31 December 2010

The Hens Speak

Dear reader, let me begin by wishing you a joyful end to the year two thousand ten. It's been a doozie for so many people we know that we are not the least bit sad to bid it adieu. Let us all have a pleasant, healthful, and successful two thousand eleven!

Chetworth has also asked me to extend his thanks to the person or persons who sent him the beautiful wreath for Christmas. Fourteen brains between us and this household still can't figure out who the anonymous sender was. The wreath has been very pretty hanging at the entrance to the drive.

This new year's eve marks the start of a new era for our hennies and roos. You see, the girls told me the other day that they "had had ENOUGH with those greedy, sex-crazed, roosters" and that it was my job to "do something about it" or there would be no peace in the barnyard for me.

No, the roos didn't get the axe even though that is the logical thing to have done. Fortunately for them I promised someone special that I wouldn't do them in since they are rather nice roosters, as roosters go. Anyone want a rooster?

What I did do was create a little bachelor pen for six of the little men. They now have their own coop, roosts, sand bath, and covered area next to the big coop. I managed to put most of the boys in there just about sunset but they flew the fence just to prove a point. Little did they know or remember that there are fixes for that....

About eight o'clock I went out with a wee flashlight and collected them one at a time, climbed over the fence, and clipped their glorious barred wings with my scissors of dismay. Mr. Horace, our red banty frizzled Cochin, did not receive such treatment as he knows he can't fly anyway. Horace was, most sensibly, already cozy in the rooster coop. The girls will be happy.

The hennies do still have two roosters living with them as it was always my intention to only allow those who weren't too aggressive with the girls to live with them once I got it sussed out. Red is a smooth red bantam Cochin who seems pretty laid back. Guido is my pet chicken.... small, hen-pecked, and thoroughly sorry looking... so he gets to stay in the big coop out of pity if nothing else. Everyone seems to treat him like a girl anyway.

The bachelors will live in their little yard for a time while I erect a bit of temporary fencing in the walled garden. If they're going to stay then they can earn their keep by scratching the soil bare of weeds back there.

27 December 2010

A little snow and a lot of wind

In answer to the earnest inquiries of several devoted readers, the snow storm that clobbered the coast just grazed Stratheden Farm. It snowed virtually all day on Christmas, an extremely fine, light, dry snow that barely built up any accumulation. By Monday morning, there was perhaps five inches, six at the outside, laying on the ground.

Along with the clear skies of Monday came winds that were forecast to hit 60 mph. Thankfully those speeds did not materialize here, however, it did gust to 35 mph and it blew all night long, sounding like a freight train speeding past the bedroom window.

Mr. Fuzzy plowed out the driveway today (the first time this winter), a fairly easy task due to the lightness of the snow and only five or six inches depth. He intended to take our friend to scenic downtown Floyd for a good time. Ah, it did seem too easy... our country lane, dirt and about eight feet wide, had a 24" or more drift piled in it, starting almost exactly at the head of our driveway. Alas, it was too deep for the little Ford 1710 to move/remove, and the Fuzzies were stranded at home. The irony is that less than 75 feet away, those same winds that piles the snow in drifts had blown the roadway completely clear, right down to the dirt and gravel. But neither of our 4x4 vehicles could get through the 24" drift to the clear roadbed.

The cats don't mind the cold but nearly all of them intensely dislike the high winds, methinks because they cannot hear an approaching predator. So the cats spent their day in the living room, soaking up the heat from the fireplace.

Post Christmas Pinks

B.B. King explains The Blues on one of his recordings saying, "Some people call them the pinks, the blues, the reds but they're all talkin' about them plain old fashioned Blues." (Or something like that....) Mrs Fuzzy has the pinks because she's feeling mighty green right now. We're thinkin' stomach flu as I can't seem to get or keep anything down.

That's one big suckola because our thoroughly interesting young friend Joseph is here for a visit and I'm stuck up in bed half the day unable to hold a thought for the room spinning. The dogs are happy, though. They get to go between their favorite person and "doctoring" me up on the bed.

25 December 2010

I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas, just like the ones I used to know

This being the third winter the Fuzzies have spent in Floyd County, we have to say that the winters here are every bit as cold and snowy as those we experienced at 7,000' in northern New Mexico. Just as the last of the snow had melted (except for that treacherous 1/2 inch of ice on the steepest part of the driveway), a new snow began in the wee hours of Christmas Day.

Rocky has had enough winter already and spends many of his waking hours baking his behind in front of the fireplace. Some of the fuzzybutts, however, seem to actually enjoy the cold and snow (Grover says it makes the mice easier to track...). Here's a photo of Grover on watch duty a few minutes ago, and a one of the fine snow falling right now.

Merry Christmas to all!

22 December 2010

Gas Pains

Rural living has a set of rules and challenges all of its own. Although we primarily heat the house with wood, a propane system is a necessity for those rare occasions when the Fuzzies are able to travel. It is also the sole heat source for the basement wherein Mr. Fuzzy deigns to post blogs from time to time. He doesn't mind 60F but less than that he finds not suitable to serious contemplation or good work.

