27 September 2009


The same weather situation which has caused so much flooding in Alabama and Georgia was manifested here by static conditions. Yesterday the farm received nearly two inches of rain - the day began with a dense fog which very slowly became a Scottish mist, then a light drizzle, next a rain and then nearly a downpour which continued into the dark hours of the evening. Below is an image of yesterday morning's fog.

Today, after more than a fortnight of foggy mornings (in some cases, entire 24 hour periods), the sun has broken through and its a glorious day with scattered cumulus clouds interspersed with that autumnal blue sky. The air feels clean and fresh with a gusty wind from the SSW. This is the first noticeable breeze in a fortnight as well, perhaps blowing in autumn if the weather forecast can be relied on (my Grandpappy said "they wuz two kinds of fools, the plain ordinary sort, and the ones what believed a five day forecast."). We'll just have to live until tomorrow and see for ourselves.

24 September 2009

Autumn ?

It has been an odd day, meteorologically speaking. A fog began late last eve and fortified itself throughout the wee hours before the morn. By 7:00 a.m., visibility was but 20 feet. Unlike many a fog here, it dissipated almost instantly when struck by the rising sun. The morn was now clear as a bell with near perfect visibility. At last, after days (eleven?) of clouds, a more typical sun and blue sky of autumn, expected for this time of year.

With the sun to aid warming, the temperature rose to an unseasonable 81F for perhaps a few minutes and then began a slow decline just as a few very dark clouds began to form in early afternoon. Soon, like a union, they demonstrated that strength is derived from numbers and a mist evolved into a light rain for several hours.

Now it is overcast and in the high 60s.

Some trees have turned their lusty fall colours but the vast majority have clung to their leaves yet green. Nonetheless, in the last day the walnut trees have begun to yield their bounty to the forces of gravity. Is it autumn or not, I ask you?

20 September 2009

fog and mist

It is now, beyond any shadow of a doubt, autumn. In conversation with several folks yesterday, it was conceded that this was one of the earliest autumns in recent memory. The fog has lain almost without interruption for four days; I never tire of its beautiful effect on the countryside. On Saturday, trees with yellow leaves where shedding them rapidly on the slightest air movements. Today the fog is so thick as to not be as photogenic.

17 September 2009

Update on We Cats

Sorry I've not written to you for a while. Mommy has had me grounded for ages JUST because I wouldn't come inside before dark and only then after she'd chased me around the whole farm and then I'd saunter inside using only the office door. It wasn't so bad.

Mama shut me up in her studio where I got the cat tree all to myself and there weren't any annoying little cats to annoy me and no horrible adult cats to chase and insult me. But without any trees to climb, moles to hunt, or internet to surf I did get kind of bored. Yeah. That's right. She took away my Animal Planet.com MEANIE!!!

Then she let me out again for a week or so and then we ALL got LOCKED UP when that awful new cat... Hodge, Podge, Hoagie, Baloney... whatever his name is... showed up. Daddy says it's because that cat looked very ill and might make us sick and DIE. I'd believe it. I've never seen a cat THAT skinny. Now he's all fat and smug and won't leave the porch no matter how much we hiss at him.

Did I say "we"? I didn't get to tell you that news did I? Stupid Mommy only gave me computer privileges yesterday so i couldn't tell you before. Anyway, since we've all been cooped up inside we've had to call a truce, us cats. Then Mommy started giving us treats (God's gift to cats!!!!!!!) just for being in the same room together so i decided this was pretty cool and I quit hissing at the babies. They're still officially horrible but they know the string game and let me take my preferred place on the bed when I want it AND they know that I am King of the Bath Mat. So it's good.

We're friends now. Fred is my protege and so is Buster. I finally got back at Girlie for being SO MEAN to me... Me and Grover finally ran her off for good the other day. Mommy and Daddy are pretty sure she's just gone to live under the workshop... that's our Switzerland... and she can stay there!!!

Gotta go.... it's laundry folding time!

15 September 2009

"Recipes are Common Property"

The kind lady who owns the Bobcat Bite in Santa Fe once said that to me when I asked for one of her signature recipes... "The World's Best Cole Slaw." You can have it too if you buy the book Hamburger America. (FYI Order the pork chops or the chilli if you want to look like a local.)

Now what was I saying??? Oh yes, recipes and cooking... my current occupation and lifelong obsession.

Laussanne, I bought the only dehydrator available in Floyd. It's a Back to Basics brand one and it does a pretty good job. It drys at 120 degrees F. more or less. Apples take about 12 hours with the humidity we've been having. Maybe next year I'll get a big fancy machine after I make Mr. Fuzzy do too much research on the things. They're bloody expensive!

Language Wench, you know I'd never deny you a good thing, so here's the recipe for Grammie Starbird's Vegetable Relish.

3 1/2 med-lg onions
1 small cabbage
5 large green tomatoes
6 green peppers
3 sweet red peppers
1/4 C pickling salt
3 C sugar
1 Tbsp mustard seed
1/2 T celery seed
7/8 tsp turmeric
2 C cider vinegar
1C water

Chop up the first set of ingredients, sprinkle with the salt, and let stand overnight. Rinse and drain. If you have a meat grinder, grind everything through the coarse plate. Add the 2nd set of ingredients. Boil 5 minutes. Fill hot, sterilized, jars to within 1/4 inch of the rim and process in boiling water 10 minutes + your altitude adjustment. Makes about half a gallon.

