Monday, April 28, 2008

Chipmunks Galore

There seems to have been a mini baby boom in the chipmunk population living in the 4 rock walls on my property. Or perhaps they have all moved to the mountain; slogging over hill and dale to seek new life and opportunity…. Either way I have loads of them. This is a new development.


I had snakes. Big 6-foot black snakes. Snakes that would sun themselves on the steps, so you had to be careful coming and going out the front door. Snakes that left old skin under the shrubbery to scare the unsuspecting weeder. Snakes that gorged themselves, then being too stuffed to move, lay draped over the top of the rock walls. Snakes that I was constantly cutting out of the deer netting. Each part of the property had its own black snake.


No snakes. Not a single one!

And now I have a bloom in the chipmunk population. I do find chipmunks adorable. I do not mind them living in the rock walls. I even bought a wildlife waterer for them. But enough is enough already.

I think I am sorely in need of snakes. I wonder if they will come back?

Friday, April 25, 2008

Inquiring Bluebird Spouse

"Honey, I'm going out for a snack, can I get you anything?"

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Rice Hoarding

What! There is a shortage of rice??? OMG. Rice is my carb of choice. I dashed downstairs to the pantry to heft the bags of rice and peer into canisters. I had lots of arborio rice, plenty of medium-grained and too much long-grained. There was enough basmati to get through at least 2 dinner parties, half a bag of tired looking brown rice, 2 small bags of forbidden rice and some wild rice, which is not really a rice at all. But horrors! I was almost out of Jasmine rice, my favorite type. Given the current situation and all the talk on the news of rice hoarding…where could I get another bag? My favorite Asian store in Hartsdale? Or maybe I should go to the grocery? It was not a desperate situation, should I wait…or not…should I get in line to buy my 4 bags? Where would I store it? In the freezer? (I had a bag of basmati get all weevily on me once.) I took a deep breath. I decided not.

I don’t understand the hoarding thing. Back in the day, people hoarded toilet paper when the state started to tax it. Heck, people were hoarding all kinds of paper products. I have seen people buying up water and bread and flour but never oatmeal or wine or pickled okra in the jar. And ultimately what is the point? Yes food is becoming expensive but most of us could lose some weight, so let’s take this opportunity to consider our portions, eat smaller meals and get healthier in the process. Meanwhile if you see a large bag of Jasmine rice, could you pick me up a bag or two or….

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Earth Day Thoughts

Go Outside and Play.

How many times did you hear this from your parents? If they were like mine, it must have been thousands, right? My sister and I with our friends rode our bikes everywhere, we explored the creek and back roads, we dug caves in sand cliffs (stupid, yes and I almost got killed, but that is a story for another time), we learned about trees and flowers, practiced doing cartwheels on the lawn and captured grasshoppers and lightening bugs in jars. We played kickball in the street and freeze tag on all the neighborhood lawns. We played in everybody’s yard not just our own. No one yelled. No one sued. No one cared.

But times have changed. Now there is talk about Nature Deficit Disorder. But I postulate that this is not just for kids but adults too. While adults may not be afraid; when may I ask, do we have time to go out and play? I seem to spend endless warm sunny days, cleaning the house, doing laundry, and working in the yard. Last year I instituted only cleaning one floor per week. But on the upstairs week, I ended up cleaning the downstairs anyway. So, that never really worked out.

I want to have a personal relationship with the woods and fields. I want to go birding and hiking and riding my bike. I encourage you to join me. Find the time to get out there. If by some miracle you come upon me, stop and say hi. I might have just seen something cool and am dying for someone to share it with.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Daffodil Days

Daffodils are one of my favorite flowers. I planted thousands of them when I first moved to the mountain and now that are multiplying into fantastic stands. Bonus: the deer won't eat them!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

¿Que hay de comer?

What's for supper?

This is one of my favorite recipes. It is excellent and easy. Try it!

Puntas de Filete

2 T canola oil
1 ½ lbs tender boneless beef diced in 1-inch cubes (I use London broil)
2 T butter
1 medium onion
3 fresh Serrano peppers, minced (these are the little green ones)
2 cloves of garlic minced
1 32oz can of crushed tomatoes
1 whole small can of beef broth
1 bay leaf
Salt to taste

In a Dutch oven or large saucepan, warm the oil over high heat. Brown the meat in the oil, turning frequently for 4 or 5 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove the meat and set aside.

Reduce the heat to medium and add the butter. When the butter is melted, stir in the onion and sauté until soft. Add the serranos and garlic. Continue to sauté for a few minutes. Add the tomatoes, broth, bay leaf and salt. Simmer the sauce for 10-15 minutes. Then add the meat and heat through. Serve hot with rice. Serves 4.

This recipe is from the The Border Cookbook by Cheryl and Bill Jamison. It is a book of the authentic home cooking of the American Southwest and Northern Mexico. I diddled with the original recipe a smidge for ease.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Lonesome Whippoorwill


I wake to the sound

Achingly lonely

Calling at midnight

I join his vigil

But none comes, to be

With him or with me

It is too soon.




Monday, April 14, 2008

A Huge Mistake

Michele was furious. She pounded her fist against the steering wheel. He could not do this to her! Bastard.

She surprised herself with the venomous tone. She could not believe that the man she was dating had lied to her. That the woman he was sharing a house with was also sharing his bed. What a jerk. She turned up the radio to try and get his voice out of her head.

“But honey, she doesn’t mean anything to me. She just needs a place to stay.”

God. Did he think she was an idiot? Ok, well. She had just had her first and last fight with her new ex-boyfriend.

