Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Hazy Night

I finished a paragraph, which always feels good, and I'd finished the rest of the roasted root vegetables, dipped in the grainy mustard / horseradish sauce. I made a fresh pone of cornbread, because the oven was hot, and it was so good, with fresh butter, that I almost wept. Took a nap, then woke and cooked a cheese omelet with toasted slices of cornbread smeared with bitter marmalade. I know I need to eat more. I'm trying. Woke to rain after midnight. It's warm enough in the house that I let the fire go out so that I can do a little stove maintenance, and I should be good for a foray into personal hygiene later. It's supposed to get up to fifty degrees, downright balmy, by mid-day. A couple of shotgun blasts yesterday afternoon and when I was wheeling a last load of wood to the shed I heard a vehicle on the driveway. The local constabulary looking to maintain law and order. He accepted a beer, we sat on the back stoop and chatted. He's a bit confused about how and why I live the way I do. There's nothing I could tell him. Either you get it or you don't. It's difficult to explain post-modern, much easier to split a round of wood into stove-sized chunks and keep a fire going. I tend toward the simple, though I can discuss the papal schism in the 14th century. Not to make a point. Hopefully to find some peace. That kid from Australia plays a mean guitar. Got up feeling good but no more than suited up before it started raining. Cold rain. Roasted more root vegetables and just nibbled on them all day. Sat on the sofa with a lap blanket, drank tea, and read. Conrad. I'm not a real fan but his language is so precise, then some more Thomas Perry. I'd picked up a package of shin bones cheap. They had a fair amount of meat on them, and, of course, the marrow. I stewed them for several hours in wine and chicken stock (I find beef stock disgusting) with garlic and onions. Made a great serving of soup and had the marrow smeared on toast. This was a very easy meal to fix and it was absolutely delicious. My menu for the rest of the week will be determined by what's on sale at Kroger. At the bare minimum I'll have pork fried rice for several days. I'm hoping for a brisket. Supposed to be colder but no precipitation for the next few days, so I can work on firewood, and the library called with some more books. Replenished my wash-water supply today and washed a couple of pair of socks. I need to go to the laundromat within the next week, rotate my long-underwear. We usually get a storm between Christmas and New Year, so I'd like to get a few more ricks of wood inside. Business as usual. Getting by. Read more...

Monday, December 15, 2014

Freight Train

Now that the leaves are off the trees I can hear the coal trains across the river in Kentucky. All that country music bull-shit about trains is true. They do sound lonesome, even if they're just hauling coal to power plants. Makes me want to get a dog and cry in my beer. I make a note to tell TR about how they (trains) change the world of perception. They don't mean anything, but the sound captivates our attention. A woodpecker hammering on a dead oak tree, two squirrels running through the leaf-litter, a train far away. We don't control the world of sound. I was thinking about silence earlier, I had gotten up to pee and decided to go outside, rather than using my piss-pot, and the air was thick. A wee dram and a smoke are good to clear the palate, I can cite chapter and verse, be all and end all you're in the dark, but I like nursing a drink in the dark. It's not a lot of things you would immediately think. Nothing negative, for instance. I don't dwell in the house of the lord, or any other house, except the tar-paper shack I call my own. Listen, a Luna Moth beats itself to death against a screen outside my window: to what extent am I involved? I'm not a lawyer, but I've read enough to keep quiet. Perfect temperature for working outdoors, mid-forties, and I muddle through, working slowly. It's a lovely day and I find that I just sit on a stump for increasing amounts of time, watching and listening. Several trips indoors for hot mugs of tea, rereading some passages from the last two Thomas Perry books, a quiet smoke, then back outside to bust another round in half, and haul it in the wheelbarrow to the woodshed. Left-overs for dinner, reheated and eaten directly from the skillet. I need to heat the house tomorrow, so I can take a sponge bath and shave my neck. I need to wash my hair and get it cut. I look like a demented cave-dweller. When I was sitting in the front room of the pub, reading, waiting for the Jeep to be re-shod, one of the bankers I'd met at museum functions, and a bright guy, stopped and looked at me, "winter mode" was all he said. Yep. You see it most clearly at Kroger. Everyone has to buy some foodstuffs, so you get the random cross-section of doctor's wives, secretaries, gay male couples, tattooed machinists, and the hill people coming down for salt and sugar. I don't stand out at all. Just another hillbilly. We wear extra layers of tattered clothes when it gets cold, we often burrow into the hillside. I'm catching a lot of mice right now, which I keep in the freezer for the crows; I love watching the crows devour a micro-waved mouse, the steam rising on a frozen morning. If I do the crows a service now, they'll help me in the future, they're great scouts. Sometimes I almost think we communicate. I'm going to make a pork-fried rice, good luck with your plans. Read more...

