Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Accepting Fate

Had to pay land taxes, so I'd gone into town earlier than usual, prepared to wait in line, but I was in and out in just a few minutes. Buy the Daily Times and a cup of coffee and go below the floodwall to read the ads for window AC units. Looks like I am going to have to drive to Lowe's, as they have just what I need, cheaper than anyone else; also I could buy some extra light-bulbs, for next winter, and a few of those small drill-bits that always break. From the remaindered bin, I bought four Angus patties, and some Mozzarella. I love these early tomatoes, with diced cheese, balsamic vinegar and a goodly twist of pepper. Spoffle is to make one's self busy over a trifle. Too hot to think. Even with an overhead fan and a small desk-top unit, sitting perfectly still, I sweat. I'll go out tomorrow and get the AC, but today I have to finish reading Pynchon's Bleeding Edge, which I didn't read when it came out a couple of years ago. But now, with Trump being nominated, paranoia seems in order. Bloody hot by mid-morning and Black Dell is bitching. Basho:

firefly viewing---
the boatman is drunk,
the boat unsteady

As Pynchon says, "There are always secular back-up stories." Trifle and folly are both diminished in the way they morph in definition. Something about the abject Christianity of the RNC is driving me crazy. I can't listen to the news so I read another old thriller, Erskine Childers' Riddle Of The Sands, 1903 (I thought it was 1908) and it's still a riveting read. Childers was dead by firing squad after the 1916 rebellion. The boletes are fruiting, with rain and hot days, and I harvest a mess, to make a mushroom gravy for one of the Angus Burgers. Excellent fare. Jude pointed out that 'mess' was also a call to dinner, the officer's mess, for instance, in addition to being the meal itself, a mess of greens, a mess of clams or oysters, enough for a meal. My solar shower got too warm, and I used it to wash some dishes, refilled it with room-temperature water and rinsed off after a walk. An Angus Burger, I suspect, is a Scottish yahoo from Worcestershire. I was laughing out loud when a phone interviewer ask me if I would vote for The Donald, no, I told her, I'd rather vote for Nixon's dog.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Preterite of Mash

Mush. A porridge of oatmeal or corn. As muss is a scramble. Heavy blast of rain in the morning. I'd gotten coffee and was rereading myself, sieving for extra commas. I'm up to 'T' in the dictionary Jude sent, reading it as a narrative, thar is to need, theak is to thatch, and theat, a word I've never heard, means close or sound, as a theat barrel is one that does not leak. Well after dawn I'm reading by headlamp and shut down everything when the leaves turn inside out and a big line of wind sweeps in from the NW. A violent front, then pelting rain, twenty minutes later it's dead calm and the birds come out, perching on the sumac and shaking water off their feathers. That beautiful sparrow hawk came back, to preen on the branch of a hickory, quite colorful when a woodpecker comes to check for bugs flushed out of the bark. Quite surprised by the fact that Joel played tuba in the high school band. Nothing should surprise me anymore, but almost everything does. Go figure. Last time I was at Kroger and Yoder's Cornmeal Mush, in a plastic tube, was on sale. This is as good as I make, a basic simple thing, so I bought a couple. I fry two or three slices in bacon fat or butter, top them with an egg, a piece of toast with bitter Scottish marmalade. It's one of my favorite meals, maybe add sausage or bacon on special occasions, a slice of ham, a hash of chicken gizzard and shallot. Also I like all of those cream soups served room-temperature or cold, squash soups or berry soups, the green one I make from watercress and sorrel. Looks like pease porridge cold, but with a dollop of sour cream and a few grinds of black pepper, it's a whole different thing. A new window AC unit is on the list because the heat is getting to me. Black Dell is being cranky. B stops by, a rare visit, to say he and the boys enjoyed making music for Glenn and me as audience, which is cool, because we enjoyed being there. The last thing Glenn said to me was that he had to work on his calluses. I call Jude, to thank her for the dictionary, and we talk about Cape Cod, in the day. Everyone played music, everyone read Greek and Latin, Harvey was always speaking in Spanish, a neap dish, mashed turnips with pepper and sea salt, I love this with lots of butter and a flash of apple brandy. Read more...

