"She refused to be bored, chiefly because she wasn't boring." Zelda Fitzgerald

Friday, June 24, 2011

Poetry Friday: A Watermelon Poem

 Happy Poetry Friday, everyone!

Today it is cold and rainy, again. We've been having quite a lot of those spells this summer. The handy thing is that I am spending very little time watering the plants and everything is growing like gangbusters. I am looking forward to a few more of those painfully sunny days now that it is officially summer.

It's important to have squint-your-eyes sunshiny days for watermelon eating. A's favorite fruit, and one of his very favorite foods is watermelon, a quintessential summer pleasure. He always asserts that it is "the thinker's fruit" which never fails to make me smile. Who doesn't have rosy memories from their childhood involving watermelon? Today's poem is a little intro to summers past in my brain, in celebration of the solstice this past week. Shout-out to my cousins, scattered all over the world but still as fond as ever!

Ode to Watermelon

I remember standing on my grandma's veranda
The grey wood, slippery with dry beach sand,
Ptoo!-ing black seeds into the curling sawgrass.
All the cousins, reunited for an elastic week,
Here together flicking the stubborn ones from
Crisp, rosy flesh with springy index fingers.
Proper technique also meant leaning far forward
All of us slanted togetherlike books on a shelf,
The whole deck tilting,like a summer canoe as
We dripped rivulets of juice down our arms
And let it plink in pink drops overboard.
I heard the aunt-sisters laugh from the kitchen,
An adult world of loud talk and ice in tinkly glass.
Behind us Grandma opened the grill and squinted
Briskly balancing the deck again by leaning backwards,
Dodging the smoke cloud from the shish-kabobs,
Carefully threaded on their funny blackened sticks.
Bellies full, we heaped up a mound of rinds,
Gnawed to pale crescents with a moat of juice.
And then clenched and unclenched our fists
Giggling at the tacky feeling of all that sugar
Dried to rubber cement between our fingers.

We still buy a lot of watermelon, we're a melon a week family at our house, but I miss the seeds. A thinks I'm crazy, but there's a little bit of evidence out there that perhaps the modern hybrid breeding programs that have culled the little black teardrops from our fruit have done some taste dulling in the bargain. I hope, eventually to accomplish growing my own old fashioned seeded melons. Next year I will actually be able to get plants in the ground at the right time and maybe that will be the clinching key. In the meantime, thank goodness for the farmer's market!

Check out more Poetry Friday poems at Carol's Corner, the host blog for this week.
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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Bathroom Stripping

 No, not me...this frightening bathroom wallpaper! One of our upstairs bathrooms had this lovely heavily plasticky, blueish, faux-woodgrain wallpaper. As soon as we strolled through the house for the first time I put removing it on the list of renovations to tackle early on.

 Now, of course, all of you real life home-owners know that "early on" means sometime in the first five years of owning your new place, right? I'm so ahead of schedule, getting to the job in the first year. (This is what I tell myself anyhow.) I did a little online reading about wallpaper stripping and then began....then there was a long lull and finally A helped me tear the rest off. Handily, the heavy plastic texture turned out to be a bonus....it peeled off in pretty large sheets and left nothing but a little glue on the wall.

Here are some shots of the plain white tile that lines the shower and the tiny teal-ish tiles that are on the floor. Inspired by them, I am hoping to paint the walls a bright orange as soon as I finish washing all the glue off the newly naked walls. Good thing it's a small room. I am hoping to go for a nice poppy bright color. I always do these edgy, borderline bizarre rich colors and I'm not entirely sure it is wise. I am no interior decorating wizard, that's for sure.

 This one spot above the sink is all I really have clear so far. Lots left to do. This could take a while. Good thing we started to early, eh? We could be occupied for a bit.

Here's Nib on the new bath mat, next to the shower curtain. I hope the whole theme works out. I am primarily being inspired by bright orange coral and seafoamy ocean water. Sounds sane, right? Tell me I'm sane.

