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Rocky’s take on writing, reading, and farming for the fun of it

Monsoon June

birds hay
A thick layer of hay to dry out the coops

With all the wet weather, everything on the farm is growing like crazy…including the stench emanating from the poultry pens.  The birds were churning up mud like pigs in slop.  They have a really nice setup, though.

Our flocks are protected from predators from land and sky, but the quagmire needed to be dealt with because we want our birds to remain happy and healthy.  So, it was time to get to work.  Here are some things I learned about farming through Operation Feather Ruffle:

  1.  Poop happens.  It happens a lot.  It happens so much you need wading boots.
  2. Spiders like chicken wire, especially chicken wire “roofing”.  I now understand why we don’t have a mosquito problem here at the farm.
  3. Russ is a brave, brave man.  There he was wrapping spiders on a hoe handle while wading through muck.  When he came out of the pen, he had TWO spiders (the big, scary woods spider variety) on his head and a writhing staff of web and spiders.
  4. I am a brave, brave woman.  I VERY GENTLY knocked the spiders out of his hair and off his back.  I did not run screaming from the Hoe of Terror.
  5. Round bales aren’t wadded up;  they are rolled tightly.  Remember when you made snails out of modeling clay?  That’s the idea.  It takes A LOT of work to un-bale one of those puppies and they hold A LOT of hay.
  6. You need gloves to handle hay.  Well, I did.  Russ just manhandled his way through this project.
  7. You need strength to handle hay.  All that pulling, squatting, lifting, and chucking makes for a great workout.  My core was sore for two days!
  8. Once you get toward the center of the bale, it gives off heat just like a little furnace.
  9. Working with hay doesn’t get you dirty.  It gets you nasty.  I’m talking hose off before you hit the shower nasty.
  10. Our chickens, turkeys, geese, and guineas now have clean, dry pens!

Growing Weather

a baby pecan
A line of baby pecan trees ready to make a grove

The Ryans (our sextet of goslings) are loving these cool, rainy days in early June.  They’re honking and carrying on as the droplets pitter off the porch roof of the Muse, door flung wide to let in the damp breeze.  Our backyard is better than green.  I believe the word is verdant…you know, that kind of green that sinks down into your soul and fills you with promise as if the scorching onslaught of August is a world away.

The farm is rarely truly quiet.  Aside from the Ryans, Captain Kirk the rooster is crowing for all he’s worth.  The wild birds in the trees are singing, chirping and dive-bombing one of the cats who must’ve wandered a bit too close to a nest.  The guineas are socializing and Jack the Ass brays every once in awhile to announce all is well.

If you listen, you understand the farm language.  The timbre of Jack’s bray shifts if he’s sounding the driveway alarm.  Daisy the cow often joins him if someone’s approaching.  You can almost hear the grass growing!

The evenings have been pleasant so far this summer, too.  We spent the cool after suppertime this week working on the new pecan orchard.  If my count is accurate, we’ll have a 30 tree orchard.  Russ used string and a tape measure to form a planting grid so that the trees will be evenly spaced in straight rows.  He dug holes with his new backhoe implement and loaded up the front end loader with fill dirt.  Each hole gets a big bag of potting soil, some fill, a baby pecan tree, and a protective layer of straw.  My job is to drive the tractor from hole to hole as Russ plants.  The girls give the new trees a good watering.  Of course, they have great fun squirting each other as well.

A well-maintained pecan orchard is a thing of beauty,  where you can admire the rows on the straights or on the diagonals.  If I’ve ever liked an aspect of geometry, this is it!  When the trees are mature, they cast a uniform shade, and, of course, give us delicious pecans!

So, be sure to mark your calendars.  If all goes well, Moore’s Creek Farm will take its place in the pecan belt of the world round about 2027.

The Skinny on Pulling Pork

butt
Pork Butt-No Sauce Required

Y’all know that the meat you buy at the grocery store has been all trimmed up for you nice and pretty, don’t you?  It looks invitingly succulent in its cellophane packaging with its little meat maxi discreetly wicking away anything unsightly.  When you have your meat butchered (We are SO NOT to the farm level of butchering our own), it doesn’t come with, pardon the pun, all the trimmings.

I decided to roast a pork butt earlier this week, mainly because we just bought a beef quarter and I needed to make some room in my chest freezer, at least enough so that I can organize my beef collection.  So, I pulled out package after package of beef and a loaf of French bread that somehow got lost in the depths to dig down to the bottom for the pork butt.  After heaving that joker out of the freezer, I lugged the butt to the kitchen to thaw.

Now, this was no little butt like you get at the grocery store.  Unless you’ve been fortunate enough to take out a mortgage with Le Creuset for their Jonathan Swift Commemorative Crock, this butt called for a planned cookware approach.  I rested it, still wrapped in its white butcher paper with the words butt not for sale on it, on my largest jellyroll pan in the fridge for a couple of days until it thawed enough to cut the fat.

