Wednesday, August 29, 2007


From the vine....
to the sink ...

to the glass!

In celebration of my successful pruning efforts last spring and in honor of the beautiful grapes that just couldn't go to waste, I spent the late afternoon and early evening making grape juice the old fashioned way. I cooked the grapes, smashed them up, and ran the "mash" through cheese cloth to extract the juice.

Boy, oh boy, was it worth the effort!! Totally organic, no sugar added, thick, pulpy, tart juice. When I drink it, I'll probably add a little water to cut down on the thickness and perhaps a tiny bit of stevia to balance the tartness, but it's really quite succulent without any "doctoring." (It reminds me of communion juice when I was a kid.)

The deep red color makes me think I could color paper pulp with it. The stains on my wall from where I slopped it around a couple of times indicate that the color sticks without any trouble. Perhaps, I'll save the "mash" and see if I can make some paper before it ferments. (Then I'd have alcoholic paper! What a concept!)

I share the spirit of "the fruit of the vine" with all...I have to boast a bit...I've really been into reclaiming the grapes, and I think I've succeeded!!!


Sunday, August 26, 2007


It's been a work weekend here at The Farm, and with the exception of last evening when I persuaded Dr. Tom to go with me to a friend's 50th birthday party, I've had my nose to the grindstone.

Friday and yesterday, I worked up about 2 bushels of tomatoes. I froze several quarts and made up a couple of gallons of spaghetti sauce / soup stock to use for the winter. My freezor is about to burst open with all the stored up goodies. I also made three huge rounds of pesto, adding enough garlic to keep all the not nice spirits away. I'm sure it will be too strong for Eliza, but Samuel and I will eat it and have garlic breath for days on end. Pesto pizza, made with summer farm pesto, is a staple at our annual New Year's Eve Party.

This afternoon my thoughts were to try to get in the garden and pull out as many weeds as I can. Unfortunately, somewhere in all the weeds, one could possibly find the prettiest beans I've had all summer, probably more tomatoes (although I'm not looking for them too hard), and a least a dozen large winter squashes. (Alas! The squash borers attacked the luscious yellow squash and zucchini plants while I was gone, and they're now at the base of the new compost pile I've got going by the garden.) And, if one cared to cook okra that's about a foot long, I have plenty. Maybe I'll save them for seed next year.

To top off the farm produce list, I am ecstatic to announce that I have BEAUTIFUL, abundant, and very ripe grapes. Anybody want some? They're the first grapes that I've had since I took over the pruning in the last few years. My ex-husband used to be the farm pruner, and for a couple of years after he transitioned to another life --no, he didn't die; he just moved away for good--I just whacked away at the grapes in late winter so that the vines wouldn't get out of control. However, for the last two years, I have taken the pruning instructions I ran off from the internet out with my clippers and painstakingly followed the directions. The result = One heck of a grape harvest. YEAH ME!!!! So, tomorrow, I'm going to make grape juice all day. If I had any notion of how to make wine, I would give it a try, but I think that's a project for the future now that I know my vines are back in production.

OK, here's the BIG whine you've been waiting for...I have to start back to work on Tuesday...a half day of in-service at the community college and two full classes I teach as adjunct at the local college. Yuk, yuk, yuk! The high thought is that I might possibly see a light at the end of the tunnel...I'm going to make an appointment with a retirement counselor later this fall and dream about the time when this time of year rolls around and I DON'T have to go back to work......Ahhhhhhh!!! What a great thought!

Friday, August 24, 2007


Oh, boy, it's hot in the Mid-Ohio Valley today....The temperature will surpass 98 degrees, and factoring in the humidity, the real heat index will reach about 104...

It's too hot to work, too hot to eat, too hot to do anything...I could be ready for fall.

I'm off to swoon and sit in front of a fan.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

P & T

We were never cheerleaders or members of the popular crowd in school. We've gotten into as many outrageous predicaments as Ethel and Lucy. We had special voices for our dogs, Nickles and Fern, that only we could understand. We had secret hideaways in the woods. We had funerals for our salamanders. We sat in front of Bobby Kennedy's children at the Turtles and Every Mother's Sons' concert at Expo '66 (?) in Montreal. We went into a swanky Parisian restaurant and realized we didn't have enough money to buy anything but appertizers. We got my father's relatively new station wagon stuck on the side of a mountain in rattlesnake country not far from Boone and had to walk three miles to the nearest house to call home, confess to our mishap, and wait for the tow truck and my very disgruntled mother to come to our rescue. We forgot all about our music lessons one Saturday morning because we were jumping in the autumn leaves, so we set our watches back an hour to pretend we arrived on time, thinking for sure our teacher would believe us. We had beauty pageants in which we were extremely voluptuous contestants with really hilarious talents. We spent almost every weekend together, watching scary movies and crawling under the covers to scream. Our names are still written in chalk on the cement blocks in my grandmother's basement where we played hopscotch with my cousins. We played in the high school band together, but neither of us made the chorus. When we traveled to Mexico together in the summer of 1976, we did everything from eat tripe soup to down too many shots of tequila, resulting in two broken ribs for P. and one hellacious case of amoebic dysentery for T.

