Fleur-de-Ciao

Here I go, dating myself again. As the refrain of Peter, Paul and Mary’s hit “Leaving on a Jet Plane” rattles through my brain, it’s time to pack my blog with updates and follow ups and general catch ups.
First, an apology to Elaine in Arkansas who, in an April blog comment, asked for my elderblossom cordial recipe. First, I just discovered the request about a week ago, and then, after I responded in the comment section, the recipe disappeared into cyberspace. So, here it is, resurrected:
Elderflower Cordial
20 heads of elderflower
4 lbs. granulated sugar
1 1/3 quarts water
2 lemons
¼ c. citric acid
Shake elderflowers to expel any lingering insects, and then place in large bowl.
Put sugar into pan with water and bring to boil, stirring sugar until completely dissolved.
While sugar syrup is heating, pare zest of lemons off in wide strips and toss into bowl with elderflowers. Slice lemons, discard ends, and add slices to bowl. Pour boiling syrup over flowers and lemons, and then stir in citric acid. Cover with cloth and leave at room temperature for 24 hours.
Next day, strain cordial through sieve lined with muslin and pour into plastic container to freeze. Scoop out as needed.
I add a teaspoonful of elderflower cordial to my tall glasses of ice water on hot days. It adds a refreshing flavor.
Hay Bale Hoedown: We had our April showers in May, so the daily watering of the hay bales was the primary responsibility of my cohort, Mother Nature. She did a splendid job leading up to the urea application for Week 3.
Richard did offer to have his campfire cronies, a 20-something crowd of S’more-slurping, cooler-popping fellas, take aim at my hay bale garden – but did I really trust these guys to walk the length of Beaver Stadium in the dark, find the garden gate, walk down the garden path, and use Mrs. Lynch’s hay bales for target practice? As Richard would text, “nah”.
Suffice to say that once again Mother is the necessity of invention. My nighttime collection device used over the course of several weeks and stored surreptitiously in my bedroom closet (away from the eyes of the older and younger generation who would in unison scream, “Gross!” or something to that effect) worked.
I made two trips to the garden a few days apart, with just shy of three gallons of liquid gold each time. I zeroed in on two potential planting spots for each bale, and only once got my foot instead of the intended goal. “Gross!”
Week 4, I inspected the bales and saw mushrooms growing – once again, Mother Nature was ahead of me. I stuck my hand down into the approximate spots on each bale and was rewarded with warm, composting hay. “Gross!” some might say. But as I pulled out handfuls of the hay, steaming with biological action, my confidence grew.
My Mother’s Day wheelbarrow was filled with a generous mixture of composted leaf mold from the woods, composted llama manure, and Ace Hardware potting soil. I used my Dad’s trusty trowel to slide a few scoops into each planting pocket. Perfect. Meanwhile, the Poona Kheera cucumbers, Thai eggplant, Costata Romanesco Zucchini, Thelma Sander Sweet Potato squash, Jimmy Nardello and Golden Marconi peppers, Katanya and Cream of Saskatchawan watermelons, were hardening off on the shady patio. By Memorial Day, the traditional Fedon family planting day, I was tucking my babies hay bales.  
What a Guy:During week 4, Richard presented me with an OJ bottle labeled “URINE” that he had filled. Too late for the hay bales, but just in time for a urea application for the garlic crop!
What a Gal: A true friend not only gives you a couple dozen stalks of rhubarb for your spring tonic of stewed rhubarb but also digs up a clump of rhubarb roots for you to plant! Ah, the riches of Rebersburg farmland. Thanks, Sharon!
Wildlife at Fleur-de-Lys Central: We’ve had a squirrel problem in the golf cart barn/garlic curing shed/storage nook/garage band staging area for quite some time. The squirrels crack walnuts all over the place and gnaw up anything in their path, but when we noticed they actually ate the cover off half of a golf ball … it was time for action. After a few calls, The Hundred Cat Foundation stopped by with a crate containing Houdini and Cali. HFC is set up to humanely reduce the number of feral cats through spaying/neutering and then find homes/barns for them.
