Monday, January 19, 2009

June Apple

Definitely does not look like June in these-here-parts-of-the-world. Our little apple tree is a sorry sight no matter what the season, in need of a good trimming and somehow getting rid of the caterpillar nests. The deer do love to eat the leftovers though, just one of the treats they manage to find this time of year. Every trail we've made either follows a deer path or crosses one. I wondered if our presence would affect their activities, but direct observation tells me "no"... there are some times when the deer actually use our trail after we've tromped it down. Nice to know we are participants in our forest and not mere observers!

June Apple is an old-time reel that is in the Fiddler's Fakebook.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Ralph Page

The annual Ralph Page Legacy Weekend takes place this weekend in Durham NH. Richard and I drove down yesterday afternoon, arriving in time to share a potluck supper with organizers, callers, and musicians before participating in a multi-caller evening that highlighted new Maine callers. Awesome music was provided by The Montville Project, a Maine band that has cut two CDs packed full of good old-fashioned New England chestnut tunes. The crowd was packed, the dancers courteous and conscientious, and the program diverse. Here in Maine, the norm is to have an evening full of contras with two waltzes and perhaps a circle mixer. When I started dancing around 1994, it was common to also have a couple of squares and maybe a triplet included in the program, but nowadays the MUC (modern urban contradancer) doesn't tolerate as much diversity so callers tend to call just contras. It was SO MUCH FUN to do some other formations, and that, apparently, is what Ralph Page is all about. Elements of style, timing, and consideration for fellow dancers are seriously observed in a very social, warm setting. I came home after the dance to feed the wood stove... Richard is staying with friends and attending the rest of the dance weekend, returning tomorrow afternoon.

Friday, January 16, 2009


... that's twenty degrees BELOW zero this morning... gotta go feed the fire...

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Deep Freeze...

It is c.o.l.d. here in Maine! The outside temperature right now (8:30 pm) is -7.3'F... inside it's a cozy 70'F in some areas. We hung blankets over some of the windows this evening, will hang some more tomorrow in an effort to maintain a comfortable temperature. No hiking outdoors today. Instead, we went to the Registry of Deeds and researched our property, and then went to the Maine State Library before coming home and having dinner. Remember the soup idea? Well, tonight we had an Italian Fish Soup made from frozen stock, to which we added fish, some shredded zucchini, and spices... served up with a fresh spinach salad and bread. Delicious. Hope you're all keeping warm!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

In the Pines

Cones fascinate me for some reason, all sorts of cones. This pine cone is representative of thousands that covered our driveway and areas of the forest floor this year as the result of masting- a year of heavy seed production. There are several theories on why this happens, and different species mast in particular cycles and patterns. For the pines, it happens every five years or so as a means of outsmarting seed predators like squirrels or insects. On a non-mast year, a certain number of cones are produced and many of them are part of the food chain, but in a mast year, there are many more cones produced- more than can be eaten by even the hungriest of creatures- thereby increasing the chance that at least some of the pines will take root into seedlings. Pines need a few other criteria met before they're able to get a solid start, but certainly getting past the initial forage is critical.
As I think back to the fall, I remember talking about the excessive number of acorns littering the lower yard. I don't know if it was a mast year for oak, or whether we were just tired of trying to rake the little nuts among the leaves. Many years ago when I lived in Fayette, I remember raking one year and encountering the same thing, piles of acorns underneath the dry leaves. The acrorns need more research!
"In the Pines" is a tune from a book called Twin Fiddling that occupies some space on our music shelf.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Fallen Leaves

Bird tracks under the car...

... and a leaf that fell from a tree overnight, standing in the fresh snow in the woods. Photos taken on the macro setting at close range.

Kitchen Stomp

I'm sure many of you are wondering what wonderous soups and dishes have been coming forth from my kitchen these days. We made a big trip to the grocery store last week and stocked up on fresh fruits and veggies as well as some necessary staples for the cupboards, and started out with the aforementioned soup stocks.... lots of stock. So much that I put a lot of it in the freezer in square sandwich containers - just the right amount to make soup for two sometime in the future. Keeping some of the tomato base stock and the chicken base stock in the refrigerator has worked out great... just take two cups of stock and add meat, seasonings, and whatever else is needed to make a specialty soup for two.
We've had hearty chicken and dumplings, Mexican chili soup, and chicken egg noodle soup. Some other dishes this week have been Thai rice noodles with ginger sauce, vegetables & shrimp/ sweet & sour meatloaf/ chicken & veggie quesadillas/ and California chicken sandwiches. It's been really great to have time to reign over the kitchen, and I think Richard has liked both the time off from KP duty and the variety of dishes on the table.
One thing that has added variety to our meals is fresh sprouts that we started last week. The trick to good sprouts is frequent rinsings, at least twice each day. They're crunchy and tasty, and easy to add to a sandwich, salad, or even to stir fry and soups.
Kitchen Stomp is a duple improper contradance written by Becky Hill.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Stir the Soup

I'm cooking two soup bases this morning, lots of hearty vegetables in a light chicken stock, and in a thick tomato base. We'll use these throughout the week, adding some different ingredients each day. Soup is great this time of year, warms the insides when it's cold outdoors. Having the base pre-made makes it easy and quick to whip up something special, delicious, and healthy. In the past I've made a pot of soup that we have to eat for days on end, finally getting really tired of it. I don't know how we'll like having soup every day this week, but I'm pretty sure we'll like it better when it's dressed up differently each day!
I got the idea from the Good Housekeeping web site. I'm not sure we'll do the whole diet thing, but honestly, it'll be good to lose a few pounds and if this helps, well I"m all for it. As beneficial as that would be, I was really more interested in the aspect of eating healthier in general and this looked like a good way to do that. After a month or so of sweets and treats, it was fun to shop in the produce aisle! Having a couple more weeks until classes start up again also helps... it takes time to chop, chop, chop all those veggies!
This all goes along with my GOAL (not resolution) to be more aware of my health, to eat better and get more exercise on a regular basis, try to minimize stress and be more present in the things that are going on around me. It's a good start to this new year!
Stir the Soup is a really great tune written by Larry Unger... yeah, another goal is to play a few tunes every day, and this is one of my recent favorites.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Wind that Shakes the Barley

Happy New Year!
We welcomed 2009 in the company of contradancers, musicians, and friends at the annual Wescustogo New Year's contradance in North Yarmouth. What a great way to start the year. The topic of resolutions has popped up over the past couple of days, and I have a few... but I'm calling them goals in an effort to take some of the pressure off. The difference? Goal carries a lot of weight and direction without the penalty of failure. Probably mostly semantics. Still, having goals feels more realistic than promising to change my life starting today. The biggest goal, one that touches on a lot of others, is to be more engaged with the outdoors, specifically with the acres around our house.
This morning is clear and W.I.N.D.Y. The thermometer reads -2.7 (that's right, negative 2.7) and I'm sure it's even colder with the wind chill. It's cozy in the house, a balmy 56, though it feels warmer as you get closer to the wood stove. Maybe it'll warm up a little later. Maybe I'll have to wear 4 sweaters, but my goal is to get out there and see what's happening.