Archives for the month of: August, 2009
“You can best serve civilization by being against what usually passes for it.”  — Wendell Berry
Hmmm, yes, I do believe it is that time of the year most could easily be convinced that it’s just as easy to throw up ones arms in disgust, just walk on, simply toss in the towel and be content in the effort that has been put forth… alas, myself and those I feel closest akin to do not function this way – perhaps at times feeling a bit beleaguered and abused, sleep deprived and short of patience, but never without the passion to carry on in spite of what pressures may weigh. I am sure this is where that helpful notion of balance will eventually prevail… although I am quite convinced in the achievement of such an ideal being a lifelong quest and process.bicycle
With this in mind, I have been trying to live each day simply and in the profound acceptance that these moments are what catapult us from life to living, from functioning to thriving – with all the ups and downs and chaotic and unexpected twists, turns and dives that make this beautiful ride so engaging. Easing into the day with a peaceful and energetic paddle around Crystal Lake with my best friend by my side seems to be the perfect way in which to invite a sustainable tranquility to my pace of the day. We enjoyed the company of many green herons and kingfishers, as well as the disturbing thrashing of breaching minnows, many we found belly up in the melange of pond scum and lake weeds. There was also a large snapping turtle, dead, floating about that we had to investigate (as good scientists do!) and prod with our paddles. This disturbs me, as I think we both felt that these were indications of an ecosystem not in full health, and the concern about a lack of oxygenation of the water prevailed.
Following the indulgence of water was the indulgence of prairie. I decided to harvest prairie sage and red clover blossoms. I think I did a good job of pissing off the pollinators, as I chose only the prettiest and sweetest pink blooms of this waning summer season. Ethnobotany lesson for the blog entry today :

The flowering heads of red clover improve urine production, circulation of the blood and secretion of bile. They also act as detergent, sedative and tonic. Red clover has the ability to loosen phlegm and calm bronchial spasms. The fluid extract of red clover is used as an antispasmodic and alterative. Red clover is used in the treatment of skin complaints (especially eczema and psoriasis), cancers of the breast, ovaries and lymphatic system, chronic degenerative diseases, gout, whooping cough and dry coughs. Red clover is one of the richest sources of isoflavones. Isoflavones are effective in treating several conditions such as hot flashes, cardiovascular health and osteoporosis. Red clover also contains minerals such as calcium, magnesium, chromium, potassium, and vitamins such as niacin, thiamine and vitamin C. Red clover ointments are used to treat skin problems such as psoriasis and eczema.
noodle beans

Even though I could easily waste hours upon days in my favorite place, I decided it would be in my best interest to make my way to the farm early afternoon. Lawn mowing and hay cutting were the afternoon’s agenda. Then, with dusk quickly approaching, it was time to play in the garden! These are the fabulous Chinese Red Noodle Beans that grow up to 24″ long and are absolutely phenomenal to both look at and eat in a little stir fry. They are liking the trellis, although I think in retrospect it could be taller, and they are especially happy that I pulled away the grasses and pigweed that were hogging up all the sunlight.nodding sunflower

The pollinators continue to deafen the wandering ear as they flit between the sunflowers and bean blossoms. They are fascinating to behold from the cover of crouching in the tall grasses and “weeds” – their delicate looking bodies taking up such feverish motion. The birds are on the move as well. Snowy egrets and Canadian geese have been filling the sky and the silence. Dad says to be on the lookout for Blue Wing Teal, as they usually start making their way through the last week in August.harvest

The harvest is getting more gratifying and delectable. I’m luck to have any tomatoes on my flat, as an equal amount, or perhaps more realistic ratio of 2 for me, 1 for the box, find their way over my tastebuds and into my belly. Complementing the reds and browns and yellows of my nightshades are the shell beans, noodle beans, lemon cucumbers and Thelma Sanders Sweet Potato Squash that I am entirely excited to delight in… one of these nights that I’m not working until 10 or 11, however, seem more akin to savoring the sweet summer flavor. 🙂

“If the world were merely seductive, that would be easy. If it were merely challenging, that would be no problem. But I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.” — E.B. White

