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3/31/11

Will Allen Of Growing Power Visits Richmond A Day After The Community Gardens Ordinance Passes, Just In Time For CHICKUNZ.


A day after seeing Richmond’s Community Gardens ordinance pass, I headed over to The Tuckahoe Woman's Club to hear Will Allen of Growing Power speak about community sustainability, especially in cities, and the importance of local food for all.  He could not have come at a better time to help raise awareness of and education on backyard food production.






Here's a little more on Mr. Allen's background:

Growing Power In An Urban Food Desert
    We actually have a personal connection to Mr. Allen, which made it even more special to see him (and Sister and I got a hug!). See, Mr. Allen's daughter Erika, who now heads up the Chicago branch of Growing Power, was Sister's roommate for years! She's godmother to my nephew!

    I remember when we were sweet innocent um,  punks and I was visiting them in Chicago and Erika would tell stories of the latest things her dad was up to, working on vertical farms in Africa and aquaponics and something... something about worms? ; ) Who'da thunk it that her dad would become a MacArthur Fellow? (We are not surprised, At. All.)

    Hey wait! Check out what ERIKA is doing! Grist named her one of "40 People Who Are Redefining Green!" And here she is giving a talk, asked what one change she would make to food policy:

    "...food is transported in ways it was never meant to.
    ...
    Any kind of barrier for people to grow food for themselves or their community needs to be removed, the food should not be in competition or valued the same way real estate is, there's always competition for space...
    ...
    There's a lot of space owned by the public still not being used for food production."



    Imagine my surprise when, back at the office, I realized Richmond Magazine had written a huge article on urban chickens!!!  Heeeey, wait! I know some people in there!!!


    For details on the date and location of the
    Richmond Business Wants CHICKUNZ,
    contact... me.

    What great timing to have
    A Corporate Business Breakfast To Discuss Sustainability And... Urban CHICKUNZ.
    Yep, that's right. In one of Richmond's most esteemed modern furniture stores, renowned on the east coast for its sophisticated modern design, I, along with other Richmond businesses, including La DifferenceTechead, yes, THE Techead Midatlantic Technology Staffing Company, ChiknEGGLulus Local Food, James River Air, Posh Tots (yes, POSH TOTS!!!), Full Scale Architecture, Tuckahoe Plantation Livestock, The Law Office of Christopher G. Hill (hey he's in Virginia's Legal Elite!) and more, will host a business breakfast to sensibly discuss how allowing residents to have a few laying hens (no roosters) not only is a pleasure but improves garden soil, reduces pests, waste and strain on our municipal systems and even makes good business sense.

    [Henrico Business. You want to "Go Green"?!? Forget the recycling bins, you should already be doing that. Besides, you were green fifteen years ago - when you then decided to PAVE OVER LOCAL FARMLAND... Instead, honeychiles, make a bigger pr splash: C'mon: Support urban chickens.]

    On Monday I will extend our invitation with logos included to Richmond’s Mayor, City Council, and the Henrico Board of Supervisors. Over 500 towns and cities across the country have changed their ordinances within the past year to allow urban chickens, with more joining the movement daily.

    We are business owners, partners, and job creators who believe all families should have access to hormone-free, humanely raised eggs.

    In honor of The Tuckahoe Woman's Club hosting Will Allen, I share with you in the meantime my ruined versions of their delectable tidbits, cheese biscuits and ham & cheese rolls. 



    The Tuckahoe Woman's Club Cheese Biscuits + Tomato Soup 
    Make tomato soup. (Today I minced onions & garlic, added dollops of shredded basil I froze in olive oil this summer. Then added chicken stock and tomatoes I pureed, then froze, to serve this summer as well. Easy. Simmer simmer simmer simmer. I'll add a dash of lemon -or- go creamy with heavy cream when I serve, depending on my mood.)

