Skip to content

Peace of mind, and the weather

The basil in the garden is just getting started. This pesto was made from the last of the winter basil, which I grew in the kitchen windows. More about the mortar and pestle below.

Living in the woods as I do — reasonably secure, healthy, and retired — my stress level isn’t very high. I feel for those who are still in the world of work, living in heavily populated places, with heavy responsibilities and heavy demands. For four years with Donald Trump in the White House, peace of mind was tough even in the woods. Now, with Trump gone and on his way to prison, what’s the biggest threat to peace of mind for woods-dwellers? The weather, I would say. (Because it was so easy for me to isolate, Covid-19 never felt very threatening here.)

For several years, the rule for the weather here was warmer and wetter, with occasional and minor deviations. The spring of 2021 broke that pattern. Spring this year was strangely cool and dry, with late and destructive frosts. It hasn’t been raining. Some of the grass is turning brown. The birds are looking for water. They notice within minutes when I start the drip system in the garden and flutter down for a drink. A big part of my disquiet is witnessing the stress of the plants and animals around me. The trees should be fine, though. Only a prolonged drought (which does not seem to be in store for us in my location) is hard on the trees. It’s the smaller things that suffer.

The cold spring was a big setback for the garden. Things that I planted from seed — radishes, lettuces, kales and chards — just never germinated. Water was never a problem, though, because of the reliable streams just down the hill and a neighbor who hauls water up the hill with his tractor for our irrigation systems. Even ten years ago in this area, drip systems for garden irrigation were not the rule. These days, just about everybody with a serious garden has a drip system. I’m water rich, in that two streams come together at the lower end of the abbey’s five acres. One stream is fairly sensitive to recent rainfall, but the other is fed by nearby springs that no one remembers ever going dry.

The forecast is looking a little better. With luck there will be a modest rainy spell here starting in about five days.

Basil and pesto

When I was Googling for help on improving my skill with pesto for the 2021 basil season, I came across several articles saying that the old-fashioned way of making pesto — with a mortar and pestle rather than a food processor — makes a big difference. I’m hardly an expert on Italian cooking, but so far I can find no reason to disagree. It’s not just the basil leaves that like to be pounded with marble rather than whizzed with a stainless steel blade. The garlic and nuts also like it. The old-fashioned pesto ends up looking more textured, with the different ingredients more visible. And I do believe that the taste is sassier and somehow more complex. The large granite mortar and pestle (ordered from Amazon) has earned its place in my kitchen. The Cuisinart food processor has been with me for more than 40 years. Unless someone convinces me that hummus should be made with a mortar and pestle, the food processor is in no danger of being donated to a thrift shop.


Though I admit that I am far too preoccupied with politics, I’ve avoided posting about it. Trump is history. He does not deserve our attention except insofar as the law continues the slow process of sending him to prison where he belongs. Though the media have finally started to foreshadow Trump’s trials and imprisonment, they still cater to the Trumpian notion of Trumpian invincibility and the idea that Trump will get away with everything. My view is that Trump & Co. will be held responsible for everything they have done. Let’s not feel guilty about the schadenfreude. The payment, at last, of Trump’s debt to justice (and his dollar debt to Russian oligarchs and oil oligarchs and therefore his final bankruptcy), will be tremendously satisfying and healing to those of us who have had to live with Trump and his insufferable supporters. They are more insufferable than ever, actually, as their gloating has turned into threats, insane denials, and a doubling of their rage.

The weather


According to the Climate Prediction Center, the entire western United States is in for a serious drought this year. If the forecast is accurate, the eastern United States will squeak by. Still, summer is now a scary time, as scary as winter must have been for so many of our ancestors.

Making peace with summer


Every year, I think about how I might overcome my dread of summer, with summer defined as the hottest parts of July and August in the American South — temperatures well over 90F, high humidity, bugs, weeds, and indoor air conditioning as the only escape. Should I get a canoe for the Dan River? Nah. The cat wouldn’t enjoy canoeing. One idea I had today is to focus on improving my competence with Italian cooking. After all, I’ve got a garden, and if I can keep the garden going against the heat, humidity, the weeds, and the bugs, then I can be as rich with summer produce as anyone in Tuscany. We shall see. Tomatoes, squash, basil and cucumbers do an awful lot to ease the discomforts of summer.

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *