Tag Archive | harvest

Irony

I’m grateful today for the dried beans I harvested at the end of summer, just now all thoroughly desiccated and locked into storage. On the right are the rattlesnake pole beans, which I planted for their fresh (immature, they call them) string beans. On the left below are the scarlet runner beans, of which I grew only one plant, and only for the flowers for hummingbirds; the immature beanpods are not that tasty and they stick on you like a burr. And that little jar on top? That’s the only bean I planted with the intention of harvesting dry: the tepary beans.

I bought them elsewhere, but this native seed site offers a wide variety. I knew they were drought tolerant, but didn’t realize until I heard Lance talking about them on “As the Worm Turns” that they really prefer dryer soil. My mistake was giving them plenty of water. I’m grateful for the irony of overwatering beans in a drought year: I have learned a valuable lesson in water conservation. I’m optimistic that next season I’ll pick the right time and place to plant them, and be able to harvest more than just one bowl of chili’s worth.

I’m grateful for my little helper as I continued to put the garden to bed this afternoon; grateful to have time and energy on one of our last warm days to roll up some hoses and tuck storage tubs and tools under shed roofs before the snow flies.

Scarlet Runner Beans 2

I’m grateful again today for many things, including rain, and people who care about the planet and democracy and integrity, and I’m grateful for these scarlet runner beans, finally all dried and hulled and ready for storage. I’m grateful too for another day with Stellar, who slept for most of it. I’m grateful for my own bed to which I shall retire shortly.

Chuño

Today’s gratitude stretches back to the first week I moved to this valley in 1992. I saw a flyer for a dance class for women, and there I met several whom I still know today. Though I haven’t seen them much since those first few years, I am grateful for the warm welcome and sense of belonging they offered when I was new here, and grateful to remain connected with them through the web of community and common interests.

I’m grateful for community radio KVNF, and for their gardening show “As the Worm Turns,” and for an episode a couple of months ago when I called in with a potato question. Then Tara, one of those first friends from that dance class, called in with a potato answer. Tara and her husband have been adopted into a community on an island in Peru’s Lake Titicaca. Here is one of my favorite poems of hers about her Taquile family.

I had forgotten about that poem until Tara called into the Worm after I did, and told us about chuño again. Lance reported the next week on the show that he had made some, and I had by then harvested some tiny potatoes and frozen them. I didn’t have a huge potato crop, so I kept adding to the chuño bag in the freezer until I had finished harvesting and then left it until I had time to focus on it. With the garden largely put to bed, tomatillos all processed, and most of the tomatoes and peppers finished, I took out the chuño bag, let them thaw, and then smashed them with a heavy-bottomed glass on a plate.

After a few days in the drying pantry (which hangs in the living room not far from the woodstove from mid-summer through fall), the smashed potatoes were dry enough to put in a jar. Tara says she uses them in soups and other dishes throughout winter, and I look forward to enjoying their particular flavor/texture sensation this winter, maybe after I’ve eaten the last of the fresh potatoes. I’m grateful for living in community through time, for KVNF, for the Worms, for Jeffy the technical heart of KVNF, for Tara, for her cross-cultural horticultural wisdom and her good heart, for potatoes in general and specifically those that grew in my garden this summer, and I’m grateful for learning yet another way to preserve food: chuño.

Chuño dried and ready for the jar this afternoon, a mix of red, russet, and Yukon gold baby potatoes.

Home Cooking with Stellar

It was a frenzied morning, in a good way, and a relief to finally sit down with coffee and the cinnamon bun that Honey Badger brought me yesterday. I’m grateful for the ongoing support of my community, friends who have known Stellar all of his life, too, and care about him and about me. Their offers to pick up and drop off things in town for me have enabled me to devote my energy to this remarkable process of hospice caring for my best friend.

Garden Buddy brought over muffins and tortellini minestrone this morning; she and her guys were on their way to run errands, including a couple of mine. I let the soup thaw in the fridge for tomorrow. I needed to do something with the last eggplants before they disappeared in the back of the produce drawer and had to end up compost. I’ve been planning this dish for weeks, and trying to get it made for days. I’m grateful I had energy today to make this time-consuming but utterly worth it recipe.

I’m grateful for farm fresh eggs from the Bad Dog Ranch, as well as homemade marinara and eggplants from my own garden.

