Where’s the MEAT!

Brad is busy building a house. He’s out literally from dawn to well past dusk renovating (tearing down?) a summer cabin and building anew in a flurry of activity to get it done and livable by Thanksgiving. Before we’re buried in snow so deep that they won’t find our frozen bodies until well into spring.

I’m inside the rv in my own flurry of activity – but mine is more the mental rather than physical type. I’m on the computer, off and on, until I go to bed. I’ve never been a manual labor type but even so, my mental fatigue is every bit as real as someone else’s physical exhaustion.

Brad
Me

Same, but different.

Breakfast has always been a “whatever you want” meal, each on our own. I don’t do breakfast. I can’t cook first thing. I have coffee, half a bagel, and wait until the electrons start firing. I have no problem making the “main meal” but I am certainly not interested in cooking full gourmet fare three times a day. Or even twice. We eat Mediterranean style, so our main “supper” is done in the afternoon. And the evening meal, if you are still hungry (which I’m normally not) it’s a sandwich, salad, or leftovers. Easy, light and thrown together quickly.

When I was overloaded on the computer, Brad would sometimes take pity and take me somewhere, anywhere as long as I didn’t have to cook, or clean up afterwards.

Here in the woods, all bets are off.

One of the biggest obstacles for a writer is interruptions. This goes for anyone who has to write anything for a living – I do marketing full time and writing part time. Both involve searching for the right words, put together the right way.

When Brad takes a break, he wants to eat. IMMEDIATELY. And for me, I’m in the middle of doing numbers and writing prose and I look up and think “oh, shit it’s 1 p.m. and the beast will be arriving soon wanting something in his mouth within 10 seconds flat.”

If I had my crock pot (which is still packed away with all my summer clothes, which doesn’t matter now because summer is heading out the door here in Montana) I’d throw a bunch of stuff in it and call it supper. I don’t. So I don’t.

But I”m getting better. I’ve started a bit of planning at breakfast, and by the time Brad gets himself into beast mode, I have a healthy, filling and delicious meal to last him the rest of the day.

Unfortunately, that’s good in theory but not in practice. After I prep, cook, and clean up, I have to jump back on the computer. And by that time, I’m elbow deep into emails, promos, planning, not to mention my promise to blog about the construction process of the home. I promised Brad I’d do that. Even though I have no idea about the process. So I sound like an idiot and make it up as I go along. A promise is a promise after all. I never promised it would be good. So my hope was that the huge afternoon meal would suffice. Silly girl.

Last week, I was horrendously busy doing bookings, loading information on several booking engines, updating social media, answering phone queries … that I had literally grown roots in front of my computer. I forgot to brush my teeth. I hadn’t looked at a mirror all day. My neck and shoulders were stiff, my back hurt and my knees locked up from inertia. I was an aching, rigid, drained yet over caffeinated mess. A mess without a plan.

So that I don’t sound like a complete whiner, I do understand. Brad works harder than anyone I know. He’s out there doing sweaty stuff. Felling trees, lumber milling, peeling logs, digging holes, filling them with concrete, building and installing floor joists. By the way, I just actually learned what a joist was. I had a vague idea, but now I actually know. Brad? He’s a regular Paul Bunyan. And of course, he is starving when he walks in the door. Whereas I’m so worked up, stressed and trying to hit my deadlines that food is the last thing on my mind.

He walked in, looked around and asked “what’s for dinner?” Mind you, he had three huge burritos only a few hours earlier and I thought it would fill up the gnawing ache in is belly. I had one and I would have vomited if I put any other food in my mouth until breakfast.

He started rooting in the fridge, pulling out the egg carton. And then I stepped into it. I asked, innocently enough “you’re going to have eggs? Again? You had 2 eggs for breakfast.”

I had awakened the hibernating bear.

“Well, what am I supposed to eat? There’s no lunch meat, or anything!”

I offered to make a salad, and he informed me that he needed PROTEIN. Again, trying to appease, I said that we had some cooked beans. A good protein!

“BEANS? You expect me to eat BEANS? I need MEAT!”

I was scared, so I let him eat his eggs.

I then vowed that I would do a more Biblical job of feeding the hungry, so started, of course, looking on Facebook. And found an article by a doctor, a cardiologist no less, on the best forms of protein. And so it went …

Mind you, this is one of those annoying videos that you have to sit through to get the answer, and then you’ll have to give up your email and then you’ll be stalked until you give up and get a different email address.

