Friday, December 12, 2008

Silverjack and Cimmaron

There are three forks of the Cimmaron, and the trails connect at the top, so you can hike up one canyon and down another, and lot of all three hikes is in a wilderness area. We thought we would find some aspen in color, but were a week or two early. Instead, we found some very late-blooming blue Gentian.

Fall Color on the Mesa

This happens the second half of September, and moves down the mountain side. Most of October we have brilliant gold cottonwoods along the river down in the valley, so we have a very long color season.

Midsummer Alpine Hike

This is a day trip entry.

Come July, the wildflowers are blooming in the high country. There is a lot of access to 8,000 feet and above, but the flowers still differ based on soils and exposure and all that.

This was up beyond Colbran, but I would have to check a map for a more specific location. We hiked along a stream, to a lake at about 9,000 ft elevation; the weather was glorious, the path wide, and the terrain not too steep.

Slot Canyon

This is a day trip entry.

For this hike, we went west of Green River, and then south along the east side of the San Rafael Swell, for a great day hike and outing. We hiked up Bell Canyon and down Little Wild Horse Canyon. In some places, the canyon was just a shoulder width pathway through towering sandstone. It was approximately 8 miles total hiking, and a loop trail (my favorite), rather than an out and back.

This would be a good hike anytime but summer, with the usual warnings about weather awareness. Though rare, it is subject to flash floods, and could be cold and uncomfortable, and slippery in too much ice or snow. Depending on current conditions, it is hikeable September through June, with July and August just too hot for most, and August is often prone to thunder storms.

We stopped at Ray's Tavern in Green River for dinner on the way home. They serve the best burgers in the world, and have Unita Microbrew.

If you want, you can camp either at the trail head or in Goblin Valley, or nearby in Capitol Reef National Park, but from Canyon Wren Farm, it is a great day trip...

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Ladder-Free Landing at Last?

It occurred to me this morning when I asked myself what I wanted to do today, that I could finish painting the stairwell.

It is a complex shape--2 landings, and a couple of 90-degree turns with a vaulted ceiling (at one place 20' high). Of course the floors are not level, and the passage is a very narrow 42" wide below the highest part. The first photo is just to show the resident inspector of high places, and to give some idea of the whole scaffolding set-up, which we took down a few weeks ago.

The second photo above is of the highest ceiling peak. To texture and paint, I have used a step-ladder, scaffolding, and an extension ladder with a leveler on one leg, so that it can be set up crosswise to the steps. I also have a 12' pole for the paint roller. I have painted everything but one or two patches of ceiling and wall, and all the corners where walls and ceiling come together. If I go at it in a systematic way, I could paint all the corners and the missed patches with one more circuit of ladder placement. The hardest part will be to have the paint bucket where I can reach it from the ladder, while being able to turn the long pole in the confines of the hallway, from somewhere on a ladder.

What is encouraging about this is that I will have to do all those ladder set ups and placements anyway, at some point, so why not finish it and have that lovely space free of obstacles.

It seems unreal that any part of the addition could really be that close to done, but in fact it is all nearing completion. The stucco is almost done. The color is on, but now we are waiting for the crew to come back and finish the texture. The downstairs is all painted, but there was a problem with paint colors, and much of it will have to be recoated. What I am really looking forward to downstairs is taking up the construction paper, and having my floor in view (and the cabinets which will be arriving when the stucco crew removes their scaffolding from the outside).

Too, there is still the flooring to put on the stairs and landings, and tile work to complete, but then the house will be liveable, ready to pass inspection. Baseboards and windowsills seem small details by comparison.

Toad Talk

A few weeks ago China-cat had a spell of bringing in birds to eat, and mice to play with and then eat. This morning I stayed in bed later than ususal reading Mountains Beyond Mountains, a book about an amazing doctor and anthropologist who, with associates, is probably responsible for quelling the worldwide epidemic of multi-drug-resistant TB, and changing the way the WHO defines the challenges of disease in poor communities.....

Anyway, China had been running around and sneaking around and playing, then settled down. After awhile, I heard some very quiet rustles and squeaks, and thought perhaps I had another mouse in the house. I looked over the edge of my bed, to where I thought the noises were originating, and there was a toad. He could not have been inside too long, because he looked fairly well-hydrated: his skin was moist. I picked him up and put him on the grass outside, where he can find a good toad home. I think that is the first time I ever realized a toad could make those quiet sounds.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

"Terrorist Ready"

That's what I keep thinking. My addition is getting its stucco. It is a process with many stages: first they stapled styrofoam with space blanket, adding R-value to the building, and making it into a giant "styrofoam cooler," then they put up the chicken wire. Then, the day they started putting the first coat of stucco on, they covered all the windows and doors with plastic. I know it is to keep things clean and unsplattered, but I can't help having my own private joke, remembering the onset of the current reign of terror inflicted on us by institutionalized terroristophobia, and how our president advised us all to wrap our houses in plastic, seal them with duct tape, so that if there were poison gases released, or anthrax spores, we would be "safe."

So that's where I am, inside my plastic-wrapped cooler, sore shoulders-hips-lumbar-knees, carpal tunnel tingles; slow-moving and creaky like the Tin Man when I get out of bed in the morning.

But the building is beautiful, and I love it, and am looking forward to moving in, though that may be a while.

It's a long way from my goal of "guest ready" in October, but that's still two months away, and I might still make it. You never know--I just need to muster up a little more enthusiasm.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Raspberries for Breakfast

Well, I have just picked raspberries to eat with my yogurt and granola for breakfast, before I begin the first drywall session of the day. I am applying texture to the new kitchen and living room at this point, and have to divide the work to give my arm neck and shoulder a rest. I am very excited about getting paint on the walls of my beautiful new spaces.

I still have a few apricots on the trees, they are tasty, and I enjoy one now and then, but mostly, apricots are done for the year. I met some wonderful people who stopped for apricots, and hope to see many of them again next year. I have begun selling produce, basil, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, onions are all producing abundantly. Pat and I cleared beds and pathways of sunflowers, mulched some wild places, and have planted arugula, kale, lettuce, spinach and beets.

I am still hoping to get a chicken house built in time to get chicks. Yesterday, I found a great deal on lumber, and have enough now to build the first chicken house.

There was a cloudburst a couple of nights ago, so much rain in town, folks kayaked on south 7th street, or at least one man did, and the newspaper had his picture on the front page. What i got was the most incredible lightning and thunder, and plenty of rain. And the next day, the water in the irrigation ditch was running a clay-rich milky chocolate color. I ran as much of that onto my field as I could get, and will likely do the same today.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Young at Heart, Canning Notes on Honey-Reduced #1

This morning's batch was the first honey-reduced apricots of the year, and now I am completely out of pints. I've bought all the pints they had at big lots [[From the editor--Mom, what does this mean?]], and a collection of jars at a local yard sale. I especially like the yard sale collections because of the wonderful mix of antique and modern jars, and because I like to think about how many times a jar has been filled with food, from how many gardens, orchards, farms; to wonder how many families have been fed from it, and how many times it has been given from one household to another filled with something wonderful.

It has been hot again, and there are trees full of soft, ripe fruit, and some red and green mixed in; I am hoping that there will still be some fruit hanging on the trees a week from today, when my daughter will visit me. HOORAY! How precious the time together is.

Today I saw the movie Young at Heart for the second time. Linda and Pat went too, as did Linda's friend, Sally. It was a great reminder how short and precious life is, and I think it is my new all-time favorite movie. Wednesday is the last day it is showing here, and I will probably go see it again before then.

P.S. If this post still contains misspellings, questionable punctuation usage, and lacks capitals, it is because my editor is traveling. She might even delete this little part when she reads it. Hi, editor, thanks for making me look good [[Hi, Mom]]

Now, off to the orchard for more joy of apricots.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Canning and Harvest Notes, Apricot Habañero 2 & 3

Today, Pat came over and together we canned about 120 pounds of apricots. That's two batches. I put three times the amount of habañero paste in #2 as was in the first batch. added only one pack of pectin--otherwise it is the same as the first batch. I thought that I was out of jars, and had three pints left over. I put that into batch number three, thinking the dilution would completely hide it. That third batch was the regular quart of honey and apricots to fill the pot. Hours after Pat went home and the jars had ceased their pinging, I tasted it, and the pepper heat is decidedly there. Batch number three is delicious. Batch number two is very hot.

Tomorrow begins standard honey-reduced apricots. A neighbor from up the street a mile or two will probably come over and pick.

Today was the first day this year the temperature made it to 100 F.

My tomatoes, jalapenos, and milder chiles are beginning to ripen, and I have a slow but consistent supply of eggplant, plenty of basil, sweet peppers, onions and garlic. I'm getting at least one big handful of ripe raspberries every day, the strawberries are done, and the lettuce, though bolting, is still tasty.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Apricot Habañero 1

Today, I canned my first batch of apricots. There was so much going on, it was hard to pay attention to the details. I decided to make this a warm one, with about the amount of heat i prefer for a peanut butter and jam sandwich: wonderful. flavorful fruit that seems to sparkle in my mouth, and once I swallow, I feel a delightful warmth in my throat. That was 1/3 cup of habañero paste in five gallons of apricots.

What else: approximately 45 pounds pitted apricots, 1 quart raspberry honey, 1 quart sugar, 2 boxes pectin. It took the whole morning to get through the whole process. Yield: 38 pints, which are cooling right now.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

A Wonderful Morning

I've just had the most wonderful morning in my garden. I am expecting 2 or 3 sets of visitors in the next week; I love showing off, and I love visitors to enjoy my garden, but sometimes it is difficult to know where to step. Even I can forget where I have seedling echinacea and rudbeckia, feverfew, cosmos, zinnia, and marigold. I have starts of bee balm. I have Mexican Hat flower that I have moved from one place to another, and right this minute I have a lot of shoulder-high amaranth, and even taller sunflowers.
My little Fourth of July rose is having a difficult time getting started, though it is its second year here, it is only ankle high. I have lots more, but I think the point is how lush the garden is, and I made the pathways more clear this morning. That should make the visits a lot more fun than spending the whole walk in the garden with me telling people where to put their feet, at every step.
I cut the clover and mint next to the main water course, restoring that pathway, and used the cut vegetation as mulch out where the wild things are (which is mainly dry weeds). The morning just went on and on... I cleared most of my waterways, which I love. To me when the sunlight reflects off them and shines up through the flowers they look like braided skeins of silver. There is a mint blooming dark purple, and the Vitex will soon be in flower. My purple day lily is blooming under towers of hollyhock and sunflower.

The passionfruit has taken hold of its "trellis" and is climbing, with tiny buds on it. Can it truly be, that it will bear fruit here in Western Colorado, survive the winter and return to fruit again next year? What magic. Other experiments with "plants not designated for this climate" are going well. The California bay tree/ Oregon myrtlewood, the persimmon, the lemon, the pomegranates are all looking healthy.

I watered the gourds (which seem to be getting a late start), but I do remember that last year once they got going, they ate the whole garden, so perhaps all is well, and a fine gourd crop is in store. Speaking of fine crops, the apricots are certainly abundant.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008


The apricots are ripening, hanging in the orchard of 70+ year old trees like great rosy-golden bunches of grapes; no problems with pollination in this orchard. During this time of year, following a slowly warming spring, I have too many apricots.

Apricots flower very early, and once the fruit is set, are vulnerable to late freezing. This year's crop, when pea sized, was snowed upon. It was a warm snow, and no fruit was lost. (A not-so-warm snow or mild frost can take out a third of the crop overnight, and a second cold night can take a third of the remaining fruit, and so on. A hard frost will take it all. As late as Memorial Day we can get a hard freeze, making the question of thinning a real puzzle. If I thin, and successive frosts thin the remains, then where will I be?)

The fruit is late ripening, and coming on fast. The newspaper ran a story about apricot ripening dates this century: the last week in June five times, and the first week in July three times. Of course, the paper says the fruit is ready to begin picking now, which is not true in my orchard, but it does give an idea of the range of dates ripening occurs. I have also had ripe apricots the first half of June. There are years when we lose it all to a late freeze. I wish I knew when to plan on apricots. In the years I spent away, I used to plan on late June, and traveled just to preserve apricots, only to have green fruit. I started planing for the 4th of July, and if I had been traveling this year I would have again been stuck with green fruit. It is a hit-or-miss thing. I think I would still go with July 4th, because this year is very unusual.

I have eaten a few, and they are firm and tangy. I know how much better they will be in another week: then I will begin serious (joyful!) canning. The flavor is beyond description in very ripe apricots. I pick the first bucket and, cleaned and pitted, they go straight into the pot. Then I add enough honey (approximately 5 cups) to get the fluid to run, and begin to warm them. I keep picking apricots and adding to the warming reduction to fill the (7 gallon) pot and simmer while stirring until it turns glossy. Then, into the clean jars it goes. The yield is about 5 gallons.

Yummy! This year I think I'll begin to devise a salsa or habañero-apricot preserve. My scalp feels warm just to think of it.