coffee pot posts, collage, Coronavirus Chronicles, More gardening, Slow Food

Saturday Coffee Pot Post

In which I can drink coffee in the afternoon, thank you very much.

The official word is that I will be teleworking from home at least until May 22. I can still go to my office if I really need to, but my employer’s policy is for me to work at home. Right now I don’t see any reason to go in unless I absolutely have to scan something or I lose Internet connection.

I broke through some of my lethargy this week. Susanne and I took a walk last Sunday and I planted “beautiful beans” in the UNCG plot, a local heirloom crowder pea that Pat Bush gave me a couple of years ago that I planted and saved last year. I picked the last of the Rouge d’Hiver lettuce that didn’t begin to bolt in the warm weather.

Gave up on the seed starting totally. Everything is dead now. So I supported a local farmer, John Handler at Weatherhand Farms, and bought Roma, Better Boy, pepper, squash, eggplant, and snapdragon plants from the Greensboro Farmers Curb Market drive through market this morning. They are under the grow light inside for a few days until this polar vortex clears out. Also bought a pound of shrimp from George (NC Seafood) so there will be good eatin’ tonight.

Greg gave me some milkweed seed balls and I planted them on Wednesday in the herb/flower garden in the front.

I finally baked two large sourdough bread loaves from Carol’s starter and it turned out great! It didn’t kill my hands and wrists to knead it either. Next time I will divide this into four small loaves so I can give some away. I don’t have a big enough bowl to make more at one time.

I finished two matching face coverings for Sandy and I. This one has a filter inside and I can breathe through it, or maybe my allergies have gotten a lot better. (See top photo.) Now that I am comfortable with this I will make a few more and definitely play with my sewing machine more. Make some of the pleated styles.

The thing that really picked me up was the day I returned to these collages and finished them. Then I ordered a bunch of wood panels and mats from Dick Blick, along with some acrylic glazing liquid and Yes paste, which Crystal Neubauer recommends for an adhesive that doesn’t make the collage paper curl up, which is my biggest problem. Between her workshop and Melinda Tidwell’s workshop, which I did as a remote group with Triangle Book Arts, I am learning a lot about collage, and also gaining more confidence about not necessarily following the “rules.” Crystal refers to her style as intuitive collage, and I relate to that much more strongly. I am looking forward to mounting some of these collages and making a couple of gallery pages for this site in the next few months.

I cut up “Illustrated Question Box” and made it smaller. Pulled the story together.

The other one is called “100 Doses One Dollar” and I did most of it at the beginning of March. It directly relates to the Covid-19 pandemic and our country’s response to it. The saving grace, I think, was adding three small shark’s teeth that I found at North Topsail Beach several years ago. They look a little like hearts, don’t they? They are deceptive.

Oh, I am angry. Make no mistake about it. But I am moving into acceptance about the things we must do to survive the pandemic, with anger about the people who are misleading citizens, profiteering, destroying our constitutional checks and balances, suppressing votes, and literally killing. There must be anger, and action, and resistance against domestic terrorism and this fascist authoritarian regime.

More gardening, Slow Food

Gardening documentation

Hey, there are few pick-me-ups better than harvesting food that you planted yourself. I forgot that I had planted Rouge D’Hiver lettuce (a good winter lettuce variety) at the UNCG community garden plot in November. I haven’t been back until today because of depression and physical pain. I didn’t take my camera because it needed a charge, but look what I found, and a lot of it! Enough that it needed thinning badly so I pulled up whole plants and gave a couple to my new next-door neighbor.

I need to jot down what I planted or I will surely forget. I set up my wire frames in the plot where the bean poles were last year (thanks, UNCG student garden club for cleaning that up for me!) Down the middle I planted Purple Trionfo Violetto pole beans from Pinetree. These are five years old so we’ll see if they germinate. On both long sides of the plot, Green Arrow shelling peas from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. These are three years old. On each short end, Rainbow Swiss chard, also three years old from SESE. Along the edges, Scarlet Nantes carrots, again three years old from SESE. Apparently I got a little out of control buying seeds in 2017. 2019 borage seeds from Pinetree on the side of the lettuce patch where the fire ants live. :O

When I go back, I’ll put some newspaper and new soil over a small patch next to the lettuce and fertilize the whole thing with some organic stuff I have around here somewhere.

