Friday, June 25, 2010
I tell you what, this last bed is about to eat my lunch. It's drivin' me to drugs (Advil, that is). More stone than soil, it takes at least 5 or 6 stabs of my pitchfork to find one spot where I can sink it in more than an inch or two. The only good thing is that I'm not hitting solid bedrock. It's all chunks that can be dug out and removed, albeit big honkin' chunks. Poor Lucy. She had an accident. The last windstorm knocked her right out of the tree. Thankfully, nothing harmed but her pride.
Speaking of things that are eating my lunch, take a look at those nasty looking orange spiky things that demolished my beautiful passion vine overnight. Hard to believe something that ugly can transform into the gorgeous Gulf Fritillary butterfly. I can appreciate their right to chow down on their host plant of choice, but it doesn't stop me from being pissed that it had to be my host plant, or that they had to take it ALL! What a bunch of green-eyed-greedy-guts.
On the bright side, the big red pots are finally filling in, and I absolutely adore the way those fuzzy pods on my castor bean plant echo the pinky-orange of my corrugated pot - especially since it was a total fluke, and not by design!
Last, but not least, see that plant that's climbing up the yellow squiggle post? Last year I bought it by mistake, thinking I was getting hyacinth bean vine, and planted it in a pot on the corner of my porch. This year a bunch of babies popped up on the ground down below the porch. I'm pretty sure it's something called Malabar Spinach - not a true spinach, but can be used in similar ways - so I transplanted them to the veggie patch. Anyone familiar with it? If so, what can you tell me about it, and what are some of the ways in which you use it?
Thursday, June 24, 2010
Though we still haven't made it to the Blue Hole yet this summer, we did finally squeeze in a float in Outdoor Woman's creek. It was my first time to experience it, since last summer it had been emptied by drought. Can you even imagine,
having beauty such as this, right in your very own backyard?
It's kinda funny, the story of how they ended up here. You see her hubby, Outdoor Man, had this group of on-line guy pals, one of whom was The Judge in Wimberley. One time The Judge invited all the guy pals to his place for a get-together, and the minute OM laid eyes upon the place, he knew this was it - his dream home. It was just the kind of place he had always imagined living in some day, with a comfy-casual house just right for a big, dog-lovin' family, a great kitchen for people who love to cook, a veggie garden, chickens, a creek for swimming and kayaking, all just 45 minutes from their beloved Austin, where they both went to college. Perfect! So he tells The Judge, "If you ever decide to sell the place, I want first dibs." But, of course, who in their right mind would ever let go of a place like this?
Well, several years later OM gets a call out of the blue. Turns out The Judge has accepted an appointment in Portland, Oregon. "If you still want it, it's yours," he tells OM. "I'll take it!" he replies, without even thinking - about the fact that his wife has never even laid eyes on the place, or that her dream might not be the same as his. She says she was praying all the way to Wimberley, that it would be a place she could at least tolerate, so they wouldn't have to go to war over this, and she wouldn't be responsible for dashing his dreams. I'd say she's "tolerating" it just fine!
P.S. That's not her place in the background, with the perfectly-mown lawn. She's across the creek, looking down from the cliffs - the perfect spot for morel-hunting!
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Last night's dinner was the solid, tangible, abundant reward of my efforts in the Cantina Garden. The recipe is adapted from one in Jamie Oliver's Jamie At Home cookbook, and, in his own words, is "dead simple, and an absolute celebration of the summer months." Don't bother, though, unless you've got access to good, fresh from the garden ingredients.
SUMMER TOMATO PASTA (serves 4)
- 1 pound dried fusilli (or any pasta you prefer)
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 6 T. butter, cubed
- 2 T. balsamic vinegar
- a large bunch of mixed soft fresh herbs (like green and purple basil, marjoram, flat-leaf parsley, thyme tips, chives, baby arugula and oregano), leaves picked, a few baby leaves reserved, the rest roughly chopped
- 1 1/4 pounds mixed cherry tomatoes, roughly chopped (I just halved the small ones, and quartered the larger ones)
- extra virgin olive oil
- a block of Parmesan cheese, for grating
With clean hands, really scrunch the tomatoes and all the flavors in the bowl together. Have a little taste and decide whether they need some more seasoning or vinegar.
When the pasta is cooked according to the package instructions, drain it in a colander, reserving some of the cooking water. Tip the pasta into the bowl with your tomatoes and stir the sauce into the pasta. Drizzle with a good glug of extra virgin olive oil, loosen with some of the reserved cooking water if need be, and sprinkle over the reserved baby herb leaves. Serve with a block of Parmesan for grating over. Lovely with some olives thrown in.
I felt very "complete" after this meal, my "void" entirely satisfied by its abundance!
Do you buy lottery tickets? Do you know people who begin every other sentence with "When I win the lottery..."? As in "When I win the lottery, my life will finally straighten itself out, and I will be happy at last." Somehow, I don't think it works that way. If you were to round up all the people who actually have won the lottery, and question them, say, ten or fifteen years down the line, I suspect very few would say that geting all that money cured what ailed them, or filled that gaping hole. If anything, the void probably became more pronounced, once they realized money didn't fix it, and now they had nothing left to pin their hopes on.
