We toasted with prosecco in the dainty vintage champagne glasses I’ve always wanted and received as a gift from my mom (the queen of gift-giving).
Some New Year reflections…
At a time when folks are wont to make sweeping statements and encapsulations of a year gone by, looking back on collected moons and seasons peppered with national tragedy and tension (this year more than most, the news reports- but doesn’t history repeat itself?) and in search of milestones and hallmarks and ways to understand a chunk of time’s passage, I will join them in saying that for me, 2012 was the year of the garden.
I used this book for guidance and poured over seed packets and planting charts, absorbed and engrossed in the alchemical journey from seed to plant and the anticipation of pulling edible items from my square of dirt. I tested and amended the soil and attached to my seedlings to the point of eschewing thinning for transplanting (not recommended for rutabagas and beets unless you want tops and not roots) and planting a new crop of something or other wherever vacant space opened up. It was bountiful but also…overwrought the way an over-zealous novice, spellbound and myopic, attempts her project. This is, I surmise, in contrast to the more casual efforts of an experienced gardener who throws caution and seeds into the wind, letting the messiness and chaos of dirt, weather and predation be what it is: inherently wild.
This being said, I think that next year, I will spend less time fretting over obsessive spacing and weeding and try not to worry so much or criticize my in-expertise. Perhaps I will avoid growing species with a propensity for disease and insect mutiny like brassicas (kale, collards, chinese broccoli to name a few), though each year I expect is different as certain flora and fauna dominate and blights and infestations are inconsistent trials for which any hopeful grower must brace. Looking back, it can be noted that chard was easy and kale was gorgeous until the cabbage worms came out in late summer biblical numbers as I tried to hand pick them off every day, logging ridiculous amounts of hours in the waning light doing so but never getting ahead of their munching (I think I would have been more successful with BT). Cucumbers were easy (pre-powdery mildew) as were string beans, lettuce, beets, cherry tomatoes and peppers and the Zinnias were brilliant, though I didn’t realize their giant size would shade half of my sun craving eggplants (only mildly productive but so sweet and incredible). Carrots were impossible to germinate until I discovered on the third attempt that a wood plank placed atop the row for 7 days would keep the soil moist and protected enough to allow those capillary shoots to emerge.
I did so much growing and requisite cooking, eating, freezing and preserving, that I didn’t do much else for months (other than scramble to and from work), like play my music, or read or write or go out to dinner, or even swim or run in the woods, all of which I sorely missed. I realized in my perennial aspiration to do it all, that I got wildly out of balance and that the garden and its photo-documenting could have been a full time job, at least the way I was trying to do it.
This coming year I wonder how I can continue to partake in the magic of walking to the back yard for food, brushing up against those towering lacy asparagus fronds in the moonlight/headlamp, navigating through a sea of lightning bugs with my basket full of color and flavor piled out of copious raw materials to bring to my kitchen and cookbooks, engaged in all of this activity and labor and still find a way to live in balance. To sit down and read sometimes. A fifty by fifty square foot plot was a challenge for me to manage mostly alone alongside my full time job running my own business (with no paid time off and no chance to coast, even though I fantasize about being be able to). It was a hot dry summer and I struggled to keep things watered. Mostly, alongside the great pleasure and excitement of doing this, I struggled to keep up and nearly always felt behind and a tad overwhelmed. Each day however, when we sat down to feast after feast, I knew I wanted to keep growing our food.
2012 was also the year of the dog, (this adoption year in the making) the one I fell in love with last January on an island in Panama.
I thought he was special enough to go through great lengths to reunite with him, and my perseverance paid off.
He is here, at the end of a year of emails and hoping and praying and trying to detach from the desired outcome as a spiritual practice in non-attachment. We met him in the jungle, and now he runs with us in the snowy woods behind our house, the very embodiment of adaptation.
This was also the year of a great kitchen revival, a domestic resurrection (a la Bread and Puppet) largely inspired by cohabitating with a fellow who loves to cook and really loves to eat; a return to messing around with pots and pans, excited to make stuff for us and collaborate in this way.
Cooking and eating is what we do together in our farmhouse apartment where the kitchen space dominates. This is in stark contrast to some of my years spent subsisting on salad, tuna sandwiches, chips and salsa, cereal and grapefruit, living in spaces where I felt disinclined to be in the kitchen, or times when I felt at odds with the whole business of food. The truth is I’m certainly no expert on gardening, cooking or raising a dog and I often feel plagued with self-doubt, but the satisfaction I derive from trying seems to eclipse the doubt, because I keep doing it, all of it.
This has been a year of building, growing and creating against the backdrop of a world where kids are killed and friends fight cancer and the general pace and tone of living is fast, furious and self- absorbed. I turned to my camera to capture beauty. I returned to my camera, I should say, cycling back to it as I cycled back to cooking, comfort and the inspiration of composition and light.
I am the happiest version of myself and most aligned with what I perceive to be my job and calling for this limited time on earth, when I’m being creative. As a new year approaches, I hope I can spend more of my waking hours engaged in this way. This hope extends to all of us, that we can step more wholly into the business of our power, vision and true work, being who we most want to be. To quote Howard Thurman: “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
Sweet Potato Arugula Salad
This salad recipe is more suggested ingredients than exact measurements. Adjust as desired.
Roast 2 medium sweet potatoes (chopped and tossed with a little salt and olive oil) on 400 for 20-30 minutes. Saute one or two chopped two leeks while they’re cooking. Set both aside. Toss baby arugula (I used a whole 7 oz. bag) with dressing. Top with the roasted sweet potato and leeks, then sprinkle with the pomegranate seeds from one fruit, 1/3 C. chopped (optionally toasted) pistachios, and a 1/3 C crumbled feta cheese.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 clove minced garlic
2 teaspoons honey
1 teaspoon sherry vinegar or white wine vinegar
salt & pepper, to taste
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Nutted Wild Rice
- 2 cups black rice/wild rice (I did half and half)
- 4 cups homemade chicken stock
- 1 cup shelled pecan halves/pieces
- 1 cup golden raisins
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
- 4 chopped scallions
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- fresh orange juice from one large orange
- orange zest
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Place rice in a medium-size heavy saucepan, add stock or water and bring to a rapid boil. Adjust heat to a gentle simmer and cook uncovered for 45 minutes. After 30 minutes check for doneness; rice should not be too soft. Place a thin towel inside a colander and turn rice into the colander and drain. Transfer drained rice to a bowl.
Add remaining ingredients to rice and toss gently. Adjust seasonings to taste. Let mixture stand for 2 hours to allow flavors to develop. Serve at room temperature. Serves 6.