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.