Tag Archive | apricots

Tragic Garlic Harvest

Feeding Biko chopped romaine is a new thing. I used to give him whole leaves, and I’d toss one to Wren to keep her busy. She wouldn’t come close enough to steal from him. But now, with a scatter of chopped, she sneaks in to steal a crunchy piece from the edge and runs off with it. And she loves it so much she’s getting bolder.

After her strenuous thievery in the morning she must nap hard.

My tragic garlic harvest proves that despite a promising start, planting in the spring doesn’t work. I was happy to get a few decent heads, mostly small ones, and those whose greens died back earliest and completely turned out to be nice fat single bulbs–though I will have to cut into each one and smell it to be sure it’s actually garlic. Don’t know what else it could be given where I dug them up, but don’t want to eat a lily bulb or something by mistake. I’m grateful for the harvest anyway: despite its paucity, it’s still more garlic than the sixteen individual cloves I planted in March, and I learned some things about what works and what doesn’t.

I’m grateful for Amy-inspired lemon ricotta pancakes which I finally made tonight to use up leftover ricotta from our gnocchi zoom. After burning the first few as usual, I got the hang of it. They were delicious. I used a NYT recipe but there are dozens available online that all look delicious. Since my frozen blueberries are buried under frozen apricots, I just broke up a few of the last fresh apricots and then doused the pancakes in real maple syrup. I cooked the whole batch, and froze leftovers in bags of two. Amy said they reheat well. I can imagine popping them in the toaster.

I live each hour, each conversation, each delicious meal, each page I read, physically aware of the climate chaos that rages all around. In this moment, in this place, all is well. In Canada and the Pacific Northwest wildfires rage out of control emptying whole cities; in Hawaii an entire city demolished by fire and thousands of lives lost, human and otherwise. California desert towns are flooding overnight, and maybe some larger cities as well. Another aggressive heat dome locks the central US in record high temperatures. Newscasters naively refer to some of these as “a once-in-a-lifetime event,” which enrages me.

In this moment, in this place, all is well, for the moment. At any moment wildfire could rip through the precious woods where I live. If it does, may I be ready to flee. May I have time to gather my animals and a few treasures, and escape alive. May my neighbors also be so fortunate. May all in the path of climate chaos be saved, I want to pray, knowing it simply is not possible. This keenly felt awareness both paralyzes me, and fills me with gratitude for every living moment of every day.

Winding Down

Today’s cheese sandwich included mayo, of course, romaine, avocado, Sandwich Sprinkle, smoked Gouda (a cheese I am just now truly falling in love with), and apricots. I’m grateful for every lunch I get to eat a cheese sandwich: so simple, so delicious!

I’m grateful that the apricot blessing is winding down! It’s been –is being– an extraordinary year for apricots at Mirador. The east side of the tree looks like it’s about given up all its fruit… but the west side still has plenty to offer! However, at this point even many fruits within reach have been pecked by birds on their tops or far sides, and so while I may still be able to harvest a few more, I’ve pretty much surrendered the season. A couple of baskets remain in the kitchen to be turned into jam or frozen, but within a couple of days I believe that apricot harvest will feel complete. It’s been a fun ride!

Though little Wren buries herself in towels or the bedding during a rainstorm, she quickly runs outside when the storm has passed, to enjoy with me the gorgeous aftermath. Note the slowly ripening peaches on the next tree up for harvest, another banner year if I can get to them before the rodents.

Meanwhile, back in the kitchen, apricot upside-down cake is brewing. I’ve never made an upside-down cake, honestly never understood the appeal until quite recently when Deb shared some homemade pineapple upside-down cake. Hmmmm, I thought, this is actually quite tasty. And so when NYT threw this recipe my way in its ‘Many Ways to Use Apricots’ feature, I saved the recipe, and baked it tonight.

While I’m immensely pleased with the outcome, I haven’t tasted it yet. The blessed rain postponed my dinner plan so I’m saving the cake to serve with coffee tomorrow. Instead tonight, I zoomed with a friend and student as we sipped cocktails together and discussed impermanence, non-attachment to outcome, and the infinitely unfolding path of mindfulness practice. I’m so grateful for every little bit of my life; even more so when I remember how fleeting and fraught with uncertainty it is. I’m grateful for gradually learning how to hold everything, just as it is, the ten thousand joys and the ten thousand sorrows. And the ten thousand apricots.

