Friday, September 30, 2011

America's Oldest Seed Company

I really don't get into political issues on here these days, but I do feel strongly about Heirloom seeds, small businesses, and historical businesses... while I don't think that all businesses should necessarily stay around because of their age, I feel that this one should. Not only are they one of the nation's oldest companies, but preservation of heirloom seeds and heirloom seed purveyors is important - now more than ever. I highly encourage you to at least take a look at their company, and order a catalog if you can swing it.

If you're not sure of the definition of an heirloom variety, check this out. And this for why.

From Landreth Seed Company:

To All of Our Customers & Friends

All of you know the story of Landreth and most of you know me, Barb Melera. My husband, Peter, and I have been working to restore this historic American company for the past 8 years.

... We set about to restore this Company because it is the most historically important American small business in existence. It is the only American company, still operating daily, that existed when this country became a nation. Its founders were honorable men who helped establish and guide the agricultural and horticultural industries of this country in the 1700s, the 1800s and the 1900s. Landreth exemplifies American business and the ethics and integrity that built this nation.

On Wednesday, August 31, 2011, the Company’s accounts were frozen by a garnishment order. If this garnishment order is not satisfied within the next 30 days, Landreth will cease to exist and a part of America’s history will be lost forever. I need to sell 1 million 2012 catalogs to satisfy this garnishment and the cascade of other indebtedness which this order has now initiated.

If you want to help save this piece of America, if you love gardening and heirloom seeds, if you care about righting the injustices of a legal system badly in need of repair, then please help Landreth. Please purchase a Landreth catalog, and if you can afford it, purchase several for your friends. Please send this link to everyone you know, One million catalogs is a big number, but with the internet it is achievable. Please help us to save Landreth.

See more at -


Could A Beautiful $5 Catalogue Save America's Oldest Seed Company? - Jesse Kornbluth

Thursday, September 29, 2011


I have written about my darling grandmother here before. She who used to tell me stories about flowers and flower fairies, and who used to take me on walks in the country... she can tell which bird is singing by their song, and spends more on bird feed than people feed at her house (this is not a confirmed fact, but I'm pretty sure it's true).

She also writes poetry. Or verse, rather. If you feel inclined to make the distinction.

After reading my 'Second Spring' post, she sent me this verse she wrote back in the Fall of 1961. I think it captures the feeling of Autumn perfectly, and I am so very happy that she sent it to me. I love it. And I'm the girl no one really could ever get to read poetry. (I love you Grammy!)

Summer is stolen!
I hear the cry
Of blue jays screaming against the sky.
"Thief! Thief! Thief! Thief!"
Summer is stolen and each green leaf
Has been slashed with scarlet
And drips with gold.
Summer is stolen!
The tale is told.
Summer is stolen,
The birds take flight
To follow the chase in the autumn night.
And now the thief has
What he's after--
Summer's green and summer's laughter.

- Marilyn Fais
Autumn, 1961

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Second Spring

In many parts of the country, this one included, fall is falling. Slowly but surely there's a crispness to the air that you can't *quite* put your finger on (but you are pretty sure it wasn't there a minute ago), apples look tastier than you remember, and inexplicably you start craving soup. The word 'squash' no longer describes the yellow and green varieties that make you lock your car doors and dodge your neighbors.

And I while I know that there may be a day or two of 90 or so degree heat on the horizon before winter settles in, summer's back has been broken.

But my favorite part of this time of year in this part of the country, is that it's a kind of second spring. Plants that went dormant during the hottest part of the summer are peeping their heads back out as if to try to see if it's safe to come out and play. As it has been raining for the past several days with high 70's intersperse throughout them, little seedlings are popping up everywhere and ca be seen frighting their way out from under the dry brown dead grass and foliage that has now been turned into a kind of mulch for them.

Horses in my neighbor's field, my dogs, the neighbor's cows - you can tell everyone is happy to see the return of milder weather in the way they have started running and frolicking again. And my long lost artichoke plants, victims to the crazy drought we had this year, have decided to come alive again. And so have I. Stay tuned.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Helpful Advice

I used to read this one blog quite often - from the comfort of my office chair in Oakland at my last job. Before the long span of unemployment, my trip across the country, and my current North Carolina adventure. Before I had my manfriend, the spawn and before chickens, dogs, weather and mud regulated my routine. Back when interior design & decorating coupled with food trends and eco-chic seemed more appropriate to my life and not the drivel I mostly find it to be now. (I can go on about this at length, should you feel the need to snarkily comment on it)

But. I was recently perusing one of  their sites, and I came across a piece of advice that struck a chord with me: "Spend time with others in your home, just enjoying your home as it is right now." (click here for original post)

