Tag Archive | drought

Green

I’m grateful for the green leaves of tulips, and for these gorgeous orange tulips some of which are throwing more than one bloom.

Today I’m grateful for green things, and not just the usual like lettuce, kale, spinach; spring leaves on the Amur maple or apple or crabapple tree, or any newly leafing tree; or fleetingly lush green fields; but the unusual, like the green pond goo that nearly camouflages the green and brown spotted back of a big fat lady northern leopard frog who hops into the pond when I startle her from the wet green grass at the edge – and the green on her back as well, and grateful that my choices provide habitat for this precious native amphibian.

And I’m grateful for green limes, and the green glass that holds the first margarita I’ve made in a decade. I used a ‘new’ recipe: 2 oz. tequila, 1 oz. Grand Marnier, 1 oz. fresh lime juice, and a half ounce Agave syrup, shaken hard over ice and poured over ice in a salt-rimmed glass. Drink by the pond with the leopard frogs.

I’m grateful for all the green of early May in the high desert, much of which will fade to brown or tan within a month or two in this extraordinary drought, and grateful that I ‘own’ water enough to keep this little oasis somewhat green and moist and fruitful enough to support a little ecosystem through the year.

Boyz Lunch

Roasted leg of lamb with Indian spices

Of the numerous things I’m grateful for today, including wise teachers and more tulips, I’m grateful for Boyz Lunch. I didn’t raise a family or even marry. There was never anyone I always had to cook for. Without cooking for children (the hasty routine breakfasts day after day, the packed lunches, the weeknight dinners week after week after week for years), I never got in the habit of three meals a day. I’ve just recently learned to cook for myself consistently. But I’ve always loved to cook for other people.

Frying cloves, cardamom pods, peppercorns and cinnamon…
… to pour over the yogurt-spice marinated lamb before slow roasting.

For about five years I’ve been cooking lunch for two friends, older gentlemen, or as they would say, geezers. They were meeting at a restaurant once a week; things changed, I started cooking, and enjoying the meal with them. The last time we dined together without masks was March 11 last year, the day before the country shut down. We put it on hold for a few months as things settled out, and in June we resumed lunches at a distance outside. At our first lunch back, our dear friend Michael was supposed to come too, but he’d been by then two days in the hospital; our next lunch we spent processing the news that he’d died that morning.

We met the rest of the summer two or three times a month and into the early fall while we could still eat outside. But then the big freeze came, killing so many fruit trees in the valley (as we learned this spring) and Boyz Lunch ceased for winter. What a difference a year makes: Many of our trees are dead from that fluke October freeze, including my almond tree. Some of our friends are dead. Many of my beloveds are dead. So much has changed, and I think, I hope, in a beneficial way. We need to learn to live more lightly on the planet, and this novel coronavirus woke many people up to that truth.

I tried my hand at Parathas, a layered Indian bread which looked pretty easy, but they delaminated while frying and ended up more like sturdy tortillas than flaky flatbreads. Oh well!
Tender spicy lamb, garlic mashed potatoes, salad with seared asparagus, avocado, and homemade ranch dressing, and sturdy tortilla…
… followed by cardamom cake with whipped cream for dessert, all enjoyed together on the patio in the incomparable fresh air.

We zoomed sometimes through the winter just to stay in touch, and today I am so grateful that we finally got to gather again outside, around the table, without masks, all of us with some supposed level of immunity. Recently our zoom conversations have focused on drought, and we circled back to that again today. Where would we choose to move if we had to leave here because of no water? John said, “I don’t have to think about it because I’ll be dead.” Philip and I concluded there’s really nowhere on earth we’d rather be. Where will the climate refugees go when it starts being the US southwest? They’ll go northwest, or northeast, north for sure where there will still be water. But we’ll stay here because it’s home, and take our chances. Then we started talking about The Water Knife

I’m grateful we still have water. I’m grateful that we all made it through Covid – thus far. I’m grateful for the conversation, which is always interesting, and reassuring to me in an odd way. I’m grateful for the friendship, support, and help with firewood. And as much as anything about these lunches, I’m grateful for the opportunity to make delicious food and serve it to people I love who thoroughly enjoy it.