When Mr. Fuzzy arrived at Stratheden in December of 2008, he discovered, much to his horror, with a major winter storm bearing down, that the prior owners left the 500 gallon propane tank without a drop, not even enough to keep the pilot light lit on the stove. Thus our first need to source propane was a desperate one (and on a Saturday night at that) so it seemed best to engage the same company that owned the tank since 1991. Although that encounter with them was salutary, more recent dealings left much to be desired, especially with the sense they were price gouging.

As the level of gas dwindled in the tank, thoughts turned to alternatives. We settled on Clark Gas, although headquartered in the count to the south, they maintain a significant office and facilities here in Floyd. After the required credit check, they came out with to exchange the current tank for their tank - and to check the safety of the entire system.

Not to any one's surprise, the manner of hooking the line to the house did not meet code, not now and not when the house was built in 1991. It was, in fact, a blatant safety hazard. So the gents who delivered and installed the tank also had to wrangle the pipeline into compliance. They were knowledgeable, friendly and highly competent - we were most impressed and it reinforced our decision to go with Clark Gas. Howard is an even rarer person than a good gas technician - a left handed writer who writes very neatly. Needless to say, because this is Floyd County, our little paradise, we expected such fine people.

Thanks for the great job, guys.

13 December 2010

Stunningly Frigid Blasts

Ah, devoted readers, we trust that your weather conditions (OK, we know better about Lausanne) are not as brutal as ours. Five of the last seven days have not broken freezing here on the farm; in fact not even gotten close. The high yesterday was 20F and the high today, for perhaps an hour, was 17F. This with winds gusting to 32 mph as measured on our Davis Instruments weather station. The chill factor today has never climbed above 7F.

It snowed some last night put the high winds scoured it from the open ground. I feel great sympathy for the poor cattle who are out in this arctic blast. The deer and other wild animals can at least seek shelter from the quickly fatal winds in the forests, most cattle, however, are in open fields with virtually no cover. I would guess some will lose their ears to frostbite under these conditions.

Last summer bit the financial bullet and replaced all of the windows in the house. The very cheap original windows let air in all around their margins and where the windows met at the lock. They virtually hummed on days like today at the plastic seals vibrated like a kazoo. We were shocked at the cost of quality replacement windows but after two bad winters and high heating bills, it seemed pretty obvious that this could not wait forever. Are we glad now!

Wow, what a difference the new Andersen windows have made in the comfort of the house. Despite the brutal conditions outside, the Century Furnace Fireplace was last filled 24 hours ago and the house is still at 65F on the ground floor. Mrs. Fuzzy will soon re-light it and fill it for what may be a single digit night with chill factors of -10F or worse... and we will be comfortable for a decent interval using the oak Mr. Fuzzy cut from a fallen tree.

Here are two of the new windows. The double window (at top) is in Mrs. Fuzzy's studio and the triple window is in the old master bedroom, on its way to becoming a den eventually. Eric framed both windows and Mr Fuzzy did the finish. The triple window is framed in red oak, a gorgeous local sustainable wood. I hope to trim out the remaining den windows in local quarter sawn rayed white oak.

Stay warm until next time, boys and girls. Remember that you can click on the photograph to enlarge it.

09 December 2010

Apologies for the long gap in posting, dearest readers. Mr. Fuzzy has returned to fill in the blanks - at least for a few posts... he has enjoyed retirement from blogging.

Two years and four days ago, (see blog post Dec. 15, 2008) Miss Lilly and I rolled up to our new abode. The stress of packing was extreme and finding the new digs too dirty to move into was almost too much. I had wrongly assumed that the farm house would have been cleaned professionally before we moved in - instead it was just as the movers had left it a couple of ours before. Worse, with a major winter storm swirling about, I discovered that there was absolutely ZERO propane in the tank and temperatures dropping into the teens with high winds. Oh my goodness, that first weekend sure was a doozy.

Things have settled down some but similarities to that night still remain. Every little bit of work on the house reveals something else not built correctly - or done in the very cheapest manner possible. We've sunk an inordinate amount of money in the house already: the roof needed to be replaced, the shop roof also needed replacement, the well went out and needed extensive repairs due to substandard work, the exterior paint had vanished in many places leaving bare wood - so an immediate repaint was needed to preserve the integrity of the structure... and as an option, we replaced all of the original cheap windows, an expense equal to the cost of roofing - but with recent days not reaching 20F, we are so glad that we bit the bullet on this... the house is amazingly warmer, even on dead still nights.

Do I regret the move? Absolutely not. Do I wish the house was not a money black hole? You betcha.

A trip back to New Mexico recently (subject of the next blog post) was wonderful - and hammered home how glad we are to be right here in paradise, in the Blue Ridge mountains.

16 November 2010

Local Color (?)

I think I have made you wait long enough for the big reveal. The painting is not at all near done and, with a series of storms due over the holiday weekend, it isn't likely to be finished any time soon. The old, poorly applied, white paint is being replaced with a soft green. the trim will remain while, albeit a richer, more interesting, warm white. I suspect that in spring and summer the house will almost disappear when viewed from the hay field.

14 November 2010

No Tellin' What's Up With That One

Mr. Fuzzy likes to accuse me of being addicted to The Machine and Facebook. He may be right but he's more enamored of his computers than I and I can prove it by the number of PayPal lines on my Visa bill. Some days, though, I'm just having too much fun to sit up here in my sunny window seat and fool with the electronic demons. Yesterday was such a day. Didn't get on for even one minute!

