Tag Archive | gifts of subsistence

Highs and Lows in Crazy Early Spring

IMG_3384 First a word about my breakfast. I am so aware of where my food comes from. I realize it might seem off the deep end to friends in other places, other lives, other worlds. But here, in this fertile creative valley, it feels so easy and right to be mindful of every bite. Or nearly. Time to focus on slowly consuming what’s in the freezer, because in a couple of months or less we’ll have half a pig to put in there. I found a couple of rolls from Monica’s brick oven bakery, so I thawed and toasted them. Pamela’s hens are laying and I’ve got a dozen fresh eggs. Suzi called the other night and squealed “I picked up your birthday present today!” That’s when I started thinking about a homemade eggamuffin. She’d asked me a few weeks earlier which part of her pig I would like for my birthday present. Bacon! I cried without hesitation.

This year when friends announced a joint birthday party for Elena and me, she said “no presents.” Great idea, I thought. I have too much stuff! But I’d already told a couple of friends all I wanted was socks. Socks used to be a bit of a disappointment at Christmas. Imperceptibly over the years I came to appreciate the gift of socks. Maybe it began after my mother died and I no longer routinely got socks for Christmas or birthday presents. Auntie sent me socks in recent years, and I’ve been delighted to get them. So I replied to the group invitation, “Me too! No presents. Unless I can wear them or eat them.” Because I suddenly remembered the fresh oranges and other gifts of food I’ve received since living here, and I didn’t want to discourage more of those. So it was a meaningful breakfast, chock full not only of pure and local nutrients but also full of neighborly friendship and love. A fulfilling and tangible taste of community. Yum.

The lettuce was store-bought organic. The garden is crazy early waking up, but no edible greens yet except the early blue mustards, whose bright green rosettes are popping up in vibrant patches as the snow melts. All manner of other little green shoots are poking up or unfurling, crocus and iris leaves, miniature daffodil tips, curly grape hyacinth leaves, and the hardier perennials like RatibidaGallardia, and columbines. I’ve been puttering in the garden for at least a week, and the past few beautiful days we’ve started spring cleanup in earnest.

Time to break back the columbine stalks to free the new growth sprouting.

Time to break back the columbine stalks to free the new growth sprouting.

It’s only been a couple of weeks since the snow has melted off the front of the hoop house, and when I opened it the other day I realized I should have done so as soon as the east side was free of snow. The Vidalia onions survived! At least, some of them did, and when I checked, expecting frozen ground a finger depth down I was stunned to find the dirt was bone dry. So I dragged out the hoses and watered the bed deeply through the afternoon.

I'd say maybe 35% of the Vidalia onions in the hoop house made it through winter. I texted this image to David, who sent me the starts last fall from Florida. "Look who made it through the winter!" I crowed in a text.

I’d say maybe 35% of the Vidalia onions in the hoop house survived winter. I texted this image to David, who sent me the starts last fall from Florida. “Look who made it through the winter!” I crowed in a text.

"Their cousins," he wrote back with this image. Well, but to be fair, the southern cousins did not have to contend with below freezing temperatures through the winter.

“Their cousins,” he wrote back with this image. Hmmm. Well, but to be fair, the southern cousins did not have to contend with below freezing temperatures through the winter.

Three years worth of amaryllis add color and structure to the sunroom in winter. I can't eat it or wear it, but each year a friend gives me an amaryllis for Christmas. This year's amaryllis popped open this week, while the other two are growing great green leaves. One of them bloomed twice last summer out on the patio. Three years worth of amaryllis add color and structure to the sunroom in winter. I can’t eat it or wear it, but each year a friend gives me one for Christmas. This year’s amaryllis popped open this week, while the other two are growing great green leaves. One of them bloomed twice last summer out on the patio. Raven, all well again, naps outside the windows.

This year's amaryllis.

This year’s amaryllis.

Sunset on Saturday night.

Sunset on Saturday night.

With all this rejuvenation in the garden I was surprised to notice in these recent warm days that there were no bees coming out of the hive. I went closer and listened; no buzzing from inside. I realized with mixed emotions that the hive had died. Deborah came over yesterday afternoon to help cut back penstemon stalks and other seedheads, and we embarked upon the adventure of opening the hive, which revealed a Bee Tragedy…

Last Day to Order Bee Calendars, among other things

Just a friendly reminder, if anyone wants bee calendars I’ll be placing the final order tomorrow night. Email subscribers have pointed out that there is no order form in the email version of the blog; to fill out the form you’ll need to click the link to go directly to dukkaqueen.com, and follow the post to the bottom of the page. I’ll get the final tally tomorrow night and your calendars will begin buzzing their ways to you!

Everlasting snapdragons kept budding and blooming through the first snow, the second snow... Finally, after some six degree nights, they have wilted.