We missed Amy, but I sure enjoyed a leisurely couple of hours meandering between the joy of cooking with a martini in the kitchen, and paying attention to Stellar in the living room. He watched me the whole time, and persuaded me to turn off the TV and turn on some soft instrumental jazz; then he tried out his howl just to see if I’d come, which I naturally did. I’m grateful for a relaxing evening home cooking with Stellar.

The three-step coating process supposedly guaranteed a crispy fried eggplant…
… and indeed they were perfectly crunchy on the outside and soft in the middle. I had to try one. The rest I layered in the casserole dish with marinara and fresh mozzarella, then baked for forty minutes.
Stellar agitated for more food the whole time I was cooking, and finally consented to patience when I explained that he’d get his own bowl of dinner when it was finished.
I mixed his with a bit of kibble just to stretch it, and he loved it.
He also loved dessert, even though it was only a spoonful.
I’m grateful for my fingers in the feathers of his neck fur, and the feel of his warm velvety ear.

Everyone’s death is as uniquely their own as their lives are. He’s slowly going. I’m in no rush. The more I surrender to what is, settle into the moments that we have left, the less anxious I am about it. I’m grateful for these sweet evenings we’ve been sharing for months, now winding down; grateful for one more evening with him, knowing they’re running out.

Stellar’s Last Days: Stretching

I’m grateful for another mild day to permit Boyz Lunch, grateful Stellar is still here to delight John, grateful to see how happy these two are to see each other.

I feel like a new mother. I spend an hour lying on the floor with him, soothing him to sleep, and then I roll over, get up, and go in the kitchen to do dishes, or wrap another set of pills for him, or take my own night pills, and I turn around and he’s there behind me, panting, hungry, wanting, needing. His appetite is insatiable these days. His energy is greater than mine. His confusion is increasing. His mobility looks good when people come around, and they say He’s doing great! But they see him at his best, alert with steroids, and the excitement of their attention. When it’s just the two of us, he stumbles a lot more; when we walk through the woods, his back legs frequently tangle and stretch out behind him, and he hops on his front legs for a few steps, dragging his back legs on the tops of his feet.

He remains the most beautiful creature I have ever known, and I’m grateful for all that he has taught me and continues to teach me about unconditional love. At the same time that I’m exhausted, that it’s a kind of torture to watch his up and down decline, I’m grateful for each day that he wakes alert and eager for a walk, that his eyes follow me around the house, that I get to spend time in the evening lying beside him massaging his muscles, holding his pressure points, feeling his pulses, hearing his breath, looking into those trusting brown eyes, loving this soul that has never let me down.

Though I have whinged a bit recently about the extra work entailed in caring for his infirmities, I’m grateful each day for the accommodations and adaptations I’m able to make, in order to make his last days more comfortable, and to be more at ease with him, and a little less precious about meself. I’m grateful for stretching my capacities for acceptance and compassion. I’m grateful for this ongoing surrender in service to another sentient being, a being as worthy of my regard as any other.

I’m also grateful today for wrapping up the canning season with the last batch of salsa, at last! Grateful, too, that a few tomatoes remain ripe and ready for sandwiches and cooking, and a few more green tomatoes ripen in a basket and on hanging vines, to carry me another month or so with fresh fruits. I’m grateful for a bountiful harvest this year that will provide nutritious homegrown food through winter, as well as a few gifts for friends and family. I’m grateful to live in this little mud hut in the woods, with a good dog, a sweet cat, a quiet tortoise, a garden, friends, and solitude. Above all I give thanks.

Putting the Garden to Bed

I’m grateful for putting the garden to bed before the first snow today at this elevation, which continues after dark lightly frosting every leaf and limb white prior to the first real freeze. I started a week ago, and have been whittling at it for a few hours each day. I’m grateful for putting the garden to bed after a thrilling season. The counter is loaded with the last ripe tomatoes, tomatillos are all put up in the pantry, heaps of parsley are distilled into pesto and frozen cubes; rattlesnake and runner bean pods dry in large paper bags; eggplants and carrots fill the fridge. I’m living the dream.

I’m grateful for putting the garden to bed with tips and tricks from gardeners online. I’ve hung tomato vines to ripen in the upstairs room, beside pepper plants with wrapped rootballs. Some gardeners advised misting the roots, while others just left them dry. I compromised with a quick twist of plastic bag to prevent them from instantly desiccating in this climate, maybe giving the peppers a bit more nourishment as they redden.

I’m grateful for another day with my little helper, covered in snow. Like in the movie Awakenings, he is transformed with drugs, and like those patients he will eventually relapse into inevitable decline. His resilience astounds me. He wants to be alive.

