Thursday, May 30, 2013

Quote du jour/Percy Bysshe Shelley

Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.
Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822)
A Defence of Poetry, which may be found here.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Beiderbecke Connection

There aren't too many television shows which feature a down-to-earth, sweet couple. A man and a woman who genuinely like one another and have a dear, comfortable, happy life together. Pie in the Sky is one which comes to mind. And here is another - well actually three others: The Beiderbecke Affair, The Beiderbecke Tapes, and The Beiderbecke Connection, known as The Beiderbecke Trilogy. The first two are pleasant and enjoyable but the third one really shines. I happen to own it, and watched the four episodes recently and felt pure happiness. The name Beiderbecke comes from Bix Beiderbecke, the 'first great white jazz musician' says our hero Trevor Chaplin, who is a self-proclaimed 'jazz freak.' One wall of his living room is devoted to record albums and tapes. Trevor's love is Jill Swinburne, a woman who wants to save the planet. Both are teachers at the local school in Leeds; a place with so little money that there are only three Tess of the D'Urbervilles for Jill's English class and no wood for Trevor's woodworking class. There are various and sundry characters who pop in and out of their lives. Some are kindly criminals, some are policemen - one of whom seems to model himself after a character in Miami ViceA great pleasure is the appearance of Dudley Sutton as a fellow teacher, an actor I know from Lovejoy. The Beiderbecke Connection takes place in the 1980s, and we see the students in the fashions and hairstyles of that time. The show was such fun for me to watch, and I'm happy to own it so I can see it again and again. It stars the wonderful James Bolam and Barbara Flynn as our lovely couple who in one scene are reading in bed - he, Dr. Spock's baby book (they have a new baby they call Firstborn since they haven't decided upon a name yet) and she, something by Maya Angelou. The shows are filled with gentle humor and terrific jazz music done by Frank Ricotti. The trilogy was written by the late Alan Plater. 

Monday, May 27, 2013

Mrs Bale updates with a poem

Pippa's Song
The year's at the spring,
And day's at the morn;
Morning's at seven;
The hill-side's dew-pearl'd;
The lark's on the wing;        
The snail's on the thorn;
God's in His heaven—
All's right with the world!

Robert Browning (1812-1889)

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Mrs Bale suggests that you avert your eyes

7 pm yesterday

9 pm 



4.30 am today - when the power went out

Our handy helper - more here

1 pm - the aftereffects

the most damaged lilac

the honeysuckles are fine (see third picture)

even though the branches aren't broken, I am concerned about the section to the left

Esther thinks the grass tastes better after a good snow; while Nebby keeps an eye on the pasture escapee

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Mrs Bale asks, "what else can one do?"

Tom's been keeping track of our rain, and in the past week we've gotten 3.9 inches!

Am I out singing and dancing in it? Nope. I'm sitting in a chair reading.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Today's essay by Maxine Kumin


By Maxine Kumin

For fifty years on our craggy hillside farm in central New Hampshire ornamented with Stonehenge-style boulders we raised horses and took in shelter dogs. Now all the animals are gone but the vegetable garden we maintain on one of our only bits of flat land persists. Four summers ago, working aged compost and ancient manure into our raised beds, we uncovered among the clumps of earthworms and tattered bits of eggshell two unknown sprouts about eight inches high. They didn’t resemble any of our common invaders. Curious, we dug down to expose the roots. There they were: two peach pits cracked open by Nature and straining for the light of the New World.

Anything that had lain fallow underground for over a year deserved some support. We potted them, brought them down to the house and gave them pride of place on the southeast-facing brick terrace where red peppers thrive year after year in old muck baskets. When the fall frosts came, we took our cosseted trees in at night. Winter days when the glassed-in porch temperature rose above 40 degrees they reposed on a bench in the sun. They prospered with all this attention. By spring they were begging to leave their pots.

We planted them ceremoniously on either side of the garden, both in full sun, at least until mid-afternoon shade from the adjoining forest overtook them. Although they appeared to thrive in their new location, it gradually became apparent that the one closest to the pond overflow was no longer looking thrifty. The soil proved too wet for the little one; in July it drooped, lost its leaves in August and succumbed before Labor Day.

At this point I thought it might be useful to consult authorities on the Internet. Had other people had this experience? Or, if they had a spare pit or two, how should they proceed? The amount and variety of information available was staggering. Eat the fruit. Save the center pit. Scrub pit gently with warm water and soft brush to remove any flesh still clinging to it. Dry pit for about 10 days. (It takes longer for larger pits to dry.) Chill pit at a temperature between 35 and 40 degrees. Refrigerators are ideal for this purpose because they consistently control the temperature within this range. An ordinary sandwich bag may be used for this purpose after you punch a few holes in it. Chill peach pit for 90 to 105 days.

