Tuesday, January 25, 2011

AROS#15: Earl

Good blues,
And my fingers are strumming
On the steering wheel;
NPR has Chris Smithers at Godfrey’s,

I remember
Drinking wine there
Rocking along; catching his eye,
In that small, warm space,
Drunk and horny;
A lifetime ago.

As I drive through the parkway tonight,
Posh houses alight
With HD TVs and game rooms,
Leftover Christmas lights,
Driveway LEDs,

I know you are listening to the
Trout breathe; damp, green breath.
Those last, hardy spiders in your hair;
Your beard keeps your chin warm.
Toes bundled in socks
That you put on in November.

Burrowed deep,
The mice keep you company
In your free, 25th winter,

Monday, January 24, 2011

AROS#14: Arctic Air

Arctic Air

Snow so cold
it squeaks
in protest under my feet.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Dinner from the Freezer, Organic Style

It's January, and after a long, hot summer, a frantic fall, and an equally frantic holiday season, we're all settling into the winter doldrums.  NOT SO! Unfortunately, I don't have pictures, but we had summer for dinner tonight:

Fresh (frozen) local organic sausage roulettes, garden grown kale in a wild oyster mushroom cream sauce, oven baked sweet potatoes (Amish grown), and frozen strawberries (from the market last summer) over homemade, raw-milk ice cream.  And it all took about 40 minutes, and came from my freezer and pantry.  Yahoo!

I think I'm beginning to like winter!

AROS#13: Why?


I think in questions. Don't you?  Research is natural.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Help! I'm a Hostage of Sourdough!

I am being held captive by a colony of yeast.  It's true: I captured them myself about a year or so ago, but I've fed them, nurtured them, kept their home clean.  They've contributed to the occasional flatbread, it's true, but when I asked them to perform a slightly more difficult task (a loaf of sourdough bread), they went on strike.

The sponge
They're alive and well in there..I can tell. Here's what they looked like at noon yesterday. They bubbled away, looking mildly happy...so I waited awhile, then added some flour.  And what did they do?

 Not much.  So I went out for the evening, and returned to see this: a little action.

 OK...I took the hint.  I have a slow yeast.  I went to bed.  By the way, my house is rather, um, cool at night. That might be an issue.

 By noon today, this was the state of my sponge.  OK, that's more like it!

 I added some sugar, oil, and salt, and kneaded in the flour a half cup at a time, then left the dough to double in size. Here's the site I'm using for instructions and the recipe.

Do you know I used to bake bread regularly when I was a young woman? Of course, I used commercial yeast and soft white flour. There's not a bit of yeast in this sourdough except for the yeast that is natural to my home environment; this should impart a unique flavor to the bread I bake, a "terior", exactly like the "taste of place" found in fine wines from various regions.  It's also a random blend of the various organic flours I had on hand, all mixed together into a batch. 
I suppose good things are worth waiting for.

It wouldn't rise on the table near the heater; it wouldn't rise on top of the stove, so I put it IN the stove and occasionally turned on the heat for a minute or so.  My dough was unenthusiastic, but eventually it did rise a bit, so I punched it down, then formed a loaf.  That's supposed to double in size before I bake it.

I'm not holding my breath.  It's 6 PM of the NEXT DAY!  How did people survive on this stuff????
And more importantly,
will it be good?????

Epic Fail.

It looks harmless enough. 

It even got nice and brown.  Smelled good, too.

But where are the bubbles, I ask you? Where?  It's like unleavened bread!  Lazy darn yeast!
Well, it's not over, I tell you.
You're trying again.  Starting NOW.  I'm breaking out the heating pad!  Big guns!
I DARE you not to rise!
You're going to do some work around here, darnit!
Just see if you don't!

AROS#12: Yeast


Note to self: bread won't rise in a cold kitchen.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

AROS#11: Dusk


An hour before sunset
looking west
the black-white cattle
grow golden halos,
a spiderweb.
of trees behind them

AROS# 10: Gone


You both occupied your space confidently.

I still see you
In the middle of the high school stage, on my back steps,
And sitting on your rooming house bed, each time with
A guitar in your arms, brown eyes half closed;
Your full lipped smile kissed my best friend
Not me,
Though you hugs were generous.

The West swallowed you whole.

Gone at 45.
A congenital heartbreak.

And you, my friend;
Dancing in the waves,
Carving, surfing;

You were too beautiful for me.

Your long bones, elegant; held a deadly secret.
My touchstone.
My wings.
You stayed ten years longer,
And fought the good fight, a graceful loser.

You left the world a paler place.
The mermaids miss you.

