Saturday, January 30, 2010

Localvore: Eating My Own Storehouse

Last summer i read Animal,Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. Although i didn't make a conscious decision to become a localvore, as she did for a year, i've been much better this winter at using local produce, beginning with the foodstuffs stored in my basement.

It's never difficult to use the onions and garlic. Any recipe that calls for 1 clove of garlic, i use one head, and i still don't work my way through my garlic supply by July. The onions last until April.

The potatoes require some effort because the weight-watcher who lives in my house complains about starch.

The pumpkins are starting to show their age; so it's time to have my own personal pumpkin festival. Just a few pots of green chili, and i could work my way through my extensive supply of tomatillos (and make a dent in the garlic too!)

Why is it so hard to open the freezer door downstairs?

This winter i have refrained from buying the cornucopia of local vegetables offered at my local food coop. I simply buy one thing at a time--for instance this week, 1 small head of cabbage.

This means that some evenings i have to open the freezer door and pull out a package of home-grown green beans, grated squash, or pesto. I expect i am going to achieve a long-sought-for goal: a nearly empty freezer by June.

All i had to do was apply a tiny bit of Renunciation (not buying fresh veggies) and Determination (to use the frozen organic veggies i grew myself). These 2 Perfections (paramis) are feeding my household perfectly well this winter.

Friday, January 29, 2010

The Frozen Throes of Winter

Arctic winds are racking the body of Mother Earth here in the Northeast. After the rally of the January thaw, and just when we thought, Yes, we're going to survive winter after all, the death rattle begins and the house shudders.

Outdoors, the wind sounds like a never-ending train roaring down invisible tracks a block or two away. The furnace fights the chill, turns on and off and on again, trying desperately to maintain a temperature, but the extremities of the house cool down nevertheless.

The house groans as we internal organisms snuggle deeper into rest, hiding under blankets and fleece to protect us from polar gusts.

Just 4 more days until the groundhog pronounces that winter is terminal.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

First Harbinger of Spring

Sitting on the sofa in the evening, looking through seed catalogs is surely the first harbinger of spring. Page by page, possible vegetables and flowers take root in my mind. Papaya Pear summer squash; Russian Banana fingerling potatoes; White Swan echinacea.

Desire strikes again and again until my order, which will be charged to my credit card, is over $100.

The credit card allows me to ignore the fact that i am putting myself into debt. I am enslaving myself to work for another 5 or 10 hours to pay off this particular debt.

Sense desire begs for more--more tasty summer squash, more sweet-smelling lavender, more beautiful gladiolas. The mind pleads for satisfaction. I smile and agree that i need another treat.

The promise of the garden calls.

Monday, January 25, 2010

January Thaw

The January thaw has arrived. Drip. Drip. Drip. The snow on the roof is melting and will soon avalanche off the north side of the house. The front walk puddles in between last night's crusts of ice. The glacial shield that has covered the driveway has begun to crack and fissure and run off.

Outdoors change is visible today. Snowmen are dying; snow forts have collapsed; ski trails are useless. The structures of the season--flakes, drifts, and banks--age and disappear.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Perfect Microclimate that Fosters Blooming

My variegated Dracaena is blooming for the first time. A first-grade teacher gave it to me 7 years ago after i spent the school year as a volunteer in her classroom once a week helping children learn to read. That 5-inch plant is now 5 feet tall, so last summer i placed i beside my front door in the white garden. Its green-and-white leaves added interested to the shady and therefore mostly leafy flowerbed.

This particular plant seems to like to be wet, so i put it in a glazed flowerpot that had no hole in the bottom. Then it rained for 25 days in June and another 25 days in July. The flowerpot overflowed with water.

The Dracaena was so well camouflaged among the variegated Solomon's seal that i nearly forgot to bring it indoors. Then i "saw" it in early October and hurried it into the solarium. Now, for the first time in its life, it's blooming.

