Thursday, August 9, 2018

Beauty As Well As Bread - Inspiration Thursday

"Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike." 
         - John Muir
All photos from Wind Cave National Park: Backpacking on the Centennial Trail, crepuscular rays behind a cloud, boxwork formations on the ceiling of Wind Cave, a panorama from the Lookout Point Trail, setting up "home" for the night in the backcountry.
I love John Muir.  I only know him through his words and legacy, but, oh, thank heavens for John Muir.  And National Parks and other preserved places to recharge my spirit with nature's good vibes.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

34 in 34 for my 34th

Originally my plan was to send out 30 bits of mail in 30 days.  That was how the idea fell into my mind first formed.
Then, as I was fixing to meet that goal, I had a flash:
Why stop there?  Why not make it 34 cards in 34 days in acknowledgement of my 34th year on the earth?  That was more special.  More unique.
There are a handful of people I communicate with regularly by mail--by postcard most often.  Only one really writes back, but that isn't the point.  Or not the main point at least.
I just love sending letters, cards, postcards.  I like the feeling it gives me.  The connection.  It anchors me to my people--my friends and family, near and far.  I find the process of writing them--deciding which card, who will get it, what tidbits from life I should include in the text, thinking about them receiving my love and thoughts in their mailbox days later--pleasurable.  It is a satisfying ritual to me.
This year I've endeavored to send out a note to my relatives and close friends on their birthdays.  I've not always gotten it there on time...and I totally dropped the ball on a couple...but over all I've been happy with the postal project.  I'm blessed with family ties and I'd like to help strengthen those bonds in the times between family reunions and weddings and such.
I thought that with the 34 in 34 I'd be encouraged to diversify the range of my correspondence even further.  And it did.  In 34 days I mailed 25 different people-- 13 friends, 12 relations.
Hannah still got the most postcards from me this month.  She always does though.  She's the one who writes back and we have a special layer of old-school friendship because we are penpals, too.  I really value that slow communication in this go-go-go world.  It's different.
Mission: Send Lots of People My Love By Post was a huge success.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Do These Eye Spots Make My Head Look Big?!

I'm perpetually honing my naturalist skills.  There is so much to learn (to appreciate, admire, understand, marvel at) about the natural world!  The more I study the more I discover I've barely scratched the surface.  Birds we've got pretty well on lock down visually, but would like to be better at birding by ear.  And then there are flowers and trees and bushes and mammals and reptiles and fungus and berries and fish and....

Since I spent most of my life recoiling in horror from things of the creepy, crawly nature, this is an area in which I am not well versed.   So, I was pleased to discover this search engine which helped me speedily narrow down the possible suspects when I happened upon this rather adorably menacing caterpillar strolling down the sidewalk.

I popped in that it was Brown, Banded, and had No Hair....and then I just had to compare between six different species (three of which were different Tiger Swallowtails) from their database of almost 177 species.  Further research and examination of range maps leads me to conclude it is the Canadian Tiger Swallowtail.
I couldn't help but be impressed by the dramatic head exaggeration that the larvae uses for self-preservation.  I mean, just look at her with those large, surly yellow "eyes" and the black and yellow neck band to accentuate "head" size.  When, in fact, the whole head is actually the very small bit at the front, separated by the slim gold band.  ...the gold band which doubles as an excellently oversize looking "mouth."

Of course, humans aren't too far off track when it come to this illusory costumage  thing. I can see a real similarity to our use of eye shadow, mascara, Spanx, and padded bras.  For different reasons, of course, but still...the similarity is there.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Garden Eats

We are having another swell fruit year--currants, raspberries, strawberries especially.   The raspberries and strawberries are still going, too! 
We have both golden and red raspberries and it is especially fun to share them with people who've never seen anything but a red raspberry.  My niece, Keleigh, was one of our most recent side-by-side taste testers.  She preferred the golden raspberries as they were a little less tart than their red counterparts.  That seems a pretty common assessment.  I think they taste basically the same, but....I am really, really, really not picky when it comes to berries.  Or fruit, basically.
When the whole core slides out when pulling the top from a strawberry that is a very, very good sign.  A melt in your mouth sweet burst explosion good sign.
During the berry glut I made some dank fudge with strawberries, based on this recipe with my sister and god-sister.  It was a pretty dang incredible treat.
Chocolately fruity sweet deliciousness.
The Robins actually gave us a run for our money on the currants this year.  I was racing to beat the birds to those brilliantly scarlet berries.  Matt was ready to just give up and let the birds have 'em.  ...which surprised me, given his firm stance about saving the lettuce from the rabbits.  I was fast and determined though and so we shall have currant jelly again this year.  They makes for some gorgeous jam.
The apples are reddening up, though are a bit bruised from last week's hailstorm.  The grape vines--planted last year--are sprawling their way down the fence.
Haralson Apples
We made some of that utterly fabtabulous lemon pasta for dinner this week.  Made all the more spectacular with parsley and basil snipped in the garden just moments before they were added to the dish and morel mushrooms, gifted us from a friend earlier this year.
Steamed cauliflower, sauteed morels, toasted almond slices, basil, parsley, lemon pasta.....mmmmmmmmmmmm.....
This week we picked the first cayenne pepper of the season. A good thing, too, because I actually had to buy hot sauce this spring.  My homemade stock ran dry far too early!  It has been more years than I remember since this happened.
Jalapenos are ready, too!
We also dug the first sweet, tender carrot this week.  Fresh garden carrots truly are a vegetable that are dramatically unmatched to the store bought, long-dug alternate.  They are a whole different flavor experience.  We'd been eating baby carrots leftover from an event...and they're like crunchy water by comparison.  There is so much taste going on in a fresh carrot.  It astonishes me every year.
Matt and my nephews (visiting from Washington) picking raspberries and checking out the garden.
The garlic is curing in the fresh air.  There are some mighty satisfactory heads this year.  Much of this will be replanted to produce next year's crop, but (boy, oh, boy!) does my mouth water already about that fresh garlic!
We enjoyed our annual garlic scape harvest, too.
Spaghetti and meatballs with garlic scapes.
Matt's greenhouse project is steadily taking shape this summer.  I can't wait to see it all finished.  I think it will look charming as all get out.  More pragmatically, we think a greenhouse will be a lovely addition to our gardening repertoire.  We've got some tomatoes, watermelon, and tomatillos in there at the moment.
Matt and his helpful crew on the initial building day.
The spinach is long gone, but the chard is coming up to take its place in our smoothies.  We did enjoy a couple super yummy spinach-tofu quiches though, before the spinach bolted in the summer heat.
Spinach tofu "quiche" with seasoned chickpeas.
The most tiny and succulent Asian eggplants are on the menu next.  In addition to tasting great they are also some of the cutest produce I've ever seen.  These babies are only a couple inches long and so creamy and buttery it is unreal.  They're so different than their big, fat, honking Italian eggplant cousins.
Of course, all this activity is supervised by Ginger.  Queen of the Garden.
She's gorgeous.  And fierce.