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Second Shot

When life gives you cold coffee, throw some vanilla ice cream into it and enjoy a whole different experience.

I’m grateful for having a freezer that runs off of solar power that I can keep ice cream in, as well as many other staples. I’m grateful for coffee beans from Brazil, roasted and ground in the next town over, and mailed monthly to the box at the top of my driveway, and grateful for all the people along the way from the coffee growers to the mail lady and everyone in between. I’m grateful for help in the garden, and my good dog and cat, and waking up each morning in a cozy bed. I’m especially grateful tonight that I’ll be getting my second Covid vaccine tomorrow morning, and grateful for all the people from start to finish who developed it so fast, tested it (and let it be tested on them), manufactured it, shipped it, stored it, and will operate the vaccine pod tomorrow. If I don’t show up for a few days, chalk it up to a vaccine after-effect, and I’ll be grateful that I’m able to lay low and let it go at whatever pace it takes.

I continue to be grateful for the lovely red tulips with their gorgeous green foliage that brighten every day they bloom in.

But Still…

Today I’m tired, and I’m sad about Stellar, and I’m disappointed in myself for not finishing an assignment. But still, I’m grateful. Grateful for another day with my dear old wobbly dog, grateful for the red tulips and the white grape hyacinths, and the rare conditions of my life that allow me to have time to meditate; grateful for the teachers who inspire me in every sense of the word, literally reminding me to be grateful for each breath.

I’m grateful that yesterday was not the last time we got to walk to the canyon together. We both hobbled down there this afternoon, and he did pretty well considering how weak he was last evening. He seems pretty strong in the morning, but as the day wears on his back legs seem to wear out. Each day is another opportunity to practice equanimity, to release attachment to the inevitable outcome.

the First Tulip

I’m grateful for this first tulip blossom of the season. Many years ago I planted some coral colored regular-sized tulips here, and over time they hybridized with the little red naturalizing tulips, Tulipa batalinii or Tulipa linifolia, I’m no longer sure which, to produce this hardy short bloom with gorgeous thick foliage. Each spring I watch and wait for this particular patch to flower, and am always overjoyed when it begins.

Happy Easter, everyone. I’m grateful for resurrection and revitalization. May you be well, may you be happy; may you be safe and free from harm.

Zoom Cooking with Amy: Waffles + Mochi

Tomato in Drag lip syncing for her life

Oh, please let this be the new Sesame Street, the new Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, the new the rest of those zany educational children’s shows that hit the big time afterwards. Please let ‘Waffles + Mochi’ be the new culturally-defining kids’ show! Drag Race meets the Garden!

We’re all born naked and the rest is drag.”

What even is mochi? Auto-correct wants it to say ‘mocha,’ but it’s not. Even after looking it up it doesn’t make sense in my world view – some kind of rice. But this is what this show’s about: expanding the world views of children everywhere; children of all ages. Fearful people might perceive it as a threat to some single thing they hold dear, like skin color, pizza recipes, or language. But anyone else, a person with compassion, curiosity, and wonder at the miracle of life on this planet, a gardener for example, couldn’t help but be charmed. This show brings together all my favorite values. Good food (food that is healthy for us and for the planet), color (a dense rainbow of colors), self-inquiry self-discovery self-acceptance, curiosity, compassion, tolerance, love, nourishment, reverence for Life… and gardening! The transformative power of knowing where your food comes from.

Chef Samin Nosrat teaches the puppets that tomatoes are fruits…

From a ridiculous premise – give it a few minutes – it develops into an utterly charming exploration of food and food as metaphor. Guest stars Samin Nosrat and Chef José Andres add expertise and enthusiasm to episode one, teaching the puppets and some real kids about what makes tomatoes a fruit and a vegetable, and how to know where they belong.

… and Chef José instructs the puppets on the uses of tomatoes as vegetables.

Amy and I aren’t actually cooking this weekend, what with one thing and another, but we did FaceTime happy hour this evening. She reminded me that I meant to watch this show I’d read about, so now I’m doing it. It’s camp, it’s creative, it’s comedic, it celebrates real food, from the POV of an odd-couple of frozen puppets who dream of becoming chefs. Along with these novices fresh out of the frozen foods section, we (children of all ages) learn all about tomatoes in the first episode, and a little bit about how to think of our own belonging. In the second episode we explore salts of the world.

I’m no social scientist or education specialist, but my evaluation is that eventually this show (along with decriminalizing marijuana) could actually facilitate world peace. This world’s new crop of humans, the children of the Covid generation, could, with the loving guidance of wise, open-hearted elders, change the paradigm and bring humanity back into harmony with the planet, through a healthier relationship with food. I’m grateful for this clever, heartwarming show and its message of interconnection, well disguised as a frolic through the world of foods.

