All summer they provided nectar for hummingbirds. I planted them for the flowers, and they’ve never produced many beans in previous years.
But this year, though they began to bloom late, they did make a lot of flowers, and eventually a lot of big beans.
Today I pulled them all off, prior to the coming freeze. I read that pole beans should be harvested before a hard freeze, and most of them were already mature, though not dry on the vine. I do NOT remember the beans being this scrumptious berry color. I’ll dry them on a tray until the pods are tan and the beans rattle in them, then spread the beans out to dry further before storing in a jar. I pulled all the pod beans today, including the last prolific rattlesnake pole beans. I’m grateful for a day spent putting the garden to bed, another day with an enthusiastic dog, another precious day in contemplation, and I’m especially grateful today for scarlet runner beans.
The morning started well when I got a shot I’ve been hoping for for a long long time: two hummingbirds midair. It was with my camera-phone instead of my husband camera, so it’s not a great image, but certainly captures the drama of their territorial nature as they protect their food source. I’m grateful for a telephone that can live in my pocket and capture a photo like this! Unheard of even a decade ago, much less when I was first meeting the big wide world forty and fifty years ago. I’m grateful that I get to spend an hour in the morning before the workday begins, out in the garden with growing, living things.
Then it was time to cook Boyz Lunch. With the rattlesnake pole beans simmering in oil, ginger, parsley, black mustard seeds, and the first paprika pepper harvested…
…an organic whole chicken roasting in the oven (in a wonderful non-stick pan from Food 52: I was skeptical but it’s been well worth the price)…
…and mashed potatoes and sliced tomatoes from the garden, we feasted! I’m grateful for all the food enjoyed today, by me and others I provide for, and for the opportunity to prepare a feast for my friends; for the hard work in the garden paying off, and for the joy that cooking brings me.
I’m grateful for little Biko, who is just about 22 years old, in the prime of his life, and always eager for something green; and grateful to offer John the joy of feeding him lettuce from the garden.
I’m grateful for this lettuce-leaf basil, that grows so prolifically in a pot, with leaves so huge they really could be used as lettuce, as Amy pointed out, and will no doubt show up on my next BLT instead of lettuce. Maybe tomorrow.
And then it was time for Zoom Cooking with Amy. We started by making the pasta dough, and then the no-cook sauce, and while those were resting we enjoyed martinis together. Then we rolled and shaped the strozzapreti, and assembled our meals.
And then we tossed the cooked pasta with the tomato-basil-garlic sauce, sprinkled with parmesan, and sat down to enjoy our dinner together. I am always and forever grateful for zoom cooking with Amy.
It’s been a year since this beautiful creature bit the dust. Look at him draping there languorously along the back of my office chair, which he and he alone clawed to tatters. He was a singular animal, as devoted, communicative and interactive as any dog, and as wily and unpredictable as any cat. He was a treasure and a joy to share the world with, and I miss him every day. There are moments when I remember so vividly finding his remains that I once again inhabit the numbness of the shock. As clear as it was in that moment, I am looking at a swath of his grey tummy fluff across the forest floor, holding his dear dead perfect head in my hands. I’m grateful to come across pictures of him like this one when I search my archives for some unrelated image, pictures of Ojo very much alive that convey his brazen personality, his solid vibrancy. It was a gift to have him live with us for six years, and it’s a gift to recall him now. It was a gift to find his remains rather than suffer uncertainty at his absence, and a gift to suffer the jolt of his impermanence.
A couple of the bonsais-in-training got potted down over the past few days, including this culinary sage. It grew in the garden for a few years until it got crowded out, and then it was in a regular pot a few more years, so it has a sturdy trunk base. I clipped off all the old growth to leave the miniature new leaves, trimmed the roots, and wired it into a new pot. I’m grateful for the gift of leisure to enjoy pursuing this longtime passion with new vigor.
The magic beanstalks have slowed production to just a handful of immature pods every couple of days, while many out-of-reach or simply missed in the foliage earlier outgrow this harvest season and wait to be picked dry for winter storage. The first heirloom Pizzutello tomatoes are ripening, as are tomatillos, and a few more cucumbers. I’m grateful for the gift of garden harvest, and the gift of another day in this glorious world.
