Tag Archive | apricots

Eating August

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Apricots showed up in many festive meals last month, including these appetizers: perfect apricots cut in half, pits replaced with a dollop of softened cream cheese and topped with salted, roasted almonds.

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Another place they showed up was this leg-of-goat roast at the Bad Dog Ranch, in the glaze and in a pan-cooked chutney alongside, courtesy of Chef Gabrielle.

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After making apricot jam, harvesting the garden and raiding the fridge, time for a gin gimlet and fresh vegetable curry over red rice, inspired by a friend’s recipe.

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Sautéed onions and garlic, three kinds of peppers, fresh tomato, and coconut milk simmer on the stove…

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…add zucchini and yellow squash and handfuls of fresh purple and green basil, and simmer til soft and yummy, then serve over rice.

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“Do you call a sandwich with tomato and cheese a tomato sandwich?” asked Ann. Me: “NO! That is a tomato and cheese sandwich. A tomato sandwich is just tomato. And mayo. Lots of mayo.”

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The BLT is another kind of sandwich altogether, not a tomato sandwich. Sometimes you feel like bacon, sometimes you don’t. But thick bacon! How do you make a BLT with thick bacon? It is just too chewy to bite into pieces. I tried first with chunks of thick bacon instead of whole strips.

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And finally solved the dilemma after cooking chopped thick bacon for a pasta sauce. Chop the bacon small and fry til crispy, then add to the sandwich.

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Carrots were ready at last. Not a great harvest, but a lot better than last year. They loved the raised bed with its loamy loose soil, but the grasshoppers got their tops through much of the summer. Mostly good-sized roots, and lots of gorgeous colors.

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One of the many things I love the most about living in the North Fork Valley is the food we share. We share it in gourmet or casual potlucks, dinner parties, and by the bag, box and basket. These perfect tomatoes came from Mary’s kitchen in exchange for a box of plums picked off of Ellie’s tree. We are blessed with a climate that in some years gives us outrageous amounts of fresh fruit, and in most years gives us gems like these. Our valley is the Organic capital of Colorado, and our produce shows up around the state in all the best Farmers’ Markets.

We have the opportunity in the next 56 days to influence the policy that will determine the level of industrial extraction in the wild public lands that surround our valley; those hills and mountains that comprise our watersheds, our views, our recreation, and our thriving and growing economy based on producing the highest quality vegetables, meats, wines, and recreational opportunities. Hunters, fisher-folk, tourists, people who buy the North Fork Valley’s food products around the state and country, anyone who has ever visited this valley or would like to, we need your support. You can start here. More to come.

Out Like a Lamb

Orangetip butterflies were out in numbers today feeding on little purple mustards and the first rockrose to bloom.

Orangetip butterflies were out in numbers today feeding on little purple mustards and the first rockrose to bloom.

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March came in like a lion with cold and snow. All the young bucks were grazing at my place.

March came in like a lion with cold and snow. All the young bucks were grazing at my place.

No sooner had I assembled and hung the bluebird house that Jean sent onto the south fence...

No sooner had I assembled the bluebird house that Jean sent, and hung it onto the south fence…

... than a flock of western bluebirds descended.

… than a flock of western bluebirds descended! Whether a pair chooses to occupy the house remains to be seen.

The valley is filled with smoke; everyone is clearing fields with fire. Plumes rise in all directions, some thin, some billowing. At home I bravely burn the ornamental grasses. After years of cutting through the old stalks, usually too late to avoid nipping new growth, I finally realized I could fold the tops in on themselves and light a match.

The valley is filled with smoke; everyone is clearing fields with fire. Plumes rise in all directions, some thin, some billowing. At home I bravely burn the ornamental grasses. After years of cutting through the old stalks, usually too late to avoid nipping new growth, I finally realized I could fold the tops in on themselves and light a match.

Within days this pillow of cinders began to green up again.

Within days this pillow of cinders began to green up again.

Little purple irises came and went without benefit of bees. It took me all month to realize how depressed I am about the loss of the hive.

