Grape Jelly Making
16 Sept. 2018
Am about to pull on blue work shirt & bib-overalls to process grapes. Messy business straight ahead! I resist buying fruit given the bounty of this river valley, but excellent grapes are grown by an organic farmer friend at a more favorable, lower elevation.
Am trying a variation on the grape jelly theme. I have Mama's 1953 Joy of Cooking (with copyright from 1931 on.) She was a fab cook all my growing up, and it tugs at my heart knowing I'm reading her culinary map. This older Joy (than my more Calif. Cuisine edition) still has farming, canning and grandmother info. For example my current project, calling for 15# of concord grapes!
9 September 2018
We're serving up weedkiller in Cheerios, sandwiches, corn chips and everything soy. We were sold a bill of goods. Not to worry; totally harmless. First successful lawsuit has challenged Monsanto's in-house research assurances. A few million in litigation pain, and a jolly good start.
My cousin lost her life, leaving two little kids, via a Glyphosate-infiltrated well--Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma thirty years ago, age 27. Many neighbors had the same issue and were ailing. I attended her funeral; she was the first to die.
They lived in rural, flat Virginia--hot, humid. They were not farmers but plenty Roundup-based farming in her area. Sprays tended to settle and not disperse.
Have often thought with pity of the American Midwest, former breadbasket of the world--now laid waste by GMO corn and soy mega-plantings, mega-sprayed. (Also those who spend big bucks to live alongside heavily-sprayed--at night--golf courses)
My commodities broker lived in the Midwest, an old farm boy into the GMO-corn-ethanol canard, but cognizant of herbicides approaching eco-saturation, land, air and water. He worried about having children, and longed for a family.
When I organic-farmed in dairy country in the Blue Ridge Mts. of Virginia, the dairy farms had stopped crop-rotation, and gone to no-till corn (spray the living daylights out of the land instead--dead roots help prevent erosion.) Farmers who sprayed looked like death warmed over, liver-poison-sallow. The deep valleys and wind didn't stop wind drift of their Ag-sprays, but dispersed much of it.
When I finally went down for the count from Power Co. right-of-way !surprise! use of 2,4-D, I couldn't tolerate spray drift anymore, Had to sell the farm and get a year's worth of holistic medical intervention. Had dropped to less than 4% female body fat while ill.
The MD said, no more acute or chronic exposures; eat only organically grown food...
Decided then, that if I lived, doubtful at the time, I would find somewhere with contiguous ranches and family farms deciding for sustainable agriculture.
Did so and consider myself blessed, though with an attitude-problem toward regulatory agencies and the revolving doors with bayer/monsatan and their ilk.
East Coast Hurricanes
May Roar Inland
9 September 2018
Am watching potential Florence, etc. trajectories, and the NC/SC declared states of emergency.
fwiw a hurricane slammed my Blue Ridge farm my first year. I had business down below the mountain, but family friends from the Piedmont stayed while I was away, to help oversee renovations.
A worker, in haste to get gone as the winds picked up, replaced clapboards by nailing them so the overlap faced upward... Bridges over-topped, washed away, and the farm kitchen and wall flooded with incoming torrents.
The visiting hubby was a retired Marine Colonel, Mr. Can-Do, who tried to secure a tarp over the clapboard idiocy, but the winds were too violent. They mopped up flood for hours, filling and emptying buckets.
Trees and branches came down; roads washed away; power went out. I had left candles and oil lamps. Pump from the spring stopped working, but they were able to dip sweet water out of the spring box. The stove was propane. I'd left wood in the house; they were able to build woodstove fires.
It was a working farm with already a pretty good pantry. They were snug, and the epitome of good neighbors.
Food for thought.
22 August 2018
A hardy native tree across the US, the blossoms are rarely frosted. Old timers in the mountains consider the juice/jelly/syrup a medicine. I stood in a chokecherry thicket by the cascading river and picked 15 kilos, barely moving location. I did wait till the sun was up--nocturnal bears leave scat full of chokecherry seed! Tree identification in its seasons: https://gardenerdy.com/how-to-identify-chokecherry-tree-easily
The fruit is tart and local jellies are made with cloying amounts of sugar. Here's a recipe using Pomona's Pectin: https://www.theprairiehomestead.com/2012/08/how-to-make-chokecherry-jelly-low-sugar-and-honey-variations.html
9 August 2018
This morning I picked peaches on the north side of the tree--the south ripening first--a fragrant and overflowing lady-basket. The bird-pecked peaches, quite a few, I bit free the good part and tossed the pits over my shoulder, some juice running down my chin. The young cats chased windfalls in the tall grass and wildflowers.