Salad

I’m grateful I could spend the morning in the garden, continuing to work the soil in the raised beds and plan what will go where when it’s warm enough to start planting in earnest. I’ve already got carrots, greens, peas, and garlic in, as well as the marvelous perennial onions lining the east edge of a bed. I uprooted a few from the nursery patch (behind the red chair) to fill in some blanks along the row. These will grow lovely tall flowers that are pollinator magnets, and hopefully deter some pests. I had a few leftover, so I brought them into the kitchen.

Wondering what to have for lunch, I remembered I had an avocado and some store-bought lettuce (not for long!), and some homemade dressing leftover, so decided I’ll make a simple salad, throw in these scallions. Then I decided to use up those last couple of bacon strips, but the skillet needed to soak for a few minutes. Picture me grateful for all these options all through this thought train. I bet those asparagus are ready to cut, I thought, I’ll do that while the skillet soaks, and toss them in the salad too.

Stellar and I walked out to our secret asparagus patch and cut the four spears that were tall enough. Back in the kitchen, I realized I also had mushrooms. Hmmm, sauté some mushrooms in the bacon grease, oh and then sear the asparagus. Suddenly the simple salad had become unexpectedly complicated.

Anatomy of a simple salad

This was taking longer than I’d planned on for lunch. But, the reward promised to be well worth the time… and then I realized that the reward was the time I had, the ingredients I had, the leisure I had to create a complicated salad from a simple idea. Might as well chop up that last little bit of Havarti.

I’m grateful for all those elements, and for attending to the insight that allowed me to relax and enjoy the process of creating the complicated salad; I’m grateful for Janis who taught me years ago to make salad with plenty of whatever was on hand besides lettuce; I’m grateful to Philip for still bringing me whatever I want from the grocery store; I’m grateful for the Vermont maple bowl that is my staple dish when I eat alone and has served me well for over twenty years; I’m grateful for the plants and animals that contributed to my complicated, delicious lunch. I’m grateful for salad.

I’m grateful that The Hitching Post in our little town carries such quality soils, plant foods, and other gardening supplies. While picking up more dirt, I also grabbed a few bags of seed potatoes. Tomorrow is a root day!
And I was grateful to see that they have this creative poster promoting water conservation front and center on their counter!

Dinner with Amy: Smoked Trout Croquettes

“I have trout in the freezer I want to use up,” I told Amy last time. She sent a nice fillet recipe, but that wasn’t quite what I had in mind.

I’ve been so blessed over the past few years to have a friend who brings me fish he caught now and then, trout and kokonee, sometimes whole, sometimes filleted, always frozen when he delivers a catch. I’m grateful that when he can’t release them, he brings some to me, since he doesn’t care to eat them himself. Grateful for collaboration: I give him cookies sometimes, and other occasional treats.

Grateful not only for the fisherman but for the fish itself, its life ended for human sport, but its flesh well spent in support of my sustenance. Not that I contribute much more than a brown trout to the planet’s overall well-being, but I do try to.

Brined for a couple of hours in water with brown sugar and salt, out in the mudroom, almost as cold as the fridge.

So I had this package of fillets in the freezer, and it was time to use them up, refill the space with winter lamb, (or ice cream). Grateful for the rancher who raised the lamb, the lamb who lived well for a short while, Dawn for sharing her freezer til I can make room in mine. I saw this recipe for smoked trout croquettes, and sent it to Amy. This is more what I was thinking…

“Fried mashed potatoes,” Amy said laughing, tonight as we ate them, silly with how delicious they were, and the simple joy of another zoom dinner adventure together, giddy with gratitude that we’d both survived the pandemic so far, that our government survived… or at least those were some reasons I was laughing.

