Odds and Sods II

By Mimi Hedl

I had to laugh. I sat down to write and immediately needed a title. That’s my way, a title before I begin to write. The title helps guide me, focuses my mind. This February has seemed like a little of this, a little of that, so I said: “Odds and Sods”, then, “didn’t I use that title before?” And sure enough, I looked in my files and found it.  “Well, February doesn’t change names, why should I have to?” And so I haven’t, hence, Odds and Sods II. February makes me feel that way, although with the way the world spins, that may change in the future. Time will tell, as it always does.

The Spider Farmer LED light has done its magic with the seedlings. The onions have had 5 haircuts since mid -January when the seed sprouted. And how satisfying to hold the mice at bay with the wire fortress I spent hours and hours making and remaking until it held together and I could easily take off the top to water, prune and transplant. This light has pulleys so getting in and out of this contraption takes no time. And seeing the seedlings in the morning, when the light comes on at 6 am, gives me a rush of happiness. The lavender seeds sat in the fridge vernalizing for 2 months. When I’d open the fridge I’d look at the flat and imagine seedlings filling it. Within a week after coming out from the cold, the new seedlings made me swoon. Seeds don’t come with guarantees, you never know if they’ll come up or not and you’ll often hear gardeners proclaim, “My (fill in the blank) germinated!!” A joyous moment indeed.

The German winter lettuce in the cold frame germinated last fall but has only recently become lush enough to make into salads. After a winter of eating cabbage salads, the fresh lettuce tastes like a gourmet treat. I put screens over the top at night as the ground hog continues to haunt the homestead and adores, absolutely adores, the fresh lettuce. We have that in common, I tell the head gardener, and she shakes her head at me like I have a screw loose.

Near the cold frames stands the new bamboo drying rack. The bamboo grove had offered comfort only for the birds, not for me. I couldn’t get inside, feel snug and cozy out of the wind and blowing snow like I did as a girl under cedar trees. This demanded changes. On several sunny days, down on my hands and knees, I cut one bamboo cane after another until carved paths emerged and a refuge established.

I bundled 20 canes together and began to erect a bamboo drying rack. Once the leaves all fall off, I can trim the tops out and use the long canes in the garden or make trellises, etc.  The rack is a place to store the cut bamboo. The stalks are so tall, it’s almost impossible to lay them down anywhere, plus, I get the sculpture the bamboo makes on its own. It took 5 iterations before the wind decided not to destroy my work and for a graceful structure to claim the territory. I call this “whirling dervishes” especially when the wind ruffles their gowns.

The legs of our saw horses finally collapsed. I decided to build new ones. Once into the process of cutting 18 degree angles on the top piece, where the legs will rest, I needed to enlist Patrick to do the plunge cuts on the side my saw couldn’t figure out how to cut, and too dangerous for me to attempt. After that rigmarole, I reclaimed the old tops, spending a day taking them apart, pulling nails, etc. and cutting new legs, all out of used wood in the old hay barn, my museum of many flavors. You can see the saw cuts on the old horses, such beauties, such history in each cut.

As I carried in wood for the night, I spied a downy woodpecker lying on the ground. When I came back for another armload of wood, she remained in shock, not moving. I feared perhaps Ninja, Petra and Patrick’s beloved cat, would come prowling by and decide on her for dinner. Ordinarily I don’t touch wild birds or any wild critters except the occasional tortoise on the road. Somehow she called to me and I brought her inside, put her in this basket, set it close to the fire, and hoped she’d revive. There was no movement for ever so long. Still, a basket over the top seemed prudent. Hours later I gently lifted the lid and saw her eyes blinking and just as quickly I closed the lid. I went up to bed hoping I’d find her better in the morning.

At about 3 am, as habit dictates, I came downstairs to feed the fire. It felt hot by wood stove and I worried the downy female might not like Florida, so I pushed the basket away from the stove. As I pushed, the lid tilted ever so little giving the now active female a chance to escape and me to groan at my foolishness. I have spent hours trying to get trapped birds out of the house, but never on a freezing night.

For 30 minutes it was a comedy act. She was obviously healed and not cooperative. She flew up, then over and down, high and low, in and out. With the front door open, the house cooled down in a hurry. Finally I trapped her, I think she was exhausted, and put her back in the basket, lid firmly attached, the house freezing. I would release her when the sun came up and watch her fly away, her ladder -back pattern disappearing into the white oak. Now when I see the female downys, I wonder if it’s her.

This is the 5 March, Year of the Dragon bouquet I sent virtually to my daughter-in-law, Lynda. For years I’ve written to her as Year of the Snake, only to discover I was off by a year. And she never called out my error. The hazelnut catkins and Roman hyacinth turned these ordinary Ice Folly daffodils into a lovely bouquet.

