Archive for October, 2011

October 23, 2011

Introduction to Walnut Ridge

by Cynthia


Introduction to On Walnut Ridge

 Seven years ago, I convinced my husband we should buy a farm.  Having come from a long line of country folk on both sides of my family, the rural gene had been working its way up to the surface for years. We named our place Walnut Ridge because of the black walnut trees that are so abundant and the fact that our property sits at the end of a long limestone ridge that rings the valley below us. Our log house faces east, and we love sitting on the front porch with a steaming cup of coffee watching the sun rise. 

The first thing I did when we moved here was put in a vegetable garden.  The following summer, I canned forty quarts of tomatoes. All those glass jars of ruby tomatoes lining the pantry shelves like good food soldiers inspired me. Now all of the vegetables we eat and most of the fruit we consume comes out of our yard.  The pleasure of eating fresh, organically grown food has been as motivating a reason to keep investing time and energy into the land as the knowledge that the food is better for us than what we can buy in town.

 Wendell Berry writes about the  calming effects of being in contact with the “peace of wild things”.  The peace of wild things is missing in the lives of most people. The result is a poverty of experience that dulls the spirit and fogs the mind. I believe that everyone can have an enriched connection to the natural world and that it can make us better people and better neighbors. Even if you live in a small apartment and your gardening space is limited to a stoop, a patio, or a porch, you can grow fresh herbs and a tomato plant or two.  Eating a home grown tomato and eating one you bought in a grocery store are completely different experiences. Eating a store bought tomato is a bit like kissing your lover through a screen door.

Practicing some of the fundamental skills that literally kept my grandparents alive makes me feel more alive myself. On Walnut Ridge we do things like collecting rainwater, growing and preserving fruits and vegetables  harvesting and preserving wild game, and keeping a herd of goats and a flock of chickens. Not everyone is interested in the hard work and blood and poop involved in going home grown. Not everyone has access to a piece of land. But why not take a step away from your dependence on the business of agriculture and grow as much of your own food as possible?

You can support a local farmer’s market. You can join a CSA (community supported agriculture) You can stop eating processed, dead food that came from far away in trucks powered by fossil fuels and has compromised nutritional value. You don’t need fifty acres.  Just eat something that you pulled out of the ground with your own hands.

October 18, 2011

The Lily Room

by Trisha


Lilyanne weighs eight pounds and has long brown eyelashes. I watched her come into the world, breathless. Both of us, actually, were not breathing. She was not breathing because her lungs were filled with meconium.  I was not breathing because I was terrified that she never would. After a long, long, slow motion moment, she let out a small infant cry, and I inhaled a  lung full of joy and relief. 

I am so in love with her big brother, Luke, that it seemed impossible to make enough room in my heart to love Lily the way any grandchild deserves to be loved. But yesterday we spent the day together and in between my rocking and feeding and singing to her, and her throwing up on my shoulder before falling asleep in my arms, my heart opened up a new room; The Lilyanne room, a really big room with lots of space for love to grow.

When Lily’s mother was a baby, I was only twenty-three and she was my entire world. Being at home with her was my only job, so anything less than perfection at motherhood would have seemed like failure.  All her baby food was homemade. She wore cloth diapers. I spent hours and hours sewing beautiful French batiste and lace dresses for her to wear.

My Grandmother fantasies were fueled by my experience as a new mother. Sewing tiny, lovely baby clothes, knitting caps and booties and miniature Angora sweaters were part of the vision in my head about the kind of Grandmother I would be. In the fantasy, I’d have all kinds of free time to devote to the grandkids, and they would think of coming to my house and wriggle with delight. The reality is a little different. I’m fifty-four and smack in the middle of trying to make a living, fund a retirement account, pay a mortgage. The big hinkey in the fantasy plan was a divorce fifteen years ago and my having to grow up and learn to take care of myself. I can’t even afford French Batiste fabric anymore. And the laces? Instead of putting a price tag on the rolls of lace at the fabric store they should just write, Outrageous on the end of the bolt. Even if I could afford the materials, when would the sewing happen?

So the Grandmother vision has needed some adjustments. No fancy dresses for Lilyanne. No yards of ruffles and ribbons coming from this Grandma. Homemade applesauce? Yes. A farm with lots of room to run? Yes. But the booties will come from Target.

