• Happy Friday! New
  • Good people, it is 73 degrees today! I've opened almost all of the windows in the house and am spotting daffodils triumphantly ready to unfurl all over the knob our house sits on. @glennbenglish served this reuben with @chopshopbutchers pork pastrami, homemade Russian dressing, Swiss cheese, and sauerkraut for lunch as a strong breeze swept thru the house and shook things up. YESSSSSS!
  • Clowning around. || Huxley tried out Tiny Tots Circus Playtime at Toy Boat Art Collective today and really enjoyed it!
  • Chatting about existentialism, and contradicting ourselves, and winter over on small measure today. || Into the woods behind our house.
  • Players gonna play. Huxley and his buddy Bay, doing their little guy thing today at the perennially lovely @thencarboretum.
  • The garden got blanketed with what I'm hoping was winter's last gasp this past week. I'm ready for those snow-covered strawberry beds in the foreground to start putting out juicy fruits, for Huxley to dig in his sandbox again, for cocktails at sunset on the pergola, and for conversing with soil and seeds once more. Spring is coming. Really started to feel it this weekend.
  • Scotch eggs of supreme deliciousness can be had on the regular at @kingjamesavl. @glennbenglish and I savored these beauties today alongside dirty rice fritters, gumbo with poutine, and @sunbursttrout smoked trout dip, all wonderful. There was also a pint of Appalachian Brewery porter that I have to have more of. Oh, and old school White Stripes on rotation. Great food, great atmosphere.
  • Confession: until last night, I had never had honest to goodness snow cream. @glennbenglish whipped up a tasty batch with vanilla and nutmeg, and we enjoyed it alongside @oldworldlevain's heavenly frangipane tartlettes with fresh cranberries, orange peel, and cinnamon. Snow-pretty AND tasty.
  • Scattered, smothered, and covered. Snowy day in the cove!
  • We three Englishes do so very much love snow. Forecast to receive between 3-6 inches tonight! @glennbenglish captured Huxley and I taking in the view on his way back to the house after locking up the chickens.
  • Woke up to overnight snowfall, always a treat. Then heard from my neighbor Lynn, a licensed massage & bodywork therapist, that the snow was preventing her from getting in to her clients in town and, as a result, she had an opening in her schedule and could give me a massage. Whenever she travels, I pet-sit her cat Sophie, and in exchange she trades me a massage. Not only is she a seriously stellar masseuse, she also is an aromatherapist, a Jin Shin Jyutsu practitioner (a kind of Japanese acupressure technique), and is certified in neuromuscular therapy. So when I get a massage from her, I receive this healing trifecta involving scent, body, and spirit. Plus, in all honesty, I feel like this woman is actually imbuing my body with love when she works on me. I left her house feeling light and bright, and nourished. She has offices in Asheville and Johnson City, TN (the home massages are reserved for family and neighbors!). If you're looking for a rich, wonderful, deeply healing massage, please consider Lynn. You can find her information at || I passed our bamboo grove and its tiny creek on my walk over to Lynn and Steve's; it somehow spoke to me of good things in store.
  • Woke up to this view. Some kind of wonderful!
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Chats With Strangers

I come from a line of very chatty folks. If my Pop is in an elevator with you (you being a complete stranger in this scenario), after passing several floors, it’s pretty likely he’ll have learned your name, where you’re from, and where you’re headed. If you should meet my mom in a restaurant, she’ll have gained the same information and will additionally part ways with a big, tight hug.

Furthermore, both of my grandmothers are notorious talkers, chatting up the kids, grandkids, and complete strangers with equal vim and vigor. We’re a vocal bunch, my lineage. We like to connect, articulate, convey, and inquire (heavy emphasis on the inquire bit). I’m certainly not immune to this genetic predisposition. It’s in my blood. If you are ringing up my groceries, I’ll make a comment about your cool hat. If you’re repairing something in my house, I’ll find out your name and how long you’ve lived in the area. I’m curious about the lives of others, and so, following tradition, I’ll chat you up.

Which is how I came to meet Josh and Denise. Josh, with his unmistakable goatee (more on this later) and piled-up dreads, was someone I recognized from the wine and beer department of my local natural food store. One auspicious day, I saw him at a gas station out near my house. Living, as I do, about 20 minutes outside of downtown, I began to wonder if he shared my stomping grounds. And so, the next time I saw him at the natural foods store, I chatted with him. Turns out he does live out my way. Even better, his wife, Denise, is a cheese-maker, crafting exquisite mozzarella cheeses for area stores and farmer’s markets. Our friendship blossomed. Josh, it turns out, is a chatty type, too. I’d found “my people.”