Time for lunch, yum!

Back Forty, bloggy stuff, coffee pot posts, depression/anxiety, Food activism, Local food, Reading, Slow Food, voluntary simplicity

Sunday morning coffee pot post

I can’t upload to Flickr right now and I’ve been worried for a while about the change in ownership of the platform. I have so many photos on it – over 10K – and over the years I have linked here to my photos stored there. I would be wrecked if the platform changed its code or went bankrupt and dumped my photos. Anyway, I’ll just move along and deal with it later, since it is much too beautiful outside to fart around on the computer. I am writing this on the front porch on my laptop, but I will lose power soon.

One thing that I am trying to be more conscious about these days is my use of plastic. Once you start paying attention, it is stunning how much plastic is in almost everything we use. I don’t have time to avoid it completely. That would require me to commit to buying almost all my food directly from the farmer, and only certain ones at that. I’d almost certainly have to stop buying dairy and meat products. There are some packaged foods that don’t use plastic, but you kind of have to figure it out by buying them and keeping it in your head. Sandy and I decided to start eating vegetarian at home a couple of weeks ago once I cook what’s left in our freezer. However, I don’t think his resolve will last long. He’ll go out and buy something to eat if he doesn’t feel the urge to eat what I’ve cooked.

I really loved the look of Leslie Marsh’s studio when I went there for a book workshop earlier this summer, and my friend the fabulous Zha K was getting rid of most of her possessions to sell her house and get the hell out of North Carolina, so she gave me a lot of baskets and cigar and wine boxes and candy tins. I’ve slowly been transitioning my studio storage over to these boxes and baskets and, most importantly LABELING THEM, and I’ll give the plastic bins to Goodwill or Salvation Army or wherever. This is mostly an aesthetic feel-good action, but I’ll take my feel-good where I can get it these days.

My depression has lifted, THANK GOD, and I hope that I won’t see it again for a while. Or forever, but I’m pretty realistic about the fact that it’s probably something that I have to deal with for life. That’s not to say that there has been an absence of stress or sadness in my life, but depression is not about that. I can cope with stress and sadness when I am not depressed. People who have depression will understand this.

I’m going to work on my tapestry diary this afternoon on the porch. I finally came up with a simple design for June and July that reflected my main focus, although looking at it now makes me realize that I need to reduce the size. Otherwise it will overpower the rest of it. We removed the swing from the porch to make it less crowded. A front porch swing is lovely in concept, but we seldom used it and it divided the space. Now there will be more room for company on the rare occasion that we have more than one visitor.

The groundhogs are back now that the tree removal is over. I’m still getting plenty of tomatoes, especially the ones inside the wire cages. Figs are ripening on the tree, but the few that have ripened so far have been nabbed by the birds. Reflective tape and all. I’ve been buying bicolor corn from Rudd Farms every weekend, enough to eat some and freeze some. Tomatoes, onions, peppers, and some eggplants have gone in the dehydrator. The squash overtaking the back forty turned out to be tromboncino. I’ve got to start putting markers in the garden. These photos are from a week ago so the tromboncino is in the tomatoes now. I should pick the flowers and try cooking them. I’ve never done it.

Soon we will hear if our solar panel installation will be approved by the Historic District Commission. I will be surprised if it is not, but usually there is some caveat that is expensive to add. For example, we have wanted to replace our front door for a long time and our certificate of appropriateness for that has expired because we haven’t been able to find a door that fits and satisfies both of us and the city staff that we can afford. So we still have this wretched hollow 50s ranch-style door.

If and when we get that approval, it will be hooked into the meter so that it should provide all our electricity and we will only have to pay a meter fee to Duke Energy. The cost is not much more that our current electric bill (we pay an average amount monthly on a budget plan). In a few years, if the price goes down for whole house batteries, I’d love to go off-grid totally.

