Friday, January 8, 2010

The Garden in the dead of winter...

What actually can be done in, or for the garden area in thedead of winter? When snow may be covering the ground and hard freezes are hitting many areas of the country?
Believe it or not there are a few things that can be done to prepare for Spring's thaw and a new gardening season,and things that can be done around your yard to make those cold winter days a bit more enjoyable for both yourself and the animals that frequent your yard.
1. Now is the perfect time to assess the garden tools in your shed. Do the tools need sharpened? Use a file to sharpen the edges. Do they need rust removed from them? If they show rust wear, take a piece of fine sandpaper and sand off as much of the rust as you can and spray the tools with w-d 40 and wipe clean. Handles of the tools can be polished with a bit of wood oil.
Are any of the tools in need of being replaced? Now is the time to acquire new garden tools as you just may be able to find them on sale this time of year.

2. Order garden seeds. Get a jump start on ordering your favorite varieties, as many companies may begin to be sold out of your favorites the closer it gets to Spring time and the more folks begin to think gardening also.

3. Help your feathered friends. This is something children can do with you: roll pine cones into peanut butter and bird seed and hang from pretty ribbons in the branches of trees.Also create suet patties and place in feeders.

4. Create a new garden plan. Or garden bed design. Draft out a new garden bed or plan out your garden for Spring. Consider a theme garden.

5. You can start now to build the framing for any raised beds you plan to have.

So, there are a few things that can be done in the dead of winter for the garden.
Enjoy, and stay warm!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

A Visit With The "Painter Of The Past"

I recently interviewed a very talented and delightful artist:
Suzanne Davis "The Painter of the Past"
Here is what Suzanne had to say about her art, her passion.

When did you first realize that you had a talent for painting?

I’ve always enjoyed keeping my hands busy doing something, but my enjoyment for painting wasn’t discovered until I became a Mom. It started with stenciling and decorative wall treatments when we purchased our first home and then that developed into a small word-of-mouth business when my boys were old enough to start school.

Working with a client on color choices, textures and design was fun for a few years, but I found that I was becoming disenchanted with the business end of it and wanted a simpler, less complicated creative outlet.

Both of our boys have some developmental delays, so, after a few years of traditional school, we decided to home school them, which allowed me to stay home and paint.Plus, sitting and painting was a lot easier than climbing up and down ladders!Once I began painting on canvas, the next step was trying new surfaces and mediums.I began painting with a mix of acrylics and oils for canvas work, and last

year, I discovered the joy of painting in watercolor. I also really enjoy finding new surfaces to paint, other than canvas. This keeps me interested and inspired too. In general, I like to experiment; each time I try something new, I learn more about myself and my style as an artist.
Why this particular style of art? What drew you to this particular style?

My style of art has developed over time, and I believe my love of history has influenced the process. What I love about 18th and 19th century art is that most of the portrait painters during that time were untrained. Their art has a sweet innocence to it that drew me to that style. I particularly love portraits of children holding a play toy or favorite book in their hands. The children were probably allowed to hold something so they would sit still during the portrait sitting, but it is endearing to realize that their treasure is now painted for posterity. It reminds

me that these were portraits of real people.

Like those artisans of the past, I’m self-taught, but I’ve learned a great deal from them by studying their work. I hope that my art captures some of the innocence and naïve style found in the paintings of the portrait artist of the past, like Ammi Phillips, John Bradley, or Joseph H. Davis, while honoring their legacy.

Who was instrumental in helping you to discover this talent?

My husband is extremely supportive. His input into my work is invaluable and he often has new ideas for me to try. He has always encouraged me to do what makes me happy and his support allows me to be a stay-at-home/ home school Mom.

My boys have been supportive too, and are very honest with their opinions. My oldest is a budding artist, and he will definitely let me

know when he thinks something doesn’t look quite right! Their critique of my work is often unwarranted, and can be very humbling, but has hopefully helped me grow as artist.
What do you think sparked the desire to pick up the paintbrush and "go for it"?

My motto when I was painting faux finishes on customer’s walls was, “its just paint.” I would tell the customer that if they weren’t happy with a color or finish when I was done, it could be repainted. The paint wasn’t permanent. No one ever took me up on the repainting of a wall, but I’ve repainted my own walls numerous times to practice a technique. So much so, that my husband joked that the square footage of our home was shrinking because of all of the layers of paint on our walls!

