Tuesday, August 25, 2009

i put my root down

Took a second pass at the roots this weekend, pulling up turnips, carrots, beets, rutabagas and radishes... All in all, the take was over 35 pounds--12 lbs carrots, 8 lbs radishes, 8 lbs turnips, 5 lbs rutabagas, 5 lbs beets--not bad, considering these were just the ones we're getting rid of, to clear ground so that the rest can mature for winter storage. The extraordinary poundage on the Misato Rose radishes was mainly due to their size, up to 4-5 inches in diameter, and because of that I was expecting them to be far past edible. It turned out that they were not only sweet, tasty and crisp (not woody) but also strikingly beautiful, with satiny skins ranging from green to white to deep pink and flesh of similar hues in patterns varying from fuzzy-eye to starburst. The peels on the larger ones, maybe 1/8 inch thick, pull free easily by hand. A nice bite when small, sweet and mellow as monsters...quite a happy discovery, these radishes, yet another fine offering from Fedco Seeds. In other radish news, in a half-hearted (and subsequently abandoned) effort to do some cleanup in the melon patch--which is now waist deep (on me) in peas, oats and vetch, among the ground cherries (hundreds of them this year, all over the place) and volunteer sunflowers (also, everywhere)--I pulled from the Earth this rat-tailed radish, self-seeded from last season:

radish vs. coffee mug. who wins?

While trying to find a suitable spot for a photo in the afternoon sun, I dragged this beast back and forth around the yard a few times, feeling like a hunter bringing home the kill, the proud cat carrying its prey... it was That Big... reminded me of the Radish Spirit in the bathhouse...

from left to right, radishes, rutabagas, turnips, and check out that Daikon...

you are what you eat. go ahead and try not to get excited when you think about how this color will look on you.

some of those sensuous Misato Rose radishes, + one Plum Purple & one Cherry Belle

Beyond the roots, CM and I came home with enough zucchini, patty pans, broccoli, cauliflower, peas, beans, lettuces and cucumbers to fill up every square inch of the fridge not already occupied by condiments, fermentables, cheese and beer... Didn't even bother with the kale, chard or herbs this time. Tomatoes are ripening, corn tassles are now well out of reach, hop vines are heavy with blossoms, potatoes are for the digging, onions and squashes are getting fat and there are apples aplenty... When the harvest comes, it doesn't hold back. Now, what to do with all of it?

Friday, August 21, 2009

i (heart) my ghetto ride

CM's been away this week, off in the woods on his own for a while. Among my other activities in his absence (cleaning out the closet, winnowing the reserves of homebrew), I've been out cruising around in the Olds, house-hunting. This evening was gorgeous, especially after the week we've had here, and I probably should have enjoyed it with a friend on a patio somewhere but instead spent a couple hours after work (as I did yesterday) doing drive bys. All week I've been pretty worried about driving this thing around, feeling like it might literally fall apart at any moment, and every day I've pressed my luck just a bit. Seems it's actually gotten noticeably worse in these few days (or maybe I'm just that much more tuned into it now...), but with each new morning I've gotten past this by telling myself that I'm ready to just abandon the damn thing somewhere if it craps out on me. And off we go. So I was out tonight, driving around below empty, wheels rattling, brakes shot, groaning at every turn, disturbing the peace (CM's muffler job, which seemed as though it was gonna do the trick, has apparently come loose), but in spite of all that it's practically impossible not to love the Olds, its self-assured, all-maroon style and seriously comfy bench seat, the way it just floats over all those bumps in the road, how it corners like a wave in deep water, and starts up every time like it just wants to go, and go on... Makes the Volvo seem a little fussy by comparsion, but, hey, mangoes to cherries. Also kinda makes me wanna keep the Olds until it stops running. It'd be nice to find a house I felt that way about.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Three Hits

Got this song in my head tonight (three hits to the heart, son, and it's poetry in motion...Rites of Passage, Indigo Girls...maybe it's just nostalgia but even with the over-produced-early-nineties-sorta-cheesy-pop quality, I still admire so much about this album, its rich feminine language, sweet melodies, honesty, radical political poetry, and love...) which led me to the liner, for the lyrics, where I found this one is "dedicated to the memory of a great poet, Frank Stanford". And then, and now, these lovely words, compliments of Wikipedia, from me to you, dear friends:

Death In The Cool Evening

I move
Like the deer in the forest
I see you before you
See me
We are like the moist rose
Which opens alone
When I'm dreaming
I linger by the pool of many seasons
Suddenly it is night
Time passes like the shadows
That were not
There when you lifted your head
Dreams leave their hind tracks
Something red and warm to go by
So it is the hunters of this world
Close in.

