Tuesday, July 31, 2007

A hot summer night

In front of the fan, (not) watching the ballgame.

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

"Day will break and I'll wake
And start to bake a sugar cake
For you to take for all the boys to see"
Tea For Two, music by Vincent Youmans; lyrics by Irving Caesar

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

Cream together well in an electric mixer:
1 cup very soft butter
3 cups sugar

Add 1/2 cup cocoa
Add 4 eggs
and mix well.

Add 3 cups grated zucchini (including the skin)
and continue mixing.

In a separate bowl mix:
3 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt

Gradually add dry ingredients to the creamed mixture, with KitchenAid turned to a lower speed.

Pour into greased 15 x 10 pan, and bake about an hour at 350 F.
Cool completely on a cooling rack.

Sour Cream Frosting

1/4 cup soft butter
1/3 cup sour cream
3/4 teaspoon vanilla
pinch of salt, if desired
2 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
A little milk, if needed

Beat well, and frost

Instead of the sour cream frosting, I frosted the cake with cocoa whipped cream. Divine! I'm having this, not as dessert, but as my last-day-of-July supper tonight. :<)

Today's picture/My Blue Heaven

Daylily season

Often I wonder how gardeners fared before the great surge of modern daylilies, as they are a mainstay of the summer garden.
Henry Mitchell, One Man's Garden

They surely are the "mainstay" of my garden, and all the gardens I see as I drive along. They are out in profusion; in dooryards, along stone walls, in borders, next to mailboxes. Everywhere I look. Orange, of course, but also many shades of yellow and pink. They are the most joyful flower. Reaching those blooms high, waving in the slightest breeze as if to say, "hello, it's summer!"

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Today's picture/Full Moon

Not the world's greatest picture, but the moon is so amazing tonight.

The Full Buck Moon - July

July is normally the month when the new antlers of buck deer push out of their foreheads in coatings of velvety fur. It was also often called the Full Thunder Moon, for the reason that thunderstorms are most frequent during this time. Another name for this month's Moon was the Full Hay Moon.

July 29th at the Farmer's Market

In the garden, we've got plenty of lettuce, the zucchini is coming along, and we're eating yellow beans and onions every day. Tom went in to the Farmer's Market this morning and picked up some yellow summer squash to hold us until ours is producing a little faster. He got scallions because our scallions have all grown into great big delicious onions. And he couldn't resist the red tomatoes, the first of the season in the area. Ours shouldn't be too much further behind.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

A summer Friday night at the movies

Last evening we went to see Waitress. I've been looking forward to this film since I first read about it. The movie stars Keri Russell, the woman who was in Felicity on television. She was very appealing as a young woman in a marriage with a man she doesn't love, pregnant by that man, and feeling stuck. These are the negatives in her life, but there are some positives; her co-workers who are also beloved friends and the old curmudgeonly owner of Joe's Pie Diner, where she is a waitress. Another terrific positive is pie! She makes up all kinds of different ones. This facet of the film reminded me of Chocolat and Like Water For Chocolate. Her late mother used to make pies and would sing her a lovely, lovely song. Her husband is played with his usual intensity by Jeremy Sisto. He's such a good actor. Joe is played by the wonderful Andy Griffith. What a great choice to have him. I love seeing older actors and actresses in movies. The movie corresponds with her pregnancy journey. We watch the changes in her as time goes by. I don't want to say much more so you can experience the movie for yourselves. I loved it, as did Tom, and the couple we went with. There is a poignant element to this film. The director, and actress who played one of Keri Russell's friends, Adrienne Shelly, was murdered last year. I read that the child was played by her daughter. And she co-wrote that beautiful pie song. What a sad loss for her little girl and husband.

Today's poem - Connecting the Dots by Maxine Kumin

Connecting The Dots
by Maxine Kumin

I think Daddy
just dropped dead

(our son at five)
I’ll drive the car
and now they drive
us, living, the large

children home
a week at Christmas
ten days in August
posing for
the family snapshot
flanked by dogs.

