Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Flying Out

Things I get to do today:  visit a friend.  My first college roommate lives in Arlington just north of Spy Pond.  If you live on the West Coast, it's just easier to say Boston.   This morning I'm fly out.

We'll pick up easily from wherever we left off in our last conversation.  We'll laugh till we're silly.  And we'll knit.  She loves yarn, wool and anything that has to do with the warmth of that process.  I'm hoping to beg a few skeins off her for fun little projects.  And we'll drink tea and eat--wonderful cozy things.

Mostly we are going to just settle in and enjoy being together in the same space, appreciate the time we can share and build more lovely memories.  I'll probably post a blog or two from there. But if I don't,  you might find a few things that you get to do over the next couple of days.  See you soon!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Circle of Love

Maybe in a past life I was a tree.  I'm not sure if that is possible.  But when I opened the box and then the plastic bag that contained this wreath, the fragrance exploded through my whole being.  It wasn't just an ordinary nice smell.  All my cells understood that.

The box and its contents were not a complete surprise.  My dear, long-time friend, Therese, has sent me a wreath for my birthday, for Thanksgiving and for Christmas for several years now.  Since these three events are so close together, one glorious wreath is that circle of love that expresses her wishes in my behalf.  And I gratefully accept them.  This year the wreath stayed inside a few days while the bliss of those branches blessed our living space.

The last of the Things I get to do today is hang the wreath outside where it can stay joyously fresh until New Years and where it can send greetings of love, joy and peace to all who pass by.  Thank you, Therese.

Monday, November 28, 2011


Carmel is how I say it, not caramel.  You don't have to be Henry Higgins to know that I'm not all that high class.  And I tried three times to make a good sauce by that name.  

 It was to go with my husband's birthday pie.  The Whiskey Caramel Sauce was from a fellow blogger's site.  She had copied it from a well-known cookbook.  But there I was with the ingredients list in my head from reading the blog and not having paid that much attention to the actual process.  After all, you just put sugar and water together.  Apparently for making caramel sauce (no matter how many syllables you put in the word), the process is important.  I did remember that half of the water went into the pot with all the sugar.  What I didn't read was "do not stir".  So after stirring the mixture constantly for several minutes, I sprinted back to the computer to read what to do next.  Oh! "Do not stir until the mixture has turned a rich brown.  Then stand back, add the rest of the water and stir until blended."

Too late by a long shot.  Even stirring it counter-clockwise would not undo it.  I was sure it would be just fine.  Well, it sugared almost immediately. And it wasn't brown enough to have any real flavor other than the sugar and a little whiskey.  We used some on our pie and dumped out the rest.

A few days later I tried the recipe again.  I was very careful about putting in the sugar and making it even.  I poured the water ever so carefully over the sugar.  I did not stir.  This time (ACK!) I put in all the water instead of only half.

It was really my intention to do it right, so I emptied the slightly colored syrup into another container and started over.  This time I would put in sugar and water in the right proportions with no stirring.  All went as predicted.  The sugar syrup browned.  We added the flavor.  The sauce was good but not wonderful.

1 cup sugar with 1/2 cup sugar, not stirred, boiling

Properly done--average taste result
I really feel better not wasting things (the cup of sugar and whole cup of water) so I began pondering ways to use that second sauce attempt.  Salvage the syrup was one of the Things I get to do today.  I dumped the mistake into the pan and turned on the burner.  It bubbled and slowly darken to a good caramel color.  Then, on purpose, I broke all the rules.  I added a tablespoon of cream.  The result was good, so in went another 2 Tablespoons of cream.  Fantastic!  The sauce were so good that we wanted to skip the pie and just eat it with a spoon.  Maybe my inner cook wouldn't let me do the recipe from the book because there was a better recipe hanging out in my head. Say caramel any way you want--this sauce was good.
Salvaged sauce with 3 tablespoons of cream: Yum!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Happy Birthday, Bailey Dog

I don't have a "grand-dog."   That term grabs me in an odd place.  My daughter, however, has a pooch.  His name is Bailey or, more accurately stated, "Bailey Dog."

