Monday, October 5, 2015

Free Radicals

It's all logistics. Get the Jeep into the shop, buy some groceries, get back home, then get back to town to get the Jeep. I know B's schedule, Rodney would ferry me one way or the other for a pack of smokes and a six-pack, I know I can work this out. Still, it's a pain in the ass. I have my routine, you know? I get up and do things, split kindling or shovel shit, whatever needs to be done. The bear seems to be gone, the yard work ran him off. The rain finally stopped but I didn't get outside, sick at my stomach all morning, something I ate. Threw up everything, then some more, and didn't feel like working. Finished reading through 1182 pages of Brewer's Dictionary Of Phrase & Fable. It's a very good reference book, a ton of esoteric information. My copy will stay out at all times, at hand, literally. It found a home atop the pile at the left end of my desk/table, on top of the Webster's I keep there. I hate being indisposed, all the heaving left me with a sore stomach, and the sure knowledge that I can't leave food out. I usually leave left-overs out, covered with a plate, to scramble with eggs the following morning, but twice this year I've gotten sick. So I need to modify that system, I was cutting back on dish-washing as far as I could, eating on the same plate and other ill-advised practices, but I seem to have gone a bit too far. When I make cornbread, I flip it over, take what I need, and leave the rest of it in the skillet, covered, so the mice can't get to it. I made a small pone tonight, the six inch skillet, that I ate with soft-scrambled eggs, a piece of toasted cornbread with local honey. The only other thing I'd held down all day was plain yogurt. I had a couple of cast iron pans that needed to be re-cured. I'm going to get a steel and copper skillet for doing scrambled eggs, and a non-stick pan for doing scalloped potatoes. The crows are back, I don't know where they've been. Basho:

on a withered branch
   a crow has settled--
      autumn evening

One quite cool night and the mice are back in force. The crows will be pleased. I set some basic traps. I'll be listening to those snap in the night, in profusion, until the remaining few wise up, and then I'll set my more elaborate traps. B said he'd come up tomorrow morning and we'd see if the Jeep can be jumped, if not I'll take out the battery, borrow B's vehicle and run to town. The problem is that the damned thing was only a couple of years old, was a big expensive battery, and that's means there's an electrical short somewhere. I have to go turn in some paperwork for the free firewood, do some shopping, and strike a major hit at the library. It's funny that specifically when I need to be mobile, the Jeep won't start. I need to make four or five trips to town this month; then in November and December, I can back off, two trips to town; then January and February, I might only get out once. Potatoes, rice, and beans; tuna, sardines and hash. Sixteen pounds of grits and cornmeal, dried eggs and milk. Cream of Tartar is just dead yeast bodies, rising, or fermentation as a product of converting sugar into alcohol. And even before that, converting starches into sugars.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Out of Sorts

I wrote a book of that title once, being a list of sorts I had found or seen in a catalog of sorts. Odd bits of type to the printer. They were the source of much amusement. I've always liked a good list. I did a nice broadside once that was just a list of 126 cooking implements that was titled Professional Cookware, and it was actually quite funny, and not only to me, other people laughed out loud. The sorts book, read again now, reads like a diatribe against oppression. There's a strong cadence, in reading these pieces, that gives them the appearance of making sense. The book was punctuated which only enhanced the effect. The cookware piece was just three columns, no punctuation. Another completely rainy day, almost cool enough for a fire. The dripping is incessant and I usually love it, but it bothered me today and I wanted to escape into fiction. Reread Richard Powers' Orfeo, a wonderful, masterful book, and I remembered he had gone on at length about the Messiaen. A great choice. I made a grazing station at the island, cheese (a double cheddar), some pickles, some kim-chee, some crackers, and some of the pretty good Wisconsin pate. Drank hot tea, walked over for a sample, read a chapter. Repeat as necessary. I switched to whiskey late in the day, fried some potatoes, roasted some tomatoes. Later I made an omelet with the left-overs, the last of the pate smeared on toast. I spent some time trying the find out why a male swan is called a cob, and a female called a pen. Sortes is that divination where you open a book and put your finger on a line. Homer or the bible usually. I got stuck in the letter 's' and read a piece about Jenny Lind, the Swedish Nightingale (suede was originally undressed kidskin, used for gloves, made in Sweden), and Swedenborg was a wacky mystic. Gusting wind was blowing crap around, leaves and dirt and ragweed pollen, but it was nice to get outside, take a walk. The smells are amazing. Green and fecund. After the first couple of fires in the cookstove, the house smells pleasantly of whatever I'm burning, and I love that smell too, bacon and tobacco and leather, a sassafras log; but I do love the way the forest smells, right now, early fall, green, but starting to decay. I've always loved the smell of rotting plant matter. I killed a bunch of spiders today, I didn't want to, but they were set to birth thousands more spiders inside my house, and I just wasn't ready for that. I vacuumed them up. I'd been watching them for weeks, I greatly admire their due diligence, and the geometry, the way the webs cleave space. But I don't want spiders running everywhere. In so far as I have any control. I run my anti-cricket campaign in the spring, I have a tennis racket to deal with the bats. I barely hold my own, but that seems to be good enough. Read more...

