Friday, November 20, 2009

REPORT WITH WOODPECKER

It has been a lovely November day here along the river.
The morning came slipping in like a shy bride behind a veil of gauzy fog. For the first half hour you couldn't see the trees on the island directly across from the cottage. The river appeared mysteriously from an indeterminate place in the white mist wall, slowed in the upstream flat, poured silently over the broad riffle, paused again in the Cottage Pool…and quickly disappeared downstream, a passage more apparition than earthly.
After a while the fog began to thin and lift. The trunks of the island's trees materialized, and a few minutes later, the lower branches. The high, leafless crowns of the big sycamores and basswoods stayed hidden another quarter hour—though along the upper reaches of the island, the lower two-thirds of the trees remained fog-bound and only the topmost branches could be seen above the cushiony mist, like fingers of drowning victims waving frantically above the surf.
Once the fog had evaporated the sun beamed down—and it kept beaming down the remainder of the day. Unfortunately, I couldn't go out and play. Or even go out and work and call it play. A writing deadline loomed. I finished that about noon. Then I had to have some blood work done, meaning a trip to the nearby satellite hospital. After that off to the library to drop off books and books-on-CDs, and check out a fresh batch. Next a trip to the bank. Stuff which looks easy enough—and was—except it ate up most of the afternoon.
I did get to amble around the yard with Moon the dog for about fifteen minutes before heading inside to put some brown rice in the oven, and do a stir-fry of marinated pork shreds, onions, ginger, black beans, and tomatoes for later topping. Somewhere in there, while I was busy in the kitchen and starting the first few chapters of one of the borrowed CD books, the sun set. Whether it was a pretty sunset or not, I couldn't say.
When I was out with Moon I did notice that all the leaves on the island's trees are now down, and for the first time since early spring, I can now see the river's opposite bank. This unfamiliar long view looks pretty strange and will take some getting used to, I think. It is now possible to watch the pileated woodpeckers flapping from tree-to-tree over there, where before I could only catch the odd glimpse.
The photo is of one of the red-bellied woodpeckers that regularly visits the feeder beyond my desk window…and doubtless slows my daily progress with interruptions to watch his brief battles against a belligerent nuthatch. I love his checkered plumage.
At any rate, that's the day's report. But any report that ends with a woodpecker can't be all bad…right?

27 comments:

Wanda said...

Your fog seems to have looked much more magical than mine this morning, here it was light and unremarkable, loved your description. I do have woodpeckers and nuthatches competing for seeds though, just opened another extra large bag.

Bonnie, Original Art Studio said...

What a beauty! Okay, the Woodpecker is cute too! This post could also have been titled, Rapport with a Woodpecker. Always enjoy my visits here. Hope the weekend is good to and for you.

Jenn Jilks said...

I love it when my life is interrupted by nature! Fab shot!

Robin said...

Okay. So you want to give out a recipe for that meal you made?

It's got everything in it that I love.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Wanda…

Fog here again this morning, though not as dense as yesterday's. Of course I have the river which produces more and heavier fogs.

I just divvied out the last of my cracked corn—one big scoop for the ducks, the rest scattered on stones and stumps and bare spots for the ground feeders. I'll also need sunflower seeds soon. So I'm going to have to make a run to the feed store later on.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Bonnie…

Red-bellied woodpeckers are one of my favorite birds, and they're constant visitors here. Unlike the downies, which are also always around, the RBs would as soon clamp onto the side of the seed feeders as the suet blocks—though both species will eat seeds. In fact, right this moment there's a little downy on the feeder under the eaves a few feet from my keyboard.

Glad you enjoy your visits here. I always enjoy your comments.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Jenn…

Isn't that black-and-white houndstooth feather pattern just classy? Red-bellied woodpeckers are really handsome birds, and full of attitude.

I love nature distractions, too, which is a real problem here because there are so many of them. More often than not, getting things done takes twice as long if I can see a window, and four times as long if I'm working outside.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Tony…

Thanks…

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Robin…

Sure, and it's easy—except that the prep time on the pork takes awhile and needs time to marinate.