Little purple irises came and went without benefit of bees. It took me all month to realize how depressed I am about the loss of the hive.

I rescued the first little lizard of the year from inside a friend's house.

I rescued the first little lizard of the year from inside a friend’s house.

And Gabrielle found the first frog of the year while turning a vegetable bed, a western chorus frog.

And Gabrielle found the first frog of the year while turning a vegetable bed, a western chorus frog.

We moved him to the pond...

We moved him to the pond…

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The first tulip opened last week.

The first tulip opened last week.

Then one more, then some more...

Then one more, then some more…

Tiny corner pockets of beauty are emerging as the garden greens this spring, exquisite groupings I couldn’t have planned.

Tiny pockets of beauty are emerging as the garden greens this spring, exquisite groupings I couldn’t have planned.

All the little pockets of pasqueflower growing at different rates, budding blooming expanding.

All the little pockets of pasqueflower growing at different rates, budding blooming expanding.

Honeybees have found the apricot tree, and I look at them differently. They’re not my bees; they’re the bees that preceded and competed with my bees, and they’re the bees that ultimately brought the disease that killed my bees. They’re beautiful, they’re stoic bees, they’re chemically treated bees.

Honeybees have found the apricot tree, and I look at them differently. They’re not my bees; they’re the bees that preceded and competed with my bees, and they’re the bees that ultimately brought the disease that killed my bees. They’re beautiful, they’re stoic bees, they’re chemically treated bees.

I ran into a friend at the grocery store yesterday who told me that the beehives across the canyon have had mites for years. “They’re too close to you,” she said. It was cold comfort, a theory validated that suggested once and for all it wasn’t my fault. It’s been bleak watching flowers open one by one with no honeybees to pollinate them. Until two days ago I’d only seen an occasional bee; finally, a handful in the apricot tree. Then yesterday more, and bumblebees, and tiny wild bees. As they return I feel more and more alive.

I guess I despaired of finding the same joy in photography as I did last year with my bees. And in a strange way, my pleasure is tainted knowing they’re not my bees… still, they’re bees, they’re sturdy hardy bees that are surviving, and that brings with it a more astringent joy than the wallowing I was doing the past three summers, that first inebriated love that lasts a few years before something goes awry and love becomes a choice to share in suffering.

Honeybees back on the sweet smelling almond tree.

Honeybees back on the sweet smelling almond tree.

I remember last year forsythia covered in snow. This spring how it glows brilliant yellow and grows tall in full bloom.

I remember last year forsythia covered in snow. This spring how it glows brilliant yellow and grows tall in full bloom.

The first leaf and flower buds of chokecherries are opening.

The first leaf and flower buds of chokecherries and other trees and shrubs are opening.

Redwing blackbirds sing in symphony around the pond. I sit silent, eyes closed, listening to their beautiful cacophony.

Redwing blackbirds sing in symphony around the pond. I sit silent, eyes closed, losing myself in their beautiful cacophony. 

Each morning for weeks this flicker has greeted me, drumming on the roof cap and shrilling to the sky, calling for a mate, claiming his terrain. Oddly, the first time I heard him drilling on the roof, it put me right to sleep. I'd been tossing and turning, then recognized that startling staccato. It somehow signaled some security, and my body just let go, softened into the sheets, and fell back to sleep.

Each morning for weeks this flicker has greeted me, drumming on the roof cap and shrilling to the sky, calling for a mate, claiming his terrain. Oddly, the first time I heard him drilling on the roof, it put me right to sleep. I’d been tossing and turning, then recognized that startling staccato. It somehow signaled some security, and my body just let go, softened into the sheets, and fell back to sleep.

Practical Math

The river runs full and red yesterday through Paonia.

The river runs full and red yesterday through Paonia. 

Welcoming snowmelt.

Welcoming snowmelt, roaring down to fill reservoirs and bigger rivers.

Going with the flow.

Going with the flow.

