Thursday, August 21, 2014

Slick Scree

Starting with the leaves already. A few of the sumac are turning a beautiful orange. When a gust of wind sweeps across the ridge, a few leaves fall; and that clatter is a new sound, a seasonal sound. A certain brittleness. Late summer loveliness. That big rain has all the feeder creeks flowing. Going out this morning I had all the windows down and everything was so clean and quiet, that when I stopped, at the bottom of the hill, to shift out of four-wheel drive, the only thing I could hear was Low Gap Creek, rippling toward the beginning of Upper Twin. I sat there for a long time, watching butterflies. I usually leave an hour early, if I have an engagement, because I'm always getting side-tracked. They've completely torn up the access where Route 52 comes into Portsmouth at 2nd Street. A cop, directing traffic; and I had plenty of time to jump out of my vehicle and snip a couple of teasel seed-heads. The best stand of teasel I know is in that triangle of lost space where one road forks off to another. A piece of waste land. I wanted to study one of these seed-heads, before they stiffened into a carding tool, and I'm glad I did. Maybe you've never had a pet porcupine, but you have to be very careful how you stroke them. Teasel is like that. They're lovely plants, but, hell, I think the common thistle is quite attractive. Donkeys are the only animal I know that will eat thistles by choice. They have a way of curling their lips to avoid the prickles. Reading a book on Greek architecture, tracking down the use of the female form in pilasters, Modigliani was fond of them and carved several in free-standing stone, they're called, generically, Caryatides; the male form, and I didn't know this, are called Atlantes, usually a kind of Atlas. Northwest Indians and there's always a turtle in there somewhere. Whatever carries the world. Read more...

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Suborned Perjruy

The argument of silence. I was just sitting in my chair, reading; dark clouds moved in from the west and I shut down. What I remembered happening might not have happened. I was pissed, I wanted to write, instead I was reading with a headlamp. Big storm front moved in, much thunder and lightning, but I never did lose power. I did collect 15 gallons of wash water in a very few minutes, then read another John Lescroart court-room novel. They're pretty good, great characters and complex plots, perfect for a night of thunder and a shuddering house. The driveway was fine, and the few dead-falls had already been cleared away from Mackletree, so I was able to get to town for lunch with TR, and pick up some foodstuffs. Working on the larder. Jason, one of the cooks at the pub, had saved me a five-gallon pickle bucket (they have resealable lids and user friendly handles) so I can increase my water supply, and I've found that I like the frozen Mountain Star black-bean patties. I want ten or twelve of them in the freezer because it's such a quick meal, and with wasabi mayo they're very good. I bought a large box of powdered milk and a smaller box of powdered eggs, so I can always make cornbread, and I bought a fake, powdered, coffee creamer I hope I never have to use. Chicory coffee is quite bitter. Stopped down at B's on the way home, to have a beer and some conversation. We can have the conversations because we've both read so broadly in so many different fields. His thing, this evening, was that no one read enough; that he was finding, increasingly, that no one knew what he was referring to. I refrained from shaking him. There are only ten or nine of us left, thank god I don't have horns, that even still hear the music of the night. Read more...

