Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Summertime, and the living is easy....

Well, actually, in the southeast summer means it's 94 degrees outside with 85% humidity, and in my book that is definitely *not* easy living. It means the mosquitoes are out, and they're large enough to haul off a small chihuahua. It means that car interiors are hot enough to hardboil eggs, and you get third degree burns on your feet if you walk barefoot on concrete. It means that your AC runs non-stop 24/7, and the water in your plastic wading pool evaporates faster than you can refill it.

On the other hand, you have gardens exploding with fresh produce, ready to pick and so full of flavor it's criminal. (OK, yes, that is a rhetorical trope but don't blame me - I'm waxing rhapsodical over homegrown tomatoes, darnit!) Just think.... a fat red perfectly ripe tomato sliced thick with just a tiny bit of salt and pepper, laid out on Wonderbread with a thin coating of mayo. Heaven. Or consider Silver Queen corn, newly shucked, quickly steamed then slathered with salt and butter. Then again, there's the quintessential watermelon - eat it in huge slabs outside by the lake (or hosepipe) and let the juices flow where they may. Spit the seeds at the chihuahua (those the mosquitoes haven't carried off) and then pickle the rind so nothing goes to waste.

And then there's the zucchini, the crookneck squash, the peppers, the peas and beans and cucumbers and carrots, the cantaloupe and peaches and plums and blueberries and blackberries and pears... So much abundance and so little time! So I pull out the boiling water bath canner, and my trusty freezer bags, and set to storing the bounty. Freeze the blueberries whole on a cookie sheet, then pour the frozen balls into bags. Ditto the blackberries (and strawberries too, but they're more properly a spring crop around here). Blanch peas and beans and shucked corn and toss them into freezer bags too. Make pickles and relish out of just about anything, cukes and squash and peppers and cauliflower. Hot or sour or sweet, it's all good. Slice and can the peaches and pears, or make jams in a huge variety of flavors. Harvest all your herbs before they bolt - for basil my favorite way to store it is to chop it up and mix it with a tiny amount of water. Then put it into an ice cube tray and freeze. You'll have perfect servings are hugely aromatic basil (and oregano, and sage, and other leafy herbs) for soups and stews and pestos.

Then when you're done look at your pantry, and see all the wonderful things you'll have to eat this fall, when you're *really craving* a crunch of corn or some blueberries for a late afternoon bowl of ice cream.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a date with a tomato sandwich and a couple ears of silver queen corn!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

An Introduction!

As you probably know, our 2000 Focus became an organ donor back in the spring, when the philosopher was run off the road driving down the interstate. (No one was hurt!)

So since then, we've been searching for a new vehicle. We have a really beat up Dodge Dakota, so it was decided that we should sell the Dodge and replace both vehicles with a single small truck. After much research (do remember ... I am a librarian!) we decided on a Ford Ranger, or perhaps a Toyota Tacoma if we could find one cheap enough. (Not likely, as Toyotas hold their value amazingly well.)

This weekend, we purchased Strider!

As you can surmise from the name, we were thinking that a Ford Ranger would be our only option. But to our happiness, we scored an AMAZING deal on this 1999 Tacoma. Still, the name had already stuck. Since "Strider" was merely a guise for Aragorn, then why should it not work for our Toyota?

Yes, we are nerds. Did you just now realize that?? ::grin::

Yes. I'm fiddling.

I'm playing with the new layouts and designs. Don't be surprised. Do not adjust your screen!

Monday, June 14, 2010

A Good Sermon

I heard a good sermon yesterday. It was on Luke 14: 16-24, the parable of the man who has a feast, and all his friends make excuses not to come so he invites the lame, the poor, and the blind. You know, the Gospel reading for the Second Sunday after Trinity!

Fr. Ed said a couple of things that really spoke to us. The first was "what excuses do you make not to come to the feast?" In other words, what excuses do you make not to come to church so you can partake of Holy Communion? The other thought was a bit tangential from the text, but equally provoking. The statement went something like, if you attend a church, then you should be able to say "I go to this church, and I agree with my church's teachings".

