Saturday, June 30, 2007

Catch up...

I know I haven't been keeping up my usual post a day contract with myself. I really apologize. I need to start visiting everyone again. The damn phone company has just reached new lows of slowness and unreliability. They are trying to force us to move to satellite that they are now offering, and as a result...our actual phone lines are down part of the time.

I've got guests in from out of town and it's such a rare treat for me to have folks from the outside world. It's blog friends too! I love meeting blog friends!

Anyway...I missed FPF yesterday, but that's 'cause I was with my guests at Carver's Apple Barn Restaurant.

Yeah. I took pictures this time. So...I'll have fried pie and apple fritter photos for you. Soon..very soon.

Am going to church tonight and taking guests to see Jimmy.

Still extremely stressed about the neighbor situation.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

I'm not posting much this week. I'm having a bit of a crisis with my neighbors.

Not my regular neighbors. The summer people ones. They show up every two or three years, throw their weight around, nearly set their cabin on fire, then leave. It takes a few years for their pastoral idealism to build back up so they want to come back and do it all over again. They've been really good neighbors, basically in the fact that they are never there. I've tried to be a good neighbor by making sure no one torched their cabin while they were gone and keeping an eye on the place.

They have an easement to use my upper farm road to access their property. Which has been really annoying for me since their vehicle is very loud and they go back and forth much more than I do.

Anyway, I'm pretty much to blame for the problem. Three of my does have been getting out and going over to his cliffside. They've been taking the babies with them. He complained back in January when he came by to look in on his place and tell me they were coming back.

I was shocked at the amount of damage he said they had done. Particularly since there was nothing above ground at the time. I went up and looked and there were six girded locust trees. Nothing you'd want coming up anyway. He was also operating under the misconception that you could leave a place for two or three years and that everything you planted would be there and "established" after you had left it for the mountain to take over again. So, the goats got blamed for anything that didn't make it.

So I started reinforcing the fences. I have three to six strands of very powerful electric fencing.

Neighbor wanted things to happen instantaneously and I really couldn't afford to do that. I asked him to help by shooting warning blasts from a shotgun when he saw them heading that way. He refused and instead began baiting the wildlife. Of course, a goat can smell an ear of corn a mile away. It made the matter much worse.

Neighbor's litany of goat destruction has increased to absurd proportions. He believes nothing will grow where they urinate. He thinks they are eating the wood on his house. He thinks they are digging things up. He blames them for the effects of the drought. No one has flowering plants here right now. No one. And actually, I'm pretty glad that they've cleared out the underbrush and lessened the fire risk.

I asked that he give me until this weekend so I could get the kids out of those three does, one of which is my best milker.

Anyway, yesterday I took my three does over to Betsy since neighbor decided to escalate the situation and call my friend at animal control. It's a 550 dollar loss, just those does. Plus any kids they might be carrying. I had asked him to make a list of the plants he had bought and offered to replace them, but he didn't seem to be able to do that. But I now consider us to be way more than even.

Things have been really weird with animals this summer due to the drought and weird weather. Cows have been getting into cornfields. A bear showed up in my other neighbor's back yard, just at the head of my drive. As I was taking my does away yesterday morning...after a-hole neighbor called me at 10 p.m. the previous night and six that morning, somehow expecting me to have done something in the middle of the night in a thunderstorm...there were five white tail does at my mailbox. Each of them was easily 250 pounds. The rabbit population is completely out of control.

Anyway, it's pretty clear to me that no matter how secure my goats are, that they will continue to be blamed for everything that goes wrong at this neighbor's cabin. I've spent six months trying to make this situation work to no avail and I'm tired of feeling as though I'm working for someone else's comfort level.

So, I'm listing the farm on Make Me If I can get enough for it, I'll find a similar spot with no summer people adjacent where I can raise my goats in peace. My place is pretty special, so I think I might get some decent offers. After all, I have at least seven building sites on my acreage, five with equally stunning views to my own and 1000 feet of frontage on a trout stream. And I can choose who to sell the place to. I'm thinking a really obnoxious hip hop group from the ATL, 'cause an Escalade or one of those obscene Hummers would totally have no worries coming up my driveway.

It could be like "The Flavor of Love Mountain Vacation".

Monday, June 25, 2007

Or.... The Goat Yoda and Rosie do K-town...

So. Yesterday was a really super day for me. I don't get out much, you know.

Betsy and I spent the entire day in Knoxville and had a great "girl's day out".

We started out at Betsy's church, Saint Demetrios Antiochian Catholic Church in Mechanicsville where I think we were supposed to be helping with a cookout and ice cream social for the local area homeless. But the Cloistered Heart Franciscan Sisters seemed to have all the bases covered.

And while these aren't the same sort of nuns I grew up with in convent school...these are much nicer nuns...there is no way I'm gonna wrestle a spatula away from a penguin. I tell you, that just ain't gonna happen.

So we just sat off to the side and chatted. I really wanted to help but there didn't seem much for me to do except be there and be supportive. I'm reminded how the faces of the homeless in K-town seem to show the same sort of wear and tear of those who live the hard life of the mountain. But it must be so much harder for them being cramped into the city.

After that, Betsy took me to the huge wonderful bookstore called McKays. I found 2 huge oldish cookbooks for 4 bucks. It's the sort of place I used to spend hours and hours in and most of my money before I became a card carrying library fanatic. I just got to the point where I had to put myself on a book budget. I was running out of space for the things so now only very carefully considered books get in here permanently. I'm still on the lookout for that first printing of The Joy of Cooking. They didn't have anything that old...or the 1962 printing. I need both those books. They took the possum recipes out of the 1962 printing , which is why I need both.

Then we went over to a Mexican restaurant called Don Pedro's or something like that. It was really good. And sort of exciting for me. I've been out to eat at a real restaurant maybe 20 times since 2003. It's a real treat for me. I'd forgotten things like the annoying ritual of all the waiters coming out to someones table because somebody told them it was their birthday. The huge sombrero comes out and all the waiters have to converge on that one table and sing some company sanctioned version of Happy Birthday.

It's just sort of surreal to me. Like Disneyland.

But by far, the highlight of the entire day was ordering the margaritas.

Our waiter is this adorable blond child who, I'm quite sure, has a mother several years younger than I am. He takes our order and asks about drinks.

Betsy is driving so she orders a virgin margarita. Cute little waiter turns to me and I pipe up, "Well, I'm not driving so I'll have a REAL one!"

I haven't had a margarita in probably fifteen years if not more. I now want one, frozen and as big as my head with lots of nice crunchy salt on the rim. Something like I used to enjoy when I lived in Dallas when we used to make them in Slurpee machines by the pool, before engaging in impromptu, bad synchronized swimming.

Then, adorable waiter says, "Do you have your I.D.?"

"You are carding me!" I squealed in delight to the entire restaurant really loudly.

This kid is now my best friend ever!

We went for our wallets like gunslingers. He told Betsy he didn't need to see hers, but she insisted on being carded too. I don't blame her.

It was a really wonderful time out in the wilds of civilization.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

They call the area where I live "The Five Rivers".

This is a quiet branch of the Pigeon River that flows through Edwina. I haven't fished there, but it is a popular place to drop a line. I just like pulling over here to eat lunch now and again.

Restful, isn't it?

I hope you are having a very happy Sunday.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Well, we are approaching the second kidding storm.

Betty Goat, who delivered a preemie after gorging herself and making herself sick, is up first. It will be really good for her to have a live birth and a kid to take care of . She was really very sad after the little golden preemie didn't make it. This was the baby that died the same day that Aegis died. She is buried with Aegis.

So, we are keeping snacks away from Betty Goat, and hopefully she will deliver a healthy kid this time. I've been calling her the "Uni-Udder". Only half of her udder has developed. If it doesn't fill out after she delivers she will have to leave the farm. It's a shame since she's a stunning goat otherwise.

The babies are huge now. They are quite capable of knocking me over in their rush to get attention and snacks. But they are starting to be more goaty. Which is a good thing. I'm not sure how they are going to handle this new crop of brothers and sisters.

With the heat, everyone has been hanging out in the shade or in the shelters. I still haven't sheared the sheep and I need to get to that. They look hot under all that fleece.

The youngsters are still at the age where they like to jump up on things. Bridey is on top of one of the shelters. There is a bit of shade there. I don't know why they don't go hang out under the trees. There is some nice shade in the pasture for those who want to avail themselves of it.

In other animal news, I just dropped a wedge of dough on old Babe this morning. He had a really bad ear infection. The vet listened to his heart murmur. There is nothing but murmur there now. It goes off of the scale. If you feel under his left elbow, you can feel the murmur ripple along his chest. We aren't sure what is keeping him alive. He really shouldn't be. He's also walking on a leg that the vet says shouldn't be functional. But he's absurdly happy and bouncy. I'd say, "it won't be long now," but we've been saying that for two years now.

Bridey on the Roof

Friday, June 22, 2007

You know what they say...

You can't buy love or homegrown tomatoes.

My area is famous for Grainger County Tomatoes. They are available all year round, since they are hothouse tomatoes, but the ones in the summer seem to be sweeter and richer. My own vines died in the drought so I'll be relying on these for my tomatoes this summer.

Every year they hold the Grainger County Tomato Festival. The highlight is a huge over-ripe tomato fight.

There's just something about a roadside fruit and vegetable stand. Particularly a real one and not one of the truck farmers. I have such strong memories of the ones where I grew up.

There was one on 278, back when 278, the major artery running into Hilton Head, was a two lane road. One of my best friends lived in Atlanta. Her folks were "summer people". I would eagerly await her arrival at the start of each summer, which we would spend riding my horses and sailing her Hobecat.

I was always fascinated by how very white the people from Atlanta were. She and her family would arrive at the beginning of the summer with a strange almost green pallor. It would take them almost two weeks to turn red and freckled like the rest of us. City folk, my mother explained, don't get outside too often.

I would ride my horse down to the beach to see if they had come in yet. Somehow, I managed to be there when they drove up, more often than not. They would always stop at the "fruit stand" and get a big paper bag of tomatoes.

They would eat them like apples.

I thought this strange since I lived with these tomatoes most of the time when they were in season and generally preferred them on two slices of squishy white bread with some mayo, salt and pepper.

City people. Go figure. Eat a bought mater out of hand like an apple. And not just a cherry tomato...a big one. Now, homegrown tomatoes were different. There's nothing odd about plucking a sun warmed tomato from the vine and eating it there, amidst the perfume of the vines and soil. You can almost see that smell rising like waves with the heat radiating off the dirt. The smell. It sticks to your hands.

But not a bought tomato. You don't eat a bought tomato with that same sense of sensual abandon.

This morning I drove to Knoxville. I stopped off at a vegetable stand in Newport and bought a bag of Granger County tomatoes. Just a small bag.

Driving down the interstate, I took one out of the brown paper sack. The smell drew me in.

I rolled down the windows of the jeep and ate that tomato out of hand just like an apple. I sucked the soft bits out of the skin and ate it whole.

I hope nobody saw me.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Lights

So, last night the power went out with sudden crashing darkness.

