Santa Fe, New Mexico Road Trip (Part I)

Posted by admin on Thursday Aug 26, 2010 Under Uncategorized

Cowgirl Heaven must be the rooftop bar at La Fonda in Santa Fe right after the summer monsoons have cleared the air. Anyway, that’s where Dave and I headed for our anniversary at the end of July. Awww . . .

I love the drive from the ranch to my daughter’s doorstep on a mesa outside of Santa Fe, and I can never decide what is my favorite part of the trip.

Sometimes, I think it’s the very beginning as we drive down Dry Creek road with the view of the magestic Sierras and the whole vacation is before me. We twist and turn down the narrow, almost one lane road past the beautiful thoroughbreds at the Farleigh Ranch until the road levels off amid the huge sycamores by the creek.

After we cross the Kaweah River at Lemon Cove, we head through the citrus groves, past high walls of oleander until we reach Bakersfield.

Actually on these trips, I don’t even mind Bakersfield so much, knowing what lies ahead. Besides, we stop for pie and coffee and pick up a book on tape for the trip. This time it was The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

Then it’s up the Tehachapi, and away we go.

We usually cross the blue-green Colorado River just as the sun is setting and hit kingman in time to have a beer and dinner at the Dambar.

Jane at La FondaThen again, maybe the next day is my favorite part—climbing the mountain to Flagstaff at 7000 feet high and then straight across the high desert to the stunning cliffs outside of Gallup. My heart always lifts when I see the sign “You are entering New Mexico—Land of Enchantment.”

But in the end, I might have to choose that moment when we reach the top of La Bajada hill and I get my first glimpse of Santa Fe, all the adobe buildings turning rose-colored in the setting sun, spread across the valley at the foot of the Sangre de Cristo Moutains.

And here I am at Cowgirl Heaven—on top of La Fonda. I know I’m looking a bit windblown (but happy) in the passing storm, and I’m just waiting for one of La Fonda’s famous Silver Coin Margaritas.

Gracias a la vida!

Read Part 2 of this article

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Cottage Gardening or Gertrude Jekyll meets the Sierras

Posted by admin on Thursday Aug 19, 2010 Under Uncategorized

I tried to keep Miss Jekyll’s words in mind when I looked out at the barren patch that was to be my patio garden. She’d claimed “There is no spot of ground, however arid, bare or ugly, that cannot be turned into such a state as may give an impression of beauty and delight.”

We had just torn down a corrugated metal shed that contained numerous leaking vats of Round-Up. A pad had been cut into what must have once been a gentle sloping hillside to make room for the storage shed, but now, with the shed gone, the hill looked amputated. It simply ended in a dry, dusty flat space. The only signs of life on the ground were columns of ants marching across the dirt. Okay, I thought, Miss Jekyll you have not seen this.

Still, armed with my notebooks, I began to make a list. I would need a rock wall to contain the hillside and, behind it, an abundance of loosely falling perennials which would soften the wall and the abrupt ending of the hill.

Next, I would need a pea gravel patio—pea gravel for drainage. I would need shade and deep green in the summer when the heat is scorching. And all this would have to survive the snow, the summer drought, the late freezes and be as full of native plants as possible.

Dave Woolsey got to work on the wall, painstakingly laying each river rock during one of the hottest summers on record. It was heroic. Spencer Woolsey helped me turn truckloads of topsoil and compost into the pathetic, depleted soil. Janice Woolsey did a little of everything, and by the end of that summer, Dakota Woolsey, Dave and I were ready to plant.

In the area behind the rock wall, I planted yarrow, penstemon, rockrose and bush lupine, butterfly bushes, lavender, guara, blue flax, scabiosa, and salvia clevlandii. For good measure, I threw in some California poppies. The orange, for some reason, seems to pull all the different colors together. Some landscape artist will have to explain why. I’m sort of a seat-of-the-pants type gardener.

In the middle of the patio, I planted sunburst locusts around the fountain. In the spring, that bed is full of tulips and other spring bulbs; in the summer, the drought-tolerant plants take over—creeping manzanita (emerald carpet), more scabiosa , sunrose and lavender.

