Monday, July 28, 2008

Sunday's Visitors on the Side Porch

I'm afraid that these are terrible pictures of wonderful moments.

We had some unexpected visitors yesterday. First, at breakfast, Fracas decided that it was about time that we included her at the table and she sat in a chair at our table for the entire meal. I'm thinking that may have been her last breakfast (with us at the table, that is).Even more fun was the visit from Mindy and her family who were on their way home from Augusta. We had gotten way too many ribs from the Swancys at the market yesterday. It was perfect that John showed up so that we had someone who really knew how to cook them. It's been a trial and error thing for me. Now, I'll know what I'm doing.

After it got dark, it was time for poker. For some reason, only shirtless males pulled up to the table. The women stayed inside with our shirts on, discussing matters of great importance.

Apparently the picture was just wrong - Nicolas' head lined up with Max's dark hair giving Nicolas a scary toupee! So, I'll leave you with the wonderful spirit of the guys playing poker, though I think they were pretty funny.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

More From the Market

Nicolas is so loved by his loyal customers...though that guy to the right looks like he may be trouble - some kind of tomato spy? Looking for worms? Sniffing for chemicals? He won't find any of those in this market. Everyone has to be certified organic. Maybe he is noticing that Nicolas now has no hair on his head (nice, eh?). Just move on, Mr. Market Spy.
I'm glad that I was there to take note in case he shows up with that look again. If I were working behind the booth, I never would have noticed. Good thing the farm has me to fill the important role of counter-surveillance, while others fulfill the maybe more important role of serene counter help.
I decided to take more pictures of our Saturday farmers' market since a few people seemed interested. Also, it kept me from getting in the way of those who were actually working while I waited for the kids to show up. It is good that Helen, my MIL, loves doing it so much. It works out well for all of us. I'm sure that we make more money this way. When I was there I often gave away a lot of vegetables - you just had to look at me the right way for me to think that we were charging too much. When I wasn't giving them away, these precious vegetables that we had worked so hard to grow, I was often adding incorrectly in my head - always (Nicolas noted) in the customer's favor. Helen's way better with the numbers.She is (rightfully) protective of the value of the vegetables, flowers and eggs. Especially the eggs. Helen feeds her chickens only organic feed. Even charging $6 a dozen, she doesn't make much on the eggs. Though she brings in a cooler filled with cartons, these wonderful eggs would easily sell out before 7:30am, if one didn't have to be on the special list in order to purchase them. Only those customers who also order lots of our vegetables or flowers and/or have been our customers for over a decade are added to the list. I'm not kidding. We are all making so much more money since Helen started working at the market.
Below is Gloria, another amazing woman that I admire. This table and umbrella where she is sitting fold up into a wagon with wheels that Gloria pushes down the street from her home to the market almost every Saturday morning. For $1 a child she teaches any who are interested how to paint greeting cards with water colors. Lots are interested.
Gloria comes from Ecuador. I am not sure exactly where but it may be the location that was on this blue t-shirt last Sat. She is such a generous, placid force at our busy market. On the other side of the parking lot are the Swancys, who sell grass fed beef and pork. Charlotte sent me home today with many pork ribs. We have good reason to celebrate with local ribs, because-
The boys are back in town!!! Plus one - their cousin, Alexander, is here for a week: It is so good to be back in mom mode. My introverted side was grateful for the calm, but enough already! We are really happy to be back together again.

One of the things I did this week while they were gone was to finally put all of my boxed old pictures from the boys' wee years into albums. In comparison, they look so big to me. Or maybe they grew?

One Local Summer

I took advantage of being on my own this week and put up lots of food - not as much as I'd hoped, but plenty.

Tomato sauce is not quick, for me anyway. There's the de-coring, the dunking in hot water, the peeling, the seeding...only to find out that I was too zealous in my de-seeding, or that the heirloom tomatoes are just very juicy (some combination therein) and that what I had actually made was a very flavorful tomato soup. So, a few days later I did this all over again and added more tomato pulp to turn part of my soup into sauce. I kept envisioning winter nights in this cold house with visiting family and friends eating cream of tomato soup. There were five of these boxes of tomatoes.
I froze two flats of blueberries (about six of what you see here) from a friend's blueberry farm.
I started another batch of kosher dill pickles (the recipe is at the end of the last local food post), this time with our smaller pickling cucumbers. They'll be gone by the end of the week.
Basil is still waiting on the counter for me to make pesto. Then there are peppers and green beans. That may be it for this year. We are lucky to have year round vegetables on our farm and we just gorge on them seasonally and don't do a huge amount of freezing.

