Sunday, November 30, 2008


It's been a week hanging deep in the family bosom. Brother Jon came in from Missouri and spent five days at our house, we stayed up late every night and rose in the morning for hot coffee to continue talking, talking. The sounds of his strumming on the guitar or the banjo, serenaded us while we cooked or as we drifted off to sleep at night. Long walks in the woods, kicking up dry leaves and breathing in the crisp air. What a pleasure to have him close.

The young ones came to town as well, Mizz J home from college in the frosty north, Mr. C on his way to a new beginning in New York, such an exciting time for the young ones. It's great to see them too- coming along so fine.

Ate ourselves into oblivion out at brothe & sis A&B's house on Thanksgiving day. I had to slap Jon and Davey around to convince them four pies for 9 people would be sufficient, pecan, pumpkin, coconut buttermilk and shaker lemon. Every slice devoured by Saturday night. They wanted peach and apple too, but I refused to make any more crusts.

Put J on the plane last night to head on home and came back glad for some quiet and solitude. Spent the day today sleeping, reading, went to yoga and ate turkey soup. Tomorrow it'll be back to the routine.

I realize its been one year since I started this blog, it's cool to go back and see what I was doing this time last year, pretty much the same things I'm doing now.
And still so thankful for so many things.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Chapel Hill News Columns

I keep forgetting to mention that I now have a sidebar on this page where you can click on and link to my monthly "In Season" columns in the Chapel Hill News. So if you haven't noticed that, please check it out. I've just added the link for my November column Autumn Colors Include Greens.

Baby it's COLD outside

It's been feeling more like January than November lately. Hat, scarf and gloves weather. Tonight is to get down close to 20 degrees, I've got a quadruple layer of remay pulled over the fall veggies and hoping for the best, things looked pretty good after a night in the mid-20's with just one layer so I think it will be OK but we'll see. We ate two small heads of broccoli last night and boy were they sweet.

Keeping the wood stove cranking and it got so warm in here yesterday I thought I was going to pass out, the thermometer read 76 when I finally gave in and went to bed. I picked these gorgeous nasturtiums a few days ago, they were the last, the plants a mushy pile after the night in the 20's, but they sure looked spectacular up until then.

Out walking late yesterday and the low winter sun could not make me warm. It's time to start carrying my binoculars with me again now that the leaves are down and winter residents are active all day looking for food. Lots of sparrows by the pond, woodpeckers everywhere, been seeing pileateds pretty regularly too, I can hear them loudly thunking their giant beaks against the tree trunks, pulling out chunks of bark in search of grubs.

Walking along the road coming home the sweet gum saplings were still a luscious shade of purple and juncos and sparrows were skulking around under the little pine trees looking for a place to hunker down for the night. If you are reading this- I hope you are some place warm.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Sign the petition for a "First Garden"

A few weeks ago I read an article by Michael Pollen in the NY Times, an open letter to the next president "Farmer in Chief" encouraging lots of ways to improve the national food system including the idea of turning the White House lawn into a vegetable garden. I loved this idea and today I came across another website called Eat The View that expands on the concept and has a petition you can sign that they are going to send to President-elect Obama to encourage a First Garden. So click on Eat the View above if you want to sign the petition and while you are there watch the short video, This Lawn if Your Lawn it's great.

I can't speak highly enough of the idea of people having their own gardens as the best way to reduce the cost and transit of food and to really know where your food is coming from. And it takes very little space to grow a significant amount of food. Granted our veg garden is ridiculously large for 2 people and my friends are constantly trying to get us to start a CSA, but really you don't need that much space to have a good variety of vegetables and plenty of them.

In just the past week we have eaten fresh from our garden: lettuce, radishes, collards, kale, radish greens, mizuna, arugula, nasturtiums, celeriac, carrots, beets, sweet potatoes, green onions, dill, parsley, cilantro, swiss chard, bok choy, tatsoi, purple mustard, peppers, and shitake mushrooms , plus onions and garlic dug and stored in the summer and stuff we froze last summer like tomato sauce, minestrone soup and whole tomatoes. I kid you not when I say we haven't bought a vegetable in months.

So if you aren't convinced yet, seriously consider getting some ground ready this winter and next spring PLANT A GARDEN!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

On Turning Fifty

It was my fiftieth birthday on Saturday. I believe I won't live to 100 so I'm shooting for 75 as a ripe old age to wind up at. That means I've only got 25 years left to finish what I've started and everything I try to do seems to take longer than it once did. Oh well, we can only accomplish as much as we possibly can.

In honor of the day I took a long walk around the land, visiting all my favorite power spots and thinking about what I wanted from this year and the next third of my life. It was a phenomenal day which I took as a good sign, sunny and clear, blue blue skies, the trees still turning. Dogwoods flame with the lower leaves yellow and upper leaves red.

