23 April, 2011

Holy Saturday

"It is Finished!"

Those are the last three words Christ spoke on the Cross, according to St. John. And, with one exception, that would sound the end of another life by the horrific, tortuous means known as crucifixion.

Here it is, Holy Saturday. The Passion is over and for all we know, Christ still lies dead in a borrowed tomb.

The clouds have moved back in. Daisy dog just finished licking her breakfast bowl and is staring at it as if in an attempt to will more food to appear. Sprocket Cat is snuggled down on the corner of the couch, under that old comforter from a dear friend. The reading light is heating him. The Doctor Who marathon leading up to the new American season premiere is murmuring in the background. Otherwise, the world is muted. Outside, the fresh blossoms on the cherry and the other flowering trees are not so dazzling. There is a Children's song written by one of the FisherFolk called "The Tip-Toe Song." The refrain goes like this:

"And all creation's straining, on tip-toe just to see, the Son of Man come into His own."

So it is now. Its as if all creation is holding its communal breath, straining to hear the Word made Flesh returning in that triumphal moment when the stone is rolled away and the sepulcher found empty. Shimmering Seraphim stand guard, flaming swords at the ready, speaking to the three Marys:

"He is gone. He is not here. Why do you seek the living among the dead?"

After tonight's Easter Vigil, the morning brings the Festival Celebration of Christ's triumphal return from overturning death and conquering Satan's realm.

That beloved, is the one exception. Christ died, yes. And he rose from the dead after defeating Death itself and all the sin that ever was, is now, and ever will be. He came to reconcile us all to God. He did it through his own death.

Truly we can say, with joy unbounded in our hearts....that yes!

It is Finished!

16 April, 2011

Gardening, 2011

Square Foot Gardening

Built a raised bed to replace the old one which was rotting away, and not very well planned. The new one is 1" X 6" X 72" cedar fence planks cut into five foot and four foot lengths and screwed to 1" X 2" X 16" cedar posts with two end caps of the same material. Basically its rises eleven inches off grade runs for 9 feet north to south and has eighteen square feet inside I turned and sifted about a 2/3 yard of compost into the wheel barrow and spread it into the box on top of turned soil and raked it smooth.

Then I laid out 18 square foot sections and planted the following by squares moving left to right, north to south:

one block of four sugar snap peas
one block of four snow peas

one block of sixteen mixed globe radish
one block of sixteen French breakfast radish

one block of sixteen cherry belle radish
one block of sixteen white icicle radish

one block of sixteen leek
one block of sixteen white scallion

two blocks of nine Tyee spinach

one block of nine Chiooga beet
one block of nine early wonder beet

one block of nine parsnip
one block of nine turnip

two blocks of four Tom Thumb lettuce

one block of four Early Grey peas
one block of four dark red kale

I watered heavily and covered the box with half round cylinders of 6" X 6" remesh and plastic held down with bricks.

Once the fast growing plants are harvested, I will revive the soil with new compost and replant with heat tolerant veges.

It all comes from the old PBS show and book "Square Foot Gardening" , a wonderful way to do easy, intensive gardening.

I'll let the morning heat crank up the germination process tomorrow. Cooler weather along with some rain is supposed to blow in come Tuesday....We shall see.
My back is sore...but I feel great otherwise.

01 February, 2011


The pic above is from NASA satellite imagery. Thirty states are effected. This is a true killer, brutal, unstoppable and ruthless. "Colder than a _________." (insert your own NSFW old saw here. )

Woke this morning to minus 8 degrees. The old Toyota truck started right up, BUT, it overheated by the time I reached the shop. It seems that the thermostat froze up, or possibly slushed up. The old blue beast was fine later. Topped off the fluids and tested it down to minus 25.

What the static temp doesn't address is the wind chill factor. The ski areas on the Continental Divide were experiencing minus 38 degrees wind chill... and that is the reading at the base at Keystone! Frostbite is the primary concern, followed by hypothermia, and the silent killer; dehydration. At alpine elevations, relative humidity drops to low single digits in this brutal cold.

