Saturday, October 19, 2019

Today's video/Brittany Howard

Eight years ago, I put up a video of Alabama Shakes, whose lead singer was Brittany Howard. She has just gone out on her own, and oh man, is she ever good! Listen to what James Corden says to her at the end!

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Four Seasons with Susan Hill and Gladys Taber - Gladys' summer


Gladys begins her summer chapter thinking about friendships, and ponders how they have changed in recent times. Her book was publshed in 1974, which was wrought with divisive politics.

You may remember when I wrote about Susan Hill's spring, I talked about how we can't even talk about the weather now without it being polarizing well, in Gladys' summer she says that weather is about the only "safe" topic people can talk about!
The Vietnam war has been blamed for many things ... for we now tend to keep conversation superficial in case that other person does not agree with our policy. We keep our cool, as we say, by talking about the weather, and sometimes I imagine all of us in some balmy climate where it never changes. What would we find to discuss? Would we sink into a tropical silence?
She proceeds to talk about how this situation isn't true with our true friends.
This has nothing to do with real friendship, of course. A close, warm friendship is as rugged as a fishing boat going out to the wild sea on a dark day when the tide is  high. My own dearest friends do not agree with me on many things, but we can talk about anything and argue and argue, and there is benefit for both sides. For at the core of this relationship is a community of feeling which is basic and has nothing to do with disagreements about politics, going to the moon, or whether we need a new development in the middle of town.
We love and trust a true friend for what he or she is, and living is more enriched by the relationship than words can express. There is in each of us, I think, a deep loneliness, and friendship eases it immeasurably. How sad to think it is growing so scarce nowadays when we need it most.
Wow! She could have written that yesterday. I've heard of friendships breaking up in our current times. I've actually heard people say they could not be friends with someone of a different political persuasion. I told someone recently that our best friends are completely opposite to us in their politics but that matters not a whit. We don't talk about politics because we don't need to. We have way more important things to discuss like our lives and our families. These are the people whom we love, and they love us for who we are, period. We are so lucky and so thankful.

She ends her writings about friendship with these words.
I hope deep friendships will become less rare in our time, especailly since this world has become so impersonal, so much a matter of computers and ratings and machinery. We are not Social Security numbers; we are all individuals, no two alike, every one a whole being needing to experience real relationships and to have the blessing of mutual trust and friendship as we make our common journey through life.
Just a few years after this was written, Bob Seger sang, "I Feel Like A Number". There was this young man singing her thoughts. Gladys is ageless and timeless.

I expect at least a few of you just must hear the song now that I've put it into your heads, so here it is:



Then without skipping a beat, Gladys begins talking about preserving the flowers of summer with potpourri.
It was used in the very early sixteenth century by queens and princesses - partly, we have to admit, because with the lack of sanitation and plumbing the ancient castles were anything but sweet-smelling.
She describes how to make it, and how her eleven year old granddaughter "invents her own combinations". And then Gladys reminded me of something I've done only once, but am encouraged to try again this year!
Simply take a good orange (or lemon) and stick cloves in it all over, as many as you can possibly poke in. Then tie a ribbon around the whole fruit and hang it from a hanger in the closet. The spicy odor is a treat. As the fruit dries, it becomes more fragrant, and it lasts a long time.
She writes of the wonder of fresh corn.
Once you have picked your own corn and rushed to the house with it and shucked it and dropped it in already boiling water, something new has come into your life. 
So very true! This summer has been glorious with fresh corn for many suppers.

New Englanders are used to tourists, then and now, and it was interesting reading what Gladys had to say. I have written about the kind of love/hate relationship all of us have with tourists. We love them, they support the local economy, and in some cases keep it going. We love seeing and meeting new people. But we hate the traffic, the crowds, and the occasional not-so-kind encounters. Not much of which has anything to do with me. I don't work. I'm mostly home. But I do have some young friends who work in the service industries that have had some difficult times with tourists. And I've occasionally heard about some of the trash left behind in our pristine areas. But I've heard nothing as bad as what Gladys writes! She begins by saying that most are "thoughtful, gentle people we are proud to meet".
... they appreciate everything about New England that is different. (I remember one man who said to me with awe, "I never saw an old house before.")
My own horizon is widened as I hear about their home places and just what the weather is like in January.
It is a sad commentary that the vast numbers of these visitors we enjoy so much are not counted, whereas the small number who are obnoxious are made the main topic of conversation. Unfortunately, it is bad news that makes headlines because it is more dramatic.
Same as it ever was! But then she gives examples which horrified me.
What we notice in midsummer tourist season is that all the roads are suddenly strewn with garbage tossed from departing cars and that kittens and puppies wander crying along the highways, dropped off en route. [I am sure this was as hard for her to notice and write about as it was for me to read] Raw holes appear where someone has dug up a treasure to take home. Roadside signs are torn up; lawn furniture left near the roadside vanishes. Mailboxes are knocked over.
Our first sad experience was when the wrought-iron Stillmeadow sign by the picket fence disappeared. It had come from a special place in Maine and had a really beautiful wrought-iron cocker in the middle of it. I've often wondered just where the thief could put it or whether it was finally thrown away.
I have done a lot of wondering about many things, but I have decided as far as summer tourists go that the explanation is simple. Wherever you go, you take yourself with you. You pack your suitcases, close the house, arrange with the neighbors to pick up the papers and the mail, cancel the milk delivery, and so on. Then you drive off down the road. ... There is no solution to this problem for those of us who live with a summer season. After Labor Day we can get the community to clean up the roadsides, take the trash to the dump, put up new road signs, fill in the holes, and so on.  
Here is a picture of the sign.


