Saturday, September 29, 2012

Harvest Moon

Came home from a skirt-and-high-heels event dragging a huge bag of apples a friend harvested from his trees and gave me. Saw the rising full moon, said, "That's cool!" and grabbed camera and tripod and ran outside and worked until I got what I saw. The moon that's closest to the Fall Equinox is called the "Harvest Moon". This one's in the sign of Aries. Because it's the second full moon of the month for most of us, some people say it's a "blue moon." According to Wikipedia they aren't technically right, but let's pretend they are.

Friday, September 28, 2012

The Trespasser

My first autumn here, in 1998, a red pickup tore out from the woods through the meadow, skidded in a spray of gravel onto my lane and down and away onto Highway F. Caught a glimpse of the driver -- a bald old man with his mouth gaping like Pac-Man -- and the license plate: New Mexico. I followed the tire tracks and crushed grass back into the woods. The trespasser had made my woods his dump. He hadn't dumped anything identifiable, though, just cans, bottles, rusted oil drums, old miniblinds, an old sink, and so on.

Called the sheriff. Two deputies came and asked me everything except my personal body measurements. I led them into the woods and showed them the fresh dump. They knew who the dumper was but pretended they didn't; only one old bald guy around here had a big brand-new red pickup with a New Mexico plate, and if I hadn't been so new I would have known him, too: the area's biggest landowner and richest man.

Every day I marched back into the woods and hauled out heavy bagsful of his trash. I did it 18 times before I got tired of it, and some of it is still there. At the spot where he'd driven across the meadow and between trees into the woods I wanted to erect a barrier. I couldn't haul stones big enough. Finally down near the road I found sawn pieces of a tree trunk. I couldn't lift them so I lugged and dragged five pieces uphill and down my lane one by one. It was the hardest physical labor I have ever done. Set up four of the pieces in a row.

The photo shows three of them. All four are are still there, and behind them, instead of open meadow, are young oaks The oaks are my work, too. While hauling trash I noticed that the red cedar trees, nice enough but an invasive, non-native species, were choking off the young oaks and hickories. So every possible day for several seasons I went into the meadow and yanked, chopped, clipped and uprooted all red cedars I could. If the cedar trunk was big enough, the stump wept sticky red tears like blood. I did it for the native oaks and hickories.

Today the barrier of stumps still stands and behind it are several stands of young oak trees gaining strength every day, and no one's going to be driving his pickup truck between them anytime soon.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Karma's a Bee

Honeybees without flowers will find what they can; in this case, my hummingbird feeder, where they apparently get tipsy and drown in the sweetness they were after. (One of the red metal "blossoms" on this copper-colored feeder is missing, leaving the hole. But they drown in the other feeder too.) The hummingbirds are now in their final week of residence -- the latest I've ever seen one is October 1 -- all females (for no reason I can figure out), dodging the crawling crowds of honeybees in their efforts to perch and sip. When the hummers are gone for the season, their five-month residence over, I take down the feeders, clean and store them, and cry. Grief is the price one pays for love.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Brown Eggs with Value Added, Part 3

There he was at the roadside, his red pickup atilt on the road shoulder: Farmer Bob the brown egg man! As you'll recall from a previous post, a month ago the health department told him he couldn't sell eggs on the roadside anymore, and all his customers who saw him Wednesdays and Saturdays and bought brown eggs for $3.50 a dozen were saddened--but now he's back! I jammed on the brakes and got out of my car.

"Hello," I said, holding out my hand (because gentlemen shake hands with ladies only if the ladies extend their hands first). Instead I got caught up in a hug.

"I thought the health department said---and what are you doing here on Sunday?"

Farmer Bob said, "I'm here today to tell all my customers that I'm movin'. Thought I'd do it today, when nobody, you know, would be out and around to report on me."

"But I thought they said--"

"I'll be movin' over there," said Farmer Bob, and pointed.

Flummoxed, I wanted to ask: Is that okay? Did you get a permit or something? Can you sell eggs now because summer's over and it's fall? Is this, like, under the radar? I had wondered how much he missed the income from this area; it must've been a good spot for egg sales. Instead I said, "You mean over there? You'll be there Wednesdays and Saturdays, like you used to?"

