Watermelon Rind Preserves

16 09 2009

When I first heard of watermelon rind preserves, in an ancient (to my young eyes) Pogo comic strip, the idea seemed miraculous. It seemed like soup from a stone – too good to be true. And what quantities of watermelon rind I had so thoughtlessly discarded! Texas watermelons – Hempstead, Texas – are gourds almost beyond belief, so I imagined gallons of sweet preserves.
This year, for the first time, I made them! But they aren’t what I thought they would be. At least, this recipe wasn’t. It was a pickle, actually – an Indian-style pickle, with ginger and lemon peel and allspice berries and cloves. It needed to mellow for a month or so in a jar – now it’s been three, so I had some today as a relish for some hot dogs – yum! Many years ago I made a green tomato chutney that was a surprise hit as a hot dog relish. This isn’t quite as perfect, but it is still a good match. Just imagine – soup from a stone. I mean, just imagine – you can eat those rinds!
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Not everyone has a marsupium.

23 06 2009

There are firewood rounds sitting on my driveway arranged around the basketball hoop.

A tree leaned its way across my driveway in a winter windstorm and the inexperienced handyman cut all of the rounds at an angle, so they are devilish to split, but I’m making progress, if only to make basketball less treacherous now that Robin has grown large enough to play.

Lifting one onto the chopping block, I disturbed dozens of tiny shelled creatures who had made their home in the decaying wood at the bottom.


Sow bugs, these are called.

They’d be pillbugs, if they rolled that way. (or any number of other names)

Crustaceans, like lobsters and shrimp and such.

Woodlouse seems like a nasty name for a creature that come out of the wood looking so clean and does no harm in the world, really – mostly just helping already decaying things along their way.


One of them was the largest I’d ever seen, as big as my fingernail, bigger than the biggest watermelon seeds from my childhood memories of gargantuan Hempstead, Texas watermelons. In Texas I was told that like armadillos, they could carry leprosy. This is a canard, but there is some size at which crawling things go from almost cute to almost creepy, and this one edged toward creepy. She was large enough that I after I coaxed her onto my hand, I could feel her individual feet as she ran along the back of my finger and eventually to my arm. I flipped her over to see the gills on her undersides, the 14 wiggling legs, and what I think was the white marsupium where she would store her eggs – or could have been storing them yet.

In this picture you can see one shedding its skin – they do one half at a time, for some unknown reason.

Don’t be shy.

31 05 2009

Deer eyeing me.
I walked out on the front deck this morning to knock the dried bits of grass off of my best pair of jeans so I could wash them. I shook them a couple times and startled the young deer that was feeding on my landscaping. My deck is high off the ground, and he spun around, a bit of greenery still in his mouth.

It doesn’t seem to matter how quiet I am – the deer run away. So I went ahead and shook the pants some more, struck them against the railing and brushed them with my hand. The deer must have decided that I was noisy enough to be harmless without being too startling, since he went back to feeding.

He looks young and frail, ribs showing, tiny nubs of antlers barely visible, if I’m even seeing them right.

Bellevue Jazz Festival

15 05 2009


This looks good — lots of free acts and some pretty quality ones at that. And some pretty well known names for pay, if you like them enough!

Here’s a link to a list of the artists and show times — I think I’d like to check out one of the ones at one of the restaurants.


