Summer Pots and Pizza Party – the afterglow

July 28th     11:30 pm

I have to say that was an incredible party. For days people have been asking me, “How many tickets have you sold? How many people do you think are coming?”

And I would venture a guess. “Last time I looked we had sold 80 tickets online.” But then there were all the emails from folks asking if they could pay at the door.  And the Facebook event that said lots more were coming than had bought tickets.

But all that is unimportant now. Because the party is over.

Except not quite.  There is a small child’s red flip flop on the back step, and a couple of knives that are not mine on the dish drain.

I have washed up the myriad of pottery plates we used to serve Angelina’s baklava and cookies, Celebrity Dairy’s cheeses, Joan’s chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin cookies, Donna Bianco’s fresh cannolis, and the stack of bowls that served up local blueberries and cherry tomatoes donated from 3 local farms, and two huge platters that had been full of local sweet corn. And the sticky plates that had been stacked high with Mackenzie’s right-out-your-childhood rice krispie treats.

Mackenzie with baby on the way

“I don’t bake,” she told me at the farmers market on Saturday.  “But can I bring rice krispie treats?”

Darling, you can do anything you want to. You and Tucker showed up early, set up your tent, grills, and table, and spent the entire evening over a hot charcoal grill pushing out huge grilled barbecue chicken wings for the crowd. Then you hustled over to pair up with Tucker and run a splendidly entertaining live auction, all with a 5-month baby in the oven…then back to pack up your tent, table, coolers, grill, etc. before finally being the last to leave.  Can you have anything at all that you ever ask from me?  Why yes. You may.

Sage and her beautiful local fruit creation!

Sage and her beautiful local fruit creation!

Now, as I write this, at 11:46pm, the rain has started. It is pounding on the tin roof over my office. The dishes are done, and the kitchen is almost back to normal.

There are still 3 or 4 pop-up tents in the yard and field down by the barn, but they will be fine.

What a wonderful party. I spent my time running from cabin, to the barn, to the house, and back again. Replenishing desserts, or cheese, or calling out raffle winners. I kept getting glimpses of people that I would loved to have had a chance to talk with. To catch up on our lives or to talk about Slow Money. Sometimes I managed to get a hug, or a kiss, and a very fleeting conversation. But never more.

I met new people who had come to the event to talk to me about Slow Money. I hope they will try again. To some of my dearest friends I only managed a wave. But I can’t thank you enough for coming. For showing up at our very first Slow Money NC party and fundraiser.

I put this event in our success column.

First we ran out of name tags – I only bought 100. So I rustled up some more. Then we needed to get the PA in place so we could start calling out the raffle winners. About when we thought the auction was over, Amy stepped up and offered piano lessons, and then David offered fiddle lessons. The generosity just kept coming.

I got out-bid on a tennis lesson by one of the sweetest teen-agers in town, and I was in the barn helping a pottery customer and missed out on his younger brother’s blackberry pie. Maybe next time.

We were woefully disorganized about collecting money after the auction, but folks were very patient. Next year we will be better at this!

Tomorrow I will try to put together a list of all the people we need to thank, but it will be incomplete.  I will no doubt forget someone.DSC_0122

In truth, everyone who ventured out to our house and pottery tonight needs a note of thanks. Some came from over an hour away. I know. We never spoke, but I saw you from across the crowds.

1:30am

I went back and finished cleaning the kitchen, then picked up a flashlight and took out the compost. “Too wet to woo,” came a call from a nearby tree.

A few hours earlier there were nearly 200 people in this yard, but now it’s just me, and the Barred Owl.

What a wonderful day.

Life just doesn’t get much better than this.

Leaving Pisa

June 18, 2013
To truly understand a place – you must fly over it. You must grasp its geography from the long view of the sky.

Flying out of the Pisa airport in Italy this evening, looking down on the red rooftops, and then the perfect rectangles of farmland – some are green on this late June day, and some are brown.

