Sunday, September 27, 2015

The Answer to Where I've Been

Photo: K Iuppa
Tomatoes, early August 2015.

It's hard to believe that I've managed to put by over 70 quarts of tomato sauce since early August.  I'm grateful, no giddy, that there isn't a bushel waiting on the porch to be processed.  My last post marks the beginning of the putting by season, and not a word from me in those seven weeks. Every day at the stove, like a witch I stirred the pot. Hucka-Pucka! 
 My dining room table  has a dramatic line up of jars of all sizes and tomato sauces for every mood. We will be in great shape this winter, but I confess I'm having sensory fatigue, even as I ooh and ahh over the last batches of roasted tomatoes. I want to be away from this constant cooking, so I can come back to it with fresh tastebuds.  Still, I can't believe how blessed we were this year. The garden did well by us.  I like counting the jars.  It makes me feel rich.

Now with this sudden release from kitchen duty, I'm able to poke around  a bit, which has made me so happy. Yesterday, I went out to the pumpkin & squash gardens and picked what was there.  Then, took a look at our apple trees, heavy with fruit.  Soon we will turn our attention to bringing in the apples.

In the next five weeks, the landscape will change drastically.  I think our area is several weeks behind  what is to be expected.  That is, I bought peaches and sweet corn yesterday, and we all know that  the season for peaches and sweet corn should be completely over.  Gosh, I'm so glad it's not. The sweet corn we had for dinner last night was simply heaven.

Now to enjoy the next five weeks, my mind is open to the oncoming change.

 Wishing everyone, the best of autumn.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

A Few Days of Stormy Weather . . .

Once again, I'm standing on a brink of another new year.  For me, the year begins in September, the start of something new,something possible. I have been know to look at pen and paper supplies for hours, picking out the ones that will suit me without fail.  The Sunday paper  had a headline boasting money-saving coupons for Back-to-School.  August can be filled with anticipation.  31 Sunday evenings, that anxiety of returning to work that never seems to be done.  Grading is so repetitive.  Once one group is all sorted out and humming along, there' s a new group that needs to hear your instruction.  I want a nickel for every comma splice or split infinitive. Maybe I'll do that this year.  Put in a nickel for each time I note these corrections.  I bet it would buy me a night out.  It may make the process a challenge, because the nickels should be less by semester's end, right?  I think I'm going to do this and see if I'm making progress.  This will be called the NICKEL ASSESSMENT. 

Nickel in Yankee idiom means hug.  So I'll expect a bunch of hugs this semester. I will keep you apprised of the experiment. 

It's much cooler this morning.   A perfect day to accomplish a lot.  So far, so good.  I have written letters and cards.  Re-read my poems  written during 31x31 poetry challenge.  I can't believe that I've been on task with this.  I have a million thing yip-yapping at me.  The other day, I put by Apricot Jam (pure gold,as my mother would say, 'Too Good For The Common People.' Of course, if you were told this, you weren't one of the common ones.  You were uncommon and would know what was uncommonly good. This includes you who stops by and read this.)   Well, this batch of jam was a  wrestling match. It bubbled and jumped out of the pot.  Splats of sweet, sticky heat, enough to burn my forearms, face, wrists-- the price of close work. I was stirring with a kettle screen. The process took three hours. If any you get a jar of this jam, you are NOT to be  less than enthusiastic.  I know, I can't hope to have rave reviews, but it would be nice to hear that it brightened that muffin, or piece of toast, or ice cream . . . and you thought of us, of our attempts to live simply and honestly here on the farm.  Every jar has sun in it.  Imagine that! 


Here's the latest issue of THE BLUE Heron Review.  Please take a moment to peruse these exceptional poems.  This is one of my favorite journals.

Back to work . . .

Sunday, August 2, 2015

It's August. Believe it.The Fall Semester Begins at the End of this Month!

Sometimes, I use this blog to keep my ambitions honest. I have had a very gentle summer.  Being here on the farm, with little distraction, just the daily work has been fortifying. I have been working on my writing and well as tending the gardens.  No drama.  No complaints.  No aches. No disappointments.  It is what it is.

