Deanna Caswell's Blog

April 27, 2017

tea-jelly


I’d never heard of tea jelly before I started seeing Davidson’s Organic Tea demonstrate how to cook with the stuff.  Such as . . .


White Pomegranate Tea Jelly Gastrique


Earl Grey Eggnog Cookies


Then I started thinking of making tea jelly myself, using the aforementioned Davidson’s loose leaf teas, which I love from the bottom of my deepest teapot.


Davidson’s premise, (and I agree with it), is that as long as you’re going to be drinking tea, why not make it organic tea? The best organic tea. Especially if tea is a part of your daily lifeblood, like it is mine. Better for your body, better for the earth.


When my daughter saw a jar of my homemade jelly she asked, “What’s this?” and tried it, she then said, “We’ve got to hide it from the others.” It tastes like a refreshing lemon iced tea you can spread on your toast. Or over cream cheese on a bagel, or on top of chevre over a crisp cracker.


It also makes a tasty and interesting gift.


Which leads me to the giveaway.


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Davidson’s has donated a couple of real treats for me to give to one of our readers.


First, a boxed set of four jars of their house made tea jellies: Earl Grey, Classic Chai, Coconut Vanilla, and White Pomegranate


Then, a 2 oz. pack of Organic Dunsandle Nilgiri Loose Tea.


I’m tossing in a pretty acacia wood scoop, perfect for use with loose tea, plus one of my hand-knitted dishcloths, made with one of my favorite patterns, Ramen Noodle (you can see it in the background of the pic above, it’s blue and white).


If you would like to enter to win this sweet giveaway, please pop over to the Davidson’s website and come back and comment on this post with what you think looks irresistible/would like to try from Davidson’s. I’d love to know what you think of their stuff. I think I’m going to have to stick with my go-to loose tea, so good: Assam.


And if you decide to buy any tea bags, loose leaf, or iced teas while you’re there, don’t forget to use my discount code, DAISY7 for 10% off your order.


For tea jelly, which I made the other day for the first time, I chose a delicious Oothu Black.


It has a delicately floral yet rich flavor, which I thought would pair well with the organic lemon juice and zest I wanted to blend in. It did.


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Organic Black Tea & Lemon Jelly

Makes almost 3 pints


4 1/2 cups boiling water


6 Tablespoons loose organic black tea


1 package low-sugar pectin


3 cups raw organic cane sugar


1/2 cup organic lemon juice


zest of two organic lemons


Combine the tea leaves with the boiling water and allow to steep for about 10 minutes until you have a nice, rich brew.


Strain out the tea leaves and pour the tea into a medium saucepan.


Add the lemon juice and zest.


Bring to a boil.


While that comes to a boil, measure out the sugar.


Remove 1/4 cup of the sugar to a separate small bowl and add in the contents of the pectin package. Stir.


Pour the pectin/1/4 cup sugar mixture into the tea mixture and return to a boil.


Add in the remaining sugar and allow it to return to a full rolling boil and boil for 1 full minute, stirring constantly.


Remove from heat.


Pour into prepared sterilized canning jars and screw on lids using standard canning methods.


Process in a water bath for 10 minutes.


Remove from boiling water and allow to cool. Let sit undisturbed for at least 24 hours before opening.


I’m joking. Sample it as soon as you can find some worthy bread/cracker/cheese combo.


Don’t forget about the giveaway and your discount code, DAISY7.

 


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The post Yummy Giveaway + Organic Black Tea & Lemon Jelly Recipe appeared first on Little House in the Suburbs.


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Published on April 27, 2017 15:11 • 43 views

April 13, 2017

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I wanna buy ya everything


Except cologne


’cause it’s poison.


–Train (If It’s Love)


I have an odd history with perfume.


When I try on a perfume (parfum, eau de parfum, eau de toilette, it doesn’t matter), as soon as it touches my skin it starts to smell horrible. Acrid, cheap, nauseating. Any perfume, any and all expense levels, it goes wrong. Very wrong.


