Saturday, March 31, 2007


I love the sound of canning jars sealing - the pop that announces a job well done. I don't hear it as often as I used to because I started using Weck canning jars because they are prettier. They don't pop. You just have to look to see if the tongue is pointing downward which is not nearly so satisfying as a POP. I just finished making 14 half pints and 4 pints of strawberry jam and I ran short of jars because some people forget to return them and our cats hurled two boxes of jars from the top of the shed, so now I am listening for the pops of the four mismatched jars. I've heard two already. Go here to look at last year's pictures. I was going to take more pictures but it would look just the same as last year, except for the mismatched jars and the larger quantity.

I made more jam this year because we ran out of strawberry jam the first week in February. I, obviously, gave away too much last year or either we were just piggish. We do have pear preserves and fig preserves remaining.

I wonder how long it will take my little sister to get here. She loves strawberry jam. Bring your jars or you will get NOTHING! You too, Susan.

POP! POP! There were the last two.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Savannah Blues

I read (listened) to Mary Kay Andrews' Savannah Blues. It is really a ridiculous book and not believable at all. Most Southern belles I know would never publicly use the foul language that Mary Kay Andrews chooses to bestow on her heroines and the plot is outrageously far-fetched. But, I felt entertained. The story was bigger than life. I wanted to see how BeBe Loudermilk would get revenge and her money. I wanted to be part of the scheme. I wanted her to find a good man and live happily ever after.

What's more. I will read and probably enjoy another Andrews book if she writes another even though every one of her previous books follows the same formula. They are happy, light, and about strong Southern belles who always get short changed and get revenge. Oh, and there is a recipe and fresh, bright cover art.

I am addicted to cover art whether it is on a book or a wine bottle. Send my money to the graphic artist. I will buy the mood or feeling every single time. Yes, I eventually look beyond the cover, but the initial draw is powerful. Want a "beach read?" Choose a brightly colored, fun looking book that has no pretension of being good literature.

Do you choose a book by the cover?

Wednesday, March 28, 2007


The morning I left the Alluvian and the Viking Cooking School for home, I said to one of the people I had met the night before, "Back to reality." I'm not exactly sure what I meant when I said, "Back to reality," because it could have had a thousand nuanced meanings. I could have meant that my life isn't great and the weekend was a diversion from misery, but I didn't mean that. I love my life and can only think of a few things that I would change. I could have meant that the lull in regular activity was a diversion from reality. I could have meant that the surroundings and activities were so structured that they provided a break from reality. I could have meant that the surroundings were so spectacular that they seemed out of place.

Whatever I meant when those words escaped from my lips, I had a fabulous diversion in Greenwood, MS. My fantastic mother-in-law gave me and my sister-in-law a weekend cooking retreat for Christmas. We attended the Viking Cooking School, which is not so much a cooking school, as a place for you to use and fall in love with Viking equipment and socialize. I have been to a professional cooking school and this is nothing like that. This was just fun. By the time I left, I felt as if I knew people who hours before were perfect strangers. By the time I left, I had eaten well over any one's calorie allotment for a day, but had done so by eating well made and delicious food, not a bag of Robin Eggs. By the time I left, I felt relaxed, lucky, and just plain happy.

We stayed across the street at the Alluvian Hotel and Spa. Accommodations are unbelievably spacious, luscious, and just astounding. Go to their web site and have a look. The complimentary Southern breakfast is the final touch - the little extra that all true Southerners feel the need to add. All this and I haven't even mentioned what wonderful companionship my sister-in-law is. She even suggested we go to a bookstore. She suggested it. I promise.

Turnrow Books is a new independent bookstore in Mississippi. We have a wonderful literary tradition here and independence is our mantra. The entire first floor of this wonderful store focuses on the South, particularly Mississippi. Many of you are thinking it must be tiny. But, Mississippians are verbose. We cook, we date, we marry, we divorce, we read, we write, we grow flowers, we arrange flowers, we decorate houses, we take pictures and we want to talk about it. All these beautiful books are here. I bought a book because I have a passion to support independent book stores. I also have a passion for Southern writers. Plus, I needed a memento of my excursion. My husband understood.

Let's talk about my sister-in-law (I don't think she reads here so I can talk about her). My sister-in-law is one of those rare people for whom I can think of absolutely nothing negative to say. She is kind, happy, never meets a stranger, remembers names, cares about others, sets boundaries(and keeps them), and is honest even with herself. She has fantastic college age children (I hope my children turn out so well). She is together. I loved watching her interact with people across the enormous work table. I loved watching her explore the room. I loved watching her turn perfect strangers into friends. She is the Old South.