Gladys goes on to write of August's heat, and dreaming of snow and icicles. And then she writes of a subject dear to my heart.
There are two theories in my valley about defeating the heat. One is to keep all the windows shut all day, open them at night, and shut them at sunrise. The other is to leave every window in the house open and let whatever breeze there may be drift lazily in. I prefer this, for I love open windows.
Well, I have always, always been the latter. I'm an open window girl. But I am the living example that you can indeed teach an old dog new tricks! As I wrote here, we got some window air-conditioners, and they have really changed my life. Even if they are not used every day, those hot, hot days are now bearable to me. I can continue with my life instead of feeling limp and half dead. And really, I must thank my daughter and her husband for the example. Matt is a keep-all-the-windows closed kind of fellow, and I had to admit that their house was a lot cooler than ours on the stifling days. And then they put in a couple window ACs, and man, the difference was even more marked, so I gave in, and am so happy I did!

And because of this new way of living, for the first time in ages I could feel the words of Shakespeare which Gladys quotes. "Summer's lease hath all too short a date." I loved this summer.

I was pleased when she wrote
I am happy to say a good many experts now feel even dieters should eat some potatoes, because they have something no other vegetable has. And they also do something to raise the spirits in a special way.
An interesting side note is I was watching an episode of the 1990s British television show, Pie in the Sky, when a man who had been two years sober tells a friend that he is having a bit of a hard time, and so he eats pototoes! They somehow give him a bit of the feeling he got from alcohol.

You may know that Gladys' house was built in 1690! It has a "coffin door" in the cellar. It was so coffins could be carried downstairs and out to the waiting wagons.
I believe a very old house holds its memories of all the lives that have been spent there. Some of them must have been sorrowful and some happy, some difficult, some easy. But there is an overtone of happiness in this house which most people feel as they come in. ... Houses all have personalities, at least to me, quite apart from the furnishings and décor and style, but this sturdy, ancient farmhouse has a special gentleness built into it. It is one reason we never felt restless. I said traveling is all very well if you can get home at night. I would be willing to go around the world if I came back in time to light the candles and set the table for supper.
That could be me talking. This woman who lived from 1899 to 1980 is as alive to me as can be.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Quote du jour/My oldest grandson

"Nana, your hair is the color of potato chips."
Campbell Walker, age 5

Monday, September 30, 2019

Four Seasons with Susan Hill and Gladys Taber - Susan's Spring


Susan Hill's "Spring" chapter in The Magic Apple Tree may just be the best writing I've ever read about English country life. It was so beautiful that I almost couldn't believe she was talking about a real place. It sounded like a fictional Eden. But this was her real life in the early 1980s in a town called Barley. Even that name! It sounds made up, but England is full of interesting town names.

I know that she is living somewhere else now, but I would so love to read her reflections about that town now. I'd love to know about any changes she sees in weather or birds or outdoor work or the people living there.

As Giles Wood wrote recently in The Oldie magazine,
Weather has certainly become less enjoyable to discuss. 
And that's really the truth. Weather is now political, like most everything else it seems. I love hearing about weather in the past. I like to see how much it was like now, or was different. Giles again, quoting an 1878 nature diary by Richard Jeffries,
Summer cold in June. Shivering in the parlour with lilac and flowers in the grate and apple blossoms in the garden. Yet cold, and all the green things dripping.
I recently read an entry in my mother's diary from the early 1970s, I think, where she was lamenting that it was 80 degrees in the morning!

Memory is just not reliable. Tom keeps a weather diary, and it is a good thing for us all to do. "It hasn't rained this much in July ever" someone might say, but unless we look at the facts we don't know if that is really true. And now when we hear someone talk about the weather we either think it is an example of global warming (which Mr Wood says scientists are now calling global heating, "as warming sounds too agreeable"), or the listener is reminded of a period of time just like that years ago. It's a funny old world just now.

