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Rainbows

The past week’s hot pepper harvest, ready to roll…
Practicing resilience, gambling, trying another batch of fermented hot sauce. This time, I let the saltwater brine cool down before pouring it over the peppers. The first batch met an ambiguous end. It’s been over a week, and still no bubbles, no cloud; so I poured off the brine, patted the peppers dry, and laid them on a pan in the oven at 275℉ for an hour. I should have left it at that. Instead, I turned it up to 400℉ for 20 minutes to give them a bit of a roast. When the timer went off, I was engrossed in something else, and way too long later I pulled them out of the oven. It’s possible I can salvage them with a pulse in the blender as ‘dark-roasted pepper flakes.’ I tasted one: smoky, salty, hot. We’ll know more later! I will pay more attention to this batch.
I’m grateful for a gorgeous storm that walked in late this afternoon…
…and grateful for this spectacular, fleeting rainbow that greeted me when I went outside to harvest tomatoes. Grateful to be a part of this fragile, precious world.

Sweet Peppers

I can probably count on one finger the number of stuffed sweet peppers I’ve eaten in my life til this point. It just never appealed to me. But having my own homegrown crop of gorgeous sweet peppers, and wanting to save some for later, I looked up a few recipes, mixed and matched, and made a batch to freeze.

I used half a package of ground lamb in an insanely delicious eggplant curry this morning, and used the other half this afternoon in the pepper stuffing, along with rice, spices, and some of last year’s tomato sauce. Based on more reading, I cut the peppers lengthwise instead of cutting out the top, filled them with the mixture, and baked under foil. All but one I let cool and wrapped individually for freezing for a quick meal down the line. I topped one with cheese and reheated it tonight. The pepper was tender but still crunchy, the filling full of savory flavor. So simple, so delicious!

I’m grateful for sweet peppers and all the experience of other people who guided me to use them wisely today.

The air was even smokier this morning so we limited ourselves to a short walk. More about breathing tomorrow…

Connections

Evening harvest of peppers. Two red bells (one unripe but wounded), two juicy Blots, five Aji crystals, six Chimayos, and a mess o’ jalapeños. I’m grateful for this spicy abundance from the garden, for the resilience of these plants that I started from the miracle of tiny seeds inside in early spring. Amazing!

I’m grateful for a day filled with loving connections with friends old and new, from down the road to Hawaii to the east coast. I’m grateful for Zoom Cooking with Amy, Instagram Edition. Tonight we opted for simple and quick, and prepared two recipes we’ve seen on Instagram. We started by halving and scoring some small potatoes as the butter melted in a sheetpan in the oven. We grated parmesan and tossed in spices of our choosing, mixed those with the butter in the pan, then pressed the potatoes cut side down onto the yummy goo, and cooked for about half an hour at 425℉.

While the potatoes cooked, we of course mixed our martinis, and then chopped leeks into one-inch lengths, and seared them in butter.

First one side…
…then the other
Then we steamed them in stock for about five minutes, removed the lid, and mixed in some miso (I used red, she used white), tamarind paste, and a splash of Dijon mustard, stirring until the sauce coated the leaks and thickened just a little.
And that was our dinner. So simple, so delicious.
I read to harvest jalapeños by holding the pepper at the base and pushing up: turns out when they’re ready the just pop right off the stalk that way. I checked a few and ended up harvesting a lot. Also read to harvest them often so they’ll keep producing. We’ve got at least a month before first frost, so I’m hoping this huge harvest will result in more by the end of the season.
Since peppers are one of the few veggies that freeze well without being blanched, I halved all the jalapeños, scooped the pith and seeds out, and laid them on a tray to freeze. This way I can grab a handful whenever I want to make some poppers. Apparently you can just load them with filling straight from the freezer and put them right in the oven. We’ll know more later!

Lunch

Female hummingbird feasts on red salvia among onions, peppers, and beans.
The Old Doe feeds her fawn this morning in the shady grove.

Surely it’s fine to be grateful for lunch every day, day after day. Each lunch is an opportunity to give thanks for so much.

