Things I didn’t even tell you

findsHoly Moly, fizz bang oh gee oh wow here we are January, the new year fresh and slick and new and bold and damp and chilly and begging us for a little introspection and respite, a rest from the rest (which I think technically means DOING), the ever-so-slightly-longer twilights an invitation to remember what takes me by surprise every year, the full-against-the-skin feeling of Spring that you get when you can finally sleep with your windows open. But I’m getting ahead of myself, that’s still a long ways away. Darling Rav reminded me today of our joint resolution, the one that we made hand in hand last year at midnight in Cleveland, just the two of us in the fat falling snow drinking bubbles out of impossibly tiny pink glasses. Not a New Years resolution, per se, but a general resolution buoyed by January’s optimistic fresh-startness. The resolution is one you might hear a lot around here: Just Say Yes. Say Yes when it’s easy, Say Yes when perhaps you ought to say No, The world needs more Yes. The world also needs more of this polaroid of me and sweetheart on a ferry in Delaware three days after our wedding. polaroid

Just sayin. This year has been an incredible one for the yes-saying. The doing. The VALHALLA of it all, the grabbing onto the reins and holding on for dear life (which is dearer every moment). And in light of it all, in the trying to do and breathe and live it all the most, I just feel like there are just SO many things I haven’t even told you. For example: did you know Sweetheart and I bought a 1978 tow-behind 13 foot Scamp Travel Trailer for our Honeymoon?scamp

We used it as a photobooth at our wedding. Then we took it on the road. It’s amazing. Details… to follow? Also, did you know: if you get married some people will give you money as a gift? I didn’t know this and was incredibly surprised. But lo and behold, after our wedding we had a small nest egg and that we wanted to do something awesome with it (like, not just pay our bills with it). So, we bought a special Japanese woodstove and a 300 gallon tank that you use to water cattle and built ourselves a wood-fired hot tub and put it back in the woods by where we got married. I don’t have a good picture of this because we only soak in the witching hours of night by the light of the moon (or the fairy stars of the disco ball that our dear Jay hung in the forest for our wedding before he up and married us). But here’s a dark picture of my very pink post-soak feet in Rav’s hobbit shoes and my tie-dyed bathrobe and my so-curious-he’s-blurry-cat (or maybe that’s bigfoot):woodfiredfeet

Also also also, I made fire cider, a crazy herbal remedy that made my mouth sweat but cleared my sinuses, and I made boiled apple cider syrup, and I made gold leaf oyster shell salt cellars, and also also also did you know we harvested FIVE GALLONS of honey from our bees this year? And did you know (unrelated to the honey harvest) we also lost one of our hives? And I sprained my ankle and got a new pair of work boots and gloves. And I fell in love with my littlest cousins. And my oldest cousins. And Sweetheart and I dressed as Annie Hall for Halloween. AND BONIN’ (which is its own story). And I also learned how to shoot a bow and arrow and how to fix a trailer hitch and how to make a flower crown and how to smoke a turkey and how to wire a battery and how to make ramen from scratch and how not to stall out driving a stick shift at a boite diabolique aka toll plaza (ok I only kind of learned that) and how to order a crepe and how to navigate using a baguette and how to cook piquillo peppers and how to get to South Carolina the slow way and how to sell smoked trout and how to pour txakoli from very high into a glass and how to bone a chicken and how to make peach jam and how to tie dye and how to bless a day and how not to cry when you’re singing in someone’s wedding but it’s just so everything you cry anyway but how to hide it pretty good I guess and how to replace studs and rebuild a floor and just how damn good the movie Mannequin is and how to light a menorah (not all at once, one candle each day) and when to plant a peach tree and how to show up and how good my people are and how to do a medicine card reading and consequently that I need to get my frog buns submerged into water every day if at all possible (see: wood fired hot-tub) and how to stay on the chair when you’re actually in a horah dance (knowledge never to be needed again) how to really shuck an oyster and how to write wedding vows that are so true and electric they make your heart swell up to bursting with pride and fierce passion and how to try and live that way forever and and and… Well I guess I’ve been saying yes. Success. Here’s to another year of it. And. I’ll try and share better, yes?