We’re assayed kindly
to see if we’re
still competent
to keep house, mind
the calendar
connect the dots.

Well we’re still stack-
ing wood for winter
turning compost
climbing ladders
and they still love us
who overtake us

Who want what’s best
for us, who sound
(deep reservoirs
of patience) the way
we did, or like
to think we did.

Today's picture/Ronde de Nice squash

When I read this beautifully written and illustrated book, I wanted to grow one of the 75. I chose the Ronde de Nice squash. It was such a success last year that I'm growing it again this season, and today I picked the first ones. Aren't they just adorable vegetables? And tasty, too. I recommend the book to anyone who loves to garden and loves to eat (guess that covers just about everybody).

Friday, July 27, 2007

Today's picture/Yellow Beans

Now, there are some who would say, a rose is worth a photo, a daylily is worth a photo, and most people think a tomato worthy of a picture, but the humble, garden variety yellow bean? Well, to me it is the most beautiful of all. This is the vegetable of my childhood. People would show up at the door bringing the yellow wonders from their gardens in a paper bag. My mother would cook them up and serve them with lots of butter. I don't see them so often these days. The green bean seems to have taken their place in popularity. But not for me. I love them beyond all others. And this is the one vegetable I really prefer cooked in water till it is quite soft, rather than the steamed, crunchier, probably healthier way. I'm going to the kitchen right now and cook some up. Can't wait!

Today's cd/In Spite Of Ourselves

John Prine/In Spite Of Ourselves/1999

The other evening, I stopped by Kat's blog, and listened to a song sung by John Prine and Dolores Keane, called In A Town This Size. I loved it, and went over to iTunes to hear more of the album. It was just wonderful and I bought it. This is a collection of duets with many women, including Iris Dement, Emmylou Harris, and Trisha Yearwood. The songs are spare and honest and real in that way only old country/western songs can be. Just the facts, with the emotion coming through in the words and voices. Some were familiar, some not. He and Iris Dement cover that great song, We're Not The Jet Set, originally sung by George Jones and Tammy Wynette.

No, We're not the jet set
We're the old Chevro-let set
Our steak and martinis
Is draft beer with weenies
Our Bach and Tchaikovsky
Is Haggard and Husky
No, we're not the jet set
We're the old Chevro-let set
But ain't we got love

And the Everly Brothers, So Sad:

We used to have good times together
But now I feel them slip away
It makes me cry to see love die
So sad to watch good love go bad

I just love this stuff. Let me hear a steel guitar, and I stop in my tracks. All the voices, all the songs make this a new favorite album for both of us. Yesterday I heard Tom in the kitchen playing it over and over. Some might not care for Prine's voice, but I still love it, just as I love Kris Kristofferson's. Sometimes those gravelly voices just hit the spot.

John Prine is one of those artists that has been on the soundtrack of my grown-up life. He is a storyteller, and those people he sings about become real in the listener's mind. These aren't his songs, but are stories just the same. The small town where everyone knows what's going on:

What you do and what you think
What you eat and what you drink
If you smoke a cigarette
They'll be talkin' about your breath

There are love songs and cheatin' songs and that small town song. I can't recommend it highly enough.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Gardening question

I'm hoping someone out there can help me to identify a plant. Out by the barn, there is this amazing plant growing. It's about six feet tall with pink flowers. We've looked in our plant guides and on the internet, and we think it might be Joe Pye Weed, which I read is a member of the sunflower family named after an Indian who treated colonists with it for typhus. A description says that the leaves smell like vanilla when crushed, and ours do not. What do the gardeners among us say?

Tools of the trade/Yogurt

In her book, More Home Cooking, published posthumously in 1993, Laurie Colwin writes:

When I was growing up, yogurt was eaten by food faddists and Europeans. Health food stores were few and far between. They smelled funny and were inhabited by people with long braids or truman shirts, wearing sandals and socks.

