The Worst Easter Egg Hunt

Today, three days after waking up to major hail damage in my garden, I have a strange combination of Spring’s renewal and Fall’s decay in my little plot of earth.

Wednesday night I stood on our covered patio watching the hail come down.

It was fascinating, exhilarating, and extraordinary. Every sense was engaged. The sound was deafening. It was hard to process the pile of ice forming under the drain spout from the gutter. My skin was prickly with electricity, cold, and moisture. I could almost taste the cold and the dirt being kicked up into the air. But the smell was probably the thing that took me the longest to process. I smelled fresh herbs, cut grass, tomato leaves, and cucumbers.

When a copperhead snake feels threatened they release a hormone that smells for all the world like cucumbers. You might think cucumbers don’t have a smell until you are standing in tall grass nowhere near cucumbers and you smell it distinctively. I love the smell of cucumbers in my kitchen, or when I’m eating a big pile of cucumber salad, but out of context that smell tells me danger is around.

Well, we don’t have copperheads here in the desert southwest, or much tall grass for that matter, but the smell still signaled unfortunate circumstances. I was tempted to go out into the garden and see after the storm was over, but I went to bed. It continued to rain through the night and in the morning I woke up and decided to document my first look at the scene.

It can be difficult to see because on the video between my “unsteady cam” filming and the difficulty of differentiating the green from the green. (Trust me, there is plenty more brown now.) Here’s a few closer shots that might help, as well as a shot of our chicken coop, which will need a new roof now.

After the documenting the scene and my own reaction I commenced salvage operations. That’s when I found myself crawling around lifting up tomato branches and feeling for fallen tomatoes. The feeling was oddly familiar and I found myself gripped with nostalgia. That’s when it occurred to me that I was engaged in the worst Easter Egg hunt ever. Along with tomatoes that had been damaged or knocked off the vine I also found okra that had been split straight down the middle, groundfall peppers, holey chiles full of rainwater, dented eggplants looking like bruised swollen golf balls, and exploded cucumbers. I filled my big basket three times.

The miracle of the day was that my single ripe Black Krim tomato was unharmed. There are several green Krims still on the vine, but they ripen so slowly. I think it would have been devastating to me to lose this one precious piece of fruit.

I’m still picking damaged peppers, but the okra and cucumbers have started flowering again. The tomatoes still on the vine are ripening, but I’m not seeing flowers or new fruit. The beans are also a question. I’m sure the squash and the greens will recover. I’ve got a LOT of canning to do this weekend to make sure all the salvage fruit goes to good use.

Meanwhile it is time to plant peas for fall and in a month it will be time to plant garlic. We’ve essentially got two to three more months of growing season left ahead, so anything could happen. The wheel turns, shit happens, gardens are resilient, and there is great abundance.

COUSINS!

In a few weeks I’m travelling to see some of my extended family, including my youngest cousins who are very young indeed. They’re the kids of my first cousin, so I think that makes them second cousins, or something like that. Either way they’re my fam and I want them to feel comfortable and happy around me. Their mom suggested the coolest idea to help them feel comfortable around all the family that they almost never see. She asked that each household make a quick video to introduce ourselves. Dave and I made a very awkward, poorly lighted video on the fly. We talked about our cats, cooking, juggling, spinning poi, gardening, and probably a few other things. The important thing, though, is that they saw our faces and heard our voices so that maybe, just maybe they’ll want to give us hugs when we meet them.

Onion Braiding: Oldways

So much of my inspiration for living my wonderful life comes from the folks at Sunflower River. As a part of their Rhizome Network, 4th Base Farm and the denizens of 4th Base benefit immensely from their wealth of knowledge and frequently excess produce, eggs, and poultry guts. In turn we give them labor (skilled and otherwise), things we make with their excess produce, and sometimes tidbits of our own knowledge. Of course there’s tons of shared laughter and experience too. I love being a part of a rhizome.

Recently Jenny and I decided to teach ourselves to braid onions together on a sweltery night in the SR barn. No cross breezes were to be had lest we unleash the peacocks on the farm at dusk and potentially leave Elliot lonely once more. Since peacock escapes were not an option we left the door closed and did a whole lot of sweating. Fortunately the work was fun, the company was fantastic, and we learned a ton very quickly.

The bundle on the left is our first one. It is a little hard to see just how sloppy it is because it is so messy. The one on the right is our second and you can tell it is much better. Like I said, we learned fast and, honestly, I remembered how braiding works.

Here’s the detail on one of our prettiest ones:

Once we had all the ones with long enough leaves braided we hung them out to dry.

Here’s Jenny carefully spacing them so that they get enough airflow:

And there they still hang today. Probably making all the dust smell like onions, but that’s a farm for ya!

Doll Head Trail

Some parts of the outskirts of Atlanta, GA are decidedly more rural that urban or suburban. The area surrounding Constitution Lakes Park is definitely what I would classify as rural. Google Maps led us astray several times on our way due to low signal and rural road oddities. Also, the parking lot for the park is not where the Googs thinks a person should go to reach the trail. Unfortunately they send you to some guy’s driveway and he is NOT happy about all the visitors. That being said if you search for Constitution Lakes Park you will get directions right to the parking lot.

