At 8:13 am it's 23.2 F degrees outside of the Airstream. For many of you residing up north, that's downright balmy - but for southern-loving camellias, it's frigid.
I don't think in the 16 years that I've lived in Charleston has there been a worst winter for the camellias. Many of the sasanquas got nipped during the December cold snap, and January has not been kind to the japonicas. The plants will survive just fine - during the night and early mornings, they'll curl up their leaves (looking as if they're trying to stay warm). In a few hours, their leaves will uncurl and they'll look much happier. But any partially open buds or fully open flowers freeze at these temperatures, turning their normal shades of white, pink, and red all a shade of muddy brown. My hope is that soon our temperatures will moderate, and that the mid to late season camellias with their buds still tight and protected from the cold will still be able to put on a show.
Until then - a list of camellias from previous years.
A college friend, who moved to Charleston two weeks ago, has been having alot of fun going out to the many restaurants we have in the area. One of the places she and her husband went to was the Market Cafe at Boone Hall Farms - and while she was there, she spotted a Pointer Brand sweet potato box. She left after dinner, but then returned and asked for the box - which they graciously gave her and then she graciously gave to me! How perfect. I think it needs to be framed (and the Pointer Sisters agree).
~outside a Mt Pleasant laundromat, along US Highway 17N~
I have been going to a laundromat since mid-December. A pipe in the wall of the falling-down house (which still houses my washer and dryer) burst during the unusually cold December days that we had - and it simply wasn't worth fixing it - so I had the plumber disconnect the water going to the house, and to just connect the Airstream directly to the water line. Hence, there was no longer any water going to the house and therefore to my much loved Whirlpool Duet front loader.
I've gone to the laundromat three times now. At first it was a bit of a shock: for a small load it cost $4.75 to wash, for a medium load it cost $6.25 and for a large load it cost $9.25. On my first visit, I washed two small loads, one medium load, and one large load (required for rugs) for a grand total of $25... just to wash four loads of laundry. That just took a little getting used to. The drying cost 25 cents for every three minutes and thirty seconds of drying time. So I got out of there after spending about $32.
Although the experience has been expensive, it hasn't been terrible. The upside, of course, is that you have all four loads going at once so it's quick. A number of friends have graciously offered their washers and dryers for my use - but doing one load at a time would really draw out the whole process, which isn't always a bad thing, but when you're busy it just isn't very efficient. So, thus far, I've dragged myself to the laundromat.
One funny thing about the whole laundromat experience is that I've been trying to remember my past laundromat experiences - and truthfully, I've drawn a blank. It's as if I've selectively removed all of these experiences from my memory banks. I lived in a dorm for two years in college, in an apartment for two years, then in a five-bedroom house - and in all of these different situations I can't remember how I did laundry. It was therefore either (1) uneventful or (2) so terrible that I've buried the memories. I'm guessing it was uneventful.
The plan all along, with the new house-building thing, was to build a small shed and to move the washer and dryer from the house into the shed - but I've been a bit frozen (no surprise) with the multitude of different things going on in my life (I mean, wasn't isn't going on in my life?). But the frozen pipe spurred me on - and before Christmas I ordered a lovely 8 x 10 ft resin 'Lifetime' shed from Lowe's.
[Footnote: this is not the shed of my dreams. But it is (1) reasonably priced, (2) plastic, so it won't rot in our humid summers), and (3) relatively easy to assemble.]
So the shed arrived by UPS during the first week in January - all of the pieces were contained in two large cardboard boxes. After it's arrival the weather turned colder, there was even a winter weather advisory and ice and bridge closures - but fortunately, last weekend, the weather improved: low 50s and mostly sunny. Yep, we had an old-fashioned barn-raising party, only there weren't any amish present, there was no barn (or wood of any kind) - but there was a nice fire, delicious snacks, snack-eating dogs, good conversation and gracious company, and quite a bit of wine. Close enough, don't you think? And the end result was that a resin shed was raised! One that will soon house a Whirlpool Duet washer and dryer.
~highly industrious shed-raisers, in action~
Somewhere I read that it would take two people about four hours to assemble the shed - so I thought, why not invite a dozen folks over (make a pot of soup, provide some beer and wine) and make a fun afternoon of it? Then everyone brings a little something - homemade cookies and bread, fruit, cheese, chips - you name it. More wine. Yes, there was plenty of wine. But back to the shed...
Very easy to follow instructions. I assembled by myself in about five hours. I would however recommend two people. The only problem I encountered was that I had to add some extra caulking around the skylights because of rain leakage. Other than that this was a great buy. So far it has withstood the summer heat of Las Vegas.
