Above: Western Pleasure Guest Ranch in Sandpoint, Idaho.
Maybe it’s the city girl in me, but I’ve always had a thing for classic red barns.
I find them so romantic. I love my barns old, creaky, and weather-worn. Every time we pass them out in the countryside, I always imagine myself as a muck boot-wearing farm gal… pitching hay, chasing piglets, grooming llamas, milking goats. I think the only thing that keeps me from setting up shop is the fact that I’m not an early riser at all. I’d end up milking my goats at noon and midnight!
While barns can be painted any color at the whimsy of the owner, we most often associate red with traditional wooden barns. The icon of rural Americana is found all over the country, most especially in the Northeast and Midwest. But how did the red barn come to be, and why do so many farmers still choose the color red?
I love my UPS man… and not because it’s the season when packages start arriving at my door with more frequency.
Truth be told, I see packages at my door several times a week some months. I love hearing the thump of boxes on my doormat, the occasional shout of “UPS!” before the delivery driver hops back in his truck, and the subsequent ding! on my phone as a text comes in to tell me a package has been delivered. Even an Amazon Prime box filled with cleaning supplies feels like Christmas.
So when it comes to subscription boxes, I’ve really had to reign in my obsession with having things shipped to me. I love to discover new products and especially products with a handmade, small-batch, or artisanal feel to them — products I can’t find at my local shops.
Say the words “scenic byway” and you’re likely to think of some of America’s most iconic roads: the historic Route 66 that crosses two-thirds of the country, or the dramatic Highway 1 that meanders down the central coast of California.
But in many states, there are smaller, lesser known byways that comprise the National Scenic Byways Program, a collection of American roads that have been preserved and recognized for their scenic, historical, archaeological, cultural, natural, or recreational resources (the six “intrinsic qualities” that the program is based on).
You haven’t heard of most of them — in fact, few have federal distinction even though they’re funded by the program. States can establish their own scenic byways, and in the Green Mountain State of Vermont (the sixth smallest and second least populous in the country), there are 10 such byways that travel through some of the most stunning views in New England.
Happy holidays, friends. I love all these weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year. I wish we could roll them all into one humongous holiday filled with twinkly lights, cheery music, fresh pine scent, gluttonous dinner parties and cozy gatherings with loved ones.
I remember as a child, I feverishly looked forward to Christmas not because of its spiritual significance or even Santa himself (I was that cynic in school who told all my friends he wasn’t real — I know, I was so mean), but because I loved seeing all those gifts under the tree. It was the one time of year that my family actually picked out toys and clothes and cognac and wrapped them up in pretty paper, a delightful change from the red envelopes stuffed with money that was more common in our culture.
Ah, those gifts. Through the years, I’ve found that I love being the gift giver more than I like being the gift recipient. Being a kid, it was easy — everyone enjoyed a handmade card or craft that I’d painstakingly created in my bedroom. But as an adult, finding the right gift for the right person becomes trickier because it seems like all the people in your life already have everything they need. Food is usually my standby gift, often homemade. And gifts from the garden have had an increasingly frequent appearance over the years.
But I’m always looking for something special aside from the framed photos, pickles and jams, potted succulents, and homegrown harvests I often reach for come holiday (or birthday or other special occasion) time. When GrowJourney introduced me to their Seeds of the Month Club (all heirloom, all certified organic) and offered a sample membership to review, I thought it sounded like a sweet idea. A gift of seeds is like a gift of life, and suits anyone from the aspiring gardener to the longtime green thumb.
The five little things that made my week…
1. Chioggia beet seedlings leaning toward the light.
Why does it look like some of my chickens don’t molt at all, while others are nearly bald during molting season?
Don’t fret — while it may appear that only a few from your flock are molting in the fall, they all go through normal, healthy cycles that take anywhere from as little as two months to as long as five months. (For a more thorough look into the stages of seasonal feather loss and feather growth, check out this post.)
The factor that determines the length of time for old feathers to shed and new feathers to grow is the particular breed of chicken. Your most productive layers will molt the fastest; they go through hard molts, whereby clutches of feathers seemingly drop overnight. It’s sometimes hard to believe that big old pile of feathers came from only one chicken! (And even harder to believe that the average adult chicken has around 8,000 feathers… that’s a lot of energy going into regrowing her coat.)
As a blogger, I often find myself running in the same circles as other bloggers I admire from afar, but haven’t yet had a chance to meet. Emily Han is one such blogger. We both wrote for Apartment Therapy, The Kitchn, and KCET, we both live in Los Angeles, and we both have a love of cooking, foraging, and exploring the natural world.
So when I found out Emily signed with Quarto Publishing (who’s also my publisher — we now even have the same marketing manager!) for her boozy new book, I was so excited to see what she came up with, knowing we share the same passion for fruits and vegetables, herbs and spices.
Now that we’ve made it past Thanksgiving, it feels like we’re hurtling straight toward Christmas. I can’t wrap my mind around the fact that it’s less than four weeks away! We have a tree to cut down, a house to decorate, parties to attend, and presents to buy — all while digging over our garden beds, transplanting the last seedlings, and mulching the rest of the yard before El Niño moves in.
Sometimes I wish we had a “real” winter here where all we do is sit inside the house, stoke the fire, and drink mugs of hot cider all day because it’s too damn cold to do anything else. But winter in Southern California just means you add a layer of flannel and put on some socks — and try to keep up with yard work amidst all the holidaying.
Because holidaying, despite its maddening pace of imbibing, devouring, and celebrating, makes me feel really, really lazy. A slip-on-the-fuzzy-shoes, stir-up-some-cardamom-coffee, break-out-the-crafts-and-make-my-own-gift-wrap type of lazy.
I realized after starting this post that it’s going up on Cyber Monday, which seems appropriate. If you like to take your time with presents, as I do, and haven’t yet found a gift for the garden lover or foodie in your life, may I suggest a signed copy of The CSA Cookbook?
After gestating the “baby” that was my book all of last year and the ensuing book tour this year… I’m thrilled to say another baby is on the way. A souvenir from the book tour, as I like to joke. I’m pregnant! Or we’re pregnant, I guess is the proper term, but I’m the one putting on the pounds over here.
There are so many thoughts going through my mind right now as I’m belly-deep in my second trimester… though maybe not the same thoughts that other soon-to-be moms might have.
I dream about the babe’s first wave on a surfboard and smile at the thought of little bathing suits hanging on the line. I revel in the hope of tiny hands reaching in my chalk bag and happy squeals coming down the rapids in a raft. I wonder whether I’ll still be able to tighten my snowboard boots next month without my husband’s help, what kind of diapers to bring on our first multi-day backpack, and how we’re going to handle a brand-new baby and two senior pugs on our road trips next summer.