Indeed I’ve had computer problems. I never get headaches except when I have computer or phone problems, then I feel semi-crazy. Petra, Erik and Hilary saved me, with good advice, calmness, relating bigger and more serious problems making mine seem trivial and simply solvable with patience and logic. Grateful beyond words and a new computer to boot. Sometimes the cost of learning how to cooperate with technology seems way too high, but like all of us, I’ve grown used to the convenience and immediate gratification, so I pay the price, though not without complaining.

March came in like a lamb and now shows lion-like ways, chilly, damp, strong winds. The birds hit the suet feeders, I haul in more wood. Soup’s on the menu, red chile-potato with lots of fresh cilantro. Let the March winds blow as the daffodils proclaim spring.

Lentils for lunch

Mimi’s computer got fried so her essay and photos are temporarily lost. In the meantime, I thought I’d write about a delicious lentil dish I’ve been making. The recipe is in Ottolenghi Simple. Some would say that no Ottolenghi recipe is simple but with a little messing with ingredients and technique, they are well within a home cook’s abilities and time. This one in particular comes together with ease.

Roast 1/2 inch wide half-moons of a peeled butternut squash and wedges of a large red onion. Add 10 – 12 sage leaves if available. (I left these out of the final dish.) Toss with a tablespoon of olive oil, a sprinkle of salt and fresh-ground pepper. Place on a grill pan or baking sheet lined with parchment paper and roast at 400° for 20 minutes. Turn the squash pieces over and continue roasting for 10 – 20 minutes longer, until tender and a bit browned.

While the veggies roast, cook the lentils. Fill a medium sized saucepan halfway with water and bring to a boil. Add 1 cup of lentils, green, brown or black – don’t use orange lentils for this dish. Lower heat and simmer for 20 minutes or until tender.

Drain, then place in a large bowl. Stir in 2 teaspoons grated lemon peel, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 1 garlic clove, minced, a handful of Italian parsley, roughly chopped, one of mint, if available, and one of cilantro. Add a pinch of salt and a drizzle of olive oil.

Top with 2-3 ounces of gorgonzola torn into smallish pieces. This is best warm or at room temperature.

I plan to serve this when Terry Maker and Chris come for lunch this week after she signs the edition of her beautiful new lithograph.

Buon appetito!

Terry signs the B.A.T.

Salad for Lunch

Terry Maker and Bud goof off by her beautiful new lithograph.

After a long break without artists in the Shark’s Ink. studio artist Terry Maker arrived to make a new print. Each day I prepared a special ‘artist’s’ lunch. As is my wont, I mostly served salads accompanied by Moxie bread – brought by Terry from the original bakery near her home in Louisville, Colorado. (We also now have a Moxie Bakery in Lyons, lucky us.)

Here is a selection of some of my concoctions.

I had a bag of Royal Corona beans in my Rancho Gordo stash, perfect for a winter salad. After cooking them until tender I marinated the large beans in a lemony, garlic vinaigrette, added diced red pepper and parsley. For the cauliflower salad go to Busy day dinner for the recipe. I had wonderful anchovy stuffed Spanish olives – a gift from the VanDyks – to add to this favorite dish.

I’ve been making a new kale salad adapted from one in The Smitten Kitchen. Remove the kale leaves from the tough stalks and slice very thin across the leaves. Place in a large bowl, add a pinch of salt and a tablespoon or two olive oil and squeeze and massage the kale. It will shrink to about half the original quantity. In a small bowl combine a tablespoon of vinegar and one of water. Add a ¼ cup of sultanas (golden raisins) and let macerate while you prepare the other ingredients.

Toast ½ cup of walnuts, watching carefully so they don’t burn, about 3 minutes at 250° in the toaster oven or in a small, heavy skillet on the stovetop. Combine ½ cup panko or other bread crumbs and a clove of finely chopped garlic in a small skillet with a tablespoon of olive oil. Toast until light brown, a couple minutes over medium heat. Grate ½ cup parmesan. Toss together the kale, walnuts, parmesan, and the drained sultanas. Top with the bread crumbs just before serving so they stay crunchy.

We still enjoy the kale salad that is inspired by one we often ordered at long gone Acorn in Denver. Go to First post for the recipe.

One day Terry brought a dense loaf of Moxie Bakery’s rye bread that seemed perfect for avocado toast. To the mashed avocado I added a squeeze of lime, a pinch of salt, and a minced green onion. Then placed slices of cucumber and a shower of pomegranate arils over all.

To end the week I celebrated my birthday with Sheila, Walt, Moira, Zoë and Bud at a Sunday lunch. I made grilled salmon skewers with salsa verde, a big green salad with roasted butternut squash, fennel and pomegranate. Zoë made a cranberry ricotta cake and good fun was had by all. I do love cooking for dear ones.