How lucky we were that Nature had taken care of all these preliminaries. Directions followed about potting the sprouted pit, growing it indoors, setting it out in the earth when it was eight to 12 inches high. Then: Beginning in the second year, fertilize your peach tree in the early spring before leaf and bloom set and fertilize again in the fall after the leaves have fallen off the tree. Bloom set? In its second year all we had was a little skinny sapling standing alone with its sparse leaves shining in the sun. It was unfertilized but looked healthy. There was no sign of blossom. Did this mean our tree was sterile? Never mind; we cherished it for having survived this far.

When your fruit tree is about two years old it will need to be supported with stakes until its center trunk is strong enough to withstand the wind and the rain in your area. That hadn’t occurred to us. Nevertheless, the “center trunk,” spindly and smooth, stood straight and true. On April 20th of its fourth year, the tree burst into bloom. The word “burst” is no exaggeration; overnight, blossoms appeared. They looked fragile but withstood an afternoon thunderstorm and accompanying wind. Our peach tree had reached adolescence. Not a moment too soon, we staked it. Three odd little swellings, ovoid, green, somewhat fuzzy-looking, formed. Peaches-to-be!

They triggered memories of biting into rich, ripe New Jersey peaches, South Carolina peaches, the peaches of yesteryear sliced over cereal, into yogurt, over ice cream, or best of all, eaten in hand, juices cascading down chins and shirt fronts. But we are warned to be realistic. It is likely the peaches that come from this pit will not greatly resemble the original fruit. This is because most fruit trees have a different type of rootstock grafted onto them and the seed will revert to the original stock.

Never mind. We hereby promise to hold dear whatever peach comes forth from our three babes on the branch. 

From New Hampshire Magazine May 2013

Monday, May 20, 2013

Quote du jour/Gladys Taber

Lily of the valley ... with every tiny pearl-colored bell so carefully wrought. I was brought up to believe the faeries rang them at night, and for all I know, they still do.
Gladys Taber
Stillmeadow Seasons 1950

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Rhubarb-Strawberry Crisp

When it's the middle of May around here, you can count on rhubarb. We've divided the plants over the years, and we now have five that produce great quantities of the stuff! The first recipe of this season comes from the book my friend Les gave me, The Joy of Rhubarb by Theresa Millang. It is really called Rhubarb Crisp, but I've renamed it Rhubarb-Strawberry Crisp because I substituted one cup of (frozen) strawberries for one of the cups of rhubarb. I think rhubarb's best self comes through when it is accompanied by some strawberries.

Rhubarb - Strawberry Crisp

I did not use "individual baking dishes." I used an 8x8 pan. And I used Sugar in the Raw instead of brown sugar, as I always do. I used whole wheat pastry flour, and my "oatmeal" was rolled oats.
Tom and I both thought this was delicious. Hooray for rhubarb season!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Today's picture/Preakness winner

Gary Stevens on Oxbow! He came out of a seven year retirement and won at 50 years old! Oxbow took the lead right out of the gate, and never relinquished it. 

Saturday Sally/May 18

Sally: a brief journey; an excursion or trip.

Two wonderful authors were on the Diane Rehm show recently. She is my favorite interviewer. She really listens without interrupting, and truly cares about the people she talks to.

 You may listen to the programs with 

Maya Angelou (which is pronounced low not lou - I didn't know this) talking about her new memoir, Mom & Me & Mom here. 


Edna O'Brien talking about her new memoir, Country Girl here. 

And for this week's third stop on our sally, a wonderful video of an older woman and her old car. My father sold Packards a long time ago.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Baked Spaghetti

This recipe may lead you to exclaim that I need to get out more. Who posts a recipe for baked spaghetti? Doesn't everyone know this? Well, I didn't. A couple years ago we went to someone's house for dinner, and she very kindly made it for the vegetarians, while everyone else had some kind of meat dish. I loved it. I'd never had it before, and indeed had never even heard of it. It is quite a different taste from regular boiled spaghetti topped with sauce. And it tastes different from a baked pasta like macaroni or rigatoni. In case there are one or two of you who have never had this simplest of meals, here's what you do.

Boil about half a package of vermicelli. I chose it because it cooks fast. 
Grease a baking dish - I used an 8x8.
Add half the cooked spaghetti.
Top with sauce.
Add another layer of spaghetti.
Top with more sauce.
Sprinkle breadcrumbs over the top.
Of course if you eat cheese, which I don't, you will put some grated cheese between the layers and on top before, or instead of, the breadcrumbs.
Bake a few minutes in a preheated 350Âș F. oven.

That's it. Easy peasy. And delicious.

Before cooking

After cooking

Monday, May 13, 2013

Quote du jour/Gladys Taber

May is a month for dreaming. The rich fulfillment of summer is not yet come, and the stern reality of winter is one with all time past. Winter, I think, has the frosty visage of a Puritan, and has no traffic with light-mindedness. And summer is like a Greek goddess, templed in green and robed in moon-silver, but she carries in her hand the dark secret seed of sorrow, for she forecasts beauty that must die.

But May is enchantment without shadow. May is the sweetness of love and the mystery of blossoming. …

It is good for us, I think, to keep as much joy in life as we can. We busy ourselves with so many things that are not of the heart and spirit. We worry about money, we agonize over the terrible state of the world, we fret at household duties or business minutiae, we work, we argue, we squander our strength in a million ways.

