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New Favorite Pasta

I’m grateful for rainsoft dirt that just begged me to go barefoot on the walk home this morning.

Yesterday was Boyz Lunch, and I made them what turns out to be my new favorite pasta ever, Ali Slagle’s tortellini with mortadella and peas. Since there’s no mortadella in Delta County, I substituted shredded chicken thigh for the meat, but otherwise made the recipe as directed. Amy texted the ten minute video and it took barely longer than that to make the dish.

It’s all made in one skillet, and I don’t see any reason to ever cook tortellini in boiling water again. Not one of them broke open. First you lay the pasta in a hot skillet coated with oil, and just let it cook til it browns lightly on the bottom. Then add frozen peas and meat, stir, pour in chicken stock, bring to a boil, cover and simmer. When the pasta is almost done, add grated parmesan…

… cold cubed butter (which makes the sauce silky instead of oily, she says), and once that’s melted in, squeeze half a lemon, stir, and serve. Before any cooking, though, she heated chopped pistachios in a little oil, then tossed them with lemon zest and a bit of salt, to add a crunchy topping to the creamy pasta. Served with homemade sourdough toast, it was so simple, so delicious, so filling. We finished off the last of the chocolate mousse bars, which I had frozen, and which are even better right out of the freezer than the fridge. So grateful, every week, for Boyz Lunch.

The garden is finally starting to thrive, now that the nights have warmed up a little, the soil has finally warmed also, and a bit of rain falls now and then. It was a rough start, but one zucchini is thriving, and the cucumbers are full of flowers. One eggplant also thrives while two are starting to catch up; the big one is blooming already.

The fennel continues to astonish with its gorgeous growth, and two types of beans in with the onions are all doing well. I’m grateful for the luxury of being able to grow my own food: the time, water, space, acquired knowledge and skills; help through the years to develop the garden; and inner qualities conducive to contentment, including curiosity, patience, acceptance, perseverance, and adaptability.

I’m grateful for Wren, and for her growing online fan club. This one’s for you!

I’m also grateful for a couple of unexpected presents. My friend Brad went to Sweden and I asked him to bring me back a doll. He brought the perfect little doll! She’s right at home with the other tiny dolls and curios from around the world. Some of these are authentic artifacts, some antiques, some handmade or carved by people I know and some by artists I never met; some are new and some are at least a century old. Each has a story, a meaning, an association. I’m grateful for all these little treasures–and for being able to remember most of their stories!

And I’m grateful for this present that arrived in the mail… May we let our fury rise into action: Vote with and for women this November!

Wren, Again

I’m grateful for the garden, as always; the bulbing fennel continues to plump up in the perfect combination of early light and late shade.
In the right light my friend Deb’s house glows a mile away as if floodlit.

This evening we stepped outside for sunset. The light was that spectacular low, late light after rain, sun slicing along the horizon under a heavy blanket of stratus clouds, air crystalline cool after a long drizzly day. I’m grateful for this wet respite, and grateful for the spectacle of sunset.

As I stood at the west fenceline snapping images, Wren sat and trembled at my left heel, watching horses in the pasture beyond, itching to investigate them. I lost myself for a moment in the clouds and light. When I turned for her Wren had disappeared. I’ve learned not to panic and yell, because she’s never far and she comes instantaneously when called. I’ve never had a dog like that. Even wonderful Stellar took a few seconds to lug his big beautiful body my way. Wren turns on a dime and goes into warp drive when I whistle or call even softly. So I looked around close, and then farther away.

I felt a frisson of fear when I saw those two big white rogue dogs I lost my hearing over, trotting single file through the woods fifty feet away, heading south toward their home, oblivious to me. Then they moved into a lope, and behind them ran my fierce little watchdog chasing them out of her territory! I laughed aloud as they picked up their pace, and when I whistled she turned and sped over to me, so proud of herself.

I’m grateful for Wren, again today. She is full of surprises.
I don’t even remember the name of this perennial I planted so many years ago, but this is the best it’s ever looked. I’m grateful for red flowers.

Spotted Fawns

I’m grateful I was able to spend most of the morning in the garden, replenishing tattered prayer flags, potting up some seedlings, pulling a few weeds, and generally appreciating the beauty of the growing things. I am thrilled with the progress of the bulbing fennel, which grows more lush by the day. In the midst of this joy I took a short break for a phone call, and sat where I could see the south woods. A doe strolled by beyond the yarden fence, and a few seconds later I spotted a quick small creature well behind her. Coyote! I thought, but then came context: another doe followed by two tiny twins. I watched them cross the whole expanse of the south woods from the driveway until they disappeared behind the garden fence, trailing the first doe at a distance. I’m grateful for this minutes-long look at the first spotted fawns of the season. It’s rare to catch more than a fleeting glimpse: Once their mothers spot you the spotted fawns vanish.