First, the pork. I buy packs of "country style" pork ribs (bone-in or boneless) from Sam's or my big-box market. But really, any sort of pork works. You'll need a couple of pounds.

Then I cut quarter-inch thick slices, easier if the meat is lightly frozen. You'll need a sharp knife. Next I cut the slices into quarter-inch strips, so what I'm ending up with is sort of julienned pork—little 2-inch long strips. These go into a plastic container with lid to marinate in the fridge overnight or for even a couple of days. The marinade I make up is a mix of soy sauce, brown sugar, red pepper flakes, and cayenne—pungent, hot, sweet. (I keep a big bottle of this pre-mixed.)

Don't skip the long marination. This is what makes the meat tender and juicy and flavorful.

Pork now ready, I simply put two cups of brown rice in a glass baking dish with a lid, add four cups water, into which I've dissolved four bullion cubes (beef) and bake in a 350 degree oven for one hour and fifteen minutes (lid on the dish.)

About a half hour before my rice is ready, I take the shredded, marinated pork and in my wok, stir-fry in a tablespoon or less of olive oil. When the pork is almost done, I toss in an onion (cut into thin, long slices) and a good bit of fresh ginger, maybe a few drops of sesame oil. When the onion just begins to turn transparent, I add a can of black beans, and a large can of diced tomatoes, and just let everything get hot and maybe simmer a moment or two.

You can put the rice on a plate and added the stir-fry on top, or mix the rice in with the stir-fry. Your call. I usually have a bottle of the marinade mix on the table and use that for extra seasoning.

What I end up with is about the same amount of pork, etc. as rice…which is a lot of both, though not if you're feeding a couple of hungry friends. I like leftovers, so that's no problem.

An even better dish using the same shredded/marinated pork is to stir-fry the meat with garlic, a bit of onion,about half a green jalapeño (seeds and all for heat, seeds removed for less heat) and ginger, and when the meat is done add in a pound or two of green beans you've pre-cooked in boiling water until they're still bright green but just turning tender. Finish with a few drops of sesame oil. Serve the baked brown rice (you might try baking this with an added tablespoon of crushed rosemary) on the side.

Sounds like a lot more work than it is. This is one of those meals you can basically knock out with a crowd of noisy guests crowding the kitchen. Write if you have questions.

Gail said...

HI GRI-
Wow! Your writing style is wonderful - so vivid and emotional.

"...........morning came in like a shy bride behind a veil of gauzy fog....." That is such an amazing use of language to describe how what you saw felt. Amazing indeed. another amazing use of language?!! ".........seen above the cushiony mist like fingers of drowning victims waving frantically above the surf"!! Oh my, such powerful use of imagery to describe your view.
And your view, like mine, is changing as Winter settles in - taking it's rightful place - and I/we prepare in earnest for its power and passion, chaos and peace, and look for the visiting woodpecker - cardinal - winter dove - against the white landscape of life being renewed just beneath the surface.
I so love your writing style - it gives me wondrous chills of desire for more.

Love to you
Gail
peace......

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Gail…

Yup, the time of the sparse, brown, open landscape is here, along with long nights and chilly days, and skies as gray as the back of the chickadees which busy themselves at the feeders. A good time to scoot close to the fire and sip a comforting cup while the wind scatters the last dry leaves.

And…you'll doubtless get your wish regarding my writing style as it's the only style I have. I'm a one-trick pony. Just me.

Take care, stay well, enjoy your blessings.

Bonnie, Original Art Studio said...

Scribe: I think there's a cooking blog in your future. You give fabulous step-by-step instructions for your dish. Just a couple of photographs . . . I can see it now!

I so love sesame oil - I would wear it as perfume if I could get away with it! But my husband balks at men coming up and licking me behind the ears.

I'm off to the kitchen to make something scrumptious with - yes, you guessed it - toasted sesame oil.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Oh how I wish we had that lovely woodpecker here in the UK - such subtle colouring - love the description of your day too Scribe.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Bonnie…

I don't know about a cooking blog, but when I first began Riverdaze, my intentions were to write about a lot of different things, cooking and food being one. I haven't done that, nor have I written much about books or music, or any of a number of long-time, serious interests.