Perspective

I’m grateful for rain overnight which left the high desert refreshed, and gave morning light an extra vibrant quality. As we headed for the gate, I was tickled to watch a gnat-nado; we saw a few more of these swirling columns of insects rising as we walked through the woods.

Coming home we spied a sleeping sunflower bee, genus Svastra, waiting to warm up before flying.

It was a big day. A fulfilling class in the afternoon followed by a rare outing planned with friends and their visiting family. So the morning involved baking little apricot cakes as my contribution to the snack spread. I adapted the recipe for high altitude, and also added an element from the next apricot bake, an upside down cake, with a dollop of brown sugar in an apricot half underneath the batter. Naturally, I had to test them before I could share, so I had one for dessert after my cheese sandwich! Today’s was open face cream cheese on toast, slathered with apricot jam. Yes it’s a sandwich!

Meanwhile, Wren and Biko ate a little more healthy fare with some chopped romaine.
Wren enjoyed cocktails at the rim of the Black Canyon with the rest of us, and wore just the right coat to match her new best friend Tatiana.

We could see smoke, we guessed from the Little Mesa Fire SSW of Delta, which fortunately has grown slowly to only 450 acres in a wild area. As I drove to the canyon, I listened to The Pen and the Sword on KVNF, which featured an interview with John Vaillant, author of Fire Weather: A True Story from a Hotter World. The book is about the 2016 apocalyptic wildfire that consumed the Canadian city of Fort McMurray, the chief supplier of oil imports to the US. Ironically, the fire was unquestionably driven by fossil-fuel induced climate chaos, as Vaillant demonstrates, and “was not a unique event, but a shocking preview of what we must prepare for in a hotter, more flammable world.” It was chilling to listen to this interview after watching news of the catastrophic Maui fires this afternoon: precisely the scenario Vaillant cautioned about in his book that came out this summer. (I hope the interview will appear on KVNF archives shortly.)

I’m grateful for perspective, which reminds me that we humans and our follies are just a gnat-nado in the context of geological time, the kind of time that created these 1.8 billion-year-old metamorphic rocks, and the millions of years of uplift and erosion that formed this spectacular gorge.

After the drama and adventure of the evening, I was grateful to drive home in my energy-efficient little old car, through pastoral landscape, with a glimpse of sunset in the rearview mirror. I contend daily with the conundrum of how to live lightly on this fragile planet while also relying on the very source of its greatest threat.

I hope the clouds part overnight this weekend so I can rest in the reassuring perspective of the Perseid meteor shower. If pondering geology gives momentary respite, contemplating our place in the vast mystery of outer space provides an even deeper peace.

My Little Friend

Native ricegrass and broom snakeweed light up in morning sun on our Breakfast Loop walk.

I picked more apricots this morning after our walk and before meditation. There are inevitably some that fall to the ground as I’m picking, and I’m happy to share with the deer, with Biko, and with Wren. She loves her fruits and vegetables and is a very good influence on me.

She’s learning to leave the pit, just like the does do. It’s important to make sure, since it contains trace amounts of arsenic, and eating a bunch of pits could poison her.
…the face of satisfaction…

I’m so grateful for my little friend. Some days I just cannot believe my good fortune in finding her. If ever I were to forget to practice gratitude, one look at her making the most of her little life would be enough to remind me to give thanks, every living moment of every day.

A store-bought tomato, even organic, just can’t compare with homegrown or local farm-grown, but I couldn’t wait any longer to try this simple suggestion from NYT food section: I grilled the bread in butter and olive oil in a skillet til it was golden on both sides. The article (Sandra!) said to mix grated cheddar into mayo to spread under the tomatoes, which I did, but I also mixed some mayo into the last of the mushroom gnocchi stuffing and spread the toast with that first, then cheddar-mayo, and then tomato slices. A few jalapeño cheese puffs and a small bowl of last year’s bread & butter pickles, and I had a lunch that was so simple, so delicious!

Apricots

Awwww… it was three years ago this month that my precious Ojo’s life was ended by a mountain lion… He was such a special cat. And I guess it was a banner apricot year in 2019 also, when this was taken. I still miss him. I’d give up all the apricots forever just to have him back with us.

