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I’ve been holding out on a new post to wait on getting the camera back from John. He is teaching now and has been doing photography with his students the past few weeks. It doesn’t look like he’ll be done before too long, so I’m going to post anyway.
We got our spring garden in! Cauliflower, Broccoli, Lettuce of several kinds, Swiss Chard, Potatoes, Onions, Garlic, Shallots, Peas, Italian Parsley, Dill, Cilantro, Rosemary, and Chives. It felt so good to be outside in the dirt. There is such peace there in most cases. The girls were much more helpful this time around. They are getting older. All the plants are perked right up and growing. Hopefully the seed will show sprouts soon. I’ve been craving good veggies after a pretty rough winter. It is hard to find good produce in the groceries here.
We also had some homeschool friends give us 5 hens and a rooster in order to make room for their upcoming 4H projects. There were two little bantams – hen and rooster, and some large mixed breed hens. The little bantam hen, we called Little Lady. She had blueish gray feathers along with some tan, and she was so very gentle. We even brought her in the cabin to eat macaroni and cheese. I did away with her body yesterday. The larger hens had pecked her to death. 😦 There was no sign of them bullying her. She stayed in the coop most of the time, but I thought she was just getting used to things. After loosing 4 entire flocks, including all the grown diddles from last year, you’d think I’d be over caring. I’m not. Well, especially when a hen will let you pet her and will sit in your lap like a dog. We are getting eggs daily from our free-ranging flock. They are healthy and roost on the front porch. It makes a mess, but Lars (our dalmatian) sleeps there with them and keeps them safe. It would be nice for these new hens to eventually be free ranging too. It seems we have better luck that way. I told them though, they better start laying or they’ll be in the pot for killing Little Lady – barbarians.
It is so close to warm here. We had a week of 70 degree weather and the girls were so happy. We will be getting new water soon, and I won’t have to take them to my mother’s for baths any longer. Deladis graduates from kindergarten on May 26! Our homeschool group has a great ceremony planned and I’m going to cry like a baby. I just know it. I ordered her 1st grade curriculum yesterday on sale. I can’t believe it. It’s funny that Ivy still seems so small.
I’ll try to get some pictures up soon, and some exciting news. I hope to start hearing from folks again. I’ll do my best to comment back as well. My computer reading time has been kind of limited lately.
I call it just a day. A real day. I spent time away from the computer. I opened and learned the new pressure canner I bought. We have so many tomatoes, and I know I need to learn to put things up. It’s part of it. Though I have heard the stories of pressure canners blowing people up, I know they must be relatively safe, and it is time I got acquainted. Tomatoes are supposedly easy to put up.
I hate reading manuals. I like my reading to have a narrative quality even if non-fiction. I’d much prefer learning my being taught by a breathing being, but time has not allowed me that, and none of my family that lives closer to us cans. I withstood the reading, working through the text step by step, trying to be hands on instead of reading and then doing. I readied 7 quart jars. I knew I’d fill those and have left overs. Yet, when I smashed in the tomatoes as instructed by the manual, I found that I could only fill 4 of those.
As soon as the jars were prepared, the girls and I got the best surprise. At my back door, stood my daddy. He had come just in time to be present for my blowing up the house. But, it all went off without a hitch. The best part is my daddy was smiling and seemed at ease. He has a job that carries with it a huge responsibility, and sometimes I wish he could leave it behind. I always remember my happy daddy fondly. Nobody else can be happy like him. When he is happy he can hold the world on his back and go with simple movements, unhindered, laughing. Oh, the laughing.
Dad helped me fix the air conditioner away from the stove. Our little wall unit blows the flame on my gas stove, so I had turned it off. It was like a sauna in the cabin. He couldn’t stay long and we were alone again. The jars finished processing. I did my yoga practice. Ivy napped. When I got the jars out of the canner, I got this…
Floaters. I should have poured off the juice I got after packing and put in more tomatoes. The jars are sealed though, and John’s Mamaw – canner extraordinaire – says they are going to be just fine to eat. They will be used for soups and sauces this winter. I’m so pleased that the blight didn’t wipe them out this year like our last year’s crop. We are making progress even if baby steps. We’ll eventually walk with few stumbles, then glide.
