Sunday, August 29, 2010

i feel the love of autumn in the air

Yes, it's still August ( just a few more days), but when you have a garden- you know before everyone else- that autumn is creeping nearby.

My first indication is the basil. I grow lots of it, many varieties. I cultivate basil because of it's intoxicating scent and the wonderful flavors. A lot of people, who aren't growers, really hate the scent of basil, and comment on that dislike when they brush up against it.

It's like cilantro, you either really love it or really hate it.

I'm not commenting about the tiny little bundles you get at your local supermarket chain, or the stuff in a glass jar that you get off the store shelf. I'm talking about the really green, leaves as large as your hand, spilling out all over the place, bees in an intoxicated state circling it's flowers- garden basil.

If you've never grown it, you must try at least once in your lifetime.
It's beautiful to behold, comes in various shades of green, yellow, purple, and has endless uses in the kitchen. Vinegars, oils, pestos, stuffings, salads, sorbets, italian food, lovely desserts.
The basil in my garden is still bright green and flourishing. I use so much of it that it doesn't really have the time to flower. (only the stray stalk hiding under the others.)

The signs that autumn is coming lies in the basil stalks. The once soft and juicy stems are becoming woody on bottom, and the leaves are not as fat and round as they were in the spring and early summer monthes.

Another cue to autumn is the lemon balm. Balm leaves are smaller now, and want to dry up so much faster. In spring, it has out- of- the box color, and big fat leaves. Lemon Balm has a great love affair with spring!
It is truly a heavenly site in spring, one of the first to break out of the winter ground. The bees around it look like they've been drinking wine! (they get that glazed-over look as they dip and sway!)

Slowly, slowly we are cutting back and harvesting much. The oregano is flowering, getting long and leggy. It's my next harvest.

The rooms in the house are filled with drying racks. Baskets are stacked everywhere with leaves in single layers. Bundles are hanging in any spare space. My husband keeps running into them, the apartment is so tiny!
He doesn't complain anymore about the large pantry I want in the new house, or my proposed herb shop with long tables! He knows that the herb shop is the only way he will get to walk around the house without getting a face full of dried herbs.

Yep, summer is almost over, I can feel it.
Louisiana has long, long hot days until November. Our growing season is forever, but I know that the change is here.

As I put my summer garden to bed, one plant at a time, I say prayers thanking God for the wonderful season I've had. The calm hush while standing in the picked over rows- awes me into silence. It happens every year, this quiet calm.
The ground that is revealed looks very naked and surprised to be open to the sky.
Standing in the sparse rows, stalks lying randomly at my feet, I am peaceful and happy that I was able to share their summer lives.
The winter that's coming will bring the quiet, solitary business of making herbal teas, salves, cough syrups, herbal jellies, tinctures, powders and lots of seasonings. I love making these products. When I stand in the kitchen making them, I hear the inner voices of all herbal healers that have come before me. They are with me in the room as I stir, mix, grind seeds and roots into powder. It is a serene time for me, a reflective quiet.

In my garden, I feel as though I am putting beloved children to bed for a long winter rest.

Monday, August 9, 2010

a bird bath and two chairs...

My husband had a day off today. (alas, I was working)
He got out the wagon and brought over these items to our newly mowed land:
the beautiful, well worn stone bird bath, his old riding lawn mower, our white mailbox (still on its aged wooden post) a much used cast iron barbeque pit, the purple martin guords and our favorite adirondack chairs. He hid them gleefully at the end of our small woods.
This simple, small gesture brought me to tears. I have not thought, or allowed myself to think, about these precious things that we took for granted 2 years ago. I have not seen any of our "outside" things since we moved into town.
He called at lunch and left a message on my phone. The message was direct and listed off the items he had lovingly loaded up and brought out to the new farm.

He did this for me. I know he did.

After work, I was so overwhelmed with emotion that I stopped at a little Lebanese grocery store and bought a bottle of champagne, two glasses and a little bowl of hummus.
I cried all the way out there, the whole 12 miles out of town.
We toasted ( I toasted him for being such a good man) and ate hummus in the middle of a field, surrounded by our old things.

Life is about simple, loving gestures. He made this gesture.
It brought me back to him with tears and an appreciation for the word
I feel so hopeful right now.
I can almost see the farmhouse........I think it's butter yellow with little white shutters. There's a field of sunflowers lining the road.
Can you see it?

Saturday, August 7, 2010

too early for this

Woke up this morning earlier than I wanted to.

I have this grand long-standing love affair with Saturdays because it's the only day of the week that I feel is totally mine. I don't like to share it, don't like to compromise with anyone for it, I just want to be left alone on this one day of the week.
It's the one day that I can be anonymous.

My husband was getting ready to leave for work (I don't think the sun was up yet) and making a lot of racket. I think it was for my benefit. I think he wanted to tell me something.
I stumbled into the kitchen/living room where he was clumping around and he turned and said," Oh, hi, you awake?"
I floated/sleep-walked toward the coffee pot and waited to hear what he wanted me to know.

