Rabbit Pays a Debt

This story is for Trifecta’s April Fool’s day prompt:

rain (transitive verb)
1: to pour down
2: to give or administer abundantly
3: to take a lot of money in bill form and toss it up in the air. This is most effectively done at a strip club for the effect of raining one dollar bills on the dancers (and it makes them feel so pretty), or to snub a hater by throwing money into their face that then falls to the floor like rain (use this when paying a debt to a punk bitch who keeps asking for their money to the point that they are ruining your friendship or when dumping someone who has been bankrolling you for a while now that you’re making money).

It was also inspired by the carrots which are coming up both in the rabbit pot I painted as well as the garden beds. I love carrots! Carrots make me think of rabbits. They are strongly linked culturally, though my friends who keep rabbits tell me they don’t actually eat that many carrots. Rabbits are perfect for April Fool’s Day because like Coyote and Anasi,Rabbit is a great trickster. SAM_1729

***
When you do mischief like Rabbit, you get in trouble. Money, everyone knows, gets you out of trouble. Stealing a carrot can land a body in jail, but a rich man can steal a whole farm, if he has money to buy police.

Rabbit borrowed money from everyone, a little from each, hoping they’d forget. Times being hard none forgot. They all looked for Rabbit when they had need of their money. But one thing Rabbit can do is hide.

Rabbit was resting in a briar eating fresh blackberries, when he heard voices.

“Have’ya seen Rabbit?” asked Possum

“I’ve not seen him since I let him a few dollars” said Fox

“I sore need the money I gave him” Said Possum

“Have’ya talked ta Bear? He gave me what Rabbit owed, sayin’ he’d get it back from Rabbit along with what’s owed him” said Fox

“I’ll go see him now” said Possum, hurrying away.

Rabbit was afraid. Bear had a long memory and was mighty fierce. Rabbit added up what he borrowed all together. It was enough money to fight over.Rabbit made a plan.

He told Chicken, a known gossip, about a beautiful lady at the hoochie-coochie show on the edge of town.

That night Bear came to the show. The girl came out, hiding behind two fans. She danced ‘round the stage, everyone hottin’ and hollerin’. Bear didn’t see too good, but he knew this must be the lady he’d heard of. To impress her he made it rain, emptyin’ his wallet. Later Bear tried to find her, but she was gone.

Next day Rabbit found Bear sighing in his cave.

“Why do you sigh?” Rabbit asked

“I lost all my money, to impress a lady. Now I have no money or lady” Bear said
“Good news! I’ve come to pay you back. Lucky I waited or you might have lost this too” Said Rabbit, giving Bear almost as much money as he had thrown at the mysterious lady.

Carrot Pot

Carrots are in the top five of my favorite vegetables to eat and my number one favorite to grow. There is something so satisfying about harvesting them, sort of the same feeling as opening a birthday present. I never know the size, flavor or even color of the carrot when I start to pull, so it is always a surprise. I’ve been growing them in garden beds for six years now. The first year they were horrible, only about an inch long, furry and with a strong bitter flavor. Each year they have been getting a little better as the garden’s soil quality has improved, but I will never have smooth, long store bought looking carrots in garden beds at this house, because there is just too much clay.
Here are a few of 2012’s best carrots. carrot

They were a respectable size and the flavor was phenomenal, very sweet and more carroty than you get at the store. Some are a little furry and some were oddly shaped as you can see. Over all these made me happy and I plan to grow more in the garden beds hoping for similar results.

This year I am also going to try growing some in a pot and I figured if I am going to have containers in the garden, they might as well be pretty. It is now rather obvious what should be growing in this one. Carrot and Bunny pot

Painting pots is harder in my opinion than canvas (not that I am an expert on either), the top is bigger than the bottom and the whole thing is round of course, not to mention that the smooth surface of the terra cotta does not want to hold onto the paint. I sealed this pot and did two base coats of white acrylic before I started the painting itself. I started on it yesterday afternoon and it took about 3 hours or so of active work start to finish.

Having a little art in my garden will certainly brighten things up and make it more fun.

Now I have to sift some compost and mix it with peat moss, sand and potash to fill up the and then add the carrot seeds. I have 4 varieties and a mix this year. Since the rabbit is sort of anime I think I will put Asian varieties in the pot, Shin Kuroda and a long thin Japanese Imperial type disappointingly called tendersweet.

I will let you know how the carrots turn out in a few months.

Here is an informative site Carrot Museum if you want to learn everything there is to know about carrots.

Peach Blossoms

I know I said the next one would be happy. Sorry, I lied. This one is not happy, but I think it is sort of fun at least.

