Saturday, September 29, 2012

we have green lights out in garden crazyland

I went to a seed swap last weekend. I met some super cool folks. Feasted on some delicious grub. Shot the shit. Greedily traded seeds and gardening super secrets. Thus, my freaky gardening head was reared, and now my seeding obsession cannot be tamed.

(I also met a movie star at the seed swap, which is ironic considering that I just moved from movie-star-laden California and had never even seen one before -- ok, I saw Drew Barrymore once, but that was in Vegas.)

Unfortunately, it is now early fall and I'm way behind in terms of seeding a fall garden. But this does not deter me, NO. Instead, I went off the deep end and ordered Christmas lights to keep my seedlings warm in the depths of freezing temperatures. Green Christmas lights, to be exact, because plants cannot see green light so this way, they will be warmed against the Fall frosts and Winter chill but not be thrown off by unwelcome nighttime light and do strange things like flower before I'm ready for them to.

When temperatures are predicted to be too low for my garden's comfort, I have a long piece of visqueen at the ready to tuck my plants in and keep them warm. What a way to baby something that you're just going to chow down on in a month or two. Poor unsuspecting plants.

Also, I've talked about the rocks before. Now you can see the fruits of my laborious labors. All those rocks are being used elsewhere now as decorative garden bed edging. Because we can't have haphazard garden edges now can we?

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

camera dump day #1

You know how some bloggers like to have Wordless Wednesdays, Scripture Sundays, and all other manner of catchy blog post titles? Well, I'm doing Camera Dump Day.

Buckeye butterfly (Junonia coenia): pretty, but
sitting on a slobbery dog toy of all places.

Haven't figured this one out yet.

Had some babies in the house recently. Plentiful kid fix.

I'm thinking that I won't need four pairs of Chanel heels anytime soon. Two may
be right, though. Storage space at the holler is somewhat of an issue.


Sunday, September 23, 2012

squirrel stew for the haters

Our water tank was low, so don't make fun of our paper plates and bowls
(or my watermelon car air freshener -- I love those things).

People, if you make squirrel stew like I do, it fucking rules. (I get my killer soup/stew making skills from my Ma.) I would challenge anyone to think it's anything but rich chicken.

Crock pots can be evil devices in that whatever you're making can slowly become a gross blob of unappetizing slop, but do it like I did, and you'll be up to your ears in delicious, hearty, mouth-watering stew that you can't quite get enough of. Make some fresh, crusty bread and maybe whip up a quick side salad, and you have a well-rounded meal fit for royalty.

Just be sure to check the liver of every squirrel you kill (to make sure that the meat is fit for human consumption) because as I like to say, burgundy is just dandy, but anything else doesn't belong anywhere on your plate (you heard that here first).

Before doing anything, FREEZE THAT MEAT for a couple of days -- it needs some chilling to tenderize it a bit. Then throw on some tunes and thaw it enough in either hot water or the microwave so that you can separate all the leg and back strap pieces that you previously froze together. Try not to cook it at all if you use the microwave.

Turn up the volume, and PARBOIL THE MEAT (allows you to strip the meat off the bones and also get rid of any remaining fur). You will need:

- The front and back legs as well as back straps of five squirrels, give or take.
- Half a very roughly cut large, white onion.
- Some sort of citrus juice. I threw in a dollop of frozen, concentrated orange juice.
- Lots of salt and pepper.
- Enough water to submerge the meat in whatever cooking vessel you're using.

Boil those fuckers up on medium-high for an hour or two. Drain. Compost the cooked onion. Remove any remaining fur from the meat with some disposable vinyl or nitrile gloves (it comes off a lot easier after parboiling), then using your fingers, extract the meat from the bones, discarding any really icky looking pieces that you don't think you'd be down for eating.

Taste one of the pieces you saved. Realize it tastes pretty good, and then realize again how good this will be in stew.