The sixties changed all that. While it is now fashionable to knock the counterculture, we should not forget that it was those long-haired weirdos who gave us, among many other valuable things like the antiwar movement, the natural food movement. Now there is a health food store on almost every corner, and we can have whole-grain bread, unsprayed apples, and free-running chickens. We can also buy yogurt at the supermarket.

Well, Tom and I were a couple of those "long-haired weirdos" and "our" sixties/early seventies weren't communes and drugs, but music and organic, vegetarian food. The first yogurt we fell in love with was in England in 1971. It was made by a company called Loseley Farms, and I can still taste it in memory. What a joy to find out it still exists for all you lucky people who live over there.

I'd like to introduce a guest commentator for this particular entry, because Tom is the yogurt maker of the house.

Our Yogourmet yogurt maker, which we bought from King Arthur Flour, makes great yogurt every time. There is an inner container that fits inside an outer, electrified container into which you put a small amount of water. The outer container maintains a warm water "sleeve" around the inner container at the perfect temperature for making yogurt. You make about a half gallon at a time, although I think Yogourmet measures it in liters.

First you put any kind of milk into a pot to heat. Stir constantly or it will stick and burn on. The company gives you a thermometer with the yogurt maker. Heat to 80 degrees Celsius, then cool milk in cold water in the sink until the thermometer registers in the "green zone," about 40 degrees Celsius. Pour milk into the inner container and add yogurt culture, also provided by Yogourmet. We buy Yogourmet replacement culture packets at our health food store. Drop covered inner container into outer tub. Leave plugged in for 5 or 6 hours, then put inner tub into fridge to cool. The cooling stops the thickening process. After yogurt is cold, whisk to get rid of any clumps; you want a smooth consistency.

Word Pictures

I've been thinking about all the facets of life that I'm unable to post a picture of. Some are too far away from the house, like the wild turkeys and their babies strolling around the pastures, unafraid of the goats and sheep and donkeys. Often we have sixteen at a time. Other faraway visitors are the deer who frequent the north pasture, hopping the fence, staying a while, and hopping another fence to leave. We've had a rabbit in the driveway just up the road from the house. It seems to be eating dirt. I know some birds do this to get grit, but rabbits? I've left some lettuce in the area after it was there and it disappeared so I'm hoping the rabbit got it. I know a lot of people have problems with rabbits in the garden, but I don't. Probably because of all these dogs. :<) To me, rabbits are magical. Ever since I read Watership Down, I have thought them a wonder. To me they are a little bit of England, even though my head knows there are plenty of them over here. We rented a house in Gloucestershire many years ago and in the evenings we'd walk out to a field and watch what seemed to be hundreds of rabbits.

Another daily occurrence it is impossible to photograph is the goats changing pastures all on their own. We have two main pastures, the south and the north. Tom switches the animals every few days, but when they are in the north pasture, those goats don't like spending the night away from the barn, so they jump right through the electric fence and go back to the south pasture, all on their own. This is very adorable to me, and I've felt so kindly toward them because they must cross our driveway to get from one to the other and they don't veer off into the lawns and flowers. Except, now I don't feel so warm about them because they have, on a few occasions, eaten my daylilies on the lawn and eaten down three (!!) young trees, a couple Duchess Apple trees and a crabapple. We think this happened because there is another cute thing I can't really photograph. Sadie believes in her dog heart that she is a farm dog, par excellence. She runs along the fence barking away at the goats and sheep, mostly the goats. We think she has been instrumental in "keeping them in their place." When the cousins visited, the dogs had to spend a lot of time inside because we were busy and gone a lot. That is when the goats began getting out. We think Sadie scared them into staying inside the pasture. And Ben plays a part too. He charges that fence from afar with great speed as if he is ready to kill. He always stops, but if I were a goat it would scare me. Sadie's tactics are strictly her bark. We think they got bold when Sadie wasn't out so much, but they were able to get through so easily because the charge on the electric fence was low. Tom and our son, who is working for us as his summer job, have been doing a lot of brush cutting along the fence lines. Any brush touching the fence lowers the charge. So between clearing the fence, and those two black dogs, the goats have stayed in the pastures other than the trek between them each day. I'm looking kindly upon them again.

