Archive | September 2016

Never Let Your Cat Eat an Advil

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Ojo in happier days

It was an accident. I set out two on a tray and forgot to take them. In the morning there was one. I looked around on the counter, in the crack behind the counter, on the floor. I figured one of the cats had knocked it off and batted it around. Or maybe he ate it, but so what? How bad could it be?

A couple of days later, after I’d been away all day, I returned and my little black cat walked in from the woods. Usually he runs to greet me. Inside, he threw up some clear liquid with a piece of grass in it. Awww, he’s hungry, I thought; usually he’s eaten half a can of food by that time of day. I fed him, he ate, he ate again later, but he didn’t want his treat.

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Cat on a Sunfrost last winter. He always comes running when I open the refrigerator door.

In the morning I found a pile of vomited kibble. Poor baby, he’s constipated. We’ve struggled all summer with vomit and constipation with both cats, likely from all the grasshoppers they’ve been chasing and eating. But he didn’t finish his breakfast. I had to be out again all day. When I returned that afternoon, he moped into the house and lay down. His back end was moving funny. I tried to tempt him with treats, wet food; no response. An hour later, into the evening when all the vets were closed, I remembered that missing Advil. Online warnings were dire:

A single 200-milligram ibuprofen tablet can be toxic to a cat or small- to medium-sized dog; toxic effects can occur rapidly and damage the kidneys and stomach… The damaging effects of ibuprofen or naproxen in pets include inhibiting blood flow to the kidneys and interfering with the production of compounds that help protect the inner lining of the stomach. Therefore, toxic effects of ibuprofen and naproxen in dogs and cats include kidney damage that can lead to kidney failure and severe stomach irritation that can progress to stomach ulcers.

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On top of the world, walking the deck rail in early spring

I called the Animal Doctor. She said to bring him in in the morning. He was practically comatose when I did. This is going to be the worst part, she said as she prepared to shave the fur under his neck in order to draw blood. He’s not going to like it. He didn’t care, he didn’t move. We lay him on his back in a foam form so she could do an ultrasound. He didn’t protest when she shaved his belly and rubbed it with gel, or when she moved the wand around. Until she hit something and he was in obvious pain. One kidney looked ok, she said, but the other looked off; maybe that was a hairball in his upper intestine; maybe his liver was swollen.

She warmed a bag of liquid in warm water in the sink, then hung it and stuck his neck with a huge needle to give him subcutaneous fluids. Twice more she stuck him and he moved feebly for a second then settled. She let me take him home, where he slept the day away. After a few hours I offered him some tuna water diluted with filtered water and he drank. Late afternoon when I fed the dogs he came in with a pitiful meow, and I offered him wet food mixed with water. He ate.

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On a walk to the canyon rim in May

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Covered in grass pollen after a romp along the driveway this summer

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Loving on cousin Melinda in July

In the morning the doctor called with bad news from the blood test. Both his BUN and Creatinine, the tests that measure kidney function, were five times the high end of normal, revealing acute kidney failure. That afternoon we went back for more fluid injections. By then he was stronger and objected to getting in his carrier, then later hissed at the vet as she reached in to give him the needle.

In a phone consult that evening a second vet said his numbers were so bad they suggested antifreeze poisoning, which is usually fatal. That’s possible but not likely where we live; and we do know one Advil is missing. I scoured the nooks and crannies of the kitchen again and could not find it.

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Hanging out by the fish and frog pond last month

But his behavior keeps improving, and we’ve got our fingers crossed. There’s nothing we can do now while his life hangs in the balance except keep him hydrated and eating, and hope his strong little cat body can flush it out of his system and his kidneys recover. Day by day. They’re just kitties, said Fred.

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A basket full of love just a few weeks ago

At the same time that I feel a fierce clinging to this kitty, a need for him to survive this, I recognize an inclination to just let go, to distance myself from him and the strength of my love for him. If I love him less perhaps it won’t hurt so badly if he dies of my mistake, unknowingly leaving poison within his reach.

But I think of the words of deep ecologist Joanna Macy that I heard recently, touching on our grief for the natural world in light of toxic man-made disasters like Chernobyl and the BP Gulf Oil spill: 

…the other face of our pain for the world is our love for the world, our absolutely inseparable connectedness with all life… It’s a double-edged sword, isn’t it? … say you’re taking care of your mother, and she’s dying of cancer. And you say, “I can’t go in her house or in her room because I don’t want to look at her.” But if you love her, you want to be with her. If we love our world, we’re able to see the scum of oil spreading across the Gulf. We’re able to see what it’s doing to the wetlands and the marshes, what it’s doing to the dolphins and the gulls. When you love something, your love doesn’t say, “Well, too bad my kid has leukemia, so I won’t go near her.” It’s just the opposite.