My view of the Supermoon last night. I’m grateful for living in the country where I can step outside and experience a wild, natural nighttime. After a night sky break, I came in and made dessert for today, yogurt-lemon curd popsicles.

Continuing to eat down the meat in the freezer, I thawed a couple of lamb shanks overnight and braised them in red wine and vegetables, then reduced the broth and shredded the meat, made a biscuit topping, and baked a delicious lamb pot-pie. For my first pot-pie ever I was real pleased with it.

The Boyz loved the pops but I think they were more trouble than they were worth. Philip tries to warm the mold so we can pull them out. Next popsicles will be simpler.
My little baromewren had a rough day: during lunch a neighbor was shooting so she sought refuge in a corner of the patio; this evening we were blessed with a thunderstorm including actual RAIN, and she’s been huddled in a pile of towels in the laundry room since before sunset.

After Buddha School and Bibliofillies zooms I got outside just in the nick of time to pick two baskets of fruit before the storm rolled in. I gave away most of what I picked the other night, but quickly replenished the stockpile. From now on for a few weeks it will be all-apricot-all the time: lunch, breakfast, cocktail… and anywhere else I can think to use them. I’ve pencilled in Saturday to make the first batch of jam.

Finding Lost Things

The flip side of the medallion has the same bear claw design with a pink stone as the earring on the right. I wore this set a lot before I lost the special hooks. Coming across them the other day brought back warm memories of my mother, and I wanted to wear them again. I’m grateful for the memories that reside in material things.

I’m grateful today for one of those precious moments of finding lost things. I have these silver earrings that my mother bought me many years ago when we went to Canyon de Chelly. I chose them, along with a medallion, from a gorgeous selection offered by the Navajo artist on site. They’re reversible. I hadn’t worn them for a long time because I lost the special hooks that allowed easy (and secure) flipping. I put them away for years, but came across the box the other day and realized I could just put them on regular hooks and not reverse them. But I tried to be clever, and leave a little gap in the bottom loop, so I could flip them without needing pliers to open the loop. Within a few hours I had lost one. I’d been outside watering, folding laundry, in the bathroom cleaning, in the kitchen doing dishes, gardening… and glanced in the mirror as I washed my hands… I was grateful for equanimity.

This is why we can’t have nice things, I thought with a sad chuckle. I remained calm, and considered the most likely scenario where my ear could have gotten jostled enough to knock the ornament off the loop: When Wren leapt up in my lap and nuzzled my ears, as she does a dozen times a day. I carefully pulled the blanket off the recliner seat and shook it, then I bent to reach along the cushion, when my eye caught a glint in the seat back. There was the lost jewel wedged between the head and the back cushions! A lucky find.

Just for fun I made the mythical $250 cookie recipe again, this time with all the right ingredients. Grating a four ounce Hershey bar on a microplane was the most tedious part. Otherwise it’s a pretty straightforward chocolate chip cookie recipe. I sprinkled in a little cinnamon for good measure, and pulled out the Demerara sugar to press some into the tops before baking; but then I remembered Amy’s tip, and used flaky sea salt instead, dipping my fingers first into a small bowl of salt then pressing the cookies lightly to flatten a bit.

I was grateful I had one cup of coffee left to enjoy when the cookies came out of the oven. I gave most of them away today, but have some dough leftover to bake another batch for lunch tomorrow.

That apricot harvest? The whole single bowl full, minus the four or five that I ate… I turned it into a single pint of jam this afternoon. Not enough to even bother canning, but it should last into winter in the fridge if I indulge sparingly. It really puts things in perspective: there have been years that I’ve canned two dozen half pints, plenty to last me all year and give a bunch as Christmas presents. There were so many blossoms on the tree this spring, but three hard freezes in a row decimated the harvest. I’m grateful that the professional orchards didn’t get hit so hard.

Little dog napping on clean sheets before I had a chance to fold them.

Rain

At last! Though probably barely measurable, we have rain. I’m grateful for a little rain with a lot of thunder and lightning.

Grateful for this year’s apricot harvest, more than I thought it would be after freezes last fall and this spring. There are still some on the tree for the birds, but a shirtful is about all I’ll get. Oh well! Better some than none at all.
Grateful for another day with this dog, grateful that he can still get ahead of me, and grateful that he’s always, always, stopped to look back.