Birthday flowers

St. Fiacre and Brother Cadfael

by Mimi Hedl

St. Fiacre shrine before the wind storm

I’d gone out to the Park to sow poppy seeds in Cadfael’s garden when much to my surprise I found him sitting on the bench in his garden, head bowed and looking somewhat serious. Usually I stay out of his garden when he’s around. If he wants to visit, he leans over the boundary of either the Culinary or Cottage gardens that touch his. Braced on his shovel, he greets me, smiles, comments on the new growth of the betony or other herb, then turns around with a wink and goes back to his world. We respect each other’s solitude. Both of us need and want the silence when we work, only the birds and insects, the wind and sun accompanying us. But on this day, with a light snow on the ground, I felt concerned and stood at the entrance to his garden clearing my throat to catch his attention. Brother Cadfael is a man of few words. He said, “It’s the shrine to St. Fiacre.” I looked at him with astonishment. He’d never complained about Fiacre’s shrine. I asked him, “Do you object to us honoring him?”

I must interject this. Brother Cadfael lived mostly in England during the 12th century. St. Fiacre was raised in Ireland but left for France to find solitude when his healing skills became too much in demand, building a small hut in the forest surrounded by his garden. That was in the mid-15th century. And you say, hmmm…now we’re in the 21st century. Yes, yes, I realize that. Please do not expect me, humble me, to explain how such things happen. You know they just do. I feel sure you have secret communications with folks from other centuries, you simply keep it quiet so as not to make people look at you with THAT look. I’m beyond that. I accept my eccentricities and feel pleased we don’t live in times when they burned witches at the stake. But we’ll keep that quiet, now won’t we!

Anyway, Brother Cadfael slowly shook his head. “You know how often I visit his shrine, how many bouquets and special herbs I leave there. Have you seen him today?”

Downed shrine

And that’s when I knew something had happened. I did an about-face and hurried out to the shrine in the fence row. As I approached I understood Brother Cadfael’s sadness. I fell to my knees. The strong, even violent winds had taken down the wooden structure Ron built 35 years ago. And St. Fiacre laid, face down, on the snow. Unharmed. I picked him up and with utter joy raced back to Brother Cadfael. As I approached I held up St. Fiacre and shouted, “LOOK!” He lifted his tired head and burst into a “glory be”. He invited me to sit by him. We sat silently together as he marveled at how St. Fiacre had survived the fall, how he never thought to go closer when he saw the shrine laying on the ground, that he thought that was the end of his pilgrimages to his shrine and the communion the two gardeners shared. I assured him I would repair the shrine and we would put it back up, better than ever. He smiled at that.

Then he did the unexpected. He asked a favor of me. “Would you, could you, ah, do you think, would it be possible…could we possibly put the shrine in my garden? I could watch over him then and he’d always have fresh greenery, everyday I’d put something beautiful on his altar.” He caught me off guard. I didn’t know what to say. First of all, the repair will take me a good while. Just getting the nails out of that seasoned oak will challenge me. I’ll need help. Everything weighs so much. And then transporting the shrine a thousand feet… I just didn’t know about any of it. It seemed like too much to think about, but at the same time, he’d never asked anything of me before and is always grateful when I give him seeds or another plant or when I opened up that new garden spot for him. I didn’t want to disappoint him nor did I want to put the shrine in danger of future damage. There are these huge white willow trees, the mimosa tree in the corner and any of those branches could fall on the shrine. I started going in circles. All this time Brother Cadfael remained silent. He allowed me time to think it over.

St. Fiacre on white willow

Finally I told him, “Brother Cadfael, I’d love to put the shrine in your garden. It seems appropriate to have him closer to your monastery garden. I know he would feel at home here. While I’m repairing the shrine, we can hang his statue on the white willow’s trunk. If you’d think about a good, safe spot for the shrine during that time, I’ll trust your judgment, one way or another. Does that sound agreeable to you?” He nodded and smiled. I left St. Fiacre with him while I went back to the house for a hammer and nail to hang the statue.

Lichen and moss on downed shrine

Within a few days of the accident, I had the nails out of the oak boards with the help of a pry bar. The pieces we can still use have moss and lichen growing on them, gorgeous and rustic, just what I admire. The restoring process will be slow as other chores come first, burning the plots, sowing seed that needs stratification. Brother Cadfael doesn’t mind. He has St. Fiacre with him.

We sowed the poppy seed after I’d hung up St. Fiacre and Brother Cadfael’s already thinking of the potions he’ll make from the flowers and seeds. Peace has been restored and Ron, or Thirsty as he liked to be called, would be shaking his head and laughing, saying something like, “How many projects of mine have your hands touched?” And I’d smile, because I never would’ve thought I could’ve rescued any of them.

