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Archive for the ‘The Homestead’ Category

Daisy gets her butt in gear.

Spring has sprung at the Green Goddess Gardens.  No matter what your calendar says, or how much snow is currently outside YOUR front door (sorry Aida), winter is over here in Savannah.  Ring the bells!  Hooray!  Hooray!  Okay, fine, so it does still get down to the upper 30s some nights, and we’ll have at least one more good freeze before the warm weather is here for good – BUT –

The robins are back.  The trees are budding.  Green shoots are breaking out of the earth and reaching for the sun, who climbs higher in the sky and stays longer every day.  I have all but abandoned my socks.  This is a time of much rejoicing for our heroine Daisy.

And yet…

I spent as much of the winter as I could snuggled in my bed.  I read there.  I wrote there.  I ate there.  I made my phone calls there.  I watched movies with Little Boy and the Herban Cowboy there.  I was, as ol’ Bill Shakespeare would say, a slugabed.  It was glorious.

Now that the weather is turning, there is suddenly SO MUCH to do.  All the crap I procrastinated all winter is piling up and beginning to laugh at me behind my back.  Tree removal.  Toilet repair.  Little Boy’s haircut.  Making skin cream.  Fixing bikes.  Pruning plants.  Cleaning the chicken coop.  Oil change. 

And that’s just what I’ve been putting off because it was “too cold.”  I’ve also got a filthy house, no clean laundry, and an empty refrigerator/freezer.  There’s also the spring garden to prepare and plant. 

My To Do List has somehow achieved sentience and is trying to kill me.  And my winter inertia is making that a very real possibility. 

So today Little Boy and I hauled our lazy behinds outside, blinking hard at the bright sunshine.  We breathed deep, clear breaths into our dusty lungs.  We shook off the winter and got to work, shoveling compost, raking pine straw, and sharing our sandwiches with the chickens. 

It does feel good to get moving, though you couldn’t have told me that yesterday.  I guess that’s it then.  My winter pity party is over, and my butt is officially in gear.  Time to stop driving the Herban Cowboy to work and let him ride his bike for the workout.  Time to start my morning walks back up.  Time to haul Little Boy to the library in the bike trailer.  Time to forage for wild greens and herbs.  Time to go outside and play.

Meet me out back by Aida’s glider and wear your play clothes.

Roses from the Herban Cowboy, sent backstage when he came to see my play (The Good Body @ Muse Arts Warehouse). Also pictured: seeds for the spring garden!

When summer comes, I'll plant cucumbers here again. This year I'll plant them in these raised cement thingies I found at the dump.

Is it me, or is my compost pile starting to look like the Trash Heap from Fraggle Rock?

Yarrow sprouting through the pine straw outside Little Boy's bedroom.

First veggie bed is ready for compost, mulch, then planting. I'll have to protect this bed from any freezes we still might get.

I need to move that wagon before they figure out how to hop the fence with it and devour the garden.

That is my toe, not a juicy worm Mavis. Back off, bad girl.

Aw. Looked like 5 fat, pink worms to me... --Mavis

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Daisy catches up.  A little.

Today is partly sunny and almost 70 degrees.  That seems to be how winter in Savannah goes.  It’s freezing for 2 or 3 weeks, then for about a week it’s 70 degrees with alternating rain and sunshine.  It’s a delightful taste of spring every few weeks, and it makes the winters here very tolerable for a cold hater like me.

The freezing temperatures over the last few weeks kept me and Little Boy mostly indoors.  I stayed in my warm bed with my fluffy comforter as much as possible,  reading, researching, and hanging out on Facebook way too much.  Little Boy built castles with his blocks, had parties with his plastic dinosaurs, and drew endless dragons on dollar store paper tablets.

But there’s no time for watching movies or making cookies today.  We’re busy catching up on the homestead chores here at the Green Goddess Gardens.  Spring is mere weeks away, and we have lots to do before we plant the first seeds in the spring gardens.

My serious little farmer. I interrupted him while he was "busy" working on some sticks.

