Archives for the month of: September, 2010

“The country is in deep trouble. We’ve forgotten that a rich life consists fundamentally of serving others, trying to leave the world a little better than you found it. We need the courage to question the powers that be, the courage to be impatient with evil and patient with people, the courage to fight for social justice. In many instances we will be stepping out on nothing, and just hoping to land on something. But that’s the struggle. To live is to wrestle with despair, yet never allow despair to have the last word.” — Cornel West So, I wake up this morning, well, all night really, listening to this rain just coming down and coming down and incessantly coming down thinking we’ll be lucky if we don’t wash away. Then I climb into my car and settle in behind the windshield as I do all too often and tune in to NPR to get me going for the day – to be greeted by the weather report, it’s raining, obvious choice. And then I feel fortunate not to be in Minnesota Lake where they have received 7 inches overnight and Lord knows you don’t need a river to flash flood in conditions like that. So, it’s not so bad…. there’s not even water in the basement. And just when I think perhaps the news will get better I am verbally assaulted with this pukish notion of yet another *brilliant* (laced with sarcasm since the internet just doesn’t carry the tonal quality of voice) idea from the Republicans who are touting the Pledge to America that insists on extending tax cuts (tax cuts? really? during war time, not that I agree with the war, but seriously…we, the citizens, should continue to not sacrifice any of our way of life?!) and repealing the new health care law (even though I think sick care needs a major revamp into real health care and wellness preservation before I care to participate… movement is better than stagnation) and cutting government spending by $100 billion… even though proponents of the pledge admittedly have no clue about how the legislative branch would entertain that proposition. Disgusting. I don’t typically feel the necessity to vent my political frustrations as all who know me or even dabble in reading my entries have me pinned to the liberal front, but this was just more than I could take today. All these people who are pissed at the President – how the hell is he, one person who doesn’t hold the decision making magic wand, supposed to undue all the bullshit from eight years of an ignorant bumbling previous administration. At least he is starting conversations. Patience. No one has any damn patience. Reminds me to keep practicing to be less like them. Apple Cidering 2010. This year at George and Ann’s in Albert Lea, and you can see we had some good ATP donation – this is my nod to the fact that I really should be studying for my Anatomy & Physiology test instead of posting a blog… ATP: adenosine triphosphate, the body’s energy currency. Selina, Andy and Izzie (geesh, I apologize if I can’t spell anyone’s name), and Sam who was in on round 2 and not in this picture – they had phenomenal persistence as this beauty of an antique cider press is completely manually operated. Tom was clever enough to procure the parts we needed to keep the crank wheel from slipping off the drive shaft (watch your toes!) so that we could feel incredibly efficient in our 4 gallons in 3 hours production. Yes, it was delicious and completely worth all the sore-in-the-morning-forearm effort. 🙂 The harvest carries forth on the at least somewhat sunny days. This bounty is simply the result of having the day off from my regular one-day-a-week gig down at the garden near Kanawha due to overnight and morning rains. Butternuts and spaghetti squash in the back, vining and bush type sweet potatoes to the left and the flint corn as well as Tom’s bloody butch there in the right foreground. I think I have had spaghetti squash every night since. Man, it is deee-lish! This was my flint corn harvest helper. I was having an internal debate about how much corn to take and how much to leave, knowing that it is very important for me to share what grows with the animals I share that space with – the birds and deer and raccoons, and if they are wise they will save some of it for the winter. I don’t doubt their wisdom. It’s mine that is questionable. But the ears of corn-hosting grasshoppers were left, as that was an anything but subtle clue. Yes. This is a real sweet potato. It is really the size of my head. WOW! This behemoth came from the planting of vining sweet potatoes – it was blessed with unimpeded sunshine and apparently enough moisture. The bush type, they were planted (not too thoughtfully, but lovingly so) between the flint corn and tomatoes, so they kept cool and shaded and the tuber size was very indicative of that – I am glad I dug that row first. Nearly all of the vining plants had about four of these monsters apiece – you would be correct to assume that a little quality control ensued, as I was afraid that a potato this big would take like plywood, but it still had a reminiscent sweet and earthy quality. I must admit that I still prefer the more robust flavor of the smaller potatoes, but the Big Red takes the cake for shock value. Pumpkin harvest started Tuesday evening as well, even amongst the mosquitoes and lady beetles. Shelise and Ula came to play amongst the wildness of the garden and pick about the incredible spread of vines of the pumpkins I am firmly entrenched in believing that my father planted. I don’t care that I had to deal with the wrath of the squash beetles because to have my father’s hand in my garden humbles me and steal my heart and breath and I feel the big way we all remain connected – stretched far and wide, near or no longer tangibly present, carrying one another with every movement thoughtful or rushed for the simplicity that we have touched each other profoundly. We each impact and change the course of movement for one another in ways incalculable and unnecessarily so – challenging one another to constantly become better versions of ourselves. Even all the cynicism in the world and Pledges to America can’t spoil that for me. How undeniably important and big it was that I was able to share a few precious moments in my garden with plants that have a mind of their own and with this woman I love like a sister – it was pretty swell.

