jacktellslies: (sebastian)
I'm drinking a bottle of the cider I started brewing in... February? March? Cider is more like wine than beer, so you can ignore it for as long as you like and, as it will only keep improving in flavour and alcohol content, you get to feel productive the entire time. I'm not sure I'd realised quite how long I'd been ignoring it, though. I only just bottled up the last of it a couple of days ago. The verdict? I think it's good! My friends claim to be excited when I offer to bring them some more, and even strangers, warned that they're about to experience my first attempted home brew, seem to be consistently pleasantly surprised. And goodness me, but the stuff gets one crunk rather quickly. Apologies if grammatical mistakes accumulate towards the end of this missive.

Now that it's all bottled up, I'm plotting my next batch in earnest. I'll admit that I've been pining for a more professional brewer's recycled, and therefore interestingly flavoured, wooden barrel. But I always hesitate to obtain anything expensive, or heavy, anything that I might want to keep. I'm buying some land somewhere one day, and as soon as I get there I'm buying a set of fantastically well-crafted knives of the sort that give young fish nightmares, a cask, and I'm building a beehive. And it seems silly to rush off towards the expensive equipment with only a single try behind me. This one was made with only a plastic bucket, my favourite local cider and, at the time, my favourite local raw honey, a bit of brown sugar, and some white wine yeast. This time I'm considering some wood chips, as a test of whether or not I deserve or require a wooden vessel, and perhaps a touch of cloves and cinnamon. I also managed to scavenge a second appropriately sized food grade bucket from the bakery's recycling bin at work the other day. I'm not particularly offended by the cloudy brew obtained from doing everything in one container, but apparently one can improve the clarity by siphoning everything but the bulk of the dead yeast that has settled to the bottom into a second. I don't turn down gifts from the crossroads gods, so I'll do it in the name of science.

A couple of days ago I had the best day in recent memory.

~ I bottled the cider.

~ I started some seeds: another round of spinach, onions, purple and orange carrots, parsnips, and a variety of red lettuces. (I'm a fool for unusually coloured vegetables.)

~ We've been selling fig trees at my shop. They're small and don't cost much. I don't plan on staying in this house indefinitely, and the lot next to my house isn't mine, but there ought to be trees in the ghetto, and fruit-bearing trees at that. So I'd been admiring them, gazing at them dreamily while I worked. While watering my potted potatoes and slug-ravaged cabbages and my herbs and roses in the back, I noticed a leaf waving at me over the wall. It looked very much like a fig leaf. I'd not explored the side lot much since the spring, as it's become beautifully overgrown. The little trees that were barely my height when I cleaned up the lot on the first warm days of the year are now about the size of my house, and, I'm pleased to report, no one could climb through the lot to my back door at night. We're guarded by underbrush. I climbed through the alley, over jagged cement and tall weeds, and found two fig trees, about my height, right where I'd wanted to plant one. I cursed for surprise, felt up their fuzzy leaves and branches. I have no idea what variety they are, or whether or not they'll bear fruit. I'll find out in the fall, I suppose. I'd seen them around in my neighbourhood before, but I assumed that they'd been planted deliberately. How strange and good.

~ I visited my community garden plot to find tomatoes, green but plump, some squash growing on their sprawling vine, ripe blueberries, and the first nubs of what will eventually become yellow bell peppers.

~ On the way to work I passed the mammoth, healthy grapevine owned by a neighbour but spilling into their back walkway right where it opens onto the street. I'd been watching the full bunches of grapes, waiting for them to ripen, and I grew impatient. I tasted one. It was sour, but it's getting close.

~ I'm starting to consider raising rabbits for food.

~ I cleaned a bit. I drank some tea. The ability to drink tea without rushing is often the mark of a good day.

~At work we were massively busy, but I worked with a favourite fishmonger friend of mine. His father builds and reconstructs old barns, so I mentioned that if he happened to hear of anyone who might be willing to teach me to butcher livestock or raise bees to please let me know. And apparently everyone in his family, parents, aunts and uncles, cousins, raise bees. So he's attempting to get me an invitation to help the next time someone harvests honey. Bees! Honey!

~ ...and I had a crying orgasm.
jacktellslies: (sebastian)
Today I stayed in bed with my partner until one. I then had a proper, civilised lunch of exciting cheeses, some good bread, honey, olives, roasted peppers, and grapes. I went outside to play in the dirt and do the first work on my new community garden plot. The edges were straightened and expanded to encompass the full space allowed, weeds were pulled, and I did what I could towards improving the soil, although I'm not yet done on that front. Now I'm having a simple dinner of salmon sautéed in good balsamic vinaigrette and brown sugar, asparagus, and cider I brewed myself. This was an exceptionally good day. I'm about to curl up with a gardening reference book and some dark chocolate with orange zest, and I'll sleep absurdly early so I can wake up in time to start work tomorrow at five. Goodnight, lovers.

