Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

autumn in zhujiayu village

A handful of years ago, my man and I moved to the Shandong Province in China to teach at an international school. As I've mentioned before, life in the city was a challenge for us nature lovers, so getting away when we could was crucial to our well being. The foggy days and arrival of pumpkins on peoples' doorsteps got me to thinking about an October journey we took to the village of Zhujiayu

Zhujiayu is one of the oldest intact villages in the province, dating back over 600 years to the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1912) dynasties. The village is a mix of old and new, with crumbling ruins of mud-packed brick and stone buildings alongside more modern, yet humble, brick homes. The cobbled stone lanes wind through the village, inviting you to wander and explore. It feels almost like stepping back in time as you take in the ancient carvings over doorways and windows, and see the heavy stone mills still being used to process grains. Trees grow up through the center of old homes and crops are often planted inside the remaining walls like a carpet. 

While it seems much of the younger population has left the village, the older folks are still thriving - foraging for local fruits, drying their crops of corn, selling a few vegetables, visiting with friends, and humoring the tourists that come to visit their quaint home. If I could, I'd transport myself back there on this foggy October day and perhaps join them for a warming cup of tea. 

p.s. You may have noticed that the woman in the photo wearing a grey jacket has bound feet. She is likely one of the last remaining women in China to have endured this practice. 

Monday, October 14, 2013


The beauty of autumn continues. My walks find me admiring toadstools and newts, the sunlight in the leaves, rosy rosehips, a patient Satyr Comma butterfly warming its wings on a tree.

Over the weekend we cleaned up the garden, added compost to all the beds and planted the garlic. I save the biggest, nicest heads when I harvest in early summer to plant in the fall. Look at those beauties! Here's a link back to an earlier post with more specifics on our garlic crops if you're interested.

Tonight: a big pot of borscht with homegrown beets, potatoes, onions, cabbage & carrots. I love the recipe from the good old Moosewood Cookbook. If you think you don't like borscht, I say make this and be converted! Oh, and be sure to make some cornbread to go with it... or biscuits, or even just a nice loaf of crusty bread.


2 T butter
1 1/2 c chopped onion
1 12 c thinly sliced potato
1 cup thinly sliced beets
1 large carrot, thinly sliced
1 stalk chopped celery
3 c chopped cabbage
1 t caraway seeds
4 c stock or water
2 t salt
black pepper to taste
1/4 t dill weed
1 T + 1 t cider vinegar
1 T + 1 t honey
1 c tomato puree

Place potatoes, beets and water in a saucepan and cook until tender. (Save the water.)

Begin cooking the onions and butter in a large pot. Add caraway seeds and salt. Cook until onion is translucent, then add celery, carrots and cabbage. Add water from beets and potatoes and cook, covered until all the vegetables are tender. Add potatoes, beets and all remaining ingredients.

Cover and simmer slowly for at least 30 minutes. Taste to adjust seasonings if needed.

Serve topped with sour cream, extra dill or chopped tomatoes.

(recipe from the Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen)

Monday, October 7, 2013

this and that

Yes, there are still a few blossoms in the garden! Dahlias, calendula and fennel mostly - the sunflowers were offering lots of autumn color but finally toppled over from the rain and wind. I've been steadily seeing the garden through the last of the season, harvesting beets, cabbage, carrots, zucchini (will they ever stop?), kale, chard, green beans and broccoli. I just put the onions and winter squash into storage today. Then there's this little fellow...

I know it might be hard to tell since it's such a wee little thing, but this is a baby chanterelle and you will never guess where it's growing... right smack in the middle of my yard! I know, it's almost too crazy to believe, but it's true. And, it's not alone. The other morning I was walking across the grass and almost tripped over them, but if you've ever seen a golden chanterelle you will know what I mean about their distinct & unmistakable color. As I've mentioned before (here and here) I love wandering around the forest looking for wild mushrooms, so to find them growing right in my own yard seems almost too easy! When I dragged my guy out there in a state of disbelief, he said, "What's next, the salmon will start jumping out of the water and landing in our yard?!" "Yes," I said, "and the berries will pick themselves." 

It is my understanding that most wild mushrooms are difficult or impossible to cultivate - thus their high market value. I have read many times though, that when you're out hunting mushrooms, to carry them in a basket that has an open weave on the bottom. The thought is that as you're walking around the forest, spores from the mushrooms in your basket will fall to the ground and hopefully propagate more. I can't say if that really works or not, but whenever I bring home chanterelles, I take any little crumbly tidbits and sprinkle them around the mossy edges of my yard. Did it work? If so, I'm one lucky duck. Actually, I'm a lucky duck however it is that they have arrived in my yard!

Lastly, a book I must recommend, The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey. Follow the link to read a description of the story if you like. I will simply say that this was the first book I'd read in a long while that swept me in so far that I didn't want to leave. I had to force myself not to read it in one big gulp and then find myself wishing it wasn't over. 

Okay then, I think I've covered the this and the that. Anyone have any book recommendations for me?

p.s. Here is another book I'd like to read.