Monday, April 17, 2017

Heavenly Meal

I took the day off and made morel risotto, a half batch actually; caramelized onion, morels, garlic, wine and chicken stock. Lots of butter and cheese. I'd gotten up at three, the cool of the night, to start a fire and cook, so I had risotto for breakfast. A gentle rain, settle with a cigaret and a wee dram of Irish. I have this new book from JC, How To Read Water, but I can only read a chapter at a sitting, because there's so much information. I'd read David Lewis, on the navigational techniques of Pacific islanders (which is an amazing thing) so I wasn't new to this subject, but there's so much more data now. Marcescence is that phenomenon by which some trees, especially Beech, hang on to dead leaves. This had interested me for years, so I finally took a magnifying glass and looked at the leaf attachments. Usually, in the fall, when a leaf, has died, the end of the leaf-stalk hardens over, as does the place where it grew on the branch and there's just a thread of dried connection, the next wind and it's gone. The Beech trees harden-over the entire connection. I have no idea why they do that. I think they might be protecting next year's bud. The miniature flowers are springing up, tiny violets the size of nail heads; you literally have to get down on all fours and examine these from a foot away. They're lovely little things. It's supposed to rain hard tonight, and I need a sponge bath and hair wash, so I prepare to harvest water. Filter and consolidate what I have in my five buckets, then clean the buckets and wipe them out with bleach, stack them near the back door. I'll need five gallons of water tomorrow, to do a few dishes, take a sponge bath, shampoo and rinse my hair twice, but this seems like a huge amount of water to me since I usually get by on a gallon a day. Mice are coming out of the woodwork, rattling pans and squeaking, I'd put out three traps and caught three mice in short order, put two in the freezer for the crows and left one out. I needed to know what they were eating so I could protect my foodstuffs and wanted to dissect one to see what was in his belly. Another problem I'd been thinking about was what the fuck were they drinking? where were they getting water? I'm very careful about not leaving any water, or liquid of any kind sitting out. The stomach contents reveal a lot of grass seed, which explains the moisture question, because they're out in the morning, licking dew, eating some grass, come in and sleep through the day, then get up at dark, and scamper around to drive me crazy. I have to find where they're getting in. Read more...

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Green Haze

The buds on the poplars are opening, first visible as a faint haze against the sky. There are already a couple of red maples down in the hollow, and the Redbud are blooming; from my vantage it's all pretty spectacular. I was up late and had just settled on the back porch with a second cup of coffee when the State Forest guys arrived, to tell me they'd be marking the boundaries with yellow spray paint on trees. I tell them they can park up here, just pull off to the side. They came in for a cup of coffee. We had to go through the usual 'what are you doing here?' These seasonal park employees tend to be fairly smart: a break from getting a Master's Degree, working in the field, living in Mom and Dad's basement. Student debt. They both had the average, $30,000, in student debt, ten-year pay-back based on income. I can't imagine such a thing. I hate debt because it limits your scope of action. I can live in a cave, eat road kill and wild plants, but if you have a monthly debt that has to be paid, they own you. On the other hand you probably have running water. Hot running water I consider one of the great achievements of mankind. Morel duxelles on polenta are high on the list, with a dash of Dove Creek hot sauce, a piece of toast with good marmalade. In one day the maple outside my window is leafed, the blackberries are exploding. It's like being in a Disney movie. And the smells are so vivid and specific. Read more...

