Little Green Tomatoes

Tiny Seeds of Goodness


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Remembering Ricky

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I found this delicate little bird’s nest last week, lying in the yard under one of the Willow Oaks.  I say “found”, but it really seemed as though it was placed there for me to see.  Such a tiny little work of art, with a tiny little oak leaf laying perfectly along the bottom, the entire inside lined with Ricky’s fur.

Ricky left more than his fair share of German Shepherd fur strewn about the house and the yard during shedding season.  After he died this summer, I gathered and scattered the fur he left behind on his bed. I dropped some under the Apple Tree, where he loved to pick up apples and eat them.  I scattered some under the Maple Tree, where we laid him in the shade when he couldn’t walk anymore.  I scattered some among the Creeping Phlox, where we would find him laying amongst the lavender flowers, even though I would grumble and scold him for crushing my treasured “purple flowers”. He would turn his ears and look away, as if to say, “Mission accomplished!  You’re here, standing beside me, paying attention to me.  That’s all I ever wanted.”

I held some up in the palm of my hand, at twilight, and let the breeze take it. 

And now, in late October, two weeks after the remains of Hurricane Michael blew through and tossed trees and limbs to the ground, this tiny nest is resting, intact, on the grass, as if it just fluttered down from its perch in the tree.  Carefully and lovingly crafted by a mother and perhaps a father to be a snug, cozy cradle for their little ones.  Did the tears flow when I picked it up and realized what was in it?  Oh yes, they did.  And then I smiled.  Remembering Ricky.  💖

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Colors of Earth – Persistence

On this last day of October, the sun is warm, the sky is clear blue, and the crickets are singing in the shady spots.  Almost overnight, warm tones of burgundy, burnt orange, and gold have begun to show in the tree tops.  But many of the beauties of summer remain steadfast – Colors of Persistence.

Lantana and Blue Chip Buddleia – blooming profusely since May.  A popular source of nectar for pollinators – butterflies, moths, bees, and hummingbirds – always a busy place in summer!  Shade and cover for the little Blue Tailed Skinks and Toads.

Mint, contained in a pot for sanity’s sake, & still flavoring my water, along with a little fresh lemon juice.

The 3 photos along the bottom are part of my “embracing native plants” scheme.  I stopped using any kind of herbicide or pesticide in 2001.  Considered to be weeds by many,  I find them to be beautiful.  I’ve no idea what the tiny purple flowered plant is, but it seems to be co-existing nicely with the Clover – maybe they’re working together to put nitrogen back in to the soil?  Daisy Fleabane, center photo, pops up along the fringes of mown lawn, along the creek buffer, amongst the gone-to-seed asparagus, at the base of the grapevines.  The tiny daisy-like flowers persist from June until the first hard freeze.  Cradling the Cedar logs – Creeping Charlie (Ground Ivy), spreading profusely in the shady spots, where nothing else wants to grow and hold the soil.  Ok, I admit, this one is out of control as soon as you blink your eyes!  But it persists here in the Southeast for much of the winter, holding the soil in place during winter rains, lending a bit of green to the winter landscape, and bursting in to a carpet of lavender flowers in Spring.  I’ve found that it even appears to choke out Poison Ivy.  And, since its tendrils remain on the ground, it doesn’t become a nuisance by climbing up into the shrubs and trees.  I spent many hours, dollars, and more energy than I care to admit waging battle on Ground Ivy in the past – pulling, raking, tilling, boraxing – you name it, I tried it.  I’m much happier now that I choose to see its positive attributes, instead of just the negative ones.  Perhaps there is a lesson in that for all of us, in other areas of life?

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And, here, much loved Impatiens and Licorice are still bursting out of the flower box at the kitchen window!  Greeting me in the morning while the coffee brews, brightening my thoughts while I slog through the pile of dirty dishes, providing an anchor point for the Brown Box Spider’s delicate web, and attracting insects for the Blue Tailed Skinks to  hunt from the window sill.


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Aaahhh – Autumn!

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Autumn mornings: sunshine and crisp air, birds and calmness, year’s end and day’s beginnings.

~ Terri Guillemets 

This morning was a lovely, quintessential autumn morn – cloudless bright blue sky, crisp clear air, warm sunshine, a light breeze rustling the leaves. The only thing missing – autumn leaves – colored leaves.  Most of the trees and shrubs are still clothed in green. At first glance it still looks like summer!

But the birds know.  Gone are the Hummingbirds and the Wood Thrush – they have moved to their winter homes.  The bright yellow Gold Finches have donned their winter plumage.  The Blue Jays, Robins, and Eastern Bluebirds are flocking together.  This morning I counted six Blue Jays in and under the Willow Oaks, feasting on the tiny acorns.  There was a bustle of activity on the lawn, the edge of road, and the neighbor’s front lawn, as a good-sized flock of Robins and Bluebirds landed and fanned out – visiting the water saucers, looking for tasty morsels on the ground, and picking the tiny seeds out of the chickweed that I haven’t pulled out of the flower beds.

