More phoebes in the world can only be a good thing. I’m grateful for the four precious chicks in the second clutch, bigger and bolder each day. I’m grateful their parents are both still alive, catching grasshoppers and other insects in my yarden. I’m grateful to see two or three at a time of the first clutch flying in the woods around the house. A couple of times I’ve watched two phoebes swooping together as though in play, or dance. The more phoebes around, the fewer grasshoppers marauding my vegetables. I’m grateful for more phoebes!
They squeaked all through the party last night, with their parents flying in and out over guests’ heads. I’m not sure how many people noticed them, but I sure admired the birds’ equanimity.
This week in sunflowers… and other yellow things. Diverse native bees, including the sunflower bee (Svastra, I think: the males have unusually long antennae) are buzzing and feeding in the sunflowers, and a few goldfinches have come for seeds but fly too fast from me when I come out with the camera. Grasshoppers continue to maraud every living plant, including the gladioli, giving me a window into a bud.
Dahlias are suffering worse than glads from grasshopper predation, though these later blooms are in better shape than those in early summer; enough flower left to provide for this bumblebee. Bumblebees are so complicated, with any one species having so much variety in parts and patterns, queens and workers and males all different sizes with different color sternites, tergites, and corbicular fringes, variable leg part sizes and cheek ratios… It would take more time and focus than I have now to even try to learn them. We have about 13 species in this part of Colorado. But I can’t even remember that many. One, two, or possibly three more species below, on Prince’s Plume, mullein, and Rocky Mountain beeplant respectively.
Meanwhile, the fernbush, Chamaebateria, has also been blooming, attracting more flies than bees, and a few butterflies as well, including this Painted Lady.
But who will this adorable, soft creature turn into one day? I rescued it from porch sweepings, and dropped it into some leaf litter, but not before examining it on my breakfast plate. Its antennae surprised me, popping out when I scared it, then sucking back into the top of its round face. Here, they’re halfway back in, after shooting straight out in alarm.
Dragonfly perched on a radish seedpod.
Those horrible thunks against the window… I heard one on the west kitchen window last week and saw the body drop. Dashed outside, around the Foresteria loosing masses of purple berries to the ground, beyond the woodpile, and tiptoed through the mess of palettes, hoses, wire cages, and empty pots to find this young yellow warbler out cold on the ground. I carried him around to the south side of the house looking for a good shady perch, and set him in a sturdy crook in the apricot tree. Brought the cats inside and left him there for awhile. When I went back he had flown, so that was one good deed for that day.
Then, just this afternoon, another smack into the east window. Outside, a tiny hummingbird facedown in a geranium pot. Its beak was a little askew. In my hand it was weightless, but its minuscule heart pounded. Cats secured inside, I set the hummingbird in a shoebox in the shade, putting a twig under its barely perceptible toes, and set a small bowl of water in front of it as it wobbled on its perch. I shut the lid for awhile, then checked, and tipped the water bowl so it could reach without moving. It flicked its threadlike tongue into the water. I dumped the water and filled the bowl with nectar, and it drank again from the tipped bowl.
I shut the lid for another ten minutes; checked again, tipped again, left again. The fact that it was still alive encouraged me, though I was distressed it didn’t fly right off. Half an hour later I returned and opened the lid, tipped the bowl for another drink. I left the lid open and checked again in another half hour, dismayed to see the bird still there. But as I moved toward the bowl, the little bird cocked its little pea-head then zipped out of the box, up and out of sight! Sometimes all they need is a safe space for long enough to get their head on straight.
Not long after that, I caught a goldfinch in the sunflowers.
My fridge runneth over, and I have pine mouth. What the fuck is pine mouth? It’s been the kind of day that makes me almost so happy I could cry, except for the fact that everything I put in my mouth tastes bitter.
