October’s Last Flames

 

I share this photo of Burch Street taken a couple of days ago as a nod to the beauty of October here in Toas. I see from the weather forecasts for the week ahead that we will continue to have lower temps than we’ve seen since last year this time and a noticeable lack of rain. Time to switch out those skimpy summer clothes for the layers of winter.

Closer to home, this is part of one of the apricot trees in the orchard near my house. These trees are favorites of the local ravens who favor their high branches. I have come to have a deep affection for these particular trees, their sprawling shapes, the dark color of their bark.

On a walk along Maestas road a couple of days ago with friends we ventured into a field along the Rio Chiquito River and came upon a small apple orchard that was being frequented by bears. There were luckily none in sight but their scat was all over the place.  It was a quiet, beautiful spot with plenty of apples. Unfortunately I didn’t bring my camera. I figured there are bears there because there are fewer barking dogs than around our orchard, which is also closer to a main highway, instead of a river. Still, not that far away.

 This shot of a last, lone wild plum expresses the spirit of a Japanese aesthetic called Wabi-Sabi. There is even a gift store in Taos by that name that specializes in Japanese imports.

I have a long history of discovering (and re-discovering by accident) a well-known small book that can be found in libraries in almost any town which attempts to explain it. When I found it again in the Taos library my first year here I decided to illustrate it with photography. This year I plan to do that again, with fresh photos and hopefully deeper insight. The book is available for sale at the Wabi-Sabi store.

I was at the Hanuman Temple last Sunday for lunch and a circle of people were creating this Goddess Yantra out of vegetable died rice. I had never happened on to this before and was intrigued. As it turned out there is an annual ritual event called Durga Puja that last for several days starting with the New Moon and going through the First Quarter, when the moon is half full. It celebrates Durga and various Hindu Goddesses who are aspects of her. To learn more go to the Hanuman Temple website (easy to find via Google).

This photo I took later when I attended the evening ceremony.

This was taken during the ceremony which involved various oils, prayers and finally singing and blessings. I was honored to be present. Each night there is a new Yantra for a different Goddess.

And what would the last blog of October be without the colorful generosity of squash at the farm market last Saturday? And here’s to the market itself which will be having its last event in a few days! When I think of the market I always am reminded of the glorious diversity of the Taos region, well represent by both the buyers and the farmers each week. It’s a beacon of Taos as a living example of what might have happened if most of the native population of what is now the USA had not been decimated. Weekly through the summer months it becomes a theater of integration for all who live in the region. It may sound idealistic, coming from a somewhat newly arrived Anglo, but for those of us who have mostly lived in typical US towns the contrast is both brightly real and welcome.

Potter shards discovered in my back yard

Summer’s End–October

This is an amaranth plant growing in the large garden at the Hanuman Temple in Taos. There are many varieties (colors and shapes) of this ancient plant grown by humans for their health-giving seeds. I buy amaranth seeds in bulk and add them to a mix of chia and flax which I grind in an electric coffee grinder and sprinkle on food, especially salads. I add it to pancake batter and hot cereals as well. When the plants are young I pick the leaves to add to salads, but they are definitely edible at any stage of growth.

Speaking of the Hanuman Temple…they recently had an annual festival, the Bhandara, in honor of their guru. For this popular event they do traditional Indian cooking with wood fired ovens. In an outdoor area near the kitchen there are eight of these and I was able to see them in use for my first time. I’ve always wondered how and when they were used. It seemed at the time that most of the cooking that day was over and the attention was focused on these tortilla type breads that were being placed in a large wok-shaped pan of oil. On the upper left you can see how they puff up when cooked.

Here’s a view of the cooking operation. I had heard of the annual Bhandara celebration  before I moved to Taos from a good friend in Ketchum, Idaho, who had attended it many times with her family over the years. They have a close friend who’s been associated with Ram Das most of her adult life. Likely the gathering was an extended family reunion opportunity. Now that I live here and usually go to the temple on Sundays I appreciate what a role it plays in bringing together like-minded people. It is a very inclusive, welcoming place.

This may not be a world-class photo but it introduces the seasonal ritual of ristras. Before I lived in Taos I thought they were just for looks but soon learned that to the pepper-addicted folks of the region they are a practical way to keep dried ones handy in the kitchen. The couple on the left have become two of my favorite farm market vendors. Love their radishes and often photograph their amazing flowers.

And this is a last look of the season of Barbara and Larry of Cosmos Farm in Dixon. Barbara was still stringing marigolds when I took this but said this would be their last time coming to the market for this year. For me there was something special about the beauty they brought with their marigolds and garden bounty and I’ll look forward to seeing them again next year.

It’s difficult to transition away from the season of the farm market which brings the spread-out and diverse community of  Taos together. The end of the market season is just one less reason to drive to “town” with any social expectations. Many of the farmers drive long distances to participate in the summer market and one can only imagine the work it takes beforehand–to plant, nurture, then harvest their produce in time for the weekly early morning drive, not to mention setting up their booths. What a gift of dedication to the good of the larger community! I’m sure I can say WE ALL thank you!

I’m not sure of the date of the last farm market but I can feel it’s soon. Last night our temperatures dipped below freezing for the first time of the season. I check the weather online so knew it was coming. I harvested all my unripe tomatoes and cut all my marigold flowers to make the strings I so love. I can take down the faded ones I made last year now and enjoy the fresh orange color and the smell of the new ones.

I am adding a stewed apple recipe to this blog for folks who both like to eat healthy and find they have an over-abundance of apples (like me). It comes from an ayurvedic cookbook (Eat Taste Heal), is great for balancing Vata, and is dairy and gluten free.

Ingredients:

2 apples, peeled, cored, and sliced

4 or 5 dried apricots, soaked in hot water 20 minutes

4 dates, preferably Medjool, pitted and cut in half

2 C water

1 tbsp maple syrup

1 tbsp grated fresh ginger (I say “or less”)

1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon, and same amount of cardamom

Put all ingredients in medium (small?) saucepan. Bring to boil over high heat. Reduce to medium-low, cover and simmer for at least 5 minutes (or longer? I say). With a ladle, transfer 1/3 of the contents, including juice, to a blender and process to a puree. Stir this back into the pan and serve warm.

Keeps well in the fridge for a week or so (my comment).

Cottonwood leaves along the curb…