On the way to the Doll Head Trail be sure to follow the boardwalk portion of the trail all the way to the end going right. There you’ll find a crystal clear pool that people have apparently been dumping their freshwater aquarium fish. It is FULL of lovely cichlids. I wish I could have gotten a picture, but without a polarized filter it wasn’t possible.

Constitution Lakes used to be a brickyard. Like many defunct industrial sites the area became an illegal garbage dump. When it became a park it seems that not a whole lot was done to clean up the area. One artist began making sculpture from the trash they found along a trail. That trail became a draw to other artists, art appreciators, and hikers. Over time new works were added and now the trail is a veritable sculpture garden of the strange and slightly disturbing. If you go and you find yourself inspired to create an addition to the trail remember this one rule: bring no new trash. Beyond that you are welcome to create to your heart’s content, or just enjoy the trail.

Here are some pictures of what I saw the day I was there. Of course it could all change and the things that caught my eye may not catch yours, so really, if you find yourself in Atlanta, then you should definitely go check this out.

We Found A Cool Thing!

Jenny and I went for a walk in the Bosque last week. In our meanderings we found lots of mulberries to snack on and a whole bunch of mud from the recent flooding, but we also found this neat structure that someone built.

They clearly took their time building it and did a great job. It seems really sturdy.

The inside is wider than, but not quite as tall as my tent. It looks really cozy inside.

In fact someone may have forgotten their homework in it.

In walking the Bosque recently I keep losing my bearings a little, which is really odd. They’ve recently moved the trails and it throws me off. But the cool thing is that I’m finding all this new stuff. It is pretty lush down there right now, so if you are in Albuquerque try to find some time to go for a walk. It is beautiful.

Never Wear a Dress While Scoring

Several years ago, in my tiny one bedroom apartment on Princeton I was having coffee with Julian. I believe they were going to go see Jane’s Addiction soon, or maybe they had just been to a concert. I was probably musing on how in 1994 I thought that I would never get to see them in concert, but there was this movie*. It included concert footage, but it wasn’t a concert movie. It had what appeared to be real footage of Perry and the band’s life, but it wasn’t a documentary. It had interludes that were funny, but I wouldn’t call it a funny movie in a million years. It was so strange and beautiful and real and terrifying and repulsive. It was called “Gift.”

I only knew one person with a copy and I remember watching it in her basement. So the time and place were tremendously formative of my impression of the movie. I was never exactly sober either. Was the movie everything I remembered, or was I an impressionable teenager? Just mentioning it let me know I needed to watch it again.

Julian and I made a pact to figure out a way to watch it ASAP.

If you do a search for “Jane’s Addiction Gift” on Google you’ll come up with a lot of writing from people who were teenagers in the 80s and 90s talking about passing around VHS tapes and endless generations of copies. It seems that in 2010 Perry promised that it was going to be released on DVD. That never happened. I mean really, even at the first release in 1993 the band had already broken up two years earlier. On Amazon you can pay as much as $200 for a used VHS, which breaks my damn brain. You can get one for 10% of that on ebay, but it is still a VHS. Do you have a VHS player? I don’t.

So, maybe six years went by and the pact to watch “Gift” went unfulfilled. “Hey, we need to watch that movie,” Julian would remind me. I’d look online again for the DVD version to no avail and let the pact slide. Finally Julian laid down the law. “This year, for my birthday I want you to watch that Jane’s Addiction movie with me. Enough is enough.” OK, what else could I do? I had to send Dave to the internet to find it in a watchable format.

Ten minutes later I had it. Why didn’t I do this years ago? Who even knows?

This is how Julian and I found ourselves sitting on my Ikea couch in my very respectable house with a mortgage, across the living room from the spot where soon some newly upholstered chairs will sit watching a movie that I watched when I was 17 and assumed that I would never want any of these things. Oh life. Not that I’m that different than I was then and it turns out I still really enjoy weird avant garde films about my favorite bands.

You read that right. I still like the movie. Sarah asked me last night if it stood the test of time. I honestly don’t know. Yes? I guess? I’ve watched some movies as an adult that I loved when I was younger that I definitely didn’t love anymore, I’m looking at you “Lost Boys,” but I don’t know if I ever loved “Gift.” It was every bit as pretty, confusing, fascinating, and bizarre as it was before. I noticed nuances that I hadn’t before and I think I really changed my understanding of what the hell is going on with the “plot.”

Did Julian like it? I think so, maybe?  You’ll have to ask them. It seems that maybe they fell into the category of “probably should have seen it in the 90’s, but luck did not favor it.” As Sarah said, “How the hell does that happen?”

If you’ve made it this far you might think I’m going to recommend that you watch “Gift.” I’m really not going to be responsible for making that recommendation. I’m just not. However I will say that if you feel compelled, based on this description of my experience to see it, you can find it on line. It isn’t easy to watch. The content is very real and sometimes graphically bizarre and stomach turning. There’s a whole lot of uncomfortable language and attitudes. If I only just saw it now I don’t think I would be writing quite this post.

*Incidentally, I did see them in 1997 at the Fillmore in San Francisco. It was every bit as great as I hoped it would be.