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Nothing Special

Had to get to town, get a few things, see some people. I'd been up since the butt-crack of dawn, examining punctuation very carefully. A second cup of coffee, and I'm off to the library. The main space at the pub is closed off for a graduation party, so I get a Bloody Mary and watch ESPN in the front room until TR shows, we chat for a while, retire to the museum. I've got my list, of things I'd forgotten, so I stop at Kroger and buy some root vegetables and an extra dozen eggs. I need to split and haul the rounds on the driveway, the new number one priority, tomorrow, if possible. I got several pounds of small purple potatoes, a few parsnips, a few turnips, some beets, and a two-pound bag of small Spanish onions that I can roast whole. I'm thinking about cooking a brisket in the oven over night. A fairly elaborate plan, but all I really have to do is read at the island and pay attention. Which is pretty much what I do. Imagine cooking a brisket that way. Yes, I could do that. No uncertainty. Sunday dawned dismal. I drank coffee and had a cheese omelet then went out, organized the woodshed for another batch, then went down the driveway and rolled some of the rounds out in the open so I can bust them in half. Many long pauses when I listen to birdsong. I was inside, on a break, when two young squirrels attacked the house. Doing that thing where they chase each other. Quit working when America's Test Kitchen came on the radio. I enjoy listening to that. A knock at the door and it's a country guy that looks almost as bad as me. He was lost and dehydrated. I'd gone to the door with my shotgun, which he couldn't help but notice, got him a glass of water and gave him directions. I don't like people stumbling upon my house. I'd picked up a nice strip steak and I was very hungry, roasted some root vegetables, caramelized a red onion, and pan-fried the steak, excellent, and plenty left over for another meal. I read for a couple of hours. For non-fiction I'm reading about dirt, and for fiction I'm rereading all of Thomas Perry in order of the writing. You should read The Butcher's Boy, it's a delight. And Metzger's Dog is a hoot, Pynchon-like, in the layers of humor. Buying salvation isn't a recent idea, we still have chits we flip at the door. What Gutenberg first printed were indulgences. Religion has to answer for a great many sins. Read more...

Friday, December 12, 2014

Neatly Stacked

Spent the day hauling wood, splitting out starter sticks, and filled the kindling bucket with bone dry baseboard from town. One more good day and I can haul all the rest of the wood from the driveway. There are eight gnarly nighttime logs leaned against the front of the hearth. After I put away tools and came inside I stacked the firewood in three neat ricks near the stove. It's all a lovely sight. I added sardines to the list of things I had forgotten to list on the last list, because for a late lunch I had my famous sardine sandwich. You don't want to eat this if you're going to be around other people. A can of sardines, a slice of onion, and a goodly squeeze from the container I keep on hand that is a grainy mustard with horseradish. It's a wonderful sandwich. All of the wood is frozen, and when I bring it inside, maybe 500 pounds, the temperature in the house plummets by ten degrees. I stoked up the stove and went for a little walk, to give things a chance to equalize. Lots of birds, and I can hear the trains in Kentucky. Beans on toast for dinner and I'm exhausted. My legs are sore from all the trips up the back steps and into the house. Had the radio on, listening to the news and fell asleep, more like a stupor, and awoke to slightly strange and wonderful guitar. A guy from Mali. The blues, kind of, but loose and open. I got up off the sofa and stoked the fire, turned off the radio and sat in the sudden quiet. The light patter of sleet on the roof, just a ruffle of wind rattles branches, and I hear a mouse in the kitchen. The next time I go over there, to get a splash of whiskey and throw a log on the fire, I check the mouse traps. I'll have to listen to the crows complaining tomorrow if I don't have mice for them. The ridge is a fickle partner. Wind-swept and brutal in winter, when anything other than just staying alive seems a folly. Read more...

