Tuesday, October 28, 2008


So for lunch today I had some of my bacon/onion/greens saute over some leftover homemade pasta with a splash of homemade chicken stock to keep everything moist.

I plan on attending the Vintage Virginia Apple Festival this weekend to stock up on winter things like apples and cider. Many of the City Market folks will be there, so I am hoping for pork and cheeses as well. I wish I had an outlet a little closer to Thanksgiving....I think it would be great to do a locally infused holiday dinner. I am sure some of ours will be. The SB keeps asking me if there will be enough potatoes left by then to make mashers for our guests. He is still swooning over the super simple meal we made while he was home, fresh bread just out of the oven, hamburgers from grass fed beef, homegrown green beans and mashed potatoes with our own leeks (the sour cream and butter added didn't hurt.) I think he is hoping to recreate some of this for our celebration. I guess it sort of depends on how many are on the guest list. And I guess I should start thinking about the turkey. It really isn't that far away.

Sunday, October 26, 2008


So funerals always make me philosophical. Today was no exception, though I didn't know the guy well. My neighbor G. wanted to go, and I went with her. We decided to have dinner together this evening afterwards. I find that you get more and more philosophical after a couple of gin and tonics (in my case gin and bitter lemon- highly recommended) and a splitting a bottle of wine. Luckily, G. lives right around the corner so I didn't have to drive. I contributed to dinner some fingerling spuds and a leek and she did the chicken and booze and some bok choy with the leek. I made out like a bandit.

Today I also put my yarn in the "dye bath" from the walnuts. Leaving it there to see how it goes. I may add some more walnuts depending on how things look tomorrow.

I also made the last batch of tomatillo sauce which I stuck in the freezer. And I fixed up a mess 'o greens with some bacon and onion ready for the addition of a little pasta. And I made some chicken stock with some chicken backs and necks and the leftover onion and garlic wrappers and a little celery and carrot. And some leek greens. I am sure I will find a million uses for it. I always feel rich when I have homemade stock in the fridge.

I also harvested some honey :) From the part of the hive that the bees wouldn't get to regardless - so don't think I am taking from them something they could use. My gut still tells me that they aren't going to make it, but I am giving it my best shot... I looked at the hive today, and they have taken some of the syrup, but not nearly what I would like to see. And with the upcoming cold weather, I don't know if they will be eating much. I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Stayin' Inside

Finally getting some rain. The good kind, that is steady and soaking. I went to the market anyway with my Mama. I stocked up on eggs and goat cheese and apples and squash. The goat cheese guy gave me a big handful of jalapenos. Apparently it was a good pepper year. I'll be making the last of the tomatillo sauce this weekend. I am also making granola (this time with pumpkin seeds) and some bread (with sunflower seeds) and some goat yogurt. I got all goat milk this week. The milk lady had her barn burn down a while back so the breeding schedule got off so the cows are a little behind, I guess. As my boss says, flexibility is the key to mental health. I'll let you know how the yogurt is. Plus, it never hurts to make life a little easier now on people who can help you in the future (clearly, the lady knows a little something about dairy goats).

Shortly I am going to meet my Papa for brunch and then we are going to see my nephew perform the part of a chicken in an opera. And later today it is a BBQ for a friends beau's birthday. Whatever happened to quiet weekends at home?

Do you remember the walnuts I am soaking? I almost forgot them, but the liquid is now VERY dark and the bag the walnuts are in is definitely changing color. I may soak my yarn tonight and put it in the "dye bath" tomorrow. Did I tell you I also added a few rusty nails to the bucket? No? Well, I did that last weekend at some point. I read that iron helps the color darken. Someone recommended the nails as I couldn't find any mordant without running all over town, which wasn't really reasonable given that I didn't have a car. Plus, who wants to buy that stuff when you have the same thing (essentially) sitting in a bucket to go to the scrap yard.

