Monday, November 29, 2010

A Constellation

Small sweet gums are some of the last trees to lose their leaves, growing in scruffy lines along the edges of the roads, short and weedy they are protected more from the cold so don't drop their leaves till late.  As I take my daily walk the juncos flash their white tail feathers as they dart in and out of the hedge row of young gums, blackberry briar and pines. The Latin name for sweet gum is liquidambar, how magical is that.  I think of syrup, of amber holding insects from ancient times frozen in its fossilized resin. 

The spectacular leaf colors can range from yellow to orange to red to an almost black purple.  Speckled or solid, glossy or flat.  Add to their starry shape the fact that the seed balls are also prickly and pointy and you'll undertstand my astronomical reference.  I learn from wikipedia that the seed pods, which I've always just called gum balls are also know as "space bugs", "monkey ball", "bommyknocker", "bir ball", "conkleberry", "cukoo-bir" or "sticky ball". 

We've finally had a seriously hard freeze with two nights in the upper 20's and so everything tender has at last shriveled and died.  Sadly that includes the camellias, what were lovely flowers last week have all gone brown as of today.  It is almost December after all.  In anticipation of the cold, I broke down on Saturday and picked a peck of bell peppers, but did not pickle them,  they are sitting in a closed brown paper bag in hopes they might ripen up since I don't care much for green bells, much preferring the ripe sweet reds.

And so we head now into the last days of autumn with the winter solstice just three weeks away, the days are seriously short, but happily sunny.

Thursday, November 25, 2010


All that’s missing is the fresh whipped cream

 So many things to be thankful for today and all days

• A man that loves and respects me and vice versa
• A healthy and happy family that loves and likes one another
• A solid roof over my head that’s paid for
• PLENTY of good food to eat
• Decent health and health insurance
• Good and dear friends
• A job I enjoy that helps other people and the planet too
• No debt and some money in the bank
• A beautiful, quiet place to live with a serene view out my window
• Fine and friendly neighbors including the cows
• A good running car that’s paid for
• A place to grow a garden
• A good running bike

And that’s just the basic stuff.

I’m also grateful that there is no war in my home country, that the majority of my friends and family are also healthy and happy, that we haven’t destroyed the planet completely yet, that I feel safe in my home and in my town, that I can come and go as I please, read and write and say what I want and what I believe without threats or fear. I think it’s fair to say I shouldn’t complain about a thing without feeling like a fool.

And then there are the pies…

Happy Thanksgiving


Tuesday, November 23, 2010


It’s one of those days where the leaves are blowing up almost as much as down, but down they are coming. In just three weeks the woods have gone from green to gold to brown to almost bare. Only the stubborn oaks are still clinging to their tough brown and red leaves, all the rest are nearly empty. The paths are now covered with a crisp multi-colored carpet.

It’s positively hot today, strange, but with the wind will come cooler weather and a chance of rain taking us back to normal November weather. I actually watered the veggies today and found caterpillars on the cabbages- arghh-I shouldn’t have to deal with those buggers so late in the season.

I still can’t speak, whatever bug has attacked my vocal chords persists in holding them hostage. I spent Sunday cocooning on the couch i.e; in my jammies, under a soft blanket, with a good mystery - A Place of Hiding by Elizabeth George.  Reading, dozing, eating chicken soup were the only goals of the day. Yesterday started much the same until I finished the book. Then I was up and at it; threw open the windows to air out the bedroom, took the blankets out into the sun, stripped the sheets, started laundry and went for a walk. Determined to get my life back if not my voice!

I’m heading into town in a bit for the pre-Thanksgiving special farmers market where I plan to lay in some eggs for my pies and say howdy to my brother Alex, a trip to the store for some flour and it’ll be home again. I’m glad to have time to just lie low and hope by Turkey day I’ll be able to talk again.

Winter's Rose up close and personal

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The blog my only voice today

Camellia sasanqua Alabama Beauty
It's been a tough week of battling a cold that seems to continue to get the better of me, the latest insult as of yesterday being that I have lost my voice almost completely, whispering, mime and written word are my only current forms of communication!  I do feel a little better than I did earlier in the week, but really, the night coughing has taken a toll on my sleep and the loss of voice is disconcerting.

