I can’t seem to use a phone in the summer

I’ve been all over the place this summer, from Anchorage to Boston to Brattleboro to Midcoast Maine to Fox Hollow Farm, and if you’ve tried to get in touch with me, I’m so sorry. I’ve been awful at phone calls and emails and every other kind of contact. I miss the routine solitude of my life in the village.

Nicole, I am so bummed I missed you in Anchorage. My old phone was very dead around that time and by the time I replaced it and figured out how to check my voicemail on the new machine, you were long gone. Cathy, I’ll give you a call this week and we’ll set up a visit in Maine.

My struggle with communication is just one way I’ve been having trouble adjusting to summer. I was on the T the other day in Boston and I just couldn’t shake the thought: People do this every day. I can’t believe people do this every day.

I know I’m spoiled. In the village, I almost never have to sit on my butt just to get from place to place. I absolutely never have to sit on my butt in a dank-smelling, grubby metal tube full of  strangers.

I know the city has its perks: Sean has been taking sailing lessons, going to the art museum, and hosting ice cream socials (Margarita sorbet? Wasabi maple ice cream anyone?). There are restaurants, theaters, intriguing strangers and old friends.

Old friends are the best.

Boston is full of folks from college and from Arkansas. It’s so strange and wonderful to be surrounded by people I’ve known for such a long time.

Bethan gave an incredibly powerful and personal performance in Brattleboro after a year of circus training with NECCA. None of us remained dry-eyed.

I woke up a few days ago with Bre’s son crawling across my bed in the guest room. He has a great smile and sweet curls and a friendly nature, and he seems to be a fan of nori rolls (at least of smooshing them up and getting them all over people and things). Bre is the first of my close friends to have kids: I’ve never known a baby that I’m sure I’ll know forever. This is really something.

Tim inspired a really successful birthday gift. He and I are going backpacking before I head back to Alaska. Look out, wilderness, we’re back!

Now I’m in Ohio, and Jesse and Chelsea have filled their home with wonderful people, as usual. It’s busy and cheerful and warm and tasty and creative. I have my hammock in the woods for quiet space among the fireflies, and otherwise it’s all games and cooking and farm stuff and talk with important, beloved people.

Still, I miss the simplicity of life in the village.

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Camped on the spit in Homer.

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Dinner!

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Mom in her garden, the climbing roses in bloom.

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Rock On Spruce Spring Seat

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Lobster!

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The view from my hammock on the farm in Ohio.

 

Fall in the Air

DSC03813Snowfall, that is. (hardyhar)

I gasped out loud when I opened my blinds this morning and saw this. I was hoping for a blue sky and a golden fall day after yesterday’s rain. I wasn’t expecting this.

It happened so fast. Last night I was standing out on the playground at midnight, watching the aurora in a hoodie. Eight hours later, there’s snow on the slide. I’m going out for a long walk today, for sure. I want to see new snow on the riverbank.

In other news, project Arctic Salad is coming along nicely. My microgreens are thriving in the front closet. I started them last weekend, and this weekend they’re thick and juicy. I nibbled a little yesterday and went into an ecstatic, drooling, vegetable-induced dance. Behold, one week’s growth!

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I need to order some worms so that I can get a little compost bin going in the closet. It’d be awesome to have a salad plot that doesn’t require much by mail-order.

A week (and some) in pictures

Our first (pink) watermelon. It's hard to know when they're ready, and melons left in the garden too long invariably get devoured by the hungry Chunky family.

Our first (pink) watermelon. It’s hard to know when they’re ready, and melons left in the garden too long invariably get devoured by the hungry Chunky family.

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round bars of soap! I used a pringles can for a mold, then just peeled the cardboard off.

round bars of soap! I used a pringles can for a mold, then just peeled the cardboard off.

The hardnecks are much less prone to rot in our climate, apparently

The hardnecks are much less prone to rot in our climate, so we’re taking another stab at dry storage.

Behold: The mid-summer potato harvest! We're putting in a fall crop in a week.

Behold: The mid-summer potato harvest! We’re putting in a fall crop in a week.

The cukes got a bit rambunctious and knocked down their trellis.