    Serve with Tuckahoe Woman's Club cheese biscuits. Or a grilled cheese.
    (Contact The Tuckahoe Woman's Club directly to purchase their awesome cook book, "Tuckahoe Tidbits." You will not be sorry. There is a reason you can not find this book on Amazon. No one who is in the possession of said cookbook will part with it. You will have to pry it from our cold, dead, Virginia Housewife fingers, and even then relatives will squabble over its inheritance at the funeral. If you do not make the truly Virginian Ham Biscuits, called Ham 'N Cheese Rolls in here, then you are missing a sunny slice o' heaven. Feel free to localvore / improve upon the branded ingredients, of course I do!)

    Cheese Biscuits Margie Dixon
    1 pkg (1/2 to 3/4 lb) sharp cheese
    1 3/4 c. plain flour
    1/4 lb butter
    1/2 tsp. salt
    1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
    Pecans, crumbled, to top biscuits

    Allow butter to soften to room temperature. Grate cheese. Mix cheese, butter, salt, and pepper. Add flour. Make into rolls; wrap in waxed paper and refrigerate. Mixture will keep a month.

    When desired, slice into thin wafers, bake at about 350. (If desired, add a dash or half of a pecan to top before baking - my family does.) Remove from oven, allow to cool thoroughly. When biscuits are cold they may be placed in an airtight container to keep crisp. Makes 6 to 8 dozen. Tins can be frozen and are very popular gifts at Christmas.

    Ham 'N Cheese Rolls Doris Pruitt / Jane Rowe
    1 stick of butter, softened
    2 tsp. prepared mustard
    2 tsp. poppy seeds
    2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
    1 small onion, minced
    1 pkg. (20) Pepperidge Farm party rolls (I use Mrs. Esh's Amish bread)
    1/4 lb thinly sliced Smithfield ham, Amber brand (don't let me catch you using anything else but Virginia ham, feel completely free though to avoid the Smithfield label)
    Pkg of Swiss cheese

    Mix butter, mustard, poppy, Worcesershire, onion. Open rolls & spread mix on *each* side of roll. Add matching slices of ham & swiss cheese. Wrap in heavy foil. (You can freeze this now!) Heat in preheated 350 oven until warm, with cheese melted, and serve.  

    Mmmmm, Virginia deliciousness.

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    3/29/11

    Musing On The Zero Energy Prefab, From The Mid-Century Modern




    Baaaack at the mid-century modern, it being March in Virginia and all, despite the blossoms bursting like all-get-out all over the place, that's right, honeychile: It snowed.

    My children are blaring Christmas music, convinced it will make it snow even harder. It's all fun and games until you're on hour FIVE of Charley Brown's Christmas. And Elvis. Oh, the Elvis...


    Snow In March

    I'm still in my pajamas, leopard print of course, shopping online for modern kitchen and bathroom cabinet ideas and running around the back yard (still in my pajamas, did I mention it's mid-day?) with my camera taking pictures of the snow. I hope all my neighbors saw me!



    Here's some design inspiration you might like I ran across today:
    1958 Alcoa house showcases “the wonders of aluminum” — Retro Renovation
    Niiiice!  And their Alcoa house renovation updates: http://bit.ly/hDVSNF

    You might recall we are now musing on the kitchen and bathroom areas.
    Here are more thoughts for our own zero energy off grid prefab house kit.


    As I mentioned, I want to sleek up that kitchen island area in the off grid prefab.
    We are reusing found materials as much as possible, as always, but the reality is that yes, I am about to succumb to the easy, inexpensive Big Box. Yes, that one. I'm that tired and put out. The Big Ole Swedish Meatball o' all Big Boxes. I'm dreading it but it's time to snap my fingers and have it done.

    Here are some of our ideas:

    Kitchen:
    After we all sketched out ideas yesterday with the architect of the casa ti prefab house, David Day, it was time to find the easy, done, inexpensive solution.

    We achieve this:
    End facing entrance could be lined with shelves w/seasonally
    changing things... just a thought...
    With this:

    That double-bowl sink is important because it has the area on the right for drying handwashed dishes while also doubling as counter space.

