We’re Baaaaack!!!

April 19, 2010 at 11:00 pm (bee hive, Bees, Entertainment, Eydie Wight, Hobbies, Insects, movies, music, Plants, Uncategorized, Wine Making, wisteria) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )


Dandelion Wine

By Eydie Wight

Well, here it is midnight and I’m sitting on the couch with the laptop, in my pajamas (I am in my pajamas, not the laptop) Futurama is on TV, and I’m sipping on a glass of Lemon Balm wine. I made a small run of this wine on a whim at the end of last summer, eight bottles total, and I have to admit it’s become my favorite. Lemon balm, also called “Melissa”, is a square-stemmed aromatic herb in the mint family. It’s leaves, fresh or dried, make good tea, especially iced tea. In the summer, whenever I go out, I crush a few leaves between my fingers and then roll them along my arms. The scent is fresh, vaguely citrusy, and mildly minty. I get several cuttings throughout the late spring and up until the first frost from about a one foot by two foot bed on the side of the house. The plant is said to have a mild sedative action, and I’m not sure if it’s that or the alcohol content, but I feel pretty mellow. It was a good day today.

I picked dandelions for my second run of dandelion wine. This is the first wine of the year that I make.

Kamikazi Bird

(Sidebar. I fell asleep shortly after the first paragraph last night, and have now, after coffee, resumed. As I am typing here I am interrupted every few minutes by a thud or series of thuds against the bedroom window. We have this kamikaze bird who sees either the reflection of “his” tree in the window, or sees the reflection of himself in the window and thinks it’s another bird in his tree. It repeatedly bangs into the window. I would think by now the poor thing has brain damage, it’s been hitting the window MANY TIMES a day, starting shortly after dawn, for over a week. I just got the bird book to find out what kind of bird this birdbrain is. So much for animals learning and adapting for survival of the fittest. Thud. There he goes again.)

Mowing Like A Sailor

Anyway, I picked dandelions today while Sammy mowed the lawn. He had to leave the areas where I was picking until the last, and since I seem to wander blithely with my bucket in hand from patch to patch, he must have looked like a drunken sailor weaving around in the yard. It takes about a gallon and a half of dandelion heads for one gallon of wine, and I usually pick enough for two gallons at a time. If you have dandelions like WE have dandelions, that takes about an hour and a half. I went out in the afternoon. Dandelions have to be picked when the flowers are fully opened to the sun. Otherwise they are full of bugs. Although these bugs ARE edible, for the most part, they can make the wine have a bitter flavor. So, if the flowers heads are open, the bugs will either leave when you start to pick, or you can flick or tap them off.

Picking Dandelions

There are many methods to picking dandelions. I’ll share mine with you. It involves beer. My favorite apparel is a pair of very baggy shorts and Sammy’s Blind Melon t-shirt. I stole the shirt from him and cut the neck and sleeves out. The front of it is printed with the picture of the little bee girl from the “No Rain” video. That girl looks just like me at that age. (Hey! Brother John here… I would love to see a picture of you in your dandelion gear!) I never had the cool bee costume (wish I had, I’d have worn it every day) but I did have a black and yellow striped shirt that I appear in several pictures wearing. I also pick dandelions barefoot. Cool breezes and tender spring lawns are meant for bare feet. The only equipment needed is your hands, a bucket, and a can of beer. I use a bucket that has gallon lines marked on it. I tend to use a six gallon bucket because it’s tall enough to use like a walker when I’ve been picking awhile. Some people sit to pick, and I do at times. In fact, last week when I picked my first batch of dandelions in the 82 degree heat, I did sit. I’d pick everything I could reach, stretching out further and further until I was lying on the grass. Then I discovered that if I just rolled to the next patch it was much less bother than getting up to relocate. That worked fine, for about seven rolls. The last time I had apparently parked myself on a red ant hill. Little devils put me on the afternoon banquet menu. So today I would lean on my bucket walker and pick one-handed. I sat the beer on the arm of the glider-rocker that looks down over the grassy slope where the dandelions grow the thickest. Every fifteen minutes or so I would work my way back up to the rocker, sit down, sip a little beer, and just enjoy the day.

Blooms bustin' out all over!

