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Thursday, July 30, 2009

[Hannah]: spontaneous salad

I am the queen of the one-bowl meal.

This was a "whatever's on hand" salad which turned out unexpectedly excellent so I am giving it immortality.
Toast 1 cup of Israeli couscous until browned in a dutch oven with a teaspoon of olive oil (stirring vigilantly).

Then add 2-3 cups chicken broth, simmer until cooked.

At the same time, lazily and haphazardly cook a few sliced cloves of garlic, some onion, and a drained can of chickpeas in a frying pan.

Combine, remove from heat, and add 1 diced red pepper and a lot of fresh parsley.

Season with cumin, lemon, salt and black pepper. Delicious!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Is it possible that the word "hullabaloo" comes from Yiddish / Hebrew?

I translated a Yiddish story recently with the word behole (pronounced beHOLeh) which means an uproar and it came up again today in class at the Medem Bibliotheque. I can't find much of an entymology for the word hullabaloo and I'm wondering if it derives from this word in Yiddish which comes from the Hebrew. Wiktionary has a different guess:
The Oxford English Dictionary has this as a native English word, first appearing in print in 1762 (Smollett). The OED and other etymologists do not consider the possibility that the word was introduced from India into the English language. The term 'Hullabol' is still used in Indian English to describe a type of public demonstration, involving making a great noise.

Monday, July 20, 2009

The good and the bad of Paris

The good (among many other things): wonderful bread on every corner and excellent subways and - if you like to walk as much as I do - you can get some big jelly-like ampoules to stick on the blisters on the bottoms of your feet and off you go for some more happy miles of sightseeing.

The bad: woe be to you if you need a bathroom while you're out. One guidebook I saw said, solemnly, that the Parisians simply do not pee away from their homes. They go around parched instead. Yikes!

We had just stopped at a coffee place at the fleamarket - where Derek's espresso cost $4.50 and Hannah's espresso with cream cost about $6.00 - so we weren't in the mood to do it again, but an hour later I needed a bathroom. We saw a "toilette" sign pointing up some unguarded steps at a cafe so I slithered on in and up the stairs and was in the stall pulling down my pants when a barkeep BURST THROUGH THE DOOR and tried to PULL ME out of the stall! He was yelling in French and when I mildly said I don't speak French he just switched over to English, the gist of which was, that I was very rude and that I could not use his bathroom without buying something. I tried to close the door but he wouldn't remove his foot. We were at an impasse, and things were getting rather serious, when he suddenly yielded and left - turning off all the upstairs lights as he left so I was in utter darkness.

Monday, July 13, 2009

A jet-lag (almost) disaster...

Writing from right next to the window in my daughter's cousin's apartment in Paris. We are poaching an unsecured wireless connection but it only works if the chair is at precisely the right angle...

I took a nonstop flight which left Charlotte at 4:30 on Saturday afternoon and got into Charles deGaulle airport at 6:30 Sunday morning. That meant that right about the time I might have been ready to go to sleep on Saturday, the pilot was telling us we'd soon be beginning our descent - oh, and it was morning.

It was a little chilly and almost-raining in Paris yesterday. I couldn't check into my hotel until 2 pm so I stumbled around, dizzy, for almost eight hours. I went to an open air market, attended mass at Notre Dame cathedral, sat in the Vosges park throwing baguette to the pigeons, and finally I could get into my room.

I woke up and it was light out. I thought it was Monday morning but imagine my horror when I saw it was 4 in the afternoon! That meant, not only had I missed my whole first day of class, but I had missed my rendezvous with Hannah and Derek - and Hannah hadn't been able to tell me the address of this flat, only that it was "near the cemetery." And she and Derek were already en route, and none of us had our cellphones.

I jumped out of bed, slammed all my things into my suitcase - almost tearing off a toenail in the process - and threw myself down the three flights of the narrow, steep staircase to the lobby.

In the lobby I apologized profusely to the concierge for sleeping through checkout time. She looked very confused. "But you only checked in two hours ago."

