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.

Cupboard Gardening

Spring seems to be springing a little early this year. Or maybe I’m just feeling the lack of an all out winter. Even though the seed catalogs have been circulating since January, the weather just never got blustery enough to thumb through them. So I’m doing it now.

Because I don’t have a proper garden of my own, most of my looking really ought to be called dreaming. I read seed catalogs the way other women window shop– imagining the possibilities “if only.” Instead of scrutinizing my figure or assessing the practicality of a certain pair of shoes, I gauge the amount of sunlight I have and whether or not I really need another variety of sage. Just like window shoppers, sometimes I fall prey to the “if only” thinking and buy a few packets of seeds that I know I won’t be able to grow given my space and sunlight. These packets sit there on the counter for weeks, looking hopeful in their pretty paper packages. Achingly, I come to the decision that it is waste of the highest form to let perfectly viable seeds just sit. So I give them to a friend with a garden and return to my dreaming. Please tell me I’m not the only one that does this?

This year, however, I’ve decided to take a different approach: cupboard gardening. Trust me, it’s not as trendy as it sounds. I haven’t installed a fancy hydroponic  Window Farm or even old fashioned window boxes. You’ll laugh when you see….

See? I told you.

 

Posted 5 years, 8 months ago at 8:45 pm. 2 comments

Discoveries

Sometimes I don’t know why I even bother bringing the blanket at all on our backyard excursions. It’s been months since Baby-tidian has stayed on it. Even when I sit him (yes! sitting!) in the dead center like a little bull’s eye, within moments he is at the edge. Then it’s all splashing in leaves and sprinkling dirt like cinnamon.

I love observing these earliest connections he is making with nature. Like so many other discoveries at this age, it’s setting the stage from which he will play for  a long time. In these moments I’m never quite sure what my role is. Do I crunch some leaves myself? Or do I try to fade into them? Perhaps nurture my own attachment to the leaves and dirt? Today as I tried fading into his background, I was summoned back by his excited calls of “ahoo” and vigorous tongue thrusting, which could only mean one thing: a discovery. The daffodil bulbs we planted in the fall have started pushing their way through the earth.

 We always return together to the quilt, dirty knees and all. Sometimes after such adventures he is content to lay back with me and watch the leaves move. Not often though. Today we brought out a stack of stories, some to read and others to taste. Oh yes, we love our books. I only hope that he continues to show such fondness for them, even after all his teeth are in.

What’s strange is that this whole escapade took less than 45 minutes from gathering the quilt and books to changing into clean kneed clothes. I’ve had to adjust my expectations of long idyllic afternoons spent quilt-side. Even more, I’ve had to learn to acknowledge the worth of these outings. Just because the time is measured in minutes rather than afternoons doesn’t mean the time is hollow. Even just moments outside can be enough to infuse much needed grounding and balance into my day. A quick nibble of fresh air nourishes just as much as an afternoon’s feast.

So while Baby-tidian discovers the sweet smell of dirt and the glorious crinkle of dry leaves, I am discovering that length of time has little bearing on the sweetness of these moments. The leaves crinkle just as well.

 

Posted 5 years, 10 months ago at 11:09 am. 2 comments

:: a beautiful day in the neighborhood ::

Baby-tidian and I encountered this scene on our morning walk. The draw was not roadkill as I had expected, but a busted open tray of raw ground beef.

Aside from making me desperately want to invest in a telephoto lens, moments like this also serve to remind me of my place. I am not all there is. I am not the only one who eats. I am not the be-all-end-all of creation. As startling as it is to come across it while surrounded by sidewalks, front doors, and mailboxes, the truth still stands that all death breeds life.

Posted 5 years, 11 months ago at 2:58 pm. Add a comment

:: 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?

Walks this time of year are a study in contrasts. The streets are littered with still bright leaves while the skies are often murky. While most trees have long since let go of their leaves, a few clutch at them like a child who refuses to take off her tiara at bedtime. They are beautiful in their stubbornness.