All this is a long-winded preface to talking about Susan Hill's words from nearly 40 years ago. I liked reading them without any political connotation. The weather just is.
The weather is grey, it is cold still. The blossom looks like snow against the sky. And then, one morning, there is snow, snow at the very end of April, five or six inches of it, after a terrible stormy night. ... And another day, just before the blossom withers and shrinks back into the fast opening leaves, there is the softest of spring mornings, at last it is touched by the early sun, and the apple tree looks as it should look, if the world went aright, in springtime.
Does anyone use that wonderful word "aright" anymore?
May, which can be the most perfect of all months, has crept in miserably, while we still light fires and draw the curtains early, still wear winter woolens and despair of early seedlings coming through the cold stone ground. People talk of how summers used to be, in their childhood, long and hot and golden. But I notice that it is the springs that are no longer what they were.
On an early morning bicycle ride about town, she ponders,
But the same pair of swallows come back five thousand miles, year after year ... Migration, and this sort of regular return across so many thousands of miles of sea, is the sort of common, mind-boggling fact of nature which seems more incredible the more we find out about exactly what happens, but I often wonder what the country people of hundreds of years ago thought; not too many of them can have had any idea about what happened to all those birds that appeared in their villages in March or April, and were gone again at the end of every summer. Did they speculate, or guess accurately, or have folk-tales to account for it?
She writes of the swifts,
Around and above the church tower are the swifts, soaring high and circling and diving, screaming all the time. When we lived in Stratford-Upon-Avon, the arrival of the swifts, which come in huge numbers into the town, and their departure during the first week of August, put inverted commas around the summer.
And decades later she laments the loss of the swifts and other small birds in
Jacob's Room is Full of Books.

A wonder of this book is that Barley is only five miles from Oxford. Amazing that such a bucolic life was being lived in such proximity to this city. Again, I wonder about now. I've read about the rural English properties which are being bought up by the very rich, which is what Chris Wood is singing about in The Cottager's Reply, here.

Susan goes out for a morning bicycle ride, and sees birds and flowers and farmyards. And then she writes
I stop and get off, climb on a gate and look over it, and away down acres of sheep field that slope steeply towards the last, flat acres of meadow before the main road, a mile away. Here it is quite quiet, the sun is getting up a little, warming my back, there are dewdrops trembling on the spider-webs that are draped over the wooden gate, and a thistle is glinting with moisture. Here, there is no sound, no sign of human life at all. Down there, beyond the sheep and their lambs, what gleams silver is metal, the roofs and mirrors of cars and lorries, silent because what breeze there is is blowing in the other direction, taking the rumble of engines away from me. But, when the wind blows uphill, and especially if the trees are bare between, you know, just here, that you are on the very edge of the city, and all the pastoral remoteness is an illusion.
And there, five miles off and beautiful against the sky, are the dreaming spires, ethereal, glittering, insubstantial in the pearly, misty air of this early spring morning...
Our Windy Poplars Farm is three miles exactly to our little town. I can't imagine what it might be like - two miles further to be in Oxford!!

I don't think there is anything more quintessentially English to the Anglophiles amongst us than a "bluebell wood." Maybe there are bluebells in this country, but I've not seen them. A few here and there, but not a "wood" of them. Maybe they grow in warmer climates than here?
By the gate to the bluebell copse, I stopped, just as Stanley stops the car at the end of every day when he reaches this point, and gets out to look and to smell, while the ground is a sea of that magical blue, and the scent is so fresh, under the encircling trees. ... I have memories of bluebells, perhaps everyone who has lived in the country has them; mine are of walking through Raincliffe Woods near Scarborough with bluebells all around me and stretching away, like another ocean, of bluebells up to my middle, of lying down in them and of pulling them up by their sappy stems until my fingers were wet and green, unable to learn the repeated lesson that they would not last, would droop and wilt so sadly long before home. There is no sadder sight than armfuls of bluebells thrown into the ditch and left to rot because someone has felt cheated and not even bothered to get them home.
I think I have finally learned my "repeated lesson" when it comes to some flowers. Lilacs, in particular. There is nothing more fragrant and beautiful as the end-of- May lilacs. For years and years I would bring in bouquets and they just didn't last. Now I spend time at all the bushes, just taking deep breaths and enjoying the moments rather than putting them in vases.

She speaks of cowslips
this sort of old grazing land is the last haunt of those increasingly rare flowers
Gardeners' World this year had a program on bringing back meadows, and cowslips are one of the flowers being planted! I am always elated to hear such good nature news.

 And the rabbits! Do you have rabbits where you live? We don't. We'll occasionally see one, and I thrill to it as if it were the rarest animal in the world. I have such a love for them. When we brought the kids to England in 1992, we stayed in a house in Forthampton. In the evenings, we would walk out on a dirt road to the very end where there was a gate. We would stand there and watch the rabbits cavorting in the field. I so wish I had taken a photograph, though the sight is etched in my mind.
Almost every morning in March, I had looked out across this field, and the Rise that leads up from it, to see hares behaving in that legendary way, going mad, racing around in circles, the males boxing one another to impress the females.
I can only imagine such a sight in one's daily life.

