24 June 2011

Goin' Country

We’ve completed our first two weeks as country folk. It’s been a wonderful beginning and given the eventfulness, I think we'll remain far from bored as we establish ourselves here. Our main endeavor, the garden, is coming along nicely. More on that later as there are more salient events in my mind, such as my run-ins with nature.

As a suburban girl, I was not prepared for the number of critters I would come across . . . daily. The spider I had to kill with a .22 the first day should have been a hint of more to come. Maybe I should have been tipped off when a week before we moved we discovered Vivienne had been playing in the sandbox with a friend—a decomposing something or other. Nick couldn’t identify it, mainly because he didn’t look, but we can deduce that it was a raccoon or possum or something else disgusting. Perhaps it was a relative of the other carcass I almost tripped over when I went for a run the other day. Luckily there is no one around to hear the profanity that came out of my mouth as I dodged it. Note to self--focus on the ground while running, not the beautiful scenery, which it is. The views are absolutely breathtaking.

Anyways, my run day proved to be quite interesting as that evening I pulled Viv in the shower with me and despite her resistance, I decided to wash her hair. Good decision on my part as to my horror, and I mean horror, I found a tick feasting on her scalp. If you haven’t gasped in horror upon reading this, then you’ve probably never seen a tick. Prior to this experience I had never seen a tick. For years Nick has made me wear a hat or bandana when we go hiking and warned me about ticks. Now I didn’t doubt his advice and heeded it accordingly, but having never seen one fully engorged with the blood of its victim, I didn’t fully understand the serious nature of these ticks. As a side note, they shouldn’t be named ‘ticks’. That makes these vicious, little, disease-harboring arachnids sound more innocent than they are. They should be called ‘worse than spiders’ as they really are worse than spiders. They anesthetize their victims as they bury their heads under the skin and eat a hole in the flesh.

Upon discovering this little ‘worse than spiders’ in the mop on Vivienne’s head, hundreds of thoughts went through my mind: Is it a growth? A fungus? A bug? Is her brain seeping through her skull? My thoughts do get a little carried away, but the sight was really that horrifying. I immediately shut off the water and, sopping wet, ran to the back door. Luckily, Nick was right there. I threw her at him and said ‘There's something in her head. Bring her to your mother.’ I got dressed as fast as possible and ran next door. Thank god my mother-in-law had already extracted the awful thing, which is quite the process. You have to remove it with tweezers and get as close to the head as possible as not to leave any parts in the wound. Cindy Bonneur absolutely wins the medal of honor for not only acting fast, but with extreme precision, and, without batting an eye. I barely made it out of the shower without passing out. She removed it entirely, identified it (it’s not the Lyme disease carrying breed), saved it, and cleaned the gaping hole in Vivienne’s head. We made a few decisions that night. 1. Viv and I wear bandanas outside during tick season. 2. We have a lovely new family ritual: check each other’s heads for bugs each night. 3. As long as we are in the country, we will always live next door to my mother-in-law.

Needless to say, I didn’t sleep very well that night and now know all the internet has to offer on ticks, tick prevention, and tick removal. Gross. Rest assured Viv is just fine. She shows no sign of infections and is healing quite nicely. Overall, the experience was far more disturbing for me than her—as we all would assume :)

I did have a very rewarding bug experience, however. Those of us who have never been acquainted with vast stretches of land do not know the true glory of the lightening bug! We sat on the porch and watched acres upon acres of flickering in the darkness. It was like our own private fireworks show. I always got excited about seeing 10-20 of them in our yard growing up. It was just amazing to see thousands of them twinkling all around us.

Back to the garden: Our spring bed has provided us with fantastic salads—spinach, arugula, a gorgeous colorful lettuce mix, and radishes. We’ve had some great sautéed greens—kale and chard. And although our Brassicas (cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli) failed for the majority, the broccoli transplants my mother-in-law got us have given us enough to do a few good pastas and stir-fries. Our peas have proven quite abundant. I pick about a pound of snap peas a day and they are delicious!! Vivienne is adorable while helping me harvest them. She carries each handful to the bucket at the end of the row. We’ve had them raw, sautéed in our garlic scapes, steamed, and sautéed in butter/olive oil mix (my favorite). And speaking of scapes (the shoot that comes out of the garlic before it finished producing the bulb), they are like having a whole crop of garlic before the garlic crop! They are great sautéed like garlic for stir-fry and pasta, but my favorite concoction thus far has been bacon, goat cheese, and crispy scapes on toasted baguettes for one helluva sandwich. The shell peas just came in this past week. We harvested a bunch and after a revised version of pasta with peas and pancetta (the pancetta market is a little lacking out here), I tucked my first peas in the freezer for winter. I’ve also had a great time with my in-law’s rhubarb patch—rhubarb crisp, rhubarb cocktails, rhubarb sauce (makes the best darn oatmeal in the morning), rhubarb salad dressing and rhubarb chutney. Also, I made a small batch of cherry sauce for some cherry bran muffins from the dwarf cherry tree that didn’t perform very well this year.

Our summer crops are almost all in—Nick has one more bed of sweet corn to plant and, sigh, the last of the tomato transplants. We already have more than 50 in the ground and probably another 50 to go. I’m sighing on Nick’s behalf as he has dug all the holes, put the stakes in the ground, and done all the transplanting. Oh, and he started the 100+ plants from seed. Actually, we saw the first tomato the other day! We we’re so excited! I don’t know if having a plant produce will ever get old! The peppers and eggplant are in the ground but aren’t doing much yet. My melons are looking a little sad after this cold spell (I couldn’t resist), but hopefully they’ll make it. The cucumbers and zucchini are flowering; the onions are looking great; the basil, oregano, dill, cilantro, thyme, sage, rosemary and chives are almost ready for use; the potatoes are awesome—big and flowering; the sunflowers are already up to my knees; and the bush beans are getting big. Nick’s been spending most of his time getting all the corn in along with its companions—pole beans and squash. I’ve been doing most of the harvesting, weeding, and mulching our carrots and beets that were being taken over by the clover.

All in all, our move has been a success. We are loving our new house and yard (much thanks to my incredibly generous mother and father-in-law). We love grocery shopping in our back yard. And Viv loves playing outside. With a little tick caution, I think we will have a lovely summer. Please come visit!