I'm not sure that I can adequately convey to you exactly how dark it gets here. I can see the Milky Way in the night sky. It's a sparkling band of stars just barely washing the blackness of the sky. I remember it vividly from childhood and went almost my entire life before seeing it again. Seeing it here.

I remember when they used to talk about light pollution. They don't talk about that anymore. Sometime during the '80's, it seemed like neon made a comeback and people didn't mind so much not being to see the sky at night. I remember the first time I went to New York City. I was a teenager and the quality of the light at night there was so strange to me. It was my fist experience with urban night. I remember thinking that it was like swimming in dirty dishwater. The night sky was so unnatural to me there. It never got dark. I went on to live in this dishwater for many many years. And then I came here. This is my reward.

But last night, after it had finally rained, some huge tree came down and blocked out the electricity. It went out with certainty and no flickering. The way you know that it isn't going to come on again for a while. I'm night blind. I never feel very sure of myself in the darkness. My father was the same way.

I sat here at the computer in the inky blackness. I quit smoking so I no longer have that immediate knowledge of where to find fire. If you always know where to find fire.

Finally, I got up and groped my way into the living room. I vaguely remembered a lighter laying on the counter. I felt around for it, but couldn't find it. I needed to find a flame for the hurricane lanterns and I didn't know where I'd find one. I remembered a little lighter that stayed in the jeep. I was always running into it when I needed to get change out of the console. I groped for my car keys and felt my way out onto the porch. The sounds of the night assault you here in the summer. The whip-or-wills and the bullfrogs. It's really loud for eight months out of the year.

The lights of the jeep come on and my eyes feel soothed by the stimulus of brightness after so much dark. But the lighter is not there.

There is nothing left to do but start up the jeep and turn the overhead deer spots on so they shine into the house. Finally, with the glare of the jeep lights, I'm able to find a small lighter in the house. It was the one I was groping for earlier but couldn't find. Funny how it was where I thought I was feeling around for it. I'd make a terrible blind person.

It's taken me an hour to find the fire to light the lamps. I take one upstairs with me to bed and read in the dim flickering light before falling asleep.

Suddenly, at 3:00a.m., the house roars back to life and I must get back up and turn off the lights that were left on. Blow out the hurricane lamps and go back to bed.

In the morning...the air vibrates with the sound of chainsaws and men's voices.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Stormy Tuesday

I didn't get a post in yesterday since the storms came before I got to it and then it was too late.

At least we have some rain with today's storms. We really need it, much more than we need the dry lightning that takes out the phones. Tomorrow is market day and I will no doubt be short tempered and cranky at having to give up so much of my day to shopping and bill paying. Then the slew of tri-monthly doctor visit in K-town at UT. I will be mostly cranky for the rest of the week.

Betty Goat is looking more and more pregnant and like she's going to pop soon. She should be the first to go as we approach this mid summer kidding season.

I had a nice visit with my friend on Sunday and she spoke more about the custom of the "pie supper" that I heard about from Red. I just started to describe how they met and her eyes lit up and she said, "Oh , yes! That's a pie supper!"

They would also auction off walks. The young ladies of the community would offer up pies and the prize of a walk for auction. Sometimes they would auction off box lunches. It was how they raised money for school supplies and such.

One time, right after she was married and her husband was away in Korea, she and her sisters attended a pie supper. Betty asked them not to put up a pie for her, since she was now a happily married woman. Evidently her sisters went ahead and offered not only a pie, but also a walk with her

The gentleman who bought both her walk and her pie had just returned from the service on leave. She told the gentleman that she was now married and he could just take that pie and walk himself.

He was heartbroken. "But, you can't be married already! How did that happen!"

She smiled sadly at him and walked away.

What can I say? You snooze, you lose.

She also told me some bits about school lunches during those days. I'd already talked a bit about those in the article about the biscuits. Everyone took their lunch and it was a biscuit sandwich of some sort. Mainly because the weren't eating the squishy white bread the rest of us were eating. It was usually a chicken or ham or sausage biscuit of some sort. She says that was the case for everyone she went to school with.

On some special days, they would all bring in some food item. A bunch of carrots, some potatoes, cabbage or onions. They did have a little shed attached to the schoolroom where a wood cook stove was kept. On those days, the teacher would cook up a big pot of soup for the children with whatever they brought in. They would have the soup probably with cornbread.

I was immediately reminded of "The Stone Soup" story that was one of my favorites from childhood. It feels like an Appalachian stone soup tale, doesn't it? I shall probably have to write it, don't you think?

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Mennonite Children in Morristown

These four were shyer than the rabbits they were selling. I thought they were really adorable. They were there with their papa.

If you are ever in the vicinity of Abbeville, SC...and there are some quite good reasons why you should be, if only to visit...there is a wonderful Mennonite restaurant called Yoder's Dutch Kitchen. They have a truly impressive buffet of authentic Pennsylvania Dutch dishes and you can top it off with a helping of shoofly pie or apple dumplings for dessert. The serving ladies all wear the little white mesh coifs. And if you are a cookbook collector, be prepared to be dazzled by their selection of cookbooks on Amish and Pennsylvania Dutch cuisine and crafts. It's one of the top 10 Pennsylvania Dutch restaurants in the nation.

If you are like me and enjoy old-timey things and like to accessorize your life with a bit of Amish chic...I highly recommend perusing the selections and links at Mennonite Maidens. There is a white cotton nightgown in their unmentionables department that I love. And it's the place to go for authentic poke bonnets, straw men's hats and full length aprons. Lovely bunch of links to canning and other domestic crafts too.