Since I have been working on prose, I thought I should do a 31x31 poetry challenge for the month of August.  I think this will ease me back into the Fall semester. So far, so good.  The poems can be in any form, any theme, any length. So two done.  29 to go. I did sneak a 100 word story in the mix.

I bought 4 quarts of apricots two days ago and I'm waiting for them to ripen up a bit before I make a batch of jam. Usually, we have an abundance of apricots, but this year, the early summer weather has some rain storms that included hail and tortured our local fruit farms.  Strangely, this did not affect our orchard, but we no longer have apricot trees.  So for the past two weeks, I have driven the country roads West of here in search of apricots.

On Friday we went to the Mennonite auction, but  were shut out by  farm stands owners who were buying produce (whole lots).  We just couldn't compete with the asking price.  I wondered what they were going to sell the produce for, in order to have a profit.  Something was way off. 8 quart baskets of peaches are going for $12.50-14.00 per basket, depending on where you are.  Closer to city or towns with higher population reflects the higher price.

I was really disappointed by the auction, and our driving up and down those country roads, with no luck.

Then, on a lark, we stopped at two places we knew would be pricey, just to see if they had apricots and blueberries.  Sure enough, just what we wanted.  Bought blueberries in one spot and apricots in the other.

The blueberries are amazing this year.  I love summer.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Nearly the End of July, Really?

I'm taking stock. This early morning air s light.  It's going to be close to 90 degrees today.  I need to continue working in the gardens. Yes, weeding.   I have four rows done in North garden.

On Monday, I harvested beans: Blue lake, Tenderettes, Romas and purple.  Made a delicious cold salad for dinner.  Have to put by the box of Tenderettes, which are gorgeous beans.

I also collected burpless cucumbers, yellow squash and zucchini-- all of which we have plenty of.  The supersized yellow squash and zucchini have been picked and cut up for our always hungry chickens and turkeys. They love, love, love it.

I plan on working another 4 hours weeding, then a swim. I have  been swimming 17 times.  I'm hoping to break 30 by end of summer.  It's great therapy for my muscles, especially after all those hours bent over in the repetition of weeding. Hoping to take a ride out West in search of apricots.  The blueberries we found on Saturday were so delicious, so sweet, and are all gone. So a few more pints of those, too.

Started a few watercolors this week.  I'm so rusty. Long ago, I met a woman at Writers & Books who was first an artist and second a writer, who advised me to pick a subject and draw that subject for 100 days consecutively.  She said to plan on 15 minutes, per drawing.  Much like morning pages, this practice loosens up the soil, so to speak, acting as a bridge between dreams and awareness.  I have been drawing flowers.
First drawing went the way of too much enthusiasm.  For a still life, it didn't look airy but cartoonish. It really puzzled me.  Next  drawings were far more successful. Zinnias.  I do love them.So I may do a series of painting.  I imagine they would become a catalog of summer.

Summer, I don't want it to end. I'm finally settling in to its rhythms. I am grateful for the solitude.  I've been made keenly aware of time.  Nothing is accomplished quickly. Well, maybe doing the dishes, or making the bed, but everything else takes time. Hurry has been making me anxious.  I keep asking myself, what happens if you don't hurry?  And the answer is something will be bumped into tomorrow, because I'll run out of time or energy, or both.  So be it.

It's nearly 8 a.m. and It's time to start this day's work.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

How Long Did It Take To Get Here?

Last week, I spent my mornings with 12 charming writers (nearly 8 to nearly 12 years old) at Writers and Books'  SummerWrite 2015.  What pleasure working with these children, and their creative writing is  truly exceptional.  I loved the way they captured voice and made me care about their characters.

In my sessions, I ask them to give shout out compliments about what they loved in each others' work.  One little girl said, "I never heard words put together in that way. It's all new to me and I want to think about it." I think her response is exactly right.  The work was stunning.

Consequently, I have be comparing my experience with these young writers to my reading of stories and poems recently published in journals that I've just discovered or have followed for quite some time.  The children's work is stronger because it truly deals with narrative (ethos & pathos), not artifice. Currently, there is a lot of facade in work.  Glib language, that poses as hipster chic, or a  journalistic "tell style" language that is flat. Personally, I prefer the storyteller that draws me in immediately, like Russell Banks. I like texture.