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Ships Passing

It was pleasant, talking with people. I told Cory that I was not so much growing a beard as not shaving. Any one of the staff at the pub would have driven me to get my vehicle, they wondered why I hadn't called one of them to pick me up in the first place, rather than walk across town with sleet in my face. A building fell down, over at Court and Front (just inside the flood wall), and it's a very large pile of bricks. I stopped because there was a dumpster and picked up some pieces of old oak baseboard to split into kindling. Stress failure is why the building fell. You can't take out a wall that carries part of the load unless you redistribute the weight. It should have been obvious. I poke at the rubble, The exterior walls were three layers, the inner and outer faces raked and workmanlike, and the middle layer was broken bricks and left-over mortar. Strikes me that this isn't a bad system. Bury your mistakes. Just give me the strength to carry wood tomorrow. Seriously. All I want to do is carry wood from one place to another, no mind, no mediation. Navaho time. A fire at the mouth of a cave will keep the big cats at bay. Best laid plans. Must have eaten something bad, sick at my stomach all morning but better by afternoon, don't get a damn thing done. Beautiful day and I never got outdoors. Drank tea, finally held down some chicken broth, started rereading John Barth's The Sot-Weed Factor. Being ill is a pain in the ass, a circular nightmare. I know I'm better when hunger drives me to make a small pot of pasta shells and cheese. It stays down. The Barth is good, he's such an elegant writer. I had to stop and think about the word 'elegant' for quite a while. After a second nap I felt well enough for a wee dram and a smoke. What, in Ireland, is called "fully recovered"; but I lost a day, and I do hate losing days. I don't even remember what I was thinking about before I was distracted. Firewood, right, but tomorrow's supposed to be nice, so I should be able to catch up. Nothing lost but one more layer of my invulnerability. Eventually there's nothing left, an exercise I think of as 'peeling the onion'. You know where that leads. To an absence of anything at the core. I can keep notes in the margin, draw cartoons in the gutters, but I can't change anything. I'm the guy that had to stop feeding humming birds because they were so fucking brutal. Read more...

