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Flowers

A possibly better shot of the sleeping sunflower bees taken by the husband camera rather than the iPhone. I’m grateful for a computer upgrade that has allowed me to process the husband’s photos again after a software drought all summer.

I’m grateful for some time with my husband camera over the past weekend, and for the flowers blooming in the yarden. Not so many nor so profusely as in past years, but still plenty for the birds and bees that are here. It is alarming that I haven’t seen several species of native bees that were common a couple of years ago. But I’m grateful for the few bumblebees and honeybees I see, and for the sunflower bees. And for this red-bellied wasp. Too tired tonight to look her up, and can’t remember if I know her name. We all know how that is.

Grateful for the wild cleome (Rocky Mountain beeplant, an old favorite) that seeds itself. I pluck the easily identifiable seedlings early in the season where I don’t want them, and let them grow where I do. I always let plenty of them grow for the bees and hummingbirds, all of whom love it.
Grateful for a thriving snapdragon crop for the bumblebees and sphinx moths.
And grateful for the red salvia the hummingbirds love, and the hummingbirds who love it.

Scarlet Runner Beans

I was grateful first thing this morning, and pretty much all the rest of the day. Stellar was excited to walk to the rim, barking his intention as he waited for me outside. Aprés walk, we enjoyed a chocolate croissant.

I’m grateful the scarlet runner bean vine is finally taking off. Hammered hard by deer outside the fence, they struggled to gain many blooms. Once the wild sunflowers grew up they provided a barrier to the voracious does, and the vine was able to blossom. I planted eight seeds: only one of them sprouted. Look at her now!

I planted it for the hummingbirds, and finally was in the right place at the right time today to catch a few enjoying the nectar. The first one checked me out before feeding on the flowers. Thereafter they ignored me. I am grateful for intrepid little hummingbirds.

I’m grateful for scarlet runner beans, and grateful I had some time today to sit with and appreciate them in their flourishing glory. I’m grateful for the gentleness of this day just passed, mild ambient temperature, flowers all around, abundant harvest of tomatoes and tomatillos, joyful energy expended in the kitchen canning and cleaning. I’m grateful for finding support this evening in being with the excruciating awareness of life’s vivid, finite beauty.

Western Scrub Jays

I’m grateful for this smart, beautiful, sociable (some might call them noisy) Corvid. At least one pair nested in the yarden this year, using an old magpie nest in the juniper just north of the house. They stayed pretty far from the patio while the phoebes were nesting, but now that that family is gone, the jays are getting bolder. I welcome them drinking at the bee bowl, and enjoy watching and listening to them eat the acorns in the Gambel Oak, and flit around the patio pots in hopes of scavenging something, perhaps a few stray dog kibbles, or a treat from the compost bucket. I’m grateful for Western Scrub Jays, whatever variety it is that lives here.

I’m also grateful, as always, for hummingbirds, a dozen or so still zipping around all hours of the day among feeders and flowers; mostly juveniles and females, though I saw but couldn’t capture an adult male broadtail.

TLC

I’m alive! I’m so grateful to be on the other side of the colonoscopy. I had intended to turn over a new leaf and eat really well as I restart my digestive system. My kind companions allowed me a stop at the grocery store and I suddenly craved the comfort food of my youth, frosted flakes. I don’t think Tony the Tiger always wore glasses, did he? Is that just to make him still relatable to us baby boomers?

“Choose to be optimistic, it feels better.” ~ 14th Dalai Lama 

Yesterday and today I really came to terms with this guidance. I’m grateful for the mindfulness practice that has given me more control over my unruly, anxious mind. The procedure went really well this morning. I spent the past two days telling myself that it might just be a wonderful experience, the previous few weeks cultivating a neutral, fearless attitude toward it, and the last three months intermittently dreading it, while largely remembering that I am capable and resilient enough to handle whatever the outcome of this test would be. I went from viewing it as unpleasant, to neutral, to pleasant. His Holiness is right, it feels better to be optimistic.

It was a wonderful experience. I was bathed in loving kindness from the minute my friends picked me up. The hospital staff was so kind, from the intake lady to the anesthetist to the surgeon, with all the nurses in between who were friendly, cheerful, efficient, downright doting. Nurses are a breed apart: they may be the most compassionate subset of humans that exist. The last thing I remember as I lay on my left side slowly losing awareness is the pressure of a compassionate hand on my arm, another on my back. I slept deeply and dreamed. In no time, I opened my eyes, for a second disoriented but feeling thoroughly comfortable and safe.

