Another beautiful montane aloe from Madagascar. There is considerable confusion between this species and Aloe altimatsiatrae, which, according to AtDGuide, possesses 'longer leaves, taller inflorescence and more distinctly yellow flowers with outer tepals free to the base instead of only halfway.' if that helps anyone. It probably does if you're lucky enough to be in possession of both species; sadly, I am not. The image of altimatsiatre in AtDGuide does seem to show a larger, laxer plant with more extensive flowers and about twice the number of buds, so I'm happy that the individual above is fievetii.
In the wild this variety occurs only on Fianarantsoa's granite rocks at around 1200m altitude alongside aloe capitata, placing it squarely in that charmed clade of 'goldilocks' (not too hot, not too cold) aloes that will survive and indeed seem to require cooler conditions for optimal health, with desert growers reporting limited success and often gradual decline. Being directly beside the sea and experiencing a temperature range of about 35(extreme max) to say, 15˚C in summer, and 15 down to 0˚C in winter with decent humidity all year, our situation is probably right up fievetii's alley. The leaves become tinged with bronze in summer.
It remains outdoors all year round under a polycarbonate roof, unheated and sheltered only from the rain and hail. When this specimen has put on more heads than I can deal with I'll plant some in the aloe garden out front, since it grows freely from cuttings. When I think about it, this is one of my most trouble-free and easygoing species.
* More Aloes Here *
A Human Rights Watch report into forcible rehousing and relocation of Tibetans within Tibet by the Chinese authorities.
Read it here.
Support their work.
Their freedom is our freedom.
The differences that distinguish us all are a treasure that is lost with every passing day.
When William dreamed it was often of remembered things, visions charged with partial, elusive significance, faces and voices, joys and horrors, the tenderness of familiar hands and the still-bitter sting of recrimination. At other times, long passages of mnemonic life returned to him in their entirety and he would awaken to an alien world that seemed far less material than the departing dream. Lying on the ground beneath the tree, his outline painted dim red by the distant glow of the fire, he wiped blindly at his face and rolled onto his back beside a hookah that had fallen into a similar recumbence. Around the makeshift hearth half a dozen figures were still partially sensible, but they were greatly outnumbered by those who had succumbed.
Sachiin's painted saddle creaked as he stood in his stirrups and slid down the cloth swathing his face, the glare thrown up from sinuous crescents of pearl-coloured sand drawing his pupils into slivers. Muttering, he caught the pommel and climbed up to balance barefoot on the mare's back while the horse dozed, blinking away the flies clustered around her eyes. Even this new vantage was frustrated by the layers of fractious air boiling over the distant wadi that was the focus of his interest, obscuring the size of the Frankish corps monopolizing its ephemeral waters, if not their telltale colours, glimpsed as they flapped listlessly. His ears were of little use to him, the dunes' curvaceous interfluence perverting all sound loud enough to carry through them, and he sat back down, patience dissolved as much by bitter introspection as the day they had been forced to wait for water. Behind him the band of Imazighan mercenaries of his brother's retinue had dismounted and erected a shelter from portions of their voluminous blue alasho, contriving a small chip fire for tea and gossiping in the luxury of shade. Kala'amātya himself sat on his brown mare with his back to the sun, coaxing a needle and thread through a length of unfinished bridle.
“Rhissa says that to his reckoning, a sound black goat is worth more than any woman he has shared a tent with thus far.” he related, referring to the topic of nomad conjecture. Sachiin swung the plume of a balding swat past his nose, eyes narrow.
“A goat is worth three score chebel pressed to overflowing with the shaitans.” he muttered. His brother made a brief protective sign with his right hand.
“Siith ilsii y’li sivai'isha. Such blasphemy."
Swinging a leg over the neck of his horse, Sachiin hunched in a manner befitting his mood.
“I am far more sinned against than sinning.”
“What more can you wish from life than to pass summer in the desert, fattening Rana’s purse while she eats grapes by the Loire?” Kala'amātya observed, leaning over to bite through the thread. Sachiin stared hard at the back of his head.
