Monday, July 6, 2009

keeping track

A late dinner with my folks, my sister and her sometime husband, who brought the fine gift of a big fat brown trout he'd caught on Lake Superior earlier that day. Breaded and pan-fried with just a touch of fresh lemon, a salad of butter-soft-sweet-new lettuces from the garden with a bit of lightly steamed asparagus in a perfect vinagrette.
A few red grapes, beers. (Funny how one bite of fresh fish makes everyone want to go fishing...) After that, a couple games of pool, played in that drunken way which is both astoundingly good and embarrasingly bad, from one shot to the next. A nice night.


I woke to a surprise hangover, or something quite similar, feeling exhausted from the past week and wishing I'd gone to bed a little earlier. Noodles for brunch, of the Thai sort, thin rice ones with tofu fried in canola with toasted sesame oil, splashed with fish sauce, shoyu and Worcestershire (secret ingredient), garlic, cabbage, carrot, scallion, chile, cilantro and mint, dressed with oyster sauce, a bit of sugar, rice vinegar, fresh lime and probably some more fish sauce and shoyu. Not my best, but a pretty good breakfast for a weary person, a nice lunch for mom, and tasty leftovers for a hot afternoon.

Late start for me, and a slow one...quite a bit more tired than I ought to be at my age...Spent a couple hours in and out of the sun, working with Mom to mulch the three main rows tomatoes with paper and straw. This year we're trying just two sheets of newspaper; the four or more sheets we used last year seemed a bit much when it came time to burn and turn. I'm skeptical that two will keep the weeds from pushing through, but it might work out okay. Another change this year is that we're using shredded oat straw (having been run by Dad through The Chipper, his favorite new toy) rather than just spreading out the bales. Turns out there are a few advantages in this: one, it stretches the straw quite a bit further, since the smaller pieces form a denser mat (think sawdust vs. pile of sticks) relative to the surface area, so it doesn't need to be as "deep" to sufficiently cover the same area; two, it's a lot easier to work with and move around; three, it gives Dad a good reason to chip stuff (and thanks for that, by the way...).

C Monkey spent a good part of the day using his favorite new toy, The Stone Grinder, to carve a lovely sculpture and a nice little toad bath. At least that's what I'm calling it. There are quite a few toads in the garden this year, including one big one that lives under the shade of the rhubarb, and I figure they might like to have a soak now and then... Speaking of which, we finally got the boat out on the lake at the end of the day and had a nice swim with a couple of loons (take your pick) and a few curious dragonflies. Water's a little cold yet, but even so, it was the first time in a few weeks I've even approached anything resembling relaxation...

Another late dinner, of roasted
chicken accompanied by newly picked lettuces and another salad I'd made earlier in the day, of chickpeas with generous amounts of minced garlic, black and green olives, a bit of scallion and loads of fresh herbs from the garden--mint, oregano, basil, rosemary, thyme--tossed in a simple olive oil and red wine vinagrette with a some freshly ground pepper and a dash of salt. I'd been wanting to try that one for a while now, and now I know why. Really quite good, especially this time of year. We'll have that again.

Before bed, I wandered for a while in the moonlight, out toward the pond, where the frog songs have modulated from the Spring cacaphony of chirping trills into the deep, slow, rubber-band twangs of Summer... I followed the sandy drive around to the old parking lot at the back of the shop and was taken for a moment by the beauty of the yellow moonlight spilling over the roof of the pole barn, setting the propane tank aglow and glinting off the shiny black plastic that covers that giant steaming pile of shit that's sitting there at the end of the garden.


Everyone was up early, partly to confer over a call from my sister inviting us up to take the big boat out sailing on Lake Superior, which it turned out wasn't in the cards, with all of us looking forward to a rather more laid-back day and less driving. Shortly after coffee, we got a call back from our friend down the road, who did indeed have some eggs for breakfast (which we didn't end up eating) and also extended a kind invitation to come over and do the morning rounds with him, to get a feel for the place and the animals and the life there. Having my own obligations for the day I chose to decline, although a change of scenery and pace might have been a pretty nice way to start the day. Perhaps another time.

So, we all worked for the better part of a very pleasant day, with others and without, weeding (as always), spreading composted manure around the peppers, eggplant and last few tomatoes and mulching them with paper & straw, transplanting some horseradish, replanting a few cucumbers that fried up, reseeding a few sunflowers that didn't sprout, spreading more composted manure around the brassicas in back, mulching the peas and favas in front, chipping stuff, hoeing and scritching and watering everything, then watering some more... you might be surprised how long it can take to water everything thoroughly, especially when it's this dry. (Need to get on that drip irrigation system...)

At around six o'clock we pulled the boat over to the landing and there met Captain and Peg Leg with their sweet little new sailboat, which we took for a couple turns in spite of dwindling winds. Good to swim again, even with a chill, and to feel beautiful for a while in the dark water. Bright blue sky ringed by gleaming green, and a rainbow-striped sail cutting through... The boaters sped off, the wind died, and we ended up paddling the final stretch back to shore, with half a kayak-paddle each, while the water before us turned to glass... Remarkably lovely evening, without a biting bug of any kind anywhere. Dinner after sunset, chicken and asparagus in a dijon-tarragon sour cream sauce over brown rice, and--not a perfect compliment but equally delicious--salad of pinto beans with roasted red and green peppers, red onion and scallion, a few artichoke hearts, garlic and a bit of cilantro, dressed with red wine vinegar and olive oil, and topped off with slices of perfectly ripe avocado. We eat well.

After dinner I played piano for a while, that Brahms Intermezzo that I love so much and a couple pieces from The Piano of which I'm quite fond. My hands are clumsy, still, and slow. I have to watch the notes to know what to play, where to go next. My eyes and mind are slow, and I can't look down to see what my fingers are doing or I'll lose my place, lose track. It's been difficult to re-learn, especially with only a couple of hours a month of practice, but something happened last night that I haven't felt in many years... For a moment I didn't have to think about it, and my hands just found their place. I've experienced this residually from time to time, out of the deep memory of music I once knew by heart, long ago, but this time it was with something new--the Brahms piece that I picked up just last winter. Until yesterday I really thought I might not ever be able to play that way again. To reach out my hand and feel it there, as if it were easy, like swimming...

Another moonlit stroll, with everything illuminated, and the call of owls from the South and the West. Insistent moonlight kept me awake most of the night, when the dog wasn't barking, until macabre dreams pulled me into a realm somewhere between sleep and death, just before dawn.

The clouds were nice this morning.


JB aka JayBee said...

I know it is a lot of hard work, but I am always enamored of the way you spend your summer weekends with family and in the garden.

fremenine said...

It's a labor of love. But it'd be nice to spend a weekend with you instead, one of these days...

JB aka JayBee said...

Weeknights work too. Have plans on Thursday evening?

fremenine said...

No plans, exactly, but hopefully heading out of town Friday morning or even Thurs eve, so maybe next week would be better...