Tag Archive | peaches

That Mangy Old Doe: Adventures with Peaches

Just a couple of recent dahlia pics to remind the world that yes, dahlias are worth the trouble, especially for native pollinators and honeybees. Deadheading with snippers once or twice a week and feeding occasionally keeps them blooming for a long season from mid-summer into fall.

How the young fawn knows to lay low when the doe steps away in alarm from a human strolling through the woods with dogs, old dogs that no longer give chase; and how now later, the older fawn, still spotted but fading, still more slightly built, less than half her mother’s size, how the older fawn knows to step lightly and exactly with her mother under similar conditions. They rise like a breeze from their bed west of the fence, already stepping diagonally away, the doe looking calmly, alertly over her shoulder at me, the fawn like a feather on that breeze a full stride behind, attentive only to the mother she knows at all costs to follow.

Another doe, the mangy old doe who kept the ground clean beneath the apricot tree now grooms the peach. We fenced it off again after she began pulling unripe peaches from lower limbs, shaking others to the ground with her tenacity, breaking branches. We waited that morning, watching, until she left of her own accord. 

Is she spitting out the pits? Kathy asked. 

It sure looks like it. But maybe she’s just dropping pieces.

Wouldn’t it be funny if she’s spitting out the pits?

After she left we rolled out the fence and secured a big ring close enough to the trunk, far enough out under the crown, that she’d be unwilling to jump inside it. She could almost reach the outer leaves. She looked sadly when she returned a few times, but then adapted. 

Recent weeks have focused on monitoring the peach tree, gauging ripeness not only by both color and feel, but also by observing birds. A scrub jay keeps returning, pecking at one or another of some top fruits, a finch or two checks them out. I’m waiting, morning and evening, and sometimes lunchtimes, to see when a whole finch family descends on the peaches; then I’ll know it’s time to start picking.

It feels like the right time but it takes a few days to get the feel of which peaches to pick, which to leave on the tree to ripen a day or few longer. Hummingbirds have been using the cover of peach leaves to guard their feeder, and buzz close as I lean over the wire, reach into the canopy, and quick pull or twist a fruit off. Filling my shirt with a dozen bright peachy pink fuzzballs… gently settling them into a bowl inside the house, and suddenly they look so much yellower, so much less ripe, so much smaller, than they did when I picked them!

Within a week I’ve salvaged all the peaches I can. What’s left on the tree, besides a few untouched just too high or deep inside for me to reach, have all been pecked a little or a lot by various birds. This morning, the old mangy doe is back, looking longingly at the peach tree just out of reach.

Oh! I think, I’ll open that up for you. She steps a few feet away and nibbles on Rhus trilobata, watches out the corner of her eye as I switch the water to another sprinkler, she waits. I approach the peach fence from farthest side and she glides twenty feet toward the yard fence, not unduly alarmed. Walking under the tree I slowly roll up the field fence into a tube a yard across, hook its loose ends over the next layer in a couple of spots at the seam, and drag it to the side, all while murmuring to the doe, glancing at her then down and away, while she waits, relaxed and poised for flight if necessary.

I turn and walk the thirty feet to the patio; before I reach my chair she’s under the peach tree watching me. I smile, watch her watch me, until she too smiles in a way, her body releases a level of guard, she drops her head, and begins to feast on fallen fruit remnants.

Hmmm. I wonder if she’ll spit the pits?

You’re welcome!

After she’s had her fill for the time being, she strides cautiously across the yard to get her greens, a few mouthfuls of feral heirloom arugula, before leaping the south fence, leaving the yard.

Meanwhile, I got busy on the peaches…
I’d never made cobbler before and found an easy recipe. After glopping the batter into the hot buttered pan I lightly smoothed it without disturbing the butter layer.
mmmmm, then I spooned the hot peach mixture on top of that, sprinkled with cinnamon, and baked.

With two big bowls of peaches on the counter and tomatoes rolling in, it’s time to get back into the kitchen and save some more summer for winter, coming all too soon. But first:

Puppy pile under the wild rose at Karen’s house. The litter of seven was born to a sweet bitch abandoned by her owners when they moved. They told a neighbor, “If she bothers you just shoot her.” Rescued by Karen’s daughter, sweet Nellie has been a good mama, and now it’s time for the pups to find good homes…. But mine won’t be one of them: I’ve got just the right mix of garden companions at the moment, a household in harmony, with two old dogs whose last days I’m counting with bittersweet attention.
Topaz and Stellar greet each other beside rapidly ripening paprika.
Elusive Admiral Weidemeyer flitted through the yard again a week after Kathy first spotted him, alighting on an aspen sapling. Not the only butterfly surprise this summer!

