A Year of Picnics


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Monthly Archives: September 2013

What I’m Digging

Huxley Chicken Coop
Happy Friday, friends! It’s a blissful low-70’s kind of day here. In just a bit, my lovely Lark Books editor Nicole is coming over. It’s her birthday today, and we intend to celebrate it outdoors. Alongside Glenn’s stuff-of-legends hamburgers (and fries, too!), we’ll be enjoying s’mores with Whimsy & Spice marshmallows around the fire ring on our patio. There will also be beverages ‘a plenty, and gifts (I can’t share them here, though-she reads this blog!), and, later, she’ll slip down to the yome in our lower field, to rest up in a glorious dwelling in the woods.

Before I unplug from the online world to enjoy our time together, here’s a round-up of this and that’s that caught my attention this week:

*The time of pumpkin ale is back! I wait for it all year. This one is making me happy at present.

*Hard decisions come with keeping chickens. It’s not always eggs and feathers and silly chicken antics.

*Get going on the thing that you know you’re supposed to be doing!

*Russell is in my forest class. His lady friend, Katie, showed up in this amazing prototype field coat for last week’s class. Incredible, right?!

*Hashtag #hilarious!

*Claire lives in the dreamiest village in Ireland. Her blog is just as lovely as her environs.

*It’s garlic planting time!

*This children’s toadstool table and chairs set is SO incredible (and SO out of my budget!).

*Much as I love interacting digitally, I so, so prefer real time connections. This video offers a sense of why that is.

*Humans can do some beautiful things with their bodies.

Tomorrow, we’re off to see Sigor Ros. So very excited about our first live music show since becoming parents! Sunday I’ll be teaching my Home Dairy class. There’s still space in the class, so call Villagers to register!

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

*I post a photo of Huxley here each Friday because, truly, he’s what his Papa and I dig the most. Here he is en route to the chicken coop. He sure does love those fine, feathered friends! 

Home Dairy Class

Home Dairy Class
Do you enjoy the wonder and creaminess and deliciousness of dairy products? Want to learn more about them, and how to make them in your very own home kitchen? Yes, you do. Trust me, you very much do.

Well, your time is nigh! Come out to Villagers, in West Asheville (278 Haywood Rd., to be precise) and let’s dabble in all things dairy. Details are in the flyer above. Hope to see (and meet!) some of you there!

I Just Can’t Get Enough

I share an unabashed love of 1980/90’s electro-synth-pop music. If we’re going to have any kind of relationship full of honesty and candor (the kind I prefer), you should know this about me. Give me as much Depeche Mode, Duran Duran, and New Order as you think one person can withstand and I’ll yell “MORE!” With that in mind, I think you’ll understand if we begin this post with this musical gem. True loves never die, you see, and I really, sincerely cannot get enough of this time of year.

Saturday witnessed a fair amount of rain wash over our area. Owing to that, my forest class spent an equal amount of time examining the flora and fauna on the grounds of the UNC-Asheville Botanical Gardens and in the library housed inside its gift shop. I am so eager to learn all that Luke, our instructor, has to share. The way that birds reveal what’s going on across the larger landscape is so captivating. The use of spiderwort to indicate whether an area has become radioactive by the color of its leaves is exhilarating. The ability to turn the berries of sumac into a thirst quenching sour beverage like lemonade on a hot day is fascinating. So much to learn about, so much to learn from!

Sunday we toured Smokin’ J’s, a local hot pepper farm here in Candler. I plan on doing an entire post about the family-run business soon, so I’ll be brief for now. Suffice to say, we three Englishes all found something to love there. For Glenn, it was hot peppers a plenty, plus a free (!!!) taco bar of supreme deliciousness. For me, it was a shady spot under a tree to relax from, and sip a free (!!!) local beer, and take it all in (my new favorite thing to do, lately, loafing and lounging and just being present with myself without distraction). For Huxley, it was the twin 6 year-olds, Emma and Kaitlyn, that live on the farm, and their amazing trampoline (you better believe I got in on some of that action, too!).

