Tuesday, June 07, 2022

about those green beans

It's a pretty classic meal: chicken fried steak, green beans, mashed potatoes, gravy.  Just depends if you take gravy on your meat or not; extra pepper or not.

 I'm pretty proud of this meal as all of it, except the potatoes, is off the place.  Ironic that the potatoes are not, since most often they are.  Except for this time of year when any we still have left are sprouted beyond eating (and being fed to chickens and rabbits) and those in the garden are growing but not "new" yet.

But about those beans.  Those are salted green beans, which is not a preservation method I grew up with.  I first heard of these reading John Seymour's Fat of the Land. I love the narrative books on how people do things.  I don't want a prescription: I want to know how you did it.  If you were successful that is. If you tried homesteading for a year and quit, or put in one crop of cabbages and the groundhogs ate them, or anything else that you just gave up on, I don't like those books (and there are a shocking number of them).  Give me Payne Hollow by Harlan Hubbard, The Good Life by Scott and Helen Nearing, Coming Home to Eat by Gary Nabhan. Luckily there are lots of these too.

So John Seymour talked about salting green beans, and we thought about it but I don't think we ever tried it.  Years went by.  (Home) Canned green beans are ok. (Home) Frozen ones are pretty good but only for about half the winter. Dried green beans, "shuckey beans" are grand but they aren't green beans. Then the husband started following Jon Townsends of Nutmeg Tavern on YouTube, and he salted some beans (and also limed some eggs).

Two years ago we had green beans coming out our ears, so we decided to try it, finally.  Almost all the examples did mention frenching the beans, but we didn't have a frencher and we thought, ah, surely if you use enough salt....  Well, that didn't turn out so well. The chickens got all those, and we got a tiny little green bean frencher.

Last year we also had plenty of green beans, mostly McCaslins.  We canned quite a few, and we frenched and salted I believe two buckets full. Interestingly, last year's McCaslins were randomly tough.  We knew this even eating them freshly picked.  We tried picking and using only the youngest, smallest beans.  Didn't help. And so, randomly, some of the canned ones and some of the salted ones are tough too. We haven't figured out why exactly. Needless to say, the ones I had canned as gifts didn't end up getting given to anyone because of that. Still, for us, they are fine, at least until this year's beans come in.

I have always been somewhat of a green bean snob, having grown up calling them "string beans" (and who remembers the comedian by that name other than me?) -- we've always grown some variety of beans that require stringing, defaulting to half runners and McCaslins and greasy beans.  Lawd I love a good greasy bean. But this year we have at least one small planting of blue lakes that don't require stringing, especially destined for the frencher and salt preservation.

Because, you see, everyone has planted the cabbages that got eaten by the groundhog, or had their sweet corn eaten by the bears. Everyone has baked a cake that fell, or a loaf of bread that was just not all that. No one does the dance correctly the first time. The bread and cake and even the tough green beans are still edible, even enjoyable. And you learn.

Something always fails, and something always surprises you with how well it does. And you never know what will be what.

Wednesday, May 25, 2022


Mowing waist high grass is hard.  Really hard.

But there's this.

We'll see if the new orchard survives.

Sunday, May 22, 2022

It takes a village

 And so, after supper made of broth off the pork roast from a few days ago, the one I pressured absolutely plain (well, some green garlic and some salt) so as to call up the taste bud memories of a very favorite dish that my mother would make especially for me, three of us took to prepping the gooseberries for the freezer.  And it brought so many thoughts.

Like the other day I had SO MUCH to do during my one day at home in an absolutely brutally busy week, processing milk and eggs and prepping for a big pot luck (and when you are bringing a lot of people to a pot luck, you ought to bring a lot of food!) and feeding us too, still in the middle of that I thought about how much easier it is with more of us to share the work.  I might have been processing four gallons of milk, but I didn't have to milk.  And the milker didn't have to milk alone. And we can spend an hour in the garden and get four beds prepped for transplanting. Or two hours and get half the corn and potatoes planted. And I don't even end up with a blister.

That doesn't mean it is easy living with so many people (sometimes my heart is blistered, or my ego), but it probably is easier to survive.

This political situation is batshit crazy. Batshit. Record corporate profits go untaxed. It takes many people working cooperatively to afford housing. People screaming "freedumb" are hell bent on oppressing anyone not like themselves, while they identify a seasonal coffee cup as oppressing them.  

And "All Men Created Equal" is about to mean exclusively men.  Again.

I don't know what to say to you. Except, read Gooseberries. Thank the Gods for gooseberries.  Yes the real ones, out of which we will make fried pies next week in a wonderful quality time ritual.  But also the metaphorical gooseberries. How does the hard, sour gooseberry become sweet?

