"United we bargain, divided we beg."

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Good News, Bad News

I'm sad, because my pastor is moving across the country to be some other church's pastor. Pastor L. and her husband J. are friends as well as spiritual leaders, and we will miss them greatly. I can't even say much more about it, because I don't feel like crying at 11:00 in the morning.

They will be driving across the country, and came to Homero to check out their car and make sure it is fit for a long journey. Homero looked, and found several important things that needed to be fixed. He told them to get the parts and there would be no charge for the labor. Of course they protested, and we protested, and they said "we can't possibly..." and we said "we can't possibly..." and we were at an impasse.

Then J. called the next day and said, "you know, we are selling off most of our stuff, anything that won't fit in the car. Would you be interested in accepting our brewing equipment as payment for the mechanic work?" J., you see, is an enthusiastic and talented homebrewer. We have sampled his product a few times and can attest to it's deliciousness. He and Homero have talked several times about getting together to do a few batches, but it just hadn't happened.

I have had a little run-in with homebrewing of my own (Cider Season) and it was a miserable failure. I've always wanted to give it another go, but making cider is such hard work - picking the apples, hauling the press out of the garage, washing the apples, getting stung by bees, cleaning everything up afterwards - that I just haven't wanted to risk turning the hard-earned delicious fresh cider into disgusting undrinkable sludge. Again.

HOWEVER! If we are to have our very own brewing equipment, and a few lessons from a master before they (sniff) go away, then I am willing to take the plunge. Delighted, in fact.
Only problem - I still don't have any APPLES.

Gotta work on that.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Winter Stores (A Thought Exercise)

Like many other girls, some of the first books I read entirely on my own were the Little House books. My favorite was the first one, Little House in the Big Woods. And my favorite image from that book was that of Laura and Mary playing with their dolls up in the little attic, stuffed full of food for the winter. They used pumpkins for tables and chairs and had to be careful of the hams and strings of onions hanging from the ceiling.

The whole first part of that book is about preparing for winter; slaughtering the pig, smoking the meat, storing the food from the garden, and waxing the cheeses to last through the cold months. I was always fascinated with all of that. There was something so comforting and cozy about the idea of the family, tucked up snug as bugs in rugs, well provisioned and ready for the long dark.

My family, should we have to survive the winter on what we've managed to produce this year, would certainly die a prolonged and miserable death, most likely punctuated by hideous acts of cannibalism.

Don't misunderstand - actually, there is plenty of food in the house. I don't have the ideal full year's supply, but I'm pretty sure we could get through the next six months without malnutrition. But that's because of Costco and the wonderfully generous amount of storage space in this big old farmhouse. I just can't seem to stop myself from filling every available space with twenty pound sacks of rice and five gallon buckets full of pinto beans. What I meant is - if we had to survive on what we've actually managed to PRODUCE.

Yeah, off this land. Yeah, by the proverbial sweat of our brows.

If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you've probably already gathered that I don't particularly like to sweat. I am, in fact, sinfully slothful. My idea of hard work is getting the kids off to school with a little bit of something in their bellies, then taking a nap before I do my chores. Nonetheless, I have managed to put by a good bit of food from the garden and the animal pen. If we had to live entirely on the produce of our land (counting both direct and indirect produce - i.e., that which we grew ourselves and that which we traded for with stuff we grew ourselves) this is what we would have:

1) The meat from two goat kids - about fifty pounds.

2) About ten pounds of cheese

3) six dozen eggs

4) a gallon of rendered lard and six pounds of pork sausage

5) some 20 pounds of potatoes

6) eight gallons of kosher dill pickles

7) forty pounds of red beets

8) two freakishly large heads of green cabbage

9) a couple quarts of frozen blackberries

10) five tiny eggplants

11) a half-bushel of pears

12) seven gallons of apple cider

13) some assorted herbs - mint, basil, rosemary, thyme, oregano, etc

Now the harvest season isn't over - the hens are still laying six or eight eggs a day. The goats are still giving me a collective total of a half-gallon a day. We have the two pigs that will be ready for slaughter in December sometime, and there are even still blackberries to be picked. And again, this isn't representative of the food I actually have in the house. Just in the frozen fruit department, for example, there are several gallons of frozen sliced peaches, blueberries, and raspberries. But I didn't list those because I bought them rather than growing them or trading for them. Likewise, I'm not listing the half-steer that will be going in the freezer come mid-October.