Here's my whole design inspiration board, just in case you wanna visualize the colors I'm thinking.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Hot Links

Sharing a list of wonderful inspiring brain detritus
Chain chain chainImage by fabbio via Flickr
Links, links, everywhere!
today. All kinds of stuff that's been tumbling about in my head ever since I saw it, making me smile and think by turns.

  • Love John Muir. Love this photo of him. Love the quote below him. (note to self: read a book about his life at some point)
  • Speaking of photos of famous men, how's about this provocative shot of Sitting Bull, in full body form, eh?
  • I love the idea of wooden toothbrushes. They make me smile.
  • These peas sound stunning...gold pods with purple blossoms! Next year, peeps...it's on my seed list. Didn't even get peas in the ground this year.
  • Am contemplating my need level for a diy set of glowing garden orbs. It somehow seems like a good idea. DIY geniuses are such raw inspiration.
  • Kiwi makes me happy! These little kiwi boats make me hurt, because they make me so happy. I think I need to have a summer party just so we can eat some.
  • Milk + Ink makes for breathtaking, soft beauty. Who knew!?!
  • Am planning to make time in my schedule to go and see this church, post-haste! I couldn't believe such an undiscovered ecclesiastical art gem was right here in my area.

Happy link hopping! Sometimes it's good to skip the descriptives and just share the raw material that's dumping into our brains. Got any links for me?
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Little Farm In The City

I love this photo, blue jeans on the line, piles of dark compost, pick-up truck and hand tools with our garden in the hazy background. Almost like a "real farm."
Recently, I have started to hear from friends when they hail me, "Hey there! How's life on the farm?" which is usually accompanied by a sheepish grin. I am amused and not entirely unhappy about this urban legend that I have created a homestead, here in the city. Of course, nothing I am doing is really entirely shocking or impressive when you consider the previously mentioned likes of Novella Carpenter but to my friends and neighbors it apparently rocks the vision of "we bought a house in the city." I haven't really got any animals, besides the bees but I have a clothesline, a corn patch, a bean teepee and a compost pile which means, according to those in the know....I practically have a farm.
It makes me chuckle to think about how shocked people sometimes are by sudden entry into our backyard and how they scratch their heads in wonderment about the fact that despite all these "country habits" of mine I have chosen to live in the city. I have to say that although canning my own food and growing fruit trees are a warm habit of mine, I am a woman between worlds. I will never be able to live true city life with the neat, asphalted postage stamp lot and the manic lifestyle...but I can't go back to the country either with its isolation and limited exposure.

I was made to live on a Little Homestead In The City...even if I did grow up in The Big Woods. I love hollering over the hedge to the neighbors, and mulching around tomato plants and in this little backyard world we're creating I can have my cake and eat it too.
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Monday, June 20, 2011

Hiking Weather.

 It's hiking season! We went out for a good trek this weekend, warming the boys up for our upcoming visit to Yellowstone National Park. They're good little trailblazers, running in short bursts down the path ahead of us, and always excited to look for "treasures" on the way.
 We have a Nature Shelf in our dining room china cupboard, for just these sorts of finds. The rule is that if you carry it home yourself, then you get to keep it. I haul no booty for the crew, only my own treasures. But I am generous with my shelf space and allow any little feather or rock or stick a place if it is lovingly hauled back in the pocket of a young collector.
 We saw a few live creatures on this hike...like this beautiful little orange Eastern Newt...the only newt we have in our state, apparently! He held perfectly still while we all crept up close to him for a good look and then, Dee even stroked him with an outstretched index finger and he still sat stoically. We'd have stayed longer and tried holding him if the mosquitoes had allowed it.
 We saw a whole bunch of mating pairs of sexton beetles, like this one, on a tree stump. After I little research at home I found out that this meant that the beetles had found a dead animal somewhere nearby and the males had sent out pheremone signals to attract wives and all the new couples would now fight it out for ownership of the corpse where the winning pair would lay eggs and raise young. Just a little woodland drama for you! They are really pretty insects, if a bit macabre.
 Then we saw this snake....just about to cross our path when we startled it into high-tailing back into the woods. It's a rat snake, and was pretty long although very slender. A and I guessed it was between three and four feet in length...longer than Ru is tall. Handily, it is non-venomous, and also shy. I'm pretty certain I saw a rat snake one other time when we lived at the condo, last year or the year before....it was whirling it's way up a tree, looping around the trunk in quick spirals. Apparently this snake is an agile forest dweller that is adept at both climbing and swimming, able to get around cleverly wherever it finds itself.
Just before we finished our walk, Dee sat down to rest on a rock by the trail and found this little, glinting dragonfly wing. Quite an impressive souvenir for a three year old to spot! My inner outdoors-woman was very proud. I'd say the boys will do just fine Out West.
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Friday, June 17, 2011

