Friday, February 27, 2009

Chillin' With the Peeps

These are from a photo shoot done this week for the chapters in the "Raising Chickens" book on incubating, hatching, and raising chicks. It was a pretty magical day. A chick even pipped its way out "for us", as though on cue. The setting was the gorgeous Double G Ranch, stewarded by the imminently gracious and hospitable Lance and Valerie Graves. If you're in the Asheville area and are looking for organic feed or chickens raised organically, give them a call. They'll hook you up. They've also got a host of adorable pygmy goats, horses, and pigs, which although not for sale, are worth the trip out to their place alone. BABY PYGMY GOATS! If you're looking for the cute threshold, look no further. 

I've got to tell you, folks, the photos for the book are truly stellar. Lynn Harty is an immense talent. She's doing both of the first two books in the series and is the sort of photographer that, even if you are the type of person who only gets up close and personal with chickens and vegetables when they served to you by a waiter, will have you ordering chicks and mason jars faster than you can say "Buff Orphington." She's a treat, and I'm lucky to have been paired up with her. 

*Images by Lynn Harty courtesty of Lark Books

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A Humble Cabin In The Woods

This cabin in Northern Idaho, designed by architectural firm Olson Sundberg Kundig Allen, is blowing my mind. In the sage words of Tina Fey, I want to go to there. I've looked at it just about every day for six days now. Check it out yourself. Be sure to move through the thumbnails and watch the short video of the giant window being cranked open. Talk about ventilation. I think I'd like something similar for my birthday. It's only a 'cabin,' right? 

*Image provided by Tropolism

Monday, February 23, 2009

That'll Do, Pig!

It's Dexter's birthday today! He's one year old! Although he has terrorized countless throw pillows, several dog beds, the rug in this picture (LONG since replaced), all five of the cats, and even the windowsill in the guest bedroom, I wouldn't trade him in for any other dog in the world. 

Over the year, he has acquired the following nicknames: Pig, Piggers, Fat Pig, Pigger Do, Squishy Pig, Noodle, Fuzzy Noodle, Monkey, Monkey Pudding, and Monkey Pudding Pants.  He totally deserves every last one of them. He snores, growls gently when he is happy, will wake from a deep sleep and come running for hugs if he hears me talking sweetly to Fly (aka "The Competition"), passes wretched gas with abandon (and suspected delight), moves his body in opposing directions when he is excited (like a Pig dancing  Jig!), and has an oral fixation, wherein he must put a bone or chew toy or plush toy in his mouth after any prolonged absence from us and keep it there for the next 10-15 minutes. 

He's the best and I adore him. I put him to bed with me every night, unless he does so himself. Before I turn in, I give him a kiss on the head and feel my hope restored. Happy Birthday, Pig!

It All Comes Down To This

It's been a rough week. My dog, Fly, has been obsessively licking and gnawing at the injury she incurred last week when she ran over a nail sticking out of the end of one of the greenhouses that we sold. I had to cancel a much desired vacation in the interest of being a responsible adult and saving money. The anti-inflammatory Fly has to take gives her gas, the rankness of which I had not known dogs were capable of achieving. It's cold and the firewood won't stay lit.

Never one to take life's mishaps sitting down, I've turned to Nora as a beacon of hope. If something so small and fuzzy can rise to the challenge and say, "Oh, so you don't think cats can play the piano? PUH-LEEZE! Small-minded peon!", then so can I. Enjoy the show!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Relishing the Thought

I'm up to my elbows in jam, curd, and relish-recipes, that is. It's down to the final month of writing before the first two books in the series make their way officially out of my computer and on to the rest of the publishing process luminaries. In the meantime (not that I really have much of a "meantime," what with bee-keeping school and my dog injuring her paw on a nail from the old hoophouses, and a medley of other concerns; more like "in the leantime"), I've hooked up with the local Slow Food chapter and their fledgling Education Committee. Apparently, the mandate from this years Terra Madre in Turin, Italy (the big dog international meeting for Slow Foodies) was to emphasize the social justice part of Slow Food, as envisioned by it's founder, Carlo Petrini. What that means on a practical level is making sure that everyone, everywhere has access to delicious, fair, sustainable foods. 