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Passing Strange

Thump in the night and I go outside with a flashlight. Something had hit the back wall of the house. A dead baby possum with an owl sitting on top. Must have been too heavy. I turn off the flashlight and go back inside, never one to disturb an owl's dinner. Got a wee dram, made a snack of goat cheese and sweet gherkins, then read Thoreau for a while. He just got back from the Maine woods. Got another load of recycling together, and various clothing items to take to the Goodwill. Need to let the back thresh-hold dry completely, before I dig into the carpenter-ant damage. I need a rooflet over the back door. I meant to get out, drive down and look at the new bridge construction, but I got into a groove of thinking about various things I needed to get done, the back porch, the thresh-hold, changing refrigerators, stocking the larder, so I pretty much sat still, the entire day, visualizing projects. Putting a small roof over the back door will be an interesting project. As a challenge, I only want to use materials I can fashion with a hatchet and a draw-knife. I need two brackets, crotches or knees, however you want to go, and a miniature roofing system (maybe the plastic coffee cans), and it wouldn't matter if the whole thing leaked a bit. Things leak, it's a fact of life. It would need to be stout, what with the ice droppage in the late winter and spring, probably a metal roof, the plastic coffee cans wouldn't last a year. I think I'll just build up the thresh-hold with a couple of layers of synthetic wood and screw a compressible gasket on top of that. The back porch is no big deal, I'll pay Rodney to screw it down. Glenn thought the dying fridge could be a storage closet, a back-up pantry, so I'm going to save it for a year and see if I use it. Put it against the NE corner of the house and it would never be in the sun, a great place to store corn-meal and grits, cured smoked hog jowls, a host of beans, wasabi; and parsnips in the late winter, when the sugars are converted. I've been eating a lot of sweet potatoes recently, with butter and black pepper. I make some chips, with parsnips and sweet potatoes, in used peanut oil, I'd already cooked flounder fillets and hush-puppies, and they're excellent, when I dip them, warm, into aioli, there's a phase change. More thunder moving in, I'd better go. Read more...

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Dating Events

I'm not very good at this, too many places, too many faces, so I rely on people with better memory. Glenn, for instance, can actually remember things in context. Jude too, and TR, B has great recall (to call again, G. Spencer Brown), but I can barely remember where I was. So a visit with Glenn tends to put things in perspective. For instance I had recently decided I wholly fabricated an event, removing the broken bell from the church, but it turns out that it did actually happen AND more or less as I imagined/remembered. Mildly shocking. Fritz setting his sport-coat pocket on fire with a lit pipe? It happened. Herbert drawing perfect free-hand circles on scraps of Upson Board (a wall covering composed completely of glued and pressed paper), he did. That the whole sick crew, for a few years in there, was as good as I imagined/remembered, it was. Now I'm beginning to think there was a Janitor College, and I was trained as a CIA agent to infiltrate a foreign country as a custodian that didn't speak the language. Next thing you know I'll be playing the guitar. What did Kevin say? I have large palms and little fingers, so I tend to finger the chords differently. I have to cut back on the radio, the political bullshit is just too deep. Best just be a hill-walker and keep the pantry stocked. B and Ronnie picked five gallons of blackberries on Thursday, and Ronnie was quite bloody from a thousand pricks, sitting at the end of the bench down at B's, playing guitar and dobro, then banjo, singing with his eyes closed. Ronnie did the math and after buying the necessary sugar, he stood to make maybe $50. His jam sells for $7 a pint. Not a great profit margin. I've been watching wasps build a nest in the space between the thermo-paned window. They have an access port, between the sashes, come back to the nest and vomit paper. I'm completely fascinated. Once, in three days of close observation, a wasp comes back to the nest with a bubble of paper foaming out of its mouth. I've been saving wasps' nests, to make a sheet or two of paper. There's quite a bit of particulate matter that needs to be removed (by soaking) and it seems fairly delicate, but I'm sure I can make a couple of sheets. It might be a good medium for block prints. It's a very weak fiber but I could make it fairly thick, and make a small press with a little 3 ton jack to compress it. Some Indian paper is polished, by hand, with a smooth stone or a bone folder, and that would further strengthen the sheet. It's a complete folly, making two sheets of paper from wasp's nests, but it seems like an interesting thing to do. Glenn brought several single-malts and we didn't drink half of it. One of them, a 16 year old Lagavulin, is a winter sipping whisky, set aside. So much peat as to turn your head around. Also one of the Japanese single-malts, quite light and very smooth, and another, cask in used sherry barrels. The Japanese bottle is lovely. Tricked-out a nice new shower, with a shipping pallet as a base, a pulley and tie-off cleat for the solar bag. I have a black square of plywood I heat the bag on, and I keep a five-gallon bucket of ambient temperature water at hand, for the occasional douse. I like using a liquid soap, so I don't have to waste water lathering. Another thing I noticed, having people over for dinner, was how much water we used. 25 gallons in three nights just doing dishes. In my primitive mode, this is a lot of water, water weighs a lot, 62.5 pounds a cubic foot, moving it around is a pain in the ass, I'd rather not move it twice. Five gallons of water is just short of a cubic foot. Despite visual evidence, it's difficult to translate a cylinder to a cube. 2.4 comes up a lot, hectares and centimeters, two clicks NW, on the weather channel, later I avow any knowledge. I thought I made that up. Read more...