We call them ‘spotted fawns’, I guess, because we still call them fawns their first year long after their spots have blended into their lightening coats. When they are newborn and for a month or so after, they have darker brown fur with white spots which makes them disappear into the forest floor like dappled light.

Wren did well with car training again this evening. Her new harness arrived, so even after tightening her strap, even if she could manage to dangle again, it would be by her shoulder girdle and not by her precious neck. With the aid of treats, we moved more quickly from the lap to the seat to driving, and she was a little more relaxed…

Still, when we returned from the mailbox, she was trembling to get out of the car, and let her relief be known with a happy yodel…

After car training, we took a mocktail and some cheese and crackers down to the pond. Wren pointed a doe outside the fence, and I whispered her over to sit beside me for a cheese treat. As we sat quietly, the doe jumped the fence and came to drink at the pond. I could see that she’s nursing. Maybe she is the mother of the twins. I’m grateful to have a water system that makes this pond possible to provide habitat, food, and water to wildlife in this high desert oasis. The deer, I know, are also grateful for this flowing fresh water.

A second doe soon joined the first. Note her swollen teats: she clearly also has a fawn or fawns laying low outside the fence somewhere. Perhaps she is the mother of the twins.
Like the does, I’m grateful for fresh flowing water. I came in for a shower and took a moment to appreciate the beauty of this hot cascade backlit by the setting sun. I am always and deeply grateful for hot running water, for a home with a shower, and a bed to sleep in afterward.

This Precious Day

I’m grateful today for the capacity to participate fully in this life. From our early morning amble through our own trees to a late snack of sweet potato fries while exploring the rainforest of Gunung Leuser National Park with Barack Obama, I thoroughly enjoyed this one precious day that will never come again.

A late morning phone call gave me an opportunity to sit in the car again until Wren came and joined me. I’m grateful for the conversation, and for how well car training went though you’d never know it from her expression. After about twenty minutes I urged her off my lap into her seat, snapped her in, rolled up the windows halfway, and drove all the way to the mailbox and back. She was a little tense and showed it with a few big yawns, but she stayed calm. Back at the house, she leapt from the car and danced for joy. That was enough for one day.

Still feeling trepidation about food and cooking, I made another cheese sandwich for lunch. I tried out the cilantro salt but won’t do that again, even a tiny bit was way too salty for a little sandwich. I got a few projects done outside and in before crashing at three o’clock and napping til five. I’m grateful I have that option. I’m grateful for the Mindful Life Community I meet with on Monday night zooms, and for watching “Love on the Spectrum” while FaceTiming with my Kiki on the west coast. I’m grateful for having technology in my little mud hut that brings the world to me. And I’m grateful for the world of living beings that I have the opportunity to nurture inside and outside my hut every day.

I’m grateful for the first peppers now appearing on the Leutschauer paprika plants. The other pepper varieties, though smaller, are not far behind in flowering. After plucking the first few tomato flowers I’m letting them grow now too: though tomorrow is officially the first day of summer, the growing season here feels almost half over already.

Plenty of Food

Three beauties: Penstemon pseudospectabilis, Indian ricegrass, and little Wren.

I’m grateful that I have learned a few things about relating with dogs over the years. This little one is super smart, communicative, and skittish. I don’t want to damage our relationship by forcing her to do things. This evening when I drove up to get mail and meet a friend for a handoff, Wren wouldn’t get in the car. She used to jump right in the car and into her seat. Tonight she ran far away. She did not enjoy her adventure to the Black Canyon last week, and is still, I think, reeling from hanging herself out the window. So I took her back inside and tossed some treats into her crate and shut her in for the twenty minutes I’d be gone.

A couple hours later, after puttering in the garden, I went back out and just sat in the car with the door open. Wren ran far away again. I read a magazine. She approached but then ran far away on the other side of the car and sat and watched me some more. After awhile I didn’t see her, so I called. She came running and jumped up into my lap. She smelled like Russian sage. She had snuck back through the gate and rolled in and chewed on it. There are a few worse things she could have rolled in and eaten, but the smell is antagonistic to me and it took me a few minutes to figure out what it was. We sat there together for about ten minutes, then I ushered her off my lap, rolled up the windows, and we came inside. I’m grateful I know to take time to desensitize her to the car, and hope that one day soon she’ll be excited to go for a ride again.