"Was it not enough to carp like a fishwife all the way to Palestine? I wish only for some great wave to sweep her into the sea." Sachiin murmured dully, staring down at his horse's shadow. "And you besides. You will both cry out to me in your despair, but I will be deaf to your entreaties.”
Kala'amātya accepted a cup from one of the nomads.
“Forswear servitude and you'll have no need of fickle calamity.”
“Foreswear your accursed counsel..." Sachiin grasped his head as though it were beset by hornets. "Does nothing else concern you? If my wife were to fall into the Garabogazköl tomorrow, you would drag her out, for fear of having to discuss some other matter!"
His brother regarded him with an expression almost private in its obscurity, though its unflattering gist was familiar enough to him. Shaking his head, he emptied the last of his water over his veil and glanced back at the conclave behind him as they unfurled prayer rugs and kneeled within their mirhabs.
“Which spirit do they plague with their wailing?”
“The god of the Arabs." Kala'amātya replied, stowing his handiwork. "Or of the Franks. They seem like enough, to my benighted pagan eye.”
"La'iah... they are mujahidîn, in both camps.”
“I have never been paid so well to murder strangers, and thus the holiness of this affair can scarcely be questioned.”
Sachiin lay back on his horse's rump and shaded his eyes with his hand.
"May the Mother turn their flesh to ice. What of their number?”
Devoting his full attention to the mirage-shrouded detachment, Kala'amātya counted off the men and horses until the tortured air defeated him. The corps before them were almost unaccountably distant from their beleaguered stronghold; news of the débacle at Acre had flown through the Levant and he surmised that they had fled the very conditions they had created. His immersion in the region's perverse vicissitudes since turning south from Samarkand had taught him contempt for all involved and greatly sharpened his rapacity. He consulted the nomads from his horse before returning a verdict.
“Rhissa says there are twice as many Christians as one sees, since the white devils carry witches and djenoun with them to increase their number at will."
Sachiin replied without looking up from studying the jewel tied around his neck, its Carolingian artistry marking it as the keepsake of some noble Frank.
“Rhissa has passed too many days in the erg."
"He has seen this evil prodigy many times."
"If there were witches to be had nearby, my yard would drag me thither and it does not. I say there be forty Christians, and that they be Templar.”
Kala'amātya’s mount swung its tasseled head impatiently. Sitting up, Sachiin opened his mouth with the intention of supporting his own assertion as a line of French knights broke over the crest of the dune and fell upon them in a heaving charge of airborne sand and dark, colossal horseflesh. His mare flew up on her hind legs and was struck by two leviathan contemporaries as the line braked around them on the slope, under the crimson and white of their banners; they toppled together, flattened against the sand and harrowed by the cleated hooves of the chargers thundering over them. Wrapping himself around a stout black limb, Sachiin felled the hapless animal into a heap of sweating flesh and tangled caparison, rendering its knight as helpless as a cast beetle in his cocoon of padded mail, left leg crushed by the floundering weight of his steed. Sachiin swung his sword but lost the credit to his brother, the latter thrusting a captured standard through the bars of the victim’s visor from his saddle. Kala'amātya planted it through the helm and another Templar stallion ploughed head-first over the haft, its rider snapped in two as he was whipped face-first into the ground. Catching the charger's harness as it kicked onto its feet Sachiin swung up and turned the beast with hands and heels, riding hard into the shoulder of another. He was thrown against the rider scrabbling for a hold on its slick neck and dragged himself into the saddle behind him, hauling back the gorget from the christian's throat and ripping the quillon from his waist. The point of the blade burst through the man's nape, almost into his own neck; while his victim bucked beneath the impaling steel Sachiin rode again at the moiling Franks, employing the body before him as a shield against their wheeling maces.
At some small distance Kala'amātya dropped from his horse and took a stroke to the back from an unseated knight; when he did not bleed red or falter, the perpetrator was stiffly transfixed, crying out as his head was seized by the stranger he had so rashly engaged. His scream drowned in whistling, liquid gutturals as his adversary ripped back his chin and tore out his throat with pointed, blade-like teeth, the slick veins and snapping grey chords spat in a mass onto the ground. The knight fell like a lopped branch and Kala'amātya drew his knives, wearing the fresh blood under his bleached stare into the fracas.
