Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Venture to Mt. Vale Winery, Galax, Va.

The sedum heads are turning pink. The tomatoes are in decline. And it gets dark while the evening is still warm enough to be outside.

Autumn is coming too fast for my taste. 

So my husband planned an end-of-summer outing for us that was PERFECT!

We drove a mere forty minutes from home into southern Virginia. Mt. Vale Winery  perches on one of the rolling hills outside of Galax. The tasting room is in the same building as the winery, and the stainless steel tanks are visible just on the other side of the door. They grow about a ton and a half of their own grapes, and buy from other vineyards what they need to finish their wine making. We've sampled wines from many local wineries, and I think these were some of the best.

We got there early on Friday afternoon and enjoyed tasting four wines while chatting with the owner and vintner. We selected items from their mini-deli to add to our picnic. Then we walked halfway down the hill to one of the two gazebos and enjoyed a table overlooking the grapes and the farms across the road. It was like having our own estate.

Then we headed through Galax to the New River and strolled along the foot, bike and horse path for a short mile.  We took over the bench vacated by teenage fishermen who had biked in with their dads.

We watched and invented stories about the people living in the big white farm house on the other side of the river. The school bus lumbered down the narrow road from the right. Three dogs ran in from the left toward the girl getting off the bus and scampered around her knees. She ignored them but stopped for a chat and a hug with the person mowing the lawn. Would she go to the football game at her high school that night? Did she have a crush on a someone she'd see in the stand or on the field? When they went in the house we turned off our imaginations.

The afternoon was as slow and relaxed as the river gently rolling by us. 

Thursday, August 20, 2015

On és el bany ( When Spanglish may not be enough)

When my 14 year old daughter was preparing for her solo trip to France, I bought language tapes for the basics: Where's the bathroom, I need help, How much does it cost? 

She would be staying with a family, but I  thought she should learn a little survival French. She laughed about how funny it would be if she needed to say something and couldn't. "Funny?" I said with alarm. She thought again. "Okay, maybe not so funny." But she didn't try to learn a word. 

It probably wouldn't have helped anyway. 

I knew some Spanish when I went to Costa Rica, but only enough to ask questions--not understand the answers. That's how we ended up in a restaurant with the local transvestites. Also how we got stuck in a horrific traffic jam the day of the presidential elections, crawling through the suburbs of San Jose. Plus, I hadn't figured out that avenues ran one way and intersected the streets of the same name. Crazy system. 

I'm trying to bring my Spanish to another level for our fall trip to Barcelona. As I listen to Spanish documentaries on Yabla, a fun listen-and-learn website, I realize that they drop endings of common words. I may never learn to lisp in the right places. Native speakers fly through their sentences and use idioms that don't even show up in online dictionaries.

This weekend I realized they don't even LIKE to speak Spanish in Barcelona because it's part of a separatist wannabe region called Catalunya with it's own language. 

So I hit youtube again, this time for a crash course in 20 basic phrases in Catalan. Oh, brother. 

I foresee a lot of confusion.  

As the days until departure dwindle, I'm feeling a lot like my daughter. Why bother studying?  I guess I'll just keep watching the hysterical Colombian muppets on Yabla. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

How to Harvest Flax Seeds

April blooms

Flax is one of my garden favorites. I want to spread it widely, so I decided to harvest the seed. Now's the time.

The lovely blue flowers of the flax have fallen off, and the dried fruit is a tiny beige capsule shaped like a bowl.

1. Once the bowl opens, the seeds are ready.

2. Cut off stems with the open heads and beat them against the inside of a bucket. Then, cut off the rest of the stem and roll a small handful of the heads between your palms to crush them. 

3. To separate the seeds from the debris, gently blow on the mix while tipping the bowl so the chaff gets lifted away and over the side of the bowl.

4. See how small the remaining seeds are? 

Originally I thought I would save money. In bulk, the seeds are $30.00 a pound.  

But now, after harvesting approximately .1 gram, which is 1/4550 of a pound, I've decided it's a bargain after all! 

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Abundant Harvest Disorder

There have been so many tomatoes that I now dread going out into the garden. Because if I grow it, I have to preserve it.  I have the pioneer mindset, as if my homestead is two days ride from the closest mercantile, and me and pa just don't have much cash money. 

I planted 9 plants total, combination of Goliath and Mountain Glory. Both have performed beyond my expectations. I estimate I've picked upwards of 125 pounds of tomatoes. 

It took two of us to haul in Monday's harvest.vMy husband predicted a flare up in my symptoms of *abundant harvest disorder.

