Saturday, June 20, 2015

A Quest

I am in the Berkshires at Melanie's again.  I took the train along the Hudson River to Albany and she picked me up there.
I love the train.
Three hours of this view:
And don't even get me started on the leg room! Ahhhhh....
So yes, here I am at Melanie and Doug's lovely home and I always show this view from the kitchen window: 
This time, I thought I'd show a few alternate views.
The back of the house from the back yard:
Melanie's parlsey, sage, rosemary and thyme garden: 
which also has an enormous patch of chives! And the blossoms are incredible. I'm going to pick a bunch, take them back home and make chive blossom vinegar. yum yum. 

My shadow, facing the south paddock.  

Horses in the south paddock:

And finally, Oscar, the resident fur-ball of chez Doug-n-Melanie.
He is very sweet. Lots of chirps and purreows (where they half purr and half meow).

Why am I here? Well - to visit of course! - but also to go to Harvard's rare book collection and look at a book.
Yes - A book. As in one book.
Remember this post?: Well, the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to investigate the moveable parts of this book. I looked on WorldCat and found that Harvard was the closest place that had one in its collection. [As it turns out - there is also one in Washington DC, but it is affiliated with Harvard so it is a bit misleading - and that's a different blog entry I think. ] I contacted Harvard, and made arrangements and  took the opportunity to visit Melanie, who is recovering from surgery, seeing as how I was in the neighborhood anywayz. (It's a three hour drive from Melanie's to Harvard).  
I feel extremely fortunate that I was able to make special arrangements to view the book under the supervision of one of the conservators. LL was incredibly generous and obliging for my visit. She offered to give me a tour of the main conservation lab, which was mind boggling. I felt as though this was the Rolls Royce of conservation labs - meanwhile I'm in a Pinto. One of the conservators was working on some of Edward Lear's watercolors. [you know - The Owl and the Pussy cat went to sea   in a beautiful pea-green boat]  The water color was beautiful! I had no idea the man could draw as well as write poetry. I wasn't allowed to take pictures so you'll have to take my word for it. 

After the tour I spent two precious hours examining their copy of the Sundial Book under LL's supervision. What an amazing thing to be able to do. To look at a book that is almost 400 years old, almost 10 times as old as I am! Awe doesn't really describe the feeling. Luxury to live in a place that can preserve such pieces of cultural heritage is ... humbling. 

And as LL and I discussed - there is nothing like seeing a book in real life. Really. These images I am about to show, and the facsimile I've made - they are just not the real thing. And I do not know how to explain it.

Just to refresh your memory - this book was printed in 1624-26. It is all about how to set up sundials. The brother's who write the book were master garden designers - as in - they were masters of hydraulics and designed the royal gardens in England and France.

This original imprint still had it's moveable parts and they still worked!
The page that started it all - the sundail page.

Then another page that I couldn't make heads or tails of from online images.

And finally, the mind-blowing image:
and another view:
I can't wait to try to figure out how to make this! and I have no idea what it is illustrating. I'm just fascinated by these beautiful forms. The volume is in French, and I can't find a translation - and google translate is only semi-helpful.  I think there are some spelling differences as well as just some spelling mistakes in the type-setting of the original text - so that's not helping. It is a long and tedious process to try to figure it all out.  But I feel like I've hit a milestone in my Quest to figure out this book. I've seen almost all of the moveable parts. There is one, the volvelle, which is no longer in tact. There is a hole where there once was something. But now it is gone. There was a surprise on the same page - a piece which does not exist in the digitized version I have, shows up in the Harvard version. 
I want to visit the version in Washington DC and compare.  There is also a version at UCLA. Maybe when I visit in August I can make arrangements to look at that copy.
Right now, I just need to sit down in my studio and figure out how I can make all of them.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

It might actually be summer if...