I’m grateful for the easy early harvests of Ukrainian radishes, golden snow peas, and cilantro, and for knowing how to preserve at least two of them. I popped the snow peas right into the freezer without blanching, they are so fragile I think that will be ok. I’m not sure what to do with the radishes except wash and refrigerate them, and eat them pretty quickly. Friday for lunch I sliced one up in a stir fry with snow peas, arugula, orach, rice, and an egg. It was delicious, but today the thought leaves me cold.

I’ve preserved cilantro before in herb butter, which is in the freezer and I keep forgetting to use. Today I tried cilantro salt: finely chop 1 cup cilantro and mix with ¼ cup kosher salt. It’s supposed to keep in the fridge for a year! I’m grateful that the row of cilantro I planted did so well, and that I bothered to cut it back and preserve it for later before it went to coriander. There are plenty of stray cilantros going to seed in other beds. I never seem to have it when a recipe calls for it, but now I will.

I’m grateful that I felt like eating something, anyway, today, even if cooking and vegetables didn’t appeal. I tried a piece of buttered toast around noon. About three I made a simple cheese sandwich with some cilantro scraps, Havarti, and mayo. And when we came in from car training, I turned to my old foolproof hangover remedy which I haven’t had occasion to use in many years: orange Gatorade and potato chips. I’m grateful to have both of them in the house; grateful to have plenty of food, even if I don’t want it right now. Tomorrow is another day.

But wait! I couldn’t stand it. I’m grateful for the technology at my fingertips to learn how to preserve radishes. It took about fifteen minutes: went out into the night garden to snip some dill, sliced the washed radishes and a carrot, layered them into a clean pint mason jar, mixed a brine of two cups distilled water and one tablespoon kosher salt… in a few days I’ll have lacto-fermented radish pickles! They will allegedly last a couple of months in the fridge. There were other options including freezing and drying, but this seemed easiest and tastiest.

Peas

I’m grateful for peas, and lettuce, and broccolini, and radishes from the garden tonight.

I’m grateful for my two mammal companions (and also my reptile companion) who walk the woods with me in the cooler mornings, and hang out in the garden with me later.

I had to look up these snow peas since I couldn’t remember the variety, and I’m grateful that I did. They are golden sweet snow peas, and are best picked when they’re in their yellow stage at two to three inches long, before they turn green as the first couple just did overnight. I ate one outside and brought one in for salad, but tomorrow I will start picking the flat yellow pods for stir fries or freezing. It seems like just yesterday they were but blossoms…

I’m grateful for this rogue romaine that sprouted on its own, and for the paprika pepper thriving, and the horseradish that overwintered in this pot.

Eddie Eastman

Some of Eddie’s irises last year, after twenty years in my garden. Sadly, none of the irises did very well this year. I missed their variety of colors and scents. That’s incentive for me to tend their patches this summer or fall and try to rejuvenate them for next spring.

Eddie was in her nineties when she gave me some heirloom irises from her garden on Rogers Mesa. She’d been growing them there for at least fifty years. I didn’t know her well. She was an artist, among many facets of her long life here in the valley, and it was in this capacity that I had gotten to know her. I briefly owned an art gallery/frame shop in the late nineties, and she was a loyal patron and consistently delightful contributor to the monthly shows I hosted. I’m grateful for those years knowing her a little, and for that one afternoon she invited me over for iced tea and a garden tour, and gave me a bag of lilac, white, and pale blue irises to take home.

I thanked her for the note she’d sent inviting me over and thanking me for my work with the gallery. She told me then about a habit she’d had for decades. Every single day, she said, “I write a thank-you note to someone. I never run out of people to thank for something.” I’ve now aspired to cultivate that habit for at least as long as she was doing it, and have yet to come close to even one note a month, much less one a day. I thought about her today as the last of her irises this season faded, and I pondered my gratitudes this day. A blog a day feels so much easier than writing, addressing, stamping, and mailing a note. But is it, really, or is it just the lure of technology’s efficiency that makes it seem so?

I’m also grateful for the growing ease between Wren and Topaz, and the delight of walking them together in the morning, then sitting at the pond with a cup of coffee before the day heats up, watching Topaz watch her silly sister discover the joys of her new home.

42+

The most perfect western tiger swallowtail I have ever seen. She must have just emerged from her cocoon. Not a tear or tatter on her as she feeds on the perennial onions in full bloom the past couple of weeks.