Am just in from checking on things and how vivid the flower colors in this haunting light. Heirloom tomatoes are coming in--Brandywine--the old Amish luscious one, reminding us that tomato is a fruit.
Time Measured by Garden Bounty
6 August 2018
Peach jam! Am soaking goji berries and grating ginger root to add, for winter time pizazz. Plums ripen next, then a neighborhood apple cider pressing. Followed by firewood stacking; the nights grow cooler in the high country.
The neighborhood kitties have been leaping in the air and catching grasshoppers to a very satisfying attrition. Thanks to the wee tigers, looks as though there will be enough basil to dry. Have planted it by/around the tomatoes. Picked first ones yesterday--Black Kirim and Striped German so far.
Am wanting to try the solar oven way of doing sweet corn, when corn reaches the farmers market.
You peel back leaves; rub off silks with circular motion; re-cover kernels; set ears in water to soak a bit. Shake off excess water. Then into the black pots, un-shucked and covered, for an hour or so. The vid I watched of the process evoked speechless bliss, corn buttered and hot.
A Land Still Wild
21 July 2018
As I headed out of the boonies, very much in ranch country, two horses, spectacular ones with bloodline, came speeding across the road right in front of me. I, who tap brakes, slammed them. A near miss of the second horse's hind quarters. I saw the flying hooves just clear.
Happened quickly but looked like a chestnut stallion and palomino mare. Most of the horses around here are more on the order of Indian ponies, small from drought and poverty owners who couldn't feed out enough hay. These beauties leapt out of another lineage altogether.
A fellow in an ATV maybe 300 yards ahead was watching. Looked Apache/Hispano, grounded, silent. I drove level with him, and asked if he knew who they belonged to?... No, he said, but I'm about to find out. He was waiting to go straight, but put on his turn signal and headed off into the hinterland.
It moves me that suburbia has not inflicted itself on this wild country. Even off the main roads in town, you'll find small farm holdings--chickens, a few black or red Angus, Navajo sheep, horses. Horse trailers are a common conveyance here. Cowboys on horseback still ride the range in the high desert and mountains of the American West.
Where most everyone is praying for rain, and a solar oven is cooking my supper. Too hot to roast anything, including me, indoors. It's over 100 degrees under the blazing white sun, but mercifully 74 in the thick-walled adobe.
A Firefighter's Report
14 July 2018
I encountered a friend today who was all but emitting sparks herself. Her rancher husband served as a So. Colorado Volunteer Firefighter for 25 years. He's retired now but mobilized when the arsonists got to work. He had also taught his four sons the firefighting skills of First Responders.
My friend's hubby had smelled smoke in severe drought conditions, and 35 miles away saw a wall of flame headed toward their ranch. He estimated the height of the fire-tsunami at 400 ft. He shouted for his sons who saddled up and galloped into the high country and began doing controlled burns of bone-dry sage brush and chamisa. They worked day and night for four days and saved two of the ranch buildings... but lost their home-place.
The hubby roared to the thick of the blaze to help his colleagues. Some of the volunteer fire-folks got trapped and frantically tried to do a controlled burn and dove into their protective tents still in their gear. The hubby went in after the fire passed; friends' feet and faces were scorched, their hair burned off.
Firefighters, all but dead on their feet with exhaustion, joined Forest Rangers, the Smokey the Bear folks. They went into the destroyed lands, over 100,000 acres, and did their duty by the surviving critters. They went in with rifles and handguns.
Wife said you would not believe the hordes of half-burnt animals they had to mercy-kill...elk, deer, bear, raccoon, porcupine, and ranchers' cattle.
The guy who started it is is jail, but has not been charged with arson, and that's why my friend was spitting mad--"He should be charged like any citizen!"--the guy's an illegal who came in across the southern US border.
Locals who love the mountains like their mother have known for months that it wasn't safe to have an open fire, or risk using a chainsaw.
The illegal had fixed himself a campfire meal, got soused, fell asleep, and a fire from hell was off to the races... Over 200 ancestral homes were destroyed, gone forever.
By then I was hyperventilating... "And the protected illegal?"... She squinted her eyes, and said, "He's in a jail without individual cells..."
Drought & Heirloom Corn
25 June 2018
In the Southern Rockies, the adobe Pueblos are gradually returning to native foods, as healthier, and more adapted, to challenging ecosystems. than coddled hybrids or GMO's.
That includes the "Three Sisters" of maize, beans, squash. Some of the Pueblos are making a success of sustainable Ag, but with little to no rain, all bets are off.
Locally, the river for Pueblo irrigation has gone dry. Large plantings of heirloom maize are being lost--ancestral seed stock of Hopi blue corn and ceremonial white.
I had to explain to the friend with whom I do small veggie effort that we would be letting the heirloom sugar snap peas set seed only, much reduced by drought.
She could see a few pods forming.
"We won't eat any?" she asked, a bit p.o.'d.
"No, we'll save any seed for next year and hope for winter snow pack and rain."
Before countries began relying on availability of annual purchase of hybrid seed (which cannot be saved; it does not bear true, reverting to either parent) families, gardeners and farmers saved the best seed for next year.
In Europe, corn (Korn) refers to grains in general, pre-dating the introduction of New World maize. So in desperate times, "eating the seed corn" meant loss of hope; it meant there would be no seed to plant next year. Unless stolen from others in war.
Farmers are seldom stoopid, though Monsanto certainly pulled a toxic number on the "Bread Basket of the World." Farmers know to save back seed to allow for crop failures.
Farmers in India had saved locally-adapted seed for countless generations. Those beguiled into planting non-save-able Monsanto seed went into debt to do so. The seeds have turned out to be poorly adapted/poor-yielding. Farmers went ever deeper into unpayable debt. Tens of thousands of Indian farmers have committed suicide by drinking Monsanto poisons.
Black Bear Adventures
20 June 2018
A friend in the Smoky Mts where it's rained all but incessantly reports a 12 hr. power outage from a tree down, but with no wind. There have, however, been bear sightings in the area. Might that be pertinent?
Oh? said I...
Bears have two pertinent behaviors which might affect tree roots in soggy ground:
1) They stand with back to trunk and rub up and down to scratch where it itches, with enough vigah to take down evergreen branches.
2) They leave formidable scratch marks down tree trunks with hundreds of pounds leaning into same.
An elder friend of mine was camping some years back, a city-girl newbie to the SW. She's generally feisty.
Also unaware, she had food INSIDE her tent. She woke up to a large clawed paw coming through the tent fly. The bear started leaning on the tent. She:
1) Screamed bloody murder
2) Pushed back on the ursine body mass
She was in a campground fortunately, and male persons began roaring out of their tents, bellowing. The bear settled back on all fours and decided to skedaddle.
Rain, Blessed Rain
4 June, 2018
Rain and some small but not damaging hail yesterday. I sat on the sun porch where there's a tin roof and listened to rain music. Light shining through rain droplets on apricot leaf tips, particularly beautiful.
Aesthetics aside, the economy out West just had a reprieve, ditto fire fighters.
Red and Black Angus will have pasture; alfalfa and hay fields will re-surge. Orchard fruit will swell. Cider pressings this fall, we hope. River running businesses have adventures to offer.
A good refresher on the tenuousness of economy. minus.. xyz. Kunstler would re-iterate our dependence on cheap oil; he lives back East where cheap oil fueled manufacturing, now left derelict.
El aqua es la vida.
3 June 2018
In the Southern Rockies wildfires are roaring in the dry tinder and resinous forests. Sagebrush flats offer more flammable resin, as though smudging the land.
Wind is picking up, a whooshing prelude to thunderstorms, and hopefully not including, the predicted large hail.
A neighbor's well has gone dry; rivers and acequias are low. I learned about no water when the Appalachian spring (the water kind) went dry on my organic farm (Earth-Whisperers.)
We haven't much awareness of water as precious resource, till we're hauling it in jugs, or in a tank on a truck.
Memorial Day 2018
The American Civil War
Nastiness, and also gallantry. Gen. Robert E. Lee comes to mind as a last of the gentlemen soldiers.
In my family, indeed kin were arrayed on opposite sides in the long brutality. A several greats Missouri Grandmother was widowed, a Confederate officer. She had freed their few slaves before the Emancipation Proclamation. Nothing left for her, she decided to head to Texas where she had kin.
It meant passing though the fighting. Her former slaves had elected to stay with her. She drove the buggy; they drove mule and oxen, a cow hitched to the back of one of the wagons.
At a river crossing, she was threatened with thievery and worse by Union soldiers. A Union officer roared up--her deceased husband's best friend. He gave her safe passage and an escort out of the war zone.