I was attending my first meetup of the Old Dominion Blacksmith Association at David Tucciarone's SunRise Forge. About 25 smiths, some younger than me (I think) and a few white-hairs, attended. The group was very welcoming, convivial, and helpful. Usually when I try out these sorts of groups I feel like the one young freak, the one female freak, or an intruder into a private fiefdom. None of that was in evidence... just a bunch of really lovely people who wanted to help each other learn about a craft that all, clearly, loved.

We learned lots of interesting tidbits... beginners and experienced both.... as David demonstrated several easy Christmas gift projects for last minute makers. Projects included a tea towel holder with brass finish on the leaf finial, a double coat hook from an old horse shoe, and a wall sconce with match cup that looked like a little flower. Put your orders in for 2011! I'm psyched up to start making stuff.

PS These aren't my photos. They are by a lovely gentleman by the name of Curt Welch. My battery died.... how typical! Also means no reveal on the color of Stratheden House until tomorrow.

12 November 2010

Bye Bye Whitey!

This is Dave, our new best friend. He's a wonderful guy who moved to Check from DC a few years ago and runs a one-man remodeling & painting company. Mr. Fuzzy was most impressed with the quality of his work when Dave recently painted the Floyd Masonic Lodge so he asked him to come out and give us a quote. Considering it's a big house and the gable ends will require the use of a cherry picker he is very reasonable!

Our house has been plagued by the curse of being the ultimate boring color for far too long so Dave is helping it change it's clothes. The trim will be a more pleasing shade of white. You can see it on the windows in the picture... but in what color have I chosen to dress Stratheden House?

Hmmmmmm....... Maybe I'll tell you tomorrow. Maybe not!

PS that's Dad's flag hanging from the porch. He served in the Army in Germany about 1956-58.

11 November 2010

Armistice Day

Today marks the anniversary of the armistice that ended the War to End All Wars, also known as The Great War or World War One. We are flying my father's boyhood flag in honor of those who served and those who fell.

07 November 2010

Sunday Doings

Today we toddled over to Vesta Fire & Rescue in Meadows of Dan for their annual fundraiser meal & gospel sing. As is usual at these things, the food was lovely and the music simply outstanding! Mr. Fuzzy took photos & videos.... maybe I'll be able to cajole him into uploading some.

06 November 2010

The Sound of Fire, Contained, for Man's Benefit

Yesterday morning we decided it was time to fire up the old furnace now that the weather has turned properly cold. We're due for temps around the high 20's early tomorrow morning.

I am sure you know where we're going with this... no no heat output.

Our heating guy couldn't make it out this weekend and his recommended heating guy hasn't called us back. PANIC! We were worried that the pipes in the mechanical room could freeze.

Then, about 6 PM, Mr. Fuzzy decided to fiddle the system one more time and he got it limping along enough to be confidant about our pipes until the furnace guy can come out and take a good hard look at it. No doubt, at 21 years old, it will need replacing.

05 November 2010

Local Color

True story told to Mr. Fuzzy this week while enjoying (?) plain bologna sandwiches after his Lodge meeting:

About ten years ago, in the next county west of Floyd, there was an elderly man of the storyteller's acquaintance who was pulled over as a part of a sobriety roadblock operation. He, like everyone who happened to be traveling that stretch pf road that night, was stopped and asked to show his "current driver's license." The elderly gentleman said to the policeman, "I don't have one, Sir." To which the policeman said, "Well, then, may I see your expired license?" Again, the elderly man apologized that he had no such thing. The policeman, being a kind person, replied, "When was the last time you had a driver's license?" The elderly man looked at him quite straight faced and said, "I've never had one, Sir!"

Now, Virginia has had a licensing requirement for an awfully long time... even here in the sometimes lawless mountains... but the policeman was really rather intrigued so before taking the obvious course of action he just had to ask, "Why did you never get a license, Sir?" To which the elderly man replied, in that somewhat excited tone of a person who cannot hardly believe the answer wasn't heretofore obvious....

"Well, Sir, I never needed one until tonight!"

And if you don't believe the story to be true just remember..... we PERSONALLY know the woman at the center of the "glitter on the washcloth" e-mail you've all gotten at some point.

04 November 2010


You know, dear friends, I write these things in my sleep then wonder where they've gone to the next morning because I was SURE I'd posted something for you before bed. Oops! I now subscribe to myself using Google Reader just to see if I've really posted.

Autumn is, indeed, upon us. We have had a couple frosts... enough to kill the tender summer plants... and the autumn rains are upon us. This is a good time to be adding ripped newspaper to the compost pile because the rain mashes it down a bit and makes it less likely to blow away later. I don't add it very thickly this time of year because it will become impenetrable and stop the composting process. Come summer, when our black soldier flies are working overtime I'll add heaps of paper as it helps keep the piles dry. BSF composting leads to a LOT of liquid!

Since I'm embarking on a Total Garden Overhaul over the next two years I'll be using all the "non-compostable" sections and Chiristmas catalogs to block weed growth in the paths between beds.