We all need the right conditions for our meditation practice to bloom. Some of us need to be inundated--perhaps by going on long retreats; some, like geraniums, need the soil to dry out in between waterings. I like to meditate in the wee hours of the morning; others prefer afternoons or evenings. I like study AND practice; others prefer mostly practice; and those with a sporadic practice obtain deep benefit from studying in a weekly class.

It takes time to discover our own perfect microclimate that fosters our own blooming.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Begonia Cuttings

In the fall, i transplant some annuals into flowerpots. Begonias, polka-dot plant, and geraniums perform well in a sunny window, but by January, the begonias are tall and leggy and looking a bit ragged. So i cut them back, all the way back to the base of each stem, and put the cuttings in a glass of water, hoping they will root. Meanwhile, i have a "bouquet" of pink begonias on the windowsill in the kitchen to cheer me up while i'm washing dishes.

The potted begonia begins to look great a couple of weeks later with compact, shiny green foliage and lots of fresh pink flowers.

More is not always better. More of the begonia plant looks unruly. Sometimes we have to renounce desire, prune our cravings back in order that we ourselves become lush and blooming.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Cardinal in Snow

A crimson cardinal perches in a snow-covered apple tree, considering whether he will fly to the bird feeder. Chickadees flit from tree to feeder and back again; they are not shy. But the cardinal is a shelf feeder, and this bird feeder is for perching birds.

Nuthatches--which my partner calls upside-down birds--hop up or down a nearby wild cherry tree. Gravity doesn't seems to concern them.

The cardinal launches himself toward the house and grabs a bite to eat.

I smile. Winter bird-watching feeds my own joy.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Full Blast Winter

With winter in full blast, i become acutely aware of the wind chill factor. Air blowing down from the Arctic decreases the already low temperature to tundra-like conditions. Even though i purposely left a small stand of white pines and hemlocks to protect the house from the prevailing northwesterlies, i can sometimes hear the wind whistling around the corners of the house.

Lying in my cozy bed at night, i hear the deepest wind chime bonging--a reminder to watch the air moving in my own body. Breathing in. Breathing out.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Snow Flowers

I subscribe to the idea of cleaning up the garden in the fall, so i won't have to do it the following the spring.
If it's brown, cut it down.
If it's green, it's clean.

Oftentimes, though, the body just doesn't keep up with what the mind has planned for it, so when the first snow falls, i notice various tall brown stems sticking out of the snow. "Hmmm," i think. The mind gets busy again, trying to bend the body to its will. "I should go out there in the freezing cold and cut those down."

A few dead plants actually look good in the winter garden. One is a tall grass, variegated green and white in summer, and now tan with a thin layer of snow. The leaves rustle gracefully in the breeze, and the seed plumes wave.

My friend Frances left her Autumn Joy sedum standing on purpose--the flowerheads retaining a bit of the maroon color. Now an inch of snow sits atop each flowerhead, making them look as if they've bloomed again, and bringing Frances winter joy.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Cyclamen Joy

When i went to London one January, i was amazed to see cyclamen growing in window boxes. There i was, wearing my coat from the Pacific Northwest--a polar fleece jacket zipped into a Gortex shell, whilst red and white and pink cyclamen were expressing the joy of the season by being in full bloom.

This experience transformed the way i treat cyclamen. I now keep them in the coolest room in the house--the entry. I send them outdoors to flower on the front step in April. They stop blooming in June and endure the heat of summer hiding amongst my other house plants. But in September, when i bring everything else indoors, i return the cyclamens to the front step until warnings of a hard frost drive them indoors. The cool weather seems to re-energize them, and soon they are blooming again.

Like the cyclamen, i need to be physically cool while meditating. Otherwise, i start to doze off. When i sit, i take off my socks. I very seldom wear a meditation shawl because coziness dulls my mind.

If i want to be alert, i have to act like a cyclamen: knowing that coolness triggers flowering, i endure a shiver or two until joy energizes the body and warms it up.

Oh, i love those beautiful cyclamen.