Saturday, January 30, 2010

1-29-10 **VIDEO INCLUDED**

The prayer Pauli performed prior to our departure
video


This morning we woke bright and early and immediately drove to Jeff's house. We asked him questions for over an hour about biodynamic farming and he lectured about Rudolf Steiner, who is the father of biodynamics. Steiner, an Austian scientist, with several PhDs, not only taught about scientific methods but also about spiritual practices. It was his belief that by combining scientific research with spiritual philosophies, humans could make tremendous progress on many fronts, particularly in agriculture. Steiner lived in the late 1800's and early 1900's and spent time with thinkers from the Far East, with whom he conversed about Buddhism, about vegetarianism, and about other previously foreign concepts to the western world. Toward the end of his life, he gave an 8 lecture series, which has come to be known as The Agriculture Course. In these lectures, he theorizes about ways to maximize crop production using biodynamic methods. Today, we helped Jeff with one of his biodynamic preparations.

We worked with a barrel compost, essentially aerating a mixture with shovels for one hour. We learned compost contains a mixture of water, nitrogen, and carbon. If you have a pile of food scraps or a pile of cow manure, you have mostly nitrogen. If you have a pile of leaves or saw dust or wood chips or bales of hay, you have mostly carbon. For compost to help provide nutrients to soil and assure healthy crop growth, there must exist a 25:1 ratio of carbon to nitrogen. To Jeff's compost mixture, which already contained egg shells for high calcium content and volcanic ash for high basalt content, we added six components: oak bark that had been inside a cow skull, chamomile, water diluted valerian, yarrow that was inside a deer bladder, stinging nettle, and dandelion. The compost mixture must now rest a few more months. Jeff will then use less than one cup of this compost, diluted with 3 gallons of water, and spread it over an entire acre of land. He's preparing several gallons of this compost to evenly cover his entire farm.

Jeff believes this mixture will prevent radiation damage in a nuclear disaster. In 1986, a nuclear accident occurred in the Ukraine and affected most of Eastern Europe, with extreme damage in Chernobyl. All the land was destroyed by radiation except spots of land which had high concentrations of both calcium and basalt. Biodynamic farming stipulates there must exist elements of earth, water, human, animal, plant, and the stars to be complete. We have lots more to learn.

Friday, January 29, 2010

1-28-10




LETS EXPLORE WHATS ON THE
OTHER SIDE OF THIS CREEK









BAMBOO FOREST






BLUE JAY WAY


BIRD HOUSE

















AIN'T NO STOOP IN BROOKLYN








AARON FINDS WEIRD ARTWORK
IN A DESERTED BLUE VAN


Jeff owns over 200 acres of property in this area. This afternoon we took the opportunity to go exploring. The sunshine was nice and we found some geodes (crystal-filled rocks) along the creek. The creek is pretty wide and deep in parts and crossing proved challenging. We encountered a fallen tree, which served as a bridge for us to cross. Luckily we both won gold medals in gymnastics at the Beijing Olympics so we flew right across the "balance beam." We did some unbelievable back flips into cartwheels, but sadly the camera only caught us treacherously teetering in the middle, desperately trying to keep our balance with the aid of long walking sticks.

Each year Jeff hosts a party for the Summer Solstice where about 1300 people show up and celebrate for days on end. There are several stages for bands to perform on and lots of open spaces for people to dance, party, and pitch tents. We ventured into some of these areas today and found an abandoned blue van with some weird art, canned goodies, and field mice. We hiked up more hills and found the orchards where apples and pears are sadly not growing right now. The view is quite nice though and we can only dream of the lush beauty other seasons provide.

We finally got a hold of our host in Georgia (we planned to go Feb 1) at Rise N' Shine Farms and bad news for us: he's backing out and can no longer host us. Major bummer as we don't want to stay in the intern cabin for 2 more weeks. We're scrambling to find any other hosts in Georgia or Florida who might need our help. We're also crossing our fingers for availability of a house on Amelia Island, off the coast of Georgia. Guess our plans will take shape in the next few days. To all you faithful wwoofingpattap followers, if you are in an office and you are bored, check out wwoofusa.org and help us find a farm that wants to host us!

Tomorrow forecasts 4 inches of snow...guess we'll see about that. Seriously, we came South to avoid the Northeast winter and find warmth. So much for that idea. There is a historic district here in Red Boiling Springs that is home to the last mineral baths in Tennessee. We plan to visit one tomorrow for cleansing and revitalization.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

1-27-10

JEN HARVESTS LETTUCE










ANOTHER ONE OF JEFF'S BARNS












YELLOW WAGON IN MUCK








SWINGING SOLO









SWINGING ON THE PORCH



This morning we ate oatmeal with blueberries, honey, and cinnamon. Mark, the intern supervisor, came over early and gave us a maul so we could split wood and stack it on our porch, while he and Jeff finished sausage making. We spent part of the morning helping Riley and Will get the wood in order, then Mark called instructing the two of us to come over to Jeff's place as an opportunity for us to get to know them better and them to get to know us better.

