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What the critters so generously leave behind


If I had ever really understood how much effort (and defeat) is involved in defending a garden, an orchard, and some chickens against all the hungry mouths that want to eat everything, I might never have had the heart to start. The hungry mouths come from everywhere — out of the woods, down from the sky, and up from the ground. Hawks and raccoons want to eat your chickens. Snakes want to eat your eggs. Squirrels and raccoons will raid the orchard and carry off peaches, apples, and figs just before you were going to pick them. Raccoons and rabbits and voles raid the garden. And we haven’t even started to talk about insects and blights. The abbey, to be sure, is in a worst-case situation — up against the woods in some very fine animal habitat.

No one understands your grief, of course, better than your local agricultural agents. I’ve written in the past about how important it is to befriend them. One of the abbey’s friends is a horticulturist whose help and advice during the past eight years have been invaluable. He’s a very busy guy, and you can’t get him to dinner very often. But this evening he’s coming to dinner, so this afternoon I got my shears and a sack and went out to see what the critters had left me for a home-grown supper.

The squirrels took every last one of the peaches from one of the trees, the tree that bore first. They’ll be after the other trees soon enough. They’ve already stolen some green apples as well. I see the trees shaking and go up to the orchard to ask the squirrels what the heck they think they’re doing. They just glance at me and go on chewing. If I shake a stick at them they’ll run back into the woods with a peach in their mouths. Every now and then I see a chicken peck a squirrel, because the chickens like the fallen peaches. Good work, chickens.

OK, then. I can make chutney from green apples, and maybe I can even get away with putting some unripe peaches in it. A nice red onion would do nicely in the chutney. So far, the snakes seem not to have found a way into Ken’s new chicken house, so there are plenty of eggs. That means omelets with a filling including onions, green tomatoes, day lily buds, and basil. I’m covered up with squash. The squash will get roasted on the grill. There was enough late lettuce for small salads. The first two cucumbers of the season were ready to pick. And there will be a loaf of fresh-baked sourdough bread.

So it promises to be a decent supper for a horticulturist (or a hobbit), though it’s not the sort of supper that can happen every day.

Ken, by the way, is in Alaska, again in a summer job with the Park Service as a backcountry ranger deep in grizzly bear territory where he’s assigned a shotgun. Maybe the squirrels aren’t so bad after all.

When I bring stuff in from the garden, I like to wash it immediately in cold water, wrap it in a muslin towel, and put it in the refrigerator to chill. The lettuce is in a vase of cold water. I’ll pick the lettuce leaves off the stalk right before they go into the salad. When stuff is fresh, a little extra care will keep it that way.

Soon to be chutney


  1. Henry wrote:

    Daylilly buds in ao salad?

    My grandmother always reminded us that the animals & insects get 30%

    Monday, June 12, 2017 at 11:18 am | Permalink
  2. DCS wrote:

    Aaron Copland’s opera “The Tender Land” —

    Go to 1:47 to hear Ma’s final aria “All Thinking’s Done” and the last strains of the orchestra.


    Monday, June 12, 2017 at 6:01 pm | Permalink
  3. DCS wrote:

    Dawn Upshaw sings Laurie’s Song from Copland’s opera “The Tender Land” —



    Monday, June 12, 2017 at 6:10 pm | Permalink
  4. DCS wrote:

    Renee Fleming sings “Ain’t It a Pretty Night” from Carlisle Floyd’s “Susannah” —

    Ravishing. Devastating. Listen for the references to Asheville and Knoxville.

    I was at the Met when Fleming sang this with James Levine in the pit. It was the first time the Met performed this classic American work because they had been too snobby for 30 years to perform it.

    Listen for “the sound of crickets and the smell of pine straw.” Breathtaking.


    Monday, June 12, 2017 at 6:30 pm | Permalink
  5. daltoni wrote:

    Thank you, DCS. I just read the Wikipedia article on Copland, realizing how little I know about him though I have long known his music. What a life! I must find a good biography.

    Henry: I actually sautéed the day lily buds for about 30 seconds and put them in the omelets. If only the critters would hold it to 30 percent!

    Monday, June 12, 2017 at 6:32 pm | Permalink
  6. DCS wrote:

    Here are the lyrics if you’d like to follow along:

    The sky’s so dark and velvet-like
    and it’s all lit up with stars.
    It’s like a great big mirror
    reflectin’ fireflies over a pond.

    Look at all them stars, Little Bat.
    The longer ya look, the more ya see.

    The sky seems so heavy with stars
    that it might fall right down out of heaven
    and cover us all up in one big blanket of velvet
    all stitched with diamonds.

    Ain’t it a pretty night?

    Just think, those stars can all peep down
    an’ see way beyond where we can:
    They can see way beyond them mountains
    to Nashville and Asheville an’ Knoxville.

    I wonder what it’s like out there,
    out there beyond them mountains —
    where the folks talk nice,
    an’ the folks dress nice,
    like ya see in the mail-order catalogs.

    I aim to leave this valley someday
    an’ find out fer myself —
    to see all the tall buildin’s
    and all the street lights
    an’ to be one o’ them folks myself.

    I wonder if I’d get lonesome fer the valley, though,
    fer the sound of crickets an’ the smell of pine straw,
    fer soft little rabbits an’ bloomin’ things
    an’ the mountains turnin’ gold in the fall.

    But I could always come back
    if I got homesick fer the valley.
    So I’ll leave it someday an’ see fer myself.

    Someday I’ll leave an’ then I’ll come back
    when I’ve seen what’s beyond them mountains.

    Ain’t it a pretty night?

    The sky’s so heavy with stars tonight
    that it could fall right down out of heaven
    an’ cover us up, and cover us up,

    in one big blanket of velvet
    and diamonds.


    Monday, June 12, 2017 at 6:40 pm | Permalink
  7. DCS wrote:

    Reading recommendation:

    Vivian Perlis’ two-volume biography/autobiography, which she wrote in collaboration with Copland and both of which contain wonderful photographs and even some musical manuscripts to illustrate.

    “Copland, 1900-1942” and “Copland, Since 1943”

    I’ll lend you my copy next time I visit.


    Monday, June 12, 2017 at 7:17 pm | Permalink
  8. DCS wrote:

    I would be remiss if in talking about Copland’s only opera, “The Tender Land,” if I didn’t mention the most famous and most performed excerpt. It is the quintet that acts as a finale to Act 1, “The Promise of Living.” Here is an OK version by Berkeley Opera on YouTube:

    However, there is only ONE recording of the opera to get, which was done in the 1980s by Plymouth Music Series in Minnesota with Phillip Brunelle conducting. It’s available on Amazon here:

    That is the definitive recording on Copland’s only opera. Highly recommended.


    Wednesday, June 14, 2017 at 10:30 am | Permalink
  9. DCS wrote:

    One closing thought about Copland…

    The ONLY recording of “Appalachian Spring” to consider is the one below from 1989 by Orpheus Chamber Orchestra. Luckily, it’s available on YouTube:

    With the cool and wet spring we have had here in North Carolina, I think this recording serves as an appropriate soundtrack for the Abbey and all its visitors.


    Wednesday, June 14, 2017 at 10:48 am | Permalink

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