Let It Grow Organic Gardens

And I resumed the struggle. -Vladimir

Monday, January 30, 2006

Breaking Even

It feels more like Spring than late January here in the Appalachians, but hogs are still being killed.
I drove back from Hot Spings with G* today, in the cab of the rollback, with the Blazer perched on the flatbad out back. We made sure to make the rounds around town first, so everyone could see that the Blazer is broken down again. Up this street, down that street, then back up this street .....
"Gettin' lost, G*," I queried.
"Ya gotta find just the right way," G* said, downshifting. He had a George Jones tape on, and a biscuit on the dashboard. "Jus' the right way. Some of those roads, ya jus' don't fit down."
We finally made it to 209, and started up the creek.
"Killed four hogs this mornin', and jus' didn't feel like killin' anymore. Oh, we'll probably kill a few more next week-end."
G* gets a dollar a pound for his hogs, a dollar twenty if he pieces them out for you. A hog can run 250 pounds, and sometimes up to three hundred. But his feed bill runs a grand a month. I know that from previous experience.
"Picked one out of the creek there, and another one up yonder. And one took out that telephone pole right there. They're comin' from all over for the hogs, Feller came up from Brevard the other day." G* changes subjects as deftly as he changes gears. "Oh, a feller will have some folks over, you know, and they'll get to talkin' about where the sausage came from, and the next thing you know, he'll be wantin' him some, too."
Word of mouth, I said.
"Exactly. Like the way you do your produce. And a feller knows where his hogs are comin' from, and when they was killed. Not like these stores. And what they was fed. My hogs have never seen a scrapin' from a human plate."
I thought that was what you were supposed to feed hogs.
"Jus' look at some of the people sittin' in some of these diners,"G* reasoned. "The way they look, hell, I wouldn't feed my hogs the same things."
It was beginning to make sense to me.
"All the illness and everything these days, and it's because of what people are eatin'."
G* looked up the rock cliff, and then back at the road.
"Hain't fit for a dog or a hog, most of it. One went of the road there, and I pulled it out. And up there. Don't look forward to the IRS this year. The wife hasn't added up all we spent on the hogs last year, or what we made. I kinda hate to see it myself."
I knew what he meant. "Kinda like growin' vegetables," I said. "In a good year, you break even."
"And that's a good year," G* said. "That's what a good year is. When you break even."
We crossed Meadow Fork, where G* had pulled one out once, passed S**'s house, rounded the bend, where G* had pulled one out once, and came up on my road.
"And I've pulled a few out of this holler here. But you know that."

Sunday, January 29, 2006


There's been quite a lot going on here at the farm, lately. But I'm not going to tell you what it is.
Suffice to say that all will be revealed shortly, and will be revealed first in this space.
No, I have not been posting as often as I would like, and several recent posts, like this one, have been just so much filler, and not really worth my time to write nor your time to read.
But they serve their purpose (or non-purpose.)
They keep us both busy and keep the ol' Let It Grow ball rolling just a little, and pave the way for they great things that are to come.
Just you wait.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Lock Up the Youngins, Ma, They're Turnin' To Jesus

An eight year old friend of mine went to church last Sunday, and it caused great concern.
His neighborhood playmates had invited him along - some kind of Youth Play Day or something.
Word of his downfall spread around town. Slowly, at first, then like wildfire.
"Have you heard about -? He went to church."
"What? Does his mother know?"
"How did he fall in with such a group of kids?"
"You have to watch them all the time nowadays."
"Oh, where have we gone wrong?"
The hand-wringing subsided that night, but most parents are keeping a closer watch on their kids now. There's no telling what kind of nefarious activities they could get into next.
Some blamed the young man's parents. Others allowed, "If it could happen to -, it could happen to anyone."
I wasn't that concerned about -, though. I had seen him earlier that day, in the church playground. He was wearing his Iron Maiden T-shirt.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006


Shamelessly, I direct you and your purchasing power to the following site.

Broken Bones and Mashed Potatoes

Have I mentioned that I'm not exactly up to par, these days, due to a fractured clavicle?
Well, I'm not.
The latest goes as follows:
I'm at the doctor's office last week, and he walks into the room with my X-rays and says: You really gave yourself a good whack, didn't you?
Matter of fact, I did.
The bone, broken nine weeks ago, hasn't healed yet. Hasn't even begun to heal when you look at the X-ray one way, and maybe has started to meld itself back together when you look at the X-ray another way.
The bone may, and you'll notice I italicized may, heal itself if given another month or so. If it doesn't heal, surgery is the next step.
I guess they open me up and stuck the bones back together and then wrap them up with baling wire or something to keep them together. Then they heal.
In six weeks.
That puts me waaay close to the wire when it comes to spring planting. I could very well be in a sling - or, immobilizer, as those of us in the know are wont to say - when I need to be planting potatoes.
Innovate. That's what we do here at Let It Grow. We'll get it done one way or another, and we'll be mashing our own potatoes in July.

