Back Forty, butterbeans, coffee pot posts, Market report, Slow Food, voluntary simplicity

Saturday midday coffee pot post

Normally I don’t drink coffee past noon, because of my sleep issues. Today I am breaking that rule. I’ve got a spurt of energy going for me today and I don’t want to lose it!

The tree removal has been moved to Monday. He started on Thursday, and stopped after taking down one big lower limb and the bottom of the sky fell out. I mean flash flood warning heavy rain. I watched from the back door and the white clouded sky behind the limb was like a flash of light as it fell to the ground. I can already tell that these two guys are gonna be good at this, which is a very tricky job. A double trunk, about 80-100 feet tall as I estimate, covered high up in wild grapevine attached to other trees, and way too close to two houses. It’s not a good idea to climb trees with a chainsaw when everything is wet and slippery.

One secondary benefit, because we did not have this in mind when we decided to take down the tree, is that we have a perfect roof for solar panels. The quote we got from NC Solar Now impressed us. We will have to tie in to the power grid through Duke Energy’s meter and pay a meter charge, but in the optimistic view that big storage batteries might get cheaper and we will still have a reliable operating national power grid, it will be a few years before we can think about going off-grid. It’s probably a good idea to try this first anyway. They think that because our power usage is pretty low, twelve panels could cover most or all of our electric needs.

This is one way I can help make the world a little better, and it makes me feel better too. Although I strongly feel that it is too late for us to turn around the tidal wave of climate change – of course it is already here – I believe that we need to do what we can to adapt to the new reality.

It is a good day today. It’s not raining at the moment, which I’m grateful for, and even though I had an awful recurring dream in which I have somehow married an old boyfriend who stalked me for years and I am bewildered and horrified as to how I got into such a predicament, such dreams do make me grateful for the opportunities I have had in my life and the choices I’ve been able to make. I often wonder how things might have worked out if I had made different decisions at key times in my life. So many times I didn’t know it would be a major fork in the road. For example, what if I had chosen UNC Chapel Hill instead of UNC Greensboro? My life now would be entirely different. What if I had not dated another old boyfriend here in Greensboro? I would not have met Sandy, my husband. What if I had not gone to Oregon to take a tapestry workshop with Pam Patrie? I would not have the wonderful friends and connections in the tapestry world that I have now.

Then sometimes I think that what I thought were important decisions really weren’t. For instance, I don’t think that my degree in Studio Art is worth all that much, although that is where I first learned to weave and do woodcuts. I’ve learned much more going out into the world beyond Greensboro and taking classes.

What if I had decided to head out west or emigrate to another country? Who knows how completely different, for better or worse, my life would be?

It’s too late to emigrate to Ireland. I’ve had to accept that. You have to have an income of $55,000 individually or $110,000 as a couple combined. We will never make that much money. Canada doesn’t want retirees at all. There’s not even that option to check on the application. I don’t want to move south. We’ll check out Portugal next year, but I’m realizing that nothing is a given in this world – we can’t know that any place in it will be better than here by the time we are ready to go.

These days, I am looking at aging in place. I still hope to move west to Washington or Oregon, but that will be a while. I am not willing to give up a good job that is secure for now before I get to age 62, and I might have to wait until 67.

In the meantime, our house value is going up, up, up. The house next door sold immediately for an insane amount of money. The new neighbors are currently in Bangkok, where one is teaching at American University. They plan to move in in November, and have arranged for Armando, a young man who worked for them for several years, to take care of the yard. I might employ Armando myself. He thinks very highly of our new neighbors. It all seems good.

Today, it is still humid and the mosquitoes unfortunately did not drown in the deluge. The temperature is still below 90 so we have the doors open and the fans on. I have been to the Greensboro Farmer’s Curb Market and bought peaches, corn, eggplant, yellow squash, potatoes, and sweet peppers. We have lots of cherry tomatoes and some Roma and Better Boy tomatoes ripening in the back, although the groundhogs have eaten a few that are not protected by wire cages. They don’t bother the ground cherries or herbs, so I have those. The candy roaster squashes are taking over the back – if they bear fruit and the groundhogs don’t eat them, they will be huge and a nice source of food for this winter. Not all the butterbean plants were eaten and a few that were damaged are playing catch up. I’ll have a few but probably never enough for two servings or freezing. The few I’ve shelled have gone into soup.

