Monday, November 29, 2010

thanksgiving 2010

Six days in Northern California afforded an idyllic visit with all our progeny -- two sons, three grandchildren -- as well as a taste of seasonal weather and the fall foliage we miss from years in the northwest and mid west.

An extended family of 13 sat down for the ritual feast with a delightful mix of traditional and innovative trimmings prepared by many hands: veggies (fennel and Brussels sprouts), starches (sweet-potato gnocchi with a sauce of brown butter, maple syrup and sage; cornbread; sausage-laced stuffing; scalloped potatoes), condiments (jellied cranberry sauce; cranberry-garlic chutney; turkey gravy), crudités (carrot, celery, jicama), green salad; and dessert (pumpkin pudding or apple pie -- choice of lattice crust or crumb top -- topped with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream).

Our younger son, the host, prepared an 18-pound free-range turkey (fresh, not frozen) -- brined overnight and slathered with mayonnaise to produce tender, juicy meat. Steve (having previously sharpened all the knives) carved and arranged turkey slices on separate platters of white and dark meat. Leftovers made wonderful sandwiches the next day, plus a Friday-night dinner of turkey with mashed potatoes and gravy, and a crock-pot of rich broth for soups to come.

We proudly watched a video of one granddaughter acting two Pilgrims' parts in her kindergarten Thanksgiving pageant -- very traditional except that the entire text was presented in Spanish. BTW, the other Pilgrim had been disabled by stage fright, but our brave girl made the show go on.

Spirited sessions of Euchre went on into Thursday and Friday nights. Steve and I tried to be graceful losers in this fast-paced, counterintuitive card game handed down from my paternal grandfather to become a staple of family gatherings.

Every holiday evokes remembrance of its past observances in good times and not-so-good times: a Mt. Wilson picnic and other outdoor meals in southern California, a retreat from Pennsylvania to Ohio, an Illinois gathering of relatives from three states, family transitions in Idaho. Years marked by loneliness or bereavement balance the lavish celebrations. Everyone switches roles from host to guest and back again. Meals are well planned or unplanned, eaten in amity or enmity

Who knows what November 2011 will bring? I'm looking forward to it already.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

second spring?

I wrote drops in the bucket, part 3, on October 2, and our first measurable rainfall of the year started the very next day. A gentle Pacific storm brought three days of drizzles, then peaked with a full inch on October 6. Once again, Weather Underground provides the stats. We eked out a total of 2.2" for the month, enough to launch what many call Southern California's "Second Spring."

It seems ironic that the October rainfall coincided with my new project of harvesting laundry water and my plans for a new narcissus bed. I alluded to the naturalized narcissi in late May when I was digging out invasive Star of Bethlehem bulbs. Winter 2009-2010 had brought only about six or eight stems of the fragrant paperwhites, and so I dug and divided them after the leaves had thoroughly dried. I selected an area separated from our cacti and succulents by a row of three small gardenia bushes, added a lot of compost, planted about 45  of the naturalized bulbs, and mulched deeply. One watering was all I gave at the time. The rain barrels were empty, and I expected the fall rains to be sufficient, as they have been for every year's winter/spring-flowering bulbs.

As summer wore on, though, I worried about the paperwhites in their new bed, and pledged to start watering them in early October. Thus they received hand waterings from the first laundry-water harvests, and were already starting to sprout when the October rains came along. November has brought an array of lovely blossoms including a couple of stragglers on the other side of the garden, where I thought I'd removed all the narcissi.

I've decided to call the period after our first fall rains the first (NOT second) spring of my gardening year. With no frosts to speak of, we can expect continued blossoming.

The paperwhites are our most obvious evidence of first spring, but others abound:
  • volunteer sweet pea seedlings, which I have spaced evenly along the chain link fence, interspersed with some planted from seed (the first volunteer, a dark purple, is already blooming);
  • marigolds and California poppies sprouting from seed scattered among the narcissi;
  • at least three new 'pups' for the boysenberry bushes;
  • strawberries blooming and ripening;
  • hyacinth beans blooming on one of last year's two vines;
  • new growth (and fruit) on last season's unproductive tomato plants;
  • sprouting of spring- and summer-blooming bulbs;
  • buds on the calla lilies;
  • snails; and
  • WEEDS.
More about the above-bulleted topics in future blogs, I hope.

A final evidence of first spring is the purchase of seeds. Our Thanksgiving visit to Northern California included a trip to the hardware store, where I found pumpkin on a stick. I'd just seen these little cuties for the first time in our daughter-in-law's holiday centerpiece. Internet research on the tiny "pumpkin's"  edible identity -- scarlet Chinese eggplant -- tempted me to an on-line order for four kinds of heirloom pole beans that will be planted before Christmas.

So many cycles, and cycles within cycles, make a maze of days. Amazing!
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POSToccupations by Frances Talbott-White is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License