I’ve been an admirer of the feathered ones for as long as I can remember.  I am continuously amazed by them.  There is always something new to learn from observing them, listening to them, and just being aware of them.

This year, even though we have a small stream running through our property and a large pond down the road a ways, I decided to put out some water saucers for the birds and the critters.  I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the number and diversity of visitors!  Cardinals, Robins, Gold Finches, Purple Martins, Sparrows, Bluebirds…. butterflies…..beautiful Blue Mud Daubers….even a Rabbit standing on her tiptoes!

Who would have thought that such a simple offering would draw such a crowd?

 


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As I See It

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When you arise in the morning,

give thanks for the morning light,

for your life and strength.

Give thanks for your food

and the joy of living.

If you see no reason for giving thanks,

the fault lies in yourself.

 ~ Tecumseh

Earth Prayers from Around the World

 

Stymied, waylaid, paralyzed, sad, disappointed, angry, hopeless, helpless.  Dismayed.

I have found myself feeling all of the above at many times over the last several months –

 for Us, Now

for Earth and All of Her Inhabitants, Now

for the Future

for the Young, the Old, the Middle Aged

for Those who have worked tirelessly for close to a century to try and repair the damage that was and is being done

for those of Us who have the choice to make better decisions, but who choose not to

for Those who don’t have choices

for Those who don’t have the opportunity to learn

for the Innocents whose wisdom and voices are ignored

I was quite taken by the beauty of the Monsoon Sunrise that my friend Sharon was lucky to witness and photograph.  She graciously shared it with me.  I kept going back to her text message – looking at the photo again and again.  It was speaking to me.

Initially, I intended to focus this blog on Goodness – as I see It. I had no intention of giving space to the opposite.

I do hold the belief, however, that Light is defined, to some extent, by Darkness.  Likewise, with Right & Wrong, Love & Hate, Kindness & Aggression, Peace & War, and…………Good & Evil. Reasoning then, that acknowledging the Dark allows the Light to shine even brighter; that witnessing Wrong may move Us to take action for Right.

So, going forward, I’ll be giving some space in this blog to the opposite of Goodness – as I see It and feel It – as background and contrast to Goodness.  It is my hope and my belief that this will allow the seeds of Goodness to germinate profusely, create great and strong networks of root structures, grown en masse, and thus create an inhospitable environment for Evil, or whatever you wish to call the opposite of Good.

And, so it is that my dear friend’s photo of this unusual and beautiful sunrise has been softly speaking to me.  I hope it speaks to you too.

There are always two voices sounding in our ears – the voice of fear and the voice of confidence.  One is the clamor of the senses, the other is the whispering of the higher self. 

~ Charles B. Newcomb


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October Beans (in September)

My Grandma called them “Shellie Beans”. The farm stand at Smith Farms calls them “October Beans”.  The North Carolina Folklife Institute says that these beans, also called “fall beans” or “speckled beans”, are an assortment of old heirloom shell beans that ripen between the end of summer and first frost.  Whatever you choose to call them, these are some Beautiful Beans!

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While the Great Depression of the 1930’s was a time of hardship and suffering, my mother would tell me of how blessed her family was at that time. She was continually thankful that she grew up in a farm family.  Although times were tough and they had little else, they had their land, their home, and they were able to grow and produce their own food. She had fond memories of the simple meals that sustained her large family during those lean years.  She continued to prepare her favorites, even in times of plenty, throughout her adult life.

One of those beloved stand-by meals was soup beans and cornbread. I vividly recall coming home to the mouth-watering aroma of a pot of soup beans simmering on the stove and cornbread, fresh baked, and straight out of the oven.

Over the years, I’ve tinkered around with Mom’s basic recipe, changing it up a little bit, adding some ingredients.  Mostly I eyeball and adjust quantities to taste, but this time I recorded my measurements.  So, here’s my version.

Delicious! Simple! Beautiful Beans! 

  • 4 cups beans, removed from pods, rinsed in cold water & drained
  • 6 cups cold water
  • 4 slices thick cut uncured bacon
  • 1 teaspoon bacon drippings
  • 1 large Vidalia onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon Better Than Bouillon chicken soup base
  • ¼ cup organic raw sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ cup to 1 cup ketchup, depending on your taste

Place rinsed and drained beans in a large soup pot with 6 cups cold water.  Bring to a full boil.  Reduce heat to medium, boil for about 5 minutes, mostly covered (leave lid a bit askew to prevent boiling over).

Cut the bacon into chunks and fry until crisp.  Remove from pan and drain, reserving 1 teaspoon of the bacon drippings.

