Riding with the Horsemen

Today, I am riding with the Mughal Horsemen again, using Edwin M. Knowles Sylvan, a pussy willow and yellow pods design from 1934. Since the real Horsemen originated in the 15th century, I thought the least I could do was drink their namesake tea from a vintage cup. According to Melody Rose from Dave’s Garden, the weeping willow is native to Asia and featured in folk tales and art, and the origins are in China. That seems like a reason to be drinking Mughal Horseman tea from this cup if ever I had one.

Also in the news today, I have ordered my electric auger drill, and barring any more mishaps should be here by next Thursday. It is hard to say, since two presents I ordered have been stuck in Memphis for over 3 weeks, with one floating around on a tour of northwest Mississippi. Last check, finally left Memphis and went to Waterford (small town between here and Memphis), went back to Memphis and has now arrived in Clarksdale, where it eventually will have to go back to Memphis again in order to deliver to Oxford.

1200-watt 1.6 HP Stark electric earth auger post hole digger with 4 in. auger bit

While I am indeed anxious to dig the holes for the wine bottle burying, I will do my best to be patient and work on preparation of the area. I will need to level the area for the firepit and have more sand and paving sand ready to go. I am not sure when the epiphany hit me that I did not have to dig all those holes by hand, and looked up the auger drill. Grandma would be excited, too.

Posted in Acts of Restorative Kindness, Ecosystem, Food and Wine, landscape architecture, Mississippi, Tea, Vintage Mid-century dishes | Tagged , , , | 14 Comments

When I ask myself, ‘What would Grandma do?’: Phase 1

This is the section of the yard where we had the tree removed. The top edge is a gentle slope from the level yard, but in front of this concoction is the indentation (cipher = hole) descending toward the drive. My plan was to eventually do some landscaping with the overall goal of channeling water run-off with a dry creek bed, some in ground plants, and a flat level ‘patio’ area for my firepit and a couple of chairs. I also like to repurpose objects that I find appealing (beauty = eye of beholder) or that have particular meaning.

The only parts of the chimenea that did not fall apart were the actual chimney itself and the remains of the metal band that held it in place while the ravages of Mississippi rain and humidity took the life right out of that piece of clay transplanted from hot and dry northwest Texas. One of my dear friends gave it to me for Christmas one year, and we had many a fire in it in Texas before I brought it to Mississippi, where it endured ice, rain, snow, before a chunk of the wall finally fell out last year and I retired it. The cats liked to sleep in it in the summer. No longer used, it still occupied its corner of the walkway until I noted Monday that the bottom had fallen out. It is unknown if it was while a cat was taking a nap in it. If so, it was likely as surprised as Steffi on Monday when Grandpa fell off the wall in the hall and scared her awake. So there was nothing to be done but figure out what to do with the chimney and the broken remains, so I did my best effort to think what would Grandma do with that?

I dug a hole in order to position the wheelbarrow body and used the chunks of the chimenea body to anchor the legs and provide some coverage of the hole which is now in the role of a dry well. I filled the bottom with small rocks (just your ordinary white rocks used in Mississippi to pave your parking spots) and then infilled the rest of the cracks in and around the clay chunks with Mexican beach stones obtained at Home Depot. The wheelbarrow bed will be the Headwaters if you will, for channeling the run off from the torrential Mississippi rains. Two days of rain are headed this way and I hope that will give me an idea of where the dry creek will flow based on the water runoff. I will be using the upended wine bottles around the lip to help with the directional flow, and then eventually some more rock and dirt work. I plan to leave the upper portion of the wheel barrow bed rusted, but am considering a wee bit of concrete in the bottom that also has a few rocks embedded. Often, when I start a project, I am just not sure where I will end up until I play with it a bit, rearranging here and there.

Wine bottles inverted, buried and stabilized with paving sand will be used in one section. The dry creek with in-ground plants will border the area serving as the seating area. For now, I am off to purchase a post-hole digger as our last one broke while repairing the fence some years back. It is always a lot of fun here in Lottabusha County if you have a warped sense of fun, and as always, ‘final plans are subject to revision on a whim.’