But the doctor set out the protein options starting with the first – cow. Cow is good. NO cow is bad – move on to pig.

Pig could be good, but it’s not. It’s not the ‘other white meat” so don’t be fooled. Chicken is the best bet.

Except it’s not because out of all the protein, fish is the healthiest. Yes. I love fish. We love fish. We can do fish … except

There is too much mercury in fish. It’s not healthy. The best form of protein is BEANS.

We do beans! And legumes! I make a great bean soup and a killer bean, veggie and rice burrito. SAVED. Except

Beans are bad. They used to be good until this doctor found out how bad they are. They have lectins. Lectins can destroy your body. Last thing you want is a lectin messing with you!

At this point the video is winding down, and I’m thinking, if one more person tells me that beets are so good for me, I’m going to grab my Italian Mama wooden spoon and go after the backs of their thighs.

But wait. Dr. Feelgood has the answer. And all I need to do is grab it, and put it on a plate for Brad. Protein. The best ever protein. TWO CHOICES EVEN!

Wait for it …. drumroll please ….

Spirulina and Chlorella!

YUMMY

S

And, if you’re not sure how to prepare these amazing forms of the best protein ever, the good doctor has just the spirulina and chlorella shake that has your name on it. And he will sell it to you for the price of $19.95 plus shipping and handling. I’m dragging out my credit card as we speak.

Yesterday I went to the store. I bought chicken and hamburger and tuna and beans and pork. Today I put together meals enough for a week, and stuck them in the freezer. So we have taco and burrito guts, pasta toppings, chicken sandwich fixings, and pulled pork at the ready.

Because, when I go and meet my new primary care physician, and she inevitably asked me “do you feel safe in your home” i won’t have to say “no. I do not feel safe in my home.” Because I have learned my lesson. Never, under any circumstances, do you poke an angry lion.

These Boots Were Made for Walking

June is my birth month. And every June I get the inevitable question from my sisters … “what do you want for your birthday?”

The answer is quite simple. I simply do not know. I need a lot. I mean, I’m living in a 33 foot RV with an irritable man and 2 big labrador retrievers. I have no room, and as one friend put it “that’s a lot of flesh in one small space.”

There is zero counter space. I love to cook. It’s my bliss. I love creating something spectacular out of what I can scrounge up in the refrigerator. But with an EZ bake oven, a Suzy Homemaker fridge, and counterspace taken up by a dish drain and kettle (which is all that the tiny counter holds) I find myself throwing hot dogs in a pot and calling it dinner. It’s not me. I don’t know who it is, but perhaps I have descended into the Trailer Trash who microwaves all her meals and spends the day watching old Lifetime movie reruns. If I only had a TV.

And my sisters are so kind, and generous. So I try to downplay gift giving, because I’m bad at it. And I’m broke. So when their birthdays come around, I have to try to be creative, which is not in my wheelhouse, and come up with things that you can’t put a value on.

So I mentioned warm socks and long underwear. Because my neighbor scared me when he asked whether we were leaving come winter. And when we said no, he laughed. He thought it was hilarious. I guess being the butt of the joke means you don’t always get the joke. Until he told me that it gets down to 20 below.

Wait. What? 20 below? Like below ZERO? I can’t even picture what that would look like. I’m thinking, when the dogs go out every day to pee, does that freeze too? Will my hair and eyelashes freeze and break off?

Will I be even more of a house root vegetable than I already am? Questions that deserve answers I’m quite sure. But answers I do not have. Check back in December.

My sisters don’t give me what I mention. Because they’re better than that. They read my texts and know me. So I get wonderful gifts that are so timely and appropriate, that I’m horribly embarrassed to send them homemade huckleberry jam and other delights that I can scratch together in a kitchen that a Lilliputian would have a hard time fitting in.

Low and behold, one box arrived at the post office. With the most glorious snow boots a girl could dream of. Covering essential parts, warm, luscious. I Immediately put them on and walked around, saying “SNOW? WHO’S AFRAID OF THE STINKING SNOW? NOT THIS MOUNTAIN MAMA!” I was wearing my fuzzy lipstick lounge pants, and it was 75 degrees outside, but you get the idea …

Do these boots make my feet look fat?

