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Friday, April 16, 2010

Bootes Redux

Remember Bootes, the constellation called The Herdsman, relaxing after work with his pipe? Arcturus his big star? This afternoon, weeds piled along the driveway, I had another Bootes moment, this time leaning on the stirrup hoe, listening to the jays and doves and mockingbirds and Lulu crunching a bone in the background. The wind swept around the hollow, and I could just faintly hear a radio somewhere.

Now I have to wash the tablecloths for the farm's EarthDay booth. Nothing is ever as easy as it ought to be--this involves dislodging the cat, tacking in the glazier's points in the last couple of frames, moving all of the paintings that have covered the table the last week, packing up the framing toolbox, shaking off the tablecloths, and heading off for the washing machine.

Is there a constellation called The Laundress?

Thursday, April 15, 2010


Last night: a rocking show at the barn behind the Loveless Cafe at Music City Roots, and featuring the nameless young man who was in my kitchen last Sunday morning. Who knew? He was terrific (Luke Nicholson, if you must know), and provoked consideration of the nature of genius, an unholy--no, maybe it's holy--mix of obsession and talent.

Lots of geniuses wander in to Sulphur Creek Farm. Jeff, a farming genius. DiAnne, a woodworking genius. Luke. Buddy on his guitar. Tom has a genius' memory for sounds--get him to reproduce the plop of lard into the fryer in an East Tennessee diner for you.

But this week we have particularly relished the genius of Mark, from Red Boiling Springs, who can gather a sack full of morel mushrooms in an hour. What to the rest of us is perfect dun-colored camouflage to Mark is a brilliant neon. He thinks its because he's colorblind, but that just doesn't quite make sense.

Genius just can't be explained, but it can sure be enjoyed! In this case, sauteed in butter, with Amish noodles and watercress from Sulphur Creek.

(Picture thanks to Joe and Billie Little!)

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Bootes, the Herdsman

Yesterday: one of those glorious, bright cool spring days, with the peonies beginning to unfold tender purple leaves, and the dogs lying in a patch of sun on the porch.

After hospital rounds, I came home to find my kitchen filled with young cooks and kale and apple salad, guacamole, mint tea underway for the Shed Shower. And people came. And came. An old friend from Philadelphia, Nashvillians young and old, lame and leaping, musicians, storytellers, teachers, heavy-equipment masters, docs, layabouts, handymen, teachers with other people's children, newshounds and writers, woodworkers, deerskinners, chicken farmers, winemakers--we all ate, walked the garden, gossiped, watched the kids in the creek, and just enjoyed the afternoon.

The Shed Shower pretty much equipped the outdoor kitchen (donated stove, fridge, couch, chairs, pots, pans, canners, tablecloth, a copper skillet that would look really really good in MY kitchen!, benches). Thank you, thank you.

Then the bonfire, music, and blanched cabbage blossom salad. At one point there were TWO chocolatiers in the kitchen, tasting, talking fermenting, roasting, cocoa butter versus oil, chocolate liquor, and cocoa bean varieties being grown in Nicaragua.

I took my binocs down to the campfire to look at stars, and was astonished when a dreadlocked buddy of Rachel's bounded off to his car and came back with his apparently standard equipment of star book, map and laser pointer! Who grows these miraculous young? He showed me Arcturus and Bootes, the Herdsman, who is sitting smoking a meditative pipe, presumably surveying his flocks with a gentle and proprietary air in the cool of the evening.

Appropriately enough, Orion the Hunter was just wheeling down out of sight behind the hills across the road.

Yesterday that was me, Bootes, enjoying our rural kingdom of an evening, with a weak gin-and-tonic standing in as my metaphorical pipe. And this morning the glow still holds, even though Rachel, Casey, Mary Claire, Tom, and the other young man, the one with blond curly hair whose name I can't remember (but his father is a songwriter), unfolding from sleep into the kitchen, aren't exactly my flock, and my survey, over coffee, recognizes that proprietary is not the right angle here.

Unlike Bootes' flock, they are free to go. But also welcome back any time.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

It's always something...

This morning: As I'm heading out the back door for morning rounds, I hear loud and angry and X-rated shouting, the roar of a 4-wheeler in the far pasture, Ollie's frenetic barking ringing clearly above the din, and see our cows bolting in a tight group toward the back barn. A battered skyblue pickup truck roars up and a grizzled old man leans out.

Turns out he and his son--he of the 4-wheeler--are chasing their mule, which has galloped down Old Hickory from Bull Run Road, was almost caught with a bucket of corn over at Zach's, but then jumped the cattle gap and is now racing wildly around the back pasture, along with the cows, dogs, 4-wheeler, and son.

A police car blocked the front gate, the policeman looking bemused at the dust and noise. "I've been out here since six, trying to keep that mule off the highway", he said wryly, glancing at the halter and rope on the seat next to him. "Now they're roaring around back there tearing up your pasture. Doesn't look like that's gonna work too well. I've gotta say these aren't the smartest two guys on Bull Run."

The mule--a pretty red-blond--did finally get haltered and hauled away, but not before the younger man stopped his 4-wheeler for a few minutes, watching the mule, and said thoughtfully to Tom, "Ya know, maybe he's smarter'n me".

Every cowboy, fisherman, birdwatcher, and preschool teacher knows exactly how he feels.