Thursday, July 30, 2015

Gothic Folly

B calls and he has a pate for me, from Scott, so I'll go out tomorrow and maybe do my laundry and check out the new food cart. Two bacon wrapped dogs and fries for $5. I need to run out to K-Mart, while the clothes are in the dryer and buy a couple of new tee-shirts, as my summer formal wear is looking a bit tattered. I'm hard on clothes. Plus, I don't care what I look like or what anyone thinks. So hot, the last couple of days, that I've been taking a late afternoon nap on the floor, then getting up well after dark to eat and write. A few days like that every year so it's not a big deal, the same with very cold weather, you make what accommodation you need. I've started buying more books at the Permanent Book Sale the library has established in a niche off the main floor. It's always good to have twenty or thirty books in a special pile against inclement weather, especially if' they're cheap. I've soaked fish in brine, cured elk hams, buried dead sharks, and make a headcheese that is legendary in certain parts of the south. That is to say, not without talent, and Joel has always said I talk a good line. It's enough. No claim to scholarship, no particular field, but I've seldom gone hungry, and I've always had friends that would hide me, if necessary. Disappearing is a trick, Penn and Teller, you just go underground. Also, of course, I've known several hermits, and tend in that direction. You pick up their manner, stay as self-sufficient as you can and reveal as little as possible. I was building a house in Utah, 96 or 97, living in a gunshot trailer on the Navaho Reservation, and I knew no one; I loved the kids, for about six months I was the local amusement. Went down to B's and got the Scott pate and it's wonderful. I eat it on little rye rounds with onion and sweet gherkins. Very good. Having put off the trip to town, I'll have to go tomorrow: library, laundromat, and liquor; which means cleaning up and generally getting my act together. But I had started reading a book and I wanted to take a walk, down the logging road, looking for mushrooms, and that filled my day. B and I did talk for an hour, about various heating systems; and his other daughters are coming to town, so we talked about that. I'll probably go down for dinner one night, just to see them all together. My sense of time is distorted, napping in the heat of the day, then staying up through the late night and early morning, if I had broadband I'd probably watch a soccer match. As it is I reread some light fiction, then do the dishes and listen to the radio. Just before dawn I turn off all the lights and listen to the blues. John Lee Hooker. Lord god. Read more...

Monday, July 27, 2015

Probabilistic Viability

The element of chance. Two solid days of heavy reading, species diversity, extinction; and I've saved a fiction for tonight, to lighten up a bit. A walk in the hot afternoon, to stretch my cramps, and I'm struck, again, with the enormity of what I don't know. The stir-fry with hot Italian sausage is excellent, caramelized onions and peppers, and a side of black rice (because I'd never had any, and it was, well, black), with some very good tomatoes. This recipe, one large onion, one large red pepper, a one cup rice dish, makes several servings, one of which I trade to Cory for a free lunch at the pub. The meal costs me $6, plus another fifty cents in condiments. My usual lunch at the pub is $8 with the tip, and I get three meals off my dinner and a free lunch that pays for the whole thing. Cory has already said that he'd like to buy into my next pate. My pate futures. I bought a small pate recently, from Wisconsin, pork and pork liver, six ounces for six bucks, discounted, and it was pretty good; hell, I like a thick liverwurst sandwich with a slice of raw onion, and this was way better than that. I stopped at the museum, to see the new shows, and they're quite impressive, the craft museum show is excellent, though there is too much fabric art that isn't particularly special, machine stitched, photographic images, Shaker patterns. The Art quilt, like the Art book, leaves me wanting. I'll gladly read a poem twenty times if it's good, and I do read recreationally, but I can't listen to most of the crap I hear around me. The great thing is that I don't have to. I get back to the ridge, feigning bad hips or broken toes and lock myself inside. Read some reviews, posit some arguments, sometimes I stop at the lake and watch the geese; sometimes, if it's starting to blow, I make a dash for home, and curl up with a cup of tea. Rain before dawn, a cool breeze, and I get up to write. I was remembering my last visit with Dad. The hospice nurse was from Wyoming and Dad was telling her about trout fishing with me high in the Rockies. Her family hunted elk, going on horseback into the high country; and we traded stories while Mom and Dad napped. We talked about campfire cooking. She also had an extensive collection of cast iron cookware, also carried bacon fat in a baby-food jar (because they reseal and don't leak), and also preferred fishing above the beaver ponds. Common ground. A shared love for Cut-Throat trout and elk liver. I stopped down at B's, to see his new workbench and the nearly complete A-frame outhouse with clapboard siding and a foundation that allows digging-out from an access panel. It occurs to me that the two of us have built more outhouses than any sampling of two people almost anywhere. I did once win a specious award for an outhouse on the Vineyard, and I've written several articles for magazines that never actually saw the light of day (Outhouse Monthly, A Quiet Place). I wrote a nice piece about the seasonal orientation of outhouses and how that might affect mental health. Another piece about building a rammed-earth outhouse that could be heated with a candle; another where a writer, dying of colon cancer, spent most of his time staring out at a kettle-pond. The market for literature about shit is limited. I ran a completely unscientific survey, and no one knew shit about shit. I'm taking a three-gallon shower on the deck, sun-heated water in a plastic bag with a nozzle, the back door open, the Allman Brothers blasting "Sweet Melissa", and the phone rings. I let it ring, and rinse off, take my time trying to get dry, settle under a ceiling fan in cotton boxers and a sleeveless-tee. It feels so good to be clean, in clean clothes, I'm practically euphoric, get a drink, roll a smoke, and the phone rings again. I debate whether or not to answer. I'm pretty sure it's my past, catching up with me, and sure enough it's a girl-friend from high school, wondering if I was that same person. No, I said, I'm not that person; we chatted for a while, it was her dime, and realized how different we'd become. I no longer cared for her world, and she didn't understand mine, she seems to think we should stay in touch, and I try to explain that would be a fiction. Read more...

