Category Archives: What’s cookin’?

Belly Biology: yellow wild flower surprise

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Belly Biology. I invented the phrase for workshops and daily programs that I taught at Port Townsend Marine Science Center. Basically it means to lay on your belly and see what you can see, most often laying on the dock and looking at what lives under it. Now a good DSLR’s flexible LCD screen can save me the stretch but I still came home with pitch on my jeans, really, from laying on my planet. Try it! Next best thing to laying on my back and looking at clouds!

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Butter Cup (Ranunculaceae)and Avalanche Lily (Erythronium grandiflorum) Note this Avalanche Lily supports 7 blossoms with one stem. Commonly the plant produces 1 blossom per stem. They are edible but don’t store well. Use them to top salad or cake and serve as soon as possible or eat them in the wild but only a few per patch to preserve the patch. This is the first edible wild flower to spring forth in spring, Rocky Mountains, USA.

Weekly Photo Challenge:  Surprise Shot with Olympus OM-D 5 set on close up scene, camera on ground. You don’t have to actually lay on your belly but it’s awe-fully fun if you do.

 

keeper of the keys: Day 5

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Crust and crumb, the sourdough rye bread turned out just fine. It raised more than it usually does at home. I gave the biologist and the technician each the end parts and kept the mid section for myself. It’s mottled and I like that, not the way I planned but it adds visual interest. I used the whole wheat recipe substituting rye flour for the whole wheat and adding 3 tablespoons dark baking chocolate powder plus a little chopped up fresh rosemary. Superb texture and flavor.

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The piece of bread in the bag was baked at home, much denser loaf. Today I decided to take an afternoon nap. No such luck. Something struck the wall next to my bed hard like a football in the wrong place. Shortly afterwards it happened again. I heard the staff yelling at each other outdoors and I knew I didn’t need to get up. I’d hear about it later.

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They call these suicidal quail. Both were fleeing the talons of a falcon when they crashed into the side of the house. The biologist held them for a while to see if there might be a heartbeat. When I came down stairs he warned me there is a dead bird in the fridge and told me their story. He gently placed the still warm carcass in my hands and together we admired the feathers. So tiny around the neck. How precisely the hues change and form patterns.

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Feather tips felt smooth, but lifting them they revealed fluffy down next to the body. I imagined how the feathers held warmth when the bird puffed up in winter. Staff took the birds home for dinner.

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I painted more autumn scenes that afternoon and evening. It felt odd painting inside a specific frame, the shapes of leaves I had traced. For practice with techniques perhaps this limitation was just what I needed. I could concentrate on the process and not feel like I have to compose to the edges of the paper. This is the first time I haven’t taped down the edges. It worked OK on Canson 140, but I prefer Arches 140.

It’s my last evening shift. I packed a few things but left the rest for the morning sensing that I won’t have many hunters picking up a key so I will have plenty of time to move out.

 

keeper of the keys: day 4

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Coffee brews in the press and I have a little time before I open the office at 7. Let’s check the sourdough sponge set up last night. Look at the mark where it raised when the yeast were in their feeding frenzy and reproducing like crazy before death, like any organism. And then the sponge fell as it should after the protein in the flour was devoured. Oh! those bubbles! Looks just right and smells like beer. The surface is moving with gasses. I’m hoping bread at nearly sea level, where I am now, will turn out as well as that at 350 feet when I’m home. Natural yeast can be fussy. This should turn into rye bread like the piece in the bag. Tomorrow. I add more bread flour and water, cover the bowl with a small plate again, and walk away to open the office.

A few hunters stop in for a key or to exchange one for a different location. I take a reservation by phone. The Andrus Wildlife Management Area has gates to 6 different drainages or roads. Sunday morning is not very busy but in the evening I recorded surveys with 9 keys that were dropped off. It’s been a 3 day weekend for those who didn’t work Veterans Day holiday.

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Today I take the chairs off the table and make room for water color painting. Seating for 12, this could be the mead hall or else it serves a whole lot of castle servants. What a great place to spread out projects. It’s overcast, might rain, so I go for a walk to collect leaves from different types of trees.

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The idea is to trace a leaf and paint a landscape inside the shape. Water color takes patience, just like sourdough baking. While paint dries between layers I make a vegetable and rice curry soup with fresh tomatoes I brought from my garden.

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Sometime in the afternoon I add more flour and water to the sourdough and by bedtime it has bubbled up to the top of the bowl. In a larger bowl I mix the dry ingredients with my fingers and then stir in the fermented sponge. For this rye bread I substitute rye flour for the whole wheat amount and add 3 tablespoons of dark baking chocolate to give it stronger flavor and a rich color. Rosemary, yes, chopped up and added for interest instead of caraway seeds. I hold back on the olive oil, using less than a full table spoon. I hope it will rise well. I stir it and then knead it a little in the bowl but the flour mixture doesn’t integrate well with the wet. It looks mottled. Hoping for the best I cover the bowl with a big loose fitting plate and a light dish cloth and leave it on the counter over night.

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A friend called just when I needed to walk away from a painting and we talked for a long long time. All the while I studied skulls and antlers and horns that have been gathered from the wildlife area. They are on the walls and coffee tables and window sills. Everything needs dusting. If this were not home to a wildlife management area anyone could wonder about someone who would put bones around their living room. As a naturalist they interest me. As a writer they inspire me.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s so late when I get off the phone I don’t have energy to write today’s post. I turn the wolf skull to face the door when I turn off the light. Up stairs in  bed I read some twisted stories in  The New Black, A Neo-Noir Anthology edited by Richard Thomas. 

Previous posts of my stay as keeper of the keys are here and here.

keeper of the keys: day 3

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My new best coffee! I get up at 6 AM to get ready to open the office at 7. It takes me a while to wake up. I brought a bag of instant powdered coconut milk for creamer. Mixed with honey in pressed coffee the flavors astound me! This one cup coffee press it’s great for a single mug.

Checking out gate keys to visitors was easy and I’m surprised most of them want to chat a while instead of rushing to their hunt. It’s a pleasant way to start the morning. I nearly filled the wood bin and then made pumpkin soup for lunch, stirring in coconut powder instead of canned coconut milk. Scrumptious with a mug of mushroom coffee! My husband rolled in with a friend and our 2 German Shepherds. The dogs stay in the van at the ranch so they can’t harass the resident wild turkeys. I made a pot of espresso flavored with coconut milk and coconut sugar and we sat  on the porch in the sun watching wild turkeys in the yard.

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I took a map and keys to 3 gates, locked the house (office inside) and we went off in search of the roads.  We entered Lake Road access gate and found this small ancient dog house nearby. Our dogs are too large to get in. There is a loading chute and corral at the entrance. We encountered a stream crossing right away (no bridge) and looking at the road ahead decided it truly was best for an ATV, not our big wide Chevy Express. Let’s hit the highway for the next access gate.

It was hard to find the Woodhead gate right across from the Woodhead campground. Duh! But the gate is behind a pond and no signs point to it. This road, too is not suitable for a van for very many miles. At least it’s not a steep drop off like Lake Road. Eventually we would have come to a peak and pine forest but I had to open the office at 4 so we turned around. I notice my office hours are the same time as the best light for photos, sunrise and sunset. I’ll be back in my 4X4 truck some other time to capture betters photos.

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Brownlee Dam, the first of 3 dams on the Snake River in Hells Canyon, is just out of view to the right of the reservoir. For this photo I turned around and now we’re looking down hill. I’m in Idaho. The land across the river is Oregon.

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See the road on the Oregon side, pretty high above the water? It’s not Lake Road but just like it. NOT taking the van on it! Looks like fun for a mountain bike. Yikes. When I was a child, not even in school yet, my family would take Grandpa’s Jeep on roads like that pulling a silver camper. What a hoot! Mom was wrong. Dad didn’t kill us all.

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We’re pretty high above the canyon but still can’t get cell phone service here. I thought the Carpathian Mountains were steep when I visited Transylvania but I’m not sure they are steeper than these. Back just in time to open the office, goodbye to my guests,  and I swapped keys for hunters who are staying the week in Hells Canyon, took some phone reservations, and checked in returned keys. I gave one chukar hunter a tour of the bear trails around the house and under the wild orchard and black walnut trees. So much scat! I don’t find any fresh walnuts on the ground. Do you suppose bears or turkeys eat them? They’re a hard nut to crack. Um . . . not for a bear. He stayed and we chatted a while about wild plums and elderberries and recipes for foraged harvests while we watched the turkeys eating grass seeds and apples. They fly up and knock the fruit to the ground and then fight over it.

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I closed the office at 5 and boiled brown farm eggs for dinner from the little Alpine store in Indian Valley. That place deserves it’s own blog post, it’s so eclectic. The sun disappears behind the mountain early so I brought in another load of firewood and put the wheel barrow back in the garage next to the tractors all the while gathering leaves with interesting shapes for water color painting tomorrow. That sound? Turkeys began flying up from the creek to roost in trees above it. I wondered if it was too dark to get photos but digital cameras are amazing at letting in light at twilight. Oh, the sound of these huge wings fluttering! It’s the sort of ruckus that stirs my imagination to write horror stories and paint scenes inspired by great beasts perching above me in the night. That was last night’s entertainment. Look what I can do when there is no distracting TV noise, none here.

And now I’ve edited photos, done some writing, relaxed with lemon-ginger India Tulsi tea, prepared sourdough to proof overnight, and washed my face. Time to do dishes and then go to upstairs to bed and listen to my audio book Far Far Away by Tom McNeal. It’s a dark fantasy, something about a ghost and the Brothers Grimm and lurking evil, in the fashion of Neil Gaiman. If it doesn’t rain much tomorrow I’ll get out and explore more of the Andrus Wildlife Management Area.

 

You can’t buy this in a bottle

Spanish Vermut, what a surprise I found in Spain! You can’t buy this in a bottle from local makers. The best vermut bars create their own secret recipe and store it in huge earthen casks like the two you see behind the bartender below. You have to go there to drink their recipe. They start with sweet white wine and infuse it with their own blend of botanicals and spices. Caramelized sugar added at the end gives it the reddish hue. Vermut originates from the German word wermüt which means wormwood, an ingredient generally regarded as one of the first to be infused into aromatized wines. Wormwood is also the main ingredient in true absinthe.

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Doesn’t he look like a local? As I sat with my friends sipping my first ever Spanish Vermut with tapas I couldn’t help notice the architecture and decor of this building in Granada, including the local people who seemed to come here regularly plus the tourists. I shot almost all of these photos from the hip hoping to get candid authentic images without disturbing the feeling that was going on in the bar. We sat at one of the few tables while many people stood at the bar; there were no bar stools. Later, in Murcia vermut bars, I noticed it is common to have no bar stools and a much smaller bar space. Vermut is a Spanish aperitif and people generally walk to the bar, drink a vermut, perhaps with tapas, and then move on. Standing for this makes sense to me. It’s a temporary stop, no need to sit.

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It looked like some patrons came in to see who’s there that they know, or perhaps they planned a ritual check-in with someone. For many it felt like they were performing their routine. It reminds me of “happy hour” before dinner. In Spain it’s “La Hora de Vermut”.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAVermut is served with a thin slice of lemon floating in it or perhaps an orange slice, and maybe stuffed olives for garnish. Tapas might be something pickled.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhat has he been thinking about!? And what is she doing on her tablet? Tourists or locals?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHow long has he been working here? Is he the owner?

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I walked so many places in Granada, I’m sorry I don’t remember the name of this place. I think it is Bodegas Castanedas because the images I found in my search are very similar but slightly different from mine. It is near the Moroccan shopping area. If you can identify it, please tell me.

Can you buy Spanish Vermut in the US? . . . Maybe. Check out this guide to the Spanish Vermouth Renaissance to learn more about the varieties, then go to your favorite wine dealers and Spanish restaurants and ask.

This post if my response the the Weekly Photo Challenge: Local.