- About a half pound of bacon, sliced (I've been told Benton's is the bomb, but I just used a supermarket brand).
- The other half of that large, white onion, finely diced (more if you're an onion freak like me).
- 1 carrot, peeled and diced (I just put that in there for the color -- carrots are kinda iffy for me).
- 1 celery stick, diced (eh, more if you want, but celery is a weird vegetable).
- A few garlic cloves, minced (maybe a few more, especially if you married someone of Italian descent like I did).
- 3 small red potatoes, peeled and quartered (potatoes are the blood of stew -- even more so than meat, and this is not up for debate).
- Half a lemon, squeezed.
- About 6 cups of chicken or whatever stock you have on hand (water will do in a pinch -- just add more sea salt).
- Lots of sea salt and even more fresh ground pepper. DON'T BE SHY. Under-seasoned soup/stew is the devil.
- A spicy seasoning like Tabasco or Dave's, unless you're a sissy. Don't be embarrassed.
- A bit of cornstarch for thickening at the end. You'll have to use some judgment here.

Throw everything but the cornstarch in the crock pot. If you see an ingredient in your cupboard or pantry that you think might be an asset, don't be afraid to use it. Malt vinegar, mustard, honey, herbs, mirin, and/or that sad bottle of some sauce in your refrigerator that needs to be used before it goes bad, DO IT. Taste and go, folks. When in doubt, add more lemon or salt. Lemon and salt make everything better.

The squirrel meat will start to fall apart at about hour seven. This is muy bueno.

Just before hour eight, toss in some cornstarch to thicken it up to stew level. Also, add a fat patty of butter at the very end of everything. Sneak it in there if your husband protests at the idea of butter in soup/stew. Squirrel meat needs lots of fat -- don't question my authority on this.

Consume. Revel in the idea of eating squirrel meat. Throw the finger at the doubters. Then invite them over for dinner sometime. They will thank you for it.

Friday, September 21, 2012

both feet

Yesterday, we closed on the sale of our house in California. We didn't make a dime on the place, but it was a very good day indeed.


I celebrated today by digging a fall garden bed next to the south side of the house. My seeds will be sown a little late, but I figure it can't hurt to spend a couple bucks to see what happens. And I like playing in the dirt.

Getting the top layer of grass off was the easy part.

Getting all the rocks out was not.
Wait til I show you my rock piles (yea, that's plural) in a future post.

Needless to say, I accumulated quite a few blisters today.

I've had this cheapie soil test kit for probably ten years now, so I wasn't sure how accurate it would be.

It said our pH was fairly neutral, but I'm skeptical about the NPK analysis
because none of the resulting colors were even on the chart.

That motherfucker right there required the wrecking bar to get out. I hate that rock.

Next time we're at Lowe's, I might pick up another soil test kit, but there's not really any doubt that I need nutrients, so I might just buy some bagged mushroom compost for now and work it in. It kills me to buy packaged compost, but I could only find one source of bulk mushroom compost, and that's southwest of Knoxville, so it may be another week or two before I get a bulk load in. The Tacoma bed only fits about a half cubic yard of material, so we're trying to figure out whether to rent a dump truck that will be able to fit several cubic yards (for building spring beds).

Ideally, I would have sheet mulched this area instead of digging and planted some crops that will loosen the soil without the need for back-breaking work, but I needed to get this done quickly so I can get a fall garden going. It sure didn't feel quick, though. And I still have about a third of it left to de-rock.

Sure feels good to now have both feet firmly planted on Tennessee soil! Literally and figuratively.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

laundry the old-fashioned way

We've mostly been using the laundromat in Jonesville, Virginia since we arrived, but if you remember, I was determined to acquire Matey, the abandoned Maytag wringer washer, that sat abandoned and unloved on our neighbor's property. Matey was manufactured from the mid-1940s until around 1983, if memory serves correct.

Well, turns out that Maxine, Matey's owner, was happy to hand her down to the newcomers in the 'hood. We were delighted to discover that Matey is in relatively good working condition, save for the crusty, extremely leaky, deteriorated intake/drain hose, which Jay quickly replaced.

I scrubbed down the whole machine with a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser (an indispensable tool, I tell ya), but the paint is flaking off to some degree, so I plan to lightly sand the body down and spray a light coat of bright white spray paint on it. Really though, it's not hard to avoid getting the flaking paint on the clothes I put in it.