After the selflessness, generosity, and kindness I experienced today, I’ve come to the humbling realization that my interest in others is sincere; yet my interest in my own safety continues to supersede all other interests, despite all the wisdom, compassion and insight I’ve gained through mindfulness practice. This tenacious drive for personal safety is a result of being ACOA, I suspect. My highest priority is feeling safe. The safeness I need to feel can only come from within a complete surrender to Impermanence: I can’t even say to Uncertainty. It has to be Impermanence, because that is the single Certainty of our existence. Today, grounded in mindfulness, awash in TLC, I was able to embrace a daunting emotional challenge with optimism and gratitude. I’m grateful for tender loving care from a multitude today, and celebrating a new lease on life.

There was just enough time before pickup this morning to play a few minutes with the new camera. I am grateful for the feathered gems.

Pollinators

Not a pollinator, but I’m grateful for this roly-poly little kitty. I may have a new kitty: I came home from a lovely dinner tonight and saw a small black cat crying out beyond the compost bins. I put some food out. It will depend on Topaz, among other things. We’ll know more later.

I’m grateful for all the pollinators. I haven’t even cracked the manual for the new camera, and the current lens won’t give me the crystal clarity of the macro lens on the old camera, but I’ll get there eventually. Meanwhile, playing around with it this morning I caught a few pollinators doing their thing. Imagine where we’d be without them! So grateful for pollinators, and the fruits of their labors.

Honeybee pollinating tomatillos
Leafcutter bee on marigold
Sunflower bee on some floral surprise I thought was going to be a zinnia…

I’m grateful for the 4000 species of native bees in North America, and the dozens that forage and nest in my yarden. They’re responsible for pollinating about three-quarters of all our food plants, but their very existence is not well known to the general public. I didn’t know about them until I started raising and photographing honeybees, and paying attention to all the other pollinators I discovered through my camera lens. There aren’t nearly as many individual bees or bee species in the garden this summer, making me cherish them all the more. You can learn to identify and plant for native bees with the Wild Bee ID app put out by the Center for Food Safety, and enjoy some of my better photos while you’re at it.

I’m grateful for these rattlesnake pole beans, the first green beans that have thrived in my garden ever.
Grateful for today’s harvest of green foods, and for the pollinators that made them possible.
Garden to table…
Grateful for a healthy lunch partly from the garden (green beans, basil, fennel, parsley) and partly from the pantry (garbanzos, cannellini beans, olive oil, rice vinegar, and poison fish croutons).
Grateful for the first ripening tomato, and the pollinators, mostly bumblebees, that made it possible.

Silver Linings

I was grateful first thing (after sleeping in late) to see Bucky back! I’m glad he’s survived to get all grown up.
Grateful to see the first Sego lily this spring, though it looks sad and lonely in this parched clay…
… and even more grateful to see it has company! Some little creatures curled up sleeping in it for the night, awaiting sun’s warming rays to open their bed.
I’m grateful for this silly cat, who won’t jump on a lap to save her life, but will jump up on a bench and rub on my leg; grateful that she so often accompanies us on our rambles through the forest.
Grateful that the pond edge has eroded and the pond overgrown with reeds, so that when Stellar fell in again he didn’t go far. Grateful also that I saw it happen from afar as he was drinking after our morning walk, and was able to get in without falling myself, and help him out; grateful that he saw me coming, relaxed, and waited for me to extricate him.
Grateful for bumblebees, and for gorgeous nasturtiums to feed them.
Grateful for leftovers, and for corn tortillas to hold them, grateful for avocados and all the conditions and people across the miles that it takes to get a perfectly ripe avocado onto my ‘leftover’ taco. Grateful for homemade paprika, and for the little Yakuna savoy leaves I thinned from the patch of greens in the garden; grateful for soil and water and raised garden beds; grateful for cheese, and salmon, and beans and all the people and conditions it took to get them into my fridge and pantry; grateful for having a fridge and pantry, and the time to prepare a healthful meal. And grateful for the awareness to appreciate this lunch that will never be replicated exactly. So simple, so delicious!
Grateful that Stellar’s pond escapade didn’t hamper his ability to hunt for Biko this afternoon as the wind blew madly, and grateful for this lovely claret cup right in my own back yarden. (No, Biko isn’t in the picture, but if he were, you might not be able to recognize him anyway he is so well camouflaged. He’s under the sagebrush just beyond Stellar, who is waiting for his reward treats).
Grateful that this happened when it did, and not just a few minutes earlier. I rescued a hummingbird that got stunned hitting the south window (despite the prayer flags), and set her in a crook of this potted jade near the feeder to recuperate. I checked on her an hour later, and the tiny was perched on a limb; a few minutes later I looked again and she had flown away. A few minutes later from inside I heard CRASH! The mighty, capricious wind had blown the tree down.
And then, for a brief moment, I was deliriously grateful for rain… but this is as much as we got.