Even the above list looks like a pretty big pile of food, until you start to parse it out. Winter (meaning the date there is no more fresh food to be had) starts in earnest at the beginning of November, more or less, when the last apples fall from the trees. And it doesn't end until March, when the first nettles and fiddleheads appear.

That's a good four months, or sixteen weeks. And there are five of us, which can be expressed as 80 (5x16) mouth-weeks. My handy online conversion tool tells me there are 768 teaspoons in a gallon, which means that each of us would get 9.6 teaspoons of lard a week. Even that sounds like a lot, until you think that it's only about 300 calories a week.

Eggs: 6 x 12 = 72.
72/80 = 0.9 eggs per person per week.

Meat: 50 lbs / 80 mouth-weeks = 0.65 lbs per person per week.

Cheese is even measlier: 10 lbs / 80 mouth weeks = 0.125 lbs cheese per person per week. An ounce.

These are starvation wages, friends. Papillon got better rations in French Guiana (GREAT movie, by the way). And animal protein is the GOOD part of the equation. Plant produce is where it really starts to break down. For starchy staples, all we got is sixty pounds of potatoes and beets. That's less than one pound per person per WEEK.

Even the ridiculous 8 gallons of pickles starts to look less ridiculous when you think it breaks down to about three pickles a week per mouth. I'm not going to go into a whole lot of pointless math, but I'd be surprised if we could scrape up an average of three hundred calories a day per person here. That means we'd be gnawing each other's legs off by, oh, say, the new year.

Not to mention, I'd hate to live through a northwest winter without a drop of coffee. Or a single lemon. Or a goddamn banana.

What's my point here? Thank God for Costco and the global monetary economy? Aimee, get off yer duff and plant a way bigger garden next year? Wow, I'm sure glad I have neighbors who farm and ranch and can supply me with beef and carrots and spinach?

Yes, to all of those things. Yes, I could be doing more - even with what's left of this year, I could be doing more. Yes, I do give thanks for the global system that allows me to have coffee and mangoes and citrus fruits and cinnamon and chocolate. Yes, I appreciate my neighbors and the hard work they do to grow cattle and vegetables and everything that I can't grow by myself.

Most of all, I thank God for all of the hidden systems that operate out of sight day by day and eon by eon to create this fruitful world and to sustain me and my family. The nitrogen cycle! The strange biology of the compost heap. The pre-frontal cortex that allows me to think ahead and plan for winter and write this post. The four-chambered stomach of the cow that turns the sweet green June grass into the marbled meat we eat in December. The mysteries contained in each leaf and seed.

Maybe I don't need to play with numbers, to measure out lard by the teaspoon. Maybe I can count on these beautiful natural processes as well as on my own brain and hands. Maybe I can relax and trust a little bit more, and spend a little less time hoarding and imagining the worst. Winter may be sixteen weeks long, but I know for certain that spring will come at the end of it.

Mabon was a few days ago, and naturally my thoughts turn to surviving the dark side of year. But it is important to remember that the world is round, and that winter is spring's sister. Earth turns, and we turn with her. We ride her broad back through the blackness of space in the black season, and we are cradled on her bright breast in the bright season.

Blessed be the blackness! Blessed be the brightness!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Settling into September (Goatherding and Profanity)

The weather changed last week. Just a half-moon ago, there was an article in the Seattle Times saying we had broken the record for consecutive days above eighty degrees. Not really much of a record - I think it was eight days. But still - after the longest, coldest spring and early summer anyone could remember, we would take any heat-related record we could get.

And it was a nice stretch; more than a full week of clear blue skies, no clouds in sight, and hot enough to sweat. My garden, along with everyone else's, suddenly decided to mature. Green beans lengthened and curled. Tomatoes plumped and reddened. Even my little bitty cantaloupes in the greenhouse sweetened and fell off the vines. My eggplants swelled and began to look harvestable. The potato vines wilted and dried. It was hot enough for me to curse as I dug tubers and boiled up jars for canning.

Alas, no sooner had I harvested the bounty than the weather turned again. Nights have been downright chilly lately, leading me to speculate about the price of propane. I've broken out the woolen blankets. I've searched through the drawers for the children's sweaters - they can't go to school in T-shirts anymore.

