29 April 2007

Weekend in Capital Hill

Since our friends Tara and Jason have been officially granted River Ford Farm frequent visitors club status, we thought it only fair that we visit them in Seattle. Corinne has so many family in Seattle that we really have to make a concerted effort to spend time with friends... so we didn't tell her family we were coming. Actually, some of them will probably find out from this post that we were there. ;)

We're all big foodies, so we knew food would play a prominent role in this trip. We arrived on Friday afternoon, and the first place we went was Armandino's Salumi. We just made it there on time, with only 15 minutes to spare before they closed; we also managed to buy them out of all the cured meats they had left! Yum.

Over the next two days, we gorged ourselves, eating in and eating out. The outdoor stops included some real winners. Tilth Restaurant, one of the only Oregon Tilth certified restaurants in the country, was definitely a highlight. They serve all of their dishes in either a "large" plate or "small" plate version, and the small plate is just about half the size and price of the big one. Go figure!

They also introduced us to my new favorite coffee shop: Victrola Coffee on Capital Hill in Seattle. The key: they make their own whipped cream for their mochas.

Another stop was the The Original Pancake House in Ballard (which actually isn't the original one).

We didn't eat the whole time, though; we spent a good amount of time exploring some of Seattle's incredible parks, including Volunteer Park and Discovery Park. While on the beach at Discovery park, we even saw an old sailing boat where all of the crew were wearing red hats.

Tara and Jason won't be living in Seattle much longer (boo-hoo!), but we sure are glad that they were here at all! Here's to visiting you at your next destination!

- Mike (& Corinne)

22 April 2007

Last Day of Snowboarding

Well, it looks like our snowboarding season is ending. We still have 3x left on our 10x times pass, and Mt Hood Meadows will be open for at least another 2-3 weeks, but with all of the travel and company we have scheduled for the next month+, I just don't see us being able to make it up to the mountain again. So sad.

The weather was pretty warm for this last visit, and the mountains were covered in "spring snow". Snow in the spring is softer and wetter, due to higher temperatures and more sunlight. Spring snow is fun for us (as beginners) because it runs a bit slower, is pretty forgiving to mistakes, and is soft to land on. We've both gotten quite a bit better this year, so that last bit isn't as important as it used to be. But every little bit helps. ;)

We leave this season with documented evidence of our snowboarding. First, Corinne taking a practice run down the mountain:

Now, a 1st-person perspective, with me holding the camera next to my face:

- Mike (& Corinne)

21 April 2007

199/201 = 99.0%

Quick update on our forestation efforts: Two trees missing. 199 left.

- Corinne (& Mike)

18 April 2007

Cheese-Making 101

As a "thank you" for letting him turn our garage, followed by our Great Room, into his own personal painting studio, Leif sent us to a cheese making class in Portland. This hands-on class was offered by In Good Taste, a chef's store in the Pearl District in Portland.

The class was hands-on and had a great ratio of teachers to students: there were 13 people taking the class, and including the instructors, kitchen staff, there were at least 5 people attending to us over the course of the ~3 hours. They split the students into 4 groups, and each group made ricotta, mascarpone, and mozzarella cheese. At the end of the evening, the staff had prepared a meal consisting of some of the cheese we had made plus roasted asparagus, poached pears stuffed with mascarpone and dates, and bruschetta. If anyone is looking for cooking classes, we highly recommend In Good Taste!

Overall, soft cheese making is fairly easy; the key is to watch the temperature of the liquid. And if you can find it, use whole milk labeled pasteurized, NOT ultra-pasteurized or UHT (ultra-high temperature), as the ultra-pasteurization process kills some of the flavor. The instructors all recommended getting comfortable making soft cheeses before moving on to try hard cheeses, which use basically the same process as soft cheeses but require more finesse.

We're pretty excited about being able to make our own mozzarella in particular. When summer comes, we'll be harvesting tomatoes and basil from our garden and combining it with our homemade mozzarella and bread for some of the best bruschetta around. We may never leave home!

- Mike (& Corinne)

14 April 2007

Another Northwest Convert

It seems more and more people are discovering that the Pacific Northwest is the best place to live. The latest are our friends Jamie & Torsten, who have decided to move to Portland from their current residence in the Boston area. We had dinner in Portland with them on their last trip, and this time they took a break from their house hunting to bring their two daughters to our place for dinner.

While on a walk around the property, the elder daughter - Katja - became enthralled with the deer skull that we found on our property earlier this year. She proceeded to carry the skull around in front of her by the antlers, occasionally making growling sounds and shaking the skull.

But by far the funniest story involves our walk along the river. Both Katja and Marta seem to be at a stage where they enjoy throwing things into the river and watching them float downstream. (Actually, I think I'm at that stage, too... but I digress.) We explained that this river (the White Salmon) flows into the Columbia River, which then flows into the Pacific Ocean. And since they were going to the Oregon Coast later in their trip, they might actually be able to retrieve some of the things she threw into the river. Katja became very excited and decided to throw a small Ponderosa branch into the river to see if she could find it on the beach.

Fast forward to the next day, when Torsten surreptitiously drops a small Ponderosa branch (gathered on our property) on to the beach, followed by a screaming Katja: "I found it!" Kids are so fun (and gullible.)