Oh, it was still Sunday. Sheepishly I apologized again for being such an idiot, went back upstairs and went to bed. Later I woke up, feeling much better, went out and found a nice cafe and sat eating a salad and watching tout le monde pass by.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

I'll be in Paris till August

Three years ago I went to the Medem Bibliotheque in Paris to study Yiddish for three weeks, and I'm doing it again - leaving in an hour... Last time, I left my daughter to blog for you because in those days I was devoted and didn't like to leave the blog unfed for even a day. Now that I realize nobody ever cared but me, I happily leave it untended.

My son will be on duty here, trying to keep Jethro and the chickens happy, fed, and watered. I hope we don't have a terrible drought as we did last time - I came home to find all my blueberry bushes dead.

Have a good July...

Friday, July 10, 2009

Stephan Michelson and Bethanne Knudson open The Oriole Mill, a jacquard mill in Henderson NC

Stephan Michelson with students at the Oriole MillI've known Stephan Michelson since I lived down the street from him on Rindge Avenue in North Cambridge. I never really understood his "day job" but he loved music - he had many vintage guitars on his walls, was bass guitarist for Red Shadow, the world's premiere "Economics Rock and Roll Band" (still available at, supported blues musicians, and had a quixotic love of Balkan music, especially as performed by our peculiar ensemble, Laduvane. He produced two albums for us.

Later he moved to the Washington DC area where Bob Vasile and I, the newly recreated Celtic music duo the Pratie Heads, were doing some gigs up there and looked him up. Then we lost touch.

Recently Bob found him again, and this is Stephen's most recent quixotic venture: he's opened a mill in western North Carolina, a state where mills have been closing by the hundreds.

If you are a weaver, you can take a class at the mill via his partner's Jacquard Center. If you are a weaving teacher, you can bring your students.

And - if you are a interior designer or furniture maker or upholsterer or just an interested patron of the arts, and you have a design you'd like a smallish run of, you can have the Oriole Mill weave it for you. Like POD ("print on demand") for cloth. Cool, huh?

Custom Mill Opens, Bucking U.S. Trend
by Pauline Verbeek-Cowart

A new mill has opened in Hendersonville, North Carolina. Considering that more than a million U.S. textile-industry jobs have been replaced by imports in the twenty-first century, the opening of a mill in this country is newsworthy.

The Oriole Mill, which occupies 72,000 square feet on more than 4 acres, is the brainchild of Bethanne Knudson and Stephan Michelson. It is located three miles from the Jacquard Center, where Knudson has been offering intensive, live-in training on Jacquard weaving software.

Knudson and Michelson's venture was not meant to be the last of a dying breed, but one of the first of the rebirth of weaving in the United States. Their vision of a custom mill, servicing designers, grew out of rebellion against the norm - the norm being speed and uniformity in production with quantity, not quality, as the focus.

Upon entering their spacious, clean, and light-filled facility, you indeed realize you have just set foot into an entirely new breed of mills (call it the Magical Kingdom for Jacquard Junies).

Everything you see is clearly the result of purposeful decision-making. From the renovation and conversion of a former freezer building to the selection and installation of equipment, the entent has been to create an environment where ideas in cloth can be realized.

Oriole's inventory currently includes nine Jacquard looms, each with a different setup, as well as six automated electronic dobby looms, a warping facility, and winding rooms.

So far, Knudson and Michelson have created designs on order and are developing their own catalog of designs.

The main purpose of the mill will be custom weaving for established entrepreneurs - be they clothing or furniture designers, room designers, or artists - who want unique, high-end cloth in smaller runs than is usually possible in industry (under 100 yards).

Oriole is a combination design and production hosue where the finest materials and greatest care will result in stunning design and quality woven products. See and

Here are a couple more pictures Stephan sent me:


Wednesday, July 08, 2009

"The 15 Creepiest Vintage Ads Of All Time"

From Retro-comedy; this one made me really, really wonder, as I often have before: Who were all the people who approved these ads, who spent the time and money to have them published? What were they thinking? The other 12 are just as good... and Hannah, the clown is for you...

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Tuesday, July 07, 2009

[Hannah]: For all of us to remember...