Treasures

We ambled along deer trails this morning, enjoying new trees and views and some angles we haven’t seen recently. Stellar picked his way zigging one direction then zagging another on the amazing network of narrow trails that criss-cross the forest floor, as I followed amiably. I heard a little buzz from the tree just ahead on the right and knew instantly there was a hummingbird nest nearby. While Stellar investigated smells on the ground, I tiptoed around the tree intently examining limbs but could find nothing. The hummingbird flew to the next tree south, and I knew she was keeping an eye on me. I continued my stealthy inspection around an intertwined tree, then stepped back onto the deer trail. The hummingbird buzzed closer, and I realized I was getting warmer.

The nest was in the tree across the trail from the first I suspected, just above eye level. Mama zoomed past again. I took a quick step close to snap a second shot and then left her in peace. Reaching the camera above the nest blind without getting too close, I didn’t know what I’d get. I was grateful to get this image.

But I was grateful for the thrill of discovery even before I saw the picture. Just knowing that a certain sound in a certain context signifies these tiny treasures nearby brings a sense of joyful satisfaction. Even if I hadn’t located the nest I would have hummed happily the rest of the day, just from knowing I knew there was a nest in one of those trees: I marvel at my good fortune to live here and know these woods so well.

The walk continued to reveal surprise treasures. It’s a very good spring for the claret cups. Their scarlet blossoms, backlit by early morning sun, sparkled like jewels scattered on the forest floor in numbers I’ve not seen before.

Our lovely Sunday morning continued back at the house, where we sat on the patio, I with a latté and a book, Stellar with a big smile, enjoying the flowers, the phoebes’ feeding flights, and the hummingbirds’ frenzy at the new feeder.

After a full day of yarden work, cousins’ zoom, meditation, and coursework, it was time for Zoom Cooking with Amy! Tonight we made an easy smoked salmon taco, following the recipe in this video that Amy sent last week. We both had flour and corn tortillas, and tried one of each. A quick slaw of carrot, celery, and Granny Smith apple, with a basic sauce of mayo, mustard, lemon juice, cumin and salt, some flaked salmon, and a bit of lettuce on top. So simple, so delicious!

After dinner it was still light, and Stellar had the strength to go for another walk, so we strolled again into the woods. We came upon one of the same cacti from a different perspective, and it was new again to both of us.

Then a white glint through the trees caught my eye, a strangely symmetrical shape, and I walked over to examine it. Another treasure: a reminder of impermanence, making all the treasures this day held even more precious in retrospect.

Vision

Deer, or someone, have eaten most of the Indian paintbrush along the trail to the canyon. I’m grateful that there are still a few little spots of color. I keep thinking, this is why we need to feed hummingbirds. In a balanced ecosystem, the deer would leave enough paintbrush for all the hummingbirds. But we live in a world out of balance. I believe it really does help, and it’s worth it to us, to supplement the diets of wild birds: we’ve taken over so much of their habitat, it’s the least we can do.

Deer have been starving for the past year, maybe longer. Between drought, and monocultures, they’re now eating yarden plants here that they haven’t bothered for 25 years: the little naturalizing tulips, even the grape hyacinths, in the garden, and paintbrush out in the woods. Neighbors have noticed more of this as well. Stressed wildlife can aggravate humans in their habitat and along the fringes (the ecotones) between urban and ex-urban in this way, eating things they normally wouldn’t need to in order to get the nutrition they require. Ecosystem health revolves around diversity: when they only have hay and alfalfa for much of the year, they weaken. Maybe now they’re figuring out how to diversify and prosper.

That’s been my motto since before I moved here: Diversify and prosper. Seems even more fitting now.

I’m grateful also today for yet another fine female physical care provider, the eye doctor in Hotchkiss, Diane. Her gentle staff of women and her gentle chairside manner made me very comfortable as I embarked upon my fourth healthcare catchup since getting fully vaccinated a month ago. Their Covid precautions are exemplary, and I felt so confident of them that I’d even feel comfortable working there, not just spending way more than my fair share of time as a patient. I’m grateful for their patience with me. I’m grateful I’ve had a whole year to really observe the quality of my vision, and discern exactly what spectacle traits will maximize visual acuity going forward, for the time being; grateful for an eye doctor who was willing to really hear me. I can’t wait to get the new glasses I’ve ordered! Ah, vision. I’m so grateful for vision.

Grateful for the vision to witness these fleeting everyday moments, one after another, every day, in which so many elements coincide in beauty.

Catching Up

Thankful for the physical well-being and energy I’ve had this summer that has enabled me to keep up with the garden (though not with sharing its joy online!). Above, a selection of late-summer delights, starting with a plumtini, just a martini shaken with a very ripe plum, yum!

Thankful for half a dozen perfect strawberries gleaned from as many plants. Maybe next summer they’ll do better, but each fruit was certainly a burst of flavor as bright as its color.

