I’m grateful for the lettuce-leaf basil, and for Amy’s suggestion to use it on a BLT… with, gratefully, a fresh garden tomato.
I’m grateful today for how the efforts I’ve made have paid off. I don’t have a lot of the things that people value, but I value all the things I have: I have enough. I have more than enough. I’m grateful that the choices I’ve made over the past forty years or more have led me to this life, this community, these friends, this place with its home and garden. I’m most immediately grateful today for the food rolling in from the garden. I’m grateful every day for the food that finds its way to my plate from all the places it originates; I’m grateful to have any food, especially grateful to have enough food, all the food I could want, in a world of want.
I’m grateful for tomatillos, parsley, cilantro, garlic from the garden, and for this great recipe for layered enchiladas. I’ve made it a few times, but one has to be rich in tomatillos, which this summer I am! Also I used mostly parsley because there is a dearth of cilantro in the garden this year. Funny how that goes, one year you have more of something than you can use and the next year it just doesn’t take.
I’m rich in cucumbers, too, and made another batch of pickles this afternoon. I’ve got a couple of jars of lacto-fermented dill pickles in the fridge already, a couple of vinegar-dill jars preserved, and today processed three pints of bread&butter pickles, and a scant pint of fermented dill slices. We’ll know more later if that last one will keep on the shelf, but it’s worth a try. I’m grateful that after a few years, I’m starting to feel pretty comfortable pickling and preserving; it no longer has to be a huge deal that takes a whole day’s focus. I’m grateful for the fruits of my labors in the garden and in the kitchen.
I’m grateful for peristalsis, the process of wave-like muscle contractions that moves food through the digestive tract. It moves food through the esophagus into the stomach, and from the stomach into the small and then large intestine, and eventually moves waste out. I’m grateful for this involuntary bodily function, as I am for others such as breathing, and my heart beating. Peristalsis also occurs in a few other systems within the human body, and the same process enables earthworms, caterpillars, and millipedes to move. I’m glad for them, but I’m really grateful for peristalsis within this human body. Without it, eating would be a real drag.
My peristalsis has been working hard today. Another recipe I’ve been hankering to try is this Grilled Corn Salad with Hot Honey-Lime dressing. I made it for lunch. Without a grill, I broiled the corn. I cut back on the heat a little by using Penzey’s Arizona Dreaming spice blend instead of a chopped Serrano, but I had the rest of the ingredients. It was delicious! I’m grateful every day for whatever food I manage to feed myself, whether it’s a healthful salad, or some illusory-healthy oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, or both.
That I have food at all! That it’s delicious! and that the peristalsis in my body functions well! … I might once have taken any of these things for granted, but with the realization that many people lack one or more of these conditions, I am conscious of them, and profoundly grateful. Billions of people on the planet don’t have enough to eat. And thousands have all the food they could want, but disease prevents their bodies from processing any of it. I’m grateful for peristalsis.
Grateful for Robert Hubbell, a wise, compassionate attorney in LA whom I’d have never known if not for Sarah Juniper forwarding me a copy of his newsletter last year. He started writing what is already a historical record of the White House’s descent into madness on the day after the 2016 election, as “a way of providing support and hope for my three daughters and close friends who were shocked and anxious…”
This evening R. Hubbell hosted a holiday zoom party for a thousand of his closest readers. What began as a small circle had widened by the time I jumped on to around 5,000 readers, and continues to grow exponentially, as other readers like me share it with friends and family who are suffering under the constant stress and trauma of the current regime’s assault on our planet and democracy.
Each year Hubbell hosts a holiday party for readers, and this year he hosted the party on Zoom. Ellie and I got our RSVPs in early enough to join the party, and were beside ourselves with excitement to meet this man who has brought so much calm and optimism to our lives during this absurdly fraught election. Each evening Hubbell thoroughly parses the day’s news, synthesizing many sources from journalistic mainstays and obscure trade journals, and we wake to a sane, reassuring recap that calms nerves and inspires action. I have no doubt that his dedicated effort to inform Americans over the past four years contributed as much as many other grassroots organizations to the hopeful outcome of this last election. Much remains to be done, as he reminds us often, and he’s committed to continuing the newsletter going forward. He now has a dedicated readership of more than 17,000.
