Tag Archive | garden


Topaz is finally becoming a semi-sociable cat. I still grieve the untimely death of her brother three years ago: He was so connected to me from the beginning, while she was always aloof in the way of so many female cats, the hunters, the providers. But she’s eight and a half now, and she’s finally accepted Wren, and she wants to be more involved in our lives. To the unfortunate point of exploring places she doesn’t belong. I’m grateful for her attention, and that she’s graceful enough that she didn’t crash through the open top of the light stand.

I’m grateful for the freedom of non-attachment that gardening cultivates. I had some leftover seeds from the past couple of years that I planted this afternoon in soil I’d kept soft and warm(ish) under cover for the past few weeks. In anticipation of this weekend’s snow, I planted a bunch of rows and left them to receive the moisture. At bedtime, there’s a light dusting of snow glowing under the overcast, waxing moon. I’ll figure out the cover strategy after the storm dumps all it’s going to and skies clear again. Will I cover then until spring? Or will I cover and uncover until the deep freeze and then leave the beds exposed to collect all the winter’s moisture… and then cover to begin warming in earliest spring? Or, will I think of something else somewhere along the way? Not attached to whether these seeds germinate, but enjoying experimenting, knowing that no matter what I do now I don’t know what will happen later. Grateful to be alive, comfortable with uncertainty.

I’m grateful today for leftovers, but not the usual Thanksgiving spread. Just another chickpea-mushroom burger and homemade bun from the freezer. I’m grateful to have sufficient food that I can frequently save some for the next day, or the next month; and that I have the appliances to do so safely; and that I have electric power from the sun to run the fridge and freezer. I’m grateful for these things every single day.

A Happy Outcome

Garden season is winding down, the roller coaster crawling toward a full stop. Before the first freeze next week, I got in another couple of types of garlic, with gratitude to Ellie for sharing some local organic bulbs of two hardneck red varieties, Russian and Vietnamese. I now have two full beds planted with garlic, and I can tell the softnecks I planted a few weeks ago have rooted because they are sending up little green shoots. Between Friday and Monday nights upcoming, low temps are forecast to drop from 40 to 21℉. That will put an end to the remaining scarlet salvias, zinnias, and calendulas still blooming. I’m grateful they’ve held on for so long. And grateful to get the last garlic and some more tulips in the ground today.

Go figure: I transplanted these cauliflowers back in the spring and they stayed tiny for months before finally starting to grow good leaves, which were devoured by grasshoppers even as they grew. I held little hope for them ever making fruit, but left them in the ground all summer as grasshopper bait hoping they’d leave some of my other plants alone. They eventually devoured the leek and onion green tops leaving me next-to-nothing there, but still I left the cauliflowers in the ground. Lo and behold, at last they are making heads, albeit tiny. I wonder if they’ll survive sub-freezing nights, or if I’ll harvest these tiny heads this weekend.

I’m grateful for a next-to-last lunch outside with one of the last little tomatoes, leftover coleslaw, smoked gouda, and toast, along with falling golden birch leaves and the first volume of The Rain Wild Chronicles. I’m also grateful for some meaningful meditations, meetings, and conversations today.

I think I’m most grateful today for a happy outcome for this little dark-eyed junco who crashed into a window this afternoon. I heard the thump, dropped what I was doing, and went to the back door, where I was dismayed to see Topaz with the bird in her mouth. As I opened the door she set it down and walked inside! What a good kitty!

I picked up the bird who had no apparent damage but was limp with an open beak. I dripped a couple of drops of water into its mouth, and carried it to a secure fork in the chokecherry tree, where it was able to grip and rest. Not long after, I looked out the window and saw it was gone, so I walked out to look around and make sure it hadn’t simply fallen. It had recovered and flown away! A large flock of these little birds has been hanging around for a couple of weeks; or maybe there are multiple flocks migrating through. Three have hit a window in the past week, with one fatality; that’s more birds hitting windows here than over the past entire year or more, so I tend to think they are migrating through and are unfamiliar with the lay of the yarden. I added another visual barrier to the large window, and hope that’s the last accident for a long time.

Things that Didn’t Happen

I’m grateful for things that didn’t happen today: my reaction to the vaccine wasn’t nearly as uncomfortable as previous versions. My upper arm is sore, and I’ve been pretty tired this afternoon and evening, but not the wiped out exhaustion I felt after earlier vaccinations. I’m grateful I was able to take Wren on a short walk this morning and see my yard from a different angle, appreciating the colors before they succumb to winter. I’m grateful I had the energy to bake these wonderful Trail Mix Cookies! So simple, so delicious, and so filling: I feel downright virtuous eating one, chockfull of nutritious nuts and dried fruits with barely any sugar or flour. Oh, and with plenty of dark chocolate.

Stork Bite

I’m grateful for all the right tools, for the raised beds, snow on the mountains, and the resilient red salvia that keeps on blooming for any stray hummingbirds or other pollinators in need.