Don't do what I just did... forgot the water and vinegar. Now I'll have to try decanting the stuff, cooking it with the vinegar & water, and re-process. oh well. Should have quit the late night processing with the 13 pints of chutney.

13 September 2009

Social Whirl

I feel certain, dearest reader, that you must wonder what there is for the Fuzzys to do when not labouring on the Farm. In fact, you may wonder IF there is anything else here in a county with under 15,000 souls residing therein. Rest assured that although Mr. Fuzzy's hermetic (but not hermeneutic) tendencies are in full spate with no respite in sight, he does like to go into town on occasion for a hot night.

The day began with 8:00 a.m. breakfast at the Cafe with the Humane Society crew who were then reassembling elsewhere to shrink wrap their new 2010 calendar. The middle of the day was slow but the whirlwinds of social gadflying blew in about 5:00 when the Fuzzys took their corn pudding in hand down to the Methodist church where the community organization for our little three-road area was convening their fall picnic. There we spent several hours (until dark) communing with our neighbors and discussing neighborhood issues. The company was enjoyable, food was plentiful and weather delightful. Mr, Fuzzy took two passes at the superlative bundt cake...

Then it was hop into the car and roar through town (speed limit = 25 mph) to the Pine Tavern which was hosting an evening of Vaudeville and burlesque at their pavilion. We missed the first half of the show but the second half was certainly satisfying. The attached image is of the second to last dance. A hot time in a small town indeed. The entire audience was probably less than 50 people, which was under the threshold of agoraphobia for Mr. Fuzzy.

10 September 2009

It's beginning to look a lot like ______

If you said "Christmas," dear reader, your mind was, well, elsewhere. The augurs are all around and about that autumn is rapidly approaching the farm. The days can still be warm (although it struggled to reach 71F on this rather gloomy day) and some nights are rather warm but the smell of autumn is oft in the air of the morn.

The maple and gum trees have been particularly receptive to the suggestion and their leaves are becoming the most fetching colors of yellows, reds and retained greens. Hickory nuts are showering the ground round and about their mother trees (the walnuts, however, stubbornly cling to their branches). These nuts are in great abundance this year, a sure sign say many locals, that the winter promises to be cold.

The apples are gaining a wee blush, signifying their perfect state of maturity for the harvest. Today Mr. Fuzzy picked a half-bushel basket of apples, a half basket of tomatoes from the raised bed garden and another half bushel of tomatoes (red and yet green) from the lower garden. Mrs. Fuzzy required the green tomatoes for a tomato and apple chutney recipe. She has slaved throughout the day, drying and preserving the bounties of the farm for future needs.

Last Sunday, the Fuzzys spent the entire day, 8:00 until 5:00, attentively attending a hunter education class held at the county rescue service building. Neither of us has sat so long in many a year and between the physical inactivity and the constant mental stimulation, we were totally exhausted by nightfall.

09 September 2009

ATTN: Floyd County Readers

Hello local readers!

You may or may not know it but we do a little bit here and there to help out our local humane society. Here's yet another way they're helping YOUR community. Rabies vaccination is the only way to be certain that the disease does not affect your animal or you. Maybe your pet needs his rabies shot or you know someone who does? Please spread the word!


Saturday, Sept 26, 2009 COST: $10

Times and Locations:

Blue Ridge Veterinary Hospital (Floyd)
9am – 12 noon (Dr Thomason)

Animal Care Center (Floyd)
11am – 2pm (Dr McGrath)

Willis Village Mart (Willis)
11am – 3pm (Dr Davieds)

Smith’s Grocery & Hardware (Copper Hill)
12 noon – 2pm (Dr Harris)

Bring prior rabies certificate in order to get 3-yr rabies vaccine
(if no prior certificate, 1-yr vaccine will be given)

Cats must be in a carrier (not loose)

Sponsored by Floyd County Humane Society 745-7207
Call Kathy with questions: 745-5422

07 September 2009

Psst.... I got a Secret!

Well, not really, but it was a good title so I used it.

Your beloved cat lady (you DO love me, don't you?) has at her knee one adorable, month old, black & white, male foster kitty waiting for a spot in the cat shelter. She has also figured out how to have a "channel" for the farm on YouTube. ( "StrathedenFarm" )

You surely know what this this leading to...

Our debut film!

05 September 2009

Putting Up with Us, an update

Mmmm Mmmmm Mmmmm The cupboard is filling up fast but apparently our tastes are a little exotic based on questions we recently received while in Lexington, KY. Since maybe our good friend Baskethilt isn't the only person mystified by our list of preserves, I'll clarify what some of this stuff is.

Boozy Cherries are sweet cherries preserved in port --- a French recipe

Bottled Cherries are sweet cherries, mashed and canned without cooking --- also a French recipe. They have to be kept in the fridge until our cellar is dug.