"I don't want to go to work today", he said, " I just want to be here with you, drinking this pot of coffee, watching the birds fight over the seed I just threw out, and listen to your fingers tapping on the computer."
(I always have a Saturday session on my computer while he watches the weather channel.)
This statement made me a bit sad, mostly for him, and stirred me to explain about us and how our lives have changed so drastically in the last two years.
He turned then and walked out to go to work. He went because that is the responsible thing to do and because we have to pay for the NEW HOUSE. (I have come to hate those two words.) We both have to pay for it. We work all the time now, him twelve to fourteen hours, me at least ten to eleven hours.

When we had our farm, we often had matching schedules. Saturdays usually found us up very early because we didn't want to miss one hour of our free day together.
Getting up first, he would make coffee, then I would saunter out and pour us a couple of cups. We would get semi-dressed and stroll out to our garden.
We spent hours in there, watching the sun rise, listening to our birds fight over sunflower seeds, watching the wild rabbits sneak over to share the bird's breakfast. We would just enjoy each others company without having to say a word.
The big live oak tree we used to sit under was perfect, very old, large grey branches hanging to the ground, a perfect place to be alone with the wildlife around us.
After a few hours I would walk along the rows of our garden, pulling weeds, picking produce, shaking out seeds for next years planting. My husband would make another pot of coffee, and the morning would continue slowly and beautifically.

We had great conversations about our future. never follows your grand plans.

We had to sell the farmhouse and leave.
It broke my heart. I mourned the loss of our life and felt it would never be peaceful again.

We thought we would have a new house in 6 months.
Wow, were we wrong.

Everything that had the potential to go wrong, did. It all went wrong in a huge way.
We moved into this little upstairs apartment (it's 600 square feet) and we have been here for 2 years. It has been miserable. We don't know when the sun comes up and when the moon comes out. One little patch of grass between sidewalks. We have concrete everywhere and... we have..... NEIGHBORS. On both sides. Loud, noisy neighbors.

This is whining in the worst way, I know that. I also know that some people have no jobs, no homes and are sick and dying. I have no reason to whine. I wish I wouldn't. Sometimes whining is the only way I can get my anger out.

All of my dishes, cookbooks,and familiar things are in storage. I miss them. All my pretty teapots, rose printed tablecloths ,linen napkins and vintage cookbooks are being held hostage along with my red kitchen aid mixer. My life can be summed up in about 200 boxes, in 2 storage units that I visit periodically. (My husband visits his riding lawn mower and his hay wagon.)

Hopefully, we will begin building in 6 weeks. The bank that is thinking about financing our house is still busy raping our private life. (raping is the only word I can think of, it feels like such a violation.) We are a good risk, but they have to turn over every minute of our past. It doesn't feel good.

I just want them all to leave me alone. Why does it have to be such a violation of your private life to build a house? I feel like a pregnant women with an alien loan officer inside of me.

I believe that soon I will be estatically happy and picking out flooring and colors for the walls. I believe this will happen.

The pond is dug and filled with water, the road is cloaked with a financially obscene amount of rocks and the blueprints have been paid for.

I'm dreaming about the trees I want to plant, where I want to have coffee on Saturday mornings with my husband, and where my new herb farm will be planted. It feels right, I am happy that things are happening in the direction we want, but the sad statement by my husband this morning made me long for the old life we had.

I hope that he and I will be in our garden again soon. I hope to make new bunny friends and plant more herbs than we ever had before.

I really just want to stop walking up these twelve concrete steps everyday!
My knees are killing me.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

enchiladas a la bella swan

My poor husband has been working outside in 105 degree weather all week.
He drives trucks for an oil company. He stands on rock and concrete for 10 to 12 hours a day. Six days a week.
Forget what u see on the weather channel....
in Louisiana.... it has been over 100 degrees for the last two weeks. The thermometer on my car hood said 105 at lunch. ONE HUNDRED AND FIVE.
It has been a very stressful week at work, heat makes people antsy and irritable.
I thought my husband deserved a little more than a cold salad or a ham sandwich.
Yesterday afternoon, I remembered that in the one of the Twilight books Bella Swan made chicken enchiladas for her father. I typed in "Bella Swans Chicken Enchiladas" on the internet and sure enough, the recipe popped up. I thought this would make him happy. I called him and requested some dark Dos Equis to go with our supper.
I loved this recipe, the enchilada sauce was made from scratch and the filling was homemade without any fast and easy tips to hurry it up.
Enchiladas should be homemade, slow, simmering a long time.
Not only did I want to cook something good for him, but I wanted to prepare something with lots of steps and lots of chopping.
Sometimes you just want to chop things, ya know?
An intense week at work, too much stress, you just want to chop things.
So...... I chopped green peppers, onions, cilantro.
HAH! Then I got to shred chicken..with two very, very sharp knives.
Ah...the chopping gave me something to do that required concentration, (and with sharp objects too!) it re-directed my brain.
I also got to grate cheese with my nifty and very sharp microplane.
Okay,.. its been a rough week.
I didn't cut myself once.
He loved the enchiladas and I loved the beer.