Yesterday, I walked the back pasture and saw that there is just about nothing left for the animals to eat. Well - not quite - there is still plenty of green, but it is the green of thistle stalks, pigweed, dock, tansy, and false dandelion. Plus many weeds I don't know the names of, and can't find pictures of in a five-minute online search. These are things the goats will eat if need presses, but prefer not to. The good grass and the favored weeds are eaten to the ground. Therefore, being extremely cheap, I have started letting the goats out to browse just about every afternoon so as to forestall the day I have to start feeding them purchased hay. Outside of the fenced pasture, there is still an awful lot of good forage: grass, blackberries, and general unnamed herbiage.

Goatherding ought to be a simple task - seems like it should be; after all, it was the job relegated to children throughout history in goatherding lands. Yet, it is pretty taxing to me. It is bloody hard to get goats to go where you want them to go, and even harder to keep them from going where you don't want them to. You can't just sit down in a chair with a book and casually cast an eye over the goats. Believe me - I try. I assume it was easier back in, say, 2,000 B.C., when there were no highways or near neighbors. In those days, all a goatherd had to do was keep a lookout for bears and cougars. There was plenty of time for, for example, whittling a flute and inventing the pentatonic scale.

I keep thinking I can sit down with a book in my folding canvas chair, loosely holding a stick. What I end up doing more often than not is running back and forth across the property waving my stick and shouting terrible oaths.

As an aside: My mother has a mouth like a Russian sailor. There's a family story (which, of course, I can't confirm, seeing as it concerned me when I was less than three years old) that once, during a terrible snowstorm, my pre-school teacher had to drive me home from pre-school. Her car wouldn't start in the cold. After she had tried several times, I, with my wispy blonde hair and gigantic china blue eyes, pointed at the dashboard and let loose a string of profanity the likes of which one seldom hears even today, much less in 1975.

"Aimee!" exclaimed the startled teacher. "What on earth are you doing?"

"Well," I lisped, "That's how my mommy starts the car."

The best part of this story is that years later, when I was in seventh grade, I wrote it up as an assignment. For some reason (perhaps because it was my first year in public school) I thought the story would be more effective if I spelled out the exact words - the words my mother faithfully and unvaryingly used whenever she was highly pissed off.

Today, it gives me great satisfaction to let loose with similar words (I must admit, I've never been able to match my mother in the profanity department) while I come across the back of some seriously delinquent goats with my oak-stick. Cursing hasn't saved the grapevine from marauding goats, but it has relieved my feelings when I see the aforementioned grapevine chewed to shreds.

Maybe somewhere out there is a scholarly paper which answers the question of whether or not my cursing a blue streak spares somebody else a hard right hook. Common sense would seem to dictate that if I can call somebody a craven boot-licking cur I thereby avoid giving him a physical licking. And even if if not, I think it more likely than not that releasing my feelings in the form of heartfelt profanity is good for me.

Why should anyone suffer from high blood pressure, constipation, or anxiety, when they can instead let lose with a volley of colorful language?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Second Annual September Swap Meet and Cider Press

Last year's September Swap Meet was a flop - but partly that was because I broke three vertebrae three days before the event and couldn't do much of anything. Also, I couldn't quite decide if I wanted a family and friends event or a public event, and so it ended up being not quite either.

I was envisioning a campout and full-moon fest, with music and a bonfire, and so I did an awful lot of cleanup around the property, which was a lot of work (Swap Meet Preparations (Where Does It All Come From?)). Then the event itself was pretty anti-climactic.

One of the people who did come, however, was N., proprietor of the wonderful Custer Country Store (Custer General Store (You Might be a Redneck if....)). As September rolled around this year, she asked me if I would be throwing another swap meet. I hemmed and hawed. As much as I love the idea of getting an annual event rolling, I just couldn't face the amount of cleanup that would be needed.

Yes, things have gotten worse over the past year. It's pretty bad around here. Bad enough that we'll need to hire a few strong young men to help us with dump runs before we can have the public over. "Sorry," I said, "I'd love to, but..."

"You can have it here!" she said.



N. is a wonderfully community minded lady - she has all kinds of cool events at her store, from sidewalk movies on summer weekend nights to organizing the August Custer Daze. She is very into trade and promoting community networking, so I guess this was a natural fit for her. Of course I took her up on it immediately.

So - this saturday, the 24th, there will be the Second Annual September Swap Meet and Cider Press at Custer Store. We still have room on the sidewalk for a few more tables; if any of you locals would like to have some space, just leave me a message here with your e-mail and I'll be in touch ASAP.