Here is my review not yet placed on the Lowe's website:
It took 12 adults precisely five hours to assemble the shed. We estimated that for every advanced degree and bottle of wine, it added 30 minutes to the time - so four attorney's, three PhDs, a bunch of MS and BS degrees later (and with some poetry tossed in) - well, you know what I'm talking about. Also, pay attention when the instructions say that it's important to build the shed on a level surface - and don't listen to one of the PhDs who never reads instructions (and who'll spend next week shoveling sand into areas to help level out the surface after the fact). On the upside, it's been assembled for two days and it's still standing, and after a night of light rain, it has remained dry inside. I'd say that's a miracle.
A call has been made to the plumber and electrician - who will soon move the washer and dryer into the shed, and hook it up to water and electricity (after the frozen pipe, when the water was disconnected from the house and plumbed to the Airstream - a water line was also connected that ran out to the shed location). I'd say that this is progress in this little Airstream life of mine - I'm looking forward to having my most recent (and uneventful) laundromat experiences erased from my memory - and to having access to my own washer and dryer again. Ahhhh...what becomes a luxury in this challenging life of mine!
~Hanging Hachiya persimmons to become hoshigaki, image found here~
Peeled persimmons, hanging by string...beautiful, don't you think?
Last weekend I posted a poem titled "Six Persimmons" by the poet Shin Yu Pai - and she left a kind comment on the post, saying: "..You are so lucky to have such delicious hoshigaki potential hanging from your tree branches."
I must confess - I had no idea what 'hoshigaki potential' referred to, much less 'delicious hoshigaki potential'...so of course I had to google it.
Hoshigaki are persimmons that are peeled and dried whole over a period of several weeks through a combination of hanging and delicate hand-massaging, until the sugars contained in the fruit form a delicate surface with a dusting that looks like frost. Unlike sliced dried fruit, which tend to be brittle and leathery, hoshigaki are succulently tender and moist, with concentrated persimmon flavor. The hoshi gaki method is traditional to Japan, and came to America with Japanese American farmers. Because they are so labor-intensive, hoshi gaki all but disappeared from commercial production.
To be eaten fresh, the Hachiya persimmon must be completely soft, otherwise it is unbearably astringent. For drying, however, the fruits are perfect when they are still firm like apples, which generally happens from the end of September to the middle of October. The riper they are, the more delicately they must be handled.
Making hoshigaki requires patience, careful monitoring, and a fair amount of dexterity. The process involves peeling the persimmon, and then hanging the fruit, several on a string or over a pole. After hanging the fruit for 3 to 7 days, the persimmon will form a skin that needs to be massaged in order to break up the hard inner pulp. The massage process goes on every 3 to 5 days for three to five weeks. By the end of this lengthy process, the sugars will come to the surface of the fruits, leaving a white bloom. The hoshi gaki are fully done when the pulp sets and you can no longer roll it.
There is also a fascinating series of images - taking the fruit from the tree through the drying process - on the Otow Orchard website. Go to the bottom of the page, and you'll see the series of 25 images - it's a time-consuming and fascinating process. Their orchard looks just magical - they have a blog that is very much worth a visit.
I must confess that I'm fascinated by the thought of drying my persimmons. Next year, I think I'll definitely give it a try. I think my persimmon is Diospyros virginiana - the American or common persimmon - it is astringent (due to the tannins).
~one of two remaining persimmons on my D. virginiana tree in mid-January~
Suppose there is a bitter persimmon. By soaking it in a solution of lime or buckwheat chaff, or by exposing it to sunlight, we can make the persimmon sweet. There are not two persimmons, one bitter and the other sweet -- there is only the one. The bitter persimmon has not been sweetened with sugar; rather, the inherent bitterness of the persimmon has been drawn out and its inherent sweetness allowed to emerge. The catalyst, the intermediary that assisted the transformation, was the solution or the sunlight. T'ien-t'ai likened earthly desires to the bitter persimmon, enlightenment to the sweet persimmon, and the process whereby the sweetness was brought out to Buddhist practice.
I love how persimmons are often used to represent transformation in Buddhism - again, the painting 'Six Persimmons' often pops us - with the six persimmons representing different stages of enlightment.
~Annabelle Lee, chowing down on a persimmon~
This year I hadn't harvested the persimmons from my tree, I just enjoyed seeing them there, they're quite beautiful. I hadn't thought too much about eating them, or about making persimmon pudding or persimmon candy. The persimmons had just hung there, on the branches, through our unusually cold December and early January with several periods of extreme cold (or at least what seemed like extreme cold to this coastal South Carolinian...). They were frozen when I decided to try one last weekend - and I harvested the remaining two just in time, since a four-legged garden pest (the lovely and charming and fruit-loving Annabelle Lee) had already discovered that frozen persimmons were wonderfully sweet and had been harvesting them for the past week on her own (she's a very resourceful and determined English pointer). I cut them in two, and at the last minute decided to share and I gave the resourceful garden pest her last persimmon of the season - while I ate the other one. The flesh was beautiful, the sweetness amazing - and on a below-freezing morning, I feel in love with persimmons.
