Presidential Politics

It is not our policy at DFF to ever be political. It’s just a very bad marketing idea and we don’t want to offend half of our future customer base. But this year’s political discourse has been so bereft of any essential and necessary discussion of the issues that we have been forced to break with this policy, and in a very extreme way. To wit: though with less than two weeks away from the general election I feel I am forced to do nothing less than to throw my hat into the ring and urge any readers of this blog to vote for STEVE! this November, and too urge your family and friends to do the same.

What experience do I have that qualifies me for the presidency? Glad you ask!

This is a rare picture of my early flirtation with presidential politics. The picture shows me on the campaign trail in 1964 as chair of the Bald-Headed-Droolers party. The finger raised in the air shows the only direction the party had to go in that year. Had I won, it would have been that finger that was on the nuclear button. Wow. In terms of numbers, I also think the raised finger represents the number of votes I received, but I’m uncertain as I had not yet learned to count.

Running that year was a rich and rewarding experience. Out on the hustings I learned much about the American People, and shmoozed with the famous, the powerful, and the well-connected. I knew that networking would be key if I was to be viable as a candidate in ’68 if I blew the ’64 election. Below is a picture of me discussing orange futures and their impact on the California economy with Nelson Rockefeller.

By 1968 it was time for a new, more conservative and conventional approach. Here I am running on the Large-Foreheaded-Elephant-Eared-Bow-Tie-Future-Total-Geek-Of-America-Will-Never-Be-Dating-Material-Oh-God-A-Plaid-Suit-Ticket. This was even less successful than my previous bid, and effectively ended my career as potential presidential material for the next 44 years.

But being out of touch for 44 years is scarcely an impediment to running for office. Just ask Ross Perot. And good ol’ George Washington did not have any experience in politics, so there it is!

What is my platform:

Foreign Policy: Who cares?!?!?! Everyone just have a royal pint of hard cider, get along and get over themselves! Also, play nice!

The Economy: I don’t know – ask Lori who handles all the money in our house. Heck, I can’t even divide fractions anymore! On the whole, just drink more hard cider, shop drunk (but only buy hard cider), and stimulate the economy!

Drugs: Yes!

The Environment: Compost your leavings from the apples you pressed for your hard cider.

Energy: Whose got any left after tending animals, pressing apples, and planting all day?

Edjucashun: Ooops! Nevermind! More hard sider!

Health Care: Eat more fresh fruits and veggies; also drink hard cider – it’s full of antioxidants and apples are super food.

On everything else that’s important:

Fines for anyone who doesn’t grow at least one homegrown tomato plant in a pot.

By law every pumpkin patch must be a sincere one; also, everyone needs to learn to make kadoo bourani (see post below).

Bob Dylan’s Maggie’s Farm will (appropriately) be the new national anthem.

Capital punishment for anyone who grows a tomato that can fall from a truck and not get bruised.

No more damned kohlrabi; this is a vegetable that serves no ostensible purpose I don’t care how good slaw made with it is.

Generous subsidies for home-brewers of hard cider (notice a trend here?)

Jello will be abolished.

I’m Steve!, and I approve this message (more hard cider! Hiccup! Oops -scooze me!)

Kadoo Bourani and The Apocolocyntosis: Pumpkin Like Claudius (or You!) Never Ate.

The Apocolocyntosis has to count as one of my favorite works of Roman literature, not so much for its content as for its name. It’s a parody of uncertain authorship (but attributed often to Seneca the Younger) that imagines the scene of the emperor Claudius’ deification (or rather, failed deification); it is generally hilarious and the upshot is that Claudius is attacked for every crime in the book in the afterlife, where he is eventually sentenced by the gods to become Caligula’s servant. I always thought the title was fun because it sounded like a condition: “You . . . you have apocolocyntosis . . . I’m . . . I’m sorry.” The work is often translated as “Pumpkinification”, and derives from the Greek.

