Sunday, January 31, 2010

Pruning Season

We inherited four fruit trees with our house: a big Gravenstein apple, a Bartlett pear, a prolific Santa Rosa plum, and the fourth is a smaller apple that so far has produced no fruit. When we moved here, these trees looked like they hadn’t been pruned in at least a couple of years and I didn’t prune them last year either. I couldn’t get into them. The big apple tree is really big, and old and gnarly and twisty, and even with a pruning ladder it presents a challenge because it’s so overgrown. I have planted many other fruit trees in the yard, but they are young, tiny, and easy to prune.

This year I asked for a pruning ladder for Christmas and my darling husband made my wish come true. I am the proud owner of a shiny new eight-foot pruning ladder and I love it so much it’s a wonder I’m not sleeping with it. I have spent many happy hours in my yard this winter pruning my trees. I took a pruning class at the college last semester, so I actually sort of know what I’m doing, which could be dangerous.

But oh that ornery apple tree. I confess that I have exchanged words with that apple tree. It didn’t want to be pruned. I told the tree it was for its own good. It didn’t listen. It fought me twig and branch. It even threw me off the ladder. Fortunately, I landed on my back on soft ground and didn’t break anything. Ironically, I bruised only my thumb (which landed on my clippers) in exactly the spot needed to open the Ibuprofen bottle. (Had to use my teeth.) I refused to be bucked from that tree. I got right back up on my ladder and continued clipping. This week, with great satisfaction, I called the job done. I’m still a little sore from my plunge off the ladder, but pleased as punch to have that tree trimmed down. I’ll be able to reach the apples in the high branches this year with my new ladder.

Next, the roses.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Invincible Mr. Ed

Last night I once again attended my friend Linda’s Squidfest in Oakland. Every year her dear old dad, Ed, goes out on the Peugeot Sound and fishes for squid, which he brings down to Oakland in a cooler in his trusty (not rusty, trusty) truck. Then Ed and Linda prepare a gourmet dinner, with breaded and fried squid as the main dish, for Linda’s friends. Although I don’t eat fish, there are always other delicious side dishes for me to dive into, like pear, gorgonzola, and walnut salad, or fluffy cornbread. This year was a special one, because Ed, who is now in his 80s, is fighting throat cancer. An avid birder, outdoorsman, fisherman, hunter, and all-around good guy, Ed delights in the beauty he finds in the world that surrounds him. He once had a family of raccoons eating dog food out of his hand in his back yard every night. I reckon he might have done the same with a skunk family had they turned up, just because he enjoys watching critters be themselves. He has a list a mile long of all the types of birds he has seen. He used to build bird houses and once gave us one that we hung from a tree at the Ranch. When he goes out on the Sound to fish in his little boat, everyone knows him and calls hello. He often brings in a salmon to cut up and share with friends and family. This year, his trip to Oakland to treat us to the Squidfest was sandwiched between rounds of chemo. He’s a stubborn and independent guy, who knows how to appreciate the wonders of the natural world. We hope he will hang in there with us for a few more years, but whatever the future holds for him, he is one person who can safely say that he seized the day. He lives in the present, grateful for a beautiful sunset and a calm sea. Long life and many more days of fishing to you, Ed.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

How Well We Have Survived

I’m in Pennsylvania this week for the Bar-Mitzvah of my nephew Jacob. He is my baby brother’s oldest child. Stepping back from this event for a moment, I am reflecting on the fact that our cousin’s daughter, Emily, was being Bat-Mitzvahed in New Jersey yesterday as well. Emily’s grandfather and Jacob’s grandfather (my father) are first cousins. I hope this doesn’t sound too biblical, like with the begats, but Jacob’s great-grandfather (Dad’s father) and Emily’s great-grandfather, who were brothers, came to America from Poland through Ellis Island in 1915 (I think I have that date correct). By coming to this country, those brothers escaped the Holocaust, which decimated Polish Jewry. Although other members of their family escaped, to destinations all over the world (including America), most of the family perished. When I was growing up, I was painfully aware of the fact that there were few Wachspresses in the world. But we have been multiplying. So yesterday, as I sat in my nephew’s synagogue and watched him read the Torah, I paused to celebrate the fact that I was missing Emily’s Bat-Mitzvah and to glory in the missing relatives who were at the other event. Look how well we survived, to have this many Wachspress children called to Torah on the same day because we have now so many children!