My bee mentor (who rocks) called me this week and gave me a wee bit of bee advice. Just a rearrangement of the available honey in the hive. He suggested moving some of the honey in the super down into the upper box, which I can do tomorrow as I expect the rain will stop by then. It will also give me a chance to check and be sure there is still syrup in the feeder. I also got a recipe for fondant from my baker friend. Fondant is supposed to be a good emergency feed, as it is a ton of sugar, somewhat hydrated, is stiff enough to put directly into the hive above the bees so they can get to it even when it is cold. It can be super expensive if you purchase it from your local bakery. BUT, if you have a cake baking friend like I do, she can give you the secrets and the shortcuts and you can (presumably) make it yourself. I'll let you know how THAT goes if I get to it.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

New Comments

Hi all - I fixed the blog so that you can leave comments even if you aren't a google blooger type. And I loves me some comments so dig in.

So yesterday I posted about the bees and got a nice encouraging email from TC who tells me there is still hope. I got this around 10:30 and so I dashed downstairs and made more syrup for the bees. He says feed pollen too, so I ordered that today. We'll see. Some hope is better than no hope. Thanks TC!

So as a warm up to the FUF, I went out to feed my "livestock" this AM. The current livestock being the bees. I will tell you, when the alarm went off, I greeted the day as would any urban farmer who had stayed up a wee bit too late making sugar syrup in the kitchen and woke up to a freezing cold house on a dark morning. I hit snooze a couple times and told myself it would be OK if I went to work late. I mean, I had a bee emergency and all. Then I figured that would be pushing my luck. So I dragged my ass out of bed, showered and had a discussion with myself about whether or not I should put on my veil and gloves to go put the feeder on the top of my hive. Normally, in making these big decisions I rehearse the conversation that I might have with the Emergency Room Doctor on such occasions:
ERD: "So, you're pretty stung up there, how did that happen?"
ME: "Well, I pulled the top of my bee hive off"
ERD: "On purpose?"
ME: "Yeah, I had to feed them."
ERD: "Don't you have a mask?"
ME: "Oh, sure, I walked right past it on the way out the door, but you know, it was cold and I figured the bees wouldn't be up yet."
ERD: "Well, good thing it was cold and that the runner on the street could spot your red coat, otherwise the poison might have been worse and blah blah blah....."

After this, I ask myself, "On a scale of 1 to 10, how dumb am I going to feel having that conversation?" The answer here was pretty high, but I did it anyway. Really, I usually listen well to my Dumb Scale Calculator, but this AM it really was COLD, and I was in a hurry. And I was right. Which does not bode well for the dumb scale future if I can get away with stuff like this....

Anyway, I am grateful for the input. And now that the comments aren't restricted anymore, you can all give me LOTS of advice!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Bad News on the Bee Front

I took off work early today to come home and look at the bees. And I can tell ya' even with my limited experience, it ain't lookin' good. Very small population (not enough to keep warm over winter) and very little honey. I moved things around best I could to make things available, but I was trying to work fast and I didn't have much to work with... I have to call my bee mentor (who, btw, rocks). One has to work relatively quickly this time of year as there are many marauding bees about who, once the hive is open, try to go in and ransack it. Robber bees, they are. And they were definitely out today. You can tell because the bees from the hive will wrestle with them when they try to enter. I blocked up a big part of the entry way so they would have less to defend, and I am hoping that helps them get through this period before it gets cold enough that everyone quits flying.

I think the best course of action for me is to go ahead and cut and run. Take the honey that is there in the super and kiss this off as a bad first year. (I am getting a consult from the Bee Mentor though to be sure I am on the right track.) If there is any chance of them surviving with the honey super, I will leave it, but I don't think they will even be able to get there, I think they will freeze first because the population is too low to keep the heat up. And NO, I am not going to get them an electric blanket. I am a bleeding heart, and I am not really ok with taking all the honey and leaving them, but the other alternatives are 1. hope for a miracle 2. lose the bees AND all the honey (something will come into the hive in winter and get the honey, like mice or other critters if there is nothing in there.) So I am trying to be pragmatic and think like a farmer. This is practice for the Future Urban Farm, that will indeed tax my bleeding heart animal lover self.

This bee thing is tough. Just twiddling my thumbs while I wait for them to freeze or starve. If I had more experience, I would have caught this sooner and I maybe I could have gotten them more food in time for them to store up. Though they weren't really taking this food all that well... who knows?

