Tuesday, May 30, 2006


Hazy, hot, and humid.

Okay, so jumping from temps in the 60s where I am wearing light sweaters to freaking 95 degrees in the shade is totally not fun. Memorial day and today have been ungodly hot. I am a fan of heat. Love it, yearn for it in the winter months, despise air conditioning...we don't even have air conditioning in our home, that's how much we love heat....but this way too much....way too fast. You've got to acclimate you know? Go slowly into the 90s. Not jump from questioning whether you need a light jacket in the morning to stripping off all unessential garments and lying limp in a chair in the yard. seriously.

Today I went to Mifflintown to do a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment on a property. They guy that owned the property casually metioned that he was way busy this time of year, what with fawning and all. Turns out he owns a deer farm and offered to show me the deer. At first I was thinking maybe this was something I didn't want to see. Sad and all. And while I do think wild animals are best left in the wild, these were some pampered deer. And the fawns were like little dogs. They ran up to you and wanted to be petted. The guy said that the one was living in the house up until the weekend. Sleeping on the couch and going 'potty' on a leash at night. Awww...I want one. Actually I don't. He said that the tame does (he keeps them for four years prior to being 'processed') are really annoying because they follow you all around the farm and try to lick you. So compared to cows or pigs and especially chickens...these deer have it pretty good.

Here is one of the pens for the bucks, which are not made tame. It was several acres in size and they had plenty of food and water. One of the interesting things is that the guy said four or five of his does have had triplets, one even having quadruplets, which deer only do when they feel comfortable that resources won't be scarce. So they are well taken care of. Ideally, they should be wild. But venison is big money and this guy was doing a pretty good job from what I saw. Plus, he really loves the deer, you could tell.

Friday, May 26, 2006


So I was in this antiques shop yesterday. An old, dirty, overcrowded place in a town to which nobody ever goes, very far from any towns where there are people with lots of money to spend on antiques. Those are the best kind cause they offer good finds at reasonable prices. And being my birthday today, and knowing that the only gift I was getting I already got (dining room hutch), there was no question as to the legitamacy of treating myself as soon as I saw this:

This is a cast-iron bottle opener that you mount on a wall. My great-grandmother (Gran-nan) had this exact thing on the wall leading from the kitchen to the dining room. I stared at it as a little kid in a high-chair and when I was a little older I opened my glass bottles of Coke (which she always had) with great trepidation, as this thing scared the crap out of me. It is creepy with a capital C. I walked wide around it through the doorway, always keeping an eye on it.

When she went into a assisted care facility and the house was sold, I was very sorry that this was not saved. Out of all of the things taken to auction, this was what I regretted most. Since then (about 1985), out of all the time I have spent in junk stores, garage sales, antique stores, and auctions, I have seen this only once before. In college, I went to a junk shop in Strasburg, PA and saw it in a glass case. The price was 95$ and it said "rare" on it. There was no way, even if I would have had 95$, that I was going to pay that. So when I saw it for $35, it was a bargain. On the back, it is marked Wilton, which I guess is Wilton-Armetale, which is made in Mount Joy, about 3 miles from where I live now. Anyway, I got it out last night to show my husband, propping it up on the workbench in the garage. He said it was scary. I said, I know, and smiled a big smile and shivered a little. Neither of us could take our eyes off it for the longest time. I love it.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

the baby thing

So do you totally know that you want to have kids? Are there people out there that absolutely, without a doubt, just totally knew? Or was it that you kind of wanted them but weren't totally sure? Some people I know with kids have different reasons for having them, but I don't think any of them totally just knew for sure. People say "But who will take care of you when you are old?" or "what if you regret it later" and I swear there are a few out there that space them out so they don't have to work for a really long time (relax, nobody that reads this blog).

This baby envy that I am having right now will probably wear off. And I think a lot of it is boredom, which is not a good reason to have a kid. Will it always be just me and him and a series of dogs? But when you hold them and they smell good and sorta smile up at you or later when you know the conversion factors for feet to meters AND inches to centimeters off the top of your head and they look at you like you are the smartest person ever to walk the earth.....that is so totally cool and ego-boosting. And so I think it might be nice to have someone around who thinks I hung the moon. But again, not a good reason. I think I could do a really good job and produce a funny, smart, caring person. I mean look at some of the people having babies these days....in case you haven't seen this photo, it's Britney Spears in curlers, with her child facing the wrong way in a babyseat, slumped over, in full sun.

