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Apricot Tree

A resilient survivor, this apricot tree! She suffered the same brutal freeze last October as the almond tree who died, and the peach tree who lost half her limbs, and the desert willow, who has emerged finally this summer like a Dr. Seuss tree. The apricot tree simply curtailed her blossoms and turned her attention to her leaves, filling out beautifully.

And not only her leaves! She did make maybe a tenth of the blossoms as last year, maybe fewer, and now has some nice fat fruits. In the whole canopy, though, this is the densest concentration I found. But most of them are still green, and smaller, so she could surprise me. I doubt I’ll be making jam; and the Raspberry Queen down in Hotchkiss has only harvested a cup or two of berries from her prolific patch. Indeed, the fruit trees and shrubs have suffered this past year, from erratic weather in this new climate of extremes.

Today I’m grateful for the first few apricots, ripening on the resilient tree.

Sunset

I’m grateful today and every day for the gorgeous sunset. I’m grateful to have live through another precious day, a day that will never come again, in a life that continues to be blessed with so many opportunities. I’m grateful to live in a beautiful old-growth forest with ancient tree beings, and fleeting foxes, and an abundance of phoebes, among the many lives that make up this rich ecosystem. I’m grateful for the awareness to appreciate all this precious, ephemeral life, including my own. More about that tomorrow.

All Ten Feet

I’m grateful for all ten feet that enable Stellar and Topaz and me to walk through the woods most every morning. After visiting the Survivor, whom we haven’t been to see in a couple of months, we came home and rested by the pond, where they both drank and I meditated.

I’m grateful that I got all but a few cantaloupe starts planted, and all the soaker hoses set up, yesterday morning before my hand was curtailed. This will make the next month in the garden much easier. I’m grateful for the splint on my left hand because it hurts a lot less.

Help

While I try to be ‘self-sufficient,’ at least as much as a human can be in this interconnected world, I still really appreciate help. This morning Mr. Wilson brought a helper, Juan, and together we all got a whole lot done in the yarden. We started out by trespassing on the land next door, to liberate an old juniper from a former fence. The poor tree had been tangled in barbed wire for so long it had grown around some of it. I’d already pulled some coils free of the bark but it took the young men to untangle the wires completely and cut them off where they’d been absorbed into the tree. We salvaged two vintage fenceposts from the mess to use in the next project.

Another salvage operation: the old old shed in the dog pen that was here when I moved in almost thirty years ago, but was badly leaning with a rotten roof by now. They took off the old roof, straightened the shed, and braced it with numerous old posts, and will finish the job next time. I’ll have a shade structure for more garden work and storage, and Stellar and any future dogs will have a safe shed over the old old dog house, which was already old when Thelma gave it to me in 1994 – but so well constructed it’s still perfectly sound. The cardboard boxes will carpet the ground under wood chips as a ‘natural’ weed barrier.

They also unearthed some more rocks in the forming rock garden, and removed more weeds and grasses to increase my creative palette. I’m grateful for young muscle.
After they left, I was hungry and tired, and pulled a leftover breakfast burrito from the freezer. I’m grateful for a freezer, grateful I’ve learned how to make flour tortillas, grateful I learned to like beans, grateful for the peppers I grew last summer and the recipe I learned online to make fermented hot sauce straight from my garden; grateful for sour cream, and eggs, and the foresight to freeze a burrito for later. Next time, I’ll make half a dozen extra to freeze individually for some quick, delicious lunches when there’s nothing else handy.

I couldn’t do any of these things I’ve done today without the help of other people. I like to think of myself as self-sufficient, but when I really pause to examine everything good in my life it all comes back to education or assistance from other human beings. I don’t know about you, but I really am interconnected with everyone else. I rely on help from others for everything from the luxury of yard work to the fundamentals of feeding myself. I’m grateful to recognize this truth, and it motivates me to want the first question I ask in any situation to be How can I help?

And I’m grateful for this new King Arthur sourdough pizza crust recipe that takes half a day instead of overnight to be ready to cook, and for the experience I’ve gained making pizzas over the past year so that I can indulge in healthy, homemade pizza anytime. Among the best pizzas yet, with homemade tomato sauce, local andouille sausage, red onions and mozzarella cheese.

Wild Plum

I’m grateful for the wild plum that grew from a shoot I chopped from the rootstock of the almond many years ago, and planted. It blooms reliably, and even produced a few tart plums last year. The bees love it, and it frequently hosts the first butterfles of the season. I’m also grateful for the view!

Small Joys

A flat grey cloudy morning revealed an old tree in a new light I’d never quite seen like this before. I’m grateful for shifting perspectives.
On an afternoon walk, another delightful surprise in the woods, the tiniest globe cactus I’ve ever seen in bloom.
I’m grateful for horseradish from the Bad Dog Ranch a few years ago that’s now making babies, and for the mineral tubs given by my Garden Buddy to supplement the raised beds with more growing space; and I’m grateful for regionally adapted seeds from across the big canyon. Here I planted carrots in concentric circles starting from the horseradish. Why? It seemed like a good idea. We’ll know more later!
Inspired by the circle idea, I then tucked in radishes around the edge of this tire planter. The’ll grow and mature quickly, and not long after the tulips are done I’ll be able to pull radishes, and then grow something else in this pot. I’m grateful for the tire pots given by some neighbors when they moved, and for every color in these gorgeous yellow tulips. Here in the filtered light of an overcast midday…
… and here closed up this evening.
I’m grateful today also for a second attempt at homemade corn tortillas, much better than the first, filled with cheese, beans, avocado, sour cream, homemade salsa and hot sauce, and fresh pea shoots, for a fun, fulfilling and delicious lunch. I’m grateful for the small joys of living this particular life.