 

 

 

 

Pitted

Cherry season! Pull out the dehydrator and vodka and settle down for a few hours in the pits. I bought 50 pounds at a fruit stand, as pure as I could find. These were only sprayed with a pheromone that confuses male fruit flies to keep them from spoiling the crop. The insect lure helps growers monitor and manage for the most helpful insects. I still consider these organic and pure.

I seldom put recipes on my blog but these are so tasty and so good for you, I just want to share the juice. I love dried cherries so I’ve been waiting to get some into my dehydrators. I filled the large one and with our rains this week it took about 24 hours to dry them, longer than I expected. Today I filled the big and the small dehydrators. A big bowl of fruit is left for eating fresh. The rest went into jars with sugar and vodka for the liqueur I use in winter to make “cherry bombs”. Here’s how I did it.

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Cover up, it can get messy and stain your clothes. I wore Grandma’s apron. I think she must have made this one just for messing with cherries! I pulled out my super razor sharp paring knife. In little time I could pit cherries like I meant business. A sharp sharp knife is a must, far safer than a dull knife because it slices and you don’t have to push through the fruit.

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The short story is that I sliced a bowl of cherries, cutting all the way around from stem to stem. When I had a good sized bowl, I opened them, dropped out the pits and set them skin side down on the dehydrator trays. A glass of wine (or more) helped keep me from getting bored, as well as listening to an audio book while I sliced.

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You can see the stem at top of the left half, above. Grip each half and twist them in opposite directions to pop them open. The right side is turned so it’s stem part is facing away now. I twisted about a quarter turn. It was fairly fun!

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The pit sticks to one side. Scoop it out with your thumb or a finger. I found it faster and easier to slice a bunch, then remove all their pits for a while because my hands got slick removing pits which made it harder to handle the knife after each one. Try it this way and see how it works for you. I started my slice on one side of the stem, pulled the blade across the stem and around the cherry back to where I started. In the initial slice my blade rested on the pit and all I had to do was hold the knife in place and turn the cherry. Much safer than turning the knife around the globe, I was able to keep my fingers away from the blade edge. To be clear, hold the knife in place and turn the cherry with your thumb and fingers of the other hand, keeping your ring and pinky fingers out of the way.

I got into the zen of slicing a bowl of cherries, then removing pits and placing them on the tray. The longer I did this, the better I could focus on the audio book. It settled my mind, the repetition. Pit meditation. In the groove.

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See the sliced berries? Do up a bowl of them and then remove all their pits. I felt powerful with this method. Maybe fortified with wine?

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Ah, dehydrators are loaded and plugged in, now for simple fun. I first learned this recipe from a woman who brought cherry bombs to a Winter apres ski party. She served them in stemmed glasses with a float of whipped cream on top. I swear it tasted just like cherry pie! Maybe she used pie cherries and I might try that, too. She told me to drain all the vodka out of a bottle, saving it. Then fill the bottle with cherries or any fruit you want, pour in a cup of sugar, pour the vodka back in and then give it a gentle shake every day for a week or more to dissolve and distribute the sugar, then just shake it a little every once in a while for a total of 6 weeks. Finally, very important, hide it with your Christmas ornaments or ski boots so you don’t drink it before winter.

I’ve made it her way, loved it. Today I’m making cherry bomb liqueur in wide mouth quart jars. Into each jar I put

  • 2 1/2 cups pitted sliced cherries ( I’ve made them before without pitting them, no worries.)
  • 1 cup white sugar, pour it over the cherries. I don’t use brown sugar or coconut sugar because their color doesn’t make the liquor look as appetizing as white sugar. If you use coconut sugar use about 3/4 or 2/3 cups because it’s so much sweeter.
  • 1 cup vodka. I have a half bottle left over, so I used a half bottle for all 3 jars. See the level in the vodka bottle?

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Put on the lid and ring. Don’t water bath these, they don’t need to be sealed! You don’t have to use canning jars, I’ve used a gallon jar with lid before. I wouldn’t use plastic or metal, just glass. Gently shake each jar a little. Sugar will settle to the bottom but in several days it should be dissolved and invisible. Keep them in a cool dark place while they are working, and then store them in a cool dark place.

Another blogger, Sabine, makes something like this with bourbon and calls it Cherry Bounce. Here’s her recipe and post. Yum!

There you go. That’s it. Hmmm. Where will I hide these? Probably in 3 different places. Now to save interesting bottles to pour them in later for serving or gifts.

Weekly Photo Challenge:  PURE

 

 

Forest foraging

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Forest foraging today provided spicy watercress (Nasturtium officianale) and sweet yellow avalanche lily (Erythronium grandiflorum – Pursh) to lively up my salad. Though I was seeking illusive morel mushrooms, I found other delicious and nutritious plants to harvest on my spring trek. I grazed as I hiked and brought home a small harvest to embellish tonight’s salad.

5 things to know about Nasturtium officianale

  • It’s related to mustard greens, cabbage, and arugula and tastes spicy like them.
  • It keeps well a few days submerged in water and stored in the fridge.
  • Modern science has identified more than 15 essential vitamins and minerals contained in this one herb – more iron than spinach, more calcium than milk, and more vitamin C than oranges.
  • It is known for preventing or treating cancer.
  • Vitamin K is by far the most prominent nutrient in watercress, with 312% of the daily recommended value. It forms and strengthens the bones and limits neuronal damage in the brain, which is helpful in treating Alzheimer’s disease.

5 things to know about Erythronium grandiflorum – Pursh

  • Since it often appears at the edge of receding snow banks it is often called snow lily, glacier lily, yellow avalanche-lily,  and it’s known as dogtooth violet, trout lily, and fawn lily. People who live in my community call it deer tongue but that is more often used for a different wild flower.
  • It’s related to the Lily family and it’s stamens can be white, yellow, or red. Usually all the flowers in a patch have the same color stamens.
  • You can eat the flower, seeds, and bulbs. Leaves are edible, too, but only eaten in emergencies as bulbs need the leaves to provide nutrients to sustain the plant.
  • This edible wildflower grows in western Canada and U. S., especially in the Rocky Mountains.
  • Elk and deer relish the foliage. Grizzly bears and black bears use their claws to comb through the soil unearthing the nutritious bulbs.