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Mortling

Side-track on top of side-track. My original goal was to follow the old logging road down to the second flattish terrace. A good patch of morels there that I found out about as a reward for catching a coon dog and calling the owner. Until I moved here, this place was considered State Forest, and he'd often picked that patch. He passed it along to me. Local geography is always interesting. I had a pair of pig's ears I'd picked up for $1.38 in the varietal meat freezer at Kroger and I'd spent the morning reading recipes. Settled on a German dish, Pea Soup With Pig's Ears. I have to learn how to say that in German (Erbsensuppe mit Schweinsohren). I know schweinsohren is pig's ear, because I've read a lot of German recipes. I'd set out a book, The Better Use Of The World's Fauna For Food, and hiked down the logging road, found the Second Terrace, a lovely opening in the woods, and naturally, there were morels, and the promise of a large flush in just a few days. Back home, I sauteed some in butter, and had them on toast, while I read recipes for dog and cat and rat. A Swiss recipe for fox, Huchspfeffer, and a couple of recipes for making dog ham. I ate mountain lion once, it was stringy (an old animal) but tasted fine. Rabbit fetuses were considered 'non-meat' by the early Catholic Church, and could be eaten on Friday. All the pig's ear recipes started with the line "clean the ears well" just like turtle recipes all start with that same line. The pig ears from Kroger are quite clean. I cook them for an hour, cool them, skin them, and cut into bite size pieces, roll them in a highly seasoned flour and fry in olive oil, add the split peas, some chicken broth, chopped onions, a minced red pepper, some very hot chilies; make a stove-top corn cake I can fry on a hot-plate, then serve with butter and sorghum molasses. I feel I've risen above my humble beginnings, but in fact it's almost exactly the same, eating cornbread and beans, listening to the coon dogs bay. Read more...

Friday, April 7, 2017

Enfleurage

The cold (actually room temperature) extraction of scent into oil. I had to reread Perfume to figure out the process. My only experiments previously in extracting oil had been in cold-pressing walnut oil, which were mostly a failure (I spent several days for a little over an ounce of usable product) but failure has always been a prod for me. I'd had Rush Welding make a shallow stainless steel pan, with turned-up edges, that fit into a book-binding press, I had some unbleached muslin, I had a surplus of bay leaves, plenty of olive oil, and I'd bought some large sheets of butcher paper because with the walnut oil I'd made a hell of a mess. I like to do something during the Easter Recess. You can easily extract bay leaf scent by just putting some in a jar of oil, then filtering, but I wanted a concentrate. I spread out newspaper (I get my newspaper from the recycling center) then butcher paper, then a square of muslin that's been soaked in olive oil, then layer leaves and fold, then let it sit at room temperature for six hours (in the stainless steel pan), then slowly squeeze the mass in the press. No idea what I'm going to do with this. It might be nice added to the oil used to fry mussels or some other seafood. Joel calls from Atlanta and he wants some dried morels, says that they're incredibly expensive on line, hundreds of dollars a pound, and he offers barter, books and rare cheeses. It's difficult for me to get a pound ahead but I assure him I'll try. Joel says it's greed, that prevents me from sharing. And I guess it's true, at least as far as morels are concerned. I've lived in this house for 17 years (a record for me) and probably seven of those years, as long as I limit myself to one mushroom meal a day, during the season, I've eaten them daily. Maybe forty or fifty days. The season ends for me when the rattlesnakes emerge. Nothing staunches my desire for morels more completely than coming within a few feet of a sunning rattlesnake. One patch, later than the others, a north facing area over near the graveyard, I seldom get to harvest, because there's a snake den in one of the graves. There's another patch, on the opposite ridge, that I don't get to that often, because it means a hike through serious tick country. B and I were cooking a whole leg of lamb for his clan, marinated in hot peppers and blackberry juice, a couple of years ago, and Jenny, the naturalist, had wandered off with one of the kids. When they came back, they had a huge bag of morels. But for my meager needs, a meal a day, I just harvest near the house. The season of plenty, asparagus gone wild, cat-tail shoots, and bitter tender greens. A vinaigrette with bay oil. Read more...