That mindset also helped me try my hand at painting on canvas. If a painting doesn’t turn out the way I have imagined it, then nothing is lost except some paint, and I have gained valuable insight on what NOT to do next time. Every time I pick up a brush, it is always a practice session for me, a new discovery to be made, and hopefully I improve with each brushstroke. It also helps that I was an elementary school teacher before I had children, so the learning process is important to me and goes hand in hand with creativity.

What is your greatest challenge in creating an image?

The challenge is deciding what image I want to try next. There are so many examples of “folk art” and primitive portraiture from the past, that I am always finding new-to me artists that inspire my next painting. Once I find an artwork, or a compilation of paintings that inspires me, I begin with a hand drawing of what I want to see in the final painting. I’ve found it to be very helpful to draw in detail what I envision. Also, if a customer wants an original painting of one that is sold, I can repaint it from the detailed drawing.

However, the actual execution of that image onto the painting surface can be challenging because I tend to be a perfectionist, and I’m limited by my own skill and vision of how I want the image to appear on the canvas. Thankfully, primitive folk art is stylistically very forgiving. Sometimes I just have to say, “It’s done!” provided, I can recognize a hand as a hand or an eye as an eye after I’ve painted it!

What are the best joys you get from your work?

Painting is rewarding because it brings me the joy of creativity. I love the challenge of trying a new medium, or surface area or art form. The fun for me is learning how a new surface responds to paint or discovering a new painting technique. I’ve recently tried my hand at painting miniature portraits, and this new challenge is proving to be a lot of fun.

It also brings me joy when my customers are happy with their purchases. I’ve met so many supportive and encouraging people since I’ve started selling online. It makes me happy to know that some of the paintings I’ve done are hanging in someone’s home, someone who appreciates the early American style as much as I do.

How long have you been doing this type of work?

Originally, my art was mostly done for friends and family members as gifts, but as a stay-at-home mom I wanted to help monetarily in some way. So, after so many paintings started piling up, I found a local shop in our area that allowed me to sell my wares.

The owner allowed me to sell my art and also do some custom work for customers of the store. This relationship ended when my family moved and the owner sold the shop, but I soon discovered new opportunities to sell online with others who had an affinity for Early American art. I’ve had my own online shop for about two years now.
What inspires you the most?

The anticipation of the potential outcome of a painting is very inspiring to me. I might begin with a very clear idea of what I want to paint, only to find it taking on unexpected dimensions as it develops. The process itself – from concept to finished painting – is very inspirational to me. Each skill gained, each new technique tried drives me to keep developing and experimenting.

When I’m asked to paint a custom portrait, the inspiration is there in the photo of the child I’m to paint. Through the custom portrait process, I’m able to work with the client again on color and design, as I did with decorative painting, and that part is always inspirational.
What types of awards have you received?

A few years ago when I was doing decorative painting, I received my certification in stenciling through an organization called the Stencil Artisan League, Inc. (SALI) for stenciling on walls and fabric. But most recently, I was selected for the 2009 Holiday Directory in Early American Life magazine for my painted silhouettes. I’m quite honored by this, considering my love of early American art, and my desire to

Where can folks find your artwork?

I sell through a few online markets, including Etsy (peartreeprimitves), and I also have a website, and blog: ~Painter of the Past~

Get The Tweezers, Mama

Cotton, soybeans, rye, corn, peanuts...
those are our primary crops. Those are the crops I think of when I think of farming in southeastern Virginia.
But a few weeks ago, my husband announced it was time to harvest the trees in front of our house.
I reacted as if someone had just yanked the shower curtain open just as the water was getting nice and warm.
What would I do for privacy?
For goodness sake, we'll be able to see another house from our own!
Mercy... I might as well be parading down the road in my unmentionables.
My children... well, my children acted as though we were cutting down their playground.
We appealed. We whined a little.
Okay, a lot.
We asked lots of questions hoping that would make him want to forget he'd ever seen a tree in his entire life.
Finally, we all put our slightly odd issues aside - it was time to harvest. After all, that's what we do. We plant and then we harvest. And we do a lot of praying and hoping along the way.
So this particular harvest is done. And I can see lights along the road that make me jump a little because I think someone is driving up the lane.

And those poor, heartbroken children?
Well, they have the best playground around. A playground full of stump-jumping and fort-building with the biggest darned splinters this side of the swamp.

