Thursday, September 26, 2013

Getting back to real life

It's been just as hard as I expected, getting back into a groove of work and such. The dishes seem to pile up faster this week, and my focus isn't great. This is pretty normal, the focus anyway, as my work is dry and I have to catch up on it before I can work on any fun stuff, like article/essay ideas or book proposals.

But what's neat is how my thoughts aren't sliding toward indulging in a game of solitaire to blow off steam. Instead I find myself wondering why people make small, curved hoophouses on raised beds or over containers (with PVC and plastic), when attaching elbows and making a rectangular structure might be easier to deal with. Is it that it's more expensive and labor-intensive to do this (I am betting that taking a hacksaw to PVC loses its novelty after the first or second pipe), or is it because the corners afford less heat/more cool to get to the plants? Probably both, but that may not stop me from trying it. Can't wait to tuck into this new book acquisition...haven't made enough time yet in the evenings this week.

These thoughts are on my mind, because Hubs has been keeping an eagle eye on weather lately and informed me we could be looking at frost at night as early as late next week. I've got a serious pile of still-viable plants out there, so it's time to invest in some plastic and rearrange the house to possibly accommodate some of the smaller stuff. My first tomato looks like it's dying off, but there's half a dozen new fruits on its branches!

The herbs will go undercover or come inside. The sweet potatoes will be fine. The peppers and tomatoes need to go undercover, and since they're still growing like gangbusters, I need to get creative with any hoophouse creations...actually, teepee style would be better than rectangles, now that I think about it. But I can already tell I'll also be glad when we get past leaf peeping season (I love having people visit, but this place is starting to get smaller as our dreams expand), as I'm definitely going to need to rearrange the 2nd bedroom to accommodate a mess of plants this winter (never mind that we're wanting to add more herbs).

I totally need a greenhouse. If that realization doesn't get me saving money, nothing will. Since we took our own car to PA (the rental idea fell through), our first saving will go into brakes, 2 new all-weather tires, and an oil change. But rather than taking an "it's always something" attitude, I'm just going to work my tail off and find a way to save. We're so ready.

Bah! Digressing too much! Back to work!

Image from here.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013


Yup. No pics from PA. My camera acted like it was fine and then took exactly one picture before going back to the blindingly bright outputs it was giving me a coupla months ago. We brought Les's mom's camera, but we don't have her cable for downloading anything. Weather was meh the whole time anyway, but still would've been nice to take more pictures. We got a pile of 'em on the ride back; hopefully some of them came out.

The fair...when you build up a trip like that in your mind, it turns out to be everything and nothing like what you expected. But it was awesome. So much good being done there. Such a great vibe, even with as huge an event as it is becoming. It poured rain for most of the day Saturday, but people's spirits were undaunted. Some folks rearranged their workshop schedules and piled into the indoor classes; the rest of us nuts braved the wet to the outdoor tents, and most of the vendors were real troopers, staying open amidst the downpours. The resort was pretty good about shoveling fresh wood chips in places where the mud threatened and keeping drainage areas open. The animal smells near the live tents were never more than a light scent. Any tech issues with TVs and Powerpoint presentations were sorted out within 5 minutes. Really good management all around.

So much to think about and reflect'll likely be dribbling out of me in the next couple of blog posts both here and at Dark Meadow. How much we learned. How much we want to learn now. How we know we are ready for a dog, ready to purge more, ready to start saving. How neat it was seeing Ed Begley Jr. and Joel and Daniel Salatin in real life. How pretty the Pennsylvania farmland was, and how nifty it was to mingle with Mennonites. How gorgeous the West Virginia mountains were. How much we both look forward to learning more about herbalism now, and creating a home apothecary. How we're already excited to re-attend when it comes to Asheville next spring.

If you're interested at all in sustainable living, homesteading, or farming, it's worth a trip. The selection of workshops is borderline overwhelming, but that's good, because it forces you to pick and choose carefully and they repeat some classes, so if you can't catch it during one block, there's a chance you can catch it (or something similar) at another block. So glad for our cell phones, because Les and I attended a lot of workshops separately and then met up intermittently throughout the day (and that's a common theme with couples). I spent so much of the weekend grinning like I'd just moved to Asheville again. These were my people.

More soon...gotta get to work.

Image from here.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Prep time

You'd think after 9 months of freelancing, that I'd have my time management down. Not even close. Most of the time, I'm relying on shit luck still.