Self-Compassion

Grateful that Stellar made it to the canyon rim another time… wondering if this ‘dying’ story is all in my head… knowing it isn’t, and patience is essential. Choosing to place my attention on the joyful times we share in a day, rather than the ongoing signs of decline.

Yeah, I behaved poorly… Years in the making, layers of labels, resentments, dashed expectations, “different world views,” and a final cascade of events and emotions…. “It was justified.” Still, I behaved poorly, and I’m grateful that I can have compassion for my old sorry self who used to let her mental stories lead her way, and still takes me over, though it’s been a long time…. I’m grateful today that I can observe the processes of “my” mind as I reflect on all the layers of this event, and of how it came to be. Though I’m not clear yet, I’m grateful for mindfulness skills that can help me at least know the possibility of clarity, feel the grace of self-compassion, and aspire to forgiveness.

Grateful for this happy place, this garden, and for living at the edge of these mountains, inside the kaleidoscope.
Grateful for the ongoing gift of rattlesnake pole beans…
…For knowing, finally, how to tell when these weird little cantaloups are ripe: a yellowness comes over the rind when they’re ready.
Grateful that Stellar once again made it to the canyon rim this morning…
…that he made it home again, through the day again, to help me water the marigolds, and inspect the harvest.

It’s hard not to think in terms of last: is this his last walk to the canyon? his last drink from the hose? his last night? his last day? I’m grateful for all this painful awareness, reminding me constantly of what a constant companion he has been for almost fourteen years. And he still is, though it’s so different. He would still fight to the death to protect me, if he could move fast enough. I’ve remained the ‘parent’ as he has gone from infant to elder before my eyes, in no time at all. The challenges of this, too, shall pass. Nothing lasts forever. Death is certain, time of death uncertain.

Grateful to bring in the last of the harvest today, save a few hardy greens that will come in before the hard freeze mid-week: The threat recedes in both intensity and time. Paltry zucchini, ample green tomatoes, the last few okras and rattlesnake beans, and the single solitary purple pepper that grew this year. Grateful that nothing ever stays the same, and that I’m learning to trust and be kind to myself as I surf the sea of impermanence.

Zoom Cooking with Amy: Moussaka

We’ve been planning it for weeks. I chose traditional Greek moussaka because I wanted something to do with the Navdanya eggplants I grew. I’m not a huge eggplant fan (we had a falling out many years ago), but I want to like them. This Asian variety is hardy in this climate, and gave more fruits than any previous eggplant I’ve grown. This moussaka recipe calls for potatoes, tomatoes, garlic and eggplant, all of which I was delighted, and grateful, to provide from my own back yard.

Even the tomato paste came from my garden! It is such a gratifying feeling to reach in the freezer and pull out a cube of homemade tomato paste, all that summer distilled into one little frozen block. The lamb in the meat sauce came from a nice rancher I know in the next valley over. It was a busy day, so I fit in making the first sauce with my morning coffee…

…and I whipped up a quick béchamel on my lunch break. With both sauces in the fridge I went to teach my first mindfulness class, filled with gratitude for all the day had brought so far.

Stellar rallied this morning after a long night’s sleep, eager to take a walk, and excited to see Mr. Wilson when he came to cut up slab wood for the stove. Stellar spent most of the morning here by the gate, one of his all-time favorite locations, keeping watch over his domain as always. I’m grateful for another day with him, and I showered him with attention every chance I got.

“The most precious gift we can offer anyone is our attention.” ~ Thích Nhất Hạnh

After class, and another short walk with Stellar, wheezing as he went, it was right back to zoom cooking with Amy. Our first task was to slice the eggplants a centimeter thick, salt them, and set in a colander.

Three of the precious few russet potatoes lent their texture and flavor as the bottom layer in this recipe. As the eggplants baked, the potatoes were sliced, fried first, then layered into a buttered pan…

One layer of eggplant covers the potato layer, which in turn gets covered by the meat sauce…

Another eggplant layer, topped with the béchamel sauce, and shredded parmesan…

And baked til golden brown! Amy has the patience of a saint. She’s two hours ahead, so she didn’t even sit down to eat til after nine p.m.

I’m grateful for a full day with lots of meaningful connection, celebrating joy in the face of sorrow, attending to a full range of emotions and letting them flow through. I’m grateful for Stellar’s resilience, rainclouds, mindfulness practice, teaching, a warm evening fire in the woodstove, and zoom cooking with Amy, moussaka edition. I’m sure I’m grateful for way more than that that I can’t remember, and I’m grateful for the warm soft bed I’m heading to now.

