Tag Archives: basil

Leaves and flowers before the rain.

gl-2016-10-24-09-38-16My early walk was so variously interesting and nourishing, I thought it alone would have taken all morning. First thing, down by the creek I got the briefest glimpse of a strange bird, not a jay but with blue around its head somewhere, and I heard its call, but it always flew through the trees just out of sight.

The skies were cloudy, my house was chilled, but the air outdoors was gentler than is typical for these parts, and all the deciduous trees made their own light against the dark background. It was natural to be looking up, and to notice the music of bird conversations. I was made aware today of how wild birds live their own separate existence, so mysterious and otherworldly. When one is caught in a camera lens or is slowed down by an injury, making it possible for me to draw a little closer and examine the feathers or the colors, or to look in the bright eyes, the only reasonable response is reverence.

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And yet, the creatures are everywhere. It is estimated that there are 10,000 bird species and 200 – 400 billion individual birds in the world. Most of the free ones seem always to be just beyond reach, airy and on the move. Egrets at least will stand still long enough to be stared at. This morning a human mom, her baby in a stroller, was looking over the bridge, and when I asked her if she’d seen any waterfowl, told me about two egrets down by the next bridge. I went there, but they were gone.

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What I did see was a turkey vulture! Normally I think they are repulsive, but that may be because they are circling a dead something on the ground, or eating carrion on the highway. When I saw this one sitting on the bank of the creek, all parts but his head looked almost pretty. He was so slow and still, I think he might have been sick or injured. When I came closer he flew clumsily on to a nearby branch.

A breeze was coming up — rain was on its way. Some of the leaves were hard to capture with my camera as they fluttered and waved around, and I thought it amusing that I was so determined to take more Autumn Color pictures. It seemed that just a couple of days ago I was thinking that I was tired of them. It is true, this saying of G.K. Chesterton: “There is no such thing on earth as an uninteresting subject; the only thing that can exist is an uninterested person.” Today, I was keen on leaves.

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“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.”
― Albert Camus

My plan was, when I came homegl-yarrow-lavender-10-24-16, to finish cleaning up the yard before the rain came and made that kind of work more tedious. For some reason two of my lavender bushes are still blooming, but as even they are at the end of the season, I began to prune them back, and then I realized I could bring the cuttings into the house for a dry bouquet. And why not add some yarrow blooms; they are untiring in their production of yellow flowers.

The basil that was spindly and reluctant all summer has beefed up and made something of itself in the last weeks, so I cut all of it and thought I would make a batch of pesto.

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And why not bake a cake? Housemate Kit was due to return home today after several months in Guatemala on a missions trip, and wouldn’t she like a cake when she came in from driving through the rain for hours? I’ll tell you more about the cake in another post, but let me just say that it had chocolate in it, and what with all the sampling of 60% cacao chips, and licking of batter and tasting of crumbs, I was getting plenty of caffeine to excite my brain for hours to come – like now.

When I was thick in the business of messing up the whole kitchen with flour, flowers, and cake crumbs, I got the news that some cousins I had expected tomorrow  were also driving down through the storm and arriving this evening instead, and would take me out to dinner.

So the rain came drizzling as I was baking; then sprinkling while I washed the dishes; and by dinnertime it was pouring very encouragingly. After Chinese dinner we came home and Kit had arrived – we all ate cake together, and put the basil in the fridge for tomorrow.

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Grandma didn’t make pesto.


My grandma of renown was no slacker, and she was the person who taught me by example how to prepare for a trip. When my sisters and I stayed with her in summertime, we usually went with Grandma and Grandpa on a week’s outing to a cabin or camp in the mountains.

Everything was ship-shape on the home front when we drove off early enough in the morning to have breakfast at the Tracy Inn on the way. There was not a speck of dust on the furniture, and the beds had been made up with fresh sheets as soon as we were out of them. Certainly Grandma would have made sure that Grandpa deadheaded his prizewinning flowers.

Liam, whom I’ll see tomorrow!

But Grandma would never have thought to drive down the state to visit one grandchild for a few nights, and then turn around to fly across the country the very next week to sojourn with a passel of other grandchildren for more than two weeks. The way I am doing. I have to keep reminding myself that in a myriad of ways I am not Grandma.

I am blessed to the point of unbelief having so many grandchildren, and Grandma only had a few of us whom she saw twice a year. Grandma didn’t do the gardening, and she didn’t write any blog posts, though I daresay the wonderful letters she wrote are worth more per hour invested than what I put out.