Dark on dark last night as the cold winds blew from Canada. At a mile high, once the clouds blow east, their blanket over the high plains is removed and any ambient heat dissipates into the stratosphere. Brutal cold ensues. Pheasants, pregnant heifers, horses, pronghorn and plains deer will be stressed to the point of death. Critters with dens, fox, wolves, coyotes, badgers and prairie dogs (cough!) will probably make it thru the night.

Once again, February creeps in grave cold.
Mother Nature is a brutal bitch.
Killer yellow eyes, ruthless and clear,
Wait for death.
Howl away, ol' Wulf!

31 January, 2011

Cruel February

Summer Recollections
Summer's heat captured in vinegar and spices, hot Hungarian Wax Peppers glow in yesterday's sun. It was warm for January, low 50's. Yet steel gray clouds rode the northern horizon, foreboding, foretelling of a Canadian clipper, arctic cold. Today's high temp. marked somewhere close to the lee side of midnight. Now, the arm on the thermometer is creeping down towards the zero mark.

The talking head weather prognosticators are all a'twitter pointing manicured fingers at digital maps where predicted lows are below zero for tonight, predicted highs for January's exit tomorrow might reach zero. Tomorrow night, the old homestead in Wheat Ridge will most likely feel bone cracking 18 below zero.

That old farmhouse now stands empty, abandoned and forlorn.

I drive by it on the way to and from the shop. The "For Sale" sign went up about two weeks ago. I've snapped a few pics with the Droid's camera. Its unkempt appearance made more so by the bleak winter skies.


The year was 1956. A not so young couple with three children, a dog and cat and a bushel full of dreams, signed a contract to purchase the house, 2/3 acre lot with 18 apple trees, one cherry tree and a 40 ft. well for $16.5K. That price seemed outrageous at the time. Yet, Dad and Mum wanted that property on the corner as a place for their kids to grow up with a bit of space to stretch young legs. They bought it, knowing that they would struggle to make the payments on Dad's salary as a hospital engineer for the City and County of Denver. There were times when Mom took in laundry and ironing jobs to help keep food on the table. At one point, Dad worked as a night clerk in the local liquor store. Mom and Grandma scoured second hand stores for furniture. Painted Victorian walnut and oak treasures were stripped and refinished in the garage. Their glowing oil finishes fit right in to that old farm house.

In less than 5 years, the plain spoken interior was transformed into a delightful home. We kids had the two bedrooms upstairs. John and I shared the east facing room. Martha had her own room on the north side. On the south, a family room, sewing room caught the southern light.
Mum and Dad had the bedroom downstairs off the kitchen...and, their own bath!

Dad, John and I, spent summer weekends caring for the yard, mowing, weeding, clearing brush and tending the apple trees. Dad had a rose garden out front. Those old roses were his pride and joy. AND, of course, John and I began building a tree house in the huge old elm tree next to the well house.

It was a solid house and a good home.

The original farmhouse was built in 1934, a promise to some family in the depths of the depression. All along what was known as the South Golden road and later, the 32nd Avenue ridge, there were fruit orchards and small farms. Wheat Ridge was an unincorporated township.
Edgewater, to the east, was the closest post office. The fire protection was, and still is, a volunteer enterprise. Jefferson County sheriffs rode mounted patrols along the quiet dirt roads.
Real banks were for the rich folks in Denver. "Banks" out here were the local farm markets and grain elevators, mostly Italian or Dutch men, steel eyed, taciturn and strong willed, with hearts of gold.

So it was when Dad and his little family first landed in Wheat Ridge in 1955. Rudy Gagliano owned "Rudy's Ranch Market," a one story building on the N. W. corner of 44th Avenue and Wadsworth. He sold local produce and canned goods, general foodstuffs and maintained a full butcher shop. Rudy was also the local banker. The closest bank was in Lakewood, a full five miles away. The short little Sicilian took care of the locals.

Dad was one. He had grown up as the son of a merchant, the owner of a General Store in Pickens, South Carolina. He knew the business. He and Rudy struck up a friendship immediately.