I wish I could have shown you the swallows feeding their babies in the nesting box on a telephone pole which they come back to each year, just like Capistrano. And I wish I could show you the daylilies right outside the kitchen window from the reading chair, but there is screening in the window and they would be just a blur.

As I write this, I am reminded of one of my favorite movies, Home For The Holidays. There is a wonderful visual sequence at the end of the movie showing all the events which were never captured in photographs.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Picking raspberries

Other than reading, the adult activity which most links me with my childhood is picking raspberries. Our house in town had a "banking" out back which was full of the delicious berries, all waiting for me to pick. Not many made it back into the house in those days. I have a little more willpower now, maybe because of the new chocolate-whipped cream treat I've discovered this summer. I posted the photo of our first raspberries eleven days ago, and they're still coming. We went out this morning and had a little help from Bracelet the goat.

Today's bounty

Book Report/The Library

I've kept a lot of the picture books my kids had when they were little, and just recently have been borrowing some newer ones from the library, and buying a few for myself. Just the other day, I bought a wonderful story by Sarah Stewart, illustrated by her husband, David Small. The drawings are a perfect complement to the words. I love this book and have read it over and over again. There is so much to see in all the pictures, and the story it tells is a joyful one.

We've recently set up a reading chair in the study, and it was just the spot to sit and read this book aloud, with the three windows open and a light breeze coming in.

The tale of Elizabeth Brown is told all in rhyme:

And isn't this the old age we readers dream of?

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

It's the little things/Magic Eye

Does anyone else love these? I just found a place online that offers one each week. I so enjoy them. It seems to be something you either can or cannot do. Tom never sees the image, while I do quite quickly. It makes my eyes feel good to view them.

Today's picture/First Zucchini

Presenting the first Zephyr squash of the season!

Monday, July 23, 2007

You Go To My Head

A few months ago, when I blogged about Stacey Kent for days and days, I included the following:

The song playing is the Haven Gillespie/J. Fred Coots song, You Go To My Head, which has one of the best lyrics ever:

You go to my head
with a smile that makes my temperature rise
like a summer with a thousand Julys
you intoxicate my soul with your eyes

I just love that, "a thousand Julys." What is better than July? The middle of summer, the peak of the flowers, no August, no fall in sight. Pure bliss. I do love all the seasons, but there is something about July that is very special.

Well, I just had to offer You Go To My Head again while we are still in July. It is such a beautiful love song. I hope you have a couple minutes to listen and let it find its way into your heart.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Orange inside and out

This is the same Clivia which blossomed in January.

And our beloved orange daylily.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Mrs Bale's July report

We've had sun and rain most days, often within a few minutes of each other. Mrs Bale says she would enjoy this tropical weather more if Sawyer were around.

Today's picture/Like peas in a pod

French Citadel Peas from Renee's Garden.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Quote du jour/Mrs Bale

I am rather pleased to learn I have a Plantagenet face.
Mrs Bale, As Time Goes By

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Another rainy evening at the movies

Tonight's movie was Away From Her, starring the still strikingly beautiful Julie Christie and an actor unfamiliar to me, Gordon Pinsent. As I wrote earlier, it is based on Alice Munro's story, The Bear Came Over the Mountain. For those of you with children in their twenties, you may recall a wonderful PBS program called Ramona, based on the terrific Beverly Cleary books. Well, Ramona was played by an actress named Sarah Polley. She went on to be in Road to Avonlea, and then other movies as she grew up. She wrote and directed this movie, and what a great job she did. The film was extraordinary. There have been a few movies-from-books I've seen that have been wonderful, and what made them so good is that instead of following the written source word for word, they captured the spirit of the book. A couple examples off the top of my head are Chocolat and The English Patient. What Sarah Polley did was to "flesh out" the story. She brought the characters of Fiona and Grant to life. She did make some changes but they all worked. And I actually found the movie to be sadder, warmer, and more touching than the story. The reason may well be that in two hours one has more time to expand what was said in 48 pages.