Today by arbitrary decree, we celebrated his birthday.  No one in this household actually knows the date, but based on information from the rescue shelter, he was born sometime in the last part of November.  So after breakfast today, my daughter declared that it was time for Bailey's birthday party.  I was uncertain about the format for such a celebration, not having attended festivities for a birthday dog, but it was certainly going to be one of the Things I get to do today.

Not to worry.  It was fairly simple.  She hid Bailey's birthday present under her sweater, called him in the appropriate its-your-birthday-aren't-you-excited voice.  His ears pricked up.  His tail wagged.   He danced about on all fours like he was standing on something too hot.  It was the big moment.  He sat for just three seconds (he's been well trained to do this before accepting a treat) and then graciously and gently gripped his birthday gift.

Applause and admiration for such good behavior from such a fine dog who was now officially three years old.  The party was over.  It last all of two minutes and ended with a bacon-flavored chew toy.  Perfect.
True appreciation for his bacon-flavored chew

Saturday, November 26, 2011

One Potato, Two Potato

Potatoes are cheap.  "Small potatoes" means "not much."  We would not hesitate to toss them out, especially if they look like they're 90-year-old potato heads with all sprouts and no teeth.

I don't know beans about what makes a seed potato.  Last spring I was gifted with a generous handful of them.  When I went to purchase more at my local farm store, I was curious about what process was used to create a "seed" potato.  The fellow who helped my was more in the dark than I.  I went away wondering if it was all just a hoax.  If any of you readers want to comment with enlightening information on this subject, I'll certainly read it.

My technique for creating seed potatoes is to gather whatever is in the vegetable bin that has sprouted and plant it.  I've read that that doesn't work--that once it has long, white tendril sprouts, it won't grow a potato.  Maybe for others it doesn't.  But my mother, grandmother and great-grandmother did it.  So I wasn't shy about telling my daughter last summer that she could plant those ugly, sprouted knobs and something would come of it.  We tilled up a nice chunk of her lawn, piled on  the compost she had been cooking for a year and mixed it in.  Even with only first-time-potato-planting skills, she looked like a pro.

Part of the harvest
The rest was left to the potatoes to do what they naturally do when covered by earth and giving a little water from time to time.  They grew. They blossomed.   And toward fall the frost took the tops down.  Since they were planted rather late in the season (middle of July), there was some question about whether or not they would "potato."  Fruits have to mature and ripen.  Tubors just grow.  It's not a question of green or ripe.  But had there been enough time for them to tubor?

A crisp, fall day was the moment when the mystery of the earth would be revealed.  Digging potatoes is a treasure hunt and magic show all wrapped into one.   Putting ones shovel into the earth and exposing shiny, ruby-colored food is definitely magic.  I heard by phone it was a great show.

Awesome potatoes
So now this cold, wintery evening months later, we are thinking about supper and comfort food.   The breath-taking surprise for me from the larder was this generous bag of brilliant red potatoes. "Stand in awe of potato magic" is one of the Things I get to do today.  Our stew tonight has its origins in the roots of the dried up, sprouted dregs of routine grocery shopping from last summer.  ...three potato, four.  Five potato, six potato, seven potato more.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Like Things Together

I made a promise to the garage work bench.  Back on that day (10/16/11) when I wandered around the house "purposing," the garage was second in line for some serious organization time. I'd already purchased three drawer/bins from my favorite store that would help get a grip on the clutter that always follows not having a place to put things away.

Clutter on the front edge of the shelves piled several layers deep
makes it impossible to see what's behind or under the stuff.

Obviously, if there isn't a place to put something away, we can't just stand in the garage and hold it.  We set it down just to get on with life.  Pretty soon the "just set it down" pile gets in the way of progress.  That's why I made that purposing promise, and fulfilling that promise is tops of the Things I get to do today.

Same view with trouble on the work bench as well--note boxes of
screws piled next to the work bench angel.  

What I really wanted to do today was make the tall gates for the hen pen.  But life (clutter) was in the way.  First things first. *

Space to work as well as clear, clean access to the banks of
organizers in the cabinets.