Frank Stanford, ©1974

MOnky MinD

driving home yesterday in a pretty twisted state it suddenly struck me that the "monkey mind" isn't about some acrobatic hyperactive little mammal jumping around and clapping tiny cymbals.... it's every primitive primate thought that rushes through our veins and floods our brains, from love to homocide and everything in between, and every moment and bit of that is part of our genetic code, whether you like it or not, and maybe more to the point it's our humanity, which (as we all should know by now) is only all of us... essentially you, essentially me...you're a killer. you're a lover. you're everything and i am you, we are the walrus. can you dig that?

Monday, August 10, 2009

kinda kick-ass stir fry

Try (something like) this, it's pretty darn good.

Serves: ?
Time to prepare: 40 min
Prerequisite: basic cooking skills, common sense, love of veg

1/2 pound tofu, in 1/2 inch cubes (optional)
1 small to med onion, halved crosswise and sliced in crescents
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 inch or so fresh ginger root, peeled, cut crosswise and thinly sliced (or maybe 1/2 tsp ground, added to sauce)
1 or more or less (more or less) hot pepper (jalapeño, Hungarian wax, etc.) or a bit of chile sauce, to taste
1 med zucchini, quartered lengthwise and sliced
1/2 pound mushrooms, sliced or cut in wedges
1/2 pound broccoli, florets and stems (and leaves, too, if you've got 'em)
1 cup peapods, snow or snap, cut in 1 inch lengths
4-6 scallions, cut on the diagonal in 3/4 inch lengths
1 nice handful Thai (or sweet) basil leaves, whole
2 tbsp peanut or canola oil
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
few splashes worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp+ fish sauce
1 tbsp+ soy sauce
1 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp corn starch
some water

rice (basmati, long grain brown or white if you must), or noodles (udon, somen, soba or rice) - put this on first. do I need to explain?

If using tofu, in a cast iron skillet or wok, heat 1 tbsp peanut or canola oil with 1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil over med-high heat. Add tofu and fry until it begins to brown, turning a few times and dousing with fish, soy, and worcestershire sauce to season. It'll probably splatter, so don't wear your favorite shirt. Once browned, remove from pan and set aside.

In a small mixing bowl or measuring cup, what have you, mix 1 tbsp each fish and oyster sauce (find an Asian grocery and read labels until you find ones without additives; all you need is anchovies/oysters, sugar, water and salt--NO MSG! etc., using best judgement) and soy sauce (San-J Shoyu is my fav, or their Tamari, no sense in seeking further), with about a teaspoon of sugar, to taste. Add corn starch and a tablespoon or two of warm water. Stir thoroughly. At this point you can either dump this mixture into a little saucepan and simmer until it starts to thicken, or reserve and throw it in with the veg, in a few minutes.

Add remaining 1 tbsp peanut or canola oil and 1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil to skillet/wok and heat over med-high flame (if you have an electric range, it'll probably all be ok, but I have no idea how to help you). When hot, throw in the onions, followed by ginger + garlic, peppers, broccoli, zucchini, pea pods and mushrooms, something like 30 sec to 1-min apart, stirring frequently with maybe a shake of salt and a few turns of freshly ground black pepper. Don't overshoot it; there's no good in overcooking the veg--half-cooked is better than overcooked. Dump in your sauce and cook for a min or so; if the pan's good and hot it should boil quickly. Turn off the heat before you think you should, when everything's still just a little crunchy, and then toss in the scallions and basil. Stir and let sit for a couple of minutes. It'll keep cooking while you drool. Serve over rice or noodles in an attractive bowl. Sit on the back porch or front stoop and watch the birds.


