Saturday, July 19, 2014

Farmers' Market

The Danville Farmers' Market can be brutal, especially if you're trying to get to the the peaches or the tomatoes in high season.  The corn, thank goodness, has a more-or-less organized line, courtesy of the corn farmers whom, I suspect, got tired of witnessing the suburban brutality.  

And crowded.  I've tried waiting patiently for my turn, and been elbowed out by sweet looking grannies with murderous looks in their eyes.  By daddies who think they're still linebackers and we are the opposing team, by aggressive moms swinging a baby from one hip and a huge purse from the other.  And the throng doesn't clear out until only shriveled bits of fruit remain.  The vultures have nothing on the folks at the Farmers' Market.

So I've learned to just wade in and take my chances.  And one morning, reaching for a ripe heirloom tomato, having just taken yet another elbow in the stomach - oof - I heard a familiar voice.

"Oh. My. God!  What are you doing here?  Your parole officer was just looking for you!  And girlfriend, how did you get that ankle bracelet off?!?"

All of a sudden I had the tomatoes to myself.  Which would have been great if I hadn't been laughing so hard I was doubled over.  Hard to grab a tomato when you're holding on to your sides.

It was my friend.  My adorable, hysterically funny, take-no-prisoners friend.  

I suspect the watching crowds thought she was brave to hug an obvious fugitive from justice.  We laughed, we talked, we told stories.  She showed me her favorite farmers - not the obvious crowded ones, but the lavender lady in the corner and the shy man with just a few apricots, so flavorful with each bite the juice ran down your chin, and memories from childhood came flooding back.

She is a fabulous story teller.  Get her to tell you about picking lemons in Israel.   In a Lily Pulitzer dress.  Priceless.  The story, not the dress.   She is the friend I call when I'm having a great day - she will laugh with me.  She is the friend I call when I am melting into tears and the world seems mean.

Everyone needs a friend like this in their life.  I am privileged to have the original.  Lucky me.

I Might As Well Be Here As Where I Am...

My mom learned this from a teacher or preacher or adult friend when she was just a child in the Big Horn Valley in Montana a very long time ago.  I finally memorized it - not easy for me.  I am better with things that make sense - at least to me.  But every life needs a little nonsense, right?

It is woven in my childhood memories.  I hope it makes you smile too.

I didn't come here 
So I'm not gonna stay.
I might as well be here 
As where I am,
So I guess I'll just sit down
And wait 'til I come back.

Anyone know who first said this?

Thursday, July 17, 2014


And no, pithy is not someone with a lisp and a bad attitude. 

My friends are storytellers.  Word people.  Thoughtful, thinking. Witty. One of my favorite people in the world, when I asked about her housekeeper's health, said: "Oh, Lupe is going in for an autopsy next week."  And on the other end of the phone I could hear Lupe yell from the next room: "I Am Not!!!!"  Biopsy, autopsy, so few letters; such a big difference.

Someone else was asking the same friend about her early life, and when my friend said she had come to America on a ship during the war, she was asked: "Oh, was that the crusades?" Yeah.  Old but not that old, thank you.  And don't they teach history any more?

I love the unexpected.  Like "We're in the 18th year of a five year lease." Or  "Tim has a troubled relationship with salmon." Now I know what not to serve.   

"She has a black belt in passive aggressive behavior." We all know one or two of those.  May we never be alone in a room with them.

"I found it on the inter tube."  Youtube, internet.  So confusing.

A very witty fellow I know was being a bit snarky about a friend who's gone off the rails, and he said "She used to do interesting things with great enthusiasm..." Unstated but very well understood is the "But alas, that is no longer the case."  

This same friend gave me a favorite quote and cocktail recipe:  "A jigger of anger in a tall glass of resentment, with a dash of bitterness".

Husbands and wives can be wickedly funny too.  “I think I’ll write a book today,” the writer Georges Simenon was said to tell his wife at breakfast. “Fine,” she would reply, “but what will you do in the afternoon?”

And my favorite tale - a friend's parents had grown old in their house.  When the mother died, the dad stopped driving.  And repairing anything around the house.  By the time his dad died, the vines sagged off the eaves and covered the garage door.  You could not even back the car out unless you had a chain saw.

