Friday, November 24, 2006

A Blue Hole


I was able today to take advantage of what we in this part of the world call a "blue hole" -- a gap in the weather -- loaded up Little Eva, my seven-foot kayak, and sprinted for the reservoir.

I haven't been here in months, and, sure enough, there have been changes. Most of the ducks have moved on, to be replaced by about two thousand coots. The cormorants, whom I haven't seen for awhile, have returned and established themselves on the breakwater booms. The booms, meanwhile, have lost their moorings in the storms. Wakes and waves are crashing right in among the moored yachts. The owners don't come around much at this time of the year, and may not be aware this is happening; the marina isn't staffed.

Mr. and Mrs. Park Keeper are missing, as well -- and so is their trailer, which has been here for four years. They are frail people, and I hope nothing has happened to them. There are no cars in the parking lot, and no boats on the water. There is snow on some of the surrounding mountains. But the lake is reasonably calm, so I decide to have a go before the next storm can get at me.

The kayak, as I've said before, is a Micro Poke Boat, a bit stubby and wide for a kayak. In it, on the water, I mostly look like a turtle. But it's very stable and sturdy and offers some protection from wind. It fits in the back of a Saturn wagon. I can carry it down to the water in one hand, with all my gear already in it.

I snap together my paddle and shove off.

From old habit, I assemble a rod and tie on a nymph. It's the wrong time of year for nymphs; might do better towing a spinner. But I cruise around the water in dual purpose mode. If a trout bites, we may eat trout. If it doesn't, I've anyway had a good workout, with spectacular scenery.

Someone puts a runabout into the lake from the landing on the opposite shore, and drives off in a cloud of blue smoke.

Too much blue smoke.

Way too much blue smoke.

The boat coughs, and loses way, and the blue smoke turns brown. They're on fire.

This is a quandary. Since they are a mile away, and I'm in a tiny cockleshell that couldn't tow anything that size or take on passengers, I want to resist the impulse to go over. The most I could do is add to their embarrassment. They had better have an extinguisher; it's the law.

On the other hand, if they do lose control of the fire and have to go over the side, they'll need me. This water is extremely cold, and they are at least five hundred feet from shore. They could latch on to my stern loop and hopefully I could get them to the landing before they go numb.

I start paddling toward them.

They do have an extiguisher. The fire is put out, and after awhile the runabout begins limping home with awkward, but determined, paddle strokes.

And I get a good solid strike! I'd forgotten I have a line in the water, and it takes me a moment to re-focus.

The line has been run out into the backing, so it takes a while to strip in in. The fish is heavy, and not a jumper, but gives enough head-shakes in the deep that I know it's not a pikeminnow. Carefully maintaining line tension, I work the fish in to Little Eva's starboard, and, yes, it's a big holdover rainbow, almost two pounds.


The wind picks up and little whitecaps appear all around me. I check the western horizon. There's another storm coming in, almost on me. But it's been a perfect blue hole for me. Everyone's Thanksgiving wishes for me have paid off.

Thank you.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Thanksgiving Prep


Our stove has died, just in time for Thanksgiving. We have one on order, but delivery ran into a snag and we won't see it until December.

This is a holiday that means a lot to the kids, though.

Daughter can't be here next weekend (ask her about her nice new fella), so, this Monday, she and Last Son and Beloved and I will have a symbolic feast, featuring pumpkin pie, at the university's student union, where I'll be tabling for an event. More about that in a couple of days.

The Tribe will come down from the Big City sometime during the holiday weekend; we're not sure yet when.

Because some Tribe members can't do without turkey, Beloved plans to go to Last Son's apartment and bake the big bird there. Then she'll give him a ride here.

Meanwhile, I'll be running back and forth between the crock pot, the electric frying pan, and the zapper, as well as arranging fresh veggie slices on trays and the like.

Today is my bake day. I've just created a loaf of acorn/apple bread, and am now setting about to bake Jerusalem artichoke/garlic bread.

For these loaves, I chose to grind some of the ingredients in a hand grinder. Ours, a Universal that we inherited from somewhere back in the Seventies, is simplicity itself. Clamp to table, put bowl in front, grind, unclamp, take down into three parts, wash, reassemble, and dry on top of the wood stove.