Portentous Winds of Autumn

Russet tones of autumn emerge first in the Amur maple seedlings, already dried and set with seed. This maple never does as well as the other, on the south side of the house. They’re in different soils, one in native clay and the sad one in more sandy soil. I need to deep water with some extra nutrients.

Russet tones of autumn emerged first last month in the Amur maple samaras, now already dried and set with seed. This maple never does as well as the other, on the south side of the house. They’re in different soils, one in native clay and the sad one in more sandy soil. I need to deep water with some extra nutrients before fall gets away.

I’ve seen first hand how leaving a cluster of peaches on a limb will result in crowded misshapen small fruit, how even two opposite on a stem can smash together and provide haven for earwigs, how too many along a slender limb can bend it to the ground; all the things Fred warned me about as he urged me to thin thin, thin.

I’ve seen first hand how leaving a cluster of peaches on a limb will result in crowded misshapen small fruit, how even two opposite on a stem can smash together and provide haven for earwigs, how too many along a slender limb can bend it to the ground; all the things Fred warned me about as he urged me to thin thin, thin.

Nevertheless, my sweet tree delivered bowl after bowl of delicious peaches, that I gave away, froze, cooked into peach jam, infused into vodka, gin, and brandy, and canned in a special syrup...

Nevertheless, my sweet tree delivered bowl after bowl of delicious peaches, that I gave away, froze, cooked into peach jam, infused into vodka, gin, and brandy, and canned in a special syrup…

Canada Peaches! In a twist on the bourbon peach recipes found online, I packed each half-pint jar with peaches, adding about a tablespoon of maple syrup, then filling with half simple syrup and half Canadian whiskey, before processing in a boiling water bath. I hope these last long enough to eat some mid-winter by a toasty fire.

Canada Peaches! In a twist on the bourbon peach recipes found online, I packed each half-pint jar with peaches, adding about a tablespoon of maple syrup, then filling with half simple syrup and half Canadian whiskey, before processing in a boiling water bath. I hope these last long enough to eat some mid-winter by a toasty fire.

And of course a couple of peach pies.

And of course a couple of peach pies.

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I ate the last fresh peach this morning, and harvested the two remaining apples on the heirloom tree, I’m so sad I can’t recall its name. Are the finches feasting on wild sunflower seeds also marauding the Fuji apple? It doesn’t appear so; the leaves are grasshopper eaten but the fruit is sound, and so much of it, more than ever before, dozens of apples, I’m so happy I thinned them! At least 59 Fuji apples. I’ve got my eagle eye on these, watching for predation by those pesky birds.

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September is like the last hill on the roller coaster. You’re near the top, the wild rush of August harvest has unwound behind you, there is that last push of fall fruits and vegetables to get in before the varmints git ‘em. Rosie has a big squirrel in her garden. I’ve got a stray deer here and there reminding me it’s time to put up fences around trees and shrubs whose protective rings I’ve repurposed on smaller plants throughout the summer. Someone ate two fat cheeks off the biggest tomato of the season; just yesterday I thought that’s about ripe, maybe I should pick it, but it wasn’t ready to let go, and I didn’t come back. This morning’s rising sun highlighted the glistening dips in its flesh when I chanced to glance over from the patio, where I sipped coffee and listened to the raucous sound of morning.

Cynthia led a meditation on sounds last week that’s reminded me to cherish more the wild sounds and deeper silence where I’m blessed to live, like the cacophony of finches in the wild sunflower patch that sprang up on the south side. It’s been years since I’ve lived with a constant musical soundtrack, and for the past several I’ve lived with only intermittent music through the course of my waking day. More and more I find myself eschewing external music, to simply hear, and listen to, the music of nature: birds, crickets, wind, bees, coyotes at night, more coyotes this summer than I have heard in many years.

A great-horned owl has come a courting me. It must be me he woos, because I’ve listened long and faraway and do not hear another. And so I croon back to him a few times, though Stellar doesn’t like it and tries to make me stop, and soon I do stop, because it isn’t fair; I can’t give the owl what it’s looking for. But I sure do enjoy exchanging hoots with it for a few minutes on a clear full-moon night, or any other.

Rain moved through again last night, this time early enough to leave a double rainbow in its wake. I alerted the Bad Dog Ranch that they were centered underneath it. The next day I received a rainbow alert from them. I love this about where we live, that we care about rainbows.