I hope you are having a very happy Sunday. Breath deep and simplify for a moment.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

All hail our Luna Overlords!

I've seen six this year.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Chocolate "Picnic" Cake
at a Holiness Church Homecoming

Last Sunday was the "Homecoming" at Pastor Jimmy's Edwina Church of God in Jesus' Name, the Signs Serpent Handling church that I’ve been attending and writing about.

Above pictured was my offering, a dark chocolate "Picnic" cake. Many of you may be familiar with this cake in its sheet cake incarnation called a "Texas Sheet Cake" or "Texas Picnic Cake". Essentially what we have here is a rich moist chocolate cake frosted with boiled fudge frosting and sprinkled with chopped pecans. I've experienced mini marshmallows mixed in with the frosting.

Indeed, I'm very experienced in the ways of chocolate cakes.

I believe this cake has a reputation as a cake for taking on outdoor outings because the boiled fudge frosting seals the cake. It’s always better the second day and should be made a day ahead.

If you are a high church person like myself, you may not be familiar with the tradition of the Homecoming. The Homecoming is a yearly summer gathering of everyone who is or has been a member of one of these smaller churches. The Baptists have them as well as the Holiness churches. Everyone is welcome and it takes the form of a big picnic that follows a service and much gospel singing.

Everyone brings food and it is a really wonderful time.

We went in for the service and one of the rare treats was the presence of Jimmy’s younger minister, Michael, and Pastor John Brown from the Marshall church. There were three generations of ministers there all preaching in the style of the Jesus’ Name Snakehandlers.

Since so many children were in attendance, there were no serpents attending the Homecoming. Michael’s baby girl would wander up on the stage with him and he preached almost the entire time holding her.

Every once in a while she'd get tired of being held and toddle off the stage to look at us all with big wide eyes, and scuff her little patent leather shoes on the floor.

And the singing! There was a great deal of singing. Friend Scott met me there and did a duet of "I'll Fly Away" with a young lady who was sitting in front of us with her fiance. They were getting counseled by Jimmy on getting married, which is a very, very serious commitment in a Holiness church. Her young man and I were not singers but eagerly egged the two of them on.

It was the first time I'd really seen the little church that filled up.

But I know you are really ready to see the food. There was so much food! I was actually so into it that I almost forgot to take pictures of it.

There were all sorts of hams, meat loafs, devilled eggs, potato salads, green beans, fried chicken, and all sorts of salads. This, I'm afraid was my plate. This was quite modest compared to Scott’s. Scott managed to find the medieval truncheon sized Styrofoam plates. But he is 6 foot 9. Everything I tried was absolutely delicious!

The church has constructed a picnic shed in the back of the church for just such gatherings. This is where we took all the food before the service and where we womenfolk retired to get everything ready as soon as the service ended.

As is the custom here, the children eat first. Then we all file in and enjoy the bounty of food and the excellent company.

All in all it was a wonderful day for a Homecoming.

Oh. You probably want the recipe for that cake I started all this with?

Chocolate "Picnic" Cake


1 cup sugar
3/4 cup cocoa
1 cup milk
1 egg

Combine sugar and cocoa. Add well beaten egg and milk. Cook in a double boiler until thick and smooth. Cool.

1 cup sugar
3/4 cups shortening
1/2 cup milk
2 eggs
2 cups sifted cake flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon soda
1 teaspoon vanilla

Cream shortening and sugar. Add well beaten eggs. Beat well then add sifted dry ingredients alternately with milk. Add flavoring and cooled cocoa mix. Beat well. Pour into well oiled cake pans. Bake at 375 degrees about 20 minutes. Turn out to cool on racks.

Boiled Fudge Frosting:

4 cups sugar
2 cups cream
4 squares bakers chocolate

Place sugar and cream in a cold stainless steel pan. Bring to a rolling boil and let boil on high for three minutes. Cut the heat back to medium high and let boil until it reaches the hard ball stage. Pour out into a mixing bowl and put four blocks of unsweetened bakers chocolate in with the mixture. Let the chocolate melt. After it cools a bit, place in the mixer on high until it reaches the consistency of frosting. If the frosting seizes, just add a few drops of cream and continue to mix.

Compose the cake, frosting between the layers and top and sides. Sprinkle generously with chopped pecans. Let sit overnight before serving.

The Edwina Church of God in Jesus Christ's Name
Edwina, Tennessee
2007 Homecoming

Thursday, June 14, 2007

For Friday The Modulator

My buddy POH, was shocked to learn that not only were goats used for food, but their meat finds its way into our mysterious American food chain in a number of sneaky ways like in pepperoni and other hard sausages.

Indeed, chevon is the most commonly consumed meat in the world. Beef, is actually the weird food. More people in the world are munching down on some goat more than anything else.

I just wanted to make it perfectly clear that my goats are milk goats. There seemed to be some misunderstanding about this. I don't raise meat goats. All of my goats have names and are very tame. You don't generally name meat goats.

Breeds of both cattle and goats are usually geared toward meat or milk. For instance, a Black Angus is a breed of cow that is specifically bred to produce meat. They carry all of their weight in their muscle mass. A Holstein (the black and white cow) is a breed of dairy cow. They carry most of their weight internally and have rather bony frames with large wide bellies.

Same with goats. Maggie has scrawny little legs and a big belly with a low center of gravity to carry around all that milk. She's a Saanen. All of my goats are dairy with the exception of Blinkin' who has a bit of meat in the woodshed.

Being a dairy goat isn't too bad of a life for a goat. I can think of worse things than sticking your head in a bucket of food and having your breasts massaged at the same time. I mean, just think about that for a second.