Then another gift arrived. Along the same theme – surviving the Montana winter. Another smart move. For what is one to do when the snow is crawling up the side of the home, your eyelashes freeze if you go outside, and the Direct TV dish, in all likelihood, will be covered in snow (once we get it) and I’m quite sure Brad will not tromp out so I can watch American Horror Story. I’m sure because he didn’t tromp out in Washington, and the snow was just a couple of inches.

So the answer, of course, is to entertain thyself. And my sister gave me the perfect solution to get me through the trying times …

I think I’m going to need more books …

By the time the first snow falls, Brad promises that we will be “dried in.” I will have a larger kitchen, I’ll have a wood burning stove, there will be a pot of beans, or soup, or stew on said stove, and I will be well equipped for the freezing temps – book in one hand, boots on my feet, armed with an attitude that will astonish the snowbird neighbor who heads to Arizona come Thanksgiving.

I can do this. I think. I mean, it’s snow. How bad can that be?

Thanksgiving Leftovers

Today is the day after the “day of gluttonous feasting.” The day after – when dishes are done, leftovers are conveniently stored in the fridge so that if you happen to get hungry today, you can grab a turkey drumstick on your way to whatever Black Friday special you simply MUST HAVE.

So I thought I’d take time to offer some insight into a home cook’s Thanksgiving reflections.

  1. Timing:
    When you tell your guests that Thanksgiving will be ready at 4 p.m. that kinda means dinner will be ready at 4 p.m. If you show up at 5, and don’t alert us beforehand, you can come in and maybe get some dessert if you are lucky. If you show up at 2 and I’m in the kitchen cooking, I’m probably going to throw a hot sweet potato at you.

    kanye

  2. Dietary Restrictions:
    Here’s the thing. If I ask you “do you have any allergies or dietary restrictions I need to know about” what I really mean is “I don’t give a shit.” I DO want to know if you have a shellfish allergy and I’m serving shrimp on Thanksgiving, for some reason, so I don’t kill you. But that’s the extent of it. I don’t really care that you are “trying to eat vegetarian.” I make my Italian sausage cornbread stuffing. You don’t want the sausage, spit it out. Likewise if you are “putting your body into ketosis” that’s your problem. You don’t want the cornbread part of the stuffing? Spit it on the vegetarian’s plate and you can have her sausage.

    Back when we were kids, we got Thanksgiving dinner. Nobody asked us what we liked. We ate it. We gave thanks, damn it, even if we didn’t like the sweet potato casserole thing that Mom made. We were thankful that on Thanksgiving the napkins were big enough to hide that casserole underneath. Nobody cared if you were “cutting carbs” or “avoiding animal fats.” Do it on your own time. But don’t bore me with your laundry list of things you can and can’t eat. And please don’t ask me to “pull aside” something before adding whatever. What I will pull aside is a wooden spoon and chase you out of the kitchen.
    italian grandma

  3. Etiquette While Dining:
    Dialog and conversation is allowed. As long as the dialog and conversation mainly revolves around the food. Take note on this: the person who cooked the fabulous meal that sits in front of you, most likely started at 3 in the morning (yes, yes I did). And worked until 4 p.m. when the last bit of gravy is poured (and after a few glasses of chianti). So when you are tucking into my succulent turkey cooked in the Cordon Bleu technique, the sweet potatoes with meringue topping straight out of the most recent Cooking Light magazine, brussels with warm, whole grain mustard vinaigrette, or fresh cranberry orange relish; you must (and there are no exceptions) exclaim loudly with each bite “this is the most delicious and amazing food that has ever passed my lips.” You may then (and only then) continue with whatever conversational topic you choose, and if it’s political,  I have to agree with you. My house, my kitchen, my wooden spoons.
  4. Leftovers:
    There are none. Pay no attention to the woman behind the curtain shoving everything into the fridge. It’s a mirage. Sleight of hand. Because for a home cook who was cooking and prepping for 13 hours, leftovers are the artesian springs in the middle of the arid desert. Mecca. Because leftover means that, for at least the next 3 days, my husband won’t ask “what’s for dinner?” or even “what are we having for lunch?” My clever sister Jen even incorporated stuffing into scrambled eggs. Genius!

