Tag Archive | food

Practical Math

The river runs full and red yesterday through Paonia.

The river runs full and red yesterday through Paonia. 

Welcoming snowmelt.

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

Going with the flow.

Going with the flow.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A candle for Karla.

A candle for Karla.

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

Through snowy almond blossoms...

Through snowy almond blossoms…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mary holds a margarita.

Mary holds a margarita.

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

Last Hands of Last Year

Ellie making gravy

Ellie making gravy

Michael carving turkey

Michael carving turkey

Mary pouring wine

Mary pouring wine

This last series of hands from last year only make me want to keep collecting hands. These first three are from Thanksgiving dinner at my house. There are not a lot of restaurants where we live, just a handful, and most are so far away that we usually prefer to share meals at one house or another. There are many excellent cooks in my circle of friends, and we live in the boonies. One or two nights a week some or many of us come together to break bread; usually everybody brings a dish to share, sometimes one person prepares the whole meal or the bulk of it. And boy do we eat well!

Deb rolling cookie dough

Deb rolling cookie dough

Joli reaches for candy

Joli reaches for candy

Mary opening a homemade vanilla creme sandwich cookie

Mary opening a homemade vanilla creme sandwich cookie

Dawn dunks a cookie

Dawn dunks a cookie

Jim makes pizza

Jim makes pizza

JT serves soup

JT serves soup

Joli serves linzer torte

Joli serves linzer torte

Cynthia carves the roast

Cynthia carves the roast

John wears a napkin ring

John wears a napkin ring

Deb dances Rocky

Deb dances Rocky

Connie grates nutmeg onto homemade Brandy Alexander

Connie grates nutmeg onto homemade Brandy Alexander

Todd holds Rocky

Todd holds Rocky

Cynthia slices homemade sourdough

Cynthia slices homemade sourdough

Chris serves Chicken Marbella

Chris serves Chicken Marbella

Michael plays with his gag gift

Michael plays with his gag gift

Todd contemplates Rummy Kub

Todd contemplates Rummy Kub

Harvest Festival

The first snow down to our elevation arrived overnight Thursday, a good two inches.

The first snow down to our elevation arrived overnight Thursday, a good two inches.

I spent most of the week, and especially Wednesday and Thursday, bringing in everything from the garden: the last tomatoes (red and green), peppers, squash, rose hips, legal marijuana, and all the house plants from the patio. Usually it’s not until the third week in October that the temperatures drop into the 20’s, but Friday morning’s low was 29, and this morning’s 25. Overnight Thursday my sunroom turned into a narrow hallway, filled with a dozen cacti, half a dozen geraniums and as many jades, two lime trees, potted basil, peppers, rosemary, and chives, and a bunch of ornamentals. But before the snow I took plenty of pictures.

Agastache, hummingbird mint, a reliable late-season hummingbird feeder, remains in bloom long after I've taken down the feeders; late migrants passing through find plenty of sustenance here, and the sphinx moths love it.

Agastache, hummingbird mint, a reliable late-season hummingbird feeder, remains in bloom long after I’ve taken down the feeders; late migrants passing through find plenty of sustenance here, and the sphinx moths love it.

First harvest of fall carrots, a rainbow mix.

First harvest of fall carrots, a rainbow mix.

The sum total of my Yukon Gold crop; ten plants each produced only a couple of potatoes.

The sum total of my Yukon Gold crop; ten plants each produced only a couple of potatoes.

One row over, these Sangre de Cristo potatoes produced five or six from each of the two plants I've harvested so far. These all came out of the ground still attached at the roots. The other eight plants are mulched under a foot of loose straw for gradual harvest over the next month or so. At least before the ground freezes solid, and who knows when that will be.

One row over, these Sangre de Cristo potatoes produced five or six from each of the two plants I’ve harvested so far. These all came out of the ground still attached at the roots. The other eight plants are mulched under a foot of loose straw for gradual harvest over the next month or so. At least before the ground freezes solid, and who knows when that will be.

Yesterday I brought in eight cups of rose hips off the wild pink rose, with grand plans of making rose hip jelly.

Yesterday I brought in eight cups of rose hips off the wild pink rose, with grand plans of making rose hip jelly.

Out of four cauliflower plants I put in the ground early, three bolted early and produced small, bitter, diffuse heads. But one made a beautiful fruit, and this one I steamed, then chilled and frosted with a spicy avocado spread for a salad called, in the best Indian cookbook ever, Gobhi Salaad.

Out of four cauliflower plants I put in the ground early, three bolted early and produced small, bitter, diffuse heads. But one made a beautiful fruit, and this one I steamed, then chilled and frosted with a spicy avocado spread for a salad called, in the best Indian cookbook ever, Gobhi Salaad.

A rogue daikon radish, one of four that emerged this summer from seeds planted well over a year ago.