The allure of decoration is widely heeded though.  Everyone from the neighbors down the street to the cacti are getting their jolly on.

Posted 5 years, 11 months ago at 7:47 pm. Add a comment

Still Life with Autumn

Living in the south, I  hibernate in the summer. The windows are shut tight. My limbs gets sluggish from being splayed in front of a fan for five months. Even the walls sweat here. My spirit wallows too, unable to rouse from its sticky sleep. Then summer snaps– sometimes all at once like a rubber band, and other times like a child clumsily learning to snap by rubbing his fingers together. Autumn gusts in. When the stagnant air becomes wind, I peel back the windows, inhale deeply, and begin life again. The fact that southern autumns persist well past Thanksgiving when much of the rest of the country is firmly in winter, I consider a restitution for the summer.

Fall seems to weak a word to contain this transformation. Although “fall” lends itself to some clever bulletin boards in classrooms and libraries, it only includes one aspect of this most delightful of seasons. And really, autumn is so much more than the falling leaves.

It is the smell of wood smoke unfurling across the evening air like a banner proclaiming allegiance to a new ruler. As the mosquitoes have slowly died off, we’ve been spending more evenings by the chimenea, watching the flames as if they were a drama.

Autumn is watching lettuces grow from nuggets the size of quarters to carpeting whole fields in the space of a fortnight.  I think autumn is secretly the farmer’s favorite. Even though there is still plenty to do, the pace is less dire. We find ourselves being able to stand back and admire the beauty of the farm, if only for a moment. Set against a background of velvety black earth is the iridescent wave of carrot tops, the sea of wine dark Rouge d’hiver lettuce, the dusty green crest of collards, and the dusky purple billow of Red Russian kale.

Autumn is pulling a carrot from the ground that you are positive is the archetype for all carrots. The mother carrot. The ideal of which all other carrots are just shadows. And then you take a step farther, pull out another carrot, and there it is again! The epitome of all carrots. And very soon you have a whole handful of orange perfection.

Autumn is letting your feet luxuriate in last warm days before slippers, socks, and blankets come rolling in like a northern front. I refuse to bundle up for the first few weeks of cold weather, relishing the new sensation of cold. Gradually though, all the blankets that’ve loitered around all summer find their usefulness again. The scarves are unpacked and hung by the door. Knowing the location of one’s slippers becomes a condition of getting out of bed.

Autumn is having finally said goodbye to the bright summer vegetables. It is making room on my plate for the deep green of fall. My psyche seems to be tapping into some deep ancestral craving for fresh green before winter sets in. Kale bulks up everything from soups to garlicky white beans to scrambled eggs.  Bok choy is a mild mannered partner for sassy curries. Collards sing back up to all manner of main dishes. My sink is continually full of chopped greens of some shade or other.

Autumn is relishing the warmth of the oven as you pass rather than going out of your way to avoid it. I’ve started making my own bread again, something I gladly pay someone else to to do in the summer. We’ve even fired up the oven for such unnecessary things as chocolate chip cookies. (Yes, organic carrots next to chocolate chip cookies is how we roll.)

Autumn is waking up to a find tendrils of frost on the leaves under you feet. No matter how strongly the news predicts a frost, it always surprises me to walk out with my morning basket of laundry and find that I can see my breath.

Autumn is that nap where you fall asleep wishing you had a blanket and wind up dreaming about snow tombs and giant cats. You guys get those too, right? This might be the first autumn that I’ve been both free to take afternoon naps and able to decide where I take them. Baby-tidian and I have taken our share of al fresco naps, whether in our yard in on the I Spy quilt or at the farm in hammocks.

 

If summer is wicker and peaches and winter is cable knit and hot chocolate, then autumn is copper and pears. Kettles start to whistle and the musk of apples and pears permeates our house. Each year we buy more apples than the last. This year we are up to three bushels, but that still doesn’t seem to be enough for preserved applesauce, juice and cider experiments, a stash of dried apples, and wanton eating out of hand. So perhaps next year it will be up to four.