There were blooms everywhere. Tulips and some late daffodils and hyacinths in the cultivated beds and pansies in the flower box. Dandelions, violets, speedwell, grape hyacinth, forsythias, lilac, redbud, crabapple, cherry blossoms, and ground ivy. The Wisteria trees are covered with bloom buds. This is the first year the white wisteria will bloom.

While relaxing, I can sometimes hear a hawk pair that court in the skies (and will later raise their family in a nest somewhere up on the ridge). And always there is the sounds of songbirds, the air is full of chirps, coos, and warbles.

The Italian Honeybee

I have been so tickled this spring to see my friends, the Italian Honeybees, out and about in the yard. Not in as great a number as they were two years ago, but last year there were next to none and I worried about them. I always let the honeybees go first when I’m picking dandelions. I watch them and sometimes have little conversations with them or sing to them, or follow one from patch to patch. My honeybees will be arriving later this spring. The hive is painted a lovely Bahama green and ready to set on its chimney block foundation up in the back of the six tree orchard.

Thud. The crazy bird is back.
Thud.

I have a couple of whimsical rules when I pick dandelions. I try to pick at least a few flowers from all over the yard. That way the wine will reflect home. I never pick all the flowers from a patch, leaving some to go to seed. That way the wine will reflect bounty. I’ve picked thousands of dandelions, and there are still thousands more. And no two are ever exactly alike. Cool! As I picked today my hands become so full of pollen I left yellow hand prints on the bucket. A couple of the bumblebees I saw had such loaded pollen baskets they could hardly lift off from flower to flower.

It's a Dandelion Involucre!!!

After I finished picking the dandelions I took the bucket inside and let it sit while I made supper. That way, not only did I get supper made, I gave the flower heads time to close. Supper was venison chili and a simple dessert. Yummy. Once the supper dishes were done Sammy and I sat down to cut the stems off each dandelion flower head. Some people leave the stem bits attached, but I think the sap from the stems is bitter. We just grasp the now closed flower petals with one hand and cut the stem off at the base. The green “involucre” (a ring of small leaves, or bracts, at the base of a flower or flower cluster), is left on. You can pull the stem away with your fingers but I think cutting is easier. It takes about as long to prepare the flowers as it does to pick them. By that time Sammy and I were both getting tired. So we channel surfed while cutting and cutting and eventually settled on “Captain Ron.” After the heads were prepared I placed them in a bucket, poured in three quarts of boiling water to each gallon of heads, stirred the mess, and put the bucket lid on tightly. The mash will be stirred once a day for a week and kept covered. Then the process of adding the yeast, sugar, and lemon juice will begin.

Thud. Little bugger has to have a headache. He never knocks himself unconscious but the cats are starting to hang out under the tree.

I’d better finish this and try to fit in a few things before work tonight. Maybe play my fiddle a bit. I’ve been working on a Scottish version of “Amazing Grace” using drone tones. And trying to combine two versions of “Bill Cheatham” that I like. And I found a peppy little version of Bach’s Bourree in E minor. (Remember Jethro Tull’s version?) Or I might go for a jog. I should go for a jog. Okay. I will go for a jog!

Sunday Supper: My chili recipe is nothing special except that it uses ground venison (courtesy of Dad) to replace the ground beef, tomato juice Dad and I canned last summer, and a cup of finely diced young dandelion and chicory leaves from the yard. The chili needed a handful of mashed potato flakes to thicken it slightly and was served over brown rice and topped with cubed Colby cheese.

Dessert was easy. Mom made and froze a million zucchini breads last year in our never ending search for ways to preserve the summer squash harvest. I put a crumbled slice of zucchini bread in a small bowl and added a heaping spoon of chunky applesauce. I microwaved this for one minute. Then I added a big spoonful of vanilla yogurt and drizzled the top with cinnamon and honey.

Permalink 9 Comments

INKLINGS

March 18, 2009 at 12:38 am (Authors, Books, Brother John, Entertainment, Eydie Wight, Family, Friends, music, poetry, Stories) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , )


By Siggy

Our Guest Blogger... Siggy!

Hello, my name is “Siggy“, and I have been asked to write a “Guest Blog”. I will get right to it; you can find out a little bit more about me at the end (and hopefully, by reading my story about the Inklings)!