A rogue daikon radish, one of four that emerged this summer from seeds planted well over a year ago.

Butternut squash on the vine. After a light freeze to sweeten them up, I harvested two that came from this vine, and one other. Many of these vegetables started out in Ruth's greenhouse, and she generously offered starts around the community.

Butternut squash on the vine. After a light freeze to sweeten them up, I harvested two that came from this vine, and one other. Many of these vegetables started out in Ruth’s greenhouse, and she generously offered starts around the community.

I can't even eat jalapeños! Yet I grow some every year. These will get pickled, because I delight in the idea of pickled peppers. Then I can always have some handy when a spicy dish calls for one or two.

I can’t even eat jalapeños! Yet I grow some every year. These will get pickled, because I delight in the idea of pickled peppers. Then I can always have some handy when a spicy dish calls for one or two.

Butternut, spaghetti, and delicata squashes ready for delicious winter dinners.

Butternut, spaghetti, and delicata squashes ready for delicious winter dinners.

A bountiful calendula patch, thanks to Katrina's snipping of heads early in the season. What seemed brutal at the time resulted in a lush display later, a bright spot in the yard that makes me smile whenever I catch a glimpse in passing. These blooms are drying for tea.

A bountiful calendula patch, thanks to Katrina’s snipping of heads early in the season. What seemed brutal at the time resulted in a lush display and a bountiful harvest later, a bright spot in the yard that makes me smile whenever I catch a glimpse in passing. These blooms are drying for tea.

Garden quiche for Sunday brunch with a homemade crust, eggs from Pamela, and veggies all from the Mirador garden.

Garden quiche for Sunday brunch with a homemade crust, eggs from Pamela, and veggies all from the Mirador garden.

Hard work for two days, Katrina pried out the stepping stones and roughed up the gravel, then I leveled and reset them. I hope this will make it easier to keep them clear of snow and ice when the time comes, all too quickly.

Hard work for two days, Katrina pried out the stepping stones and roughed up the gravel, then I leveled and reset them. I hope this will make it easier to keep them clear of snow and ice when the time comes, all too quickly.

One lovely storm after another moves through these past few weeks.

One lovely storm after another moves through these past few weeks.

 

 

First Day of a New Year

View from the deck last Friday night. Alpenglow has been unreal this winter.

View from the deck last Friday night. Alpenglow has been unreal this winter.

Learning to walk, the path opens before me.

This has been my subterranean mantra for more than a decade; almost since I moved to this land. This land has been my most generous teacher. By land I mean this place, this singular spot on this whirling planet; the snow-covered earth beneath my feet, fleeting sunshine with low clouds settling through it, gradually veiling Land’s End, Coal Mountain, Mendicant Ridge; this forest in summer scent or winter wonderland, in sandals or snowshoes; this little fenced yard with garden paths among full bloom or shoveled clear through one-foot snow.

The larger question of place, where we live as a network of loose-knit communities, a tapestry of peoples that inhabit the two main valleys along this forked river system, intricately woven with smaller streams and valleys among mesas of many elevations, this land has also been a generous teacher as I, since I moved here two decades ago, have been learning to walk.

Most recently my ambulatory education has included really comprehending the phrase "use your legs, not your back" when lifting.

Most recently my ambulatory education has included really comprehending the phrase “use your legs, not your back” when lifting.

These past few weeks, Morning Rounds has consisted mostly of shoveling paths through the frequent snows to get where I need to go: the back gate, the compost, the bird feeders, the generator, the front gate, the car, the woodpile.

a foot deep down by the bird feeders...

a foot deep down by the bird feeders…

a mess up by the woodpile...

a mess up by the woodpile…

and a vertical endeavor shoveling snow off the tarps to get at the firewood.

and a vertical endeavor shoveling snow off the tarps to get at the firewood.

 

From the bird seed and the generator back to the house my shovel has kept plowed.

From the bird seed and the generator back to the house my shovel has kept plowed.

The beehive should be well-insulated by now.

The beehive should be well-insulated by now.

Marla helped me re-insulate the beehive a couple of weeks ago, right before the snow started falling. We pulled off the top strawbales and affixed, with some fumbling, blueboard-lined pine panels around the sides, and also put blueboard beneath the peaked roof, on top of the flat roof the bees sealed to the hive with propolis months ago. The first bees probably awoke as we removed the roof, its protective overhang too big for us to work around. As we fretted and fussed with the panels the bees began to stir, two or three first stepping to their threshold, then even flying out. It was very cold even then. By the time we got the panels set and the roof back on the whole hive was buzzing. They weren’t coming out, but we stood close and could hear them very busily buzzing some essential message to one another. A few hours later they were completely quiet again. I haven’t seen a bee since then, as the snow piles up on their roof, merging with the snow on the bales, creating a cozy snow cave inside which they are protected from the elements of what has turned into a very cold very snowy winter.