I finished reading Salvage the Bones this weekend. A very difficult book, but I persevered through the uncomfortable content and was swept up in the story. At one point I did not think I would be able to finish it. I’m glad that I did because it is brilliantly written. I found her afterword about her experiences growing up and her experience going through Katrina to be helpful in my understanding of the culture and why she chose Medea of Greek mythology to be a touchstone throughout the book. It also reminded me a little bit of my childhood growing up in rural N.C. even though my black friends were not so poor, my best friend’s father was an alcoholic that raised his family in a falling down house with junk cars and stray dogs all over the yard. The black family I tried to hang out with (the parents on both sides were not pleased) had a Skeeter, and I was reminded of the disconnect between our cultures.

This was an accidental photo but I like it anyway.

Okay, time to cook and freeze corn and weave tapestry on the porch.

Back Forty, butterbeans, More gardening, Permaculture, Slow Food

Back Forty Update

Lots of flowers are growing in this new hugelkultur bed in the front at the end of my driveway, along with lots of volunteer “mouse melons,” tiny watermelon-like fruits that taste like cucumbers. I’m using them as a ground cover – did not plant them. I believe that is a Juliet tomato there that I didn’t have room for anywhere else so I just popped it in there. It might be a Roma. There’s not any fertilizer in this bed. There is mint and parsley and feverfew and calendula. I’ve pulled out the ageratum in this photo. For next year’s bloom there is hollyhock and evening primrose, and the garden balsam blooming now which should reseed freely.

So many cherry tomatoes! And a few Roma tomatoes, although quite a few have blossom end rot despite me putting Epsom salts in the planting holes. Maybe I forgot on that particular one. We have had so much rain and it has been muggy hot, so the new garden bed in the back is lush. I gather tomatoes every day and I try to pick them just as they start to ripen to keep them from splitting, and so that they don’t tempt hungry birds and critters. The ground cherries don’t make it indoors. I eat them on the spot.

^^^Ageratum grows everywhere, and I like to keep some to bloom for the bees in the fall, but it’s one of those plants that is selfish and wants all the land for itself. Now that I’ve pulled out most of the ageratum, this bed is devoted to herbs this year. There are three kinds of basil, mint, feverfew, tarragon, borage, and parsley (which was overwhelmed by the ageratum and did not grow well this year). In between there are a couple of dozen foxglove seedlings that volunteered from last year, and a few rudbeckia that survived the groundhog attack by hiding in the ageratum. The celery and kale did not survive the critter attack. The motion sensor spraying device there is out of business, and didn’t work except on humans. There are a few lamb’s quarters left in there that I eat for greens. Next spring this bed will look awesome with foxglove flowers and the bees will love it. Herbs will be shifted somewhere else next year.


^^^If I get any candy roaster squash from these vines (I see the harbinger of doom in the back of the photo) they will be huge, like pumpkins but oblong. Right now they seem hellbent on Back Forty domination. No squash in sight so far, just flowers.


^^^Butterbean Survivor – there are a few bean vines that survived the groundhog feast, and some of the damaged ones are trying to play catch-up. I’m picking beans now, but only enough to add to other dishes.

^^^”Rudbeckia Survivor – The groundhogs think that these flowers are very tasty so I’m proud of this tough little survivor that made it to full bloom.

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.

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

Sunday morning coffee pot post

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, More gardening, Permaculture, Reading, Slow Food, Western North Carolina

Sunday afternoon

It is such a relief to be at the end of spring semester. I still have a few things to do at work, but all of the time-sensitive stuff has been done. Last weekend we went to the St. Francis book sale, where I blew my “no more buying books” pledge out of the water. In my defense, it was fill a grocery bag for ten bucks day, and I found an old book on Cornwall and a 1925 “The Etude Music Magazine.” Not a bad haul for $12, and I’ll donate some to the little free library now and the rest later.

I have said this before, but I have enough books to read for the rest of my life. Seriously.

THEN, when we went to Black Mountain later that day, we found a sweet new bookstore where I bought two NEW books:

I have a problem, obviously. If you saw my house, you’d understand. However, this addiction might be why our house is nicely insulated.