I've cooked all my life. Mostly I cook (because I most enjoy eating) "peasant food," regardless of cuisine. I like simplicity in preparation, using good ingredients, ending up with distinctive, flavorful, satisfying dishes. I don't like recipes that begin with 25 ingredients, half of which you'll use for nothing else besides this particular dish. I do a fair amount of "fusion food," dishes which combine tastes and ingredients of various cultures. I like hearty fare…but I also like light dishes, unless they border on the foo-foo.

I love sesame oil in lots of things, including a nice salad dressing or olive oil and rice vinegar, which also uses soy, brown sugar, fresh ginger, garlic, and a bit of mustard to help emulsify. And while were on the sesame oil, I don't blame your husband for balking at those me who want to come up and lick you behind the ears…of course where I grew up, our "balking" would take the form of an immediate thrashing for the would-be licker, and possibly an over-the-knee spanking for the fragrant lickee. (One has to mete out necessary justice swiftly, appropriately, and fairly in such matters.)

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Weaver…

For some reason, I think woodpeckers are often judged and admired as being "woodpeckers" and not given their due like other birds, in regards to their colors and feather patterns. This red-bellied pix is a prime example of just how wonderfully marked they are. I love the black-and-while checks.

I do think the red-bellied is badly named. The small, pale wash of namesake red-orange feathers are impossible to see in many circumstances. But we already have a "red-headed" woodpecker and a "red-cockaded" woodpecker, so I suppose this poor bird just got the leftovers when it came to a name.

Bonnie, Original Art Studio said...

When I come here I never know whether to call you Grizz or Scribe. Which do you prefer?

I know time is always a constraint. There are so many places we could take our blogs. I would love to hear about the books and/or music you enjoy. However, your studies in nature are reward enough to bring me here.

I have similar tastes and preferences in food and food preparation to those you describe. I have loved my acquired knowledge of the 'chemistry' of cooking - particularly at this period of my life when I don't really want to spend a lot of time thinking about or preparing food. However, after our daughter came down with cancer last year and we listened to the research she did about possible contributing factors (The China Study, The Food Revolution to name a couple of books), we have joined her in becoming vegetarians. Eeek! Now I have had to learn new ways to prepare things and think about food in general. Mind you, we have been eating wonderful meals, but a little part of me resents the time it takes to figure out these new meal plans.

I don't know if you have ever visited my blog, but there you would discover that I work as a psychotherapist. And, despite myself, I couldn't help but notice that you left the 'n' off of 'men' speaking of those who might want to lick the toasted sesame oil dribbling down my neck.

Though I try, I cannot totally divorce myself from my work when I enter the blogosphere to play, and I know that, I too, in my haste to type comments, leave out letters all the time. However, in your immaculately crafted responses it is rare to see an error/slip/oublie - so I am wondering (hoping? - just checking my unconscious!) if this was a little freudian slip . . .

Now I know since we have never met, it is surely the fragrant sesame oil you would be unconsciously be lusting after . . . but it does set a girl to feeling young, flirtatious, full of harmless fantasies . . . when she reads 'men" without the 'n'.

Many thanks to your unconscious for this little slip that made me giggle and made my day. Of course, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, right?

;-)

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Bonnie…

Oh, man…you sharp-eyed, sneaky psychologists! I would make a spelling/proofreading error with you! (Now I'm teasing, as my daughter is also a psychologist.)

I hate to disappoint (and I'm going to believe you're TERRIBLY, ANGUISHINGLY disappointed!) but it was not a Freudian (notice, I capitalized the "F", per OED) slip, but to wallow amid the French, a mere oublie.

Actually, that's what I get for not proofreading every word I write every single time. You'd think I'd know better, given some of the embarrassing slips I catch. Just as you can't stop being a psychologist, I can't stop being a writer—and I do try and draft my comments with the care of my craft. Usually. Except when I get lazy, or hurried, or too blind to see a mistake because I'm reading in what should be there rather than what is actually in the copy.

Now, I expect there's a good basis for supposing a few behind-the-ear drops of sesame oil would effect the behavior of nearby males. Doubtless this is correct. We males can easily become confused by even a whiff of certain scents. Who knows, sesame oil may be an as yet unrecognized pseudo-pheromone. The question, of course, becomes…is our suddenly aroused male lust lusting after flesh in the Biblical sense or the gastronomical?