This is the story I will always recall:

Dad went to Rudy to cash his first Christmas bonus check from the City and County of Denver. Rudy smiled and beckoned Dad to come back to his office. There, Rudy had laid out a full bar for his loyal customers. He and Dad shared some Canadian rye whiskey and soda, cementing their friendship. That friendship remained until Rudy's health forced him to sell the business.

Rudy sold the business to a second generation Japanese family who immediately renamed it "Wheat Ridge Ranch Market" Tom and Rose Sakata were children of the Japanese internment camps in Colorado.

Step back in time with me. Pearl Harbor and War rose bloody red on a December morn.

This is a good time to recall how World War II restructured Denver and her western rural neighbors, Golden, Lakewood, Wheat Ridge and Morrison; to the south, Englewood and Littleton; to the north Arvada and the long reach to Boulder.

When WWII hit home, Remington Arms purchased a huge parcel of land south of of 6th Avenue in Lakewood. They built a massive small arms munitions factory and set up the foundation of the USGS (United States Geological Survey). It was then that struggling farmers and merchants turned their homes and farmsteads into what we now call duplexes. They turned empty chicken coops and loafing and storage shed into housing for workers. The war effort needed them. The farmers and merchants housed and helped to feed these workers, for a price.

The owners of our old homestead raised the roof on the south-west corner, closed off the upper floor and created an apartment, complete with kitchen and an outside stairway. A single family, self-sufficient farm turned into newly suburban style duplex.

America would never be the same!

Now the changes come again. What once was a our homestead molders derelict and lifeless. Its strong foundation, clean well and remnants of a small orchard wait. I can only hope and pray that another family with the hope and vision, the basic tools and desire, the capable hands and yearning hearts, will live the history and create another shining light on the hill. This crest on the 32nd Avenue ridge, about half way between Golden and Denver.

Now, the temperature is creeping down. The bitter, thin wind out of Canada tears at walls and skin, exposed skin and breath. Last I checked, it was barely 7 degrees and still snowing.

Cruel February arrives tomorrow. His hoarfrost head set ablaze with frigid fire and ice.

I await March as best I can. I await layered in wool and fleece, wine and canned summer on the shelves.

Lordy, how February humbles this fiery old spirit.

23 January, 2011

Another Memory

St. Vrain Autumn Morning

Soft, the infant alpenglow, morning in the mist,

Wrapped tight against night’s cold hands.

Listen, she hears the subtle splash of tailwalking trout.

Hungry for the slow rise of autumn mayflies.

Her desire to stretch, loosen sleep chilled muscles,

Pump fresh blood and heat from yesterday’s sun.

Her desire for coffee heat and caffeine’s sultry buzz

As sunrise rises flush with Autumn’s promised whisper.

Drowsy, her fertile green eyes open, peer slow

Into a hazy soft sunrise slipping through the window.

Dark tresses undone, she brushes the tangle away.

Time to rise and time to call the fire and iron hot.

Medicine for cold mountain mornings, campfire coffee.

She knows it and slips from the sleeping bag warmth

Into morning light, sub-alpine cold, flint crisp, sharp.

Into sheepskin slippers and a flannel shirt, aged and worn.

Practiced hands build a quick kindling knot and strike fire

Hot on a cast iron grate where aspen and pine flames crackle

Boiling bright metallic water, fresh from St. Vrain Creek

She pours water in blackened pot, more wood on the fire.

The cold bites. She shivers and pulls the old flannel close

Her heat releases his scent: honest sweat and wood smoke,

Old Spice and rye whiskey linger in threads…and laughter.

Remembrance, a slow smile settles on her sleepy face.

The measure of coffee poured, the measure of her own depths

Where once, heat met heat and wet welded two souls as one.

Sad the smile, long in history, long in the cold since he died.

Dark coffee, measured and set to brew, dark memories sigh.

Silence broken by the crack and pop of pitch exploding in fire.

Fragrance, the lingering specters in the morning soft light.

Strong pulses wash through her veins, blood and memories,

Green eyes glow, deep in her belly, long held fire grows.

Low in the dark depths, her woman’s well burns slow

Her slumbering serpent self waits and grumbles hungry

While the sunrise and heat rise and coffee comes to boil

Steaming dark on a St. Vrain Autumn morning.