The biggest problem we’ve been dealing with are the chickens.  With not as much green stuff growing in January, the girls have picked our backyard clean.  Nothing left but old grass roots and pine straw.  If I want to plant food for us to eat, I’ve got to keep those pesky birds out of the garden. 

I love when they follow him around the yard.

We started out by stringing chicken wire around about half the backyard.  Well, those acrobatic biddies were able to easily fly over the 4 foot barrier!  I began rescuing them from the back lane several times a day.  The Herban Cowboy and I despaired about being the white trash folks on the block whose chickens are always in the alley. 

I finally remembered I could clip their wings, and a bit of internet research and a few YouTube videos later all 5 girls got clipped.  Note:  If you’re going to do this, do it first thing in the morning before you open the coop.  Take them out one at a time, clip and release.  If you let them all out first, then you’ll just have to catch them, running around the muddy yard while your 3 year old laughs hysterically.  Trust me.

The wing clipping seems to have done the trick.  Only Mavis has gotten out since then, and only once.  Have to keep an eye on that one, that Mavis.

That brought the girls down to earth, but we had another enemy to conquer:  the crape myrtle tree in the garden.  She blocks so much sun, and we need all the rays we can get in our shady little backyard.  So last weekend, the Herban Cowboy climbed the ladder and sawed down the branches/trunks about halfway up.  I chopped them up with loppers and a hand saw, hauling the branches to the chicken side of the yard.  The bare trunks of the tree still stand, but those are a manageable enough size that I can saw them down and haul them off at my leisure, without jeopardizing the garden fence.

She'll be hauled to the dump and mulched (everyone sing with me): It's the CIRcle of LIIIIIFE!

As of this writing, the Herban Cowboy is outside stapling up a chicken wire fence.  Update:  He just came in and announced that he’s 5 minutes from completion, but has to run to Home Depot for more staples.  I love that guy.

Anyway, this is a huge deal here at the homestead.  The reasons our fall garden failed were lack of sufficient sunlight and the chickens, who kept flying over the barriers we created, eating everything they could get their beaks into that WAS growing.  I’m still mad about the turnips. 

Chicken wire fence!

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:  thank goodness I don’t have to live off this land!  I really can’t beat myself up too much, the yard was nothing but blackberry brambles and pokeweed when we bought it, and each season has brought more lessons and more food than the season before.

I haven’t been able to do much in my garden for the last few months, but now I have no more excuses.  Well, except when the freezing cold temperatures return.

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fern rambles on

well, dear readers, i must say i hope you haven’t missed me.  i hope you have been doing what i’ve been doing- spending time with the ones you love the most.

last month i decided to cut my “social networking” time online down to nil until after the baby boy arrives.  i fully intended to blog regularly despite my virtual diet, but, honestly, it was just so darn peaceful without the glare of the computer screen in my peepers, and with all of the holiday to-do’s, well, i just couldn’t seem to find the motivation to sit down and type.  i do hope you’ll be forgiving.

there has been, of course, a lot going on.  but, when is there not, really?  now in my 8th month of pregnancy, i am slower and yet somehow more motivated than ever.  push a baby out of me?  are you kidding?!  anything else seems like a piece of cake by comparison.

so, i’ve been kicking ass at yoga.  it makes me feel human again, and my body, having been scrunched up around my belly and limited to side-sleeping each night, welcomes the up and down dogs with wide open hips.  warrior poses make me feel ready to face birth with calm and strength, and squeeze this child right on out and into the world.  and any variation of goddess pose, a.k.a. squats, puts me deeply in touch with the eternal mother.  yeah.  i feel powerful.  hear me roar!

of course, there’s also the practical, day-to-day stuff that’s been happening.  i finally got myself on a cleaning schedule.  i know that this is not terribly exciting, but it is liberating to have a clear chart in front of me outlining daily what needs to be done.  i have the daily chores, five in the morning and five at night.  they take me less than an hour to complete.  i have 3 tasks each day to focus on, and they typically take me anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour and a half.  so i end up only spending 3-4 hours a day on housework, and i get to enjoy a tidy and welcoming home.  and even if i have a down day and end up sleeping rather than bathing dogs, the chores still seem pretty manageable when i know there’s just another wednesday around the corner to do it.  not to mention, it takes a load off of my mind knowing that the honeyman can easily check in on what needs to be done during those first weeks of sleepless baby delirium.  which is coming really, really soon.

