After writing the last post I went for a couple of walks around the neighborhood and started noticing other composting systems I wanted to save for future reference. Here are two plastic systems, one in a little bit better shape than the other. I like how the one on the left has a spot to pull out compost from the bottom, but I’m not sure the compost is able to breathe as much as it might want to. The stackable system would be cool since each element looks light enough to carry around the garden. I see what looks like avocado leaves growing just behind.
Next to that is a nice, simple, leaf compost system similar to mine just smaller and more vertical. It saves a lot of space in this little alley spot and still accomplishes the goal.
Here’s another leaf compost system that looks nice and doesn’t require any set up. Both this one and the one above could be replicated in the corner of a smaller patio or urban-scale garden.
Here is the view from above of the leaves with my Crocks making a cameo in the corner — the official shoe of COVID.
My neighbor across the back alley is serious about his composting. He told me that their ground was hard clay when they moved in years ago and they’ve built up a great topsoil with leaves and kitchen scrap compost. He mows his leaves to chop them up which accelerates the process. I definitely want to mulch my leaves somehow, but I just don’t have the time or energy so I take the slower route.
Speaking of the slower processes, I appreciate the vines growing into the compost. Even though they’re an invasive species, it’s a good reminder to me that the compost can provide nutrients for plants at every stage. I might try to work in smaller little compost holes into the middle of my vegetable garden beds next spring. If I sink the five-gallon bucket into the ground and fill it with compost I could also water the vegetables by filling the bucket and letting those nutrients seep out with the water and spread the compost in the same bed once it’s ready.
The Fonticello Food Forest has a solid system going in order to make use of the leftover donated food that spoils before it can be given away or is left unwanted. I love this kind of system because the slats can be removed for very easy access to the entire pile and like the slats double a signs that can be moved around as needed. The one on the left is just for leaves that are composting and also providing dry matter from the other piles. I need to incorporate some kind of sign that tells me which bucket to add scraps to along the same lines as the “FEED ME” sign on the far right.
For the record, bagging up leaves is still a composting system. The leaves in the bags below will decompose into beautiful leaf mold eventually, we just won’t have easy access to it when it’s ready. When I was young, we stacked bags of leaves like this probably 20 feet down the sidewalk. I loved how tidy the yard looked and it was so satisfying to the bags piled up when we finished the job. I think it’s safe to say this is still the norm. For now 🙂
I think about compost all the time. From food scraps to humanure, we discard, bury, sterilize, and burn some of our most fertile resources. Decomposition of organic matter happens naturally, we just have to set simple public health boundaries for rats and transmissible diseases.
Growing up, my parents kept a couple of compost piles in the back yard and it was very normal for us to save food scraps in a plastic bin under the sink. I think the bin was actually a drawer from the freezer that we didn’t need for some reason. My interest in composting went to a new level during Thanksgiving break in the fall of 2008. I decided not to fly back to Texas and instead I visited my older brother at Earthaven Ecovillage in North Carolina, a community devoted “to caring for people and the Earth by learning and demonstrating a holistic, sustainable culture.” I had never been to such a place and I soaked it up. There was so much to see everywhere on the property. It felt like a place where every mundane aspect of life had been reimagined. Most important in the context I this post is that this was the first time I ever used a composting toilet. I will always remember my time at Earthaven as a formative, positive, eye-opening experience. Over the next couple of years I realized my role could be connecting with the culture and innovations at places like Earthaven and helping to translate them to the mainstream. In my mind, that involves making these practices beautiful and functional.
A year later, I started a composting program on my college campus. Digging up some of that pristine grass and installing the composting system at UR was one of my favorite days of college. It was my small attempt to make the place more interesting and feel connected to the soil.
It was a special project for me. I loved seeing friends carrying bags of compost from their apartments. Like many college programs, the compost system fell into disrepair and the boxes were removed a few years after I graduated.
