Saturday, September 26, 2009


Well, friends and loved ones, it's a little after 6:30 in the morning on Saturday. About an hour ago I decided there probably wasn't any point in lying around in bed any longer, even if two hours of sleep is a little less than I'm going to need today.

Last night I made an offer on a house, and that offer was accepted forthwith. From sight unseen to Death-Contract in a matter of three hours. CM is pretty excited on my behalf, as are the two other people who are aware of this. I am strangely vacant but vaguely relieved, like I just finished the last of my final exams with a nice C minus. Maybe I'll go for a walk.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Banking and farming don't mix.

Feeling better today after being taken down for several days by a long-awaited illness (people need to get sick once in a while.) which left me a few pounds lighter and quite a bit more clear-headed than I was this time last week, if a little tired. Glad for it, good to be healing.

In a feverish and exhausted state on Sunday I managed to pick a bunch more calendula flowers, these for drying, along with a good bit of spearmint and a few sprigs of peppermint. Tonight I packed the dried calendula into a jar (with nary a thought of moths) and put a tray of peppermint and two of spearmint into the dehydrator. I can't say I've really appreciated the beauty of that variegated peppermint until this evening, although it's caught my eye from time to time...the range of color and pattern is remarkable. For a few moments I was just rather taken by it, reminded of what's drawn me to spend so much time growing, harvesting, eating, drinking, learning about and from herbs... Among many other things brought to mind, I thought of my sister, who commented on this particular plant's loveliness earlier in the summer, and how she sees these things so long before I do... Mint. Relaxing, evocative.

Cosmic Monkey turned on the TV to catch the last of Sweet Land on our local PBS station while I plucked at the spearmint (just enough to make it to the last frame). It's a Good film. If you haven't seen it, it's worth its time (as CM put it, it's enjoyable in a way that most things aren't, any more). Seeing just a bit of it again had the same effect on me as it did the first time, of feeling like maybe I ought to take that line to heart. I'm not sure I ever really wanted to be a farmer, but there are other things that don't mix with banking. I'm one of them.

Now to the bigger question: will that nettle tea I guzzled keep me up all night or help me get some sleep?

Friday, September 18, 2009

i might have (wings, hands)

someone once said that a bird in hand is worth two in the bush, but i really believe that depends on what kind of bird it is, and what you might conceivably do with that bird, whether you're planning on eating it or caging it or just letting it go, or what it might be planning to do to you, if you don't kill it first, if you were going to kill it all, or if you were just trying to set it free from a snag, in which case two in the bush could be better, for you and for it and for them, because they might just be sitting there, singing, waiting for their companion, but then again you never really can tell about birds, you know, they may just fly off and drop some shit on your shoulder and then what are you going to do with that bird you're holding?

someone else once said, keep a green tree in your heart, and perhaps a singing bird will come...

Monday, September 14, 2009


I've been telling myself that this year is all about the storage vegetables--roots, squash, cabbage, dry beans and corn--mainly because I've been less than attentive to much of the rest of the garden, the more insistent parts... Mom's kept up with with picking, storing and freezing everything (i.e., peas, beans, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, peppers, tomatoes), with some help from Dad. I think I've put in about half as much time this summer as last, or maybe just half as much care, if there's a difference... By this time last year I had a freezer full of soups, sauces and sauteed greens, with loads of herbs (both cultivated and wild) in tinctures or dried for tea and cooking. This year I have diddly squat. It's a different season, I know--only my second in full--so I'm trying to cut myself some slack for slacking. Anyway. Finally got some work done last weekend, and have a few new things brewing...

Monday: Calendula Tincture - We've got Orange Zinger and yellow Resina Calendula growing in the front and back gardens (and by the way they look great together--simply stunning with bachelor's buttons...) and both were still blooming brightly as of a week or so ago. My hope was that the plants would reseed themselves into a magnificent patch on the back of the turtle garden, but I think it might help things along to gather and plant seeds for a few seasons (and the ones in back have to move, in any case). So Monday afternoon I harvested seed, a good bagful from a particularly vigorous patch of second generation Orange Zinger and a lesser amount of Resina (which matured a just bit later and has rather smaller blooms and seeds, although the plants are quite hearty and full of flowers). Should be plenty more to come. After that I snipped the sticky blossoms, enough to fill the bottom of a paper grocery bag about two inches deep with pure happiness. (Incidentally the entire plant--stem, leaves, blossoms--is covered with resin, which accounts for much of its potency as an herbal remedy. Calendula is a powerful but gentle herbal healer, used primarily for treating cuts, scrapes, burns and other minor injuries to the skin, among its other talents...) I harvested a small number of flowers last summer and dried them for tea, but sadly they fell prey to those goddamned moths that took over our cupboard a few years ago. This time I decided to tincture the blossoms, quickly, by packing them into a pint jar and covering them with that white brandy that Mom thought to have Dad pick up. Good idea. Take that, you little fuckers.

