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12/27/10

On Foxfire, Water Conservation, and Moonshine

Gooooooood morning!
I am sipping coffee and reading The Foxfire Book's chapter on Planting With The Signs.
According to the moon and astrological data, today is NOT a good time to plant.
Plus there is the little matter of...
IT'S FRICKIN' WINTER AND SNOWING LIKE ALL GET OUT!!!!!!!!!!


This is the season you tackle things like... planning for the next steps in the off grid prefab home.
But I won't bore you with that. ; ) Ok yes I will, but in a minute. I'm just getting warmed up.
Zero Energy Prefab Home...In The Snow.

Instead, I am happily curled up with The Foxfire Book, watching the snow fall while reading about hog dressing, log cabin building, planting by the signs, moonshining, and more. I highly recommend this book. Basically, the Foxfire series of books began when a recent Cornell grad strolled down to Appalachia to be an English teacher.  His first clue that he couldn't hold his class's interest was when they set his podium on fire.

So he created a magazine for his class to involve them, and asked the students to interview their families.
They did. It quickly became apparent that local knowledge passed down by generations was being lost, and so that became the focus of Foxfire, while giving students the experience of conducting interviews and writing articles, thus teaching communication skills. Foxfire is a documentation of loved ones and their skills in Appalachia.

Our tobacco barn... note size of people
in comparison to structure.

I am especially interested in the log cabin building chapter.  We can not save our tobacco barn. 
It would cost way too much to save to then have a structure we can't use - the opening is too tiny for a tractor or a grown man; the proportions are not useful for farm tools of today.  

We hope to salvage the wood and reuse it on the land, elsewhere. I have long thought quietly that it might make a nice cabin, way up in the hills, where you could go and, while being close enough to walk back to the cozy prefab house for morning coffee, would be far enough where you otherwise would not see another soul and could do things like... be alone. Think. Have some No Children Allowed Time. (Why do you think I revive so many of my hobbies with Pointy Shooty Things? It's because then the children have to stand back and give momma some SPACE! Too bad they've embraced the same skills just as enthusiastically...)

Of course you can't read Foxfire without getting the companion book on Aunt Arie. You might recall I quoted her a few weeks back when discussing creases (at the bottom of this linked post).
She is a gem.  And if you enjoy that, you might certainly enjoy The Foxfire Cookbook...

Honestly? I wasn't drawn into the third book, United States of Americana.
It's like how people used to come up to us, hearing we were raising our children without tv and camping on the land, and ask us if we'd read Last Child In The Woods.
 When you're raised with farms, hunting and fishing, have grown up amidst Virginia history (and drinks), with great bluegrass musicians, the blues and Beatles... well, let's just say I think this book was written more for Other People.

Tiny, paying me a visit in Noo Yawk Cit-tay
when I lived in Hotel Chelsea.

My personal interest is preservation of practical skills and knowledge. I shy away from the self-taught butchers, handlebar mustaches, and the vanity spats this book focuses on. I should have known this author was taking a lighter treatment of the subject when I saw his other credits included a book on Marilyn Manson. I guess if you see it as some sort of anthology it's ok... Let's just say it's Very. Light. Reading.

Admittedly, the Washboard Chapter made me chuckle. Did  you know Sister played Lead Washboard in the famous Virginia band, Tiny And The Corn Shucks? ; )

At six foot two, I'll let you guess who was Tiny.
[Where do you think our old friend and old time musician Thomas Bailey got his start?!? (Just kidding. And Thom if you read this - you'd better come visit us soon!)]

Any-hoo, in watching the snow fall and paging through books, I'm also keeping an eye out on the internet, and my friend and green building lawyer Chris Cheatham raised a great question:
Here's the article: Arizona Drought Prompts Unusual Water Proposal
I don't know about water being a bigger issue than power, but certainly it's never had more emphasis than now. Maybe we should all be focusing on the conservation of... EVERYTHING!

Zero Energy Off Grid Prefab Home
from GreenModernKits.com
Still Under Construction

This is a good opportunity to review what we have done for our own zero energy prefab home's water conservation. An overview of our water conservation and water reuse strategy for our prefab house and land can be found here.

Our Own Rainwater Basics For Our Off Grid Zero Energy Prefab Home: rain water harvesting into underground cistern (1,750 gallons combined with active reduction of water use i.e. composting toilet, old-fashioned washing machine and other methods) and grey water recycling.

- water is collected from 37'x20' galvalume clad roof
- filtered  and treated through XXX water filtration (still fighting over this, I want one vendor,  handsome Husband, the other)
- runs into underground cistern
- pumped out by submersible water pump with filter
- runs through another, finer filter (see spec list in systems work sheet)
- plumbing in house is separated into gray and black water (black is kitchen sink and toilet)
- sewage/drain for black
- gray water is used for irrigation
That's what we have to tell you so far.

