Saturday, December 29, 2012

Warm Tummies

 Blustery...No better word to call to mind the sleet and wind swept days of this past week.  Damp, bone-chilling cold with marshmallowy, grey clouds that settle so low on the surrounding hills and mountains it's hard to tell where earth ends and the heavens begin.  Days and nights best spent next to a warm fire and an equally warm drink.
I fully intended to be a slug this week and rest up from the holiday production rush but I honestly didn't mean to carry it this far!  I haven't done crap basically and Jack and I have really been enjoying ourselves.  We actually got a wild hair and went to the Big Town for half a day just to get out.  We had a nice lunch and hit a couple of stores we like.

I have been cooking a little but saving the grand effort for New Years Day.  I took that turkey leftovers and made this wonderful pot pie.  I don't mean to sound like I'm bragging; I mean, it wasn't my recipe, I just copied what somebody else had done.  It was wonderful though and the pastry topping was really nice.  Fresh out of the oven it was the perfect thing for a cold, winter's day and there was enough of it to last for 2 suppers and a couple of lunches.  (Supper in the South is what most people refer to as dinner.)


If any of you would like the recipe I'll be happy to share.  So, every scrap of that ol' turkey got ate up and we certainly appreciated it.

Don't worry though, we don't leave the animals out of it!  Chigger always get a warm meal and I often fix a warm oatmeal and rice breakfast for the girls.  They LOVE oatmeal and they are steadily laying more and larger eggs.  We should be back to selling eggs soon.  That will be good as feed prices have continued to rise.  I'm so thankful we went to the trouble to get these hens and provide a good place for them to live and in return they provide us with a wonderful (and tasty) protein source.  I'm even going to try an authentic eggnog for our New Year's celebration, since we have such a surplus of eggs.


I am going to have to start supplementing their food with a little more greens from the garden though.  Since the cold has really hit, the grass is gone and they really love any greens we can come up with.  I'll tell ya'll a little more about my plans in another post.
All in all it's been a lovely, quiet week and I've been feeling rather blessed.  I hope you all have time to relax also and maybe grab a nap and snuggle here and there. 

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Silent Night


Well, now that the Consumas season (as I call it) is over with I have really been enjoying my Christmas season.  We had friends over for a nice turkey dinner on Christmas Eve.  It was quite enjoyable and we all ate like pigs!  Or I did anyway.  I really enjoy hanging out with people who you can actually talk to and have enjoyable conversations.  I was not looking too forward to going to my sister's on Christmas Day but Mama really wanted to go and I was her ride.  It was going to be stormy and such and she didn't want to drive that far.  I don't mind taking Mama anywhere she wants to go but didn't know how enjoyable this was going to be since my sister hasn't really been speaking to my brother or me.  Ya'll know my family obligational type things have been wearing thin in recent years and so this didn't look to be too much fun.  Turns out it was okay.  Not great but okay, and with the stormy weather coming in nobody stayed too long so I was able to get back home at a good hour.  Jack and I then had a very nice Christmas evening together.


I don't know if any of ya'll have ever tried brining a turkey, or any other poultry, before cooking but after doing this I am HOOKED!  It was wonderful!  Soaking the turkey in the salt water solution makes it so tender and moist.  Very, very tasty.  EDIT!!  Do NOT use a self-basting or flavored turkey!!  Use only a plain, unadorned bird.  I cleaned a cooler I had that was big enough to fit the turkey but not too big, then dissolved one cup of kosher salt in about 2 quarts of hot water.  I then added about 1 1/2 gallons of cold water to the cooler and poured the salt mixture in.  You want to use about 1/2 cup of salt to every gallon of water.  I also then added about 1 cup of apple cider vinegar.  Some people add various herbs to the water but I left that for the actual cooking.  Then, dump a bunch of ice over the turkey, making sure the turkey is actually submerged in the brine.  I also put it breast down so that area was definitely under the water.