Tuesday: Mint Liqueur - The little spearmint plant I bought from Mother Earth Gardens back in June has grown into a powerhouse about 4 feet square, with beautiful unblemished deep green leaves on vigorous upright stems (by contrast, the mint I planted last year languished through the summer and did not return this spring, although to my great surprise the one I tried the year before made a meager comeback. go figure). So I picked about a third of a paper grocery bag full, intending to dry it for tea, but then got to thinking about the likelihood of my actually drinking all that spearmint tea, since peppermint is rather more potent and useful, and I decided to make a liqueur instead, in support of my continued good health. Basically it's just a crapload of fresh mint leaves stuffed in a quart jar and covered with vodka. I used Absolut Citron. Shaken, not stirred, daily for a couple of weeks, then strain and add sugar syrup (and food coloring, if it makes you feel better). Then what, I don't know.

Wednesday: Sage Mead - with a few ounces of fresh sage from the garden, started a dry mead using white sage honey and champagne yeast. Hell of a time with this one, spilling it on the floor, pushing the (too small) stopper into the neck of the (6.5 not 6 gallon) carboy and after trying chopstick and pliers and drywall screw to get it back out dropped it all the way in, followed shortly after by a bamboo skewer, which was I guess one too many pieces of flotsam for my liking so at 1:30 in the morning I racked another batch of beer so I could transfer the mead, spilling again sticky honey water on legs and sandals and kitchen... Finally got it settled by 2:30, the silver lining being that the unnecessary transfer prompted me to strain out all but a few sprigs of sage, so as not to overpower the delicate flavor of the honey. I may sample when the fermentation slows, and if necessary do a bit of "dry-hopping" with a little more sage. I've had good luck with sage beer in the past, but result was a just bit sweet for my tastes. Hoping this will have a nice dry finish and make a heady sparkling mead.

Thursday & Friday: Chokecherry Melomel -
Near the back garden stands a fine chokecherry tree which grew from an old rockpile, planted by some birds of great ingenuity. In recent years it has been heavy with fruit of highest quality (in spite of their name, these little plum cousins are quite sweet and delicately flavored, with just a bit of that sticky sort of mouth-feel that I can't think of the word for) and the tree was loaded again this summer, drooping with fruit. Last Sunday I passed a few hours picking cherries in the late afternoon sun, all pink skinned and red-hatted, in purple fingered bliss... (Cosmic Monkey filled a bucket and left me to the rest.) The plumpest, blackest ones were up high, so I shouldered that heavy wood ladder and found my footing. I circled the tree and finally came to a place just out of reach, when from across the yard a brown thrasher came and perched on a branch just a few feet in front of me, took a cherry in its mouth. Another one followed a moment after and landed even closer, but I scared it off, I think, when I whispered "my God". Three full ice cream buckets, in all.

I have to tell you that picking over three buckets full of tiny fruits one by one is a painstaking task which I hope not to undertake again. The first bucket contained many crushed cherries, some of them molding, and required a great deal of attention--it must have consumed well over two hours, maybe three, if you can imagine that. I know you probably can't. I was tired, is all I can say. The next night I had help from my sister and we spent one and a half hours between the two of us, albeit gabbing, to go through a bucket half as bad or better than the one I'd done myself the night before. The last I finished alone, in a little less time. I don't mean here to bore you with details, only to emphasize that, should you try this at home, you will be far better off picking your fruit with tremendous care to begin with, and promptly refrigerating or even freezing them, rather than picking pretty well at first and then doing it a second time. I ended up casting off a little less than half a bucket of fruit, leaving me with somewhere around 18 lbs, I'd guess, just two short of the 20 lbs called for by the recipe I happened across, compliments of The Beverage People, for "To The Bitter End" chokecherry mead. I warmed 12 lbs of Ames honey with a couple handfuls of last year's cinnamon basil thrown in for good measure (this ended up sitting out for 24 hours or so, since the cherries took two nights). Filtered out the basil before adding the honey to the crushed berries, in my new giant bucket, with a couple packets of Lavlin EC-1118 (Champagne) yeast. Looking good so far.