Back in the city again, after more than a week away, and back in the office today. The Cosmic Monkey and I drove back last night, getting a late start after an afternoon tending tomatoes (suffering from bit of blight, but should pull through ok) and lounging on the lake in the new pontoon (now that's what I'm talking about...), and an evening scramble to gather veggies (holy crap how did this happen so fast?). We came home with, oh, I don't know, ten pounds of zucchini and summer squash; four of kale, chard and turnip greens; four of beets, turnips, radishes and carrots; one of lettuces; a bagful of basil, parsley, oregano, sage, and thyme; a couple handfuls of arugula; a dozen fresh orange-yolked eggs from our good neighbors down the road; a quarter-pint of raspberries; half a head of cauliflower from my sister's garden (ours isn't heading yet); a pint of yellow pea-pods and some shelling peas (so sweet); a quart of broccoli; a half-dozen apples...Too much, way too much. On top of that Dad sent us home with half of a giant picture-pink watermelon. We are two people with one small refrigerator. I managed to get it all in there but I have no idea how we'll use or otherwise get rid of that much food in a week or two. (Any takers?)

The road home seemed long, after having traveled only as far as the beer store and back in an entire week. It was getting late, and was my first exposure to the "developed" world in nine days. At a split in the road I made a wrong-headed turn into road work ahead, stop-and-go for a couple miles (such a pleasure with a clutch), which spurred us onto a longer route into the city, the so-called "flow" of traffic feeling familiar but uncaring as my eyes readjusted to taillights and stoplights and neon signs, plastic light-boxes fixed to the front of tire shops (rubber dust in our lungs with each mile worn) and laundromats (cuddly-soft chemicals that cling to our skin) and pawn-shops (no it's not worth what you paid for it) and all the Chinese/Mexican/Indian/Vietnamese/Ethiopian/Ecuadorian/Afghani restaurants (from home-cooked to Sysco-synchronized, truckload by truckload)…all these storefronts, miles and miles of them, each one someone's best effort toward survival in this mad world…and yet all so very far, it seems, from life. As the exhaust and cigarette smoke came down on us through the open sunroof, I had to ask myself, where are we headed?

I've experienced something like this before, after trips in wilderness. After days of walking with a pace at which one might see a reflection in a raindrop or hear the footfall of a toad, we leave the trail, hop into a car and tear off down a "freeway" at break-neck speed. We turn on the radio, stop for gas, eat snacks out of a plastic bag. Suddenly we can't get by without electricity. We run gallon after gallon of clean, fresh water down the drain. Back to normal, in a matter of minutes.

For a week I woke by the light of the sun and wandered by the light of the moon. In just a few days my nerves were re-strung, my senses re-tuned to the flight of birds, to the rhythm of clouds, to the swelling of squashes and the whisper of cattails. I ran through woods at dusk, sure-footed over uneven ground even in my weakness, my muscles knowing with light-speed how to follow each curve of the ground. I slept through the night, more often than not, and more soundly than I have in longer than I can remember. The ache in my back slipped away and my vision cleared. Breath upon breath came more deeply, easily. I ate little, drank little, but felt full.

This morning I drove to work, parked in a lot I can't really afford, shouldered my bags and set a course toward the glass building in which I have spent a decade of my short life. Across the street from me a few men continued their work on a project which has lately drawn my attention: first they blocked off with cinder block and brick what was formerly open street-level cycle parking; now they're bricking up the rest of the façade of the block-sized ramp, for reasons I can neither glean nor imagine. Perhaps it's to keep the garbage out, or the homeless, to make the street look nicer, put an end to free parking, use up allocated funds, employ a few people… none of these reasons makes any sense to me. How much could this cost? How many people could this feed? What else could be built? And this, just one insignificant effort. A couple semis roll past me, louder than my memory. Here I am again, in the thick of it, where the engines of commerce belch putrid fumes as I step lightly over the dried vomit on the sidewalk. Shuffling feet approach me from behind and I'm doused with the stench of cheap cologne breezing past. I cross the street, on parade, while idling minds gape at the lights, fingering knobs and buttons. Again there are footsteps behind me, only these pursue me around the block, all but two strides distant. I want to turn around and ask him what the hell he thinks he's doing. I am not leading, but he is following, close, as if we were en queue at the movies or the DMV, or on a moving walkway at the airport, cattle on the line to slaughter--so close, in fact, that when I reach the building and open the door he catches it behind me. We walk in together through the secure entrance and board the elevator together as my annoyance begins to dissipate. He's holding a cheap paperback, says something about Monday, smiles and is friendly, harmless, pleasant. Here I am again, back in business. Going up. He gets off, and I continue.