I looked up rattlesnake pole beans. I had assumed, like many of the references, that their name derives from their purple-speckled skin, but I found one article that mentioned it comes from their propensity to wind themselves around the supports or their own vines like a snake. And then I found this one! I’ve picked quite a few that were twisted around the fence wire, or their own coiling stems, though mostly they hang straight down. I’m grateful that my curiosity about their provenance led me to find out this tidbit, and then find a perfect example of it.
I’m grateful, as always, for Stellar Stardog Son of Sundog. He spent a lot of time outside lying on his bed in the shade under the deck, which is kind of unusual. Something seems to be turning in him. His back end was as weak throughout the day as I’ve ever seen it, maybe the worst consistently. Maybe he’ll rebound again, and maybe this is a new normal, or the beginning of the end. I’m so grateful for this bonus year we’ve gotten to spend together, and for all the good days he’s had. I’m grateful for the curls of his ruff, and the way he sees me.
Another thing I’m grateful for today is that the prep for a colonoscopy has improved a lot since the last time I got one twelve years ago. This doctor at Delta County Memorial Hospital offers her own recipe, which includes a super sour sickly sweet 10 ounces of magnesium citrate–I chose grape, because lemon-lime is intolerable from past experience, and cherry is just icky no matter what. That went down ok. Then she has you add 238 grams (8.3 oz.) of Miralax powder to a gallon of Gatorade, your choice just not red or purple. I chose orange because for a few years in my younger days, I really liked orange Gatorade, in the context of a hangover cure: that, and a bag of salty potato chips, brought me right back into my body on the too-frequent mornings after.
This prep was far more mild than I’d expected, though the first few cups of it bounced right back up all at once. I hope I managed to keep enough of it down to do the trick. Yeah, it’s gross to think about, but a) it’s apparently important that we get this done from time to time, and b) the whole time I was drinking this two-weeks’ worth of laxative, I was watching the news of Haiti and Afghanistan, and I felt really lucky. Also, I set my mind ahead of time to engage in the process as if it were a meditation, committed to just being present in the midst and flow of it, observing my bodily sensations, being grateful for the effects, and optimistic for the outcome. Bringing a kind curiosity to the process has been a huge help in managing legitimate anxiety: An old friend did her first screening colonoscopy at 50 like they tell us to do, and they nicked her colon, and she died of sepsis.
“That’s exceptionally rare,” I’ve been told by many people. And yet it happens, and why would it not happen to me? I am not invincible, though my childish mind insists that I’ll always come home from whatever outing I undertake. This amazing human capacity for denial: It can’t happen here, it won’t happen to me, etc. Silly denial; and yet, the reality can be terrifying. Death is certain, time of death uncertain. I’m ready to face the music tomorrow, when I’ll be grateful for my chauffeurs Rosie and Deb, and pray that I come back home to Stellar, Topaz, Biko, and the glorious garden, unscathed and healthy.
I can’t fix Afghanistan. I can’t fix Haiti. I can’t fix climate chaos. It can be discouraging. But I can be kind and cheerful with the new UPS man. I can grow flowers for the bees and vegetables. I can meditate with loving-kindness on man’s inhumanity to man, and abuse of women. I can hold the horror in one hand and the beauty in the other, the ten thousand joys and the ten thousand sorrows, and bring them to some symmetry. I can express gratitude for the random distribution of conditions in my life, that let me live in relative peace and ease compared to the rest of the world.
Comparisons are odious. I heard this from a poet in the context of writing; but lately I’ve begun to wonder. It seems to me that comparisons, through the appropriate lens, are often excellent reminders of just how great our lives are, if we don’t live in a war zone, and we do have running water and electricity in our homes, get to choose what we eat, grow our own food, read what we like, choose our thoughts, and so much more. Americans take liberty for granted.
While Rome burns, I turn my attention to a gift bun from the local popup bakery. Gratitude. After coffee from across the equator, and the sticky bun flavored with the Asian native cardamom, I turn my attention to the rattlesnake pole beans, growing so tall that I a) finally get the Bean Stalk story, and b) needed a step-stool to pick them. I can barely keep up, and was grateful to learn that they also make good dried beans. I might stop harvesting the ‘immature pods,’ any day now, and let the rest mature and dry, for soups or chili and some to plant next year.
