We were out playing music for a party on the big old river last night, I’d call her the first American river, the first one that mattered before we got out to the Mississip, the James, and this old beauty, this magnolia on her banks at the actual site of the America’s first town, Jamestown, blowing hard in anticipation of the torrent of Tropical Storm Andrea. It’s been raining for hours. So ends a week at the beach, scoping rockets, playing music, making delicious noshes, and eating lots of fried seafood. We’ll be back to adventures in country and city life next week (if Andrea doesn’t bury us under feet of water). Happy weekend, dears.
These little guys are in. Transplanted in their New York Times paper-starter pots alongside many direct sown seeds they are the only little greenies showing yet in the garden. Boston Pickling cucumbers, Lemon cucumbers (which grow round and yellow), old fashioned White Wonders (which grow fast and white), classic slicing Ashleys, and one solo vine of Costata Romanesca summer squash. While we’ve been waiting and tending and watching and fussing over these precious little heirloom seedlings, we’ve also apparently been forgetting to turn the compost (whoopsie embarrassing). It seems that given half a chance, some cucumber seeds, composted leftovers from last month’s cucumber sandwiches, have sprouted over in the compost bin. Are these little guys from Brooklyn? Hardscrabble seeds flourishing, finding a place to put down roots amongst the Chemex paper coffee grounds and banana peels (and seriously digging the reclaimed-wood-shipping-pallet decor of the compost bin). Brooklyn Cukes indeed. A testament to the power of compost and that maybe we shouldn’t be so precious with our little plants. If they want to grow, they will grow. Can we keep ‘em?
1000 feet of vegetable garden. Perfect row upon row of standing onions, winter savory, bulbous dark cabbages, the beginnings of carrots the ends of broccoli, each variety labeled in a slanting hand with common and latin names (some of the heirloom types the very same varieties that we ordered from the Southern Exposure Seed Exchange for our own tiny-by-comparison plot), some under clay bell jars, some just noticeable from the brick and glass garden-flourishing observation gazebo, the spring-ready plants drawn out with compost-dark soil which, in this Albemarle clay you just KNOW took, well, about 300 years to look this good. That is what Thomas Jefferson has set up at Monticello. Oh Man. Talk about Garden Envy. We’ll just cross our dirt stained fingers and say “someday”…
After our joyous whirlwind in New Orleans, Sweetheart headed back north to the big City and I headed back up the Natchez Trace with Miss McKay into the deep wilds of Mississippi where she makes her home. The plan was to revel in the southern spring, luxuriating in the three hundred mile latitudinal difference between flourishing banks of azaleas (there) and tiny nodding crocuses who blew it by showing up a little too early and then it snowed again (here). The plan was also for me to tag along on McKay’s first full beehive inspection of the season. She comes from a long lineage of beekeepers, and I used to visit her Brooklyn rooftop hives with her a few years ago when we were all gathering nectar in that sweet borough. She writes about her adventures in honey here. Unfortunately, Mississippi’s spring hasn’t sprung any more than Virginia’s, and it was just too cold to open up the hive. So, instead, I just inspected the honey super McKay’s planning on adding to her hive to give them space to grow in the next month, happy to have some up close and personal time with the frames and the drawn comb, with its Fibonacci beauty and funny beautiful irregularities.
Then we went to the canal, down through the Bywater to what is not technically a public park (you have to skirt barbed wire and cross railroad tracks to get there), but which is full of young couples and their dogs and gutterpunks zooming around on their fixed-gear bikes in a perfect facsimile of a public park. The great green earthworks are beautiful, covered in clover, soaring 30 feet up from the lowlands of the upper 9th ward. Arriving at the top, come-heres like us can only stare at the huge brown muddy Missippi lapping at the rocks on the other side of the levee and wonder aghast what it must have been like for it to breach these walls.
A note on this amazing flotsam river robot: Here he is at the very edge of the river (I, typical to form, clambered down there to see him up close and search for treasures). That night there was a gentle rain, the river rose a few feet, and when I went back here with Miss McKay, he was gone.
