Why is it that the term alfresco seems to be relegated only to dining? I can think of many activities that would be enhanced by the fresh air- napping, reading, coffee drinking, hand holding. So often I forget the pleasures of being outside and instead wrap my house around me like a burqa. Posts in this category are all about my attempts to live alfresco. You’ll find posts about subjects like gardening, animals, and outdoorsy places.

pear picking

The Winter Pear
by William Allingham

Is always Age severe?
Is never Youth austere?
Spring-fruits are sour to eat;
Autumn’s the mellow time.
Nay, very late in the year.
Short day and frosty rime.
Thought, like a winter pear,
Stone-cold in summer’s prime,
May turn from harsh to sweet.

Posted 11 years, 3 months ago at 11:24 am. Add a comment

borrowed bounty

It’s been over a year since I officially threw in the plow on vocational farming. One of the things I miss the most is the weekly harvest days before market. We carted, pulled, and dragged vegetables into the barn. They sat in piles. Stacks. Sometimes even pyramids. All waiting to be washed hydro-cooled. In a matter of hours, each zucchini, each carrot, each collard would be inspected, bundled, and placed in cold storage. At the end of the day, sometimes I would have to catch my breath at the sheer number of vegetables my hands had touched that day.

Sometimes it was easy to become desensitized to the volume of produce. During the height of summer, five pounds of basil would roll around our counters like change in your pocket. Even making a triple batch of pesto would hardly make a dent in the supply. And then another tidal wave of the peppery green leaves would break the next day.

While my partial-sun window boxes have kept in a a mostly steady supply of mixed herbs, my eyes have itched for the cartloads of butternut squash and coolers full of greens. I’ve had to borrow my bounty this year from friends and family.

I’ve clipped and hung herbs to dry, sorted jars of heirloom bean varieties, forked elderberries off their stems, snipped oatstraw into pieces, pulled hops flowers off their vines till my hands were stained and smelled of ginger and garlic, rubbed nettle leaves off their stems till my hands ached and itched, and shuffled through the yard bent double gathering black walnuts. Though I’ve yet to use a cart this season, the harvest has been brought in using baskets, five gallon buckets, baking trays, coat pockets, window screens, bowls, and impromptu shirt “baskets.”

The harvest is abundant indeed.

Posted 11 years, 6 months ago at 5:13 pm. Add a comment

Milestones: the first splinter

It happened somewhere between the slide and the changing table. That’s all I know. The little trooper didn’t even cry when it happened.

The tweezers were a no-go. He was too interested in the new “toy” to let me use them effectively at all.

Any tips on how to get a splinter out of a toddler’s hand? Or do you just leave it there and hope for the best?

Posted 11 years, 7 months ago at 8:42 pm. Add a comment

{this moment}

{this moment} – A Friday ritual from Soule Mama. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

If you’re inspired to do the same, leave a link to your ‘moment’ in the comments for all to find and see.

Posted 11 years, 7 months ago at 9:07 am. 3 comments

a beautiful day in the neighborhood

It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood,
A beautiful day for a neighbor,
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?

It’s a neighborly day in this beautywood,
A neighborly day for a beauty,
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?

So let’s make the most of this beautiful day,
Since we’re together, we might as well say,
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?
Won’t you be my neighbor?

This used bookstore sits on a corner a couple blocks from our apartment. The first time we drove past it (while apartment hunting), I thought that surely the windows were just a clever display of controlled chaos designed to lure people into the shop. When I rounded said corner a month later (oh! that’s where that shop is! who knew it was so close by!), I was fully expecting to find well ordered shelves. I was delightfully wrong. The inside is exactly like the outside: cluttered, musty, and winsome. Pyramids of books  lurch into the shoulder width aisles.

Further down the block, I had to stop and admire the artful arrangement of smooth river rocks, broken concrete, and knobbly tree trunks. Something about it makes me think of an urban fairy tale.

“This is a no kill parking spot. Help stop dogs dying in hot cars. Thanks.” Thanks to the creative medium of this public service announcement, I guarantee you I’ll be watching for dogs in parked cars. I wonder what other causes could benefit from such creativity?

Finally, someone should write a children’s book for this poor lost bunny.

What interesting things have you noticed in your neighborhood recently?

Posted 11 years, 8 months ago at 6:28 pm. Add a comment

an encouraging use of space

While the quality of the picture is anything but encouraging, this use of space certainly gives me cause for hope. Someone refused to let their lack of outdoor space deter them from having a garden. It’s encouraging because it proves there are people out there who are thinking creatively and willing to put in some work (even if unconventional) to grow a bit of their own food.

What things have you seen recently that have been encouraging?

Posted 11 years, 8 months ago at 9:08 pm. Add a comment

urban forage notes: plantain and dandelion

This past Sunday I attended my second forage with herbalist, permaculturalist, and community builder Nance Klehm. While we discussed more than two dozen plants, I wanted to share two of the most useful and easiest to identify: plantain and dandelion. I’ll share a few more as the weeks go on, that is if my notes don’t get buried amidst wrinkling laundry, evolving to-do lists, and tottering wooden blocks.

  1. Plantain
    You probably have this growing in your yard or at least on the sidewalk down the street. Go check… seriously. Go find it and grab a leaf. Then come back and do an experiment with me.Didja find one? Now, put it in your mouth and chew it up, but don’t swallow it. Pretend you’re chewing gum. When you’re sure no one’s looking, spit the whole mess out onto your inner arm. And leave it there. We’ll come back to it in a few minutes.Meanwhile, I want to  talk about the secret power the plantain seeds possess. Let’s say you your friend had overinduldged a bit and was now having trouble with ….er…. elimination. If you wanted to help “your friend,” you could go out to your yard and pick a few of the seed pod stems. Choose ones that are brown and dry. Rub the pods between your palms to release the seeds- you might want to do this over a table in order to catch all the seeds. Once you’ve collected about a tablespoon of seeds, put them in a clean quart jar and fill the jar up with cold water. Let it sit overnight or 6-8 hours. The water will thicken slightly. The next morning, you can either drink the water straight, mix it with juice, or use it to make your oatmeal. The seeds release a gentle laxative into the water that’s safe for children and even pets. This simple, gentle, and effective medicine will enable “your friend” to get back to … regular life.Bring your attention back to the wad of plantain leaf on your arm. Do you feel anything? Pick it up and move it a couple inches.  As the compounds in the leaf mix with your saliva, it turns ice cold. You can use this plant to draw out the pain from bites, stings, and burns. This means it relieves the fire ant bites you southerners are cursed with every summer. Perhaps my people at City Roots can start a new farm fashion of plantain “tattoos” on their arms and legs? This also works with poisin ivy and poisin oak rashes. If you have just a small rash, you can use the same “chew and spit” method as for bites. However, if you need a larger area of your body covered, you will want to pick a bowlful of leaves and whiz them up in a blender with some water to make a paste. You can add some oatmeal for extra relief. Spread it over your rash like you would an over-the-counter cream. You can do this as many times a day as needed.*Do be aware of your body while doing this. As I said, this plant turns ice cold, so covering large portions of your body in it could give you the chills. Follow your body’s lead and rinse it off when it’s had enough.*
  2. Dandelion
    I’ve personally never shared the lawn owner’s hatred of dandelions. When I walked home from work, I always loved discovering their sunny flowers amidst a dessert of concrete. And I must admit that I still feel a magical twinge when I find a completely rotund puffy flower and blow all the seeds into the air.So it is with smirking delight that I’ve learned of the dandelion’s myriad uses.Every part of this plant is useful in some way- from the yellow bloom all the way down to the long taproot. The crunchier ones among us are probably familiar with the pleasant bitterness the leaves add to “mixed green” salad bags. If you think they’re delicious in your bagged salad, imagine how much better they’d taste with a heaping side of self accomplishment if you foraged them yourself. In addition to tasty-ness, the leaves also are high in minerals like calcium and magnesium, which are minerals most people are deficient in.  Not only that, but they are a diuretic; they will help you pee more and thus flush toxins out of your body. However, unlike plain water, dandelions replace the potassium that’s often lost when you go a lot. Therefore a dandelion salad is a great hangover food.The roots can be chopped, roasted, and brewed as a tea. Though roasting is optional, I highly suggest doing so as it not only increases flavor, but fills your kitchen with an aroma that’s similar to what would happen if you brewed a pot of strong coffee as you pulled sugar cookies out of the oven. The tea tastes like the earth- deep and loamy with a bitterness reminiscent of a good cup of coffee. While it might sound off putting, everyone I’ve seen try it takes a small sip and then several big gulps. Even Babytidian likes it. The roots have similar properties to the leaves- high mineral content, diuretic, ect. It’s also a blood stimulant, which means it’s good to drink anytime you’ve lost a lot of blood such as post surgery, childbirth, or after your period. Like the leaves, it’s a good drink for Monday morning ailments after a weekend of overindulgence.The yellow blossoms are also useful. While you can make great flower chains out of them to decorate your tree house, they also have slightly more adult uses. During a big bloom (normally in the spring), you can gather 300-400 of the blossoms and make dandelion wine or mead. If none of the other dandelion uses have convinced you to overcome your hatred of these weeds, one sip of this elixir will. Promise

And the poofy white seed heads? What’re they good for?  Why, for making more dandelions of course!

