Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Mighty Karnac Knows

Wild Plants And Wooly Bears

Today is Tuesday, October 11, 2011. And without hearing or seeing a weather report, I would know without a doubt that within 24 hours or so, heavy rain will fall on Waldo, Maine.

I’ll explain by citing the late Johnny Carson’s character, “The Mighty Karnac.” Karnac would swipe a sealed envelope across his forehead and then come forth with the answer. After this, Karnac would open the envelope and read the question.

So let’s say that I am playing Karnac. I swipe the envelope across my head and exclaim, “Because they are grading the road.” I open the envelope and read the question. “How do you know it’s going to rain?”

Talk around town is that the road commissioner keeps a tight watch on the long-range forecast. Then when he is assured of impending rain, he grades the gravel roads. Within days, the roads are washed out and residents are compelled to drive on roads that are no better and sometimes far worse than before the grading took place.

Country life has its ups and downs and this is surely a big “down.” But other things, good things, make up for human ineptitude and neglect.

For instance, the weather up until now (yes, rain is surely coming) has been spectacular. Warm temperatures coupled with the brilliant reds and yellows of autumn leaves have combined to make life off the beaten path a physical and spiritual pleasure.

Also, while a few wild plants remain for dedicated foragers to harvest, my attention has lately focused upon picking and preserving vegetables from my garden. Winter squash, picked the day before a killing frost, must sit outside in the sun in order to harden off. At night, these go back inside.

Carrot tops remain green, so I allow them to linger in the ground. When the tops begin to die back, I’ll pull the roots and then pressure can them for winter use.

Swiss chard and kale continue to produce leafy greens and these I accept with much gratitude.

It was with sad farewell that I picked and later ate the last of my summer squash, zucchini and yellow straightnecks. I enjoy these so much that throughout the season, at every opportunity, I sliced and partially fried pounds of squash. Then I placed the rounds on a baking sheet and put that in the freezer. When completely frozen, the partially-cooked squash went into a freezer bag.

Later in winter, I am able to remove just the exact amount of squash for a meal, no more no less. These go from the freezer to the frying pan where they are cooked to perfection in olive or canola oil.

Sometimes I’ll get a hankering for fish and to that end, I have bags and bags of frozen white perch and black crappie fillets. These, too, taste nearly as good as when fresh because of having been cared for properly from the time they were taken from the water.

So my cupboard abounds not only with wild plants but also homegrown vegetables and also fish from local lakes, ponds and streams. I’m fortunate indeed.

To end, let me say that I hope everyone has enjoyed this glorious warm and sunny fall season as much as I have. Take it in now because soon, the heavy rain will fall. I know that because today, they graded the road.

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