Along with the lesson about picking certain flowers to bring indoors, there is another lesson which often takes a long time to learn, for many of us. And this is the lesson of planting vegetable seeds later in the season, when the ground has warmed up.
In my experience, you rarely gain anything by sowing too early, but, instead, lose rather heavily, in both seeds and labour. ... Mr Elder, a good, old-fashioned country gardener, was in hospital last spring, for almost six weeks, and when he was fit enough to be out and doing again in his garden it was May. Even I had sown most things by then and they were coming on well enough, whilst his plot still looked bare and brown. In a couple of days, in his quiet, unhurried, steady way, born of seventy-odd years' practice, he had accomplished more than takes me a couple of weeks, and by the end of June his crops were further forward than mine. My beans and peas had simply been sitting in the cold soil waiting to germinate when the sun eventually shone, his went straight into the nicely warmed-up ground and came through within days.
Susan Hill also tells a tale that is familiar to me, and maybe to you, as well. When we first garden, we grow everything. I well remember planting cabbage, for example, a vegetable I use maybe half a dozen times a year for coleslaw, period! Our gardens are also often huge - way bigger than we can take care of! These are things we learn over time until we reach that perfect garden, growing only what we love, and in a space we are able to keep looking relatively good throughout the summer. You also have to learn your weather. For example, she can't grow anything taller than three feet because of the winds. This is always a consideration here, too. Tom had to use wooden stakes to hold our tall tomato cages, even more important in the new garden which is more exposed.
Potatoes may be hard work, too, in the planting-out and earthing-up stages, but after that they are no trouble, and they don't seem to mind what sort of soil they grow in, nor how hard it rains, or blows, though they are vulnerable to late frosts.The joys of having one's own potatoes are worth any amount of sweat ...
To which I say, yes! We didn't even "earth-up" the potatoes this year, and still we got lots and lots.

Lettuce is one of my favorite foods - the big leaved, Bibb or Butterhead types. I don't care for the many "spring mixes" that are available now. And I don't use dressing. And I prefer eating it by hand all by itself, like those rabbits I love so well. However, we just can't seem to get it right when it comes to planting it and picking it. But in a gardener's mind, there is always next year, and I think I have a good idea from Susan Hill.
Lettuces I do in succession thoughout the spring and early summer, from a packet of mixed varieties, including Cos and Webbs and Butterhead kinds, and, although I try to sow them thinly, I never thin the seedlings themselves out at all until they are quite big, and as dense as parsley. Then I use half a dozen at once, when they are in young, tender leaf. Whenever I have thinned them early - a dreadful job, in any case - and let them grow to full, individual heartiness, lettuces in this garden have come on too slowly, and become tough, snail-and-greenfly-ridden, and inedible. 
So, I will try this next year. This kind of planting is very familiar to me from British gardening shows and books. In the US, most gardens, especially flower gardens, are planted with a plant, then a space which is weeded, then another plant. It all looks very neat and tidy, but it is not my way. Everything I have seen and read from England encourages planting close together, like those cottage gardens I love so much with plants intermingling, and sometimes hanging onto one another for support. I love that, and have done it for years in the flower gardens, but never thought of doing this with the lettuce. Am quite excited, to tell the truth!

In her "People" chapter, Susan has a lovely description of the old and the young, which I now, thankfully, know so well.
That close proximity, in a small village like Barley, of the very young and the very old, is a fine thing, especially for a child like ours, who does not have grandparents to hand. Small children will talk to anyone, once the guard of shyness has fallen, and they have, like the elderly, a sense of immediacy, a need to say or do something, now, now, the minute it is thought of, combined with that other sense, of the complete irrelevance of time.
I'm sorry to be writing "out of season" but it has been quite a full spring and summer, and now with Tom's mother and step-father settled into the assisted living facility, and the grandchildren all in school, pre-K for Indy, and Kindergarten for Hazel and Campbell, I have more solid time to not only read, but also to be more thoughtful about my reading.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Diana, and now Harry

I don't know if you've heard this story, but here is a video of it. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex and baby Archie went to Africa. It is a bit hard to hear, but worth trying.



There is an article about the visit here. Sorry about all that junk on the sidebar, but this was the best account I read.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Today's picture/Fall

And 'tis autumn here at Windy Poplars Farm.

Monday, September 23, 2019

Today's song/'Tis Autumn



Old Father Time checked, so there'd be no doubt,
Called on the north wind to come on out,
Then cupped his hands, so proudly to shout,
"La-de-da, de-da-de-dum, 'tis Autumn!".

The trees say they're tired, they've born too much fruit,
Charmed all the wayside, there's no dispute,
Now shedding leaves, they don't give a hoot!
La-de-da, de-da-de-dum, 'tis Autumn!

Then the birds got together
To chirp about the weather,
After makin' their decision
With birdie-like precision,
Turned about and made a bee-line to the south.

My holding you close really is no crime,
Ask the birds, the trees, and Old Father Time,
It's just to help the mercury climb,
La-de-da, de-da-de-dum, 'tis Autumn!

It's just to help the mercury climb,
La-de-da, de-da-de-dum, 'tis Autumn!