It smelled great in the bottle, in the air, on other people. On me–gross. I have to go wash it off with soap. Heaven forbid a little of it touched my nose when I was smelling it. I have to wash my nose then. Yes, wash my nose.


I’ve been this way my whole life.


It’s given me a little bit of a complex–like something is wrong with my body chemistry. Like, when they handed out superpowers, I got “Ability to Make Smellgood Smell Baaad.”


I have a sensitive nose, but that’s not it. I love perfume (nice perfume, in moderation) on other people.


While obviously it’s not a hardship, and it’s no doubt been a moneysaver over the decades, I confess I kept sneaking the occasional attempt. A sample in a store, a gift of perfume, I would still try it. I don’t know what I was thinking. Hope springs, etc.


Recently, I tried it again. I saw an ad for a sample of perfume that said it didn’t contain preservatives, phthalates, parabens, and stabilizers. Maybe that would work? I took the bait.


What follows is an unsolicited rave. I haven’t been compensated for this testimonial nor have they given me any free stuff.


The perfume is from a parfumier called PHLUR (pronounced like fleur, French for flower).


It smells good.


It smells good on me.


My conclusion is that my skin was reacting to those things in perfume this company doesn’t use. I don’t have any other sensitivities I’m aware of, but my skin was sure hatin’ on something.


It’s a small thing, but I’ve really enjoyed trying the 3 samples I picked out, wearing perfume that smelled like perfume and not battery acid for the first time in my life.


It also makes me even more suspicious of conventional perfume. I’d already given up on scented home products like fabric softeners, air fresheners, shampoo and other body products, because of the toxic chemicals, hormone disruptors, etc., and because they smelled bad, but I still like a bit of scent now and then.


It makes me wonder whether or not this perfume would be less offensive to people with allergic reactions to scent, for whom I feel a lot of sympathy. I guess it would depend on the nature of the sensitivity.


I’ve never heard of anyone else having my particular problem with perfume, only people who couldn’t stand the smell of ANY perfume.


I just hope I don’t go crazy and become Overwhelming Perfume Lady without knowing it. That would be wrong.


I promise to go easy.


Tell me if you can smell me from there.


What do you think about parfum?


 


Image Phlur


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


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Published on April 13, 2017 16:41 • 15 views

April 3, 2017

Remember from Psych 101 the study about babies and Object Permanence? How before a certain age infants can’t grasp the concept that once something disappears it isn’t necessarily gone forever?


I have a form of that when it comes to gardening: After a storm/drought/wind/hail/freeze I think it’s never going to happen again.


On a beautiful sunny day I can’t foresee or imagine any other conditions. “The storm has cleared? Well, that’ll never happen again. Do de do do!”


Apparently my brain thinks:


It’s always going to be warm and sunny (but not hot and drought-y).


There will always be sufficient rainfall (but no flood conditions).


The gentle breeze will never turn into a gale force wind.


This spring/fall warmth will never freeze over.


Optimism? Maybe.


Idiocy? Definitely.


No matter how often I get tricked, I keep forgetting the extremes.


This is not to say I haven’t forced my adult brain center to override (sometimes) this ridiculous memory glitch–I can and do make allowances for reality, but while I’m doing it I don’t think it’s really necessary. But it always is.


Here are a few of the things the part of my brain that IS attached to the real world does to protect my garden from the broken, ditsy part of my brain:


1. Plant only in raised beds.


This doesn’t have to mean you have a physical box around the soil, but elevate the soil in hills or mounds above the surrounding soil level. Your plants will stay above the level of those horrific spring monsoons (that I don’t really believe in but happen all the time anyway).


2. Use the hugelkultur method beneath your beds to keep a moist reservoir under your plants to guard against drought and minimize the amount of supplementary watering you’ll have to do. Also consider other permaculture water-holding techniques such as berms and water gardens.