Where are you now?
An ache in my chest;
A memory.
A smile.


I dream you both alive

 And wonder. 

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Butternut Squash Bisque: From the Field to the Table

Soup on a snow day!

Since I had an unexpected day off today, I was in the mood to cook, and since there were 6 inches of snow on the ground, to cook from food I had on hand.  Winter squash proved to be just the thing!  I chose a butternut squash and an acorn squash from my stash, and got to work.

These different varieties of squash have lived in my pantry since late October.  Luckily, we keep the house rather cool, and they're out of the sun, along with the potatoes and onions (though that didn't keep the potatoes from sprouting eyes, as you can see from my previous post!).  I either grew them or bought them from the Amish stand near my mother's home in the Kutztown area. They're all still perfectly fine; not a soft spot on any of them.

 I began by peeling the butternut squash with a carrot peeler, which was simple and efficient.

Just look at that bright, moist flesh!

I didn't think there would be so much good  flesh in one little squash! The recipe called for 4 cups of cubed squash; I had at least 5, so I put back the acorn squash for another day.

I've been using Amish roll butter lately, since it's fresh and local. And oh, so good!  I diced a cup or so of sweet onion and a cup or so of local, organic carrots.  The onions went into my Dutch oven with a tablespoon of butter to saute until soft; then I added the carrots and squash, some chicken stock (the recipe calls for vegetable stock, but I only had chicken), and seasoned it with salt, pepper, and nutmeg.

I shave my own nutmeg.  It just tastes better.  And the "nut" has pretty patterns inside.

It simmered for about a half hour while I took a shower and made some bread pudding.  I just love stale bread!  But that's a story for another day. When the vegetables were all soft, I let it cool, then pureed the whole beautiful mess in my food processor.  I added a half-cup of buttermilk to the processor (fresh from the farm) instead of cream, 'cause that's the way we roll around here.  I returned the rich, creamy, orange puree to the Dutch oven, then I heated it gently...not to a boil, and ladled it into two bowls. The final touch was a tablespoon of buttermilk dropped into the center of each bowl and fanned out with the tip of a knife just before serving.  Voila!

Now that's a healthy, warming meal for a snowy day!  Fresh from the field to my table.  Thank you, Mother Nature!  And thanks for the snow day today!
You can find the recipe that inspired this soup right here.

AROS#9: Spring Sleeps

Sprouting Potatoes
6 inches of snow over sleeping mounds
of garlic and rhubarb; wild things
dream winter dreams. 
Tiny hairs rise on new potatoes' arms.

Rescue Cats

This boy, who is admittedly no longer MY cat, but my HUSBAND'S cat, was sprung from the slammer shelter about 4 years ago. I visited him no less that 4 times before bringing him home.  What were his endearing qualities?  His purr was one of them.  The other was his fur.  I have never seen fur like it; it's as thick as velvet where it's short, like his paws, and is two distinct lengths on his body. His gray-on-gray coat and my husband's babyhood in Haiti gave him his name: Gris-Gris (pronounced gree-gree). His belly, a loose pouch of soft flesh, is a buff color, with long, soft hair. He's beautiful.

Winter Nap

Gris is not gray in his personality, however; he's black and white, fire and ice.  I have never known a moodier cat.  The SPCA handlers tried to talk me out of adopting him, but his purr, which sounds like a dove call punctuated by hiccups, seduced me.  Peter wasn't convinced either, but the little manipulater has won him over; every morning, after I feed the cats (first, of course!) and get myself ready for work, I return to the bedroom to find Gris in my place, purring his brains out next to my husband.  Gris has a happy, forever home with us, bipolar cat or not.  His adopted brother, Hobie (who is a freecycled cat) is mellow enough and large enough to take his moods in stride.  Hobie, who suffers from a permanently blocked tear duct due to kittenhood infections, has no voice, so Gris speaks for him.  Whenever I'm in the kitchen, I'll hear Gris' plaintive cries, and look down to see him sitting on his haunches like a dog with his front paws raised and curled downward, begging.  Hobie just pantomimes his meows, and looks at me; teamwork. Who could resist?  I'll tell Hobie's story another day. He's a happy teddy-bear of a cat. They're both getting fat from yummies.

Full Extension

I am committed to adopting adult cats rather than kittens; there are just so many good cats that need homes.  And moody cats, like Gris-Gris, too. ;)  And there's nothing like a warm cat on a cold day to make you feel all cozy inside.

Velvet Paws

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

AROS#8; Sandman


Who came in the night and rubbed salt in my eyes?  Whoever he was, he purred...