Friday, October 2, 2015

Something Simple

Split wood, haul water. Either mindfulness or mindless. I had a new five-gallon pickle bucket that had filled with rain water, and took a sponge bath, washed my hair. Imagined a cosmetic line. A rinse you might use to purge base thoughts. I just need to soak in a hot bath for an hour, then take a shower and scrub off a layer of skin. I can get a room at the Super Eight for sixty bucks, sushi from Kroger, a movie on cable (I haven't seen a movie in ten years), and rub lotion into my tired feet. I vacillate between thinking I indulge myself too much or not indulging myself enough. I steamed an artichoke, they were finally affordable, and made a ginger/horseradish mayo. This was so good I had to laugh. Artichokes make very good paper. Any fiber works, okra, sacred cotton. I took a nap, early evening, got up to pee and turned on the radio, middle of the night, and it's Messiaen. The Quartet For The End Of Time, second only to the Cello Suites on my all time list. I have to get a drink and roll a smoke, sit in the dark, and marvel at the way music can key emotion. Or the way smell can, and even sight. We only partially control this. The hard-wired shit we can't do anything about. Sex in new mown hay, the first time you looked up from your mother's breast and saw something else, a perfect martini with two olives. I seldom pre-judge anything. Tossing the caber, for instance, and whatever that large rock is called. Mickey Mouse or Donald Duck. I usually come in last. It's not so much that I'm a loser as that I don't give a shit. The Messiaen was first played in prison camp Stalag VIII A, January, 1941. Violin, cello, clarinet, and piano. There's much documentation of the event, from the 300 or so prisoners and guards that were there. Even the circumstances of a documented event are questionable. I did an impromptu reading of a book of poems, A Summer In Hell, sitting on the tailgate of my truck, just before leaving Colorado. It was impassioned, there were six people there, it was snowing. I've heard several people describe that reading and I know they weren't there. Rodney yells from the driveway. You always yell, when you approach a hermit, from beyond shotgun range, lest you get shot. I pay him for the clearing and he's anxious to finish the floor insulation. We strike a deal, and I'm thinking the winter looks better. If he finishes the floor insulation, which he figures will only take a few hours, and I get the woodshed filled, the rest of it is just logistics. Shovel a path to the outhouse, a bag of potatoes and a few carrots. I actually save money in the winter because I can't get out to spend any. If I stay home, with a pot of stew and a dozen books, I'm actually making money. Enough, at any rate, to imitate a midge. Read more...

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Not Bad

Rain started before dawn, or at least the dripping started. Continued all day. An interesting phone call from a builder in Utah, wanting to know where I'm gotten the lumber to build a specific staircase. I explained that the wood had come from Mississippi and had been hauled out by a friend who wanted to hunt elk. The staircase in question was mostly 3x12 white oak and I had gotten it for a couple of hundred bucks, which is what made the project possible. I gave him the name of a sawmill and advised how to cure/dry the stuff when he got it out west. With the difference in relative humidity, it's difficult to prevent warping: you have to sticker it in layers (stacking the layers with sticks between, to hold them apart) and band the stack with those awful metal bands that are bloody dangerous when you cut them. A lot of scars on a lot of carpenters and masons. Then another phone call (two in one day is almost a record) from a former student. She wanted to talk about punctuation. I told her to get the Norris book, and we talked about the serial comma for what must have been an hour. Between calls I was reading Gaddis, Carpenter's Gothic, then some McGuane short stories. The sardine on toast with mozzarella and tomato in balsamic lunch. Large slice of sweet onion. If I had any meetings, for the rest of the day, I'd have to cancel them; filthy, from working in newly exposed dirt, and a garlic/ sardine/onion breath that would stop a charging rhino. It was Mac who taught me to eat anchovy paste on crackers. Most everything I know I learned from someone else or read in a book. There's a dish in Iceland, where they ferment a shark for several years in a hole in the ground. For whatever reason, rotting fish seems to have established itself fairly early. I have no idea what makes this sterile enough to eat. Salt? The shark tastes like a very ripe cheese, it certainly doesn't taste like chicken. Garum, of course, the juice of rotted fish, was a Roman favorite. I've made this a few times, and it can be quite good, more a flavor enhancer than anything. I make another list, all the ingredients I'd need to make a few soups, some cans of navy beans and garbanzos, some dried cured smoked ham trimmings, freeze some chorizo, buy some roasted red peppers in oil. When I can't get to town I reconstitute onion flakes in wine. I can always cook a pot of something. I love rice and polenta, so I'm a cheap date. One time, trapped in several feet of snow, I fried everything, tempura as a way of life, in peanut oil. It's all about the dipping sauce. As it happens I have a sauce confit, that pushes the envelope. Baby rib juice mixed with papaya nectar. Ten years old, and the additives are now without number, green chilies, and dried mushrooms, left-over bits of wine and beer, various green herbs, shallots, smoked peppers. Light rain all night but it slacked off in the morning and I went to town to get back-up whiskey and tobacco. The hills were smoking, moisture rising out of the hollows, and cooler. I had to pull up a flannel sheet this morning, and it felt wonderful to snuggle down. Read more...