You see, I have been having a really tough time here lately finding a balance. Juggling an ever-changing job schedule, having a 7 year old to help out with, having my man here, gardening, cooking, blogging, dogs, chickens.... it's just been on the verge of too much for me to handle these past few weeks. And a lot of the added stress I seem to be having is related to the fact that winter is nigh, and the following thoughts keep weighing on me:
  • I really don't feel like we're ready for winter logistically - the chickens need to be winterized, doghouse(s) need to be built, the washing machine needs to be winterized, the camper needs to be winterized, we still don't have a door/insulation/heating source in the new living space...
  • my garden isn't where it needs to be - my chickens finally found it and rooted up most of the brassicas & seedlings for our winter greens, and took dustbaths in the pepper plants that were on their last push of productivity. The herbs haven't been harvested, I still have plants that need to go in the ground so they have time to get established before frost hits, I need to decide whether or not to try to overwinter the Dahlias (probably not), and good golly so much needs to be mulched.
  • next year's garden isn't ready for winter either - as in, I need to break ground out in the meadow and get it composted or else we will only have the beds again next year...
  • and I'm really just not as far along as I would like to be - ('nuff said)
But really what this is amounting to is me looking around the place with someone else's (overly) critical eye, and not my own. I have been looking at what I haven't accomplished and what I don't have more and more and that is just sad. I HAVE gotten a lot done in the year since I've been out here (coming up on my 1 year Stoneyhaw Anniversary!!), and I need to remember that. Because I am proud of what we've got out here ... you may see a ramshackle group of odd structures, chickens everywhere, lumber strewn about, and having to put your shoes on to pee, but to me it's home, and a home I have built myself (although not at all alone. My parents, manfriend, extended family, and friends have all pitched in above and beyond over the last year). And I see a future self-sustained food source, never having a mortgage, and living in and with the fruits of my labor. I see a place to grow as a family (ummm...not in terms of number, thankyouverymuch), and to continue to grow as a person.


Saturday, September 10, 2011

Growing Things

"My Life Sans All the Whoosh". There went that plan. Prepare for the whoosh -

When I moved out here, I wanted to do nothing more than to build a spot in the world that was mine, and cultivate the food and a few other things that I would need to live my life to the fullest. After my last job sending me to the hospital and relying on my best friend to do EVERYTHING for me (and that move! ack! Payshee!), I never ever wanted to be in that situation again.

I knew that "growing my own food" (as that was the extent of what my brain could fathom) was not going to be easy, or immediate. And also keep in mind that in the two years between declaring to myself that this North Carolina adventure was something I wanted to do and actually doing it I had become extremely impatient (a trait new to me). And I honestly thought I'd come out here, dig around in the muckety-muck, wait for my then manfriend to be able to come out here, and eventually (eventually!) have a family.

Plans, as you know, have a way of manipulating you and them and twisting your life into unexpected shapes and paths.... and my 'simple' plan was no different. I tried to resist it changing on me, but alas - I was powerless to do so. I met the Manfriend and the Spawn in my first week here, under completely strange circumstances. I like to remind him (when I'm feeling particularly like making him squirmy) that for all intents and purposes, we should NEVER have met. And that insane obstacle aside, we should NEVER have seen each other again, and we should NEVER have worked out. And we did, we did, and we are.

My garden tried to thwart me (OK, I had a hand in this as watering got a bit behind during the drought what with having to haul it and my starting work). But I haven't let it win the battle yet, and have currently launched an offensive play consisting of planting a fall garden despite the fact the the whole kit and caboodle will be moved to one of the meadows next year (or at least that's the plan).

We had planned to have chickens next year, and ended up getting 16 chicks, which have grown into 11 beautiful chickens.

I may still be buying my produce from many places - something I didn't want to be doing as much as I am by now, and the goat barn is further in the future than I would have liked - again with the plan!, but I have my family of animals and boys and couldn't be happier to have had that original plan change. I seem to be growing more than 'my own food' these days, and I couldn't be happier. I have my beloved Zora, Luke! (as his name really is - the exclamation point is always attached, either in joy or in dismay), my garden and plants (here there and everywhere!), and my beloved Beloved and his Spawn. All of which seem to be thriving despite various plans' best efforts to thwart, and which in turn nourish me to grow.

End of whoosh. For now. Until I get all whooshie again.

Luke! and the Spawn


Monday, September 05, 2011

Chicken Update - A Secondhand Account

So... The Henrietta story continues... she is such a sweet chicken, but the story of her laying her second egg is comparable to that of the first...

And this is how it was related to me (as I was at work).