Friday, July 15, 2016

Landform and Drainage

Glenn came over from the lodge late morning, and I'd performed my ablutions. When I'd finished a few things, cleaning out the passenger seat of junk mail, dishes from last night, we were off to town, stopped at the pub, for a beer and lunch, then at Kroger for a few things, prepping for a couple of guests. Ribs tomorrow, with Drew and B. B agreed to make a loaf of bread, Drew is bringing another bottle of wine. Glenn had brought a bottle from the vineyard where he and Linda pick grapes for a month in the fall. All I have to do is cook the ribs, which I certainly can do. Of course B will make a loaf of bread, though it is not nothing, but he does it well and wants to contribute, his answer is immediate, as is Drew's to bring a bottle of wine. Tomorrow night should be good. Will be, actually, because it's a great chemical mix, history, drainage, and whether or not. Tuesday night is B and Drew and ribs, slaw and bread; Wednesday night is TR and a pork tenderloin, tomatoes and mozzarella, sweet potatoes; Thursday we eat a late lunch at the pub, go down to B's and listen to home-grown music, with Ronnie, Kevin, and B on bass. Great conversations, music, poetry, state of the electorate, world history, life on the creek. Glenn comes back in with me, after the improv music session, even though it means another walk down the driveway by flashlight. Uncommonly, we talk politics. He and Linda will vote by mail and be in France when the election comes down, not a bad strategy, and I'll be replacing the back thresh-hold, which rotted through, or replacing the trap for the kitchen sink. I have a cushion, several years actually, that I've squirreled aside, rice and beans, some seeds; a slightly Mormon drift; Boy Scout crap, be prepared. Glenn left right from the lodge, so I slept in, made a nice omelet with goat cheese, read for an hour, then went to town. He paid for everything while he was here, and I needed some supplies, another ream of paper, a couple of sweet potatoes; and I wanted to spend an hour at the library, getting back into my groove, flirting with the reference librarian while we tracked down a book; and I didn't want it on his tab. Cory had two new beers on tap and he wanted my opinion, happy to sample a micro-brew, I voted against the lemon shanty and for the hoppy porter that was like an IPA with body. I'd already eaten in town, still stopped for a large vanilla shake, and got home, primed to write, when a vicious thunderstorm moved through. Mid-afternoon dark. Pelting rain. I listen to the radio until the power goes out. I think about guard-rails, because Glenn said there was a crew, out on 125, and we passed them several times. They had a trailer mounted stop light they moved along, photovoltaic, to control traffic, and they were very efficient. Still, there were side roads and driveways, cars going the wrong way, so it became an adventure. Read more...

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Gloss Over

Reading Basho. I'd gone into town and bought groceries, three meals at least. I had no list, so, of course, in forgot some things, the pub doesn't open until four on Saturday and TR wasn't at the museum, so I was in and out pretty quickly. Stopped for my large vanilla shake, and Jesse, from the liquor store was there, we talked about his building project; stopped by B's to tell him Glenn would be here, unloaded and put stuff away, turned on the radio and got a drink. 70 years old today and damned if I don't feel it, parts wearing thin. A particular poem I was looking for, after the trip to town, looking at the flooded lowlands:

in summer rains
the crane's legs
become short

That's from the summer of 1681. I do a rearrangement of books, so that the books on the floor ALL have their spines facing out. This would seem common sense, but I seem to have formerly, I would never do it now, just thrown books in a pile. Doesn't past muster with my new sense of quasi-organization but I'm dowff (dispirited, weary) and I'd managed to put off building another bookshelf, so there are four piles of books, not more than a hundred, that needed to find a place. I moved the boxes of recycling into the back of the Jeep, I cleaned up around the stove. I'll spend an hour vacuuming tomorrow morning, and sling-blade the path to the outhouse, then I figure I'll be ready for people at the house. I need to clean the junk mail out of the passenger side of the Jeep. I'd thought if I used nothing but junk mail to start fires, I'd be able to keep up with it, but I mostly start fires anymore with butter wrappers (I save them all year, in the freezer) and Kroger check-out receipts that I just wad-up and toss in the kindling bucket. My kindling is so dry, from it's final time on the plate-warming rack above the cookstove, that one receipt or butter wrapper will start a fire. Also I need to organize the area where I'm storing the plastic coffee cans. Frogers "Black Silk", which is great in my espresso maker. I didn't think I drank much coffee, two cups a day usually, but I drink it very strong, and it adds up. These are quite cool plastic cans and I want to reuse them somehow, as a form for cast concrete, or as a roof for the sauna I've been thinking about. Idle curiosity, but it is interesting to save some aspect of your trash, just to see what there is. Starbucks coffee cups, or snuff cans, or candy wrappers, soda cans, used condom wrappers, those small white bags that once held a footer and an order of onion rings; it's an intimate look at yourself. For myself, I realize I eat quite a bit of butter and I drink more coffee than I thought.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Unknown Words

