Saturday, February 10, 2007

slow food

judy branch is a great place to hole up for the weekend, especially when it's cold outside. for all the marvels of electricity, you can't back up to central heat. i love my wood stove. what's even better is the location of the stove. my living room and kitchen are one big open space. this is great for evenings (or all day) at home. i can cook, listen to my stereo, even watch a movie, while the fire crackles in the stove and the critters lounge lethargic in its heat.

when i know that company is coming, even if it's just at work, my prep work starts at home. next week i'll be hosting quite a few musicians, artists and other guests. a quintessential southern trait that i've inherited from pretty much all the women in my family is that when company's coming, you cook. a lot. i mean a serious quantity of food, mostly the kind my mom, aunts, grandmas, great aunts, etc. taught me to make for company. before i can get around to the catering prep for the upcoming week, though, my somewhat abandoned house needed some attention.

last night i replaced the bag in the vacuum and waged war on the "halloween" beetles (they want you to think they are lady bugs, but they are not!). i realized that enough was enough when they seized my bedside lamp (imagine a lamp covered entirely with a layer of lady bug impersonators...) and would wake me up several times through the night crawling on my skin and biting me at will. for nearly half an hour my bedroom was free of those imposters. i don't know where the back up troops come from or why they feel a need to centralize forces around my bedside lamp and surrounding areas (the wall and ceiling above the left side of the bed). the only way to keep those buggers down to a nearly tolerable presence would be to vacuum every day. i'm not the only one who faces this dilemma. in fact, it is worthy of regular posting in my local newspaper's "Speak Your Piece" column.

i'm beginning to think these beetle bugs were intentionally let loose in the southern mountains by vacuum bag manufacturers. what do you think?

today bella went with me to do the old time radio show, and then i loaded up on groceries and came home. i practiced "black eyed susie" until my fingers hurt and i made a food list and schedule (what i'm making for next week, for which days/events and when i must make them). right now there are two spinach lasagnas in the oven that i can freeze for one of the meals next week. still on the list for this weekend: basil hummus, carrot cake, cayenne chocolate-chocolate chip cookies, brownies, carrot cake, cheese cake, lemon squares. looks like sunday is going to be a busy day! in addition to all that cooking, i've also got to practice the tunes lee taught me, prep the garden for planting peas (on valentines day!), go over to lee's for a banjo lesson in the afternoon. yipee!

Friday, February 09, 2007

Deadheads & Suckers

I'm not sure if it's a mountain, rural or generally an American thing, but I've always been more inclined to measure the distance between two places by how long it takes to get there, usually by driving. The drive from Judy Branch to Berea is approximately 2 and 1/2 hours. Part of living in the rural mountains is that you get used to spending quite a bit of time in the car. This has been my experience since I first started driving. In high school, a 40 minute drive to a good swimming hole was considered close or "local." Driving 30-45 minutes to get to work or a night out on the town was also considered close by. I guess that's why I've never had a problem with living at least half an hour from anywhere, and driving a couple of hours to get somewhere isn't really all that bad either.

Last night I stayed with my friend Deborah at her farm in Jackson County. I think it took about 45 minutes from Berea, maybe a little less. But the terrain really makes it seem much more in the middle of nowhere than Judy Branch. Even though I'm nestled in the heart of the Central Appalachian mountains, the roads really don't go up and down as many hills. They follow the rivers and creeks, and while winding and dotted with sharp curves nestled between a sheer drop into said creek on one side and a craggy cliff face on the other, you don't really have to go up and down much.

Deb has been a house guest on Judy Branch many times, and I knew from her descriptions of life on her farm that I'd feel right at home. What I really love about their place is all the work that they have put into the place to make it their home along with all the daily work they do to make a living from their home. While I garden and do a lot of those survival tasks of rural living, Deb and her husband Frank are really living off their land. They raise sheep, rabbits, hogs and chickens, which provide eggs, meat, hide and income. Their work crew includes horses, guard and hunting dogs and I'm sure a few other tennants that I haven't met yet. Inside are the two cats, Foscoe & Madeline (they sleep outside when it's not so cold) and a pen of quail. I had my first taste of quail eggs, hardboiled last night and fried this morning.

Frank & Deb had to convert the original house structure (a typical Appalachian flat board house that has been upgraded over the generations) to include indoor plumbing. The water is gravity fed to the house from a spring up the hill. For more consistent pressure, they've added a cistern and a water pump. What's handy is that when the power goes out, they can still get water fed by gravity. While I also have spring water from a well, it comes from underground and required a pump to get it to the house. So I'm out of luck when we lose power.

They have built on a high-ceiling log addition to the original house which makes for a fantastic living room, complete with a cozy futon covered in warm sheep skins.

One of my favorite rooms of Deb & Frank's place is the outhouse. Neighbor Billy Joe and I've talked about how in so many ways life was much easier before indoor plumbing. I know from Judy Branch how messed up indoor plumbing goes when it comes to toilets. You really have to make an effort to flush, and if it rains too much for too long the septic tank can get backed up, which is not at all pleasant. Those problems don't exist when you just use an outhouse. And they really have a nice one, well decorated with National Geographic photos and poems pasted all over the walls and door.

Last night Deb and I sat by the wood stove, and she taught me how to play "Black Eyed Susie." I brought her my copy of the Flat Mountain Girls CD, Honey Take Your Whiskers Off. They're an all-women old time band from Portland, OR, which play a rockin' version of the tune. I've let her borrow it today in hopes that she'll figure out how to play "Deadheads and Suckers," a tune they recorded and cited as Trad. Neither of us had ever heard of it, so I am now on a mission to find out more about the tune (and to learn how to play it!).

