Friday, April 29, 2011

Our Nearest Neighbor

Thursday before last  I hastily tidied up around the outside of the camper, knowing that I’d be gone for 3 days and when I came back, my mother would be with me. In doing so, I took some camping chairs that we had out around the fire pit, folded them up, and propped them up at the front of the camper (where the propane tanks go on an Airstream).
That following Monday (possibly Sunday? Oh goodness the days in the sun are making them all blend together!), my mother and I were standing around by there planning and whatnot, when she thought she saw something brown flit by. I swore I could hear some sort of high pitched cheeping, so I tentatively looked over by the chair. I didn’t see anything, but I saw some twigs and when I looked closer, something brown, flying, and not exactly happy went whooshing by my face. Peering in we saw a perfect nest and 5 white rust-mottled eggs in it.
Our sweet (noisy) Carolina Wren has been back since, and we watched her this morning flitting around eating worms, giving us the inquisitive eye, and hopping back into her nest. Hopefully she’ll stay long enough for her chicks to hatch and my driving the mower right by her nest several times an afternoon won’t piss her off too much!
Unassuming stack of camping chairs...

They're reeeeeally tucked way down in there.
 *Update - despite Zora sticking her nose in the nest almost hourly, the wren is still in residence. Although I do believe she has taken to yelling at us from a nearby branch. No babies yet, although they have a 10-14 day incubation period (according to Wikipedia) and so they should be due any day now...

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

My Mom is Here!!

Which means that we are getting oh so very many things done. I, in usual me fashion, have tackled 4 or 5 projects that I wouldn’t get done otherwise simultaneously and so haven’t finished one yet. Or at least not enough to report on. So. LOTS going on, but not much to show for it (yet).
But some of the stuff we’ve been up to has had to do with the changing of the seasons - the dogwoods were just peaking when my mother got here Saturday night, and so we went around both future house sites and marked them off so they don’t get chainsawed. You’d think that the distinctive shape of the tree would give it away when it’s NOT in bloom, but our poor property has been neglected for 50 years (at least!) and the trees are waaay too close together. And they’ve turned…leggy. I have dogwoods that are a good 20 or 30 ft tall, and only about 4” in diameter, with no branches until the very top. And while they always have an upturned shape, so do all my other similar looking hardwoods. It WAS a nice excuse to walk around the property and check in on things – and talk about what we’re going to do (MUST DO for this year: clear an access path for the pond).
We also walked back to the camper along the edge of the lake – they’re doing work on the dam and have lowered the water level a fair amount, so there’s actually a beach to walk on. You’re not really allowed to (as it belongs to the city and the lake is a reservoir with no direct access from any of the lakefront properties and no swimming…), but we did anyway. We have water oaks and a weird azalea and may apples galore – very cool. I realized that the few times I visited this property as a child it was so overgrown we never got in past the gate, and I don’t remember ever walking around on it. When we came out to assess whether or not I would move here, it was in February and this is the first time I’ve been out on the lake in spring!
And I put away the grow lights today, and reclaimed the picnic table the seedlings were started on for under the awning of the camper. So now I can sit outside and stare at the trees while I type away on my laptop instead of the inside walls of crowded Melvin. Meanwhile my mother is attacking the blueberries and getting all the dead undergrowth out from under our (leggy) blueberry patch that my great-grandfather started. Very exciting! 
Doesn't it just LOOK like the weather's warming up?

Doesn't it, though?


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Playing Chicken

It is not a secret that I am antsy to get chickens out here. Why? Because in an attempt to grow/produce mostly my own food, chickens are a no-brainer (ha!). Eggs, meat, pest control, compost production, (veggie) scrap disposal, you get the idea.

Many people like to raise chickens as pets... I find them to be not exactly my definition of loveable in that sense, and have no problem whatsoever harvesting them for meat. And I think that this is absolutely healthy. There are too many people too disconnected from their food - I feel better if I know where my food came from, and a pampered chicken is a tasty chicken. IMHO. And as much as that will piss some people off...

Unfortunately I have to postpone my poultry acquisition until next year.

This does give me a lot of time to ponder the various aspects of this adventure - what kinds of chickens I want and I what I want out of them. Other than meat and eggs, I want a breeding flock so I'm not buying a shipment of chicks every year (don't get me started on why. I will go on and on. Although feel free to email me if you really want to know my thoughts on the subject. I will have a coop and an enclosed pen - large enough for them to roam and forage and sun bathe and dust bathe and those fun sorts of chicken activities, but enclosed as my dog loves to chase chickens and it will take a while to break her of this habit. Also I am not sure exactly what sort of predators I have roaming around and the thought of losing a whole flock due to avoidable ignorance is a very sad one to me.

