Friday, October 21, 2016

Being Normal

Distraction and interruption. Woke up to a little rain on the roof, rolled over and went back to sleep. It's a lovely thing, to be able to factor your own time. I was up late, finishing two books, both excellent, both by women, and both about worlds beyond my interest. Both very good, great language, and I recommend them: The Argonauts, and A Visit From The Goon Squad. They got me thinking about the perception of what was, and wasn't, important. Of course there's wild divergence, it's a fact of nature. What I might view as important, any given day, would hardly interest anyone else. Who gives a shit about how much Live Oak weighs? Point 95? It barely floats. But it's very strong under compression. The ribs of the USS Constitution are Live Oak, and the planking, at the water-line is sixteen inches of white oak. Hell for stout. A brief lull in light rain. Standing water in the driveway puddles and the ground around them is imprinted with (I love this word) "feetings". In Suffork this is the word for footprints in snow. On closer examination these generic feetings become the tracks of an adult grouse, and at least two yearlings (one of them has a broken nail), the fox, and a raccoon. They must have all come out this morning, because the tracks weren't there yesterday. They knew where the water would be. A striking feature is when the rain is gentle and collects on the spider webs, lovely prismatic droplets caught in the web. A couple of shafts of sunlight penetrate, briefly, and the area around the house explodes into a stunning display. I think about beauty, sitting on my foam pad on the back stoop. Nature is harsh. Thunder drives me inside, to shut down, get the headlamp within reach, get out a legal pad and a pencil. Very dark, rolling thunder, harder rain. The concept of beauty is one we bestow on things or events. One of the most beautiful things I know, that always pops into my head when beauty becomes a subject, is a small flower, quite small, a miniature Iris that actually takes my breath away. A perfect thing. They like disturbed soil and my outhouse sits on the western edge of an old logging road, so I have a nice area of them, between the house and the outhouse. To look at them closely, I have to get down on my knees and use a magnifying glass. I assume everyone carries a foam pad and a magnifying glass. I hardly venture from the house without trail mix and a nip of good Scotch. You never know when you might need to take a break. The chore for the day was to knock down the soot from the top of the stove pipe. This involves leaning out of an upstairs window and tapping the pipe (triple wall stainless steel) with a bamboo pole. I disconnect the stove pipe at the stove and install a collection device, usually quite crude, a paper plate and duct tape, then vacuum afterwards. I want this to be a rainy day, because the first hot fire will throw some cinders. After that, it's clear sailing, I'm incredibly attentive when it comes to fire. And water. Lord knows, I'm attentive to water. I fill my wash-water pot, to clean some dishes tomorrow, also I need to take a sponge bath and wash my hair. This location, the ridge, I'm usually flush with water. It's been several years since I hauled wash water from the museum, just because it was easy; now I boil snow or rain water, add a pinch of salt, and go about my business. Beans and an egg on toast, a can of Mandarin Oranges, is pretty much the world I see, cut-throat trout on a limber pole. Read more...

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Quiet Dark

A week of fine weather in the forecast. Eighty high, sixty low. Three in the morning, mustering the consciousness necessary to go outside and pee. Put on my slippers, drape a blanket across my shoulders; a full moon behind overcast, but light enough to see. It's so still I can almost hear the air, I can feel the pull of gravity, climbing the three steps back into the house. Locker-room talk. Spare us all. I've never heard that kind of shit before. In my early days in theater, gay men ran the business (they all died of AIDS) and they might nudge one another and call attention to a waiter's ass, but bragging about assaulting women is beyond the pale. Yet the needle does not waver. Trump has 42% of the vote. They don't seem to care what he says. The consummate asswipe. It's difficult for me to understand how anyone believes his bullshit. I take another aimless walk and stumble on an acorn midden, sure sign of a red squirrel, realize I haven't seen a red squirrel in years. I walked over to the wild rhododendron patch and all of the leaves I'd tagged were still attached. I wonder about holly, that same kind of leaf, and decide to tag some of them. Next spring I want to tag some of the leaves when they first emerge. Beech leaves stay attached for a long time. If you walk in the woods in winter, everything stripped bare, the beeches are holding last year's leaves. The old leaves are pushed off, by new growth in the spring; many beeches, it's fair to say, lose their leaves in the spring. Beech is a climax tree, late-growth forest. I had a lovely grove of them in Mississippi, and it was almost impossible to access, which is why it existed. Beech is beautiful wood, light and figured, but its growth pattern makes it a lousy timber tree, one saw log at the base of the trunk. Basho:

With millet and grass
not a thing wanting:
grass-thatched hut

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Gnomic Tales

Think small. Look closely. The shorter the walk, the more attentive. Oak galls; in all their variety, caught my attention. I collected a dozen to take back home and examine. First I slit them and squeeze out a few drops of juice, which is often quite sweet, then I cut them open to see what critter caused the gall. Usually one of those small wasps that you almost never see unless you hang around rotting fruit. An almost perfect full moon (tomorrow) rising over the opposite ridge and when It gets above the tree-tops it is stunning; I pull my Selma rocking chair, hand-built, rush-bottomed, into the middle of the room, where the light falls, have a drink and a smoke; once, in Utah, I was able to read by moonlight. My mentor at the time, a very old Navaho, told me we see when we need to, that most of what we processed was garbage. We met at the laundromat, where the sound of our conversation would be drowned out by the dryers, and he drew maps for me. He related that no one else gave a shit, and that my sorry, skinny white ass would have to do. I know it pained him. It would pain me, does in fact, that no one, any longer, cares. But he steered me to a couple of great sites. One, my favorite, was a blind canyon with a spring. There's an artesian spring outside of Moab, a crazy, gravity defying thing, and another just above Desolation Canyon, coming into Utah from the east. I always fill any empty jug. Force of habit. Found a nice stand of chanterelles out near the graveyard, walking about rather aimlessly, and I filled my Key Lime mesh plastic bag. They were a bit dirty, so when I got back to the house, I used a can of compressed air to clean them. This works very well with a relatively dry mushrooms. I put one batch in the dehydrator, rough chop the other batch for a meal. Finely mince an onion, fry them in a mixture of butter and olive oil, sprinkle on some toasted garbanzo flour to thicken, and have them on toast. The fox was back, alone, the kits having moved on, and I rolled her a few apples. She yipped a couple of times and it was almost like having a conversation. Her coat is lovely now, sleek and full, and her tail is quite beautiful. Read more...

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Rapt Attention

Bob Dylan? I tripped over my own feet going to make a cup of coffee. Such a strange step for the Nobel committee to take. I kept the radio on all day, to listen to the various commentaries, and heard a great many snippets of songs. A thousand songs in a lifetime. What Dylan does is make the lyric line important, complex, surreal, and with the taste or smell of the actual world. Enough always to know we were on the same page. Also, I've always liked odd voices. Any more though, I just want a very quiet place to pursue my interests. I don't listen to much music, mostly I stare off into space. Or just read, the last couple of days I've been reading Richard Russo's Everybody's Fool, and I enjoyed it. Took a few pages to get into the dead-pan humor, then I was gone, two days reading this book, and doing nothing else. Reading slowly, because I liked the language. I had to get out and make a run to Blue Creek PO for some packages and since I'd be off the ridge I went to town. Portsmouth and Blue Creek are in opposite directions and I enjoyed the outing. A hand- knit sweater from Jude, books; then, at the pub, I got a free beer, a mistake pour, then a second one, another mistake. The dirt race track outside of town is hosting the Dirt Track International Championship, and there are maybe two hundred RV's parked in Boone Coleman's soybean field (post harvest). The liquor store, where I buy tobacco, is right across the bridge, and they're doing landmark business. The track is in the flood plain, across the Scioto River from town, and when they're running it sounds like a young war. I hate the noise. When I got home, after two midday beers and lunch, I took a nap. Mice woke me up, running around. They're moving inside and I get up to prepare my defenses. I set out six spring-traps, baited with peanut butter, but I don't set the traps, to let the mice get the idea that the trap is a feeding station. Since I'm up and moving about, I start a small fire in the cook stove. I'd picked up some remaindered cod fillets, $1.43, and poached them in clam broth, made a small batch of instant mashed potatoes because I needed a binder, minced a small onion, formed a patty. Fried in bacon fat, with an egg on top, this is excellent. A spoonful of salsa, a piece of toast with bitter marmalade, and thou. Not to be flip, but I don't give a shit about the rest of the world. I have my own prefect to advocate. At dawn the crows are back, they know that I have mice for them, warm, fresh, and local; they view me simply as a guilt ridden human. Which, I suppose, is probably true. Read more...