Lyrics submitted by SongMeanings
"'Tis Autumn" as written by Henry Nemo
Lyrics © Warner Chappell Music, Inc.
Lyrics powered by LyricFind

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Upsetting news about birds

Well, this is certainly distressing. I expect most of us have noticed there aren't as many birds around, but the cold hard facts are so sad.

From: https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2019/09/three-billion-north-american-birds-have-vanished-1970-surveys-show

Shorebirds such as sanderlings may be dwindling because of habitat loss.
 
TIM GRAHAM/GETTY IMAGES

Three billion North American birds have vanished since 1970, surveys show

North America's birds are disappearing from the skies at a rate that's shocking even to ornithologists. Since the 1970s, the continent has lost 3 billion birds, nearly 30% of the total, and even common birds such as sparrows and blackbirds are in decline, U.S. and Canadian researchers report this week online in Science. "It's staggering," says first author Ken Rosenberg, a conservation scientist at the Cornell University Laboratory of Ornithology. The findings raise fears that some familiar species could go the way of the passenger pigeon, a species once so abundant that its extinction in the early 1900s seemed unthinkable.
The results, from the most comprehensive inventory ever done of North American birds, point to ecosystems in disarray because of habitat loss and other factors that have yet to be pinned down, researchers say. Yet ecologist Paul Ehrlich at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, who has been warning about shrinking plant and animal populations for decades, sees some hope in this new jolt of bad news: "It might stir needed action in light of the public interest in our feathered friends."
In past decades, Ehrlich and others have documented the decline of particular bird groups, including migratory songbirds. But 5 years ago, Rosenberg; Peter Marra, a conservation biologist now at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.; and their colleagues decided to take a broader look at what is happening in North America's skies. They first turned to the North American Breeding Bird Survey, an annual spring census carried out by volunteers across Canada and the United States, which has amassed decades of data about 420 bird species. The team also drew on the Audubon Christmas Bird Count for data on about 55 species found in boreal forests and the Arctic tundra, and on the International Shorebird Survey for trends in shorebirds such as sandpipers and plovers. Aerial surveys of water bodies, swamps, and marshes filled out the picture for waterfowl. All together, they studied 529 bird species, about three-quarters of all species in North America, accounting for more than 90% of the entire bird population.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

"In wildness is the preservation of the world"

Henry David Thoreau said that. We have a little bit of that wildness in the yard just off the kitchen. Years ago, we planted some iris, spiderwort (remember what Henry Mitchell says, "wirt" not wart), phlox, rosa rugosa, globe thistle, and mountain bluet there.

You walk out this door


and look to the left. Most of those plants are still there, but over the past few years some milkweed has crept in and of course we kept it, because one, it is beautiful; two, it smells wonderful when in flower; and three, and most importantly, it provides a "nursery" for monarch butterfly caterpillars. This year there have been many, many caterpillars and butterflies, not only monarchs but lots of others, two. My sister-in-law said that milkweed provides for many kinds of caterpillars.

Each day, I've gone out to look and today there are no more. We are supposed to have our first frost tonight so they must be thinking their warm weather here has ended.

This is what we call our "wild garden". We've let the milkweed grow a few feet further into the lawn. Wild asters and goldenrod have begun growing there, too.





and down behind is a ton of comfrey which has been full of bees. The field beyond is where the animals used to graze when we had more of them. Now with just one donkey, 6 sheep (with two more coming soon), and the chickens, we don't need two pastures so they just graze the one near the barn. Tom mows it in the fall, and it grows up again in the summer, welcoming the birds and the bees and the butterflies.


Here is a closeup of the milkweed pods.


I actually saw the caterpillars chomping away on these leaves.


A while ago there was a lot of concern about the lack of milkweed, but at Windy Poplars Farm, and down on our neighbors' land, there is plenty of it to make all the little creatures happy and thriving. I think people have learned that it is a plant well worth keeping in one's garden.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Susan Branch's Best Biscuits

I've had the most glorious couple weeks of reading, totally immersed in Susan Branch's memoirs.


She is an old friend whom I've never met. I have her cookbooks, her address book, her birthday book, her stickers, her calendars. I love her work with real handwriting and her paintings and her quotes. She has brought such joy to my life.

The one on the right was actually published first, but chronologically it comes third. I began with The Fairy Tale Girl, then Martha's Vineyard Isle of Dreams, and am now reading A Fine Romance Falling in Love with the English Countryside.

If you are a fan you will adore these books! And if you don't know Susan Branch these books are a good introduction.

This morning I decided to make her biscuit recipe. I have others in my recipes folder, but I've never posted about hers. In fact, I'm quite sure I made them only once. They are in her first cookbook.



You may see a couple changes I made after the first time I made them. I thought they were too salty so I reduced both the baking powder and the salt. Today I also substituted buttermilk for heavy cream because I didn't have any cream, and I love buttermilk in baked goods. Another difference for me is that I used a 9x13 pan sprayed with cooking spray. I've had such good luck using it before when I bake biscuits. I didn't butter both sides, just the top, but then we used the extra butter for the biscuits when they were cooked and we split them open. They cooked a little longer than hers, probably because of the different pan. I'd say 25 minutes or so.

