Blog

Turning a Tomato / Pick a Partner.

November 5, 2014

Parsnip Creature. image

Parsnip Party.

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I can’t keep running to my death. So much thought goes into just thinking. It feels overwhelming, and semi-disturbing. I keep racing through the days, running to the next step / activity / “thing to do” and when (and if) I get a chance to catch my breath I tell myself: “Yes, next year I will run that race. Next year I will build that greenhouse. Next year I will write that record / learn French / skydive / visit the moon/ WHATEVER.” It is only the moment I have. THE MOMENT. And most of the time it isn’t the LARGE activities or goals / dreams / aspirations that keep my engine revved. On the contrary, it is the small “seemingly silly” things (often times mindless) that keep a smile on my face.

The winter is coming. The frost is appearing heavier and heavier every morning, and the harvest is almost over. We have tried our damndest to preserve that which will give us sustenance through the cold, wicked months of winter. Two days ago was a day that provided much of the simple solace that I mentioned earlier. It was an apple pickin’/ Ketchup makin’ day. My Grandfather passed some years ago and was a mighty warrior of a man. He never taught me much of his gardening / preserving techniques, but I spose he never had to. He was doing it so often (with or without guests in the home) that I picked up on things he did just by observing. One thing I found absolutely amazing was his mindful use of foods that I would deem to be unusable. Take green tomatoes for example. Never had I thought it possible to keep and eventually watch mature green tomatoes. But the man taught me just that. He would have drawers of green tomatoes, waiting for the Ethylene gas to eventually turn them red. It is important to note that:

Vegetable Nerd Fact:

Tomatoes will only produce lycopene and carotene; two substances that help a tomato turn red, between the temperatures of 50 and 85 F. (10-29 C.) If it is any cooler that 50 F. /10 C., those tomatoes will stay green. Any warmer than 85 F. /29 C., and the process that produces lycopene and carotene comes to a screeching halt.

That all being said, Em and I decided to harvest all of our green tomatoes before the winter frost took their lives. They have, over the last couple of weeks, been ripening off in boxes, and some even hanging from the curtains (OH! The decadence!). After our expedition to visit some apple trees that have not been picked (the apples were falling everywhere, it was time to borrow some nature) we returned home to start a new endeavor….KETCHUP makin’.  For any of you that might want to know the process, here is how us Jamesez did it.

You will need the following:

  • 3 Tbsp celery seeds
  • 4 tsp whole cloves
  • 2 cinnamon sticks, broken into pieces
  • 1-1/2 tsp whole allspice
  • 3 cups cider vinegar
  • 24 lb tomatoes, cored and quartered (about 72 medium)
  • 3 cups chopped onions (about 4 medium)
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup pickling salt

BASIC Directions:

  1. TIE celery seeds, cloves, cinnamon sticks and allspice in a square of cheesecloth, creating a spice bag.
  2. COMBINE vinegar and spice bag in a stainless steel saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat. Remove from heat and let stand for 25 minutes. Discard spice bag.
  3. COMBINE tomatoes, onions and cayenne in a clean large stainless steel saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring frequently. Reduce heat and boil gently for 20 minutes. Add infused vinegar and boil gently until vegetables are soft and mixture begins to thicken, about 30 minutes.
  4. TRANSFER mixture, working in batches, to a sieve placed over a glass or stainless steel bowl and press with the back of a spoon to extract all the liquid. This can also be done using a food mill. Discard solids.
  5. RETURN liquid to saucepan. Add sugar and salt. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat and boil gently, stirring frequently, until volume is reduced by half and mixture is almost the consistency of commercial ketchup, about 45 minutes.
  6. PREPARE boiling water canner. Heat jars in simmering water until ready for use. Do not boil.  Wash lids in warm soapy water and set bands aside.
  7. LADLE hot ketchup into hot jars leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Apply band until fit is fingertip tight.
  8. PROCESS jars in a boiling water canner for 15 minutes, adjusting for altitude. Remove jars and cool. Check lids for seal after 24 hours. Lid should not flex up and down when center is pressed.