Sorry for two Claudian posts in a row, but I was again brought to mind of Claudius (and specifically, of his “pumpkinification”) by this fellow who emerged from our garden a couple of weeks ago and who was now ready to be eaten . . .

Perhaps this very pumpkin contained the spirit of the god Claudius embodied now in a tough orange skin. Who knows! But it wasn’t going to stop me from making one of my favorite Near Eastern (actually Afghan) dishes Kadoo Bourani.

So, let’s begin. First, you get your sugar pie pumpkin like the one above. It should be about 2.5 lbs. and come from a sincere pumpkin patch. Got it? Bene est!

Then you cut it in half and remove the pulp and seeds. Feed this to your hens. No hens? Shame one you! Get some hens!

Cut the flesh into two inch chunks, then sauté win some oil for five minutes or so, like this . . . .

Next, put it in a roasting or baking pan and sprinkle on 1/3 c. sugar. Cover with foil and bake at 350 for an hour. (Some recipes call for two pumpkins – and use 3 c. sugar! I haven’t tried that yet, but might someday!)

While that’s cooking sauté 1-1.5 lbs ground lamb along with one medium onion from your garden and 1 clove crushed garlic . . .

Then add one pint of tomato sauce that you made a week or two ago, preferably from home grown and organic brandy wines that have been watered with only the finest Oregon rain water. Got it? Bene est!

Simmer this, adding some salt, pepper, and a teaspoon or so of turmeric . . .

Let it simmer on low until the pumpkin is ready. Meanwhile make a sauce of 2 c. yogurt, 2 cloves crushed garlic, and a dash of salt and pepper. Take out the pumpkin and arrange on individual plates. Pour some of the meat sauce over the pumpkin and top with the yogurt thus . . .

Serve with red wine, a cold fall evening, and a view . . .

I, Purgamenta Hortorum

In my former life as an expert on the ancient Roman historian Tacitus, one of my favorite episodes from Tacitus’ works (specifically, the Annals) was the fall of the empress Messalina, wife of the emperor Claudius (AD 41-54). According to our sources, Messalina plotted against her aged husband, the emperor Claudius, with her adulterous paramour the consul, Gaius Silius. The plot took place in October, something we can say with some certainty since the wine harvest was in progress. She married Silius while the emperor was away in Ostia, Rome’s harbor; her marriage to Silius was tantamount to a declaration of divorce from the emperor, and an attempt to overthrow her old, inept, and alcoholic husband.

But the plot was denounced to Claudius in Ostia; he hastened back to Rome, where Messalina had already married Silius, and where the wedding party was celebrating a drunken, debauched Bacchanal. The Praetorians, the emperor’s personal bodyguard, arrested those involved in the plot: Silius was arrested in the Forum and executed. Messalina, uncertain of her next move, tried to escape in a cart full of garden refuse (purgamenta hortorum). She wandered through the city alone, though at one point attempted to gain an audience with her husband. But Claudius’ freedmen – i.e., his personal staff of Greek secretaries – controlled access to the emperor, and did not allow her to see him. They knew he loved her, and that he would be lenient towards her; she, in turn, would exact her revenge on the freedmen who had been involved in the denunciation of her conspiracy. It was a life and death struggle. She was forced to take refuge at her mother’s house, since she had been abandoned by all of her friends. Meanwhile Claudius, drunk and in his cups, signed her death warrant. A centurion was sent to offer her a dagger, but she couldn’t find the nerve to use it and was transfixed by the centurion’s sword. In a scene of high pathos, the alcohol addled emperor the next evening asked to see his wife, not realizing that she had already paid Charon his due, and was adrift on the gloomy Stygian wave.

Garden rubbish (purgamenta horti) awaits disposal, with no empress hiding underneath!

There was no reason for me to have any of this on my mind Wednesday – we are in the midst of a very busy time, putting the garden to bed and harvesting (still!), as well as thinking about breeding our goats and getting involved in some local food and hunger projects. But it was all suddenly brought to my mind as I was cleaning out the garden, looking at a cart full of garden rubbish, and suddenly, for some odd reason, I flashed on Messalina’s attempted flight in a cart filled with similar rubbish, probably one full of leavings from a summer garden being put to bed during the fall by one of Rome’s many public slaves.