If there had been basil growing in the back yard, I know she would have arranged things so that the pesto was made at least a couple of days before departure, giving her time to sweep and mop the kitchen and get to bed at a reasonable hour the night before. She wouldn’t be complaining, because she liked traveling and had Everything Under Control.

Not me. I have mostly been whining about everything, including the reality of all the work undone and how I hate leaving home. I was standing at the sink this afternoon whimpering as I pulled leaves off stems, when it hit me that making pesto is one of my most favorite things to do. How wonderful is it that I have a garden that grows basil, from which a woman can create one of the wonders of the culinary world?

And the people in my life — oh, my! Preparing for and going on trips with my grandma was one of the happiest activities of my childhood. She was so good to provide that for us. Hugging and holding my children and grandchildren is necessary food for the maintenance of cup-running-over happiness. Right now I don’t really care if the floor is still dirty and the bed unmade (and a hundred other negatives I won’t waste time listing even to myself) when I drive off tomorrow morning. What do you know — I’m not Grandma!

If Grandma had been washing basil and found a Japanese beetle in the sink, she’d have said, “Tch, tch!” with disgust, but I saw it as a photo opportunity. I could feel this way because this summer I’m not growing green beans. Japanese beetles have ravaged many a crop of green beans here, and in the past I developed a quickness in squishing them between my fingers.

Grandma would not have written a letter or recipe or anything the night before a trip. But writing is also one of my favorite things to do. So here I am.

I see that I blogged about pesto three years ago without giving my recipe, so I will put it up this time:

PESTO
3 cups packed basil leaves
2 large cloves garlic
1/3 cup pine nuts or walnuts 
1/3 to 1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
 

Mix in the food processor, adding the oil and cheese at the last. Add more salt if you like, or more oil if you need it to be runnier. I’ve had this keep for weeks in the fridge, and years in the freezer, and still be flavorful.

It’s probably easy to guess what is another favorite activity I will indulge in before the sun goes down: gardening. I need to spread some manure around where I thinned the perennials yesterday. Maybe I will run out of energy to clean up all the basil-tinged oil smeared around the kitchen before I fall into bed, but it’s very comforting to have a few little tubs of that tasty stuff in the freezer when we haven’t even got to August.

Grandma wouldn’t understand my style of housekeeping, but she would love me anyway.

Garden Happy

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Sitting in the sun with my husband, looking over the evidence of our recent garden work, I said, “I know I could be happy without a yard, but I’m thankful that I do have a place to garden.”

He said, “You would not be happy without a yard.” Well, maybe he knows more than I do. I hope I don’t have to test our hypotheses anytime soon, because I want to be around to see how many basil plants survive their transplanting stress.

Why is it that one can’t buy single basil seedlings anymore? They are always growing in a bunch, obviously from five or six seeds dropped into one hole — or sometimes more like 20 seeds.

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Yesterday I bought two six-packs of the 5-bunch type, and ended up setting out plants in 40 different spots. I started out by carefully pulling off one little plant at a time, trying not to tear the roots as they separated their tiny fingers. It’s like disrupting a group of siblings who have always slept in the same bed, and forcing them apart to different homes, never to be united again, just so they can grow up — alone. I’m glad I didn’t think of it so sentimentally at the time.

After a while I ran out of room and planted some groupings as they were, or in twos and threes. Maybe I’ll find out that basil does fine even if large families live in one room. They all look remarkably healthy today. Though at 1:00 when I took the picture, they sun hadn’t got to them yet.

I’d also like to see the rest of the cobalt Dutch iris emerge from their buds. It’s always curious to me how they bloom immediately after I cut the last of the lavender-and-yellow sort in the bed right next to them.

The yellow California poppies come back every year in this spot and hang over the sidewalk. Nowadays there is a big salvia bush named Hot Lips behind them, which looks very pretty.

I admired the chives that my husband suggested we plant many years ago when we had to re-do the whole backyard. They don’t require much maintenance, and keep providing nice greens for the eye and the kitchen, and at this time of year, pretty purple flowers to be seen close-up while we are sitting on the swing. Lambs Ears and Pincushion Flower are behind them in the picture below.

And the tomatoes! Mr. Glad and I set out ten plants yesterday, which is the most we’ve ever had in this yard. Because we are going to be away during midsummer, I didn’t want to plant any vegetables other than tomatoes and basil, which meant that we could fit in more tomatoes. When they start bearing I’ll give a report with the names of the winners. We are determined to get a good crop of tomatoes — one of these years.

In the meantime, we had a calming weariness and comfy satisfaction from our labors, and the cheer of all these pretty blooms already here. The other day I counted 40 different plants blooming in the back yard, and another 15 in the front. Spring has sprung in this happy garden!