At Jacob’s Bar-Mitzvah, he set aside an empty chair for one particular Polish Jewish child who died at the age of 3 in a concentration camp. I imagined that child sitting in that chair, and I imagined all that surrounded me vanishing as I imagined my father as that child. Could have been our family erased.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Taking Woodstock Again

Last week we watched the film Taking Woodstock about Elliot Tiber, who ostensibly saved the Woodstock Music Festival from disintegrating when it was booted out of Wallkill, NY, by inviting the organizers to hold it at his family’s property in White Falls. The film is directed by Ang Lee and it’s based on Tiber’s book (same title), which is an autobiographical account of the chain of events leading up to Woodstock, as he remembers it, and about how it changed his life as well as the lives of an entire generation. One of the greatest regrets of my life is that I didn’t go to Woodstock. I turned 15 the week after Woodstock took place and even though I lived in Upstate New York, very near to the event, I was too young and undeveloped for it. Had I been two years older, I would have been dancing in the mud.

The movie meticulously captured the details of the time and place so exceptionally well that every scene resonated with me; not only because I was part of the Woodstock generation, but also because I grew up in Upstate New York. At one point, I blurted to Ron, “Oh my gosh, I can smell that!” The hippies and the free love movement, the Viet Nam vets returning to the impossible task of picking up their lives, the various responses of the older generation to the hippie movement (from Max Yasgur, who was deeply moved by the hippies, to the conservative townspeople of White Falls, who would have shot the hippies all dead if they could have gotten away with it), the visionaries who organized Woodstock based on good vibes, etc.

I do not write this as a movie review. Or a book review. This is a few words from an aging former pseudo hippie to say I remember that time, I appreciate being reminded of exactly what it felt like, and I have to agree with Elliot Tiber, Max Yasgur, and Ang Lee, that Woodstock did change the world.

Here is the link to the Wikipedia entry about the book and movie.
Here is the link to more about Ang Lee's movie.
Here is the link to the movie trailer.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Dinner with Amy, the Book

I’m starting 2010 by moving a major back burner project of mine to the front burner (and that pun is intentional, I’ll have you know). I have wanted to write a cookbook for ages. What inspired me to decide the time is now? Ron gave me Julia Child’s My Life in France for Christmas and I am loving every word of it. He also gave me her cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, but I returned that one to the bookstore. I’m sure it’s a brilliant cookbook and the food is undoubtedly sensational, but it’s not a useful cookbook for a vegetarian who is trying to lose weight, is lactose-intolerant, can’t eat onions, and cooks gluten-free food for a diabetic husband. It’s a book about butter, butter, meat, butter, oil, and fish, with plenty of gluten whisked into the bargain (particularly in the dessert section). I exchanged it for the Greens vegetarian restaurant cookbook, which has lots of wonderful soup recipes. So I’m getting into making vegetarian soup stock from scratch. Yum. I promise I’ll share soon. Here’s how.

I started a blog called Amy’s Recipe Project. I’m going to write up my recipes and post them there, hoping that some of my readers will try these recipes and send me their comments, suggestions, and corrections to improve the recipes. I’ll be sharing recipes that are vegetarian, vegan, lactose-free, and/or gluten-free. I’ll keep posting recipes until I think I have a cookbook’s worth, and then I’ll put a book together and publish it electronically through Amazon’s Booksurge, probably as an e-book, and mainly for friends and family to pick up. The fun is the process. Unlike my other book projects, I am not working as if pursued by wolves. I’m going to take my sweet time with this one and play. Swap recipes. Eat. Have fun. Come join me. Here’s the link to my brand new 2010 foodie blog: Tell your friends to check in, especially if they are vegetarian or are being creative on special diets.