Today is also the final big event for our community garden project, a harvest festival/potluck dinner for the 45 families that have been a part of our three Growing Healthy Kids gardens this year.  Always a wild scene with many children running through the space and people speaking three different languages, it's fun, challenging, exhausting all at once.  And me unable to speak?  I just finished preparing a brief powerpoint of the highlights of the year that another staff member will get to present for me.  I'm sure I will arrive home ready to fall into my bed.  Tonight may be the night I break out the heavy duty hydrocodone infused cough syrup.  Meanwhile, I've got a pot of chicken soup simmering on the stove.

Excitement from a couple of days ago was this golden-crowned kinglet that crashed into the back door.  David went out and held it to keep it warm and encouraged it until it was strong and alert enough to hold itself on a branch, and the tiny bird flew away a bit later when D went to take a peek at its progress.  Hopefully no permanent damage was done.
We've been thoroughly enjoying the tiny crabapples on the Prairie Fire crab tree this week as they have gotten riper and redder and hang like ornaments from the branches.  We are waiting for the day when we may look out and see the tree filled with robins or perhaps waxwings eating them up, so far we've only spied a squirrel clambering around up there.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A bit of cheer on a day of drear

I looked that up- drear actually is a word, from dreary of course, and it is such a perfect rhyme with cheer.  And yes, its been rainy today, got so dark a while ago I had to turn on the light despite its being midday.  Here, a photo from a sunny day earlier in the week.  A brilliant flower from the Christmas cactus, which always blooms before Thanksgiving so not sure why they call it a Christmas cactus?  But its striking all the same.

I've just finished reading A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg and can't recommend it highly enough.  It's full of wondeful essays about her family, her father, her husband and each story leads to a fantastic recipe.  She is a lover of all things French, crusty bread, good cheese, interesting soups and salads and best of all- dessert.  She started as a blogger so of course I am intrigued by that and have been frequenting her blog Orangette, which is very worthwhile for swell writing and good recipes.  And she only posts once a week or so, which I find quite civilized.  So check her out.

Inspired by Molly, I include also today a photo of this pie, baked by my bestest friends J&M for our party last Saturday night, the now famous ginger apple, garnished with a stunning camellia, the name of which I have forgotten but it's something like "Miss AnnaBelle" or another equally southern sounding ladies name.

Let's hear it for those southern ladies who inspired not only all sorts of gorgeous flowers but damn good pies as well.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Feeling Fiery

I don’t know if it’s the color all around me, the little flames of maple leaves lying on the ground or the impending cold weather, but I am feeling fiery of late.

Our first outdoor blaze was quite delightful on Saturday, complete with good friends, delicious food and plenty of imbibing of spirits!

I’m looking in the thesaurus under “fire” and see several categories which include the expected “burning, barrage of projectiles, dismiss from responsibilities” and then what speaks to me more given my mood, but that I hadn’t really considered “animation, vigor, excite and arouse! Here I find synonyms that truly embody the fieriness to which I refer, beyond simple flame, the concepts of energy, enthusiasm, enliven, the acts of enlightening, kindling and setting aflame. The change in the weather has given me renewed energy; for life, for writing, for enjoying the world again and exploring nature. Hooray for the season of fire.

Yesterday I finished filling the wood racks and refilled the kindling bin with fallen sticks and branches from around the yard and I’m feeling ready for winter. Granted, I’m hopeful for more of the perfect days we’ve been having of late, mid 60’s, sunny and bright, but I know its inevitable that these days will gradually give way to colder, drearier days as winter is just around the corner.
Still, I am thrilled to look out my window and see the show that continues to brighten with each passing day. Despite having a bit of a cold and laying low, drinking lots of tea with lemon and honey- I hope to be back on track soon. And even being a touch ill, I can feel the fire burning in me, ready to leap into action as soon as I’m feeling better again.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Cool Nights Yield Peak Color

I think we are seeing our peak autumn color this week, especially in the maples; the oranges and reds are  truly spectacular and the forest overall has gone from green to gold just in the past few days.

We have finally had frost, reducing the most tender of plants- cucumbers, ginger lilies, castor beans- to limp shadows of their former selves.  But somehow the peppers still march on covered with green fruit.

Finally I see a tiny head of broccoli forming on one of my plants, they are much later than last year, I must have planted them later too.

We are planning the first outdoor fire this evening, it's been perfect before now but finally the stars align.  I've got chicken wings marinating in an asian sauce to grill over the coals and am simmerng a pot of black beans for another batch of butternut black bean chili.  I made this a couple of weeks ago and it was so scrumptious it warrants repeating.  It's also a great way to use a few of the many poblano chiles that are cluttering up the fridge right now demanding roasting and peeling.

Chores this week have included window washing, deck washing, hauling fire wood around to fill the racks, watching the leaves swirl down and wandering through the woods, admiring the deep blue sky as backdrop to brilliant tree tops.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Happy Birthday to me!

Birthday breakfast: cappucino and pear tart!

Yesterday was my birthday so I've been in celebration mode for the past few days, I believe you have to give yourself some extra good times around the birthdate.  Sunday David and I spent the day just playing together, something we rarely do.  We started with a stretch and restore yoga class, 45 minutes of gentle stretching followed by 45 minutes of very long, supported poses, something you could do at home but never give yourself time and space for, now why is that?  We can easily lay on the couch for 2 hours watching a movie, only to arise with a sore back, but won't consciously do resting yoga poses for even 15 minutes!  Go figure.

We then went to brunch at Crooks Corner- I hadn't been there in ages, the food was great but the atmosphere hectic and very loud.  From there it was off to the North Carolina Botanical Garden to tour the grounds and view the outdoor sculpture show they put on every fall. The theme was Elements; earth, fire, water, air and spirit.  Some of them I liked, some I thought a bit too cutesy.  We then took a walk on the trails through the woods there.  NCBG is a wonderful resource in the middle of town, before we lived in the country with trails outside our door we often frequented the NCBG trails.  I always feel akin to the place as our same Morgan Creek flows through the gardens, albeit wider, deeper and more free flowing coming out from below the lake.

Home again after that for a quiet evening, where David, in the true spirit of birthday celebration baked for me a pear and almond tart so I would have something delish to sink my teeth into into on the morning of my actual, factual birthday (see above).  We wound up the day with a lovely supper of crab raviolis we had made and frozen a while back, part of the bounty of our Community Supported Fishery-Core Sound Seafood

Yesterday I did some work, took a long walk in the woods and went to town for a wonderful massage from my longtime masseuse and friend Pat Kosdan.  Knowing it was my B'Day she spoiled me with a hot stone massage and gifts of bath salts and an exfoliating brush- can't wait to put those into action.

Tonight, in the final tryptic of my celebration, we have tickets to see Fences at the Playmakers/Paul Green Theater.  So I guess one could say that I'm a very lucky lady who knows how to spoil myself on and around my special day.  I can't close without a shout to all those who sent cards, e-mails, packages and made calls to also wish me a happy 52nd year on the planet.  Love to you all.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Another Day Dawns Dreary

I did not expect to wake up to another rainy day but did, fortunately, it being Saturday, I was able to roll over and lay in the bed a while longer.  Gazing out the bedroom window into the golden haze of a group of small hickories, I watched the fluttering chickadees and titmice who are there every morning, zipping in and out from the feeders on the front side of the house.  I've been greeted for the past couple of weeks by these late blooming Jackmanii clematis just outside the kitchen window.  A treat as I prepare the morning coffee.
This coral barked maple glows this time of year, even on a rainy day, the red of the dogwood above setting it off even more.  The leaves are green all summer and then this gold slowly comes over the tree. Once the leaves fall, the bark will redden and offer a different form of radiance through the winter months.

