Monday, April 30, 2018
No wonder the Internet was recently abuzz with Photo-shopped images purporting to show a genetically-modified chicken sporting multiple wings, an idea also explored in Margaret Atwood's novel Oryx and Crake in which a company has patented the ChickieNob, a headless bird with multiple wings and legs growing from a central stem.
I'm not entirely certain about this, but I suspect the concept of chicken wings as bar food was originally designed to even out the math the other way around. Back in the day, people ate breasts and legs and thighs but nobody wanted those scrawny wings that barely had enough meat on them to justify the effort of chewing. So, some enterprising person came up with the idea of dousing them in hot sauce and an industry was born.
My first experience with WFTSOW (wings for the sake of wings) came shortly after I started my first real job post-college. I was an assistant manager at a retail store called Best Products in the Westgate area of Toledo, Ohio. I worked long hours and had to eat many meals in my office on a tight budget. There was a now-long-defunct chain restaurant called G.D. Ritzy's just down the street and they offered a lunch special that featured 4 wings, fries and a drink for $1.99. They weren't exactly Buffalo-style, but they came with a dipping sauce that was pretty good, and I developed a taste for them.
A few years later, a Toledo-based wing chain called Frickers opened a location not far from my condo in Perrysburg and I was hooked. Their signature sauce was called the "barbecue killer," and it was not for the faint of heart, but became a part of my weekly ritual.
But back to chicken math. How do poultry companies make the demand for the various chicken parts work out? I think the answer, whether we like it or not, might be McNuggets.
Monday, April 23, 2018
Recalling that experience, I was excited for the first Uptown Wadesboro Farmers' Market last June. To say it was a bit of a letdown would be an understatement. That's not to criticize Uptown Wadesboro or the vendors who participated--they did the best they could with limited resources and some difficult weather--but the lack of both vendors and shoppers was disappointing.
In talking to folks around town about the market, there seems to be a chicken-or-the-egg mentality at work. Vendors say it is not worth their time to participate because there are no shoppers, and potential shoppers say it's not worth their time because there are so few vendors. We need to break that cycle.
Vendors need to view the first few weeks of the market this year as an investment. There may not be much foot traffic initially, but I am confident that if people see numerous vendors set up on a weekly basis they will eventually stop by and see what is for sale. About 1,000 people live or work within easy walking distance of the Town Square. If just a quarter of those, 250, took 15 minutes on a Thursday afternoon to have a look at the products being offered, that would be sufficient for most vendors to consider their time well spent.
While we certainly do not want to turn the farmers' market into a swap meet or flea market, I think it is appropriate to expand the "farmer's" aspect to include homemade craft and food items such as candles, soap, baked goods, woodworking and fiber arts.
There are many issues facing our community which cannot be solved overnight, but a vibrant farmers' market is NOT one of them. We are an agricultural community. We can do this! It has nothing to do with Washington or Raleigh or our local elected officials, this is on us. We, as both vendors and the buying public, simply need to make a commitment to supporting our farmers' market and to buying local.
For my part, I will be sponsoring a table at the Uptown Wadesboro Farmers' Market this summer under the Wynfield Creek Homestead banner. I have planted a market garden and hope to have fresh produce to sell by mid-June. I am also going to sell my handcrafted fishing lures, and honey produced locally by co-worker Megan Sellers. Who else is willing to make a commitment to the Uptown and our community? Contact Julian Swittenburg (704-695-1644) at Uptown Wadesboro and let him know you are interested in selling at the market. Have products to sell, but can't be at the market? Give me a call (704-690-4936) and we can work something out.
* Refers to the 10 years I spent in the "Great Northern Void" above Davidson.
Friday, April 20, 2018
If you showed me an NFL stripe pattern back then and asked me to identify the team, I could have easily done so. Those patterns were as much the team's identity as the logo. That's not to say NFL teams didn't change stripes from time to time. There was a period in the mid-70's -- the height of Steelers dominance -- when several teams, including the Packers and the Browns, briefly adopted the "Northwestern" sleeve stripes Pittsburgh wore. There were also teams that did not wear sleeve stripes, the Raiders and Cardinals come to mind, but all teams had a stripe of some sort on their pants.