there have been other wonderful developments.  the honeyman and i have had an outpouring of support and help from some of the most wonderful humans we have ever met.  daisy and the herban cowboy donated their lovingly cared-for carseat to us.  daisy has also gifted me with freezable soup and chili, baby toys, and two crucial books that are going to help me in a big, big way once this mothering gig is in full swing.  not to mention being enthusiastic and available (along with the lovely M) as my labor and birth support mama.  she may be an athiest, but she’s an angel to me!

my prenatal yoga teacher, another blessedly giving soul, is loaning us her co-sleeper (which, by the way, doubles as a pack-n-play!), as well as a baby wrap.  my sweet baby sister, a mother of 4 herself, passed along a gently used baby swing, a walker, bouncy jumper, 2 playmats, a baby chair, and a moses basket.  wow.  and there’ll be boy clothes galore once the baby is out of onesies.  we bought a barely used, bad-ass jogging stroller from my oldest friend at nearly 1/3 of it’s retail cost(which will totally come in handy if these skinny running dreams i keep having ever manifest!).  so far we’ve saved more than we’ve spent!

we opted not to buy a crib, or a changing table.  we found some blogs about the montessori bed method, where the entire room is baby-proofed, and once the kid is toddling around and ready to move out of the family room/bed, he sleeps right on the floor on a futon mattress.  if he rolls off, he won’t have far to fall.  many parents report a calmer, more independent babe.  and i like the idea of spending our hard-to-come-by dollars on something that our son will be able to use for a good, long time.

and if i get half as much post-partum help as i am being offered, i just may be able to get a nap AND a shower!  score!!!

and the piece de resistance?  my wonderful mother, for what may be the very first time in my life, got me the one thing i really wanted for christmas.  oh, trust me, she always meant well…  but being a dirt-loving tomboy, and a messy and creative child, the collectible gifts she gave me every year for as long as i can remember have all been broken.  i gleefully ripped the glued-on wigs of many a porcelain doll(each one valued at $50-$100) to see what dolls hair went best with which painted-on shoes.  fine lace and velvet frocks were lost.  many of the girls didn’t make it out of their trysts and adventures with their hands and feet intact- i think one young lady even lost a nose.  and those were just in the first 14 years of my life.  the bi-monthly moves i made between the years of 2007-2009 sent many of the remaining fractured pretties crashing into the garbage bin(sorry, mom…i tried to tell you i wanted art supplies!).  the few salvageable items i managed to mercy, i eventually gave to my sister- she shares my mom’s affection for lovely, collectible things one can put on a shelf or in a glass case and marvel at how much it might be worth one fine day.

so, i have kept you in suspense, long enough, dear reader.  my sweet mother, after years of exasperation never knowing what to get me, simply asked me what i wanted this year.  my answer?  a juicer.

and let me tell you folks, in these final days of pregnancy, when i barely leave the house (there’s still so much to do!), you can find me polishing up my juicer like some men polish their ferraris.  seriously.  i love the damn thing.  honeyman and i began our juicing adventure on new years eve, and we haven’t felt better.  we now have more veggies in our bellies than ever before, and i worry less about getting good nutrition in those first weeks postpartum (in all of his beautiful ability, the honeyman is not a cook!).  and i get super excited when i see all of that luscious, soft pulp going into the compost to become nutrient-rich soil come the spring.  oh, sure, i could bake with it- and someday i plan to- but for now, the idea of building fertile earth right from my kitchen into my backyard makes me giddier than a soccer mom on black friday.  our garbage, and even our recycling, is drastically reduced.  we make half a press of coffee rather than a full one.  nothing smells in our fridge, and no produce gets left behind- even the things we don’t normally like taste great when juiced with apples and oranges!  the honeyman and i get 3-4 servings of vegetables before we’ve even fried our morning eggs.  and i look ahead to the spring, when the eggs we eat will be from our own backyard, and with a baby on my back, i will sow the seeds of sustainability, right here in my own home.

namaste, ya’ll!

my morning kitchen

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Daisy freezes her patootie off and makes lunch.

