nichepoetryandprose

poetry and prose about place

Archive for March 2012

a moment of beautiful – a swing in the orchard

with 18 comments

the space: in the shade of a tree

the beautiful: an old wooden swing

The sight of a swing hanging from the solid limb of an old tree recalls happy hours of swinging when I was a child.

On my grandfather’s farm, the swing was a swing-chair, and I spent hours pushing the old swing to its limits (see ‘in the apple orchard’  the post for August 9, 2011, under the category ‘my grandfather’s farm’).  At home in Ralston, Alberta, the community playground had an adult-sized swing set, strong enough to withstand our approach of ‘stand on the seat and pump’.  And, when my son was little, we had an old-fashioned board and rope swing – it was a little off-kilter and seemed to go side-to-side rather than forward-and-backward but I remember he and I had lots of fun.

My own childhood story about board and rope swings is bitter-sweet.  My Dad built me a swing and hung it from the rafters in the basement of our house in Medicine Hat.  I loved it, but … one day I let go of the ropes and fell backwards, hitting my head on the concrete floor.  I can still remember the intense pain and the big black star that dominated my vision for a moment.  People who know me will say this explains a lot.

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swing sway

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the old swing

hangs frayed from a limb

of the apple tree

sways

hips as she waits

for the downtown bus

rocking learned

in baby years

when rhythm brought peace

and a quiet evening

~

~

© Jane Tims  2012

Written by jane tims

March 31, 2012 at 7:05 am

maple sap soda fountain

with 13 comments

For the last two days, the maple sap has been running again.  The nights have been below freezing and the days are sunny and warm.  Yesterday, we had 12 liters of sap from our 10 trees.   The day before, we collected about 5 liters.

Each tree has its own rhythm of drips.  Our best producer today drips at a rate of about 9 drops every 5 seconds, or 108 drops per minute.

This evening, I had my ‘drink the sap from the tree’ experience.  I took a small glass and caught the drips for a couple of ounces of the sweetest water ever.  To me, the sap of each tree has its own taste.  The sap from the big maple tree by our front door tastes a lot like cream soda without the fizz!

The maple sap is crystal clear, although it will turn dark amber (No. 2 Amber, according to our grading in Canada) once we boil it down to syrup.

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droplet

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one drop of maple sap

from the spile

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a seep from slate

at the waterfall edge

~

in rain, a tear

from the margin of a leaf

~

a pause in the envelope

between rough bark and aluminum

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~

© Jane Tims 2012

Written by jane tims

March 30, 2012 at 7:07 am

keeping watch for dragons #4 – a dragon overhead

with 16 comments

Have you ever had a raven fly directly over your head?  If so, you have heard the rhythmic compression of air, too intense to have been made by feathers…

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a dragon overhead

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a raven flies over

thrashes the air

percussion of dragon wing

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© Jane Tims  2012

Written by jane tims

March 28, 2012 at 6:08 am

maple syrup ups and downs

with 12 comments

It may be a short maple syrup season this year.  The weather has not been cooperative.  In order for the sap to run, warm days are great, but the nights need to be cold.  When the temperatures fall below zero, the sap in the tree runs from the crown to the roots.  When the day is warm and sunny, the sap runs back up to the canopy.  If there is no cold night, no sap. 
So far we have collected about 40 liters of sap from our 10 trees and I have 3 bottles (each 500 ml or two cups) of lovely dark syrup!  This compares to 136 liters of sap last year on the same date, from 12 trees.

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Cold night, warm day

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Icicles build

from the spile

sweet sickles of sap

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© Jane Tims 2012

keeping watch for dragons #3 – beechwood dragon

with 8 comments

This time of year, the only leaves still clinging in the forest are the dry, golden leaves of young beech trees.  Every drop of moisture has been withdrawn and the leaves rustle and whisper in the woodland.    Something about the way the wind moves through the leaves, and catches the sound of their tremble, makes you wonder… 

 

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beechwood dragon

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scales rattle

as he tiptoes through the thicket

peeks between the trees

wingwebs transparent

armoured in gold

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© Jane Tims  2012

Written by jane tims

March 24, 2012 at 7:28 am

Coltsfoot (Tussilago Farfara L.)

with 13 comments

Although it has been snowing sporadically this month, our recent days of very, very warm weather tell me spring has arrived.  As a result, I am watching the roadsides for the first flowers of spring.  Even before the snow is out of the woods, it begins to melt along the roadsides as they warm in the lengthening hours of sun.  And the cycle of bloom begins again.