She also knew the way to the Alluvian. I never called for directions before I left home. I just pulled off Highway 82 at the first Greenwood sign. I saw the parts of Greenwood that Viking and the Alluvian and the investors behind the four or five block downtown restoration would prefer you not to see. It is a different world. Reality. Not to say that the well read, well polished public face of Greenwood is not reality, too. It is just a different reality. If the South ever comes to terms with the dual realities, it may not need to write.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Wisteria gone wild!

With a blog named Twice Bloomed Wisteria you would expect to find a bit of wisteria draping over many entries. It is - allegorically speaking. But, here is a more substantive entry.

Wisteria goes wild by the roadsides (even with MDOT's aggressive use of herbicide) covering trees, bushes, and buildings with its grape like blossoms and filling the air with its inebriatingly sweet scent. Seeing wisteria like this reminds me of how riotous southern Springs really are.

I got to see plenty of roadside wisteria, dogwood, and redbud this weekend when I drove to the Delta. I'll tell you about my fabulous weekend later.

Friday, March 23, 2007

The water hose

We've been six inches short of our average rainfall this month. I've already had to rely on the water hose to keep my asparagus, lettuce, sugar snap peas, and spinach alive and producing. Late yesterday afternoon I set up the soaker hose to water my asparagus bed, turned on the water, and went inside. Obviously there was a malfunction at the hydrant, because when my husband got home at nine, the back yard and parking area were flooded - not just a little water, but get your waders flooded.

Did I ever mention how much I hate water hoses and the idea of watering a garden? Well, I do. Even though my garden is ready, I won't plant another thing until it rains.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Can you taste words?

Last night while lying in bed, I began to think of my crusty old sailor friend, Butch. We visited the USS Alabama on the way home from the beach. The children are fixated on that ship so when the weather is perfectly cool with a breeze we explore it. Though nothing much has changed since I was a child, I am still amazed by the space efficiency of the ship. Actually, I'm humbled to think 2500 men could eat, sleep, work, and play in that space when I complain of lack of space in my much more commodious accommodations.

Anyway, my friend Butch was a stickler for organization and tidiness. I suppose 30 years at sea living out of a locker improves your spatial relations and cleanliness. He used to have a sea chest under the tomato table filled with toys for his grandchildren, then his great grandchildren, my children, and any other child who happened to visit. Before he opened the chest, he established the rules, "Play with whatever you want, but ______________." I can't remember. I can taste the seafaring words for return everything to the trunk and close and lock the lid. I can fill in that blank with fifteen to twenty alternatives, but I cannot remember the sentence he actually said. I woke my children to see if they remembered. I grilled my husband, whose nautical vocabulary is obviously no greater than mine.

Then I said, "I can taste the word."

My husband said, "Does it taste good?", while looking at me like I was insane.

Come to find out, he can't taste words and thinks it's weird.

Can you taste words?

Better yet, fill in the blank so I don't have to worry Butch.

Sunday, March 18, 2007


I finished Gain by Richard Powers a few days ago. Powers, again, impresses me with his intellect and mastery of form. The two interlinking stories - Laura' cancer and Clare's history - is a device similar to the one he used in The Echo Maker, but it works. By elucidating the history Clare Soaps and illustrating the octopus like growth of the company (he includes charts), Powers was able to show how the original mission of cleansing and lighting was tainted and manipulated in the name of efficiency - the how could this happen in the reality of the never ending questions of "What is this in my ketchup?".

Before this novel I was a bit fanatical about chemicals, now I may need to be straight-jacketed. Laura's battle with ovarian cancer and the transformation of a family business into a chemical spewing megalith has sorely affected me. I'll be going to the doctor as soon as I can get an appointment.

Go out and get your yearly check-up!! If you need motivation, read this book.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

The Birchbark House

On the drive to and from the beach we listened to Louise Erdrich's The Birchbark House. I chose it because Susan at Chicken Spaghetti was going to read it with her child. I had not heard of this book, so I investigated and thought it would be a good match for our family. I couldn't get a copy of the book without special ordering, so I downloaded the book for my iPod.

The children and I loved the tale of Frog, the Anishinabe/Ojibwe girl, who is comparable to Laura of Little House fame. We listened to tales of her mischief, her courage, and grief. We learned much.

Now, though we are studying ancient history, we will have to take a side trip to the Northern Great Lakes area to satiate the children's desire for more information. I found this interesting web site. It has lesson plans (which I won't use) and much great information.

Thanks, Susan!

Oops I forgot: The reader, Nicolle Littrell, was great. She did voices and animal sounds.

