28 May 2011

I Can See The Pines Are Dancing

Oh, oh, oh.

One year ago today I had been in Idaho for a week. I had just passed my pack test, and was already under the spell of Idaho's narrow and winding rivers, stands of lodgepole, and yellow-orange mud roads. I was learning new skills, making new friends, and learning the ways of a new place. False hellebore was 6 or 8 inches tall, everywhere; nothing much else was going yet, except a few late nodding glacier lilies. Hopes for morels were stewing under the surface, as well as hopes for drier and warmer weather. Amongst the crew, the prayers for a dry and lightning-filled summer were in hearts, and prayers for an exciting-enough, but not-too-overwhelmingly-exciting fire season was in mine--I was still nervous about sucking at my job.

I yearn to be deep in the South Fork Clearwater River canyon, following its bends and whitecaps downstream, and then to climb the Mt Idaho grade, looking down for the last view of the canyon before the land opens out onto the high prairie. I wish to be walking the dogs over and down the hill behind the house,  looping along the South Fork Red River, quiet and smooth in its rush; to the joining with the main Red, with a view from the bridge down the broad valley, its grass-filled bottom and aspen grove and forested gentle sides; along the road below huge Ponderosas looming on the cutbank above; crossing the Red again by the old Ranger Station, climbing back up Snob Hill to the old log house--a walk of perhaps 10 minutes. I miss riding in the Forest Service rigs, early in the morning with the crews, crossing the Mother Lode Road into Elk City for yet another interminable class, where I sit, trying to stretch my aching legs that have had more straight-up workouts in the last week than in the last 10 years. And riding with a truckload of favorite 20-somethings from the crew to Guard School, listening to music, talking and napping, driving through the rain and terrain. Looking out at fields tinted purple-blue above brilliant green, full of camas blooms, old wood and barbwire fencelines and wandering elk horses mules.

My brother will be leaving Idaho this year, too, as he takes a post in Central Washington on the Columbia River. He spent enough time in the Red River Valley to fall in love with its ways and grow fond of its ridiculousnesses, gain a comfortable existence, and have the relationship grow old, tiring and trying in ways, despite the love. But my time there is also threaded through with his presence: it was so terrifically awesome to live and work with him, and I miss that. I'm sad that he will be gone from the landscape, too.

I am fully mourning these things--my heart aches and tears fall when a memory rings too clearly or a smell, sight or sound hits home. Thoughts of the lookout do the same, but right now my mind is given over to the lowlands. Last year I couldn't wait to escape them and get to my post, but oh my good god, I wish I was there now.

cross-valley view, photo Jeff G.

this is an echo
this is the glory
this is the pounding of a midnight heart
this is the mountains
this is the lightning
this is the man pulling on his iron chains

this is the light that shines
and I can see the pines are dancing
this is the leaving of another love
this is the howling at the moon
these are the arms you fell into
I am a fire and I must burn today

09 May 2011


Well, I been slackin'. On writing, though not on much else. Gardening, website design and business start-up, work at coffee boat, and cousin moving in with us has been keeping me quite thoroughly busy. Then there's all the tasty wild food that comes back in the spring, and trying to keep ahead of the bread, yogurt, sprout, crouton, etc usage in this house. Anyhow, here's some of my gardening bits, with foraging at the end. 

I used one of our trusty April Brews Day tasting glasses to roll seed starting pots. Each pot contained a half sheet of the Cascadia Weekly (a 1/4 sheet of full-size paper). A swift google search of "newspaper seedling pots" will turn up a slew of slightly varying methods to end at the same basic thing. I can't seem to find the friggin' blog that was closest to what I did in the end, but here is a video that is pretty similar. It's really, really easy, and if you find yourself wanting to be all fancy-pants and actually start plants indoors, well, I don't know why any home gardener would pay for beautiful, non-renewable, unsustainable peat pots when they can have these for free.  

This close-up contains a photo (and tiny caption) of the Red Elvises, my friend Reuben's girfriend Holly's favorite band. Or at least it was her favorite band once. They made it as a bumper sticker on her truck, so you know that's good. 

I planted brussels sprouts, broccoli, thai and italian basil, delicata and zucchini squash, marigolds, and nastursiums, which met with partial success. I get over-eager to start things, and I didn't want to bother with a grow-light, so the brussels got leggy, and the basil got grumpy, but I transplanted the squash, broccoli and flowers out, and then planted some more stuff, seen here:

From the back: more leggy brussels sprouts, more thai basil, more regular basil, and napa cabbage. 

As I've alluded to in previous posts, though I will be sad not to be back in a room of glass at 8400', I am excited to be around for things this summer, like the garden. After some further thought, I realized that this will be the first time in five years I'll be around all summer long. As a result, things long left to make do have been updated. For instance, we finally made the biggest bed a raised bed! It contains 40-year old fence boards from our friend Steve's farm;  homemade soil from a really nice guy named John, in Alger, who I met by chance, in a bar in Conway when I had been stood up by friends; and composted horse manure from down the road. I even bought two soaker hoses, eh. (I can't find a clip of my favorite Strange Brew moment, where Bob is in the beer tank with Pam and it's being flooded with beer and Bob says, "Me and my brother always said that drowning in beer would be like heaven. But now he's not here, and I got two soakers, and this isn't heaven, this SUCKS!" So here's another favorite, instead. Also, for clarification, my two soakers don't suck.)

Under the buckets you'll find the squash and broccoli, trying to make do with what sun and warmth they can get. Down in front, being dwarfed by the rhubarb (which makes me feel better about how small everything else is), are the peas. 

Some of my flowers, which do just fine without me. Better,  actually, seeing as how I just learned (literally, yesterday) that if you dead-head daffodils they don't bloom again, at least not for a year or two. I should have no blooms next year, and I'd wondered why lots of them didn't come back this year...

And now for some foraging. Salads with cat's ears, dandelions, bittercress, sheep sorrel, salmonberry blossoms, miner's lettuce, and oso-plum leaves (which taste like bitter cucumber). Roasted dandelion root ice cream. And, of course, nettles. This year I only ate a couple of nettle meals before the plants shot up and flowered: savory steel cuts oats with cheese, sausage, herbs and nettles; grilled salmon with garlic-sauteed nettles, and I had a taste of this nettle pesto (I gave it as gifts to our fisher-friends, Joel and Tele, and to John, from whom the garden soil came.).

 Stinging Nettle Pesto
(variation on Fat of the Land's recipe)

2 cups steamed or blanched Nettles (a witch's britches bag 2/3 full, fresh), squeezed well and chopped
1/2 cup Asiago cheese, grated
1/2 cup Roasted Cashews (used because they're what I had on hand, though I would have used walnuts or almonds first. I don't like pine nuts as much--for basil pesto, either. 
2-4 Garlic Cloves
1/2 cup EV Olive Oil
1 T Lemon Juice
Salt and Pepper

-I steam the nettles, for about a minute, and then drain and squeeze them dry. Save all of that delicious broth, to put in soup; or gulp down, still standing over the sink, like I do most of the time. 
-Put all of your ingredients in a food processor (you can start with half the oil). 
-Whirl, until blended. Add rest of oil, adjust seasoning, and whirl again until it is a consistency you like. 
-To store, I wrap about a cup at a time in plastic wrap, making a nice square package, and then put it into a ziploc and freeze. Langdon's (brilliant, particularly if you have extra trays) method is to dole out the pesto into ice cube trays, freeze, and then pop the cubes into a ziploc. Then bust off a corner, or pull out a cube, to swirl into pasta/sauce, over fish, what have you.