They were excellent, perfect, delicious. Tom and I loved them, and then our beloved neighbors popped in and enjoyed them, too. Especially Hazel. She may have eaten four!



I'll put this up on the Weekend Cooking site.

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Van the Man

It was a toss-up whether to post this tomorrow when it is really September, or today which is Van Morrison's 74th birthday, but I decided to do it on his birthday. Over the years of this blog, I've written many times about Van. My life is so much richer because of his music. It is always hard to think of which is my favorite of his songs, but this one is right up there.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Blueberry Fool

Blueberry Fool


I've had this recipe on a little post-it note in my recipe box for ages. I have no idea where it came from, but it is absolutely delicious, and incredibly easy and quick to make.

Melt 1 Tablespoon of butter in a saucepan.
Add 2 cups blueberries and 1/3 cup sugar.
Mix together, and take off heat.
Add 1 1/2 cups whipped cream and put in the fridge.

Honestly, that's it! I love this and will make it every summer during blueberry season from now on!

I think I'll add this to Weekend Cooking on Saturday, since it has been ages since I've posted a recipe!

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Today's picture/Dragonfly 2

We have a houseful of spiders and daddy-long-legs in the late summer, and I thought this was the latter until I took a closer look. First dragonfly we've ever seen inside. Tom brought it out and it flew away. It doesn't look much like the other one, but I'm quite sure it is a dragonfly. The second picture is blurry but I wanted a closeup.


Sunday, August 25, 2019

Today's picture/Dragonfly

This morning our son-in-law Matty found this on the lawn. Seems like it just died a natural death. I've put it in a big glass jar.

Addendum: I got a comment below from someone who used to have dragonflies in the yard, but no longer. I did a little searching to see why they might be gone, and I read that dragonflies are connected with death. It seems they show up after someone has died. Well, yesterday afternoon a neighbor called and said that two of our neighbors had died. I find that very strange. Coincidental probably that this is the first dragonfly I've ever seen closeup (and dead), but still makes me shiver just a bit.




Friday, August 16, 2019

Quote du jour/John Muir

When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.

John Muir 1838-1914

More about the man here.

The canned tomatoes I buy are from Muir Glen, and this quote was on the can.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Farm and Garden Report 2019 - First Potatoes

This year I bought a couple pounds of Yukon gold seed potatoes to plant in our new vegetable garden.  I was also given some purple potatoes from a friend who had more that she could use. These potatoes came from a nun who does the gardens at a home for elderly nuns. We ate many, but let some of them wrinkle up and sprout eyes, and we planted those as well. We have quite a good size potato patch.


This evening we dug for the first time, and found these beauties.


They are in the oven baking right now. We'll have them with pesto made with our basil; a salad made with our lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumbers; and some leftover tabouli made with our parsley! Ah, the bounty of August!

I'm sorry I haven't written more often. It has been a very busy summer with the little ones, and also planning a move for Tom's mother and step-father from Independent Living to Assisted Living. That takes place on Friday, and the kids start school in a couple of weeks so there will hopefully be more time for ye olde blogge.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Quote du jour/Chris Packham

I know it is summer, but I am not finished with Springwatch yet! In the US, it is shown on BritBox. If you have even the smallest Anglophile bone in you, you will love it, and Acorn.

I just heard Chris Packham say this, and I am amazed, amazed, and knew my readers would be as well.

Scientists at Tel Aviv University in Israel have been looking at the relationship between flowers and bees. They were looking at evening primroses and they found that within 3 minutes of a bee buzzing past a primrose flower, that flower increased the sugar percentage of its nectar by 30%. So the flower was sensing that the bees were there and tempting them with more sugary nectar. They reproduced the sound of buzzing bees and they also used other buzzings which weren't bees and they found that only the bee buzzing produces this response in the flowers. So, fundamentally folks, flowers can hear bees buzzing, and respond to them. Now, I don't know about you but I love that. ... Flowers can hear bees buzzing.

Chris Packham
on Springwatch 2019

Sunday, July 28, 2019

The wonder of it all

Last evening was very special; one of those times that makes you stop and feel the richness and joy of life.

When our dearest little granddaughter Hazel came home after 2 months and 3 days in the hospital where she had been born at a day under 29 weeks, I put up a video of Natalie Merchant's "Wonder" in honor of her. (Hazel's birth story is here if you are a new reader.) I thought the words perfectly described this little wonder who had lived through such a precarious beginning.

When I heard Natalie Merchant was coming to our small town theatre, I bought tickets 4 minutes after they went on sale for Tom, Margaret, Hazel, and I! The tickets sold out in 2 hours.