And I'm such a worrier. Do I really want to introduce this person into my life about whom I will worry for the rest of my days? And then when I go places I look at older children and teenagers and I wonder when I see a little goth girl with 50 piercings in her face, or a young man with his pants hanging off his butt and yelling obscenities into the latest flip-phone....do their parents still love them? What if I end up with something like that? Will I stand by them proudly and just hope it is a phase, or will I shrink in embarrassment if seen in public with them? I just don't know. Are there people out there that love their children so much that they see past these things? Is that possible? It is just something I just don't understand, I suppose.

When you hear the "it's the best thing that ever happened to me' line, most of the time I don't believe it. Once on Oprah, a long time ago, she quoted from a survey that 70% of parents would not have had kids if they had it to do over again. Is that true? Is there anybody out there that would have done it differently if given the choice?

Some friends say I think too much. That I shouldn't worry about things like that. I do. I think and worry way to much for someone my age. Anyway, sorry to go on and on. I get this baby fever every so often and it makes me all fuzzy-headed and confused and I rethink everything. And to top it off my husband acts as if it's just me that isn't sure, which totally adds to the pressure, as if I'm denying him a child because of my indecision. Ughhhh.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

So then.....

So I then drive 7 hours back from West Virginia on Thursday and come to work on Friday, and then pick up two of my neices for a weekend visit. We stopped at the grocery store on the way home because the entire family was coming on Saturday for a meal, but only after we get back from Marietta Day, a nearby day-long, town wide flea market/antiques/food thing. So I had to shop for and make everything Friday night. Oh yeah, and make a four layer, fresh strawberry cake frosted with whipped cream. So Saturday was a blur, except my one neice has become an expert chicken wrangler, able to get all of them back in their house in a little over a minute. Sunday I took them to see Over the Hedge, which I don't recommend. Not that funny....actually a little depressing. Suburban sprawl and homeowners that want to exterminate every creature in their yard aren't that amusing. Although it was nice to see that the current lifestyle of many americans (McMansions, SUVs, overconsumption) was being poked fun at and made to look ridiculous. The kids thougt it was okay, but agreed that it wouldn't be something they'd want to watch again. Unlike Wallace and Grommit which we watched twice over the weekend. And i got to hold my new neice and feed her and burp her talk to her and watch her smile and now I have a bad case of baby envy and even worse....my husband does too. And I so totally have to make up my mind cause I'll be 36 on Friday and that is like ancient.


So the past week has been crazy busy. Last week I was in Wild and Wonderful West Virginia for three days visiting a cousin and aunt that I haven't seen since I was 11 or so. And while I had a really good time, I have never been so glad to return to lower elevations in my entire life. For those of us on the East Coast, these are some very large hills. And I don't do hills. When I was a kid (before they had interstates in West Virginia) I can remember traveling there and laying in the back seat, barely conscious, traversing the switchbacks up and down the mountain and just wanting it to be over. As an adult, traveling the modern interstate system, going down 9% grades with runaway truck ramps all over the place, WITH A SPEED LIMIT OF 70 MPH!!!!! I just wanted to get back to nice, flat, Lacanster County. Seriously, 70 mph? And that's uphill.......downhill, it's like 90 mph. I drive like an old person and it was not a good time.

Plus they have bears in West Virginia. And I got to see several, sorta too close. I used to be the type of person that thought it would be cool to live somewhere where you had bears coming into your yard. Well, when I actually saw a bear with two cubs near an area where we would be walking, I suddenly didn't think it was so cool and was actually pretty scared. We visited the Monogohela National Forest and went to Cranberry Glades, a large bog system within the forest. As we were driving to the parking area, a mother bear and two cubs ran out of the woods and stopped in the road. I wasn't fast enough to get a picture before they ran back in. We parked and walked through the bog area on a boardwalk. Not even 20 feet onto the boardwalk, I noticed a very large pile of ummm...bear crap on the boardwalk. Actually there was bear crap everywhere. And I noticed that all the skunk cabbage had been chewed to the ground. How strange. Nothing eats skunk cabbage I thought. Nothing except (I later read) RAVENOUS BEARS just emerging from hibernation. So we walked quickly through Cranberry Glade which was actually lovely and deserved longer than we spent, but what with the potential for bear attack and all, we rushed. Here are a few pictures I managed to snap while hustling through and listening for bears.....