He analyzes and critiques a wide range of government players, and shares quotes from and links to many of his resources, such as this from yesterday’s newsletter: “Why we need a Commission on Democracy, and what it could do.” He writes with a level perspective and a compelling blend of clarity, urgency, tenderness and irony, often making me laugh out loud. He also gives praise where praise is due. Here’s an excerpt from Today’s Edition (No. 1,052) “Out damned spot!”
“A reader sent a link to an article about a former member of the Department of Justice, Erica Newland. See NYTimes, “I’m Haunted by What I Did as a Lawyer in the Trump Justice Department.” Ms. Newland’s op-ed is worth reading in its entirety; the excerpt below does not do justice to her thoughtful discussion. But the following paragraph struck a chord with me: No matter our intentions, we were complicit. We collectively perpetuated an anti-democratic leader by conforming to his assault on reality…. No matter how much any one of us pushed back from within, we did so as members of a professional class of government lawyers who enabled an assault on our democracy — an assault that nearly ended it. ….Ms. Newland quit the DOJ early in Trump’s tenure. She acknowledges that some of those who remained behind resisted Trump; indeed, they revolted when Bill Barr ordered them to look for election fraud immediately after November 3, 2020. ….As we reckon the damage of Trump’s presidency, we must consider how we can ensure that the “professional class of government lawyers” have a firmer grasp of—and deeper loyalty to—the rule of law. Law schools, bar associations, and professional organizations must play a role. If lawyers who enabled Trump leave government and are welcomed with open arms by law schools, bar associations, and professional organizations, we will have learned nothing. I applaud Ms. Newland for having the self-awareness to recognize her complicated legacy in the Trump administration. Others should be held to the same standard of accountability to which Ms. Newland holds herself.”
So Robert Hubbell’s Today’s Edition is where I begin gratitude practice today, followed by Neighbor Mary’s holiday tradition of sharing Potica, a nut-roll cake that makes my mouth water just thinking about it.
One of my best friends this summer has been the peach tree.
With James and the Giant Peach entrained early in life, there has always been something special to me about peaches, and this tree itself holds such meaning. Maybe that story is also why I love bugs and all other living creatures. That story, and “Are You My Mother?”
One of the first fruit trees I planted here, over the graves of a dog and a cat, I planted in memory of a woman I loved, Daryl Ann. She died of breast cancer twelve years ago, and lives in my heart for all time. So it’s a special tree, the peach tree.
It took a few years before it made more than a few peaches, and even since has only produced a bounty of peaches once before. This year, against the freeze odds, it made so many! I thinned, as I’ve been taught to do, a few weeks after the tree itself shed almost half its first flush of tiny green fruits. I’ve paid particular attention to it since then, nurturing with extra food and water, watching the growth and ripening of fruits closely, monitoring it daily for the past month in order to catch the most peaches as ripe as possible before the birds get them all.
On cold snowy days in spring, hot sunny days in summer, the oppressive smoky days of high fire season, cooler ripening days, I’ve spent time with the peach tree, dusting early for aphids before they could cripple early leaves, thinning, communing, watering, weeding around, photographing; generally keeping company with the peach tree, hanging out with and appreciating it.
A month of smoke from wildfires
and finally, ripening!
Cocktails with the peach tree before first harvest
This summer’s first peach harvest, about a third of what was on the tree. I watched and waited every day, until after a big wind I saw a couple of peaches on the ground. That evening I picked every peach that would let go easily.
Plenty of peaches left, growing brighter every day.
The August Manhattan includes a dash of peach bitters in addition to the regular Angostura and the secret ingredient, and is garnished with chunks of fresh peach.
We made a peach pie with the last frozen peaches from two years ago, in anticipation of a fresh harvest. Thawed slightly sitting out, or 20 seconds or so in the microwave, the peels slip off easily and flesh pops right off the pit. Thanks, cuz, for taking pictures!
Silicone mat (thanks, neighbor!) makes crust rolling easy.
The second harvest from the tree, a bowl to share and a bowl to keep.
