke, and that guess was spot on. When I checked the thermostat on our front porch around 7:45 a.m. this morning, it read 58 degrees. YES! The fact that it is late June, the very first day of summer, in fact, and I can roll out of bed (after sleeping under a down comforter!) and put on a hoodie makes me exceptionally happy. I don’t fare too well in hot weather-loose my mojo. But a crisp, cool, summer mountain morning? Oh, yeah. That I’ll take, and flourish in.

I’ve got a 5-part “Gardening With Kids” series happening over on HGTV Gardens blog. My first post was on creating Wild Pollinator Houses with your children, and my latest post is on creating a custom gardening tote for the kiddos in your life. I had the pleasure of meeting up with my editor at HGTV Gardens, Felicia Feaster, and her 12 year-old son, Addison, downtown for lunch yesterday. I feel honored to be abel to work with an educational powerhouse like HGTV Gardens and I’ve got Felicia to thank for that!

ALSO, do take a moment to watch this video on the Taproot Gathering at Squam. I’ll be teaching two classes there, one on pickling & jamming (it’s a thing) and one on creating homemade dairy products. From recent chats with Amanda and Elizabeth (the force behind the Squam Art Workshops), this event promises to be one to be long remembered.

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

*Apricot Tart!

*Crushing on Gather Journal.

*Picnic salad season.

*I’ve had hurricane lamps on the brain lately. How gorgeous are these from Garrett Wade?!

*Bits of loveliness from local designer Joti Marra Ramsey.

*Great products, outstanding branding, and Port Townsend, Washington beauty? I’m sold.

*Sigur Ros is coming to Asheville and we got tickets! Woot! First adult music show since becoming a parent!!!

*Just discovered Melissa Weiss, a local ceramicist. So. Much. Beauty.

*Local cider is here in Asheville, created by my longtime buddy Trevor Baker (we met in college, 18 years ago!) and his crew.

We’re busy prepping pies for Barbara Swell’s annual Retro Pie Contest tomorrow. We went last year, and sampled over 100 pies. Holy pie hole! We also hit up Jack Young Greenhouses again yesterday. They’re still going strong with their annual 50% off sale, and will be for the next few weeks, so head on over there and show them some love (and tell them I sent you!).

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 each Friday because, truly, he’s what his Papa and I dig the most. Here he is enjoying a tractor last Friday at the Biltmore Estate (we have annual passes), one of his most abiding pleasures in life.