Awake Thou Wintry Earth

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Chives growing in my garden, February 12, 2016

Awake, Thou Wintry Earth is almost a life anthem. I came to Thomas Blackburn’s poem by way of Bach’s Cantata 129. When I heard it, I came to understand in a new way that spring is an annual demonstration of resurrection. Listening to this still gives me shivers. Singing it means I end up whispering to tell that dead is dead over a voice that is breaking.

I took a walk around my backyard this morning and was delighted to hear garlic and chives laughing at winter, death, decay.

Awake thou wintry earth,
fling off, fling off thy sadness;
ye vernal flowers laugh forth,
laugh forth your ancient gladness.
A new and lovely tale
through-out the land is spread;
it floats o’er hill and dale
to tell that death is dead.

Here is a joyful organ. 1 1/2 minutes that will lift your day high. Sing along! It’s pretty loud; turn your sound down. Or don’t. The organ is a dominating instrument and its volume is glorious!

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More Conversion Stories

 

From basil…

…to pesto

 

Pesto Recipe

4 -5 garlic cloves

3 cups firmly packed fresh basil leaves

1 cup Parmesan cheese *

1/2 cup pine nuts * (when pine nuts cost the equivalent of gold nuggets, I use 1/3 cup)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil *

 

Mince garlic in food processor.

Add basil and process.

Add cheese, nuts and salt.

Add olive oil in a stream.

 

I used to freeze basil in ice cube trays. Now I prefer snack-sized ziplock bags. A friend freezes hers in baby food jars. Unless you have a reason to use this all today, you must freeze pesto. You can keep it in the fridge in a container with a layer of olive oil on top. Air is the bad boyfriend to charming Pesto; she turns dark and ugly after long embraces with that bad boy.

Add pesto to pasta for a perfect side.

Add pesto to pizza sauce for a perfect sauce.

Add pesto to poultry for a savory main course.

Spread on crackers with sun-dried tomatoes and cream cheese.

(From Sheri’s comment, below: Add a dab of pesto to soup to make it amazing.)

Or just Google pesto recipes.

 

[Side bar: I learned the first year of marriage to always have the ingredients of a quick meal handy. Something easy to put together if you had unexpected guests for dinner. Back in the day, I shudder to say, tuna casserole was my go to dish. Maybe that’s why friends often had “other plans.” Pesto and pasta is an elegant dish to make on the spot.]

 * I buy these at Costco or Trader Joe’s. I store the Parm in the freezer, pine nuts in the fridge.

 

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from oats (and friends and relations)…

 

 …to granola

 

Granola Recipe

12 cups rolled oats (whole or quick, your preference)

1 cup each, your choice:

Wheat Germ

Sesame Seeds

Sunflower Seeds

Walnuts, chopped

Cashews, chopped

Sliced Almonds

(other grains per your taste. See note on fruit below.)

 

Mix:

1 1/2 cup canola oil

1 1/2 cup honey

a glug of milk

a glug of vanilla

 

Microwave oil/honey mixture for three minutes.

Give it a swirl, and pour it over the oats.

Mix well. Then mix it again. And again.

 

Turn out onto Jelly-roll pan (a cookie sheet with lip) or onto Silpat. I line cookie sheets with parchment paper, but that is optional.

Bake in oven until deeply tanned, stirring every 15 minutes.

 

I buy oats in 25 pound bags; I get nuts at Costco or Trader Joe’s.

I just found a 2 pound bag of sliced almonds at Costco. Nice!

Opt: add dried fruit (raisins, Craisins, dried blueberries) AFTER baking. Trust me—after.

Opt: reduce oil and honey to 1 cup each. Just keep the proportion 1:1.

 

My greatest challenge with granola is baking it to perfection.

My original recipe said Bake 275° for 30 minutes. Eating raw oats does things to you.

Depending on my schedule and my patience, I’ll either bake it at 350° with a close eye or I’ll bake it at 250° until I can smell it, then start stirring in 15 minute intervals. The edges cook faster than the middle, so mix the granola around the cookie sheet. What I’ve found is that you wait and wait and wait…and when it turns perfect you have a 5 minute window. Then it burns. I’m pretty much an expert in how to burn granola. Step 1: Check your Facebook…

 Sheri, in the comments section, makes granola in the crockpot.

DUH!

Of course!

That’s how I’m making it from now on.

 

Get Used to Neglect

 

Goodbye, my most neglected garden.
I gave you precious little attention,
but you faithfully rewarded
our small times together.