It came through this week in the form of ecomms. Those suckers pay the same as regular sites and take all of 5 minutes (instead of 20). Since we leave Thursday for PA, it means working my arse off Sunday to Wednesday. I'm ahead of the game now for this pay period, and can take today to relax and plan for the trip. It's necessary, apparently. My food choices sucked yesterday and I slept in until almost noon today. Guess I needed it....the sleep, not the Junior Mints.

The windows are open and I'm hoping we can keep them open. It's not supposed to get above 75 today. I'm lingering over my first cuppa while I decide on brunch. It'll be a puttering day. I'll rearrange the plants out front. There are 9 apples on the kitchen table waiting to be turned into something. I'm thinking hand pies for the trip, if I can squeeze their shelf life out til Wednesday-ish.

I needed this day badly. When I get focused on hammering out the quota, my concentration on everything else goes out the window, and things get neglected. I need to find a happy medium there, but it ain't gonna happen this week. This week is about PA, spending money smartly, and having a good time while we learn a whole bunch.

Getting excited :)

Image from here.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013


Something nice and round about that number, I guess.

It was a relaxed day and a good one. Got up without the alarm, made myself breakfast and chilled. Checked email, let work know I wouldn't be on unless ecomms popped up or hell froze over, goofed off a bit. Around lunchtime, I rousted the Hubs and we went to Echoview Fiber Mill here in town. Very small, nifty place...we got a mini tour, chatted up a nice lady and her golden retriever, and I bought a couple of hanks of alpaca.

Then we headed into town. We were far too early for dinner, so we took a meandering route to French Broad River Park and walked a bit. Headed back to town only to discover that the restaurant we were planning to hit doesn't open til 5PM, so with time still to kill, we wandered Lexington Avenue and cased some shops we hadn't popped into before. Hubs made the point that we should really take a day each weekend, park downtown, and walk a particular street to learn all the gems that are down there. Local indy business doesn't have to mean overpriced, and there's so much neat stuff in those stores.

We dined at Bouchon. My city brain was originally craving something more canned, like Cheesecake Factory, which thankfully we don't have in Asheville, until I remembered just how excellent the farm-to-table sitch is here. A little Googling and a craving for French Onion Soup led me to Bouchon, which did not disappoint. Les is a duck fan, and their roasted half duck with cocoa nibs and orange sauce was the best he's ever had. I enjoyed the steak au poivre with fresh steamed veggies and fries, and a house red, and sighed with every bite.

We popped into French Broad for cake to go (first time I've ever been able to walk right up to the counter!). I was half delighted to discover that the cake slice I chose was just OK, that I could actually make it better, thanks to a friend's recipe. But I will always swear by that place for their truffles and brownies, at least; it's really an extraordinary chocolate shop!

It was a wonderful year for gifties: Dr. Hyman's book, which I've been dying for in hardcover; an artisan baking book, which was a delightful surprise from one of my oldest friends; 2 seasons of Law & Order: UK (does the Hubs know me or what?); and a pair of Minnetonkas which should hit my doorstep today!

I'm buried in work between now and the PA trip, so if it goes quiet here, that's why. Have a great week, y'all!

Image from here.

Friday, September 06, 2013

Friday Review

Where'd the week go?

Work, work, work...and Jill is a dull girl, I guess. I'm hauling tail on sites this week in the hopes of taking us to PA with a paycheck that will allow us to not cringe every time we hit the gas pump or a fast food joint. Pay period ends Saturday, but I'm working through Sunday so I can take Monday off for my birthday. My brain should be oatmeal by then.

Can't decide what to do for the birthday that won't cost much money, but will take us outside of our normal routine a bit. I'm blowing off the NC Mountain State Fair (though I'd LOVE to go), because it just looks too pricey so close to the trip. Could go Wednesday when the admission is just canned goods from Ingles, but then there's fair food and ride tickets. Was thinking Chimney Rock State Park, so naturally they're closed on Monday to do tree removals. It's a pinch too early for apple picking. There is stuff to harvest right now, but the yield will be much more impressive in about 3 weeks. Besides, PMS and apple cider doughnuts are a dangerous combination!

Maybe a jaunt to Mount Mitchell or Grandfather...make that Mount Mitchell...turns out Grandfather is more expensive than Chimney Rock :( Another time then...

The broken section of the Blue Ridge Parkway opened back up between Ox Creek and Mount Mitchell, but the speed limit along that entire 21-mile section is 15 MPH, strictly enforced. Should make leaf-peeping interesting. Hope the tourists read the BRP updates before coming or there's gonna be some slow-moving, pissed-off peepers this year.