Posted in Acts of Restorative Kindness, Country Philosophy, Ecosystem, landscape architecture, Mississippi | Tagged , , , | 12 Comments

Boxing Day: The gift of the cardinal in the kudzu vines

There is something akin to amazement every time I look out at the cardinals in my front yard. They perch in the dormant kudzu vines wrapped around the pine trees and hang out on the feeders. No matter how many of them I have photographed over the last 17 years, I never tire of seeing them. It was very rare to see a cardinal in the part of Texas in which I lived, and to see them every day, all day long, year round is a joy that does not fade.

The cardinals and the black-capped chickadees will be here year round. My December 2020 newsletter from Cornell Labs ran an article about how the birds that remain in the north survive winter: don’t freeze and don’t starve. The chickadee’s feet are at a temperature of about 30 F while the core body temperature is higher. The arterial blood flows to the feet from the body, warming them, and the veins carry the cooled blood back to the body core. They generally sleep huddled together in a sheltering branch to remain warm over night. When you stop to think about it, is that not a most amazing design?

In the winter, birds must take in higher amounts of nutrition in order to generate enough heat to stay warm. Feeders are an important part of that, but so is having a bird-friendly winter yard. Plants or shrubs that produce berries in winter are good options. Apparently, the cardinals and the chickadees prefer to shelter among the mix of brush and kudzu vines along the edge of the hillside.

Another important need in winter is fresh water. There are no nearby fresh water supplies (creeks, rivers) so a bird bath is needed, and of course, when it gets below freezing…On cold mornings like today (30 F at 8 a.m.) I do not use the hose and instead dump the ice and refill using a jug of water from the kitchen. It is supposed to be in the 50s today, and sunny and clear for the next couple of days. Birds and I say “Yeah!”

Scruffy took advantage of the sun to take care of her morning ablutions. The sycamore tree leaves are all gone and only the seed balls remain…looking like a forlorn Christmas tree the day after.

Posted in Acts of Restorative Kindness, Ecosystem, Mississippi, Mississippi Cats | Tagged , , | 14 Comments

Rakkasan Tea and Dave’s Bagels

I support organizations that do meaningful work toward reconciliation and developing human capital. Today’s post is brought to you by Rakkasan Tea’s Nine Dragons Oolong, served in Sibongile Pottery’s guinea cup, and Dave’s Killer Bagels.

I have written a lot about Rakkasan in the past–a small business in Dallas, Texas founded by veterans Brandon Friedman and Terrence Kamauf.

Rakkasan Tea Company imports solely from carefully selected estates in post-conflict countries as a way to promote peace and economic growth.

Rakkasan Tea Company Our Story, rakkasantea.com

They import premium loose leaf teas from Nepal, Bangladesh, Rwanda, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Laos, Colombia, Ethiopia, and Myanmar, supporting women-owned businesses in many instances. One of my favorites was the rare Black Ruby from “likely the only woman-owned tea estate in Nepal.” As Rakkasan puts it:

Buying our tea helps us help them, and we appreciate every purchase you make.

Sibongile Pottery operates in Gugulethu, a township just outside of Cape Town. I met the women of Sibongile in 2002 while on sabbatical. Since then, I have visited and purchased their work on every trip, including my thus far at least last trip in 2011. Much of the income for organizations such as Sibongile came from the tourist industry which has been severely impacted by the pandemic. Gugulethu is one of the top hotspots for Covid 19 transmission in South Africa. Understandable, given the intense crowding and poverty:

I am a recent convert to Dave’s ‘Killer’ Bagels. I will admit, I was put off by the term killer, but we often use it to describe something awesome. Then I noticed the information on the package about Dave’s being a Second Chance Employment company.