OH YAY! I hear a good rain shower. I was hoping for at least one today, because I was out of rainwater. Our tap water smells so clorine-y that I don’t want to use it for natural dyeing or my seedlings. My buckets are out under the gutter downspouts.

Spinning Spider also brought baby goats and had a milking station for people to milk a goat.

I posted about the tapestry show earlier this week, but we also went to the WNC Cheese Trail Festival held at Highland Brewery in Asheville, and laid some money down for some excellent cheeses. Cheese, books, and good beer. Add coffee and chocolate, and you’ve got my version of heaven right there.

TIME FOR GARDEN PHOTOS!!! I had a lot of catch-up to do in the yard this week. As usual, my garden is way behind. I made it a priority to clean up the mess at the end of our driveway and in front of our front door because the house next door will be for sale soon and I want to attract someone who doesn’t mind hippies but is nice, sane, and fairly neat. At least to the point of not letting invasives crawl all over the yard like on my other side. Ha! They probably think that about me in the back yard.

Justin came over for four hours on Wednesday and helped with digging up some problem shrubs, cutting branches back to get more sun on the south front edge, and making a hugelkultur bed with some of the rotting firewood outside our front door. He dug down about a foot until he hit solid clay, filled about a 3×5 foot area with the wood, then shoveled the soil back onto the logs. I’m going to grow flowers in it first, since he says it will be a nitrogen suck for a couple of years. Maybe transfer some clover over to it and plant fava beans late this fall. We’ll see how the flowers do. I planted black hollyhocks, coreopsis, garden balsam, and transplanted a clump of daffodils around the edge. I tossed a few monarda seeds on top just for kicks. The birds are probably going to eat them all anyway.

When I planted the foxglove seedlings, I said that I hoped they would be purple. And I did get some purple ones. The one that is truly stunning is white, though.

This rose is on the other side of the property line, but last year it nearly died from being choked with vines. I pruned it and cleared out the vines, and this is my reward. It climbs up into my cherry tree too.

Yellow irises have outlasted the purple irises.

I’m amazed that this sage is so happy here. That’s one reason I am developing this side this year.

Welp, I’m pretty whipped with all this gardening, but I’m happy. I’m seeing a new chiropractor twice a week and I’m going to the Tapestry Weavers South retreat in a couple of weeks. I got into the workshop at John C. Campbell Folk School that I was on the wait list for a week later, but by that time I had paid and committed to the TWS retreat. I was going to run up the credit card and go anyway, but then I found out that the reason a seat opened for me was because the friend I wanted to take the class with had canceled. I was really disappointed at first but after I thought about it, it was just too much to do in one month, too much time in a car (it is painful for me to sit for long and the trips will take 5-6 hours each) and too much money to spend. So be it. They were kind enough to give me my deposit back.

AND, because I didn’t think I’d get into the JCCFS class, I also signed up for another weekend workshop at Topsail Beach in June, so there’s that to look forward to (and pay for) so it was for the best.

During all this, I have been experimenting a little with natural dyeing and taking India Flint’s Alchemist’s Apron online class. I’m going to re-dye my apron to try to get it darker, and I’m going to start over with the videos now that I have time not to half-ass it. Dyeing the silk threads has been really fun.

Oh yeah, I harvested my first homegrown mushrooms. Lion’s mane. Delicious sauteed in butter.

BYE, time for a nap.

Back Forty, Slow Food

Back Forty Update

A couple of weeks ago I went to the Greensboro Permaculture Guild seed swap and met a young man who I have hired to prepare a circular bed for me to plant in this summer. He is well versed in permaculture and observed all the right things in the Back Forty. I feel lucky to have found him so it looks like I might not hurt myself getting my garden prepared this spring. I am a little obsessed with getting out of debt and getting my emergency savings back up to six months of salary but I’m not giving up travel and this seems well worth the expense.

Hopefully if it all goes well I will hire him occasionally throughout the year to help with the tasks that tend to take me down physically.

