Cooking outside is one of my favorite summer activities. Right now, while the days are long on the island and temps in the 30’s at night keep the bugs down, is the perfect time to grill. We are (mostly) vegetarians so arepas – corn cakes made with pre-cooked ground cornmeal and brushed with butter – are what’s for dinner.
You’ll need a bag of Masarepa. My local grocery store carries it in the aisle with salsa and refried beans. Recipes for arepas sometimes specify “instant cornmeal” but that covers a lot of products that will result in a soupy mess instead of firm, pliant dough that easily forms cakes for the grill. These are better behaved on the grill than any of the nature-burger recipes I’ve tried (or bought).
Mix the dough according to the directions on the bag: 2 C of Masarepa to 3 C warm water, 1 tsp salt, stir and let stand for 5 minutes. I like to add about 1 C of corn, fresh off the cob or a can of vacuum packed with peppers. A friend of mine likes to add chopped pickles. It’s traditional in some families to mix in some farmer cheese or ricotta, so actually anything goes here. Form palm sized patties of the dough and fire up the grill. Brush the patties on one side with melted butter and cook until firm and slightly colored. Brush the top with butter and flip – the patties should be crispy on the outside when done. Serve with salsa, grated cheese and a salad, or they can be eaten like burgers in a bun with ketchup and relish.
(Your grill is probably more sophisticated than mine, but really, all you need are a few cinder blocks, 6 firebricks and a grate. Enjoy!)
We had our first rain in nearly a month yesterday, and the dandelions developed really stunning height and heft practically overnight.
Taraxacum is native to Eurasia, and was introduced to North America by early settlers. The entire plant is edible. It makes excellent bee fodder, especially here in Maine where the only other blossoms out right now are the maple buds. The thick tap root and lush leaf growth also increase the soil depth considerably every year on these thin hillsides.
More rain is predicted for tonight and tomorrow. Soon the forget-me-nots and Centaurea montana will catch up and turn the hillside blue. Meanwhile, early and drought ridden, yellow rules!
This was going to be a post about arepas – delicious grilled arepas made with fresh corn and farmer cheese. But this is not that post. Instead, you’re getting an update on the drawing that has me burning midnight oil and still getting up at 5:30 a.m. for the day job. It’s a still life! With a view!
Mallow and the Causeway, 20″ x 16″, oil drawing on panel. I blame the Dutch.
The new cover on the hoop house is transparent, rather than white, and my still life paintings are quite different under the new light.
Today I put the new hive boxes together on cement block stands.
The fan willows are in full bloom, and full of bees!
I have Wednesdays off from my day job in the summer. This week was the first time it’s been warm enough out to work without bundling up in longjohns and canvas gloves. Here’s what got done: looking south, planted Fedco’s beneficials mix next to the path (under the white Agro row cover), and moved some logs around down in the main garden.
Planted Arava Cantaloupe and Athena Muskmelons in the newly re-covered hoop house. My min/max thermometer showed a range of 128 – minus 15 degrees through last fall and winter.
Planted Giant Winter and Bordeaux spinach, tatsoi, and radishes in the bed under the pear tree. The green leaves are sorrel, ready to be picked for Saturday dinner with haddock and rice.
Moving more (big, heavy, not getting any lighter as time goes on) spruce logs around as garden bed borders.
Sometimes the mid-way point is as interesting as any possible resolution. This is a color drawing for asters and zinnias in a wire vase.
Oil drawing on panel, 20 x 16″.
Connie T., who lives a half mile further down our road, has a flock of chickens which lay beautiful blue, tan, and stark white eggs. I know this because occasionally I come home to a box of these beauties on the doorstep – what a treat! She also makes Pysanky, the beautiful Easter eggs that that have been made in Russia and the Ukraine since prehistoric times. No actual eggshells from that time exist, but ceramic replicas have been found from all the way back to the 3rd millennium BC. Legend says that pysanky keep the Serpent at bay, and that as long as sufficient numbers are made each spring the horrible monster will stay chained to a cliff in the Underworld. Thanks, Connie, for making the world a safer place!
A grisaille of zinnias and asters, 20 x 16″, oil on panel. The actual still life set up in dark reds and brilliant blues will be so much easier after working out the values in black and white!
Zinnias in a waterglass, 20 x 16 inches, oil on panel
Sometimes gardening is very subtle, nothing a traveler on our gravel road might notice passing by. This weekend Billy Guess from Eagle Aboreculture came by and took down the 45′ double-trunked spruce that grew right in the middle of the garden, and people have been screeching to a halt in the middle of the road all day.
It was a beautiful tree, the last one standing from a stand of conifers between the house and road. It was so tall that I can’t really find any good pictures of its entire length, but this is the base rising up from the middle of garden.
As much as we thought it was too nice to cut down with the original clearing (thanks, Richard!). it had become weakened by standing on its own. The ground turned soft during the rain storm last weekend and I watched as the whole plate of roots around the tree rose and fell with the wind. It would have taken out the wires and possibly the southwest corner of the house if it fell, so we called Billy and he brought his crew around on Friday.
I wasn’t around to witness the work, but R. said it was amazing to see someone all the way at the top, cutting huge chunks of (very heavy) tree trunk and dropping them strategically around the yard. Not one plant was damaged, and I have a lot of plantings right around the base of that tree.
The view from the house: I had no idea the size of the shadow this tree cast against the house and garden beds. We have a lot more sun at all times of day now!
Big, heavy pieces of tree stacked neatly and waiting to be used as foundation for new garden beds. Great results – thanks, Eagle!