I’m about to slice and dice and fire up the dehydrator, maybe blanch a few veggies for the freezer.

I’m toughening up. I’m thickening my skin. I’m getting ready. I’m also being kind to myself when I need downtime.

Halfway through Bella Poldark, the last of the book series. I will be sad to see it end. Then I will catch up on the TV series. I canceled Sling when the price went up this month, which included HBO. I will miss AMC but I’ll figure that out. That, along with the 2% raise I’m getting, will pay for the solar panels.

Only one photo this time – my new steampunk loom, Rosie, which I need to warp up once I catch up on my Fringeless online class.

I shall name her Rosie.
Back Forty, butterbeans

Back Forty (and Front Forty) Update



I think that I may be done with gardening for the weekend. Many of the unwanted plants (AKA weeds) have been pulled out, more seeds planted, general clean-up of wire cages and poles achieved, some plants and seedlings transferred from one area to another, and the bean trellises erected.


Before and after

Most of the tobacco sticks I brought from the farm have rotted in the humidity of the garden, but I have saved long poles from tree trimming and house renovation. There are some squash, pumpkin, and watermelon plants in there. I hope that they have a fast growth spurt to get above the butterbeans!

The woodchuck knocked over one of the wire cages last night and ate my beet greens. I may have to set my water deterrent motion sensor lower. This is the first indication of damage since I set it up. There has been heavy rain so I’ll try spraying this small animal deterrent stuff again late this afternoon.

Little tomatoes are on the plants I purchased, and the Romas that I grew from seeds are doing well. I think that the Principe Borghese tomatoes will be healthy too, but I replanted them after killing the first batch. I don’t think that I will ever use peat pots again. These will go in the compost tumbler. The Sugar Baby watermelons have enjoyed the heavy rains and have flowers. So do the Jacob’s Cattle beans.

Pulled out what peas survived the woodchuck. I got to eat about five sugar snaps off the vines. I planted okra seeds where they were, and leaving the pineberries to spread out in that bed over the coming year. We tasted one pineberry each and they were tasty, but gone quickly. I guess I’ll decide after next year if they are worth the space devoted to them, and give them the benefit of the doubt since they were transplanted in late February.

I have decided to plant herbs in the hugelkultur bed near the front door. There will be flowers, mostly garden balsam. I believe one hollyhock has germinated so that may have to be transplanted to its own large space. Since the arborist wants to take the tree out on the south side of the house, I’ve been moving some of my plants to other places so that they don’t get trampled or smushed. So some peppermint, parsley, and a borage volunteer went in, and I planted more basil seed there and several other spots around. I think that I might be one of the few people on earth that has problems growing zucchini or basil. I’ve given up on zucchini, but I’ll never stop trying to grow basil.

Next weekend will be spent in Wilmington and Topsail Beach. Going to a Leslie Marsh book workshop and she will have an indigo vat. She says that if it is not tapped out we can dip a couple of small items/bundles, so I’m going to wait to weave on the silk tapestry until I get some indigo dyed thread to work into it.

After I wrote the blog post yesterday, Sandy volunteered to go with me to the opening reception of the Tapestry Weavers South show at Yadkin Cultural Arts Center in Yadkinville, North Carolina, about an hour’s drive from Greensboro, so I took some photos there. My phone’s battery was weak and some of the photos show it, but I’ll try to get a post up with those photos this week. It is not far off I-40 and the show will be up through July 28.

Back Forty, butterbeans, coffee pot posts

Saturday morning coffee pot post


It’s almost noon, and this is the end of the coffee pot, but I was trying to get a few things done around the house.

Which is not easy these days, between physical problems and mechanical problems. The mosquitoes are out with a vengeance, as I knew they would be after all this rain. Sandy can’t get the lawn mower working and the repair guy is backed up for several weeks. I tried to charge the battery to the electric weed whacker, because the little bit we have that needs to be cut down can be done with that, but the battery is not charging. Sandy is about to take the mower apart, after trying several suggestions given to him by the repair guy. He seems pretty determined not to buy a new one. I gave my hand-powered reel mower away because we never use it.

