Creature Comfort no. 752

Can I just say that I am SO glad to be home? For so many reasons, not the least of which because I'm really tired of eating out? This whole week I've dreamed of favorite dishes like this:

Rosita's Chili
1 can black beans
1 can red kidney beans
1/2 cup chopped tomatoes
(optional: Trader Joe's roasted corn, frozen mixed bell peppers, ground turkey)
olive oil
1 onion
2 or 3 cloves garlic, chopped small
4 T chili powder
1 T oregano
1 T cumin
to taste: (these are the secret ingedients)
brown sugar (or honey)
beer (darker the better, think stout. Double Chocolate is my fave, and then you can drink it with dinner.)
lemon juice
*this is best over brown rice, so get the rice going before you start the chili:
1 cup brown rice
2 cups water
Bring 2 cups of water to a boil; add rice; cover; bring back to a boil & reduce heat to simmer. Let simmer for 25 minutes. If the rice isn't quite done, turn off heat, and cover it until you're done with the chili.
Chili time:
Chop onion
saute with garlic until soft in olive oil on medium heat.
If you're using ground turkey,brown it now.
Add chili, oregano & cumin, mix well.
Add beans, tomatoes and any corn or bell peppers.
Now for the secret ingredients that I'll only tell you. And you.
Add judiciously; maybe a tablespoon of brown sugar, a splash of beer to begin with, and the juice of half a lemon. Cover and let it all soak together.
We eat this a lot. Occasionally-when I have time- a pan of cornbread has made an appearance. Usually our chili is topped with shredded sharp cheddar or plain yogurt (poor man's sour cream) and served with salad.
Go on! Eat! Mange!

****this is also for Jessica in La Habra & Ben & Karin in South Lake Tahoe, house-warming gifts from your sis.************


June Lake Annals

G up at 7:30 this morning, "My tummy's hungry!" Snuck out into the kitchen, cut up a banana nut muffin, brought it back to bed. G sat on bed & ate while I moaned quietly into pillow. Turned light out & she cuddled up, trying to be quiet, but singing to herself. Thought it was nonsense, realized despite non-morning person/feeble-minded self that it was the last refrain of 'Teddy Bear's Picnic." D & S up next, 10 minutes later-took G to local coffee shop (like she needs the caffeine) & I am alone. B & K still somehow asleep on sofa-bed across the room. All this before 8:30. How does B do it? Morning people are amazing. Of course, I'm now contemplating going for a run, so maybe I'm turning into one too.
Must remind B to water honeysuckle, rhodies on hillside, smoke bush.


my echo, my shadow, and me

I'm a single parent for the next 6 days. B left early this a.m. and I am left alone with G. Well, with dad, stepmum, brother Ben & his girlfriend Karin; so not exactly alone. But alone enough to write moany blog posts about it. Pray for me!


Yosemite, June Lake

I haven't quite dropped off the face of the earth, only gone to June Lake. It is lovely, and quite high up, (elev. 8,000'?) I caught my first fish since the 1980's (small brook trout-threw him back.) The air is so thin and fraught with static that, when I shook out the blanket in my darkened bedroom, the room was lit with blue electric sparks. 'Struth.
When I was a little girl, the words 'Tuolomne Meadows' were the most beautiful words I'd ever heard. I was an Indian Princess crouched in the tall grass, weaving crowns from reeds and rushes, a brown doe was my friend and sunlight was my cloak.


Too Much Food

Tonight I am totally bloated; I was the guest of my Mystery Shopper buddy, Colleen. She was off to Chili's with $50 worth of eating to do. I tagged along to help out, and quickly learned that Chili's was the place to be, esp. if you want to eat a lot of fat, fried food, and damn the consequences.
Egads! The sheer volume of food that is shoveled down in that restaurant! We decided that my 'guiltless chicken burger' with steamed vegetables and cup of chili on the side was at least 5 servings worth of food! We had to order an appetizer: their "egg roll", which was really just a variation on the great American culinary theme: hot, intensely flavorful filling deep-fried and then dipped in Ranch dressing.
We are taste junkies
It reminded me of Bill Bryson's observation about American food, that it all has to explode flavorfully in your mouth and then drip all over your chin everytime. He said that Americans are taste junkies, constantlye searching for a new fix. If you go to a supermarket right now you will see them, people grimly plodding up and down the aisles looking for something that will briefly revive their dead taste buds. But I'm think I'm feeling major trauma by all the food and goo and sugar that I ate for dinner tonight-Ugh!