And STILL peaches ripening on the tree, irresistible after a light rain. Altogether I picked three big bowls, and a few in between, always only pulling those that gave up easily.
An early sign that I’d better get the last of them off the tree…
… and after birds, just a picked-clean pit. I did leave a couple of dozen on purpose for the birds, including one with a perfect view from the patio, so I could catch someone in the act.
Last peaches, gifts for birds, glowing in the August sunset.
… the best part of the August Manhattan.
The peach tree finally at rest after a fruitful season.
Weidemeyer’s Admiral butterfly in one of the hanging baskets. Don’t see many of these and it’s always a thrill. This was as close as I could get, and he skipped away seconds after this shot, never to be seen again. Yet.
The dahlias are blooming nicely with lots of buds coming on, and finally snapdragons are opening in their vivid hues, blue and red salvias are filling in. Gladioli are budding, and the desert willow is packed with more blooms and buds than I’ve seen since it was young, almost twenty years ago. Pink gaura, also called wandflower or whirling butterflies, accents the corner patio pot with a spray of pale pink flowers dancing in the breeze, attracting bees.
Gaura, or whirling butterflies, or wand flower, with roughly 22 species in the genus.
Funny how some things like the dry, I’ve heard a few people say this summer, unrelated incidents in exactly the same words. Certain cacti thrived this spring, blooming abundantly despite the drought, notably the claret-cup, or hedgehog cactus, Echinocereus. And some other plants did surprisingly well after the driest winter I remember; though not the hayfields…
But oh! these planetary winds! I’ve spent hours this spring, more hours than last, and more hours last spring than the spring before, holding down the patio table and monitoring the umbrella so my outside office doesn’t get blowed away. Days like these the gaura wands crack like whips, and swallowtails struggle to hang onto flowers.
Note the little claws grasping, above and below.
We’ve had a few brief reprieves from wind this spring but mostly it’s been consistent, day after day after day, swirling and gusting like the winds of Mars, shooting out tendrils that grab a bucket from the table and leave a book unruffled, dropping down microbursts from the larger, raging currents high above.
Nearly constant winds dehydrate leaves on limbs, evapotranspiring plants to their own doom, and fan the flames of wildfires all over the west, not to mention drying our eyes and noses and skin. But on the bright side, at least it’s been an assist in weed management, with ground drying so fast that one or two good mowings leaves bare brown dirt with no more cheat grass…
Sometimes we feel like this butterfly, tattered and holding on for dear life to what sustains us…
…or stalled, making no headway against the wind…
These planetary winds have been building for years, exacerbating global drought, excessive flooding, and crop unpredictability. Most people aren’t talking about it, though: it’s as if most American politicians imagine the world is one big golf course and they can manage climate chaos just fine with enough groundskeepers; or worse, as if they know how terribly it’s affecting the poorest people on earth, and are eager to ramp up the demise of equatorial countries.
But the world is not a monocultural, controllable golf course. It is a vast and miraculous and mercurial thing, with millions of unique ecozones and ecotones, whose climate grows more complex each day as our species continues to blunder over and into it with little comprehension of our devastating effect on our only home. With each war, each oil spill, each frack job, each billionaire born, the cost to Earth grows more complex and irrevocable.
And so we gardeners, we givers to and lovers of the planet, continue as best we can to create as small an ecological footprint as possible, wanting what we have, cherishing beauty and life in its many forms. We provide habitat, water, and food for the wild where we’re able, and TLC to our own food plants, with deepest gratitude to the birds, bees, snakes, frogs, butterflies, and other creatures that keep life spinning in our own little lands.
The peach tree benefited from all the bees this spring, with abundant fruit. And yes, neighbor, I’ve thinned them since this picture, leaving only a couple to each twig… painful as it was to do.
Marla Bear, here are those butterflies you loved on the Coreopsis.
This one tattered tiger swallowtail fed on the patio flowers for hours the other day, braving planetary winds and bringing me into deep contact with my better nature.
Through the crabapple tree, Eurasian collared doves perch in the old feeder tree, with the West Elk Mountains beyond still white with recent snow.
