Thursday, October 31, 2013

Unintended. Movement of the Unconscious?

These days, most of Halloween I ignore.  I turn off the house lights, shut the gate at the end of the driveway, and don't pass out candy.  Samhain actually starts for me in my dreams and in voices, which begin about the same time as October on the calendar.  This year, I am a little in dread of the start of November, my mom's birthday being on the 6th and her death on the 11th, but I've been trying not to think of that.  Grief is still an ever-present burden on all three of us, my sisters and I, orphans now.  I asked Javonni a few days ago when it would go away, and she said it was alright to be miserable as long as I liked.  Well, I don't like, but there it is!

Anyway, I was thinking how pretty this day was with the carpet of yellow, ash leaves on the ground and the small lake in the driveway from the thunderstorms overnight.  The leaves float languidly on the shallow water, and the sun is shining. The light is long and yellow, and it looks like the yellow leaves of the ash fell down from that yellow sun or like the sun painted the ground.

I browsed through a book of poems, Basho naturally, for a poem about autumn, something I could paint.  I found this simple one about a road.  I thought I could do that, and this is how it turned out below.
It's not one bit like the pretty scene at my house, although I never had a single thought about Halloween when I chose the poem.  It's an autumn haiku by a Japanese poet, and the painting style is sumi-e painting, and I executed it semi-authentically with sumi ink, sumi brush and rice paper.  It should, for all intents and purposes, to use that phrase literally, look semi-Asian.  The process looked like this below.
Still, the result IS undeniably spooky, therefore the question in my title and my later musing.  Unconscious perhaps?

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Roast for the Pot

Advisory:  Look away if eating meat is not your thing.  :)

Eating meat from the grocery store is not my thing either!  The meat in the photos below was purchased from Jako Farm, a family-owned and run business near Hutchinson, Kansas.  The animals are pastured there on lovely grasses and forbs without any herbicides or pesticides.  Well, see the specifics here at Jako's website, where they explain it all beautifully.

We mostly buy pork, but with a few chickens and a very special beef product or two.  Below is a roast my husband chose.  It depends on the computer display, of course, but the red on mine is a few shades lighter than the actual roast.  Packed full of goodness!
I still had potatoes from my dig two days ago, and I went out to grab a few carrots, taking a shovel with me this time.  I found that snapped off carrot I left before, but accidentally cut through it once again.  That root must go to China!  I had a half onion in the refrigerator, and I grabbed a pint of treasured tomatoes from the pantry.  From the freezer, I chose a green pepper that I froze two Saturdays ago.  I chopped it all up and popped it in the crockpot.  I salted and peppered and added some garlic powder.  Nothing left to do but stir and fill with water just to the top of the veggies.  I set the crockpot on high for a few hours, and I will check on it now and then to be sure it doesn't run dry. When I serve, I will toss some fresh, chopped parsley on the side, and we will have fresh, buttered bread.  This will feed the two of us for a couple days, maybe three, depending on how frugally we eat.  

Below is the picture of my too-big, but still tasty, fresh carrots.  The last picture is the near final assembly. 

Monday, October 28, 2013

Root Soup

I dug some gnarly potatoes out of the garden today, so gnarly I knew they wouldn't store well, so I endeavored to prep them for soup, also knowing I had some almost equally gnarly vegetables hanging around in the refrigerator that would not last much longer. 
Above:  Those big ugly roots at the top of the picture are sweet potatoes that were above ground.  The critters out in the garden have been chewing them.  I only brought them in to show.  The pink roots are sweet potatoes.  The piled brown roots are potatoes that also look like there has been some rodent damage.  Then there are carrots, one of which I snapped off when I picked it.  Grrr.
Above:  I picked through the potatoes, choosing the worst, those with a rotten spot or which I had cut in two with the shovel, peeled, cut them up and set them aside in salted water while I worked on the carrots.  I leave my tops when I peel and slice carrots because it's such a convenient handle.  These were a little woody, but still sweet.  I always taste test before I toss in a whole bunch of chopped vegetable.  What if it's bitter and I have to pick it all out?!
Above:  All the ingredients now assembled.  I brought this to a boil and then set it to simmer.

Altogether, the root soup consisted of potatoes and carrots from the garden, half a medium onion, two stalks of celery, two mushrooms, and a precious jar of home-grown tomatoes.  I seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic powder and marjoram.  I thought about tossing in some high-powered fresh herbs, but I had some wonderful fresh vegetables that I wanted to taste this time around.  Along with fresh-baked bread, this is my supper for this evening.  *smile*

Above:  Two sweet potatoes, a small and a large one, peeled and almost ready to bake.

