Saturday, September 17, 2016

More smoke

Preparing for a cookout in the Abbey courtyard earlier this summer -- something we don't do when conditions are very dry and fire danger correspondingly high.
In an earlier post we spoke of the occasional scent of wood smoke from wildfires -- often quite distant. But on September 4, our idyllic Sunday afternoon was disrupted by evidence of a fire much closer to our Abbey. A great plume of smoke was visible to the west, especially from the higher ground closer to the highway. We heard the reassuring sound of sirens as emergency vehicles rushed to the scene -- near the Starwood Trail on public land, as we later learned, so the blaze was dubbed the Starwood Fire.

As some Sisters telephoned around for news, others hustled the cattle down to the hayfields along the creek, where the grass is moist and green. The cattle were certainly happy about it, and looked beautiful against the green, in the evening light of late summer.

Providence -- and fast work by firefighters -- kept the fire  to a very modest 300 acres. Last we heard, it was quite contained, and had caused no injuries or damage to buildings. We even had some rain overnight a few days later -- not so great in quantity, but slow and gentle, so that it soaked in to the dry land and vegetation.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Cannery Row

Our monastic refectory became a fruit processing center in late August as we cut and bagged many pounds of luscious peaches for freezing and canning.

August in Colorado means PEACHES! And we are the grateful beneficiaries of many kind donors of crates of these delicious orchard-fresh fruits. Even better, not all of the peaches came already ripe at the same time. Our stalwart kitchen staff certainly had a busy couple of weeks, but not absolute frenzy to try to get all of them canned or frozen before they were past any hope of use.

We also blanched, cut, and froze several crates of sweet corn -- after eating as much of is as we reasonably could. This is also turning out to be a good year for our native fruits, and some of the more agile and ambitious Sisters have been collecting chokecherries and currants before the bears get all of them. Chokecherries are said to be very nutritious, but need to be made into jelly to be palatable to most humans. They are also pretty heavy on the pit. Currants are sweeter and pitless, but pretty small. Now ripening are the wild plums, which are quite tasty, and large enough to seem worthwhile.

Black bears relish all of these, and are not constrained by worries about tearing their clothes on the branches, or about breaking the branches in the process of berry-picking. We've seen signs of bear feeding (you know what we mean) quite close to our buildings and on our entrance road, so they are definitely finding the food sources. Indeed, it is amazing that an animal as large as a black bear can subsist on such tiny fruits.

One can easily sympathize with Yogi and Boo-Boo and their interest in "pickanick baskets".