Let the turkey soak in this brine for 12-24 hours.  Make sure to add ice if needed to keep it cold.  Then, on the day of cooking, take the turkey out, rinse it well and pat dry.  I let mine air dry while I was preparing the seasonings etc.  I then coated the turk in melted butter and sprinkled well with powdered garlic, parsley, pepper and stuffed it loosely with onion and whole sage.  I did NOT add any more salt.  I then placed it in my oiled LeCreuset dish and baked it at 350 F. for about 3 1/2- 4 hours, basting occasionally.  Anyway, the meat thermometer registered 180 F.  I also covered the turk loosely with aluminum foil about half way through to keep it from over browning.  YUM_OOO!!

Since today was Boxing Day I fixed my usual little gift for our mail lady and took it down to the mailbox.  She's very nice and has made an effort to thank me for remembering her on Christmas.  It's kinda sad more people don't do that for mail carriers and such; not that what I do is all that great but it's something and helps her pay for a little gas.  (In our rural areas many carriers have to pay that themselves and use their own vehicle).  I also gave the chickens and wild birds some treats and extra food today.  We actually got some snow too! so it was nice to piddle around outside for a while and enjoy that.  The snow was very light and it didn't lay but that didn't really matter.  All in all it was a very relaxing day and we enjoyed just goofing off.

 Anywhoo, I hope all of ya'll have had a wonderful holiday if you celebrate Christmas or any of that.  Did any of you try anything new or different this year?

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas


I wish you all a joyous day filled with love and kindness.  Thank you all for reading my blog for so long and being kind enough to send a thoughtful and encouraging word my way from time to time.  I truly appreciate our friendships.

"What is Christmas? It is tenderness for the past, courage for the present, hope for the future. It is a fervent wish that every cup may overflow with blessings rich and eternal, and that every path may lead to peace.” ~ Agnes M. Pahro

Merry Christmas and a Very Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Holiday


Yes!!! it's over!!  My holiday rush is over!!  We made the last delivery on Friday and then took the rest of the day to relax and piddle around town some and on Saturday I didn't do much of anything but look for a Christmas tree.  I suppose you could find a lot of things to complain about in my state, and many people do, but I have to say that in this area the Buy Local/ Buy Small Business movement is well supported and I am very grateful for that.


I was telling my Mom that about every time I made a delivery, which was 3 times this past week, almost all that I had previously delivered would already be sold.  That's a great feeling even though it has worn me out!
Now I have time to relax a little though and enjoy the holidays.  I know a lot of people would be saying, "but Christmas is almost here and will be over soon; you missed it!"  Well, ya'll know I don't adhere to convention so the holidays are just starting to me.  I have until January 5th (or 6th) to celebrate!!  The way it's supposed to be!


I'll be doing another Mug Giveaway this year too!  I'm doing one on Facebook too but this will be separate.  However, I would ask that you only participate in one or the other if we are FB friends.  But of course, ya'll would understand that already.


So yesterday, Chigger, Callie and I headed up into the woods in search of the perfect tree.  It has been raining here quite a lot lately but cleared up and gave us a window of opportunity.  We really enjoyed just hiking in the woods and taking our time.  I found 4 trees that were newly blown over from a storm.  It must have been quite a storm because these were fairly large hardwoods and they have just been snapped over.  They would make excellent firewood but getting to them would be an ordeal.
So, I finally made a tree selection and whacked it down.  It was really good exercise getting that thing back to the house even though it was mostly downhill from where I cut it.  They always look smaller outside and then you get them in the house and it's like the Griswold family tree!  Oh well, I have the room for it so what the heck!  Here you can see Chigger and Callie standing guard over the tree against the chickens.  No pooping on the tree!!


Grendal says the hell with all that work, I'm going to take a nap!  She got her new bed a little early for Christmas because she's not been feeling well.  I had to take time last week also to take her to the vet when I noticed she was having a lot of labored breathing.  Turns out Ms. Grendy Cat has asthma.  Really bad asthma.  She got a couple of shots and the vet was real nice and explained her treatment options.  The shots seem to have helped but due to possible bad side effects we don't want her to have to take them a lot if it can be helped.  I'm going to try a homeopathic treatment I found and if that doesn't work she may have to use an inhaler (yes, they actually make such a thing) as they say the inhalers don't have as many side effects.

So, I hope to be back soon with more Christmas and other posts!  I hope all of ya'll are having a nice weekend and maybe even off work for a few days.