First, you start with real good garden soil, a set of plant starts, and eventually you will have a gorgeousness that looks like this.
When the first pea pods appear, they will be tender enough to put in the skillet without steaming first. If you like peas in the pod, you’ll leave them on longer, but to make this dish, you’ll need to string them, and/or steam them for tenderness.
Make some bacon. A whole pack is nice because you can eat while you cook. I prefer to buy bacon free of nitrates or nitrites and sugar when I can find it. Sautee some onions in bacon grease until they start to brown.
Cook them over medium to high heat until they are fully greased and tender. The amount of grease you use depends on your tastes. I use the whole pan from making the pack of bacon. When tender, crumble in some bacon and serve.
You’ll notice that this dish is similar to the Appalachian green beans and kilt lettuce and onions. Pork was a mainstay of the Appalachian diet, and used to flavor many dishes from cornbread, beans, to greens. Because chickens provided eggs and cows provided milk, they were not butchered as regularly as hogs. When not eating pork, or chicken for Sunday dinner, Appalachian peoples ate the meat of hunted animals including, rabbit, deer, squirrel, wild turkey, opossum (some folks didn’t care for it), and groundhog (has a reputation for being greasy). In our family we eat rabbit, deer, and wild turkey, as well as fish caught from our lakes and streams. I prepare a traditional foods diet for my family most days. I have found that if we eat foods that we are genetically predisposed to tolerate, then we have better outcomes physically. My family has lived in the mountains for generations. My ancestors were Irish and Cherokee primarily. My husband’s were Melungeon. By keeping the traditional Cherokee and Appalachian food ways we were familiar with, and researching those that had been lost to industrialization we have found healthy eating. Being involved in where your food comes from both animal and plant forms, is extremely rewarding.
Yesterday, we went on a trip spearheaded by illustrious Nathan Hall to tour the Abingdon, Virginia Farmer’s Market and the organic farm of Anthony Flaccavento. He is the director of Appalachian Sustainable Development, an organization that supports local economy, especially in the form of sustainable agriculture and local eating. Flaccavento along with others in the area brought about a change in the local economy of a region of Appalachia that is an inspiration to folks living in the coalfields of eastern Kentucky. Opposed to common thought, not all of Appalachia is filled with coal nor is dealing with the results of surface mining (strip mining or mountaintop removal – all other words for it). The questions for us in the coalfields being whether a coal economy is serving us now, or whether it will provide an economy for us in the future. However, many Appalachian towns are looking to rebuild or redevelop their local economies in order to provide opportunities for their citizens and to keep their towns alive and thriving. Some see the answer as being the urbanization of Appalachia, or the move to a more universal American pop culture for all. Others see Appalachia surviving on a more modern version of going back to its roots, and that is where the Haywood’s fall.
Hello, this is me, and I will be your tour guide for this adventure showing some of the possibilities for a future for the residents of eastern Kentucky.
This is Nathan Hall, the brains and organizer of the adventure without which folks like me would not be able to focus enough to pull this sort of thing off. 🙂
He’s fixing to be a world traveller soon, to learn more about sustainable economies throughout the world. He’ll be leaving the holler on July 22nd and will be blogging about his adventures at There and Back. My greatest wish for the year without him is that John and I can continue to move forward with all the biggness that has come about at The Confluence this year.
Our first stop in Abingdon was the Farmer’s Market. It was lovely to see such a bustling place in a small town. There were about 60-80 vendors. It warmed my heart to see that many of them were family operations with the children fully involved and content to be there.
All of these were area farmer’s, merchants, food businesses, and crafts people. One farmer recently said he makes $30,000 a year off of a little more than an acre of veggies. That would be a nice living for our family. The ownership of your own livlihood is a great thing.
There was a wide variety of things represented there both organic and conventional.
The market is completely ran by the growers/vendors, but is supported by the city. The market is its own entity with its own board.