Obliging a nomad who lay pleading to be dispatched, Sachiin caught a chopping blow that opened his left arm, striking at the offender before pausing to wipe the jetted blood from his eyes. In his momentary distraction he took a mace to the side of his skull from a knight looming behind them, its ball head clouting him flat, the first of two converging avengers hoisting an axe with both mailed fists. The blade fell and bit deeply though he fended its haft with his arm, shearing flesh from his throat and bouncing on the diamond-hard matter of his spine. Dust flooded the darkness in his chest; he dropped his arms to his sides and performed a convulsion that satisfied his assassins though with their backs turned he rolled quickly, wrapped his oozing neck with his head cloth and reclaimed his lost sword.
They had been reinforced by a band of tribesmen who rode hard at the occidentals with their diverse blades. Listing slightly, Sachiin made his way through the edge of the fighting, swinging at those that blundered into him. He killed a screaming standard bearer amid the last knot of Franks afoot, dropping here and there to relieve Templar corpses of their rings and religious jewels with expert fingers. On the flank of the dune his brother broke a helmless knight's jaw and knocked the man onto his face, punching twin blades into his shoulders. Shucking them free, Kala'amātya seized the thatch of pale, sweat-greased hair atop his head and sliced a broad swatch from his scalp, stowing it with the other bloodied trophies in his belt. As though grasping at their own deaths the unhorsed men descended on him, insensate or already losing their blood to the parched sand, to have their glistening bones bared to the sun, to be docked of limbs and cut down with weapons impounded from their own hands by an adversary as silent and automated as any nightmare agent. Their desperation met no answer, nor could his victims impress any memorial upon him, their faces two blurred shades of the same dull colour, their appeals and threats unheeded mime. In the midst of killing Kala'amātya enjoyed a privileged and intimate tranquility born of rhythm and stilled detachment, in which no troubles save the geometric challenges of violence could survive, muting the few blows that broke his guard and the intolerable heat that forced the dying to slough their mail and gambesons like a clutch of frantic crustaceans. A slew of bruise-coloured innards slithered from the belly of a senior knight when he opened it with both knives, the mass raveling almost to the ground; their owner stared down at them while he was relieved of his head. Stepping backward, Kala'amātya was called out of himself by a sound more remote than the encircling tumult and turned with his brother toward the shrilling cries of the remaining nomads, staring with them to the south.
A cloak of stinging, gale-borne sand swept over the dunes, thickening to lurid orange as it whelmed them, choking the screams of men and horses, as hot as a belch from a kiln and roaring like a funneled blaze. Sachiin felt it scour his face and bank around the tumbled bodies at his feet and climbed out for fear of immurement. The sun receded to a dead, flat coral disc, though he dared not remove the cloth from his eyes, crouching in the lee of the mounded dead to ride out the storm.
Only when the hiss of the habub died away with its swing to the north did he lower his veil. Kala'amātya leant over to haul him up onto his horse, his face and long blue sleeves crusted with blood, a thick wad of bicoloured banners tied about his neck for safekeeping. Whistling for his brother's mare, they waited while she jogged down the dune toward them, trailing her reins. Half a mile away across the sand a small band drove a covey of stumbling captives toward a ribbon of sang de boeuf sunset, the colour hovering beneath thundercloud that spat bifurcated lightning at the horizon, the two skies meeting with the sound of clashing stone.
“The Caliph promised a mare from his own stable for each of these, so I will go to Baghdad and hold him to his word." Kala'amātya advised, referring to his looted pennants. "We may find riches enough to stave off a beating from your beloved.”
Sachiin eased himself into his own saddle as his mount drew alongside, rocking back and forth to seat it squarely on her withers then devoting himself to scraping grit from the wounds in his neck with claws that slid from the end of his fingers. His voice returned as his throat began to close.
