Three things: Azaleas, ecosystems, and Mr Rogers





Azaleas! Azalea azalea azalea season! We visited a local park last week and took in allllllll the colour. On the same Technicolor note… check out that gorgeous radish! I’ve never grown radishes in such a cool climate, and now I think I might actually be developing a taste for them…

This week I have been in more of a “we are all connected to everything” groove than I usually am… and then I discovered it was the birthday of Rachel Carson on May 27th. Spooky. I spent last weekend immersed in the Slow Food movement and it got me all fired up about my composting efforts–soil being the foundation of all our food. Each time I speak with my lovely sister-in-law, I ask wistfully after her compost heap, which I have never met in person, but know that it’d be (perhaps unrequited) love at first sight. I have really struggled with getting my compost going in Aberdeen–a combination of cold weather, not enough time in one garden to have a proper heap going, and not enough room for the amount of time it takes for it to be ready (2-3 years many local gardeners have told me). Well, now I am doubling down and increasing my efforts. A while ago I learned that sourdough starter will encourage the lovely microbes to accelerate the composting, so I have been diluting the leftover starter each time I make bread and pouring it on the heap. I am going to make an effort this season to gather more seaweed and might even raid a friend’s guinea pig hutch for the manure. The best thing is that now my seedlings are off the warming tray, I can use it for rising bread and fermenting things (I don’t have a single warm spot in the flat and the ambient temperature makes for very sloooow food) so I will be better at making bread more regularly and therefore have more starter to pour on the heap. See–everything really is all connected!

Love this timely piece about one of the world’s great heroes, Mr Rogers.  He is not at all from my childhood experience, but I wish he were.

Traditions that guide the vital work

How was your weekend? I enjoyed a day off from my one-day-a-week-paid-work to participate in the local May Festival, which was a wonderful time, not least of all because the weather was beautiful. My five-year-old and I spent some time with an Italian woman who spoke no English as she taught us how to form pasta with our fingers. What a great activity to do with children, and we will do it again. I have a pasta machine that very occasionally comes out of the cupboard, but I am not sure we need it anymore…

I also went to listen to Carlo Petrini, founder of the Slow Food movement, and was very inspired (more about that later in the week). He reiterated the importance of argricultural biodiversity for our food security, and it was a good reminder to me to support our local farmers, especially those growing things that belong truly to this culture. Visit the Ark of Taste if you want to see Scottish foods at risk of extinction. Here’s a quote from Carlo Petrini about slowness (which you all know I love):

The quest for slowness, which begins as a simple rebellion against the impoverishment of taste in our lives, makes it possible to rediscover taste. By living slowly, you understand other things, too; by slowing down in comparison to the world, you soon come into contact with what the world regards as its “dumps” of knowledge, which have been deemed slow and therefore marginalized. By exploring the “margins” of slowness, you encounter those pockets of supposedly “minor” culture that are alive in the memories of old people, typical of civilizations that have not yet become frantic—traditions that guide the vital work of good, clean, and fair producers and that are handed down after centuries of empiricism and practical skill.

In coming into contact with this “slow” world, you feel a new (or renewed) relish for life, you sense the potential of different methods and forms of knowledge as counterweights to the direction currently being imparted to the tiller that steers our route toward the future. You reassess the elements of consumer culture, and in rural knowledge, you discover surprisingly simple solutions to problems which speed has made complex and apparently insoluble.

from Carlo Petrini’s Slow Food Nation: why our food should be good, clean, and fair.  

Three things: First salad, third-culture-kid comedy, and grandparents’ gardens


Our first salad this spring! L. helped me to thin our radishes, and then I thought it would be nice to combine them with a handful of our plentiful weed, sorrel. L. took it further, adding in borage and calendula–any excuse to pick flowers, really. And voila, I think we can call that our first homegrown salad of the year! Not usually a fan of radishes, I must admit their peppery leaves along with the bright sourness of the sorrel worked perfectly together to liven up our risotto.

Loved this interview with comedian Hasan Minhaj. (Have you seen/heard his remarks at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner?)

Enjoyed this article about the writer’s grandparents and their garden.

Small holes in the silence

It might be that we have had a relatively dry few weeks, but when the rain started up again last week, I was almost happy for it. I guess we don’t get quite enough sun here to have that delicious smell of rain on warm concrete very often, but we had it once last week and it took me back to being 9 or so, and playing netball with my class on the outdoor courts.  And, as that smell always does, it reminded me of this poem:

Rain by Hone Tuwhare

I can hear you making
small holes in the silence

If I were deaf
the pores of my skin
would open to you
and shut

And I should know you
by the lick of you
if I were blind:

the steady drum-roll
sound you make
when the wind drops

the something
special smell of you
when the sun cakes
the ground

But if I should not
smell or feel or see you

You would still
define me
disperse me
wash over me

(you can see a painting of this poem here)

Three things: Trees, slow food, and solitude


L. found a sprouted conker in his sand pit this winter and so we popped it in a cup of soil and now it is big enough for its own pot.  Everytime we turn a corner on a walk he’ll gasp and say, “Mum, look at that beautiful chestnut tree with its droopy ‘hands'”.  And it’s true.  With the city is looking livelier under a blue sky, we are spending a lot of time standing beneath trees looking up to see the sun sparkle through the leaves.  L. is convinced the sparkles are fairies.  We planted our small Christmas tree in a woods nearby our place, and I think our healthy chestnut sapling has a similar future destination.

Very excited for the May Festival next week, especially for the Slow Food events.  Are you Aberdonians going to be at the Taster event on Friday night?  I will also be at Carlo Petrini’s lecture on Saturday.  And saving my pennies to spend on vegetable seedlings at the market.

A poem that knows exactly what I long for right now… just an hour of solitude would be wonderful… even the middles of my nights are not lonesome at the moment.