Big melons and rice crackers

This is the best summer for fruit and vegetables. Here, for instance, are our melons–actually I took these awhile ago and picked and ate our first one today. Last year you’d cut your foot on the grass if you walked barefoot outside. This year, sun by day, rain by night, making for one heck of a time to stay in to eat. Today I made rice crackers from scratch, thanks to my friend Barbara, who gave me her recipe….but first, the melons:

First, the infant, all fuzzy:

Fuzzy melon babe

Fuzzy melon babe


Then the first-grader:
Little bit older, less fuzz

Little bit older, less fuzz


Here’s one ready for its driving permit:
Getting there...but not ready for pickin

Getting there…but not ready for pickin


Here’s what they look like, hiding in the green. You walk up to your sea of green melon vines decorated with yellow flowers and wonder when the edibles will appear. You bend down and separate a leaf or two, and lo and behold, you’ve got 5 round husky fellas!
How melons hide

How melons hide

What do melons have to do with rice crackers? Today, they have today in common. Ate our first melon (sorry no pictures) and made our first batch of gluten-free rice crackers.

Barbara’s Recipe for Rice Crackers:

Rice Crackers

325 degrees

1. Cook 1 c short brown rice in 3 c. water (or if left-overs, 2 c.)
2. Add 3 T sesame seeds and process thoroughly
3. Add 1 t kelp and ½ t salt and rice flour as needed to knead
Or add 4 T pecan meal and ½ t salt
4. On marble or wood cutting board, form rectangle, pat out and add rice flour or pecan meal to flatten. Use a rolling pin well floured.
5. Cut into squares and put onto greased cookie sheet (not silicone or parchment paper)
6. Bake 25-35 min or until crispy and dry.

Note: before last roll/pat add a favorite seasoning:
• Garlic/herbs
• Chipotle pepper
• Cracked black pepper

Here are the visual enhancements:

Processed raw pecans (I had the 4 T and enough for next time)

Processed raw pecans (I had the 4 T and enough for next time)


Mix it all up with brown rice flower

Mix it all up with brown rice flower


Voila! Bon apetit, Julia Child!

Voila! Bon apetit, Julia Child!

A Short Meditation on “Ass”

This morning when I sat down in the bird-watching chair I noticed a large gray squirrel taking advantage of the absence of dogs to gorge on some fat-rich seeds. I thought to myself, “that’s a big-ass squirrel,” and got up to put the dogs out. I returned to my chair to enjoy some more bird-partial watching as I drank my first cup of coffee.

Then I got to thinking about “ass.” In particular, as an adjectival enhancer. What, I wondered, does it mean to add ass to your descriptions? Is it mere colorful sprinkling, a local flavor? Or is there something more substantial, with more muscle to consider?

For instance, is a big-ass squirrel just bigger than a regular (or regular-ass) squirrel? Or is there something in its assedness that suggests its greater capacity to annoy, well, me?

I think of other instances in which I pepper my discourse with ass. . . .

Rand Paul is a dumb-ass.

I don’t think Mitch McConnell is one–he’s more of a punk-ass.

What does this mean? Well, in the first case, I question his intellectual (and moral) compass and think he causes damage, hence is “assed.” In the second case, he really perpetuates negativity, and he does so with that lipless smirk that reveals his true self. He’s a punk-ass, needs to be brought down a peg or two, perhaps land on his gluteus maximus a time or two. (not that I wish him ill–I just think he’d be happier if he gave up his evil-assed ways)

No other body part works the way ass does. You can’t say “that’s a big-breasted squirrel” or “big-headed squirrel” and get anywhere near the rhetorical trajectory. If I said, “that’s a big-butt squirrel,” you would picture something very different in this normally endowed rodent with a fluffy tail.

