Monday, March 23, 2009

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

I'm not sure how old I was when I first read Robert Frost's "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening". I had certainly read quite a few of his poems, but this one did not leave me with a warm happy feeling. It left me with a feeling of dread, as though the gentleman who lived in the village may have been not quite all that he seemed to the village folk. The first time I read it, I got a chill from the reflected snow that wrapped my thoughts. I felt that it was not promises that kept the young man from entering the snowy woods, but fear. Was Washington Irving's Headless Horseman perhaps lurking deep within the cold shadows? Was the young man afraid that some nameless monster could be hiding behind the false prettiness of the wood? Had he just finished reading Mary Shelley's Gothic horror, "Frankenstein"?

I regret to tell you that this very poem gave me a fear of the dark. I would hurry to my bed and pull the covers over my head and sleep that way all night. My parents worried that I would deprive my brain of oxygen sleeping in this cocooned way and once even took all my blankets and the pillow from the room to try to break me of the habit. I thought them most cruel for this act...I don't think they acted out of cruelty but out of desperation. I still think back on that night and wonder how I managed to get through it without having a panic attack. Ever after that, I always lay awake until everyone else had gone to bed, then feeling safe at last, would haul the blankets over my head and sleep peacefully.

I outgrew the fear of the dark while in my room, but the fear of the darkling shadows outside still hold me in a cold grip. Our home is surrounded by woods and at times they lay deep in snowy shadows. I avoid them at night. Just after we first moved here, it was getting dark and I had taken Mindy, our blind dog, out for her last romp of the day. She and her cats had wandered down to the wood line and I stood under the security light (I didn't name it that, the power company did) and watched them. Suddenly I saw the cats stop and sniff the air, noses pointed up, then Mindy did the same thing. As one, the dog and the five cats turned and started to RUN towards the house. My mind froze momentarily and then when it came back to me, I saw all the monsters that could possibly inhabit the imagination lurking in the wood in front of me. I turned and ran like hell (in fact got up a pretty good speed for someone who walks with a cane) and the cats and the dog passed me. I refused to turn around and look behind me. My breath was coming in gasps as my feet made purchase on the porch steps and I ran straight into Mac's arms.

His face was perplexed and all I could do was start laughing. I was so glad to be the winner in this weird game of "ally ally oxenfree" that all I could do was grasp Mac's shirt front and laugh hysterically...I think I may have been crying, as well. What had the cats and the dog sensed in the woods? Coyotes probably...perfectly wraiths floated out to grab at my running feet, no monsters emerged from a dark lair. I'll never find out, either. I don't get far from the porch at night. Any Dog Walking is done by Mac. He's not afraid of anything.

Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening by Robert Frost

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Joy of Cooking

When I was younger (much younger than today) I loved watching cooking shows. Of course at that time there was no Food Network, so I had to get my Chef Fix where I could. The Galloping Gourmet started my life long love of Australia and Australian accents. I would spend an hour watching Graham Kerr collect the ingredients for the meal he was preparing, write down each one (complete with measurements) and then watch with awe and wonder as he assembled the said meal before my very eyes. Not knowing a thing about television production, it never occurred to me that the dinner he prepared in 37 minutes (commercials, you know) probably took him hours in real time. Being a novice cook (Mac lost 20 pounds the first six months of our marriage), I was nervously anxious to try new recipes and sort of spring them on him giving him the fancy name of the dish that looked like the dogs dinner by the time I was finished with it. I faced each afternoon in the kitchen with dread.

I cried a lot in the kitchen. I couldn't figure out why my efforts never looked like the finished product I had just viewed on The Dinah Shore show, or The Galloping Gourmet. I had no cookbook to guide me and the best meal of the day was generally breakfast. I could (and still do) prepare an omelet like no body's business and could cook grits with nary a lump, but dinner other than spaghetti was beyond me. Mama did all the cooking, we did all the eating. She was an amazing cook that I would put up against any chef in the world. She could take shoe leather and turn it into Chateaubriand, or stretch a meal for 5ive to accommodate a crowd of eight with no loss of flavor. That was my goal, to cook as well as Mama...or nearly as well. I longed for the day that included a real dinner that didn't start with the words Hamburger Helper.

