Category Archives: Making Things Up

A More Cordial Relationship

About a year ago I reported on a number of significant flops in my urban homesteading efforts—one of which came to be known as the “blackberry rude,” because my attempt at a blackberry cordial was such a spectacular failure.

I am pleased to report that the half-liter of blackberry rude that has been languishing on a shelf in my basement has been restored to cordial status. This happened last weekend at a reception I attended. The caterer, the marvelous Star Provisions under the leadership of the fabulous Anne Quatrano, served a blackberry cordial. Of course, I had to try it.

I watched the server pour a splash of black-blue liquid into the bottom of a short glass over a handful of ice and top it off with seltzer. He then added two fat, juicy blackberries speared on a toothpick. He handed it to me and I sipped–cool, sweet but not too sweet, refreshing. Also, yummy vodka-soaked blackberries. Let me tell you, this is not Marilla Cuthbert’s cordial.

I told the server my tale of woe, and he explained that their cordial was merely a blackberry-vodka-sugar concoction. I thought my mistake had been adding the cloves, which had resulted in the cough-syrup flavor (although the Sweetie has said all along that he likes the flavor).

But then. What if I gave my blackberry rude the seltzer treatment, along with a squeeze of lime juice? And maybe a sprig of mint? Or lovely purplish Thai basil?

The next day I gave it a try. And guess what? Not only is it not cough syrup, but it is downright delicious! I served it up to the sweetie and a visiting friend.

Then I remembered what I had done earlier this summer with my blackberry hoard, and I opened a jar of a blackberry-bourbon-maple syrup and gave it the same treatment. Even more delicious, because it’s bourbon! This is especially exciting because iI also preserved whole blackberries in this concoction, thinking they would be great on ice cream and cheesecake or really any ole cake. But now I think I will also add a couple of boozed-up berries to the drinks.

I don’t know if this is actually true, but I feel like I have invented a cocktail. It needs a name, however. Suggestions?



Filed under Feasting, Making Things Up, Putting Up

Southern Urban Bison-Hockey

Y’all are wonderful. So many people fell for my tall tale of the baby bison, and they were such good sports about it! Things went to a whole new level when my April foolery made the Decatur Metro blog. Suddenly I had an all-time record-breaking number of hits, emails and phone calls from people (some I know, some I have never met!) wanting to come and visit my bison, and a few astute folks calling me out on my bad photoshopping (true, that). Then I got a phone call from a local TV news reporter wanting to do a story about my bison. Then John Kessler tweeted about me!

Really. The best April 1 ever. Nellie and I thank you.

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Filed under Making Things Up

Oh, Give Me A Home . . .

More than a few of us urban homesteaders — women especially — were fanatical readers of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Little House books (and some, maybe, still are). We still harbor fantasies of a pioneer life, setting up our cozy homesteads on some pristine piece of prairie, mastering our survival skills, resting by the hearth after a day of hard work, our bodies and souls strengthened by the intrinsic value of having fed, clothed, and sheltered ourselves and our families.

It’s a distinctively American impulse, I think, that pioneer spirit. I recently decided to honor my own inner pioneer by venturing into the next “frontier,” if you will, in urban homesteading.

Meet Nellie Oleson, my first baby bison.

Nellie arrived on a methane-powered livestock truck from a ranch in Montana. She is a domesticated breed of the American bison, meaning that genetically she has some cow in her. This makes her (and the additional head I will acquire as I gradually grow my herd) easier to manage as livestock — hopefully she won’t knock down the rain barrels, for example, or trample my dog in a stampede.

Nellie’s getting lots of good, organic, locally sourced, non-GMO grains at the moment, but soon I’m hoping to free-range her in a large kudzu patch not too far from my house. The walks over there through the neighborhood will be good for both of us, too. I’ve already halter-trained her for a lead.

I believe that the bison’s presence in our city signifies a restoration of this land’s once-great biodiversity, not to mention the virtues of homesteading at its most Ma Ingalls authentic. But don’t get too attached. My plan is to raise Nellie to become a protein source, and I’m really looking forward to a nice, thick rug for my own hearthside. In the meantime, the manure is working wonders for my early spring crops. Check out this beet!

Slowly but surely, Nellie and Caleb are getting to know one another. Caleb was uncharacteristically timid at first and ran and hid in the hole he’s been digging under this cast-iron plant over the past few years. But Nellie’s good nose soon found him out. Here she is saying hello and trying to get him to herd her around the backyard a little.

I should add that in its typical progressive style, the City of Decatur and its officials have been more than gracious about my endeavors to conquer the next frontier in urban homesteading. I pulled some strings in city government, and the municipal code will soon be changed to accommodate this most American of efforts.

Also, I will be teaching a class later this year titled “Where the Buffalo Roam,” for city dwellers who want to get started with bison at home. Look for square-foot ranches to spring up in backyards all around town very soon.


Filed under Making Things Up