I might need a bigger pair of tweezers.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

From Debra's Vegan Kitchen

Hummus with a Kick!
Makes 4 cups

2 Cans garbanzo beans
6 tablespoons tahini (sesame butter)
1/2 cup lemon juice or more to suit taste
4 to 6 scallions (depending on size), chopped
8-12 cloves of garlic- more or less according to taste (we love garlic so we used 12-15 cloves)
4 teaspoon cumin
salt, pepper to taste
2 tbsp dried parsley
a good flavorful olive oil
Whole wheat pita bread or Triscuit crackers for dipping

Drain garbanzo beans, reserving the liquid from the can, and rinse the beans. Place all the ingredients except the reserved bean liquid and olive oil in food processor and process until smooth. Add reserved bean liquid as needed for a smoother consistency, also add a few tbsps of your great flavored olive oil (I got mine from the farmers market and it has a peppery kick to it). This will not taste like your traditional hummus- it will have more of a garlicky kick to it- but this is the way we like it.

Small Town Profile: Thomasville Georgia

Early History
Thomas County, located in southwest Georgia and bordering Florida, was formed in 1825 from parts of
Irwin and Decatur counties by legislation introduced by Thomas J. Johnson, owner-builder of Pebble Hill
Plantation. One year later, on December 22, 1826, a location was established for the new county seat, Thomasville. The city and county are generally believed to have been named for Major General Jet Thomas, a member of the State Militia during the War of 1812.
As the county seat, Thomasville became the center of educational, political, social, economic and
religious activities. Without a railroad until 1861, Thomas Countians became largely self-sufficient. Agriculture was diversified, and business methods were modernized. The county developed one of the state’s best educational systems. Thomas County evolved from an Indian hunting domain into a prosperous region.
The area’s rich land permitted the formation of a classic old South society, a plantation economy based on cotton. The society was rigid and static, peopled by yeomen farmers, professional men, planters, slaves, free Negroes and businessmen both large and small. With the advent of the Civil War, Thomasville played an important role in the Confederate cause by supplying goods and men. The war itself touched the county only briefly when Federal prisoners were sent to Thomasville from Andersonville in late 1864 for a short period of time.
Although predominately agricultural in its early years, Thomas County was never totally dependent upon cotton, raising a variety of crops from pears to tobacco. These products yielded greater returns than those enjoyed by many of the county’s neighbors.

As the terminus for the railroad, Thomasville was accessible from the north and, during the late 1800’s, became a winter resort of national and international fame. In the beginning of this era, Northerners and other visitors came for their health, breathing pine-scented air as a curative for pulmonary ailments. They were soon joined, however, by healthy friends to enjoy hunting, fishing and an active social life. Some of the most luxuriously appointed hotels of America’s gilded age were located in Thomasville, the “Original Winter Resort of the South.”
Many of the “winter cottages’ built during the 1880’s are now restored through efforts of Thomasville Landmarks, Inc. and Thomasville citizens. The Lapham-Patterson House, a Victorian house museum open to the public, was built in 1885 as a winter residence by Charles W. Lapham of Chicago. Owned by the State of Georgia and maintained by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, the house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Many of those who came to Thomasville during the “grand hotel era” bought property and built magnificent mansions and plantation homes. Many of these plantations are still owned by the families who built them and are visited year round. According to local historians, it was in Thomas County that Mark Hanna and William McKinley planned the strategy that led to McKinley’s nomination for President. President Eisenhower visited Thomas County in 1956 to rest after an illness and to decide whether or not to run for a second term. The local Glen Arven golf course, one of America’s oldest, was a favorite of President Eisenhower’s.
Although the “grand hotel era” ended with the extension of the railroad into southern Florida, Thomasville and Thomas County have continued the area’s longstanding tradition of cultural and economic diversity. There is a rich heritage in Thomasville and Thomas County, and the people work at guarding and preserving that heritage while boldly stepping forward to the challenges that lie ahead.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Making a Living: Where to Work When There is No Where to Work

After months of research you’ve found paradise. It’s a small southern town with an entire population less
than your current neighborhood. Crime is low, the schools are good you have even found a great deal on the perfect home for your family. Your spouse’s job will be a 30 minute commute to a nearby “big city”. No
big deal you both agree that you want the slower pace of small town living. You make the move. Two months later, your move is over, everything has finally been put away and your ready to look for some part time work around town. The local paper only shows ten jobs. Three of the jobs require selling cars, four are full time and the rest involve asking customers “would you like fries with that”. So you let some time pass. Two more weeks and the market still looks pretty bad. Now what? One of the realities of small town life is that the number of jobs available will be considerably less than big city markets. National franchises may offer positions in retail sales or fast food but other opportunities may be limited. So what to do?