Even as you age and decline
you graciously dish out goodwill.
The Swiss chard, Italian parsley,
lettuce, sunflowers remain.

I live in a state of perpetual hope…
the promise that next year I’ll do better.

Next summer there’ll be no weddings,
no babies, no trips, no books?
May it never be!

Get used to it, dear garden.
You are a minor delight of my life.
I need you, I do.
But I’m an undependable friend.

Next year we’ll get it together, won’t we?
I will magically morph into a Gardener
and you will mysteriously develop rich, loamy soil.

Sweet dreams!
Soon you will warm yourself with a quilt of leaves
and a comforter of snow.

Sleep well, my quiet companion.
Remember: next year!
Next year.

Simple Pleasures in September

 

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~   Hospitality is thriving in Eastern Oregon.  Friends have befriended us on long wedding weekends, fed us incredible crepes (or breakfast burritos, depending on the host) and let us share in their home life; here Xander is hugging on his kitty.

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~  To be honest, my garden has been ugly this year.  Curt tilled the ground, I planted, my son watered, and we all ignored both weeds and fruit (exceptin’ the luscious raspberries).  Just. too. busy. Saturday was the first opportunity for….well, you decide: is it redemption or atonement?  There were enough tomatoes for a large batch of spaghetti sauce and a large batch of fresh salsa.   We’ve been eating Swiss chard.  Beans and peas just didn’t grow this year.  The beets and butternut squash still need to be harvested.

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~  New, fun game to play.  I know some girls who are devastatingly good Blokus players.  It is now my goal to be able to hold my own against these masterminds.  I like this game because it can be enjoyed at different levels of proficiency.  My four year old grandson and I had fun just playing with the pieces. 

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~  Aren’t birthdays a simple pleasure?  Because life is a gift.  And the best response to a gift is to return thanks.  The recent death of our friend Joe (21 years old) in Afghanistan, is a painful, bittersweet reminder to treasure each moment.  Today is my birthday and I am thankful to God for the beautiful life He’s given me.  For daily mercies.  For forgiveness. 

Aging has its compensations.  Now that my husband is older he is more inclined to snuggle than to bounce right out of bed. There is that.

To start the celebration, I’m bringing a rhubarb-apple-pear cobbler to work.

“I don’t want to get to the end of my life and find that I have just lived the length of it.  I want to have lived the width (*and depth* I would add) of it as well.”   ~ Diane Ackerman

 

What Raspberries Teach Me About Life

 

Last night I futzed in the garden: a little tomato trimming, a little beet thinning, but little picking of the raspberries.  I had intended to begin (again) listening to War and Peace, but both my iPod and MP3 needed charging. 

So, gosh, I thought, I guess I’ll just think.  I don’t know why, but when I think in the garden I get all philosophical.  Not like Kierkegaard or Kant: just your run-of-the-mill moralistic, didactic, flannel-graph philosophy.    

Here’s what I came up with, just to prove  that about *anyone* can write those little Everything I Need to Know sorts of books. 

What Raspberries Teach Me About Life

1.   The best position is to bend down low and look up.

2.   Stretching beyond your reach is worth it. 

3.   Don’t be afraid of of a few scratches. 

4.   Work is its own reward, but a fresh raspberry popped in the mouth is a nice perk.

5.   The dried up, near-black raspberries represent lost opportunities.  Don’t despair.  Keep moving. Every life has *bushels* of lost opportunities.  Pluck them off and feed them to the dog.

6.   One can’t overstate the benefit of looking at a situation from many different angles.

7.   Even when you are certain you’ve picked every ripe raspberry –even then– there’s still more goodness waiting to be found. 

8.   Corollary: another person will be able to see what you can’t.

9.   Cultivating raspberries, which are essentially a weed, requires no great skill. God made the plants, sent the sun, gave the rain.  The fruit is a gift. 

10.   Early risers have all the moral high ground, but some things are better after the sun goes down.

Raspberries!

What I know:  picking raspberries with my husband,
popping a few choice morsels in my mouth,
competing for the bigger take,
talking as the light fades,
 is my idea of a romantic evening.

What I’ve learned:  raspberries respond well to water. 
The key to big berries is much, consistent water. 
Thank you, son!

100 Species:
1.  Clematis
2.  Garlic
3.  Delphinium
4.  Daylily
5.  Dianthus
6.  Daisy
7.  Lobelia
8.  Verbena
9.  Cosmos
10. Salvia
11.  Diachondra
12.  Raspberry