I won't go in to why we left our church back in 2004. But we did, and we did it because we really do believe that second thought. So that's put us in a situation where it's difficult to *find* a church where we can say "I agree with my church's teachings". They're out there, and they're multiplying, but in this Baptist-land they are few and far between. So, as you'll know if you've been following my blog, we've been considering going to a different, nearby local church. We don't agree with everything (for example, we are not five-point Calvinists!) but the fellowship is good, it's a large stable congregation with lots of opportunity for Bible study and small groups. We've been driving over an hour every once in a while to a small Anglican church where we can have communion, because the Nearby Local Church doesn't do that very often.

So Fr Ed's sermon hit us on two fronts. Why are we attending a church where we don't agree with all the "first order" issues, and why are we making excuses to NOT regularly attend a church where we can receive communion *and* have a common theology? On our drive back yesterday from the Hour-Away-Anglican-Church (I've blogged about it before), we talked about the sermon we'd just heard. If you go back to the post I just linked to, you see the excuse - it's so far away! And really, is that any kind of excuse at all?

Now where does that leave us, you ask? We're starting to talk about transferring our membership. The philosopher still wants to visit some other little-over-hour-away churches that we hadn't considered before because they were, well, Too Far Away. But based on several things Fr. Ed said yesterday (and not just in his sermon) I think it likely that this is where we'll end up. And that, yea verily, would be a Good Thing Indeed.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Why do I garden? Let me count the ways...

You know, I actually don't even *have* a garden (yet) in the traditional sense. We have a patio container garden and an herb bed and some volunteers out by the compost bin, which to my joy and pleasant surprise are actually thriving!

Of course, our life is transitory right now, so we haven't been committed enough to actually till and dig and work an in-ground bed. So perhaps that's why. I don't garden because it "saves money at the grocery store". My yields aren't nearly enough to significantly lower our produce purchases...well, maybe the cherry tomatoes and basil. (Heh. We call that our bruschetta pot!)

I don't garden because I have a brilliantly green thumb. I think of "Green Thumbers" as those who garden instinctively and confidently - I actually fret over our little plants, always hesitant and uncertain about doing the right thing to make them thrive. I have a bag of bonemeal and a bag of bloodmeal and a bag of sulphur pellets we bought for the holly bushes. But I always have to run to my Vegetable Gardener's Bible and look stuff up... definitely not the hallmark of one with a green thumb! Still, this summer is shaping up to be more successful than last summer (blast those tomato hornworms and squash vine borers of 2009!) so I am taking that as a positive sign. And my flower / shrub beds are doing even better.

So, again, why am I so drawn to gardening? There's a satisfaction to it, and a heritage, too. I am so proud that I've successfully transplanted many of my grandmother's (and by extension, my great grandmother's) plants: hostas and callas and roses and lily-of-the-valley and daffodils... seeing them grow makes me inordinately happy.

There's an aesthetic quality to gardening, too. I detest "manicured" gardens - those whose shrubs are forced into boxes and balls and other unnatural shapes. But I like tidy gardens, on the other hand. Garden plots where plants grow in their natural patterns but complement their bed-mates with color and smell and texture. But... how do I square that with the idea of raised bed gardening? I delight in the idea of several neat and orderly raised beds with walkways between them and a cute (but functional!) garden fence around them... with a gate, even! Something like this, or this, or this. Maybe it's because I like the plants to look natural but I like order in terms of beds and layout? Hmm. I think that's the librarian in me transferring to my garden design...

With that mind, I've talked the philosopher into a single raised bed for next year. We're going to use the Square Foot Gardening method, which involves raised beds dug really deep and an intensive gardening style. Basically you divide a 4' x 4' block into 16 squares, and each square gets a crop according to its spacing needs. (ie: one tomato per square, but 24 carrots!) Then when you harvest one square, you can turn in some compost and plant another crop. We're going to put it out by the well house, so there's easy watering and a nice flat space. I really think I talked him into the project by agreeing that we should rent a tiller for an afternoon. He got oddly excited about that! ::grin:: Anyway, we'll prep the space and start amending the soil this summer, and (maybe) plant a late crop of lettuce before the weather turns cold in November. Then we'll be ready to go next year with a REAL garden. And that, my friends, will be a Happy Thing Indeed.