I did cook one good farm meal for Nicolas and I - a stir fry with lots of squash, peppers, onion and garlic. The brown rice, of course, wasn't local.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Trying to Take a Break From Learning

Sandra Dodd's Learn Nothing Day has arrived! Unschoolers everywhere are finally taking a break. Kids who go to school get many breaks. Now we get one too.

So... how is it going? Well, my kids are at a fort-building camp this week and are staying with their cousin so I can tell you that they are not participating. Gillen told me on the phone that he is taking notes about this fort they are building so that he can come home and build one here. I am hoping he will then teach me to build a studio in the yard.

As for me, I have failed, as I knew I would, and am learning about all of the back-logged thoughts in my head that are having room to be heard in this quiet house.

There is no such thing as not learning. I challenge you to try! That is what makes our chosen path - unschooling - so delicious. We are learning all the time, even when we are "just" having fun, doing what people might term extra-curricular activities and even when we are quietly doing nothing - just letting what we have learned marinate and giving it space and time to morph into something new.

Six years ago, when I was reading about unschooling on discussion lists for the first time, I was intrigued by the idea that kids' natural curiosity, accompanied by committed parental support of their passions, could start them on a journey that would teach them everything they would ever need to know. Having embraced this philosophy for over five years now, I see that it is true. The more I trust that they know what they need, the more they thrive.

I expose them to a lot of possibilities and they pick and choose. They expose me to new ideas and pursuits as well. They talk and I listen. Sometimes I talk too much, and they don't listen and that's always a sure fire way to create a road block to relationship and joyful learning. Things go much better when I shut up more and really listen.

Sorry to talk so much on learn nothing day. I am embracing my failure to not learn and am recommitting to trust this process even more completely from here on out.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

I wore his sunglasses at night... Part Two

Nicolas got a phone call from last night's scene of the crime left-by-the-irresponsible-wife glasses. The waitress just called to tell him that they were found! She, and I, will both sleep better tonight and I will have Corey Hart out of this blog by tomorrow.

I wore his sunglasses at night...

Last night, Nicolas and I went out again! Amazing,eh? Two nights in a row. We ate Thai, I drank sake - sake is my excuse for what happened (but it is a very bad excuse as I wasn't feeling it a bit by the time we left).

What I did was to wear Nicolas' Ray Ban sunglasses into the restaurant. I brought his sunglasses in when I didn't even bring in my purse. It was twilight. There wasn't a ray to be seen anywhere. I hardly ever even wear sunglasses during the daytime. These below are Gillen's. They are small and my eyelashes hit them when I blink, so I grabbed Nicolas' last night, as we left for our date. I did used to love that song, by Cory Hart. Maybe it was a moment of nostalgia? I used to wear glasses walking around NYC, listening to him on my walk-man and, at nineteen, I felt very hip.

I don't even really need sunglasses as I have hazel eyes. Nicolas has blue eyes and very much needs his sunglasses, which is why I bought him a pair, for his 40th birthday. We were in Sydney. As it was a big birthday, my brother took me to a store far away to buy good ones - Ray Bans. They would replace these Ray Bans that his sister had given him:I had criticized them and had then lost them, on our first day in Sydney, by wearing them to Balmorel Beach. So Nicolas was really happy to get these:
They now remind him of Sydney, and of this girl,
And this guy,
And of Naomi of course - I just don't happen to have him in sunglasses with her...

You know how this ends, right? I woke up this morning and sat bolt upright in bed, finally aware of the horrendous crime that I had once again committed against my husband. I had worn his glasses and then lost them. I have only worn them twice. I have lost them both times.

What is making this time even worse is the fact that I know that the waitress took them! We were the last ones at that table last night. This morning when I called the restaurant, I talked to her and she was flustered. Nicolas went there on his way home from a delivery and she was nervous. : /

But this is about me and my stupidity, not her bad karma...

I will never wear his sunglasses again as long as we both shall live. Obviously, you should never lend me a pair of yours. I will revise the book I wrote or write a better one so as to generate lots of cash for the purchase of a new, even better pair. Or I'll sell something really cool - when I can figure out what that would be.

I found one more picture of Nicolas with his beautiful shades - this time in the USA, with our friend Joe whom we bumped into after fifteen years! He was one of the cooks at Eat Your Vegetables, the restaurant where we met. sigh.