Room! Give me room!

'O all wide places, far from feverous towns!
Great shining seas! Pine-forests! Mountains wild! Rock-bosomed shores! Rough heaths, and sheep-cropt downs!Vast pallid clouds! Blue spaces undefiled! Room! Give me room! Give loneliness and air! Free things and plenteous in your regions fair.

O God of mountains, stars and boundless spaces!O God of freedom and of joyous hearts!
When Thy face looketh forth from all men's faces;
There will be room enough in crowded marts;
Brood Thou around me, in the noises o'er; Thy universe my closet with shut door.'
-George MacDonald
(Photo taken in Northern Scotland's Grampian mountains, not far from George's hometown of Huntley, Aberdeenshire. A lovely and wild land indeed. Och aye!)
By the by, I discovered this bit of verse in one of my favourite little books, The Country Diary of An Edwardian Lady by Edith Holden. This is a fascimile reproduction of a naturalist's diary for the year 1906. Edith Holden recorded in words and incredibly detailed paintings the flora and fauna of the British countryside through the changing seasons of the year. Both her botanical and ornithological drawings remain unparalleled. A good cozy read.....)


The People in My Neighborhood

Today: A good run through the burgeoning shadows and sunlight shafts of MH. On to church, here we hung out in the Toddler Room; introduced G to her future husband, Captain. ("I now pronounce you Mr. & Mrs. Captain __.")
And it was so great to see Auntie Suzanne, Angel, the Bridgens, & Sky & Melissa and their wild child Lily, visiting from Sacto. Burritos afterwards with about 15 people at Planet Fresh, guacamole, drippy tacos & a cadre of squealing little girls. A comic named Buzzy paid for my lunch. Chance talk with Gibbytron & then the Molly outside the Red about Anne Sexton and her searching for God poetry. Gruff-looking Harley Guy revv'd his engine for G, herself a motorcycle buff. Drove on West Cliff up past the Fair Ave. abalone temple, and then home. Pruned my lavatera which was standing 8 ft. high, leaves curiously eaten away in the shape of doilies or antimacassars, like the sordid remains from the Attack of the Old Lady beetle.
I Reflect
I find myself liking my life, liking my 'hood and the communitas that has grown up around us.
We feel the pull all the time to return to Scotland, back to that land that once held so much for us. There are heart-breaking moments when we remember the halls, corridors and garden paths of the Seamill Centre, once traveled by us and now so frustratingly far away. I have to try to not think about it, or my head will fall off, or implode. I kind of mentally stuff my fingers in my ears and lah -lah really loud when I get like this. Because what can you do? If I go there, I miss here. Etc. etc. I guess somehow I have to trust that heaven is an answer to this whole time/space conundrum, although I am not sure how.....I mean, how much capacity do I have to love and to miss, to long for and to suppress? It makes me never want to travel again, I'm afraid to fall in love again with place, and sky and folk.


