Saturday, September 29, 2012
Friday, September 7, 2012
Sunday, July 1, 2012
Friday, May 4, 2012
Sunday, February 26, 2012
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So finally I got to take some pictures of my small town on a January Monday morning. The main avenue is usually very crowded with cars and pedestrians, specially on Saturdays were walking is a hassle, trying to swerve from slower people or even avoid bumping onto others that are standing up, chatting. Not very uncommon too is to find people that walk in groups, stopping all at once to see the shop windows. This particular morning was very calm, but even so, many people cross streets away from crosswalks. It is just part of their habits. I wanted to include scenes that I usually see - men drinking coffee in the morning while chatting to each other, retired men sitting on a park bench, dozens of bicycles speeding down the street, and other particularities that make this town alive. Nature pictures mostly taken on a farm, but some were taken elsewhere, but they all makes part of my life. For instance, I can't raise free range chickens as I lease our chicken coops for a large scale egg business. Foreign birds could bring diseases to thousand of chickens, reason why I gave away my tamed Guinea hens. The little chicks playing with the girls were also given away after a few days. The House - is freshly painted but no longer looks that tidy. Specially the farm kitchen where there is always something going on, such as sinkfull of dishes to be washed or a trail of flour all the way to the wood fired oven. The Food - I made them all - from scratch - except for the farmer's cheese that I buy from a neighbor. I got no cows. What really misses in pictures is the vibrant energy of all the processes. The bread was not made dark like that, but it started from addition of flour, water, yeast, salt, sugar. It had different body, texture, temperature - it was something else, to become what it did. This dynamic process where aroma and taste are released is a priviledge of those who can live near them. I often tell my daughter how lucky (or blessed) she is for having a mom who cooks, for living on a farm, for owning eight dogs, and for all we should be grateful.
Saturday, February 25, 2012
Two beautiful Fall days in the middle of Summer. Who can explain that? It’s darker in the morning around 7, but the evening is still long with daylight savings. The sun rays have the orange hue, different from Spring were the sparkling silver rays invade all rooms. The lack of natural beauty of our landscape on the farm makes me enjoy the sensation brought by other senses. I am lucky for that matter. I am not a visual person.
February is here. My 10 year-old daughter is back to school. I still have to drive her five days a week on a rather short drive (about 6 miles) on a flat and straight road, but dangerous due to drivers’ carelessness.
December and January were cooking, baking, eating months. Even though the doctor suspects I have gluten intolerance (no exams done), I baked several times a week using my newly assembled wood fired oven. But the highlight was the church gathering day in my house. I tested several pizza dough recipes, watched the oven, learned to open the skin by hand, until I found the best dough and the best way of serving piping hot pizza straight from the oven for several people. I didn’t know how many would come, so I planned for 30. I soon found out that I couldn’t open the skin and bake a raw crust to serve 30 hurried peopled at once. Too many issues involving the making of perfect pizza, Neapolitan style. I had to compromise. I parbaked the crust a day before, topped 3 pizzas just 2 hours prior to serving, and hired a neighbor dona Rosa to take care of the baking. I took care of topping the pizza as the first ones got done. On my list, nine different combinations which included the all-American pepperoni or sausage, mushrooms and bell peppers; also sliced smoked pork sausage with onions; ham, peas, onions, cooked eggs. All pizzas take tomato sauce (made with fresh and canned tomatoes) and mozzarella cheese. The event was a success, so much that I totally forgot to take a picture of the crowd around the pizza, all praising me with full mouth, not knowing if they should speak or chew. I was as busy as a pizza maker on a ball day, topping on disk after the another. Later, I had to ask other people who ate what, who took the first piece, who had anchovy with olives. I sent home a few people with pizza for their family. “We had plenty. My husband ate, and even my mother-in-law” – told me someone.
I can't help myself but continue cooking, baking, soap making, and all. I also baked old fashioned English bread called scone to be dipped in lemon curd (it's lemon season), Brazilian finger good called "empada" - little chicken pies, sweet rolls, broa (a country bread made in cooked corn and wheat flour, and later baked), Brazilian cheese bread, chocolate chip cookie, anise biscotti dipped in chocolate, whole wheat bread, and even "Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day" bread. And more pizzas, of course.