Some work can be accomplished as effectively at home as it can be in an office hundreds of miles away. If you are a writer, graphic artist, or voice talent many times you can utilize these skills from any location that is accessible to the internet. Websites like and provide a marketplace to match up talent with employers. What can make this challenging is the competition. Since these sites are international competition is as well and you may be forced to compete with individuals outside the United States who are willing to work for much less than you are. Some employers though will only accept bids from talent within the country and these types of jobs are more lucrative to bid on. A variation to using one of these sites is to act as your own agent. Seek out employers in the fields which you are familiar with and offer to work as contracted labor. Sometimes companies need temporary help and prefer this solution to hiring additional employees. Before you enter the Telecommuting arena make sure you have samples of your work which can be sent to potential clients or posted on your website to show your abilities.

Blogging and social networking online can also help you to pick up work as well. The key is not to overly “advertise” yourself. Be useful, informative and show your abilities but stop short of posting a “Will work for food” sign on your site.

Advertise Locally
Take the lead on getting your name out locally. Don’t wait for an ad to appear in the paper for a position. Run your own ad, list your qualifications and what job opportunity you’re looking for. Sometimes a business owner simply has not placed their ad yet.

Start a Business
Yes, this can be the most challenging option of all. Starting a business takes alot of consideration and planning. If one spouse is working and you have the liberty of time and a bit of extra cash or low interest financing available this may be your best solution. Look around, see what your community had to offer. What are they missing? What is not being done well. The easiest small business to launch quickly and with the least amount of capital is a service based one. Services which are in demand in many areas include:
  • Day Care
  • Home Repair
  • Lawn Maintenance
  • Elder Care
  • Errand Running
  • Wedding Planning
  • Photography Services
  • Printing
  • Sign Making
  • Auto Detailing
  • Sewing & Alerations
  • Cleaning Service
  • Bookkeeping

Do your research carefully, look in the phone book talk to people who live in the community about the business you are thinking of starting and listen to their feedback. Even if you hear negative comments about opening a particular type of business you may still decide to move forward with your idea if there appears to be a real demand for it.

Any business, no matter where it’s started can take some time to get up to speed. Word of mouth, one of the most effective forms of advertising, takes time to build. Don’t expect to be making a profit in the first six months of your business and don’t celebrate your success after your first good week. Many businesses are affected to one degree or another by seasonal work. That being the case it can take a full year of operating to understand the patterns of busy and slow times.

If you are planning on running your business from your home check with your county and city to make sure you can legally do so and to find out what licenses may be required. This should be one of the first things you check, before you purchase equipment, tools, or supplies. If you find that you cannot operate out of your home and you’re not ready for a business location, check with an existing business about sub-leasing space from them. Many times related businesses can benefit from one another for example a pizza restaurant beside a video rental store or a wedding planner inside a florist show.

Another good thing to do is search online for Yahoo group or similar social networking tool which relates to your business. Many times members of these groups are willing to help one another because the distance between them keeps them from being direct competitors. In some of these groups you’ll find seasoned individuals who have learned the in’s and out’s of their trade and are more than willing to share these lessons and advice. SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives) is a non-profit organization composed of retired
executives who give their time to help small business owners grow. The group also provides free, confidential business advice from business experts via email. There is tons of information available freely on their website at It’s a good place to keep coming back to when you’ve got questions and need help from experienced business professionals.

Another thing to consider is that opening your own business can be a great opportunity to meet new people as well. Sometimes breaking into the social fabric that knits towns together can be challenging but once accepted as a “local” word of mouth can spread like wildfire. Whatever solution you find to your unique small town work experience should fit you like a comfortable shoe that’s been broken in by alot of miles.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Local Harvest: A Great Resource for Buying Locally Grown Food

If you’ve ever been to a farmers market then you know there really is a difference in buying local fruit and vegetables. One of the biggest challenges though is finding these markets. Most small producers lack
the massive advertising budgets of large grocery story chains and as a result are not as visible.

Guillermo Payet has made things alot easier for consumers and at the same time has created a way for small producers to gain big visibility. Guillermo, is a software engineer and activist dedicated to generating positive social change through the Internet. In 1998 he founded “Local Harvest” which is now the number one informational resource for the Buy Local movement and the top place on the Internet where people find information on direct marketing family farms. From it’s humble beginnings Local Harvest has grown in membership to nearly 9000 members. The website and those of its partners serve about one and a half million page views per month to the public interested in buying food from family farms.

