at the onset of this year’s late summer, our property transformed into Watership Down. rabbits of all sizes converged to scamper and graze on freshly mown grass and tasty (from what i’ve heard) green offshoots. the young rabbits hid timidly behind bushes and boulders, as i ushered the dogs out the front door for a trot around the yard; the elders briefly looked up, then boldly continued to munch on their greens. this rabbit dance went on for months. then, the first cold snap arrived, and the population went underground. oh, every now and then i see a little cottontail scurrying into the woods. but for the most part, it’s a ghost town. well, until the hootenanny.
it began last Friday night, when a great horned owl announced he’d moved into the hood. every night (and all night) since, he’s proclaimed his presence. it doesn’t take great intellect or insight to ascertain why owl arrived and how our homey little habitat came to be advertised by the Welcome Wagon.
in the summer of 2010, our human neighbor to the north and west started demolishing trees. not just underbrush, but full-size cedars, alders and cottonwoods. day and night. crash. boom. earth- and ear-shattering thuds. soon, the summer ended, peace was restored and the rainy season began. i prayed his big heavy, yellow equipment would rust. five or so inches of water sat on top of the grass i’d babied for the previous five years. the disruption to soil caused water to drain like a babbling brook across the gently sloping backyard. with the arrival of spring came birds. i felt like i was in a Hitchcock film. summer brought more bulldozing (who would have imagined the eight acres next door still had any trees left?). more rabbits. woodpeckers. mice. moles. wait, where were the locusts?? oh, that must be what’s on tap for next summer.
today, i’m putting out the welcome mat for owl. and i giddily hope the human neighbor who completely disrupted the habitat will be the big bird’s first snack.
speaking of snacks, here’s a treat that’s great any time of year. i made it this summer with loganberries and with huckleberries (i’ve never had fresh huckleberries; they were awesome!!). it’s not too sweet. delicious for breakfast or a late-night bite. woo-hooooooo.
Classic Buttermilk Coffee Cake
a very slight variation on a recipe from molly katzen’s sunlight cafe
for the fruit
2 cups fruit (i use berries or rhubarb)
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
non-stick spray or a tablespoon of melted butter
for the batter
1/2 cup (1 stick ) butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup buttermilk
for the topping
use 1/3 of this topping recipe OR
1/3 of this topping recipe OR
no topping at all
- in a small bowl, toss the 2 cups fruit, 2 tablespoons sugar and 1 tablespoon flour; set aside.
- preheat the oven to 350F (metal) or 325F (glass).
- spray or butter an 8-inch round or square pan; set aside.
- in the large bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter for several minutes at high speed.
- add the sugar, and beat for several minutes longer.
- add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each, then beat in the vanilla.
- in a medium bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda; slowly mix together with a whisk.
- add the dry ingredients in 3 installments to the butter mixture, alternating with the buttermilk; begin and end with the dry ingredients.
- after each addition, use a spatula to stir from the bottom of the bowl just enough to blend. be sure not to over mix!
- transfer 1/2 the batter to the prepared pan, and spread evenly.
- spread the fruit mixture evenly over the batter.
- add the second half of batter to the pan, and spread evenly.
- sprinkle your topping of choice over the batter.
- bake the cake on the middle rack of the oven for 20 – 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted all the way into the center comes out clean.
- cool for at least 15 minutes before cutting and serving.