Burned meadow

End of the year

A flying fish or a zeppelin?

December has been busy with friends, family and food. I expect that many of you have also experienced a flurry of activities around the holidays. I mostly enjoy the commotion but need moments, or days, of quiet and solitude. Our perch on Blue Mountain Road gives us  a lovely, calm view of life with visits from many birds and beasts. We’ve had frigid temperatures, warm, sunny days, and snow, in our changeable Colorado winter.  

I spent some time baking goodies to share with friends and family ─ walnut crescents, cuccidati, nut roll.

We met up with friends at the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art holiday party. Everyone dressed up, eager to celebrate together.

Girlfriends ─ Ana Maria, Sherry, me, Jane.

Sherry, Jamie and Sherry’s mom, Suzy, came for Christmas Eve dinner. That afternoon, Zoë, Bud and I made sweetcorn tamales to accompany the salmon Bud would smoke. We had a lovely time with these dear ones.

Zoë in the kitchen.

My sister Susan and husband Charles hosted the Colorado family for Christmas dinner (and Thanksgiving).  The center of attention was, of course, Corey and Liz’s daughter, little Lilikoi, eleven months old and just beginning to walk. A delight to watch her explore the world.

So, here we are about to begin a new year. I know we’ll have new challenges and opportunities. I wish you the best of luck in navigating it all. Many thanks to all you loyal readers.

HAPPY 2023!

All the Possibilities

by Mimi Hedl

Thanksgiving bouquet

We brought wine bottles from Colorado forty years ago, half of them filled with home brew. Now that I don’t make beer and wine but once every 4 or 5 years when I can’t resist the abundance of elder flowers, all those bottles simply take up space down in the root cellar. Plus the back room of the hand-dug cellar needs refurbishing. The railroad ties Ron used to line the walls have deteriorated and allowed mice and other earth dwellers to tunnel in. We’re going to rebuild the interior with fresh lumber, making it somewhat smaller, and it’ll pose problems for the tunnelers trying to gain entrance. All those bottles would get in our way and we’d have to move and then move them again. I asked Elizabeth if they could use any. She said maybe a dozen but she could take a photo, post it on Facebook, and ask for bids. And she did just that. I don’t do Facebook so this was a new experience.

Door to the root cellar

A few weeks later, she had two offers. Sarah bid the highest so she had first dibs. She’s starting a business for stress relief. One of the rooms will be a rage room where kids will break glass. In another room, they’ll splatter paint all over themselves and onto a canvas, and another room will host gender reveal parties. She’ll use the vintage bottles, filling them with blue or pink powder, maybe both, she exclaimed, for the new parents wanting to celebrate their baby’s arrival.  All this was new to me. I hadn’t heard of any of it and for a moment I felt possessive of the bottles: “Those bottles have wine and beer in their souls. They shouldn’t be used for anything else!” And then that patient voice spoke to me, “Let go of your preconceptions. Move on. Embrace change.”  When I watched how Sarah handled each bottle, looking with satisfaction, holding them up to the sun and how she expressed her gratitude for the bottles, I relaxed, smiled and let go. Ahhh… 

After helping load 70 wine bottles into every nook and cranny of Sarah’s SUV, I came in to find a message from Elizabeth saying she and Cody had been out in the woods and harvested 7 pounds of oyster mushrooms. They had already dried as many as they’d need for winter and did I want the rest? This is just one more act of kindness two of my new gardening friends have bestowed on me.

Oyster mushrooms

Petra and Patrick, Elizabeth and Cody represent the first gardeners in forty years who have a similar passion to what Ron and I had. How odd to meet like-minded people after so many barren years. It makes me believe in the possibilities of anything.  OK, here’s another example. Ron and I used fluorescent shop lights to start our seedlings. When the old bulbs burned out, with an awareness of energy-saving LED lights, I recycled the frames and bulbs and moved on to LED shop lights. I assumed, I didn’t research, that these lights would give the same output of energy. My seedlings last spring did not measure up. I knew I had to make a change. I asked Elizabeth for suggestions. She said they use an LED grow light from Spider Farmer and produce healthy seedlings. One fixture would cover a 3’ x 3’ space. When the box arrived, I expected a 3’ x 3’ box and almost panicked when it arrived in a tiny box. This fixture measures 11” x 12” and feels heavy and substantial. It’ll cover more than enough space for my seedlings. Once again, that kind voice reminded me, “the world has moved on, you can too”. I’m excited to watch this year’s seedlings thrive and thrilled to have advice from someone’s experience. (Elizabeth and Cody inherited the LED shop lights. They needed new ones and were pleased to get them. Yes!!)