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Cold Morning

First time down into the thirties. I woke up reaching for a blanket. Beautiful light, and I take my coffee outside, wrapped in my stadium blanket, and watch. A wonderful daze. Stir, finally, to start a fire, cook bacon, fry potatoes, soft scramble a couple of eggs, country bread with butter and maple syrup. I felt awful, yesterday, a 24 hour thing, no trace of it today, except for being hungry. Didn't feel like doing anything. Ran into a mountaineering term, brocken spectre, which is the magnified shadow of the observer, on mist or fog. I've ever only seen this on a beach. I was reading about some first assents, these people are strange. Two guys climbed Everest up one side and down the other. I have a young friend that's going to be the cook for a year in Antarctica. I wonder about the larder. Freezing isn't a problem, so what will the options be? Three meals a day, many calories, it's a lot of food. In the summer, when they were re-supplying, there would be fresh stuff, but most of the time it would be dry or frozen. They've made great advances in preserving food. You could have corn-dogs and fries one night, and a very good Brussels' Sprout dish the next. I suppose you'd have to make bread nearly every day. How many cooks? How many mouths to feed? An interesting subject. I'd like to see the kitchen. Mine's a wreck right now, transitioning to the wood cookstove. Summer cooking and winter cooking are so different:

A moon in the trees,
the stews and beans of winter,
then asparagus.

Sandstone is actually fairly fragile, when you look at the long picture. A few million years, it's dust. Time is the factor. Time is always the factor.

Sunday, October 9, 2016


Losing track as a way of life. It started when I was rereading a passage by Deakin in his book Wildwood, about willows and basket making. Sidetracked by Cricket-Bat willows, then into the making of cricket bats. The word swarf was used for the pile of debris that accumulates around a maker of bats, which is still, usually, a completely by-hand operation. I first met the word in a machine shop, where it was used for the metal shavings that accumulated. Digging a bit, I find an earlier usage relating to the grit that's worn away from a mill-stone. Drifted afield from basket making, which itself had started as a question about eel weirs, creels, and those very expensive hand-bags they make on Nantucket. A further diversion is my habit of scanning the words around the specific word I'm looking up, especially when I'm using one of my dictionaries of lost words. Swarth (variant, swath) is the reach of one stroke with a scythe. Other questions, to further extend the field, are always being held in the unanswered-questions part of my brain. Willow is a fairly soft wood, though we call it a hardwood because it loses its leaves, therefore how can it be made into a bat? The blanks (as we refer to bats that are only crudely formed) are actually hammered and then compressed, then finished. Light and strong. Cricket bats are quite elegant. John, Himself, when he and Barb owned the pub, kept a cricket bat around, for crowd control. Our attempt to start a local league failed. Time accumulates as swarf in the corner. Swarf, the musical, or as "Swarf", a line of personal hygiene products. I needed to visit the outhouse, and the crows had been around for an hour or more, with their yapping, so I nuked a mouse and sliced it open, took a book to read. Always take a book to read, never be in a hurry, always have a list and a pencil. Nothing though, prepares you for Threes Crows Eating A Mouse, one of my best soundscapes ever. Three crows eating a warm mouse on a cold morning. The roof is one layer of reused metal, it doesn't matter if it leaks, and it's right there, just over your head:

Swarf In Dios,
I'm with him,
That guy in Wellies.

