Monday, September 28, 2009

Scattered Monday Things

Tomatillo husks.

Ooph. This was not the best weekend of my life. Let's just leave it at that.

The good news:

The onions appear to have survived the flood and my four rows of tiny green threads have grown into four rows of tiny green strings. After my seed started leeks - the pencil leeks - I was wary of the liliaceae family when it came to direct sowing, but these red onions have renewed my enthusiasm.

The chickens are molting. I think this is good news. Our chickens have had some feather issues, to the point where I have read more about chicken health and disease than any person who would like to continue enjoying chickens and eggs ever should. We appear to have a spread of early molters and late molters. As per convention, our best layers are either just now beginning to molt or haven't even started molting. I am nonplussed to realize that our Hench Hens, the two Wyandottes, appear to be early molters. So they are mean and lousy layers. Humph.

I made lasagna this weekend. I actually don't make this very often, in part because if I buy everything that I really like to have in lasagna it costs about a million dollars. Here's what went into this weekend's pan: leeks, garlic, red pepper, green pepper, eggplant, tomatoes, roasted sungolds, mushrooms, kale, chard, italian sausage, noodles, parmesan cheese, parrano cheese, ricotta cheese, eggs, fresh thyme, pesto, salt, pepper. Of that huge long list I had to buy: mushrooms, noodles, and cheeses. Oh wait, and the sausage, but we buy that in large quantities from my work and it lives in the bat freezer until we need it and thus I don't feel like I am buying it when I can go get some in my nightgown. Let me just say here that adding pesto to the ricotta-egg-chard mixture has quite possibly set the bar for lasagnas.

Also in the Pan of Food Department: this recipe. I used leeks instead of onions and put in about three times the amount of greens called for and it was extremely tasty, especially with a fried egg on top. Oh, and I also did not use "low-fat mozarella" - gak. I used parrano and parmesan, pretty much my favorite cheese combination, as you can see. Both B and I are really, really tired and busy right now, so on Sundays I am doing my darndest to knock out some serious dinner making. So far so good.

The fall garden is screaming. This time last year I was fretting over smallish starts, so this year we got our butts in gear and planted early. It's a sea of green out there right now, and B and I have talked all summer about new ways to better hoop our beds. We are over the huge sails of plastic that get caught in the wind and freeze your fingers to the bone. More on that later.

In less pretty but to me no less fascinating news: predatory nematodes. Pest control is such an interesting part of our garden. When B and I cut ground on our front lawn, we were crestfallen to discover that our perfect garden plot was pretty much a big chunk of greasy red clay. Enter in some cash, some backbreaking soil amending, and a bunch of compost. And I do mean a bunch. We've grown some amazing vegetables out of it, but I think it also came with some creepy crawlies that we might not have had to deal with otherwise. Who really knows though. Anyway, a few of the things that have been bothering our plants are pests that incubate in the soil. Rather than try to wipe them out as adults, we put some one million microscopic nematodes into our garden and compost pile, and we're hopeful that we have timed the application with the cold weather such that we will never see another wireworm or flea beetle again! Ok, I realize that might be asking a bit much, but hope springs eternal. Thank goodness.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

An Uncle, Days of Rain, and a Secret

Holy phujezus it has been raining for days. Literally. There were spotty rains on Friday and Saturday, and then Saturday night a slow steady rain arrived and it only just stopped this morning, with plans to return this afternoon. Rain for that long becomes a little sinister, and for the first time in years I have risen to the sound of rain and not been ecstatic over it. I have been fretting over my newly planted red onions - a week after I put them in, four shiny rows of little onions popped up but then about four inches of rain fell so I am a little worried that they might be drowning out there. Humph, although I can probably get away with a replant if I need to. I will pickle my own red onions, I swear it.

Anyway. We had a lovely weekend of Uncle. We hiked out Mount Mitchell again for berries, knocked some bowling pins over, and watched a film that we had all been planning to watch for forever. Lots of good foods, some good sleep in cozy beds listening to rain. Plus he got to meet his chicken. Our girl Gonzo is named after him because she is the fastest most curious kind of crazy chicken out there. Fun.

