Saturday, June 19, 2010


Poor John. He hasn't been able to come to Wimberley since this whole spill nightmare began, about two months now, and it's making him oh so sad. During a recent phone conversation he asked, in his most pitiful voice, that I post some recent photos of the place - to remind him of what it looks like. So, here are some shots taken from John's five thrones - the places where he most loves to spend time surveying his domain:

1) from his adirondak rocker on the balcony
2) from the pump-house bench
3) from the fire pit
4) from his rocker on the lower porch
5) from his leather recliner in the man-cave

Hope this helps Snookums.

Friday, June 18, 2010


I need a pitch. An elevator pitch. Are you familiar with that term? I recently heard it bandied about at a convention of memoir writers, though writers aren't the only ones to use them. An elevator pitch is a clear, concise and compelling description of a person, service, product, etc., often used as part of a fundraising, PR or marketing program. The name reflects the idea that it should be possible to deliver your pitch in the time span of an elevator ride, from 30 seconds to 2 minutes. In a way it's like speed-dating. Say you manage to trap an editor or publisher in an elevator. You've got this tiny window of time to pique his interest in your book idea, leave him wanting to hear more, before he escapes from you.

Good thing I'm not trying to sell a book. I have trouble just describing my blog. Seriously. People are forever asking me what I've been up to since I quit my job. I say, "Well, mostly I write this blog. Oh, and I volunteer with The Bountiful Sprout." So then they are all, like, "Tell me about the blog! What's it about? How does Bountiful Sprout work? What are you trying to accomplish?" A few seconds into my stumbling reply, I've completely lost them.

So, if you were trapped in an elevator with someone, and had to make them want to go straight to their computer and seek out Seasonality, what would you say? How would you describe it? Come up with some really good ideas for my pitch, maybe a tagline to use on the blog or when I submit articles, and I just might have to hold a drawing for a prize -- perhaps a recently described book on picking produce?

Thursday, June 17, 2010


I have one thing in my kitchen that I value above all others. More than my Le Creuset dutch oven. More than my OXO can opener. More than my micro-plane grater. Even more than my Bakelite silverware and my vintage green glass water jug, just like the one Mom used to have. What on earth, you ask, could be more valuable than all of these put together? A little book called How to Pick a Peach: The Search for Flavor from Farm to Table, by Russ Parsons (food and wine columnist for the Los Angeles Times). Why is it so valuable? Because it's full of all the things your mother should have taught you, but didn't.

Have you ever found yourself standing in front of a pile of pineapples or a mound of melons, with nary a clue how to tell which one would be the tastiest? Here's a hint my sister learned the hard way: green does not equal good when it comes to pineapple. Do you get your produce home, then find yourself wondering how on earth to store it? Should it be chilled or at room temperature? Plastic bag or paper sack? In light or dark? Have you ever had it go bad before you managed to dig through all your various cookbooks or do a search online for suggestions on how to prepare it? If you had this one tiny book at your fingertips everyday, as I do, none of this would ever happen to you again.

This would be a very good book if all it did was list the various fruits and vegetables, tell you how to pick the tasty ones, and how to store them once you get them home. What makes it a great book is that Russ Parsons is also a fine writer and wonderful storyteller. He starts by giving you some background on how we lost these skills in the first place, then he talks a bit about modern day plant designers - those factories in the field - before getting down to the nitty gritty parts. The rest of the book is divided into seasons, with several pages devoted to each fruit or vegetable that is at its best during that particular season.

Summer starts with corn, and the section on corn begins with "In corn as in life, be careful what you wish for." It goes on to talk about how plant breeders worked to overcome the problem of corn losing its sweetness before it could reach consumers in another state. The end result of their years of tinkering is corn that stays sweet, for sure. It just doesn't really taste like corn anymore, and its kernels are now crunchy, rather than creamy. Once you've learned the stories behind the veggies, you find out where they're grown, how to choose them, how to store them, how to prepare them (for corn, that's shucking, removing silks, cutting the corn from the cob, etc.), and you get instructions for one simple dish, of the sort that you could easily prepare on a weeknight, without even looking at the recipe after the first time or two. In this case, it was how to grill the corn. But wait, there's more! He then gives you several more recipes, of the sort you might want to prepare when you have a bit more time, maybe even serve to guests, like fresh corn blini with crema fresca, grilled corn and arugula salad, or shrimp and sweet corn "risotto."