This book from Jude is excellent, The Lost Beauties Of The English Language, is a real hoot. I'd expect nothing less, as for several years I was the only recipient of her "Bizarre Book Of The Month Club" which included a field guide to amputation. 'Deave', for instance, means to deafen, stun, or perplex with loud noise. I just read, in another context, that the military was pursuing a sound loud enough to kill an enemy, or in their words, to turn the gut to jelly. Running a chainsaw can be 100 decibels, 150 decibels can do serious damage. A strong storm moved through today, I saw it coming, and closed down everything, and sure enough lost power for several hours, so dark I had to read with a headlamp, 'deftster' is one who is deft. Of course. I have a lot of dictionaries, you wouldn't believe, and entire table, because most of them have to stay flat because they're so large, and what I find is that most of these new words (I'm sure I'm to become insufferable) fell out of usage before 1900, except for a lot of the Scottish words that came from the French. I come back, many times, to how difficult it must have been to codify English, a vernacular language that borrowed from everywhere. Those early printers had work to do. A dene is a woody valley of small extent. Rain hammering on the roof, an early glass of whiskey, and I spend the whole day reading words. Edward Gorey told me once that you should everything as if it were a 19th century novel. I called Glenn, for an ETA, and he'll stop south of Indianapolis for the night and should be here Sunday noon, so I'll need to go to town tomorrow, to lay in supplies. He'll bring a couple of good single-malts and I've arranged a couple of meals in my head, ribs, tenderloin, a chorizo dish, and I can get most of it tomorrow, but we'll have to get to town, to see the exhibit at the museum and stop at the pub. I'll be off-line for a week, it doesn't mean that I'm dead, it just means I'm having a conversation with an actual live person. Call it a vacation. Writing is so difficult and I write so fucking slowly, it'll be a treat, to engage with such a sharp intelligence. Mostly I talk with crows and rabid coons. The coons I kill with a steel spade that has a five foot handle, the crows I run off, when I want to be alone, and turn off the radio. Everything is interference. Twissle is that place where a branch emerges from a tree. Read more...

Friday, July 8, 2016

The Crows

So much moisture that the under-story is growing like mad, the blackberry and sumac, my patch of black cohosh is knee deep. Between showers the crows came back, the three of them looking like battered soldiers in a retreating army. They perched on the dead poplar near the outhouse and started squawking. I micro-waved mice for them, and they shut up right away when I came out the back door, they do love their warmed mice. These are old crows, I've known them for years, and they recognize me, they follow me on my walks. Like with the fox, this is not domestication, it's just critters sharing a piece of real estate. The crows should be down at the lake, eating hot dogs and potato chips, but the road is closed and no one uses that facility, building the new bridge; across the lake there are paddle-boats and canoes, grills and picnic tables, a nice campground; but my end of the lake, is cut off and isolated, old crows can't compete against the younger generation, so they stop by here, to see if I have a mouse. Mid-morning I take a nice walk down the logging road, there's some young poke, I like to roll it in very spicy masa and fry it in corn oil. The clear weather holds and I make a quick trip into town. Mostly I want a milk-shake at the diary bar, but it's Thursday, fresh seafood day, so I go on in to Kroger and get oysters, steam them open, and make a perfect oyster stew. It's takes about ten minutes, I dampen the coffee filter, to strain the liquids, with bottled clam juice, wilt some minced onion in butter, add the broth and cream. I have a couple of things I must do before next winter, put a new top on the back porch, change out the fridge, install a back porch railing so I don't fall on my ass, and build another bookcase in the girl's old bedroom. The book situation is reaching a critical mass. Jude sent this great book of archaic definitions. Covine, for instance, is just a deceitful practice by which two or more parties screw a third party. Stopped at a traffic light, I look out the side window, wondering who had screwed who. A small field of tansy. Another thunder storm, I'd better go. Read more...