So, October, the wine harvest, carts full of trash, adultery at the imperial court, Farming can create odd connections sometimes, especially for those of us with past lives.

A goat’s eye view of garden detritus otherwise known to goats as lunch (no nightshades please)!

Cleaning out the garden and filling the cart is not the only task we accomplished this week. In preparation for cleaning out the summer garden we picked our last bit of veggies from it, though we still have half of our garden under cultivation devoted to winter production and cover crop – oats on one half, and carrots, potatoes, onions, cabbage, and assorted greens on the other half. It was butt-kicking, rump-stomping work, and was even worse Thursday since we needed to rototill the rows we cleaned and then sow them with cover crop for the winter to fix plenty of nitrogen for the spring. (Green manure – it’s a miracle!). That means wrestling with heavy machinery (I used a hand-held motorized rototiller), and raking in the seed once it’s sown, work that only could have been designed by Blisterius, the god of, well, blisters.

We hung the tomatoes up in our shed barn to ripen as well – we suspended entire plants from nails and also hung our basil to dry, which also makes the whole barn fragrant and keeps away pests. Our ducks, the Kakhi Campbells, are now out on pasture too, and we somehow managed to install 24” chicken wire fence on Wednesday to keep them in (we had fencing already, but the gaps in it were big enough for them to walk right through).

Khaki Campbells about to be released to pasture: eggs we hope by spring.

I am amazed at how frenetic October is – pressing cider, which we did on Monday, making tomato sauce, putting in corn and sunflower seed and all manner of other fruit such as melons for the birds: it’s incredible. There is a synergy reflected in the behavior of the insects – the yellow-jackets have become more active; fruit flies plague us constantly; and the lady-bugs have hatched out in swarms, a last gasp of fall’s abundance in the face of winter’s scarcity.

The apples take particular attention. Pressing cider (five gallons) took all day Monday, even with an automatic juicer, but so far so good – we threw it into a bucket and mixed in 2 pounds of brown sugar and two packs of wine yeast (Cote de Blanche) and in about seven or eight weeks should have carbonated hard cider or really good cider vinegar. We have enough apples for a second batch, possibly a third, and will still have plenty of apples left over for eating and for cooking; the eating apples have a resplendent ambrosial perfume. Picking the fruit is no slight task – we have four very old and productive trees (plus a young one that was amazingly abundant in our garden), and Lori harvested while I rototilled. Harvesting requires maneuvering something about as long as a Macedonian sarissa (a long javelin about 5 meters in length wielded by heavily armed infantry) with a metal basket and grip on the end, winding it though numerous branches to the topmost fruit, wrapping the contraption around it, pulling the fruit into the basket, and then gently brining the thing back to earth. At times it’s easier simply to climb the tree when possible, since we often bring down three pieces of fruit for every one we catch in the basket. It does a real number on your neck and shoulders to say the least!

Five gallons of juiced and pressed apples about to ferment into hard cider. Vita bona est! (Life is good!)

We were so inundated with melons (each one has been a fabulous treat with their soft, golden flesh, their intensely concentrated sugars, and their explosive flavors) that even the chickens and turkeys could no longer absorb our surplus, so last Thursday I headed to the food bank in McMinnville with a box of melons, about thirty pounds, from our garden. It proved fortuitous, since I met the director who gave me a tour of the facility, and she has put us in touch with a group concerned with local food issues, including hunger. Next year we’ll hopefully have a couple of hogs to absorb the extra produce, but we are also committed to serving those around us who suffer from food insecurity. We believe in being low input (i.e., producing as much feed for the animals and ourselves as possible, and turning any waste into compost that goes back into our land), but also in tithing – so far, it’s a dance.

