Holiday card

Bolivian PepperIn past years, I’ve sent holiday cards with a short letterpress poem. But this year, thinking about all those trees and not finding a poem I felt could justify that, I decided to create an online version here.

I was nudged further in this decision by finding this short video, Landfill Harmonic (thanks to Lynn Kiesewetter), about a youth orchestra in Paraguay whose young musicians play with instruments made from trash.

Recycled violins
“The world sends us garbage. We send back music.” Fabio Chavez, Orchestra director

This theme was instrumental (I really couldn’t resist–I tried, but I think it’s genetic) in my poem selection for the season:


Lemon rind, spines
and gnawed sheaths of artichoke,
coffee grounds, stale brownies, banana peels,
pit from the peach—intractable, but
thrown in anyway. Three months later,
turning the dirt, worms squirm
in the peach pit.

Meryl Natchez

Continue reading “Holiday card”

Bad books

booksLast week I read through the “notable books of 2012” section of the NY Times Book Review and put in reserves at the library for a bunch of them.  So far, I’ve started and given up on five of them in short order:

Shout Her Lovely Name, by Natalie Serber. The stories in this collection felt contrived and the mostly young women heroines seemed imagined, not real. Contrast this to How to Breathe Underwater, by Julie Orringer. The mostly young women heroines in these stories fairly leap off the page with authenticity. Continue reading “Bad books”

Alchemy and hot fat

It’s easy to make jam–just fruit, sugar and cook until thick. You don’t have to worry much about it–it can be a little dense or a little runny, but it still spreads.  Jelly is a different thing entirely; you have to get the timing just right or you have syrup or cement. With jelly, an alchemical change takes place, which is nowhere more dramatic than with pineapple guavas.

These little green ovals aren’t wonderful raw, and as you cook them up, they look like the most unappetizing murky greenish-brown glop. The strained liquid doesn’t look much better.




But after it boils up over 200 degrees, it transforms. In the bubble and seethe, it changes to a clear pinkish gold liquid.

Continue reading “Alchemy and hot fat”

Smart men

Larry was reading David Brooks’ column on Social Science this morning. It contained an observation that men are dumber around women. Researchers “gave men cognitive tests after they had interacted with a woman via computer. In the study… the male cognitive performance declined after the interaction, or even after the men merely anticipated an interaction with a woman.”

“So you guys are really smart,” I commented. “You just seem dumb because we’re so bewitching.”

“We’re geniuses in the locker room,” Larry replied.

Meanwhile, back at the farm…

I know it’s weird that my fantasy life focuses on farm improvements. But this weekend, I executed three of them. The hen house was seeming a bit cramped, especially with four pullets soon to be added.  Also, the hens seemed to avoid the three small nesting boxes inside, preferring a larger box. So I added an two foot extension with larger boxes. I also had the idea of cutting a large sheet of plastic to lay over the bottom before putting in the sawdust, so I can (in theory) pull the plastic out with all the chicken manure when I want to change their bedding, as opposed to scraping out the house each time.  We’ll see how that works. I purchased all the materials for this expansion, including the roosting poles and roofing tiles at Urban Ore. It looks a bit ragtag, but the chickens don’t seem to mind:

[slideshow_deploy id=’1273′] Continue reading “Meanwhile, back at the farm…”

The exemplary sentence

Regular readers know I stole this category from Mark Doty’s blog. And now I’ve stolen an image of a diagrammed sentence from another blog I like, Jottings, by Jim to be its icon.  Does anyone under 50 even know what diagramming a sentence means?

In any case, I keep my eye out for intriguing sentences, and I’ve collected a few here. Continue reading “The exemplary sentence”

Cheese ball

This morning in my email I received a poem about cheese from E-Verse radio, a blog a enjoy. I realized I had my own cheese poem.  So here we go for Poetry Monday:

Cheese Ball

Whole factories are dedicated to this,
pillars of cheddar large enough
to bear a second story, and wire
that cuts the slabs. Machines
add the precise measure of port wine,
according to Michele Bean, Cheese Ball

The process takes a long time.
Great steel vats churn and burble,
a conveyer trundles nuts, paddles
spin the balls along till not a scintilla of cheese shows,
all glossed with nutty skin. This must
be a metaphor for something: children
moving through the school system,
or what happens when primitive tribes
encounter matches and carbon steel.

Maybe we’re all just cheese balls,
starting from something simple, like milk,
pummeled and slashed
and adulterated and finally extruded
in a shape of use to someone
with a sense of humor
and an insatiable appetite.

Rainy day projects

When I was in college, I briefly got a free room in a wonderful old farm house outside Cambridge in exchange for being a housekeeper for a bunch of Harvard business school grad students. (One of them was Wally Haas–the Levi’s scion.) I can’t imagine they were very happy with the arrangement because I knew nothing about housekeeping, and very little even about neatness. I can’t remember whether I was supposed to cook as part of the deal, but I do remember having some big dinner event for which I roasted a chicken. The chicken was beautiful on the outside, but bloody juices spurted when the knife went into the leg. It was hugely embarrassing, though I’m probably the only one of the group who remembers it.

I thought of this today, trying a recipe by Melissa Clark for roast chicken that is supposed to be an easy way to get the whole chicken to cook quickly and evenly. It’s a little like spatchcocking, which is cutting the backbone out and laying the bird flat, but in this case, you just cut the skin of the legs so you can flatten the chicken into a very hot frying pan and roast it in a very hot oven.

The recipe called for ramps, a lovely spring vegetable. I don’t have ramps, but I had a lot of spinach from the garden, some fennel, an onion and some lemons, and I wanted to give it a try. The capers are a nice touch, but not essential. You could probably add a bunch of root vegetables in small chunks if you put them in earlier.

Continue reading “Rainy day projects”