IMG_9060

Cattle drive into Crawford, last Friday.

Cattle drive into Crawford, last Friday.

Other memorable moments since Christmas:

Textural Affection

Textural Affection

Champagne with pomegranate seeds floating up and down like a lava lamp.

Champagne with pomegranate seeds floating up and down like a lava lamp.

Candlelit crystal

Candlelit crystal

A perfect light lunch on a snowy day, half a perfect avocado with a little Caesar dressing. When almost every dinner is a feast this time of year, a healthy snack midday makes sense.

A perfect light lunch on a snowy day, half a perfect avocado with a little Caesar dressing. When almost every dinner is a feast this time of year, a healthy snack midday makes sense.

Sunday's dinner starts with individually plated spinach salad from Ruth's garden, including carrots, the last of the beets, and greenhouse-grown spinach. Connie brought cheesy stuffed mushrooms to start with cocktails, and I roasted a happy lamb shoulder and mashed my entire potato harvest. Frozen peppermint cream in wine glasses finished the meal like an expensive aperitif. Yum.

Sunday’s dinner starts with individually plated spinach salad from Ruth’s garden, including carrots, the last of the beets, and greenhouse-grown spinach. Connie brought cheesy stuffed mushrooms to start with cocktails, and I roasted a happy lamb shoulder and mashed my entire potato harvest. Frozen peppermint cream in wine glasses finished the meal like an expensive aperitif. Yum.

Art Shot of the Day. Who can say what it is?

Art Shot of the Day. Who can say what it is?

Last night, sharing yet another holiday feast with good friends, this time we took ourselves out. We say again and again, “We can get better food at home when we cook for ourselves,” and it’s generally true. So many among us are excellent cooks, and that way we don’t have to drive at night and can be in our PJs by nine-thirty. We are rural dwellers who are getting older. We like the comforts of our homes. But last night we made the trek in the dark through light snow over roads plowed awhile ago, the four or five miles from our various homes to convene at The Vagabond in our little downtown. Dick Berardi has been a well-known Colorado chef for many decades, and plies his trade these days in downtown Crawford. A full menu met our appetites, and in that small dining room with other friends nearby and neighbors we didn’t know we ate and drank, talked and laughed, amid all the sparkles we needed for New Year’s Eve. And we still got to get in our PJs by ten.

Deco bling with a Dali lens

Deco bling with a Dali lens

surf 'n turf

surf ‘n turf

carnivore's delight

carnivore’s delight

homemade spumoni!

homemade spumoni!

 

 

 

 

 

Overwhelming Harvest

It’s been such a busy week, I still haven’t had time to deal with all these goodies. The potatoes are still in the bowl in the pantry, cool and dark; carrots have been topped and put in the fridge unwashed, until I decide whether to can or soup or what them; the little green cherry tomatoes have been pickled!

Scarlet runner bean seeds remain in the bowl on the counter; they’re not really edible, and will go back in the ground next spring to provide gorgeous red blossoms for the hummingbirds. Yes, I’ll put them away soon, in a jar in the pantry. And the colander full of arugula is all made into pesto, both walnut and macadamia nut. Going out in mid-October and harvesting six cups of arugula is a delight I had not anticipated. The caterpillar greenhouse Katrina built for me is providing yummy results already. This afternoon I harvested cilantro for the chicken-tomatillo-cilantro enchiladas I’m serving guests tonight. Spinach and mustard greens grow slowly, and next spring’s carrots and beets are full of leaves. A row of parsley divides the winter greens from the spring root crops. I have never been so content with my yard.

Carrots out of the ground, sun drying for a few minutes before going into the basket, into the house.

My pantry, a pale echo of Connie’s, but the most food I’ve ever canned in one year. From left, tomato paste, pickled jalapeños, marinara, and the yummy pickled green cherry tomatoes. I can’t wait to open a jar of those!

Onions and garlic from the Small Potatoes Farm, peppers from Katrina, parsley, basil and thyme from my garden, all simmering on the burner next to the tomato purée squeezed with Cynthia’s hand-crank food saucing appliance: romas from Small Potatoes, big juicy slicers from Dawn’s garden.

Guitarist Michael Gulezian plays by candlelight while I craft the marinara for a spaghetti dinner the next night. To hear more or less what that sounded like, check out some of his videos on youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UqQKfvbsp-8

The threat of industry changing the face of our valley brought many disparate people together. Michael contributed to the scrapbook I made, and in the summer I heard him play and met him. We didn’t have much chance to talk. He lives in Tucson, and was passing through the North Fork on his way home after recording a new CD in Fort Collins, so he stopped by to visit. A lovely couple of evenings ensued with great music, friends, and food.