I'm not happy about turning 44. This is almost completely because we are still childless, and the clock ticks loudly. We haven't been trying, and I'm still regular on my female stuff by the grace of the gods (VERY happy about that, as my mom had lost her plumbing, so to speak, by the time she was my age), so nothing to do but make an effort in that department, and push through the milestone in the meantime.

There's a powerful emotion attached to the fact that we could "easily" create our own child, in spite of our meager finances, but that making a play for a family member who could certainly benefit from our stability is something completely out of reach, because it would require a lawyer and a court fight, and that means money. Because we live in a different state and live on a single salary, we'd be at the disadvantage, when the parents in question are both neglectful addicts without jobs. But these are the Carolinas we're talking about, with their strong laws regarding what constitutes "family". So all we can do in the meantime is stand by and pray. But I also envision a conversation when we go down there for the holidays, one that punctuates to the individuals in question that the only thing holding us back is the money, that shit's gonna get real when we're in a better position, unless they change things for the better.

But because of those roadblocks, there's only so much worrying you can do over a situation like that. So I look ahead to our future instead, one that involves a house and some land. I had a line on a rental in Candler that seemed to show promise "on screen," and made a crack to Lil Sis about how with my luck, it's smack in the middle of a nest of meth labs in the backwoods or something. Within 24 hours of making that crack, I read a local news story about a couple of meth heads who got busted RIGHT DOWN THE ROAD from that rental. Classic! So my searching online will definitely include more homework before I come close to getting my hopes up about a place. Having almost an acre to play with would be nice, but not if your neighbors' mobile home explodes and renders the place toxic. Ah, the things you learn when you get outta the city...

Guess I needed a quick verbal ramble here today. I normally get pensive around my birthday, but since the birthday itself is making me grumpy, I'm just marking time. At least this year, everything else about my life is pretty wonderful. I live in an area I'm absolutely, unabashedly in love with, and things really do fall into place sometimes when you make a big move like that. Sure, there's probably folks out there wondering why I don't go back to an office job with bennies, but we're OK for now and both happy, so why disrupt that? Heck, I'm doing a better job now of keeping the wolf at the door than I did when I was making more money and had bennies.

My food intake has slacked in areas this week (see Melanie's Gym), but I'm keeping up a walking routine (see Dark Meadow Farm) and finding more muscles waking up from hibernation. It's an amazing, albeit exhausting feeling!

Have a great weekend, y'all!

Image from here.

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Weekend Review

Yea, OK, we're only halfway thru the weekend, and it's a holiday weekend at that. But it's the first of September, and that makes me all hopeful n' stuff. I don't own any flannel, but September makes me want to remedy that shortcoming.

Instead though, WNC has been seeing a last ditch effort at summer in the last week or so, temps cranking up to high 80s but still tempered by breezes and middling humidity. Yesterday felt pretty hot when we were surrounded by people at the Apple Festival, but I realized as we were heading back to the car, that it still wasn't as bad as Florida, that the humidity difference is still apparent. I got sun and was crazy-thirsty last evening, as my body adapted to the activity and climate we'd been in, but it didn't shred me at all.

Unfortunately, it did shred the Hubs and the MIL. They're both migraine sufferers, and she's no spring chicken, in spite of appearances. Mom J hit the sack early and is still out this morning. I'm thinking of going in there to put a mirror under her nose if she doesn't emerge by 10 AM.

It's rather astonishing to not be shredded after a day like that. My body aches, but I know it'll get better as I wake up and move around today, and I'm taking today off from exercising to rest.

Apple Festival was another one of those activities where I find myself thinking, I'm glad I went, now we won't have to go again for a couple of years. Hitting an orchard is definitely more fun. All of WNC was in Hendersonville yesterday, it seemed, and while the mood and atmosphere resembled a carnival, the crush of people was off-putting. I guess I'm out of practice around big crowds. But I just people watched and grinned like an idiot, to be out in the sunshine and have my body adapting so nicely to just 10 days of exercise and smart eating.

I'm buried in sites this week. It's the last pay period before our trip to PA and we need all the dough we can get. Everything big is paid for, but I'd love to go up there semi-comfortable, to not be worried about where the next tank of gas is coming from.

Meanwhile, there's apples on the counter hopefully turning into the above picture later this week, and sourdough starter in the fridge that will become fresh loaves later today or tomorrow. I stocked up on lettuce at the market yesterday and am still embracing salads. I know my food choices aren't perfect yet, but I'm getting there.

Have a great week, y'all! Happy Labor Day!

Image from here.

Editor's note: MIL emerged around 9:40 a.m. No mirror needed :)