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Last Anything

Extinction. Lost languages or large cats. Up again before dawn because a friend had sent some off-prints that I couldn't find the time to read last night. Strange, that I couldn't find the time, but I was busy right up until the moment that I fell asleep on the sofa. I'd walked down to the mailbox, looking for mushrooms. Wonderful thick heavy Boletes, and Chanterelles scattered on the well-drained knobs, and then I had to deal with what I'd harvested. I had to get clean. Dried sweat, blood, pollen, the dust that arises when you crush leaves walking on the verge; every wrinkle of my skin is embedded with dirt. I used three gallons of water, which is a huge amount for me, to lather up and rinse. Clean loose cotton pants and a sleeveless tee, a ceiling fan; a nice plate of finger food. This time of year I buy one of those small sliced rye breads and often take over an hour to make a plate of bites that unless I invoke a Zen restraint I can easily eat in ten minutes. Roasted kale with goat cheese, mushroom gravy, water cress and sweet butter, charred sardines, and this time of year, the tomatoes. It's so good. I eat a lot of sweet pickles in the summer. One day I buy a bottle of gin, buy a bag of ice I put in a cooler, and a two-liter bottle of tonic. I spend the entire day imagining what it must be like to be a person that sits on the back porch and drinks gin and tonic. The fox appears on the path. I roll it some apples. We seem to have a relationship. Her kits must be two months old now, frisky, but staying close to the den. I took a dead fox of the road recently, cut it open, to allow predator access, and checked the liver. The quick and easy test for the health of an animal is to look at the liver. I carry paper towels and disposable gloves. I went to town, with the fucking list, got the TP and the Q-tips, and picked up a non-dairy creamer because the larger size was cheaper than the smaller size and I needed one of those in the larder in case I got snowed in. I get an extra chicken broth, and some cans of beans because they're very cheap (10 for $5), and a gallon can of pre-mixed wheat flour that promises six loaves of bread with just the addition of water. Stopped at Big Lots for another plastic bin. It's fun to put together a 20-day survival bin, listening to West African slack guitar. I'm still awake when Beal Street Caravan comes on the radio, so I get a drink and roll a smoke. This particular show is Black Church Music and it's killer. Big Roy took me to his church a couple of times, Duck Hill, Mississippi; first time I ever saw an electric guitar in the pulpit. I was treated as an honored guest. Roy and I cooked for the congregation. These were good times. Hearing gospel music become the blues. Eventually I sit in the dark, help me, I pray, it's a very thin line. Read more...

Friday, July 24, 2015

Saint Michael

M and his son show up with modem, Alan installs it, everything works, back in the saddle. That sequence would be sub-titled "The Lost Weeks" and I should soon have back-up 5633's against an uncertain future. Makes me smile. I feel a little uneasy about readers having to catch-up; Michael, for instance, will have to read all of it to his mom (and she is the main reason we're back up to speed), because she nagged him. God Bless You Mrs. Barnhart. Great fun deleting emails and responding to a couple of things. And good to know that I'm back to square one. I accept misdirection as a matter of course. Christine, it's number 95 in the "Cistern", I love that page; that entire book, actually, is a marvel to me. I can't believe I wrote it. Let me know what line it is that you thought about using. The Utah kid sent a twenty dollar bill and a birthday card, and there was a fairly desperate email from western Colorado that I just deleted. Any advice I could give is corrupt and ironic. I don't believe in anything, but I do expect that tadpoles will emerge from eggs, that leaves spring from buds, that the sun will shine tomorrow on a slightly different configuration. You can't help but notice. I enjoyed M and Alan, sent them off with books but feel bad that I didn't offer them food. I was so goddamn excited about being reconnected that I could hardly contain myself. They were hardly out the door before I verified that the back-log had been sent, and that I was, more or less, on solid ground. Black Dell thrives on confusion, not that I'd have it any other way. The actual state of things. But she annoys me, with her demands. I've lived too long alone to be called to task. It doesn't actually matter whether you wash that dish tonight. I've learned you can put off anything almost indefinitely. Time, and factoring, become issues. Summer is over before it starts. Next winter, my immediate concern, is almost here. Firewood, the larder, get your house in order. A black squirrel today, a rare sighting and never on the ridge, I've only seen them down in the forest on Mackletree. Melanism. Genetic drift. I watch the squirrel for an hour, following through the woods because I'd like to know where it lives, so I could watch it in winter, against the snow. A quick run into town, library, pub, Kroger, but I had left my list and tobacco at home, so I didn't linger, and, of course, forgot almost everything. Sidetracked in the sausage section of the meat cases. Cincy was a big sausage town, it preceded Chicago as hog-butcher to the world, and there was a hot Italian on sale. A nice salad with chilled chickpeas and goat cheese, and a couple of split fried sausages with a horseradish mustard sauce. There are some very good frozen biscuits, I know this is sacrilege, but my Mom turned me on to them, that are available now, you can toast a couple in the toaster oven. Hot bread to soak up juice is a part of the southern ethos. My Mom, and Aunt Sadie, made the best biscuits in the world, so this was a big leap for me, and I still make biscuits, when the oven is hot, that would easily win regional awards, but in the summer, when I don't want to start a fire, it's nice to have a decent biscuit to sop up the juice. The juice is the deal. Sopping up juice is something I do religiously. A minor form of divination. Finally got through the backlog of messages. Several people were glad I was online again. A round of applause for Mrs. Barnhart. I started rereading "The Song Of The Dodo" before dawn this morning, and read it all day. In the intervening years I'd read widely in the field, books and articles, that Quammen had mentioned, and I understand his book much better now. An excellent day. A good day for mushrooms. I put the fresh ones in the dehydrator and reconstitute a few dried ones in sherry. I actually prefer them reconstituted, then I can make a reduction of the soaking liquid with brown butter, which gives me something to sop-up at the end. For the next six weeks, I'll eat mushrooms on broiled tomatoes on toast as many times as I can. Often with a fried egg on top. Very fresh eggs. Sweet corn is in and I buy a dozen ears ($2.00) from a roadside stand whenever I go to town. Mostly I make fried corn, which is just a creamed corn heated in butter. Six ears is probably a double serving, cut off the kernels with a sharp knife, then scrap off the rest off the meat and juice with the back of a table-knife, fry it in butter and add a minced small onion or shallot, a great side-dish, but also good on toast with a fried egg on top. What isn't good with a fried egg on top? When I was in college, I made donuts on the night shift, and I always preferred the plain cake donut, I've never much cared for sugar, but the cake donut could be topped with a fried egg or used as a sop for errant juices. Try that with a glazed donut. You end up with nothing on your fork. Read more...

