Friday, May 20, 2011

For crying out loud (4COL)

     Toad Hall is getting an exterior paint job and although it’s necessary for maintaining the value of the house, I’ve channeled a confused mix of uncertainty, boiled spleen and secret desire to shock the neighbors which doesn’t take much on a block where a lot of homes are still the color of mashed potatoes and gravy. The confusion is that I had an idea of what I wanted but when I looked at all the palette possibilities, there are so many choices it’s insane. Then when I realized it’d also be insane to do a San Francisco Painted Lady look just for the sake of shocking the public, to say nothing of what a financial folly (it’s costly enough as is) that’d be, and taking into account that Denis is of NO help at all because not only does he not have my stamina for the many hours required to discuss Scandinavian Sky versus Thunderbolt Blue, the colors I most like fall into his color-blind range: blue-green-gray. I AM STRESSED and Harold Camping predicts that Jesus is coming back tomorrow so ALL this is USELESS DRIVEL and A WASTE OF MY TIME. 

      We are now gone south for the week to visit family and so I’ve Left Behind my constant patrolling the yard to check for trampled plants and paint drift on the cars parked beside our house. Anita, our assistant, and Denny, the painter, are capably in charge. So far a lot of the trim has been covered with a lovely creamy white called Bunnycake, which is a prime choice because as you know, Honeysuckle, the angora rabbit, who lives on our back porch likes this color. I just hope I will love it when it’s all done. I thought you’d like to know.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Sustaing fantasy in the Ozarks

Reflecting on my life-long fantasy of living somewhere in the country. Perhaps more extravagant than bees, what about alpacas or angora rabbits? Since Sue Hubbell wrote the following in 1983 there may be permanent changes ala Winter's Bone even in the Ozark landscape. Sad to say.

"I find the hopeful bee-agribusiness visitors touching and appealing; many of them are young and they bring out the mother in me. They are often working at dull jobs they do not like, and the idea of owning a bee farm in the country is a sustaining fantasy. I try not to discourage them, but sometimes I have to. Almost any kind of farming dooms newcomers to bankruptcy these days, particularly bee farming, because of the market conditions. About the only quicker way to go broke right now is to raise pigs, so when a man came to seek my advice a month ago and told me he was ready to spend ten years’ worth of savings from a factory job to buy a farm where he would raise bees and pigs, I had to admit it was the worst idea I had heard in a long time. He went away saddened; I don’t know whether he bought the farm or not.
            The Ozarks, wild, undeveloped, inhospitable, keep being discovered. A lot of people who figured it was better to be poor in the country moved here during the 1930s; others, richer, thought FDR was the devil incarnate and wanted to put their wealth in land before he could take it away from them. Since then waves of people who find the cities too complicated have come here, meaning to lead lives of simplicity. What they have not yet discovered is that a life is as simple or as complicated as the person living it, and that people who have found life in the city over-whelming will find it even more so here, where it is much harder to make a living. When a person has money coming in regularly, his mistakes may make hi unhappy but they do not threaten his survival. Here, where there is little money, every decision counts and there is no room for mistakes."

* Bees in pic belong to John Eddy who keeps bees in the very urbane, urban Cos Cob, CT

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Honeysuckle drags a ribbon

So. Honeysuckle's been up to some shady shenanigans around here. And it's time to go public with them.

About 16 days ago Anita took her back to the farm of her birth to meet a suitor. All this was carefully planned and officially approved. Mary Lou, the breeder and owner of a herd of angora rabbits, has four bucks and one of them was introduced to Honeysuckle, who promptly tried to beat him up. Same thing for the next in line. Her response: face him at all times, box his head with front paws if he tries any tricks (ha), and run as far away as my little cage allows.
What was going on in her little bunny brain? We speculated, how could a rabbit not be interested in romance and motherhood? She is a year old and could have been bred six months ago. Fyi, rabbits ovulate anytime they’re bred which explains their ability to make hundreds of babies while you make one. Gestation is 30 days. Litter size anywhere from four to twelve.

Mary Lou left her in a cage overnight with the gentlest of all her guys. A Dutch Agoudi, gray in color with little splashes of white and gray on his face. Nothing happened as far as anyone knew. When Anita brought her home she looked disheveled and crabby. It took a few days for her to forget her trauma and dash about like her normal spoiled self.

This morning when I looked on the back porch she was trying to pull a four foot hot pink ribbon off a wedding wreath. We had big doings around here this past weekend with Kosmo getting married and all. Intrigued, I watched as she laboriously wadded it into her mouth and carried it to her hutch where she deposited it in her litter box. Turns out rabbit mothers like to make multiple uses of their litter box. Then she tried to drag my heavy old wool “welcome” rug across to her hutch and when I pulled strings out of her mouth she was extremely annoyed and let me know I should get off it. I know she thinks of it as her property and has already chewed the crap out of it, making it nearly useless. A while back I trimmed off a portion and Anita put it in her hutch where it gives off a distinctly French brothel look. We’re thinking of hanging a gilded mirror, too, since she spends a good deal of her time preening.

