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.

20180512_143833[1]

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.

20180512_143811[1]

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.

20180512_162906[1]

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.

20180508_201512[1]

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

20180506_121434

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.

20180428_104323_001

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:

20180428_201151

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.

20180429_140554

20180429_125827

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.

20180428_180005

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.

20180502_191214

20180502_195150

20180506_121717

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.

20180506_121728

20180506_121757

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.

20180506_121917_001

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.

20180506_122036_001

Yellow irises have outlasted the purple irises.

20180506_121844

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

20180506_122007

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.

20180430_201440

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.

Starting tomatoes, peppers, leeks and borage

20180408_102446

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.

20180408_102652

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.

woodpecker holes in our old silver maple

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.

pineberries and peas, wire to deter the groundhog

peas in an old whiskey barrel planter

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

20170717_105622

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.

20170715_132145

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.

20170715_132123

20170715_132112

20170715_132102

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.

20170715_113603

20170715_185440

20170716_090318

20170716_090433

20170716_090253

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

New studio space and Deep Roots news

20161218_093526

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.