3. Stake newly transplanted trees for at least the first couple of years. This isn’t recommended for trees you planted as small saplings, but for larger transplants, it helps prevent this:


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4. Wait until after the first/last frost days in your area to get started planting. Really. It is so hard, but do it anyway.


5. Plant your most prized babies in pots so you can move them to a protected area when storms/freezes are in the forecast. Just don’t forget to water them.


6. Stake vegetative plants (tomatoes, peppers, etc.) with the most substantial staking system you can devise. They always need it, and don’t let me tell you otherwise.


7. If it’s too sensitive/particular/susceptible to insects and disease and temperature variation, etc., either don’t plant it or be prepared to lose it with equanimity.


There have been two extremely windy storms in the past several days. So far a plum tree has gone over twice. I staked it up on one side after the first time. Last night it stormed again and now it’s fallen the other direction. So stake it up on all sides. Did I think wind only blows in one direction? What is wrong with me?


Don’t answer that.


 


 


 


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Published on April 03, 2017 10:11 • 26 views

March 20, 2017

First, let me say I’m always a little reluctant to use the term “home farming” when describing what I do, because I know what I do is negligible compared to what true farming is. Although I spend several hours a week in my garden and working on projects associated with growing things, I’m not out in the fields before dawn (unless I want to be), I don’t work at it all day (unless I want to), and my livelihood doesn’t depend on the success of my gardening efforts. It’s an avocation, not a vocation, and I could certainly be described as a dilettante in my “farming.”


Also, as we discussed in the intro to our book, what I do isn’t much different from what all but the most urban or nomadic of folks used to do as a matter of course: keep a few chickens, have a patch of garden out back, plant a few fruit trees and berry bushes. They didn’t consider themselves special at all.


Nor do I, and I wish I didn’t need a special term to designate what I do, but I guess “home farming” is as good a term as any. You could also call it suburban or urban farming, sustainability, or homesteading, but I fall short of embodying those terms as well.


Whatever it should be called, here are a few of my favorite things about it:


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Having the ingredients for the most “exotic” recipes. I can make an organic French sorrel, kale, strawberry, mulberry, lemon balm, peppermint smoothie any time of day (in season). I may may not be rich, but I can at least smoothie like a superstar.


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Having bunnies come hopping over to enjoy the clover, comfrey, & lamb’s lettuce bouquet I just brought them. Bunnies cannot do anything without being cute at it: move, eat, drink, look at you, calculus, you name it, it’s helplessly cute when a bunny does it.


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Weeding. It’s also one of my least favorite jobs, but when I forget about the fact that I will never be finished weeding and just sit and slowly weed one little patch at a time, and listen to the sounds, smell the smells, and feel the feelings, it’s the best.


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The daily Easter egg hunt. Prettier, and certainly tastier than regular Easter eggs, and I can have them every day (well, when they’re laying). And being able to look the hens in the eye and say thanks for the eggs.

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Fertilizer. I sometimes wonder what’s in prepackaged organic fertilizers and I hate the price tag. Homemade chicken and rabbit manure and worm castings and homemade compost can’t be beat for quality.


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Plant diversity. I can walk ten feet and see a fascinating, ever-evolving world of plants. In the typical suburban yard I only see the usual suspects: hostas, crepe myrtles, liriope, boxwood, nandina, and the same boring annuals, blah blah. None of which I typically eat. Here, I can nibble my way through the yard and never get tired of it.


What do you like best about your home farm?


The post What I Like Best About Home Farming appeared first on Little House in the Suburbs.


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Published on March 20, 2017 17:34 • 21 views

March 17, 2017

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I’m a tea drinker.


I brew a pot of tea every day, just for myself, sometimes two pots. If that isn’t enough, there’s tea bags to brew it by the cup.


Several years ago, my blog partner/bud, Deanna, had one of her babies and we had a shower for her. Surprise, surprise, I picked the theme of a traditional tea party: real loose tea in teapots, cucumber sandwiches, cream scones with strawberries and cream, the whole magilla.