Spice bag in Cheese Cloth (Make this)

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    Clean THESE (mates)

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    Add Onions and Cayenne Pepper and Boil (20 minutes or so)

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    Run it through a strainer (VICOTORIO!)

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The whole process took a good while, AS IT SHOULD. It was a wonderful excuse to spend time with my two life “ship mates”, Em & Ollie. As the ketchup was boiling we watched Rio 2. Ollie has an affinity toward animals and he seemed to love to watch the animated figures as the danced across the screen. As the day was coming to a close we quickly realized there was many more apples than we would be able to store in the refrigerator. I cleaned out an old wooden case that my Grandpa used while he was in the navy. I had learned that you can store apples in straw as long as it is cold enough to keep. I am keeping the box in the garage and hope that the apples can hold out till spring.

Go and Get APPLES! With children (if possible)

Place apples in (preferably) 32 degree (F) weather, cover with straw, and don’t stack to high, apples are prone to bruising and will rot. This should last you till spring. APPLEELPPA!

It’s the passing of thoughts / traditions / love that keep me / us movin’.

You can learn a lot from the man that raised you.

You can learn a lot from the girl next door.

You can learn a lot from a wayward street kid.

You can learn a lot from the crashing shore.

You can learn a lot from a whining baby.

And even more when you hold it close.

You can learn a lot from your mother’s mother.

And even more as your body grows.

I learn a lot from the world that holds me.

I learn a lot from the love that binds.

I learn a lot from the chickens scratching.

I learn a lot from the sun that shines.

Make some ketchup. Make some love. Be kind to those around you. The world is OURS.

Joshua Fred James

Scopes of Horor / Mutual Onlookers

October 28, 2014

"Ollie, my son. Tonight is THE ONLY NIGHT!" // Fire Dancerz.

“You have two options. You can be in denial about your real feelings and ignore what needs to be fixed and wait for trouble to come find you. Or else you can vow to be resilient and summon your feistiest curiosity and go out searching for trouble..”

As I sat at the coffee shop reading the prose above I couldn’t help my emotions from kidnapping my eyes and my beating heart, sending a small kick drum of on an explosion to my insides and making me shade my face from any possible onlooker.  It’s the changing seasons that contribute to my frailty. I am predisposed to emotional overloads. I think more than I should, letting TOO many thoughts in, often time leading to a mass confusion of music, love and mothballs between my two ears, shaking with every taken step from here to there, to where I deem to be important. 

BUT! Aren’t we all this way? Just look up for 15 seconds. Look around. That man in the corner, wearing the Giants hat, staring out the window, he too is possibly working through so many emotions, his Father is in the hospital with terminal cancer and it is all he can do to maintain his composure during the work week, and those 17 minutes that you saw him sitting in the corner of your local coffee shop, staring into the nothing is the only few moments that he has to try and cope with the situation.

WE ARE ALL IN THIS.

Dealing while driving, emotional while in motion.

AND this, this horoscope from the SLC Weekly that I just so happened to pick up took me off guard. I have never been one to follow the weekly horoscopes that are sure to be found in your local periodical, but my eyes seemed to jet right to the Gemini reading of the month. May I be honest? (OF COURSE I CAN BE HONEST) This felt dead on, as if the writer had been spying on my existence over the course of the last four months and said:  “ Oh, that boy, that boy needs some kind of help, some direction, oh boy, he does.” And then he proceeded to write a small paragraph of overly applicable suggestions that I found on this cold October morning.

Those two options that I internalized seemed to make such sense to me (Does everything have to be SUCH a life lesson, JOSHUA!?) We are faced, daily, with small decisions, but every now and again we are faced with others that will shape our future selves / lives. But as this brilliant horoscopian (it MUST be a word) revealed, moping, sighing and hiding from the inevitable “hard” decision will only lead to a “messy trouble that arrives with indigestion”. I suppose I am working on that, on the concept of making the RIGHT / REAL / BEST decision with conviction as opposed to sitting around, waiting for it bite me on my behind. If those decisions that you make, the BIG ones, get you into trouble, the hope remains that they will eventually turn into a blessing of sorts. There is something to a man/woman that follows “the gut”. That intuition that we are born with has a truth sensor, I truly do believe, and though not EVERY inkling that our gut sends to our brain cake is a reliable and justified decision, it often times is. Yes. It is. I think. I think. 