Dear T. I thought of something else to tell you about soaking your oats. It's best to let that happen at room temperature as they will ever so slightly ferment which makes the B vitamins, especially B-12, more available. Also, don't be afraid to soak in more milk or water than you think necessary, the oats will swell and give off its mucilage to fill the allotted liquid. More mucilage = more creaminess.

31 October 2010

Happy Halloween!

Halloween has brought with it a return to autumn weather and fine breezes to rattle the leaves still clinging to our trees in the forest. Most of the color has passed now... just the odd tree here and there. (Though our snowball bushes are still green and lush.) We had our first frost two nights ago... a mere 31 degrees around 6 in the morning. The eggplants are due to meet the compost pile today. Two tomatoes, three rosemary plants, a pot of baby horehound, and eight pepper plants are rooming in the greenhouse over the winter. It always seems happier when there are plants living within, which is why it has a (permanent) resident spearmint plant, too.

28 October 2010

Autumn Greenhouse

Well, yesterday was another good day for gardening. A little rain in the morning followed by a warm and bright afternoon. I dug up eight pepper plants and two tomatoes and my friend Judy helped me lug them into the greenhouse where I potted them up for overwintering. This is a technique I read about on a wonderful foodie blog called Hunter Angler Gardener Cook. You can go straight to the pepper post here.

Still no killing frost. We're expecting one tomorrow or Saturday. Guess that means I need to get the door back on the greenhouse.

26 October 2010

Dear Anon.

One third to one half cup of oats. You aren't baking so it's not the least bit exact.

Life on the farm is slowing down nicely. We've been all over God's Green Earth of late so it's a true pleasure to be able to sleep until the roosters crow (7:30 AM) and watch the mist roll into our little holler. The banties and Sal are gifting us two or three little eggs a day. I can't tell if the big girls are laying yet. I might have to trim their wings and confine them to the run to force their bluff. Someone told me to confine them until late morning then let them out so they'll run to their nests. ... But I notice the banties prefer to lay in the late afternoon so that might not work. So much for what the experts say!

22 October 2010

What's Cookin? ... Oatmeal

I'm reviving my occasional series of recipes for my old friend JCL from another blog. So they are all here (all the ones worth eating, anyway) I'll occasionally cheat and import an old one... like my oatmeal recipe.

It's confession time. I hated all cooked cereals right up until I lived in Scotland. Even in summer, Scotland is cold and a bowl of hot, creamy oatmeal in the morning does more to keep a body warm than any volume of hot tea. Unfortunately, Americans can't buy truly fresh porridge oats. Our choices, even the imported varieties, need an extra whollop of help.

When buying oats for porridge, buy the brand that most looks like a 'meal.' It should look like coarsely ground grain, not flakes or hard little chunklets. (Those have other uses.) Our favorite variety is Bob's Red Mill Scottish Oatmeal which is the real deal; stone ground in a real water mill. I'm still trying to find out whose. (I have my suspicions!)

The following recipe is as good for dinner on a lazy evening as it is for breakfast on a cold morning. You will not feel snackey after even a small bowl!

1 cup oatmeal
3 cups water
pinch salt
flax seeds
dried cherries

Into a 1 1/2 quart sized pot, place your carefully measured oats and a three-fingered pinch of salt. Now take a big handful of walnuts and break them up a bit. Toss into the pot. Throw in the same volume of raisins but be sure they aren't just a big lump. Measure your flax by thinly covering the surface of the oats. Finally, add cold water. Turn the heat on under your ugly gruel. Medium-low is best. Never stop stirring... slowly... until your oatmeal is thickened. Oats are done when the bubbles are thick and leave a hole when they pop.

Do not believe the package when it says to add oats to boiling water. You will spend all your time breaking up lumps and think making good porridge is difficult. Good porridge is brain-dead work.

Now pour into bowls... this makes two large servings or three regular ones... and add sweetener to taste. I like brown sugar or mesquite honey while Mr. Fuzzy likes sorghum molasses. Next, add milk to bring the consistency back to smooth and a bit runny. Finally, top with a handful of dried cherries.

Eat and have a happy tummy!

Variations: Substitute pecans for the walnuts or dried cranberries for the cherries. Or go overboard and use all of the above. If you're able to plan ahead make the Rolls Royce of porridge and soak the oats overnight in 1 1/2 cups milk.

Final tip:
if you've added too much water don't worry. Porridge is one of those foods that was traditionally "kept on the fire." Just keep cooking, gently, until the correct consistency is reached. You almost can't add too much water at the start! If you make too much put it in the fridge, add more water, and cook slowly until it's porridge again.

18 October 2010

Was That a Vacation?

As some of you, dear readers, know the Fuzzys have been traveling again. Mrs Fuzzy attended a small conference in rural Kentucky after delivering Lady Mae to her new owner. From there she stayed with two sets of friends and met up with Mr Fuzzy at Wilderness Road State Park for their fall festival "reenactment." Much (too much?) good food and Much (never too much!) good companionship was had. From there we had two days to reorganize before driving to north Florida to the excruciatingly chi-chi Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island Resort Hotel for a conference Mr. Fuzzy was attending. For now, let us say that we have both come away with the feeling that the super wealthy have no clue about the world.

