Dwarfed

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DSC_0420This is my lemon.

DSC_0396Mine.

DSC_0433I have never loved a fruit like this one, and that’s because I nurtured it to ripeness with sheer force of will.  There was also some sun, soil, and science involved, but I’m just gonna go ahead and take all the credit for this one.

My sisters –treasures that they are– gave me a dwarf meyer lemon tree a few Christmases ago, and since then I have schlepped it to three different houses in two different states.  I’ve defended its honor when people made fun of its seeming scrawniness, and have forcibly corrected them when they referred to it as a lime tree, noticing its unripened progeny.  I have even surely raised suspicions of an illicit homegrown marijuana operation by shining a grow-light on it at all hours of the night.   DSC_0452

Alas.  Two years later, a delicate blossom emerged with a fragrance promising something excellent to come.  A green fruit grew precariously from one fragile limb, getting big enough over the spring and summer to make the whole tree lean to one side.  By what can only be attributed to divine intervention, the tree and its lemon managed to survive a year of toddler hands, cat claws, a very eager border collie’s constantly wagging tail, and an HGTV backyard makeover crew.  Scrawny, but mighty –yes.

After three years of tending my precious tree, I decided it was time to harvest the literal fruits (OK, fruit) of my labor.  I was not willing to let any part of this lemon go to waste, so I decided on Deb Perelman’s recipe for Whole Lemon Bars from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, which calls for the use of the whole lemon, pith and all.  Deb says that she favors regular grocery store lemons over meyer lemons for this recipe.  I’ll remember that over the next one to three years while I wait for another fruit to grow.  But this time, I was determined, and I can’t imagine anything tasting any better.

DSC_0459The recipe is available here, but the cookbook is a great one to have on your shelf (thank you, Mumma).

My lemon tree came from Four Winds Growers, which sells lots of gorgeous dwarf citrus trees and other plants.

Table Talking

My father grew up in Worcester, MA and tells a story about how, as a kid, he and his friends would cruise by the Table Talk Pie factory and nick pies that were left to cool in the factory’s open garage bays.  My mom says that back then, a Table Talk pie was just as good as a homemade one.  And I’m guessing a freshly-baked, freshly-snatched-up treat like this one was pretty spectacular, ‘specially since my Puppy is still talking about it.

Last Sunday, Pete and I got in the car ready for some good old fashioned yard sale-in’.  On Memorial Day weekend on Cape Cod, you can’t throw a Connecticut license plate without hitting a yard full of junk.  Mostly, junk was what we found ($8 Crock-Pot that came over on the Mayflower, anyone?), but at one stop we struck gold.  Sometimes you find something that you didn’t know you NEEDED until it appears to you, there in someone’s driveway, like a gift from the gods of trash-fated-treasures.  I was initially discouraged by a $40 price tag – an amount that far surpassed Pete’s growing, but still modest Yard Sale Fund.  After getting in the car empty-handed, knowing that I would forever search for this treasure and maybe even someday spend too much for it on eBay, Pete was clear-headed enough to get us back out of the car and ready to haggle.  And haggle he did, until we reached a very fair price with a very nice woman who was happy to see her late husband’s treasure go to good home.


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Behold our very own Table Talk Pie crate, property of Table Talk Pies of Worcester, MA.  And beside it, a rhubarb custard pie fresh from the oven.

Hey-O Mashpee River!

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In the late 1800’s there was a movement in America to create the National Park Service. Many prominent Americans advocating for National Parks cited Niagara Falls as an example of an iconic waterway destroyed and exploited, and ultimately lost to industry.  While the National Seashore was created to protect Cape Cod from a similar fate, it couldn’t save Cape Cod from resembling a Greater Boston area suburb.

While its frailty makes it unique, it’s also what makes Cape Cod so vulnerable.  Mountains take millennia to change, but sand can wash away in an instant, an important reason to protect it.

The Mashpee River is protected and it’s a good thing. Development is crammed right up to the boundary line. In order to access the river you have to paddle from the Mashpee Town Boat Launch at Pirate’s Cove.