If I bought smoked trout that would have defeated the purpose of freeing freezer space. I let the fish thaw overnight in the sink, then drained and brined it, and figured out how to smoke it on the hand-me-down Weber grill (for which I’m also grateful).

Last spring’s pruned apricot twigs for flavor on top of mixed wood and charcoals
An hour later, after struggling to get the coals hot enough, then casting my trout to the fates so I could keep a zoom appointment, the fish flaked apart, a little dry but done: flaky, sweet, smoky, delicious.
Last night, I weighed out what I needed for croquettes, and mashed the rest with some mayo, sour cream, and cream cheese for a hearty, delectable dinner dip.
Potatoes mashed with butter, garlic chives, horseradish, egg, and cheese, then smoked trout folded in…
… rolled into little balls and deep fried. Grateful I bought that Fry-Baby years ago when David brought alligator: though I rarely use it, sometimes it’s just the right tool for the job!
“Fried mashed potatoes!” Amy cries in glee.

It goes without saying (although it shouldn’t) that my gratitude for any kind of food is broad and deep. I know where my food comes from; and I know that in a moment, access to that food can vanish, whether by ailment, accident, or catastrophe. A young man I know of with Covid can’t eat, it hurts to swallow; my mother, and thousands with her type of disease, lost the ability to swallow altogether. People across the planet, our own neighbors, go to bed and wake up hungry; victims of climate chaos flee war and drought and starvation.

We who have ample food on our tables daily are so fortunate. We who know how to make the most of what there is in our larders, freezers, markets, neighbors’ gardens and fields, are even more fortunate. Those of us who also grow our own food are the most fortunate of all, to eat the fruits of our own labors, wholesome nutritious food grown with devotion. I am grateful for food!

Snow

Snow started falling heavily late yesterday and continued into the night. iPhone night vision is amazing!

Gratitude practice today begins with SNOW, for obvious reasons. Western Colorado is among the regions hardest hit by climate chaos in the Lower 48. We are in Exceptional Drought, the driest, most dangerous category, expected to suffer both short (agriculture) and longterm (hydrology, ecology) drought. The state has activated its municipal drought response for second time ever. Any moisture is good moisture, and snow is the best. Our fundamental water reservoirs are snow-capped mountains.

Grateful Stellar can still wobble through snow this deep, and it’s good PT for his hind legs, too. Grateful I can still wobble through snow this deep!

I’m celebrating the biggest snow of the year, a really big snow! Compared, anyway, to past years. This morning’s accumulation measured only 5.2 inches, with .38 inch moisture content. I’m grateful for CoCoRaHS, the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail, and Snow Network, a citizen-science initiative that began with a few weather geeks at the Colorado Climate Center at Colorado State University in 1998. Now thousands of regular folks (also, I guess, we are all weather geeks) report daily precipitation from our own backyard weather stations across the Northern Hemisphere.

And I’m grateful for Julia Kamari-Drapkin, who started a now-global interactive climate change platform called I See Change in the North Fork Valley in 2015, in collaboration with KVNF and NASA. As part of her yearlong residence here, exploring climate change through the eyes of local ranchers, farmers, beekeepers, and weather geeks, Julia invited Nolan Doeskin, then Colorado State Climatologist, to do a little workshop at the radio station, where I got turned onto CoCoRaHS and started daily precipitation measurements with an inexpensive rain gauge and special snow ruler. I’m grateful to weather geeks the world over for their citizen science, and for that matter to birders, too, who are in the midst of the Audubon Christmas Bird Count, for their contributions to global climate research.

You can get a sense of how snow shapes trees through the many winters of their growth…
Grateful for Neighbor Ken who plowed our driveways this morning, and for other neighbors who do the same.
Grateful for sunshine after snow, too.

So much to be grateful for today! Among other things like chocolate, soap, a functional woodstove, and the propane truck that got stuck for awhile in plow drifts at the bottom of the driveway, I’m grateful to Deb for calling me on my dark side in a conversation yesterday, which allowed me to see something clearly and ultimately laugh at my silliness, before I did any harm. Grateful for daily mindfulness practice, which enables me to live each day in better alignment with my core values.

Fresh Snow on Mendicant Ridge

IMG_2048

The perfect apricot tree with junipers, and Mendicant Ridge in the background with fresh snow. We’ll see about fruit this year: We’ve already had two nights at 23 when the apricot buds first started to open, and Friday’s low is predicted to be 20.

It’s been a busy week. The past couple of days in particular, maybe because I ran out of decaf and drank full strength. The biggest news of the week was the storm that blew through here on Saturday night. It felt and sounded like a cloud unleashed itself fifteen feet over my metal roof, which jolted me from a sound sleep, and sent the black cat flying. Raven and Stellar just raised their heads. Wow! It only lasted a couple minutes, but it was the loudest rain I’ve ever heard (including a Florida thunderstorm over a quonset hut).IMG_0586Though the storm dumped a good amount of snow in the mountains, that won’t by itself protect us from extreme drought by midsummer, but it will help replenish the reservoirs. Still, a day after the storm, even the mud is dry.BQAV6086.JPGThe other big news is, at last a bumblebee on the almond tree! I’ve been most anxious, because usually there are bumblebees all over the almond tree, and I’ve not seen one until today. When I saw a bumblebee, so still not that reassuring, but better than nothing. Though by the time I got back outside with the camera, she was gone.

Meanwhile, the tree continues to buzz with all manner of bees and other insects.IMG_2178IMG_2273

IMG_2242

The adorable beefly, Bombylius, looks like a pussywillow with wings and legs.

IMG_2266

 

IMG_2303

The first mason bees appeared today.

IMG_2310

Not sure whether this is murder or mating! But my money’s on mating.

IMG_2326

 

NQUF6948

Clouds of these fast orange bees swarmed the tree a couple of days ago, and it took some extra patience to catch one still enough to try to ID…

 

IMG_2190

My best guess for this one is Andrena auricoma, another mining bee. Below, the same kind of bee faces off with a big black fly.

IMG_2168IMG_1958IMG_1960IMG_1962It’s charming to me that sometimes the honeybees open a bud, rather than land on an open flower. I’m sure there’s something special inside. She starts with her tongue, then pushes her face deep into the bud.

And elsewhere in the garden…IMG_2207QSQJ4155WIDM9031

NHIP1363

Those leeks I mentioned last week, being inspected by Ojo. The shorter tops are the refrigerator leeks, while the taller overwintered in the raised bed.

 

 

 

Water, water, everywhere…

Claret cup cactus in the woods are full of buds from all the rain.

Claret cup cactus in the woods are full of buds from all the rain.

This morning I planted five morning glory seedlings under the old cat ladder, a rickety wooden ladder to nowhere that makes a perfect trellis for morning glories. I had them there a few years ago and we hoped they’d reseed but they didn’t. Then I planted three nasturtium seedlings that were crying to escape the confines of their plastic tray. We’d had an hour of broken sun, and in this unusually rainy, cool May it felt great to get a few of these starts in the ground, even though it’s not a biodynamic flower day until tomorrow. I just couldn’t wait. Five flats of tender seedlings, flowers and fruits, sat on the metal patio table catching what rays they could.

The dark sky gathering in the south moved quickly toward us and I felt the first drops of rain. Good, I thought, a rain will do them good. As long as it doesn’t hail. No sooner had the thought escaped my lips than I heard ping! on the table. Ping! ping! I scrambled to prop the screen door open and dashed in and out bringing the trays to safety. Darnit. We’re definitely going to have a short growing season this year, at least on this end of it.