Last year, my wife and I watched a documentary of C.S. Lewis, the British author whose impressive list of books includes the well-known, “Chronicles of Narnia” series. (By the way, every book C.S. Lewis published during his life time–over twenty–is still in print.) The documentary was actually a Christmas gift from the year before; one of those things that just are put aside to get to “later”, you know? Well, I guess the time was right, and we put it on to watch. During the program, it was mentioned that Lewis belonged to a small group of writers who got together regularly for several decades (another notable member of the group was J.R.R. Tolkien, famous for “Lord Of The Rings“). They called themselves the “Inklings“. My wife loved this name, and told me if we ever started a writers group, that was what we should call it. We talked about who else might be in the group, and we both suggested our friend and fellow-writer, Eydie — hence, this connection to her blog site!

Our small writing group, Inklings, is very important to me. To me the name is really important. If our group can provide even a little spark and motivation for the participating members it is all worth it. Inklings is a perfect name. I want our small writing group to encourage the writers it in to continue to improve — to be the best writers they can be.

I never forgot an anecdote related by Arthur Gordon which told the story of two writing groups that had met decades ago, when the participants were still in college. The two groups were about equal in talent. One was a group of women whose members were kind to one another and did everything in their power to encourage each other, while the all male group, who aptly called themselves “The Stranglers“, were brutal with one another and ripped into each others work. Years later, not one prominent writer had come out of The Stranglers, but several emerged from the women’s group, including Marjorie Rawlings, author of “The Yearling“.

After hearing that story, I was determined that Inklings would be a place where we could encourage each other, not tear each other apart. We held our first meeting in August 2008, just three of us — myself, my wife, and Eydie. Now Inklings is starting to grow. A graphic artist came twice, she works for the publisher who printed Eydie‘s first book of poetry, “September Butterfly.” In February we gained our first (and second!) virtual members. BlogMaster, Brother John, is now a member and I am sure he will bring us into the 21st century, and beyond, with his networking talents, and hopefully we will be encouraging his creativity in the writing area. My old friend, Sara, who recently married and moved to North Carolina to begin a new chapter in her life, also joined us long-distance. Sara just this past week completed her studies and became an ordained minister because she wanted to marry people! And this month, another person, a registered lobbyist, joined us for the first time and expressed an interest in coming back. As you can see, our growing group is diverse.

Each time we meet (usually at Eydie‘s or our home) we talk and get to know each other better. I usually pull a few passages from my writing resource library to inspire discussion and then we do a few exercises. In the past, they might have consisted of writing about a piece of music one member shared. Sometimes I pick an interesting photo for us to write about. The ground rules are usually the same: write five minutes without lifting your pen, neither changing anything or crossing out. Then we share what we wrote with each other. We usually have a break and a snack or two.

At the moment, Inklings is doing a “chain” story. This exercise will probably take at least two months to complete. One person writes a chapter and then another adds another, etc. We usually have another home assignment. This month we are writing a description of someone, then next meeting we will compare notes. Last month, we shared our stories of one significant event in our lives.

We try to meet once a month, coordinating our schedules to pick a date. So far, it has all worked out. It has been a challenge to figure our how to include the virtual members in our group. E-mail and snail mail certainly help. We are still working that one out. But my goal remains the same: I want each person, present or virtual, to get better as a writer, to NOT compare their writings with others, but only to feel that they are improving as a writer. AND, to be encouraged to WRITE!!!

A bit more about me:

Our Inklings group ties in well with the web site I started in January — “Siggy’s Café for Writers and Poets”, www.siggyscafe.com, and my Blog, Siggy’s Blurbs (which I never expected to be doing, since I don’t like to type!) www.siggyscafe.com/Blog. Inklings and Siggy’s Café are encouraging me as well! At the web site, I want to encourage budding and experienced writers. There are articles on the writing process, a bibliography of suggested reading, inspirational quotes, current and classic poetry, a Word Of The Day, and more. There is also an article I wrote about the best record albums from the 1960’s & 1970’s that are still available today on CD. I absolutely love music, and to me one of the greatest things is sharing or recommending a wonderful piece of music to someone else. I love to write, I love to read my poetry in public, and I love to listen to music.

Should anyone wish to contact me about this post, or just to say hello, you can do so at: Siggy’s e-Mail.

Permalink 4 Comments

It’s A Dirty Job And I Feel Like Soot!

December 3, 2008 at 5:09 pm (house cleaning, music) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )


By Eydie Wight

It's a Dirty Job and I feel like soot!