She had no skills other than embroidery and sewing a fine seam. running a household. Her black companions, employees settled with her in Texas and taught her to spin, weave, plant, harvest, hunt, butcher.
My grandfather knew her when he was a boy, still a gentlewoman, but one who could bring down a deer to feed her family.
After Europe's Great War, WW1, there were many maimed, and many dead husbands and fiance's, and a generation of spinsters.
Ditto after the US Civil War--maiden lady aunts who moved in with some family member. They became school teachers as a demographic.
And the "Blue Coat" soldiers? They were sent West to help fulfill Manifest Destiny by destroying the Plains Indians.
Aye, we'll rally 'round the flag, boys,
Rally once again,
Shouting the battle cry of freedom...
Country Wild Life
24 May 2018
A mule deer has dined on rose, delphinium, lily and columbine buds in the upper flower garden, despite abundant wild forage. Harrumph. Was late planting out nasturtiums, which repel deer and wabbits, and it's been so dry, the self-sown ones from last year hadn't sprouted.
Three kitties have adopted me, mischief makers and entertaining. My neighbors, to whom they ostensibly belong, don't feed them, so I put out some crunchettes with nutritional yeast and garlic powder in the early AM on an improv apricot tree platform--as an appetizer to moles and mice. They walk along the top of the garden fence and prefer lapping water from the top of the watering can. Underfoot whenever I appear, ankle-twiners with major purr melodics.
Brilliant orioles are nesting. They like hummingbird nectar and the color, orange. Sunflower seed and suet feeders came down this week at the first bear sighting at dawn. The feeder pole will forever list to starboard from last year's first ursine leaning on it. I learned my lesson!
5 April 2018
The music of the bees alerted me to an early apricot tree suddenly burst into bloom!
Overhead, red tail hawk was swooping on updraft. Song sparrow sings in the wild plum thicket, and nesting business has begun.
I'd started to feel punch-drunk and less jolly, too much life force gone splat, following world news.
Good to settle one's tusch on the earth and remember we're still part of it.
Mountain Snow, Magical Light
28 March 2018
Three inches of fluffy snow here, and more tonight after a concerningly dry winter. Ominous (I would say, promising) clouds massing N/NW. Very little glimpse of the mountains, hidden away in snow fog.
Am just back from a walk through the woods along the river, with plenty of snow dumped on the walker! Bit of misty sun shone on the cascading water and the veils of fine snow drifting down.
Knowing I'd return to a warm fire and hot spicy chocolate, I could enthuse about sparkling fairy dust. Were I sleeping rough, like more folks than we imagine, beauty of the moment might have been a stretch.
Friends in the South inform me of blooming camellias, forsythia, red bud, dogwood and daffydowndillies. I do remember, but will wait out the high country seasons, grateful for cooler summer.
Much that we've known is giving way, dying to new beginnings. As winter dies in its season and spring returns, tree sap and life rising from the dead.
The New Recovery Program!
3 March 2018
The Wayfaring Traveler books are all about storytelling, ancestral, historical, the riveting present moment, and the prescient.
Online articles, wellness info from long experience, and expose's, I wrote at feastandfamine.blogspot
With so much tumultuous change and yes, malfeasance, I'd felt an urgency. But the Cassandra phase--heart-felt warning or just noise from the battlements--may be concluding. Train's left the station; boat's left the shore.
It's getting real, down & dirty... Jackboots trampling the Bill of Rights. And lots of fact-free shouting, once known as reportage.
Who are we? Do we seek out waymarkers of integrity, or grab the remote, with its mind control patents and obfuscation? Am hoping we land on our feet.
I write this to cyber-friends on a day of high elevation, lapis skies and cold. Single digit nights ahead. It's too soon for pruning (botanically speaking) but am already thinking roses, fruit trees, and please, may the frosts be kind.
Communication in the
20 Feb. 2018
I wanted to let readers know that Gurgle finally succeeded in blocking this writer from the two "free" blogspot sites. This, after years of interference patterns--messing with stats, temporarily impeding author-access...
Now it's permanent, and I cannot even let readers there know what caused the sudden cessation of stories and articles.
Though being blocked did activate my "flea spleech" attitude problem, I've made peace with it. A large body of work is still available to readers in the Cyber-Commons at:
If you also read books, thank you. If you delve the Wayfaring Traveler books, would you kindly leave an Amazon review?
Meanwhile, reporting from the Rocky Mts and the global asylum, I remain optimistic. It's snowy in the high country. I haul in armloads of piñon, grateful for the woodstove BTU's.
A friend helped me resolve a wrenching uncertainty about giving money to those standing on windy street corners with cardboard signs. Some of the dollar bills go straight into booze or drugs.
The friend saves leftovers to share. Give food, she said! I invested in a case of organic pinto beans and hand a tin to those who are clearly sleeping rough under bitter conditions.
Indoors, flowers bloom: a geranium, paperwhite narcissus, a Meyer lemon. The trellis'd evergreen star jasmine is budding. Days grow longer, though it's still pitch dark when this ex-farmer greets the new day.
In a wider vista, the sun is strange; weather is weird; harvests are not certain. Locally the Food Banks serve the community.
I hope community gardens become more common. Within living memory, this area was food self-sufficient. The schools are teaching heritage skills and the astonishment of seed planted, sprout tended... leading to the miracle of fresh corn, tomatoes and greens for the family.
Diurnal Black Bear
A young black bear apparently didn't get the word about nocturnal feeding.
Sitting at my desk, I look out agog at 12:15 PM: Three meters away outside the patio doors, the bear starts bending the bird feeder pole to get at sunny seeds.
I pound on the window as the feeder pole lists 20 degrees to starboard.
Ursa glances my way and tilts the hummingbird feeder so syrup pours onto its paw. Licks it up.
I open the other window and begin bellowing. It ambles through the garden and climbs the north fence onto the road.
This is not your usual gardening season with late snow and frosts, then seven weeks of drought. The last two mornings I've poked my nose out at first light to 35 degrees F.
Late planted tomatoes are bent heavy with green fruit. Which may soon decorate windowsills, to ripen over the following weeks.
With a few dishes of fried green tomatoes and cream gravy to fortify guests as the nights grow longer and colder.
Music of Bees
Wild and honeybees filled a bright snowy morning with their buzzy song. Wet snow had somehow spared the fruit tree blossoms, though not some branches of a huge apricot fruiting for generations.
Birds are doing feeding frenzies over sunflower and thistle seed and suet. I bring the feeders in at night, so as to preserve them from black bears down from their caves and burrows in the higher mountains. Last year a grumpy bear surprised me early, squashed a woven wire fence, tromped a raised bed and bent the wrought iron bird feeder pole at right angle!
Duly noted. Years ago a woman here named the bears and would shoo them from the garden with a broom. Hm. Apparently not annoying a mama bear with cubs nearby, a potentially lethal encounter.
Am maybe not too late shmart; I ponder that proximity to ursine wildness from respectful distance.
More snow is expected, but flower treats are peeking up through the mulch: a Madonna lily, delphiniums, herbs. Am keen to plant pansies.
It may finally be Spring!
Friends who quietly attend to the introspection time of winter's long nights are reporting pain-release, familial pain. Convoluted enough and where is the Ariadne thread?
But on a societal level, am wondering about the rage and hysteria being encouraged toward a president-elect who vows to bring down the mafia-like takeover of government.
We're a few generations into broken families, Daddy's gone missing in the welfare state, and in both parents, often divorced, frenetically holding down high-stress jobs.
Curious fury against an alpha male president-elect. The nation seems to be acting out an almost Borderline sense of abandonment and lash-out.
Snowflakes raised by daycare, by indulgent guilty absent parents and government schools, come to pieces if not rewarded. It's a striking failure of reality check on the spectre of growing up.
This winter an extraordinary Pueblo man died quietly after celebrating his 100th birthday. He was the last local survivor of the Bataan Death March,
He recovered and became a mentor to tribal younglings and the larger community. He had lost everything but his heart.
Winter Snows Falling
Am dreaming of this weekend's "Scottish Christmas" with a piper in full Highland regalia. Amazing Grace, and carols all but shivering one's bone marrow!
Following the arc of seasons to ancient bonfires which welcomed the return of sunlight at Winter Solstice, am startled to realize the gift of Keltic music.
I hear surf crashing, the wild cry of seagulls, the howl of wolves, bells, harp and dancing! Torchlight is long ago, and we forget it, flicking the light switch, that night time light eluded our ancestors through long cold months. I hope to hear an Irish band on the Solstice, assuming the snowy roads are navigable. And bell-ringers at Christmas as "angels wing their flight o'er all the earth."
On 19 Dec. Mercury begins its three week danse macabre through cyberspace. Am already having techno-difficulties. Attempt at paragraphs trigger sudden repetitions of text. So will leave with warm wishes to readers all over the world.