Visually, the movie was beautiful, with a lot of snow scenes, which I always love. The interior of the house helped us to know these people. The acting was just amazing. Julie Christie could show so much, just in her eyes. We could tell by looking in them if she was present or absent. I'm sure Gordon Pinsent is a Canadian national treasure, and I'm so pleased to have finally seen him. He was Grant. There was no sense that he was acting a part at all. And the role of the caretaker was played by a wonderful young actress named Kristen Thomson.

I can't praise the movie enough. The wonder is that it was made by a young woman of 28 years old! I would expect this from Nancy Meyers, who directed The Holiday and Something's Gotta Give; or Nora Ephron, who directed Hanging Up, You've Got Mail, and Sleepless in Seattle. But for a young woman to have such sensitivity toward an older, long-term relationship is pretty extraordinary.

The audience was mostly people my age or older, though I did see one young couple. That would have been Tom and I in our twenties. :<) I don't see as many young people at these kinds of movies as when I was young. Then we all flocked to Bergman, Antonioni, and Fellini films.

I loved this movie, and highly recommend it.

Today's Short Story by Alice Munro

The movie at our little theatre tonight is Away From Her, which is based on Alice Munro's The Bear Came Over the Mountain. I wanted to read it before seeing the film. The story is 48 pages long, and every word in it is important. I was thinking about this as I read it. In the best short stories, every word counts. Every adjective is meaningful. There is a reason for each event from the past being mentioned. This is my first story by a really excellent writer. She is mentioned in one of my favorite books, Bachelor Brothers' Bed & Breakfast on a "List of Books For When You're Feeling Low." The author, Bill Richardson writes,

She has never, not once, crafted a sentence that is graceless or awkward. She has never used a word out of place. Her inspiration must come in moments of heated abandon, but her craft has everything to do with careful control. Every story is a surprise, and she has a unique genius for unveiling what's remarkable in the seemingly ordinary lives of seemingly ordinary people.

I agree; she's just incredible.

How do I talk about this story without giving away the pleasure of discovery for you? I guess I can say it is the tale of an older couple who are facing the onset of what seems to be Alzheimer's. The wife, Fiona, has begun to do those odd, odd things we all read about; that we hope to never see in a loved one or in ourselves.

She drove to town and phoned him from a booth to ask him how to drive home.

She forgot to turn on the burner under the vegetables or put water in the coffeemaker. She asked Grant [her husband] when they'd moved to this house.

This doesn't go on long in the story. She is taken to a facility, and most of the action takes place there or in Grant's memories.

I am always curious about the titles of books and stories. This must come from the old children's song. I know it as The Bear Went Over the Mountain.

The bear went over the mountain,
The bear went over the mountain,
The bear went over the mountain,
To see what he could see.

And all that he could see,
And all that he could see,

Was the other side of the mountain,
The other side of the mountain,
The other side of the mountain
Was all that he could see.

My query is, did Alice Munro change the verb on purpose, or is that a Canadian version of the song? Maybe it doesn't matter at all. A reviewer of the movie, from The Globe and Mail writes:

The story takes its title from a children's song with nonsense lyrics and a tune that dates back to the Crusades. The oblivious bear, who can only see what's in front of him, serves as a mordant metaphor for the implacable march of Alzheimer's disease.

The story is sad in the subject matter, but heartening in its way. There is no way this can be a happy story but it certainly is a good one, beautifully written by a wonderful, new to me, writer. I'm eager to see the movie, and will let you know later how it compares.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Book Report/My Summer In A Garden

As I read more and more gardening books, I begin to wonder if a sharp wit, and often a great sense of humor are requirements for the writers of these books. Maybe it is simply that gardeners look at the world with a whimsical eye and do not take life too seriously.

I just finished My Summer In A Garden by Charles Dudley White, published in 1870. This was the June-July choice of the Garden Bloggers' Book Club.

Although I cringed at a few references to women and certain nationalities, I'm still glad they're there. I'm relieved the book was not made politically correct as some old books have been. It was written a long time ago, and that's the way he was. It's a real presentation of this particular man, at that particular time.