We arrived and helped them complete their sausage packing. Jen labeled the packages and Aaron stored them in one of the numerous outdoor freezers. We cooked Jeff and Mark some lunch: whole wheat penne with defrosted summer corn and garlic in a pesto sauce. Also, we munched on cabbage and semi-frozen radishes plucked from the earth 5 minutes before they reached our plates. Dessert was a store bought honey dew melon. Listening to Mark and Jeff talk about agriculture was enthralling and informative. Mark is a mushroom expert, and taught us morel mushrooms appear at the same time when May Flowers bloom. May Flowers have red buds with clover leafs. If we see May Flowers in bloom, we'll look for the edible mushrooms.

After lunch, we spread compost onto the fields. Jeff believes the key to all good growing is compost. While we spread the compost from buckets onto his fields, he rode his tractor on another field and made 50 pounds of compost. Then we read a collection of Jeff's weekly newspaper publications in an attempt to help him organize them into a coherent grouping suitable for a second book publication. The material is already written to fill a book, but he wants the contents of this book to differ from his first book, "The Best of the Barefoot Farmer." We read while cooking beans, tomato sauce, frozen corn, onions, and frozen red bell peppers in a crock pot. Jeff returned shortly after sun fall, while Mark had already left for the evening. We ate the beans with potatoes and onions cooked on the wood stove (due to a gas leak that subsequently lead to Mark turning off the gas at Jeff's house for a day) and a red leaf salad with honeydew and thyme/honey. After we ate, Jeff answered some of our many questions at the dinner table.

Jeff supplies food for a 200 person CSA with a drop off in Nashville. Almost all the surrounding farms in this rural area of Tennessee grow tobacco, corn feed for cattle, or raise cattle. Jeff stands out in the community as someone who grows a tremendous variety of organic fruits and vegetables. He has been farming here for over 40 years and is well respected by all community members. He regularly and annually harvests a plethora of produce, more than he can ever eat or sell. So, he gives a tremendous amount of food to his neighbors for free and donates large quantities to charity organizations. His heart is in the right spot and he believes food should not be a commodity. He claims food as a commodity puts money into the hands of greedy corporations, forcing millions to starve, despite there being an abundance of food locked up in stores. He gave us a brief history of agriculture to help us understand better the state of the USDA and how it relates to Americans and American farmers today. In answering our questions, he gave us new questions to ponder. We're both eager to pick his brain over the next few days and learn as much as we can here. Before the night was over, Jeff gave Aaron some guitar lessons and we all enjoyed playing and singing several Beatles tunes.

1-26-10




OUTNUMBERED AT THE INTERN HOUSE










OLD BARN







A SMALL BIT OF THE 200 ACRES JEFF OWNS



We woke up this morning unsure of what the day held for us...either shucking beans or watching a slaughtered pig turn into sausage. Aaron kind of wanted to film the pig fest while Jen was completely repulsed by the thought. We shucked beans all day instead. It was cold with flurries all morning and luckily the fates didn't bring us to the pig. PHEW. We're both more than ok without film of pig mutilation.

Instead, it was a lazy, relatively uneventful day. We walked around the house we're staying in for a bit and saw some of the land where many crops grow in the warmer weather. Oh, how we long for the spring and the plethora of veggies we'll get. Beans and potatoes are what we've got here, with the addition of a few frozen goodies collected this evening from Jeff's.

The house we're staying in is in a total state of disarray...think frat house. ugh. While it is furnished, it is less desirable and less comfortable than the empty house we lodged in at Wogg Holler Farm. It's fine for a few days, but more than that would be too much.

The people here, however, are some of the warmest and most welcoming we've encountered. Everyone greets us with wide arms and big smiles and we are completely and genuinely a part of it all, immediately. It's a really wonderful feeling. People at home are so stand-offish and afraid of strangers...here, they are just an extension of the community and family.

