It’s been a bit of time since I left New York City (evicted, but that’s another story). I left in 2001 for Vallejo, California. That’s when I graduated from living in an apartment to dwelling in a house with a little backyard. I haven’t been back very often since then. But I left California too in 2009, (after hooking up with my husband the master gardener, but that’s another story). Arriving in Greenville, South Carolina, I graduated again. We left a backyard bursting with corn, veggies, fruits and berries, to go to a few acres of land that sustain our family. We put in, we get out. I haven’t just moved. I’ve changed too.
Wherever I’ve been I’ve been a writer and spoken word artist, but my perspective about what I do has transformed with my transplantations. Poets like to talk about nature, use nature for metaphors, admire the beauty, mystery and ultimate mastery of nature. But there was a time when this poet was more comfortable at a desk in a room with four walls, and a window from which to observe nature cleanly, safely and comfortably. I didn’t understand back in my apartment living days that my roots were bound in the small pot I was living in.
My garden might be getting just past her prime in late September, but she still has a lot to offer. I started a few of these Dragon Breath from seed last year. They must have reseeded themselves, because this spring they came up all over the place, and I started pulling them like weeds.
These hibiscuses were so root bound in their previous pots, that I had to water them every day. They grew a lot in the last year. They should be happy now for another year or two. I just have to remember to bring them inside before the frost comes. I’m ready though; even though they’re heavier now, I have them on wheels!
The more I learn, the less I know. Sometimes it feels like that. Really, I should say that the more I learn, the more I realize how little I know. About a decade ago I thought that I was doing something great making bread with a bread machine, and that pickles could only be made with vinegar, and that I could pick pears from the tree when they are ripe. Looking back on the ten years of living and working on this same little piece of the world on Paris Mountain, with my indispensable mate, I do feel a sense of accomplishment. But what I feel more, is that I am still a virgin.
I started off baking bread by assembling the ingredients, mostly flour and water and yeast, dumping them in a bread machine, and pushing a button. It was easy and the fresh bread tasted so much better to me than the packaged bread in the supermarket. But after awhile I wasn’t satisfied with that. I wanted to do better, a little foreplay, you could say. So I started using the bread machine only to knead my dough for me and let it rise the first time. I committed to a second phase of massaging the dough in various ways, and then leaving it in suspense for an hour or so, for a second rise.
We have an abundance of eggplant in our garden right now and were trying to give some away. But most of our friends ask us what they are supposed to do with eggplant, which they apparently don’t usually purchase in the grocery store. So, for our friends, and others who might be offered bounty from a friend’s garden this time of year, here are some suggestions for what to do with that big, purple beauty.
The easiest thing to do with an eggplant is probably to peel it, cut it into smallish cubes, boil it with some salt until soft, and strain it. You could add your cooked eggplant to a stir fry, spaghetti sauce, casserole or soup….
Fermenting carrots and ginger, and sourdough starter …
What seems like a long time ago now, when I was a single mother of two, I had mastered a small repertoire of recipes and baking was not included. I was the stovetop queen of East Harlem. So after I moved to California and then got married (and quickly had two more kids,) I was proud of myself when I started baking muffins and other treats. I felt pretty smart when I also started canning the vegetables and fruits that my husband grew in abundance in our little backyard. Even so, when we moved here to Greenville almost nine years ago, I was still a virgin bread baker. I had never used yeast for anything. But I was no virgin to eating bread, and have always preferred it fresh.
I started off with a bread machine that I have since gotten rid of after I realized that most good bread rises twice, and you have to flirt with it for a few minutes in between rises to get the best out of it. For a little while I thought I had arrived after turning out some beautifully braided challah loaves, Belgian waffles and seasonal cinnamon rolls. I also admired the rows of pickled peppers, cucumbers, and cabbage on my pantry shelves. But after awhile I wasn’t satisfied. It was all foreplay, the yeast in my baking goods, the vinegar in my canned goods, the carbonation in my soda.