Wednesday, May 12, 2010

May My Favorite

Oh May! My favorite time of the year here. Finally the flowers bloom and the plants start their fast and furious reproductive sprints. I find myself walking circles around the house over and over again, checking and double checking every plant possible for signs of sudden growth. What an exhilirating time of year!
Yesterday it struck me, though, that besides the inherent beauty of a lush landscape, every effort I make, every plant discovery that excites me, every future dream I build - all of that somehow revolves around my passion for food. Good food. Real food. Not the kind of stale produce we can pluck from the grocery store, certainly not the ubiquitous nausea of corn syrup or obscure frankensteinian corn additives, not even the tasty treat of a tired day restaurant dinner. Nope, I'm talking the kind of food that bursts in your mouth in an explosion of colorful flavors, the kind of food that only can come from lovingly tended soil, the kind that withers within minutes of disturbing. Oh, food, glorious food. There is something almost magical about growing or making one's own food. Knowing the cycles of life and nutrients that produced whatever amazing chemical reactions that might briefly caress the tongue. Knowing the honest cost of the bite. Perhaps its the knowing that really instills the savoring. Regardless, taking a snip of spring terragon here and a tip of new garlic green there, something inspiring transpires: the quest for flavor drives all the labor and time and thought and makes it all worthwhile.

Parmesan Ice Cream
Finally we have our raw cow's milk. Fresh cream... ohhh nothing better! Above is pictured one of my favorite uses for cream - Parmesan (actually Asiago in this case) "Ice Cream" with snipped fresh rosemary and garlic. Smooth as butter and absolutely addicting! Here's a recipe:
Parmesan Ice Cream
Ingredients: 2:1 ratio of high quality block parmesan cheese to cream.
garlic, thinly sliced, to taste
a sprinkle of nutmeg
freshly ground black pepper to taste
sprigs of fresh rosemary
Warm cream, garlic slices and nutmeg til boiling. Meanwhile, grate cheese. Turn cream mix to very low. Add cheese and stir continuously until smooth. Mix in cracked pepper and rosemary if desired. Temper at room temperature then refridgerate. Spread on fresh bread.
This can be scooped with an ice cream scoop to resemble french vanilla ice cream. Try drizzling with a reduced balsamic and everyone will swear its vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce. Its a good trick to play on an unsuspecting dinner guest. :)

"comb cling"

Now... the bees. They arrived 8 days ago in fantastic condition from an overnight plane trip from California. I allowed them to accustom themselves to their very new queen for another 24 hours before hiving them. Hiving went well enough - the weather was far more cooperative than last year, and everyone settled in quickly and calmly. I placed both organic sugar water and the package feeding can within the hive, then checked feed levels once during the following week. They did not eat much. I think the later hiving time (May rather than April like last year) probably gave them more opportunities to gather wild nectar and pollen.

Today was my first real hive check. I did not observe the queen, but was surprised to find a fairly large comb with nectar and EGGS already constructed. Unfortunately, it was hanging diagonally off the still attached queen cage. Obviously the queen is there somewhere, and becoming prolific at that, but the comb had to be detached and the queen cage removed. I placed the comb at the bottom of the hive in the hope the bees will know what to do with it and will start building comb in the appropriate places - off the topbars! They did have good "comb clings" hanging off multiple bars, so I suspect next week there will be more order - well, human order - to the hive.

The serviceberries are once again in full bloom... the entire hillside is smothered in their white blooms... there is no other sight quite like it.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Spring Business

April is here and suddenly there is not enough time to do everything that needs doing! The days are mostly dreary and cold, but on those rare sunny ones, out come the shovels, the rake, the pick ax, the hoses, the seeds, the transplants, the dreams!
The old garden overwintered with its layers of straw, chicken manure, leaves, woodashes (too many perhaps!), and other half composted materials. It truly is inspiring to see how improved the soil is after breaking down its winter blanket. There is a blackness beginning, the rocks and pebbles are less glaringly obvious, and the worms - oh! the worms! I can gather up the soil and feel the beginning of a rich humus potential, feel a glimpse of that soft, dark, nutrient rich mix after which organic gardeners strive - the holy grail of gardens. Time and carbon based materials... someday I WILL have that perfect soil... each plant species lovingly tended with just the right pH, just the right mix of nitrogen and phosporous and potash and microbes... It'll just take a whole stinkin' lot of time.