Here in Asheville, the Education Committee will be working with low-income communities to teach cooking classes on preparing food that is Fast, Easy, Affordable, Sustainable, and Tasty (FEAST). Soon as I send the books off, I plan on helping out, teaching cooking classes, picking veggies out of the community garden, showing folks how to can and preserve the foods out of that garden to keep in a community-specific food bank, and anything else I can do to assist. For now, though, I'm going to seriously pump up (or more aptly, "out") the jams!

*Image from Lavazza

Sunday, February 15, 2009

How We Do

This week was wild. Too much to detail at length, so I'll leave you with a brief overview: got over my cold, had the greenhouses disassembled and hauled-off, completed bee school (where I learned a wealth of apiary knowledge), had my honey serve me up an incredible Valentine's Indian dinner (as well as festoon me with an adorable dress and coat, amazing tights, woodcut birch earrings, and locally made all-natural chocolates), went to a cupcake and craft lab promoting the release of Suzie Millions new book at Lark Books (my publisher!), ate Jamaican food out with friends, and finished up several sections of the Canning & Preserving book. I think Bucky would approve of my systems approach to socializing, learning, and working. 

*Big up to future man David at Elumenati for the image. 

Thursday, February 12, 2009

You Say Goodbye, I Say Hello

I caught a cold. First one in years. Perhaps that's on account of my being away from people now more than ever as I work on my books and my recent bee-keeping foray brought me into close contact with some nasties. I don't know. I just know that I don't take getting sick sitting down and, packed with an herbal arsenal, hot baths, and loads of tea, I'm beginning to feel back up to snuff. 

On a brighter note, we sold the two 20'x50' hoophouses nearest the house yesterday. A young, enthusiastic farmer from South Carolina will be coming this weekend to disassemble and haul them off. I'm so excited about that because they have been sitting dormant since Glenn purchased the property 4 years ago. The previous owners ran an edible organic herb and flower farm out of here. They're in great shape, but are much too large for our needs, which is simply a small space for some veggie starts. We're thinking of going for something like this or this as a replacement. After the hoophouses come down, I'll till up the soil, put in some raised beds, and get busy with a large veg plot. Spring can't come quickly enough!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

My Life In Bees

So, I started bee-keeping school yesterday. We had another session today and will meet again next Saturday and Sunday. It's fascinating, although still a bit overwhelming. The fellow above was holding a handful of dead bees for identification, but I guess that goes without saying...
What a bee wants, what a bee needs-bee accoutrements for keeping the hive abuzz, including a spray bottle of sugar water, a hive tool for prying apart the frames inside the hive (to remove honey, as well as check on the general health of the hive-I'm learning that things can change in there pretty quickly, so it's important to stay on top of things), and other assorted and sundry apiary things. 
These are burlap sacks a local coffee roaster generously donated. Apparently, the burlap smokes well inside the bee smoker, creating the highly desirable "cool smoke" which calms the hive. A bit of smoke causes the bees to become alert, worried there may be an impending forest fire, which would then cause them to flee, or in bee nomenclature "abscond", from the hive. This alertness is desirable because it also temporarily impairs their chemical messengers, or pheromones, which would otherwise tell them there was an intruder in the hive and to attack (so, so, so not what you want to happen!).
My trusty gal-pal Rachel (whom I refer to as "Ladypants" and who, in turn, refers to me as "Ladypants") doing her very best "Vanna White, in the bee yard, with the smoker" act. Well done, Ladypants, well done. More to come next week!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Oh, Honey Honey!

As a nod to bee-keeping school, which starts this coming Saturday, I thought I might share with you a homemade honey bodycare product I recently whipped up. I read somewhere that Catherine Zeta-Jones keeps her skin so supple and plump-looking by slathering it in a honey and sea salt mixture. I figure, if it's good enough for CZ-J, it's good enough for me. Enjoy, and stay moist!
*In a jar with a lid, mix 1c. honey, 1 c. sea salt, and 1/2c. apricot, grapeseed, or sweet almond oil. Stir. Rub onto your face and body in the shower. Let it stay on for about 1-2 minutes, then rinse off. Be careful, as the bottom of the shower will be slippery from the oil. You'll smell like a big honeypot while you're showering!