Tag Archives: fennel

A warming winter sunshine.

When I first sat down at the computer to begin this post, I checked the weather also and the temperature was 79°! I had surprising good sense then, to know that I must postpone writing, and hurry back out into the sunshine. The house was cold, though it was a little warmer than usual because I had stoked the wood fire before going to bed last night.

I dragged the tarp off the woodpile and brought armloads of logs into the garage and the house. Tomorrow the more typical weather will return, and I’ll build fires again.

On my walks this week I was surprised to see the pussy willows out! Today I walked on the golf course for a hundred feet or so trying to get back to the creek path, and I saw lots of English daisies that had escaped someone’s yard and were well established, growing in the turf.

NOT pyracantha, but cotoneaster

I’ve been complaining about February and saying that I want to be in Hawaii next winter, which is silly when I live in such a mild climate. I know I’ve been grumpier than usual partly because of various inconveniences of the remodeling. Experienced altogether over a year’s time they feel like afflictions.

I never thought the disruption — of my solitude, my routine, and my “nest” — would last over a year. At least two of the important persons will tell me things such as, that they are coming “in the next two hours,” so I wait around and don’t take a walk or run errands, but then they don’t come at all. If I run the errands at night, I get to bed late, but the workers might arrive at 7:30 the next morning. I’m sort of stuck here a lot, but with not much I can do of my usual housework. (That’s why I’ve been able to write more blog posts lately.)

But “Richard the Wonderful” is the main carpenter, and he is always my friend. 🙂 Today he was finishing the prep work for the bathroom tile, including this Valentine pink stinky waterproofing stuff that had to be painted around the tub/shower.

I was glad the day was so warm, because it gave me a chance to make use of another improvement in my upstairs arrangement. The new passageway between my bedroom and the sewing room also allows for a cross breeze from the front of the house to the back, and I opened those windows to let the smell out. This option will make a big difference during the rare heat wave, to be able to get that draft going as soon as the sun goes down and cool off my bedroom so I can sleep.

In my garden, the asparagus spears are emerging!

The east side/front of my house only gets a good amount of morning sun in the upstairs rooms, of which my new sewing room is one. Long ago we used to do our homeschooling in that big room (now divided into two) because on clear winter days it was by far the warmest place in the house. As soon as possible I’m planning to get a cozy chair in which I can sit by the window and bask on chilly mornings. I expect to look something like this lady when I do.

But now, my feet are already cold, so I’ll go tuck them under some blankets!

(painting “Morning Sun” by Harold Knight)

The life force of words and wild things.

The Queen Anne’s Lace, or Daucus carota, one of the “wildflowers of the carrot family,” is in full glory this month along the creek near my house. It was a mild winter and a wet spring; though we are now well into the dry season, their plantation is lush.

Once before I posted a gallery of images of them, various angles and perspectives. This week my walk along the path was greatly extended and I explored the current neighborhood that has grown up, full of a unique assortment of plants and animals developing from this year’s natural and man-provoked conditions. That means a completely new gallery!

The picture just above shows a morning glory weed or bindweed (Convolvulus), which has twined around the stem of an opened flower, grown on through a bud, and is now reaching out into space. It has an opened flower just above the lower Queen Anne’s Lace bloom. And I just noticed a little seed of something, close to the bottom of the photo, and about to drop down, down… and make a contribution to next spring’s neighborhood.

Fennel in the background.

In my last gallery of Queen Anne’s Lace, I featured the red spots that are found in the center of many of the blooms. This year what were more eyecatching were insects and the other umbellifers.

I learned that word almost a year ago when Pippin and I were exploring wetlands together. As I walked along my nearby creek path I began to think about the flower form that Queen Anne’s Lace shares with the wild fennel nearby, and the word was struggling along my mind’s synapses for several minutes… and finally arrived where I could grab it. Today I researched its meaning again; it comes from the old name for the plant Family Apiaceae, which was Umbelliferae.

I found several helpful webpages besides the Wikipedia information. One has a timeline of North American invasive species: “We came on the Mayflower, too!“, where I learned that our wild fennel likely did come with those first pilgrims in 1620, and it spread all over the continent. That site also has lots of recipes for using wild plants, and I would be interested to try using the tender green fronds of fennel, or even the stems. But on the fennel page they were a little sloppy with their botany, telling me that fennel and anise are the same thing, which they are not.