I'm currently helping a professor by reading through the letter-books of the Boston merchant John Hull who lived in the late 17th century. Mostly these are letters about business, debts owed, ships, and the like, but I liked what he wrote to his cousin, mourning the loss of another relation (I don't know if it's a quote, or what):
"May the Lord teach you and us, by all the changes that pass over us, to be fitted more for an unchangeable Estate."

George Washington's Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation

1. Every Action done in Company, ought to be with Some Sign of Respect, to those that are Present.

2. When in Company, put not your Hands to any Part of the Body, not usually Discovered.

3. Show Nothing to your Friend that may affright him.

4. In the Presence of Others Sing not to yourself with a humming Noise, nor Drum with your Fingers or Feet.

5. If You Cough, Sneeze, Sigh, or Yawn, do it not Loud but Privately; and Speak not in your Yawning, but put Your handkerchief or Hand before your face and turn aside.

6. Sleep not when others Speak, Sit not when others stand, Speak not when you Should hold your Peace, walk not on when others Stop.

7. Put not off your Cloths in the presence of Others, nor go out your Chamber half Dressed.

8. At Play and at Fire its Good manners to Give Place to the last Commer, and affect not to Speak Louder than Ordinary.

9. Spit not in the Fire, nor Stoop low before it neither Put your Hands into the Flames to warm them, nor Set your Feet upon the Fire especially if there be meat before it.

10. When you Sit down, Keep your Feet firm and Even, without putting one on the other or Crossing them.

11. Shift not yourself in the Sight of others nor Gnaw your nails.

12. Shake not the head, Feet, or Legs roll not the Eyes lift not one eyebrow higher than the other wry not the mouth, and bedew no mans face with your Spittle, by approaching too near him when you Speak.

13. Kill no Vermin as Fleas, lice ticks &c in the Sight of Others, if you See any filth or thick Spittle put your foot Dexterously upon it if it be upon the Cloths of your Companions, Put it off privately, and if it be upon your own Cloths return Thanks to him who puts it off.

14. Turn not your Back to others especially in Speaking, Jog not the Table or Desk on which Another reads or writes, lean not upon any one.

15. Keep your Nails clean and Short, also your Hands and Teeth Clean yet without Showing any great Concern for them.

16. Do not Puff up the Cheeks, Loll not out the tongue rub the Hands, or beard, thrust out the lips, or bite them or keep the Lips too open or too Close.

17. Be no Flatterer, neither Play with any that delights not to be Play'd Withal.

18. Read no Letters, Books, or Papers in Company but when there is a Necessity for the doing of it you must ask leave: come not near the Books or Writings of Another so as to read them unless desired or give your opinion of them unasked also look not nigh when another is writing a Letter.

19. Let your Countenance be pleasant but in Serious Matters Somewhat grave.

20. The Gestures of the Body must be Suited to the discourse you are upon.

21. Reproach none for the Infirmities of Nature, nor Delight to Put them that have in mind thereof.

22. Show not yourself glad at the Misfortune of another though he were your enemy.

23. When you see a Crime punished, you may be inwardly Pleased; but always show Pity to the Suffering Offender.
Don't draw attention to yourself.

24. Do not laugh too loud or too much at any Public Spectacle.

25. Superfluous Complements and all Affectation of Ceremony are to be avoided, yet where due they are not to be Neglected.

26. In Pulling off your Hat to Persons of Distinction, as Noblemen, Justices, Churchmen & make a Reverence, bowing more or less according to the Custom of the Better Bred, and Quality of the Person. Amongst your equals expect not always that they Should begin with you first, but to Pull off the Hat when there is no need is Affectation, in the Manner of Saluting and resaluting in words keep to the most usual Custom.

27. Tis ill manners to bid one more eminent than yourself be covered as well as not to do it to whom it's due Likewise he that makes too much haste to Put on his hat does not well, yet he ought to Put it on at the first, or at most the Second time of being asked; now what is herein Spoken, of Qualification in behavior in Saluting, ought also to be observed in taking of Place, and Sitting down for ceremonies without Bounds is troublesome.