    Leftovers? I’m owed it, and if I see you abscond with as much as a turkey wing, I will run you down and tackle you in my front lawn.

tackle

In Summary, I hope you all had a blessed and wonderful Thanksgiving holiday, full of amazing food, tantalizing desserts, family, friends and joy. Ours was peaceful and quiet, just the big guy and me, and right now I’m looking forward to a turkey and stuffing sandwich. As well as a massage and foot rub and lots of chocolate. Which I won’t get, but I’ll settle for the sandwich.

 

Covering Comforters?

Lately I’ve been inundated with the mad, crazy information that millennials no longer use top sheets. Oh, the horror! No top sheet? GROSS!!!

My millennial son informs me that no, there is no need, as they all use duvets with covers. The covers then zip off, get tossed in the wash, and back on they go. No need for a top sheet. Clean and easy.

I can’t fathom not having that tucked in top sheet, but decided for my Air BnB guests, I would use a top sheet, but also get a duvet cover so as to guarantee no skin cells but their own will ever touch their skin.

Yesterday my first Amazon ordered duet cover arrived. So I dragged it upstairs, on the road to becoming the cleanest Air BnB this side of the Mississippi.

20 minutes later and I don’t care. I don’t care if it’s clean or dirty. I don’t care if nobody wants to book my rooms. I just don’t care. Here’s the process I went through, from “I’m excited to have a crisp and clean bedroom for guests,” to “I really don’t give a shit.”

  1. Find the zipper. I’m not being stupid. Literally I laid out the cover and rotated it over and over and over again. No zipper. Went downstairs to find the packaging to be sure I didn’t just get two queen sheet that were sewed together. Nope. It said clearly “City Lights Comforter Cover.” Finally, looking closely at each corner, I found the zipper tucked away in a seam.
  2. Unzip. Carefully. Every few inches it gets caught up in all that material. So the process is slow, and if you have the patience and attention span that I do, you’ll end up swearing and jiggling the zipper until you are this close to yanking it so hard you’ll rip the whole damn thing.
  3. Lay out your comforter and start stuffing. This is the part that set me over the edge. It sounds so easy. 15 minutes later I’m still shoving. This is the thing – it doesn’t just lay flat. It doesn’t fit nicely in the cover. It bunches. It bunches up a lot. I started on one side, got the bottom edge nice and smooth, worked my way up to the top and smoothed that out. Then I went to put the other bottom side down, only to discover the other bottom that was smooth, was bunched up and turned under. And I have to tell you, My arms do not reach far enough down on a queen sized duvet to pull it flat. I had to basically crawl on top of the bed, shake the duvet and crawl partway into it to unbunch the edge. All the while threatening to beat the comforter to a bloody pulp.

    scream face

This went on for 20 minutes. Unbunching, cussing, unbunching. The corners would           not lay flat. Not now, not ever. But in 20 minutes I did manager to get all of the                     comforter into the cover.  And if I punched the bunchy bits REALLY HARD and                    slapped it around a bit (for my own benefit) they seemed to flatten out.

4. Go downstairs, pour a glass of wine, contemplate your achievements, glare at the elliptical and think murderous thoughts about your son, who talked you into the whole comforter cover thing. And ignore the one in the king bedroom until more wine is consumed.

I’m in an Air BnB host forum. European Air BnB owners never use topsheets. They use duvet covers. American Air BnB owners use top sheets AND duvet covers. “Oh yes,” they said on the forum. “And we launder them with every check out.

My son also said he launders his with the rest of his bedding. And I have this to say …

LIARS. EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. OF. YOU

jack

Because there is no way in HELL that you are all washing these damn things every day or two. Because like me, Air BnB owners typically get a lot of one and two night stays. And I cannot believe that they battle the stuffing process every day or two. No way. No how.

So here’s what I think. Millennials are either dirty, or dirty liars. Plus, here’s my Baby Boomer philosophy.  Want clean? Buy a second top sheet. There are three benefits. 1. It’s cheaper to buy another top sheet than buy a duvet cover. 2. Just as clean – one top sheet on the skin side, lay the comforter on top of the first top sheet, and top with the second top sheet. Done. and 3. There is no fighting. No cussing, No battling the cover, no stuffing, no zipping, no cussing, no punching or slapping.

