Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Alisa Maier

I grew up in Louisiana, Missouri in a time and place when kids owned the neighborhoods in the summertime from the moment that dads left for work in the morning until the streetlights came on in the evening. We rode bikes, played in and around all the houses that had kids and some of the ones that didn't, and hung out in places that our parents pretended that they didn't know about to give us a sense of indepence.

Louisiana, Missouri is the town where a 4 year old girl was abducted, apparently by a stranger, last night while playing in her front yard with her brother. Please take a moment to look at her photo on the Amber Alert Page and offer up a prayer.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Grow Your Own (Salmonella-free) Sprouts

I feel myself becoming a zealot about having everyone grow at least a little of your own food. It makes such a difference how you think about all of your food if you put a little effort into even one small plant. If you haven't bought your basil plant yet, now's the time!

Here's an idea for growing your own food that doesn't even involve dirt: sprouts! Growing sprouts recently got a whole lot easier because the Sprout People put videos on their website. I had an Easy Sprout (bought from another company) for a couple of years but the instructions that came with it were so bad that I wasn't using it. With the videos, though, I'm now completely confident.

I've been making sprouts for several months now. I switch between Mother's Mix (no, I'm not pregnant -- the nutrients match up with what I read about the needs of perimenopausal women) and Nick's Hot Sprout Salad. I keep them in the freezer and start two tablespoons every time the Easy Sprouter comes out of the dishwasher from the last batch. I'm growing enough sprouts for us to have some on every salad, sandwich, and pizza that we make. They are yummy, too -- I actually catch myself craving sprouts!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Hermann, Missouri

We ended up with a perfect May day to take a 3 mile walk with our cameras around Hermann.

R was fascinated by the iron crosses that the German blacksmiths made for St. George Cemetery.

We also got a kick out of this staircase which, on paper for the original city plan, was supposed to be Mozart Street. But these steps are all that exist of the one block that was way too steep to join the two sections of the road. A staircase was the only option. I imagine kids and parishioners still use it, though, since St. George church and school sit on the top of this hill. R took this photo.

More photos on my Flickr page.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Bamboo Shoots

I bought a bamboo shoot at the Maplewood Farmers Market at Schlafly Bottleworks from the lady at the Ozark Forest Mushrooms booth. She sold them with this brochure (pdf) from the Extension Office of Washington State University. I peeled the shoot, sliced it into rings, and boiled the slices for twenty minutes. According to the brochure, you can then serve it just about anyway you would any other vegetable -- on a salad, in soup, stir-fried, etc. We thought the flavor was pretty delicate (reminds me of Heart of Palm) and so decided it would suit us best on a salad.

If you haven't been to a Farmers Market this spring, things are really popping out early. I bought a chicken, beet leaves, and mushrooms. There were all kinds of other greens available as well as radishes and chives. I saw a sign that said strawberries, but they must have sold out before I got there. Also, lots of plants for your garden.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Class Field Trip 2

For the second Sunday in a row, we got up before sunrise to meet our photography class at the Missouri Botanical Garden, two hours before it opened to the public. The azaleas and tulips are spectacular.

More photos on my flickr page.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Evening light at the Garden

We stayed at the Missouri Botanical Garden after volunteering at the Archive during the day on Wednesday. It was fun to see how active the ducks and geese were at that time of day. The azaleas were brilliant.

More photos on my flickr page.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Photography Class field trip

Rick and I are taking a photography class through the Missouri Botanical Garden. Today's adventure was a field trip starting two hours before the Garden opened to the public. I took 269 photos, but culled them down to 21.

The Japanese Garden has beautiful light at 7:00 in the morning.

The class is called "Understanding Exposure," so I took many shots of this white bridge to get a good exposure.

The tulips are blooming with more to come.

Many more photos on my flickr page.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Celery Growing In St. Louis

Rick and I are volunteering in the Archives of the Missouri Botanical Garden. I am cataloging the slides of Walter Hodge, botanist and photographer, a collection numbering in the tens of thousands of photographs arranged alphabetically by genus. I might get through the Acers (maples) next week. Rick is scanning the same slides that I cataloged in the fall of 2009, the photographs by Jack Jennings whose work graced the annual Garden calendar for decades.

