Thursday, September 22, 2011

Trout and Ocean

Once again I am firmly ensconced at the Barrett Cottage, corner of Trout and Ocean, Topsail Island, NC for the third year in a row on the third week of September.

This morning I woke at 6 and peered out the door to see a crescent moon high in the sky, hanging at about 12 o'clock over the ocean.  The moon was surrounded by bright stars and the first blushes of orange appeared between the storm clouds piled along the horizon across the ocean.  I made a cappucino, grabbed a couple of chocolate chip cookies and headed for the upper deck where I took the top photo.

I then walked over to the beach and took this one.  No wires or telephone poles.

I walked towards the pier and watched the sky show.  A pair of dolphins fished just past the breakers and they guided me up the beach.  The tide was low and the sand was broad and glistening with the red and pink light reflected from the rising sun.

It's day 4 and I'm feeling well entrenched.  Swimming, yoga, reading, bike rides, beach walks and lots of fresh seafood for supper. 

My companions are 3 fine ladies and we'll be joined today by another.  It doesn't get much better than this.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Fire Season is Around the Corner

Now that its September, we've been working on getting more firewood together, should have done it sooner but its just been too hot.

We started in late spring taking down a 100 year old oak that had died up in the cow pasture.  My brother Chris, his father-in-law Ray, David and I worked all one day cutting the smaller tops and starting on the trunk.  My brother decided it was too big to mess with and said we could have it.  Good hardwood that we can get to easily is hard to come by and David was determined to harvest this tree.   He whittled away at it over the summer, working a few hours at a time on cooler mornings, reducing the double trunks- each two feet across-into 16 inch sections, the length of our wood stove.  Finally two weekends ago, Ray returned to the scene with D and I and we spent 8 hours with the hydraulic splitter reducing that monster to stove size pieces.  Over the course of the next week we hauled it back down to the house, first in the trailer and I finished it up on Wednesday using the pick-up truck for the last two loads.  I think all in all it made about 6 truck loads, probably 3 cords, and should get us not only through the coldest weather this season but probably into next fall.

The downed tree had started to rot while it was still standing, so it had a million grubs and beetles and larvae tunneling and eating away at the bark. All around and under the logs were toads and lizards.  David said "we upset a few ecosystems" as we dismantled that scene of decay.  The splitter popped some of the logs apart in neat slabs, other times it tore at the red fibrous wood of the tree, stretching and pulling at the sinewy grain.  As I pushed and pulled the lever of the splitter over and over I thought the wood looked like pot roast or some other red meat.   Some logs revealed the ancient core of branches and burls, I could see the strength that lay within the wood, able to hold that tree so tall and solid, but I could also sense the amount of energy that had been captured there, by years of sun and rain and photosynthesis. Now that energy will be translated back into heat to keep us warm this winter.

I always say "You gotta love a project that has you moving heavy objects multiple times". In this case; onto the splitter, onto the trailer, off of the trailer, onto the wood pile and later, into the other wood pile and then finally into the fire.  Who needs Curves?

Sunday, September 11, 2011


The top experience of my week would be my sighting on Thursday.  On my morning walk as I was passing the pond, I was startled by something large slithering through the grass and plopping into the pond, the sound repeated almost immediately.   I knew they were too big to be snakes or turtles. As I looked across the water a huge smile crossed my face as out of the ripples two young otters popped their heads up and started huffing and snorting at me as they swished and swirled around in the water. Then I heard a third animal snorting and here came mom.  The three hung together, sort of hiding behind the tip of a pine tree downed across the water.  They held their heads up and sniffed the air, as curious about me as I was about them.  The babies would swim around a bit then go back to mom.  We checked each other out for a while and then the babies swam over towards an old beaver lodge in the dam.  I walked that way but they disappeared, I think they must have gone up inside the lodge, one minute they were there, then they were gone.  I always hope they'll stick around whenever I see them, but its rare to spot them at all and always in the past its been a one time thing. They are gone in search of food or another watery place to swim, play and hunt. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Frogs Are Happy

Yesterday was the strangest day.  Tropical storm Lee passed through here and brought a couple of inches of much needed rain.  But it didn't come steady, or all at once, but rather in spurts.  The sun would come out for a while, and then there would be a deep long rumbling of rolling thunder, then suddenly hard rain.  Then the sun would shine again, then more thunder, then RAIN.  And it went on like that for most of the day.  A break in the afternoon was followed in the evening by the same pattern repeating itself again.

I was happy for it, we didn''t get much rain at all from Hurricane Irene and the creek is still dry, only now there are some big puddles down there.

If you know me you might know I have an affinity for frogs and have a small collection of froggies.  David found the one above in a pile of leaf mulch one day and brought it home for me.  We could have uncrumpled it but agreed that the squished nature of this little guy added to his charm.  So here he sits on the kitchen window sill, giving me a smile when I'm there at the sink working at something or other.  The pattern on that leaf there is pretty groovy too.

Windows are open again and that is also a blissful scene.  So quickly we had become accustomed to the air and night sounds that when we closed up again for a couple of nights due to the return of the heat and humidity, despite the AC, we suffered and woke in the wee hours tossing and sweaty from the lack of fresh air in the room.  As David says "When the windows are open, the rooms feel so much bigger."

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Fall is in the air

It's the first of September, and I realize I managed to go all the way through August without a single post! August was a busy month that included a camping trip to Grayson Highlands State Park to escape the heat.  The altitude there is 4500 feet so we had a few days with cool air and high winds, lots of walks up the gorgeous Wilson Creek. It was almost too cold to swim, but we did.

Later in the month I traveled to NYC to attend the American Community Gardening Association annual meeting and was blown away by all the amazing things people in NYC are doing to bring gardens and fresh food to folks in the inner city that haven't previously had much access to real foods.  They're setting up farmers markets, teaching teens and adults in the community to grow food and sell it, providing CSA shares at low-cost and on a pay by the week basis to low-income seniors.  I could do a whole post on that trip and should.

Back here at home we have finally gotten a break in the weather- I can feel fall in the air as the temps and humidity have dropped to a much more comfortable level, we've even been opening the windows at night and letting in the cool air and soothing night sounds of crickets, frogs and owls.

In the veg garden it is definitely pepper time. The red bells pictured above are the most spectacular.  The Pasilla plants are taller than me and loaded with long, slender, deep green chiles, ready for roasting. 
 These ragged looking cucumber plants are still putting on a couple of cukes a day!  I planted about 12 plants of three varieties, (Tasty Jade, Diva and Suyo Long) back in April and they are still producing.  How many cucumbers can you eat?

Today I worked on getting the fall garden going.  I planted seeds for carrots, beets, radishes, spinach and lettuce.  Also set out broccoli and cauliflower plants.  Still have cabbage and collards to get into the ground but need to prepare the beds first.

The summer garden is still going pretty strong, I've pulled out the first plantings of beans but the second planting is looking very good and is about to start producing.  I've been harvesting purple hull peas off the first planting already as well.  Below is the third patch of beans with purple hull peas on the right half and Italian flat beans on the left.  There are also a couple of butternuts that have volunteered and are creeping along the edge of the path. At the back is one of my fall plantings of carrots and beets and beyond that the last of the cantaloupes which are pretty well played out.  The tomatoes are finishing up as well.  Given the intense heat and lack of rain in July, things look remarkably good
I am thrilled at the break in the weather, the prospect of autumn and the transition to fall crops. I've missed the greens.  Going to try and get more consistent about posting.....