…and just like that, it’s autumn.
Experienced at Albuquerque’s Open Space Visitor’s Center this evening: A fiery sunset. A silvery moonrise. The precise moment of equinox across the globe.
Happy International Day of Peace!
The International Day of Peace ("Peace Day") is observed around the world each year on 21 September. Established in 1981 by unanimous United Nations resolution, Peace Day provides a globally shared date for all humanity to commit to Peace above all differences and to contribute to building a Culture of Peace.
2018 Peace Day Theme:
This year's #peacedaycelebrates the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: "The Right to Peace- The Universal Declaration of Human Rights at 70." Learn more here:
Harvest activities are on hold for a day as rainstorms blow in from the West Mesa…
Here’s more on the remarkable wonder-plant that is amaranth, an article I came across in my attempts to research how to harvest its seeds: Why Mexican Chefs, Farmers And Activists Are Reviving The Ancient Grain Amaranth.
…in Oaxaca, amaranth is not just a fad ingredient. The ancient indigenous plant is part of a movement to revive native crops and cuisines, and a means of restoring the physical health and economy of their state, one of the poorest in Mexico.
High in protein and other nutrients, amaranth is also drought-resistant and profitable, netting local farmers three to five times the profit of other locally grown grain crops.
There must be more to the missing amaranth seeds than just hungry birds. Maybe I haven’t trained my eye to recognize the tiny grain-like seeds among all those drying purple petals. Time to do more research and teach myself how to find and harvest my crop…
See, illustrated articles like this one make it look like the seeds should be visible among the chaff straight off the tassel. That’s not what I got when I ran my hand down the flowers in my garden, though; I came up with all fluffy chaff, no pearly-pebbly seeds. Hmm. Did the early birds get all the goods on this batch? Is it time to cover the remaining tassels with some kind of netting to protect my harvest?
I may have one clue in the mystery of the missing amaranth seeds: while I was kneeling quietly among the plants inspecting the fresh and drying flowers, a small gray bird swooped in and landed a foot from me on one of the stalks. Ah! Of course—this must be a rich buffet for them these days. Maybe I was a little too literal when I called some of the flowers early-birds.
I didn’t get a photo, since of course the bird took off in fright as soon as I rustled and revealed myself. Back inside, though, I poked around a little online and concluded it must’ve been a house sparrow. Here are a few shots of a distant cousin nibbling at distant amaranth, just for kicks.
Okay, I think the time has come to tackle one of the most mysterious-to-me species growing out back: amaranth. Having never grown amaranth before or even heard of it growing up, I’ve cultivated these plants without any concept of how to know when they’re ready for harvest. This much I know: once the weather got hot this summer, they shot up practically overnight like weeds. The back of the garden has become a forest of tall fuchsia stalks, leaves, and tassels of tiny blossoms. Now it looks like the early-bird flowers are going to seed… but when I look closer there are no seeds to be found, only chaff. Time to do some research.
For now I’m sticking with what I know in the kitchen: the rest of the vegetables we have on hand this week are going into a stir fry.
Speaking of delicious… for your reading pleasure, twenty favorite foods of New Mexico. Ratatouille isn’t exactly representative of regional cuisine; I should have fun seeing how I can adapt more of the harvest ahead to local tastes.
Well, that was awesome. A big ol’ pot of goodness straight from the earth, with plenty of leftovers after dinner. Ratatouille for days.
From the garden straight to the cutting board: this afternoon our first two eggplants became my first true farm-to-table harvest. Along with the tomatoes I picked yesterday, plus garlic, onion, zucchini, and bell peppers from our local CSA farm, we’ve got everything we need to cook a late summer feast.
Our first couple tomatoes have ripened on the vine! And look at these gorgeous eggplants just begging to be picked, plus a few more green peppers. I sense another big recipe in the works.
I may not have much to offer by way of competitive stuff at a state fair. My garden is small and my vegetables are smaller. But I’m content with my lot when it comes to creative ability. In fact, I’m more than happy just to be able to draw connections between life’s many forms of making—making art, making food. I’m making a mark on the world, and in turn I’m letting the world make a mark on me.
Time for a local tradition: the 80th annual New Mexico State Fair! It’s a first for us as relative newcomers to the state, but I grew up counting the days to the local fair back in my hometown in New York, and this one has everything I need to fulfill my nostalgic cravings: fried dough, blinking lights, a petting zoo, live music, and not one but two Ferris wheels.
Nationwide, the custom of annual fairs has gotten pretty commercialized and greasy since its roots as a harvest festival, but beneath the glitz and gimmicks it still has strong ties to agriculture and husbandry. Where else are hardworking farmers and ranchers, so far-flung in their fields and grazing lands all season, going to get together to show off for one another? Long live the blue ribbon prizes for best vegetables and horsemanship.
Apparently this is the week for sunflowers! Two more have blossomed in the last couple days, both of a smaller red variety, joining the classic yellow face from yesterday. Shine on with the sun, everyone!
Waiting has its rewards—in this case, the start of our first giant bloom.
It’s the waiting game again. Five months ago, after seeds had been planted, the wait was to see whether any new life would emerge and make it to maturity. Things are much less nerve-wracking this time around: we have new melon blossoms appearing to replace the fruit we harvested and ate, more and more green tomatoes ripening on the vine, baby peppers and eggplants growing, a third pumpkin starting to yellow, and our first sunflowers about to open. Still, aside from check that they have enough water between rainstorms, there’s once again nothing to do... but wait.
It’s been nice, these last few days, to sleep with the windows open and listen to a cold wind blow through the night.