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

American Tractor

Excellent book that is a history, with photographs and specifications, The American Tractor. The Model T Ford had a four-cylinder engine that was rated at about 20 horsepower; in Mississippi I had a 1955 Ford 8N tractor that was rated at about 26 horsepower. It is said that you could still assemble an 8N from available parts for about $4,000, new it sold for about $750, I paid $1,000 for mine in 1982. I had to get Rip, a great farm mechanic, to come out to the house one time, in nearly ten years, to replace a fuel line. Rip had gone over the entire thing, steamed cleaned, and painted it, when I first got it. I loved that tractor and used it almost every day. It had PTO (Power Take-Off), so I could cut brush, drill post-holes, plow, cultivate. Quite safe on level ground, so everyone that visited wanted to drive it, and I'd use the free labor to cultivate new ground, or to drag firewood to the woodshed. I moved the entire print shop down to the new house, when I finally got it built, and I used to move the chicken house on a regular basis because chickens completely denude a piece of ground in a hurry (and they compact the soil) but I could move the house, disc the former plot, and plant tomatoes, which can stand very hot (nitrogen rich) soil. The chickens would could over, from their new location, and eat all the bugs. We had dozens of systems and sub-systems in Mississippi and lived on no money, none, until Samara was born and I built a couple of barns and houses for other people because we needed some actual cash flow. We produced a surplus, especially the first five years, because there was a land-contract with a single annual payment ($5,400) due in the fall. We made this nut by saving cash, it was a strictly cash economy, that we had saved selling milk and beer and various other things. I'd pay Joe Couch in cash, and he'd sign off, he never thought we'd make it and that he'd get the place back. Early, the fifth year, we paid the note off because I'd started to free-range pigs, letting them eat the acorn mast and I had 20 or so prime animals that sold at auction for over $100 each. Big Roy and I were making sausage, we made a lot of sausage, and when we'd locked orders for 100 pounds, we'd kill a pig, save the prime cuts, and turn everything else into sausage. We'd make a hundred dollars each, cash, and have excellent pork, and pork fat, and cracklings for several weeks. Roy was the resident butcher for the black section of Duck Hill, locally called Babylon, and he loved to call me to bring my tractor and cart over, to haul a dead animal. I was always the only white guy. We'd skin out a steer, and I'd cut it in half with an electric saw, carve out pieces which his wife and oldest kids would wrap and label. He had a meat band-saw on his back porch, which I thought was incredibly cool, and a meat grinder, and several freezers. We could process a lamb or deer in an hour. If we had a project that was going to take several hours, he'd start a pot of meat scraps cooking, throwing in potatoes, carrots and onions, a calf's head, pig lungs. His wife, Mary, had her hands full with kids and grand-kids, and I'd help her put them to sleep, reading stories, then we'd drink a little moonshine and tell lies around a fire. Mary would make a couple of large pones of cornbread and we'd eat "Slaughter Stew". We knew it would end, all things, as they say, and Colorado was the promised land, somewhere you could actually get dry after a shower. When I got up this morning, my desk was wet in condensed moisture. Where I rest my arm, and the body oil is thick, moisture collects on the surface; you can see this, it isn't an illusion. I just wipe it off with a paper towel and get down to business. Read more...

Monday, July 4, 2016

Stress Failure

Technology advances from mistake to mistake. Reading about bridge failures and aqueduct failure. Perfect day for it, rain all night and all day and I can't help but think of all the canceled cook-outs. They'll probably cancel the fireworks on the river in town. It's cool, when they have them, I hear them an see flashes in the sky from the house. I actually went once. Too many people, too much noise, but exciting. I read about the Chinese invention of gun powder and fireworks, one crazy dude strapped 15 rockets to a chair and blew himself up. His descent would have been by parachute, which the Chinese had a thousand years before the west. Rubber was first known in Europe when Columbus came back the second time, he'd seen some natives bouncing balls. The bouncing ball entered Europe about the same time as popcorn. They probably had an air-filled pig bladder or something before that, but no rubber. Rubber is interesting in many regards, specific gravity of .95, 59 pounds a cubic foot, but it doesn't absorb water, so you could float it downstream. Started raining quite hard in the afternoon, so I shut down and sat in the dark. Harvest enough rain to do some dishes, take a bath, and wash my hair; clean a bucket and catch an additional 5 gallons. A story by T. C. Boyle in the New Yorker, I like his stories but I'm not a fan of his novels. Sitting on the sofa, I haven't gotten dressed for days, reading with the headlamp even though I can see by the little green light on my monitor that I have electricity. Thinking about that old Tom Rush song, Driving Wheel, and I put on some music, Skip James, then Greg Brown. Reflecting. Then I hear them, the cloud cover is too dense to see, but I hear the celebration. The Fourth of July, bombs bursting in air, the rain held off for a while, so they could do the rocket's red glare. It's good that people not be disappointed. I'm slightly pissed that I can't grill the Chorizo, I just slice it in half, fry it in bacon fat, with a perfect sunny-side egg steamed in vermouth, and have it with buttered toast. It's good, but it's not what I had imagined. Jesus, if I'd have bought artichoke futures, last spring, I'd be a rich man. Read more...

