Solar Tracking

Solar Tracking
How low can you go? Snow and ice and cancelled school.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Memorial Day

                When I was little, Memorial Day was still celebrated on May 31st, not as a long weekend. The best parade in the area was in Newton Junction, which consisted of a school, a few houses, a railroad line, and a small general store. My grandparents lived across from the school.  The parade started at four in the afternoon. After school, my aunt piled her three kids into the back of the station wagon, picked up my mom and me, and drove the windy, bumpy, tree lined roads to my grandmother’s house for the parade.

                It was a traditional parade.  School bands, veterans from several wars, a few floats pulled by old trucks, some dogs and kids on bikes. It marched down the main “street” and the watchers curved into the parade as it passed, so it grew longer every few feet. My cousins and I fell cheerfully into line behind the bands—a stairstep family of four, if anyone was looking. I blended in perfectly; my cousin Steven and I had the same hair, smile, freckles. Twins.  The marching band led the way to the cemetery, where things grew more serious.

                The cemetery was small, green, a bit overgrown, but spruced up for the ceremony. There must have been a monument or two for World War Two, World War One, and Korea. There must have been flags.  The Vietnam War was just about to escalate. Everyone there had sons who had served—my family enlisted in the air force. My uncle was stationed in Japan. The adults all remembered wars.  What struck me, then, though, was the silence. The entire town gathered in this small, still, green space, and stood in silence.

                Someone spoke a few words. Someone else laid a wreath on the graves, maybe a flag. There was a six gun salute, which scared all of us every year. The sound hurt our ears, reminded us of the violence of war. Then someone played Taps, the clear notes rising through the evening air. Day is Done. This day was done for us, four small kids. The larger day was done for all of the men who had served our country. We knew this.

                When the ceremony was over, we all wandered back home for dinner. I suspect we stayed at my grandparent’s house and they chased us outside while they cooked hamburgers and set the table. We ran around, shouting, arguing, slipping across the street to climb on the monkey bars. Life went on—but we remembered, deep down, the silence of the cemetery.
               

                

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Planting Plans

         
      These last few days of really warm weather have been great for the garden. Everything is panted and much of it is up and growing, finally! It’s been a long cold spring.

                Last year, I planted a Three Sisters bed of Cranberry beans, Painted Mountain corn, and Winter Luxury pumpkins. I’ve hesitated to grow corn because of our short season but I had traded a wool hat for some metal  hoops for a cold frame. Five hoops on a ten foot bed created a solid little greenhouse, which I arranged over the just planted corn and bean seed. It was up in a week, but I left it covered to discourage birds and increase growth.  By late June, the corn and pumpkins were growing several inches a day (I measured) and tossing leaves in the breeze. We harvested three large pumpkins, a quart and a half of beans, and three quarts of corn, which I ground in the wheat mill for cornbread and polenta. And it was a beautiful bed.  This year, I have planted the same combination in the last bed, so that the corn will provide a screen from the alley. We shall see. The seeds are up.

                The two potato beds are all bushy and green. I planted them out several weeks ago when we had a break in the rains for several days. Because the organic matter is so high in the old beds, they had drained and warmed faster than I expected. Planting went quickly. They were up in a week and I laid the hoses down and mulched the plants with straw this weekend. They should be set for the summer—if the hoses don’t explode or develop leaks. Blue, Butte, Desiree, and Yukon Gold.

                The tomatoes went out a week or so ago as well. They were growing in the greenhouse in gallon pots. Usually, I bump all of my tomatoes up into the four inch pots, but, this year, I put ours into gallons. This made it clear which plants were ours as I gave away the others. It also gave us more flexibility  for planting, which we needed. Because they had plenty of room to grow, the starts were not at all stunted by being held inside for several weeks longer than usual.  They were sun scalded for the first few days of being outside, partly because the south wall reflects light back onto the plants, but quickly adjusted to being outside and put on rich new growth.
               

Polenta

The polenta ratio is one third grain to two thirds liquid. Therefore, half a cup of ground cornmeal can be poured slowly into a cup of water or milk (or combo, depending on what is in your fridge) and cooked slowly until thick. I like to add some salt, butter, and a wee bit of sugar to the mix. Basil and cheese can be nice. Tomatoes, olives....

                

Friday, May 5, 2017

May Dinner

           
    Eating locally in early May has its challenges, especially when you are also functioning on a pretty tight schedule.  There are lots of greens right now, but substantive veg is hard to come by.  Onions and potatoes are growing soft; the last squash is waiting to be chopped this weekend; carrots and zucchini are a month or so away.

                A few days ago, I was wandering home from a meeting, dreaming about flatbread cooked in the cast iron skillet. So easy. So yummy. And we could have it with that jar of dal that I had seen this morning… and maybe the salad greens from Sunbow….I had a plan. I made the flatbread dough, went outside to trim out a garden bed, came in to heat up the dal only to  discover that we had eaten it already. The jar was some rhubarb compote I had made a few days ago. Tasty, but not dinner.  I headed to the basement to recover a jar of Sweetcreek tuna, which we added to the plate of salad greens.  Fresh salad, tuna, flatbread, with rhubarb cake for desert—a save, Mark observed.  A spring feast.

                This evening, I made a pan of cornbread using the corn we had grown in the backyard last summer. It was red and gold, so the cornbread is rather pink, but so lovely and fresh corn tasting. I had dumped a couple of cups of Hutterite soup beans from Sunbow into the crockpot with three bay leaves and a local onion right after lunch, and they were soft and rich.  I Filled a bowl  with salad   from the backyard—kale, mustard, lettuce, sorrel, arugula, peppermint, garlic chives—and placed it in the middle of the table. We spread home made apple butter on the second chunks of cornbread and sighed.  We are so spoiled, I observed.

                And it is true. We eat what is in season in abundance for a few weeks or months and, just when we grow tired of it, it fades out of the rotation and something else takes its place. Right now it is tender salad greens. Soon, it will be zucchini and tomatoes right off the vine.

Flatbread
1 cup of water
1 t of yeast
1 t sugar
1T olive oil
¾ t salt
2 ¼ cups flour (1 ww)


Proof the yeast in water with the sugar. Add the flour, salt, and oil, and stir. Knead a few times on the counter if needed. Let rest for an hour or so in the bowl, then divide into 8 pieces, roll out in circles, and cook, quickly, on a cast iron skillet. I use high heat and watch them closely. The dough can sit in the fridge for a few days if you only use half of it. Serve warm with olive oil, zatar, and salt.