Monday, July 19, 2010

Happy Birthday America

Thank goodness, America keeps having birthdays. I may complain about the governance from time to time, but I'm really glad to be able to live in this fine country. This year, we returned to the Clermont Historic Site for our Fourth of July celebration. It was hot as blazes, and we were all a bit droopy, but we spent a nice afternoon in some historic pursuits. Duncan was again transfixed by the fife and drum band.

We watched some children's games, like the three legged race and a cherry spitting contest, and Duncan tried out some historic games. We watched a rifle demonstration on the bank of the river, and luckily no one set the very dry grass ablaze.

Duncan and I decorated fans at the craft table, and they came in handy in the heat. After we all ate Italian ice, we enjoyed free ice cream provided by Stewarts. Hey, it was the only way to keep cool. 

We enjoyed some more music and storytelling with Tom Hanford.

When it was dinner time, Duncan insisted on leading us off to the perfect picnic spot he had picked out. We were afraid it was a wild goose chase, but we got to enjoy this view with dinner. (It did have the added attraction of the train tracks below. We watched several trains rumble by while we were eating.)

And this guy watched over us while we ate:

It was a nice, summer afternoon. I do think we've worn out the entertainment value of Clermont's Fourth of July so we should start thinking about what to do next year, but it was a beautiful backdrop to celebrate our country's independence.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Peter, Peter Pumpkin Eater

Unless you're the kind of "sneak vegetables into your loved ones" freak that I am, it may have escaped you that there's a pumpkin shortage going on. Seriously. When I embarked on my project of baking random sweets full of vegetables (in an effort to combat the effect of Duncan's poor attention span on his nutritional intake), I researched a lot of recipes. I've accumulated recipes for zucchini, beets, carrots, sweet potatoes, and who knows what else. I was sort of saving pumpkin for a desperate moment. Since I buy it in cans still, it's always there. But I went through this phase last fall when I loved pumpkin and gorged on pumpkin beer, pumpkin coffee, pumpkin ice cream, pumpkin cookies, and pumpkin muffins. At the beginning of June I went looking for a new muffin to try for Duncan and thought I'd break out the sweet potato muffin recipe, which calls for canned pumpkin. I thought, why not? I was excited because I had kind of missed the pumpkin. Easy peasy.

I couldn't find pumpkin anywhere in Stop and Shop. I thought, it's a big store, we're in a hurry, I'll get it next time. I popped into the local Freshtown to pick up a can. I KNOW where the pumpkin is in Freshtown, but there was none to be found. I looked in Stop and Shop again, to no avail. On my fourth attempt, I actually asked someone in the store to help me with the pumpkin. The nice boy walked me to where the pumpkin should be (the Jell-O and pie filling section, by the way), and the shelf was empty. He apologized profusely when he saw the sign, which read "This item is temporarily unavailable." Jokingly, I said to Jamie "Either there's some kind of pumpkin shortage going on, or everyone in the tri-state area is baking pumpkin pies for the summer."

On a whim, I typed "pumpkin shortage" into my web browser that night. Low and behold, there is a shortage of canned pumpkin. (I did read several articles from reputable news sources, but go ahead. Try it yourself). The growing conditions for the last two summers (overly wet and cool) resulted in lower pumpkin harvests and reduced production of canned pumpkin. In fact, people have even been selling cans of pumpkin on eBay. (It's true.  I looked. I did not, however buy. I'm not CRAZY. Just touched. Special, maybe. Crazy, no.) Mystery solved. I'm kind of sad because I really do enjoy pumpkin. I'm also disappointed that I didn't have the sense to roast my own pumpkin, like SOME people I know (Matt and Courtney...who probably still have last year's pumpkin in their freezer).  But there you have it. If you were thinking pumpkin pie, think again. And if you happen to live in an area lucky enough to still carry canned pumpkin, pick me up a can, would you?

Friday, July 9, 2010


June flew by. Really, I don't know where it went. I worked for a great deal of June so it didn't really feel like summer until July. I did have days off here and there so I can't pretend it was all work and no play.

The first week I was training tutors for summer camp, Jamie and Duncan set up GeoTrax world so they would have something to keep Duncan occupied. They kept pretty busy. The hit the library and the bookstore, did some crafts, played outside, and made chocolate ice cream.

