Thursday, January 31, 2008

I've been nursing Fat Buddy over the past few days. We go see the vet tomorrow. I'm a little afraid he has cancer, since his lumpy bits seem to be a bit out of control. He's been in a lot of pain, mostly in his mouth and I've had him on antibiotics, then pain killers for the past few days. After getting his teeth done, he was on the antibiotics for a month. But then he got sore again so I put him back on them. The infection cleared again, but now it's back. And he's really uncomfortable this time.

Anyway, I'm not quite sure what to do. If it is cancer, I will just keep him on painkillers until he stops being excited about the things he loves most. Mainly snacks. He's still quite keen on his snacks. Unfortunately, the infection means we can't put him on prednisone. That was what made the lumps go away when I first got him.

I'm hoping if we put him back on the clindamycin that, maybe, I can keep him going a bit longer. Fat Buddy owns such a big piece of real estate in the vicinity of my heart, that I know its going to just about kill me if he dies.

I don't have no stinkin' food article for tomorrow--actually for the next few weeks. I'm willing to open up the blog for guest food bloggers for the next few weeks. Email me if anyone is interested. Of course, you get reciprocal linkage and that's good for your blog.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

I’ve been really busy this week with the writing thing. I’ve had one story accepted and it will go live on The Dead Mule on Thursday. Plus, I’ve been offered a possible opportunity with a quarterly to feature a selection of my shorter works. That’s not for a while and I don’t want to talk too much about it lest I jinx it. We Southerners are funny that way.

I’ve collected a handful of rejections this week. It’s such a new experience, and at times, I do want to crawl back into the comforting womb of this blog where everyone loves my work. But, I did make the decision to finally “get out there” and “out there” I am. I’ve been workshopping some pieces over on Zoetrope and have hooked up with some fine writers over there. Their work intimidates me at times. It’s hard not to compare my style of writing to others and wonder if I should change my voice to sound more like someone else. And it is scary knowing that I’m such a good mimic that I could.

Self-doubt is, evidently, as much a part of writing as anything else.

Monday, January 28, 2008

My ex-goat Didi, dropped two buck kids in the wee hours of the morning at Hidden Haven Homestead. I must say that I'm disappointed that Leonard's doe-fu was overcome. He did such a good job last year, showering us with doe kids. But they are handsome little lads.

Peggy says the delivery was very difficult. It happened in the wee hours of the morning and Peggy and William had to valiantly go in and turn the kids. Didi is okay, but it was rough on her and the two boys. Everyone is resting up right now.

Go over to Peggy's and check out the new babies. I'm a little partial to the one that looks like he's got a mop on his head and a smudge of flour on his nose. Her dreadful delivery story is pretty hair raising. Much worse than mine from last season.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Yesterday Sonya, my ex-goat, had her very first kid! Peggy called me all excited. Sonya dropped it in the field, but all was well. A little buckling. He's a nice combination of Leonard and Sonya. He has Sonya's eyes and spots, and Leonard's stripe down his back.

He's in the house now being spoiled rotten. Peggy says Sonya and he did very well at the mother and baby thing. It looks like this may be the beginning of Peggy's kidding storm. I expect that Didi won't be far behind in her delivery--and Peggy's Sammi is about to pop any minute now.

If you want to share the anticipation of the kidding season, do head over to Hidden Haven Homestead for all of the adorable baby goat cuteness you can stand!

Happy Sunday!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Some things in this post are completely true. Some are completely false.

Really, I was quite happy being completely unaware of what sort of garbage was circulating about me on the mountain. But, of course, since I met Friend Scott, I am privy to all of that nonsense whether I want to be or not. See, Friend Scott hears all the dirt—and there is lots of it. When people run out of real things to talk about here, they make stuff up. And you always know who originated the nonsense. Spreading gossip here is sort of like holding up the convenience store in your own small hometown when you went to high school with the cashier.

Cop: So, did you recognize the thief?

Cashier: Hell, yes! Joe Bob took me to the prom. His Momma goes to church with my Momma. You can probably find him over at Nat’s Market about now. He always eats lunch there about this time….

Doesn’t matter how many pairs of pantyhose you put over your head if you are wearing your letter jacket.

So, anyway, someone with limited understanding of exactly how Google Maps works is saying that I went to the courthouse to get aerial photographs of everyone’s house. In some alternate universe, this is supposed to help me sell my own house.