I wanted REAL loose leaf tea for this adventure, not that anyone would flip out if I served Lipton, but for my own tea sensibilities that’s what I determined would suit. I also wanted an organic tea. What I found changed my tea game forever. It was an organic estate tea, from Davidson’s Organics, Banaspaty Estate Assam.


It was the first time I’d ever had truly excellent tea. I marveled at how, after brewing, I could identify large pieces of tea leaf in the brewed tea leaves. They looked plump and vital and didn’t clump together like the lump of fine crumbs of tea from the big supermarket brands. They looked like actual leaves.


The taste, well, I’d liked tea before, but now I could understand why tea could become the national obsession of so many countries, why it could shape international trade and be worthy of extreme political statement.


I’d bought a whole pound, and since I can only drink caffeinated tea in the morning, that pound lasted until, oh, I think Deanna’s baby was talking in full sentences by then. I enjoyed every cup and became an insufferable tea snob.


My new favorite way to enjoy this Assam has been as a Fresh Ginger Tea.


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Simply grate fresh ginger, about a heaping, fluffy tablespoon per 4-cup pot of tea. Allow to steep with the tea for about 6-8 minutes, then strain and pour.


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I serve it with a generous splash of UNsweetened evaporated milk. It gives the tea a richness I can’t get from milk or even cream.


If you add enough ginger it has a pleasing heat that I love, and the ginger flavor complements the rich tones of the Assam. The evaporated milk ties them together with a velvety caramel creaminess.


If you want to try it for yourself, Davidson’s Organics is offering Little House readers an exclusive 10% discount on all tea bag, loose leaf, and iced teas on their website. Type in DAISY7 at checkout.


I warn you, it will turn you into a tea snob. But it’s the best type of snob to be: no one has to know but you and your tea cupboard.


YUM.


Davidson’s Organics: DAISY7 for 10% off all tea bag, loose leaf, and iced teas


 


The post How to Brew Fresh Ginger Tea and a Discount Code For You appeared first on Little House in the Suburbs.


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Published on March 17, 2017 15:27 • 16 views

February 20, 2017

I’m starting to wonder if this is going to be one of those winters that never happened.


Yes, we’ve had some freezing temps, but all in all, above-normal readings nearly every week.


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Nature noticed. The peach tree surprised me today by busting out some of its crepey pink blossoms, which I greeted with consternation because not only are they likely to get zapped by frost, but I was supposed to hit them with a dormant oil spray before bud break.


This unseasonable warmth is going to keep me on my toes. The weeds are really creeping up on me, and I’m hoping to start an enforced 15-minutes-per-day weeding regimen to try to keep up.


The chickens won’t mind the extra greens. They rush over to the side of the run whenever I come around, looking at me like starving prisoners. It would be pitiful if they weren’t so well fed.


I’m breaking out the merino right when it’s about to get warm. I made a cowl made of Malabrigo Rasta, which is very beautiful, very soft, and very hot. Maybe it’ll get some wear next year.


Or if we move to Wisconsin.


It’s fun to knit with, anyway.


Hope you’re having a good winter, whether it feels like it in your area or not. It seems like we’re skipping straight to spring, but that may be a little trick nature is playing on us to keep us guessing.


I’m not putting the coats in storage yet. That would be a sure-fire recipe for blizzard.


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Published on February 20, 2017 06:54 • 45 views

December 29, 2016

If you’re like me at this time of year, you’re one table full of sweet, highly-refined and fatty treats from running for the hills to subsist off roots and berries. But there is one more culinary hurdle to leap before the party season takes a breather: New Year’s Eve.


If the week of TV cooking shows I just witnessed is any indication, we’re expected to lay down some serious scratch on caviar, imported cheeses, smoked meats and other exotic ingredients for our guests.