Apricot Tree

A resilient survivor, this apricot tree! She suffered the same brutal freeze last October as the almond tree who died, and the peach tree who lost half her limbs, and the desert willow, who has emerged finally this summer like a Dr. Seuss tree. The apricot tree simply curtailed her blossoms and turned her attention to her leaves, filling out beautifully.

And not only her leaves! She did make maybe a tenth of the blossoms as last year, maybe fewer, and now has some nice fat fruits. In the whole canopy, though, this is the densest concentration I found. But most of them are still green, and smaller, so she could surprise me. I doubt I’ll be making jam; and the Raspberry Queen down in Hotchkiss has only harvested a cup or two of berries from her prolific patch. Indeed, the fruit trees and shrubs have suffered this past year, from erratic weather in this new climate of extremes.

Today I’m grateful for the first few apricots, ripening on the resilient tree.

Eating August

IMG_7700

Apricots showed up in many festive meals last month, including these appetizers: perfect apricots cut in half, pits replaced with a dollop of softened cream cheese and topped with salted, roasted almonds.

IMG_8274

Another place they showed up was this leg-of-goat roast at the Bad Dog Ranch, in the glaze and in a pan-cooked chutney alongside, courtesy of Chef Gabrielle.

IMG_7819

After making apricot jam, harvesting the garden and raiding the fridge, time for a gin gimlet and fresh vegetable curry over red rice, inspired by a friend’s recipe.

IMG_7821

Sautéed onions and garlic, three kinds of peppers, fresh tomato, and coconut milk simmer on the stove…

IMG_7823

…add zucchini and yellow squash and handfuls of fresh purple and green basil, and simmer til soft and yummy, then serve over rice.

IMG_7911

“Do you call a sandwich with tomato and cheese a tomato sandwich?” asked Ann. Me: “NO! That is a tomato and cheese sandwich. A tomato sandwich is just tomato. And mayo. Lots of mayo.”

IMG_7925

The BLT is another kind of sandwich altogether, not a tomato sandwich. Sometimes you feel like bacon, sometimes you don’t. But thick bacon! How do you make a BLT with thick bacon? It is just too chewy to bite into pieces. I tried first with chunks of thick bacon instead of whole strips.

IMG_8005

And finally solved the dilemma after cooking chopped thick bacon for a pasta sauce. Chop the bacon small and fry til crispy, then add to the sandwich.

IMG_8347

Carrots were ready at last. Not a great harvest, but a lot better than last year. They loved the raised bed with its loamy loose soil, but the grasshoppers got their tops through much of the summer. Mostly good-sized roots, and lots of gorgeous colors.

IMG_8390

One of the many things I love the most about living in the North Fork Valley is the food we share. We share it in gourmet or casual potlucks, dinner parties, and by the bag, box and basket. These perfect tomatoes came from Mary’s kitchen in exchange for a box of plums picked off of Ellie’s tree. We are blessed with a climate that in some years gives us outrageous amounts of fresh fruit, and in most years gives us gems like these. Our valley is the Organic capital of Colorado, and our produce shows up around the state in all the best Farmers’ Markets.

We have the opportunity in the next 56 days to influence the policy that will determine the level of industrial extraction in the wild public lands that surround our valley; those hills and mountains that comprise our watersheds, our views, our recreation, and our thriving and growing economy based on producing the highest quality vegetables, meats, wines, and recreational opportunities. Hunters, fisher-folk, tourists, people who buy the North Fork Valley’s food products around the state and country, anyone who has ever visited this valley or would like to, we need your support. You can start here. More to come.

Out Like a Lamb

Orangetip butterflies were out in numbers today feeding on little purple mustards and the first rockrose to bloom.

Orangetip butterflies were out in numbers today feeding on little purple mustards and the first rockrose to bloom.

IMG_6915

March came in like a lion with cold and snow. All the young bucks were grazing at my place.

March came in like a lion with cold and snow. All the young bucks were grazing at my place.

No sooner had I assembled and hung the bluebird house that Jean sent onto the south fence...

No sooner had I assembled the bluebird house that Jean sent, and hung it onto the south fence…

... than a flock of western bluebirds descended.

… than a flock of western bluebirds descended! Whether a pair chooses to occupy the house remains to be seen.