  • it reaches 90°F by 10am
Oh yes, it has been very very hot this weekend. ALL weekend. I actually went to work on Friday (I don't normally work Fridays) just to get cool. It worked. Finally, there are thunderstorms this evening and I am sitting in the front door to keep Swee'pea in and enjoy the cool air wafting through my house. I guess I should explain all of that. Swee'pea is my indoor kitty. There are many reasons for this but I won't go into that. Suffice it to say he has to stay in, but it is so blooming hot inside the house, the best way to cool the whole thing off quickly is to open all the windows and doors and allow the air to pull through. I had a wonderful roofer who told me it was, and I quote, "Italian air conditioning." He explained that as I have two skylights in my house, if I could open them, they would help pull all the air through the house. The constant flow is what would keep the place cool - or at least help cool off. Unfortunately the only skylight I have access too doesn't open anymore. I should really revisit that. But still, if I sit in the front doorway I can keep the doors wide open, Swee'pea in, air flowing through, and blog! All good, and so! It might actually be summer if....
  • the indoor plants are all outside 
And lovin' it too: 
The aloe vera decided to bloom!  I'll keep you posted on the progress there. 
  • Shasta daisies and cosmos are blooming 
After a lull in the spring flowers I am so happy more cutting flowers are coming. Echinaceas aren't quite there yet. But soon... very soon...

  • the mustard has gone to seed:
I now have a field of mustard. I should probably weed some before the whole things goes to seed. Otherwise, I'll have a mustard lawn instead of grass. What a shame.  

  • I decide I must tackle the abandoned garden in the back before it becomes a jungle
 The result of the jerk who cut down the gorgeous maple is that the abandoned house behind me gets all kinds of sun, with no one to maintain it. This means anything and everything grows to the best of its abilities. 
And of course, under normal circumstances, this wouldn't bother me. Live and let live and all that. But there are a few issues. There are these "weeds" in Pennsylvania, that turn into trees. What they are is a pain in the neck. They grow seeds that every four-legged and two-legged-plus-wings ingests and poops all over the place.  I spend considerable amount of time "weeding" just pulling these stupid things out. If you don't get them quick, they turn into trees. I'm not kidding.
 Now, of course by writing about them now, it has just occurred to me to to google them.  The wikipedia entry is very enlightening:
So - this is actually THE mulberry that some kinds of paper is made from! I had no idea. I thought it was some sort of strange - name. WELL... this deserves more research... but not today... stay tuned...
because currently - they are still a pain in the neck of this home owner.  If you look back at the above image you will see how overgrown it is with those paper mulberries.
And see the "tree" to the right of the bee hive? that's a paper mulberry. 
and since I'm not willing to allow all of those plants to become full-fledged trees (because they will block all of my sunlight for my garden AND make tons more baby-mulberries AND cost a fortune to cut down) I had to go back to that yard and whack away at them. Now of course, there is a trade-off; I can see the ugly falling-down house very clearly. But on the bright side (literally) there is more sun in my yard because those "weeds" will not take over!
  • raspberries are ripening! 
Yippee!! Big fat ones too. I've only gotten a few handfuls so far, but after this hot weekend, I'm sure they will be ripe this week.  

  • and finally, today the fireflies arrived  

I saw two! One in the mustard and one on the grass! Eeeeeeeee! I love summer! I really do. I didn't used to, but here on the east coast, after such a long dead time, the spring and summer are so full of new surprises every day. New things grow, bloom, and appear. And even though some things wane, new things come along to take their place. Its rejuvenating - even when the heat makes your brain absolute mush and it's twice as hard to get any thinking done. It's worth the trade off.
By the way, not my photo - I stole borrowed from the interwebs. 

Why do I need to think, you might ask? Well, lemme tell you...

Remember this post? If you don't have time to do it right the first time ...

Next weekend I'm going to see an actual copy of this volume! That is another wonderful thing about summer, time to travel. There is a copy of this volume at Harvard's Houghton University Library. I'm going on Friday to visit and see it. I am SO excited!
I've been doing a ton of other "research" - meaning - looking at amazing old books at the Library Company of Philadelphia. I'm trying to find out more information about how books that had movable parts in them were made. And so, incidentally, in my research I get to look at some amazing books. It is so much fun. Stay tuned next weekend. I'll share what I can; Houghton is pretty strict with their researcher rules. Can't blame 'em... they have good stuff. 

