Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Alley Grazing on Steroids

Due to the incomprehensible amount of rain this year, edible (and inedible) weeds are bigger and lusher than they have ever, ever been. Kerr Dam is pretty photogenic as usual and rafters are having a ball on the Flathead River.

Two days ago, my day job and alley grazing came together at my friend Jen's house, as I pick-axed giant burdock roots out of the ground. We are talking roots that are over 3 feet long. Of course I only got portions of those behemoths. I plan to fix them for dinner tomorrow. Will let you know the recipes. They taste a bit like artichokes. I spent an hour, harvested a dozen roots and I was spent. You win burdocks!!

Lamb's Quarters, Knapweed and Mullein are becoming trees along the canal where we walk our dogs. It is staggering to see our arid Montana valley becoming a rain forest of edibility, an explosion of Eurasian immigrant plantvlife. Oh yeah, you are supposed to use the word 'invasive' when describing these species from across the sea, which, in case you hadn't noticed includes all plants called weeds -dandelions, pigweed, stellaria, mallow, grasses, lilies, irises, skunk cabbage, ad infinitum. Perhaps indigenous peoples of all continents would include our own Eurasian ancestors in the invasive species list. After all, these plants are just following our lead. Can anyone spell karma? I digress...

In my own garden, the peas are trying to set a new record. Pods just now appearing. Weeds and peas this year is taller than I am. What fun.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Has She Gone Too Far?

Last week, Alley Grazer was seen on Monastery Beach near Carmel stuffing seaweed into black garbage bags. When questioned, she admitted it was for her sister-in-law, Catherine's compost pile. Catherine was ecstatic with the beach grazing which will fill up her composter, the giant rolling barrel named Konan. Probably a first for that Dollar Rent a Car to have a trunk full of sea vegetables. A good time was had by all.

So this proves that the sky is the limit with respect to grazing. The fantastic abundance of mother nature, whether for palate, for composting, basket making, (or in the case of my oldest friend whose wedding I was attending there), pine boughs for the wedding display.

On the property where the couple lived and wedding was to take place, there was a huge stump where Christie placed these pine boughs we loaded into the rental car. Then the morning of the wedding, she plucked scarlet geranium blossoms which were growing in wild profusion nearby and placed them on the boughs. Can you just see it? A spectacular 3 foot horizontal wreath formed a vivid backdrop
for the minister and the betrothed couple.

I was only there a week, but the 'grazing' opportunities were endless. In addition to the seaweed gathering, I transplanted some wild daisies from the bottom of Bill and Catherine's driveway up to the flower bed; also, grazing on miners lettuce and chickweed, and the wedding preparations. Today while I was getting my tires changed at Les Schwab, I walked up to the water tank with my dog and discovered three wild flowers I had never seen before. This took me to library grazing where I found a couple wildflower books to help me identify them.

Finding surprises right in the neighborhood like that is so exciting. We walk by things everyday without noticing: flowers, wild edibles, tiny creatures, and even people who would be good to know!
In my immediate neighborhood and all over town, I find walnut shells. There is one walnut tree across the road from me, but no others. Yet I find shells all over a 6-10 block area. It's starting to feel like a cosmic joke, especially since there are no squirrels in this part of town. At my feet, over by the side of the road, even downtown, I see them, just one or two at a time. Sometimes just a half shell or a rotted fragment. Who are the clandestine distributors of these hulls and shells?? Or is it a totem, some sign from the gods?

Being a compulsive alley grazer, I also notice cast off appliances, lumber, barrels, buckets, cinder blocks, mechanical parts, bed frames, vehicles, lawnmowers, fencing, firewood, landscaping timbers...well, I could go on. A virtual infinity of discarded items in the alleys of my town.

In another week, it will be time to harvest the lambs quarters, one
of my favorites. Sometimes, they are coming up in and around people's rusting car parts or lawn furniture. Fortunately, I have a wonderful soap that is good for making sure there is no extra stuff on the wild edibles. But it is important not to harvest anywhere spray is suspected. I have noticed that I can sometimes tell by the way plants grow-uncharacteristic shape or size makes me suspicious. Also, homeowners tend to spray certain margins. So I watch out for that.