The son asked a childhood friend who's in real estate to come look at the house.  As they carefully climbed the sagging front steps, with clouds of swarming termites rising around them, Alex said "Really, the best thing you can do for this house is tear it down."

His friend said "I can't do that!  My dad just put a new roof on the house!"

And Alex replied " If you used that logic when your mother died, you wouldn't have buried her, because she had a new set of dentures."

He tore down the house.  And yes, he had buried his mother.

Friday, July 11, 2014

A Day At The Beach

When we left New York it was hot and sticky  That night in East Hampton the rain woke us in the middle of the night.  At first it was just some soft pattering sounds on the roof.  Then it began to bucket down, and we jumped up to crank closed the windows.  We laid in bed and listened to the sharp ticking of the rain against the glass.

It was the tail end of Hurricane Andre, trailing its long arm over Long Island.  Exciting for us: the wind wasn’t howling and we weren’t out nailing up plywood.  We have lots of earthquakes in the west, and the odd fire but hurricanes - not.   At least not yet.

All day it poured.  Where we live we are in the throes of a nasty drought, so this was heavenly.  
We read, we laid around and stared out the windows, glorying in a whole day with nothing to do...and all that wonderful water coming from the sky.  
We watched the tennis matches at Wimbledon while the rain streamed down the windows.   That day, the good guy won.  Alas, he lost in the final.
It was the perfect house for a rainstorm - high ceilings, tall windows, big airy rooms.  Lots of bedrooms, lots of places to curl up with a book, and a big overhanging porch so we could leave the tall glass doors open and listen to the surf sounding in every room but the kitchen, snug on the lee side of the house.
The next morning you’d never know it had rained…except for the pumps bailing the water out of the sand traps on the golf course.  And the puddles in the gravel lane.  
The lawn was a an incandescent shade of green. And the waves were huge, angry, thundering and booming against the sand.  
We watched some surfers fight to paddle out, and finally give up, exhausted.   
It was a perfect day at the beach. 

Friday, July 4, 2014

Fall Planting

With the possible exception of Thomas Keller, who has a staff of thousands, nobody I know grows enough vegetables.  Or fruit, but that's a winter topic.  So here are the fall tips from our dear friends at Sloat.  Read it, weed it, then go get some plants from Sloat and plant.  You can thank me later.  When you're eating those delicious veggies and feeling happy and healthy.  

All about planting Fall vegetables

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Vegetable gardening isn’t just a springtime activity. Summer and fall are ideal times to plant cool season vegetables, greens and root crops. Not only does cool weather enhance their growth rate, but light frost will improve their flavor. Another benefit to fall planting is that many common pests like caterpillar and leaf miner are not as plentiful. Cooler temperatures also enhance the colors of leafy greens and roots. Carrots are more orange, radishes are redder and red pigments in greens are more pronounced.
These are considered cool season vegetables: greens- kale, collards, lettuce, mustard, spinach, chard, arugula, mache, endive, bok choy, escarole, root crops- turnips, rutabagas, radishes, carrots, beets, cole crops- broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, peas, fava beans, leeks, celery and spring onions. Further enhance the appearance of your vegetable garden by interplanting fall annuals: alyssum, pansies and violas.
Soil preparation is the same as you would do in the spring. The nutrients need to be replenished and the soil tilth needs to be restored. We recommend Sloat Loam Builder mixed 50/50 with the native soil or one bag for every 25 square feet. Be sure to work the soil to at least a 1 foot depth if you are considering root crops. Apply Agricultural Lime according to the directions. Lime is especially important for the cole crops. Incorporate Sure Start or E.B. Stone Vegetable food.
If you plant in containers, use Sloat Organic Potting Soil and E.B. Stone Sure Start. Many cool weather vegetables are available as transplants but root crops will need to be planted from seed. It is recommended that onions be planted by seed as opposed to sets in the fall. Seed is planted a little deeper in the fall than in the spring. The reason for this is that it is drier at the soil surface in the fall and the resulting , deeper seedlings are kept cooler. Thinning is necessary if you want good sized roots and greens heads. Be sure to keep young plants moist. Water maturing plants regularly to keep them growing. Bitterness develops in greens that are not watered enough. Sometimes, birds can become pests in the fall vegetable garden, mostly in the early morning hours. Golden crown sparrows are notorious for eating young seedlings, especially peas. You may want to protect young plants with a lightweight row cover.

