Yeah, the economy sucks. Money's tight. You don't have to tell me twice, since I'm looking at overdue medical bills and have a mower being held hostage at the repair shop, and a destroyed stretch of fence that must be mended ASAP. It stinks. Before, I might've turned to Craigslist or Ebay in an attempt to sell outgrown kids' clothes, no-longer-used horse tack, Hubby's hunting gear (shhhh), or anything that isn't nailed down, for extra cash. But what do you do when no one else has any money, either? They can't buy your stuff if they don't have any more cash than you do.Well, as I am learning right now, one thing you can do is return to your historical roots, and try bartering. It may sound archaic at first, but really, it's something that's intuitive and natural...so much so that you're almost certainly already doing it, to some extent, without even realizing it. We all keep a mental "scorecard" of sorts (though we'd never be so crass as to call it, or even think of it, in those terms, probably) of favors we owe and kindnesses given us, and tend to repay them in kind. When you pick up the check at lunch with a friend, you probably do so knowing that your buddy'll get it next time. It's a kind of tacit give and take that we enjoy in a civilized society, and it's not much of a stretch to extrapolate that experience into something broader and more literal, with tangible rewards.This all came home to me recently thanks to an exchange that began, as so many these days do, on Craigslist. (Let me just pause here a moment and say how grateful I am that Arkansans are finally coming around to realizing the enormous usefulness of Craigslist. It's about time!) I had placed an ad to sell a few of our surplus Narragansett turkeys, and while there I of course had to look around and see what was up for grabs near me. It's easy to fall down the Craigslist rabbit-hole, even without visiting the fantastically entertaining "missed connections" listings.There was an ad for established strawberry plants, at a real honey of a price, and they could be picked up just a mile or so from my home! I've wanted strawberries for the longest time, so I responded to that ad straightaway, and asked the very nice gentleman who'd placed the ad some basic questions about their care, and made arrangements to pick up my new plants. When I went to meet the strawberry seller at a local gas-mart, I took along a dozen fresh eggs, which is something I tend to do when I'm feeling sociable--everyone likes fresh eggs, right? At this point, because it is just about to become relevant, I should show you what a sampling of fresh eggs from our place looks like.
And I'm taking the fact that this blog still exists as an indication that I'm still allowed to post here. Is that presumptuous?I'm sorry for the long, long absence, and I will try to make up for it in the months to come. Things have been...well, harsh. Difficult. But that's neither here nor there, in the here and now. I'm back, and I'll try to stay.
I'm only just now, as President-Elect Barack Obama prepares to make his victory speech, beginning to relax emotionally, and realizing how very beaten-down and pessimistic I have felt for the last eight years, particularly the last four.
Those "For the good of Arkansas" ads are really starting to cheese me off. A couple of weeks ago, I received a call from a friend, asking if I'd like to have her beautiful Ameraucana (the "Easter Egg Chicken") hens. It seems that Chesapeake set up camp on the lot next door, cut down all the trees, installed a drill, and much more. The constant noise, she said, was too upsetting for her much-loved birds, and she'd made the decision to let them go to a new home rather than continue to see them stressed out on a daily basis. She was in tears over the decision, but couldn't see any other humane option. She kept her more laid-back Orpington and other hens, who didn't seem as bothered by the 24/7 racket next door.I was totally unprepared for the scene at my friend's home when I went to pick up the five hens. The first thing that hit me like a punch in the face was the NOISE. Dear God, the noise. I couldn't believe that noise like that could even be LEGAL in a residential neighborhood. It was deafening, and non-stop. We couldn't have a normal conversation, but had to shout at each other the entire time.Moving around to the back yard, you find the defaced acreage next door. There's no escaping it, actually. Apparently, promises were made on the front end...promises of visual screening, noise-baffling, etc. Those promises were not kept. This picture was taken as I stood next to my friend's tidy, adorable chicken coop.