More posts about edible wild foods are here and here.

Weekly Photo Challenge: dinnertime

 

Edible Incredible!

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avalanche lily, sweet flowers fresh or in salad
blue violas
wild viola flowers in salad
emerging morel
emerging morel, saute in butter
dig in morel
almost through the forest floor
Trilium parasol
Morels are often found beneath trillium parasols (blossoms are gone on this one).           Don’t eat trilliums
camus
Camus roots are extremely high in protein
emerging coral
coral fungus just pushing through forest duff, saute in butter or dry and grind for soup stock

I love spring forage in the Rocky Mountains!

Weekly Photo Challenge:  dinnertime!

Simple and Slow Sourdough Bread Recipe

sourdough bread close up
Sourdough bread baked in a cast iron skillet

Sourdough Bread Recipe, A No Knead Method

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A photo of my focaccia bread on my FaceBook page got many “likes” and several requests for the starter and recipe. So I made starters from mine and promptly gave them away. Here’s the way to make your starter from scratch, care for it, and then make whole wheat sourdough bread that almost never fails me. Yes, I fail sometimes. Only the gods are perfect. My dad taught me to fail, to admit I fail, and to learn from the failure so I don’t repeat the same mistake. Some fails take a few  repeats to really get it right.

To start with, you need a sourdough starterI’ll give you my grandpa’s recipe passed down from his youth in about 1912 as the summer cook in our family’s sheep grazing camps in Idaho’s Seven Devils Mountains. As a young man in 1927 he rescued the diamond drill bit for his mining company by mixing up a tacky dough and sticking it to the end of the drill, then lowering it down the shaft. The drill bit stuck to the dough and was easily pulled up. The mining operation was only briefly down that day. Here’s the story about the mine.

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jar of bubbly sourdough starter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is how Grandpa taught me to make a new starter. <!–more–> Boil a potato (we live in Idaho, right?) and save 1 cup of the boiling water. Eat the potato. Cool the water to room temperature. In a glass jar stir 1 cup flour with the 1 cup potato water. Cover it with a loosely woven towel to keep dust out but let microscopic yeast in. Leave it on the counter several days. It will ferment, get a lovely sourdough aroma and it may develop a grayish liquid hooch floating on top. Stir the hooch back in or poor it off, no matter. Here is a delightful version of the story.

The potato water has natural sugar and starch in it. Yeast lives in air, just about everywhere on Earth. It is a living organism that feeds on the protein in flour and multiplies. That’s how it expands or rises. It’s a process of fermentation. Yeast will find its food in the jar and dive in. After you’ve trapped the yeast all you have to do is keep it alive and you’ll be able to make bread that rises, no need to purchase dry or cake yeast. In 3-4 days up to a week, you’ll need to add 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup warm water to offer more food, stir it in, put a lid on the jar and store it in the refrigerator until you want to use it.

Another way to make your starter is to get some from a friend or buy a mix from a store. You can even put a cup of flour and a cup of water in a jar, cover it with a light cloth and leave it on the counter several days until it ferments. I did that in my classroom whenever we read a Jack Londong story.

Keep the starter thriving: You have to occasionally feed the starter to keep the yeast alive and active. For making bread and buscuits I use a much thicker starter. It rounds up on a table spoon. The theory  and practice is that you start your sponge with less living yeast and more flour to feed them. They multiply better, don’t run out of food and stop reproducing, and therefore the bread and biscuits rise higher from the gas produced by the abundant lively yeast. Your bread will have nice high air bubbles in it and it won’t be a dense brick. For bread, reduce the amount of water you use when feeding your starter until you have it thick enough. Then, every 1 – 2 weeks stir in ¼ cup flour and 1/8th cup water to the starter to keep it fed. Feed more often if you are depleting the starter to less than ¼ cup. I keep only ¼-1/2 cup on hand. It only takes 1 tablespoon to make a sponge for bread so I don’t keep a large amount of starter ready.

Keep it capped in the refrigerator. Some cooks keep another jar of runny starter to use in pancakes and other recipes. If hooch (stinky liquid) forms on top, you can pour it off or stir it back in. This happens if the starter has not been fed for too long, no matter, it’s still good starter and you’ll know it wants to be fed.

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Sponge ingredients ready to be stirred.

Sponge for bread or biscuits:  When you want to make bread you start by making a sponge, or getting the yeast excited and active. Mix a sponge the night before you plan to use it or early morning if you want to use it for dinner biscuits. I use the same 1/4 cup tool for all the measurements so instead of saying 1/2 cup, you will see 2/4 cups.

In a glass container or small crock mix gently

¾ cups flour (bread flour is best but all purpose if fine)

2/4 cups lukewarm water

1 heaping tablespoon starter (the thick starter)

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It looks lumpy after stirring but it will even out and expand overnight.
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Cover the sponge and leave it out overnight. Feed the starter, cap the jar, and refrigerate.

Cover with light cloth or a loose fitting dish that lets a little air in. Let it stand (or sit) on the counter over night or at least 6 hours.

 

 

 

 

 

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In the morning it looks bubbly and you can see the line where it expanded and then settled.

The sponge will increase its volume, rise higher in the crock, and then settle back down so you could see a line to where it expanded. That’s fine. It should look bubbly.

Note:  If you leave the sponge too long the yeast critters will have eaten all the flour protein and start to die and lose strength for making bread rise. They will need more food so, only in this case, add 2/4 cups more flour and ¼ cup water and let it eat a couple hours longer to form enough gas needed for rising. If I added more flour in this case, I subtract it from the amount needed for my bread recipe.

The recipe for 1 big loaf of bread, no knead method. OK, so you know about the starter, how to keep it thriving, and how to make a sponge hours before making your recipe. Now, let’s make the dough.

1st evening:  make the sponge (above). I use bread flour for this. 3/4 cup flour, 2/4 cup warm water (not hot), 1 table spoon starter.

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The sponge looks bubbly like this in the morning. You can see the line where it rose and fell.

