Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Doing Laundry is Now Infinitely More Fun

For a couple of reasons.

Reason #1: My man put in a full-sized clothesline and now I can hang a whole load of laundry on it, and another on the original laundry tree. Add to that the fact that I no longer hand wash all my clothes, and it's almost as if the 21st century has arrived at Stoneyhaw. Almost.

Reason #2 (and this one is WAY more exciting): I got my hands on a clothespin bag! Woot!

You may remember that I was profiled on Jeannie's blog, and possibly even that the whole reason why we struck up a conversation in the first place was because she makes and sells these awesome clothespin bags that so closely resemble the one my grandmother has had for years. And, through a combination of "I MUST have one!" and my birthday, I finally got my hands on one.

And it is already getting quite the workout. And it is a champ. The wire is a heavy enough gauge that I don't feel like I have to be gentle with it at all - which is nice when you're trying to carry too many things at once over to hang out the clothes. The material is nice and sturdy (mine is lined) and if I accidentally tug on it while I'm pulling out a pin without looking, no biggie. The magnet keeps the lid open and again, is sturdy enough that I don't feel like if I knock it by accident or something the flap will shut right when I have my hands full and need a pin. Besides. It's just so darn cute. So. All in all my thoughts on this bag: AWESOME.

It just blends in so nicely.

Yes. My line DOES get sun :)

When I'm hanging up socks and little things, or when I'm hanging clothes on the section of the line that's just a wee bit too tall for me, or when I'm taking things down.... I like to hang the bag on the inside of my hamper for easy access. (Hang it on the outside and your hamper might fall over if it's skinny and tall like mine)

You should go get one. And while you're browsing the interwebs, check out her blog.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Hurricane Irene

Hurricanes and living in North Carolina go hand in hand. Hurricane Irene descended on the second birthday I have ever spent (in my memory) in this great state.

Hurricane Bonnie had the pleasure of being my not-so-honored guest on my birthday in 1998, and my family and I spent it in my Nana's condo in Myrtle Beach playing scrabble and consuming the case of retsina, bucket of feta cheese, and 5# tub of olives we had procured for our beach vacation lest they go bad. We watched as the roof shingles flew off buildings across the parking lot, and as palm trees bent and then uprooted and fell over. The crashing waves was always audible over the gusting wind, and there was a certain thrill to being there after everyone had evacuated. My Dad was in charge and calling the shots, and at 19 I was still OK with him doing so. If he said we'd be all right, we would be. And if he said we could find a Key Lime Pie for my birthday a day late, we could. (and we did).

This year Hurricane Irene threatened, and it quickly became apparent that we would most likely not be in danger's way. The spawn's sister and grandmother live out in Windsor, however, and I am very glad that they decided to come ride the storm out with us instead of staying there. They got hit REALLY hard last year in the flooding in that region, and definitely didn't want to be there in case their house was lost again.

We spent the day of the hurricane not doing too much - not unlike the weather. We had gusts of wind, and a few stray short showers, but other than that not much. In fact as much as I probably shouldn't admit it, the weather was possibly the nicest we've had in a while. Often clear with a crisp breeze and milder temperatures. The main damage we sustained was a tomato trellis falling down, and our pop-up deer blind blowing over. Other than that, not much. The manfriend and I still managed to get out for my birthday with both of us being tired being a much bigger obstacle to overcome than anything the storm threw at us.

But we were far luckier than many - many of the manfriend's friends and family back in the eastern part of the state are still without power (or have just gotten it back), and the flooding in upstate NY where I have family and friends I consider family is alarmingly extensive. It is so easy for me to forget that these things are SO BIG and beyond my scope - I wish that it didn't take a hurricane to remind me.

For now I'll do my best to maintain perspective by keeping them in my thoughts and trying to be more productive than blindly wishing there was something I could do....

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Must commemorate.

This is the tackiest thing I've done in quite some time, especially since I haven't posted in a while, but people! This Saturday is a Very. Important. Day. So listen up!

Firstly, it's my birthday. Yup. Turning 32, and feeling every bit of it these days... hehe. (send gifts!)

Secondly (and arguably more importantly), this coming Saturday is the anniversary of my leaving my beloved cabin in the woods and embarking upon this wild and crazy adventure that has led me to here. Not specifically laying on the couch in my new half-built space and blogging while waiting for my manfriend to vacate the shower so I can have a post work shower per se, but hopefully by now you know the story.