I can testify that we raised one well-fed pig!  I used the butcher knife to trim a good 2 inch layer of solid fat off the butt while the oven preheated to 425º. Then, I massaged that butt all over with a spice rub, salted it down good, and put it on the big broiler pan with that jellyroll pan running interference beneath it just in case the fat dripping off it became more than the broiler could handle.

I covered it up in aluminum foil despite the recent outcry against aluminum poisoning…both my grandmas used aluminum foil as a baking staple and both lived into their mid eighties.  So did my great-grandmas.  I’ll take my chances.  Besides, it’s the silicon and melamine you need to worry about.  Anyhow, I baked it at 425º for 90 minutes, then turned the oven down to 300º for the rest of the afternoon.

Talk about a house smelling GOOD!  By suppertime, I’d done smelled about 10,000 calories worth of pork, so I just let it cool down and sent Russ for some pizza!  By the time we ate the pizza, I was too tired out to face pulling the pork, so back into the fridge that butt went.

Pulling pork is time-consuming and borderline disgusting.  If it didn’t taste so good, it wouldn’t be worth the work.  Not for the weak-stomached, you need to keep a pair of pans handy as you pull:  one for the good stuff and one for the dogs.  Even though I trimmed off A LOT of fat on the front end, there was still a bunch of inedible parts.  I prefer to pick the meat by hand so that the pulls come out in bite-sized strips.  Fat and gristle turns my stomach, so I’m real careful as I render the yumminess.

In the olden days, real farm wives would use all that fat to cook up some soap or something like that.  No part of a hog went to waste.  It had to be a tremendous amount of work judging by the effort necessary for just one butt.  I can’t even imagine what this would’ve been like before electricity and refrigeration!  By the way, if you like reading about the olden days (and pigs), I recommend Robert Newton Peck’s A Day No Pigs Would Die.  It’s a beautifully written story that depicts many details surrounding farm life in the early 20th century.

It just so happened that our church had a Pentecost Picnic, so I took a big batch of butt for sharing.  That’s some mighty fine eating!

PS.  I really REALLY wanted to work in a reference to “Baby Got Back” in this post, but I restrained myself…well, almost.  🙂

 

 

Moore’s Creek Farm: The Blog Is Back!

farm blog

Back by popular demand…seriously, well over 20 people have told me they miss the farm reports, and maybe only 3 were related to me…it’s the farm blog.  I promised I’d get back into the swing of posting about our experiences here at Moore’s Creek Farm as soon as school got out good, so I’m making good on that promise.  Go ahead and subscribe to http://www.rockyporchmoore.com  and I’ll be sure to dish all the manure on farm living .

Think of me kind of like Pioneer Woman, only I’m right here at home, hold down a full time teaching job, write creepy books, AND take care of chickens. I don’t have a line of cookware or home goods at Walmart, but they do carry my novel…so there!   I’m not as handy with a camera, but I can hold my own with PW as a cook.   I can even do it without a six figure kitchen!  You’ll just have to trust me on that since I haven’t published any cookbooks yet.  It’s hard to pin down recipes when you refuse to measure and cook by “feel”.  I’ve got a Boston Butt in the oven right now.  It’s been slow roasting all day and is flavor-packed with a  homemade dry rub I massaged into it this morning after shaving a good deal of fat off it. Later this evening, I’ll pull that pork–which came from a pig we raised right here at Moore’s Creek Farm–and freezer bag it for multiple BBQ meals in the coming months.

We’ve been working on ramping up our fruit game this spring.  Russ (that’s my husband) planted several satsumas, sweet kumquats, meyer lemons, and ruby red grapefruit trees around the perimeter of our backyard.  We already have two established satsumas, a fig tree, and a scuppernong arbor teeming with young fruit.  Russ also put in a stand of raspberry canes.  Our blueberries and peaches haven’t done worth a hang since we’ve lived here on the farm.  I think he plans to take a do-over on those in the near future.  He’s having a blast planting things because he got himself a tractor with a front end loader and a backhoe.  If you need a hole dug, give him a call.

My addition to all this fruit tree planting was to make cute little signs to identify the trees. It was a tough 15 minutes! That way, if I can’t tell a grapefruit from a kumquat, I’ll have a sign.  It pays to be organized!  Of course, I’ll get to have all sorts of fun making jams, jellies, marmalades, and disinfectants when the fruit comes in.

Be sure to tell your friends that the farm blog is back in business, and thank you for reading.