The first of these exotic (read invasive) birds arrived in Colorado in the mid-nineties, and twenty years later they now inhabit all 64 counties, with a recent Christmas Bird Count total of almost 20,000 individuals. Purist birders despair, hunters revel, and me, I just think about how fast our world is changing, how many species are going extinct, how arbitrary some of our values are, and how glad I am to have any doves at all in my yard. I don’t feel as tolerant of invasive exotic plant species, however, like cheatgrass, whitetop, tumbleweed… that list goes on and on, and is the bane of any gardener’s existence.
May just may be the sweetest month here. Mountain bluebirds perch on fenceposts, swooping on grasshoppers; house finches nesting in the gutter over the front door fledge in the dead juniper, and magpie babies squawk from their high nest north of the house. From inside yesterday I watched a fragile house wren flap its new wings like a butterfly, and got outside just in time to see the last one leave the nest in the adobe wall. Black-chinned hummingbirds court and feed in the yard. Alarge black and yellow bumblebee as big as my whole thumb circles the lilacs and leaves, a small fast hawk flaps and glides across the flat bright sky on this unusually cloudy humid day with no chance of rain.
It looks like I’ll have peaches and apples this year, as those trees transition from bloom to fruit. The mingled scents of newly flowering trees waft through the yard and into the house through open doors. I’ve stood with my face in the crabapple tree inhaling deeply, watching bees, who scatter if I exhale without turning my head away. Honeybees don’t like carbon dioxide, and who can blame them.
I can capture all the photographs and video and audio I could store and more, and never capture the scent of these flowering trees, this luscious pink crabapple, this effulgent lilac, or last month the almond tree at night. The fragrance seems to pulse, as though the trees themselves inhale and exhale at their own extended respiratory rate, slower than we notice, mostly. Certain times of days the bees will flock to one or another.
The crabapple has never been more beautiful than it is this year, and never had more bees.
Possibly Bombus griseocollis, the brown-belted bumblebee.
For a few days this ornamental plum shrub was full of bees and other bugs.
Get your nose out of our business! cried the little bugs to the honeybee, all pollinating the apple tree.
A tiny sweat bee drunk in a tulip cup.
My bumblebee anxiety has dissolved even further this past week, with scores of them on Nepeta, Ajuga, and the mind-bending lilac, another tree that’s never been more full of flower and fragrance. I sit with it an hour a day all told this time of year if I can, breathing its cleansing, intoxicating scent. So moved by its power over me, I sought lilac essential oil online with mixed and disappointing results. Many sources say essential oil can’t be derived from lilac for various reasons, and there are many brands of lilac ‘fragrance’ oil for sale, but I did find a few sites with directions for infusing lilac flowers in oil or water.
This is me, these days, wallowing in lilac like this Bombus huntii.
Fat red Anthophora bomboides, or digger bee, and below, a moth.
So I’ve ordered a bottle of grapeseed oil, and trust the deep purple lilacs on the north side of the lilac patch will be in perfect bloom by the time it arrives. Meanwhile, I’ll make lilac scones again this weekend. Last year Chef Gabrielle and I candied lilac flowers, and that was a lot of work for a lovely but minuscule result. The lilac scones provided much more gratification for significantly less work. The lilac, by the way, is also a non-native species, though not aggressive enough to be considered a weed…
In other spring food news, I’m set for the next few weeks for my greens intake. I made a dandelion smoothie for breakfast the other day, with apple, flaxseed, nuts, yogurt, blueberries, and ginger root. Yum! There’s a nearly infinite supply of dandelions to share with the bees, and Biko the tortoise who relishes both flowers and leaves.
Wild asparagus from along the neighbors’ driveway, and a secret place in the woods, chopped small for Cream of Asparagus soup: vegetable stock, sautéed onion, asparagus, and fresh cow’s milk blended with a dash each of salt, pepper, and homemade paprika, garnished with a dab of yogurt mixed with parmesan cheese and lemon zest, topped with nutmeg.
There’s one stretch of road, on the way up the canyon to town, where wild turkeys often cross. They feed in the field below, and roost in trees uphill. In spring we watch the males’ magnificent displays as we cruise slowly by. Those of us who live here are pretty careful driving that stretch, though some of us have joked for years about hitting one for Thanksgiving dinner.