    Bathroom:
    Finish walls with the reused VMI basketball court except around the claw foot tub, which will have a modern backsplash finish.
    (Please excuse the coffee and crumpled effects;
    I should have treated this more neatly!)
    My philosophy on the bathroom is "Why the heck do people store stuff in the bathroom that then collect bacteria? Ga-roooooss! And why the heck don't you put on your makeup in the bedroom at your dressing table where it's much more elegant instead of holding the rest of the household up while you re-attach yer lashes?!?"

    So, no double his-and-her sinks, no reasons to linger (ew). Here's this.

    Middle Bedroom: 

    We have gotten so used to that beautiful daylighting from the "T" of north windows emanating into the living space in the south room. Why stop now, just because we have systems there? Get translucent panels, mount them *within* the two-by-fours so they provide cool linear elements *and* something to fasten shelves randomly placed so that a little girl who will be a teen one day can be assured of privacy while allowing a larger-space-through-use-of-light effect in that room.

    I've been talking about this idea for over a year and lo' and behold in that article above on the mid-century Alcoa house there is an EXACT EXAMPLE of what I'm talking about, check it out!
    From Retro Renovation's article on the Alcoa house:
    http://retrorenovation.com/2008/08/19/rochester-stevens-1957-alcoa-aluminum-house/
    See those back translucent panels??? Bingo, baby! It even has linear elements like ours would with the two-by-fours! I think I'd give our two-by-fours a wash of white, so that the wood grain / color still shows through but that it's just lightened up a bit.

    Seeing the Alcoa house made my day because of the similarities - lots of wood, airy open elegance, with color, and touches of metal / dark elements.
    From Retro Renovation's Alcoa house article:
    http://retrorenovation.com/2008/08/04/1958-alcoa-house-showcases-the-wonders-of-aluminum/
    Lighting:
    From the beginning we've discussed track lighting, which is why we didn't add chases in the roof panels (SIP). I love the idea of "stars" twinkling from the ceiling, hence embracing the leftover Christmas LEDs to provide temporary lighting in the bedrooms until we hook up the power in the back side of the house. (Currently that is turned off for safety reasons while the walls are still open.)

    Awhile back I gave a little tour of how much recycled, reused lighting we have. You might see a few of these show up in the zero energy prefab, now with LEDs. So down, doooooown into the basement I go, and I brought up these gems:

    Now don't forget that being solar powered / off grid there is NO REASON to waste any light with dark shades. That is why everything I choose for shade options disperses as much light as possible.

    I also am looking for modern fans.
    Ooo! Ooo! I see all yer hands shooting up, hold on, let me finish:
    I am looking for sleek affordable modern fans that are...
    DC POWERED.
    And look cool.
    Affordably.
    The room goes silent.
    That's what I thought.

    #DesignFight
    We keep going over this middle systems closet area.
    I keep trying to explain the frosted translucent panels (which I have been talking about for over a year and finally found a visual, concrete example so I don't understand why Handsome Husband continues to balk). Finally, in frustration, talking about the kitchen side of that area, and how he needs "accessibility" (which yes I understand but there's multiple ways to do that), I blasted, "FINE. You want easy accessibility?!? You can go hang a frickin' frosted SHOWER CURTAIN there for all I care!"

    Wait.
    ...
    Wait!
    Hmmmmmmmmmmm.
    To Be Continued...

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    3/26/11

    Architect Of The casa ti Prefab House Kit David Day Pays A Visit!

    It may *look* like spring at the prefab house kit,
    but honeychile snow is in the air!

    We were so thrilled to have David Day, architect of our casa ti prefab house kit, come out to the zero energy prefab today!!!!!

    David Day inspects his prefab house kit design and what we did with it.


    The first thing he remarked on was noting the indoor temperature - we had all arrived at the land at the same time, and, being March in Virginia, although blossoms were bursting, there was snow in the air. The weather outdoors ranged from the 40s to the 20s. But mid-morning, without heat, purely by energy efficiency and passive solar design, inside the prefab it was 60! A nice base to start with as we fired up the wood stove!


    The children immediately took him for a walk in the woods to see the daffodils-planted-by-someone-a-hundred-years-ago by the creek.