Oh yeah, to Hayley:  thanks for the tip on your aunt's store.  I will certainly check it out.  I had been wanting to find a place in Gadsden and have been up there a few times over the past year or so but hadn't come up with anything.  They've really fixed downtown up nice and I figured there had to be some galleries or something there that would be a possible market.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Old-Fashioned Garden



Since I've started gardening what I would call "seriously", I've been astounded at the fact I never really thought about gardening throughout the cold months until a couple of years ago.  This is compounded by the fact I live in the South, where winter gardening is relatively easy, but the sad truth is I had never thought about it because I had never really seen it done, even here.  Oh, you might see some people grow a few cabbage in the fall but by Thanksgiving everybody had rolled up the garden until warm weather.


Of course, I didn't grow up eating a lot of broccoli, brussel sprouts, asparagus and other "exotic" veggies, so it didn't occur to anybody around me that you would want to grow those things.  We just ate summer veggies that had been canned for the winter, but no thought of veggies that would actually grow in those cold months, or "seasonal eating" as we say now.  I enjoy seasonal eating and gardening and my winter garden has improved quite a lot over the past few years.  Constant amendment of the soil is paying off!  Of course, we do put up a good bit of summer fruits and veggies for winter consumption but I really think seasonal gardening is an important part of a healthy diet and self-sufficiency.  Cool weather crops are really nutritious and fresh is always better than frozen or canned.  You can't beat going grocery shopping in your yard either. 

This year I may have planted enough broccoli, I'm not sure yet!  It was kinda just sitting there for some time but after a few rains we just recently got it has really taken off!  I should be able to harvest a head or two soon. Good thing, I just cooked the last frozen bag I had put up in anticipation of eating fresh next.  I should have lots of fresh broccoli for various Christmas dinners and lunches. 
Even after cutting the heads the plant continues to put out side clusters, so these can be gathered for quite some time to make easy side dishes or quick snacks.  The big leaves also get harvested a few at a time after most of the broccoli has been picked.  These leaves go to the chickens to supplement their winter diet and make up for lack of green grass.  They really love broccoli greens and cabbage.  In fact, they were SO enthusiastic about the cabbage leaves that, in the spring when my hostas started coming up, they thought, hey, these look like cabbage, and mowed every one of them down to the ground.  They had walked all around the hostas for weeks without bothering them until one day I gave them cabbage leaves and I guess they thought the leaves looked similar.  Oh well.


The Bok Choy I planted from seed has done really well.  I haven't actually eaten this yet though.  I love it in a stir fry but just haven't had the meat I wanted or the gumption to make one yet.  Fortunately, since it's cool, it can just kinda sit in the garden without bolting or spoiling until I get ready for it.


 The new girls, and the old ones that were molting, have mostly began their laying and we are getting 8-10 eggs a day.  Of course, some of them are still small eggs but they are getting bigger.  It won't be long we'll be needing to start selling eggs again.  We finally sold 5 of the new hens and 2 older ones.  I got $12 each for the young ones and we sold Pretty Hen and Prissy for $5 each.  I kinda hated to sell them but we just had way too many chickens for that coop house.  So, that paid for a bit of feed and the cost of ordering those chicks to begin with. 
 So, finally we are starting to see a bit of return on some things instead of constantly putting out.  Of course, it's all a cycle and sometimes you have to wait a little but hopefully I'll get better about planning for these things so there is much less time between cycles.


I believe I told ya'll I finally finished all the corporate pottery orders I had, so now is just making general stock.  These are the honey pots I had to make for the last order.  I thought most of them came out well. 


Christmas is drawing near however, and my time to produce a tremendous amount of stock is getting much shorter.  After about the 18th or 19th I won't be throwing much, just firing the last bit of stuff to take in.  That's well and good however because then I can wind down and take time to enjoy my holiday decorating, cooking and just relaxing. 

