Wednesday, April 28, 2010


I am feeling so grateful for the amount of time we have right now. 
This looks a little like the brown stone fly cocoons we found in winter - I wonder if it is the same, or something new? Look how very well camouflaged it is among these branches - I at first thought it was a small seed cone.
Time to notice the very small details of our world.  
It is sometimes tempting to be lulled by the business of Things To Do - the business of life, of imagined priorities, of producing tangible evidence of our daily learning and existence...
Ani exclaiming and drawing me back to show me a fern. She noticed every single one we passed.
But there is Something calling our Wisest Selves back out to notice this...
Blue-eyed Mary (or Merry - hi mama!)
 ...and this...
...and this...
oh my. oh oh my. broken wing, but so beautiful. we gently laid it aside to live out its hours.
 ...and this.
Discussing the size of the fish that might nibble toes
It doesn't take much time to notice, but I wouldn't trade a minute of the lingering, wondering, and being of these days...what else could be more important right now?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Sweatin' like a pig

A spontaneous game of random animal knowledge arose as we marched up the hill the other day in our raincoats...
Eliza: I'm panting 'cause I'm so hot and I. can't. sweat!
Ani: are you a dog?
E: yup!
Mama: I'm rollin' in the mud 'cause I'm soooo hot and I. can't. sweat!
Ani: oooh, are you a pig?
M: yup!
Eliza: I'm lickin' my arms 'cause I'm soooo hot and I. can't. sweat!
M: you're a kangaroo!!! ok, ok, I got one...(sotta voce)  I'm peeing on my legs 'cause I'm sooo hot and I. can't. sweat!
E and A: ooooooh, you're a vulture!!!!!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Drawing Nature with Nature

As I mentioned a few days ago, the painter Audubon used the feathery tip of the pawpaw twig as a brush for his paintings of birds.  We had to try it...
Eliza chose to paint feathers.  We decided Audubon had an amazingly steady hand.
Ani took the painting nature with nature five steps further - first, her tip broke off right away, but instead of getting frustrated she was easily convinced to paint with the twig.  She outlined her shell...
painted a hickory nut shell
then had to see if it would float in the watercolor water
then fingers got in the is her feather
...and then mine.  We also printed using those beautiful triangular blossoms.
:: :: :: ::
We realized that a book that Ani had pulled down from the shelf to look at earlier had an Audubon painting of snowy owls on its cover (she realized it, after I showed the girls some of his work online).  It was Owls and Other Fantasies by Mary Oliver, so naturally we had to have a read...

Such Singing in the Wild Branches

It was spring
and finally I heard him
among the first leaves—
then I saw him clutching the limb

in an island of shade
with his red-brown feathers
all trim and neat for the new year.
First, I stood still

and thought of nothing.
Then I began to listen.
Then I was filled with gladness—
and that's when it happened,

when I seemed to float,
to be, myself, a wing or a tree—
and I began to understand
what the bird was saying,

and the sands in the glass
for a pure white moment
while gravity sprinkled upward

like rain, rising,
and in fact
it became difficult to tell just what it was that was singing—
it was the thrush for sure, but it seemed

not a single thrush, but himself, and all his brothers,
and also the trees around them,
as well as the gliding, long-tailed clouds
in the perfectly blue sky— all, all of them

were singing.
And, of course, yes, so it seemed,
so was I.
Such soft and solemn and perfect music doesn't last

for more than a few moments.
It's one of those magical places wise people
like to talk about.
One of the things they say about it, that is true,

is that, once you've been there,
you're there forever.
Listen, everyone has a chance.
Is it spring, is it morning?

Are there trees near you,
and does your own soul need comforting?
Quick, then— open the door and fly on your heavy feet; the song
may already be drifting away.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Ambrosia recipe and Plot Update

Oh, you are in for a treat.  I just realized that I've passed my 400th post (I also missed the 100th, 200th, 300th...), so to celebrate and thank you who actually read this journal, here is a favorite recipe of ours.  I would make a batch for you personally if you were here, and we would sit down and eat the entire thing. 

1.5 cups raw cashews
1/4 cup raw sesame seeds
1/3 cup nutritional yeast
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup safflower oil (I use whatever lighter oil I have on hand, or double the olive)
several pieces of roasted bell pepper
several squeezes of lemon or lime
a dash of Bragg's Liquid Aminos (or soy sauce)
6 cloves of garlic (more or less to your taste!)
fresh jalapeno if you have it
1/4 - 1/2 cup of water (to bring it to your desired consistency)

Blend. Eat.

We enjoy this rolled in a tortilla with fresh basil, fresh arugula (ah! I bought some at market this morning!), or leftover salad greens.  You can use it as a dip for veggies or could throw it on pasta...the possibilities are endless.  It is also a fairly forgiving recipe, so if you are short on cashews and use almonds, or substitute different oils, it usually turns out just right anyway!