Now we are home. The chickens are still laying. Life bodes well except for some potty issues with one or more of the cats. I'll be up to my elbows cleaning for a few days with the big surprise we found in the basement. One of the pitfalls of having a big cat colony is they sometimes get upset with each other and it is we humans who pay the price.

I'm trying to keep a positive outlook..... but it's kinda stinky down there. Maybe you all can encourage Mr. Fuzzy to cook for me all week?

12 October 2010


The hens came "into lay" about 2 weeks ago and we're getting about three a day right now. They're cute little pullet eggs, X Small, but the yolks are bright orange like proper eggs ought to be. Yesterday, I stalked Salvadora, our mini hen, until she laid her egg in the coop and was surprised to discover that hers are the same size as the standard hens'! Sal's eggs are the very palest buff color while the rest are light brown so when someone goes broody I'll be able to select for more Seabrights! They're really neat birds.

05 October 2010

"Sustainable" One Horsepower Motor

These folks are from near London, KY and they've brought back the horse treadmill for powering everything from refrigerators to wood splitters. The horses were in the most incredible shape I've ever seen. Turns out their main clients are veterinary schools and racing stables. The work ratios are, apparently, ideal for even development and rehabilitation.

I'd give you a link but, well, ehm... yeah. Menonite, I think.

04 October 2010

No Place Like Home c. 1810

Blue Ridge Institute
Ferrum College, VA

So what's up with all these pictures by Mrs. Fuzzy instead of windy posts, eh? She's on the road for a bit but wanted to keep you all entertained. Don't you just love how this old cabin looks like a prototype for an emoticon?

Or maybe it's just all in Mrs. Fuzzy's head.

03 October 2010

"Chester? I'm bored."

'Show' horses. Southern Draft Animal Days Ferrum, VA

02 October 2010

Mooove over, I want to take a nap!

Ferrum College, VA

01 October 2010

"Be Polite"

Rufus hears that a lot around food. I don't remember what had been in this pie plate when I told Rufie to "hoover" it but he sure liked it. I think it may have been apple & raisin conserve. Few things rate above sugar, after all.

30 September 2010

Now Ain't That Cute

The art studio is very nearly finished after 18 months of frustration. No more carpet, newly painted walls, almost no chaos, new windows & trim. We've still got a little work with putting in a cork floor, baseboards, creating a quilt wall, and hanging a few Kerik Kouklas and Tillman Crane photographs for inspiration but it's all nice and peaceful in here now.

Rocky agrees with me.

29 September 2010


Blue Ridge Institute
Ferrum College, VA

So what's up with all these pictures by Mrs. Fuzzy instead of windy posts, eh? She's on the road for a bit but wanted to keep you all entertained. Don't you just love how this old cabin looks like a prototype for an emoticon?

Or maybe it's just all in Mrs. Fuzzy's head.


... it's something we haven't seen in a while but we've had it in abundance this week. Starting at 1 AM Sunday, in fact! Sunday saw an inch fall with no runoff. Monday gave us another and some gorgeous fogs. (Now where did I leave my camera?????)

The humans and the plants are all extremely happy with this much needed gift!

28 September 2010

Friends are the Sweetest Fruit

After canning the meat yesterday I visited our neighbor, Bachelor Farmer. When my cooking mojo is good I like to take him some of what I cook. I really like the guy. He comes off crotchety to a lot of people but we've grown sweet on him, and he on us, it seems. We went out to his yard, behind the old home place, and gathered chestnuts while talking about old foodways, people way up north, and "a whole lot of nuthin'" as he would say. It was a thoroughly pleasant afternoon. I also gathered a few fallen pears to eat fresh. Hopefully I'll get a chance to go over with a ladder and pick slightly green ones for putting up.

One thing I especially enjoy is his love of us far northerners. He lived amongst us for many years and understands that those people in the Really North North (where virtually all of America is to the south) aren't so different than folks around here.

27 September 2010

Canned Meat

Back in the spring I had Mr. Fuzzy bring home a proper country ham from the Moonlight Bar-B-Que in Owensboro, KY. We were going to share it with company (soon) but we never could quite get things under control so it hung in the cool basement for six months. Last week or so I finally gave up and baked it for us as the mold layer (completely normal) was starting to bother Mr. Fuzzy's allergies.

Consulting my old time recipes, I baked it with water in the pan and it was pretty good. One of the great features of these things is they have so much salt in them that it's perfectly safe to leave one in the fridge for a month of nibbling. Unfortunately it turned into a brick upon cooling. Neither of us dared cut into it for fear of goring ourselves with a slipped knife. That wouldn't have been fun.

Yesterday, though, I hit upon the solution.... it went into the pressure cooker for a few hours along with some lightly spiced water. When it emerged a few hours later it was like the finest pot roast you've ever seen. This morning I warmed it up again and canned most of it for later when we want a "convenience meal." The meat is, of course, packed in red eye gravy.

We have 7 pints and 2 quarts sitting in the pantry now. Mmmmm!

26 September 2010

Scottish-American Pride

My friend Em posted this picture on her Facebook page. It was taken at the Carroll County (agricultural) Fair, which is was this weekend. Floyd is largely German but the surrounding counties have more Scottish and Scots-Irish ancestry. As you can see, some food preferences may be hard-wired in the genetic code of various ethnic groups.

