Apr 29, 2008

The Growing Challenge

We've been having bone chilling wind, surprise snow flurries, hail, and just plain old freezing rain in the past couple of weeks so it's no surprise the spinach took a while to pop up. I haven't planted any of my other seeds for this challenge yet because I'm in the middle of building beds for them. I have a row at the community garden and I might just plant some of my beans there since they're very nearly ready to start the planting season.

In fact, I am covered in dirt and blisters from volunteering there for a couple of hours today. Two hours of removing weeds from muddy beds. We weeded in the rain and sun both, this being Oregon, you get it all in one day. Don't pack up your picnic just because it's raining suitcases on you...the sun will come out in another five minutes.

Hopefully the next update will include pictures of planted raised beds.

Apr 28, 2008

Meeting Asimov

Free-falling through time takes practice if you want to avoid crashing smack into your own self as you have been and not change the fabric of your consciousness forever. Fall like a feather rather than a brick.

I've told the story of how I met Isaac Asimov many times. I know it was real, yet these memories are like mind candy- too interesting to have been real, too succulent with detail to stand the acid test of fact checking. The evening stands as one of those strange happy accidents of life that happen only to those completely open to adventure.

I was twenty two and working as a costume designer with my partner Autumn. As it turned out we were less business partners than I thought, but it hardly matters. We all (meaning our posse of fashionable and morally squidgy friends) wanted to go see the latest period gangster flick in San Francisco and (obviously) we all dressed up in our 1930's best evening wear for the matinee.

Included in the party was my ex-boyfriend Michael with whom I had agreed to remain good friends, something I generally don't believe in doing with exes. We broke up because he was afraid that my innocent and unwitting ass was going to fall in love with his heart breaker self. I tried to tell him that for the first time in my life I just wanted to date and have a good time and not worry about where the relationship was going because in my experience men didn't want relationships with me as much as they just wanted to mess with what they perceived as my naive view of the world.

Which has always mystified me. Me: the girl with the scars on her arms, the very dark and twisted sense of humor, and the vast experience with life disappointments and betrayal. I never saw myself in this naive maiden light that others have.

I later came to realize that it was more a question of chastity and man's irrepressible desire to break through it that gives them the satisfying illusion of naivete than actual naivete. I wasn't a virgin when I was twenty two, in case you were wondering. But I had been so underwhelmed by sex the first time that I didn't really see why I should let myself become so vulnerable to another person again for so paltry a temptation as sex. So I wasn't a slut. Men love that until they have it.

Dammit. I'm sounding uncharitable to men and I don't mean to.

I really liked Michael, even though it freaked me out to date a person with the same name as my dad. He was a fencer which accounted for quite a lot of my attraction to him because he wasn't a man of classic good looks. However, he cleaned up nice, had fabulous posture (unlike myself), and there was something wonderfully old fashioned about him. He was chivalrous and I love chivalry in men. It's a lost art: how to show respectful reverence for women without belittling them. Put a man like that in a 1930's suit and you want to go out with them if for no other reason than the pleasure of being treated like a lady.

So a group of us saw a movie in 1930's evening wear. Afterwards we went to the little restaurant near Polk Street that is an old train car. Every city has one, don't they?

You see how Asimov is an afterthought in this free-falling memory?

None of us wanted to go straight home since we were ready for drinks so Michael suggested we go to the club where he sometimes worked that would just be opening up. It was located South of Mission and was that typical modern, clean, industrial space you expected to find in every hip place in the early 90's. We got to go in, in spite of the fact that they were going to be hosting parties from the book fair held earlier in the day. Private parties. But we knew Michael.

See what I mean? He was the kind of guy that could get you in to an exclusive club catering to private book parties.

Our party was alone for a while and Michael cued up some Billie Holiday and Louis Armstrong with gins and tonics. It was a lovely lazy late afternoon loll. We glittered in our evening gear. My gown was one I made myself of velveteen and tulle, spiced with beading and clinging to my (then) lovely slim shapely shape. It was my one and only homage to my 1930's heroines and has since burnt to a black melty crisp in our attic fire of 2003. Sometimes I wish I could pull it out of its old trunk and touch it.

As the light outside reluctantly slid into its sheath of evening, people began to populate our exclusive club. An older couple sat down at our table when the rest of the tables were full. A familiar face.

I suppose this is as good a moment as any to say that I have spent a lot of time with fantasy/science fiction books. Happy time that has felt a little like finding my own kind. I was especially fond of Andre Norton novels. I also loved Anne McCaffrey, Mary Stewart, and T. H. White. One author I have not been particularly fond of is Isaac Asimov.

Which is why it was so disconcerting to find him sitting at a table with me over drinks in a club in San Francisco. With his wife. Wearing name tags that said something like "Mr. Smith" or "Dogbert Dogbody" or something equally unlikely. They were incognito. Except that you can't be incognito if you are a well known science fiction author sitting at a table full of ex-nerds. We had such a lovely time talking about ordinary things. They were so pleasant and all of us wore the glow of a famous evening long before we dragged ourselves home.

I know I wrote about the evening shortly after it happened and if I were to sift through my old diaries I might find some good details there that I've since forgotten. But I'm not sure that those details matter. I sat at a table with Isaac Asimov shortly before his death and talked about ordinary things and was enchanted.

Not too long afterwards, my ex-boyfriend would find himself someone important to marry and we would cease to be "friends". He never did break my heart as he feared he would. I can never decide whether I prefer to remain indignant that he was so sure of his masculine charms or whether I should just be glad that some man out there thought of me as being delicate enough to be breakable, a rather novel experience for me.

It really doesn't matter now.

I ended up taking fencing myself and I suspect that if Michael ever knew it he would assume I did so in a fit of love for him.

I am a pacifist in my heart. Yet it cannot be denied that there is a beauty and an elegance to the art of fighting honorably: hand to hand. Fencing allows you to release the warrior in a safe and gorgeous manner. I am not so different from my son after all. I fight, I just expect to do it to the first pink, not to the death. A pacifist warrior. How many of us are there? Where do we fit in?

I am not grace. I seek it.

I wonder who Asimov's widow is voting for this year?

In this cyclical manner I keep thinking, dreaming, and remembering.

Apr 26, 2008

Sew or Mow?
(plus an impromptu discussion of about the virtues of Oregon)

I promised a little peek at the coat project and here it is. A swing coat and the orange fabric I have chosen to make it out of. I was hoping for a sumptuous dove grey or charcoal color wool but since I was limited to what was on clearance this was my only choice. I'm lucky that I happen to LOVE this color. I'm just not sure it's going to be complimentary on me. I'm hoping that the glow I feel just looking at such a happy color will make it look good on me.

Sew or Mow? Indeed. I want to sew but vying for my attention are a whole lot of other things such as the garden beds which need building. It's been easy to ignore outdoor projects what with the freak snow flurries, the nasty bone chilling wind, and the rain we've been having...but suddenly it's nice out again and those beds are calling to me. I started mowing the lawn which has become quite overgrown. As usual, nothing is really simple. Before making the raised beds and situating them in their permanent spots I need to mow the lawn, but to mow the lawn I need to pick up the two weeks worth of dog poop.