More found time this morning. A phrase I’ve recently become quite fond of. All week I’ve been finding time, or being given found time, which is more accurate I think. A gift from the universe in this peculiar spring; three appointments were canceled last week, giving me hours more time for my devotions. Time added to my days.

This morning, one neighbor planned to come over at ten and pick up some boxes for a yard sale and another was to pick me up at eleven to drive over and look at my fields across the canyon, make plans for him to harrow or mark or do whatever spring maintenance is needed in order for hay to grow bountifully. We awoke a little after eight, when Rocky wanted out; he was prescient. Half an hour later when I had to get up, the rain was starting and the big dogs wouldn’t leave the door. I fed the cat and went back to bed for the half hour until I could give him his shot.

Our new normal. Each morning Brat Farrar gets homemade, raw food, weighed in grams; half an hour later I give him an insulin shot. Half an hour longer, more or less, and I take away any food he didn’t eat, weigh it, do the math, and record how much he ate. We are doing science. The goal of the calculations, and weekly blood draws to measure sugar, is to bring the kitty back into balance. Beautiful Brat Farrar, my special special cat. Always so fragile and timid.

My rancher neighbor called before I was up for real as rain poured down outside in sideways sheets. “I think we should go over and look at those fields now, don’tcha think?” My first belly-laugh of the day. We postponed it til tomorrow. I postponed the yard-sale neighbor as well and settled in for a day of quiet introspection.

Change is afoot in the neighborhood, as the road crew carves a new curve before paving the  county road.

Change is afoot in the neighborhood, as the road crew carves a new curve before paving the county road.

Forsythia fills the window where I park at Small Potatoes Farm to pick up the week's bread from the brick oven bakery.

Forsythia fills the window where I park at Small Potatoes Farm to pick up the week’s bread from the brick oven bakery.

Snow blew down in spirals, an inch in an hour, fat wet giant flakes like daisies spinning from above. After a cup of coffee and a melt-in-your-mouth, gluten-free, ginger-pecan scone from the Brick Oven Bakery, I turned my attention to my neglected kitchen.

Tulips in snow, this fleeting bittersweet beauty. A friend in sunny Florida fights for her life.

Tulips in snow, this fleeting bittersweet beauty. A friend in sunny Florida fights for her life.

This afternoon, I continue cleaning the deepest recesses of the house; I finally accomplished the pantry last week, the mudroom yesterday, and today, that hell-hole corner cupboard left of the sink. With small cardboard boxes salvaged from the recycle pile stacked yesterday, and colorful duct tape, I made small bins for daily cleaners, rarely used cleaners, oils and waxes, dusting all the containers and washing down the cupboard boards before implementing the new organization. I feel desperate to reduce clutter and mess in my life. I believe this ties in with my overall health as it gradually improves. On every level, bringing my life into balance in this season of upheaval.

A candle for Karla.

A candle for Karla.

Before the cleaning frenzy began, I turned on the Found Music and lit candles in loving ritual for friends and family gone, going, or in duress. I’ve spent the day in wholesome cleansing and reflection. For the first time in months I have the energy to tackle a winter-dirty house full of seasons of clutter. Motivated by the music library serendipitously shared by a friend, tunes and artists that I mostly don’t know but songs which suit my endeavor, I move through the day lightly despite the heavy weather.

Through snowy almond blossoms...

Through snowy almond blossoms…

... the apricot is also covered in snow. I watch it all day through the window as snow melts and blossoms show pink, then watch it get covered again. Each blooming tree a singular gift of changing beauty.

… the apricot is also covered. I watch it all day through the window as snow melts and blossoms show pink, then watch it get covered again. Each blooming tree a singular gift of changing beauty.

Snow tapered off in the afternoon. During a break we got out to run around the yard and fill the bird feeders (the dogs the one, and I the other), check the rain gauge, feed a friend’s cat. A cacophony of finches in the feeder trees. How many is that? Practical math: If you add .40 inches of warm water to the slush in the rain gauge and swish it around til it’s all liquid, then pour it back into the measuring tube and have .68 inches of water, what is the water content of the snow so far today?