So finally, after a very tumultuous, roller coaster holiday of which y'all only know a bit, we had laughter, good food, treasured time spent with great friends, and now, a quiet, relaxing day of snowfall after a Dramatic Holiday Happy Ending.
Christmas Dinner at The H's
(the snow was *just* starting to fall!)

Here is a recipe from Christmas Dinner At The H's: one of my favorite winter salads via Bon Appetit's 1983 Dinner Party Cookbook, completely messed up by moi-même, as usual. It makes a *big* salad, perfect for winter evenings with lots of friends! This was served with The H's rosemary lamb, roasted Brussels sprouts (in a bit of olive oil, with Parmesan stirred in, then topped with sautéed, crumbled panchetta), and some black bean soup I made.

I lose, then look for, this recipe every year.  (Did I mention I have bookshelves upon bookshelves of vintage cook books?) So maybe if I write this down, I won't have to hunt for it so. Because, well, as this post demonstrates, this blog is SO well organized in subject matter, it'll be much easier to find! ; )


Mushroom and Pine Nut Salad with Raspberry Vinegar Dressing
  • mix of lettuces: endive, romaine, red leaf, boston bibb... so it looks pretty
  • 3/4 c walnut oil (yesterday I used pumpkin seed)
  • large package of button mushrooms, plus japanese / wild mushrooms (I never get to the japanese / wild / exotic mushrooms)
  • 3/4 c pine nuts (I'm certain I use more, but who's measuring?)
  • 1 3 1/2 package enoki mushrooms (what the heck is that, much less, who cares?)
  • 1/3 c rasperry vinegar (I use more, I'm sure)
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • Brie
  • Basil Bread (just make a boule of white bread except throw in a bunch o' dried basil in the dough)
Another feast!

(Note: I also tossed in pomegranate seeds, not in the original recipe, on top of this last night, it was delicious!)
Toss lettuces in large bowl. In a pan add some oil, sauté mushrooms about five minutes, add pine nuts and  sauté until browned lightly. Then I add in the raspberry vinegar, swirl briefly, then tilt the pan (easy way- move the pan half off the burner) and turn it off - that way you can nudge the pine nuts and mushrooms to cool off above the liquid.  When warm, spread mushrooms & nuts across the salad, but bottle the liquid, which is now your dressing, to add at the last minute otherwise it will wilt and the dressing will be absorbed too strongly. It really just needs a light coating of dressing.  The salad is supposed to be served warm. I added pomegranate seeds to the salad, they looked lovely.

Bon Appetit has you divide the salad into serving dishes and top each plate with a wedge of brie & slice of basil bread. We just passed the cheese & bread around, it was still nice.

We were subjected to Handsome Husband's art and culture.
It is a tradition of his that when night falls on Christmas Eve and over the Christmas holiday, usually after a few libations, Handsome Husband heads out into the dark, silent night to play Very Old Somber Songs on his trumpet.
Here, he and Mr. H play a rousing tune on hunting horns.



Better keep yer day jobs, boys...

You know, y'all, owning musical instruments, does not a musician make...
Mrs. H mentioned that when Mr. and Mrs. H met, he told Mrs. H that "she should go out with him because he was a trumpet player, hence a good kisser." 

Good thing he didn't try to serenade her that day, they might not have ended up with a marriage!

Well, the snow continues...
So I will return to my cozy chair, with sleepy dogs on either side, and continue the Foxfire series.  It reminds me of many family stories, and I enjoy hearing these older voices speak, preserved in these pages.

Besides: I just got to the How To Make Moonshine chapter.
I must now focus my rapt attention this afternoon, to every. small. detail.  Bring on the Glühwein! Or, maybe, Moonshine! Heck, Foxfire's even quoting Robert Burns' hatred of taxes levied on homemade liquor!
That Scotsman would make a GREAT Southerner!

"Thae curst hore-leeches o' the Excise
Wha mak the whiskey stills their prize!
Haud up thy han', Deil! ance, twice, thrice!
There, sieze the blinkers!
An' bake them up in brunstane pies
For poor d---n'd drinkers."

I mention the chapter on moonshine to Mother, who responds:
"Making moonshine can be very dangerous."

Voice of experience, honeys.
We'd better stick to green building.

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1 Comments:

At 12/27/10, 11:43 AM , Blogger Copeland said...

My friend Katherine Brooks of Katherine Brooks Landscape Design (http://www.katherinebrookslandscapes.com/) corrects me that actually, you CAN plant a garden in the snow!

Check it out!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jPaW_LRtn3c

 

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