In another bed, I’ve planted a pink ribes, a dogwood and redbud surrounded by frais de bois. A native, blue penstemon has volunteered there, and it’s very sweet.

I don’t try to make it perfect. Wildflowers and native grasses have found their way in. So what? I don’t want to have inscribed on my tombstone “She Died Trying to Fight Nature”. Another of Gertrude Jekyll’s sayings to take to heart: “In garden arrangement . . . one has not only to acquire a knowledge of what to do, but also gain some wisdom in perceiving what it is well to leave alone.”

Now when I push open the doors, this is what I see. I think I will leave it alone.

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Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone . . .

Posted by admin on Thursday Aug 12, 2010 Under Uncategorized

. . . is my bible up here. Right now, the garden is yielding copious amounts of summer squash. What to do with such abundance?

Last night, I found a great recipe in VCFE for zucchini with garlic and lemon, but I switched the squash and used yellow crookneck instead. Why? Well, because I had just come from the garden with this.

I thought about getting all fancy and making a kind of flan or gratin but, in the end, decided on being simple. I mean, that’s kind of the point up here, right? Anyway, we were having friends over, and I wanted to spend more time on the screened porch sipping cold, white wine and talking with them. Which I did.

So at the last minute before the fish was grilled, I hopped up, went into the kitchen and threw this together while Peggy sat at the counter and we talked girlfriend talk. The guys hung out around the grill. Duh!

Let me just say everyone snarfed the squash down. When it’s fresh from the garden like this squash was—still warm from the sun— there’s no need to gussy things up.

Here’s the recipe:

Six to eight yellow squash depending on the size— roughly four cups—cut into a large dice.
2-4 TBS olive oil ( you decide)
2 lg. garlic cloves sliced
Grated rind of one lemon
Salt and pepper to taste
A little basil chiffonade

1) Swirl the olive oil in a large skillet (I use a 12 inch All-Clad) and when it is fragrant, add the squash.

2) Cook on medium-high, tossing the squash with a spatula from time to time, until the squash is golden and tender.

3) Add the garlic and cook until fragrant (that word again! Gotta use your nose if you want to cook.) Do not burn the garlic !

4) Turn off the heat. Add the grated lemon rind and stir to mix. Taste for salt and pepper. Pour into a pretty bowl and top with the basil.

Actually, I have to be honest. I didn’t add the basil in my dish, because I’d made a basil mustard butter to put on top of the grilled salmon. I knew the basil from that would mingle with the squash, and it did. Yum.

The recipe for the flavored butter comes from the first Silver Palate Cookbook. It’s vintage 1980. Still good, though!

Basil-Mustard Butter for grilled salmon

1 stick softened unsalted butter
1/4 cup Dijon style mustard
1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh basil (mine was right out of the garden!)

Blend mustard and butter.
Add basil and blend again.
Chill slightly. Spoon onto grilled salmon.

Serve with the squash! Some wild rice is nice.

We lit the candles, passed the dishes around and shared a nice bottle of Pinot Noir with this meal.

It had gotten dark, and the cool, mountain air had settled around us, so the red wine was welcome.

Let’s toast to friendship.

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“Idle and Blessed”

Posted by admin on Thursday Aug 5, 2010 Under Uncategorized

The one thing about being “idle and blessed” out here in the country is I have more time to read poetry again. Maybe it isn’t so much that I have more time (you can always make time). Maybe I have quiet—no car alarms, no traffic helicopters, no police sirens or the rushing of the Bart train hurrying people to other, more important destinations. I’d almost (but not quite) forgotten how much certain poems made me feel more alive, more vibrant.

Someone asked me about Mary Oliver. I’ll just let one of her poems speak for her.

Swan on LakeTHE SUMMER DAY

Who made the world?
Who made the swan and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
The one who has flung herself out of the grass,
The one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

Mary Oliver

I love this poem. I love the permission it gives me to “stroll through the fields” and how it demands that I pay attention in order not to squander my one “wild and precious life”.

There is a great site to check out if, like me, you want to bring more poetry into your life. It’s called Poetry 180 from the Library of Congress.

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