In the midst of this I am impressed by how little waste we have actually generated; the actual plants that we tore out of our garden made a single small heap. The compost from kitchen waste so far has made only a single barrel, though I will need to start a second this week. Even the chicken and duck waste has generated only two modest piles. It will be a different story next month when we muck out five months worth of goat manure and urine soaked straw from our barn (we use a deep bedding method and hope in the future to have a hog help us to do the mucking).

Not October but Ah!ctober: a glorious fall vista is the reward for the end of a hard day of toil.

The past few days have also been rainy and today we awoke to temps in the 30s with fog (we’ve had our first wood fires the past two days), but Wednesday and Thursday were beautiful. The vines were arrayed in a gorgeous golden glow, the rain cleaned off the dull film of summer’s dust, and Lori and I sat down at last at five on Wednesday, covered in a fine film of dirt, sweat, hay, and manure, with Mason Ball jars full of local red wine and enjoyed the glorious vista of the sun over the vineyards. Sweat, toil, wine, and a view: and of course, we remembered to pour a libation to the empress’ shadow.

And the Rains Came: A Photo Essay on Fall

Thursday had a sense of urgency here on the farm. We were set to have our first fall storm, starting with rain on Friday, a lull on Saturday, and a big rainfall predicted for this Sunday and Monday. The morning was cool and damp on Thursday, a harbinger of the end of a long Indian summer, and a fog settled over our pasture.

It settled in between 8:00 and noon, but then burned off to give us one more beautiful fall afternoon – the last one, since the winds and the rains will wash away the beautiful colors from the mellow Italian Baroque landscape in which we live and work, and which, even with all of our digital technology, photos cannot capture. They cannot capture the beautiful golden light of the west yard . . .

. . . or the muted tones of our stately Maple in the west . .

. . . or those of the chain trees, wisteria, and plums in the front . . .

. . . or the greens, golds, and reds of the back . . .

. . . or the transition of the garden and of our neighbor’s vineyard from producer of food and wine to one of golden beauty . . .

. . . none of this can a photo communicate.

Near our circle garden, in the photo below, the fragrances are now as intense as the colors, and the plants focus their energies on winter hibernation.

The dahlias are still beautiful there, but the lettuce, spinach, and chard, lovers of wet, cool weather, are soon destined to overthrow the reign of fuchsias, figs, and jasmine.

Below is a view of our circle garden in the late afternoon light from under our Mimosa tree, and a penultimate glimpse of the sun before the goddess Pluvia announces her wet arrival.
Friday morning we awoke to this view: ominous clouds crushing dawn’s rosy fingers in their iron fists of nimbus, and a final glimpse of Helios’ chariot, vainly fleeing the relentless course of Eurus and Zephyrus.

In the west, we saw the goddess Iris, sent on her bridge to announce the finality of the season, her feet landing with a silent stealth from farm to dell to mountain, a divine annunciation of baptism and deliverance for her thirsty mother Terra . . .

. . . and she departed arrayed in glorious vestments of color and light, and from the west we saw Zephyrus, shrouded in his mantle of grey . . . 

. . . and the rains came.

October: Harvest, Hobbits, Horses, and Happiness.

Grapes are not the only fruit of the vine, as this small, plump, resplendent sugar pie variety of pumpkin attests.

The Salii, the priests of Mars who celebrated the campaign season’s opening and closing in ancient Rome, could be herd chanting their hymns this time of year, which verged on the celebration of the October Horse. The October Horse was celebrated on October 15: two horses raced in the Campus Martius, and the victor was then sacrificed. A runner ran from the Campus Martius to the Forum, with the tail of the sacrificed horse still dripping blood, and smeared the doorway of the Regia, the ancient residence of the kings of Rome and of the Pontifex Maximus (chief priest of the state and of the college of pontiffs), with the horse’s blood. The head of the horse was also nailed (!) to the outside wall of the building.

It was a time for celebration, a time of peace as the season for fighting and war finished. We are on the verge, we hope, of that season, but much remains to be done. We will likely celebrate a November Horse.