Another brief installment in what is becoming a series of my exploits in taking the parts of food I'd normally throw out and putting them in jars to eat instead, I give you the luscious watermelon pickle. And I tell you, in all honesty, that if I can do this? An addled monkey can do this. So go make some pickles while the watermelon rind is abundant. You'll thank me later.Reflections on a Gift of Watermelon Pickle Received from a Friend Called FelicityDuring that summerWhen unicorns were still possible;When the purpose of kneesWas to be skinned;When shiny horse chestnuts(Hollowed outFitted with strawsCrammed with tobaccoStolen from buttsIn family ashtrays)Were puffed in green lizard silenceWhile straddling thick branchesFar above and awayFrom the softening effectsOf civilization;During that summer--Which may never have been at all;But which has become more realThan the one that was--Watermelons ruled.Thick imperial slicesMelting frigidly on sun-parched tonguesDribbling from chins;Leaving the best part,The black bullet seeds,To be spit out in rapid fireAgainst the wallAgainst the windAgainst each other;And when the ammunition was spent,There was always another bite:It was a summer of limitless bites,Of hungers quickly feltAnd quickly forgottenWith the next careless gorging.The bites are fewer now.Each one is savored lingeringly,Swallowed reluctantly.But in a jar put up by Felicity,The summer which maybe never wasHas been captured and preserved.And when we unscrew the lidAnd slice off a pieceAnd let it linger on our tongue:Unicorns become possible again.~John Tobias
So, there I was, home from the Cabot Farmer's Market last Saturday with a whole heap of beautiful purple-hull peas, and only one known recipe for cooking them: Hoppin' John. I got online, and in short order found myself at the website of the Emerson, Arkansas Purple-Hull Pea Festival & World Championship Rotary Tiller Race. It was there that I was introduced to the idea of making jelly from the hulls of these distinctly Southern field peas, and further searching turned up many, many recipes for just such a concoction. I was intrigued by this statement on one recipe site:"Purple hull peas produce grape flavored jelly.
Well, seven of us (Mom, sister, nephew, brother-in-law, Husband, Daughter, Myself) headed up to Greers Ferry Lake to spend the day out on the water.
The National Blog Posting Month theme for July is "food," so this seemed like a good cause to kick back into gear for summer: Fried Green Tomatoes. This is a dish that has as many variations as it does people who cook it, and I'd love to hear yours.This recipe almost doesn't need words, but I'll use a FEW.
My good friend and BlogHer and Huffington Post Contributing Editor, Erin Kotecki Vest, was able to sit down with Senator Barack Obama this weekend, to directly ask questions that were chosen by BlogHer members. I'm button-popping proud of Erin and all of my BlogHer compatriots, and it's a good interview, with real answers. Let's hope the other candidates follow Obama's lead and provide a similar opportunity for us to get to know them a little better.BlogHer EXCLUSIVE: Barack Obama Answers Policy Questions From Women Who BlogBlogHer reaches over 9 million women every month now, and boasts a publishing syndicate (of which I'm part) that is 1,800 blogs strong. Just for the heck of it, a couple of Arkansas BlogHer affiliates that you might well enjoy reading are two of my daily favorites:Notes To Self: Culture.
The fam, along with a goodly portion of our church membership, caught an Arkansas Travelers minor-league baseball game at the super-fancy new ballpark in North Little Rock the other night, and had a great time.
On the way home from a recent trip, there were some flight delays. It was the day after tornadoes ripped through central Arkansas, and the weather front had moved all the way through to the East Coast.
If you're plugged into the blogosphere, particularly the world of "mom-bloggers," you've heard more than enough about The Great Camp Baby To-Do of 2008. If you've missed the dustup, you can bring yourself up to speed here, and a little Googling will turn up plenty more fallout.What happened was, Johnson & Johnson and their PR firm, in an effort to "connect" with what is becoming an increasingly powerful demographic, MOMS WHO BLOG, decided to host a 3-day "getaway" for moms, culminating, naturally, in a field trip to J&J headquarters for a product expo. The hope is that the blogger attendants will return home and write (hopefully glowingly) on their blogs about the J&J products they saw, and how well they were treated by the giant corporation. They invited 50 "influential bloggers" on this junket, and shockingly enough, Yours Truly was one of those 50. I'm still trying to figure out quite how "influential" I am, but I registered for the trip based on a few key factors:1.