Bear in the Orchard; Apricot Jam!
Pretty in the cool of the morning, walking when the sky brightens but the sun is still behind the darkened mountains. I had hiked to an old bountiful orchard, which includes a cherry thicket along the road, perhaps bird-sown.
No one bothers with the few cherries, when there are mega-bushels of fruit in the larger orchard. But I do!
I'd just arrived. and popped delectable, purple-rich cherries into my mouth, when an official truck pulled up beside me. One of the outdoorsy agencies.
The guy nearest rolled down his window.
"Have you seen the bear?"
I turned to the side and spat cherry pits.
"Yeah, we saw it from the road above the valley. Can't be far."
Uh huh. No sh*t, Sherlock. Maybe thirty meters below me, a huge bear looked up from munching down green windfall apples.
(Neighbors and I had seen first bear scat this week, full of apricot pits. Bears don't spit out seed. Later in the season, we'll see scat full of chokecherry and blackberry seed.)
I squatted down to get a better look. The guys got out of the truck, at which point the bear went galumphing across the orchard and down toward thick undergrowth of the river.
Likely a male, of formidable dimensions. Standing upright, it would tower over this long-legged female. It still had dense brown pelt along its back which it will eventually rub against rough tree bark, standing on hind paws for a good up and down scratch.
It felt like a pretty morning turned spectacular, a massive bear, and a glimpse into wilder times, though much of this land remains intentionally wild.
A few weeks ago, a woman jogging on a mountain trail unknowingly got between a mama bear and her twin cubs. Mama bear attacked the interloper. The cubs are now being bottle fed. Animal control stalked the bear and shot it.
Huge uproar locally, as most people who live here have chosen to distance themselves from city traffic, cell towers, noise and pollution.
We walk amazed within land still forcefully primeval, knowing we're not firstborn to this country. Bears and bison precede all two-footeds.
In my teens, I was shocked to explore a forest parkland in tidy Germany. There was NO undergrowth. None.
I suddenly ached for the unpredictable mountains of New England, the Grand Tetons or the High Sierra, where one often meets bear, cougar, moose, skunk, elk, deer and raccoons. And plenty of wild fruits to share!
Strolling back to the adobe casita, my home toward the end of life, high in the Rocky Mts., I watched a kestrel overhead, a small falcon. A pair nests in the valley. Photo below with mouse prey:
Improv cooks are annoying to the methodical--apologies--but broad brushstrokes, I processed a big batch, 28 cups of apricots, 1 cup of soaked goji berries, a big peeled and sliced ginger root, all puree'd in a blender with dried rose hips and lemon juice.
I stirred the biggest Le Creuset pot I've ever seen, doing yin/yang swirls in the fragrant thick jam and watched a mob scene of tiny hummingbirds at the outdoor feeder and flowers.
The males, as usual, are wonderfully colorful, with iridescent throats of crimson, fuchsia or orange!
Three cups of added Sucanat make this batch a low sugar jam, possible by using Pomona's, a special non-GMO pectin: a calcium soultion enhances jelling, instead of the usual 1:1 proportion of fruit and sugar.
In the case of this apricot jam, prepared as indeed my grandmother did, that would have required 28 cups of sugar!
I did note down a repeatable recipe when writing about my long ago organic farm in the Blue Ridge Mts. of Virginia.
(I can still see Laurel and Hardy, holding their coat tails like skirts, doing a soft-shoe, and singing, In the Blue Ridge Mtds. of Virginia, at the Inn of the Lonesome Pine!)