I am told it was a popular concession.

25 September 2010


Blue Ridge Institute at Ferrum College, VA

24 September 2010

Has It Really Been FIVE Days?

Dear P.J.,

I believe in setting goals well in excess of my abilities. I'm still having trouble uploading videos to YouTube so please enjoy this official one from the Southern Draft Animals Days, which we attended last weekend.


I've been a bit crazy running about getting things done this week. We're involved in several different (wildly so) events over the next month and I've got to get a whole lot of autumnal stuff completed before I head off for the first of them next week. Mr. Fuzzy always does a great job caring for the animals when I'm away but I do always hope to get things set up so it isn't total chaos for him. (See statement above.)

One of those "things" is canning, drying, and freezing bushels of late season produce. Our friend Bluebird gave us nearly 2 bushels of apples which I'm turning into sauce, chutneys and hot pickle. Then there's the miracle of the aubergines going on outside. We now have half a gallon of dried fruit. Doing all this in the house is rather a lousy proposition. The canner takes up half the stove and it's STILL in the low 80's here. So, I built a version of my friend Bob's 'movable' canning station using 6 dozen bricks and an old grate from a dead BBQ I spotted by the dumpsters. Works great, we burn the trash wood, and I get to play with fire.

Our wonderfully cranky, bachelor farmer neighbor has unexpectedly given us permission to pick fruit on his property, so I'll need to get that done and dealt with too. He has the best pears!

19 September 2010

Wendell Berry

Last evening we went down to hear Wendell Berry speak at Ferrum College. (Mr. Fuzzy took pictures to be posted, I hope, soon.)

Mostly he read a lovely parable set at the end of the days of using draft animals for farming but he did take a few questions at the end. One of those was about"greenwashing" and "sustainable living." His remarks were kind, humble and yet forceful. He said a lot of interesting and useful things in his short response but mostly he came back to one thing in many ways... we need to get back to living in communities where people don't move out all the time. Urban or rural, that's where it starts... knowing and relying on the people on the other side of the fence.

We were both impressed... Mr. Berry is the first person, not already a friend, that did not shatter my admiration with unwise words or actions. The statement that most impressed me was this:

"What we need is more hypocrisy."

We don't always have to say what's on our mind, to 'share', and 'be real.' Sometimes we need to just be quiet and let others live their lives and be kind, neighborly, about letting them. Imagine giving yourself permission to lie just a little to keep the bearings on the contraption we call community well greased. Learn to be a good host, a good guest, and a good neighbor. The more I think about it, the more I think he's right.

18 September 2010


It seems I've not posted anything for three days.
Naughty me... My goal was to write every day.

One of the benefits of Floyd being a tourist destination is you sometimes stumble upon neat stuff... especially old cars. Southerners (Easterners?) love their vehicles and take such inordinate pride in them. After living most of my life in the desert southwest it boggles my mind that folks around here see cars... even ultra dull Carollas like my old one... as more than a way to transport heavy objects. They love them. They spend money for specialty plates with vanity registrations. I will never quite understand.

These were in the lot of our favorite local restaurant, The Pine Tavern, last week. Just a bunch of North Carolina Chevy enthusiasts up for a little ride... who decided to take their cars to a restaurant that remembers when those old Chevies were new. Mr. Fuzzy was musing that only "whitehairs and retired executives can afford the time and money to properly restore such beauties." And, yeah, all the drivers 'what had hair' had no color left.

15 September 2010

Eating Aubergines

I still like the word.

This is for my Etsy friend AMK who asked what to do with eggplants. They're a lot like squashes and usually about as flavorful (or not.) If you've got a favorite recipe you could try substitution. Your dish will turn out differently but it's one place to start. The long ones are often sold as baby eggplants at farmer's markets. Like all baby veggies they're super tender but not as flavorful as the more mature fruit.

We Fuzzys like our food fairly simple. Eggplant sliced and lightly coated in olive or sunflower oil, sprinkled with salt and pepper then grilled on the barbeque is a favorite. Don't try this approach with an out-of-season specimen as you won't get any flavor if it wasn't there to beginning.

A second approach is to fry them southern style. This works for practically any vegetable and your husband and kids will even eat sweet potatoes done this way. Mr. Fuzzy does, at least. Slice the eggplants about 1/4 inch thick, toss them in buttermilk, and then dredge in fine cornmeal. You can add salt, pepper, and herbs to the meal if you like but it's not required. (We like tarragon in ours.) Fry in hot oil... olive, canola, sunflower-- whatever you prefer ... until they start to brown, then turn and finish. You'll need about half an inch of oil.

Finally, you can hide the things in any tomato based sauce. I dry our excess, turn it into a powder, and use it in winter sauces.

PS- If you have a negative reaction to the solanine in the skin soak the sliced eggplant in salted water for 15 minutes or so. The offending chemical will be neutralized.