Even though our wood stove is very efficient and relatively trouble free it does require some regular maintenance. (Uhhh…As I write this I’m simultaneously watching “The Elf” which I’ve somehow missed in my Christmas movie junkie-ism, so forgive me if my attention wanders. I’m an absolute Christmas movie junkie. I don’t care how bad it is, how lame, how sappy, if it has a few glitzy lights, some holiday music and a bunch of sentimental overdo, I’m gonna watch it. I’m also simultaneously knitting a scarf for my Scottish friend George, in the colors of his favorite football team (soccer) and simultaneously making some microwave popcorn during the commercials. And drinking a beer. Multi-task. How I live my life).

Back to my wood stove story before I derail again (oh, that makes me think of “The Polar Express,” another very well done cinema graphic masterpiece that I’ll watch a few times in the coming weeks.) Well, sometimes, especially if the wood stove is frequently damped down or allowed to go out so that the chimney cools, or green or wet wood is used, an amount of creosote builds up in the stove pipe. Usually we have very little build up and and I merely shovel the fine gray ash from the stove body when it gets too full. This ash I place in a large metal trash can and then use it on the driveway when there is ice or snow. The ash provides a rough surface to the ice and absorbs more sunlight than the snow so things melt quicker. Creosote, on the other hand, is a resinous, black, flaky material that builds up on the inside of the stove pipe that has to be scraped off or burned off with a hot fire.

Our stove had started smoking into the house. Now this will often happen if a new fire is started and the chimney is cold. The stove draft will be reversed until the chimney heats and blow smoke backwards into the house. The trick to that is to start a very hot “paper” or kindling fire and keep it flaming hot until the chimney warms up. No problem. But, this year a lot of our stored firewood was “green.” We had gotten it when a neighbor cut his fence rows along his fields. And, with our work schedules, the fire has been constantly fired up and dampened down. So, when it seemed to be smoking and not drafting well despite my best efforts I thunked the pipe and heard a dull, thick sound. I also saw where sticky trails of black had dripped down the side of the pipe. I knew what I had to do.

First I cleaned out the stove of accumulated ash. This was interesting because there were still several very hot coals in the stove. I put on stout work gloves, grabbed the bent piece of rebar that serves as our poker, and got my brass container (it used to be a decorative flower pot holder.) My “shovel” is a clay flower pot saucer. I scooped out the ash, transferring it to the large metal trash can outside when the brass pot was full. In the process I dropped hot coals on the rag rug beside the stove, adding another hole to it. “@$#%,” I said. Then I dropped a hot coal inside my slipper (I was, as ever, in my pajamas for this endeavor.) “*&^%#$@&*$%,” I said as I danced around the basement on one foot trying to shake the coal out instead of just taking the slipper off. (Brother John here: Family site Sis… family site… 🙂 )

Once the stove was empty of ash I took the pipe off. Actually I loosened the bottom section of pipe, neglecting to wear gloves, which resulted in stove black getting all over my hands. The pipe decided to fall apart into its sections instead of coming off smoothly in one large L-shaped piece. I tried to catch one section. It bounced on the floor causing black creosote to scatter everywhere. As I tried to catch it my arms became covered with black soot. My pajamas (a lovely red and black plaid) became covered with soot. Another section of pipe separated and bounced off the coal burned foot, filling my slipper with crunchy creosote flakes and gouging a small painful crescent into the top of my foot. “@%*#^*$&#^$$*^!!!,” I said, imitating the ancient Indian War Dance of the Shaking Foot.

I hobbled outside with my load of stove pipe, taking the rebar with me. In the driveway I proceeded to scrape out the creosote from the inside of the pipe. As I suspected, there was a lot. I finished and gathered up my sections of pipe. As I turned to carry them back inside the house I slipped in a pile of ash I had dropped when cleaning out the stove. Pipes, and me, went down. I rolled around for a moment like a ghost buster character who had just been slimed, then got to my knees and stood up. One pajama leg had hiked up to reveal a varicosed white leg now thoroughly blackened by soot. One slipper had fallen off, the other slipper was, again, full of crunchy creosote.

