Tag Archive | Biko

Another Old Friend

I’m grateful for living with a tortoise. Biko is about 23 years old. I got him when he was one, but I just don’t remember exactly which year I got him from a zoo where he was captive hatched. He’s a leopard tortoise, a species native to South Africa, who semi-hibernates inside over winter, but free ranges through the yarden all summer.

Biko is the last of three tortoises that have lived here. One got too big and I hurt my back lifting him: He found a good home in Florida. The second one took a ten-day unauthorized journey and was found, but didn’t survive that winter for unknown reasons possibly having something to do with his autumnal misadventure.

Wren a few days ago chewing her treat after finding Biko tucked under the sagebrush behind her.

For as long as I’ve had tortoises, I’ve had dogs trained to find them at the end of the day. It’s essential in spring and fall, when it’s too cold overnight to leave them out. And it’s good practice in the summer, so the hunter doesn’t forget the job. It took Wren all of last summer to learn what I was asking her, but as soon as spring came and Biko was out again, she knew immediately what to do. The catahoulas used to bark when they found a tortoise. Wren sits down beside Biko wherever he is tucked in.

This evening we had a special guest, so we hunted Biko before heading to the canyon. He was still out foraging, and when Wren found him she sat down like a good girl for her reward. Biko just plowed right into her.

I’m especially grateful today for a short but deeply meaningful visit with another old friend who happens to be in the valley for a few days. She captured Wren’s heart as quickly and easily as she did mine all those years ago when she first smiled across the counter at Moonrise Espresso. It was pure delight to spend a few hours together on a gorgeous early-summer day with heartfelt conversation, laughter, and a few tears.

On our walk back from the canyon, I was grateful to see the claret cup cactus filling with buds.


Zoom cocktails with Amy on Saturday, which I tried to upload from my phone but didn’t realize it hadn’t worked. I’m grateful for a spectacular fall color display on Mendicant Ridge and all the mountains around, whether or not I make it up into the high country to drive or walk among the brilliant aspens. I’m content to witness it from the plateau looking up, knowing and recollecting the feel, the scent, the ambience of an aspen forest in fall.
I’m grateful for this little imp, and grateful that she didn’t fall off the edge of the deck. Look at that face!
I’m grateful to watch the full moon sidle up behind the mountains on a balmy October evening, sharing the moment with my dear friend across the country.

I’m grateful for the intangibles in a day; not to be confused with the immeasurables, but including them. I’m grateful for the feeling of joy of just waking up alive, for the excitement and potential I feel at the end of pranayama class with a beloved teacher and the sense of understanding that passes between us even on zoom; for the joy of teaching and the sincere caring for the students in my classes (and graduates) to whom I can offer some help and guidance in navigating challenging lives; for the sense of humility I experience knowing that I’m just a step or two ahead of them on this journey to peace and contentment in a culture that demands more of us than we can realistically expect to render. I’m grateful for the facets of my life that I experience and treasure every day which cannot be captured in a photograph. Also, I’m grateful for those moments that can be.

I’m grateful for quotidian moments of levity like this Marine cut mullein top.

Today winterizing began in earnest, deep-cleaning the sunroom in preparation for bringing in all the cacti, geranii, potted herbs, and a few peppers that I can’t bear to lose to colder nights. Above, one of the two Datil peppers, which I dug up and potted to bring in so that I can at least have a chance of some ripening. These hot peppers are native to St. Augustine, Florida, and apparently need a much longer season than I could give them here. Below, I also potted up the single Tabasco pepper plant, which took so long to produce blossoms, then flourished; but alas, it hails from Mexico and the US gulf coast states, and also wants a longer season than I could provide. Hoping these two pepper plants, and a little Scorpion that hasn’t even flowered yet, plus one of the Jigsaw peppers, will all thrive in the sunroom for a month or two more, without spawning aphids.

The bounty of unripe peppers on this Tabasco plant made it feel worthwhile to bring in before nights get too cold. Biko will also be coming in regularly at night now, until he decides it’s time to hibernate in the laundry room.

I’ve created a monster! My goal in spring was to have Wren trained by fall to race around the yard and find Biko quickly and consistently. She is doing an excellent job of that, when she can tear herself away from nibbling on the lush green grasses brought up by an extra rainy September. She runs ahead of me checking under sagebrush, rabbitbrush, juniper, and sits down when she finds him. However, when I pull him from his burrow each evening to bring him inside, she jumps at him and follows me, dancing around as I set him down in his indoor spot, then barks and sits down beside him to tell me she’s found him again! In the mornings, she yips and prances until I follow her into the laundry nook where she finds him yet again; each time expecting a treat, of course. And of course she gets one.