We are draining the rain barrel at the front corner of the house and moving it to the back corner where we can put it up on blocks and attach a hose to it. That may do the trick as far as providing me with untreated water that I can store until needed and also help with the wet basement.

The seed starting this year has been a big disappointment – I don’t seem to understand how much water to provide. Either I provide too much or too little. I may as well have started my seeds in the ground for the most part. Several of the Roma tomatoes are doing well, though. I’m a little discouraged about the garden and my ability to care for it, although it is twice better than it was last year!

I have hooked the hose up to a motion sensor battery powered sprayer to try to deter the groundhog. He seems to like hanging out under the back house. I looked under there and he whistled at me in surprise. Now I know why they are also called whistlepigs.

The lima and cannellini beans came up almost immediately, and the Sugar Baby watermelon seedlings are doing well. I planted the tromboncino and Candy Roaster squash seedlings the other day and will use the greenhouse frame as support for these. Also I could not help myself and planted some cheese pumpkin seeds in the bean bed along the fence. There really is not room in my entire yard for these big winter squashes, but the squash borers will probably get ’em anyway. One weekend task will be to set up the trellises for the pole beans so I don’t rely totally on the fence for support.



I guess that most of the mystery seeds that I threw in this planter are beets. The broccoli is doing well in here, to my surprise. Maybe it likes being crowded and ignored.


Now I’m thinking about getting Justin to dig us an outer ring to the garden bed, spiraling out like a galaxy or a snail shell.

We are getting estimates for the removal of the large silver maple now that it has been approved by the city. This is a national historic district so we have to get a lot of things approved, which I don’t mind so much. It may have saved a few good trees and keeps people from tearing down historic houses and building cheap student housing, so I’m okay with it. There is poison ivy around it and on it, so I guess I’ll pour some vinegar on it and see if that kills it. We should have more sun in the Back Forty and both our house and the house next door will be much safer in a storm when it is removed, so as much as I hurt when trees are cut down around here, I feel okay with this. I feel like it is necessary. It will definitely be very expensive. Goodbye, tax return.

I hope that the arborist doesn’t trample my front garden too much taking the tree out. I think that I’ll transplant some of this thyme to the hugelkultur bed. Maybe some other herbs, but I do have some flower seeds germinating there.


I’ve learned that some seeds do better as volunteers that when I try to start them in a pot. This is a borage volunteer from last year’s plants. Ground cherries are the same for me. Maybe I will fling the rest of the seeds into the back garden and see what happens. The problem is that I might not recognize them as plants that I want.


Okay, I’m going to spend time weaving during the rainy and muggy parts of this weekend, and making bundles for dyeing the pockets for my alchemist’s apron. So glad that we screened in the porch! It’s almost as good as being at the lake. These daisy fleabane flowers are ready to go into a bundle.


In closing, good things can come to those who wait. I bought this biennial flower last year. I don’t even remember what it is, but it is a welcome splash of purple now that the foxgloves and comfrey has dropped their blooms.

Back Forty, butterbeans, coffee pot posts, depression/anxiety, dyeing, Nature printing, Permaculture, Slow Food, whining

Sunday morning coffee pot post

mama-Laurie-1963 or so

Time for another long rambling post. Guess I’ll make a second pot of coffee.

It is hot and humid this weekend, with highs in the 90s. Anyone who is not in denial about climate change is not surprised about any freakish weather. I understand those who feel helpless and just can’t bear thinking about the future for their children. I wish that they’d try to face it, but I get it. It makes me very depressed also. What I can’t understand is those who flat out deny that it is happening because of human activity and that we don’t have to make any changes to our lifestyles to slow our journey toward the cliff ahead, whether it is because they worship money or political parties, or because they have opted out of critical thinking out of sheer mental laziness.

Well, isn’t that a cheery way to start a post on Mother’s Day? It’s not my favorite day. It’s also a day that I am glad that I made the decision not to bring any more children into this world. I definitely appreciate the hard work that most parents, especially mothers, do all of their lives. I know that I couldn’t have done it if I had wanted to, and I hail those feminists who came before me who worked so hard to ensure that I had a choice, unlike my own mother.

Believe me, I hold back a WHOLE LOT when I write on this blog these days. Mainly because I’m tired of complaining and politics in general.