Little did the Belgian know, back in our innocent days of slinging hash (actually, we were serving vegetables) that he was getting involved with a sunglass-losing hag.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Back, with a Hybrid, and sauce

Last week was the week before the kids' week at their cousin's for a fort-building camp, so I spent as much time as possible with them. I also managed to do hours of research online about cars (ours was totaled) and had major stress over this decision, but finally - it was made. Yesterday, Nicolas and I bought a Prius - a Toyota hybrid. It is unbelievably cool. A screen on the dash lets you know your mileage and at times it is even 90 mpg! Yet, the car has plenty of power and we could easily go 80 (or above) on the highway. With a screen showing me how much this lowers my mileage, I am more inclined to drive slowly - well, slower.

I know that there is a long term carbon footprint as a result of what goes into making a hybrid's battery. But when we weighed all of the needs of our family - we decided that it was still the right choice environmentally and lifestyle-wise, for us. We can now easily take long car trips to visit famiy and friends. The kids can do more classes or field trips or unschooling get-togethers in Atlanta. Last night, Nicolas and I went to a movie at our nearest theater - half an hour away- and calculated that it cost us $4 round trip.

The only thing that is nerve-wracking, besides still having a car payment, is having a car that looks new (it isn't). I already went outside once to clean the sap off of it from the overhanging trees. Our country homestead and dirt roads don't match our city car.

In this week's local food news, I only took one picture - of the sauce I made last week with lots of tomatoes, garlic and basil from the farm.
Here are a few of our booth at the very busy Saturday Morningside Farmer's Market:

My goal while the kids are gone this week is to de-clutter, put up food, walk the dog more, go to the farm, get my energy back, catch up on your blogs and finally reread those 60,000 words I wrote in June.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Monday Farm Photos

I only just realized, now, looking at this picture, that Nicolas was farming in one of his good t-shirts, that is supposed to not go to the farm. That pile of possibilities for when we actually are off the farm and among other people is dwindling.I didn't notice earlier because I was focused on the tools coming out of his pockets - the blackberry, the gloves for picking itchy okra, the shears. The ipod is down in there somewhere. Nicolas is so cute at the farm, bustling around with two thousand things to do. Today he had lots of picking, another camp group there from Camp Kingfisher and two of his employees out.
While the chickens took care of fertilizing inside one of the empty hoop houses (they get moved in style in this u-haul), and Gillen worked with the campers,
Jesse and I were set up to wash and box squash and later, cucumbers.
Then we went to the okra field to ask what else we could do and ended up just documenting Nicolas working hard. Much to my disappointment, and Jesse's relief, (OK, I wasn't crying or anything) we were sent away.

I took some pictures of butterflies on the way to the okra. We felt jipped the other day when none showed up at the butterfly talk at Charlie Elliott. We think that this is our state butterfly - the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail:This white one - the Cabbage Butterfly (?) - is so pretty but way too populous at the farm - it lays eggs that then grow up into crop hungry caterpillars. But they aren't a huge problem. Nicolas sprays them with BT, which takes care of it. Scabiosa is my new favorite flower.Orange Zinnias are one way to define summer:Jesse looks so thoughtful here. He is actually searching for a yellow butterfly so that I will give up my search for one and move on to the library. But he is indeed doing it thoughtfully.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

In my little town...

When I first dated Nicolas, fifteen years ago, I had mostly lived in big northern cities. Except for college, and some time in the near-to-Boston suburb of Newton, I'd lived in Boston and NY. When I moved to Atlanta I didn't have a car, or air-conditioning, in a city where both are pretty necessary for survival. Atlanta was supposed to be a pit stop on my way to Seattle and graduate school......

This, I fear, is about to turn into a major digression - about meeting and falling in love with my Belgian farmer. I'll save that for another night.

I'll just skip to the point (that I would have spent paragraphs of your time, those who were still here, getting to. ) The point is that I was a big-city girl with ignorant ideas about small town life. Even when I had already moved here, I still hung on to my big-city ways. I would farm during the day and then commute in to Atlanta to direct plays at night. I got my hair cut in Atlanta. I frequented the Atlanta thrift stores and bars and movie theaters. After having kids, I brought them into the city to hang out with my city friends' kids and felt the need to do city things. Just this past spring, I still drove Jesse an hour away to take a homeschool class he wanted to do, once a week. But over time, it has gotten less appealing to drive so far, not to mention the point that gas has started to become a luxury item.

I am becoming even more aware of and grateful for the people and resources out here. Actually, there are a lot. I can go weeks now without going into Atlanta. I think it may have been a month since my last visit. That's got to be a record.