I am killing two birds with one stone today.  Who throws stones at birds? Seems like a rather silly way to get dinner. Anyway…The story below was written both for Trifecta and inspired by the peach blossoms that are stubbornly blooming in my garden, even though I begged them not to.  They are so lovely and charming that I can’t help but take joy from them.  But they are also fleeting and delicate.  This weekend there might be a frost, and if there is, all of the flowers will wither and die overnight.  If not, they will stay a short spell longer gracing my garden for few weeks before floating away to make room for summer’s peaches.  I enjoy the fragile blossoms while they last, but I adore peaches. I appreciate that something so striking can be transformed into something delicious and that not everything that is lovely is just for looking at. Beautiful and practical is the best of both worlds.

Peach Flower

Then again, some plants are not very pretty at all and they make great fruits or vegetables.  Beauty is not everything, and when it fades, which it will, I hope that I have plenty of canned peaches to last me through the winter.

Stepmother’s Toast

“A fairy tale is a story, a pretty vintage lie handed down from mother to daughter across the generations.  As we grow up, the lies slough away, washed off our brains by science, reason, and experience.  No 100-foot tall beanstalk could support its own weight. Clouds are puffy water, unsuitable foundation for a giant’s castle.  Horses are noble creatures; we can’t blame them for lacking the whimsy to evolve a single golden horn.   Fairies don’t flutter by on gossamer wings, nor do wicked witches sell produce door-to-door in this age of grocery stores and farmer’s markets. There are no magic lamps with jinn in residence or talking animals, unless you count the brutish groomsmen.

Why do we insist on holding out for Prince Charming, doing our best to freeze our bodies with creams and botox, so when he finally comes to rescue us, our skin is smooth and our cheeks blush prettily at his chaste true love’s kiss.

By the way, you look lovely, my dear, fresh as a peach blossom.

Many cling to fantasy, unwilling or unable to doctor their expectations with a pinch of reality, a dash of practicality.  They try every magic they possess to find and capture, or if all else fails, create their prince.  He is kind, manly, strong, gentle, clean, yet unafraid to get his hands dirty.  He will stand up for you, but never stand up to you.  He loves what you love, is respected by his peers, successful in business, and must make an excellent father, to raise the pretty princesses and handsome princes you spawn.

Then some minor thing goes wrong, an errant sock, less than convincing interest in rose gardening, an unslain spider. You start to question.  Is this really my soulmate?

Each mundane day the magic will erode, slowly turning your prince into a frog.

Anyway, I wish the beautiful couple happiness, of course cursed to be temporary.  Please enjoy the open bar my husband is paying for.”

Garden Giddy

I try to garden some all year. For example, right now I have a few carrots, onions, chard, and cabbage that are ready to eat. However, the garden looks rather bare. It is not the riot of bright colors that it is in spring and early summer. There are no big pretty flowers, red tomatoes, or high-climbing purple spotted beans. But there will be soon.

Yesterday we ordered most of the seeds we will need this year and then planned out where everything is going to go. Looking at the garden plan makes me so excited!

Garden Plan 2013

We are trying out a few new crops this year: tomatillos, ancho peppers, zapallo del tronco squash, rat tail pod radish, and ground cherries.   There are also several new herbs to try out, but they are not on the garden plan yet because I have not decided on placement.

Every year the garden gets better and more beautiful.  Knowing that soon this garden diagram is going to come alive brightens up these last few weeks of winter.

Chlorophyllic Inspirations and Daffodil

While working on editing my novel, I have begun to miss the joy of writing.  Short stories are so satisfying; the delicious snack food of prose. Short, packed with flavor, and then you walk away.  A novel is like preparing a five course dinner party. There is joy in the making, joy in the little tastes here and there, and a big pay off of an amazing product at the end.  But you don’t do that every time you are hungry; sometimes you open the freezer and stand in the kitchen eating ice cream straight out of the box.  I need more snack writing.

Writing prompts, the more vague the better, help me write short stories.  So I have decided to write a collection of story around the theme of plants in my yard.   I should have one up every few days.  They will not have a single genre, theme, tone, or perspective.  They could be realist, sci-fi, horror, humor, or fantasy.  Or something else all together.  Maybe even a poem if I am feeling fancy one day.   I will post a picture of my inspiration.

Here is the first story:

Daffodil

Daffodil

This is the flower that says “spring is coming” to me.  A happy yellow sun climbing up through the dead leaves from autumn or the snow of winter.   The odd thing about the daffodil is it starts to bloom and then like clockwork a few days later we get the coldest weather of the year.  The daffodil is hope in the midst of strife, a bright flame in the darkest hours before dawn.