Clover blossoms are a good tea for cough season. Mr. Fuzzy picked the red clover flowers and I air dried them.

Lilac jelly is made from lilac flowers. It's heartier than you might think and unlike many other flower jellies it doesn't taste like perfume.

Patipan is a kind of yellow fluted summer squash. Apparently there are parts of the country that don't grow them!

Ramp butter is an herb butter made with wild onions.

Rose petal jam is something I fell in love with when I traveled to the Republic of Georgia for music camp. It's best over museli with tart yogurt and lots of nuts and seeds... a winter favorite of mine. The syrup is really just the batch of jam that didn't set up properly.

Dried tomato paste
is a wee experiment suggested my my new favorite kitchen book, Food Drying with an Attitude by Mary T. Bell. Although I love tomato dishes I rarely use even a tiny can of tomato paste before it starts to grow mold in the fridge so I just refrain from all those wonderful beefy,tomatoey, slow braised things I know I'd love. This book shows how to dry tomato sauces for backpacking but I thought.... "hey! Why not dry paste by the tablespoon???" The first drying is complete after a full day and it basically looks like miniature cow turds... but they smell nice.

04 September 2009

Red hots

Here for your viewing pleasure is yesterday's harvest, a cat litter bucket (rather large) holding tomatoes from the raised bed garden and chiles from the lower garden. Most are destined for preserving or drying.

Last night Mr. Fuzzy concocted a curry & rice dinner based around the superb pears gifted to us by Bluebird and a mutsu apple from our own tree. Not so bad but the on-line recipe was quite mild; next time around there will be more curry, a tad of cayenne, more apples, and perhaps a bit of prune.

Yes, dear reader, we are enjoying the fruits of our labours on Stratheden Farm.

03 September 2009

I totally get it now when mothers of young children say they work all day and get nothing done.

I'm taking a much needed break from the kitchen to say "hello, I ain't dead!" So, um, Hello. I'm really very much alive and Mr. Fuzzy doesn't keep me shackled to the canner ALL day. (Just kidding honey.)

Having Young Master Rufus in the kitchen most of the day with me has really created a rhythm to getting things done. In the morning we play games like "down-stay-get treat" and "let's get all worked up and then calm down now." Then Mr. Fuzzy takes the wee lad up to the mailbox to get the mail and we play another round of "sit up vs down" before Rufus curls up in his kennel for a nap.

That's when I cut up vegetables and get the dehydrator humming. With all the moisture in the air these days it only gets a new batch once a day. (We've had several weeks where the low humidity was above 60% and one week where it never dropped below 75% water. Yuck!) When I'm done it's time for lunch which always wakes the dog up.

After lunch and a wee stand on the porch to confirm that the rest of the universe exists I take advantage of afternoon nap time. All eleven animals siesta at the same time so it's quite calm until three or four o'clock. This is when the canner and stove top gets going or I make up things for the freezer.

This year the canner is mostly dealing with fruit while the veggies are being dried. Next year I hope to have things in a more sane order which will allow me to branch out into pressure canning some vegetables. For now, the goal is to just get the food saved in whichever manner is most efficient and tasty. I will be attempting to can some tasty soups, baked beans, cakes, quick bread, and steamed breads once cold weather sets in and I can have the oven on all day.

Yes, you read that right. Canned cake and bread. Look here for the method.

So, back to my day these days. About 4 o'clock the first kitten awakes, comes crying for a cuddle, wakes the dog, and enjoys a game of "sit on the chair and whack the dog" before changing over to a game I call "race for the furthest exit and lie just beyond Rufus' nose." This is repeated five or six times over the next hour depending on the feline boredom level. If I'm smart, all the food is off the table and I'm doing dishes. Rufus is strangely calm if I'm washing up. Otherwise it's a game of tug or taking him down to the garden for an hour or two.

Then it's up again to make dinner followed by more of our morning amusements when Mr. Fuzzy and Rufus have returned from their romp. About 9 o'clock I declare a collapse and go read my herb books. Mr. Fuzzy recently gifted me American Household Botany: A History of Useful Plants, 1620-1900 by Judith Sumner and it's a great read.

That's what I've been up to of recent. Except last week where I got to meet my new (excellent) dentist, get yet another root canal, and discover that I'm exceptionally sensitive to nitrous oxide. I can wholeheartedly recommend the Doctors Huff DDS in Christiansburg, should you be in need of a dentist.

01 September 2009

Tuesdays labours

Well, I fibbed in yesterday's post. We did not pick apples but the fields have been in mowed in preparation for baling and I spent several hours with my favourite weed whacker - a scythe. Its been a couple years since last using it so the first matter was to restore a fine edge with the specialized whet stone (which we just found unpacking a box!). The peening hammer and anvil have yet to be located so the nicks in the blade from Floyd county stones are there for a while.

Mr. Fuzzy mowed about 1/8 of an acre today with the scythe, difficult because it was all on a steep hill, too steep for a tractor and bush hog. Footing was not easy nor working uphill. Nonetheless, some of the lessons on the family farm two score years ago came to mind once the process began in earnest.