Happy New Year!

Tap tap.

Is this thing on?

I understand the blog (or rather our host) went down for several hours today. The outage lasted from Youngstown to Toledo in my world. Sorry about that!

But now Mr. EW and McCaffrey the MilleniaLab and I are safe in our home, surrounded by .75″ of ice under the 2″ of snow that fell while we were gone, relaxing and eating vegetables after 10 days full of meat and cookies and chocolate, hunkering down for a quiet night to celebrate the New Year (I’ll be in bed long before 2013 will be).

May you all have a safe and happy evening. May the B1G prevail tomorrow.

And may the New Year bring just as many wonderful and smart readers as those who graced this blog all year. Thanks for making what we do possible!

Happy and safe New Year to all!

Thanksgiving: Scarcity among Bounty

BountySome of you may have already grown tired of my tweets expressing awe that, rather than the 15 pound turkey I had ordered from our farmers, I came home Tuesday with a 21 pounder. They just didn’t have any smaller birds this year, it seems.

So there she is, our enormous bird, all slathered with bacon, also from Jill and Mary, far more than we need but enough that we’ll be enjoying (frozen) leftovers until summer.

It somehow feels appropriate that the turkeys are so big this year.

Last year, the farmers in Michigan — and those of us who purchase directly from them — seemed to reach Thanksgiving with a shocked worry. The summer of drought had devastated key Michigan crops, especially the state’s tart cherries. You couldn’t find Michigan pears and other orchard crops were similarly scarce. Meat farmers, even those who rely on local grains, had to cope with CAFOs from Indiana buying up all Michigan’s straw and grain; people thinned herds because there wasn’t enough food to make it through the winter. A number of the farmers we rely on seemed worried whether they would make it.

So while this year’s record floods brought new worries, when the crops all came in in order, and in great bounty, it was a relief. Fat Al Gore hadn’t done us in yet! I had enough tart cherries to dry and will still have MI pears in the fridge for several weeks yet. A local craft cider maker recently told me that scores of farmers with orchards of old, forgotten (but tasty!) apple varietals could save those orchards because they had a buyer for their boom harvest this year. And for Mr. EW and I, in the home we moved into the day before Thanksgiving last year, we’ve even still got green tomatoes, kale, and carrots from our garden.

Done BountyThe harvest was especially generous this year.

But I’m also acutely aware that so many Michiganders — my neighbors — enjoy little of that bounty. MI was in a depression before the economy crashed, and too many people have never recovered. Because our unemployment remains among the highest, Michiganders will have access, still, to somewhat extended unemployment benefits. But every one of those long-term unemployed represents a family that may never recover from financial setback. Add in the cuts to food stamps, and I worry that what Mother Nature has spared (thus far), our dysfunctional society has condemned to suffer.

And so as we sit down to our MI wine and turkey and bacon and brussel sprouts and spuds and sage-and-sunchoke-stuffing and cranberries and pumpkin pie and cream, I will be grateful for this year’s bounty. I will be thankful for the gifts my family provided me and the support and community our readers have given. I will be grateful for that enormous turkey.

But let’s remember those who face scarcity among the bounty.

Updated with pic of done turkey. Before the 7.5 pounds of leftovers, I mean.

 

Emptywheel Fundraiser — Halfway There

We’re halfway done with the Emptywheel Two Millionth Visitor Fundraiser. We’ve had a great response so far, but that number represents just a fraction of regular readers. If you value what we do, please consider a donation.You can donate via PayPal here:

Or send snail mail to:

Emptywheel, LLC
P.O. Box 1673
Grand Rapids, Michigan 49501-1673

Thanks to all who have donated generously in the past — and for those who can support us now.

The Emptywheel Two Million Visit Fundraiser

I’ve been so busy covering the Syria war effort and NSA spying that I almost missed it: on September 6, we will receive our two millionth visitor. To celebrate that fact — and to ensure we can keep doing this work — we’re going to have a week-long fundraiser. You can donate via PayPal here:

Or send snailmail to:

Emptywheel, LLC
P.O. Box 1673
Grand Rapids, Michigan 49501-1673

Thanks to all who have donated generously in the past — and for those who can support us now.

