Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Midsummer Night

It is ten thirty p.m. The kids and D have been asleep for a while now. This is my time. My precious moments of peace and stillness. I'm sitting on our front porch, facing west. When I look out from where I sit, I am in the trees, looking through green leaves, highlighted by the sun, with rolling green hills in the background.  The sun is still bright. The sky blue. The air is sweet and if I tried to describe the scent, I'd say it smells like life. It smells alive; lush green plants, moist earth, flowers permeating the air. I can look down over the goat pen. I can hear the milking does munching their alfalfa hay. I can hear when a doe walks over and dips her mouth into the water trough, and slurps the cool water. The air is warm enough, I need no long sleeve shirt or socks. There are no mosquitos swat at. An Alaskan night is never more perfect than this one.

I find myself wondering if there is any way I can make more of our few and fleeting summer days. Certainly I should be outside till bedtime, reading or writing. Certainly not indoors on the couch. I am forsaking house chores as much as is possible and still maintain a safe and decent environment for my family. If it is not raining or meal time, we are outside. And yet I can hardly bring myself to go to bed, or linger in the kitchen long enough to wash the morning dishes. I say this again and again, but I will say it again: our summer days are fleeting. I could never have a long enough Fairbanks summer. They are divine. They are magic.

The delphinium, poppies and columbine which border the driveway, are in full bloom. The iris are long gone. But if you stop and take the time to peer down, the lilly of the valley is perfect with it's fragrant white bell shaped flowers. In the garden we are pulling beets and carrots. I picked four salad cucumbers yesterday and we ate them all today. We are picking shelling peas, none of which are leaving the garden - yet. I've been grilling zucchini and baby carrots on the grill, just tossed in olive oil with salt and pepper. The beets, I roast or boil just till tender, then toss with butter and sea salt. When vegetables are new, and young, they need no more than the simplest of preparations and adornments. They are divine in their simplicity. And yet how can I call a ruby red or golden beet; simple or plain? Rather, they are the jewels of the garden. The strawberries are gaining in abundance, and the raspberries and wild blueberries are just beginning.

This week Noah is going to a super awesome day camp, which I will share more about sometime. Tonight he had his last soccer game of the summer. It was beautiful and sad. A reminder that the summer, for interior Alaska, is coming to a close. The fair always marks the end of summer. They are setting up the rides now. I am thankful that we are in the hills, as we are buffered from the early frost that wraps up the season for the gardens in town. August and September are usually beautiful, but the mornings and nights are cooler. The darkness at night does not come gradually, rather all of a sudden it is completely dark as we drive home one night and we are not prepared nor our eye accustomed whatsoever. I can't help but dread the first yellow leaves, as beautiful as a golden fall forest is. Tonight is green, green embracing me. Blue hills in the background. Green and warm, as the sun sinks closer to the blue horizon, and the birds continue their flute like melodies and I attempt to savor and hold on to this awe inspiring summer night.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Mid Summer Days

 Summer is flying by at an alarming rate. We have high hopes and expectations for this fleeting time of year. We demand that every day be perfect; blue skies, sunny, seventies/eighties, with rain at night to water the garden. If we get anything less, we complain about the sub-par summer, and reminisce about those perfect summers of the past. Ah, we fickle humans.

The kids and I have been making the most of our days. If it is sunny, we are outside; in the garden, playing in the pool, picking strawberries, pulling vegetables, mushroom hunting, walking goats and playing on the playground. When it is late afternoon we venture down to the house and the kids play on the porch while I pop in and out trying to plan and make dinner. If it is cloudy or rainy I am a more focused cook and house cleaner. If it is sunny I can hardly bring myself to stand in the kitchen for more than ten minutes.

We are finally at my very favorite time of year; the time when every dinner starts with a basket of produce pulled and picked fresh from the garden. We are harvesting salad greens, chard, spinach, bok choy, carrots, beets, scallions, onions, zucchini, cauliflower and broccoli. The shelling peas are filling out, the beans are  flowering, the tomatoes are green and the cucumbers are beginning to produce fruit.

Soon enough I'll be overwhelmed with trying to use things before they get too big. Shredding zucchini, pickling cucumbers and canning beans. I envisioned myself shelling peas at Noah's soccer games. But next week is the last week of soccer and I've yet to pick any peas. The garden is late this year, and of all things, it is because it was too hot in May - and the wee plants survived but were stressed. They finally took off mid June when the weather cooled and the rain begin.

 We have Birch Boletes and Orange Birch Boletes, which are considered edible, to good eating. They are related to the King Bolete, also known as Porcini, which is the best eating of all, but alas I have yet to spot it here. I bought a pound of fresh morels for $16 at the Farmer's market, it was a splurge for us, and we enjoyed them thoroughly. The kids had fun helping me find and pick (cut) boletes. The first night we just floured the mushrooms, fried them in butter and sprinkled them with sea salt. The next night we made a mushroom thyme cream sauce and served it with grilled salmon. The last night I sauteed the last morels with zucchini and served them atop flatbreads with goat cheese and parmesan.

Here is to making the most of summer, wherever you are and whatever your aspirations may be.