Everlasting snapdragons kept budding and blooming through the first snow, the second snow… Finally, after some six degree nights, they have wilted.

Ice Canyon putting on ice. We've only had a couple of one-inch snows so far, but the snow has stayed on the ground with nights dipping into the teens and days barely up to freezing, for the most part. The roller coaster has slid to a stop, and now there's time to breathe into winter hibernation.

Ice Canyon putting on ice. We’ve only had a couple of one-inch snows so far, but the snow has stayed on the ground with nights dipping into the teens and days barely up to freezing, for the most part. The roller coaster has slid to a stop, and now there’s time to breathe into winter hibernation.

The dogs continue their vigilance on daily walks to the canyon, monitoring wildlife, scenting the bucks in rut, the lions laying low.

The dogs continue their vigilance on daily walks to the canyon, monitoring wildlife, scenting the bucks in rut, the lions laying low.

Just enough snow last week to build a Rocky-sized snowman. He had so much fun and was so proud when we finished!

Just enough snow last week to build a Rocky-sized snowman. He had so much fun and was so proud when we finished!

Cynthia's sensational sesame-semolina bread.

Cynthia’s sensational sesame-semolina bread.

Earlier this month, I had a few last yellow Brandywine tomatoes that Chris and Rosie had let me pick from their drooping vines. The plants were so thick with foliage that some of the fruits in the center of the cluster had survived a hard frost. All I wanted was one last tomato sandwich. I texted up the hill to see if Cynthia wanted to trade a couple of tomatoes for two slices of her delicious bread that we’d had at Halloween.

That bread was all gone, she said, but she was baking right then, and would bring me some shortly. Around two that afternoon she arrived with a precious bread round, warm and fragrant right from the oven, in a tin she was returning. I worked the rest of the afternoon, savoring the aroma, thinking from time to time about the delicious sandwich I’d have when I quit for the day. After four or five hours, I turned off the computer, and went into the kitchen to prepare my delectable repast. The last tomato sandwich of the season! I’d been salivating all afternoon.

I took the bread out of the tin and set it on the cutting board. Then decided I’d better go pee before getting the sandwich all ready to eat. So I did that, and washed my hands, and returned to the kitchen in about two minutes. The perfect loaf of bread was gone. Disappeared. Two minutes. Vanished. Not a crumb anywhere. I looked in the microwave, thinking well maybe I had stuck it in there automatically to keep the bad dog from snagging it. Alas! I had not. It was nowhere. And there was a skulking girl catahoula in the living room, and also a slightly anxious boy dog. GRRRR! I knew who had scarfed it down in one gulp. Just the one bad dog, Raven.

I tossed her out into the cold and made her stay there a full twenty minutes, while I railed and raged about my lost dinner. It surprised me how angry I got, and mostly at her. Though I knew deep down it was my fault for leaving the bread out. Usually I take precautions with food, conscientiously putting it in a box or in the microwave or out of reach on the windowsill. But the one time all year I drop my guard, and she steals the gift bread, made special for me, special for that last tomato sandwich… Such a blow! A real first-world problem, though. I could laugh at myself and at her after a short while. And when Cynthia heard of the mishap, (as in, got my text saying I am going to fucking kill Raven!), she offered immediately to bake me another. The next evening, all was well: fresh bread, last tomato, plenty of mayonnaise, and the forgiven dog on my lap afterwards. These little disappointments, tempered by the gifts and grace of good friends and the overriding sweetness of sneaky animals. Life is always in flux.

Bad Dog forgiven, sitting on my lap.

Bad Dog forgiven, sitting on my lap.

I have it on good authority that Jigsaw Puzzle Season officially started on Thanksgiving Day, but I got the jump on game season when I found this mystery card game while cleaning the mudroom.

I have it on good authority that Jigsaw Puzzle Season officially started on Thanksgiving Day, but I got the jump on game season when I found this mystery card game while cleaning the mudroom.

Speaking of flux, I found this card game out of the blue while rearranging some furniture, and that led to a whole ‘nother string of lessons about life, or maybe just a series of delightful reminders about how the rules are always changing, and the means, and the goals. I’ve felt especially up in the air these last few days as I await a doctor visit tomorrow morning. This past year has been fraught with several physical challenges, from a dislocated clavicle to plantar fasciitis, to the lingering effects of a dizzy virus. All these pale in comparison to the news that may come tomorrow. I try not to think about it; everything can change in an instant all the time, a lion attack in the woods, a rockfall on the highway, a maniac at the movies, stroke, aneurism, pneumonia; why worry about a biopsy before you get the result?

Maybe the only thing that will be different will be a new lease on life, and renewed commitment to be grateful every living moment of every day.