You don't need a table's worth of stuff. If you have a basket of plums off your plum tree, or some home canned ketchup, or a backpack full of extra tools from your garage, or a box full of children's books.... come on by! Most especially if you have apples, please bring them! I will be running the press all day long, and taking a share of cider for myself as press-rental. Oh and there will be a service board for swapping skills and services (i.e., "massage therapist needs oil changes.... plumber looking to swap services with electrician.... housecleaning for babysitting...." etc)

ONE RULE: if you bring it, you are responsible for it!!!! NO LEAVING STUFF at the end of the day! Or N. will never let me have the swap meet at her store again, and that would suck.

Let's hope the weather holds!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Double Piglet!

We acquired two new piglets yesterday. Here they are: two handsome girls, a cross between a Large Black Hog boar and a Tamworth Sow. These girls are quite a bit bigger than the last piglet we raised was when we got him - they are eleven weeks old and have been weaned for several weeks now. The farmer said he likes to leave them get a bit bigger before they head off into the cruel world. It's nice for us, as well- a few weeks less feeding.

It's been quite a while since we had a pig. The last one one has been all eaten up for months, except for a couple of smoked hocks. We thought about getting one in the spring, but when I searched for some, they were all so expensive! The price of weaner pigs has gone up about 60% since our first pig, in 2008. We paid $75 for him (well, actually the first one was a trade - Holy Pork Chops, Batman! (the Backstory on Pigs)), and then the next year they were all $85 or $90. This year, I couldn't find any weaners for under $125.

We might still have sprung for one, except that I learned recently that one pig alone really suffers for companionship, even if housed with other hoofed animals. Pigs are extremely social animals, and a pig farmer my sister knows suggested that my pigs have been so obnoxious, loud, and bitey because they were lonely. Therefore I decided I wouldn't raise just one pig again - and we couldn't afford two. The economics of raising pigs is pretty marginal - you can't raise pork cheaper than you can buy it at the store, but the homegrown variety is so much better, on so many levels. Since we finished off our last pig, we just haven't been eating pork, since I can't bring myself to buy commercial pork and thereby contribute to a number of heinous evils (sorry! No lecture, I promise! Just - Hog CAFOS = environmental disaster + animal abuse + worker abuse and injustice).

Then, day before yesterday, I saw that a neighbor of mine, a guy I know and have traded with before, was selling off a litter of piglets at a discount, to pay off some bills and make room for new litters coming up soon. Instead of $125, he was letting them go at $80 apiece. I took the idea to Homero and he said to go for it. So, a quick repair of the pigpen and off we went! Our neighbor has a great set up, large roomy stalls and big outdoor exercise areas. The piglets were in one stall, and the grown breeding pigs in the next one - enormous animals, somewhere between six and seven hundred pounds. They looked pretty scary to me, but the farmer walked right in and scratched them and petted them.

I hope these little girls inherited the gentle temperament.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Beautiful New Goat (It's a Small Caprine World)

I went and did it again - yes, I bought a goat. A new doe. And not just any doe - a gorgeous tri-color spotty doeling. She looks just like the one that the vet accidentally killed this spring (Letter to the Vetrinarian), but a year older. It's no surprise they look alike - they are half sisters.

Yes, I bought one of Storm Cloud's offspring. One of my trade partners (I think I used to call her Turkey Girl, because our first trade with her was a thanksgiving turkey for Storm Cloud's buck service) is getting out of goats, and had three does for sale. One of them was Polly (short for Polychromatic), this lovely young thing right here:

Her sire was Storm Cloud, which means that two of my does, Flopsy and Iris, are her grandmother and great-grandmother respectively. I am especially glad to get Polly, because ever since I sold Storm Cloud, I had been lamenting the fact that I didn't keep any of his offspring. He was (presumably still is ) such a pretty buck - good conformation, good health, good feet, and good temperament. Here is a picture of Storm Cloud as a big kid, you can see he's pretty. In fact, these two bucklings are so pretty it looks like a Caprine version of an Abercrombie and Fitch ad.

I'm glad to have some of his blood back in the herd. However, I still don't have a buck for this year! Now I have FOUR lonely, spotted ladies to breed, and no Billy around to do the deed. I've advertised on Craigslist, but so far to no avail. I'm hoping to board a buck for a month or so and get the whole job done at once.

If you know of any stunningly handsome, big-boned, spotted fullbred Nubian buck around the NW washington area, give me a holler!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Fermentation Files (Daikon Kim chee and Grape Leaves)

There is a reason I haven't been posting much lately, but I don't care to go into it. Suffice it to say that I have a frustrating, time consuming, but in no way life-and-death situation which is sucking up a lot of my brainpower. Hopefully, this situation will resolve itself one way or the other soon, and life can get back to normal.