Let's review, shall we?

September saw The Great Migration, and the clearing of my 'driveway'. Also the ceremonial uncapping of the well.

I met the manfriend in October, we cleared MORE trees, got Melvin (thank you then future manfriend!), got the first shed, cleared the garden site, got a tiller, BROKE the tiller, had the well measured, had a propane tank put in, and went to the State Fair. (that's it? slackers).

November brought a bit of slowness. EXCEPT that I did go to Washington DC, met up with some dear friends of mine from CA, and we went to the Rally to Restore Sanity. There were costumes, beer, and debaucherous good times. I also shed the shackles of the CA license plates and got my NC plate, and planted some bulbs.

December was huge. December saw the advent of electricity at Stoneyhaw, and the famous phone call in which I called my mother both jumping up and down in tears, and flicking a light switch on and off. Yes. Intense. It also saw the advent of Caitlin walking around going "it's SO FUCKING COLD". A lot. (please keep in mind that said Caitlin went to college in Minnesota. Which did NOT prepare me for living in an Airstream in the woods) The ice was gorgeous, and the gentle dusting of snow.... until it turned into giant gobs of snow. Giant gobs. December also brought with it the best Christmas this girl has had for quite some time.

January! The new year! All will be well! All of it! Especially now that I have running water ice! Oh yeah. I spent the month of January basically troubleshooting water issues. Spent a LOT of time at the manfriend's, essentially driving 3 hours to shower and do laundry, too.

In February I continued my tree clearing but I did take time off to make a most awesome birthday cake.  I also got seeds in dirt (holy crap). I also had amazing family pop up and give quite the boost to this girl out here in the woods.

March was a construction sequence of getting garden beds built...

April! Oh April! While it still rained, iced, and froze my butt off, April saw so many wonderful things! Garden beds done, mower purchased, plants in the ground, my mother's arrival, and spring actually springing!

May was possibly the one month I could describe as "lush". Just enough rain to keep things growing, and boy did things take off! And we got the chickens! With the chickens came the chicken tractor, and the chicken palace. Both of which are more or less still in use today.

With June came employment, the departure of my mother, and tons and tons of wildlife. It also melted right into July and August, and we have had droughts, heatwaves, and crazy wildlife. We have lost a few chickens.

And this brings me to August. I have been woefully absent this month, and please let me defend myself by saying I have been busy. Work as been a full time commitment, and the little bit of experimenting with recipes is about the best I have been able to do. 

But here I am. I am in my almost-built living room with my manfriend, with his son 10 feet away in Melvin playing away on the wii. Redneck spawn started the second grade today, and we hope to have Mike gainfully employed soon. While I could give a list of material items I want for my birthday, I can't help but think that I pretty much have already gotten what I want. I have been antsy as hell to get them out here, and now that I have a giant weight has been lifted from my shoulders. Giant weight.

So happy birthday to me. I hope to be spending it surrounded by my man, his spawn, the spawn's sister, and their grandmother, riding out a hurricane. This is the second birthday I've spent in NC in memory, and the second birthday hurricane I'll be enjoying. Thank you my new home state!

Want to contribute to the Stoneyhaw garden or the birthday fun? These make great gifts. Is this tacky? Yes, yes it is. Is it going to stop me? No. No it's not.

Oh! And because having said manfriend and spawn move in wasn't enough change for one day, I got a new dog that day, too. Mostly to keep Zora company in her new outside dog capacity :)

But there's MAJOR CUTENESS!!

Meet Luke, the American Bulldog

Due to some complications, he spent his second night inside with us instead of outside like a 'real dog'. He chose to curl up on Mike's bag.

The Spawn and the Cuteness

He has already perfected the art of lounging. He is 12 weeks old.

Becoming fast friends while lounging.

Henrietta. The prodigal chicken.
Luke is a great little dog, although we are about to enter a world of training as he has managed to kill 2 chickens (we think the third one died of heat). This is not going to be fun. But we'll get through it, and I look forward to having him be part of the menagerie for realsies.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Feeling Sour

So I've had these cabbages growing in the garden FOREVER. They are big, showy, healthy, and never really did the whole cupping thing. Mostly they stopped growing and went into deer in headlights phase every time we had a blast of heat. So I decided that as they've been in the ground since March, and 4 months later they're still not cabbages, I would take them out.