Autumn is never long enough.  Like a school kid dreaming of summer vacation I spend the whole rest of the year pinning for it. But, on this second day of December,  perhaps it is time to let it go. There are good things ahead.

Posted 5 years, 11 months ago at 4:16 pm. 4 comments

Not Quite Martha Stewert…

Now introducing the contestants for this seasons Survivor: Indoor Garden Edition. They face many challenges– from benign negligence on my part to a cat looking for a swanky litter box.

Will they be able to overcome such obstacles? Will Chocolate Mint try to take over the group? What will the Garlic Chives do when they find out they are twins? Is sickly Rosemary up to the challenge?  Who will “cross pollinate” with who?

Only time will tell.

Posted 6 years ago at 8:43 pm. 1 comment

Clean Sheets

After endless rain
Wind fills clean sheets on the line
My heart billows full

Posted 6 years, 1 month ago at 2:45 pm. Add a comment

A Time for Everything

There is a time for everything.

A time for persevering

and a time for idleness.

A time for cool baths

and  a time for warm towels.

A time for naps

and a time for… er… more naps.

A time for sun

and a time for shade.

There is a time for fire

and a time for ice.

A season  for every purpose under heaven.

Even if that season is endless summer.

Posted 6 years, 2 months ago at 10:38 pm. Add a comment

Sangria in the Garden

As I’ve previously waxed lyrical about, sangria is my favorite alcoholic beverage for purely sentimental reasons. Part of my attraction to it, I think, is that it’s communal. Sangria has a lot more in common with punch than it does with the solitary bottle of beer or made-to-order cocktail. Sangria is meant to be shared.

As the intense heat of summer fades and the outdoors becomes livable again, the garden seems a perfect place to linger over a pitcher of sangria. There is something… celebratory about it, but without ostentation. Perhaps it’s the bright fruit floating in a “wine dark sea.”

Sangria is also the perfect beverage for late summer as it can use up all the flotsam and jetsam of fruit hanging about. You know, that peach over there on the counter that’s bruised in a few places. That apple in the fridge that isn’t as crisp as it used to be. Those berries that got a little squished on the way home.

What follows is my basic outline for making sangria. I adjust the proportions of cranberry juice and wine based on who I’m making it for. The exact amount and type of fruit varies each time I make it. I’ve yet to use a fruit that just didn’t “fit.” Peaches, apples, berries, pineapple, orange segments– all of these make excellent sangria.

Basic Sangria

1 quart of unsweetened cranberry juice
1 bottle of your favorite red wine
juice from 1 lemon (opt)
juice from 1 orange (opt)
1-2 cups of assorted fruit

Mix together the cranberry juice, wine, lemon, and orange juice in a large pitcher. Cut the fruit into bit sized pieces and add to pitcher. Allow to steep and chill in the fridge for at least 3 hours. Gather together your favorite people and enjoy. Don’t be embarrassed to pick out the wine soaked fruit at the bottom of the glass– it’s the best part!

Posted 6 years, 2 months ago at 10:23 pm. 1 comment

Summer Pleasures

As summer slugs into August and settles it’s sultry cloak over our shoulders, it’s easy to raise a stink (in more than one way). Late summer seems to be the hardest to endure. Gone is the novelty of shorts and bare feet. Summery foods have even begun to loose their luster as you remember the comforts of the long simmering soups of winter.

So it is at this time that it is especially beneficial to remember the pleasures of summer. To repeat as a mantra all the things that seemed so exotic in January. Of eating a tomato bigger than your fist over the kitchen sink while the juice dribbles down your wrists. Of thunderstorms that catch you by surprise, leaving you no time to seek shelter before it hits you with the force of sopping sheets. Of the sizzle of ice cubes dropped into iced tea. Of wading into a thick pool of honeysuckle scent. Of sharing frosty beers on the front porch swing with the same people you’ve shared work and sweat with all day long.

What are some of your favorite summer pleasures?

Posted 6 years, 3 months ago at 11:20 am. 2 comments