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Heat

Today started with me massively over-sleeping, and of course I’m grateful for the ability to oversleep when I know so many people who can’t sleep through the night. I’m grateful that my first zoom of the day friend was gracious and understanding when I was half an hour late. I’m grateful for ample firewood so I don’t feel the need to scrimp on a chilly grey morning, and Wren is grateful for a thick cotton rug on the hearth. Today is the first time she’s stretched out in front of the woodstove, and I’m grateful she’s comfortable to do so. I’m grateful for a quiet Saturday to rest, read, and catch up in the kitchen.

I’m grateful that my strategies for salvaging the two Datil pepper plants worked, and I was able to harvest enough ripe Datil peppers to make this delicious hot sauce recipe from Chili Pepper Madness, with homemade tomato sauce and paprika, honey, garlic powder, and apple cider vinegar. It was crazy to choose to grow Datil peppers–they’re a St. Augustine, FL, specialty, and I might have known they’d need far longer to mature than the growing season here. I may not try to grow them again for that reason, but I sure am glad I tried them this year. After simmering the ingredients for about 25 minutes, I blended them and got two squeeze bottles full of a fruity spicy sauce, with a touch of sweetness. I’m grateful for shedding the label I gave myself decades ago of ‘can’t handle the heat.’ I can handle a little bit more heat today than yesterday, and more yesterday than the week before. And it’s been fun and fascinating to grow all these different hot peppers this summer, and play with how to use or preserve them.

Domestic Adventure

Little Rocky on the big overlook, looking out on the little canyon filled with big color. Too-de-day!

Today I’m grateful for any tomatoes at all. I planted half as many as last year, and they did less than half as well, so I found myself with a decent early crop of ripe tomatoes with which I made a couple of small batches of salsa, and with big expectations for a future which did not come. Yet. Last week I picked all the good-sized green tomatoes because I was nervous about a potential frost, and they are sitting in brown paper bags ripening, I hope. Meanwhile, the basket of ripe tomatoes grew smaller by a fruit or two a day as I was too occupied with other obligations to process them. When I finally got to it today, I roasted them with a couple of paprika peppers and an onion from the garden, as well as a store-bought garlic head. Then I ran them through the food mill to remove skins, and got a delicious thick marinara-ish slurry–but only just over a pint. Last summer I canned quarts and quarts of sauces and salsa. You just never know what you’re gonna get with a garden. I’m grateful for the domestic adventure a garden provides!

I’m grateful for my little kitchen helpers!

The Non-Toothache

Four potted pepper plants in the sunroom… Most of the outdoor peppers survived the 38℉ (or less) night, with a few wilted leaves. I’m grateful for another week or more of mild days and nights above freezing to get the last bit of action from the garden.
Yesterday’s emergency harvest of peppers just in case, and I’m glad I brought them in.

Today I pruned the bonsai-in-training French lilac, watered everything left growing, caught up in the kitchen a little, and began my new discipline of self-care with a half-hour pranayama practice, in addition to working at the computer for several hours. It’s been great to be relatively pain-free for the past week and have the energy I need for winterizing inside and out.

“When we’re having a toothache, we know that not having a toothache is a wonderful thing. Yet when we don’t have a toothache, we’re still not happy. A non-toothache is very pleasant.”

— Thich Nhat Hanh

Physical pain can consume our attention. I suffered a great deal of physical pain for the past couple of months with sciatica. Since chiropractic treatment finally brought some lasting relief last Wednesday, I have been keenly aware of the non-pain, and the energy and mobility the lack of pain has brought to me. I’m grateful for the past week to have awareness of the ‘non-toothache.’

Intangibles

Zoom cocktails with Amy on Saturday, which I tried to upload from my phone but didn’t realize it hadn’t worked. I’m grateful for a spectacular fall color display on Mendicant Ridge and all the mountains around, whether or not I make it up into the high country to drive or walk among the brilliant aspens. I’m content to witness it from the plateau looking up, knowing and recollecting the feel, the scent, the ambience of an aspen forest in fall.
I’m grateful for this little imp, and grateful that she didn’t fall off the edge of the deck. Look at that face!
I’m grateful to watch the full moon sidle up behind the mountains on a balmy October evening, sharing the moment with my dear friend across the country.

I’m grateful for the intangibles in a day; not to be confused with the immeasurables, but including them. I’m grateful for the feeling of joy of just waking up alive, for the excitement and potential I feel at the end of pranayama class with a beloved teacher and the sense of understanding that passes between us even on zoom; for the joy of teaching and the sincere caring for the students in my classes (and graduates) to whom I can offer some help and guidance in navigating challenging lives; for the sense of humility I experience knowing that I’m just a step or two ahead of them on this journey to peace and contentment in a culture that demands more of us than we can realistically expect to render. I’m grateful for the facets of my life that I experience and treasure every day which cannot be captured in a photograph. Also, I’m grateful for those moments that can be.

I’m grateful for quotidian moments of levity like this Marine cut mullein top.

