Winter Sunset

 

Winter Sunset

It was a cold sunset at ten degrees near the end of a 4.5 mile workout. Wasn’t going to let the weather interrupt my daily practice. Christmas was white, The Long Night (GOT) is almost over. The New Year will be green and bright and the days are getting longer.

The last year and a half has been a long winter of the soul. The hardest part was early after the sudden plunge into winter a little over a year ago, recovering from repeated surgeries through the holiday season from before Christmas to the first day of spring. I had separated from the sociopathic con artist with Narcissistic Personality Disorder that wrecked my life and health. It was a lonely, stressful and difficult period, yet magical occurrences kept happening, letting me know I was on the right path despite some missteps and falls. After more than a year, there are many new stories to tell and adventures to attempt.

While I can see the spring sun off in the distance, winter snows are not finished yet. Like the weather here, the soul’s life can change from icy cold to pleasantly warm or the reverse  in a moment. The scattered bright glimpses of the future fuel the determination to wade through the snow with confidence. There will be snows of the season and of the soul well into spring, but the tide is turning. There is constant progress and wonderful opportunities ahead.

A recent, very bright spot was the arrival of an advance copy of my next book, Wild Winemaking, an early Christmas present from my editor. I will have more copies soon and the release date is February. Advance marketing is going very well. Things are getting busier all the time. There is a business trip to Hawaii, interviews, class to teach and book signings filling up the spring calendar. There will be rehearsals as Ringmaster of The Scintillating Fire Circus to prepare for upcoming shows. Every Thursday I play the blues. I’ve been privileged to play recently with some well known musicians that have extensive regional, national and international tours, albums and honors.

My half-time greenhouse production manager job will start up again this spring. Time on The Pondy, with my hands in the dirt, chickens forming a parade behind me, wildlife on the hill and in the air, 275 cases of wine in the cellar, the smell of growing food in the greenhouse, helping a good friend build his business and experiencing the weather every day is exhilarating yet peaceful at the same time. The time I spent filling the greenhouse and garden with plants was a very healing period during my medical and spiritual healing journeys.

I had increased my daily workout from three and a half by doing an extra loop, three instead of two. Shortly after starting this essay two weeks ago, I doubled the length of my old daily walk/jog, with four loops to around seven miles without missing a day through up and down weather until yesterday. While I may not have burned as many calories, I spent a little over an hour hiking up and down a river, scrambling down and up over a field of large boulders to balanced precariously on rocks at the river’s edge while casting to rising trout. Mid-January with mid-sixties temperatures was just too much to resist. I substituted fly fishing for my afternoon workout that day to exercise my soul as well as my body. I did have a couple strikes, although I didn’t hook either one. A water ouzel danced along the river edge. There were a few hardy souls out there fishing. One I stopped to watch invited me down to try his pool from the opposite bank. He pointed out dozens of trout, some rising and said he hadn’t been able to get a bite. I was just looking for a short interlude and tried … and lost … several flies while enticing those bites. Feeling satisfied with my meditational river experience, I left the fisherman to continue his efforts as I moved on to continue my busy day. Stopping at The Pondy on the way back, it was so warm that Matt was shirtless, spreading and tilling a large load of composted manure into the sandy part of the garden. I needed to restock the treasure chest from the wine cellar after last weekend’s festivities and wanted to check the greenhouse progress and the kiwi wine in primary fermentation.

After that warm temperature yesterday, today was twenty degrees cooler, cloudy and wet. It had stopped misting by the time I left for my walk but overnight and early morning in mid-January it had rained instead of snowing. The air felt heavy and damp. The next day the sun was shining, the sky bright blue, but it was at least ten degrees colder with a north wind. The number of people I see out there depends on the weather. When it is cold or cloudy, there are few besides dog walkers and the occasional hardy bicycler. On most days there is someone or a small group playing Frisbee golf in the park near the trail. In nice weather, there are groups lined up, waiting their turn.

