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Bacon

My guilty pleasure. I can’t think about where it comes from. Though I do buy local ‘happy pig’ bacon when possible, and otherwise the most ethical available. Which isn’t very. This is why it’s a guilt trip for me; and an indulgence.

When I want bacon I manage to automagically separate the food from its origin as a sentient being. My mind disassociates. Today I’m grateful for the first batch of homegrown jalapeño poppers. So simple, so delicious.

Sunshine

Wasps are working hard in the garden gathering fennel.

Wren took a break from her hard work in the garden today to accompany me to Garden Buddy’s house for a produce exchange. She was able to get acquainted with their big dog whose head is about the size of her whole self. We all sat in the shade and visited for a little while, and I enjoyed the view of all the suns on their old cabin ruin. I’m grateful for the bountiful sunshine today, and overall mild fall weather. In this moment, all is well.

Saturday

I’m grateful for a day of ease this Saturday. It started with a leisurely stroll through the woods on a cloudless morning, and a short meditation under a juniper tree.

Coffee beans arrived last night so there was a welcome pot of it this morning for the first time this week, and a relaxing read in the garden with hummingbirds, butterflies, and the little companion.

Two online mindfulness groups sandwiched lunch and a single kitchen project, the powdering of paprika. There are still a few to ripen, but the bulk of them have dried and were reduced to a half cup of ground spice. I’m grateful for a tiny pinch of this potent pepper year round in everything from deviled eggs to refried beans to squash soup. My use of it has increased exponentially since I started growing my own. It’s a small and simple accomplishment that, like many such, brings joy each step of the way from nurturing the sprouts, planting them out, watering and watching the green plants grow, flower, and fruit–to snipping the bright red ripe peppers, carrying them inside, slicing and drying them, and finally grinding them to a fine powder. The powder has to settle in the blender for awhile before decanting to preclude inhalation of fiery dust.

I’m grateful for the slow and meaningful life of growing food.

Meaningful Satisfaction

Nine pounds of tomatoes in the over-sink colander for yesterday’s kitchen project, another batch of salsa.
Ingredients for the second batch of salsa, all from the garden! I can’t help crowing about it. Remembering the intention I set thirty years ago, or more accurately the wish I declared: “I want to buy some land and grow my own food.” Each meal I prepare from the garden, each batch of food from the garden I put up in cans or the freezer, I feel such meaningful satisfaction.
Assorted hot peppers diced: jalapeños, Jigsaw peppers, and an Aji Crystal.
This salsa recipe adds an interesting step: chop all ingredients and strain them over a bowl for six hours. This allegedly helps the tomatoes retain their body in the salsa. You simmer the liquid from them with vinegars and tomato paste (I used last year’s frozen cubes) until it reduces a bit, then add the diced fruits and bring to a boil again. I’ve been really happy with the two batches I made this way.

One of today’s kitchen projects was to combine both batches of fermented peppers and blend them into a hot sauce rough draft. I’ll ferment at least one more batch of yellow, orange and red peppers along with a carrot or two and a red onion from the garden, and then blend all these phases together before bottling. It was naive of me to think the various pepper varieties would all ripen at the same time, and I’m grateful for allowing things to be as they are and adapting my plans accordingly.

Beware, all ye who said my previous batch of hot sauce “wasn’t hot enough”!
This jar will wait in the fridge for the remaining peppers to ripen and ferment. I will probably end up saving the Datil peppers for their own hot sauce, but use the rest of the Scorpions and Aji Crystals for sauce–we’ll know more later.

Another of today’s kitchen projects was spicy dill pickles. I made six half-pints and for the first time in my nascent canning career made a dreadful mistake. Not the first mistake I’ve made canning, but the first time I’ve made this one: I screwed one ring on crooked so the lid wasn’t held down and didn’t seal. Somehow, though, the jar didn’t fill with canning water: the pickles smelled fine, so I reset the lid and stuck the jar in the fridge. I’ll test it in a couple of weeks, the recommended time for pickles to steep before tasting. If it goes bad, oh well, compost. I put a tiny red Jigsaw pepper and one slice of orange jalapeño in each jar, along with a quarter teaspoon of dill seed.