“Susan. You insisted we needed to buy comforter covers. You’ve already laundered them and used them. We can’t return them, so we’re stuck with them. But i’ll help.” That’s Brad. My husband. Thinking that him climbing on the bed with me as I’m shrieking will help to heal all wounds. And make the whole process easy. Silly Man. He really doesn’t know me at all.

nicholas cage vid

 

Life’s a Beach

The rain has settled in on the great Pacific Northwest. I’m looking out my office-slash-bedroom window and the drizzle of autumn has replaced the “bluest skies you’ve ever seen” that is summer in Washington State.

And all of a sudden I’m assaulted with those beach memes … and I’m sure you’ve seen them all …

 

Basically – I hate the beach. There. I’ve said it. Nobody I know would ever admit to it, but I have the sneaking suspicion that there are more of us out there.

When I was just a baby and not even walking yet, my mother took me to Jones Beach – our preferred spot on New York shores. She tells me that she put me on the sand and I immediately crawled towards the water whilst my mother ran to save me from the massive waves that often crest in the Atlantic – which, of course, is never unless you are running towards an 8 month old baby and everything is a threat.

And I’ve been like that ever since.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the “look” of the beach. I love the thought of the beach. Kind of how I love the thought of sleeping outside under the stars. Sailing around the world. Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. Running a marathon. They all sound so romantic. But the reality is far grimmer. It’s the whole activity of “beaching” that I just can’t tolerate.

When I was in college in Southern California, I was a quick 30 minute drive to the ocean. I’d pack in with my dorm mates and head “to the beach.” Making sure you had no classes on Fridays was a necessity and if you were clever enough to work magic on your schedule, you were assured a three day weekend every single week. And that treasured Friday off was mostly reserved for the beach.

I’d sit on my towel with my girlfriends, all who had the required-at-the-time crocheted bikini, bouncing around, bored, sandy, and waiting for the first one to get up, run to the water and jump in. Nobody would ever make a move. As they once told me “we’ve never gotten our suits wet.” Wait – you go to the beach and don’t go into the water? And they looked at me in horror and said “you actually go IN the water?”  And there you have it. Not a beach person. Water, definitely. Beach, no.

For 14 years we lived on an island. And like all islands, it was covered on all sides by beach. I never laid out on the beach. Not once. Not once in 14 years. Don’t get me wrong. My surroundings were gorgeous and beaches are beautiful to look at …

IMG_0773 (3)

Yes, this was what I used to put myself through every single morning

But it is the “being on the beach”  that annoys me. It’s all that sand. I used to exercise by taking long walks on the beach, but in my tennis shoes. Barefoot? Gross. The sand underneath my toenails and clinging to my feet? Not happening. And you can NEVER get all of it off. You rinse one foot, which is great, then you have to put it down to rinse the other one, and the first foot gets sandy again. It’s a never ending story. So you are stuck with gritty feet and sand in your toes and you have to climb in your car and drive with that squeaky, grainy sand all the way home, and I’d have to practice out-of-body experience to stop myself from screaming on the whole drive.

Yeah. I never made mud pies as a child either. Dirt under my fingernails? Not in my wheelhouse.

When we lived on the island, for 10 of the years we lived on the beach. Directly on the sand. 20 steps to the water. I’d swim and snorkel a lot in the warm South Pacific seas. But it was a constant attack of beach. It got everywhere. It clung to your bathing suit, your shoes, your entire body. As much as I swept and showered and vacuumed there were still small particles between our bedsheets. For the entire decade I was uncomfortable in bed. Every night I’d sit at the side of the bed and brush the bottoms of my feet together, hoping upon hope that this one night would be a night of sparkling clean and sand-free sheets. And every night I could feel the grains of sand attaching themselves to my legs and ankles.

I also never could understand all the “beach people” who would sit on a lawn chair or repose on a towel “sunning” or “tanning” as if it were an activity in and of itself. And reading.

Do I love to read? Yes! But not on the beach. If I’m going to tuck into a great novel, I want to be settled into  a cushy armchair. I don’t want to have to stop and swat at things crawling on me. I don’t want to constantly dust the sand that’s getting on my person or sneaking into the binding of my book. I don’t want a sun glare on the pages. Or on my Kindle screen. I don’t want to lie on a lumpy patch of sand. Or a stiff lawn chair. I don’t want to scratch my head and get grit under my fingernails. I shudder at the thought.