The Ginko Biloba on its' way from deep green to lime green to yellow to gold. We are placing bets on which day this week all the leaves will drop off, they tend to fall almost simultaneously.
On my walk down to the creek I drank in the gorgeous day. Dry leaves were swirling around and down, making a crinkling sound as they fluttered out of the trees, through the air and landed crisply on the ground. A giant oak fell across the creek in the hurricane Hannah flood making a perfect bridge, so I scaled it and crossed to walk with a new perspective from the other side. Over there the bottom land is broad and flat with tall trees, on our side are steep mossy bluffs, rocky and veined with ropey beech roots.
I wandered on down to the big rock bluff, getting there is treacherous, the path now so narrow that you can only put one foot in front of the other, 6 feet above the water on one side, a steep bluff on the other offering no reprieve, nothing to hold on to. But I precariously made my way along the ledge and then scrabbled up the steep slope to sit on top of the big rocks and study the way the big beech branches wrap around them at the top and the roots of the sycamores across the creek grow around the rocks below.

The water was flowing beneath the rocks at the bend at a level that created an echo and reverberation amplifying the burbling, gurgling creek, sending that music up to me as I sat on top, watching the leaves fall, feeling the air on my face, the sun on me and feeling pretty damn good about the place I am in my life right now. A pileated woodpecker called and flew across the sky, a portent of good things I'm sure.

The day progressed into a clear and starry night filled with friends and laughter, champagne and good food, fire and fireworks to send me into a festive new year and new beginnings. The 40's were my best decade of life so far and I think the 50's are going to be even more miraculous.

Celebrations continued into the week, between the fabulous election results- Go Obama!- and my B'day, I've drunk more bubbly in the past week than in the past two or three years, I'm drying out now and moving forward to bright days ahead.

Monday, November 3, 2008

The Golden Tunnel

I think the leaves are going to peak this week in our yard, I wish I had a picture but its really hard to capture the overall feeling, so I'll just have to try and describe it. There is one path that leads from the back door to the vegetable garden and around to the shed, right now it is a golden tunnel.

High above on the left are a winged elm, hickories and maples, all turning a bright yellow, lower down dogwoods are burgundy red, to the right a coral barked maple, that stands by the gate to the veg garden, combines the two colors in one. The ground is speckled with the same reds and yellows and on both sides of the path, the leaves of the hostas have also chosen this moment to go gold.

More than once yesterday I had to stop right there on my way to something else and just drink it in for a moment, frozen by the warm golden light as I stepped under the coral bark, stopping to look up into the underside of those brilliant yellow leaves veined in red, the bright blue sky behind them, setting them off perfectly.

On the edges of the lawn the tallest maples are now turning lime green, edges tipped with orange, in the next week the color will spread all the way down them and will be spectacular. The whole forest is casting an ochre light now, but there is still much green in the understory.

We've been playing musical plants again. This weekend it was the bed to the west of the house, one of the very first that we planted over 10 years ago. We had been ignoring it, even avoiding it, just barely keeping the weeds at bay and had let mums take over almost the entire space waiting to paint the house and design and build the rose trellis that was finally finished in May (see blog post from May 14th).

Yesterday we tackled it. Pulling out vinca- never plant this plant, it came in here on irises and day lilies we got from my father and now we'll never get rid of it- The whole time I was ripping it out, intermingled with mint- another thing to never plant- I was imagining the plants laughing at my foolish attempts, I know it will all be right back before I can blink.

We went through the mums and pulled out the more boring pale pinks and almost whites and saved the darker pure salmon and salmony-pink hybrids and a few that had a perfect white ring around the yellow button center, surrounded by dark pink petals. We dug a tall aster from under my window and will move those under the kitchen window, dug cannas from under the rose trellis to move under my window.

I dug a Siberian iris that we planted 10 years ago and split it into 12 pieces, put 4 back- anyone want some iris? I dug a peony, also there 10 years and split it into 6 pieces, put 2 back? Then we planted the new raspberry sundae peonies, rearranged the mums that were left and now it looks pretty war torn but it will be great in a couple of years.

Today David will figure out what to do with all the extra plants, they are currently tucked into the leaf pile awaiting a decision. I still have bulbs and more peonies to go in the ground. But after some rain tomorrow, there will be more golden days and I plan to spend them all outside working in the yard, as these are the last few weeks to get these chores completed.

When I was working full-time I bemoaned the fact that I had to go to the office when I all I really wanted was to be outside on these glorious fall days. I feel incredibly fortunate now to be able to do just that, of course I've bitten off a huge bite of stuff to do, but that's typical, I might actually have a prayer of getting it all done this year before the weather turns cold in December, but I'll have to keep at it, I don't work as hard or as long as I once did.