That’s just silly. Everyone knows you only do that when you buy a house and why waste gas when you can hop on the bird right from your home computer and get pictures from space? Sure, it may take a little time to call your buddy at the Pentagon and pull everyone’s FBI file and check all their aliases against the sexual offender database—but that’s ancient history now. I did all that six years ago.

Second to malicious gossip is most likely--boring gossip.

So—I’m going to offer some juicy tidbits about myself that may or may not be true. Spread at your own peril.

1. I was born with a tail and it makes finding clothes to fit difficult. That’s why I wear black turtlenecks and sweatpants so much. I won't lie to you--it does tend to chafe a bit.
2. I was born with a tail but they removed it and I keep it next to my bed in a jar.
3. When I was a teenager, my friends and I would go out in a boat at night shark fishing. We’d chum the water and then go swimming on a dare.
4. I kissed Superman and he kissed me back.
5. When they took my appendix out they found an eyeball and mouth attached to it. The appendix had burst and the little mouth was frozen in a scream. They said I’d eaten my twin in the womb.
6. I once scrinched a squirrel with my teeth.
7. I have four nipples. The extra two are lots smaller than the main ones.
8. I was chased by a gator and outran it.
9. I kept my own last name when I got married. His last name was Posey--can you blame me?
10. I dated a Mafia hit man. We’ve kept in touch. He’s a really nice guy except for the killing thing.
11. I was abducted by aliens once and they gave me a special name. What that is, I can’t tell you. Okay, I could, but they planted a chip that turns me into a relentless killing machine if I do.
12. I’m going to Dog Heaven. God told me this in a vision when he explained why "dog" is "God" spelled backwards.

Friday, January 25, 2008

If you would rather not know how to prepare this at home--it would be in your best interest to turn away now. Today's FPF does have a bit of a gross out factor for some people and if you are used to just picking this up, thinly sliced, at your local deli and would prefer not to know--do not read further.

I was about six when I had my first tongue sandwich at Gottlieb's Deli in Savannah, GA. My mother ordered it for me. I was never been a picky eater and when your first solid foods include raw oysters, it takes a bit to shock you after that. My mother was very adventurous in the kitchen and prepared things like sweetbreads. And Southerners are accustomed to eating odd pig parts, so beef tongue didn't really phase me. Actually, I sort of suspect my mother of having gone through a phase where she tried to find something I would not eat. I'm guessing she lost interest when it became evident that there wasn't anything I'd turn my nose up at.

When I got to college in Columbia, SC, I couldn't find a place that served this up in nice little butcher paper packages by the pound. So, I found a butcher shop and had the butcher order them for me. Whole. Back then, you could get a whole one for a buck fifty, so it was good student long as you didn't tell anyone what it was. I must admit, even I was a bit put off by the appearance of it the first time I saw one in its natural state. The great thing about the multi-cultural selections in today's grocery stores is that I don't have to search very far to find a nice beef tongue. They will be hanging out next to the tripe and thinly sliced beef liver.

I prefer beef tongue as a luncheon meat, served cold and thinly sliced in sandwiches. It is a finely textured and very fatty meat. It's perfect in little tea sandwiches with the crusts sliced off. I like it best with spinach and horseradish. I have seen some recipes for beef tongue served hot in a variety of ways. I certainly would not say no to it served this way, but cold is how I like it best.

Spiced Beef (or Venison) Tongue

1 Beef Tongue
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
3 Tbsp. brown sugar
2 Tbsp salt
1 bay leaf
2 Tbsp. Pickling Spices
1/2 tsp. black peppercorns
6 whole cloves
1/2 tsp. whole allspice

Wash tongue and pierce all over with a sharp fork or skewer. In a large pot, place tongue in water and add the rest of the ingredients. (I've heard you can do this in a crock pot overnight, but I've not tried it.) Bring to a boil then cut back to low. Cover and cook for six hours. Peel the tongue while it is still warm(yes, there is a tough skin that has to be peeled). If you are a hunter, this is also excellent with venison tongue. Slice thinly, if you have a home meat slicer, that is preferable.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

I heard from Bart's mom today! Bart is one of the most beloved former residents of Rosie's Cocker Rescue Referral. He's an English Cocker Spaniel and the only one I ever hosted. What a sweetie! He always wears this sort of serious face when you take pictures of him, but in real life, he's quite a mug.

Anyway, Bart has taken up kayaking and is evidently having a grand old time with the paddling crowd!