Monday, January 23, 2006

A New Floor!

I've been away a while; I've been scavenging.
A friend out in Laurel is moving, and anything that doesn't fit in her new house is up for grabs. I've got enough new chairs for my own Last Supper, a kerosene heater that doesn't work, a futon without a cushion, and, most significantly, a new floor.
The floor is in pieces - a million or so - and has to be glued back together, but I am not daunted. I have enough for the kitchen and the living room, I believe, and that means my days of walking on linoleum are numbered.
It's a milestone, of sorts, a symbol of evolution for the farm. The house gets little attention - time, money and effort gets invested in the fields and the equipment. It gets wearisome after a while. I want to make the space around me a bit more comfortable. Homey. And the linoleum has been a special irritant lately.
And what should happen, just prior to me making that last step forward into a state of exasperation, that the universe should deliver me a floor?
I'm feeling grounded.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Oh, Won't You Help This Mitten

It is not often that we use this space to assist five year olds, but, we are making an exception, just this once.
The mitten in question resides in Kansas City, Missouri, but yearns for grander vistas. We in the blogging community have been nominated as the likely entity to accomplish the task. Thus, readers of this space are being asked to RESPOND with personal mitten anecdotes and remembrances. Any emotions you may have felt when viewing the mitten should probably also be noted. Bearing in mind that the climate in your hometown is of little interest to other readers, please mention whether you are currently wearing mittens.Should you be moved to mention this mitten in your own space, and request assistance from your own readers, please do so. Perhaps, through the strengths of all of us, we can provide this mitten with a better life.
It may even be posssible for this little mitten to circumnavigate the globe, one blog at a time. In fact, we nominate the name Magellen for this little mitten, and wish him luck in his travels.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Greenhouse Party

Kicked around in the greenhouse a bit today.
No, I didn't lift anything.
I'm thinking about having a greenhouse party of sorts in a week or two. It just needs its usual spring cleaning - well, spring scrubbing - well, spring scrubbing and duct taping - before it gets filled up with tiny little plants. Some of the tables need to be moved around, and various debris needs to be put away - the sorts of things that would go a lot better if I had a few folks here to help me with the heavy lifting.
Hence the party. I decided to walk around today and make a list of what really needs to be done, and then the steps that need to be enacted to get those things done. Lists of tools, lists of supplies, etc. I want to make sure everything is on hand and ready when folks show up.
Might even make some gumbo.
As I've said a number of times, I'm pretty fortunate to have broken a bone in the winter. If this had happened mid-summer, I'd really be in a jam. I take my blessings where I can.
Anyway, the mind starts to spin out with other projects: a chicken coop party, a barn party, a what's-in-the-cabinet-under-the-sink party.... I wonder how long I can tax community support.
Speaking of community support.
B* and K* were living here when I built the barn. We came up with a plan to get the thing built in a day. We'd go to an Amish community and adorn the telephone poles with fliers announcing a barn raising. (Do Amish communities have telephone poles? Well, we were going to get the word out somehow.) We'd let our beards get good and bushy and borrow some horses to graze in the front yard. When everyone showed up, we'd have a pig roasted and forty-two apples pies baked. "Welcome, everyone!" we'd shout. "Remember us? Your long lost cousins? We're so happy you're here!" The barn would get put up in no time. We'd all feast together under our new roof. We'd stay together long into the night, swapping tales of harnesses and wood stoves. We'd talk about suspenders and oil lanterns and snap peas. We'd pray together. We'd dance around a fire pit. In the morn, we'd bid our teary farewells.
It would've worked if anyone had actually showed up.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Let It Grow - Hoein' For Jesus

I know, and now you know, that I've got entirely too much time on my hands.