Goodbye to a Good Greenhouse

Today we bid a fond adieu to a beautiful place: the UC Santa Cruz Farm & Garden's Greenhouse.
I loved this greenhouse. It was so utterly whimsical, with it's stained glass insets and driftwood handle on the weathered door.
The front door was ringed with funky beds filled with hen & chicks and sweetpeas blossoms. A passive solar greenhouse, it contained little more technology than chains and cranks to lever open the vents on the south side. Inside, the staging was battered and at times almost obscured by the large amounts of white nicotiana that was allowed to ramble beneath.
At first I shook my head at this, thinking of other greenhouses I had seen, very very clean, scientific & antiseptic. No weeds allowed! At this greenhouse, however, the sticky leaves of the nicotiana helped to trap soft-bodied insects, like aphids, that would otherwise prey on the seedlings. It was this sort of sideways thinking that I admired about organic farming.
And then there were the rats......
Yes, the greenhouse had pests, usually aphids and something called the Green Gunge, but there was a larger, furrier and more wily creature that threatened our poor seedlings-the rat. We think they got in through the large drains, and we spent a lot of time trying to get rid of them. Well, I ended up with my own rat story, a badge of glory for every apprentice....
A Rat, a Cat & a Wedding
The Saturday on which my story falls was also the wedding day of one of my favorite instructors, Nancy Vail (who now has a great place up the coast called Pie Ranch.) Her wedding ceremony was out in the Field, over looking the fabulous Monterey Bay and it was beautiful, from all accounts. I wasn't there, it was my weekend for greenhouse duty. So, I was with the seedlings. Well, I thought it was just me and the seedlings- oh- and Kealoha, the ailing farm cat who spent most of his time in the warm greenhouse. So, me, the seedlings, and Kealoha. Except that about halfway through the morning, I began to notice some definite squeaks of a ratty nature. Investigating further I was horrified to discover a rat with it's face stuck in a trap. I think it was going in and out of consciousness, silent for a while and then scrabbling, trying to escape. It was a horrible sound. I roused Kealoha and tried to get him to help, I don't know why I thought I could get him to turn from cat stupor to Super Rat Catcher in an instant-he slumped off up the stairs. I heard noise outside-a bagpiper of all things. I went out to the path; it was the wedding procession-all the guests coming from the ceremony, walking down to the reception. Everyone looked blissful and joyous. I hid in the fig vines, hands wringing, hating to yank someone from the bliss of the wedding with my tale of rat tortures. Finally, my savior in blue jeans appeared; I think his name was Darren, (or Derek?) a former apprentice with a shovel and an unerring aim. He dispatched the poor rat, burying him behind the hoophouses, and I spent the rest of the morning trying to get the sound of rat squeaks out of my head.
I showed up at the Down Garden this past Wednesday to hear Orin Martin's lecture on the summer pruning of fruit trees and as I meandered up the path past the Gate House, musing on the purpose of the eath mover ahead, I suddenly realized that something very big was missing........ So, that's it. It's gone. I know it's needed to go for quite a long time now, and hooray for all the people who fund-raised for a new greenhouse. I think it is splendid. As I walked around the wreckage, I noticed the free plant table standing bravely in the midst of all the broken glass and old wood. I gathered some fine, (if not slightly overgrown) flax and zinnia seedlings, maybe some of the last to be grown in the old greenhouse. I'm glad to have been there on Demolition Day-I just hope the new greenhouse is rat-proof.