People think they can buy their lives, they can be divorced from their products.  People think they can be happy. But all we can really do is be ok to one another, not even kind.

Our gooseberries have grown wild and threatened to take over the whole place, and when they do that, they don't even bear. The only cure is severely cut them, mow them, beat them back. And making them sweet takes the village of cutting them back, picking them which their thorns demand a blood sacrifice to surrender their fruit, cleaning out the stems from a seeming million tiny berries, and finally fashioning them into the art of the pie, whether baked or fried.  Or once a chutney. And enjoyed en famille. EnJoyEd.

Sunday, April 24, 2022


 I might just be ready to come back to posting semi regularly.  Who knows.

What I do know is that in the so many years since starting this, so many things have changed, and also so many things have stayed the same. The children have gone from little kids to accomplished adults and I'm frankly proud they are still outside the norms, and that a few other "kids" have joined in. Husband and I have gone from what at least felt like young middle aged to kinda old if still kinda young. My politics have changed but not the reasoning behind them. I've found more compassion and less tolerance of bullshit (translate tRump and anything connected to that lying sack of feces).

But "homesteading" remains.  And in fact improves. It is Spring and the leaves are back (chartreuse and miniature) and today I'm liming my second bucket of eggs for this year, and making my first batch of feta in several years. Some kids are working on building some new rabbit hutches while another works on fixing on side of the fence. In the evening we'll all head to the garden and get some stuff there done.

We have meetings to make sure we are going in the same directions -- there's a lot to coordinate.

And I still think that this is one way to DO BETTER in the world. Grow some food. And eat it.

Oh yeah, almost forgot.  There's pickled eggs and ricotta too.

Tuesday, July 06, 2021


 Catch you up?  Well, today I was coming home from evening chores at the barn and could not see the southern end of the mountain for the cloudburst over it.  Knowing a storm like that usually moves north up the mountain, I stopped the crew heading to the garden when I got home: it ended up not being an electrical storm but you don't want to be caught in the garden in one of those.  I headed for the giant hammock.

And there, in the giant hammock, on my back, I laid and watched the leaves blow and hoped a hickory nut wouldn't hit me on the head and felt the rain drops slowly soak me.

This is heaven.  This right here.  As unfinished, and imperfect, and as difficult as it sometimes is to live with this many adults -- unfinished lets us adapt to a better use today, and imperfect is just good, and difficult just means add effort (or back off) (or both) -- heaven.

There are lots of things that are hell right now.  Work, for one.  Mack died.  That is about all that needs to be said.  The state of the country for another.  While I'm not a Liz Cheney fan, that more Republicans are not acting like she is astounds me, frightens me, angers me, disgusts me.  Probably mostly disgusts me.  Like Christians who fail to live by the Beatitudes, insurrectionists have no clue about the Constitution.  I want nothing to do with either variety of Pharisee. Then there's global warming and people's failing to have any skills or any willingness to live smaller and that might prove catastrophic.  But shit, people won't wear a mask, or take a vaccination, so I guess we just root for the rapture to take the idiots out.

But the garden is good.  Cooperation and teamwork are good.  It isn't Aleppo, at least not yet, at least not here.

Monday, January 25, 2021

expansive, visionary, innovative, conservative but not afraid to buck convention

 ~The qualities needed for eating well~

I want to talk about food a little bit.

We had brisket yesterday.  Brisket from our own cow.  It makes exactly the fourth brisket I've ever cooked.  Or eaten.  Because it wasn't a thing in my family.  But if you kill a cow, you'd better figure out how to eat some cuts you aren't accustomed to.

So that's one part of it -- being expansive.  But here's another part.  To eat the brisket on Sunday, I thought about it on Thursday and got it out of the freezer on Friday (although I really should have gotten it out of the freezer on Thursday when I thought about it -- because I didn't, it did part of its thawing process on the warming shelf and if I'd done it on Thursday, it could have all been in the fridge which would also save fridge energy (everything working together for them that love the lawd and all)).  It needed to be thawed on Friday or Saturday so that it could be trimmed and rubbed and marinate in that rub for as long as possible before the long, slow cooking process started.