This weekend was a great example of how much we can do out here within a ten-mile radius. On Saturday morning, we met local friends at the 6,400 acre Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center for a butterfly talk and walk. Charlie Elliot, only ten minutes down the road, sponsors several free workshops about nature and animals (plus camps, bird competitions, volunteer opportunities). The southern gentleman talking yesterday was filled with information about the butterflies that we could hope to find in our area. When the talk ended and we left the conference room to find the cool butterflies that we'd seen in his slides, I was very excited to finally be able to give one a name. Gillen, maintaining his cool on the very hot day, was eager to check them off on our butterfly list.

But the butterflies must have heard that we were coming (or they were all hanging out in Claudia or Gillen's gardens). We only found one.

We did see a bunch of dragonflies:I am looking forward to going to the dragonfly talk at Charlie Elliott in August.

The boys were just happy to find good temporary walking sticks:Later that day, we went to another nearby small town - Rutledge, where our kids (except for Jesse, who had been sick) had taken part in an art camp all week. The camp culminated in a celebration on Sat. afternoon and evening that included a blow up water slide, hot dogs and corn for the camp members, a short version of High School Musical (that they had put together in four days!) and all of their art work displayed in Rutledge's center of town square.

This should hold them off for a while on any need for a far-away water park:The following are three pictures from their High School Musical production, which was so sweet.
Some communal food art that the camp created- our more overgrown okra made an appearance here:
They created several of these sculptures, all with recycled materials. This one is from Gillen's group. The reason that we have cool opportunities like this, locally, is because of amazing people like these below. Ed and Molly are the couple that sponsored this camp. They live in Rutledge now, where they have an art studio and a sandwich/ice cream shop (housed in a train caboose that they moved there - this shouldn't just be parenthetical - it is so cool). They used to live right here, where I now sit, under this tin roof. While living here, Ed created this house's side porch, back deck, and the entire second floor and staircase, with his own hands, and his increasingly aching back. Their businesses pulled them to Rutledge. I drove by this house, eleven years ago, and was enchanted by the landscaping, and by the flowers that were painted on the windows. I never dreamed that we could live here. It turned out that not a lot of other people appreciated this old house, or even gave it a chance once they found out it didn't have air-conditioning. Ed and Molly let us rent it until we could buy it. They too are from Mass. Plus, I think they saw how much we appreciated their hundred year old, well loved home. And they are just good people.
Below is Eva, who put up the camp. She also works on our farm and teaches yoga in all of the surrounding towns. Yet another example of a talented, community-minded, generous local. I am appreciating our life out here, this moment. It would be nice to have a movie theater more nearby, or a bigger group of very local, like-minded home schoolers. But I will bide my time. I remember the years when I wondered if we'd have air conditioning. We got the air several years ago so I will wait optimistically on the rest.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Local summer - week six

After seeing Pinnochio in an eggplant, I can't stop seeing faces everywhere. You need to look at this one sideways:Jesse created some of his own.Of course, when I look at piles of vegetables on my counters waiting to be turned into sauce and salsa:
or dill pickles (these will be ready in only two days!):
or lemon cucumber...(anyone feel like filling in the blank on what to do with these?), I don't see faces, I see abundance.

Earlier in the week, I made greek salad with our peppers, tomatoes, onions and cucumbers. The feta was not local. For this second greek salad, Nicolas bought locally produced feta cheese, much to the kids' disappointment. Too goaty for them? But I loved it.
I will make gazpacho this week as well. It is the season of the tomato, when our mouths start rebelling from how much of it we are eating, but it still tastes way too good to be moderate.

Here is the quick pickle recipe - they are delicious, just like the ones from NY delis, that I miss.

From the book How to Cook Everything, by Mark Bittman:

Kosher Pickles

time:1 to 2 days

1/3 cup kosher salt
1 cup boiling water
2 pounds small (Kirby) cucumbers, washed (I used what we had - many more, and much bigger)
At least 5 cloves garlic, smashed
1 large bunch dill, preferably fresh and with flowers, or substitute 2 tbls. dried dill and 1 tsp. dill seed or 1 tbls. coriander seeds

-combine the salt and boiling water in a large bowl, stir to dissolve the salt. Add a handful of ice cubes to cool down the mixture, then add all of the remaining ingredients.

-Add cold water to cover. Use a plate that is slightly smaller than the diameter of the bowl and a small weight to hold down the cucumbers under the water. Keep at room temperature.

-Begin sampling the cucumbers after 4 hours if you've quartered them, eight hours if you've halved them or even 48 hours for that really "pickle-y" taste.

-When they are ready, refrigerate them, still in the brine. The pickles will continue to ferment as they sit, more quickly at room temperature, more slowly in the fridge. They will keep well up to a week.