Thursday, June 4, 2015

June Gloom and mish mash

Yes, apparently. June gloom in Philadelphia. Who knew?
My cousin David reminded me of this Southern California phenomenon when we talked on the phone this weekend. June, the beginning of Summer  presents morning overcast clouds for SoCal until about noon. It is not warm in the mornings! By noonish though, the clouds burn off and we are in for some sun and warmth. This is something that doesn't happen in Philadelphia, except for this past week!?  To be clear, our June gloom has been all day long. We've had cool, under 75°F, currently 62°F, all week and rain. I think Tuesday it rained all day long. A good soaking. So I'm not complaining. It just such a change from the weekend when it was quite toasty (at least 95°F and Humid - yes, with a capital H).  And I can not remember it ever being this cool, this long, after May, until well into the fall.
But my garden is very pleased.
The roses at the front have bloomed and held on for a while. 
While not quite as abundant as last year, I think I pruned a bit too vigorously, they are still quite beautiful. Miss Mary announced to me the other day that my roses "went viral" when she saw four people stopping to photograph them. :) Well, I'm glad other people enjoy them too. 
The nice weather has brought forth quite a few rogue plants after the peonies (see last post). This is an entire row of cherry tomatoes from last year. This little bush was so abundant last year, I couldn't possibly get to all the tomatoes. These already have flowers on them so I'm going to let them grow!
I also think there are a few critters around helping "spread" the seeds (as in they poop them out in other places in my yard).  
Next to the wooden table is a tall leafy thing. That is a sunflower I did not plant. There are two smaller ones next to it. Those are seeds squirrels dropped when they were running along the electrical lines - at the top of the photo. And even though I realized last year that I am allergic to sunflowers, I'm going to leave them. There are a few others that appeared near the ones I planted by the porch. I'm going to let them grow. I started a lot of teddy bear sunflowers and planted them. I hope to be able to cut them for inside. They didn't seem to bother me so much because the pollen didn't fall all over the place.  
I also noticed this evening --- the first garlic scape! Hot diggity!
Garlic Scape Pesto, comin' soon! oh yummy! 
The garlic patch has been over run by Chinese lantern plants. I do hope that won't bother them. I need to move the lantern patch to the back of the garden because it is quite prolific and interferes with all of my sunny garden space. But for this year at least, they are allowed to stay put. 
Last year I posted a few pictures of "where's Jacques". Can you find him in this image?    Well, he's right here, under the bench. The perfect spot. 
 That dinky tomato plant in the purple pot has also flourished.
 No fruit yet, but I'm not too worried.

I have not posted a recipe in a while and this one was so yummy and quick I thought I'd share. My wonderful farm share yielded Swiss chard, green garlic, lots of lettuce, green onions and strawberries. Since it was so warm last week we got a bonus week of our fruit share and I got four pints of strawberries! They were so ripe and delicious. Anyway... I'm not a fan of the Swiss Chard. To me, it tastes like dirt. There was nothing enticing left in the swap box by the end of the day, so I thought ok, challenge accepted: find a good recipe for this! And it's not too bad in this one. Maybe it's the bacon...
I found this recipe on for a Chard and Salami Frittata. And yes, I did say bacon, so lemme 'splain...
I didn't have salami. I did have bacon and I thought it would be delicious with either - or even an italian sausage or ??? I was just thrilled to have a recipe that was quick and sounded yummy in spite of the Swiss Chard dirt flavor.
As a bonus, since the recipe called for garlic, I thought I'd use my "green garlic" from my share. These are garlics that have not yet formed teeth. Its just a single bulb. Still garlic flavor, but milder. Plus you can use the entire stem - not the leaves but the stem for sure.  Yummy yum yum.
I substituted three strips of already fried bacon for the salami, and the green garlic for the regular garlic but otherwise followed the recipe.

 I may have cooked it too long because it was a little dry. 
 But with a little non-fat plain yogurt it was very yummy. 
 This is definitely something to make again - maybe with kale, or mustard greens or spinach, or whatever. Very easy.

And how's my nephew? oh he's fine. He spent some time with Grandpa last week.
 But it doesn't seem like he is quite sure about being with people other than mommy. 
He will be four weeks old tomorrow!

And since I couldn't figure out where to put this in the narrative, but really wanted to, here's a bonus: