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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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  • Barefoot in the grass @biltmoreestate, finding dragons in the clouds with my tiny guy.
  • This place, today, with my fellas=pure magic. @biltmoreestate
  • Sowing the seeds of love, with @forvillagers.
  • It's go time. @forvillagers brought ALL the seeds!
  • There is thunder in our hearts. || New post up on small measure. Happy Monday, friends!
  • I'm only 30 pages into @tea_austen's new book
  • This tuna-mack (mackerel!) casserole puts a divine spin on the tired old classic. It took every ounce of willpower not to go back for thirds! It was egg noodles cooked with tuna and mackerel in a white sauce with eggs from our hens, flavored with tarragon, black pepper, cornichons, then mixed with bread crumbs and aged cheddar, and topped with both as well. Before it was served, it was topped with kalamata olives, capers, sour pickles, and cilantro. So good!
  • Sometimes being Huxley's mom means dressing up as Wonder Woman (to his tiny Batman) while feeding the wood stove, locking up the chickens, and helping @glennbenglish make dinner. Because, #mom.
  • I'll admit that it's pretty, but we three Englishes (and our feathered friends!) are SO very ready to be done with snow and frost and chill.
  • It's always a good day when @joythebaker stops by. Thanks for sharing food stories, sipping tea, strolling the property, and playing with our Wild child. Safe travels on your southern road trip, and beyond!!!
  • Was weeding the patio and looked up to find this little gnome picking daffodils.
  • Follow the red brick road? Indeed I did.

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ashley english

There Is Thunder In Our Hearts

Huxley bike
First things first. There was thunder here early, early this morning, just before daybreak. Thunder, friends. Spring thunder is my favorite kind of thunder. Less out of context than winter thunder (which is just unnerving), and considerably less threatening and ominous than summer thunder, which always makes me (and the dog) unduly edgy. Spring thunder, you see, is a loud, reverberating promise of growth, and rebirth, and renewal. It’s as though the peepers, and the asparagus stalks, and the forsythia, and the tulips all agreed to dance and undulate and pulsate together in the soil and festively, finally banish winter. I’ll take it. Spring thunder, for the win.

We went to Florida! And saw family! And flamingoes! And banyan trees! And Mickey Mouse! We also, most inconveniently, picked up a stomach bug during the trip, but let’s just not focus on that, agreed? It was great to get away. It was lovely to see my legs and my toes again, as well, after so many months of cover. It was nice to head out without a coat. And then we came back and it snowed this past Saturday and we had to fire up the wood stove again. But, THUNDER!

Here’s what’s got me jazzed right now:

*OWL is killing it with her weekly offerings and musings. If you’re local, Susannah needs to be on your radar and on your kitchen table.

*Keeping this in mind at all times as my springtime mantra.

*How long do seeds really last?

*I’ve been on a major spring cleaning blitz since returning home from Florida (months of life with a wood stove will do that to a person). Here’s a post I did a ways back for Design Sponge on homemade spring cleaning products. About to give my silver jewelry a much-needed cleaning.

*Glenn bought me this perfume for Valentine’s Day. Earl Grey + Bergamot. It. Is. Everything.

 

Whatever this week brings, just remember, thunder.

What I’m Digging

DaffodilHelleboresHuxley Muscles
Happy Friday, friends! How are you? I’m up to my eyeballs in tax paperwork. Being self employed is no joke, come tax time. My calculator and I are becoming good friends. Best friends. BFF’s.

It’s been ages since I last did a round-up, so I figured no time like the present to get back in the saddle. These days it’s all about blooms and my buddy (showing me his “muscles” and his hair that I kept meaning to get cut and that has somehow, of its own accord, now morphed into a pretty amazing rendition of the hairdo Matt Damon deftly sported in Behind The Candelabra, yes? YES!). Those flowers and this face are all I need to get me out of the winter doldrums and back into my groove.

Here’s a smattering of this and that’s that have caught my attention recently:

*I am completely captivated with this blog. Scottish herbalist now living in L.A. that makes monthly special apothecary boxes like her March box about the sea. I. Know.

*If you use social media at all, you should read this post.

*These easy DIY flower print paintings would be a great way to brighten up a rainy spring day.

*Glenn and I are going to our first Blind Pig dinner tomorrow night. Blind Pig is a local underground supper club. Tomorrow night’s event is a tribute to Edna Lewis, pretty much the Grande Dame of southern cooking. We are over the moon excited!