We got our vegetable garden going. Oddly, I have no pictures, but I'll post some soon. It can't be going too badly. We have baby peppers, lima beans, cucumbers, and watermelons taunting us in the front yard.

Duncan had a Children's Day at his preschool, and Nana and Poppy came down for the day so they could see his school and meet some of his teachers and friends. He road a pony, played in the bounce house, played some great games, and won $216 in the 50/50 raffle.

We met up with Grandma and Grandpa and Don and Sue for a barbecue at Jason and Suzanne's house. Good food, family, good friends, and croquet. Who can ask for anything more?

For Fathers' Day, we took a trip to a AAA baseball game and watched the Tri-City Valley Cats get creamed. We didn't care. We were two rows behind the visitors' dugout, and Duncan had a great view. He asked a lot of good questions about the game and really seemed to enjoy himself. We ate too much junk food (isn't that what baseball is for?), and Jamie and Duncan got new baseball caps.

We had fun visiting John, Melissa, and Anna in Hopedale, MA. Anna and Duncan played in the  sprinkler, and we visited the DeCordova Museum and Sculpture Park.

We all wanted this for our yards:

This was Melissa's favorite.  I was kind of fond of it too:

Finally, at the tail end of June, Jamie, Duncan, and I took a trip to Hancock Shaker Village, where we marveled in some aspects of Shaker life, such as their devotion to God and connectedness to nature and their diligence and industriousness (they harnessed water from a nearby reservoir to run their sawmill and various other running water uses!)  On the other hand, we could only shake our heads at their belief that they could propagate a religion solely through converts. We were also a little curious at how fancy and sophisticated the Trustees House was, where Shaker elders met with visitors from the outside world. It's a beautiful museum, and it was nice to take a step back and think about a simpler way of life.

Oh, yeah.  And Dawn, Diana, and I trained some teachers for summer camp. 

I seem to remember complaining at the time about having to work so soon after graduation, but in retrospect, it does seem like we were able to pack in a good amount of summer. I'm sorry for my long absence, but there you have it.  June, in a nutshell. I hope yours was as good as ours was!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Dear Chives,

Thanks for being there for me. Last fall, I ripped you out of the ground, rudely and unceremoniously, and tossed you into the compost. "If I want more chives next year, I'll buy them again," I declared. But I forgot. I didn't plant you again, and I forgot to buy you in the grocery store last week. I needed you for my all-time favorite coleslaw recipe (cabbage, chives, cilantro, and a simple oil/vinaigrette dressing), among other things. And guess where I found you? On the edge of the compost pile, growing four times as big as you were when I chucked you there. Thanks for hanging in there and being there when I needed you most. It's a lot for a girl to ask from an herb, but I surely do appreciate it. And I'm sorry...she said sheepishly.


The Careless Gardener

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Talk About Slow Food

We keep a small vegetable garden. This year, we have 18 square feet planted with lettuce, carrots, peas, beans, scarlet runner beans, peppers, basil, parsley, cucumbers, lima beans, small watermelon, and small cantaloupe. We also have seven or eight tomato plants in grow bags. The vegetable garden doesn't really produce much, at least it hasn't in the last three years, and with our CSA membership, it's kind of unnecessary. I guess I keep doing it because I want to keep us in the habit so that when we have our own house, I can grow a bigger and more productive garden. It's also kind of fun and helps keep Duncan connected to the earth in between our weekly visits to the farm. He's proud that the lima bean he started at school from a seed is growing like a weed, and he likes to eat lettuce right out of the ground. Even if we ate nothing, I would think it was a useful exercise.

One interesting and annoying feature of our house is its lack of outdoor spigots. I have to water everything by hand, with watering cans filled at the kitchen sink. Since we're in the middle of a heat wave, I have to water every day. It takes eight watering cans to water everything:  vegetable boxes, flowers in pots and barrels, hanging basket, shade garden. I am embracing the fact that it takes me 4 trips in and out of the house to water everything; I'm thinking of it as extra exercise. I wouldn't mind if if cooled down by 30 degrees and rained every fourth or fifth day, but in the meantime, as long as I keep up the watering can routine, the plants are loving the heat wave. I hope it's really worth it because that is some seriously slow food.