Pitiful, frozen elder trees. Don't worry. She'll be back.

My garden is frozen.  The chicken waterer is a solid block of ice.  There is a lovely miniature ski jump of ice coming out of the hose nozzle.  The elder and hibiscus hang with dark, frosty, withered leaves.  This is a serious cold snap for Savannah.  My old cat Mojo has been sleeping inside nights, something he usually avoids.  I’ve even had to actually turn the heat on, which I’ve avoided like the plague this year so far. 

With all this cold weather we’ve had, I would be smart to get cooking and let the oven heat the house, but for some reason (maybe I’m a glutton for punishment) I’ve been preparing food to freeze.  I’ve already written about making food and freezing it; so far I’ve done chili, soup, meatloaf and breakfast muffins. 

The tiny, frozen waterfall on the end of the garden hose.

I’ve tried cooking for the freezer years ago, but I never really got into it.  Right now it seems to work for me.  I do have to spend time in the kitchen cooking (which I hate), but I’ve been thinking of it like a part time job.  I clock in, make some food, and clock back out.  It’s a worthwhile investment of my time.  It sure beats having a real job.

So I clock in and make some homemade food for my family.

The other day I made some chicken soup and some burritos.  They’re all packaged and frozen and ready to be thawed and heated.  My new favorite freezer food, however, is sandwiches. 

Little Boy and I usually end up having sandwiches for lunch, either peanut butter and jelly or ham and cheese.  It’s not that we’re particularly fond of these sandwiches (nor are they fabulously nutritious), but they are cheap and easy, and so they win by default.  Lazy, lazy lunch.

While researching freezer foods, I ran across a website with pages devoted to making and freezing buttloads of sandwiches.  Peanut butter and jelly and ham and cheese to be exact.  There’s a trick to making the PB&J.  None of the jelly can touch the bread, so you spread both sides of bread with peanut butter, and spread the jelly in the middle, leaving a small margin of peanut butter around the edges.  With the ham and cheese, the trick is to use Miracle Whip instead of regular mayonnaise.  Who knew?

So we gathered our ingredients.  Most were from the local Piggly Wiggly, but an impromptu trip to the dollar store yielded two loaves of bread and some strawberry jelly.  I also got some freezer bags to store all my delicious sandwiches.  Lay out the ingredients, make the sandwiches, mark which kind they are on the bag, and stack in the freezer.  It took me about half an hour.

L to R: Chicken soup, chili, frozen burritos, red cabbage and potatoes (behind burritos), sandwiches (with another stack of sandwiches behind), more burritos (in door).

I made 9 PB&Js for under $4.00.  That’s less than 50 cents a sandwich!  The ham and cheese were more expensive; I made 9 sandwiches for just over $7.00, but that’s still a sandwich for under a buck.  Not bad in my little world.  The best part is, just take them out of the freezer and they’re thawed by lunchtime.

Little Boy and I have been having picnic lunches outside with the chickens.  The girls quickly figured out that we’re holding the good stuff when we come out there, so they come running when they see us.  They’ve gotten quite cheeky in their attempts to sample our lunches.  Mavis has snatched a pickle right out of Little Boy’s hand (she then immediately discovered that she doesn’t like pickles), and yesterday she jumped right into my lap!  Naughty girls.  (By the way, Mavis has started laying her brown eggs, so now we’ve got two girls “in production”)

These freezer sandwiches are not totally eco-friendly (disposable plastic freezer bags).  They’re also not the most nourishing whole food (store bought bread, cheap meat, etc).

But will they keep me from driving through at Taco Bell?  Absolutely.  Will they stop me from blowing 15 bucks on 2 days worth of saturated fat at Wendys?  You betcha.  Will they prevent me from stressing about what to make for lunch?  Of course.  They already have. 

Expenses?  Down.

Caloric intake?  Down. 

Stress?  Down dooby do down down.

I’m in love with freezer sandwiches.  Tomorrow I’m having PB&J.

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Daisy gets promoted from pet owner to farmer.