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Looking a little miffed after having his neck shaved and needles stuck in him, he’s back in his windowsill just a day after knocking on heaven’s door.

Just the opposite in microcosm. While I do what little I can to save the planet from our poisons, I’ll do everything possible to save this accidental little black cat that surprises me every time he jumps in my lap with the force of my love for him. And now we’re off to the vet to get more subcutaneous fluid to flush out that poison. Never ever let your cat eat an Advil, or any other pill meant for you.

An Opportune Concatenation of Events

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Deborah brought a trugful of apples from her trees…

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… and I got a big bowl full from the Fuji.

I’ll be honest, I have a fraught relationship with apples. At one point I decided they’re more trouble than they’re worth. If you don’t at least slice them, or better yet peel then slice them, and you just eat one out of your hand: you have to bite hard, chew a lot, and the skin inevitably slides up between my teeth and gets stuck, sometimes even slicing my gum.

One day I embarked upon a quest to find an apple that was worth the trouble. After many months of many tastings, I did find one. It became clear that for me the only apple worth eating off the tree is a Fuji. So I bought a tree. And now, that little tree that has struggled with not the best placement, with insufficient protection from deer year after year, with frost at just the wrong time, that little tree by my front gate is feeding me plenty of apples worth eating right off the tree.

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Pamela loaned us this amazing gadget that peels, cores and slices all in one! Apples will never be too much trouble again!

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Meanwhile, the almond tree, who I knew would let me know when it was ready to let go, has let me know.

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Half the tree in a big wooden bowl, the other half so high I’ll need to pick them from the deck or knock them down, my vision for this tree finally come to fruition.

Almonds, broken open or nearly so, losing their green, taking on autumnal hue. Inside leathery fruit already drying in desert winds lies an almond in the shell, some of these already consenting to crack. Inside the tawny shell not quite set, a milky tan or brown-skinned gem… Bitter. Those with the brown skins are bitter, and even some of the skinless ones a little bitter. They will benefit from blanching.

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After husking I lay the nuts out to dry in their shells, and will freeze them shelled or unshelled when I can hear most of them rattle in the shell.

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Rose hips almost ripe and ready to be turned into jelly.

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How many frogs? Through benign neglect of my fish ponds they’ve become frog ponds. I counted a total of seventeen northern leopard frogs in both ponds at once this afternoon, an all-time record.

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Two color morphs of the leopard frog, brown and green, communing at the edge of the pond. Each summer for the past few years I’ve seen a few more frogs. At least in this hazardous world where amphibians are declining at an astonishing rate, my little pond has become a haven for this wonderful native species.

And on a more somber note, with a threadbare segue, a plea for our own endangered haven, both here in our valley and on this fragile, spinning planet as a whole:

These next few weeks create our future, in so many ways. Will we make it be the one we want to see? A future honoring our planet, mother nature, our atmosphere, father sky, brother sun, sister moon? Will we choose reverence for life in a meaningful way before it’s too late?

We don’t often have a concatenation of events that provides us with as much opportunity to influence our future as we have in the next four to six weeks; right now, we have two such opportunities, one on a local level and the other on a global level. We are in a bardo now between great potential for harm and great potential for slamming on the brakes to slow the decimation of Earth.

Until November 1, we have a window to make our voices heard and direct the policy guiding the public lands that surround our valley for the next two to three decades. This is not another one-time fight. What’s at stake this time is the Resource Management Plan (RMP) that will direct the use of public lands surrounding and within our valley for the next 20-30 years.

“Because BLM did not consider new information on earthquakes, human health impact, climate change impact, and environmental damage caused by hydraulic fracturing, injection wells, and ongoing oil and gas operations, along with its inadequate risk analysis, its draft Resource Management Plan is fundamentally flawed.” ~citizensforahealthycommunity.org

We have a singular opportunity with this RMP. Let’s flood the Bureau of Land Management with ten times as many letters as we sent last time, four years ago, when this fight was for a one-time lease sale. Let’s send ten thousand letters, twenty thousand, thirty thousand. We have the chance to say now, in the policy that’s set for the next two generations: NO!

Our local conservation groups have made it so easy to submit comments. The cogent letter is written for you. Fill in a few blanks, add any personal comments, and mail or email your letter today. You can submit as many comments as you like; unlike voting, you’re not limited to one. And you don’t have to live here to take a stand. Please share and share this plea and these links to help save the organic foods capital of Colorado.