Monday, October 20, 2008

Putting things away

In addition to my flurry of cooking over the weekend, I also picked a bunch of mint which is drying in the basement and made a batch of tomatillo sauce for the freezer. I still have more tomatillos, but I ran out of onions. I think I am going to plan on canning some of those buggers next year. They really seem to be one of the few stars in the garden. Tonight I just picked a bunch of greens. I have started reading this blog. I know, I know, why did it take me so long? After all everyone is doing it... the truth is, I don't really want to be tempted to spend more time in front of the computer, but.... this weekend being cold and all. Anywho, I was inspire by this post. And this one. What could be simpler? I can make pasta, and in a couple more weeks I should have enough spinach.

I am somewhat concerned about the manic squirrels. They are digging in my pots and in the garlic bed. I don't *think* they are eating the bulblets I planted, but who knows? I guess I would have to smell their breath. They are definitely tearing up the lettuce pots. Bastards.

I have some garbanzo beans cooking downstairs for hummus. To go with my "crackers" and to use up some lemons that are getting a little worse for wear. Who exactly is going to eat all this food people? I realized yesterday that I could happily spend days in the kitchen if I didn't have a real job that requires me to actually be present....

Oh, and I get to designate 2 people to receive free subscriptions to Organic Gardening if I renew my subscription. Anyone interested? Email me or leave a comment with your contact info.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Busy Week

It was a busy week here at the Future Urban Farm (FUF). The week started with the SB leaving on Sunday. At about 11PM. After about 5 hours of almost ready to leave. He is back in the big city :(. I rearranged my babysitting schedule to go to CLAW on Tuesday night, so I did my regular Tuesday sit on Monday, did CLAW and my bosses going away party on Tuesday and more babysitting on Wed. Also on Wed I found out that my car needs a new clutch which will be running me in the $800 range. Glad I didn't give up any of my sitting jobs this week. But, had I been a real adult, I would have been saving up for this so that it wasn't a huge outlay. Apparently I still have a lot of growing up to do.

Then Thursday my friend P. came and picked me up at work and we went to my milk farm where we watched ducks and chickens and goats and cows roam around. The milk lady had called me earlier in the day to say that she was running a little short on cow milk but had some goat if I wanted to try that. Initially I was leery. Which is dumb since I am planning a goat for the FUF so I said yes. We took the milk home and then went to The Local to catch up on gossip etc. Have I mentioned that I LOVE my milk? I mean I LOVE it. I love going to the farm and I love drinking it and I love that I can lay eyes on my cows. *heart* I also love goat milk, which is like fluffy whole cow milk. I don't know how to describe it differently than that. Mine has NO goat mustiness and it tastes almost like the milk has been gently but thoroughly frothed. Like really really good cappuccino foam, not the stiff foam you sometimes get, but the stuff that is done right. But cold. I may stick with a half cow half goat share.

Friday I pulled up my basil plants in expectation of frost. While out in the garden I noticed that my raspberry plants are blooming. Whaaaaa? Anywhoo. I bet last night's frost took care of that nonsense.

Saturday at the market I bought apples. And eggs. And panicked that next week is the last week of the market. What is a girl to do? I really cannot fathom eating store bought eggs ever again. Really. I also ran into someone I knew from back in the day. She is settled on a farm in Crozet with rare breed sheep that she raises and she dyes and weaves the wool. Dyes with natural dyes - she so rocks. When I got home I remembered that making a dye from walnuts was on my list of things to do. I have bushels of walnuts. Currently about two dozen walnuts are soaking inside a cloth bag in some cold water in a bucket on the back porch. I am considering that the bag is not yet dyed a sign that it isn't ready.... I think they have to soak for a week or two. And really, I probably should boil them, though I am afraid they are going to smell really bad. And with the cold weather, I don't really want to open the house.

Also, I am considering a workshop in mushroom growing. The SB thought that it might be a good move for the FUF to have some potential cash crops.

