Seasonal living and the sensual, sensate life.

Recent Posts

A Mind of Winter

A Mind of Winter

   Cabin in deep snow One must have a mind of winterTo regard the frost and the boughs Of the pine-trees crusted with snow; And have been cold a long time To behold the junipers shagged with ice, The spruces rough in the distant glitter  Of the January sun; and […]

Cooking in the Age of Anxiety

Cooking in the Age of Anxiety

Smell Rome might very well be burning.  There is no denying the smell of smoke in the air and a horizon that looks so much darker than it did a just a few weeks ago.  I have spent my days out of focus and a […]

Taking Stock

Taking Stock

For a week now, the freezer door has refused to stay shut.  I will close it, only to have Greg complain it’s been cracked open all night, a puddle of water the damning evidence on the floor. Both of us have tried in our own haphazard way to shove bags of peas and protruding ice packs back into the maw of the deep freeze, announcing triumphantly that “I fixed it,” only to find the door ajar an hour or two later in the golden light of the afternoon.    

So yesterday morning, while I was making Sunday coffee for coffee and The New York Times in bed, I took everything out of the freezer, and here’s what I found:  a dozen frozen bananas, a pint of Talenti Tahitian vanilla I didn’t know I had, the missing fruit pop I removed from its box because the box was taking up too much room, a bag labeled “lamb scraps” and another labeled “lamb pieces for stock,” a small round filled with a dark brown substance that is either chocolate frosting, demi-glace or bordelaise (the lid is frozen to the container), along with the requisite chicken and pork packs I knew were in there.
I also found the culprit to the door dilemma:  14 chicken backs shoved, along with 3 bags of frozen leek ends from last years’ garden in the door’s upper shelf.  Whenever I make chicken, I often buy a whole fryer, a bargain at my localish healthy grocery store for about six bucks.  Far easier to cut up the chicken myself than to pay the butcher to do it.  This leaves me with the back which goes into the freezer for a stock I’ve never gotten around to making.  Until yesterday.

Judiciously choosing ten backs, and saving four, Greg and I bought another three pounds of chicken wings and together, put the pieces onto two cookie sheets along with a coarsely chopped onion, celery and carrot.  We don’t often cook together, a habit we seem to have fallen into because the first rule of the kitchen is that s/he who cooks doesn’t do the dishes.  Our labor thusly divided, we tend to stay out of the other’s way.  Perhaps because it was a largely hands off venture, the stock seemed ripe for cooperation on a day that caught us squabbling about the most mundane things.
After checking the chicken parts three times, an hour and fifteen minutes later, I took the browned meat and veg out of the 450 degree oven, deglazed the sheets and poured everything into a big stock pot and covered it with water. Then Greg climbed the stairs from the basement at thirty minute intervals to de-scum the stock which simmered for three hours as I alternately napped and rooted for the underdog Steelers who were fielding a backup quarterback.    
I’ve been thinking about taking stock as summer fades fitfully—the forecast is still peppered with 80 degree days out here on the prairie, and just this last week, the morning glories breathed their last gasp at the height of their bloom, as night time temperatures dipped into the forties.  It’s been a lovely and sometimes difficult six months since I fell into full time writing, working most days in my office alone, River sleeping at my feet, trying to keep a rhythm going for my memoir in progress, while also being mindful of the rhythm in my relationship wit my artist-lover.

Writing is lonely solitary work.  In my particular way of accessing the best of it, I prefer quiet mornings without so much as a cheery hello or tender I love you before I am off to work. Speaking first thing seems to get in the way of my best words.  It is a habit I honed all those years when I was single and living on the mountain, but it’s tough on Greg, who nevertheless has been game as my writing days stretched from five to six a week this summer.  Still I worry that the gap I’ve created for my work has introduced a gap in my relationship.

At this point, it normally would be far too easy for me to panic, to see my dilemma as pitting professional fulfillment against more personal ones, to walk straight to the ledge and leap.  But the one thing I’ve learned in five years of being with Greg is that what’s happening today isn’t necessarily what will be happening tomorrow or next week.  Just at the moment when I’m certain I’ve fallen into a perilous rut—with writing, with Greg, with life–something surprises me.  Things change. The seasons tell us that.  And just like the surprise of those chicken backs or the dozen frozen bananas in the freezer which I vow to make into a fabulous something sometime soon, there are things left to be discovered, new stories to live and tell. 
As Greg and I shared a comforter on the couch downstairs and ate his famous natchos, from basement to bedroom, the house smelled like Thanksgiving, a lovely roasted and browned poultry aroma that brought to mind some of our happier holidays and inspired me to save our joint stock for turkey day, when we can be gratifyingly reminded that it was made by four hands not two.
Oh Fall! How do I love thee?

Oh Fall! How do I love thee?

Let me count the ways. I love thee for cooler days and the return to roasting succulent cuts of meat, for rich sauces made from boiled pan drippings, and the serene pleasure of mashed potatoes larded with butter. I love thee for sweet baked squash […]

Dog Days, Part 2

Dog Days, Part 2

When I introduced River in this blog a few months ago, I announced in a tongue and cheek way that he came from a Texas kill shelter with “a suitcase full of yet to be revealed ailments,” lamenting a case of very treatable but not inexpensive cancer […]

The Clock of August

The Clock of August

In the yard this morning
Let’s face it, August is heavy with expectation. We’re all thinking about what’s to come, all the while larding our calendars with things to do before the golden days of autumn settle in, before the evenings are too cold to sit outside, before the early mornings are perceptibly darker. Our bodies swing between hurried preparation and a kind of manic relaxation:  One more vacation, one more weekend getaway, one more long hike, one more fourteener before bad weather and back to school. My Facebook feed has been one non-stop pleasure-fest, so full of friends’ exploits and accomplishments that next year, I’m banning all beach photos.  You think they’d have an app for that.