Yesterday, driving home from errands, feathers still flew as I approached the body; must have been a vehicle one or two in front of me that hit her. The bird, still warm, was missing her head. I put her in the back seat and drove home, thinking Do I really want to do this? But at least this way, I had the choice to butcher her, or throw her off the canyon for lions if I decided not to try.
I tied her feet to a juniper limb in the driveway, and pulled some skin off to assess the damage. One side was pretty thoroughly smashed, but the other side looked good.
After removing the tail, wings, and separating the body from the hanging legs, I texted this picture to David, my go-to hunter, captioned What now? He lives for turkey season. I knew it would get his attention. I had a lot of questions.
I wondered, for example, if it would ruin the meat if I got some of the green guts on it. And what tool would cut off the feet? And how to begin cutting up the body. Also, if I got turkey offal or blood into the splits in my fingertips, would I get sick and die? By the time he called me, I had the body rinsing in the sink. David talked me through the rest of the process.
He explained about bloodshot meat: The breast on the hit side was deep red, shot through with blood that would make its flavor too strong for me, but, he said, I’ll bet you have two dogs that would love to eat that! Indeed I do.
I filleted the breasts and the tenderloin off the ribcage, and put the carcass into the dutch oven full of water to make stock for the dogs. The two pieces on the left were damaged in the collision and deep red throughout.
I chopped up the bloodshot breast and loin and threw them in the skillet with some olive oil, then wrapped the good meat in freezer paper.
Cooked, it looked pretty good! I tried a tiny crisp piece, and it wasn’t bad… but it was strong and different, and by then I’d had enough of dead turkey for the day.
While the dog food sizzled and the stock came to a boil, I went back outside to deal with the legs. First, as David told me where to bend the leg, I cut off the shattered thigh with the knife, then used my Felco garden pruners to cut both legs off the feet.
After rinsing the legs clean in cold water I wrapped them, too, and popped it all in the deep freeze. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with the meat, but knew I didn’t feel like eating it right then. Then, outside to sort the carnage.
I suspected that a young naturalist friend might want the feet, good wing and remaining feathers, so once I’d wrapped the guts and bloody feathers up in the newspaper that had caught the drips, I poured about an inch of kosher salt in a brown paper bag, and stood up all the parts, weeping ends down in the salt, to preserve them til I could get the whole deal to her aunt’s deep freeze. Such beautiful feathers! And the little curled feather ruffs that became of the skin that pulled off so easily. Who knew?
My neighbor with the milk cows gave me some kefir grains the other day. I gave up making kefir last spring because it just kept getting ahead of me; I couldn’t use it up fast enough to justify the cost of the milk I ended up wasting. This morning I transferred the grains for the first time. The kefir rollercoaster begins again! She said, I use it for everything I’d use yogurt or sour cream for. And I thought, aha! Turkey tetrazzini! A childhood comfort food with a wild twist. When my houseguests arrive this weekend, guess what we’ll have for dinner?
Maybe. We’ll see what they think of the idea of roadkill tetrazzini. Either way, I’ve practiced my homesteading skills, proven to myself I can be resourceful in a way I’ve resisted in the past (I have a friend who routinely eats roadkill, and I have balked when it’s been offered), and made use of an otherwise wasted life. And the dogs are loving their treats. Mother forgive us for our speed, I pray every time I pass a dead animal in the road. We don’t need to move so fast.
The black cat survived his third Halloween. He is so precious! In for the night, awaiting dinner.
This week in the garden has been an antidote. The tightness and pounding in my chest belies the calm I bring to each day hearing this mad rhetoric of nuclear threats in the news. Apparently the Korean War never actually ended; our country once had an opportunity to negotiate the conclusion of that conflict, along with some other diplomatic options, to deescalate rather than fan the flames of this shitgibbon standoff.
My uncle, who just turned 92 and retired from the army a 2-star general, was a strong Trump supporter. “He’s a loose cannon,” John said, “But it’s all campaign rhetoric. He’ll settle down and tow the line when he’s elected.” Well, Uncle John, I wish we could talk again. I’d love to hear your take on that position now. He assured me in that conversation that failsafes exist between the President and “pushing the button.” That’s not what the talking heads on media are saying. They are saying that military officials are obliged to follow the orders of their commander-in-chief.