Then we have the situation when our adjectival enhancer is itself enhanced, as in half-assed and hard-assed. In the first case, the importance of ass is self-evident, since if you only have half you indeed are missing a lot. In the second case, we introduce contradiction. On the one hand, having a hard ass is supposed to be good, as in “could crack an egg on it,” as in buff. But on the other being a hard-ass is not so great, suggesting inflexibility, an ass fixed and not open to suggestion. We’re not supposed to face our enemies with a flaccid ass, but neither are we supposed to deal with our friends and colleagues with an impenetrable one. And yet we commit both these acts all the time. That ass must bear the weight of its own contradiction only reaffirms its importance as a value-laden word that we ignore only at grave risk.

I recently got bit by a brown recluse spider bite, and my favorite comment was, “Jane, surviving a brown recluse spider bite is bad-ass.” That is exactly what I was, in this context, and I appreciated my friend Christian for noting that.

“Ass” thus heightens meaning just as sriracha pulls the full potential from tofu and broccoli. It says, in effect, “here, let me give you a hand with that. Together we can pull this load better than either of us can do alone.” Thus, ass is a companion word, not just arbitrary flavoring. Thank you, ass.

This beautiful assed world would be a lot sorrier place if it weren’t so gosh darned beautiful–it’s hard to put into words just how big, bountiful, generous Earth is, how much I love its ass. Here then, to round out my morning’s reflection, is a picture of two early-ass mushrooms that appeared this morning nestled under my eggplant leaf….

Two early-assed mushrooms friend one of my eggplants.

Two early-assed mushrooms friend one of my eggplants.

Basil Spots Are Not Good Spots

Because I am a certified half-assed gardener, I am spending this lovely Saturday early afternoon taking pictures and writing about my garden rather than working on it. That said, I have bought some plants and put some in containers (pepper, eggplant) and some in my L-shaped garden, which stands for “love” or “loser,” I’m not sure which. Here is my L-garden from two angles: long leg and short leg (of the L). After seeing where we are today, in a general sort of way, I’ll show you some specifics, and when I finish I’ll go out and begin addressing some of the problems.

First, the EL:

L Garden, long side

L Garden, long side

Short side

Short side

Now for what to do. It may be apparent that about 15 basil plants (with returning rosemary and mint and some sage interspersed) have been planted. Oh-oh, brown spots! From what I can tell, these are from too much moisture. We have had a fair amount of rain, but their poor bound roots looked dry and so I watered them as well, when I put them….Everyone knows you’re supposed to do that.

Basil spots--too much moisture, I think.

Basil spots–too much moisture, I think.

What I shall do is cut or pinch off all the affected leaves and eat them (tonight) and see if that helps. At any rate, it will help me and whoever is lucky enough to dine with me. May the kale grow heartily without the spots, hereafter.

Now the next exhibit are my two returning vegetables that I’ve let bolt and now must let them finish. First is the kale, which has lovely seed pods, which I did not expect. Second is the beautiful fennel, which has come back after bolting last fall, at which time I harvested all the seeds (and ate them or gave them away).

Beautiful kale seed pods--I wonder if they taste good...?

Beautiful kale seed pods–I wonder if they taste good…?


I love fennel, even if I did mis-name the file "dill." It's fennel, may it grow in peace.

I love fennel, even if I did mis-name the file “dill.” It’s fennel, may it grow in peace.

Finally, there’s this messy corner, where the rain barrel I made is disconnected and therefore not collecting rain and where leaves have tumbled and crab grass invaded. It is my hope that by Memorial Day, this will look very different.

What is the corner of an L called where the long and short leg meet. The crotch? Okay, then!

What is the corner of an L called where the long and short leg meet. The crotch? Okay, then!

So here it is after cleaning–nice and mulched and much more inviting, both to look at and to grow things:

A garden well tended promises a good season.

A garden well tended promises a good season.

Purple Dead Nettle, New Kale, and Old Kale

Today I waded through the wet 60-degree grass to take a picture of two of the kale I planted back in October, picked in November and again in February and did not expect to pick again. But here it is rising from the Purple Dead Nettle, which I only just learned about, thanks to google images. The Purple Dead Nettle has taken over my little side garden where I successfully grew winter kale for the first time. If the kale didn’t rise above the Purple would you see it in this sea of green and purple?

