The lilacs are winding down. It’s been a bountiful year for them, and I’m sad that I didn’t get to bake with them until just now. But I’m grateful that they were so prolific, and fed the pollinators for the past few weeks, and had plenty of flowers to share with me, too.
And when everything else is ready, add the grated butter to the whisked mixture of flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, tossing until each sliver of butter is coated and then kneading together just a little bit.
Then I added the wet ingredients and mixed just a little, before tipping the mess onto the cutting board and kneading by hand until it just formed into a dough. There was so much I split it in half to knead each half into a log I could cut in pieces.
After cooling in the pan for ten minutes, I tipped them out and they fell apart at the seams, a desirable outcome in this case. Then I flipped them over to further cool, and promptly ate one with my last cup of coffee. I’m grateful that I had the time and the lilacs and the pan and everything else I needed to bake these delicious lilac-almond scones this morning, and then got to share them with my Personal Shopper, who delivered supplies to replenish the pantry.
I’m grateful for the pollen packed on this bumblebee’s legs. It signifies a vibrant, healthy ecosystem somewhere in the midst of climate chaos; it represents resilience and survival of pollinators. I’m grateful for the bees of all ilks, and for these perennial onions just now opening their papery shells to feed so many native insects.
I’m grateful that everyone in my household woke up alive this morning, and we got to enjoy coffee in the garden before getting to work. Topaz doesn’t often consent to a lap, so it was special to have her relax on mine for awhile as I sat among the raised beds where I planted onions and some leeks last night.
After coffee we walked the Breakfast Loop, feeling gratitude for abundant May wildflowers, and especially the wild pink phlox. It’s a good year for the wildflowers, even though it’s also a good year for the weeds.
And I’m making sure to spend some time each day with the crabapple tree, bursting with gorgeous pink flowers attended by bees. I’m grateful for pink flowers.
Lilacs and forsythia in full bloom at the same time… a silver lining to the long cold spring. A few bees partake of their flowers now. May that number increase. Like many others, I hold lilacs especially dear among flowering shrubs. I’m grateful for their fleeting season.
Wren worked hard all day helping me spring clean inside and out. This is not a pose she chooses, but just what happens when I scoot her off my lap to get up from the recliner. I’m grateful for a full day of spring cleaning, with a short rest in the middle.
I’m grateful for the leopard frogs in the pond. This morning Wren alerted me to a nice fat female, and this afternoon while thinning the curly rush we spotted this one, possibly the male who’s been calling loudly for days. I hope those two find each other! It’s a pretty small pond.
I’m grateful that the apricot tree is brimming with blossoms, drawing the first honeybees of summer, and at least one bumblebee. I’m grateful for Neighbor Fred’s beautiful pruning job last month, at least two weeks ahead above freezing, and the promise of pounds of fruit for the first time in a few years.
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.
I was grateful this morning to wander the woods without incident with my intrepid little companions. I knew there was a recent lion kill not far from the house. I smelled death after we left the gate, and last night I had seen turkey vultures perched in the trees just beyond. This morning there was another one airing its wings due east of the house.
We finally went in search of it this evening. Just before dusk I realized I hadn’t seen Biko at all yesterday or today, so we had to hunt for him. He was tucked into one of his usual spots under a large rabbitbrush down by the pond, which was a relief. We couldn’t find him last night before lightning and thunder drove us inside. I decided we’d brave the wilds too, just so I’d know if the kill was my old doe, who I haven’t seen for a few days either. It was not, but I’ll spare you the photo. It was a large fawn, maybe one of her twins, maybe someone else’s. But the proximity of death and the lion’s habit of returning to a kill for several days afterward might be deterring the old doe from her daily visits.
I was grateful again today for Marc at Montrose Sewing Machine Repair. He’s been my rock through this Pfaff pedal puzzle for the past few weeks. This guy doesn’t even know me, and he’s gone way out of his way to make sure I’m able to work on my tropical drapes. First, he located what he thought was the right part at an online store. Turns out it wasn’t exactly the right part, and for the past week we’ve been trying to troubleshoot how to solve this dilemma. Hours back and forth texting pictures, videos, part numbers, and suggestions. He has extended himself above and beyond what I can imagine anyone else doing, with patience and good cheer.