John said the same thing when I asked him, “What would you not do if ordered to? I mean, what would it take to make a conscientious Army officer, a good Christian, a person with integrity, refuse to follow an order?”
“It would never happen,” he said. “An officer will quit before he’ll refuse to carry out an order.” Leaving in his (or her) place someone who presumably, eventually, would carry out the order, no matter how heinous. Like initiating nuclear war with North Korea. I also asked him about the possibility of martial law, or a military coup. He brushed me off. “Never happen,” he said. Well, this is a career Army officer who served for decades after his retirement as a military consultant. For my peace of mind I had to trust him.
So now there are these pansy white guys in Washington who’ve never seen war first-hand, ignoring all the urgent counsel from men (and women) who have been to war, the officers and retired officers of our military branches urging them to hold their horses, to not be rash, to not be stupid.
Where people lose track of reality is when they call military trainings “war games.” They’re not games. This diluting of the meanings of words (and the word WAS God), this diluting of raw content into an idea of it saps comprehension.
Have you ever seen a wild animal attack? An alligator, for example? A badger? Until you have, you can’t comprehend the instantaneity of it, nor the savagery. Or a raging wildfire exploding trees? I imagine war is like that. Unless you’ve seen its horrors yourself, you can’t comprehend the magnitude of it, or its unpredictability: how far and fast it can spread, and in what unforeseen directions.
Well, enough about that. It has been an exquisite journey on this planet. Through it all I’ve worshiped only one thing, Life itself, in all its glorious diversity. I live where there are lions; hummingbirds and bees, dogs and cats, ravens, fawns, flowers, rain, clouds and trees bring to my day what joy it contains. If it all ends tomorrow in nuclear annihilation, it’s been a brilliant ride. My heart breaks with gratitude.
This week in the garden is like every other week, in some ways; and like no other week, no other moment, in other ways.
All those carrot rows I planted in April? Giving me rainbows all summer.
This Week in Food Alone:
The first BLT of the season, with the first Stupice tomatoes ripening the last week in July, with Bad Dog lettuce and the best ethicarian bacon available in that necessary moment. Plenty of mayonnaise, yay mayonnaise! On light bread, Rudi’s organic oat. Some things you can only compromise so far. Remind me to plant at least one Stupice plant next summer; they give early and tasty.
Glacé garni, with lemon twist and two dried Marciano cherries, one great ice cube in a Manhattan.
The Colonel’s prized Vichyssoise recipe, which I sleuthed and found in his Fanny Farmer Boston Cookbook. He was so proud of this soup. I used homegrown leeks, a hefty Farmers’ Market Yukon gold potato, and extremely local cream.
Stuffed Costata Romanesco squash, yum. They doubled in size overnight. I’m trying to catch them in the act.
Organic white peaches from the Crawford Farmers’ Market, drenched in fresh whole milk from the cows next door, with a sprinkle of organic brown sugar-cinnamon.
Collecting tomatoes for two weeks, finally enough San Marzano and Stupice ripe to make sauce. Slow-cooked strained tomatoes, with onions in olive oil, plus a splash of red wine. Such gratification to use tomatoes, peppers, carrots, garlic, herbs from my own garden…
Steaming from the oven sourdough from the starter Ruth gave me last winter, still going strong, a staple now in my weekly meal plan, finally getting the hang of the perfect loaf.
Mary’s ultimate ginger cookie recipe with a substitution and an omission, almost Lebkuchen in flavor, a grounding sweet even in summer.
These quotidian moments:
Lola came to like dogs a little bit more after meeting Stellar, Rocky, and Raven. But especially Rocky. And Stellar.
What is this? I don’t remember seeing this bright red growth in the pinyon tips, and I’ve seen it in a couple of different woods up here on the mesa.
Black Canyon morning.
Finding solace, finding beauty everywhere I can. This week in sunflowers, this week in hummingbirds, this week in shooting stars.
Just a couple more jars of apricot jam left from last summer… savoring every single morsel since the harvest looks bleak this year. Neighbor Fred taught me how to tell if the fruit has frozen, and it sure looks like I won’t have many, if any, apricots this year.