Here he is from his time with us. Mad Max took his spot when Bart left for his forever home. But when Bart was here, we could still enjoy the oriental rug. Because Bart wasn't a whackadoodle like Max is.


Wednesday, January 23, 2008

I dug through my purse yesterday while looking for a pen and found something interesting. I'd already read the Asheville paper from front to back in the doctor's waiting room and decided to tackle the crossword and soduko. I'm pretty good at crosswords, but soduku still eludes me. I can't resist trying, though, when my mind is idle. It's hard for me to keep my mind still.

I pulled forth from the detritus of inhalers, chewing gum, old bank stubs and dog medicines a dollar bill. It was frayed and worn and had odd fold marks on it. I didn't remember when it was handed to me in change, but I must have just stuffed it in there as I sometimes do.

On the bill was written, "Percy Johnson's Wedding Ring". Then, winding around the edge of the bill, it continued, "Given to him by his mother on the day she buried him."

It took me a moment to digest what I was looking at. Where it came from and the implications that I was now holding this piece of paper in my hands.

I know that valuable things disappear from corpses, but it's not the sort of thing I like to think about. And you never really see the evidence so clearly as I did yesterday, smoothed out over my thigh as I read what she had written before placing it in her son's casket.

I've, of course, changed the name here. Because someone's mother is out there mourning her child, thinking the wedding ring she wrapped in a dollar bill and put in his pocket lays beneath the tombstone she visits each Sunday.

I wonder what happened to that ring. Does someone wear it now, not knowing I hold the dollar bill it was wrapped in?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

I didn't post yesterday, because I waited until the evening and by that time, I had been totally sucked into The History Channel's Life After People. If you did not catch it on the first showing, do try to pick it up in the reruns. It was fascinating and in so many ways confirms my own environmental stance. If you haven't heard me rant about this---practicing environmentally sound policies and practices is self-preservation. The planet is going to be just fine without us--but every time we litter, fail to live frugally and recycle or blast the tops of our mountains apart, we are nominating ourselves for a Darwin Award as a species.

So--get with the program, people! Save yourself!

Anyway, as I was driving to Asheville today to see my rheumatologist, I had some time to think about the program. One of the sad things is that dogs will most certainly be the first species to suffer a massive die-off. All of our highly specialized pooches with funny noses and odd characteristics will be the first to go. Tiny dogs won't make it very far at all without us. Basically your standard yella cur dog will be what prevails.

I started thinking about the other domesticated animals and how they would fair. Those damn cats are going to be just fine. Pigs and goats have already proven how easily they become feral. I remembered an elderly friend pointing out a slab of rock where the hogs used to sun themselves. And we have a colony of feral goats living off of I-40. I think the moocows would probably not make it. Rangy cattle will be fine though some of our pampered Black Angus' and Herefords would be in the first wave of coyote dinners. Ditto for most sheeplies.

As I drove, I remembered what all the old timers here told me about what this area was like 50 to 100 years ago when lumber was king. All these mountaintops were cleared in pasture and corn was planted on every available bit of land. They free-ranged all the hogs and cattle in the woods, fencing only the gardens and corn fields. Little homesteads were everywhere and this was a very busy rural place. Very few of those homesteads are there anymore. There used to be a thriving village in The Gulf. There is absolutely no sign of human habitation there now. I only know this because I've been told by the children and grandchildren of those people that they were ever there.

If we wipe ourselves from this big blue ball, who will remember for those people?

Life After People airs again tomorrow night on The History Channel at 8p.m./7 central time.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

I went off the mountain this morning to get some milk down at the Citgo. I actually didn't get up until noon this morning and didn't really take note of the coldness until I went out. After yesterday's two hours of snow, today was bright and sunny--but very cold at this elevation. One nice thing about the sheep. They are very pretty out there with snow blowing on them. They have shelter, but being Shetland sheep, they don't seem to mind the cold. And I don't worry so much about them in their four inch thick fleeces like I did the goats. Goats shiver in the cold and look miserable and you feel guilty that you can't bring them in the house.

I was surprised that the creek was coated with a slick of ice in the sun. The clarity of the water is so amazing at this time of year and I'm soothed by its brilliance. It's a nice change from the stagnant pools the drought caused all summer long.

Happy Sunday. Stay warm.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

It snowed for a few hours today. Not heavily, but it was nice. The cold has been bitter today.