22 January, 2011

January Memory


It’s coming up on 10 years now since I walked in pristine snow along a tumbleweed fence line, eyes intent, fighting the cold, following the quartering, mottled shorthair pointer.

Dutch's stub tail was an erect, visible signal. Like the sweep of greenish light on ancient radar, it twitched side to side as his nose tested frigid January for scent. Once that nose caught a few molecules of pheasant, the tail went flat, parallel to his lean spine and hip. Quivering, he would roll into a slow motion point.

Nothing else mattered. Dog and shotgun, man and bird, distilled into winter strong whiskey. Chronos stood frozen until Dutch, with one molasses slow placement of his massive front paw, directed the play into furious action, a cacophony of sight and sound.

The explosion of wings, a rusty gate cackle, and those amazing colors, impossibly autumn bright against midwinter white as the cock pheasant broke from cover. Arching into the unbearable, brilliant blue sky. I pushed the old Browning ‘til barrel tip covered the raucous red wattle and yellow eye.

Trigger pulled, recoil and ear ringing as the screaming number six shot column and bird met. An errant feather or two floated in the thin cold as the bird tumbled, carcass and blood on the snow.

Dutch was dancing. Jim, his master hollered congratulations. And my heart thundered. Images like that create history. Nothing can take them, not even death.

Jim died the next November, a massive stroke. Dutch returned to Indiana with Jim's wife. I miss them all, dog and master and his wife.

There is nothing akin to walking through wind blown, January fields with a dog who loves to hunt.

15 January, 2011

Out of the Clear Blue of the Western Sky Comes...


Brigid (http://mausersandmuffins.blogspot.com/) posted a bit about pilots and wanna be pilots.
The first thoughts in my head were of two heroes of my youth. Both of them were true pilots. One was Kirby Grant, the star of the '50's adventure western series: Sky King.

Kirby, born in Butte, Montana, used his own plane early on in the series. Short biographic sketch can be found here: (http://skyking.com/kirby_grant.html).

The second man was my stepfather: Aaron Boggs (Bob) Anthony. Never knew him as anything but "Dad."

Dad flew a Consolidated B-24 in the Pacific Theater, 13th Air Force, 5th Heavy Bomber Squadron. Not a pretty beast, just one helluva workhorse. I talked with his wing commander Wally Martin, after Dad died. He said that Dad flew between 48 and 52 missions in and around the Philippines, twice the number required. Guess it wasn't unusual, from what Wally told me.

Dad told me they were ungainly birds on take off and landing. He and his co-pilot ahd to crane their heads out of the cockpit to see the tarmac, given the geometry of the bird. Once in the air, they were dead on stable...Like a frikken White Freightliner.

After his first stroke, I took Dad to the Pima Air Museum, next to Davis-Monthan AFB in Tucson. It was early spring, warm enough to walk about with just sweaters. Outside, in the boneyard, we found a B-24J, much like what Dad flew. We walked around it and he talked. It was the first time he had really opened up. Halting speech, from the stroke, but clear and strong. How the big radial engines purred....how tough it was to board, but great to fly. One of the docents came by, saw us pointing, talking and laughing....

He asked Dad about his history...and invited him, with help, to enter the old bird.

One of the only times I had ever seen Dad get tears........He said sumpin like "No, I've done that way too many times already....just let it be."

Dad died little more than a year later....another stroke.

10 January, 2011

Bread and Snow

Stock Show Weather

As I write this post, the temperature outside is 3 degrees F. Its typical Stock Show weather. From childhood on, when the National Western Stock Show opened its doors, we could count on a blast of cold and snow to be blown out of Canada.

This year is no different.

Great weather for staying indoors and baking bread. That is exactly what I did yesterday.

I follow a basic recipe found in the Tassajara Bread Book. It was first published in 1970, written by a Buddhist monk and baker at the Tassajara Zen Monastery near Carmel, California. To the basic recipe, I tossed in some left over, cooked and soured barley, milled oats and buttermilk.

The dough is allowed to rise a total of four times, being punched down and kneaded between each rising. This takes advantage of the long string gluten in the wheat flour. It makes for chewy bread! The buttermilk and soured barley and oats give the loaves some added zip, texture and crunch.

