Sunday, January 25, 2009

Otis the Farmer

This picture is proof that awesome socks run in the family. Possibly it is genetic, passed down from mother to daughter.

So! I just finished another assignment for my writing class, and I decided to post it here to share it. I was given a scene to write, and had to brainstorm a list of the 5 senses related to that scene and then write an excerpt from that situation. At first I wasn't sure I could really do it, but it turns out that the exercise helped put pictures in my head and made it a lot easier to write. The result is a little scene that I'm actually sort of proud of.


Crows circled above, silhouetted against the approaching storm clouds, as if the farm were carrion, and Otis stood like a scarecrow, surveying what was once his acreage. The late afternoon shadows stretched across the land he had tended to, lighting the dormant green tractor with a missing wheel, like a prized but crippled racehorse put out to pasture. The land had been kind his family and to the creatures they had raised. Otis leaned against an already leaning fencepost that needed little help to follow the rest of its toppled brethren. The wind was right so you could hear the swine in the next farm over, and he smiled at the memory of chasing pigs out of his wife's vegetable garden.

Now, the garden was overrun with tangled grass and shotweed, with enough pollen to tempt a sneeze out of him from a distance. The rabbits that his wife had battled against for so many years had finally outlived her, and he could hear them scrabble against the siding of the farmhouse as they worked at their burrows. The faint metal clank of a skewed, at one time cheerfully tinkling windchime hanging at the edge of the garden made Otis straighten up.

"Another storm coming," he said conversationally, though he couldn't say to whom. He could taste the acrid ozone in the breeze and knew that rain would soon follow.

Shifting his weight made his boots squelch in the mud beneath them, a slight sucking from the muck protesting his departure as he moved towards the house he had built for dear Mabel. It had stood for a lifetime while they raised their boys and tended their goats, modest like their living but secure and a shelter from turmoil. The feel of the nails embedding into the wood, holding their home together was imprinted into his palms just as the soil that never quite came out from his nailbeds. Loose shutters knocked leisurely, waving at Otis to beckon him inside, to see through the bubbled and waved thick panes of glass from the inside one last time. He turned away from the welcoming wraparound porch before he could clearly see the flaking white paint that he knew thickly coated the wood.

The same wind that had toyed with those tarnished windchimes then found its way through the disheveled slats of the red barn, which had listed to the left dangerously when the flood waters had come. One of the green doors hung off its hinges, stuck in the mud and unable to close. Had any of the goats been left, there would have been no keeping them warm and dry. As he stood in the doorway he could hear the faint hum of a wasps nest somewhere in the rafters, working stoically as he used to, and the scent of moulding hay struck him in its cloying, sickly sweetness. If he breathed in deeply, there was still the faint scent of goat, somewhere between manure, sweat, and grass.

A clunking rhythm had caught his attention, a system that used to work rhythmically but now teetered strangely, the windmill that was now one blade short couldn't find a full rotation in the wind. The mechanisms inside of it creaked and strained, pleading to deliver more water from the well. He knows if he listens he could hear the river from there, not a babbling brook by any means, but a threatening constant like the many wings of a murder of crows. It would rise again and overfill its banks, but this time he would not be witness as it scoured away at the earth.


And now! Another adorable picture of Grunty, tucked into bed.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Mad Writing and Cooking Storms

Work has been taking up a ton of my time, it feels like I only get a couple of hours a day to do what I want to do sometimes. So while I've been working I've also enrolled in an online short story writing class. I did two work weeks back-to-back with no break since I worked last weekend, so I happen to have a four day weekend this week to make up for it.

I really am enjoying this writing class because it's putting me back into writing-mode. It's a certain way of thinking that I haven't been able to do for a while. I feel like I lost my writing mojo, the creative drive, even my inspiration for a while. In a way, this is getting me back to basics, how to create a story, how to create characters. One of the biggest helps is the fact that I've been having to keep a daily writing journal. I don't always write about stories, but I at least have a place to jot down ideas and phrases and observations that I could potentially use later.

