Friday, April 22, 2011

And so, they headed west

In the best tradition of the Joad family in The Grapes of Wrath, Willie and I have loaded up every cubic inch of Aunt Judy's van and we're headed for the Vawter House in West Tennessee for two weeks of carpentry, painting and who knows what.

Several Vawter cousins are scheduled to meet me there. I'm curious to see how much work we get done, however, probably not as curious as Aunt Judy.

The van contains 75 gallons of paint, all my carpentry tools, ladders, scaffolding, 25 pounds of dog food, a blowup bed and my banjo. There's a bunch of other stuff which I won't need, unless, of course, I forgot to pack it.

This is the final push to get the house ready for the July 4th unveiling. After we complete the trim work and painting, the carpet installers and floor refinishers will come in to finish it off.

So, Deerfield Diary will be dark for a couple of weeks. Wish me luck and tight mitered corners.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Noble experiment -- vegetables from seeds

Most master gardeners -- a group in which I definitely do not include myself -- like to start their spring vegetables by planting seeds indoors instead of buying plants already started by a professional nursery.

I attempted seed germination this spring and made a few discoveries:

• Squash is a piece of cake. Even I can grow squash from seed.
• Don't even think about brussels sprouts. The seeds germinate in five days, shoot up like a rocket and then wither in one day.
• Tomato plants did surprisingly well, but they need to be transplanted into larger pots before they are moved to the garden.
• Peppers seem to be the hardest vegetable to start from seed.

The spring garden is mostly planted now, including sweet corn, okra, beets, early turnips, cucumber as well as my seeds starts. I'm also planting a fence row of gourds. Does anybody have an gourd recipes?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

A crop of one

For the past month, ever since the redbud trees started budding, I've been searching Deerfield for morel mushrooms. After a good crop in 2009, last year was a bust. I thought the delectables would make another appearance this year. I found one. That's right. One. It's pictured above.

Even at the going rate of $50 a pound, one morel mushroom is not worth getting out the frying pan for. I'm going to cut it up and sprinkle it on my prime morel real estate in hopes we can have a real crop next year.

Did Vincent van Gogh come through Louisville?

On Louisville Road on the way to Deerfield you pass five open fields that can give unsuspecting drivers a start. The fields are full of canola blooms.

Canola is a new crop for East Tennessee with more and more of the yellow fields appearing each year. You certainly don't mistake the fields for soybeans or switchgrass. North Dakota once produced almost all the canola oil in the United States, but folks in the south are getting in on the act. Wikipedia says "canola" is short for CANadian Oil, Low Acid.

Whatever the name, van Gogh would have certainly loved the palette.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Bird in hand is worth two in drawer or gazebo

Now that the birds in Deerfield have stopped trying to peck their way into our houses, they are content to merely wreak havoc on the porch.

Photo at right is the handiwork of a wren that is determined to build a nest in the drawer of a lamp table on the front porch. She goes in through the handle. If we put the drawer in backwards, she just goes in the back door. We have cleaned her out at least three times. Bottom photo is an interloper in the top of Neighbor Larry's gazebo.

Spring is certainly for the birds.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

A notorious fake in the compost bin

Imagine my surprise when I dug into the bowels of my compost bin to find a bright and shiny SunChips bag. This is the famous "WORLD's FIRST 100% COMPOSTABLE CHIP PACKAGE" by Frito Lay.

I remember buying the bag of chips last summer thinking I could help "green the world, one bag at a time" as the package states. I bought only the one bag because when you went to close it the sound was similar to firecrackers going off in your hand. This feature made it very difficult to have those midnight snacks without anyone hearing it.

I dutifully tore up the bag and proudly placed it in my compost bucket. Last October after only a few months on the market Frito Lay announced the bag was being discontinued due to the irritating noise it made.

So, this bag rested in my compost bin for a least nine months and then came out as shiny as a new nickel. (I took a photo of the bag only after rinsing off some of the debris.) This is the same compost pile, mind you, that reduced hundreds of coffee filters, hard-as-rock decorative gourds and even a few misplaced chicken bones to a crumbly humus.

I hope the Frito Lay marketing genius who came up with this "green" concept is made to stand in the corner -- a corner filled with to the ceiling with rich black compost, no less.

Grand opening is a thing of beauty

Yesterday I unveiled a masterpiece -- my compost bin.

After 12 months of carrying coffee grounds, kitchen refuse, dead leaves and grass clippings a couple of hundred yards down the hill, I pulled the front planks from the bin to reveal all the putrid glory.

I estimate I filled the bin to overflowing at least 10 times during the year. As you can see, the contents continued to settle resulting in a rich and heavy compost that had to be the envy of every worm's eye.

Transferring the weighty compost to the garden was a physical and well as an olfactory challenge. I left a little in the bottom of the well to jump-start next year's batch.

With apologies to Joyce Kilmer, I offer this poem:

I think no one can ever match
A pile as rancid as my batch.
Perfumes may smell good on you
But only I can make a PUUUUUUUUU!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Let's hear it for the dogwoods

This is the is the prettiest spring for dogwood trees since we've been here at Deerfield. Somehow the blooms survived last night's hard rains and high winds. A glance out through the woods in the mornings and your first thought is there might have been a freak snowfall.

The redbud trees are also resplendent, and that means it's time for delicious morel mushrooms, but I've not found a single one. I'll not be going to the store to pay $50.00 a pound for them either.

If you look closely at the bottom photo, you'll see Willie the white boxer at his usual post at the window. You won't see any squirrels or rabbits because Willie is calmly seated and not slamming into the window trying to get at them.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Craftsman-style door for 10 cents on the dollar

I thought that a craftsman-style wooden door would look nice on the Vawter House, my grandparents' old farmhouse in McKenzie, Tenn.

I started looking through catalogs and at online door sites. The doors I liked were $2,500 to $3,000, certainly not in keeping with the farmhouse mentality. I came upon an idea.

I went to Knox Rail Salvage and bought a solid wood six-panel door made out of Douglas fir. It was a plain Jane with no glass. I cut out the top two panels, framed in three small windows and added small corbels. I found some antique "bubble glass," cut it to size and fitted it. I finished the door with three coats of stain and three coats of polyurethane.

We got our front door for 10 cents on the dollar -- or less.

The brass plaque says:

The Vawter House
Vilas V. Vawter Sr.
Carrie DePriest Vawter

Our Amish friends installed it last week. Thanks to Cousin Amy for the photo.

The door will be a fitting welcome to friends and family.

Later this month I will install a wooden screen door. As I hang it, I'm sure I will hear Mamaw asking us to keep the door closed so the flies won't get in.