Just so we are clear on that.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

I had to leave the house today to take the trash to the dump. I haven't been going out much lately and the beans are up and needing some staking. Actually the garden is going to be a bust this year. If you didn't get your garden planted during that early bit right after the hard freeze and the drought that started a week later...nothing is going to grow. My tomato transplants died, but I did go ahead and plant my okra thinking it an African vegetable that will probably do just fine.

The old timers are saying this is the worst drought in 50 years. It's never been this dry in recent memory. The storms arrive every afternoon to shut down the power, phone and satellite, yet no water falls from these clouds that come crashing across the mountains. Just fire. Fire rains down.

My poor little frog pond has almost completely dried up. There is just five inches of green stagnant water there. The geese used to love to go down there every morning to swim, but there is hardly enough water to get them wet.

I stopped the jeep and looked sadly down at my pond. I suppose there will be no bullfrog gigging this fall. A lone copperhead was laying there in the shallows and I thought maybe I should give Jimmy a call or go try to find him up on Naillon's where he is restoring a 19th century graveyard. My friend fussed at me when I said I might try to just put them in a big bucket if I found any. She said they can jump 10 feet. They can't, but I'd just as soon not tangle with one.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

I got Nothin'

I got nothin'.

Still sick. Spent time on the phone today. I'm not a phone person. As far as I'm concerned the phone is good for two things. Calling the ambulance and dialing up the internet. My sister is the exact opposite. She lives on the phone. I don't get it.

My friend who gave me this damn chest thing called to tell me she has pneumonia. But she's not in the hospital. I always have to be admitted when I get pneumonia. I don't know if she actually does or if she is just trying to out-sick me. I'm just not feeling well enough right now to extend my usual dose of love and commiseration. I really need to reserve that for myself right now. I don't really understand the out-sicking someone....the whole needier than thou thing. And I don't have much patience for it at the moment. I'm cranky and short tempered.

Betsy called, and that was a nice chat. I like talking on the phone with Betsy.

Two phone calls is really stretching it for me for one day. So I turned on the computer and let the phone ring busy for the rest of the day.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Since Aegis has been gone, I've been surrounded by ruffians with no manners.

Cocker Spaniels are sort of like that. They are contrarians by nature, they are notoriously difficult to train. Very good natured about it, but just won't have anything to do with it. There just doesn't seem any limit to their mischief and badness.

Max is my current baddest boy. He's athletic and can get himself up on the kitchen counters if I'm not paying attention. My other three are geriatric cases who have each had their day in the sun of penultimate badness, but are still pretty awful if they put their minds to it.

I was thinking about how so many dog training experts stress the "head of the pack" theory. Namely, that you yourself need to be the pack leader. I really agree with this most of the time. It has certainly been a strategy that has worked well for me in the past, as long as I didn't expect too much from the cockers, who have every intention of running amok if they feel like it.

The shortcomings of this really have hit home this week.

You know how dogs will be practically dead before they will let you know they are sick or hurt? How stoic they are? Well, evidently, they expect this same behavior from the pack leader.

I've just been too sick to be a good alpha wolf. So, they've stepped up their trash diving and kitchen counter walking and rummaging all over the house when they should be sleeping. I'm a bit disturbed to think that they are sizing me up as a possible snack should I expire. They are already jockeying for position as to who will be in charge if my cough doesn't clear up. And I've seen the change that comes over Fat Buddy when presented with a live chicken that is suddenly a dead chicken. Me and the chicken, we're a bit intimidating while we are still walking around and not worthy of much of F.B.'s attention. But, boy-howdy...that dog can register to the nano-second the exact moment live chicken turns into chicken dinner.

I'm half certain they will find my bare bones one day and the grossly corpulent Fat Buddy standing over me wagging his tail stump in utter innocence.

A Luna moth got in the house last night and all I could do was croak "Stop it! Stop it!" while flailing weakly from the couch as Max and Shadow crashed into each other two feet above the floor in a failed interception tackle with this bird-sized moth.

"Stop it!" I lamely throw a newspaper at them. They laugh at me with dog grins as they lift themselves up from where they crash landed on the hardwood and tear off to see where the moth went.

I snuffle noisily and look around for the moth.


It's in my hair.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Happy Sunday

This is the part of the Old Fifteenth that most people avoid. You really should have 4 wheel drive and a high undercarriage to make it up this stretch. It winds up the mountain to my road. All of the property to the right is my forest. There is a scary bit where the road is just scraped rock and the rock is not level...sort of gently sloping towards a creek with a thirty foot drop. You feel like you are going to tip over when you drive across it. So far, I never have.

But there is always that possibility.


Happy Sunday.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

I feel crappy.

Don't have much for you today other than a lame journal entry. Yesterday's food porn was really hard to get out since I was either half conscious for the first part of the day and the power was out for the second part of the day.

I've been coughing so hard for the past three days that I've been afraid that the flap of scar tissue that serves as a sternum for me was going to break loose from my rib cage and let my heart flop out onto my stomach. Gasping like a dying fish. This has happened before but in a more controlled environment. I'm not sure if they wired that thing in there with something or not. All I can see are the staples on the x-rays.

I'm often plagued by Frida Kahlo-esque thoughts like this.

I'm trying really hard not to be angry with the person who gave me the virus. Really I am. But it's not like it's any secret that I take the same drugs an organ transplant recipient takes and thus has the same almost non-existent immune system. She could have at least talked with me on the porch instead of in the house. I couldn't exactly leave since she was so upset and people always think there's something odd and selfish about you if you behave in a germ-phobic manner.

"Oh yes, she's too good for our germs."