Monday, August 18, 2014

Melanistic Variant

Because I'm in the woods so frequently, I see more animals in the wild than most people. A larger sampling. If you include albino animals, which I do (I don't think field biologists do, they consider it a different sub-set) I've seen, over the years, a fair number of animals that weren't the correct color. White deer, black squirrels (coons and possums), yellow timber rattlesnakes. It's always such a shock, disconcerting. A black squirrel today. I'd seen a few of them on Mackletree, where the tree canopy overhangs the road and they use the overpass to avoid having to cross the road (at which they are very bad) but never on the ridge. I've seen black squirrels in three or four different states, so they must be fairly common. I knew a very beautiful albino Finnish woman once. She was so pale, that in the right light she disappeared. She always wore gauzy white, to enhance the disappearing act, but if you got very close to her skin, you could actually see the blood moving. I read something, earlier today, a different use of the word balaam, as being, in typography, those little filler pieces used to complete a column, that you actually kept set in type. They could be any damned thing, the cost of tea in China, a recipe for Mulligan Stew, the ferry schedule. Merely something to fill space. I was way up the Little Cimarron, just before I moved back east, 20 miles on a two-track, to a place I knew above the beaver ponds where the trout were all native Cut-Throat. Certainly over 10,000 feet. Spitting snow in July and August, but alpine meadows rampant in color. I'd made my usual crude camp, a fire, and a rough grill balanced on rocks, so I could use my cast iron skillet to fry fish, and I could make some coffee in the morning. I travel with a baby-food jar of bacon fat, salt and pepper. Usually a lemon and whatever hard loaf of bread I can find. I make a hoe-cake, with cornmeal, turtle eggs, and creek water, that isn't bad, if I don't have bread. False thunder, there's a phrase for that, brutum fulmen, a senseless thunderbolt, Pliny I think. Read more...

Shelf Life

My traditional Sunday, when, except for a small walk, I read all day. No phone calls, no visitors, no AC and the windows open, just cool enough for Black Dell. I heard a plane, mid-afternoon, and I had to think about that because I'm not on any flight-path. Small planes and helicopters occasionally track along the river, which must be five miles away as the crow flies. They usually fly patients to Columbus, where there's a great teaching hospital, and when they do that they fly right up about Route 23, which is a straight shot from Portsmouth due north, 100 miles, but that all happens 17 miles to the east. Sound-wise, I'm in a dead zone, by design; and the orientation of the house is a serious consideration. You don't have to build many houses before you figure these things out. In my building days, of course, if someone just had a lot and needed a house, there wasn't a lot of choice. In the last three places I've lived, I had 120, 80, and, now, 25 acres, on which to situate a dwelling. I like to get familiar with the place, if it's my own, before I start imposing my will. I make seasonal sun-track graphs and build models. The stairs in this house, for instance, I thought about for almost a year, before I built them in a week. Spoke too soon. I heard a vehicle coming up the driveway, I had just gotten a drink and smoked some very good weed and the house smelled strongly, and, naturally it wasn't B dropping off a book, but the deputy sheriff checking up on some gunfire someone had reported. I went out to meet him, hands held high, and he greeted me to same way, god knows we don't want to shoot each other, and yes, there had been some gunshots, maybe 20 of them, in twos and threes, spaced out, an hour ago. I had figured them as coming from a trailer enclave, over on the road that cut through to Sunshine Ridge, half-way between me and the river. Maybe somebody had either won or lost a bet on a sporting event, maybe somebody had a new gun, maybe she finally shot that son-of-a-bitch. The deputy said there had been several reports of locals poaching deer. Of course the locals are poaching deer; harvesting, it might be called. If a family is on hard times, the lumber-jack husband laid up with a broken leg, someone might shoot them a deer. The kids have got to eat. The locals are a tough bunch, but we get along fine, they know I live a difficult life by choice, and they have respect for that. They also know that If they try to dig my ginseng, I'll shoot them. A lovely staccato dripping rain wakes me in the early morning, I got up to pee and poured a wee dram, rolled a smoke. I don't have to be anywhere. I sit in the dark for a long time. The ridge above Low Gap Hollow is the place to be, it's never crowded, and the citizens talk in plain-speak. Read more...