Rain moved through again last night, this time early enough to leave a double rainbow in its wake. I alerted the Bad Dog Ranch that they were centered beneath it. The next day I received a rainbow alert from them. I love this about where we live, that we care about rainbows.

This morning, rain-washed and crisp, the golds of autumn jingle forth. Last Saturday we noticed the first hint of aspen turning up on Mendicant Ridge. By Tuesday the yellows were distinct, and after that storm moved over Wednesday night,  the golds are glowing bright, clearly delineated patches among shades of greens, siennas and ochres, treed and rocky slopes. Air is brisk and the dogs are frisky.

Great cumulus clouds march in close formation lockstep briskly through blue sky, white tops glowing, their grey treads gliding low. It's too spectacular not to walk the frisky dogs up the driveway, where I meet my sweet neighbor and we stroll our rural, precious neighborhood.

Great cumulus clouds march in close formation lockstep briskly through blue sky, white tops glowing, their grey treads gliding low. It’s too spectacular not to walk the frisky dogs up the driveway, where I meet my sweet neighbor and we stroll our rural, precious neighborhood.

Fall blows in on these winds that feel portentous. March winds last longer than they used to, and winter winds start early, in late summer. The breeze sometimes is just a bit too strong; I feel the atmosphere whipping up, winding up all this energy, that later, maybe elsewhere, will unwind with a fury. Ever since I watched the film Melancholia earlier this summer, I’ve viewed this world differently, trusting and allowing myself to sense and feel the changes, the subtle shifts in seasonal events, in their timing, likelihood, or nature. Something is coming, and all I want to do is make jam.

Apricot jam, peach jam, plum jam, chokecherry jelly, salsa hot and mild, and the new house specialty, Canada Peaches. Also plum brandy, peach vodka, plum syrup, plum sauce, pickled beets and cukes, and all the blanched greens, peeled and unpeeled fruits, tomato sauce and peppers in the freezer, let me feel I’ve made the most of the garden this summer.

At the end of the day, though, it’s not about my garden and what I’ve grown and what I’ve put up and what I’ve enjoyed this summer. It’s about what we’ve all tended and grown and loved and eaten and shared and put up for winter, it’s about what we all do in our lives here on this fragile planet. It’s about not just this apple, but all them apples, too! The change that’s in the wind is about me and you, and the choices we make in the next few weeks. To be continued…

My Fridge Runneth Over

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.

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Romp in the yard and walk to the canyon.

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.

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.

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.

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.

The Last Peach

A riot of color after recent rains.

A riot of color after recent rains.

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Dawn dropped by with a giant zucchini. Time to get out the grater!

Dawn dropped by with a giant zucchini. Time to get out the grater!

Not the best picture, I admit, but it was impossible not to try. Wrong imaginary lens or film.

Not the best picture, I admit, but it was impossible not to try. Wrong imaginary lens or film.

Last evening I stood under a rainbow and held in my hands the sum total of my peach harvest from a single tree: two perfect peaches.

One had caught my eye in the late undercloud light, gleaming peachly red among long lush green leaves. I had not known there were any peaches left on the tree after freezes, and later aphids. With one dusting of  diatomaceous earth the aphids vanished and the leaves began their growth in earnest. When did that occur? Spring, early summer? Did I write it down? I have been negligent in my record-keeping. Reluctant to take the quiet time to reflect upon my busy days, each as it fleetly unfolds. Not even so much as to notate aphids.

Perfect now, in roundness, color, size; two peaches perfect except for a few gnaws on top by some rodent or bird. Oh well. The first peach I ate standing under the rainbow dripping onto the patio, dropped the pit and the plundered top into a compost pail. The last peach, the biggest and fairest of them all, I saved until sunlight poured through the windows this morning. I ate it slowly, standing at the sunny kitchen sink, the whole sunlit house around me, a rainbow tapestry of texture and color.

I peeled the last peach one slice at a time with a small steel knife I’ve owned for half my life, half my time under the sun; in the sun I stood and ate the peach, slice by juicy slice from the tip of the ancient blade. It was quite simply the most delicious peach ever.

Saturday, August 11, Appeased

Hard-earned honey (for me and the bees) and ripe tomatoes, summer’s bounty pours indoors.