I count at least eight obvious things to be grateful for in this simple lunch, each with a backstory encompassing many more: Bread, mayonnaise, bacon, avocado, tomato, lettuce, and 7 the bread’s toasted and 8 it’s on a plate. That there is a plate, and what it’s made of, where it came from, how it came to be here, that it was clean and will be clean again with soap and hot water and rinsed with hot clear water, water from a tap the flick of a wrist brings forth, in a stainless steel sink, in a functioning kitchen inside a house with a roof… and how did the house come to be, what countless beings and elements contributed to its building? And the plate goes on… That there is toast from a toaster plugged into a wall hiding wires connected to a string of devices that bring electricity from the sun; the sun itself that gives life to the planet; this planet… and all the growing living things that go into the sandwich itself, and their long trails of origins and how they all came to be here together, in this one lunch… Nothing is separate from anything else. I am grateful for each lunch, a marvel, day after day.

Patio

I’m grateful for the patio where I hang out some afternoons in the shade. It’s nothing fancy, but it cools off in the afternoon, and there’s a whole lot of world to participate in when I’m out there. Often I read, so there’s that whole universe opened up by books, right there on the patio. And always, I look up and around often, especially when Wren alerts me to someone else’s presence. She’s so gentle about it. I hear her little body jump up from wherever she’s relaxing nearby, and run a few quiet steps to stand near my chaise, and I look up and follow her gaze. Today she was slowly wagging her curly tail at the Old Doe, who stood looking up from grazing in the flower bed. Beyond her, one of her spotted fawns browsed in the shady grove. Sadly, I saw this same fawn in the yard with her yesterday, but only the one… I worry that the other twin may have fed a lion. Oh well. Everybody’s gotta eat.

I had to chuckle watching this unfold. Biko kept on walking as he always does no matter what’s in front of him, and the Old Doe got out of his way, stepping all the way into the flower bed for him to pass, then stepping out again.
I was too comfortable to get up and go inside to get Husband Camera, so I tried the phone to catch this little hummingbird sipping from Jere’s orchid. Still haven’t cleaned the mud streaks from the picture window, but I’ll get to it one day; I did rinse the melted adobe off the plant leaves. Hanging out on the patio I get to hear the summer music of hummingbirds flying around, finches chirping, jays squawking, hawks soaring overhead, ravens cawing, crickets sawing, wind tickling the leaves of birch and aspen…

My kitchen project today was to begin fermenting the first batch of peppers. Five Aji Crystals, four Chimayos, an orange jalapeño, and the one ripe scorpion. I touched the end cap of one of each flavor to my tongue as I cut them up (wearing gloves), and my tongue tingled for an hour. The scorpion was my favorite, with a very distinct tropically fruity flavor along with its searing heat. And yes, that’s a carrot at the bottom. The recipe calls for garlic and shallots also, but I wanted to use only plants from my garden so I just included this carrot. Maybe I’ll add some garlic into later fermenting jars, and maybe I’ll mix them all together when it comes time to blend the final sauce; or maybe I’ll just make a bunch of different batches. We’ll know more later!

Gardening

I’m so grateful for gardening. It’s a dream come true for me to grow my own food. Even though I don’t grow enough to sustain me and mine for a whole year, I am coming closer each season to putting up enough vegetables to get me through winter into spring–some of them anyway. I’m grateful for the beauty of the garden: the colors, the birds and insects it attracts and nurtures, the shapes and textures, the fleeting fragrances that float on the breeze, the subtle sounds and rhythms. And I’m grateful for the meaning and direction it gives me, and the deep connection to the earth, sky, and seasons.

I had fun this morning laying out the peppers I’ve harvested in the past week to get an idea of what I need to do with which of them when. A couple went right into a stir-fry for lunch, some went into the fridge to wait others which need a few more days ripening before I can start fermenting for hot sauce. Almost all the paprikas got sliced up for the drying rack.

A hearty lunch with all vegetables from the garden except the ginger, sliced chopped and fried with a little Penzey’s Bangkok seasoning and finished with soy sauce and Hoisin sauce, served over Basmati rice and garnished with roasted peanuts. So simple, so delicious!

The Colonel used to tease me when I was a child, saying “You’d eat cardboard if I put honey on it.” I felt that way at lunch today: I’d eat cardboard if I put Hoisin sauce on it. I had hoped to have more leftovers than I ended up with. It was so good I had seconds.