The acorns I steamed a couple of weeks ago, then froze. A couple of handfuls of these, straight from the freezer, put through the grinder, make an acceptable flour, but they're a bit strong for our taste, so I use this with chopped apples and the usual bread ingredients, including some oats and a couple of cups each of white and whole wheat flour. By cutting the sugar with a little bit of molasses, you can get a dark loaf that rises well and doesn't overpower you.

The Jerusalem artichokes, I noticed, don't store well, so I tossed the bad one, and re-washed the good ones and put them through the grinder. Some I have frozen, some went into a soup, and the rest is going into the next loaf. I put a clove of garlic through with the artichokes, and after throwing the ingredients into the bread machine, added the same flour, oil, salt, yeast, sugar and molasses ingredients as went into the other loaf.

Oldest Son sent me this bread machine as a gift a decade ago, and it has been going strong ever since. One of the switches on the bread machine finally gave out this morning. I have to unplug it to change settings. Hmm. But I hate to give it up, because it's from him.

His tribe will be the one that dosn't make it here for Thanksgiving, not that I've asked. I think they're a bit nervous about me, still, and it's a long way -- over three thousand miles. Would be too much to attempt with the two young girls. But I'm thinking about them.

I had hoped to work in the gardens, but there's an icy fog out. Instead I'm running to the woodpile pretty much all day, between other chores, trying to keep the house warm. These fogs do more to chill the house than just about any other weather, including snow, which we rarely see any more. Even Julia, the irrepressible Banty hen, has given up scratching for bugs for the day and is hunkered on her roost by our front door, depressed.

It's hot cocoa weather. With lap robe.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Ripening


I have apples on the brain. It was a good fruit year for us all round, except for the plums, which were apparently having a rest.

I blanched and froze as many bags of apples as I dared (ours being a shared freezer with negotiated project space). Beloved has been making applesauce (hers includes a bit of cinnamon and nutmeg). I cut up apples and make apple wraps, apple pies, apple bread and even apple soup. And I carry at least three with me every day to work.

They don't always get eaten right away, as there are a couple of freebie trees between the area where I park and the library where I work, so I pick from these as I go by. They provide outstanding flavor, so my own apples, with which I'm understandably a bit jaded, wind up in the "offering plate" -- intended to funnel chips and candies and such to my data entry student workers -- and usually the apple-orphans find a good home, like the summer zucchinis.

I have been noticing, in the last half year or maybe a little longer, that on the right side of my nose there is a discolored area that wasn't there before, and it sometimes cropped up like it was going to scab over, and then maybe bled a little, then more or less went away, then returned. This was unnerving behavior, unlike anything my body had done before, so I asked my doctor about it, and she sent me to a dermatologist.

By the time I got in to see him, of course, the spot was the least alarming it has been in months -- like the car that runs perfectly when threatened with an actual mechanic -- but he took it seriously.

"What you have there is not a melanoma -- yet -- but I'd characterize it as a precancerous growth. We could biopsy now, and find out that it either is or isn't, and if it is, we can freeze it. Or we we could just freeze it now, and if it ever returns, we could biopsy it then."

"Umm, I'd say, we could freeze it now. How long does that take? I have another appointment."

"About ten seconds." He grinned.

So we did that, and my nose has swollen up a bit, and where the blotch lived there is now a red circle, as if someone had placed a red-hot dime there for a few seconds. Having had a lot of practice working on that side of my nose with foundation, concealer, and powder, I was able to minimize, but not quite eliminate, the change in my appearance.

"What's with your nose?" asked one of the students.

"Cancer! Well, pre-cancer anyway."

"Ahhhhhhh!" she screamed.

"But we froze it off. That's why it shows up more today."

"Aaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!"

"Not to worry, It just means I'm getting ripe."

"Ripe?" she wheezed, catching her breath.

"You know, like an apple. First it ripens, then it falls from the tree."

Aaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!"

Poor thing, I thought, as she ran back to her station. What do they teach them in these schools nowadays?

And I notice she didn't take any apples home with her this afternoon.