In the meantime, Preserving Season waits for no woman. The Great Trade I was going on about last week (Mother of All Trades (?) and Trade Network Update) has morphed into the Pretty Good Trade, but I'm happy about it. Basically, it's a crate of produce, and I get to fill it however I want. That crate isn't here yet, but there is still lots of vegetables coming in the door.

My sister passed me a bag full of daikon radishes and turnips. I like both of those sliced thinly and drizzled with lemon juice and salt, but not in those quantities. So I made kimchee. I have made kimchee a couple of times before, but only cabbage kimchee (detailed instruction can be found here:Kim Chee Situation (Food Storage Update)). Luckily, I save all my old Saveur magazines and I found the one with an enormous section all about kim chee. Basically, daikon kim chee is made the same way as cabbage kim chee, but with sugar added.

My other bonanza of the week was grape leaves. I love grape leaves, both for making dolmas and other wrapped foods (try wrapping fish in them), and also for their high tannin content. Adding grape leaves to kosher pickles will keep them crisp.

My daughter Rowan is babysitting this week for a friend who just so happens to have one of the most amazing small-homesteader type properties in the city of Bellingham, which is saying a lot. She is only renting the property, but whoever originally laid out the half acre did a fantastic job. There are some seven fruit trees - apples, plums, and cherries - sixteen blueberry bushes, a long row of raspberry canes, a truly impressive enormous asparagus bed, four 4x16 foot raised beds for annuals, and two gigantic grapevines.

These are the best grapevines I've seen in a home garden in this area, ever. Not sure of the varieties (alas) but both of them are covered in bunches of large grapes, which are just beginning to turn color and to soften. And did I mention they are huge? Each of them covers an arbor about twenty feet long by twelve or sixteen feet wide. And one of them has grown up into a large maple tree to a quite surprising height. Right away I asked if I could pick some leaves.

"My grapevines are your grapevines," said the gracious friend. So I filled a shopping bag. I decided to pickle them for use further on in the year. You CAN lacto-ferment grape leaves, but I decided to play it safe and vinegar pickle them. Here's how I did it:

Use a sharp knife or scissors to trim the grape leaves of their stems. Set aside leaves that are too small or ripped. You can use these in making fermented pickles, or feed them to your rabbits, if you have any. We do, and they loved them. This is a rather tedious task when you have a shopping bag full of leaves. The glass of wine you see in the middle helped out with that. Stack the leaves to be pickled with their stem-ends together.

Boil up your jars in a big kettle. When jars are sterilized, remove them to a clean towel. Take small stacks of grape leaves - about six or seven - and use tongs to dip them in the boiling water. Hold for about twenty seconds. They will wilt and turn brighter green.

Drain the leaves by holding them up and shaking them slightly. Roll the stack into a cigar shaped bundle and tuck into your sterilized quart jar (you may have to tuck one end under to make them fit). Each jar will fit about five of these bundles. Fill the jars with a basic brine (1/4 cup salt and 1 cup white vinegar to a half gallon of water), leaving 1/4 inch headroom. Add several twists of lemon peel, if desired. Place on sterilized lids and process in a water bath for fifteen minutes.

These make one of the prettier preserves. If I were making them for gifts I would use the quilted pint-sized jelly jars, the ones that always end up as water glasses in our house.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Hopesicle Life, Part Three

Hello all - since I can't think of a darn thing to write about (the garden... the goats.... the weather... rinse, lather, repeat....) Hope has stepped into the breach and is offering to introduce her family. She chose all the pictures, and mostly did just fine. I'd just like to point out that I am not actually married to a vampire gorilla. That's a Halloween costume. Without further ado:

Heyoo! This is Hopesicle life part three! Now I am introducing my family.

To start off, number one is my Mom. Her real name is Eleanor. What she likes to do is farm on her farm and read.

Another person in our family is my Papa. His real name is Homero. He likes to fix cars and play with our dogs. He loves to play with Sisa (Ivory).

And there's also my big sister, Rowan. She likes to knit and make fairy wings. And I don't know anything else because she stays in her room all the time. She is seventeen.

My little sister, Paloma, she likes to play with me. And she likes school. Today was the first day of school.

Then there's me! My name is Hope. What I like to do is sleep. I like to read books. My favorite book is definitely... definitely... definitely... I don't know. But I like One Monster After Another and I like The Stories That Julian Tells. And Officer Buckle and the Paperboy.