My Decision

It’s been a sweet and peaceful day at Mirador. Stellar seems more comfortable than he’s been in a week, and so am I. Having made the decision yesterday, I’m at ease with whatever happens next. And after that. And next after that…

He slept well, moved well (relatively), ate well, and napped well. He doesn’t breathe so well when he walks, but he remains eager to go for one when I ask, and we took four short walks between sunup and sundown. I worked at the computer, in the kitchen, and in the garden intermittently. It rained overnight, and again this evening. I’m grateful for one more precious day with him.

I’m also grateful for my decision: we are both more relaxed than we’ve been in a long time. Even though I told him repeatedly over the past month, as his condition deteriorated, that it was all ok, that everything was fine, that he was the best dog ever in the whole planet, he could feel that it was inconvenient, that I was annoyed with the flooded pee pads and the poops. He could tell the difference between what I said and my true feelings. What happened last night was total surrender to the way it is, so that it really is no longer an annoyance or an inconvenience. When I reaffirm the perspective that “I don’t mind what happens,” life is so much easier.

I’m grateful for the first batch of fermented hot sauce: yikes! Those Thai Dragons really give it a kick.

I’m grateful for harvesting the bulk of my eggplants today, in preparation for Zoom Cooking with Amy. We’re making Moussaka on Friday night.

I’m grateful for that tomato paste I cooked the other day. Today I scooped the frozen cubes out of the ice tray into a freezer bag for storage.

I’m grateful for the potatoes I grew. This afternoon I dug up the last of them, in anticipation of more rain. The KVNF Worms said it was fine to store them in the garden til freezing unless there was a big fall rain, which might make them sprout. I’m grateful for the little rain last night, and when it poured with lightning and thunder this evening, I was glad I had dug the potatoes this afternoon.

Just one little potato sprouted, so my timing was good to bring in the last of the Yukon Gold, russets, and red potatoes. I have a plan for the littlest of them, which will be revealed later.

I’m grateful for the leeks I grew, and for the gift of a chicken. I’ve been wanting to cook this skillet roasted chicken with caramelized leeks for awhile. So simple, so delicious! Stellar and I will both enjoy it for a few days. I’m grateful for friendship and support, and for one silver lining of Covid (and of contemplating death): reassessing my values and nurturing with more attention the relationships that nurture me.

Tomato Paste

Many of Thursday’s tomatoes, above, turned into paste today. These Amish Paste tomatoes ranged from a smallish Roma style to a fat, almost-round fruit weighing half a pound. I grew three of these vines, but one died halfway through the summer. The other two are still ripening fruits, though most of them went into this batch of tomato paste.

I spent most of the day with tomatoes, all the while keeping an eye on Stellar. After our sunrise walk, he slept until after one, napped through the afternoon with a few forays outside, and only since it’s been dark a few hours has he become a bit restless. Meanwhile, the paste tomatoes roasted… then cooled, and then got pureed. Paste is the easiest thing to make–you don’t ever have to peel the tomatoes, just roast, cool, puree, then roast again–but it does take the longest.

The first roast is just halved tomatoes, for about an hour and a half at 350℉. Then the puréed mash roasts another few hours, with stirring every half hour. The mash concentrates over time…

…to a tangy, salty (just a sprinkle of kosher salt on the first roast, but as the tomatoey goodness condenses the ratio changes), sweet tomato essence. The easiest way to preserve and later use it is to freeze it in an ice tray. Once they’re solid, I’ll pop them out and seal them in a freezer bag to use one or two at a time. Each cube is around a heaping tablespoon. I’m grateful today for tomato paste, which kept my mind occupied, my hands busy, and my heart calm. I was present with the process, but it was straightforward enough that I could be equally present with Stellar as he lived through another one of his tenuous last days.

After his scary seizure last night (now his right eyelid droops, too), he slept soundly til morning, and woke eager to walk. His remarkable resilience propelled him to the canyon rim, and he seemed to have the good sense to avoid the very edge. The cottonwoods are half-turned, the ground is dry, and morning air is brisk. Stellar has made it to his thirteenth autumn. I’m grateful to have been present for his puppyness, his magnificent prime, his aging, and with him now as he approaches the far edge of life. He continues to exemplify benevolence, acceptance, loving-kindness, and all the other virtues I aspire to, as he demonstrates the path of presence.