Besides the physical exercise, there are always encounters that rejuvenate the soul, too. A couple days ago, a woman was walking a dark brown German shorthair puppy that looked just like Cassiopeia, my shorthair that lived for 19 years. I didn’t get closer than about fifty feet as they passed in front of me, but that puppy couldn’t take its eyes off me. As I turned the opposite direction, I kept watching and the puppy kept dragging behind looking at me for a long time. It stirred memories of my beloved Cassie. I often see and hear geese overhead, sometimes like today large flocks wheeling overhead, filling the air with well over 100 honking geese. A couple days ago, I was busy writing in my head when I was startled by five squirrels in a row that jerked upright and bolted for their trees in unison. In winter there are ravens, sometimes in a large raucous flock.

A week ago, at the Fly Fishing Show I upgraded my wardrobe with a uv protective hoody in a trout pattern on a mottled blue camo background that looked like water and a pair of flame colored tights to wear with top hat and tails in my role as Ringmaster of the Scintillating Fire Circus. Wearing that hoodie on my workout every day has me thinking about letting my inner hillbilly come out by wearing that more and the button-up sleeveless camo shirt that was designed by on old girlfriend fashion designer. This would be a change from the standard all black artist/author “uniform” that is my typical wear. Three times since I started wearing that hoodie I have received compliments about it including an attractive younger woman that engaged me in conversation. Of course I get compliments every time I wear my top hat with my all black wardrobe. Perhaps I just need to change it up some. Don’t want to become too predictable. It would certainly startle some of my friends who haven’t seen me dress like that for years.

I will continue to enjoy my daily walks, even on those cold winter days with the sun low on the horizon. The days are getting longer and brighter and I don’t want to miss any of it.

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The Season has Changed.

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Chocolate habanero

Chocolate habanero

The weather is dramatically cooler and we have had our first snow.  After a warm weekend over the next couple of days, we are facing a week of serious cold and predicted snowfall.  We had the first hard freeze, near 20 degrees.  We harvested all the tomatoes, tomatillos and peppers which are ripening all over our kitchen.  Our salad greens are doing fine.  We are still harvesting lettuce, curly blue/green and burgundy kale, spinach, mild mustard greens, curled and flat parsley, rainbow chard, garlic chives, carrots and peas.  While we have only picked a few pea pods, the entire pea plant is edible and we have been adding leaves and shoots to our salads.

Hunting season was a success. With a deer added to our garden produce, our deep freeze is packed with the overflow filling the fridge freezer in the kitchen.  I did not bring home an elk, but the deer is enough red meat for the 2 of us during the coming year.  I still consider my elk hunt a success.  It was a busy week for me that included 2 book signing events for Bountiful Bonsai that limited my time in the woods to only 3 of 9 days in the season.  I hunted in fresh snow, up to knee deep for those 3 days.  I found a great new place to hunt with plenty of tracks, droppings and rubs.  I felt close to elk but just not in the same time, same place.  With more time to hunt I’m sure the outcome would have been different.

Now that hunting season is essentially over, it is wine season for me.  I signed a contract last month to write the book, Craft Wines for Story Press.  I have until August 1 to write the manuscript and have several new wines I plan to make as well as write about for the book.  At last count, I have 138 different wines to write about for the book.  Most recently, we pressed out Burgundy Kale, Plum Rhubarb and Orange Ghost wines.  Hot pepper/citrus wines are always a favorite among my wine drinking friends.  There are more than 30 different hot pepper/citrus wines in the cellar.  I always look for new hot peppers with interesting names to use in wines.  This last summer I grew chocolate habaneros to be paired with Mandarin oranges and cocoa bean hulls as well as a pepper called brainstrain which will become Tangerine Brainstrain.  I’ve already ordered seeds of 2 new pepper varieties to grow next year, Count Dracula and Volcano.  I also plan to make a Chocolate Almond Cherry wine this winter.

