Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Snow Day Nostaglia & General Laziness.

Slightly cheating black & white post (whatever I make the rules here). 
I have a lot of paintings in progress but they are all wet (damn watercolors) & I just felt like writing. 
It's a snowy evening here in Greenfield following a snowy afternoon, & I left work around noon (I am terrified of driving in snow) just in time to see my husband for exactly one minute before he headed for work (he's a better driver than me, & works about 25 miles closer to our house).
I've been at home with the animals all day. Started paging through the old sketchbook. 
I have been changing things around here & drawing less out of my sketchbook & more on paper & shit. Like a real artist. But you'll see little pieces of randomness from sketchbook here & there for old times sake.
So here are some unpainted drawings from a Mini-Vaca taken on an extremely rainy weekend last June.
6.9&8.11: Two Cape Cod Sandwiches.
A post-driving curried chicken salad sandwich & a next afternoon linguica & mustard sandwich, grilled & eaten on the deck overlooking the pond. Then some insane encounters with huge snapping turtles ensued. Damn those things are weird & prehistoric & creepy. Try swimming with one. & huge. Did I mention huge?
6.9.11: BBQ Pork During A Late Spring Thunderstorm.
Another one of Mum's great dinners. Plus the sort of thunderstorm I'm really looking forward to as we approach the end of winter. We had some thunder & heavy rain last week & it reminded me how good that sort of weather is.
 6.10.11: Egg Salad Sandwiches & Vintage Dresses.
Typical Cape Cod Mini-Vaca Sort Of Day. Ate some tasty sandwiches, some chips, purchased one of my now all time favorite dresses at a thrift shop in Yarmouth, & saw some swans on a pond. There were dogs.
 6.10.2011: Cookout!
All Cape Cod trips should include some sort of cookout.
The next morning we ate this meal, in the pouring rain we collected buckets of seaweed for the garden, & then we drove home. 
 I'm fearing we won't have much Cape Cod Summer this year.
We really like our new house. We can grill in the yard here. We can hang out outside here. I can sit on top of the hill & enjoy the view of cornfields & the neighboring dairy farm, & draw & read there. We aren't stuck in town in Noho anymore.  We are making the kind of farming-style commitments that make travel complicated. I think we all need to recover from losing a major part of those summers.
That's all. Apologies for the lack of color. It's still snowing. I'll probably be back with more tomorrow.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

On NOLA, Abita Beer, & Grocery Stores Celebrating Mardi Gras.

The grocery store where I work does this crazy thing where Mardi Gras is celebrated very intensely.  Odd, right? For a kind of hippy grocery store in Western Massachusetts?
This year, Mardi Gras is being celebrated with all the fanfare of years past, plus is being extended until this Saturday, four whole days after the official start of Lent.
(Fun EnD Fact: Did you know this year that Ash Wednesday was also National Margarita Day? Yep.)
I lived in New Orleans from July 2001-July 2003. In the past I have found that my work's Mardi Gras fixation caused me to have a big old "I know more about New Orleans than you" chip on my shoulder, but this year, maybe it's the baby chicks being so darn cute, I seem to have lost the urgency of my protest.
This year I started to think of it as a very New Orleanian approach, just simply deciding that OUR Mardi Gras would last until Saturday & that was that.
I don't think any of the drunk people on Bourbon Street last week really cared about Ash Wednesday one way or the other. Probably celebrated National Margarita Day though.
The laws & traditions of Mardi Gras are sacred to New Orleans, but they are fluid too, & borrow shamelessly from whatever other culture or tradition they feel like. Look at the Mardi Gras Indians. 
I'm really conflicted about New Orleans.
It is so easy to love everything that is crazy & beautiful & absurd about the place, but it's such a frustrating place too.
Is it awesome or stupid that without question one stays up all night on Lundi Gras, puts on an elaborate costume at dawn, & marches in a 6am parade while still drinking? Part of loving NOLA is loving a city where you can't run errands for weeks at a time because you might run into a parade route.
Part of me does.
But then there's the "New Orleanians don't evacuate during hurricanes, we go to bars & party through it" attitude & I was always too practical to do that. Or not awesome enough?
General lack of amusement with potentially devastating hurricanes was one of the factors in my leaving, as was the horrible crime. Again, am I just a scardy-cat?
Since my first apartment at 17 in Providence, RI, I have loved walking at night. When I moved to New Orleans I was coming from San Francisco via Brooklyn via Providence. I thought what people said about the crime in new Orleans was basic fear of urban spaces. I was wrong.
New Orleans is a beautiful city, but it's also an ugly one. Floods, storms, crime, disease, garbage, filth are all jut as much a part of life as the gorgeous buildings in the French Quarter.
While I lived in new Orleans, I was employed as the database manager for the State of Louisiana Office of Public Health's HIV/AIDS Program, so I saw everyday the results of the other side of the picture.
Sometimes riding my bike during Mardi Gras season from one end of the Quarter to the other to get from my home in the Bywater to my work in the Central Business District was surreal.
Living in New Orleans was just completely insane. Everything that happened was a story.
I still find it one of the most beautiful places in the United States & I still miss it terribly.
A view of abandoned warehouses & train tracks from New Orleans is one of my most painted backgrounds. 
The first time I visited after moving away, in 2004, I was heartbroken to return home to Massachusetts & thought moving here was a huge mistake. But that was pre-Katrina, & Katrina reminded me pretty clearly of what my original objections where.
Last time I visited, during DnDnD2K09 , just the smell of the air as we drove along the Gulf Coast of Mississippi & got closer & closer was pure joy.
A memory from that trip that sums up the good: A Friday night crayfish boil at a neighborhood bar in the Marigny (the R Bar). I don't think I would have appreciated this so much when I  lived there, but after six years in Northampton, I sure did. The whole neighborhood formed a line with paper plates & received some of the best food you could hope to eat for free, & then sat on curbs everywhere to eat. The drink special was a PBR & a double shot of Jameson, $5.
My driving companions where looking glum & a man passing by told them not to worry, at least they were white. Then some near strangers bought us shots of Jaeger, tall boys of Budweiser in paper bags, & proceeded to take us down Bourbon Street on an adventure that included meeting miniature horses named Rascal & Dixie at a gay club. That's New Orleans.
This overly long post was inspired by my day at work, wearing Mardi Gras beads.
Here's your drawing, some Abita beers. I drew one on that road trip. They've changed the label since then. I don't love it.
 Abitas, Mardi Gras 2012, Greenfield, Massachusetts.
This really fine beer is now available at the River Valley Market for a very reasonable price (You can get Abita Amber at the totally fabulous Ryan & Casey's in Greenfield, too).
An Abita Amber tastes like everything good about NOLA, to me.
I don't think I'll ever move back. But it's still an excellent beer.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

