Tag Archives: Volunteering

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.

 

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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.