1-25-10

THE BAREFOOT FARMER AND
THE BASS PLAYER

THE BAREFOOT FARMERS BAND



PAULI'S GREENHOUSE IN WINTER










Our stay at Wogg Holler Farm was pretty short lived. If you blinked, you might have missed it. Pauli is super laid back and is very into the biodynamic farming approach. He believes in the spirituality behind plants. He says energy is interactive between humans and Mother Nature, and that if you lick a seed before you plant it, your energy and the nutrients your body is lacking will be transfered into the plant. If you eat the harvested plant, you will receive the nutrients you most needed. This morning we helped his neighbor cut up a tree that fell during yesterday's storm. It would have taken the neighbor several hours to clear the fallen tree alone, but thanks to our crew showing up with four chainsaws, and some sort of mechanized wood splitter, we made short work of the job. Flurries began falling as we finished, and that was about all we did for Pauli. He made us good meals, did a blessing over us and our car wishing us all safe travels, and joked about making sure we all had proper safety equipment. But he was serious and was always looking out for our well being. There wasn't much more to do since he is going to New Orleans for Mardi Gras in a few days, so we left Pauli, and followed Randy, Riley, and Will who help Jeff out at his farm.

Long Hungry Farms is where we are now. The name comes from the nearby creek, which is known as the Long Hungry Creek. The name came about hundreds of years ago when white American settlers pushed Native Americans out west and herded them for miles along the creek with no food.

The Long Hungry Farms is just as laid back as Wogg Holler Farms was. There is a sense of community here, and everyone seems to enjoy working and learning with Jeff. First we dropped off our belongings at the intern house where we are lodging for the next few days. Next we drove a few miles down the road to where Jeff lives, and when we arrived, he joked we should make ourselves at home, clean the house and make dinner. We didn't take him up on the cleaning, but we did make dinner for what we were told was going to be 2-20 people. We fed 10 and everyone enjoyed the meal, and we did feel at home in the kitchen. Randy took us to gather our ingredients. We picked kale, red leaf lettuce, and also found tsotsoi, an asian green similar to bok choy in Jeff's garden. We also went exploring in his small nearby cave where we found beets and a plethora of potatoes in storage for the winter. To accompany these ingredients, we used rice, dried mushrooms, jarred tomatoes from the summer, a loaf of bread baked in his mud oven from the freezer, frozen red bell peppers, a butternut squash, sweet potatoes, and onion and garlic he had in a huge wicker basket. We sauteed kale and garlic and topped it with candied toasted pecans and butternut squash seeds, made a pesto bruschetta with the tomatoes, peppers, and bread, cooked the rice with onions and the dried mushrooms, and served that all with floral beets, and a squash stew, and roasted sweet potatoes.

After the feast, we listened to live music. Jeff is in a band and they are performing in Nashville Saturday and they were rehearsing at his house this evening. Tomorrow promises to be a day heavy of shelling black beans, or pork sausage making. Egad.

1-23-10

OUR OTHER CABIN MATE BESIDES MALLORY













PAUL COOKING UP A STORM









PAUL STRUMMING UP A STORM











JEN ENJOYS HER LAST WAFFLE AT
COWEETA HERITAGE CENTER


We started the morning at Coweeta Heritage Center in North Carolina and ended the day at Wogg Holler Farm in Tennessee. Quite a day. We packed up and enjoyed one more waffle breakfast with Paul, Lara and Mallory before hitting the road. It was a great way to end our stay with them. Waffles were delicious as usual and Paul serenaded us with music he played on his dulcimer after we finished eating. He was signing old Southern songs with Lara singing backup. They generously gave us a wooden spoon Paul carved from Black Birch and Lara shared a few branches of her Bay tree with us.

When we left, the towels were blowing in the cool breeze drying on the clothesline outside the cabin. We learned a lot about energy conservation during our stay at Coweeta Heritage Center. We felt the impact of living off the grid and realized using electricity shouldn't be taken for granted. Paul regularly charged his electric car overnight to get to town. He has converted a car and now powers it with the force of his river in the form of battery power. As a direct result of him charging his car, as it uses a bulk of the energy the river supplies, we did not have enough electricity to heat our hot water tank for at least two days and were stuck with cold water and cold showers. It's incredible that he's managed to change his car over and can drive to town without being reliant on oil but it comes with a price. Next time you have a hot shower and a sink turns on or a toilet is flushed and you lose the heat for a moment, consider the amount of electricity generated and gas burned.

Overall, our time at Coweeta Heritage Center was positive. We learned a lot and worked a lot, but we are glad it was our first stop and not our last stop on this journey we have embarked on. We're also excited to see other farms and places and meet other people who do things differently.