Wisely when the table saw was out the other day, I made the track/rails for the bins that would find a place under the cupboard.  So today in a few minutes the rails were installed and the bins were fitted in.  Now the fun part began--getting to haul all the piles from the "just set it down" places, sort it out, find a place for it or throw it out.  Plenty went into the trash.

Drawer/bins installed under the cabinet.  Boxes of screws
fill one of the drawers, sandpaper another and all the
miscellaneous items were placed in compartments in the third.

Two of the most helpful tips in getting organized:  Store like things together and store items where they are used.  If the area is just chaos, an excellent approach is to remove everything from the storage space.  Then put back only what you want to have there.  Put everything else in a box to sort: keep, donate or trash.

*The gates were made with amazing ease once all the obstacles were removed.  A sparkling clean area to work in makes any task easier.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Box-Car Babe

Does it look too easy?  Everyday I post about something wonderful.  Sometimes it's nature, and nature is always easy.  Some of these posts are about plarking and creating stuff for around the house, the yard and the chickens.  But I don't want to deceive you about the effort.

As a child I read a wonderful book called The Box-Car Children, by Gertrude C. Warner.  I was inspired to the depths of my little soul by the ingenuity of these orphan children, Henry, Jessie, Violet and Benny (and Watch, their dog) who made a delightful home in an abandoned box car.  They knew how to make things lovely with hardly anything.  Years later when I had my own daughter, I read the book to her.  It had an amazing effect.  She somehow thought that no matter what project she wanted to accomplish, she could just state it and it would all come together as imagined moments later just as it did in the book.  This trait showed up with enough frequency during her childhood that we began referring to it as "Henry."  What you really need, we would say, is a Henry.

Henry lives between these pages.
So here I am, Handy Henrietta, the Box-Car Babe, making things happen at the speed of thought. My concern is that you might expect the various projects, should you choose to undertake them yourself, and I recommend it highly and certainly hope you do, to take about the same length of time as reading "Things I get to do today".  That is not true.  A few of them take less, but most have fermented on the back burner of my stove of creativity for weeks or more--90% inspiration and 10% perspiration.  That's the easiest way.

Finally, here's a rhetorical question that I always inscribe on my list of "Things I get to do today":  "Why is everything so easy?"  A good Henry just never dies.  We can be so thankful.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Draft Door

It all began with a very bad smell.  We had just paid a chunk of money to have the chimney cleaned, to have a cap put on it and to be told that the damper in the flue was rusted/broken/inoperable and in the open position.  So a day after using the fireplace, it was not a pleasant surprise to find the house, especially the living room, filled with a damp, heavy creosote smell, again.  I had hoped that the recent work would keep that from happening.  Not so.  Since taking care of the smell wasn't something the chimney man accomplished,  it became one of the Things I get to do today.  But how?

Being stumped is not a state I hang out in very often.  There's always a solution, a way out or around an undesirable situation. I began envisioning what I wanted:  outside air blocked from coming down the chimney and into the house bringing with it all the chimney odors.  And then the idea came.

Plywood, a hinge and some flat, dark paint were all that was needed.  Oh, and some generous plarking as well.  (If you are new to this blog: "plark" is focused play, with purpose, on purpose, but still play.) I had the hinge left over from my "root cellar" project, and after two trips to get the plywood (silly me, not ever having a load that wouldn't fit in my Fit, and not being handy enough to figure that a 4' x 8' sheet of plywood--even cut in half--would not fit in my Fit so having to go back home to get the pickup) and a can of spray paint, I was ready to roll.

Plywood cut and hinged

Cord secured at the top for pulling the "door" closed when in place

Three points left to file
Simple project: measure plywood, cut to fit, attach hinge, test, paint.  Only one slight catch, and it was multiplied by 20.  The little screws for the piano-type hinge were 3/32" too long and poked sharply out the back side of the plywood.  My construction consultant (husband) suggested using fencing pliers to snip off the tips of the screws.  I was glad he demonstrated the snipping for me since it took considerable muscle that I could never develop to snip one tiny screw.  19 left to go and even the snipped one was too ragged to leave.  So I found the tool that fit my muscles and filed the tips smooth and flat.  Note to self: make sure construction consultant continues with his personal trainer.  There are other projects in the works that need big muscles.