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Observable Phenomena

Two young deer, yearling does, early morning. I'd just sat down with coffee and I heard them running. Slipped over to the back door and watched them, running around the newly clearly area, then they'd stop and nuzzle necks, then off again like young goats. The fox is pissed that Danny leveled the compost pile. He leveled everything. I give her an apple and go out with clippers to cut enough small brush to start another pile. I'll get Loren to save food waste at the pub for a few days, I need to dump the composting toilet before winter, I have plenty of leaves, and I saved a bucket of stove ash. The produce guy at Kroger said he'd save a couple of boxes of cabbage leaves for me. My pigs in Mississippi were crazy for these; even when I had a lot of pigs 25-40, probably 30% of their food was supermarket waste, and the supermarket loved that I took it, because it didn't fill their dumpster. I had to run to town, the library had called, I needed whiskey and tobacco, I hadn't spoken to anyone for several days. Rooster trail of leaves, window down, a crunch under wheel; and that almost burnt smell of late summer. I'm sucked away, every time, by beautiful vegetables. I've starting not skinning almost anything, eggplant, acorn squash, cucumbers for sure; bitter is usually a warning, but it's an interesting taste You should never think I hadn't thought through the consequence. I roasted some eggplant, which I'd never done before, with some tomatoes, sprinkled everything with olive oil, salt and pepper. I have to do this in the toaster oven because it's too warm for a fire. Warm, god, then cool then cold, then too cold. I try not to get that far ahead. Looking through an old book today, a Tacitus from 1715, it's difficult to read, but I had a modern translation I could reference, which led, I don't remember why, to reading Chaucer. A few of the hickory trees, the leaves, are turning orange. Lovely against the green and yellow. All this color, in the grand grinding cycle, before we go back to black and white and the gray shadow. A long day, by my standards, I had driven, walked, read, and spent a few hours writing, slept a few hours, then got back up to pursue a thought. If then why not that. Then napped again before dawn broke. It's better to not break this down, yourself for instance, madly pursuing what that was.

Chopping brush all day,
tired and covered with dirt,
then a sweet apple.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Salt Water

Beside that. One sliding foot at a time. I always kept an old pot, hidden in the bushes, so I could cook barnacles in sea water, clams and mussels, oysters. I'd carry a couple of potatoes in my pocket, and an old army blanket, a knife, a Bic lighter. In the butt of the knife was thirty feet of monofilament and several small hooks. I always have a book, since I was five (family stories), and my kit got larger when I started camping out of my truck, growing to include an unabridged dictionary. A great walk today, down into the hollow behind B's cabin. Collected watercress and several different mushrooms; salad later, bitter greens and ripe cheese, with mushrooms on toast. I was reading recipes that cooked things in sea water. Dubious anymore, but they made good reading. Then I read a long piece about the Lockerbie bombing. I truly never know what I'll be reading tomorrow. I'm skirting around a book on field amputation, Civil war period, that Judy sent me years ago, a horrific text; a shattered foot, cut it off, infected hand, cut it off, medical treatment tended toward the brutal. Illustrations and some of those early photographs. Instead I pulled an old Time-Life book out of the stack of books-waiting-to-be-read, Good Will and library sales, Canyons And Mesas, excellent pictures and decent text. Some of the area discussed I know quite well, I lived there, hiked around, knew some of the same watering holes. And the San Juan mountains, god, it was beautiful. Cut-Throat trout cooked on willow twigs, by then I carried a lemon in my pocket. And a baby food jar of bacon fat. Baby food jars, early on, were more or less resealable, bacon fat is usually a solid, a safe method of transport. In Utah I sometimes kept bacon fat in those very large hypodermic needles you use on cows. It was kind of flashy, actually, to whip out a syringe, and lubricate a skillet before you fried an egg. My system is so crude now, I have a ten-inch skillet that I fry the bacon in, and I keep the skillet in the oven, the fucking mice keep me ever alert, and use a spoonful or fry more, depending on my needs. Now that I have to start using the stove again I need to address the bacon fat issue. The brine for salted beef or pork, after curing, was 12 or 13 percent; four years at sea, the biscuit was mostly meal worms. The good news is that worms are 50% protein. Read more...

