I just checked the date of my last entry, listed for January 31 of this year. Obviously, I have neglected the #1 rule of blogging — “Don’t neglect your blog.”
I’ve had trouble defining the purpose of this blog. Technically, according to “online marketing guidelines” it should lead readers somehow over to our business, Two-Lane Livin’ Magazine.
It should be a perfected presentation, written by a polished publisher, putting our best foot forward and emphasizing the value of our publication for advertisers. (White papers on local print publications, circulation, distribution, etc.)
In other words, this blog should technically be — work.
Well, it’s when I get that frame of mind that my blog entries simply become non-existent.
Forgive me if I don’t try to somehow sneak in a sales pitch. If I’m blogging to express myself, then work should not be included. I work all the time on other, well — more important things.
I have eight trays of seeds started indoors, and have the hot bed construction underway outside and more seeds to arrive in the mail within a few days. I’ve cleared the flower beds of debris and have started my spring mulching routine. Frank has promised a second raised bed inside the “big” garden fence for the herb garden. The small one near the house without fence did not deal well with the deer of winter.
This, of course, requires research on seed types, germination times, planting dates, soil requirements, etc. We’re not “winging it” with our garden any more, and it has become a science.
I’ve been gathering eggs again, and this year, have my official WV Egg Permit, which allows me to now legally trade a a dozen for a couple of dollars. Of course, now that I’m doing it legal, I am supposed to wash the eggs (which you really shouldn’t do) and had to design and print my own labels that cover all previous carton labeling with a big notice that says, “UNGRADED EGGS.” I also have to include the date I put the eggs in the carton.
Right now, we get about four dozen eggs a month. (Yup, that’s about $10) But, I’m getting two batches of hens later on in the season, so I might actually pay for their feed (and now, the labels).
Also, I’m planning to be “active” in the local farmer’s markets this year. I have some bulk herbs, and have planted several heirloom varieties of organic vegetable and herb seeds. I’ve always enjoyed my visits to the Calhoun Farmer’s Market, and the Gilmer Farmer’s Market is also being well received. I’ve been examining farmer’s markets for seven years now, so perhaps it’s time to get off the sidelines.
If you don’t follow me on facebook, then you aren’t aware that I totally rearranged the home office here, and that was a five day project that nearly exhausted me. (It is not uncommon, in the dark throes of February, for me to go manic with cabin fever and tackle some large task out of the blue. I typically get in over my head in such cases.)
But, I needed to do it because I’m also trying to get a local food co-op going for my community — a hyper-local, home delivery type thing that offers natural, certified organic and free trade items in bulk. These items can also be offered at the farmer’s markets in the summer, but through the winter will continue to serve the community.
Oh, and I also publish a magazine by the way. So, I’ve been working on ad design, page layout, editing, sales, online updating, and invoicing.And if I were a professional blogger, I’d somehow lead you to buy and ad right about
No. This blog will be work no more.
This is me.
I wear mud boots, work in my pajamas, and have dirt under my fingernails.
I work late, sleep late, and spend way too much time on facebook.
Today, I shoveled horse manure for a couple of hours before typesetting three articles and preparing to place our first food co-op order.
I’ve spent too many years of my life trying to pretend that I am a professional.
I am driven to learn, teach and create — and that’s something totally different.
It’s like professional… but, without the polish.
So be it.
Hey, this is Two-Lane Livin’. Thus shall be Two-Lane Bloggin’.
It all started on a Monday evening, when my left eye began to feel tired while reading in bed. Typically a minor result of an allergy or a speck of dust in the eye, I washed my face and hands, put a cool compress on the eye for a bit, and went to bed.
On Tuesday morning, my eye was swollen shut. I began my homeopathic detox process. By that evening, no more swelling, but half my face was in a rash.
Wednesday morning, the left half of my face was rashed and puffy, but during the day, nothing seemed to worsen. I felt it had reached its worse and would begin to subside.
Thursday morning, both eyes were swollen shut, my entire face and neck were covered in a rash, and we were off to the Emergency Room where I got a prescription of steroids.
This, one day before I was committed to leave for Bridge Day, where I was helping set up and attend a booth for our local development corp.
By Friday morning, most of the swelling was gone, and the rash no longer itched. But, I was puffy, and my face was red and chapped, badly.