After a few too many days (or far too few, depending on your point of view) of beer battering and deep frying ourselves, Sweetheart and I lit out of New Orleans headed for the swamp. Listening to WWOZ 90.7 (which just might actually be the “greatest radio station in the known world”, as they say. I recommend judging for yourself here). The great vast and secret network of swamp trails and lagoons that spreads over south Louisiana like a heavy green petticoat has been a place of utter romance and adventure for me since I was little. Daddy used to tell me tales of a one-eyed alligator who wore a beret and an eyepatch and cruised the bayous making merry and trying to stay out of trouble and the sights of hapless poachers named Bubba and Ernest (one time he caught a train to Galveston by rolling off an aqueduct onto a bed of coal-car sugarcane, but that’s another story), followed quickly by Nancy Drew’s bayou adventures, the smoke hazed tales of mooncussers and rum runners using the natural canals for piracy under dead moons, and, of course, the song “The Battle of New Orleans”, which, I believe, is an entirely factually accurate account of said battle (including the part where they use an alligator as a cannon when theirs melts). So. Let’s just say I have a bayou kinship. Our destination: The Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve on the very land where the Battle of New Orleans happened (! in 1814 !), and hiked the four mile bayou trail. We saw two gators (neither in beret or eyepatch, which is just because my gator is too smart to hang out by the trail), a scarlet ibis, and miles and miles of lacy mire, loud with cicadas, and (our luck) full of strange cool breezes. You’d better hope that the next time I see you, I’ll have outgrown the pretty bad cajun accent I acquired walking around these swamps, but it’s not looking good dere, cher.
That’s what the ancient woman in the white dress said: “In New Orleans, you’re never hungry and you’re never lonely”. A motto for the luscious crescent city where I’ve spent the last woozy week, certainly, but crystallized there could be my own personal motto. Never Hungry, Never Lonely. My heart vibrates on that powdered-sugar dusted string. On that resonating note, our incredible hosts told us that if you love New Orleans she’ll love you back, and I think that’s absolutely true. The wet-hot afternoons and perfect spring-chill evenings, the orange blossoms, azaleas, and bougainvillea, the endless strains of music, the big dusky river wind in your hair, the endless flavor and constant cocktail, the ease of it all, never hungry, never lonely. I have a lot to share, so I’ll just start now with some greatest hits:
From top: The incredible beignet choux rolling machine hiding secretly around the back corner at Cafe du Monde, the actually-better-than-Cafe-du-Monde beignet at Cafe Beignet (don’t be fooled into thinking that I had a single morning without a chicory-coffee-and-beignet breakfast at several different locales), Preservation Hall, a tray of 50 cent oysters that we devoured with Sazeracs like good tourists/brilliant geniuses, One of infinite glorious balconies in the French Quarter. That’s some hits, tomorrow, the adventures.
I have something I’ve been meaning to tell you. But then Sandy came along, and the election, and, well, I had some other things I really wanted to say. So. The BIG NEWS. After much discussion, Sweetheart and I are moving into this house. An old farm house with creaky floors and painted ceilings, exposed beams and milk glass fixtures on a decent passel of land that slopes down to a windy, woodsy creek. Because we need space and air and the warmth of a wood fire and a big silence around us where it’s just us but also the joyous noise of a room just for music (!) and a kitchen full of family and a view of the mountains and enough land for a sustaining garden and bees to start and chickens to follow and maybe a goat when it’s really time to settle down and all of the sweet and simple things that shouldn’t just be for vacation. BUT never fear, beloved Brooklyn, because we are ornery and require decent chinese food, because even though she’s been battered around a bit (and she’s battered us around a bit), we aren’t through with New York yet. So, we are also moving from our current apartment into one right up the street, keeping a place in our hearts and our neighborhood, a Brooklyn brownstone floor through right above this guy:BIG NEWS, right? Wanderlust vs. Homesickness, City Mouse vs. Country Mouse, Brownstone vs. Farmhouse, we just couldn’t decide yet. So, we’re going to try for both. Posts here will be fewer and farther between during our big move(s)—which also includes finding a home for unscathed furniture for the flooded Rockaway house, just for fun— but you can follow our adventures over on Instagram (@featherbyfeather) in the meantime. In love and nesting.
After glimpsing them in New York harbor during fleet week, and seeing them streaming sails across the mouth of the Chesapeake, Daddy and I cruised down to Harborfest to see the stunning tall ships in all their furled glory. I told you I love ships. Gilded figureheads in the golden hour, fireworks amidst the riggings at sundown, all the ships in the harbor sounding their horns at once, a rude and glorious symphony—as from Whitman:
Chant on, sail on, bear o’er the boundless blue from me to every sea,
This song for mariners and all their ships.
ps. and a very happy birthday to Sweetheart… I can’t wait to share the celebration!