Then there is the "new garden" - probably forever affixed to that title - that has provided plenty of sweat making opportunities for me this spring. The New Garden began on a very sunny southerly slope, unfortunately all river rock, knapweed and crabgrass with a sprinkling of root-entangled chokecherries. The pickax, manure, grass clippings, plus an entire truckload of compost came together to create a reasonable first year garden. After raiding my dad's yard, I returned home with millions (well, not really) of strawberry starts, boysenberry canes, and raspberry canes that easily filled half the new space. The rest of the garden will be used to plant my tomatos, peppers, basil and cucumbers - I need that sunny space!

Three simple transplant species would never be enough from dad's gardens, so I also brought home gooseberry bushes and rhubarbs (one of each in the picture above), wild roses, horseradish, mints, oregano, and an ancient sage that are now scattered slapdash about the unfenced yard, just daring those ever-rankling deer to BITE THIS and get a mouthful of thorns or overpowering flavor.

The fruit trees (like this pipestone plum) are beginning to awaken also, their buds swelling as a reminder that it is already too late to prune. Maybe next year I'll make it on time!

Finally, observing the swelling buds, I think about blooms which inevitably leads to thoughts of honeybees. I have debated mightily this year about taking on another hive after last year's loss. However, I have been extraordinarily blessed by people who want to help during this time and have offered their practical services (such as installing the electric fence), so my mind was made up - the package is ordered and my carniolan bees will arrive in early May. Carniolans, which originated in the Northern Balkans, Slovenia and the Caucasians are typically more cold-hardy than Italians, so I thought they would be a good breed with which to begin another hive. I would love to try Russians, but need a little more experience under my belt before taking this newer breed on, plus, I wonder how cold hardy they truly will be after now being bred in Lousiana. That one is a challenge that must wait til next year. One thing is certain - I will learn indefinitely - there is no way to know it all or even really to begin to touch the surface... gardens, bees, life - its always full of new and wonderously exciting adventures!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Life Returns

Another garden location... never too many, right?

Life is returning this broad river valley, pushing the quiet, gray winter higher and higher up into the mountains. It is good to have this time at this time...

What so recently looked like this...

Now hosts this... beautiful baby spinach greens unfurling from under last autumn's fallen leaves.

The old sorrel - a gift of goodwill from an old (and, might I add, very nature savvy) neighbor up the river - has become young again...

It almost became memory as I began pickaxing my newest garden area but for its reddish-tipped leaves. Oh, sorrel! I am so glad you are so early to emerge! The southern exposed sorrel is my harbinger of spring - I will look for it each year around the time the white swans return to the gray slough across the river, the time when the old snow drifts by the compost pile have nearly disappeared in their grime, just before the tinge of green begins in the most southernly of the grass yard. Sorrel and its distinctive puckering oxalic acid flavor remind me that those fresh, real garden flavors are shortly on their way...

And I am oh so ready.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Military Wife

Lots of moving...Moving...Moving...
Moving far from home...
Moving two cars, three kids and one dog...all riding with HER of course.
Moving sofas to basements because they won't go in THIS house;
Moving curtains that won't fit;
Moving jobs and certifications and professional development hours.
Moving away from friends;
Moving toward new friends;
Moving her most important luggage: her trunk full of memories.

Often waiting...Waiting...Waiting...
Waiting for housing.
Waiting for orders.
Waiting for deployments.
Waiting for phone calls.
Waiting for reunions.
Waiting for the new curtains to arrive.
Waiting for him to come home,
For dinner...AGAIN!

They call her 'Military Dependent', but she knows better:
She is fiercely In-Dependent.
She can balance a check book;
Handle the yard work;
Fix a noisy toilet;
Bury the family pet...
She is intimately familiar with drywall anchors and toggle bolts.
She can file the taxes;
Sell a house;
Buy a car;
Or set up a move........all with ONE Power of Attorney.
She welcomes neighbors that don't welcome her.
She reinvents her career with every PCS;
Locates a house in the desert, The Arctic, Or the deep south.
And learns to call them all 'home'.
She MAKES them all home.

Military Wives are somewhat hasty...They leap into:
Career alternatives,
And friendships.
They don't have 15 years to get to know people.
Their roots are short but flexible.
They plant annuals for themselves and perennials for those who come after them.
Military Wives quickly learn to value each other:
They connect over coffee,
Rely on the spouse network,
Accept offers of friendship and favors.
Record addresses in pencil...

