The Third Chapter

Posted by admin on Thursday Sep 30, 2010 Under Uncategorized

I’ve been thinking a lot about the words what now.What now that I’ve realized my dream of living close to the land and having my own vegetable garden? What now that Dave and I are “empty nesters”? What now do I want to contribute ? What dreams have I set aside that I should resume?

These questions nag at me as I go about my tasks on the ranch—weeding, harvesting, preparing for the fall rush of yard work. There are all the bulbs to go into the ground and into containers, the five hundred daffodils I plant each year, the composting and mulching. It’s easy to get lost in all this busy-ness, but the days are getting shorter. I feel the urgency of time running out. My heart almost seems to beat with the word now. Do it now.

So I’ve turned to those wiser than I for answers. One such person is Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot, the Harvard scholar and educator. In her book The Third Chapter, she talks about the importance of meeting the challenges of this stage of life.

Taking her cues from the psychologist Erik Erikson’s eight stages of development, Lawrence-Lightfoot makes a convincing argument that the crises we face at this point must be resolved, or we will find ourselves always looking backward and falling into despair.

Not really a place I want to go.

As I rake leaves and fertilize bulbs, I think of my other dreams, some of them long abandoned. Are they still there, lying dormant in some part of my consciousness? Will I be able to find them?

As I write this, I remember the boxes I’d set on the closet shelf when we first moved in. I guess, you could say they were dreams tied up in ribbon to be opened later.

I get up from the desk, take the boxes from the closet and set them on the bed.

I feel, as I open them, the way you might feel opening the box that holds your wedding dress from forty years ago, thinking of all your hopes when you first wore it, wondering if it still fits.

But the boxes do not hold my wedding dress, or old love letters or my daughter’s baby clothes. They hold my novels, pages I’d written in odd, captured moments between teaching and raising a family. I always meant to do something with them later.

Sitting in my bedroom in the warm stillness of a mid-September afternoon, I notice the sun lighting up the last blue delphiniums in the window box. After a while, I hear the quail, down from their nests in the live oaks, begin to scratch and squabble in the newly, mowed grass.

I look for a long time at those hundreds of pages tied in silk ribbon.

Later, I realize, is now.

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Order in Jane’s Garden Shed

Posted by admin on Thursday Sep 23, 2010 Under Uncategorized

Guest post by Professional Organizer, Lea Schneider, www.organizerightnow.com

[Editor’s Note: Posted here are “before” photos of my garden shed as it is; I’ll post “after” pictures once I’ve had a chance to some of Lea’s suggestions to good use.]

It’s one thing to have a bit of chaos in the garden. It’s grand to find wildflowers and native grasses popping up among your carefully planted scabiosa (a personal favorite) and salvia clevlandii.

Garden ShedIt’s another thing to find chaos in your garden shed. Creating order is my specialty and creating order related to gardening is my love.

Years ago, before I was a professional organizer, I worked for a professional flower grower. I laugh today when I think about how I convinced the nationally famous grower to hire me. When she inquired about my then-limited growing skills, I responded by pointing to piles of gardening gear, from seeds to catalogs, gloves, hats, cuttings, customer phone messages, tools and more, saying “I can make all of this go away.” I got the job.

Yes, organization exists in the gardening world. While naturalized gardens are lovely, they don’t exist without organization. A gardener must organize when plants need to be set in the ground, when they must be divided, how close or far apart to be set, if they are sun or shade and must know which are tall and which are not. Then there is another to-do list regarding their watering, feeding and maintenance.

I understand Jane wants a bit of help with her garden shed. That’s a great task to take on because have a pleasing-to-the-eye shed adds to the garden and having it organized makes your gardening easier – which keeps the fun in the task.

Get Lofted
A potting bench, built-in tall table or even wood placed over sawhorses can double your space. Use the floor space underneath it to park equipment too heavy to hang for storing heavy bags of soil or mulch.