“I haven’t the slightest idea how to change people, but still I keep a long list of prospective candidates just in case I should ever figure it out.” — David Sedaris (Naked)


“Because of all we have discovered about a leaf…it is still a leaf. Can we relate to a leaf, on a tree, in a park, a simple leaf: green, glistening, sun-bathed or wet, or turning white because the storm is coming. Like the savage, let us look at the leaf wet or shining with sun, or white with fear of the storm, or silvery in the fog, or listless in too great heat, or falling in autumn, dying, reborn each year anew. Learn from the leaf: simplicity.” – Anaïs Nin

The pictures have no relevance today to my writing – they are simply connected to one another because I took them and fussed with them and helped them become more true. I just don’t have the attention span to read a blog at length without the lovely visual distraction, so I don’t expect anyone else to either.

It is beautiful autumn that is upon us. I went for a run along a winding path near the Winnebago River last week and the sun crept through the trees with shadows playing on the ground beneath my happy feet. A little leaf flickered and danced on the light air revealing the magnificence of the way the season has its impact on the richness of colors and olfactory perception. What an amazing moment to be present. Sublime. That was just the most appropriate description.

This picture is strictly for tickling the funny bone. From our trip to Seattle this summer and taking a stroll through the botanical garden at the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks in Ballard – someone left a fruit cake in the parking lot (seems like an obvious choice) and this squirrel was not going to miss out. It really cracks me up.

The prairie is ablaze with purple and orange and red – especially in the presence of the burning sun falling to twilight. Without a doubt my most favorite time of year and my favorite plants of the prairie are in their full glory – the grasses that reach to the sky – I walk amongst them feeling the giddiness of being a kid – how they embrace my presence even as I clumsily trounce through the field to collect rosehips (which I have since learned was a trite bit premature as one is supposed to wait until after the first frost, but what the hell, everything else is two weeks ahead in maturing and I had the spirit for it) I have once again had to reconnoiter my list of favorite grasses – last year Indian grass had taken top billing, edging past the switch and big blue… this year it is once again the switch that bestills my heart and attention and I can’t help but let my fingers play in the luxury of the stately inflorescence (the spread of the seed head) that makes the plant so easy to identify. Turkey foot, or big blue stem, has regained the second spot (always Dad’s favorite of the native warm seasons) and Indian grass rounds out the top three for me. I do love them all, and no rightful prairie would be complete without the multitudinous diversity that is the benchmark of a healthy landscape, but my heart reserves a special little nook for these grasses of September.

The perfect picture to segway into garden regale. 🙂 Ok, not exactly, but so it goes when I can’t seem to remember my camera when I go out to my little sanctuary of plants both pampered and neglected amongst weeds as tall as my head – at least the broom corn, flint corn and bloody butcher all reach higher! I have had incredible success and a bountiful harvest with my black turtle beans this year. Last year I just stuck the beans willy nilly in little square plots and this year they have the organization of a straight row to keep them obvious. They very much seem to prefer this line up organization, as they have been prolific producers and continue to blossom. I dutifully gather the pods as they are dry enough to crunch a bit between my fingers and then I put them in a box on the porch to finish airing their moisture. I also had a few calypso, tiger’s eye and cattle beans that are my garden prize. I am looking forward to the cold, crisp day that beckons a pot of chili with tomatoes preserved and these most decadent beans enlivening just to look at – can you imagine the energy they will instill upon finding the gullet? This gets me so wound up with anticipation I can’t help but beam, and am so proud to have known and tended these plants that bring such abundant gratification on so many levels.

On another note in the garden… I planted lima beans up the poles that hold the support wires for the tomatoes thinking I was pretty clever in not having to install an additional apparatus to trellis these wandering souls. Well, next year I will do something else. Suffice it to say the tomatoes have had a rough go of it given the weather and my neglect (with good reason of saving myself from certain injustices inflicted by mosquitoes), but now, even though they have recovered significantly the beans are in the full throws of a hostile takeover. This is no slight exaggeration, either. Sometimes I wonder if there are tomato plants still even under those curtains of wild bean tendrils. Maybe I will let them climb the corn next year. Pumpkins are looking fabulous and vividly orange and have completely taken over at least a quarter of the garden. Aggressive in spite of rampant pigweed and lack of diligent space clearing. Sweet potatoes will be dug this week, as well as other potatoes – hopefully I will remember my camera for that!

It is that season for bird movement, too. Driving through Gladfelter the other day I saw two elegant swans looking most at peace and sharing tranquility with the entire landscape – reminding me of Chuck and Helen. For Chuck’s 90th birthday two years ago, two swans were released in honor of these two wonderful people and the tremendous effort and love they put into conservation and life. I said hello. Other days have been full of different birds – one day was egrets, another turkeys. I have no doubt they come to share with me little pieces of being still and thoughtfulness that gets neglected in the urgency of living and figuring it all out and staying the course. I am so thankful for these winged brethren. The constantly help me to see the beauty of the journey and if the importance of seeing it as such.

“Stand Tall and Proud
Sink your roots deeply into the Earth
Reflect the light of a greater source
Think long term
Go out on a limb
Remember your place among all living beings
Embrace with joy the changing seasons
For each yields its own abundance
The Energy and Birth of Spring
The Growth and Contentment of Summer
The Wisdom to let go of leaves in the Fall
The Rest and Quiet Renewal of Winter.

– LLan Shamir, Advice from a Tree”