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Treat

  Although I truly enjoy being able to work at a home-based studio and supply the rest of our living through gardening and animals, I can get severe cabin fever at times.  You long time readers know of my occasional wanderlust, something my old job used to satisfy to some extent but no more and since being so hard pressed these past few weeks to get those orders out I had really, really started to gnaw at the straps, so to speak.  I became so desperate one evening that it was actually liberating to go down to our local McD's (a place I fairly despise) for a salad and then a short shopping trip to CVS and the new Tractor Supply.  I know, I know.....the excitement of it is vividly tangible, no?  Of course, I had to be home within a hour or so to check the kiln but at least I did get some "fun" time.
So, what's a homesteading/ earth hippie type to do when you start clawing at the walls??  I think it's something most of us in this category deal with.  I like to think of myself as a fairly gung-ho recluse but I do like to get out on occasion.  Usually, my once a week or so trip into Birmingham is enough but I had to get Jack to make my last couple of deliveries so I would not lose working time.  Well, with the last of the major orders completed and ready to deliver, we decided a Fun Day was in order.  And it just happened to be our 2 month Anniversary, so we splurged a little.


 Now, let me emphasis, this was a splurge.  I mean, it didn't cost majorly really; but it was a bit more than our normal lunch out.  But it was very nice and we had a great time.  First, we got the delivery out of the way!  Once that was done with we made our way to the Southside of Birmingham and to one of it's more well-known restaurants; Bottega's!!  Here, is a nice article on the place and it's founding chef.  Unknown to most of the country, Birmingham has quite a few culinary treasures.  Jack and I were discussing how that we had both been to a number of very nice restaurants between us and sometimes, after the meal, you would think, hhhmmm, I'm not sure that was worth it's reputation.  Bottega's is not like that.  It was a delightful meal and experience.


I had a Bibb lettuce/ Apple salad with Gorgonzola and walnuts.  YUM.  I believe I'll make these at home now.


 This was the Chicken and Tortellini with Pine Nuts.  There was a bunch of other stuff in there too.  Very yummy also.  The waiters were also very friendly and personable.  None of this looking down their nose at you while impersonating a French maitre' d.
My only complaint is that you could have hung meat in the ladies restroom but...at least it made you appreciate the warm sunlight in the dining area.


The Creme Brulee' was divine.  Exquisite.  I long for it now even.



So, we had a wonderful meal and some nice time together before embarking on the rest of our journey and mostly errands of grocery shopping and such.  This is a fairly crappy picture of the interior of the place but I thought Jack looked sweet.  Yes, he is growing a beard for me! 


The restaurant is located in a semi-historic, hip part of Birmingham just outside of downtown and in warm weather it's a great place to walk the short distance to a couple of parks and cool, local bars.  In my much younger days I used to live not far from here in an older, "quaint" apartment but, I was far too poor to be able to do more than peer over this fence at the world on the other side.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Trying


 I've really been trying to come up with a decipherable post but it just seems my brain has atrophied over the past few weeks.  I know it's mostly because I'm tired and basically, I just can't think that abstractly when I get that tired.  I can ramble, sure!  but just not put together something with much merit.  The pots you see above are just a few of the many in one last corporate order that I just unloaded from the kiln.  This is good.  This means the hard deadline pressing stuff is over.  Of course, I do still have to keep producing at a pretty good clip to keep up with holiday demand but it's not stuff somebody has already paid for basically.  I get done what I get done, ya know?.


 The ol' harvest pumpkin was getting a little aged so I spilled his guts all over the yard for the chickens to rummage through.  They seemed to like it okay but didn't really go bonkers for it.  They still peck at it on and off.
Much has been going on around here besides pottery.  I'll try to bring ya'll up to current on the next post.  Just some house stuff Jack could do on his own and new chicken stuff also.


I've been mulling over my continued writing here and think I may have found a solution.  I have thought about many things, including just to stop blogging, but I don't think I really want to.  I think I just need to kind of refresh my technique or style.  You know, when you're single you can write pretty much anything you want, in any way you want.  But if you are married you often must consider whether the other person even wants to be written about or how to include such things.  Ya'll know I've always been pretty frank about things here, raw even at times, but that kinda hasn't felt right lately.  On the other hand, you don't want to bore the hell out of everybody either..
Just as an artist (me!) might explore an artistic concept through a series of related sculpture, and then move onto another series when they have exhausted that concept, I feel maybe it's time to move into another concept on this blog.  The problem is...I'm just not sure what that concept is!  I'll keep working on it though.