Friday, January 06, 2006

A Tale of Olde Manhatten

Or, What It's Like To Be At The Mercy of a Bunch of Butt-Heads In the Medical Establishment

It was years ago, and I was visiting a friend of mine in New York. As a result of some circumstance or another, I decided I needed some knitting needles, so I headed off to, where else, Woolworth's.
There I learned that the Woolworth's in New York keep the knitting needles in special cabinets, under lock and key. I began to dread the whole ordeal.
Alright, I have to find a clerk. Drag them over to the cabinet. Get into some kind of arguement with them about unlocking the cabinet ....I mean, this is New York, for Chrissake. Nothing's gonna be easy.
Over in Stationery, I found a sweet little old lady who unlocked the cabinet for me. She showed me examples of some of her preferred needles, and asked me what size I needed. Did I have my pattern with me? Well, this is a good pair - versatile, and reasonably priced.
I was so flabbergasted, I could talk of nothing else for days.
"Someone in Woolworth's was nice to me!"
A decidedly un-New York experience, the natives assured me.

This afternoon, someone with the Texas Board of Worker's Compensation was nice to me!
I gushed with pleasure, promising to send him cases of baby squash, perhaps name a variety of tomato after him, but I succeeded, unfortunately, in leaving him nothing but confused. It's just that I was so shocked. No one - no one - has been in any way friendly or polite since this thing began, let alone helpful.
From the doctor who first saw me at the hospital, walking into the room and looking at me and my friends D* and B*:
Which one is the patient?
Which one is the patient? The one with the gown on, dipshit.
The one with the dazed and scared look on his face.
The one with the fucking bone sticking out of his chest!
To the pencil-pushing assholes - check that, the key-board stroking assholes - who work for the insurance company, to the receptionist at Asheville Bone & Mafia:
Whaddya want?
everyone I've had to deal with since I landed flat on my collar bone clearly has a childhood history of bed wetting and animal abuse.
And wouldn't give a glass of water to a drowning man, as it were.
It's been a process of weeding through phone trees and getting transferred from one department to another and then getting the line cut off and then redailing and then being told they don't have the right forms.
(I take solace, as usual, at my bookshelves. A century ago a man named Kafka wrote of a much saner world.)
I don't know how to speak to these, um, people on the phone. I want to be friendly, but also definite. I want them to like me, and want to help me, but I also need to give the impression that I need my questions answered and I mean it. It's a little like coaxing I* into his car seat.
I was probably using that same tone of voice on the phone this morning. All I wanted was a fax number, and was expecting unpleasantness on the scale of North Vietnamese prison guards, but he actually gave me the fax number! The first time I asked! I stuttered and stammered and thanked him and then stammered some more. I mean, he gave me the fax number!
The first time I asked!
It was like, well, having a cabinet full of knitting needles unlocked.

There have been, I need to add, exceptions. My claims agent, Mr Johnny C*, has been understanding and sympathetic from the start, and pleasant everytime I call him:
How's the shoulder feeling? Better?
And the entire staff at St David's Occupational Health Services in Austin, Texas was friendly, attentive and professional. Props to you all!
David, patron saint of shoulder slings and X-rays, blesses you all, and I will raise a glass to you on his feast day.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