Now you might be saying, that's pretty bold talk for someone whose favorite team was one of the originators of the bad stripe trend in the NFL. Yes, the Panthers tapering pant stripes and weird helmet striping were some of the first aberrations, but if you straighten the pant stripes out and change the helmet to match, it's actually a pretty traditional uniform.
Monday, April 16, 2018
Fast-forward thirty years and we find ourselves in a different place, literally and figuratively. Our North Carolina suburban homesteading experience has been much more successful, undoubtedly and in no small measure because we are blessed to be in a better situation financially. Don't get me wrong, the Vanderpumps aren't having us over for dinner and polo anytime soon, but the wolf's not constantly at the door either. Looking back on how we managed to get by in those lean years, I think having very little cash actually made us better homesteaders in some ways; more grounded, inventive and self-sufficient.
I recall that we wanted to make a rock border around the front flower bed at the LHOTH, but certainly couldn't afford to buy rocks from the landscape company at 10 or 15 cents per pound. Driving on the back roads one day, I saw a farmer unloading a bunch of stones from the back of his pickup onto a pile at the edge of his property. I surmised, correctly, that the stones had come from his field and had been upturned when he plowed. They were, for all practical purposes, scrap. I stopped and asked if I could have a few of them. He looked at me like I was nuts, but said, "sure, knock yourself out kid!" For the cost of asking the question, I secured enough rocks to ring the flower bed. I also have a rock border around some of the beds at the Wynfield Creek Homestead. Care to guess where I got those? Not from a farmer's field, that's for sure.
It seems that once we get a little cash in our pockets, it becomes easier to throw money at problems around the homestead rather than look for self-sufficient, cost-effective solutions. Having said that, there are absolutely situations where it is better to spend to get the job done right. We had a wood rot problem in one corner of the sun porch at the LHOTH which I tried repeatedly to repair without knowing what I was doing. I probably would up causing more damage in the long run. When squirrels did some damage to the fascia board on our house at the Wynfield Creek Homestead, there was no fooling around; I called in the professionals and they did the job quickly and correctly.
Still, it benefits the suburban homesteader to consider three things when looking at a significant cash expense:
1. Self-reliance. Is this something I can reasonably do myself? Is there some part of this project -- that might be beyond my capabilities in total -- that I can do myself to reduce the cost? We had hardwood floors installed in our family room kitchen and downstairs bedroom about 15 years ago. That was a job I recognized as being beyond my capabilities. However, we had a couple of seldom-used rooms upstairs which also needed new floor coverings. Rather than pay to have carpet or wood floors installed I laid laminate flooring, a job well within my ability, and saved hundreds of dollars.
2. Frugality. Is there a more cost-effective way to do this project or to acquire this product? Is there a homemade or low-cost substitute for this product? The best example I can give here is compost. Store-bought compost costs $5 to $10 for a 1 cubic foot bag. Compost made with minimal effort in a backyard compost bin from food scraps, garden remnants and shredded leaves costs essentially nothing... and is generally better quality to boot!
3. Sustainability. Is there a way to decrease the long-term cost of the project or product by investing more time, effort or money now? My natural areas are great example. As recently as 2012, I was purchasing 50-60 bales of pine straw each spring to refresh the natural areas around the house. Pine straw runs around $3.50 per bale, so that's a total cash outlay of $175-$200 on a perishable product that only lasts a year. I slowly started replacing the pine straw with plantings of perennial ground cover, mostly vinca minor and creeping Jenny. These prolific plants cost $2 to $3 each, and I needed dozens of them, but once a good patch got going I was able to propagate them into new areas at no cost. Over the past five years, I have reduced the number of bales of pine straw I purchase by more than half, and my goal is to get down to a dozen or less within the next two years.
Monday, April 9, 2018
I really don't feel like I got my money's worth out of those shirts this year. We had a warm spell right after Thanksgiving, and just about the time the mercury started to drop, we had planned a Christmas beach trip. After the first of the year, I got a case of the crud and didn't fully shake it until near the end of January. That was six weeks of prime flannel season down the drain. By the time I felt good enough to resume my normal outdoor routines, the area was in an extended warm-up, what I like to call the January Bump, and by the time temperatures fell back into a more seasonal pattern winter was all but over. Barring the start of another ice age, however, the flannels will go back in storage next weekend and the shorts and tee shirts will make their first appearance soon after.
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