Monday, May 15, 2006

My kitchen window

This is the view out my kitchen window. The iris are really doing well this year. The first year we moved here, I found them growing in a pile of dirt that the previous owner had dumped under the pine trees. So I potted them and babied them for a summer and then planted them here. They've bloomed the last two years, but not like this. I just wish they lasted longer. Show me the view out your kitchen window.....I want to hear from Judith, Liz, EFB (even though it's an eating in Brooklyn blog), Susie Sunshine, and anyone else that wants to participate.

Landis Valley Museum

Saturday I went to Landis Valley Museum which is sort of like a restored Pennsylvania Dutch (German) farm and village. They have a native plant sale every spring and my friend and I go and I spend a ton of money on plants. Seriously, I think I have a problem. I spend way too much money on plants. I never go to the mall anymore, but I will drive very far to go to a good nursery or plant sale and buy things I convince myself I need. So I bought 2 Reisentraube tomatoes, a Howard German tomato, a blonde kerchen (? I think it's blonde headed in German) tomato, a mortgage lifter tomato, a Hartman yellow gooseberry tomato, an heirloom french tomato called Marmande, 4 hollyhocks, a small, chartreuse hosta because I have a crippling hosta habit, 2 love-lies-bleeding, a basil that I can't remember the name of, to add to the 4 basils I bought a week ago, to add to the 28 basil seedlings that are still growing in a seed tray....oy. Continuing......a blackberry lily, two coleus....one I think is 'Inky fingers' and the other is lime something or other, that look absolutely cute all potted up on the front porch. I just need some geraniums....... I have way too many tomatoes.....the ones I grew from seed I scorched about a week ago, putting them out in the sun unprotected, but I still should be able to salvage about, oh I don't know....60? So maybe I won't have my seedling sale as planned, I'll just give them away to friends and such. But I really didn't need anymore tomatoes....I don't even really like tomatoes that much.

Anyway, here are some pictures from the museum....

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

I'm turning into a foodie blog

Still eating the frittata from Sunday. Will go to the farmers market this afternoon after work. I think I'll be able to buy more as the cupboards are getting bare. Non-fruit and veggie eating husband is getting nervous and experiencing signs of withdrawal as the level of processed foods coming into the house has flatlined. He may slowly starve unless he changes his eating habits. We'll see what happens.

Anyway, good article in this month's Mother Jones about Joel Salatin's Polyface Farm. I would love to visit that someday. And this interview with Peter Singer (vegan philosopher) that basically slams Joel Salatin and says local food is a lot of hype. One thing that made me laugh about the Peter Singer interview is his view on raising chickens. Salatin has a system where he rotates pastures, and after cows are moved from a piece of land, he brings in the chickens in giant portable fenced enclosures to pick through what the cows left behind. I think they are like modified hoop houses. Anyway, Singer even thinks that this is cruel. Why cage them at all? Apparently there is some kind of total disconnect where this man is not aware that there are such things as predators that will kill and eat chickens if they can get to them. One thing that irritates me about people and their attitude about farming is the belief that all farms should be these bucolic paradises where all animals are treated as pets and everything is just sunshiney and perfect. That isn't reality, and while I don't agree with factory farming or large scale animal production, I also realize that the bottom line is farmers have to make money. Would it be nice if all egg production was managed by little old ladies in calico dresses with flocks of chickens following them around? Of course, but that isn't realistic and while I don't approve of vast chicken facilities where they are caged and debeaked and feet removed, I don't mind places like my neighbors, with 4,000 broilers in two enormous chicken houses. The doors are open in good weather, they get fresh air, they run around on a cement floor covered with litter. Ideal life? No, but then who's is? Don't discount a local farm because it doesn't fit your Disneyfied version of what a farm should be.