Four loaves, three for us and one to give to a friend.

On New Year's eve, I whipped up some Sourdough starter. It has run its course, is now complete and ready to be used for pancakes and bread. THAT, beloved, will happen in a couple of days.

Bread for the body and poetry for the soul, 'tis a delightful combination.

08 January, 2011


Borderland Wars

Given the events of the day, I am thinking a lil' road trip on the blue highways out into the cold broad sky and sleeping land might give me some perspective. I need to walk this ugly madness out of my being and seek clarity.

Heroes are rarely known, recognized. Madmen are... Fame and flame in madness. Its a crazy culture.

One shot kills a judge. Another has completely altered the life of a true civil servant. One more cuts short the life of a 9 year old child.

That it has happened here in the U.S. makes it "NEWS". That it happens every frikken day in the Middle East, in the Sudan, in Pakistan, Iraq and Afghanistan is no longer "news". That literally thousands of police, public servants and innocents have been brutally murdered in the drug cartel wars a mere few hundred miles south has no meaning?!?!?

Decapitations and brutal mutilations, assassinations and wholesale murder are a daily occurrence in Mexico, the horn of Africa and the Muslim controlled Middle East, while our own citizens, young men and women, choose to stand in harms way to protect us.

It is all insane.

Putting it into perspective, cold as it may seem.........We have become what we fought for damn near 300 years to NOT be.

Might be time to get on our knees and ask the good Lord how we can change.

06 January, 2011

Twelfth Night - Feast of the Epiphany.

Who Say's You Can't Go Home?

I spent some futile time today, attempting to scan and post pictures from holidays past in the old farmhous we siblings call, "The Homestead." It didn't happen...

The scan and post.

Perhaps that is best. The Norman Rockwell, Andrew Wyeth images that well up in a cold fountain from those years are as clear and comforting. And yes, some of the aftertaste is as distant, ugly and downright painful as yesterday's back cracker work.

In my body, I know Kronos, that old Saturnalian butcher pounds away at me. I know him as well as I know my own artisan and writer's hands and crippled back. They are both the scars brought on by years of toil and making do. My own stubborn Irish/Swedish streak, and the fear that what I created was not quite good enough in God's eyes has haunted my footsteps.

I have no pictures.....YET! I have words.

Allow me to tell the tale from Spring to Summer, Summer to Autumn to Winter's chill.

This is the recollection of living in the old farmhouse with the remnant of the apple orchard off to the east. This is the old house on the crest of the northern rise, where our bedroom window opened on to the sunrise, where brother John and I would wake in the silky May mornings to seriously sexy, explosive mounds of apple blossoms. That fragrance has yet to be matched.

This is what I remember:

- I recall sweating and raking the first drop from the apples. Might have been not enough water or no germination. Still, we mowed and raked. At the same time, we planted the Summer garden. Tomato plants, squash, peppers and herbs snuggled into the soil. Cherries from the lone tree ripened. Wild raspberry ripened on the briars. Then there were heirloom roses blooming. Long canes, heavy with butter yellow, five petaled blossoms, redolent with a gentle citrus fragrance.

If the year was wet, we would gather young asparagus in the ditch... enough for a meal or two.

- The second cull, large enough to fit as missiles in our young and hungry hands, ready for war. We began the siege of tree to tree, building forts of childhood sight. Grab a rake as a facemask! Run grab a shovel as a shield! Arthur and his knights will rise up behind us as the sour and sugar nectar of exploding young apples splattered our faces. Up in the towering elm next to the well house, we built a platform. It grew high and hither over the years. We watched summer sunrise and sunset there, and talked of bikes and Mickey Mouse and later, girls, their budding breasts and smiles.

- Come full summer where the fall of crabapple and second cull fell and fermented. While corn ripened and tomatoes blushed, robins and squirrels ate the fragrant and potent sour mash. Stumbling red breast birds, like the Wright brothers, attempted to fly. Rodents with attitude and numb butts, chased their newest lover up and down in an erratic Archemidian twist, stopping to scold and chatter.

