Saturday, August 31, 2013

Friday, August 30, 2013

The Bribe That Worked

Jack left one week ago for China. I wrote about it here. Before he left, Ed and I bought a new mattress and received a "free" Kindle Fire tablet with our purchase. We, in turn, gave it Jack so that he could keep a stack of e-books with him on his journeys. But, the gift came with a condition: we asked if he would send us a blog entry, describing his trip and impressions of China. This morning, I received his entry. Here it is. The bribe worked. 

Thank you Buddy.

The Lanyard by Billy Collins

The other day I was ricocheting slowly
off the blue walls of this room,
moving as if underwater from typewriter to piano,
from bookshelf to an envelope lying on the floor,
when I found myself in the L section of the dictionary
where my eyes fell upon the word lanyard.

No cookie nibbled by a French novelist
could send one into the past more suddenly—
a past where I sat at a workbench at a camp
by a deep Adirondack lake
learning how to braid long thin plastic strips
into a lanyard, a gift for my mother.

I had never seen anyone use a lanyard
or wear one, if that’s what you did with them,
but that did not keep me from crossing
strand over strand again and again
until I had made a boxy
red and white lanyard for my mother.

She gave me life and milk from her breasts,
and I gave her a lanyard.
She nursed me in many a sick room,
lifted spoons of medicine to my lips,
laid cold face-cloths on my forehead,
and then led me out into the airy light

and taught me to walk and swim,
and I, in turn, presented her with a lanyard.
Here are thousands of meals, she said,
and here is clothing and a good education.
And here is your lanyard, I replied,
which I made with a little help from a counselor.

Here is a breathing body and a beating heart,
strong legs, bones and teeth,
and two clear eyes to read the world, she whispered,
and here, I said, is the lanyard I made at camp.
And here, I wish to say to her now,
is a smaller gift—not the worn truth

that you can never repay your mother,
but the rueful admission that when she took
the two-tone lanyard from my hand,
I was as sure as a boy could be
that this useless, worthless thing I wove
out of boredom would be enough to make us even.

Maman asked me to write a blog entry a while back, but I had trouble getting started. I was fortunate to stumble on this poem in a Billy Collins collection, The Trouble with Poetry. The poet expresses a lot of the feelings I had been feeling. How's a dinky little blog post supposed to repay a mother's love?

The last week has been crazy. It started out at Farm Dover, where I was surrounded by beauty, filled with good things to eat, my every whim satisfied by maman and dad. We had more tomatoes and okra than we could eat. Most always there was something good to watch on the DVR. Then I flew to China. It took about thirty hours and was not very fun. Since then I've been doing my best to get settled in the big, hot, busy city of Shenzhen. I don't speak a lick of Mandarin, and my days are mostly made up of a series of embarrassments, frustrations and discomforts, one after the other. I sense keenly the distance between my current surroundings and my surroundings of a week ago and the distance between me and the people I love.

Nevertheless, I am very happy. I think I have my parents to thank for it. Paradoxically, the further away I go, the more I feel my parents' love. Firstly, there are the things they taught me: open-mindedness, toughness, patience, curiosity, etc. Then there's the knowledge that they are there in the house on Dover Road, thinking of me, worrying about me and praying for me. More comforting than a hot breakfast or a clean bed, that thought stays with me wherever I go. Without it, I couldn't hope to face the day.


Note to readers: We skyped with Jack last weekend and he arrived safely, but tired, in Shenzhen, China, and started teaching English this week at Shenzhen Second Experimental School. He has found someone to teach him Mandarin and connected up with a friend from University. Yesterday, he played guitar and sang with a band during an open mike night. I think he will be just fine. 

Debut in Shenzhen. Photo by Jubil K. Wrong

Tuesday, August 27, 2013


I wanted to show you two things -- both having to do with being upside-down. The first is a half of a photo of an upside-down peach and cornmeal cake that I made last night. (It's just a half of a picture because I served it up before I decided it was photo-worthy). This cake is remarkable for a couple of  reasons. One, I made it – remarkable in that I rarely bake anything.

And two, it was delicious. I found the recipe on The Yellow House, one of my favorite blogs. The author, a gifted writer, describes her blog as about living well in a way that is unfussy. I like that.

I've recently been experimenting with a gluten-free diet, so I substituted an all purpose G-F flour, but otherwise followed the recipe exactly (hard for me to do). I made it my cast iron skillet, the one pan that I consider indispensible. Once baked, I flipped it upside-down and out it came! It tasted like a warm sweet corn muffin with peach jam on top (or is it on the bottom?). Very unfussy.

The second upside-down thing I want to show you is a bowl that Ed bought me when we stopped at a Farmers' Market in Tifton, GA on our way home from our family fishing trip. Here's a picture of it (in front) filled with the peaches that I used to make the upside cake.

The artist (an older fellow in overalls) that we bought it from told us he calls it his turtle bowl, because when turned upside down, it reminded him of a turtle. Sure enough.

Here's a photo of it right-side-up.

So, it can be a bowl, or a turtle. I like that.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Time to pluck up that which was planted

For everything there is a season and this morning it was time to pluck up that which was planted. Specifically, it was time to clear out the second of my two raised beds. I need the space to transplant my overcrowded strawberries from bed number one and I wanted to sow some fall offerings. 

