Fall has arrived bringing a cool, foggy, sunless morning. This is my fourth fall season at Biddan Ridge and I slowly find a rhythm. For many months, I get up on Saturday mornings and go to a two-hour yoga class. This morning instead, I baked a large Honey Crisp apple tossed with dried cherries and topped with an oatmeal pecan topping. As it cools, I brew a pot of coffee – my favorite blend from the Kitchen & Spice store: Highlander Grogg. I opened all the windows in the house to capture the soft, steady breeze and set myself up to write. If only my wild turkeys would arrive as they did that first foggy fall morning.
The Hawks’ Ridge gaggle of wild turkeys, DEC2012
Instead I hear children in the house across the street. I have neighbors. I’ve made friends. I can lend a cup of sugar or borrow a ladder. Someone else occasionally gets a piece of my mail. I can share my honey or jams. It is home.
Recipe: 1 apple peeled and sliced, 2 T dried cherries. Toss together and put in a oven safe dish. Topping: 3T brown sugar, 1/4 c quick cooking oats, 2 T flour, 1/4 c chopped pecans, 2 T melted butter or coconut oil. Spread on the top of the apples. Cover with tin foil. Bake @ 375F for 25min, uncover and bake another 10 min. 1-2 servings depending on your generosity.
We live in the country, eight miles from town which is to say eight miles to the grocery store. While we don’t have a truck or a gun, we have acreage. And now, we have a dog. Meet Ginger Rogers. She is a rescue dog that we adopted from the Alachua County Animal Shelter. We got her just in time; she was to be destroyed tomorrow.
She is learning her new name. She is crate trained. she has keen hearing and if we let her off the leash, she’d be swiftly off in to the brush, chasing after everything. She is obviously a hound given her careful inspection of every part of the house, every scent in her surroundings.
And my son is in love. His first dog. He is nervous about doing everything right, of anticipating her needs. He is proud of her. And he is obviously enamored by her sweet smile and eager affection for him.
A goal for Biddan Ridge is to be increasingly self sufficient. Grow some of my own food. Plant a small orchard that produces a variety of fruits and nuts. And to utilize things off my property is a sustainable way. I compost from my kitchen and have been able to draw fresh compost for replanting bulbs and shrubs. And, of course, there are the bees.
Yesterday, after work, I wanted to be out in the yard but the day was dwindling swiftly. I took the chance to collect the fallen pine cones from around the sentry long leaf pines. This was my allotment.
You need to prepare the area in the kitchen while working or the melted paraffin drips everywhere.
I dip the cones in melted paraffin and use them as firestarters through out the winter. Sometimes give them as gifts but it’s important to ask if people have wood burning fireplaces, otherwise, the gift is meaningless. I have an abundance of starts for myself and the trees are still releasing cones.
I last posted in July. July. J.U.L.Y.! Shameful. So much has been going on. I realized that gardening, specifically a food garden, in the summer is impossible. Insane. After returning from our trip to London, with a swift jaunt out to a well-known ring of ancient stones, work and life got crazy-busy. The Oldest went off to college. The Younger started high school. The Oldest disappeared into the Bermuda Triangle of Freshman year and the Younger has joined the JV football team. Practice every day until 6:30PM. He has been exceptionally committed, surprising me a great deal. He has earned so much respect from me, watching him commit to the game and the team. It has made me think about what we pass on to our children. My children have learned tenacity and are both stubbornly determined. I like that. Few things beat determination. Maybe dumbass luck. Maybe a silver spoon. But determination beats genius almost every day of the week. It beat privilege and entitlement, too. I wonder where they learned it? Here are some of the new happenings at Biddan Ridge.
The Bees at Biddan Ridge are quite happy and productive.
The gardens are replanted and also content. The fourth bed is covered in 6 mil black plastic and composting for the early spring plantings.
The new pecan tree is settling in nicely, having replaced the Lost One. All the trees and roses have been fertilized. The blackberry ribbon has gotten weeded and will get mulched soon. It’s time to order a cord of firewood and make fire starters…..as soon as the pine cones drop. I ordered raspberry canes that will arrive in January that are hearty to Zone 10. Whoop! And fall has arrived.
With sixteen long leaf pines, I usually have an abundance of pine cones. Somehow I missed the major dropping and didn’t get any cones collected before the holidays but today, while out watering all the fruit trees, pecans and olives, I discovered three late droppers. I collected a bucket full of opened pine cones.
I melt paraffin wax on the stove and coat the pine cones. They make excellent fire starters, especially since I don’t get the local daily paper. I put wadded up newspaper or the shredded paper from my home office shredder, a couple of pine cones, a small sliver of fat wood and then my oak logs. The fire always starts right up and pine cones generate a sustained heat to allow the logs to catch.
The front porch is planted with pink lorapetalum. They are 15 months in the ground and in need of a trimming. I trim by hand with hand nippers. I do this mostly because I lack the mechanized shrubbery trimmer or shearing equipment that runs on electricity or gasoline. I also now attest that I do this by hand because it requires no additional time than if I did it with a piece of motorized equipment. From start to finish, including the as-I-go collection of the trimmings and their removal to the waste pile in the back yard, this task took 45 minutes. Because it was a manual task, I could hear the birds fussing at my nearby lounging cats and I didn’t need hearing protection or safety glasses. I don’t have to store a canister of gasoline in my garage nor do I have to be concerned with repair or maintenance or the motorized equipment. I sat for about 3 minutes before I started and hand sharpened my nippers. I like doing tasks under my own “power”.
I then knelt and hand planted two flats of monkey grass along the landscaped bed’s edge. This grass will fill out over the years and form a thick, lush, dark evergreen circumference around all the flower beds adjacent to the house and porches.
Being away from home is hard because home is so truly awesome and amazing. I planned it that way. I planned it to be my little castle; a place I can retreat to, pull up the drawbridge and unwind, relax and be at ease. But, sometimes one must leave town and last week I truly felt the need to bolt like a jack rabbit. I wanted to run away. I NEEDED to run away. I had a “boutique” runaway planned: hotel reservations, giant home decor and antique festival, a populated Google map with foodie sites bookmarked and cash to spend. This was a no credit weekend. All prepaid.
But, after a couple of days and two no so comfortable nights in a hotel with mediocre pillows and no late night access to chocolate and peanut butter, I elected to go home. Home is awesome. Home is my refuge and my happy place.
I came home with a rented Chevy Suburban chock-a-block full of stuff I bought, plus a new coat and “market bag”. I came home to a garden abundant with beans and lettuces. I had purchased locavore vinegars and oils and killer Ikea salad bowls. After a run to The Fresh Market and the aquisition of shallots, an aged cheese and ciabatta rolls…..(along with Hollandaise sauce, sweet sausage and puff pastry intended for breakfast tomorrow) I spent less money than had I eaten the next 2 meals in Atlanta. Dinner was two hours out of the soil, uber fresh, very healthy and all cleaned up. Plus I ate it in my comfy clothes while watching a DVR episode of Elementary.
The beans were blanched and then chilled. A shallot was thin sliced and sauteed with walnut oil, capers and fresh cracked pepper. The salad was finished with fig balsamic.
The salad was one head of butter cos bibb lettuce with a slice boiled egg and shaved aged cheese with a simple dressing of avocado oil, peach balsamic, dijon, mashed garlic and fresh cracked pepper.
Add a cocktail (or two): 1 3/4 oz rum, 3/4 oz lemon juice, 1/4 oz grenadine in a shaker filled with ice cubes. Serve in a cocktail glass.