Sunday, December 30, 2007

December Rambles On

I continue to putter through these last and final days of 2007. I'm feeling a bit without direction, unsure of next steps. I keep telling myself I'm just waiting for the calendar to change and then I will move forward with new energy and purpose, we'll see. I created a holiday centerpiece for the dining table with woodland greenery, beads and various other objects and lots of candles. I put a pot of sand on the table with small candles to light for wishes towards the new year. One wish includes both of us having good creative energy and being able to produce work that we might actually be able to sell in 2008!

Scenes from our centerpiece
We worked together yesterday and finally finished planting what amounted to 1,100 bulbs by my final calculations. I really did lose my mind, but if even half of them come up and bloom next year it will have been worthwhile. We planted multi-colored tulips, daffodils, crocus, frittilaries, anemones, tiny hyacinths, iris dutch and dwarf, blue and bronze, and more. The squirrels have been digging some up already but hopefully they will not find them all.

Its raining which is supercalafragilisticexpealidocious! On Christmas day we walked and found one lone place on the creek where there was a tiny flow from one pool into another, by the 28th after another rain, I found several places with water running and I hope that after the rain today, which is promised to be at least an inch, that things will really start to move down there.

The whole area is still far behind on water and the lakes are all low and people are rationing water and trying to conserve. We take a bath and leave the water in the tub to flush the toilet for a few days, the only way I can justify using that much water, but there is nothing better than that long hot bath after a day of gardening. I've stopped catching water in the kitchen dishpan because with the rains there is no where to put it outside, everything is now very wet and all our rain barrels are brimming over. I wonder if we should construct a cistern? Think how much water we could capture off of our giant roof, but then we would have to pump it where we needed it.

We all have to hope that the rain will keep coming and the creeks and lakes will fill back up, and until then, I will continue to try and be as frugal as possible with my water usage. Hopefully this rain will also fill us back up emotionally and creatively for the new year.

Morgan Creek with water flowing in it!!!
Finally. 12/28/07

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Winter Solstice

Yesterday was the winter solstice, shortest day, longest night of the year. I see today as the real new years day, from here on out, the days will get longer until June 21 and then they’ll get shorter again until this time next year. In my opinion, Solstice should be the true New Year's eve.

I’ve made a point the last few years to recognize the period from the Solstice, the solar new year till Jan. 1, the calendar New Year, as my 11 to 12 days of Christmas, depending on whether the solstice falls on the 21st or 22nd. Astronomically the solstice fell this year at 1 AM on the 22nd, but I checked and discovered that both the 21st and the 22nd had 9 hours and 43 minutes of daylight and 14 hours and 17 minutes of dark, so I guess there were really two longest nights and shortest days this year.

I like to take time now to crawl inside myself a bit, take stock of the year past and think about the one to come. Allow myself the culinary pleasures of the season, of which there are many and I want to indulge. Also I want to pamper myself physically, yesterday I went swimming and took a steam at the Y, today I went to yoga and took a walk with my Honey Pie at sunset, watching the almost full moon rise.

It was great to get back home after traveling over 2000 miles in 12 days and sleeping in 5 different beds. I’ve been sleeping like a bear since I got back, in the sack by 10 or 11 p.m. and then at 8:30 or 9:00 a.m. we force ourselves up and out.

I loved getting back to our garden, I contend it is our best autumn garden ever, not sure if that’s due to the weather or simply to the fact that I’ve been around to tend to it and take advantage of the bounty. I roam the paths thinking about all the various dishes I could fix with dill or cilantro, green onions, spinach, turnips or cabbage. On Friday we cooked turnips with bacon, onions, cabbage, tomato, a few raisins, apples and turnip greens. Not a dish for sissy’s, the turnip flavor was strong from the greens while the apples, turnips and cabbage were super sweet. I always say we grow the sweetest veggies in Orange County, NC and I stand by it.

Tomorrow I am planning a dish of roasted veggies to include small turnips, golden beets, baby fennel , and potatoes to accompany a roast leg of lamb for our Christmas eve dinner, just us two. I’m going to start a batch of Grandmothers rolls and bake a few for the eve and more for the day when we will go to brother C’s and share a meal with family. I’m also planning a lemon chess pie, an old family favorite and special request of the bro.

I bought a pound of fresh salmon yesterday and started a batch of gravlaax, home cured fish made with tons of fresh dill, salt, sugar and pepper. A favorite winter time treat for us. Yesterday I baked a batch of rock cookies, another family favorite flavored with coffee, rosewater, vanilla, mace, allspice and nutmeg and chock full of nuts and raisins. They are dangerous to have around, I give a few to anyone that comes by.