Finished "draft door" 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

I Want to Keep Them All

I have two dentists.  One I see twice a year for all the maintenance stuff.  The other I see about twice a year as well, but she's family, and we, just like you, seldom (never) do any dental work on family holidays like Thanksgiving or Christmas.  Instead we eat chocolates and sweets, enjoy ourselves and just generally have a grand time (brushing and flossing afterwards, of course).  Her office is in California, a long way from Oregon, so any dental work has to be special, just like the holidays.

My mouth has seen a ton of dental work--I believe "ton" is a technical dental term for the many hours I've spent in the chair over the years.  Repairs for decay and chips, root canals, caps and crowns had left me a rather mismatched and unique gathering of teeth .  I'm sure it made her fingers itch every time I opened my mouth.

Dr. Julie did my two front teeth and all visible teeth on
the right side (my left).
One day she tactfully volunteered that if I would get myself to her office, she would have a go at creating order and beauty with my visible top teeth.  So I did.  I can't tell you it was a picnic having three crowns and a bridge done in one day, but even the temporaries looked better than what I had.  And I went home a few days later with the best teeth I had ever seen.

Seldom does a day pass when I don't consciously appreciate what I see in the mirror, what my tongue feels, and what bites into my toast or an apple.  And now that I'm flossing that bridge, I don't feel the guilt of disregarding her gift to me: lovely teeth for a warm smile.   With my new commitment to flossing, I was a bit taken aback by a the first few words of a post on Dr. Julie's professional Facebook Page:  Did you know that you don't have to floss your teeth?  Dentists recommend that you floss only the ones you want to keep!

Things I get to do today: brush and floss those pearly whites, take really good care of them and say thank you.  So here it is:  Thanks--to you, Julie Furber, DDS, Yucaipa, California.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Unknitting Nature

It was snowing when I woke up this morning.  Green snow.  Actually, the more I think about it, maybe it was raining--raining leaves, except that it was cold enough to snow.  This was the day of  fall magic.

There are two persimmon trees in my yard, a Fuyu, that makes the little pumpkin-looking fruits that can be eaten when firm, and a Hachiya, which is more acorn shaped and must be slippery-soft to neutralize the astringent quality.  The firm persimmons are usually abundant and delicious every year.  The ones that are supposed to be like honey never quite ripen and, at their best, resemble orange mashed potatoes.  We do not eat them.
Naked by noon

The point here is that when persimmon trees let go of their leaves, they let go.  A good frost somehow goes in to the very spot that holds each leaf to its twig and unknits the connection.  The leaves fall.  It's almost like a race, each leaf not wanting to be still seen still hanging around by lunch time.  Leaves in the morning, naked by noon,  purest of magic, and frost is the master magician.

The persimmon's dress, fallen around her ankles.

The great unknitting magician

The first of the Things I get to do today is capture the magician.  I found him in the chicken's water!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Apple of My Pie

Pecan pie is my favorite, but I've never made one.  Apple is the one that rolls through my kitchen more frequently than any other.  But even apple pie has made only guest appearances at our table over the last few years. The most recent five or six apple pies I've made were less than excellent, and excellent apple pie is the only kind worth eating.  You don't find them very often--seldom in a restaurant and never from the grocery store. That's not a problem for some of you, but apple pie is my husband's favorite dessert.  At least one a month might be a good number in his mind, but I, the pie maker, had sort of lost my touch.  However, as a special treat, for a special day, for my very dear and special husband, making excellent apple pie is one of the Things I get to do today.

I wanted this birthday pie to be the kind I used to make so I took my time.  The most important ingredient I finally realized was loving the process.  If I was struggling with or grumpy about the process of this creation, it wouldn't sit with delight on anyone's tongue.  Fortunately, I had just cleaned out a cupboard and unearthed my old apple peeler/slicer.   With the cheery prospect of getting to prepare the apples with this grownup toy, I was on my way to the best pie of my baking career.