And obviously, I'm a person who revels in goat vomit and all sorts of nasty livestock bodily's just other people's microbes I seem to need to keep off of me. It always strikes me as sort of funny when people get so squicked out about animals, but honestly, aside for the few zoonosis' that you have to worry about...people are the nasty animals. Really nasty.

And it makes me think about Mr. Lawyer with TB. The thing is, the majority of people don't even think twice about how incredibly dickish it is to pass on your germs and illnesses to other people. I've seen interviews with him and he STILL doesn't get it.

So, after having gone on about that, I am going to Jimmy's homecoming at the Edwina Church tomorrow. I'm pretty sure I'm over the contagious part of this, but will be extra careful not to pass any of this on. I made a dark chocolate fudge picnic cake.

In other news...My goats are evidently responsible for global warming. They will henceforth be called The Global Warming Goats of the Apocalypse. There is, of course, a story behind this. I will get to it when I feel less crappy.

Friday, June 08, 2007


I'm posting this a bit late, as our ramps season is a bit past at this point. But they do grow as far north as Canada, so I'm supposing that somewhere the ramps are just about perfect right now.

The ramp is a small plant of the onion family that is the wild leek of the mountains. Its bulb has a very intense garlicy taste and the leaves are much milder. I actually like the leaves in salads or just plain. They are hugely popular in the Southern Appalachians and often large festivals are held for people to get together and gorge on these very strong flavored wild leeks.

Friend Scott and I attended the Cosby Ruritan Ramps Festival some weeks back. This ramps festival has been around since the 1950's and has been a traditional stump stop on many a political campaign. They've had musicians like Johnny Cash play there. It's a pretty big deal and one of the largest ramps festivals.

Rep. Eddie Yokley (D) with wife Carolyn and Friend Scott
in the background.

The gourmands have jumped on the ramps bandwagon with avengence. I've seen recipes combining trouffles and ramps. This is hugely appealing to me but is quite a foreign idea to folks around here. Now, chicken-of-the-woods or morels with ramps....I could get behind as being traditional.

The two preferred ways to cook these here are with eggs or with potatoes. Bacon grease is involved. I'll give you the traditional recipe for eggs with ramps.

Ramps and Eggs

A few dozen ramps
Salt to tast
6 eggs
thick cut bacon

Fry up your bacon in a cast iron skillet. When done, set aside on paper towels to drain. Pour off extra so you only have about a quarter cup of bacon drippings. Clean and cut up your ramps and place in the left-over bacon grease. Sprinkle with salt and saute until tender. Beat your eggs and scramble in the grease and ramps.

Serve immediately with cornbread and bacon.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

For Friday the Modulator

I came across her towards the back of a big livestock trailer. Piled in the back were crates with hound dogs and further back was a sweet faced and very large donkey.

"Are you selling your donkey?" I asked.

She turned to me, revealing a face like a young Madonna. Such lovely skin and such a sweet expression. She must have been around thirteen. She wore an over-sized flannel shirt much like those worn during the grunge craze, despite the heat of the day. Swaddled in a tea towel and gently held in her arms like an infant was a four week old baby pig.

She smiled at me and said, "Oh, these aren't mine, I'm just looking at the animals."

"Oh my goodness!" I say, petting softly the head of the tiny piglet, "What sort of pig is he?"

"He's a Vietnamese Potbellied pig." She says beaming like a young mother.

We actually have something of a VPP problem in the area. Many people don't realize how huge they actually get. Then the cuteness wears off and they "drop" them off on The Fifteenth. My friend, Gaynell, took in a pregnant one that had been set out on the side of the road. She ended up with about 10 of them. They are easy to find homes for when they are this guys size. Not so much when they top 250 pounds.

And the old-timers say they have too much fat on them to eat, so it is something of a problem. But I'm sure they eat them in Asia, don't they? Perhaps we just need to expand our culinary horizons. But they evidently don't make very good "Q".

But this little fellow was far from having anyone try to come up with recipes for him. At four weeks, he was already off of milk and eating whatever baby pigs eat. And it looked like he'd already found a friend for life.

I didn't ask her if he was for sale. I had the definite impression that he wasn't.

Some Pig!!!

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

I saw her across the crowded dirt track that was the thoroughfare of Morristown, Tennessee's First Monday Market.

I had just had to convince my friend to NOT buy me a trio of ducklings. I was disarmed by the little bundles of fuzz as always, but remembering how taxing it is to brood waterfowl, I didn't want to bring them home with me. Plus, they needed special un-medicated feed and I didn't have a brooder set up. So I left the three baby Muscovy's there with some reluctance.

I turned and saw her. Her carriage was part of what drew my eye to her. She was thin like a reed with narrow shoulders and seemed to sway with a wind that only she could feel. Her smile was soft and sweet. She stood behind a booth fashioned from two card tables stuck together and planks that rested on the bed of the farm-weathered pick-up truck. She had a pile of T-shirts and some dolls laying out on the table. Some of the dolls were complete and some were just bodies and heads laying about like infants at a crime scene.

You know the sort of doll. It's a plastic doll with an over-sized head that has been lovingly dressed up in doilies and crocheted bits of garb. You don't play with these dolls. I'm never quite sure what you really are supposed to do with them other than show them off at the craft section of the county fair. I've seen their lower bodies removed so the bell-shaped skirt can be a tea cozy or hide a tissue box.

I smiled shyly at her and asked, "Did you make these?"

She looked very closely at my mouth as I spoke and I realized she was nearly deaf.

She brushed her wispy hair from the side of her face. "No, I jess picked them up at auction."