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Stiffening Breeze

After a hot and still mid-day the breeze picks up. Black Dell isn't happy, but I set up a small fan pointed at her nether regions and set about removing conjunctions and adding commas, alternatively adding conjunctions and deleting commas. It's interesting work, watching the way meaning changes. I'd picked up a few local tomatoes (Uglies) at the last Farmer's Market, made a nice pesto mayonnaise, and ate tomato sandwiches all day, one of them, the best, omitted the mayo, and was smeared with avocado. I roasted a few small sweet peppers in the toaster oven, then caramelized them in bacon fat. There are a couple of very good summer salads buried in there. Especially because I'd gotten a couple of small goat cheeses (remaindered) and some very good pickles (from the discontinued bin), and everything was tasting wonderful. If you roll the cheese rounds in good breadcrumbs and heat them until they almost melt they're good on anything. Any green vegetable, any salad, any sandwich. The open-faced broiled tomato sandwich, with goat cheese rounds and avocado, is something to write home about. Add a couple of slices of thick-cut bacon, and it is, actually, one of the best meals ever. The deli thick-cut bacon has been on sale for $2.95 a pound for several weeks and I've bought my share, half the price of Hormel, and twice as good, salted and gently smoked, for no particular reason I assume it's Hungarian. It could be Bulgarian. It's very good. I did a thing with Brussels Sprouts and bacon recently that was wonderful. Make any salad and wilt it with warmed bacon fat. When I was working on the Peter Jefferson project, Tom's dad, there was a market that carried whole slabs of Hungarian bacon for cheap. I lived on bean and bacon soup, and the wild greens I could gather in the fifteen acre apple orchard. And the apples, and the 200 row-feet of seedless blackberries. It was an amazing property in terms of bounty, gooseberries, English walnuts, hazel nuts, ancient asparagus beds, entire fence-rows of raspberries. I had no money but I dined very well. I nap, through the heat of late afternoon, and get back up when Black Dell is cooled by a midnight breeze, have a left-over fried potato sandwich, with tomato and onion, get a drink, roll a smoke, and fall into reverie. It's inescapable, the maze, as a rule always bear left, in practice, if no one is looking, I hack through narrow ox-bows. Fuck a bunch of mystery. We knew where the stream originated, at Swan Pond, and we knew where it deployed into Sesuit Creek, but we had never walked it completely. These tidal/spring creeks are odd but you should always carry an oyster knife. Cockles and mussels, and several times, the last years on the Cape, harvesting beds that I had seeded. Which is a good feeling, like leaving some fruit trees in a place you've lived. Years later, you go back, and there are kids making cider. There's a place, on the Cape, where my oysters are the dominate species. Up Quivet Creek there's a place, the only place, where a certain oyster is available; it's my oyster, The Peeping Tom, briny overtones with a hint of rotten fruit. We could talk about blue cheese, the gamut of rotten things, kimchee, pickled sheep testicles, but this is my oyster; I like them with just a dash of hot sauce. Sometimes I slice a grape-tomato on top and smear them with a wasabi wash. For several years, I was the oyster king, my kin are legion; while Genghis Khan was screwing every maiden east of the Caucus, I was collecting gold. I like that fish sauce with the baby on the label. Michael calls and he has a modem for me and he's coming out my way. Hope springs eternal. Read more...

Electrical Display

Amazed I still have power, but the storm today, a phenomenal event, was a bit off to the south and my service comes in from the west. I shut everything down. It was so close, and so concussive that the house was vibrating. Enough hard rain to put out any lightning fires. Joel is looking in Atlanta for my U.S. Robotic 5633 modem, Michael and family are moving to town and I fear the modem he ordered might be misplaced. Hot and sultry after the storm, but the house has cooled and Black Dell doesn't bitch too much. I talk sweet to her. Not much left, in the way of food, almost out of whiskey, almost out of tobacco, but I should be able to get to town tomorrow and haul in supplies. The driveway has taken a hit, with these summer squalls, but the new shocks on the Jeep have made a world of difference. My grandfather, Tom, only green-broke mules, to get them to accept bit and traces; he never trained them to the plow, or to skid logs or pull a cart. He had a black man that worked for him, Wiley, one of those great natural talents with plants and animals, and I spent more time at their house than I did in white Pentecostal bullshit. Wiley's wife, Alma, was a great cook, and I loved helping her prepare for a wedding or a funeral. Greens, pork shoulder, slaw, corn bread, a few cute things, pickled okra, a relish. Everything was local, nothing had been bought. Wiley could talk to mules. I plowed his potatoes once, with a Hinny that was older than me. He was the first person I knew that talked about inanimate objects as if they had personalities. I've never known if this was African or Native American, Wiley was part Cherokee. He, as many others, escaped the pogrom by sleeping next to an open window. It was years later, in a roadhouse on the delta, listening to John Lee Hooker, that it all made sense. That I'm white is only the luck of the draw. A neon sign, right? LIVE BAIT. And a somewhat smaller sign advertising a 12 foot Boa Constrictor. Ribs on Friday night, and live music; everyone sat in, John Cage explaining to Beverly Sills where opera could go, Carlos fingering John's guitar, later Mulligan played a set, I remember this now, in which he left out almost everything. Miles is the master. Another monster thunder cell moves through. George calls, in transit between Charlotte and DC, taking the third daughter off to graduate school. He'd been to Cape Cod and wanted to catch me up on all the old acquaintances. It's been so long I had forgotten some of the names. Talking in the dark, because the power had gone out again. Did get to town, spent an hour at the library, a bowl of great chicken gumbo at the pub, a careful shop at Kroger. Lindsey, who is quite shy, talked to me for a while. We talked about money because her college loans are coming due. She has $28,000, in fact the last four recent graduates I've talked with all fall right around that amount, which is, I think, about the current average. So how do you get out from under and start a life? First you find a place, I tell her, a life is the product of being in a place. Get handy, I told her, learn how to saw a board and pound a nail, learn how to wire a house and plumb a drain. Plant a garden and compost everything. Never trust a musician. Stay below the radar. The fog flows in with the morning light and this is my morning news: fog, half way up the Hickories, make what you will. I viewed it as a positive sign. At least they didn't get it all. That prison escape in Mexico, when you look at the logistics, is amazing, they figure it cost at least five million dollars. I could do it for that, but I'd want another five for profit and another five to keep the hell-hound off my trail. If you have billions of dollars, spending a few million doesn't seem that important. Besides he's short, and hovering over his Ducati, or Black Lightning, or whatever, down a mile of tunnel, I'd bet he was one smiling motherfucker. 17 steel doors and several hundred guards, just took that off the table. Drop down thirty feet and take off. There were lights, there were oxygen tanks, there were snack bars with jerky and cold water, and there was a track. A couple of questions are left unanswered: what did they do with the dirt, and how did they control the drainage? The answer at hand. You sell the dirt to the Chinese, who are building islands in the South China seas, and you pump the water out and sell it to California. Win Win. If that's not enough, you sell your tunneling technology to the various groups that want to tunnel. Tunneling, as a method of illicit commerce goes back a long way and it runs the gamut from very crude to very sophisticated. The Romans were devious. The Egyptians, because it's difficult to tunnel in sand (it can be done) often built their caves above ground. The maze, of course, is a tunnel. The tunnel itself is sometimes just a cigar. No, wait, what I meant to say is a tunnel is sometimes just a tunnel. Read more...

