Chris and Aslan, two of the very capable guys from Flying Colors Painting Company came by our house recently to pressure wash and paint the exterior. We shut all of our windows, as (sensibly) instructed. Then the wet, noisy process began.
I have to admit, it was exciting, especially for our family's younger set, who stood patiently by each window watching, moving to the next suitable viewing point as the areas of washing shifted and water cascaded down around us.
Since our house is adjacent to the woods, we end up with a lot of dampness and dirt, moss and leaves over the whole structure. Because of where it sits, our house (and yard) is the perfect receptacle for catching all the stuff that gets blown about and out of the woods. After many years of going without, the washing was much needed.
The other thing that happens due to our location is that certain animals, birds especially, seem to view our house as an extension of the woods. This means that in the Spring, all sorts of interesting activities start up around us.
This year, a pileated woodpecker appeared (again), hammering away at a metal vent high on the east side of our house. The noise echoed loudly enough to set my back teeth on edge. This went on for what seemed like weeks. Bunnies hopped out past the rhododendron and onto our lawn. The deer -- well, if you've been reading this blog, you've already heard plenty about them.
For me, though, the most interesting visitors this year were the pair of robins who settled under one of the eaves out front. We watched them every day after they first arrived. They were so busy gathering twigs and bits of soft, sphagnum moss from the lawn that they didn't even notice us at first.
I admired their work ethic and drive to protect the nest. My son and I would quietly lean over the edge of the porch together to examine its changes each day. The nest was beautiful in a fecund sort of way and surprisingly large, with wisps of light green hanging down from it. It looked like something out of a children's book.
The hatchlings arrived and quickly became strong enough to fly off. Thankfully, the robins were done with the nest before the painters came.
After the pressure washing was done, the nest, which had been knocked out of the eave lay sideways and empty on the ground. Everything does have its time and season.
My Bird's Nest Soup
When I was growing up in Chinatown, we would enjoy traditional bird's nest soup at wedding banquets. The authentic Chinese version is made from the spit of swallows, which lends the soup a viscous quality. Even as a child, I never found it (or the idea of it) either weird or disgusting. It was always just utterly delicious. This clean, simple and completely non-traditional version is my ode to Spring and our robin visitors. It makes a perfect light lunch or supper.
1-8.8 ounce package of angel hair nests
6 cups good-quality chicken or vegetable broth, preferably homemade
1/3 of a bunch of fresh spinach, leaves wash and torn into pieces
2 very fresh, large eggs
1 teaspoon vinegar
Sesame oil for drizzling
Cilantro, parsley, basil or other soft-stemmed herbs, chopped
Fresh pepper and salt
Place broth in a medium pot over medium heat. Once the broth comes to a simmer, turn to low to keep it hot. Taste for seasoning. If the broth is homemade you may need to adjust for salt.
Split the torn leaves between two wide soup bowls, placing them at the bottom. Set aside.
Bring a medium pot of water to boil. Salt water generously. Add two angel hair nests and cook according to package directions (mine were Delverde brand and took 3 minutes). Don't break up the nest shapes. They will cook through even undisturbed.
Bring another medium pot of water to boil. Add vinegar. Crack one egg at a time, placing eggs into separate ramekins or small cups. Using a wooden spoon, stir the water to create a vortex motion and slip one egg at a time into the water whites first. Cook for three minutes. With a large metal spoon, scoop each egg out one at a time, cutting off loose strands of white with the edge of the spoon. Place one egg on top of each angel's hair nest.
Ladle hot broth along the sides of the bowl, making sure to cover the spinach and part of the pasta nest. The heat of the broth is sufficient to wilt the leaves.
Drizzle with sesame oil and garnish with fresh herbs and pepper.