Next, we took a lunch at Harvest’s Table, a restaurant running on the influence of Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. In the foyer, local artists, writers, musicians, and crafts people are supported through the selling of their wares. The food is all local and seasonal. I had the corn and tomato salad with a garnish of fruit and goat cheese. It was so yummy! I didn’t expect it to be when I saw it, but it was. Another interesting thing was all of the soups were chilled for summer – cantaloupe, cucumber, and gazpacho.
After eating, we went out to Anthony’s farm.
The farm was not tremendously large, but it was much bigger than what we are attempting at this time. Flaccavento has employees and interns on the farm. He is certified organic, and uses methods that I have never seen before to achieve store quality results. I’m used to traditional, personal gardening techniques, and it was all a little overwhelming and intimidating. We are definitely not ready for large scale production, but we can work up to producing for more than just our family, learning as we go and following the market.
Flaccavento and other farmers sell to area grocery stores, restaurants, and at the Farmer’s Market. They have developed a distribution center called Appalachian Harvest that works with grocery stores and some restaurants.
It was most definitely an motivating trip. John says we’ll be old before we see any kind of business result from our work. He insists we must build slowly, and on that point I agree. But, I think with focused work, we can begin to broaden our views sooner rather than later. I have dreams, and a lot of the time they leave me pining for the grass is greener rigormoroar. I see us working side by side on something that brings us even more together. Making our living through our own two hands, enjoying the land, and using our talents in a more relaxed way. Creating something to pass on to our girls. I try to live in the present. I try.
Pictures coming as soon as John comes home with his banjo case where the USB cord for the camera is located. Why? We don’t know. 🙂
It has been quite awhile since I have written anything about our efforts with the homestead. The Confluence (the name of our homestead, homeschool, and educational organization) has grown since last year. Instead of the one garden plot that we had next to the cabin last year, we kept it and added two more down by the barn. The two new plots get full sun, so our corn, tomatoes, peppers, berry bushes, watermelons, peas, broccoli, cabbage, onions, swiss chard, and spinach is there. Here at the cabin plot, I have put in the potatoes, carrots, zucchini, squash, cucumbers, cilantro, basil, and dill. We still have some more tomatoes, lettuce, lavender, pumpkins, several bean varities, and sunflowers to plant. I haven’t decided exactly where they will go. They will be in the ground either this evening or tomorrow. However, I will not be planting while the sun pours down across my back. My shoulders and forehead are sunburned and I have the hot chills. Our planting takes quite awhile, because we do it all by hand, scooting across the ground, pinching and dropping seeds. Someday, we’ll have more equipment.
We hope to have enough produce to sell a bit this year. I am keeping my fingers crossed that John will get a chance to work on the barn so we can get a chicken flock that will be protected from predators, and eventually a few goats. I’d like to be able to sell eggs as well. John has mentioned wanting to spend more of his time on the homesteading, and for it to work as we have dreamed, that will have to be the case. Our friend Nathan has been helping us along, but he will be leaving on a year long, around the world trip in August. Another friend Brett Ratliff has been helping as well. He is a musician and travels quite a bit as John does, so his time exists a bit of everywhere. Both of them are bachelors with nothing tying them down – free spirits those boys, and huge helps as they can be. So, then there is me – mountain mama of two under five. 🙂 I can get a lot done, but not enough. If John is able to be here a bit more, then it will be a huge help for the homesteading dream.
The Confluence in it’s current existence is our home and Nathan and Brett call the cabin at the mouth of the holler home. The four of us are working on this project together as our time allows. We are planning to bring it into a place where we offer workshops on sustainable agriculture and traditional music. John’s art studio is here, and he plans to open that to the public. We may host some small group events as we are approached to do so for traditional music, arts, sustainable living, natural family living, and childbirth preparation. Eventually, when Nathan comes back from traveling the world, we may apply for non-profit status.
So, this year, we are slowly moving forward, and we are happy with that. John is so good for me in that regard. I’m like a wild filly out of the gate. I want to do everything in short order. But, we are moving just as fast as we are supposed to. Any faster would be overwhelming. We have heard rumors of Farmer’s Markets organizing, so my goal is to participate in those as we can. I am prepared to do a lot of preserving food too.