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Sumac Gall

I'd never noticed a gall on a sumac before, so I stopped and looked at it. Interesting fruit of nature, irregular, slightly smaller than a golf ball, pale green with highlights of yellow. Of course I had to take the damned thing home and dissect it. Sumac leaves are bi-laterally symmetrical but where the gall occurred it filled the space where a leaf might have been, and the opposing leaf was dying. I didn't know what that was about, and I've been interested in galls generally, as they have been, for centuries, used in making ink, and the history of printing, in all its elements, has been an interest of mine for decades. Gall ink is beginning to fail, simply lifting off the page, and I'd been reading about that, the conservation nightmare it has become. As I suspected, the missing leaf had become a tightly wrapped covering for some insect pupae. I don't know what bug. Where does the skin or shell come from? The oozy liquid, as is usual with galls, was sweet (of course I tasted it, a teeny taste of anything will seldom kill you), and it actually looked like something I might cook: sumac galls with cream sauce. It would be kind of like Brussels sprouts, speaking of which, I got a package the other day, in the remaindered produce bin, cleaned them, halved them, nuked them for a couple of minutes, then broke the clustered leaves apart as I finished them in butter. They were very good. They hold pan drippings very well. Any conveyance when it comes to drippings. I like cabbage, call me a radical. The grandmother of a CIA agent I once knew (and published, he translated Gaelic) made a great pasta sauce with Brussels sprouts. She was so Italian, she refused to speak English, thought that hamburgers presaged the heat-death of the universe. She might well be correct. The noise level outside escalates. The mewling indicates a cat. I finally open the back door and sling-shot a couple of marbles, a satisfying yelp, and whatever they are, they scamper off into the woods. I don't feel particularly good about running them off, but it's nice to get back to the bug chorus, even though it reminds of Philip Glass. The Cello Suites are playing, Edgar Meyer, my favorite version of my favorite music, I have to turn off the lights and weep. This music, I think, teeters into the sublime. An exercise indeed. When Pablo found Mary's copy of Bach's masterpiece, he was just looking for something to play. Mary has a beautiful hand. His copy is probably the secular holy grail. The bidding starts at 150 million. Listen, Cory bought me a beer, I didn't know she was you sister-in-law. Read more...

Universal Signs

Victory in Europe, cuckold, the bird. One finger might say a great many things, two flags is a language. Ireland was entirely glaciated, thus the lack of snakes. I found a blue-jean jacket at the Goodwill, heavy denim, that protects my arms, and I am ready to have battle with the briars. Since I can't retreat to Concord, where the hired help might do my laundry, I fix a simple dinner, sardines on toast with a slice of onion. You shouldn't eat this if you have to talk to anyone. I'm nodding off, staying aware is serious business, and I think I'll go take a nap. Young war awakes me, a melee for animals unknown, snarling and yapping like nothing you've ever heard. I was expecting it, because I'd cleaned out the fridge and turned the compost, but I didn't want any part of it. An auditory event. My first apartment was right next to a train line coming into the Jacksonville, Florida, a big slow curve coming to the yards. When I wanted to go into town (the depot was in the center of town) I'd just jump on the side of a train. The distant past. But what I remember most from that time is the sound and feel of trains. Rattle your brain and shake your feet. We acclimate to different levels of sound. I might hear a train, across the river in Kentucky, a dozen times a year, when conditions are just right, or a logging truck down on Upper Twin, in the world I inhabit now. Actually, as I think about it, I've made a point to live with natural sound for forty years. Even then you have to quiet the din in your own head. You come out of a dream with a John Lennon lyric in your head: Imagine all the people... and a mocking bird picks up the refrain. You can cite coincidence, now and again, but sometimes things happen beyond the pale. You know something you couldn't possibly know, or you touch someone, and there's that brief glow of St. Elmo's fire. B said something, I don't remember the context, about accuracy. Pretty sure I have this under control, zugunruhe, right? I press against the south side of my cage, I really need to get to Patagonia. Please, just make my excuses, knowing full well, that everything is fabrication. Read more...