Go Vertical
A typical shed doesn’t have a lot of floor space so make good use of the walls. You can easily store tools, small equipment or really anything from pegboard to some of that extra lattice you have stashed. Hang the lattice and use s-hooks to hang hand trowels, watering wands, garden hats and other non-heavy gear. A pegboard and hooks can hold the heavier tools and garden hoses.

Use heavy nails or hooks placed near the ceiling, or even on the ceiling, to hold lighter large equipment. It is possible to hang occasionally used pieces such as a fertilizer spreader.

Wall-Planters or half-baskets made for the wall make great storage. Use them to hold gardening files and catalogs. Keep lists of your flower pots and the plants you placed in the ground this year to make shopping easier next year. Drop in plant tags so you can refer to them as needed.

Gather Your Sticks
Two loose loops of wire or rope, attached to the side wall or even ceiling make a great place to corral garden stakes. Slide them all in and just pull out one as needed. No more tripping over them as they crash to the floor.

Garden Shed TableDon’t Forget
There’s always more to do in a garden than daylight to do it. Keep up with reminders to yourself about feeding or dividing of plants by keeping notes on a dry erase board.

Trash Containers
You wouldn’t think there would be trash in gardening but there is. Be sure to have two containers; one for trash and another for recyclable pots and bottles.

Tackle the Tools
Before storing away, be sure to remove wet dirt. Take time to clean loppers and clippers as they are most likely to rust in a short time because sap has acidity. If sticky, remove sap with turpentine. Once tools are clean, wipe with an oily rag to prevent rust.

If you find rust on tools then remove it with sandpaper, a wire brush or use a brush attachment for a drill. Wash them in soapy water. Dry well. Sharpen edges with a sharpening block or knife sharpener. Apply coat of oil or spray lubricant W-D 40.

If rusting continues to be a problem, store in a bucket of sand moistened with oil. They will stay sharp and not rust.

Control Chemicals
There’s always going to be some in your shed. Even organic gardeners end up with fertilizers or natural pest control products. Plan for a safe storage area for these items. It should be dry, up off the ground and should be in a locked cabinet if children have access to the yard and shed. If storing ammonium nitrate fertilizers, be sure to follow all safety precautions for storing. Read about fertilizer chemical safety.

Stack Flower Pots
Add sturdy, non-metal shelving to hold flower pots. If you build some with wood, leave a gap between boards to allow air circulation. Or, choose some easy, snap together PVC ones from the home improvement store.

Take a Seat
Gardening is fun- but work too. Add a stool to your shed. You’ll always find a few sit-down jobs or wish to take a break for a minute.

—–

Lea Schneider, owner of Organize Right Now, is a professional organizer providing organizing and consulting for everything from piles of papers to closets to garden sheds. Her organizing advice has appeared in numerous places including The Washington Post, Family Circle, Woman’s Day, Natural Health, Better Homes and Gardens Kids’ Rooms and ThisOldHouse.com. She is the author of “Growing-Up Organized,” (Amazon.com, $14) and was the Grand Prize Winner for the Rolodex Office Makeover Challenge. Lea is a golden circle member of the National Association of Professional Organizers.

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Imam Biyaldi or The Pleasures of Late Summer

Posted by admin on Thursday Sep 16, 2010 Under Uncategorized

Perhaps the abundance of eggplants won’t survive the first frost of autumn, but the abundance of eggplant recipes I’ve collected over the summer will.

This beautiful vegetable seems to be a cultural universal. So far, I’ve cooked Indian, Afghan, Palestinian, Greek, Italian and French eggplant recipes. All that remains are the wonderful Asian versions. Anyway, the possibilities are all over the map, so to speak.

However, for its deliciousness, as well as ease of preparation, Imam Biyaldi is one of my favorites.

Late summer afternoons on the ranch are pretty much devoted to swimming and socializing. With this recipe, I can spend time with guests and, almost magically, put dinner on the table.

