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The Sweetness of Summer

Posted Jul 07 2008 7:15pm

The Comfrey is in full bloom, the sand is too hot to walk barefoot on and the birds start serenading at about five in the morning - it must be summer! One benefit of the long days and scathing heat is the ability to cook many of our foods in the solar oven. Ours was a gift, in a model I haven’t seen in forever. It’s all heavy wood and brilliant mirrors. It’s awkward  to move in order to properly align it with the sun through the afternoon, but its high quality and energy efficiency is well worth it. This is especially true on days when it’s too windy to have an open fire outside and too hot to have the wood stove going inside. Just this afternoon, Loba was baking delicious rye bread and chicken thighs in it!

Rhiannon’s been busy floating down the shallow river on her belly, and making fairy houses along the banks. This morning she made herself a bow and arrow, and likes to stalk the poor cottontails barefoot, only to roar and chase them at the last minute. She’s also taken a liking to epic tales of all kinds, and evening often finds her happily curled up with the latest 400 page novel in the loft bed above the den. I can hear her sighs and sharp breaths all the way down here, as she’s carried away on the waves of the story.

In rare moments of down time, I’ve been reading too. I’ve been especially enjoying the small, beautifully detailed books written and illustrated by an English nomad named Beshlie Heron. I love her book Traveller’s (yes, spelled with two ll’s) Joy, a little volume made up of common wildflowers and their folklore. It’s clear Beshlie has spent a great deal of time with the plants she writes about, and speaks from experience and great affection. Another delight is the tiny Beshlie’s Countryside: The Book of The Harvesters, Milkmen & Hop-Pickers which illustrates many diminutive and gorgeous little flowers while explaining the tools and process of harvesting and milking with drawings and sweet text. Beshlie spent many years with the Traveling People of the UK, living on the road and learning their ways.

I’ve also been rereading Juliette de Bairacli Levy’s classic book by the same name as Beshlie’s, Traveler’s Joy. This may be my favorite Juliette book of all time, as I so relate to her lifestyle and adamant love of the outdoor life. Juliette also lived among nomadic peoples, though of many lands across the world. Having lived in caves by the sea and small island dwellings, her deep understanding of the vital importance of simplicity, real food and natural beauty is quite outstanding. Her herbal and practical information is certainly useful but it is her spirit and stories that I love most.

The days are hot, but the evenings are cool and breezy.  The Daturas and 4 o’clocks open up, and the moon grows brighter in the dimming sky. I wander by the river, petting the Estafiate and stopping to sniff the Grape flowers. Often I carry my wide gathering basket, stopping to harvest greens and medicines on my way. The nights are wonderful for sleeping out of doors, and dawn brings the sounds of elk and deer playing in the river. There’s something indescribably sweet about SW mountain summers — they’re slow and rhythmic, and full of the river’s music winding through the canyon.

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