Friday, August 15, 2014

Pain

Windrows of blackberry canes. The death of a thousand cuts. Only myself to blame. It's a nightmare, bleeding from ten thousand punctures. I moisten a paper towel with alcohol and wipe my forearms and the towel comes off pink. That's good, pink is better than red. Pain is a referent, ask Kim, the one-armed brick layer. I was hurting last night, muscle sore and pricked; so I self-medicated and listened to the radio. I'm not sure why I don't like Blue-Grass music. Too Rococo. But I was off in my head, most of the evening, considering my most recent failures. I didn't have any beer, and I needed to get my mail, so I drove down and over to B's place (a mile) and took him a book to read (he'd already read it), got a beer and talked for just a few minutes, as he was on his way to a music gig. It was refreshing to get off the ridge, to see the roadside flowers, especially along the grader ditch that becomes Upper Twin Creek. B had turned me unto Bergamot, which is blooming now; and there are five or six other 'tea' plants growing along the drainage. I don't drink as much tea as I do coffee, but it's nice, mid-winter, to have a taste of summer. What I do with the chicory roots is scrape them, trim them, cut them into chunks, and put them on a cookie sheet. They're usually fairly dry, hanging from the beams, because I dig them mid-summer, when I can Identify the flowers. Then on those fall nights, when I let the fire die, I put them in the oven overnight, to dry completely. The next day, I start a fire, get the oven hot (450 to 500 degrees) and pull them out just as they start to blacken. Run them through the coffee grinder. So many of the things I do are based on a woodstove that's going non-stop for more than half the year. Cooking something that requires twelve hours is not a problem. Probably not cost effective in the modern world. I don't cook pot-roast anymore, the last time I made it, there was a shooting. I should tell you about this sometime. The people that know me cut me some slack. Life is like that restaurant, where they serve you what they think you should eat. I'd better go. Read more...

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Datum Line

Mean water level, for instance. A horizontal line from which to measure up and down. I tend to use it more broadly, as a referent point generally. Our social life, especially, is based (conducted, approached) on the idea of normal. Deviation from the norm is generally a bad thing, and always suspect; but I'm allowed latitude because I'm a good cook. Cleaned up and went to town, I was out of everything, and I was going to meet TR for lunch, needed to stop at the library. I went the long way around so I could stop by Aubrey's place down the creek. He and his son run the largest firewood business in the area. A pile of cut and split wood 30 feet by 50 feet, 12 feet high, plus piles of skidded logs and a bone-yard of stumps and crotches. Supplies wood for the vouchers in this part of the county. He wasn't there, but I had a good look around. Quite the operation, and it supplies the income for several people. Cottage industry, though in this case 'cottage' might not apply; several country shacks and a trailer is more to the point. I like living where there are no building codes because you see the most amazing structures. I've had more than my share of meetings with architects, and I'd much rather live amidst indigenous construction. I live in a shack myself, a matter of choice, but nonetheless. What I derive from it is that I no longer work in the outside world, and that all of my time is my own. I don't recommend this, it's just where I find myself. I can walk outside at dawn or sunset and watch the slanted light. I could just as easily have been the lawyer that defended the cop that shot the unarmed black kid in St. Louis. Luck of the draw. An engine, in the back of my brain, is always asking what next? when another storm sweeps in from Minnesota. I assure myself I can deal with whatever, I always have, but I'm no longer quite so sure. Read more...

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Migratory Restlessness

Briefly entertained the idea of a road trip, dismissed it as too expensive, then thought about a trip to Columbus, a night in a motel and a day at the art museum, which I might do. There are a bunch of funky little galleries on High Street, and the ethnic food places are everywhere, lunch at the North Street Market where's there's a small wine shop that carries Ridge zins and Frank Family Farms cabs. Remember to take a cooler for the seafood (mussels!) and the cheese coming back. Treat myself, before I have to get busy on the art of survival. I'm looking forward to it. I have all fall to get a few things done (I built this house in five months) and except for the two days I need to spend crawling around under the house, they are actually things I like doing: splitting kindling, stacking firewood, considering a winter's menu, stocking the larder. Winter reading isn't a problem, between B's library and mine there are ten thousand books to be read. I got sucked into a radio story today, about a young girl who had been, they used the word 'rendered' as in the verb form of rendition. I had to mute the radio and kill the breaker for the refrigerator. Render, for me, is always in the ballast of Moby Dick, I can't not think about oil lamps and trimming my wicks. Rendering a 12 year-old girl seemed excessive to me, but I don't judge the habits of others. Speaking of try-pots, though, I do render chickens skins when I make certain dishes with chicken thighs, and I end up with a tasty treat AND lovely chicken fat to fry eggs for several days. One time in Mississippi several of the good old boys came out to the farm and we spent the afternoon rendering the fat and skin of a large hog into lard and cracklings. Corn bread, with a cup of cracklings added to the batter, is incredibly good. Whale cracklings are probably pretty good too, but they were used to fire the try-works. Melville as a food and travel writer. Any excuse to reread Moby Dick, which I added to the winter list, along with Hesiod and the other early observers of the natural world. Mid-winter, I'll read for 6 or 8 hours a day, I have to plan for that, a list is handy, and a pile of books, pre-selected from the stacks. I avoid cabin fever, and major depressions, by having a good selection of books at hand. Dorothy Sayers has saved my life several times, George V. Higgins, most recently I've been reading about salt, the way they leach out at various saturations. Read more...