Next morning:  add 2/4 cups bread flour and ¼ cup lukewarm water, gently stir it in. Cover crock with a dish again and let it set out all day. Doing this really boosts the energy for making bread rise!

 

2nd evening:  With the flour you added this morning, the sponge has expanded and gas has formed bubbles like the photos above. Use the sponge now and mix dough. You want a total of about 2 cups flour. You have already added ½ cup to the sponge this morning so that counts as part of the total flour you will need. Now you need to add 1 and 1/2 cups to make the 2 cups needed. You can use all white bread flour or mix with whole wheat, oat flour, or other grains. The more whole wheat and other grains you mix in, the more chance it won’t raise well. The more white flour, the better it will raise. I am able to get half the flour as whole wheat, after learning from many fails. Try changing your ratio of white and wheat flours if you have trouble. Try your first loaf with all white flour for success.

In a large glass bowl, mix dry ingredients.

¾ cups whole wheat flour

¾ cups bread flour

½ heaping tsp. baking soda (makes it form nice big gas bubbles)

½ tsp salt

optional Add up to 1/4 cup wheat or oat bran or other grain and 1 T. flax seed. The more I add, the less rise I get. Experiment to see what works for you.

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dry ingredients mixed with my fingers in my largest Pyrex mixing bowl

Mix wet ingredients into the sponge in its crock, gently. First, I start with the water in a glass measuring cup with a pour spout, and add the oil next into the water. Oil coats the spoon so molasses slides off easily. Add the molasses then stir with measuring spoon. Then pour it all into the sponge in the crock and mix gently. It doesn’t all mix in and that’s fine. The sponge will deflate a little when you stir it.

½ cup lukewarm water

1T. olive oil

1T. molasses (optional but I like its color and flavor and I feel it helps feed yeast)

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All the wet ingredients are mixed, lumpy and bubbly is just fin.

Add wet mixture to dry ingredients in the bowl, stir to mix it, no kneading unless only slightly if the color is not mixing into the dough. The color doesn’t all have to mix in; it will eventually mix and come out fine. Dough will be quite wet and sticky, that’s a good thing. Cover the bowl with a dish or lid. I use a dish as the lid to my big Pyrex mixing bowl. Leave it on the counter overnight. You can put it in the fridge a couple days for a slower rise and more sourdough flavor. If you do that, just take it out and let it warm to room temp slowly before the next step.

Stir just enough to mix. It will look uneven but it all mixes and rises overnight.

Next morning: Stretch, don’t knead the dough. Scrape the dough out of the bowl onto a lightly floured counter or board. Yes, it’s wet and may be kind of runny. Sort of scoop it up in a pile and invert the bow over it. Set your timer for 15-20 min., I use 20. Go drink your coffee or do yoga and let it rest. In 20 min. lift off the bowl and stretch the dough gently on one side, then the opposite side, then one end, then its opposite end. Flour it and flour your hands as needed so you can handle it. It will resemble pizza dough. Fold one side onto the middle part of the dough. Fold its opposite side onto it forming a long pile. Then fold each end up the same way into a heap, turn it over onto the floured board, cover with the bowl and let it rest 15-20 min. again. You can look at some video examples below. Try not to let it tear, you are stretching the dough to let it form gas, those nice big bubbles we like in sourdough bread. If it tears a little it’s firming up. Do this for a total of 3 rests and stretches after the initial rest. After the last stretch, let it rest up to 20 min. before forming the loaf.

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Dough stretched, folded, and ready to rest beneath bowl.

Like this:

Scrape out of bowl, cover with bowl, rest 20 min.

Stretch, cover with bowl, rest 20 min.

Stretch, cover with bowl, rest 20 min.

Stretch, cover with bowl, rest 20 min.

Form loaf.

You might like this video demonstration. This baker puts the dough back in the bowl between stretches and waits longer. I like my method better but I stretch the dough the same way. Each time I stretch it, the dough gets thicker and higher until it’s ready to form the loaf. Here is another video demonstration for stretching dough. His dough is as wet as mine often is, he uses a scraper, but he only stretches dough once for a different effect. Again, he starts with very small amount of starter. You really don’t need much.

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Tighten into a ball with your fingers as you spin the dough on the counter. Then roll it in the oiled pan and leave top side up to rise.

Form the loaf: Shape the loaf and then put in into an oiled loaf pan or on an oiled baking sheet, and let it rise at least an hour or until double which may take a half day or longer. Whole wheat takes longer to rise. I use my 3 qt. cast iron sauce pan, oiled on bottom and sides all the way up. It usually rises higher than the sides of this pan. Or I use my clay bread loaf pan. Or I form a long baguette or Italian loaf or ciabatta rolls and put them on a baking sheet. Usually it’s the cast iron sauce pan, no lid. Cover with light cloth to rise. To avoid drafts I let it rise in the oven. No heat in summer oven but in cool seasons I heat my oven to 110 degrees, or as cool as I can, turn it off and let bread raise in the slightly warm oven. If the oven is too warm it kills the yeast so be careful. 110 is just right.

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Bread is just about all I use this cast iron pot for. I really have to try this over fire soon.

Baking:  Remove bread from oven while preheating to 400. You can leave it in during preheating if you like but I don’t. Bread will have an “oven spring” usually, rising even more.  Bake 20 – 25 min.. It should be nicely browned and sound solid when you thump it with your fingers. Cool on rack. Mine usually pops out of the pan without too much work. I run a butter knife around the edge to be sure it’s loose. “Completely cool it before cutting as it will keep cooking while it cools.” That rule never works at my house! We eat it warm, turned on its side to cut, with butter and honey. A round loaf gives you lots of chances for crusty heals.

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We sliced this one warm and gobbled it up with honey-butter with our guests.

I’ll post my recipe for focassia bread in a future post. Remember, if your bread turns out flat you can always call it flat bread, slice it horizontally for sandwiches or use it for dipping bread or thin crusts with spreads. When bread gets dry I make croutons or grind it for panko.