Friday evening, I was in Fayetteville, after loading the truck in the cold, and was standing outside on a mountain porch, covered with wet leaves, myself shivering in the drizzle with others, outside “A Taste of Bridge Day” eating some of the best BBQ shrimp I’ve ever had.
We were up at 4 am on Saturday to make the 5:30 am security check, and the long vendor’s “parade” to our bridge locations. That alone took 40 minutes, and five minutes after we set up our canopy, the drizzling rain began again. Temperature? Mid-thirties. Great weather for chapped skin faces….
At 3 on the dot, the festival ended, and we shot across the median to race to the hotel room’s heat and for a short nap before dinner and the second night of our weekend rental (one night was not an option).
Sunday morning, I packed the truck, we drove home, unpacked my friend in Grantsville then I unpacked myself and home, and came in to a kitchen strung with empty and full chicken noodle soup cans and bowls and sauce pots, and a sick husband on the couch.
Who told me there was going to be a deep freeze that evening. So, in the midst of unpacking, laundry, kitchen duty, nurse maiding AND repacking my bags, I also went to the garden and ripped up 22 pepper plants that still bore not-quite-ripe fruit.
Dump them out on a sheet on the spare bed, and geez I feel hot, but get packed and get going, I’m due in Marietta to spend two days with my cousin, in from California, whom I have not seen in eight years and haven’t spend any real time with in…. 30 years?
By the time I arrived at my Mother’s (who, as scheduling glitches would have it is at the beach), my fever peaked. My cousin was out to lunch, so I hopped in the shower to sweat it out and sterilize myself. We spent the evening in, ordered pizza, and went to bed early, with plans for a trip to Morgantown to do some relocation research for her.
That night, I had cold sweats under the electric blanket, and felt like someone beat me with a ball bat. I was up to urinate every 30 minutes.
Monday morning, I felt better. I wasn’t dead, I had control of my digestive system, a slight cough, and my fever had broken in the night. Off to Morgantown, where we visited the Visitor’s Center, WVU Human Resources, hospitals and had lunch at the fish market and deli, where I had the best shrimp bisque I’ve had in twenty years. I also tasted a sweet potato soup I think I can copy.
Back then to Marietta, for a nap, then a late dinner at Outback with other cousins, whom I haven’t spend a full meal with in… um…. well, years. I had more soup (excellent french onion) and more shrimp, which in Vienna, are not as good as the shrimp I had at Outback last month in Morgantown.
Good company, good meal followed by a good night’s sleep. the next morning I bid my cousin good bye, and returned home to discover – husband still on the couch where I left him, more chicken noodle cans, bowls and sauce pots all over the kitchen, peppers still on the bed, and four days worth of messages, mail e-mail and work waiting.
No freaking out allowed. Wash the bed linens, wash germy clothing from trip, wash dishes, clean kitchen. String any ripe chilis to dry. Fill hot tub with epsom salts for hubby and I to share, catch up with the mail in bed before falling asleep.
And that brings us to….. today.
Husband, feeling better, went to work. Me, still plumb-tuckered, slept in. Then, I turn to face the future — a deadline two days away, a full schedule of tasks and appearances at GSC’s upcoming homecoming, a husband heading off to Morgantown for an audio workshop.
I think, except for dusting, running the sweeper and making hot pepper jelly, I’m almost caught up.
It’s been three years nearly since Frank and I decided to change our lives. Overworked, stressed out, unhealthy, undecided, unguided. We needed change. So, we launched a magazine, got some chickens, started a vegetable garden and an herb garden. We starting paying attention to our lives, not just going through the motions.
We learned about food – what’s in it, how it’s made, what it does to our bodies. We didn’t go over board, but we did make some changes to our diet.
Small changes, mind you. Nothing really major.
And well, I’ve lost about thirty pounds.
I personally think it is so totally excellent that at 40, I weigh the same as I did when I was a senior in high school. Considering that between then and now, I’ve weighed up to 60 pounds more (and never have been pregnant), I think I look darn good for 40.
But now, more than twice, I’ve had the following conversation:
“You’ve lost weight.”
“Oh. Yeah, I have.”
“Have you been trying to lose weight?”
“No, not really.”