Let’s start with fennel, which is my neighbor: its botanical name is  Foeniculum vulgare. Anise is Pimpinella anisum. They are both in the Apiaceae family but different genera. The fleshy bulb that is eaten as a vegetable is a fennel bulb. Anise looks very similar in the field, but I don’t ever see reference to eating the bulb.

On the Spiceography page I read a paragraph-long comparison of the seeds, which both contain the essential oil anethole. I found its guidelines confusing, and concluded that I will just try to use whichever seed a recipe calls for. By the way, two other plants with this flavor but completely unrelated and different in form are star anise and liquorice.

Anise is an ingredient in many alcoholic beverages traditional to the Mediterranean and Asia. At least one of them, absinthe, includes fennel as well. I was pleased to see a map showing the locales and the names of the drinks.

When I was in Turkey I did enjoy rakı. (Yes, that is an i without a dot. It designates a schwa or ə sound.) Usually it was served with water; you would pour a little rakı in your glass and then add water. It turned all milky then, as in this picture. No one ever tried to explain to me why this happened, and I doubt they could have if they knew, because when I read the explanation for it now it’s very complicated to my unscientific mind: The Ouzo Effect.

Fennel flower

I seem to have drifted from flowers to food and drink (passing quickly over insects). Truly this earth is full of enough animal, vegetable and mineral to keep us forever occupied examining, experimenting, cooking and brewing — and thanking our Father for putting us in a world so packed with beauty and life.

Haiku for February

The many streams of Japanese literature I’ve looked into over the last month have flowed into a river that remains a bit muddy for me, something like the creek down the street as it appeared this morning. But just as on those waters I see beautiful things reflected, I am being greatly enriched by several writers, and meandering along rabbit trails still so mysterious, I don’t have much to tell yet.

I decided not to read The Gate by Natsume Sōseki, because it sounded too much like Kokoro, but in reading about the author I learned that he wrote a lot of poetry, and before I had taken two steps down that trail I found these two haiku poems by him that shed some light on recent days.

Over the wintry
forest, winds howl in rage
with no leaves to blow.

Yesterday I didn’t go walking in the afternoon as planned, because of just such a scene out my window, with dark clouds suddenly filling the background where sun had a few minutes before been enticing me. The weather has been freezing, even under the sun.

The cold wintry wind
Is blowing so hard that
The sun sinks into the ocean.

This morning rainy weather has returned, a little warmer, so I went out before the clouds started to empty themselves. Last week I’d seen people walking on the other side of the creek along one stretch that I haven’t explored so much, and today I found that route, which was not much of a path, mostly a vague line where grass had been trampled into the mud, but with interesting little details so be seen.

A eucalyptus tree that had fallen, but kept growing in its humbled condition. A daisy, and fennel shoots in clusters of Irish-green ferny filaments, and — oh, the path petered out into puddles, and obviously my boots were not waterproofed enough to go farther.

I’m going to build a fire in the stove now, and do a little more management of belongings and spaces pre-remodel, and then I hope to sit by the stove and read Curdie and/or some Japanese poetry while I listen to the rain. Just last night I put several books on hold at the library, and added a couple to my Kindle library, almost all from the genre of Japanese literature.

That creek is muddy because there is so much stuff suspended in the water. Animal, vegetable, mineral matter — living things and the elements and food that constitute their beings. And in my mind, another sort of living, nourishing material that a week ago seemed to be just a hopeless mishmash. Now that I’m beginning to pick out a few particulars to consider, and to see patterns and currents of culture and humanity, there is much beauty.

Spider Christmas Day

I know it’s their Christmas, because all the spiders in town had been awake all night decorating. They ran to and fro along the creek banks for miles stringing their prettiest threads over pyracantha, ceanothus, grass and star jasmine — the milk thistle was draped extra thick and milky — but clearly their favorite thing to deck with silver and white was the wild fennel, at every stage of its growth, from fine fronds to long-dried seeds.

After a half hour of admiring the holy day celebrations of spiders, I was brought up short by a different sort of beauty. Willow bushes rising from the creek are lifting their buds heavenward; it must be their message of resurrection joy that filled my heart to bursting.

Christ is risen!