14 September 2010

Aubergine is Such a Lovely Word

Aubergines ("eggplants" in American English) are one of those vegetables that are a bit tricky to grow around here. You have to start them indoors like tomatoes but the flea beetles seem to kill them before they're six inches tall. So, for the second year running I went out and bought a couple four-packs at our local garden center. As before, it was the end of the seedling season there, the plants looked neglected and were missing their labels or had two different ones inserted. Par for the course once the little things get discounted.

So, I took them home, interplanted them with dill and my baby asparagus plants and promptly forgot them. The flea beetles have pricked holes in every leaf... really quite beautiful in their perfect distribution... but the plants have flowered and set fruit! Here is a photograph from today's picking. Most will be dried for winter. Looks like I got some sort of standard aubergine and a ping tung long. Sweet!

11 September 2010

Harvest Festival

Mr. Fuzzy went into town this morning and came back with the report of "no parking whatsoever." Hmmmm? A Saturday in high summer with all the tourists gawking at novelties like non-chain hardware stores is one thing but after Labor Day??? Since I'm more willing (than he is) to walk a distance to procure good things from our wee farm market I decided to venture into the fray anyway.

Turns out this was the day for our "county fair" ... such as it is. This year it was all over town and, I hear, there were even a few animal exhibits. It certainly brought the people out enough to make today a bumper day for the regular marketers. Rocky and I bought bio-dynamic greens, lettuce, cheese, tomatoes and peppers. We passed on the organic beef and pork as I already have some in the freezer. We can buy Highland beef at the local stores any day of the week.

Our marketing done, Rocky got to take a nap in the car while I went up to Blackwater Loft, our local coffee shop, to get a tea and thirty pounds of used grounds and banana peels for the garden. The same folks have a roasting business called Red Rooster Coffee Roaster downstairs. They decorated their window most beautifully for the festival but the roasting machine inside was the best part.

10 September 2010

A Nice Change

The last few weeks have seen our home sent into complete disarray again... this time, though, there's something to show for it! Mr. Fuzzy decided it was time to undertake project number three from our home energy audit. (Project One was taking the vent covers off our "AC vents" so the heat pump could work. Project Two was throwing a plastic cover and some insulation over the whole house fan for the winter.)

Project Three was to replace all the windows in the house. That's right.... we had our Realtor/contractor/handyman friend Eric Johnson (with help from his son & Mr. Fuzzy) take out and replace 22 single windows and put in three completely new triple window units. Not only are our windows super tight now (no more candles blowing out in the dining room come January's storms!) but our views are much improved.

So is the trim work. My study was the first to get trimmed and it's so much lovelier a place to be in now. ... so long as you don't look behind you at the pile of stuff that needs dealt with or the half removed carpet because there's no place to move it all out to first.

If you do not remember the, erm, basic trim work in Casa de Fuzzy here's a little reminder.


09 September 2010

Changes in Town

I forgot you, gentle readers, in tumbling about my business yesterday. I was working on a post in the morning with a bit of video of Stratheden Orchard's newest residents... not ones that we sought out, I might add! Sadly, YouTube seems to be glitchy of late so I wasn't able to upload and post it to you. Perhaps tomorrow.

Today I have for you some pictures of what greeted my eyes (and ears) in the grocery store the other night. Despite being only six years old, our Food Lion is getting a complete makeover. The Roanoke district has a large number of older stores that need tarting up so we benefit by it too. No doubt prices will go up... but that's just what happens so I suppose there's no point in getting upset about it. (Personally, I rather like our basic looking store.)

We're also getting another pharmacy in the deal. The Floyd Pharmacy is where we will continue to do our regular business. It's locally owned by a thoughtful pharmacist, has great staff, and reasonable prices. However, a lot of people here opt to use the chain pharmacies in Christiansburg or even Roanoke because Mr. Fetko isn't open all hours. My hope, and I imagine the grocery store's too, is that a good portion of that 'away' business will return to Floyd.

I truly doubt it'll hurt the local place... he writes more scripts in a week than many of the chain locations.

07 September 2010

Digging Season

I love digging season! The Growing Season doesn't show off my best gardening skills but they do shine in Digging Season. With the advent of this cooler weather of early autumn (thanks, Earl!) I'm tackling those pre-winter chores that are just too strenuous for the sticky days of summer. My one real summer gardening skill is building compost piles.

The first of these jobs was to feed and mulch the fruit trees my friend L. and I planted this spring. After a summer of radio and news stories about the environment, gardening, and what we've done for our soil... especially this recent one about the benefits of organic agriculture... I decided the idea of feeding my trees with little granules of mystery chemistry was off the books. Instead, I raided my summer compost pile and dumped three buckets of rough compost around each tree.

This should, I hope, feed the trees and start to kill (by light suppression) the grass around them. I used 6" tall hoops of wire garden mesh (formerly imprisoning our dwarf apples) to contain the compost on that very windy slope. Around the cage I used splits of lovely rotting rye straw to keep the grass down and make it easier for Mr. Fuzzy to mow neatly forevermore.

: D

06 September 2010

More About My Bugs

Dear Reader,

I do hope you're not squeamish about bugs because the more I read about Black Soldier Flies the more excited I get about their benefits. And since I'm determined to write to you nearly every day about something you're going to receive the harvest of tidbits I've gleaned.

