30 November 2009


6 November 2009

25 November 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

Turkeys at Border Springs Farm

The turkey is all brined and drying in the fridge which is otherwise crammed full of vegetables awaiting tomorrow's cooking showdown. Kennebek potatoes and Seminole pumpkins are awaiting their demise. Do they realize that the lush soil I gave them this summer was all just a trick?

The last time I cooked Thanksgiving dinner was in 2004 when our friends Kirsty and Daisy came over from Scotland. Kirsty wanted to experience the full-on OTT deal right down to Black Friday at the mall so I gave it to her. (In return she gave me her granny's tablet ("fudge") recipe.) I think we had ten that year, which is a lot for us and our little table. We had all the classic New England fixin's plus certain Southern and Southwestern dishes my guests would have rioted over had they been missing. It was WAY too much food but with four in the kitchen it wasn't too bad for work.

This year it's me and my knife feeding four plus a plate for a neighbor who will be working late at the hospital. Our turkey is an humanely raised heritage breed from Border Springs Farm that spent its' life roosting in a hardwood forest about 30 miles from Stratheden. We've had heritage birds before and woweee.... they taste so much better than the 40 cents a pound stuff at the grocery. It's a real treat! I can't wait to see the smile on our elderly bachelor farmer neighbor's face when he tastes old fashioned turkey.

The menu is as follows:

turkey with bread stuffing
mashed potatoes
pumpkin puree
collard greens
broccoli with feta cheese sauce
cranberry sauce
green chile sauce
home-made chutney
real gravy
buttermilk biscuits
peach pie with custard
chocolate cake

That's right- no pumpkin or pecan pie, no sweet potatoes, no green bean casserole. Darn it, this is MY version of Thanksgiving dinner. If I could get good blueberries we'd be having savoury blueberry muffins too. Martha Stuart and relatives rolling in graves be damned.

Late next week we will be picking up another Thanksgiving treat... We gave our friend Tim hunting rights on our property in return for a deer (or more) a year. He's brought close friends half a dozen times this month and they've shot a few out of our overly-large herds but tonight Tim finally got one. So, we have a young doe aging at the butchers and our neighbor has the hide for tanning.

Indeed, it's a Happy Thanksgiving for us!

Greeeeen Acres is the Place to Beee....

Enjoy this little blast from the past... The very first episode.

23 November 2009


Align Center
Rufus aged 6 months.

22 November 2009

Semi-mum day

Physalis alkekengi (franchetii) Chinese Lanterns

"These plants are often simply called physalis, a name derived from the Greek word for bladder. As a member of the nightshade family, physalis is related to tomatoes, peppers and petunias.

The ribbed, lanternlike bladders are actually enlarged sepals that have fused together to envelop the forming fruit. Tear one open and you will discover the fruit, resembling a cherry tomato. Inside the smooth, shiny skin the thick flesh is embedded with a rich harvest of seeds.

The bright husk guards the fruit as it dehydrates in the fall air. Gradually, it becomes paper thin and begins to break down to a delicate, lacy veiling. When this covering finally rips open, the seeds are sufficiently light and dry to be scattered by the wind."

Thanks to Mad Professor Palmer for taking Mr. Fuzzy's color image and transforming it into a magical monochrome. The farm has other pesky members of the nightshade family, including horse nettles. All are invasive and very difficult to eradicate.

20 November 2009

A Letter fron Your Most Esteemed and Favorite Cat Friend

Greetings, my devoted Public, have you missed me?

Mama says you're both in some far away country so I hope you can still read this. Do they have cats where you are? I hope so. Have you been keeping up with the posts? If you have then that means you know things have gone from bad to worse around here... AGAIN. These humans of mine reeely need to just stop with the adding of animals. (Well, except the chicken idea. I like chicken. Yum! Yum!)

Not ONLY have they brought home ANOTHER dog but they're letting that ugly puppy out of the kitchen to PLAY. Can you imagine?????? We aren't safe hardly ANYWHERE. If those two aren't playing mouthy-mouthy then they're making a racket chewing those stupid bones or -- this is the worst! -- snoring at Mama's feet.

I ain't afraid of those dogs. Nope, no sir, no way.

But I aint stupid either!