I’ve been working hard this week to get the garden planted. Now I have the area along the fence to plant, and Sandy and I have decided to use the greenhouse frame as a support to grow trombincino squash on. I took off the greenhouse cover and pulled up the landscape fabric yesterday. My only concern is that this area doesn’t get enough sun now that the trees have leafed out, but I’m going to try it anyway. I used to plant in this area back when the entire Back Forty was in food production. In the meantime, I’m going to put down cardboard and landscape fabric in another sunnier area to prepare for moving the greenhouse later this year.


The Jacob’s Cattle beans germinated well. Not so much for the saved Henderson bush lima beans, but they were a bit old. I’ll replant in the blank spots. These were planted around the outer edge of the bed.

I planted a lot of green beans. A “yard-long” bean and “Brio” bush beans that I got from the Greensboro Permaculture Guild seed swap in the middle of the bean-shaped bed – really, how could I not fill this bed with beans? A few leeks down the center between Roma tomatoes. Pat Bush’s heirloom “beautiful” beans, which are more like crowder peas, and Kentucky Wonder snap beans in pots around the fig tree, which we nearly butchered in late winter. It is coming back though. I need to keep it small.


The herb and lettuce seeds don’t seem to be germinating in the area that did not get dug up. I’m thinking that ants may have carried off the seeds. There are lots of ants, and I am afraid that they are being pushed (and eventually will be replaced) by fire ants into our lot. Fire ants are definitely nearby.

Yesterday I bought some more mints, a French tarragon plant, and a pack of Sugar Baby watermelon seedlings, because why not? They were a quarter a piece and if it doesn’t work out, so be it. Two went into big pots, and I’m going to find a few spots for the others.

Suddenly the back faucet doesn’t leak. The front faucet, which I have been bitching about being cut off under the house where I cannot crawl, works. I KNOW that the back faucet leaked, and Sandy says he didn’t fix it. I am not so sure about the front faucet, but I haven’t had a plumber under there for a few years, so could I have been using it all this time instead of hauling the hose and watering cans back and forth?

Have I lost my mind? Really? I have slipped into that middle-aged worry that I am developing Alzheimer’s. It runs rampant in my genes. It is my greatest fear.

I ordered an animal deterrent for the groundhog problem that is a motion detector that hooks up to the hose and sends out a surprise blast of water when set off. Then Sandy reminded me that since the faucet leaked it was not a good idea to leave it on. So I canceled the order and was going to call a plumber tomorrow. Now it seems that I won’t have to. I wonder if Justin fixed it and didn’t tell me? I guess I’ll reorder the groundhog thingie.

Yesterday I clipped vines and stray trees from along the fence and I really missed him. We ran out of time (and my budget) for him to do several things that we planned. He should have a newborn son by now, so he won’t be available for a few weeks.

Tomorrow I will have my sixth adjustment at the chiropractor, and I’ve reached the phase that I am tired of it and wondering whether I am chucking my travel and hired help money down a black hole. He gave me some suggestions for how to manage my hip pain for those long drives and flights. Since I have a long drive coming up on Thursday, I’ll give it a try but honestly, he wasn’t very encouraging about me being able to prevent all my pain. Sitting for more than an hour aggravates that compressed disc and radiates pain out to my hips. The pain source is in my back, not my hips, and that was confirmed by my orthopedic doctor. So that has not improved my mood. You always like to think that you’ll get better, or healed completely. It’s part of accepting the aging process.

Anyway, I did a little eucalyptus bundle experiment with some leaves I found out back. They may be too old. I soaked them and wrapped some iron/vinegar mordanted cotton cloth and silk thread around sticks and a stone, then steamed them for an hour or so. I’ll unwrap them this afternoon when I spend some creative time with a friend. I should leave them wrapped longer, but I’m not that patient right now. Maybe I’ll do a few bundles and let them sit while I am gone for my long weekend coming up.


We are so proud of our friend Gerald Wong, who walked his talk and ran for Congress in the Democratic primary this week. He got lots of votes despite having to work out of the area (he is an over-the-road trucker) and not taking donations. My friend Zha K was a warrior for him here at home, going to events as a surrogate and doing research. We celebrated election night on the Wongs’ back deck on Tuesday night.


I am going to take a Sabbath today. I enjoy working in the garden and planting but it’s time to rest.