I picked up the poop like a pet hero and then I started to mow. I really dislike gas mowers and electric ones seem like a nightmare of immanent electrocution so I requested that Philip locate an old fashioned push mower. He did. It's old, it's squeaky, but it works really well! I love mowing with the push mower. It's an upper body work out, especially when you've not mowed the lawn before and it's become a meadow of flowing grasses. So after getting about 20 feet of lawn sheered down to a respectable golfing* length I finished making the first of my raised beds and measured it into place in the corner of the yard.

Then I had to take a really long break.

It's the next morning and I'm still on the break.

This morning is the Master Gardener's plant sale. It's an annual fund raising event and one hundred percent of the proceeds from it go towards supporting the program. I've never been to it before. I've heard tales about it: how cheap the plants are; how you can fill up a pick up truck with plants for $25; how people line up at the doors to get in; how they will jostle each other with elbows and shoulders to get at the plants they want; how they will steal plants out of your cart.

Dudes. This is not a side of my fellow gardeners I want to see. In fact, this is not a side of my fellow human beings that I want to see. Ever. So I have been sorely tempted not to go. However, I'm on a budget and I have a blank slate of a yard. I feel that it would be stupid of me not to at least check the sale out. What if I can get some things I really want for super cheap? A person in my financial position cannot laugh down my nose at a plant sale. So my mom will be picking me up in a while and we will go see what the truth of this sale is.

Maybe I'll see the dreaded DD** there.

Meanwhile, ex-president Bill Clinton is speaking today at our High School. If this was 1988 I would be so excited I'd be teasing my hair into impossible height right now. Unfortunately this is 2008 and we've seen Monica, Whitewater, affairs with corporate America, and the Clintons are poison to me, particularly because of their little partnership with Monsanto. No one will ever get my vote who supports Monsanto (or similar companies) and is helping them eradicate biodiversity and choice in agriculture. I'm very impressed with Hillary's improved hair, naturally, she's come a long way sartorially since she was the first lady of the US, but she's spreading evil and I would love to go ask some very pointed questions of Bill today but I hear he's only speaking for an hour and then he's splitting.

In my opinion, if you're so desperate for votes that you are speaking in McMinnville's High School, you ought to be allowing questions and be prepared to answer them.

I have often thought of Oregon as the United States best kept secret. It happens to be the best state we have. It's funky, it's gorgeous, it's wild, it's full of progress and at the very same time it is also stodgy and old fashioned. It's a strange mixture of independent thought and traditional people. I fell in love with it in 1978 and I never did stop loving it. It has rarely made appearances in film, in ad campaigns, or the news. It isn't generally the place everyone talks about visiting for vacation like they do California. It's an alarmingly religious state (in my opinion) and yet it is the only state (to my knowledge) that legally allows assisted suicide in terminal medical cases.

Oregon kicks ass!

I've been noticing lately that it has been turning up on the rest of the country's radar more and more. A big Hollywood film is coming out that takes place in Oregon. People are discussing our green cities like Portland and Eugene...and taking notes. Our wines have been getting some notice as well, and more and more people are moving here. People like me.

And now, suddenly, Oregon (who no one has previously valued in the primaries, since we are almost the last state to vote in them) matters to the politicians. Well, watch out, because Oregon is hardly a predictable political field. Oregon is a state of surprises and I think it's hard to impress.

I see only five things wrong with this beloved state of mine:

  • People don't take care of their teeth here.

  • Avocados don't grow here.

  • Citrus doesn't grow here.

  • There are too many churches.

  • And coincidentally? An alarming rate of teen pregnancies.***

*I think golfing is silly. Just in case you wanted to know. Go ahead, get your nine irons out and have a ball...don't be shy. I think it's a game for stodgy republicans. Maybe it needs an image clean-up. "Golf- the new hockey!" Ha ha. My brother plays golf once in a while and it's something I can never quite wrap my brain around.

**Doubleknit Disaster

***A correlation which I see as being very tightly bound together.

Apr 23, 2008

Peanut Butter dips
fancy cookies

I don't make fancy cookies. I have a secret ambition to learn to make a dozen really pretty cookies that could be laid out on a fancy tiered serving dish for a tea with friends, but what happens when I make cookies is that I eat them all. Every last crumb of them.

This is not good for us thick ladies.

However, I have had some peanut butter sitting around in the fridge for months, shunned and neglected. The kid is extremely picky about the peanut butter he will eat and it periodically changes. So what to do with it? If you leave peanut butter in the fridge long enough it will either go rancid or it will fossilize. Since one of the things I'm trying to reduce around this homestead is waste, I decided to make peanut butter cookies and see if the kid would eat them. I followed a recipe from a book called "Once Upon A Tart" by Frank Mentesana and Jerome Audureau and then I embellished.

Instead of doing the traditional cross hatching with a fork, I left the cookies smooth. Then while the cookies were cooling I put about 1 cup of white chocolate chips in a glass bowl over a pot of simmering water and let the chips melt. If you have a double boiler, use it. When they were completely melted and the cookies were cool I dipped each cookie in the chocolate about a third of the way in and covered the front and then did the same with the back. If you are doing big batches and melt more chocolate at once you might be able to dip the whole cookie in deep enough that both front and back are covered evenly.

Place each dipped cookie on a sheet of wax paper to cool. If you want to speed up the cooling you can put them in the fridge for an hour.

The cookies were a hit. Now I'm thinking I might have to play with the drizzle effect using a fork.

If you have any melted chocolate left over, just put in a plastic lidded container to cool and store in the cupboard.

Apr 21, 2008

My First Book Cameo
(Pam, I'm Almost Famous Now!!!!)

It was obvious, when I was born with a serious cone head, that I was going to be published some day. Some bells must have rung somewhere at the time but everyone must have been too stoned to notice.

True, it's not a soap opera, or a great American novel... in fact it's a design accompanied by some technical writing. That doesn't in any way diminish this historic moment for me: the first time I've appeared in a book. That's my apron on the page! Those are my other white 80's sunglasses.*

Observe my poorly contained glee.

*Cause I know some of you were wondering.
Cilantro Rice Salad
a recipe

This is a great spring dish that I just made up this week because it uses the first fresh cilantro of the season to dress a melange of items from the pantry. You could make it in the summer too when there is fresh corn and tomatoes to be had but I don't want to think about how much better it will be later when I'm enjoying the spring version now.

My friend Anna asked for quick vegetarian recipes and I think this one qualifies as quick if you have the black beans in a can. I had to make mine from dried which takes time. But cooking the rice takes twenty minutes and you can make the cilantro pesto and grate the cheese while it's cooking.