I’m grateful for the patio where I hang out some afternoons in the shade. It’s nothing fancy, but it cools off in the afternoon, and there’s a whole lot of world to participate in when I’m out there. Often I read, so there’s that whole universe opened up by books, right there on the patio. And always, I look up and around often, especially when Wren alerts me to someone else’s presence. She’s so gentle about it. I hear her little body jump up from wherever she’s relaxing nearby, and run a few quiet steps to stand near my chaise, and I look up and follow her gaze. Today she was slowly wagging her curly tail at the Old Doe, who stood looking up from grazing in the flower bed. Beyond her, one of her spotted fawns browsed in the shady grove. Sadly, I saw this same fawn in the yard with her yesterday, but only the one… I worry that the other twin may have fed a lion. Oh well. Everybody’s gotta eat.

I had to chuckle watching this unfold. Biko kept on walking as he always does no matter what’s in front of him, and the Old Doe got out of his way, stepping all the way into the flower bed for him to pass, then stepping out again.
I was too comfortable to get up and go inside to get Husband Camera, so I tried the phone to catch this little hummingbird sipping from Jere’s orchid. Still haven’t cleaned the mud streaks from the picture window, but I’ll get to it one day; I did rinse the melted adobe off the plant leaves. Hanging out on the patio I get to hear the summer music of hummingbirds flying around, finches chirping, jays squawking, hawks soaring overhead, ravens cawing, crickets sawing, wind tickling the leaves of birch and aspen…

My kitchen project today was to begin fermenting the first batch of peppers. Five Aji Crystals, four Chimayos, an orange jalapeño, and the one ripe scorpion. I touched the end cap of one of each flavor to my tongue as I cut them up (wearing gloves), and my tongue tingled for an hour. The scorpion was my favorite, with a very distinct tropically fruity flavor along with its searing heat. And yes, that’s a carrot at the bottom. The recipe calls for garlic and shallots also, but I wanted to use only plants from my garden so I just included this carrot. Maybe I’ll add some garlic into later fermenting jars, and maybe I’ll mix them all together when it comes time to blend the final sauce; or maybe I’ll just make a bunch of different batches. We’ll know more later!

Finding Lost Things

I’m grateful we got to start out the day with a nice walk to the canyon, greeting our old tree friends, and taking stock of more erosion deeper into the woods.
Most of our trails to the rim experienced some transformation, this one with a new rill snaking quite a long way down the center.

What happens when I get a burst of inspiration to tidy up or reorganize is that I always lose something. Awhile ago I did a kitchen project in which I bought a few new shelf and drawer accessories, and really got the pantry and cabinets in order. Not long after that I was searching for the J&M granulated garlic refill that my neighbors produce for their marvelous garlic grinder. I was sure that I had a packet somewhere, but scoured my spice racks and drawers and couldn’t find it. Some weeks after that, I was searching for the Chaat Masala that my cousin had sent me last winter, and I knew that I had done something sensible with it when I reorganized, but it had vanished. It was reminiscent of Breadgate, but I didn’t get quite so attached to finding it. And a week after that–this morning–I opened a little flat drawer in a lower cabinet looking for something else, and voila! There were the missing spices. I had quite logically put the flat spice bags in there instead of trying to cram them into the racks with the bottles and boxes. I’m grateful for finding lost things, and for being able to laugh about it.

In other food news, all the string beans are tapering off production, while the paprika peppers continue to ripen. Lunch was a simple BLT wrap. Wren and Biko each got a green bean, but Biko turned up his beak and Wren ate them both.

And I’m grateful that we got to end this precious day that will never come again with a stroll to the west fence, and view this surprising cloud configuration.


Grateful for garden goulash for lunch. I gathered all the scraps from pickling dilly beans and freezing spiralized zucchini this morning, tossed them in a pan with bacon grease and a chopped tomato, and cooked up veggies for Wren’s food for a few days plus a lunch wrap for me. So simple, so delicious! And making the most of food scraps.
A good dollop of the veggies on top of cheese, avocado, and mayonnaise, on a tomato tortilla rolled up for lunch.

I am grateful for the deluge that blessed us this afternoon in the valley, on the mesa. It poured for a good forty minutes, nourishing the drought-stricken land. Both patios were underwater and pathways were streams. I’m not the only one who stopped what I was doing (reading) and gawked at the downpour. I’m grateful to live among people who appreciate this gift from the storm gods; to know that my friends and neighbors also paused in their everyday lives to marvel at the glory of this rain.