Today I'll head back to Judy Branch to prepare for a week with the Carolina Chocolate Drops. A week from Monday I'll return to the mysterious chiropractor (who, from my novice perspective seemed to ask a lot of questions of my arm... tho I think it was my brain channelling through my arm?). He's fixing me of my lactose intolerance and will hopefully ease some of my back pain (thus the root cause of seeking his help). I'll hold off on any detailed commentary until I've tried it out a few times.

The real icing on the cake will be that evening (Feb 19th), when I hope a big field trip of friends will join me and Deb to see the Chocolate Drops perform live on the famous Woodsongs Old Time Radio Hour at the Kentucky Theater with Folkboy himself, Michael Johnathon. Above is a picture from my last field trip to see friends Uncle Earl play on this legendary radio show. Is it because of the stellar musical guests that we make the Monday night pilgramage to Lexington? Is it to support our up & coming, "undiscovered" musician friends as they are introduced to an international audience? Or is it the personality of the host that draws us like ants to sugar? You decide and let me know.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

crossing over

i remember years ago when a chiropractor located his office next door to my dad's office. that's when i learned that my dad thought that chiopractors were the modern day equivalent of a medicine show doctor. a total farce. at that time, i was a kid, and i had never even heard of chiropractors. even though i've never really had an opinion either way, i have for the most part kept the same attitude toward seeking chiropractic help as counselling (i was always told by the parents that i was "normal" or "just fine" and thus did not fall into the category of those who need pychological or emotional help).

since then, i've known more and more people who swear to the miracle of chiropractic adjustment and of seeing a counselor. at the age of 30, i am finally going to become one of those people... if all goes well today.

in about an hour, i will have my first chiropractic adjustment/session in hopes that the pain that has been shooting through my lower back and down through the muscles of my left leg since mid-november will be lessened.

this is new territory for me, and even though i am a full grown adult, it still sort of feels like an act of rebellion.

let's hope i get adjusted enough to be able to dance painlessly for days on end next week! who knows, if this chiropractic adventure turns out to be a success, i may get brave enough to ask someone to shrink my head!

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

cold, cold heart

valentine's day is on it's way, and mother nature is showing us her love with a winter embrace. the temperatures in eastern and central kentucky have been between 2-17 degress (that's -20 to -8 degrees C!). i hope my weekend will be spent having fun in the woods with a chainsaw and then with an axe splitting wood. one of the perks of living at the head of the hollow is that i'm surrounded on three sides by hills of forest. not too far up the path, there are several downed trees that are awaiting their afterlife as firewood. as my woodpile hastily depletes during these cold nights, i give thanks to all those trees who succumbed to gravity last fall. i also give thanks to friends with chainsaws. perhaps if i am really nice and provide delicious food and refreshing beverages (post-chainsawing phase), i will be able to charm said friend into also splitting the wood so that it fits in my stove.

we all know that valentine's day is a modern invention that is now a huge marketing scam. even so, that marketing reminds us all of how our own love lives don't fit into that picture perfect, big screen romance we've been fed most of our lives. the important thing to remember is that love encompasses so much more than romance. i think that valentine's day should be about showing yourself some love and then letting that spill over into all the other relationships in your life. and eating lots of chocolate. let's face it, most of us are far too hard on ourselves. i will celebrate valentines day in several ways, many which will include pampering myself. one of the first things on my agenda is to go see a chiropractor about the pain in my back and left leg that i've had since mid-november (handling fire-wood is a dangerous business).

the other way i will shower myself with love is with the music and company of some of my favorite musicians, the carolina chocolate drops. i met these fantastic folks last spring, although i remember seeing them around at the Black Banjo Gathering a year or so earlier. then we all taught workshops at Common Ground on the Hill this summer, and I got a chance to take a dance class with them. all this led to talks about how we needed to plan a residency at appalshop. next week it's all going to happen, and i'm really excited! although i am breaking the rules a little by talking about work-related matters, i feel that this is more a labor of love. i don't know how many folks will make it out to the public events, including three delicious evenings of desserts and dancing (wednesday 2/14, friday 2/16 & saturday 2/17), but i know that it will be a week to remember. the full scheudle is on my work website.

now i must return my focus to listening to tapes from 1974's celebration of traditional music. currently flowing through my earphones, artus and joan moser (before that it was J.P., Annalee & Danielle Fraley).

Sunday, February 04, 2007

enjoying the now

it has been a real challenge to fully immerse myself into this new phase of my life. the schedule i had set out for balancing my fellowshop and work keeps getting disrupted. a big part is the responsibilities i feel at home. i don't want to leave bella sleeping on the porch on subzero winter nights. the other distractions has been work. i'm only supposed to give one day a week to that place, but last week took three. i'm taking a stand right now. i will not give any more of myself to my job than one day per week. that's all i'm getting paid for, and that's all i can handle (on several levels).

traveling back and forth from berea, taking spontaneous road trips and musing about what other adventures might await me... these have all really driven in my determination to move on and find a new life somewhere else. i really am ready to move on. i just need to figure out where. prefereably a place that has the following:

people who play old time music
a good place to get a beer (legally, in public)
a significant population 25-40 years old (esp of the eligible bachelor variety)
a good coffeehouse
live music (of the non-jam band genres, please)
hills and the great outdoors

for now, i'm going to enjoy the now and look forward to the upcoming journey to poland. anyone want to meet up in prague sometime in june? i'll be nearby...