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This Is What Cold Cellars Are For

In case you were wondering, Gob made cold cellars so you can pull a bag of beets out in February like you plucked them from soil just yesterday, slice them, dice them, dry them, and paste them to windows (and anything else they’ll stick to – especially bodies). And then take pictures.

Someone gave us a mandolin last christmas, and it has gathered dust in the satellite cupboards until it occurred to me the other day that we could officially donate it off without guilt. But at exactly the same time, Henry was developing a fondness for all things sliced thinly. So when he requested apples sliced thin the other night I started slicing out onion-skin apple slices until it occurred to me to bust out the mandolin. (Which I subsequently did).

Long story short it’s pretty fun to slice things really thin and before long I had everything that would allow for thin slicing out on the counter. As you might have suspected, the nice crisp blood-red beets took rather well to the format, and I was so in awe of their colors and patterns that I kept at it until I had sliced them all.

I pasted them (with their own juice) to the window because it was a nice canvas. They dried overnight into these crustacean-y waves and whorls and plates and I conceded to them that they were quite fetching and had rather stolen my heart.

noodlepus, or, how to fox up your chicken soup

Someone made a batch of chx soup at the farm Friday, but put off the noodlemaking because he wanted to use a mixer, and didn’t have one there.

He finally got around to the noodlieoodlieoodles last night, and started running them through the marcato lasagna attachment, which cuts nice, inch-and-a-half wide noodles with a scalloped edge. He wasn’t sure this was the width he was looking for, and he wasn’t especially excited about the scalloped edges, but he noodled boldly forth because it was getting late and the soup had been sitting in the fridge for two days now.

He laid out the noodles along the counter, and threw the strip of excess dough that had run outside the cut in a pile to the side, to ball up and roll out and use for another go when he finished with the first run. But when he glanced over at that little discard pile he was struck by how much it looked to him like the tentacles of an octopus. See for yourself:

Whoa, he said, because there is something deep in him that resonates with the octopus. So he made the rest of the noodles that way. It was, as you can see, unquestionably, utterly, totally worth it. Look at that noodle. Tell me it isn’t hot. Not hot like spicy. Hot like, you know, foxy.

one year

Henry was born one year ago right about….. now.

It’s been an amazing year: a tough year; a tired year, an exciting year; a gorgeous year, a thrilling year; but mostly, a year filled with a seven hundred and fifty million-billion gallon spill of you-oughta-be-ashamed-of-yourselves L-O-V-E love. Happy Birthday Henry. You made my life.

nutmeg and mace: myristica fragrans

I just learned what fresh nutmeg looks like. Here are some visuals to aid in blowing your mind:

Myristica fragrans

myristica fragrans

myristica fragrans

myristica fragrans nutmeg seed

What you buy in the store – if it isn’t ground – is the dried seed (which is inside the brown part inside the red web). But I don’t care about the spice any more. I just want to hold the insides of that fruit. It looks like it should still be beating. I have never seen anything come off a tree that looked so alive.

The shiny red web (the aril) around the seed is mace, another spice (and favored repellent). Two-for-one, this bad boy. About 3% of the oil is toxic, which is why smart guys trying to get high on nutmeg usually come close to dying.

Takes nine years to get fruit from a seedling. And only then if you’ve got a hermaphrodite. Otherwise, you better find your lady a fella, or vice-versa, depending on which it turns out you have. Which makes this one a chancy buy. Which is unfortunately for me not enough of a deterrent. TopTropicals down in FL sells 2-3 yr old seedlings, as well as Plant it Hawaii. Both great shops.

how to dry a dead snake

I found a little serpent in the driveway of the farm last time we went out to walk the paths. The Catholic lawyers ran him over, and he was good and dead by the time I discovered his carcass lying still in the dirt.

No more than nine inches total, just a baby probably, a life cut short by an early-model Florida-plated Chrysler 300. Florida. Chrysler. Catholics. It does not get any worse than that.

