Years ago, in its former incarnation, our property used to house an edible organic herb and flower farm (say that 5 times fast!). After Glenn purchased it, and then I came along, we realized there was more land then we’d use ourselves. The idea arose for a land share, wherein we’d let someone else that wished to grow crops, for personal or commercial use, use the space. In exchange (and in lieu of money), they’d help us around our garden and in other areas of the property where we were growing things.
We both knew, though, that it would take just the right person to be fit that position. We live in a pretty secluded space, and, though we entertain a good deal, and even write about entertaining for a living, we really value our privacy (in fact, maybe it’s precisely on account of those reasons that privacy means so much to us!). The idea of the land steward maybe even bringing some kind of r.v. or other living quarters out onto the land with them was tossed around, whenever we’d talk about this ideal situation. They’d gain a place to grow crops, and possibly live, while we’d gain someone to help us out with our own growing and gardening needs.
Well, friends, it’s been years in the making, but that day, and that person, have finally arrived, and I couldn’t be more excited. Natalie Pollard and I connected in the spring of 2011. I can still recall, clear as day, the April afternoon she came out to the house. At the suggestion of our mutual friend R. Brooke Priddy Conrad (who made my wedding dress), Natalie was seeking advice on creating and stocking an urban homesteading supply store in Asheville. Brooke thought, with my history in writing books on such topics, that I might be of assistance to Natalie. A relationship developed that day, that’s gone on to see the opening of Natalie’s gorgeous store, Villagers, and my using it as the setting for my “In Touch With Your Roots” gathering in Handmade Gatherings, as well as a place I’ve both taught and attended classes.
Natalie studied landscape design at U.C. Berkeley. She’s also a trained herbalist and just an all-around very cool, true blue, righteous lady. We dig her. Huxley digs her. Dexter and Fly (our dogs) and Harold and Maude (our cats) and the chickens and the bees dig her (in fact, her two hives are now out in the apiary with our own two!). She’s already planted some seeds for a fall garden in the raised beds and will be putting in some starts there soon. Her little house, created by local company Nanostead, made its way to the cove on Tuesday evening. It’s tiny and adorable and comfortable and we’re delighted to have it here, keeping the yome company down in our lower field. Yay!
Speaking of Villagers, per the flyer above, I’m teaching a class there coming up on Sunday September 7th at 5 p.m.. We’ll be discussing all things related to home canning. I’ll also make some kind of canned good (still deciding on what that’ll be!) and each student will take home a jar of it, along with handouts and a recipe for what we make. Hope you can make it!
Cheers to canning season, tiny houses, and mutually beneficially relationships!!!!
Happy Friday, friends! Do you feel summer starting to wind down? I do. I’ve seen the harbingers of autumn-the acorns, the falling leaves, the goldenrod, the earlier sunsets. What’s funny, though, is that as someone who has a known reputation for not particularly caring for summer, I find myself feeling the slightest tinges of “oh, not just yet, please!” I’m not quite ready for the fresh tomatoes to disappear, or for the ability to justify ice cream consumption at any time of day to pass, or the profusion of ripe, ambrosial peaches to fade from market shelves, or the trips to the community swimming pool to end. If we could just keep all of that goodness around for a bit longer, and add cardigans and mugs of hot toddies to the mix, that’d be just grand.
In other news, here’s a smattering of this and that’s that caught my attention:
*My talented friend Chris Bryant, who served as the art director on Keeping Chickens, Canning & Preserving, Keeping Bees, Home Dairy (which was recently translated to Russian!), and A Year of Pies (now available in Dutch!), has a book of his own coming out. It’s on chips-all of them. All the chips. You will most definitely want to add it to your cookbook collection. Oh, and Chris just started a blog, Extra Slaw. Good things coming at you, for sure!
*Imagine Childhood is hosting a giveaway of “Handmade Gatherings“, and offering up my recipe for Spiced Apple Poundcake from the book. Also, their autumn look book is up and it’s amazing!
*This essay on not succumbing to the “tyranny of trends” is equal parts hilarious and brilliant. Really puts things into perspective.
*There is little better than a chilled soup on a hot summer day. Here are 10 recipes to help you keep your cool.
*Mother Earth Living magazine did a feature interview of me for their current issue. You can check out the story here, which also includes three of my tips for hosting successful potlucks and my recipe for Butternut Squash & Herbed Cider Soup from Handmade Gatherings.
*Smokey Eggplant Dip, hallelujiah!