And here is a shot of my Stock, probably the best smelling flower in the entire world. When I water it, I jam my whole head down in there and inhale as deeply as possible.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Food Memory

Last night I caught the end of a documentary on PBS about California agriculture and the paths that it is currently taking, with a focus on organic food and sustainable agriculture. There was a lot of Alice Waters talking about her Berkeley school lunch program, but they also showed, David Matsumoto. He wrote Epitaph for a Peach, which inspired me to plant my two Suncrest peach trees and he was talking about ‘food memory’ and how many middle-aged and older people have a food memory of what it was like to eat a juicy, ripe, fragrant peach, and what it tasted like and what it smelled like. And these are the people striving to move away from industrial-ag and back to heirlooms and organics and local agriculture, because they remember what it used to be like before there were rock hard, half-green peaches in the supermarket, with no fragrance. But the sad thing, he said, was that there is an entire generation now that does not have these food memories. They have been raised on tasteless, unripe, mass-produced fruits and vegetables and processed foods. They simply don’t know what once was. So I got to thinking about food memory. I do remember peaches that were soft to the tough and the juice ran down your face, which is why I grow my own now. And I swear that peaches used to be fuzzier. I have a fairly recent food experience that I look back fondly on and fear will be near impossible in the coming years. In July of 2001, my husband (then fiancé) and I took a long weekend trip to Smith Island, Maryland. There are three towns on Smith Island, and we stayed in Tylerton, which I believe may be the smallest. Smith Island is only accessible by boat and the three towns are separated by water. Tylerton is home to generations of Chesapeake Watermen - men, and some women, that catch blue-crabs, oysters, and specialize in shedding soft-shell crabs. I think almost all of the soft-shelled crabs consumed in the US come from Smith Island, MD. That is all they do and there is a ‘shedding shack’ every 15 feet along the waterfront. They catch blue-crabs just about to shed, put them in large bins and continuously run salt water over them until their shell comes off and the new, soft one underneath is exposed. And then they freeze them and box them and ship them to the mainland to seafood distributors. Anyway, there are no restaurants on Tylerton (our bed and breakfast served all meals). So for lunch one day, we walked to Drum Point Market, which was basically a general store, but did have some food. I couldn’t decide what to get, so I asked the guy behind the counter to give me what he thought was the best thing that day. He said ‘Soft Shell sandwich’. I had never before eaten a soft-shelled crab (even though I could eat 10 pounds of hard-shelled ones) because I thought they were a little disturbing looking. I asked the lady that was back there cooking them what came on them. She just stared at me. Finally she said “salt, pepper, and homemade mayo’. OK. 10 minutes later I got a plate with a fried soft-shelled crab in between two slices of homemade white bread. The legs were hanging out of the side and my future husband recoiled and shook his head. “Better eat it, or it’s gonna up and walk off”. I took one bite and tasted the best thing I have ever eaten in my entire life. This soft-shelled crab was fresh, never been frozen and it tasted sweet and salty and clean and perfectly fried, crisp on the outside and succulent on the inside. I’ll remember that sandwich for the rest of my life. My only regret is that I didn’t try the 16-layer cake in the display case on the counter. Anyway, the blue crab catch plummets lower every year and the health of the Chesapeake Bay gets worse every year and Smith Island is getting smaller every year as sea levels rise and probably won’t be there in a few years. But I try and try to recreate that sandwich. So far, I’ve come close but without the fresh crab, I don’t think it’s possible. Anyway, what is your best food memory?