So far I am contemplating the Plymouth Rock or the Dominique and the Ameraucana.  Let's face it, the blue and green eggs that Ameraucanas lay are cool. And Ameraucanas keep up better egg production numbers after the age of 2 than many other breeds. I like the idea of the Dominique better than the Plymouth Rock as it's a heritage breed and it's still making a comeback in terms of numbers, but the Plymouth Rock is such an American classic. Rocks keep their production up throughout the winter, but Dominiques make better mothers... Hmm. Quite a welcome conundrum!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Cool Happenings in SF

I sometimes hear about things that make me miss the Bay Area oodles. Oodles and Oodles to be exact. The last place I lived in San Francisco was 18th and Fulton - meaning I could walk to various attractions in Golden Gate Park. And the Conservatory of Flowers was one of my favorites. Their main exhibit is awesome, and they pften do fun special exhibits. This one looks like the funnest. There are herbs and herbal wonders, and then there are these bad boys. Seriously cool. I wish I could get back to go!

Saturday, April 16, 2011


Spring is exploding. Literally. It's everywhere. The fantastical North Carolina week long spring before the oppressive humidity and heat sets in is here! Yay!

Back to the garden staring out into the void - the guard dog. Or facing off with Miss Lilac. I'm not sure...
Dogwood on the way into the garden
Deer skull with antlers attached
View from the damn/pond to the lake. Love the dogwood tucked down in there.
Dogwoods everywhere!
Blueberries that haven/t been pruned in 40 or so years... this stand is about 8 ft tall.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Weird Food

I came across this post* today, and was reminded of weird food I used to eat in boarding school in Japan.

Now I have to interject - before I really get started even - to say that there's weird food and then there's weird food. I am not talking about food that is innately weird to you but wouldn't be to a Japanese person (Tamago Gohan, for example. Yum. One of my all time favorite breakfasts and yet another reason why I want chickens!). I am talking about bona fide weird-ass foods. Got it? Good.

Our boarding school had a strict 3 meal a day sit down thing going on - and the dreaded stint of kitchen duty always seemed to come around waay more often than necessary. However. On Sundays lunch was not a sit down affair, but a show up for roll call and take it away bread lunch.

OK. Another goddamn interjection. Bread, or "pan" (I always thought it was derived from french, but Wikipedia disagrees with me) in Japanese, encompasses all things bread in Japan. From sliced bread (that's about 1 inch thick and resembles what we make Texas Toast out of here) to savory breads stuffed with curries and stews, sweet breads stuffed with sweet bean paste, pastry cream or chocolate - steamed breads, fried breads, baked breads.... suffice it to say there are a lot. Basically think of a food, slap the suffix '-pan' on the end, and some bakery somewhere in Japan is selling it.

So. For this relaxed Sunday lunch we usually got a sweet bread and a savory bread. On really lax days for the savory option they gave us a slice of bread (aforementioned monster minimally 1-inch thick white bread that's perfectly *perfectly* square...) and a little plastic container of sweet peanut butter spread crap. Blech. Thankfully the cafeteria was decked out with 4 toaster ovens (about 250 girls lived in my dorm...), and a few of my friends and I improvised. We came up with the Best. Thing. Ever. (or at least the best thing since sliced bread. ha!)

First you take a slice of monster white bread. Then, being very careful not to smoosh the fluffy that is the actual white part of the bread, you squirt on a healthy dose of Japanese Mayo. Only Kewpie brand will do, really. Yes. They sell it here in the US. (and check out the history of the company - they've been making it since 1925!) Worth every penny. Admire the fantastical star tip they inexplicably put on the squeeze bottle of mayo and the pretty designs it has created, and then using the side of the plastic knife that came with your individually packaged slice of monster bread, spread. Gingerly people! Do NOT ruin the integrity of the floofy.

OK. That done, mix up a package of Natto (I like Okame brand the best. This can also be found in Japanese and Asian markets here in the US. Be sure to use all of the included sauce and Chinese mustard. What? You don't like Natto?!?! We can not be friends. What's NOT to like in a small styrofoam box of fermented soy beans that smells like a cross between foot and foot fungus?!). Spread Natto on top of Mayo. Need I remind you to mind the integrity of the softness? No? Good.

Next. Put a fair amount of shredded (crappy) dry mozzarella (as processed as possible to get that authentic high-school-my-arteries-are-made-of-steel-devil-may-care-or-not-attitude feel) over the whole thing. I'm not sure why we always had crappy shredded cheese, but we did. This tasty concoction was thought up using stuff we always had on hand, so we must have.

Transfer the whole thing to the toaster. This process will definitely include a minor panic attack induced by the weight of the toppings making the middle of the bread sag and looking like the whole thing will fall, but you must push through. Toast on the rack (not the tray. Unless you like soggy bottoms) until the top is brown and bubbly.

