Thursday, September 15, 2011

My story of the woods

The story is a simple one. I bought a piece of this planet’s rarest forest, and it brought me to my knees. It holds the promise of growth and renewal. It is a sacred space created by the heaving of the seas and the planting of seeds. It holds so much hope it makes me cry to think on it. And when I am gone, it will remain. Men come and go. I will build a house, walls, orchards. But what remains is fog dripping from redwood leaves, roaring storms of wind, and a scraping of two giant plates of earth against each other. It is the one place where I can breathe. I can place my ear on the world’s tallest tree and hear a waterfall running through it. I can move one dead branch and find a salamander as old as the primordial swamps.

Because I love this earth. I have circumnavigated it and here is where my soul rests; I lift like a fairy that dances on the wind.

I sleep under those stars. Some fall to earth, but most stay to tell their story again. When I wake there is a grey time, before the sun shines but after the black fades, when all the creatures, even the trees, hold their breath and await the dawn. They open a hole in time each morning. One day I will pull a man of earth through that hole; he will understand. I will grow in him, and he will water me. We will master windstorms. We will name the stars.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Tomato-Peach Chutney

Hats off to Bernard Clayton for the inspiration (Bernard, your soup recipes ROCK but read like UNIX manuals) - this is cooking right now:

3c fresh tomatoes, chopped and peeled (and seeded if you're up for it - I'm not);
3c fresh nectarines and/or peaches, peeled if they're peaches and chopped (I used high sugar, low acid peaches and nectarines)
1c chopped green bell pepper (for me, this was 1 pepper)
1c packed brown sugar
3/4c sugar
3/4c white vinegar
1/2c golden raisins
1/2c chopped onions
1/4t cinnamon
1/8t ground allspice
1 jalapeno, minced and seeded
1/4c wild blackberries (this is totally optional - just happened to be sitting in my kitchen - see previous blog)

Combine all the ingredients into a deep, nonreactive saucepan.
Stirring frequently, cook over medium heat for roughly an hour or until mixture has thickened (or you've reduced it by about half).
Feel the love. The aroma should make your mouth water.
Ladle it into sterilized jars leaving at least 1/4" headspace; process for 20 min in hot water bath.

My guess is that this will make 4 half-pints. I'll post a photo when they're done.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

What I've learned about stinging nettles

Well, I knew that they're great for cooking. Some people might even GROW them in order to EAT them. I knew they had prickly leaves, and it's an immediate pain and eventually it goes away. I knew it's not contact dermatitis like poison oak - it has to do with miniscule spines.

But when I was halfway up an embankment in Los Altos Hills, berry pot in left hand and large blackberry cluster taunting me overhead, I decided to embark on a scientific experiment, the outcome of which I was unsure.

Either I could forget about the berries or hoist myself up the embankment by holding onto a stinging nettle plant. And I wasn't sure if the STEMS were covered with the prickly nastiness.

Well, now I know. To my credit, I was only experimenting with MY OWN body, and after being an NCAA volleyball player, 5.10A climber and yogi, I figured what's a little pain?

I shall have to look it up online (when typing doesn't hurt so much) to see if there are actually MORE stingers in the stem than in the leaves. Maybe it will have a dire warning that the toxins are CONCENTRATED in the stems, and after numbing two fingers and my Oh So Important opposable thumb on the right hand, it may be years before I feel all of my digits again.

But if we knew what we were doing, it wouldn't be called research. (Einstein)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Snail Wars

We had some unexpected days of rain last week - heavy rain. And I discovered on Saturday morning, when I went out into the garden to watch the sun rise, that the snails were very fond of the lingering dampness. They were everywhere (they are probably particularly fond of my front yard because I covered my entire yard with cardboard and compost a couple of years ago, thus destroying my lawn - but making a nice, damp enviornment for gastropods).

Thus began snail wars. That morning I was fully dressed and gloved, but since then there have been two more major battles and I've been in my nightgown and bare hands. No fear. I will prevail. I confine them in a large green cat litter container, and it's getting heavy.

Casualties (running total): Saturday - 332; Sunday - 476; Wednesday - 604.
I gave them a respite to see if they could consolidate forces and roll out another squadron. I found them in their war room today at 0600 hours, a small bush that they thought I would overlook. Ha. I am mapping all of their favorite territories and....

I'll be back.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Tiger and the Cat

Two nights ago I had a dream about a tiger. The front door was open to my house, and I went to shut it and found a tiger walking toward my house. I tried to shut it and lock it, but his nose was already inside. I let him in.

He walked around the house. He appeared to be looking for something. He turned around and walked back toward me. He wasn't growling and didn't look hungry. I opened the door again. He walked out. I shut and locked the door.

In Jungian dream interpretation, a house always represents your life. This animal came into my life, looked around, left. He wasn't there very long. He wasn't a threat. And he was big and beautiful.

This morning I found our cat dead on the living room floor. There was no obvious cause of death, no illness, no blood, no physical damage. Apparently it was just his time to go. He was only about four years old, and very large and strong.

