From the Garden: Dill Cucumbers

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I grew up playing classical piano. In this I learned to have an essential connection between hand eye coordination, I liked this graceful hidden line between hand and eyes. There were hard and fast rules. Counting, timings, placements and everything that goes along with processing and reading a piece of music.

Then you get older and you realize there are things called jazz and classic rock and punk and crazy sounds that don’t even sound like music. There are made up rules of course there but they are all a little bit more flexible and louder than the classics. A little bit more space to breathe without an established set of standards. In my less creative moments I have often thought to myself “But blank said blank so this is so.” It’s hard to forget sometimes that there are no rules. The best ones write the rules.

I think about this a lot when I garden and when I cook. Sometimes when I do things I get caught up in this sense of order. I get busy then I forget to water the cucumbers for two days. At this point they wilt, they get stressed out. Plants get stressed out, did you know? Just like humans, they get sick. They are more likely to get aphids or get bacterial wilt. At this point I just want to throw them out. The rules have been broken, I am dissapointed but want to move on with a clean slate. Lately, I’ve been deciding to let this go. Freestyling what happens next. Water more, trim back, experiement solutions, and working with failure. I tend to forget that there is no book. Many things worth finding out have yet to be discovered. There are solutions that have not been sussed out.

I am a good menu planner, I like curating meals. Yet, I usually just find a recipe and follow the recipe and in this processing it becomes truth. Lately I have been trying to retrain my mind to reframe, rules do not exist. Kevin is good at that. I try to think to myself, What does it mean to be a dill cucumber? I wonder what people were thinking when they first decided to lacto-ferment/ferment a peice of food. How did the idea that almost rotting food is actually good for you? I know there needs to be salt, vinegar, often a little sugar, a lot of waiting. There are some sense of what is right or wrong (the science of cooking), flexible usually, and then everything else is just flare. Anything you want, within reason, maybe out of it to.

Here is the recipe I chose, it is a good base. This one is quick simple refrigerator pickle but really anything can be added to it. Cardamom, cinnamon, peppers, spices, dries berries, there are probably a million things you can add to a pickle to make it more interesting. I like to start with simple and then elaborate. Then I try to remember that there are no rules, always experiment, create your solutions.

Dill Cucumbers

4 Cups of Cucumber Spears or desired shape

3 1/2 Cups of Water

Some Dill, Fresh

A couple of cloves of Garlic

1 1/4 Cups of White Vinegar

1 Tablespoon of Sugar

1 Table Spoon of Salt

Flare to your hearts Desire

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- Combine water , vinegar, sugar and sea salt in a sauce pan. Boil and set aside to cool.

- Put cucumber spears, garlic, dill and whatever else you would like into a mason jar and pour cooled vinegar mixture over. Seal and refrigerate for at least 3 days.

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Marimo : The Love Plant

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Once upon a time there were two lovers in Japan, they lived near a lake named Akan. The young girls Father, who was the Tribal Chief, did not approve of the two lovers union. One fateful night they ran away and went swimming in the lake. It was here that they drowned and slowly floated to the bottom of the lake and became Marimo, forever to float together.

This is the story that local tribes in Japan might tell you to explain the existence of the amazing species of algae. Marimo, so named by Japanese botanist Tatsuhiko Kawakami, were “discovered” in the 1820s by Dr. Anton Sauter. They can be found in Iceland, Estonia, and a handful of places around the world. They are slow growing, growing about 5mm a year, and do so when the balls photosynthesize by floating on the lake bottom and hitting there many velvety green sides, therefore photosynthesizing with the wavelike motion. In Japan they are considered a national treasure and in Iceland they call them Lake Rollers.

Marimo, or as they can also be called Aegagropila linnaei, can live up to 100 years and have often been passed down the generations. This is not so hard to imagine because they are extremely easy to take care of. Change their water once every couple weeks (shhhh I have forgotten for weeks at a time and they have been fine) and add a little bubbly water of they look listless and Tada! you have a forever ball (well, almost). They also do not like direct sunlight so make sure to keep them somewhere with bright indirect sunlight. If it gets too hot you can put them in the fridge as long as it doesn’t go below 32 degrees.

In Japan people give them to the person they hope to spend the rest of their lives with. I like the idea of giving them to a best friend too. They are also known as the Love Plant and are said to mend relationships. They are perfect for beginners and plant killers. Put them in any receptacle that will hold water and decorate as you please, I have even seen them housed with beta fish. Terraria have two sizes in the shop right now.

WWW.VIVATERRARIA.COM

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Neighborliness

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Goodwill died last year.

(I suspect he was eaten by a particularly evil racoon that performed a quadruple homicide at our place as well.)

Sometimes you could see him wandering our street. Other days he would run away for the night and then be back the next morning, pecking away. I always liked seeing him in that sort of freedom, no fence was gonna hold him down. A true suburban sort of urban chicken. There was something very neighborly about his wandering pecks. He was like that dog that keeps getting out but the nice neighbor gets him for you, except he was impossible to catch and every one wondered why a chicken was wandering the streets of Berkeley. Or sometimes a local crackhead might ask why there is a chicken on the street and then shrug and walk away.

I grew up in a family where everyone is all up in your business. (Which is why we still have roommates, my mentality being pack em in.) I’ve always had this image of ten little orphans in a long little bed being tucked in and that actually sounds comforting to me, most of my friends most likely dying a little when they hear about sharing a bed of ten. This image is the reason that I settle so well into neighborliness. I LOVE it when people drop by unannounced. It makes me proudly supply whatever they need when someone stops by and  borrows a tool or a spice for their meal. Giving my neighbors free access to my space and the favor being returned is the one thing that really makes me feel good about modern existence right now. I really hold on to the country small town-ness of it and hold fast.