*Not just for your morning cuppa: 15 household uses for coffee grounds.

*Turmeric is packed with anti-inflammatory properties, among other things. Try it in this chai!

*Hoping to score some fresh-off-the-tree Meyer lemons when we head to Florida next week. Would love to use them in this Meyer Lemon Ginger Concentrate for homemade sodas.

*Speaking of lemons, preserved lemons! (thanks to Molly for the link in her “She Knows” post).

*Really loving this moon phases necklace I purchased recently from Agate & Elm.

*Discovered N.C.-made Cackalacky beer a month or so ago. I’m not typically a canned beer fan, but this one has me in its clutches. I mean, it has ginger in it, so, as a equal-opportunity-ginger-lover, I pretty much have to like it.

 

It’s going to be close to 60 degrees here tomorrow. I almost don’t want to write that, as I know that a good deal of the country is still plowing thru winter weather. Hang in there!

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

It’s All You, Anyways

Woods photoInto the woods, behind our home. 

My freshman year of college, I took an Existentialism 101 class. I’d read a bit of Camus and Sartre in high school and wanted to explore the topic more in depth. What resulted was a bit of a week-long existential crisis of the soul. When you’re 18, you’re so vulnerable and open to suggestion anyways, and taking a class that challenged and questioned the very nature of existence and meaning itself cut a deep divot thru my skull. I was being confronted with ways of thinking I’d never before encountered, that suggested that we were at the helm of our realities, guiding our own fates and determining and plotting the course of our lives, not puppets being moved to and fro by outside forces.

While I reconciled my own leanings towards the notion of a higher life form having created us with the concept of our emerging from the void without meaning written into any actions, I found solace in a quote I discovered in another course, a required humanities class. Walt Whitman, in Song of Myself, wrote “Do I contradict myself? Very well then, I contradict myself. I am large, I contain multitudes.” What I ended up with, when I combined what I’d learned at such a tender age, was the idea that identity is fluid. Contradiction is built into the nature of reality.

Around the same time, I also encountered another quote that would stick with me, this one from Heraclitus. “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” Life, and identity, and who you are, or who you might think yourself to be, are constantly in motion. Fixed notions of who we perceive ourselves or others to be are illusions, just like the notion that winter is a time of stillness and quietude. Underneath the surface, if you push back the mulch, there is so, so very much going on.

So what do existentialism and Whitman and Heraclitus have to do with homesteading and my life in the mountains of western North Carolina? A great deal. For as long as I can recall, I have loved winter. Pined for it in summer, thrilled at its arrival when the leaves turned color and cascaded down in late autumn. I’ve told everyone that will listen how much I love cozying up with blankets and mugs of hot tea indoors, tending to the wood stove as I pad about in wool sweaters and fuzzy slippers. What I realized a few weeks ago is that, while true, there’s also a part of me that suffers in winter. I go deep, turn into a bit of a recluse, and hide inside my heart, my mind, and often times, my home.

That’s what I’ve been doing these past few months. Creatively, this has served me well. I find my largest rushes of creativity when the weather is cool and cold. Mentally, though, it’s not the best. I struggle. I feel the winter blues a bit, especially if I don’t spend time outside and get a nice dose of Vitamin D, courtesy of the sun, to elevate my mood. I sequester. It’s always good, until it’s not. Lately, I can feel both the tug of my heart and mind to contradict myself, to say, “You know what? I don’t know that I really do enjoy winter anymore, for now.” The two thoughts are not mutually exclusive-they’re sides of myself at different times. Life is moving, and so am I.

Later today I’m going to collect soil samples in the garden with my friend (and neighbor!) Natalie. We’ll send them off to the local extension office for testing, to see what the nutrient profiles are of all 14 raised beds, and amend the soil accordingly. Tomorrow, it’s going to be in the upper 60′s. Next week, we three Englishes are taking off for a long overdue visit with family in Florida. I need these things to happen just like I needed winter to greet me with open arms back in December.

You never step into the same river because you’re never the same person each time. The river is never composed of exactly the same water. Go ahead, contradict yourself. It’s all you, anyways.

Love That Bag Dryer (+ Giveaway!!!)

