Saturday, October 27, 2012

Almost Halloween Garden

Sweet potatoes must be picked this weekend. Frost is coming. The leaves have already been nipped by cool weather. (Click on pictures to enlarge.)
I rescued our oranges this morning, hardy trifoliate. So tart, they flavor water nicely, might make marmalade.
Lettuces, spinach and beets are coming along.
This cosmos entertains an alianthus webworm moth.
The last 2 years I planted English peas in August and they failed to mature before winter. This year I got smarter and planted sugar snap peas, figuring we could eat them at any stage. That's the answer, from now on, sugar snap peas in fall. Also broccoli, beats and our late, late green beans. Wheat is waiting to sprout in between.
Here's another garden bed where the wheat has risen.
Hyacinth beans accompany orange trees (in the greenhouse).
"Didn't I smell tomato sauce yesterday?" asks Virginia.

Yes, for our pizza dinner last night with a couple of couples. Heritage tomatoes are almost perfect this time of year (also in the greenhouse).

Friday, October 26, 2012

Dinner Talk in the Country

I'm not sure what dinner conversations at our house covered twenty years ago, probably toddlers and workplaces, definitely not duck feet, sour oranges or sausage with a pet's name. Where did you guys meet? Still a common question. Or where have you lived or traveled? Guaranteed to find common ground and interesting stories.

Barre Circle, Pigtown, in Baltimore, now a few blocks from Camden Yards, across the street from the home of Police Commissioner Bishop Robinson, which didn't keep some fellow from breaking in my back door to fill every suitcase and pillow, again and again, with items I discovered years later -- a leather jacket from New Zealand, a Gucci watch -- so useful that years passed before I missed them. How many yard sales have they seen? On Orioles game nights, you can probably open what once were my windows and hear cheers, see lights in the sky.

Reston, Virginia, at the entrance to South Lakes High School, bigger than the college I attended. Now 60,000 strong, the place drew me after a New Towns Seminar at the Department of City and Regional Planning, University of North Carolina, taught by Dr. Shirley Weiss, one professor I'd see at Hill Hall concerts. Does anyone swim Lake Thoreau any more? When we visited a few weeks ago, I wondered if this metropolis was anything like Robert Simon had pictured back when his family sold Carnegie Hall and he used some of the proceeds to start a new community on his fiftieth birthday. The Bowman distillery was still there in my time; now another Bowman is here in my time.

"Keep it up and the world will know your life's history," says Virginia.

If I'm telling the truth. It's about time to canoe Algonquin Park again, search the Poconos for a lost resort, wander the streets of University City. Maybe next year, a year of anniversaries.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Time in Perspective

This year's Monster Concert Holiday Singalong (at 7:30 pm, 12/12/12, in case you're interested -- 4 pianos playing at once with a hundred extraordinary people, you could be one of them, emptying their lungs), then Christmas, then New Year's, will quickly pass, along with too many tomorrows. Part of me wants to wait in a long line, shell enough corn to fill a silo, or watch a pig grow, anything to slow time. I once asked my mother, "Does time go faster as you age?" Her answer: "Yes."

I used to say, "I can't wait until ___." No more. I want to dance on the pins and needles.

At the same time, I ache for people the pins prick, who need pills or needles to make tomorrows. Life isn't fair.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Hemlock Tea Anyone?

Karen and I have returned from about 29 hours in the DC area, where we celebrated our 24th anniversary with old friends, not so old really, I've only known them about 34 years, Karen about 19. Back in July I bought tickets to Red Hot Patriot: The Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivins, thinking it would be fun to watch Kathleen Turner bring Molly Ivins into real time. I came away thinking maybe I should, uh, buy some poster board and plant myself in front of someone who doesn't want to see me, say maybe a CAFO (concentrated animal feeding operation) or Monsanto headquarters. Hey, then I'd get to see my St. Louis friends again.

"Why don't you march during a Presidential debate or knock on doors during the next 3 weeks?" says Virginia.

Well, I might have some fairly strong feelings about those matters, believe it or not, but I seem to feel even more strongly about the food we put in our mouths, which not many people care about. A sneaky suspicion suggests that food is one reason many of our loved ones die prematurely. A healthy fear warns that even though Karen and I are trying to achieve a good level of self-sufficiency on Elk Cliff Farm, it's too late. Twenty-two years of regular exercise and less than a decade of garden-fresh produce, put-by food, and grass-fed meats and bar soaps aren't likely to counter a lifetime of pesticide exposure, thirty-five years of corn fructose, and a continuing addiction to mass-produced chocolates and peppermints.

Heck, you should taste some of the heritage tomatoes we've been finding on the greenhouse vines. I doubt you'll be able to buy their robust taste in a grocery store, even a Whole Foods. Hey, let's stop griping about the prices at farmers' markets, I mean markets where folks who live near us sell food they have grown for our unpoisoned enjoyment. Is it worth paying less for "vegetables" and "fruits" bred to be hardy enough to travel 1500 miles to our tables, tasteless until we spice them up a bit? Something tells me dark lighting and lots of hot sauce are not macho or cool, and the hidden ingredients are not something our great-grandparents nibbled.

Nah. I don't think I'll be driving to Monsanto, but we might go near there to see friends. Watch out!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Scrambled Eggs

I suspect that most people, by the time they reach 55, have learned not to count their eggs before they've hatched. For a little while now, we've been getting about nine eggs per day from our flock of chickens, but don't count on even one because a series of rainy days, other change of weather, or feeling of insecurity might reverse our good fortune. We don't count on any from the ducks, either, and have an inkling that Lex, our Boxer, may play some role in this.

For many years my royalty payments arrived electronically before midnight of the last business day of each quarter. Even so, I haven't counted on it. I wouldn't dare let my bank balance drop so low that it might fall below zero if that payment failed to appear, which is a good thing, because it's now been more than three months. Intuition warned me last week, or maybe it was the same hunch (i.e., not to count chickens) I have each cycle.

I'm still waiting to hear why. At first I feared the worst, that financial difficulties of several years ago may have resurfaced. Most publishers find survival tough in these days of online access and reading reluctance. Persistent probing uncovered, I think I can count on this, that my particular payment got lost in a shuffle, which doesn't justify a breach of contract (actually 11 contracts) or a failure to promptly fix the mistake. [Postscript: Still naive, my first fear proved largely correct, but for now we have a happy ending.]

The incident reminds me of the importance of meeting our obligations, and how vulnerable we can be to the whims of others. Sometimes I marvel at cars speeding past going the opposite direction, for a fraction of a second mere feet, or inches, from my own. We trust each other to stay in the proper lane, to follow "the rules." When a political candidate posts his or her positions, the opponent assumes he or she means it -- until a flipflop in a debate delivers a surprise. When we sign a contract that requires us to do something first, we assume the other party will pay when the time comes. If the other person reneges, we're caught off guard.

"So they're late," says Virginia. "It's only a few days."

I hope so. When an oncoming car swerves in front of me, it throws me off balance. Whew, that was a close one, but not inconsequential. Forgetting may take a while, the roadway must re-earn my trust.