It's been nice having a studio to go to and work. Right now in addition to our apartment we're renting a small office in a building not far from us to use for Andy's art and my writing. It's a building owned by UW Tacoma, but until they begin renovating it they're renting out the office space. The studio we're renting is small, but the person who rented it before we did was a massage therapist and that person made it a very nice space. Nice carpets, a mirrored wall to make it seem bigger, covered the hideous wood panel walls with cloth. There's even lighting with dimmer switches. It's very quiet there, a nice place to think. Every time I sit at the desk, where Andy keeps his paintbrushes, I want to take pictures of them.

Yesterday was my first day off in forever, and I decided I wanted to cook dinner, since really Andy had taken care of all of it since I kept coming home so exhausted. So last night I made lentil soup with bacon. And I loved it. I had gotten beluga lentils from PFI and hadn't gotten a chance to use them yet. I found the recipe through Tastespotting, and it's probably one of the favorite things I've ever made.

Lentil Soup

2 T butter
3 T extra virgin olive oil
3 strips of thick maple bacon cut into 1inch squares
1/3 cup diced onion, 1/3 cup diced celery, 1/3 cup diced carrot (mirepoix what what)
1 can diced tomatos with juice
1 cup beluga lentils (rinsed and drained)
4 cups chicken stock
salt and pepper
  1. In a large soup pot, add butter, olive oil, bacon, and mirepoix on medium-high heat, cook and stir until onions are golden but not brown.
  2. Add tomatoes and juices, stir to combine and reduce heat to medium. Cook for about 20 minutes until the tomatoes begin to brown and most of the juice has evaporated.
  3. Add the rinsed and drained lentils to the pot, stir to mix.
  4. Add the chicken stock and stir, season with salt and pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce to a low simmer.
  5. Cook the lentils for 30 minutes, or until tender. May have to add more stock or water towards the end if it has evaporated too quickly.
  6. Serve and enjoy!

Lentils are very good for you, the third highest protein of any vegetable, behind soybeans and hemp. Also high in iron, and essential amino acids! The amazing lentil. Anyhow, now I am working on some vanilla scones and I plan on making pork tenderloin tonight, so I'm sure there will be more posts and photos of my cooking adventures.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Naked City

We've had a lot of fun since the snow melted and we've been able to get out and about again. Of course, right now instead of snow there is rain, and massive amounts which is flooding pretty much every river ever, but that's another story, maybe I'll get some pictures.

Anyway, some of Andy's buddies were in town all at once for the holidays, so it was a great chance to get together and see everybody. I didn't get a ton of pictures because I hate using flash and I always seemed to be under low light conditions, but I did get Andy with Aaron Burch and his beautiful girlfriend Elizabeth. Aaron is one of Andy's buddies who is right now getting his masters and runs a writing journal called Hobart Pulp. They are both very cool people and it was good to see them. One night we got together at a bar in Seattle and the next day we got together with everyone else who couldn't make it for lunch. So we got to see Brad and Heather, Wes and Megan, Aaron and Elizabeth and her daughter Andie(sp?). It was a bad photography day, but let me just say that it was really fun.

So it was one night not long after Christmas that we went up to Greenwood in Seattle to meet up with everybody at Naked City Taphouse, which is a bar that one of Andy's friends, Donald, opened just a few months ago. I really liked the place, it was the first time we'd been up there. Naked City is a film noir reference, and yes they've heard every nudity joke before. And it just so happens that Andy made the logo they're using! Which I've heard has been a real success. There's shirts and everything with the mysterious man in shadows with the sweet hat.

They're working on putting their own brewery together in their back rooms, which will be great given how the stout they made tastes. They're more focused on beer, and have a wide selection of beer from local breweries. The selection is always changing, and whenever one tap goes out, another keg takes its place. They have some bar food, though the focus is the beer, but what's nice is that with the absence of a deep fryer, you get much more unique and delicious things like giant soft pretzels and cheeeese.

Definitely a place to check out if you're ever in Seattle. So I hope everyone else is having a good start to their new year. We're having a strange start. Rothko somehow got giardia? He's on some medication now and it should go away easily, but everyone, including our vet, is baffled as to how he got that. He's feeling fine now. The punk. Grunty says Happy New Year!