At Dave’s Killer Bread, we believe in Second Chance Employment: hiring the best person for the job, regardless of criminal history. We have witnessed its transformative power, and that giving someone who is ready to change their lives a chance – a Second Chance – gives people an opportunity not only to make a living, but to make a life.

daveskillerbread.com, Second Chance Employment

They don’t just talk about it, they put their money where their mouth is: Dave’s Killer Bread Foundation, with a commitment to the intentional practice of employing people who have a criminal background. They support businesses who adopt Second Chance Employment through assessment and planning and coaching, and the Second Chance Business Coalition, all in the interest of reducing recidivism and the negative impact of former incarceration.

My Christmas wish for the world who tries to outshout each other: Be kind to living things. Give a hand where it is needed. Listen more than talk.

Posted in Acts of Restorative Kindness, Diversity Equity and Inclusion, Ecosystem, Social and Economic Justice, South Africa, Tea | Tagged , , , | 8 Comments

Blue Christmas…the good kind

Posted in Mississippi | 6 Comments

I have rectified the red rocks under the watchful eye of the red bird perched aloft in my red bud tree: The Pathway is finished.

Today was sunny, clear, and warm at 61. I headed to Home Depot for a bag of sand, another bag of paving sand, and 3 new plants. Rain is headed this way tomorrow, and temperatures in the 30s for the next few days until after Christmas. You sense my urgency, right?

The rain will (hopefully) wash off the sidewalk to the right where all my bricks and rocks have been stashed until today. I used the wonder bar (if you do not have a wonder bar, you need to get one–greatest tool in the world) to pry out the petrified wood rocks salvaged from Grandma’s (with her permission of course) and then filled in the rest of the space with flagstones remaining from Grandma’s, along with a few other colorful special rocks gathered here and there.

After completing the pathway (note: I call it that because it looks like one, but I have no intention of walking on it), I enjoyed the firepit while listening to the guys across the road in the process of laying fiber cable (yes, hopefully, my Internet woes are to soon be in the past). As always, a day out in the sunshine supercharges me, and gives me the wherewithal to approach another day. After all, if I do not get that Christmas tree up tomorrow, I might as well not bother.

Posted in landscape architecture, Texas, Young County | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

Moriage Dragonware tea cup with Nine Dragons Oolong

No, I did not actually drink my Vietnamese Nine Dragons Oolong from the Japanese tea cup this morning. Rakkasan finally got some tea in that I have been waiting for (Covid has disrupted a lot of supply chains as we all know) and I was exited to have Nine Dragons this morning. It made me think of Grandma’s tea cup in my china cabinet–one of the many things about which I am attempting to learn more.

Moriage refers to the type of porcelain decoration–the raised slip decorations. Dragonware is the design with dragons, the scales and tendrils are raised and the finish is not glazed, giving it a matte appearance. The bottom of the cup and saucer only indicate “Made in Japan.” Searches turn up a variety of the design color, although the style is always the same. Generally gray and white, the dragons are usually shown in white tendrils and scales with pastel colors for the eyes and small details. In researching Japanese porcelain markings, I learned that the period after 1941 is when the mark MADE IN JAPAN began to be used. Made in Occupied Japan was also used after the end of World War II. This piece is likely post WWII since it has the design on only one side of the cup and saucer (see top photograph for better detail), with some gold enamel trim.

I have found a number of items among Grandma’s scrapbook and things she kept that were souvenirs her sons brought her from China, India, Japan, and Germany. Uncle Glen served in Occupied Japan and my best guess is he brought the small cup to her. I remember standing and staring at it in her china cabinet, fascinated by the detail. Now that the cold of winter seems to be setting in, I hope to devote more time to going through the two large boxes that are in addition to the things already placed or displayed, what still needs to be documented as best I can, and what is ready to be passed on to the nieces.

Posted in Japanese porcelain, Tea | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

Mughal Horseman Tea

Mughal Horseman’s Tea from Bangladesh is the newest offering from Rakkasan Tea Company. A black tea, it is “organic, rare and hand-plucked,” very smooth with no tannic bitterness.  This tea has quickly become one of my favorite teas from Rakkasan’s offering.  The location of origin of this tea is

from a garden in the Tetulia region bound by the Himalayas to the north and the Brahmaputra and Ganges rivers to the south. 