Here's my secret:

Those aren't B's fingers up there, those skinny little things are mine. I am learning to play the fiddle. Which at first seemed completely and totally preposterous and I vowed that I would never ever tell anyone ever. And then B started showing me bowing patterns and I just about lost my mind with the incredible and I don't think I could keep this a secret if you paid me. Here's something I have always suspected: I don't know if anyone falls all the way in love with old-time music without wanting to play the fiddle. An unknowable thing, I realize, and really the knowable truth here is that I have always wanted to play the fiddle. I picked up a banjo because I wanted to play with fiddlers, and because I wanted to sit in a tight circle with a bunch of musicians and bow my head down into the the center of the music and really listen, instead of really listening from a doorway where my wanting for the music nearly hurt. That wanting made those first years of learning banjo tunes really hard; I wanted to be so much better than I was and in some way I was always fighting with myself about it. And in some weird way I feel like that lack of ease will always show up in my playing of the banjo. Because I have felt completely different about playing guitar and now again learning fiddle tunes. They both feel light. It's not like I don't want to be good at either of them, but I never showed up and said I was the guitar player so who cares if it takes me three time through the tune to hear that chord in the middle of the B part. Seriously, this stuff is supposed to be fun, and oddly I've found more fun in trying some things that I know a lot less about.

ANYWAY, that was significantly more expository than I intended to be. The long story short is that holy hell, you can make an amazing amount of sound with two fiddles. B says that I look like I am 5 years old when I play because I am concentrating so hard:

But when he says that I make myself smile, because I believe the face you play music with is actually so important. I love playing with smiling musicians, and there is no one who smiles more from behind a fiddle than my husband.

P.S. You can tell how rainy it's been from how crazy the hair on my head is!

Thursday, September 17, 2009


When I was a kid these two things sitting on the stove would send me racing around the house looking for my mother so I could ask her what she was going to bake. My life is full of moments when I feel my mother in my hands; the way I bump the broom on the floor in between sweeps in order to shake off the dust, the way I snap laundry before I fold it, my habit of tearing absolutely everything to shreds before it goes in the recycling, no matter how many times I have had to dig through puzzle pieces of paper for something I needed that I thought I didn't. Putting butter out to soften is one of those things. And yes mum, I save the wrappers for greasing pans, folded into neat squares and piled in the butter compartment of the fridge, just like you. I love you to the moon and back, have I told you that lately?

The weather is turning and turning here. The chickens are laying fewer eggs, the windows in the house are closed as often as open, and the peach tree is sending down stray yellow leaves, long yellow fingers scattered around the front yard. The garden is offering up its last beans and eggplant and peppers, turning back into a sea of greens: kales, chard, broccoli, beets, lettuces, arugula, cabbage, cauliflower. Soon it will be time to plant the garlic again. We hauled home our first bushel of apples last weekend, and yesterday I warmed myself over a huge pot of applesauce, now that is the smell of fall. B and I are tucking into the darkening evenings, playing music after supper until we turn in. It will be flannel sheet time before we know it.

Be warm out there.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

This Guy

Two years ago today, this guy woke up at the crack of dawn and hid a ring in our garden. Then he climbed back in bed, and a few hours later when we were out there picking arugula for our breakfast, he asked me to marry him. He surprised the socks right off of me, and I said yes before he was even finished asking. I am so lucky, so grateful, and so happy to be living my life with him.

Monday, September 14, 2009

This Post Doesn't Have a Title

Titles are too much effort this morning.

Monday on the heels of another "let's take it easy" weekend that somehow didn't take itself all that easy. It was a good one though, and the garden is that much closer to some version of fall season done for now. I planted overwintering red onion seeds, which I am pretty excited about. My fall food fatigue has me especially fond of our crops that don't demand immediate eating: garlic, squash, potatoes, onions, leeks. So patient, so fine with being eaten later! That up there is a four pound butternut, isn't she a beauty? Our squash plants were so weird this year - first they looked great, then like hell, then great again, then like hell, and now they look like a big proper green squash jungle. I think the mildews were just insane this year, both powdery and downy, but we got on it with our milk spray and our bacillus subtilis, and all was well, twice. We have harvested about a dozen pretty sizable squash, and now the vines are covered with little guys. Will they make it before the frost comes?

Now that up there is a bowl of fifteen (15) peppers, who are not so patient about when they get eaten. This after picking about a dozen last week. Guess who is having stuffed peppers for dinner again tonight? Right.

Lastly, this bouquet is for Sally. She was a mom in my life, and she died a few days ago. She read this blog sometimes, and she told my mom that it seemed so hopeful, and I guess that is so. I hadn't seen her in years, but I can see her face in my mind as clear as can be. What a beauty, and better than that I can hear her laugh.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Weekend with Hands

Jeez, is it the weather? I am tired in the mornings even while putting myself to bed early.

B had school things all weekend so I spent mine making another blueberry pie. I put spelt in the crust this time and I think it was a good move. I am known for making fun of hippie baking but I am looking for some additional heft and flavor. Mum says to add some ground up golden flax, so I will try that too.

I also played a lot of music. Is this picture too gross for this blog of flowers and vegetables? My hands go in phases, but they look like this a lot. Our guitar chews them up and spits them out, it's kind of a beast and I feel tough when I successfully boss it around.