I began to wonder, hmmm. I called Anita to watch. We brought her a couple of rags and sure enough, she dragged them into the hutch and rasseled them around some more. This looks like nesting behavior. Perhaps more happened out at the farm than we knew. Ah, the excitement. I choose not to think of what Anita will do with a litter of angoras. She says she will sell or give them away. (I don’t think we or our porch can withstand much more sustained cuteness.) She’s looking at plans for building a nest box. And two weeks from now, since the exact date is unknown, Honeysuckle should begin pulling her wool to line a nest and that will be a sure sign, baby bunnies are arriving.

Now that you’ve wasted perfectly good time reading this post, I will be sure to let you know the outcome. I'm quiet certain some of you need an angora rabbit to complete your life.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Stop that

Yesterday we came through JFK on our way home from a few days with friends in Connecticut. Wonderful days of doing mostly nothing. After we landed in Mpls, we sped through the airport to luggage, until I asked, Excuse me, WHAT’s our bleeping HURRY? Well, we were merely extending the dash from Cos Cob to JFK, darting through traffic, dodging insane drivers gesturing, cursing (we don’t curse, being perfectly midwesternly polite, as always, we keep it in and get autoimmune diseases) narrowly missing death, arriving at the terminal with a panting dog and a pulse of 145. We had been advised to arrive very early and expect long delays through security because the terror color is red these days. Imagine the shock of NO ONE ahead of us! Through the rat maze! Straight to the cheese! Never any where, any time has this happened in life. (We suppressed the urge to run for cover.) But no matter. We still rushed to our gate, gulping coffee, snarfing a sandwich, finding a seat so we could absorb others’ hurry vibes. We kept one eye on the CNN reporter squeezing juice out of children playing outside bin Laden’s compound and the other eye on the sparrows building a nest above the agent’s desk. Sparrows. More spiritual, prophetic, don’t you think? It was lost on us since we needed to remain hyper-vigilant, tuning ears to roaring announcements and making strategic use of the restroom before our Zone was called. Whatever.

You feel pathetic – wanting to preserve the good of slowing down, being aware of inner speed. You say you’re going to be intentional about not getting back on the track to blood pressure hell, but you still jab the “Walk” button twenty times to make the signal reappear faster.

Today Wes H. wrote: “…thank you for "The Scent of Slow" post today. What a good and true reminder to be patient, to wait, to live without closure, to release the relentless need to control and rush and speed...”

I told self to not give up. I believe, as he wrote, “It's good to remember that, like a slow-cooked meat, God's redemption works itself out gradually, seemingly at a snail's pace... but the taste at the end makes it all worth it.”   

Complete redemption will get here, but, dang, I wish it’d hurry up.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Not your average farm dinner

Friends, John & Leslie, treated us to dinner at Blue Hill Café at the Stone Barns in New York where an earlier generation of Rockefellers grew up. Now whoever owns the barns and acres around, whether it’s a public trust or private ownership, I don’t know. All the land in sight of this hill raises livestock, gardens and orchards specifically for the menus. The barn is magnificent with stone and timbers and arches and copulas and heavy doors built to last for centuries. They make you think being a dairy maid might have made you very happy (brilliant Margie). It’s now an event center and restaurant co-owned by Dan Barber, one of the first garden-to-table chefs. You might say his calling is about being conscious of food choices and the effort required to eat healthy, nourishing food, and how our options should include natural, organic, local and all those important, over-done, oft exploited words.

     John and Leslie choose a multi-course meal built around what was overwintered or harvested in April. You don’t get a menu – you get what the chef wants to give you, although we were all a little relieved when the staff asked whether we had reservations about eating organ meats, and we all got shifty-eyed and gently said, may we pass, s’il vous plait. It began with amuse bouche – foofy French word used in restaurants I can’t afford, (thankfully the staff interpreted for me: snacks), and herbal infused elixirs (I grinned at “elixir” which I freely associate with fairy stories or poison – can go either way). Each was a wonderfully complex flavor of this flower or that herb. I hadn’t thought of drinking beets. Most of the bites were small tastes, appropriately brilliant or just sweetly, softly themselves. Loved them. Some were so simple, I fancied I could DO them myself if I got away from the peasant mentality of more is better. However, the square inch of congealed vichyssoise wrapped in a leek leaf would challenge my patience.

 Smoked kale and a sweet potato chip

 Mini Beet Sliders.

 L to R: Elixirs oatmeal/honey, yellow beet, berry

 Leek-wrapped vichyssoise.

      At the end this came out and we can’t remember what that little square was called. Chocolate, obviously, and something pistachio. The round things were chocolate covered hazelnuts. The white frothy drink - icy vanilla shake aka time to go home.  

     I kept wanting to stay in the moment, okay, the three hours. Trying to keep things real. Wanting to keep on talking about really important things like luh-ove and how to solve the world’s problems. I reminded myself this kind of celebration every day would not be possible nor wanted. But once, maybe in a lifetime? Mine, anyway? Eating at a 3 Star Michelin as a guest? You’d at least hope your conversation measured up. I doubt mine did. I know. Some things you can’t give back. This was a gift. A celebration. And like most graces you don’t get to deserve them, you should accept them gratefully, thankfully, and hope God will bless the giver(s), because you sure can’t. 

   Although we've been coddled and treated for a whole week, going home to rice and stir fry is way okay, too.