I knew what she was talking about. I liked to attend the auctions too. They will sell stuff in lots and one lot might have one thing that you are highly desirous of and everything else is just junk. I once picked up a bronze Chinese gui vase that someone had mistaken for a tractor part at auction but had to buy quite possibly the ugliest hand crocheted afghan in the world along with it. I sold it on EBay, labeling it, "Ugliest Afghan I've Ever Seen." I couldn't believe someone bought it.

She had a darkening bruise on the side of her chin that she reached up and stroked self-consciously. She felt compelled to explain it to me. I think she knew what it must look like.

"Well, I was chasing the great grandchild an' trying to keep up with him and I slipped on the wet grass. It could have been worse, I might have broken something."

I agreed with her and I did believe she has slipped and fallen. I couldn't imagine anyone striking such a delicate and lovely old woman.

As if he had heard, a jovial male voice boomed from the side of the old pick-up.

"She showing you where I clocked her one?"

He was like a trim, jolly, Appalachian Santa with his snow white beard and rosy complexion. He was 78 by his own admission. He still had some of his own teeth left though they weren't in the greatest of shape. But there was nothing sinister in the grin he seemed to perpetually wear. He wears the new, pressed Liberty overalls that seem to be the trademark of so many older Appalachian country gentlemen. A watch fob dangles out of the bib pocket.

As a couple, the two made perfect sense. She was the shy and sweet one and he was the gregarious one. They came here to the market every First Monday from their farm below Sevierville. They didn't seem to have much to sell, but I suspect this is more of a social outing than anything else for them.

She sits with the stand while he wanders about socializing. Neither of them can hear so good anymore. She is very quiet while he can chatter on a mile a minute.

He tells me that he and his wife like "old-timey" things. They like to live that way as well. This is a matter of familiarity and comfort for them. She still cans. He still makes a garden. They keep goats and birds. He shows off the set of ring-tailed doves he bought today to add to their dove cote.

He used to work with mules. He actually worked at Dollywood for a time and some TV commercials hired him and his mules. I could see how he would appear to be straight out of Central Casting to the outside world. Here, at Morristown's First Monday Market, he blends into the crowd.

They didn't ask him to talk much, he said. "Some of those fellers could talk more plainly, but I couldn't. I don't just look like the real thing, I told them, I am the real thing."

He had a stroke some years back and can no longer work the mules. He apologizes several times and says that since the stroke he "don't string together his words so good anymores".

I tell him that I hadn't noticed.

"So, how did you two meet?" I ask. It's my favorite question.

He looks at her with unbridled affection. She looks back and smiles.

"Well, we been married fifty-eight years." He says.

She smiles slyly and says, "My, has it been that long?"

He chuckles.

The first time he saw her he was at a church social. The point of the social was for each girl to bake a pie and then the boys would bid on the pies. The boy with the winning bid would then have the pleasure of sitting with the baker and sharing her pie with her for the evening.

"I didn't have no money so I didn't get a pie." He said. "But that was the first time I saw her and she was just a skinny little slip of a thing! Her arms weren't no bigger'n this!"

He demonstrates the thinness of her arms using his thumb and forefinger.

"She were only 13 at the time though. We didn't get married though until she were 17."

It took a while to disentangle myself from the threads of their conversation. I was happy that they were living their traditional Appalachian life on their own terms. But I can't help but wonder what is going to happen when all of them are gone. All of the ones like Red and the Missus'. I know they are disappearing, even though I live so firmly in their midst that the outside is what now seems strange to me.

In my mind's eye, I don't see them dying out. I just see them disappearing into the blue mist.

I guess I'll join them there some day.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

This is my friend, Don Dudenbostel.

I met Don at Pastor Jimmy's church. Jimmy had told me about him before and referred to him as that "Appalachia guy". He's a professional photographer who has done some really amazing work.

Don is on a mission to document the disappearing lifestyles and people of Appalachia. His photos will be touring the US in 2009. I'm really flattered that he lets me tag along with him on jaunts.

I told Don about the First Monday Market in Morristown a few Sunday's ago and we made plans to go. It was a really great time and I got some stories and photos and he's sure he got some great photos.

First Monday Market is a smorgasbord of authentic Appalachian culture. Pretenders don't come here. They don't know about it. It's one of those impromptu markets that has been around for decades. It just happens every 1st Monday of the month. It is not unlike the livestock markets you find all over Asia and I did notice a few Asian faces there. If you want your food super still walking around...this is the place to be.

The faces of the people as well as the animals draw me in. There are women with lined faces like street maps of hardship. Men with hands that bear scars of toil. To an outsider, the adults are often frightening examples of humanity. Jailhouse tattoos and gap-toothed grins showing rotted teeth. Guns are everywhere. But to me, they are the characters in my imagination brought to stark life. I see the gentleness in them. And if you take a moment to talk with them, you can see it too.

The Appalachian children are everywhere. They are some of the most beautiful children in the world. Don took a photo on one girl selling some produce and her father came up and asked what we were about.

Don told him and the fellow said his teenage daughter was running the store back at Bean's Station while his youngest son was selling the chickens and rabbits a few stalls over. He had the entire family working. He invited us to come and photograph the vegetable stand at Bean's Station.

We got asked a great deal what we were doing. Everyone, once they heard, was delighted to have their photo taken. We will most certainly be going back. Just one trip was not enough to catalogue the variety of people there. I've got photos and material for quite a few posts, so this will most likely be a series.

I've uploaded some of my photos onto my Flikr account if you can't wait for me to parse them out here on the blog.

And I'm back!

I so apologize that this has taken so long.

