Folk Thursday: Shawn Colvin and Mary Chapin Carpenter

This cover of “Amelia” is easily the best thing I’ve heard since Judy Collins sang “Diamonds and Rust” with Joan Baez. Joni Mitchell is a hot mess, but daaaaaaaaamn, can that girl write.

If you don’t own Hejira, you really ought to remedy that ASAP. It’s been reissued on vinyl, which is really the best way to hear it. I’m much more tolerant of cold nights when I can curl up in the living room with Hejira on the turntable and drink hot cocoa with extra marshmallows. Which is probably what I’m going to do for the rest of this evening. I’m a little fuzzy around the edges, and I could use a quiet evening in my pajamas.



I feel a creative outburst brewing, but I’ve got a nasty headache and feel too cruddy to do anything about it. I think I’ll just make myself a big cup of Sleepytime Extra and crash for a while. I’ve got a feeling Things will be Created when I wake. I feel amazingly awful, but it’s like storm-in-the-Texas-Panhandle awful — big and dark and dramatic, but way off in the distance, just between the clouds and the horizon, I can see a glimmer of light, and I know I’m going to drive out from under the storm and into this:


I’m gonna go drink this tea and take a nap so I can hurry up and get to the good part. Have a good night, wherever you are.



So tonight, I came home from work to find the birds’ water dispenser frozen solid — tray, reservoir, the whole nine yards — and the quail themselves fluffed up in their pile of shavings, looking pathetic.

Because a quail run has to have a low ceiling to keep its intellectually challenged occupants from jumping up and scalping themselves, I can’t use a standard metal water dispenser and a standard water heater like I did for the chickens, and even if I could, I’m not sure I’d trust my silly little birds not to play in it and give themselves hypothermia, so I put on my headlamp and went out in the cold to transfer the flock into a pair of Rubbermaid tubs I’d used as brooders last spring.

The tubs are now serving as a sort of avian FEMA camp in the garage. My little refugees are not pleased about being separated, but they should be much warmer than they were in the yard. I cut their feed half-and-half with freeze-dried mealworms to compensate them a bit for the evening’s indignities. I’ll probably pick up a quarter-sheet of plywood and some 1x2s this weekend and build a little tray to go under their pen so I can bring it into the garage until the weather warms up. I’m sure they’ll be much happier if they’re all together.


Chilly Monday

We ended up with about an inch and a half of snow overnight. It didn’t affect the roads much, so after we dropped Riggy off to have his teeth cleaned this morning at the vet’s office, we headed up to Ste. Genevieve to pick up some odds and ends from the Brew Haus and have lunch at the Anvil.

While we were there, I saw something I’d never noticed before:


I was a little reluctant to take my eyes off of it, because from a distance, it looked suspiciously like:

Carne Y Piedra

When we got back, we picked up new tags for the dogs and a new collar for Riggy and met a nice young man who was having a tag engraved with “MARRY ME” so he could put it on the puppy he was getting for his girlfriend. He said she told him she wanted a puppy and a ring, so he was getting her both on the same day.

After another errand or two, we went to the vet’s office to pick up Riggy, who was well and truly stoned from the anaesthetic. He cried on the way home because he hates riding in the car, but when we got to the Hardee’s drive-through to get him some chicken strips for dinner, he whimpered once or twice and then started literally nodding off:


Poor little Riggy. He enjoyed his chicken, though. He’s got some more waiting for him when he wakes up.


Winter. Dammit.

The view from my front porch this evening. Completely unacceptable. It's not even Thanksgiving yet, winter. GO HOME.
The view from my front porch this evening. Completely unacceptable. It’s not even Thanksgiving yet, winter. GO HOME.

The sundial on my deck. No sun. Just cold, dark nastiness.
The sundial on my deck. No sun. Just cold, dark nastiness.

Poor little lizard. Looks kind of like he did the day I bought him at Little Tin Barn.
Poor little lizard. Looks kind of like he did the day I bought him at Little Tin Barn.

Come to think of it, the mermaid looks a lot like she did the day I met her, too.
Come to think of it, the mermaid looks a lot like she did the day I met her, too.

And know we know why Weeping Angels cover their eyes. They don't want to look at this crap, either.
And know we know why Weeping Angels cover their eyes. They don’t want to look at this crap, either.