I can actually remember a time when I wasn't crazy for cilantro the way I am now. Now I crave it when I haven't had it in a while. Fresh is best with cilantro (in my opinion). You can freeze it and it is acceptable, but not the best.

Cilantro Pesto Ingredients:

1 large bunch fresh cilantro, washed and stemmed
3 garlic cloves
2-3 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Rice Salad Ingredients:

2 cups cooked black beans (or two cans)
2 cups cooked Basmati rice
1 can corn
1 quart diced tomatoes
2 cups grated jack cheese
1 recipe cilantro pesto

To make the cilantro pesto:

Put all the ingredients into a food processor and pulverize the hell out of it. You're done.

To make the rice salad:

Be sure to drain the canned goods first. Then you put all of the ingredients in a bowl together and stir well. You're finished. Dinner is ready.

Serves 6-8


If you're one of those neurotic people who really needs two dishes on one plate, you could serve this rice salad with roasted potatoes, or grilled asparagus. I like it as a simple one dish meal myself. It's great at room temperature but it's also quite good heated. If you don't have black beans, I think it would be superb with chick peas. I also made this with pasta instead of rice and it was WONDERFUL. If you want to add some heat to it you could add chopped up roasted jalapenos. Or chopped pickled jalapenos. What brings it all together is the cilantro pesto. If you are vegan you can make this without the cheese.

Apr 20, 2008

Invisible Snow

Sometime soon I will resume writing more about food and including some recipes as well. I am only this past week really getting back into cooking after a whole lot of eating out while moving. In the meantime I want you to squint your eyes almost shut on the above picture and tell me if you can see the snow? Point and shoots don't capture snow very well. At least, mine don't. I'm hoping that the camera I'm buying from my crafty friend Mary (at The Craft Addict) will capture it better. I love snow. Even in April! It snowed giant flakes yesterday in the late morning.

Weird weather? Hell yes!! Last week there was one day that got almost to the 80's. Now snow.

I have no desire to live in a big city again, but if I did, there is only one city I would consider moving to: Portland, Oregon. It's so beautiful! The flowering trees alone are enough to take my breath away, but all the gardened nooks and crannies, the crazy number of bicycles and scooters in evidence everywhere makes me giddy. While I will always consider San Fransisco one of the most beautiful cities in the world, I'm sorry to say that I have put Portland on the top of the list, right next to Edinburough.

This is my mom's neighborhood. That's my mom in the purple.

The best news is that Pippa is officially free of ring worm. Penny still has a tiny speck of it but because it is so tiny the Vet has given them both clearance to be out of quarantine. As long as we don't sleep with them. So the acclimation of the pets has begun and it is a tedious process. The heartening truth is that Chick doesn't want to eat them, she wants to play with them and lick them til they're sopping with dog slobber.

Pippa is fairly tolerant of it though she's constantly trying to figure out how to avoid this dog whose tongue is bigger than she is. Penny is not at all willing to be covered in Chick's spit. I don't blame her a bit. Chick was being an adorable puppy trying to get them to play by nudging them with her paws. Unfortunately, too hard of a nudge with her paws could produce a kitten pancake so I have to force the dog to sit and mellow out. Which she does for two seconds.

The encouraging part is that neither of the kittens is so fiercely hateful of the dog that they've tried to hurt her. Penny has made a couple of gentle swipes at her nose but not put her claws out. This is encouraging because Chick was tortured by Ozark and in the end I'm pretty sure she changed her agenda from "Play with weird creature" to "Eat small orange feast". If the kittens don't torture her they may come to some kind of truce, maybe they'll even develop one of those enchanting rare relationships where the dog and the cats snuggle up together.

We have finally found out why it seems that we are surrounded by nursing homes disguised as regular homes- it's because we are surrounded by three homes for developmentally disabled adults (two of them for men only) and one hospice. For some families this might seem like a giant shadow on the dream house situation. I can't say I'm particularly excited to find out that we're surrounded by pretty iffy characters...but to be honest, I don't really think it's much different than anywhere else. At least we know what kind of issues might be found in those homes, generally speaking you can be living next to Jeffrey Dahmer and not know it until someone finds a human head in his freezer.

There are two reasons why I'm not particularly concerned:

These homes are under constant supervision by professionals, day and night.

We have a ferocious black dog who has already terrified EVERYONE in our cul de sac. No one will try to enter our property without permission.

It just seems so typical of us to find our dream home in a cul de sac where people come to die or to live under the caring iron rule of professional assistance. Anyway, it's the kind of thing we're used to. Philip's parents, the whole time he was growing up, had him and his brother spend every Thanksgiving and Christmas with the homeless people of Sausalito, the majority of whom were drug addicts or crazy people...often both at the same time.* I grew up around a lot of hippies who were pretty much fringe drifters; people who put their toes into the pools of regular life but always ended up drifting back to the outer edges of society with their pot and their guru sloguns.

It it flipping cold outside today so I think this is the time to dig into the sewing room I promised a sneak peak at my newest project but it will have to wait for one or two days as I unpack my sewing crap. I'm so excited about that room but it won't really come together until it's painted which certainly won't happen until after my trip to Scotland.

For those not yet in the know: my dad is getting married in Scotland in May. I am going to go without my boys because we can't all afford to go. Both my brother and my sister will be there and it will be the first time we've traveled anywhere together in over twenty years. I'm super excited and the only shadow over it all for me is how I don't have time to slim down and I am embarrassed to have my family see me so large. (My dad and my brother have not seen me in two years) I have decided that I must at least have some clothes for the trip that don't make me look worse than I already do and I am going to make a new coat.

I think it's time to go and make more coffee and then start dealing with the room. And the mess. Yes yes. I can't do it. What doesn't kill you may not make you stronger, but at least you're not dead.

*Not to build their character but to be good Christians. They sponsored an "open door" night at their church every Friday night where they would cook meals for the homeless and poor. This included Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Apr 18, 2008

Our Own Private Ghetto

We Williamsons like to create our own private Ghettos wherever we live. We have a talent for letting rust take its natural course, for letting weeds live a life free of fretting or constraint, we like to build things half way and then let them sit in useless splendor shouting out it's potential to be wonderful.

Entropy is our worst enemy and yet we invite it to sup with us at every meal, at every turn, and let it envelop us like a gentle Victorian graveyard mist curling around the decrepit stone like tattered lace.

Come see our mess grow and swallow our beautiful porch whole...

Hey, wait a minute...I don't have to fall under the spell of insidious inevitable entropy! I can't put things away and finish projects. I can breath new life into this Williamson legacy! Just as soon as I get off this computer. Consider this porch shot a "before" picture. Some dirt has been delivered, an asparagus bed has been built, post holes have been dug, one kitten cleared of ring worm, both out of quarantine (though still to be handled with care), wood has been cut, exercise has been accomplished, and laundry has been folded.

That's quite a lot of progress for us. Happy Friday!!!