Fishin’ Hikin’, Ham, and Bourbon-in’'>Gone Fishin’ Hikin’, Ham, and Bourbon-in’

It’s that time of year: when Mr. EW and I celebrate St. Pattys, his birthday, our anniversary, and my birthday (and, this year, our friend Catie’s birthday, too).

We’ll be doing it, for the next 5 days or so, in KY’s Red River Gorge — sandstone like you’d expect to find in the Southwest, but with rhododendrons growing everywhere instead of saguaros.

Then we’ll be heading on a Bourbon and ham pilgrimage. We’re not Bourbon drinkers, so include your advice in comments!

Thing is, while Red River Gorge is beautiful, it also is one of the places in the US that still has godawful Intertoobz and wireless connectivity. Blame Mitch McConnell for screwing his constituents, I guess.

So I’ll probably be mostly absent from these parts until Wednesday and only somewhat present until whenever we decide to return home to Beer Mecca from Bourbon Mecca.

Sadlly, bmaz (and Jim and Rayne) will have to make do with whatever leftovers are in the likker cabinet until I can stock it with Bourbon again. I’m sure he’ll make do!

Thanks to Michigan’s Farmers for the Bounty

Every year on this day, I thank the great Michigan producers—and for some years, I’ve been cooking Thanksgiving using only Michigan producers, with just a few ingredient exceptions–who bring us our meal.

Our food was brought to use by many of the same farmers and artisans as last year, though I made my pie crust with whole wheat pasty flour from the Jennings Brothers, and we’ll be drinking Bells and Bowers Harbor this year instead of Founders and Brys Estate.

But I want to focus on the eggs that will go into our pumpkin pie.

You see, it’s been a really tough year for eggs in MI. Many chickens died in the heat wave in June. Then, with the drought, pastured chickens had to work harder to eat and weren’t producing much as a result. And naturally raised chickens are going to be laying almost no eggs this time a year: Mother Nature gives her chickens more time off than Wal-Mart gives its workers?

Mind you, I’ve still been able to get eggs. But eggs—along with stone fruit, particularly tart cherries and peaches, which were devastated by our spring heat wave followed by frost—eggs are one of the things that made an urban girl like me realize how devastating the weather was.

If I had to work hard to remember to ask for eggs ahead of time, think how hard the farmers were working to keep their chickens healthy?

So it was mighty humbling the other day when our farmer handed me eggs. Humbling, because I didn’t think there’d be eggs for purchase in any case. Particularly humbling because she just gave them to me. “Here, don’t tell anyone.” (So I’m telling all of you, just “protecting my sources”!)

Something as prosaic as eggs, become a precious gift due to the rhythm of nature but also the very unnatural thing weather has become.

The food we share on this holiday is always precious, whether it comes from a local farmer or a big supermarket. It’s the sharing, after all, that makes it precious. We’re probably going to need a lot more of that sharing in the years to come.

Thanks to all of you for sharing with us here–may that gracious sharing continue through the next year!

Emptywheel: Over 1 Million Amazing Readers Served

Sometime after 2AM ET last night, emptywheel.net received its 1 millionth visitor.

I had planned a big party to celebrate the milestone, but have been buried, as always and missed the event.

But I do want to thank all of the readers here who contribute so much to the discussion. And thanks to Jim and bmaz, who help keep the site hopping.

If you’re so inclined, please consider donating so we can keep this site going for another million readers.

Traveling Wheels

Hello one and all, and greetings from lovely downtown Providence, Rhode Island. Marcy and I are both here for Netroots Nation; she has been in town since yesterday, and I just arrived this morning. We will both be here through Sunday afternoon.

So far Marcy and Jim have kept up regular posting, which is fortunate because I had a literal clusterfuck of problems rain on me yesterday which I was supposed to be providing content and getting ready to go. I have no idea what substantive posting we will do, so Jim may be piloting the ship. I’m a gonna guess he may want to be trash talking about Alabama, an SEC team, finally breaking through and winning the Women’s College World Series in softball. Credit where due, they rolled the two other best teams in the brackets, Oklahoma and ASU.