 

The days and weeks had merged; forming a single dark night since the heavy wooden door had slammed shut, locking Niamh in.  As an enemy to his Majesty she could rot in this hole for all the jailers cared.  Sometimes they brought her food; stale bread, moldy cheese and meats a dog would not eat.  Niamh ate it all, at first. She ate the horrible food and drank the dirty fowl smelling water.  She dreamed of family and freedom.

But as the night wore on she dreamed less of home.  She had no way to know day from night and over time lost the ability to tell dream from reality.  Sleep or waking she was trapped in a nightmare.  The pains of hunger, followed by the pain of bad food.  The smell of vomit, shit and the moldy dankness of the cell followed her into dreams, she forgot the smell of flowers and her mother’s cooking.   In the nearly total darkness she forgot the faces of her sisters and the rolling green hills beyond the pale.   The bites of lice, fleas and sometimes even rats would wake her nigh she had fallen asleep.

In the beginning every time light blossomed around the door she rejoiced.  When the door opened and her cell filled with the flickering greasy light of the guard’s torch she felt a surge of hope.  This could be them letting her go, sending her home.  Later she hoped it would be them coming take her to execution.  Now, when the light came she felt nothing.  She no longer cried when they left, or hurried to the food.  She just sat in the corner that was the least revolting.

In the first day she found a few small rocks on the floor.  Whether part of the dirt floor or chips pieces of the large stones of the keep she did not care.  They were tools, her only assets.  At first she used them to try to dig a hole under the wall, but the floor was too hard and the rocks to small.  The place had an underground feeling; maybe the floor was lower than the surrounding ground.

She tried not to think about being entirely underground, an as yet unrealized corpse in a filthy shroud that had been a lovely dress.

Once she gave up on the floor she used the rocks to chip at the mortar between the stones.  She had more success with that, it being so damp in the cell, and the keep being old.  Each little piece she removed, each groove she deepened was a victory then.  But now, she just chipped at the same place over and over, out of habit not expectation.  The light tap, tap, tap near her ear was something like comfort.  The rock was to short, a long thin bone had taken its place.

She sat there tapping, staring into the darkness where food had been left some time ago.  She could smell it mingling with the pervasive stink.  Her mouth watered, her stomach ached in longing and clenched in disgust.  But she did not move to retrieve it.  Eating just prolonged her confinement; best to stay where she was and wait for sleep to come.  Maybe the final sleep and the only freedom she could hope for.

Tap, tap, tap.  Her fingers played out a rhythm, maybe of a song she once knew, now forgotten like everything else.  Sometimes when the beat was resting she would wipe away the mortar dust that build up on the bottom.   She used to run her finger down the whole groove, but she could not longer do that.  In order to touch the back she had to put down the bone and make her hand thin.  When she last cared enough to check it her hand went in the grove almost up to her thumb before she touched the back.

Tap, tap, tap. She thought about getting the food again and decided not to.

Tap, tap, tap.  The rhythm beguiled her, teasing at a melody and music .

Tap, tap, tap. Pain seared her eyes.

She cried out, dropping the bone, covering both eyes with her hands.  Her face wet with tears. She curled up in a ball crying from shock and pain.  Eventually she opened her eyes to find that she could see her fingers pressed against her face, each one outlines in red.

Niamh slowly parted her fingers, looking towards the light.  From the groove in the wall shined yellow light.  It cut through the darkness, a beam from heaven.  Tiny angles danced in the light.

Eyes still burning Naimh reached her hands into the stream.  Even with the dirt and dried blood her skin glowed where the light touched it, bright yellow in the center of the beam, lighter radiating out.  Soon her hands felt so warm in the light, warm for the first time in a lifetime of darkness.

She crawled back to her corner, and looked out between the stones.  The opening was not far above the intensely green ground, less than two feet.  The grove was less than two fingers wide, but half as high as her arm.  Face pressed against it she could see the ground, buildings in the distance and the sky.  She could smell fresh air, the hint of flowers and baking bread.  She might have been able to smell the ocean, or maybe she just remembered how to remember it, because she thought of home and was taken back there on a road paved in sunlight and memory.

Neimh was free again, at least in part.  She stayed there against the stone, face divided by sunlight breathing in her freedom.

She pulled herself away when she realized that if a guard opened the door and saw the light that they would take everything away from her again.  She ripped a piece off over her dress. Using the mortar dust, dirt and a bit of water she made a plug to hide the light if she heard someone coming.