Which, it suddenly comes to mind, given your profession, is a perfect behavioral study for future academic pursuit (with a possible book contract at the end) and a truly fine excuse to daub yourself liberally with sesame oil and see whether you're the newest femme fatale or a strolling bowl of hot-and-sour soup.

And yes…I have and do read your blog.

Bonnie, Original Art Studio said...

How did you know? I do have a double blind (mostly blind) study in progress to discover whether I am a femme fatale or merely a strolling bowl of hot and sour (I prefer the word tart) soup! The results will only be published posthumously. A scratch and lick page will be an essential part of the final product.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Bonnie…

Either way, you'll become an icon in China.

Bernie said...

Grizz you and Wanda live in what sounds to be a magical place....no wonder neither of you like to leave home.....love the woodpecker photo and your meal sounds delicious......:-) Hugs

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Bernie…

I can't speak for Wanda, but I expect the truth is we both simply enjoy where we live because it suits us, because we both enjoy nature and a natural setting, and because we both find the creatures and seasons and all they have to offer endlessly fascinating.

Big cities, in their artificial worlds of concrete and glass, noise and pollution, hold no magic whatsoever for me. The occasional shopping visit, or a trip to an art gallery, book store, theater, or musical production, the occasional necessity of big-city medical care or some other service…are the only value of such place to me. Otherwise, I find cities valueless.

The places I can't live without are woods and fields, lakes and streams, prairies, blue skies, mountains, oceans, beaches, deserts. Natural space, populated with birds and fish and snakes and bugs and furry animals…and maybe the occasional human so I can have someone to walking with should the urge arise.

That's indeed magic.

Rowan said...

He's a beautiful bird and that's a great photo of him. I loved your description of the misty morning and the beautiful day, here it's very wet and very windy,the trees are all bare now and the leaves lie in sodden heaps. On the plus side I too have a regular woodpecker visiting and a garden full of golddfinches. Days like this I'm glad I'm not a wild creature!

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Rowan…

I think we often forget how difficult it must be for wild things when the weather turns cold and damp. Even wind adds such a handicap to their day.

I'm glad you liked my woodpecker—he's quite the handsome fellow.

BTW, your mincemeat and cake looks great. Have you ever posted the recipes?

TheChicGeek said...

Hi Scribe :)
I've been having fun on vacation and have not come by to visit. Ahhhh, I miss this place :)
Anyway, LOVE that woodpecker...he's gorgeous! Such beautiful colors! I hope he doesn't peck too many holes in your cottage though.

I wanted to stop to wish you a Very Happy Thanksgiving full of Love, and Family, Friends and Yummy food!

Happy Thanksgiving, Scribe! See you back at the river upon my return.
Hugs :)
Kelly

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Kelly/akaCG…

No worry of woodpecker holes here—the cottage walls are 17-inches of solid Indiana limestone! It takes a serious effort and the right tools to drill even a 1/4-inch hole an inch deep.

I've been busy getting Thanksgiving stuff ready, plus getting my work out early, and a vacation sounds like the better idea. But the yummy food is coming right along and I love Thanksgiving (one of my two favorite holidays) so it's always worth it.

You have a good, safe, enjoyable Thanksgiving, too. Feast, be merry! You have something to really be thankful for—as we all do if we just look around. The riverbank will be here when you get back.

Blessings! :-)

Grace said...

"The morning came slipping in like a shy bride behind a veil of gauzy fog." That's quite the line! Fills my head with images.

I saw my first pileated woodpecker this past Oct. They're huge! Scared the crap out of my at first.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Grace…

It is my job as a writer to fill your head, as a reader, with images. Actually, sometimes all I have to do is suggest, just give you a nudge, and you'll do your own head-filling for me. (See, you did it this time, right?)

In the southern mountains, I've heard folks refer to pileated woodpeckers as Lord God birds…as in, "Lord, God! Look at that woodpecker!"

BTW, not to worry about that scared out crap—it's biodegradable. :-)