Rick's work contains a fair amount of downtime as the slide scans, so he has been reading old issues of the Missouri Botanical Garden Bulletin. An article he read last week has to do with growing celery in St. Louis and was published in March, 1915. Here is the link to the 1915 volume on Botanicus; the celery article starts on page 41. According to the article, "it is possible to grow good celery on a small scale and with but little effort." It also says that celery "is a garden product good only while perfectly fresh. Its flavor and crispness are soon lost after the plants are removed from the conditions surrounding their growth." If that's true, we both believe we may have never eaten a good stalk of celery.

Another reason to grow celery is that it is number 4 on the list of highest pesticide load. So, celery is a great candidate for growing instead of purchasing conventionally grown and marketed stalks.

There are late and early varieties of celery. The article mentions three early varieties that are recommended for St. Louis: White Plume, Golden Self Blanching, and Golden Heart. Of these, only the Golden Self Blanching variety seems readily available now. The White Queen and Giant Pascal varieties "should be selected for winter use." White Queen is available at Kitazawa Seed and Giant Pascal is available from several seed companies.

Much of the celery article explains how to blanch or bleach celery. We found this confusing in all details from "why?" to "how?". I think, to start, I'll try the Golden Self Blanching variety and look for some modern sources about how to grow celery. If anyone in the St. Louis area is growing celery and would like to offer me a demonstration, I would love to see your garden in action this summer.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Sunday Transcendentalist Quote

From Ralph Waldo Emerson's address at Harvard Divinity School in 1838, as quoted in The Concord Quartet by Samuel A. Schreiner Jr.

The stationariness of religion; the assumption that the age of inspiration is past, that the Bible is closed; the fear of degrading the character of Jesus by representing him as a man; indicated with sufficient cleanness the falsehood of our theology. It is the office of a true teacher to show us God is, not was; that He speaketh, not spake. The true Christianity, --a faith like Christ's in the infinitude of man, --is lost. None believeth in the soul of man, but only in some man or person old and departed.

It's really no wonder that we have become a nation where most of us don't go to church with this in our past. But, I think the Transcendentalists would be disappointed in us as a society. We don't take the time and effort that we used to put into church and seek God in the woods or in our hearts.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Sunday Transcendentalist Quote

Emerson, reflecting on a Higher Power, before it was called that:

I find this amazing revelation of my immediate relation to God a solution to all the doubts that oppressed me. I recognize the distinction of the outer and inner self; the double consciouness that, within this erring, immortal mind, whose powers I do not know, but it is stronger than I; it is wiser than I; it never approved me in any wrong; I seek counsel for it in my doubts; I repair to it in my dangers; I pray to it in my undertakings. It seems to me the face which the Creator uncovers to his child. It is the perception of this depth in human nature, this infinitude belonging to every man that has been born, which has given a new value to the habits of reflection and solitude.
This is from Ralph Waldo Emerson's journal during a trip to Europe that he took after relinquishing his pulpit and before writing Essay on Nature, as quoted on page 26 in The Concord Quartet: Alcott, Emerson, Hawthorne, Thoreau, and the Friendship that Freed the American Mind by Samuel A. Schreiner, Jr.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Orchid Show

We went to one of the evening opening parties for the Orchid Show, but were back at the Missouri Botanical Garden today and took the opportunity to see the orchids in the daytime.

Peter Raven passed through while we were there. We didn't realize until we got home that he must have been leaving the press conference that announced his retirement, as covered by the Post-Dispatch here. We're pleased that Dr. Raven is staying on as president emeritus and that the new choice, Peter Wyse Jackson, has wonderful experience in the botanical world.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Sunday Transcendentalist Quote

Louisa May Alcott wasn't a Transcendentalist, but her father, Bronson Alcott, was. Her story "Eli's Education" is the way she imagined her father developed from farm boy to educated man. It was originally published in St Nicholas: a monthly magazine for boys and girls, which has been scanned by Google books.

The story begins with his self-education:

Many years ago, a boy of sixteen sat in a little room in an old farm-house up among the Connecticut hills, writing busily in a book made of odd bits of paper stitched together, with a cover formed of two thin boards. The lid of a blue chest was his desk, the end of a tallow candle stuck into a potato was his lamp, a mixture of soot and vinegar his ink, and a quill from the gray goose his pen. A Webster's Spelling-book, Dilivorth's New Guide to the English Tongue, Daboll's Arithmetic, and the American Preceptor, stood on the chimneypiece over his head, with the Assembly Catechism and New Testament in the place of honor. This was his library ; and now and then a borrowed Pilgrim's Progress, Fox's Book of Martyrs, or some stray volume, gladdened his heart; for he passionately loved books, and scoured the neighborhood for miles around to feed this steadily increasing hunger.