28. If any one come to Speak to you while you are are Sitting Stand up though he be your Inferior, and when you Present Seats let it be to every one according to his Degree.

29. When you meet with one of Greater Quality than yourself, Stop, and retire especially if it be at a Door or any Straight place to give way for him to Pass.

30. In walking the highest Place in most Countries Seems to be on the right hand therefore Place yourself on the left of him whom you desire to Honor: but if three walk together the middest Place is the most Honorable the wall is usually given to the most worthy if two walk together.

31. If any one far Surpasses others, either in age, Estate, or Merit yet would give Place to a meaner than himself in his own lodging or elsewhere the one ought not to except it, So he on the other part should not use much earnestness nor offer it above once or twice.

32. To one that is your equal, or not much inferior you are to give the chief Place in your Lodging and he to who ‘is offered ought at the first to refuse it but at the Second to accept though not without acknowledging his own unworthiness.

33. They that are in Dignity or in office have in all places Precedency but whilst they are Young they ought to respect those that are their equals in Birth or other Qualities, though they have no Public charge.

34. It is good Manners to prefer them to whom we Speak before ourselves especially if they be above us with whom in no Sort we ought to begin.

35. Let your Discourse with Men of Business be Short and Comprehensive.

36. Artificers & Persons of low Degree ought not to use many ceremonies to Lords, or Others of high Degree but Respect and highly Honor them, and those of high Degree ought to treat them with affability & Courtesy, without Arrogance.

37. In speaking to men of Quality do not lean nor Look them full in the Face, nor approach too near them at lest Keep a full Pace from them.

38. In visiting the Sick, do not Presently play the Physician if you be not Knowing therein.

39. In writing or Speaking, give to every Person his due Title According to his Degree & the Custom of the Place.

40. Strive not with your Superiors in argument, but always Submit your Judgment to others with Modesty.

41. Undertake not to Teach your equal in the art himself Professes; it Savours of arrogance.

42. Let thy ceremonies in Courtesy be proper to the Dignity of his place with whom thou converses for it is absurd to act the same with a Clown and a Prince.

43. Do not express Joy before one sick or in pain for that contrary Passion will aggravate his Misery.

44. When a man does all he can though it Succeeds not well blame not him that did it.

45. Being to advise or reprehend any one, consider whether it ought to be in public or in Private; presently, or at Some other time in what terms to do it & in reproving Show no Sign of Cholar but do it with all Sweetness and Mildness.

46. Take all Admonitions thankfully in what Time or Place Soever given but afterwards not being culpable take a Time & Place convenient to let him him know it that gave them.

47. Mock not nor Jest at any thing of Importance break [n]o Jest that are Sharp Biting and if you Deliver any thing witty and Pleasant abstain from Laughing thereat yourself.

48. Wherein you reprove Another be unblameable yourself; for example is more prevalent than Precepts.

49. Use no Reproachful Language against any one neither Curse nor Revile.

50. Be not hasty to believe flying Reports to the Disparagement of any.

51. Wear not your Cloths, foul, ripped or Dusty but See they be Brushed once every day at least and take heed that you approach not to any Uncleaness.

52. In your Apparel be Modest and endeavor to accommodate Nature, rather than to procure Admiration keep to the Fashion of your equals Such as are Civil and orderly with respect to Times and Places.

53. Run not in the Streets, neither go too slowly nor with Mouth open go not Shaking your Arms kick not the earth with R feet, go not upon the Toes, nor in a Dancing fashion.

54. Play not the Peacock, looking every where about you, to See if you be well Decked, if your Shoes fit well if your Stockings sit neatly, and Cloths handsomely.

55. Eat not in the Streets, nor in the House, out of Season.

56. Associate yourself with Men of good Quality if you Esteem your own Reputation; for ‘is better to be alone than in bad Company.

57. In walking up and Down in a House, only with One in Company if he be Greater than yourself, at the first give him the Right hand and Stop not till he does and be not the first that turns, and when you do turn let it be with your face towards him, if he be a Man of Great Quality, walk not with him Cheek by Joul but Somewhat behind him; but yet in Such a Manner that he may easily Speak to you.