Changing of the Seasons

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It has been a warm and dry fall until just recently, but the season has definitely begun to change.  The days are shorter and the nights are cool.  My outdoor activities have changed focus.  The trout pictured above are from my last fishing trip on the Cache la Poudre river a couple weeks ago.  Two were caught on a hopper dry fly and two were caught on a tiny #20 nymph dropper off of that large grasshopper dry fly. They will be smoked on the grill soon.  Fall has me switching time to hunting rather than fishing.  I didn’t draw a deer tag this year so I had to buy a leftover tag in an area I had never hunted before.  I went scouting there a few days before the season opened.  I didn’t see any deer and found some sign, including a couple fresh rubs which was important as I had a buck tag, but not near as much deer sign as I am used to seeing in my regular hunting area.  I carried my shotgun and did bring home a rabbit.

Opening day was predicted to be unseasonably warm, although it was plenty cold before sunrise, about 36 degrees.  There were several other cars parked at my spot when I arrived, letting me know there would be other hunters in the area. I was in place, before legal shooting time, watching those fresh rubs for the first couple of hours that morning.  I saw no deer, but did see several other hunters move through the area.  Before the day was through I would see 10 hunters, including a party of 5 that were hunting together. With no early activity around those rubs, I began exploring, still hunting and stopping to watch promising areas, taking time to sip coffee and eat some snacks while sitting.  I continued to see other hunters, but no deer and very little wildlife other than a couple rabbits and some birds.  At one point, while in deep woods I heard strange sounds from what had to be a flock of birds flying overhead.  I never did see them, but knew that sound.  It had to be a large flock of sandhill cranes.  That was confirmed when I heard from several friends later that day that they had seen large flocks migrating overhead along the Front Range.

By midafternoon I had seen no deer, but plenty of hunters.  I was beginning to think it might be wise to call it a day and come back after the weekend when there would likely be fewer hunters in the woods.  I had made a large loop through deep woods and was heading back in the direction of my car as I approached a large clearing.  Suddenly there were two deer, right on the edge of the clearing, no more than sixty feet away.  I looked at one through my scope and saw antlers.  They had seen me at this point so I quickly shifted my aim and shot.  That deer took off and disappeared from view.  The other ran a dozen feet and stopped to look at me again before taking off.  I ran forward and couldn’t find a blood trail where that deer had been standing.  I was sure I couldn’t have missed at that distance so I started a search.  I couldn’t find a trail in the direction he ran, but it only took a couple minutes of searching before I spotting him laying just inside the woods about seventy feet away from where he was shot.

I ran over and offered a prayer of thanksgiving to Mother Gaia for providing me with this bounty to feed my family. My circle of friends call this spiritmeat, and wild game meat is always treated with reverence.  After field dressing and bagging the liver to carry out to the cooler in the car, I hiked out to get my game cart.  I passed another hunter on the way.
When he saw me pulling my cart, he followed and asked if I would like some help.  This is common practice, even among hunters who have never met before and the help is always appreciated.  My first meal from this buck was fresh liver.

The garden is winding down and we covered it two nights ago from the first frost.  There are still a few tomatoes and lots of tomatillos and peppers still in the garden.  Our fall cool season crop has started adding lettuce, spinach and mustard greens as well as pea pods, shoots and leaves to our daily salads.  The flower pictured above is a toad lily.  We came across this while looking for plants to put in Cathy’s flower garden last spring.  We couldn’t resist pictures of the flower which described this as a fall blooming perennial.  The flowers are small, only a couple inches across, but is has been blooming prolifically for several weeks now.  We are still harvesting plenty of kale, rainbow chard, radish roots and greens, parsley, chives, carrots and basil from the garden for our salads and hope to continue picking salad greens for a while.

It has been a good year in the garden and our freezer is packed full.  Next weekend is elk season.  If I bring home a bull, we will need to either buy another freezer or trade some meat to a friend for some storage space.  The weather has been delightful with pleasant days, cool nights and we recently received some much needed rain.  It would be nice to get a little tracking snow in the high country where I will be elk hunting in a week.  Based on long range predictions, it may happen.  Knowing we have a plentiful supply of vegetables and venison in the freezer, the pressure may be off, but bringing home some elk meat would be a delightful bonus to this beautiful fall season.