But the good news is, so far, as the radio DJ said a couple of weeks ago, Looks like we’ll have fruit this year, folks. Our valley’s abundant fruit crops, cherries peaches pears apples nectarines, apparently survive, a boon to all the fruit farmers, thus far. Who knows what the next day will bring? We’ll know more later!
Keeping up with the tulips: The gorgeous red tulips I thought were toast after the first spring snow rebounded dramatically and lasted another week or two.
It’s been warm sun interspersed with rain, hail and snow the past few weeks, and the four varieties of naturalizing tulips in the south border keep going strong, opening sequentially, including Tulipa tarda, Tulipa batalinii, Tulipa linifolia above, and one I can’t decipher on my map.
I found the old map from when I first planted this border years ago, naming all the varieties of tulip, iris, grape hyacinth, and groundcovers. Too bad I abbreviated some, and can’t read others. Special jonquils and red species tulips, above; More tulips, and Biko the leopard tortoise keeping down weeds, below.
And talk about tulips! The tulips at Deb’s house on Easter were glorious.
The tattooed girl brought violet syrup and fresh violet blossoms for our Easter Dinner cocktail, violet martinis, and an hors d’oeuvre featuring the complicated green endive that she grew, below.
A true friend comprehends the importance of an uncontaminated cheese knife.
The flowering trees are almost done, and may or may not produce fruit. Blossoms on both apples look dingy today after three inches of snow last night and a low of 28. Whatever survived that could drop tomorrow if it reaches the predicted low of 21. All spring it has been like this. The trees started weeks earlier than usual, so we all knew it was an iffy season. I’ve been making the most of their beauty, hanging out with each tree as it began to bloom, following it through its fullness ~ full of blossoms, full of bees ~ and into its flower-fading leafing out.
The wild plum buzzed with clouds of bees punctuated by a couple of red admiral butterflies alighting here and there, now and then, in the manner of butterflies. The plum tree grew from the root stock of the almond, a huge sucker that came up in the first or second spring, too vital to destroy. I dug it up, transplanted it, watered it. It thrives. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t start something wonderful from root stock.
Mourning Cloaks also migrated through for a few days.
Bee flies have been buzzing the trees and especially the Nepeta (catmint), as have bumblebees.
I don’t profess to know flies, but these cute ones were all over the wild plum, too, everybody doing their spring thing.
This female sweat bee fought off swarms of males while mating with one on the wild plum.
The peach tree flowered next, tiny pink blossoms that didn’t attract too many bees…
… but there were some!
Next came the crabapple, growing more dazzling every day.
Just not as many bees as I expected on the crabapple, though there were some sweat bees, honeybees, a few bumblebees, and some digger bees like this Centris. Note the distinctive giant eyes of this genus.
The heirloom apple just a few days ago, as this round of storms began to materialize.
Meanwhile in the woods this month, wallflowers and paintbrush, cactus and mustards, Astragalus and Townsendia, Phasaria and more all seemed to bloom earlier than usual.
Indian paintbrush blossomed a couple of weeks early, and hummingbirds arrived shortly after. But not very many…
Puccoon is like that old friend that you see once a year if you’re lucky, for just a few days over spring break, and you’re so delighted and you pick up right where you left off laughing and talking and catching up; only when you see puccoon, you’re just happy and you both laugh and there’s no need for conversation.
We haven’t spent much time on the canyon rim this spring, once we figured out that the growing nest in the cottonwood just off from the bench belonged to a skittish pair of redtail hawks. Here she’s sitting, but not setting. Once her eggs were laid she hasn’t spooked off the nest; she lies flat on top, just the round of her head and her beak giving away her presence as she incubates her precious eggs. Philip says they haven’t seen near the usual number of redtails on their side of the valley, but there’s been a pair of harriers over the fields.
Six kinds of carrots, last year’s seeds, sowed early. Maybe they’ll make it, maybe not. More seeds on order just in case, or for a second crop.
These people I live among, we celebrate tulips, bee trees, planting seeds, and redtail hawks, the rites of spring. We celebrate the wild life, the fruits and fields and feasts of our valleys, the stars in the sky. We honor the land and cherish our relationships with it. What else can we do?