The beauty of grazing (watch horses, goats, cows and sheep for the ambient frame of mind), is the directionless, goal-free meandering, like the breeze, like the clouds, like the sweeping arc of my eyes taking it all in. That moment of recognition when a flower appears like a familiar friend. Oh, there you are. Or the artistry of green vines scaling a washer tub, the spray of grass clippings along a weathered board, maple flowers blanketing the pavement like a coat of neon paint, lavender blossoms ganged up on stems, about to explode, multicolored tulip buds...what an amazing show. Don't miss it. Alleys are the best part of any town, like people when they kick their shoes off, take off the tie and power suit, lean back in the recliner and become themselves again. Laid back...weedy and wonderful.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Oh those cottonwoods and more

It is that time of year again. The birds are crowding the feeder, daffodils almost done, tulips on the way. And those cottonwoods are starting the mega dump of debris onto the cars, roadways and animals. The catkins are piling up in my neighborhood. I think it is hilarious for something to be so abundant. I covered that in this post a few years ago.

Chickweed/dandelion salad fixings, my 'grazing of choice' are the first delights of the season to add to my
buckwheat sprouts (look left). My friend Barbara introduced me to quinoa sprouts yesterday. Get your glasses on to see those babies. But oh wow what a taste. Nutty, great texture. Eaten raw they are twice as good as cooked.

When I was in California I found miner's lettuce in Carmel Valley and bay leaves by the Big Sur River (above). The bay leaves came home in my suitcase.

Other California tripping...We traveled to Santa Barbara along the coast, stopping in Gordo at what was reputed to be an espresso bar. Not. Hippie, biker dude with a seriously flawed idea of a latte. Of course what would you expect from a hell's angel wannabe on a chopped moped. Al was the unfortunate victim. But we laughed about it for days.
Al with a pocket full of peanuts had no idea how popular he as just about to become with the locals. This bunch was lying in wait for him.
Near Pismo Beach the most classic diner I have ever seen housed was housed in a couple railway cars. Divine eye candy! For those of us who love diners as much as we love trains, this was a find! Good burgers too.

Days of walking beaches puts that tidal rythm right in to your bones. No wonder there are people who must live by the sea, no matter what. Other beach walkers had tips on where to find the best sand dollars and how to clean them up at home. A couple walking the pier in Pismo Beach swapped stories with us. We could hear the waves from our room and watch the volleyball and amazingly school soccor practice from our window.

another exotic alley...we look like we are part of the painting

Saturday, March 06, 2010

alley grazing on the coast

Two weeks of tripping around the California coast, sampling the different coastal communities has been wonderful. I had never been a tourist in my own home town before. We even kidnapped my brother today and took him to Fisherman's Wharf for stroll around with the tourists and lunch over the water. 
From Monterey to Santa Barbara on Highway 1, we saw Hearst Castle, elephant seals, Solvang, Big Sur; drove thru rock slides and torrential rains, and a huge casino on the Chumash (pronounced Ca-Hu-Ma)Reservation.


Thursday, February 04, 2010

How Come Everyone I Know is Sick When We Have Super Powers?

Have you noticed it takes less effort to fall sick than it used to? Virtually everyone I know is sick right now: some with the Big C, some with the aftermath of chemo, some with chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, lupus, Lou Gehrig's, herpes, candida, angina, liver disease, diverticulitis, colitis, kidney failure. How about diabetes? Have you ever known so many people with diabetes?

My interest in the human body began with a fear of illness, which began as a child with a three week
hospital stint, flat in bed with spinal meningitis. . It terrorized me into good health. So I started researching what made my body work better in my early 20's, using myself as a lab rat. When I could dial vitality up and down, depending on how willing I was to live right, I started wondering how far we could go with this.

What about the Super Powers? It seems, at times that we have them. Like when people:

1. Leap off tall buildings and survive
2. Lift automobiles off trapped children.
3. Use only air for sustenance-no food, no water.
Get buried alive and live through it
5. Get electrocuted and survive
6. Stroll on a 15-20 foot bed of red hot coals and don't burn up

Now I don't know about you, but if only one person ever did this, it becomes, by definition, humanly possible. A human did it, ergo, the human body has this capacity. By the way, I walked on glowing coals years ago, and my feet didn't burn. They looked brand new, like baby feet. All the callouses, nasty cracks , bunions and bulges...gone. Who knew?