The spawn was in the 'living room' playing video games, and Henrietta hopped up in there (we don't have a door on it to the outside, if you remember...) and hopped back up on the couch. When the manfriend saw this and realized she was settling in to lay, he scooped her up and took her back down to the coop where the spawn and I had set up some nesting 'boxes' for the ladies.

No go. She wasn't having any of that, apparently. She flew up and tried to fly out of the coop, managing to get herself between the plywood door and the screen door that zippers down in front of it (our chicken palace is really a reinforced gazebo tent thing, you see). Mike, upon seeing his favorite hen ensnared so, freed her. She took the opportunity to waddle up the hill (I believe at full speed), back to said couch, and when he arrived he found the Spawn sitting on the arm of the love seat with Henrietta in it having laid an egg, and helping herself to the Spawn's leftovers of scrambled egg and milk.

To hear Mike tell it, there was much squawking and flapping of wings involved. Again. Which I don't doubt a bit.

Yes. We have a very determined, very spoiled chicken it seems.

And so begins the attempts at training the ladies to lay in the coop. I hope (hope hope!) the other ladies haven't started laying yet - I have yet to find evidence of it, nor have I smelled rotten eggs anywhere (and in the heat of the past few weeks, we would have). We've got golf balls in the 'nesting boxes' in a (vain?) attempt to lure them to use them. We're also keeping them all in the coop for the next few days to eliminate other options and to try to get them to lay IN the coop.

Looks like I'm gonna have to  actually put together something more comfy and invest in some wooden (or ceramic) eggs....

The Spawn is convinced that she keeps laying on the couch because chickens can read. Yes. His theory is that they can read both the label on the 'nesting boxes' that reads "Oil Drain Pan", and the label on the 'eggs' that reads "Wilson". Starting to think he may be on to something here...

Henrietta. BEFORE I had to start watching were I sit
UPDATE: I was corrected by the manfriend after telling this story - it seems that Henrietta was sitting on the remote and continuously turned the TV off and on throughout. As the TV doesn't always turn on for us, this is even more momentous.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Chicken Update - Eep!

In the loooong span of time since I last spoke of the chickens, not too much has happened. We are down to 11 (from the original 16), due to a variety of factors. We lost the last two to our new puppy, and at least that is an easily preventable thing. We have him on a run while they're out during the day, and at night he roams around and annoys the hell out of Zora. He doesn't seem to mind too terribly much (after the first few days of caterwauling... oh yes. Dogs are capable of it...), and we love his little wiggly self.

But I digress.

Today was one of those days that started off normally for me, and by normal I mean it was quite out of the ordinary.

I decided that I needed to go to the store before work, and so thought that getting dressed might be a good idea. I went into the new living room we have (door pending. Remember this fact for later) to get dressed.

And I found this:

Yup. That's the prodigal hen, Henrietta, nestled in as comfy as you please on our love seat with the dirty work clothes (mine), and Xbox controller (his).

Now just to be clear - we do NOT keep the chickens in the house. They have their own palace, and I really don't need chicken poop inside. Nor will I ever purchase these. (never ever ever) She let herself in through the semi-covered tarp door we've got hanging up, and made herself right at home.

I took her picture, and texted it to the manfriend (and some other people) with a snarky text somewhere along the lines of "this is what happens when you spoil a chicken!". When I went to move her and run her off back outside, I realized her eyes were starting to close and she was breathing funny. And her tail bobbed a few times. It hit me that she was laying an effing egg on my couch and so, like any good blogger, I recorded it:

You can hear my gasp of recognition, and if you look reeeeeaaallly closely you can see the egg plop out. Kinda cool.

She did not know what to think of the whole thing, and stood there dazed for a good 1 or 2 minutes:

What just happened?
After standing there like a chicken in headlights, she started to squawk:

At which point I picked her up, petted her for a little bit (she is the prodigal hen, after all), and took her back outside. I took the egg and put it in the fridge. Then I called my grandmother and my mother (both MASTERS at oohing, aahing, and expressing copious amounts of general excitement, and only requiring a phone call to do so), and went to work.

I am so proud of my chicken! I can't wait for the other ladies to follow suit, or at least for when I can get them to lay in the coop if they have indeed started already, and I am so so so very happy that nature is taking it's natural course. We try to interfere with them as little as possible (as I say that, the thoughts of the manfriend putting the two week old chick on zora's head, toting around Big Bunny, etc, comes to mind...but no matter...), yet I still am relieved to see them doing the whole chicken thing.

The spawn and I will spend today trying to get them some nesting accommodations that they might be persuaded to use that's not my furniture - wish us luck!