Attempt to eat said creation, burn the shit out of the roof of your mouth, swear profusely, and continue eating. Seriously. It's the Best. Thing. Ever. (And I haven't thought about it in years!)

UPDATE: not 5 minutes after I originally posted this, I got 2 emails slamming me for not posting a picture. Please forgive me (sarcastic tone). I just can't recreate it authentically in a timely manner. You're just going to have use your fantastic(ally unused) imagination on this one. Snarky? Not me. No. Never!

*and I can't wait to try frying my grilled cheese in mayo. Both grilled cheese and mayonnaise are sacred items in my house, so it only seems natural that the two should be married, IMHO.

A Word About Me. And Water Heaters

A thought struck me the other day.  When I first moved into my beloved cabin in Point Arena eight years ago (EIGHT!), my water heater also had issues*. At first it seemed to work OK, but after a while it became apparent that it didn’t work right. After a little longer while I realized that if I hit the reset button approximately 2 to 3 hours before I wanted to shower I could bathe and do the dishes on the one tank. Really this just meant that I could take long luxurious showers because both my roommate and I hated doing dishes. After a while we got a new water heater and life kind of made me forget about the whole thing.
And here I am in a new abode, and I am having water heater issues. For a while it worked fine (or seemed to), but now it seems that it has been leaking this whole time and I have to go light it more often than not before I can shower or do dishes. I am interested to see who this will end. And what my life will have to throw at me to get me to forget it!
All naked an unassuming. The water heater, that is.
 *my former landlady was and is wonderful. She was just out of reach for a while after I first moved in, and it didn’t get fixed for a while because of that.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Oh Melvin!

Evidently restoring vintage airstream (1940’s and 1950’s) is a rising trend. One website likened it to people restoring old 60’s and 70’s mustangs in their garages. There are a slew of companies out there that carry authentic airstream parts, furnaces, upholstery, whathaveyou. And people who are into restoring them (not unlike those that restore old cars) are seemingly obsessed with it and very much into restoring their campers back to their former glory down to the tiniest of details.
That’s just fantastic. If they want to do that, go for it. What I want to know is what about those of us that seem to be renovating their camper out of necessity? My poor Melvin has gone a long time without a major overhaul (ok the furnace is blown out so the previous owner put in a propane heater, and some of the wiring has been redone. That’s about it, though). And like any abode he needs one.
As you know, I’ve spliced the electrical cable that supplies me with power so it works again. The manfriend has replaced the kitchen faucet that finally gave out. I’ve replaced a few bulbs and whatnot here and there.
And then there’s the water heater and the general bathroom floor issues.
And also as you know, my battle with the water heater has been an ongoing one. The manfriend has tweaked it, I have replaced the pressure relief valve, and the seal around the hatch thingy has been replaced (the wind kept whipping through and blowing out the pilot light).
I got home this past Monday to a good 2 inches of water on the floor in the bathroom. Like any good blogger, I promptly went outside to call my mom in a fit instead of taking any pictures. I went with my levelheaded manfriend’s advice (thankfully someone has a level head more often than not. I used to, but I don’t know what happened...) and drilled holes in the floor to let it drain out. The good news is the metal plates under the bathroom of the camper (the whole thing is literally a sealed pod, remember) are rusted out at the seams and the water could actually drain out onto the ground. Oh yeah. Melvin’s had some leaking issues for a while it seems.
So I got the carpet pulled up, the holes drilled, and the water drained out. But the thing is the damn thing wouldn’t get dry. And I couldn’t find where exactly the leak was. All the water lines converge behind and to the right of the toilet – right above the water heater. So I took out the toilet. The toilet was sinking into the rotted floor wood on one side anyway, causing it to leak, and would have needed to come out anyway. The majority of the water seemed to be pooling up around the water heater – which is uphill (the bathroom sags, you see…) from the toilet and therefore kind of weird – and as I can’t find a working shutoff to the heater I came to the conclusion that I would have to turn off the water. Again.
I am hoping against hope that it’s just a connection to or from the heater that the seal busted on and not something internal necessitating a replacement of the whole thing. The floor in the bathroom already needs to be replaced – I literally hadn’t fallen through the floor as the toilet was resting on the holding tank where the wood had rotted away – and I don’t really relish the idea of having to shell out more cash for a heater. On the other hand, since I am evidently incapable of getting a job here, I will most likely be living in Melvin longer than anyone thought and I personally like having running water. And on days that I feel particularly bratty, hot running water.
So fingers crossed, people. The manfriend is coming out at some point this weekend to suss it out. And hopefully get at least my cold water running again.
And all of this just in time for my mom coming back!! She will be here for a few weeks to help out and will be arriving on April 16th. Woot! I hope that she will get to experience Melvin with running water – she never has!
Yeah. Hence the removal.