“Have you been sick?”
“No, I just changed my diet.”
“Changed your diet.”
“Huh. Are you sure you’re not sick?”
I am NOT sick. Stop implying that I am sick. I reject that vibe.
And don’t even ask me if I look sick. I know I look pretty darn good for a woman my age. I use Avon anti-aging products and they kick butt. (And no, I’m not saying that because I sell Avon. I sell Avon because their anti-aging products kick butt, and the local Avon lady quit.)
For breakfast, I have one large cup of sweet, creamy coffee. This has been my breakfast for the last — oh, twenty years.
I used to drink coffee with three spoons of sugar and a heavy dose of half and half. Now I drink it with two spoonfuls of honey and a splash of whole milk.
I eat lunch around 2 p.m. That’s my down time. I snack. Something light. Crackers and cheese, peanut butter and jelly, nothing much, with water to drink.
I used to eat at a mom and pop diner three, four days a week. Taco salad, today’s special, a greasy cheeseburger, all the sweet tea I could swallow.
For dinner, I eat around 6 p.m. I used to wait on Frank, but he goes until dark, which could be 9 p.m. in the summer. And now, I don’t wait. I eat my fill at 6, and then except for a few M & M’s or some popcorn, I STOP EATING for the day.
See, I used to eat a whole bag of M & M’s (with peanuts) at a time. With colby cheese on the side. Now a handful of candies will do, and a bag will last 3-4 days. (I don’t remember the last time we had colby cheese in the house, and I truly do miss it.) I used to have a quart glass of chocolate milk every day. I still have chocolate milk every day, but in a regular 8 oz glass. In fact, I used to drink a gallon of milk, myself, every two days. I can now stretch a gallon out to almost a week.
And I used to eat a huge meal every day right before bed. Now I don’t.
Oh. And we gave away our microwave. Haven’t had a microwave in four years, haven’t had a television in….. eight years.
I don’t eat as much red meat. I watched “Fast Food Nation,” and couldn’t eat red meat for two weeks. I still to this day look at red meat in a whole different light.
I know dairy is bad too. But I just soooooo love dairy. Even so, I’ve likely cut my dairy intake by at least half.
Yesterday, I had a tomato sandwich for lunch. Today I had a Quarter Pounder with cheese. Yesterday for dinner I had an egg sandwich with eggs from my chickens, and tonight we had grilled cheese with sweey and spicy tomato soup, fresh made in a canning pot from tomatoes, peppers and garlic grown in our own yard.
I’m not sick. I’m 40. I have lower back issues, occasional insomnia, thankfully rare migraines, and last winter, I lost all muscle tone in my upper arms while I was under long sleeves all season, leading to such a sad sleeveless spring day discovery — but I am not sick.
I’m losing the side-effects of a lousy diet that had accumulated on my body.
I’ve lost 30 pounds over three years, and I’ve developed a low tolerance for processed foods.
Hello?! That’s a good thing.
I didn’t really mean to do it, it just happened.
It doesn’t mean I’m sick.
It simply means that small, healthy changes to your diet can really make a difference over time.
It doesn’t mean something’s wrong. It simply means that things are getting right.
Now I’ve just got to work on some muscle tone.
Friday evening, we attended a bonfire in celebration of a friend/columnist’s daughter’s graduation. It started at 9 p.m., and I had no idea how time flew until the teens headed to bed around 1 a.m. I immediately said, “Oh! We have to go!”
We made it from the kitchen table to the front porch chairs before we got caught up in another interesting discussion.
When we finally did leave, it was 4 a.m.
Frank, who falls asleep quickly and knows it takes me about an hour, let me sleep in until 10 a.m. this morning, when the phone rang — my weekly Saturday morning phone call from my mother. About 10 years ago, because my life was so crazy and I often forgot to call her on a regular basis, Mother suggested she call every week at the same time.
It is now a routine part of our lives.
The topic of this week’s phone call, (and much of the party discussion) concerned four laying hens. My new hens. My hens who didn’t get fed this morning until 11 a.m. because I was up all night talking about them and sipping home made wine.
My friend Sue, who hosted the party, is The Farm Queen, Ms. Organic Herself, a woman who (I am sure) has not a single additive or preservative in her entire body. She has several beautiful chickens.