We don't have a tree, though we were eyeing potential candidates on our walk this evening, neither of us really wants to mess with it. I will probably gather some greenery from the woods tomorrow to make a wintery centerpiece. We still have lights in trees in the yard from last year so we can always light those up for a little more cheer.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Southern Roots

I'm on the road this week, in the midst of a deep south tour of family history. I've been to Atlanta to see my cousin J., the only girl cousin on my mothers side that I ever knew well and haven't seen her in a number of years. I forgot how much we had in common, our mothers who were sisters, both died two years apart over 20 years ago. They were too young to die and we were too young to lose our mom's. Our fathers died more recently, after good long lives and while difficult, esp for J. whose father fell and broke his neck, they both died in their homes, with hospice care and their families around them, both ready to let go and their children ready to let go of them. J. and I are both the baby girls of our family, both had troubled teen years in the 70's getting into things that were dangerous and crazy but came out all right on the other side. We talked for hours and stayed up late poring over family trees, bibles and pictures, trying to link together who was who and how they were related to the others.

From there I rode on to Mississippi, to visit my Aunt C. my mothers baby sister, her last living sibling. She lives on her husbands family farm where she moved over 50 years ago. My cousin M. lives beside her in his paternal grandmothers home. M. farms 1200 acres of flat Mississippi delta in soybeans, hay, corn and cattle. He proudly toured me in his truck through each field and pasture, all clean and tidy, put to bed for the winter, flat and smooth and cut by deep ditchs edged with cane and bordered by hedgerows of bare hardwoods and green cedars. I was surprised by the beauty of the land in its winter starkness, flocks of birds flying up from the stubble in undulating masses. M. had two big bulls, one each in pastures across the road from one another, they snorted as they stomped around the field, 2000 pounds of shiny blackness and solid power.

Aunt C. looks exactly like my grandmother with nips of my mother jumping in now and then in a smile, mannerism or expression. She's still going strong, 13 years younger than my mother, we went to the gym together and worked out. She taught me to bake my grandmothers rolls, which she does by feel rather than by measurement, I hope I can carry on the gauntlet. We stood in the kitchen together by the stove, eating them for dessert, fresh from the oven. They were scrumptious; soft, brown and buttery. We too looked over the box of family history I had carted along with me, C. filled in some blanks, gave me info on my Grandaddy's side of the family to help fill in the picture, we have info from Grandmothers family all the way back to the first colonies in 1715. She helped ID some of the mysterious faces in my tattered albums, others stare out from the browning photos, dressed in victorian high collars, too old for anyone to remember.

I journeyed on through the Mississippi delta and crossed the wide muddy river. The low winter sun, just a week before the solstice, shone across the flat land, lighting the bare trees at the back of fields bright green with winter wheat. White cotton piled at the edges of the road, bare pecan trees, vase-like, lined up in ancient groves. On to Little Rock and my fathers side of the family. I'm at Aunt H's house now, my fathers mothers last house, tiny and filled with family heirlooms, china, crystal and silver from a century ago.

We too reviewed the pictures and family trees. Yesterday we marveled at my great grandmothers autograph albums from the 1880's, brown pages dissolving under our fingers, lined with fancy script and expressions from a time long gone. My cousins here, showed off their offspring and told tales of the family reunions, games we played as children, the deaths of those that have traveled on before us. This side of the family can trace our roots to the Virginia colonies as well. So much history, so much past, all waiting to be revealed.

Last night I tossed in the antique bed, birthing this post and woke at 5 to a flash of lightening and the sound of thunder. I rose and stood on the carport, listening to the sound of rain pattering on the roof, so foreign after all these months of dry. I looked down at the lights of North Little Rock, glowing like stars through the bare trees and fog. Today I will travel with my beloved brother J. to Hot Springs for yet another chapter, more reminiscing, more reviewing of where we came from and who we all are now.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

December's Coming On

As November turns into December, the autumn falls heavier, the leaves are almost all down, dry and crisp on the ground, across the lawn and tucked into piles in all the nooks and crannies around the house and yard. The bare trees now tower against the sky, the air is crisp, I feel winter coming.

As I walk down from the house to the pond I see ropey tree roots, trailing along under the creek bank, crossing the paths, wishing for water. The pond gets lower and lower, exposing the many trees that the beavers have felled over the years, now brown and rotting against the muddy bottom. A Belted Kingfisher swoops overhead, issuing his ratchety cry and lands in a tree to stake his claim over this last little body of water.

Down at Morgan there are pools again in a few spots, their bottoms carpeted with leaves, their surfaces reflecting the sky and trees , other sections look like cobblestone roads, blocky stones bricked together with sand and leaf mortar. The sweet one saw a flock of 4 wild turkeys drinking from one of these pools the other day.

Understory plants are greening up now that the leaves are down, wild ginger, mosses, Christmas ferns and running cedar have brightened, perked their heads up to the sun. Their deep greens stand in stark contrast to the ochre of the fallen leaves.

One or two trees in the yard still show color, an oak bright red, a Japanese maple turning orange, call the eye to admire them against the rapidly dimming background of grey and mauve trunks and evergreen cedars and pines.

I still have a couple hundred more bulbs to plant but it’s gloomy, cloudy and grey today and cold, I don’t want to do much but sit by the fire.