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Up Here

Fall fog rolling into the hollows. It's an amazing phenomenon, watching the fog rise like a tide. There's a point, which I've actually experienced a few times, when you can actually feel the layer of more condensed moisture. Fog Whisperer. I've noticed a pattern recently, that I turn off the radio and kill the breaker for the refrigerator, sometimes I take a walk, I've never taken a walk on the ridge-top logging roads that I didn't notice something; Komma, I thought, the dark goddess of punctuation. It was immediately apparent, to a type-setter, that you had to break the phrases apart. Ancient Greek, and who ever thought leaving out the vowels was a good idea? Printing codified language. On a break from anything serious (string theory, the heat-death of the universe) I was reading a totally captivating novel by Thomas Perry. He's a good writer. I don't have the exact numbers on this, but I was doing a tofu study, there was a scale of some sort, one to ten, a mouth-feel study. I was at the island with several bowls of tofu and mozzarella in various balsamic reductions, reading the latest Perry novel. It was raining, a lovely patter on the roof, and I had the radio on, turned down low. An old Grateful Dead song came on, and I cranked up the volume. China Cat Sunflower from the "Europe, '72" album, a favorite tune from the distant past. It was all so perfect, cheese and fried bean curd in a blackberry balsamic sauce with late-season vine-ripened tomatoes, a glass of whiskey, the patter on the roof, great music. Lulled into a reverie. A visit to the middle distance. I used to listen to this Dead album often, when I was printing or binding books; and all of the other sensations, the smell of the rain, my addiction to balsamic vinegar, the patter on the roof. I remember so many things, all at once, that I'm overwhelmed. I certainly don't mind sitting back with a drink and a smoke, probably I was designed for this task, just reviewing some events with nothing much in mind. I enjoy watching and listening, slicing open oak-galls to see exactly which insect is represented. For a year or so, living in a rented room, I bicycled everywhere, I lived on wild seafood and potatoes. Then cooking once a week became my rent, then cooking might have become more than that, but I really wasn't interested in cooking for more than six or eight people. I lose interest in proportion to the quantity necessary to prepare. There are exceptions, I can do ribs for twelve, B and I once cooked pork loin for seventy, but in both cases someone else handled the side-dishes. I was thinking about patois, the way language develops. Starts with nouns and simple verbs. I mostly use two dictionaries, both American, Random House 2, and Webster 2, and I spent several hours today, checking words from Anglo-Saxon translated into modern American English. Fuck and such. I'm easily amused, so it's an entertainment for me. I talk to myself and chuckle occasionally. Realized that there was form involved in referencing a word. If I'm merely looking up a word I stand at the dictionary table (a three foot by six foot slab of sandstone lab counter) but if I'm going to research a word I have to sit on the sofa, where I have good light, and read the book open, with reading glasses, across my knees. Big heavy books, some of these dictionaries weigh more than a fat raccoon. You can't hold them like you hold a novel. I don't want any domestic animals, I'd rather just trap mice, and feed them to the crows. Dogs and cats scare all the other animals away. Read more...