“No such gold exists.”
"Sai a' si ina'abiih ilalae'an..."
"If I abandon Rana, I trade an idle scourge for one that slavers on my trail."
His brother raised a hand to the nomads stripping a christian bailiff in passing.
"If you mean to return to her you can make your own way. I will not suffer you while you abide her."
"And in that, you could not oblige her more, so what am I to do?"
“Cut out the dead flesh where you find it.” Kala'amātya recommended.
“My dead flesh has a name and face.”
“Her kind had no thought for mine.”
Able to devise no meaningful rebuttal, Sachiin turned his horse from beside his brother's as rain began to pound the dunes in the wine-coloured dusk, riding for the deserted wadi on his own.
C O N T I N U E D N E X T W E E K
© céili o'keefe do not reproduce
B U Y T H E B O O K H E R E $3.99 NZ. 240 000 WORDS - 2500 YEARS - NO QUARTER GIVEN.
Today I was out in the soggy garden planting roses (Louise Odier, G Nabonnand AKA Jean Ducher); I looked up as a large queen bumblebee flew past my shoulder and saw that it was being harassed by a Red Admiral butterfly.
The butterfly was dogging the bee really aggressively all the way across the garden, flying within an inch of its arse and I was amazed at its skill and persistence. I have never seen a butterfly chase a bee before; I thought it incredibly strange and for a moment there my very worldview was shaken almost to its foundations.
Looking it up, however, I discovered that some male butterflies are super-roidy and will chase pretty much anything that flies into their territory.
Did you know that, because I bloody didn't.
If you're very lucky, you learn something new every day.
Shitty day? At least we're not in jail for flipping off a bunch of pasty autocratic pigs, right?
With the way things are going, I'm not sure how long that distinction will survive, but let's enjoy it while we can.
We'd like to express our solidarity with Bay of Plenty iwi Te Whanau a Apanui for opposing deep sea oil drilling while everyone else seems so eager to get their snouts in that dirty old trough. Congratulations for not caving to greed and pressure from other interests.
Because no one can eat oil. Duh.
Finally coming out. We've just switched from a Nikon D70 to a D300 and an actual grown-up lens.
Wondering which model to go for? More about that soon.
* More Plants Here *
Geology Cafe Because its not every day you get a tiny purple shark with your schematics.
Corned beef. Silverside. Boil up. Hashed beef. Bully beef (from the 18thC French, bouilli - 'boiled'). A rose by any other name would probably not fill your house with the tang of vinegar and mustard with a dash of armpit but they do share the same shade of pink, thanks to the cornucopia of preservatives injected into this otherwise quite blameless cut of meat in order to ape the appearance of freshness, though it is by definition preserved. We've just discovered a local supplier who eschews this reprehensible practice in Nth Dunedin, and in future will be buying from him. But the piece featured here is conventionally-preserved and visually familiar to most, so we'll go with it today.
Why eat it at all, you might ask? Nobody knows how to cook it anyway etc etc. I hear you. Corned beef is a Nana thing and many of us do not have our Nanas on hand to advise, sadly; like humus, it seems to drive everyone into an angsty flap. Dry your tears. I've made this stuff my bitch and so can you.
Properly cooked, it is economical, nutritious, nostalgic, versatile and delicious. You can drive it in whichever direction you prefer, from stolid British pepper and mustard all the way over to virtual Thai, infusing it with kaffir lime leaves and star anise- I kid you not. Look upon it as a blank canvas awaiting your culinary artistry. The only other caveat being that this is not a dish to rush or whip up on a whim. If you're aiming to eat around 12.30, start at 9.30 am if at all possible, meaning you should get this underway after breakfast if you're at home and for most peeps this is probably a weekend meal. You need 2 1/2 hours no matter what with conventional cooking methods. I won't discuss the unconventional because I have never owned a microwave or any kind of slow cooker and never will, because of a stubborn addiction to flavour and texture. What? Microwaves are the slippery slope to heinous shit like microwave popcorn and a bunch of other evil crap that should be fired into space (if I didn't have so much respect for the interstellar void.) They are culinary autotune. They baste your innards with their invisible waves. They always look greasy. I could go on.