I can't post pictures of all my bakings, neither remember all what I cooked - there were so many goodies.
Monday, January 2, 2012
In Brazil, Summer break starts sometime in December and it usually goes until after the Carnival – a religious holiday that transformed into a big national event. Being so, I don’t go to town twice a day as I used to, but I still need to run my errands a few times a week. With extra time on my hands, I started to walk on a road I used to run, a little less, as my dogs bark at motorcycles and even to cows belonging to somebody else. To avoid any situation, I interrupt my walk. They are so many (6) that I won’t have enough time to strain all of them before I leave. One Sunday before Christmas another puppy joined our pack. It was said to be Pinscher Border Collie mix. To me, it is another mutt.
Every morning and every afternoon, I sit on my veranda chair to relax. The cool fresh morning air, contrasting with hot bitter coffee, I sit there enjoying myself. The dogs come to greet me, the puppy wants extra attention, and I raise my legs to a leg rest, and rest. In the evening, after the sun has set, I also sit there remembering how much my back porch has improved. It used to be the portrait of a decadence. My father’s lack of financial resources to give it a little lift. After his death, I sold many farm equipments, as I decided to lease out the land instead of working on it (I tell the reasons later). With the money dripping in, I started to fix up the house, and after three months, I have the whole house fixed up and re-painted. Some areas such as kitchen got total makeover. I had the tile floor and wall changed, bought new appliances, and above all, took all the old stuff out of the house. My mother and sister used to oil paint canvas. We had several of them stored for decades. I hang them up on walls, making the house looking cheery. The biggest effect of the fixed up was the impression that it is not a dying place any more. Yes, it had a solution for something that I thought could never happen. Sadly, it took my father’s death to make his inheritance take value. I live now in a newer, clean house. I didn’t have to make any major purchase, except for the kitchen, but lots of little ones made a difference. For instance, the drawer chests had piece of fabric replacing the original knob since my childhood. I spent a few reais to buy new knobs for the furniture to take on a new look. Besides new painting giving an impression of clean walls, which were not only dirty but crumbling, the tiles cracked or simply missing on several spots in the house, the removal of old curtain tracks (yes, it was not a modern rod) for newer rods and curtains.
I had two men coming to do the job. They are dona Rosa’s brothers. During sugar cane harvest, they have work, but between September to March, they go unemployed. Even though they are not professional carpenters, they bravely took the job. Of course, many things were far from perfect, but I enjoyed the company. My biggest concern was to have a stranger working inside the house while I was out, but it turned out that they didn’t touch anything that shouldn’t be. They must come back to fix up the fence around the house – strangely, fence was my first concern, but became the last one on the list.
Inside and outside of the house finished, including the set up of my wood fired oven coated with red mud and cow’s fresh manure, I am working on my new interest: flower garden! I have already spent some to buy two palm trees and other plants. My main interest lays in forming a tropical garden with heliconias, bromeliaces, ixoras. The plants that survived my mother’s illness (she used to have a very diverse plant material all over the garden, including a collection of orchids) were a few. Indeed they were sturdy, surviving lack of water or fertilizers over ten years. I felt sorrowful in eliminating what was there to give place to a whole new garden. I couldn’t cut down all the hibiscus, gardenia, dracaenas, rhododendron, zedoary, grass, hydrangea, ixora, bougainvillea, pata-de-vaca - a Brazilian native beautiful tree with perfumed white flower -, and many more, including a native berry tree. How could I make a beautiful landscape preserving all of those? After some researching, I decided not to eliminate them, but crowding the spot with more plants, especially tropical ones, without any rigidity of French garden, but rather more organic and natural – letting the nature do it.
Lastly, my next upcoming project is to revive my organic vegetable garden. The old spot is full of weeds, dry and rock hard. But it was once a lush garden, so it can be it again. This time, though, I am going to build a shade, as the sun is inclement most part of the year and no leafy greens can survive.
The deep sadness that I feel with the loss of my father brought up new hope for living on the farm that I had once giving up upon.