And..., To Be Continued!!!!!!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Summer in September (Garden Wrap Up)

Well, since winter lasted through the end of March, and the cool wet spring lasted through the end of July, I guess it's only fair that summer is here at last and looks to stick around for a little while longer.

The last few weeks have been hot, clear, and dry. The tomatoes ripened almost at once, which wasn't a problem since there were so few of them. A few beautiful tomato salads, a lot of surreptitiously snatched cherry tomatoes as I walk by the back porch, and that's it! Farewell, tomatoes, we hardly knew ye!

Other hot weather crops are showing mixed results - there's only one cucumber plant, but it's doing beautifully, with several long, curly cucumbers hanging off of it. The tomatillos look great, all covered in little paper lanterns, but most of the lanterns are empty. I've never grown tomatillos before, so I don't know if it's a pollination issue or something I'm doing wrong. Yesterday I discovered that my eggplant plants actually DO have a few eggplants on them, not just the lovely purple flowers. But they are still very small, and I don't know if they will get big now that cool nights are here. My cantaloupe plant, in the greenhouse, has two softball sized cantaloupes on it. I am watering religiously and we'll see if they get any bigger. I intend to eat them no matter what. And lastly the chile pepper plants that survived the cold spring (not many) are pumping out long wrinkly cayenne peppers at warp speed.

Out in the back garden, the pumpkin plant has sprawled over an area thew size of Delaware, yet produced only one pumpkin. It's supposed to be a giant variety. Right now it is almost the size of a beachball. Meanwhile, we are eating all the flowers off the plant and very nice they are, too, stuck inside quesadillas or just quickly sauteed in butter. I picked the last of the cabbages, which also grew to amazing proportions. The slugs got some, but there's plenty left to eat as much cabbage as any one family can eat for quite some time. And it is time to dig potatoes. The plants are dying back. I haven't done it yet because it's been too hot to be out wielding a shovel.

All in all, I'm quite pleased with this year's garden. It has certainly produced more food in pounds than any other garden up here yet! There were a few abject failures (garlic, green beans) but not many. I think I'm getting better.

A little, anyway.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Mother of All Trades (?) and Trade Network Update

I'm not sure yet whether or not this is going to work out exactly the way we think it is, but there's a possibility of the trade network's most stunning success to date - Homero is replacing an engine for some friends of my sister and her family. These folks - who we can almost count as friends ourselves rather than friends-once-removed, having been to many of the same parties - are organic farmers and have a pretty good sized spread.

Homero offered (at my instigation) to let them pay up to half the labor costs in vegetables, which would be a whole big pile of veggies. There are a few issues - we live pretty far apart, for one, and it's near the end of the season, for another - but as I told them, the whole point of barter is to make things easier, not harder. If it turns out cash is easier than trade, well, we accept that, too. But I'm hoping for veggies. I've not yet come near the limits of my canning tolerance for the year. Theoretically, this one trade could provide us with most of our winter store of vegetables.

At the same time, we've lost our oldest trade partner, Veggie/Oil Man. He has been going through some extremely rough personal and family problems, and in fact seems to have lost his farm entirely. It's a damn shame, and not just for us. V/O Man and his wife have become personal friends, and it's very hard to see them having such a tough time.

I think I also may have burned a much smaller trade partner - B., who traded me berries and greens for eggs, hasn't called me in quite a while, and I'm afraid I know why. There's a very high probability that I gave him a carton full of partially developed eggs, and if that is the case, I can't blame him for running away. There is almost nothing as unpleasant as cracking an egg to find a half-grown bird fetus inside.

There is still S. and her husband, who trade me vegetables for goat cheese every saturday at the farmer's market. But I find that their vegetables, while of superb quality, are quite highly priced. I always walk away, having handed over a pound of lovingly made cheese for, say, a bunch of chard, six carrots, and a bulb of garlic feeling just a bit like I got the thin end of the stick.

September is coming up (oops I mean already here), and if I get moving, there is plenty of time to arrange the Second Annual September Swap Meet. My friend N. at the local store asked me if I would be doing it again this year, and I said I'd like to but that I didn't feel I had the energy to clean up the property, which looks like (to quote my mother) Arkansas in 1934. She laughed and suggested we hold it on the sidewalk in front of the store.

Now THERE'S a plan! Having consulted the calendar, I'm going to suggest Saturday the 24th, and start drawing up a poster.