I have a sailor’s vocabulary of expletives. I also have a few of my own that were coined when Rog was little. So, outside, in the relatively warm sunshine, covered with soot, partially disrobed, hopping on one foot over to my slipper, I was dementedly shouting, “booger snot, holy tomatoes, fudgyfudgesickle!!!” (Brother John here: Add my famous raw egg dropping… ‘Eee GADS!’). Then, the UPS truck came up the driveway with a delivery of a Christmas item I’d ordered. I scooted inside, then realized that since Sammy was sleeping and Rog was at school I’d have to answer the door. The UPS guy didn’t say a word. He just handed me the package, which immediately became covered in black soot as I touched it, walked past Felon, who was engaged in peeing on his tire, hopped in the truck, and sped off. When I finally got upstairs the visage that met me in the bathroom mirror looked like a painted blackface in a minstrel show. I sang a few bars of “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” and got in the shower. I spent the rest of the morning cleaning the basement of ash and creosote, wiping off every surface I’d touched in the house, doctoring my twice abused foot, and restarting the fire.

Finally, clean and dressed in fresh pajamas (a nice teal plaid) I stepped outside to feed the dogs and the shed cats (as in cats who live in the shed). As I came out the door a flock of birds took off from the feeders in a flurry of wings and chirps. I heard a hawk’s scree as I carried a bucket of fresh water to the shed. Life was again, good.

I finished the rest of the house chores (laundry, cooking mostaciolIi, paying bills, and vacuuming upstairs) while I listened to “Holiday Pops” on the TV. Madrigals and Gregorian chants. During a particularly profound multi-harmonic choral rendition of “Angels We Have Heard On High, ‘ I accidentally vacuumed up “brown mousie,” Ophelia’s favorite toy. I had to take the vacuum cleaner apart (a mild #*%^#&) and rescued all of mousie but his tail. Then, I spent the rest of the afternoon wrapping Christmas presents and watching “The Santa Clause” on TV. Tomorrow we must take advantage of a trip into the “city” (car repair) to do a little Christmas shopping. I do love most things that have to do with Christmas, but I do not love shopping. Internet orders good. Crowded stores with impatient shoppers and lackluster clerks, overly tired and cranky children, and hours on my feet on hard tiled floors, bad.

Permalink 6 Comments

Cutting Firewood To Make Nut Brittle

October 7, 2008 at 12:32 am (Andrew Davidson, Arrowheads, Artifacts, Asplundh, Authors, bee hive, Bees, Books, Brother John, Butterflies, Companies, Dogs, Fair Paladin, Family, Fossils, Friends, German Shepherd, GOD, Hiking, Hobbies, honey, Insects, Jasper, mandolin, Monarch, music, Nut Brittle, Pets, Places, poetry, Recipes, Religious, Ricketts Glen State Park, Sylvia, The Gargoyle, Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )


By Eydie Wight

When you chop a walnut tree, sometimes you harvest walnuts!

Sammy and I had had great aspirations of filling our wood shed to overflowing when we were off on our “working vacation” a few weeks ago. And we did bring in several loads. Then, the rains came. Not for 40 days and 40 nights, although the people of Texas probably felt that way, but enough to make our access into the fields a mucky nightmare. So, this past Thursday we sallied forth (well, Sally didn’t go, only room for two in the truck plus Jasper) to our unidentified neighbor’s farm to cut a load of firewood. It was actually chilly, intermittently overcast and with a stiff breeze blowing. Enough so that I had an old gray sweat jacket on and came home with pink ears and a somewhat windburned face. Our neighbor had cut several trees down that grew along the access drive to his 100 acre property. He had done this so that in the winter the sun would be able to reach the road surface and melt some of the ice. I’d been on that road a few years ago when it was possible to skate (or in my case slide on my backside) down the length of it to where the truck was parked at the bottom, unable to make it any further up the drive.

The first tree Sammy began cutting was a nice sized walnut. It was big enough to provide that day’s truckload of wood. And, it was covered with walnuts. I’ve already mentioned that I have this quirky survivalist mentality. To me, a tree full of easily accessible walnuts means a source of protein for the winter should society fail completely and Sammy and I be unable to keep us in squirrel and deer meat in the style to which we are accustomed. The walnuts also mean my favorite nuts for Dad’s Microwave Nut Brittle. The first year he made this stuff (two or three years ago) I thought it couldn’t possibly be any good. Wrong. I put that first piece in my mouth and it had just the right crunch of nutty goodness. Let it stay in your mouth a bit and the whole mess melts into a sweet sticky glue that renders you incapable of separating your jaws for several minutes. (Great for kids if you know what I mean!) Dad has since doctored the recipe to include coconut, confectioners sugar, brown sugar, and peanut butter. I’m going to experiment with (of course) honey this year. I have to laugh at this mental image I have of Dad bringing out the container of nut brittle at Christmas time. It’s like the pied piper if you can picture a gaggle of (mostly) overweight middle aged adults all trying to get their sticky hands into the smallish plastic container at the same time and fighting over the “big” pieces.