The sweet potatoes are completely experimental, so I chose a small and large.  The large had a subtle woody cortex that I cut away, but it all tasted the same, that is, sweet.  I put it in the glass baking dish (reused aluminum foil), dotted with real butter and a couple tablespoons of brown sugar and set the oven to 350 degrees for 1 hour.  I am eager to discover how it turns out!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Tomatoes and Painting

Busy two days.  I have harvested all the tomatoes, mostly green ones, from all varieties and volunteers.  Hidden deep in the jungles of the Brandywine, I found quite a few whoppers in size.  Knowing how delicate they are, I handled them as carefully as soap bubbles, trying not to bruise their tender flesh.  I don't know how they will ripen on the table, but maybe better than the hybrids.  We'll see.

The Watercolor-A-Day project is surprisingly burdensome. If I don't have that done, I feel something weighing on my mind.  It's like having a job!   On the plus side, I am learning while painting every day.  The project has also provided images that I have intended to paint for a long while, especially images for projects pending like an Etsy shop and a Zazzle shop.  I even designed holiday cards for my husband to send from his office.  He buys several hundreds each year, so he won't splurge for that many of my custom cards, but he is going to buy 50 or so that are personalized with his business name. 

The Yule card is something I have meant to do for years.  In fact, as I sift through watercolor paintings and old computer files, I find bits and pieces of work I did last year and the year before that, all abandoned because the season came and went before I could get my act together.  Not this year!  This year, I did it!  The proof is in the new sidebar on this blog, shiny links to new holiday cards at the opening of my Zazzle shop!  

I am pretty excited about this shop.  I can imagine myself designing for many more items, especially things I want for myself.  Zazzle offers  a floor lamp with three shade options customizable with my artwork, and I was thinking big, bright flowers to match my cranberry red wall.  Exciting?  To me!

Seeing my artwork on functional items, things that are out in the world, getting used and enjoyed every day, the idea never seriously penetrated my head before, but now that it has, I like it!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Pepper Harvest 2013

We had our first freeze last night, so I knew I had to bring in the peppers today or risk losing them altogether.  The thought of a winter without my own peppers for soups and stir fries is almost unbearable!  Therefore, busy as I am today, I hauled myself out to the garden to pluck the fine peppers I knew were out there. These are peppers I have barely touched for months because I was unable to cook without a kitchen.  They were watered along a short portion of soaker leading to the tomatoes, so I did not even have that worry.  I hardly even thought about them except for the occasional smug remembrance that the time would come, and I would have a lovely harvest.  Oh, I peeked a few times and saw the green, shiny quarters hanging heavy on the plants and eventually turning scarlet. 

Below is a picture of today's harvest along with the single egg my darling hens provided this morning.  Lower, below that picture, is another of the prep for the freezer.  I remove the seeds and cut into varying sizes for the varying uses and sizes of meals I plan to make.  Afterward, I can dry them like in the picture or I can set them on trays and freeze them individually.  Either way, I do this so that when I put them in the freezer bags, they don't freeze into a solid clump.  The peppers cut into longish strips are jalapeno.  I use less of that so I cut them smaller.  My pride of this harvest is one pepper that grew from a volunteer plant.  It is that green bell in the lower right corner of the top photo.  *big, proud grin!*

Wild Garden Flourishing

I was foraging through my garden for salad a couple days ago when I made a discovery that made my heart sing.  Oh, it is very little, hardly earth-shaking news, and decidedly apolitical, but it made my feet feel light like dancing.  I have to tell it as a story though, so it begins with planting parsley.  Actually, it begins with planting, as far back really as the lettuce.  Oh, never mind!  I have to begin somewhere, so it will be with the parsley.

In the only corner north of the greenhouse that receives any light (the east end), I planted a lone parsley and a lone fennel, and that was as much room as there was.  The north side is sunless, and the soil is not the best because it has never yet received a nourishing load of chicken gold for reason that it is sunless and not a great producer anyway and, thus, low on the priority list.  Usually, I plant a cool weather crop there like lettuce.  In the winter, I have tossed a few field peas in for a cover crop, but they do not do well without sunlight.

The fennel did well and so did the parsley.  The parsley, in fact, grew so enormous that it branched out three or more feet over the pathway causing me to work around it to my great inconvenience all summer, yet I didn't cut it back.  I had my reasons.  Now many people know, and I am one of them, that the caterpillars of tiger swallowtail butterflies live on and eat parsley.  They will chew every leaf down to the stem and even chew on the stems when the leaves are all gone, completely denuding a plant even as large as three or more feet like mine.  In years past, I have planted parsley with the intention of leaving it for the caterpillars of tiger swallowtails.  In return, I have great numbers of beautiful, yellow and blue and black butterflies fluttering over the purple coneflowers (which I also have in abundance), and the effect is magical, pure bliss.

It was the same this year.  I planted the parsley and fennel, and the caterpillars ate the parsley, but not all of it.  There was enough of the plant that it flowered, copiously flowered, and I watched it.  That is, I squinted at it when I was in the garden without my glasses, not sure when the flowers were blooms and when they might be seeds.  I was watching for the seeds, because it was my intention to gather those seeds and save them to plant next year.  Not ever sure, I waited until very late in the season to gather.  I waited for a warm, dry day so my seeds wouldn't be moist, causing them to rot in their jar.