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Out and About

Snow forecast for Friday night, Saturday morning, but I don't see how it could stick, nonetheless, I make a run to town and get a few things, a back-up bottle of sour mash, an artichoke, a piece of fish. As forecast a huge line of storms move in, I have to shut down, the power flickers on and off. Lateral and associative thoughts. Fits and starts. In the dark again, but the power comes back on when the worst of the rain is over, and I get back into my comfort zone. The blackberry canes are springing into leaf. Blackberries go from first leaf to ripe fruit more quickly than most plants. They have the whole invasive thing down to a fine art. When they clear my power-line easement, I watch it closely for a couple of years. The second year will be a bumper crop of berries (given enough rain, which there usually is) because blackberries (most berries) bear heavily on second year canes. On the Vineyard there was a wonderful glossy, wild, red raspberry, locally called wineberry, and it did make a great country wine, that grew thickly around an old graveyard called The Old Sailor's Burying Ground. I found some wooden tombstones there, dating from the 19th century, painted chestnut slabs, and the painted part still held some relief. You could do a rubbing and read most of it. I was looking at a rubbing today, Diana had sent me an actual rubbing of Emily's tombstone. "Called Back", and I was thinking about that, because I wanted to frame it, and change the art work in the house. I've been living in this world where looking at pictures of old tractors is at least as good as anything else. My current pin-up is a beautifully restored Ford 8N. Another photo that I want to change, is the one of four poets in front of an old John Deere. I've looked at it for several years at least twice a day ( two of the poets are dead) because it hangs over the kitchen sink. I've narrowed the replacement down to a couple of images and the jury is still out. I'm leaning toward something at least slightly humorous, but there's not much that's funny anymore. The wind is blowing a stiff breeze, before it, I'd be moving right along, beating back might not be so easy. Least resistance is to just run downwind. Wind is interesting, a day like today, you (I'm trying to engage the second person more often) take just a few steps off the ridge top, to the leeward, and it's completely calm. You could start a small fire and brew a cup of tea. Up top, the wind is howling. My place, of course, is at the very top, subject to every whim of weather. I seem to prefer it that way. At least I know what's going on. If you have hot running water and a thermostat it's easy to lose track of what's going on. We only inhabit these marginal areas for reasons we can't explain. Who is we? Read more...

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Ordered Time

It takes a while to get out of the habit of waking at three AM to stoke the stove. You need to stay up, long enough to damp the stove back down, so I often get a wee dram and roll a smoke, and I keep doing that, even when there isn't a fire. Read what I had written the night before, take out a comma or add one. This morning the wind was moaning in the trees and I couldn't concentrate, so I dragged out some family issues to consider. I've always kept to myself, not so much a lone wolf as a mangy feral dog, and generally people leave me alone: dress down is my advice. No one pays any attention to the janitor. "Deft, dumb and blind kid sure plays a mean pin-ball." Another Tom. I had a can of premium crab meat that I had to break apart, and I stuffed four morels then ran them through the toaster oven to melt the cheese; these are so good I have to pinch myself to remember I'm poor. Actually, March, April, May, then again September, October, November, I save money, because I don't go to town and don't use any back-up heat or air-conditioning, so I can save for land taxes and vehicle insurance. This works for me, because I don't have any debt, also, I'm easily amused. I spent most of the day watching frog eggs, they move. Another Scandinavian TV show. I did take a break from watching the eggs to make a wonderful spread, something between a hash and a pate. I serve this on saltine crackers because they're neutral and cheap, but you could roll in up in Romaine leaves. I minced a shallot, browned it in butter, rough-minced half a pound of morels, added them and more butter (I use a lot of butter, this time of year) and sauteed everything for a while. It's great smeared on toast. With a coddled egg, egg yolk being the perfect sauce. and a couple of grinds of black pepper. In deep clover or high on the hog or something. Read Thoreau for several hours, and I'm almost halfway through, it might take me another year. After about volume four he stops sounding like an opinionated prick and gets into detail. There are pages cut out of the Journals, that became other books, when he went to Maine, when he went to Cape Cod, and I have to go back and read those books. I have a large collection of books about Cape Cod, history, geology, ship-building, feeding lobsters to pigs; I wrote a book about the place, it exists as a single manuscript copy, buried somewhere in the piles of paper. It's not very good. Lateral, and yet associative, I have to think about that. Usually I just roll up and go to sleep. Read more...