    Then we meandered back, and cozy indoors again, he admired the VMI basketball court on the walls and checked over the off grid systems and their placement in context of our living spaces.

    We had an opportunity to rethink the kitchen area... again.
    Sketch by David Day, LEED ap,
    thoughtful environmental architect
    .
    The great thing about this construction project's slow finishing (just remember, the prefab house kit went up in a week! But we're finishing "pay-as-you-go" and on our own time...) is that we can make these final decisions after having really used the indoor space; so we can see what really works (the bedrooms, the south area in general) and what needs to be tweaked (our kitchen, our bathroom because of the systems we chose like the humongous composting toilet and claw foot tub, not the square footage).

    The more I started picturing that kitchen island and thinking about the way we cook and entertain, the more I thought, "You know that idea of thermal mass around the kitchen island is a great idea, but with the radiant heat in the slab we really won't need it, I mean seriously on a cold day if our house without heat starts at 60 then... I would rather lean towards a more sleek and sharp, smaller and efficient look for that area!" I'd rather keep everything as airy as possible.


    Under Construction Prefab House

    Another thing to note is that trash can.
    We need nothing close to that big. It takes us *weeks* to fill that up, and even then it's discarded packaging that can't be recycled. The vegetable scraps go into the composting toilet, recycle all our beer cans, ha, so any sleek, small, discretely placed foot-pedal can will do.

    We also keep talking about thinking of our prefab house's off grid small footprint lifestyle as a boat. Everything needs to be as tight, efficient, perfectly & securely placed with storage storage storage everywhere, just like on the Beneteau. The systems guy might complain about installation in tight spaces for the few days it takes to do his job, but in the end we'll maximize the living space for a lifetime.

    Accordingly, like on the boat, you'll see a lot of shelves that open up to reveal storage / systems space.

    I'm going to roll that chest-freezer-turned-into-an-off-grid-refrigerator back into the wall near the water tanks. It will be close, but it will fit. That'll tighten up the island area.

    We also spoke about taking VMI floorboards around this small window here - create a frame that also doubles as shelf / storage so it extends out as a box while still being clean, sharp, and an accent.

    And, in discussing further finishing the interior of the SIP (structural insulated panels) where we are not covering already with reused VMI basketball court, we again weighed our options. And leaning towards an organic plastering like I had originally mentioned in our prefab construction cost & other posts:
    (Which, yes, I do need to update those prefab construction costs... but again remember we're doing a whole lot of different off grid construction stuff than most people would do so I don't even know if it would be relevant to you!)
    We hauled David up to Appomattox and to Baine's because we thought he'd like it (he did). In Baine's we met a British couple touring Civil War History, and working their way towards Manassas. Instead of sending them via the more bigger routes, I encouraged them to backtrack to Brookneal for founding father history at Red Hill, to end with a tasting at Sans Soucy, then head up through Amherst, working their way to Lexington. From there, if you follow 81, you can take all sorts of quick detours of neato things to see!

    I tried to get David to go into the antique stores with me but he looked at me and shuddered. I pictured him amongst the transparent, rattling, dainty teacups and embroidered artifacts and laughed. But oh how I love to walk those aisles, never knowing what cool non-electric tool I might find...


    We thought we'd just go ahead and head back to Richmond because tonight? It's supposed to... snow?

    When we arrived back to Richmond the house directly across the street from us was having a huge children's Birthday Party, still in full swing. We are not part of here. Our children silently helped unload the car then went into the front yard to stare. I keep waiting for them to be affected by this neighborhood but they're so full of happy creative optimism that it's a rather interesting science experiment living amongst these muddy eyed surburban souls... I worry a little for my children but...



    ...it rolls right off them and they giggle and play and race around with people from all worlds... I learned about all this and now they are too, just sooner than I expected... I think it's actually making it much easier for them. So, even though it pains me as a mom, I'm glad they're seeing with such clear vision so early, and happily.

    They have lots of doting mentors looking out for them, ahead in their years. From design houses in New York and Paris, to dear friends in Charlotte County... they have real friends and families looking out for them, and are happy. That's what's important.