I must interrupt this narrative to  sprinkle in some pie philosophy.  A pie is nothing, period, without good crust.  Don't even bother to put the filling in if there is too much water or not enough shortening in the mix.  So get that part right.*  And here is where I tell you the most important secret for out-of-this-world apple pie:  it must be a 10" not a 9" pie.  This is extremely important.  It's something about commitment and giving it enough space to make a real flavor statement.  A 9" pie is only a stammering suggestion.  It just won't do.  And don't scrimp on the cinnamon either.

Remnant scraps will be rerolled and sprinkled with cinnamon
sugar for pie crust "cookies"

Having followed all my own suggestions, I had the crust ready to be rolled.  Big decision:  do I use the fancy, modern silicone roll-it-out mat or do I find an old flour sack dish towel like the old days.  Better judgment directed me to the old dish towel.  As my hand smoothed the little mound of flour across the rough cloth to cushion the ball of pie dough for its first couple of rolls, I could feel the perfection of the process returning.  The crust was smooth and supple and cooperative.  I was in the groove, my skill refreshed.
Pure genius this toy is!

I played with the peeler and the apples until I had a little mountain of red and gold and greenish curls and a pie pan of thinly sliced apples heaped and ready for the sugar and seasoning and dots (lots) of butter.

Ready to be sprinkled with sugar, cinnamon and cardamom and
dotted with butter.  Don't scrimp with the cinnamon or butter.

The rest was easy.  Put on the "lid" crust with a few pretty slits so the sugary juices can bubble out to tell you when the pie is done.  Put it in the hot oven and wait for their signal.


This may look like the picture of success.  It's not.   A deliciously excellent apple pie is best shown by an empty plate with a dribble of melted vanilla ice cream on it.

*Perfect Double 10" Pie Crust

2 1/2 c King Arthur Unbleached white Flour
14 Tablespoons Shortening (use the foil wrapped pre-measured kind and just count to 14 and cut--easy)
3/4 teaspoon salt

Work the above by hand with a wire pastry blender until the mix resembles a very coarse corn meal

6 Tablespoons cold water and toss lightly until evenly distributed.  Form into two equal balls.  Roll, etc. etc. etc.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

From Bad to Worse

I'm starting to feel sorry for the rich and famous.  Having all of ones worst moments investigated and published, and even more horrible, having the most difficult and private times documented with glossy photographs for the whole world to see has to be the pits.  (I'm even considering feeling sorry for you, Kim.)

Famous chicken-person, Miss Katy Perry Chicken, thinks one of the Things I get to do today is making life miserable for her.  As you all know from the recent post "Chicken Hair," hens have long-term unglamorous periods called molting.  It was photo documented that she had lost a whole chunk of her "hair" just above her neck in the back.  And today I (the paparazzi) am following her around the hen pen, popping out from behind plants and structures to catch a gosh-awful shot of her latest disaster hair-do.  With only pin feathers covering her whole head and neck and closely resembling a turkey vulture, she is definitely sporting the latest hair-don't.
Katy turning away from the camera  to escape the glare of publicity,
her scrappy-looking head and neck clearly visible.

Ducking behind the crowd of other better-and-more-sleekly-coifed girls

"Sparse" they called it in The Times.

The Observer noted it was "prickly."

"No comment" pled The Herald.
The Oregonian: "We've seen better do's.  Look's like she's seen better days."
But for the fashion conscious, like Katy's we know, this one included, there is hope.
Right in the middle of the back of her head are two or three feathers that have
sprung loose from their tight, pin structure.  A week from now her head will
be covered with brand-new, luxurious feathers.  Forget Paris, London or New York.
This is the latest look.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Hand in Glove

No doubt about it.  When it's 38 degrees out, the water in the gutter overflowing at the corner of the house is going to be cold.  Plunging my hand into the liquid ice to unclog the downspout sent a chill-shock all the way to my elbow.  My first thought was:  that's why people die when they fall into the 40-dgree ocean.  It just sucks the life out.  But here in the gutter, the water and gravity and the downspout and the rain barrel soon worked it all out harmoniously, and my job was to put the ladder away, thaw out my hands and wash my gloves.