Today I hosted students from the nearby Urban Farm School, teaching them the basics of water bath canning (more photos to come). We made Fig & Thyme jam (the recipe is in my book), using figs grown on the school’s urban farm in downtown Asheville and thyme from my herb beds. While the jars processed, we nibbled on pickled green beans, pickled okra with mint & cinnamon & coriander, nectarine chutney, whole wheat bread, sharp cheddar, and summer sausage out on the patio. The air was just right, the autumnal light sublime.

I just can’t seem to get enough of….all this goodness! May your life be drenched in all that brings you happiness, too!

What I’m Digging

Happy Friday, friends! I can’t begin to quite describe the enthusiasm I’ve been feeling this week, on so many levels. There’s the hint, and smell, and look of fall, all around, my most beloved season. There’s the creative interlude I’m currently finding myself in, finishing up two books in one year and waiting on the possibility of another (as well as, oh, I don’t know, maybe a t.v. show idea and that fiction I’ve mentioned on here before….). There’s the nesting instinct that’s taken hold of me since returning from Squam, big time (I’m ready to get new chairs for the living room, a bigger little guy bed for Huxley, a sewing machine, not to mention organize the attic and basement, overall the tiny Englishman’s bedroom, and so. much. more). There’s the excitement of my new lady friendship (feels like a crush, you know, those intense, heart-centered connections with other ladies). So. Much. Good.

In other news, I’ve got a new post up on HGTV. It’s about making okra pod art! Check it out!

I’m teaching a class on making dairy products at home next Sunday, September 29th, at my friend Natalie’s west Asheville store Villagers. Come out and learn how to make mozzrella, butter, and yogurt with me!

Also, I can’t recall if I linked to my post on Verve this month. I’m sharing my love of farmer’s markets.

Finally, I’ve got an article in the newest (and only the 2nd ever) issue of Modern Farmer. Can’t find a direct link to my article, but it’s about using natural coloring agents to dye fibers.


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

*Can’t stop listening to Zoe Keating, compliments of my new lady friend, Sara. So, so beautiful.

*In looking for new chairs for the living room, found this. Note quite in the budget, but lovely to behold, nonetheless.

*Currently sipping on a cocktail my sweet Glenn made. Consists of: N.C.-based Krupnikas (a honey liqueur), Knob Creek Rye Whiskey, Izzy’s ginger ale, and orange & lemon peel.

*This article rings true, on so many levels. Walk a mile in someone else’s shoes before telling them their gait is off, friends.

*Huxley needs new shoes, and these are beyond adorable (Livie & Luca periodically run 50% off sales, and I’m hoping for one soon!).

*Beeswax lanterns!

*Jackie is running a birthday sale in her shop. Take 20% off with code: Birthday20 (offer good through tomorrow, 9/21, so make haste and get thee to Luna Grey).

*Started reading this book from Roost. Stunningly beautifully written. A keeper, for sure.

*These early, early fall days make me want to watch this, one of my favorites (and a key, pivotal film for me when I first saw it as a teenager).

*A fall gardening guide.


I’m currently sipping my cocktail, listening to this, and watching Glenn and Huxley run around performing acts of “parkour/free running” all over our property (and yelling “Parkour!” with each move)! Got a forest class tomorrow, and will be attending the annual Farm Tour on Sunday. Life is good.

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

*I post a photo of Huxley here each Friday because, truly, he’s what his Papa and I dig the most. Here’s another goody from Squam, which he seemed to have loved as much as I did. 

The Thing I Had No Idea I Needed



I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.
-Henry David Thoreau


So, here’s the thing. In my mind, I’ve started this post, I don’t know, maybe five, six times. I’ve ruminated on it, and mulled over it, and otherwise thought it through. What I keep returning to, though, is that words really fail to convey just what it is that happened up on that glorious lake. I wasn’t planning on having profound, epiphanic experiences. I wasn’t at all intending to come away completely renewed, and restored, and invigorated. I had no clue I’d develop deep, meaningful new friendships the likes of which I hadn’t encountered in some time. No, none of that. I just thought I’d go to the woods, enjoy the setting, teach classes on how to can foods and make dairy products, and return home. Little did I know.