And then a patch of forest, that seems to go right down to the ocean, but for a small group of buildings at the end of a road, the one that must take you from Pisa to the ocean, should you want to go there.

And all that is fitted into a tiny airplane window.

Tonight there is also a huge moon and, given how close we are to the very longest day of the year, even at 8:30pm we are still taking off in broad daylight.

As we fly the sky turns to pink, and then to purple.

To truly understand a place – you must love it deeply, and then have to leave it.

The stewardess hands me a cardboard package, meant to be my supper.

On the front it says Urban Eat. And under that it says BLT Wrap. On the side it promises Real Food, Hand Crafted and offers a website… www.urbaneat.co,uk.

All this in full techno branding in a clever rustic beige.

The bacon is a rather bland pink lunchmeat and the lettuce and tomato are equally non-descript.

What did I expect of British Airways?

Prosciutto, provolone and sun-roasted tomatoes?

To understand a place –  you must eat it’s food until you are addicted, and until their faux food makes you miss the place all the more.

We are flying home.

It will be hours, and maybe when I arrive sometime tomorrow I will be ready to be a US-er again.

But for now I slip my stash of Parmesan cheese out of my backpack, take a bite and pretend that I will be in Italy forever. If only red wine was allowed in a carry-on.

When you truly understand and love a place  – there are times, to survive, you may need to pretend it is your home.

 

Our place in North Carolina, our home in NC – from the sky.

 

Day of Fire

Building temperature by side stoking

Today we finished the 86th firing of our original wood kiln. Thankfully it went very well.

After about four days, that amounts to six cords of wood, a crew of about ten wood-fire diehards (it took six to finish it off today) and 1500+ pieces of pottery – fired to over 2400 degrees F.

Firing the cob oven

 

Next door, just a quick walk back down the dirt lane to our ‘other house,’ Danny and his friend Josh, were firing the cob bread oven.

A small stack of wood, two guys, about twenty loaves bread, and some matzo crackers.  It smelled delicious.

Creating an over door

They had spent the morning creating a door for the  oven and it worked perfectly.

The oven got hot, stayed hot, and their half whole wheat, sour-dough bread came out with a dark, mahogany colored crust, but a soft and spongy perfect inside.

And it was delicious!

The Hewitt Pottery motley firing crew

About 3pm the pottery firing crew had finally reached top temperature as well, and stopped for a beer and a bit of a rest, before closing up the kiln.

Those 1500+ pots will now stay in the kiln, cooling down, ever so gradually, for about a week before we can open the kiln and see the results.

It is a long week, but everyone is ready for a bit of a rest before the unpacking and the made dash to get ready for the Kiln Opening Sale on April 13th and 14th.

About the same time as the pottery firing was winding down in the late afternoon, the bakers were pulling loaves out of their bread oven as well.

Even better than it looks!

So I walked down to check on their progress and was able to return with fresh-baked, warm sourdough bread.

The reaction was all good all around. A fresh loaf of bread quickly disappeared.

Which is to say politely – they scoffed it down.

As the sun began to set Danny and Jake closed up shop at the bread oven, and stopped by with a couple more loaves.

two tired, but happy, firing crews break bread together

The firing crews swapped firing stories, and happily ate more freshly-baked bread.

What means the most to Mark, in reaching for excellence in making his pots, are the materials – locally sourced clay bodies – and then of course the craft, the highest standard possible that each crafts person can reach for.

Baker meet potter

What means the most to Danny the baker in creating great bread, are the very same criteria.

Great locally sourced flour, hundreds of hours of practice, and a fanatical discipline/commitment to making the best-ever artisan breads.

It is a neighborhood match made in heaven.

Danny and I schemed about a pop-up restaurant serving wood-fired bread [and more] served on wood-fired pots, and we even found a Sunday evening in May to try that out.

There might be pizza in the mix, or forccachia – but for today it was just pure joy to be firing these two fabulous wood ovens within a few hundred yards

of one another. One full of fabulous baked goods edible on the spot, and the other with some great plates, bowls, pitchers, jars, and more – some to eat off of and some to enjoy as an inspiring art object.