So, expansive and visionary.  But there's also new information and new skills.  I had once sold milk to an old Texas family who I heard TALK about brisket.  When I had our first two, I asked an old Oklahoma family about fixing brisket and she literally only told me about a commercially available rub and to cook it for 12 hours.  All the recipes said six, but ok.  All the "authentic" recipes said smoke it but I don't have or particularly want a smoker.  NO ONE SAID A DAMN THING ABOUT TRIMMING IT.  It was finally somewhere in perusing recipes for the fourth brisket that I ran across a reference to trimming it.  Well dang howdy yeah, the previous briskets HAD been fatty and while that fat tasted good, the brisket just had not lived up to its billing. I started reading an article about trimming when I was called to wood duty (gathering from nearby woods that day, as we had a 30 day forest permit).  I look at daughter who isn't on wood duty and who does some other butchering and say, please trim this for me.  "What?"  I show her my article.  She says she'll YouTube it.  I came home with a FULL truck load of wood and to a perfectly trimmed brisket.  It was obvious looking at it that THIS would cook MUCH more evenly.  Oh.  Duh.  Well.  When you knew better you did better.

Expansive, visionary, innovative.  There was a whole bowl of mostly fat scraps.  I cut those up into smaller pieces and started them rendering.  Don't know exactly what I'll use the tallow for waste not, want not.

Expansive, visionary, innovative, conservative.  I don't remember until I ask the husband which dead relative we got the electric roaster from.  We weren't used to using it, that's for sure.  But I've had it out several times for the briskets because low and slow it is perfect for.  I remember in the summer I ran an extension cord out and did it in the bed of the pick-up.  Not needed this time, but last thing I did Saturday night was put a quart of beef bullion into the bottom of the roaster, put the trimmed brisket on the rack, set the temp to 250*, tell everyone that the house should be smelling really good in the middle of the night, and went to bed.  About 12 hours later the internal temp was about 150 and we turned it off.

Expansive, visionary, innovative, conservative but not afraid to buck convention.  Sliced thin across grain, served with au jus, chopped slaw blend of our making (cabbage, carrot, sunchoke, jalapeƱo) left to be individually dressed, sauteed mushrooms, and cheddar biscuits (because after another day gathering wood, we were too late and tired to wash and roast potatoes and sunchokes and biscuits from scratch is easy, and we had grated cheddar in fridge that needed eating).

It's about time to kill the last cow.  And start over.  Which will also mean pigs.

Saturday, December 19, 2020

may I direct your attention

 I just want to send you to read another blog post.  He doesn't post often but it's all worthwhile so spend some time there if you've got it. 

Thoughts of a Coal Miner - COVID-19 Is Teaching Us a Lesson. We Should Listen.


"We need to be getting back to our roots. We need to stop being so dependent upon an economy that will only let us down, something that has happened before and is happening now. We need to take away the power the wealthy have over us by being dependent upon ourselves and each other. We need to reevaluate what our lives are about and what is most important to us. Personally, I think everyone needs to get their asses out of the factories, out of the mines, out from behind their cushy desks and back into the garden."

Kindly what we've practiced and preached all along.  In case you are counting, this blog is 15 years old, and we'd been moving in that direction, practicing, for 15 years before that. To quote Scott Nearing, "It's A good life."

And for the record, Joel Salatin is not to be admired.

Thursday, December 17, 2020

well-behaved specters

It is my baby's 21st birthday.  The ancestral resemblance about him that has struck me the most lately is his slowness.  "Lord have mercy, you are as slow as Christmas," I can still hear my grandmother say to my grandfather.  Oh so methodical.  Precise.  Thorough.

And yet one of the things that I've remembered the most is my own 21st birthday, one of very few I remember specifically.  Just dinner.  The Inn's Tap Room.  Just my parents and Ron and Julia.  Most likely steak, potato, salad, rose Mateus.  I can't really tell you why, but it was one of the best birthdays ever.  Perhaps because it was exactly what I wanted, and in a time of terribly hyper awareness. A sweetness.

I baked the cake yesterday.  Blue with white icing.  I made it with egg whites so the blue was bluer.  I didn't have any cream cheese so the icing was pure buttercream.  I didn't have any blueberry flavoring so I soaked some dried blueberries and made something pie filling-ish, and added the few frozen berries we had (when did we use the gallons upon gallons we had?  Must refresh those this year!) and put that between the inside layers (my cake love based cakes are generally three layers).  It is pretty extraordinary, I must say.

I slept well, not a given at my age.  Which is interesting, and makes one oh so appreciative of those spates of really good sleep.  I woke to the alarm, after several dreams, some of which roused me but only the last stayed with me.  My uncle, after whom our son was named, just walked through the room we were in and into the next room looking for something.  It wasn't until after I was good and awake that I realized he'd visited on our son's birthday.  I appreciate that.  Ancestors always welcome.  Spectral visitor always welcome.  Well, if they are well behaved, but we operate very cooperatively so "well-behaved" is the norm.

Saturday, November 07, 2020

Tale of a Pumpkin

We have a rather extensive Halloween celebration at our place.  I won't go into it, but it does generally involve pumpkin soup.  We don't have a recipe, we just wing it every year, keeping it pretty savory with chicken stock and canned cream and spices.

