A Flurry of Pies

Each year, we bake a lot of pies on our farm for Thanksgiving. They’re all by order and, hopefully, they will all provide an appropriate full-stop to many Thanksgiving meals this Thursday. This week, we’re baking one hundred and ninety-two pies. Prep is ongoing at the moment, and baking will start tomorrow. I’ve been given the nightshift for Tuesday. That means I will be rather grumpy on Wednesday, as I no longer have the old college constitution which thought nothing of staying up all night, studying for a test or writing a paper that should’ve been written weeks before.

For those curious about such things, we’re baking apple, blueberry, apple-raspberry, ollalieberry, strawberry-rhubarb, mixed berry, apple-pear, apple-blueberry, pecan, raspberry cream, and pumpkin cheesecake. We do not conceal blackbirds in our pies, regardless of how literal and literary our customers might be.

Firefights beyond the mountains

The tapering end of a mountain range is visible from my office window. It isn’t a big range like the Rockies or the Alps, but it’s our range, so I suppose that’s worth something. For some reason, gazing out at it this morning prompted me to think about another mountain range I used to know. Many years ago, I spent some time working on a kibbutz in northern Israel. The kibbutz was several miles south of the Lebanese border and just below the Golan Heights in the east. I’m hazy on the name of the range, but I think it is called Lubnan ash Sharqi. My job required getting up at 4 am. The mountains, at that time in the morning, were dark, brooding masses of shadow, their edges defined by the lighter expanse of the starry night. On a few occasions, the morning silence would be instantly and savagely broken by planes flying low overhead and heading north. Minutes later, the rumble of bombing shuddered in the air from far away, echoing back from the Beka Valley just north of the mountains. And, then, almost as soon after, the planes would return. They flew high this time, relieved of the weight of secrecy and their bombs.

Despite that, the north of Israel is a lovely place. It reminds me of northern California in a lot of ways, green and well-watered, with quick changes in topography and the sea a close and ever-present reassurance of how small and mortal we humans are. Most people do want to live in peace, but peace can be a costly thing.

Pumpkin Season

Pumpkin season is here. From my office window, I can see some of the farmhands cutting pumpkins off the vine. They’re also loading up trailers and hauling them up to the east side of the ranch. That makes it easier and closer for visitors to walk out and then select their own.

We grow a lot of pumpkins, big and small. In addition to the typical orange ones, we also grow a lot of odd, decorative gourds of all different shapes, colors and sizes. There’s a curved green one called, I think, a bird gourd, that dries well. Artists use that variety for carving in a style not unlike scrimshaw.

One of my favorites is the Cinderella pumpkin. It’s flattish, ribbed, and a sort of orange-red color. I suppose it’s the precise variety that Cinderella’s godmother used to create a coach.

If you have some extra time one Saturday, here’s something you can do with your kids or your cat (if your cat is the type to sit beside you and stare unblinkingly and disdainfully at whatever it is you’re doing). Take a smallish pumpkin, lop off the top, clean out the inside, and then use it as a vase for flowers. If you aren’t growing any flowers, try your neighbor’s garden. The contraption will last for a few days before it subsides into a messy decline. In the meantime, however, you’ll be very stylish and a threat to Martha Stewart.

A Flurry

For some reason, I’ve been getting a flurry of foreign rights inquires over the last couple of days. I’m puzzled as to why it would happen all at once. The only logical reason I can think of is the fact that my trilogy has been hanging out in the top 20 list for best-selling epic fantasy on Amazon for a couple of weeks. Perhaps that was enough time to attract attention? I really don’t know.

In other, and more close-to-home, news, our farm is including collard greens in this week’s CSA box. A CSA, if you don’t know what that means, is a Community Supported Agriculture program. People sign up for a subscription (any number of weeks), and then receive a box of fresh, organic produce every Thursday. In addition to being a good deal, the catch is that you don’t know what the box will contain each week. Contents are determined by what we’re growing at the time.

Collard greens. I’ve never eaten them in my life. Have you? If you haven’t, it’s never too late to start. Unless you’re on some kind of weird, no-collard greens diet.

Bok Choy is a member of the cabbage family

If you didn’t know that before, I suppose I have enriched your life in a small (incredibly small) way. The reason why I’m thinking about bok choy right now is that it is one of the vegetables included in this week’s CSA box at our farm. Bok choy, blue lake green beans, sweet corn, strawberries, red leaf, beets, parsley, cantaloupe, artichokes, bell pepper, and a bouquet of flowers (we grow a lot of flowers). All organic.

Anyway, the next time you’re in a tight situation and you need to know if bok choy is or is not a member of the cabbage family, rest easy.