This evening white rain pelts down again, a hybrid snow and rain that isn’t quite sleet and definitely not hail. Or maybe tiny, tiny hail. I light a fire in the woodstove and prepare a meal, leftover salmon mixed into salad with fresh chives and basil from pots in the sunroom, on a bed of chopped baby spinach and arugula with a ginger/sherry vinaigrette. On the side, one half a Brick Oven garlic bagel toasted, with butter, cream cheese, and thinly sliced farm-fresh red onion. Oh the way we eat around here.

Tonight I’ll decant the kefir I made from kefir grains that Touffic gave me and start a new batch with the organic milk in the fridge. A new way to get probiotics, from an heirloom strain passed on through community like sourdough starter. Bread and yogurt will be the next new staples on my homemade journey.

“You look great,” said Deb when she came to pick up Rocky around three. “What have you been doing?”

Adding gratitude, finding time, subtracting dirt, losing burdens, measuring snow. Practical math. “Rejuvenating,” I said. “Choosing Life.”

Mary holds a margarita.

Mary holds a margarita.

Every day takes learnin’ all over again how to fuckin’ live. ~ Calamity Jane

…the day began in cinders

The day began in cinders. All that was left of the morning's drama a few filthy tail feathers on the ground.

The day began in cinders; all that was left of the morning’s drama a few filthy tail feathers on the ground.

Yesterday’s smoke was so thick from neighbors clearing fields with fire that it kept me inside most of the day, even though it warmed up to 75. This morning it wasn’t so bad, just a singed aroma to the air.  So warm last night, fortunately, that I didn’t light a fire in the woodstove for the first time all year. Fortunately, I say! This morning the cat leapt onto the wall by the stovepipe and the dogs jumped barking out of bed all at once. I didn’t understand why at first, then heard the desperate skritching inside the pipe: a bird had somehow fallen in.

I put the dogs out and left the door open. My woodstove has a peculiar double ceiling, which might have made it easier. I lifted the griddle out of the lid to see a pile of creosote ash on top of the false ceiling. I reached my hand up into the chimney and felt feathers, startling both me and the bird, who flapped and scratched in a panic, billowing clouds of ash out the hole. The second time, knowing better, I covered the hole with a dog towel, reached under and into the pipe swiftly, and grabbed a fistful of feathers and a leg, pulled the bird down and out into the towel, and took it outside, letting it flap under the towel to clean itself off a little. In a minute I let go, pulled away the towel, and watched a young starling flap frantically away, leaving a half dozen sooty feathers in my hand.

Watering tools. Time to sort through all the connectors for my flexogen irrigation system. I've got the time, home in April, long cool days. All these accouterments make moving water so much easier.

Watering tools. Time to sort through all the connectors for my flexogen irrigation system. I’ve got the time, home in April, long cool days. All these accouterments make moving water so much easier.

Taking stock of hoses, measuring, assessing. Three hoses out of play this season with both ends bad on each; I'll snip off the ends of these, mail them to Gilmour, and get three free replacements. About the best garden deal I know of.

Taking stock of hoses, measuring, assessing. Three hoses out of play this season with both ends bad on each; I’ll snip off the ends of these, mail them to Gilmour, and get three free replacements. The best garden deal I know of.

It’s been so dry and windy, despite occasional spring snow showers, that it’s time to start watering all around the yard, trees and beds. Time to sort the hoses and lay them out around the garden, make sure all connections are secure and won’t waste water with leaks.

Still no bees in the red tulips, but a passel of blooms.

Still no bees in the red tulips, but a passel of blooms.

Almond blossoms opening against the warm stucco of the house.

Almond blossoms opening against the warm stucco of the house.

The new bee tree is the apricot.

The new bee tree is the apricot.

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A bee fly if I'm not mistaken.

A bee fly if I’m not mistaken.

In quest of the elusive white butterfly, moving too fast for me to get close, flittering through the nepeta.

In quest of the elusive white butterfly, moving too fast for me to get close, flittering through the nepeta.