The drive to Tennessee was a scenic one, as we were forced to take a detour due to a massive rock slide on the most direct by-way. It took us about an hour, traveling at 15 miles per hour up and down the twisting turns of the Great Smokey Mountains to reach Tennessee. It was a nice day so we enjoyed the ride, but we did get a bit dizzy and our ears popped. This is definitely not a drive we'd like to do at night or in any sub-optimal weather. We passed many crazy motorcycle riders taking the hairpin turns at daredevil like speeds and turning so hard their knees were literally less than an inch from the ground. Many cyclists were trying to make the trip as well. They must have been training for the Tour de France, because they were miles from anything or any place. One crazy lost dog popped out of the brush into the street without any warning and luckily Aaron was paying lots of attention as a good driver and was able to swerve to avoid the pup. Our hearts skipped a beat. All this action and we hadn't even reached the Tennessee border. We've decided the roads in North Carolina are treacherous. Then again, the roads in Tennessee aren't a cake walk either. We suppose we are seeking out the places off the beaten path..and they definitely are off any paths.





PHOTO OPT ON THE SIDE OF THE ROAD






TENNESSEE INDEED WELCOMES US






Aaron's good friend from Wollongong Lucas Wilkonson grew up in Maryville, TN and we by chance happened to drive straight through his hometown en route to our current location, Liberty, TN. They don't so much pronounce it Mary-Ville as they call it Mahri-vul. We stopped at a sandwich establishment highly recommended by Luke called Subs & Such. They had a tremendous sandwich selection but 99% of them had salami or ham or turkey or some other dead animal we don't want to swallow. Unfortunately their cheese and vegetable sandwich selection was severely limited. We opted for the sandwich that included the veggies and it was ok. The Subs & Such clientele was what we would classify as typical middle-of-the-country Americans; a lot of people were overweight and we noticed a lot of people had bad acne. Is this a direct result of the food? Is this a result of the American sedentary lifestyle? On the road, there is nothing but fast food. We have already been hard pressed to find actual food to eat en route that is even palatable or something we'd even consider putting into our mouths and bodies. Everything at road stops is all preservative, chemical laden weird fake meat products neatly wrapped in plastic colorful packages. How did it come to this?

Luckily, Paulino, our new WWOOF host used to be a chef in New Orleans and he cooked us up a fine dinner. He had a chicken dumpling soup on the stove when we arrived but when he found out we are vegetarians, he quickly improvised and made us a terrific alternative: falafel, brown rice, whole wheat pita, and green beans he grew last year with a miso-yogurt dipping sauce. Fear not, his soup was enjoyed with zest by some other guys staying with Paulino for a few days who normally work for the Barefoot Farmer. The Barefoot Farmer is Jeff Poppen, one of Paulino's friends and mentors who has a farm about an hour away. We might work with this "barefoot farmer" depending on how our Georgia situation pans out. Paulino owns lots of property: several farms, and a few houses. We ate in his converted barn/house where he lives but now are comfortably resting in our new home, one of his rentals and recent purchases. It is a large, three bedroom house with a balcony, walk-in closets, two full bathrooms, but virtually not a single furnishing, save for a futon, which is our bed/desk/kitchen table.

WWOOF hosts tend to have one thing in common, so far as we can speculate after only two stops, and that one thing is excessively long driveways with bridgeless river crossings. We're here safe and sound and ready for what comes our way.

1-21-10

CLEANING THE TOILETS
EMPTYING THE TOILETS

Today was a fairly uneventful, rainy day. We spent this morning in town doing a few errands after doing our animal chores and lugging 250 pounds of animal feed from the car to the barn. Granted, the distance wasn't that great, but the rain and the weight didn't make the chore any easier. All the animals were seeking shelter from the storm in the barn. This was the first time we've come across them all inside instead of lazing outside, grazing on hay and making loud noises. Humans like to stay dry...apparently so do lower creatures. Let's talk about Chocolate the ram for a minute. He's a jerk. He has these big old horns and thinks he rules the world. When food comes, he puts down his head and literally rams the three nice, hungry sheep out of the way. It's like watching a rugby team lining up in a scrum. If a goat comes over, she can just forget about it. Of course, that doesn't stop Chocolate from stealing the goats' food. Rude. When humans enter the barn, a stick must be held to ward him off. Mallory was warned and is a bit afraid of being rammed by him after hearing how he rammed Aaron. He came a bit too up close and personal to Jen the other day for her enjoyment.

In town, we stopped by Kerr Drug to get Aaron some anti-itch poison ivy relief in the form of Tecnu. We then hit up the library for our last visit and confirmed plans with Paulino, our next host in Tennessee. We'll have one more waffle breakfast at Coweeta Heritage Center and head off Saturday morning.

After town, we came back home to empty our toilets. Both were awfully full and smelling something terrible. To everyone out there, going to the bathroom in your home is a questionable act--why would you go to the bathroom in your own home? The more you think about it, the less sense it actually makes. It's convenient...but still. Having to take it out of your home, however, and to dump it outside is beyond vile. We both have new respect for all those in the waste management business, especially the septic tank removal people. Yikes! Aaron nearly lost his lunch today while shoveling leaves on top of our newly laid addition. Literally, he dry heaved. It took a cool minute for him to regain his composure. After emptying, we must clean our toilets. This includes washing the 5 gallon buckets which are our toilets out with water and bleach. Then we let them air dry for a while and bring them inside, fill with brown bag, and replace under the unassuming toilet seat before defiling again. Today was our last emptying here.