Famished she got the food from in front of the door.

With as much of her body in the light as possible Neimh ate her mother’s fresh baked bread, to the crash of waves and the cry of gulls.

Peas and Carrots

The fall garden is doing well.  The star crops right now are jalapenos, radishes, peas and carrots.  I don’t really know what to do with many of the jalapenos, I have been putting them in soups mostly.  Radishes has been going in anything I think they might work it, salads, cole slaw, roasted veggies.   Just this week the peas were big enough to start harvesting and the carrots needed to be thinned so I thought peas and carrots.  I regret this decision a little, because my husband has this weird thing were he loves quoting “Forrest Gump” so once I told him we would have peas and carrots, he told me “Jenny and I were like peas and carrots” for the whole day.

This is the first time I have ever cooked peas and carrots together as a side dish.  They have been together is veggie soup, or chicken and dumplings.  I had a bit of a fear of them to be honest.  I ate frozen peas and carrot when I was a kid, and it was horrible.  For years I would not eat cooked carrots because I was sure they would be nasty.  I got over that a few years ago thanks to “honey and ginger glazed carrots”, but when I decided to try cooking pea and carrots together I was a little nervous and it made me feel a bit sick.  I know, weird right?  I love cooked carrots now, especially fresh ones.  And fresh peas from the garden are pretty fool proof delicious.  And yet, part of me was afraid that if I put them together some sort of dark magic would happen and they would both become horrible. 

Thankfully I was wrong.  It was delicious.  I just cooked them with butter, a bit of water and salt until tender.  It was veggie sweet, salty and perfect.  I will not have enough peas again for about a week, and carrots might be longer.  But as soon as I can harvest them both at the same time again, this is going to happen again.

I planted more carrots on Sunday with the hopes that I will have carrots to eat all winter. Peas of course will die at the first frost unless I can make a cold frame or something for them. This is the second year I have tried to grow food all though the winter. It is nice to always have something out there. Makes me feel quite self-reliant.

Moonflower

This is the first year I have ever grown these, in fact I don’t think I have ever seen them in real life before.  They looked so pretty in the gardening catalog. I needed them to be mine.  They bloom every night just around sunset and stay open all night.  On nights with a lot of moon they look romantic and magical.  The smell is soft and delicate, and reminds me a little of suntan lotion and walking on the beach.  They are going to be a regular feature in my garden in the coming years.

Three Sisters and a Cousin

I have several goals when gardening.  I want it to be pretty, easy to work with, not to time intensive, cheap and attract fun bugs.  But the most important goal however is I want lots of food to eat.

I try to grow plants in such a way that I have the maximum number of healthy, high yield plants in the smallest space possible.   In order to do this I used biointensive methods (http://www.growbiointensive.org), raised beds, compost, natural fertilizers and companion planting.  Companion planting is when you plant two or more different types of plants together so that the properties of one can be beneficial to the other.   Like perhaps one plant is prone to a bad bug that is going to eat it all up, but there is another plant that the bad bug hates the smell of.  You put these two plants together in one area and they help each other.   You can use this method to repel bad bug, attract good bugs, make use of shade, manage nutrients, give structure and protect against disease.

This year I have been the most successful I have ever been by using the most time tested method I know, The Three Sisters (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three_Sisters_(agriculture)).

The idea here is that corn need to be spaced a bit away from other corn in order to have room to grow and nutrients.  Corn also needs lots of water.   The leaves of the maize plant are not good at creating a canopy and shading the soil.  So if you plant corn alone you will have to water it all the time.  This is where the squash is helpful, squash stays much lower to the ground than corn, and has gigantic leaves. If you plant your corn and squash together correctly then very little light will ever touch the ground, so no evaporation. Added bonus, no light means few weeds.

Corn is also a heavy feeder, it loves to gobble up nitrogen.  Beans have this neat bacteria, rhizobia, which hangs out in the nodules of its roots.  Rhizobia produces nitrogen compounds.   This is called nitrogen fixing, you should look it up if you want more info.   So now there is extra nitrogen and the corn says “nom nom nom”.    Beans like to climb up other things, and the corn makes a perfect structure for them to climb on.


You also see a few pretty red/orange flowers and lily pad looking leaves in here.   That is nasturtium, which is a lovely flower that I heard helps squash.  I have not actually looked into this, so it may or may not be true.  I just really like this flower so I am going to pretend it helps even if it doesn’t.   It does help fill in any gaps to the canopy that the squash might miss. In the last month I have not watered this bed.  We have been getting rain about once a week, and in a bed with this much canopy that is all you need.