My job, when we are cutting wood, is all the ancillary duties. Sammy cuts, I load the truck. I also pull aside and stack the ends of branches too small to cut, hold pieces still as Sammy cuts them, pull out fallen (and usually brier covered) limbs and dead fall, and play with Jasper in between. (Brother John here… I once worked for the tree trimming company Asplundh and, except for Jasper…, these were also my daily duties. The person doing this type of duty was called a “Brushy” back in the day). Well, to add to my list, there were walnuts to collect because, (chant with me Brother John, and Sylvia, you’ve been around enough to join in too) “NOTHING MUST BE WASTED!” I had no idea how many walnuts a tree has when the entire tree has been cut and all the nuts can be harvested. And, not knowing the nuts would be there, I hadn’t brought a bag along. Imagine. I was unprepared! After a minute or so of abject humiliation, and after shortly abandoning the thought of filling my jacket pockets 20 or so nuts at a time, I graciously volunteered Sammy’s jacket (which he wasn’t wearing) and started loading it up with nuts. Each jacket load I would then dump in the front foot well of the passenger’s seat of the truck. Why I didn’t just throw them in the back I don’t know. Maybe nuts and wood, like oil and water, don’t mix in my head. Anyway, by the time the truck was loaded with wood I had enough walnuts to reach up to the seat. I sat in the seat, my feet resting on a mountain of walnuts, and realized that with the back full, Jasper had to ride up front. On my lap. Seventy-five pounds and I hadn’t peed before we took off for home (on some of the finest washboard dirt roads ever traveled).

When we pulled up the driveway I had Sammy stop at the top and let me offload first Jasper (who had enjoyed the trip home immensely, with “Mom” serving as a captive petting machine) and then the walnuts. Drive around the county this time of year and you’ll see many a driveway full of walnuts. The walnut comes off the tree with a thick green hull. This turns brown as it dries. This hull has long been a natural source of brown dye. The first time I hulled walnuts I used my bare hands. I had dyed brown hands for nearly a week. Now I do what everyone else does and throw them in the drive way to be driven over until all the soft hull has been worn off. These hard walnut shells are so tough that even driving over them doesn’t crack them. They scoff at traditional nutcrackers. (Brother John here… I always wondered why people did that! I always figured the nuts would get smashed into little bits, making that a very stupid thing to do. Now I get it Sis!). I place a few nuts in a rag and then take the hammer to them. Dad uses a vise, I think. I’m open to a better suggestion. But, it is one of the late autumn/winter pastimes when the weather is nasty. Sit around the wood stove, crack some walnuts while Sammy cleans a rifle or plays a little sweet guitar. A truly rustic picture. Completed by the image that I am, of course, in my pajamas.

Tomorrow we are going to get a few more loads of wood and meet up with our unidentified neighbor who will be cutting down a couple of the larger trees that still shade the drive. I’m hoping that after the work is done he’ll suggest a walk. He has lived in the area all his life and has shared some amazing discoveries with us. I have been along when a wild honeybee tree was harvested (the bees had swarmed and were given a new hive to populate). I’ve seen heavily fossilized shale covered with the imprints of shells and algae. I went along arrowhead hunting and collected blanks and pieces of arrowheads along with one that was complete. One day we walked into a field of wildflowers. He clapped his hands and suddenly the air was full of fluttering Monarch butterflies that landed on our arms, head, and clothes.

I always keep my “other” eyes open when I am out in the woods and fields. My imagination fills them with fairy worlds that live just beside the one we know. I often feel something else, an energy, or presence, or spirit. These days I call it God. I call it all God. It could be called many things. But I know, on those fall days when I lie in a cut field and feel the earth cool beneath my shoulder blades and the sun is warm on my face and a red tailed hawk soars searching in the blue sky above me, I know that there IS more. It gathers beneath me, goes through me, and connects with things unseen. One of my poems, “Fair Paladin” came from the magic the special places hold, or at least that I imagine they hold.