Enough potty talk.

We did some work this afternoon in the cabin and then had a bit of time to relax. We read "The Lotus Eater," a short story by W. Somerset Maugham. We have a full collection of his short stories and haven't read one in a while. It was nice to get back to this. This story was a bit sad, but still took us out of our world for a while. Reading about summer nights and drinking wine while sitting outside in gardens in Capri sounded oh so lovely. This only further excited our hopes for finding warmer weather as our trip continues.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

1-20-10

JEN FEEDS DAISY THE GOAT













AARON GIVING VINNY THE GOAT HAY






JEN DIGGING TO CHINA
AARON MANNING THE SAW MILL












This morning we ate the most delicious blueberry corn muffins that Jen baked last night. This round of corn muffins were more moist and fluffy. We devoured them with tea, half a grapefruit, apples and/or bananas. We then headed down to feed the animals their breakfast.

Aaron has taken to speaking to the animals as if they were lazy humans. He keeps asking them why they aren't helping with the chores. He keeps bugging them to help carry the heavy stuff. They are not too responsive. Aaron also asks them silly questions. He asked Keta the sheep, "Did Little Bo Peep lose you?" He asked Sunshine the dog how come he never rubs Aaron's belly. We have to amuse ourselves to keep going through the day. Barnyard activities this morning included feeding the animals, and scooping frozen manure with our hands and putting the ice chunks into compost piles. Yesterday Aaron accidently dropped his new water bottle in a pile of manure. Yum. Which reminds us, Biff Tannen really got screwed bad by that manure - over and over - so we guess we shouldn't complain too much.

The work day started out with Jen and Mallory digging a hole for a solar panel post, and Aaron working with Paul and Bill at the saw mill. But soon Aaron and Mallory switched when Paul wanted to teach Mallory how to use the saw mill since she'll have to help once we leave. This suited everyone fine, but Bill probably didn't care too much either way. Jen dug 99% of the four foot hole, and Aaron came over to help finish and get paid the compliment of a job well done. Two wheel barrels of gravel were dumped into the dirt hole and now it's raining and the hole is probably filled with water, and presumably soggy.

After three days of not showering and playing in manure, taking a luke warm shower was a highlight of the day. Another highlight of the day was when Aaron stuck his hands into the 1500 degree wood stove. This felt as good as scratching the poison ivy which has recently coated his hands. He's trying so very hard not to scratch, and the intense heat felt pretty wonderful. Too bad he could only tolerate 5 seconds of it.

Dinner was tofu, carrots, broccoli, garlic, and onions in a peanut/soy sauce over noodles. Sort of like Pad Thai but without the eggs or loads of oil. Taste sensation.

1-19-10



JEN BOMBARDED BY 3 OF THE
5 COWEETA HERITAGE CENTER
DOGS (SHEP, ARIEL, & SUNSHINE)








LARA SPORTING HER CHICKEN
FEATHER HAT





We've talked before about the stream we must cross to enter and exit Coweeta Heritage Center, but now let's talk business. The stream supplies the hydro-electric dam with the power that creates the energy we use. This energy is enough to provide two houses with a lot of lights, appliances, power tools, and also it powers an electric car. Hence, this is a good amount of energy from a powerful stream...this is not your typical little babbling brook. This stream carries much force with it; crossing the steam with the car is seriously worrisome. Paul has said in jest that it only gets bad when the water starts coming in through your doors. We don't think the folks at Honda would be too pleased with water damage on the interior of the car.

It rained the other day and as a result the water level in the stream rose and the passing was more treacherous than usual. It was so potentially unpassable, Paul decided we needed some human influence over this force of nature. The wisest decision would have been to erect a bridge to make this crossing much easier. Instead, Mallory, Paul, Jen, and Aaron put on galoshes (some with holes) and braved the frigid rapids to move some rocks around. The rocks allegedly act as a reinforcement to prevent the water build up over the driveway from reaching too high a level. We walked around like morons in the waters for nearly an hour picking up rocks from one part of the stream and dropping them down in another part. Then we hammered some rebar into the rocky stream bottom to "secure" these newly positions rocks. As we hammered the rebar, using a sledge, we often the missed the target and instead created sparks due to sledge-on-rock contact. Needless to say, Mother Nature wins again. We all left the stream soaking wet and freezing, yet the change was hard to detect in the stream. So hard, one could say it was impossible to detect a difference! We're thrilled we only have to make this crossing three more times before we leave. Hopefully River Jumper is up for the task.

