No time to talk…
No time to talk…
Glorious autumn showers! We are having several days of warmish gentle rain. I attended my grandson’s freshman football game in Davis and we paltry few fans sat on aluminum benches with drippings from our neighbors’ umbrellas slowly wetting us. But we didn’t need sweaters under our rain jackets, and the rain was laving our dust-layers, as it is described in the poem below.
On my drive over, I heard a garden man on the radio tell how this is the perfect time to scatter our poppy seeds and other such perennials. I am hoping to do that if I can synchronize my schedule with the pauses between showers. I have these two packets that I had decided not to start earlier in the greenhouse, and also my milkweed seeds from Siskiyou County… and perhaps I still have North Coast lupine seeds I collected years ago. We’ll see if the breaks in the rain are long enough for my deliberations about which patches of ground are likely for my experiments. And then: let the Poem of the Earth descend!
THE VOICE OF THE RAIN
And who art thou? said I to the soft-falling shower,
Which, strange to tell, gave me an answer, as here translated:
I am the Poem of Earth, said the voice of the rain,
Eternal I rise impalpable out of the land and the bottomless sea,
Upward to heaven, whence, vaguely form’d, altogether changed,
and yet the same,
I descend to lave the drouths, atomies*, dust-layers of the globe,
And all that in them without me were seeds only, latent, unborn;
And forever, by day and night, I give back life to my own
origin, and make pure and beautify it;
(For song, issuing from its birth-place, after fulfilment, wander-
Reck’d or unreck’d, duly with love returns.)
*atomy: a skeleton or emaciated body.
Years ago Kate gave to one or both of us this rain gauge, which I have started using again in the new garden. In 24 hours we got more than an inch. Today it was raining steadily in the morning, and I wished I could stay home and read, but I needed to run some errands, so I went out in my boots with my collapsed umbrella sticking out of my purse.
I never used the umbrella. It was one of those “scattered thundershowers” kind of days, where it’s pouring for three or four minutes, then the clouds run off to the edges of the sky and the blue heavens open up briefly. When I got in the car to drive to the next store the rain would pitter-patter on my windshield, only until I turned off the engine in the parking lot. By this gift I was assured of breathing the cleanest and most invigorating air, and I was so glad that I hadn’t missed it all sitting indoors.
The reason for my errands was to buy ingredients to make a dinner meal that I later took to a semi-“shut-in” from church. When I delivered the food she welcomed me to stay and talk for a while, which I was eager to do because she is a widow, who just mentioned her late husband to me at church on Sunday; I wanted to hear her story. Though she’s been without him a lot longer than I have been missing mine, she still lives with the difficulty of acceptance, and part of her “can’t believe” that her other half gone, though she knows very well where he is buried.
Yesterday was a good day, too. Before it started to rain my neighbor brought his twin boys and a third boy down to help stack my new delivery of firewood. With five of us working, it took all of twenty joyful minutes to deal with half a cord of oak logs, including the cleanup. Finally, all of the extra wood, buckets, leftover base rock, scraps of this and that, are gone from the driveway, because the new gravel utility yard is done, where I intended all along to put back the last remaining stuff I want to keep.
After the boys finished up, I kept working for another hour or more, though the wind was coming up and the air was chilling, alerting me to the storm coming in. I spent some time furnishing and puttering in my new greenhouse. Here was another thing that is hard to fully believe: Me, owner of a greenhouse.
I lugged eight cinder blocks from the driveway and made two stacks with them, and found a piece of plywood to put on top to make a potting bench. Then I tidied up. There was mud on the floor, and dead leaves from the plants that got frosted before I moved them inside. I found an old tub to keep under my potting bench to put organic matter in, when I am trimming things.
A few days ago when I was waiting for my oil to be changed I leafed through the latest Seed Savers’ Exchange catalog and my vagueness morphed into excitement about what I might plant in my new raised beds. It’s been a long time since I’ve had the proper soil for carrots. I drooled over the beets, and imagined Painted Lady beans climbing my trellis. It won’t be long before I can start some of these things right in the rich soil in my beautiful boxes. Other more tender plants like tomatoes and squash I can start in the greenhouse if I want. Or, if I don’t want, I may putter less productively.