It’s Sue’s fault I have laying hens.
And once we finished celebrating her daughter’s accomplishment and settled down to chat I said, “Sue, I have chicken questions.”
She explained. Hens lay every 28 hours, not 24. They have to have food, PLUS oyster shells (calcium) to make the egg shells hard, PLUS grit which is basically rocks in some part of their throat that helps them chew because they have no teeth. But — that’s not all.
Sue’s also get Olive Oil, to make their feathers shiny. They get garlic every three days to keep away mites, fleas, and other nasties. They get brewer’s yeast for the same reason.
She gives them raw meat (organic) and milk and cream (organic). The layer feed she gives them she makes herself, and it’s 100% natural, not like the 17% natural mix you get at the feed store.
Sue has the most beautiful, glossy, spoiled hens there are. That’s what I pictured when I pictured hens. And then, we went and purchased mine, from a farm overstocked with mixed multitudes of chickens, guineas, ducks — all free range and rather fending for themselves.
We brought them home at night, captured from their roost. When I got a good look at them the next morning, I realized, these were not like Sue’s hens.
They were not beautiful, they were not clucking and cute. They were not pets.
First off, they stunk. I can handle bird poop, feeding schedules, food formulas, egg gathering, care taking.
But I don’t do stink.
At the party, I asked Sue if I could give them a bath. She told me to put out a pan of dirt.
See, if you want chickens to bathe — you give them dirt, not water.
Through this first week, I have seen improvement in my hens. Not being a farm girl, I am not about to judge their former living environment. However, I do think being catered to is much better for them than fending for themselves.
They no longer act like they’re starving, and have already gotten accustomed to my voice and the shaking of their feed can.
Within three days, they established their little “pecking order.” They are now a rather cohesive club, not a bunch of snippy singles.
My favorite, the Barred Rock, is low girl on the totem pole. I’ve named her “Peppa,” as she’s salt and pepper speckled.
Her eggs have a dark brown shell.
In the first week, our four hens produced 12 eggs in all, two of which I dropped.Â (I need a little more practice reaching through the access hole in their pen to grab the eggs.)
I had provided one roost and one nest for them to share (as Sue’s do) but after a day of watching them establishing their pecking order, I broke down and provided a second roost and a second nest bucket so Peppa wouldn’t have to fight so hard for her space.
I put in a second feed container so she wouldn’t have to fight the other three so hard for food.
She must realize I favor her, because she is no longer intimidated by my presence as the others are.
Every morning this week, I have tried to feed them on a schedule, gather eggs on a schedule, uncover and cover them on a schedule.
Today, I blew it. I couldn’t help it, I was up until 5 a.m. for the first time in nearly two years.
Frank went out an uncovered them for me this morning, but didn’t know my feed formula….
So when I fed them, I was four hours late.
They didn’t seem to mind — and had two eggs waiting for me.
I’ll make it up to them tomorrow.
I’m setting up a dirt bath.
There are two gates between the house and the road,
Two gates to open, two gates to close.
Two gates ï¿½round the horses, one on each side,
Two gates blocking my daily drive.
The inner gateï¿½s held by a black bungee cord,
The outterï¿½s propped open with a scrap piece of board.
Gate one is in the sunlight, gate two in the shade,
And often two horses will be in the way.
(And when the gateï¿½s open, horses try to get through
So you have to hurry, before they do.)
Iï¿½ve opened and closed in the cold, wet and dry
Opened and closed as lightning flashed ï¿½cross the sky
Iï¿½ve opened and closed in sunshine, in rain,
When night was so dark my eyes had to strain.
And if I am running five minutes late,
Iï¿½m fifteen behind once I deal with the gates.
And if I forget something and have to go back,
Iï¿½ve dealt with six gates once Iï¿½m back on my track!
Open and close, open and close,
I get my hands wet, get mud on my clothes
Open! Close! Open! Twice a day ï¿½ sometimes more!
Close! Open! Close! Also with the car door!
Two Gates! Two Gates! Not just one, count them, TWO!
Two gates in the way, and horse clods too!
Two Gates! Two Gates! They are racking my brain,
These two bloody gates will soon drive me INSANE!
There are two gates between the house and the road,
Two gates to open, two gates to close.