Monday, April 3, 2017

Hash

I can't defend myself, I just know my own limitations. I can't go to Florida, I couldn't deal with the people. A walk, in a lull, I sat on a stump and wept. This went on for a while, like one of those Scandinavian TV shows, all I can do is kick the can down the road. Load and attachment. Wedges and pegs. Self and other. Mostly what we construct is an elaborate fiction. That iconic first or third person. I had one last butternut squash that was still decent, several had rotted, so I made a cream soup, with powdered milk and dehydrated onions that was pretty good, a toasted cheese sandwich. There's a red-headed woodpecker that wants to build a nest in my eave, so I finally get out the extension ladder and spray some tobacco and hot pepper juice in and around the hole he's digging in the siding, teach his ass a lesson. Then I make a mac and cheese, fold in some caramelized onions and sautéed mushrooms, bake it until the breadcrumbs are toasted. JC heard about this on the radio and I had to try it. Excellent. A great winter recipe, hot, filling, and easy to put together from what's at hand. I make a note to buy more macaroni. B now has an entire set of topographic maps mounted on a wall, and I could look at it for hours. A vast system of drainage that carried off the water from the last glaciation. And it was a lot of water, land-bridges flooded, the entire geography changed. You couldn't walk to Australia anymore. In the old days, you used to be able to walk to Australia. Read more...

Friday, March 31, 2017

Nothing Obvious

I love the texture of morels, the mouth feel, and I like to stuff them, with crab meat and bread crumbs, enough cheese to hold things together, also a thick stew, chicken broth and caramelized onion, that I love for its extravagance, and I do a risotto with them that is sublime. Quick trip to town, a couple of perfume samples in the mail, two New Yorkers. I needed more butter. 70 degrees when it started raining again, I'd been to town and back, I'd collected enough morels for tomorrow, eaten very well, and settled in. That world, out there, doesn't interest me much. The best the new scents was Black (Bulgari) which is one of the best perfumes I've ever smelled. Later, I needed a snack, so I'd sautéed some sliced morels in salted butter, on toast, with an egg, and the smell of mushroom, browned butter and shallots. Shallots are perfect with morels, I find garlic to be too much, onions, also, too aggressive, but shallots are just right. I need to raise shallots as they are so god-damned expensive, but the smell, I thought, might be a nice masculine scent, mushrooms and a nice animalistic (civet?) top-note drying into a leathery musk. Bacon in the background. When it started raining hard, I shut down everything. All night long, with varying intensity, from patter to kettle drum. I got up, around three, made a cup of tea, sat in the dark, and remembered other storms. When the early morning news came on the radio, it was all about flooding and road closures, a Level Two flood alert, stay off the roads. Perfect. I'm prone to picking up odd books at the library sales, so I spent the day reading about killing man-eating tigers in India. These books, and there are many of them, British Service Officers always wrote their memoirs, are actually interesting to read. Bored to death, stationed in Borneo, some of them became decent observers. Identifying specific animals by their paw prints. Identifying certain plants. I love this stuff. My sister called and Mom is dying, we talk for a long time. Sis says there's no reason for me to come down, my brother and nephew are there, in from California, and she knows I deal with grief my own way. Physically, the trip would be too much for me, and I can barely imagine the emotional components, so I bite my tongue and decide to just stay on the ridge. Claim ignorance. The secret to a great macaroni salad is plain yogurt, you need that bite. Read more...