It wasn’t quite a Hundred Year Flood like they got in Moab last weekend, a desert town a few hours west of here; nor was it like the five Thousand-Year Floods that have occurred in the US this past month. And maybe this particular rainstorm wasn’t a direct effect of climate chaos like the record-breaking floods in Dallas, Kentucky, St. Louis, Illinois, and Death Valley since July 26. Maybe our storm was just an extra heavy monsoon rain, but it was definitely unusual for this area in recent years, and most welcome. I’m grateful it didn’t last much longer, because it actually could have overflowed the patio into the front door. As it was, and rarely happens, wind and rain came from the east for part of the storm, melting adobe down the living room window. I’m grateful that all the other sides of my house got stuccoed years ago. I’m grateful I had the presence of mind this time to go outside and squeegee the window while it was still wet, so tomorrow I’ll only have a few streaks to wash off instead of a curtain of dried grit.

After the storm I wandered around the yard assessing erosion, and hunting for Biko. I was kind of worried he might have gotten caught in a puddle and drowned. As cold as it got so suddenly, he might not have been able to move if he’d been tucked in somewhere water was flowing, which happened to be most of the yarden. There are half a dozen places he tucks in for the night this time of year; he could have been anywhere else, too. I started my search in the dog pen where he hides in the dogloo or the dog house when he senses rough weather coming. But the ferocity of this storm caught us all off guard. I circled the yard checking his other hidey-holes, and found him under the lavender-cotton by the top gate.

He was a little muddy and very cold, but I rinsed him off in a puddle and brought him inside for the night, quite relieved to have found him.
After all that excitement, I prepped cucumbers and onions to chill overnight for B&B pickle making tomorrow.
And then Wren and I walked up the driveway just before sunset…
…returning to the yard just in time for another gorgeous spectacle.


It’s not the same thing to me as it is for those who adhere to the ‘business-as-usual’ paradigm. I’m grateful for progress in slow time. I’m grateful for a slow but steady weed-eater who munches the mallow, bindweed, and purslane at his own pace day after day all summer long, amazingly keeping it in check throughout the yarden.

I’m grateful for the slow progress of peppers, and all the other plants in the garden. They take their time growing roots and leaves, then slowly bring on blossoms and set fruit, and the fruits ripen incrementally day by day until suddenly there’s a flood of them ready to eat, freeze, can.

I’m grateful to return to a place that I have always felt the joy of flow, in front of a sewing machine with colors and textures at my fingertips. I’m grateful for the lovely Pfaff that my father bought me not long before he died, and for Karen who helped me choose it and make its acquaintance, and for finding time again to relearn its capabilities and my own. I’m grateful that I learned how to use the built-in needle threader!

I’m grateful for the slow progress of the tropical drapes, envisioned as a dream decades ago. I spent years collecting fabrics for them, all cotton, many shades and patterns of greens, a few browns, blues and other colors. I spent months creating the keystone appliqués for each panel… and then I boxed them all up after my mother died and I returned home to a house unlivable that took four months to disinfect. The brick floor was grouted with mouse shit; every flat surface in the house was covered in mouse shit, from the bottoms of the kitchen cabinets to the dresser drawers upstairs. But I digress: that’s another story. Suffice to say I didn’t pull out the drapes or any other creative endeavor for a long time after that, until the stench of Clorox was a distant memory, the brick floor replaced, the dresser burned, and so much more effort expended to reclaim my sacred space.

Even though the new plug falls out if it’s not propped in, I’m grateful for it since I can adapt while I wait for a replacement and still enjoy the hum of needle and thread and the feel of fabric flying through my fingers. I made great progress today zigzagging the swamp and all the vines onto the panel, so tomorrow I can place frogs, lizards, beetles, leaves… and then play with some flower designs and fill in the jungle.

Life careened onward, and every winter I thought I should get back to those drapes for the sunroom. But I never did, until finally this summer life’s demands slowed down a little bit and I looked to Biko for inspiration on how to move through my days: slow and steady, taking a little bite of this, a little bite of that, as I amble through the hours with peace and ease. Finally accepting my own tortoise pace, that’s what I call progress.

Creative Mind

Another walk to the canyon this morning. She’s getting the hang of it.
And then with morning coffee, we all sat out in the shade of the apricot tree…
Wren, Topaz, Biko and me…
After lunch, while the others were resting, I set to work on the drapes in earnest. I chose the macaw panel to start to finish, and pulled out all the appliqués I’ve already cut, and the fabrics I cut them from to cut some more; then sorted them to split frogs and lizards evenly among the remaining panels. I got a few more butterflies and bugs cut out, and will finishing laying out this panel tomorrow, and begin sewing! I’m so grateful to finally have time to dig in to this project. I can’t believe it’s been packed away for so many years, years I thought I always had something more important to do…

This morning I dreamed again about art. Once again I was in a spacious gallery, surrounded by oversized artwork. It was Mary’s gallery, and most of the work was hers. I realized that I was supposed to have my art there to hang in the show that was opening in a couple of hours, but not only had I forgotten to bring it, I wasn’t close to finishing it. As I looked behind the scenes and saw racks and racks and walls full of Mary’s giant art, I insisted that we hang her work instead. Then ensued a couple of hours of frantic and fruitless efforts to select and hang her work, but I never got anything done except to wander in wonder among the beautiful paintings. One of these days I’m going to remember while I’m dreaming to save some of the amazing images that my subconscious conjures. I’m grateful for my creative mind and for all others. Where does creativity come from?