A final dangerous climb to put on the chimney cover…

But it’s unavoidable.

We sent a fair bit of carbon into the atmosphere today, down here at the end of the Johnny Burke Road.

On this stunning spring day, at one of the prettiest places on earth, at least we can say we burned a renewable fuel. Soon our customers will take home hundreds of lovely, useful pots, and even sooner, many full stomachs will enjoy fabulous bread – and, for what it’s worth – we will have that to show for our carbon burning extravagance.

We have fired this pottery kiln 86 times in the last 30 years.

Tonight I can see also see the promise of dozens of lively locally made breads/pizzas/foccachias/English muffins/crackers – the list is endless, coming forth from that cob oven.

Rosemary butter – experimenting for the pop-up restaurant!

Which could mean that Danny can make bread and make a living, and we can build an even tighter, stronger local food community.

As the oven cools down I am envisioning the next firing  –  and conversing, laughing, cooking, eating – while making the best of the last few hours of a lovely, warm and inviting cob oven.

Greetings

I see that you have stumbled upon this blog where I very occasionally post some bit of writing that seems to need a home. Usually they are sentimental musings about family or friends. The first post talks about the day I learned about Slow Money.

That actually grew my book, Financing Our Foodshed. Which surprised no one more than me.

You can can purchase a copy here, and the book has evolved into a national book tour to spread the gospel.

I am sure we all have several books in us, and hundreds of short stories.

I imagine there is another book on the horizon, but for now enjoy these musings.

Thanks for finding me.

 

Veterans’ Day 2012

To a friend who lost his father – a decorated Veteran, just a few months ago:

Dear Randy,

My Dad had health problems that kept him home from WW II. Instead he became a different kind of Vet. He was our small town’s Veterinarian, ministering to cows, horses, pigs, skunks, and also to a myriad of cats and dogs – to everybody in town’s favorite pet. When he died in December 1997 of pancreatic cancer, having closed his practice of 53 years only a month earlier in November of that year, there were far too many folks at the funeral for the church to hold.

You may like people, but you love your pet. And that sweet guy who kept your beloved pet going (and in many cases was also the one you trusted to put your pet to sleep) was someone you counted on. His death was such a loss in that small town. He even had clients who had been with him all 53 years and their grief seemed about as deep as our family’s.

Now it is our turn. We are the ones who make up the precious fabric of this – our small town.  You minister to their real estate and political needs.

We offer them great pottery, and I try to help shape their social and environmental consciousness while they think they are just having fun.

Lesley, thank God, badgers them with news of the amazing arts community we live in, and it works.

Tomorrow I will remember your Dad, and Mark’s uncle who died in WW II, and my uncles who served as well.

And we will keep on building our community. Because all good starts right here and trickles out. And because it is the richest and most rewarding way to live.

(How did trickle-down miss that simple truth?)

Lovely to see you both tonight. I am looking forward to a belated birthday dinner here in January.

All good,
Carol

The Change

Tonight I underwent the change. Having tossed and turned last night under fleece blankets and quilts that were just too hot, I pulled them all off the bed this morning.

The sheets went into the washing machine and I got on with my day.  At some point I moved them to the dryer, and tonight I made the big change. I remade the bed with only sheets, a cotton blanket and a light quilt that will be the bedspread. I climbed onto a step stool and pushed the fleece blankets and the down quilt far up into the top of the closet.  I hope not to need them for many months.

The newspaper had predicted 79 degrees for today, and though I don’t know if it got that high, it certainly was hot. I opened all the windows in celebration of the warm weather, only to close them later when it got too hot. Which is what I usually do on a summer day in central North Carolina.

At 7:30am when I headed out for a walk it was chilly enough to pile on a sweatshirt, but by the time I got home at 8:30am it was tied around my waist.

Because Winter is gone. And Spring is….?