Gentle Rain

Wakes me from a sound sleep. On the sofa. The windows are open and there's a ceiling fan. The house smells of fried onion and kimchee. Rolling thunder and distant flares. I fumble for my shoes, so I can go out and feel the rain. Everything is slick, so I just pee off the deck and huddle back inside, just what I need is to slip and fall. When I get back inside, with a drink and a smoke, a fucking Luna Moth is banging against the window closest to my writing light and I have to go deal with that. I have a Big Lots butterfly net, made in China, $1, that I use to relocate errant moths. If they return, I eat them, stuffed with goat-cheese and shallots. Moth wings are a lot like potato chips. A little sea-salt and Dijon mustard. I'm so attuned to my own rhythms, that I don't pay a lot of attention to the other measures. It's the rain that woke me, that patter on the roof. I was in a fine dream-state, a friendly bear, blackberries and yogurt, and suddenly I'm trying to relocate not just a Luna Moth, but an intrusion. A violation. First hot day in a while, and when I turn on the AC for Black Dell, it thrashes a bit then dies. No more writing in the daytime until I can find another little window unit for cheap. I just have to keep the area around my desk at 80 degrees or below, and that doesn't seem too much to ask. For years I did this with freezer packs and a small fan, but now I'm perfectly willing to pay a few dollars for creature comfort. After a good trip outdoors, any trip is a good trip if it fills a shelf in the dehydrator, I strip off my clothes, pour a gallon of rain-water over my head, soap up (I have a life-time supply of motel soap), then rinse off with another couple of pours, clean light cotton clothes (Dockers and a sleeveless tee), and I'm ready to go. I'd thought about going to town, listening to music, seeing other people, but I blew it off, heated some left-overs, and settled in with an Elmore Leonard western. The power fails and I'm reading by headlamp, distant thunder and flashes far off to the south. It's easy to imagine anything, curled on the sofa, reading a western, with a headlamp, and the thunder rolling outside. When the rain starts again, I stop thinking, turn off the lights, and take a nap. Bare poles and a drag should keep you downwind. I'll run for a while, in the easy direction, because it's simple, and I can ignore almost everything, but eventually you come to rest. Even in these early books it's the dialog that drives the narrative. Later, it's just conversation that supplies every nuance of information. Read more...

Mushrooms

It's not a cultivated look in the sense of looking your best, but it is a studied approach to living in an area where ticks are a serious problem. I have a couple of pair of pants, Dockers, and several tee-shirts from which the arms have been cut off, large white socks, and a Red Sox cap, that have all been treated with a chemical I don't want to know about, that actually keep bugs away. Bright colors help, white or yellow tee-shirts are best. I tuck my pant's leg into my socks, I tie strips of old tee-shirts around my upper arms and neck, I sprinkle myself with kerosene as if at a christening. I look like the rag-picker's grandfather. That guy in Iran that's never taken a bath and smokes goat turds. Not someone you'd bring home for the holidays. But it is sensible dress for picking blackberries or poking around amid the under-story looking for mushrooms. I do pretty well, several Boletes and enough Chanterelles to dry a batch. I made a very good mushroom pate (mushrooms, onion, butter and apple brandy). Later, rolling a cigaret, it was difficult for me to imagine a better life. I could have more of something, I suppose; another drink or another smoke, more pure iteration of the point I was supposed to get. I make a great garbage hash with a browned butter sauce, I understand that 'union' and 'junction' are related terms. It's a plumbing thing. And marvel that I eat so well. Nonetheless I look like nothing so much as a mendicant with a bowl, begging rice. I don't care what I look like, I'm after blackberries and mushrooms. Getting unsuited, checking for ticks, getting something to eat and drink, getting clean, putting on clean cotton clothes; a foray into the jungle is stupid at this time of year, but I wanted more dried mushrooms. Also, I was hounded by the idea of what a wimp I'd become. Even just a couple of years ago, last year, I was hauling large heavy rounds of oak from one place to another. I don't think too much about this, moving shit from one place to another, because it seems what I've been doing my entire life is just barely clearing a path. Just and only a way to get around fallen trees. Basho, with his stick, looks for purchase among the rocks.

The early insects
and the birds, my god.
Only the owl speaks
the truth.

First let me say, I feel just like a normal person. I stuff squid, I do a few things with pounded tenderloins that you might not have thought of, but I'm actually one of the "Good Old Boys", no shit. The National Institute Of Standards. B walked over, after some wood-type at the print-shop, his ex is doing some collages, and we talked easily, as we always do, about books and foraging. He's going after blackberries this afternoon, and we talked about ticks. I'm not going out, Joel sent me a book on American Terroir and I thought I'd settle in with that, and I found an old Thomas Perry novel at the library that I hadn't read. Tons of left-overs, and I have to contain myself against making something new. I do fry some potatoes, just because I have a skillet with bacon fat and a large Russet potato that's been steamed. Anything is better with fried potatoes. Joel calls and gives me shit about falling out of contact, but I explain the problems. He said he'd start looking around on his end. I'm thinking about borrowing a signal, several friends have mentioned a stew can wrapped with copper wire, but I'm so far from any signal. I'll get this straightened out, I got the vehicle insurance paid, and the land taxes paid, a new license and tags, reconnecting is at the top of my list. B walked over and Joel called on the same day, wondering if I was alive, and I have to quash that rumor, that I might have been dead. Joel laughed about that, that we were both still alive, it's so counter-intuitive, by any other test, we should have been the first to go. Now we just talk about cooking seafood and avoid philosophy. Head to head I'd put a good crab cake up against any fantasy.
Read more...

Daylily Buds

A good day foraging on the way out to town and on the way back. Daylily buds and cattail shoots, some purslane and water-cress. I had some very good chicken livers I'd bought at the farmer's market, firm and lovely, and I'd read a recipe for a salad that involved bacon and chicken livers. Dark pumpkin-seed oil is one of the best kept secrets in history. A few drops of this, in any given stew, results in people huddled around a bowl, baring elbows; but I make a wonderful dressing with it, for salads like this. I soak the livers in a wine vinegar mix, with mango nectar, roll them in crumbs, and fry them for two minutes a side in bacon fat. Slaughter-house chicken livers have a bloody amorphous quality about them, not like they're a specific organ. I like liver, generally, it has a texture, and I'll use slaughter-house chicken livers in a pate, because I'm mostly interested in just a taste, but having warm, perfectly fried chicken livers, with a goat cheese rolled in ashes, and the wild greens, is a perfect meal. A phone call (The Mycelium Network) alerts me that the first Chanterelles have been spotted. I went out right away because I have an early Chanterelle patch, for whatever reason, in the rather park-like area to the west of the graveyard. Found a wonderful huge King Bolete, half a pound, that I'll dip in light soy sauce and dry for a winter soup, and do find a few Chanterelles, enough for an omelet. I was thinking about crab cakes, because D mentioned them, and I thought about the times my family would go crabbing. We loved having a crab-boil in the backyard, the neighbors over, a few dozen large Blue-Tips, a picnic table covered in layers of newspaper. The weapon of choice, for cracking shell, was the handle of a table knife. Dainty but efficient, a crab isn't a lobster, oh, wait a minute, of course it is. I shell a crawdad with my fingers, I break out sweet meat from a Blue Crab with the sharp rap of a dinner knife, I sometimes use a nutcracker on the claws of a lobster. I spend the day, after the rains started, reading a book that Joel had sent, American Terroir, about specific micro-environments that produce certain crops, a great chapter on foraging, another on oysters, and I had bought another dozen oysters. I steamed these open, in a skillet with shallots and a white wine, then reduced the liquid, with lemon zest and a few drops of very good balsamic. When I fry them, and I love fried oysters, I roll them in seasoned bread crumbs then fry them in peanut oil. I strain this oil, afterwards, and use it to fry potatoes. Used oil is much better than new oil, the browning is better, and the taste is much richer. I often get up in the middle of the night, and make French Fries, that I eat dipped in aioli, with sweet pickles and black olives. Anytime I've ever made French Fries there were never any left. Three in the morning, after a late party, heating and filtering the oil (I might add some walnut). I don't have time for nuance, soaking in cold salt-water, cooking twice, so I just put a sliced potato in, as the oil heats up, and cook it until it's brown. I'm not a good witness, I'll eat anything, but other people have said these are very good potatoes. When the oil gets old, throw in a handful of herbs. Then throw it on the compost heap. Then imagine a small black bear getting wind of this. Loren calls, and he can't make it, the rain and a flat, and I knew that was coming, that fucking bear and the pack of dogs, I need to read more fiction. What actually happens is usually fairly mundane, one settles into the woodwork, "Tom A Bedlam", or that women's prison, outside of London, Birdwell? Wasn't that a woman's prison, outside of London? Two days of intense storms, the power was out a good bit of the time, so I couldn't use Black Dell. Loren finally got out for dinner. I had enough pre-prepared that we were able to eat in the dark when the power went off again, then talked for a couple of hours. I got to town today, stood in line and paid my land taxes, had a lovely bowl of chicken gumbo at the pub. Minor storm damage everywhere, the streets in town, TR said, had all been flooded. On the way in, there were branches and trees down everywhere; one, on Mackletree, leaning heavily on a phone-line pole, two had fallen on the road, but they were both cleared away and stacked in someone's woodshed by now. I've never lived anywhere where so many people carry a chain-saw in their truck. I finished cooking the Chorizo dish this morning, Loren and I had dined on caramelized peppers and onions, on a nice rice and pasta bed; and this morning I had a portion of the completely dish with beautifully scrambled eggs. I do love Chorizo, and I make a great version myself, I love to stuff things with it, apples and tomatoes, acorn squash, and squid, or scrambled with eggs. One of the crew at the pub, Devon is I think her name, though I'm unsure of the spelling, engaged me in light banter. It was cool, she's quick. Loren was quick, last night. Michael calls, and says the modem should be in tomorrow. Michael is always quick. I think of this period, now, a file of text... no, wait, somewhat more than that, a record of being not-there. Being off line has created a block of text in my mind, that I refer to as Off Line, which I think of as a novella, which it isn't. Which, I suppose it could be, if I could only consider myself a fiction. That could be a better course, but I wake in the morning in this pound of flesh and make an espresso, dissect a pink grapefruit, make toast over an open fire, and roast some marrow bones. I don't have a definitive handle on exactly what anything is, I don't care, actually. Watching a flock of turkeys, a rage of crows, a single falcon with an eye to the future, I'm usually left with a single question. Read more...