Apr 17, 2008

Around The Farm Today
(With the intrepid farm-girl Mathilda)

I wanted to follow up my spice cabinet post with a comparison shot. The brown leaves in this picture are oregano leaves that I inexpertly dried at too high a heat last year. They did not taste good. I had trouble throwing them out after the work I put into them. However, an urban homesteader must develop an iron sense of purpose and quality around their work. So after one whole year, I have finally dried a new harvest of oregano and tossed out the batch that I never used after the first time since it was gross.

That green sprig you see here is how freshly dried oregano should look. Appetising is a word that comes to mind. (The proper heat for drying herbs well is between 95 and 100, not a degree hotter than that.)

Digging post holes is a fact of farm life. Even if your farm is no bigger than a city lot. Digging posts without a "post hole digger" is insane, certifiable behavior. If you have to dig a couple of posts see if you can borrow some one's post hole digger instead of buying one. Sharing tools is one of the ways reciprocity can bind you to your neighbors and friends. Just be sure to return it to them. Farm girl Mathilda is a bad seed who married another bad seed and we came by our post hole digger dishonestly. It belongs to my very kind FIL. It was borrowed and then not returned before getting packed up for a move out of state.

You will notice how little progress has been made in the above photo. I would like you to observe the nature of the terrain in which the deep narrow hole is being dug.


After taking a break to get some weeding done to free a choking peony by the fetid pond, I finally broke through the one foot of gravel/dirt mixture that almost rendered my left arm paralyzed for life and got to the fairly easy to dig (by comparison) solid clay.

Using a post hole digger is extremely simple. You grip the handles firmly in your grasp, raise the post hole digger high and then plunge it strait down into the spot you wish to dig the hole. Then when you have loosened enough soil you pull the handles away from each other which will force the metal scoops to pick up the dirt and you lift it straight out and start of pile of it close by. You repeat these actions one or two hundred times and Voila! You will have a two foot hole. However, if you are a very anal person you may decide that the proper depth for a post hole is at least 2.5 feet deep. Good luck, sucker.

I have some helpful tips on how to dig a post hole:

  • Be sure to only dig post holes in well composted sandy loam. `

  • Keep your feet as far away from the soil cutting metal edges of your post hole digger as possible.

  • Don't dig post holes at all, instead, build psychic walls around your property. Animals totally respect psychic walls. Especially deer.

  • Wear gloves unless you are one of those freaks who enjoys getting big painful blisters.

  • Hand the post hole digger to your spouse and promise them a dirty reward for doing it.*

  • Sing old southern grave digging songs while you dig. Your neighbors will love the macabre flavor you bring to the street.

  • Don't worry about your palsying arms afterwards, the shaking will stop sometime in the next twenty four hours, or at the very longest within a week.

*Don't worry about having to pay up, they'll be so dog tired by the time they're done they won't be able to lift a bottle of beer.

Apr 16, 2008

A Room Of My Own
(a before shot of my everything room)

This is my room. My sewing room. My writing room. My guru room. My sanctuary. My spy tower. My hide out. My club room. My retreat. Doesn't look like much right now since it's filled from floor to ceiling with crapola. It's seething with paper and fabric and string and patterns and just about everything a person like me deems necessary to survive. I'm going to redefine my definition of necessary very soon.

My last sewing room was orange and I loved it. I love the energy of orange and I still want to have some orange somewhere but I don't think I want it in my new sewing room because the pink and grey carpet would argue with orange. I want no arguments in my sanctuary. Except for the ones that go on in my own head.

As everyone knows, I'm not a fan of carpet in general. I have to admit that I like this one. Very Victorian. And not plush. Plush is just a big trap for hair and dirt and dust and...

Excuse my Howard Hughes moment. This room could be the perfect place to enjoy my delicate constitution and heart palpitations. I'm going to need a fainting couch though. And a lackey to cool me off with giant palm fronds when I get a little over heated from the exertion of complaining about my very mysterious illnesses.

Well, I've got lots of work to do. I need to get that room set up so I can make a coat. I will at last be able to contribute to the New Vintage Wardrobe flickr group because I'm making a coat from a reprinted Vogue pattern. I'll give you a sneak peak soon. It will probably be a while before I get the room painted because I need the coat for my trip.

Hope you all have a great Wednesday!

Apr 15, 2008

Jesus Had A Hammer, Mary Had A Saw
(I like to think Mary was a tool junkie* like me)

Of all the bible lore that has been discussed in my presence, the most interesting things aren't the mystical "miracles" that God and Jesus performed. I have always been much more riveted by the mundane things; things the bible never answers for me such as: did Jesus use a stick to brush his teeth? Did Jesus have lice? Did Jesus hate the desert? And obviously I'm intrigued by the fact that he was supposedly a carpenter. Doesn't it interest anyone besides me that he wasn't a lawyer, or a money changer, or a homeless leper?

Carpentry is one of those skills that man has depended on for as long as man discovered he didn't want to wander the earth all year long, every year, running from mastodons and saber-toothed tigers. There are only a few things humans really require for survival (besides avoiding being eaten by anything higher on the food chain...but we sure did take care of that problem by killing off everything that was higher on the food chain...yay us?): food (whether hunted, foraged, or cultivated, we require food), shelter (either under big rock over-hangs or shelter we build ourselves), a safe place to grow sperm and eggs into more people.

Clearly, humans have mastered the whole reproductive gig. But how many of us could provide ourselves with food and shelter if we had no one else to hand it to us on a golden platter?

Jesus was a carpenter and I wonder if there is any particular significance to that fact? It is one of the most basic and important skills humans can have. I like to think that Mary might have picked up a saw and cut herself some timber if need be. I've had my own hammer since I was nineteen years old. I relished choosing one for myself and telling the scoffing men in the hardware store to get lost while I got up close and personal with all of the hammers they had and pretended to bash them in the head to test out the feel of the handles and the weight. I chose a very nice hammer that has never once let me down.

Having a hammer has not, in itself, made me a handy person. In fact, I wouldn't describe myself as handy at all. I do aspire to it though. The dog is Houdini reincarnated and has many escape tricks up her tail. One of them is to quietly smash the fence to bits while we're not looking, as you can see above, her work is swift. In the past I would have grabbed my hammer and looked for some stray nails with which to fix this problem.

But that was before I got comfortable and capable with Philip's power drill. Women love to roll their eyes and comment about "men and their power tools" but I think most women, once they get a feel for them will understand the magnificent possibilities inherent in the ownership of such a tool. Women love power almost as much as men do and I admit that while it took me YEARS to even consider trying to use this tool, I am now at a point where I'm wondering if I don't need my own. (The answer to that is no. Because one power drill per household is enough. Sharing is good.)

This is my modest circular saw. I'm not a pro at using one but I'm proficient. What I have yet to master is to change the blade position to match the job I'm doing. I built a chicken coop from scratch a few years ago using this saw and the power drill. I also used levels, squaring tools, post hole diggers, and a staple gun. I wish my pictures of it aren't lost in the ether. I would show you what a woman can do when left alone with some wood, imagination, tools, and a need. It wasn't the prettiest thing you ever saw, but it was draft proof and provided a solid safe nest for my hens.