And there’s the rub.  This past weekend when the temperatures soared into the 70’s out came the Redbud, and the Dogwood will not be far behind.

Bronze dogwood begins to bloom

But I am in no hurry for summer. I want much more Spring.  Warm days and cool nights and great sleeping weather – waking to the sound of the Phoebes who are nesting in the eave outside my bedroom window. There is a swath of tiny wildflowers in the yard and flocks of robins. Like the cuteness of kittens…. can we just freeze this moment? I want at least a few more weeks before those sultry hot days followed by hot nights.

But soon I will wish for that quilt. There will be a cold snap, maybe two. And I will shiver under my silly thin cotton blanket.  I will remember the year we had snow on April seventeenth.

But tonight, in mid-March, there is a most stunning night sky.  I am lucky to live far enough from city lights to still have a fabulous night sky.  The windows are open to the sound of the peepers, and the tree frogs and the gullomp of the bull frogs. Sounds from the Pond might transport you there.

Because there has been a change and we have moved on.

To another spring, another Spring Kiln Opening, and another fabulous Spring Shakori Hills Festival of Music and Dance – the events that mark our lives.

Clean sheets. A night sky.  A spring of events with friends.

Deyanu.  Truly, any one of these would be enough.

Religion

The priest is at the door.

I always found this alarming. We were regular churchgoers, attending Saturday morning Catechism and mass with Dad on Sunday, but Mom never went along. She wasn’t Catholic, and it made me uncomfortable whenever she and Father 0’Malley had a conversation – which was rare. But occasionally there was no way to get around it. There he’d be, with his head bobbing, at the front door. Mom would be in the kitchen and I’d answer the door and invite him in.  Usually he just wanted to remind us about the bake sale coming up at the church on Saturday, and ask Mom if she would send up a cake or come cookies.

Having acted impatient and annoyed upon hearing that he was there at the door, she would come out of the kitchen all smiles and promise that she’d certainly make something for the sale. After a few uneasy pleasantries he’d leave.

“Remind me to send you up to the church on Saturday morning with some money,” she’d say.  With five kids there was constant activity at our house, and she’d given up on actually fulfilling her obligation to bake something for these sales. Instead she’d send us up with a $5 contribution (I imagine that would be like $20 in today’s dollars) and another $5 to buy something to bring home.

That was Mom’s general approach to Catholicism, and all churches as far as I could tell. An arm’s length and a $5 bill distance.  Later, in my teens, we all started to attend the Christmas Eve midnight mass and I was surprised that she seemed to enjoy it.  But, like me, she loved the carols, and at midnight mass you could count on getting the chance to sing several of them.

When asked about religion I say I was raised Catholic with a healthy degree of skepticism.  That would be thanks to Mom who didn’t actually speak out against the church, but her actions and her silence spoke for her.  Her religion was something less rigid and more lenient than the dogma that the nuns tried to hammer into me in the basement of St. Joseph’s Church between 9 and 10am each Saturday.

She’d explain, her defense for never coming with us to church on Sunday, “God is here with me in the kitchen while I’m making Sunday lunch for you.” That sounded good enough to me.

When we came home from church we would line up and each give her a kiss. This was “giving her some grace” and it seemed perfectly “right and just.”

I never actually saw my mother pray, but I think she did. I believe she had her own personal religion. One that kept her going, and made her hum as she worked at the kitchen sink, and laugh easily and often. Her religion was one of devotion and service to her family, gratitude everyday, and a contagious, zestful enthusiasm for living a full, meaningful life.  Idleness and selfishness were in her sin column.

She occasionally wrote bits of poetry. This was on the refrigerator in her handwriting, though I never thought to ask if she had written it or copied it from somewhere. I think, in fact, it’s from Norman Vincent Peale.

I have tried several other churches since St. Joseph’s, but it’s Mom’s religion, as well as I can manage it,  that makes the best sense for me.

Moments like these…

are why I believe in gods and goddesses and leprechauns and squirrels.