An Overdose of Cute? Nah, Just The Perfect Amount.

Obviously, I am talking about the day 27 of the cutest puffballs you ever saw arrived at the Greenfield, Massachusetts post office in a box & we took them home.
February 2012: The Arrival Of The Puffballs.
These little guys are just absurdly cute. For the first couple of days, it was really hard to keep from just sitting & staring at them & pointing out incessantly how cute they were. Well, more than a week in, & we still kind of do that. 
How did we end up living in Cute City? Well, it all began one early January Saturday morning sitting around drinking coffee & reading the Murray McMurray Hatchery online catalog. Or did it begin with my picking up the excellent book Farm City by Novella Carpenter & falling in love with the idea of a box of baby poultry arriving via the U.S. Mail? Or did it simply begin last December when I emailed about a seemingly perfect craigslist rental that came complete with a chicken coop?
No, it all truly began much much earlier in time, when I met, started dating, & then married a guy as into or even possibly more so, crazy garden & farm plans as I am.
From the day we met we wanted to do this, & so what, if on that fateful January morning it seemed totally insane? So what if we already had four chickens, & the money we spent on the chicks could have been better employed elsewhere.
Spring is the season for chicks. We, by some very lucky twist of fate, ended by living somewhere we could have baby chicks just in time to place our order. How could we not? If you asked us in early December, we would have said sadly that we were at least a year, if not years, away from this project.
Look at us now. Lucy, Amanda Jo, Miranda, & Lulu outside in the chicken run, & an assortment of Barred Rocks, Araucanas, Golden Campines, Black Australorps, Partridge Rocks, & Sliver Laced Wyandottes currently chirping away in a brooder in our second bedroom.
We started with 27, but we lost one on the second day. Very sad especially considering it was a trying day during which I mostly focused on coming home to baby chicks, so finding that sad little body was quite a blow, but a week later the other 26 are still going strong.
It is really amazing to watch them grow. In just a week & a day, they have gone from little balls of fluff to much more bird like creatures, with wings & the tiniest most adorable tail feathers you ever saw. Their tail feathers kill me. Seriously.
If this post has a point beyond the obvious fact that omg, baby chicks are cute, it is that sometimes you have to just take a risk & go for the things that you know you want in your life. You can't just wait around to make enough money to afford your dream life later, sometimes you just have to go for it, & buy those baby chicks even though we knew we'd need that money down the road.
I don't regret it. Just now I took a break from writing this post to go outside & shut up the outdoor chickens in their coop for the night, & I can't properly express how happy the chicken tasks make.
In the last couple of weeks I have been reading the books & blog of Jenna Woginrich & I hate to use the word inspiring, but they really have been.
Big shout out to the farm & garden & food sections of the Forbes Library of Northampton for making us not even miss tv or netflix online or hulu during the almost two months we have lived here.
Turns out, I love having farm chores. My days are more fulfilling with chickens. I am happier here than I have maybe ever been, scary finances or not. We are on the right track.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Wood Stove Cookery & Being Thrifty.