After a busy day in the garden and kitchen and a couple of short walks, I lay on my back on the chaise for toes-up time. Little Wren had to investigate so she jumped up on my belly and coming close, cocked her head: What are you doing? Do you want me to lick your face?

Eating Colors

This little yellowjacket didn’t want to budge from the base of a chimayo pepper, so I let her stay, happy to share sustenance. She won’t eat much, the pepper will ripen and soon join the harvest basket. Just a handful of yellow beans, jalapeños and a few other peppers this morning, but enough new arugula to make another batch of pesto. There are still loads of green tomatoes and unripe peppers to come, but with this cool spell everything has slowed down. I’m grateful for a rainy day predicted tomorrow. I’m through teaching on Thursdays for awhile, and love the prospect of an empty day in front of me to catch up in the kitchen, and hopefully to start a pet project on the computer that I’ve been procrastinating on for years. We’ll know more later!

A few jigsaw peppers and three small onions will go into the next batch of salsa tomorrow, along with a few super hot peppers and another nine pounds of tomatoes.

I’ve read about cabbage steaks and finally decided to try some. I had a couple old pieces of sourdough bread, and plenty of chickpeas on hand, so I made this, and wow! Next time I’ll use less salt, but otherwise this was a delicious and healthy dinner. I burned most of the croutons but that was just as well, who needs the carbs. Chickpeas roasted to perfection, and the mild seasoning with cumin and coriander went well with the lemony mayo dressing. I chopped up the leftover roasted cabbage, grated a carrot into it, and put in the fridge for coleslaw for the week.

For dessert, a fat scoop of vanilla ice cream drizzled with raspberry syrup, my favorite thing today. So simple, so delicious. I’m grateful for eating colors.
I’m grateful for a cloudy day, for mist over the mountains, rabbitbrush suddenly in full bloom, and a soft trail into the woods.The 1.5 inches of rain predicted a few days ago had diminished to half that by midday and keeps falling each time I check the forecast. We’ll be lucky to get a half inch out of this ‘storm.’ But some moisture is better than no moisture in this dire drought.

Letting Go

Little One investigates a likely badger hole at the edge of a dump site. I quickly called her back.

“Letting go” has been coming up in conversations recently. I’m so grateful for letting go. I never used to be able to. I hung onto things like the proverbial dog with a bone, all kinds of attachments and most of them unhealthy, like grudges, the need to control, an outcome that was beyond my control, rigid and narrow ideas of right and wrong. you name it, I couldn’t let it go. Maybe it’s a function of age, lessons learned, disappointments, or just wisdom, but I credit mindfulness training with a lot of it: these days I let go of way more than I cling to. In this moment, I can’t think of anything I cling to, besides the idea, the hope, that I’ll wake up alive tomorrow to enjoy another day of known and unknown experiences.

The above badger hole is in just above center line on the far right of this image, largely hidden from view of the trail. It was a fluke I noticed it this morning.

When I first moved here, and discovered several old dump sites from the 1930s and 40s, I was gung ho to clean them up! I thought I’d have time someday to gather up all the broken glass, crockery, rusted metal, porcelain knobs, and whatnot, and — do what, take it to ‘the dump’? I really meant to. These dumps along the canyon and a couple other places were an eyesore. My disgust of them was tempered by some fun with an older friend investigating them with ‘archaeologist’s mind,’ especially when she found some hairpins like her mother used, and we were able to date some other artifacts. Also, there were a lot of other more pressing demands on my time.