Posted 11 years, 8 months ago at 7:57 pm. Add a comment

Gerund Pudding

  • Convincing myself that “shucking” is onomatopoetic
  • Embracing summer rather than retreating from her
  • Admitting that his baby feet are not so baby anymore
  • Smiling at my little man’s inventiveness concerning games- can you guess his favorite?
  • Discovering the savory side of berries
  • Pedaling ever more confidently all over the city
  • Puzzling over  how one meets people in a new city without a bank of classmates or coworkers
  • Appreciating how old friends in a new place can make the new place feel more comfortable
  • Ironing out my laundry routine so that I’m not monopolizing the coin op machines but also have diapers always at the ready
  • Expanding my carnivorous horizons through Mint Creek Farm’s meat CSA. (Lamb spare ribs, where have you been all my life?)
  • Witnessing a paradigm shift in my thinking about nature after realizing that animals observe us just as much as (or more than) we observe them
  • Finding excuses to put herbs from my window boxes into anything
  • Growing a new kombucha scoby
  • Flavoring that kombucha with the essence of summer- blueberries, tarragon, peaches, pineapple sage, and melon, and…
  • Pointing out every time I see a front yard/ roof top/ community garden that’s thriving

Posted 11 years, 8 months ago at 8:01 pm. 1 comment

The prince of spring

To beat the midafternoon blues, Babytidian and I have been tossing the I Spy quilt in the yard and settling where ever it lands. Well, I settle at least. Babytidian never seems to quite settle anywhere anymore these days. He’s happiest when exploring, whether that’s in front of the bathroom cabinets, in the compost bucket, or behind the couch. Being a bit like a baby Cortés, however, he’s mostly conquered all the inside frontiers (except the compost bucket, that’s still gleefully undiscovered territory). And I suspect he gets bored of the stillness of the house. Outside, on the other hand, is always moving. Birds swoop and sway on branches. Old leaves continue to float down while new ones unfurl. And there are always new flowers to see and grab.

On our most recent expedition, we discovered that the clover was blooming. Almost without thinking about it, I began making a clover chain. It was as if something deep in my brain registered all the stimuli, and that was the only acceptable response. Like how you automatically reach out to pet a cat when it brushes against your legs. Or how you lift a flower to you nose even if you know it doesn’t have a scent. It’s just what you do. So, when seated in a blooming clover patch, you make clover chains. In this particular patch, there were just enough flowers to fashion a baby head sized crown. When Babytidian trundled back by, I set the crown on his head. To my very great surprise, my hat-hating baby left it there and continued on his quest to touch the highest heights. Though his regal glory did become a bit lopsided, it remained on his head for a good thirty minutes, not even faltering during a fierce tickle battle with Daddy. I found the crown later that night, finally discarded on the kitchen floor.

Posted 12 years ago at 9:37 am. Add a comment

Winter? Your line is….

I finally gave up waiting for winter about a month ago. Having been spoiled by the past two snowy winters and thus forgotten the true meaning of a southern winter, I almost overlooked it. That’s how winters are here: ignorable. Like a school girl with stage fright, she barely makes it out of the shadows to rush through her lines before running off stage left. But looking through my pictures, I see her there, in the background.

We tugged the sleeves of our sweaters down and pulled our hoods up.
Only the husks of flowers remained.
We cuddled steaming mugs close to our hearts.
Blooming citrus trees made the greenhouse air thick and sweet as syrup.
Christmas cookies were made and eaten.
Frost left her red lip prints on the arugula field.
Scarves dangled from our necks.
Bare branches laced across the sky.
Lost mittens grew soggy in the cold rain.
A recipe that used the oven was an advantage, not a liability.
Pots were stacked empty against the greenhouse.
Blankets littered every comfy surface.

So perhaps it is not so much that winter forgot her lines as I forgot to listen to them.

Posted 12 years ago at 7:41 pm. Add a comment