Let's start with the coyote, first. We named it Skinny because that perfectly described the pathetic emaciated (and perhaps vegetarian) predator slinking through the ranch. Sightings of Skinny became daily occurrences that thrilled us but also caused alarm. Usually coyotes around our ranch don't venture that close and we were afraid it might be sick or unafraid of people. But when it saw me through the window, off it ran.
I think hunger is Skinny's biggest issue, based on its fearlessness and lack of bulk. We developed a cautious acceptance of the coyote, but still worried about the kids in the neighborhood, cats and other small pets. Then, my dad reported that there were actually two coyotes (both lured out by the smell of the turkey grilling on the barbecue on Thanksgiving.) That made sense based on how many times we sometimes saw the animal in one day.
For now, the two Skinnys and our family have struck a peace accord. We will leave them alone, as long as they don't bother us. And on the upside, I saw signs that the coyotes have been digging into gopher holes on the ranch. Based on my extensive Google research, "voles" (or gophers) are their favorite food. Well, I say, "Dig in my Skinnys! Eat away. My gophers are your gophers and besides, you need to earn your keep!"
As for oranges, we're positively swimming in them, which gives me the beautiful opportunity to be creative and to invent more orange marmalades. Spicy! Irish Whiskey! I want to try to add champagne for a Mimosa flavor. I can't really complain. I just today completed the extensive preparations for a beautiful first batch of Candied Valencia Orange Peel, dipped in dark chocolate. The abundant but funky and small crop all come from my grandfather's ranch, five trees leftover from when we grew them commercially. I don't have an exact number but my mom seems to think the trees are around 70 years old.
The mini orchard is gigantic and covered with orange globes and it is my self-appointed duty to transform them into marmalade. After all, what is a jam maker supposed to do in December? Cry about my waning stock? Howl with the coyotes from sadness, as holiday customers pound at my empty jam cupboard doors? Oh, no. Folks, when life gives you coyotes and oranges, you must make marmalade. (And make it good, while you're at it!) All my recipes for marmalade are based on my grandmother, Mame's, simplified master recipe and I just hope she's looking down at me from the ether and smiling, proud of my handiwork.