Grateful also for two new cucumbers to add to the weekend’s harvest, enough now to make some pickles. Real pickles. I’m grateful to accept the benefits of fermentation, and for the means and knowledge to make real pickled pickles, not only the quick kind with vinegar.
Cucumbers, garlic cloves, ripe dill florets, and a horseradish leaf (all from the garden) in each jar; bay leaves, cloves, peppercorns, mustard seeds and allspice sprinkled into the quart jar, and a single tiny hot pepper added to the pint jar. How beautifully they packed! Then glass weights on top of brine, a pickling lid, and into the pantry til the weekend. I’m grateful for the morning light on junipers and that big old dog, for sweet treats, pole beans, and pickles. I’m grateful every day for the roof over my head, water in the pipes, the power of the sun, the love and support I get and give, and the courage to know that nothing lasts. I am grateful for equanimity.
I’ve mentioned the rattlesnake pole beans before in my gratitude practice. Here they are again! I picked two pounds over the past three days, and was grateful to find a pickling recipe that called for exactly that. I’m grateful for the scrappy dill in the garden, the little garlics I grew, the exact amount of vinegar left in the jug in the pantry, and fresh water; grateful for the gas in the stove, for the stove, and all the conditions that allow both to be in my house; grateful for the confidence and skill to process the pickles, and grateful that the lids popped. Grateful that there will be pounds more of rattlesnake pole beans in the next few days, and that I’ll likely be alive to do something else creative with them.
I’m grateful that the smoke lifted a bit this afternoon, that the temperature wasn’t uncomfortable for me or the animals, that old Stellar made it through another day eating well and wobbling, sleeping and snoring: his comforting soft snoring beside me as I lay on the floor meditating. Grateful for meditation and mindfulness, and all the people and animals and events that help me remember to be grateful every living moment of every day.
“Both male and female S. rufus are territorial; however, they defend different types of territories. The more aggressive males fight to defend areas with dense flowers, pushing females into areas with more sparsely populated flowers. Males generally have shorter wings than females, therefore their metabolic cost for hovering is higher. This allows males to beat their wings at high frequencies, giving them the ability to chase and attack other birds to defend their territory. The metabolic cost of short wings is compensated for by the fact that these males do not need to waste energy foraging for food, because their defended territory provides plenty of sustenance. Females on the other hand are not given access to the high concentration food sources, because the males fight them off. Therefore, females generally defend larger territories, where flowers are more sparsely populated, forcing them to fly farther between food sources. The metabolic cost of flying farther is compensated for with longer wings providing more efficient flight for females. The differences in wing length for S. rufus demonstrate a distinct sexual dimorphism, allowing each sex to best exploit resources in an area.”
I copied this straight from Wikipedia. Fascinating. Fair? For some reason, I trust their information for basic science, though I might be skeptical for more subjective knowledge. Around here, we call these birds “little bulldogs,” or more subjective epithets. I love them despite their aggression; they are beautiful, remarkable creatures. I am grateful to have the Rufous and the other two species zipping around the yarden all day, intensifying in the evening.
I’m grateful for all the pollinators. I haven’t even cracked the manual for the new camera, and the current lens won’t give me the crystal clarity of the macro lens on the old camera, but I’ll get there eventually. Meanwhile, playing around with it this morning I caught a few pollinators doing their thing. Imagine where we’d be without them! So grateful for pollinators, and the fruits of their labors.
I’m grateful for the 4000 species of native bees in North America, and the dozens that forage and nest in my yarden. They’re responsible for pollinating about three-quarters of all our food plants, but their very existence is not well known to the general public. I didn’t know about them until I started raising and photographing honeybees, and paying attention to all the other pollinators I discovered through my camera lens. There aren’t nearly as many individual bees or bee species in the garden this summer, making me cherish them all the more. You can learn to identify and plant for native bees with the Wild Bee ID app put out by the Center for Food Safety, and enjoy some of my better photos while you’re at it.