What is amazing is how much things remain the same. The scourge of his gardening life is "pusley" or what we know as purslane. It is also called Little Hogweed. The Giant Hogweed is right now a small problem in my state. We've been told to call the state officials if we see one and they will come take care of it. The scourge of my garden is goutweed. It is currently in just a small spot, but we have to keep right after it or it would take over. I hate, hate, hate it.

The book begins:

To own a bit of ground, to scratch it with a hoe, to plant seeds, and watch their renewal of life,–this is the commonest delight of the race, the most satisfactory thing a man can do.

Philosophy abounds throughout the book.

To dig in the mellow soil–to dig moderately, for all pleasure should be taken sparingly–is a great thing. ... There is life in the ground; it goes into the seeds; and it also, when stirred up, goes into the man who stirs it. The hot sun on his back as he bends to his shovel and hoe, or contemplatively rakes the warm and fragrant loam, is better than much medicine. ... Hoe while it is spring, and enjoy the best anticipations. It is not much matter if things do not turn out well.

Along with wit and a sense of humor, it does seem that most gardeners have a philosophical bent. How can we not? We plant something with high hopes, and it rains, or it doesn't rain. A bug or bird or animal eats it before we can enjoy the pleasure.

The principal value of a private garden is not understood. It is not to give the possessor vegetables and fruit (that can be better and cheaper done by the market-gardeners), but to teach him patience and philosophy, and the higher virtues, –hope deferred, and expectations blighted, leading directly to resignation, and sometimes to alienation.

And then the humor! I often laughed out loud as I read along.

Nature is prompt, decided, inexhaustible. She thrusts up her plants with a vigor and freedom that I admire; and, the more worthless the plant, the more rapid and splendid its growth. She is at it early and late, and all night, never tiring, nor showing the least sign of exhaustion.

It does not take a man long to soon discover, that, in raising any thing, the greater part of the plants goes into stalk and leaf, and the fruit is a most inconsiderable portion. I plant and hoe a hill of corn: it grows green and stout, and waves its broad leaves high in the air, and is months in perfecting itself, and then yields us not enough for a dinner. It grows because it delights to do so,–to take the juices out of my ground, to absorb my fertilizer, to wax luxuriant, and disport itself into the summer air, and with very little thought of making any return to me.

He uses a technique which I first saw in E. M. Delafield's Provincial Lady series. He'll be writing along, and then insert: "Observation" or "Moral Observations" or "Moral Truth" with an interesting, usually wry comment. These are seen not so often to be annoying or distracting to the reader, but just often enough to be delightful. I love them.

Observation.– [probably his most often quoted line] Nevertheless, what a man needs in gardening is a cast-iron back, with a hinge in it. The hoe is an ingenious instrument, calculated to call out a great deal of strength at a great disadvantage.

Later he comes upon a great hoe:

I do not mind saying that it has changed my view of the desirableness and value of human life. It has, in fact, made life a holiday to me. It is made on the principal that man is an upright, sensible, reasonable being, and not a groveling wretch. It does away with the necessity of the hinge in the back.

And hasn't this happened to all of us?

The other morning, I had just been running the mower over the lawn, and stood regarding its smoothness, when I noticed one, two, three puffs of fresh earth in it;

Here is an illustration from my own lawn, 137 years later. See the flat dirt on the left? That is the mole hill which appeared after mowing the other day. Today it was mowed over, and within minutes a new mole hill appeared. This is but one of the many, many things which makes this book as current, as fresh as the day it was written.

And this is just how I felt yesterday, eating those fresh, fresh peas!

I know of nothing that makes one feel more complacent, in these July days, than to have vegetables from his own garden. ... I have never known of any Roman supper that seemed to me equal to a dinner of my own vegetables.

I loved this book! It was simply wonderful, and the perfect summer book for gardeners. Bring it outdoors with you. Weed a bit, pick some tomatoes, sit down on your garden chair or bench and delight in the words of a gardener just like you. Feel refreshed by the knowledge that really and truly some things do not change.