- Apples full and apples sweet, apples come to harvest while the full corn rises. It was then that we siblings and cousins gathered all ripe on trees and the fresh fall on the ground. Applesauce and applebutter, cider and pie followed the garden harvest into mason jars, settled in the cool, damp cellars. Summer saved to rise again come the depth of Winter's chill. We, no longer children, no longer young, lanky legged and clear eyed, turned away from the old times, turned from the wonder of family.

We walked alone.

- Came Epiphany - When or where God's Spirit reminds the rebellious and bellicose, lost and lonely, empty and forlorn beings that we became... that our parents just might have been OK. They might have been and done the best they could; teaching and guiding as God called them. Winter and the cold knowledge that we can no longer pick up a phone and call, and say "I love you Mum, thanks for being here." The same for fathers, and their strong, long hours at work, or their weekends guiding us in building, digging, gardening. Or just plopped down watching football or baseball, a cold PBR in hand while stinky cheese and tins of smoked herring and oysters wait to be nibbled on rye crackers in a den redolent with the subtle fragrance of cigars and pipes, Old Spice and man's sweat, clean and honest.

Epiphany -- God is shown forth and made manifest. He did it then, He does it now, and He will continue to do it until I, or you, are released from these earthly shells and return to Him.

Yes, let us realize in this Epiphany season....We can go home again.

05 January, 2011

8th, 9th, 10th Days of Christmas


Out on the high plains, the high desert, winter is clear, winter is silent. Sunrise light burns gentle against cockcscomb peaks. They rise out of the dry seabed, a ocean of sand and sage, crumbled rock and cactus. Yucca waits, sucking moisture from empty skies. Come spring its wax white, lily flowers will bloom as Christ's passion, death and resurrection greet us in the great Paschal feast.

Black spots on the basin floor, Angus cattle feed in the cold. Its morning. The air sweet and brittle, bites sinuses, sears cold in the lungs. Down low, the Rio Grande river winds her lonely way, bisecting the state. Blackbirds and waterfowl rise dark waves in the riparian morning.

Up here, on the flats, Light, nothing more...just light rising against a dun landscape. Cedar and pinion mark the hillsides where antelope wander, cattle graze and the thin, winter winds moan. The rest is silence, deep, profound, and clear. Its not the silence of death. Its is the silence of waiting, anticipation. It is the silence broken by Epiphany. It is the knowing that Emmanuel, "God is with us."

In one community, the painted whimsy mailboxes wait, their heads akimbo angles, waiting. Across the gravel road, the adobe catholic church, the center of life, waits. The Christ mass has passed, remnants of the nativity bonfire lay cold and dark. Tattered remains of luminaria huddle mournful on the church walls.

On one lone lane, someone's dream crumbles slowly. Clapboard and nails oxidize in sun and cold, sun and heat, sun on sun. Days, weeks, then months without rain, desiccate souls, dehydrated flesh break hearts, twist minds. They broke, I'm thinking, shattered by the desert, broken by the brutal high plains. Gentle souls raised in the verdant Ohio valley, I'm thinking, unused to the sun on sun, dry on drought born winds and the withering immensity of sky, were shattered like carnival glass when the dust bowl came.

I am reminded in prayer, of the desert fathers.

"Abbot Lot came to Abot Joseph and said: 'Father, according as I am able, I keep my little rule, and my little fast, my prayer, meditation and contemplative silence, and, as I am am able I strive to cleanse my heart of (evil) thoughts; now what more should I do?' The elder rose up in reply and stetched out his hands to heaven, and his fingers became like ten lamps of flame. He said, 'Why not be totally changed into fire?'"
Abbot Lot, 4th century, The Desert Fathers

Faith and ferocity in Spirit, the desert fathers, the mystics seeking Christ's path through suffering and silence found a burning jewel of knowing.

God is in all things, for those who heed His call, for those who seek His will. He is there. He is always there, always available...waiting.

Come tomorrow, the Christmas season ends, Epiphany begins. Christ's light shines forth to the whole world. He too, is present, a constant being who was, and is, and evermore will be.

Will you seek Him? Will I?

Merry Christmas!