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Too Much

Had to take the day off. Wear and tear. A large bowl of chicken and noodle soup that I kept reheating in the microwave. The last of the pone of cornbread. Every time I got up I stretched and rolled my shoulders. The old body is still working, but my legs are sore. If we don't get snow I'll get the Jeep in tomorrow, then start ricking wood inside. If it does snow I'll still get wood inside but won't get to the garage. Trent said not to worry, he'd hold the tires. I remembered I had some ash flooring scarps I had retrieved from a dumpster. I'd forgotten them. They split into beautiful kindling that you could light by rubbing two sticks together. Rounds of oak from further up the tree, where there might be a branch, I split out the larger chunk that includes the gnarly twisted grain, and set it aside as a nighttime log. I finish drying these right in front of the stove. They have to be top-loaded, which is a pain in the ass, but they burn for many hours. Prospects seem so much better than they did a couple of days ago. I wanted to take an Aleve or something, when I first got up, but I forgot; once I got started, that first cup of coffee and a walk out to the woodshed, surveying, what was done and what needed doing, it was clear I was ahead (barely) of the reaper. I need to get some rock-salt for the back deck. I need to sharpen the chain on my chainsaw. I feel like I'm doing pretty well, balancing a small boat in heavy seas. The ridge is a brutal mistress; not always, but sometimes, if you make a mistake you die. More often you have to laugh, you and David, with a slingshot. I called, they had the tires, so I went to town; couldn't find anyone to drive me back to the pub (where I could read and have a draft in the front room) so I walked. Spitting sleet, cold, I had forgotten to take gloves. Met TR for lunch and he agreed to come and get me, take me back to the garage. The bill was under the estimate, which never happens. Stopped by B's, to pay him for whiskey and tobacco he'd bought me when I was trapped, we had a wee dram and talked about editing. He's very good at it and I'm not. I'll probably go back to town, Saturday, to talk with TR about the opera, but I have several days to haul and split wood. I found a nice piece of beef; reduced in price, so I'm going to cook a stir-fry on rice, I can eat that for several days and not have to worry about cooking. Driving back in, the new tires keeping great traction, and the new shocks keeping great contact, I felt like the King Of The World. The feeling only lasted a few minutes, but that was enough. Read more...

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Good Day

Kim e-mailed that I should support the off-end of the lug-wrench, which would free up a more substantial kick. It takes a while, rebuilding the support pile and trying to not break my ankle, but I get it done and head to town. Stop at the library then on to Knittle's where we find the tires and order them, then the bank, then Kroger where I spend a considerable chunk of change on supplies. When I get home I realize I'm exhausted. Stoke up the fire and cook a large breakfast, potatoes, sausage, eggs, toast. Changed into slippers and peeled off the overalls, can't believe I went to town looking like what I must have looked like. My arms and shoulders are sore, my legs are sore, and there's a stiffness in my lower back; but the Jeep is back on the road, I have fresh vegetables and a couple of pieces of meat in the freezer. I have a case of whiskey, plenty of water, and a back-up bag of tobacco with extra papers. And I don't have to be anywhere. One more trip to town, for the tires and shocks, and I'll be set. I start another list, of things I forgot. I need to either make or buy a pesto, and get some dried shells, the very best vehicle for pesto. It makes a good cold-weather lunch. I need to replenish the canned sardine supply. The ridge, mid-winter, you're not going to be around other people; a sardine sandwich, with a slice of raw onion, can be a grand occasion. I usually pair it with a dirty martini. It's a complete affectation, but no one else has actually ever seen it, so it might never have happened. I know it did, or does, but where's the proof in that? Raised a country boy, switchel in a crock pot in the shade of a sycamore at the edge of the creek, the nature of reality was a mule's ass and a straight furrow. It still is. Whatever flank, and a straight line drawn between two points. It's how you navigate. I speak with the authority of someone who took a week to change a tire. Read more...

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Woodpile

B called and he can help with the Jeep tomorrow morning. Had to miss B's brother telling stories at the lodge in the state forest because it was a beautiful day and I needed to split wood. Which I did, at a leisurely pace, most of the day. I'll rick it inside as soon as I get a chance, but I was sore and wasted at the end of the day and couldn't face up to the task. It's supposed to be dry for a few days, and not too cold, so I should be able to get the rest of the cut rounds into the shed. I feel better. If I can get into town tomorrow, I can get the correct tires ordered, and the shocks, and Knittle's can have them the following morning, Trent said it would take about 90 minutes. Two trips, but I can haul supplies: drinking water, a case of whiskey, ultra-pasteurized cream, juice. Important to drive those liquids to the ridge, while the driveway is solid. New, more aggressive, tires, and new shocks will cut down the number of times I have to walk in by a third, maybe half; and I don't want to carry much, fresh vegetables and meat, the occasional treat. I have to work out my library routine, check out more books at a time. Working in the woodshed today, mostly blue sky with scudding clouds, brisk, mid-forties, mindless activity in a mindful context, I felt good. At one point today, I'd split a piece, and the split revealed a worm burrow deep in the heartwood. This is very hard wood. You don't want to meet that worm in an alley. And there's a collection of what is probably excrement at the bottom of one tube. I poke at it with my pocketknife and the wind blows it all away. Wow, I thought, that's a hell of a digestive system. I have one final meal, thank god, of bean soup, then maybe I can get to some marrow bones. I want to roast root vegetables and cook a brisket. Read more...

