never had any other desire so that one which I have had always, that I might be master at last of a small house and a large Garden.

-A. Cowley, The Garden, 1666

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

best laid floor o' nooks an' pantries

I had planned to post about a beautifully triumphant weekend in which we finally have a refinished breakfast nook floor...
After all, we did set aside an entire weekend for the endeavor. How long could it possibly take...we've already done the hard part (taking up 2 layers of vinyl and scraping up the majority of the black gooey mildewy mastic which was applied right over a nice pine foor), right?

*maybe*, whispered my ambitous optimistic and ultimately unrealistic project angel jumping up and down excitedly on my shoulder, *maybe we can even get to putting in the antique hutch and other furniture, after all we did get the fast dry polyurethane!*

Did I mention that our budget for this restoration job is about what a normal couple would spend going out to dinner? Not a special occasion type restaurant, more of a "its tuesday and I'm feeling oppressed by the task of cooking" type joint.
So we (I) made the amazing decision to save money by NOT renting the proper floor sander...we'll just use borrowed belt sanders (free)! After all, its a really small room!

UPDATE: As my aunt (and Robert Burns) observes about home DIY projects:
The best laid schemes o' mice an' men
Gang aft a-gley.

We are still sanding.
And we have busted both of the borrowed belt sanders (Hi Mom...tell Dad we owe him a trip to harbor freight...) So back to sanding this evening (decided to ignore the nook on my Monday birthday and yesterday flounced out to a concert).

In the mean time: I'll show off some really sweet porcelain bird napkin rings. Goodwill find which was half off...a whopping 75c for the whole flock.
and they also qualify me for joining in over at Faded Charm for White Wednesday!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

new to me.

Before the frost set in I managed to score some green heirloom tomatoes. They looked really pretty sitting in my vintage lustre bowl but it was time to use them (instead of waiting too long and throwing them out). That great orange octagonal bowl, by the way, was a lucky recent score at a junk store in Roanoke ($4!). Not new (check out the chips and wear), but new to me and I love it...think of filling it with would glow!
I've never used green tomatoes before and couldn't even think of anything else besides "Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe".
So that's what I improvised. First I sliced them about 1/4" thick and then set up 3 bowls: 1. corn flour mixed with a little salt and pepper 2. milk and 3. stone ground cornmeal (bought at the state fair from people operating an old portable stone was fascinating to watch) mixed with a bit of cayenne. The slices were dredged and dipped and dredged in sucession and piled on a plate while a pan of oil was heating up. The slices were shallow fried on each side til golden (about 2-3 minutes).

I served them up with a thrown together remoulade (yogurt/sourcream, old bay seasoning, bubbies real relish, cayenne, pepper), sauteed kale with hot sauce and cornbread. The cornbread was baking and the kale was simmering while I prepared the tomatoes so everything was hot at the same time (for once)! The cornbread incorporated some more recent finds: blue cornmeal from the state fair, pink himalayan salt, a "limited edition" pastured organic butter and my pastured farmer's market eggs from Faith Farms.

This dinner turned out to be fabulous, filling, and frugal (about $1 per person excluding the pantry items). Perfect seasonal fare for vegetarian night on an early fall evening. And a successful expedition into uncharted culinary terrain.

I'm also attempting to link into my first linky carnival...we'll see how that goes considering my technical shortcomings...

Pennywise Platter Thursday at the Nourishing Gourmet.

Monday, November 1, 2010

the haunted small house.

I like my halloween decor as imagined through an Edward Gorey illustration. The porch of the small house was decorated in an attempt to lure...ahem, I mean, welcome...prospective trick-or-treaters. I wasn't overly hopeful considering the dearth of children in the population of our "town", but you never know...

First, you must pet our outside cat, Billy. She may look spooky, but she's really a sweety. And she comes in handy as a free source of haunted ambience.

Next, up the stairs past the pumpkins where you may enjoy our window memorial to Poe. Nothing says Halloween like Poe to me.

Happy skull votives (dollar store) sit on piles of books (collections of Poe, an early 20thc biography of Poe, The Poe Shadow, and a collection of Mrs Riddell Ghost stories because I couldn't find any more Poe books...). They also provide precarious perches for a small flock of (okay, two) black feathered ravens.

Then come up to the front door to be welcome by these little ghosties on the wreath by the knocker...if you still dare, knock on the door for your candy (butterfingers this year) or choose from the various glow-in-the dark beasties. (FYI my husband chose both.)

As you leave, you may see a haunted ghost in the side yard...I was inspired by "The Long Black Veil" and by the irresistable fact our side yard is enclosed by a white picket fence and features a willow tree.
The lady is dressed in my elizabethan collared linen smock cinched with a black ribbon and a long black (okay, grey...the dye didn't take properly)silk gauze veil that flutters in even the slightest breeze. The stones and sign are dollar tree. As someone who actually spent a semester in a cemetery doing research for a paper on gravestone iconography, I'm not exactly over-impressed by the dollar stones. Next year I might flip them over and repaint the backs...

