2021 New Garden

Silver maples are often multi-trunked. They grow rapidly and are given, at some point, to just falling down. This one had six trunks and was quite ill-tended when it became mine to tend.

Getting that diagonally standing trunk to fall properly took a fair amount of contemplation. It fell just as desired, though, landing on the lawn and not over the stone wall.

Eventually I undertook the ‘mighty’ task of digging out the stump. One autumn, as children my siblings and I were once tasked with digging up the stumps of a dozen locust trees. That was one of the greatest learning experiences of my life, of what a person or persons could do, and of what it took to do it. Axes, shovels, ingenuity, each in good measure, and heaps of effort.

Thanks heavens for the chainsaw, is all I can say, not that heaps of effort are still not required, especially for trunks of this size, but as a force multiplier. With just an axe this would have been nigh on too monstrous a task.

Very vexing to the chain, and perplexing to me as to how the circumstance arose, was the rock inside the wood – that’s right, rock inside the wood, below. Live, learn, and buy new chainsaw chains as needed.

As you can see below, even with all the trunks cut away, that’s still about 5 or six feet in diameter of trunk area.

Earnest application, is all I can say, over the course of a few beautiful April days. The soil was so exquisite and the light on it so nice, that’s what made me think ‘garden’.

Full of promise

By May, with rose bushes, tomatoes, Siberian iris, celery

First rose in bloom, iris too. Peppers added

By July, with red yarrow, cosmos, datura. Over-planted, as I tend to do, but fun.

It was very productive. Mostly tomatoes and roses. The celery proved very vigorous too.

Expansion plans abound for the coming year. What a joy.

Bits approximating Haiku

Please do not confuse these with haiku, or art, or anything but what they seem to be. I’ll declare that sometimes the brevity of a 17 syllable expression attracts my muse – I mean, really, if you can’t get it across directly, you probably can’t get it across.

this pen does not write.
it spits at unwanted moments!
Out, into the trash!

The three that follow reach back a ways, yet each reappears in my reflection now and again.

slow thaw, mists thicken
snow mass, quiet puddling
darkness – skunks emerge

How can I share the recurring moment? Spring is in the air but the great piles of snow that the plows have made, they are melting and giving off mists and puddles. Mists rise from them but also, and inevitably, there is a smell, a smell of skunks – and it comes from the fact that at such a time of year skunks also emerge from wherever they have been for the winter. These phenomena as so closely tied. Any magical realist would suspect a causal link, and surely, since skunks emerging cannot have retroactively produced piles of melting snow, it must be, it must essentially be, that melting piles of snow produce skunks. Post hoc ergo propter hoc! Squeal with the delight of insight! Ahegm. Yet still, when I see the mist and my feet are wet in the puddle and I smell the smell, I remember how hard it is to capture and share the truth.

I’ve taken my swings.
Now I behold the diamond,
empty in the sun

This one, desperately imperfect and personal, accepts the passing of my father. To have taken ones swings, in baseball talk, is to have had ones turn, to be done. Baseball was his passion and main metaphor. Being done, one might look at the empty field (a diamond), to reflect. Lo, it is empty. but here my imagination jumps, and I think of the emptiness of which Buddhist speak, emptiness as a feature of Reality which cannot be understood as a concept, nor can it be described in words. I think of being done and trying to understand what it is that has been done. I feel close to beholding a diamond. I am thankful for the warmth of the sun. As a haiku this is probably unintelligible, but at least as a personal reflection, it comes back to me.

As this tree rises
unquestioning to the sun
may I also rise

It’s a deep thing that I notice in trees, how it is that over the years they reach (towards the sun, toward some actualization of possibility, towards destiny), and how they reach at each moment, breathing the air and gathering water and nutrition from the earth, growing, how it is utterly unquestioning, this actualization. Utterly.

Good Morning dear reader. May you as well rise without question.

Mouse

Bold was he, as I sat at my desk. Right up to my foot he walked, seemingly oblivious. I had to tap my foot to get his attention or I think he would have climbed right onto my slipper. That would have been ok but I thought to spare us any ensuing chaos.

He retreated with no special haste into the foyer. I followed and sat down on the floor to introduce myself. He seemed to have almost no fear.