Monday, August 11, 2014

One Time

Skip James. "Special Rider Blues." The train done out of the station. Over in Kentucky where the sun does always shine. A picture of my lady and her ass sure looks fine. I have to turn off the radio, though I love that twelve string guitar being beat to a pulp, the fucking lyrics are driving me crazy. A backlash to that would be a girlish soprano singing about the size of some suitor's equipment. The blues is always about subjugation and abuse. Anything in G. TR hangs the note, then drops dried beans on the cymbal. Mary still eats bread. And the pace picks up. Slowing into a curve, then speeding, to gain control. Not unlike the way you feel, with your nose and ears wrapped, in a scrumble. Yes, yes, I see it now. The way you stack firewood, the way you dance. An easy exit, thunder storms. Showers off and on all day, and I reread "Blood Meridian", did manage one walk, and it was lovely, the greens cleaned and restored in the rain. The ticks were out in force and I was picking then off me for half-an-hour when I got back home. A nice omelet, fried potatoes, toast, then back to my reading. So violent but so beautifully written. Replenish my supply of wash water, which I'll need for my dishes and me tomorrow; I might go to town, and I've allowed myself to get a bit ratty. I need to see some other human beings, and I need to go to the library as I can't read any more McCarthy right now. Maybe I'll go out and hack some weeds tomorrow, before cleaning up, and work on the access to the back of the woodshed. I need to clear a new path to the outhouse. I've been using a trench latrine, to let the outhouse and the composting toilet dry out so I can empty them. I've a pile of shipping pallets I need to cut up for kindling, I still have wood on the driveway that needs hauling; and they've cut a bunch of trees, sycamore and oak, down at the lake, where they're rebuilding the damn and spillway, and the wood is free for the taking. Be a fool not to pick it up. A lot of my wood comes from the roadside. This goes all the way back to Glenn and me living in the church, when we scrounged all of our wood, and just barely managed to avoid freezing to death. He paid the bills, I kept us fed, and we talked about Melville and dear sweet Emily. A winter in which there was a lightning storm that came in over the top of a snow storm. These don't happen often, and if you see one count yourself lucky. When backlit strobes of light illuminate particular flakes. Silent lightning in a snow storm. Double cheddar, some very good olives, I have to go, I'll certainly lose power. Read more...