The bees appear to be appeased. This morning I sat down at the pond with my tea and tried to find pleasure in the buzz again. They drink in the rushes near the chairs in the shade. It’s the first time in a week I’ve been able to relax outside, and even so every fly that landed on my toes made me flinch. As I walked in from the pond a bee buzzed straight at me and nearly flew into my ear, but that appeared to be a simple collision rather than an attack. The sort of thing I would not have even noticed before. I need to regain my confidence and composure with my bees, a little bit at a time. I sneaked a peek into their window, unprotected, and felt very brave. The hive looks as full this morning as it did last Saturday. Perhaps the Peaceable Kingdom is back.

Yum. Fresh tomatoes dressed with mayonnaise, chopped basil, cracked pepper, and Ume plum vinegar. So lovely to pull this out of the yard and serve it to a friend for dinner.

A long-eared owl on the fencepost along the driveway, sunset through haze from western fires.

Peach harvest! Birds conglomerated on the peach tree yesterday so I knew it was time. All the soft peaches had already fallen prey, so as with the apricots I picked every perfect fruit left, and left the rest. Every few hours another one is soft enough to eat.

Accidental Harvest. At dusk last night I went to move water and realized I hadn’t thinned carrots in awhile. Kaleidoscope Mix. Some are almost full size, and there are plenty still growing.

All washed in the colander, carrots looking for a recipe.

The temporary turtle left today on her first leg of a multi-stage journey to the Colorado Reptile Humane Society in Longmont. Thanks, Emily, for taking her to Colorado Springs, where she’ll hitch a ride with a CoRHS board member up to Boulder, and catch another ride on to the facility. There, she’ll be in a big outdoor pen with some other box turtles, and be able to burrow underground and hibernate for the winter, which she couldn’t do here. Apparently it’s against the law to release a once-captive reptile back into the wild; she could transmit a pathogen that could harm her wild kin. CoRHS has stringent requirements for people wanting to adopt, so if she does find another home it should be a good one. Kind of hard to say goodbye, but she’s going into good hands.

Thursday, August 2

Monsoonal moisture continues to bring intermittent relief from drought and heat. The cottonwood at the top of the driveway, dead these many years from irrigation water lost from ditch to pipes, remains a sentinel and a perch.

It’s been a week so far of salvage and recovery. Within surprising traumas and sad accomplishments, there remains the thrilling flow of life going on.

Pink honeysuckle, Lonicera korolkowii, fruits abundantly in summer after multiple species of bees pollinated in spring.

Two-year-old pink chintz thyme blooms in flagstone cracks after weeks of summer rain.

Red-blooming thyme also thrives between flagstones. This is the first year they’ve received enough of what they need to blossom.

What peaches haven’t fallen prey to birds and chipmunks are blushing beautifully, fuzzy, though still hard to the touch. Watch and wait, watch and wait, hope to beat the beastly birds to a few ripe fruits.

Epitome of high summer: hummingbird mint and blue mist spirea bloom profusely together in the south border, buzzing with bees and hummingbirds.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monday, Up All Night

Stellar resting after up all night

Ironic that my puppy prayer of the whole last year has betrayed me: I give thanks for having two happy healthy dogs. It’s true, they’re still happy, but they haven’t either one been healthy since the last snow, and maybe a lot longer than that. Their tough construction belies their delicate constitutions. Up til 5 a.m., with Stellar out every ten or twenty minutes, finally forcing out only clear brown liquid. I think we’ve all been there, with ourselves or our animals. Poor Stellar! Patience came as I watched him strain. I know how bad it feels. Peristalsis won’t stop, there’s nothing left, but you can’t help it.  A dx of coccidia and a sulfa drug from Doc should solve it.

Biko’s nose

Butterfly’s tongue

I could not have asked for a lovelier day in which to take no obligations. A night of no sleep, a damp garden in cool, moist air, a cloudless sunlight, no I couldn’t ask for anything more. This is my Sunday; as morning rounds don’t always happen in the morning, Sunday sometimes falls in the middle of the week. It’s been a long full week, not a quiet one, its fullness replete with joy and grief.

The song in my head is quite different when I spend enough time outside. Puttering, looking, watching, listening. I’ve watered nothing for three days, nothing since Thursday save the potted plants on Saturday, gave them a good soaking just hours before the downpour. Rocky Mountain beeplants, stunted, few and far between, are opening their fringed purple heads. Blue mist spireas are opening their delicate purple spikes.

“Who is eating my peaches?” said the woman who lived in the woods. “Someone is climbing the tree and gnawing the fruit from the bone, leaving peach pits hanging on the limbs.”