We have eggs!  After 6 months of sharing my backyard with these pesty, ravenous, feathered dinosaurs, they are finally beginning to earn their keep.  Or at least one of them is.  Betty, my Araucana with the gold and brown feathers, has matured and begun laying beautiful pale blue eggs. 

Right from the chicken's butt.

We’ve been expecting this for weeks.  We changed their feed to what the lady at the feed and seed store called “layer crumbles”, whatever that is.  It looks like plain cracked corn.  The Herban Cowboy made a nest box that we lined with wood shavings and nestled a golf ball inside for inspiration.  The girls have been “singing,” a sign that they are getting ready to lay some serious eggs.  It’s called singing, but it’s actually a kind of weird, creaky noise like, “Bra-a-a-a-a-a-a-ack.”  I’m not sure if that’s the exact spelling.  Transcribing chicken is harder than it sounds.

So last week, I went out to check on the girls and I only counted my four black hens.  While my eyes scanned the backyard for signs of Betty, my ears heard faint shuffling noises in the coop.  Wait, in the coop?  But they never go in there during the day…   Unless…

I got there just as Betty was emerging.  No egg yet.  But she had made a well in the nest box and was obviously practicing.  Good girl.  Over the next few days, Betty continued to practice, and Mavis started taking turns with her.  To tell the truth, I thought for sure Mavis would be my first girl to “ripen,” since she’s a hybrid.  But Betty beat her to it.

Despite my 4 daily trips to the coop “just to check it out,”  the Herban Cowboy was the first one to discover an egg.  We oohed and aahed over it forever.  I ended up taking the very first egg over to Aida’s, where she was packing for her move to Vermont.  She promised she would keep it forever and ever.

Betty's eggs, shown next to a white grocery store egg (R) for comparison.

Since last Saturday, Betty has laid 4 eggs.  One I found right after she laid it – the morning temps were in the low 30s, but the egg was warm in my hand.  They’re a bit smaller than the large eggs I normally buy at the Piggly Wiggly, but they’re much prettier.  We haven’t eaten any yet.  I think we’re waiting to have enough for scrambled eggs with cheese.  Another day or two should do it.

Now that the whole egg thing has started, I’m itching for the rest of my girls to start as well.  Come on ladies, mama’s hungry.

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fern has a shower

ok, let me just begin by stating that i am TIRED.  tie.  errrd.

part of that is the fact that i am hauling around about 32 extra pounds on a pair of chicken legs.  the other part is that, well, i am plumb party-pooped.

this past saturday, the honeyman and i hosted a shindig.  perhaps it’s a little tacky, but in lieu of a baby shower, we thought we’d invite a bunch of folks we really like into our home for a lively blessing party.  we called it the ‘anticipation celebration.’  and, boy, was it a success.

(on a side note, my three closest tribeswomen were in absence, though all for very good reasons.  lucky for me, it is largely due to each woman’s giving spirit that any of this was at all possible.)

folks, let me just give you a little insight about who i am and how i operate.  i will obsess over some self-inflicted concept of perfection for a ridiculous amount of time, will claim i can do it all myself, and in the crucial preparation days and hours before the actual event, will be stricken with a malady of indifference and laziness up until the day of, at which time, i begin to freak out, and attempt to do everything at once.  this event was no exception.

saturday morning, around 11:30am, i went shopping for party food.  i ambitiously planned to make all sorts of home-cooked goodies, comfort foods of all kinds, and to accommodate all of my dietarily challenged friends.  yes, i know- the shopping should have been done at least 2 days ahead of time.  yes, i know-  i could have made at least half of the menu the night before.  and trust me, that was the plan the whole time.  except i don’t do so good with plans.  i tend to rebel against them, especially those i create for myself.

i still have not discovered the root nor the remedy for this character quirk.  alls i can say is, it must work for me, because i keep on doin’ it.  and you know what?  somehow, magically, i always get just what i need to get done, just in the nick of time.

well, thanks to daisy’s foresight, and the thoughtfulness of many a good friend, not only did we have enough food for all 59 guests, we now have a fridge slap FULL of food.  never have i had so many options for what to eat.  and now, i am faced with the daunting task of… (wait for it)…  not wasting.  anything.