I’m also grateful for this ancient juniper on the canyon rim, and for still having the agility to get down below it for a portrait.

Water

Stellar is grateful that it’s hose time again. He loves drinking from the garden wand, and I’m grateful he’s here with me to enjoy it again this spring.

Have I mentioned water? I can’t mention it too often, nor can I be too grateful for the clean cold water that flows from the West Elk Mountains hither and yon and eventually into my cistern.

Today I watered all the raised beds, only a few segments of which have any seeds in them yet. It’s time to attend to watering daily, to make sure carrots and greens germinate, and to ‘prolong snowmelt’ on the borders and bulb beds. Some of my garden beds thrive in spring with ‘artificial snow,’ so different from what ski areas make. In this case, simply watering as though snow were continuing to melt, from the actual last snow (possibly last week) into June, enables these beds to thrive. Then, come July, I can ignore them for a month at a time, until fall, when I begin the snow season early for them. These are the beds where spring bulbs grow, and then hardy summer perennials well adapted to the harsh dry conditions here. More about them later.

I watered these spring beds, and a couple of other beds, as well as the raised beds. If I don’t keep water on these garden beds from now on, they’ll desiccate in no time. So I’m grateful for water, to have a steady supply for the moment at the twist of a knob, as much as I and my garden need for now. I’m also grateful for finding lost things. Today, I set my glasses in a pot while I was working in the shade, and only missed them for a couple of hours. Yesterday, I found them face down in the pink gravel path. It’s time to start cultivating mindfulness in the garden, as well as bulbs and seeds.

Morning Rounds

Ah, morning rounds! Today I’m grateful for morning rounds. I’ve been so busy with daily gratitude practice that I’ve practically forgotten my life’s work, but the phoebe last night reminded me. Morning rounds. I heard the phoebe’s distinctive whistle early this morning, but not again all day. A few hundred sandhill cranes flew overhead later morning heading north.

It’s that time of year when every day requires an a.m. survey. How different it feels at 34 degrees on the last day of March after a 20 degree morning than it does at 34 degrees after a 20 degree morning in mid-January. For one thing there’s no snow on the ground, which isn’t a great thing, but makes it nicer to wander the garden on morning rounds. And context is everything: knowing it will only get warmer from here, the chill carries a relaxing nostalgia; January cold is in your face all day long. Morning rounds: So many things to check the status on, from pond rushes to lilac buds, from the Bombay Wall to lawn furniture; the serviceberry the buck broke needs to be pruned or I’ll be smacking my face or wrenching my fingers every time I walk that path.

When Fred pruned the fruit trees last week, he looked at the crabapple and snipped a few branches.

“I’m surprised there’s any fruit left on here,” he said. “Yes,” I said. “It’s weird that no one eats it in the fall. And they were too small to even bother picking. But around this time last year the robins came to eat the fermented fruit.”

Then I picked one and bit into it. “Hmmm, not actually fermented,” I said. “It tastes pretty good.”

Next thing I know, the robins have arrived en masse. I counted five at one time this morning fluttering in from the woods to pick up old crabapples from the ground around the tree, drink at the pond, pluck an insect from the dirt, or pick a crabapple from the tree and fly off with it. I’m grateful for the robins in spring.

A New Gate

A new gateway from the garden to the dog pen opens up a whole new world of gardening possibilities.

For a couple of years I’ve been planning a new gate between the dog pen and the fenced food garden. Last winter Mr. Wilson cut the gateway, and though I’ve yet to create the actual gate, the way is open now. Once the snow melted and Stellar led me into the dog pen through the new gateway, I discovered a whole new yard space. AND, more garden space! Along the right side backed up to a raised bed there’s a good ten feet of found space to build a raised bed, and then along the left side behind Stellar, another ten or more feet. These beds will start small this year, maybe just a few mineral tubs or other containers, or maybe a few feet of shallow raised beds each, but there’s plenty of room to expand. And since one challenge I’ve noticed in the food garden is an excess of sunshine (believe it or not) and a paucity of shade, this new area will provide a climate-modulated option for some vegetables that need less than 13 hours of full sun per day in mid summer.

The new gate is directly in line with the main garden gate heading east-south-east, and across the dog pen (shady, green, a whole new yard space as well as garden space) there is another potential gateway: a corner of fence that’s been mangled by some large creature jumping over it: elk? deer? mountain lion? Later this summer, I’ll replace the bent fence with another new gate, providing a straight shot from the east door, through the garden, out into a rarely traversed piece of the woods. Expanding horizons by making gates where previously there have been only fences.