And so, the summer drifts along.  Weeds grew in our gardens in my absence.  Today, I will resume my editing intensive.  On Friday, I did pick an abundance of burp-less cucumbers and along with blueberries have become  the latest go-to- mini meal.

Yesterday, we traveled West to visit our Mennonite neighbors.  Bought a joyful bouquet of summer flowers.  I'm planning on painting them today.  Hopefully the watercolor will capture the essence of these flowers that make me feel so rich.

The next week will take the course of As the Crow Flies.  A week to call my own.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Red Rooster Farm Chronicle

Yesterday, in the garden, I was inches away from toad who watched me clear away the excess of weeds. The toad  stayed with me for four hours.  Finding shelter under what I left intact.  The wide leaves of the eggplant and flourishing marigolds.  The complimentary planting to keep away the tiny black beetles that turn the eggplant leaves into delicate lace. 

Today it's suppose to rain. I'm debating on what to do. Work inside or out?  Until it rains? The sun has suddenly broken through the overcast skies.

In the small pond that is surrounded by our herb garden, I have found a healthy group of leopard frogs living in and out the pond.  The goldfish that Peter bought for 39 cents each and slipped into the pond are getting big.  They gather in groups and stare down the frog perched on rock.  It goes on all day long.

I'm getting happier and happier.  I can feel my body changing with all the physical work I've been doing.Summer is moving quickly.  I look at my plant stained hands and wonder if I'm finally getting it right.  Something to be satisfied with. I have made friends with the Mennonite community.  Now we share recipes and thoughts on putting by foods.  They have a hard-working but gentle life, or so it seems to me.

Time to put up another batch of red raspberry jam.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Life on Red Rooster Farm, Summer 2015

Red Rooster Farm has kept me from posting regularly here.  I think I have been writing epics of the lost kind as I weed  in the gardens. I am just a hair ahead of weed disaster.  The weather has been close to perfect, although we did have some stormy weather in the last week of June where we were pelted with rain and it made the gardens float, but not drown, which is the good news.  However, this rain kept me from my daily work in between the rows in the North garden. It's amazing how resilient weeds are. I think we all should model our living after weeds. Just sprawl and take over-- everything.

I have been diligent in my domestic efforts, inside and outside, all of which is keeping me out of trouble. My thoughts are practicing the art of light.  The gardens are my pyramids and I'm building towards a substantial harvest .  The first days of canning have begun.  I made 4 batches of strawberry jam and am on my second batch of red raspberry.  The berries are superior this year and the jam has been setting up nicely.  There is something magical about jam-making.  I love the moment of the glossy sheen appearing in the bubble and pop as I stir the pot.  The perfume of fresh fruit fills the whole house.

Today promises to be a warm, humid day.  Possible pop up showers. I have begun to harvest zucchini. yellow squash, sweet peas, green and purple beans, all picked young and tender.  It's so hard to stay ahead of zucchini.  I swear they triple in size overnight.  Thus far, I have been plucking at just the right time.Everything is hiding under a canopy of green.  Healthy leaves of every size and shape.  It's deceiving.

At first, I thought nothing was ready, but when I took a closer look I hit the mother lode.  So far I have picked 6 quarts of red raspberries-- all  plump and perfect.  So I'm in the swing of this and love watching the jars line up on my dining room table.  I love this life, more than anything.  It's hard work, and for those of you who have romantic notions about growing one's own food and  believe that sustainability is a choice that's easy-peasy, you have it all wrong.It's a remarkable amount of work, and you have to love nature, not hate it  as you attempt to tame it.  It's hours upon hours of dedication, and believe me, everything is a miracle.
For me, it's the miracle of  finding upper body strength. I'm getting stronger and stronger. 

On the writing front, I have been working on my novella, with sides of poetry and an occasional lyric essay.
It's steady work.  I have been planning for the upcoming Fall and Spring semesters, with exciting programming that will no doubt enhance life in and out of the classroom.  I love it when my students see the connections and want to discuss them in small  and large groups.

So, here it is Monday, July 13, and i have more work to do.  Will be back, soon.