Coltsfoot (Tussilago Farfara L.) is one of the first plants seen in early spring.  It forms large patches in waste areas, beside brooks and roads, and on damp hillsides.  People often mistake Tussilago for Dandelion, but it is quite different.  Its yellow flowers are borne on scaly, leafless stems.  The large, woolly leaves don’t appear until later in the season.  In spite of its early appearance in spring, Tussilago actually has late flowers.  The flower buds are formed in autumn at the base of the plant, and pass winter underground, flowering in the first spring sunlight.

Other names for the plant are Son-before-the-Father, which refers to the appearance of flowers before the leaves, and pas-d’âne (literally donkey-steps).  The scientific names are from the Latin tussis, meaning a cough, referring to the use of the plant as a remedy for such ailments, and the Latin word for coltsfoot, farfarus.  The plant was named by Linnaeus, the Swedish botanist who established the present day system of naming plants.

Although the plant was used by pioneers for its medicinal effects, it is now known that Tussilago contains harmful alkaloids.  Tea made from Coltsfoot has caused health problems in infants and pregnant women, so its use as a cough remedy is not recommended.  In some States, Coltsfoot is considered a noxious weed.

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Coltsfoot

Tussilago Farfara L.

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Gold-

splashed beside the road

like prints

of a frisky colt’s feet

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at first glance-

an early dandelion!

but-

too early

stem scaly

no leaves         below the bloom

no perfume.

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Coltsfoot,

Son-before-the-Father

(flowers before the leaves).

Introduced from

far, far away.

Old wives say

boiled greens

will ease

a cough.

~

Long ago

Tussilago

sprang from where

a burro trod

among the palms

(pas-d’ane)

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Published as: ‘Coltsfoot’, Winter 1993, The Antigonish Review 92:76-77.

Revised

© Jane Tims  1993

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keeping watch for dragons #2 – house dragon

with 8 comments

You have to keep your eyes open to see what humans down the ages have seen.  The trick is to be awake to the metaphor.  And to cheerfully allow confusion of reality and myth.

Although I have seen many dragonflies, I have never seen a dragon.  Or have I …?

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House Dragon

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a dragon disguises

herself as our house

icicles drool from her eaves

smoke from her chimney

her scales age grey

and her nostrils

breath us

in

~

~

©  Jane Tims 1998

detail of 'stone marking property' Copyright Jane Tims 2012

Written by jane tims

March 21, 2012 at 6:44 am

maple syrup time

with 16 comments

Well, the time has finally arrived.  The nights are cold and the days this week are predicted to be sunny and warm.  In our house the combination of cold days and warm nights means the sap is moving in our maple trees.

We tap Red Maple (Acer rubrum L.), although Sugar-maple (Acer saccharum Marsh) is preferred by commercial syrup producers.  Last year we tapped 12 trees, about at the edge of our low-tech capability.  This year we are tapping 10 trees.

We usually use the ‘old-fashioned’ spile and aluminum bucket method.  This year, for the first time, my husband is trying a plastic spile and pipe system for 5 of our taps.  It seems a little easier since the sap drips directly into a plastic reservoir and this eliminates one step in the endless pouring process.

For those of you unfamiliar with tapping trees for sap, the basic idea is to collect the sap and boil it down to make maple syrup.  We select a tree, bore a hole, insert a spile and hang a bucket on the spile hook.  The spile is a cleverly designed spigot which channels the sap from inside the tree into the bucket.  The bucket is fitted with a cover to keep out rainwater or snow and reduce insect access.