Chadwick Garden

I gardened at the Chadwick Garden last Friday morning, harvesting cutie 'Little Gem' lettuce for their market cart and then replanting a bed of tithonia that had been all but decimated by bunnies, ala Curse of the Were-Rabbit. The Chadwick Garden (or Up Garden) began in 1967 when UCSC hired master gardener Alan Chadwick to come from England to start a garden. What with the campus being constructed, and the horrors of the Vietnam War, the students decided that they wanted a garden, somewhere that would really say UCSC, somewhat like Stanford's chapel. I'm not sure this original aim was exactly met-most UCSC students I know have never visited the Chadwick Garden. Which is fine by me- it's such an amazing place, I'd much rather it didn't attract huge crowds of people. I'm including a link here in case anyone cares to read more about the inception of one of the most influential organic gardens in the US.
Up, Up & Away
One of the first things you need notice about the Up Garden is that it is on a hillside. When I was an apprentice there it took me a good week or more to develop my sea legs-gardening on a slope is not for wimps. On Friday, just after a few hours I ended up with blisters on the balls of my feet, from my socks rubbing against my shoes as I strained against gravity, weeding oxalis and planting out seedlings. Also, the place is so incredibly lush and green and just verdant. It's positively stuffed with plants, Orin Martin, the garden manager (and one of my favourite gardeners) has a particular fondness for the Rosaceae family and it shows. Roses, malus (apples), prunus (plums, peaches), and berries abound. Everything is planted high density, which is part of the bio-intensive method, maximizing space and nutrients.
During the second week of the apprenticeship I was given the job of applying Tanglefoot to the base of the apple trees. Tanglefoot is the consistency of melted caramel. Among other things, it is used to prevent ants from climbing up the trunk and then protecting aphids from ladybug attack. (Ants can farm aphids like cattle, 'milking' them for the nectar they suck from plants. I know. It's crazy.) I started at the bottom of the slope and crawled my way up the row, wiping my hands on the comfrey leaves in fromt of me & slipping and banging my head on tree limbs as I bellied up to each trunk. Soon the Tanglefoot went from my hands, to my clothes to my hair and glasses as I slithered and wriggled my way up the steep slope, it's "path" in between each bed really just a slalom course of comfrey leaves and bedstraw. I came home that day, totally bedraggled, covered in what looked like melted caramel, apple leaves and comfrey knee stains. I don't think I ever found my hat.
'O, what delights to us the garden ground doth bring?
Seed, leaf, flower, fruit, herb, bee, and tree, and more, then I may sing.'
-Nicholas Grimald
Large areas of the garden seem to recede into the undergrowth as different sections emerge and are tamed again. There's even a little one room shack towards the southeast corner; I had to seriously hunt for it and finally found it being swallowed by plants. I totally suspend disbelief when I enter this garden-I have no idea what will be around the bend in the path-once it was a nursery bed full of golden raspberries, another time a hammock, a row of espaliered apples, the garden cat, Stretch, a puddle of water shimmering in the heat, it's surface covered with thirsty bees, or a greenhouse full of dehiscing garlic. Other particular favorites are the different apple trees that almost seem to come into fruition with applause and the Hallelujah chorus in the background. Especially varieties like 'Chehalis', 'Honey Gold' and 'Pink Lady'. And I will never forget my first time working with bees here at this garden, dripping with sweat in my hot bee suit and hat, opening the hives to check the bees and harvest a little bit of honey & wax to chew on. I'd never been involved in one practice that was at once scientific, delicious, dangerous and beautiful. On the whole, the Chadwick garden reminds me of the wildness, the goodness-the unabashed fecundity of God.
O, the mighty Stinkhorn
Of course, there are the unwelcome surprises as well-a leg slashed by nettles, bizarre poison oak with bright red pustules on the leaves, and the grotesque and fascinating stinkhorn mushroom. I nearly sicked up all over the keyboard looking for pictures of it on Flickr. The smell of decay along with the glistening black goo, and excited buzz of flies overhead made the stinkhorn a distinctly unpleasant surprise......... The photo comes from sbenyunes' flickr site. Thanks, sben! (yuck!)
Sorry to end on such a slimy note.
Next up, an ode to the Down Garden greenhouse. (R.I.P.)

Read Your Way Through the Garden: Choice Tomes From Garden Literature

  • A Book of Salvias by Betsy Clebsch
  • Botany for Gardeners by Brian Capon
  • Making Bentwood Trellises by Jim Long
  • RHS Encyclopedia of Plants & Flowers
  • Rose Primer: An Organic Approach to Rose Selection & Care by Orin Martin
  • Start With the Soil by Grace Gershuny
  • Sunset Western Garden Book
  • Sunset Western Landscaping Book
  • The Book of Garden Secrets by Patent & Bilderback
  • The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Botany
  • the Gardener's Table: A Guide to Natural Vegetable Growing and Cooking by Richard Merrill & Joe Ortiz
  • The Gardener's Year by Karel Capek
  • The Hutchinson Dictionary of Plant Names: Common & Botanical
  • We Made A Garden by Margaret Fish

lotsa latin: rosa's botanical & etymological ruminations

  • vespertinus: flowers in the evening
  • vernalis:spring
  • veni vidi nates calcalvi: we came, we saw, we kicked butt. This was printed on a T shirt I bought at Abbot's Thrift many years ago. It encircled the NEA symbol. I wish I knew why.
  • superciliaris: shaped like an eyebrow ex: sturnella superciliaris, the White-browed Blackbird
  • rosa-sinensis: species of Hibiscus: Hibiscus rosa-sinensis. Lit. Rosa of China, so named by British plant hunters.
  • placentiformis: shaped like a cake ex: discocactus placentiformis
  • nudiflorus: flowers before leaves show ex: flowering quince, magnolia
  • nivalis: growing in or near snow ex: galanthus nivalis (common snowdrop)
  • muralis: growing on walls
  • mirabilis: marvellous, wonderful
  • formosa: beautiful ex: dicentra formosa, a.k.a.western bleeding heart/dutchman's breeches/lady in a bath
  • carpe vitam: get a life
  • Carolus Linnaeus: Latinized name of Carl von Linne (1707-1778), Swedish naturalist considered the father of plant taxonomy. Whatta guy.