TR found me out on this, admiring ankles at a wedding buffet.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Divided State

The mysteries of consciousness. A loud noise in the night, the bob-cat I'm pretty sure, a scream not unlike a mountain lion in Colorado. She sounds pissed off and I would not like to be the other party. No reason to get up or turn on a light. It's a sequence, a radio program: a coon and a bob-cat at the compost pile. Not my problem. Roll over and go back to sleep. I've grown to love working in the dead of night. It's so tranquil. With the window open, savoring the last of the Japanese scotch Glenn had brought, smoking some local tobacco, I feel content. This morning, after an early and hearty breakfast, I made a list of words that designated moving water, then, as well as I could (it would be nice to have a better connection), I track the words backward through time. For a long time I don't speak other than attempted pronunciation of an Anglo-Saxon word, and the occasional Welsh word, something in Manx. I'm actually comfortable in Gaelic because I published a book of translations, tracked down Gaelic copies of the originals and had the author read them to me. He was an odd duck, a linguist for the CIA. We cooked smelt together, several times, when everyone else had left the house. We'd catch them off the docks at Sesuit Harbor, on bread balls. To clean them, you cut off the head with scissors, then down to the vent, and flick the guts out with the back of an index finger, five seconds; then rolled in seasoned masa and fried in hot pork fat. With hush-puppies. Food for the gods. I love these, dipped in aioli, or any other sauce. I occasionally find them at Kroger, five pounds, cleaned and frozen, and they're good, though nothing like fresh. The French frog legs will come in soon, always a high-point of my year. Big winds, and the acorns are falling on the woodshed like gunshots. Yellow poplar leaves whipping across the ridge. Fall, for sure, and I've got to get some things done, rebuild the back threshold, a couple of days ordering the woodpile, a couple of extra trips into town for supplies. I need an extra battery for my headlamp. I can't find those utility candles anymore, five for a dollar, the market has changed. Jerome mentioned this, when he visited, and Glenn said that data, mega-data, was being filtered in different ways. As an exception to the rule (why that is would be interesting to study) and therefore of little interest, a mere mote. We're talking about selling tee-shirts here, or tennis shoes. I was reading about cricket bats, they're made from a willow (the Cricket-Bat Willow) which only grows in a certain area. I won't bore with details (though it seems all I do), but you should read about the Cricket-Bat Willow if you're interested in wood. The bat Don Bradman used, in his record 334 runs, was about used up. One at-bat. Amazing. Read more...

Thursday, October 6, 2016


Less is more. When we were installing the permanent collection of Native American artifacts, 10,000 items, I had to wear blinders. There's one little puddle left in the driveway, on the ridge top, and I enjoy looking at the footprints there. Billy Collins interviewed on the radio and he read some poems, what was most interesting was that I heard the line breaks, a different pause than a comma, way different than a period, just a slight hitch, which often allows for an expansion of meaning. I enjoy Fresh Air, until it falls into celebrity worship, but how can it not? It's the coin of the day, the worship aspect, I'm worth a million dollars a game. I can sell a lot of tee-shirts. Several hours reading about the Index Librorum Prohibitorum, first published in 1564, the Vatican's list of banned books. This was a boon to early publishers in Protestant countries, as there's no greater publicity for a book than being banned. It was printing, of course, that had opened this door. Paper, in 1350, then printing in 1450, a whole can of worms. Average people learned to read, suddenly there were romance novels. Outside the clergy, every tale was oral tradition. In the depths of this, reading, taking a few notes, staring off into space, I hear the roar of four-wheelers, coming up the drive. It's Bear and a friend. They've brought a six-pack and I'm drinking whiskey, we talk about building stairs, beam work, the bramble and rose of fall. Bear says to call, if I ever need anything. It's good to know that a giant stands by you. A delightful conversation, rough and country. They both wanted to know how I had cut two of the full tree-trunk posts in the house. The posts are seriously cool because they carry the main beam of the house (I call this a pony beam) and a branch off the main trunk carries a tie-beam at 90 degrees. Large mortise and tendon joint. They're both extremely elegant. I look at them, sometimes, and marvel that I made them. First you build an eight-foot long miter-box out of 2x12's, with a perpendicular saw guide, You have to establish a bench mark, the 'top' of the log; completely arbitrary, You just need to make three parallel cuts. I check my numbers, eight or six times. Then scribe a line, go over it a few times, then cut the line, with a utility knife, so that when I make the actual cut, with a chain-saw, there aren't any splinters. I only look intelligent. Read more...