I just grab the number of eggplants I need off the vine. Back in the kitchen, I cut off one inch strips of peel every few inches or so, rub the eggplants with with olive oil and kosher salt, cover with tin foil and pop them in a three hundred and fifty degree oven.

Dave makes the drinks—a gin and tonic for me, white wine for Dottie, a martini for Larry—and we relax on the patio under the shade of the big umbrellas, talking over the days event, making plans.

When should we get the nine Blue Oaks from Intermountain Nursery we’re going to plant in front of the guest house? Does the feed store have the small, galvanized tin, cattle troughs I want to use as planters? Will the Republicans take the House of Representatives? Please say no! What does Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight say? Have you noticed the days are getting shorter, the evenings cooler? We go from one subject to the other, stopping to look around at the falling oak leaves, the goldfinches at the fountain. What did you think of the book for the non-fiction book group? It was Justice by the way, by Martin Sandler, and it was fabulous. Before I know it, the timer has gone off and it’s back to the kitchen. I make a quick tomato sauce with my own tomatoes and parsley (still a thrill!), and I’m done.

My recipe for Imam Biyaldi comes from Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian. Even if you aren’t vegetarian GET THIS BOOK. It may inspire you.

4 small Italian eggplants
olive oil
salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Peel 3-4 strips 1/3 inch wide down each eggplant, so it has a striped appearance,
rub with olive oil and salt, put in a baking dish, cover with foil and bake for an hour.

Sauce for Imam Biyaldi

1/4 cup olive oil
medium yellow onion
2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
1 1/2 lbs. tomatoes peeled and chopped
1 tsp. kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
6 TBS. finely chopped fresh parsley

Add olive oil to a saute pan, heat, add onions and cook until softened. Add garlic, stir so it turns golden but doesn’t brown. Add tomatoes, salt and pepper. Turn the heat down and simmer about ten minutes, or until the tomatoes have softened and the sauce has thickened. Add the parsley, stir, and turn off the heat.

To assemble

Cut a slit in each eggplant that stops about 1/4 inch from the bottom. Push gently on the top and bottom of the eggplant to widen the opening. Add a quarter of the sauce to each eggplant. Serve warm, at room temperature or chilled. ( I serve it warm with rice to which I’ve added just a bit of saffron for color and that lovely fragrance.) Flat breads are a nice addition, too.

And for a real treat last night, we had our first Charentais melons, served chilled with just a little port in the cavity, an idea I’ve brought to the ranch from our time in France.

Several years ago, we lived in Paris where Dave was working. On one of our forays to the countryside, we stopped in Eygalieres, a lovely Provencal village. At our auberge, they served the local melon with port.

That I am now grow my own French melons and eat them under my own umbrella on my own pea-gravel covered patio is a great joy. I feel I’ve come full circle or met some kind of goal I set for myself ( without even knowing it) that distant spring in France. Moments like this for me are one of the great pleasures that come with age and with autumn in the country, this sense of fullness, of completion and, well, of abundance—of eggplants, of memories, of life.

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A Mediterranean Harvest in Miramonte

Posted by admin on Thursday Sep 9, 2010 Under Uncategorized

sunflowerAs soon as we got home from Santa Fe, I ran up to the garden to see what would greet me when I pushed open the gate. Tomatoes! Eggplants! Melons! Peppers! We will be feasting for days.

My basket was overflowing, and I had to use my gardening hat to gather up some Blue Lake beans for supper. I simply steamed the green beans and tossed them with some Tuscan olive oil and a little sea salt.

But what was I to do with all these luscious eggplants and tomatoes?

First, I plunged the tomatoes into boiling water for about twenty seconds and then peeled them. At this point, I could have canned them (remember: always use a reliable canning guide every time you can or make preserves!), but I decided to make a simple tomato sauce instead. I poured two or three tablespoons of olive oil into a Dutch oven, added the tomatoes, and let them simmer for about an hour and a half. After they cooled a bit, I ran them through a food mill to get rid of the seeds.

