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Coping with screwy weather


A brief warm spell about three weeks ago gave us hope that we might be able to make an early start with the garden. It was not to be. A cold spell followed, and two nights with hard frost. Only the lettuce germinated decently. Even the broccoli and cauliflower, which we started from plants, had minor damage from the frost.

We decided to re-till the area where the seeds didn’t germinate and try again in a week or so when the weather is warmer. Ken took advantage of the downtime in the garden to apply some of the organic soil amendments that had been delivered late, including dried kelp, cottonseed meal, blood meal, bone meal, and lime.

The two new chickens have been transferred out of the bird cage in the house to the chicken coop. They were getting too big and too rowdy to remain indoors.

An apple blossom damaged by frost

Fried biscuits?


I have one bit of advice on making high-fat, high-carb, homemade fried biscuits: Don’t.

But seriously, in spite of their rusticness, there is something exotic about them, reminiscent of Indian breads.

No Fracking in Stokes: our new video

As regular readers know, I’ve been involved for the last two years with No Fracking in Stokes, a grassroots group fighting fracking in Stokes County and in North Carolina.

Our group has released a new video, filmed here in Stokes County (except for the shots of actual fracking in the Marcellus shale area of Pennsylvania). The actor is a retired schoolteacher, and the farm where this was shot is just a few miles from the abbey.

That’s the abbey’s garden in one of the photos near the end of the video, and the chicken perched in the Jeep window is an abbey chicken, Fiona.

The original music is by Rex McGee, a Stokes County musician.

Abbey moonset, April 16, 6:33 a.m.


What’s blooming at the abbey

Deciduous magnolia

Young cabbages

Bush cherries

I’m trying to identify this

It’s so sad when the daffodils fade.

Apple blossom

Grape vine

New growth on an arbor vitae tree

The day lily bank won’t bloom until May.

Young maple leaves



Rose foliage

Blackberry foliage

More young maple leaves

Carolina jasmine

Baby chickens!

Printin’ Office Eatery

Fried oysters with salad and hushpuppies

One of the nicest new businesses to come on line in Stokes County lately is the Printin’ Office Eatery. It’s in Danbury, facing the main drag.

Part of the brilliance of the Printin’ Office is that the menu appeals to two sets of people — the locals, whose business of course is necessary if a restaurant is to succeed; and visitors, with somewhat more urban tastes, traveling through on their way to Hanging Rock State Park. They also have pizza, which is a good lick, because northern Stokes County is pretty much a pizza desert. The restaurant’s sign is a little hard to see, though, so look carefully to your right as you drive north through Danbury, just before you pass the old courthouse.

One of the beautiful things about a place like Stokes County (and one of the reasons I’m here) is that we don’t have the suburbanization and population density required to support fast food places. There are fast food places in King, far to the south, and a couple in Walnut Cove, but that’s it. Eateries out in the sticks are always small and locally owned.

The place gets its name from its location. The Danbury Reporter, a long-dead newspaper, used to be published in the printin’ office there.

I’m reproducing the menu here to share the local flavor.

P.S. They have free WIFI. Northern Stokes County is very poorly wired, but there is fiber under some of the main roads, including through Danbury, at least as far as the library and the county government center.






Noah: a short review


I commend director Darren Aronofsky (who co-wrote the screenplay) for seeing the cinematic potential of the story of Noah and the ark. I mean, who’d have thunk it, since the Noah story is such a short and minor feature of the book of Genesis. But all the ingredients are there for a blockbuster, in particular apocalypse and evil and the potential for great spectacle. I was eager to see it because it’s a new addition to the apocalyptic genre, so I went on opening weekend and saw it in Imax (recommended).

Normally I would not rush out to see a bible story, but “Noah” is pissing off so many religious fanatics that I figured Aronofsky must have done a pretty good job with the theology. Glenn Beck called the film “pro-animal” and “anti-human.” And apparently Fox News has been buzzing about how “unbiblical” the film is. Excellent.

“Noah,” in addition to being a highly entertaining movie, is an eloquent takedown of the dominionist school of religious weirdos, which includes a lot of evangelicals. These are the people whose political power (with corporate backing) is keeping us in the age of fossil fuel and blocking environmental progress and conservation. These religious types seem to be getting the message that their slash-and-burn religious views make them a lot like the wicked people who had to be destroyed by flood. Save the animals but destroy all the war-loving people in order to save the earth? That spooks them, because they believe that it’s the environmentalists, the tree-huggers, and the save-the-animals people who are of the devil. Recycling and solar energy threaten their rights and their way of life. Cheap gas forever! Down with Noah and the tree-huggers and endangered species! Oops.

The theme is the same, really, as the theme of my novel Fugue in Ursa Major: what if the only way to fix this planet’s problems is to have an apocalypse and start over from scratch with a little more respect for nature?

2014 garden, off and running


The long-range forecast calls for normal-ish temperatures and above-normal precipitation, so Ken planted the early garden today.

Spring has sprung.

I hope.


What’s blooming in this nasty weather


Spring is late. And who knows if it’s here for good. Last year, the Carolina jasmine bloomed all winter. This year, it’s still dormant. The grass and clover keep trying to make a start, but a cold snap always seems to shut it down again.

But a couple of things are blooming — the old-faithful daffodils, and the peach trees. As for the dandelion greens, they’ll go into a salad.



Into the woods, chickens


Yesterday the chickens were allowed into their new woods pasture for the first time. It also was the first time they’ve been in the orchard area since last fall. They’re being moved out of the garden to make way for planting. Today the first cabbages and onions will go in the ground.