Today winterizing began in earnest, deep-cleaning the sunroom in preparation for bringing in all the cacti, geranii, potted herbs, and a few peppers that I can’t bear to lose to colder nights. Above, one of the two Datil peppers, which I dug up and potted to bring in so that I can at least have a chance of some ripening. These hot peppers are native to St. Augustine, Florida, and apparently need a much longer season than I could give them here. Below, I also potted up the single Tabasco pepper plant, which took so long to produce blossoms, then flourished; but alas, it hails from Mexico and the US gulf coast states, and also wants a longer season than I could provide. Hoping these two pepper plants, and a little Scorpion that hasn’t even flowered yet, plus one of the Jigsaw peppers, will all thrive in the sunroom for a month or two more, without spawning aphids.

The bounty of unripe peppers on this Tabasco plant made it feel worthwhile to bring in before nights get too cold. Biko will also be coming in regularly at night now, until he decides it’s time to hibernate in the laundry room.

I’ve created a monster! My goal in spring was to have Wren trained by fall to race around the yard and find Biko quickly and consistently. She is doing an excellent job of that, when she can tear herself away from nibbling on the lush green grasses brought up by an extra rainy September. She runs ahead of me checking under sagebrush, rabbitbrush, juniper, and sits down when she finds him. However, when I pull him from his burrow each evening to bring him inside, she jumps at him and follows me, dancing around as I set him down in his indoor spot, then barks and sits down beside him to tell me she’s found him again! In the mornings, she yips and prances until I follow her into the laundry nook where she finds him yet again; each time expecting a treat, of course. And of course she gets one.

This Moment

I’m grateful for this moment this morning…
…and this moment. Simply to wake up alive, step outside, and see these lovely flowers blooming through their deer-proofing cages.

I’m grateful for this moment, this evening, stepping outside onto the deck to witness the aspens gloried up on Mendicant Ridge with cumulus clouds above and a light shower farther east, with junipers under my protection in the foreground. I’m grateful for Living Inside the Kaleidoscope.

I’m grateful for this moment, having stuffed two Sirenevyi sweet peppers with leftover mushroom stuffing from the other night, grateful for parchment paper which makes life easier and cleanup quicker, grateful for the source of the paper, for the growth of the peppers, the water to grow them, the time to attend to them… grateful for the nourishment of a simple vegetarian meal.

Stuffing

I’ve not been a fan of stuffing in turkeys, or outside of turkeys, at holidays; nor have I stuffed a lot of things. But I have been stuffing the occasional mushroom since the Colonel first introduced me to the idea of popping a little blob of bleu cheese and a dab of butter into a button mushroom and broiling it for a few minutes. What a great appetizer! So simple, so delicious. And in recent years I’ve been grateful for stuffing larger mushrooms, usually portobellos. When I was searching stuffed pepper recipes a few weeks ago I ran across one which used riced cauliflower instead of regular rice. I couldn’t find it again when I went to stuff these gorgeous portobellos for lunch today. But I riced some cauliflower, sautéed some kale, grated some Mexican cheese, chopped a Chimayo pepper, a Sirenevyi sweet pepper, and the first ripe tiny Tabasco pepper, and the last fennel bulb, and mixed them all together with one beaten egg. Oh, and some spices. I scooped some of the flesh from the center of each mushroom and stuck it in the freezer for stock later, then plunked the stuffing into the mushrooms, topped with grated mozzarella, and roasted them at 400℉ for fifteen minutes. To serve, I topped them with a roasted tomato and some crumbled bacon (the fat of which I’d used to sauté the kale). Not so simple, but not so hard either, and so delicious.

I roasted a bunch of ripe and extra-ripe tomatoes this morning, and when they cooled slipped them into a freezer bag. There are so many green tomatoes left on the vine, and I worry they won’t ripen before the first freeze. Already I’m bringing in Biko, as when the weather forecast says 46 it’s been 38 overnight, and the past two nights it’s predicted 42. Can’t take the risk of freezing the tortoise. He can stay out to about 40 degrees but can’t handle much time at anything much lower. And I wonder about the green tomatoes and peppers, whether with these abruptly cold nights they have just stopped ripening. We’ll know more later. Anyway, I’m grateful for stuffing. This one was low-cal and fulfilling.

And in other news… A friend’s sister and her family lost everything in two homes in Ft. Myers in Florida during Hurricane Ian. Storm surge to the ceilings. As climate chaos continues to fuel more destructive storms, fires, heat waves, etc., all of us will be touched from three or two degrees of separation to no separation at all. Sherry visited here a few years ago, a lovely woman and a fine artist. Her life’s work, not to mention her husband’s shop and her daughter’s home also, gone. We so often feel helpless when tragedy strikes. This feels like a good way to contribute my little bit to the herculean recovery efforts underway in Florida and the US southeast coast, donating directly to a family and knowing they will get every penny. If you feel so moved, please join me, and share this link:

https://www.gofundme.com/f/the-rohl-family?utm_campaign=m_pd+share-sheet&utm_medium=copy_link_all&utm_source=customer

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.