My favorite sourdough recipes are here. I’ve reworked and modified his recipe for 5 loaves to make the 1 loaf recipe you just read. The biscuits on his site are the best! Scroll down to find them in the link. Have fun and let me know how it works out for you!

Other posts related to sourdough bread:

Hugh’s Sourdough Starter

Mining the Red Ledge, an Oral History of a Life in Idaho’s Seven Devils Mountains

 

 

Tom and Jerry Revival

Tom &amp; Jarry Recipe
Olive and Hugh Addington’s recipe for Tom and Jerry.

Every winter I unpack the Tom and Jerry mugs and Grandma’s recipe. I don’t always make the warm drink but today I will. It feels like I should have a large group of family or friends to share the event. In our family tradition preparing and drinking this is a community event and even though it’s most often done at Christmas or New Years celebrations, I truly feel making and drinking Tom and Jerry is an event in itself and should be celebrated through all the cold darkish winter months.

It’s not simply tradition, it’s family revival, bringing to life again the warmth and friendship and security of times when I didn’t know the other edges of family life, the dark things family can do to one another. We need to revive the kind of nourishing memories we may have buried within us. We need to live in the light of loving experiences as often as we can.  Tom and Jerry can do just that. If it’s new to you, think about starting your own family tradition or revival, if you will.

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I remember asking Grandma for the recipe in about 1975 when I was visiting her. I was married and had 2 children by then and as a young home maker, I wanted to be able to share this recipe with my friends and carry on the tradition in my own home. She wrote it for me from memory, asking Grandpa for validation, and gave me the paper. I’ve kept it in my recipe box, and more recently in my trunk full of Christmas decor, until it has yellowed. Reading her handwriting is like hearing her voice, and her laughter, and breathing in the aroma of home and family.

I know there are other ways of making and serving Tom and Jerry’s but I like it this way the best. A recipe is not just what’s in it, it’s the way of preparing and serving the drink. As children Tom and Jerry is one grow-ups drink we were allowed, though I’m not sure we really had alcohol in ours until maybe we were teenagers, if then. Today I’m going to try to portion it down to serve 2, trying for 2 eggs. I wonder why Grandma used 11 eggs to serve 12 drinks. I’m sure my grandparents used their experience in determining the amounts for ingredients.

Guilded little mugs dedicated to the Tom and Jerry
Guilded little mugs dedicated to the Tom and Jerry

The mug bottoms are stamped “made in Japan”. Many types of pottery and mugs were made in Japan after WW2 when the US helped rebuild the nation we had feated.  Imagine the artisans working in factories hand painting the gold guilded letters on each mug. I tried it once and I was far too unsteady to manage a small lettering brush on a rounded surface. Each mug in my set appears to be uniquely lettered, not stenciled or stamped. I may be wrong about that. I broke the punch bowl in clearly more than 100 pieces moving it from Idaho to Wyoming sometime in the 1970s. No matter, I use only the mugs anyway since I keep the yokes and whites in different bowls for Grandma’s recipe.

I’m always curious about were words or terms and names originate. I like this version found  in an article published in “The Atlantic”:

“The Tom and Jerry’s origin is a bit of a mystery. Ted Haigh, author of Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails, says it was probably invented by Pierce Egan, a British journalist who lived in the 1800s and wrote the popular novel The Day and Night Scenes of Jerry Hawthorn, Esq. and His Elegant Friend Corinthian Tom (hence Tom and Jerry). Egan is said to have named the drink after his characters as a publicity stunt. Others hold that a famous American bartender, “Professor” Jerry Thomas, concocted the Tom and Jerry in the 1850s. The recipe credited to him calls for 12 eggs and is served with hot water rather than milk; yet another version suggests mixing the booze and batter with coffee. The only Tom and Jerry certainty is that there is no connection between the drink and the cartoon.

However it began, for about a hundred years, the drink was extremely popular in the United States. So popular that you could buy Tom and Jerry sets, with a large bowl for the batter and matching mugs with “Tom and Jerry” written across them in cursive gold. My family owns two of these and you can still buy the mugs on ebay. People could also order a Tom and Jerry when they went out: throughout the winter, bartenders would whip up a mug to warm a chilled patron.”

You can read the full article here.

Here is another version of the recipe, one in which the yokes and whites are mixed together in the punch bowl before serving. This recipe uses a combination of brandy and rum mixed into the punch. I like my grandparents version instead. They let each drinker decide if they wanted whiskey, brandy, or rum and prepared each drink individually.

Do you drink Tom and Jerry? Please tell me your story and share your recipe.

 

Seeking Elusive Morels

peeking 2

I can’t think of a more fun wild food to harvest than morel mushrooms. The spring hunt gets me into forests early and, though unproductive until the right sustained temperatures range between 40 and 65 degrees, searching for the elusive fungus is a great way to break in new hiking boots and strengthen muscles for more vigorous summer trekking. In the Payette National Forest the morels are ON now.

peek a boo

No doubt I walk past more than I find, like this one I spied playing peek-a-boo with me. Look again at the first photo and you’ll see that its companion was hiding next to it, just out of sight. These two photos are of the same finding, different perspectives. It’s all how you look at it. No, really. Sometimes turn around and look where you just came from. Just by looking back I’ve found deer and whales following me.  (Whales follow my boat, of course; they don’t visit the forest.)

emerging morel

I discovered some just pushing forth through the forest floor, showing that they can grow to full size below warming moist duff as they emerge. This one was larger than a golf ball.

dig in morel

Another much larger one was trying its darndest to force its way through the floor on its side. I helped it, of course. You can see only about a third of it in this photo.

knife for morels

According to Mother Earth News it’s not necessary to cut mushrooms off at their ground level. Pulling up the whole thing has no effect on it growing back next year because mushrooms grow by spore dispersion. I cut them off in the field so they are easier to clean when I get home and to leave a little more nourishment in nature. I carry a soft mesh shopping bag to transport my fine little friends so their spores can fall out to reproduce, assuring more gathering opportunities in the future.

bear

My family taught me to be wary of bears any time I’m in their habitats, especially when gathering mushrooms and huckleberries. This is one of two bears that crossed my acres at dusk several days ago. Neighbors found 2 more, so we had four that we know of in our little area that evening.