58. Let your Conversation be without Malice or Envy, for ‘is a Sign of a Tractable and Commendable Nature: And in all Causes of Passion admit Reason to Govern.

59. Never express anything unbecoming, nor Act against the Rules Moral before your inferiors.

60. Be not immodest in urging your Friends to Discover a Secret.

61. Utter not base and frivolous things amongst grave and Learned Men nor very Difficult Questions or Subjects, among the Ignorant or things hard to be believed, Stuff not your Discourse with Sentences amongst your Betters nor Equals.

62. Speak not of doleful Things in a Time of Mirth or at the Table; Speak not of Melancholy Things as Death and Wounds, and if others Mention them Change if you can the Discourse tell not your Dreams, but to your intimate Friend.

63. A Man ought not to value himself of his Achievements, or rare Qualities of wit; much less of his riches Virtue or Kindred.

64. Break not a Jest where none take pleasure in mirth Laugh not aloud, nor at all without Occasion, deride no mans Misfortune, though there Seem to be Some cause.

65. Speak not injurious Words neither in Jest nor Earnest Scoff at none although they give Occasion.

66. Be not froward but friendly and Courteous; the first to Salute hear and answer & be not Pensive when it's a time to Converse.

67. Detract not from others neither be excessive in Commanding.

68. Go not thither, where you know not, whether you Shall be Welcome or not. Give not Advice without being Asked & when desired do it briefly.

69. If two contend together take not the part of either unconstrained; and be not obstinate in your own Opinion, in Things indifferent be of the Major Side.

70. Reprehend not the imperfections of others for that belongs to Parents Masters and Superiors.

71. Gaze not on the marks or blemishes of Others and ask not how they came. What you may Speak in Secret to your Friend deliver not before others.

72. Speak not in an unknown Tongue in Company but in your own Language and that as those of Quality do and not as the Vulgar; Sublime matters treat Seriously.

73. Think before you Speak pronounce not imperfectly nor bring out your Words too hastily but orderly & distinctly.

74. When Another Speaks be attentive your Self and disturb not the Audience if any hesitate in his Words help him not nor Prompt him without desired, Interrupt him not, nor Answer him till his Speech be ended.

75. In the midst of Discourse ask not of what one treateth but if you Perceive any Stop because of your coming you may well intreat him gently to Proceed: If a Person of Quality comes in while your Conversing it's handsome to Repeat what was said before.

76. While you are talking, Point not with your Finger at him of Whom you Discourse nor Approach too near him to whom you talk especially to his face.

77. Treat with men at fit Times about Business & Whisper not in the Company of Others.

78. Make no Comparisons and if any of the Company be Commended for any brave act of Virtue, commend not another for the Same.

79. Be not apt to relate News if you know not the truth thereof. In Discoursing of things you Have heard Name not your Author always A Secret Discover not.

80. Be not Tedious in Discourse or in reading unless you find the Company pleased therewith.

81. Be not Curious to Know the Affairs of Others neither approach those that Speak in Private.

82. Undertake not what you cannot Perform but be Careful to keep your Promise.

83. When you deliver a matter do it without Passion & with Discretion, however mean the Person be you do it too.

84. When your Superiors talk to any Body hearken not neither Speak nor Laugh.

85. In Company of these of Higher Quality than yourself Speak not til you are asked a Question then Stand upright put of your Hat & Answer in few words.

86. In Disputes, be not So Desirous to Overcome as not to give Liberty to each one to deliver his Opinion and Submit to the Judgment of the Major Part especially if they are Judges of the Dispute.

87. Let thy carriage be such as becomes a Man Grave Settled and attentive to that which is spoken. Contradict not at every turn what others Say.

88. Be not tedious in Discourse, make not many Digressions, nor repeat often the Same manner of Discourse.

89. Speak not Evil of the absent for it is unjust.

90. Being Set at meat Scratch not neither Spit Cough or blow your Nose except there's a Necessity for it.

91. Make no Show of taking great Delight in your Victuals, Feed not with Greediness; cut your Bread with a Knife, lean not on the Table neither find fault with what you Eat.