We've known each other since birth. I am a year and three months older than P., and our moms were with each other when we were born. Our mothers worked together in the infirmary at Appalachian State University, knitted all our sweaters together, traveled to meetings together, and were the best of friends. P and I attended the same schools, had many of the same teachers, and spent a sizeable portion of our childhood together. We went to the same church and got kicked out of Sunday school for not paying attention to Mrs. Kay Wilson's morning lesson. (It was incredibly boring, and as I recall, we were making silly comments aout her flowered hat that was attracting bees when she asked us to leave!)

We have always been and will always be the very best of friends. And yes, as is readily observable, neither of us have ever won a Miss Photogenic award, except in our own beauty pageants! (The following is a classic P & T photo...Notice how we both have our eyes closed in this picture, something we've always been able to execute perfectly in front of the camera lens.)

So here we are...P (Peggy) and T (Tanya)....together for a brief visit at The Farm yesterday as P. and her amazing and beautiful daughter, Alex, stopped in to spend the night on their return trip to Regina, Sasketchewan. I'm sure Alex learned a heck of a lot about her mom as we entertained her with accounts of our lives.

Oh how we laughed, reminisced, and laughed some more!! It's been about 10 years since we last saw each other, but something tells me we'll be together more and more as we get older Who knows what we'll get into in our golden years?????...Watch out world, here we come!!!


I'm back at The Farm after having been in Miami for 10 days. It's good to be home, but I really miss the tropical beauty of that area and my Cuban friends whom I see only once or twice a year. I am blessed to be loved by so many people there, and I am always energized to continue my human rights work after spending time with so many people who long to return to their native island.

While in Miami, I had the opportunity to see former political prisoners who have become close friends, visit with family members of human rights leaders who still remain on the island, see my goddaughter, Gabriela, and her mom, Rosa, attend a wonderful concert by Carlos & Marta (a duo whose "trova" type music is reminiscent of the 60's folk songs that are re-emerging and popular these days), eat some really succulent Cuban food, spend time in the ocean, have lunch with my former professor, Eduardo Zayas-Bazán, and some of his friends who also participated in the Bay of Pigs, attend a meeting of the Coalition of Cuban-American Women, visit the Casa de los Presos with my friend, Rodolfo San Román, hand out for an afternoon with Laida's daughter, Tania, and do a live, direct interview to Cuba on Radio Martí. Most importantly, however, I got to be with my dear friend, Laida, and visit her mother, Liana, who has had a difficult year and who is now being cared for in a special home not far from Laida's house.

(Liana Prieto Arcia, Laida's mom, & Laida)

(Pepín & Laida Carro - Miami Beach)

The week flew by....I could have stayed much longer! For now, I'm savoring and storing all the memories in an easily accessible file in my mind. They'll come in handy next week as I sit in in-service meetings all day at work!

Saturday, August 11, 2007


Hasta luego, mis amigos...I'm off to Miami for 10 the beach, good restaurants, a couple of concerts, a gallery hop, and most importantly, to visit with my Cuban friends whom I love and adore.

I'll have stories when I return...


Thursday, August 09, 2007


9 AM - 08/08/07

7PM - 08/08/07

9 AM - 08-09-07

By dark, this white datura bloom will have wilted away. By tomorrow morning, it will have fallen off the stalk, and the spiny seed pod will start to form. I LOVE growing these exquisite flowers, and I hope the other species I have in the ground will bloom before frost. (I got them started and into the ground a bit late.) Hopefully, I'll have some of the double purple flowers I grew last year, as well as some new varieties I've never seen in bloom.

Would anyone like seeds if I have extras?

(A great source for datura and brugmansia seeds: aka, Jim Johnson, Seedman / 3421 Bream Street / Gautier, MS 39553)

Sunday, August 05, 2007


After realizing she declared her candidacy for president about and year and a half before she really needed to, Ms. Potato Head along with her running mate, Ms. Gnome, held a news conference today to say "Hi, we're back!" and introduce their respective significant others to the public.

