Tag Archive | garden

New Favorite Pasta

I’m grateful for rainsoft dirt that just begged me to go barefoot on the walk home this morning.

Yesterday was Boyz Lunch, and I made them what turns out to be my new favorite pasta ever, Ali Slagle’s tortellini with mortadella and peas. Since there’s no mortadella in Delta County, I substituted shredded chicken thigh for the meat, but otherwise made the recipe as directed. Amy texted the ten minute video and it took barely longer than that to make the dish.

It’s all made in one skillet, and I don’t see any reason to ever cook tortellini in boiling water again. Not one of them broke open. First you lay the pasta in a hot skillet coated with oil, and just let it cook til it browns lightly on the bottom. Then add frozen peas and meat, stir, pour in chicken stock, bring to a boil, cover and simmer. When the pasta is almost done, add grated parmesan…

… cold cubed butter (which makes the sauce silky instead of oily, she says), and once that’s melted in, squeeze half a lemon, stir, and serve. Before any cooking, though, she heated chopped pistachios in a little oil, then tossed them with lemon zest and a bit of salt, to add a crunchy topping to the creamy pasta. Served with homemade sourdough toast, it was so simple, so delicious, so filling. We finished off the last of the chocolate mousse bars, which I had frozen, and which are even better right out of the freezer than the fridge. So grateful, every week, for Boyz Lunch.

The garden is finally starting to thrive, now that the nights have warmed up a little, the soil has finally warmed also, and a bit of rain falls now and then. It was a rough start, but one zucchini is thriving, and the cucumbers are full of flowers. One eggplant also thrives while two are starting to catch up; the big one is blooming already.

The fennel continues to astonish with its gorgeous growth, and two types of beans in with the onions are all doing well. I’m grateful for the luxury of being able to grow my own food: the time, water, space, acquired knowledge and skills; help through the years to develop the garden; and inner qualities conducive to contentment, including curiosity, patience, acceptance, perseverance, and adaptability.

I’m grateful for Wren, and for her growing online fan club. This one’s for you!

I’m also grateful for a couple of unexpected presents. My friend Brad went to Sweden and I asked him to bring me back a doll. He brought the perfect little doll! She’s right at home with the other tiny dolls and curios from around the world. Some of these are authentic artifacts, some antiques, some handmade or carved by people I know and some by artists I never met; some are new and some are at least a century old. Each has a story, a meaning, an association. I’m grateful for all these little treasures–and for being able to remember most of their stories!

And I’m grateful for this present that arrived in the mail… May we let our fury rise into action: Vote with and for women this November!

A New Bread

I’m grateful to find a new bread recipe that I could make in a day, and to bake for the first time in my cast iron Dutch Oven. Grateful to have a cast iron Dutch Oven, and all the ingredients in the pantry to make the bread. I started it this morning, baked it this afternoon, and ate it this evening. It wasn’t perfect: didn’t rise as much as I’d have liked, and didn’t cook as thoroughly as it should have. I think I know where I went wrong, and I’ll try again. Maybe though, like my lungs, it just doesn’t work the way it should at this altitude. We had to leave for a few hours and it may have risen too much.

But I was grateful to get Wren to the vet for a heartworm test (grateful they can test for that), and really grateful it was negative; so was her giardia followup, so she’s in good shape. We relaxed after our long trip to the city, with zoom cocktails in the garden.

This Precious Day

I’m grateful today for the capacity to participate fully in this life. From our early morning amble through our own trees to a late snack of sweet potato fries while exploring the rainforest of Gunung Leuser National Park with Barack Obama, I thoroughly enjoyed this one precious day that will never come again.

A late morning phone call gave me an opportunity to sit in the car again until Wren came and joined me. I’m grateful for the conversation, and for how well car training went though you’d never know it from her expression. After about twenty minutes I urged her off my lap into her seat, snapped her in, rolled up the windows halfway, and drove all the way to the mailbox and back. She was a little tense and showed it with a few big yawns, but she stayed calm. Back at the house, she leapt from the car and danced for joy. That was enough for one day.

