Things that fall from the sky

One of the many Elecampane (Inula helenium) plants that I started from seed last year, now blooming in Boston.

One of the many Elecampane (Inula helenium) plants that I started from seed last year, now blooming in Boston.

 

I began this post from my steamy bedroom a few nights ago, in the aftermath of the neighborhood’s Roman candle blasts and even louder late night party cackles. Summer, that grand doozy of a season, had spent the whole week sitting on this city, stifling everything and exhausting me as I did anything. I’d go for days in a wilt before some kind soul would grant me a blessing spun with lemon, lime, or watermelon. Naked water sat within me uselessly, my body stubbornly refusing hydration as it tsk-ed me for having such a lousy electrolyte balance.  All was irate and fecund and full of color.

Arthur broke the everlasting sweat with his billions of raindrops, and now I can sit here in the backyard, an umbrella stretched over my little patch of sleepy, breezy afternoon, and feel pleasant and not at all sunstruck.

As I last wrote, June was a month of herbs. I taught several classes at Herbstalk, Allandale, and the Fenway Victory Gardens (of which there is YouTube proof). Herbstalk was especially amazing. I sold hundreds of plants and talked myself hoarse while trading ideas, tips, and techniques for growing and using healing plants with folks from all over the northeast.

Farmside, I sowed tulsi and am now watching it flower tinily, enjoying its fruity, spicy, sacred self as it wafts around the garden center and through the greenhouse.

 

The lovage and elder umbels in my victory garden.

The lovage and elder umbels of my victory garden.

 

In my own garden everything is amazing, or at least vigorous and vivacious. My favorite part at present are the umbels. Those beautiful wheels of infinitesimal blossoms are anchoring the space in the white of elder, the chartreuse of lovage, and the firm red (lightened with sweet little pale centers) of ornamental yarrow. I also had valerian, started from seed and glorious in its tiny blushing blooms, but something—rabbits, I’m sure—trampled it and now it’s tenaciously starting over again, about six inches tall after its towering 48, photosynthesizing and fattening sleepytime roots for the winter and fall.

I’m possibly busier than I’ve ever been before between the farm, landscaping, beekeeping, gardening, and general around-the-house-ing. And occasional socializing. And very infrequent resting. The living madness of my schedule has kept me from seeking out too much wildlife as of late, but I’m seeing tons of it incidentally which, really, is what I prefer.

The best bit of wilderness that I’ve lately encountered fell from the sky, tumbling suddenly into a tray of pots being carried by a coworker. It was a tiny, scowling, perfect fledgling of a swallow. The little bird, only slightly tousled, looked at us as we ogled and oohed, admiring its jaded gaze and amazing wings. Its wings were clearly its best feature. They were  so clearly those of a barn swallow—dark and beautifully preened in an almost violet, parallel tilt that met elegantly in a point.

The tiny thing was clearly startled and shook slightly but its stare was steadfast, so fierce for such a miniature thing. Eventually we set the tray down on the ground, or started to before, without warning, the bird took flight. Its downy self, so squat and crabby, was instantly gorgeous as it flew through the wide open air, taking a pretty, curved path to its nest along the garage. What a pretty Independence Day.

Tiny swallow staredown

Tiny swallow staredown

 

The wilderness without and within

house sparrow

The majority of the nature experienced today was tangled in all of the wild hormones within, riling my uterus and, you know, my outlook on all things. 

There were also the house sparrows at work, hopping and cocking their inchy heads, going after a gummy on the floor and the birdseed on display. I fought them without violence, clapping my hands and ineffectively kicking away the gummy which moved slow, sticking with tenacity to the cement floor.

I also found some funky, Mardi Gras costume-wearing, mantis-like creature in the sacred basil during the morning harvest. And I was sucked on by mosquitoes. Lastly, I found a cabbage moth in the greenhouse and a green caterpillar, dead and composed halfway of orange slime, also in the sacred basil. Amazing that so much life, death, and violence can exist within the juicy branches of such a holy plant.

Lists of the Lately

(Source.)

It has been too long! But I am here, and as the season of growing things continues to ebb I’ll be coming back and posting much more often. In the coming months and years I aim to find the gumption to keep up with S&P, even in the madness of April, the thick green heart of July and the satisfying everything of September. I will do it. I think the secret is shorter posts and a less-anal attitude. Difficult, but possibly attainable?

As it often is, my time is mismanaged and short. And so, I shall offer some egotistical lists of the lately.

 
What I’ve been seeing:

Praying mantises on the mums – with an egg sack on one, and what we assumed to be a dying mother on the other, her body ravaged with the perpetuation of life. Another grand Dillardian drama!

A lot of gleeful kids picking out a lot of ridiculous pumpkins.

Warfare waged by squirrels in the canopy while I rummage for shagbark hickory nuts on the pasture’s edge.

Ember-colored leaves lilting past the window.

Autumn crocuses precociously busting out of their bulbs, entangled in their retail packaging and albino from a cardboard darkness.

(I brought it home for free. We’ll plant it in the garden in the rain and someday I hope it will bloom a light magenta.)

Tasting:

Apples. Mulled as a hot cider (a work perk), simmered into sauce, melded into butternut squash soup.

Cheese. And other animal fats. (They are All I Want.)

The last of the tomatoes. Sitting like asymmetrical harvest moons waiting to ripen, dappled with bulgur in a tabouli, dancing with cilantro in salsa.

Amazing Goan engagement party food! Curries, sausages, and, um, fancy cupcakes. (The latter’s a bit less Goan and a bit more Andrew and Melissa.)

Reading:

Tolstoy. A lot of Tolstoy. (In fact if you’d like to join my little Anna Karenina book club you can do so here.)

Research on coyotes and wolves in the American landscape.

The private lives of bullfrogs. (Completely mind-blowing – stay tuned for more on this in the future.)

Making:

A hat with a sperm whale on it. (Shameless plug: I’m taking orders for fingerless gloves, mittens, and hunters mitts (fingerless gloves with a mitten flap). Email me if you’re interested in a pair!)

Spiced plums and bourbon peaches.

A lot of jars of dried herbs – sacred basil (Tulsi), lemon thyme, mullein (flannel leaf) and Cascade hops flowers. (I don’t make beer, but I do like falling asleep, so sometimes a pot of hops is made before bed. It works wonders.)

(I want to point out that the scientific name is improperly represented in this image, as the genus is capitalized. Faux pas!! Source.)

Anyway. It’s good to be back. Tell me what you’ve been seeing, too.

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