The work here is becoming old hat. We have managed to fall into the trap of routine. We left our jobs to get out of the routines of work, and yet here we are again. Apparently, that is how things go. Don't misinterpret, we enjoyed getting into a rhythm here as it made us feel like we are not just tourists, but we are also excited to move on and learn a new skill set at a new place. Jen and Mallory finished work on the chicken coop today and Aaron cleared more fallen trees. Aaron has increased his strength and ability of splitting wood significantly. Paul cut down a Poplar tree today and Aaron had to split it's trunk. It had by far the hardest and most gnarly wood of any tree he's had to split yet. Even with his improved coordination of hitting the desired target and enhanced strength, it took him roughly 5 to 10 axe swings to split each piece of wood. With Birch, he can guarantee splitting it usually in one swing, two at most. Neither of us had any idea that wood had such a huge range of hardness. Jen and Mallory also started digging a 4 foot hole today. This will be used to secure the base of the solar panel. We both had our fill of manual labor today and we're pretty beat.

1-18-10

AARON'S NEW GLASSES
CHICKEN COOP













MALLORY OUR NEW CABINMATE


We made some more pocohicara, but we haven't tasted it yet. It takes a long time to brew and we were so worn out by the time it finished we didn't have any energy left to try it. Tomorrow at breakfast will be a wonderful time to try it.

Mallory, our new friend, got roped into making a coon skin hat. The dogs apparently found a racoon carcass and Lara was eager to teach someone how to skin the hide and make it into a hat. That Lara, she sure loves wildcrafting. So they skinned it and Mallory was kind of into it but kind of grossed out by it altogether. This morning we saw her outside cleaning the hide with water and a salt mixture to dry it out. She laid it carefully on an angled rock so it could dry evenly, but when we all returned from working this morning, it was gone. Presumably some animal got excited and stole it. We think Mallory is slightly happy because now she doesn't have to go through with coonskin hat-making anymore, but probably slightly sad because after all, skinning the hide was probably the worst part. If the hide turns up, we'll see what happens.

Today Jen worked with Mallory on putting wire up around the new chicken coop Paul built. Which reminds us of a cheesy joke we heard...

Q: "Why does a chicken coop only have two doors?"

A: "Because if it had four doors, it would be a chicken sedan."

But enough jokes, back to business. First they dug out all the manure that was in the area in order to lay a proper foundation of dirt. The dirt may have also contained considerable amounts of goat shit so the digging may have been all for naught. The next step was to lay down a thick layer of sand, which was gathered using a wheel barrel from way down yonder that hill over there. Fencing was next measured then cut and attached to the floor, and four sides using a hammer stapler. It was further secured with larger fence staples and additional hammers. The assignment took all day but damn that's a handsome looking coop. The chickens were happy to have a new larger home, but then again, the chickens seem super happy when we give them our moldy, rotten vegetable scraps. So you know, maybe their standards aren't too high.

Aaron worked with Bill clearing and stacking logs we cut down last week bringing them to the saw mill using a tractor and chain. We got the knack of it down after a while and made a very, very large pile. Lots and lots of milling to come this week with that pile.

For dinner we tried to make crepes; they came out a little thicker than we wanted, but they had good flavor. Our recipe claimed we could make 24-26 crepes. We figured for three that was excessive. So we cut the recipe in thirds, hoping to have 7-9. We got 3. And yes, we are sure that 1/3 of 3 eggs is 1 egg. So what went wrong? Gotta be the altitude. High altitude seems to be screwing up our cooking. Or maybe we're just not French. There were two fillings: apples and honey, and a kale/yam/chickpea mixture. To accompany the crepes were fried potatoes. We're trying hard to keep making different foods with the ingredients we have, which remain the same. We think we are succeeding.

1-17-10

GOBBLE, GOBBLE













A BRITISH-STYLE DESSERT BUS





We ventured to Asheville today. Asheville is 70 miles east of where we're staying, and after hearing so much about it for so long, we figured we couldn't leave here next weekend without a visit. It started raining yesterday afternoon and continued throughout last night and into this morning. Normally a little rain wouldn't be cause for concern, but having to cross two bridge-less streams on the driveway increased the difficulty of making it to the paved road. We were a bit fearful River Jumper wouldn't make it, but she made it with ease. In case you can't figure it out, we've given our honda civic the name River Jumper. Shortly after getting the car someone asked us what we would name it; we we unsure and thought we'd give the car some time to earn a name on its own. River Jumper seems to suit her well.