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That same day a rancher drove cattle across our pasture and up our creek to the range land above us.

This is probably why so many bears came down at once. Even they don’t want to camp with bovine.

two tired dogs

I take one or two German Shepherds with me when I hunt mushrooms but that doesn’t assure protection. A bear might chase your dog who will run right to you, or run away and leave you with the beast. Mom’s German Shepherd was so brave and persistent getting after a bear in her brush near her pond that it got its tail bitten off. We called her Bob after that. I wear a whistle around my neck but I’ve never had to use it in a bear encounter. If I remember, I sing or hum a little song, or recite poems so the bears hear me and they stay clear before I ever see them. Sea chanties work nicely. My friend, Nancy, bells her dog and it makes enough noise running around to let bears know they’re not alone. My girls are worn out after leaping every fallen tree they could find.

bear tree

With little training I recognize a bear wallow, though an elk had marked it overnight with scat so maybe it was an elk wallow. Uh . . . but it was awfully close to this tree where a bear had dug after insects.

Fresh bear scat

Another clue is fresh scat. VERY fresh! See how wet it is?

bear scat 2

And some  more scat nearby, a little older.

morels

At home, I carefully rinse the catch and then give them a 30 minute soak in heavily salted cool water to dislodge tiny critters that inhabit the fungus. Then I rinse them again, gently squeeze out the water and lay them on towels to dry a little. Mother Earth News says not to clean them and I agree they would feel firmer that way. But I disagree about their bugs and worms leaving with less encouragement.

sourdough and morels

Meantime, I tend to the sourdough sponge so I’ll have fresh bread to dip in the morel drippings later. If I’m going to eat them soon I store them in a paper bag or wrapped in paper towls in a bowl in my fridge. To preserve them for later, I dry the mushrooms by running a long thread through them with a small needle and then hanging them in a sunny window if it’s a sunny day. But it’s raining here a lot now so I filled 2 dehydraters with them and dried them in the kitchen. Fillet large morels lengthwise so they dry quicker.  Mother Earth News has a different method, still without cleaning them first. After drying them I package them in freezer bags or glass jars and put them in the freezer for a couple of weeks to kill any more enzymes that could cause trouble in storage. Then I store them in glass jars or crocks with lids. To rehydrate for use, I put them in a cereal bowl with just enough water to cover them for about 20 minutes. Mother Earth News wants to soak them for 2 hours but that seems way too long. Either way, save the liquid to use in morel sauce and gravy.

saute morels

Skip the onions and garlic. Morels are so flavorful why distract the taste with anything added? I put just enough olive oil in the bottom of a frying pan to coat it, and add a small slice of butter for flavor. No salt or pepper even. Saute on medium heat gently for only about 5 minutes. Don’t overcook or they get tough. The best of the best recipes is to fry a steak in a cast iron skillet first, then remove it and stir up the brownings. Add olive oil if needed, butter if you like. Saute the morels and then remove them from the pan. Stir up the drippings again, and then stir in flour before adding the reserved liquid (above) or some water a little at a time. Keep stirring gently to prevent lumps until you get the thickness you want. Adjust the amount of liquid as you like. Another way is to skip the flour and instead shake a small jar that has a little corn starch and liquid in it, then add it all at once to the pan and stir, stir, stir.

Trilium parasol

I’ve spent valuable hunting and gathering time creating this post so it’s back to the forest I go now. Mother Earth News has more information about morels, though I disagree with some of it. And at the end of their discussion they post more sites about the fungus.

Hugh’s Sour Dough Starter

sourdough starter
A little jar of starter ready to make a sponge.

Hugh Addington, born in 1894,  began cooking sourdough biscuits and hot cakes for his family’s sheepherding trips in Idaho’s Seven Devils Mountains when he was a boy. He continued using sourdough all his 84 years. A staple in the camp box, and later in his kitchen, he kept his starter fed and ready. If he ever ran out he made more with this recipe.

I am his grand daughter and I won’t tell you how many years I have been making more than biscuits and hot cakes with his starter. If you want some of my favorite recipes for what to do once you have the starter, just ask.

What you need:

small glass jar with lid

pot for boiling potatoes

small crock or glass mixing bowl

1 or more potatoes

1 cup reserved liquid from boiled potatoes

1 cup flour, all purpose flour will do but you could try whole wheat flour or bread flour

What you do:

Boil the potatoes until soft, making sure you will have at least a cup of water left when done. Leave skins on if they are organically grown. Drain, reserving liquid. Use the potatoes for any recipe you like. Cool to room temperature the reserved liquid that the potatoes have been boiled in.

When liquid has cooled to room temperature, measure 1 cup of it. Stir the cup of liquid into to the cup of flour in a small crock or glass mixing bowl. Don’t use a blender or mixer for this, stir by hand.

Cover the crock or glass bowl with a paper towel or light dish cloth and let it sit on the counter for 24 – 48 hours. It will gather yeast from the air and begin to ferment. You will probably see the hooch form on top of the batter. Hooch is the fermentation, rather ugly and brownish.

Gently stir the starter, pour it into the glass jar, put on the lid and store it in the fridge until ready to use.

To use the starter, take it out the night before. You have to make a “sponge” or “freshen” it. Put a half cup of starter in a crock or glass mixing bowl. Stir in 1/4 to 1/2 cup warm, not hot, water, cover it lightly and let it sit for 6  hours or longer.

Feed the starter every week or two. I feed mine almost every time I use it so I don’t run too low. Add 1/2 cup of flour and 1/2 cup of water to the starter, stir it in to mix. Or take some of the sponge and stir it back into the starter. Store it in the fridge until you are ready to use it again. If you don’t use the starter within 2 weeks, add flour and water to keep the little yeast organisms alive.

Here is my recipe for whole wheat sourdough bread baked in a 3 quart cast iron sauce pan.

The story of sourdough, and all the recipes, fascinates me. I could write too much about it. Search the web and you will find plenty of help. Here is my source for learning more about starters and recipes. If you click the link at the very bottom in this source, you will find really good easy recipes.

