Don’t forget to vote today. If you don’t you could end up with someone’s mangy hands all over your exposed bosom, and that’s not even the worst of it. Death be always to tyrants, and let me decide what to do with my own bosoms (and everything else) thankyouverymuch.
Peaches in the summertime, Apples in the fall, if I can’t have the girl I love, I don’t want none at all. We’re in the thick of it right now, the sweet-hot afternoons where the orchards that line the country roads leading to our house burst forth in a rush of sun-warmed peaches that are so sweet and juicy, taking a bite, sinking your teeth right in, juice running down your chin, has you saying “ARE YOU KIDDING ME!?” because you just can’t believe that something that truly incredible, miraculous, sweet and fresh and tart and mouth round just came right off a tree. My sweet little cousins came for a visit from the west coast, and we had a true southern summer day- swimming hole, fireflies, and fresh peach picking of course. On the agenda for tonight: pie.
Today THE BEES ARRIVE! I hoofed it back from a whirlwind time in New York specifically for their arrival. A Bee Meeting. My Mama and I will don our suits and veils and drive “Yota” (our little old pickup truck that has a tape player and only two tapes in it- Bob Marley’s “Natural Mystic” and Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young’s “Deja Vu”, not too bad if you have to only listen to two tapes for eternity) and drive out past Zion’s Crossroads to pick up our little ladies. When we bring them home we’ll install them in the hive bodies and frames we’ve built from scratch, the frames numbered with the year so, with hope for the future, we’ll be able to re-use comb and frames and know which hive the wax came from, the hive bodies themselves painted a very pale pink (my mother’s day present to sweet Maman). Photos and beeswaxing poetic to come later.
After a weekend of bossing around the men with machines, Mama decided that we would spend Sunday roadtripping down the lusty curves of our favorite country roads to Thomas Jefferson’s personal retreat, Poplar Forest. The destination proved totally appropriate as the removal of a bunch of junk trees in our own backyard has revealed our own small tulip poplar stand, ringing a clearing in our woods. TJ himself called the Tulip Poplar “The Juno of our Groves” when he sent some seeds on to a friend in Paris, and we too are enamored of them since their yellow flower will be a favorite nectar source of our beloved yet-to-arrive-due-to-ongoing-unseasonable-cold-weather bees. The afternoon, glorious, our little family borne about the grounds of the old estate like seeds on the breeze, and we are certain Jefferson would have approved of our continental picnic of crusty bread, various charcuteries, olives, a ripe pear, Cowgirl Creamery cheeses- favorites Mt. Tam and Red Hawk, and, of course, cold rosé. In short, a perfect day for Mamas and everyone. Poplar Forest is to Monticello what Rockaway is to East Hampton- more casual, less people, a little rough around the edges, but if you know what you’re looking for and enjoy simple pleasures, it’s just as good (if maybe not a little better), vegetable garden small and do-able, serpentine wall in elegant decay, slightly falling down.
This Saturday was Thomas Jefferson’s 270th birthday, so naturally, we went to celebrate it at his house. Monticello is smaller than you might imagine, a mansion on a hill, sure, but gentle in its proportions, the elegant, perfectly appointed rooms small by current American standards. My love affair with TJ has been long and generally University-of-Virginia-Statute-of-Religious-Freedom-Declaration-of-Independence based, but (especially in light of my recent bent of homemaking, garden digging, and general musings on having things just the way I want them) his house really had me in a swoon. A parlor full of antlers, bones, and special weighted clocks, a bedside hothouse with tuberose and gardenia, maps and feathers and natural specimens, a dumbwaiter hidden in a fireplace specifically for bringing wine from cellar to table? Mr. Jefferson, you are my kind of guy. And Albemarle County was in her effortless spring splendor, you can see why the man picked this spot, his little mountain, Monticello. Happy Birthday.
Before we left for New Orleans, Sweetheart and I pored over the seed catalogs I ordered back during the cold, dark months. We decided to order from the Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, an organic seed saving co-operative that’s about an hour away from us, figuring that whatever persnickety planting instructions they might have would ring true for us too. We were intoxicated with the sheer HOPE of the whole thing, the tiny paper packets full of possibility, with their seductive heirloom names (Lazy Wife Greasy Bean, Drunken Woman Lettuce, Ice Cream Melon, Whippoorwill Southern Pea, Yellow Moon and Stars Watermelon), and family origin stories (Violet’s Multicolored Butterbean: saved by 4 generations of Violet Brady Westbrook’s family, Banks County, GA, Turkey’s Craw Bean: according to folklore, a hunter shot a turkey and removed a bean from its craw; the bean was later planted and saved, hence the name Turkey Craw). When we returned we had a fat package of seeds waiting for us. We awoke to a frost today, but we’ve got to get our buns in gear! Dirt under our fingernails, the sun on our shoulders, the possibility of the soil, we are drunk with it.
Crossed off THE LIST, Number 7: Go to Blue Mountain Brewery for some delectable beers. The tail end of the two Blue Mountain kegs we’d gotten for my birthday sustained us through the holidays and facilitated some awesome snow-bound-beer-fueled Homeland marathons, but we’d finally killed them and we wanted more. We drove west, a few miles up the road (right past where we got the Christmas tree) just as the sun was setting, the hills bathed in gilt-bright light until right when we pulled up to the Brewery. So we sat, just at the golden moment, behind huge glass windows to watch the sky turn that sweet pink into twilight that happens only after the sun has gone. And, incredibly, this ten beer tasting flight was only $9. Paradise? It’s on the list.
After the holiday melee, Sweetheart and I finally had dinner, sitting just the two of us at our big dining room table next to the woodstove, talking about the day’s hike, the things done and yet to do, the possibilities of earth, of time, and of adventure. After a few glasses of wine and the third or fourth “we should really do ______” or “we need to go check out ______”, we decided we’d just make a list. Actually write down everything we could think of right off the bat, all of the old haunts and new enterprises, the suggestions and mandates and secret spots people have shared with us so far, and just go through it and cross them off, one by one. And, of course, we’re going to do the same thing when we get back to Brooklyn. Never fear, we will keep you posted.
Everyone knows about New York’s neighborhoods. You emerge out of the train in Sunset Park or SoHo or Chinatown or the Upper West Side or the very edge of the East Village and somehow even the air feels different. It’s something that is uniquely New York, a distinct feeling, palpable, from the architecture to the contents of the bodegas… But, there’s a funny thing about New York, which is that within the oft-discussed boundaries of each neighborhood, every single solitary New Yorker has built their own world. A constellation of grocers, wine stores, dive bars, pizza places, cheap chinese joints, laundromats, and coffee spots that is ever-shifting and truly personal, a perfect alchemy of your cross streets and your heartstrings. You are fiercely loyal to your go-to spots… until they’re a block or two out of the way. We moved a mere eight blocks from our old spot, hop-skipping due east, across TWO actual, proven neighborhood boundaries, right into Bedford-Stuyvesant. Eight blocks is not a lot, but with that slight geographical maneuver came a great shift. A brave new world. Just eight blocks up Fulton street is the difference between Provisions’ grass fed beef from local New York farms and a man loading a freshly skinned halal goat from the back of a truck into a shopping cart (I would like to eat both of those, please). I spent a few days just walking around, eating tiny warm pastries from the bakery up the block, falling in love with the strange pizza-making Frenchmen listening to Nina Simone AND the soccer on the tube both at top decibels, triangulating trains, testing the air, exploring… I’ve had a few excellent adventures already, and can’t wait to share them with you. Soon.
Brooklyn map from Ork– we’ve had this hanging in our kitchen for years now, and I actually use it almost daily as a reference map.