01 January, 2011

The 7th Day of Christmas

A New Day Dawns

And a new year comes upon us, arbitrarily placed ...*here*...by the creators of the Gregorian Calendar. It came with a blazing sunrise and frigid temperatures.

The Anglican church year begins with the first Sunday in Advent, normally the first Sunday in December. The Hebrew Kalendar year begins variably in March or April of the Greogorian year.

Our Orthodox brethren go by the old Roman or Julian Kalendar, which predates the "modern" calendar instituted by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582 to amend and correct a cumulative error within the Julian structure. That error had pushed the Vernal Equinox back into early March. Since figuring the date of Easter was tied to the Vernal Equinox, the Roman Church leadership decided to institute the change by Papal decree.

New Year occurs on different days in different countries following Buddhism. New Year in "Theravadin" countries of Thailand, Burma, Sri Lanka, Cambodia and Laos is celebrated three days from the first full moon day in April. In Mahayan countries, New Year celebrations start on the first full moon in January. These countries celebrate the day according to their ethnic background and culture. People of China, Korea and Vietnam celebrate it in the month of January or early February, while Tibetans usually celebrate a month later.

Delightful human creativity and cultural differences are found all across this wicked old world.

God must enjoy us all!

Now 'tis nap time on this frigid January day.

The 6th Day of Christmas

New Year's Eve

Its a traditional Southern meal, with a twist. Both of our local markets were out of black eyed peas. I used black beans instead. Soaked them overnight, put them in a dutch oven with hamhocks, a bit of salt and fresh ground pepper, a dash or two of Hatch mild red chile powder, and a coarse chopped onion. I added enough cold water to cover it all, brought it to a rolling boil and then reduced the heat to a low simmer.

Three hours later, I began the process of making bread.

I use a recipe from the Tassajara Bread Book. The book was first published in 1971. My copy dates back that far. It is dog eared, crusty and well loved. Some years ago, I finally had to add clear packing tape over the binding to hold it together.

The Tassajara Zen Mountain Center is located south by southeast of Monterrey, CA in the Pacific Coastal range on the edge of the Big Sur Wilderness. The hot springs on site have been in use since prehistoric times. In the late 1800's a hotel and spa were built there. In 1967, it was purchased by a group of Zen Buddhist's who transformed it into the first Buddhist monastery in the U.S.

Much like Christian monastic life, Zen Buddhism is based upon prayer and meditation and holy work, what can be described as prayer and meditation in action. The connection betwixt the two practices came together in the very profound life of Thomas Merton, a Roman Catholic monk.

Along with yeasted bread, I whipped up my Dad's recipe for Southern style buttermilk cornbread. Its not sweet. It is dense, crunchy and honest, a perfect foil for the beans and hamhocks.


6 tablespoons of unsalted butter
1 cup of yellow corn meal
1/2 cup of unbleached flour
1 tablespoon of sugar
1 tablespoon of baking powder (adjusted for high altitude)
1/4 teaspoon of salt
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cup of buttermilk


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Melt the butter in a 12 inch cast iron skillet.

Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Beat the eggs in another bowl and blend in the buttermilk. add the liquid to the dry ingredients and beat until smooth, adding the melted butter.

Here is the secret to making the bread:
Keep the skillet hot with the remnants of the butter greasing the surface. Pour the batter into the hot pan and immediately slip the skillet into the the oven. The hot skillet sears a bottom and side crust almost immediately.

About thirty minutes later, a beautiful brown crust will appear on top. Test with a toothpick.

The Tassajara recipe calls for three separate rises to create a dense dough. It is honest, straight forward and very, very tasty!

While I was making the sponge for the dough, I whipped up some sourdough starter, something I haven't done in twenty years. It will sit, lightly covered at room temp for about 5 days. I will stir it every day. By day 5 it will develop its distinctive "sour" smell and taste as the yeast works and dies. What will remain is an active starter, ready to be made into pancakes or bread or muffins.

With the yeast bread and corn bread out of the oven, we sat down to a fine meal of black beans and hamhock, corn bread and GLORY brand canned southern mixed greens. It was delicious!

Here's wishing a Happy and Blessed New Year to one and all!