They say, “you are never too old”…

I beg to disagree. The summer chore list was long this year. Many major projects needed to be done to preserve the integrity of our house, to have a garden that required less maintenance, and to get a coat of stain on the coop to try to extend it’s life. Spring was spent getting the garden ready with new boxes from reclaimed wood, filling them with soil dug from old beds, compost, and some bagged soil. Paths were lined with weed mat or cardboard and about an inch of mulch placed over it. The beds are fine and fairly easy to maintain as most are sturdy enough for me to sit on the side to weed. The paths needed several inches more mulch, but buying it by the bag is neither economical nor environmentally friendly, I need to find a load or two of woodchips from a tree service and have it dumped to move by wheelbarrow.

The house needed all 4 sides of the garage, the east wall, the north dormers, and all surfaces of the roofed front porch powerwashed and stained, as well as staining all the raw wood from the deck rebuild two years ago. Son 1 and grandson 1 got it all powerwashed and Son 1 stained the east wall, the walls of the garage, and the dormers. Hubby and I got the garage doors done, but the porch was still in need. Thursday, we decided to try tobegin to finish everything but the railing and floor which take a latex stain, probably a mistake years and years ago. While hubby stained the posts, I did the ceiling. Friday, we set up again, and got the front porch log wall, the windows and door frame done. Today we started on the deck. Hubby did the upper work while I did the frame underneath and outside parts from an 8 foot ladder. Most of it has been done, but there are still the joists under the floorboards that were not on outside edges that probably should still be done, but it is going to have to wait for a few days. Our arms, necks, shoulders, and backs are screaming.

We still need to get the floor done, the railing also. I guess in a few days, the remaining joists under the deck floor will get a coat of stain too. The chicken coop has had wood repaired, but it still needs to be stained too. The list is getting shorter, but isn’t done yet.

“Our Town”

We live in a Village in a county of only about 15000 folks, but are closer to a town in the next county than to our county seat where Walmart has run most of the local business out of business. The town is a University town and other than a couple grocers, fast food, and CVS, it is locally owned businesses.

Several years ago, Main Street and College Avenue were renovated, with brick sidewalks, old style lamp posts that each have two hanging basket hooks and a flag pole holder. In the spring, every post is adorned with baskets overflowing with flowers, the medians are planted with flowers and a crew maintains them with weeding, pruning, and watering regularly. The flag holders hold flags for various events. For the local high school football games and graduation, each has a flag that has BHS for Blacksburg High School. On national holidays, American flags are displayed. Virginia Tech flags for their home football games. International flags when the University is celebrating international events.

This is the town I moved into while our house was being build and while hubby was still across the state until he retired. We consider it our town. It is where the Farmer’s Market is, where the restaurants we frequent are located, and a small single screen movie theater that has been there since my father was a student here in the 1940’s.

This afternoon, we spent a few hours staining the ceiling and posts of our front porch and after all was done and cleaned up, including us, we went to town for dinner. About once a week since the weather warmed and we can dine outdoors, we have reinstated that into our lives. On Friday nights there is live music on the hill in the first photo.

We love the local feel of this town and the opportunities for plays, concerts, and sporting events if we feel the urge through the University. The adjacent town to this one has all of the big box stores and chain movie theaters, so if we can’t find what we need in town, it is a short drive over.

As we sat with our drinks, awaiting the service of our dinner, I pulled out a spindle and did a bit of spin in public time. My spindles are often pulled out around town for a spin time. Sometimes it draws a question or comment, sometimes I just see someone watching from a distance, tonight, one of the ladies from my spinning group and her hubby arrived to dine on the same patio. Small towns, the best.

Putting by

An archaic term that means to set aside; to save. The term was used in many old households to mean storing and preserving of provisions for the cold non productive months. Before the introduction of home freezers, much of this putting by was drying, salting, smoking, fermenting, and canning with procedures that give the USDA shuddering nightmares.

And now we have the huge grocery stores that ship in “fresh” produce out of season from thousands of miles away. Produce that has been genetically altered to make it shelf stable for far longer than it takes to move it across the country or from other countries to your table. And commercial canning allows aisles of produce of every description packed in metal cans lined with suspect plastics for your ease in food preparation. So many people, don’t even know how food is grown or where.

I have always in my adult life had a garden of some sort, if only a few feet of tomatoes and peppers off the patio of a townhouse, and I made Pomegrante jelly once a year with my Dad, an afternoon that I looked forward to every year as we improved on the technique each year. But when we bought our farm property and I moved across the state to work for the last few years before retirement and to help with babysitting so Son 1 and DIL could work on our house, or spending an evening or weekend day helping put up interior siding, making floor wax, or other assistance I could provide, my outlook on food changed. During this time, I discovered a program that Virginia Tech was doing where the entire Freshman class was assigned a book to read for discussion. The year I moved, the book was the recently published, Animal Vegetable Miracle, by Barbara Kingsolver about her family’s attempt to eat only local, seasonally available food that they grew or could purchase at their local Farmer’s Market. I purchased the book, devoured it and it changed my whole outlook on the food system. Son 1 and DIL had put in a huge garden on the farm, and once living here, I have added fruit trees, vines, and canes as well as chickens for eggs. I made a point to get to know the vendors at our Farmer’s Market, what they provide, how they manage their farms, and what will be available when. I maintain a much smaller garden than the kids put in, located many wild berry patches, learned to make soap and healing salves, and set a goal to “put by” as much as I can to reduce our footprint and reduce the amount of food and other goods that come into our home from thousands of miles away, packaged in containers that may or may not be recyclable.

Not everything that goes on our shelves or in our freezer is grown here, but it is grown locally if possible. Meats, cheeses, vegetables I don’t grow, fruits when mine fail. Beans and peas are frozen in the spring and summer. Berries and fruit are turned into jams and sauces. Tomatoes are canned as pasta sauce, pizza sauce, or tomatoes to be used in chili or other recipes. Hot peppers are canned, pickled or dried to be used throughout the year until the next crop. Sweet peppers are diced or sliced and frozen. Butter and cheese are stockpiled during the productive season for the winter, most of the meats are available year round. We tend to eat more seasonally now, not to the extent that was accomplished in the book, but certainly more so than before I read it.

Once of the produce vendors at the Farmer’s Market has a CSA program with different tiers. The one I chose, I get to select what I want in the quantity I want as long as I spend a certain amount. Right now eggplant is in season. I can’t grow eggplant to save me. Everytime I plant it, the flea beetles feast, so I buy mine from them. I’m not a fan of frozen eggplant, but making a casserole and freezing it, or fermenting a few jars of it when it is available is an option. The same for asparagus, I don’t like them frozen or canned, so they are enjoyed in season and a couple jars pickled for later.

Last week’s CSA had two eggplants in my selection. One was made into Eggplant Parmesan made with locally made parmesan and mozarella. Half was eaten and enjoyed, the second half frozen for some other meal in the future. The second eggplant is being fermented to enjoy on a pickle plate or on a salad.

The eggplant ferment needs a smaller jar. Off to the basement to see what is available. Not everyone can grow their own, but we can all make an effort to support what is local, to support the farmer’s you can get to know.