Later that evening, I diced an onion and a couple of garlic cloves and sauteed them in olive oil. After they’d softened a bit, I added the tomato passato, as it’s called in Italy. I threw in a small pinch of red pepper flakes, some salt and fresh ground black pepper, and simmered the sauce until… well, until it was the thickness I desired. I added some basil chiffonade at the last minute. Didn’t want to lose any of its wonderful flavor or scent. If a Sophia Loren movie had an aroma, my kitchen would have smelled like it!

eggplants, sunflowers and tomatoesI tossed the sauce with some high quality dried pasta from Italy—no cheese on this. The fresh taste of the tomatoes and basil was too delicious to mask. Dave and I carried our bowls of steaming pasta out to the patio table where we lingered way past dark, looking for shooting stars.

The next night, I made a splendid eggplant parmesan. Yes, I DID dredge the eggplant slices in flour, egg and breadcrumbs before I deep fried them. (Sorry Dr. Oz) All the dish took after that was a thin layer of last night’s tomato sauce, some mozzerella, some reggiano parmesan, and fifteen minutes in a 350 degree oven. A glass of Barbera and some more shooting stars didn’t hurt.

Tonight, I’m turning to a now out-of-print cookbook called A Mediterranean Harvest by Paola Scaravelli for a wonderful vegetarian version of Moussaka. It will remind me of the months Dave and I lived in a whitewashed farmhouse on a Greek Island.

But really, I don’t know what’s gotten into me with all this complicated cooking. Maybe, in spite of the heat, I sense the beginning of fall. I was out in the pasture the other day—all ochre-colored and anise-scented with tarweed flowers— when I heard a great whooshing sound of wings. A flock of Canada geese was flying south. It seemed like a warning. This abundance won’t last and I’m making the most of it.

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Santa Fe Road Trip (Part II)

Posted by admin on Thursday Sep 2, 2010 Under Uncategorized

The next day, we had breakfast at our daughter’s house and just hung out on her patio, admiring her gorgeous view.

Anna's Yard

Finally, someone suggested lunch at the San Marcos cafe out near Galisteo, and off we went, driving into the beautiful vastness of New Mexico.

Cerillos, New MexicoWe explored Cerrillos and Galisteo, poking around the lovely, but now closed (boo-hoo), Galisteo Inn. The town and the Inn reminded me of my first road trip to Mexico back in the Sixties. That’s a long story for another time . . .

We returned to Santa Fe to shower and dress for dinner at the fabulous Restaurant Martin. If you haven’t been, you really must try it. I had the most wonderful cold cucumber soup, which I have been trying to duplicate ever since I got home. The garden is producing more cucumbers than I know what to do with, so I’ve got to figure out something. If anyone out there knows chef Martin Rios and can get me a copy of the recipe, I will be eternally grateful.

Anyway, the next day was our actual anniversary and my birthday, as well, so I got to indulge all my little whims. I poked my nose in Shiprock and Packards, trying to find a Santo Domingo artist’s—Tony Lovato—corn bracelet with no luck.

Then we had a romantic little lunch at Sena Plaza under the umbrellas with the sound of the fountain and the wind rustling the cottonwoods.

Sena Plaza, Santa Fe

Of course, no trip to Cowgirl Heaven is complete without a visit to Back at the Ranch.

Back at the Ranch

Look at these boots, girls. If you ever want to get in touch with your inner Queen of the Rodeo, this is the place!

boots

Did I get any? No. I actually have a beautiful, but demure, pair of black snakeskin boots with exquisite black stitching that they made for me. They look great everywhere—San Francisco, Napa, Chicago, LA.

Maybe, next year I’ll splurge on the red boots with the turquoise roses. It will be our Ruby Anniversary then. So what do you think?

We ended our celebration of the big event with a family dinner at the Compound, so perfectly Santa Fe and wonderful as always.

All we had to do the next day was check out, pop the book in the cd player, and head west. I was home before I knew it.

Read Part 1 of this article

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