Archive for March, 2009

Friend of the world

“If you’re a friend of The World, you’re an enemy of God”, my Grandma Trapp used to say. She was a frighteningly intense woman of strong belief and an unforgiving nature. I feared her like little else but was also attracted to her strange intensity for the spiritual that I found lacking in my own nuclear family. We were frequent visitors to her home and when I was 9 my dad had a big ranch house built next to  the family farm and we were neighbors.

As idle hands are the devil’s workshop I largely tried to steer clear of her or I’d easily get pulled into some serious chores or at least a serious scolding for my sins were multitude. I wore shorts and was disrespectful of the Sabbath. My work effort was less than salutary and I was wasteful in many things. I had not lived through the Great Depression where the rag men came looking for scraps of cloth for their mysterious purposes. My life was one of leisure that surely was spoiling my immortal soul.

I didn’t attend church but for some reason was drawn to Camp Meetings and Revivals, probably for the road trip. Grandma would drive and preach on the wondrousness of The Lord, hands frequently leaving the wheel for halleluiahs and hosannas, God be praised. The family joke was that the fact she hadn’t wrapped the old Buick around a tree proved the existence of a watchful and caring Savior.

The sermons always delivered by intense and scary old white men with drawls and the occasional shooting of spittle were awe inspiring and terrifying. They were all on sin and Godlessness and apostasy and other cool sounding words that I stepped cautiously around if not understanding. At almost everyone I walked my sinful little self to the altar to beg for forgiveness and promise to do better. Promises forgotten before I finished the walk from her house to mine.

Grandma lived in an old farm house, dusty from the coal furnace. The entire upstairs was filled floor to ceiling with clutter with only walkways. She was incapable of throwing anything away. She didn’t pay for the rural trash service we did but would bring over her trash once a month or so, a coffee can of bottle lids and such. Everything else was saved, re-used, recycled, or burned in the coal furnace.

Grandma also was a devoted organic gardener, though she never used that term. She just gardened as she’d been taught. Her big money maker was the asparagus patch. She left some to go to seed and it seemed like such an easy piece of work. The Popster says their was metal wreckage, can’s old car frames and the like, buried under the patch. That asparagus does best in poor rocky soils and that was their way of duplicating such in the rich black soils of my childhood.

Grandma also read Organic Gardening magazine, and because I have been a literary addict since the age of 4, I did too. Wasn’t aught else to read at Grandma’s excepting the Bible. I became intrigued by double digging even though I wasn’t able to put it into practice until my teen years  when we moved into town and I got charge of the garden.

After we lost the house in Ida and the 9 acres of the family farm to the twin destroyers of rising diesel and deregulated shipping rates we moved into town. Ultimately we settled on Roeder Street and I put in the little garden bed behind the garage, mostly for tomatoes. The first year their was 4-6 inches of top soil but after close to 20 years of double digging the top soil went down two feet. I wish Grandma had lived longer, she died in my early 20s, when I was too young to look past the fire and brimstone and see the wealth of knowledge of days gone by. Nonetheless I learned a trick or two and for that I am thankful.

Categories: childhood, gardening

spring has sprung

so spring has been off to a great start. my friends jillian and mark have been visiting for a long weekend from maryland and st louis respectively and it has been nice hanging out. eric had a great birthday party on the equinox itself. we had a campfire and some pretty funny banter. today i went to brazito to a wild flower nursery and laid down a chunk of change. i got some paw paw trees and a bunch of wild flowers. i am trying to rehabitate the flower bed in the south east corner that is super shady from the neighbors privacy fence. today i shoveled in about 6 gallons of compost and planted some wild ginger, spider wort, and jacob’s ladder. i also planted some bachelor buttons and marigold seeds around them to fill in the space for this year so i could plant the perennials further apart and give them room to expand. the compost seems to have come out pretty good, though there is a bit of a smell. i still have almost 2 full flats to get in plus some research to do. i am also hoping to get in some onions and perhaps some cabbage and brocoli fairly shortly. what about you? how does your garden grow?

Categories: gardening

daylight stealings time

March 7, 2009 1 comment

Tonight the government will be taking an hour of our time, from our sleep time and not our work time of course. They will give it back in the fall but without interest. i like the idea of an extra hours sleep but its the principle of the thing. Its a great example of unintended consequences though. they pushed it up by 3 weeks as part of the energy bill and lo and behold people take the extra hour of daylight and go driving so it uses more energy. its stimulative though, those folks are driving to the mall so they’re not going to change it back.

I got some nice gardening action in, even though i woke up with a headache (sinus turned migraine that ate up better than half the day). i turned up about a quarter of one of the beds. i have been double digging it and it was so much easier than last year when i was busting it out of sod. I shoveled in 100 pounds of sand as my only amelioration. I added a layer of leaves and covered that with 1/4 inch or so of coffee grounds (thank you starshmucks) in the fall and figured that would be fine, since the compost isn’t ready yet and i used up the last of my lama manure over the winter.

I planted carrots (from the Ferry Morse Company) and sowed in radishes right there with them (Ferry Morse ‘champion’ to the south and Livingston’s ‘Crimson Giant’ to the north). The Ferry Morse’s were left over from last year and they did pretty so-so. The carrots didn’t produce much and the radishes both underproduced and got woody. I doubled the amount of sand and it just can’t rain as much as it did last year which i think was the biggest problem. Plus rabbits i presume ate of the carrots at one point. I use hair and beard trimmings to scare off rabbits and i’ll try to be more aggressive on that this year, now that i know rabbits like carrots.