More Rain

You have to love it. Sheets of rain. Rain in waves all night. Today dawned with drizzle. When it finally let up I went out and partially jacked up the Jeep, so I could break the lug-nuts loose. Big joke, I do get one of the five, but the other four have me completely defeated. I spend an hour looking around the house and print shop but there is nothing I can use as a cheater, not a piece of pipe anywhere. I'm sure I can figure something out tomorrow, but my feet were cold. Had to laugh, the whole scene had been such a comedy. In the late afternoon the sun came out for the first time in days, and the entire landscape sparkled. Stoked the stove, changed into extra socks and slippers, got a wee dram, and rolled a smoke. Pretty much chuckling at myself the whole time. I can't get a tire changed. I think about the purely mechanical problem, breaking loose lug-bolts that have been over-tightened. When you're loosening lug-bolts you're in a terrible posture. It's difficult to use your body. So I think about that. One problem is that the lug-wrench I bought is one of those four-way sockets (17,19, 21 and 22 MM), it's 20 inches long, fairly heavy, and you have to keep one hand on it, just to keep the socket on the lug. Awkward. It's hard to stomp on the free end of a wrench in that position. Stomping is the number one solution to this problem. If you don't have a cheater pipe. It's arguable that we should all be issued cheater pipes at birth, to pry ourselves out of situations. I'll never be caught without one again. I had worked up an appetite, so I got a steak out of the freezer and roasted some purple potatoes; with left-over corn bread, it's a feast I don't feel I deserve. Which I fully enjoyed nonetheless. Then just sat in a darkened house (a 7 watt compact in the entry, so I can see when I get up) and thought about things. What I've done wrong, what I need to do. One of those mind-drifts where you see your failings. A frank look, not maudlin or depressing; a more generalized where-are-we-now kind of thing. I do need to get some things done, and I can do most of them, though at a reduced pace. It's just those fucking lug-nuts that have me in a funk. I'm thinking about tricking out a Spanish Windless. It's a fall-back position. And there's always the wedge, a block-and-fall, various levers. Or I could call B, because he'd have a cheater pipe. Read more...