I have a bucket list. For those that didn’t see the movie, it’s stuff you want to do or accomplish before you kick the bucket. I have three things on my list so far. I plan to live to be a hundred and three so I’m hoping to add a few more.

  1. I want to get my book of poetry published. It’s so close. I want to see it on the Arts Council shelf and on the local artist shelf at Borders. I want my mom to be there when I do my first book signing, hopefully at the Arts Council where I’ll provide homemade blackberry, elderberry, and mead wines for my friends (and maybe a stranger or two) to drink. I want someone to pay real money for a copy of my book.
  2. I want to walk through an airport carrying my fiddle or mandolin to take it on a plane to somewhere and know that I actually play the darn thing well enough to deserve to carry it through an airport.
  3. Goblins Under Tree Stumps #1 Goblins Under Tree Stumps #2
    Fairy Houses Alligator Jawed Dragons
    Hunting for Ice Eggs Ice Egg in the Sky
    Walking Tree Ents #1 Walking Tree Ents #2

    I want to take a hike on the falls trails at Ricketts Glen State Park on a perfect day in the company of someone who sees and feels and loves the magic I talked about earlier as much as I do (Sammy and Brother John would do nicely.) We’ll find goblins under tree stumps, fairy houses, alligator jawed dragons, ice eggs, and walking tree Ents.

  4. Eydie, Brother John here. I have no imagination it would seem. I can’t, for the life of me, figure out which “other eye” vision each of these represent. Hover the mouse and you’ll see one idea, and click on the item to see that and other ideas. It would help greatly if you would define which is which. And maybe throw in a bit of real description as well. Ricketts Glen State Park looks very nice!
The Gargoyle - By Andrew Davidson - An extraordinary debut novel of love that survives the fires of hell and transcends the boundaries of time.

But for now, Sammy is out sharpening the chainsaw on the living room coffee table and me (in my pajamas), a novel (The Gargoyle), and the big brown chair have developed this undeniable attraction for each other. Throw the blue gingham angel quilt into the mix and I won’t be long for this world… Zzzzz.

Permalink 2 Comments

Beekeeper Dan Comes For A Visit (Part 2)

September 8, 2008 at 7:13 am (Barbara Kilarski, bee hive, Bees, Books, Carboy, chicken coop, chicken wire, Chickens, Fenton, honey, Jasper, Lunaria, mandolin, mastiff, New friends, pit bull, Ranger, sedum, Stonecrop sedum, vines, Visit, wisteria) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )


By Eydie Wight

A visit from Beekeeper Dan

I was out on the deck playing a little mandolin and enjoying the evening when I heard the sound of an approaching motorcycle. Beekeeper Dan had arrived. He was greeted by the boisterous and inquisitive Love Mongrels. Felon is a rescue pit bull who at 50+ lbs. thinks he is a lap dog. I’ve tried my best, but he thinks all visitors will welcome his habit of jumping up and butting his head into whatever part of the anatomy he can reach, until he gets petted. Fortunately Dan has two dogs of his own and took Felon’s rude demands pretty much in stride. Jasper was a little better behaved, but I did catch him peeing on Dan’s tire as we went inside the house. I confess I pretended not to see. Just one more pebble dipping my judgment scales to the “hell side”…

We went inside and I showed Dan the flower seeds I had packaged for him and explained that the Lunaria (money plant) was a biennial. I had wanted to include some Cleome seeds but they weren’t quite dry enough to harvest. Cleome, I had discovered when my friend Carole and I visited Scotland a few years ago, is an undesirable roadside weed there and exists in prolific abundance. I find that even though it has a somewhat rank and stinky smell, it has a beautiful pink flower and bees and butterflies absolutely love it.

Sammy and Dan briefly discussed the Beatles motif of our kitchen and then we hauled out for perusal the wine carboys. The Minsi mountain mead stepped up to the plate and showed a little fermentation activity to “Pappa” Dan. Then we were ready to go check out the ‘bee zen” of our property.

