The last of 2019’s almond crop, store-bought organic romaine and cheddar, and homemade ranch dressing: so much to be grateful for within a simple salad in deep winter. Grateful for the almond tree, that feeds bees in spring and provided pounds of fruit last year; this second crop proved the tree is not a bitter almond after all but a sweet one. This year, drought and an exceptionally hard spring freeze yielded only a handful of nuts, which I left for birds and squirrels. I still had a bag frozen from the previous summer, and thawed them out last week intending to bake or cook with them. After thawing, I slow-roasted them with a spritz of olive oil and some kosher salt, until they were crunchy, and set them on the counter to cool.
I keep snicking a few here and there over the next few days til I can get time to bake, and next thing I know, there aren’t enough left in the bowl to grind for a torte. A couple more days and all that’s left is a handful for salad. Oh well, and yum! Each crunch is a reminder of all that each almond took to get here.
I tried the “tarp under the tree whack it with a broom” method of harvesting, but it felt all wrong, smacking the limbs of the living tree, so after a few whacks I gathered the sheet and went back to snapping individual nuts or handfuls off the twigs. Over the course of a few weeks, I harvested several bowls full and enjoyed sitting outside processing them. Most I used before I harvested the next batch, and I saved the last in the freezer.
So, today I’m grateful for almonds in winter, and grateful for this trip down memory lane. I’m grateful for Philip, who among other demonstrations of friendship delivers groceries, grateful he’s survived Covid to once again bring cheddar cheese and greens, grateful for the growers and pickers of organic romaine, the makers of cheese, all the people all along the trail of ways these foods get to the store, drivers, road maintainers, all the conditions that make it happen that Philip can buy lettuce in December….
Deborah brought a trugful of apples from her trees…
… and I got a big bowl full from the Fuji.
I’ll be honest, I have a fraught relationship with apples. At one point I decided they’re more trouble than they’re worth. If you don’t at least slice them, or better yet peel then slice them, and you just eat one out of your hand: you have to bite hard, chew a lot, and the skin inevitably slides up between my teeth and gets stuck, sometimes even slicing my gum.
One day I embarked upon a quest to find an apple that was worth the trouble. After many months of many tastings, I did find one. It became clear that for me the only apple worth eating off the tree is a Fuji. So I bought a tree. And now, that little tree that has struggled with not the best placement, with insufficient protection from deer year after year, with frost at just the wrong time, that little tree by my front gate is feeding me plenty of apples worth eating right off the tree.
Pamela loaned us this amazing gadget that peels, cores and slices all in one! Apples will never be too much trouble again!
Meanwhile, the almond tree, who I knew would let me know when it was ready to let go, has let me know.
Half the tree in a big wooden bowl, the other half so high I’ll need to pick them from the deck or knock them down, my vision for this tree finally come to fruition.
Almonds, broken open or nearly so, losing their green, taking on autumnal hue. Inside leathery fruit already drying in desert winds lies an almond in the shell, some of these already consenting to crack. Inside the tawny shell not quite set, a milky tan or brown-skinned gem… Bitter. Those with the brown skins are bitter, and even some of the skinless ones a little bitter. They will benefit from blanching.
After husking I lay the nuts out to dry in their shells, and will freeze them shelled or unshelled when I can hear most of them rattle in the shell.
Rose hips almost ripe and ready to be turned into jelly.
How many frogs? Through benign neglect of my fish ponds they’ve become frog ponds. I counted a total of seventeen northern leopard frogs in both ponds at once this afternoon, an all-time record.
Two color morphs of the leopard frog, brown and green, communing at the edge of the pond. Each summer for the past few years I’ve seen a few more frogs. At least in this hazardous world where amphibians are declining at an astonishing rate, my little pond has become a haven for this wonderful native species.
And on a more somber note, with a threadbare segue, a plea for our own endangered haven, both here in our valley and on this fragile, spinning planet as a whole:
These next few weeks create our future, in so many ways. Will we make it be the one we want to see? A future honoring our planet, mother nature, our atmosphere, father sky, brother sun, sister moon? Will we choose reverence for life in a meaningful way before it’s too late?
We don’t often have a concatenation of events that provides us with as much opportunity to influence our future as we have in the next four to six weeks; right now, we have two such opportunities, one on a local level and the other on a global level. We are in a bardo now between great potential for harm and great potential for slamming on the brakes to slow the decimation of Earth.
Until November 1, we have a window to make our voices heard and direct the policy guiding the public lands that surround our valley for the next two to three decades. This is not another one-time fight. What’s at stake this time is the Resource Management Plan (RMP) that will direct the use of public lands surrounding and within our valley for the next 20-30 years.
“Because BLM did not consider new information on earthquakes, human health impact, climate change impact, and environmental damage caused by hydraulic fracturing, injection wells, and ongoing oil and gas operations, along with its inadequate risk analysis, its draft Resource Management Plan is fundamentally flawed.” ~citizensforahealthycommunity.org
We have a singular opportunity with this RMP. Let’s flood the Bureau of Land Management with ten times as many letters as we sent last time, four years ago, when this fight was for a one-time lease sale. Let’s send ten thousand letters, twenty thousand, thirty thousand. We have the chance to say now, in the policy that’s set for the next two generations: NO!
Our local conservation groups have made it so easy to submit comments. The cogent letter is written for you. Fill in a few blanks, add any personal comments, and mail or email your letter today. You can submit as many comments as you like; unlike voting, you’re not limited to one. And you don’t have to live here to take a stand. Please share and share this plea and these links to help save the organic foods capital of Colorado.
North Fork Valley organic fruit for sale in one of many markets our farmers supply throughout the summer. photos by Cynthia Wilcox
Though the industry strives to convince us otherwise, there’s a lot of indisputable evidence that fracking fluids are toxic to life, human and otherwise, that the effects of drilling and wastewater injection can spread far from the site, that spills devastate land and water, that transport by pipeline, train or truck can cause massive explosions. The list of deleterious effects goes on and on, from air pollution and habitat destruction (human and other) to induced earthquakes. According to the USGS, induced earthquakes have risen dramatically in the past five years as a result of drilling activities in states including Ohio, Texas, Oklahoma, and Colorado.
We need to stake our claim to ourpublic lands, our air, our watersheds, and not let them be exploited for profit by a few powerful corporations. We must protect all that is essential to our lives: The sights and sounds and experiences that make life here so precious, the food, the water, the soils that nurture not just human health but whole ecosystem health. We must speak now, loud and clear, spread the word, and enlist the voices of all our neighbors, of our friends and families far and wide, of anyone who has ever lived here or hopes to, of anyone who has ever enjoyed visiting this valley or hopes to, of anyone who enjoys the fruits and meats and wines of this valley.
We can make change if we undertake it at the right time, not so much when the stars align as when good intentions and political schedules coincide; in these few transformational moments what we say and do can actually make a difference. This is the time to make our choices, raise our voices in a way that counts. This is not the time to be resigned.