The Forest

The mysterious little anemone on the forest floor last month turns out to be what I thought it was, Indian paintbrush. I experienced a little time warp back then, thinking It can’t be paintbrush, it’s way too early. Then I remembered, it’s late April when it blooms, not when it emerges. And it’s scarlet flowers coincide regularly with the arrival of the first hummingbirds, usually around April 24.
The little buckwheats I mentioned the other day. Though this juniper forest doesn’t get ‘carpeted with flowers’ as some wetter ecosystems do in spring, I’m grateful for its delicate gems tucked and scattered about the forest floor.
I’m grateful for this early morning light on The Survivor, and that Stellar was able to walk all the way down there yesterday. This amazing ancient juniper was cut deeply with a saw, probably 70-100 years ago. Whether the tree was down first, or fell as a result of the attempted murder, the sawyers gave up and the tree survives. I’m grateful for this inspiration to never give up.
I’m grateful to walk through the forest in all different lights at all different times of day, and occasionally stumble upon the perfect slant of sun to light a tree’s face without shadows.
I’m grateful for even a little bit of snow today, and for a lot of apricot blossoms, and for the magical beauty of the two juxtaposed.
I’m grateful for the distinctive song of the Western Meadowlark, and for hearing a new sound from one this evening, perhaps an alarm call, which startled the heck out of me as we walked past at dusk. I had just put my hand in my coat pocket and touched my phone when this loud stuttering whistle went off. I pulled my phone out to see if it was some signal from it! In short order I realized it had to be a bird, and Stellar was off with his nose to the ground so I looked for a ground nest before I spied the meadowlark on the fencepost straight ahead. Checking the field guide later I learned that indeed meadowlarks build their nests on the ground. We’ll have to be more careful walking through there from now on. I’m grateful for filters which can turn a pretty bad photo into an impressionistic ‘sketch.’

Old Age

I’m grateful for another morning walk to the canyon rim, and for the last vestiges of ice in Ice Canyon, its melting portending full on spring.

I’m grateful today for the love and empathy that’s come my way from people reading recent posts about Stellar. We saw the new vet today, and her report is that he’s in tip top shape – his blood work is perfect, “not even a liver enzyme out of place” – except that he is losing control of his back end. Which we knew. It’s just getting precipitously worse recently. We made it to the canyon again this morning, and I got him in and out of the car twice, and he loved the ride to the vet in Delta, and he loved visiting with the vet, and now he’s sleeping the sleep of the – well, of the 103-year old dog who’s had a big day. Yes, that’s his main issue, he’s about 103 years old. I’ll be grateful to make it to any number of Old Age.

I told the vet, “He’s directionally deaf,” and she said, “I’d be surprised if he wasn’t.” I said, “He’s losing some vision,” and she said, “Of course he is at his age.” I’m grateful for this good news about my old dog: it relieves some anxiety, thinking now that I don’t have to be thinking of how soon I might have to put him down, but instead can just think about whether we’ll have to invest in a little cart to help him get along. As long as nothing else is wrong with his huge ancient body, and his heart, mind, and soul are healthy and happy, I can relax and enjoy his good company for as long as the most of him holds out. I told the vet today, as I’ve told many people, “This dog is the best thing that’s ever happened to me in my whole life.” In so many ways, that’s the god’s honest truth.

Full circle: I walked here 29 years ago with a big male dog, and met this tree who encouraged me to stay. That dog is buried under the cairn in front of the Ancient One, as Stellar stands to her left, encouraging me to come on home and make his breakfast.
By popular demand, here’s the recipe I used for the Big Soft Ginger Cookies in yesterday’s post. I’m eternally grateful to neighbor Mary for sharing with me this indispensable comfort food. I LOVE how she annotated the recipe! I’m so grateful for good neighbors ♥️

Morning Rounds

Ah, morning rounds! Today I’m grateful for morning rounds. I’ve been so busy with daily gratitude practice that I’ve practically forgotten my life’s work, but the phoebe last night reminded me. Morning rounds. I heard the phoebe’s distinctive whistle early this morning, but not again all day. A few hundred sandhill cranes flew overhead later morning heading north.

It’s that time of year when every day requires an a.m. survey. How different it feels at 34 degrees on the last day of March after a 20 degree morning than it does at 34 degrees after a 20 degree morning in mid-January. For one thing there’s no snow on the ground, which isn’t a great thing, but makes it nicer to wander the garden on morning rounds. And context is everything: knowing it will only get warmer from here, the chill carries a relaxing nostalgia; January cold is in your face all day long. Morning rounds: So many things to check the status on, from pond rushes to lilac buds, from the Bombay Wall to lawn furniture; the serviceberry the buck broke needs to be pruned or I’ll be smacking my face or wrenching my fingers every time I walk that path.

When Fred pruned the fruit trees last week, he looked at the crabapple and snipped a few branches.

“I’m surprised there’s any fruit left on here,” he said. “Yes,” I said. “It’s weird that no one eats it in the fall. And they were too small to even bother picking. But around this time last year the robins came to eat the fermented fruit.”

Then I picked one and bit into it. “Hmmm, not actually fermented,” I said. “It tastes pretty good.”

Next thing I know, the robins have arrived en masse. I counted five at one time this morning fluttering in from the woods to pick up old crabapples from the ground around the tree, drink at the pond, pluck an insect from the dirt, or pick a crabapple from the tree and fly off with it. I’m grateful for the robins in spring.