All three of us homesteading couples have a unique piece of land with its own glories and challenges. For example, the road to Elizabeth and Cody’s is so steep my ‘96 Honda scraped bottom the first time I went down. Now Elizabeth picks me up at the top of the hill, a taxi service, after I park in front of the gate. Their land has a remarkable diversity of plants and animals, a huge lake, 18’ deep at the deepest. They get flocks of wild geese and all kinds of water birds. They’re making paths through their beautiful woods and have many wildflowers, vines, trees and oodles of mushrooms of all kinds. Their permaculture gardens inspire  me. Elizabeth scatters seed to the wind, letting everything grow in a mishmash, successfully. She uses strawberries as a ground cover and has thousands of runners.

Petra and Patrick’s place sits on top of a steep hill with brilliant views of the sky. The stars dazzle with no interference from trees or buildings. A spring-fed pond keeps the ponies happy. Because most of their land, like ours, was pasture, they get to landscape it and grow whatever trees and shrubs they like. Petra has plans for an oak savanna and edible natives everywhere. Patrick is looking into wind and solar power and moves about on their tractor like a pro. They set up a clothesline early on and I smile in solidarity when I see their clothes blowing in the breezes. They insisted on a riding mower with a bag. Patrick spreads all the clippings on the trees and shrubs Petra has planted. In one short year they’ve increased the biodiversity a hundred fold. What a pleasure to know these couples.

The head gardener and I have our own autumn tasks. Stashing the bamboo and spreading mulch chief among them. We put up a large, tall wire basket to store the branched bamboo. I like to stick these pieces in the gardens to give the birds places to hide and perch but the freezing and thawing of the soil pushes them out and then I can’t get them back in because the earth’s frozen. So this year the head gardener thought ahead and made some hideouts before the freezing cycle began. We staked down this big basket so the wind can’t topple all the wonderful pieces that vines love to twine around. And birds have discovered a refuge from the cold winds.

Look at how neatly the head gardener uses the obvious storage holes for the unbranched bamboo. When she threads the pieces into these openings it feels like we have a bamboo lumber yard. Sometimes I’ll amble over to the storage bins and poke in some bamboo pieces. She frowns at me. “One at a time,” she’ll shout! Oh yes, she loves order and if one piece is poking out, she’ll take out the whole lot and redo it so it’s neat and tidy. I have to confess, it does make it much easier to get them in, in the autumn and out, in spring. Come spring these horizontal canes provide a sheltered space for a vining plant to begin to grow, protected and shaded once the summer sun comes.

The birds mercilessly hit the windows. I’d put up a line of feathers on a string, but as my daughter pointed out, I needed larger feathers than the little ones I used. And then bamboo spoke to me. I split a cane, drill a hole near the node, put a strong string through the hole, hang them, and watch them move with the wind, telling the birds not to come near.

Jeremy, Johnny, John, Patrick and 3 year old Easton all filled the woodshed with beautiful oak. I stood out visiting with them as they stacked, told stories and teased each other, and of course me. There’s something special about being out in the cold, doing a job together, watching the woodshed fill up.

Our Lady has her autumn garb. And a new head. With no more bushel basket gourds, I felt puzzled. Then I looked at some frames for unfinished baskets I inherited when Walt, my friend and fellow basketmaker had passed. He did unexpected things that made you laugh or smile, I can give him this. I know he’d be tickled to see one of his frames become the head for Our Lady. And she loves the way the wind blows through her mind, clearing the cobwebs and freeing her to dream.

The Print Fair

We’ve had a busy couple weeks. In late October we flew to New York City to participate in The Print Fair which opened on the 27th. Cynthia and Bob again graciously lent us their wonderful loft in Chelsea for the week. We ate simply at familiar restaurants close to our temporary home like Cafeteria and Westville. I’m still walking with a cane so we took cabs and limited our walks. I told folks I was doing art fair PT.

Bud, Roseanne and I were happy to talk with artists, clients, and colleagues not seen since the last Fair in 2019.

Enrique Chagoya was honored and had an on stage conversation with Kara Maria and Bud. All in all a successful trip.

Photo by Arian Colachis

I think the NYC PT worked. I feel better and more flexible each day. Wonderful Bronwyn Muldoon at Lyons PT has discharged me and I continue to take walks in Apple Valley and at Pella Crossing.

On our return to Lyons, Zoë convinced me that I should get an I-phone, something I’ve put off, feeling content with my flip phone. With her help I’ve figured out the basics and the kitchen photos in this post were made with my new phone.

Sister-in-law Jan came for a visit and we viewed the Sharkive exhibit at the CU Art Museum, played Scrabble, cooked and ate with Zoë, viewed Picasso prints at the art museum in Fort Collins, and had lots of good conversation.

Snow fell all yesterday and through the night. It’s cold. What to bake? I chose gingersnaps to sweeten the grey and warm the kitchen. This recipe is from Marion Cunningham’s Baking Book. I use blackstrap molasses for its deep, slightly bitter taste.


