The Old Pine Tree

Strawberry Picking

July 4th and 5th it was cool and rainy and everyone was a little bit grumpy for being cheated out of our 3-day holiday weekend. Sunday the sun came out so hot so early I almost bonked on my morning run. Seemed like a good day to fill the fridge (and freezer) with fresh picked berries. We picked just under 10lbs for $17.50. Good deal if you ask me. I think I must have ate 2lbs while I was picking. Many of these will be snacked on and the rest will go into the freezer for the cold winter months when we need reminders of a sweeter time.

Ruby Red

This week I made another batch of rhubarb syrup. I used roughly 5 cups of rhubarb, a little less than 1 cup of sugar (I wanted to keep some tartness), and just under 2 cups of water. This time I kept the skin on and it came out such a brilliant, fun color. I saved the pulp to use like jam and I plan on having it on biscuits. 

Sunscreen season

I’ve been a big advocate for mineral based sunscreens for a few years now. However, I will admit that in the past few months I have lightened up a little because those higher quality, healthier sunscreens are more expensive and don’t go on as easily (either greasier feeling or stiffer and chalkier feeling). I read something this morning that caused me to wise up and stick to the good stuff that I wanted to share. The Farmer’s Almanac, based out of Maine (cool, right?!) published this article (I linked to page two because I found it the most helpful/interesting). Take from it what you will, but I just wanted to share a non-mainstream view.

"Don’t put anything on your skin that you wouldn’t put in your mouth.” Why? What you rub into your skin goes into your bloodstream.

Most commercial sunscreens contain harmful chemicals which not only block vitamin D formation, but could increase the likelihood of developing cancer. Do not use commercial spray sunscreens as the ingredients may not be safe to inhale and could be harmful to the lungs.

The two sunscreens I use most are 

Alba Botanica
Raw Elements

You can find them in your local health food store, or online.

(photo source: Expanded Consciousness

A weekend at the beach

Between World Cup games and sweaty riverside runs, I was at the beach this weekend. The water was too cold to even stand in, but the hot sun felt nice (despite still fighting off this cold).

I’m not sure I’ll find a sandy retreat that lives up to Crescent Beach, but being away from roads and houses and staring out across the water for hours gives me a certain sense of being removed from the world and it always does me good.

Sick day
I’ve been fighting a sore throat all week and when the congestion set in I knew it was time to take a sick day. Lots of sleep and some hot tea and I hope to be in tip top shape in no time. Saturday and Sunday are supposed to be gorgeous days I don’t intend to waste (hello beach day). Not to mention I haven’t been running since Sunday.
Today is a good day to stretch, to read out on the porch, to rest. The weekend will bring watermelon and sand and sun dresses and the smell of the humidity coming off the water, and sunglasses, and fresh mint, and puttering around the garden, and windows thrown open, and don’t forget the sunscreen. 
I may be sick, but I’m still grateful.

Sick day

I’ve been fighting a sore throat all week and when the congestion set in I knew it was time to take a sick day. Lots of sleep and some hot tea and I hope to be in tip top shape in no time. Saturday and Sunday are supposed to be gorgeous days I don’t intend to waste (hello beach day). Not to mention I haven’t been running since Sunday.

Today is a good day to stretch, to read out on the porch, to rest. The weekend will bring watermelon and sand and sun dresses and the smell of the humidity coming off the water, and sunglasses, and fresh mint, and puttering around the garden, and windows thrown open, and don’t forget the sunscreen. 

I may be sick, but I’m still grateful.

As the Dandy Wine Settles

Some recipes are easy to follow. You go through the recipe, line by line, doing everything just so (or maybe even a little bit haphazardly), and the finished product comes out perfectly.

This is not usually how it works when it comes to brewing or fermenting. You can do everything just right and it can still come out wrong. Like turn-your-stomach-never-want-to-go-near-that-again-thank-you-very-much wrong. Someone you know probably makes it perfectly and it’s the best you’ve ever had and you’re like what. the. eff.