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Small Dramas

Life is too much. Rodney shows up then disappears until after one, and brings back a guy, Danny, with a small tractor. I have no idea what I'm paying for this and it bothers me that R brought someone else to my place. An ex-prison guard who smokes copious amounts of ganja. A small tractor with a small rear blade and they rip up the brush. It's an ugly sight but it's needed to be done for several years. It's brutal, and it's going to be a very muddy winter and spring because bare ground has been exposed for the first time in 15 years. Still, I'll have a fire-break, and be able to drive to the back door which will be handy for trading out refrigerators and laying in supplies. The driveway bifurcation, that allows access to the back of the woodshed, would have taken me a day to clear, is done in fifteen minutes. The back porch is clear, the side yard is clear. They got rid of the dirt-pile, dug out for the cistern, and I had never thought that would be gone. Then spend an hour clearing in front of the house. Ryan walks over, to see what's happening. Chaos. I had forgotten the electric line to the print-shop and it gets severed. Danny and Rodney leave, after coming inside for a drink. Kinsey comes over, to find Ryan. Everyone gone, the quiet was shocking; I ate an omelet and took a nap. Only actually four hours of intense activity, but I find it taxing. Rodney wants to get the floor insulated, which I want too, but I don't need this whole best buddy thing. I'd like his help, sure, and I'd pay for that, but I don't need someone making demands on my time. If I pay someone to clear brush for me, it is specifically so that I don't have to clear the brush, it doesn't signify that we're comrades-in-arms. Devin is beginning to show, she's six months pregnant, I've been talking about the benefits of vaginal birth with her. The way that last layer of protection was slathered in secretions. Trans-dermal. It's certainly true that I could never be pope, or even a justice on the Supreme Court (I'd be a very good Supreme Court Justice), but I did think about running for a local judge-ship. I'd be a good judge because I'm an excellent listener. Up early, made salsa, then scrambled eggs with loose Chorizo sausage and a huge scoop of salsa on top, toast and bitter marmalade. As soon as it was light I took my travel mug of coffee outside, to survey the changes in scenery. Work to do, cleaning up the oddments, but I need to run to town for tobacco and whiskey, get some things to eat. An artichoke, some oysters, greens and salt-pork. There are four staff at the pub, I get my usual draft, given a sample of the new mushroom soup (which is quite good); and three of the four confide that the new changes the owner wants to make happen are ill-considered. It's interesting that I get pretty much the same story from all three of them. You don't usually get that kind of consensus on anything. I told them all to compromise in the short term, but look for other work. I learned from Joel: first you quit, then you think about the consequences. But it's good to know where you might ply your trade. I can make books, I can make paper, I can make ink, I do restoration binding; I've been told I'm a pretty good carpenter ( I think that's an exaggeration) but I am a very good cook. Read more...

Tuesday, September 22, 2015


A form of grace, the fox slips out of the woods like a apparition. She's come for her apple, early today. I roll it to her, and she eats it on the spot, about fifteen feet away. Dainty, and cute as a button: all possible connotations of foxy. When she leaves, trotting down the driveway, she looks back over her shoulder, a young lady at court in a romance novel. The phone rings and I've won a cruise to the Bahamas, which I politely refuse. Two black squirrels today, and it's a treat to watch them, industrious and agile as they are. One does fall, leaping onto a branch that won't support him, scampers up a tree trunk, looking around in embarrassment. It would have made the highlight reel for "Not Top Ten" things that happened during the week. One poplar tree has lost all of its leaves. It's an odd phenomena, on back country roads, the way a specific tree will lose all of its leaves all at once. It's like a small lake in the road, you can't even see the road. A further note, this happens when there isn't any wind, or they wouldn't collect the way they do. Sudden Leaf-Drop Syndrome. It can actually be a problem if you don't know where the road-bed is. I've sometimes pulled off and waited, to let another vehicle go through first, to see where the verge was. Switch-backs in the mountains, and those damned Cottonwood trees. Late last night, or early this morning, Tuesday, right? I was listening to Bach, an organ piece, a chance find on West Virginia Public Radio. I got a drink and smoked. It was quite dark, coal-mine dark, and the music was washing over me in these dark waves, colors, in the darker, somber reaches of the palette. I don't like yellow, and at some point Mozart is always yellow. Read Nabokov, Speak, Memory. I meant to go down and see B today. If you'd have asked me last night, I would have that said that going down to see B was a priority. I wanted to know, still want to know, how he's handling the teaching load, and what he was reading. He has a true eye on what's worth reading. I was distracted by a salamander, the fox, and the fact that I knew nothing about rabies, and just threw in the towel. Truth be known, I'd rather be distracted. I can see B next time I'm off the ridge, which may be tomorrow because Rodney called and said he's coming to clear brush and I'll need cash to pay him because he's chronically short of cash. One of the first orders of business is clearing the trail to the back of the woodshed. If he comes I could be on schedule for the vague outline I cobbed together last Sunday, what I need to get done before winter. I keep forgetting to pick up back-up batteries for my headlamp and the flashlights, and I need a few quarts of lamp oil, but anymore, when the power's out, I just wear my headlamp and go about my business. People that read a lot, especially at meals, all have an object they use to hold a book open, I use a particular rock, B prefers a swage, I've known people that used small sandbags, little muslin tubes filled with bird-shot, in one case a bronze tee-shaped thing that had been cast for that specific purpose. Hands-Free-Reading we call this. You need napkins, because you have to turn the page. A book I've read several times will have a slight smear, upper right, every three or four pages, when I went back to get a bite of fried chicken. No small achievement, that I can fry great chicken; Aunt Pearl, was a master, the only thing she did different was that she weighted the chicken with a foundry mold. If you splay a chicken part, with the skin attached, and put a weight on top, it fries differently. Chicken skin is somewhat like bacon, in that regard. Later, I can't remember the argument. Does it actually matter who was on top? Read more...