I apologize that I haven't been writing much this week and have been sort of uncommunicative. I don't mean to be. It's just taking me a bit longer to adjust to the goats not being here than I thought. They were such a huge part of my identity for so long. It's sort of like when I left CNN...that was a really big investment of self, too. It's harder to reinvent yourself when the reinvention is not of your choosing.

I'm beginning to think that the hard edits I've been putting my work through may not be the best thing for it. I seem to lose so much of the poetry in my words. I think I'm just going to try to clean things up as much as possible, but not make them so perfect. The perfection feels cold and stilted--removing parts of my voice. And--as many writers in my genre as I've been reading--they don't seem to be going to the lengths I've been going to in editing. And they are all published. There are quite a few literary conventions that have changed since I studied writing, so I think I'll just pay attention to those and toe that little contrived line.

Friend Scott's well ran dry a few weeks ago. If God is behind all this I'm sort of sure the message is "Scott---Move---Now---I Really Mean It This Time." The braining by shovel episode was too subtle, evidently. Knowing Scott, though...I'm pretty sure God is going to need to rent a U-Haul and show up to help with the move wearing a bubba cap.

Just so we are really clear about the state of the Pink House in the Holler...It has no heat(except wood), no insulation, holes in the bathroom floor for snakes to crawl up for visits--and now--newly subtracted--no plumbing or running water. And--is 50 miles one way from Scott's permanent job. He's showering at the gym these days.

Friday, January 18, 2008

They don't have to be pork, but they do have to be chops and they have to be thick chops to do this. Stuffing things into meat need not be the retro-medieval Turducken. Everyone should have some good quality basting thread and a good needle in their kitchen for those moments when you feel like stuffing something in a place that nature never intended something to be stuffed in.

If I convey anything to you on FPF, it is to encourage you to cook with the same fearless daring most home Southern cooks approach food with. People make fun of our "pinch of this" or a "mess of that", but what is really at the bottom of all of this is a combination of tradition and inventiveness. Because of the way we cook, we can often recreate a dish we have had somewhere without the benefit of a recipe. And really, when you think about cooking, it is a little bit science and a little bit craft. Once you know how a certain technique is done, like a custard, then you can figure out how to make other custard based foods. Who needs a recipe? It's cooking without a net.

So, back to the chops. I'm going to show you how to stuff chops and give you the basic process for stuffing. What you do with that information should be your own creative journey into recipe development. That's what I did with these lovely things. It started because I found these chops and they were really lovely, so I decided to do something special with them off the top of my head.

First, the stuffing. Prepare this before you start to stuff your chops. The basic process for stuffing from scratch is to make your cornbread the night before if you are using that as your base. If not, dry your bread out in a low oven until all moisture is gone. Be creative with the choice of base, if you like. Use pumpernickel, rye or any sort of bread you think would suit the type of chop you are going to stuff. What you add to the stuffing should also be a creative process. Sweet things go well with pork, so I chose apples and leeks. Pine nuts would have been nice, as well. You don't even have to use a bread base. Sometimes just a piece of fruit, dried fruit or sprigs of fresh herbs are nice to hide in the middle of a cut of meat.

The basic process to make a bread based stuffing is to melt butter and saute pungent and root vegetables until tender (onions, leeks, garlic, carrots, etc.). Pour this into a separate bowl where you have placed your crumbled stale bread with some sage or the seasoning of your choice. Then pour stock over the mix and add any other ingredients like nuts, egg or fruit. You may also add melted butter. Toss and mix well but do not mash.

To stuff chops, you will need a very sharp fillet knife. You cut a pocket into the side of them going back towards the bone. As always, be careful of cross contamination when working with raw meat in your kitchen. Stuff with your dressing and sew up with a needle and thread.

To prepare, first brown the chops on both sides in a skillet to seal in the juices. Then bake at 350 until done. I served these with applesauce and grilled winter squash.

But you get the idea...Now, get out there and play with your food.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

I found myself going into K-town today for an MRI that I didn't have scheduled until next week. Anyway, they wanted me there today, so off I went. They wanted to look at my brain because of all the strange pains I've been having in my eyes. Anyway, I've never had an MRI, but I figured it couldn't be worse than the CAT scans with the contrasting dye or the thing they hang you upside-down for. They evidently can't do those anymore because of my kidneys.

Well, I was wrong. It was pretty dreadful. They told me that the magnet was so powerful that all of the neutrons in my brain re-aligned and that was what caused the discomfort. It wasn't as awful as some of the things that have been done to me, but it was unexpected--the nausea and dizziness. Arrgh--My atoms hurt!