At least there’s plenty of water. So much water the fields are emerald green even before the irrigation’s turned on, luminous green below dark storm skies with just a shaft of sunlight streaming through. So much water weeds and bad grasses grow to seed faster than I can find enough dry hours to mow them. So much water the news stations warn of fungus marring lawns. So much water the irises have grown fifty percent taller than ever before, holding close their burgeoning buds day after day, sucking in all the moisture they may; surely they will burst open today!

“Water, water, everywhere, nor any drop to drink.” A break in the main line from the Fruitland Mesa water treatment plant left us all conserving what we had in our cisterns over the weekend. No laundry, no dishes, no showers, no flushing, until we knew how long it would last. Just enough to drink and serve the animals, water plants that needed it most, and wash hands. It was ironic to wake up Sunday morning to emergency water measures, because Saturday I met the first California water refugees to arrive in our valley.

I work some days in town at the Church of Art. A family came in to look around. The young man struck up a conversation. The parents were visiting. “We just moved here,” he said. “We bought a farm outside of town. We left California because there’s no more water. We decided to move further up the watershed.”

In the harsh clarity of his statement the future flashed before my eyes. Further up the watershed. More people will be coming here from California, not this time because of land prices or urban sprawl or a back to the land movement, or even to grow legal pot, but because California’s running out of water. They’ll move further up the watershed. These young farmers have moved about as far up the Colorado River watershed as they can and still have any growing season for their carrots, beets, hops.

The first of these water refugees arrived innocuously enough, and seem like good people to add to our side on the fight against fracking that rumbles like a threatening undercurrent through all we do these days. As we talked about his plans for an organic farm, I made sure to mention our two conservation watchdog groups, Citizens for a Healthy Community and The Conservation Center. “You must be sure to join them,” I told him, “they’re our best defense of the watershed.”

For what good is moving further up the watershed if the source gets poisoned by hydraulic fracturing or wastewater injection? Among numerous deleterious consequences of “alternative” petroleum extraction methods such as fracking, watershed contamination ranks among the most alarming. There is no doubt it is happening, and there is no doubt the industry pulls out all the stops to deny it is happening in a shameful and intense propaganda campaign.

The California water refugees brought to mind the thousands of refugees from Africa and Myanmar struggling and dying on the Mediterranean and Andaman Seas, adrift on tons of water they can’t drink. A spectrum of refugees began to take shape in my mind. I didn’t have much time to ponder or pray over that dreadful crisis because more visitors arrived, this time a couple from the Front Range, who plan to retire to their land in this valley in a few years. Another sort of refugee, on the milder end of the spectrum. She’d lost her beehive this year also, and we commiserated about our feelings of guilt and inadequacy. “But,” I reassured her rather grimly, “it’s not your fault. Nationwide, 42% of beehives died this year. The bee crisis is worse than anyone thought.”

Then I said, because it was on my mind, and I think the two issues are connected at a fundamental level, and because they’re planning to move here to enjoy a quality of life that they see here now, “I hope you’re joining the fight against fracking.”

“Oh,” she said, and looked away. “If you want it to be like this when you get here,” I added. Her husband came from the gift shop and they moved silently toward the exit. “Thanks for stopping by,” I said. “Please come again.”

Sunday, June 17, late morning

The first daylilies bloomed down by the pond, joining Coreopsis, Callirhoe, silver sage, geranium, blue avena, and mingled penstemons. The Bombay wall is all but finished.

From the other direction, looking southeast along the Bombay Wall, cardinal flowers bloom crimson; columbine blossoms red and white before the marble tombstone of the little doctor vincent. meow.

Amythefish and Finn, startled from their lair under lily leaves, circle the first pink tethered blossoms in the bottom pond.

Golden elder’s fragrant wafting fans, panicles of tiny white flowers, bring a special memory, a smile. Bees are busy in the hive and out, crowding the doorway, building comb so close to the window now they’re curving it forward. Irrigation water on the mesa is over, finished. Fields that got no water at all this year are thin and brown. Alfalfa blooms sparsely elsewhere. The first and only hay crops of the season are falling, field by field, beneath the blades and swathers.