Today, I said, "enough is enough" and make the journey to Knoxville to the expensive MacIntosh gurus and got a modem. Thanks to your donations and orders I could afford to do this. These guys bailed me out a few years ago when my strawberry I-Mac died taking my entire cookbook with it. They are a bit suspicious that the pulse took out part of my motherboard, but aside from the painfully slow connection, I haven't noticed any problems with the computer as a whole. Plus, I can pick up another Blue and White for 50 bucks on ebay if I need to. But this external seems to connect just fine. I'm just going to be extra careful to unplug from the phone lines when I'm not online.

Ain't got much nice to say about the folks. Still haven't returned my emails.

On to the business at hand! Back to writing! I'll be getting around to visiting everyone too.

I got the above shot while on the excursion to the First Monday Market. She is a Mammoth jenny (donkey). The fellows said she'd been bred to a paint, but they only were asking 275 bucks for her. She was really sweet but I suspect she's got something wrong with her since her asking price was so low.

Sunday, June 03, 2007


Just an update.

Thank you so much, all of you who responded to my plea for help. I can't tell you how much it is appreciated.

I went and picked up a USB modem at the Newport Walmart, but it wouldn't work so I took it back.

Tomorrow I'll be in Morristown at the amazing First Friday Market. I've posted pictures from a past market in both Buzznet and here. All of the oldtimers come down from the hills to swap and sell small livestock, chickens, guineas, game chickens and tools and such. I'm hoping to pick up some stories while I'm there and maybe some photos of some of the characters that show up.

I'm meeting Don Dudenbostel, my photographer friend, early in the morning in M-town. I'm hoping he'll find some wonderful character studies there to photograph and some folks who can lead him even deeper into the Appalachian culture he is so beautifully documenting. He's also given me permission to share some of his work with you as soon as I'm able to. His Pastor Jimmy photos are heartbreakingly lovely. I feel so fortunate to have met someone who seems to see these people the way I do.

So, I'll be checking at the Staples there to see if they have a modem that will work. My computer is a Mac G3 Blue and White. It's old, but it works great and is good for all the graphics work I like to do. But they didn't put serial ports in these and that's why I'm having such a time. I think I found a ISDN modem made by Best Data that will do the trick if I don't find one at Staples. So that's where all this is.

I went to Pastor Jimmy's church today. There were no serpents but it was a really lovely time. Jimmy was in really good voice as always. Afterwards, we chatted and he told a tale of a man who stole his serpents and then offered him a bunch of water moccasins. He told him no, since he felt the man would just come back and steal them.

Then he said, "'Cause you know, a man who'll steal your serpents will just as soon steal your wife and your bible."

I'm going to be a writing fool once I get back to snuff. I have so many stories I wanted to tell during this down time. I'll probably just post them and backdate them, which will mess up the RSS feeds, but I really wanted to tell those stories! And some of them, like my Memorial Day story about my Dad, was tied to that day.

Also, I've been invited to guest blog on Feministe which is a huge honor. And I've been unable to keep up my commitment to Appalachian Savants with all this so I'll owe them a few stories.

Sad news...Miz Kay-reen, I hear, is fading fast. I'm going to try to get by and see her.

Pastor Jimmy's "Homecoming" is this next weekend and I plan to be there with Friend Scott, a big plate of fried chicken and a huge banana pudding or maybe a big cake. Maybe a wet coconut cake or maybe my chocolate picnic cake...that's the one with the boiled fudge frosting and chopped pecans.

I had an amazing Happy Sunday photo for you that I took while coming back from Mizz Busbee's today and four wheeling the jeep up the steep part of The Fifteenth on the backside of my property. All green and wet and dewy. Very restful.

Lets hope this post goes through.

Friday, June 01, 2007


I'm going to try posting this in html on blogger to see if it will take.

This is what is going on.

Over a week ago, the phone company sent a pulse through my phone line that took out the internal modem on my beloved Mac G3 Blue and White. I spent my last 40 bucks to get a replacement for it. It arrived three days late and was delivered to the wrong address. I've just tracked down the part and have installed it to find that it does not work.

The laptop is only capable of email and playing blogshares.

I need help. If anyone has a USB cable modem they are not using, I'd be most greatful for the loan of it. Email me and I'll tell you where to send it.

It's sort of embarassing to me, but I live off of less than 1000 dollars a month. Not much for all those years I spent busting my tail in the entertainment and media business, but those are the breaks. If you run off and join the circus and then contract a life threatening chronic illness...then you takes you chances.

I just want to write again. It's my one little indulgence. And other people seem to enjoy it, so that's not so bad.

There are a few other ways you can help me get out of my current predicament.

1. Donate to the blog using the button on the upper right hand corner.

This provides me with the gas money to make jaunts into deepest, darkest Appalachia so I can then come back here and tell these stories to you.

2. Buy from the Rosie's Cocker Rescue Referral Store. You get some of the best fudge you ever put in your mouth and provide funds for my efforts in Cocker Spaniel rescue. This goes toward vet visits and meds for my charges, gas money for transports and long distance phone calls to secure placements for cocker spaniels in trouble.

3. Order digital art from Angel Dogs Pet Portraiture. These funds mostly support the dog rescue as well. If you know someone who has lost a pet, they really appreciate these as a gift.

I have no idea what this post is going to look like once I send it. I hope it is legible.

Basically, unless some deus-ex-machina arrives in the form of multiple fudge orders or something, I will be largely off-line and home-bound until the 20th, which is when I'll have a few extra dollars to get a cable modem for the computer.

Believe me, I'm jonesing to write as much as you are wanting to read.

Cross your fingers...I'm hitting "publish post" now.