Friday, April 24, 2015

Sweet Spot

It's so quiet in the early morning, three, four or five, read for a couple of hours, then nap, then breakfast and coffee. Stopped down at the lake and watched the heat releasing into the air. The state income tax return was in the mail box, so I thought I'd buy a decent bottle of whiskey and some groceries. Sampled a nice tomato bisque at the pub. Picked up a small strip steak and an avocado. High on the hog. And a great dinner, in the half-dark, reading with a headlamp. Lost a couple of hours looking for a very small screw, before I remembered I had a back-up screw, and repaired my reading glasses. I didn't even need to do this, because I hardly ever use those glasses anyway, unless I'm looking something up in the OED, I was looking up "settle", and I needed the glasses. I could use the magnifying glass, but I always get distracted, looking at dead bugs or something. The screw isn't exactly the correct size, and these are cheap glasses, ten bucks at CVS, so I melt the socket with my Bic lighter and jamb the screw home. It works well enough, though I can't close them up anymore, and put them, opened, on a dictionary of Americanisms. As expected, a good frost in the bottoms but not even close on the ridge. Cold air falls and the ridge top soil is already warmed. I'm in the market for a decent probe thermometer that I could use to chart soil temperatures. Surprise visit from a Colporteur handing out copies of the Watchtower. We shared a few laughs about access. I suppose life is somewhat easier if someone else dictates your mission. I made a small mushroom soup (two servings, both of which I promptly devoured) with just morels, chicken stock and shallots. I added mushrooms, fried in bacon fat, until I couldn't add any more and still call it a soup. This was so good I had to stretch out on the sofa afterward. Served in a fairly flat soup bowl on a couple of toasted slices of French bread. I rarely eat a whole loaf of French bread before it gets stale, so I freeze slices that I can pop out and either fry or toast. Things on toast have become 40-50% of my diet. One virtue is that I can easily eat with one hand and read with the other, and another is that I eat right out the skillet and don't have any dishes to wash. I have started spring cleaning. I started a pile of clothes that I need to take to the Goodwill. Clothes accumulate around me, coats and sweaters, and I wear things out. My mother always said I was 'tough on clothes'. I assumed it was part of the mandate, fibers abrade, knees and elbows develop holes. But she said it was more than that, she said I often slid into third when I could have gone in standing up. First, I like the dust cloud, and second, I actually like the abrasion, where ass meets the ground. Forces you too remember later. I'm pretty sure that was my point. Peter Piper. Tom 'O Bedlam. I have to laugh. I like being invisible. Steph said she thought I should be banned. Maybe so. I know I like hiding under the cover. Are you fully informed of your rights? Read more...

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Desires

The wind over the top. Turn off the light and listen. Either Anthony or Joel said something about sleeping alone. I tend to wad a blanket between my knees and pretend there is another person. Usually I save myself then awake confused. Sometimes the idea of other intrigues me, but usually I realize I wouldn't want to be, in any way, predictable., and I can no longer deal with compromise. I can barely live with myself, and other people scare me to death. I was in the middle of a harrowed field, looking for flaked stone, sipping from my flask, not a threat to anyone, and the owner appeared, asked me what I was doing. I had to think about that. I showed him a few points I'd found, walking along the furrows. He took me to his house, for a drink and coffee, and showed me his collection of artifacts. It was extensive. We spent several hours talking; two guys in bib-overalls discussing Wittgenstein. He knew who I was and where I lived and gave me the history of the small church that used to exist one hollow to the west of Low Gap, the dead of which populate the cemetery on my property. More rain and the trees are loving it, every living thing sucking life from what has died and what has re-condensed. During all this spring rain I try and not feel guilty. I use less water than anyone I know but I still feel wasteful. The fate of the planet is an algorithm that involves water, and it's companion, drainage. Fucking driveway, I swear to god, I'm sick of it. Three places need to be raked out and re-channeled and there is a ton of dead leaves that need to be removed. If it's not one thing it's another. Butterflies all around, having a tough time in the wind. Turned on the radio to get a weather forecast and the water level in the Ohio has gone down ten feet in just two days, which, I figure, must be a lot of water. And it's supposed to get cold, but stay dry. The hickories are budded, and the tops of the oak trees are casting pale color. Just in time to start preparing for next winter. When those packets of instant rice or noodles are ten for a buck, I buy them. I recently acquired another large tin (a dumpster in town) that is dedicated to ramen noodles and instant mashed potatoes. I lived among survivalists for many years. The gamut from Mormons to Native Americans, and I learned to plan ahead. I have to close the house back up, against the chill, and it's so quiet I listen to all of the Cello Suites. Computer off, refrigerator off, phone unplugged, all the lights off except for the tell-tale on the radio/CD player. I crank the volume pretty high because I like to hear all the extraneous noises. It's a transport, to listen to Bach for a couple of hours. It allows me some limited insight into the concept of being "born again". Music, or art generally, Color Field Painting, a good production of a decent play, a totem pole, whatever pulls your crank, whatever pulls you out of yourself. I'm fortunate, I think, sitting in the silence, that I've known a great many people that were very good at what they did. Very good. And I'm humble, or reasonably humble, that I'm actually still alive.