Regaining Balance

Had to get my license and the new sticker for the Jeep, and needed to go to the library. It wasn't supposed to rain before the afternoon, so I went into town, took care of business, stopped at the pub, the special was tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich, which was perfect because I hadn't eaten in 24 hours. Can't believe I passed the vision test at the DMV, I don't think they set the bar very high. But I'm good to go, for another four years. Sushi for dinner, with a very good tomato. Loren wants to come out on Sunday, and I tell him sure, just bring a bottle of wine. I'll cook a chorizo stir-fry and some rice. Tomatoes and mozzarella with balsamic. Jimmy Dean now makes a bulk chorizo which isn't all that good, although any chorizo is pretty good scrambled in eggs with minced peppers, some fried potatoes, a piece of toast with a wonderful dab of bitter/sweet marmalade. Brenda calls and we have that awful conversation about the "arrangements". She sounds good though, and we actually have a couple of laughs about stupid family moments. New VA cemetery outside of Jacksonville, and this is a good thing, because one of things not covered in pre-paying, is that of the actual digging of the hole and the refilling is not usually covered. They can't predict what it's going to cost. Digging holes can be expensive, $2,000 to $4,000, which is a joke, but everyone has to earn a living. And the VA pay for the digging, and Dad's getting the whole honor guard thing, which I think is lovely, folding the flag, taps, rifle shots. Always scared the shit out of me, being at one of those, many of which, being a military brat, I attended. There are several guys in the military who do nothing but play taps, and other guys, who have their laundry done by other people, not to cast aspersion on Thoreau, who do nothing but shoot blanks in the air. Glenn talked about ritual, and of course it is about that, and that might be all it is. Hard rains all afternoon, the leaves are turned inside out, and when I go out to pee the ground is whatever that next stage after being saturated is called. Fluid. Barnhart calls, and he thinks I should find some old modems, the US Robotics, model 5633, at yard sales or on Ebay, and just keep working the way I do. I like this alternative, and Michael agrees to order a used unit off Ebay for ten bucks and if it works we'll corner the market on model 5633's and I'll be cool. Barnhart's Mom is giving him a lot of shit about not getting me connected, and the IT guys all think this would be the simple solution. Get his mom off their backs. Bound to be thousands of these 5633's out there, in boxes in the cellar, out in the garage. Black Dell hisses, she could have told me that. Listening to some early blues, Son House, then some John Lee Hooker, who well might have had the greatest voice in the history of mankind, that deep baritone thick with sexual innuendo. When he sang with Bonny Raitt it brings tears to my eyes. I respond to music in ways that make no sense to me. I was listening to Beethoven's last string quartets, and I'm what? a share cropper's son? I never went to Yale. But this music over powers me. The entire endgame is revealed, that deaf motherfucker knowing exactly what he wanted to say. We should be so lucky. Some southern belle heard Sidney Lanier playing the flute, and he lived for a few more years, Jim Crow and all that crap, all those thousands of people dead, clearly slavery was the issue. The only time I ever almost lost it, drifting down a stream, Dad was sculling and there was another person, a cousin, in the middle seat, I always sat at the back of the pirogue, and Dad sculled from the front, and this particular cousin was really offensive. I wanted to smack him up the side of his head with my paddle, but Dad was kind, we drank another of those insipid Natural Lights, and talked about other things, otters and alligators, and the occasional reference to crimes against nature. They buried Dad today, Brenda said it was lovely, and Mom thought it was lovely, and everyone was impressed with the Honor Guard and the shooting. Wake at Brenda's house. Several of my friends, from high school were there, looking for me, Brenda gave them my number, so I look forward to a couple interesting phone calls. I'll have almost nothing in common with them anymore, but it'll be their dime, and I don't mind the occasional how-have-you-been conversation. In the middle of a day when I'm seriously considering commas, I often need a break. It's been raining forever, another flash-flood warning on the radio, and I just hang around, reading. Light stuff, mostly, but then some recipes from Provence, and that gets me started reading about various beans. Samara calls and I get her up to date, then Brenda called, then I ate a bowl of blackberries with plain yogurt. I started making yogurt again, because it's so easy to make, and milk, really, wants to clabber. Yogurt is the gateway to cheese, the gateway drug. I still make a couple of cheeses, when milk is on sale, and cook down the whey (all of the milk sugars) into a Norwegian cheese that's great on toast. I have to go to town, to get supplies for cooking and eating with Loren on Sunday, but I blow it off for a day. Didn't feel like being around people. Dad being buried on my birthday hit me like a brickbat. No logical reason, but it does make remembering easier, when two events happen on the same day. Not sleeping, so I made a full breakfast, bacon, potatoes, a cheese omelet, toast with seedless blackberry jam, one in the morning, and reread a Dorothy Sayers novel. More rain and flooding. Finally fall asleep on the sofa with a large book on my chest, "The Art Of Falconry". The radio was still on, when I got up to pee, mild but complex jazz, Bill Evans maybe, I roll a smoke and listen in the dark. There was no music around the house when I was a kid, maybe something on Ed Sullivan after we got that first Black and White, until Brenda got a record player and started buying 45's, then Elvis, and even Mom listened. Dad didn't listen, he'd read his westerns after dinner and go to bed, get up early and drink coffee while he read the sports page and then the comics. Rain, again, but light, and it's a pleasant sound. I'm guilty of abusing a couple of cast iron skillets and I recondition them, which takes most of an afternoon; scrape them and clean them, then re-prove the porous interiors with walnut oil. I have an eight ounce bottle of walnut oil that I bought ten years ago, so this isn't an expensive treatment. I used lye and rubber gloves to get the skillets down to base metal, then washed them in several changes of water. Treating them just requires that I sit at the island and don't start a fire. I rub the outside of them with peanut oil, cure that, then heat some oil, cool and reheat a few times, then rub the inside with pig fat and bake it in the oven. The simple test is just cooking a codfish cake, if it's the best thing you've ever eaten, and if it doesn't stick, you might be on the path. I remembered I'd bought a pound of thick-cut bacon (I wanted to fry some green beans with bacon) and I cooked some for a peanut butter and bacon sandwich, thank you Elvis, it put a smile on my face; and I laughed out loud, for the first time in a week, watching a raccoon defending the compost heap. Almost back up to speed but for the lingering void. Melville addressed this. How alone we actually are, somewhat lacking in the simple joys of brotherhood. Then those French guys, after WW11, then all the competing stuff since. Frankly, I can't keep up. I'm a great reader, and I still can't keep up. I'd rather watch the butterflies; in passing, it's good to know that even the common moth is 74% protein. Read more...