That isn’t going to happen around here. So, since my celebrants are unlikely to appreciate a table set with bowls of Grape Nuts and carrot sticks, I rounded up a few New Year’s Party ideas that are reduced sugar and fat, relatively nutrient-dense, and don’t require taking out a loan.


Carrot Mini-Muffins



 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


1/4 cup nuts (such as pecans or walnuts)

2 cups flour (I like whole wheat)

1 3/4 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp. salt

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce

3 T. vegetable oil

2 eggs

2 cups shredded carrots, packed


Line mini-muffin tins with paper liners or coat with a little oil.


Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F.


Toast the nuts lightly in a dry skillet over low heat (watch them!) Chop when cool.


In mixing bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. In a separate bowl, combine the applesauce, brown sugar, oil and eggs. Add the nuts and carrots.


Stir the wet ingredients into the dry just until moistened. Spoon into the muffin cups and bake 12-15 minutes or until the muffins spring back in the center when pressed. Makes about 30 mini-muffins (or 12 regular muffins).


To serve, make them more festive with a side of softened cream cheese mixed with a dash of ginger and a dollop of honey. Or plain cream cheese and chutney.


Vegetable Antipasto


1 pound carrots, trimmed and sliced on the diagonal

2 cups cauliflower florets

1/2 pound green beans, trimmed and sliced in half

1 cup pickled pepperoncini peppers

1/4 cup white vinegar

3 T. olive oil

1/8 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

1/2 tsp. salt

8 oz. mozzarella cheese, cut in 3/4 in. cubes

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano or 2 tsp. fresh oregano, chopped

1 tsp dried basil or 1/4 cup fresh basil


Simmer the carrots in a covered saucepan in water almost to cover for about 6 minutes. Add the cauliflower to the carrots. Return to a simmer and cook for about 8 minutes, covered. Take off heat and drain.


In the same way, simmer the beans in a separate pan until they are crisp-tender. This may take a bit longer than the carrots & cauliflower. Test them frequently until they have lost their raw taste but still have some texture. Remove from heat and drain.


Place the vegetables in a bowl and toss with the peppers, vinegar, oil, salt, and pepper flakes. If you are using dried herbs, stir them in now. Cover and put in the refrigerator at least 4 hours or overnight. If you are using fresh herbs, stir them AND the mozzarella in just before serving.


Arrange on a platter to serve.


Tomato Bruschetta


24 slices Italian bread (1/2 in. thick, whole grain if possible)

3 cloves garlic, peeled

3 T. olive oil

1 1/2 pounds plum tomatoes, chopped

1/3 cup fresh basil or 1 tsp. dried

1 T. tomato paste

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. grated orange zest

pinch pepper


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Rub the slices of bread with the cut side of a piece of halved garlic. Brush the bread with 2 T. of the oil and bake about 6-8 minutes or until golden and crispy.

Chop the cloves of garlic and briefly saute in a teaspoon of the remaining olive oil, just to mellow the bite of the garlic a bit. Combine with the tomatoes, basil, tomato paste, salt, zest, pepper and the remaining olive oil.

Spoon mixture over the toasted bread slices.


Liptauer Cheese


Serve with whole grain crackers or toasted bread rounds


8 oz. reduced fat cream cheese

4 oz. nonfat cream cheese

2 tsp. milk

1/3 cup minced onion (red onion if available)

4 minced anchovies or 2 tsp. anchovy paste (my family may demur, but I like them–hopefully my guests do, too)

2 T. rinsed, chopped capers or substitute minced green olives

1 tsp. grated lemon zest


Bring the cheeses to room temperature. Mix them together with the milk until creamy. Fold in the onion, anchovies, capers or olives and the zest.


Mold this in a lined bowl and chill, then unmold it onto a serving plate.


Makes almost 2 cups.