Monday, September 21, 2015


A game warden found his way to the ridge. Came up to tell me bow-season opens next week, for deer, and that I should get a posted sign for the bottom on the driveway. I tell him about the bear and he looks around, when he comes back inside he's excited, you have a bear, he says, living under your house. He was a little perplexed that I didn't seem to care, I explained that both of us were careful and I carried firecrackers with a Bic lighter in my hand; and that I felt the bear would be safer there, during hunting season. The ranger and I had a good conversation about black squirrels and yellow timber-rattlers. He noted that I must read a lot and I told him that he had no idea. He finally left, though I sense I haven't seen the last of him, and I can get back to what I was doing, which was dissecting scat on butcher-paper (it's very white, and everything shows) to see what various animals were eating. I salvaged a great large poop from a Pileated Woodpecker and it was fascinating. Pieces of shell. There's a word for that. Most of these insects are 50% protein. Insects and rice, a few wild vegetables, you could get along fine. Elderberry wine, and maybe some botanicals. The possum scat is filled with grass seed, as is the coon scat. The fox scat is full of hair and small teeth. After I reread Farley Mowat, Never Cry Wolf, I ate a few mice, just to see what they were like, and they're not bad, like with small birds, you can eat the bones. Sometimes I chew the shells of boiled peanuts as if I had several stomachs, wash the cud in several changes of water, then make paper. Papyrus lasts for three or four hundred years, parchment for a thousand years, vellum (unborn calf) maybe for twice that; and oak-gall ink fails, releases from the paper. True staining only comes in with aniline dyes. Something that penetrates. I think again that I might have spent an entire contented lifetime repairing damaged books. I'm sure I could have made a living at it. Which leads to a thought about fiber. Several thoughts actually. Skins, first, used for clothing and shelter, then plant and animal fiber. Rotting flax to produce linen. A process involved. Making tapioca. Bacon. Eating a few mice is not a big deal, nor is eating a cat; imprisoned, you'd probably eat Frank, if he happened to die. If one of you had to die, so that the others could live, how would kill him? I'm thinking about the Essex here. Probably knock him on the head because you'd want to save the blood because you were probably thirsty too. I'm pretty sure it's Tuesday, from a careful study of the clock and last year's calendar, and I was trying to remember B's schedule so I might stop down and check on his well being. I should worry about him, he's older than me (than I am) and in much better shape, but we talk as equals, in whatever strange algorithm time and space has transpired to produce. Read more...

Sunday, September 20, 2015


"Something cut off." Reading about The Oxford Comma, the serial comma, used before a conjunction. I go back and read a few pages carefully, and, of course, delete a few and add a couple. At the level of extreme nuance. There's so much in play that I get deeply engaged. Work and play. I spent most of the day thinking about separation and inclusion. What did you call your father? Dad, Pop, Father, Daddy? Couch to couch. I like listening to the Moth Radio Hour, more or less true stories, and I've always been around stories. I don't know what to believe anymore. When the blue-fish were running off Cape Cod I made a crude lure that could best be described as a piece of shit. A five inch piece of broom stick, with a small screw-eye, a swivel, and a treble hook. I'd tie on a feather. It looked exactly like a piece of broom stick with a feather tied on for effect. When the herring are flowing out to sea, the bluefish will strike at anything, I've caught them on gum wrappers. A ten pound bluefish, on medium tackle is a good test. Oily fucking fish, I like to smoke it, then revive it in Spanish wines. You can laugh, but I make these little fish balls that are absolutely superb. I like mackerel, for god's sake, I eat mullet. Large sardines, three to a can in oil, I eat with a very stinky cheese, a few pickles, a very coarse bread, and a wine that is aggressive and harsh but quite pleasant considering the meal. I love America's Test Kitchen on the radio. Sunday afternoon. Always a chuckle and usually a tip. I'll be cooking on the Stanley Waterford soon, when the nights cool off just a little bit more. Sad to see the end of great tomatoes, but I'm ready for beans and cornbread. I talked to the local pig guy, and he's willing to sell me raw fat back and a pig head quite cheaply. Curing salt-pork is incredibly easy, you bury the pork in salt, barrel it in a brine (12%) and it keeps for a long time. I have an old packing crate I use for curing salt-pork, completely salt-soaked. I take it to a car wash once a year and hose it out. You can't be too careful. But I've never disinfected anything, I was going to say, but I do disinfect almost everything. For one thing I try and stay away from kids because they are fucking vectors for disease; also I don't like going into public places, I'm claustrophobic, and elevators give me the willies. I've been trapped a few times, weather, generally, and you just do what you have to. Hiking slot-canyons is stupid, the flood that carries you away is not even on the radar. If you're a very good climber you might get to a ledge. But the slots are very beautiful. I watched one of these floods, from a safe vantage, and it was savage for about fifteen minutes, a raging three or four feet of water, and the canyon was dry again in an hour. You hear them before you see them. It sounds like a train, and you can feel it in your feet. The last day of summer and I am all over the check list. The mice are migrating, they want to move inside for the winter. I have a flat stone I keep in the freezer, maybe four by six inches, three/quarters of an inch thick. I freeze the mice, for the crows, and it makes perfect sense. You have a rock in the freezer on which you freeze mice for the crows. There. A perfectly good sentence without a comma. Mozzarella is a lot like tofu. Sun Gold Tomatoes, my god, and that hybrid apple, the Honeycrisp, I made a tart, and as a rule I don't make desserts. Read more...