Tom

No, wait. That wasn't where I was going. Words get the better of me. Often, the next day, everything looks different. The sun might be out, or the scent of jasmine in the air, something catches your attention, and you forget everything else. Partial Knowledge, PK: we see a lot of this; they seem to be looking for a free meal. B says we should feed everyone, no matter what. Off the record, I agree.
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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Cold Again

Chance of frost for a couple of nights. With the forecast rather vague, I went to town to get a few things, coffee and cream, meat and potatoes, water and juice, rice and beans. Excellent corn chowder at the pub, a pint of bitter, and I came home through the forest, stopping and looking for mushrooms. Found a few, but this cold weather will set them back. Soil temperature is everything. I set aside three little beauties that I want to stuff with cheese and shallots. I'll have a few on toast tonight, and have enough left for an omelet tomorrow. Stopped at the library and got some fiction and a book of David Mamet's essays. A woman I know in town brushed by me, eating at the bar, stopped and gave me a peck on the cheek, she said that I looked like a skinny mountain man and smelled terrific. This is good to know, the smell part, because I don't pay a lot of attention. I need to do my end-of-winter laundry and put things away, but I blow it off until my next trip to town. The Redbud is peaking right now, and there's one stretch on Mackletree where there are a dozen bushes in maybe a hundred feet. Takes your breath away. I stopped at the ford, drove backward and forward a few times, to clean the undercarriage, then stopped midstream, rolled a smoke and stared at spring coming on hard along the creek bank. A spray of miniature Iris in the median, a small white flower I've never identified. It shouldn't frost on the ridge, the cold air will sink to the bottoms, and I'll just wrap up in a blanket and turn away from the light. It's easier to just turn your back. More fucking rain, I can't believe it. They should pipe the Upper Mississippi into the mid-west, let it flow down to the Rio Grand, turn it into another California boondoggle. Seriously. The beauty of a water pipe-line is that even a catastrophic failure is just a mud-puddle. I do some calculations, using my hollow as a base line (the math is specious) and I figure that if they all got low-flow toilets and stopped watering there goddamn lawns, I could supply Bakersfield with water. Storing energy, in freeze-dried water, could be the wave of the future; and I'm working on a simple method to capture lightning bolts using pulleys and trees. The rigging would be no more complex than a three-mast clipper, and there would be all of those low-paying jobs, ready about, hard a-lee. Read more...