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Cast Iron

Cleaned and re-seasoned a couple of skillets; write a post-it note to myself to remember to stop at the used appliance store and get a couple of the cast iron 'eyes' from a gas range to fabricate a new grate for the cook stove. You wouldn't think the firebox would get that hot, but they deform and melt a bit. Stanley Waterford makes a replacement grate, of course, they know it's going to fail, but they're over $200 and I can fabricate one for $10. The fox came for a visit, barked her demand for an apple, and it was a lovely diversion from the history of technology. Then talked with TR about upcoming grad school, we never mentioned Poe, but we did talk about bells and change-ringing. He mentioned a Scandinavian composer (living) that works with bells. I found a beautiful arrowhead on the driveway, what I call a bird-point, a completely intact piece, which is quite surprising because it had been dug out of a creek bed, then spread on the driveway, then graded a couple times. After I soaked it in water and cleaned it with a soft toothbrush I could see where every flake had been popped loose. Masterful pieces of work. Folsom points are elegant, the absolute connection between European stone work of the time, Magdelanian, corresponds almost exactly with Folsom stone-work. I tend not to believe in coincidence, as a matter of course, but that would require an east to west expansion, following the ice-front in hide boats, the Shetland's, then Iceland, at an early time. My personal belief is that different people were here, 25,000 years ago, on both coasts; a Japanese boat blown off course, a Viking hunting seal: it's difficult to miss a continent. There was a dig, recently, on the islands off California, which gave dates 20,000 years old. There is no way that people could have gotten all the way south in 12,000 years. The Amazon is too difficult, even with that tool kit, stone axes and fire; and then establishing a culture, high in the mountains, based on freeze-dried potatoes. Those tall natives are a different race. Evidence of that whole culture, Oz, in the middle of the jungle. A nap, then back up at midnight to catch Beal Street on the radio, a wonderful shit-kicking couple from Alaska, a peddle- steel, and a mammoth Stratocaster, excellent stuff. Fully awake and stuffed full of sweet potato, a smoke on the back porch in the dark (not wanting to attract bugs) listening to night sounds. Extremely dark, a little tree-rain, and a sweet smell coming off the forest. Could be honeysuckle, but it smells a bit more jasmine-like. I have no idea what it is, but it's a lovely scent. I was down in a little State Forest plot of walnut trees, maybe five acres, planted in a grid (government work) checking out something I had read about walnut roots emitting a toxin that kept down the competition. There were no other tree saplings, none; and there was an odd smell, just a little nasty and not at all like the smell of oak trees and fern. Not strong, but a little under the tongue and distasteful. This test plot of trees is over on the river road, and while they're building the new bridge I'll be going into town or coming home that way fairly often, so I stop by, look and smell. I realized that I'd never been in a grove of native Black Walnut trees before. Individual trees, certainly, and I've harvested and used the timber, but never in a dense stand of artificial-wild trees. They need thinning. On the other hand, sometimes it's good to just watch what happens. Still, in this case, planting on a grid and all, it probably should be a managed forest, so it needs thinning. Late at night, the only light is my computer screen, so there's a bug issue. I clean the screen with Bounce sheets that I get out of the dryers at the laundromat (I hate the things, they make me break out in hives) because they work very well and the smell keeps the bugs off for a while. But since I started washing my underwear and socks in a five gallon bucket with a butter-churn dasher, I haven't been going to the laundromat as often. I can't believe I just said that. It took me about thirty minutes to figure out what I wanted to say, and then what language would allow me to say. I did buy a dasher, at the junk store, and the pub supplies me with five-gallon buckets, the pickles come in them, and it rains all the time, so there's water. The fact that Bounce sheets serve as an anti-bug agent should make them suspect. Moths don't like the smell. It was B, I'm sure, that said I could just wash my socks by hand. The next thing you know I'm down on the riverbank pounding my tee-shirts with rocks. Of curse, course, right? I can't possibly testify to what you remember. We ate some codfish cakes with aioli, we all agreed they were pretty good. Read more...

