Sunday, March 23, 2014

Tattoos and plant-pot makers

   It has been a good weekend so far.  I did this yesterday:

Today it looks awful--scabby and red.  But it will settle down and be wonderful.  The quote is from Mary Oliver's poem "The Summer Day," which you can read here:

The art is a joint effort between me and my tattoo artist.  I wanted a bouquet of rosemary (for remembrance) and sage (for wisdom) but the kind of fine detail necessary would have been a real challenge for the spot on my arm that I wanted the tattoo.  We opted instead for a hybrid of the two--grafted them together, if you will--and I love how his drawing came out kind of folk-arty.  My husband has taken to calling it a Rage plant. One of the many reasons I love my husband: his sense of humor.

This morning, I did this:

 I planted onions and scallions again, along with a first planting of red cabbage, Chinese cabbage, three kinds of kale, parsley, and cilantro. 

Seed-starting is definitely an act of hope these days.  The weather remains atrocious, with single, taunting lovely days, and then strings of gray and cold ones.  We're forecast more snow this coming week.  I may just crawl under the grow lights on my seed-starting stand.  I could use some consistently sunny and warm(ish) days.

I also played with a new toy today.

It's a plant-pot maker!  It makes very tiny seed-starting pots out of newspaper strips.  I've made these a little taller, in the hopes that the extra inch at the top will act like a collar when I plant the pots in the ground.  The collar can then deter cutworms from taking out my poor seedlings at ground level.  I think I'll use these for a few tomato seedlings, and maybe some carrots.  They seem ideal for carrots, because carrots resent transplanting.  This way, I don't have to disturb them at all--just stick the pot in the ground, and the newspaper will degrade.  I might tear some holes in the bottom of the pots, so the carrots can push on through.  Not sure yet, as this will be my first year growing them.  I might just follow directions, and seed the carrots straight into the ground.

While I wait for this year's growing season to get going, I'm using up the goodies from last year.  This week, I used some of my green tomato salsa to make a layered Mexican-style lasagna.  Tortillas instead of lasagna noodles, a layer of smooshed black beans and cheese, and a layer of ground beef and spinach, spiced up with chili powder and cumin.  Just the kind of gooey-ness the doctor ordered for cloudy skies.

Here's a link for the salsa:

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Uh. Hello? Mother Nature?


To: Mother Nature

From: Christine

Re: Operating System 3.20.2014

While the company recognizes that transitioning from OS 12.20.2013 to OS 3.20.2014 is difficult, it seems that there are some significant problems that need to be addressed, as soon as possible.

1.  While Windows do not need to be open the entire time from dawn to dusk during the initial transition, the possibility of keeping Windows open for at least a few hours a day should exist.  As you work out any bugs with OS 3.20.2014, Windows should be able to be open during all daylight hours.

2.  The lights run by the computers using OS 3.20.2014 should be much, much stronger, and the heat generated should be much warmer.  The company figures on at least a consistent 45-55 degrees initially, and then a steady 65-75 degrees by the time we have to transition to OS 6.20.2014.
If you could attend to these details immediately, the company would be very appreciative.

(Okay, so I know very little about computers, and this is probably riddled with problems.  But it was fun, anyway.)

Friday, March 14, 2014

On the surface of things

Looking out the window, it's hard to believe I'll be putting anything in the ground anytime soon. On the surface of things, the world looks--and feels--like we might be entering a new ice age. The wind is whipping around the buildings, sneaking into any uninsulated crevices it can find, and rattling any loose parts. The temperature feels like it's in the teens.

But in a 24-cell tray on the counter, onion seeds are waking up. In another tray, lettuce seedlings have already said their hellos. Spring will indeed be coming. When...well...that's beyond my powers of prediction.  The deer hope it will be soon.

This is the first year I'm growing onions, unless you count the six whole scallions I grew last year, as an afterthought. I seeded this year's batch on March 8, after soaking them in a compost tea. It is supposed to help with damping off, which I ran into with some of my pepper seedlings last year. They haven't made their appearance yet, but the spot in the kitchen where they're sleeping is not particularly warm.

The lettuce seeds, however, seem thrilled. They were seeded on March 9, and they're already up.  When they're big enough, I'll transplant some into the garden in Massachusetts, and some into pots to keep inside. We should be eating fresh lettuce by the end of April (earlier, if I take baby leaves from the side of the plants).

For now, though, there's a lentil and rice soup simmering on the stove, and we'll keep bundling up in (many) layers to head outside.  Except for Shiloh and Montana, who can't figure out why it takes so long to get out the door for a walk.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014


March 11, 2014


I'm leaving teaching.

I'm leaving teaching so that I can grow things.

I'm going to grow things, to see if I can feed us.

Growing things, feeding us—feeding others—is, for me, a lot like teaching. Growing things, feeding others and teaching are all acts of hope.  They are all acts of love. They all say, "I believe in something bigger than myself, bigger than right now, bigger than what is. I believe in what can be."  Growing things, feeding others and teaching all ask us to look at the world in a more benevolent light.  It has always been impossible for me to look at my eighth graders (even on the days I want to choke them) and not think, "They will do amazing things."  It has always been equally impossible for me not to lose myself in the single moments of cooking for others, in the single moments that make up the whole of a garden.  Impossible for me not to think about the beauty that exists in the ingredients spread out before me, and the alchemy that happens when they combine.  Kind of like the alchemy that happens when a student is paired with a just-right book.  These moments, when I stop and pause and think about them, remind me that in spite of what I read in the paper or see on the news, people are amazing. Life is amazing. And that gives me hope.