A tiny wild bee plastered in pollen in the mini yellow tulips.

A tiny wild bee plastered in pollen in the mini yellow tulips.

I love the way the honeybees dive in face first, deep into the corolla.

I love the way the honeybees dive in face first, deep into the corolla.

Keeping up with my goal of photographing bees on each new variety of flower as it blooms. This girl made my day.

Keeping up with my goal of photographing bees on each new variety of flower as it blooms. This girl made my day.

So I spent a pleasant morning, grateful for the one that got away, chasing bees and butterflies through the spring garden, then drove to Eckert to the frame shop to drop off a new print for a show next month in Salida, and to pick up a couple of framed giant bees for the Grand Opening tomorrow night of the Church of Art in downtown Hotchkiss. Slowly gearing up the first rise of summer’s roller coaster.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

The last little core of the tiniest ripe apple ever, the tenth and last from my Fuji tree this year. Apple production at Mirador went up more than 100% from any previous year!

Yet apples appear to come of their own volition from friends with bigger trees than mine.

The apricot tree just keeps on giving. After a full fruit crop enjoyed by birds, chipmunks, and me, she gave golden color for weeks last month.

I marvel at the things I’ve planted and nurtured and what they have done this autumn. I haven’t seen a mature fall here in my yard for a long long time. All these shrubs and trees I’ve planted, Nanking cherry, chokecherry, aspen, birch, maple, apricot, honeysuckle, lilac, snowberry, sumac, plum, roses, and more, their leaves turning all kinds of colors all fall long, then dropping to color carpet the garden ground, they’ll mulch and then break down to feed the soil. Such a rich gift. All the grasses going blonde and orange and shades between yellow and green, swaying in the breeze and popping off seeds. I have been visually wallowing in this waxing embrace of autumn.

“May I be a bride forever married to amazement,” Janis quoted Mary Oliver, and yes, may I. We have cold now, the trees in a day lost their leaves. Until just this last week, even as rifle shots reverberate from just up north along the canyon, honeybees still found nectar and pollen in the reproducing salvias, each multi-headed stem holding one, two, a few single tiny blue blossoms. Nepeta reblooms a third or fourth time. There’s an art to cutting back, knowing what to cut back how far and when.

The bees are put to bed, their hive surrounded by straw in a configuration that I hope will insulate the hive and prevent snow from blowing in their front door, now well fortified with a propolis barrier lined with a few bee-sized holes. I wish I could see a cross-section of this cold-barricade, it looks as though some of the holes go straight in, and others curve or angle with yet more protection behind. On warm days they continue to come and go a few at a time; but often when I stop to check on them there is not a bee to be seen, or just one, looking slow and cold, guarding the threshold.

Meanwhile, the last fresh tomato sandwich of the season has been eaten, on Halloween.

And the first spinach of winter harvested this morning! Just a few thinnings from the spinach, cilantro, and mustard greens thriving in the caterpillar. Such a treat to harvest fresh greens in November, and it looks like the setup will provide well into winter.

A cottonwood leaf falls into the scene at Crawford State Park, where the reservoir is the lowest I’ve ever seen. The apparent sandbar just under the leaf is actually the bed of the old highway from before the dam.

 

 

 

 

Under the Apricot Tree

Joe finished the raised bed just in time for the apricots to ripen. Stellar lies in new shade. I resolve to join him.

I frame the shot. The bird lands. I shoot. The bird flies. This moment, pure joy.

When I saw all the birds this morning, and chipmunks, too! feasting on the apricots, I knew I’d better get in there with them and harvest whatever they had left untouched. 

Many, like this one, look perfect from one side only. The other side is chewed. A few perfect fruits aren’t ripe yet, and maybe I won’t get them before the birds. Grateful for the abundance this year I’m happy to share.

The fruits of my pleasure in the garden this morning, easily three times the number of apricots that even ripened last year. Easily five times more have gone to the birds. And chipmunks.

The promise of potatoes.

The next to last poppy.