Military Wives have a common bond:
The Military Wife has a husband unlike other husbands; his commitment is unique.
He doesn't have a 'JOB'
He has a 'MISSION' that he can't just decide to quit...
He's on-call for his country 24/7.
But for her, he's the most unreliable guy in town!
His language is foreign
And so, a Military Wife is a translator for her family and his.
She is the long- distance link to keep them informed;the glue that holds them together.
A Military Wife has her moments:
She wants to wring his neck;
Dye his uniform pink;
Refuse to move to Siberia;
But she pulls herself together.
ive her a few days,
A travel brochure,
A long hot bath,
A pledge to the flag,
A wedding picture,
And she goes.
She packs.
She moves.
She follows.
Why?What for?How come?
You may think it is because she has lost her mind.
But actually it is because she has lost her heart.
It was stolen from her by a man,
Who puts duty first,
Who longs to deploy,
Who salutes the flag,
And whose boots in the doorway remind her that as long as he is her Military Husband,
She will remain his military wife.
And would have it no other way.

--Author Unknown

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

New Year Sunshine

One thing that never fails to bring January Joy: January Sun!
Sometimes spirits drop this time of year, when the inversion grays are constantly assaulting us with their ubiquity, when the world seems to suddenly have become a black and white television screen. January makes summer seem like a dream - a colorful, sunny dream filled with bright fresh vegetables and fruits, filled with health and vitality - so unlike the pale light and bland stored vegetables that fill these days. Its easy to start feeling pessimistic. Then dawns a day like this one... painfully frozen, but energizingly beautiful... reminding me of the sun to come. I better get started on my garden plans!
Dawn through the Gateway - the valley still frozen in night

The Sun Appears over Columbia Mountain...

Filling the Valley with Happiness

Sparkles Through the Railing

Captured Summer Sun... Rhubarb Jam

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Montana Christmas

Christmas in Montana:

A reflective collection of soft, somber grays...

The Flathead River and Columbia Mountain

Clear, piercing blues...

the road to Essex

Frozen moons and brilliant whites.

hovering around zero - frostbite skiing

Then at last... a warm explosion of light and color!

Oh Christmas Tree!

What a beautiful time of celebration and love...
Merry Christmas to All

Thursday, December 17, 2009

A Reminder

So I've been watching CNN at the gym lately. There have been several news stories regarding the effect of military deployments on the children left at home. Yeah, probably not the best stories to be watching on this end of J's deployment! One of the biggest points made was that is IS affecting, particularily for three categories of kids: teens, girls, and reservists/families away from military bases. We've got two out of three covered - at least we don't have a teenager! The incidence of anxiety and depression skyrockets in those three groups. Another major factor was the attitude, support and abilities of the parent at home running the daily ins and outs of life. Wow - that hit me like a ton of bricks! So much of my children's success and mental well being is related to how positive I can make this experience for them. Hmmm... that got me thinking... What are some ways to keep this light hearted, positive, even... dare I think... fun?

Here are some ideas:

1. I've decided that when I talk about the deployment, I couch things in positive terms. Such as, Daddy is leaving to mobilize, but we get to see him in less than two months after that - that's no time!

2. We get to go back to California where Kara was born for an extended vacation to visit him before he deploys overseas.

3. Summer will be here and we'll take trips, visit family and friends, and do a lot of fun summer things. Then the school year will be full of activities and exciting learning.

summer garden

4. We'll grow another beautiful, productive garden.
5. We will see Grandma and Grandpa alot (hopefully).
6. We will get a webcam to talk/see Daddy daily online.

Other ideas?
My son recently grasped the reality of a deployment for the first time. He said, "What? Where is Dad going?" He wondered why dad would be leaving us for so long, and I was put on the spot to answer that question. I told him, "Jaegar, your dad would stay here if there was any way he could, but he serves our country to protect us - his family - and the rest of the people around us. We can be proud that Daddy is such a good man, does his job so well, and loves us so much. He'll be back before you know it, and then we'll have a big party!" Jaegar seemed satisfied enough with that answer, and was on to the next topic. Daddy is not abandoning us, he's serving us... and that is something I want to reiterate to our children daily.