I make these in my Cuisinart. Use a mixer or a bowl and spoon.

Cream together 6 ounces butter (1½ sticks) and 1 cup of sugar.

Add 1 large egg and 1/4 cup blackstrap molasses.

Stir in 2 cups unbleached flour, 2 teaspoons baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 tablespoon ground ginger, 1 teaspoon cinnamon.

Roll tablespoons of dough into balls then turn in turbinado sugar. Place 2 inches apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

Bake at 350° for 12-14 minutes. Cool on a rack.

Makes about 32 cookies.

The sun came out this morning but it’s still cold. Cold and beautiful.


by Mimi Hedl

Naked Boys and bones

Suddenly the landscape has changed, seemingly overnight. We’ve gone from intense summer to sumptuous autumn and my eyes cannot take in the beauty quickly enough. It would not be an exaggeration to say I’ve been gobsmacked. The orange of the sassafras, the reds in the sumac, creeping Virginia and maples. Bright yellow glows as the witch hazels and persimmons go about their changes. I walk around with my mouth wide open, looking and looking and wanting to fall on my knees, overcome with the beauty and wonder even when I know winter waits for his performance.

And isn’t that what these transitions in the life cycle give us, signs, signals of the constant change all things in this universe undergo? To tell us to glide from one episode to the next, to not fret, that a ‘mostly’ predictable transmutation occurs at intervals to make us pause, take notice that we do live on an ever changing planet. Introspection comes easily at this time of year, especially when the harsh, even brutal, summer has finally come to an end. There was no time for introspection then, we simply survived.

When I began to think about writing a piece for Barbara, the heat was still with us, as was the endless drought. The photographs I took now seem from another time, another place. And I guess they are. A few weeks, a lot of changes. And those changes continue. The temps will drop to the low 20’s in the next few days, and then a few days later, it’ll be 70 degrees, sunny and mild at night. I sure hope all the critters know how to handle these mind-boggling changes because this gardener has had a tough time deciding what to do.

The head gardener loves to prune and I must say, she has a good eye and can go after any tree or shrub, cut out the dead and overlapping branches and allow the tree to show its graceful presence. I admire her skill and gladly haul brush for her. It’s quiet work as she stays absorbed and thoughtful, stepping back often to look, tilting her head from one side to the other. It’s more than a pleasure to see her so happy and doubly wonderful to do tasks usually reserved for late fall.

With canning at a minimum, I had time to play too. I save up stuff that would otherwise go in the trash, and put them together in ways that make me smile, like Blowin’ in the Wind does.  Whenever we cut a piece of our native bamboo, we often have little pieces we can’t use. We throw them in a basket and then, like this Bits and Pieces, we string them and watch the wind play. The next one will have much longer horizontal pieces so the birds can lite on them and swing too.

Wood boring insects created The Fierce Warrior, I simply rescued it from obscurity and gave him a platform to give pause to predators.

Jeremy brought me a 12 foot long white oak board that he was afraid would just sit and rot if someone didn’t do something with it. I appreciated his thoughtfulness and asked Patrick to put a bench together for me. While Petra was in Germany he had some time and came over and made this. He commented on how tough the oak was, how hard it was for his saw to cut through it, looked at our house and shook his head. Green oak is easier to cut. Old oak becomes stronger than concrete. We left the bench right where Patrick put it together. It feels wonderful under the mimosa and from this perch another world opens up.

Patrick’s bench with olive oil tin embellishment

Just like the world under the short leaf pine, our only native pine tree. I built an Aldo Leopold bench from junk wood as a place to sit and pretend I’m back in Colorado. Of course it’s the fragrance, the smell of the pine that takes me back. Because the branches swoop down so low, I can sit there, hidden from the world and watch the coming and goings of the zebra swallowtails in the pawpaw patch, birds of all sorts darting here and there.

One night not too long ago, the sky beckoned me. I took a blanket out to the hammock and lay facing the northern sky. If you’ve never laid in a hammock and looked at the night sky, do it! And again, enter another world. As I lay in the night chill, I thought about us coming to Missouri almost 40 years ago. I was thinking about Ron and our journey and all of a sudden, whizzzz! A shooting star came down so close to me I just may have been able to catch it. I blurted out, “You show off!” because Ron was just that, he’d do anything for a laugh and him streaking through the night sky seemed apt. I don’t believe in such things, but the coincidence of my thought of him and the shooting star were just too tempting not to put together and it’s just the sort of thing he’d love to do.

Busy September

September has been a busy month. We began it with the opening of the Sharkive exhibition, Onward and Upward – Shark’s Ink. – at the CU Art Museum, a wonderful mélange of prints. Curator Hope Saska chose works I might not have and put them together in a colorful overview of the Museum’s holdings in the Sharkive. We greeted old friends and met new ones. I felt a mixture of pride and sadness. Bud has made an amazing body of work with so many amazing artists. And there it was on the walls. A life’s work. Altogether an exciting – and exhausting – affair.