That's the word for people attempting to eat local, and was featured as a buzz word in the Home magazine supplement in Sunday's New York Times. It must be gaining in popularity, which is a very good thing. Anything that makes people think about where their food comes from is a good thing. So, the weekend wrap up: Satuday I didn't do to well. Never made it to Central Market....maybe next Saturday. Ate from existing stock for lunch (a string cheese stick) and made pizza for dinner, which did feature local spinach, but foreign everything else. Sunday was started with foreign coffee and foreign sugar but local milk. Lunch was local pretzels with a few beers from Western PA. Not within 100 miles, but not terrible. For dinner I made a frittata with local cheese, local eggs, local spring onions, my asparagus, a tablespoon of local salad dressing, far away red peppers, and mushrooms. Technically the mushrooms are local. They come, as most mushrooms do, from Kennett Square - "Mushroom Capital of the World", which is roughly an hour from where I live, in nearby Chester County. So I could claim these. But I know that the mushroom farms exploit illegal immigrants (mostly from Mexico), paying them below minimum wage and working them 10 to 12 hours a day. Many of the illegal immigrants live in housing (trailers) on the mushroom farm property, sometimes 8 to 10 men in a trailer. So I'll use up the mushrooms that I have and find some other source. I don't think I'm up to growing my own. Even if mushrooms come from farther away, it's better than patronizing businesses that exploit people. Anybody know of a good mushroom source?

In other news, several little markets in my area are advertising local strawberries, which is totally awesome. Some people say that the tomato is the best example of something you buy in the store that is awful and grown at home is delicious, there simply being no comparison. For me, the best example is strawberries. Nothing beats homegrown berries. I was pretty good this year, only succumbing to the smell of berries at the grocery store two or three times, only to get them home and be totally disappointed with their taste. I will definitely make strawberry jam this year. The last two years I've made blueberry and a blueberry/wineberry mix, but this year I have a serious craving for thick, lumpy, strawberry preserves. Yum.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Central Market

So far this Eat Local Challenge has been fun. And I'm learning that a lot of the products that I use every day are made locally. Last night I had breakfast for dinner and I used local bacon, local eggs, and local bread. My veggie supply is running low, so on Saturday I will make a trip into Lancaster City to shop Central Market, the country's oldest farmers market, continuously operating since 1730. I used to go there quite a bit, but now I usually only go when my nieces are staying with me. They call it the 'old-fashioned' grocery store. On a Saturday Morning the place is filled with people doing their shopping and stand-holders cheerfully selling their products. The 'current' building was built in the late 1800s and the wood floors are well worn. It's a great place to people watch too as it is an interesting blend of 'plain' people, tourists, Lancaster City residents, and progressive young people and older people that have probably only ever shopped there.

I'm lucky to live in an area that has so many farmers markets. Roots is close by and starting in early summer, both Elizabethtown and Mount Joy will also have small farmers markets opening in local parking lots one day of the week. Farther out in Lancaster County, there are other weekly farmers markets, so that on any given day but Sunday there is a large farmers market open somewhere, along with many, many smaller ones. Roadside stands are also prolific here and should start popping up towards the end of this month.

One thing that I hope other participants in the eat local challenge are aware of is the importance of land-use issues. Agriculture is Lancaster County's number one industry and even though there is more development occurring than I'd like to see, the County does a pretty good job of protecting valuable farmland and making sure it stays in cultivation. This area has the most fertile, non-irrigated farmland in the country and we want to keep it being farmed. So in addition to figuring out where your food comes from, find out about how farmland is protected in your area and how you might help or contribute in terms of protecting farmland and encouraging farmers to stay in the community.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Spring so far

Poet's daffodils are probably almost as fragrant as Lilacs. I love them and they are worth waiting for, blooming very late. As cut flowers, they last a really long time, and make the whole room smell spicy. I will definitely buy more for next year.

Hosta in Sweet Woodruff.

The farm behind us.

Rapidly growing chickens. Thrilled to be loose a few hours a day.

Barley fields behind us

My garden so far. The only thing visible is garlic, and maybe some peas if you enlarge it and look really close.

eating local

"Local? How local are we talking exactly? Not like 'backyard' local, right? You wouldn't eat a chicken with a name would you?"

Yesterday was pretty much a wash. Meeting in the morning with yogurt in the car on the way and a frozen Pad Thai at lunch from my freezer. But we did go to the Farmers Market last evening after I got home from work. Roots Farmers Market is a serious farmer's market. It is pretty much a complex of buildings. I would have taken pictures, but I feared looking like an idiot. Anyway, in addition to produce and baked goods, and dairy you can find everything under the sun. This market is only open on Tuesdays so it is an all day affair with multiple auctions going on at the same time. We checked out the small animal auction and I totally could have gone home with a goat. Tons of chickens, ducks, rabbits, pheasant, emu, doves, goats, and donkeys. I pointed out some adult versions of the kind of chickens we have and I think my husband was a little suprised at how big they would get. Especially the rooster. Did I mention I think I have a rooster? In the picture below, see that comb? It's getting a lot bigger and redder than the rest of the chickens and I distinctly heard the first juvenile warblings of a crow the other day. I wasn't planning on a rooster. The Buff Orpington roosters at the market were HUGE. Like the size of a beagle. I pointed and laughed nervously and said "Oh my, aren't they big?" and my husband just stared, imagining those big birds chasing after him as he mows the lawn.