So far this year, we have collected 25 liters of sap.  This will boil down at about 40 to 1 to make a little more than 500 ml of syrup (about 2 cups).  Last year, from a season total of 329 liters of sap, we made about 40 pint jars of syrup.  If you try to calculate that at 40 to 1, it will never come out correctly since we don’t boil all of the sap to the same concentration and we drink some of the sap as a sweet drink.

Collecting maple sap is so much fun.  It is good exercise and a great way to get your dose of warm spring sunshine.  And, we have enough maple syrup to last for the year.

I’ll be keeping you up to date on our maple syrup adventures this year.  Right now, the pot full of sap is boiling on the deck.

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sugar song

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cold nights

warm days

cold nights

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sap plucks stainless steel

different rhythm, every tap

quick and dead slow

in sync

with the downy woodpecker

or the bird with the round warble in its throat

~

~

©  Jane Tims  2012

Written by jane tims

March 19, 2012 at 8:01 am

keeping watch for dragons #1 – woodland dragon

with 6 comments

Sometimes our grey woods are a mysterious place.  Something about the slant of the light, the way the trees stand like pillars supporting the sky, or the way pale moths climb on the forest dust, conjures myth from reality.

Last year as I walked on one of the paths, my eye was drawn to the single scale of a seed cone, lying on the forest floor.  Perhaps it had been dropped as a Grey Squirrel in the tree above nibbled on a pine cone.

Perhaps…

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Woodland Dragon

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in the blackened stand

of jack pine

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a single

crimson

scale

~

~

©  Jane Tims 1998

Written by jane tims

March 17, 2012 at 8:08 am

from the pages of an old diary – words and phrases

with 12 comments

My great-aunt’s diaries are very easy to read.  Her handwriting is neat and her words, though brief, clearly convey her meaning.  Occasionally, she uses unfamiliar words.  What do you think these words mean?  My answers, assisted by the Internet, are given below…

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‘tidies’

‘silence cloth’

‘pizza’

‘layette’

‘snaps’

‘snow pudding’

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April 18, 1957                She washed the curtains and ‘tidies’ from the upstairs rooms.

The Free Online Dictionary defines a ‘tidy’ as ‘a decorative protective covering for the arms or headrest of a chair.’  ‘Tidies’ could also have been her name for the hold-backs on curtains, or the small linen cloths used to cover dressers and other surfaces.

March 12, 1957             She bought a ‘silence cloth’ for the table ($2.00)

The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines a ‘silence cloth’ as ‘a pad (as of flannel or felt) used under a tablecloth.’  This cloth would have protected the table from scratches and marks from dishes.

July 31, 1956                She and her husband sat out on the ‘pizza’

This was a frequent entry.  I think it was her word for ‘piazza’ and referred to the front porch or a small sitting area in their side-yard.

Feb. 1, 1957                   Her Red Cross group made a ‘layette’ for a local woman and her baby.

Wikipedia says this is a collection of clothing for a newborn and can include many items, including sleepwear, cloth diapers, wash cloths and receiving blankets.

June 29, 1967               She received ‘snaps’ of their anniversary party.

I know this one, but some in the digital generation may not.  It is short for ‘snapshot’ and refers to processed photographs.

December 18, 1967    She made a ‘snow pudding’ and took it to a neighbour who had a sore tongue.

I am not a cook, so many recipe names are not familiar to me.  I looked at the Internet for a modern recipe and found the following:

Snow Pudding

2 T. unflavored gelatin
1/4 C. cold water
1 C. boiling water
1/2 C. lemon juice
1 C. sugar
3 egg whites

soften the gelatin in cold water;

dissolve the gelatin in boiling water;

add lemon juice and sugar and stir until the mixture thickens;

add stiffly beaten egg whites;

beat until the mixture ‘stacks’ (holds firm peaks).

The finished dessert looks like snow, hence the name.  I don’t know if using raw egg whites is OK today, but the equivalent from a carton of egg whites would be safe to use.

~

©  Jane Tims  2012

 

two of the six diaries my great-aunt wrote from 1944 to 1972 ... the quilt is one she made during the last years of her life

Written by jane tims

March 16, 2012 at 6:54 am

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