Fermenting, for me, started as a gift that was handed down to me from my ancestors. My recipe box was filled with tools that made their way through multiple generations until I found them in someone’s basement, and memories of childhood, sitting next to those relatives as they mixed up their favorite this-or-that, and the taste of their labors still lingering on my tongue, even though it has been decades in some cases since my last taste, and verbal instructions, the spoken word, on the index card of my memory, of just what to do, mixed with tales of how it used to be.

That recipe box is rich and helpful. I go back to it time and time again, and I add to it as the years pass. The more people I meet who give me a sip of this or a taste of that before passing on their recipes and then their advice when I try it out for the first time on my own, the fuller my recipe box gets.

I was lucky enough to cross paths with my mother’s friend a few months before I would have started making dandelion wine. As I have written before, I don’t even remember how I became interested in dandelion wine. I certainly had never had it. But I was at Lesia’s one night and she was pouring dandy wine and offered up her recipe and finally I felt ready to try my hand at it.

Over the past couple of weeks Lesia and I have been e-mailing about dandelion wine and it has been really great for me to have someone I can ask things like “what did you cover the jar with?” or “did you put the jar in a dark place?” or to talk about the taste right now (pretty bitter, but not all bad), and how it will change (according to Lesia it should sweeten as it ages. It’s “green” right now). Gosh this stuff is good to know because otherwise I’d be worried I was doing it all wrong.

This passing down of recipes and techniques is a sort of hand-holding, ensuring that the next generation learns these secrets and keeps them alive over time. This sharing of culture is especially important in a country where we aren’t steeped in rich history the way other countries are. Sometimes we have to dig around for our history, much like archaeologists, going after the treasures we are interested in.

Some day, someone decades younger than me will find themselves in my basement and will dust off a corked bottle of yellow wine and will read the label and will ask me about dandelion wine (or pickled beets, or dilly beans, or the aging red wine vinegar, or the carboy of cider), and I will tell them what I know and of the people I learned it from, and they will hold onto my secrets even after I’m gone.

Today, from the garden 
Normally I am so good about getting the garden in. I draw my little sketch and order my seeds and get them in as early as I can after the frost. This year I was not so good. I recently visited a friend whose string beans were almost a foot tall and her whole garden was growing in neat rows. 
I have been slow to get everything in this year. My first batch of peas didn’t come up (I’ve never had that happen to me before) and I was a little worried I had lost my mojo. I soaked a new batch over night though and now they’re all growing like strong little soldiers. Thank goodness.
I planted 5 big rows of brassicas first and they’re doing so well! I thinned the kale and chard rows and ended up with this big bunch of greens. Keep it coming! 
As of last weekend my gardens are officially planted (yep, I said gardens. plural. planting all the plants).

Today, from the garden 

Normally I am so good about getting the garden in. I draw my little sketch and order my seeds and get them in as early as I can after the frost. This year I was not so good. I recently visited a friend whose string beans were almost a foot tall and her whole garden was growing in neat rows. 

I have been slow to get everything in this year. My first batch of peas didn’t come up (I’ve never had that happen to me before) and I was a little worried I had lost my mojo. I soaked a new batch over night though and now they’re all growing like strong little soldiers. Thank goodness.

I planted 5 big rows of brassicas first and they’re doing so well! I thinned the kale and chard rows and ended up with this big bunch of greens. Keep it coming! 

As of last weekend my gardens are officially planted (yep, I said gardens. plural. planting all the plants).

Summer solstice

The first day of summer my friend and I went out on her dad’s boat and sailed around Penobscot Bay. There were moments of sun and moments of wind. Sailing always feels so indulgent to the soul.

Welcome summer.

David and Sarah, owners of Marshall Wharf Brewing and 3 Tides in Belfast. I snapped this picture in part to show that there’s a woman behind the scenes, too. Maine micro-brewing has grown tremendously in the past few years, in part due to this duo. They’re getting adventurous with their next beer, if you haven’t heard. If you like good beer, give Marshall Wharf Brewing a sip.

