Sunday, July 31, 2011

July with Gladys and Rachel

To learn more about this yearlong adventure with Gladys Taber and Rachel Peden, I have made a 'letter topic' called A Year with Gladys and Rachel, where you may read all the postings.

It has been said by many, including myself, that Gladys Taber would have been a great blogger. In essence her topics are like blog entries - some long, some short, some light, some serious. Her mind moves from one thing to another, and her subjects sometimes connect and other times stand on their own.

Gladys' July chapter in Stillmeadow Daybook was especially so. She runs the gamut from the frustrations of having to replace her lost driver's license to the rich and famous who have moved to her area to the deep joys of poetry, particularly her beloved John Keats. And the wonder of her writing for me is that it is so current. Though published in 1955, her thoughts are familiar and easily understood by a reader fifty-six years later.
We no longer live in an age of poetry, that is certain. I suspect the roar of the big guns in our day has muffled its rhythms. But there will always be people who find a quickening in poetry that nothing else gives, for poetry is a more direct communication than prose. …
Having been raised with poetry, I am astounded at the lack of it in young people nowadays. … recently a young man asked me, "just what is a sonnet anyway?"
When she explains she sees that he isn't really listening. But still this doesn't discourage Gladys Taber because she feels that
Dante is still Dante and Shakepeare is still Shakespeare and always someone - as long as we are on this odd little planet - someone will read "When in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes, I all alone bewail my outcast state." Or "Life has not friend; her converts late or soon, Slide back to feed the dragon with the moon."
Her words about July are so perfect and so true in my part of the world.
Hot still days come now, with heat simmering over the fields, crackling in the long corn rows.
The sky is wonderful in July, it seems deeper and farther off someway than at any other time, a silken, burning blue. The thermometer jumps like a jumping mouse, and the beans ripen like mad.
This is the dry month in New England, so when it rains, we are grateful. It is the only time we are grateful for rain, rain being our chief product come summer, come winter. But in July how sweetly sounds the patter on the old roof, and how grateful is the lawn.
The Farmer's Almanac says, "Days are hot, nights are not." This about sums up July in New England for it is hot and humid and you can feel the corn growing and the cherries ripening, and yet at night a cooling air blows in from woods and streams. If we sit by the pond, we need sweaters and as far as I am concerned, I never take the winter blankets off my bed all summer long.
Summer is so brief, so packed with living, I hate to see each day end.
She delights in her dog's love of ice cubes, and bemoans the dreaded Japanese beetle. She writes about the 'end of seasonal food' now that there are home freezers. This is Gladys Taber in a nutshell. She writes of the profound and the simple, and the profundity which lies within the apparent simple. If you have not read her, please pick up a book and see if she doesn't speak to the modern person as well as the person in her time. I know she speaks to me, and feels like a great friend. All I have to do is open a book, read a few words, and I am happily in her wise and comfortable presence.

In quite a few Julys here on the blog, I have either posted the song or the lyrics or just the one pertinent line from the song, You Go To My Head: 'like a summer with a thousand Julys.' You must know by now that I am a cool weather, winter loving person, but oh, I do love July. There is none of the anticipation of June or the sadness of August. In July we simply are. We live. We take great pleasure in each day.

Rachel Peden expresses this at the end of her July chapter of Rural Free.
I cannot bear to give up summer yet. I am glad sultry August is yet to come.
But she begins the month by calling this wonderful July:
A mellow, generous, middle-aged, productive month with a thought for the past in its misty blue mornings and a thought for the future in the first tentative creakings of cricket and barfly - July has a thorough, gusty enjoyment of the present moment.
I'll bet she loved You Go To My Head, too.