So before the sun got unbearable, I started in one corner and worked my way around the bed. The first order of business was to harvest what I could before I ripped up the plants. I tackled the zinnias first, along with some self-sown dill weed.

Then it was the ruby carrots. I know I could have left these in the ground a bit longer and they would have become "teen-aged" carrots, but they needed to come out. I plan on roasting them tonight with a bit of olive oil and Jane's Krazy Salt.

Then the beets. I'll sauté the greens tonight and pickle the beets later this week.

Next, I gathered the ground cherries. I had never heard of ground cherries until Maggie introduced them to me at the Madison (WI) farmers' market. She planted three plants for me last year and this year I bet I had a dozen or more plants that self-seeded. They produce a weird little fruit -- a cross between a tomato and a pineapple in flavor -- that is wrapped in its own little paper. I'm not sure what I'll do with this harvest. It's hard to resist just eating them straight out of their wrappers.

Lastly, I pulled up the already-flowered cilantro and parsley. I noticed the cilantro had produced coriander seeds, which I snipped off and saved. I'm hoping to dry them and use them in an Indian curry.

So once all was harvested, I pulled up the remaining plants and Ed nicely took them away to use as compost on one of our fields. Because the dill, zinnias and ground cherries all self-seeded, I'm hoping I'll find all these plants thriving in our field next summer.

I spread some left-over compost around the garden, then tilled it up and raked it smooth.

I was all set to transplant the strawberries and plant my fall crops when I got a call from Jack, who wanted to skype from China – our first call from him since he arrived in Shenzhen. Needless to say, the planting can wait. It was time to talk with Jack!

Friday, August 23, 2013

And He's Off...

A little after 6 this morning Ed and I dropped Jack at the Louisville airport to catch a flight to Shenzhen, China. He's off to China's Guangdong Province to teach English and American Culture to high school students.

Shenzhen, Jack's new town, is bordered by Hong Kong to the south and, until 1979, was a sleepy fishing village. Today, it boast a population of more than 10 million people.

I'm excited for Jack and the journey he is embarking on. I'm confident he will navigate his way around this new culture, pick up the Cantonese language, figure out how to cook with new ingredients and eat with chopsticks, find a guitar or accordion and make music and new friends, and fully experience life on his own terms. He's done it before: college at McGill University in Montreal and a teaching year in Hagan, Germany. But, I have to tell you, as a mom, it is tough to say farewell. To hug him one last time, and then to let him go.

Good luck Buddy. Venture forth. Have a wonderful adventure. But know that the cottage will be waiting for you when you decide it is time to come home. I miss you already.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Never Say "Never"

In my former life (before FD), I loved to pick up a bouquet of fresh flowers from Simply Flowers (the little flower stand in Doll's Market) or from the beautiful selection at the entrance to Whole Foods. I never really thought about the carbon footprint of my flower purchase; I only considered how they would cheer up my kitchen table or bedside stand.

Many of the flowers that I was buying were probably grown in South America, imported into Miami, repackaged for delivery to wholesalers, put on sale at the grocery, where I'd load them into my car and drive them home. The environmental impact (and cost) of all that jet fuel and all that refrigerant is staggering.

Here is now how I get fresh flowers into our home. I open the door, walk outside, follow one of the paths that Ed has cut through our native grass/wildflower fields, and pick to my heart's content. Or, I head to the garden where I can choose from zinnias, sunflowers, okra blossoms or hydrangeas.

The fields are my favorite as every week they offer up something different. This week, I can chose from Queen Anne's lace, pokeberries, blackberries, coreopsis, black-eyed susans, coneflowers, the last of the sunflowers, bright purple ironweed, and a number of other beautiful wild flowers that I don't know the names for. Next week, the golden rod will start to bloom and will cast its glow until late October. Even in the coldest months, I can find empty milkweed pods, dried thistle, and cattails. Daffodils and grape hyacinths start to appear as early as February, followed closely by forsythia, lilacs, cherry and pear blossoms.

I'm not limited to flowers; I can stage pumpkins, squash, abandoned bird nests, mock oranges, fossils, or bird feathers. I can have a different arrangement every day, depending on what inspires me on my morning walk.

I can't say for sure that I'll never buy from a florist again, but I know that I'll think long and hard before I do -- and I'm pretty sure it won't satisfy me the way any one of my Farm Dover creations does.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Why going out of town for two weeks was NOT a good idea...

I finally got tired of picking. There are at least this many still in the garden that need to be picked!

Maybe I should open a farm stand at the end of the drive...

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Resting my head on my old familiar pillow

No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel
until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow.
- Lin Yutang

Ed and I are just back from a 12-day, 1200-mile trip to Western Ontario and the Boundary Waters of Minnesota where we fished, camped and canoed. I need a few days to process our adventure and I'll share details soon. But I'll leave you with a few photos...

A very large loon greets us in Mercer, WI
A trophy pike from Lake of the Woods, Ontario
Boundary Waters launch
Camp site panorama
My worthy walleye (sorry for the weird crop, my hair was sticking up funny)
My hero