The following Saturday we again celebrated the Sharkive exhibition at a breakfast reception. I spoke with a woman I had known as a young girl (sixty-some years ago) and we remembered the food and the games we played in Superior, Wisconsin. Like s’mores made with saltines rather than graham crackers. Buttered saltines and gooey marshmallows! If I can bring myself to buy marshmallows (why do I have such an aversion to this purchase?) I will make these to relive that childish memory.

Barbara Takenaga arrived the next week and made a group of monotypes. Beautiful and strange atmospheres on paper. On her heels, Enrique Chagoya worked with Bud and Evan to get a BAT of a new lithograph. A new kind of codex, full of colorful characters and poignant images.

We had great conversations over meals and I made sure those meals were special. We had a spatchcocked chicken, lots of salads, bison burgers, and this salmon dish first encountered when Sherry and Jamie brought us dinner during my recovery.

Green Salmon Skewers

First make a salsa verde. Roughly chop two cups of cilantro, leaves and tender stems, then pulse in the Cuisinart with a tablespoon of olive oil, a chopped clove of garlic, and a big pinch of salt. Add drops of water to help the machine whizz the cilantro into a chunky paste. Cut a pound of skinless salmon into large pieces – 1 ½ or 2 inches. Toss with the salsa verde and leave to marinate 30 minutes to several hours. Arrange on skewers and grill or broil for 3 minutes. Turn and cook another 3 minutes or until done to your liking. We prefer the salmon lightly cooked.

If you have any leftovers they taste great with an assortment of salads.

This zucchini gratin makes a nice accompaniment to the salmon skewers or other grilled entrees.

Zucchini Gratin

Coarsely grate two medium sized zucchini by hand or in the processor. Wrap in a piece of cheesecloth or a smooth kitchen towel and squeeze until dry.

In a large skillet, sauté half a medium onion, diced, in two tablespoon of olive oil until lightly browned. Add the zucchini and a generous pinch of salt. Continue to cook for a few minutes.

Sprinkle a tablespoon of flour over the veggies and mix well. Stir in a cup of milk and cook until thickened. You may need a little more milk to make a thick but not stiff mixture. Add ½ cup grated parmesan.

Tip into a baking dish, or as I did into individual cazuelas. Top with a handful of panko or other bread crumbs. Drizzle a little olive oil over all and bake at 350° for 25 minutes or until browned and bubbly.

What a Difference a Day Makes

by Mimi Hedl

Naked Ladies

Sometimes everything does work out. Why is it we don’t know this until we’ve almost given up hope? How do you keep believing when all signs point to disaster? And why does this optimistic gardener even venture into such dark territory? Like so many folks the world over, we’ve dealt with a profound drought. Granted, not on the level African countries, Iran or Afghanistan endure, and certainly nothing like the Dust Bowl in the 1930’s, or that China faces today, but enough drought to bring despair to our psyches and wonder if rain had become another old fashioned idea. We burrowed into our shells and waited out the heat, the dryness, the shriveling up of the landscape. If I paint a grim picture I’ve only recorded reality.

Through day after day with no rain and unrelenting heat, the gardens held on ─ held on but didn’t look pretty. By 5pm each day, everything had wilted, expressing utter exhaustion. Shrubs and some perennials sloughed off leaves to reduce evaporation as they too waited, waited. It was sad, just plain sad. I didn’t smile much and began to feel what other people must feel as they watch their world, their livelihood collapse a midst one natural disaster or another.

Sad okra and zinnias

Last summer I decided, over the protestations of the head gardener, not to water the gardens except for plants in pots. With predictions of water shortages in the future, we could learn which plants do well in drought and gather some information as to how to proceed as the climate continues to change. I felt excited to gather information and begin a large experiment. Not the head gardener. With a not so gentle voice, she puffed up, turned red, and told me I was crazy. “You have a deep well. It goes down 333 feet. Why would you let everyone else use that water and not you? All the work we’ve done to plant will just be wasted. I just don’t get you!” I looked at her, saw her utter frustration, and understood her logic. It didn’t seem like the right moment to have a discussion on climate change and we had work to do, so I told her she’d raised some points I’d think about. Fortunately last summer was generous, we didn’t need to water as the rains came and most everything did well. The discussion was forgotten or postponed, depending on who you asked.

Naked Ladies earn their name.