Several neighbors are out of town and I’m watching their plants and pets. That always makes me feel like I belong. I’m sitting down to asparagus soup I made last spring from wild asparagus picked by one of them, and romaine salad from my own raised beds. I just returned from tending two neighbors’ houses, picking up beet greens and dropping off kefir at another’s, and borrowing a book and sharing a cocktail with a fourth. One young friend brought me wild mushrooms from the mountains the other day, and another let my dogs out the past two days during some nine-hour work days away from home. We are all here for each other.
So my refrigerator is full of fresh-picked beet greens and chard, cucumbers, romaine, zucchini from the patio pot, asparagus soup, eggs from yet another nearby friend’s free-range hens, kefir I’ve kept going for almost two years from grains given by a friend in the next town north; purple bush beans, poppies, dahlias, zinnias, morning glories, scarlet runner beans, and sunflowers started from seed fill the gardens, and a few peaches ripen on the tree. Local happy pork waits in the freezer. Kittens romp in the living room and happy, healthy dogs play in the yard.
Romp in the yard and walk to the canyon.
Two beautiful peaches are almost ripe on the tree a couple of days ago, and several more are green and growing.
I turned away for a few minutes, and when I looked back a little shitmunk was eating one.
Grasshoppers have been at plague-like proportions since mid-summer, but I think the Nolo bait is finally knocking them down.
I’ve got great work this week filming a yoga guru from Brazil who’s helped heal my body over the past eight years. And I live in a valley with clean, fresh air, clear wild water, extraordinary views, and the greatest variety of local, organic food a person could hope to eat. This morning a wild turkey led her pullets down the driveway; this afternoon returning from work a two-truck traffic jam slowed me on a sharp curve on the last hill home: the first big pickup pulled wide into the downhill lane, the second slowed steeply, and I braked to see a young redtail flapping to the edge of the cliff with a squirrel. One of this year’s fledglings from the nest at the confluence of canyons. At dusk a flock of nighthawks flew overhead. August.
My heart wells up on days like this, I am so full of gratitude for how and where I live. I can’t imagine wanting anything more.
Except world peace, an end to hunger and abuse of power, reversal of climate change, respect by everyone for all life, and protection for the wild. I’ve read a lot of non-fiction lately (what’s happening to me?!) including The Sixth Extinction, and Death in the Marsh, both scientific accounts of human-caused dire circumstances facing life on earth. Only denial can help me now.
And on top of all that, I’ve got pine mouth. It’s a small but annoying thing. I first encountered it five or six years ago when all of a sudden, everything I ate or drank tasted bitter. It worried me intensely for a couple of days until I searched online, and kept running across references to people with a similar complaint who had recently eaten pine nuts, the commercial kind grown in China. I figured that had to be the problem, because I had eaten grocery store pine nuts a day or two before this unfortunate gustatory distress. That time, it lasted well over three weeks, and was really awful.
This time, it hasn’t been quite so bad, and after six days is already diminished. Recently I ran across a reference to the condition which called it “pine mouth.” I betrayed my intuition at the store last week, when I picked a pack of pine nuts off the strip and purchased them. In that moment when I pulled the package from the hanging plastic, I thought, or maybe felt, a warning: pine mouth. Should I drop that bag and pick another? They all looked the same. It’s often hard for me to discern the difference between intuition and neurosis, so I laughed at myself and dropped the bag in the cart. I made a special dish for another couple of friends who needed dinner, and ate a bowlful myself.
The next day I tasted the first twinge of bitter in some kefir, and some trail mix. Since then it’s been everything. Granola, chili, salad, peanut butter and jelly sandwich, M&Ms, vanilla ice cream, asparagus soup… all of it bitter. It’s bearable. In the grand scheme of things, it’s a drop in the bucket. I’m still the luckiest girl alive. As the yoga guru says, “If you know what it is, it’s just pain.”
I know what it is, and it’s just bitter. Of course, I don’t really know what it is, or why it happens. Does anyone? But it will go away. And in context of all the complex sweetness in my life, any day that pine mouth is the worst I have to contend with I am grateful.
