Archive for March, 2010

The Belmont

March 22, 2010

Our friends Brian and Laura had us over for dinner a while back and served us a terrific grilled cheese sandwich with brie, spinach, mustard and marmalade.  Wife and I were playing around with that and ended up with a new sandwich, the Belmont.  Thanks to Brian and Laura for the inspiration – we’ll have you over soon!

2 slices of wide Italian bread

1/4 pound of nice turkey, deli-sliced

goat cheese, enough to smear on one piece of bread

a handful of spinach

blackberry jelly, enough to smear on the other piece of bread

A little dijon mustard, if you’re in the mood

olive oil for the grilling

Get the bread on the grill, cheese and condiments face up.  Then get the turkey on the grill and then the spinach on the grill.  The spinach will wilt quickly and end up 1/10 of the pre-wilted size so use a lot – its good for you.  Aft the spinach wilts, distrbute evenly across the goat cheesed slice.  After the turkey is hot, get that on the spinach.  Combine the pieces of bread into an outstanding sandwich.

A note on the name, the goat cheese was produced in the nearby Town of Belmont.

So Much for Mud Season

March 19, 2010

It’s been in the fifties and sixties all week long.  SundayI bought a new bike that is relentlessly badass and taught my daughter how to plant peas and spinach – two things I’m sure she’ll hate.  She does enjoy eating mud though.  Good for the gut flora, right?

The warm weather melted what little snow was left and warmed the soil enough for the crocuses to bloom and to allow for the chorus frogs in the wetland across the street to emerge.  Although I guess most of the frogs aren’t convinced because it doesn’t sound like much of a chorus just yet.  Snow will come this weekend and then we’ll get another warm-up after that at which point the rest of the chorus frogs should be out, calling in unison every evening.  At its seasonal crescendo, I can actually hear it from inside the house with the doors and windows shut. 

The only downside of the beautiful warm weather has been the goddamn box alder bugs.  As if I needed a reason to caulk the shit out of my house besides keeping it warm in the winter time, I really need to do it to keep these bastards out.  In the fall, they congregate on the south side of our house and move into the house as it gets cold.  Then they hibernate until it gets warm and then some make their way into our living space.   I can’t find the single entry point but Mark, the building performance guy found a lot of places I found so I need to get out the calk gun this weekend.  And next fall kill them before they get in the house.

Mud Season

March 12, 2010

This morning there were robins outside for the first time this year. Lots and lots of robins.  And at work I saw a great blue heron over the pond across the street and then heard a meadowlark outside the back door.  Both were firsts of the year.  Also saw five sandhill cranes from my office window.  It was warm and rainy.  The snow is mostly melted.  Everything is dirty and trashy.  Its hard to imagine how nice it will be soon.  Maybe we’ll have a long spring.  That would be pretty nice.

Winter Breaks

March 9, 2010

It’s still early March but things are changing.  The buds on the silver maples are swollen, the snow is melting and on Saturday I heard a lone crane calling as it passed over our house.  I can’t help but snap to attention when I hear a crane’s call.  Why? Aldo said it best.

“Our appreciation of the crane grows with the slow unraveling of earthly history.  His tribe, we now know, stems out of the remote Eocene.  The other members of the fauna in which he originated are long since entombed within the hills.  When we hear his call we hear no mere bird.  We hear the trumpet in the orchestra of evolution.  He is the symbol of our untameable past, of that incredible sweep of millenia which underlies and conditions the daily affairs of birds and men.”

I first got acquainted with cranes one summer I spent digging in a hill in far western Alaska.  All summer long, every day, a pair of cranes would fly over our heads, croaking, flapping wings impossibly slowly.  From that hillside we could see for miles around us but given the noise of the constant wind, all sounds were obscured except for the croak of the cranes.

This morning another harbinger spring had arrived, and clarified for me that red-wing blackbirds arrive before juncoes depart. 

And finally, a bucket of shit made it’s timely arrivel to my garden.  The spring planting season will be here soon and I was worried that there was a lot of material in my compost pile that hadn’t composted so, in hopes of turning the heat in the bin up a bit, I asked a coworker to provide me with a 5-gallon bucket chickenshit and cage litter.  He was eager to help and brought the lidded bucket in to work today.  I mixed the contents into the compost bin this afternoon and am eager to revisit the bin in a few weeks to begin extracting.  With any luck, this chickenshit will supercharge the composting process and the orange peels, coffee grounds, potato skins and bad apples will all return from whence they came.

Song Sparrows

March 3, 2010

I have had an addition to the soundtrack of my morning walks along the railroad tracks for the last 2 days.  A song sparrow has arrived so I guess the spring migration has officially started.  Thank God.

The Prussian

March 1, 2010

Saturday I made a potato/carrot soup but by evening I knew I needed a sandwhich to go along with it.  But what kind of sandwich? Duh. A tongue sandwich.  Here’s my riff on the Rueben. 

2 slices of light rye

1/4 pound of beef tongue, deli-sliced

2 slices of aged swiss

2 Tbs of pickled red cabbage (like Kengstenberg’s Red Cabbage with Apple)

A little dijon mustard

Butter for the grilling

This is so simple but so bad ass.  Heat the flattop, get the buttered bread slices with the mustard and cheese on it going on one end and on the other throw on the tongue so it gets nice and hot (nobody wants cold meet in between hot bread!). When the tongue is hot, get it on the bread, spread the cabbage over it and the make a sandwich! As always, pair with a delicious beer.  I went with something pungent, hoppy, crisp, floral, bitter, piney, resinous and engaging (their words, not mine, but right on the mark) and it was great.

FYI, if you like this you are probably of Eastern European stock.

It’s Hard to See a Squirrel when You’re Listening for a Bird

March 1, 2010

After spending the last two weeks walking Bandit along the railroad tracks behind Kenny’s house twice a day, I’ve to the conclusion that I did not hear a catbird during the Great Backyard Bird Count; rather, it a was squirrel.  Squirrels make all kinds of noises including some that sound weird and mewling.  Given that Kenny’s dad puts out about 50 pounds of bird seed every other day in the back yard, this seems like a more plausible explanation than identifying the only cat bird in the entire state.  So, the catbird is scratched off the list and I submitted the rest of the species to the GBBC today, the last day of entry.

As spring approaches, it is easy to get excited about the arrival dates of different birds.  I know that I feel a weight lift off my shoulders every spring the first time I hear a red-wing blackbird in the marsh across the railroad tracks or the croaking of sandhill cranes hundreds of feet overhead.  Their arrival signals winter’s departure. 

What usually goes unnoticed with the arrival of spring, though, is the departure of the dark-eyed juncoes.  As robins and red-wing blackbirds noisily announce their presence, the juncoes silently head north to Canada until they return with winter.

This year, however, I’m keeping track of not just when the red-wing blackbirds, robins, cranes, and herons arrive, but of when the juncoes leave.  Let the record show that they were here the last weekend in February.  I can all but guarantee they will be gone by the end of March and I can guarantee that red-wing blackbirds will have arrived by then.  But I don’t know if the juncoes leave before the blackbirds arrive or if the blackbirds show up and then, later, the juncoes leave.  In other words, does spring arrive before winter leaves or does winter leave in advance of spring’s arrival.

Maybe I’ll start an office pool.  mmmmm. Maybe not.