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Weasel Words

The venom is in the tail. I mean I can't find the ending. Beginning, in fact, to think that there isn't one, or that almost any of the petit stops might actually serve as a hard stop. The fox walks off into the sunset, the frogs grow up and the few that survive burrow into the mud, one year that particular crow disappears. I've been too self-indulgent, but I needed space for that. For the last couple of months I've just drifted, pursuing gossamer threads, engaging the natural world, reading until my eyes hurt. I've gone through these periods before, three or four times, and they're not unpleasant, more like a Zen state of just being in the moment. I think, in my case, this evolved from fishing, as a kid; watching the tip of a cane pole, without talking, for long periods of time. Also, the food was great. Fried potato sandwiches with a slice of onion, cold scrambled eggs with a can of sardines, questionable sausages with crackers. What doesn't kill you. All fires crown out west, because most of what's to burn is at the top of trees. Walking today, deep in the woods, I came across a spot where lightning had struck a tree. Not much dry lightning here, and it must have been raining intensely. The tree itself was a burned stump, and the underbrush for thirty feet around. A place to look for morels next year, as they love a good burn. Got caught out in a thunderstorm today, but I carry a heavy-duty 55 gallon plastic bag with me, with eye holes, so I just sat on a rock, watched the light show and listened to the thunder. The rain was hard enough to start bringing down leaves, and I thought, oh no, here we go again. Mid-summer is close enough to fall that you have to think about winter. The leaves are getting brittle, the sound of the wind is not the same, sweet spring susurration becomes a hollow tapping of the bones. Some of the maples lose leaves early, then just grow another batch, fecund beyond imagining, motherfuckers; I couldn't grow a tail if I was a salamander, sew a button hole if I was a tailor, kiss your ass if you were the queen of England. I've awakened in places that exceed your worst trailer-park nightmares. Having lived in tree-tip pits and caves, I'm not intimidated by the surroundings, my old dogs are at least as good as your old dogs. Usually I build a fire, to keep the tigers at bay, and try to sleep with my back toward a wall. Read more...

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Deadpan

"Drawing on my fine command of the English language, I said nothing." Robert Benchley. If true, and you can't trust Christopher Buckley, but even if not, it would be a very cool thing to have said. My mentor in the book business, the editor-in-chief at Beacon Press, along with his pal Desmond, would sit around after dinner, drinking very good whiskey and smoking like coal-fired power plants, making up quotes. I dined with them several times, and I was young and stupid. They delighted in pulling my chain. Both of them were reprobates and spoke 3 or 4 languages that had been dead for thousands of years. They wouldn't let me drive, so after an evening of conversation, would tuck me away in a former chicken-coop that had been out-fitted with a cot. Great evenings, followed by massive Edwardian breakfasts, where there were designated people to beat you on the back if you stopped breathing. Good to have back-up. The rain on the roof is perfect for taking a nap, a beat that defines sleep. You couldn't parse shit from such a random sampling. I was raking crap from the grader ditch, leaves and twigs, thinking I could alter the flow, when I realized I had no control, zero, nothing I did mattered. Maybe a little, in terms of immediate drainage, but I'm not a player here, in terms of the long term, the longer calendar the Aztecs followed. Another cycle of moons, another, what do you call them? years? About half-way to the woodshed is the actual crest of the ridge, I can joke about it all I want, but it is the actual crest, and I'd like to build a small mud hut there, where I could retreat, with a few coals, and eke out a living. I don't want that other stuff, the bling, the fame, the money; I just want kimchee and some crackers. Blue-gill fillets and hush-puppies. Cole-slaw. You interview the poorer classes and they always fall back on cabbage and cornmeal. RC cola and a moon-pie. I never thought much about it, because I've always loved cornbread, and cabbage cooked with salt-pork. Now I know we were very poor, but at the time I was completely oblivious, when Dad was at sea, I'd kill a couple of squirrels with my slingshot and Mom would make a stew. When Dad was on shore duty we'd fish, and eat perch fillets. Not only that, but other folks would come over, bearing potato salad and hush-puppies, and while the adults drank homebrew and moonshine, we kids would pelt city buses with rings of rubber we cut from old inter-tubes fired from great contraptions that looked like they might besiege castles. No one paid any attention to us. If you needed stitches, they just hauled you off to the hospital on the base. It was just assumed that you'd get dinged up: if you throw rocks at each other, eventually someone's going to get hurt. I have a few scars, and each of them has become a novella. Relatives were the worst, my cousin Jackie was forever beating the shit out of me, and my older sister would join in. My usual defense was to find a cave that I could hide in, and scare the holy hell out of them. We drew a truce, when I was 14 or 15, because they realized, I could probably defeat them in open combat. Growing up, right? an increment, a single cog at a time. I don't begrudge any of it. Read more...