On the day that I gathered, I took my glasses and a pair of shears, and I lopped off the umbrels whole and gathered them in a loose, plastic bag, the grocery type.  I used this kind of bag because I didn't want to seal in any moisture with the seeds.  I then left the bag out on my porch in the warm, dry weather until I was really sure I wasn't going to seal the seed heads in the storage jar only to find that they had rotted.  Operation successful.  I have a lovely jar of seeds now, but that's not the story.

Now back at the plant, there is nothing but stalks and two umbrels of late flowers, which I have left in the off chance that they will produce seed before winter.  The fennel beside it had faded back or been eaten, but with rain and cool weather, it is reviving from the root, so there is a lovely, ferny plant in that corner now, too.  Surrounding the duo, there were the numerous seedlings of the cilantro, which is self-propagating on the north side of the greenhouse.

This is why I suggested the story started with the cilantro.  The cilantro is my great success at doing nothing, that is, letting the garden tend itself, my ultimate goal of rendering myself nearly useless, becoming the mere, protective shell to the living production therein.  I planted the cilantro years ago, a single row, but I didn't harvest all of it.  Instead, I ate what I could from the young plants, and those that grew too bitter, I let them go on to flower and seed.  Ever since, they have inhabited the waste space on the north side, sprouting at their leisure, cilantro at all different heights and ages and stages of development, varying only with weather and season.  I harvest it whenever I like, because there is always enough save for the deepest cold of winter.

As I was saying, I was foraging in the garden for a salad, and there were cilantro seedlings in the path at the east end of the north side of the greenhouse.  Being very efficient, I harvest any plants in the path first in order to preserve it (the path), and instead of just taking the tops, I pull them out by the root.  I did this and did not detect the extremely familiar scent of crushed cilantro.  To my delight, it was parsley!  I tasted it to be sure, and it was definitely parsley, a small, but solid carpet of parsley seedlings from my denuded plant above it.

What this means is that I not only have a semi-wild, self-propagating stand of cilantro in my waste space, I have a lovely mixed bed of salad herbs, parsley and cilantro, requiring nothing on my part except the residual water from an occasional soaking of the garden proper and an annual weeding to keep out the trees and volunteer tomatoes in the spring and summer.

As I said, it was not earth-shattering news, and some people would not think parsley was such a great treasure.  Of course, these same folks may never have grown their own.  This variety (heaven knows I don't remember what kind, something flat-leafed) is very tender when young, not bitter at all, almost sweet with only a faint sharpness to entice the palate.  It tastes fresh as dew!  This is why I felt like singing and dancing in the garden and maybe I skipped a little on the way back to the house with a handful of fresh parsley and cilantro and maybe I sang a little bit, too.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

A Revelation

Sometimes when I wake from a dream, I am struck by an immediate sense of meaning or revelation.  That was true last night except that the images were only vaguely indicative of the "lesson," which seems like a thing planted in my mind in the void of the pictures.  Odd that.

This happened multiple times.  First was the following gem, which I have known for a long while, but not nearly at the depth of dreaming.  "Among humans, the very young and the very old have the greatest value, are most precious.  As for the rest of us, all our thinking and doing renders us practically useless."

That was a rather universal concept to learn.  I had more personal revelations, too.  I would share, but these wouldn't make any sense to someone not tracking my dreams and the Opus they are telling. 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Forager's Salad with Random Notes

Forager's Salad  ...varies by what I find in the garden

Four large tomatoes ...woody from being chomped by stinkbugs

Four small tomatoes ...from a volunteer that has excellent flavor, but small fruit

1 green onion ...lost in the weeds, the last one I think, unless I find another when I weed~someday

3 slender onions ...those from the Egyptian Walkers that have wandered all over the property and never fail me even in the cold of winter

Handful of cilantro ...from volunteers that reseed themselves at will, insuring I always have some fresh tops even if others have gone to flower

2 carrots matter how long I leave them or how woody they get, this Napoli variety always has a sweet flavor, maybe something to do with my ground

2 leaves of sage ...from the daughter plant.  Considering she sprawls six foot in all directions, she won't even notice the loss.

A few leaves of basil ...the rosette pinched from the top of a mammoth plant that has fallen to its side, but doesn't seem to mind.  Only cold will stop it.

A delicate branch of sorrel with its "pickles" ...grows wild, red and green, as a weed

Chop it all into convenient bite-size pieces.  Add a can of kidney beans and the half can of garbanzos leftover in the fridge.  Season with salt, pepper, red pepper, fresh-squeezed lemon juice, and virgin olive oil.  Mix and chill.  Eat at will, knowing that the calories are negligible and far outweighed by the marvelous health benefits!  Very good for the heart, weight loss, depression and the prevention of Alzheimer's.