Asheville is a cute, artsy little town. We arrived hungry and found a nice spot and enjoyed some brunch. We walked around for the next few hours, popping into stores and art galleries. There are several galleries in a small radius and we enjoyed many, but after a while we got a bit burnt out. We ate some Vietnamese food for a late lunch before heading back home. We noticed everyone greeted us in every single shop with a warm "hey ya'll, how ya doin?" It was nice. In the warmer months there is even more to do and see and enjoy with craft and flea markets lining alleys and live music being played on the lawns. We may have to go back.

Mallory is our new cabinmate, since we share the cabin and not our room with her. She's a sweet young girl from Charlotte taking a year off between high school and college to explore. She's spent some time traveling to Africa and South America before coming here. She'll be here for a month before continuing to WWOOF in Germany. It's really great that she's a veg too, so we don't have to endure the awful stench of bacon in the mornings.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

1-16-10




TOOTHWORT ROOT








RUFFED GROUSE FEATHERS






INDIAN POTATOES









CLUB MOSS








TURKEY TAIL MUSHROOMS









LICHEN








WITHERED POKEBERRIES






This afternoon Lara took us on our long awaited wildcrafting walk. Wildcrafting is the art of transforming wild plants and objects into decorations, clothing, or food. We had been asking Lara for a while to show us around the woods but due to the recent cold spell, we haven't had an opportunity before today. She also warned us that because it is winter time, there would be minimal forgeable discoveries. But we were eager nonetheless.

She took us on a big loop around a small portion of the property, and we found lots typical plants we never knew were edible. First she pointed out common spice bush. If you tear off its small branches, you can split apart the bark and smell a wonderful aroma, a combination of cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. She suggested we boil the branches in water and drink it as a tea. We look forward to trying this.

Next she uprooted some toothwart. The leaves are oval shaped with toothed edges. While the leaves are inedible, the root tastes similar to horseradish. She rinsed off the root in the stream, and we nibbled on the root. Since neither of use much care for horseradish, we didn't like it. Sort of reminded us of Passover.

Along the same riverbank, we noticed some feathers. Lara taught us they were the feathers from a ruffed grouse bird. The bird is known to beat the ground with its tale feathers to attract a mate. Apparently the sound can be heard from quite a distance. Our find probably came at the expense of the bird's life. We hope to use them in a headband.

Next we came across vines that led us to indian potatoes. Lara said they are impossible to detect unless you watch the plant change over the entire year, because many plants have similar grey wispy vines. These particular vines led us to the small potatoes. We dug down in the dirt, and unearthed several strands with potatoes no larger than a quarter. Some were smaller than a penny. Nonetheless, we ate them for dinner which was sweet. But they were barely noticeable in the mix of onions, cauliflower, and mushrooms. Good thing we aren't totally dependent on our foraging skills, otherwise, our tummies would be growling.

Next on our stroll we came across pine needles. She mentioned they are very full of vitamin C and if your are feeling under the weather, breathing in the vapors of boiled water infused with pine needles may help you feel better. Right near the area of the needles was also club moss. The club moss has spores which can be turned into an antibotic powder that Lara administers to the barn animals if they suffer an injury. The powder is very silky and also highly flammable.

Black birch was our next discovery. This one really blew our minds. The smell of the wood under the pealed bark on the small branches was wintergreen. Years ago, many people cut down black birch trees to create wintergreen oil, and the only reason the tree survived was because people discovered a way to make synthetic wintergreen. We cooked the bark in boiling water and drank the minty flavored yellow tea. It was hot and burned Jen's tongue. Despite the mild wound, the flavor was wonderful.

Further along the trail we came across turkey tail mushrooms. While these are completely inedible, they are pretty. We gathered some with hopes of preserving and turning into jewelry. We hope to put a coat of shellack on the mushrooms to prevent bending or curling and use them to make earrings or maybe a necklace.

We found a few other noteworthy things on the walk. Lichen, which can be used as an antibiotic, and sweet shrub also known as carolina allspice, which the seeds can be ground into potpourri. Neither are edible.

The last discovery we made on our walk was pokeberries. There are loads around and the leaves are edible but only in the spring. The berries are not edible ever. The leaves are similar to spinach, but cannot be eaten raw. You must parboil the leaves in order to make them safe to digest. This capped off a very informative and fun walk.

