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Posts from the ‘great outdoors’ Category

hearts in Colorado

30 June 2012

dj

we’ve all been taking it kind of easy at our house this month. the temperature has been unseasonably cool and the sky gray. and that’s probably a good thing for Winnie, as she hasn’t been feeling particularly spritely. at nearly 15, her pace has slowed dramatically in contrast to when she lived in the mountains above Colorado Springs. now, those were some days.

back then, Winnie rarely slept in. she liked to hang out on the back deck, sniffing the crisp mountain air and, undoubtedly, all the native creatures who shared our property (with big cats nearby, Winnie never got to stay out on the deck too awfully long without human supervision). when she wasn’t surveying the outdoor scene, she spent her time wedged between me and the kitchen counter—every time i fixed a meal. another favorite pastime? sunning. if there was a patch of sunshine to be found in the house, Winnie would be in it. asleep on her back, with all four in the air.

a true-blue mountain dog, Winnie would hike valiantly by our sides (or pull so hard on her leash, she’d wear herself out). like that time on the Women’s Trail, when she laid down in the middle of the path and refused to go any further, forcing Tootie to carry her back to the car. Winnie’s sense of direction: as accurate as any GPS. like that time when she mysteriously got out of the yard, and got lost, and Lisa searched for and ultimately retrieved her from the home of a distant neighbor, who’d graciously corralled her. Winnie’s valor: unsurpassed. like that time we were instructed to evacuate during the Hayman fire, and she barked her butt off in the hotel room (and i was afraid we’d be ejected), until we put her up on the bed with us (don’t tell).

i always imagine when Winnie dreams (and her little feet are running in her sleep), she’s dreaming of her life as a Colorado mountain dog. my heart is there, too. with family and friends. with those who’ve lost their homes. and with the fire warriors, who tirelessly fight the good fight.

lilacs and little bird

4 February 2012

dj

yesterday, i received a catalog in the mail, its cover splashed with a single photo of dark purple lilacs. i thought the arrival of that catalog could not have been more perfect. closing my eyes, i could almost smell the unmistakable fragrance, as real as it was in my childhood backyard.

1927 family portrait: mom, grandma and grandpa

my mom adored her lilacs. she maintained three huge, stately bushes in our suburban heaven. every spring, when the lilacs bloomed, i found her near them. hovering and, what i perceived as, hugging them (well, i said, that’s what it looked like to me). let’s just say we were both elated to stand in the bushes’ presence.

mom would strategically clip lilacs from each cherished bush, and we’d inhale their sweetness as we carried them into the house. choosing just the right vase, she’d skillfully arrange them. then, stand back with a tilted head to assess her handiwork. finally, she’d look back at me and say, what do you think? i’d enthusiastically nod my head in approval. yay!

today marks what would have been my mom’s 90th birthday. even as a writer, i’m at a loss to articulate how much i miss her. what i can say is that my memories of her and of our adventures together are even more vivid, more deeply etched as the days go by. yeah, that could just be my advancing age, but that’s another story entirely. 

so, here’s to you, little bird. may today—and every day—be carefree. i expect you and daddy will be  gliding across that dance floor tonight. love you forever.

snack redefined

18 October 2011

dj

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 

INGREDIENTS
organic everything

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

DIRECTIONS

  1. in a small bowl, toss the 2 cups fruit, 2 tablespoons sugar and 1 tablespoon flour; set aside.
  2. preheat the oven to 350F (metal) or 325F (glass).
  3. spray or butter an 8-inch round or square pan; set aside.
  4. in the large bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter for several minutes at high speed.
  5. add the sugar, and beat for several minutes longer.
  6. add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each, then beat in the vanilla.
  7. in a medium bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda; slowly mix together with a whisk.
  8. add the dry ingredients in 3 installments to the butter mixture, alternating with the buttermilk; begin and end with the dry ingredients.
  9. after each addition, use a spatula to stir from the bottom of the bowl just enough to blend. be sure not to over mix!
  10. transfer 1/2 the batter to the prepared pan, and spread evenly.
  11. spread the fruit mixture evenly over the batter.
  12. add the second half of batter to the pan, and spread evenly.
  13. sprinkle your topping of choice over the batter.
  14. 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.
  15. cool for at least 15 minutes before cutting and serving.