Saturday, April 25, 2015

Back to the Garden

Time to clear the weeds off the box beds so they can dry out a bit, be tilled, and planted.

 It's no hardship being out on a beautiful day like this.
 An early swallowtail working the thrift.

The chartreuse of the river birches I planted about forty years ago is almost electric against the blue of the sky

There's always time for some contemplative moments as I sit and hoick out the weeds.

 When I moved up to the herb garden, I had an OH WOW! moment.

Buried in an overgrown hedge, this pink tree peony was blooming like mad.
I planted it and another years ago after reading a Martha Stewart article about her tree peonies. Thanks, Martha!

 Ali Ali appreciates a nice warm bed.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

And the Green Tide Rolls . . .

Creeping across the land . . .

Rejoicing the mountainsides . . .

Decking each tree in fresh finery . . .

Shimmering and singing . . .

In a tapestry woven from a thousand shades of green.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Cream of Spring Soup

First get a pair of gloves. These dish washing gloves are perfect as they come up a ways on my arms and will protect me from being stung. Because stinging nettles are the backbone of this soup. (Of course you can substitute spinach but there's something kind of magical about nettles -- and they're free and amazingly good for you. ) 
For better or for worse, we have lots of them. And now, while they're young and tender and before they bloom, is the time to harvest them for a tasty soup that is the very essence of Spring.

I used scissors to snip off just the tender tops. The gloves kept me safe from the stingers.

I took what I estimated to be about a pound of leaves -- maybe enough to fill half a large paper grocery bag

Our asparagus has just begun to emerge and I broke off all the stalks that seemed ready. 
Back at the house, I found a half-dry shitake mushroom, the last from our logs. (I'd had a look in the orchard, hoping there might be morels but no luck.)

The next step was to bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil and plunge in the nettle leaves. Two minutes in the boiling water is supposed to neutralize the sting . . .

 And, by golly, it did! With my bare fingers, I pulled the leaves off the stalks. Some recipes don't include this step and it's probably not necessary as it's all going to get pureed eventually.

At this point I thought of another spring green that could go in the soup and stepped outside to my little ramp patch behind the house. 

These are ramps I've planted and they are finally beginning to multiply but I'm not ready to pull any up just yet. So I just cut off a bit of a few leaves, hoping that the garlicky flavor would add to my soup.

While I was out  I picked a few sprigs of thyme too. Then I chopped up the asparagus, saving the tips to add in after the pureeing. I also chopped up an onion and the shitake  and sauteed it all in a little butter and olive oil.

The RECIPE I was using as a guideline would have had me chop up and saute some potato right now, but I had a bit of leftover cooked potatoes (and peas, but what the hell, they're green too. Live dangerously!)

So in went the thyme and the potatoes and peas -- I saved the ramp blades to add during the pureeing process -- and then added a quart of chicken broth.

When it had all simmered a bit, I added a little garlic salt and  some Ras el Hanout -- a Moroccan inspired spice blend (see HERE.) that I really love. ( But the soup would be fine without it.)

Then I added the ramp leaves, cut in strips, and pureed it all (working in batches.) If I owned an immersion blender, it would have been easier. When the puree was back in the pot, I added the asparagus tips, a cup of cream, and the juice of half a lemon. A little tasting, a little more salt and Ras el Hanout and it was good to go.

The soup was delicious. We added some homemade bread and a mango and spinach salad for a perfect spring evening meal.

I think I'll go pick some more nettles.  Nettle Spanokopita could be next!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Of Books and Book Pushers

I've been accused of being a book pusher -- but when I read a book and really enjoy it, I just have to tell folks about it, And there are often great suggestions for further reading in the comments.

Sometimes books are thrust upon me  recommended by Facebook friends -- Jayna and Mario suggested that I might enjoy Waiting for the Galactic Bus and, oh, I did, I did!

The premise is that two teenagers from a very long-lived alien race were stranded on Earth at a time when apes were the most advanced form of life. The teens experimented with giving the primates a bit of a push (a la SPACE ODYSSEY 2001.)  

As time passed and the primates evolved, the two aliens came to be regarded as gods  . . . and when, much, much later, an anguished St. Augustine realizes the truth and asks what remains, if his beliefs are based on a mistake, he is told:

 "A great deal remains, you relentless man . . . that splendid mind I gave you. Though it's very like building a magnificent car for someone who obstinately refuses to learn to drive."

Waiting for the Galactic Bus is a wonderful, thought-provoking romp through time, history, theology, and philosophy!

Vicki Van V. is another of those Facebook book pushers. We share an enthusiasm for the novels of Laurie R. King and Vicki suggested I take a look at one of LRK's early works, published under a different name.  Califia's Daughters is a dystopian novel, set in a future California where a virus has killed off most men, triggering a role reversal in which women are the warriors and men are more or less relegated to harems.

Richly imagined and full of sly detail, the book kept me reading. (The main character is an extremely likeable warrior woman with a pair of Irish Wolfhound type giant dogs.) The different communities that struggle to survive are a wise look at society's varied ways of responding to disaster. The ending came too soon and seemed to beg for a sequel -- but there isn't one, alas.

As a bonus, I learned about Califia  (or Calafia)-- a warrior queen in a Spanish novel written around 1500. There is an interesting account HERE of how this novel was ultimately the source of the  name California for the state.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

A Sunday Stroll

Wood Hyacinth

Azaleas, Pink Dogwood, and Redbud

Buckeye Bloom

Purple Trilium aka Wake Robin

Dwarf Crested Iris

Yellow Violet

Bleeding Heart