Our friend Jim came over yesterday to cut a pre-built fence panel in half for a bigger part of the dog containment project and he is a professional carpenter. He has things like chalk line and fancier skill saws and routers and things that are a huge mystery to me. I watched him cut that panel in two and wondered what it would feel like to have that kind of skill at my fingertips? Then I realized that I do. I do have some of the most important skills humans can have: foraging, growing, cooking, and preserving food is extremely important to humans in the same way as building shelter is.

Chick didn't bust this hole in the fence but once access to her other escape routes are closed off I know she'll find a way to wedge herself through here.

I might not be able to build more than a rudimentary shelter but I'm ridiculously proud that I can fix a hole in a fence like this.

The above picture required only that I screw the existing board back into place.

But for these two missing fence panels I had to cut a larger 1x6 board in half and then screw it into place. So easy to do. Yet a few years ago I would have looked at you like you were floating past me on the Nile holding up a sandwich board that says "Headed For Hell" if you had suggested I fix it myself.

Next up is some raised bed building. I am going to make them all by myself. The raised beds we made at the last house were made with the help of Philip and our very dear friends Sid and Dennis. This time it will just be me, the skill saw, the power drill, and a bunch of wood.

As a side note, I will have to take a picture of our pencil sharpener in the basement. Oh yes, oh my...it's the kind that schools have. The crank kind made of metal that are the only way to sharpen a pencil. If the porch facing the back yard didn't instantly make me want this house, the pencil sharpener in the basement did! I used it yesterday and it worked well and gave me the kind of small bright pleasure that a good life is filled with.

I am a tool junkie.

*I really wanted to say "tool whore" but then I thought that "whore" is still a pretty hard word to use without it coming off as deeply offensive. So then I thought "junkie" would be more appropriate. But if one is to really consider it seriously, is it less shocking to refer to oneself playfully as a drug addict or as a prostitute? Of course, either of them is better than saying "gosh I sure do love tools" which is really what I'm trying to say but is so milky and bland when it's stripped of all it's colloquial edge. I use language to weed out the hyper sensitive and gentle people because they make me itchy. I'm allergic to milky character. Wow, for a footnote this is impressively rambling and philosophical. I like it here in the footnote though. It's decorated exactly like a corner of my brain. I could stay here in this foot note all day talking to myself. Well, now I'm cracking myself up because I'm totally just talking to myself at this point and it always cracks me up how easily I can amuse myself when it's just me and a typewriter. If you happen to be reading this still then that's just incidental and you are now eavesdropping on my brain.

Shame on you!

Apr 13, 2008

Overcoming Clay
A Growing Challenge Update

One of the biggest garden discoveries I have made since moving to the farmhouse* is that the plot of heaven I have purchased stands on 10,000 square feet of SOLID clay. I am saying that if I wanted to start a career as a potter I would never need to purchase any clay. Indeed, it is sticky and thick and heavy as a Victorian widow's veil. You were hoping (if you're a gardener) that I was going to tell you that there is some magic way to transform clay into...not clay.

There is no such thing as overcoming clay. So I lied to you. And I'm mildly sorry for it. Except that I'm not. There are blessings inherent in clay earth. Aside from the fact that none of us would have such fine dishes without it it retains moisture and it is loaded with nutrients. Drainage is really the biggest problem with clay soil.

Believe it or not, lots of things can grow well in clay soil. If this wasn't true the Pacific Northwest would be a wasteland of cracked packed empty dirt. Instead it is a lush landscape in which, among other things, roses flourish. There are only two things that you can do to improve the performance of clay soil:

  • Amend it lavishly with organic compost every year. EVERY YEAR. It will take years, but your clay's texture and drainage will begin to improve immediately and continue to improve as time goes on. Organic matter breaks down fairly quickly which is why adding a ton of it just once won't get long term results. For long term results you need long term practices.

  • The other thing you can do to help plants grow well in clay is to add calcium to the soil (every year if you live in a wet climate) because clay is often slightly (or incredibly) acidic. In wet climates you will lose calcium every year because it is a water soluble mineral. In some situations it may be wise to get your soil tested to find out just how much calcium to add.

It is clear that this garden is going to involve the use of mostly raised beds. Which I love anyway and was planning on using. What I thought I would be able to do is move in and plant a few things directly before having to build beds. Since this is not going to happen (except for the roses I planted after a backbreaking session of removing quadruple layers of "weed cloth"** and mixing the mulch in with the virgin clay) I cannot plant any of my seeds for the growing challenge yet.

So I planted up a very pretty (and very small) glazed pot that my mom gave me with spinach. I will show that when sprouts have appeared. It felt like quite a triumph to finally participate in the challenge. Like all gardeners here in the Pacific Northwest I have been completely crazy to get into the dirt but the weather has prevented me. This week there is supposed to be more rain but I will be building my raised beds anyway. Once I have those filled with the kind of soil and compost that doesn't compact just from looking at it cross-eyed I can garden in the rain all I want.

Our move is complete now. Philip and our friend Jim got everything from the old house over here. My feeling is...we have too much crap. Other people should have more crap than us (this is an arbitrary opinion based on nothing in particular but a desire to be able to smugly say that others have a lot more than we do.) I have to admit that part of why we have so much is because we are still hauling around the inventory from our defunct retail business. So it's not exactly like we have been hoarding crap because we want to or anything.

In fact, we all know how hard I worked to sell off all my inventory. I'm not going to use that term I used to use to describe myself and my relationship with money. I've decided to embark on a new relationship with money in which it comes to me like a dog when I whistle.

I managed to get to the Hillsdale farmer's market with my friend Nicole yesterday and got some fabulous produce. I really wanted to buy some ricotta but as I mentioned before, they are charging a ransom for it and so I'll just have to learn to make it myself. I got tons of cilantro (HEAVEN!!!), lots of dark leafy greens, three small heads of cauliflower, one tiny bunch of asparagus, and best of all....six tiny heads of tender Romain lettuce!

For dinner last night I made a cilantro pesto with home made fettuccine, canned corn (brought as a gift from our friends), home canned diced tomatoes, black beans, and Parmesan. It was wonderful! Oh, and roasted potatoes. I have missed fresh cilantro and wanted to put some seeds of it in one of my small pots but discovered this weekend that I haven't got any cilantro seeds.

We have had a full week-end. There were some sketchy bits like when the toilet overflowed (always a favorite moment) and we had to call a plumber to unclog it which Philip had to help with. It turned out that there were leaves helping to clog the line which must have accumulated quite a while ago since there are no trees on our lot at present. The line wasn't old though which is great news. There was some challenge hooking up the washer and dryer as well and it's very important that it was finally successfully hooked up since I am officially on my last pair of clean underwear today. I would rather go commando than wear dirty underwear.