Spectacularly weird weather continues to give us extraordinary skies, sunrise through sunset and beyond.
The kittens continue to make themselves at home, gradually extending their territory one windowsill at a time.
This morning they claimed the Cradle of Civilization, and because they were too cute in it, and because this is a game of give and take, I ceded the basket and the garden table to them. I made it clear, though, that the tables on either side of that one, and my desk in the corner, are off limits. As they explore the house further each day there is a constant negotiation of territory.
Meanwhile the garden roller coaster opened the throttle a long time ago.
The raised beds, looking north from inside the horseshoe. Dahlias from seed, gladioli, tomatoes.
The raised beds from the entrance, looking south towards the bush beans and melons.
Tomatillos have set a new burst of flowers after I fed them last week.
I may have made a mistake. I gave bloom food to all the flowers and vegetables last week, and it seems to have done some of them good, the flowers, the squashes, beans, eggplants, but I fear I’ve undone my tomatoes and tomatillos. They’re sending off prolific new shoots with blossoms, and some of that new growth on the tomatillos is turning yellow. What do I add to help them, and should I cut off all those flower shoots? And what should’ve I given them instead of bloom food (1-4-5)? Bloom foods I’ve used before have said “for flowers and fruits.” This one I bought in bulk, and don’t really know much about it. I used the same company’s grow formula (3-2-4) earlier this summer, maybe more than once. I think I also did a bloom feed earlier. I thought that doing it last week would help the fruits that were already on there, but instead I think I may have sabotaged them. Live and learn.
Then I called my next door neighbor, who has a true subsistence garden for his family, and asked him what I’d done wrong. He said his tomatoes are doing the same thing, lots of new shoots with flowers, and he didn’t give them anything. So that made me feel better. He agreed maybe I should cut off the new shoots. I started doing that and suddenly it seemed like I was cutting too much growth. It’s been a hard year for a lot of vegetables, late to go in because of the cold, way too much rain leaching nutrients from the soil early and compacting the beds with some clay in them, then hot and dry baking those beds, then cool and wet, then super windy, then rainy, then hot and dry… Fluctuations.
What’s making the tomatillos turn yellow? Is it too much water? Grasshoppers eating stems? Competition from the snake gourd next door?
Plus the grasshoppers! Everyone is complaining about their plague-like populations. Fortunately in my yard there is so much growth of all the ornamentals, from the wet spring, that they have plenty to eat without doing too much damage to the food crops. Still, I’ve been cutting back spent beds where they’re congregating, and setting out Nolo bait stations every few days. Maybe I’m making a little headway, I can’t tell, but the little piles of Nolo get eaten before the afternoon thunderstorms arrive.
A beautiful combination, Callirhoe involucrata, or poppy mallow, with creeping germander, and full of native bees for the past few weeks. But also, if you look closely, crawling with grasshoppers.
Despite the grasshoppers, there are some nice tomatoes forming, and the marigolds are happily blooming.
Our very first little gherkins!
And finally, back inside to kittens. I’m still not sure about their names. I’ve been trying on several different names for each of them in the past couple of weeks. For Ojo, the little black boy, I’ve considered Pepper and Alcide. For the tortoiseshell girl whose working name was Ajo, I’ve considered Garlic, Cinnamon, and Sookie. But in the back of my mind I can’t get past the soft, sweet custart-colored patch on her tummy, and I think I’m going to call her Flan. A as in father, not as in Ann. It sounds as soft and sweet as she can sometimes be, and if the name does make the kitten, I prefer that to a spicier moniker.
Kittens, they are each other’s toys, and I have become their furniture. Flies in the windows teach them to jump. The big dog lies on the futon while the girl kitten stalks a fly by his nose. She creeps, she inches forward tensed, then pounces, lightly, on the cushion by his face; he remains still, watching this curious puppy that has several times hissed at him.
Ojo with the beautiful green eyes.
He’s claimed the forgotten dusty shelf in the laundry closet.