She writes of the abundance of the garden
lavish with green beans, hints of roasting ears, cantaloupe, cucumbers to be sliced as thin as paper and crisp as a new five-dollar bill. The smell of new beets cooking in the kitchen fills the farmhouse. The first ripe tomato this week was an event [as it was in my house a few days ago!], but two weeks from now the planters will "eat them as common things" as the book of Jeremiah says, describing abundance.
From the annual fireworks display on the Fourth to the death of a beetle she had vainly tried to save, Rachel writes with the soul of a poet. After telling about some of her farming neighbors, she says:
Dear Lord, let farming continue to improve forever, but let the neighbors never change.
She describes perfectly the kind of fellow who loves to talk and tell the 'news.' And if you ask him a question, he can be off on a long-lasting tale of explanation. She tells how picking blackberries can be a little vacation for the farm wife. In the midst of a thorny blackberry patch is not a popular place for most people so it is there she can be 'blissfully alone' and nobody could find her to 'ask a single question.' But then of course, her dear husband and children appear
"How're you making out?" Dick asked from the fence at the edge of the woods. He smiled lovingly, his face beaming like a full sun, and on either side of him, like bright moons, beamed two small, beloved faces.
"How did you know where to look for me?" I asked.
"Why," explained Dick, pleased with himself and them, "we saw the sun shining on your bucket." The vacation was over and not one single "having a wonderful time, wish you were here" card had I sent to anybody.
How I would love to have known this woman. To have cooked together in her kitchen or walked together in her fields. Across all these years since Rural Free was published fifty years ago, I feel I have a friend.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Garlic Roasted New Potatoes

Please visit this week's edition of Weekend Cooking to read lots of food related postings.

How I love the idea of eating locally. The problem comes when you live in a climate such as mine where winters are long and the growing season is short. That's why it is so very exciting in the summer to have meals using food from local places or even better, fresh from the garden. In the following dish, every item except for the olive oil came from our own garden.

This recipe comes from a book I've written about before (here and here), Mrs. Chard's Almanac Cookbook - Hollyhocks & Radishes. It is a bit like Oven Fries a la Nicole, with a lot less olive oil.

Garlic Roasted New Potatoes

2 pounds small new potatoes, unpeeled
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
generous grinding of black pepper
3-4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

3 tablespoons chopped parsley

Preheat oven to 350º F.
Depending on size of potatoes, halve or quarter to bite-size.

In a shallow roasting pan, toss potatoes with oil, salt, pepper, and garlic.
Roast one hour, or until tender and golden, tossing 2 or 3 times.
Toss with parsley to serve.

My notes:
Potatoes and garlic amounts are up to the cook. I used a greased 7x11 pan.

Isn't this absolutely beautiful?! And it tastes as wonderful as it looks.

I also sautéed some of our scallions and summer squash to go along with it.

A perfect meal I'll make again and again this summer.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Harvest time - garlic and potatoes

We picked the garlic about a week ago and it has been drying on the porch table since then - 24 bulbs. We planted Music Pink hardneck from Seeds of Change.

I'd like to grow more next year. And just yesterday, I pulled the yellowed, old potato plants out of the garden, and found the buried treasure of any vegetable garden! As you may know, potatoes are not only my favorite vegetable, but also my favorite food, period. We haven't planted any for a few years, and it is a treat to have our own, fresh from the garden. These are Dark Red Norlands from Johnny's Seeds.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Gently by the Shore by Alan Hunter

48. Gently by the Shore - second in the George Gently series
by Alan Hunter
mystery, 1956
Kindle book - 27
finished, 7/2/11

Having now read the second George Gently book, I've been thinking about just why I like this series so much. The books are utterly relaxing. They are the purest of detective story escapes. The easiest way to explain what these books are is to note what they are not. Here the reader will not find a deeply troubled detective, whose past or present life interferes with his work. There is no love interest. There isn't psychological crime. The books offer the solving of a murder, pure and simple. And sometimes this is just what I want to read.