Sloat Nursery's Vacation Tips for Your Plants

Vacation tips for your plants

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As you plan for your vacation you should take into consideration that your garden and plants are going to miss you. There are certain things you can do that will cut down on your absolute need to be there, but it does mean preparing for vacation needs a few days before you leave. A recently fed plant will have a tendency to grow. This can contribute to an increase in water needs or make it more succulent for the voracious appetite of garden invaders. Put off the normal feeding, or if it must be fed, cut the feeding to half strength and plan on providing the second half when you return.
Mulching is probably the most important thing you can do before leaving on vacation. Be sure you have watered the area before you apply mulch, then water enough after it is applied to have the mulch damp on its own without having to draw moisture from the soil.Mulch can be used in flowerbeds, vegetable gardens and around trees and shrubs. Leave approximately six inches around the trunks of trees and shrubs so they can breathe. It is even safe to add a little to containers but take care that the stems are not choked by the mulch.
Containers can be moved to a light shade area for the time being. Hanging baskets should be taken down so that they are more easily watched unless you have a drip system that is on a timer. While you are gone, the local bugs will not be on a holiday and would be happy if you forgot about them.Use Sluggo Plus to take care of snails, ants, some cutworms and earwigs during your absence. Indoors plants can also be taken care of with a little thought. Large container plants should be watered well before you leave and if the plant can be moved, place it away from the windows so it will not dry out. You can put small plants in the bathtub after they have been well watered. The coolness of the bathroom will help retain moisture. Do not leave plants standing in water. Also, visit your local Sloat Garden Center location for a variety of watering devices to help keep your plants moist while you are away. We recommend the Plant Nanny, Scheurich water dispensers, and DriWater products.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Three Hundred Ten Pounds of Table, or Table This

Our old table was wobbly and warped.  And no matter where you sat, it seemed, there was a leg in your lap.  It was also too low to cross your legs under.  So I searched and searched, and found just the right table.  Perfect for eight, big enough ten, for twelve at a squeeze.  A trestle, so no leg in your lap.  

I ordered it.

And of course I was at the grocery store with my mom when they called and said "We're here!  With your table!"  Half an hour early. 

It arrived in a box about four inches tall.  Clearly, some assembly would be required.   

"Where would you like it?" he asked.

"How much does it weigh?"  I asked.

"Three hundred ten pounds."

"Ha, ha, no really, what does it weigh?"

He showed me the bill of lading - 310 lbs. - and the third guy he'd brought to help unload.  Clearly mommy and I were not going to be able to get it into the back yard on our own.

"Come see where I'd like it, and tell me - if I pay you extra, will you carry it around the house?  No steps..."

He looked.  He agreed.  I peeled of three twenties, one for each guy.  He walked to the front of the truck where the other guys couldn't see the money, counted it, sneered, and held out his hand.

I was pissed.  It was clear the other guys were not gonna get their fair shares.  I almost snatched the money back, then I remembered:  three hundred ten pounds.  Oops.

"That's nearly as much as I paid to have it shipped from the warehouse!  That's all you're getting!  Take it or leave it!"

He took it.  On the back patio they propped the box with the new table against our old dining chairs and left, and when I came home later it had flopped flat.  Double oops.

Wally helped me set the table top upside-down on the cardboard lid so it wouldn't get scratched when I assembled it. 

I unpacked the parts, and started to put the legs together.  Except the parts, supposedly numbered so any idiot could put the table together were...mis-numbered.  Took a bit of vocabulary enrichment and several iterations before I figured that out...

Incredibly well built and thoroughly cross-braced...
with beautiful curved legs
when I finally figured out the mis-labeling it went together in a snap.
Even at three hundred pounds (there must have been ten pounds of cardboard and bracing) we managed to turn it right-side up.
It's perfect.  I didn't realize until we got this table how out of scale, out of balance our old table (now my potting bench) was.  This one looks like it was built for the space.  And since I built it, I suppose it was.  

The way you can tell if something is really well designed, really in the right place, is to ask yourself: "Does it feel inevitable?"  This does.  And the fact that table is part of the word inevitable just makes me smile.  

Come for drinks.  Stay for dinner.  Linger until the candles gutter out.  It's summer, and we have the perfect outdoor dining room.