1-15-10

HANGING OUT IN THE BACKYARD















WE FOUND A ROPE SWING








INSERT TARZAN SOUND
EFFECT HERE




WHHHHOOOOSSSHHHHH














LOOK AT THE MONKEY
IN THE TREE









After Paul saw the great bread baking video Aaron put together, he enlisted his help making a video about the saw mill. Aaron spent the morning directing b-list actors: Paul and Bill. The subject matter wasn't all that enthralling but he did get some good shots. Look for the video on the blog in a few days. After shooting, Bill told Aaron he could take us to shoot some cool old homesteads. He said he knows of one place in particular that used to have two great chimneys, and then he took one. And then he found out he wasn't supposed to do that. Apparently it's against the rules to steal from a National Forest. He chuckled at his own story.

Jen finally finished categorizing books this morning...or at least she thought she did. Paul later mentioned there are plenty more books at his house to categorize. Next week she'll have to spend time at their house entering all the info to a database she creates. Thrilling.

All the categorizing of books inspired us to pick some of them up to read. There are loads that seem interesting. Aaron's settled on "The Lazy Gardener" by Linda Tilgner; he's learning great tips that will help us one day when we have a garden of our own. Despite the fact that it's for a lazy gardener, all the tips require lots of work. Suppose if you're reading a book about gardening, you're not taking such a lazy approach after all. The book has excellent illustrations to go along with the tips. Paul instructed Jen to separate all the novels into a "light reading" category which don't warrant thorough classification. Instead, they are doomed to a bookshelf in a corner of the cabin away from all the "important" books. Ruth Ozeki, author of "My Year of Meats*" which Jen has yet to read, and convinced Aaron to become a vegetarian for quite some time, has written a masterpiece in "All Over Creation" that will end up on said shelf. Jen must tear herself away from reading this book to do anything else. She highly recommends it. Yesterday she lamented in the fact that there wouldn't be enough time to finish the book before we leave at the end of next week, but now being over 300 pages in, she's pretty devastated she'll have nothing to read all of next week.

This afternoon we played outside in the our "backyard" for a bit. Enjoy the photos.

*Ericka Kura Jones: If you are reading this, kindly return my copy of this book.

1-14-10

THE COBBLER TASTES BETTER
THAN THE PHOTO LOOKS

AARON FEELING AROUND THE
NATURAL SPRING, RESEARCHING
HIS WATER SYSTEM PROJECT










A SKYWARD VIEW
OF THE BACKYARD




Aaron woke up the at 7:30am, which is the earliest he's gotten out of bed since we've been here. Since we went to town yesterday afternoon we didn't have time to split wood before we left. By the time we returned it was dark and it's quite a task to split wood in the dark. Hence, the early wake up this morning was to split more wood. Seems like we are constantly splitting wood. The fire is like a baby, requiring constant attention and feeding. Thank god if the fire dies we don't feel too badly!!

There is a great freezer by the saw mill that holds lots of goodies from seasons past. In addition to the groceries Paul and Lara buy us, we are allowed to help ourselves to all their dry ingredients and anything in the freezer. For some reason we haven't gone to raid the freezer yet, but today we decided it was time. After feeding the animals late this afternoon, we went to see what the freezer held. This freezer is some sort of deep freezer, keeping everything inside well under zero degrees. There were lots of baggies of kale, of which we took one, some weird fish and chicken parts, of which we obviously took zero, and various unlabeled things we were unsure of. We were, however, able to identify some blueberries and a mixture of blackberries and raspberries, which were precisely what we went looking for. It's been long enough since Jen's really baked anything, and Aaron's sweet tooth was kicking in full force. With the berries in toe, we headed back to the cabin and Jen promptly created some sort of berry/apple cobbler. Aaron says "it was amazing." He then went on to say "it sure is a good thing I like your desserts, otherwise it would be a dicey situation." Heavy sigh of relief from Jen.

We also scored some bay leaves from Lara's bay tree. Who knew bay leaves grew on a bay tree? The logic is there, yet somehow this fact alluded us both all our lives. These are the greenest bay leaves either of us have ever seen. We're excited to create something delicious tomorrow, putting them to good use.

Speaking of food, we enjoyed a delectable dinner tonight. We soaked some black beans early this morning which we added to the crock pot at lunchtime, accompanied by a can of tomatoes, and a third of a diced spicy pepper. We also added salt, pepper, and a touch of balsamic vinegar. Vinegar, it seems, is the key to all good food. Thank god for O & Co. opening our eyes to good vinegar. Since then, we realize vinegar can take the place of wine when we don't have access to it. It really brings out that one flavor that is often missing. So many times we taste something and it's good, but we think "it's missing something," and after we add vinegar it is precisely the flavor that rounds out the dish. To compliment the beans, we made mac & cheese with colby cheese and shells. A side salad of spinach balanced the plate, color-wise. It was comfort food to the max, and it hit the spot.

Turns out that our new roommate isn't coming until Saturday, not today. So a few more days of just us will be nice. Then it'll be fun to socialize and hopefully have a new friend.