My favorite time on the beach is winter. In the Pacific Northwest. Why? Because nobody expects you to baste yourself in oil and place yourself in nature’s rotisserie, turning every 15 minutes so you’re broiled on all sides. Or sit under an umbrella in a sunhat, and do nothing but plop. Or doze. Or, worst of all, have a picnic. On sand. So now it’s on your feet, your hands AND your food. Yum.

The beach in winter is a marvelous thing. You don’t take your shoes off. Nobody is around and if they are, they have a sense of purpose – clamming, oyster hunting, fishing. You wear coats and gloves and boots and all that outerwear comes off when you get into your nice heated car. It’s magical – a match made in heaven – a perfect blend of sand that stays where it should, foggy skies, mist on your face, air that is almost cold enough to hurt your nose, but not really, the scent of the sea AND – as an added bonus, we have the LONGEST BEACH on the west coast, and the longest driveable beach in the nation – right here in Washington.

 

So, when I see all the inevitable “Who wants to shut off their phones and head to the beach?”memes, I am tempted to reply “not me.” But then it’s like saying you don’t like John Wayne (he can’t act) or  bacon (it’s ok but really? On cupcakes? Or ice cream?) or the Walking Dead (zombies are stupid) or Titanic (omg barf) or cute kitty videos (not so much) or shoes (I don’t get the allure). It’s kind of like you become “that person.” The one who doesn’t like “normal stuff.” Un-American. Weird. Contrary.

And I am “that person.” I spend my day in men’s sweats. I talk to the TV when I’m alone. Or the dogs. Or the food processor if it pisses me off. I got angry at a key lime pie once and threw it at my husband (ok, it was my husband I was mad at. But the pie annoyed me as well). I like gelato better than ice cream, and fish better than steak. I’d rather buy kitchen stuff than a new pair of shoes. I have tennis shoes, ugg boots for the winter and 2 pairs of sandals for the summer. Anything else is excess. I prefer rain to sunshine. Winter to summer. Snowy days to blue skies.

And, I don’t like the beach.

bad beach

Sudsing it up

Long ago, in a galaxy far, far away, we decided that an investment we made in a country not our own, when sold, would yield us a small yet tidy profit we could live on and eat with and not have to work all the way until we were 90 or died. Whichever came first. It was a great plan, a beautiful plan, a plan like no other. And since we have been self employed for, like, forever, it was the only plan we had.

As plans go, it worked on paper. It worked in real life. And would have worked swimmingly if it was a plan executed in the United States. Unfortunately it wasn’t. Getting money out of foreign countries can be like getting milk from a bat? Have you ever tried to milk a bat? I haven’t but I assume it would be pretty hard.

And as such, instead of traveling to Italy in August for the gelato festival, we are now living our Plan B. Which is, let’s throw something against the wall and see what sticks.

I have no skills. No, really. I can’t do much. I’m ancillary to the big guy. When everyone is out creating something special, I make the ice tea and chocolate chip cookies. I’ll provide the best lasagna this side of Asti after you are done building goat barns. I’ll bake an Italian cream cupcake that will knock your socks right off your bone weary feet. But doing anything that actually produces something profitable? Just not in my wheelhouse.

So when our does, Luna and Cinnamon, became “with child” we had to decide what to do with the vats of goat milk that we had no room for.

This is Luna. It’s obvious why she’s called what she is. Her registered name is “Fieldhaven Winter Moon.” But Luna is what she is.

luna

I know, she’s a bit off. Hence the name.

We had a refrigerator so full of milk that we had no room for food. Literally. So I made cheese. Making cheese was fun when you only had a gallon of goat milk. I made loads of ricotta. I made a ton of chevre, all sorts of chevre. Lemon rind, lavender, rosemary, smoked salmon, blueberry. But when you have 20 gallons waiting to be turned into cheese, I just wanted to run into the bedroom, hop in bed and throw the covers over my head. It was too much, all at once, and it was a never ending process. Make one gallon, get two more. There was no getting ahead.

So I came up with the bright idea that I would make goat’s milk soaps. The best part is that if you make soap out of goat milk, you have to freeze the goat’s milk. Problem solved! I didn’t have to hear Brad nag that “we’re running out of space, when do you think you’re going to make more cheese?” All the excess milk could be frozen and I could merrily make soap today, or tomorrow, or even next week.