Our Journey

The children and I are home from our Spring break. Even though this time of the year is not prime beach weather because it is still a bit cool, the water is chilly, and the probability of rain is high, I enjoyed our jaunt.

We looked for shells, investigated all the jelly fish that washed ashore (if they looked fresh we tossed them back in the gulf for another chance), flew kites, explored the dunes, threw the Frisbee, and did cartwheels on the beach. Who knew? I can still do cartwheels. I didn't need the emergency room when finished either.

While it was raining we watched movies, identified our shells with the nature guides, assembled a puzzle. I read a little.

I didn't take pictures. I never took the camera out of my suit case - no time.

Going on vacation without the husband was an eye opening experience. The children wanted to do so many things that needed adult supervision and I was the only adult. I couldn't do all and still provide food, wash clothes, and keep the sand out of the house. They didn't get to go to the lagoon, crabbing, or fishing. We did have fun, though.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

A Spring Break

I'll be back in a few days. I'll take the camera.


These chicks are about a week old. They still have their fluffy chick look, but have a few feathers, especially on their wings. Chick on the back left is a Buff Catalana, chick on right rear is a Barred Rock, affectionately called Dominecker in these parts, and the chick on the front is what happens when you aren't careful to keep your different breeds separate. Should we call her a Buffinecker or a Domilana?

We have two broody hens, but I haven't been brave enough to see how many eggs they are sitting. Broody hens are scary, nest protecting, pecking maniacs but who can blame them. I might peck a few people if they tried to take my babies or babies to be in this case.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Spring Reading Challenge

I had so much fun during the Winter Reading Challenge that I am signing on for the Spring Challenge. Who will join me?

For Spring, I will concentrate on reading the novels of Richard Powers. Now that I found Richard Powers because Zilla suggested The Echo Maker, I feel I need to investigate further. I am weird like that. I will also read The Secret Life of Bees because Jove recommended it and I am a beekeeper. I'm going to the beach so I will read something light like a Mary Kaye Andrews novel.

Here is my planned list, so far.
Gain - Richard Powers
The Time of Our Singing - Richard Powers
Three Farmers on Their Way to a Dance - Richard Powers
The Secret Life of Bees - Sue Monk Kidd
Savannah Breeze - Mary Kaye Andrews

My list is short because Spring is my busiest time. With garden, bees, school, and farm, I shouldn't even lift a book, but . . .

Sunday, March 11, 2007

The Year of Magical Thinking

I just finished reading The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion. I picked up this book from my sister's bedside table. She had suggested it in one of her comments here, so I took it.

I can't say that this is the best book for February, yet I've never read a book that was as honest, yet intellectual, about a topic as emotional as death. The book documents Joan Didion's struggle with grief and mourning after the death of her husband and writing partner John Dunne. Relying on the things she had always used as support - research, books, and writing - she journeys through a year of "magical thinking" in which she finds dangerous ground in even the smallest errands and tasks.

The clover is not the only thing blooming!!!

The plum trees have just started blooming. There are other expectant trees in our yard, but the plum has produced the first real flowers.

After yesterday, we are closer to being ready. Hives have been inspected, repairs made, and new paint applied.

Manure has been applied.

Screen doors have been repaired.

Now, we watch and wait while enjoying our best season.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Spring in the Air

Even though Miss Betty, my consultant for all old timer knowledge, says there will be a frost on April 28 because it thundered on the 28th of February, I feel Spring.

The purple clover is blooming in the orchard. My husband is straining at the bit to crank the lawnmower and shear it. He says it is unsightly, but I say leave it. I do wonder what the neighbors think. If they could hear the hum, the buzz, the throb of the many insects using this section of untidy lawn, could they be swayed to see my point of view?

I caught one (actually hundreds) of my bees collecting pollen and nectar. There were also bumble bees, spiders, gnats. . .

Now, I have to get to work so I can keep up with Spring. There are bee hives to build and repair, aged manure to spread, seeds to plant. The wisdom of the old farmers' wives has spoken, so I know not to get too far ahead of myself, but with the temperatures rising, the birds singing, and trees blooming, and the bees buzzing it is hard to resist.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

We are still at it!

We are still bottle feeding Mr. S's calf. He came to get it last week, but I didn't want the calf pushed out too soon, so I talked him (it didn't take much) into leaving it until the calf was weaned the right way. I know I'm crazy adding this extra work, but I don't want the calf to die after we have gotten her this far along. Calves are still vulnerable in this in between stage.

