Saturday, September 29, 2012

The first glimpse of Fall.....

Here at the roost we have been teased with Autumn's arrival for some time. Two giant volunteer pumpkin plants decided to grow out of the compost bin and on the side of our brick patio, sprawling across the entire yard. Where the heck did these come from??!??

One of the plants has been producing miniature pumpkins for a while now, and I have been eager to cut and display them. The other has one beautiful larger pumpkin forming with a rich pinky orange color and green streaks.

At first I was upset that all we were getting were pathetic baby pumpkins and not something more practical like sugar pie or larger pumpkins for eating, but I have to admit the mini pumpkins are just the cutest things! I decided to display them on my mantel and throughout the house for some early fall decor in the house and a reminder that autumn is on its way.

These squash plants, in comparison to our others, have done so well that BJ and I joked that next summer we are simply throwing seed out into the yard and waiting to see what grows, rather than fooling with the hard work of prepping the raised beds only to have most of our squash die or be consumed by squash bugs or mildew. A friend of mine said that catnip is supposed to deter squash bugs, so next year we will be growing catnip and spreading the cuttings all around our squash plants.

How has your squash fared? Isn't it amazing how long this nutritious vegetable lasts when kept cool? If something catastrophic happened and we were all short on food--as long as we have squash--we will be well-fed for some time. Native Americans knew this and cultivated squash of all kinds. Squash and pumpkins, in particular, were an extremely important staple in the early Colonial diet, sustaining families through the harsh winters.

Hope you are enjoying the beautiful fall weather and first glimpses or tastes of Autumn in your home!

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Monday, September 24, 2012

PNC Conference Recap

Last week was the annual Preservation North Carolina conference in Asheville. In case you missed it, I thought I would share a few key points discussed throughout the various sessions as well as some things I took away from the event.

But before I get to that, let me just say that ASHEVILLE. IS. AWESOME. Just plain incredible. This was my second year to the city during the fall and we plan to go if not every year at least every couple of years. (For some photos from our previous visit, click here.) From the the the art the beauty of the mountains and nearby outdoor adventures, it is definitely one of my favorite places to visit every autumn. Period.

Visit to the Biltmore Estate in 2011

Okay, so back to the PNC conference. Here are some interesting thoughts and points made during the lectures that I feel are worth revisiting:

  • The time is ripe to engage folks in the movement who may not consider themselves "preservationists" in order to give historic preservation a broader base of support. Lots of diverse people are actually doing preservation and they don't even know it. We have to make sure they know there is a name for what they are passionate about.
  • According to recent research from the National Trust, 65 million people care about culture and historic places!!!!!!!  They feel that the "soul of the community" is important to where they live. What they don't realize, is that this "soul" or "sense of place" and even "pride of place" would not happen without historic preservation.
  • We as preservationists need to rid ourselves of the typical stereotypes. We must STOP being known as the hall monitor type with "a culture of no" or the "paint police," "hysterical preservationists," or any other type of elitist organization that emits negativity. We must change our culture in order to change the national culture.
  • We can learn a lot from the conservation movement. The green movement has now moved into the mainstream, and the preservation movement can easily do the same as long as we work hard and take the right steps. We must make ourselves accessible and look to accomplish things not through enforcement. We must be relevant, and we must lead with the vision and not with the rules.
  • Demographics in the preservation community are rapidly changing. Young people are moving back into downtown (and traditional neighborhoods) and they no longer desire to live in the suburbs. They desire community, real community. They want walkable, vibrant communities with mixed use buildings, a corner pub, a local food co-op, etc. and a safe place where people hang out on their front porches and know your name.
  • We must be problem-solvers as preservationists. We must think like a marketer and manage our message well. We must be knowledgeable about real estate and be approachable. We MUST show that preservation is a better kind of economic development and that it is preservation that revitalizes communities, economically and aesthetically.

I would LOVE to hear your thoughts about this. If you love old architecture, if you are passionate about saving our historic places for future generations and want to retain the "soul" of your town, or maybe you are more fiscally supportive of downtown revitalization because it brings jobs and boosts property tax values -- Do you consider yourself a preservationist?

If not, why is that so? 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Kitchen: New Open Shelving and a Potrack

I have royally procrastinated posting on my kitchen because I SO BADLY want to paint my cabinets white for the kitchen's blog debut! We have yet to ask the landlord whether we can and even if we could, I'm not sure all the work and effort would be worth it since we don't know how long we'll be staying.

In the meantime, hubby built me a WONDERFUL gift!! He constructed and installed beautiful open shelving for our ever-growing dish collection. Always a talented handyman, he crafted the brackets himself and also installed a copper pipe to serve as a rack where we can hang our pots and pans. This has freed up so much precious cabinet space for our larger stock pots and cast iron skillets - and I love having the pots and pans so accessible.

Our hutch used to stand in this spot, but I really wanted to open it up some for a lighter feel. What we decided to do was to keep the bottom portion of the hutch where it was and give it a fresh coat of white paint. The top portion we moved to sit on top of the large desk in the office- it is a perfect fit and gives us lots of extra storage in there for books and other items.