Personally, I come down somewhere in the middle on the flavouring spectrum, as you can probably see below. Gather your spices etc before you get the meat out of the fridge- you almost always discover you're short of something vital and either have to rush off to the bloody shops or abandon the project til whenever.
From the top, clockwise: black peppercorns, fresh bay leaves, wholegrain mustard, curry powder, black mustard seeds, coriander seeds, two big tablespoons of brown sugar. The dark liquid on the right is malt vinegar. Malt vinegar is traditional and gives a nice, melllow, caramelized tang, but I'm sure apple cider vinegar would be good too, as long as you adjust your seasoning to suit. As far as sugar goes, you can substitute golden syrup, molasses and even honey- bend the sweetness in the direction of the other flavours. Don't worry that it's going to make the meat sweet; it just bolsters the middle palate, balancing the salinity. And you really should add a couple of whole, skewered onions to the stock for eating with the accompanying vegetables, but I can't be bothered today. I think I'll go and get some leeks out of the garden instead, since it's finally stopped pissing down with rain.
Behold, the beast (eyes right.)
The brand shall remain nameless but 'Traditional' here means infused with nitrites (a major constituent of gunpowder, no less) which, we are repeatedly assured by scientific types, will kill us cemetery dead if we put our tongues on it more than once a week or so. We don't eat this more than once every two months, so we'll roll that particular dice but the evidence stacking up against heavy consumption isn't looking good. Bacon fiends take heed.
Nitrite-less corned beef is an inoffensive silvery grey colour which is perfectly acceptable. But anyways, let's clear our minds of that little doozy and get on with lunch, shall we?
Freed of plastic and the thick pink gloop that often encases it, this is what your piece of silverside should look like once you've rinsed it thoroughly under cold water. Observe the connective tissue and fascia running through it; this is the primary enemy of tenderness and edibility and you must subdue it in the saucepan.
You can remove the fat, but there is little point since there's not a huge amount and so much flavour resides there that you're better off just not eating meat if it offends you. A wee bit of fat does you good anyway.
Add the seasoning to the pan, slosh around a bit of water in the bottom to ensure the sugar doesn't stick, plonk in the meat and fill with cold water until it's just covered. I never add salt because these pieces are almost always oversalted in the first place, but that is up to you. Bring to the boil, let it do so for no more than five minutes, then cover and turn right down until the liquid is just simmering or convecting/rolling.
It seems to me that there's no real rainbow connection between meat volume and cooking time; as a rule, I cook a largish piece like this for around 2 hours, then leave it to sit in the stock, heat turned off, for another half an hour, chillaxing. This is the secret to tenderness; allow the meat to rest. Don't rip it out and hack it up immediately, as I used to do while wondering why it had the texture of linoleum. The corned beef will shrink by about a third, depending on the amount of liquid pumped into it during the pickling process.
When the meat is nearing completion, compose a pot of your favourite vegetables to boil.
Take a half a cup of the cooking stock from the meat pot and add it to the vegetable water, but not too much- we've found that the vinegar can do something strange to some kinds of potato, making them hard and weird even when fully cooked. I usually make a white mustard sauce to go with, but today it's creamed leeks and purple kale plus pink fir potatoes (not impressed with this variety so far) and carrots.
This lot will do today and tomorrow, two big winter meals for myself and a partner who's innards are a passage to that magic land where Anna Wintour's head appears on the bodies of fawns and prances in an endless rapture amongst people who never gain weight ever.
After two hours of active cooking and half an hour of rest, the meat will be cooked through and ready to carve. Cut the across the grain with a serrated knife; looking at the piece on the right, that would mean working backward from the end facing us. This is important if you want to avoid stringiness.
The biggest problem I have with this meal is assembling all the components in a timely manner, so I cut the meat ahead of serving time and drop it back into the stock to keep warm and stop it drying out, which works a treat. Corned beef will go all parched and puckery at the drop of a hat so keep that in mind when reheating- it really does need some sort of sauce or wet condiment such as relish.