You’ll get plenty of looks as you approach the boat launch with a canoe strapped to the top of your Subaru – a canoe is a novelty at this hub of Cape Cod boating culture where the boats boast engines and beer coolers. All the more reason to go early and avoid the embarrassment of your measly man-powered boat. You will also avoid some misguided advice.  Although our fellow boaters were friendly and well-intentioned, none of them actually knew where the Mashpee River was.  This is what led us last year into a marsh while paddling in the complete opposite direction of the river, and they would have led us down there again if we had not looked at a map.

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Once we paddled past the docks of the summer-homes built along the water, we found the Mashpee River to be a gem in all its fragile glory.  The river and surrounding conservation lands abound with wildlife.  As we quietly paddled through, enormous striped bass jumped to the water’s otherwise still surface to feed.  In turn, osprey dove down to the water to catch their prey, Blueback Herring swimming upriver to spawn.

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It’s times like this that we wish we listened to more Bird News and could identify even a few of the hundreds of birds we watched from our canoe.  We saw heron, orioles, and we’re pretty sure there were a few Vlasic Pickle storks, too.  Or maybe the intimate encounters we had were with two pairs of swans.  The swans’ frenzied takeoff was a spectacle all its own, as the massive birds flapped their powerful wings, kicked their feet along the water, and wheezed a mechanical rhythm, – huffing and puffing as they took to the sky.  It’s like a SmartCar blasting off.  One of the birds shot past us just a few feet from our heads like an arrow, if that arrow was also carrying a small two-year old.

The river took us all the way to a pedestrian bridge just before the waterway runs under Quinaquisset Ave.  Here we watched as a school of herring fought their way upstream beneath the bridge.

We returned down the river with the tide and pulled our canoe out of the water as more power-boaters boarded their vessels, feeling pretty smug that we saw and heard things they’d have trouble experiencing over the churning din of their motors.  Also, it was only 9:00 AM, and we’d already paddled the Mashpee before the world woke up.

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-Pete & Mallory

Bee Minus

My beehive was the first thing I ever really won.  I never win anything, but at Bee School, an eight-week introduction to keeping bees offered by the Barnstable County Beekeepers Association, I was asked to pick a name from a hat to see which student would win the basic elements of their first hive.  Out of about 50 tickets, I chose my own name.  This seemed like a fortuitous beginning to my endeavor, but I know now that if this was an omen, I interpreted it all wrong.

I decided to take up beekeeping the winter after I graduated from college.  I was working retail and wondering why I went to art school, wishing I could do something concretely meaningful after so many years of listening to my fellow students blow smoke up places I don’t care to mention.  I wanted to be a farmer, but all I had was student loan debt, my childhood bedroom and my parents’ backyard full of sand.

When I found out about Bee School, I pestered the course’s organizers until I was able to sign up.  When class began I learned about equipment, the lifecycle of a bee, diseases, swarming, and topics of all sorts that would help me successfully grow my first hive.  My teachers were experienced beekeepers who had developed techniques that were specifically suited to Cape Cod apiaries.  I took copious notes, attended hive openings and demonstrations, and tried to soak up all the good beekeeping vibes and wisdom I could gather.

My soaring sense of accomplishment after installing my first package of 3 pounds of bees did not last long.  The queen bee was nowhere to be found.  No queen means no eggs, which means no new bees from whom I could rob precious honey.  My attempt at introducing a new queen was unsuccessful, and the hive dwindled until it was too weak to fend off honey-pilfering robber bees.

I began my second year of beekeeping again optimistically, but things turned sour when our trusted source for packaged bees couldn’t deliver on the bees they’d promised us (bees don’t adhere to the wills of professional beekeepers either).  I was able to salvage the season by securing a nucleus hive – a sort of miniature hive with five frames of bees and a laying queen.  The late start and slow-growing hive never produced enough honey to harvest, but proved strong enough to survive the winter.  Success! … Except that a few weeks after my initial inspection, I popped up the inner cover to find my workforce seemingly frozen in place.

March is not a good time for bees to die.  Most replacement packaged bees in the Eastern U.S. are spoken for by this point,  not to mention it’s pretty unfortunate for the bees themselves, who huddled in a cluster for months on end doing their best to survive a mild, but still hostile winter.  This time, my coworker and her husband saved the day by securing a package for me from their supplier, thereby convincing me not to sell my beekeeping equipment on Craigslist in a rage of fury.

So a few weeks ago Pete and I took to the backyard and dumped and thumped another three pounds of bees into their new home.  You won’t be surprised to know that it didn’t take long for things to go awry.  Our new tenants didn’t take a liking to their assigned queen, who, I discovered a few days ago, is absent, or at least no longer alive.  A few phone calls to Georgia and $40 later a new Italian queen is on her way to me via the United States Postal Service.

In the words of one of my treasured beekeeping mentors, sometimes bees “have not read the textbook and decide to go in another direction.”  Alas.  I must admire them for their industriousness and sheer refusal to conform to the unnatural whims of some idiot wearing a big white suit.  My bees have broken my heart.  They have broken the bank.  They make me feel inadequate and often murderous (I have killed many thousands of them, after all).  But I keep trying.  I don’t know if it’s honey I desire, or just the satisfaction of knowing that I can keep something alive for once.

Despite my many ill-fated attempts, I am grateful for the things I’ve learned and for the possibilities that the future holds.  My little blue hive is the first part of the homestead I hope to build with my companion — the handsome paint store manager who helped me pick a mis-tint with which to paint my hive, and asked me out when we met again almost a year later.

Kenduskeag Stream Canoe Race 2012

I know the Kenduskeag Stream Canoe race was almost a month ago, and I’ve been slacking on this post. I just wanted to make a few quick notes about it.

The 16 mile race starts off of Route 15 in the town of Kenduskeag, making its way to the middle of Bangor (I hardly know her) ME. The race takes most paddlers 4 to 5 hours to complete. It took my team a brisk 7 hours and 1 minute.

16 miles and we nearly walked the whole thing. Paddlers in 2012 saw a water level that hadn’t been seen for a hundred years. That’s right, 1912. Top that off with a heavy, keeled boat, plus an extra person and it made for the most physically exhausting event of my entirety, so much so that I couldn’t walk for two days after.

The most outrageous thing about the whole experience is that I’m totally doing it again next year. It was a solid week or two after the race that our frustration and anger subsided, and now we’re all talking about next year. Human beings can’t recall physical pain, and perhaps in this case that’s a good thing. All I know is next year Mal is doing it, and we’ll be a little wiser from what happened this year. Can’t wait.

-Pete

Woodworking Wisdom and Tencious D

Sometimes you follow your heart. Sometimes your heart cuts a fart. That’s a cosmic shame. –Tenacious D

 While my doctor told me I needed to exercise more to combat my high blood pressure, I’m sure he wasn’t thinking of exercises in futility. While my pallet table was as laborious and frustrating as working out can be, it didn’t exactly lower my BP like a good jog would have.

I’ve had the itch to do some woodworking lately, and I thought, what I great idea it would be to use the pallets behind my shed. Now I know better.

My original thought was to build a computer table since the one we have is just a plastic folding table.  While I understood the materials I would be working with, (or so I thought) I really wanted to build something that was high quality. So many of the pallet ideas I researched on the Internet were coffee tables. When I say coffee tables I mean Pallets with wheels on them.  I really wanted to build something thoughtful. I wanted to implement the golden rectangle, like a true designer. Notch the legs so the structure would fit together nicely. I could design an interesting tabletop out the left over pieces. But when the rubber met the road, the shit hit the fan, and this was left.

A cosmic shame? It’s hard not to hang my head over this one. But who knows? This could be the start of something.

On beginnings

Spring came early this year and we’re trying our best to keep up.

There’s a miniature greenhouse on the back porch where we’re waiting for seedlings to sprout, and a 20×20 ft. plot at the Community Garden ready to be cultivated.

A few thousand bees just moved into our backyard.

We have countless projects tumbling around in our brains and over-flowing our 800 square-feet.

And we just got rid of cable, so we’ll have plenty of time to tell you about them.

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