Monday, July 16, 2007


This is from the July entry of Mrs. Appleyard's Year by Louise Andrews Kent. She is writing about growing and eating peas in Vermont.

They must be sown as soon as the frost is out of the ground. Then they will be ready in July. Mrs. Appleyard thinks they are best if they are picked when the sun is shining on them and the pods hang like pieces of translucent jade in the warm green twilight of the vines. They should be cooked within three hours of the time they are picked. Half an hour is better. They should be brought to the table in a capacious dish, preferably a deep bowl of honest brown earthenware so hot that it cannot be passed around, but must stand steaming fragrantly until it is empty. ...

Opinions differ about cooking peas. Many ways are good. The purest taste (which is, of course, Mrs. Appleyard's) allows them to be cooked no longer than five minutes in little enough water so that it all vanishes. She likes no seasoning but a little salt and generous lumps of golden butter that disappear while they blend with the sweetness of the peas. Some people add a dash of sugar to them while they boil. Mrs. Appleyard considers this a confession of defeat before you start. The sugar would be in the peas themselves if they were picked young enough and recently enough. Peas that need sugar, she says, are nice for pigeons.

There are people who pour thin cream among them and eat them comfortably from a saucer with a spoon. Others add a sprig of mint, but this Mrs. Appleyard considers effete, a dangerous attack on Vermont independence. It was not to spoil the flavor of peas with mint that the Green Mountain Boys took Ticonderoga. Neither does she look kindly upon the practice of adding lettuce leaves and chopped chives. Peas that need such treatment should be made into soup, she says. She speaks sadly rather than sternly on these topics, and she admits that there are days - hungry days with a northwest wind blowing - when people of Vermont ancestry rightly yearn for peas cooked in the same dish with tiny new potatoes, enriched with small cubes of salt pork, and mellowed with thick yellow cream. She even cooks them that way for Mr. Appleyard.

No matter how they are cooked, if the subtlest perfection of flavor is to be enjoyed, they should be shelled by the family: shelled, not in any kitchen - no matter how sanitary, nor how gleaming with labor-saving equipment - but on a wide, shady porch where the sun flickers through elms and maples, where the wind blows the warm scent of drying hay and clover through the rustling leaves.

The air is full of pleasant sounds: the rush and gurgle of the brook; crows in argument among the pines; the rhythmic clatter of the mowing machine. A woodpecker is swinging back his scarlet-marked head and tapping out a message in Morse code on the Dutchess apple tree. The hummingbird's wings whirr as his ruby throat quivers among the larkspur. With the thunder of wheels and horses' feet another load of hay rumbles into the barn. Into this symphony comes the pleasantest sound of all: the stinging rattle of peas falling into a shining tin pan.

Peas, so shelled, Mrs. Appleyard believes, are more than food. Eating them, even three helpings at a meal, is not gluttony, but a rite.

They are summer itself.

Just this afternoon, Tom picked our first crop of peas! I shelled them outdoors, brought them in, and cooked them according to Mrs. Appleyard. It took thirty minutes from pod to cooked peas. Tom thought they were the best he'd ever had, for this reason: we had them all alone, as an afternoon treat, with no other food to take away from their exquisite flavor.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

What's in bloom/July 15th

I can't believe a month has passed since the June 15th Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day. As you'll see from the photos, this morning was rainy. But I trudged out in my jammies and Tevas, braving the rain for the sake of blog art.

Orange Daylily, the star of the mid-July show in my garden
Red Daylily
Tree Mallow
Snapdragons, one of four different colors
White Mallow
The unstoppable Spiderwort (remember wirt, not wart!)
Mallow (can you tell I love Mallow?!)
Globe Thistle
The yellow beans have flowered!
The Rosa Rugosas are gorgeous. Some rosehips have formed, but there are still lots and lots of flowers
Still a few tree roses blooming
Bright Lights Cosmos, grown from seeds which Shelley very kindly sent to me
Antique color Pansy