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A few months ago when I got back from  our trip to India, I became subtly depressed. I couldn’t quite figure it out why. Then after a few weeks it dawned on me.

India is the collective all-up-in-your-business.

It’s shit, you hate the lack of privacy, the invasive questions, the stripping you naked stares, you can’t get a moments peace but then when its dissapeared you suddenly realize that maybe you miss someone out there wondering. I mean there really is so many unappealing things about it but there is also this feeling of loose ends being collected, questions being wondered, familial feelings being demanded, watchful eyes soaking in careful information. It is all very overwhelming for our urban American independent lives to manage. In India it becomes part of the neighborliness that is expected of an entire population.

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These photos are of growing-a-future-member-of-our-street favorite neighbors of all.

Favors are requested and favors are returned. Things are borrowed while cooking and borrowed back later on. I like recounting to them my daily annoyances, sailing into their house. I “steal” herbs from their garden and then invite them over to dinner as many times as they will take.

Not quite Wisteria Lane, but close enough.

I could write a “10 Ways to be Neighborly” but I won’t because there are really no rules. In the end, it is all about sharing. A sharing of ones space, time, occasional independence, tools, advice, garden produce, food, jokes and in the future childcare. All within less than a tenth of a mile? I am not sure what constitutes a neighbor. The closer the better? Or maybe no boundaries at all.

Here is to more neighborliness in our very efficient, very independent, and often extremely lonely industrialized nation.

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Plant of the Week: Dianthus Caryophyllus ‘Chomley Farran’

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Breeding is a strange thing and intuitive thing. A family tree of decisions and genes and colors melding into rainbows of purpose and mistake. So many of my friends are having babies these days, you wonder what will these strange alien creatures (us) coming out will look like. I saw this photo recently of a baby face coming out of the vaginal cavity. It was pretty much the best picture I have ever seen, I wish we could all have photos like that, giant screaming baby faces coming out of a dark holes for the first time. Anyway, I digress, I have never been a flower breeder, but I can imagine it must be like having thousands of little babies, often. Except, you get the pick out the ones you like and the throw away the ugly ones. ‘Chomley Farran’ is one of the beautiful ones. It sparkles and shines in the son and its bicolored mishmash of stripes make me genuinely feel a sense of joy on a shitty day.

Dianthus Caryophyllus, a carnation, a flower we’ve seen a million times. I never cared for them much. For some reason the idea that you can stick it in food coloring and it turns blue or lime green has never attracted me to it. Yet, ‘Chomley Farran’ sounds like a proper English gentlemen. A little bit like a Darcy or what is that guys name on “Bridget Jones Diary”? It begins in England, there used to be hundreds of these kinds of carnations, they were called “Bizzares”. ‘Chomley’ is one of the last of the good old boys of the   Victorian era of insanely awesome carnations, as I imagine they might have been. So many things are dissapearing these days – animals, plants, languages. I always wonder if in the span of infinity they will ever be birth again into the endless amounts of possibilities.

Some flowers are for sheer numbers, for a wall of color, to strew around and make garlands of, to throw onto your bed. ‘Chomley Farran’ is a secret kind of flower, the kind you might talk to in the corner about your busy day while petting its silky smoothy (and sparkly!) petals. I think you can candy them, but do not quote me on that. This Dianthus is extremely rare and I have only seen it being sold at Annie’s Annuals in Richmond. I have found it to be relatively drought tolerant and it grows quickly. Though the flowers are not long lived, it is a perennial. Buy it because it has no other purpose then to bring you bliss.

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Petals

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When I walked into Seventh Heaven in Pushkar(India), I fell in love. In my daily life, I fight white like it is a plague. The only concessions I make in my house are for large appliances and even then I painted my fridge with green chalkboard paint. Yet, I love white, the cleanliness of it, its ability to match itself with literally any color of the rainbow. Which, is why when I walk into a place like Seventh Heaven, in it’s multi-level shining white inner courtyard perfection, I love it with no concessions.

It is in India, you can learn the beauty of insignificant small acts, that somehow though unessential as they are, little rituals can add beauty to your daily life. Most of the time I find the spewing of rose petals in preparation for some oft repeated love scene, literally vomitous. I swear I might vomit if my husband did it for me. Yet, when done in reverance to some magical otherness or for the simple reason of ritual beauty, I feel attracted to it. Everywhere in India you find flowers, flowers in garlands, in trash piles, in thousands of altars, in the long locks of beautiful women, adorning children, on stairs, on doorsteps and my favorite in floating in bowls. Flowers in India are a little like Patchouli in the 1960s.

Since in India flowers are pretty much literally sold on every corner, I mean literally bags of just petals everywhere for 2 cents, when I got home I had to get a bit more creative. In my suburban surroundings I do not have such luxury, but I do have the luxury of thousands of beautiful landscapes, so therefore, whenever I take my walks I look for trees or flower bushes that wouldn’t mind a little trimming or that are in the main thoroughfare. Shhhhh… This beautiful one, pictured below, is a couple houses down in an overflowing abandoned yard. You get the idea.

Snip. Fill your favorite container with water. Place floating petals or buds or flowers or leaves. Tada.

P.S. Check out the new site for awesome containers.

WWW.VIVATERRARIA.COM

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