The rain continues, glory to God! But… it’s hard to get enough endorphins to keep in a good mood, when the rain keeps us indoors. A few times I’ve put on Celtic music and danced in order to get muscles exercised and my whole self warmed and enlivened. Yesterday I went for a walk that had to be shortened when the weather forecast proved wrong, and in spite of my longish raincoat I came home drenched.
But a few minutes previous, I had just got on to the creek path when I came upon a eucalyptus limb that had fallen the night before, when there had been no significant wind. Those of us who stopped to analyze the situation finally saw where the tree (on the left below) had broken, higher up than this picture shows. The log must have bumped lower limbs that forced it to flip over before it hit the ground. We thought it likely it was so waterlogged that it snapped off from sheer weight.
One day neighbor Kim and I walked her dog between showers and I saw this friendly face on a cactus. My own garden is looking fresh and clean; asparagus are pushing up and the fava beans getting taller.
This morning a couple of ladies were coming for tea, and I found one calla lily with which to decorate the table. Last night when I thought to bake a cake for the occasion, I remembered these Brazilian Cheese Rolls that I love, and made them instead. I knew I had all the ingredients on hand, too, and since I’m still working on Using Up, they worked out perfectly.
The only starch in the recipe is tapioca flour, so they are grain-free. The first stage of dough containing hot milk, butter and tapioca is gluey. After it rests a few minutes and egg and cheese are added, lumps of the soft dough are pulled off and baked. This time my rolls were smoother on the outside than I remember. The inside is always moist and chewy with that dense mochi texture.
My remodeling project is not making much progress, because the architect seems to keep my small job at the bottom of his stack. I can’t apply for a permit until I have certain drawings, and who knows when they will ever be done. In the meantime I have plenty of work to do on my end, all falling into the broad category of Housework, but not so much that I can’t enjoy the rather restful pace I have fallen into, in my waiting. Lent begins on Monday, and especially in that first week I’ll be glad the house is not yet filled with sawing and hammering and men in boots tromping up and down the stairs. By the time construction starts the rain will likely have stopped, and in every way we will be feeling the lightening of springtime.
Sweeping up, trimming dead leaves, feeding, transplanting…. I love it all. This afternoon I managed to spend a few hours working in the garden and though I accomplished only a fraction of what’s needing done, every little bit helps, right? Back and forth I went from the greenhouse to the strawberry barrels, from the garage to the patio, carrying blood meal or seaweed food, a lavender plant in a pot, the pruners or a trowel or a trug in which to put the trimmings.
In the morning before I even came downstairs I was listening to the birds, and when I looked out the window of my bedroom I got a nice view of the snowball bush that has begin to bloom. And when I aimed my camera a little bit to the right of that, it shows you the table where we will sit over tea when you come to visit. After touring the garden, of course!
As I was eating my breakfast I noticed a hummingbird checking out the Pride of Madeira, or echium candicans — that’s because the blue flowers have finally started to open!! I hope lots more flowers will follow, to fill out the bloom properly.
Both kinds of rockrose, cistus, have opened now, and both are heartmelting:
Below, heuchera and blue-eyed grass:
My big rose geranium that I keep by the back door, in hopes that I will brush against it when I pass by and catch some of its scent, was terribly overgrown and gangly. I trimmed it severely and brought in a few stems to put with pincushion flowers on the kitchen counter.
All that was in the back garden. When the light was waning, and I had put away my garden tools but not my camera, I went to the front and saw that in the last day an asparagus stalk had suddenly made a sharp turn and was coming on to the sea holly.
Isn’t he a brave fellow to cozy up to such a prickly girl?
I missed my walks by the creek today, and visits with weeds. I don’t have to work hard to enjoy those wild plants; they take care of themselves and I never have a thought to remove them from wherever they are growing. But they also aren’t as satisfying to me as all my demanding cultivated flowers and vegetables! I’m looking forward to more work and pleasure tomorrow.
The abundant rain made January of 2017 less depressing than average for that dark and cold month of the year. It looks likely that my town will have received 40 inches for the season-to-date before the end of the week. Usually we get 20+ inches. When it rains the air is cleared of pollutants and the burn restrictions are lifted – so we had lots of wood fires which are always cheering!
Christmas joy and lightness always carry me through Theophany on January 6th, but then I have the reality of a Christmas tree that needs taking down eventually. I strained my shoulder slightly a few weeks ago, which slowed me down, but it gave me time to read five books in just the first month of the year, often sitting in front of that woodstove. I started drinking coffee, which is a mood-elevator for sure… and now suddenly, it’s February, and the weather has been 20 degrees milder.
Flocks of goldfinches and juncos have returned to the garden, swooping down from the bare branches of the snowball bush. The juncos peck around on the ground, and the finches hang all over the nyger seed feeder, even in the rain.
And flowers are coming on dear Margarita Manzanita, buds on the currant bushes and calla lilies. I went out and took pictures just now under the umbrella, so everything is too wet to be optimal, revealing how one of my asparagus beds is less than optimal – we didn’t dig down deep enough into the adobe clay, and now there is standing water. That may not portend good for the future of that planting.
I made several gallons total of various soups in January, including Barley Buttermilk Soup, which I decided to try incorporating into bread yesterday. Here you have it, Barley Buttermilk Bread. It was enough dough that I ought to have made three loaves of it, but what I did was bake one oval loaf on my pizza stone, with butter brushed on top toward the end, and a round one in the Dutch oven. I added some oat flour which made it soft, but by this morning its crumb is very nice, and I like it very much… even too much.
It’s been a long time since I had eggs from hens who ate lots of greens. My fellow communion bread-baker James brought some pale blue-green eggs from his Americaunas to our last baking session, and I was the lucky one to take them home, just as he had brought them, in the bottom of a paper shopping bag. They are so wonderfully orange-yolked, I had to take their picture, too. They go well with Barley-Buttermilk Bread. 🙂
Every week the peas and the poppies have been beaten down by the rain…
But they keep growing and blooming. Overall, they appear to thrive in it. I am reminded of this verse from the hymn “O Worship the King,” which likens God’s provision for us generally to the moisture that falls.
Thy bountiful care, what tongue can recite? It breathes in the air, it shines in the light; It streams from the hills, it descends to the plain, And sweetly distills in the dew and the rain.
I’m having that feeling of Too Muchness. I’m trying to reject it – it’s only a feeling. What is truly required of me? Jesus told Martha that only one thing is needful, and that her sister Mary had chosen that “better part.” What was Mary doing? Listening to her Lord.
I can’t listen to Him and entertain these depressing thoughts at the same time. If hear Him correctly this afternoon, He is telling me to play Bing Crosby singing “Silent Night” and “Frosty the Snowman,” and to write down some of the things in my life that are threatening to overwhelm me. It seems to calm me to take control by putting all the craziness into sentences and paragraphs, where it doesn’t loom so vague and impossible.
Also, writing it down shows me that in the balance the crazy aspect weighs a lot less than the obviously good and wholesome, the things that are easy to be grateful for and happy about. I took some pictures of the garden and grandchildren and such beautiful things to intersperse among my sad tales. That way you have the option to just scroll through the pictures — if you even have time to be here this Month of Too Much. 🙂
The first photos are of my church at night, when a performance of choral Christmas music was performed here and special lighting was set up outside. Inside, also , we had all the electric lights turned on before the candlelight performance began, and I was wearing my glasses, so everything looked very bright and clear! Normally for evening services we only have candlelight.
I had returned from my travels in time for Thanksgiving, but because it took me so long to finish my travelogue, I failed to show you any pictures of our festivities.
We feasted at Pearl’s in Davis, but the next day all the littlest grandchildren were here with their parents, and the weather permitted them to play out in the garden and to make gourmet salads and casseroles using various approved cuttings from various plants including cherry tomatoes, yarrow and nasturtiums.
I had bought junior-size lawn rakes which Scout and Liam were eager to use to help rake up the pine needles that continually blanket the ground. Ivy and Laddie enjoyed using the heavy equipment in the gravel utility yard. And Ivy took her alligator on a culinary tour to feed it different flavors of leaves.
While both families were packing up to go home, Jamie was sitting in the entryway in this sweater I had just given him. It was knitted by his great-grandmother for her first granddaughter Phoebe. Then my children wore it – at least a few of them – a lot before I accidentally shrank it and made it into this boiled-wool sweater that actually fits, and complements Jamie’s fair coloring. Perhaps he has made use of it this month in their snowy weather.
At the end of November asparagus crowns arrived in the local nursery, so I took a couple of days to prepare the two areas in my front yard that had been reserved for this one vegetable crop. Preparation means, in this case, digging out a foot of dirt. It was loose, imported loam, but it was wet, and represented a lot of shoveling.
I started to carry the dirt in buckets to the other side of the driveway but quickly realized that I’d never get the job done that way, so I hopped in the car to drive to the hardware store to buy a wheelbarrow. It didn’t make the job much easier at first, because the tire was too low on air. My bicycle pump wouldn’t work. So I plugged away, on the lookout for my neighbor Dennis to come home from work, and as soon as I saw his truck I was over there begging for help. Whoosh, his airless pump did the trick.