I would go on to shadow Denise during one of her cheese-making rounds, learning the art of stretching warmed curd, and later profile her in my “Home Dairy” book, the third in the “Homemade Living” series (“Home Dairy” will be available April 2011). Josh, Denise, and their adorable daughter Elora, have attended several dinner parties at our home. Yesterday, I finally made it over to their place. They’re goat owners, and chicken owners, and dog and cat and garden owners. My people, again. Lured over by Denise’s recent mention of new baby goats, I seized the opportunity offered by a sunny day (finally!) and headed up the steep mountain to their high-altitude mini-farm.

It was an absolute delight. They’re a wonderful couple, in love with each other, their daughter, and the life they’re forging together. Their menagerie of animals was gorgeous, and friendly, aside from the head-butting antics of their alpha billy goat (who, like Josh, sports a goatee; until yesterday, I never realized that the hairy beard hanging from a goat is where the word “goatee” comes from-seems obvious, but then, I’ve been known to overlook the obvious).

I look forward to spending more time with my new human and animal friends. Good thing I chatted Josh up that day. Talking to strangers offers the possibility for rewards you might never have imagined. Thanks for the chatty gene, Mom and Pop.

*To see more photos from my visit with Josh and Denise, click here.

18 Responses to Chats With Strangers

  • Kat and Luke says:

    I love that about you, Ashley! You are so unpretentious and easy to get to know. It's not surprising that you draw equally delightful people to you!

  • nicole says:

    What a great, feel-good post! I think we all could use a reminder about the value of conversation and neighborly rapport.

    And every blog should have a post with photos of baby goats.

  • Anonymous says:

    What a wonderful place. Chatting is such a wonderful gift.

  • Amber says:

    GOATS! I want goats…I love the little buggers. :) And CHEESE, oh I'm mad about cheese.

    They look like awesome folks. These hills are just FULL of awesome folks!

  • i have the opposite gene…the quiet gene that leads me think people would rather be left alone, that's it too much energy to say anything, that i don't know what to say, and so on. living your way sounds a whole lot more fun!

  • Melodie says:

    They sound like wonderful folks! Great goatie pictures!

  • Such a lovely story. And those baby goats are adorable! I'm a little jealous that you are able to let your chatty gene out to play. I always have the impulse to chat someone up, but much like Julia above, I think that people would rather be left alone so I stifle it. Maybe next time I feel the urge I'll just do it and hope I meet some awesome strangers too!

  • Renai says:

    Ahh, too cute!

  • Morgan G says:

    Chatting people up is such great fun, not to mention THE best way to create strong, healthy communities. There is so much local talent to celebrate, knowledge to exchange and so much joy to be shared. There should be a tax break for people who qualify as “Chatters.”

  • I am loving Morgan G's Chatters tax break idea – I don't think I would ever pay taxes again! The chatting gene runs in my family too (as well as my husband's – and we have bred another 2 future chatters!) – whenever my mum makes the 5 hour train and bus journey to come and visit, she always turns up on our door step with amazing stories from her fellow train passengers!

  • EcoGrrl says:

    home dairy!!!! YEAAAAH! i can't wait – now that's what i'm talkin' about! (can you tell my secret dream to make cheese???)

  • tigress says:

    such a great post. and those baby goats, ugh! i want some!

  • Danielle says:

    I wish I had the chatty gene. :) I am chatty, but I have to know the person first. Occasionally I'm able to talk with strangers.

    What a wonderful family they have. We're hoping to eventually get a small goat dairy up at running at our farm, doing pastured pork and chicken on the side.


  • I'm so glad to find you and follow your work! I share practially all of your interests. :) I am launching a blog too- just started to work on it, but you've really pushed my inspiration over the top. Thanks!!

    Suzanne, DelysiaStyle

  • I'm coming over. Right now. BABEEE GOATZ!!!!1

  • Anonymous says:

    keep chatting…it always brings you good idea's one way or an other…what a gift to gabb!!

  • Rebecca (Nancy's mom) says:

    SO CUTE! Okay here's a question. Did your parents ever embarrass you? My dad was that way and it used to destroy my little sister (tho I always thought it was great). Pre-teen daughter Nancy *sometimes* will say, before going in a store, “Mom can we not talk to strangers this time?” Yes. And I get that, to the extent of how teens don't typically like drawing attention to themselves, probably at least partially due to the teasing horrors of middle schools (though she is now at Evergreen which is much much better, a kinder place). And when sis would cringe at Dad's convos with folks out in public, it just egged him on! Did it ever bother you, at those tender ages? (Sister later came to fully honor and value the love and joy and sharing the outgoingness showed, and we miss him SO much every day.)

  • rebecca-NO! i loved it. mom and dad and all my grandparents were so chatty that that's really all i knew. it never embarrassed me. it might end up embarrassing nugget, though, and periodically, it embarrasses glenn!