Friday, September 18, 2015

Crossing Shot

I've never shot skeet, and I wouldn't be very good. I'm decent shooting something in the head at a hundred feet with a .22 rifle, and I can plink cans at twenty-five feet with an accurate pistol. But I'm not really a very good shot, I know people who can drill a bulls-eye at 600 yards with iron sights. I can't even see that far. I assume a skunk, running around in circles, and foaming at the mouth is rabid. I have a twelve gauge shotgun, a pump, that I had sawn down to barely legal, which I keep in the umbrella stand, number 4 shot, with the chamber empty. It only takes a second to pump and it's a menacing sound. The problem is I have to get closer to the animal because of the sawed off barrel. It's not a problem and I kill it, then have to bury the remains. I find that I know almost nothing about rabies, and make a note. The crows were bitching about something and I never did find out what it was. I've observed crows for a great many years and I think they sometimes bitch just to hear themselves. Last night I thought I might go to town today, but I sat around and finished reading a couple of library books, looked up the word "grace" in several dictionaries, had beans on toast for the first time in a while, and suddenly the day was gone. I need something to cook for the weekend, lamb shanks or pork neck bones, maybe some greens with fat-back, something. At the peak of my free-ranging pig days I had more pig heads than I could give away. Roy and I would make head-cheese and scrapple, pre-sold and in demand, late into the night, if either of us needed cash money. I had a five-year note on the farm, with a single annual payment. I'd raise livestock all year, beef, pigs, goats, then sell everything at auction (the auction was the big weekly event in rural Mississippi) to make my nut. Sausage, headcheese, scrapple, and homebrew, provided all the rest of the cash-flow. I built a few barns for other people, a couple of houses. Building came natural. You build a set, you build a house, there isn't that much space between. One of the last big sets I built, an outdoor production of Peter Grimes, in Maine; fucking maritime climate, fog rolling in, nothing was actually ever dry. I started thinking about houses, and ever since, I design houses in my head, staircases, showers; very few drawings, what I enjoy is just constructing things in my head. Took the Jeep into the dealer, for a factory recall, took a book in case I had to wait but they just had to replace two bolts in the dealer installed trailer hitch, and I was gone in twenty minutes. Stopped at the pub and Cory brought me a Scotch Egg, which is a boiled egg wrapped in sausage and deep-fried, he had baked these (no fryer) and they were wonderful; sliced, served with a mustard sauce. Read more...