You've got to be joking:  "get to" is not how I think of washing dirty, cold and so-soggy-I-have-prune-fingers garden gloves.  But after my adventure with the gushing gutter, the supply of fresh, clean ones in the cupboard was spent.  The bottom of the laundry basket was littered with gritty pairs, but not enough for even a micro load in the wash machine.  Previous trips through the washer hadn't improved their appearance remarkably anyway.

Finally I knew that dealing with this pile of gloves was one of the Things I get to do today and the sooner I did it the better. Fortunately, an instant later,  an image popped into my head.  Instead of peeling off the gloves and then scrubbing each wobbly finger while muddy water splattered about creating another "deal with", I left them on, filled my palm with soap and "washed my hands" with the gloves on, closing my fists from time to time and scrubbing my knuckles together.  I was delightedly stunned at the results.  Repeat with the orange ones, the pink ones, the purple ones.

After wringing them quickly in an old towel, I cast about for the perfect, clever place for them to dry.  What did it look like?   There! Yes.  The "coat" rack used for running shoes right above the heat was it.  So easy, so slick, so fun I felt right proud of myself.

Bright, clean, happy gloves all gave me the "thumbs up" on a job (well) done.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Blazing Berries

Fall is gosh-awesome gaudy.  No doubt about it.  Why in my yard alone there is enough color to make Tammy Faye Baker look pale.


Knock-your-socks-off gorgeous in the far corner by the hen pen is barberry with it electrically sharp spines.  Bright, lipstick red leaves will bring the whole plant to center stage by Thanksgiving.

Harlequin Glory-bower or Clerodendrum

For now it is watched over by the Clerodendrum whose elegantly, old-fashioned-sweet summer blossoms somehow translate into crazy jester hats for Halloween and fall.

Porcelain Berry Vine

The summer preview for Porcelain Berry Vines is more about sound and honey.  The tiny, barely-noticeable clumps of flowers are honeybee magnets, causing the whole vine over our back patio to humm-m-m-m during daylight all summer long.  But fall pops out these purple, pink, blue and gray jewel "beads" that flickers find tasty.

Beauty berries are just natural show-offs.  A table center piece with orange-ripe persimmons and clumps of these near-fluorescent berries is stunning.  In January the bush is a banquet for migrating birds.

There are few words to paint adequately the portraits for these wonders so letting the pictures speak for themselves is one of the Things I get to do today.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Chicken Missiles

It's not Christmas; I'm not Rudolph, but the end of my nose is cold and red.  Dark slid subtly up behind me, and it is cold.  My plarking project this afternoon was to secure the recently installed six-foot fence for the chickens.  The ends needed metal stakes, and the two feet of additional chicken wire was waiting for someone to graft it to the previous four .

When some of you heard about Gwyneth being carried away by a coyote, fences and pens were suggested.  Unfortunately the coyote made it easily over the four-foot chain link that surrounds our back yard.  The stability of the fence makes it very climbable.  Our solution was to shrink the hen pen from about 2000 square feet to 1200 and to make that space secure by increasing the fence height from four to six feet.  Five chickens will not know the difference.  They are still extremely pampered by any cackling standard.

However until that is accomplished, they have been spending everyday nearly all day in their coop.  They have chicken toys and nibbles to keep them entertained.  But the hen pen needs them to scratch what itches, get the bugs and eat the weeds; and they need the hen pen.  When I'm around to supervise, they get "recess" from 3 PM until bedtime, which for chickens at this time of year is about 4:30.

New taller fence--also the end of the flight path
All of them, upon being released late this afternoon while I was present to guard, exploded out of the coop and flew cruise-missile style several times across the hen pen to limber up their wings and get the blood circulating.  I don't think much of the fresh stuff reached their brains since at least two of them weren't careful about landing or pulling up when they reached the fence at the opposite end.  Chicken missiles make quite a squawking when they suddenly lose control--somewhere around twice the volume required for regular flight which is already considerable.

Tall gate needed here.