Bag Dryer IRL 3Bag DryerBag Dryer 2
If you know me personally, then you can attest firsthand to my abhorrence of waste. I am a trash vigilante. From recycling toilet paper inserts, to sorting and recycling the plastic attachment and paper tag on new garments, to upcycling ribbon from gifts, I go to great lengths to keep things out of the waste stream.

Which is why Elana Kann’s “Love This Bag Dryer” is so amazing. Long time readers may recall my initial post about this item (formerly known as Branching Out Woodworks). I’ve been using the dryer for over 3 years now, and can attest to its durability, its unobtrusiveness, and its efficacy. In short, it holds up well, it doesn’t get in the way, and it really works. I am constantly drying bags out on it. I painted my bag dryer dark brown, to match the trim color on my moulding, but it doesn’t need it to work.

Made locally by Elana, a woodworker and artist, the dryers have a spruce base and birch dowels. There are two models to choose from, either countertop (shown in the second photo) or wall-mounted (shown in my house and in the third photo). They come in kits, easily assembled in about 5 minutes. Best of all, Elana has offered to give away a model of their choice (countertop or wall-mounted) to one small measure reader!

To enter, simply leave a comment below. You can write “Pick me!” or perhaps detail something specific that you’re doing to reduce waste and curb pollution. I’m ALWAYS on the hunt for additional ways to put the kibosh on waste. I’ll run the giveaway for one week, concluding next Monday, February 2nd, midnight EST. Open to those in North America only (sorry international buddies! That shouldn’t stop you from ordering, though!).

Even if you’re not the winner, now would be a wonderful time to purchase one of those bag dryers for yourself or a loved one, as local non-profit RiverLink and LoveThisBagDryer! are teaming up to keep plastic bags out of the French Broad River in Western North Carolina (which has the distinction of being the third oldest river in the world-it’s true!). To raise funds for its river cleanup, 14% of all sales of LoveThisBagDryer! through Valentine’s Day, February 14th,  will be donated to Riverlink for its annual springtime Clean Streams Day. The goal is to raise at least $400 for this purpose. Let’s help them reach that goal!

UPDATE: The giveaway is now closed. Thank you so, so very much to all that entered! Congratulations to our winner, Tess Church, randomly selected. Please keep in mind that there’s just over a week left to support the LoveThisBagDryer and River Link joint initiative. For every bag dryer sold, 14% of the profits will go towards the annual French Broad River Clean Streams Day this spring. So, hop on over and purchase one now, if you’re so inclined!

 

Pure Green Podcast

Pure Green Podcast
Friends, it’s already 2015! And the holidays have passed! And I feel like I’m finally coming up for air, just in time for an arctic blast to take my breath away. What about you? How are you feeling? Have things been wild and wacky and wonderful for you, too? I look forward to the stretch of days from Halloween to New Year’s Day all year. I’m overcome with emotion and activity when they’re upon me, reveling in their frenzy. And then, as though right on cue, I’m completely ready for them to subside and move on out and make way for something more still, more internal, more intimate as January appears on the calendar.

I have big plans for 2015. More books, more videos, more freelancing, more homesteading adventures, more kids (Maybe! Nothing cooking in that department just yet!). All kinds of new adventures. I’ve begun lately to think of life as more of an ever evolving, never finished endeavor than anything that can fully be managed or contained. The latter mindset just leaves me feeling like I can’t get all of the things I want to get done completed, which then spirals into guilt and frustration and self-doubt.

The thing I’m discovering is that it’s just fine for projects to always be “in process.” It’s as it should be, really. Life expands and contracts. It ebbs and flows. It’s always kinetic. You can’t get a handle on it, because it’s wild and fluid. But if you step into the current, and accept that you’re along for the ride, it’s much easier than trying to swim upstream. So, here’s to more coasting along and enjoying what comes and less worrying if my pantry is organized (it never, ever lets me get a handle on it, really), or if my upstairs craft/guest room/office is just so. Que sera. Whatever will be, will be!

In other news, I had so much fun chatting with Celine MacKay of Pure Green Magazine recently. We talked about homesteading and writing and community and so much more. You can check out the podcast here and learn more about Pure Green here. Thank you for having me, Celine!

Alright, if I’m going to make all of these big dreams for 2015 happen, I’d better get on it. After finishing up the picnic book, I took a bit of time to teach and entertain and host and decorate and enjoy the holidays. Now that they’re over, it’s back to work.

Sincerest wishes for a happy, healthy, love-filled 2015, from our home to yours.