Family Traditions / Cider Making.  Brother / Father / Son.

Bandits / Brothers.

BAND of BOYS / Coyote Howlers / RiSE Festival / Mojave Desert

Mother / Son. Zion National Park

Ollie - VER. My boy / My heart.

On another note, I must SHOUT OUT how enjoyable it has been to have received such AMAZINGLY kind and thoughtful letters from many of the folks that for one reason or another read this confusing and often mindless rant of a blogging boy from the Midwest who resides in the valley of the GREAT SALT LAKE. For the past few mornings I have read and re-read those letters, strangers sharing stories, real life connection. I would have to often take breaks between reading, the feeling of knowing that I am not alone (nor did I ever think I was) in the search for that human feel, that connection, that true concern and LOVE, YES LOVE for others would sweep me away into the bucket of emotion and I could only take so much in one sitting. If any of you that wrote me are reading this, thank you, from the bottom of me, thank you. I have been trying to respond when I can, and can’t promise a response to every letter. If I were to dedicate myself to this task my son would starve to death, my lady feel neglected and I would surely perish under the light of candles burning through proverbial “midnight oil”.

My Darkness Solutions

I am in such awe of the human dilemma, there are a million of them, a billion, a trillion, all trying to make the right decisions, all deciding between those two options. We are searching, constant. Looking and reaching. AND BY GAWD, my friends. NEVER stop. We won’t stop. Not even death can stop me. Watch me. Burning out quickly, but with the intention.

Your true friend,

Joshua Fred

King of the Fallen Cottonwoods / Home Harvest

October 14, 2014

Ollie-VER / King of the Cauliflower / Willamette MTN, Utah

Tour serves an inappropriate amount of both light and dark to the one in her care. Four and half weeks pass as quickly as an autumn evening, robust with color and careless winds that pull your heart to the mindful present moment. As that one 4 week moment passes by / through you everything that is in your surrounding is still moving, your gas company is still charging you a buck a dekatherm, your garbage still gets collected on Thursdays, your lover still makes the coffee weak and leaves the hall light on while you find hunker down on the floor of a 62 year old man that offered his entire home to you and the band while you found your ramblings through Jackson, Mississippi. And all you hope and wish for is that the two worlds can find a balance upon your return back to the world that you left behind. And for the pursuit of a singer? Of a guitar player? A drummer? A dreamer?

We returned home a mere 8 days ago. The tour took us through the Midwest where we sang for Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, and the like. It swirled us onto the Coast of the Easterners and down through the thick south. I find journaling and documenting the entire experience exhausting and have given up on writing about every moving experience. Life (in general) is moving, and to not focus on that fact is to not live (for that moment).  To work on being present in the present is presently my pursuit. Too often (so often) I will find myself in conversation, whether it through phone lines or across the table, drinking coffee, and my thoughts are not with the speaker / friend / lover AT ALL, but rather in the land of the NON-living, the dream land, focused on something that has NOTHING to do with my present surrounding. How often do I / don’t I stop to look at the magnificence of the body’s ability to keep moving / breathing / functioning. Almost more beauty in that thought alone (while staying present) than in anything else I could POSSIBLY be doing.

RETURN home to the GREAT.

Pumpkin / Butternut / Spaghetti / Swan Neck Gourd.