The cukes got a bit rambunctious and knocked down their trellis.

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A Day in the Life (Summer School Edition)

5:50 a.m.  I try to wake up and start my run before I realize what I’m doing. Sean stays in bed, letting the sun pink the walls slowly as he eases into the day. Usually by the time I wake up fully, the sun is just breaking over the trees and I’m smiling, halfway down the road. I try to push my distance a little every day, to run the length of that sorghum field, to circle that pole barn, to turn around at that road cut. This morning, I startled a young possum in the ditch and was myself startled by a rattlesnake, as big around as my bicep, curled dead in the road.
I come home, shower, and get dressed in my teacher uniform: usually a skirt, a t-shirt, flats, and earrings. Sean packs my laptop, a waterbottle and a banana in my bag and pops in a bagel for me. At 7:00, we’re out the door.

7:45 a.m.  Papers laid out, pencils sharpened, we’re in the cafeteria, watching the kids eat breakfast, breathless from the whirlwind of copying and tidying before class. At 8:00 we walk our groups to our respective classrooms, and teach for two 90 minute blocks with a thirty minute recess in the middle where we supervise the kids on the patio. The first few minutes of class is always a push to get kids settled and working on their do now/bellwork/entry task. The bells don’t ring during summer school, so there’s no distinct start to class, and kids take advantage of that blurred line. Someone is usually singing or building a paper airplane or pretending they can’t find a pencil or paper (I provide them: they’re right in front of you, dingbat), or squabbling about a seat. After bellwork, we get rolling with a discussion or experiment and I get them going on a problem or a problem set within ten minutes. At Lee, I’ve found I can count on about a three-minute class-wide attention span. I’ve got ten at Palestine, but I have more relationships, authority, and reputation up there. I break up the work-time accordingly, so we review problems frequently and I give plenty of opportunities for kids to talk math. It looks like mayhem, but it works pretty well. I did a bangup job of captaining my team to victory over function notation today. The most fabulous disruption of the day was this:

I’m assisting a student on one side of the classroom.
A student asks permission and then gets up to sharpen his pencil.
There’s a commotion on the other side of the classroom from me, near the pencil sharpener.
K: Whoah! he’s getting sexual over here!
R: did you see – he – he – he tried to kiss me!
J: (from across the room) BWAKAHAHAHAHA  — HE’S GETTING SEXUAL!
I glare at J and she turns down the volume
M: I didn’t try to kiss him! I was just making kissy noises! (Makes kissy noises)
J: (from across the room) OMG (Makes unreasonably loud kissy noises)
R: He tried to kiss my EAR!

12:00  It’s hot at noon in Marianna. It’s really, really hot. I get headaches and I sweat like pigs would sweat if they could (they can’t). We wait outside on a covered walkway for the buses to come after lunch, and keep kids from hurting each other or sneaking away to do who-knows-what behind the building. It’s a steam-mirage of sneakers smacking the concrete, yellow buses, sticky blacktop, yelling voices, sweat. At 12:30 we get to leave, and it’s a horrible relief to sink into the soft passenger’s seat of the Nissan: a relief because I’ve been on my feet for six hours already, horrible because our car is black and the inside at noon is hot enough to explode cans of soda (true) and melt rubber bands (true). Sean starts the car and we crank the A/C. It roars and sputters and blows hot air like a salon for the first few minutes, then blessed cold. By the time we’re halfway home, we can turn it down to half-power.

1:00 p.m.  It’s too hot to work outside. Sean fixes us lunch and I spend a few hours in the afternoon each day working on indoor projects: canning, tanning, lesson planning. I do some dishes, dick around on the internet, read a little, tidy something somewhere, check on the chickens, and suddenly it’s sunset, and well past time to think about dinner. Sometimes, we manage to work in the garden for a while, but lately it has not cooled off until just before dawn, and gardening in the afternoon in these conditions is out of the question.

8:30 p.m. Dinner is usually something wonderful: we rarely visit the store these days, so our meals are almost all Arkansas-grown. Tonight, it’s braised cabbage with green apples and caramelized onions, our cherry and tarragon turkey sausage, and cucumber, basil and mint salad with slivers of red onion. Not from here: red onion, green apple. We eat on the futon under the clicking ceiling fan and watch a movie or an episode of something (Freaks and Geeks, tonight) with the volume up to drown out the window unit that growls in the background.