Soap making was fun. It was a lot of work for a little bit of product (hours to make 10 bars of soap) but I liked it. But then I got bored. I made a nice bar of soap, but I wanted more. I always want more.

So I played with scents. I blended. I played with colors and textures and patterns. And then I took it to the streets. Or in this case, the internet highway and decided to sell online.

Being that I was in marketing for over a decade in my fresh-from-college years, I knew how important presenting the soaps would be. I wasn’t going to just take a photo of a bar of soap. I mean, how plebian would that be? This? Absolutely not:

soap

Who would buy this plain old thing?

I told Brad I needed to infuse my soaps with the personality they deserved. My soaps needed to have a platform! And I had to shoot on location.  My Ocean Shores scent needed to be taken to ocean shores. Made sense to me.

Cottongrass needed to be shot in cottongrass. Lavender Fields needed to be shot in a lavender field. How else do you promote your exotic, carefully blended pure organic soaps?

Brad was willing to support this one small skill I seemed to acquire. But to a point. “We are not going to drive an hour to the beach for a $5 bar of soap, Susan. We’d spend more in gas.” And of course, if we drove an hour to the beach, I’d demand lunch as well. And he knew that. You can’t take me somewhere and not buy me a meal. Or a gelato. I’m not getting to Italy anytime soon, so I need at least some creature comforts.

I set out to find locations onsite for the soaps. I trekked through our woods, and it seemed to go pretty well I’d say.

But there was only so much grass and ferns and oddities,  and I needed more. I got my marketing juices flowing to create scenes and stories. My soaps deserved no less than a great story.

And the names reflected their stories – Avalon, the mystical island of King Arthur. First Kiss, that sweet second of innocence and romance. Sea and sand, fresh ocean air and sand between your toes. Empress, when being a princess was just not enough.

My girls had arrived.

I became best friends with Michael’s and Home Goods and Hobby Lobby. I needed sparkly things and shiny things and stones in bags and feathers! I’m a woman on a mission. To save the family farm – one bar of soap at a time. And I can do it with props! Lots and Lots of props! Joan of Arc, riding on my horse, soaps in my satchel, fighting off pestilence and famine with the prettiest little bars of soap you could ever hope to find.

The other day Brad asked me “why is there soap propped up against my pillow. And why is there a sleep mask on the soap?”

Silly man. It’s my new Chamomile and Lavender Sweet Dreams soap. And he had the puffiest pillow in the house.

 

Permaculture … on steroids

When my daughter’s fiancé visited us several years back, he made the proclamation … “what you have here, is permaculture.” Being city girl turned reluctant farmgirl,  I had to Google it to see what exactly it was. Wasn’t sure if he was praising our efforts, or swearing at us.

Turns out, yes, we are a family of permaculturists.  When I take on things, I tend to do it with a passion. Brad, disagrees. He says it’s not passion, it’s a freakish obsession to go overboard. With everything. We started with 10 chickens and now have 80. Two goats became six. Although, in my defense, two pigs became freezer fodder, so there is that. And we added six ducks, but that was the neighbor’s fault. Entirely. She bought the ducklings for us.

So it stands to reason that after Jomar  introduced me to a new concept that I would embrace it wholeheartedly. And really, we are quite magnificent when it comes to creating as little, if not zero, excess waste as humanly possible.

Walk with me, if you will, as I take you through our moderately messy, incredibly efficient, immorally time consuming and slightly perfect piece of recycling nirvana.

A bit of a warning. As I said, I get passionate about things. It started with mild composting. But I tend to have a charming neurosis (small, tiny, miniscule, not-getting-in-the-way-of everyday-living neurosis) that drives me to excel at things and be “one of the best.” Except sports. Not happening. Never. I mean, I am the best “walk and talk for 3 miles every couple of days” person I know. But that’s it.

So … the tour begins in my kitchen which is the heart, and start, of the permaculture process. Under my sink is a big stainless steel bowl which is used for collecting bits and pieces – anything from the sink drain catcher thing, anything that hens or goats or roosters shouldn’t eat. We don’t have a garbage disposal, so anything caught in the strainer goes into the bowl. Once that’s filled, it goes down to the compost pile and becomes rich earth. Coffee grounds, on the other hand, are collected by Brad and, together with newspaper, gets fed to his worms. I don’t go there. Ever. It’s not even in the same country as my wheelhouse.