Towards the end of our conversation, after praising his courage, I informed him that he’d need to get into a box that I would provide, that I would be putting him outside, that in a perfect world I would gladly allow him to make himself at home but that this world was not so constructed. I went to get the box.

When I got back he had hidden under the radiator. I asked him to come out and get in the box. He demurred. Gently with a piece of paper I coaxed him from under the radiator, hoping he’d see the box as safety. Alas. He saw my office as safety, in the corner by the bookcase. Little did he know that he may as well as climbed into the box. I took another piece of paper and made, as it were, a three sided box canyon and then placed the actual box on the fourth side. Then, just as in those movies where the protagonists are caught in a room where one of the walls is slowly moving toward its opposite, so that they will clearly be crushed, I moved the paper wall slowly.

Being a smart mouse he read the situation perfectly and ran into the box. Not as smart as a vole, I daresay, who would have seen that the paper wall was no wall at all, but I was not giving off a very predatory vibe and maybe he was just rolling with it.

I gave him one more talking to, about where he would be going (under the barn), about expectations, about what he should tell his friends and family. I underlined that I had nothing but the strongest positive wishes him and his. This was in April of the year 2020.

Tribulus Terrestris

Here was a surprise visitor.  In a flower pot – never saw one before.  It was fast growing, flowered within two weeks.

Had trouble identifying it until is bore seed, which was also very fast.

Why I’ll be if it ain’t a great horny toad!  Or more like a horned devil seed, reminded be of a water caltrop seed (which I’ve discussed here before), and lo, and behold, they’re cousins – tribulus terrestris it’s called.  Not native to North America but invasive here.

It’s funny how either new things keep appearing, or one is noticing things that may have been there but never previously noticed, or both.  I’ll let the thing finish out the season, put the seeds in my horned devil seed collection, and hope that next year I don’t start seeing more of them.  I do walk around outside with bare feet and those little seeds sure look nasty.  One of the other names for it is puncture vine

September Frogs

Neil Diamond rejected this title.  I had considered “Foss Farm Frogs” because of its alliterative value, and because the frogs indeed were found and Foss Farm, yet also it was September, and a wet one at that, for often September finds frogs chasing the receding shorelines of their habitats, nowhere near, where I was, the edges of a corn field – albeit the edges of a cornfield at Foss Farm which is next to the Concord River.

Makes me wonder if it’s just the light or differing undercover but doesn’t it look as if the frogs have a bit of a chameleon thing going on, that perhaps they emphasized different hues of themselves in different circumstances?  Funny frogs – prove it’s not true, they say.

I was gathering seeds that morning, among them a giant Cleome.

two inches almost in diameter at the base of the stalk, five feet in height, multiple arms, quite the strange alien really, the way it’s seeds pods hang below the flowers like some sort of antennae.  This inclusion of the Cleome is not in any way to suggest it has a logical affinity with frogs.  Nothing more than a coincidental association, that I saw them on the same walk.

All of these pictures are quite high-def and clicking on them should afford satisfying detail.

Tobacco 2

Greetings Dear Readers, earthbound or nay.  This transmission comes to you from the usual place on the usual frequency.  Those transmissions encoded in the shifting shapes of clouds and the specific patterns of raindrops landing I will not take responsibility for, though I will reluctantly acknowledge to contributing, albeit to the most minor of extents, to that grander milieu of phenomena.  Thus are the skids of mysterious incredulity greased.

Today’s post, a trifle long in being made, follows up on last August’s Tobacco 1 post, wherein our hero, Umgurk, having lost his reindeer, and it being dark and cold, sets forth… (wait, that’s not what it’s about).  That prior post detailed a little of the history of tobacco and that I was seeing how it grew.  Following that post came the tale of a strange ark, not a water bound ark, that would carry life forms (plants) across a condition they could not survive (winter) with ample room for roots.  OK, looked at another way it’s just a large wooden flower pot, but strange ark is much more poetic and suggestive to the imagination.