92. Take no Salt or cut Bread with your Knife Greasy.

93. Entertaining any one at the table, it is decent to present him with meat; Undertake not to help others undesired by the Master.

94. If you Soak bread in the Sauce let it be no more than what you put in your Mouth at a time and blow not your broth at Table but Stay till Cools of it Self.

95. Put not your meat to your Mouth with your Knife in your hand neither Spit forth the Stones of any fruit Pie upon a Dish nor Cast anything under the table.

96. It's unbecoming to Stoop much to ones Meat Keep your Fingers clean & when foul wipe them on a Corner of your Table Napkin.

97. Put not another bit into your mouth till the former be swallowed. Let not your morsels be too big for the jowls.

98. Drink not nor talk with your mouth full; neither gaze about you while you are drinking.

99. Drink not too leisurely nor yet too hastily. Before and after drinking, wipe your lips; breath not then or ever with too great a noise, for its uncivil.

100. Cleanse not your teeth with the table cloth napkin, fork, or knife; but if others do it, let it be done without a peep to them.

101. Rinse not your mouth in the presence of others.

102. It is out of use to call upon the company often to eat; nor need you drink to others every time you drink.

103. In the company of your betters, be not longer in eating than they are; lay not your arm but only your hand upon the table.

104. It belongs to the chiefest in company to unfold his napkin and fall to meat first, but he ought then to begin in time & to dispatch with dexterity that the slowest may have time allowed him.

105. Be not angry at the table whatever happens & if you have reason to be so, show it not; put on a cheerful countenance especially if there be strangers, for good humor makes one dish of meat a feast.

106. Set not yourself at the upper of the table; but if it be your due or that the master of the house will have it so, contend not, least you should trouble the company.

107. If others talk at the table, be attentive but talk not with meat in your mouth.

108. When you speak of God or his attributes, let it be seriously & with reverence. Honor & obey your natural parents although they be poor.

109. Let your recreations be manful not sinful.

110. Labor to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire called conscience.

On dignity or the lack thereof in modern life.

I'm putting Washington's 110 rules in the next post.

Extracts from
In Search of Dignity
By David Brooks for the New York Times, July 6, 2009

When George Washington was a young man, he copied out a list of 110 "Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation." Some of the rules in his list dealt with the niceties of going to a dinner party or meeting somebody on the street.

"Lean not upon anyone," was one of the rules. "Read no letter, books or papers in company," was another. "If any one come to speak to you while you are sitting, stand up," was a third.

Washington took them very seriously. He worked hard to follow them. Throughout his life, he remained acutely conscious of his own rectitude.

In so doing, he turned himself into a new kind of hero. "Washington became a great man and was acclaimed as a classical hero because of the way he conducted himself during times of temptation. It was his moral character that set him off from other men."

The dignity code commanded its followers to be disinterested — to endeavor to put national interests above personal interests. It commanded its followers to be reticent — to never degrade intimate emotions by parading them in public. It also commanded its followers to be dispassionate — to distrust rashness, zealotry, fury and political enthusiasm.

Remnants of the dignity code lasted for decades. For most of American history, politicians did not publicly campaign for president. It was thought that the act of publicly promoting oneself was ruinously corrupting. For most of American history, memoirists passed over the intimacies of private life. Even in the 19th century, people were appalled that journalists might pollute a wedding by covering it in the press.

Today, Americans still lavishly admire people who are naturally dignified... but the dignity code itself has been completely obliterated.

We can all list the causes of its demise. First, there is capitalism. We are all encouraged to become managers of our own brand... Second, there is the cult of naturalism. We are all encouraged to discard artifice and repression and to instead liberate our own feelings. Third, there is charismatic evangelism with its penchant for public confession. Fourth, there is radical egalitarianism and its hostility to aristocratic manners.

Every week there are new scandals featuring people who simply do not know how to act. For example, during the first few weeks of summer, three stories have dominated public conversation, and each one exemplifies another branch of indignity...