As promised, a little more detail on the soup.
Soup On The Wood Stove, January, 2012.
Some facts: our finances continue to be terrible, we like cooking, winter is cold, soup is good, & we have a wood stove & a lot of cast iron enamel pots.
For most of January, our propane tank was really low & we couldn't afford to buy more, but we are allowed to cut wood off our property, so wood is free. This led to using the propane stove as little as possible, & coming up with creative ways to cook on a wood stove. Solution? Frequently SOUP. 
(We boiled water for pasta & made red sauce & slow cooked bacon a lot too.)
It turned out to be a very good thing that we enjoy roasting a chicken as a cheap but really satisfying Sunday dinner & always make & can stock from any large meat thing we cook. Duck stock? Lamb stock? Yup. We moved a lot of frozen stock over to the new house, & we ate it in January.
Cheap Ass Back Woods Soup:  
Place cast iron enamel pot on wood stove. Simmer an onion & garlic in a bit of chopped bacon from your freezer supply for just these occasions. Add chopped beef from some large cut of meat you have been using sparingly from Stop & Shop. Add homemade chicken stock, a potato if you have one, rice or barley or both, a can of whatever beans you have on hand, season, cumin, oregano, sage, touch of cayenne, or whatever you like. Simmer at wood stove heat, stirring occasionally. Eat, hopefully with free day old bread & expired cheese from your work (one of my perks.)
Delicious. Keep reheating for lunches until gone. Repeat.
A tiny rant: I hate eating cheap meat. That really bothers me. I am a committed meat eater after many years in my teens & twenties of vegetarianism & veganism & my decision to eat meat is well thought out & firm but I hate supporting the meat industry that brings the cheap grocery meat to our tables. But what we can afford is the cheapest thing the grocery store has. 
I can't wait until we get to the producing our own meat level.  It'll happen pretty soon since we got straight run chicks with the intent of eating the males. It will be hard after knowing them from tiny fuzzy babies, but part of my eating meat agreement with myself is I be willing to kill it myself if I am going to eat it. If I can't do this, I guess it is vegetarianism for me once more.
For right now? We eat small amounts of meat & lots of kale (also one of the cheapest things at the grocery store, & way less troubling than the cheap beef).
That was a lot of opinion for one post. Dear me. 
I shall leave you with this: having a wood stove in your kitchen is very nice, & looking out the window while cooking on the wood stove to chickens is even nicer.

There Is Really No Better View Than Chickens.

An out take from Eating & Drawing @ Flying Object, & also a glimpse at our new life in Greenfield.
January 2012: Lunch At My Painting Desk With DR Watching the Chickens.
So having our chicken owning fantasy come true? It is pretty great. After all that time trying to figure out how to have chickens in our community garden plot, or in our tiny slopped front yard on busy South Street, & suffering through terrible chicken jealousy when someone did have, finding this place with its own resident hen in need of people, Lucy, a very opinionated & bossy & fabulous Plymouth Rock, was one of those moments of luck I still can't quite believe.
In another moment of craiglist brilliance, I found three Rhode Island Red pullets, Amanda Jo, Lulu, & Miranda. This was the afternoon of their second day here at Barton Heights. 
Today's words of wisdom: there is no greater gift to an indoor cat then a nice window seat with a plant & a view of an active chicken coop. 
What was lunch, you ask? As this is a food blog & all? Why homemade beef, barley, & chickpea stew, reheated on our woodstove in a cast iron enamel pot, a huge white vintage one from Denmark I inherited from my mom which is one of my favorite things. Oh yeah, did I mention the cottage came with a woodstove too? I'm really in heaven here. 
More on the soup coming up, to be continued... 

Eating & Drawing @ Flying Object.

Hello! Here I am! Still here, yeah. Lots of exciting developments here at EnD. 
First, I had this show! Eating & Drawing heads out of the sketchbook & into the big crazy world. The very excellent food blogger Jono of the brilliant Oil Changes  curated this show of my food watercolors, featuring, of course, DustyRose, at Flying Object, in Hadley, Massachusetts.The opening was last night. It pretty much ruled. I know some amazing people 'round these parts. You know who you are. Much love.
Western Massachusetts people, have you checked out Flying Object? You should, because it is pretty great, & also because MY SHOW IS UP THROUGH MARCH 11th! OMG! You yes you, could enjoy all this fabulous art in person. I know, it's mind blowing. Think on that.

 Ok, so, let's go back a bit, to last December...I was on track, planning my holiday food blogging, looking forward to on catching up on my sketchbook archives...when during a random craigslist browsing session, I found our dream rental (since owning land is still just a dream). Free standing cottage, lots of land & garden space, & I can't even believe this still, it came with a chicken coop & even a chicken! All that stuff we really wanted wrapped up in a neat little package.
Since then, we have somehow acquired three more pullet Rhode Island Reds (one of them laid her first egg Friday, just before I left to hang my show-seemed like a present from Lulu), & more recently 26 (there were 27. Very sadly, we lost one.) of the most adorable baby chicks you ever saw (I know all baby chicks are that adorable. But whatever, mine are cuter).  
We are now reporting to you here at EnD from our new, much more rural headquarters in North Greenfield, Massachusetts. Our nearest neighbor is a dairy farm. I love it. 
Needless to say, the blog has been on hold what with moving & art show & chickens. But I'm happy to be back. I've got some things to say, & some things to draw before my standard summer garden season hiatus.
Looks for chicken paintings soon! If you are in the area, go see the show!