I did pull out some pieces of a large crock, and figured I’d be able to glue it together once I found enough of them. Just for fun, my ‘puzzler’s mind’ at play. I let go of that idea when I realized I’d collected fragments of two different crocks. These pieces have sat along the rim now for more than twenty years, collecting their own microcosms of forest floor; and here they’ll stay at least until I’m dead and gone. Eventually I completely let go of the cleanup plan, and what a relief! Goodbye resentment, farewell guilt. These dumps are a historic part of the landscape at this point, their contents at rest here for nearly a century. Under each plate shard, each canning jar curve, live perfectly content micro-creatures. Who am I to disrupt their habitat?

I’m also grateful that I’ve let go of some self-imposed limitations, like the label ‘can’t handle the heat.’ I’m not going to crunch down on a Scorpion pepper any time soon, or this first Red Savina to ripen (above) on a stocky bush full of them; I am, however, going to make some really hot sauce and sprinkle a few drops here and there. But what in hell am I going to do with a bushfull of Red Savinas? This particular pepper once held the world record as ‘hottest pepper‘ until the Ghost Pepper eclipsed it (though by now the Ghost Pepper lies at the low end of the world’s hottest peppers). Nevertheless, the Red Savina comes with a caution: “…can cause severe burning sensations and numbness for days if proper care isn’t taken.” Rest assured, I’ll take proper care, as I have with the Scorpions. Eeeee.

A Trinidad Yellow Scorpion sits at the top of this bowl of comparatively mild Aji Crystal peppers, with a couple of orange jalapeños and Chimayos at the edges. I started a third batch of peppers fermenting last night, Scorpions and Crystals, and sliced and seeded the jalapeños to freeze.

And now letting go of the letting go theme, a bit of cool respite. Tiny crabapples load the tree below altocumulus clouds preceding the storm that brought a cooling drizzle late afternoon. I’m grateful for this precipitation, as usual, and anticipate a good rain tomorrow. The moisture brought out the vibrant color of desert four o’clocks shimmering with internal light under full cloud cover just before sunset.

Zucchini Lunch

Grateful for a small carrot harvest…
…and another big bean harvest…
…grateful for this lovely little jigsaw pepper, with whimsical foliage and fun fruits…
each tiny pepper a burst of smoky heat.
Grateful for a bountiful fennel seed harvest, despite planting them for bulbs. I harvested a few green and tasty to see how well they retain their flavor drying off the plant; there are dozens more drying on the stem. The stalks grew magnificent flowers and seedheads, but I learned the hard way not to wait too long before harvesting bulbs even if they’re small. I got four big bulbs out of more than a dozen plants, and one day I noticed that the bulbs I’d been waiting for to get bigger had started shrinking. Next season, I’ll plant fewer, farther between, and pounce at the right moment.

I’m grateful for the first Boyz Lunch in a month yesterday. All is well and we are reunited on the patio. “Three is good,” said one, but it may as well have been the other. I tried out a zucchini lasagna on them, and even though I thought it was too salty they loved it. I’m grateful that almost every dish I cook for them they rate in the Top Five. This zucchini lasagna was a blend of three recipes I found online. I sliced a large zucchini thinly with a cheese slicer and layered it with a faux-ricotta blend (substituting cream cheese when I found the ricotta had turned pink), last year’s tomato sauce simmered with browned sausage, and shredded cheddar and mozzarella. Three layers deep in the baking dish, with the top layer latticed, a delightful frill.

Sprinkled with seasoned breadcrumbs and grated parmesan, then baked for half an hour, it was sizzling delight.

Boyz Lunch on Saturday with sourdough biscuits, then double dessert. I’m grateful for zucchini lunch. I served chocolate zucchini cake with Bello’s frozen cappuccino on the side. “All you have to do is…” he says every time. So simple, so delicious!

And finally, fermenting success! This second batch of hot sauce peppers I packed with room temperature brine, and in four days it was cloudy as it should be, and tiny bubbles rose from the bottom when I swished the jar. Into the fridge with this batch, and I’ll start another tomorrow.

This Week in Pollinators

I’ve been grateful this week for lots of rain to nourish the earth, replenish the aquifer, water the garden. And I’ve been grateful for plenty of sunshine and busy pollinators stocking up before they slow down, perish, or leave for winter.