    There's something kind of Amish about this. We separate ourselves from this muddled Big Box culturally-separated midland who is repulsed we are close to our food source, while having such, such close, vibrant communities in either very rural or very urban areas... one foot in New York, Paris, Hamburg, one foot in Pamplin City, population 199-what's-wrong-with-them-they-can't-get-one-more-and-we-hope-they-never-do. Our Big City or No Desire To Be Close To A City friends get it... and for those middlin' people? It's time to let go, not waste the breath. They aspire to Anywhere USA.
    Let 'em.



    We are now doing something I never envisioned when I lived in Paris- having a dance party in our living room & watching our kids rock out to MC Solaar, ha. Here's one song that says so much...



    Oh. One more thing: for you complete architecture and design geek-aholics- this just in via Core 77:
    How to make your own CNC Machine in your kitchen for under $120.
    Geek out, commence.


    Foamcore CNC from Ilan Moyer on Vimeo.

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    3/24/11

    Rainwater For The Zero Energy Prefab House : Rainwater Collection, Water, And Water Rights

    The zero energy off grid prefab house is about to get rainwater collection systems!
    We're all so excited!

    Just in time for World Water Day, we placed our order for rainwater collection and filtration equipment for our off grid zero energy prefab home with Rainwater Management Solutions!

    Here's what we did: (Of course, depending on YOUR needs this package would change accordingly) We sized it very minimally because we also have natural water sources on the land if, frankly, we were ever in need.
    WF2011 WFF 100 Vortex Filter with extension (2,000sq.ft.) 1
    PS564X4 4" x 4" ferncoat rubber coupling for WFF 100/150 vortex filter
    16SE0511 Plus Goulds 1/2 hp, 115 volt, Cistern pump, with stainless steel base plate, 1 1/4" nozzle, 7' - 1 1/4" suction hose, 1 1/4" coarse floating filter, 1 1/4" brass check valve, and brass adapter male thread to barb, 1 1/4" insert for base plate for submersible pumps
    1,700 gallon below ground tank 133" L x 55" W x 66" H 1
    NOR-63514 Manhole extension (6" H X 20" D) for Norwesco tank2
    NOR-61765 tank 4" gasket 2
    AL44200-2 2" bulkhead fitting 2
    PURKit 8gpm ... Purification Kit components only consists of 2 each
    Big Blue Housing Canisters, brackets and 1 each wrench, 1 each 1 micron string wound filter, carbon filter and 8gpm UV Light

    Watch how the filter diverts rainwater from debris:


    Now we wait.  And oh, yeah, we have to find the excavator guy. And move dirt. Which, if you have followed this off grid prefab house construction blog for any length of time, you know that finding the excavator guy and getting him to dig is going to take weeks.

    But oh my gosh. Remember when we had no solar power and only had candle light? My, how the year has actually gone by, quickly, in the prefab house kit!

    I recall thinking on especially cold, dark days,
    "Iiiiiii need electricity, Iiiiiii need electricity Iiiiiii need electricity tonight!"
    Not that some '70s punk band would ever make a song saying something like that but OH WAIT!

    (Thank you Sharon "Elvis Lives" A... xoxoxo!
    Everybody else: Oh C'MON, hit "play" on this and bop around yer office!)

     

    Ahem. Now let's talk more about rain water, and water in general.
    Water quality has always been on my mind.  Growing up sailing, fishing, and swimming on the Chesapeake Bay, the James River, and the 35' deep pond on the ex-family farm, preserving and protecting access to clean water is something I have been aware of for a lifetime.  I have watched the Bay and the James River watershed firsthand be affected by our actions...

    So why did we not just dig a well for the off grid house? The reason why I decided, years ago, to go with rainwater collection vs. digging a well is that every year over 2,000 wells run dry in Virginia... in this Washington Post article, over 2,000 in Virginia ran dry in just a two month period during 2002.
    "'You can't flush the toilet, you can't wash your hair, you can't wash your clothes. You don't really know how important water is until you lose it,' said Eileen Listrani..."
    With drought extending into years these days, I wanted to explore investing in the harvesting of rain water, and invest in a large cistern to catch it when it *does* fall.