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Staying Home

Rain on the roof, I don't have to be anywhere, I don't have to talk to anyone. A perfect day to examine my failures. Stare out at the middle distance and remember. It's certainly true that I'm lucky to be alive. That world, out there, is dangerous, falling debris, drunk drivers, and the occasional shifting of the earth. At the first sign of conflict, I retreat. Outside, for the air, the frogs, of course, and the bugs; there's a bird I haven't heard before, a high-pitched squeak, and a mocking bird that calls everything into question. When it starts raining again I have to go inside, the rain is so cold it sends goose-bumps up my arm. A fine day, examining the food inventory for a man-of-war, then frying some potatoes. Officers ate off plates, with proper implements; before the mast, everyone had their own wooden bowl and spoon. I took my lunch from home, during most of my schooling, a piece of cornbread, some leftovers, a couple of pieces of fried salt-pork, but I liked the crap they served in the cafeteria, I'd never had it before, chicken pot pie? tuna casserole? In Junior High, Key West, we had turtle burgers on Thursday. Decades later, I was making a nice turtle soup in Mississippi adapted from Marjorie Rawlings' recipe. There's a learning curve in there somewhere. I was thinking about a needle and thread, to stitch together the covering for a bone framed hut on the steppes of Russia. The needle was probably bone, the thread was probably gut, and the seam was probably water-proofed with pitch. Naval stores, I love that, a large and open set. Useful glues and sealants. Doping fabric. Wearing oilskins and wellies. Something I read yesterday, a quote by some movie executive saying that he knew Doris Day before she was a virgin makes he laugh again remembering it today. I needed to go to town, but I was out early and found the first morels of the year. Came immediately back indoors and had them sauteed in butter, on toast with an egg on top. I couldn't resist opening the last bottle of Frank's Family Farm's chardonnay, which, for a white wine, I found to be absolutely beautiful. Naturally, the trip to town was postponed (I need to study that word) and I went right back out and collected enough mushrooms for an omelet tomorrow. I left the rest to fill out for a day or two, praying that the damned turkeys don't find them. This year, I swear, I'll kill a turkey if they get into my patch again, and make it into a country pate with the mushrooms. It would be a magnificent pate, and costly for almost anyone other than me. A turkey, a pound of morels, half a pound of butter, pistachios, brandy, a pound of chicken livers. I don't have a decent scale, so I've never figured the numbers closely, but I end up with four or five pounds of product and I can compute what it costs me. If I added in labor, especially the clean-up, no one could afford this stuff. I can only afford it because I live in a cave and don't keep track of time, which allows some freedom of movement, also, of course, the turkey and morels are free. JC called, knowing my penchant for mushrooms, with a recipe she'd heard on the radio, Linda and Joel will call, keeping me updated on the cost of morels in Atlanta and St. Paul, prices I can only barely believe. I'm fairly obsessive, especially in the spring, coming out of hibernation: morels, wild asparagus, cat-tail shoots, and I use a lot of butter. Old house sites are almost always defined by beds of daffodils, there is almost always a feral orchard, and morels favor the roots of apple trees. Off to the traces. Read more...

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Frostling

Any fruit or bud injured by the cold is a frostling. Nice word. D called, with the agriculture report, and we talked about greenhouse construction. In Mississippi I listened to the farmer's report on the radio in the morning while I had breakfast (I ate large breakfasts then), Marilyn would be out milking, and after Samara was born, I'd get her up and feed her milk her Mom had expressed for the occasion, and consider which of the chores I'd do first. More fencing, change some gates around, so that we could direct animals into certain places. Reclaiming an overgrown farm is an interesting project. We were bartering our excess for whatever we needed, and I was usually building a barn or a house for someone, to provide some cash. A satisfying and extremely physical life. I'd put on some oats to cook, in the little crock pot, and the house smelled wonderful; when I got up to pee, about 4 AM, I decided to have a bowl of the oats, with butter and maple syrup. A bit chilly, so I turn on my electric lap robe and settle in to watch the dawn. Basho:

Slowly spring
is taking shape:
moon and plum

In and out of town fairly quickly, and feeling a little flush, bought a couple of treats, pistachio nuts, some frozen egg-rolls that D had said were quite good, a bottle of zinfandel. Indulgence. Stopped at the pub for a pint and there was a new waitress. She was a bit bewildered that the entire staff knew me and stopped to chat. I caught enough ESPN, without sound, to see who was in the sweet sixteen. Took my leave and drove home the long way around. Coming up the creek, right now, is spectacular, all the various plants at slightly different stages of development. Small birds peck at the buds, to release the sugars, the bats are back. I stopped at the ford and drove back and forth through the shallow water to clean off the road-salt, a spring ritual. The ford is a beautiful place, a shelf of dark gray shale, that breaks into a couple of lovely water-falls down stream. The creek is wide and shallow, the banks are dense with undergrowth, I always stop, in the middle, and smoke a cigaret, just the sound of flowing water. The closer you listen, the more there is, bugs, birds, and the tail-end of a coal-train in Kentucky.
Read more...