Still feeling trepidation about food and cooking, I made another cheese sandwich for lunch. I tried out the cilantro salt but won’t do that again, even a tiny bit was way too salty for a little sandwich. I got a few projects done outside and in before crashing at three o’clock and napping til five. I’m grateful I have that option. I’m grateful for the Mindful Life Community I meet with on Monday night zooms, and for watching “Love on the Spectrum” while FaceTiming with my Kiki on the west coast. I’m grateful for having technology in my little mud hut that brings the world to me. And I’m grateful for the world of living beings that I have the opportunity to nurture inside and outside my hut every day.

I’m grateful for the first peppers now appearing on the Leutschauer paprika plants. The other pepper varieties, though smaller, are not far behind in flowering. After plucking the first few tomato flowers I’m letting them grow now too: though tomorrow is officially the first day of summer, the growing season here feels almost half over already.

Unbroken

Bumblebee on native thistle down by the pond, Wren poking around for something to put in her mouth.
I’m grateful for arugula, or rocket as it’s sometimes called because it germinates and grows so fast. A second harvest from the single short row I planted turned into this Peppery, Creamy Greens with Eggs recipe yesterday, including perennial onions and a few leaves of orach from the garden, heavy cream, and Bad Dog Ranch eggs.
Then I enjoyed it watching a video of “Bridge Over Troubled Water” that Dan Rather had linked to in his newsletter the other day.
I’m grateful again today for PEAS, harvesting all the 2″-3″ snow peas on the vines this evening, and popping them in the freezer. More are on the way, and I am happy to see how long they’ll continue to flower and fruit.

Wren and Rocky rode with me to get the mail last week before Rocky went home, and I stopped to snap this cute picture of them poking their noses out the windows. Wren is snapped into her car seat with the strap just long enough that she can enjoy the fresh air. I wondered a couple of times when she’s ridden this way with the window all the way down whether she could (or would) try to jump out, and it’s one reason I keep her snapped in. It did occur to me that it was possible for her to jump out even snapped in, but I didn’t think it was likely. And then today, it happened. In just the same place I took this picture a week ago, she leapt out the window and hung there by her collar scrabbling at the door. It was a horrifying moment, and like a cartoon at the same time. Her little face looking in terrified, her body hanging by the collar and thrashing.

I pulled over and jumped out as fast as I could, the whole few seconds wondering if she’d break her neck or slip out of the collar, and made it around to the window in time to prevent either and plop her back into her car seat, still attached by the strap. An orange jeep slowed as I returned to my door and I waved them on in thanks–they must have seen the whole thing unfold. Back inside I rolled up the window, but she was so upset she jumped to the back seat and tried to strangle herself again so I unclipped her and rolled up all windows but mine. Crossed the road to the mailbox, picked up the mail, drove down to the middle of the stretch to make a safe U-turn as always, and back to the driveway, back to the house. All the while in some altered state of shock and gratitude. “You could have died,” I kept telling her, “I can’t believe you’re still alive.” So I come to the end of this day grateful that both her neck and my heart remain unbroken.

If you look real hard you can make out the faint outline of the West Elk Mountains through the smoke haze that deepened throughout this windy day. Celebrating our own aliveness after her brush with death we took a sunset walk, grateful in a melancholy way that the fires aren’t in our woods today, and feeling deep compassion for the people, trees, and other wild creatures whose lives have been upended by yet another climate-chaos fueled wildfire this summer.
For current wildfire information check out Inciweb from the National Wildfire Coordinating Group. Today’s smoke here is attributed to the Pipeline fire just north of Flagstaff, AZ, which started yesterday morning and grew to 5000 acres by noon today… Earth’s climate is broken.

Peas

I’m grateful for peas, and lettuce, and broccolini, and radishes from the garden tonight.

I’m grateful for my two mammal companions (and also my reptile companion) who walk the woods with me in the cooler mornings, and hang out in the garden with me later.

