Friday, August 31, 2007

Bushy Beefs - August

In July they grew twice the size; but for anyone interested in this particular hybrid, Bushy Beefs, these are beefsteak tomatoes bred specifically for growth in containers (even if your container, like mine, weighs 150 pounds). I like the heart shape, and they have lots of meat and very little juice and "gel." Good for tomato sandwiches (on homebaked white, with mayonnaise).

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Naked Caterpillar

They say when the caterpillars have dense furry coats, look for a hard winter. But I just saw a naked fellow who had green skin and that was it. We may be in for the warmest winter on record, because this August had near-record heat and six days over 100 degrees.

The first signs of fall always make me think I am hallucinating. I can hardly believe what I see. Nonetheless, there are signs, and they now seem very real:
  • Monarch butterflies
  • Goldfinches at their most vibrant level of yellow
  • With less daylight, tomatoes ripen at half their July size
  • Falling hickory nuts dent the gutters and roof, and squirrel-emptied shells litter the earth
  • Scorpio low on the southern horizon
  • Thinking fondly of wintertime root vegetables
  • Seeing pumpkins in a field and wanting to buy one (I resisted. It is still August. Let's not rush things. There is a very particular annual joy in bringing home the right pumpkin at the right moment; it is almost as good as first-crocus joy).
The seasons are changing. These are days of surprise and awe.

Thursday, August 9, 2007


Long time since I've kicked off shoes and walked barefooted on grass, but I did it today. What surprised me: how cool the grass felt in the shade; how thorny it felt when over-sunned -- differed like night and day. And I felt how hard the earth is, and how soft and thin our skins are so we can feel every contour beneath our bare footsoles. When you walk barefoot on soft grass it feels as wildly pleasurable as a foot massage.

And then I thought about the earth, the planet that is our mother and our home. "It has a hard heart," I thought. Then, "No -- that's not right. It has a molten heart. Its heart is liquid stone." A churn of lava at the earth's hot center...and here we are on surface of it, plants and animals, all enjoying a floating green crust about a mile or so deep. The earth's thinnest skin. The rest is rock.

All this I felt and thought because I walked barefoot. When I wear shoes I don't have such thoughts.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Thrift Can Be Delicious

A half-cup of soymilk, scraps of dried bread, a few chocolate chips, a cold cup of coffee -- makes a Mocha Bread Pudding in 8 minutes in the microwave. Great to eat chilled.

Shreds from a cabbage so old I don't recall what I bought it for, a small onion, some frozen carrots, a few garlic cloves, breadcrumbs, some nutritional yeast and some soy sauce, and a cup and a half of homemade seitan "hamburger crumbles," sauteed and mixed together and pressed into a glass loaf pan and baked for 30 minutes will be vegan meatloaf. Topped with ketchup, it's better than the beef version. The recipe is in La Dolce Vegan, p. 166. Don't miss it.

Took an overload of zucchini, sliced and blanched it, and then packed and froze it for the zucchini-less days of winter -- although it's 100 degrees outside today.

Cut basil from my garden, smashed some garlic cloves, put in olive oil, and one cherry tomato for sharpness, and made garden pesto for a soup I just made out of overripe tomatoes, more zucchini, a pattypan squash, some kalamata olives, vegan chicken-broth powder, and a few dry tortellinis I found in back of my pasta shelf.

There is more pattypan squash to dip in breadcrumbs and fry for dinner.

It's a good day to make cookie dough; tomorrow when the dough is chilled I can bake some, along with the meat loaf -- doubling up saves on propane. My bread machine has just finished a new white bread. I threw into it about an ounce of sunflower seeds and oatmeal and millet, the bottom of a bag of mixed grains.

Using up the odds and ends of food in the kitchen is a creative challenge, and fun. Not only do I love to -- I have to. Times are tight around here, and not just for me. It'll be another two or four weeks until I can set foot again in a grocery store. Luckily it's summer and the whole county is giving its vegetables away.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Observations During a Drought

In the current drought -- now about 3 weeks long -- my cherry-tomato plants are sick. Tree leaves are drooping. Grass turns brown and bristly. Soil is dust. Everything moves to its own margins and stays there, just trying to live. Thunderstorms threaten but do not arrive.

It's the dog days of summer here, 71 degrees at dawn, 99 degrees at noon, ozone is at the "orange" level. Took my daily walk this morning from 6:00 a.m. to 6:30 a.m., before even having my coffee; I didn't want to waste what coolness there was before retreating into the air-conditioned house for the day.

While I walked -- my usual path is up a steep hill and back down -- I noticed in the margins of the road some blue chicory blooming. I love blue chicory so much that I once sat and cradled a bloom and studied it, then wrote a poem about it, sometime around 1988. This morning while I was walking I smiled at the ragged-edged chicory flowers, like asterisks at the margin of the road, loving them, and I thought, "Only when I write a poem about something have I really loved it enough."

Friday, August 3, 2007

The Healing Spring

Down the road about a mile is a shrine to St. Mary built 50 years ago by a Polish monk. There's an open-air chapel at the top of the hill, but in the hollow is a 1/4-mile path into the woods that ends at a natural spring. It's at the bottom of a tall cliff of rock. A small platform has been built so pilgrims can kneel at the spring and pray and scoop out some water -- because this particular spring (plus prayers, I suppose) produces healing waters. Fortunately this is little-known, or the place would be mobbed, as the Lourdes spring, in Portugal, is.

Frogs live in this spring, and splash in and out of the water while you pray. They are cheerful. Especially if your heart is heavy with troubles, it is good to see their fat bellies and permanently smiling faces. They are always there in any season, any weather.

We are, of course, always praying for miracles to heal us from one trauma or another. But you have to smile at the frogs who have made their home in this holy place.

Of course the whole world is a holy place. All you need to find that out -- mighty quick -- is a clue that may mean that your time here is nearly up. One is healed of all other worries (about the credit cards; the bad haircut; the blown job interview; the President's decisions) right there. So it must be that death too is a kind of healing spring, hallowing everything.