So, here's one last gratuitous chicken picture for you, for now.  Several of the chickens love to come into my studio while I'm working and just piddle around.  They seem to especially be interested if I'm playing music.  Little Willie here found the atmosphere so enjoyable the other day she decided to rest a spell with me.  I think maybe she's kinda low in the pecking order and seeks some peace away from the other hens.  Or maybe she just enjoys watching me.  At any rate, she chatters very cheerfully when I speak to her and really seems to enjoy getting to come inside the human's room.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Happiness Is A Warm Kiln


If that is true I must be deliriously content right about now!  Over the past few days the kiln hasn't often even cooled completely before I start another firing.  I am reaching the completion of these corporate orders though, so this breakneck pace should be slacking off soon.  I've got it all thrown and mostly bisque fired.  Now, just to glaze and fire the final time.  The lady that runs the gift shop at the State Capital building in Montgomery contacted me recently and wants to carry my pottery there also, so I've been trying to get that order together too.


I've got to have 150 of these little things.  Luckily they are easy and quick to throw.  And yes, I'll make pretty good money on all these orders.  They are a sure paycheck too, whereas a lot of stuff I make is done purely on speculation and consignment. 


So, it's all stacking up and getting ready to be delivered next week.  The bottles to the right are for olive oil/ vinegar or whatever.  They get a little chrome spout that makes pouring not a catastrophe. I only had to make 50 of these.


You can see Chigger and Callie are serious about the business of cheering me on.  Little craps.  They are only concerned with the warmth coming out of that stove.  The bed is big enough for both of them but Chigger will often let Callie have the whole thing.


In a bit of real excitement though, we got our first pullet egg from the young girls today!  As it is a white egg I know it was laid by one of the Brown Leghorns.  I figured they would be the first.  Hopefully, full time production will begin soon!  30 chickens right now and we only get one egg a day!  Several of them have finished their molt so they are just being stubborn and holding out on us. LOL!  Strong little Scooter soldiers on though, laying that one egg every day almost.  Poor thing; I wish the feathers could grow back on her head but I guess she's destined to always look extremely pissed off.

I had to work through Thanksgiving but we did manage a small meal that evening and we had Fred and Allen come down to share it with us.  It wasn't fancy but the whole meal was raised/ produced here on this land and I was very thankful for that.  Well, except for that pie Jack bought.  And the ice cream.  But that's okay.

Well, I know ya'll are getting tired of my pottery so I'll try to find something else to write about next time.  Of course, the holidays are always fodder for rants but I've done that a number of times already.  So, we'll see.  Maybe I can come up with a story of some type.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

So Much More


 My days and nights are blurring all together at this point.  I am so very tired.


No Thanksgiving until maybe Saturday.  Doesn't look like much maybe but the kiln is full and running and the wet shelves full too.


I finally hit slightly over 150 of these little buggers.  Be glad to get them shipped off.


Friday, November 16, 2012

Monday, November 12, 2012

Writer's Minor Holiday


After writing that I was going to really put an effort into posting more regularly, I know this is going to sound stupid, but I think I'm going to take a bit of a break from blogging, or maybe just post occasional photos.  I don't know if it's just my normal neurosis or what but there seems to be a very discernible lack of interest these days and unfortunately, this affects my interest in writing sometimes.  I think a lot of people are just really, really busy these days, having health issues or kinda burnt out on social media at the moment.


I am also extremely busy with pottery orders too, so this is an excuse to devote my time to that!  However, if anyone thinks they might like to order any pottery for holiday gifts please contact me as soon as you can and get your order in.  I hope to be caught up by the end of this month and maybe even have an Open House in December but I don't know if I'll manage that or not.


So, I leave you with pictures from my last firing, which came out well I thought.


If I complete any special projects in the house or garden I may post that but it doesn't really look like I'll have much time right now for anything but pots!

Are any of ya'll noticing or participating yourself in a reduction of cyber time?