We grew some decent winter squashes this year, not a huge number but still nice.  But no pumpkins.  We we bought carving pumpkins early but waited to see if the pie pumpkins would hit a sale.  We waited until right up until the last trip planned into town before Halloween and . . . you guessed it, the place we were at had no pie pumpkins.  Zilch.  Nada.  I wasn't on the excurd so I checked the data bases and located plenty of them at a different store, which also facilitated pizza for that night, which relieved everyone of responsibility except the driver.  Oh well.  A magnificent, huge, decorative pie pumpkin was procurred, and on sale to boot.

We had our pumpkin carving ritual the day before Halloween, so we opened that pie pumpkin up too, and carved enough of its generous flesh out to be the base for the next day's soup.  After the soup was made, it served as the serving bowl.  Because we had socially distanced guests for the festivities, it was served outside, with a caldron of apple cider smoking dry ice.  When all were sated, there was still enough soup for a soup and salad night the next week.  

The rest of the pumpkin went into the stove to "poop" (cook until soft).  The rind was cut off and the rest of the flesh put through the blender, and saved in pie making measures.  It made enough pumpkin to make eleven pies.  Then the chickens finished off the rind.

And that is the tale of the pumpkin.


Sunday, September 06, 2020

mr green beans

From the garden to the kitchen

String and sort (can, dry, freeze, or salt?)

The turkey fryer has never fried anything.  Today it blanches beans.

After a quick blanching, they are cooled, then put on towels so they aren't too wet, then put in LABELED freezer bags (I don't care how obvious it is what they are!).  Suck the air out with a straw if you are so inclined (I am).

These are in the sea cans to dry into shuckey beans.  Our gasket was bad so we are lucky enough to have a friend loan us their canner for a batch or two until hopefully we get our canner good to go.  We are also experimenting with salting some this year, something we've threatened for a long time!  Excited about that.  We also preserved some eggs in lime water for the first time this year.  And we pickled a shit ton.  We have potatoes put up, and greens down.  

Fuck tRump.  Chop wood.  Carry water. Bake bread. Grow food.  Smash the patriarchy.


Thursday, May 07, 2020

Hillbilly Life

It takes a good bit more than a beard and a pair of boots to make a mountain man.  Freeze dried stores and semi-automatic weapons do not define the survivalist.

We grow corn that we depend on to eat, and that act puts us in touch with the Tsalagi culture that passed through this land before Europeans came.

Today our family ate a late breakfast of our own eggs (and crap bread), did morning chores, fussed a bit, planned a bit, researched a bit, and then just did stuff.  One worked off the farm for cash.    One washed a plethora of dishes.  Two worked together (and then before the end, three) to boil, pickle, and devil some eggs.  Some bunny eyes were doctored, some gates of hell dried, some laundry washed, some floors swept. 

Different folks wandered to the garden, some multiple times.  Things were weeded.  Stakes were made, and then driven into place, to "string" the corn (thread as a deterrent to crows pulling the sprouted corn up), and the very last thing was that it actually got strung.  An area of the circle garden that had been neglected was rehabbed with an eye toward the sweet corn (for us, country gentleman).  Some things were weeded.  The blueberries were mowed around.  Strawberries were weeded.

And before the last crew departed, some radishes and poke was harvested, both to be consumed with the chicken and rice casserole that a friend recently made for us just cause she loves us.  How magnificent is that?

Thursday, March 19, 2020


1st day of spring, equinox, the family is in the garden, I'm prepping supper, fried taters and onions, wild crafted greens, corn bread. We grew the potatoes and corn, the greens will be harvested today.

The last trip the kids took to see their friends who live a couple hours away, they came back with a "taters and onions" box that we immediately put to use. As I dug through it looking for the largest potatoes to slice and fry, the smell of stored potatoes engulfed me. I was back in my grandparents' basement where the potatoes (I don't even know who grew them, not us or them) were stored in old wooden milk crates lined and covered with newspaper to keep the light out.


As my hands rubbed the sprouts off, they were my grandmother's hands.

And when I cut a bad place out of one potato and ants jumped out of it, I laughed. That food is alive but that potato was eaten by the chickens.

When our daughter walked in, she said, "ahhh the house smells like wet potatoes."

Then I went to the garden and planted fava beans, my incantation against tRump and tRumpites.  Gawd but what is wrong with people?  Ah, it was sunny and warm and the dirt was rich and fluffy and full of life and having adult kids is a lot of fun.

Then we rolled a big round bale of hay into the field for the big animals.  I think I will make chocolate pies.  I baked the crusts last night. 

If this is quarantine, bring it on.