Independence

No plans. Some early birdsong. I didn't listen to the news. As so often on the ridge, there isn't a sound that isn't natural; then the fridge cycles and I turn on Black Dell, to read what I couldn't send. Not hungry, but I fry some bacon and eat an egg on toast. I had just started listening to the Cello Suites, Rostropovich, when my sister called, Dad had made it until the Fourth, but he was flat lining. My brother was trying to get there from northern California, the grand-kids were on call. Brenda was much more calm, going into the endgame. Quite the opposite of the usual country way, when kin-folk would bring over a covered dish; she had been preparing for a holiday weekend with her kids and grand kids (a large bunch) and there was a surplus of food that she was actually giving away. I'm sorry, we have a death in the family, could you possibly eat this? I listen to the rest of the Bach, then sit on the back steps and stare off into space. I don't stray far from the phone, though what I'd like to do is hike in above the beaver ponds and have my way with some Cut-Throat trout. Even further off the grid. I'm barely connected, but still. A pyrotechnic display that signifies nothing, I see a few flashes, some disconnected thumps, and I can't make sense of any of it. Time plus distance. What I see, and especially what I hear, is not exactly what happens. Another phone call, my brother had made it, and Dad had calmed down, they were holding his hands when he passed. All the arrangements had been made and paid for decades ago. Dad had never bought into religion, so I don't know what kind of service Brenda has fabricated. Do you buy a pastor's time? Like for a wedding? What do you charge for officiating at a funeral? Flat fee or sliding scale? I'm sure the details are all codified; and the wake, of course, more food, a few beers. The kids will only have known him as an old man, but I knew him as a young man, sculling a pirogue up close to the bank, where he could roll in a fly-cast that was a work of art. Out of time, but not of memory. I still aim to lay a fly in, under the overhanging underbrush, in such a way that it seems perfectly natural. B called, and the family Sunday dinner was down at his place, but I knew I'd be terrible company, and I couldn't talk, without tearing up. I walked the logging roads for a couple of hours, then came home and started a fire in the grill. I had a rack of baby-back ribs that I needed to cook. I managed to spend the rest of the day involved in food preparation. Pulped a ripe mango, and roasted some chilies, a great sauce for ribs that had been rubbed then seared, then cooked in foil for a couple of hours, then unwrapped and dried in apple smoke. I made a coleslaw, where I leached out the cabbage and carrot moisture before I dressed it with a garlic mayo; some steamed Yukon Gold potatoes with a large pat of butter and much fresh ground black pepper. I have the actual skillet that was used to make corn bread, when we were camping. I still use it. Johnny cake, with molasses, is a great way to start the day. I don't think much, just do one thing after another as slowly as possible. I woke up sick at my stomach, I must have eaten something that had set out too long; and I had to do the hydration cure, where you drink a little bit of water, then throw it up, and do it until the liquid runs clear. Put a damp cloth on your forehead, and listen to Greg Brown. I'm thinking about milk-toast for dinner, sometimes, when I can't sleep, I soak my feet in Epson salts, or warm Glauber salts, heated to body temperature. Dry my feet, change my socks, hey, I'm an actual person, I love the way it feels. Clean, dry, warm feet, dry socks. Sometimes it's enough to keep me on the straight and narrow. Sometimes it's not. Read more...

Death and Dying

They unplugged Dad this morning, and he's supposed to die tonight. It's numbing, even though expected. My sister just called again, they (finally) have him calmed down, and he's off everything but Atavan (?) and morphine. He won't let go because of Mom and he's put up quite the battle, but all his organs are in failure. It was painful to see him, a year ago, and I don't think I'll go down for "the services", especially not on a holiday weekend, and just have a quiet wake here. Drink a couple of those insipid beers he favored, fry fish and hush-puppies, with raw onions on the side. I disagreed with him about almost everything, but we were still good fishing companions, and he taught me a lot about the natural world. How to smell where fish were spawning, to look for horizontal movement out of the corner of my eye, to wait for two quail to cross. The hours we spent in a boat, not talking, watching that angle, where the line met the water, stretch on forever. I don't want to think about class distinctions, but it's hard not to, that period after the Second World War, all those vets. The labor pool that made it possible for the rich to get very rich. A job in Detroit paid more money in a week than you might get for a year of hoeing cotton. Not to mention heating a one room shack with dried corn cobs. I've pieced together a history. It's not a complete fabrication, a few names, a trace bit of historical record. Dad had two half-sisters he never met. I know his Mom was Dovey, the youngest of either eleven or thirteen Pruitt kids (there was a tendency to not name a new-born until it looked like it might live) and that when she died, after birthing two girls (Pearl and Bee) and him, Buren Jackson (BJ, in the southern tradition); Mack Bridwell remarried in Oxford, Mississippi, and had two more daughters. My step-aunts. I know there were three boys, Mack, who moved to Mississippi, Tom, who moved to Texas, and Noel, who kept the home place in Ohio. The Pruitt family (Dovey's side) passed the loose kids around as needed. I'll write about his later, when my mind starts working. I blew off everything else, after a quick trip to town, to sit and remember, and wait for the phone call. Mindless On The Ridge. I got a good bottle of whiskey (Dad never drank whiskey) in town, and bought a slab of ribs to cook the way that I've modified over the years from the way he did them. Food was always a big thing, even when the pickings were slim. Being a military family eliminated the fear of starving to death. Mess halls and the base commissaries, where everything was extremely cheap, and the only problem was that you had to move frequently, and friendships were ephemeral. Dad read, Mom less so, he read Westerns and Rex Stout, and John D. McDonald, so there were books around the house. Also factor in that he was Navy, and was therefore on sea duty, two years out of four, and often in Japan, far from home, or someplace, the Mediterranean a couple of times. He always brought us presents. For years, the once or twice they went out, Mom would dab on JOY, and that huge floral, Dad had brought back from France, would electrify the room. He had an odd quirk when it came to food. He absolutely wanted every food item discreet, no mixing. This might come from eating unidentified gruel as a small child. He was the grill master when we'd rent a fish shack cabin for an over-night. These shacks, at every back-woods fish camp in the south, were usually two rooms, with a kitchen counter and cold running water; perfect in every way if all you want to do is fish. BJ was a serious fisherman, but cool about it too, always content to just settle back with a beer and argue politics. Michael calls and sees my connection problem as a two part thing. I agree. I have to change the way I work. Of course, sure, I can do that; AND he assures me that we can recover this, what I'm writing now, the ten or so pages held in limbo. His mom has already instructed him to recover those pages. I'm in good hands. Moms, even if they're not Jewish, make demands. Of course nothing makes sense, it's a gypsy nightmare. And it's in Hungarian. Please. In the future, consider the pluperfect. What might have been, or what might still be. I have to go, collect myself. Read more...