I've been revisiting the Foxfire series. I was in graduate school when Eliot Wigginton fell-- crashed really--from grace, and felt crushed as many people did who followed the Foxfire experiment. That this incredibly gifted educator was also a child molester defied reason. I've heard similar tales concerning the missionaries who came here during the Christy days. Not all was sweetness and light and outsiders have often taken advantage of the folk here.

But, I thought it time, since I've been doing my own research in this area, to go back and look at the Foxfire books. I think what strikes me this time is that kids really are the perfect conduit for gathering this information. The mountain people are naturally clannish and suspicious, but they would open up to high school kids much easier than they would to some anthropologist or chronicler.

The Foxfire project is still alive and well in Rabun county--without Wigginton. I imagine they are having to go further afield these days for material. Rabun county is pretty developed by now, I'd imagine. Anywhere north of Atlanta is these days.

I found this colorful and visceral worm cure in the Foxfire 1 book:

For tapeworm, starve it. Then hold some warm milk up to your nose and sniff deeply. The tapeworm will stick his head out of your nose to get the milk. Hold the milk farther and farther away from him, thus drawing him out.

~Wigginton, A Foxfire Book (Doubleday, 1972)
I'll have to ask my sources if they've heard that one.

Snow tonight, supposedly.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The other day, while I was vegging out, I think it was Sunday, I decided that I needed to make some more firestarters. I was out. You've probably heard me talk about these before. You take cardboard egg cartons and fill them with dryer lint. Then you melt down old spent candles and pour the wax over the dryer lint. After they cool, they will start any fire. Very good thrifty tip for those of you that burn wood. You can add grease...bacon grease, lard or old cooking oil to the wax to stretch it a bit. I had to stop doing that because the dogs find them irresistible with the grease in them.

Anyway, I found out that if you stuck them in the microwave for a bit, it helped the wax saturate the dryer lint even better. This time, I didn't melt enough wax and had four compartments with no wax. So, I put it in the microwave while I melted more old candles.

I don't know why the idea that something called a "firestarter" prolly didn't need to go in a microwave hadn't occurred to me. And I hadn't had any problems before when I put the entirely filled cartons in there.

Anyway, I look up and there are flames coming out of the microwave. And lots of smoke. It was a big mess. I had to move the thing to the sink and it took forever to get it to go out. The house smelled like burning egg crates and my firestarters were soaking wet.

Anyway, I know I said I wasn't going to do this on the blog anymore, but I'm thinking about doing a February story cycle. I think what I might do is put them up here, then move them over to editred after a few days. I'm thinking about doing love stories, since it is February. Whatcha think? Those are really challenging for me and I need a challenge right now.

Monday, January 14, 2008


So-- I didn't even turn on the computer yesterday. I'm backtracking to some of my older stories and putting them through hard edits. So, that was what I did yesterday while watching The Prince and Me I and II. I love soppy love stories like that, though I do draw the line at the Lifetime TV movies. When I watch Lifetime, I'm always wondering, "Who are these women?"

I needed yesterday to adjust to life without goats. I appreciate everyone's sympathy about the situation, but they are in such a great place right now that I can't be too upset about it. And Peggy says I can come visit them anytime. They are her babies now and I'm very happy about that. They are all very personable sweet goats and Peggy is a really wonderful person who will dote on them. worries!

Anyway, it's very quiet here and the sheep are lonely. Which is usually a good thing for sheep. I didn't realize how much of their Dutch courage came from the goats.

Here are a few of my favorite headlines from the local paper's Police and Sheriff's reports.

Mercury and Durango tango

Chevy shellacked by Cadillac

Pony pawned off on neighbor
Horse has taken up residence at a neighbors house and the owner won't come get it.

Driver has trouble adjusting to equinox

You booze you lose your keys
So, this guy is at a motel with this woman. They are drinking and when the guy "wakes up" in the wee hours of the morning, the woman has taken off with his car. He can't remember if he gave her the keys or if she just took off with them.

As Bill Engvall is fond of saying...."Here's your sign."

Thief runs away with jogging pants

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Well, it's been a big day for the goaties. But a very sad one for me.

I said goodbye to my entire herd today. I was able to keep it together pretty much until they were all loaded up--and I've been weeping ever since. The goats have been my little family here, and it's been painful to see the herd broken apart, stolen and not being able to be with my kids. This entire year has been one non-stop ordeal of slander, copyright infringement and harassment. And all of it, completely unwarranted.