And here is an end of season recipe. Last week at the market one of the farmers was selling eggplant and peppers cheap. I bought a bunch and made ratatouille with lamb. It started with two small onions and a few cloves of garlic chopped up and sauted with a pound of ground lamb. When that was sort of cooked I added 2 mild and 2 hot peppers chopped up and about 6 cups of cubed eggplant. Then I cut around all the spots on the last of my tomatoes and threw them in as well. I added some bay and coriander and cumin. I added some white wine to keep the moisture up so that the eggplant would cook properly. I let it simmer until everything was really soft then I stuck it in the fridge for a couple of days for the flavors to meld. I ate some of it for breakfast this AM with cous cous and fresh yogurt on top. Yummy.

So I was avoiding the cold and perusing the internet and found this website with this recipe. So of course I had to try it. And people, I followed the instructions. Also, since I had to get the pasta maker out anyway, I went ahead and made some pasta. Which I haven't done in YEARS. Whenever I do it I wonder why I don't do it more often, as it doesn't take that long and the results are fantastic. I think I am going to saute some cabbage and onion in butter and dump that over this pasta with lots of salt and pepper... Real comfort food. Excellent with roast pork and almost as fine on its own. This comes from the old country.... Eastern Europe where my mothers family is from. Below are some photos I got before my camera ran out of batteries.

Cracker Dough
Pasta dough

The first crackers
The pasta drying on dishtowels

Saturday, October 11, 2008


The SB is sleeping. With the cantankerous cat. Pretty cute. The SB is home for fall break. I must say he is a little cranky for being on vacation. He wanted to get more done yesterday. I think having your car fixed, having lunch with friends, taking a nap and going to an open house is a perfectly respectable list of things to get done.

I made him potato soup last night. Leeks, potatoes and parsley from the garden. A little canned chicken broth and some white wine and milk (my new milk from my herd share at Majesty Farm). Topped with a little bit of Parmesan cheese. Tasty. My leeks are really lovely. I guess it makes having them in the garden ALL SUMMER worth it. I learned that there are summer leeks and winter leeks. So next year I think I will plant the summer ones in January and then the winter ones later, so that I can have both. I have been reading lots about winter gardening and putting critical dates in my ical. With luck this will keep me on track for the year. I am definitely planting fall stuff earlier next year. I do have some nice lettuces coming along but all my kale got eaten by slugs I think. And I think I planted the wrong variety of spinach, because it seems to want to bolt already. Live and learn. In the meantime, I am going to be saving my pennies and making a list from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Fine, Fine Weather

It is so totally fall today. So spectacularly fall in C'ville. I went to the market with Mama this morning. Stocked up on apples and squash. And bacon. Came home and took a bath which is a real treat. Then made some cottage cheese dill bread and while it was rising I went to the garden and planted my three types of garlic. Because I planned ahead, the bed was ready and I just needed to rake out the tiny weeds and plant, then I layered cut grass and straw on top. I probably need a few more layers, but I got distracted and dug the rest of the potatoes. I did some general garden maintenance and planned for the duck house. I need to have a couple of options for the SB to see. I was also trying to plan next year's garden to some extent. Where are the raspberries going to go? They need to be able to spread because there is no such thing as too many raspberries.

We have what I think is a red shouldered hawk hanging around the yard today. He is lovely and quite large. I have also seen a LOT of bees out today. I have no idea what that means. I am going in tomorrow to see if anything needs to be rearranged before it gets too cold to mess around in there.

And I found an ad for this in my inbox this morning. The irony of spending $500 to disguise your chicken house as a trash can is not lost on me....

Friday, October 3, 2008

May I?

May I take one small moment for a teeny weeny little rant?

1. Why did I let someone talk me into joining Facebook. DAMMIT! I have other things to do.... don't I? I mean I thought I did, but...... DAMMIT!
2. Why oh why do all the cooking magazines have to do a special Thanksgiving issue? I mean, really, how many ways ARE there to cook a turkey? Really. A handful. I wonder if the editors all call each other "Say, Chip, we were thinking of doing the turducken this year, and leave the 500 degree roasting to you... we did it last year and in '01 and we want to be sure we get the proper rotation. Sam is doing the flattened fast roast and Frankie is doin' the deep fryer this year - the slow roasted stuffer is so pedestrian no one will go near it. You OK with this? Have your girl talk to my girl and they can work out the potato part of the business."
3. What is UP with the grass. A little rain, a little cool weather and BANGO, I am in the grass business. DAMN.
4. Why don't I have any chickens yet??