Edited to add: goodness, but the cider I made is a bit strong!
jacktellslies: (this machine)
I very recently inherited my family's copy of the original Square Foot Garden. I remember that garden, three plots planted diagonally, directly in the middle of my family's back yard. I remember eating snap peas and running into tomato plants in an attempted backwards dash across the yard. I was probably about five. I knew that my family had done this, and that they were fairly good at it. I knew that my father had planted all of the trees in that yard when he was young, a good many, and that several of them grew diseased and died at the same time that he did. But as I turn through the book, I find things. There are notes and lists in my grandmother's hand. There is a card written by my father bearing the address of the site where I just went to pick up free compost from the city. And they were growing organic! I had no idea. It all seems a bit unlike the things in which they were interested when I was older. So it's interesting to start digging and find my family already there. I'll dig up their bones and stake my tomatoes on them.

Bealtaine.

May. 1st, 2009 10:33 am
jacktellslies: (bear girl)
My garden is small but good. My mother just gave me a gift of herbs growing in a pot far nicer than the ones I usually manage to salvage. I spent a couple of days recently cleaning up the abandoned lot next to my house. I found construction materials from the people who refurbished my house, cement and paint poured onto the ground, beer bottles and cans from neighbours, children's juice boxes, and useful things: bricks and cinder blocks I'm using for other projects, snail shells I kept, pretty bits of glass and metal, and enough empty and untorn trash bags to fit all of the junk that I cleaned up. And I found so many worms! My niece came to visit me one day, and we collected them in a cup and put them to work as slaves in the mines of my compost pit. The lot looks far better now. I plan to put down some pretty groundcover in the front part in hopes that it will prevent people from dumping things there again, and maybe building some raised beds in the back.

I had my first couch surfing guest come to stay with me. He is an American, from farther North than I am, and hoping to move to Philadelphia. He's a terribly sweet anarchist named Bobby who likes spending time in the sun on his roof, and writing poetry, and hoping to learn to build furniture so that he can move with almost nothing but tools and build what he needs when he gets here. We liked one another immediately. I took him on a walk through my city, almost an accident of good streets and local markets and parks on our way to meet some of my friends. He was so thrilled with all of it, and liked my tribe so much. The next day Whitney and I started to plan for our early Bealtaine celebration, and he joined us, first coming with us to our favourite stalls at Reading Terminal Market. Then we had a good adventure, searching for firewood in the city for the evening's bonfire. I wore a big backpack, and sticks and twigs and lumber stuck out of the top of it, making me look like a proud wicker man. We carried seed bombs with us while we explored, dry little balls of compost and clay and seeds, and tossed them into empty patches of dirt that needed some flowers to fill them. We collected huge quantities of moss, too, which I later fed to my blender along with beer and yogurt and sugar. We painted it on the walls of my back yard, sharing what was left of the beer, toasting with the moss. Now we mist it and wait for it to grow.

Bobby had to pack up and get on a bus before the party. That evening more friends came, and we lit a big fire with sparking pine branches and the things that we'd gathered. Whitney made a salad with strawberries, raw goats' milk cheese, excellent balsamic vinaigrette, and caramelised pecans. She made asparagus and mushrooms too. I always admire the local royal trumpets and oyster mushrooms at my market, but I usually settle for the far cheaper criminis. It was nice to finally have reason enough take a few of the fancy ones home.
jacktellslies: (crow)
My gods are silent and distant, and at times I hate them for it.

At yoga today my instructor, who is Jewish but non-practising ("I only practice yoga," she likes to quip) commented before shavasana on the idea of Sabbath, on rest as a form of worship. In a small yet appropriately divine voice Nick whispered, "Hey. Didn't I tell you to do this yesterday?"

Carla, poised as always, not looking up from her pose, countered him: "Shut up, altar."

I long for a world that speaks. There are moments, sure, but it's not something I've ever been able to maintain. But I like the idea of a ritual from which not even its intended centre could sway you. And I love people who live to tell the gods to fuck off.



My neighbourhood exists in states of decay: either abandoned, torn down, or ill used. So today I went scavenging, collecting bricks, the bones of buildings burnt. Now I have a fire pit in my cement back yard. I started some seeds, too: chamomile and morning glory.
jacktellslies: (bee)
Stopping to consider the mostly unopened morning glories, wondering if I was awake earlier than they or if I had just missed them, I watched a bee squirm inside a few of them, bulging the sides out, barely welcomed. I like the insides of flowers. It's like looking up someone's skirt with absolutely no idea of what one might find there: a thousand identical but seemingly separate buds, imitation insects, sweet poison and small dead things, colours horrific and obscene, curving pistils and stamens both, or nothing but petals, twisting inward endlessly, perfect and disappointing.

Meredith and Rebecca and I walked in gardens on Saturday. We kissed stone goats and orchids, climbed a tower, tested water lilies, and illicitly ate berries and tomatoes and peppers. They were bold Eves; I only ate what they gave me. My rib is theirs to do with as they like.

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jacktellslies

August 2009

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