She was recklessly heading home at a slow boil, slowly coming to terms with the fact that she was indeed an idiot when she decided to drive around a while to cool down. Spontaneously she turned right instead of left.

She had always enjoyed driving and she had a new car. It was the first new car she had ever bought. She loved the sunroof and the teal green color that reminded her of the sea. It was a standard shift and she enjoyed the sense of control it gave her.

It was a lovely summer day in the country. She drove with the windows down and the sunroof open. She switched on the radio and poked the scan button until she found a country station. Perfect. A song about a cheating man.

They had met at the local community garden. She was helping the Girl Scout troop plant peas and beans so they could earn their gardening badge. As a master gardener she often volunteered her time. He was helping that day too. She had never seen him before and they had struck up a polite conversation. As the girls giggled and complained about getting dirty, Michele chatted with the garden guy and soon found herself agreeing to go out for a drink. To talk about the Master Gardening program—nothing else. Well, one drink led to two and here she was months later dating a younger man who had lied to her about everything.

She found herself in an endless loop of self-pity and righteous anger. Fuming again, she turned left onto a narrow gravel road. Not paying attention, she rounded curve after curve, picking up speed on her way out of the turns. As a college student they used to call this playing race car driver.

As she came out of a turn, going way too fast, she saw a pair of bicyclists stopped in the middle of the road looking at a map.

What the hell were they doing standing in the middle of the road out here in the middle of nowhere?

She slammed on her brakes, the car started to fish tail; the gravel on the road was just like ice. The faces of the bicyclists were frozen in shock. She fought the car, finally bringing it to a stop, the nose sunk deep into a muddy bank.

She had not hit them.

She leaned her head back against the seat, shaken. She opened her eyes and looked around. She was alone. The bikers had hopped on their bikes and were now distant specks.

As she put the car in reverse to ease out of the bank, there was a ripping sound. She got out to look at the damage. It did not look so bad. The hood and right fender were scratched from the tree roots in the bank, but more ominous was a large piece of black plastic lying in the road. She stood looking at it, puzzled. She picked it up and hoisted it in the trunk, then got back behind the wheel.

How was she ever going to explain this?

She drove slowly and carefully home thinking of possible scenarios. She pulled into the drive and fished around in her purse for her wedding ring and slipped it back on. She leaned back against the seat taking deep breaths.

Suddenly, the car door opened and she started.

“Hi Hon, what took so long at the store?”

Michele looked up at her husband.

“Oh my God. You scared me; I was just in an accident. On my way home there were 2 bicyclists just standing in the middle of the road. I swerved to avoid them and hit a mud bank. They didn’t even stop to see if I was OK.” She started to cry. “I am an idiot. I wrecked the new car. I could have been killed.”

She got out of the car and he gathered her in his arms.

“Don’t worry about the car. Are you OK? I don’t know what I would do if I were to lose you.”

Saturday, April 12, 2008

The agony of indecision

My sister’s 17 year old dog Sparky had a seizure or a stroke or something really not good while I was on the phone with her this morning. Needless to say, we hung up in haste. An hour or so later, she called back to tell me that the episode seemed to have passed and he was resting. But she is on deathwatch. If he were a human, we would be calling hospice. I hate this part of loving an animal.

Every time I get up in the morning or come home from work or travel, I worry about it. An aging pet is a concern all the time. Their little bodies run to a faster clock. We will all love many animals in our lives; they will love only us. In exchange for the love and devotion we owe them care, love and pain-free final days.

The decision to make the final trip to the vet is a heart-rending one. I have agonized over it every time I have had to make it. Sometime it is an emergency and there is no decision process. It is a scab that is ripped open and bleeding, no matter how prepared we are. Sometimes the decision is their own, with them refusing water and food, preferring to sleep or crawl off to be alone. Sometimes it is the long wait; watching for a sign that they are done and it is time for us to let them go.

I have tried to pay attention to the signs and not be greedy, because this is not about me. I made that mistake once. After my cat Chester’ s collapse I carried him for an entire Thanksgiving holiday not ready to let him go. He had been with me through thick and thin for 18 years. He rallied and lived for another year, but he was miserable and never well. It was unfair to him. I will never do that again.

I have had cats in my life for well over 25 years. I have agonized over the decision to make the long trip to the vet many times now. Is it better to make the decision and the drive or hope to find them gone peacefully in the night? Either way it is a dreadful thing. But I would rather they see a loving face a the very end; then be alone and frightened.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Signs of Spring

After book group last Sunday, some friends and I went for a stroll at the Celery Farm in Allendale, NJ. It was cold and muddy but the signs of spring were everywhere.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Spring Has Come to the Mountain

I love the idea of naturalizing spring bulbs in the grass so they erupt as purple, yellow or striped surprises just when I can no longer take it and am sure that Spring will never come. I have sunk bulbs in the grass of every house I have ever lived in, mostly to no avail. The deer also love tasty surprises in the flattened brown lawn. I found these gems basking in the sun in a flower bed that I rarely see. Apparently the deer overlooked them too.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Susurrant Trees

The trees whisper of spring’s approach
While small birds sit amidst the conversation
Cocking their heads this way and that.
To the creak of old wood
And the faint stirring of new life
Drawn from icy spring rain
And softened soil.

The birds are impatiently interrupting
The tentative susurration of the trees
With twitters and joyous song
With the sway of branches
In bracing winds.
For they too have heard it in the air
And seen it in the strengthening light.

But the trees pay them no heed
For they are tenderly exploring
Winter’s shearing with tentative pulses
Winter’s frozen toes in warm patches of sunlight.
And contemplating swollen buds for yet another season
of light and leaf and dancing shadows.