 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


Apricot Danish



 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


3/4 cup dried apricots

1/2 cup water

2 tsp. vanilla extract

1/4 tsp. ground ginger

4 oz. nonfat cream cheese

1/4 cup brown sugar (or less)

6 gingersnaps, crushed

1 T. brown sugar

2 T. melted butter

2 T. vegetable oil

12 sheets frozen phyllo dough, thawed

4 T. chopped nuts

1/4 cup apricot preserves

powdered sugar for dusting


Simmer the apricots and the water in a small pan until the apricots are soft, about 10-15 minutes. Cool slightly and puree in a blender or food processor, or just mash them with a fork. Add half the vanilla.


In a bowl, cream brown sugar with the cream cheese, remaining vanilla and ginger.


In a small bowl, toss the gingersnap crumbs with the 1 T. brown sugar.


Combine the butter and oil in a small dish. Lay out the phyllo and cover with a towel. Lightly oil a baking sheet. Place two sheets of phyllo on the baking sheet and lightly brush with the oil/butter mix. Sprinkle with 1 T. of the gingersnap crumbs. Continue to layer in this way until you have used up the 12 sheets of phyllo, saving a tad of butter/oil to brush on top later.


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spoon a 1 1/2 inch wide strip of the cream cheese mixture down the center of the phyllo, stopping about an inch from the ends. Flank this strip with 2 strips of apricot puree, each also 1 1/2 in. wide. Roll in the long sides of the phyllo until they just begin to cover the puree. Roll in the ends in a similar way to seal tightly.


Brush the crust with the remaining butter/oil. Sprinkle the chopped nuts over the top of the filling. Bake 30-35 minutes or until golden brown.


Melt the apricot preserves with a couple of teaspoons of water over low heat. Brush the pastry with the melted preserves.


Dust with powdered sugar before serving.


Slice this up into finger food slices and arrange on a platter.


Save


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Published on December 29, 2016 11:50 • 20 views

December 18, 2016

Back in 2014, the electrical transformer in my yard blew up during a storm and the lid came off and the oil inside sprayed over part of my garden.


You can read more about it here.


I sued the utility company to recoup the money I spent to replace the plants, etc.


I sued them in General Sessions court, aka small claims court, and won.


They appealed to Circuit Court, a higher authority, if you will.


Recently, with the trial date looming, the attorney for the utility filed something called a Motion for Summary Judgment, which is basically a request to the judge to toss out the case before the trial on the grounds that there’s nothing trial-worthy in the suit.


That hearing was last Friday.


I should mention I’m representing myself because, hey, I’m only asking for $730. I would be well in the hole just by walking into a lawyer’s office and since I’m not an eccentric millionaire, it doesn’t make fiscal sense to pay for representation.


So it’s just me, myself, and I.


I always feel completely at sea in a courtroom. First of all, I’ve washed off all my usual dirt and made a good effort to clean even the deep down soil under my fingernails. I’m not me without my dirt.


Second, I’m wearing non-blue jeans and non-muck boots, which makes me feel a little off.


Third, I’m not a lawyer and I’m easily overwhelmed by the legal process.


Our town has a great big, beautiful courthouse. If you’ve ever read a John Grisham novel, you’ve probably read a description of it, with its seven kinds of marble and mahogany paneling.


This is why I ditch the gardening shoes; that much marble and limestone demands respect and awe, and proper footwear.


The ones I wore on Friday were a half size too big for me, especially the right shoe, and I had to step that foot with a funny little twist to keep it from flying off. Also, we were feeling the tail end of some sort of Canadian vortex and it was very cold. This is relevant because I had on a dress because all my non-jean pants are from the part of the ’90s that hasn’t swung back in style yet. During a recent, poorly-timed spasm of KonMari I’d decided that none of my tights sparked joy, so I had nothing to put on my cold legs.


Another consequence of the tights purge was now everyone could see the four-inch-diameter round bruise on my right calf sustained while wrangling a fence panel the week before.