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The Good Light

artsandfartsandcrafts

This is the view of the table from this past hen weekend. Birds, feathers, leathers, crystals, palo santo sticks, essential oils, craft supplies, champagne, and the dear paws of my best friends. Perfect timing for this, from Mama:

“The best friendships are like mirrors that show you in exceptionally flattering lighting.”

Thank you, dear ones, for always being my 6pm golden hour sunlight and never being a compact fluorescent.

 

The Hen Do

Fairy-Party

Ann Marie will be here any minute and we will depart today for the southlands. We’re heading to the deep lowland coast, hoping to find it dripping with Spanish Moss which will in turn be dripping with Champagne. I find myself, ahem, a Bachelorette. When we celebrated dear Meags, she sent us this article, comparing the British “hen do” with the tequila-shot-fueled furor of the modern American bachelorette party. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love tequila, I love the vibe of that article, and, most of all I love the thought of being able to use the fact of my bachelorette-hood as a fulcrum with which to reunite my most favorite ladies, to draw my dear ones like tides from various corners of the world to swell up together towards the moon and crash against the sandy shores of the low country. And the ladies got together without me and made a manifesto. So we will surround ourselves with wildflowers and crystals and bones and cook and eat and revel and wear feathers and eat peaches and swim and tie dye and anoint ourselves with oil and celebrate love and each other and, well, me I guess. We will hold the lion’s paw:

 

I hold the Lion’s Paw
Whenever I dance.

I know the ecstasy of the falcon’s wings
When they make love against the sky,

And the sun and moon
Sometimes argue over
Who will tuck me in at night.

If you think I am having more fun
Than anyone on this planet
You are absolutely correct.

But Hafiz
Is willing to share all his secrets
About how to befriend God.

Indeed, dear ones,
Hafiz is so very willing
To share all his secrets

About how to know the
Beautiful
One.

I hold the Lion’s Paw whenever I dance.
I know the ecstasy of your heart’s wings
When they make love against the Sky,

And the sun and moon
Will someday argue over
Who will tuck you in at
Night!

Hafiz, 1389

 

ever lovin’ Mama found that amazing image of the fairy party, I think it will be exactly like this, drinking out of flowers and toasting to the sky while a bug brings us refills.

From Blossoms

freshpeaches

It couldn’t seem like better timing, just as the bee knows when the nectar flows and the hummingbird passes by in his yearly stride, to simply take an impromptu left instead of a right and go down the beautiful winding road that takes me to the peach orchard. As if guided by an unseen compass, the call of the peach, the country song on the radio “Others who broke my heart they were like Northern stars/Pointing me on my way into your loving arms/This much I know is true/That God blessed the broken road/That led me straight to you” GAH what is this…country music radio is KILLING it these days for me.

It’s peach season, and it’s wedding season, and it’s adventure season, and it’s firefly season, and it’s baseball season and I am surrounded by love. Coming back from another sweet + heart-full trip south, seeing one of my dearests free to be true and honest in sorrow and joy and held up, that honesty celebrated, by the love she chose (a goosebump, a boom, a fist pump, a blossoming garden, full of possibility and hope, this is just right)…and now packing for the great trip north, kicked off by a celebration of one of the greatest loves I’ve ever seen, pure and fierce and kind and smelling of sage and wildflower honey… So. In with the enamel coffee cups and the scarves and the horizontally striped shirts, go a gallon of peach cider, six impulse peach donuts, and two pecks of glorious dusty skinned peaches. Coming with me to spread their southern sweetness, to hold in our hands and adore, from blossoms to the sweet improbability of something so perfect in spite of everything else. So this. This poem seems to be just the heart of it. The. whole. shebang.

From Blossoms

by Li-Young Lee

From blossoms comes
this brown paper bag of peaches
we bought from the boy
at the bend in the road where we turned toward
signs painted Peaches.