I do feel overcome, at least once a day, with all the things I need to do and want to do, the unfinished projects and the new projects that would sound inviting, if it weren’t for all the undone things weighing on me. I’m thankful that I have enough strength and energy to do one task at a time, and while I’m doing it I don’t think about the other work. Here is a good place to wrap up with a pertinent quote from John Ruskin, which seems to explain some of my happiness:
“In order that people may be happy in their work, these three things are needed: They must be fit for it. They must not do too much of it. And they must have a sense of success in it.”
Thank you, Lord!
By the time I came into my husband’s family, Seedy Buns were only a memory in the minds of the older generations. My father-in-law said they were cookies featuring caraway seeds and a treat eaten at Christmas, but perhaps he got them mixed up with Seedy Biscuits? Because a bun is bread, we all know that, whereas a biscuit can be a cookie if it is in the British Isles. But what if you take a bun and sweeten and shorten it up? Might it be like a little cake?
I never thought of a cookie as being a little cake until I read The Little Book to my children very long ago. “A cookie is a little cake,” it says right there. I know that type of cookie, and I don’t really care for them. I like mine chewy or crispy, but not cake-y.
In my joyful Christmas cookie project, which is my art at this time of year, I had the idea to make a modern Seedy Bun that would hearken back to the ancestors who brought their Cornish traditions to California.
Once a cousin had taken a box of sugar cookie mix and thrown in a can of caraway seeds to create a simple reenactment, and I scoured the Internet to see what else might be out there as inspiration.
A fascinating collection of recipes from newspapers dating 1891 to 1981 gave a hint as to the possibilities, and included two poems mentioning a grandma or an aunt making caraway cookies. Here’s one of the recipes that even claims to make a crisp cookie:
It was published in Lincoln, Nebraska in 1919, and I think is interesting for its use of the word “butterine,” which I’d never seen before.
Early American cooks also used seeds liberally in their cookies, often coriander or caraway, and I liked the looks of a glazed cookie based on one from the first American cookbook published in 1796.
Cooks are like folk-singers, changing and adapting their material freely, and it’s not as though I am looking for The Original Seedy Bun recipe to cook myself, but it would be nice to know what those cookies were like, that my husband’s grandma made.
In the meantime I decided to try this recipe for lemony cookies, calling for ground caraway seeds which I didn’t have. I tried grinding some in the blender, but they only burned from the heat, so I used whole seeds.
Some of the baked cookies were a little skimpy on seeds, like the one I picture below. I’ll have to see how everyone receives them before I decide whether to make these the same way another time. If I make a different Seedy Bun, I might bake these again as well, without the caraway, because I agree with their creator about their appealing “depth and intensity” from the lemon juice and zest.
After my Seedy Lemon Biscuits were put away in the freezer, I heard from an older grandchild of my husband’s grandmother who, I was so happy to hear, had made a collection of Grandma’s recipes, and the first cookie in the collection was indeed called Seedy Buns.
Seedie Buns – 5 doz. These are similar to sugar cookies.
Sift and set aside: 3 C flour, 1 t baking powder, 1/4 tsp t salt
Cream in bowl: 1 1/4 C butter
Beat in until fluffy: 1 1/4 C sugar
Add: 3 eggs one at a time, beat well after each.
Blend in: 1 t grated orange peel, 1 t vanilla, 2 T caraway seeds
Chill several hours.
To form cookies take about 1 T dough and roll into ball.
Place on lightly greased baking sheet
Flatten to 1/4″ with bottom of a glass dipped in sugar.
Bake at 375 degrees for 8-10 min., or until lightly browned.
If any of my readers have favorite seedy cookie recipes, I’d love to hear about them. It’s not too early to start brainstorming for next year!