Archive | November, 2008

Lost & Found

20 Nov

I found a key on Sunday.

It was shiny and bright amid a sea of gray gravel and dank, drab leaves.  It was just the latest in a series of tiny, buried things I’ve dug up since we bought the house in August.  Yet oddly enough, this lonely, forgotten key, proved to be the least mysterious thing I’ve found so far.

It wasn’t lost years ago by a traveling magician; it didn’t unlock a hidden passage; it wasn’t hand-crafted by an orphan raised by Shakers and it never served as a clue in a great mystery.  Once I had finished with my yard work, I walked to the front porch, fished the key out of my pocket, stuck it in the front door, turned it, and walked straight into the house.

I had been weeding when I found the key.  I got an idea into my head–I have no idea if it’s right or wrong–that, at this time of year, when most vegetation has died back and is turning brown, that anything remaining green and vibrant after multiple killing frosts and a few flurries, is a weed and should be removed from my gardens.  I started with the Queen Anne’s lace in the perennial beds then moved around to the front of the house where I fear I might have yanked out some wild bleeding hearts.

There were some funny, round leaves growing up through the little glacial moraine of gravel that helps to drain the stone foundation of the house (it’s built into the side of a hill).  I decided they had to go.  They came up easily, and I soon had a healthy pile of them in my weed bucket.  And then i grabbed one and pulled.  And pulled a little harder, and then with a gritty, metallic pop, out came the weed, and a rusted over latch.  The weed’s root had grown right through one of the nail holes that at one time held it onto the side of our house.

I’m so pleased that our house is providing the mystery I had hoped for.  It’s what I love about old houses.  They remind you that you’re not the first one to own them.  Was the latch abandoned because it no longer worked, or did someone drop it, cursing his cold, fumbling fingers?  When did ConEd stop using glass insulators for their wires?  What can I find out about …ock & Co. from …lem England?  Who left the key there, and were they coming back for it? (Okay, I’d actually rather not know the answer to that last one…)

These are fun little mysteries.  They serve as things to mull while doing dishes or pulling weeds.  But there do exist two larger puzzles that have me vexed.  One: How did a beautiful piece of Pueblo Indian pottery get into the garden?  And two: What is that strange building in the woods with all the crockery? (And only tangentially related: Why is my forsythia blooming?)

I found the pot one of our first weekends there, buried in the corner of a garden bed.  I knew what it was immediately.  My mom is a long-time collector of this sort of pot, and this example, though broken into a dozen or more pieces, is a beauty.  The burnished glowing auburn surface and deep-cut decoration means this pot was made with love by someone very talented.  Sadly, its been under the dirt just long enough to make the signature unreadable.

But how did it get there? Obviously someone buried it.  Was it because they felt remorse for breaking something so lovely?  Or were they trying to put it to use as a home for beneficial animals in the garden, figuring, well, if it’s broken, it may as well do some good?  How did it get broken?  Did a dog or child run into it?  Was it thrown at the wall in the midst of a heated argument?  Regardless, I’m keeping most of it in the garden as a decoration, and two fine pieces grace my kitchen’s windowsill as an aid to daydreaming.

I’ve got my own fanciful ideas about the strange building behind the house.  I discovered it over our four-day weekend when we went out back to gather kindling.  I was first drawn to it by the pattern of walls made discernible by the cover of fallen leaves–it’s a little, rectangular building.  And then I noticed the little blue teapot, and then a big spattered enamelware bowl, then a huge crock, a wooden bucket and more and more and more.

Dozens of vessels of every shape, size and material imaginable scattered in the woods near a little hut, just up the hill from a beautiful, cold, clean stream.  My mind raced.  Might it be an old moonshine still from Prohibition days?  I can’t wait for Spring, when the leaves have settled and deer hunting season is over, so I can venture back into the woods to do a more thorough investigation.  Until then, I’ll just have to do some research online to see if I can date any of the crockery to around the 1920s.

I have no culinary mystery to leave you with, but perhaps all this thinking and contemplating and pondering has left you hungry.  I know it has me.  So might I suggest some spätzle? The latest issue of Saveur has a wonderful recipe for käsespätzle that includes roasted garlic in the dumplings.  Given my undying love for these little German dumplings, I had to try it.

As with most recipes for spätzle, Saveur’s tells you to use a spätzle-maker to make them small and uniform.  Bah! I say.  Just drip the batter into boiling water off your spoon.  The spätzle will turn out bigger, more toothsome and hence more delicious.  Cook them until they rise to the top, then sautèe with a little butter and chopped garlic, sprinkle with cheese and broil until golden and delicious.   Serve with some braised sauerkraut and sausages, and you’ve got a meal fit for ein Königen.

No mystery there.

Mountain Time

14 Nov

Merry Christmas!

Er. Uhm. No.  Happy Thanksgiving?  Yeah, no, that’s not right either.  Let’s see… Happy Election Day… No… That’s over too… As is daylight savings time… Hmm.  How about Happy Friday! Yeah, there we go.  Having “Christmas” at the beginning of November can be very discombobulating!  It’s also a lot of fun.

We arrived in Denver and headed straight for the mountains after a stop in Boulder for provisions where we were followed around a Whole Foods by Queen Elizabeth the First and her consort. (Okay, not really, but there were two people in renaissance costumes trailing us the whole time we were in the store, which is also discombobulating when you’ve just arrived in a place with a whole lot less oxygen in the air than you’re used to).

Colorado fills me with wild fantasies which grow more vivid with every trip.  By the end of this visit I was ready to ditch my life in New York and buy a pickup truck, a little cabin in the mountains, some snowshoes and trusty dog.  I would wake up every morning and run up and down mountains for fun, and then support us by making endless batches of peach jam to sell to clueless New Yorkers who have never had a Colorado peach.

Isaac’s mother’s neighbor gave her a little jar of this jam that I greedily inhaled at every opportunity.  I swear, I don’t think I have ever tasted anything more delicious in my entire life.  It pulsated with the radiance of summer.  With each bite of my morning’s toast it was like I could feel the luscious peach juices dripping down my chin.

But that wasn’t the only fruit that starred in our long “holiday” weekend.  There were also apples that Isaac and I brought along from upstate.  I roasted them with pork, and added them to a cider and maple glaze and tossed them with green beans and pecans for our “Christmas” dinner.  There wasn’t a chance they could ever be as wonderful as the peaches, but they definitely stood their own.

It was nerve-wracking cooking for another family who’s culinary likes and dislikes I wasn’t privy to, but I think it all went well.  Most plates were shiny clean by the end of dinner.

And then, after another hike and some glorious views and a dinner out for green chili and excellent beans, it was time to come back to New York.  I was sad, but I missed my house, and my coworkers missed me.  But, I’ve got a plan to score more of that peach jam… Next year, I’m going to make some jam from the high bush blackberries in the backyard and broker a trade.

If I can’t live in Colorado, I’m going to damn well ensure a steady supply of Colorado peach jam!

Head below the jump for the recipes for An Apple Feast, Fit For “Christmas.”

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Flyin’ The Coop

6 Nov

What a week!  Oh what a week…

In celebration (okay, not really, but it feels like it), Isaac and I are heading west to celebrate “Western Orthodox Christmas” with his family.

To keep you company, here’s a few our neighbors, including Maybel the chicken.

(Who I’m considering adopting.  Anyone out there have experience with adopting a rogue chicken?)

I’ll be back next week with pictures and stories.