I almost just made forty comments about the unsavory sight of large butts without the genteel confinement of undergarments but decided that perhaps that might finally truly gross the world out beyond recall.

My studio is now absolutely completely packed to the brim with stuff. Lots and lots of stuff. I'm going to have to face it soon since I'm hoping to get a little sewing done before my trip. The carpet in their is a pretty pink and grey Victorian style fancy number and I was considering painting the walls either a spring green or a dove grey. Nicole votes for dove grey. I have been wanting to do a grey wall for a long time but have been a little afraid. My writing/sewing room is going to be my personal sanctuary from which boys will be largely excluded, unless it is to come in and admire how feminine and awesome I am. I loved my orange studio but I am ready to do a really girly room. Dove grey is a color that is supposed to look great on me and so I would look good in it, in theory. Since my ego has been stupidly fragile lately, that's not a bad plan.

We are off to Lowe's now for fencing materials to keep the dog from terrorizing the neighbors and wood for raised beds! Ha! Wonderful! And I will get more paint chips too.

*Secretly called "Thistlewilde" by me and M.S.S. at Zanthan Gardens.
**Four layers of non permeable heavy duty black plastic. Non permeable weed solutions are not healthy for your soil, in case you find yourself tempted. Be sure you're putting down something that lets water through.

Apr 11, 2008

Partnership With Complications
(advice from a happily married woman)

One thing that never ceases to annoy me is when people talk about having babies as though it will "cement" their love for each other. Or when they think that having babies will fix the problems they already have. There is nothing guaranteed to make things more challenging for a couple than having a baby. Already have a baby and having some marital problems? Having more babies will simply make whatever problems already extant even more amplified.

I'm not saying that children can't remind parents of their love for each other. I'm mostly saying that if your marriage is already troubled, bringing in another human being into your relationship who's going to have a hundred urgent daily needs to be met is not going to make life get smoother. I'm also saying that loving someone is not a good enough reason to have a baby with them. Women have been known to love the most unsuitable men who would make the most deplorable parents. A man who is good in bed and makes your heart do somersaults isn't automatically going to deal well with no sleep, and boobs that are no longer his, and having a baby's needs come before his.

Choosing a spouse that fits your needs is as important as any life decision you can make. Here are some criteria that I think are very important when choosing a spouse:

  • He/She should be a good companion. This is the number one thing I think is important. Romance is all well and good but will ebb and flow, maybe fade altogether into something more permanent and solid. Sex will also experience that ebb and flow, even for people with normal sex drives. What should be the steadiest thing between you is your desire to hang out together, to talk, to share experiences, especially the "mundane" every day experiences. So he/she should be someone you would consider your best friend.

  • He/She should be flexible with life plans. Life rarely goes as planned. If you marry someone who has one very rigid idea of what will make them happy, chances are they will end up disappointed and you will both feel it deeply. If the only thing that will make a person happy in life is to have their own biological child, well, that's not an unreasonable desire unless it turns out that fertility is an issue. Then what? Will this person be willing to adopt? Or find other things to satisfy their desire to be around children? If this person's only ambition is to become president of the united states and they've never even gotten an acting job before?* What happens to your life together if they don't become president? Flexibility in navigating the twists and turns in life is an essential ingredient to finding happiness.

  • He/She should not be a jerk. Yeah, because as surprising as it seems, getting married doesn't turn toads into princes. A marriage license is a lot less like a magic kiss and a lot more like an invitation to get more comfortable farting in front of your partner. So if he/she is a jerk already, getting married just means that you will be legally bound to a jerk. And no, a good woman cannot change a chauvinist pig. I don't care if your hoo-ha is made of solid gold, only a jerk can change themselves into someone decent and it won't happen as long as there are plenty of solid gold hoo-has that will take them just as they are.

  • Being good in bed is NOT the next most important thing in choosing a spouse. It is more important that you choose someone you can (and already do) respect because living intimately together for all eternity will test your mutual respect like nothing else can. If the respect is solid then you can weather all kinds of indignities with kindness and with love. If that respect is like a thin cheap veneer, it will snap the first time your spouse experiences incontinence after having a baby or becomes a complete baby when struck down by a cold.

In fact, being good in bed isn't important at all because if you find your prospective spouse attractive and you have all these other great feelings for each other and your communication is great, you can both become exponentially better in bed as you navigate each other's very private preferences. Being good in bed is a skill and if the person you love isn't good in bed, that's no reason not to marry them because most people are motivated to improve in this area if it means they might get more sex. There are books and videos that can help you with that. It might be a good idea to find out (before tying the knot) if either of you have fetishes or fantasies that the other one finds repugnant.

  • I have said before that I am not into S&M or any other kind of kinky or dangerous sexual practices and it would go very hard for me if my spouse could only really be satisfied by a woman wearing a French Maid's costume brandishing a horse whip. So as a last point I would say that in choosing a spouse, be sure to have some very intimate talks about the kinds of things that get you off. And also? If you're not gay, you might want to make sure they aren't either.

Wait...one more thing...if you don't really want to get married or your prospective spouse doesn't really want to get married? I think you should not get married.

*Ha ha.

Apr 10, 2008


This is a close up view of one of Philip's pieces of art. I know, he's a genius. It's what he tells me all the time.

I've been thinking a lot about what makes a good marriage lately. Philip and I have certainly had our rough patches and although it's true that we speak different languages (mine is completely based on logic and is a true clear communication while his is based on visual symbols that only other artists understand) we generally have what I would consider to be a good marriage. What does that mean to me?

Signs of a good marriage:

  • You enjoy talking with your spouse.

  • You see yourself growing old with your spouse, not because of your spouse.

  • You don't keep score on every detail of your lives together.

  • You don't have to spend every second together to feel solid.

  • You can laugh when having sex.

  • You often speak kindly of your spouse when they are not present.

  • If you make fun of your spouse, you make fun of yourself just as often.

  • Doing things for your spouse feels like doing things for yourself.

You may all be surprised to know that I am not an ideal spouse. In fact, I'd say that I'm extremely fortunate that I landed the one and only man on earth who could love me and all my interesting foibles. What kind of foibles?

  • Until a few years ago I couldn't get to sleep without music playing to mask the sound of night.

  • I can't sleep facing another human being because feeling some one's breath on my face makes me want to crawl out of my skin.

  • I don't snuggle, I'm not a snuggly person and I find the warmth of other people's bodies overwhelming.

  • I need a big bubble of personal space around me at the end of the day and if anyone tries to enter that sphere of space I will attack. It's not pretty.

  • I have to decompress from big social events (like parties) for several days (this is much less severe now that I am properly medicated).

  • I am restless. I am the catalyst behind almost every move we've made.

  • I am demanding and not quiet when my needs aren't being met. Very unfeminine of me.

  • I need a lot of alone time.

  • I have a very low sex drive and the smallest whiff of sweat can knock the mood out of me.

  • I'm also not romantic. Something I constantly feel guilty about.