To the pot of boiling beans, add the bacon, bacon drippings, onion, garlic, chicken soup base, sugar, Worcestershire sauce, and ½ cup ketchup.  Stir well, and return to a full boil.  Once boiling, reduce heat to low, and cook, covered, until beans are to desired tenderness – about 2 hours.

You may need to add a cup or two of additional water as the soup cooks, depending on the amount of broth you prefer.  If you add additional water, you can add additional ketchup as well.

Serve steaming hot with fresh baked cornbread or sweet corn tomalito (sweet cornbread pudding).

Any kind of dried beans can be used in this dish as well.  Great Northerns, Pintos, Field Peas – all are very good.  If you’re using dried beans, you will need to rinse, sort, and soak overnight, according to the instructions on the bag, prior to preparing this recipe.  Or, you can use the Quick Soak method if you’re short on time.

Makes 4 – 6 servings.

Sweet Corn Tomalito 

  • 5 tablespoons salted butter, softened
  • ¼ cup masa harina
  • ½ cup organic raw sugar
  • 2 cups whole kernel corn – fresh, frozen (thawed), or canned
  • ¾ cup milk
  • ½ cup cornmeal
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt

Fill bottom pan of a double boiler with water and bring to a boil.  If you don’t have a double boiler, you can use a large soup pot or Dutch oven and a glass baking dish to accomplish the same thing.  See my post on The Great Cobbler Experiment for more information.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the softened butter, masa harina, and sugar until light and fluffy.  In a food processer or a blender, blend 1 cup of the corn with the milk and cornmeal until smooth. Add to the masa mixture and stir. Add the remaining cup of corn, baking powder, and sea salt.  Combine well and stir until batter is smooth.

Pour batter into top pan of double boiler.  Cover tightly, either with the double boiler lid, or aluminum foil.  Lower heat and steam over simmering water for about 50 to 60 minutes, or until firm. Check water occasionally and add more if needed, to prevent bottom pan from boiling dry.

Serve warm, on a warmed plate or small side dish, by the scoopful.  A small dollop of sour cream on top is tasty as well!

Makes 6 – 8 servings.

 


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Solo

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At night make me one with the darkness

In the morning make me one with the light

 ~ Wendell Berry

 We have been blessed with a respite from heat and humidity.  For this girl with Celtic & Germanic blood coursing through her veins, that means I can drink in the joys of summer without wilting!

Windows have been opened! Soft summer breezes and birdsong have drifted into the house! Sun porch has become inhabitable again! And the night time chorus has been a welcome replacement for the drone of the air conditioner.

One of my guilty pleasures (which, thankfully, I rarely feel guilty about anymore) is an afternoon nap.  And today was a perfect day for one.  As I drifted back in to the space between sleep and wakefulness, too comfortable and relaxed to get up – warm summer breeze floating in through the windows – cicada chorus lazily moving like “the wave” from tree to tree – my mind began to tinker with the meetings I have had in the last 18 hours.  These were impromptu meetings – not scheduled – I reckon.  More correctly, they might be considered to be encounters or observances, not meetings in the true sense of the word.  Each brief, and in each case, I did not offer up any meaningful contribution.

And yet, tinkering with the collective experience, laying there sprawled out on the sofa in the sun porch, they seemed more like meetings.  In each case, I felt connected to the other party, to the encounter itself.  I did not feel like a casual observer only looking on from the outside.

Those thoughts seemed to drift on the breeze and to swirl around other thoughts I’ve been tossing around this week.  In particular, a conversation I was blessed to have a few days ago.  During which, the other person, an accomplished author, offered that the true reason she writes is not for reasons some would expect, but for a purely selfish reason.  She feels the most connected when she is writing.  Even though a solitary exercise, she feels the most connected to everything when she puts pen to paper.

I get it.  I totally get it.  And for me, I have been increasingly aware that I seem to feel the most connected during encounters with the natural world – those unscheduled meetings where I don’t have to speak or form a meaningful analysis – all I need to do is just be.

And, be, is exactly what I did at about 9:00 last night, when out with one of the dogs, patiently waiting for that perfect blade of grass to be located before the necessary business could be done.  The moon was up, and she was lovely.  I believe the bright golden/orange planet near to the moon is now Mars (?), and I was admiring both of them.  A little movement or glimmer in the periphery, down closer to where I was standing, caught my eye.  But when I moved my gaze to that location I didn’t see anything.  And then, about 8 inches from my right hand, a brief, faint glow.  As I squinted to see if it was a firefly – unusual for this late in summer in North Carolina – he moved in closer, about 6 inches from my nose, so I could get a better look! Hovering, I was presented with another faint bit of glow.  A little “ah!” and a smile, and he disappeared into the darkness.  I looked all about and didn’t see any other blinking beacons.

