Wednesday, August 25, 2010


Fairy ring.

Male and female Diana fritillaries.

Diana fritillary larva.
 August is the time for fritillaries and fairy rings. Both are present in our wild garden. Diana fritillaries, so have the distinction of being dimorphic. That is, it occurs in two different form. The female's wings are a velvety black marked  with a  shimmering blue dice-like  pattern (fritillus means dice box in Latin) and the male's are  a gorgeous black and tawny wings  Their  larvae  feed on violet leaves. Adults feed on the nectar of milkweed. I have seem them noshing on crepe myrtle, clover, and echinacea. They live for four to five months and those of us who lucky enough to live in Appalachian bottom lands can expect to see them at their meal time, mid-afternoon.
Fairy rings are not as beautiful as butterflies. All the same, their earth bound beauty is remarkable when observed at close quarters. Our garden erupts with fungi of greater visual impact, such as the dreaded  Dead Man's finger. It also harbors inkycaps, the bane of drinkers of alcohol. We allowed our most recent fairy ring to deacy, not knowing that its 'shrooms, much as inkycaps, are edible.We will not make that mistake again.

Saturday, August 21, 2010


Bad publicity  once made  tomatoes and cucumbers distasteful to fearful Europeans. The former was said to be poisonous and the latter "fit for consumption by cows only." Samuel  Johnson once said that "A cucumber should be well sliced, and dressed with pepper and vinegar, and then thrown out, as good for nothing.Nevertheless,  today's gardeners love these slandered vegetables. In my case, they are the only ones I have been able to coax from my container garden. The cucumbers must have come from a ten-cent package I got at a discount store. They are frighteningly prickly and far from handsome. Once peeled, however, they are perfectly acceptable. The prickliness identifies them as pickling cucumbers--slicing cucumbers are smooth and uniformly green.
So far my harvest has been so modest, pickling is out of the question. besides, I prefer cornichons, the best of which, in my opinion, come from Poland. My paltry supply of fresh cucumbers will do for salads and all I need to do is choose between various recipes. Rose Martha Rose Shulman's  Persian salad recipe  calls for the addition of radishes, tomatoes and a dressing made from lime juice, olive oil and garlic. A mix of cottage cheese and Greek yogurt is all that is required for her Creamy Cucumber salad.
Soup is my alternative to salads although my attempt to duplicate a Brazilian recipe made with maxixe, (Cucumis sativa) was not a great success. Northeast Brazilians cook maxixes in milk to which they add butter and queijo de coalho, a cheese I replaced with mozzarella. next I will try Fannie Farmer's Chilled Cucumber Soup and Emeril  Lagasse's  more elaborate version with green peppers, jalapenos, dil,l coriander and mint. An addition of shrimp should make Fannie Farmer's soup  a good meal for Meatless Monday. Then, there is always green gazpacho. Let the cows try to fight me for it.

Saturday, August 14, 2010


Clockwise --sheep's milk cheese, cornichons, olives, taramasalata, octopus, anchovies with roasted peppers. Japanese rice crackers at center.
Anchovies wrapped in roasted red peppers.
Jimmy's watermelon.
The self-important do not nosh. They find the vapors of their self-inflated egos nourishing enough. Luckily, I have only met  such people in books and films. Those who share my table are considerably easier to please. For example, they do not object if, in the dog days of summer, the dinner menu is made up of appetizers. Hungarian Korozott, a mix of sheep milk cheese, Liptauer, paprika and caraway seeds is one of those dishes for which there are probably several recipe, but  I learnt how to make it from a friend who never owned a cookbook. She had a talent for guessing the correct proportions for any dish she prepared and after some trial and error I  realized that given enough practice,  I can also turn out a decent  Korozott. Pita, taro chips, rice crackers are good vehicles for this creamy mix, but my friend always served it with Carr water crackers.

Hummus is another no-recipe component of summer feast. All one needs to make it is garbanzos, garlic, lemon juice and  tahini. Mash the lot together, et voila, something far superior to the pallid thing that passes for hummus at the supermarket. Tinned octopus served marinated with slivers of preserved lemons and paper-thin slices of red onions, a small tin of wasabi almonds, olives, rice crackers, bagel,  and taro chips, cubes of herbed feta, salad greens, a baguette  and cornichons make this meal of feast.
Here at the village there is an abundance of cherries, plums and peaches, but the last time when I had appetizers for dinner, recently,  a fresh watermelon donated by our friend Sally's husband, Jimmy rounded up  the meal splendidly.
  I am in the throes of designing a webzine and I am trying to  catch up with  book reviews for my book blog.  These days, the less time I spend in the kitchen, the better.

Sunday, August 8, 2010


Peaches up close.

At the peach orchard.

Chickens at the A-wee farm.

Cornfield on Flowing Springs Road.

This is how a groundhog eats a cantaloupe.

Our creek.
All photos by Ilana MCBjorlie.

Saturday, August 7, 2010


                                                           Photograph by Jordan Matter

The ancients blamed the constellation Canis Major and its most brilliant star, Sirius, also known as the dog star, for the hottest summer weather.  Whether Sirius is the cause of global warming is something only that polymath Sarah can explain. All I know is that it is hot as blazes in the lusty little village. Corn wilts, perennials droop, shrubs give up the ghost. It rains, occasionally, in quantities just large enough to keep gardeners and farmers hoping for a miracle and hope, as the Bhutanese supposedly say, is painful. Much easier it is to face reality.  Help is not on the way. Plan accordingly.
I have been thinking of the tyranny of hope. A friend whose  business that has been dying  for at least a year, gambled on an improving economy, rented more space and  expanded stock,  to no avail. It was a brave thing to do and I admire this friend's sang-froid. Nevertheless, in this case,  misplaced hope put so much in jeopardy I wonder if it would not have been better to chuck the project a year ago. Naturally, the question of whether a failing project is worth further effort is something for which each individual has a different answer. For my friend, it must have been as essential to go on as it was for Icarus to fly towards the sun. Regardless of the result, the experience must have been valuable. In the end, perhaps this is all that counts.