Monday, April 20, 2015

Spring Winds

All day storm and the partially leafed trees are fairly dancing. The first leaves are so tender they twist and writhe. Soft green. This front came in from the south, which is rare, and I feel like I'm seeing things in a mirror. Most of the day reading essays about the period 30,000 to 50,000 years ago and the fall of the great Neanderthal nation. Mid-day I steamed an artichoke and made a nice mayonnaise for dipping. It takes two hands to eat an artichoke, plus it's a damp and spattering dish, so I didn't read (I read at almost every meal) and just sat on my stool at the island and watched the rain. Rain on the window / changes the way I perceive / green in the hollow. An old friend calls, and I ask her to call back in five minutes, so that I can take something off the stove (onions and red peppers I was caramelizing toward an unknown end), roll a smoke and get a drink. When she calls back I'm well situated to listen. I could tell from her tone, in the first call, that I was going to be listening. Which I do. Another failed relationship, the abject fear of being alone, the cat has a tumor, the neighbors make a lot of noise. More germane, the wind shakes the house. I have windows opened, on the leeward side. I don't want to be pitch-poled in the night. Me giving anyone advice about a relationship is a joke, my track record is questionable, and I do actually want to be alone most of the time; it saves having to explain myself. Thunder, I'd better go. Slept very well and woke to an odd dream involving a pig that could write. Starving, so I fried a large skillet of potatoes and had a huge breakfast, with enough leftover for a folded fried potato and mayo sandwich for lunch. With a slice of onion this is an excellent sandwich and I've eaten them my whole life, standard fishing fare. Mom would fry them the night before and we'd take a quart of them in the cooler, a jar of mayo, an onion, and a loaf of white bread. In later years, when there was a bit more money, we'd also take sardines. Eating in a small boat, staked over a bream bed, are some of my happiest memories, though there are a great may happy memories. It seems almost criminal to have been raised in a functional family. To go fishing once a week (at least) and spend vacations with relatives in Tennessee and Mississippi, who always had, or lived close to, a stocked farm pond where the cows and mules would watch us for hours, chewing their cud. Another rain day. I think about the past, for a few hours, and it's like spreading out a reading of drift-glass. Then read a small book, 1885, about eating insects. Locust and grasshoppers are 50% protein, alfalfa hay might be 20%, a T-bone steak is 14.7%. Locust and grasshoppers are vegetarian. Consider the chicken, or the pig. Consider sucking crawfish heads, which most of us from the deep South do. You take your L/G and pull off the wings and legs, pinch the head off and most of the viscera pulls away. Grill them over a hot charcoal fire until they're crisp. Whatever dipping sauce you prefer. I like just dipping them in soy sauce. They need the salt. First Whip-O-Will, and I can hear the frogs down in the bottom. I'd forgotten how noisy spring evenings could be. Read more...

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Nuts and Bolts

The small feeder creeks are truly lovely, flowers and grass on the banks, the shrubs, the wild fruit trees in bloom. It takes me a couple of hours to get seven miles through the forest. In the loop back home, I could have stopped at the Dairy Bar and gotten something fried for lunch, but it's Friday and I'm sure Scott has made a chowder at the pub, so I detour into town for a pint and a bowl of soup. Excellent decision, because I get a free sample of a very good melon gazpacho. I'm going to stop reading about the early Catholic clergy, because they're such arrogant assholes. Indulgences are bad enough, but declaring that rabbit fetuses were not meat is a stretch. What? They turn into geese? And another thing I'm getting sick of are basic mistakes, in main stream successful fiction, about building techniques and nomenclature. The best non-fiction writers, McPhee, Kidder, Barry Lopez, don't make dumbass mistakes when it comes to specific detail. But even very good writers of genre fiction, Lee Childs, John Sandford, Thomas Perry, don't know squat about construction. And it's such an easy problem to correct, you buy a carpenter a case of beer and talk to him for a couple of hours. Pisses me off, when I'm reading along, good plot, good characters, the psychological profiles are believable, and suddenly I'm confronted with the impossible description of something. No, I think, you couldn't do that, even in fiction. Plywood comes in sheets, not boards; it's a 2x4, not a 4x2. Almost nothing is built on eight foot centers. I spend an hour or so putting away books, then another couple of hours reading in books that I found while I was putting books away. This is just one of the weak links in my system; another is staring off into the middle-distance. The word 'blue' doesn't occur in Homer. Red, of course, and the wine dark sea, but evidently you don't see blue unless you have a word for it, otherwise it's just white or maybe green. Post modern, the Allman Brothers, "Blue Skies" and, of course, "Judy Blue Eyes". I'm thoroughly engaged by blue, and the blues for that matter, so I tend to see things as black and white and blue. For ancient Greeks it was black and white and red. This might mean something or it might be bullshit. Cones, and the perception of color. A prism shows you a limited scale. The colors you can see. There might be more colors than that. I read recently that we hold a hundred or so colors in our short term memory. Phlox and Chickory, or a very small iris, Jenny called it a Miniature Iris, are all clearly blue. A prison tat, using a Bic pen, or a glimpse of the ocean at sunset. Read more...