David and Sarah, owners of Marshall Wharf Brewing and 3 Tides in Belfast. I snapped this picture in part to show that there’s a woman behind the scenes, too. Maine micro-brewing has grown tremendously in the past few years, in part due to this duo. They’re getting adventurous with their next beer, if you haven’t heard. If you like good beer, give Marshall Wharf Brewing a sip.

Grateful Friday

Today I am grateful for:

  • A garden that is growing like such a champ. I soaked some peas and did a new planting because the first bunch just didn’t have any interest in coming up. The new batch of peas can’t grow fast enough. I’ve got some happy mixed lettuces, shallots, cabbage, beans, cuckes, pattypan squash, and artichokes growing. This year I also did husk cherries (YUM) and watercress, which I’m super excited for because not only is it jammed packed with minerals but it tastes delicious. And that is just one of my gardens.
  • Lobster dates on weeknights after a beautiful run. You can’t beat a big ol’ plate of lobstah and steamahs. Being right on the Bay doesn’t hurt, either. 
  • Wildflowers growing on the side of the road, like buttercups and lupins and daisies and clover and so on.
  • Festivals like Maine Fare. I’m looking forward to the cider and cheese tasting tonight! It has my name written all over it. 
  • Exploring little pockets of wilderness here on the coast. I have plans to get over to Sears Island soon. Maybe I’ll even pick some fresh mussels, because that’s just the kind of thing we do here.
  • The sun and the warm air that fills the apartment and the front porch.

Lots of good things. What are you grateful for today?

Today smells like roses

Today smells like roses

It’s official, the bull frogs are out

Oh June, you bring me so much joy.

Bland

Do you ever worry that your life is bland? Or that someone who is on the outside looking in might think it is bland? How do you judge blandness?

I’ve been thinking about these things. If someone who I used to know, or who doesn’t know me, looked in from the outside, would they think I have a bland life? Would they think I settled?*

What do people see as marks of an exciting (decidedly not bland) life? Does exciting inherently mean satisfying? Is excitement a measure of success? Is satisfaction a measure of success? Is it possible to judge another person’s satisfaction through a few pictures or a job description?

I know that travelling a lot and to far off places is a measure of excitement for me. I get antsy when I haven’t travelled in a long time and I get a little envious when I see others doing a lot of travelling**. My life seems somewhat bland when I’m not travelling with some regularity.

I would say I’m pretty satisfied with my life. It isn’t perfect by any means (I make it a point not to share too much of anything that is unpleasant because it just don’t seem like the place, or the vibe I’m going for here), but some things feel deeply right based on what is individually important to me. I don’t think it is always easy to gauge the little things that might be truly fulfilling to a person.

Similarly, taking in new experiences and indulging my interests provides me with deep satisfaction. Relaxing also makes me very happy. Relaxing isn’t very exciting. Is it bland?

I don’t think I settled, but I can see how it might look that way if someone were to see that I moved back to the county I grew up in and took a job working for the City. From the outside that can seem pretty safe, and well, bland. I guess the trick is not caring, and going on about your satisfaction anyway, right? 

Just some thoughts spinning around me this week. What do you think?

*I know, we’re not supposed to care about these things. I think we all do though, even if just a little.

*Just a little envious.. I admit it.

The unwritable girl

Writing a little bit more, just a little bit, these days.

New trail

In the last week I made it my mission to explore all of the trails around town. The one pictured above is one of my new favorites. It is three quarters of a mile and basically goes downhill and then comes back up. The trail is very technical and narrow, but it’s fun and the woods are just gorgeous. I do multiple loops and enjoy the smell of the river, running back and forth a few times over that soft forest floor, hopping over roots and rocks like a jackrabbit, climbing a steep grade before the trail flattens out next to valleys of shaded ferns. 

The wild strawberries are in bloom. In two weeks I will finish my run with stained fingers and rosy lips.