I’m excited about the opportunities this brings to my life. I am scattered all over the place right now, and if you asked me what I wanted personally, the list would be ridiculous. My goals are in some sort of transition period. I started simple when I began this blog, and then at some point realized that something wasn’t working or wasn’t enough. I’m still trying to set on what that something is, and at this point it is taking the form of many projects. I will figure it out. It’ll be a dang good thing when I do. 🙂
Things are so busy here! I’m going this weekend to beautiful Asheville, NC to get some prenatal yoga training for pregnancy and labor. I was on the radio last night. I’m working on another radio piece to air in May. Preparing for some upcoming classes. Then, Deladis starts real kindergarten in August, so I am ordering the curriculum because we will be staying home for school for sure. I am so darn excited! Our school is The Confluence Homeschool, and we are eclectic homeschoolers with a seasonally inspired curriculum that fits in with our lifestyle really well. And to beat it all – the curriculum I have found is only $50 for the whole year!
Our garden is going well, though I haven’t gotten to work it much myself. 😦 Spinach is ready for eating and the broccoli has sprung up real nice in the last week. I hope to plant some zucchini and squash when I get home and maybe some corn and beans. Ivy has been sick and where we moved the garden away from the cabin, it has been hard for me to get down there to work.
We had our first collective meeting for The Confluence, which is what we are calling our project here. We are looking to organize our educational efforts into a real opportunity for us and anyone interested. We’ll have art, traditional music, history, sustainable living, childbirth education, food ways, and so much more. hehe
I hope to be able to write more as we get into May. Things are really clumped up after the hard winter, but I think it will slow down again soon. Hopefully, I’ll have more pictures. 🙂
The last week (well, since Tuesday) I’ve felt like Death warmed over. Now, I ain’t been too far from home, so I don’t know if that is strictly an Appalachian expression, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it were. Us mountain folk love to discuss our ailments. I don’t know when that came about, but as long as I have been alive, it has been true.
It usually goes a little something like this…. You see Linda’s, Mamaw Flora at the grocery store. You go to church with Linda, so you feel you should say a hello.
“Hello there, Flora. How you today?”
“Aw, not too bad. I got the arthritis so bad in my hip I can’t hardly get up and down. Linda can’t help me none… much. She had the stomach virus this week, and Fred (Linda’s husband) has been down in his back. He’s too old to be working underground, but he can’t retire. Not right now. But, we ain’t doing too bad. Can’t complain.”
So, I’ve felt like Death warmed over, folks. I’ve had the whole sinus thing going on, and I’ve just felt plumb wiped out. John’s been off his feet because of swelling and blisters from all the hard work he’s had to do these last weeks. Winter was rough on us this year. But, we can’t complain.
This week we’ve had visitors from Princeton University who said the trip to the cabins here to talk to John and George were the highlight of their trip. I haven’t felt like keeping up with the girls, but they kept up with me. 🙂
Ivy found the dress up clothes that Deladis never bothered with, and was a Princess for two days.
Deladis had to get in on the picture taking fun without really playing dress up.
Today, we were all feeling a little better. The girls went to stay with John’s mom last night, and husband and I got some much needed sleep. The sunshine this morning lured us out to the barn and the garden plot we’ll be sharing with our friend and now neighbor, Nathan Hall, for some work. Nathan has huge ideas of the real learned variety. He has somewhat of a degree in agriculture. We’ll have a nice organic garden this year. 🙂
This morning we spread nice wet and aged poopy throughout the area where we will plant over the next few weeks. The aged poopy came from the barn, and the nice fresh stuff, Nathan brought back from some where off.
This area will be disced and more manure spread as we go along.
Soon, we will be adding more animals to the mix. We’re looking for meat goats and some larger chickens for egg laying. We did get six eggs from our house hen yesterday! Crazy! They are tiny little things too. She isn’t setting though, so they’ll be breakfast.
It’s a beautiful day, and John’s Mamaw is celebrating her 82nd by cooking her family a nice old time dinner. I’m looking forward to the rest of the weekend and being a little better than not bad. 😉