Being medicated has made it much easier to live with me. Philip admits it. My moods are less fragile now and also less dramatic which makes me less demanding. I am lucky to have him and I know it, but don't think that prevents me from wanting to strangle him once in a while. He's still the person I want to tell everything to and I cannot imagine life without him.

Apr 9, 2008

Feeding The Farm
And how Angelina pulled a Britney Spears

The hens have not yet moved to the farmhouse so I am going to the old house to feed them and care for them. I miss having them right outside my own back door. They are laying quite well now and one of them is laying some huge ones. Like, double jumbo size, and all I can think every time I crack one open is how that must hurt her chicken lady bits. Most people don't think of chickens as having lady bits, I'll bet. I like to imagine that laying eggs is slightly less uncomfortable that pushing out watermelon sized baby heads (sorry, you're going to have to do that soon Karmyn!) because they have to do it almost every day! No wonder they wear out in a few years.

I love my hens. I really do. I have a thing for birds, as I've mentioned here before. But not just any birds. Mostly it's hens. They're silly, funny, very practical, scrappy, pretty, usually quite friendly, curious, hungry, and chatty. What's not to love?

My pictures today are not spectacular. Here is my oregano barrel, ready for a trim. The last time I harvested oregano I dried it in the dehydrator on too high of a setting and it turned brown and off smelling so I had to toss it. I've been waiting to make a new harvest. Yesterday I picked a nice big bag full and today it goes into the dehydrator.

Eggs and herbs. Not a bad harvest for being in the middle of such a big transition.

In Which I Unpack My Life And It's Old Ambitions:

I realized yesterday that in order to finish moving I needed to make more room for things in the garage. Our garage is huge. But it is having to hold all of Philip's art stuff (he's not only a painter, he is an assemblage* artist which requires that you store vast collections of weird stuff), my pantry (we have a basement space in which the pantry stuff can go once the stairs going down there are supported and no longer considered a "death trap" by our home inspector), my medicinal herbal center (a big shelving unit that Capello would like to lick something to own), and all of Dustpan Alley's merchandise not to mention the usual garage suspects like tools and garden equipment.

I worked for a few hours yesterday arranging the space in the garage. I unpacked lots of boxes and put things away. I'm very pleased with the work I got done. It forced me to look at all my store merchandise though, as Philip had to do when packing up our storage unit to bring it all here. I understand why he felt depressed about it. When I put everything on the shelves I felt a small sense of injustice that so much crap sells so well out there and my really amazing collection of merchandise didn't sell better. Why? But really, it's no use asking such questions and I am very thankful not to have the store anymore. I really am. So the feeling went away as I contemplated what to do with it all.

My sewing room isn't very big and won't fit all the stuff that was in my studio in the other house. So it's going to have to go in the garage too. So more room will have to be made. We have too much stuff. I relish the idea of cleaning up and clearing things out. I love the idea of streamlining my house and it's operation.

When I was done my feet really hurt. I mean, the ball of my feet which gave me a lot of trouble last year before I started wearing only Keens and Birkenstocks (disguised as regular shoes) with inserts were shooting such violent pains up my leg that it would jerk my leg involuntarily and make me go "AH...AH...AH!". It seemed weird that only putting crap away for a few hours could create such pain in my feet. Then I remembered that I took the dog on an hour long walk.

My body is allergic to exercise.

The walk itself felt so good. I listened to Bob Dylan and the dog didn't pull on the leash and the air was fresh and it didn't rain until later. I love walking. But walking apparently makes me fall to pieces later. Just like going to the gym makes my back go out.

I didn't know that being 38 years old was like being 80 years old. I wish someone had told me not to get fat a couple of years ago. Oh well. The deed is done and clearly it's going to be a very long journey to reclaim my body. But notice that I'm not saying I can't or that I've given up. Wait, this is fodder for my other blog. Enough about body stuff.

In Which I Don't Recommend Pornographic Photo Shoots To Aspiring "Actresses":

I have a message for any of you considering an acting or modeling career: don't let any boyfriends or girlfriends tape you having sex and don't let anyone take nude pictures of you. No matter what anyone says, any pictures in which you are wearing "outfits" that come from Frederick's Of Hollywood or from a Hustler store are not going to be "artistic". These things will haunt you later, if you ever want to be taken seriously. Has anyone seen Meryl Streep in sex videos? Did she pose nude for dubious "photographer"s when she was trying to make it?

I also just want to say that I wish Paris Hilton would go grow a garden, without holding a microphone at the same time. Microphone clutching people annoy me. Microphones remind me of penises that untalented people need to constantly pander to for some sense of security and to feel bigger than they are. The way performers use them says a lot about them. People like Paris Hilton don't really have anything to give the microphone but vapid white noise. I think if she went off quietly and did a little real living without cameras or microphones or contracts or riches she might have something of value to contribute.

(Can you tell I got my hands on a gossip rag? My mom brought it for me this weekend.)

Oh, and I have to say that I can't believe Tori Spelling has "written" a book, a biography. I already didn't have respect for her, but now that I've seen the title of her book I want to throw up. It's called "sTORI Telling". That's like dotting all your "i"s with big pink hearts. Which I'll bet she does. What does a girl like that have to say besides "my mom took all my money"? Too bad down and out celebrities can't sell back their boob jobs. This is why they should all be collecting diamonds. Oh wait, they probably already are. Poor Tori. Life is very hard for her.

In Which I Pull A Britney, But Without All The Money:

I almost forgot to tell you all that I got pulled over yesterday! Yes, I violated two laws. This is unusual for me. I usually stick with just one at a time. I got pulled over for endangering a child!!! (Mine, you smart asses.) I also got cited for carrying a passenger on my scooter. The child endangerment was because I had Max on my scooter and he's too young and small (apparently) to ride in or on any vehicle without proper restraints.

But aside from that, in Oregon you are not allowed to carry any passenger on a scooter. Even if it's built to carry a passenger (which mine is). The policeman was really nice and didn't give me tickets for either citation because he admitted that most people are unaware of these laws, especially the one about carrying passengers on scooters. He also suggested that I speak up and try to change the regulation because it was his opinion that scooters that are more than 50cc's are strong enough to carry passengers safely and the law was really passed for mopeds which are under 50ccs and he also said that although he had to uphold the rules he really didn't think Max was in danger as he was protected just as much as I was (he was wearing a full face helmet).

I tend to have good experiences with policemen. He was clearly prepared for me to be angry and defensive and to contest the laws. I did tell him I thought the laws were unfortunate and seemed a little unfair yet I reassured him that I had no idea about the laws I had just broken and would not have broken them had I known. This is true. I don't resent policemen doing their work and do not view them as the enemy. This doesn't mean I never break laws. I do jaywalk sometimes and I do sometimes have chickens where they aren't legal.

Anyway, he was really nice and we had a good chat while about a billion middle school kids ogled me and wondered what the hell I had done wrong. I do find being pulled over embarrassing. That's the first time it's happened to me.