One more wardrobe note: the only dress that sort of looked appropriate was sleeveless. I had to wear a jacket over it so when I took off my coat I didn’t look like I’d mistaken the courtroom for a garden party. It’s a lined, corduroy jacket and quite bulky under my slightly-too-small overcoat. The outline of the jacket was visible under the tight fabric of the coat and I looked like I was auditioning for a Hans and Franz remake.


Picture it. Me, with my epic bruised frozen leg, stuffed like homemade sausage into a gray wool overcoat, twist-stepping it up these limestone stairs:


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Through these marble halls:


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Rudy Baylor wasn’t there (the photo above is a still from The Rainmaker), but I could have used his help.


In the courtroom, waiting for the judge to arrive, it was old home week among the assembly of lawyers; they talked in low tones about their various cases, their weekend plans, their desire to switch to other types of law from the one they’re stuck in. Two of the lawyers, one on either side of the bench I was sitting on, struck up a conversation with me between them. I got up and offered to move over so they could talk. They took me up on it.


I’m cold by nature, and this time of year coming in and out of buildings, I spend a lot of time both hot AND cold simultaneously. It’s an uncomfortable state, exacerbated by nervousness; kind of sweaty and trembly at the same time.  I concentrated on keeping my knees from bouncing and stared at the almost crew cut of the utility company’s lawyer sitting on the bench in front of me.


He’s very young. I bear him no rancor. He’s just doing his job, and a bit of a bad guy role it is. It must be an irritation to him, this case. He’s outside counsel, doesn’t work for the utility company itself, but a firm they’ve hired to do stuff like this, deal with pesky, trifling homeowners with petty beefs. Whatever he got into law to do, I’m sure this wasn’t it.


He’s nervous, too. He has a tell. I’ve noticed it every time we’ve sat in court together. He yawns.


I used to yawn a lot before track meets when I was on the team in high school. It’s a classic sign of nervousness, and his yawns make me, actually, less nervous. Still terribly nervous, but less so knowing I’m not the only one. He’s a little shaky, too, when he’s addressing the judge.


It’s endearing. As I said, he’s very young, and I feel a bit materteral toward him. I had to look that word up. It means like an aunt, the female version of avuncular.


We have to wait our turn. Other matters are before the court. An eviction, some child custody business. Soon they get to us.


The judge doesn’t feel the defendant (the utility) has been persuasive enough in its argument for summary judgment. Basically, the case law they cited wasn’t analogous to this case and most of all, they haven’t mentioned the GTLA.


The what?


The GTLA, I found out later, thank you Google, is the Government Tort Liability Act. In short, it’s a Get Out Of Jail Free Card for governments. It grants them immunity from being sued for almost everything. It’s meant to keep governments from being overburdened by litigation while trying to get on with the job of taking care of citizens. There are very few exceptions to this immunity.


Back to the courthouse. The judge kindly reminded the defendant about the GTLA and seemed to ask him why didn’t you cite it in your memorandum in support of your motion?


A bit flustered, the lawyer, I think (I was still at sea), replied in words to the effect that he was quite familiar with the GTLA, thank you very much, to which the judge replied, in effect, if you’re such an expert on the GTLA then just when were you planning to bring that up?


The lawyer looked like he really wished he were someplace else.


The judge, she has a very kind tone in her voice, asked both of us if we would like a do over.  We agreed.  We will come back in a few weeks after resubmitting his Motion for Summary Judgment and my Opposition to said motion.


She also suggested we try to settle this out of court.


Of course, I would be happy to come to some sort of settlement, but the utility is uninterested in settling. It would be setting the wrong precedent. Can’t go around paying for ruined property.  Too burdensome.


The lawyer and I talk briefly in the hall. He reiterates that the utility is unlikely to change its mind about a settlement. It comes as no surprise to me. We part ways, but we are scheduled for our version of Groundhog Day in January.


Now the judge has reminded the utility’s lawyer of his extensive knowledge of the GTLA, I have very little hope of prevailing. The GTLA is a mighty shield.


I suppose I should decide, KonMari fashion, whether or not continuing to pursue this brings me joy.