I only had the guts to harvest 2.

But I thought I'd make sauerkraut with the two I did pull. I planted a compact (ha!) Savoy varietal, and so the leaves are a bit thicker and need a bit more cooking than your non-savoy smooth-skinned cabbages.

The center "cabbage" is about 3inches in diameter

The two I had the guts to pull
 I took off all the loose leaves, rolled them up and cut them into a chiffonade.

See the crinkly?
 I really like other additions to my kraut (inspired by this stuff), and I had some beets that have been in the ground for a while in a place I wanted to put some new fall crops, so I put them in too.

While I cut the cabbage by hand with a knife, but the beet I grated on a micro plane
I tossed the whole concoction together with salt (based on a recipe in this book - she is the official word on pickling, in my humble opinion), packed it tightly into a jar, and weighed it down with a bag of brine. You do this in case the bag breaks. If it's brine it won't dilute the concoction in the jar. I have never had a bag break, but I also figured I'd have to add some brine to the kraut after 24 hours anyway (so the cabbage stays submerged), so no big deal to go ahead and make it.

Weighed down with a ziploc full of brine
 After 24 hours it did need a bit more liquid, so I topped it off with the brine I made, and then weighed it down with an obliging jar of molasses.

24 hours later
I let it sit on the counter (not in the sun, though) for about 3 days and then it was super sour, so in the fridge it went. It has a little further to go before the cabbage is totally translucent and krauty, but we're on our way.

Friday, August 12, 2011

...and I'm Back!

So the computer issue is resolved (for now, anyway), and I am back. And mostly on track. Yippee!! One melted RAM stick swapped out, and we're good to go. Just a bit hesitant as my AppleCare is up in 2 weeks, and if something were to happen to my beloved MacBook, I'm screwed. Since I've had an Apple computer since the age of 7, I can't go PC. And since I make no money whatsoever, I can't afford a new one. Obviously the solution is to use this one forever :)

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Perspective. Again. (ouch)

This post will be a bit brief as it is being written on my iPhone. Lots of happenings, well, happening here. Most notably my computer is either on quite the strike, or is dead. When I hit the power button it beeps and the power light flashes. Really it sound like an alarm from some bank in some old 80's movie going off, but there you go. I did the obligatory google searches, found a couple of recommended solutions, tried them all a few times and obviously didn't get anywhere. I will take it to Apple tomorrow after work to see what can be done, but let's be realistic about this - I lost just about all of my pictures and several future blog posts I was working on. Not to mention all my essays I kept writing and rewriting...

But nonetheless. Big things are happening. When I DO get back online reliably, here's what has been going on that will be reported on:

-mysterious chicken death
-new washing machine (woot!)
-fall crops are (mostly) in!
-tabacco is beautiful
-manfriend and son are moving in.

Thanks for your (from this end of the Internet seemingly endless) patience, and see you soon.

Also please forgive the typos. This is not the easiest interface to manage on an iPhone (come ON blogger!!)

Wednesday, August 03, 2011


...and once again I have been reminded of perspective.

This morning I woke up, and deciding that it was going to be blazing hot earlier than usual, headed out to water the garden. (with a hose! Novel concept! No lawn mower towing of 7 gallon jugs required!)

Yeah. The water hose wasn't connected at the spigot. And I couldn't get the cheap (again proving that low cost does mean cheaper...) hose to connect back to the hydrant.

OK. No problem. I'll go get the vice grips, wrastle it on, water the garden, have coffee, shower, go to work. Easy peasy.

Yeah. No. I turned around from the hydrant to go get the vice grips, and saw that water was gushing out of the bottom of the camper - right in the middle. Great. I nonchalantly walked back up to the camper, and stuck my hand in the stream. HOT water. Great. Turn off water, turn of (new) water heater. This part at least, feels fucking familiar. As does the feeling of "ohgoodgodhowlonghasthewaterbeenrunning andthewaterheaterguzzlinggas?!?!"

I decide to go inside and have coffee before figuring out the problem and attempting to fix it.

Yeah. I'm out of coffee.