Friday, April 17, 2015

Leafing

Amazing. Rained off and on all day, sometimes hard, in sheets that swept across the ridge. My favorite Gunter Grass is probably The Flounder, I need to reread it. I got a little work done editing, actually inserted a complete sentence that was needed by way of explication. Usually, my close readers tell me, they can follow my jumps. Just now, for instance, I went outside, between showers, to collect enough morels for dinner, which I do in about eleven minutes. I knew this small patch was ready to erupt, because I'd noticed some leaves pushing up. The new leaves are breaking out, there's a faint blush of green against the sky. The oaks are holding back, but the maples and the poplars are right on the edge of exploding. The Bradford pears are blooming, they're pretty, but I don't like them. I do like the way their leaves just shove the blossoms out of the way, creating a rain like snow, and the trees go from white to red to green. The Redbud is coming on and it's a lovely thing to see. I need to get to the library again, I need to spend more time when I go there, and check out more books at a time. That would be part of my strategy for leaving the ridge less often. If I have enough interesting reading matter, I can weather almost anything. It rained hard enough that I shut down everything and sat in the dark, listening. Fell asleep, then woke when the rain stopped and flipped the breaker for the fridge back on. Cool enough that I need a flannel sheet as a blanket. I read about Southern trees for an hour. I might have to drive out tomorrow and look at the trees. It's a thousand vertical feet down to the Ohio and the flora is quite different down there. It's makes for an interesting time lapse trip. I'd dug just a couple of sang roots (as it's called around here) in the fall, and I remembered them. They were dry, and I rubbed off the dirt and skin, then sliced them very thin with a sharp knife, put them in a nice whiskey bottle with some grain alcohol. A sip of this, when you're embedded in snow, can be just the thing. Starting to get some things done, sharpened the clippers, bought one of those little testers that's tells you if an electric line is hot, and a new outdoor light for the back door. I need to be a plumber for a day and an electrician for a day. I have everything I think I need, for a couple of repairs, but in my heart I know there will a trip or two to the hardware store. When doing anything trips to the hardware store are inevitable. I sometimes stop, even when I don't need anything in particular, because I like the staff, the free popcorn; and just walk up and down the aisles, picking out a few things I might require in the future. Hardware stores are cool, especially that peg-board where they hang specialty items. Coffin locks and repair links for chains. I sometimes buy a piece of hardware just because I like the way it looks. I might not even know what it does, but elegance is apparent. The first ballet I saw, I was a junior in high school, but I'd skipped a grade, so I was young and stupid, was a revelation. "You mean, Sir, that my ass is a commodity?" No doubt exchanged on other exchanges. I come down strongly on the side of those who just want to be left alone. It's my body, I'll do with it what I will, I will not have some white slimy ass hole, male, telling me what I can and what I can't do. My sister flagged me down, from her golf-cart. She has good taste in pottery. Read more...

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Scavengers

I'd found a dead dog on the road, a fat female Beagle, and I'd been reading about the eyesight of birds. Put it in a garbage bag and took it home. Thought about cooking the loins, using a recipe called "Dried Dog" which actually sounded rather good (a Chinese recipe), thin strips of meat, dredged in salt and spice, dried in the sun, then reconstituted in a stew, but she was a little ripe. I was interested in how scavenger birds found dead animals, so I built a crude shelter that hid the body from view. I didn't open up the carcass, which I usually do with roadkill, and just put the body under a scrap plywood roof, downwind. Interestingly, the vultures were on site within a day (smell?) but they couldn't find it. Within three days it was gone, no blood-print, a coyote (I could see the tracks) had hauled it back to her den. It's a good mom, I think, who takes her kits a dead Beagle. Stopped at the lake and picked a mess of cattail shoots, they're very good with mushroom gravy, you just peel them and steam the cores, salt and pepper; a quick sauce of morels in brown butter. I'm spoiled, when I think about it, the way I eat. Linda called, and commented on that very fact, that I ate very well, and didn't spend much money in the process. This, of course, is a product of not having much money and still wanting to eat. Contain your desires within the possible. Rice is good here, or a pot of grits, if you're Irish, a few pounds of boiled potatoes. Mixed greens cooked with salt-pork. Corn bread with cracklings. In a land-mark decision, snails cooked in sea water. It's a pain in the ass, eating barnacles with a straightened paper clip or a safety pin. The Pennsylvania Dutch call scrapple pawnhass, which has become my new favorite word. I made excellent scrapple for years and it was always in high demand. Sliced and fried it's a breakfast food of the highest rank. When I first made some for my friend Roy, in Mississippi, served with a little maple syrup, he swore it was the best thing he'd ever eaten. On one memorable occasion, he and I served it at a church fund-raiser in Babylon (the Black enclave of Duck Hill) and it became very popular. I was free-ranging hogs at the time, so when he got enough orders, whatever time of year, he'd come over and we'd kill one, skin it out (for the lucrative bonus of cracklings) and make 200 lbs of product (20 pounds of meat, 7 pounds of cornmeal, various herbs and spices), and we'd both make $100, which seemed like good money in that time and place. It was almost all profit, because he grew the corn and I had more pigs than you could shake a stick at. His friend, at the mill, ground the corn, Cecil, a black man in whiteface from the dust, after hours, did the grinding. We'd have to buy a small tank of gas, to fire the grill where we were making cracklings and lard, buy some salt and pepper, and we'd drink beer, very good beer that I'd brewed, and when Roy got a little drunk, we could talk about racial inequality. This was my Masters Degree in Sociology. Read more...