Thursday, March 23, 2017

On Cooking

I'm not a purist but my cooking does follow a certain seasonal drift. More a product of economics and method than convenience. Case in point, I no longer raise acorn squash or pumpkins, because I get them for free from the various fall displays. They call me, to haul away vegetables before they rot; rotten fruit and vegetables are a pain in the ass. I gardened on the ridge (in raised beds) until the deer ate everything for two years in a row, now I frequent the Farmer's Market, during season, which is actually less expensive, and I get some socializing to boot. If I need to propagate a particular seed, Ronnie will plant me a row. In my current heirloom collection are two pea-beans that I've never seen anywhere. Both, I think, are African, and I've kept them for thirty years. Any given market day (they fold-up shop at noon) I'll be given enough tomatoes to eat several tomato sandwiches and make a sauce for later. And Ronnie grows sweet potatoes. The word potato comes from the Quechua (Incan) papa, more or less the staff of life, where you couldn't grow anything else. They invented freeze-drying 5,000 years ago, discovering that potatoes left out to freeze at night, then smashed and dried in the noon-day sun would keep very well, could be ground to make bread. Starch and sugar. I'd made a note to try and make sense of that. I make a nice potato bread, using the lees of fermentation as the yeast, not a loaf you'd want to take to a future mother-in-law, but a bread I find useful for sopping the corners of a skillet. I use trenchers at most of my dinners, swirling the last piece of bread to gather the last bit of goodness, and I'm sure I look like the hillbilly I actually am. Where I was raised it was perfectly acceptable to use your fingers to use the last bit of biscuit to sop the last of the gravy. I was reading about table manners and got side-tracked by an interesting article, Ketchup And The Collective Unconscious, which is mostly about flavoring bland food. Read a history of the hamburger, another essay on ketchup, some Roman recipes. Split some kindling, examined some buds. The crows were giving me a raft of shit, just being raucous for the hell of it, so I gave them a couple of mice. I wanted a break from stew, and Jerome had brought me these incredible Moroccan sardines, a six pack from Costco; fried some salt-pork, minced it, rough chop the sardines (ingredients are fish, olive oil, and salt), into the pork fat, serve on noddles. If there had been any left-over, I would have had it for breakfast tomorrow, with eggs. I need to study the whole world of egg substitutes, and dried eggs, egg preservation in general, not because I want a substitute, but because I might not be able to get out and I want/need them for cornbread and morel omelets.

New buds, Verbena,
and small birds pecking
at the sweet dark core
Read more...

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Scroggy Hollows

Spring, at last, comes in with a cold rain. I can't listen to the Trump news, so between showers I sit out on the back deck and listen to the frogs fuck. I made a small casserole, from the leftover mussels, buttered a small dish, a layer of mussels, breadcrumbs, and the strained liquid, served on top of the leftover smashed potatoes. Scroggy was a pet word of Sir Walter Scott, for tangled underbrush. The local peaches and plums are all lost, D called, with an agricultural update, but the apples seem to be fine, unless we get another freeze. The pent and flow of water jumped the grader ditch and the driveway is a mess, the ruts washed out, in several places the outer rut has broken through, carrying roadbed into the hollow. Decision time, as to whether I pay for a quick fix, or pay a few thousand dollars for a serious upgrade. I have to think about that, and in the meantime I use four-wheel low more than I ever have in my life. Batty Tom was one of the nine bells in the wonderful book, The Nine Tailors, by Dorothy Sayers, and I'm feeling increasingly like Batty Tom, or Tom a' Bedlam, or Peeping Tom. In the afternoon I made a beef stew, and because I don't know how many more times I'll have a fully heated stove, I manage to take hours. Dice the meat (a flank steak) brown it in pork fat, caramelize onions and red peppers, roast potatoes and turnips and carrots, a broth of chicken stock, in which I dissolve a couple anchovies and add a dollop of tomato paste. Mix it all together, pull it off the heat, and let it simmer, over night, in the waning heat of the stove. I do this with lamb too. The daffadils and the crocuses are lovely, suddenly color after months of black and white, and the stew is a grace note. Life is good: I have dry wood inside, I have a pot of food, books, tobacco, a bottle of single-malt, the moon rising above the ridge. Who could want for anything more? Read more...