BSF have been studied as an option for dealing with the massive amounts of manure from large pork and poultry operations. It seems the folks who run these places have learned that those giant manure piles are poisoning the watershed. (Poster child number one is the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, which reaches to within 60 miles or so of Stratheden Farm.) BSL would appear to be an optimal solution to the problem as it stands.

What they do is move all that poop into big concrete bins, add the larvae in huge numbers, then collect the pupae & pre-pupae to start the next bin. In a matter of weeks the bugs eat their way through the poop, reducing it by about half, drop the nitrogen and phosphate levels about as much, and produce a compost product that is essentially free of pathogens.

Cool, eh? Even better is that there is an economic angle to this... the compost weighs less by volume so it's cheaper to send out of the region where it's needed and the pupae can be used both as a food source for birds and fish or sold into the consumer market. Both make a tidy profit for a very low labor input.

I wonder when the Frontier Ville and Farm Ville games will offer soldier flies too....

05 September 2010

Soldiers Welcome Here

No, it's not another post about reenacting. It's what I found in my compost pile today. Soldier fly larvae.... hundreds of them!

Once I got over the ick factor I decided they'd done one heck of a good job at converting household garbage.... including meat, avocado pits, whole hardened squashes, tons of mango pits, coffee, and a LOT of newspaper... into gorgeous black compost. Interestingly, they did not eat the ripe seeds of the squashes. There were little clumps of seedlings all through the top layer.

So, how did we get soldier flies? Undoubtedly it's because I built the pile in a spot where water tends to stand, let a downspout drain into it for a while, and made it really acidic with the waste products of our favorite coffee shop. The bugs seem very happy.

Soldier flies have other benefits to the farm too. The larvae can be harvested and fed to the chickens as a high protein treat. Supposedly they go wild for them but in a head-to-head test this afternoon 4 out of 4 chickens chose whole corn, pumpkin seeds, and peanuts over squirming larvae when presented together. Oh well. I'm actually more excited about the OTHER benefit they seem to have brought to us.... soldier flies get rid of house flies! Apparently to the tune of 90% or more. No wonder we've not seen a house fly in ages!

04 September 2010

She Photographs Non-Animals Too!

A couple weeks ago we made our annual pilgrimage to Lexington, KY for the Contemporary Longrifle Show. As in previous years there was much to see and not enough time to see it all because we get so much pleasure from visiting with the many friends whom we only see in person at the event. After the show we always go to our friend Paul's house for Sunday breakfast. His dear wife, Karen, is the most gracious hostess I've ever met and one of my heroes in this life. I really enjoy our yearly visit, sharing tales and watching the other guests fall asleep on the couch even as they talk.

Both photographs were taken on Steven Lalioff's table. He always has the most captivating assortment of things. Check out his website... he'll be needing to pay his daughter's college tuition soon!

02 September 2010

Everything Retrograde

Well folks, it's been one of those seasons. It seems like everyone we know has been having a bear of a summer between the heat and everything going pear shaped so I at least can feel like it isn't just us. ...And that's why I haven't written much except that silliness that Chet and Rocky dictated to me. We all just wanted to hide under the covers until Saturn, Neptune, and Uranus have all gone direct some time in December.

But you can't do that, really, now can you? Instead it's been a routine of sleeping lightly so I hear Lady, our foster hound, creep up the stairs to ask (oh so timidly) to be let out to pee at first light. She is finally starting to learn to come and to sit for her meals and has even learned how to do Rocky's silly half smile... something I'm told is quite rare in hounds! Our friend Lisa will become her new human in early October. (And I will sleep like a rock again!)

The garden has been mostly a failure. We had an avalanche of squashes which, once again, psyched me out. What do you do with the beasts after you've made 3 dozen jars of pickles and you can't stand zucchini bread?????? Thus far a tasty squash casserole recipe has eluded me. That's what I really want. Squash and cheese and goo and yummy. Our Country Gentleman corn tasted like cardboard and the Silver Queen refused to set. My heritage paste and SunGold tomatoes both tasted like winter toms from the grocery.

Waaaaaa! At least we weren't the only ones who had these problems this year, especially with the corn.

On the plus side we have parasitic wasps laying eggs on the tomato worms (that ate the yucky paste tomato plants) and our Striped German toms not only taste good but re-flowered and have set more fruit. And, as you can see above, we've had another bumper crop of mystery mushrooms. These are volunteers growing out of bales of rye straw. It took me two months to catch them in good condition! The birds love them.

The birds have been our big success story of the season. After loosing one to a hawk and another to a raccoon I decided that a pen just made them an easy target. Now they rage freely, eating bugs, scraps, and a little supplemental feed. One of their jobs is bug control and we've definitely had a huge reduction in numbers since their daily circuit of the house began. Fewer ticks on the cats, too! The resident four-leggeds still enjoy a good game of Bowling for Chickens but mostly they get along. The dogs are especially fond of feeding time.

I just wish they'd learn that it's a dog's job to keep the chickens off the porch! YUCK!

And, oh yes, we closed on the Santa Fe house. Don't mention it to Mr. Fuzzy. The couple and their Realtor were truly horrible people to try to work with and very unreasonable. Yet, in a crashing market you take what you can get. In the month between the offer and the closing the price went from below market value to a little above it.