Saturday, December 6, 2014

National Security

I can't keep up. Congress is dumb and blind. I can't believe the stupidity of national politics. I try to not get unduly upset, but we're paying these people. Pisses me off. There's a gray squirrel that wants in the house and it's become absolutely fearless. It's become a fixture outside the kitchen, the east side of the house, where it seems to be gnawing at the window casings. Even when I go over and tap on the window glass the little fucker just looks at me. I'm a surprisingly good shot with the wrist-rocket, and I found a new source of ammo at Big Lots: the colored and clear marbles they sell to put into clear vases so you can anchor decorations. Dead branches and moss. I got about a thousand of these, and a clear vase, for three bucks. I'm 'seeding' the area so as to confuse the archeological record. I slipped on Wellies and went around the back of the house. I didn't want to kill the squirrel, I just wanted to run it off, so I hit it on the ass with a half-powered shot. Good shooting but I was only 25 feet away. Gray squirrels can get quite large, twice the size of a red squirrel, and their eyes are so large. It's raining very hard now, and I should go. I consolidate wash water and put an empty bucket out to collect another five gallons, another gallon I filter to use for making coffee. It's raining very hard. Maybe I spoke ill of some deity. I didn't mean it, this is excessive, the amount of rain. I apologize, for god's sake. There's no way I should be held accountable for the hours I was vacationing in the Catskills. I love those chairs. It rains through the night, at some point I nap for a couple of hours, but when I wake up to pee it's raining harder and my buckets are all full. I can only imagine the flooding downstream. An early flood of the Ohio means a huge debris field and the roads on the river will all be closed. Every plastic bottle between Pittsburg and Columbus will gather at Portsmouth, in that huge eddy there, The Sciota Backwater, that defies all logic. Fluid dynamics and rate of flow, you end up with backwaters where odd things happen. I got pissed off about something else today, some asshole on the radio, talking about using one of the drawers in a chest as a bassinet. Where I come from we all spent a couple of months in the bottom drawer. It's a test period, to see if you're a 'keeper'. If you're healthy enough, they fit you with a harness, and you pull a millstone for 50 years. Otherwise they cook you as a spring lamb. The word 'coddle' comes to mind. The bottom drawer in a chest, which is usually the deepest, is a perfect bassinet. Why would you buy another piece of equipage? I go off and read for a couple of hours. I read somewhere that Anthony Bugress is responsible for more new words in the OED than any other modern writer. A dead heat between him and Joyce. Can't get back to sleep so I read some Walter Benjamin on Baudelaire, then I read Baudelaire for several hours. Les Fleurs Du Mal, is amazing. I hear all these echoes. Not echoes, exactly, but that precursor to sound, the intake of breath, the adumbration of something about to happen. It's warm. 50 degrees, I let the fire go out, wrap up in a blanket and go back to sleep. Read more...

Friday, December 5, 2014

Not Knowing

It shouldn't be viewed as a systemic problem, usually we don't know what we're doing. Missing a piece of the handle assembly for the jack, and I don't have a manual so I don't know where to put the damned jack anyway. Sleet, again. I call B at the college and he says he'll get me whiskey and tobacco, and drive them up. He locates the spot where the jack goes and I trick-out the jack handle with a pair of vise-grips. Tomorrow is another day. Cut some starter sticks by hand. I want to get the oven hot enough to make cornbread tonight. It's nice to get shed of my outer layer, start a fire (I'd let the morning fire go out, to dump ashes and check the smoke chase) and get back to my books. I just want to hibernate. I've gotten it better, for this winter, meaning a little more comfort with a little less effort, and I can move strongly in that direction for the next few years. Be better prepared. Keep rock salt for the back porch. Cook a pot of beans. Keep wood at all stations of the cross. It was warm over by the stove and after making cornbread I just stayed there, eating small portions of bean soup on toasted slices, read another Thomas Perry novel and went to bed early. Woke to dense fog, steady drizzle, and the sure knowledge that I wouldn't get off the ridge today. Settled in with tea and Anthony Burgess's Earthly Powers. Drips all day long, can't see across the hollow, can't see fifty feet. Ghostly. Several times I suit-up to go outside but the rain is cold. One more day of bean soup. I feel like I'm inside a cloud, which might actually be the case. Rare for it to stay socked-in all day. Two hunters showed up, mid-afternoon, looking like wet dogs, asking for permission to go hunt down the hollow from the graveyard. Two guys with orange vests and hats, and guns, I tell them, sure, to go ahead, that they'll intersect a path that'll lead them back to the driveway. They came inside for a few minutes, to warm their fingers, I was a little paranoid, but they were cool; they knew who I was, admired the stove and the stairs, and were completely mystified by the walls of books. I made them a cup of coffee with a shot of whiskey, for which they were grateful. Well shed of them, but the interruption wasn't all that unpleasant, which leads me to the thought that I need to get to town, have a conversation with TR, talk with the crew at the pub. A good thing about being holed up on a Friday afternoon, though, is Science Friday on NPR. A very good interview with a curator at MOMA about current electronic art. Then a nice piece about absorbing fats. Which led (who knows?) to a consideration of storing corn as whiskey, on my part, which led to the rest of the evening. I do wish I had a faster connection, I could research things much more quickly, before I forget what I was trying to find out. I do get side-tracked easily, but it's a process I enjoy. Trying to remember what I was thinking about. Read more...