This beef is nicely done (yay!) and contrary to any visual impression, not at all rare. Have a look at how cutting across the grain minimizes the amount of dark gristle or connective tissue contained by any one slice.
I highly recommend the fascinating Wiki link at the top of this piece; I had no idea corned beef had had such an impact on my own geographical destiny, its production being one of the main drivers of Irish impoverishment (particularly in the south). Landowners turned their farms over to beef production, marginalizing their tenants and dependents and forcing thousands of families to emigrate. I knew corned beef was a big colonial thing with devotees in Asia and the Caribbean as well as being a traditional kosher dish, but hell's bells! If it wasn't for this stuff, my father's family might still be boosting livestock and starting bar fights in Kerry. Trés ironique.
* More Recipes Here * How about some makeup and niche perfume Reviews? *
A few days ago.
We were estranged; not on bad terms, just lost, more or less, to one other. I have since found out that he had had a change of heart and intended to reconcile with the people he had withdrawn from, and it pains me greatly that we couldn't find the opportunity. But it seems pointless to regret what was tolerable to us both for so long. Life is both what we have done and did not do.
He was demonstrably a product of our colonial experiment; his privileged, landowning family exported themselves from Yorkshire to Christchurch in New Zealand and initially prospered, contributing to the infrastructure and direction of that grim little settlement before succumbing to the boredom and proscriptions of victorian parochialism, disposing of both their standing and their fortune in short order. My grandfather wore the brunt of this reversal and lost his mother in childhood, taking solace in his lifelong relationship with other animals and the land.
Our holidays in New Zealand centered around our grandparents and trips to their batch (holiday cottage) in a nearby bay, where my grandfather taught us how to catch fish, set nets, pick paua (abalone), pickle mussels, smoke bees and feed the eels that massed in the creek running through their garden. We lugged milk still hot and smelling of cow home from the local bails and pirated strawberries from under the nets when no one was looking. He loved horses and often contrived their presence, raced greyhounds and let me walk one of these silky, muscular wonders on a visit to a kennel. I credit him with the ease I feel around other animals; he was largely responsible for that exposure and familiarity.
I wonder how much more Nature as a whole and our place in it would seem like a distant, fabled thing if all this had not been demonstrated to me; something that was only for other, luckier people. I am grateful in the extreme to him for that immeasurably valuable foundation, and I regret that we could not find more in common as adults.
To those who feel a genuine foundation to, and peace derived from, disengagement with familial contention, I say you're probably making the right choice, and that romanticizing a bad situation is in no one's interest ultimately. But to those who know their estrangement stems from pride or stupid intransigence, drop all that stuff on the ground and pick up the phone today, even if only to be rejected or dismissed. What does that matter, if we are able to enact a sentiment that is the product of our better natures? Any attempt at conciliation is its own reward, no matter how it ends. Neither of us are, or were, the easiest people on earth to get along with and everyone is entitled to their own Way, which is why I enjoy the lasting fruits of our association more than I regret our eventual variance. I will always have his curly hair, and I'm grateful for that too.
Go safely, Des.
Am I the only one offended by the grotesque objectification and even fetishization of this unfortunate woman?
Whatever La Giaconda's personal circumstances, she sat for a couple of paintings and then presumably went about her business. No one has the right to open her grave to satisfy some utterly puerile, voyeuristic need to 'identify' her, whatever the fuck that even means. They plan to 'photograph the skull' so that 'then we will have the Mona Lisa.'
That's right. Have the Mona Lisa.
As if she did not possess her own identity in life, as though Da Vinci did not perceive and memorialize it in a far more sensitive and accomplished manner than any gene sequencing procedure could manage today. As if the only way we can 'know' this distant woman is to rifle her remains, while she looks back at us from canvas or panel or whatever lies beneath her famous image.
Why does anyone need more, and who gives them the mandate to pursue it?
I am so angry and sad about this.
* More opinionated opinion Here *