Friday, April 08, 2011


What did I say about planning? And being ‘finished’? Oh. Yeah. You never are.
My farm journal (or so I optimistically call it) – is excruciatingly organized. I have a section of bed plans, a section that lists the number of each type of plant I plan on planting, a calendar with when each plant should be planted (which I am trying SO HARD to follow at least the weekly stuff) and a page per plant for plant info, and notes. And I do take notes. When I planted it, when it germinated, when I transplanted it, random info, etc…). I was feeling like it was extreme overkill, and then I realized today while rifling through it that in reorganizing the beds, at some point (and I cut them with scissors and taped them back together 3 or 4 times) one of them got lost and a whole bunch of stuff got missed and is not in the final* bed plans. I had kind of thought this to be the case, but since the actual sizes of each bed has also changed several times it was hard to say without me sitting and counting the squares. OK. Which if I was actually going to be organized to the point of overkill I probably should have done.
But now I am happy to have noticed before I got my water system figured out. The beds won’t be as well laid out as they should be, but thankfully since I live in the south, if the pole beans (they got left out!! Ack!!) are on the south side of the beets and shade them it’s actually not the worst thing in world. Some do it on purpose to keep them from getting overheated anyway.
And it means I get to spend a lazy cool morning shuffling paper and dreaming and scheming instead of digging holes. Yay!
*I must stop using this word
Dragging things behind the mower on my slapped together sled inspired by the manfriend and made by me. Total cost: $0

Somehow these will be incorporated into the water system. Because I really wanted to drag something else.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Please meet: Banango Bateson!

This is a tree*:
Shhhhh.... he's sleeping....
A newly planted dormant pawpaw tree to be exact. I'm planting the pawpaw for a variety of reasons: it's shade for the future chickens, it's indigenous, it's easy to maintain (assuming he survives the transplant process), it's a tasty fruit...

And the paw paw goes by many names - and I thought Banango was the funniest. And goes well with Bateson. Let's all make him feel welcome, shall we?

*click to enlarge image

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Finished (ish)

All netted and ready to go. Waiting...
OK. So you might never actually be finished when it comes to gardens, farms, food... But you kind of have to draw the line somewhere, right?

This has been such a massive undertaking that I have been forced to be way more organized than I would be otherwise, and more organized than I might ever be again. But no matter.

Being organized is more multi-faceted than one would think, and I have actually spent countless hours arranging, re-arranging and re-re-arranging stuff. And I'm just talking about the stuff that I'm planting. I'm NOT including everything else I've got going on (like trying to find a job, keep Melvin happy, keep Zora happy, etc). And when you think of being organized this is probably what comes to your mind first and foremost. Planning on things that are going to happen in the future. Fair enough.

But what is proving to be tough for me (and I partly blame this on the crazy weather we're having this spring), is sticking to said plan. And yes - having a fluid plan you can adjust and tweak as you go is important. And possibly one of the reasons why I will have whatever modicum of success I end up having. But sticking to the general overall plan takes patience. And patience, after years of general planning and months of intense planning, is not my strong suit.

But. I spent hours sorting out what to plant where and when, and by golly I'm gonna stick to my now many times revised plan. Which really just means that I am itching to get the warm weather crops in the ground, and am forcing myself to wait until after the frost free date. On days when it's in the 80's it is SO hard. But then on those nights that it drops back down into the 20's after said warm spell, I'm glad I waited.

So now I'm done. Done with the organizing and planning (well - except for a water system, but thankfully that is a team effort with the man. Nudge nudge wink wink, manfriend.), and now I just have to wait. 10. More. Days.

Future home of the Stoneyhaw tomatoes
Zora still doesn't exactly approve of the new mower. Could be because chasing her with it is my new fun game....

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Week 2

I've been taking weekly pictures of every bed and every major thing that I've planted outside, and will continue to do so. And I'd like to post some of those pictures now and again so that you can track the progress of the stuff I'm growing (read: haven't killed). Not much has changed since last week, but here's a few:

Miss Lilac
Celeriac. It's there. I promise. It's just really mad at me for starting it indoors.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Machines are dangerous things

I probably shouldn't tell you this, but I bought a mower. (And thanks again to my good friends for the final push that made that possible) And I am dangerous with it, apparently. I didn't hurt anyone or anything other than my knee (which a week later is still an angry greenish-blackish thing) and the tailgate of the manfriend's truck (which is in very bad shape indeed), but I am evidently a very blond force to be reckoned with at times.

Please do always check to make sure you're not in gear before releasing the clutch/brake when facing downhill and directly at said manfriend's truck. Or anyone's truck for that matter.

Isn't it pretty?

Zora doesn't think so.