How long had it been since my last girls’ weekend? Ages. (Really.) Even longer since I’d seen my two friends (high school). We met at the Buckhorn Inn, a lovely bed and breakfast in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Mornings started with tasty breakfasts and a stroll to visit the inn’s swans, Penn and Teller. Swans are like geese–they bite! We still brought them bread to nibble.We spent the weekend meandering around the nearby parts of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, a peaceful backdrop for reminiscing.Roadside view.One of the old homestead cabins. A reminder of the pioneers’ hard lives.One of many roadside waterfalls. Blink and you’ll miss them.Deer know when it’s hunting season … and where. They are happy to come out and play. Even those of us who drive past don’t disturb the young deer feeding nearby.Street life takes on a different meaning here.When you stop traffic, you can take as long as you like.Some preferred to simply pass through without fanfare.A rare moment without cars.Joli and Patty.
While Bryon is tilling the garden, I am nearly on the other side of the world. Instead of picking up my regular trusty camera and walking down past the chickens and apple trees I snap what whizzes past in the chaos that is daily life in Ethiopia’s capital with a pocket Point & Shoot. The first few days it looks like this–a jumble of cars, tin shacks, and people.My driver honks to warn oncoming jaywalkers (one has a package perched on his head).How do you handle the load? Any way that works.Apparently there are no height restrictions on moving goods by truck.From where I sat (trapped in a van), it was difficult to photograph people as they went about their business. Local women cover their hair, and sometimes their faces. Once when I ventured into the nearby market, one of the hotel staff offered to show me where to buy cheaper souvenirs. Perhaps he was only trying to be friendly, but I was alone and it made me uneasy.Near the souvenir market. Dogs are part of the neighborhood.Addis is changing. A lot of construction is underway: shopping malls, luxury highrises, office buildings.A local grocery.Barricades separate construction sites from the traffic.Yesterday we were running late, so our driver took a shortcut … … through a construction zone.Metal shacks with satellite dishes: that pretty much sums up the contradictions.
While people far away are stuck in the grips of the polar vortex, Bryon and I ponder the garden. It had become almost feral during the August peak, but now it was simply unruly.It was past time to get it under some sort of control. The alternative was to be invaded by more sorrel, sweet potatoes, and rosemary. We also decided that grape tomatoes were more trouble than they are worth–better to grow Romas or San Marzanos. First things first: major clean up. The renegade sweet potatoes, peppers, and rosemary were dug up and tossed over the fence. How many pounds of old, purple, gold, or puny potatoes were excavated as we raked our way toward the coop? At least 40, but they’re long gone–eaten by one of the night critters.
It’s January, or at least that’s what the calendar says. Last Sunday, the thermometer said otherwise: 72 degrees.California drought conditions are widespread and severe, and farther north there are fires.Although the land is not exempt from the heat, the effects are mildly tempered by its location near the reservoir.This is a popular trail with cyclists, joggers, and hikers. Bryon and I did a 3-mile round-trip hike, but it’s possible to do a longer one.Miners’ lettuce. It actually has a mild flavor. I had no idea why it was left there.Leaves along the trail.
Final grades were posted, and tuition bills paid–just in time. The boys loaded backpacks into the car and headed home ahead of the pre-Christmas cold front coming to Flagstaff. The day after Christmas was set aside for family time in the garden. Here is a view from the chicken coop. Bok choy always grows well in our gardens. This came from the upper beds Bryon and I planted a few weeks ago.Bryon rigged the framing himself and draped the netting over it. Plastic sheeting covered both beds while the seeds were sprouting.Some of our lettuce (and a stowaway). Volunteer plants sneak into the beds and make themselves at home. Not all of them are weeds.Some, but not all, of the persimmons are ripe. This is the first year the deer, raccoons, and coyotes didn’t get to the fruit first.Lemons! Time for tea.Bryon and the boys digging for sweet potatoes. He and I had already harvested a wheelbarrow full of them for Thanksgiving, and there were plenty left down there.The goal was to dig them out intact.Nick, with one of our sweet potatoes. They dug out several of these, which we estimate weigh at least five or six pounds. Even now we can still scrounge a ripe pepper or two. Sweet potato leaves, which give a hint of what’s growing on runners in the soil below.The final haul? We estimated about two hundred pounds of sweet potatoes. Let’s see … there’s soup, bread, pie, stew …
The summer is winding down, and so much remains undone.I have to watch where I step, because it is almost late afternoon. Snakes may be underfoot.Parsley to the left of me, potatoes to the right.The soil is quite rich. (Hat tip to our mulch pile, fortified by chicken manure).Black beans, which dried on the vine.Garlic, a work in progress. Replanting the garlic. Investing in the culinary future.Tiger melons, stalking the jungle.“Even when the garden doesn’t look its best, you can always find enough here to eat for a day.” (Easily.)The sorrel was planted last year. Bryon tilled the soil, turning over what was left, and it just kept growing.A sweet potato lurking in the center of a wheel of roots and leaves.Casaba melon, very sweet and floral. Also good in fruit smoothies.One of today’s harvest.
During the week Bryon filled several buckets with the Fuji and Pink Lady apples from our trees. By Sunday afternoon there were a dozen jar filled with delicious treats (and a couple of gallon bags stashed in the pantry as well for earlier snacking). The fact that we still have a couple of trees producing apples was reason enough to splurge on a larger dehydrator. This year we only did the apples … imagine what we’ll be able to do next summer if we prepare and start early–peaches, apricots, plums, and nectarines. I’m not even including the vegetables. Yikes!
The birds know when they ripen before we do. It has become a race to pluck our Pink Ladies, walk off with our Wealthys, or snatch our Suntans. The apples mature at different times, and some varieties are better for cooking, eating, or pollinating.But what do you with all of them? How much pie can you bake? (Julian, the self-proclaimed apple-pie capital of our region, has this covered. Trust me on this.)First, Bryon needs to peel them. (The deer have assured us that the peels and cores do not go to waste.)Soaking them in a bath of cinnamon, citric acid and a little sugar helps preserve color and flavor.WeWe have four layers of drying apples. With patience (and a little self-control) we can enjoy a tasty snack.The persimmons are also ripening on the tree, but the last few years have taught us that patience is not always a virtue. The raccoons have beaten us to the prize nearly every time.
It’s a typical Saturday ritual: I’m catching up on work.
“Oh no, I couldn’t–it’s too pretty.” (This is a French heirloom pumpkin crossed with a Jarrahdale.)“Do we have the ingredients?”We only needed the white part of the leek.Some fennel …A few white potatoes …African red onions …and some shallots. (Bryon’s shallots have done well this year.)The carrots would be put to use another time. It was easier–and harder–to concentrate with a pot simmering on the stove nearby.