We write our Representatives, march with millions, endeavor to make change. It’s an uphill battle, that’s for sure, against greed and corruption, against entropy. It’s a sense not just of personal mortality, but of planetary mortality, the sweetness to this spring.
While friends march in cities for the Peoples Climate March, I stay home and repair myself. Though I made a sign, my back has been too tender to take to the streets.
It’s been a brutal month for a sensitive person. It’s so hard to keep up with the dreadful actions coming from the government, the crimes against nature and humanity. The pronouncements, executive orders, earth-killing life-stealing human-rights-smashing bills and deregulations, the assault on American public lands that belong to us the people and not to multi-national corporations bent on extraction. Not just once or twice a week, but a pile of them every single day, day after day. Mutterings of war, deep worries for the future. It’s sickening, is what it is, more and more often literally.
I worry far less now for my own life than I do for the lives of all the other living things I share this place with: first of course the bees, honeys and bumbles, diggers and long-horned and sweat; also the trees and flowers and shrubs, the deer and bears, and the mountain lions here; and lions far away, all the magnificent wild felines of the world: snow leopard, clouded leopard, the jaguar sentenced to be fenced out of expanding her range northward as she needs to with climate change… Any single thought leads in a dozen different desperate directions.
Every living creature on the planet is at risk with this Kleptocracy, in the hands of a madman dedicated to further eroding the planet herself and the lives of all beings. It’s encouraging today to see thousands of people on the streets, and listen to legislators and activists around the country. Fighting the sense of overwhelm, I write letters, make calls, support friends; cherishing the life and beauty around me, I prune trees, plant seeds, pull weeds, and let my love for Nature grow along with my heartache. What else can I do?
All the frog activity this spring has resulted in a delightful crop of baby leopard frogs hopping all about the pond for the past month.
A whirlwind of work, company, and gardening has blown away the last half of summer; a delirium of fresh food has filled the days and evenings. Every day for the past month I’ve happily harvested something from the garden, filling bellies and freezers.
I’ve gotten into a nice, nurturing routine with the tomatoes, picking a few every morning, then making a sauce once a week or so with the Novas and Costoluto Genovese, enough to eat some and freeze some. And enjoying the cherry-pears and various slicers in scrambletts, sandwiches, and salads.
Oh, and pizza.
Also frittatas, with Pamela eggs, Stout bacon, and everything else from the garden.
The first tomato sandwich, with bread and butter refrigerator pickles I made with cukes from a neighbor’s garden.
Tomato avocado open-faced sandwich on sun-dried tomato/spinach bread from the Flying Fork Bakery. Yum.
Potatoes went in late and spontaneously this spring, in a clayey bed; I just cut up some organic grocery store potatoes that were past their prime and stuck them in the ground. Despite all the spring rain compacting the soil, and me never seeing the tragic-looking plants flower, the Potato’s drive to reproduce gave me a decent little harvest.
Purple velour and golden filet beans planted together in the raised bed gave up beans of both colors for months, providing lots of delicious marinated snacks and several bags for freezing.
One weird looking tomato..
Bad Dogs’ salad with greens and flowers from their garden…
… and a treat from their huge Yukon gold harvest, cheesy goodness.
Garden delights served with planked salmon…
… for just another spectacular summer family dinner.
After losing so many little melons I was thrilled a few weeks ago to spot this little Tigger melon, so I used some old lathe to protect it!
The entire carrot harvest for the year, not one of them more than three inches long. This bed needs serious soil amending before next spring. Just as I suspected, the clay soil compacted so hard that they simply couldn’t grow, so…
… except for the handful we snacked on, the whole harvest fit into one half-pint jar pickled. Also pickled the whole harvest of Mexican sour gherkins…
… for a great martini garnish!
The best surprises of the week, a hidden watermelon, Patio Baby variety, hanging from the potted plant…
… and an undiscovered Alvaro melon off the edge of the raised bed. Fingers crossed these get to ripen before the rodents get them.
Monsoonal flow continued through August and into early September; only just now are we getting a stretch of warm summer days without rain.