So what are the outside parameters of the body's capabilities? Is this a power that can be summoned? Is it a technology to be learned? Is it a talent like music or art? Or is it faith in a Divine Being? Or is it something we all have?

This is the intro to my new blog, Sparkle

See you over there!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Accordion Angst

Well, a friend pointed out that it has been a really long time since I blogged. Three months ago seems like a lifetime. In the past 3 months,
1. my best friend finished the edits on her book,
my friend Wendy produced two of her new plays to rave reviews
3. I enrolled in a grief support group
4. Started working on my book again-draft 3
5. I bought a raw food recipe book.
6. my younger brother, Henry, died

my brother died. That doesn't seem possible. That can't be right. I'm not anywhere near acceptance on this. A perfectly good brother I have known for for 55 and a half years, was maybe a little worn out...well, completely worn out, the warranty was up on those parts. Spirit still strong, body trashed. We used to joke about 'well, if I'd known I'd live this long, I would have taken better care of it.' Yeah,'s to taking care of it.

So I'm doing it for him, taking care of this old bod in the hopes that my parts will last, all buffed up with yoga, walking, herbal cleansing, good nourishing thoughts, and let's not forget, music.

What it must have felt like for him to know 'the big one' was stalking him. It could have been either a heart attack or a stroke. Cardiologists couldn't figure out how he was still walking around. I'm sure he worried about harm to others, like if he was driving when it happened. I didn't get to talk to him about it. I didn't want to believe it was imminent.

Anyway, speaking of accordions. Brother Bill's joke: a guy wanted to get rid of his accordion so he took his car down to a bad neighborhood with the accordion in the back seat, left it unlocked, and when he came back the next morning, there were two accordions in the back seat. Ha ha

Bill's good friend Sam gave me his father's accordion, An Anderson System Dallape, purchased when his Dad was a kid. The box says 1936 on it. It is smaller than a lady's medium, made in Italy. No plastic anywhere. The following photos just show how much fun you can have without even playing it. I am in accordion kindergarten presently, but I love the sound which is somewhere between an organ, a calliope, and a train's moaning call.

See what I mean? This looks like the sound coming out of the accordion. Whoa.

Okay, Back to my brother...clearly part of getting over such a huge loss is time, but maybe also some effort. So Bill sent me half of Henry's ashes and the first installment entered the Flathead River last week by Buffalo Bridge.

Some of Henry's best moments were spent in, on and around water: kayaking Hawaii's coastline and running wild rivers in California, Oregon and Idaho. Kealakekua Bay on the Big Island can't possibly be the same without his kayaks sliding into the bay, helping tourists paddle over to the Captain Cook Monument, dodging dolphins, snorkeling crystal waters, and rocking on the tidal swell. Also bothering Fern Pule, at the heaiau which has been caretaken for centuries by the same families.

Henry's first wild river ride had to be the Carmel River.
A memorable and hair raising rafting trip had twelve year old Henry and his friend Michael Bull in a rubber duck
careening toward the sea, virtually airborn from the roiling swell. The frightened parents were racing to bridges in the car, screeching to a halt just in time to see this yellow missile flying under the bridge carrying their darlings alongside cartwheeling trees, dead animals and tidal waves of white water. It became part of family lore, how those two boys didn't die in the massive water spout produced by the collision between the flood level Carmel River and the Pacific Ocean at Monastery Beach. He was hooked after that.

So our plan is to sink Henry bones in all the rivers we can think of.
Bill and I already visited the Carmel River in December with a deposit. Then when I came back to Montana, Bill took off for Yosemite and in all the wild rivers Hen used to dip into, buck through rapids, and have near death experiences, Bill placed those ashes. Henry taught me so much over the years about how you rise out of the ashes of your own life again and again. He did it with some style and grace, honesty and humor. It was a life.