The trees were hailing

19 01 2009


dsc_0027Yesterday, when I went outside, I found nearly everything clouded up in fog and the trees were hailing, shedding thawed lumps of  frozen dew to fall like rain with an icy filling. The humidity was nearly 100% and I suppose the thick dew had condensed on the branches and frozen overnight. Now the very tops of the trees were in sunshine and there were tiny localized showers under just the tallest of the trees – like stereophonic rainstorms, the sound came from only some places and not others, giving an eerie feeling to the shortest stroll. I decided to escape the fog and head out to the logging road where I could gain some altitude and get some sunshine before my movie (this would result, as any who know me well might suspect, in my being too late to see the showing I had planned, but it was worth it – one of the pleasures of being alone is that you can change your plans and not feel as though you have failed or that someone else will be disappointed.) I protected my camera from the wet branches and dripping trees in a makeshift camera bag (plastic, grocery), and set off, maneuvering my shoes on nearly one-handed (as I type this as well – injured my wrist). The trail we blazed last year was surprisingly passable, and I was nearly out of the fog by the time I hit the main trail. It’s amazing how much the logging road has closed up over the last decade. It seems a bit of a shock (although not as much as I was to have shortly) to not be able to spot the old spot of the slash pile that was for a time a fine black raspberry patch. I remember noting it the first year, relishing sharing it for years to come with the bears. Little did I realize what a temporary and fleeting thing each years plants are on a clear-cut, as one species flourishes for a season or two or three and then is overshadowed and overtaken by another. There were many things I took for granted that year that are gone now. Thinking about it makes me melancholy – I’m not ready for the new look of the overgrown trail maybe because I’ve failed to stay in touch – illness, divorce, my job… The twins and I don’t share the same connection with this trail as Robin and I once did, and even we don’t have the same connection we once did, either. I look forward to the less changeable view from the valley overlook at the edge of the logging road just as it turns into the untouched part of the forest. But I’ll not find that spot on this trip.
When I reach the main logging road that curves all the way down to my left the 700 or 800 feet of elevation to the road on the other side of the hill from my house,  I am in the sunshine, glorious sunshine, and I see that it has been covered anew with fresh rock, gray and black. To my right lies a shocking sight – new cutting. The fog brings the same beautiful depth to the upper hills as it always does, but the foreground is now a jumble of slash pile and stumps and bark and soil.

Clearcut with Logging road
Clearcut with Logging road

I’m saddened a bit, but in a way it feels like a renewal, a chance to start over – even though I actually arrived years after the last cut of the land behind my house, it feels like a new beginning. (This seems nonsensical, but it is so.) I don’t really know what to think – I don’t find our favorite overlook, instead I take a few pictures from just inside the scarred area, and head back to drive into down for some books (essays, thriller, the letters of E. B. White), some dinner (Thai – green curry) and a movie

Slash Pile

Slash Pile

It’s Sunday now, the brink of midday, and I hurriedly type this out. I want to go back out, but I know that if I don’t write this now, I’ll never write it because I’ll have new thoughts after going out again. It’s warm and sunny out there this morning – the inversion that trapped the fog yesterday has brought its warmth all the way down to ground level now – 61 degrees outside, scarcely cold enough to warrant a coat.  There are terrific gusts of wind though, so I’ll wear one, and a hat, too. Probably I’ll return with a different sense of things.

jazz with frogs

11 03 2008

I like to have the jazz on downstairs while I read upstairs – as though I was in a reading room above a jazz club… but that means that I have to rouse myself to turn off the music before I can sleep. I sit on the stairs to read a bit before I descend. In the pause between the songs the chorus of the frogs from the ponds in the front yard fill in the gap with their own improvisations. I stand on the deck, the rain has stopped, the moon is the merest thumbnail in the West through the trees. The frog music overloads the senses. I don’t have the ear for it — it needs long listening, I suppose, to fully appreciate the patterns. But one theme is clear…Spring is really here, they sing – At last, spring is here! My muscles ache with it, after the labors of yesterday’s sawing and mowing, but it is a good thing, certainly a good thing.

the utterly unrequired nature of the task

6 02 2008


On Sunday I got out into the yard to scope out my newest project. My 5 acres is backed by 100+ acres of former clear cut, and I’m planning to blaze a trail so that I don’t have to go through my neighbor’s property to get to the logging road that leads up to the view. On a clear day you get a fantastic good view of Seattle and the full sweep of mountains to the North and West, not the merely very good view of the Cascades you can see directly from my property. I wasn’t sure if it was feasible, but it really looks like it will be — and without going onto my neighbors property at all. Making it bikeable will be a bit more of an effort, but I think it will be worth it — it will be a whole different thing if walking to the logging road is as easy as walking down the driveway. Although Brodie, don’t worry, we’ll still go down there and feed you apples! (Although, if you are reading this, then you, sir, are a most talented pony!)


Robin is worried that, like so many home projects, this will come to naught, but I am determined (in my flush of good health) and am confident of progress, even eventual success. It’s not clear how long it will take to  cut my way through all of the debris left by the loggers a decade ago. I am sure I am as much driven by the utterly unrequired nature of the task as I am by the brilliance of the idea


But on Sunday, I was clearing away the undergrowth to make a path from the driveway to the beginning of the clearcut. Per Robin’s suggestion, I used my Dad’s old machete, newly sharpened by my samurai-sword wielding yard man who helped out last year. Actually, it’s my grandfather’s machete, made of some pretty high quality steel. My father wrote on a napkin that it was made in the early 1940’s in Canada, where his family lived at the time. You can see from this picture of the handle that it has seen some wear before today…