Bubbles, Bubbly, and Books

One of the fun parts of this whole writing she-bang is participating in author appearances.  I get to talk about my work, schmooze with other folks crazy enough to pursue the written word, sign autographs for starstruck patrons (well, every now and then somebody makes out like writing a book is a big deal), and sometimes get perks like free wine!

This weekend I visited My Favorite Books in beautiful Tallahassee, Florida along with other authors from Southern Yellow Pine Publishing for a winey/cheesy/champagne-rific celebration.  The folks at My Favorite Books were more than gracious, and it’s a great bookstore.  You can check them out at www.myfavoritebooks.com.  I recommend you stop by if you’re in Tallahassee.  There are plenty of neat things to see and do in the vicinity, including a Trader Joe’s and Island Wing Company.    We ate after the shindig at Island Wings.  I had the Tiki Torch Wings.  If you like ’em hot, these will put sweat on your forehead and tears in your eyes!

It’s four hours of nothing but interstate between home and Tallahassee.  The most exciting part of the drive was flipping through radio stations and finding some 80s pop.  I alternated that with classical…when I go classical, I’m really getting stir crazy.  I did make a pit stop at the Chautaugua Vineyard & Winery because I’ve always wanted to stop when we’re driving through the area, but the timing’s never right.  I picked up my summer wine supply and made a fantastic discovery!  I love reading historical fiction, especially stories set in the Regency period.  A common motif involves women sneaking nips of port.  Well, I bought some port at the winery and I can totally see why.  That stuff is delicious!

I almost stopped on the way home to explore a bonsai tree nursery  I’ve had my eye on for years, but by the time I had driven that far I was like a horse turned to barn with my heart set on home.  Maybe next time…unless I’m out of port!

Be sure to check out the eclectic books by my SYP friends.  If you like crime fiction, go with William Mark.  Zelle Andrews and Pat Stanford will tug at your heartstrings in totally different ways.  Michael Kinnett has your regional history fix and, of course, you know mine is good for a scare.  If you’ll click on “Buy Clemenceau’s Daughters” up on the search bar, you can go directly to the SYP site and find these authors of whom I’m proud to call my friends.

It’s a Make-Under!

Creepy Doll
High school artist gives doll a much-needed face.

The creepy doll who rides shotgun to book festivals with me, mainly because I’m too much of a chicken to put her in the backseat, has gotten a new look.  She was scary enough without a face, but now she’s positively terrifying!  She attracts quite a bit of attention at the kiosk and now she may inspire nightmares as well.  That’s the idea, you know… a little added curb appeal for those horror fans out there.

Little Debbie Ballard hates dolls.  She hates dolls because they talk to her in the night, and they don’t make for pleasant conversationalists.  I found this beauty of a spooky doll sitting in a child’s desk outside a country thrift shop.  She was dressed in pink organza with lace, but needed a fashion update.  I found her just the right duds in the toddler section of Walmart, but lacked the artistic skill to grant her a face.  My first attempt involved candy pieces and hot glue, but the Louisiana Book Festival proved way too hot.  The doll came home minus an eye, making her look more run-down than scary.   I needed the doll to take on a more sinister attitude that wouldn’t melt off in a hot car because frankly,  this thing is not welcome in my house.

Student Kenzie Jones came to the rescue by painting this fantastic visage on the doll.  I wanted it to look, well, dead.  Let’s just say the creep factor has gone WAY up for this eye-catcher.

Walmart picks up Clemenceau’s Daughters!

Screen Shot 2016-08-25 at 3.00.16 PM

Forget Cloud 9!  I’ve been over the moon since getting the great news last night that Little Debbie Ballard gets to hang out at walmart.com.  What’s so cool about being an author is the tremendous thrill and feeling of validation that comes when a major company decides to carry your work.  It’s so hard to believe that it’s been right at a year since the awesome folks at SYP Publishing decided to give Clemenceau’s Daughters a shot. From the getgo, they have been consummate professionals and I am so thankful that I found exactly the right publisher to make a lifelong dream into reality.

As any good Southern girl knows, if Walmart doesn’t have it you don’t really need it.  My book’s at Walmart, y’all!  Clemenceau’s Daughters  has arrived!

Down Home on the Farm…A Peek Behind the Making of Clemenceau’s Daughters

 

Click on the link below to see this video!

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fdusty.cole.9212%2Fvideos%2F1572278009742287%2F&show_text=0&width=560

Contact Dusty Cole, RE/MAX of Orange Beach AL for all your area real estate needs.  Be sure to visit his website at http://dcole.livingmoving.com or give him a call 251-213-8504

The coolest part of this story is that I taught Dusty back when he was just a cute little 7th grader and then again in high school.  It is so awesome to see “my kids” come back home to Baldwin County and build their own successful careers.  The videographer, Zack Santa Cruz, is another one of my former students!

 

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