I also have 2 Tupperware bins that sit on my counter. One is for the meat birds, the other for the active laying hens. Different things go into different bins. For the layers, they get pretty much anything with the exception of onions and garlic. As you can see, they like it. They like everything.

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The second Tupperware is for the meat birds. I’m more picky about that. They don’t get things like cabbage, Brussel sprouts or any strong flavored veggies. They get more mildly flavored treats – apple bits, carrot tops, bread crumbs, leftover oatmeal, mild flavored veggies. We sell both eggs and the meat birds, so we are careful about what might end up flavoring both. Well, I’m careful, Brad not so much. Which is why I’m in charge. And why our meat birds rock.

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If the eggs we collect happen to be cracked, that gets cooked up for the dogs. Egg shells get collected in a bowl and when I have enough, I toss them in the oven to toast them a bit, crumble them and put them in the hens food. It’s a good source of calcium and helps strengthen their egg shells.

Meat, fish, etc  gets divied up between the dogs and chickens. Yes, oddly enough, chickens eat meat. Chickens are not vegetarians. Getting eggs in the store from chickens who are “only fed vegetarian” is stupid. Chickens scratch in the ground for worms and slugs and eat insects. So don’t waste your money. Goats, however, are strictly vegetarian. Go figure.

And now we come to bones. Brad and I went to a naturopath, who prescribed we both drink bone broth. And she explained that it was what Vietnamese Pho was based on. Not able to find any bone broth in our local stores, I did what I do – I researched. Now I’m a bone broth pro. bone-brothThe best bone broth is found at my house. Seriously.  My freezer holds several gallon ziplock freezer bags. In these bags are leftover vegetables – the ends of the onions, the skins, the tops of celery, the stems of cilantro. Anything I don’t use or feed the chickens, I put in there. The other bag holds bones. With the exception of fish bones, every single bone in every single piece of meat I cook is in this bag. When you come for dinner at my house, you won’t be given a chicken thigh or leg to munch on. I’ll be cutting the meat off the bone for you, just like your mamma used to do.

When the bag is full enough, I toss all the bones and veggies in my crock pot. I cook it for at least 2 days, with some bay leaves, kosher salt, some whole spices (whatever I have on hand – peppercorns, fennel seeds, whatever herbs are in the garden or in the freezer). The bones turn very soft during this time, and turns the water into a flavorful broth that I bottle and freeze and use for a soup base, for cooking rice, for flavoring sauces. I always have the shelves in my stand-alone freezer full of bone broth. AND – after the bones are all cooked down and mushy, those go into the compost pile as well.

By the way, the reason I wrote out the bone broth recipe is, for some ungodly reason, Brad seems to think I could be the next Pioneer Woman. He insists I write down everything I cook (mostly because I can’t remember what I did so that I could recreate the meal again). Then he thinks my blog can turn into a blog not only about composting or permaculture, but about recipes, someone will “discover me”, we’ll be rich and not have to worry about our retirement. HAHAHAHA.No.

We collect slugs in the garden and bring them down to the duck pond. Veggie leftovers from the plantation get tossed into the goat’s pen. The big sunflowers feed the wild jays, swallows, yellow finches. And, if you want a goat to follow you till the ends of the earth, you carry a handful in your pocket and dole them out. You’ll have a friend for life.sassy

Some things are not good for animals – like potato skins. You’d think I’d just toss them, but I’m no longer a “tosser.” I cook the potato peelings for the chickens. I cook up raw chicken skins for the dogs. .

The kitchen is obviously the most interesting and vital part of the composting/recycling process. Brad does the other stuff. Leaf mulching and chopping  and burning and spreading ashes. It’s not as cool as a slimy bowl of gummy veggies under my sink, or delicately sautéed potato peels. So I won’t go into graphic detail. But I do invite you up to our farm and dare you to find one scrap that isn’t used for some purpose. Even the goat and chicken poop is meticulously collected. Nothing like a steaming pile of … well, you get the idea.

It’s a circle of life, my friends, a beautiful little circle of life.

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