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North Fork Valley organic fruit for sale in one of many markets our farmers supply throughout the summer. photos by Cynthia Wilcox

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Though the industry strives to convince us otherwise, there’s a lot of indisputable evidence that fracking fluids are toxic to life, human and otherwise, that the effects of drilling and wastewater injection can spread far from the site, that spills devastate land and water, that transport by pipeline, train or truck can cause massive explosions. The list of deleterious effects goes on and on, from air pollution and habitat destruction (human and other) to induced earthquakes. According to the USGS, induced earthquakes have risen dramatically in the past five years as a result of drilling activities in states including Ohio, Texas, Oklahoma, and Colorado.

We need to stake our claim to our public lands, our air, our watersheds, and not let them be exploited for profit by a few powerful corporations. We must protect all that is essential to our lives: The sights and sounds and experiences that make life here so precious, the food, the water, the soils that nurture not just human health but whole ecosystem health. We must speak now, loud and clear, spread the word, and enlist the voices of all our neighbors, of our friends and families far and wide, of anyone who has ever lived here or hopes to, of anyone who has ever enjoyed visiting this valley or hopes to, of anyone who enjoys the fruits and meats and wines of this valley.

We can make change if we undertake it at the right time, not so much when the stars align as when good intentions and political schedules coincide; in these few transformational moments what we say and do can actually make a difference. This is the time to make our choices, raise our voices in a way that counts. This is not the time to be resigned.

Portentous Winds of Autumn

Russet tones of autumn emerge first in the Amur maple seedlings, already dried and set with seed. This maple never does as well as the other, on the south side of the house. They’re in different soils, one in native clay and the sad one in more sandy soil. I need to deep water with some extra nutrients.

Russet tones of autumn emerged first last month in the Amur maple samaras, now already dried and set with seed. This maple never does as well as the other, on the south side of the house. They’re in different soils, one in native clay and the sad one in more sandy soil. I need to deep water with some extra nutrients before fall gets away.

I’ve seen first hand how leaving a cluster of peaches on a limb will result in crowded misshapen small fruit, how even two opposite on a stem can smash together and provide haven for earwigs, how too many along a slender limb can bend it to the ground; all the things Fred warned me about as he urged me to thin thin, thin.

I’ve seen first hand how leaving a cluster of peaches on a limb will result in crowded misshapen small fruit, how even two opposite on a stem can smash together and provide haven for earwigs, how too many along a slender limb can bend it to the ground; all the things Fred warned me about as he urged me to thin thin, thin.

Nevertheless, my sweet tree delivered bowl after bowl of delicious peaches, that I gave away, froze, cooked into peach jam, infused into vodka, gin, and brandy, and canned in a special syrup...

Nevertheless, my sweet tree delivered bowl after bowl of delicious peaches, that I gave away, froze, cooked into peach jam, infused into vodka, gin, and brandy, and canned in a special syrup…

Canada Peaches! In a twist on the bourbon peach recipes found online, I packed each half-pint jar with peaches, adding about a tablespoon of maple syrup, then filling with half simple syrup and half Canadian whiskey, before processing in a boiling water bath. I hope these last long enough to eat some mid-winter by a toasty fire.

Canada Peaches! In a twist on the bourbon peach recipes found online, I packed each half-pint jar with peaches, adding about a tablespoon of maple syrup, then filling with half simple syrup and half Canadian whiskey, before processing in a boiling water bath. I hope these last long enough to eat some mid-winter by a toasty fire.

And of course a couple of peach pies.

And of course a couple of peach pies.

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I ate the last fresh peach this morning, and harvested the two remaining apples on the heirloom tree, I’m so sad I can’t recall its name. Are the finches feasting on wild sunflower seeds also marauding the Fuji apple? It doesn’t appear so; the leaves are grasshopper eaten but the fruit is sound, and so much of it, more than ever before, dozens of apples, I’m so happy I thinned them! At least 59 Fuji apples. I’ve got my eagle eye on these, watching for predation by those pesky birds.

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September is like the last hill on the roller coaster. You’re near the top, the wild rush of August harvest has unwound behind you, there is that last push of fall fruits and vegetables to get in before the varmints git ‘em. Rosie has a big squirrel in her garden. I’ve got a stray deer here and there reminding me it’s time to put up fences around trees and shrubs whose protective rings I’ve repurposed on smaller plants throughout the summer. Someone ate two fat cheeks off the biggest tomato of the season; just yesterday I thought that’s about ripe, maybe I should pick it, but it wasn’t ready to let go, and I didn’t come back. This morning’s rising sun highlighted the glistening dips in its flesh when I chanced to glance over from the patio, where I sipped coffee and listened to the raucous sound of morning.