Last night was the show, and as Hazel didn't last too long sitting in the seat, we all went outdoors and listened. It was the most perfect summer evening you can imagine. The place is not air-conditioned, but Natalie asked if the doors could be open, so we got to hear everything. The stage was just inside, and people occasionally walked in and watched. There was one other little girl there and she and Hazel became fast friends and had a wonderful time. They even picked petunias out of a pot and put them on the stage for Natalie. Most of the time they played in the outdoor eating area, but when I heard "Wonder" begin, I asked Hazel to come in with me and she did. Margaret told her this song means a lot to Nana. Well, you know I was crying most of the way through it. One of life's perfect, perfect moments. So thankful, so lucky, and that prayer of thankfulness is never out of my mind and heart.

And another very special thing is that in 1998, we traveled to Saratoga Springs, New York to Lilith Fair, and Natalie was one of the performers!

Margaret took a selfie of all of us before the show began.


And here is the official video of Natalie singing the song.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Quote du jour/Call the Midwife, last words, last episode of series 8

Again in the perfect voice of Vanessa Redgrave, we hear these words spoken.

Gathered together, we find our light
And each spark shifts and multiplies,
Scattering its radiance on our ordinary lives
Like everything precious, more valuable when shared.
Like every common miracle, made of the stuff of stars.
Let the light shine.
Watch for it falling on each other's faces,
Count the beams, catch them, let them be reflected back,
See the hope, see the promise.
Never hide your fears in silence.
Listen to those you cherish.
Hold them in your arms.
Let them hear your heart.
Tell your truth. Tell your story.
Tell your love.

And oh, what a season/series eight was. I rented the DVD from Netflix, and just finished.



At the end of each season I think, well that was the best, so far. I love this show so very much. I watched the extras, and Miriam Margolies said that she told everyone that she wanted to be in Call the Midwife, and she was! And another treat was seeing one of my favorite British actresses, Annette Crosbie.


When she is on-screen, it is hard to see anyone else. She is so wonderful.

When Call the Midwife finally ends, and I hope it goes on for a decade at least!, I will buy the box set of DVDs, and watch over and over again.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Mrs Bale says, "bring on the heat"

Mrs Bale is looking pretty smug these days!


If you have visited here even a few times, you know that I am a cold weather girl. I do not like hot summer weather. Last year we decided to see how it was this summer, and if there were some hot days, we would try a window air-conditioner. Pretty much all of us who live here don't much like the weather when it is over 80º F. with high humidity. That combination makes for "bad sleeping nights." Around about early July that weather came. We actually got two window units; one for the living room


and one for the bedroom.


And that's all it took to make the house comfortable. We turned the floor fan in the living room to face the kitchen and that blows enough of the cool, air-conditioned living room air into the kitchen to make being there very comfortable.


We don't use them every day, only on the hot, hot days, and as Robert Frost said about something entirely different, "that has made all the difference."

PS, we've just decided to get one for the room that will be the grandchildren's room when they sleep over. It is on the other side of the upstairs, and that area is very hot.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Quote du jour - Chris Packham

"We've lost 40 million birds from the UK countryside since 1970. We've lost them for all sorts of reasons - the intensification of agriculture; development, of course; over-fishing; climate change. All human related factors."

Chris Packham on
Springwatch 2019

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Six in Six - 2019

I just read this on Cath's blog, and thought it might be fun to do.

The idea comes from a new-to-me blog called The Book Jotter. Her post about this year's Six in Six is here. She notes that a book can feature in more than one category.

1. Six authors who are new to me.

Jenni Keer. I loved her book The Hopes and Dreams of Lucy Baker. To use one of my favorites adjectives, it was charming. It was warm-hearted, with nice people, and a wonderful intergenerational friendship.

Debbie Tung. Another literary soul-mate. I just "met" her last year, but since I read her first book in November 2018, and her second in February of this year I thought I'd include her in this category. Her two non-fiction graphic books are Quiet Girl in a Noisy World, and Book Love. I so enjoyed them both.

Christopher Huang. I read his most interesting book, A Gentlemen's Murder. These quotes were on the Amazon page, and really, they say it all. My kind of book. I really liked it.

"Huang's impressive debut will delight fans of golden age detective fiction." ―Publishers Weekly (starred review) 

"Dorothy Sayers is alive and well and writing under the name of Christopher Huang." ―Rhys Bowen, New York Times-bestselling author of The Tuscan Child 

"A must read for fans of Anthony Horowitz, Charles Todd, and Anne Perry." ―Daryl Maxwell, Los Angeles Public Library 

Kathi Daley's The Inn at Holiday Bay: Letters in the Library, book 2 in the Holiday Bay series. I liked this very much. There's a nice write-up about the book here. I have the first in the series, and plan to read it soon.

E.C.R. Lorac - I've read Murder by Matchlight and Fire in the Thatch so far, and want more! You may read more about the author here.