Someday she will call me Mimi. That’s the name that Luke has created for me.  We’d been teaching him to call me Grammy, and when he mastered the last syllable, he figured that worked pretty well, and Mimi stuck. I can’t wait to hear her say it, to hear “Mimi” come out of her rosey little baby mouth.  Lilyanne and I will dance and spin and march all around that big Lilyanne room in my heart.  We will throw scraps to the chickens and bake sticky chocolate chip cookies and dig in the garden together. We will make a mess and laugh about it.  Fancy dresses are no good for digging anyway.

Garamondle post in the “Family” category.

October 18, 2011

Good Food Post

by Trisha

It’s early November and time to clean up the garden. I spent a few hours yesterday cutting tomato vines and pulling the wire cages out of the ground for storage until next summer. The ground around the garden beds was littered with gnarly, ropey vines that had been tiny, tender shoots just a few months ago.  I gathered a couple of bushels of green tomatoes and a few red ones, mostly the little Amish paste heirlooms. Then the vines went into the wheel barrow and out into the field beside the garden to be burned.

Today I started the process of turning all the beds with a shovel, shaking the dirt off the weeds before throwing them into a pile. Next week, a layer of straw and manure goes on the beds, and as soon as I get a couple of hours in with a rake, the beds will get blanketed for winter with a thick pile of leaves. While turning the soil over, I found a few sweet potatoes that had hidden from me when the potatoes were harvested a few weeks ago. Then I came across a few stray onions, and in another bed, some Yukon Gold potatoes.  I realized I had just uncovered dinner!

 I brought my basket of garden dregs into the kitchen and washed and sliced them.  They went  into a roasting pan along with a few of the Amish paste tomatoes that I left whole. I tossed them with half a cup of olive oil and a quarter cup of balsamic, a shake of sea salt and some ground pepper. Then a few sprigs of fresh rosemary scattered on top just for the heavenly smell.  They baked, covered, in the oven for 30 minutes at 350 degress and then another twenty minutes uncovered. Some kind of insanely delicious magic happens between the sweet sugars in the roasting tomatoes and the starches of the potatoes. I forgot to do it, but it would have been even better if I’d thrown in a few cloves of garlic.

Where else but in your own backyard can you literally dig up some dinner by surprise?

October 18, 2011

Almost A Believer

by Trisha

                                                                                                    Just As I Am

                                                                                Just as I am, and waiting not

                                                                                To rid my soul of one dark blot.

                                                                                To thee whose blood

                                                                                 Can cleanse each spot,

                                                                                 Oh Lamb of God, I come.

                                                                                  I come

                                                                                                                     William Bradbury, 1836


The water in the baptistery is cold and the heavy white robe grabs at my legs as if it wants to hold me under, as if my sins are so deep it will take a good long soaking to cleanse them. Cradled in the preacher’s arm, I am barely breathing.  His white cotton handkerchief covers my nose and mouth.  I hear the words “… in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost” before my feet rise and my body floats as he dips me underwater. Just before submerging, I gaze at the angel painted on the wall of the baptistery. Her long wispy gown trails behind her as if she is facing into the wind, and her eyes are riveted on me, her hands outstretched. Is she welcoming me into the bosom of the saints, or pulling me into a cavern of deceit and illusion? Siren or angel? Heaven or Hades? Where am I headed?

We could be sisters, I think, as the water envelops me. Her eyes are blue like mine. Her hair, like mine, is long and blonde. Then comes the brief moment of weightlessness where I am suspended in the liquid womb-the metaphorical rebirth about to come. Floating in the water, I exist in the parenthesis- not of the earth, yet still bound to the earth. In this symbolic grave/womb, I am dying and being born all at once, and will not understand the significance of this moment for years to come.

 The preacher lifts me from the water and turns me to face the congregation.  He proclaims something to the audience about a watery grave and newness of life while I blink the water out of my eyes, and try to look serene. My first breath, the breath of the saved, is not accompanied by the spiritual elation I have learned I am supposed to feel, but by a worry that the people in the front pews can see through the wet baptismal robe.  Already, just eleven years old, I am failing at being a good Christian. This condition will persist.