Cynthia led a meditation on sounds last week that’s reminded me to cherish more the wild sounds and deeper silence where I’m blessed to live, like the cacophony of finches in the wild sunflower patch that sprang up on the south side. It’s been years since I’ve lived with a constant musical soundtrack, and for the past several I’ve lived with only intermittent music through the course of my waking day. More and more I find myself eschewing external music, to simply hear, and listen to, the music of nature: birds, crickets, wind, bees, coyotes at night, more coyotes this summer than I have heard in many years.

A great-horned owl has come a courting me. It must be me he woos, because I’ve listened long and faraway and do not hear another. And so I croon back to him a few times, though Stellar doesn’t like it and tries to make me stop, and soon I do stop, because it isn’t fair; I can’t give the owl what it’s looking for. But I sure do enjoy exchanging hoots with it for a few minutes on a clear full-moon night, or any other.

Rain moved through again last night, this time early enough to leave a double rainbow in its wake. I alerted the Bad Dog Ranch that they were centered underneath it. The next day I received a rainbow alert from them. I love this about where we live, that we care about rainbows.

Rain moved through again last night, this time early enough to leave a double rainbow in its wake. I alerted the Bad Dog Ranch that they were centered beneath it. The next day I received a rainbow alert from them. I love this about where we live, that we care about rainbows.

This morning, rain-washed and crisp, the golds of autumn jingle forth. Last Saturday we noticed the first hint of aspen turning up on Mendicant Ridge. By Tuesday the yellows were distinct, and after that storm moved over Wednesday night,  the golds are glowing bright, clearly delineated patches among shades of greens, siennas and ochres, treed and rocky slopes. Air is brisk and the dogs are frisky.

Great cumulus clouds march in close formation lockstep briskly through blue sky, white tops glowing, their grey treads gliding low. It's too spectacular not to walk the frisky dogs up the driveway, where I meet my sweet neighbor and we stroll our rural, precious neighborhood.

Great cumulus clouds march in close formation lockstep briskly through blue sky, white tops glowing, their grey treads gliding low. It’s too spectacular not to walk the frisky dogs up the driveway, where I meet my sweet neighbor and we stroll our rural, precious neighborhood.

Fall blows in on these winds that feel portentous. March winds last longer than they used to, and winter winds start early, in late summer. The breeze sometimes is just a bit too strong; I feel the atmosphere whipping up, winding up all this energy, that later, maybe elsewhere, will unwind with a fury. Ever since I watched the film Melancholia earlier this summer, I’ve viewed this world differently, trusting and allowing myself to sense and feel the changes, the subtle shifts in seasonal events, in their timing, likelihood, or nature. Something is coming, and all I want to do is make jam.

Apricot jam, peach jam, plum jam, chokecherry jelly, salsa hot and mild, and the new house specialty, Canada Peaches. Also plum brandy, peach vodka, plum syrup, plum sauce, pickled beets and cukes, and all the blanched greens, peeled and unpeeled fruits, tomato sauce and peppers in the freezer, let me feel I’ve made the most of the garden this summer.

At the end of the day, though, it’s not about my garden and what I’ve grown and what I’ve put up and what I’ve enjoyed this summer. It’s about what we’ve all tended and grown and loved and eaten and shared and put up for winter, it’s about what we all do in our lives here on this fragile planet. It’s about not just this apple, but all them apples, too! The change that’s in the wind is about me and you, and the choices we make in the next few weeks. To be continued…

Eating August

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Apricots showed up in many festive meals last month, including these appetizers: perfect apricots cut in half, pits replaced with a dollop of softened cream cheese and topped with salted, roasted almonds.

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Another place they showed up was this leg-of-goat roast at the Bad Dog Ranch, in the glaze and in a pan-cooked chutney alongside, courtesy of Chef Gabrielle.

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After making apricot jam, harvesting the garden and raiding the fridge, time for a gin gimlet and fresh vegetable curry over red rice, inspired by a friend’s recipe.

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Sautéed onions and garlic, three kinds of peppers, fresh tomato, and coconut milk simmer on the stove…

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…add zucchini and yellow squash and handfuls of fresh purple and green basil, and simmer til soft and yummy, then serve over rice.

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“Do you call a sandwich with tomato and cheese a tomato sandwich?” asked Ann. Me: “NO! That is a tomato and cheese sandwich. A tomato sandwich is just tomato. And mayo. Lots of mayo.”