Record drought has hit the state, and while that in and of itself is very disconcerting (we have smashed all time records for dryness), it has also given us an extended and distorted growing season – one we ought not to have in the Willamette Valley and coastal foothills. It has resulted in killer 2 lb. Brandywine tomatoes as good as anything I’ve ever had or grown back east; cantaloupe that we were told that we shouldn’t be able to grow that is intensely sweet, fragrant, and succulent (and we have more than we can eat); and bumper crops of eggplants and peppers that we planted on a whim. This is not right – particularly the tomatoes and melons; nor are the near 60 degree temperatures at night. But the drought has meant more time to work outside in pleasant weather. We’ve started on our greenhouse (digging the small foundation by hand with the help of a rototiller, but mostly using a pick and a shovel, back breaking work). We’ve also been able to harvest several hundred pounds of apples under beautiful if dusty October skies. One of our apple trees is in our garden in the front and is ancient – huge, but its trunk is literally just a shell of bark. We forgot to thin it, and so its fruit is small, but it contains an enormous number of small, blushing red fruit. Its taste is of roses and champagne. We’ve also been able to harvest cornstalks and sunflower seeds for our animals, and with the end of the season are feeding our goats branches from our apple trees, since they love the leaves.

Several hundred pounds of apples await the cider press near the shade of our circle garden.

In addition this past Friday (over a week ago) our hens started laying and we got our first eggs which were delicious. I think the good weather (and Suleyman’s constant crowing) may have something to do with it. A week ago this past Saturday we averted near disaster when we discovered that our two and a half week old ducks had been banded on the legs – bands should come off within seven days, but the bands were black like the ducks’ legs, and they were all hens so there should have been no need to band. Lori removed them gently with a tweezers while I held them and got copious amounts of duck urine drenched in my lap. They are walking fine thank goodness, and will be out on pasture in a week or two.

An egg is never just an egg as the flavor and high floating intense orange yolks of these beauties will attest.

The pace right now in the garden is frenetic: when we are not harvesting we are processing. We still have pumpkins to harvest (sugar pies that are not the giant jack-o-lantern but rather small but sweet eating types), and we are in a race with the weather. We need to finish harvesting, then we need to till up our summer beds and plant cover crops (vetch, oats, peas, and clover) before the rains come, but hopefully just before it rains so that we don’t need to water. We are also under the gun in terms of putting in infrastructure for a hog. To top things off, it is quite possible that we may breed some of our girls this fall, so we are on “heat” watch.

All good stuff to our minds though. Plus, we are inundated with vats of homemade tomato sauce and tomato jam, dried plums, plum preserves, and we are on the verge of pressing apples for hard cider. Tonight we had our first taste of home-grown spinach sautéed in garlic – the stuff grows great provided it has lots of shade and water, and does great in a bed of pure compost. It was as delicious as it was beautiful. We also harvested our first peas from the garden that were so sweet and tender that we didn’t even bother to shell them, but ate them straight off the bush raw, pods and all.

We consume our beautiful, succulent, nourishing produce as we gaze out over one of the most glowing, golden October landscapes I have ever seen. Our eyes have feasted on a dozen New England autumns together, each one of them gorgeous; in our sixteen years in Maryland we became intimate with individual trees, looking forward to how each one would garbs itself in infant blossoms in the spring and then arrays itself in brilliant red and orange funerary garb in preparation for self-immolation in the fall. But the mellow, golden glow that blankets us now – perhaps it is the pot at the end of some rainbow, the one that proleptically refracts light from the coming winter rains. This is October: orange pumpkins; red apples; purple grapes; golden earth. Wealth beyond this is a mere illusion, a deception of the self.

The pumpkin patch at 8:00 am, pre-harvest.

This wheelbarrow of fruit is destined not just for pie, but soup, and a favorite Afghan recipe, kadoo bowrani (roasted pumpkin with savory lamb in tomato with a yogurt sauce).

