Friday, August 16, 2013

Back in the Saddle

Summer Harvest
Roosting Blue Heron
It's a Bird, a Hawk, an Eagle or Something Like That
Refrigerator Pickles
Into the Frying Pan Zukes!
Two weeks of travel and I'm ready to be a homebody, bird-nerd, barefoot gardener, writer again. From vistas of a real working ranch in eastern Montana to the Ireland of the Rockies, my eyes have charted new sights.

My garden grew without me. A zucchini big enough to bat a bear clung to the vine next to the crook-necked squash plant that burst with a bouquet of yellow veggies. I let one of my radishes bolt to see if I can harvest seeds. Right now it is full of pretty pink flowers.

Amazing how the pea-pods never make it to the house; I nibble as I weed. One lesson from this year's garden classroom is that peas can be planted much earlier. They are as cranky as me in the heat of full summer. And I'm cranky. It's hot and humid. Humidity is for the Midwest, or so I thought. My Midwestern friends say it's beautiful, even cool out that way. Somehow our weather swapped. I want my cool northern Idaho nights back with dry days. I feel like a late-season pea pod gasping in the heat.

Today I closed the windows, drew the curtains and sheltered in the cool dark house. Not the best way to reconnect with the birds, I know, but I needed down-time, scripture verses and mindless Mahjong tiles. I pondered big concepts, such as the importance of repenting before forgiving and tiny ideas like adding Aleppo pepper to pickles. I recalibrated.

Pee breaks for the dogs draw me closer to the pond. Despite the heaviness of the air, the pasture is crisp and dusty. The pond is looking stagnant, yet still full for this time of year. Blue heron greets me with sleepy eyes, neck tucked into his body for roosting. The hawk--or perhaps Golden eagle since I can't seem to tell the difference--perches high above us all in the tamarack along highway 95. At least two mergansers remain and one looks to be a young male. Wasps thrum ominously and grasshoppers pop like corn kernels in hot oil.

The feel of Elmira Pond is returning to my bones, my blood, my spirit. It is good to be home.

Refrigerator Pickles with Aleppo Pepper
(Aleppo pepper is a deep red Turkish pepper similar to ancho chilies.)

6 cups sliced, unpeeled cucumbers
1 cup sliced red onion
12 cloves of garlic
1 bunch of fresh dill
1 Tbsp. celery seed
1-2 tsp. Aleppo pepper
1Tbsp. sea salt
2 cups sugar
1 cup white vinegar

Mix cucumbers, onion, garlic and dill. Stack in quart jars or a large crock. Mix remaining ingredients and pour equal amounts if using multiple jars. Top with water to cover cucumbers. Store in the refrigerator.Gently swish jars upside down every day to blend. Best to eat after pickling for a few weeks. Good up to three months in the fridge.

Zucchini Patties
(Or what to do with all those zukes!)
Grate three to five zucchinis. Add two to three eggs and enough flour to form a stiff batter. Heat oil in a pan and fry globs of zucchini batter on each side until golden brown, about five minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.

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