But he was so near-intact that I thought maybe I could preserve him and put him on a shelf for looking and wonder and study. I brought him home and put him in a tupperware to bake him dry out in the sun.

Callous as hell, it probably seems, but really, I’m mostly sure he won’t really mind. And too, my goal is reverence, not profanity. Being as spirit-forward as he is, he can probably read my meaning better than most of you meatsacks.

dead snake preservation technique
There's a chance I may still get into heaven yet.

sorry toots, me and cornus kousa got a little thing going.

Mercy child, the geometry of these fruits has got me all sortsa intuned to a spilling-seed-into-the-soil, last-month-of-the-summer last-ditch effort at monoecious reproduction. So hot and yet so smart: so warm and curved and beckoning and still so cold and sharp and hard. Gracious y’all, the intensity of the ambiguity that this fruit pops and locks has got me more than just a little bit flustered.

cornus kousa fruit
cornus kousa fruit in varying states of undress

Dogwood, you have been inaptly named. You are a harder-to-hold pretty, meticulous, and remote kitty than a dirty sloppy hairy best friend. A change is in order, if I may be so bold. May you roll henceforth: Kittywood.

the impossible mangosteen (garcinia mangostana)

My two new mangosteen trees arrived from Hawaii today, looking wonderful. I had pretty low expectations for the size and health of the plants after all my searching and researching. Not only are they nigh-impossible to grow in the US, it seems they’re also pretty hard to come by.

Most of the tropical fruit tree nurseries I’ve been dealing with don’t carry it. And I was nearly tempted by an ebay seller who ships them from Hawaii bare-root, but I bought a rambutan from him a couple weeks ago, and it now looks like death warmed over — I’m not even sure it’s alive — so I figured there was a better route and kept looking.

I finally found another grower, Hula Brothers in Hawaii, selling them for $100/ea. or two for $150, shipping included. I figured what the heck, I’ll most likely lose one, might as well get two, improve my odds. I kept checking the door all day today, and they finally came at five pm. They were the best-looking plants I’ve gotten in the mail yet.

mangosteen treeThat’s probably a five-year-old tree there. Which means just five or six more years until I have a chance at some fruit.

It takes ten years for a mangosteen tree to fruit in favorable conditions, favorable being ultra-tropical always moist and never-lower-than-eighty-degrees kinda weather, preferably on a riverbank. There’s only one known instance of anyone getting one to fruit above the 200th parallel. Some feller in S. Florida got lucky. But I’m going to mimic Thailand/Puerto Rico in a greenhouse, and I’m going to get it to fruit. Mark my words. Check back in six years re: deliciousness.

The fruit is a beaut is the reason for my mania. I have never seen anything so pretty that tastes so good.

mangosteen fruit

not all right

Everything, it turned out, is not all right. In fact, if you can believe it, my thumbnail fell off. I really thought it wouldn’t. Then I thought it would. Then I didn’t. Then I knew it would.

I updated Courtney periodically, the forecast ponging back and forth every few days, “I think it’ll stay” one day, “It’s definitely coming off” the next. And so she made fun of me, as she should have. “Keep me updated.” she teased after a month of wishy-washy prognostication. I started referring to it as “my journey” a week or so ago. There must have been something more profound than either she or I knew afoot to put a label on it like that.

And there was. Because it came off, (Or I cut it off. Or most if it, the part that was hanging from a corner, the part that was going to catch on something and make trouble for me. It had been pushed up by the new nail enough so that I knew the tender bits underneath was safe. It was just a matter of clearing the debris.), and when it did it was obvious, fingernails are just one more window into the soul. Add it to the eyes, tack it on to the mouth, that pearl-hard shell of shiny keratin is a prosopopoeiatic mirror. Remove it, and you’re looking at a zombie, a soulless mask, a face with no sense.

Lamp it yourself, nerds:

missing thumbnail