Somehow we managed to not take any photos of Jamie and Torsten. But since they'll be a lot closer very soon, I'm sure we can make that up on their next trip.

- Mike (& Corinne)

12 April 2007

An Orchard Makeover

One item that's been on our "to-do" list since we moved into this place is to prune our orchard. Pruning the trees has a number of benefits, including: improving the structural strength of the trees; improving fruit production on mature trees; and keeping the branches closer to the ground so that they are easier to pick.

As with many things on our property, we don't have a clue how to go about pruning fruit trees. Thankfully, our neighbor Pat coordinated hiring a few workers from the Mt Adams Orchard to do some pruning for a few of us in the neighborhood.

They didn't speak much English, but Pat was there to provide translation. Apparently, one of the first things they said when they arrived was: "Boy, these trees are ugly." They probably hadn't been pruned in 3-4 years, and I guess it really showed. Of course, we didn't know what they were supposed to look like, so they looked fine to us.

Once we agreed on a price, they got right to work. The two of them worked diligently for a total of about 8 hours to get our trees into shape. Hopefully we'll notice a difference! And if anybody needs some fruit tree brush, we now have several substantial piles of it.

Now if we can only keep the coddling moths off of the apples...

We'll now leave you of some great spring photographs Corinne took of our orchard blossoms (plus one of the rhubarb patch).

- Mike (& Corinne)

08 April 2007

Easter in Seattle

Easter seemed to sneak up on us this year. We offered to host another family gathering at our place (in another attempt to limit how many trips away from home we take!), but nobody went for it, so we ended up in Seattle for the holiday.

We spent most of Saturday with Reidar and family, seeing the latest improvements and expansions to Superlon, his pipe company in Tacoma; enjoying lunch on the water; and spending some time with him on his boat (in the slip).

Sunday was food day, with Taryn leading the way. We had this incredible grilled lamb with an Indian rub and yogurt sauce, grilled asparagus with prosciutto, roasted potatoes, and a 4-layer cake with lemon curd and mascarpone cheese.

Let's just say that we didn't complain when there were leftovers that we had to take home with us.

- Mike (& Corinne)

01 April 2007

Water Weekend

Spring is here, and that means our list of things to do is getting bigger even faster than it was before. For example, Saturday morning we were involved in a "ditch cleaning".

Let me spend a few minutes here talking about "ditches". When we talk about "ditches" in Trout Lake - or in any agricultural area - we are talking about irrigation ditches. An irrigation ditch is essentially a man-made ditch for water to travel, with the purpose of bringing water near or through pieces of land that need irrigation. The "headgate" supplies water to the ditch, either via gravity or a pump; the water then flows downhill through the ditch, being split into multiple channels along the way; individuals divert water from the ditch, again via gravity or a pump, to provide water to their property; at the end of the ditch the water flows back into a natural waterway (stream, river, etc.)

Trout Lake has 6 different, non-intersecting ditches. Each ditch is managed by a ditch company, and each property along the ditch has shares in the ditch. The shares allow each person to use a certain volume of water per year (though the amount used is typically on the honor system). This photo shows our pump, and how we use boards to raise the water level high enough so the pump can pull the water out of the ditch. (This section of ditch is actually our "diversion" and not in the main ditch; it is "diverted" from the main ditch to serve our property and the property directly south of us before ending back in a stream.) It's more complicated than that, but you probably don't care.

There's a lot to know about ditches, and we are certainly no experts. But the point of all of this (and why I brought it up in this particular post) is that every spring you have to clean out the entire length of ditch to remove anything that may block the flow of water: trees that have grown in; branches or logs that may have fallen in; boards that people may have put into the main ditch to raise the level; and beaver dams that inevitably show up every year. Since we're on two ditches, that means two ditch cleanings per year. This Saturday was the first this year, and we bought rubber waders to make it easier. I'll spare you the trauma that we endured in last year's cleaning (everyone else left after ~3 hours and didn't tell us, so we worked for 7), but the cleaning this year lasted only about 2 hours and went pretty smoothly, even though we were 2 of only 4 people who showed up.

We were happy that the cleaning only took two hours, because Donna came down from Seattle to visit the same weekend. While we were out cleaning ditches, she had brunch at Skamania Lodge with some old friends, then we all (including Leif) spent the rest of the day relaxing.

It turned out that irrigation water was not the only water-related activity this weekend, either. Saturday afternoon we lost all running water in our house. This lasted for a couple hours, then the water returned. Shortly thereafter, the water stopped again, then returned again. While we have our own well on our property, it has been capped and inactive since the Glacier Springs Water Association (aka Trout Lake "city water") extended their coverage area to include our property. We called around to our neighbors Tom and Bonnie to see if they were affected, since we share a supply line with them and they would likely be more familiar with the system that we would anyway. It turned out that a nearby underground supply line had been cracked; the combination of wet soil and heavy farm machinery caused compaction that drove a rock into the pipe. The entire south section of the water system had to be shut down until the pipe could be replaced. Thankfully, it only took them until dusk to complete the work, and water was permanently restored.

We spent the remainder of the weekend alternating between the kitchen and the yard. Corinne learned to make the family creme puff recipe, and I was very thankful.

- Mike (& Corinne)