But here is the best part.  Lets say your corn packets says each seed needs to be planted 12 inches apart.  I take that to mean from other corn not other plants.  So the first thing I do is lay all the corn seeds out in a honey comb.  The first row all of them 12 inches apart, the second row is 6 inches away with each seed being in the center of where the last row seeds were, next row 6 inches away lining up with the first seeds.   After that I put in a few squash seeds.  Once the corn is up, I plant the beans about an inch away. The nasturtium is planted along the edge.So, to sum up.  You have squash on the ground, corn straight up and beans on the corn.

Using this method I can harvest a massive amount of food from a tiny space.   The bed in these pictures is 28 square feet.  Planted in this bed right now I have 30 stalks of corn, 5 large squash plants, 5 nasturtium and about 20 bean plants (should have been 30, but some did not get enough light and did not thrive).   This garden bed is about the size of a queen sized sleeping bed.   That is not very big at all.   Being conservative this season I should get about 90 ears of corn, 150 lb of squash, 75 lb of beans.

Do you companion plant?  Tell me your favorite combos.

Homestead Food 4

We made this meal on Sunday.   I am a little late blogging about it because I have been super busy with gardening and animal projects. But I figured I should post about this one before I make the next one.

Ingredients:

  • Roasting chicken from GrassRoots Farms (GA, one bought item)
  • Olive oil (Exempt)
  • Smoked Salt (Exempt, Gift from Lori)
  • Bee Balm (Garden)
  • Onion (Garden)
  • Oregano (Garden)
  • Carrots (Garden)
  • Chard (Garden)
  • Blueberry Honey (Exempt, Local)
  • Radishes (Garden)
  • Lettuce (Garden)
  • Butter (Exempt)
  • Strawberries (Garden)

…This meal started with a trip to the farme’rs market on Saturday.  We decided we wanted to have some local meat in this meal and the Decatur Farmer’s market (http://decaturfarmersmarket.com/wordpress/) is a good place to find lots of local foods.   We got several things other than what is in this meal, like goat cheese, milk, and a sunchoke.   We also had delicious falafels for lunch there.   We should go more often.

The chicken was prepared by rubbing it with a mushed up mixture of olive oil, bee balm, oregano and smoked salt and filling the cavity with an onion.  Bee balm is a very good herb that is seldom used in cooking anymore.  The Native Americans used it to flavor meats like poultry and venison, and for good reason.  The flavor is great on meats.  It is a very easy to grow plant,  a good companion to tomatoes, brings all the bees to your yard and has interesting looking flowers.

There is still no end in sight to the chard, but the garden has offered up a few new foods, as you can see – radishes and strawberries.   With the lettuce, radishes, and carrots we made a simple salad.  The chard was sauteed in butter and over cooked.  We finished the meal with a few tart strawberries drizzled in blueberry honey. I picked the strawberries a little early because I wanted them so bad, and even not quite ripe they were delicious and added so much to the meal.   In the next meal there should be lots more, and then pretty soon blackberries.   I wish I had a tree that grew shortcakes!

Flower Power

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When I first started gardening seriously I was not very nice to flowers.   I was in fact almost offended by them, the way I still am with grass.  If I talked about flowers at all it would have been to say they are a waste of space and that only flowers that are beneficial companion plants are allowed in my garden.   I had marigolds and of course anything that made a flower in order to grow the veggie or fruit, and that was about it.   But over time that changed.   I realized that those strawberry flowers and peach blossoms made me happy.  Not just because they were the harbinger of delicious noms to come, but because they were lovely all on their own.

A few years ago I threw a few handfuls of beneficial insect attracting wildflower seeds into a little unused space in the front yard.  My stated reason would have been to get more good helpful insects to increase the food production, but there was more to it than that.  I wanted flowers.  When they came up and I saw the little buds forming I was so excited.  I had no idea what flowers were in the mix.  Would this new one be pink, blue or purple? Would it be a single flower, or a cluster of little ones?  Would it have a nice smell?

I have never been one to be given or go buy cut flowers.  It always seemed like a waste of money, but I admit I like to stop and look at them in the flower part of the store.  Flower arrangements were a decadent thing that I just could not have in my life.  But that all changed as those wildflowers started to bloom.   It was like a magic trick, this one part of my yard was a joy for the senses; a riot of colors and shapes, a busy buzzing blur of bees and butterflies, and a delicate blend of new smells.

That is when I realized flowers are a perfectly reasonable crop for a hard-working homesteader.  They might not feed my tummy, but they feed another part of me that is just as in need of nourishment.