the day before the party, i cleaned out our fridge.  not even catholic mass could have prepared me for the guilt i felt as i tossed out bags of food.  fresh produce gone slimy.  moldy citrus.  green yogurt.  soured milk.  ick.  i have never been so ashamed.  and this was certainly not the first time.

so, now i have 6 sweet potatoes, 7 heads of garlic, 5 onions, 8 lemons, 26 apples, 3 containers of salad greens, nearly a pound of cheese, 3 containers of yogurt, several types of bread, and about 8 containers of already prepared foods to consume with my honey before anything spoils.

the challenge: use these ingredients wisely.

last night, we enjoyed a fruit, cheese, and wine spread in the late afternoon, followed by greens salads and garlicky pasta with spinach for dinner.  apples have been consumed all day.  today, we snacked on whole-grain bread and butter (getting on our winter coats!), and for dinner we’ll be enjoying indian-spiced veggies and lentils.

i have a witch of a challenge before me.  stay tuned as i cook and freeze and chop and squeeze and bake and fill our bellies with lots of homecooked goodness.  i’m kind of new to this domestic goddess gig, so i’m open to suggestions!

 

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aida confronts an addiction with literary zeal.

Five years ago, I completely downsized, put all my possessions into seven cardboard boxes and moved from Haiti to Savannah.  I’m moving again.  Where did all this stuff come from?  All of a sudden, I have a three bedroom house full of stuff.  Of course, looking at the house, one wouldn’t know it.  It is minimally furnished.  Packing again for this move to Vermont, I notice that stuff bulges out of most of the crevices and is not immediately apparent.

The first problem was the built in bookshelves.  Hi, my name is Aida and I am addicted to books.

So imagine my shock at my own capacity to box them up and take them to the Goodwill.  I haven’t taken them all (yet) but I’ve gotten rid donated over half of them.  If you want to know the dirty dirty, that’s over 100 books.  Yes, fellow book lovers, that’s nearly like spitting on your dear Nana’s grave, isn’t it?

Here’s how to do it:

1. Make sure you are well rested, fed, and watered.  If you have a small breakdown, you will know that it is because you, also, are powerless over books and you can’t blame it on anything else.

2. Set aside a window of time.  You can do this in chunks or you can just rip off the band-aid and do it all in about an hour.

3. Get a box for Goodwill (or other chosen recipient-my next hit will be a library donation) and one much, much smaller box for any friends that may enjoy a particular book.  (The maximum is one book per friend, otherwise 1.) those books will find a way back into your house and 2.) your friends don’t really want all your junk but they do want to know that you thought very specifically about them as individuals who would enjoy a very specific book.)

4. Some books will be easy.  You’ll have forgotten you bought them.  I had some books sitting on my shelf that I bought three years ago and have never even cracked the spine.  Out they go.

5. Some books will not be easy.  They will have all sorts of sentimental value.  However, if you haven’t actively used that book in the past six months, out it goes.  Fine, I’ll give you a year.  If you haven’t actively used that book (not as a doorstop, not as a table leveler, but as a book that you’ve opened and read) in the past year, it can go serve someone else.

6. Take break.  Drink some water or, if necessary, a quick shot of tequila, and go back to it.  Don’t over think this.  If for any reason, you need the information that is in a certain book ever again, you can find it, I promise you.  The internet, libraries, other people are incredible resources, too.

7. Put the boxes in your car and take them to where they need to go immediately.  The only thing worse than a shelf full of unused books is a cardboard box sitting in your living room full of unused books.

8. On your way back from the donation spot, plan a short trip to a park, a garden, a hiking trail, even just a green field somewhere.  Get out of your car and touch the earth.  You will have forgotten about all those books by the time you get back in the car.

9. Walk into your house that all of a sudden now feels lighter and freer, just like you!

P.S. If you have more time and more ambition, you can sell your books on amazon.  I was going to do this, but they are not accepting any more books this quarter (that’s three whole months!), so off to the Goodwill and Public Library they have gone.

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