Saturday, December 1, 2012

of milkweed tongue, gray light, my hot chocolate recipe

It’s been a gray week – the one day of sunshine, I was confined indoors most of the day, and missed the spectacle. This morning I headed out into flat, dull light.

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I don’t think the solar panels are going to do us much good today.

Well, there’s generally always something to see, and my soul has been thirsting for whatever it is I get out of doing this. So let’s get going.

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Howdy, old friend! Wow, a couple of seeds still hanging on.

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Complete with grains of snow.

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At the other end of the pod, I wish I had paid more attention to this all along this past fall – what exactly is it? The seal on the door of the milkweed pod? I’m going with tongue.

This light drives me crazy. I really need to actually learn my camera. Surely I can fiddle with the settings to maximize the light. Or I could grit my teeth and fiddle with the pictures later.

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This one has received some very minor fiddling. The snow crystals get easily blown out, the details lost in a blast of white. Something to learn about, for sure – because jeez, I need to spend time outside pretty much every day or I get cranky and/or numb – I can’t let something like “crappy light” affect me. My weather needs to be internally generated, if you know what I mean.

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In the meantime, I don’t know what these are. When in doubt, go with “asters”.

I was in a meeting yesterday with a colleague who called my attention to “a bug behind you”. I turned around. It was a little spider, walking up the wall behind my head. I stared at it a while before turning back around to my colleague. “Wow. Most women would have screamed at that,” he said. “Ah,” I said. “Not me.”

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I like looking closely. My current project: learning trees by their bark. Above: probably a young gray birch. All birches have lenticels – those little horizontal slash marks. So do cherries. Grays are nice and bronzy when they’re little – same as white birch – but at some point they commit to basic gray-ness. My question is, when? When they’re an inch thick? Two inches thick?

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This guy is maybe 8 inches in diameter, and he’s definitely a gray birch. No wait, that’s awfully dark. Maybe he’s a black birch. They get vertical furrowed chunks as they get big. So when does that start? This early?

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There is some furrowing on this guy, but it’s concentrated on one side. And here we have a healed scar in the middle of it. Hm. This might be merely a flesh wound. I’ll just need to stick around for a couple of decades and monitor the situation.

But my favorite birch?

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Yellow! Yellow, yellow, yellow! These beauties have an unmistakable healing energy to them. Feeling out of sorts? Go stand near a yellow birch. You’ll start to feel better almost immediately. Or you will, if you’re me.

For our last lesson of the day, when is it exactly that ashes get that braided look in their bark?

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At around this size. (See the braiding, starting at the bottom?)

Are you ready for hot chocolate now? I am. Want my recipe? The correct answer is “yes, please.” So here you go:

Heat up a mug’s worth of milk – around here, that’s organic 1% – and dump in a carelessly measured (i.e. rounded) tablespoon of cocoa powder. The house cocoa these days is Equal Exchange, which I get at the coop in a baggie that’s been filled by a fellow member on membership hours. It’s organic and fair trade. It’s not the most kick-ass cocoa in the world, but when it comes to drugs (which, let’s face it, chocolate is), the ethical/environmental provenance is important to me. Now break out your Green and Black Organic 70% – or if you have it, 85%. Break off a row or two. Toss that in. Add a small handful – I’d say less than a quarter cup, for sure, but more than 2 tablespoons, which would be half of a quarter cup for those counting along at home - of chocolate chips. Usually those are 54% or so. I tend to add a smidge of stevia, which I also get at the coop. I wish I could tell you the brand. Maybe 1/16 of a teaspoon, really, not much. Just enough to pop the flavor up a little. Whisk, whisk. Yum yum.

Now if you really want to engage in a smackdown with your brain, go to Burdick’s – there’s one not all that far from here in Walpole, NH – and get a cup of their dark chocolate cocoa. You may as well rope yourself into your chair and put on a bib, because you’re going to pass out and drool in no time.

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