First, Do No Harm

I’m at home and, surprise, my arm is in a sling.
I’m due for my next doctor’s appointment pretty soon, and I’ve started to make phone calls to find out who knows the name of a good doctor.
As usual, the western North Carolina phone tree has come through for me. I first called A*, because A* knows everyone and everything. I got her on her cell on a garage somewhere in Asheville – she was having a hydraulic hose replaced on her van.
"It’ll take another hour or so," she reported. "I thought I’d sit here and go through my mail and pay a few bills. Make some phone calls. I’ve got a copy of Harper’s and a box of crackers. I just hope they finish before I’ve got to pick up the kids at school."
"Nevermind that," I said. "I’m calling about my collar bone. I need the name of an orthopedic surgeon."
"Funny you should asked," she replied. "I know two people who’ve had shoulder injuries recently."
This is why I call A*.
"My step-father had surgery on his shoulder last month, and my friend B* hurt his shoulder, too. With you, Frank, that makes three people I know who are in slings right now. Funny, huh?"
"Nevermind that," I said. "Do these people have doctors who also function as acceptable human beings?"
"That I don’t know, but I’ll call them and get back to you. If they have decent doctors I’ll let you know. But, you know who else you should call is C* and L*. They’re both doctors and they can recommend an orthopedic."
Of course! C* and L*! From market! Not only are they doctors, but they eat organic food! They’ll know someone, and, the sooner they find out about my injury, the better: they’ll be coming by market every week, and I’ll be able to ask for more advice!
A* seemed preoccupied for a moment – I pictured her digging through her purse – and then recited a phone number.
I called C* and L* that night and left a message. L* called me back about half an hour later, speaking in her best bedside manner. "The hot dog got you, huh?"
Is there no where this tale has not reached?!
"Gotta watch those landings, kiddo."
All dripping sweet saccharine bullshit lay down for a nap its okay mommy’s here doctor’s voice oh, shut the fuck up.
Then she asked me a bunch of questions that included words that I did’t understand so I just said yes. And then got down to the real business: finding a doctor.
"There are plenty of orthopedics in Asheville," she said, "but what you have to understand is that they’re all like the mafia."
If you’re looking for good news, you should go to a different blog. But, you already know that.
"They all work at one place, and none of them are known for good manners," she said. "I know of a few in Hendersonville who aren’t like the mafia, and have good manners, but I don’t like any of them, anyway. I’d stick with the Asheville mafia."
"That’s the best news you can give me?"
"Well, that’s who I send all my patients to, and they all got better."
Finally, good news.
"I can recommend one to you. One of my patients is a crotchety, ninety year old lady in a wheelchair, and she likes him. And she doesn’t like anyone. So if she likes him, he must be alright."
"With that kind of a recommendation, how can I go wrong. What’s his name?"
So she gives me the guy’s name, which I won’t mention here but is a sissy, froo-frooey, back east, Ivy League kind of a name. And get this: The Third. Not only was his grandfather dipshit enough to pass the name along, but his father was, too.
I concocted this vast dream in my mind about how this guy is spending his life making people better to compensate for this silly name he’s been straddled with.
Mafia or no mafia. He’s my man.
I called his office this morning, gave his receptionist all of my information, and then some more information, and have an appointment for next week. We’ll see how it goes.
Meanwhile, A*’s car is back on the road, with a new power steering hose.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Have a Looksee

I saw this on Laurie's page. This is awesome. Especially because I was recently reading a history of Hawaii and they talked about missionaries and stuff.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Two Ought Ought Six

I feel like I have a lot to catch up on with all of you out there in cyberspace, and have this thought somewhere in my mind that I will do so, incrementally, as I get the vibe, now that I am at a computer again.
The full account of my mishap will be posted, I assure you, as well as random reflections on my Texas experience, as well as the customary discharge of whatever idle jetsam I need to expell from my brain.
That being said, it’s New Year’s Day, and what I really feel like doing is a simply diary like post describing the state of being on this tiny little farm.
I woke up late, a little, er, hung over, but fully past any compulsion to celebrate that I may have experienced the day before.
It’s seed ordering season, for there is a season for catalogues and a season for money orders and a season for buying spinach season, or, so sayeth Ecclesiastes. Nice and warm with the morning sun coming down on the house, I went through catalogues, cross-checking against what I ordered last year and anticipating what I would need for this year.
After a few hours of that, and with a comfortably warm sunny day outside, I went for a walk. Up the road behind the farm, is where I went, to the hill that looks out to the south, down the valley. It feels so good to be back in these mountains, amidst the sights and the smells that are familiar to me, amongst the plants that I am so used to. Though they be brown and dried and falling over, they have an association to me with a sense of home and I feel comforted to be back and walking alongside them.
The stuff that lays around, too, welcomes me home. I look down the valley and see broken implements beside the neighbors houses, and tires alongside the creek, and barns about to collapse, and I feel at home.
Back down on my own land, I puttered around a bit near the house. There’s stuff I can do right now and there’s stuff I can’t do right now, and the challenge is knowing which activities fall into which category. Raking is definitely out, for example, which really bugs the hell out of me, ‘cause the last leaves to fall from the trees in November never got raked up, and I can’t do it now. General, light activities I can handle: picking up things in the packing shed, doing general cleaning in the shop, hanging up the laundry. That’s about it for me these days. It’s more than I could do a month ago and less than I’ll be able to do a month from now.
Toward evening my friend T* stopped by and invited me to his house for supper. I brought my nephew with me so he could run around with T*’s son. That’s what happened. There were some sharing issues, inevitably, but by and large they had a wonderful little toddler time. T* and S* and I sat around and chatted and had a bit to eat and they brought me home.
Here’s where things get corny, but it’s New Year’s so perhaps you’ll indulge me. Today represented what it’s all about around here: up to greet the day and having to think a lot about what needs to get done to keep things in order, then outside trying to get a little bit done, all the while feeling happy about the surroundings, and then capping the day off by getting together with close friends and watching the kids grow. Happy New Year.

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