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Morel Omelet

As soon as the dew was burned off I went out and got enough morels for breakfast. Took over an hour to make, as I wanted caramelized onions. A large three-egg omelet which provided a left-over piece to have on a sandwich at lunch. McGuane's new book of short stories, Crow Fair, is wonderful writing and quite comic. Read it today and started the new Llosa. Edited myself for a couple of hours. Feeling a bit cooped-up I went for a late afternoon walk and the light was extraordinary, walking back home, eastward, everything was perfectly lit and vibrant. I had meant to think about something specific (reviewing the way I spent my time, I had some questions for myself) and I ended up walking around like Sherlock Holmes with a magnifying glass. Blackberry leaves unfolding, buds on bushes I couldn't identify, the sound of water, in a small rill. Forgot, completely, what I had been thinking about, which I think was the point. When I get back I finish a small pan of short ribs of beef. I'd been cooking them for hours, after the stove died out, and I wanted to heat them one more time, so that their grease could mix with the beans. With bitter greens and a creamy blue-cheese dressing, this is a very good meal. I'm careful not to spit on library books and I only rarely leave a note, but this time I'll probably have to pay damages. I got a little on it. McGuane makes me laugh. I got my taxes off in time, I got a hair cut, and I was laughing, about the state of events. I needed to pay a couple of bills (I only have a couple) and go the library, where some books were being held for me. One of them, on head-cheeses and sausage, I've been looking forward to. B's brother Ronnie has promised me a couple of rabbits if he gets a share of the pate. A rabbit and morel pate sounds wonderful. Scott had made an excellent tomato and pasta soup at the pub, so I had a bowl of that, with crackers and a pint of stout, then came back home the long way around. Elevation is a major factor in the changing seasons, the chokecherries and the redbud, down at the river, are far along, but up here, on the ridge, a thousand feet higher, cards are played closer to the chest. A great many things, as it happens, are conditional. If this, then that. I zoned out, wondering if I'd learned anything. Not really. I can dry cast and put a fly right where I want to, I can handle a sling-shot. I can saw a cut, on either side or the middle of a line, determine what is plumb, and act accordingly, but all I've learned is to keep my head down, and focus on the task at hand. Read more...

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Storm Damage

The driveway took a beating, but going outside to pee, in the clear light of morning, the sassafras and the oak are budded, and I need to leave early, to look closely at the wild black walnut grove that I pass on that trip, to see if the buds are emerging. The walnuts are extremely careful, so their actual growing season, at this latitude, is only four or five months and the buds are tightly protected. A park ranger stops, wondering what I'm doing with my pen-knife and a magnifying glass. Taxes done and I'm getting a few bucks back, I should never have to file again. A celebratory beer at the pub, chat with the staff, stop at Kroger, where, by the gods, there is a large package of short ribs of beef reduced in price, $3.07 for nearly two pounds. As soon as I get home I brown them in bacon fat, then bed them in thick slices of onion and bring chicken broth up to the bottom of the ribs, cover the pan tightly with foil, put on the lid and let them simmer for a couple of hours. While that's cooking I make a pot of baby butter beans with onions caramelized in diced salt-pork. The best side-dish of the year, and the short-ribs are so good I want to call Linda and tell her about them, but I'm pretty sure she has a performance tonight and I wouldn't want to take her off point. Only passion fuels passion, everything else is pornography. Egrets fucking is not a pretty picture. Anhingas. Dugongs. Most of the adults in West Virginia. Shoot for a wet spot, but it might as well be an arm pit. I was looking down today, and I already had collected $1.42 in change, before I found a wad of bills, $110, squeezed out of some tight jeans. Since the advent of skinny jeans I've found quite a bit of money in the Kroger parking lot, between parked cars. I can picture the physics of it, getting into or out of the car. Not unlike rocks coming to the surface in plowed fields. Cory was back from his flash trip to Florida and we talked about the great salt marshes in southern coastal Georgia. I quoted a passage from Sidney Lanier, The Marshes Of Glynn, and the room fell oddly silent. I admit that the rhymes are rather harsh, but these are the first lines I ever memorized for pleasure. I always thought I'd end up pulling crab pots in those salt marshes. I love the smell. Poling a shallow draft boat up a tidal creek is a great way to spend your time. Watching an osprey take a mullet. Watching otters play. Frying fresh fish for dinner. All the disturbance down at the lake, rebuilding the dam and overflow, has vastly extended the range of cattails. Spring cattail shoots are better than wild asparagus, with a nod toward a fruity vinaigrette, and the sure knowledge that you can gather a meal in just a few minutes. Food, fuel, is almost never the issue, what is at stake is your soul. I flip through the deck, the tarot of the moment, and I advise you to cook some greens. Read more...