Y’all know how much I hate winter. I spent most of today trying to ignore it: making avocado-and-quail-egg sandwiches for brunch, starting a batch of yogurt in the Crock-Pot, picking up a couple of gallons of sweet cider at Rendleman’s Orchard, sanitizing the keg to ferment the cider (I will have a post on the glory of homemade hard cider in the not-too-distant future), installing plastic over the windows, finishing up the second Roman shade for the living room, and having dinner at the Pilot House, which we’d never been to before, and which we really enjoyed.

We’re fond of stopping at promising-looking roadhouses when we travel, and the Pilot House, which is tucked next to a little creek on one of the back roads to Jackson, was a nice find. It might be all of five miles from home, but it felt like the sort of place we’d stop on 66 or 61 or maybe the Lincoln Highway — sort of like the Elbow Inn or the Luna Cafe or that crazy place we found out near Middlegate, Nevada, on the Loneliest Road where they serve the “Monster Burger” with olives for eyes. They’ve got the wheel from a riverboat mounted on the ceiling above the bar, and the bar itself is covered with pennies embedded in resin or something. I had a ribeye sandwich that tasted exactly like a ribeye sandwich from a bar is supposed to taste, and Ron had a barbecue sandwich that I will almost certainly order next time we’re there.

They also had Stag on tap, which is invariably a good sign. Stag on tap at a roadhouse is like sweet tea at a barbecue joint or horchata at a taqueria: If they have it, you can safely assume you’re in good hands.


Eco-Saturday: Darwin gardening


In the Southwest, xeriscaping is popular, as it involves planting only native and/or drought-tolerant species in your garden so you don’t end up draining every aquifer west of Amarillo in a misguided effort to keep some delicate green thing alive.

Here in the Midwest, I practice a variant I developed by accident, which I call “Darwin gardening.”

Sage is a reliable perennial for a Darwin Garden.
Sage is a reliable perennial for a Darwin Garden.

The original Darwin Garden was located in our backyard in Belleville, Illinois, and it happened by accident: I started with a neat garden divided into four-foot squares delineated with old bricks I’d found in the garage, with neat mulched paths between them, and by the time we left, my laziness and absolute refusal to coddle weak plants left me with an unruly but outrageously productive tangle of perennials and vigorous self-seeding annuals that included echinacea, parsley, Roman chamomile, chives, dill, sage, spinach, cilantro, mint, marjoram, oregano, carrots, blackberries, and waist-high collards that thought they were perennials.

The Darwin Garden wasn’t neatly manicured, but it was healthy, low-maintenance, and completely organic. When you let natural selection dictate your landscaping design, you don’t need pesticides, heavy watering or other environmentally questionable practices to keep your garden thriving. You also don’t need huge blocks of time to take care of your garden, because your plants will be sturdy enough to survive without constant coddling.

Arugula -- a vigorous self-seeder if allowed to bolt -- has replanted itself all over the center bed and beyond.
Arugula — a vigorous self-seeder if allowed to bolt — has replanted itself all over the center bed and beyond.

We have a similar garden here. When we moved in last year, I planted a small garden, watered it occasionally, and otherwise ignored it, knowing the fastest way to find out which plants were suited to the local growing conditions was to neglect them and see whether they survived.

That's not a yellow Easter egg. It's an overripe cucumber I'm leaving to rot over the winter. Come spring, it will put out a whole clump of seedlings.
That’s not a yellow Easter egg. It’s an overripe cucumber I’m leaving to rot over the winter. Come spring, it will put out a whole clump of seedlings.

A year into that experiment, I’ve got sage, strawberries, mint, basil and Shasta daisies that came up with no help from me, and next year’s arugula and cucumbers have already planted themselves.

Late lavender blossoms. Lavender is known as a reliable perennial, though this is the first year I've had any luck growing it.
Late lavender blossoms. Lavender is known as a reliable perennial, though this is the first year I’ve had any luck growing it.

If you’re a little bit concerned about the environment and a lot lazy, consider planting your own Darwin Garden. If you can tolerate the frustrations of that first year, you’ll find it pays big dividends in subsequent seasons.


Vegan Friday: Avocado quesadilla

These look vaguely like quesadillas, but they're basically fried guacamole sandwiches.
These look vaguely like quesadillas, but they’re basically fried guacamole sandwiches.