I switched my rows from west to east to north to south and when i got to the south end where i had my carrots and radishes last year i put in more Perry Morse ‘grand rapids’ leaf lettuce, which is doing real well in the cold frame. i am going to have some more thinnings with supper tonight. i read on the seed package you can do the same thing with radishes. oh, its a family tradition to plant radishes and carrots together. the radishes come up quick so you can see where the rows are and they are done by the time the carrots are needing the space. I like to grow things intensively because double digging everything by hand is a hell of a lot of work so i like to pile in as much stuff as possible. Plus i’d like to push the envelope on what you can produce in a backyard. Theres just so many reasons to do so: the cost of organics, producing it in the most local fashion, getting connected with the earth and with the food, a cushion against economic and social turmoil, its pretty, and its a lot of fun.

how does your garden grow? anyone doing anything yet?

Categories: gardening, politics

meteorological spring

i am so thankful spring is finally here. it was just gorgeous today, sunny in the high 60s. i have been at a convening of the cadre for co-occurring excellence (how’s that for a moniker) for the last 2 days, which was pretty boring but at least got me out of the daily grind and with the nice weather finally broke out of this funk i have been in.

played a game of horse shoes after work and eked out a victory in a back and forth struggle with the popster. he has been a little down himself of late having learned his BP was high again and his new pill spun him. i haven’t been able to be super supportive myself and a bit ago just walked away while he was talking to me. he had followed me outside when i was taking out the compost and was smoking and i am just too fragile to be around it at home where i am vulnerable. on the good side its been 3 1/2 weeks w/o a smoke. i am med and nicotine free and feeling pretty on it. i got my third gift certificate for a pair of shoes for finishing the class. i’m getting quite a collection.

on the gardening front, i thinned out my lettuce and spinach in the cold frame again. they are both doing great and i got enough to top of my store bought lettuce into a pretty nice salad tomorrow night. a few of my crocuses are up so i guess the squirrels didn’t eat them all. a row of the garlic is looking pretty good and there are a handful of spinach coming up from where i winter sown them.

tomorrow and the next day i hope to turn over some soil and get in some more lettuce and spinach and perhaps the carrots and radishes. i have 200 pounds of sand i was weighing the truck down with i am going to split between the root crops and the horse shoe pits and might do that this weekend as well. the compost is not done, looks like at least another month. hopefully it’ll at least be done by may for the main spring planting. a client gave me a box of chemical fertilizer. i think i am going to use it on the shrubs in the front of the house since i don’t have any food crops going out there (except the rhubarb which i think got fried by the sun anyway). no since sending it to the landfill.

Categories: gardening

chicken paprikash

Tonight i finally got around to making chicken paprikash. I make the baked version and i do most of my baking in the winter. Its a really great dish, relatively healthy, inexpensive, and really really yummy. I learned from Johnny Watson (see Johnny poems) about 7 years ago and its a funnier story than my dinner party tonight but i don’t think i want to get into that. i will just say that it involved a big argument, the police being called and having to drive the chicken paprikash to Cincinnati to finish cooking and we didn’t get to eat until like 3:00 am, but it was really quite excellent. Today was the first day i made it without calling Johnny and getting the recipe. I started by cutting 2 really large onions into very thin slices and then adding 4 bell peppers (2 green, a red and an orange) also sliced thin and 5 cloves of garlic. Next i rinsed off a package of chicken pieces (thighs, legs, & wings) extremely cognizant that they were made of corn in a fairly wacky and cruel manner (damn you ‘Omnivore’s Dilemma’). I put in the chicken pieces and then covered with water (i think chicken stock would be a bit better). I also covered the chicken in what Johnny calls a shit-ton of paprika (about 3 tablespoons believe it or not) all of this covering going on in a casserole dish. I also salted the chicken pieces and added some black pepper (not really necessary). I baked this for 3 hours at 400 degrees until the peppers are almost gelatinous and the chicken is near falling off the bones. I pulled out the chicken and put in a serving dish. I stirred in almost a cup of sour cream into the pepper-onion drippings broth. I could have thickened the sauce with some corn starch but didn’t. All of this was served over egg noodles. 

I made a side dish of fresh carrots and frozen peas with grated fresh ginger (i keep my ginger in the freezer to keep it fresh and have taken to serving it with most of my frozen veggies cuz i see it in there when i get the veggies out) and dried purple basil (from my garden last year, almost out of it. I have been eating basil on near everything so the dried basil will be gone before i have fresh again).

I made a salad with fresh spinach, red pepper, red onion, cucumber (pealed because it was all waxy coming from Wal-Mart), yellow squash(cut thin), shredded carrot, and pine nuts (raisins for the guest with no teeth). Most of us topped it with a store bought balsamic dressing. Oh, and best of all on top i put my leaf lettuce and spinach thinnings from the cold frame.

All in all it was a lovely dinner. I got a six pack of Sam Adams Cherry Wheat because it was on sale and Eric and Suzy made walnut brownies from scratch. Coincidentally Dad had bought walnut ice cream and they were marvelous together.

Dinner conversation ran to 2012 and the end of the world, our rising and lunar signs, and of course i told some hitchhiking stories and rambled my neo-platonic metaphysice i have been obsessed with forat least the last 6 years. don’t get me started on that.

Categories: cooking