Thunder Storm

Years since I've seen so much lightning. Rolling thunder, driving rain. No way to sleep, so I got a wee dram and rolled a smoke, sat on the sofa and watched for several hours. Epic fireworks and sound, I saw lightning hit a tree. The power went out, but it didn't matter. I wanted to see what the water had done, so I drove into town. The overflow at the lake was running full and Turkey Creek, below, was in full spate. At the race track the water level was up eight or ten feet (the top of the refreshment stand window) and the Scioto was roiling into the Ohio. A spectacular display of power. I went to the library and everyone was talking about the storm, got the new McGuane and the new Llosa. I had dawdled at so many places it was after lunch time and I was starved, stopped at the pub, and the special was a fried oyster plate, expensive, for me, for lunch, but I knew it would serve me for dinner too. A glorious surprise. I love oysters, have raised them and harvested many bushels, and these were very good. I have to go back to town tomorrow (I know this is terrible planning, but I needed a bit of the outside world) for my HR Block appointment with Ruth and if they're still serving oysters, another round. I got the bi-annual haircut today, and Mr. Bender trimmed my beard and eyebrows; his task, I told him, was to make me more presentable, I had been scaring small children in the supermarket. It's warm enough, when I get home, that I heat water and take a bath in the sheep-watering trough out on the front deck. It feels great to scrub off the winter layer of scales and flaking skin, dry off, then rub lotion into my feet and legs. The left-over oyster plate, with some English cheese and pickles, makes a lovely dinner. I'll take some grief about my spruced appearance at the pub, but I haven't felt this good in several months. I start a laundry basket of winter things that need to be washed and put away, then cull through clothing, things I never wear, that need to go to the Goodwill. I need a heavy wool shirt, the Black Watch I've been wearing for 15 years is worn through at the elbows, and I need another twelve-pack of black cotton socks, but my demands are not that extreme. That we are not virgins. That the ruts in the road are quite apparent. Maybe you've never had sausage gravy on biscuits. Heaven forbid. Where I come from, gravy was a beverage. Red-Eye gravy was a staple in my youth, Mom made it with just the flick of the wrist. Her version was black coffee in pan drippings from breakfast ham slices. A vinaigrette among the thickened gravies and sauces, thin, greasy, and salty, but on an opened, hot fresh biscuit, it is divine. I was spoiled early by good home cured hams, and, perforce, as they can't be found anymore, I've been a life-long student of curing meat. You start with salt-pork, it's hard to screw that up, then move on to Canadian Bacon. Eventually you build a smoke-house. First thing you know you're curing elk hams for Jewish friends. It could be a business, right? Antelope jerky. Eggplant chips. Shade-grown kale shoots dried in the mid-day sun. I got my hair cut, my beard trimmed, I threw away that shirt that was a disgrace; moving on, I notice that I'm using last year's calendar and it doesn't make much difference. You either add or subtract a day, it doesn't matter, except that they don't sell whiskey on Sunday, which is stupid, but easily avoided. Once or twice in fifteen years I've thrown myself at the mercy of whatever might be in B's cupboard, usually Elijah Craig; though once, in a snowstorm, after I had hiked through a crystal jungle, he sent me home with half a bottle of Woodford Reserve. Just after dawn two Red-Headed woodpeckers fly in, working the dead-bark spots on the hickory trees. I love the way they cock their heads, listening. Read more...