By definition, quesadillas contain cheese (the word quesadilla means “little cheesy thing” in Spanish), so when I saw recipes on Pinterest for vegan quesadillas, my immediate reaction was, “Oh, look: Clueless people who don’t understand what words mean are flaunting their ignorance on Pinterest again. Goody.” But one of the pictures involved avocado, so I clicked it anyway and found this recipe, which I didn’t really follow to the letter. Anyway. Avocado quesadilla thingy. Here you go: Ingredients 1 avocado 2 flour tortillas (I used whole wheat because that’s what I had on hand) 1 small tomato Taco seasoning Nutritional yeast (optional) Salt Olive oil

Sprinkle with nooch and taco seasoning. The former seems unnecessary to me, so don't get wound up if you can't find any.
Sprinkle with nooch and taco seasoning. The former seems unnecessary to me, so don’t get wound up if you can’t find any.

Cut an avocado in half and spread it halfway across one of the flour tortillas. Repeat with second tortilla. Slice up the tomato and arrange the slices on top of the avocado. Sprinkle with taco seasoning, nooch and salt to taste. Fold each tortilla in half. Fry lightly in olive oil on both sides until tortilla starts to brown. Cut into wedges if desired. Makes two servings. These don’t really taste like quesadillas, and I think the nooch is kind of extraneous, which is why I listed it as an optional ingredient. But you can’t really go wrong with avocado on a tortilla, and these make a good quick meal. If you’re worried about protein, you could always smear some refried beans on the other half of each tortilla before folding. Emily

Dreaming Kerouac


I love this alley downtown. Alleys always make me think of Jack Kerouac. I took this picture shortly after we moved, but I think I forgot to post it at the time, because I was busy trying to settle into the new house and sell the old one and learn ropes and tie up loose ends, and blogging got lost in the shuffle for a while.

Sometimes I forget how fast we moved. I was thinking about that tonight, when a girl from Tulsa tweeted to say hello and ask how the bees were doing. I used to exchange tweets with her often when I worked at the hotel,  but then I moved, and my schedule changed, and I didn’t see her on my timeline as much. I hadn’t talked to her in ages, and she didn’t realize we’d moved until I mentioned it this evening. It struck me that the whole moving process happened so quickly that if you blinked, you’d miss it. I emailed my resume to my editor one evening in March, and a month later, the movers were unloading the U-Haul 450 miles away. I think a few people commented on the suddenness at the time, but I was too busy coordinating the logistics to give it much thought. Looking back, I’m still not sure how we pulled it off, but I’m still glad we did.


Why sustainability?

I’m seeing a few new readers drop by here lately, so I think this is as good a time as any to welcome the new folks and remind longtime readers of what I’m trying to do here.

While I added the weekly Eco-Saturday and Vegan Friday features in January, the principle behind them goes back to 1975, when a young member of the back-to-the-land movement was busy burning up her Osterizer one-upping Gerber on my behalf.

For 39 years, I’ve enjoyed the perks of an environmentally responsible lifestyle without spending a fortune or sacrificing any of the creature comforts most middle-class Americans have come to expect, and I suspect if others were aware of those perks, they’d be much quicker to embrace the idea of sustainability.

In exchange for minimal to moderate effort, my family and I enjoy a host of everyday luxuries we’d never be able to afford if we had to buy them off the shelf, and we keep our ecological footprint down in the process. For instance:

Backyard beehives supply us with sweetener for our toast, pollinators for our garden, and beeswax for skin-care products.

I can’t remember the last time I bought parsley, sage, rosemary or basil, and the mint I planted last spring has given me a virtually inexhaustible supply of peppermint tea. Meanwhile, between the cayenne plants and the cucumbers, I may never have to buy hot sauce or pickles again; I’m still harvesting arugula from under the frost blanket; and Ron just took three bushels of black walnuts to Martin Walnut Tree Farm to have them shelled last week.

In the past year or so, I’ve discovered the advantages of making my own yogurt, soap and beer. At this moment, I’ve got two gallons of nutbrown ale carbonating in the basement next to a finished batch of hard cider pressed from locally grown apples. While everybody else is drinking pasteurized, mass-produced swill, we’re enjoying freshly brewed craft beer for the same money.

Not everything we do for the environment is luxurious, of course, but most of it saves money, and very little of it requires any significant investment of time, money or effort.

To learn more about how you can save money and enjoy the satisfaction of a more sustainable lifestyle, search the Eco-Saturday and Vegan Friday category here on the blog, or hop over to my Pinterest board and start exploring the possibilities.