“Everything is blooming most recklessly; if it were voices instead of colors, there would be an unbelievable shrieking into the heart of the night.” – Rainer Maria Rilke

How all encompassing this quote embraces the multitudinous fashion of life – the growth in the graden, the growth of the soul, the endless sea of innocent facination with the world.  Reckless, these days, would be a wonderful and à propos description of the chaotic and wild nature of my garden. Biodiversity reigns, chaos ensues, and in the midst a beautiful and basic synergy intertwines. crystal lakeRegal and breath taking sunsets have in simple measure inspired something to look forward to and to be hoped for each day anew, reminding me with diligence the importance of taking time to appreciate the moment, to absorb the beauty. They are especially wonderful after long, cool, bug-free afternoons and evenings in the garden. I have learned a great deal in this vast experiment – some of the variables by choice, some by deferring to higher priorities… a few of which kept me from tending to my flock for three weeks. This past week I have gained valuable insight about who thrives on weed pressure, and who withers in recalcitrance at the competition. The tomatoes are beautiful… branches heavy and sprawling with fruits – I have had the wonderful fortune of plucking Nyagous (brown) and Royal Hillbilies (pink) – also a handful of cherry romas, snowberries almost ripe and pear tomatoes (my all time, melt me in my tracks, favorite… my neighbor, Chuck McLaughlin, would leave handfuls of these tomatoes on my tricycle seat when the family would take airplane excursions – a most delightful recollection!), but these small tomato varieties don’t stand a chance at making it out of the garden, as they go directly into my mouth for my tastebuds to enthrall in.  The huckleberries paid no mind to the weesd either, but I thought they were awful (they weren’t those delectable mountain types), so I ripped out all the plants I had pampered and turned them into green manure.

The onions, they had no time for this nonsense of competition – to hell with that, we are calling it a season… and in the process of my partial-green-manuring project (to some people this would seem like weeding, but in my opinion, it’s all just semantics) I mananged to locate most of them that my brother had not already absconded with, and they are waiting to be put into storage or to be transformed by an experimental recipe – much like the sweet Walla Wallas that complimented the green tomato chutney experiment of this evening. The potatoes seem to have their own interpretation of the weeds, as well, with the All Blues being the most sensitive, to the La Rattes in complete ignorance of the fact that most gardeners would keep these companions clear, thriving heartily in spite of the wild neighborhood.

rootsThese horseradish roots belong to plants that are in a patch nearly as old (ah-hem, young I mean!) as I. And, as long as I set up my operation outside with the breeze from the right direction, I can refrain from adorning my goggles from my chemistry lab class when I process it into spreadable goodness. It’s powerful stuff! Have also been doing a great deal of seed harvesting – cross pollinated Asian cabbages, hemp, dill, rat tailed radish, golden alexander, golden sweet peas just to name a few. There is an entire drying operation in full swing in my parents’ basement that also entails a variety of herbs and yarrow from the prairie. I think my mother and Shane might be a bit excited to have their space back soon, without the obstacle course of projects that seems to be inherent in my presence! 🙂

seed savingThe markets have continued to challenge and entertain me. I am completely enjoying the opportunity to network with folks I never would have met otherwise, but I still find an undercurrent of frustration tugging at me from time to time. Today, however, I indulged in not stressing, not doing much other than enjoying my day and showing up at market – I sang and played my guitar, I worked on some jewelry, I slept in, I made a wonderful breakfast and a blueberry sage sauce. I smiled constantly and really enjoyed this magnificently September-like day.

I also entertained notions of just driving. It’s like that little gypsy bug just sidled up next to me with wanderlust in the pocket, whispering in my ear “just drive. preferable west. ” Ah, I think this is a rascal that I may perhaps never fully find my thumb on, and while even though I am absolutely enamored and fascinated with my intense love for this place – this place in which my sense of community, my roots, and my passions mingle tirelessly – I expect my hunger for change and travel and adventure will always tease me away from time to time. I have learned at this point, however, that the coming home part of the journey is at times the most gratifying and rewarding – poignantly captured in the words of Nelson Mandela, “There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered, ‘A Long Walk to Freedom'”