Houdini and Cali were rescued with 20 or so others in a few colonies living at Rockview State Correctional Institution. One inmate smuggled out food to feed the strays living in barns around the prison, but the (cat) population got out of hand. So Hercules (the name that continues to come out of my mouth instead of Houdini) and Cali took up residence at our place. For the first two weeks, they were on lock down so they could get acclimated. Last week, we set them free and have only caught glimpses of them since, but know they are still around by the emptying food bowl.
Deadlife at F-d-L Central: Richard and his grandfather’s .22 are curbing the groundhog population. Seven down so far.
Really Dating Myself: In a recent copy of the AARP Bulletin, I came across a wonderful idea: the Little Free Library.  A fellow in Wisconsin made a doll-house size repository for books (compete with a glass front that opens up, allowing people take a book, return a book,) and planted it in his front yard, like a mailbox. The idea took off. There are building plans at www.littlefreelibrary.org, with at least700 mini-libraries in 45 states and 20 foreign countries
True Confessions:  I am leaving on a jet plane. Richard and I are flying to Brussels for Marina’s Vesalius College graduation.  After that, the three of us will take a celebratory trip to Venice and northern Italy to trace my father’s roots (you can’t beat $100 round-trip air flight from Brussels to Venice). Then, we’ll return to Brussels for more visiting, re-charging my daughter-batteries for another separation. (After spending the summer in Brussels, Marina will head to the University of London for graduate studies.) So, you won’t hear from me for a while – and when you do, I’ll be a changed woman.
You see, I’ve crossed this line before. When I was in college, I became smitten with Charleston, SC. Collected books on Charleston, “Porgy & Bess” albums, skate egg cases and sand dollars from Isle of Palms, Spanish moss from Johns Island, a Mount Pleasant wooden spool with a string to tie to chicken necks to lure blue crabs into a waiting net. I ended up living there for five years, sprinkling my vocabulary with y’alls, and creating a place in my heart for the Lowcountry.
Then, just before we bought the farm on Hottenstein Road, Paul and I took a trip to Provence. Once again, geography (and culture, and food, and people, etc.) pulled me into an undertow of place. This is the French-ness that created Fleur-de-Lys, from periwinkle blue shutters to cuckoo maran roosters, French lace curtains and Purple Passion asparagus, crystalizing simple country ways into a good life with family and friends.
And now, during the last few weeks, I’ve felt a strange sensation coming on.
I first noticed it on a visit to the local library. As I slid a few books into the return slot, I actually heard a book on display call to me. Moments later I was checking out The Glassblower of Murano. Weeks later, I went armed to the AAUW used book sale with a list – and found Death in Venice and The Broker—as well as a first edition Venetian Stories. On my last visit to the library: Venice, Pure City; La Bella Figura: A Field Guide to the Italian Mind; The City of Falling Angels; and No Vulgar Hotel, The Desire and Pursuit of Venice.  
Then, I bought a dress for graduation. The sales clerk commented on the Fortuny pleats. Was she drinking too much Prosecco? Was I?
Luckily, Judith Martin’s No Vulgar Hotel explained the beginnings of my malady—I may be turning into a Venetophile—and I haven’t even boarded the plane.
Ciao. Laurie Lynch
  
Written on Slate:  “O, Venice is a fine city, wherein a rat can wander at his ease and take his pleasure! Or, when weary of wandering, can sit at the edge of the Grand Canal at night, feasting with his friends, when the air is full of music and the sky full of stars, and the lights flash and shimmer on the polished steel prows of the swaying gondolas, packed so that you could walk across the canal on them from side to side! And then the food – do you like shellfish? Well, well, we won’t linger over that now.” – Sea Rat in Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows

One thought on “Fleur-de-Ciao

  1. Thank you, Laurie! I think I approximated this recipe after reading dozens on the internet. It's a refreshing drink–club soda in a 4/1 ratio with the syrup–and I must say gin improves it further.

    Love your blog!

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