    The topic of water rights, and that states are now beginning to be quite territorial on a landowner's right to collect water, has caught my eye again. (The first time was years ago in regards to Texas corporations leasing water from underneath landowners. Heck, if in Texas there's whole lucrative lawyer practice groups dedicated to this topic maybe we'd better sit up and pay more attention!)

    Read about the ban on rainwater collection:
    Collecting Rainwater Now Illegal In Many States As Big Government Claims Ownership Over Our Water
    The title takes a slanted political angle, yet the variety of responses it garnered when I posted this to my facebook page showed it resonated with liberals and conservatives alike.

    From the original article in Natural News: http://www.naturalnews.com/029286_rainwater_collection_water.html 

    "...Douglas County, Colorado, conducted a study on how rainwater collection affects aquifer and groundwater supplies. The study revealed that letting people collect rainwater on their properties actually reduces demand from water facilities and improves conservation."

    My friend Linda Goin writes further: Rainwater Harvesting and the (Near) Future of Water Investments
    Our friend George G. weighed in:
    "What insanity! Is the oxygen we breath from the air also going to be regulated by the government. What about the man made ponds that are filled in part by rain? It also poses the question, that if the government has control of the rain that falls on your property, is it responsible for damage from lightning strikes, wind damage, and flooding? I mean doesn't ownership of the heavens carry responsibility as well? Will sunlight used to power solar homes be taxed and regulated? It seems we have less and less control over our own property. I thought property rights were an important issue in the founding of our Country. It seems that so many values that were important to the founders of our Nation and those who have fought to maintain them are slowly being eroded by the ever increasing size of the government. Well, Copeland, I'm not sure anything I've said here even makes sense at this point, but I do thank you for getting my circulation going without having to get too out of breath!"
    ...
    "Can you imagine the reaction and shear puzzlement of Jefferson, Paine, Franklin, Madison, or anyone else to the idea that the State could tell you how many rain barrels you were allowed to have on your property? I think King George who evidently was as crazy as a bedbug would have thought that was nuts. By the way, I think it's also very evident by the average length of my comments, why I don't twitter."

    Ha, good points, all, even the part about you and twitter, George! ; )

    When I did my original research, I looked at the top, high performing rainwater collection and filtration systems and narrowed it down to an Australian and German system.  The German system won out because they distribute within the United States, which is how I came across Rain Management Solutions.

    Apparently I'm not the only one recognizing them for quality lately - Rainwater Management Solutions was just recognized in an international drinking water competition.

    As we continue final interior construction and finish the plumbing, solar heat tube installation, and now the excavation and implementation of the rainwater systems and cistern, things will certainly get even more messy... *sigh*

    But it will certainly be worth it. Our adventures continue at the zero energy off grid prefab house kit!

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    3/21/11

    Where I Realize My Dad Is A Fundamentalist Trying To Supress Me. Or: "The Cult."

    I spent the day with my dad, as I hadn't seen him in awhile...
    We wanted to spend some special father-daughter time together, but I am starting to suspect that he is actually a fundamentalist trying to suppress me. 

    Here is my evidence:

    We traveled to a strange building where people congregate. This is where I started having my suspicions because he was clearly on some sort of pilgrimage and considers this place mecca.


    They even offer free car rides to some people, a typical cult tactic.

    Once there, I was welcomed, and adorned with symbols of their identity, indicated by complex woodsy patterns on EVERYTHING.
    And then... he asked me to cover myself! 
    Head to toe, my OWN FATHER indicated he would like me to cover myself up. 
    Redneck Burka
     And to even cover my face.


    Then we drove to another hallowed place where I had to listen to his philosophy. For hours!
    He went on, and on, and ON.

    But I doubt his foundation. He didn't just have ONE creed, but FOUR! He lectured on instinctive shooting, the swing-through method, pull-away method, and the sustained lead method. I think he was confused - maybe he meant that green building should be sustainable & LEED?