That black one likes to play chase and Mama says he's not trying to eat us (Buster and Miss. Lilly say so too) but I jump up and away just so he knows not to do it. I'm not like the others who hiss and swat and throw a fit. Why bother? They're just dumb DOGS! Get up off the floor and they TOTALLY forget you exist. Not like that stupid Girlie Girl who keeps on growling all night after you've walked past her stupid butt! Dogs have NO MEMORY so once you're gone they forget you exist. Mr Tam taught me that and HE'S the SMARTEST CAT I'VE EVER KNOWN! Miss Lilly studied under him before I was ever born and she learned how to not be scared of ANY dumb dog. She'll even sit on a low box and watch the dogs roughhouse for an hour. Lilly is The Coolest! I don't want to get trampled so I stay away unless we're having treat time.
Have I told you about Treat Time? Mama invented it. All we have to do is all show up and whoever is there gets lots and lots and LOTS of treats from the jar. Sometimes we even manage to get our noses into the jar when Mama's not looking and THEN WE PIG OUT! Even the dogs are allowed to have treats at treat time.... though we make Mama put the puppy in the kitchen and that new little one has to stay further away. EVERYBODY loves treat time. Except Girlie, but she's a (Sorry, Mama made me delete that word.) All we have to do to get the treats is not hiss or growl. I know it's a total bribe but, hey, it's TREATS.

Oh, yeah, and the other thing that happened is that Mama changed our kibbles so we get junk food ALL the time now, not just when we run out of the fancy stuff and Mama stops at the grocery for something to tide us over until the Hippie Store gets the other food in again. The babies had some tummy trouble so we can't have food with fish guts in it any more. :( I liked the fishy food! The good news is they are feeling all better now so my little students can study with me again. Buster and Ann are taking lessons from me on how to be therapy cats. They're pretty darn good already! Figures.... they're the same kind of color as me. ORANGE CAT'S ARE THE BEST!

OK, this is getting long now. I have so much to tell you but it's fall and that means we're having to keep the neighborhood clear of evil mice. Some of the neighbors don't have cats so we go to there houses and kill the mice there too. Mr. Harmon is nice and doesn't have a dog so Jack goes there a lot and I go all the way to the end of the road and help out because their cat died a few weeks ago. It's a LOOONG walk so I'm pretty tired after my twice daily patrols. that's why I haven't written in so long. The good news is we've been successful- no mice in the house AT ALL so far!

Hope you're having fun wherever you are.


Dr. Chetworth
Chief Therapist, Stratheden Farm

PS- Here's a picture of the last mouse we let Mama catch. Now we just dispatch them in the field because there are so many we don't have to share any more.

18 November 2009

The Changing Seasons

Have you ever noticed that your pets- especially cats - change their personalities with the seasons? I don't just mean the way they disdain sleeping with you in warm weather and consider your head the best bed in January... but the wholesale change that goes on with these curious creatures.

All summer we've been little more than the hands that turn the door knob to our six adult cats. We've gotten hardly a sideways glance from four of them since warm weather settled in for the summer. Even our sweet Jack Tar has been less than cuddly. But now...

It's the season for love. Chetworth comes looking for a head rub, Lilly and Jack jump into our laps for a good wash and nap, Grover insists upon being picked up, and MamaCat has suddenly taken to dancing and singing for us. She's even started letting us pet her again!

That's right... MamaCat, our semi-feral lady who hides from everyone and every thing, has suddenly decided she likes head rubs. May I remind you that this is the cat I haven't been able to touch at all for at least eight months despite feeding her for three years?

So, despite heading into the season when we can't turn over in bed for the 100 pounds of cat that suddenly appears with the cold I'm happy. My kitties are all getting along and they're all telling me they love us. Even MamaCat.

17 November 2009

Whither the weather?

Once again, the mountain weather has proven 'versatile.' After three sunny days 70F, it is back to fog and cool. The high today was 45F. Perfect for all of the deer hunters in this part of Virginia, which is fairly over run by the deer. Two friends have collided with deer in the last week... the most expensive way to bag a buck if I so myself.

Disclaimer: this image was made along the Blue Ridge Parkway, not on Stratheden farm. Looking at it carefully, mayhaps we were magically transported back to bonnie Scotland for a few miles.

16 November 2009


Chetworth & Buster
Yes, that's a 7 month-old kitten in front!

15 November 2009


You would be hard pressed to recognize Hodge the Porch Cat now. Since he arrived in a dangerously emaciated state last August, the farm life and good cooking have aided in his recovery. He was so starved when he arrived that I wondered if he would live more than a few days. Now he's a stocky, strong laddie.

He has been neutered and is ready to be adopted (yes, he is an official foster cat of the Humane Society). Hodge wants to be indoors and never far from a human who can love on him. When we open the front door, he immediately starts to make muffins, he is so happy to see us. It will not be easy to seem him leave one day.

