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

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

New studio space and Deep Roots news

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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.

Back Forty, butterbeans, buying local, consumerism, Local food, Market report, Slow Food

Back Forty Update and Market Report

It finally got cool enough for my butterbeans (or lima beans) to produce again. They will keep going now until a heavy frost.

My field pea crop is winding down. I prefer to eat them freshly shelled (not dried like this photo) with “snaps” – the immature pods snapped like green beans. This year they have been besieged by big black ants who hang out at the top of each pea and will run up your arm and bite you. You have to be very careful when you pick them. I don’t know what I’ll do about this next year. At least they are not fire ants.

Fig tree shadows

The fig tree has gotten huge again. I’ll have to cut it down by at least half this winter. Again.

The last fig

The last fig of the season is now in my stomach.

Market report:

Back in the early days of this blog, the focus was on Slow Food, especially on local food at a time when Greensboro markets and restaurants were just beginning to get on board and understand the meaning and implications of buying locally. I was a member of the board of the Friends of the Greensboro Farmers Curb Market before that volunteer group went through an weirdly political totally insane lie-based attack resulting in its dissolution. Since that time, the management of the market passed to a non-profit group who has brought the market back to a wonderful community again, which I am particularly grateful for since the insanity migrated over to Deep Roots Market. But that will be the subject of another post.

This morning at the Greensboro Farmers Curb Market, I bought the following:

Water buffalo cheese from Fading D Farm of Salisbury, NC. WHOA! And so good!
Buttercrunch lettuce, hydroponically grown from Tony
Stoneground yellow grits from Old Mill of Guilford
Small sweet peppers
Okra
Soap from Carol at Mimi’s Soaps
From Anna at Zaytoon:
Baba ganoush
Tzatziki
From Rudd Farm:
Sweet bicolor corn, my favorite
Watermelon
Tomatoes
Butternut squash
Eggplant
From Daniel at Nimby Farm:
Onions

Normally I also buy milk, meat and bread there too but I ran out of money this morning! I have a lot in my freezer, though.

I used to go to Deep Roots Market after the market visit to buy what I couldn’t find, but honestly nowadays I find most of what I need at the farmers’ market. I’ll go to Costco or Bestway or Harris Teeter or Earth Fare to find the rest of my needs until Deep Roots changes course, if it survives. I do still go to Deep Roots occasionally to buy things when they have the owner discount month to buy only products that are cruelty and GMO free. Today I’m heading to the other stores.

Back Forty, butterbeans, coffee pot posts, critters, fiber art, Slow cloth, Slow Food

Sunday morning coffee pot post

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This time, from the studio that I rent at a nearby church!

I have this floor to myself these days, at least on the weekends and evenings when I can get here. I guess it is just too hot for most people. Turning on my little AC unit the night before and covering my east-facing windows with fabric panels is the only way to get it bearable. I’d leave it on all the time but this church struggles for money and I want to be good to them. I absolutely love this studio space.

Now I have an old laptop and printer here so that I can blog and print off designs and photos for my artwork. Life is good.

Back Forty update: I haven’t done a lot of gardening this year, due to physical problems this spring, and nowadays the heat and the mosquitoes are too much for this post-menopausal body to deal with.

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The herb garden is full of black-eyed susans. Apparently the woodchuck moved on this year because last year it ate the heads off all of them. However, I did see a raccoon run across the yard yesterday, with birds shrieking behind it. The cat from across the street, Penny, has been hanging out in the Back Forty lately. I am a great admirer of Penny because she just doesn’t give a fuck about anybody but Penny, plus she looks almost exactly like Miss Jazz. I like that in a cat.

The tomatoes are in the whiskey barrel planters and under chicken wire cages, but most of them are dying. Guess I need to change out the soil or plant them elsewhere. In this small area it is hard to rotate crops! My butterbeans are not producing yet. I got a late start planting them and they will not flower when it is this hot. Guess that they will be a fall crop. However, I am beginning to harvest some field peas. A couple of ground cherry volunteers came up and are producing.

Even though I still am not in the mood for cooking these days, there is no excuse not to this time of year. Yesterday I went to the Greensboro Farmer’s Curb Market and bought milk, eggs, lettuce, soap, Sungold tomatoes, okra, corn and green peppers. The milk from Homeland Creamery was in the cow on Friday morning. How often do you hear that? The eggs were from pasture-raised chickens, the lettuce was hydroponically grown, the soap locally handmade, the tomatoes organic, and the corn, ohhh, that corn. I grew up on a farm where we never ever ate corn out of a can. My father grew enough Silver Queen corn so that July was a time when pickup truckloads of corn were shucked in the shade of the pecan tree in our back yard, then blanched, cut off the cob (Daddy had false teeth) and frozen for eating all year round. So when I tell you that the bicolor corn that Rudd Farm grows is the best corn I ever tasted, I do so with the voice of experience.

I shucked the corn, cooked it up, and it was delicious without any butter or salt. That’s how good it is. I was going to buy enough to freeze some for this winter, but the folks at Rudd Farm said that they will have it until frost, so there’s no rush. I then cut up the corn shucks into pieces about an inch long to freeze for papermaking later.

Physically, other than another annoying cold, I am doing much better since a visit to my chiropractor. I am taking naproxen sodium once a day and doing stretches for my hip, and I’ve been able to get to sleep fairly quickly most nights. Now I am trying Slo-Niacin for my high cholesterol. So far the flushing has been minimal, since I am following the directions to start out with 250 mg, take at bedtime, and to eat a little something and take an aspirin about 30 minutes before. I found out something very interesting when I researched niacin and cholesterol. I have been taking no-flush niacin for quite some time with no real improvement in my cholesterol. HOWEVER, I discovered that no-flush niacin is NOT the kind that helps cholesterol. I wasn’t told this by the salesperson in supplements or the doctor’s office! You need nicotinic acid for that. Here’s an article about niacin and cholesterol.

All in all, I feel happier and freer than I have in a long time, if I don’t pay attention to the news. If I do that, then I crash. I feel helpless.

So, time to sew!

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