Also: the last, I swear it, huge batch of tomato sauce. We have the making of this down to a serious science, but I am ready to give it up. I think the chickens might get the remaining tomatoes. Speaking of chickens, I recently realized that we have small chickens. What is up with this? Is it good? I do not know.

Also: the peppers. I put lots in the sauce and then roasted a huge tray of the red ones. They are for lunch and what doesn't get eaten that way I may throw into this sauce recommended by this girl. Roasted red peppers are so happy making.

Also, I am going through a huge purge in the clothing department. I get possessed like this pretty regularly, but this feels extreme. Etsy here I come.

Also, I am reading this and it gave me very lousy dreams. I am taken with the structure yet completely unimpressed with the characterization of evil; I've read it before and so have you. I am gunning for the Booker longlist next - Booker usually does me right, although last year sucked quite a lot.

Also. It is slipper time at our house. B used to shuffle around in the most decrepit mangy slippers you can imagine. It took me a few years to deal with that, but now we are both snazzy and warm in the foot department. I like slippers.


Thursday, September 3, 2009


Red peppers are one of my biggest ethical weaknesses at the grocery store. I buy them all damn year round, regardless of where they come from. I love them. I love them fresh, sauteed, in soups, and definitely roasted under the broiler. Last year we bought pepper starts from some very nice fellow, but the behavior of the plants suggested that they might have seen some low evening temperatures - late fruit set, and also some sun scald due to plants that were not really leafed out enough. This year we started our peppers from seeds, and wouldn't you know, we put them out and they saw some low evening temperatures. Just a night or two, but we were worried. Man, little did we know. We have been eating red peppers since early August, and plenty of green ones have gone into our tomato-eggplant sauces. We are kind of racking our brains because the trickle has turned into a deluge, and damn if I won't start eating them for breakfast before I let such riches spoil. I have heard tell of frozen roasted red peppers, but gah - that just sounds sorta bad to me. I am eyeballing this recipe, but in the meantime: stuffed red peppers. Oh the yum. Just prep your peppers, throw them in a pot of boiling water for 5 minutes, and stuff them with a mixture of leeks, the scraps of pepper you have from prepping them (finely diced), some sort of yummy sausage, basil, kale, brown rice, and feta cheese. Bake them until your husband gets home and enjoy the leftovers tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


And just like that, it feels like fall. Leaves are giving way in strong winds, the mornings have been noticeably darker, and that telltale chill is flirting with the breeze. I'm ready. We spent another weekend doing food things - the last huge batch of pesto, wild blueberry picking, another huge pot of tomato-eggplant-leek-pepper-garlic sauce, a bunch of work in the garden. I am grateful for the bounty, but never have I been more ready for winter than I am right now. I am peering into the calendar and equating these coming winter months with some serious relaxation. We took everything out of our chest freezer this weekend and organized and counted and tallied and recorded. Inquiring minds want to know: are 25 cups of pesto really enough?? Will 15 gallons of blueberries get us by? Etc. We intend to find out.

The wild blueberry picking was breathtaking. I moved here in the middle of a drought that only let up this summer, so every time I've been up to this spot it has been parched, if a green sort of parched. This year the trees and rhododendrons and blueberries and blackberries and asters and yarrow and joe pye and everything else - shockingly verdant and green and growing. The berries were beautiful, if just a hair on the early side, and B and I picnicked near a stream and picked for what turned out to be hours and hours. It was actually the most relaxing thing we've done in weeks. Having already picked a gazillion gallons of berries took the pressure off and we moved slowly, took in the view, and listened to the ambient buzz of all kinds of bees and other pollinators. (What? You don't stress about how many blueberries you put up? I'm sorry, we can't be friends.) As we hiked out, I turned to B and said something dorky like "I married you!" and he threw back his head and laughed and said "Right at that very moment I was thinking that if I wasn't already married to you I would be proposing to you right now." How appallingly sweet, I know.

I think something happened this summer between me and this place. I moved here, if a bit indirectly, from San Francisco. The transition was really, really hard. I missed good restaurants, a thriving local political scene, riding my bike, and my friends. This place had fiddle tunes and a geography that was lodged in nostalgia for me; it is beautiful to me but it is also my geography of teenage angst and uncertainty. It has been over three years now, and the rolling mountains and the katydids at night and the colors in the fall and the crocuses in spring have grown out of being something from my past; they are me, now - gardener, musician, wife, librarian, chicken keeper, berry picker, fruit scavenger, daughter who actually drives home for family reunions and holiday gatherings. I have felt of this place this summer, collecting events that mark the passing of the seasons - now we plant the summer garden, now we pick cherries, now we drive on two lane roads out to our favorite swimming hole, now for corn, now for peaches, now for blueberries, now for the fall garden, soon for apples. I know where I am, for the first time in many years. It's good.