I had put the chosen tobacco plants which otherwise would have died and set them in the strange ark.  All winter long I watered them and throve they mightily.  By the end of March behold –

Tobacco plant

with flowers no less

Tobacco Flower

Not long after these pictures,, the largest of the plants fell under weight of its luxuriant leaves.  This told me it was time to harvest the first batch of those leaves.  The internet is full of accounts of how tobacco leaves are to be dried, subsequently fermented (cured), and thereafter used.  At the end of last summer when I had many tiny (3 or four inch) leaves I had tried to dry a few.  When stuck together they would molder.  Those not moldy were somewhat fragrant.  I tried an experiment – you heard it here first – I had some bluefish (I seek the collective permission of the universe to refer to the bluefish as mackerel here – there are meaningful similarities, a dark fishy-fish, though of course there are differences too) so anyway I had this mackerel (how easy was that?) and a whole bunch of fresh tobacco leaves – what about tobacco smoked mackerel?  How could an avenue as appealing as this have gone unexplored by earthly civilization?  Forty or fifty little leaves later (thrown into the grill underneath the fish), and it did produce a zaftig fragrance, I possessed the prize.  A similar result might have been produced by soaking the fish in water long standing in un-emptied ashtrays … but not really.  I just think that important adjustments might need to be made such as how many leaves, how much fire, tiger mackerel?, under which stars, etc.  The culinary road to heaven crosses many uncontemplated byways.

Trying to be fair to the many forms of goodness available in our universe I did consider the converse, of setting the leaves (misted) on the grill and the mackerel into the fire itself, so that the mackerel smoke could condition the tobacco.  I think that such tobacco would really open olfactory minds.  That idea is filed under “For another time”.

Back to the main theme, then.  I clipped off the biggest dozen leaves from the fallen plant and stood it back up.  I strung the leaves on a wire next to a heating vent in the workshop, hoping that the flow of air would deter mold.

Drying Tobacco 1 Drying Tobacco 2

and as yet (+ ten days) there is no mold.  The leaves continue to feel damp.  It is surprising how much moisture they contain and how strongly they clutch it.

Episode 3 of this series may feature efforts at curing and fermenting (assuming the drying does not fail), further escapades in tobacco-fish synergies, news of subsequent generations (the lead plant, having flowered, has produced many seed pods), or heaven knows.  Until that time may you thrive peacefully, or lean more in that direction, or not find the pain of being unable to thrive to be unspeakably odious, or – just do your best, ok?

 

 

Wintergreen

This will not be such a learned post, in that I could/should provide a host of links to educative references, so forgive me those who have come to rely on those.  Here’s one link though, Wintergreen, that should give gross background, more than that this is a flavor of chewing gum.

Wintergreen Leaves

The basics here are that it grows in the many oak/pine/maple woods locally and for decades I’ve occasionally picked and bruised a leaf just to smell the very lovely smell, thought of in gum as a kind of mint but really not being a mint at all.  Nowadays they get the same flavor from birch twigs so these little leaves get left alone.  The plant grows very close the ground, never gets big, but the leaves stay green in the winter.  I wonder how it got its name?

I did enough online research to learn that the native Americans made a medicinal tea from it and that just boiling the leaves does a very poor job of extracting either their flavor or their virtue.  OK, I did do enough research to learn that the Wampanoag word for it is gôgôwibagok.  Say it five times fast.  Seems that to extract the flavor and goodness it must be allowed to ferment for some days in a warm place, till it starts to bubble.  I washed the leaves, put them in a water bottle, and set them on the windowsill.

Wintergreen Leaves Immersed

Days pass.  And more, as if days pass of their own volition.  I notice the bubbles.  Smells good.  Ten days I let it ferment, or at least sit in tepid water.  The water vaguely tinted brown.  The bubbles never got too rowdy.  Eventually I figured I had to boil, test, and bottle.

Wintergreen Tea

So far the test has gone well.  I drank five ounces 45 minutes ago and here I am typing. The active ingredient is methyl salicylate, a cousin of salicylic acid, which in turn is the active component in aspirin.  The easing of aches and pains and the reduction of fever really were the only highlights I could expect, and I did not have aches nor a fever, so I’ll take the absence of detriment as the ok for this concoction.  Be warned though, methyl salicylate is toxic in sufficient quantities and you should probably only go this route if your insatiable natural curiosity so commands.  To temper the warning though, folk wisdom is wise for a reason.  In their day, these leaves helped the sick.  You’d have to go way way beyond soaking a handful of leaves in water for a few days, like off the spectrum beyond, to turn a natural medicine into an unnatural disaster.

Anyway these are my happy bits for the day.  May you explore the natural world with continuing ontological wonder.