But as of today, there is no longer anything keeping me here. My babies are gone. I came here to raise goats. Before I even had goats, I was known as "the goat lady" from the moment I moved here. Goats were what I've always wanted to do.

But what can I say? Life's not fair, the universe is a random bunch of atoms, karma is a fairy tale and God is capricious. When one door closes, you better be wearing boots, because you're going to have to kick your way out of there. But there is one really wonderful silver lining in all of this. The goats found a really soft spot to land.

It's the best possible outcome for the girls and my big snuffly boy. And it's pretty good for you guys too...because the entire herd is at Hidden Haven Homestead. So you can check up on them on Peggy's blog. You'll need to go there for your goat fix. 'Cause all I got is two twisted sheep and a goose.

They were all really happy to be reunited on the day before the move. Peggy's husband William and their hired hand, Larry, came in on Friday night and crashed at my place so they could get an early start. We loaded them up and they were really comfy for the six hour ride. BossyToe was really excited and looked out the window of the camper. I think she would have hung her head out if she had been allowed to. She and Bridey really don't think of themselves as goats, you know. And I'm not entirely sure they are. They are little people running around in goat clothing.

They are with really super people now and completely safe. So--I'm happy.

Anyway, here are a bunch of them....looks like Blanche, Bridey, Sonya and Leonard--piggishly snarfing up cookies and obviously missing me desperately--not.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

One of my old Buzznet buddies, Nashville, took this at the Chattanooga Aquarium at the eel petting exhibit back in 2005. I laugh every time I look at it. I sent it to Dave Barry and he ran it on his blog with Nashville's link. I just had to look at it again.

I'm guessing they had a visit from V-Man.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

I Got Nothin'

I gots nothin’!

Well, almost nothin’.

By this weekend I expect to be goatless. It’s been a long time since I’ve been goatless, but it’s just not safe here for the goaties anymore. I’m keeping the sheep to keep the grass down should it return before the house sells. This should make it easier for me to get the house ready to sell. I’m hoping to be moving by mid to late spring, depending on how fast I can get the house ready. The goats have really been holding me up in that respect.

I’m just tired of being a nervous wreck all of the time about them and not having enough money to fix things so they are safe…so I’m safe. I hate it that I can’t continue my dream here, because I really do love this place and the people here. I’ll just start my dream up somewhere else.

But…I think I’ll always write about this place.

I’ve had my head down polishing “The Ghosts are Dancing”. It's the first piece I've developed completely off the blog. Honestly, I miss doing them here. But I can't if I want them published. I hate that. I think I have two more passes until it’s completely ready to run with the big dogs.

The Ghosts are Dancing

Joel woke up earlier than usual. He felt Trudy’s long braid of red hair tickling his arm. He heard the hard rain on the roof and the plinking of the gutters, like pennies pouring from the sky. He thought about sleeping in, since he couldn’t do anything in such a downpour.

He thought this, but heard the groaning and the popping. It was a sound like no other, like the earth screaming for mercy. First, a sound like a giant chewing tin starting high and raggedly ripping low, then--a sound like a rifle shot. Joel sat up in the bed and strained to hear. The noise made him afraid and he shivered in his bed. He felt like a child, hearing a new sound never heard before, never imagined. The sound made him want to cover his face. The sound made him want to hide.

Joel sat on the side of the bed. He moved Trudy’s hand back under the quilts. Lord, Jesus, he thought, what is going on out there?

Monday, January 07, 2008

Researchy Stuff

I would have liked to have not learned the editing tricks I picked up. I would have liked to have kept plunking away at stories without thought to form. The thing is, I'm just obsessive-compulsive enough to get carried away with it. When I worked in the corporate environment I used to enjoy making forms. I like boring things. I find them relaxing. So now I'm editing. Lots.


I picked up a couple of new story fragments yesterday.

Story Fragment #1: There is a ghost story from around here that involves a headless wagon driver. No one seems to know how he lost his head. I will need to consult with Pastor Jimmy about this. If anyone knows the rest of the story it will be him. I know there are a few Grassy Fork ex-pats who read the blog, so if you remember this hant story from childhood, we would all like to know the rest of the story.