Anyway, first I have to walk the whole market and price compare. Different vendors price things wildly apart and it always makes me mad when I buy something and see a stand in the next building where it is less than half of what I paid. My husband goes to eat, so he peruses the food stands, of which there are many.

So this is what I bought that was local:
- spinach
-spring mix
- spring onions
- pretzels

I also bought cheese. Apparently generic 'local' cheese, although at $8.99 a pound, those really aren't generic prices. The label made me laugh. Oh, I got snap peas also, although they must be from a greenhouse, cause I think it is too early for them. The farmer swore they were local though. Non-local things included three giant red bell peppers for $1!!! They are like $3.99 a pound at the store.

Today I had the cheese that I made on the non-local pita bread. For lunch I will have one of those salads with a hard-boiled local egg. Oh, and my dressing is local! Gazebo Room dressing, from a now-closed restaurant in Harrisburg that had awesome salad dressing and is now produced large scale, is made in Mechanicsburg....about 30 miles from me. Croutons are not local, and I will make my own once these are used up, but I already had them. I will probably eat that other salad for dinner. I should have my own lettuce in about two weeks. Woohoo. I could have bought a lot more. There were tons of preserved things and spices and baked goods (probably enough shoo-fly pie to cover an acre) and candy and junk food. I was tempted to buy potato chips but I resisted. It was hard. They had a big bag of dark chips from a maker in Lancaster City. Mmmmm....greasy homemade potato chips slightly burnt. The roasted peanuts smelled really good too...but not local. Oh, I also bought two heliotrope. That's another thing I love about the farmers market. Tons of flowers and plants cheap. They were large plants, already blooming for $1.88 each! I did mean to buy local horseradish, but I forgot. Next Tuesday maybe.

Monday, May 01, 2006

The weekend

It isn't really long enough.....not to get all the things done I wanted to anyway. I did get a lot planted. Three kinds of beans, the rest of the peas (late), the beets (also late), dill, two kinds of onions (late, again), carrots, two dozen gladiolus bulbs and three dozen peacock orchids. Played with the chickens a lot, saw my new neice that was born late last week. The other two neices that were less than thrilled at the prospect of a new baby quickly were won over and are now like two little broody hens with her. I briefly experienced baby envy but I think I got over it on Sunday when I heard a far away neighbors child scream for 30 minutes non-stop. No thanks.

The eat local challenge started today and I'm not off to a great start. I did make cheese over the weekend, well, an herbed (my own chives!) cheese spread made from drained yogurt (store bought) which I ate on a Thomas' whole wheat pita bread this morning. And for lunch I'm eating leftover Salmon and wild rice from Saturday (definitely not local). I will eat my own asparagus for dinner and probably some local chicken from the freezer, so at least one meal will be local. Tomorrow I will go to the Roots Farmers Market (pronounced Rutz) where I should be able to buy a lot of stuff, particularly a lot of staples....and things I don't need....like potato chips, baked goods....did I mention I live 10 miles from Hershey, PA? So technically a chocolate bar for a meal would be considered local. The farm where I buy eggs and milk has their own green-house tomatoes starting this weekend, so we'll see how good those are. Did I mention Tasty-Kake is based in Philadelphia, which is about 90 miles from here, so it counts. And M&M Mars has a factory not even 5 miles from me, so really that could be local too. Actually I don't like sweet things that much. It is the Utz potato chips in York and Martins Potato Rolls in York and Herrs Snack Foods in Nottingham that really would be my preference. But then that really isn't the spirit of eating local right? Anyway, I will keep you posted as to how well or how abysmally I'm doing.