Friday, August 8, 2014

Mushrooms on Toast

I added some cream to the juices, then turned the mushrooms back in. In a soup bowl I placed a piece of toast and a perfect coddled egg, then the mushroom gravy, a grind of pepper. Good enough to make you forget your upbringing and lick the plate. Cleaned up and went to town. I had to pay a couple of bills, wanted to see some live people, and I needed coffee for the larder. My favorite banker, Ty, was at the bar, and we always have a good conversation. He envies me having a beer with lunch, a Red Stripe, the summer special. His wife is a teacher, and I'm slightly embarrassed that I don't remember her name, or what she teaches. I have to get ahead with my own life, after all; consult the list and stop by the library. I always check the New Non-Fiction section, and got a book of essays I'd wanted to read, and a light fiction, among the New Arrivals; I actually sat in one of those chairs that they place around, so you can read the first few pages and determine that you hadn't read that book before. One of the bar-tenders, Brandon, heard me talking with Ty about McCarthy, and said that he was rereading "Blood Meridian", which is certainly one of the two or three best novels in the language. I steered him toward "Gravity's Rainbow" and "Suttree". Look at the navigator in either of those narratives. They disappear by the end, you're left with a coppery taste, and a camp-fire, late at night. B had set aside several London Reviews for me, at his place, and I'd finally remembered to take them home. Sat in my incredibly uncomfortable writing chair for hours, drinking smoked tea, smoking, reading. There's an easy rhythm to it, getting up for a snack, going outside to pee, remembering the past. I maintain that here is where I want to be. I took a survey, meaning I asked several people the same question; I amuse myself that way. Amuse is probably the wrong word. Entertain? Engage? No one can agree on anything. Nothing matters. Like I'd been preaching to the choir, too clever by far, and there were seven cast iron skillets. Read more...

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Closer to Equal

Who knows what relics we hide away? I have a small wooden box, I don't remember where it came from, memory being what it is. It's hand carved and intricate, vaguely Celtic. Lined in velvet. I keep some worked pieces of stone in it, some bird points, an atl-atl weight in the shape of a whale's fluke, and the perfect skull of a small rodent. B was talking, giving me a lecture, actually, about not losing the essential heart of my paragraphs. He was correct. What's the phrase, when a farmer makes one last pass through a crop, 'laid by'. Only needs harvesting. He argued, convincingly, that I should be very careful about changing anything. Not that I could, of course. Or that I would. So many pages, and so little time. But I did read a year, 2013, in which I kept the titles, and I liked the way it sounded. Lots of alliteration; and hard stops, where I needed to take a breath. Whether I can fly or not begs the question. The fact is, I can barely hover, mostly I fall on my ass. But sometimes I do seem to get off the ground. Cleaning my pantry, I found a jar of whole, small, leached acorns, and thought I'd try a trick of Euell Gibbons. They were already cooked and dried, so I warmed them in the toaster oven and made a little thick simple syrup, flavored with strong, Class C maple syrup, stuck a toothpick in each one, dipped them in the syrup, then dried them on a paper plate. I use a fair number of paper plates because I don't have to wash them. Glazed Acorns (Euell calls them) are fantastic. Mine are all gone, but I only made a dozen or so. Didn't know I had the acorns. Try these at your next party. I suppose you could leach them in a large coffee can, with some holes in the bottom, with a wire holding it on the faucet, just drip enough to keep them covered, just a few small holes. Let it drip all night. If it was a very cold night, when you were dripping the faucets to keep the water lines from freezing, it wouldn't cost anything extra. I don't think the economics of using more acorns works out very well unless you cook on a wood cookstove. Next winter I'm going to develop a cattail pollen, acorn flour, chocolate chip cookie that could upend the trail-mix business. I don't have a source for chocolate, so I'll probably substitute dried fruit. Cattail pollen is very light, acorn flour is much heavier, so it's difficult to codify quantities. Grandma's recipes, come on, how large is a head of cabbage? Four hands-full? A pinch, a walnut of butter, two fingers of crushed rosemary; what's a splash of something? Read more...