Friday, July 24, 2009

Fruit of the Earth

This morning's cool cloud cover is a nice break between a week of 95 degree heat and the upcoming week of 100+ degree temperatures. I spent some time watering the garden this morning, enjoying the sweet, earthy perfume of all the plants. The entire yard felt cooler and glistened with the look of a gentle rain. I harvested a handful of snap peas for a midmorning snack before I descend to my office for an afternoon of writing.

I'm 2 weeks into a new job writing pages for a start up website, TownMe. Their idea is really cool - to create a Wiki for every city. Right now they are launching in major cities nationwide with hired writing teams. They're still in the beta testing stage but ultimately the site will become a living, breathing entity as Portlanders (and her visitors) update and elaborate on content.

Last week I wrote a page for them about farmer's markets in Portland. During my research I discovered the Interstate Farmer's Market and can't wait to check it out. They have some raw food and vegan vendors I want to check out. A vegan diet is fun and delicious to me - a way to celebrate the perfect beauty of Earth's bounty (and honor the equality of all species) and this summer the Earth has been especially rewarding. My family is half-way through the 8 pounds of blueberries Justin and I picked out at Bella's Organic Farm on Sauvie Island 2 weeks ago. I baked an ultra delicious vegan blueberry pie, making up a simple recipe . First I must confess I always use those frozen pie shells they have at Whole Foods or New Season's. Here's my quick and easy 3 step vegan blueberry pie recipe:

3 Step Vegan Blueberry Pie

6 cups fresh blueberries.
1/4 cup water
2 heaping tablespoons agar agar flakes or organic cornstarch
1/2 cup powdered sugar or 1/4 - 1/3 cup agave nectar
1 pie crust

  1. Smash about half of the berries with your hands and stir them together with the remaining whole berries.
  2. Stir the cornstartch or agar flakes into the water, pour that and the sugar or agave over the berries and stir it well.
  3. Pour into pie shell and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.
The pie may be slightly juicy still but will firm up after sitting for 2-3 hours. If you use agar instead of cornstartch when you remove the pie from the oven you may notice the agar flakes didn't totally dissolve. If so, just stir the hot filling up and allow to cool. Agar thickens as it cools from hot temperatures and cornstartch thickens as it heats after being dissolved into cool water.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Midsummer Harvest

After June's gentle ripening of strawberries, the blossoming of vegetables and fruits emerging from the branches, July brings a moderate harvest. Every morning I step outside to wake up, meditate and visit the garden in fresh morning air. I spend time visiting with the midsummer harvest, before I get to work. There's a hum in the air. Almost an electric pulse. The intense, vital heartbeat of a burning hot sun, hundreds of insects fighting for dew drops and birds calling high and carefree. This elephant garlic has been grown by the same woman here for over 40 years. She passed away earlier this summer and left a beautiful, serene garden. Every year asian pears go to waste. Giving them away and eating them every day is not enough. I need to find a good recipe for these fruits. Maybe a sweet-spicy-gingery-peppery chutney?
This view reminds me of being 3 or 4 years old. It's a timeless summer lawn, that to me, is only in Portland. That particular mix of grass and "weeds", our sweet, rather accomodating honeybee drones...
Amaranth grown by the previous owners of this house is one of the perennial surprises that come with the property. Green and red varieties. Perhaps enough grain to steam and serve with fresh corn? I hear the leaves are good steamed or shredded in salad. I need to be more adventurous with the greens I eat. It was just within the last year that I began eating kale!
A garden is not complete without roses. Spicy, lemony their perfume is heavy in the air. This Queen of the Flowers inspires passion and compassion. It's very existense soothes my heart and proves that beauty will exist no matter what. I especially enjoy a strong black tea brewed with rose petals and a touch of agave.
The plum tree is heavy with fruit and I hope the harvest isn't a misery of wasps and hornets. They seem to have alot of business in this tree. Justin and I are going to infuse the plums with orange oil and dry them for healthy desserts.
First harvest on a blueberry bush from the Olympia Farmer's Market.
Garlic harvest. Soon to be chopped with the final harvest of the kale and maybe some snap peas if we can stop eating them raw right off the vine like candy.
I await impatiently for the tomatoes. We have 4 heirloom varieties and I harvested 3 cherry tomatoes this morning. My favorite summer breakfast is toasted Dave's Killer Bread with a little flax oil or Earth Balance, a few tablespoons of nutritional yeast and layers of thinly sliced, garden fresh tomatoes doused generously with kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper.
Soon these banana peppers will add a sweet dimension to Justin's kick-ass chili. Someday he's going to enter a chili competition and blow them away with his vegan masterpiece.


Lately I've been thinking about poetry, what is it? why do I write it? and where does it go when I'm not writing it? It has been said that it is not so much what poets say, but their ability to tune into poetic language rhythms that makes their poetry great. In the case of Dr. Suess this is completely true.

About 16 years ago I began crafting and publishing poems, and for about 10 years poetry was within my grasp constantly. I wrote poems sitting on the floor of overcrowded buses, at my desk surrounded by candles and incense, curled into scratchy plaid chairs at the campus library, wandering lonely through parks; I even wrote poems in my dreams.

The word poetry is originally derived from the Greek poiein, to make or create. From agriculture to architechture humans are driven to create order. We make our world systematically, efficiently and beautifully. When we say something is poetic, it generally has an elegance (from the Latin root eligere, to choose out, select).

One reason I write poetry is for the satisfaction (or is it a need?) of creating an elegant structure for the raw, chaotic, fertile mud of existence. Indeed when I am in sync with the poetic energies of existence there is a rhythm, an orderliness to that feeling. The anxiety, existential quandries and whatever else climb out of the archetypal earth of my mind is soothed by the meaning and purpose of composition.

Here's a poem I wrote during that first prolific period of poetry -

A Half-Sleep Dream

Night, when it is still
The dark air offers its voice
And the house settles
As a man of soft
moldering bones eases in
to his rain-damp grave
Strong black boots echo
slow steps, sauntering to the
far end of the hall
The giant starfish
of his hand sliding along
the cool milk white wall
The wind stirs the chimes
their song, and the rains', distant
like him, at my door
I see this in my
head, as the clock ticks away
the silence of night

I wrote this poem in the Americanized haiku form of 3 lines, with 5, 7 and 5 syllables. Do you feel the rhythm? Footsteps, rain, chimes, a clock ticking. My heart beating.