27 January 2007

"Cabin Fever" Festival

We love our community! Every winter, Trout Lake holds a "Cabin Fever" festival. Being the small, Northwest community that it is, this free event is full of outdoor oriented events. We didn't join in the cross-country ski race (since we don't know how), but instead spent the morning on a guided snowshoe walk around the Trout Lake Wetlands Natural Area Preserve. The snow was all pretty old, so we weren't able to do any significant animal track identification, but at least we now know that there is a Trout Lake Wetlands Natural Area Preserve! This "wetlands" is where Trout Lake got its name; the lake is now going through transformation and can only be considered a lake during short periods of the year. Eventually, the lake will disappear altogether, but during this transition period it makes a great environment for studying nature.

In the afternoon we attended a GPS clinic, learning some of the tricks and methods for using a GPS unit in the wilderness. The best thing about going to this clinic, actually, was that it prompted Corinne to actually read the users' manual to prepare for the class! Eventually we may actually remember to bring our GPS unit out into the wilderness with us. With at least one set of extra batteries, of course.

- Mike (& Corinne)

16 January 2007

Our First Coyote Sighting

One recent night when we arrived home from work, as we turned up our driveway we noticed an animal in our orchard. This is certainly not unusual; we often see deer grazing in the orchard, eating the fruit that has fallen from the tree.

But there were two things different this time. For one, we haven't seen deer around our place in at least a month. As the snow level falls, the deer move further south to where the grass and other ground cover isn't perpetually covered by snow. But the other, more substantial difference, is that what we had initially assumed was a deer was only a few feet tall. As soon as we turned the corner, he took one look in our direction and quickly head over the ridge to the edge of the forest, where he waited in the shadows. We could barely see his pointed ears in the moon light, and by the time our car made it close enough to see better, he was off into the forest.

After parking, we head back down to check out the tracks. The snow wasn't particularly new, so the iciness didn't leave very clear tracks. It wasn't until several days later when we were working in the orchard (knocking down the remaining fruit from the trees and gathering them up - a dirty orchard breeds pests!) when we became sure of what we'd seen.

It was surely a coyote.

The ground underneath the one tree in the orchard which still has remains of fruit is scattered with A LOT of coyote droppings. They clearly frequent our dining establishment, only I guess they do it off-hours. We hear coyote howling at night on a fairly regular basis, but this was our first sighting.

- Mike (& Corinne)

09 January 2007

Favorite New Recipes of 2006

Finally, the long-mentioned "Favorite New Recipes of the Year" post arrives! These are all recipes which were new to us in 2006; this year's all came from other external sources (i.e. we didn't invent them), but they sure were good.

There was a definite theme to many of the new recipes we made this year: they included things we grew ourselves. Two out of the three recipes involve fresh, home-grown tomatoes. If you don't have your own tomatoes, grow some. If you can't do that, find a farmers' market in the summer and buy some from a local farmer. If you can't do that, don't bother to make these tomato recipes. They really need the full flavor and freshness of fresh, ripe tomatoes. And as everybody knows, you can't buy tomatoes from a grocery store. Sure, you can buy something that LOOKS like a tomato from the store, but that is where the similarities end.

In retrospect, I wish I had taken photos of this dish. If I did, I'd be drooling while looking at them right now. Whenever we harvested our Golden Nugget tomatoes, we would make this dish. Since the tomatoes we had were of the slightly larger variety (see notes), we cut them in half before cooking. This dish is so simple, yet incredibly flavorful. It is truly amazing what fresh, in-season food can taste like!

Tomatoes, garlic, heavy cream, fresh basil... how can you possibly go wrong?

This was another frequent favorite during tomato season, and the recipe came from the same cookbook as #1. It is a bit more complicated, because you have to make a tart crust. But before you get all scared, tart crusts aren't actually that difficult. After all, you do most of the work in the food processor.

Lest you thought we restricted ourselves to only healthy food that we grew ourselves... there's nothing quite like homemade cinnamon buns. The first time we made this recipe, we used the wrong type of yeast - we used the more common "active dry yeast" rather than "instant yeast". The buns didn't rise. But even the "failures" tasted pretty dang good.

You do have to have a bit of patience and plan ahead; after all, the word "Overnight" is right in the name. But they sure beat the heck out of anything Cinnabomb ever produced.

We don't cook fish that often, mostly because I don't have a lot of experience with it (catch-22, of course). This salmon dish, however, is easy and so delicious. It even tastes great with Atlantic farm-raised salmon, for all you still back on the East Coast!

I'm going to try to do this every year from this point on! And next year, I need to take more photos...

- Mike (& Corinne)

08 January 2007

Snowshoeing on Mt. Adams

Corinne has a plan for us to learn a new sport each season. Last winter we learned snowboarding, and the winter sport on the schedule for '06-'07 is snowshoeing!

As luck would have it, our friend Judith had two pair of snowshoes that she and her husband haven't used in a while, so she loaned them to us as "trial" shoes to see if we liked it before diving in to buy our own. The first time out, we simply walked around our property. I wasn't sure how I would like it, but it's basically like hiking on snow and is quite fun.

For our next outing, we joined up with our friends Jesse and Catherine for a snowshoe adventure they had planned on Mt Adams. They had chosen a Sno-Park on the mountain that was far enough up the mountain that it would hopefully be less populated; but more importantly there were no official snowmobile trails at this particular park, so we hopefully would avoid the disruption (noise, pollution) that they bring.

The weather was almost perfect - it was clear and slightly above freezing, although it would have been nice to have some fresh snow. We spent some time walking along trails, most of which had not yet been disturbed by other explorers since the last snowfall. We brought along our book of Animal Tracks, so whenever we saw some fresh tracks we all stopped to attempt identification. Trained animal trackers we are not; with the help of the book we were able to positively identify hare tracks, but other than that we were guessing.

This is what the Northwest is all about!

- Mike (& Corinne)

01 January 2007

Happy New Year!

After all of the craziness of the holidays, by New Year's Eve it was just us at home.

Happy 2007!

- Mike (& Corinne)