When someone asked her where she and Ms. Gnome had been since their premature announcement, Ms. PH replied,"We made a group decision to go to a tropical island, hang out all day on the beach, talk about a few details, and basically, stay on vacation until it was time to get serious about the upcoming election. Recently, when Mr. Gnome mentioned his water was heating up considerably in the tropical sun, we all agreed it was a good time to return to the area. The four of us are quite adept at consensus."

Mr. Potato Head, known by many as "Spud," stood proudly by his wife while Mr. Gnome, affectionately referred to as "Wrinkles" by Ms. Gnome, offered a friendly smile from his portable bath tub from which he never emerges. All four appeared very relaxed and happy, the result, no doubt, of 15 months of vacation.

In unexpected news, Ms. PH and Ms. Gnome., took advantage of the occasion to introduce their good friend and confidante, Mr. Gonk, who will assume the responsibility as their personal organizer for the duration of the election season.

Mr. Gonk, a self-confessed worrier, nervous sort, and coffee addict, brings a rather frenzied balance to the happy-go-lucky Ms. PH and unfailingly mellow Ms. Gnome. Reputed to lovingly but constantly badger his girlfriends into action, he also knows when it's time "to throw in the towel" when dealing with the unconventional political duo.

"We don't know what we'd do without him," the two women chimed in simultaneously.

Their respective spouses agreed. "Spud and I think the world of Gonk, and we're glad he's around to take care of details. I understand he just traded his latest Blackberry for an IPhone so he can keep the girls on task," Wrinkles added from his tub.

"Gonk's a really good guy and an efficient manager. Despite his frazzled look, he can mellow out when he hangs out with Wrinkles and me," Spud said while adjusting his fire-engine red construction hat.

After the PH's and Gnomes left the conference, Mr. Gonk told members of the press in attendance that he would keep them apprised of his candidates' schedule once they decided what they wanted to do next.

"I can assure you Ms. Potato Head and Ms. Gnome will bring an element of uniqueness and spontaneity to the upcoming election. Their 'We Embrace All' campaign theme has touched the heart of the entire planet. I expect them to spend a good time abroad as well as on the domestic campaign trail. However, I would caution the press and the voting public that one never knows what they've got planned from one moment to the next.," Gonk concluded.

Stay tuned......

Thursday, August 02, 2007


In honor of Lammas, the pagan celebration of the miracle of the harvest, I decided that our evening meal last night would be almost exclusively fare from the garden, so I cooked some green beans, made some yummy collard greens (yes, made with bacon grease), threw together a yellow squash dish with hot peppers and dill, and sliced some ruby-red tomatoes. Along with the veggies, I served a free-range rotisserie chicken from the store and some organic rice.

I can't begin to describe the joy I feel when I eat produce that I've grown. Good, organically-raised vegetables taste so much better than shipped-in wax-coated ones from the store, and I love the satisfaction of knowing that what my family consumes is basically free (to the extent it's possible in the area in which we live) of all those nasty things which come with non-organically grown items.

According to my Llewellyn's Witches Calendar, the time around Lammas was also recognized by the Native Americans as The Green Corn Moon, a period of joy and feasting. It's a time of ripeness,fullfillment, and gratitude for all one has, and it's a time to share with others. I like that idea; it always gives me great pleasure to share the bounty of my garden with other people.

Around Lammas, the grain fields were believed to "be inhabited by a harvest spirit. As the harvesting advanced across the field, the spirit fled into the grain still standing. The last stand of grain was left standing until next year, or else a young girl was selected to cut the last bit of grain--hence the belief in the Corn Maiden...Life-sized female figures known as Harvest Queen were made from the grain....The Harvest Queen would be brought to the door or yard of the farmhouse, a huge supper would be served, and many times, folks would make music and dance, a tradition that probably gave birth to county fairs and the like."(-James Kambos, August: Llewellyns' Witches Calendar)

Appropriately enough, two nights ago, I pulled up my two rows of corn that the raccoons had thoroughly stripped and placed the cornstalks around the bells I had hung as a critter deterrent earlier in the summer. They sort of looked like a corn person standing there, so now I'll just dub the drying stalks as my Harvest Queen and let her take reign over the garden.
(Harvest Queen art credit: Jennifer Hewiston / August / Llewellyn's Witches Calendar)