But it's not right to end on a note of cultural pessimism because there is the fact of President Obama. Whatever policy differences people may have with him, we can all agree that he exemplifies reticence, dispassion and the other traits associated with dignity. The cultural effects of his presidency are not yet clear, but they may surpass his policy impact. He may revitalize the concept of dignity for a new generation and embody a new set of rules for self-mastery.


Monday, July 06, 2009

Mark does Illustration Friday: "Shaky."


acrylic on canvas 9" x 12"

Some chihuahuas shake and shiver when nervous or cold. I also borrowed Van Goghs' use of painting complementary colors next to each other to make the lines shake.



Saturday, July 04, 2009

Buying Jethro's dinner, several months at a time.

After Jethro worried the last little bristles of grass in our drought-parched fields down to bare earth the first autumn he was here, I realized he would never be able to survive on browsing alone.

For a greenhorn like me, buying hay is an anxious affair. There are certain kinds of hay a donkey shouldn't eat - alfalfa, or soy, or clover, for instance, or any hay advertised as "high quality horse hay" - all these things have too much protein and soy could kill him! (I found that out from the guy who sold me the fixin's for our electric fence - he inadvertently killed his donkeys that way.)

There is the additional problem that Jethro's quite picky. I thought donkeys were supposed to like thistles and weeds, and Jethro will eat some weeds with relish (crabgrass is his special favorite) - but watch him sniffing around with that big nose, delicately pulling out strands of preferred fescue from between weeds which I will later have to weedwhack down because he eschews them - now, that's annoying.

I bought his first load of hay before he ever arrived, from Tara at Stonehenge Farms. It was very expensive, timothy hay at $9 a bale, because it had come from up north - the drought around here had caused most of the hay fields to fail. Tara and her husband delivered a huge load and we stacked it in my shed. I felt lucky to have it.

The next spring, I tried some local hay - it was advertised as "oat hay" but it turned out to be mostly straw, or as they say around here, it was "stemmy." It was "first cut." I didn't know till I got a donkey that the spring grass is not very nutritious. It's the "second cut" that everybody waits for.

Sadly, because the first load had been such a hit, I just bought this oat hay sight unseen and the guy arrived with it and unloaded it, and then I suffered with Jethro through sorry months - he didn't care for it and day after day nosed through it dejectedly, trying to find the bits that were up to his standards. I had 62 bales! I gave him more and more at each meal and took the rejected bits away and put them on the garden or in the hen house.

The third time I bought hay was from Frankye Brooks, in December of 2008. Ezra and I had been to a "natural horsemanship" workshop at her place, and found out she had a whole lot of hay her horses wouldn't eat.

After my bad experience with the oat hay, I bought one bale from her and took it home for a Jethro taste-test. Jackpot! It was his favorite hay ever! I asked her what it was, all she could tell me was, "mixed meadow grass from up north." I stocked up and it lasted till just about - now.

Probably I'll never find it again.

Recently I started shopping for new hay. Ezra points out, it's sort of like our recent experiences testing wedding cake - except if you were buying cake that you would eat morning and night, almost exclusively, for several months...

On the North Carolina Department of Agriculture's Hay Alert page I found Roger Tate and drove out to his farm. The first bale we (Jethro and I) tried was, well I heard Roger to say "steamy" and thought he meant it had been harvested after the rain, but what he really said was "stemmy" and Jethro gave it the thumbs-down (so to speak), again sadly nosing through it to find the good bits.

Roger told me that a couple days later he'd be cutting orchard grass, and suggested I go out there at 8 this morning. Well, I negotiated for noon instead and came home with 18 (that's as many as I can get on my little truck) lovely fragrant bales of "leafy" (that's the good kind) orchard grass hay which Jethro dove into nose-first with a snort of contentment.

Roger has 18 more bales and I hope to go get them on Monday. Maybe I'll ask if I can have a look at his chicken houses, where he has 40,000 chickens!

And this is the sort of adventure you don't get to have if your pet is a cat or a dog.