*Say it with a French accent. This can also be less romantically referred to as recycled object sculptures or junk art or whatever. "Assemblage" is so much more classy. Though Philip has his own distinct style, the type of art his work most resembles is the work of Joseph Cornell.

Apr 8, 2008

Spaghetti Sauce
A local challenge update

It is getting pretty bare bones when it comes to fresh produce around here. If I want anything I am going to have to get myself to the Hillsdale farmer's market. I don't know if anyone will have carrots. Or celery root. But hopefully I'll be able to get my hands on some spinach and collards. Lucky for me I have lots of stuff in the freezer still.

This is the beginning of month six of the local food challenge we took on in October. How's it going? So nice of you to ask. There have been a couple of changes. After a lot of deliberation I have put Gulden's mustard and store bought ketchup back on the exceptions list. I can't find enough information about mustards to make one I like enough to replace the store bought. There is a book about making mustards that might help me but I haven't bought it yet. There are some local gourmet mustards but none of them are in the stores in my town, and they are all pretty fancy. Also I bought mayonnaise which I wasn't going to do because I can make it myself- however, being in the middle of a move has made it very difficult to take on any cooking besides the most rudimentary. Plus, we've been eating out a lot.

Which is now coming to an end. I've got most of my kitchen moved in. I can start cooking again. The first thing I made was spaghetti sauce with local mushrooms, home canned tomato sauce, and onion. Quite delicious!

So aside from the condiments, what are we still insisting on buying locally? Well, pretty much everything we've been buying locally so far. Max's food is still an exception and since he's wanted baby carrots, I've been buying them for him. But for me and Philip I haven't bought one non-local bit of fresh produce since October. I'm still only buying grains from the local mill and I'm not buying the grains I know for a fact are shipped from all the way across the country. Polenta is coming not from the local mill but from a local farm that grew their corn, dried it, and then milled it themselves. There is a local-ish grain company called Shepherd's grains that, while out of my 100 mile range, only sells grains grown in Washington and Oregon. I am thinking of buying grains exclusively from them only because the other local mills I buy from get wheat from Montana which is farther afield than Washington.

Things I'm missing? I would really like to make some winter squash tofu curry soup that calls for coconut milk. While cleaning out my pantry to move I found one can of coconut milk and was so excited I almost peed my pants!!

Ha, just kidding. But I thought I'd make the winter squash soup with it until I realized that tofu is still on the unavailable to us list because there is no local producer for it. I'm also really missing ricotta and feta. I still plan to make some but learning to make cheese is going to have to wait a little bit longer. Soon though. I bought some super expensive ricotta from a local cheese maker at the last farmer's market I went to but at $7.00 per cup I may as well be buying myself gold ingots because they'll last longer.

I'm really trying hard not to buy fresh cilantro from California. I pass by it every time I go to the store and it's cheap and I can smell it long before I reach it and I want it want it want it. I want it so bad that sometimes I feel my hands reaching for it before I slap myself to wake from my cilantro haze. I am definitely going to plant some because it's time now, but I haven't had any pots to seed them in and the dirt around here is (in case you missed mention of it earlier) solid clay. With the continuous rain it is no time to be planting (for fear of compacting the clay). Anyway, my mom just gave me a few pretty pots and I will plant some cilantro in them this week.

With home cooking on hold during the move I snacked on some of Max's crackers, the ones going stale because they went out of his rotation. I felt very guilty about it*. But some guilt is good for us, right? I mean, I don't have any Catholic or Jewish family members living close enough to heap on any decent levels of guilt so I must do things occasionally to bring it on for myself. Sun chips are good. Love that MSG.

Once you start eating mostly local as a matter of course it becomes second nature. I don't really think about the local challenge all that much. I mean, I check the onions at the store every time I go and when the box is from a local source I buy extra onions. I cruise through the produce sections looking for signs that say "local" or I check the labels on the boxes the produce is in or I ask the grumpy over-perfumed produce guy where stuff is coming from. I cook with what I end up with in the fridge or the pantry. It's so easy to do, really. I know lots of people think it's impossible. You just eat a little differently but certainly not awfully.

Of course, I have lots of stuff in my pantry and in my freezer. But I think what I've depended on the most has been my canned tomatoes. Tomatoes and tomato sauce can brighten almost any meal. Greens have been major. I need greens and they were hard to get for a little while there. But over all you just get used to not buying the other stuff and a lot of the time the other stuff isn't that great in the winter anyway. You eat more potatoes and onions and eggs and pantry stuff.

I don't know what all the fuss is about. Do you know how happy I'm going to be when carrots reappear at the farmer's market? And lettuce. I will be so excited to see those things again. I think it's good to be without some things for a while, because it's so easy to take what we have for granted. Now when things I haven't eaten for five months show up on my local radar- it will be so much sweeter. That is one of the biggest benefits to eating more locally.

No I'm not perfect. Dang, it's a good thing I told you all that from the beginning. I'm not perfect and I don't do things in the extreme. I think when my challenge is over I may occasionally buy some tofu and coconut milk. I don't think I'll buy ready made pasta again though. It isn't hard to make and it's so much better fresh. I think I'll keep not eating Max's packaged food. Oh- dang- I also have eaten some Oreos. BAD ANGELINA.

My plan for dealing with the cookie thing is to make some really amazing home made cookies to have on hand. Max does like my home made cookies.

OK, time to go eat something and walk the damn dog. She's a houdini and is bored and can get out of the yard through very narrow spaces between planks so I must walk her to get some of her restlessness out. Off to the old house to keep packing stuff up. I think I'll take her with me. Double whammy.

*Shhhh. I didn't really feel very guilty about it. I am not particularly sensitive to feelings of guilt. I mean, not over things like eating non-local crackers. Why waste time feeling guilty when one is already making lots of effort to live well and thoughtfully...I'm not a saint for crying out loud. Jesus. I only pretend to feel guilty about things because it makes other people feel more comfortable with their own self imposed levels of guilt. Frankly I think guilt is a waste of time. If I find myself feeling guilty about something I examine why, consider my options for the next time I am in a similar situation, and decide that I will make better choices the next time. If someone else is involved then I apologize to them, end of guilt. Damn. Life is too short. Guilt is corrosive. All guilt tells us is that we have chosen to act unwisely in some way and gives us an opportunity for reflection and change. It should be a brief feeling that we let go of freely.

Apr 7, 2008

Kitten Candy

I cannot describe how tough it is to capture these girls well in pictures. Like all immature mammals they are in constant motion and my poor camera doesn't stop action well without a flash and the flash distorts the light and washes them out.

All I want is for the entire world to know how flipping cute they are.

Constant motion. Playing. Crying for food. Playing some more. I can't wait to let them out of their forced containment to explore the world because I just know that watching them will be a great big kitten candy extravaganza. Unless Chick really does think they're more promising as delicious lunch meat than as amusements.

I could just about eat them up myself.