I was in the bookstore one day and came across a cookbook called The Joy of Cooking. It was rather pricey, but I figured, what the hey...I bought it and took it home. I curled up on the couch and began to read. And so began my love affair with cook books. I read all about how to cook meats, about moist heat and dry to cook potatoes and the difference in salts. I learned that fresh ground pepper was far superior to the powered pepper that may have been ground years earlier and about the spices that made our food taste more like ambrosia and less like cardboard. I learned about the different pastas and what pesto was all about. I learned the difference between a Standing Rib Roast and a Sirloin Tip. It didn't happen overnight, and it took more than one cookbook, but I learned to cook. Better yet, I learned to love to cook and try new things and exhibit not the first sign of fear in the doing of it. I read cookbooks like novels and my approach to each recipe is with ambition instead of consternation. I have three shelves in the pantry that are nothing but cookbooks . My Joy of Cooking is dogeared and the pages are loose and I have a brand new one sitting by it's side. But it's the old one that I always reach for, it's like a beloved and trusted friend.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

How to get me out of the yard and onto the computer...

I was wandering around the house, picking up the kids (kitties) toys, preparing to vacuum and dust when I happened to look out the window and saw robins on the ground. I repeat, ROBINS! Dusting, vacuuming and picking up of toys forgotten, I found myself in the yard staring at the plum tree which was dazzling with sweet white blossoms. I looked down and realized that I still had the swiffer duster in my hand, so I hurried into the office , laid it down and grabbed my camera. I had to get a picture of that beautiful Victoria plum tree to share with you all before the blossoms are gone, and hopefully the fruit is set! Isn't it just beautiful? The other one is set to open, but so far only a few have. I can't for the life of me figure out why it is always two weeks behind the other. We have been busy in the gardens, getting things planted, and we finished up spraying all the trees with the winter wash just in time for this microburst of spring. I only pray we don't get an "Easter Snap" and a freeze undoes all we have done!

Okay, now I intended to do a giveaway for my 400th post, and this is (by estimation) my 421st, but a giveaway is on! All you have to do is leave a comment on any of my posts from now till March 31st and you're entered. I'll be back in here soon, but right now the yard and the 70 degree weather calls. Rain is expected on Thursday, I'll be here all day everyday till it's gone!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Winter Reruns?

We've been so busy here, celebrating Mac's birthday with a great party last Saturday and now working on getting the bedding plants repotted that I find my time is so limited it's painful! I'm putting a re-run and hopefully will be back within the next two days! Hope you won't mind to much!

A few years ago my husband Mac and I went out on a limb. No, really. We ACTUALLY went out on a limb. Going through our library of gardening books looking for "how to prune Pecan trees" we decided we pretty well knew what to do and how to do it. We assembled saws and ladder, (including a chain saw. ) There was only one pecan tree to make the pruning attempt upon, but it was so large it was like pruning three trees. We attacked it from about 8 different directions and all was going well. My nerves over the use of the chain saw were taken in hand and I found that I could assist Mac without having a breakdown. We were on the last limb when disaster struck. The chainsaw became lodged in the limb. Mac told me to climb up on the ladder and push up on the limb in an attempt to free the chain saw. So, in our attempts to free the saw from the grip of the limb, I pushed a little harder than maybe I should have. The limb exploded, the ladder flid out of place, fell to the ground and I hit the pavement...I broke two ribs and as we learned later, my neck. I swore that I would never attempt such a thing again.

Well, that was then, this is now. We have this apple tree here at the new house. It is a very big old apple tree. Limbs are growing willy-nilly and crossing over, going straight up, curving around. And to top it off, it had a terrible case of fire blight. Mac started out spraying it to kill the fire blight. The first spring we had such beautiful flowers and soon there was fruit. The fruit wasn't pretty to look at. Due to the trees diseased state, the fruit fell off the limbs to soon. We decided the tree needed lots more work. We tackled this job Tuesday.

Mac got out the (new) ladder and the chainsaw. I had the loppers in hand and got the smaller branches on the bottom that were growing in all directions. Mac cranked the chainsaw and I stood back as far as was humanly possible to stand and still remain in sight. After a few limbs were expertly trimmed from the main trunk of the tree, I was coaxed closer, Mac assuring me that all would be well this time.

There was one limb that went straight up out of the main trunk and took up much sunlight for something that was dead as a hammer. This branch was as big around as a man's leg. It was very hard wood and Mac was having a time getting the saw to cut through it. Hesitantly, I approached the tree and tried to help. Finally, we tied a rope around the limb and using the tractor, pulled it down and out of the way.

There was much pulling, tugging, twisting and straining to make this tree look as good as it does right now. We hauled limbs till dusk. This time there were no accidents involving the tree, and I didn't get knocked off the ladder by a sizable limb. I just feel as though I had been. The difference in five years from then till now is amazing. We did the job on Tuesday. This is Friday. Recovery may take a while. I remember my mother singing "too old to cut the mustard anymore." Those words speak volumes.