Did we get trick-or-treaters? Well, after dark I gave up and just left the plastic pumpkin filled with treats on the porch whilst hubby and I went to the amusement park to scare ourselves silly and ride roller coasters. When we came back, most of the treats were gone. Trick-or-treaters....or something else?

the great basil harvest

End of last week, I saw that the temperature was predicted to swoop near the 30s...and that meant it was time to gather ye basil while ye may. We have a large potful on the back porch which yielded a large colander full. The stems and a few leaves were left to hopefully re-seed the pot once again (maintenance free herbs).

What to do with a couple hundred basil leaves? Make pesto! I grind it up with pignolis, salt, olive oil, parmesan, and garlic. Thats it! Then scoop it into a oil sprayed ice cube tray and save for a zippy punch of summer flavor in the middle of the winter. Pop out the cubes when frozen and store in a freezer bag. The size is perfect for pasta for two or a dollop for ratatouille or soup. It even retains its color.

And what do you have for dinner when you're too busy making pesto?

a fried egg with rooster hot sauce, pesto on toast, and the last tomato fried.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

I love fall.

Fall is by far my favorite season. Crisp air, rustling leaves, and (down here) wisps of smoke on the air. I still remember the first time I saw someone burning their leaves...I thought it was an emergency situation. Where I grew up you weren't allowed to have big bonfires in your backyard. Thankfully these days I live in the country and this is acceptable behavior to get rid of unwanted brush and branches. Sitting around a fire, chatting and sharing a cider is the best after work activity ever. I think I have a plan for tonight.
This is my artwork inspiration for this week, one of my favorites by Millais.

The farmers market is also wonderful this time of year; I filled up on squash, red poblano peppers, napa cabbage, crispin apples, and radishes yesterday from my favorite vendor Victory Farm. New culinary adventures of trying apple sauce, pickled peppers (no, not a peck), and kimchi from scratch forthcoming. Maybe even cider, since I saw a fun instructables (do you know this website? should) on how to make a press with scrap lumber and a car jack.

I'm also pondering an idea for halloween decor, now that we cleaned the front beds...

Monday, September 13, 2010

nook of despair update

We have a breakfast nook in the small house. This 20s feature should be adorable. It is NOT, at the moment, a source of pride and contentment. No quiet bowls of maple scented oatmeal or gently steaming cups of herbal tea are enjoyed there.

Why? Because like most of the small house, it desperately needed renovation. The cabinets where crookedly hung home depot specials with bright gold knobs. The countertop was an unattached piece of emerald green faux marble formica. The chair rails were strangely attached and also crooked. The eating area was a raised platform of questionable construction and blanketed in an even more questionable damp carpet remnant. The dark wood and brass chandelier presiding over the platform was festooned with dusty plastic grapes and was wired so questionably that we had to remove it before the house inspection. There were peeling blue vinyl self-stick tiles over the rest of the floor with a strange overlap tongue of sheet vinyl sticking out from the threshold of the kitchen.
And it was swathed in recalcitrant wallpaper that was patterned with a pastel palette Monet nightmare...

...which was pasted onto the plaster walls with the Glue That Would Not Die.
We tried vinegar water, hot water, and fabric softener...nothing. Broke down and bought a paper tiger and the icky chemical gel...nothing. Anger had me tearing off the floral part, leaving wide tracts of paper backing clinging to the wall.

I decided to refocus attention to other, less maddening, areas to rehab. The nook sat silent and dark; grumpily collecting recent acquisitions, various stacks of papers and flyers, tools and home improvement materials. It sulked, became embarrassing when we had company, and despaired. Here is a glimpse of it during a bridal shower...I had actually hung a curtain over the doorway to conceal the shame.

Finally goaded into action by the stalwart can-do optimism of my mom, I returned to the battle. I brought out the "big Guns", renting an industrial wall steamer from home depot. My mom and I fought the good fight in 90 degree weather, hair curling from clouds of hot moisture, armed with scrapers of all sizes.

And prevailed victorious.

Riding the wave of energy we also tore out the upper cabinets, the platform, and the vinyl tiles.


at last, the beautiful...and the ugly

Here at last, is some visual entertainment for the little bloglet. Pictures are worth a thousand words.

Here is the garden in june:

for a month, crookneck summer squash was our friend. I'll do a post later on my favorite way of preparing it. here's our first harvest with some fresh thyme and a few nasturium leaves headed for a salad:

tommorrow, i'll post what the garden looks like now (brace yourself), and the plan for the fabulous fall garden. I got some ideas at the heritage harvest festival at Monticello this last saturday...

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

One Year

A small note, we have offically owned the small house for one year today.

