Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Author's Chatterbox (with excerpts and pictures)

Author’s Chatterbox
(with excerpts and pictures)

     My story character, Carol writes:

 “After only several days of picking, the kitchen was overrun with blackberries. We had enough to make dozens of jars of blackberry jam. We only stopped our industrious boiling and bottling when Michael returned from the general store with news that it was out of jelly jars.”  Pocketful of Pinecones page 215

     We are surrounded by woods and the kind of plants that grow along what the filed guide says, are “woodland edges,” Wild blackberries are one such plant. This thorn bush is in the rose family.

     I took a photograph of some blackberries opposite our drive awhile back. (Rubus allengheniensis) Unlike the British blackberries on the autumn Brambly Hedge plate Pennsylvania blackberries ripen at the height of summer.

     I do not make my own blackberry jam. I buy it. 

     Hence the empty jam jar filled with garden flowers and weeds from our and woodland edges. 

     A favorite weed in the vase is Queen Anne’s lace or wild carrot. (Daucus carota) It is growing particularly tall this year. 

     Carol writes:

“Emily and I gathered quantities of Queen Anne’s lace. . . .  When I returned I looked up the poem . . . I think it will make a lovely addition to their Notebooks. I’ll have Emily copy one verse a day into her book.” Pocketful of Pinecones pages 224-225

     Another plant that grows along the woodland edges and wherever the smallest amount of dabbled sunlight reaches the leaf litter, is the poisonous pokeweed. (Phytolacca americana)

     Carol writes:

“ ‘Ooh, look pokeberries. They’re plump and ripe and will make just the pink I need,’ Dora said. . . . ‘I’ve collected goldenrod for yellow and sassafras root bark for brown. Whenever I go for walks, I keep my eyes open for plant dyes.’  . . .
As one knitter to another [Carol] asked, “Do you have a sweater planned?’
‘Yes, one with a pale yellow background and a Fair Isle border pattern of pink roses and green leaves.’ ”  Lessons of Blackberry Inn page 68

     Dora was sort-of describing a child-size sweater that I had on my knitting needles around the time I wrote the story. It is in my Grandmother’s Someday Box while I wait for a granddaughter. The pink rows of fleur-de-lis closely resemble the color of crushed pokeberries – a natural dye that Dora plans to use on some of her spun wool.

     I crushed some of our pokeberries onto a rag. Voila- Dora’s pink. 

     Unlike my sweater, Dora plans to knit a true Fair Isle pattern around the yoke for herself in stockingette stitch. I contemporized this traditional style with Noro and knit the yoke in garter stitch. I understand why Dora dreamed up these colors. I think they work beautifully together.

     My sweater is for cool spring weather in 100% wool and has wooden buttons. In spring, when Dora’s practical farmer husband Bob, sees his wife’s finished sweater, I believe he will not secretly be of the opinion that their one sheep is a boarder that doesn’t earn its keep. Even if the sheep is more of a pet he is happy to give it room in the barn for sweet, soft-spoken, hardworking Dora who is adjusting to life in the country. 

     Something else grows prolifically in the village of Appleton – sweet corn – and we Americans welcome the once-a-year experience of eating it with atrocious table manners - between two hands.

    Carol writes:

“The sweet corn was juicy, too, and we must have looked a sight with our large juicy bites of both tomatoes and corn and our buttery fingers.” Lessons at Blackberry Inn page 15

     With allergies to corn in the house I rarely cook it. I omit it from all recipes. Dean mustn’t eat it but urged me this summer to buy myself some local corn at a roadside stand. When I boiled, buttered, and salted it, I thought about my characters at the end of the summer doing the same. I thoroughly enjoyed it – on the cob - in the American way. 

     My lunch here features a quinoa burger made with red quinoa – something my characters would find strange, indeed. I flavor them with cumin, soy sauce, brewers yeast, chopped onion and parsley (or was it cilantro?) Anyway, my menfolk will eat these burgers as an alternative to meat once in a while when the cook camouflages the quinoa in a bun. This lunch is high in protein and if it weren’t for the butter, would be vegan. 

     Carol writes:

“[Emma’s bedroom] overlooks the kitchen garden, which is so close to the house that the scent of herbs wafts in through her windows whenever there is a sturdy breeze. . . .
‘Come in, dear,’ [Emma] said peeking over her reading glasses at me. She was sitting at the desk of her secretary near the window with a letter in her hand.”  Lessons at Blackberry Inn page 32.

   At my request our son Nigel drew the Victorian oak secretary pictured on page 33. We purchased it in Tennessee in 1988 (a year before he was born). In Maryland it charmed the kitchen and stored dishes. In Oregon and Maine it stood in the corner of the family room. 

     In the last house we rented in Pennsylvania the secretary was a bedroom fixture filled with books. Its warped door and rounded glass had been well padded for transport more times than I can count comfortably, but it has survived unbroken. Phew. In this house our linen closet has a wide air vent running through it, therefore, this time, the secretary has come in handy to store bathroom sundries and seashells. One of the drawers is filled with my “good intension” pink sponge hair rollers of different sizes. But this fact certainly detracts from the atmosphere I was trying to create in Blackberry Inn. Some things are best left to a reader’s romantic imagination.

     Carol writes:

 “Mr. Fortesquie’s recitations and anecdotes made the whole company lighthearted. He did quiet down some, however, to more slowly consume his blueberry pie – seemingly to savor every mouthful. Pocketful of Pinecones page 219


     The blueberry boy is wearing the (Vaccinium angustifolium) cap I knit for him. Ending my post with the cuteness factor is something his Grandma couldn’t resist. 

     Thanks for sitting in and joining me for a chat,

     Karen Andreola

(click any image to enlarge)

To see more fruit caps you may visit the October 21, 2010 post, titled "Yarn & Heartstrings." This little fellow wasn't born yet but his brother took part.