Before we discussed bees, however, we went out to the shed to show Dan our current dog house and fenced in run. This was the proposed site of the future possible chicken coop. Dan had brought me a book to borrow called Keep Chickens! by Barbara Kilarski. The existing dog house could probably hold a small pony. It was built when our two dogs were an Old English mastiff (210 lbs) named Fenton and an akita-lab-mastiff mix (110 lbs) named Ranger. Like our dogs now, those two never really spent much time there. Only when we went on vacation and during deer hunting season when local hunters do cross our property. The fenced in area is roughly 20 ft X 20 ft. and shaded with a beautiful wisteria vine. I hastened to explain to Dan that the run has never doubled as a maximum security prison, despite its look. It just happens that our Shepherd/husky mix Jasper can climb anything. When we first got him I would put him in the run when I went to work and come home to find him sitting on the deck. We spied on him and found that he was hooking his hind legs on the wire of the fence and climbing over. So my husband put up inward slanting chicken wire along the top. I came home the next day, Jasper‘s sitting on the deck. We spied again. He was jumping on top of the dog house roof, then up on the roof of the shed, then down to the ground. So my husband put a wire enclosure on top of the dog house roof. Next day, Jasper on the deck. Spy result: He would run and hurl himself against the back of the shed, reaching high enough to catch paws on the edge of the dog house roof where it met the shed. Then he would use that corner where the two buildings met to give enough leverage to literally scale the fence around the dog house roof until he could reach the roof of the shed, then jump to the ground. We gave up but left the dog run as it was.

To convert the former dog digs to a chicken coop will be relatively easy. All we have to do is put some type of covering over the open run such as a mesh or chicken wire. Then we’ll have to cut an opening in the bottom of the dog house to be able to clean the droppings out, and build some type of shelf inside for nests to be off the ground. Dan also suggested some posts here and there for roosting. We talked about chicken eggs, and free range chickens, and my bad experiences as a kid with broody chickens. Tactlessly forgetting that Dan raises happy chickens who are pets and family members, I indelicately told the story of Great Grandma and the blindfolded chicken. Seems that when my Great Grandma was a young girl (about 14) she was sent out to kill an old chicken for the stew pot. Her mother went to check her after some time had passed and found her sitting on the chopping block with the bloody axe in her hand crying her eyes out. A neighbor heard some commotion and looked out his window to be met with the sight of a half headless chicken (like Nearly Headless Nick for Harry Potter fans), flopping past his house sporting a gingham blindfold around its head. Apparently not content with blindfolding the chicken against the coming judgment day, Great Grandma had also closed her own eyes at the moment of truth and missed!

I thought it prudent at this time to steer the focus away from the topic of chickens before I made gentle Dan cry, and talk about bees. Dan said the bee hives should face in a south easterly direction where they will receive the morning sun. The lower part of the yard was too close to the road. Our “traffic” is meager, but I did have a brief image of our Amish neighbors and their buggy meeting our future bees under less than happy circumstances. It would take more than a good will gesture cake to fix that bad bee business. (Yes, I did welcome them to the neighborhood with a Better-Than-Sex cake but I didn’t TELL them that’s what it was called so that was okay, right?)

We walked up past the garden and to the upper edge of our “orchard” (six fruit trees) and found the future spot for our bees. The bees like a clear “runway” back to their hive and we keep the orchard mowed. I asked about mowing. Dan said mowing doesn’t usually bother the bees as long as you mow so the clippings shoot away from the hives. Makes sense. On the way back down to the house we found several tomatoes for Dan and I showed him the “wild” honeybees on the sedum. He said they were Italians, meaning the original bee ancestors came form Italy. These honey bees have golden abdomens with dark stripes.

Blueberry Cobbler

Back at the house we sampled my blueberry cobbler and kept loading Dan’s backpack with canned tomato juice, pickled beets, blackberry jam, blueberry cobbler, tomatoes, a couple of books, empty honey jars (returns), and a lamp or two (remember Steve Martin in “The Jerk?”). I was a little worried that his motorcycle would just upend and leave Dan weighed to the ground by the backpack, waving arms and legs like a flipped turtle while he feebly tried to raise a helmeted head, but my overactive imagination gives me these little visions from time to time.

Sammy and I stood outside for a little admiring the broad expanse of Milky Way that stretched across the sky. Then we went inside, he to watch the republican convention, me to contemplate chickens and the image of myself licking the remains of the blueberry cobbler from the dish. It was a good day.

Permalink 4 Comments