Wednesday, July 17, 2013


Cuckold  ˈkəkəld, -ōld ORIGIN: late Old English, from Old French cucuault, from cucu ‘cuckoo’ (from the cuckoo's habit of laying its egg in another bird's nest). The equivalent words in French and other languages applied to both the bird and the adulterer.
     For the second time this summer a pair of purple house finches have built a nest in the corner of our front porch. They are hidden up there on the ledge where we have placed a shallow clay pot liner. We love the little parents who scold us when we walk out to get the mail. They fly to the crab apple tree and say, cheee, cheee, cheee. Their first nesting hatched three babies, so we were shocked when this time around there were seven eggs! An ominously large brood for a little mother to raise. But wait! When I looked more closely (we lifted the liner down for a few seconds to peek in because we’re curious, and then quickly replace it before the parents die from anxiety.) Suddenly, I realized that two of the eggs were not like the others. (I could hear that Sesame Street song in my head urging me to decide which one was different.) I looked again. Two were noticeably larger and different in color. More brown speckles. I know that Cow birds are like the English cuckoo bird playing a nasty bully-trick on honest little birds, sneaking in and dropping a giant egg or two that when hatched will put to death the natural children, and with their voracious appetites, will stress the parents who can’t seem to tell the difference between the interlopers and their own poor, starving babies. So the cuckoo is the source of the word “cuckold.” The story of the sailor who has been away at sea for over a year, who returns home to find his wife has a baby. Thus the saying emerged: “I’ve been cuckholded!”
     I didn’t expect to find the cowbird in an urban setting. At our house? I have no problem interfering with their ugly agenda. I remove the two eggs, take them to the driveway and smash them on the cement, heartlessly killing the little alien invaders. I’m not looking too deep for meaning here. Or am I? Why should I turn every story into a Me Story? Unless God means me to reflect on this passion I have for rescuing. Maybe removing cuckoo eggs is not what I’m supposed to be doing. Maybe I’ve misunderstood the difference between selfishness and stewardship? Perhaps my zeal for finding and saving has more to do with my own needs than it does for helping others? This might make more sense if you knew I was struggling with boundaries. More wisdom to learn, even at my age.
Finch Nest
Finch nest on Toad Hall porch.

Cowbird Eggs
Cowbird eggs in hand.

Cowbird eggs in finch nest jpeg

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Dangerous Rhubarb Cordial

Rhubarb plant
Last of this season's rhubarb

We are having a quiet 4th of July. Sandy, a friend from New Zealand, a nurse practitioner, is staying with us for three weeks while she keeps up her annual licensure at Mayo. Another good friend, Larry, from Scottsdale, is here for a month working as a hospitalist and he will join us later.  I'm just home from Laity Lodge in Texas where I spent every last spoon of energy I own at a women's retreat. Yesterday I felt like I would never, ever get out of bed again. It was the kind of day when everything made me weep. Like the wren outside our back porch who finally found a mate after singing a solid month before he found her. Cheesh.
Today I'm so much better that the first thing I did was strain the rhubarb cordial that has been brewing on the breakfast nook table for three weeks. (You understand. I have priorities.) A friend sent me this recipe and said to watch out, it is so refreshingly delicious you could drink a quart before you are even aware. Of course, given the ingredients? It wouldn't be long before I was happily unaware of anything. However, due to the company we will keep today, if I were to fall and bump my head, I'd be in good hands.
Hope you all are having a wonderful Fourth and keep your fingers away from lit fuses and hot grills.
Rhubarb strained
I'd be pale, too, if I soaked in vodka for three weeks.

Rhubarb Cordial
Ready for ice and soda water.

Rhubarb Cordial
Bring 6 T sugar and 1/4 cup water to a boil, stirring just until sugar dissolves; remove from heat. Cool Place 5 cups coarsely chopped rhubarb in a two quart glass container. Add 3 cups vodka, 1/2 cup Grand Marnier or other orange-flavored liqueur and cooled sugar syrup; stir. Screw lid on tightly and let stand at room temp for 2-3 weeks or until all the color leaches out of rhubarb. Strain over a bowl, discard solids. 
Enjoy it straight up over ice or with club soda. Remember: all things in moderation.
For another great recipe: Sparkling Rhubarb Lemonade link