In addition to similar sections about each of the other summer fruits and veggies, there are a couple of pages about which things should never be refrigerated, which should be refrigerated but briefly (no more than 3 days), and which should be refrigerated only after they are fully ripened. There is also a page about making flavored syrups, with suggestions for which herbs or spices go best with which fruit combinations. The section concludes with an essay on Growers and Global Competition: Reinventing the Tomato, and then, it's on to fall!

Won't you give it a gander? It's been out for two or three years now, so you could probably nab a used copy for a decent price. I promise you, the book jacket wasn't lying when it said "As fun to read as it is essential, How to Pick a Peach is guaranteed to help you put better food on your table."

P.S. Many thanks to for the above image.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


A little sprucing up down by the square, where the Blanco meets Cypress Creek. Wimberley is becoming quite a colorful place, which as you know, just suits me to a tee!


Sure wish I had got those last two beds prepped, and finished painting that cinderblock wall, while it was still a tad cooler out. Of course, when it was still coolish, we were still getting rain every few days, which makes this kind of work more or less impossible. Now that it is dry enough to shovel dirt and slap on paint, the thought of being out under the hot blazing sun for more than a few minutes at a time is rather excruciating.

As of June 1st, making our tankful of rainwater last through summer dry spells became my #1 priority, and that made scheduling my outdoor bursts of activity a bit trickier. Biggest dilemma now? Taking the least number of showers possible on any given day. Key to making it work? Clammy Task Clustering!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


I seem to be much better at growing shrubs and perennials than I am at growing food. Everything non-edible in the garden is going great guns. The edibles? Not so much. I was so excited to come home from my most recent trip to Houston, and not find any new hoof-prints in the beds. For some reason the deer only visit when I'm out of town. How do they know? But, before I had too much time to celebrate, I noticed the other visitors who had snuck in to party while I was gone, and never bothered to leave.

I have pill bugs munching their way through my carrot and bean bed, plus some no-see-um who has drilled one tiny, perfect hole in many of the ripening pole beans, probably to fill them with baby no-see-ums. Stink bugs are making my Sweet 100's mottled and streaky, my cucumber refuses to do a damn thing, and then to top it all off, there are grasshoppers. Everywhere! On the other hand, some of my tomatoes actually did too well, shooting way beyond their tall supports, then flopping over on themselves, and everything in the bed around them, which is why my peppers are hardly growing. I should have harvestable carrots by now, but they are all still tiny -- perhaps a result of all the heavy foot traffic they received? I tried to re-fluff and straighten them again, but there's only so much you can do. Oh well, at least I'm still managing to harvest enough for my needs from the tomatoes, beans and basil. More than enough, actually, from my little roma tomato, Juliet. She's prolific!

Of course, now that I think about it, I wasn't always great at growing perennials. In fact, until I was in my 40's, I thought I had your classic brown thumb, and left all the gardening up to John. Maybe the reason my perennials are doing so well now, is that I've spent the last 10 or 15 years reading everything I could get my hands on, taking classes, learning through trial and error, and experimenting with a variety of plants until I came up with just the right palette of low maintenance plants for my particular plot.

Soooo, I guess maybe I should cut myself a little slack on these veggies, huh? After all, this is my first real stab at kitchen gardening, and as they say, Rome wasn't built in a day!

Monday, June 14, 2010


I am probably one of very few girls to escape a Texas high school in 1971, without ever learning to type. My mother begged me to take the standard class before it was too late, but I signed up for drama instead. I told her "I have no intention of ever being a secretary, so what's the point?" Of course, as we all know, that's just the kind of ignorant/arrogant statement that begs to come back and bite one in the ass!

High school was no big deal. Back then, teachers still gave you the option of typing or writing all your essays and papers. College, on the other hand, was a bit more problematic. My professors weren't about to waste their time trying to decipher a student's handwriting. At first I was quite proud of myself. Instead of being the co-ed that types all her boyfriend's papers for him, he was typing mine for me! Then he had the nerve to go and graduate halfway through my sophomore year, and I had to start paying someone to type them for me! That sucked. Especially for someone who was working multiple jobs to get through school.

If I'd had any clue about computers and how they would come to rule my world, I would have beaten a path to the nearest typing instructor. But of course, I didn't. The only computers I'd heard of then were massive things that filled up huge rooms, and were run by punch cards, not keyboards! No, it wasn't until we were married and living overseas that I finally met my comeuppance, and was forced to attend the Bahraini version of Mma Ramotswe's Kalahari Typing School for Men. It was exactly what I deserved.