When a friend cut my hair the other week, she noticed a ‘birthmark’ on the back of my neck. I couldn’t believe I could have had a birthmark for 64 years and never known about it, but I asked my primary care provider today when I went in for a Medicare intake that was mistakenly scheduled since I have to wait til I’m 65 for that particular appointment. But it was good to see her, to hear that the weird bump on my finger was a benign cyst that is pressing on the nailbed making it grow crooked, but nothing to worry about; and that the strange red splotches underneath my shorn hair are what’s known as a ‘stork bite.’ This extremely common type of birthmark, found on nearly 30% of newborns, apparently remains in around half those people into adulthood. What a relief! With all the skin cancers I’ve dealt with through the years, I’m grateful to have a simple stork bite.

A stork bite, photo from Bing Images

Stork bite! It’s a hilarious phrase and I can’t stop saying it. I’m glad I had something to laugh about, because when I went to the pharmacy after waiting an hour for a clinic appointment I didn’t really need, they once again said that Medicaid didn’t cover the new Covid vaccine. I got impatient with the tech, because after the same person told me the same thing last week I had called around, including my insurance provider, and been told it was covered; I’d called the store manager and she said there was a mistake and to come get it anytime. Well, I put my foot down this time and made them call the number on my card, but as the situation unfolded I felt like an ass for holding up the line behind me and being cranky to the helpless tech. Turns out it’s true, City Market won’t take Medicaid for the Covid shot; the store manager had double-checked flu shot coverage, not Covid.

As I waited, though, instead of fuming and getting more impatient, I called to mind that it wasn’t their fault, they work hard, I didn’t want to make anyone’s day worse, and I gradually surrendered to ‘this is how it is.’ The tech who had taken the brunt of my bad attitude had left the scene while the pharmacist was on the phone trying patiently to learn how they could give me the shot. When I heard her say, “So we need to get pre-authorization?” I called to her “If I can’t get it today I’ll just go to Safeway.” “Are you sure?” she said. “Yeah.” So she hung up and came over to apologize, and I apologized for getting cranky. But as I drove home I thought about the feelings of the other tech, who had taken a break. I put myself in her shoes: I’d have taken a break from me too. I felt awful for bringing discord into her day just because I was annoyed and inconvenienced.

Maybe she was already having a tough day. Maybe my attitude would make the rest of her shift more difficult, or maybe she’d go home and still feel bad about that interaction. The possible ripples and ramifications of my impatience plagued me, and I could really understand the truth of how we create our own suffering when our actions are out of alignment with our values. I value kindness and patience, and I had not been kind nor patient. Granted, I had not spiraled into a tizzy as I might have a few years ago before mindfulness practice, and I wasn’t stewing at her or the situation all the way home. So I’ve improved myself some. But not as much as I’d like to. Once I got home, I called the pharmacy and offered the tech a heartfelt apology, and she was grateful for it. So was I.


On this precious day that will never come again I am grateful that I got to spend more time outside in the beautiful fall sunshine and colorful foliage. The red crabapple tree, the orange Amur maple beyond the house, and the stunning accidental aspen.

Just as we stood to leave the pond this afternoon I turned my head and gasped at these glowing cattails.

As I continue to put the garden to bed these weeks, I get to tend each raised bed adding soil and compost as needed. And today I planted a six-foot long bed with tulip bulbs of four colors as Wren supervised. I top-dressed the bed with an inch of compost and a mulch of hay and watered in everything. Later this week I’ll plant some more garlic, and maybe I’ll get a bed ready for some over-wintering carrot and greens seeds. The greens I planted last winter did really well under plastic when spring came and gave me plenty of food early before the grasshopper plague that stunted later crops.

There’s a brand of frozen ‘fresh’ dog food that I tried a subscription to: the introductory offer was great, but with the next step of ‘transition’ food the packages were 20% smaller, cost 50% more, and looked more like canned than ‘fresh’ food. I canceled that subscription, and just fed her the last of it yesterday. All along I was planning to cook homemade food to supplement Wren’s high-quality kibble, but just hadn’t made time for it — until today! I’m grateful for saving lots of money by spending an hour cooking a month’s worth of food for her. I chopped potatoes, sweet potatoes and broccoli, grated a couple carrots, and boiled them til they were soft enough to mash; then mashed in a can of black beans and a pound of grass-fed neighborhood ground beef that includes some organ meat, and simmered another ten minutes until it was a chili consistency.

When it cooled enough, I packaged it in three freezer containers and one for the fridge, and spooned a bit into her bowl even though she’d already had breakfast. She was so excited, and licked her platter clean.

Some days are hard. I’m grateful that today was an easy day in so many ways, and especially in my mind. As I kept moving through the moments of the day doing the right next thing, appreciating the environment I moved through, enjoying interactions with people and other animals, I felt like I was enough.

Fall Gardening

I’m grateful today for fall gardening and having the energy to plant garlic. I ordered two varieties of softneck from Territorial Seeds and readied the beds to receive them. Fingers crossed for rain tomorrow to settle the cloves in after tucking them in rich, loose soil this afternoon. Sunny, cloudy, breezy, and just warm enough, it was a perfect day for fall gardening.