 LocalHarvest maintains a definitive and reliable “living” public nationwide directory of small farms, farmers markets, and other local food sources. A search engine help people find products from family farms, local sources of sustainably grown food, and encourages them to establish direct contact with small farms in their local area. In addition there is an online store that helps small farms develop markets for some of their products beyond their own local area. The richness, variety, and flavor of our communities, food systems, and diets is in jeopardy. The quest for economic efficiency has brought us low prices and convenience through large supermarkets chains, agribusiness and factory farms, while taking away many other aspects of our food lives, like our personal relation with our food and with the people who produce it. More and more people are
realizing this and actively working to turn the tide and to preserve a food industry based on family-owned,
small scale businesses. They are our best guarantee against a world of Styrofoam-like long-shelf-life tomatoes
and diets dictated from corporate boardrooms.

You can participate in our building process by encouraging your farmer, market manager, and restaurateur
friends to visit and sign themselves up! If you are a Sustainable Agriculture or Family Farming group, contact Local Harvest to discuss how they can partner together in support of your work. Small growers face many of the same challenges that farms faced decades ago but if local communities will lend their support farmers can continue to sustain and grow America.

Cooking with Sweet Briar Farms

Twice-Baked Potatoes with Bacon

(3) slices thick-cut bacon, coarsely chopped
(4) 10 to 12-ounce russet potatoes, scrubbed,
            each pierced several times with fork
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
1/4 cup whole milk

Sauté bacon in heavy medium skillet over medium-high heat until
crisp and brown. Transfer bacon to paper towels to drain.
Bake all potatoes in microwave on high until tender, about 10 minutes
per side. Cut top 3/4 inch off each potato lengthwise. Scoop
cooked potato flesh into medium bowl, leaving 1/4-inch-thick potato
shell. Add butter and milk to potato flesh in bowl and mash well. Stir
in bacon; season to taste with salt and pepper. Spoon potato mixture
into shells. Place potatoes on baking sheet.
Preheat oven to 400°F. Bake potatoes until filling is heated through
and shells are crisp, about 30 minutes.
Serves 4

Orange-Maple Pork Ribs
(1) cup orange juice
(4) garlic cloves, pressed
(2) teaspoons grated orange peel
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, crumbled
2 pounds baby back pork ribs (about 2 slabs)
1/4 cup maple syrup

Combine first 5 ingredients in large baking dish. Add ribs and turn to
coat. Cover and chill 6 hours or overnight.
Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). Remove ribs from marinade
and season with salt and pepper. Grill until cooked through, turning
occasionally, approximately 25 minutes.
Meanwhile, place marinade in heavy small saucepan. Add maple
syrup and boil until reduced to 1/4 cup, about 18 minutes. Brush ribs
with glaze. Grill ribs 1 minute longer and serve.
Serves 4

Sweet Briar Farms

Ask Keith Cooper what he would say to young people who are thinking about entering farming and he will put it to you simply: “You really have to like it. And it’s what I’ve always wanted to do. Some people are musicians; it’s who they are. Some people are artists. I guess it’s just my lot in life to be a farmer. When I was a little kid I started growing beans in coffee cans. They’d grow up and die, and I’d plant more. People always
asked me what I wanted to be, and I’d say, “A farmer and I’m going to plant beans. A hundred of them.” He never got into the bean business, but since 1984 Keith has been raising pigs outside of Eugene, OR, in a business that grew out of his kids 4-H projects.

One pig became two, then a few, then eventually a business. Keith grew up on a farm where his folks raised sheep and cows, but when he tried to get into that side of agriculture as a young adult he realized that without inheriting a farm, he would never have the means to make that kind of operation happen. The pigs, though, are working for him.

Sweet Briar Farms raises just 25 pigs at a time. Over the next few years Keith will be finishing a new barn and remodeling his current barn; these changes will allow him to double the size of his production while also creating indoor/outdoor access for all the animals. While “free range” is a popular concept with consumers, and good for the animals, Keith admits that when he started raising pigs his herd was free range by default. “I
didn’t know any better! I didn’t know they were supposed to be confined to crates!”

Along with expanding his herd, Keith is also working on opening up new markets for his business. Keith markets all his meat through direct outlets; besides selling on, Sweet Briar also sells at eight farmers markets a week in the warm season. He would like to make his pork available to local restaurants and select grocery stores.

Oh and did I mention....they have AMAZING bacon!

Sweet Briar Farms:
28475 Spencer Creek Rd.
Eugene, OR 97405

Keith Cooper

For Special Orders:
(541) 683-7447