Here is the wall before the shelving:

Here is it with the new open shelving:

At first I wanted to go with all whitewares for a clean look, but since I own so many more pretty dishes that needed a home, I changed my mind and slipped in some jadeite, baskets, glassware and books on the shelves too.

In the last year I have implemented a new rule that any objects that are for decorative enjoyment must be functional as well. Otherwise they clutter the space up. All of these dishes get used either for daily cooking and serving or for entertaining. Even the wooden box tray underneath holds functional items: my harvesting basket gets almost daily use, a container for my seed packets, an old burlap peanut sack that I use for storing dried beans and peas, and a broken pottery jug for holding dried plants and herbs.

I used to be one of those decorators and bloggers who would display non-functional pretty items for a whimsical look (and even purchase things for display purely for a cool blog post), but not anymore. I can't stand my primary work and table-top surfaces being cluttered with things just for looks unless they are extremely special to me. The items that stay must do double-duty!

Someday I would love to take out all our upper cabinets and replace with open shelving. Someday......when we own our own place (instead of renting) I guess.  Be sure to visit again soon, because I intend to show you the rest of my kitchen (gasp!) -- ugly unpainted stock cabinets and all :)

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Thursday, September 13, 2012

Put em' up! (summer canning)

Finally I have some beautiful preserves to show you as a result of some summer canning!

I kicked off the canning season by pickling okra.....this was a first for me. The first batch didn't taste how we wanted it to, I think because we used apple cider vinegar instead of regular vinegar. No worries though, we have lots more okra pods coming off the plants and I made more batches :) Our okra is actually still going strong!

The second thing I tried my hand at was making a tomato-based marinara sauce from tomatoes that were going bad or already had bad spots. The sauce included onions, garlic and lots of herbs in addition to the pureed tomatoes. It smelled divine going into the jars for canning. I'm excited to try this fresh sauce during the wintertime!

Once our beans and cucumbers finally started coming in steadily (the first month or two they were plagued by critter attacks), I pickled some and preserved them with dill and garlic in a beautiful brine. Yum Yum Yum!

These refrigerator pickles don't require any processing- they are crisp and have a great bite to them. As you can see we have been nibbling them before I could get a proper photo :)

Last but not least, my friend and I had a canning party and put our preserving skills to work. We got up early, gathered our supplies, went to the farmer's market for the extra veggies we couldn't grow in our gardens and canned the rest of the day! We made a fun event out of it with snacks and good wine slipped in between canning the tomatoes, salsa and pickle relish recipes :)

These are literally the fruits of our labor:

tomatoes, salsa, and sweet relish made from canning party

canned fresh roma tomatoes

preserved sweet relish

My pantry is fully stocked with beautiful jars- more than it ever has been before. Canning is so much easier that I thought once you get the hang of it. I can't wait to do even more preserving before the season is over.

 What have you been 'putting up' lately? 

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Friday, September 7, 2012

Our babies are laying!

I came home on Tuesday after a horrific weekend (more on that later) to two, tiny, bite-sized pullet eggs sitting in the corner of the babies' coop. They are laying!!!!!!

The babies' eggs compared to Rosemary's eggs.

Albeit the eggs are miniature, but I'm so happy at least one of my girls, maybe two, are entering maturity. No matter how long you have had chickens, it's always a thrill when one of your young pullets lays her first egg. These are some recent snapshots of the babies, which have grown incredibly since I last posted about them:

This little girl is super sweet, and she has already been letting Reggie have his way with her. 
these two were purchased from a different breeder, and because their mama hen raised them they are pretty afraid of us (except when treats are involved!) and do no like being handled. 

This little girl likes to continually be under or near my feet. I think she is getting pretty attached :)
I completely forgot to post about their ugly, in-between teenage stage of chicken life. Maybe that's for the best :)  I will say that this bunch raised by hand are especially friendly with us, and don't mind being picked up and petted at all. They run up to me when I come outside and like to jump in my lap when I sit down on their level. Awwwww.

We have decided to continue our herb and spice naming tradition and these girls will be given the names of:

Peppermint ("Pepper" for short),
Pennyroyal ("Penny" for short), 

I think I will only need to band a few of them because several are already easy to distinguish from the others. One has a single-comb (recessive gene), one of them has a crooked toe, and one is much darker than the others with grey/black legs instead of yellow legs. All of these traits are defects that will make them unable to be shown. But that's okay, I still have three others that could make decent show birds if I ever decide to venture into that the world of showing chickens.

hunting for bugs....

I am looking forward to seeing how much larger the eggs get as the girls grow up. When the other pullets start laying, we will be overrun with eggs. Perhaps around 35 a week!!! We plan to eat a lot, bake a lot, and give away a lot. We also have a local food pantry that our church is helping to get up and running to which we will be able to donate our extra fresh eggs.

What do you do with your extra eggs?

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