The agitator pull at the front of the washer doesn't work, so the agitator always spins as long as it's plugged in (there's no on/off switch either, so it's' either plugged in or not), and the wringer doesn't exactly get the clothes wrung out completely (I found myself doing a lot of hand wringing), but I figure it costs us 15 to 20 bucks for each laundromat run (including gas), so if I just do a load every other day or so before the laundry gets totally out of control, we'll be saving a bit of dinero.

Besides, standing out in the sun doing laundry the old-fashioned way (at least mid-century old-fashioned), breathing in the crisp fall air, the breeze rustling the surrounding foliage, and feeling the fabric getting clean between my fingers is a lost and quite pleasurable art in my book.

Come winter, I might be making more runs to the laundromat than I originally envisioned, but I plan to use this baby as much as I can before my fingers start freezing off.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

how to build a small pond in 10 easy steps

Wait until it rains a lot.
Then find a spot in the grass that is beyond squishy (aka, a spring).
Stomp on it in front of the dog and let him have at it.

Observe the awesome power of water.

Get distracted by the faltering rose bushes.

Realize that they're not done blooming yet.

Get real muddy digging. (And make a note to do some laundry tomorrow.)

Save all the rocks you found for a future waterfall and edge liner.

Make sure you don't upset your spring.

Give the dog a kiss.

Introduce him to his new watering trough.

Eat some killer potato chips and drink some whiskey! A good day!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

martha's salisbury steak recipe

I make some killer mashed potatoes. And dynamite sauces and dressings for various salads, vegetables, and the occasional unprocessed meat mass (aka, steak, chicken breast, pork tenderloin -- all those high-end meat pieces). Low-budget animal mass, however, generally throws me for a loop. I don't normally look to Martha Stewart for recipes because I have a Recipe Arsenal that usually fills our nutritional and salivator-y carnivorous needs, but I was at a loss for dinner fixings this evening and remembered seeing a pin on the almighty Pinterest that peaked my interest a few days ago.

Salisbury Steak With Onion Gravy. (So I figured mashed potatoes and corn-on-the-cob were dutiful accompaniments.)

My mashed potatoes exceeded all tastebud expectations. The corn was buttery, salty, hot, and well, what more do you expect from corn. However, Martha's salisbury steak recipe, was quoted as followed by my dear husband (honestly, he said A LOT of salisbury steak/Martha Stewart comments, and I didn't write them down, and then I couldn't remember them, and then I asked him to repeat them again, so these might or might not be in their regurgitated format):

"Martha Stewart knows some shit, but she doesn't know salisbury steak."

"Martha Stewart might know Chow Chows, but she doesn't know salisbury steak."

"I might make salisbury steak out of Martha Stewart's Chow Chows."

Oh yeah, and:

"Fuck Martha Stewart."

So, I realized after making Martha's labor-intensive recipe for salisbury steak that I never really liked salisbury steak to begin with. See, Jay has been buying Banquet Salisbury Steak TV dinners for as long as I've known him, and it's something that he gets genuine culinary joy out of but something that I've tried maybe twice in my lifetime. Because they're pretty fucking gross. But he likes salisbury steak, and like I said, I was at a loss for what to concoct for dinner, so I figured what the hay.

In my defense, I absolutely followed the directions to a T and the only change I made was to halve the recipe. The onion gravy was a greasy, sloppy mess. The final product was basically hamburgers with no bun or condiments. I doused it in barbeque sauce (due to the lack of an inedible onion gravy) and managed to only finish half a patty (while finishing off my mashed potaters, corn, and then a little more potaters).

Jay polished off two Salisbury Steak patties. I asked him for his honest opinion (because I needed to know whether this was something to add to my dinner repertoire, even though I didn't particularly care for it), and he said that it was decent. This won't be appearing on the dinner menu again.

The moral of this story is, if it looks like a hamburger patty, it might be made of Martha's chow chows. And it doesn't taste good.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

seriously overdue

Screens are important out here. Large bugs are constantly trying to invade.

Post-Clinch-River-outing. This dog was made for swimming.

I killed a wasp and a Red-Spotted-Purple butterfly by
mistake the other day. I only feel sorry about the butterfly.

The Nekster venturing out.

Wedding gift from days ago courtesy of friends Arlo + Jasmine (RIP)
and family. Now permanent garden art at the holler. 

I could seriously knit a sweater from the Clyde Dog fur.