I enjoy learning new things. like GTLA case law. Did you know if you are accidentally mauled by a police dog as an innocent bystander, you are unable to sue the police department for your pain and suffering?


Did you know if your relative dies of heat stroke because he was refused electricity services because he was born at home out in the country and never got a birth certificate (no proper ID), you can’t sue the utility over it?


I enjoy suggesting to the utility that they act responsibly.


I enjoy being in that beautiful courthouse (as long as I’m the plaintiff).


I hate to be a girly-man (woman), but this isn’t as one-dimensional as that. We’ll see.


Meanwhile:


I think I just want to PUMP! [clap} YOU UP!


 


Image credit courthouse exterior: Steve Burns


 


 


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Published on December 18, 2016 20:51 • 159 views

November 17, 2016

solar_panel


Who wouldn’t love to say goodbye to their electric bill (or most of it) and get your electricity from the sun?


I think I would, but the high cost, the complexity, the fact that it always seems like the next big breakthrough in solar is just around the corner (will I be stuck with clunky outdated equipment for the life of the system?) makes me pull away every time I start to research my options.


Could I do it myself?


Will prices ever take that significant dip everyone’s always talking about?


Will it damage my house, tear up my roof, look out-of-place?


Would a smaller system that only replaced part of the household electricity be worthwhile?


I’m less concerned about the appearance than the other factors, but my south-facing roof shows to the street side of the house and I don’t want to upset the neighbors.


So I remain in analysis paralysis, occasionally getting the bug again and conducting a small flurry of research before becoming discouraged and bogged down again.


The latest analysis I had done was for an 11.8 kW system consisting of 43 panels (that sounds like a LOT of panels to me), a 10000 Solar Edge inverter, Solar Edge Optimizers and System.


Gross cost before incentives $32,995


Net cost after incentives $23,097


Net savings over 20 years $21,225


Average monthly bill $2


There’s a lot about the above that I don’t understand. OK, most of it is beyond me.


Mostly I see the bottom line, and it gives me heartburn. I’m waiting for the invisible solar that costs a tenth of the current prices. And for installation to become local–$1500 of the price is travel and lodging for the installation professionals.


Have you flirted with solar?


Do you have solar?


I’d love your thoughts, experiences, and advice.


 


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Published on November 17, 2016 17:04 • 23 views

November 6, 2016

tomatoes-in-shirt-tail


. . . I’d have no tomatoes at all.


Weird year for tomatoes.


We had plenty of spring rain and mild weather so the tomatoes I planted in the garden got off to a good start.


Unfortunately, by the time the first few tomatoes started to ripen, drought set in and the new blossoms started to fall off.


I watered for a while, but as the drought stretched on and on I gave up and the plants sat fruitlessly.


Meanwhile, in several out-of-the-way, neglected nooks, volunteer tomatoes were sprouting:


At the foot of the muscadine.


Between the sweet potatoes and over the strawberry patch.


Under the apple espalier.


Up the plum tree.


img_1608


WAY up the plum tree.


I let them go, figuring I might as well. They were all types; roma, black cherry, san marzano, cultivars of unknown lineage, throwbacks to hybrids’ parentage.


Thanks to a couple of welcome rains and some inadvertent water from nearby seedlings I was watering, they started to fruit.


They’re starting to ripen now. And due to the unseasonably warm weather this November, it looks like I might get tomatoes this year after all.


I’ve cancelled my Bad Tomato Year Gloom, Despair & Agony Pity Party and am trying to decide on how to put up this unexpected late-season crop.


I’ll probably have quite a few green tomatoes to rescue before the first frost, which I can wrap in newspapers and store in boxes, unwrapping as they ripen.


Or, I could make these classic, southern Green Tomato Pickles. They’re tangy-sweet, spicy with cloves and cinnamon, and very crispy.


Hopefully I’ll have enough to do both.


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Published on November 06, 2016 14:18 • 35 views