All posts by Laurie Graves

I write about nature, food, the environment, home, family, community, and people.

First Day of Summer, A Remembrance of My Mother

Rochelle June Dansereau, the queen of June
Rochelle June Dansereau, the queen of June

Today is the anniversary of my mother’s birthday, and a beautiful, fine day it is. Sunny, not too hot, not in the least humid. A perfect day for a birthday barbecue. (As I mentioned in a previous post, most of her birthday barbecues were foiled by rain.)

Mom died 6 years ago, and I still keenly feel the loss.  The picture accompanying this post was taken when she graduated from high school. Such a fancy dress! To me, she looks like the queen of June—la reine de Juin. Very appropriate for someone whose birthday fell on the first day of summer.

Giving Thanks for the Green, Thriving World

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Daisy in green

This evening, friends are coming over, and there is much to do today, but the chicken is cooked and ready for the chicken tarragon salad. Soon I’ll be getting the milk and cream mixture ready for our homemade ice cream. Then there is a salsa dip to make as well as a spinach, pasta, and feta salad.

A busy day but such a lovely one. It’s sunny and dry and a little cool, even. Tonight we might have to shut the windows.

A few days ago, I received an email from Farmer Kev, and next week we should have peas in our CSA delivery.  At the little house in the big woods, the gardens—filled mostly with shade plants—are thriving. We got off to a cold, slow start this spring, but the weather finally seems to be in the plants’ favor. I can’t recall a time in early summer when they looked so vibrant, so vigorous. The plants must be getting exactly the right amounts of rain and sun.

This is pure luck, of course. The weather gods do what they will. (Last summer they made it rain for 20 days in a row.) All we mere humans can do is give thanks when the weather gods nod in our direction. Because, let’s face it—with the human population hurtling toward 9 billion, we need plants—especially ones like peas—to thrive and flourish.

So on this day before the summer solstice, I give thanks for the green and thriving world that surrounds me, for the ferns, the hostas, and the irises, for Farmer Kev’s peas.

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Heading Toward the Summer Solstice

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The sweet smell of green

We are more than half-way through June, and what a lovely June it has been so far. Enough rain to keep the plants happy, and enough sun to keep the humans happy. I just love this time of year, when night doesn’t come until 9:00, leaving plenty of time for drinks—usually iced tea—on the patio and bike rides when my husband, Clif, comes home from work.

It has become warm enough so that the windows can stay open, night and day, and the air at the little house in the big woods is so sweet, so clean. This time of year, when I am in the backyard,  I often stop just to smell the forest with its ferns and trees. It smells green, it smells like life. Too bad I can’t bottle and sell that aroma. People would be clammoring to buy it, and Clif and I would have a very comfortable retirement.

We are heading toward the summer solstice, a bittersweet time when the day is at its longest and loveliest. However, on Sunday, June 22, slowly, slowly it starts going the other way until the dark presses in at 4:00 p.m. Well, no point in thinking about that now.

Saturday, June 21 is also the anniversary of my mother’s birthday. She would have been 78, and I always think how wonderful it was for her to have a birthday on the summer solstice. (I also think of how often we had to have her birthday celebrations inside as June is often a rainy month in Maine, and our plans for a barbecue were inevitably foiled by the weather.)

This weekend is filled with summer solstice plans. On Friday, our friends Jim and Dawna are coming over for grilled bread and salads and parfaits made with homemade ice cream.

“Keep it simple,” Dawna told me, as she tells me every year. Usually, not only do I serve grilled bread and salad but also chicken and either rice or pasta to go with it.

“We don’t need that much food,” she said.

“Especially at our age,” I agreed.

So this year I am following her advice. We will be having simple appetizers—tortilla chips and a homemade dip made with salsa and sour cream and, of course, the bread and salads and dessert.

“Would you like me to bring over fixings for margaritas?” Dawna asked.

Would I ever! Dawna’s homemade margaritas are the best I’ve ever tasted. The weather is supposed to be good tomorrow, and it looks as though we’ll be able to enjoy our margaritas on the patio.

On Saturday, our friend Diane invited us to a potluck, so to Brunswick we will go. I plan on bringing a pasta and spinach salad, made with Farmer Kev’s spinach. I’m also going to bring cinnamon pie knots, a favorite of Diane’s.

What a lovely way to begin summer.

When the Day is a 12

Yesterday, my cousin Lynn noted that the day was so fine that it surely must be a 12, surpassing 10 and even 11. (Take that, Spinal Tap!) And so it was. Today seems to be following in yesterday’s footsteps with a day so lovely and warm—but not too warm—that you would like to tuck it in reserve to be used on a bitter day in, say, March, when all hope seems to be gone.

We are more than half-way through June, and so far it’s been a pretty good one. We’ve had a nearly perfect mixture of rainy and sunny days, and the gardens seem to be bursting with joy.

To celebrate this 12 kind of day, here are some pictures from the gardens at the little house in the big woods. May we have many more days like this!

My favorite flower
My favorite flower
And yet another!
And yet another!
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Rocks and water
Dwarf snapdragons
Dwarf snapdragons

Father’s Day 2014

Clif and Shannon on the patio
Clif and Shannon on the patio

At the little house in the big woods, the tradition on birthdays, anniversaries, and other special days is for a home-grown party of some kind, with the person or persons being  fêted choosing the food for the celebratory meal. This meant that on Sunday—Father’s Day—Clif got to pick what was on the menu. He decided to go with fried chicken pieces and French fries, a meal we hardly ever make at home.

But what fun Shannon and I had working together to fry the potatoes and the chicken. Everything just fell into place, even though neither of us is exactly an expert at frying. I made a honey-mustard sauce to go with the chicken, and that was pretty tasty, too. For dessert, there was strawberry shortcake, one of Clif’s favorites, and in our house that means strawberries on biscuits. I’m not saying it’s the only way or the best way, but it is our way.

We ate every bit of the chicken and fries, and we tucked into the strawberry shortcake. The only thing that would have made the day better would have been to have Dee and Mike here as well. But Dee lives in New York—too far to come for the weekend—and Mike had to work. Still, we had a jolly time talking and cooking and eating, and Clif pronounced it a very good Father’s Day indeed.

Here are some pictures from our little party:

Appetizers---radishes with a bit of mustard on crackers---on the patio
Appetizers—radishes with a bit of mustard on crackers—on the patio
Frying fries
Frying fries
A plate of fries
A plate of fries
The chicken
The chicken
Strawberry shortcake for dessert
Strawberry shortcake for dessert