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Just Thinking

More traffic than usual, then I realized it was Friday, before a three-day weekend, and it was the first of the month and many people get a check of some kind. Kroger was swamped. Saving grace is that most everyone was filling their carts and I only needed a few things, the self-checkout lanes were open and I got out quickly. Celebrate with onion rings and a footer, in addition to a large shake, at The Buckeye Diary Bar on the way home. People out and about. I stop to collect some day-lily buds, and find a nice batch of cattail sprouts. One great thing about holidays is that almost everyone is busy so there's very little chance of interruption. I was, though, interrupted, while pulling cattail, by a park ranger. He pulled over to ask what I was doing and I told him that I liked to eat the sprouts; after he told me that I was actually breaking the law, he asked how to cook them. He pulled a mess too. Mess is an interesting word. Being raised in a military family, mess-hall, mess-call, mess in general, were words commonly used. Also mess as indicating enough of something for a meal, sometimes meaning a surplus, we caught a mess of fish, for instance. Stopped at the bottom of the hill, coming in, I'm not going to go out again until Tuesday soonest, so I breathe a sigh of relief. Copious reading matter, a great huge timeline of the history of technology from Joel, some manuscripts, and, thinking about Dorothy Sayers, I thought about that Irish writer, executed for insurrection, that wrote The Riddle of the Sands, also an excellent book, and I have a copy somewhere. I'm sure I can find it. It's blue. The driveway has taken a beating, the last few weeks of rain; the drains are still running clean, but the grader ditch clogs with silt. It's no joke to say that a clog often starts with a stick and a few leaves. When I walked in and out more often, I'd use a hoe as a walking stick, and break up any small dams that had developed. Recent years I tend to just batten down, eat from the larder, don't venture out, wait for the snow to melt, pick a good time, when the driveway is either frozen or dry, and make a run for supplies. In the mean time, little dams have diverted water over into the ruts and they've eroded away. The ditch has jumped, and water, when it has its way (as it usually does) can do enormous damage. Going down is easy, point zero, zero one miles per hour, but coming back up you have to use the gas, and control becomes an issue. You don't want to power over the edge, which you could easily do, if you bounced out of the rut. It's just another thing to be anxious about. So I always stop, at the bottom of the hill, and collect my wits. On average I make the trip, down and up, 52 times a year, but I could easily cut that to 12 trips, then four, then two. A sign at the bottom of the hill might say Diminishing Returns. High rise buildings are dependent on elevators so it's interesting to see how that technology developed. Read more...

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Reading Sayers

Didn't she translate Dante too? I have some of the Wimsey novels and the library has the rest so I reread one or two a year. I love them, find them completely delightful. So I reread The Nine Tailors yesterday, and today reread Busman's Honeymoon, and it was a fine time had by all. She's a lovely stylist, quotes everyone, and is very funny. A great combination for a hot day, sitting under a fan, eating cold finger food. I never thought to enjoy such indulgence. I'll have to venture out, to get supplies for the long weekend (during which I intend to stay off the roads), but I'll do that tomorrow. I may as well cook some ribs for the holiday. Thinking about thermal shock, listening to the house adjust to temperature swings, 55 last night, 95 the day before. This type of construction, modified post and beam, means that the two types of framing have different coefficients of expansion. I have a tendency to over-frame, and I've gotten quite good at attachment (had gotten, would be better said) and I actually visualize every joint in a building, so it's always interesting when the house moves a bit. If I did cook ribs, I could just eat them for several days, with slaw and baked beans. I've been wanting to make baked beans from the Coke Cookbook, on the other hand Glenn will here for four days and five nights soon and maybe I'll do the ribs then. I might just grill a couple of tenderloins with various sides; there's a wilted red cabbage slaw I'd like to do, butter beans cooked with cracklings, cold squash soup, and various roasted root vegetables I can do on the grill. Also I could grill a London Broil while Glenn is here, and we could enjoy that any number of ways. B will want to come over, and TR; Drew and Barnhart, everyone enjoys talking with Glenn. Finishing the Anne Proulx, quite the read, 700 pages, and it reminds me of Sometimes A Great Notion, when it's remaindered I want a copy for my library. I don't understand butterflies at all. I had to use the sling-blade today, to cut the young blackberry between me and the outhouse, and I was studying my stroke with the tool, and noticed butterflies, several varieties, all flitting around about fifteen or twenty feet in the air. They were finding something in that zone, some pollen or sweetness, and I never did discover what it was. Watched them most of the day. There were a lot of them, enough to tag the event as "the day of the butterflies" and remember it forever. I couldn't discern any rhyme or reason for their behavior. And they do actually flit. I watch the flight patterns of anything that can fly or float and butterflies flit. They're so light they hover, and with a slight flap of wing, a bit of rudder, they turn a 180. Amazing. I have to say, the microwave oven is a great device for cooking potatoes when you don't want to have a fire. Seven (sweet potatoes) to ten (Irish Potatoes) minutes, and you have food for a couple of meals. Softened butter, maybe some cream cheese, whatever herb was in the window-sill. And Bunter, of course, cooks peas perfectly. Read more...

