C H R I S T I N A
A good (and in this instance, snarky) friend of mine sarcastically told me how much he enjoyed all the blogs we’ve been posting recently, so I resolved to put my mind numbing procrastination aside and really buckle down to write. That was about a month ago.
In fairness, it’s been foraging harvest season in the Rowe family. Intense, unseasonably warm, long days of harvesting. Now, let me clarify Rowe harvest season here. While I’d love to romanticize it as time spent as a family, frolicking through meadows wearing daisy crowns, it’s a little more messy than that. By messy I mean Sean Rowe messy—this is a separate, completely incomparable class of messy that you would have to see to believe. It involves wading through inches of debris on the car floor to find the gas pedal, scraping black walnut husk off of the kids’ sneakers, finding wild grape pulp in very strange places, trying not to vomit from the smell of drying gingko nuts, and sweeping up large populations of weevil larvae (yes, that’s right people and they look like big fat maggots) from the kitchen floor DAILY. Now if you’re reading this and you know us, have been to our house, then you’ve heard this sordid tale a thousand times. For those of you who don’t know, the clearest image I can give to you of Sean is Pigpen, of Peanuts fame. Just keep that picture in your mind while that smooth and beautiful baritone serenades you.
And then there’s touring, and recording, homeschooling, and all that time it takes to sort through my personal self-indulgent anxieties about what I’m doing with my life and whether I’m doing it right. That in itself is like a full time job.
Then, same friend, (damn you Matt Via) different conversation, brought up that time that Sean shaved his beard completely off. We were drinking, and eating, and being conversationally witty, and I said “Oh god, that was the WORST day of my life!”. And we all laughed, and Sean pretended to be offended, and I lamented the loss of that beautiful, iconic beard. Later on that evening, in a Moscow Mule induced state of consciousness, I realized…maybe it wasn’t exactly the worst day of my life but in retrospect, what was? I couldn’t recall. I couldn’t recall a single day that I could honestly say, wow, that was the worst thing that ever happened to me. How humbled I felt at that moment. How ashamed, how small, for having ever complained about leaves in the car, or compost left on the counter, or the freaking toilet seat having been left up. In the midst of it, in the midst of all that mundane life we have to wade through, someone was celebrating Friday night on a sidewalk in Paris and then, wasn’t. And I cried that night, for the weight of what that means not only for us today but for my kids tomorrow, and not only for the lives that were taken, but for the time I’ve wasted in mine. It’s trite, I know. It’s been said. But even so, it still bears reminding.
My daughter asked me what happened in the news, and I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t know what lesson to teach. She looked to me for answers, and I had none. But I realized that what I did have, what I do have, is my presence. My awareness. My appreciation. To know that what we take for granted—a house to be cleaned, children that cry in the backseat on tour, an argument with my messy, chaotic, beautiful husband, the things that I complain about—these are the things that make my life. These are the things that I love.
S E A N
First off, let me just say that i started writing this blog before the Paris attacks and I cannot express in words how deeply troubled I am with the world that we are leaving our future grandchildren. I was scheduled to be in Paris in just a couple weeks from now. And now all I wanna do is hug my kids till they puke.
The reality of performing in Paris several times over the last few years, meeting so many genuine souls out there, only to hear of the senseless violence committed in the name of one group’s ideology makes me sick. And it seems historically very few cultures including American are exempt from committing atrocities in the name of ideology. I’m trying hard to think of all the amazing brilliant souls in the world who are trying to leave something genuine behind for our future generations. They’re out there!
To be honest past few days i’ve been really down and just generally feeling like shit. Then i just had this show in Chicago at Shubas and all of you really picked me up out there. Thankyou. I remember now how much of what i do with music is reciprocated by the people who love it and throw it right back at me.
Alright, so on a lighter note…
“Just when i thought i was out…they pull me back in “
there’s something about the autumn death and smell of rotting leaves that gives me such a warm fuzzy feeling. And I’ve come to associate certain wild fragrances like the delicious “wet dog” odor of Nannyberry and rich-earth aroma of husked Blackwalnuts with the essance of the Fall.
Typically i’ve been out of the Northeast for the last few Autumn seasons, on the road touring and tending to the music end of things. This year i happily dove back into my old Hobbit ways and my undying passion that is Foraging.
It’s accurate to say that i drove Christina bat crazy this year with all the weird smells, bits of drying herbs on the floor, wild grape juice stains galore and acorn weevils (way more friendlier and cuter than maggots) that set up camp with us for the season. Honestly, i understand that unless you’re really interested to discuss how to more efficiently process black walnuts or ponder the many culinary applications of Nannyberry puree, you might considering hanging out with me during this time to be rather one-sided and dull. I’m convinced that’s partly why she loves me though.
Speaking of Black Walnuts, if you like them, you LOVE them. If you hate them….you’re WRONG! or at least, i’m convinced that you haven’t really had a good one. ok sorry…i just get so damn emotional about those little beauties. Now If you’ve never had them but are either curious or hungry, here’s some thoughts from this bearded hobbit who’s been lovingly harvesting them for the last 15 years.
The walnuts you buy in the grocery store come from Europe. They are not native to North America and while they look similar to Black Walnut, they taste completely different. Black Walnuts are found throughout the Northeast and usually ripen in mid October and peak soon after. When they drop they look like green tennis balls at which time they have a distinctly pleasant “citrus” like aroma.
The thing is you don’t really wanna go willy nilly and collect the first ones that drop. They are usually the “D.U.D.S” (Dried Up Dilapadated Seeds) totally inedible and potentially rotten. Instead you want to wait until most of the walnuts fall to the ground. Harvest them before they turn completely black. Then you’ll want to get the green husk off. Basically, you just stomp the crap out of ‘em and then pick out the shells, discarding the husk.( It’s probably best to wear gloves unless you want your hands stained brown for weeks like me.)
Next , you need to clean the husked walnuts with water and dry the surface as quickly as possible. Lastly, you are going to want to “cure” the nut. This means that you simply leave the cleaned and dried walnuts in a well ventilated room where ever rodents cant get to . After about 2 weeks it’ll be ready to crack and enjoy.
You can’t use a regular nut cracker for this since the shell is incredibly hard. You either need a hammer or a special made black walnut cracker for the job. If you use a hammer for this and you live in an apartment building with neighbors, you will be evicted! To carry on the full term of your lease, invest in a Black Walnut cracker.