I can't wait until next season - nor can Annabelle.
It's a cold and dreary day - I woke up twice last night to the sound of sleet on the Airstream: brief bursts of frozen precipitation. This morning while outside with the dogs, I first thought glass had broken and scattered in the wind - until I realized it was ice that had formed on the live oak branches, that was falling with each wind gust. There were many closings, including the major bridges for most of the morning. I'm sitting in my slowly warming Airstream, editing the 4th chapter of my doctoral student, Maria's, dissertation. It's the first draft of this chapter, so I'm slowly making my way through it. She has set a defense date of 11 March 2011 - so her dissertation must be 'defensible' and in to her committee by the end of February. There's still much to be done - but we will get there. She's working hard.
~my satsuma, kept warm by a mound of wheat straw~
I've struggled with ways to keep my satsuma tree warm over the past few winters - when it was just tiny (only a foot tall) I covered it with blankets. I then tried leaves kept in place by a ring of plastic. That worked well - except the leaves got wet and become heavy - so I'd remove them, add them back - it was kind of a hassle.
I'm determined though to keep this satsuma alive and kickin' - and most importantly, producing. I've bragged about my satsuma crop before - I harvested five fruit two years ago, and didn't have a crop at all last year (I blamed it on the unusually cold winter - that we seem to be repeating this year). This year I have it hidden on cold days and nights under a rather unattractive mound of wheat straw - two bales of straw surround it, and then I sprinkle (loosely) more straw over the top of it. So far so good - and even after an unusually cold December and now this icy day.
You see, I've got to keep my satsuma thriving - because I can't wait to make these clementine (satsuma) cake from satsumas from my own garden. Does this recipe look delicious? The clementine cake is a Nigella Lawson recipe - but over at Greg's Food he substituted satsumas for the clementines to make this cake - almond flour and satsumas? Yum.
4-5 clementines(about 1 lb) 6 eggs 1 c plus 2 tbs sugar 2 and 1/3 c. ground almond meal/flour 1 heaping tsp baking powder
Put the clementines in a pot of water and bring to a boil for about 2 hrs. (We did 1.5 hrs and it turned out great!) Take out the little green stem parts and put into a blender or food processor. Pulse to liquify. Add in the rest of the ingredients and pulse to blend, or like we did, pour liquified orange pulp into a mixing bowl and whisk in the rest of the ingerdients.
Preheat oven to 375ºF. Butter (or margarine) a 8in springform pan and line with parchment or wax paper (and butter that as well). Pour in batter and bake for 1hr. Like in the original recipe, we put an aluminum foil hat on the cake for the last 20 minutes - it was getting pretty dark.
Another poem about persimmons! I've always loved Li-Young Lee's poem - and this one is wonderful too. My persimmons are still hanging on the tree, even after a few freeze-thaw cycles - I haven't picked them yet, and honestly, I just enjoy seeing them on the tree. I am surprised (and grateful) that a squirrel hasn't decided to harvest them yet.
after ruining another season's harvest— over-baked in the kitchen oven then rehydrated in her home sauna Aunt Yuki calls upon her sister,
paper sacks stuffed full of orange fruit, twig and stalk still intact knows that my mother sprouts seedlings from cast off avocado stones, revives
dead succulents, coaxes blooms out of orchids a woman who has never spent a second of her being on the world wide web, passes her days painting the diversity of
marshland, woodland, & shoreline; building her own dehydrator fashioned from my father's work ladders, joined together by discarded swimming pool pole perched
high to discourage the neighbor's cats that invade the yard scavenging for koi "Vitamin D" she says, as she harnesses the sun, in the backyard the drying device
mutates into painting, slow dripped sugar spilling out of one kaki fruit empty space where my father untethers another persimmon, he swallows whole
You can read more about the poet Shin Yu Pai at her website.
When I 'googled' the poem 'Six Persimmons', I came across a nice surprise - a 13th century painting of six persimmons. From Wikipedia:
Six persimmons is a Chinese 13th century painting by the monk, Mu Qi (Mu Ch'i), the painter better known in China as Fa-Chang. It was painted during the Song dynasty. Mu Qi was one of the two great exponents of the spontaneous mode of chinese painting (the other being Liang Kai). It features six persimmons floating on an undefined, but skillfully mottled background. It is painted in blue-black ink on paper.
The painting became famous for the tremendous skill of the brushstrokes. Their subtlety of modeling is oft remarked upon. The thick and thin brushstrokes that model the lightest of the persimmons make it seem to float in contrast to the dark one next to it. The treatment of the stems and leaves recall Chinese characters, and reveal brush control at its highest level.