A little firefly – flying solo in the dark of a late August night.  I wonder, was he holding out for that “perfect gal”, or was he just enjoying his solitude and the beautiful evening and sharing what little faint “glow” he still had to share?

And so it was with the other meetings.

~ Sitting in the dark, enjoying a sip of water before bedtime, listening to a solo Katydid amongst a choir of crickets.  Waiting for a response from another delicate green soul? Needing to find a mate before languishing in the cooler nights to come? Or just thinking that the choir of crickets could use a bit of diversity?

~ Lying awake, hearing a barred owl on the gutter in the wee hours of the morning.  Calling for his mate?  Or just preferring a little soft music with his gutter water?

~ Standing in the yard, again patiently waiting for dog business to be conducted, watching a red shouldered hawk wheeling and calling in the clear blue morning sky.  Staking out territory?  Or just enjoying the view and the wind rushing through her feathers?

~ Reaching for a clean coffee mug, watching a lone hummingbird sampling the nectar from the dewy lantana – red, orange, pink, yellow.  Hmmmm……which one is best?  Checking out the impatiens in the flower box and not finding much that interested her.  Pausing, hovering, eyeballing me as I watched from the other side of the kitchen window.  Sizing me up for battle?  Or thinking to herself, “wow, I’m glad I look better than that first thing in the morning!”?


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Tiny Windows…..

“…….in the shadows, in the mystical place between life and death.” ~ Jon Katz, Bedlam Farm Journal 

“……..our existence is not a toggle – “on” for alive, “off” for dead – but a dimmer switch that can move through various shades between white and black.” ~ Robin Marantz Henig, National Geographic, Crossing Over: How Science Is Redefining Life and Death

“Death is a process, not a moment.” ~ Sam Parnia, Erasing Death

“What I remember about grief is what becomes perfectly clear in its wake, this perfect knowledge that nothing about the life we live, nothing about the story we write for ourselves, nothing about what we have taken for granted regarding waking up and being alive is ever, ever the same.” ~ Lynne Hinton, The View From Here

“That which brings us sadness has once brought us joy.” ~ Flavia Weedn, Wrapped in a Ribbon

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Areas Between…….Twilight Worlds…………

Passage: the act or process of going from one place or condition to another.

I have some level of understanding of these things.

25 passages within 12 years time.  Each different, unique.  All beloveds.  Knowing what I know now, I hope that I could have acted differently in some cases.  I did the best I could at the time.  My intention was good.  I would like to think I acted out of my best intention.  I am not sure of that.

Some passages have goodness – light – peace – appropriateness linked with them in My Mind and in My Spirit.

Some passages have restricted thinking – overwhelmedness – avoidance of authentic communication – sadness linked with them in My Mind and in My Spirit.

Many have different and separate associations in My Mind versus in My Spirit.

All feel peaceful and loving from the other side of the veil.

With each, different ailments or conditions, stage in life, physical manifestations. With each, a unique individual – Mind, Body, and Spirit.

With each, a different role for me to play. With each, I was officially a caregiver, a steward. With each, ultimately, it is uniquely his or her own passage, his or her own leaving. I struggle to navigate the winding path weaving between the two – mine and theirs.

I want to help, I want to understand.  I desperately desire to act out of my best intention, with compassion, in love.

I wonder, is it a tiny window whose opening grows a bit larger with each passage of grief, loosing, losing, loss, and letting go? Or is it a new tiny window that opens each time – creating a mosaic of tiny windows – each with its own unique view?

I do know this – it resonates throughout My Mind, My Spirit, My Knowing:

It is morning on the other side…and all is light & joy.


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So, why “Little Green Tomatoes?”

So, why the name of “Little Green Tomatoes?”

a. Well, why not?

b. We could take the philosophical approach.  Little green tomatoes are perfect tiny versions of their grown-up selves, with clear, smooth, skin, and a perky cap of green.  Swollen with promise – as I would hope for my blog to be.

As it is with blog entries, some little green tomatoes will no doubt drop from the vine, shrivel, disappear, and never realize their full potential.  Some will be plucked before their prime, but with some TLC, a warm spot on a sunny windowsill, and some time, will ripen into quite adequate “fruit”. And some, if allowed enough time and the right nurturing, will ripen into deliciousness on the vine.  Perhaps with bumps or ridges, their perfect green cap having turned a bit gray. Perhaps a bug bite or two, an asymmetrical ‘lean’, and a couple of places where the skin wasn’t quite elastic enough to accommodate the swelling of goodness within.  Ahhhh, but all the more deliciously, perfectly ripe and delightful!

In a sense, little green tomatoes are an intriguing metaphor for this infant blog of mine.

c. Or, we could just go with – it’s cute and kind of fun to say – the words roll out quickly and with a little “skip in their step”.

As you will notice, little green tomatoes turn up in the craziest places.  You just never know where you might find a little green tomato.

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