Monday, January 10, 2011

AROS#7: Onions


Onions were a luxury on my $20 a week budget.  Those were days of chicken necks, flour and tea.  A younger, thinner me would saute an errant onion gleaned from the late-night flea market in whatever I could, and melt in the fragrance.  A carrot, a potato.  More water, rice, a soup. I was hungry then. Onions make me hungry, even today. 

Later gardens yielded onions.  Yellow, round, sweet; I cried for my youth while frying onions, carelessly cut in the pan. 2 AM onions, fried in cheap butter and cheap wine. Me, exhausted, my baby girl asleep in her bed.  I mourned my lost marriage in onion and wine tears.

Today, I fried onions.  Deep in fresh butter, pulled whole from my garden in the fall, waiting through the winter for tonight's dinner.  Still carelessly cut, but partnered with foraged mushrooms and field-raised chicken.  I feed my new husband.  My daughter is strong and full grown.  I no longer cry.  I share my sweet onions with my friends.

AROS #6: Snow


Snow is coming.  I feel it in my teeth.
Students clatter together like icicles,
and the stores sell out of milk and bread.
I'll watch it from under a blanket
and cook soup.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

AROS#5: Winter Goats

Winter Goats
These goats reach forward like refugees
a lip further than the rest will gain a treat
of greens or licorice, or something wonderful.
They know it will.
They pray on dirty knees
in the warm straw, between meals and loving touches;
endless days of winter
boxcarred mothers
hungry for green spring.

Friday, January 7, 2011

AROS #4: Taking Down the Tree

Taking Down the Tree
Every ornament, a memory: Iceland nestles in the plastic box, next to New Orleans, and last year's Moravian star perches on top of the vintage cardinal we found at the antique store together.  To bed now, that long sleep between Decembers, that sleep when memories are made.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

A River of Stones, Day 3: Fever

Silence is cracked by the high hiss of steam, and the periodic click, click, click on the other side of this room, two small drums in my moist, salt-rubbed skull. Light pries in through crusty slits. There are black stars up high, swirling off before I can see them clearly.  They wait for sleep, when they’ll shatter into glass fever dreams; me, swinging from a chain like a pendulum, a broken story to tell, an incongruity. My heavy head is a hot river, my thoughts a molten well.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

A River of Stones, Day 2: Her Eyes

Her Eyes

Her eyes didn’t meet mine in the beginning.  Then, as we all took turns speaking, she faced us in turn, eyes open.  Open wide with bewilderment, corners crinkled with laughter, downcast in thought…then probing, piercing, mining an answer from the depths of my own.  Later, red and moist, threatening to spill, spiky-lashed and shining. Wiped clear with a deliberate smile; that cleanser of souls, that harbinger of hope. A world in her eyes, her eyes so like her son’s.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A River of Stones, Day 1, On Students

On Students:
Making, and smiling, and laughing together, fair hair straying from clips and sweaters askew; they are perfect, and perfectly self conscious, every nerve on fire, every glance a jagged edge.  I was them, a lifetime ago.  They don’t know what it is to be me yet, a stranger in paradise, a sojourner in places they wouldn’t think to go, but I know what it was to be like them; they will find their own countries to inhabit, in the ripeness of time. But today, they are looking in mirrors, putting on lip gloss, singing love songs to themselves and chewing gum.  They are hungry, and new, my students, my reminders, my hope.

For information about the "River of Stones" project, read here. My thanks to The Goat Borrower for the link.


Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Year's Day

Happy New Year!   We brought a treat of cabbage to the girls on the farm today, for good luck.  They nearly rioted for it.  Those pregnant ladies are ravenous!  They're building their babies rapidly now; you can see that they're carrying a wonderful load.

Miss Faith had some manners.

Dolly looks like she's carrying triplets! 
 Since the goats were bred through the month of October, they could begin to deliver anytime from the first week of March until the last week or so of March.  It looks like they should go sooner, doesn't it?  Dolly is one of the older goats, and an excellent breeder.  She always carries heavy like this, and retains a bit of a belly throughout the year.  I can relate, at least to the "rest of the year" part!

Faith and a friend enjoying lunch.
 On the way to the farm, I spotted a tree full of oyster mushrooms.  Can you believe that?  On January 1st, after all that freezing weather?  They were pretty dry, but still firm and insect free, so I picked them and will finish dehydrating them at home.  Score!

Naturally dehydrated oyster mushrooms!

A close-up of the gills
The picture above is of the bottom side of the largest mushroom.  Beautiful, isn't it?  They smell almost as good as earlier specimens.  Oyster mushrooms always smell rich and buttery to me.  They are one of Nature's many gifts.   And today felt like a real bonus!  Happy New Year!