From laden boughs, from hands,
from sweet fellowship in the bins,
comes nectar at the roadside, succulent
peaches we devour, dusty skin and all,
comes the familiar dust of summer, dust we eat.

O, to take what we love inside,
to carry within us an orchard, to eat
not only the skin, but the shade,
not only the sugar, but the days, to hold
the fruit in our hands, adore it, then bite into
the round jubilance of peach.

There are days we live
as if death were nowhere
in the background; from joy
to joy to joy, from wing to wing,
from blossom to blossom to
impossible blossom, to sweet impossible blossom.

The Spark(plug)

IMG_1254Sometimes all it takes to get you back on track is for you to grab your Sweetheart, pull on your working jeans and steel toe boots, take the little white pickup truck over the mountain (max speed 45mph), put the windows down, turn Hitkicker Country on the radio up, and get a new sparkplug for the chainsaw. Take a deep breath, notice this everything, feel that spark. Then go cut some shit down.

Calf Mountain

calfmountainclimbOh, our valley. Our little farmhouse is nestled, as we like to say “in the shadow of the Blue Ridge Mountains”, and this isn’t necessarily, literally, true since the honest, round shouldered mountains I look up at from my kitchen sink are too kind to throw their shadows over us. Instead those mountains, my mountains, Buck’s Elbow, Calf Mountain, and the big mama, Afton, lie quiet and strong, old and wise, the Farmer’s Almanac to the Rocky Mountains’ Motorcycle Diaries, close enough to touch, and easy enough to climb. In the winter sunlight, their bare branched sides look like tawny brushed velvet from the middle distance, and in the far away reaches of the valley, they do, indeed look blue. We’ve explored up and down the back side of Calf Mountain from the windy switchbacks that rise above the peach orchard, an adventurous drive that requires kicking it into 4 wheel and along which live several beekeepers who keep their bee yards fenced in electric wires (by necessity they have to be more serious about bears than we do), but we hadn’t ever taken the swift and easy hike to the top of it via the Appalachian Trail.calfmountainappletreemeadowCold, clear, and winding through golden chaffed meadows dotted with relics of ancient apple trees, the most amazing thing about the simple hour or two we spent taking our time was (duh) the view from the top. Calf Mountain rises, stately, and, again quietly, between two valleys, ours, the Rockfish to the east, and on the other side, the legendary Shenandoah to the west. From the top of it, you can sit quietly in the still, warm, shadow of the wind, and see the valleys, spreading away from Afton in front of you like slow honey off into the distance, the peaks bluer and softer as they hold hands and walk farther and farther away, chiaoscuroed by the smokes of a thousand woodstoves as far as the eye can see.calfmountainpanoramaForgive the awkward stitching on this photo, it was too majestic not to even try to capture it…

And then there was Thanksgivukkah

susthanksgivukkahAnd as you probably know by now, this was the first and last year in our lifetimes (and for another few lifetimes yet) that Hanukkah and Thanksgiving overlapped. Hanukkah has always felt exactly like a time of miracles. By virtue of timing, it was one of the first Jewish holidays I spent with Sweetheart’s family, where I rode the Staten Island ferry for the first time (and drank a beer on the way, because a) you can, there’s a bar on it! b) I was a little nervous). It was raining that day and I wore a scarf tied over my hair, and when he picked me up from the ferry, Sweetheart’s Uncle Bill said “You look like you belong”. Always a bustle of sisters in the kitchen, I volunteered to fry the latkes. This, I know now, is the most detestable of tasks, uniformly disliked by all mamelahs, so that ended up a point in my favor, but all I knew then was that though I might not know all of the traditions, I at least knew how to fry. One of my best, earliest memories of Sweetheart’s divine Aunt Sheila is her coming into that Staten Island kitchen like a ship, peering over my shoulder and giving me the benediction in her wonderful storyteller’s voice I love so: “You’ve fried before”. This, the exact center of the Southern-Jewish venn diagram: deep fried potatoes and the honor of the matriarch. This year, we took it down south, Sweetheart consulted the oracles (his mama, his aunt, and Mimi Sheraton) and made and cooked the latkes (a point in his favor) in lieu of mashed potatoes, we had a brisket, we lit the candles, we said the words, and we had this electric menorah that made it through the flood and still worked. A season of miracles, a year of family, a feast of thanks.