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Breaking Bud

Conducting a funeral service for the dead fox, it is a male, and probably the father of the kits I should see later in the year, brings ashore a raft of thoughts about death and dying. Fittingly, it's spring, which provides a nice dynamic. I take him down the logging road and slit him stem to stern, so he should be quickly consumed. A good documentary for Swedish television, or wherever that was that everyone watched an eight hour train ride. Imagination pales in comparison. Almost anything might be a good sign or a signal. In the pile of my writing B gave me, there's a section, 20 pages, single-spaced, 42 lines per page, that I actually numbered and stapled together. I'd don't remember collating and stapling copies of this, though I do remember writing it. It was a hard winter and my feet were cold, Black Dell and I were getting along. She allowed me some liberties. I could take her boots off and stroke her ankles, but she knocked my hand aside if I ventured above her knee. Rolling thunder moving in. Rain starts pattering the leaves. When the house starts shaking I turn off the lights and go take a nap. It'll either be better or not later. It's right on top of me now, with lightning, I'd better go. Such a storm. It blew a gale and rained in sheets. The power flickered but stayed on, and I stayed curled on the sofa, facing the bookcase wall, remembering other storms. A thunder and lightning snow storm, with Glenn at the church in Yarmouthport, and one evening in Utah when I cowered under an overhang, eating trail mix and fully expecting to die. Ball lightning rolling up a Ponderosa Pine. When the squall passes it's so quiet I get up and put on some music. The Dead, Ripple. Ozone. Sitting on the back porch, a wee dram and a smoke, the past becomes a dream. Sure, I know I'm guilty, we're all guilty of something, but that doesn't mean you have to stop looking. When I was in town the other day I stopped at the Second Street Dairy Bar and got a footer, sauce, mustard and cheese, and some onion rings, went below the floodwall and watched the river flowing past. Barges pushing upstream. More rain. The river is high and the huge sandbar, just downstream from where the Scioto enters, is no where to be seen. Flood watches everywhere. Pretty good mess of morels and I just have them on toast again, with a pair of frog legs I picked up out of the stranger items frozen case at Kroger, rolled in seasoned masa and fried. The stranger item case, where I always look, is where they keep rabbit, cooked crawdads, duck, and various offal. Many pates had their origin there. First big morel day, I'm going to make one, with veal liver, morels, and ground veal. I need to get a few things in town and get my taxes done. I'm getting whatever I paid last year back, and I was thinking about buying a good bottle of wine and making ox-tail soup. I have an oxtail in the freezer that I need to cook. With roasted root vegetables and a salad of bitter early greens, it could be a decent palliative against the cares and fortunes. Read more...

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Mussels

About twice a year, in the seafood section at Kroger, they have two pound net bags of mussels. I do cringe at paying eight bucks for a little bag of mussels, when I've collected hundreds of pounds for free, but I'm a long way from the sea. I got a bottle of dry white wine and a bunch of watercress, a small loaf of French bread, and one of those little jars of artichoke hearts in oil. Only one of the mussels fails to open, and I enjoy this meal as much as any in recent memory. Down Crow Pasture, where I had seeded mussel beds and oyster beds, where a tidal creek (Sesuit Creek) flowed into Cape Cod Bay, and where I often walked, I carried little beyond a flask and a lighter. I'd weave a crude grill from green willow twigs, build a small driftwood fire and roast shellfish until they opened. I always carry a small bottle of hot sauce. You roast them deep side down and use the flat shell to dig out the goodness. At home I make a dipping sauce of reduced butter and wine, but on the beach I just slurp the briny liquid. There's a dead fox in the woodshed, I saw it today when I walked in from the Jeep. No blood, no sign of damage, just a dead fox. Not my fox, this is a male and the ears are different. I'd like to skin it out, salt it, stretch it on a board, maybe use it for the ruff on my winter coat, but my tendency is to just bury and forget it. Mussels and a dead fox in the same day. Go figure. I assume a prime mover who has it in for me. I've certainly offended the gods. Why else would I have another flat tire? Morning walk, looking for morels, and I find a few small ones, enough for breakfast. I would have ordinarily left these for a day, but the turkeys would get them. After breakfast (mushrooms on toast, with a side order of soft scrambled eggs) the day is given over totally to the book B got for me, Harrison's The Raw And The Cooked, which I had somehow missed. It's a wonderful and quite comic food book. Articles from a food column, sundry other pieces about cooking game, overeating, hunting, fishing. Highly recommended. Outside one more time, in the afternoon, to take a bit of air. The leaves are matted and the fragrance is of fecund ground. The Red Maple buds have broken. The squirrels seem to have gone crazy. B noted the other day that they are a one-hit wonder, their trick is that they can do a 180 degree turn faster than any other creature. It's their main survival skill. I've fallen into a pattern, where when I get up to pee, at four or five in the morning, I just stay up and either read or write. At five this morning I could hardly wait to get out of bed, brew a double espresso, and start reading the Harrison, waiting for enough light to hunt mushrooms. Thank god I picked up a back-up pound of butter. Read more...