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Modern Times

Self-indulgent. On the other hand I do no harm and don't pose a threat. Shelled out what acorns I'd gathered and broke them into pieces using the great kitchen implement Kim brought me. A tenderizing hammer, whatever they call those. After I shell them out I let them dry for a day or two, so that they'll break apart and not just smash. Actually smashing is fine, but you have to flush them in cheese-cloth, or, as I do, through those filter bags you buy in a paint store for filtering paint, and the tannins flush out quicker, but it's messier to deal with. The creek was running clear, Low Gap Creek, headwaters of the infamous Upper Twin. They still make whiskey on Upper Twin, a dram in front of me now, to which I'd added a squirt of grape juice. An enzyme in grape skins kills the diesel taste. Remember your chemistry: there are two kinds of alcohol. You need a very good thermometer, or, as Ronny said, you waste a good bit more than you should. Better safe than sorry. And it tastes better. I set up a grazing run on the island, sliced olives, some gherkins, tomatoes and cheese in balsamic, a very good salami, some excellent crackers; it's like a great cocktail party except you're the only one there. I thought about translating the bible into Redneck Vulgate, then thought about a particular email. A paragraph of mine had been translated into Chinese then back into English. It was absolutely impossible to figure out what I was saying. Maybe all language is untranslatable. Everything is patois. Almost but seldom completely isolated. Emerson complained about Thoreau talking about fucking turtles. I might have been there, a fly on the wall, but I would never, you know, stir the water. It's difficult enough to understand a bare minimum, a blast on the horn, two ships passing in the night, right, I get it, your ankles are not the most important thing in the world. Excuse me, I was drying mushrooms and toasting chicory root, and your concern was what exactly? That the cat would be out of the bag? What does that mean? Almost anything, right? I heat some water and wash some dishes, fry potatoes in bacon fat, settle down, reading at the island. I've been anxious recently, no specific event or anything, just generally anxious. So, as it happened, the walk today had somewhat cleared my brain, I was thinking about the color blue and Vermeer, wanted get home and look at some pictures. I was just at the last curve, maybe a hundred feet from the ridge, when the fox trotted across the top. Something in her mouth, a grouse probably, she stopped and watched me watching her, then she slipped off into the underbrush. It's always a treat to see her. The last time I was over at the graveyard I thought I saw her, being leery and watchful. I know her den is over there somewhere, but I don't care to know exactly where. Privacy issues. Back in the day, before cameras were everywhere, you might get away with something. Now everyone sees everything. You can almost see my place, if you Google me, you can actually see part of the driveway, if you know what you're looking for. In the fall I stand out like a sore thumb, but once everything is covered with snow, you couldn't find me if your life depended on it. An iridescent flash, sap on the head of a woodpecker. I've seen this bird before, a large Pileated, and I can clearly see the matted head feathers. Must be awkward, but in a shaft of sunlight it's quite beautiful. There have been a great many woodpeckers the last week. Peak season for tree bugs. I love watching them, cocking their heads, listening for sounds under the bark, hopping up and down the trunks. Just my view, it doesn't signify. Read more...

Wednesday, September 16, 2015


Not many acorns this year, at least in this hollow. The squirrels are working hard, and a few of them, from last year, have moved away. Requests for copies of The Cistern have been coming in, and it's a little strange, still, for me, and wonderful, when people come up and tell me I that I had written that book. Mailed a few today. There're so few copies out there, that they've gotten expensive. Joel wanted to buy another copy and the only one he could find was $65. He called and gave me a raft of shit. It was very funny. Cory was friendly at the pub. He wants me to take the job. He knows I won't. They had a nice soup today, Chicken Pot Pie, and it was just that. I love pot pies, and the idea of making a soup from them had never occurred to me. Every time I go to town now, I buy a couple of cans of something, mostly staples, but sometimes I buy a can of eel filets or something odd so that midwinter I might have a chuckle. Candied honeysuckle pistils, or ground dried ants. It's nice to have something surprise you, midwinter, when you're skulking around, with a blanket over your shoulders, looking for something to eat. I usually make an omelet, mushroom and cheese, with a piece of toast, lavishly buttered and dressed with local honey, or slurp noodles, or make a hot drink. I was reading, and looked up, out the window. I'm sensitive to local sound, it's a habit, and I knew there was a deer. Several small saplings of sassafras nearby had been stripped completely of their bark, and the surrounding ground was trampled in splayed hoof-prints. Here he was. A big guy with a big rack, ten or more points, and completely royal, majestic, words fail me. Proud, heroic, and rippling with muscle just under the skin. I watched him for fifteen or twenty minutes, until he disappeared into the underbrush. What a rush. He's so beautiful. He's here to breed the doe who lives between me and the driveway, they have an arrangement, I spoil the fawns with snacks and toys. I don't like cats and I don't like dogs, they interfere with whatever connection I might have with the natural world. This buck knows more about me than I know about him. But I'm prepared to learn. At first I thought a buck in the woods didn't signify, just a buck in the woods. Like that fox you meet on the driveway. There was a landslide on the river road a few years ago, and they hauled away hundreds of cubic yards of overburden. What was left, exposed, were these sandstone layers. I could do a power-point presentation here, The Formation Of Wet-Weather Springs, but it would probably be pretty boring. In the light of day, it's pretty obvious. I only call attention, because when I climbed them today, they seemed like giant steps; to the way each stratified division, a few million years, weeped. Channels of lower density material washed away and water found a way out, which is what water does. Follow the water. Read more...