Thursday, July 22, 2010

Summer of Sound

It’s been a symphony of hoots & harmonies for residents of the Row this summer. First there’s happy hour at our watering hole in Little Town, where we’re treated to the region’s most exceptional fiddle, gee-tar, bass & sax every Friday. One Friday, my friends Gail and Laurie and I got to sing with the boys in the band, surprising our friend Ina on her birthday with a Libby Roderick song, “Bones,” she’d asked us to learn many months before. The surprised, delighted look on her face when we started singing was priceless.

Then, over the 4th, we got to hear Stevie Winwood and Santana in the park in South City, and last weekend we heard Marcia Ball, Trombone Shorty, Davina & the Vagabonds, and Los Lobos at the park in North City.

Then we got to hear Ray play drums with a super-group of area musicians – drums, 3 fiddles, 3 guitar players, and 2 bass players – at a fundraiser for the Honor Flights for WWII vets (

Add to that the usual “Help! Help!” calls of peacocks competing for mates, the honking of peahens whose eggs are hatching, and the soft woodblock cluck-clucking of hens teaching chicks to find food. Throw in the backporch mewing of the Row’s newest resident cat Rickie Lee, the songs of orioles, pigeons, swallows & sparrows, and the rhythm section – bullfrogs, crickets, cicadas. It’s a regular summer soundfest.

The summer storms have added to the orchestration, too, like the sustained heaving thunder during last night’s storm. We got 3-5” of rain out of it, adding to the already extremely wet spring & summer that drowned many newly-planted corn and bean fields (and tragically, many farmers' hopes for the season). The result at the Row has been positively tropical greenery. We’ve been harvesting gooseberries, yellow squash and cucumbers. The peas ate the raspberries as fast as they set on, so a fence is in order there (their little peabrains don’t realize peacocks could fly over fences). The trees are heavy with wild plums and apples, and if I was inclined to pick & sort lambsquarters (which taste like spinach and have equal nutritional value), we’d be iron-fortified for the rest of the summer.

The peacount is around 24 now, which includes the summer’s 8 new babies. We’re pretty sure we had a badger in the pasture, which would explain the low baby count (at least 4 hens went to nest x 4 babies each, and you can see the potential) and the lateness of some babies – 4 brand new ones showed up in the yard just yesterday, quite late in the summer for new chicks that need a good start before winter. But peas who lose eggs or chicks early in the summer will breed again and try to get another clutch in before fall. O, the will to perpetuate...

We made our first batch of wine this summer, Merlot, and we’re starting our second batch tonight, Chilean Malbec. These are kits, an easy start to winemaking as I learn the ropes in preparation for homemade wild plum wine.I've dubbed our production "Naughty Girl Whinery," though I rarely whine and am most certainly never naughty.

So it’s been a peaceful, musical, delightful summer at the Row so far. Now, if I could just get someone to pay me to stay home and garden, make wine, knit, blog and host small gatherings of family & friends, life would be absolutely perfect.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Concerts in the Park: Then & Now

I’m headed to the City today, for a free concert in the park. There will be bands all day and night, with fireworks after. We’re timing it so we can see Steve Winwood, followed by Santana. Going to an outdoor concert in my midlife years isn’t quite the same as going in my distant youth…

Then: Throw on a broomstick skirt, a halter top, and my ratty old Birkies.

Now: Change outfits at least five times. Settle on my usual bermudas and a t-shirt, with coordinating Chacos.

Then: Throw sunflower seeds, a doobie, and a bottle of Boones Farm in a backpack.

Now: Carefully pack a bag with SPF 150 sunscreen, bug spray, chapstick, ID, a health insurance card, emergency contact info in case I’m unconscious from the heat, a book to read while the bands change gear, money for bottomless lemonade, Benadryl for the bugs that get through my spray shield, pistachios, and a small plastic bag with two frozen bottles of water and some chocolate covered espresso beans, so I can stay awake.

Then: Wander the park making new friends, stop to chat with small children, play music under a shade tree with some guy named “Renegade,” get my hair braided by “Willow” in exchange for a backrub.

Now: Stay on the blanket, in the territory claimed earlier in the day by friends. Don’t leave the blanket except to (a) get a blooming onion or more lemonade, (b) make one of many, many trips to the port-a-potty, or (c) shove my way down to the stage to take several blurry, unrecognizable pics of the bands. Read.

Then: Stay till long after the last band is halfway to Kansas City. Maybe head for western Nebraska to spend a few days with Renegade.

Now: Hope my ride will be ready to leave ten minutes before Santana’s done, in order to avoid traffic congestion. Be home, slathered with aloe and asleep, by 11.