I had to look up these snow peas since I couldn’t remember the variety, and I’m grateful that I did. They are golden sweet snow peas, and are best picked when they’re in their yellow stage at two to three inches long, before they turn green as the first couple just did overnight. I ate one outside and brought one in for salad, but tomorrow I will start picking the flat yellow pods for stir fries or freezing. It seems like just yesterday they were but blossoms…

I’m grateful for this rogue romaine that sprouted on its own, and for the paprika pepper thriving, and the horseradish that overwintered in this pot.

42+

The most perfect western tiger swallowtail I have ever seen. She must have just emerged from her cocoon. Not a tear or tatter on her as she feeds on the perennial onions in full bloom the past couple of weeks.

It’s been a challenging few weeks. Between internal and external events, I’m tired all the time. It’s hard to rise to each occasion. But from this glum place, I’ve reached a conclusion: I need to return to my daily gratitude practice. And why bother with a thousand words, when a couple of numerals and some pictures can do the job? So, catching up for the past couple of weeks, here are just some of the things I’m grateful for…

Honeybee on the crabapple tree a couple of weeks ago.

42+ is a gratitude practice from the Active Hope course I just completed this evening. It’s freely available online, and one of these days I’ll probably facilitate a group engagement similar to the one that just ended, hosted by a friend. Today, I’m grateful for (4) having been given the opportunity to take the course, having made the commitment to take it and participated in it fully, and for the wonderful classmates I shared the eight-week journey with. I’m grateful to (2) Deborah Sussex for offering the course for free, and for her skillful and open-hearted facilitating of it through an increasingly difficult time in our country, when active hope is needed more than ever. The + part is how I will express my gratitude: right here, right now. Many thanks, Deb, Denali, Kes, Renee, and everyone else, for the inspiring experience of virtual connection.

I don’t know western bumblebees well enough to identify this one who was enjoying the lilacs in their glory. I also enjoyed them every single day of their bloom, snipping a couple of clusters each evening to bring inside for their fleeting, saturating scent.
I’m grateful for Zoom cooking with Amy a couple of weeks ago…
…grateful for Topaz and Wren getting along…
…for the claret cup blossoms…
…for garden asparagus from Kim, and for pesto with cashews and garden arugula, and for the Instagram inspiration to combine them…
I’m grateful that Garden Buddy had some extra plastic jugs after a well-meaning neighbor crushed all those I’d been saving to use for frost protection. Grateful to have all the little peppers and tomatoes in the ground, just in time for the last freeze–ha!–but saved by the jugs.
Grateful for Boyz Lunch again outside, with a fantastic frittata and orange chiffon cake…
… and for the silly pleasure of a successful latté stencil.
I’m grateful for daily Wordle laughs with cousin Melinda, and the gentle, mind-tickling competition between us.
Grateful for pea flowers a few days ago, and the first fragile pea pods just forming today.
Grateful for this bean sampler and a couple of extra treats from this small, fabulous heirloom bean company, and grateful to SB for turning me onto them. Looking forward to making many healthful meals with these dried goodies as the garden harvest comes in.
Grateful for time with this little old man who stayed with us the past week while his mama traveled. Almost fifteen, and I’ve known him since he was a pup. Dear old Rocky is grey and wobbly now, but still full of spunk in the morning. He’s teaching Wren some good habits, and we’re trying to preclude her learning some bad ones as well.
And finally, I’m grateful for this little cuddlebug, who softens my heart more and more each day with her irrepressible Piglet energy and her unconditional love.

Loving

Loving may be the healthiest thing we can do. It doesn’t matter so much who or what we love, but that we engage our hearts in connection with other living beings. I love my crabapple tree, and make time to appreciate it every day that it’s in bloom, and as its petals fade and blow off in these planetary winds, settling on top of the pond; and I pay attention to it through its fruit growing cycle, and as its leaves turn in autumn, and as they fall off toward winter.