Nonchalance is still there. Weird. Moreover I notice that the nonchalance is still there, and take a calm moment to notice. Weirder.

OK. So. New plan. Where is the water coming from?

I realize that the water is coming out of under the kitchen sink. OK. I pull EVERYTHING out from under the sink - both shelves. Only to find that the waterline to the sink is disconnected. OK. Cool.

It's 8:40. I have to be at work at 11am. It's 30 minutes each way to Lowe's. Just enough time.

I get in the car, and halfway to town realize that I am in cutoffs that are so dirty (I live in the woods, people. I don't yet have a washer and dryer, people.) they are walking me, and not the other way around. My tank top has bleach stains and my feet are black with mud. Said mud is spattered all over my legs. I decide that I am too dirty even for the co-op that I work at (and get a discount at, I might add), and go to Starbucks instead (besides, it's close to Lowe's and I love the employees).

LONG story short - I get what I need from Lowe's to fix the problem (I hope), and get home. I have enough time to leisurely shower, get ready for work and go.

Yeah. I have no running water.

OK. No problem. I have a hydrant. I have a hose. Oh. That's still disconnected. Great. OK. Found the vice grips. Wrastled it on. And the other end of the hose (with a convenient shower attachment) is in the garden. A mere 200? 250? ft away. No problem. Wander out into the garden, and shower amongst the weeds, birds, and bullfrogs. Kinda nice actually. Oh. That was the water warmed in the hose. Once it clears out and I get the water straight from the tank - holy buckets it's freeeeeeezing! (yay well water!)

And off I go to work.

If you had told me a year ago that this would have been a morning that I would have, I would not have believed you. If you had told me 4 months ago that this is a morning that I would have without breaking into a severely bad mood that would spill over into my workday, I would not have believed you. If you had told me this morning that I would come home from work at 9pm and lounge around nonplussed about the whole thing until almost midnight before I fixed it without really worrying about whether I could fix it or not, I would not have believed you.

Yeah. As it is, apart from a quick AGGHHHH! txt to my beloved manfriend, I really wasn't too ruffled about the whole thing. Oddly enough the most stressful part of the whole thing was the water hose issue. Everything else just kind of happened, and I just kind of observed. To say I was confident in my ability to figure out what was going on and then fix it would be an overstatement. But I never really was very concerned that I wouldn't be able to get it fixed. It was just kind of another thing that happened that I rolled with. Which is what the last nine months out here has taught me to do. As a self-proclaimed control freak, I have learned that the only thing that I can control is how I deal with things when they are beyond my control. It is a huge lesson that I have learned, and a huge thing that I continue to wrastle to the ground now and again. Had I not been able to fix the issue, I would have gone to my aunt's house to shower, or jumped in the lake (something I'm not supposed to do), or something. Until I could get it fixed - by my hand, my manfriend's, or (god forbid!) someone else's... there's a way through and around every issue.

And now I sit in my camper with everything all connected and turned on again, and all is well. Until the next thing :)

Monday, August 01, 2011

Shrub - Personal Story

My amazing friend, former landlady, and artist, Roberta, shared this story with me. My suspicion is that the term 'shrub' really did refer to many things other than what has survived as a shrub to this day. Especially since both shrubs and raspberry lemonade were popular at the same time. Regardless, I love this story!

My grandmother used to make a thing she called shrub that is quite different from what you describe in this "Latest...".  When I was a kid growing up on the Puget Sound our neighbors had a tennis court sized patch of raspberries which fruited twice a year and our neighbor would beg to have help picking at the peek of the seasons.  When my mother's mom, Grandma Dora would come to visit she requested the ripest of berries which she combined with sugar and I'm not sure of the proportions, and let them stand at room temperature so they could "bleed" as she put it.  Then she would strain out the seeds with a gauze diaper (what she and my mother always used in place of cheese cloth) add a little water and again I'm not sure of the ratio to juice and then make lemonade with the raspberry juice as the liquid.  So actually this is raspberry lemonade, but it was absolutely fantastic and she called it shrub.

I am so tempted to try this - it will have to wait until next year, hopefully by then I will have found my great-grandfather's black raspberry canes. Also I love that Roberta's grandmother used a diaper instead of cheesecloth - much like I refuse to use cheesecloth and use flour sack towels myself.