Un-Poetry Friday: The Bees Arrive!!!

Happy Un-Poetry Friday!! Too busy staring open-mouthed at my new bees to be able to think up a poem today!!!

The girls, all one to three thousand of them, arrived last night. I took an after-dark, multi-hour, solo road trip to go pick them up and drove home with the big plasticized carton they came in, slightly warm to the touch and faintly humming in the back seat behind me. The bees and I stayed awake listening to country music hits, and gulping McDonald's drive-through coffee...okay, so that was mostly me, but hey, they stayed awake with me while I sipped and sang.

Once home I opened their sealed front door, in their make-shift home and, after just a little bit of staring at them via the light from my iPhone, I turned in, hardly able to sleep for the excitement.  This morning I took a deep gulp and installed them in their new hive, the boys all watching from the dining room window. It was astounding to be handling writhing frames of my own dark honey for the first time in my life. I am so worried that I will hurt them or displease them and somehow jeopardize my almost ten year long dream. Too much pressure!

If I don't answer the phone or the door or my emails, just understand that I am either outside staring at the hive or inside Googling, some new niggling bee question. Sometime soon real life will go on...at the moment, there are only bees!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Cupboard Stage

Last year when my pint-sized niece was visiting she was in the middle of a mad love for cupboards. They seemed like little houses I expect with tiny doors just her size. She went in and out and in and out... I was so charmed. How could you not be? Look at those curls.

She was right around a year old then...just about the age of her cousin, Nib at the moment. And just recently he discovered the cupboards himself. One year old must be the cupboard stage. I guess I could baby-latch them but for the moment I don't mind re-folding the washcloths he knocks out a few times a day, it's rewardingly cute to watch him "playing house," and every time I see his smiling face pop out of the door I think of my niece, halfway across the world.


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Holding A Star In My Hand

Have you ever seen a live starfish? I suppose for people who grow up on the shores of the sea it isn't such a ridiculous thrill, but for me? Whole different story! I got to hold one in my hand recently, and we're not talking tame aquarium example, a wild starfish that we found by chance. It was amazing.

These are the perks that are involved in having a sister who is a biologist. She finds amazing things, things I am just completely awed by whenever we go for a stroll together. And then she knows all kinds of things about them! She rocks. Biology rocks. Starfish definitely rock.

I painted the above piece, of a starfish a while ago. A hopeful, sort of exotic painting done from a photograph that wasn't mine. I can't believe I actually got to recreate the scene in real life.

The variety of starfish we found was Asterias forbesi, Forbes' sea star. I wonder who Forbes was? I feel like I know a good bit about the flora and fauna of the woods and meadows, at least in my own climate, but I am a bit "at sea" if I go to the shore. I have lived here for years, I need to learn what to call the things that my boys find washed up on the beach, for crying out loud!

Consider this a start. Sea stars have an exoskeleton, like clams and lobsters so holding ours felt like holding an animated china figurine. So strange! They move by virtue of a million, million little tube feet tenacles on their backside, and their flexible arms. This video shows a great view of the little feet wiggling.