I love this new little dog, and feel tenderness when I see her fall asleep in the sun while I sit under the crabapple tree sipping morning coffee. I found the original shelter she came from in New Mexico on Facebook, and messaged them to find out more about her. No wonder she’s so well-behaved. She wasn’t a stray, she was an owner surrender: she came from a family with children and cats, but there was another baby on the way and the mother couldn’t manage it all. I look at Wren sometimes and think, How could anyone give up this little dog? And then I remember something I heard the other day: a friend said, “Any time I think of someone How could you do that…?, the Universe eventually says, Lemme show you….” When we judge others for their choices, we often find ourselves before long in a similar situation making similar choices that we never thought we would or could. Roe v. Wade comes to mind…

So instead of wondering how someone could have given up this precious little being, I asked the shelter to please let that woman know, if they had the opportunity, that her dog has found a safe and happy forever home, where she is making an old lady a wonderful companion. She jumps up from her pink princess bed to follow me every time I go outside, and feels safe enough now to explore the yard on her own, but she comes running whenever I call her. She’s progressing well in her turtle-hunting training, and investigates the compost bins more frequently than is strictly necessary.

This evening, in the weird yellow-grey light of dusty-windy sunset, she followed me into the lilac pen, where we circled the blooming shrubs just wishing the phone could capture the heady aroma as well as the shifting colors. This year lilac flowers are profuse, though still fleeting. I make time multiple times each day to spend attention on the lilacs, loving these shrubs in this brief, abundant, drunken season.

This Week in Tiny Lives

Her name is Wren. It came to me last week as I pondered “Ready,” which she responded to, and “Fen,” which I kind of liked better. Then those two merged into Wren, a sweet, delicate, little brown bird. Wrennie. She doesn’t know it starts with a different letter than Ready, and she came to it immediately; maybe thinking I’d developed a sudden speech impediment with that middle consonant.

Then, several people said, “Oh, like Ren and Stimpy?” What’s that? I had no idea there was a cartoon about some revolting creatures called “Ren, an emotionally unstable and sociopathic Chihuahua; and Stimpy, a good-natured yet dimwitted cat.” So no, NOT like that Ren; like a canyon wren, or a house wren, or a Carolina wren…

In the woods, May is the blooming month. Lots of little lives burgeoning.

Topaz is adapting to walks with Wren, and continues to examine the kittens from a few feet away now and then, but mostly just continues to live her prima donna life, going about her routine with her pretty little nose in the air.
Wren is fascinated with the kittens, as they are with her. When I open the crate to bring them out to eat, she is right there, and helps corral them as they scatter.
After his setback, Smokey went back on the bottle for a few days, but is now eating a slurry of canned kitten food mixed with formula.

Little Tigger fluctuated between eating well and gaining a bit, then losing weight. Last Wednesday he seemed listless. We had an appointment with a vet for the next day, and I had to go to the audiologist that afternoon, so I called a local foster expert, and she suggested giving him straight honey with a syringe. I did that for a couple of doses and he vomited after each dose. I cut back the dose and lengthened the interval and he seemed to keep it down and perk up. That night I offered him the food/formula slurry and he ate it well. Thursday morning he ate well again. I took them all to the vet with some stool samples, and the diagnosis was that he was “loaded with parasites.” He was also tested for FIV, and fortunately was negative. They gave him subcutaneous fluids to hydrate him. All three kittens were dosed for parasites, and we were sent home with medicine to administer daily for a week.

Tigger ate well Thursday and Friday, cleaning his own bowl and finishing off Smokey’s when he left some in it. I was so relieved to have him sorted out and on the mend. This morning, when I came down at seven, he lay limp in the corner as his brothers climbed and called for breakfast. I set them in their boxes with food, and picked up the tiny boy. It was clear to me that he was dying. I cradled him in my shirt and sang to him. He lay there, softly ticking… I thought it was a death rattle. After awhile, it dawned on me that it was a slow-motion purr.

I remembered Foster Friend telling about holding a dying puppy on her chest overnight, dosing it with honey, and how it came back to life. I thought about dehydration. I mixed a little water with maple syrup, and began to drip little bits into his mouth. He swallowed, his eyes brightened; I thought either I was prolonging his agony or I was reviving him. When I saw him lick his paw, I committed to the revival story. For the next few hours I gave him intermittent drips of fluid. He meowed a few times, yowled a few times, rested quietly, swallowed more, looked up at me… As I meditated and then talked with friends on zoom, he got very quiet and still. By the end of our conversation he was dead. I wrapped him in a cotton square, and buried him in the garden with Stellar.