My first year out of college, the brother who had lived at Earthaven moved in with me. He started a compost pile in the backyard and it was fun to get back into that routine. Of course, composting can sometimes be a little like a cast iron skillet: everyone has their own way to do it and sometimes they are hard to share. One time, I was doing something that my brother didn’t like and we got in one of the biggest fights of the year together. We’re passionate composters 🙂 My main issue was that I wanted composting to be a low-stress activity. Things break down. I don’t want to think too much about it. A few years later we moved into a different house and I felt the energy to get it going again. I bought a plastic tumbler, pictured below, because we had just a small garden in the front and patio out back. This is a picture of it in its current, discarded state.
This tumbler served me well for a couple of years. I like how easy it is to turn, how sturdy it is near the ground, and how it collects compost tea in the reservoir below. My main complaint is that it is difficult to get the compost out. It gets stuck in the corners, the opening is too small, and the compost can tend to get too wet even with the drain holes in the bottom. It was also not enough room for us. After it filled up I started supplementing with five-gallon buckets with holes drilled in the bottom and sides.
My current composting system is a little more ambitious. We have more outdoor space now so lots more room to experiment. A couple of months after moving in I noticed that one corner of the back yard had a steep slope. The soil had washed down the hill and left the area eroded and also created a gap under the sidewalk above. I had read about contour lines and thought that I could set up a fence sort of perpendicular to the slope to hold my leaves, collect rain water, slow erosion, and start to build up the soil. As a bonus, I had somewhere to put my leaves every year. At some point in the process I also learned about leaf mold (composted leaves) and it has been incredible to dig to the bottom of the pile and find loads of this soil amendment to spread around the garden.
During the summer of 2020 I planted a wildflower seed mix around the top edge of the leaf pile. I like the flowers and also wanted the roots to help with building up the soil. I also added two natural wood terraces on contour, the top for planting and the bottom for walking around and reaching everything.
Around that same time I made a connection: if I was piling all of my dry matter in one place, it made sense to do my kitchen scrap composting there as well. I started to prefer the five-gallon buckets to the store-bought tumbler and I moved them over to the leaf pile to try it out. Once the buckets filled up, I let them compost until I needed the room. For the next stage, I dug holes into the clay farther up the hill and put the compost there to finish. Whenever I have the motivation, I dig it out and save it or spread it around. The photo below is from the summer of 2020.
And this is from the most recent fall, 2021. This photo was taken after the first major raking effort in the back yard so the pile finally started to fill back up. I love the look of leaves.
At one point I spray painted the buckets a camo grey color to try and help them blend in. I think it helped, but the paint is also chipping which is not ideal and eventually I just dug the buckets into the ground so they could be more easily buried in the leaves.
I really do love having the leaves so accessible. Not having enough dry matter has always been an issue for my compost so this is a real significant win-win.
I also like that with the compost more connected with the soil there is room for volunteer plants to sprout. Here is a spaghetti squash that unfortunately did not survive, but added some nice greenery.
These tomatoes at the top of the hill are all volunteers from the compost. They were prolific, producing far more than the tomatoes I planted “on purpose.” I wrote about them already in a previous post.
Here is a more recent view of the leaf pile after raking all the leaves from the back yard, front yard, and street. It is more than it looks.
Here is the same pile after doing a little grape stomp to keep it from blowing away.
I’ve filled it this much at least once more since taking these last two photos and I think I have one last large batch to rake before my full leaf harvest is complete. It may look like just a leaf pile, but it is an entire universe of worms, millipedes, ants, fungus, and an occasional salamander. Birds love to pick through the leaves for food. Here is some compost I recently turned out to make room for the next batch.
Composting is definitely a lifestyle. It can be messy and it usually involves interacting with rotting material at some point in the process. It’s also just so much easier and quicker to throw everything away. Even though I like my system, food scraps can pile up quickly. This is an aesthetic and time-consuming aspect of composting that can sometimes be a turn-off.
At this point in the process, I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I’ve become the “difficult composter” I wanted to avoid. In making this system that works so well for me I have also made it difficult for other people to participate. I want to work on the user experience so that anyone could take out the compost bucket and know what to do. In the spring I also want to plant some native honeysuckle around the fencing. I personally don’t mind the appearance, but I’ve received some negative feedback. Like I said, I want people to leave with a positive impression of compost and I want composting to be beautiful as well as functional so I’m happy to make the change. If friends and family associate rotting food with the sweet smell of honeysuckle then I will feel like I have done my job.
A few years ago I started a sort of “vision board” that I never finished.
It exists now as photos and articles taped onto a canvas, stored and forgotten for a little over two years. Since I never finished it, I still don’t really know what it means for me. I don’t know what role I’m supposed to play at the intersection of the insect apocalypse, a native flower arrangement, and a hearty bowl of stew. But I remembered this vision board because lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the value of mediocrity.
In the bottom right-hand corner is the essay, “In Praise of Mediocrity,” by professor Tim Wu. When I first read this essay I immediately cut it out and taped it to the fridge. I was about four years into a dry spell with my writing. I had also recently left a job with a long commute and finished grad school so I had some more time on my hands to get into other hobbies as well.
One problem at this time was that my blog didn’t feel safe anymore. I know it was just my perception, but it felt like my writing was under more scrutiny ever since a couple of blog posts had gone sort of locally viral years before. Up until that point this place had just been a sandbox for my ideas and observations without any pressure. I wanted to get back to that. But not only did the blog not feel as safe as it had before, social media had also gradually taken up more space as the venue for ideas and photos. While I did get joy out of sharing and seeing posts on social media, I had this feeling like my posts belonged to them because it was on their site. I also hated the idea that my posts would be forced into people’s faces on social media rather than just hosted on a blog where they could be found or ignored. I always said that the blog was for me, but I would be glad to know that any one else had enjoyed it as well. Social media was different. It started to feel like everything in the world, even my thoughts, existed for other people. To be shared, consumed, and evaluated (to “like” or not to “like”).
I still love this essay and enjoyed reading it again while writing this, remembering favorite parts and noticing aspects I’d missed. Rather than quote from it, I think it’s worth a read:
It feels like we have allowed the standards of financial value, capital return, and professional growth/advancement to invade our personal lives and pastimes. We are no longer content with ourselves and our own joy. We go from work to happy hour to dinner to sleep. Our careers are often what we talk about when we are getting to know each other and how we identify ourselves when we walk into a room. When we do have hobbies, I have felt personally, there is this pressure knowing that it could become something. There is a new generation of entrepreneurs who have made their success by perfecting a hobby. And often they do it while sharing every step of the way with all of us on social media. I support and celebrate them while also wondering if it could or should have been me.
During the fall of 2016 I finally decided to part ways with Facebook. I felt like the platform had become too contentious and I didn’t want it in my life anymore. Except that I did. I was addicted to checking Facebook, I was getting sucked into the dopamine hit of “likes” and the cycle of rage and outrage. It is weird to be able to look so closely at other people’s lives. Comparison is the thief of joy, but it can also be the giver of smugness. Criticizing other people on social media is definitely an undercurrent of the entire enterprise. But the criticism doesn’t give back joy. It makes us feel more isolated with less in common than we thought.
I can’t say I deleted my Facebook, but I did have someone change the password for me (along with the backup email and phone number) so that I wouldn’t have to fight with myself about checking in. At the same time, I decided to subscribe to the Sunday Times. I wanted a full, physical newspaper that I could fold and feel. I knew there was so much interesting and important news happening in the world below the fold that I was missing out on because it would never go viral or get shared. I wanted to escape “the passive, screeny leisure” I felt constantly drawing me away from the things in life I loved. I wanted to take in more art, culture, history, and book reviews. Another thing I love about the newspaper is that it is actually professional content rather than the aspiring-to-be professional posts on social media. I can admire, appreciate, and critique the articles and photos without having to feel jealous or make comparisons to my own life.
This introduction to an article about Japanese Washi describes our current era of software-mediated life and the reaction I have joined toward physical, tangible alternatives:
If social media is about comparison and consumption, I’ve begun to see it also as an instrument of surveillance. We willingly share and subject ourselves to the surveillance, but I feel like we are still losing control of our actions and thoughts just the same. Before we even share something on social media, we are aware of the surveillance, the panopticon of the social media world, and we allow it to rank or value our actual lives. Often the surveillance guides not only what we share, but the entire curated, shareable life itself. I can’t remember how many times I’ve had a fun thought then wondered if I should share it somewhere. I think about whether people would like it and what kind of statement it would make about me to share it. Rather than write it down and save the idea like a poet, I would often either share the thought or decide it wasn’t shareable (or share it then regret it and delete it).
While the internet has connected us in ways that are beautiful and life-giving, I think we all might agree it has also gradually siphoned away a measure of privacy and intimacy. I think about the quote below fairly regularly. It is more directly related to oppressive governments, but I feel it in my own life regarding the internet and in the context of social media especially.
Last November, I decided to take my social media cleanse one step further. I permenantly deleted Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn. After a year, I honestly haven’t missed any of them for a single day. Instead, I have leaned more into friendships, family, and the things that interest me. I share photos and articles directly via text messages and GroupMe. I’ve enjoyed being a part of more niche social media like the local RVA gardening group on NextDoor and the fitness app, Strava. I’ve also written more on this blog. I started to care a little less about other people’s opinions and I especially stopped thinking about the moments of my life in terms of their shareablility. I stopped sharing my ideas in bits and pieces before they ever had the chance to mature.
Social media can be full of such beauty, stories that are remarkably interesting, and people that are impressive. I realized that in order for my blog to be enjoyable, I had to be ok with it not always being as remarkable. If I am enjoying myself, the mediocrity shouldn’t matter. Mediocrity like this requires safety, time alone, time away from preying eyes. Mediocrity also requires free time in general and social media is such an insatiable glutton for our time.
Within the last week I created a new LinkeIn profile. I’ve been told that this is required to be considered a legitimate adult. Even though I didn’t see the benefit, I went along with the advice and I already want to delete it again. What I have always disliked about LinkedIn is that from the first time I created my account in college I felt like I was strip mining my life for relevant experiences and transferrable skills. Everything that I had done out of enjoyment became a selling point for a job. Once I got back on the site, I immediately realized that it’s incredibly deflating for me to be writing a blog post about mediocrity then be reminded how well my friends and former classmates are doing professionally.
But this is my hobby. Why shouldn’t I write a blog post about mediocrity if I’m interested in it? Writing about mediocrity is not the same thing as being mediocre. Then, when I see the careers I could or should have attained it makes me think that my private time would be better off devoted to more school, training, job skills, and applications rather than writing just for the sake of it.
That’s because the more we feel our time is scarce the more we believe that it must be optimized.
In a recent edition of The New York Times Style Magazine, Adam Bradly picked up where Professor Wu left off with his essay, “Good Enough” which online was changed to, “The Privilege of Mediocrity.” He writes that mediocrity is something most available to the privileged because there are more opportunities, there is less scrutiny, and because failure for someone in the majority population won’t be held against everyone else of that race or culture.
He writes, “Mediocrity is…a way station on the journey to excellence, a space for radical experimentation and a momentary respite from the unrelenting tug of ambition. The right to be mediocre is also the right to psychic safety that, paradoxically, produces the conditions for artists to take risks.”
Mediocrity is the safe space that we create for ourselves in order to flourish. The flourishing can look like excellence, but it would be a mistake to assume that excellence had been the goal. Instead, it could be seen as a biproduct of someone who took back the freedom to enjoy the pursuit something and the time and space to do it. There isn’t always a “goal” when you’re lost in something. And the end product is usually not where anyone could have predicted at the start.
Mediocrity also doesn’t imply a lack of effort. It’s usually more difficult when you first start working on something, doing it somewhat poorly, than it is later on when you’ve mastered it. And those early days are when you need the privacy and safety the most. What is also true is that mediocrity (average) for one person can look like genius to another. Mediocrity is more about the attitude of experimentation.
This flower arrangement is, in many ways, excellent, but it is made up of elements that might be considered mediocre. It is the product of someone taking the time to appreciate native flowers, seed pods, and grasses rather than use material shipped in from elsewhere. These are cast-off plants.
From Bradley’s perspective, the ability to experiment and take risks is not equally available to all of us because of racism. I would add that younger people are also being disproportionately affected. Children are so stressed out and depressed right now. I wonder if they feel that they and their lives are just too devastatingly mediocre compared to the lives they see being lived online. Childhood and adolescence are the epitome of mediocrity. It is the time of life when people should be experimenting and learning the most. It’s the developmental stage when minds are already prone to insecurity and comparison. Social media takes that comparison and makes it inescapable.
I think we need to take the fear of mediocrity seriously. Social media isn’t the only source, but we know that it’s a major one. With the looming Metaverse and steady growth of online life in general, I’m sure we will have plenty to talk about in the years ahead.
Last year, my younger sister came and stayed with us to help watch our toddler while daycare was closed. She also gardened a lot. At one point while she was here she planted garlic, just the regular kind from the store. It came up quickly and grew all winter long until I pulled it out looking like this:
After harvesting it, I dried it in the basement over the summer. I am not sure this is the right way to do it, but I finally brought it up today to take a look.
I’m pleased to say it all looks and smells like garlic! I appreciate how magical growing food still feels.
I’ll probably plant half of this in the next few days, roast the garlic scapes in spring, hopefully harvest the rest when it’s ready, then do it all over again. It makes me think about whenever it was that garlic was first spreading as a food. One person harvesting a head of garlic and planting it all that fall. Then, with several heads of garlic the next year, sharing a clove with close friends and family so they could start a crop of their own.
I did something yesterday that I haven’t done in over a year: I washed the ceramic bowl that I keep in my office for lunch. I used the hand soap in the bathroom and I dried it with paper towels from the dispenser while florescent lights buzzed overhead. It felt familiar, bizarre, and kind of depressing at the same time.
I admire perennial, wild gardens that have been cultivated to bloom throughout the growing season. When I see most of my perennials have gone to seed, I especially notice examples of flowers that that are still or for the first time in full, glorious bloom. I don’t have the time or energy to add anything to my garden right now, but I hope to eventually bring in the first and third on the list. I know it isn’t going to save us from climate change and mass extinction, but it is still so encouraging and sweet to see bumblebees floating from flower to flower this late into the fall.
Canada goldenrod, Tall Goldenrod (Solidago canadensis) – this flower has been planted as a companion to fruit trees in the Fonticello Food Forest near my house. I am a little worried that the goldenrod is actually crowding out the trees at this point, but I don’t care because it is incredible on its own and appears to be attracting all kinds of insects.
Panicled aster, Lance-leaf aster (Symphyotrichum lanceolatum) – also at the food forest, I noticed this aster completely buzzing with activity. They have it planted in a wet, low lying area of the property and it has thrived. When I got home, I was kind of thrilled to realize that I had two clumps of it growing in my garden also (last picture), a surprise gift from the native wildflower mix that I spread in 2020.
Blue mistflower (Conoclinium coelestinum) – I was at the Barboursville Vineyard last week for a wedding and noticed for the first time the Allegrante Meadow just below the tasting patio. Its acres of flowers had clearly faded from their peak summer color, but the blue mistflower was thriving. It’s color pops brilliantly against the browns and blacks of fall.
Sulfur cosmos (Cosmos sulphureus) – Another gift from a seed mix in the past, Sulfur cosmos have started to take over a corner of the garden. This summer I saw one bloom and go to seed. Then I saw several more. Now there are dozens of these flowers adding a really nice pop of orange. It does scare me a little how prolific this flower seems to be so I may add in some other flowers that will start to compete for space. Or just let the cosmos completely take over and be happy about it.
Update (10/25): yesterday I walked by a lovely mound of Aromatic Aster (Symphyotrichum oblongifolium), probably ‘Raydon’s Favorite,’ and realized it needed to be on this list. It was already somewhere in my garden plans, but seeing this example in person was an extra dose of motivation to include this plant some day.
One night in the spring of 2018, a friend of a friend told me about a place called Arcosanti. Her husband at the time was an architect and they had visited a few years before. I don’t remember how it came up in conversation, but I may have told her that I love visiting interesting places that are trying to do something completely new. I’m not surprised the conversation landed us in the desert of Arizona.
American migration being what it is, my grandparents moved to Northern Arizona years ago and I got the chance to visit Arcosanti not long after this conversation. It’s right off the highway so I stopped with Nina and my brother on the way to the airport in Phoenix.
My experience of the visit was overall positive and inspiring. Arcosanti is a place completely of its own invention. It is a monolithic, Tatooine-like, concrete village on a ridge overlooking a valley just minutes off the highway. The walls of the room where we ate are enormous, with massive round circular windows and expansive high ceilings to provide space for hot air to rise. The photo below is from the patio off of that room.
The closest thing I can compare the buildings to is the Bangladeshi National Parliament House by Louis Khan. Construction on that complex began just nine years earlier in 1961. As the photos below show, they are both monolithic Brutalist structures, but unlike other brutalist buildings they also have these large round windows that give the structures a lightness. Rather than looking like fortresses, they open to the outside world, draw eyes upward like temples, and let in diffused light while protecting from harsh, hot climates.
When we walked in, we stopped by the bookstore first. It was full of books and booklets written by Soleri to promote his vision of the city in the future. His main theory is called “arcology,” merging architecture and ecology to create cities with minimal impact, in close proximity to nature, and in a style that mimics and compliments nature.
I bought one of the recent editions of his Quaderno series titled Lean Linear Arterial City. I’ve added some photos below. When I bought the book, the guys behind the counter joked that the place was started by some Italian guy who planted friendship trees everywhere to make it look like Tuscany, but they have to be watered every day because they aren’t native to the desert. I think that’s a good analogy for most of Soleri’s ideas and maybe Soleri himself. He had the vision, but it would require daily work by other people to make the dreams a reality. He was also unrealistic and in the context of reality some of his dreams seem to contradict.
I love the drawings and the ideas in Lean Linear Arterial City. I love the idea that cities in flood-prone areas could be built on ridges in order to protect inhabitants as well as the areas inland. I also really appreciate the idea of a city that is self-sustaining, energy-producing, efficient, and beautiful. My main critique of this particular idea is that in order for cities to really be resilient I think they need to be more modular. When one structure in a traditional city gets too old for repair, it can be replaced. But if the entire city, miles of steel and concrete, reaches obsolescence, it would disrupt an entire society. I might compare this to The Loop at Apple Headquarters, a building that many have said cannot be split up or retrofitted for many purposes after its current use. For the city below to be constructed and inhabited, there would also need to be a mass relocation of people and abandoning of existing cities. That feels like a waste compared to retrofitting existing cities. But it’s true that eventually we may need to give up on some of our cities. At that point, we will have wished we had started construction on this lean linear city decades earlier.
That is precisely what Saudia Arabia appears to be planning to do with The Line. The comparisons are striking: a linear city built out of nothing, an idealistic vision of the future, powered by clean energy, connected by a sub-structure of futuristic mass transit. Who will live there? What will they do for work? Will there be poverty? Where will the dead be buried? Many questions may go unanswered as they develop The Line. But obviously the city of the future doesn’t have to be a line. In the nearby UAE, a much smaller development called Masdar City is already thirteen years old. Just outside Abu Dhabi. Masdar City is planned in a more traditional grid layout with similar goals of sustainability, innovation, and car-free lifestyle. Unlike The Line, Masdar City is more modular so construction has started and various aspects of the project have been completed while others are still being planned. Even with the seemingly bottomless finances of these oil rich nations, incremental growth still seems like the most realistic approach between these two competing visions of the future.
One thing that sets Arcosanti apart is that it wasn’t commissioned by a nation, aristocrat or corporation. It was the vision of one person, Paolo Soleri. Like many male visionary/architect types, Soleri seems to have had a lot of self-confidence. He doesn’t tether his theories to reality in the sense that most of them were never accomplished. You realize pretty quickly that Arcosanti is just a fraction of what he intended it to be. The writings he left behind are the legacy to another generation that he hoped might carry the torch.
These two developments appear to do just that. They are driven by grand visions and they have received all kinds of criticism, especially The Line. And, as with Arcosanti, even if they don’t accomplish everything, I am excited to see what is left and I hope that it survives in some way. We can’t go on in the way we always have, we must try new things, and it takes visionaries with deep pockets to actually give it a shot. Even if only 10% of the vision becomes reality, it will still push us to reevaluate our lives and our cities they way they are.
I’ve made limoncello three times that I can remember. The first time was with my mom when I was on break in college. We had gone to Italy for a week and tried some for the first time at a restaurant then a homemade batch at a friend’s house in Milan. That sounds a little more glamorous than it was, but it was very fun and memorable. My recipe is based on whatever I found online, but I’ve also tried variations. I wrote them down on a piece of paper with field notes so it looks authentic. I make traditional limoncello and a ginger, turmeric limoncello that packs a punch.
Since I live in Virginia, this limoncello journey started with my brother bringing a bottle of Everclear from North Carolina back in April. Step two, put the Everclear on a shelf for four months and think about how you are planning to make limoncello. Zesting the lemons into the Everclear is satisfying; the smell is incredible. The ginger and turmeric are chopped finely. I’m told these ingredients should be organic especially because of the infusion process.
After the Everclear has infused for a month, strain through a sieve. I think it’s cool that the lemon zest is white because the flavor and color have all drained away.
To avoid any sediment (a mistake I’ve made before) do another filter through a t-shirt placed on the sieve. In a former job, I wore undershirts every day. Now, I never wear them so I have a pile to use for stuff like this. They are washed I promise 🙂
The final step is just to mix the infused Everclear with simple syrup in a 1:1 ratio. I used to try and pour the ingredients to mix them but I ended up spilling way too much. I also used to mix the two ingredients into a third bowl before bottling, but that step is unnecessary. This time I used cup measures, going back and forth, pouring straight into the bottles, and it worked really well. Put back on the shelf for another couple of weeks to mellow then store in the freezer.
One time my older brother was visiting and had a terrible stomach ache. The only thing that made it feel better was homemade limoncello.
From left to right, leftover simple syrup, four small bottles of the ginger turmeric limoncello and three large bottles of the traditional limoncello. The one on the far right is a belated birthday present for my mother-in-law by special request.
The City of Richmond might soon have a casino. Unlike other localities in Virginia, Richmond took more time for input and competition. I generally think it was a good-faith effort, but one aspect of the process seems flawed in retrospect. Six proposals were submitted by different vendors for casinos and entertainment venues connected to different sections of the city. For example, one piece of property was near a fairly dense urban node, another on a forest/wetland in a suburban area south of the river, and a third on a brownfield near I-95.
To me, the vote between the different proposals was more a vote on land use than a real good faith comparison of the different vendor proposals. This to me seems like bad land use policy. We shouldn’t find a use (casino!) and try and plug it in somewhere. We should look at our land as a limited resource connected to infrastructure and communities and decide what it’s highest use with minimal negative impact could be. Then, developers can maximize that pre-determined potential. That should have been the first step of the process: vote on the parcel of land. Regarding the final decision, I’m pleased that it ended up being on the brownfield near I-95, but I don’t care about the vendor at all.
The real problem with this process is that it discouraged competition. It should have been realized ahead of time that neighborhoods might oppose the idea of a casino. We could have guessed that it would end up where it did. But all the other vendors lost their opportunity to have a fair chance, and we lost our opportunity to possibly have the best final outcome, because we were voting on land use and the casino was an afterthought.
A couple of weeks ago I finished the essay, “Time of our Lives,” by Mark Harris. The online version is titled, “A Cautionary Tale for the New Roaring Twenties,” probably because that title seemed more clickable. It’s rare that an essay can entertain me in the way that this one does, with sentences that take you much further than you could have expected, with a twist, a play or words, or sarcasm that actually works. The essay is about the poem, “The Wild Party,” written by Joseph Moncure March. The general sense of the poem appears (especially in hindsight) to expose the rotten core of a culture that seemed to only live for pleasure written at the end of the 20s just before the inevitable, harrowing morning after. Included with the essay online is a reading of the poem. At over an hour, I’m ashamed but not surprised that I tapped out a quarter of the way in. But not before the poem, like the essay, managed to make me smile. As an appreciation, some quotes from the essay below.
“There are few things more glamorous than the belief that we are living through the end of an era — and there are even fewer times in recent history when we haven’t believed it.”
“The Wild Party,” Joseph Moncure March’s book-length 1928 narrative poem about the end of an era — the end of a long, louche, bacchanalian night of bodies twining together in lust and in violence; and the end of a life — is drama in it’s coolest, coldest form.”
“In just one eight-word run:
Eyes flashed, Glistened: Everyone talked: Few listened. Crash!
March seems to summarize with uncanny precision the entire year that followed his poem’s publication.”
“‘Kindred’ may have been wishful thinking; March’s voice in ‘The Wild Party’ is that of a well-bred young man with a reporter’s eye who stood slightly off to one side with sardonic sang-froid, filing away all the excess he saw for later use.”
“March and his contemporaries were aware of the dazzling-party-being-upended-by-brutal-reality trope as narrative — the narrative of their parents and grandparents, who still mourned the demise of the Bell Époque, the age of sophisticated, elegant European culture spreading its bejeweled wings across the globe before the war ruined everything.”
“Willed optimism can be a powerful thing; the song ‘Happy Days are Here Again’ made its debut one month after the crash of ’29.”
“It would be a mistake to sentimentalize the Roaring Twenties as a time when all classes, ages, and races could converge and mingle if the party was right; it was more a moment when white cultural tourism became easier and more available than it had been.”
“As vivid and evocative as March’s language is, he is less interested in animating his characters than in showing them to us under glass. ‘The Wild Party’ is an autopsy performed under a flickering light by a wisecracking coroner. Perhaps its characters can’t be embodied, only witnessed.”
“As I write this, things are getting worse, or is it better, or is it just different, in New York and across the country. With every new whim of the .001 percent (Tired of the protocols? Consider flying into space on your own rocket ship!) the nightmarish economic inequities of our age are characterized anew with a misuse of the phrase ‘late capitalism,’ as if capitalism were reaching it’s long-scheduled death throws right on time and would then politely disappear.”
“It also doesn’t matter what March knew. His poem knew. And it still reads as a dangerous time-capsule bulletin — something that emerged from a melting ice cap yesterday, or perhaps tomorrow, and bobbed into the sea, waiting to see if, once its bleak tidings reach our shores, we will pay attention.”