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Plowshares

One legend has it that Demeter was pissed the Persians had the audacity to attack on her day, September 20, sacred in Eleusis, and called up a great wind to sink their fleet at Salamis. Never cross earth mother, her weapons are vast and beyond the imagining of mere mortals. I'm researching the history of the plow. Which is like the history of history. I was reading Hesiod, no specific reason, The Works And Days holds a special place for me, the gnomic form, which led to some Anglo-Saxon translations about early farming practices. Deep plowing wasn't possible until the advent of cast-iron and then steel 'turning blades', which are beautiful things, seriously practical. The first plows were probably just roots or branches, where one leg went off at an angle. In alluvial soil, the Nile, the Tigris-Euphrates, you could bind two sticks together and plow deep enough to plant rye and wheat. To break new ground requires something stronger. Alchemy and metallurgy come into play. Tool-making. Cast iron, then steel; then aluminum and very strong plastic. I lost track of where I was, oh, right, carving a furrow. I'd better go sleep. It's starting to rain again, and the patter on the roof is almost musical. No, wait, it is musical. Late night with John Cage. Another legend. Gray dawn, lingering drizzle. Beans (soup) on toast with a fried egg on top, too much drizzle too close to freezing for decent footing, so I stay inside. Most of the day reading about the improvements in farm implements. As it turns out this is a very interesting subject. I tend to find the history of anything interesting. Supposed to see the sun tomorrow. I've waited to change out the spare tire on the Jeep until I next went to town because I don't know if I can trust the spare, so tomorrow looks like the time. I need supplies. Have to deal with the tires, whatever the logistical nightmare. In this case you go to the library first. Another little adventure. Very quiet and still this afternoon, and the birds were back out, feeding on the sumac heads. Flitting about, and I can hear them in the leaf-litter; the three crows came by for their mouse lunch. My general malaise the last few days is a reflection on my state of unpreparedness, the fact that I knew better, and that I haven't done some things I needed to do. I can turn this around if I'll just put on my overalls when I first get up, and as soon as it gets light, put on my boots. In my case this is not a metaphor. I always read at breakfast, and at all other meals, but I've let them run together. I can back off the reading, a bit; it's not like I can keep up with everything anyway. B and I were talking, we keep up with 15 or 20 writers, another two of three hundred we read scattershot, we both read a great deal of non-fiction. Reading and writing are such solitary activities, sometimes it's difficult to even think about social interaction, but I do need to get out more often. I'll work on that, but I don't like to drive at night anymore, I'd much rather sit home and read about the Jews developing the cast-iron plow early, and how it took hundreds of years, 1100 BC to 700 BC, before it was in common use. The earliest plows, today, we would call harrows, they merely scratched the earth. Then along comes John Deere and he has actually computed the best shape for the plow and a tractor to pull it. Tractors changed the entire equation. You no longer had to rely on stupid beasts. I have to think about that. Stupid is the wrong word, recalcitrant would be better. Mules require patience, but they eat grass and provide manure, so it's difficult to fault them for looking back over their shoulder thinking we're the stupid ones. From a mule's point of view. Read more...