The valley is filled with smoke; everyone is clearing fields with fire. Plumes rise in all directions, some thin, some billowing. At home I bravely burn the ornamental grasses. After years of cutting through the old stalks, usually too late to avoid nipping new growth, I finally realized I could fold the tops in on themselves and light a match.

The valley is filled with smoke; everyone is clearing fields with fire. Plumes rise in all directions, some thin, some billowing. At home I bravely burn the ornamental grasses. After years of cutting through the old stalks, usually too late to avoid nipping new growth, I finally realized I could fold the tops in on themselves and light a match.

Within days this pillow of cinders began to green up again.

Within days this pillow of cinders began to green up again.

Little purple irises came and went without benefit of bees. It took me all month to realize how depressed I am about the loss of the hive.

Little purple irises came and went without benefit of bees. It took me all month to realize how depressed I am about the loss of the hive.

I rescued the first little lizard of the year from inside a friend's house.

I rescued the first little lizard of the year from inside a friend’s house.

And Gabrielle found the first frog of the year while turning a vegetable bed, a western chorus frog.

And Gabrielle found the first frog of the year while turning a vegetable bed, a western chorus frog.

We moved him to the pond...

We moved him to the pond…

IMG_4237

 

The first tulip opened last week.

The first tulip opened last week.

Then one more, then some more...

Then one more, then some more…

Tiny corner pockets of beauty are emerging as the garden greens this spring, exquisite groupings I couldn’t have planned.

Tiny pockets of beauty are emerging as the garden greens this spring, exquisite groupings I couldn’t have planned.

All the little pockets of pasqueflower growing at different rates, budding blooming expanding.

All the little pockets of pasqueflower growing at different rates, budding blooming expanding.

Honeybees have found the apricot tree, and I look at them differently. They’re not my bees; they’re the bees that preceded and competed with my bees, and they’re the bees that ultimately brought the disease that killed my bees. They’re beautiful, they’re stoic bees, they’re chemically treated bees.

Honeybees have found the apricot tree, and I look at them differently. They’re not my bees; they’re the bees that preceded and competed with my bees, and they’re the bees that ultimately brought the disease that killed my bees. They’re beautiful, they’re stoic bees, they’re chemically treated bees.

I ran into a friend at the grocery store yesterday who told me that the beehives across the canyon have had mites for years. “They’re too close to you,” she said. It was cold comfort, a theory validated that suggested once and for all it wasn’t my fault. It’s been bleak watching flowers open one by one with no honeybees to pollinate them. Until two days ago I’d only seen an occasional bee; finally, a handful in the apricot tree. Then yesterday more, and bumblebees, and tiny wild bees. As they return I feel more and more alive.

I guess I despaired of finding the same joy in photography as I did last year with my bees. And in a strange way, my pleasure is tainted knowing they’re not my bees… still, they’re bees, they’re sturdy hardy bees that are surviving, and that brings with it a more astringent joy than the wallowing I was doing the past three summers, that first inebriated love that lasts a few years before something goes awry and love becomes a choice to share in suffering.

Honeybees back on the sweet smelling almond tree.

Honeybees back on the sweet smelling almond tree.

I remember last year forsythia covered in snow. This spring how it glows brilliant yellow and grows tall in full bloom.

I remember last year forsythia covered in snow. This spring how it glows brilliant yellow and grows tall in full bloom.

The first leaf and flower buds of chokecherries are opening.

The first leaf and flower buds of chokecherries and other trees and shrubs are opening.

Redwing blackbirds sing in symphony around the pond. I sit silent, eyes closed, listening to their beautiful cacophony.

Redwing blackbirds sing in symphony around the pond. I sit silent, eyes closed, losing myself in their beautiful cacophony. 

Each morning for weeks this flicker has greeted me, drumming on the roof cap and shrilling to the sky, calling for a mate, claiming his terrain. Oddly, the first time I heard him drilling on the roof, it put me right to sleep. I'd been tossing and turning, then recognized that startling staccato. It somehow signaled some security, and my body just let go, softened into the sheets, and fell back to sleep.

Each morning for weeks this flicker has greeted me, drumming on the roof cap and shrilling to the sky, calling for a mate, claiming his terrain. Oddly, the first time I heard him drilling on the roof, it put me right to sleep. I’d been tossing and turning, then recognized that startling staccato. It somehow signaled some security, and my body just let go, softened into the sheets, and fell back to sleep.