Monday, March 20, 2017

Dufus Redux

Thinking about that boundary between want and need. I have an internal argument about comfort, yes, I would like a thermostat, yes, I would like hot running water, but they aren't actually necessary. I wanted to go to town, I always enjoy talking with the staff at the pub after St. Patrick's Day. The day of the year for them, long hours and good tips, and there are always a few good stories. Too many people and the music was loud, so I just went to Kroger and got what I needed. Plus a three-pound mesh bag of mussels, a bottle of white wine, and a loaf of French bread to make garlic toast. St. Patrick, an immigrant, taught faith and love; but there are no snakes in Ireland because it was completely glaciated. Coming home, along the river, I was struck with how the hollows are outwash channels. The scale of it, the amount of water from melting glaciers. When I finally do get home, after a slow trip up the creek, I make a side dish of smashed potatoes and steam the mussels in wine. A transport of tastes. I love shellfish, and during the 12 or 13 years on the Cape and Vineyard I harvested all I wanted for free. Site-specific diet. When Marilyn and I moved to Mississippi, we traded seafood for the whole range of dairy and game, plus a world-class garden and the best pork I've ever eaten. Pigs raised on whey, peanuts, and sweet potatoes. Peanuts and sweet potatoes both make great high protein hay that we fed to the goats. Later, in Colorado, we bartered butter and cheese, and made part of our living from selling "first" milk to people raising exotic animals. Since we were the only suppliers in the area we could charge whatever we wanted, ditto with the fresh goat cheese and an ice-cream that was 24% butterfat. Sometimes I almost miss those days, but it was so much work. After the girls were born, I'd build a house a year, so we'd have some actual money, to buy flour and coffee, and work the farm or ranch, dig post holes, string wire, burn the horns off goats and castrate useless males. Read more...

Friday, March 17, 2017

Night Noise

Something four-legged walking in the frozen leaves. Probably the bob-cat. I was sitting in the dark, thinking about an attachment problem, and there was a noise outside. A finite number of critters it could be, so I listen closely for a few minutes, then flip on the outside floods and catch the cat, a deer in the head-lamps, for a couple of seconds before it slinks away. It's a male, I think, in beautiful winter coat, a female would be pendulous, this time of year. Within a couple of acres I know where he lives, that gusset of land, a triangle, between the driveway and the ridge, bordered, at its base, by the power-line easement. My wildlife refuge and ginseng farm. It's two or three acres, the boundaries are so crooked it's hard to tell, either a very large or a very small space. It's densely populated because I don't let anyone roam around in there, and it provides me with a great deal of entertainment. The last time someone asked me what I did with my time, I asked them if they'd ever watched a fox eat an apple. The natural world, books, my habit of writing, cooking and eating, take up most of my time; certainly, if I had a TV and cable (which I can't afford) I'd watch cooking shows, soccer games, the history channel; also, implication is, I'd have high-speed internet, and I could reference things more quickly. Which is handy, but not necessary. More snow, I knew this was coming, I could tell from the ring around the moon. St. Patrick's Day starts with snow, then sleet, then rain, ground fog in the trees. A quiet day with no wind. A long slow breakfast, hash, shirred eggs, and toast; coffee at my desk while I finish reading some book reviews. Late afternoon it gets dark early and rains harder, and I just retreat into my nest; a little thunder so I save everything, but I stay open in my writing program. Yesterday and today I find I'm reading about people I've never heard of, I don't even know what they do. One thing is that they make way too much money, a pristine 1938 comic, first appearance of Superman, went for 3 plus million, a Paul Revere personal bell, to call a servant, you can't imagine. It's sounding serious, I'd better go. Read more...