For us these days there is an intense satisfaction in growing and consuming our own food. It is a simple thing. Growing up I was never a Tolkien fan, but became one later in life. I recall recently reading an interview with Tolkien, who noted that the central characteristic of his Hobbits was simplicity: the joy they obtained from “food, drink, and merriment”. Their happiness came from these simple things: sweet corn; roasted beets; a pint of hard dry cider. How much better the world would be if we inhabitants of Middle Earth aspired to a fried egg from our hens rather than to the Ring of Power. Or merely followed the advice of Thoreau to “simplify, simplify, simplify”.

De Mundi Silentio (On the Silence of the World)

“I wanna build me a house on high ground, I wanna find me a world where the wind is the only sound, far above this world full of shadows and doubt . . .”

Bruce Springsteen

As a professional Classicist one of my particular areas of expertise is the Roman author Tacitus. His name in Latin, as one might deduce from the Latin derivatives taciturn and tacit, means “the silent one”. His name is in fact both ironic and apt; he was a man with much to say concerning human liberty and dignity, but he was a man of few words. His syntax is among the most compact and powerful of all Latin, and for that matter, ancient, authors. He says much with little; he is, in this sense, “the silent one”.

I think of his name often these days, because I too have become “Tacitus”, the silent one – from lecturer and philologists (literally “a friend of words”) to lone farmer in the field. The world I inhabit these days is much like the silent world Tacitus inhabited. Yes, Rome was notoriously noisy – any city is. But Roman society as a whole was not an urban but agrarian one; most people lived in the countryside. While there were a great number of urban centers, it was a subsistence economy for the most part, and most people of the empire lived not in cities, but small towns, villages, and rural areas.

Take away a city and you remove a great deal of noise. And modern noise is like an onion: inside if one works in an office it starts with phones, spreads to assorted ringtones on iphones, printers, coffee makers, office banter, slamming doors, stray and independent minded fire alarms, the person next door on the phone or in conference, a frenetic and turbid Cyclone of un-divine din. The infection spreads to the street, with its trucks, its traffic, horns, sirens, the thudding bass of intolerable and alleged music – it is an assault. Nor does it end there: we have visited this affliction on the air. I recall in College Park working in my garden and at any moment receiving an aural pummeling from Helicopter One (that had the temerity to practice maneuvers over my tomatoes proving that we are not a Godly nation but one of Satan worshippers), hovering police helicopters, C-130s heading into Andrews, fighter jets adding CO2 into the atmosphere (making the world safe for democracy but too damned hot for my beloved Pinot Noir), Cessnas full of people who are indispensable only to themselves, and planes full of hapless tech addled passengers destined to be assailed upon arrival at their connection point by Wolf Blitzer, crying babies, and garbled messages about their next flight.

I recall growing up in the 1970s and we still talked about “noise pollution”; but my guess is that that was just too out there for people to deal with, so we have surrendered to it, and made every form of obnoxiousdome the background noise of our culture that is not to be questioned, though I have often wondered what would happen if someone assaulted a television in an airport or car dealership or Lenscrafter and started to scream the simple request for silence (especially for those who actually like to, well, read in waiting rooms – but apparently Anderson Cooper is a more profound thinker than Conrad or Livy or Thoreau and won’t let me). I had a neighbor in our lovely wooded neighborhood in Riverdale once whose son used to play booming bass as he washed his car; it was particularly intrusive in the spring because it was the first time we could open windows. Because it was wooded there were all manner of songbirds. But his bass drowned them out. I was tempted at times to go over to him and say: “Turn off that bass. Do you hear that? Those are male song birds trying to sing pretty songs so that they can make love to little lady birds and make more lovely song birds. And you, YOU are RUINING their sex life by drowning out their songs with bass. TURN IT OFF NOW!”

But I digress.

My minor treatise In Rumorem (Against Noise), is prompted by the profound silence in which we now live. Yes, we have the occasional airplane and helicopter; we hear the siren from a nearby federal prison on occasion; the small highway to the coast produces the occasional siren as well. But on the whole, we live in deep silence up here on our hill.