The little black cat rolls and purrs on my chest as I write. His sister sits on a forbidden table. I disrupt him to go scoop her up and bring her back to my lap in the recliner, disrupting his nap preparations. He almost seems to be jealous of her, curled on my chest, settling for one of the first times on the bed he claimed last week. Eventually all three fall asleep, Stellar where he lay, Ojo in the window bed, and Flan, finally, on the footrest between my feet. I find myself feeling more relaxed and happier than I have in a long time, and I know that living with these little kittens is good for my heart. And if it’s good for my heart, it’s good for my art.
First BLT of the season was not half as satisfying as I’d anticipated.
My first BLT of the season was a mess. I only had two slices of bread, which I over-toasted. The only organic “happy pig” bacon available when I shopped the other day was the thick cut, which is great with eggs and toast, but doesn’t work so well in a sandwich. Especially one with over-toasted bread. A rainstorm came just as I was preparing to go pick a few leaves of lettuce from what’s left of the garden, but I did have some left in the fridge. I wanted that sandwich now.
Saturday there were two perfect yellow tomatoes on the plant Fred gave me. They didn’t release when I tried to pluck them that day, so I decided to wait til today, since I was having dinner out last night. I was out all day at a video job. When I went to pick those two perfect tomatoes, there was only one. At lunchtime, Deborah assured me, when she came to give the cat his pill for me, there were two. She also assured me she didn’t pick one. Where did it go? It was in a narrow fenced bed.
Those two tomatoes were priceless. Or, if not priceless, at least extremely costly. When I think of what I pay for water to grow the garden, and what I pay for help building soil and preparing the beds, and then I think of how I watched all but that and one other tomato plant get eaten down by the old doe just as fast as they could grow, I come to the painful conclusion that I’m financially and energetically better off shopping the farmers’ markets or getting a half share in a CSA.
That old doe. Over the course of three days in mid-June, just after I’d eaten the first few peas, she mowed down both rows. One afternoon I was in the kitchen and looked out the window to see her munching the violas from a pot on the patio. Another time, I was working at my desk, and the worthless dogs were napping on the couch because it was “too hot” for them outside. That’s what they said, anyway. I chanced to look up and see her enjoying the blossoms and first little fruits on the big cherry tomato. A few weeks later, when Chris and Dave were here with three extra catahoulas on the grounds, my friend looked out and saw her chowing down on the parsley.
It’s my fault. Earlier in the summer I walked out and found her at the edge of the yard eating snowberry leaves. That was ok. She’s so old and grey-faced. I felt sorry for her, and I have snowberry to spare. So I didn’t shoo her off, and didn’t call the dogs off their couch, where they were that time because they “thought it might rain.” And so, because I’m a softy and the dogs aren’t doing their job, she thinks she has carte blanche in my garden.
Well, she’s only half the problem. Or less. The grasshoppers this year are voracious. They’ve eaten down all the brussels sprouts, made lace of the acorn squash leaves, and are continually topping the scarlet runner beans. They or the doe are keeping the beet greens and romaine trimmed almost to the ground. For some other reason, the bell peppers are stunted, the melon vines are barely bigger than when I put them in the ground two months ago, and several of the jalapeños haven’t even blossomed yet.
There’s almost nothing coming to fruition in my garden except the zucchinis and those two perfect golden tomatoes. I mean, that one. Oh well. First-World problems. But it hasn’t been a total bust. I got a platter of jalapeño poppers out of it, and five heads of red leaf lettuce. And tonight, at least, I wasn’t out of mayonnaise.
Cream cheese and bacon stuffed jalapeños for last night’s summer feast with neighbors.
Lazy dog can’t keep deer out of the yard but happily buries their bones in the woods.
And the day started and ended with a rainbow. This rare morning rainbow over the mesa where I live was shot by Pamela from her ranch across the valley…
… right about the time I crawled out of bed and shot this sunrise beyond her house.
As I finished the over-toasted, under-tomatoed BLT, the sky gave up another rainbow.