Tucked in against the house on the back deck, legs stretched out to capture the tanning power of this late afternoon, early spring, blazing sun –

I am in heaven.

5pm on a mid-March afternoon and it must be 75 degrees out here, maybe more.   Blissful.

I have gleefully abandoned my earlier “courtroom attire” for little more than nothing.

This time of year my defense for idling just to soak up cancer-forming ultraviolets is that I need to be warmed by this sun until my bones are finally warm again after a long, cold winter.  (Thankfully they are heating up nicely.)

But in truth it feels more like a genetic force that pulls me out into the sun.  And a sense of coming home.

And that is only the beginning of how lovely it is out here tonight.

Mark has gone off to enjoy an afternoon of golf with his friends, Seth has gone to pick up his Dad who is here for the weekend, and I have this moment all to myself and even that is an understatement.

In fact as I write I can hear huge bees buzzing nearby (they are probably Carpenter Bees and someday will have eaten away the whole deck.)
Help yourself.

The quacking of the ducks on the pond is broken by the two new geese who must have their noisy say.

And there is the sweetest bluebird perched on the fence railing next to his “house”.

Be still. Close your eyes and just listen. How many sounds can you hear?

I love that game.

Right now? About six different bird calls, the ducks, the geese,  a jet somewhere, and then there is my squirrel.

He has decided I am harmless enough to do his busy work (whatever the hell that is) in spite of me, so he is here, then there….then gone and then back. What’s most fun is when he stops to stare at me, eye to eye.

I have a love/hate relationship with squirrels.

After Hurricane Fran a friend rescued a baby squirrel outside her door, whose mother had died in the storm. We used to go by and play with her. She would run around my shoulders and what I remember most is how sharp even her baby claws were, and how able she was to hang to me on at all angles. Little by little they let her out on her own, and when they finally released her, she came back often to check in with her surrogate parents.

Most winters they move in – to somewhere above the ceiling in my bedroom – and their antics keep me awake at night.  I could figure out where they are coming in, I’ve been told, and block them out once and for all….but that would only reflect the hate part of the equation.  And where would they sleep?  After so many years I hardly hear them, like the now silent newspaper carrier who drives in and out each day to throw a paper on the driveway at about dawn.

So here I bake, binoculars in reach in case this morning’s woodpecker stops by. He was a new one for me and I need another look to know who he was.

Maybe later, after the sun goes down, I will crawl back to my inbox, and to the fight against global warming. And remind myself that for all the good the sun has brought us, there are complications with having had the hottest decade in recorded history.

I had coffee with a friend yesterday who sees the world through a slightly different filter than mine. Her take was that all this ‘climate change’ is predicted in the Bible, and we have no way of changing that.  Which is in some ways a relief, and may mean I can save money on such frivolities as sunscreen, and the tedium of recycling.

But I digress.

From the deep heat of this sun on my arms and legs and face….

And from giving in and giving up.

The new 10K solar array we put out in our field last fall must be slammed with rays this afternoon.

I know I am.

Letting Go

This sturdy, black cardboard box was probably first sold in the 1940’s full of stationery, but when I came upon it, cleaning out Mom’s dresser drawers, it was full of cloth handkerchiefs.

But now we have tissues. As a nurse, Mom had moved on. She did not think cloth handkerchiefs were sanitary, and while Dad seemed to still carry one to the end of his days, for the rest of us she insisted that only the modern tissue would do.

Gone went pretty handkerchiefs. We abandoned carbon paper and moved on to copiers, and we gave up making things ourselves to buying what others made for us. Easier, cleaner, more efficient.  Out with the old, in with the new.

Except that many of these little hankies are trimmed in lovely intricate lace.

When I was about seven or eight Aunt Rosie taught me to crochet and we worked on large ugly shawls. I still have one I made that’s in the children’s dress up box, where it comes out and plays to a good review. I stay quiet. It’s still really ugly, I think.