If all the Things I get to do today were as silly as those chickens,  I'd quit this blogging and have a TV show.  For now I'll just plan on making taller gates to match the tall pen while the girls practice their take-offs and landings.  The flying is easy; it's the landing that's hard.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Ghosts of Summer

It stood there nearly sheet white --actually it was a gentle buff color.  Glorious and perfect, but still so odd for a fern.  Honoring the elegance of summer turned fall--a ghostly slipping away of the vibrant green that proclaimed "alive"--is one of the Things I get to do today.

While away last week to my farm and forest roots, I stood stalk still for many minutes marveling at the hollow lack of color in the frond of a fern.  The tamaracks also leave green behind, but exchange it for a pale or vibrant gold depending on the angle of the sun.

In my own yard,  Fairy Bells are bleached by the chill of our colder nights, joining the ranks of the ghosts skulking out of the season.

Twigs, slender-red, cling loosely to the remaining wisps of Variegated Dogwood--slight vapors of the summer vine.

To all of you, thank you for your summer gift, your fall illusion and your promise in the coming spring.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Italian Generosity

Tony just gave it to me--a mound of parsley seed so generous that it spilled over the edge of my outstretched hand. My neighbors are the best.  Hand-picked, every one of them, for their unique qualities and contributions to my life--this time in the form of never-ending Italian (flat leaf) parsley.

I planted two types of parsley this last spring.  Each seed was blessed and coddled and watered and stroked and loved and tended and watched until it grew big enough to live on its own outside.  And when the summer was done, my Italian parsley was slender and sparse.  Disappointment was the flavor of all those efforts.  And as I think about it, the planting and tending process was very much from my Norse heritage and not my Italian side.  Truth be known, genetically I don't have an Italian side, and I think I was just too stiff.  They don't do it that way.
Old pot with dirt and parsley seeds.  Even the rooting around
of a pesky squirrel did not derail the process.

So Tony told me how to plant my spilling-over gift so that I would have parsley forever: find a big, old pot with dirt; throw the seeds in the pot; scratch the dirt a little bit; keep it moist.  That's it.  I'll need to do that again next spring or summer.  The plants will grow.  They will reseed on their own the second year (that's why I'm supposed to do it for them the first summer) and the cycle will just keep going.  Parsley forever.

If all the Things I get to do today were flavored with "lighten up," "let go," "ease," "flow," "throw it in the pot, scratch it and keep it moist," how easily would life spring forth and grow with abundance--forever.
Lush, large, Italian Generosity

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Chicken Hair

I seem to be losing chickens lately.  Sometimes it is a slow decline in health, and then the chicken is gone (Nora #2).   Sometimes it is a hungry, wild critter, and then the chicken is gone (Gwyneth).  Sometimes it is one or two or twenty feathers at a time (Katy), and then:  the chicken is molting and will, eventually, grow back.  In the mean time, in the Things I get to do today is "find a new hairdresser for Katy Chicken."

Beautiful Katy with her pretty, pointy tail

Miss Katy Perry Chicken came to live with us nearly three weeks ago now.  Dark hair, white skin, red lips--I was certain this chicken was a Katy.  She was glamorous and gorgeous as well as sweet in voice and style.

I was startled a few days after her arrival by a stunning black and white feather in the hen pen that seemed to be hers.  Several days later there were puffs of feathers in every corner that looked more like her than any of the other hens.  Her tail was the first to go. What was once a proud exclamation point at the backside of her fluffy silhouette was now only a question mark, a short one at that.

Where, oh where has my pretty tail gone?

Looks like someone took a big "chop" out of the back of her neck "hair"
 leaving an ungraceful gap between "hair line" and shoulders.  Pin
feathers are visible behind her ear and at the base of her neck.

Tail feathers are not needed to keep a hen warm so I didn't give it much thought.  But when I returned from being out of town this past week, Katy looked like she'd had an appointment with a demented hairdresser resulting in a bad hair day that will, no doubt, drag on for several weeks.

Fortunately for this Katy, she doesn't care how she looks, though I'm sure she can feel a chilly draft at the back of her neck.  I may need to knit Miss Katy Perry Chicken a little scarf until the pin feathers grow out and can keep her neck warm again--put that on the list of Things I get to do today.  A red one, don't you think?