I'm leaving teaching.

I'm leaving teaching, and it is so momentous, it has taken five years for me to realize that it is necessary, and two to bend my brain around the fact that it has to happen.

I'm leaving teaching, and it is so momentous, I don't quite have a fully-formulated answer to, "But what will you do?" I have been a teacher for 21 years.  I once thought that I would teach until I die.  "'Teacher" is part of my definition of myself.


I can't stay.  I can't be part of what I'm being asked to do to students.  Every fiber of my being is opposed to standardization (in food and plants, too).  Every cell in my body shrieks as I sit through mind-numbing meeting after mind-numbing meeting about "data."  There are more and more of these meetings, as we seek to quantify the unquantifiable.

It's not data.  They are kids.  They are people, not percentiles.

And I can't do it anymore.


I'm leaving teaching.

I'm leaving teaching so that I can grow things.
Because growing things and teaching are both acts of hopefulness.

I suspect my learning curve will be an almost vertical line.  But learning is an act of hopefulness, too.
And though my heart is broken and my brain still doesn't fully comprehend, I am hopeful.

Photo: Beginning.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Safe and Sound

I had to take my knives to be sharpened.  I don't have children, but I think it might have felt like leaving your kid with a babysitter for the first time.  They've come back in awesome shape, though, so we (the knives and I) celebrated by making a Late Summer Garden Risotto.

It started out as an eggplant and tomato risotto, from The Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook by Jack Bishop.  And then my husband walked in with our CSA share, and there was a lot more produce staring at me.  I'm pretty happy with the way it turned out: creamy and toothy from the rice, a pop of sweetness from the corn, the acidity of the tomatoes, and earthiness from the zucchini and eggplant.

The knives and I think it's a keeper, and my husband agrees.

Late Summer Garden Risotto

serves 6-8

1 ear of corn, kernels cut off, cob broken in half and reserved
5-6 cups of water
1/2 tsp salt
olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
1 cup of rice, Arborio or Carnaroli
1 small eggplant, or 6 Fairy Tale eggplant, chopped
2 small zucchini, chopped
1/4 cup white wine (optional)
2 small to medium tomatoes, seeded over a strainer, liquid pressed into the water above, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, to taste
5 large basil leaves, sliced thinly
5 large mint leaves, sliced thinly

1.  Put the corn cob, 1/2 tsp of salt, tomato juice and water in a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer.

2.  Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium.  Add garlic and onion, and cook gently until softened, about 4 minutes.  Add rice; stir to coat with oil.  Add eggplant and zucchini, stir to coat with oil.  Cook about 5 minutes.  Add wine if using; cook, stirring, until mostly absorbed.

3.  Add 1 cup of the corn cob liquid to the rice mixture.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is absorbed.  Keep adding liquid by the 1/2 or 1 cupful, stirring occasionally, until the rice is almost al dente (this will take about 15 to 18 minutes).  Don't use all of the liquid--use about 3 1/2 to 4 cups.  Add about 1/2-3/4  tsp of salt and black pepper.

4.  Add the corn kernels and tomatoes.  Add 1/2 cup liquid, stir til absorbed.  At this point, keep tasting the rice.  You don't want it to get mushy.  Keep adding liquid until the rice is the consistency you want it, creamy but "toothy."

5.  Stir in the cheese; taste, and add additional salt if desired. Stir in the herbs, and serve immediately.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Almost a meal

I am not normally a smoothie kind of person.  At least not as a meal.  I don't feel like I've eaten after I have one, which kind of defeats the purpose.  But smoothies have been on my brain lately, since I have to have my wisdom teeth out in a week, so I thought I'd play around with them.  I like this one.  And I have to say, one thing smoothies have going for them: they sure are easy to make!

I was toying with the idea of turning a smoothie into "food."  What could I add that would make one more substantial?  Then I was thinking about muesli, and how if you soak oatmeal in milk it doesn't have to be cooked because it softens on its own.  The next thought was, "Well, yogurt is milk.  And it feels a little more substantial."  Blueberries were the fruit in the fridge, and voila: a blueberry-oatmeal smoothie.  It's a little sweet from the honey, a little tart from the blueberries and yogurt, and a little nutty from the oatmeal and walnuts.  There's also a texture to it from those last two.

Blueberry-Oatmeal Smoothie
serves 1

3/4 cup Greek yogurt (I used plain)
1 to 2 tbsp oatmeal, uncooked
1/2 cup blueberries, washed, water still clinging a little
1 to 2 tsp honey
1/4 tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp milk
2 tbsp to 1/4 c walnuts
ice cubes (optional)

Add the yogurt and oatmeal to the blender.  Let them sit for a few minutes, so the oatmeal begins to soften.  (You could do this overnight.)  Add the rest of your ingredients and blend until as smooth as you can get it.