    As always, we had a great time at Green Top.

    And the ritual of bustin' clays in Virginia on a pretty day with your daughter... continues.

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    A Parthenon Moon Rises Over The Zero Energy Prefab Home And... We Make Some Cheese.

    The parthenon moon rises over our off grid zero energy prefab home...


    Goooooooood mornin'!



    YES we were supposed to order the rainwater collection and filtration piece for our final off grid systems purchase last week. I even have the blog post all ready with the product information to be published, telling you all about the systems. If you want to nag Handsome Husband to take the time out of his Corporate Deadlines during a frenetic work week, feel free. Honestly? Our Mondays-Through-Fridays blur as we race through days to get back here. Which is why everything takes so long on our off grid prefab house kit project. The prefab house kit? Up in a week. Everything else? Not... so... fast.


    Regardless : You could not have asked for a prettier almost-spring day in Virginia...
     

    The peach tree survived!


    For ourselves, it has been a hard, hard winter. When the redbuds began to burst out a few days earlier, I felt the old "me" returning... finally.

    So. After a long, rigorous workweek, we pull onto the road that leads to the land, and darned if a RAM is running wild with some guys in chase.
    We slow, and pass carefully...

    When we pass back by on the way to Mrs. Esh's, I see they've caught him, and that he is now happily munching hay in the sun while sporting a jaunty burgundy fedora on his head. I kid you not.
    Oh my gosh I LOVE IT HERE...

    We headed over to the Esh's, where, while I was gathering bread and whatnot, the 6yr. old found a humongous four leaf clover along the drive! Mrs. Esh and I were both impressed! What a gorgeous day.


    A natty mid-century house with *plenty* o'
    room for chickunz...


    A week later, Mrs. Esh was still chuckling over our Removed Richmond Hens and actually feeling rather sorry for us. (Oh I am so happy my chickunz tragedy gave you a chuckle, Lydia. ; ) ) Honestly, it does make me feel better. She knows I enjoy gardening and that our house is not a junk heap and when she brought it up today we were making window frames with our hands, comparing her neat, attractive front yard dimensions with my imaginary-via-hands Richmond back yard dimensions and how we both like flowers and ornamental shrubs and vegetables of course and then inserting six laying hens into the picture and going, "Wow."

    This yard sez, "Gimme chickunz."
    And then she laughed all over again. "Copeland, I don't think you're cut out for there..."

    (P.s. Oh my gosh remember those "Spring Arrives At The Mid-Century" pictures earlier this week? THAT is the yard my Richmond neighbors detest and are complaining about my violets in, ha!)

    After the Esh's, we went off and got some raw milk to make cheese but of course we can't talk about that.

    What was fun was that their children don't speak English yet but an old, different version of German, and our children were trying to talk to them and all of a sudden they were trying to communicate in their current German vs. their Old German... and it kind of worked, to the bemusement of we moms!

    Then I seeded the eight acre field. And YES it was too windy than it should have been at times. And YES there is not a cloud in the sky. And YES I have no aerator even. But I can at least TRY to improve this dagged field. Someone start humming the theme to Rocky.

    By the way- it occurred to me I always look so "dressed" in pictures when doing chores so I'll let you in on a lil' secret- those are $1 reused dresses I buy from Goodwill because they're so darned comfortable! [And the tall boots are for copperheads, of course, yet oh so stylish!] And then I find myself wearing the same clothes to work! It's like pajamas, except I'm wearing them at work and NO ONE KNOWS! So JUST DON'T TELL ANYONE! Let 'em think I'm all fancy-like!

    Broadcast seeding an eight acre field.

    Next, after we order the rainwater collection and filtration, we finally, FINALLY finish the rest of the interior walls!  So this green marked up SIP will be forever hidden, and I think I might actually miss it! I don't want to get TOO hi-falutin', you know! : )


    And then it was evening. We collapsed into our chairs and spent hours gazing at the Parthenon Moon... and no, pictures do NOT do it justice.



    And morning returns, again.

