April 27, 2009

Enriching the garden

Hauled about a yard and a half of pure cow manure to the garden today. No bedding straw mixed in with it, no hay. Just pure manure from my neighbor Joe Conklin's barn. His son Bill scooped it off the concrete barnyard floor where he grains out a few beef cattle, and dropped it over the fence with his front end loader into my trailer bed. Unfortunately, I neglected to bring my camera along to record the event.

Joe is a helluva neighbor. He supplies us with sweet corn, as much as we can eat, through the summer, and I bring over the occasional trade goods, sometimes from the vegetable garden. A package of hickory-smoked bacon and a free-range Rock Cornish roaster changed hands today.

Vince Ciola came over just as I was spreading the manure. He worked the manure fork while I shoveled, and he took the picture of me tilling with his camera phone. When we were done, we went to the shop and roughed out an osage self-bow for him. He'll bring it back and we'll make corrections to its profile after he works the back to one annual ring.

This evening the rains began, soaking the nutrients into the garden. Perfect timing.

April 17, 2009

Trip to Louisiana, March 27 - April 5

Mary and I spent the first week of April in Louisiana, sampling the cuisine from the northern border to as far south as Gonzales. We stayed with archery friends and squirrel and coon hunting friends. We ate in restaurants, in homes, in tiny mom and pop diners. We stopped for BBQ in Memphis, coming and going, and brought back bags of seasonings, breadings, cracklings, dry mixes, beans, a new four gallon fish fryer, and a huge cooler full of tamales and both fresh and smoked sausages. Weeks later, the truck still carries a distinct Cajun spice aroma that sparks memories of crawfish boils, gumbo, jambalaya, white boudin, hot water cornbread, and a lost $100 LSU/OSU football bet.

I didn't take many photos, and when I did, they came out lousy or I had the camera on the wrong mode. Regrets, therefore, to Ronnie and Cathie Liles, Cliff and Joyce Huntington, Casey Walding, and Joe Territa and friends.

The usable photos come from a company appreciation crawfish boil that Joe invited us to as his guests. I ate better craws politely with Spike and Joyce, but I learned from Joe's friend Chris the real bidness of putting them away—how to disarticulate the tail and in a continuous motion lift it to my mouth with one hand, bite, suck, and pinch just right to evacuate the meat, then bring up the head with the other hand to suck the fat while the first hand reaches for the next craw. It's a de-assembly line.

April 9, 2009


Finished splitting, hauling and stacking the last full trailer of firewood today, and have enough stockpiled for 2 ½ winters.

We've been heating with wood since we moved here over 40 years ago, when fuel oil was cheap and the house was uninsulated. In that time, I've worn out several chain saws, and fractured numerous wood handles. I've heard all the bromides, from "Wood splits as the crow shits" to "Firewood will heat you twice" and I've beat on stumps, burls and crotches and split wood with axes, sledges, wedges and mauls. We've burnt in a fireplace, in two different pot-bellied stoves, in an old Ashley with grates, and in a variety of air-tights. I'm the old man in the barber shop.

Five years ago I conceded to age and good sense with the purchase of an hydraulic splitter and no longer contend with wood that bounces a maul back at me after my mightiest swing. I no longer lay down beside figured or knotty wood to catch my breath between wallopings. Two years later, tired of fighting poly tarps and tin to shield wood stacks from snow and rain, I built a 14 by 20 foot woodshed. It features tarp sides that slide on taut steel cables strung up inside the shed headers. The front tarps, which take the bulk of the weather, are vinyl, and the sides and back tarps are h.d. mesh, providing plenty of ventilation while still turning back 90% of the rain and snow that hit them. I had these tarps custom sewn to the shed's dimensions.

You can't heat a house with an indoor woodburner and be a dirt chaser because there's no avoiding a thin layer of ash that coats everything over the course of a season, or the detritus that accompanies fetched firewood and falls onto floors. But there's no substitute for a source of heat in the dead of winter, either. You can't rub numb fingers together over a thermostat and get relief. And when you come in cold all over, where do you go stand in a house with central heat?

April 6, 2009


Tricks is Digger's daughter, a stud fee pup. She runs loose here and began treeing both squirrels and coon on her own at 4 ½ months of age, without encouragements. That's a precocious pup. Digger was well on his way before he was 6 months old.

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