We began our foray to the woods of New Hampshire last Tuesday, September 10th. Glenn, Huxley, and I stayed overnight in Manchester and enjoyed a phenomenal meal at Republic (if you’re in the area, go, and tell them I sent you). In retrospect, I should’ve sensed that meal was a prelude of the wonder to come. At the time, it simply felt like an expertly executed feast, and a fun, celebratory one, at that.

The next day, after driving an hour north and entering the grounds of Rockywold Deephaven Camp, Glenn and Huxley departed around 8:30 in the evening, heading to Maine with Steve Soule, more commonly known as “Soule Papa” on Amanda’s blog. They planned to stay as long as Huxley seemed cool with doing so while I stayed at the camp and taught. It was our first time apart since his birth, and only the third time Glenn and I have been apart since we met, almost 7 years ago. In short, it was kind of a big deal. A huge one, really.

As soon as they drove away, I was plunged into total darkness, at least temporarily, as the sky continued to fill again and again with the distant glow of lightning. Realizing I had no flashlight, and that I wouldn’t be able to make it to the camp’s Playhouse for the event’s opening ceremony, I fumbled my way back to my cabin, took a shower, put on my p.j.’s, and listened to the rain begin to fall.

Suddenly, thunder quite literally shook the cabin, and the sky outside, and the lake beneath it, flooded with violent, tremulous lightning. The storm of all storms then proceeded to work its way through those woods. A lover of thunderstorms when I’m safely tucked at home, my family beside me, I kind of started freaking out. I was alone, without my babe for the first time ever, knowing he and his Papa were driving through this torrential storm. I thanked my lucky stars I’d had the foresight to purchase a bottle of wine en route to the camp and cracked it open. Thankfully, after a few sips, I received a text from Amanda, asking me to join her across the street at her cabin. Mama to mama, she knew just what I was going through. And then things just got better from there.

Apprehensions I’d had about teaching in a foreign space, using equipment purchased for me, with potentially fickle ingredients, slowly crept away over those next two days. In the company of glorious men and woman, accompanied by meals the likes of which you don’t expect to receive at, well, camp (my buddy Jess‘s brother Josh and his wife and crew, including their other brother, presented fare that was absolutely stellar, courtesy of their Bread & Butter Catering), with a first ever face-to-face meeting with Jennifer Urban-Brown, my editor at Roost, and Sara Bercholz, Roost’s Executive Vice-President, I found myself again.

Since becoming Huxley’s mom, I’ve hit the ground running, and haven’t really looked back. Sure, there’s the occasional hot bath I get once he’s gone to bed at night, and there’s the three real “just us” dates Glenn and I have had since then, and the four “lady dates” I’ve gone on, but I haven’t really just sat alone, with myself, with nothing to do (after finishing up my classes Friday afternoon), and thought/felt/lived. I afforded myself that luxury, and it proved to be just the thing I had no idea I needed so badly.

In that space, that amazing, magical space, as the wind rustled, and the lake glinted in the fading afternoon sun, and the gentlest hint of first fires in fireplaces begin wafting through the air, I came to my senses, quite literally. I felt, in that small, humble cabin by the lake, what I like to refer to as “the divine.” Some call it God, others have different names for it. For me, it’s accompanied by a profound sense of awe, of deep, unknowable knowing, of reverence, and appreciation, and, well, overwhelming love. Yes, all that. All of that happened, up in the woods of New Hampshire, and for that, I am eternally grateful.

I truly hope there’s another Taproot at Squam next year. Or something akin to it at other beautiful, enchanted settings. I’ll never forget it. I gained a renewed sense of self, a confidence in my ability to take whatever life throws at me, an emerging friendship I’m quite excited about, and an abiding knowledge that, eventually, we three Englishes really, truly need to live on a lake.