900 p.m. It’s storming and, inevitably, there’s a crisis. Sean goes down to check on the pigs and I hear him hollering over the thunder. I rush to the porch door and peer out through the curtain of rain, looking for the flashlight.
“are you there, Sean?”
a flicker of light through the six-foot tall jungle of wet grass
“yes but the pigs aren’t. I can’t find them anywhere.”
Sean slumps up to the steps, exhausted at the prospect of the wet, muddy search ahead, and I’m ready to head in and grab my coat when there’s an unmistakable grunt from under the porch, then a chorus of snurfles. The pigs are under the porch, sheltering from the storm.

10:00 p.m. late, cold dinner. Turns out, there’s not a damn thing you can do to move a 150 lb pig that doesn’t want to go out in the rain. Damn. They’ll be there in the morning, the impudent swine.

Garlic, Corn, Cukes and a Poem

Bonus Points: I also froze a couple quarts of stock today. Stock is not photogenic.

Bonus Points: I also froze a couple quarts of stock today. Stock is not photogenic.

Today, I confirmed what I had long suspected: Arkansas is no place for garlic. We may be the only people in Lee County who grow it, which should have tipped us off. Several weeks back, we hung thirty heads or more to dry on the porch. It’s the only dark place with any air circulation that we could think of. Ideally, you hang your garlic someplace cool, dark and dry with plenty of air circulation, but we had to settle for just dark. Cool and dry don’t exist here in the summer. When I cut one head off of a bundle recently, about half of it smelled horrible and the skins had gone to brown slime. Most of the garlic inside was fine after a few rinses, but it was worrying. We were off on vacation a day or two after that, so I put it out of my mind.

After summer school today, I cut down three more heads and they were all as bad as that first one. I asked the oracle (internet) and it yielded a bounty of suggestions. We’ve decided to try a few different methods for putting up our garlic just to see what works for us.

  1. We packed half-pint jars and poured boiling vinegar over raw heads of garlic. These should keep for several months (one source said a year) in the refrigerator.
  2. We packed more half-pint jars and poured cold vinegar over raw heads of garlic. These should keep for slightly less time in the refrigerator, so we’ll eat them first.
  3. I vacuum-packed and froze the remaining garlic.

Word on the street is that frozen garlic tastes right but loses its texture. Garlic packed in vinegar is supposed to taste close to fresh garlic. We’ll see.

In addition to garlic, we’ve recently found ourselves swamped with cucumbers and corn.

The cukes seemed to fly out of our garden like missiles for a week or so there. We’ve already eaten some of the quick-pickles that Sean whipped up and stuck in the fridge before we went to NC and they are wonderfully crunchy. That crunch is something you just can’t get with canned pickles. I wish we’d made more. We canned seven quarts of dill pickles already, and if the cukes keep up the good work, we’ll put up plenty more before we’re done.

The corn came from a friend. M invited us over to pick some of her sweet corn a few nights ago and we couldn’t resist. We nearly filled the trunk! Her husband put in more than an acre and it’s just for their personal use and for giving away. I have never tasted sweet corn so sweet. We couldn’t resist biting into it in the field, and that first syrupy crunch gave us enough of a rush to keep us picking until we were fixin’ to drop. Pulling the ears from the stalks made a satisfying crunch, and it left my hands sticky and my neck itchy from where the tall leaves had brushed my skin. We shucked and blanched the corn on the cob, then cut it off into a bowl. I tried to vacuum seal several bags of it but the corn was too juicy! The machine couldn’t seal the bags because the vacuum would pull all the liquid up to the edge. I have been freezing the corn on trays prior to vacuum-sealing, which is working well. Putting it up is a lot of work and we bit off more than we could chew, so we gave away bags of the stuff today to the women we work with at school.

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Sunrise Run Poem

I saw a buck in velvet
still in the green puddle of his shadow
that shattered on the gravel

I never saw him move
only saw him hanging over a field of sorghum
like the moon hangs in the sky