14 November 2009

Floyd signs

Checkerboard at the barber shop

Sign in front of the Floyd Country Store

at the Bookstore and coffee house

11 November 2009

Veterans' Parade

Last Sunday the queue order was begun a couple of hours before the 30 minute parade. There were drill teams, bands, tractor clubs, girl and boy scouts, veterans groups, civic groups, emergency responders - you get the idea - a lot to organize. The line was three city blocks long and did not include the motor cycle groups.

As in any self-respecting Veterans' day parade, it began with the Cadet Corps in their crisply ironed brilliant white trousers.

There was a marching unit of World War II veterans and I am most pleased to report a rolling peal of applause followed them down the street. Floyd has not forgotten their sacrifices.

Nor have they forgotten their fallen comrades; the only float I have ever seen which commemorated those killed in action followed the veterans. Most men respectfully removed their hats as it passed by.

You could not have asked for better weather for a parade- it was brilliant sun, about 70 degrees and perfectly still. Hard to believe it was November (today it has rained 2 inches and the high was 44F, more typically November).

The Humane Society volunteers walked with (or carried) their foster dogs, hoping to find good homes for these deserving canines.

09 November 2009


9:30 pm
5 November 2009

08 November 2009


Rocky when Mr. Fuzzy first glimpsed his strong visage...

07 November 2009

news flash!

As of noon today, the menagerie at Stratheden Farm now includes one more canine: "Rocky" also know as "Spud." He is maybe 18 months old, calm, gentle, loving, friendly, not perturbed by traffic (in scenic downtown Floyd) or cats. He more or less understands walking on a leash and thoroughly grasps the purpose of a sidewalk. Car rides are great fun. Mostly he just want to be loved.

He seems fine loose in the house - which is still more than we can say for six month old Rufus. Girlie, Lilly and Buster are untroubled by being a few feet away from him - and he has no aggression toward them. While we ate our lunch of grilled cheese sandwiches (on Mrs. Fuzzy's home baked rye bread), he just laid at our feet under the table. It is as if he has always been here.

Rocky has an oversize head, svelte tiny waist and short little legs. His coat is a really deeply colored brindle with dashes and splashes of white. He looks like a dog right out of a Hogarth engraving.

05 November 2009

Raccoon Balls

Just a quiz - do you remember my post about the raccoons trashing my shop a couple of weeks ago? The cleanup process is ongoing. The little blighters opened every box that their little fingers could manage and among other items, they dumped a couple of hundred lead balls on the floor, of several sizes (i.e., sorting them out must be executed with a micrometer in hand).

It is hard to imagine just what constitutes raccoon logic but they 'test bit' about 50-75 of those lead balls. As you know, pure lead is fairly soft... and they left their little tooth marks pressed into those balls.. Those balls are now useless and will be melted and re-cast.

As a final act of cleaning and re-ordering the shop, the cat door which had been installed for the convenience of our cat herd is now boarded up by 1/4 inch plywood. Sorry cats, I'll miss your company.

What a week...

Last week, most precious readers, was, well, one that won't repeat anytime soon, with luck.

Our water pressure had been irregular for months and with our erstwhile plumber, Bill of Appalachian Plumbing here for another issue, we asked him about it. His best guess was that the pump was wearing out. As it evolved, he was prophetic - in another hour, it died for good. In the state of perpetual and delusional optimism, we hoped it would miraculously come back to life but by nightfall, we knew in our hearts (and wallets) that it was not to be.

Bill came by the next day and confirmed that the relays and other parts of the system were not the problem. He came back with an assistant to pull the pump but with the weight of 420 feet of water filled pipe, they could not lift it. The local well man was summoned but bowed out - he had the flu. The next closest well service was 35 miles away and responded they would come the next afternoon... but their previous task proved more of a challenge than estimated and they did not arrive until Thursday. By sunset Thursday, we had running water once more - and a $3,000 bill, sigh.

Among other discoveries during the process: (1) the pump was sitting on the well bottom and that explained why so much particulate matter clogged the filter, (2) the fittings were galvanized rather than brass, a health-hazard, (3) there were no torque mounts on the pump so every time it came on, the torque caused it to beat itself against the well pipe, (4) the pressure tank in the house was about half the size it should be and thus the pump came on more frequently. Like almost everything else about this house, the original work was substandard. It leaves us to speculate what the next failure will be and the cost of repairing it correctly.

We thank our most marvelous neighbors, John & Nettie and George & Maureen for filling up our water containers for four days and allowing us to use their shower. The bad news is the house is poorly made; the good news is that we have the finest neighbors that can be imagined.

02 November 2009


Vesuvius, VA
31 October 2009