 

Campfire Spuds

Potatoes can be cooked lots of ways over a campfire or your grill at home. At Boulder Lake (near McCall, Idaho), Linda prepared the night before our hike and packed the foil packets up the mountain next day. For each packet she sliced a potato thin, added sliced onion and a dollop of mayonnaise and then sealed the edges and stored the foil pouches in a zip lock bag for the hike. Problem is the packets leaked and made a messy puddle in the bag. Hard to handle at the fireside when Deb removed them to put them in the coals.

My recipe is different, maybe healthier and less messy. You can make them at the campsite or the day before if you are going hiking or paddling to your lunch site. Each hiker could make their own. Let kids help!

What you need: You can eat these right out of the foil. Remember to take a fork.

For each person:

1 quart sized zip lock bag, if you are going hiking or kayaking. Otherwise use a small mixing bowl.

Tin foil large enough to contain the ingredients and have room to seal the edges.

1 medium sized potato diced or sliced thin

1/4 cup onion diced or sliced thin depending on how you cut up the potato, add more or less to taste

2 tsp. olive oil

Seasoning: a sprinkle of your favorite herbs or seasoning plus salt and pepper to taste. Try any combination of these: chopped chives, basil, rosemary, garlic, cilantro, jalapeños peppers, celery, curry powder, or premixed seasonings. Experiment to find the taste you like. You can season each bag differently or for each person’s choice.

What you do:

If you are doing this the day before put all the ingredients in a quart sized zip lock bag. Seal it and gently massage the bag to lightly coat the potatoes and onions. Add more oil a little at a time if needed. The oil should just coat the food, not puddle up in the bottom of the bag. You could use a larger bag and mix and store enough in it for several people if you like. But if you will be on the move, I like each hiker or paddler to carry their own weight.  Refrigerate until you are ready to leave. If you are doing this at your campsite, not on the move, you can use a mixing bowl instead of bags.

If hiking or kayaking, each person carries their own bag of ingredients and the foil to wrap it in. I suggest putting the small bag and foil in a gallon sized bag to double your insurance against leaks along the way.

Time to cook it:

When you are ready to eat, make a cooking fire that has coals, not much flame. Massage the bag again or mix the ingredients in the bowl to be sure everything is coated with oil. Then spread the foil flat and gently squeeze the ingredients out of the bag onto the foil. Seal the edges by folding and rolling them to keep the good stuff inside. They cook faster if the foil packet is rather flat and the spuds aren’t heaped together too thickly. Set the foil packets among the coals, not in the flame. Don’t crowd them too close together. Keep the sealed edges on top. If you are using a BBQ grill try this on the rack with the hood down. Check them in 20-30 min. depending on how hot your coals are. When the potatoes are as soft as you like them they are ready. Eat them right out of the foil.

Share the joy in your comment. Let me know how this works out for you and tell me where you were when you made them. How did you season your?

Solitude Together Hike

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deer skull Boulder Lake

When Tim and I caught up with the 4 others at the lake Deb was constructing a little fire. Not what I had in mind for a day hike. A deer skull perched atop a tall stump; red huckleberry branches stuck through its eye sockets. Dramatic, elegant, haunting. Linda thought the many colors of fall leaves on the berry branches worth sharing. The men had already gone fishing. Linda showed Deb the bottle of seasoning next to the foil wrapped potato slices and then she was gone, off for a walk.  Deb asked me how to cook the potatoes. I asked her what else was in the packets before I told her how I have cooked them before. Here is the recipe. Tim had already moved to the lake to fish, dissolving into the landscape with the other men.

I found myself alone with Deb. She pulled out a section of newspaper and started the crossword puzzle. We visited a little but I could see I was distracting her. Realizing I was going to be here for a long time, I wished I had brought my knitting project.  What would I do with myself? Maybe I would sketch the mountain across the lake in the sandy beach. I took off to explore.

No journal, sketch book or camera so I decided to use my cell phone and take lots of photos to test its camera capability. Midday light is hard to work with and I had no choices for shutter speed, or aperture. What you see in this blog came from a $30 Tracfone.Fair enough.

Cairns at Boulder Lake

On the sand bar that split the lake in two I found mammoth basalt outcroppings next to some granite and quartz veins. I stacked 5 cairns atop boulders and photographed them from many viewpoints.

The men caught several cutthroats and Deb laid them in foil, sprinkled their skin with the seasoning, folded the foil edges together and set them in the fire. Linda came back from her walk. She had hiked on to Anderson Lake. I had eaten my peanut butter–honey sandwich and some plums so I only tasted a big bite of trout that Tim had squirted with lemon. Just a little fishy tasting, slightly undercooked, yet wonderful next to the lake where they had lived an hour before.

Bear & man tracks

We ate and then the men fished again. I walked completely around the lake and took more photos of the surroundings and teeny toads and the diversity of animal tracks. The boot print mingled with bear tracks talked to me about why I live in wild mountains. So did the dry crusted footprint left by a barefoot young person or a woman. I am so small and temporary in this world. And that is as it should be. Like the tracks, I too will last only a short while. I accept it.

We hiked down the rocky trail aside Boulder Creek and sat in lawn chairs around a dog crate-turned-table, covered with a bright printed cloth. We shared fruit and pretzels in pretty bowls and cold beers. It was a long and relaxing day, not the way I usually hike, snack, and return to whatever happens next in the day. This group has been doing this for 6 years. I’ll probably go with them again just to push myself up trails faster. And now I know what to expect. My own slower hiking pace is accepted by them, we each had our solitude together. With them I learned, again, to spend a long time on the mountain. No hurries.

Information about Boulder Lake,near McCall, http://www.idahoconservation.org/events/explore-idaho/southwest-idaho/boulder-lake

orange bush against lake
Goodbye Boulder Lake!
footprint in mud
Footprints leave mystery for me.
walking far down the trail
Trekkin’ down the trail. Ski poles sure prevent knee pain!
my back walking down trail
I’m packing the colorful huckleberry branches down the trail.