Inside my cube, flourescent lights vibrate unsilently as I squint in the dead light at the screen in front of me and the grey background beyond. Overhead there is static in the form of white noise, piped in to set the mood. From the "kitchen", backed by the hum of industrial refrigeration machines, wafts the odor of manufactured flavors, plastic-wrapped and microwave ready. While they wait, consumers speak in voices unthinkably loud, discussing the virtues of their boxes. I try not to breathe. It's not difficult. By mid-morning I am uneasy, by mid-day my throat is closing, by the end of the day I am dull as an eraser, heavy as a stack of bricks. Where is the sense in all of this?

Friday, August 7, 2009

Picking & Choosing (Berry Moon)

Gentle, grey day today, changeable but constant. I just got in from picking raspberries. Rather remarkably, the only sound this evening is the wind in the trees, the high rustle of popple, the low rush of pine...now and then a loon, a squirrel.

The raspberry patch is thriving this summer, abundant with fat tasty fruits. Earlier this spring I pruned back all the canes to around three feet, and about ten canes per row foot (rows about eighteen inches wide). The four rows that were transplanted two seasons ago are now five to six feet tall and fruiting heavily. The remainder of the patch was transplanted last year and is still only two to three feet high and bearing little fruit, but growing into their new space; the rows are thin but the few empty spots should quickly fill in. We've given up quite a lot of berries to the birds, in spite of their being (somewhat haphazardly) covered with netting, but even so I picked a couple quarts on Monday, mom picked another pint or two on Tuesday, with another pint coming in today. If next year follows on this one we'll have a veritable crapload of raspberries on our hands. I'm thinking berry wine, berry mead, berry cider...

It could just be the primeval gatherer in me, but there's something compelling about picking berries, something that has perhaps more to do with finding them than with popping them in your mouth (although I've had raspberries for dinner twice now this week, rather unintentionally foregoing those plump yellow patty pans), something more to do with admiring a deep bowlful of red ripeness than crushing it with your tongue (mine, now a bit raspberry-acid-burnt)... I've always sort of felt that berries--raspberries, in particular--are something akin to Sun-drops, ancient as rubies, fragile as hearts, inspiring a sense of prolific, perpetual potential in each multi-faceted seed of memory, the architecture of our summer igloos. What seemed attached comes free, what seemed full opens with possibilities...a thimble, a hat, a fairy's cup from which to drink the darkness of the Moon, when she pours... Our small arms learn to find a way among thorns, our small hands receive blessings. There is food for the Child.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

(no subject)

i slept like a deity on monday night, to my delight.

as i write now, right now, an owl calls.

i have been here for the week, to take care of things. it has gone quickly, slowly.

there is a zen koan which says "if you meet the buddha, kill the buddha". i always liked that one even though i don't really understand it, in much the same way that i enjoy reading yeats. running through the woods, i pause to admire a patch of mushrooms just emerging from the earth, their small round heads sitting atop fat belly stems like so many little buddhas. in greeting, i shout obscenities at the wet dog. no one but me is concerned.

the wind chants in my ears and i ache for something wild. i listen for the call of the wolf i saw here once, peel the landscape with my eyes for a cougar, longing for a growl. nothing comes but the call of an old oak tree so i follow. a good one to climb, a place to be buried. i stand on a burl and lean on a fencepost, stretching toward limbs out of reach. another day.

i step over the downed fence and onto the adjoining land. i am trespassing, but i feel at home. grasses brush my breasts and shoulders while the waxing moon peers through the clouds. there is still a for sale sign there, i see, in the weeds.

it took more than an hour to unwrap the piano. it sits in the northwest corner, near the bunkbed panel router and the back door of the shop which opens toward the pond, where frogs sing yet. for ambiance i bring two matching lamps that were once my grandmother's, happy to find that the bulbs have not burnt out in these years past. i play, i hope to remember where my hands go. i try to control, but my fingers find chords without my knowing how. my memory precedes me. i am amazed, grateful.

i wake too early in fright and my heart pounds like a drum all day, not in a good way. i can hear it, not in my ears but in my chest. the day is long and the weather changes. i take off all my clothes and lie down in the grass, wind caressing my thighs and sun burning my nipples, warming my belly. i imagine building a living sanctuary with only two ways in and out, where i will post 'no trespassing' signs when i wish to be alone. at the sound of every passing car i flinch. i want only this, to be naked in solace. to be in privacy, in my time.