And all the time the wonder of life is around us, the ecstasy of breathing air ravished by apple blossoms, of walking on fern-cool driftways, of listening to young leaves moving in the moonlight, and of seeing the twilight stars in the violet bowl of the sky. There is joy enough in one spring day to furnish forth the world, if we but knew it.

Gladys Taber 
Stillmeadow Seasons 1950

Glady's Stillmeadow

Friday, May 10, 2013

Nebby the donkey

The recent years have brought too many animal deaths to Windy Poplars Farm. Since 2006, we've lost three dogs, one cat, two donkeys, one goat, and one sheep. The remaining barn animals are all quite elderly. Since Daisy died, we've felt the lack of an equine presence. Last week, the state market bulletin had an ad for a donkey. I called the person immediately, and everything he said sounded great. Nebby is around 11 years old, a small standard donkey, and has lived with cattle for a few years. The price was good. We know a guy who transports horses so we hired him to travel the couple hours to pick her up. (He has gotten a lot of leverage from his 'hauling ass' joke.) And today she arrived! Margaret and Matt came up to visit, and she was calm and friendly to all of us. We've put her in a stall for a bit so she and the sheep and goat can get used to each other. So far, she's had grain, hay, and apples. We are all so happy. A perfect spring tonic!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

A Wednesday evening at the movies - Quartet

Oh, how I loved Quartet. It was wonderful - the acting, the story, the music, the setting - a perfect movie. It was uplifting, yet realistic about aging. The actors were excellent. Tom Courtenay may have the kindest face I've ever seen. The gleam in Billy Connolly's eye hasn't diminished a bit. Pauline Collins still has a kewpie doll look and seems untouched by time. And Maggie Smith. Well, what can one say. She goes from strength to strength. All the talk about there being no roles for older actors seems to be going by the wayside. As the boomer generation ages, I think we'll see more and more films tailored to their sensibilities, though I know I would have loved Quartet in my twenties just as I do now. The movie is set at the fictional Beecham House for Retired Musicians. The real location was Hedsor House.

The movie is peopled with real musicians and singers as well as actors. In a marvelous touch, the credits show photos of the people in the movie and how they looked when younger in one of their acting or musician jobs. Quartet is directed by Dustin Hoffman. Along with the aforementioned actors, we see Trevor Peacock who actually made an appearance on the blog in his role as Jim Trott in The Vicar of Dibley; Andrew Sachs, 'our Manuel' from Fawlty Towers; and Michael Gambon who played such a good Maigret, and was famously in Gosford Park. 

The young people in the film are not portrayed as patronizing the older ones. There's a good scene where the Tom Courtenay character is teaching a class about opera to teens. You can see that he is really getting through to them, and that he is listening and learning from them. He tells his students that opera used to be for people like them, regular, casually dressed people, but then the rich took it over. At the end, the doctor at Beecham House, played so well by Sheridan Smith, says how the residents give younger people hope for their futures.

As always, I don't want to say too much, except see it! In my little theatre, where Tom sells the tickets and runs the projector on Wednesdays, we all clapped at the end. 

The official movie site is here. I thought of posting the trailer, but honestly, it comes off as a bit silly. The film itself is so much more. 

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Up and down the road - May 7

Here are a few of the spring delights I saw as I walked down to Margaret and Matt's (see The Making of a Home under Letter Topics) house, and then back up the hill again.

A new crop of violets has popped up alongside the road, where the plow and grader have stirred up the soil. As they say, 'nature abhors a vacuum.' The minute a tree or bush is cut down, something begins growing in its place.

Serviceberry or shad blossoms softening the sign. Tom did a little post about this plant five years ago - here

One of Tom's first retirement jobs is to cut down the fir and pine beside the stone walls which line the road. This will open up pasture views, and allow for some deciduous trees to grow up.

Along with goutweed, this d*&% highly invasive Japanese barberry is the bane of my gardening existence. 

The sugar maple is so beautiful as it leafs out.

Plum, plum, crabapple, sugar maple. Ah spring!

The plum blossom is the sweetest fragrance I've ever smelled.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Today's picture/The winner!

Joel Rosario on Orb, the winner of the 2013 Kentucky Derby.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Today's poem by Wendell Berry

The Future

For God's sake, be done
with this jabber of "a better world."
What blasphemy! No "futuristic"
twit or child thereof ever
in embodied light will see
a better world than this, 
though they
foretell inevitably a worse.
Do something! Go cut the weeds
beside the oblivious road. Pick up
the cans and bottles, old tires,
and dead predictions. No future
can be stuffed into this presence
except by being dead. The day is
clear and bright, and overhead
the sun not yet half finished
with his daily praise.

Wendell Berry

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Quote du jour/Edwin Way Teale

The world's favorite season is the spring. All things seem possible in May.

  Edwin Way Teale (1899-1980)

Addendum: I just saw that I used this very quote on this very day in 2008! Ah well, they are great words no matter how often we read them.