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Double Round Bobs

The Nine Tailors, in the Sayers novel are the bells themselves, what they were playing were Kent Treble Bob Majors. A full cycle could take eight or nine hours. I've had an interest in change-ringing for years and was reminded, recently, by an article in the London Review. What goes around. I first heard about it in college, a portly Brit in the theater department (in whose dorm room I first heard Wagner), who had some old 78's, and I was captivated. Then I fell under the sway of Herbert, at The Cape Playhouse, and he knew quite a lot about change-ringing. In fact, he knew quite a bit about almost everything, a genius of design and geometry, the second genius I had known up until that point in my life. The first had been Eddie, common-law husband of Mom's hair-dresser friend Star, who could recite Baudelaire even when quite drunk, and was the first suicide I had ever known personally. I was in high school, at the time, and I'd never heard someone recite something, so beautifully, in another language; ten years later, listening to Harvey recite Lorca in Spanish, I was moved to tears. I'm labile, in that way. Just another sentimental jerk. This is not lost on those designers of consumerism, they know what twangs your heart strings; and they know when you buy diapers or baby powder, what you might need next. I use a false ID at the supermarket. I'm pretty sure this doesn't currently break any law. I picked a name from a graveyard, and then got them a subscription to a magazine (Bridal Illustrated) and used that to get them a library card, so my pattern of buying things at Kroger doesn't refer to me at all, it's a completely fabricated person. I don't even care, I just buy the usual things anyway: bread and toothpaste, and avocados when I can afford them. I wanted an artichoke yesterday, but I certainly wasn't going to pay $3.29 for one, and I found a jar of artichoke hearts for about half of that, and ate them smeared on those small rye rounds. I made a great topping of goat cheese and browned butter. I meant to fry a couple of small lamb-chops but I forgot; I'll cook the chops tomorrow, with baby turnips and their greens. If you want to refresh the greens (America's Test Kitchen) you stand them upright in a vase or whatever fits in your fridge, in water with some ice-cubes. I love turnips cooked with their greens and cracklings. I had my oysters they'd saved for me, so I made a meal of broiled oysters and turnips. The land tax bill arrived, and I'm amazed my cash reserve can cover it. Every year, June and January, I pay taxes and insurance and it's always a juggle, but this year I was a little ahead. Kind of scared me, because that meant I was actually saving money while living on $819 a month; but, of course, I darn my underwear and socks, and I eat almost anything. Also I never wash my Jeep, and never water anything. I don't go out at night, I never go shopping, and I earn the odd bit of cash by doing things like re-upholstering all of the benches at the pub, or cooking ribs for the man. Last week I rebound an old book, a Tacitus, 1583, a beautiful thing, and I did a nice job of it, mostly doing something else while I waited for glue to dry. I had to rebuild a hinge, which I did with very thin goatskin and it ended up being quite nice. A guy had brought me the book, a friend of a friend, and I figured the job would take two hours (I don't factor in drying time, when I'm usually gainfully employed mincing onions, or something) and I told him I could it for $50, when he picked the book up, he gave me a $100 bill and told me to raise my price. I immediately went to the wine store and bought a Frank's Family Farm cab, which was wonderful (a 2012), and bought a pouch of Drum tobacco, which is a very fine rolling tobacco. Aunt Pearl said something, a riverside camp on the White River, the first time I ever fished for trout, about how the real world was not what we imagined. I can see her still, hunkered down over a refrigerator rack, grilling Cut Throat trout over an aspen fire. A great cook but she didn't say a lot, all you could do was watch her, the way she squeezed the fried chicken with the spatula, to make the juices flow. She made the best fried chicken I've ever eaten, the best creek-bank fish. Dad and his sisters were raised in different homes, within the extended family, after their Mom, Dovey, had died when Dad was born; the father, Mac, had left, the family didn't like him much, moved to Oxford, Mississippi, and a job on the staff at the university. I have, or had, relatives there I've never met, Step-Aunts or something, the other Bridwell line that moved to Texas. My sister still keeps up with my Mom's side of the family, I don't. Deep into reading Thoreau, I'm much more interested in when the redbud bloomed (considering global warming) than I am about whether or not my second cousin gets into Yale. I don't even know my second cousin's name. I'd rather talk about turtles, or frogs, I actually know a lot about frogs. Read more...