it's quiet in the evening. the sun sinks and i tie on my shoes. in a peaceful moment i hear the braid of my hair in the mirror.

again i play after dark, and i practice this time, until the secret noises behind me drive me out into the night. beer in hand, i walk down the long driveway at midnight. gravel crunching underfoot breaks the silence under the full moon. i fetch the mail. i sing old songs. i sleep until morning.

today i put on my swimsuit and feel at home, mother and child at once. i see a cedar wax-wing, the first since the one in my dream who hovered before me in slow motion and who i knew at that moment to be my mate. i sit on the roof and watch swallows dive into the grey sunset, see the wax-wing once more, close, before it flies away to the oak grove. there are small clouds above the barn roof, and i am at peace.

the moon is just past full and so am i. so are you. the owl calls again, just now.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Sunday, August 2, 2009

how things grow

It's not at all surprising, really, how much things can change in a couple of weeks--or a couple of seconds, for that matter--but it still amazes me to see it happen. It's been two weeks since we were here last and the garden is a whole different place, again. Everything is twice the size it was, fruiting and flowering, lush. The corn is taller than I am, now, and just starting to tassle. The tomatillos, spindly and noodle-thin when they were planted, are now chest-high and branching out confidently, dressed in showy yellow flowers and tiny lantern fruits. Summer and winter squashes are thick with blossoms and putting on weight. Borage is in full fantastic bloom, soft and starry, abuzz with bees. Cabbages and broccoli are heading up, peas are podding. Beans are blossoming in red and purple, white and yellow and black. Lettuces are still blushed and leafy sweet, most likely because of the cool weather (and possibly in part due to my fine selection of varieties, with which everyone has been quite pleased. Thanks, Fedco.). Everything seems to have benefitted from the mild and rainy conditions we've had this summer, although I'm a bit worried that we could end up with another unripened tomato and pepper crop this year, or that we'll lose the squashes and dent corn... I'm hoping now for a heat-wave in August (a couple swimming days would be welcome, especially with the addition of a nice used pontoon to the fleet) and a long, frost-free fall (with perhaps just a couple cold nights so we can try out the Agribon row covers that Dad bought), to help get us there.

Happily, most of the seedlings I started this spring have come along quite nicely and far exceeded my (previously somewhat unrealistically high and then dramatically low) expectations. Many have matured at different rates, even among the same varieties, which could be something of a boon as crops come in. My little tomatoes, which were (I felt, embarrassingly) behind schedule when planted, have more or less caught up to the larger ones my folks planted at the same time. Okra's been slow to grow, probably due to the cold--not a big deal since it was mainly planted for its looks (do I even like okra? I don't know). The melons, likewise, are probably not going to reach maturity before the season's over--something of a disappointment, after such a promising start, but they were set back considerably by an early planting followed by temperatures below their tolerance. I knew I was probably pushing my luck with the melons, but there's something so sensual, almost magical, about them that it inspires me to try, to hope for that luscious bounty. Next year I'm going to have a wheelbarrow full of them, mark my words.

In the meantime, we've got root vegetables. Yesterday I did a first thinning of the radishes (some having already been eaten), turnips, beets and carrots. Some folks say to thin early, but there are a couple good reasons to do it later: one, no one felt like doing it before and there was enough else to tend to; two, instead of pulling a bunch of puny seed leaves you yank out a nice crop of baby veggies. Actually, if we'd thinned the seedlings to begin with the second thinning might have produced a slightly better crop, but it's hard to say. Also doesn't matter. What matters is that we got eight pounds of roots, four pounds of beet greens and three pounds of turnip greens out of the garden.

top left around to bottom left: danvers and scarlet nantes carrots, chioggia beets, detroit dark red beets, purple-top turnips, early wonder beets, yellow intermediate mangel beets, lutz salad leaf beets, plum purple radish, misato rose radish

It borders on silly, how much it excites me, the surprise of their emergence from the ground, the shape of them, their color, the culinary possibilities, much less actually eating them... I'll admit I was slightly less thrilled after spending a couple of hours cutting and washing all the greens, and then trimming and chopping (and cooking them into the largest "chard" casserole that's ever been attempted), but there are reasons we do this, beyond simple pleasure. I don't think I need to name them.