It’s been a challenging few weeks. Between internal and external events, I’m tired all the time. It’s hard to rise to each occasion. But from this glum place, I’ve reached a conclusion: I need to return to my daily gratitude practice. And why bother with a thousand words, when a couple of numerals and some pictures can do the job? So, catching up for the past couple of weeks, here are just some of the things I’m grateful for…

Honeybee on the crabapple tree a couple of weeks ago.

42+ is a gratitude practice from the Active Hope course I just completed this evening. It’s freely available online, and one of these days I’ll probably facilitate a group engagement similar to the one that just ended, hosted by a friend. Today, I’m grateful for (4) having been given the opportunity to take the course, having made the commitment to take it and participated in it fully, and for the wonderful classmates I shared the eight-week journey with. I’m grateful to (2) Deborah Sussex for offering the course for free, and for her skillful and open-hearted facilitating of it through an increasingly difficult time in our country, when active hope is needed more than ever. The + part is how I will express my gratitude: right here, right now. Many thanks, Deb, Denali, Kes, Renee, and everyone else, for the inspiring experience of virtual connection.

I don’t know western bumblebees well enough to identify this one who was enjoying the lilacs in their glory. I also enjoyed them every single day of their bloom, snipping a couple of clusters each evening to bring inside for their fleeting, saturating scent.
I’m grateful for Zoom cooking with Amy a couple of weeks ago…
…grateful for Topaz and Wren getting along…
…for the claret cup blossoms…
…for garden asparagus from Kim, and for pesto with cashews and garden arugula, and for the Instagram inspiration to combine them…
I’m grateful that Garden Buddy had some extra plastic jugs after a well-meaning neighbor crushed all those I’d been saving to use for frost protection. Grateful to have all the little peppers and tomatoes in the ground, just in time for the last freeze–ha!–but saved by the jugs.
Grateful for Boyz Lunch again outside, with a fantastic frittata and orange chiffon cake…
… and for the silly pleasure of a successful latté stencil.
I’m grateful for daily Wordle laughs with cousin Melinda, and the gentle, mind-tickling competition between us.
Grateful for pea flowers a few days ago, and the first fragile pea pods just forming today.
Grateful for this bean sampler and a couple of extra treats from this small, fabulous heirloom bean company, and grateful to SB for turning me onto them. Looking forward to making many healthful meals with these dried goodies as the garden harvest comes in.
Grateful for time with this little old man who stayed with us the past week while his mama traveled. Almost fifteen, and I’ve known him since he was a pup. Dear old Rocky is grey and wobbly now, but still full of spunk in the morning. He’s teaching Wren some good habits, and we’re trying to preclude her learning some bad ones as well.
And finally, I’m grateful for this little cuddlebug, who softens my heart more and more each day with her irrepressible Piglet energy and her unconditional love.

Loving

Loving may be the healthiest thing we can do. It doesn’t matter so much who or what we love, but that we engage our hearts in connection with other living beings. I love my crabapple tree, and make time to appreciate it every day that it’s in bloom, and as its petals fade and blow off in these planetary winds, settling on top of the pond; and I pay attention to it through its fruit growing cycle, and as its leaves turn in autumn, and as they fall off toward winter.

I love this new little dog, and feel tenderness when I see her fall asleep in the sun while I sit under the crabapple tree sipping morning coffee. I found the original shelter she came from in New Mexico on Facebook, and messaged them to find out more about her. No wonder she’s so well-behaved. She wasn’t a stray, she was an owner surrender: she came from a family with children and cats, but there was another baby on the way and the mother couldn’t manage it all. I look at Wren sometimes and think, How could anyone give up this little dog? And then I remember something I heard the other day: a friend said, “Any time I think of someone How could you do that…?, the Universe eventually says, Lemme show you….” When we judge others for their choices, we often find ourselves before long in a similar situation making similar choices that we never thought we would or could. Roe v. Wade comes to mind…

So instead of wondering how someone could have given up this precious little being, I asked the shelter to please let that woman know, if they had the opportunity, that her dog has found a safe and happy forever home, where she is making an old lady a wonderful companion. She jumps up from her pink princess bed to follow me every time I go outside, and feels safe enough now to explore the yard on her own, but she comes running whenever I call her. She’s progressing well in her turtle-hunting training, and investigates the compost bins more frequently than is strictly necessary.

This evening, in the weird yellow-grey light of dusty-windy sunset, she followed me into the lilac pen, where we circled the blooming shrubs just wishing the phone could capture the heady aroma as well as the shifting colors. This year lilac flowers are profuse, though still fleeting. I make time multiple times each day to spend attention on the lilacs, loving these shrubs in this brief, abundant, drunken season.