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The BLT is another kind of sandwich altogether, not a tomato sandwich. Sometimes you feel like bacon, sometimes you don’t. But thick bacon! How do you make a BLT with thick bacon? It is just too chewy to bite into pieces. I tried first with chunks of thick bacon instead of whole strips.

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And finally solved the dilemma after cooking chopped thick bacon for a pasta sauce. Chop the bacon small and fry til crispy, then add to the sandwich.

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Carrots were ready at last. Not a great harvest, but a lot better than last year. They loved the raised bed with its loamy loose soil, but the grasshoppers got their tops through much of the summer. Mostly good-sized roots, and lots of gorgeous colors.

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One of the many things I love the most about living in the North Fork Valley is the food we share. We share it in gourmet or casual potlucks, dinner parties, and by the bag, box and basket. These perfect tomatoes came from Mary’s kitchen in exchange for a box of plums picked off of Ellie’s tree. We are blessed with a climate that in some years gives us outrageous amounts of fresh fruit, and in most years gives us gems like these. Our valley is the Organic capital of Colorado, and our produce shows up around the state in all the best Farmers’ Markets.

We have the opportunity in the next 56 days to influence the policy that will determine the level of industrial extraction in the wild public lands that surround our valley; those hills and mountains that comprise our watersheds, our views, our recreation, and our thriving and growing economy based on producing the highest quality vegetables, meats, wines, and recreational opportunities. Hunters, fisher-folk, tourists, people who buy the North Fork Valley’s food products around the state and country, anyone who has ever visited this valley or would like to, we need your support. You can start here. More to come.

Hummingbird, Please Fly Away, Fly Away!

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The other morning a baby hummingbird hit my big picture window. I went outside and it was face down on the concrete with its wings spread out in two triangles, tail in the air, its little beak on the ground.

I picked it up and it fluttered, and feebly grasped my finger with its tiny claws. I found a box, put the little bird onto a stick, put a bowl of water in the box with it, and closed it up for awhile. I checked a few times and the little bird was just sitting there fluffed up.

After about twenty minutes total I checked again, and when I started to open the box, there was buzzing inside and the little bird zipped straight up as soon as I got the flap open, and buzzed around under the patio umbrella like he couldn’t find the edge. So I scooped it softly out from under the umbrella and it flew off into the trees. Sometimes all it takes is a rest.

I stopped by a new friend’s house for the first time, and noticed his hummingbird feeder had black stuff in the top of the bottle. I asked if I could share my expertise with him, as he had recently shared his (art) with me. He thought I was going to give him tips on his painting, and was surprised when I said “You need to take that feeder down right away and scrub it out.” I shared a link with him later, explaining how important it is to keep your feeders clean enough that you’d drink from them:

Please Note: If you do not follow these instructions, you could be responsible for giving Hummingbirds a serious and deadly fungus infection. This fungus condition causes their tongues to swell, making it impossible for the Hummingbird to eat. Ultimately, they die of starvation, a slow and painful death. Please do it right or don’t do it at all.”

The site gives great instructions for how and what to feed, and how and why to keep food fresh and feeders clean. Over the course of the summer I’ve seen some dismaying hummingbird feeders around the valley, with black walls or cloudy nectar, and even cloudy red-dyed nectar. I thought everybody knew by now not to add that red dye. Why do they even sell it? Of course, I always think that once a problem is identified, the people in charge will do the right thing and fix it. Like income inequality, and climate change. But we as a species just seem to keep digging ourselves in deeper in both those arenas, despite knowing better.

One small thing we can do is not kill off hummingbirds, who face enough threats including habitat loss, pesticides, feral cats and window collisions, without us poisoning them with poorly maintained feeders. It’s quite a commitment to do it right.

Most of the hummers have left by now, but there are still a few flying around the flowers and the feeders. Most mornings are nippy. Fall is definitely on its way. I heard last night that the oak brush up on Black Mesa is flaming red, and just a few aspens have started turning. The cottonwoods in the canyon have a few patches of yellow leaves. Purple asters complement the abundant wild sunflowers. Winter squashes are ripening.

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Late summer surprise! I’d about given up on the winter squash vines; nothing but tattered leaves were growing in the raised bed. But pulling weeds around the back side of the beds I found one decent butternut squash…

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…and one huge Long Island Cheese squash! The Rocky Mountain Beeplant surrounding the squash is a great source of nectar for both bees and hummingbirds. It self-sows readily, and is easy to recognize and pull up where you don’t want it.