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Slant Light

It's always surprising, in the fall, when the light comes in under the canopy. It illuminates particular trees to advantage, particular thickets of green briar. I was up, well before dawn, reading at my desk. And watched as the light overcame the dark, the play of shadow. Yesterday's rain had cleaned all the leaves, so all the surfaces were bright, and the colors were intense, the sumac, the maple, the yellow poplars are spectacular right now; woodpeckers, and three old crows the color of oil on water. I need to store the color, bank it away against the inevitable black and white of winter. The smells too, something today was on the breeze and I never could find the source, slightly sweet and green. A late breakfast, or an early dinner, of potatoes and eggs and toast, I do love butter and jam. I'd prepared a couple of reflecting devices, bottle-caps covered in foil, with a hole in the middle for mounting, and when I saw a strong shaft of light hitting a tree I went out and attached one. Sure enough, for a couple of days I should get a strong signal. Not quite Bach nor Morse Code, but at least a flashing in the trees. It all moves so quickly, the angle, the inclination; you factor all those things in, bodies moving in space, the speeds involved. Working empirically for several mornings, I go out and reposition the reflectors for the next sunrise. I position the reflectors, with shims and a 4 penny finish-nail, to shine on the side of the house where I read and write. Some mornings I get it almost correct, the reflections dimming as the sun rises, dying downward. What happens, that angle of incidence changes so quickly. This morning the witching hour centered on eight o'clock, excellent visual effects. Later, over a mug of coffee, I think about it as an installation. Reject the idea of reproducing the effect, with lasers or whatever, so it would need to be filmed. TR could do a soundtrack. It would be an hour long. There might be a squirrel. Because I have to tag this thought, I start thinking of it as Morning Early Light (MEL, in my mental shorthand), so I can separate those thoughts from the raft of data. The acorns are falling like small bombs, you need a hard-hat to walk in the woods. I think that should be part of the soundtrack, the acorns falling. A flock of turkeys today was flocking the underbrush for acorns, also the deer and the mature jays that seem to hold nuts in the pouches of their cheeks. It's a big day for birds, the first skeins of honkers heading south, a red-tail hawk that just seemed to be flying around, several different woodpeckers, not a bad day by half. I made a hoecake, fried polenta actually, about half-way between a pancake and country bread, and had it with maple syrup. It was so good it made me lose my train of thought. That something so simple could remind you of so much. Corn pone and jelly-roll. I love it, free-range. Read more...

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Place Setting

Another morning of mist/fog in the hollow. It laps up and over the ridge, just about waist high. I walked over to the driveway, a couple of hundred yards, and watched it transpirate into the air above. Magical. Working in Colorado, often above weather events, it wasn't unusual to watch very small crystals being sucked upward into extremely dry air. I sat too long though, and my pants were wet, came back home and changed, made a mug of tea. Nosed around in yesterday's books and cryptic notes. A frazzle is a frayed end. Old French, to rub. Got side-tracked by "flay" which led to several hours of gruesome reading; first, saints, then that strange American habit of flaying your enemies and wearing their skin. The scare: I got up to get a drink,, I'd left the back door open, to get the threshold area completely dry, and when I walked over to the kitchen, there was a rattlesnake, right there, in the entry. Young and slender, therefore a two-year old male. I squeaked a kind of stage squeak. I thought the occasion called for it. It was still fairly cool and he wasn't moving fast, so I got a five-gallon bucket, a shovel and a hoe, and I was able to get the snake into the bucket and get him relocated in a couple of completely focused hours. I didn't have any other plans. Relocating snakes is cool, otherwise I'd just be feeding crows, or reading a light fiction. Read more...

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Grave Count

Perfect day for the yearly grave count, the correct combination of recent rain and fallen leaves. Before I walk over, I set out a change of clothes, the alcohol and a rag, to deal with the ticks. As expected the shallow depressions of sunken graves are filled with rotted leaves. I count 23, which is within my usual spread (sometimes I count 26, other times 19). I sit on my graveyard stump and smoke, have a nip, recount, come up with 23. I'll come back in the winter, when the graves resemble small skating rinks, and count them again. Home, I strip down, bag the clothes, and wipe down with alcohol. A cup of tea, and I settle down to read. A raft of things I dug out last night to comb through. I'd run across the phrase 'fraying stock' in reference to what I've always called a deer rub (scraping the velvet off horns, getting ready for battle and sex), and I thought it a lovely turn. That use of the word 'fraying' caught my ear, and I remember it from several books on venery. I raised a hawk, one summer at the playhouse on Cape Cod, and I learned a lot about raptors. Fray, also, in the sense of wearing down. I looked forward to a day buried in dictionaries, though I spent most of the morning buried in books on falconry. I had meant to go to town, had a list and the hardware store was holding a threshold part for me, but I had enough of everything to see me through the weekend. When the seasons change, I always read Basho:

in your medicinal garden
which flowers should be
my night's pillow

1644 to 1694, he lived, and that poem is from 1689. He died in Osaka, beginning another hike. The journals of the hikes are wonderful. Like Thoreau, he notices everything, and nothing is beneath his notice, water dancers, skirting across a puddle, the webs of fall spiders, deciphering animal tracks. We're always reconstructing events from scant evidence. What else can we do? I'm pretty sure your cows ate my pea crop. I hope they enjoyed it.

Earth Tones

Later, the leaves are falling at an appalling rate. Dark morning, thick, low cloud cover. The hollows are filled with a mist that looks like fog. My house is 1380 feet above sea-level and the early morning dew/rain seems to originate at about 1400 feet. I brave an early walk, quickly soaking wet, and it's odd that such a fine rain could get you so wet so quickly; but I had to get outside because it's supposed to get serious this afternoon, "a hard rain gonna fall" as it does, soon after I get home, settled in dry clothes, a cup of tea (smoked black), with my headlamp out in case I lose power. This pursuit of landscape terms has become obsessive. The field mice will be moving inside soon, nighttime temps in the forties tonight, so I get out the traps. The crows are back again and I feed them some left-overs, being temporarily out of dead mice. They seem to enjoy the pork fried-rice. Their easy pickings, down at the picnic areas, are done for the year; now they rely on road-kill and whatever they can scrounge. Late afternoon the sun breaks through in isolated shafts and there's color everywhere. The sumac a lovely red, the orange maple, the yellow poplar, the first Pileated woodpecker in weeks. Black, thinking about black today, is a relative thing. There certainly is the absolute black of a cave or mine with no artificial light, though the eyeless newt might argue; but otherwise even a black crow is hardly black at all. The alpha crow, of the three I know, is mostly green. White, of course, is never completely white, it's usually blue. Pink is just the adolescent stage of oxidation. I like deep purples, but I don't like those violets that seem to drift away. Beckett, Molloy, and his sixteen sucking stones. There's another book that comes to mind, Brian Aldiss, I think, Report On Probability A, I throw a simple frame, a square meter, and I count all the plants within. The average is 137, and I don't think that number means anything. It's just an average number. More rain, like a punch-drunk drummer. Because I hadn't put the Norton Anthology away, I ended up reading some Yeats. Crazy Jane is pretty cool, a comic opera, but the poem that grabs me is Sailing To Byzantium. It's over the top, like so much of Hopkins, but I like the way it sounds.

That is no country for old men. The young
In one another's arms, birds in the trees
--Those dying generations-- at their song...

Pound took up that variable foot, then Eliot, then Olson. Dorn, in the love poems especially, is completely transparent. Loki bowling, I'd better go; best to you and yours.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Ground Fog