Check yourself to see if you suffer from this common seasonal malady.

You've stocked freezer bags in snack, pint, quart and gallon sizes. Likewise Glad stackable reusable plastic containers, or rings lids and extra canning jars. You have citric acid, two kinds of salt, and an extra stash of dried herbs in case your fresh ones aren't at peak when you need them.

You're checking the internet for new ways to use the combinations of produce coming out of the garden. You've served it in a quiche, 
simmered into a soup, and grated it into breads. 


     I've made tomato pie, 
     mild and medium salsa (two batches), 
     simmered the tomatoes down and mashed them into a soup bases, both Italian and Mexican flavored, 
     slow roasted quarters in the oven to add to said soups, 
     kept the extra juice to use as broth in rice and quinoa, 
     and tonight we'll try them in Tomato Gratin with Basil. 
     And of course, I'm eating them sliced in a sandwich every day until the acid triggers cankers. 

More symptoms of *A.H.D.

You have offered vegetables to friends and strangers. The cable guy said
"My grandma grows enough for the whole county." You take them to the food bank. Even they say "no thank you."

You are getting persnickety about the quality of what you bring into the house. Would this be worthy of a 5 star restaurant? If not, chuck it into the compost. I toss them over the fence into the neighbor's field. Could they be poisonous to the cows?

You ignore the pain in your back from cutting up vegetables and standing at the stove. You keep Tylenol on the kitchen counter. 

The canning kettle sits out permanently. There's no point in putting it away this evening if you'll just pull out out tomorrow. 

And secretly, you hope for an early fall. 

Friend, if you have less than three of these symptoms, either you had a mediocre harvest, or you only have a mild case of the disorder. All will be well in a few weeks. 

For those with four or five, your recovery may take a little longer. 

photo thanks to Brooke and Scott Lowry

For those with a severe case--just get-'er-done. Think ahead to the coming chill. How, gathered around the table, your family will look at you with awe and gratitude when you serve steaming bowls of corn, beans, or the tureen of home made soup.  

Invite me over then. I'll bring the tomatoes and a bottle of wine. 

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Sprigs: Small Tool is a Big Help

I bought this cute little rake for my grand daughter to use during her visit. 

After she left I discovered it is the perfect size for me to use when cleaning out dead foliage or trimmings. The head fits in small places. I can manage it with one hand. It reduces the bending I have to do, and scooping up what I've raked is much easier than with a full-sized rake.

About $5.00 at Lowe's Hardware, it's an impulse buy that proved to be worth far more.  

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Words Straddle the Decades

My husband's comment led to a word search that straddled decades.

I heard the vacuum's powerful inhale as Bill maneuvered it across the wooden kitchen floor. I walked past in bare feet and he said "I'm getting' the gribblies 'cause I know you love to walk around barefoot." 

My mother used the word "gribblies" frequently, for crumbs left behind on the table cloth after dinner or for sweat and dirt cooked into toe jam between toddler's toes. 

I got curious and looked for its origin online. I discovered it's now used in online gaming. In that context it's a small enemy that's more irritating than dangerous. 

It's part of surfing slang, meaning to take a fall.

The Urban Dictionary entries revealed some disgusting uses too. Ugh, don't go there.

Words change over time. God be with ye (late 14th century) contracted into goodbye. I'm finding more and more that have changed in my lifetime (considerably less than 600 years.)

Recently I saw a Pinterest post for household hacks. A what? I thought a hack was a bad cough, or a poor writer, or a horse for hire, or somebody breaking into your computer.  Now, according to the Urban Dictionary a hack is a clever solution to a problem--like using lemons to clean your sink.

Another vocabulary shift made student eyes pop out when I said "We didn't wear thongs to school when I was young." Whoa--TMI, they thought. But I referred to flip-flops, which in California in the 60's were thongs. 

My grandmother's dictionary, version 1.0

I dread the likely transformation of other words from my generation to the Xs, Ys, and Zs  (grandchildren). Who knows what faux pas I'll innocently commit by the time the dictionary starts coming out in versions 3.1, 4.2, and 5.3?

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Sprigs: flowers in the alley

I love this re-creation of an old ad. 
Last year I wandered around a small coastal tourist town on Whidbey Island, remarking about the alleys full of flowers. 

A friend reminded me our own Mt. Airy, small inland tourist town, does a pretty good job too. 

She's right. These show how a walkway between old brick buildings can be quite charming. 

Even the parking lot is welcoming. 

Good job, Mt. Airy.