Closeup of the macaw, who’s been patiently waiting my attention for too long…
…and of this blue snake. It’s been so long since I made it that I don’t remember exactly which blue snake it is. There are more blue snakes in the world than you would imagine, from pythons to pit vipers, some naturally colored blue and others genetically engineered. Google it and see! My guess is this is a blue tree python, based on the shape of the head, and since I already have an eyelash viper (and this snake clearly lacks the telltale ‘eyelashes.’)
I’m grateful that the Aji crystal peppers are forming, and most of the other pepper varieties are finally coming on.
As I pruned some tomato plants this evening, I gasped in delight to see underneath the dense leaves I was trimming the first ripe tomato!
And I’m grateful that I have my work cut out for me tomorrow, cooking and freezing beans, and maybe making and eggplant parmigiana to have for dinner and freeze leftovers for deep winter.

Simple Pleasures

Where does a little bad dog hide when she’s rolled in deer poop? It didn’t do her much good. I brought her in for a forced bath, oh she looks pathetic under the tub faucet, but once I get her in there she stays and lets me wash her.
So simple, so delicious. Soft tacos for lunch with seared snap peas, scrambled eggs, cheddar, and avocado.

I’m grateful Wren is doing well in all three of her classes today. She’s still reluctant with crate training and car training, but is more enthusiastic about tortoise training. Today’s the first day she found him all on her own as we circled the yard searching. Life’s simple pleasures.

What is it? Is it a party hat? Is it a dog toy? No, it’s a phone stand, and it worked great in its inaugural FaceTime this evening. Thanks, Kay!

This Week…

The apricot tree is in full bloom… a gorgeous and melancholy sight, as temps are predicted to fall well below freezing tomorrow night…
Magpies are nurturing a nest right outside the kitchen window, which will provide entertainment for months.
Biko has been enjoying his days outside in his round pen, coming inside each evening with an assist from me.
The does are coming around less often as surrounding fields green up. This is Stripe, who has extra small ears for a mule deer, and a white stripe down the length of her nose, which is not quite visible here because of the sun.
How did I never think to fry a burrito in butter??? So simple, so delicious.
Sometimes an image just demands the camera.
The bonsai jasmine is finally blooming, and its intoxicating fragrance fills the kitchen each evening.
I cook a skillet of beans once a week or so for burritos or whatever. Yesterday I craved cheesy grits also, and plunked some on top of the black beans. So simple, so delicious!

It’s been quite a week, full of pleasant, unpleasant, and neutral events and perceptions. The days swirl by in a dance of mind with matter, and by the end of each day I’m too tired to post. In appreciation of those who have noticed my absence, I am sharing my simple gratitude today for another week alive, one precious day after another; without further ado, but with heartfelt thanks for the love and support of my community and friends across the country.


I’m grateful for my own breath, and for the breath of the forest. This morning, after a quarter inch of rain last night, we walked through the woods, and I chanced to turn and see backlit by the rising sun, the respiration of a juniper tree. Or so it seemed to me. With each exhalation the tree released a mist. I’m grateful to live at a pace where I am able to notice such quotidian natural phenomena, and grateful that my old dog makes sure I get out to walk early in the morning.

I’m grateful, too, that he make sure I get out and walk in the evening, when we go search for Mr. Turtell, which is what Stellar calls Biko. Find Turtell, I tell him, and he trots off ahead of me around the yarden perimeter. He almost always finds Biko on the first circuit, and gets rewarded with a handful of treats. Sometimes he’s a bit vague, and I encourage him, Show me! Then he will bounce on his front feet and bark, to make sure I know which sagebrush to look under.

I’m grateful after twenty years to have come to understand a bit of a tortoise mind; grateful to live with a keeper of slow time. Biko is like a sundial, reliably tucking in under a sagebrush or juniper where the last rays of light will fall in a day, and/or where the first will come in the morning. Over the years I’ve learned to look in certain places certain seasons. In a yard full of late afternoon shade, see how he has parked himself where he’ll get the longest, last rays of sun. My knowledge of his habits, and Stellar’s help, will be increasingly important over the next few weeks as temperatures approach Biko’s threshold. Tomorrow, the forecast is a low of 38℉, just below his tolerance of 40º. We’ll go for a turtle hunt around five, and bring him inside until morning. I’m grateful for the arrival of autumn, with its breath of fresh air.