Friday, November 5, 2010

First Frost Expected

Late red peppers reminiscent of an early xmas tree
With the low tonight forecast to be 32 and tomorrow 28, we should finally get our first killing frost.  That's about 2 weeks later than normal, par for the year.  With cold in mind I've been performing the first frost rituals today; picking peppers, eggplants and cucumbers, cutting a couple more vases of flowers for the house, covering some plants with remay to see if we can stretch the harvest out a few more weeks.
I love the glaucous blue-green of the brassicas.  Here a row of cabbage, plants so tidy and round, leaves splayed out from their crowns, if there are cabbages in there they are embryonic, but I know from experience they will grow slowly all winter long and be ready for an early spring harvest.  The broccoli is running late, but I'm hopeful we will get a few heads by Thanksgiving.

I took a late day walk, it was so lovely and the sky dramatic with pink tinged clouds piled up, blue heavens behind. I extended my stroll when I came out of the woods to walk along the road and take in a longer glance at the cerulean lid of the earth.  This time of year I say I have "sky lust", I just want to be out there under it as much as possible and the evening is one of the best times for light, sun rays and long shadows.

Off now to a warming dinner of fine Indian food with good friends, hahhh.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Cukes in November!

November 2nd and we are picking cucumbers?! How great is that.  I went out on a limb and tossed a few seeds in the ground mid-august, a few weeks past the normal time recommended for planting cukes, but we had such a crummy crop in the summer I thought I would give it a whirl, and look, we've been picking these long lovelies for a few weeks now, Tasty Jade are the smooth ones and Suyo Long are the knobby ones.  There is a possibility we'll have a killing frost come Friday night but I won't hold my breath after the crazy warm weather we've seen all summer and fall.

Got to take another long walk in the woods today and it was just fabulous, crisp clear air, the blue sky behind green and red tree tops, lots of leaves floating down the creek and the water so clear I could see the rocks on the bottom.  What a very lucky girl I am indeed.

This afternoon I tackled organizing the hanging tools in the garden shed, David has been working for a couple of weeks off and on to organize the other side of the shed, cleaning out trash, clearing off counters, reorganizing cupboards and shelves, he even sorted and organized the hundred bags and buckets of screws, nuts, bolts, nails, a lifes collection, it looks so amazing in there I should post a photo to the blog.  Maybe tomorrow I will!

Nothing like some fine autumn weather to bring out the desire to do chores, after suffering through the long hot summer it's so refreshing to want to be out side again and even better to have to put on more clothes to stay warm.  We've had our first fires in the woodstove too this week, it's snuggle time.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Autumn rekindles a desire to write

Where you may ask have I been?  Forgive me readers, it has been 6 weeks since my last blog post.  I'm not a Catholic but feel like I'm here to make a confession.  I've been asking myself the same thing, where have I been?  The simple answer is, after nearly a month on vacation, I've been playing catch-up on work, chores and life in general.

The more complicated answer is that it was one of the hardest summers I've seen in terms of drought, heat and general discontent with the world.  All the things that give me fodder for writing and inspiration to get up and keep going day to day were in jeopardy.  The creek was dry from June to September, if David had not been standing behind the hose a couple of hours a day most everything in the yard would have surely died and even with his yeomans effort most plants were looking mighty pitiful by mid-August.

I think I lost my spark and certainly have been searching for my muse the past 6 months.  With this post I'm hoping to turn over a new leaf, I think it will be a dogwood, red with yellow veins and edges, they are bursting into flame about now. 

I've still got a long list of fall chores before me but with the cool crisp weather and leaves finally offering some colorful cheer, I am feeling more able to get moving with some joy in my heart.  The world is still a mess and who knows what the elections tomorrow will bring, but I've got to buck up and get on with it.

The hearts a'bustin (Eonymous americanus) seem an apt analogy to how I've been feeling, they've been putting on a major show the past month, absolutely loaded with purple and orange seed pods.
Now- on to the days to do's, laundry, soup to cook, peppers to process, oh the peppers, will they ever end?  Deer fence to mend, windows to wash, long walk in the woods to take....