OO (we didn't name her) only takes one bottle a day now and if Princess feeds it she has to stand behind a gate because the calf has gotten so strong it can and will knock her down trying to get more to come out of the bottle. This is the danger with bottle calves when they get bigger. The calf that has jostled, followed, pushed, and head butted you since birth is now bigger. The hooves that just pinched your feet when clamoring for food, now bruise. The natural head butting is no longer funny, it is painful. Being pinned against the wall by a frantic calf that weighs as much as you can be scary. OO has grown in strength and size, but doesn't realize it.

In an effort to get OO ready for her future circumstances, we have been letting OO roam with a part of our herd during the day. At night we still keep her in the barn since she is not protected by anyone in the herd. She is eating grass, hay, and clover and is coming along nicely. I would guess she will be ready in a couple of weeks, though naturally she wouldn't be weaned for a while. Those smaller white calves in the picture have not yet been weaned, though their time is quickly approaching.

Frustration Mounts

I have been having difficulty posting comments to blogs ever since Beta Blogger arrived. I have difficulty posting comments to my own blog which seems really weird. So, if I normally visit and post comments at your blog and you've noticed my absence, don't feel as if I am neglecting you. I'm not. I'm not sure whether I'm incapable of reading the security letters or incapable of typing my name and password. Maybe it's a Mac/blogger hangup or . . . Is it just me????

I don't need these tiny frustrations!

Monday, March 05, 2007

The Echo Maker

I completely lost track of everything this weekend while I read The Echo Maker by Richard Powers. Powers masterfully combines science and emotion in a tale about cranes, water, brain damage, recovery, sibling relationships, trust, success and failure, and our perceptions. There is much medical jargon, but with the search for medical answers to Mark's accident induced Capgras Syndrome the search for personal answers to our perceptions of self, our public presentation of self, and the outsider's perception of us is illuminated. We are also reminded of how fragile, yet resilient, the interactions truly are.

My husband came back home last night and said, "You've been reading."

I said, "How observant of you. How did you know?"

He said, "You are somewhere else. You always go somewhere else."

Hmmm! I think I misjudged my husband. I was in Nebraska while he was in Memphis. I thought he wouldn't notice my absence.

Thanks for the recommendation, Zilla!! Now, I feel that I must go see the cranes!!!!

Friday, March 02, 2007

My secret obsession

On several occasions I have lamented the addition of artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives to our food. I have condemned those who let their children eat garbage everyday. I am relatively careful about what we eat, but as the Easter season draws near I find that I cannot resist some base desire for Whopper brand Robin Eggs. I'm just as embarrassed about this obsession as I am about my Tab addiction. On Tuesday, I saw the first of the Robin Eggs at the grocery store. I was not looking for them. I promise. I do have some pride. Nevertheless, the Robin Eggs were placed so I couldn't miss them and I couldn't resist.

I have eaten the whole bag. The children helped, but I feel sure that I consumed most of them. I feel sick - Heavy, sluggish, and just plain disgusting, but if there were any Eggs left, I would eat them.

I am weak. I am a hypocrite.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Does anyone else see the incongruity here?

I bought this light bulb today. I have been waiting for it for almost a week, because this is not a normally stocked lighting option in our small town. I want to help the earth by choosing lighting that will reduce carbon output. We are also readying our house for solar power and these bulbs are a must so I waited a week in low lighting conditions.

So, I go to pick up this wonderful earth saving bulb and look at the packaging. They have packaged the earth friendly bulb in a huge non-recyclable clam pack when the non earth friendly bulbs are still packaged in the minimalistic recycled cardboard (4 bulbs to a unit) boxes.

Now why would they do that? Don't they know that the people who are purchasing this bulb are thinking of the environment and want less packaging.

More dirt pictures

Doesn't my kitchen look happy with all the colorfully labeled dirt pods. After years of getting to the garden with mystery plants, I have taken my crusty old sailor friend's technique for my own. He has moved to Snug Harbor Retirement Village, so he won't know I am copying his ideas and I won't have to listen to him say, "I told you so!" In reality, I may send him a picture so he will know that his worst and best pupil has finally taken his advice about something.

The plan is to mark each plant, rather than each set, with something (paper clip, wire, or toothpicks). With the small, though permanently colored insert the coding remains with the seedling even if the big container is jostled or the seedling is moved to a larger pot or given as a gift. The master list is kept in a safe place. I thought I would enter it in my NoteTaker Farm book, but I haven't.

Last year, I seeded 12 varieties of tomatoes and 5 varieties of peppers. By the time the tomatoes and peppers were planted in the garden, I had only 9 varieties of tomatoes and 2 of peppers. I had inadvertently given away the entire seeding of a few varieties. This year I will know what I am planting.

Besides, the kitchen looks happy with all those little colored toothpicks and paper clips!