Back Forty, butterbeans, critters, fiber art, Lake Waccamaw, North Carolina, Slow Food

July in North Carolina


My “summer” is almost over, at least as far as work goes. I have a job that is most intense January-early May, calms down in summer, then starts ratcheting up in early August as the new semester begins with a new cohort of history graduate students. September quiets down a little, then October hits like a hurricane, then there’s two tolerable months until January, when it all starts to get crazy again. I like it. It is a bit difficult making the transition from July to August, though.

It has been very hot and too dry. The occasional strong thunderstorm has not been enough.

This past weekend I lolled around the house, mostly, watching movies, reading, and cooking a little bit. I had plenty of butterbeans from the garden, and some very tasty tomatoes. There are a few volunteer field pea vines, but I didn’t plant them this year because of the annoying ants that hang out, who will run up your arm and bite you unless you shake them off before picking each pea. My poor little okra plants have recovered enough so that I will have a few to eat with my butterbeans this week. I used to only like my okra fried. Now I prefer young whole pods, boiled briefly to make them tender but still a little crunchy, and eaten straight up. Pickled okra is nice too, even though I am not generally a fan of vinegary foods. The woodchuck came back and decimated my broccoli and even tried to eat my Mexican sunflower, which is trying its best to survive. I hope that my neighbor traps him soon.

woodchuck damage

Woodchuck damage

Movies watched: “The Dallas Buyers Club,” “Django Unchained,” and “Chicago.” I love Chicago and have watched it several times. Book finished: “Ghostwritten” by David Mitchell. Excellent book.

I got a bit of prep work done for the back side of the t-shirt quilt – cutting apart more t-shirts and ironing light interfacing on the fabric, then cutting the pieces to specific sizes so that they all fit together once I start designing. This side will have the rejects from the front side, so I’m not putting as much effort into it, but it was so much fun doing the front side I decided to piece the back side as well.

The tapestry loom has been moved back inside. It was way too hot to weave on the front porch, even with the fans. I’ll probably leave it in, but I moved it in front of the window so I’ll have a little more light.

I have an opportunity to buy a 60″ tapestry loom that once belonged to Sylvia Heyden at a good price that is within an hour’s drive so that I can pick it up. It would have to be taken apart and rebuilt, though, and since it was probably handbuilt for her, there won’t be instructions. It is massive and heavy according to the owner, and I’d have to get rid of some stuff if I acquire it. The 24″ Shannock loom would definitely be up for sale in that case, but I need to finish “Cathedral” first. I’m going to go see it soon to make a decision.

Last weekend Sandy and I went to Lake Waccamaw for a long weekend. My focus was, and still is, healing my neck and shoulders. It’s been almost exactly two years since I hung that Scandinavian-type vertical loom on the stairs at Arrowmont and heard my neck say “uh-uh.” Since then, it was touch and go with my chiropractor helping, but since he moved out of town and I lugged a big backpack and bag around the United Kingdom and Ireland, my neck and shoulders have been very, very unhappy. So I am undergoing some intense massage therapy that hurts so much it makes me cry on the table, but I’m tired of depending on pills and I want this to heal. I have faith that it will help, and I’m looking forward to being able to get back to weaving without pain.


On this trip my sister and brother-in-law took us to a new BBQ joint in Whiteville, Big W Barbecue, which is owned by a Slow chef, Warren Stephens, who was the executive chef at Cochon Butcher in New Orleans and at the Fearrington House near Chapel Hill. According to the article linked above, he is here because he loves Lake Waccamaw, and he is a native of Lumberton. I was pleased and surprised to find out that he uses heritage pasture-raised pork. I mean, you can’t find that in eastern NC, which is ground zero for hog factory farms. I am somewhat of a heretic in North Carolina because I am not a fan of barbecue, especially the vinegary eastern NC style. But everything on our sampler plate, even the Q, was delicious. He makes his own sausages, so I bought some for the freezer at a very low price for Slow meat. I will go back for sure, especially since I missed the pork tamales – they were sold out. He was playing John Lee Hooker in the restaurant too.




There is always a lot of beauty at Lake Waccamaw, so here are the shots from that hot weekend. The bottom one is my favorite – taken while sitting in a gentle rain at the edge of the lake. Click on the photo at the top of this post to be taken to a video and turn on your sound for a stress reliever.