There is a marked rhythm to the silence and its breaking here. In the morning the deep stillness of the dawn is always broken by two noises: the barking of dogs on neighboring farms, and the crowing of roosters. This always occurs when the light is still dim and has not yet come on; then at first light comes the loud clucking of our turkey hens and the bleating of our kids.  The peep of our ducklings is the next noise on the farm, followed finally by the sound of splashing, rushing water as we fill buckets and haul water for our animals. Sometimes there is the serenade of shouts on nearby farms as our neighbors set out to work.

Puck’s rustle through our oats breaks the morning stillness.

Then there is silence: weeding; hoeing; gathering fruit for animals; harvesting; thinning; turning compost; all these tasks are accompanied by a deep background hum, a tinnitus of quiet, of how the world must have been before the steam engine, the turbine, the airplane, the cellphone, the wheel. The sounds on our farm are, for the most part, those that would have been heard on a farm in an Athenian deme in 467 BC, in a Roman villa in AD 37, on a German farmstead in 843: birdsongs; wind; footsteps; the pounding of stakes; the rustle of straw spread in barn and field. These are the sounds that would have been familiar to a Columella, a Varro, a Cato the Elder; this is their world. I no longer teach antiquity; I live it.

A quiet morning tending the winter garden.

One becomes sensitive to noise the more one lives in silence, and to the endearing quality of certain sounds. I am particularly fond of the grinding our kids make when they munch alfalfa with a greedy glint in their eye; snurrfling is the only way to describe the noise they make as they hunt through the hay for good bits of timothy or when they attack fresh corn stalks; prrrflmphphh is the sound of their liquid sneeze that indicates satisfaction at their grassy victuals.

Goats greedily snuffle some spent corn stalks in the early morning light.

That sensitivity is particularly acute (not surprisingly) at night, by virtue no doubt of primordial instinct, when we are all most vulnerable to nocturnal predators, of which we have no lack here: cougar, bobcat, feral cat, coyotes, owls: of these, the last two are the most vocal. There is a herd of coyotes nearby and they howl and yelp mightily at night. Between 2-3 AM are their favorite times, though when I was up at 4 this morning and let Puck out I could hear them in the field next door, and brought Puck in hastily.

Sunflowers stand as quiet sentries over Puck’s pre-breakfast romp in the garden.

Silence makes one acutely aware of the noises that intrude. Of cars, of trucks, of tractors and equipment; of workers speaking Spanish in the vineyards. But it also makes one very in tune with the more subtle sounds on the farm: the sibilant sounds of grass lightly touched by Zephyrus’ fingers; the din of Artemis’ feet as they touch the crackling undergrowth of the woods in pursuit of deer; the chant of Tithonus’ tribe of cicadas and crickets. At different times their chirping varies: by day a steady hymn to Helios, by night a drumming, rhythmic beat as their nation sings to Selene.

Silence bespeaks to mystery as well. In our years at the coast we would head up to Ecola in the evenings to watch the sun set over the Pacific, to spot eagles, and to see if we could hear the sea lions at the bottom of the cliffs. Most night the sonorous rhythm of the ocean serenaded us; but there were times when the vast expanse of the Pacific was a dead quiet. How, I wondered, could something so vast be so still? It is the same here with the enormous expanse of mountains and sky. Why is there no crashing din as they strike the aether? Why does the world not produce a sound?

An autumn sunset, as vast and beautiful as it is silent brings another day to its close.

According to Cicero, however, it does: the world is but one of seven notes on the musical scale, reflecting the note produced by each of the seven planet as it turns in its sphere. The spheres and their orbits penetrates the universe’s empty space, like an imam’s call to prayer moving through the dome of a grand mosque, their notes collectively making the gentle hum of the morning, an evocation to listen to the world’s song.

Clouds in the evening sky make up the notes to a harmonious cosmic hymn.