Today, after concluding that the correct part is apparently no longer being manufactured, we considered some other options. One of them involved me taking apart the old pedal to see if he could maybe fix that. His reply to the above photo was “Aww man, they hardwired it!” Another option he came up with was to buy an old one on eBay. I’ll muddle along with the wrong plug wedged in until he can get and vet the eBay buy, and then see if I can return the bad part to the online store. If not, I’ll make it work, and Marc will have the right part when the next hapless Pfaff maiden needs one. I’m grateful for the kindness of strangers.
I’m grateful today to see the first paprika pepper turning red; and for another harvest of string beans; and for the tiny purple jigsaw peppers.
I diced one this evening and cooked it in an impromptu eggplant casserole. I roasted thinly sliced eggplants and some garlic cloves in the oven, while sautéing onions, a Blot pepper, and a jigsaw pepper in bacon grease. When the onions were caramelized I added some plain tomato sauce from last year’s pantry stash, and cooked it down until it was a thick, deep red. Then I layered eggplant rounds, sauce, and cheese three times, and topped with cheese and buttery breadcrumbs before baking for 25 minutes. Grateful for this Amy-inspired creation. It was delicious!
I was grateful at twilight to spy this adorable bed of sleeping bees. There’s a native species specific to sunflowers, genus Svastra. I’ve photographed one or two at a time in daylight foraging on the native sunflowers, but this surprised me as I returned from the compost bin and noticed a strange texture at the bottom of the center disk. Closer inspection revealed this delightful “bee snuggle.” And now I’m going to take my own little busy bee up to bed and go to sleep, for which I’m also very grateful.
I’m grateful for sprinklers of many kinds, and for the water they use to make plants grow to provide for insects and birds.
I’m grateful for the friend who gave me the Max sunflowers who grow like a weed when I water them, for the sprinkler that brings the water, for the pipes and tunnels and machines and people involved with delivering the water, for the bees and other creatures that derive sustenance from these fall-blooming sunflowers.
I’m grateful for the tomatoes that grew from tiny seeds planted with care and nurtured into seedlings, watered and trimmed and tended into astonishing huge vines full of luscious fruit: Pizzutello, Brandywine, Maritza Rose, and Amish Paste.
I’m grateful to have had the best UPS driver ever for fifteen years, and since the new guy doesn’t bring cookies, I’m grateful for the inspiration that struck me this afternoon to put a cookie for Stellar on top of any packages left by the gate. He’s very confused as to why there are boxes sometimes but no more cookies, and he looks for them. He struggles up from bed if he hears the UPS truck, but no longer bothers to announce it, or even go see what’s happening; he doesn’t understand why his friend Tom isn’t leaving him a treat. Now, Stellar can still believe til his dying day, because now there’s Santa Tom!
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.
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 insects of all stripes and sizes, from the tiniest kitchen ants to the fattest bumblebee, the most dramatic dragonflies to the most humble butterflies, like the juniperhairstreak–which I’ve seen none of this summer. I miss them. Nor was there a single Mourning Cloak. Ironic. There haven’t been as many moths at night, either. Nor bumblebees, nor honeybees, and the very few dragonflies I’ve seen have been in the phoebes’ beaks. Come to think of it, there haven’t been as many spiders in the house as usual, just the same annoying black flies. And even the flies, those massive hatches that used to happen certain seasons, I’ve not seen for a few years.
I’m grateful that we’ve never had a huge mosquito problem here, and that I’ve never gotten a tick bite at Mirador. Grateful that fleas have never plagued my pets as they used to in Florida. But this recent dearth of insects has me horrified. I’ve mentioned a few times in past years that bees have come later than they used to, in fewer numbers. But with my all-too-human capacity for denial, I’ve noticed, mourned, and moved on to the next soothing delight. Flowers; what bees there are; chocolate…
I’m grateful that I’ve spent a year intensively cultivating equanimity, coming to terms with the future I’ve known my entire life was inescapable. I saw it in dreams when I was still in single digits. I’m grateful that since I was a child, I’ve been friends with most insects, saving spiders and flies from my mother’s swatter, carrying them gently outside; avoiding stepping on ants; refusing to pin butterflies. I’m grateful that through the years I’ve paid attention to insects, noticed and cared about them. I grieve the insect apocalypse for so many reasons. I weep for the wild world, large and small.