*Liesl Made is a fun new-to-me blog and shop.
*Feeling like a new pair of shoes for autumn and these Faraway Fields Oxfords are calling my name.
*Natalie‘s tiny home is pretty much done. Which means…..next week, she moves it out here! Woohoo! In exchange for putting her home on our land, she’ll help us out a few hours each week with gardening and other outdoor pursuits. She’s already planted crops in five beds in the garden and brought out chicken feed from her store for our flock. I am beyond excited about this partnership!
My mom has been in the hospital since this past Sunday. She has a host of health concerns, the most serious of which is atrial fibrillation, or a heart arrhythmia. She was having trouble getting her heart back into rhythm, and there was talk of attempting to “shock” it back into synch. Huxley and I went to visit her yesterday afternoon, and right before we arrived, it turned out that her most recent EKG showed it had gone back into rhythm. She gets discharged today and we’ll pick her up and take her back to her home. YES! It’s been a challenging week, for her physically and for me emotionally. I know that, in the hospital, she’s in the best place, given her health concerns. That said, she’s my mom, and I don’t like the idea of anyone being holed up in the hospital for an extended period of time, having a battery of tests run on them, trying to coax them back to health. I’m thrilled to know that, come this evening, she’ll be back in the comfort of her own home, padding around in her slippers, and cozying into her own bed.
We’ve got another picnic to photograph this Sunday. It’ll be the 13th one, of 20. My manuscript is due to my editor on October 1st, so we’re down to the wire now. SO much work, but so much fun, too, because, PICNICS!
Wherever you go this weekend, whatever you do, and whomever you do it with, may it be grand!
*I typically post a photo of Huxley in my What I’m Digging round-ups because, truly, he’s what his Papa and I dig the most. Today, though, I’m showing a collection of images of many things I’ve been enjoying lately, including (from the top): lush walks down the driveway with my fellas, mountaintop picnics, annual pie competitions (my Peaches & Cream Crumble-Top Pie from A Year of Pies is at the far right corner of the second pie image), a Table To Farm picnic, new overalls (thank you, Thred Up!), our humble yet cozy home, and summer eats!
Happy Friday, friends! It’s raining and cool here in the cove today, a welcome break from the warmer temps we had this week. Really, though, who am I kidding, talking about “warmer temps” and other such nonsense? For my birthday last month, Glenn bought me a portable air conditioner, owing to how I get all kinds of crabby and wilty and otherwise unpleasant when really hot. It’s been so nice and cool, though, that we haven’t even had to fire it up! And halfway through the night, every night, we’re still pulling the comforter up around our shoulders. Even on the second floor.
When looking at my garden the other day, and feeling equally frustrated and guilty and anxious and discouraged and hopeful at its tandem successes and failures, several things occurred to me. To begin, four years ago, I was quite pregnant and it was also the hottest summer in 50 years, so the garden didn’t really happen. And then, over the past three summers, I have been writing books. When I’m working on a new book in earnest, there are some things that have to get sidelined in order to get the writing done while simultaneously take care of Huxley, and maintain the home, marriage, homestead, etc.. I’m also not a fan of the heat (see above). Finally, I still have so much to learn about organic gardening. I’ve been working on building up the soil, but I do live in a temperate rain forest, with its attendant plethora of insects. The challenges they present is ENORMOUS, people. Enormous.
It dawned on me that all of these things in combination have made it increasingly challenging to have the lush, verdant, abundant vegetable garden of my dreams come summertime. So I made a few decisions. For starters, screw the guilt. There’s an incredible organic farmer about 1/2 mile down the road from us that grows exactly what I’m working on here, but with multiple decades worth of organic gardening experience under his belt. At Hominy Valley Organic Farm, I can stop in on Fridays (open farm day), chat with Tom, and purchase some of the most beautiful, delicious vegetables I’ve ever encountered at a very, very good price. I can stick (for now) to growing what really works for me in the garden, and leave the battles with cabbageworms, squash vine borers, carrot fly, and more to him.
Secondly, my intuition keeps telling me that perennial gardening is where it’s at. Working with nature instead of against it and achieving a symbiosis is what I want. To that end, I recently purchased Gaia’s Garden. I’m getting all kinds of excited about implementing some of the perennial/permaculture techniques it details.Then I can have the garden I desire, purchase some crops from Tom, keep writing in the summer, and feel less crazy about the entire process. Amen to all that.
In other news, here’s a smattering of this and that’s that’ve caught my attention recently:
*The mason jar-use it for SO much more than just strawberry jam and pickled beets!