First Salsa

Topaz and a young piñon on our morning walk
I’m so grateful that I could make the first batch of salsa with all the vegetables right out of the garden: two small yellow onions, one Jalapeño Tam, one Leutschauer paprika, and one Blot sweet pepper, plus the three pounds of tomatoes featured yesterday. The recipe called for a couple ounces of tomato paste, and I used two frozen tomato paste ice cubes made last summer. A little salt, garlic, cumin, apple cider and white vinegars, and it was done.

I’m grateful for the joy of canning the first batch of salsa this season. I don’t know where I got the recipe, but I think it’s going to be delicious. Everything worked out so perfectly that I didn’t even get a taste: When I scooped the finished product into hot jars there wasn’t a drop left over.

The recipe called for the chopped tomatoes, onions, peppers, and salt to be drained over a bowl for six hours.
After draining, the liquid from the bowl is simmered with two vinegars, tomato paste, and garlic until it thickens a little, five to seven minutes…
…then the vegetables are added and simmered for another 5-7 minutes.
And then the mixture is ladled into hot, sterilized jars and sealed in a hot water bath. Looks like seven perfect seals to me! Normally I put everything on hold as I remove the jars from the bath, so that I can listen for the pops. Tonight I was hosting a meeting at the exact moment the jars were ready, so I cut their time short by a minute and they started popping as soon as I lifted them out. But I dashed around the counter to join the zoom meeting, and couldn’t quite count the gratifying pops as they happened. Yes, gratifying: there is something profoundly satisfying about counting a full set of sealing pops after lifting jars from a canning bath.
I’m grateful to harvest the first leek of the season, and grateful for lots more in the garden bed.

After the meeting I was hungry, and decided to try a quarter recipe of Creamed Leeks and Eggs. It’s intended to be served on thick toast, but I’m trying to cut down on carbs. Ha! Or at least saving them for dessert. And besides, I used the last sourdough sandwich bread yesterday and haven’t baked more yet. So I served it in a bowl. O.M.G. It was so simple, and so delicious!

Leeks simmer in cream, water, salt, and lemon peel slivers until tender, and this mixture is topped with scrambled eggs, parmesan, and black pepper. What a great comfort meal for cooler fall weather.

Back to Work

Wren meets cucumber… I’m grateful for foods that come from the garden.
Mother’s little helper: Wren questions blue spice basil… as do I. Not a fan at all of the leaf texture, nor the smell, nor the taste.
Under the table and dreaming…
I’m grateful for foods that do not come from the garden, also. None of these, do, surprise! But I did bake the bread.

The yellow wax beans are tapering off to the point I think I’ll be composting the plants in the next week or two. The Colorado River green beans are in full flourish, so I’ll be making dilly beans tomorrow or the next day. Pickling cucumbers continue to produce four or more big fruits every couple of weeks, and I pulled half the red onions to use in salsa and pickles this week. I’m grateful I got the kitchen cleaned up and the canning jars sorted on the counter today, so tomorrow I can get back to work.

I’ve been on the COPD inhaler for only three days, and already I feel worse! Assuming it’s a necessary phase to pass through to feeling better. After working hard last week until my back hurt too badly to do anything more, then relaxing all weekend, an arduous day Monday, and not being able to post pictures yesterday…. I feel like I’ve been ‘off’ for a long time. I’m grateful I can afford to upgrade to get more space on here (even though I’m still not sure that’s the issue) so I can get back to work sharing the joyful practice of gratitude.

I’m grateful the Serenevyi pepper finally turned deep red, indicating its full ripeness.
I’m grateful for the past few days’ haul of peppers: one sweet purple-red, two jalapeños, and seven paprikas. I’m grateful to have learned about ‘corking,’ when a mature pepper gets dry brown streaking on its flesh, which is another indicator of ripeness–not something to worry about but to appreciate.
I’m grateful for three pounds of ripe tomatoes, Amish paste, Roma, and Jamato, weighed and ready to be processed in the morning into salsa.
I’m grateful for this sweet, happy little dog, who just wants to be friends; and for the old doe, who brings as much kind curiosity to their interactions as Wren does. I’m so grateful to live in harmony with the old doe and her growing fawns, with the scrub jays, magpies, house finches, nuthatches, pine siskins–yes, I’m grateful the birds are back!