Plainly put:  August is a ticking clock. 

Our Giant Sunflower
For me, it’s been rather a time bomb. I woke up this morning realizing I’ve washed up on the shore of summer feeling as if I’ve missed it. There have been no vacations this year, no camping, no Persieds, not even one hike, though Greg and I managed a few bike rides. I’ve barely set foot in the garden.  Instead, I’ve merely glanced at it from my office, an 8×10 space where I sit and write for four, six, eight, or, as on one fevered day, thirteen hours. And while it’s true that writing every single day is the dream of a life I’ve long had, the bubble popped this morning on its romance.  This summer, my artistic life has obliterated all else.  

The Glory herself
Of course it’s my own damn fault.  In some ways, it’s been easier to sit at my desk as an excuse to escape the string of 90 degree days appearing more often than not since the beginning of June. But that’s not the whole story:  I’m nothing if not a toiler and a doer and, whether rocket fast (kitchen prep, cleaning, weeding, chores) or slow and plodding (writing and writing and writing), I manage a sturdy, cement-like focus, letting all else—pleasure, anyone?—fall away. 

So I’ve arrived on the eve of September realizing I need to take not only a breath, but a sledge hammer to all this concentration. It began this morning, when I broke routine (coffee, journal, work on book) and stepped outside before 8am for the first time all summer. 

A fat morning glory yawned open against the garage and I plucked three strawberries and a handful of beets. Lemon basil bolts from neglect, but the vegetable garden is thick with the promise of tomato and peppers.  My monster sunflower, pregnant with blossoms, towers fifteen feet in the air and the rosehips are fat as raspberries.  Taking it all in,  I resist the urge to plot and plan.

This holiday weekend, though it makes me breathless, I vow to take all three days off from writing.  Plans?  I have a few which include poetry and Greg and hammock time, or perhaps a bike ride to the Farmer’s Market along with a drive up to the hills.  Whatever it is, no matter how much fun or spectacular or beautiful, I will not be posting the pictures on Facebook.

Beets

 

A Menu For Change

A Menu For Change

Okay listen. Like you, I’ve been unable to look away from the daily idiot-grams tweeted by the Demagogue Who Would Be King.  Inside these last burning days of July, I’m boiling, not because of the heat dome currently centered over the nation, but because one loud-mouthed […]

Letting My Yolks Run Over

Letting My Yolks Run Over

There really isn’t any food as erotic as the sunny side up egg.  Think of the way the synapses in the brain sizzle at the sight of a golden yoke oozing its buttery pleasure in brothy soup, on top of a pile of greens, or […]

Dog Days

Dog Days

Dog days typically mean the oven of August, that sweltering dried out month with Sirius overhead and the first signs of wilt below.  For mountain girl me, the dogs have the day once the thermometer rises above 82 and nights no long dip below 55—that’s June through mid-September on the prairie—days that are as onerous for me as they are long.   I sleep with wet towels and eat nothing but tacos and salad for weeks and weeks.

But this year, there’s been a different kind of dog day—these since December, and with nothing to do with the burden of hot weather.

Dear friends, meet River.

River (with my niece) in his new home with winter coat

The artist-lover and I have long negotiated the idea of canine companionship—he worried about his tough as nails and set in her ways alley-cat Dottie, who almost two years of co-habitation merely tolerates me.  How, we wondered, would she respond to a dog?

Summer Coat
Of course it all happened by accident—we’d stopped at the Humane Society as we’d done so many times, just to look.  And the dog we thought we’d like to meet was just being adopted, but River, whose tag said he wasn’t yet available for visits, was.  And that was that.  Greg and I had probably been to the pound a dozen times, only to leave empty handed.  This time, before we knew it, we were taking the pooch with the old man walk and a bad case of flea dermatitis complete with a coat as bristly as wire, home. 


I’ve always said the dog picks you. 

This one must have known I’m as sucker when it comes to animals and so it has been that the mystery dog we’ve saved from a Texas kill shelter who came with a suitcase full of yet to be revealed ailments—among them a rare form of venereal cancer and a back problem likely the result of the buckshot lodged near his spine—the one who had probably never lived inside before, has officially become a pampered pooch.  We’ve gone from no dog on the bed to nights when either Greg or I have just six inches of leg room and Sunday mornings like this: 
River and the Sunday Times

Our cold frame is River’s favorite hot spot:

These are the dog days indeed.  River gets supplements for his bones and back.  His coat has softened to a pleasant fur.  The cancer has been treated and is gone and he gets acupuncture for his spine.  
Cat with tail mustache–“What evil lurks in the mind of Dottie?”
And Dottie?  She didn’t take off.  Instead, she saunters up to the dog and gives him a well-aimed swat at the face.  Sometimes, it seems almost like she is playing—but we’re not sure.  Nevertheless, the dog that outweighs her by 60 pounds cries like a baby whenever she enters the room.
Growing Season

Growing Season

garlic! The garden is budding with garlic and onions planted last fall, pea vines and carrots planted this spring. I’ve got micro-greens growing in tires, and Greg is hardening off basil, tomatoes and peppers started in our basement from seeds. Already, we’ve harvested French breakfast […]