Last, but definitely not least is H.Y. Hanna. I've read the prequel and five books in her Oxford Tea Room mysteries series. I can't seem to stop. As soon as I finish one, I begin the next. The books are set in my favorite place in the world, the one place I do hope to visit, Oxford England. I fell in love with this city watching Inspector Morse and Inspector Lewis, and now to read about it is simply heaven. The author went to Oxford, and knows the city well. She is very prolific, and you may read more of what she has written here. I have also bought a book in another of her series, The English Cottage Garden mysteries, and will read it when I've read the next four of the Tea Room books!

2. Six authors I have read before. All beloved old friends.

Harry Kemelman - I've now read all the Rabbi Small books for the second time, and find myself wanting to spend time with him again.

Rosamunde Pilcher - I re-read Flowers in the Rain, and then thought I'd try The Shell Seekers again. Probably needless to say to Pilcher fans, I loved them both. I didn't want either book to end. I did begin September, but it didn't hold my interest so I dropped it for now.

Agnes Sligh Turnbull. I've read her Little Christmas many times, and it always touches me deeply. I need to read more of her work.

Anne Tyler. This is to be my year of Anne Tyler. I've so enjoyed her work over the years. The books I've read so far this year are on the sidebar.

John Grisham. I've never read a book by him that I didn't enjoy! This year's was Calico Joe, but hope to read more. My  blogging friend in PEI said that Grisham is "very reliable", and that is exactly how I feel.

D.E. Stevenson. I've read so many over the years, but have many more to read. This year I read Spring Magic, and so enjoyed it.

3. Six authors I read last year - but not so far this year.

Ragnar Jonasson. I really do like his Dark Iceland series.

Frances Garrood. I loved her Ruth Robinson's Year of Miracles, and want to read more of this author's work.

Radha Vatsal. I really liked A Front Page Affair, book 1 in the Kitty Weeks series. An historical mystery set in 1915 New York City about a young journalist. So far there is just one more book, but I hope there will be more.

Rachel Joyce. I so loved The Music Shop. A perfect book. I would like to read more of her work.

Anthony Horowitz. I loved The Word is Murder last year, and want to read the next one called The Sentence is Murder. I also loved Magpie Murders.

George Bellairs. Wonderful writer. I read four last year. More here about him.

4. Six books from the past that led me back there.

A favorite category for me since I do love older books.

If Morning Ever Comes by Anne Tyler. This was published in 1964, her first book. It gave such a feeling of the time. I was 16 that year, and it was so much quieter than now. Less news, fewer weather reports, no screens except television with the two stations I could get.

The two Lorac books, Murder by Matchlight and Fire in the Thatch.

Everybody Always Tells by E.R. Punshon.

Spring Magic by D.E. Stevenson. I love books set during WW II that actually take place then.

The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher. It is quite amazing to me how different 1987 was from now. And parts of the book are set further back.

5. Six series of books read or started.

Samuel Craddock series by Terry Shames. I have almost read all the books. Love the Texas setting and the main character.

Inspector de Silva series by Harriet Steele. Love these books and read them as fast as they come out.

Holiday Bay series by Kathi Daley.

Robert Macdonald series by E.C.R. Lorac.

Rabbi Small series by Harry Kemelman.

Oxford Tea Room series by H.Y. Hanna

6. Six Favourite Places to Read.

Bed - I read only Kindle books there.

Kitchen chair by woodstove

Living room chair

Kitchen table while I eat breakfast

Porch

Terrace, where I recently put a chair in the shade, in one of my favorite spots.


Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Springtime at Windy Poplars - a photographic tour

This is what one of the flower gardens looked like on the day spring began, March 20.


Two days later


March 24


March 28


March 29 - plotting out the new vegetable garden, in the snow!


April 3 - sheep shearing day


April 6 - evening light


April 9 - evening light again


April 13 - signs of growth


April 20 - chickens on the lawn and crossing the road



Also April 20 - daffs we planted last fall are up!



April 22 - amazing evening sky - second picture only seconds after first one, and third seconds after that.




May 5 - forsythia. I learned it should really be pronounced with a long "I" because it is named after William Forsyth, a Scottish botanist.


May 6 - Ice Follies narcissus was a blog header picture


May 16 - viburnum up the road


May 17 - double rainbow, and our old daffs on the side lawn


May 24 - a bouquet of my plum blossoms, and lily-of-the-valley coming



May 26 - newly tilled up vegetable garden


Field violets -  were here when we came


 Thalia daffs


Bleeding heart


The patio gardens




June 7 - lilacs


June 11 - the white barn lilacs. Tom's mother gave him this for Father's Day decades ago.


Crabapple. At the top left of the picture you may see a mowing line. We are leaving half the lawn un-mowed this year. Lots of pretty wildflowers are appearing.


June 17 - Iris we transplanted into patio garden in the fall


Baptisia Australis - wild indigo


 Aquilegia, also transplanted in the fall


June 18 - on the hill out back. The wild garden, never weeded with a Lucy path through the middle. Ferns, iris, lupine.


That beautiful evening light - was a blog header. This was the last picture I took of the gardens of springtime. What a spring it was. Everything bloomed abundantly and lasted a long time. It was cool and wet, with some hot, sunny days.