Peach Pie

PeachPieSo I told you I was going to make a peach pie with the 8,759,428 peaches we picked, and I did. A little vanilla ice cream, some fireflies, a few dear friends, and a last minute switch from an-all-too-shallow standard pie plate to a just-perfectly-deep cast iron skillet to handle all of the peaches and we had quite a summer treat on our hands.

Peach Pie
(recipe lifted/half-assed by the addition of store bought pie-crusts/slightly adapted with joy from Smitten Kitchen)

This is a classic peach pie with no frills, because peach pie needs no frills to be fantastic. Let this pie convince you. I like to split the sugar between white granulated and light brown for best flavor without too much of a muddy beige color. Feel free to use all of one or the other, or bump up the sugar if you think you’d like the pie sweeter.

2 store bought pie crusts
About 3 1/2 pounds peaches (approximately 6 large, 7 medium or 8 small)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, from about half a regular lemon
1/4 cup granulated sugar (see note up top; use 1/3 cup for a sweeter pie)
1/4 cup light brown sugar (ditto)
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Few gratings of fresh nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon table salt
3 tablespoons cornstarch

To finish
1 tablespoon milk, cream or water
1 tablespoon coarse or granulated sugar

Bring a large saucepan of water to boil. Prepare an ice bath. Make a small x at the bottom of each peach. Once water is boiling, lower peaches, as many as you can fit at once, into saucepan and poach for two minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to ice bath for one minute to cool. Transfer peaches to cutting board and peel the skins. In most cases, the boiling-then-cold water will loosen the skins and they’ll slip right off. In the case of some stubborn peaches, they will stay intact and you can peel them with a paring knife or vegetable peeler and curse the person who made you waste your time with poaching fruit.

Halve and pit the peaches, then into about 1/3-inch thick slices. You’ll want 6 cups; it’s okay if you go a little over. Add to a large bowl and toss with lemon juice. In a small dish, stir together sugars, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and cornstarch until evenly mixed. Add to peaches and toss to evenly coat.

Preheat: Oven to 425 degrees.

Assemble your pie: Put one pie dough in the bottom of the pie pan, trim the overhang to one inch.

Scoop filling into bottom pie dough, including any accumulated juices (they contain the thickener too, also: tastiness).

If you’d like to make a regular lidded pie, use it as is, cutting some decorative vents in the pie lid before baking. To make a lattice-top pie, cut the pie dough into strips anywhere from 1/2 to 1-inch wide with a pastry wheel, pizza wheel or knife. Arrange every other strip across your pie filling in one direction, spacing the strips evenly. Fold back every other strip gently on itself and add the longest remaining strip in the other direction. Fold the strips back down, repeat with the other strips until a full lattice-top is formed. Trim the lattice’s overhang to the diameter of the pie dish’s rim. Gently fold the rim of the bottom crust over the lattice strips and crimp decoratively.

To finish:Brush pie with milk, cream or water and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake pie: For about 20 minutes in the preheated oven, until the crust is set and beginning to brown. Reduce oven temperature to 375 and bake pie for another 30 to 40 minutes, until filling is bubbling all over and the crust is a nice golden brown. If the pie lid browns too quickly at any point in the baking process, you can cover it with foil for the remaining baking time to prevent further browning.

Cool pie: For three hours at room temperature before serving. I know you won’t listen to me — there’s hot delicious pie to be eaten, after all — but if you’re concerned about the runniness of the pie filling, keep in mind that the pie filling does not fully thicken until it is fully cool. Pie can be stored at room temperature or in the fridge; from the fridge, it will be even thicker.

Sweet Stormy South

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.

Seeds don’t care where they grow

CucumberSeedlingsThese 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).CompostSprouts 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?CompostSprouts1