Story Fragment #2: True story. Long ago, a woman gated her four year old child up in a cave. She went by each day and gave it a piece of candy. The child eventually starved to death in the cave. The law found out and the woman went to prison. I need to find this story on my next research trip to the library. Hopefully there will be something in the Plain Talk archives.

Of course, it's a dreadful story. But I need to know why? Even crazy people have reasons for doing such things. Crazy reasons, but I feel I really need to know the crazy reason. And what's up with the candy? This sounds like the premise of an excellent story to me. And I'm already churning things around for it. But first, I need to know what drove this mother to do this. Four years is a bit late for post-partum depression, isn't it?

Sunday, January 06, 2008

They tell me in times gone past that the creeks would freeze solid and stay that way until April. They tell me the snow would fall and stay there for three or more months. This is a creek that children would cross, their legs wrapped in burlap, in midwinter to reach the old Bell Hill school. The beavers have stilled the flow of the water allowing it to freeze over.

We had a few days of being cold and frozen. But it will be in the sixties today and all will be fluid again.

Happy Sunday!

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Photo by Jere Gettle

I love this time of year. It's freezing, but the first signs of spring begin to arrive in the form of seed and hatchery catalogs. Often, I'll sit in front of the wood stove and go through these, thinking of the promise of planting season and what sort of wonderful things I'll plant. I forget the relentless heat, the weeding, the bugs and the black widow spiders that live under my watermelons. Somehow, I manage to put all of that into some repressed memory zone. Every spring is a new spring for Rosie.

It was the handsome squash pictured that brought me to Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. It’s a Galeux D’Eysines. I had forgotten that I had put myself on their mailing list.

I was completely blown away by this catalog. I knew they carried a huge selection of heirlooms, but it didn’t really sink in how extensive a selection they carried until this catalog arrived on Christmas day.

The photography is stunning. The entire catalog is a treat for the eyes. All sorts of rare cultivars are lovingly photographed in startling detail.

There are 13 pages of heirloom tomatoes in all colors, including the rare greens, whites and purples. They have most of the Asian vegetables and edible gourds. More squashes, pumpkins, peppers and interesting vegetables you have never heard of from all over the world. If vegetables aren’t your thing, they also have herbs; medicinal, culinary and I even saw at least one dye herb.

I’m very impressed with them and they seem like good folks, so I thought I’d share them with you. You should request a catalog from them. If you don’t get another seed catalog all year, this is the one to go for. Some of the rare items are limited so it’s a good idea to go ahead and put your order in early.

Friday, January 04, 2008

This is a truly impressive cake with a pleasing and unusual melange of flavors. I've made it in the style that I use for parties which means that the cake shown is about 8 inches tall. You may half the ingredients to make a normal sized cake at home.

I recommend using blood oranges where available. I have cheated a bit on this one by using Duncan Hines Fudge Cake mix for the layers. My mixer has been burned up for some time and I have not yet replaced it. To use the layer cake recipe shown, you will need a mixer. If you wish to use box mix as I did, simply add your instant coffee gradually while mixing the cake.

This looks like a lot of work for this cake, but don't be intimidated by it. I think it will come together quite quickly the second time it is made. The saffron does not add much flavor but imparts intriguing streaks of color to the filling.

Mocha Orange Saffron Party Cake

Orange Saffron Filling

3 cups granulated sugar
12 tablespoons cornstarch

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup cold water

1 cup orange juice + 4 TBSP frozen concentrate--mixed
6 large egg yolks -- beaten

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 cups boiling water

6 tablepoons orange zest

2 pinches saffron

1/2 cup Grande Marnier (optional)

Sift sugar, cornstarch and salt into a medium saucepan. Gradually blend in the cold water, Grande Marnier and orange juice mixed with concentrate. Place saucepan over medium-low and whisk until smooth. Add the eggs and 2 tablespoon butter and blend thoroughly. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon until thickened and add the boiling water. Continue stirring until the mixture reaches the desired thickness, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the orange zest and saffron; cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge to cool.

Notes: Blood oranges are preferred when available. Do not leave this…recipe requires constant stirring.

Cake Layers

3 sticks unsalted butter softened

6 cups sugar

6 eggs

4 teaspoons vanilla extract
8 (1-ounce)squares unsweetened chocolate melted

1/2 cup powdered instant coffee
6 cups flour

6 Teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cup buttermilk
2 2/3 cups boiling water

Preheat oven to 350 F. Prepare 3 9-inch cake pans. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar with an electric mixer on medium speed until fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla and beat until well blended. Add chocolate and beat, gradually adding instant coffee. In a separate bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, and salt. Add to chocolate mixture gradually, alternately with buttermilk. Beat until well blended. With mixer on low speed, add boiling water and beat until smooth. Pour into pans, then bake 35 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans 15 minutes, then up-end onto a cake rack until finished cooling.

