Thursday, December 30, 2010

Frost Upon Frost

We have a few inches of snow on the ground from a lake effect storm that brushed us after we totally missed the Great East Coast Blizzard of ’10. Then this morning, somehow, we also have a coating of hoarfrost everywhere. This prodigious lily-gilding adds to the wonderful light at this season, and the watercolor sunrises and sunsets. It’s a beautiful week to start a new year.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Most Carefully Upon Their Hour

Tree sparrows are a pert little bird that lives in Canada most of the year, but they winter here in the Endless Mountains. Often we don’t see them until January, or at least the week after Christmas, but this year they arrived most punctually at the feeder when it got light out on December 21, First Day of Winter. It’s like they were hiding in the bushes, waiting for their cue. Thank you, as usual, to Cornell University’s bird program for this picture. And now it's back to the cookies-and-eggnog feeder for me. Remember, it's important to keep a supply of unfrozen eggnog in your yard so that migrating writers can refresh themselves there!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Winter Solstice Eve Eve

Like most gardeners, I have a short list of favorite plants. The winterberry is near the top. We used to have a big old centenarian in Lilac Lane, the flowering shrub border planted by the original inhabitants of Wren Cottage. When that winterberry died the year before last, I was very sorry. But this year the North Orchard has given me a new one for Christmas: the volunteer pictured here turned up beside the trunk of an apple in a state of grave disrepair. I am so glad to see it, and I hope the birds will sow more all over the place.

This year on the solstice, we are having a full lunar eclipse, something that has not happened since 1554 or 1638 or some other unspecified time just before or just after Shakespeare. And who knows if it was even clear that night? So obviously this is a moment of some import. And with the revival of the winterberry clan on our hill, it seems to me that this new era will be a good one.

Happy solstice, everybody.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Lo, How E’re The Rutabaga Is Blooming

Here you see dinner in an early stage of preparation. I have never grown rutabagas before, nor ever dug something out of the snowy earth and hossed it directly to the kitchen to be consumed. But it turns out that you can plant rutabaga seed in July and by early December, with no further attention, you have rutabagas so large they are hard to cut up with the biggest kitchen knife.

I made a gratin of these rutabagas and a couple carrots, plus a frozen leek I prised from the ground, topped it off with Bechamel and some sourdough breadcrumbs, and damn. With the snow outside and the fires inside, it’s a lot like Switzerland. So in addition to my own admiration for rutabaga gratin, I felt the satisfaction of many generations of relatives who were glad to see this dish again.