*Several weeks ago, when I was feeling a bit misanthropic (it happens to us all!), Glenn directed me to this. So, so good.
*When I was in college, I used to burn rosemary essential oil in a diffuser when studying for exams. Here’s why.
*My friend Jenna Woginrich, fellow author and blogger, has launched a Kickstarter campaign. She’s working on her first bit of fiction, a novel about (as she described it an email to me) “a farm in upstate NY in 1920, a farmy-paranormal piece of mystery and a heck of a lot of fun.” Check out the video and help her realize her dream, if you can!
*It’s tomato season. Genevieve has 28 ideas for what to do with them.
*Very sweet idea for a DIY campfire candle.
*Speaking of fragrances, I picked up a box of these cedar incense cones as a gift to myself on Mother’s Day. I begin each morning now by burning one, to clear the air and enliven the kitchen while I feed the animals, get Huxley going, and prepare the coffee. Good stuff.
*If you’re a mother, you might enjoy checking out The Ma Books, a collaboratively written blog about what mothering means to each of us.
*My father, his wife, and my sisters gifted Glenn for his birthday with this amazing book about the oldest living things. Exquisitely photographed, it is a sensory feast, and a reminder that we’re not the only beings witnessing what’s happening on this planet.
I’m back to working on picnics this weekend. We photographed 10 of them before Jen Altman, the book’s photographer, headed out of town for the month of July. She’s back, and so we’re back in action, as of Sunday, as we’ve got 10 (!!!) more to go. Fingers crossed the weather accommodates and our shoot isn’t caught in a deluge. We’ll be high atop a mountain bald up on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Should be epic if all goes according to plan!
Wherever you go this weekend, whatever you do, and whomever you do it with, may it be grand!
*I post an image of Huxley in my What I’m Digging posts because, truly, he’s what Glenn and I dig the most. This is him a few weeks ago, up at Black Balsam on the Blue Ridge Parkway. He said “This is a good hike, mama. I love this view!”
About four years ago, I wanted nothing more than to visit the Pacific Northwest. I’d been there once, for less than 12 hours, when I was traveling to San Francisco with my friend Bonner in the summer of 2002. We stayed overnight at a hostel in Portland and were up and out early the next morning. No, what I wanted was a full immersion. From the Columbia River Gorge to Astoria and Cannon Beach (Goonies!) right on up to the Olympic Peninsula and the San Juan Islands. So intense was my devotion and consuming desire of the PNW that I’d check the weather forecasts out there, especially when I was pregnant and it was sweltering here and I was miserable, but it was a cool, happy 72 degrees in July on Friday Harbor.
Well, friends. I’m here today to tell you that dreams really do come true. This October, I’m turning my compass (er, jet plane?) west, hopping on a plane (many planes, actually), and making my way to the place I have long dreamed of, pined for, and desired to tromp around in. Not only am I visiting it, though, the crowing glory is that I’ll be doing so while teaching. On Orcas Island. At a writer’s conference. Be still my heart.
The video above gives you a taste of what Write: Doe Bay is all about. Held at Doe Bay Resort on Orcas Island, Washington,Write Fall will take place October 9-12, bringing together 25 participants and a handful of alumni. As detailed by the conference’s producers: “Through shared meals and shared housing, a new vision for a writer’s retreat will take place. Community will flourish, walls will break down and love will flow. The workshop bridges genre gaps along the feather of storytelling, where songwriting presents as poetry, poetry as memoir and memoir as narrative song. At Doe Bay, we are all storytellers and we all have a tale to unlock, whichever genre our words choose, and we’ll present the key to unlocking the raw narrative inside.” So, so good, right? Right.
Registration is about halfway full, so now is the time to claim the last few remaining spots. Myself, Claire Bidwell Smith, Jillian Lauren, and Daniel Blue will gather with Write participants to guide workshops in creative writing. While I’ve taught numerous classes on how to raise chickens, can preserves, make cheese, yogurt & butter, and create body care products, I’ve yet to actually teach about the craft of writing. This is a new direction for me, and one which I feel emboldened to embrace. I’m also wanting to dabble in other literary genres myself, and hope to learn a thing or two while there, in addition to teaching. The teacher is the student, and all that.
Come out to Orcas Island, if you can! I would so love to meet you! This event promises to be more than just a writer’s retreat in a gorgeous setting. From all I’ve seen and read, it looks like lives are changed here. Dare to dream, friends!