Vigor

or perhaps vigor with no outlet.  Perhaps all revved up with no place to go.

In this case we have the resolution of the matter of Box 17, which spent a week in limbo, unclear as to whether it would take up local residence as a plant pot or would have to take its chances in the great big world.  Long story short, the local authorities issued a variance in the grand design, and so it was deployed.

Deployed

The main focus of this post though is on the captive plants, those that reach a point where their captivity is much at odds with their instinctual drives.  Plants want to grow.  The palm tree here had pushed up the soil in its previous pot easily four inches above the brim.  Transplanting it I could see how.  These are the roots I pruned off.

Root Circle 3

What a tremendous amount of vigor in that root system.

Root Circle

Root Cirle 4

I’ve never done any root pruning before and I hope not to again.  I can see it in the context of having a plant that grew mal-adaptive roots because of unnatural constraints, as here.  I hope not to put plants in that position.  The current placement of that palm tree in Box 17 could well keep it satisfied for five to seven years.  I can note on my list of accomplishments that I temporarily removed one invisible stress.  How I would like rather to say that I had fundamentally aligned vigor with opportunity.  Maybe to small extent, but it does make one think.

That under which

It is almost dark on the night when the first frost will visit.  Not that it is not an integral part of the circle of life, yet doom it is to so many.  This cosmos, for example,

Cosmos

was late in being planted.  It managed one bloom, but will not seed.  Tomorrow it will have fallen.  Next to it some blue flower, also late planted, also bloomed but will not seed.

Blue Flower

I have taken also a photo of the sky under which is here.

That under which

It’s almost as if it could snow.  May the winter be gentle to you, dear readers, and the spring find you strong and ready.

Harvest 2015

‘Twas a year of not much planting, as other work during the spring took up most of the time.  I don’t like the phrase when one door closes one door opens – I think it suggests a balance that while it may exist in the aggregate, like flipping a coin, tells us very little about the likely sequence of events.  I could, were I to believe in what such a phrase suggests, believe that the not planting of the usual contingent of seeds and seedling led to this harvest of acorns.  I do not choose to believe that.

Many was the year I would gather acorns, never in great quantity, but always far more than for which I had use.  It was that each somehow seemed by itself a desirable thing, justifying the gathering.  I’ve had that feeling all my life – I don’t know why.  I romantically speculate that it has something to do with ancient genes.  They say that humans have eaten more acorns than all the crops ever grown since we became farmers.  Verify that!

In 2012 there were a lot of acorns where I live, and, compelled as I can be by them, I gathered quite a few, even taking my younger daughter out on a gathering mission.  What intrepid hominids we were.  We shelled them, leeched out the tannins with multiple soakings in water, roasted them, ground them, and made both acorn butter and acorn chocolate chip cookies.  it came out very well, but to say that there was little demand would be to radically exaggerate the demand.  Nonetheless, I wanted to do the acorn harvest/make food thing now that I have (since June 2013) a comfortable posting place.  I could be that demand was so low because the message really only got to about twelve disinterested souls.  Now it can get to thousands of disinterested souls and be memorialized forever wherever it is that internet bits go when they no longer live where first imagined, somewhere where some Spock in future times will say “Computer – tell me the first known internet publication concerning the harvesting of acorns and the making of acorn chocolate chip cookies” and of course, this will pop up like magic and the Federation will glide further toward glory.

Okay, okay – here is a bowl of them.  Gathered in about an hour.  Perhaps five pounds.  A post will soon follow where I take them them through the transformation to foodstuff.

Full Dish

On this gathering mission I took my faithful companion, to see if he had the disposition to perhaps train as an acorn hound.

Acorn Hound

To and fro he ran with great excitement, never once stopping for an acorn.  Even as I scrounged the forest floor picking up acorn after acorn.  Even as they fell at times nearly right upon us.  He was not interested.

Since this post is nominally about the harvest this year, let me also share the radishes, spoken of here originally.

Acorns with Radishes

For them a special fate awaits, to become half-sour Daikon spears.  Will advise on that.  Also I saved some 75 of their seeds, so next year is at least secure on the radish front. On the one hand, this is not the sort of a harvest that will contribute much to getting through the winter.  On the other hand though, well, perhaps this prototyping of fringe nutritional pathways will prove to be just the thing somewhere far down the road.