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Quiet Weather

I'd been hearing rain or wind, usually both, for several days and the quiet woke me. Just the snaps and crackles as the stove cooled. I caught the fire, opened the damper and stoked the stove; which meant staying up an hour, so I could damp things down again and go back to sleep. It's become a good time for me to think and write. No distraction. Since the oven was hot (450 degrees) I made a small pone of cornbread. A six-inch cast-iron skillet. One cup of cornmeal, an egg, soured milk, leavening; preheat the skillet with peanut oil until just before it smokes, bake for 20 minutes. I always flip the pone over, as my mother did, so that the top of it can toast on the hot metal. At our house, as in most of the houses I had ever eaten in, cornbread was always served upside down, sliced in wedges, and there was always a tub of butter. Hot cornbread and soft fresh butter is one of those great combinations. The bean soup, on a split wedge of cornbread, toasted and buttered, in a shallow bowl, eaten with a spoon, is a great treat. Just a mug of cornbread and sweet milk might get you through the night, but warm-from-the-pan cornbread spreads a little magic. Another gray morning. Mix of rain and sleet. Burning wood at a copious rate and I'll need another dead tree for January and February, but it's already picked out, close to the house, and will fall on the driveway. Easy pickings. My good friend, The Utah Kid, may be leaving the extreme wilds of the remote west for the Pacific Northwest but he would still be The Utah Kid, just as Boston Bob was still Boston Bob in Ohio. The Kid, a physical therapist, said that I should keep at the brute labor, but in moderation, and, of course, to be careful. I'm so careful now my old crews would hardly recognize me. I have nightmares about falling, I have to get up and have a drink, roll a cigaret with shaking hands, and read some non-fiction. It was the end of the 14th century that artillery became an issue, castles weren't so keep any more. The Ottomans had some big guns. Gunpowder replaced armor. They had started making paper, 1350, then starting printing from movable type, 1450. Somehow, thinking about these things, I get my mind off of the failing scaffolding or whatever the last bad dream was. Sometime, during the afternoon, a ground fog filled the hollow then rolled over the ridge tops, a humidity differential between ground and air, temps just above freezing. Visibility is maybe 50 feet. Not seeing can be instructive, what your other senses tell you. Trapped in a cave, you lick your fingers and follow the drift. Read more...

Monday, December 1, 2014

Timing

The wind is howling, the hollow rattle of winter. Reminds me of Cape Cod. I want to put the soup on the coolest part of the stove overnight, so I stoke up the fire about 10. Put a pound of beans on to soak early in the day, and over the course of 90 minutes, while I read at the island, I caramelize onions, then a pound of ham bits right on top of them; drain the beans, cover with chicken stock, mix everything together, bring to a boil, and pull it off the heat. Sir in a tablespoon of tomato paste and another of anchovy paste, go to bed. The smell finally woke me, three in the morning, the stove was almost dead and the soup was still warm. It's very good. Sweet and earthy, full-bodied. Exactly what I needed, with cornbread, to see me through a couple of days of working up firewood. The wind sounds like a train in Kentucky, the house creaks and groans, I have to think again about why I find myself here. First, and most important, you have to be somewhere, and second is that this place is a magnetic anomaly, GPS doesn't work and there's no cell phone reception. All in all, not a bad place to be. Drones don't do well when there's a lot of tree-cover. I don't like people watching. Later I see a sliver of moon through stick trees. Just a small break in the clouds before more rain moves in, changing over to sleet and snow tonight. I sat at my desk chair reading most of the day, drinking smoked tea and occasionally staring off into the middle-distance. Another, different, hunting season (I think this one is one week rifle, buck only) and I see a couple of blaze orange vests on the opposite ridge. I turned on a couple of lights, to signal my presence. Thank god I made soup last night, it's so good, and should carry me through several days. I'd like to make a pasta dish next, though I'm also thinking about a chowder and codfish cakes. French onion soup would be good. I have another package of ox-tails in the freezer and one of the guys in the fish department at Kroger said that he thought he might be able to get me some dried cod. For the larder, because the seafood section has been vastly expanded (omega 3) and there's usually some remaindered fish I can use for my breakfast cakes, or crabmeat or baby shrimp. Raining hard now, and I'm out of butter. I prefer saltine crackers, smeared with just a small pat of butter, when I'm eating any soup; so in the winter, when I need it, I eat a lot of animal fat. Afraid I'm going to lose power, I'd better go. Read more...