Friday, November 09, 2012

Making Waves


I meant to post these pictures way before now but kinda forgot about them until tonight.  I just though they were kinda funny, as they show the completely different photography styles between me and Jack.  Let me give you a bit of history first though.  We had bought a little "boogie board"our first day or two down at the beach but, for all the beaches we went to, none really had any waves to speak of.  Until we got to St. George's Island.  I don't know if there was a storm out to sea or what but it was pretty good body surfing conditions.  Now, it was also considerably cooler at St. George's than at the more southern places we had been but Jack was determined we were going to use that darn board no matter what.  So, our first day out on the beach we gritted our teeth, donned our bathing suits and took the plunge!  It really wasn't that bad once you got in the water.  We were the ONLY ones in the water however.


Okay, so I took these first ones of Jack; pretty boring.  My photography I mean, not Jack.  He didn't stay in very long so then it was my turn.


So, here I go.


Waves are getting a little rougher.  Then I guess Jack decided he wanted some better action shots!








 I have not edited these at all.



We had fun at any rate.



The end!!  Haha!

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Plant That Seed


Well, that last post got such an overwhelming response I thought I'd immediately post another dry-as-cracker juice essay on gardening!  Haha!  Oh, I'm just joking and being my normal pain in the butt self.  Don't worry, I'm not going to turn into one of those dreary, redneck doomers living in woodsy seclusion that hordes 50 cases of Spam and saves my underarm hair to stuff pillows with.
No, I just thought I'd try to do a few more cohesive posts about my planting methods, what we grow etc.  I've read several posts lately where the people were talking about how horrible gardening was and Oh!! the misery and disappointment when everything just failed miserably.  Year after year even!  Well, gardening can be frustrating sometimes, especially if you're trying to really make a dent in the amount of food you buy, but it's not that bad.  Most of my crops are fairly successful and I live in humidity/ fungus heaven.
Now, Jack did get a little frustrated at the first of the summer because every time he would plant the okra we would get a BIG rain and it would wash it away.  Or seem to anyway.  I think he planted like 3 times.  Well, we finally got a batch to sprout and then it was easy-peasy.  Nothing much bothers okra.  I had tried different methods of drying the okra seeds and nothing seemed to work very well though.  I had tried cutting off large pods and air drying and then cutting off large pods and heat drying.  Every time the seeds wold be shrively and puny.  Not good.  This year I told Jack to pick a number of pods and let them grow as big as they would but leave them ON the plant.  Just leave them until they dry themselves right there in the field.


Worked great!  These seeds are all very robust and healthy.  No shrively, black things!  Yea!!  Now we just wrench open the pods and store the seeds in plastic pouches.  You can put them in the freezer but I just store mine all in a box in a cool, dark place.


The garden is doing well and I finally got it all mulched.  I made a great discovery on what to use for the walking paths in the garden.  I had one roll of silt fence left over from when we built the driveway, so I took that and pulled all the wooden stakes off of it and then split the roll in half longways.  This took a while as the rolls are about 100 feet long.  Silt fence is just that black plastic looking stuff you see there.  It's pretty sturdy but allows water to flow through it easily.  They sell a similar material at gardening shops for A LOT.  It's basically silt fence.  I got Steve to bring me some more off a job so mine was free but I don't think it costs too much if you buy it from a construction supply.  Plus, you get some wooden stakes you can pull off to use elsewhere!
Anyway, my strips were about 18" wide, so they fit right between rows and I mulch over the edges.  I did make some little pins out of some scrap wire to kinda peg it in place. 


We mulch the plants with wheat straw that comes out of the chicken coop, so it's got poop and all built right in!  Now, I usually let it set for a week or so to kinda mellow a little, then just distribute around the plants.  The rain washes the poopy into the soil and then later it all gets tilled in and the soil gets richer.  I hand dug my garlic area the other day to get it ready for planting and man!!  there was some big ol' wormies jumping everywhere!  I think that was the most earthworms I've ever dug up in this garden.  That makes me so happy because that's a sure fire way to tell the soil is improving.  Jack also mowed a lot of leaves for me the other day so they will get put over the areas of the garden that are not being planted this winter and tilled in in the spring.  It has been raining, thankfully, the past couple of days so that project is on hold but that's great!  We really needed the rain.
Well, off to bed because I've got to get a good start on pottery making tomorrow.  Got to throw it into mega production mode!