But that was just the practice run. Grandma took the next step, pressing me with smaller threads and tiny crochet hooks. This is when the pain began, and why these simple little handkerchiefs are so difficult to throw away.  Was this one made by a young girl made to practice over and over trimming handkerchiefs to hone her skill? Or by a seasoned auntie who whipped out a dozen or so that day to be ready for cold season, or to offer to a loved one with consumption?

There is such wisdom and humanity in this lace.

If I tried to teach my daughters how to make this lace would they be willing to take the time to learn how? Can they even begin to fathom the focus to detail and skill it requires…the hours of just sitting looking at one’s hands, following the creation of a tiny intricate pattern that is completely unforgiving, that will allow for not a single missed loop, a single slip from the bigger design?

Life’s lessons are in the making of lace.

Each and every single act matters. Not just the act but the degree of tension. You can’t substitute for concentration. And counting matters. Each stitch, each loop.  And if you need help, there are a crew of women nearby ready to assist you.  Take your time. Care. The result can be exquisite.

I have a button pinned on my pocketbook that reads “IT MATTERS TO ME”.

Occasionally, rarely actually…someone will ask me what it means.

The truth is that for several years I could not bear to wear it, feeling left out by it’s message, too busy with the trivial pursuit of keeping my life boat afloat to do much of anything that really mattered…or so it seemed in those darker days.

But this year, as I moved from the beige summer pocketbook to the winter black one, it seemed right to fasten the button there.  Like that little horse logo on someone’s shirt might do for them, it is my quiet reminder to myself, several times a day that this life matters to me, and that my minute to minute decisions follow from that larger place.

And from lace.

Mom, if only you were here. I think you would have a story for each hankie. “This one was my mother’s, and this one was Gran’s.  Don’t you love these violets? I carried this all through nursing school. I’m surprised it isn’t threadbear.  Your Aunt Anna gave me these two, and I got these when I was a school girl in England, and….oh yes, oh dear….I had this one in my pocket at Nana’s funeral.”

If these sweet smelling hankies from your dresser drawer could only speak, with their fancy lace edges and their flowery soft cotton cloth.

So that I might pass them with their stories on to my daughters, and they to theirs. Without the stories, it is hard to make the umbilical link, and instead they just gather up drawer space, instead of dust.

So I have thinned them out. Badly stained ones to the dust bin.
Uglier ones there as well.

(I cannot bear to use them as rags.)

But the rest remain.  Soon I will show them to my girls. And ask that they make up stories if they must. But somehow, in this time of texting and cloud computing and Twitter, I hope they can find the chord to the women who’s hands flew making the lace, or who covered their cough with a violet.

And I shall place tonight’s dilemma of keeping vs. saving in their hands.

And gently let them go.

Love, Guy

I came upon a musty, slate blue leather binder today, the kind with a zipper around the edge. It has pockets inside with gold letters that say Answered and Unanswered, and a tiny calendar from 1938.

It belonged to my mother and inside was a short, sweet letter from Guy. “I would like very much like to see you again,” he says.

It was 1941 and he was in the army, stationed in England.  As a child I remember looking through the big box of pictures under her bed. There was one of a handsome young soldier with Love, Guy written on the back.

Even after 50 years of marriage she never parted with that photo, or I now realize…this letter.

But I am purging my office, on a mission to get rid of stacks of paper, old teaching materials, junk mail, etc. etc. and I have put the letter and the musty zipper pouch in the trash.

There were also some terrible sentimental poems she had written, and a Western Union telegraph wishing her a Happy Birthday from Daphne.

My mother was not famous.
No one will want to read her old letters from a boy she didn’t marry.
Or her tender poetry.

I wonder if he made it home from those years in Europe.  And did they ever see each other again?
Is he still alive?

And I think now, I will have to retrieve this package from the trash after all to save just a while longer.

And buy a slightly bigger bandana.

(I have a fantasy that someday I will so successfully reduce the clutter in my life that all my belongings will fit neatly in a bandana tied to a stick that fits comfortably on my shoulder.)