More importantly, if any of you are at Netroots, or in the vicinity, we would love to say hi. Leave a note here, or just find us – we are wearing stinking badges!

We will be around, but if there is any hot breaking news, and we don’t look to be around at the moment, put it up in comments and let fly with the analysis. In the meantime, since these Wheels are traveling, some traveling music for you from Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band.

Merry Christmas!

It’s that quiet part of Christmas morning where just McCaffrey the MilleniaLab and I are up. I’m drinking coffee preparing myself to take McC out into the “Al Gore is fat” springlike day, and tie up last minute loose ends for the day ahead. And, in spite of all the personal and political stresses, I’m remembering how many gifts my lives includes.

This community is near the top of that list.

Thanks for all your voices, which make this place a warm, dynamic place. And thanks for all the other support you give emptywheel, in various ways.

Have a Merry Christmas today (or, if you don’t celebrate Christmas, enjoy having the streets empty and quiet for the first day in weeks!).

And whatever you believe, let’s all just keep working on the Peace on Earth part!

In Thanks for Michigan’s Bounty

Two years ago, I made a concerted effort to cook our entire Thanksgiving Dinner, save for spices and olive oil, with products from MI.

I’ve moved twice since then, but found this year that I almost pulled it off without trying (I didn’t use MI flour and butter).

Here are some of the great farmers and producers we’ll be thanking tonight for their bounty:

Crane Dance Farm: We’ve come to rely on this Animal Welfare Certified farm for most of our meat and had the opportunity to tour the farm back in September, when we met the turkey (above) and bacon (right) we’ll be eating tonight, as well as the hens who laid the eggs in our pumpkin pie. This is one of those farms that cycle their stock (pigs follow chickens follow cows) to optimize the use of the land. Did you know chickens like to wallow around in the dirt if they’re able?

Hilhof Dairy: I’ve never been to this farm, but I’d like to, because their milk and cream tastes amazing, with a real depth of creamy flavor.

Blueberry Heritage Farms: When we moved to west MI, we moved to blueberry country. This particular farm, which does some organic berries, also sells cranberries in big 2 pound boxes. So in addition to the cranberry-apple chutney we’ll be eating tonight, we’ll be eating lots of cranberry goodies for the next several weeks.

Ham Family Farm: Since we didn’t do a CSA this year, we got the veggies for tonight’s feast from a range of farmers at the Fulton Street Farmer’s Market. One we buy from a lot–Charlie Ham–talked me into brussel sprout leaves this year, rather than brussel sprouts themselves. The leaves look like collard greens and have the bitterness of the brussel sprouts to set off the sweet and rich food, but also has a hint of sweetness to it. Plus, I figure it’ll cut down on work to just saute the greens.

Brys Estate Wines: Between a great wine dinner we had at Salt of the Earth restaurant and some trips up to Sleeping Bear Dunes, we’ve been trying more Brys Estate wines. I’ve got some wines I mistakenly didn’t get sent waiting for us at the winery. So tonight, we’ll just have some Riesling (along with an unoaked chardonnay from Bowers Harbor and some Old School Red from Peninsula Cellars).

Founders Brewing Company: And of course, we now live in beer mecca, just over a mile from Founders. There might be some Reds Rye PA in my future, particularly if the Kitties don’t win this afternoon. Also likely if they win.

May your bounty be as wonderful as ours today! Happy Thanksgiving.

Update: I’ve had a request to explain how I use bacon on my turkey. As I’ve explained, I think the bacon serves the same purpose as brining (slow application of salt), without the meat losing it’s “bite” as I think can happen with brining. Plus, it protects the breast from over-browning. And best of all, you can pick it off at that point of the afternoon where you start to get really hungry but don’t want to ruin your appetite. And once you’ve cleaned the bacon off, it’ll brown nicely.

As you put the bird in the oven, cover it with bacon. I will use a full pound for a big bird, which is what we have this year (14 pounds).

I’ll tent my turkey for about an hour, then let the bacon brown for about 1.5 hours, and by then I’ll be ready for snacking. Which, after a couple of trips back to the oven to strip the bacon, should leave about an hour for the bird to brown.

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