Chocolate 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.

Cake Composition

1. First, make and cool the filling.
2. Take cooled cake layers and split in half using a bread knife. This will give you six layers.
3. Place each layer on top of the next with a generous layer of filling.
4. When done, spread the filling over the outside of the cake.

5. Make the frosting and cool until warm. You may have to add extra cream to keep it in a frosting consistency.

6. Ice the cake and decorate with almond slivers.


Thursday, January 03, 2008

I'm just so glad it's over for another year. Yes, the two month ordeal that is the Christmas season. Yes, I know there are lots of people who enjoy it and I'm so glad that you do. It just makes me want to curl up in the fetal position and watch foreign films.

The above picture is of Newport's main Christmas display. It's a plywood sleigh drawn by some plywood reindeer. The big above-the-fold headline a week or so back was when somebody took their 12 gauge and bagged themselves one of the plywood reindeer. It looked to be a heart shot, 'cause it knocked the big faux beastie right over on its side. All was well by the time I drove by and snapped this photo. So, I guess I'm not the only one who gets disgusted this time of year. I do have an alibi, so don't ask.

To make matters worse, one of my main forms of entertainment, reading the police and sheriff report headlines, got fairly tame and boring for about two weeks. I was almost as upset as I was by Jon Stewart being sidelined by the writer's strike. But I think my favorite writer must have just been on vacation. Today I was rewarded with:

Hairdryer thief unable to make dry getaway
Another tragic hairdryer theft related incident.

Why cant we all just get along neck?
Another tragic beer theft related incident.

For a good time, always remember to check the Plain Talk's Police and Sheriff report blotter.

I've had my head down this week editing. Not surprisingly, when you write 9000 words of humorous narrative while watching the cartoon network....about 2500 of those words end up being cut. Lots of nasty "be" verbs to deal with. But, P & D now opens like this:

The traffic zinged by like skeeters on crack. Lucius felt pavement, all grit and tar, under him and rubbed his cheek against his pillow. The remaining teeth in his mouth felt like they wore little sweaters. He smacked his tongue on the roof of his mouth where it stuck to the dryness. Sunlight burned through Lucius’ eyelashes and he blinked to clear the sand sticking them together. He sat up on the verge of the interstate at an exit ramp.

Lying on the ground beside him was his pillow, The Lola Delight Inflatable Pleasure Doll with five convenient orifices. He still did not understand why there were five. Three seemed plenty to him.
And that is surely better than whatever passive nonsense I channeled while watching Adult Swim, though it never seems to flow as nicely as the passive nonsense. The passive nonsense sounds just like I speak but no one is interested in buying that. If you are one of my readers, don't get all excited...none of this is up yet and won't be until I whip it into shape. I need to do this before tackling the conclusion.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Happy New Year!

I hope you all had a safe and happy New Year's Eve last night!

We are expecting some snow today and tomorrow. Me? I'm doing battle with the plumbing.

I will now treat you to my New Year's Day rant on toilets! Yay! Toilets!

I’ve had to replace my toilet guts practically every year here. Now, I remember when I was growing up that the mysteries of the toilet guts, were rarely revealed. That was why when the damn thing overflowed, we ran screaming from the room like anacondas were emerging from the bowl. Of course, the proper response was to open the tank and hold up the float until you could get the supply line cut off.

But, because we never seemed to have many problems that required fiddling with toilet guts, we didn’t know that.

I know way more about toilet guts today than I am comfortable knowing. It’s not that it’s overflowing…it’s the guts themselves. They just don’t make them like they used to. The Fluidmaster ones are always breaking. Cheap plastic crapity, crap, crap, crap……dare I say it…Made in China! Thank goodness I’m not trying to cook with them.

So…they are either running constantly or… when they aren’t doing that, leaking outside of the tank. If by some miracle you actually get it to stop doing both of these things, then you must gingerly approach the commode for it to perform its actual function. Because if you sit on it too hard…it will immediately start leaking or running and there you are for another hour trying to get it to stop.

My goal is to get at least one of them working reliably before attacking the other.

Happy New Year!