After two days I wasn’t quite finished with two beds of similar size. I knew I needed to take a day off, though, because my back was tired. Turned out it was more than tired – it was truly “out,” and I was laid up for several days and missed church and a St. Nicholas Faire and baptisms and a special dinner. Kit finished the last of the preparation for me, and I ordered a kneeling chair such as I used to sit/kneel on 15 years ago to spare my spine.
Then Monday my back was 90% better! I put the asparagus crowns in the bottoms of the holes, and covered them with a couple of inches of dirt. Maybe it was because I was racing against the coming rain that I forgot to take a snapshot of the stages of planting. Here is a photo from online showing how they look just before being covered with soil. I planted 35 crowns.
Now that bed looks like this:
Those brown hoses are the irrigation lines that will lie on top of the soil, under the mulch, when I am all through putting the dirt back. Most people fill it back in gradually, but one expert gardener I saw online seemed to think it didn’t matter and he replaced it all at once.
Here is a sort of blank place in the front garden, where I plan to put a bench under the osmanthus. Maybe I need to cut out some more low branches first. I will sit there in nice weather when I’m feeling friendly, and call to the neighbors who walk past.
My kneeling chair arrived, and I managed to assemble it by myself. That’s the second item I have put together now! But the replacement casters I bought to protect my wood floors didn’t work, because they needed to have threaded stems. So I boxed them back up and took them to the UPS store, and today the next set of casters arrived and they did work. Here is my chair, which I quickly amended by putting a memory foam pillow on the kneeling pad, and even that is not friendly enough to my shins – so I am working on my technique for kneeling on this thing, even as I type. I was not so delicate 15 years ago!
After I planted the asparagus it still hadn’t started to rain, so I reorganized the woodpile. I have eucalyptus and oak now, in different stacks. I got them separated more cleanly from one another and filled my firewood rack in the garage with both kinds, and I covered the rest completely with tarps. In the course of this work I found where the rats (before I got rid of them) had made nests reminiscent of Brambly Hedge in a sort of multi-level apartment arrangement. They had chewed up some of the old tarp for their nest.
This morning when I was lifting a bag from the coat rack on the wall, the whole thing started coming off and one screw came out of the wall. I tried and tried to put in a new drywall screw, but nothing worked; the hole got bigger and bigger. I watched some YouTube videos on different types of fixes using even more types of screws I didn’t have. I decided to make new holes just above the present ones, but I didn’t have two of the best kind of screw anymore, because I had wrecked them. After spending an hour on this unexpected project I had to admit to myself that I needed to hire a handyman to do the job for me. I don’t really have anyone I’m used to calling, and I dreaded making the arrangements.
But I had to postpone thinking about that – I must run some errands. I left the mess on the table, and went out the front door. At the same time my new neighbor went out to his car a few feet away, and I remembered that he is a handyman, and he has been very friendly to me, so I asked him if I could hire him to fix this little problem. He said sure! And he will come tomorrow. I argued with him when he said it is such a little job he won’t charge me. I told him I will be home all day because my daughter and granddaughter are coming to bake cookies, and his face lit up. “Cookies? You can pay me with cookies! Seriously.”
So that tale of woe has turned into a happy thing, a chance to get to know my neighbor, and even feed him! I was able to feed more people this week: First, DIL Joy’s mother, whom I took out for her birthday; she grows micro greens and petite greens to sell to fancy restaurants, and she gave me a pot of petite kale greens for salad snipping.
Pathfinder was on a business trip that brought him into town on his very birthday, so we went out this week, too. The year he was born he was my best Christmas present by far. And I’ll get to see him and his whole family in just a fortnight, for Christmas. It looks likely that all five of my children will be here then! The first time since their father’s funeral – It makes me cry to think about it. I wonder if we can manage a thing where they all gather me in a multi-hug?
Yesterday my friend Tim, who was a pallbearer at Mr. Glad’s funeral, came over for along-overdue visit. I fed him soup and fried bread, and strong coffee. We sat by the fire, the first one I’d made this season, and talked and talked. Now that felt very normal and necessary. I’ve been working so long on this post, I didn’t make a fire this afternoon, and I’m getting chilly here in my corner.
Though I haven’t got my tree up, or added more strings for the peas to grow higher on, or written many Christmas cards, I did put a big wreath on the front door. One step at a time, and one word at a time, I’ll do all that’s necessary. And Christmas will come. O Come, O come, Emmanuel!