They walk, through the ocean and in order to eat any clams (their favorite food!) they have to walk across them! Can you imagine? If something attacks a sea star it has great regenerating powers. It can grow back a missing arm, like ours was working on or even regenerate almost an entire body as it still has one arm and one fifth of it's center. Crazy, right?  Another thing my sister told us that I thought was super cool was that sea stars have no blood! The orange dot you can see on the star we found is a special valve used to suck in or out, the proper amount of sea water and maintain the proper pressure internally in order to keep circulation just right. AND, they have an eye at the end of every arm! Cool or what?

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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

We Be Jammin'!

We picked strawberries this past weekend at our local u-pick strawberry farm. Such a highlight of the year! I always make enough strawberry freezer jam to last us all winter and pretty much every time we get out a new jar we have a conversation about how good the jam is and how when it is June, we'll go pick more together. I am part squirrel, I swear, there's a manic little rodent thing in my soul that is mad for storing away goods. I love to pick and dry and can and freeze and all the other things one can do to fruits and nuts and berries and mushrooms. One of the hardest things about our annual strawberry pick for me is stopping. There are so many berries and I could pick for hours...days maybe, I've never tested my resolve.

When I was a little girl, I always rallied all my younger sisters (all four of them) and marched them down the road with baskets in hand to the top of a meadow on a two-track where wild strawberries grew. We'd pick every last wild strawberry we could find, and then I'd come home with my greedy little hoard of tiny berries and I'd make wild berry jam. My siblings were incredibly tolerant of my driving really, that's love. I hope I didn't injure any of their psyches too deeply, I still think gratefully about their faithful support of my obsession every year when we go picking big, abundant domestic berries.

It was important to the little girl me to be out there in the field on my hands and knees every summer, with all my sisters around me, rolling those tiny red bits into our baskets. I looked forward to it every year, it made me feel frugal and special and I felt really loved by my little sisters for their dedicated picking, even though it wasn't their personal dream. I don't think I could have made wild strawberry jam by myself, but many hands made light enough work that we could pull it off. And I felt like I had rubies in my pantry after I'd jarred up a glittering jar or two, all full of our tiny, hard earned prizes.
 Delicious, and mommy-friendly level of work recipe for the strawberry pie I made with the "leftovers," can be found right here!
I was lucky to marry a man who loves fresh fruit and u-picking almost as much as I do. He's absorbed my foraging love and eats my canned goods with gusto. (I love you A!) He marks strawberry season and cherry season and peach picking in his calendar and makes sure that we schedule each picking event. And my little boys have now the joined the team, energetic pickers, even little Nib plucking berries and saying smilingly "Hep! Hep!" ( Baby-speak for "I help, Mommy!") And my squirrel-mommy heart swells. Such a good life.


Monday, June 13, 2011

The Garden Grows

It is the season of the garden. I'm weeding and mulching and watering and the plants are all changing so fast that there's a heady rush every single morning from running out to see what they all look like this morning. One day this week there was the first tomato blossom and then there was a little marble of green tomato, another day I noticed that the climbing beans were up and out of the soil, gazing hungrily at the teepee above them. I haven't been out yet this morning, who knows what I'll find!

I have been picking up bags of grass clippings on the curb when I think of it and spreading them around all the baby plants. I've been laying down red plastic mulch around the tomato plants and I am starting to sidedress my little baby corn plants. I'd love to get a good load of compost so that I can really treat all the green things to a good vitamin boost. We'll see how that goes. It is harder than it seems like it should be to garden without a truck. Someday I'm going to get one and then I can haul my own everything.

The next thing I need to do is build a trellis for the morning glories and the clematis, and then stake the tomatoes, quick! I just got an email from the beekeeper who is raising the start of my bee colony and he said that we can pick up the girls anytime this week! Woohoo! Am suddenly giddy and also intimidated. I've been waiting for this particular week for 8 years. A little bit of pressure anyone?