:: :: :: :: ::
Dan has spent the day with us today, which is nice.  After market (arugula, nettles, ramps, eggs, coffee, summer sausage and organic cheese from grass-fed and finished cattle) we headed to the garden to work on the fence, water, weed and plant a little more kale and carrots, and some flowers we bought this morning as well.

don't you garden with a handbag?
 tiny lettuce
amish snap peas
This we refer to as the comfrey jungle.  It is on my list of "things to learn about" - this is an amazing plant, both for its medicinal uses (its other name is "boneknit") and its ability to THRIVE. It also makes wonderful green compost, apparently.  I would like to learn how to use this herb this year.
Yarrow is another herb (like the lemon balm and comfrey) that has come back full steam in the garden; it also has many medicinal uses that I am only beginning to learn about.
Dan is building the fence around our plot with bamboo; today he was trying to figure out a trellis for where we will vertically grow melons and squash.  Our garden already looks and feels so much more like a real garden than it ever did last year.  I am still ready to be disappointed, but I'm working on turning that around and imagining abundance! It would be really nice to have enough to share a lot with other people - it is one of the requirements of having a garden there, that 10% go to someone else who needs it - neighbors, friends, the local food banks.  Last year it was like, "here's a handful of beans and 5 onions."  I think the garden can feeeeeel the love this time around...

Friday, April 23, 2010

Friday My Town Shoot-Out: Trees!

Friday My Town Shoot-Out is a sharing of photographs from all around the world.  Pop over here to find links to dozens of participants and their wonderful shots of their home communities.  This week's topic is trees.

Ah, we love trees.  Unfortunately, I was not on the ball enough for this week's topic to take photos of some of the trees I should have around here - the buckeye for instance, which is one of the earliest to leaf out here and is Ohio's state tree.  Its friendly five fingers are spreading all along the forest paths we walk.  Fortunately, I take a lot of pictures of trees, so unprepared as I am, I still have some to share!
The Pawpaw has recently become the Ohio native state fruit.  We have been looking for its long leaves this spring, because we love the zebra swallowtails and it is the host plant for their larvae.  We didn't realized that it blossoms first, on long bare branches, and that the leaves are only just starting to appear.  Apparently Audubon used the feathery tips of the new leaf growth at the ends of the twigs as a paint brush for the delicate details on the wings of his birds.
The white bones of the sycamores are just now donning some green.  During the winter they are the skeletons that stand out bold against a blue sky.  If you look closely enough, though, you can also see their rather festive seed balls, that look something like ornaments hanging in their branches.
Though the cherry trees along the Hocking River are not native to this area - they were a gift from Chubu University, in Japan - their short reign over the landscape is glorious.  Every evening of their blooming there are special lights set up to emphasize their moon glow, and there are couples everywhere lying beneath the blossoms, soaking up the romance of this emblem of spring.  And...of course they make for good climbing!
Spring here means redbud trees.  Driving through the countryside, it looks as though an impressionist painter has gone a little mad in his rendering of the yellows and greens of springtime and has liberally sponged a brilliant fuschia across entire hillsides. 
And those buds are good to eat! (Deviled eggs with violets and redbuds)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


We did it! We went...Beyond. This is a glimpse of the finger of the lake we were headed around...
We made it all the way to Sunday's creek before stopping for Mother Bars (recipe coming soon!) and strawberries, and a good long wade in the water.  The day was so gorgeous, just us and the birds and the water striders...
Beyond the creek we found the pawpaw trees I had been keeping an eye out for.  They are host plants to the zebra swallowtail, which we have been seeing now for a couple of weeks, but I was surprised to see how few leaves there were on the trees.

We hiked around the other side of that finger of lake, watching turtles splash into the water off a log, looking for more pawpaws and redbuds.  We were headed for a white dogwood in bloom, directly across the water from a spot where we often stop and dabble sticks in the lake.  It was good to have a destination, not knowing what else we were finding there; it kept us going.  Little did we know what treasure would be waiting for  us when we arrived...
I am imagining that she might be there as a part of a geocache, or perhaps she is just someone's gift to the little girls who hike the trail (we certainly thought so!), but in addition to her own loveliness, she is sitting atop a bottle of bubbles.
After sharing our lunch with The Lady of the Lake, we went further beyond! Around the bend, heading now for the other end of the lake, where there is a dam, we passed through this sweet little redbud forest.  Redbuds were an important part of getting Ani to look further down the path...
They taste a little like peas, which she loves, and she picked a few from every tree. It is pretty magical to have tasty flowers to pick and eat along your walk.
Around the bend we started to see these beautiful spring flowers called Fire Pink (they look pretty red to me...). And mud.
When we could see the dam it was difficult to turn around, but by then we had been out for three hours and I knew it could well take us three more to return to the car, so I had us turn around.  Back at the creek, we stayed to play for quite some time. There were water striders to catch, rocks to peruse, and sand castles to build.
We did some grass weaving too.  I loved my big girl sitting on my lap for this one.
We were tired but feeling really good about our day when we made it to the car, six hours later.  It took setting goals for taking breaks, playing for a while when we took them;  it took pretending we were hedgehogs for a while, and then foxes.  It took a couple of pee breaks and time to get muddy and then wet and then dry off.  We probably went about 4 miles today, which is probably the longest the girls have gone in a go.  The girls kept saying how proud Papa would be of us, that we made it so far. Next time we want to hike it with him, and go all the way to the dam...
We did some drawing in nature journals tonight (still not an instinctive part of our outside excursions. We're working on it.), and Ani drew a picture of the phlox flowers she used to top their castle, remembering that there are notches in the petals, and her version of a mayapple (which we saw blooming).  Eliza drew a map of part of the hike.  They are both FAST asleep.  Are you surprised??