The cheap NCM life

Bottled last summer’s beach plum wine, fruity, a tad astringent, but hey, practically free, as a private jet flew overhead. The beach plums come from two bushes in the backyard.

Made some bread from home ground wheat, cheap and good.

Eating kale from the garden tonight, as cheap as cheap gets. Kale grows like a weed in North Cape May, and requires little more effort than stooping to drop the seeds in the ground.

A good life is cheaper than the jet life.

Lichen and the NCM economy

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A few summers ago I watched a wasp attack a patch of lichen on our Adirondack chair.

Wasps are fascinatingly creepy as they stalk prey among the flowers, but this one got fooled. It stalked the lichen, then made its attack.

After a moment or two of trying to do something with the lichen, it flew a couple of feet away and then cleaned its legs, classic displacement behavior.

(It was embarrassed.)

The chair was made by a local man. We bought two, the price not cheap, but was more than fair, and he was surprised we opted not to oil them. We like to see things age as much as we do, and, in the local way of acceptance that is under-rated, he nodded and went on his way.

Because we chose not to oil our chairs, they have turned grey and are covered by lichen. They are now over a decade old, and will likely last another 5. With oil, they may have outlived us.

Wheat grown in our backyard by my toddler grand-daughter on an aging cedar chair made by a local craftsmen.

When we need new ones, we’ll seek the same man. We do not need chairs to outlive us. That’s what plastic is for.

Because we chose not to oil them a decade ago, I got to see a wasp explore the lichen, which might not seem like much, but I enjoyed seeing that a wasp could be as easily fooled as a human.

We are all easily fooled–life is foolish, in the best sense of the word.

A chilly beach walk

The snow is just about all gone, but the Arctic air has returned. A pair of bedraggled snow guys welcomed me to the bay.

The recent storms have taken a bite out of the shore–consider bringing a parachute if you come down the Scott Avenue entrance.

The air is a nippy 28 F–it would be lower but for the bay. Some pipers flit and tweet around me–they do not pay me much mind.

On the way back I opted to take the sidewalk. I stumbled upon a couple of good-sized pumpkins near a large dead hare, the bright oranges and blood red standing out on the gray ground.

One of two pumpkins found near Beach Avenue.

The cold is deep. and getting deeper. Pipes will freeze, a few will burst. Winter is rough on all of us.

When I got home, I cleared away a few leaves from the edge of the basil box, and after a day of bone-chilling cold and a dead rabbit, the crocuses reminded me that warmer days are coming.

Imbolc is coming .

Hope in a crocus

The darkest six weeks of the year are behind us. While winter has been harsh for these parts, the sun continues to strengthen since the darkest day three weeks ago.

The plants know.

A January crocus in North Cape May

Tiny spears of crocus are stirring around the neighborhood–this one comes up faithfully on Leaming Avenue, year after year after year.

North Cape May crocuses, February 6, 2011.

If you look, you will find them, tiny green fingers breaking through the earth reaching up for the sun, reminding us that faith comes in all forms.

North Cape May crocus, February 20, 2011

You won’t find one flowering yet–at least I have not seen any this early–but their buds are already forming beneath the ice and snow, knitting water and carbon dioxide together to create the spring flowers that will explode open in just a few more weeks.

If you find one flowering before March, let me know.

Rosemary by the shore

When we bought our home in North Cape May years ago, we stumbled upon the LCMR plant sale, a work of love by Joanie Dilling and her students. We paid a couple of bucks for a small rosemary plant, planted it next to the house, and pretty much left it alone.

The tiny plant is now a sprawling lovely aromatic mess threatening to take over the driveway, and continues to give and give and give.


Every time I walk by, I stroke a few sprigs then bring my fingers to my nose, remembering again what I thought I could not forget.

The periwinkle flowers. feed the few foolish bees who wander out of the hive on the rare, deliciously warm December days.

The sprawling trunk holds its own beauty, wood arising out of the Earth like a writhing Naga.

Chopped rosemary, a staple in our home

A few sprigs of fresh rosemary will run you $2.49 at the local Acme, about the cost of the seedling I carried home, started by a struggling high school student shepherded by a kind woman from Ocean City.

Or you can swing by here, snip a few sprigs, and thank the universe for living in a land as blessed as our neighborhood.

If you’re local, you can grow one, too. We are blessed by our bay, our skies, our weather, and our sand.

A perfect November tomato

November, 2019, while still on the vine.

Plato was wrong about the perfect.

I do not know what the word “perfect” means. I know what we think it means, but its meaning crumbles in my hand when I squeeze it.

So here’s a tomato, an unexpectedly beautiful November tomato I found in the garden last fall.

It’s not perfect in a Platonic sense, but it was perfect for that particular day in this particular life.

I ate it, of course (what else would one do with a tomato), but its image lingers because I took a picture of it when I saw it. A picture is all that is left of this tomato–soon after this photo it became tiny particles breathed and pissed out of my body.

The Greeks have proven troublesome, at least to me. John gets right to the heart of the problem. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God.


Western culture picked that up and ran, creating all kinds of masterpieces we ogle (or are supposed to ogle, anyway) while the tomatoes get eaten, breathed and pissed out, then reconstructed again, over and over.

The perfect tomato above no longer exists but still feels real. Photographs and words will do that.

Halloween tomato, picked this morning (October 231, 2020)–it reflects the kind of year we’re having.

A spoken story dies with the storyteller. The parts of the stories that matter or resonate or are crudely funny get passed along to younger mortals, who, after sharing stories and eating tomatoes that they exhale and piss out, also eventually die.

Somewhere along the way, several thousand years ago, written language was invented. When the stories can no longer be changed by the wiser among us, words become our prisons.

We work for words, for the abstract, for the future, for money, for fame, for recognition, for a lot of things, but unless you are directly working with the ground or water or air, you are living in a world that does not exist. Literally.

When we confuse the abstract with the real, and we do–every single day–we are reliving the story of original sin, a story that survives because it’s a story that matters.

And still does.

Pay more attention to the voices of the living. The letters of the past are no longer edited, no longer ours. Let them go.

Winter dandelion

The edges of the petals have been cauterized by the recent frigid nights. There are no bees around. Even if the flower should go to seed, the ground is too hard to accept them.

And yet there it is, bright yellow, still living, still growing, still being.

A January dandelion flower

Early in spring I will rip a leaf here and there, to nibble during the weeks when there is little to nibble, a week or two after the peas have been planted, months before we’ll see beans and tomatoes.

Its persistence seems to annoy most. Few folks forage, and no one makes dandelion wine anymore. Perhaps the dandelion’s reminder of who we once were, of what we once valued, is why its abundance angers us. I do not know.

A few weeks after flowering, the yellow gives way to a white soft globe, soft as baby hair, each tuft carrying a seed. Make a wish and blow the pods away.

The dandelion’s roots delve deep into the earth, snorting in water, sniffing out trace elements we have no idea we need (but we do), feasting on the feces left by an earthworm.

Some of the dandelions on our yard have been here over a decade, gathering sunlight, feeding the bees, feeding me.

I spent a wasted lifetime killing them.