"Every good garlic crop needs a pair of small hands" - Hosania Butler

Tomato Tot 1

Tomato Tot 2 (Pasilla Pepper harvest)

Queen Bee / Serrano Pepper Harvest / Picklin’

The tour was beautiful and accepting. I have learned to deal with the up and the down that accompanies a man that travels from city to city, singing and meeting. Timmy, Isaac and Evan make the whole thing that much easier and have been my faithful road companions for years. As we made our journey into the final state in which we would be performing (Colorado) my heart was pulled from one end to the other. I wanted / longed for / needed to see my lover, my boy, my animals, friends and home, but all the while I knew that my days of singing for strangers night after night was about to be put on hold again. I needed something / someone to ground me. There are moments as a human being where you feel completely / utterly / wholly alone, small realizations that you, even you (yourself) can’t pinpoint where you / your mind / being begins and where it ends. Am I my body that is shaking and convulsing while singing? Or am I my mind that gets lost in the lyric and the thought of it all? Am I a balance of them both? And then when you realize you can’t exactly point to where “YOU” are you find yourself drifting further into the ether of loneliness and “self-loss”, but, BUT!!! There are pockets of true contentment and inspiration that float in that place of swirling, whirling confusion in which you can encounter a self-awareness that leads to contentment (happiness feels “AESOPY”) at least for a spell. But ain’t those spells worth it? Those REAL moments in which things feel like a warm sun on your face and the only thing to do is smile back? GOLLY, I hope so, because that is what I am living for.

I’ve always liked Boulder, Colorado. It was the 2nd to last stop and the weather was kind. We stood out back, behind the venue, when a familiar face slipped through the back door. Mr. Gregory Alan Isakov, a farmin’, Colorado livin’ singer and soul searcher smiled at us as he exited the stage door.

“Mr. Isakov” I said with a hand extended. We all shook hands and thanked him for coming out to the show. “Surely you boys have a place to stay here in Boulder..” he said with confidence. “Surely we DO NOT.” I quickly responded. Whether by choice or necessity the boys and I have learned to fly by the seat of our pants, and this particular night we had nowhere to lay our heads. “You guys should just come sleep at the farm!” Gregory responded. His quickly extended hand of friendship and kindness was something out of an Enochian fairy tale. We accepted his generous offer and headed out to the stage with a meaner eye, knowing that there was a place that we would be calling temporary home that night. The show went over well with the kind folks in attendance that Boulderanian night. We packed up and made our way to the 4-acre farm that Mr. Isakov calls home. The night was spent trying to come to an agreement on how to spin a happy balance between love and life on the road as a traveling singer man. The concept of becoming your own best friend came up and made more sense to me at that moment then I would have thought it could / would / should. The things that a human being is made to endure from the use / misuse / abuse from others are (or at least can be) horrendous and life altering. The heart / kidney can only take so much BREAKING before a man feels completely defeated. Love is the purpose I truly do believe. Finding that atmosphere in which you can keep it constant has proven to be more difficult than I initially anticipated when my experiments in love began at an early age. All of this leads back to the SELF. Finding peace / happiness in your own person before trying to love something / someone else.

“Self-love but serves the virtuous mind to wake

As the small pebble stirs the peaceful lake;

The center moved, a circle strait succeeds;

Another still, and still another spreads;

Friend, parent, neighbor, first it will embrace;

His country next; and next all human race;

Wide and more wide, the o’erflowings of the mind

Take every creature in, of every kind;

Earth smiles around, with boundless bounty blest,

And heaven beholds its image in his breast.”

-Alexander Pope

KING of the “Fallen Cottonwood” / Sir Gregory Alan Isakov / Boulder, Colorado

The night stretched out this way with different ways of coping / enjoying life on the road, and it was a much needed connection that I am in constant search of with other humans. Looking for a good conversation, a savvy phrase to live with (for awhile), a truly heart felt written letter. A true extension of self. Honest. Truthful. REAL. I have spent too long with my head in the sand.

Searcher / Fields of Colorado / Early Morning 

(If anyone cares to write a letter to me (not that you would, but if you DID I will respond.) my PO box is the following):

Joshua James

PO Box 1126

American Fork, UTAH

84003

“The mind of love…increases immeasurably and eventually can embrace the whole world.              –Mahyama Agama