Red Currant Wine, Chokecherry Wine, Chokecherry Dessert Wine - bottled (see Saturday past)

Sunday: Sweet Lilac Mead - two blissful cases of it, bottled and ready to age to perfection (damn close as it is).

Next up: cider?

Saturday, September 12, 2009

never enough Saturdays

Whew. Long day today... Just sat down, been busy since breakfast (a CM frittata of mushroom, onion, garlic, zucchini and broccoli, with cheeses). Hauled out four carboys full of wine to settle, in anticipation of bottling later in the day. Made a batch of zucchini soup and put a few pints in the freezer along with about 12 oz. green pesto and 6 oz. purple (the latter sans parmesan--thinking this might be good mixed with a black olive tapenade). Sorted through photos from mini-vacation last week. Lunched on green salad with blue cheese, pine nuts, maple/balsamic vinaigrette. Did a couple loads of laundry, buzzed to the co-op for spices. Made four jars of bread and butter pickles and a cucumber salad (with black sesame, red shiso, rice & plum vinegars, sesame oil, bit of tamari, sugar). Bottled five 750 ml bottles of red currant wine (nice and dry but clouded, still a bit liquor-y), sixteen of chokecherry wine (pleasantly fragrant, beautiful color, mellowing nicely), and six of chokecherry dessert wine (f-ing spot on, so good, so lovely). Did the dishes a dozen times, at least, on top of sanitizing bottles, cleaning up etc. Pretty short paragraph for having been on my feet for about fourteen hours today. Think I'll now enjoy the remainder of this amazing garnet glass and take a shot at relaxation. More tomorrow.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Last Summer Moon

Wanted to share some of the days by the Lake...
The time was too short this year--just three days--and I was only half there, rather strangely, even with the pleasure of my first flying leap, first rushing cold moonlit skinny-dip, first dawn by the glow of the still full moon... The water was calm for days, winds were light and the sunshine burned away some of the chill of the cold summer, though it all passed too quickly.
Glad to have more family with us this year, and for the company of my brother.

Learned a couple things this time which I suppose I probably already knew, but are worth recounting here if only for my own benefit:
1) always bring more water
2) everyone going should know where we're headed before we set out
3) there's no good reason not to



To speak of this body of water
is to call on the depths of the heart.

Crashing waves into rippling stillness,
the surface changes in moments, what's below
such cold it takes breath, courage
at the edge of ice.

To know this body of water is to reach
out of time, where nothing meets the sky
but the cry of a loon,
who slips away easily,
reappearing nowhere we can see.

There are no shells on these shores.
There is stone worn by water, water by stone.
There are lichens here older than your great great
greatest grandmother,
and tadpoles in tiny pools
fed drop by drop
of fallen rain.

Each makes its way.

One day,
others will take this body of water and leave

a space unfilled,
deeper than imagination.
Only ghosts could be so thirsty,

Today, it is full.
We leap from rocky heights

and flap our arms on the way down,
kick a little, take some in the nose
and then go again,
a little higher next time.

I could not have guessed

that angelic babe I held
ten years ago would stand behind me, now
egging me to jump,
right there)

Tonight, we dive naked underneath
the warmth of the round moon,
the last of this summer
to shine on this body of water.

Be so always,
full of dark,
bathed in light.

(Jupiter, look)


With deep gratitude to Mom and Dad, for bringing us all to this place, and sharing it with us.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Time Away

I have this new orange hoody that I've been living in lately, just the color of Rowan berries. Soft, comfortable, even flattering, yes, but mainly it's bold--perhaps the brightest color I've ever worn--although seemingly not conspicuous. It suits me these days, I guess, in a way maybe warding off the blues and those greyer days to come (no I do not need to sleep in, dammit! thank you.), buttressing my aura... Anyway when I pulled it over my head tonight I breathed in a scent which I suppose could only be something of my own but was somehow oddly unfamiliar, sweet and alive, of wood smoke and moonlight, lichens and sunscreen, coffee and rosehips and pine and dew with just a smidgen of barbeque sauce and a splash of kaluha over warm rock and shoreline. These are my leftovers from nearly a week away from the grind of the city. I sort of don't want to wash this shirt ever again.

More soon on the trip to the Lake, garden happenings, what's cooking, potions and what-not...