Young Eli goes through many trials and tribulations, but all ends well:

There his youth ends ; but after the years of teaching he began to preach at last, not in one pulpit, but in many all over the land, diffusing good thoughts now as he had peddled small wares when a boy ; still learning as he went, still loving books and studying mankind, still patient, pious, dutiful, and tender, a wise and beautiful old man, till at eighty, Eli's education ended.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Sunday Transcendentalist Quote

Have you seen the American Masters program about Louisa May Alcott on PBS? I was fascinated by the experience she had as a child at Fruitlands, a commune built on Transcendentalist ideals founded by her father, Bronson Alcott, and his friend, Charles Lane. Utopian communities are easy to make fun of, and this one is probably funnier than most. The only person who lived at Fruitlands and wrote extensively about the experience was Louisa. Her piece, written many years later as an adult, was a parody called Transcendental Wild Oats.

Ralph Waldo Emerson famously wrote in his journal after a visit to Fruitlands, "I will not prejudge them successful. They look well in July. We shall see them in December." In fact, that statement proved prescient as the community broke up in January, unable to feed themselves, in part because the two founders spent the growing season traveling and lecturing rather than working the farm.

Another source of contention was a belief by Charles Lane that their community should be celibate like the Shakers. Mrs. Alcott did not share this vision and one assumes that she had intellectual and other means to persuade her husband to see her side of things.

However, in spite of all the fun to be had at the expense of Fruitlands, many of the ideals were admirable and some seem quite modern. I was startled at how much the following passage, from a published letter written by the Fruitlands founders, echoes things I have read in the last couple of years about eating locally, the inefficiency of cattle as a provider of meat or milk, and the merits of veganism.

Debauchery of both the earthly soil and the human body is the result of this cattle keeping. The land is scourged for crops to feed the animals, whose filthy ordures are used under the erroneous supposition of restoring lost fertility; disease is thus infused into the human body; stimulants and medicines are resorted to for relief, which end in a precipitation of the original evil to a more disastrous depth. These misfortunes which affect not only the body, but by reaction rise to the sphere of the soul would be avoided, at least in part, by the disuse of animal food. Our diet is therefore strictly of the pure and bloodless kind. No animal substances, neither flesh, butter, cheese, eggs nor milk, pollute our tables or corrupt our bodies, neither tea, coffee, molasses, nor rice, tempts us beyond the bounds of indigenous productions. Our sole beverage is pure fountain water. The native grains, fruits, herbs and roots, dressed with the utmost cleanliness, and regard to their purpose of edifying a healthful body, furnish the pleasantest refections and in the greatest variety requisite to the supply of the various organs. The field, the orchard, the garden, in their bounteous products of wheat, rye, barley, maize, oats, buckwheat; apples, pears, peaches, plums, cherries, currants, berries; potatoes, peas, beans, beets, carrots, melons, and other vines, yield an ample store for human nutrition, without dependence on foreign climes, or the degradations of shipping and trade. The almost inexhaustible variety which the several stages and sorts of vegetable growth, and the several modes of preparation afford, are a full answer to the question which is often put by those who have never ventured into the region of a pure and chaste diet: "If you give up flesh meat, upon what then can you live?"

Originally, this quote was from a letter published in the Herald of Freedom, September 8, 1843. I transcribed it from an appendix of Transcendental Wild Oats and Excerpts from the Fruitlands Diary by Louisa May Alcott, a 1981 printing by The Harvard Common Press.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Sunday Transcendentalist Quote

Students of Transcendentalism despair at arriving at a satisfactory definition of the movement, but I quite like this one by Elizabeth Peabody (1804-1894), educator, bookstore owner, and publisher.
Transcendentalism belongs to no sect of religion, and no social party. It is the common ground to which all sects may rise, and be purified of their narrowness; for it consists in seeking the spiritual ground of all manifestations.

As quoted in A Journey into the Transcendentalists' New England by R. Todd Felton, pp. 5, 7.