Sunday, May 14, 2006

Tarragon, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme

Need any tarragon or sage?

I have been harvesting already and drying bundles in the kitchen. They smell wonderful, and harvesting simply allows the plants to put out new leaves, new shoots and not to become too woody and spindley. That's my theory, at least. The thyme I planted remains very small, but it survived the winter, so that's good. If I leave it alone for a while, perhaps it will grow. If not, I'll have to plant some more plants.

I've already bottled a bundle of dried sage in one of the ancient spice bottles I received at my wedding shower from my mom. It was one of the neatest gifts ever. An entire shoebox filled with spices and herbs of all description. I even had a bottle of saffron at one time (gasp!).

Sometimes when I buy new spices, I pour out the old ones and refill those bottles. Now I will fill them from my own garden. I think I'll plant some dill seed and have some of that to harvest as well. I like to plant the herbs in among flowering plants for interest, but right now, one end of my planter bed, between the salvia and some vincas that keep coming back year after year, I have my herbs. I treat the lavendar as a flower and have that elsewhere, though when it comes time to harvest, it will be treated as another herb, to dry in bundles hanging all over my kitchen. I'm either going to have to add some hooks, or string a line across the kitchen to hang the bundles on.

In town friends, call me, and I'll bring you some tarragon or fresh sage. Tarragon is wonderful with chicken and rice. Absolutely wonderful flavor when used with white pepper. Sage is used for lots of things, most of which escape me at the present moment.

My imagination is filled with Tuscan villas lately, the colors, the smells, the simple and slow, luxurious way of life. Filled with olives growing on the terraced hillsides, grapes and blackberries draped over rock walls. Of lemon trees grown in large pots that are pulled inside for the winter. In my head I have designed a house with several sets of double doors across the front, windows between. The house is stone, with blue-gray stones forming the window and door framing. The floors are stone on the main level, and wide chestnut planks on the stairs and upper level.

The width of the house on the main level is open, with a few rooms off the back, large walk-in fireplaces for cooking and heating, a kitchen open to the dining area and to the living area. Three fireplaces are on the main level, one at either end and one slightly off center for the kitchen cooking. This fireplace provides the only screening of eating/cooking areas from the living area.

A wide staircase runs up the center to the assorted bedrooms and bathrooms located on the upper level. Ceilings are very high throughout the house, none less than 10 feet, and the structural beams are a thing of beauty, large, dark, oiled. Open shelves flank the fireplace in the living room, containing various books on travel, decor, gardening, etc.

Simple furnishings invite you to linger, sit, rest, eat, talk, read...whatever. The plaster walls which began as white, have over time taken on the golden yellow, peach, corals, blues and greens of the Tuscan countryside.

A modern heating system is completely hidden, but takes off the winter's chill. Fans circulate in high summer, but the house doesn't seem to welcome frigid air-conditioned breezes.

One of the rooms off the back of the main level is simply for storage. Here, in a darkened cupboard go bottles of extra virgin olive oil, pressed from homegrown olives, the house wines of several area vineyards, extra serving dishes, linens, large pots for entertaining crowds of friends, dishes, herbs harvested from the garden, multi-use baskets and winter blankets and throws, as well as bottles for the wine I hope to ferment from my own harvest someday. Bags to bring things home from the market, or from walks through the countryside, my walking stick and a couple of hats to keep the sun from my fair skin while working outside.

If you want to know why I'm dreaming of Tuscan villas, read Frances Mayes books. She has rekindled my love of Italy, and my longing for a way of life that seems more in tune with my internal pace. I live in a world that seems frantic, frenetic. I am not those things, but some of the anxiety that others have rubs off on me sometimes. I sometimes feel guilty that I am not spinning all the time. I simply can't. When I run at that pace, it never lasts for long, and then I am sick and forced to rest by my own body. I want to be a person at rest. I don't mean idle, but a person that exudes calm and helps others to relax simply by being there and being calm and peaceful. I have known some people like that. Their homes exude that same quality. Walk in and your shoulders drop, and suddenly, you have a neck--your ears aren't growing straight from your shoulders after all. You exhale and realize that you've been holding your breath. For how long, you don't know.

Close your eyes and see yourself, feet up on the coffee table, book in hand, listening to crickets singing in the world just beyond the open doors. It's okay. There's time here. you don't need to return any phone calls right now, tomorrow will be soon enough. Breath in, exhale slowly and thoroughly, dropping your shoulders and relaxing your neck muscles. You're in Tuscany. Later there will be food and wine and conversation, but for now, just relax.

Wasn't that great?


Beth said...

Oh, this sounds so great!! I would love to see you in such a house, and the parts of your house that are finished completely harmonize with this picture - particularly the downstairs tilework. Beautiful. This Tuscan picture is very you. I'm happy to hear about the spices - I've often thought of doing such a thing, never made it a reality - so I'm very impressed! Oh, and by the way, I dearly love tarragon :-)

Kim said...

Beth, I'll be bringing a bundle of tarragon over really soon!