In Gently by the Shore we get to know the detective a bit better. He has been called to solve a crime at a seaside resort, Starmouth, where he spent time during his own childhood. He is struck by the changes but doesn't let the emotions overwhelm him. Here are Gently's words at the end of the book.
'But things change, Dutt ... it doesn't take long to alter them. Do you know what struck me most while we were on this job?'
'Well, Dutt, it was the donkeys.'
'They've done away with them, Dutt. There isn't one on the beach. If you'd known Starmouth when I knew Starmouth it would make you feel older ... but something like that goes on all the time, doesn't it?'
And there in a nutshell is the essence of these books. Yes, George Gently thinks about life but he doesn't focus too much on the whys and wherefores. He gets up in the morning and goes to work. He solves crimes. He is well-respected by his colleagues. He doesn't worry about much. When he does look back in pensive contemplation, he doesn't delve too deeply.
He could see himself now as he was then, a thoughtful child with sunburn and freckles, and those damned knickerbockers. A solitary child he had been, a bad mixer. It may have been the knickerbockers that made him antisocial. ...
Nostalgic memories didn't mix successfully with homicide, and he just had to shake himself into an alert and receptive state of mind.
The crime in this book is that a naked body is found on the beach creating quite a bit of excitement for the bustling holiday crowd.
He had stood about five feet ten. He had weighed about 185. His hair had been pale brown, his eyes blue, his eyebrows slanting, his heavy features decidedly un-English. And he had acquired, probably rather late in life, a feature of the keenest police interest: a collection of four stab-wounds in the thorax.
There is nothing politically correct in these books because that was not known or practiced in those days. I don't think now anyone would say 'decidedly un-English.' And a writer definitely wouldn't refer to a man as a 'halfwit.' This man is called Nits, and he is that familiar literary and cinematic character who though slow of thinking, often speaks words of great insight.

Gently by the Shore is rich in details of the seaside, from the 'sun-baked streets' to the Saturday departures and arrivals of the throngs of visitors. It has the timeless feeling of a summer week by the sea. Reading it is a little like a vacation for the reader with the added pleasure of a mystery to be solved. And I was happy to find that the donkeys are back on the beach all these years later.

Friday, July 22, 2011

First peas

On this hottest day of the year (so far), we had our first fresh peas out of the garden. The picture is a bit blurry from the heat of the peas, as I had just taken them off the stove. They were so delicious!

Yesterday we got the first blueberries of the season from the fellow down the road. Peas and blueberries. A perfect little meal.

96º F. at 6:30 pm at Windy Poplars Farm

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Quote du jour/Rex Stout

When I rolled out at 8 in the morning, it was tuning up for another hot one. The air coming in at the window made you gasp for more when what you wanted was less.
The character Archie Goodwin in Where There's A Will by Rex Stout

93º F. at almost 5 pm at Windy Poplars Farm

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Further Afield - A Garden Tour

Today Tom and I went on a self-directed garden tour of local gardens in two towns. We focused on six gardens, leaving the little in-town pocket gardens for another day. We visited four homes, one inn, and one farm.

The first one was a place off a country road with a fantastic view and a pond. The plantings near the house were quite formal while those down by the pond were a bit wilder, more natural.

The second one was a home that had been in the same family since it was built in 1882 until it was bought by a couple in 1983. They have done various modernizations to the house and gardens over the years. This is a large property within the town so you can see other houses and the highway from the grounds.

The third home was out in the country with an amazing view of many of our mountains, though the plantings weren't as numerous or as appealing to me.

The next stop on the tour was a local farm which sells its vegetables, goat cheese, and meats from a food stand, at the local farmers' markets, and through subscriptions in their Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. I talked to the guy at the farmers' market this morning before our tour and he said most of the CSA members have their own gardens but they like getting produce earlier in the season and different vegetables than they grow themselves. I am going to get information on this and will consider if it is something we might like to try next year. They have both a spring and fall subscription. This is a real working farm with greenhouses, chickens, pigs, turkeys, and goats.

That old camper is the chicken house!

The fifth place was my favorite by far. It is now an inn, but it was built by a wealthy, famous man in the 1920s for his daughter and her new husband as a wedding present. Tom's parents stayed there last fall so we got to see the inside then. There's a wonderful little library area where I could have happily spent a vacation. But today the focus was on the grounds. They are bursting with blooms which are presented in a most natural way. There are stone pathways up and down the hill from the inn. The various gardens have names -

the patio garden,

the pond garden,

and the gate garden.

The walkway through the gate ends at this fountain.

There is a path through the woods which is reached via a wooden bridge over the cat tail filled marsh.

The last garden we visited we viewed only from the outside. It is on a side street in our little town, and is called an 'entrance garden.' I so love this place. Down the hill behind the house is the private back yard. Really such a lovely space.