In trying to straighten the mangled fence and failing, I suddenly realized it was the perfect place for yet another gate.
I’m grateful for nature’s resilience and creativity. Exploring the old dog pen which I haven’t used for a couple of years, freshly revealed by access through the new gate, I discovered several rotted dog rugs that have been reclaimed by Mother Earth. The moss is only on the old rugs, nowhere else around them.

A Whole Day in the Garden

I’m grateful to see the first garlic shoots popping up.

I’m grateful I got to spend a whole day in the garden. I chose to leave everything inside undone; today was the first day since sometime last year that it was nice enough to spend the whole day outside. From morning coffee til evening cocktail, Stellar, Topaz and I did our own things out in spring sunshine: Stellar mostly worked on his hole under a juniper, alternately digging and sleeping in it; Topaz inspected our progress and watched birds; I covered the rest of the tulips with chicken wire, cleaned up, rearranged and visualized in the food garden, brought out some hoses and watered for the first time, zoomed with cousins, ate and read and wrote, and planted a few more patches of seeds. After sunset I sat up on the deck and watched the rising of the first super moon of the year. It was a perfect Sunday spent in worship.

Topaz examines the lean-to infrastructure and finds it satisfactory.
Chicken wire cages protect nascent tulips from marauding deer, and I’m grateful all over again for my birthday present from Rosie, a beautiful kinetic sculpture I was finally able to stand in the thawed ground of the Buddha bed.
In between our yard and garden projects we found time for a few short walks in the woods.
Sunset light on a tire planted with tulip and crocus bulbs.
I’m grateful for his skillful supervision.

New Life

I’m grateful for the miracle of new life that abounds this season. I spied a brand new calf on a short drive this morning. An hour later on my return, mama and baby were lying in the sun in the middle of the field.

I’m so grateful today for friends who believe in me: two who’ve consented to be my students, giving me their attention for several hours a week, and bringing a willingness to learn what little I know more than they do; and one who inspires me in the garden more than any other, with her organizational skills, her sharing of seeds, and her joy and satisfaction in gardening. When my spirits flag, these friends give me new life.

Closer to home, I’m grateful for the new life emerging from thawed ground, my prize tulip patch.
I’m grateful for the first few giant crocuses to bloom.

Compost

It’s nothing fancy, but does make use of old palettes and works quite well for recycling waste scraps into dirt.

I’m grateful to be learning the art and science of composting. I still don’t put in the time and effort required to get multiple servings each year, but I always seem to get a good few cartloads of nutrient rich dirt for the simple effort of cycling all my food scraps and garden ‘waste’ through a series of three slapdash bins. This morning as Wilson was turning the contents of the two outer bins, in varying degrees of decay, into the center bin to start a new cycle, he found the ancient moose antler I’ve been wondering where it was. Before he closed the bin Stellar took a strong interest in it, but we all decided to leave it to further break down adding more minerals to the mix. I’m grateful to have help in the garden this spring, to do the physically challenging chores while I supervise and get to enjoy the lighter work, like raking spring cleanup clippings into piles to add to the compost bins.

The three bin system works really well. I put rough stuff in one, medium stuff in another, as I clip and cut back and prune and rake, and keep a third pile active adding kitchen scraps and fine material like rotted leaves, old potting soil, grass clippings, etc. When the active pile is full and has sat for awhile, we turn the top layers over into one of the other bins until we reach good compost in the lower part, and that second bin becomes the active pile. In this way, the active compost rotates through all three bins as it goes through its stages of decomposition, eventually leaving a deep layer of compost in the bottom of each bin. I’m no expert in compost – there are probably thousands of how-to websites and videos available – but the system I’ve evolved works just fine for me and my little garden. It’s so gratifying to dig down into a pile and find buckets of rich garden amendment, scraps transformed into dirt like magic, to nourish the garden beds. Healthy, living soil is the foundation of a good garden.

I’m also grateful for the grilled cheese sandwich I made after spending the morning working in the yard. I used provolone and havarti with mayo and pesto. The only thing better than mayonnaise on two sides of a sandwich is mayo on three sides! I’ve finally caved to the idea of spreading mayonnaise instead of butter on the outsides of the sandwich. On this one, I used a layer of pesto inside with the cheese, and spread a light layer on the outside of one piece of bread, then covered that with mayo. Then grilled it slowly in a small iron skillet over low heat until the cheese was melty and the pesto had crusted on the outside. So simple, so delicious! A good hot sandwich after a cold morning’s work outside.