A hanging mist in the hollow, rain all day. Read a slightly creepy John Connolly novel. Irish creepy. I had to put away a few books, as the pile on the carpenter chest had gotten too high to see over. I'd gotten out a great many books, when Bear had asked me about the sassafras beam, and they all go back to the construction section, which is difficult of access, being in the tool-room (soon to become my downstairs bedroom) amidst a bunch of dead chainsaws. My sense of order seems to be almost complete chaos. I'm collecting rain-water, so I can wash dishes; and I have to clean and re-season 6 or 8 cast iron skillets. I get awful about the cast iron when I don't use the cook-stove, because I have such a large flat surface and I own so many skillets. When I'm cooking on the wood stove, it's so easy to just wipe out the pan (burn the paper) and wipe on another layer of oil. Roy and I used to laugh about this, using a cured pig's tail to grease a skillet. Magwitching hour, overclap of clouds, tracking oomska through the parlor. Corned beef and gravy on toast. Gravy, in the south, is always an amalgam of fat and toasted flour, except for red-eye gravy which is just ham fat and strong black coffee. Cool morning and much more rain, but the crows are back and I toss a nuked mouse to them on top of the outhouse; then transfer water around until I can clean one of the buckets and bring in a kettle of water to wash some dishes. Another wave of rain moves through, but no thunder, so I turn on Little Dell and search for errant commas. Cold enough to warrant a fire, so I burn what's in the firebox (I stuff crap in there all summer) then add a couple of sticks. No danger of fire from fly-ash because everything outside is saturated. Perfect circumstances. In my bathrobe and slippers, wild beard and filthy hair, I get a nice fire going, and wipe down the stove-top with a lightly oiled towel; it burns off quickly. Sometimes I roast an herb, to scent the house; sage is always good, or juniper berries. I realize it's the perfect opportunity to cook a pot of beans and put on a pound of pintos. Cut up a cured jowl to make cracklings, mince a couple of yellow onions. While the oven is hot, make a pone of cornbread. Let the fire go out, and the beans cook perfectly. I'm reading Beowulf and looking up words all day; eating beans, and cornbread, toasted and drizzled with maple syrup. Rain on the roof, Bach, a dram of Glendronach. I love this life. Roll a cigaret, sit back in the dimness. It was dark today at noon but I have my seven-and-a-half watt LED reading light, my headlamp, to see me through. And just think, at the end of this next winter, I will have read all of Thoreau's Journals. Joel will give me some shit about this, us plumbers; but I defend myself as just someone who reads quickly. It allows me to coast through a lot of fiction, then slow down, and study the history of the fork. Read more...

Wednesday, September 28, 2016


I found the rolled anchovies (with capers, in olive oil) today, and I was a happy shopper. Mac turned me on to anchovy paste decades ago, it doesn't go bad, or if it does you don't notice. But having rolled anchovies meant I cook a couple of pasta dishes I'd been wanting to try. I put anchovy paste in everything, it deepens flavor. I'd never spent much time in the canned meat and fish aisle, and was surprised to see that they still sell canned mackerel. Vile stuff. But also squid in its own ink, and pig's knuckles. I bought a few things, including several cans of anchovies. Moroccan and wild-caught, nothing but fish, capers, olive oil, and salt. Excellent with butter and olives on egg noodles, also good with ripe cheese on a salad. Visions of sugar-plums dance in my head. Acorns falling on the woodshed so I spread a piece of netting at the drip-edge and harvested a gallon. I want to make some acorn/cat-tail pollen cakes. Stored correctly these would keep for a long time. Temperature and moisture have very little to do with leaf-fall, it's mostly a length of day issue. I've never understood why certain trees (exceptions to the rule) drop all their leaves at once. There's a maple tree on Mackletree, isolated and hanging over the road, that always does this. I've never actually witnessed the event, which must happen fairly quickly (a couple of hours?) but I've seen the evidence several times: a pool of leaves mirroring the diameter of the crown and undisturbed by traffic or wind. Granted, there's not a lot of traffic on Mackletree, but there must be 30 vehicles a day, and the vortex of a passing vehicle is quite strong, leaves collect quickly at the edge of the verge. Twice I've been the first vehicle to view the scene. It's quite a strange sight. Three or four inches of undisturbed leaves in a rough circle. The mechanism of leaf-fall is fairly well understood, the hardening off of the bud for next year is preparing for winter, connection to leaf is severed, the leaf falls. The very idea that all the leaf buds severed connection at the same time is staggering to me. I follow the life cycle of a few trees, maybe a hundred of them, on a regular basis, mostly because they mark certain places; on the driveway, for instance, there are seven trees that I always notice, two of them are dead, which only increases my interest, two of them afford a view of the hollow, and the others are trees I lean against to gain composure. Any of the three ways I drive out are marked by certain trees, the trip into town, in town even, the city trees, the maples along the riverbanks, that survive the worst we can throw at them. At the house, I have to stop and count, there are at least 20 trees that I monitor fairly closely. Two in particular, a poplar out front and a red maple out the window where I write. Both of them are coppiced from the ice-storm, 12 years ago, and they're doing well. I could harvest them as firewood tomorrow, and let them re-grow. I prefer to just watch them, clear the underbrush maybe once a year and let things run wild. I don't want to interfere. Read more...