    A duct taped child.
    I'm kind of enjoying the quiet...

    After duct taping each other to mid-century chairs, with ducting tape and packaging bubbles retrieved from the hot water tank area, my childrenz are now outside playing a rousing game of "I'm A Raccoon With Rabies" and I am sipping coffee. 

    The temperatures dropped quite a bit last night, it is now feeling more seasonally March.

    Later, we heated some soup, maybe you would like some?

    Copeland's Recipe For Darned Good Blackeye Pea, Kale and Tomato Soup Which Is Actually Quite Perfect For Early Springtime And NOT Tasting Like A Tired Overcooked Winter Leftover!
    Goodness. While the hellebores hangs on, the saucer magnolias, jonquils,  quince, cherry, peach, plum, Bradford pears, and that trollop forsythia burst out exuberantly, daring March to snow. But not this weekend, it was 80 degrees!


    I know we're all tired of winter greens at this point but IF you were to add...

    • Heat last night's slow cooked rib fat still saved carefully in the pan because you knew you were going to do this
    • once that delicious fat is heated, add a bag of washed black eyed peas and sautee 'em around a bit
    • add water so it can now boil (about 2") and to that add sliced and shredded kale (so it is bite-sized)
    • then, after that gets all hot and bothered, throw in lots o' canned tomatoes (HAND CRUSHED)
    • simmer, gosh, about an hour? So the beans are soft but not too mushy and the tomato still tastes bright and fresh
    • I didn't even add salt or anything, it didn't need it!
    This soup should be heavy on the tomato and kale, with the beans rounding it out but not overwhelmingly.  Heated in the wood stove oven, served with grilled cheese sandwiches, it was heavenly.

    Bits of grilled cheese can be tossed into the bowl if yo' momma isn't looking...


    When we return to Richmond, I always think of the book "Goodnight Moon." 
    We slowly, sadly pull away from our drive, and start saying our goodbyes as we pass the places and people we love, saying goodbye out loud in the car, and weave our way hesitantly back.
    "Byyyyyyye land!
    Goodbyyyyyyye Aults! See ya, Moussali's! 'Bye, ghost town! Goodbye, library-that-was-a-train-depot!
    Byyyyyye Pamplin-City-Population-199-What's-Wrong-With-Them-They-Can't-Get-One-Moooooore!"
    Sigh... and then all the smiles and laughter fade...



    Arrived, we made cheese. I always hold my breath when I do stuff like this because it means I have to FOLLOW DIRECTIONS. And making cheese even involves thermometers. Yipes.
    I can understand the terms scalding, simmer, boil rigorously. But tell me to heat something to140 degrees and I'll look at you blankly.

    The key for me is to NOT BURN THE MILK. If you do burn the milk, you will not only ruin the batch but get a tenacious layer of UGH on the bottom of your pan, which requires soaking and scrubbing so that is almost not worth it.

    Not that I ever would do that.
    I mean, really, seriously, what could go wrong?
    (I'm SO glad I don't know anyone that would ever cook like this...)

    It's not like you can just run out to Kroger for more raw milk... Not that I would ever have extra on hand...

    All the cheese recipes are "Heat to 140. Cool. Bring to 90. Heat water to 180." I mean, can't you just say very exact, precise things like, "Gently warm, and slowly heat, stirring, kinda, until it would almost form a skin to pasteurize then reduce heat so it is just steaming, barely."
    THAT I can understand.
    And then there's that pouring the curds part- I don't know about you but I get stuff splashing all over the place, I mean, it's a big pot! Curds in my eyebrows, curds in my sweater... That's usually about the time I wipe my hands absentmindedly on the cheesecloth-now-used-as-a-dishtowel, look down and go, "Oh yeah..."
    I could have molded this ball more attractively but, um, oh well.

    Last thoughts on the land: Today we discovered daffodils.
    As you know, daffodils are not native to Virginia... this land was an abandoned farm, and all that remains is a chimney about 30 yards away from the daffodils, which are above the breached pond.  Curiouser and curiouser...


    Daffodils

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