We are very sad today. I thought he would be my friend for a very long time. He was also Tanner's best friend. But I am grateful that he sent me a dream first, because somehow that makes it easier to live with.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Boozy Day

The citrus liqueurs are all now in the infusion stage. It has been a LONG day of peeling citrus.

The lineup: Bergamot (same fruit that scents Earl Grey tea), Wekiva (lavender gem) tangelolo, Sarawak (in the pummelo family, and no it is NOT a Tahitian, don't get me started), Carribbean Shrubb (containing the juice of several Clementines, Femminello Siracusano lemons, and some nice spices), Grand Marnier (Bouquetier de Nice oranges), and Limoncello (the Siracusanos again). With the exception of the Shrubb, they're all in vodka (Shrubb is in rum).

Not your average stash of citrus, I must say.

I still have plenty of citrus left, but the booze is gone and I am done, tired, done done with this. I don't precisely follow anybody's recipe, so we'll see how it all turns out. They sit for at least a couple of weeks, up to six, then I'll add a simple sugar syrup to a few of them. They will all eventually be filtered. Some of them are experimental (i.e., I made it up myself), and some recipes can definitely be found online.

It's been a long indoor day - going out into the garden before the sun sets!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Citrus Madness Begins

The annual trip to Mecca was Saturday. The U.C. Lindcove Experimental Citrus Station, where they allow some California Rare Fruit Growers to pick as much as they like (just don't take any genetic material, as they're protected by law).

I scored 75 lbs of fruit. I weighed them and segregated them. I have plans for them.

First recipe: blood orange marmalade, from the book I gave myself for Christmas, "The Joy of Jams, Jellies and Other Sweet Preserves," by Linda Ziedrich. Six half pints. Here they are, aren't they lovely? Her recipe would NOT have set, I've made enough jam to know that, so I added a little pectin, and time will tell. This recipe took about 7 of the oranges you see toward the top right of the photo, blushed red. There are 5 of those left.

Second recipe: Bergamot Orange Custard Cups, from this website: and they're in the oven right now.

They took one - count it, ONE - large bergamot, and it made a double batch. There are 18 left. Uh huh, 18. I'm hunting for recipes.

The rest of this mountain of citrus hasn't been touched. And yes, they're still on my living room carpet.

But I'll get there. All recommendations are welcome. If push comes to shove, I now have a chest freezer and I know how to use it.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

My dog's time

She was a beautiful black Labrador who lived with a family who abused her. She was chained to a tree outside and conceived a litter of 13 puppies when she was less than 2 years old.
She tried her hardest to take care of her babies, and hid them in an old log. The log collapsed, and half of her puppies died.

A wonderful rescue woman came to take her away. The owner didn't want her any more, or her puppies. The rescuers cared for her, gave her good food, spayed her, and gave her a name, "Whitney". Her puppies were beautiful, part black Lab and part golden Retriever, and they found new homes fast.

A woman in California who wanted a companion for her first dog, the doggy love of her life, Oscar, found Whitney online at Hearts United for Animals. The rescue woman said they would get along. She put Whitney on an airplane on a very wintry day in Omaha, Nebraska and flew her to California.

Whitney got a new name, "Sadie". She wrestled for Top Dog position the day she met Oscar. Mom wanted Oscar to win, but Sadie became Top Dog. They worked it out. They groomed each other and made up games. They were best of friends.

This changed mom's relationship with Oscar forever. He was still her boy, but he had an all-day, always-there friend now. He was part of a partnership.

Oscar and Sadie spent their best time in the Santa Cruz Mountains, chasing deer (who were never truly afraid of being caught) and running through the woods. They had favorite paths and dug nests into the sides of redwood fairy circles. They were strong and agile, forest dogs. They slept outside and smelled and listened to the life of those wet woods.

When they were back in town, occasionally they would go on "walkabouts". They would find a gate ajar and force their way out of the back yard and go around the neighborhood. Sometimes they got thrown in the dog pokey. One day Sadie was thrown in the pokey, and Oscar came home alone.

He wouldn't eat. At first his mom thought he was just sad because Sadie had been put into jail, but after three days (and Sadie had returned) mom took him to the vet. Within half an hour the vet told mom that Oscar had cancer. It was his time to go. Oscar was 12 years old.

Sadie was a survivor. She survived the abusive family, and she survived Oscar. She never lacked in courage. She has chased a bear and attacked a Rottweiler nearly twice her weight. She was dominant and smart and very pushy about being fed exactly when she was hungry, and telling you exactly what she wanted, when she wanted it.

So when she stopped eating on Sunday, we knew she was telling us it was her time. She had grown so thin, and her body was done. It was time to let her soul free to run with Oscar again.

Goodbye, Sadie. What a time you have had! You've been a wonderful mother, friend, and partner. I hope to have learned the lessons you were here to teach me.

Sadie died today at the age of 15. I will be waiting for her to bark at me at exactly 5:30 to tell me it's dinnertime.