Thursday, July 30, 2015

Second to Nunn

The local bluegrass festival last weekend in Surry County, NC should be considered second to none.  

Last weekend the Nunn Brothers hosted their 17th Annual Bluegrass Festival at their music park. It nestles between a small road and  a small creek. Total attendance Saturday night was probably 300, made up of families and older couples. Compare that to Telluride, Colorado's famous festival which allows 12,000 attendees per day! Not even spectacular scenery makes up for crowds that guarantee a line for every amenity. I choose the serenity of the Nunn Bros. park. 

This was local all the way, although I did see one Florida license plate. The gate keepers were the brothers' sister and her husband. From them we found out the Nunn brothers are two of ten siblings. 

The concessions were provided by a local man. The burgers were grilled as soon as you ordered them, and the sliced tomatoes were fresh from somebody's garden. Bargain ice cream and drinks were sold by the youth from Albion Baptist. I paid them half as much for my two scoops of ice cream as I had the previous week at another music venue, and the kids still made money. 

 I bet you could build a home using the festival's A-V sponsor list. The generous donors included loggers, construction companies, masonry, and heat oil. We did notice the Guns n' Roses Septic crew that last serviced our tank wasn't on the list. And there wasn't a Starbucks logo to be found.  

Brothers Arnold, who plays guitar and Alden, fiddle,  host campers and day-trippers like us. A little creek runs along the mowed meadow, and large trees provide a fair amount of shade. 

The bands play on the porch of a log cabin decked out with stars and stripes and flowers in front of the stage.

There's a dance platform set up to one side, and it was well used throughout the evening. Folks seemed to prefer the rip roaring  fast tunes. 

My favorite dancer was this little gal, who eventually shed her toddler-sized cowboy boots for bare foot dancing.

She loved to twirl and shuffle, stop and sway, most of the time all by herself. But when slim-hipped, trim Daddy got out to flatfoot, she raised her arms to be held. They waltzed awhile, then she'd wiggle to be carried in both of his arms parallel to the ground. She completely relaxed, limp as a damp neckerchief.  Her arms flopped and hair bobbed with each step. She absolutely trusted him to cradle her safely. I choked up. Oh, daddies are so important in their daughters' lives! (Bill, you were the best!) 

After well-played traditional music, including some of Alden's fiddle antics, the first part of the show ended with fireworks. They were really good--a wide variety quickly paced. Whenever a lull came, the crowd clapped thinking they were over, then there'd be more! 

Local bluegrass shows like this one ace out the big commercial shows, in my opinion. 

Thank you Nunn brothers! 

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

My One Summer Pie

I make two pies a year. This one in the summer, and pecan for Thanksgiving. 

This is my favorite. The flavor is intensely peachy, not masked by too much sugar. The tapioca thickens the juice the peaches make. The nuts add a nice contrast to the soft peaches.

I never use canned peaches, instead waiting until I get a batch of ripe ones from Leonard's Orchard up near Cana, Va. This year's crop of Challenger peaches have been flavorful, ripened gradually, and didn't bruise. We've had them sliced for breakfast and I've frozen some.

By far, this is my favorite way to "process" them. I start looking forward to next year's pie as soon as the pan is empty. 

Peach Pecan Pie,
from the Colorado Cache Cookbook

Combine and let stand 15 minutes:
4-5 cups fresh peaches, peeled and sliced
1/2 cup sugar (sweet peaches need less)
2 Tbsp tapioca
1 tsp. lemon juice
1/4 tsp. almond extract

Before adding to the crust, you may have to pour off some of the peach juice. I leave not more than 1/4 cup of juice.

Meanwhile, combine:
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup butter

Place half of the nut mixture into an unbaked pastry shell. Add peach mixture. Sprinkle remaining nut mixture over peaches. 
Bake at 425 degrees for 10 minutes, then reduce to 325 degrees and bake 20 minutes more. (I would cover the crust if it starts to brown too much, and bake another 5-8 minutes to be sure the bottom crust cooks all of the way.)

Bakers, would you pre-cook the crust a little before adding the peaches to keep it from being soggy? 

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Mometos like Breadcrumbs Leading Down Memory Lane

My grandchildren have returned home after a visit full of fun. But they left behind little momentos, like Gretel's breadcrumbs, to lead me down memory lane. 

First I found the little ring of stones they placed around an ant lion transplant, to see if it would make a new hole. It did. Then I saw the pile of shells Addie brought back from the beach and spilled out of her bucket onto the porch so she could use the bucket in the sand box.  On the fridge door their chores-for-money tally marks remain. When Bill empties the ice cube trays I think of Keeler doing that job for us (twice a day - big bucks!)

Their comments are written down so I won't forget the laughter of the moment. 

They flew into Raleigh after an all night flight, and we drove directly to the coast. That day we packed in breakfast at a French creperie,  and midday at  the beach. After wave jumping and some body surfing we checked into the hotel where the kids swam some more. By the time they cleaned up for dinner they were tuckered out. My grandson (8) said, "It feels like the morning of today was yesterday." 

me and Addie with our berry baskets
Once home we picked blueberries for breakfast which our granddaughter  illustrated. That's the two of us with our berries and some of the flowers in the yard. That's going to be near my desk until it fades away. 

The kids loved the skenks which scuttled around on the deck, but were uncomfortable with the bugs which found their way into the house. One night they spotted a particularly large spider. It was too big for me to squish, so we called my husband who had just finished his shower. He didn't respond quickly enough so I hollered "Come naked, it's getting away." 

Addie countered, "No! That would just be too awkward for all of us!" How does a 6 year old come up with that? 

We made lots of new memories, and even created a couple of traditions. This was their second visit to the Fourth of July fireworks in Shoals. We spread out our blanket, and they walked across the street for an ice cream bar at a little market. 

Most every afternoon we stopped and just chatted during "happy hour." 

I love that they can picture our home and the yard, which Keeler said was like a park. They love being out in the country chasing lightening bugs and being able to set off fireworks.  Keeler commented that if we move back to Colorado, he won't be able to visit us here. 

Yep, that's the rub. 
newts at Hanging Rock State Park

He must have thought about it quite a bit, because on a grandpa-grandson hike he mentioned that he thinks he's ready to fly by himself now. And when he grows up, he'll buy his own ticket to visit us. He asked Bill, "Should I get it one-way ticket or round-trip?"  

Sounds like he might like to stay. 

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Heed the Skink

The skinks gambol over our deck and squeeze into tight, dark spaces. They can disappear in a crack too small for a pencil.

We have been providing a cozy home for them under the back door threshold, which was about 1/2" above the deck boards.  Since our handyman
repaired it and sealed off their entry, the skinks have been confused.

They've decided the 1/2" space between the screen door and the doorsill is the way they should go.

Heading out to the deck I stopped when I saw a brown striped skink about 5" long on the runner inside the kitchen. I slowly walked toward him and he skedaddled back outside. 

The next day a younger skink, still black with a blue tail, was in the same place. He too turned tail and ran when he sensed me looming over him. 

Beguiling as they are, a vision of one diving for cover under the freezer gave me the willies. So we're trying to remember to close the back door. 

I can relate to their dilemma. 

 One of my familiar "routes" is to volunteer before I think twice. I find myself obligated to good things I'm really too lazy or selfish to do. 

 In the past that's led to leading student clubs that wore me out, preparing meals for sick folks and muttering while doing so, getting into a power struggle with a four year old in the church nursery, and helping to derail an auction because I didn't know what I was doing.

Heed the skinks. They followed the old path and it led to an undesirable destination. 

If I mindlessly follow my old routines, I may find myself somewhere I don't want to be. 

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Learning at the Lab

You never know where you'll pick up useful information. Recently, it was at the medical lab.

I usually have the same lab tech so we chat while she tests my blood. Yesterday we traded garden updates. 

She'll have 500 ears of corn to process. (Glad it's not me.) And she has prolific tomatoes, but most are still green. (Ditto.) Except for the Roma tomatoes.

I told her I think the nursery mis-labeled my cherry tomatoes because they are definitely Romas. 

Her too! Where did I buy them?

We figured out it was at the garden center, just up the road from the office.

I felt vindicated, thought I'd carelessly misread the tiny white plant label.  But their mix-up will cost us a year of waiting for home-grown cherry tomatoes. (Unless somebody wants to trade.)

After we solved that mystery I looked down to see I was dripping blood onto my clothes and the floor. She staunched it quickly, but I was chagrined to see  bright red spots on my green shorts. No problemo! She grabbed a bottle of hydrogen peroxide and poured it over the bright red blotches. The peroxide fizzed, we daubed it up, completely eliminating the blood! 

So two lessons learned:

1) Next year I'll buy tomatoes from two different sources--just in case.

2) Hydrogen peroxide can be used for disinfectant, healing, and cleaning. Here are 50 uses.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Seven Plagues of Summer

After the first flush of productivity, my garden is now plagued in ways that remind me of Moses in Egypt.

First the drought. We haven't had more than the scent of rain for weeks. Clouds gather, and the thunder teases. I can't keep seedlings alive or pull weeds (which somehow continue to grow) because the ground is like concrete.

Next the squash beetles attacked the plants and grey babies swarmed over the leaves. It's downright creepy out there. I didn't want to use insecticide, and the "natural" spray didn't kill a one. 

Third, the June bugs blast out of the blueberry bushes like soft ammo out of a machine gun. I duck and dodge, startled every time. 

Fourth pestilence: the Japanese beetles. In 2002, as a response to political events, Bill renamed them Bin Laden beetles. Now I believe they should be called Isis Insects. They gathered quietly. I neglected to put out lures thinking they were a minor threat. Then they attacked the leaves of raspberries, green beans, grapes and roses. The leaves are brown and skeletonized.

 I think the plants are traumatized. I certainly am.

The fifth entrants in the destruction derby are the grasshoppers-- petite and profuse. They live for about two months, so they have some weeks of damage to do yet. The organic soap, oil, and water spray didn't deter them either.  

The sixth and most damaging enemy is the Mexican bean beetle. A not-so-tolerable member of the ladybug family, I bet you've seen their tiny yellow eggs, fuzzy yellow larval stage, and dull brown adults. They consumed the leaves of my bush beans and snacked on the pitifully few remaining beans. 

The suggestion on the "planet natural" website was ridiculous. Pick them off by hand? The undersides of the leaves are covered in yellow polka dots of larvae. 

Disgusted, I yanked the plants out of the ground and into a big container of water and dish soap to drown them. I'm not going to give hundreds of them a chance to turn into thousands. I lost the battle but I stopped the enemy's

Pharaoh finally surrendered to Moses' demands to "Let my people go!" and the plagues ceased.

I don't know where to wave my white flag.