Our weather is still wacky here as it seems to be everywhere. I guess this is the new normal and the swings will continue to get worse. I started broccoli, Roma tomatoes, sweet banana and Carolina Wonder peppers, borage, and leeks inside, then moved them out to the greenhouse when it was warm. Yesterday I brought it everything but the broccoli since it froze last night. I heard that it snowed but I was asleep.


We decided that it is time for the large silver maple close to the house to come down. It is leaning toward the house and it has woodpecker damage. The arborist that trimmed it out the last time it dropped some big limbs and did some damage said that it might need to come down in a few years. However, we live in a historic district so I have to get a certificate of appropriateness from city staff to cut it down. I applied this past week.


If we do this, the Back Forty should get more afternoon sunlight and I’ll get some wood chips for mulch.

I saw two red bellied woodpeckers at work on the pecan tree next door this morning. Their name is all wrong because their heads are red, not their bellies. The seckel pear that I thought had died last year has strangely come back to life on just the bottom half. Justin will help me cut off the dead top half. It may be that I’ll need to cut it down too if it is diseased.

Many of the peas survived the woodchuck and squirrels digging in the raised bed and planters, but I have not seen any sign of life from the asparagus crowns I transplanted from the Wharton St. garden or the potatoes I planted a month ago. Foxgloves and black-eyed Susans are coming up in the space that will be re-activated and I’m going to move some of them to the front. The pineberries have survived and are blooming. I covered the bed in wire fencing to save it from the woodchuck.

I’m going to try to trap him soon. My neighbor has a hav-a-heart trap. We both tried to trap him last year with no success.

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.


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 some more shots from that hot weekend. The one at the top of this post is my favorite – taken while sitting in a gentle rain at the edge of the lake.

consumerism, Deep Roots Market, Food activism, Local food, Slow Food

New studio space and Deep Roots news

Slow Turn Studio

The studio is all moved in to the house on Wharton St., except for odds and ends that will probably always float back and forth between there and home. I spent a good part of this past weekend there, and I think that Susanne and I will both be happy with the situation. I feel comfortable.

We both are joining a few other fiber artists from Greensboro in an exhibition called “The Fabric of Our Lives” at the Congregational United Church of Christ in Greensboro, NC. The show will be up from mid-January through Mid-March. I won’t have anything new to show, but I’m dusting off a few framed tapestries and fabric works and mounting the “Flag of Me” for the exhibition. More details later.

I’ve spent some energy in the last few months with an owner group from Deep Roots cooperative to convince the board of directors that there were some serious problems they were not addressing, as well as that they were taking the cooperative in a direction that was miscommunicated to the owners. We had some satisfaction in the last couple of months. The general manager resigned and five of the board members (from 2015 and before) announced that they would leave at the end of the year. They could not compromise with the newly elected members and our group was going to the meetings, emailing, speaking up, and holding them accountable.

The financial situation is still a bit murky and a whole lot dire, but at least the digging of the hole has stopped and we hope that with the 2016 elected members and their new appointees we will see a change for the better. Certainly there is a sense of relief in the store itself. There should be fewer closed meetings (a.k.a. “executive sessions”) and much more transparency and outreach to the owners of the cooperative. Democratic governance is a cooperative value that cannot be dismissed, and the remaining board members understand that.

I hope to see the store change its food policy back to one consistent with our original sustainable, ethical values, but whatever happens, I feel confident that the owners will have a say in it this time. I can live with that. Hopefully the most egregious of the food-like and factory-farmed products, like Hormel canned ham and Armour Vienna sausages, will be removed from the store. It’s highly embarrassing for a “health” food store and killing our brand that we built for 40 years. Patience is not one of my virtues but I’m going to try to have faith in the process. I know Joel and Betsy will be good guides for us.

Now counting the days until I am off for the winter break. We don’t plan to do much for Christmas, but we have decorated the front porch for the first time. I’ll have a lot of days to relax and do art and read. I really don’t want to do much of anything. Our family got together at Lake Waccamaw for Thanksgiving.

Reading right now: “Down All the Days” by Christy Brown, of “My Left Foot” fame. Wow.