I remember after signing all those papers walking out of the lawyer's office into the sunlight and thinking "what have we done?".
I am told this is normal.
We have had setbacks, improvements, ennui, cozy contentments, tantrums, and triumphs. We will have to spend some time this evening reviewing the video made of moving in weekend to review how far we've come.
Don't worry, we also have far to go (eg the breakfast nook of despair). And it will be documented here.

the first non-garden post.

Last week I learned new interesting things and practiced old ones. I am reenergized about some non-gardening activities that I will be posting on. Things learned included naalbinding and lampworking beads. And look forward to the installation of a shooting range near the large garden, since my target archery rounds last week went buckets better than anticipated. And a mural has been tentatively planned for the bath.

Also regarding visual stimulation: still no pictures, but they have been downloaded which is progress. So soon we will be able, together, to cry over how beautiful the garden was in july and be scandalized by what it looks like now.

back in action

Bad news after hiatus: the first garden has sadly succumbed under the combined forces of a small marauding army of hungry groundhogs, a prolonged drought, and a hectic schedule calling me elsewhere. It took me awhile before I felt like dwelling on this defeat here on the blog mainly dedicated to gushing on about how well my new garden was going. Things learned:

1. groundhogs are NOT cute, even the tiny ones. They are pillagers and destroyers. They waited for the weekend we were away for the fourth of july and swept through all of our nascent spaghetti squashes, the summer squashes, the green tomatoes, the kohlrabi, the cucumbers, and even all of the pumpkin flowers so they never did set fruit. I am generally a tree-hugging spca-card-carrying laid-back nature-lover, but with the groundhogs it wounded me and I took it personally. I now think of them as rascally varmint.
Lesson learned: we need a garden fence ala farmer mcgregor.

2. it seemed like for all of july and august it only rained twice, at the most inconveinent times; once when I was attempting to host 20 people at a bridal shower and once when we were at the amusement park with my visiting brother. The lawn browned and turned crunchy. Yet I still persisted in watering the garden....right up to the day our lame 1920s 30 foot well ran dry while watering the tomatoes. I had spent the morning weeding in 100 degree weather. I neither looked nor smelled socially respectable. And I was supposed to be in Williamburg to visit my parents in a few hours.
Lesson learned: need to make and install water barrels off the gutters of the little house for garden irrigation. and if we win the lottery we should sink a new modern deep well, preferably away from giant thirsty trees like the one the current well is parked under.

3. Even with all the natural disasters and my neglect due to time restraints, there are still some bright spots to the overrun garden. 3 in fact. We are still getting more eggplant from those stalwart 3 plants than we know what to do with. It is evidentially the only vegetable on earth that the groundhogs don't care for. Yet the plants have seen only minisule amounts of rain since mid-july, the flea beetles still occasionally range over the leaves, and weeds surround the bed. But still they grow and put out fruit in obstinate cheerfulness, as if in denial.
Lesson learned: nothing seems to daunt eggplants. I will adopt an eggplant mentality and get to planning the Fabulous Fall garden and starting seedlings of dark leafy greens and oriental cabbages.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

so there

Some quick augmentations: added one new picture of the small house.
Pictures of the large garden still forthcoming.
Hoping that the first tomatoes will be perfectly ripe for fourth of july festivities.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

who was i kidding?

I have finally come to the realization that if i waited until i had crafted a second post brimming with sparkly wit to explain my finely honed mission statement I would never post again and this little bloglet would wither away like the seedlings in that tray i forgot to water or move into the sun after germinating.
I realized this after over a week (or has it been more?) of taking pictures and yet, never downloading them (there is a missing camera cable involved, but that is just a scapegoat for not following through...another habit). I dearly wanted the second post to have a bonanza of pictures. Or one.
So here is my brain storming: raw, unfiltered, and brimming with enzymes:
This blog is meant to be about alot of things, but revolving around my Garden. the Garden is my new touchstone. It is one of the few things I dreamed about and planned, but then actually DID (with some help). and it worked (we've been eating squash regularly during the last week). I think i suprised some people who know me...not the least myself.
the Garden is also a symbol of what we've chosen; the move to a rural area and a townlet with a larger population of chickens than people, owning over an acre of constantly growing life, and rejuvenating an 80 year old house that was empty for 4 years. It is to remind me of all the adventures I wanted taking those choices: growing food, having chickens and bees, learning interior design, painting murals, walking fields, having bon fires, restoring the koi pond, practicing archery, reading in hammocks, learning to home can pickles, making cheese, sewing costumes, writing...and the blog to document the disasters and triumphs.
i promise pictures next post. they will be of the large garden.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

a place holder

for my first post, I leap forward confidently onto the completely wrong foot trailing my oft repeated mantra "just a minute!".
I am posting this as a test for my utterly new blogger skills and a placeholder until time allows me to craft my mission and topic at which time I promise to explain myself in the true first post and we can forget this post ever existed...