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Library Service

B calls and he has a book for me that I'd had him get through university channels. I told him I'd pick it up tomorrow, when I figured to be off the ridge anyway. Maybe another footer and onion rings. A little celebration. A glass of bubbly. I'll probably eat left-overs and read all night, which seems to be a pattern. It's quiet at night, especially when I kill the breaker for the fridge. Duane Allman playing lead for Boz Skaggs, Sweet Release, then Robert Johnson, Come In To My Kitchen, I look up from my reading and grin. Wormed through another winter. And it wasn't bad except for the six or eight times I thought I might die. Twice, once when B and once when Emily dropped me at the bottom of the driveway I could tell they were concerned. Old coot slogging up the hill, but I make it to the print shop, and sit in the doorway until I recover my breath. The last hundred yards is easy, after a break, and I can start a fire, heat a cup of cider. Nothing equates to pulling up a chair next to the wood stove, thawing your hands and feet, and staring into the middle distance. A wee dram for my troubles and I usually roll a smoke. All winter I sleep on the sofa, so I can feed the stove, but in the spring I move back upstairs, which entails moving all of the winter clothes. Ash and cobwebs have taken over the house, and I need to clean out the shop-vac before I tackle the corners. Cleaning the shop-vac is a truly awful chore. The foam filter and the paper filter are thick with crap and that has to be knocked out, against a tree, and the dust is horrible. Usually penitents are eliminated at this point. They either have allergies or an aversion to beating anything against a tree. I boil water and gird my loins. Spring cleaning. I had no idea I was such a slob. Read more...

Monday, April 6, 2015

Turkeys

There must be a spring hunting season for turkeys because I've noticed pick-up trucks at all the pull-off places in the forest. I often hear them going to roost in the evening. They piss me off, eating my mushrooms, but I love watching them; large serious birds scratching through the mast. Just at dark the three crows are back, and I take them their slops: table scraps and a couple of mice. I have an on-again, off-again, relationship with a fox, and once a week or so I fix dinner for three crows, otherwise I'm almost normal. I was watching eight turkeys today, six hens and two drakes, or six hens and two toms, why are male turkeys toms? And they were tearing up the leaf-litter where I'd spread a few cups of dried corn. Turkeys don't fly very well, they're almost flightless, they'd rather run off into the bushes. They'll fly if they have to, but only a hundred yards or so, and you can track a covey of them all day. I'd vow it's a good way to spend your time, tracking birds. A young turkey, head-shot and plucked while still warm, makes a fine meal, crisp skin and gristle sucked off the bone. Only, of course, if I had accidentally killed a young turkey. Or as Ms. Rawlins might have cooked a pea-hen that might have tried to cross the road. Birds are really dumb. Jeep killed grouse are a staple of my diet. Pluck them while they're still warm, grill them on a rack or over an open fire, and suck the bones. Bird marrow could make you light enough to fly. Marjorie was pre-feminist and on point. She, and MFK Fisher laid the ground-work. A patchy day, then all gray. I went for a walk of long duration and short distance, looking for morels, finding a few; then the afternoon and evening reading a pretty good novel, Too Cool, Duff Brenna: then making rice and having the chorizo mix on top of that and eating a lot of it. I wished I'd had a big old-vines zin but I made do with whiskey, tempered with a maple-sap icicle. Nothing if not resourceful. I have to say, a bowl of this Pecan Rice, with the chorizo and caramelized vegetables, is very good. I vow to eat a salad tomorrow, or at least an avocado. Or maybe an artichoke. At least a pickle. Read more...