We so enjoyed our hours walking around all these places, but honestly when we came home we thought our gardens were the prettiest we had seen. Probably because we have planted all the flowers and vegetables ourselves, and love them as if they were a little like friends. My preference in gardening is less mulch and closer plantings than most of the places we saw today which featured larger expanses of cedar mulch and fewer plants. Today was like a little vacation for Tom and I, and we had such a nice day.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Blog help requested!!

I have been very, very happy with blogspot ever since I began my blog nearly five years ago. I've seen people make a switch but I've never had any problems so didn't feel a need to do so... until now. I want to do something I thought would be relatively simple. I want to delete my gmail account. That address has never been the one I used for the blog. That has been my 'home' address. I set up a gmail account so I could put a contact address on my blog in case anyone wanted to get in touch.

But this is not so easy to do. All google's stuff seems to be heavily connected now, and it appears that if I delete the gmail account, I will lose the whole blog.

Hence, I am left with no other option than to leave my formerly beloved blogspot. I've loved all the options, the colors, the templates, the ease, but I want to be able to delete this email account without losing the blog.

My questions to you are:

1. is it true that if I delete the gmail account I will also delete the blog?

2. if #1. is true, then could you please tell me where you blog from, and how you like it?

3. and then, how do I make the switch so that ALL my words and photos are not lost in the change?

I know that many of you have written about this, but I didn't want to take the time this morning to go searching. I'd like to get out of this conglomerate with my blog intact.

Thank you in advance for any help you may offer.

Addendum: I'm staying here. It's just too much work and trouble to bother and change when it is just a matter of an email account. It can just sit there, and I'll post my other email on the blog. Thanks so much for all the responses.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Book Passage/The Lake of Dreams

When we reached the driveway, low-hanging branches of the apple tree scraped the truck roof. The grand house, Italianate, with two wide porches and a cupola, sagged a little, as if it had exhaled a deep breath. Paint was peeling on the trim and the porch. My mother's moon garden had run completely wild. It had once been a magical place, white crocuses, daffodils, and freesia poking from the mulch, the angel trumpets and night-blooming water lilies carried outside once the air had grown as warm as skin, everything fragrant and luminous, the blossoms floating in the dusk. Now, the trellises were broken and leaning at crazy angles; the moonflower vines cascaded over the fence and tangled in the overgrown roses. The peonies were in full bloom, extravagant and beautiful, and the lavender and lamb's ears had spread everywhere, straggly in the center, ragged at the edges.
p. 24, The Lake of Dreams by Kim Edwards

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Brownie Cake

This is a variation of a recipe I saw in the Penzeys catalogue. It is the perfect example of making do when you make a mistake; and of making an alteration when your instincts say you should. First of all, I misread the first instruction to combine water, butter, and cocoa powder in a saucepan and cook 'over medium heat until boiling.' The ingredients list had said 'softened butter' and usually, well actually always until this recipe, that meant it wasn't going to be melted. So I had that in my head and just skimmed right over the part when it said to melt it. The other thing is that it called for a 9x13 pan, and mine wasn't available, so I used a 10x15. I would have chosen the larger pan anyway because it just seemed like too much batter for the smaller size. It was perfect. I suppose the brownie cakes could have been even higher in a smaller pan, but I have a feeling the batter may have overflowed the sides. The third thing I did differently was to add vanilla to the frosting because I always do. I call this brownie cake because it is really a combination of the two. All that said, this is a fantastic recipe. The cake is light and airy, and the frosting is sublime, as most frosting is. Well worth heating up the oven on a summer's day to make these delicious, chocolatey treats.


1 cup water
1 cup softened butter
3 Tablespoons cocoa powder
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
8 oz. sour cream
2 cups flour
1 Tablespoon baking soda

Preheat oven to 350º F.
Add water, butter, and cocoa powder to the mixer and beat well. Add sugar, eggs, and sour cream and mix till smooth.
Sift together flour and baking soda, lower speed of mixer, and add slowly.

Pour into greased 10x15 pan and bake for 25-30 minutes. Let cool completely before frosting.


Cream 1/2 cup softened butter and add 4 cups powdered sugar, cup by cup alternating with milk. Add 1 Tablepoon cocoa powder and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Use as much milk as necessary to make a smooth frosting. The recipe called for 2 Tablespoons but I needed more than that.