He said yes.

I figured he knew what he was doing, so I didn't have to know more. I said, "Do you have any eggs today?"

(I didn't need any, but I bought a dozen.)

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Happy Autumn Equinox

. . .at 9:49 a.m. Honor to the unknown builders of the Divine Cabin who in 1930 carefully and thoughtfully aligned the front door exactly east, so at the spring and fall equinoxes, an axis of sunlight runs straight through the dwelling in a long line at sunrise and sunset. It's Druidic. It's divine!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Fall Color

The red and green this year of the drought will have to be on your plate. The recipe for this luscious avocado, tomato and zucchini pizza is at The Piehole Midwest where due credit is given to the creator of this raw-vegetable dish you can serve and eat in any one of six ways: as salad, as salsa, as pizza topping (with mozzarella), in tacos.. .and two other ways I can't think of (I've been meaning to look up the early symptoms of Alzheimer's). Excellent because 1) there's no cooking, just dicing; and 2) the tomatoes don't have to be perfect. Peel a late zucchini, and most of the time it's still just fine to use.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Most Loved Herb on Earth...

....Basil. I'll throw basil leaves in my bed and sleep with them. This was the week, it always is, to clip the branches off the stems, to cut from their branches the heavenly-scented basil leaves that you see here, and wash them and dry them and then to pulverize the dickens out of 'em, using 1 cup packed basil leaves with 1/4 cup olive oil and salt. It's not quite "pesto"; that'd have garlic and nuts in it. Garlic flavor doesn't freeze well. So what I make at harvest time is basil paste.A huge green mess in the kitchen (pesto mess-toe) ensues. For a minute I dreaded doing the basil-paste thing but it takes an hour and lasts all year, and can't think of too many other things that are so predictably satisfying. And then I told myself, "You're complaining about fresh basil? Golly, don't you have it rough!"

Three big happy plants gave me the harvest you see here. After making the paste I scoop ice-cube-sized portions onto a tray, put tray in freezer, and when the portions are frozen, wrap and package basil cubes for winter. Can't put the cubes in the bed, but I can open the bag and sniff 'em when I need a basil fix.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Last Three Days of Isaac

Hurricane Isaac gave us a wonderful soaking downpour this past week, around 3 inches, badly needed, especially about a month ago. The tomatoes still on the vine grew fatter, the dry shabby earth greener. In fact the woods looked exactly as they do in spring; here, I will show you. I'm very very grateful for the rain. Perhaps it was withheld so that we would no longer take it for granted.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

The Old Tiff Mills

Interviewed a lady named Mary Jean Daugherty who grew up during World War II in Richwoods, in Washington County, next county over from here. She said, "We lived around the tiff mills, that’s what kept Richwoods going."

Q:  Around the what?

A: Tiff, white tiff, that’s what kept Richwoods going.

Q: What is tiff?

A: It’s white rock. I don’t know what they do with it, but we had big trucks come in and haul it out, and they did go dig in the forest. There was a good five mills in Richwoods; that’s what kept the town going.

I Googled "tiff mills" with no results. So I hunted up this bit of Missouri mining history. "Tiff" is a local name for the mineral barite, and Washington County just south of Richwoods had the richest barite deposits in Missouri, and companies tore up the woods to get at it.

Although barely harder than a fingernail, barite will not dissolve in water and is so dense that it sinks through mud and is impervious to radiation. It is the chalky substance in the “barium milkshake” used to diagnose digestive problems, and an ingredient in concrete and important to oil drilling. Ultimately the Missouri tiff mining companies dug up 13 million tons, and after the war found bigger deposits overseas.

The photo at the top is labeled "Tiff Mill, Mineral Point", a tiny town just northeast of Potosi in Washington County. You also see barite from my Missouri mineral collection. When bonded with sand, barite can form "roses" or "desert roses," a geological novelty item. My barite is more of a rosebud, but thought you'd like to see it.