Never Easy

From the sound of it another afternoon of thunder storms moving in. So much rain. The big bottoms west of town had all been planted in soybeans which are now completely under water. Missed my connection with TR. I spent a couple of hours, shopping around for a laptop, but need to check with someone about what I should get. Means an extra trip to town. I wanted to just buy the first one I saw, but realized quickly that I knew nothing about them. Stopped at B's to admit my failure. He had a book for me, and I'd been to the library, so I have new reading matter. I took one of the meat guys, the one who had questioned me about what I was going to do with the lamb shanks (Dave) a small container of what I had done with the lamb shanks. He loved it, and promised more lamb shanks in the future if I'd bring him some. His wife won't cook lamb. Rolling thunder and medium rain. Perfect for the ripening blackberries. I had to pick up a two-pound bag of sugar, for canning, because I don't even keep any around. But I'm set now, except for the Death Of Ten Thousand Cuts, which is the dark side of picking wild blackberries. Wear clothes that you can throw away, check carefully for ticks, and keep a quart of super-premium vanilla ice-cream around. The berries are particularly good with shaved dark chocolate. I was talking with Loren, having a smoke out behind the pub, we were talking about cooking pork tenderloins. I cook pork tenderloins in my sleep, don't get me started; I pound tenderloin rounds into wafers that I roll around odd ingredients, sometimes I just grill them, slice them on the bias, and sop up the juice with a piece of bread. I tell Loren to come out and bring a bottle of wine, that we'll cook something. Grill a London Broil and roast some vegetables. B read me a truly great Ed Dorn poem, the ultimate spin-off of Willams' plums in the ice-box. He read the poem very well, like a conductor, little dampening movements with his right hand. The poem is seriously funny, a Dorn trait. More rain, rolling thunder across the river. I listen to some Skip James, Son House, Robert himself, just one cut, "Hell Hound On My Trail"; then Dylan and The Dead covering "All Along The Watchtower". Having a decent sound system, that works, changes things. I slip into an alter ego, the late night DJ, pushing the blues. I just played a great set that featured Greg Brown. I only talked with him once, but we followed each other at, I don't know what to call it, a workshop (not the correct word) or a festival. A frolic or a fantasy. Bullshit encased in layers of bullshit. Nonetheless, when the fog rises from the hollows, what you see, the mountain laurel, is absolutely real. An owl, maybe a couple of crows; there was a sparrow hawk, perched this morning, cleaning its feathers, and I watched for thirty minutes, completely mesmerized. One of the great nature programs ever. She, I believe it was a female, picked a branch under the canopy, not a place she would ever perch, for her grooming. I felt like a room-service guy, trapped in the closet, while the queen went about her toilet. I was very close to that ineffable edge, when something in the natural world reminds you that there are things beyond your nose. Birdsong in the early night, or a grunt from the compost heap. I walked around in a daze all day, thinking about the hawk. I had a sparrow hawk one summer on the Cape. It had fallen out of one of those big pines on the Playhouse grounds. I raised it up and flew it down on the beach, until it could make its own way, then let it go; but I read about falconry that whole summer, and the staff gave me a great book, bought used at Parnassus Book Store in Yarmouthport, now quite valuable, that is my main reference when it comes to hawk-related issues. Michael calls, he's a tech guy, and not only is he a reader of mine, but he reads me to his mother on the phone. She's been bitching to him that I'm not posting, he explained that there was a glitch, and now he's on my case. He's friends with Greg, who's even more of a tech person, builds things in his basement, shoots at a thousand yards, eats only raw vegetables and nuts. Michael laughs, and says they'll have a solution quickly, that I should, in the meantime, buy a laptop tomorrow. I can write at home and send at the pub, but I have eight or ten pieces that I want to recover, that are in limbo. Lost in the transition. They're real, I can read them, and I have them locked in my memory, but they don't exist as hard copy. The simple solution is to get a new printer, print the pages, scan them into the narrative, and then get on with business. I have no idea why everything should prove so difficult. Read more...

Easy Living

Mid-year, in the billing cycle, and I got my land tax notice, $160 for the next six months, I just paid my vehicle insurance for six months, $168, and I still have some cash in my wallet. The permanent book sale at the library is a boon, a buck for hard-bounds and 50 cents for paper. I'm looking to have a hundred books in the several piles on the floor that are "books to be read"; I might keep five, the rest will go to Goodwill. It's a good life, food and books, whiskey and tobacco, I never imagined to be so defined, but there you go. Hard rain and the farmers are complaining, fields flooded. I shut down everything in the house twice, when massive thunder storms moved through. Dark as a full moon night. B gave me another stack of London Reviews and I've been reading them all day, interesting articles and reviews. In the evening the storms relent and I'm sure the driveway has suffered a beating. I'll try and get out tomorrow and send the backlog of posts from TR's computer. If that works, then I can get back to whatever it was that I was doing. I cooked a batch of grits overnight in the crock-pot, the lamb-shank chili is great on them. I made re-fried beans and I much prefer them with bits of bean and skins. A day like this, I just keep my plate in active mode, which means I don't wash it, just store it in the microwave, and whenever I want a few bites I scoop out whatever and nuke it. Works for me. I've also taken to storing things in foil covered pans in the fridge; plastic containers are just another thing to wash. And I usually leave the serving spoon right in the pan. My lack of hygiene drives my sister crazy. In her world, everything is a food-born disease. In my world, I might eat something slightly bad and throw up, maybe feel awful for a couple of hours, but not sick, make a note not to eat whatever that was again, and move on. Brussels sprouts came up in conversation recently with the produce guy at Kroger, he was pulling some of them to throw away, the outer leaves had shriveled and they looked terrible. But he made me a bag of three or four packages, for free, and when I got home I stripped all the old leaves off and steamed the little heads, cut them in half and fried them in butter. This was probably the vegetable of the year. Break them apart with a spoon and you can end up with a great pasta sauce. They were always our last crop, in the greenhouse on the Vineyard, long after the next year's plantings. Thinking about eating well. Those same years, on the Vineyard, I had my own private oyster bed. It wasn't actually mine, it belonged to whomever was Secretary Of Defense in 1980, and he didn't do anything with his oysters. I'd found a back way to get to the far side of his lagoon and I could collect a bushel in ten minutes. I sold them to restaurants, I traded them, and I'd keep bushels of them all winter, in large galvanized wash tubs, covered in seaweed that I'd keep damp with seawater. No one else harvested mussels and every time I'd go out for a load of seaweed (we made all of the soil for the greenhouse from seaweed and compost) I'd collect mussels. Memory is such a collage. They had some oysters at Kroger, and they looked pretty good. Expensive, 50 cents apiece (free is my standard), but I bought a dozen. Old time's sake. My shucking abilities have diminished to zero, so I start a small fire in the grill, go inside and make a browned butter sauce with shallots. Put the oysters on the grill, deep side down, eat them as they open, and if they don't open, don't eat them. We were brewing an excellent brown ale at the time, using a toasted barley coffee-substitute as part of the mix, and we bartered for almost everything. A lamb from up island, some lobster; we had firewood (a dear commodity on the Vineyard), great beer, and unlimited oysters. As I think about it, we were too successful, it was too easy, and Mississippi looked like a challenge, and it was, then ranching west of the Rocky Mountains, a goat diary, then a quiet ridge in southern Ohio. Come in to my kitchen. Read more...