I felt sad. I’m grateful for the skill of equanimity. Through the morning I kept things in perspective. Even as he lay warm and loved against my heart, there were thousands of kittens around the world dying of parasites in awful surroundings; there were human babies suffering malnutrition, neglect, and worse; there were species going extinct, and wars ravaging lives and cultures; there were politicians lying and corporations conniving; there were good people dropping dead in the prime of their life, and a pandemic surging again with a new, even more contagious variant. In a world of suffering, I loved a tiny kitten through his short little life and his inevitable death. It wasn’t much, but it was something.

Meanwhile, more little lives continue sprouting in the garden. The first potato leaves emerge from mulch as tiny peach buds open. I turn my attention to the ample beauty and life that remains to be nurtured as the garden rollercoaster ramps up…

Orange tulips gladden the end of a raised bed…
…and the crabapple tree glows gloriously.

Resurrection

Male and female evening grosbeaks and house finches flocking together rested in the top of the birch tree the other morning.

It’s been a long, cold, lonely winter, did I mention that before? I had a lot of recovering to do from the drawn-out demise of Stellar, which was physically and emotionally grueling; and actually quite a bit of settling into a new normal without some of my closest friends who also died over the past two summers, from Ojo to Auntie to Michael and more. This spring does feel a bit like a resurrection for me, and what better day to acknowledge that than Easter Sunday?

Looming larger these days in the back of my mind is how will Topaz receive a new addition to the household? I am pretty much ready for a dog!

I pulled out the new husband-camera which has also lain dormant all winter, and realized I had no idea how to use it, so I also pulled out the manual and spent some hours today figuring out all the knobs and buttons — most of the bells and whistles will have to wait for another day. I haven’t even attached the ‘good’ lens yet but still got some pretty pictures. The two nights of deep freeze last week did not destroy all chance of apricots this year, at least up on this mesa. The tree was loaded with buds, and while most of them had just opened before the freeze and are now toast, it seems that many unopened buds survived and are blooming in this next round of balmy weather. I hope that the valley orchards fared as well.

It was this Mourning Cloak who arrived yesterday that inspired me to bring out the big camera and get ready to wallow in my favorite pastime again. Last year, the ‘good’ lens lost its auto-focus and would have cost a lot to repair. So I dove in headfirst and sprung for a camera upgrade and two new lenses. It helped a lot that I could trade in the old husband and all his lenses at B&H Photo, my go-to AV store in NYC. They offer great help over the phone, and reliable goods and shipping.
While I waited for the butterfly to come in range of my seat on the bench, I missed a bumblebee but got a mediocre snap of a honeybee. There were just a few other small native bees buzzing around; maybe because it was windy, and is still kind of cold at night… or maybe because there are fewer bees even than last year. The loss of the almond tree last year has cut their spring smorgasbord sadly in half.
Not many native pollinators seem to care for forsythia, but this western yellow-jacket was enjoying having it all to itself.

“At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.”

Albert Schweitzer

The Mindful Life Community daily guidance this morning brought suddenly and vividly to mind the journalism teacher in high school, Dottie Olin, who became a lifelong friend. She inspired me then, and I became editor of the paper. For three decades we stayed in touch, visited when I was in town, and her joie de vivre and boundless joy in life grounded me in unstable times. I was grateful to visit her often during the months I lived in Virginia while my mother was dying, and we became even closer. She continued to inspire and support me well into her 80s. Shortly after my mom died and I moved back home to Colorado, I got a note that she was dying of lung cancer. She said, “It’s nobody’s fault but my own,” as she had smoked all her life. She was at peace because she had lived fully and with so much love. I was devastated to lose her as well as my mom in the same year, 2004. I hadn’t thought about her recently, and love that she came to mind so vibrantly as someone who lighted a fire in me and rekindled it through the years. Just the thought of her this morning lifted my energy and got me outside and moving around in the garden, motivated to make the most of this beautiful spring day, this precious day that will never come again.