That Satisfying Pop

I’m grateful for a full and beautiful Autumn day. It was gorgeous outside all day, a crisp wet morning from night rain, a clear blue sky with a few puffy white clouds moving along, some distant rainstorms, a little time outside with coffee, kindle, kitty, Wren, and hummingbirds; much good work to do inside, a gift delivery to a friend going into surgery tomorrow (may you walk pain-free now), just one wasp sting, and more fun in the kitchen.

The sourdough I mixed last night was barely risen by morning, it’s so cool at night now, so I put the bowl of dough in the sunroom for a few hours this morning. The bake didn’t happen til after lunch, but I look forward to a cheese and tomato sandwich tomorrow, and I was glad to share the perfect, warm loaf.

Later in the evening I processed a pound of peaches off the counter, making a few jars of peach salsa. I was grateful to have all the spices required except fresh cilantro, so I just used coriander powder. Also one jalapeño, and one Fresno pepper from the garden, and store-bought garlic and onion. Chopped, diced, minced, and cooked, I got three half-pints to can in the water-bath, and a smidge that was too hot to taste tonight but I refrigerated for tomorrow.

I’m grateful for that satisfying pop the jar lids make with a successful vacuum seal. There’s nothing quite like it: You pull the hot jars out of the boiling water, set them on the counter, and wait… I like to wait in silence, because the pop is just so satisfying when it comes. The truth is, you can have a successful seal even without the pop, but it just doesn’t feel finished to me until that *pop* happens when the lid sucks down onto the jar, sealing your summer produce to preserve it for a good six months or longer: A job well done. I’ve got a couple of pounds of peaches left on the counter, and maybe one more on the tree. I look forward to picking the last of the peach harvest tomorrow.

Profound Conversations

Despite grasshopper predation, the first few peppers are showing up on the Fresno plant that Gabi gave me. I’m excited to try this variety that’s new to me.

I’m grateful for Boyz Lunch today, and for the (relatively) cool breeze and few clouds that tempered the heat. Fennel bulbs aren’t ripe yet so I substituted fennel seed in this recipe, swapped out tilapia for cod, and spinach for broccolini, and we concurred it was a five-star meal and an absolutely delicious way to cook fish. I served it with the last of the coconut-corn soup, garnished with coconut cream and a squeeze of fresh lime.

I’m grateful for the meaningful conversation that we shared today, about aging and choices around death. I know one of them fears being hooked up to machines at the end, and the other wants Miles Davis music at his burial. It’s so important to have these profound conversations.

I’m grateful for this resilient desert willow, which once grew past the roof and froze nearly to death a few years ago. I’ve kept it pruned hard since then, and now it’s barely more than a large shrub, but it’s full of more blooms than it’s had in a decade, and they’re all at eye level.


Find the phoebe! Mama is in the picture, keeping watch over her little ones.

There are several reasons I wish I would go to bed earlier so that I can wake up earlier. This morning added another one to the list: I heard the phoebes after sunrise, but I dallied and didn’t get outside til 7:30. When I looked up at the nest–it was empty! They were all tucked in last night, and this morning, poof! Gone!

This didn’t happen in past years. They spent a couple of days in flight training from the nest, returning to it overnight. They hopped off the ledge onto various perches right around the deck, before staging into the trees just north of the house, and then later into the west woods. But this crew! They ‘flew the coop’ as a friend said, straight out the nest and… as I discovered a few minutes after my disappointment, right into the garden.

After I recovered from the shock of their disappearance, I turned toward the garden gate to go in and water the raised beds, and saw some fluttering… the chicks! I commend the parents. I can think of no better place for them to teach their chicks to fly and hunt. It’s full of grasshoppers, butterflies, and moths. I stepped back and watched for half an hour as the parents chirped, hunted, dropped down to feed babies; and as they flew together singing over the garden and the woods, demonstrating so many essential phoebe skills.

After awhile they had moved farther into the dog pen section of the garden, so I went in with the hose to water the beds. I continued to watch the parents but couldn’t see the chicks in the sagebrush and junipers in this transition zone between garden and wild forest. As I stood sprinkling the onions, I watched mama drop to the ground to hunt something, and she slipped through a gap under a chicken-wire plant cage stored in there: Suddenly she was frantically fluttering trapped inside the cage. I’m so grateful I happened to see it. I dropped the hose and ran to the cage, which has a flap on top that I opened, and she flew out.

Just as I got there she’d been trying to get out through the wire–which would have killed her if she’d gotten stuck. I immediately opened the other four cages. They’ve been sitting in there for more than a month. It had never occurred to me that a creature might get caught in them. You just never know what hazards you create for others!

It was so hot I stayed inside all day, but when I went out again this evening, I listened carefully, and heard the parents calling still from farther out in the woods. I’m so grateful for a successful fledging, and so glad I got to see some of the excitement from afar, and participate in a rescue so they didn’t lose a parent.