Thankful for last month’s Harvest micro-moon rising directly behind Castle Rock
Thankful for snapdragons, bumblebees, and … colors everywhere!
Thankful for mother’s little helper Biko, eating aphid infested kale or broken tomatoes as needed to supplement his primary diet of bindweed, prickly lettuce, bad grasses and other weeds. Now semi-retired for the year, he spends a few hours outside some warm days and otherwise slumbers in his laundry room nook.

The past months have been a whirlwind of harvesting, pickling, canning, freezing, cutting back, drying, fermenting and other fun fall festivities. I’ve been spinning through each day drenched in gratitude, swimming in astonishing colors, savoring and storing for winter the flavors of summer.

It’s almost impossible to believe I am the same person as that awkward little girl in the DC suburbs who spent every free minute curled up in an armchair reading books. How did I come to be here? Living close to the land in this fertile valley for almost half my life now has allowed me to approach some understanding of my true nature, and I couldn’t be more thankful for that.

A Scary, Cold Spring

IMG_8669Never have I been so excited to photograph a honeybee on Nepeta, the catmint. Here it is mid-May and today I am relieved to finally see honeybees! Last year bees were late arriving; this year they were even more alarmingly late. Maybe because it’s been so wet and cold all spring? Maybe because there are fewer bees. There are definitely fewer bees.

When Amy first visited me a decade ago, she pointed out the sound of my yard: buzzing everywhere. For a couple of weeks I’ve been thinking about sending her a video of the big Nepeta patch outside my front door, with a “What’s missing from this picture?” caption. These flowers, usually crowded with bees from the minute they begin to bloom, were silent.IMG_7745

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The driveway a month ago, running with rainwater and still growing and greening to this day.

Spring is exceptionally green this year, after nearly incessant precipitation since Christmas. This is great, for the garden, the fields, my potential to sell my field, the irrigation ditches; also for the weeds, now knee-high throughout the yard where I haven’t gotten them whacked yet. And unless the precipitation continues through the summer, it could be a very good year for the wildfires. Not for those of us at risk, all species, but good for the fires themselves, which thrive on the fuel grown in a verdant spring once it dries out.

Oh well. As Bill Nye the Science Guy says, “The planet’s on fucking fire!” Only with conscious effort and some sacrifice from everyone (that “everyone” raises so many questions about justice; it’s a rabbit hole I’ll not go down right now) can we slow down climate chaos. This has been the coldest, wettest May that anyone remembers, generations back. A wheel of upper level lows has been plaguing the western half of the US… Something about the jet stream being stuck in an exceptionally low trajectory. Climate chaos.

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Lilacs drooping under May 23 snow shower, heavy and wet, and about the hundredth snow shower this month…

It begins snowing big steady flakes as I write this. No wonder the bees aren’t out. But they were earlier, just a few, in the few days that have been warm and sunny rather than wet and windy.

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A rare flowering grass emerged surprisingly in late April.

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Oh wait, it was just fallen apricot blossoms speared on sharp spring blades of regular old grass…

Butterflies and hummingbirds have also appeared but not in their usual numbers. I saw about half a dozen species of butterflies in April during a warm week, but not the usual Mourning Cloak.

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This painted lady had hot competition from native bees on the almond tree… but not for very long, before the snow and wind moved in and the tree leafed out.

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Red admirals were plentiful for a couple of days. By plentiful, I mean I saw a few at a time. 

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But too many of the flowers this spring went without pollinators… just pretty flowers. 

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It’s been a great year for Indian Paintbrush (Castilleja) with all the snow and rain. And right as rain, just as the first paintbrush buds emerged the black-chinned hummingbirds arrived. But so did the broad-tails, who usually come a few weeks later; both species arrived at least a week earlier than usual, because snowpack in the high country kept their food sources up there underground.

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There have also been a lot more globe cactuses blooming, most with more blossoms than usual. 

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Wild asparagus has also been abundant!

IMG_8553Mountain bluebirds, inspiration for our famous Colorado “bluebird sky,” are nesting close to the house, providing joyful glimpses frequently throughout the day. Magpies successfully fledged at least one chick from the nest north of the house, after spending months shrieking all day. It’s a sound I don’t mind, though; like the spring flicker drumming on the metal roof, or the phoebes chirping around their nest in the eave over the front door.  IMG_8566IMG_7577I’ve done some experimenting with the beautiful red salvias which are annuals in our zone, and might elaborate on those results later. It’s been far too cold to put them all in patio pots yet, so I put out the tray of tender flowers every morning, and bring it in every evening. I’ve had to put them outside even on cold blustery days like yesterday, and they’ve survived multiple hailstorms, snow showers, and wind attacks, though much the worse for wear, because the dear little hummingbirds started feeding on them right away, while they’re in 4″ pots on the patio table.

At last though, just this weekend, it looks as though the weather pattern may shift, and we might start our spring warmup a month late. Fingers crossed for some semblance of normal balance. IMG_7667