Purple Dead Nettle, responds to a rainy day, while rain-dropped kale stands unpurturbed

Purple Dead Nettle, responds to a rainy day, while rain-dropped kale stands unpurturbed

Here’s another shot (okay, I’m learning how to use photoshop on my raw images–does it look new?), which you can compare with my truly “new” kale (below if I can find it and not if I can’t) that I planted in early spring last year, and which was so beautiful, but did not survive the bugs that gobbled the leaves up, seemingly overnight:

My old kale in new spring

My old kale in new spring

Now, all that said about new kale, old kale and Dead Nettle (a good thing), Purple, I’ve also just learned that it works well in a smoothie….well, coincidences upon co-incidents! Just this weekend I finally threw the over-ripe bananas I had in the freezer, with some store-bought frozen strawberries (probably not NGO), some vanilla yogurt, and 1/4 cup of orange juice. Voila! A smoothie to write home about. And if you’re writing home to Dharamsala, to your Tibetan friends, make that a Goji….even better.

Here’s what I learned about the purple nettle, from the wonderful “First Ways: urban foraging and other adventures” Blog: http://firstways.com/2011/02/17/purple-dead-nettle-a-weed-good-to-eat/

That is Lamium purpureum, a mint family plant known as purple dead nettle. You may wonder: Why eat it? Because it is said to be high in a number of nutrients including antioxidants, those cancer-busting compounds we can all use more of! I have been into putting it in my smoothies ever since I read this piece by a Tennessee homesteader. I blend it because the fuzzy texture and bland, grassy flavor does not make for awesome eating as a whole plant. (That said, with a little creativity, anything is possible.)

So I picked some Dead Nettle (a la purpella), ran to the store for above ingredients, or as close as I could get, and threw them into the blender….was it better than my original Goji? See for yourself!

First, the ingredients, then the pouring of the libations….I can’t show you how good it tastes. I put in all the Pupolis Deadus Nettalis (Lamium purpureum to be fair) that you see in the picture, two bananas, a bunch of strawberries (8?), some juice, and half the yogurt….

5 ingredients, that's all!

5 ingredients, that’s all!

Thick, lucsious smoothie with Purple Dead Nettle, minty!

Thick, lucsious smoothie with Purple Dead Nettle, minty!

So, here’s the site map:

begin with picture of kale you didn’t know you had growing because you’re only just now venturing out of your house and into the spring…..

get mildly curious about the purply weed taking over, almost thatching your treasured kale, curious enough to see what google says (take a photo or two)

discover that someone EATS THE STUFF

run to the store (in your car), come home, compile ingredients, more photos (for evidence)

drink (and share)

This is how you go from a long day at work home and make a little sense of your day….ahhhh.

Peach Blossom Special

My granddaughter loves pink and likes to wear it. I think real men eat home-grown lettuce while wearing pink. I have mixed feelings about pink–I think it’s wonderful for tongues, sunsets, and healthy tonsils. Even my glasses are pink, and I look quite fetching (and intelligent) when I wear them, though not quite so much as when I wear my sunglasses, which are not pink and therefore help me look mean and single-minded when I’m driving down Morgantown Road into the sun.

But yesterday, I learned a new love of pink–the peach blossoms on the volunteer tree that sprouted a few years ago next to our propane tank, and which no one had the heart to remove or transplant to a more dignified location. But peach blossoms do not need a well-landscaped yard to sing out their love of pink . . . as you can see:

Peach Blossom Special

Peach Blossom Special

Pink goes well with softly veined petals opened wide to the sun and air, and it also goes well with curled up buds.

Budding, or Before the Opening

Budding, or Before the Opening

And finally (for now), pink does very well as a blur in the eye, or perhaps the bottom hem of a flowery curtain just lifted to view our backyard and our neighbor’s, the Renfros, on the other side of our fire pit and fence. Mr. Renfro is a gardener extraordinaire, and yesterday began dropping seeds into the nearest 3-foot swath, as you can see. Mr. Renfro is not a half-assed gardener, like me, and his garden is one that I lust after…

Rich pink and Mr. Renfro's garden.

Rich pink and Mr. Renfro’s garden.