Rakkasan Tea Company

The tea estate was founded 20 years ago to provide an economic boost to the region through jobs and the sales of tea. The People’s Republic of Bangladesh was established in 1971 following colonial rule by Britain 1700-1947 and Pakistani rule 1947-1971. A series of conflicts and coups prolonged violence until parliamentary rule was established in 1991. The CIA reported as of April 2020 that the economy had grown since 2005 even though there were “periods of political instability, poor infrastructure, corruption, insufficient power supplies, and lagging economic reforms” (cia.gov/Bangladesh World Fact Book).

Great Mogul and his court returning. By Edwin Lord Weeks. Public Domain. Retrieved from https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18636318

The Mughal Empire was established in the 15th century and was initially a cavalry-based army originating in Central Asia.  The Mughal cavalry also used elephants, but these were normally for the generals, as the primary use of elephants was to transport goods and heavy guns.  The name Mughal Horseman tea is a reference to the role of the Mughal Empire in using warhorses.  The Mughal army used mounted archers, a technique that equipped them well to prevail over infantry.  The use of the matchlock musket by ground troops propelled warfare into greater success by providing additional cover for the horsemen ( see for example, Khan, I. A. 1998. The matchlock musket in the Mughal Empire: An instrument of centralization. Proceedings of the Indian History Congress, 59, 341-359). In 1689, inventory of one detachment catalogued 28,800 horsemen along with 5633 musketeers. By 1674, musketeers were increasingly mounted horseback when the use of flintlocks began, a lighter and easier-to-fire weapon from astride a horse.  As the revolt against the Mughals during the second half of the seventeenth century increased, the Mughal Empire began to decline.

Mughal Horsemen drank tea.

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The path takes a break for winter solstice

Yesterday turned out sunny and mostly clear, but cooler than it has been. Nonetheless, I donned a sweatshirt and laid 4 more rocks in the path. Remember those “can you find the differences between the two pictures?” puzzles in our children’s magazines?

In case you cannot find it, or never played, here is the answer! I decided I did not like the results for the last two rocks I laid on Monday–visible in the photograph at the top left. I re-set the square rock and moved the gray one down to a different location after trying various placements of the remaining larger rectangular rocks. That is all I will do for now as the rain will be here within an hour and the temperature has dropped again. It is unfortunately going to feel like winter for the next week, possibly longer.

Beyonce and Scruffy said they would manage. There is shelter to protect from rain and wind for all the kitties, but these two are smart enough to know it is warmer with two in the same bed, plus, one can keep an eye out for intruders. When it drops to freezing or below, they will room in together on the first floor rather than en plein air.

Posted in landscape architecture, Mississippi, Mississippi Cats | Tagged , | 6 Comments

How about a dose of Vitamin D?

You know, the kind you get from the sun. Wednesday and Thursday were incredibly beautiful, with highs in the upper 60s and sunshine and blue skies. It was perfect for working in the yard, and I took advantage of it. I mowed, raked, shoveled, hauled dirt and rocks, and spent an inordinate amount of time cleaning. My reward? A fire in the fire pit at the end of the day whilst watching the sun sinking behind the trees. Physical work heals my mind and emotions and regenerates my body. After that, a little relaxation and contemplation of the sun amidst the trees heals anything not yet healed.

Today, however, was cloudy and overcast, with wind, so it felt colder than it really was. A flannel shirt was still sufficient for me since I was working. I spent this afternoon digging up the rest of the stretch of grass along the strip between the sidewalks, and found five more flagstones under the grass! I knew there was one, but did not remember there were 5, but they will come in handy as I finish up this strip. It will be a while, as rain is coming in tonight through Sunday. I think a break from the outdoor labor will be welcome and give me some time to work inside. Perhaps, I will still get that Christmas tree up yet.

Posted in landscape architecture, Mississippi | Tagged , | 5 Comments