Lex saw a bumper sticker just the other day, that summed things up pretty well: "Consumption Will Never Fill The Void". What does that mean? It means there just aren't enough donuts, or enough bags of chips, or enough alcohol or drugs, or Manolo Blahniks or Gucci handbags or big screen TVs or fancy sport cars in the whole damn world, to assuage that feeling of emptiness that so many people carry around with them these days - that feeling of "Is that all there is?" Is this all there is to life? This treadmill I'm on? If so, what's the point? And if winning the lottery isn't the answer, what is? Personally, I think it may have something to do with replacing wealth, accumulation, and consumption as your primary goals in life.
Let's talk a bit about the word "abundance." It seems to be popping up everywhere these days, especially in book titles. What does it mean? What is the difference between abundance and wealth? Well, according to my ancient Webster's, abundance can refer to wealth, but it can also mean "plenty." What does plenty mean? Plenty means fullness - enough to get the job done. Plenitude is the quality or state of being full. Completeness.
So, here's the thing. No amount of money can ever make you feel complete. Therefore, living the good life, an abundant life, is about figuring out just what does make you feel complete. It's different for each individual, but I think there are probably some commonalities as well. This blog is about my quest for an abundant life, but I'm hoping that by sharing my journey with you all, perhaps these stories will "get you to thinkin' ", about what it would take to fill your void.
P.S. Many thanks to zazzle.com for the above image.
Monday, June 21, 2010
A most interesting article appeared in the Feb./March issue of Mother Earth News. This article addressed the issue of why, though Mother Earth has been warning us for 40 years now that "our fossil fuel habit was destructive, industrial agricultural was damaging our land and water, population growth was unsustainable, and contemporary lifestyles were separating people from nature in ways that undermined our health and our emotional well-being," and science has proven them correct on all counts, it hasn't done any of us much good?
Their conclusion was that we've gone about this task back-assward, advocating personal change without offering incentives. Austerity is a drag, so most people resist it. Abundance, on the other hand, is attractive. "If we are to lead creative, innovative and beautiful lives, we need some surplus time and energy. Most of the significant achievements in our history have been accomplished in the presence of abundance. Science, technology, literature and art spring only from societies in which the surplus resources created by some people enable others to live reflective, inventive lives." Therefore, we will not engage the great engines of human creativity with a vision of pure frugality. If we are to create a sustainable future, we need more positive criteria. To create this world, they suggest that we need to stop defining our vision one partisan issue at a time, and look at our future holistically, using the following four simple questions to guide our aspirations:
- Is it fair?
- Is it repeatable?
- Is it beautiful?
- Does it create abundance?
P.S. Many thanks to creativequilts.com.au/gallery.htm for the above image. Autumn Abundance quilt by Lisa Davis.
One blog posting just isn't enough to hold all the pics from any one experience at Onion Creek Kitchens at Juniper Hills Farm, so here are a few more. Owner Sibby is the petite blonde to the left of the stove. Check out her website for even more views of the place, including the casitas where you can stay overnight if you wish, and the lovely vanishing-edge pool. That pool looked so cool and inviting, and the small kitchen got so toasty warm once we are all crammed in there with burners and oven going full-blast, it was all I could do not to jump right in, chef's apron and all! Of course the new kitchen, with all it's airiness and space to spread out, won't have that problem. I absolutely adore that wonderfully rustic, mosaic- encrusted bar out by the pool. Doesn't it just scream out "Cantina Garden!" Also by the pool is a fairly modern dining area, complete with fireplace and some hi-tech kitchen equipment and grills. Nice, but what I love is the more rustic area out amidst the junipers, where you'll find that very European style dining table and pergola pictured in yesterday's post, and the wood-burning oven you can glimpse here, behind the bottle tree. Such bliss!
Sunday, June 20, 2010
Had another fabulous experience at Onion Creek Kitchens this weekend -- Sibby Barret's cooking school, weekend getaway, and dining experience extraordinaire. We've attended a couple of classes where we did exotic or ethnic foods, and one where we had to improvise a meal based on whatever we could forage from local growers and producers. This one, with an All-American theme, was chosen simply because it sounded yummy - a meal I might very well wish to repeat for, say, our Fourth of July dinner. Our menu included Kentucky Bourbon Lemonade, Oven Roasted Baby Back Ribs, Caramelized Onion-Bacon Potato Salad, two kinds of deviled eggs (one of which I managed to screw up - badly!), Root Beer Baked Beans, and Fried Peach Pies with Vanilla Bean Cinnamon Ice Cream. Mmm, mmm, mmm, tasty! Here's a tip for you: rolled out jumbo biscuits from a can make a darned fine fried pie. Who'd a thunk?
After dinner we all got to stroll over for a sneak preview of Sibby's new, improved, super-sized commercial kitchen, which is under construction now. Should be finished by late October, and it's gonna be some kind of wonderful. I know a lot of people who are very talented and creative. I know several individuals who are shrewd business people. But Sibby? Sibby is that true rarity who, unless there's a genius business partner behind the scenes that I'm unaware of, seems to be a perfect blend of both. She started with a tiny baking business being run from her home, built it into a thriving storefront business - one of the premier specialty cake purveyors in Dallas - which is still going strong after 25 years. In fact, it's doing so well that she was able to loosen the reins enough to move to the Hill Country, where she started another small business from her home. One that is also on it's way to premier status, thanks to her magic touch. Kudos to you Sibby. You're one in a million!