Last Friday when she came back from her summer retreat and stopped in to say hello she wanted to walk around the gardens. I tried to deflect her but she moved right on, pushing toward the gardens. She stopped in her tracks and was horrified. Simply horrified. The naked ladies, or surprise lilies, and the zinnias were the only bright spots for her. The tomatoes weren’t producing much, only a few cucumbers on the vines, no beans, peppers sad, squash being eaten by deer (or that dratted, but cute, ground hog). I kept interjecting “but.…” though it did no good because she was on to the next angry declaration as she flailed her arms about and shook her head back and forth in total disbelief. I thought maybe she’d quit on the spot and at that point, I really wouldn’t have cared. I received her sharply delivered words like a piece of wilted lettuce. She was right. It all looked disastrous.

She spotted the straw stacked up and wanted to see it. She loves the smell of fresh straw. We walked over to the pile of beautiful golden straw. A week before, I told her, Jeremy called to say he had our straw.  He enlisted the help of Petra to move the 4 stacks of 21 bales each with her tractor, taken off of Jeremy’s flatbed trailer.  I told the head gardener Jeremy said they could’ve unloaded the straw bale by bale, but Petra was happy to help and seemed to enjoy showing the guys how a woman can easily lift a ton of straw with hydraulics and a calm demeanor. The head gardener smiled at that. (Phew… I continued with the story as it seemed to amuse her.)

After figuring out the route to the straw’s home, Petra slowly maneuvered the tractor’s fork into the huge bundle, stabbed it, lowered the bundle like an expert until she found the balance point and carried each ton of straw the 100 feet to its allotted space. With the triple digit temperature and high humidity, Jeremy and his dad appreciated the kind help. Afterwards, the four of us hung around Petra on her tractor, the Queen of Sheba, and talked and talked, mostly about tractors, at which point the head gardener laughed. She knows I’m ignorant about machinery of any kind.  The story was a nice distraction from the calamity she had witnessed in the gardens. Her mood had changed. So I took the opportunity to ask her to come next Tuesday for work as I had plans for the weekend. Yes, plans to feel sorry for myself.

Naked Ladies soften the bleakness

The weekend came in woefully hot and so dry there was no dew on the browning grass in the early morning. I mustered the energy to go about my duties but I felt the presence of the apocalypse. Yes, I do have the tendency to be overly dramatic but after hearing of disasters the world over, I figured it was our time to endure one too. I felt ashamed of my pathetic response, at my lack of cheerful, upbeat energy. I lost my belief that things could get better.

I stewed for several days, taking care of mundane challenges like a clogged toilet ─ is that not a metaphor for the apocalypse? And I’d lost several items, a paring knife, later found on the floor, and my pruners, placed in the wrong basket. All this indicated a lost spirit. And Agnes would come on Monday, freshly back from Germany where heat and forest fires raged. My sad gardens would assault her too.

And indeed they did. Our first chore was to clean the garlic. We sat in the shade of the sweet gum tree and she chirped pleasantly about all the adventures she and Thomas had in Dresden. With no air conditioning in her mother’s house, they suffered through the nights as they couldn’t open the windows with the fires so close by.  (Doom and gloom abounds when you’ve let down your optimism spectrum.) After we’d finished cleaning the garlic, a lovely harvest this year, she too wanted to tour the gardens. I could not deflect her either. So I took her to all her favorite places and the best she could muster was, “I’ve never seen it look so bad before.” Yes, I thought, dig me a grave and bury me now. Everything seemed downhill.

Our Lady smiles.

We hauled some of the new straw to various beds, leaving the bales for the head gardener and me to spread. We cut back the dead zinnias. Agnes works so quickly and efficiently we finished those tasks in jig time. My enthusiasm dipped and I suggested an early lunch.  We went inside to prepare what the garden offered. To her, the zucchini fritters, the millet and corn dish, the cucumber salad and the fresh tomatoes tasted like ambrosia. “You make such good food Mimi” she pronounced. That cheered me a little and she told more stories about their new kittens and their adventures in Germany. I think I even smiled.

She left before the heat became unbearable and I collapsed into a nap. Within 12 hours the rains would fall, and fall, and fall until 3 ½ inches had graced the parched landscape. I would lie in bed, in the dark, and weep with joy. Gifts from the heavens have arrived. We’re saved once again.

And indeed the gardens would come back with a vigor that surprised even me. More importantly, when the head gardener showed up for duty on Tuesday morning, she walked around with an open mouth. She couldn’t believe the transformation. I reveled in her wide eyed look of wonder and exclamation, “How can this be?”

I smiled and muttered about the underground river and mycelium, mulching, using compost etc. etc. but she didn’t hear a word. She simply walked from one plant to another and oohed and ahhed.  I held on to the quiet victory. This theme of water shortages will remain a constant. We’ll have many conversations, disagreements, but now I have this one “miracle” to relate to, over and over again as we slowly try to come to an understanding of our new world, how we have to adapt and what a difference a day makes.